Monday, January 31, 2005

Boring...and no Dravid?

The results of a rather interesting experiment came out today. It was the vote for the most boring batsmen in cricket. Sadly (though predictably), a few of the names were only familiar from old, dusty scoreboards and not much real time experience.

I remember watching Bruce Edgar ages back. He is the worst in ODI history for batsmen to have crossed 1,000 runs. Well, those were soon after the days of Gavaskar's legendary 36 not out, and though I found Edgar as ugly as, say, Mark Taylor or Allan Border, I don't remember him as being particularly slow and boring. Obviously my memory is not serving me right in this case.

And then there are people like Mike Brearley, Bob Taylor, Bill Woodfull, et al mentioned.
Now, and while I can see why my opinion doesn't make a lot of sense in terms of practicality, I want to know why boring batsmen from the current era were not included. Is it, one, because we don't want to name them? Or, two, we don't want to go the extra step of changing the yardstick to make it more in tune with the current state of the game?

I think 'one' has its merits. But I think 'two' is a more interesting topic for discussion. When we look at boring batsmen, why are we unwilling to check 'boring' only by one standard? A Test batsman who scores at a strike rate of, say, 50 or so, is as boring as a batsman who scored at 30 or so fifty years back. Right? Ditto in the one-day scenario. If Gavaskar was boring in 1975, there are loads who are as boring, scoring a century off 150 balls or so.

Names that come to mind straightaway would be Shivnarine Chanderpaul (more ugly than boring, I agree), Mark Richardson, Jimmy Adams, Aakash Chopra.... Rahul Dravid, of course, is a serious qualifier...but he is a different topic of discussion altogether. So many others, though, come to mind.

But we don't look at them because we maintain the same standards down the years. A basic problem with being stuck with statistics than 'real' experience. But that's the way it is.

Saturday, January 29, 2005


Discovered this extremely intersting site... It's a pile of essays by this academic who teaches at the University of Canterbury.

I am the result of an experiment. WOW!

Have never done these quizzes before...

Which character from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy are you?
You are Marvin the Android. Deeply depressed and cynical, you are the result of an experiment by the Sirius Cybernetics corporation. This explains a lot about you. Life... errr sorry... Existence is tough.

Uhh...and by the way, I was Hobbes in the Calvin and Hobbes test.

Love it...

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Pom-bashing time

It is, finally, time to get into Anticipating the Ashes mode. Not because the series is coming up, but because England has just finished their last 'big' series before the tournament, and from here on they have a few ODIs, a home series against Bangladesh, and then the Australians.
There's a potentially fascinating triangular series between England, Australia and Bangladesh preceding the series that can only add to the excitement... it's just six months or so now before the Ashes begin. Shane Warne has done his bit to ridicule the sentiment, but a bit more can't hurt:
Ahem! England's got their best chance of winning the Ashes in a long time, they say. Strauss, Vaughan, Trescothick, Butcher, Thorpe...Hoggard, Harmison, Jones and Giles...and Flintoff. They can't go wrong. Not this time.
Now...HAHAHA...but have all these people collectively lost it? Strauss, yes. Flintoff, yes. Hoggard, possibly and horribly. Then what? Thorpe will at best save a couple of sessions. Who's going to win them for Vaughan?
Is it just talk or have they actually managed to convince themselves that they have a realistic chance? Dunno...
For starters, there's no way Harmison-Hoggard-Flintoff-Jones are going to remain as a unit till June-July. Flintoff and Harmison are already injured. And now it's Jones' turn. Hoggard...well...he's not very British, is he? So who is going to do the bowling for them? Giles?
I'd love to sit around watching the series.... Yes, nothing like a spot of Pom-bashing to get the spirits up. It's become repetitive of course, but this season's got that added edge. And therefore, more fun.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Classic Cruise

This has got nothing to do with Tom Cruise’s ability (or lack of it) as an actor. I reached my conclusion on him a long, long time back. Was it after seeing a particular film or in general…? Dunno. But that he is superb is not even a matter of discussion as far as I am concerned.

But, just clicking around the various links on IMDB as I often do, I reached the Tom Cruise filmography segment, and was quite stunned to read through the list. Now, while films like Jerry Maguire and Vanilla Sky and Eyes Wide Shut do come to mind very easily, they are interjected with some rather tame names. Somehow, Minority Report had slipped my mind totally as a Cruise film, and had been retained as purely a classic piece of filmmaking.

