Wednesday, September 26, 2007

We are the Champions!!

This was one of my favorite moments of cricketing history, India winning the Twenty20 World Cup. Every Indian cricket lover will cherish this moment for a long time to come. It couldn’t have been scripted better, an Indo-Pak final and one that which dragged till the last ball, holding the breath of billions of people around the world. The truth is that it could have gone eitherway but it was India’s destiny that Misbah-ul-haq will try to pick a shot that will go straight into the hands of Sreesanth. The good part about the final was that it was played hard, with passion and without any animosity. Indians acknowledged the talent of Umar Gul and Misbah-ul-Haq,while Pakistanis applauded Gambhir and R P Singh for their consistency. Infact, whenever I watch the highlights of the final (watched is 5 times already) and see Misbah-ul-Haq on the ground crying at the same time when Indian team was celebrating its victory, my heart goes out for the man who gave his best but could never cross the line.

Yuvraj Singh has been my favorite player for more than one reason. Firstly, he has a typical Punjabi attitude and that what makes him different from the rest. Secondly, he has that raw talent which if harnessed well could reap some amazing crop for Indian cricket and last but not the least; he is one of the cleanest strikers of the ball. Infact, after watching his six sixes, I read that his batting style resembles Gary Sobers and rightly so. Here are the videos of Yuvraj’s and Sober's six sixes and the resemblance in shot selection and clean hitting is uncanny.

Apart from Yuvi, one other person who deserves all the applauds (read Ad contracts) is Mahi (M S Dhoni), captain of Team India. What an attitude!! He gave an excellent example of a leader, the one who inspires but remain cool no matter what a situation, the one who believes in his team of people, the one who applauds his heroes and the one who leads by example.

There were two contrasting sour moments at the end of the world cup that tried to dampen the win that every player in the team deserved. During the presentation ceremony, Shoaib Malik, who was the second best captain in the tournament, said something politically wrong. He said something to the effect that, every Muslim should be proud of Pakistan’s achievement. What Shoaib didn’t notice was that India’s man of the match is a Muslim, India’s opener is a Muslim and the guy by the name of Shah Rukh Khan who hugged the Indian team is a Muslim too. So, Indian Muslims were not represented by Pakistan in the final but they were represented by Team India which won the World Cup.

The other person who did played the religious card once again and that too on the wrong side was Mr. Narendra Singh Modi. When rest of the Indian states are facilitating their players, Modi has decided to ignore two players from his state because they are Muslims. Only if it was Parthiv Patel instead of Irfan Pathan that he would have showered him with gifts. I think the Pathan brothers deserve a better treatment or should move to a different state that will atleast acknowledge their contribution to this cricket team.

This Indian team in every sense represents India, with players from every major religion in the country and filled with youths, which constitute more than 50% of India’s population. Its after a while that whole country was united and happy of its achievement which reflected in the India’s stock market which crossed the 17000 mark for the first time during the trading. We need more moments like these because it is indeed the time when every Indian can proudly say, “We are the Champions”.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Dream Match...

Oh, this is not a post about my “dream match” because that will happen with Sania one day for sure and I will let her beat me **wink wink*. This is about the “dream match” of every cricket lover, India-Pakistan final in a major tournament, Twenty20 World Cup. If a regular match between the two teams in exciting then this match will raise the testosterone level of every Indian and Pakistani cricket lover.

Shoaib Malik and M S Dhoni with the Twenty20 trophy under Nelson Mandela's statue

I wanted to write this post before the match rather than as an afterthought. It’s because after the match one team will be the loser while other will be celebrating the victory. This is the nature of sport; one has to lose for the other to win. In the preliminary match of this world cup, the game between India and Pakistan was tied and still it was deemed necessary to make one team the winner by silliness of bowl out.

It has always been about winning and losing between India and Pakistan. What people of both countries don’t realize is that one will have to lose for the other to win. If Kashmir goes to Pakistan then India loses and if it stays with India then Pakistan loses. Can’t we call this match a tie without a bowl-out? I think India-Pakistan have the right opportunity to make this a tie match. The relationship between the countries cannot be better even though both still keep on blaming each other on some matters like India accusing groups in Pakistan of supporting bombings in India and Pakistan accusing India of interfering in Baluchistan by arming the rebels there. I am sure there is some truth in all such cases but its time the people of both countries rise above such petty differences. How much progress both the countries would have made if they had not spent billions of dollars on weapons and nuclear bombs rather than spending the same money on education, basic healthcare, and infrastructure. More than 30% of population in both countries is living below poverty line and still we would rather spend more than a million dollars per day on a barren land of Siachien Glacier.

