Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Great Indian Tragedy

As I write this, there's a great debate going on on 'Times Now' where panelists Farooq Sheikh, Shefali Chaya and Suhel Seth (their combined enthusiasm is bordering on hostility) are sharing tremendous gyan on everything starting from the unpreparedness of the police to the cliched-to-death Spirit of Mumbai.

I don't want to tear into News channels two posts in a row because I honestly believe that some of the reporting in the last 2 days has been really commendable - One cameraman was shot at directly, the bullet barely missed him and hit the guy next to him flush on the chest, but he ducked down only for a second before getting up to get a shot of the fleeing car.
But the key word there is 'some'. Because the majority of the coverage of the events in Mumbai have been sensationalist first, informative next and sadly, responsible last.

How can you call it responsible reporting if every step of a serious Army operation is being reported live on television?
Breaking News: NSG moving into Trident Complex.
Breaking News: Army combing the 4th floor in the Taj.
Breaking News: Blasts on the 6th Floor... We're seeing some movement there. As you can see, Armed forces are moving up.. they are now on the 7th floor.
Breaking News: Snipers deployed in the building adjacent to Nariman house.

For a common man like me or you, what good can possibly come from knowing all these steps, apart from being able to watch a few minutes of cinema-esque drama? Do we need this to satiate our hunger for realism?

What about the loved ones of people trapped in these buildings, you say?
Well, if my loved one was trapped hostage by terrorists, the only time I'd watch News is when I need some emergency contact information.

On the other hand, all this could be momentary gold for certain men with SatPhones on the other side of the border.
I'm not prepared to believe for one second that the media houses are ignorant of this. Well, if it isn't ignorance, what is it then? Indifference? Or Blind Competitiveness?
How can these ultra-aggressive news anchors ask politicians for accountability when they themselves lack it?

Speaking of politicians, I was initially surprised to see BJP showing some class by not blaming everybody on earth for these attacks, but just providing quiet support. It was short-lived though. Advani blamed Intel failure as soon as he landed in Mumbai.

But he wasn't entirely wrong. Intel failure is often portrayed as the first culprit for any terrorist attack, but yet it keeps happening. The fact that 6-8 men came into Mumbai on a speed boat, each with a rucksack, and they didn't show up on anybody's radar is just staggering. Plain Staggering.
The use of a boat possibly means that these people came directly from outside the border. I just pray to god that that is not the case, because if it is, it shows our border security in an unimaginably poor light. And how on earth did they carry all those weapons into these buildings without anyone noticing?? 5 star hotels are supposed to have some decent security, right?
How can people sleep at night knowing there's a free entry for terrorists into pretty much any damn place they like?

To his credit, Farooq Sheikh did make one very good point about the unpreparedness of the police in this situation. Early morning footage (before the army took over the whole thing) showed ATS officers and Mumbai Police Officers preparing to enter the Taj Hotel. The thing that struck me and was so apparent to me (and I'm sure to anybody who watched it) was their attire. Some of the police officers were shown even without a bullet-proof vest.
I'm sorry, but is this how some of the bravest officers available are sent to tackle terrorists carrying automatic weapons? Who takes these calls? How come a common man like me is able to notice that and people calling the shots aren't? Did they underestimate the resistance of the terrorists? I just don't understand this. What's there to underestimate?
Highly motivated terrorists + Automatic Weapons + Lots of Ammunition + Grenades + So many Unknowns (no. of terrorists, hostages, locations) = Serious Situation, which needs Serious Co-ordinated Action. Shouldn't Serious begin with appropriate combat gear at least?
On the other hand, once the Army took over, we hardly heard of any casualties from their side.

These policemen died fighting terror, but they shouldn't have. Imagine how lethal they could've been with proper preparedness. You could've been talking to them as you praise them, instead of showing file photos of them. Sad Sad day indeed.