Cruise, in a 23-year career of topping most ‘good looks’ lists, has made a total of 27 films, with War of the Worlds and Mission Impossible III currently under production.

But have a look at this list (the ‘emboldened’ ones are the ones I have seen):
The Last Samurai
Minority Report
Vanilla Sky
Mission Impossible I & II

Eyes Wide Shut
Jerry Maguire
Interview with the Vampire
The Firm
A Few Good Men
Far and Away
Days of Thunder
Born on the Fourth of July
Rain Man
Young Guns
The Color of Money
Top Gun
All the Right Moves
Risky Business
Losin’ It
The Outsiders
Endless Love

It’s an awesome line-up by any yardstick. And it’s amazing. Because often, when I say or feel that Tom Cruise is a brilliant actor, it’s with this sense of having said something exclusive or different. As often happens, it brings with it a sense of being proprietorial. But – and I don’t know where Cruise is placed in the more serious analyses of the day – it’s evident that Cruise has had one of the most astonishing runs in recent memory.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


I don't know how many of my friends visit this blog. or even know of its existence. But I really need whoever whacked my Mahavishnu Orchestra tapes to get this message. These would be Radioland, Birds of Fire and Inner Mounting Flame. I think I had all three at some stage or the other. And now I don't have any of them. I am quite sure I had the last two at any rate. And I want them back.

Monday, January 24, 2005

After a five year hiatus

We have been doing a bit of freelance work at home in recent times. Ajitha really, but I have to pitch in every once in a way to meet the deadlines. The good part of it is that I have been able to detatch myself from the TV (finally), and pull out all my old tapes after years of not taking them out of the cartons. Which means that work has been fun, and more often than not all the familiar sounds of Grateful Dead and Neil Young and Fairport Convention and Bob Dylan have been on in the background.

Moved off the whole music deal after my stay at JNU, when more than half my precious tapes were whacked. Well, that's the way it works there. A pool of tapes belonging to the entire group lie around together and whoever wants to can pick up whatever they want to. A lot of my old stuff fell in the 'want to' category (which gave me a sense of pride, of course) and that meant moving into my next house a few kilos lighter. It also meant I lost my inclination towards sifting through the pile of tapes and picking out exactly what I wanted to listen to and stuff. I mean, I have gone weeks listening to Blonde on Blonde just because it was lying on the table.

Anyway...started with Europe 72. Moved to Harvest Moon, then some Shakti...Janis Joplin...Al De Meola...the whole hog.

[OBSERVATION: Tapes continue to function so brilliantly when the next step in the curve - CDs - conk after just a few turns]

Have the rest of the stuff sort of lined up...queued that is. It even includes those terrible Dylan tapes like Empire Burlesque and Nashville Skyline and stuff...will have to bring in some Joan Baez in between. Will keep you posted on developments and whether this means that I do end up buying a new tape after a gap of five years or so.

Am quite excited.


[Jabberwock beat me to it, but when has it ever been too late to write an obit? And, anyway, it's just my weekly off that came in the way]

Now, most things have been said already. Difficult to say something very new. And, well, I am obviously not the only one to have worshipped the hem of Parveen Babi's flowing, synthetic gowns from the time I saw Amar Akbar Anthony and Namak Halaal at age five or thereabouts.

But then, an old lover's gotta do what an old lover's gotta do.

It wasn't the fact that Parveen Babi was the only heroine of the time - apart from the very similar but yards behind in terms of natural oomph and class Zeenat Aman - who appeared on screen the way a Hollywood heroine did. Well, synthetics apart. She wore clothes not many others did. Or didn't look half as good in.

She moved with a kind of urbane grace and elegance no Mumtaz or Raakhee or Zeenat did. She acted (well...) with a kind of naturalness that no one else at the time did. She danced better than most others. And, yes, she looked better with Amitabh Bachchan than anyone else has - before and after.