Serenity of Dal Lake is seen to be believed

I am not saying that solution to complex problem like Kashmir can be found easily but some solution has to be found soon. I went to Kashmir in late 1980s when militancy was raising its ugly head in the state but that is not what I remember about Kashmir. I remember beautiful Mughal Gardens, the majesty of house boats and shikaras in Dal Lake, skiing resorts to die for in Gulmarg, apple orchids spread all over the countryside, local people taking angethe inside their traditional clothes to keep themselves warm, smile of beautiful children running around through the narrow streets of markets.

Kashmiri kids with their innocent smile

I don’t want to go back to Kashmir where the Chinar trees of Dal Lake are dieing because no one is there to take care of them, where house boats have become ghost boats, apple orchids have become barren fields, local people are carrying guns to keep themselves safe and smiles of children is replaced by fear of the unknown.

I hope the Kashmir match is a tie for both the countries. I hope Kashmir becomes a peace region and model for every place in the world. I hope Kashmir becomes a melting pot where Indian and Pakistanis can move around freely and exchange ideas, thoughts, art, music and sports. I hope Kashmir becomes an inspiration for every person of the world.

Here is one such inspiration “Kashmir” by British rock-band Led Zeppelin :

Oh let the sun beat down upon my face
Stars to fill my dream
I am a traveler of both time and space
To be where I have been
To sit with elders of the gentle race
This world has seldom seen
They talk of days for which they sit and wait
All will be revealed

Talk and song from tongues of lilting grace
Whose sounds caress my ear
But not a word I heard could I relate
The story was quite clear

Oh, I been flying... mama, there ain't no denyin'
I've been flying, ain't no denyin', no denyin'

All I see turns to brown, as the sun burns the ground
And my eyes fill with sand, as I scan this wasted land
Trying to find, trying to find where I've been.

Oh, pilot of the storm who leaves no trace
Like thoughts inside a dream
Heed the path that led me to that place
Yellow desert stream
My Shangri-La beneath the summer moon
I will return again
Sure as the dust that floats high in June
When movin' through Kashmir

Oh, father of the four winds, fill my sails
Across the sea of years
With no provision but an open face
Along the straits of fear

When I'm on, when I'm on my way, yeah
When I see, when I see the way, you stay-yeah

Ooh, yeah-yeah, ooh, yeah-yeah, when I'm down...
Ooh, yeah-yeah, ooh, yeah-yeah, well I'm down, so down
Ooh, my baby, oooh, my baby, let me take you there

Let me take you there. Let me take you there...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Invisible Indian

Recently IBM came up with cutting-edge technology to help deaf and blind people to connect with rest of the world through software. While reading about those technologies it stuck me that these people in India are not only deaf, mute and blind but also invisible. It’s a rarity to see a blind man crossing a street unless he/she has been forced to beg on the street, while using the handicap as a way to make money, in most cases not for themselves but for their bosses in the begging business. Having said that, I personally think that India does a lot for the less privileged, albeit through private efforts rather than Government. The area where India or other developing nations have failed is making these people visible to the world around them.

When I was in Dehradun doing my final years of my schooling, I would pass by a blind school and would sometimes see one or two blind people wandering outside to walk in the open air outside their gated school for blinds. The sight would intrigue me because I hardly saw blind people walking in the streets. At times I would wonder what it must feel to live not only as a blind person but live inside a gated community as well, separated from the rest of the world.

When I moved to Canada those invisible people in India became visible here. It became a common sight to see blind/deaf/handicapped people on streets, colleges, pubs, stores, work places. So, how was it possible that in a country like India, with a population of more blind/deaf people that entire population of Canada, these people were invisible? Sure, we would hear success stories about blind/deaf schools but never see those people among ourselves.

This is where the Government needs to step up because India will never move forward without making such a large population visible to the people around them. We will need to build pavements where everyone can walk without stepping on each other; transportation for special needs people like the Metro in Delhi has provided recently, buildings with access for everyone, street crosswalks with audible/visual signage and much more. It is no longer an excuse that India cannot afford these facilities because it can and it should. As our prime minister, Manmohan Singh said and I will paraphrase, that if India has to grow it has to take everyone with it. India’s progress will mean nothing if we ignore a major portion of the population because one of their senses do not work. It is good to look at innovative techniques like IBM has been working on but the real progress can be made by opening our hearts and minds for that invisible Indian.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Funda cellphone ka...

Two contrasting stories on cellphone/mobile usage caught my eyes today. Both stories were featured in BBC: "Cancer doubts remains over mobiles" and "India state bans mobiles in class". I am not sure if mobile causes any harmful effects to brain or causes cancer but as the studies shows, it doesn't atleast have any short-term side-effects except for annoyance to the rest of the world. I don't have problem with people talking on their mobiles but am not interested in knowing what one saas thinks of her bahu or vice-versa or a boyfriend faking lovey dovey feelings for his girlfriend in full public view or as some mms scandals have shown...oh well haven't they shown enough.