And what's with this obsession that the News Channels (all of them) have with the Number of Deaths? They ask this question to every single person they interview. Every channel shows a different number and it keeps changing every 5 minutes. There seems to be some sort of disturbing competition among them to report the highest number, fastest.
Again, I beg to know, what's the use? How will it make a difference to the people watching if you say 100 died or 110 died if you do not disclose the correct identities of the deceased? Somebody please explain this to me.
Most of the times, these numbers don't hold up for more than 5-10 minutes. Sample this: One channel reported last night that more than 900 were injured. I woke up this morning and the number was down to 290.
This is just some sick sensationalist obsession. Again, no one is accountable.

I'd written after the Bangalore blasts that there is no end in sight for terrorism in India, and I have no option but to repeat myself. A former chief of RAW told a news channel that 'Terrorism is something that no one can ever stop, because of the very nature of Terrorism'.
I found that quite interesting, although his point could be argued against with the example of US and UK who have practically eliminated terror threats to their countries since the last major attack.
But then again, they don't have the haven of radical Islam as their neighbor.

The Mumbai terror attacks have just hammered home the by now established fact for Modern Indians:

No one is safe.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Headlines Today(?)

Okay. I can still believe it if Rakhi Sawant's outburst on some poor soul who refused to appear on her chat show (aptly titled 'The Rakhi Sawant Showz') becomes headline of the day.

Heck. I can even digest day long headlines about the Bachchan Family (& Amar Singh) visiting a temple in Arunachal Pradesh.

But what's beyond me is a prime time headline saying 'Are Indians Porn Prone?' and a discussion with 'experts' about the porn watching habits of Indians, accompanied by statistics from some very reliable surveys which included questions like:
* How old were you when you watched your first porn film?
* Have you made a home pornographic video?

For the second question, 91% said "No". And the funniest thing was that they were highlighting the other 9% in bold and discussing those 'modern people'.

Finally, something rewarding to watch after a long day's work.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Look, I never went to this movie expecting a sensitive portrayal of homosexuality. Neither did I have any expectations of a comedy in the class of Judd Apatow movies. What I thought this would be was a decently funny urban film on the lines of Kal Ho Naa Ho.

Nope. Not even close.

This movie is just Lame.
It starts off with an interesting premise of 2 guys pretending to be gay to get a cool pad by the beach in Miami. But nothing really happens in the film! Just one gay joke after another. And God alone knows why Bobby Deol is in the movie. He looks badly out of place.
If it wasn't for Priyanka Chopra (who is so hot, she's almost worth the price of admission!) and the soundtrack (which is rocking, by the way), I'd have been thoroughly disappointed with the movie.
As it stands, I'm just disappointed.

Y'Know what... I don't even want to write a longer post for this film. It would mean giving too much importance to a non-existent story. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sourav Ganguly

Drama and Sourav Gangluy always went hand in hand.

In that sense, it was fitting that he got out for a duck in his final innings. It had to be a duck or a century, for anything in between would've been just ordinary.

I'll always remember 'Dada' as the most aggressive captain India had. It was he, without a doubt, who changed Indian cricket as a whole. Not Kapil, Not Tendulkar, but Sourav Ganguly.
He backed matchwinners to the hilt (yuvraj, harbhajan, sehwag), who've repaid Indian cricket with some memorables wins. More importantly, he infused steel and grit in a team which was typically dazzling but complacent, flamboyant but inconsistent. Its not surprising that he's the winningest captain of India (yet).

His on field aggression wasn't always the in-your-face type. The best example was the first test in Brisbane in the 03-04 series, where he hit a superb, counter-attacking 144 (one of his finest hundreds) to set an example for his teammates. India drew the series 1-1, but came damn close to winning it in Sydney (where another message was sent to the Aussies when India declared immedietly after Brett Lee, their premier strike bowler, got hit for 200). 
The thing that struck me there was that Gangluly looked dissappointed with a 1-1 result. He wanted to win the series. Badly. When was the last time an Indian captain didn't gloat about drawing an away series against the best team in the world?