Jaya Bhaduri doesn't count. Hema Malini was classless and downright ghaati (for want of a classier word), and spoke with an accent even my Asit Sen clone of a father found funny. Padmini Kolhapure and Poonam Dhillon have always been off the radar. Tina Munim...don't even know why I remember her.... And Rekha...yes, the partnership with Amitabh was good, but they didn't act in as many good movies together as PB and AB did. Silsila comes to mind. As do Namakharam and Do Anjaane. But that's about it. Raakhee has to rank higher than Rekha, simply because of the number of good movies they did together, including the classic Bemisaal. come back to Parveen. What was it about her that made me fall in love with her at the enlightened age of five? Can't just be her oomph. We were far younger than the five-year-olds of today when it comes to figuring out oomph. And five, in any case, is a tad too young.
Doordarshan newsreaders were hot enough for us, as slightly later was Kitu Gidwani.

It had to be her class then. Pure and sheer class. She looked good. With or without Amitabh. She looked good in the Amol Palekar film I saw her in, she looked good dancing to Pyaar Karne waale and Jawaani Jaanemaan. She smiled classily. She spoke the way we did in the cities. She stood up to her heroes, even in those days of 100 % male-centric films.

Then I grew up...discovered the world outside Doordarshan. Discovered beautiful women like Deborah Kerr and Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford. And later Michelle Pfeiffer and others. Back home, there were various pretenders to Parveen's throne with the gradual diminishing of the line between 'vamps' and 'heroines' in what we can call commercial cinema, and the gradual move towards more urbane-looking leading ladies.

To Parveen's advantage was the fact that her gradual phasing out coincided with those terrible and morbid decades: the 1970s and 1980s. Yuck!!! Even Neelam looked bad. Parveen continued to rule, even if she was not current.

And then she resurfaced. It must be an issue of one of the film magazines my mother used to subscribe to. She was a bloated, hideous wreck. They said it was excessive drinking, OD-ing on a variety of things, pining about Amitabh. Don't know which it was, but Parveen was finished. She had ruled for over two decades...while acting and while being an absentee. But the magic was over. It was time to move on. Read her name a couple of time in between...something to do with Sanjay Dutt, something to do with the extreme persecution complex she went through.

Did I feel bad she had to go down like this? Not really.... About her death. Again, not really. No one deserves to lie dead at home for three days before being discovered. She didn't either. But they said she died of a gangrine in her leg. Which became septic and so on... surely Parveen Babi didn't deserve that. Otherwise, doesn't make a difference.

But the news of her death came like it might happen when you meet an old friend and the usually inane conversation veers towards an old girlfriend (or boyfriend) who was totally out of your radar for all the years in between. Doesn't really mean anything in the larger sense, but for that one fleeting moment, you feel a little tinge of something. The same happened with this news. I called my mother up, spent a couple of minutes talking about Parveen. And after that, it was over. Like it had begun. From nowhere. For no reason.

And then you find the Jabberwocks of the world in competition. And you realise the futililty of it all.... And after writing a longish blog, wonder whether it was all worth it.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Farha's Shakespeare and a Chinese quote

Went back home early this morning after my night shift here in office. Was hanging around not doing much as Ajitha readied for office...and happened to pick up the remote. Then happened to stop on one of the Hindi movie channels when my eyes caught one of the bizzarrest sights I have seen in a Hindi film till date. [And this is a person who has seen most Hindi films ever made speaking]...

I'll try and explain how it went...

There was Farha (you can bet I didn't stop because I saw her) lying on a bed. And she had something called Shakespeare's Book in her hands and appeared to be reading it. What was Shakespeare's Book? Well, it was a magazine actually. As the camera panned away a bit, the fact that it was a magazine, or a book of magazine-ual proportions, was given away.

She couldn't have been reading it, and she wasn't. So what was she doing? She had a faraway look in her eyes...was mumbling something...and -- as became evident soon thereafter -- dreaming of Rishi Kapoor. Well...can't tell which, but it must have been one of old Shek's better tragedies.


And why does the blog title include 'Chinese quote'? Because despite not being a quotes' person at all, this one little saying I found somewhere recently has quite stuck with me since. It's supposed to be a Chinese saying, and my latent Communist sensibilities were rather charged after picking it up.

It goes: Once the game's over, the king and the pawns go into the same box.