In India, according to some reports and as BBC article shows, cellphone has become one huge fashion accessory, with an average Indian changing their cellphones every 18 months compared to 36 months for a North American user. It is also interesting to see the different ways in which cellphones are being used around the world. Japanese use it to buy their groceries and hang their little toys on the cellphone for fashion, Indian like playing the latest Himesh number as their ringtones, Americans like slim sized phones and Canadians...err...well they just like to carry a mobile if they can afford the bills since we get charged even for incoming calls/smses.

Anyways, all the above fundas now don't apply to me. Why? Oh well, coz I have given up my cellphone for good-ol-landlines. I have been using cellphone for past 8 years and the question is why to leave now and how is the life without a cellphone. To answer the first question, well me and my brother had 2 cellphones when we were away and that was good way to keep in touch and all. After moving here, we thought we will give up one cell and keep one landline but when our last two bills came for $400 (Rs. 16000), it was time to end this cellphone crap and so we both gave our cellphones and took one landline.

Now, how is life without cellphone? Hmmm...not bad actually. Now whenever we take a call at home we know that we don't have to count the minutes on our hand or risk being screwed by the cellphone company like we were before. Also, because we both are out of house most of the day as I come home at 10:00pm and my brother in the evening, cellphone was a waste since we are not allowed to use cellphone at work/school. Although, there are some things that we miss about cellphones, one of them being sending smses but we already have so many different ways to contact people like, orkut, facebook, email, phonecall etc. that we don't miss it that bad. Although, I miss sending smses to few friends from work (you know who) :D Another thing that can be a concern is that since I come late at night from the downtown area and take subway, it is usually good to have a cellphone in emergency situations but the subway system have got free emergency phones, if needed, and so that's not a big deal either. Apart from that, life without cellphone is pretty good.

I am not saying that everyone should give up cellphone because in most cases it has become a necessity esp. when you need to be connected for your work. It is also a good revolution for India because it cuts-off the bribe-seeking middle-men who took 10 years to give us our first land-line and that too with some chai-paani. Also, in a large country like India, where call charges can be dropped to pennies coz of huge number of users, having a cellphone makes more sense then having a landline.

Anyways, my favorite cellphone story is the one based in India 10 years ago . It was the year 1997 (or1998) and cellphones had recently made entry into the Indian market. An average cellphone costed about Rs 50,000+40,000 (insurance). I was at my mechanic, getting my scooter fixed. A huge Punjabi guy comes in his Bajaj Chetak, talks to mechanic about his scooter problem and looks at me standing there to get my scooter fixed. Suddenly out of the blue, he takes out his new cellphone (size of a shoe-box, no less), looks at it in an admiring way like a lover looks at his first love, presses some buttons, smiles and keeps the cellphone in his pocket. And I say in my heart, "Damn, these Delhi people got one more thing to show-off". Little did I knew...

Friday, September 07, 2007

May the best man win...

I have been hooked to Indian Idol this year, unlike any other reality show. There have been some great and some not-so-great moments this year but its amazing how we all got emotionally attached to the contestants. Its very hard to keep an open perspective when you get emotionally attached to some contestant for one reason or another. There were some amazing contestants this year although there was one kid who was the most different and likable of all, Meiyang Chang. An oriental guy from Dhanbad, Jharkhand, who got famous for being a great-grandson of Chinese immigrants and yet more Indian than anyone else.

He brought that something different to this show with his beautiful soft voice. As a blogger it felt good to know that he was also an avid blogger, who made it big. There were some other amazing contestants like the confident 17-year old girl from Kanpur, Ankita, beautiful and simple girl from Dehradoon, Charu, an amazing singer from Patna with an ambition of being a RJ, Deepali, girl's favorite punjabi munda, Parleen, the girl with husky voice, Puja and many more. Also, loved the smart comments from new Judge, Javed Akhtar, although hated another new judge, Udit Narayan, who was good for nothing but still less annoying than Anu Malik and Alisha Chinoy.

It is now left to last three contestants, the guy with "cute" factor according to Girls, Emon, the boy with most mature voice, Amit and the dark horse, Prashant.

My favorite in every which way is Amit Paul (and it is nothing to do with the fact that he is from Shillong, were I spent few of my growing years) although this year I won't mind any one of the three winning. Yes, you heard me right. I won't mind even if Prashant wins because even though he is being ignored by blog and print media, he represents people who may not be literate enough to write but know the power of voting. Its a fact of Indian democracy that while middle and upper-middle class talk, its the lower-middle class that votes. Prashant may not be the best singer or best performer or the best personality but he holds the hope for millions of Indians who are underdogs and never got the chance to stand up to affluent-mall-hopping Indians. Having said that, Amit is still my favorite because he doesn't only look like a great singer/performer in making but also a nice guy.

