Anna: the anti-corruption diet?

For the past few weeks, New Delhi has become one big festival city with elocution and fancy dress competitions galore (Gandhi cap has replaced the superman cape we used to drape in our childhood). In general, it looks like one big mela promoting anarchy in the name of democracy.

The very thought process that Anna’s VLCC Xtreme diet will lead to eradication of corruption is ludicrously similar in logic to AB Junior’s Idea ad which proposes that 3G can lead to a reduction in population.

Elaborated below are a few reasons for skeptics like me to believe that all this wrestling will end up with just an additional public body (Lokayuktas), without any arms or legs.

1) Execution: There have been innumerable bills passed in the past like TADA, POTA, etc. but has that stopped terrorism? For every single law developed, we Indians can find 100 ways to circumvent it.

2) Power: The scent of power to humans is what blood is to vampires – almost always difficult to ignore and impossible to stop when you taste some. All the Robins to Anna’s Batman seem to be adulating in the new found power. And as soon as one becomes powerful, the original motive for starting a movement goes for a toss. Let’s see what this Jhing-bang does next (hopefully not the creation of a new political JanLok Party!)

3) Bureaucracy: A bloated public machinery had been one of the reasons for our painstakingly slow progress in the first 5 decades of independence. By adding another layer in the form of Lokayuktas at all levels, we are creating an alternate power centre which might be potentially misused.

4) Anarchy: We’re fanning the potential to anarchy in the future by allowing different factions to arm-twist the government to a my way vs Highway option.

5) Ignorance: Most of us hardly know the contents of the Lokpal bill draft, let alone the differences between the government’s and Anna’s draft versions. It’s just the feel-good factor and some misplaced sense of higher civil consciousness that we’re contributing something worthwhile, which has made Anna and team – the pied pipers of Ramleela.

In summary, I feel this will be similar to the annual candle marches post every Bombay blast or the slutwalks, which increase people awareness and allow them to vent out their pent-up frustrations but just about stop there, in terms of effectiveness.

Nevertheless,  I’ll be the happiest person if proven wrong and infact, there is a desire in the heart that somehow this outcry clicks and India shines as it is actually supposed to.

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Who’s the big daddy?

As the 2nd test beings at Trent Bridge, the English media starts it annual dancing and prancing routine about the myth that their team is about to dethrone the incumbent team, ruling the roost. They do this once every few years when any major series is to begin, moreso because the Pommies are one of the better sides in the current mix. But it also begs the question, whether there is a clearly identifiable no. 1 team in world cricket today?

Before we get into any academic discussions, let me point out that I’m going to ramble around as a pure lover of the game rather than a Mohandas Menon who can throw up 20,000 different stats at you. Feel free to disagree in the comments section or add your own views. Secondly, I’ve also marginalized ODIs and T20s out of the debate, because of the reasons mentioned below. Once these disclaimers are flushed down the drain, we’ll dive straight into the bravery red and white of test cricket!

ODIs:- As far as the 50 over game is concerned, the no. 1 tag sits very lightly on any team’s shoulders. It’s always the last edition’s world cup winners (in the current scenario India), who are anointed the kings of the game even though they might be languishing at the no. 2 or 3 spot. For two years, a country can be rest assured to keeping milking on the world champions title, before the next edition’s shenanigans start honking again. Then the circus re-starts trying to relegate some teams to the top dogs category and a couple others thrown in as underdogs. (usually Pakistan & New Zealand)

T20s:- The baby of all formats is too new for us to form explicit opinions but one thing is certain, where prediction or picking up a team as numero uno is concerned, it’s virtually impossible because one Chris Gayle or Ross Taylor can turn the game over it’s head in a matter of minutes, irrespective of the situation, timing and competition. How many of you think that the Englishmen are actually no. 1 in this format, despite the fact that they won the last T20 championship in 2010? I guess, not many. And here we also have to take into account the further bastardization of the game with the invent of the IPL…If you hand over the top rank to any team in T20 school of cricket, it has to be Chennai Super Kings instead of any country, just on the basis of their unparalleled consistency in the infinitesimally small history of this format.

TESTS:

Now we move onto the big daddy – the purists and cricketers’ first love. 5 days of unadulterated display of skill, stamina and perseverance. As a spectator sport, this must be probably the most unique and at times a boring experience, because it’s akin to watching a chess match spread over, say 40 hours without the promise of a result in the end. But from purely the game’s point of view, this actually brings out the best as well as the worst out of a team. Unlike the shorter versions of the game, here even if 2 or 3 players are not upto caliber, their shortcomings are woefully extracted over a sub-period of any of the 5 days. It is indeed a real ‘TEST’ for each of the 11 players.

India (2009- ????):

Precisely the reason that amongst the current lot, not a single team can lay claim to the throne. Each team has substantial level of weaknesses which get accentuated on varied surfaces and conditions. Well, one can argue saying that since it’s a relative ranking, anyone who plays better will be at the top. But I would rather hang onto the notion that no. 1  is a team which is invincible, and the one for which even competition accepts this fact, albeit grudgingly.