That's it. Yes. Scoff if you must. But I rather appreciated it. Have worked out a few variants of it as well, but I'll keep those for another day.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Born in the Haryana

It was an Outlook interview with Rabbi Shergill. Ordinary on the whole as interviews of the nature are expected to be...but loved Rabbi's take on Bruce Springsteen.

How do you combine your love for Bruce Springsteen and Punjabi?
Hmm... they aren't that far apart. Springsteen would've made a nice Jat. A Jat never can forget where he comes from, he never concedes intellectual defeat. He knows the magic of his surroundings.

A whole new take on the genesis of Born In The USA then. Eh, Boss?

Ramayana of the world

Never really figured out what makes the Ramayana so special. Seriously. It is at best a mediocre work of fiction with one or two good moments.
The Mahabharata, on the other hand, is a great work, at par with the greatest fiction ever written. My obsession with the Mahabharata dates back to the time when I figured out the nuances of Ashwathhama, the character, and went into a flurry of accumulating (and reading) different versions, adaptations and renditions of the story.
Anyway...a blog isn't the best place to hold forth on the book. Which brings me to the reason for blogging on the Ramayana right now.
Discovered this rather interesting site on the Ramayana.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Tennis factory

Rafael Nadal's my pick for the next few seasons. Till he burns out, that is...

Fallen hero and his redemption

Read this really well thought out article on Hansie Cronje, on Times Online. You can check it here.

Though very Brit and therefore very focussed on doing its bit to confirm the Lying, Cheating Captain bit, it's a fair article. Sometimes, you just wonder, whether it was some sort of memory charm at work that caused us to see Michael Atherton, the dust in his pocket, and his little seduction of the ball when all of the white world missed it.

Anyway...had a chance to spend a lot of time recently with Trevor Chesterfield, the New Zealand-born, citizen-of-the-world, South African cricket writer now settled in Sri Lanka. Oh, and major champion of Hansie Cronje's awesomeness. I'll probably not be able to recount most of what we discussed, but I do remember getting into a serious-ish argument with him on the subject.

As far as I am concerned, Cronje was a cheat. His Christianity and blah-blah-blah was incidental. He cheated as much as many others. He suffered a fate he deserved. And it doesn't change things that a lot of others who should have been dealt a similar fate walked away scot-free from the cricket match-fixing scandal. That doesn't serve to absolve him in any way.

But, and I feel this, there's no reason to deny Cronje his place among the greats. The same way I can't accept people just seeing Azhar on the screen and going 'cheat'! Or whatever. Heck, I was in Calcutta, at the Eden Gardens, when he scored each of those many hundreds there. I saw him bat. I saw Azhar bat the way I haven't seen anyone before or after him bat.

I also saw Kapil Dev bowl at the Eden Gardens. I saw him bowl brilliantly at the Eden Gardens. I saw him get Arthurton leg before and then Richardson caught and bowled (brilliantly) in the Hero Cup final, long after Kapil had crossed his use-by date. By far.

Returning to Cronje for a sec, it continues to astound me as to how the world seems to have completely forgotten his step-on-the-ball-and-driving-the-spikes-into-it antic. I forget which match he did it in (a google is all that's needed to find out), but the pictures are clear in my mind.

As much as Atherton's sleight of hand is.

New place, new work...

It's happened. Have moved from The Indian Express to Headlines Today.
Oh yes, print to TV. Simple.
Have no idea why 90 per cent of the people I have met since making the decision have asked me: "Oh, you'll move to TV from print?" Surely people know TV exists as a news medium. It's become big enough in India. And, most importantly, most news people on TV have moved from print. Isn't that right? But somehow...
Yes, writing remains the big thing for me. The couple of day's experience here at Headlines Today have been a trifle scary. Gadgets and gizmos everywhere you look. Every bit of news you want to convey to the world comes with serious technological and technical trappings.
But that's how it is.
Heck, if so many people can do it, surely, so can I.
I learnt to drive very recently. Haven't been able to practice much because we still haven't been able to afford the car. But a friend of ours have left their car in our care for a couple of months and I have been driving it around a bit. Strictly within CR Park though. But have been taking a few risks while I am doing my little exercises.
Same logic. Most people I know, know how to drive. Surely it's not that difficult.
So guess TV will grow on me gradually. So will Headlines Today. And I can remain a newsman.