Initially, I looked at Ganguly as a superb batsman (albeit some 'short'comings) and an above average captain. But all that changed on 13 July 2002. It was the Natwest Trophy finals and England had racked up 325. 
Out came Gangluy, smashed 50 off less than 35 balls, got India off to a flyer, dispatching Flintoff repeatedly over cover along the way. India lost their way once he got out and were choking as usual when Yuvraj and Kaif pulled off the win memorably. It was then that I witnessed something remarkable. On the famous Lord's Balcony was Ganguly, pumped up beyond imagination, taking off his shirt and swirling it while uttering F-Bombs. It was a stunning sight. It was the first time I'd seen that kind of intensity from an Indian Cricketer. It changed my entire perception of him, both as a player and as a captain.

It is a bit of an irony that the man who was once called "God of all things off side" will be best remembered for his leadership than batsmanship. But the fact is that Ganguly was always a couple of rungs below Tendulkar and Dravid in terms of pure batting skills. He was a great ODI opening batsman who could pace an innings superbly. In tests though, he was inconsistent and that's why he's at 7000 odd runs while his peers have crossed 10000.

When Ganguly was dropped in early 2006 due to woeful form, I felt a tinge of sadness, even though the overwhelming emotion at the time was hate. Hate, because of his extended run of awful form. Hate, because of the way the media portrayed him during the Chappell fiasco.
But there was definitely sadness too. I did not want my last memory of such a great player to be one of a coward running away from a test match for the fear of bouncers (as it was alleged). I did not want that painful century against Zimbabwe to be his last remembered century.
And I'm sure there were thousands others who felt the same way.

Which is why his comeback brought so much joy and buzz. It was the stuff of fairytales, capped off with the super double hundred at Bangalore against Pakistan.
And now he goes away. Was it too early? I certainly thought he could play till 09. But it was the right decision in the sense that he got to leave on his terms. On a high. With a series win against the Aussies.
And Sourav, you absolutely deserved to leave on a high. In fact, in a strange way, so did we all.

(Image Courtesy: AFP)

Monday, November 03, 2008

Anil Kumble

And he walks away.

Thousands of tributes have poured in for the man fondly called "Jumbo" by his teammates, so I'll keep this one short.
There are 3 distinct memories I have of Anil:

1. During the mid to late 90s period, when India played at home and lost the toss, almost every time Kumble would start warming up as soon as India took the field. He would invariably end up bowling within the first 8-10 overs, sometimes even earlier. He was our only hope.

2. During this year's infamous Sydney Test, the Indian team got wronged so many times in so many different ways that one would've forgiven Kumble if he'd lost his cool at the end. And he almost did. You could see it in his eyes and his voice. But the way he maintained his composure while suggesting only that Austraila were not playing in the spirit of the game not only gained him worldwide appreciation, but also gave his team the moral high ground, which they used superbly to win the next match in Perth. (One of the more memorable Indian Wins). Shouldn't that be "Captaincy 101" or something?

3. The Antigua run-fest in 2002. If not for Kumble's heroics, I'm sure nobody would even remember this match. (Well.. except maybe Ajay Ratra's fans [are there any?]). I was almost drifting into sleep when I saw Kumble come out to bowl with a heavily strapped face covering a broken jaw. I had not seen anything like it in my life. He bowled 14 straight overs, made the ball talk and scalped Lara's wicket. He boarded a flight home that night and didn't play for months. 

I'm sure Kumble would've liked to play out the year. Or the Australia series at least. You could see it on his face. He wanted to beat the Aussies one last time. He also wanted to take India to the top spot in world rankings. But it wasn't to be.
The eyes still had steel in them, but the legs didn't. Deliveries still carried intensity, but not the bite.
He did the right thing in the end. In spite of being a long time Kumble fan, I felt at the beginning of this week that his time was almost up. And you've got to give him credit for catching the pulse of things at the right moment, you know, for 'getting it'.

Young spinners in India have a huge gap to fill now. They would do well to remember those eyes. The way they stayed on target the whole day, every day, for 18 years.

(Image Courtesy: Getty Images, Cricinfo)