Which brings us to the current champions. India’s unevenness in bowling vs batting is well known and only gets exacerbated when you have a mainstay like Zaheer Khan hobbling away within the 1st session of a match…Even Harbhajan hasn’t lived upto the expectations, created once Anil Kumble handed over the sole spinner baton to him. A billion population country unable to produce even 4 world-class bowlers is a conundrum unsolved for decades now. Likewise, the other top teams like South Africa, England, Sri Lanka and Australia have their own set of problems. These 5 teams wouldn’t be able to stamp out a complete authority unlike their 2 predecessors who ruled the roost for 25+ long years!
Australia (1996-2009):

Compare this to the erstwhile Australian team which kept the no. 1 tag to themselves for 6 unbroken years, right from the time the rankings were modified and re-established in 2003…The balance which the Waugh brothers, Mcgrath-Warne, Gilchrist, and company provided was unmatchable and that’s what made them deadly across both formats. And they were actually champions even before the rankings were initiatied and can be said to have ruled the roost for more than a decade – starting around their ODI world cup final loss to Lanka in 1996. This they managed with the help of a fantastic work ethic, discipline and grass-roots program which ensured that well trained cricketers were thrown off the assembly line like a regimented army. Yes, talent also was a significant aspect, but they are the ones who actually converted the art of cricket into a studied and perfected science…The only artistic expression they vented out were the verbal sledgehammers dished out to rest of the world, on the field.

Windies (1975-1990):

That leaves us with the baap of all teams – the Brazilians of cricket. The purely skilled samba dancers which would have been fun to watch in today’s day and age. Some of you might argue that the mighty Windies played in an era when there were only 5 or 6 test playing nations and had substantial threat only from the Aussies or at times from the Englishmen…But let’s not break the romantic notion of a team which pulverized everything into submission for 15 long years! Even today the names of Lloyd, Richards, Holding, Roberts inspires awe in fans and cricketers alike. Their brand of cricket was one of pure skill. Fearless in their approach, most of them were poetry and blood in motion. If one visual can capture their aggression and attitude was the way Emperor Richards would swagger onto the field chewing gum and hitting rockets out of the ground.

Await one day, when India can beg, borrow or steal some quickies from across the border who can set the field on fire and match the intensity which only our batsmen have so far provided. Sometimes, I also dread the day when Sachin, Rahul and Laxman will hang their boots who currently not many youngsters seem capable of wearing!


Dilution of Power! – Monopoly to Oligopoly to Individualism…

Has monopoly as a concept lost its way in the new world order, formed over the last few decades ?

->  G20 replaces G8….Chindia, and a few other nations are jumping up and down with glee at suddenly showing their economic prowess to the US and EU.

The interesting fact is that the economic bloc which till now had representation from Europe and North America has now dissipated to nearly every continent (Mexico, Turkey, Australia, Argentina, South Africa, etc. are all a part of the G20)

-> Power of information is moving away from the hands of a few media moguls to the common man….Twitter, Wikipedia – Information seekers now are information dissipaters too. ..

-> The Great Depression hit the ‘US’ in 1930s, but the credit crisis in 2008 hit ‘the World’, despite the core problem lying in the US financial lending and securitization…The media drive affected the consumer sentiment in a huge way across the globe.

-> Coalition governments are more in vogue in a lot of countries today…

In a world where information, capital, humans, terrorists, etc. flow beyond boundaries of cities, countries and continents, it looks as if even oligopoly might soon lose its relevance !

Looking forward to a world in the next century where power would have probably further diluted to the absolute individual, en masse.

Gandhi – Saint/Politician/Myth?

All around us, we see men today being elevated to the demi-God status. Indians especially seem to bitten by this bug (The late Sathya Sai Baba, Baba Ramdev, etc…) Which makes me go back a century and think about the original GodMan, Gandhi who was given the title of Mahatma by a nation starved of real heroes.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi might have been a successful leader and politician but in my books, I can’t put him on the pedestal of a saint. My judgment is based on limited historical facts, read and absorbed through the years (Though history itself is always colored depending on the writer’s race, creed and nationality).

Let’s delve on 4 aspects of the man’s well-publicized life, before you can start shooting your darts at me:

 1) Gandhi attained independence for us?

Did the Brits really leave because of Gandhi’s determination? Maybe he was one of the major irritant in their lives, but to me our independence was the side-effect of World War II.

  •  The immense devastation in Europe, which left most imperial powers incapable of holding on, led to the eventual decolonization and freedom of India, Malaysia and a few other South East Asian countries.
  •  Also, post WWII, 2 new superpowers came into play – USA and USSR and it also spawned a whole new group of institutions like the UN and EU, and peace, country sovereignty, etc. were the new buzz words.

2) Non-Violence against Oppressors!

The idea of offering your 2nd cheek if someone slaps on the 1st reeks of two problems:

  • It goes against the universal law – “Survival of the Fittest”…Why would 350 Million people allow 0.2 Million people to trample them and the only retort we have is that we won’t raise a hand on you!
  • Standing in front of a gun and ready to die without putting a fight is tantamount to suicide – amoral and illegal (let’s keep the debate on euthanasia for some other day/post)

3) Partition

Yes Gandhi was always against partition, but despite his strong views on the subject why didn’t he influence his brethren to share power with the Moslem League?

  • The eagerness to appease to all factions and in the bargain hurting everyone led to the massive bloodbath, which has left stains till date and has exploded into other negative dimensions.
  • We don’t know whether he could have done anything better, but in my mind this is Gandhi’s biggest failure as a “Father of the Nation”…

4) Experiments with Truth? 

Sharing a bed with young women in the buff and practicing abstinence doesn’t make sense. Atleast that’s not what nature intended and Gandhi seemed to find logical explanations for doing so! And there are various such small idiosyncrasies in his autobiography, which are hard to digest for the ‘Saint’.

Let me close by saying that whatever said and done, I still believe that he was an individual who had a few fantastic qualities like the guts to hold onto the truth and have an entire population dancing to his tunes – Yes, Gandhi was a great politician…But a saint ? Open for debate !