Monday, January 17, 2005

A touch of the Caribbean

It is a tad late in the day, but thought I'd write a bit on the scenes on the ground in Chittagong after Bangladesh won that first Test of theirs last week.
Now, it just so happens that I have had the good fortune of following Bangladesh cricket rather closely for sometime now. Was able to spend some time in the country early last year too, when I got a chance to cover the Under-19 World Cup that was being held across a series of very pretty centres (bar Dhaka, which is quite the ugliest city I have ever been to).
Outside of that too, I have been able to use my Bengali connections and associations to stay in touch with and track Bangladesh cricket.
What all that's proven to me is that we have, just across the border, a country that is a few degrees more fanatical about their cricket than we are here in India. It's true. Indians' 'passion' for their so-called religion, I find, is strictly limited to the stars they worship and to India playing well. It doesn't have much to do with the game as such, the faux patriotism all of us practice from time to time, or the romance involved with watching a game at grounds such as the Eden Gardens. Of course, concrete seats under the baking sun don't induce a lot of romance, but you know what I mean...
Anyway...what you'll find in Bangladesh, is a people obsessed with the game, and when I say obsessed, I mean to a degree few of us would have reached. They discuss Australian cricket. English cricket. The Ashes. South Africa's decline. The Caribbean Hope. Lara. Matthew Hayden. Muralitharan. Even Nathan Astle. At least five people (out of five) remembered the number of fours and sixes Astle had hit in that innings against England after I mentioned to them that he is my favourite batsman at the moment. [I didn't remember, of course]
Now, immodest as it may sound, I suppose I can talk a better game of cricket than many of the people on Dhaka streets. But I certainly don't keep track of as much as the average Bangladeshi cricket fan does. I don't (anymore) get up at the crack of dawn to catch matches from Australia, for example. I work when England play South Africa, and often don't bother to find out what happened.
But they do.
Is it because they are so young as a cricketing nation? At par with my, or say my generation's newness at the time of the 1992 World Cup or the tri-series preceding it...? Is it because they are still learning, and like I sat down with my scrapbooks and notebooks all day when I was, say, eight, they choose to do the same because they are less than five years into the international scene? Will it go away somewhat as Bangladesh develop into a better cricketing nation and winning and losing matches will become as everyday as it is with India or Pakistan or one of the more developed cricketing nations?
At the end of the Chittagong Test, much like after the win over India in the ODI sometime back, the scenes on the ground were reminiscent of the early 1980s Carib stuff. Though I daresay the Jamaican rum makes the somersaults and basic dances more professional than prohibition-hit Islamic nations like Bangladesh. I mean, Mohammad Ashraful's little waist-shaking isn't a patch even on morons like Faoud Bachhus.... But the essence is the same.
And man, did they celebrate after the Zimbabwe conquest! Indian cricketers have made too much money the wrong way to be able to do it, but there was Habibul Bashar, the Bangla captain, hollering away on his cellphone. As was Dav Whatmore. [Here, it would be Aushim Khetrapal...] Ashraful was dancing, running, sliding on his stomach. Tendulkar's too heavy and expensive to do anything similar. Ganguly, too unaesthetic. Dravid, too morbid. Laxman, too embarrassed. Kumble, hahahahaha. The rest...too precious.
They danced, they sang, they did everything.
And it was good to see.
And it made me think whether we will have to wait for one more new Test-playing nation to emerge before we can hope for similar scenes. Because, surely, once Bangladesh become a stronger nation, and Bashar's sneezes come with slugs, they can't afford to be the same way. It won't make such a difference either, to be fair. Heaven knows. Maybe we can keep an eye out for Zimbabwe now, and see what they do if they ever get around to winning a game again.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

An obit of sorts...

How stupid will it sound if I write here, now, that Amrish Puri has probably been the most versatile actor in Indian cinema outside of Naseeruddin Shah and Amitabh Bachchan? Bang after he died. Quite. And I can see that.
I mean, I have for a long time now protested big time against the Indian fascination with dead people. I call it the Obituary Syndrome. About how dead people are lionised, called model people, however much we despised them when they were alive. And however despicable they were in reality when alive. It's terrible the way we go about Obituarising people...
And here I am, doing much the same thing here...
Yes, I believe that way about Amrish Puri. And, to be honest, I started believing it since he aged and started doing more supporting roles. Rather than the one-dimensional villainous roles he became famous for through the best part of his career following his disillusionment with the Shyam Benegal brand of cinema. He was out to make a name for himself and not go the way his brother Om was going. If that meant playing one-dimensional people who got beaten up by morons with warts for brains, so be it. He played the same role in movie after movie, aided and abetted by his booming voice, and lived happily under the shade of that broad-brimmed hat he became synonymous with.
And then came his second coming, as mainstream Hindi cinema moved out of the kitschy 80s and early 90s. As style, a semblance of substance, less-dimwitted directors, better muzak came in and the audiences asked for a tad more sense, I think Amrish Puri came into his own. He continued playing villains every once in a way, but more often, he played different people. Often one-dimensional (we are still talking Hindi meainstream cinema, see), but more fleshed out. He had become far too big by the time for directors to offer him roles without substance.
In films like Gardish, Muskurahat, China Gate, Chachi 420, for example, we saw a totally different Amrish Puri. One that had nothing in common with the bespectacled lawyer from Aakrosh, or the stupid Mogambo cliche. He had moved on, found his niche finally.... One where he wouldn't perhaps find the scope to explore his full potential (it remained untapped, but so it did with Bachchan), but where he would reach greatness in a way few have in the niches they chose for themselves, or were pushed into.
He's died. Fine. Everyone does. He leaves behind little in terms of legacy. Also fine. His full potential remained untapped. Fair enough; he's not the first.
What won't be fair is that we will be subjected to a pile of Mogambo-heavy headlines in the papers tomorrow. And that's where we will be doing our man a great disservice. He was worth much, much more that that stupid bit of dialogue everyone remembers him for...whether everyone will agree with me about his versatility is beside the point.

Friday, January 07, 2005

A flyway in 36 hours!

It's an amazing bit of news, isn't it? This whole deal about building a flyover around the ITO area in 36 hours.... Prefab and what not.
I remember when my sister was moving into their rather plush apartment in Gurgaon a year or so back, they had arranged for a prefab kitchen or something. Now, I still don't know what it was all about, but it appears that they chose a kitchen from a pile of choices, and brought it home. Now, obviously that's not possible. Therefore, I don't know what prefab things are. And how a flyover can be prefab(ricated), I really have no way of fathoming.
Anyway...Ajitha and I were discussing the news report, and then got talking about the stale old topic of how things are so different now from when we were growing up. Strictly in terms of technology. Jabberwock's been part of these discussions with us often, and we have agreed on this whole deal about people born in the 1980s. About how they can really not be people the way we are.
It's one thing to be a bit patronising about people born in the decade or generation after yours. But that's not all true here. In this case _ people born in the 1980s vis-a-vis people born earlier _ the deal is a lot stronger. There really isn't much between people from the 1960s and the 1970s...except for the odd television set (black-and-white of course) thrown in. Cassettes instead of LPs too, but that surely wasn't a move forward... Think about it. In terms of technology, what did we (born in the 1970s and therefore 28!) have that a generation before us didn't? Zilch.
And then we come to the 'Born in the 1980s' and 'Becoming Coherent in the 1990s and 2000s' lot. Internet (the single most important invention in human history, easily), mobile phones, CDs, DVDs....LDs and stuff have for long been defunct. And now, frefab flyovers!
It's probably just envy talking here, but I'd like to believe it's more than just that. I hate to think of a 'people' who don't know what communication mess-ups are about. They don't know what libraries are meant to provide. They don't know what planning to watch a particular movie and going back day after day to find a ticket for that movie is about. They don't know how p-u-n-c-t-u-a-l-i-t-y is spelt, because they can all fix to meet at a particular time and be on their mobiles till they finally meet three hours later. During which time neither person would be at the appointed place, and if one of them had been, s/he would have found 200 places to do 500 things in.
With prefab flyways, they won't even know about traffic jams! Not just general jams, but jams brought about because of the construction of flyovers, which have traiditionally taken over a year to concretise. (No concrete now, apparantly)
Now, it's another matter that I can't see myself surviving (living, working) without the Internet or the mobile phone either. Or cable television, multiplexes, CDs (no DVDs yet), home delivery, etc. But heck, I know what it was like before. It might not have been better than it is now, but it was 'before'.
And this feeling of being an Arthur C Clarke or Douglas Adams character from the town that's just been sucked into an alien spaceship isn't too hot. Really, despite its romantic feel.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Back from the dead

The tsunami came, saw, did what it could, and is history now. Which makes it a good time to write down a few thoughts. Sorry, but the overdose of melodramatic kitsch in the air put me off a bit, and I thought I'd wait till it blew over. Have been meaning to blog on some things to do with the tsunami for some time now, but there were a lot of abstract thoughts in my mind, none of which were blogworthy.
NOTE: Come to think of it, I haven't blogged at all for some time now. Blame it on loads and loads of work at home (Ajitha and I are in the middle of a particularly cumbersome bit of freelancing) and a lot of wrapping up to do in office before leaving (haven't blogged on the fact that I am leaving here to join Headlines Today either, as I find).
Now, while this (the tsunami, or whatever it was that took away such a super number of people) is one of those instances when no amount of 'it always happens to other people' shrugging seems to make sense, I feel we have just lost the plot a bit in our anxiousness to be with the news and mention the word 'tsunami' in every conversation, than really get a correct idea of what exactly happened and why the world is a lakh-and-a-half people lighter.
For example, we were over at a friend's place on New Year's Eve (with a couple of other friends) and there was the usual bottles of vodka and chicken for us to spend till the wee hours of the morning with. The parties we had been invited to had been cancelled because 'there are so many people dying and the numbers are going up every day; how can we celebrate'. Everybody (victims of the cancelled parties) seemed to be having a 'couple of friends' over at home and planning to drink (and eat chicken) till the wee hours of the morning.
And throughout the night (at the friend's place we had been to), between refills of vodka, we chose to watch TV — BBC — and go 'oh, it's 1,20,000 now!'...or whatever.
Now, and I admit to being afflicted by this morbid fascination of counting the toll as well, I found the whole deal rather stupid. [I won't say pretentious, because for once, we were not being typically Indian and pretending to be affected by something when we weren't. Which, of course, makes it a first of sorts, but that's another story].
Now, seeing that we were not pretentious, why the hell were we behaving the way we were? It can't just be the vodka, because not everyone is inebriated all day, every day, for two weeks. Why were we counting numbers when all of us were actually rather pleased to be witness to what has now assumed proportions of being the worst natural disaster in living history? Sure we were. We missed the Wars, Independence, Woodstock, Partition and C K Nayudu. The Gulf Wars were the biggest things we were part of, apart from the Bombay and Gujarat riots (and Big Dams, but I might be ridiculed — and called pretentious — for parring it with the riots and the Wars). And all of them were such artificial events at the end of the day.
The tsunami (or was it the earthquake?) is about as big as it gets and it was closer home for us than the Israel-Palestine conflict is, or even the Kashmir problem has been. And man, are we proud to have watched it on TV! We know about Nagapattinam now, and we know there was a mess in a place called Banda Aceh in Indonesia (yeah, you had heard of Aceh and some crisis there, but how much more?). We know we were that close to a beeeeg mess-up, because that nuclear power plant in Kalpakkam might have done, well, whatever it could have done.
And, yes, we are proud that we have been on BBC and CNN and Sky everyday, and that we were being discussed in such hallowed places like the Guardian editorials and stuff like that.
And we have this friend who has since that evening been going on about how that BBC has focussed more on tourists — British or otherwise — than on the actual devastation and the actually devastated. Firstly, that's incorrect. Secondly, why not? How much have our news channels concentrated on Indonesia or Thailand or even Sri Lanka, when compared to the airtime spent on Andaman & Nicobar, Tamil Nadu or Goa? Zilch! Thirdly, evidently, this is coming from the split feeling that we are supposed to be on BBC but we are not. Hell!
Anyway, now that everyone from Amisha Patel to Maria Sharapova (and everyone in between) have donated tear-bright bucks, it's best to look at the pictures on TV. Feel bad about everything that's gone wrong and shouldn't have. And then, cheers: it's that village your grand-uncle's sister-in-law once went on an NGO assignment to! Celebrate life, because she could have chosen two weeks back to make the trip.