I cannot finish this post without mentioning one name, Emon, because there is a good chance that someone can hurt me if I don't (Read 'someone' as Reema or Arpita). He may have his ups and downs but he was the one with best sense of humor and jolly nature. He is no wonder a star-to-be but his chances of winning or even coming as top-two is low because of the surging popularity of Prashant and Amit. Amazingly, all three contestants are from eastern part of the country.

Unlike last year, am not promoting anyone (yea, like the one I promoted last year, this year but may the best man win...

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh

(I have tried not to give any part of the story except for what maybe included at the back cover of the book)

I was introduced to the writing of Amitav by Colors through his latest book, “The Hungry Tide”. I found his writing fascinating because of the fact that the setting of his novel was as much a character as the people in it. As I was opening my luggage after moving to Edmonton, I was surprised to discover that I had a copy of Amitav Ghosh’s “The Glass Palace”, which was given to me by my cousin before leaving for Canada. I never got the chance to read it and the book relegated to the obscure corner of my bookshelf for 6 years. When I started reading Amitav Ghosh's The Glass Palace, I decided to mark those pages that have a great quote or something that I would like to read more about. By the end of the epic novel, I had more than 80% of the book marked.

Burma, which is as good as one of the central character of the novel because of the mystery, untouched beauty and uniqueness of the place.

The Glass Palace starts from the calm waterways of Mandalay in Burma, moves to the beautiful port of Ratnagiri in Maharashtra to the sameness of rubber plantations of Malaya into the conflict of Indian National Army against British forces during the Second World War. This is a story of three generations starting and ending with the family patriarch, Rajkumar. If “Hungry Tide” had the setting of Sundarbans as one of its principal characters then “The Glass Palace” has Burma, Ratnagiri and everything in between as part of its characters. Amitav, the writer, takes us to the places that we only read in books and may never visit because maybe they are inaccessible like Burma or out of the way like Ratnagiri.

Thibaw Palace, Residence of Burmese King exiled in Ratnagiri by British. King Thibaw is one of the few real characters in the novel.

Another character of this masterpiece is the timezone in which the majority of the novel is set. It was the tumultuous time at the end of British rule of India, when the country was divided between Gandhi’s and Bose’s ideology. At that time everyone knew that India needed to get independence but the question was which ideology was better. In hindsight we all can say that Gandhi’s ideology had a better chance of succeeding but the soldiers in Indian National Army did believe ferociously in their ideology as much as Gandhians did in theirs. It is this ideological difference that Amitav has tried to discuss through characters of his novel rather than through public figures like Gandhi and Bose, and so we are able to see those ideological differences through the eye of common man and hence can have more sympathies with one side or another.

It’s a bit coincidental that both the novels that I have read of Amitav, had lead me to encounter with either the principal character of the novel or with the scenario presented. In Hungry Tide, as I mentioned in my older post, I was able to see dolphins while reading the book on the ferry and the story in that novel revolved around dolphins in the river Ganges. In The Glass Palace, the story starts in Burma and talks a lot about the political upheaval in Burma during and after the British Raj and how the country that was once called, “The Golden Bird” is now going towards obscurity because of questionable policies of the then British regime. This part of the story is coincidental because Burma is again in news for all the wrong reasons. Recently, the military regime of Burma decided to raise prices of fuel and the conflict split into streets with at least 88 student protesters missing since the conflict began last week. The novel has described the political situations of Burma in a very engaging way through different time zones and history.

The novel ended with few questions unanswered but that is the best way to end some books where the reader is made to think of his/her own ending based on how he/she interprets the novel. For me personally, it made me to think of all the events that took place preceding to the ending and then make up my own ending in my mind that answers my questions not anyone else’s. The Glass Palace was a fascinating read but if I need to be picky then there were few coincidental moments in the book but then again they could be forgiven in the spirit of fiction.

I read my novels very slowly, reading only 30-40 pages a day, maybe because I didn’t started reading them till last few years but over time I have realized that for me that’s the way to read good fiction because the characters in the novel become a daily part of my life. I like exploring them day by day, chapter by chapter, and layer by layer, till the entire layers end up to the real seed of the book which may one day give life to another fruit. The Glass Palace was one such book that revealed itself layer by layer till its culmination that didn’t really end the novel but provided the seed for another one, maybe not for me but for someone who is ready to nurture it.

Here’s ending with a direct quote from The Glass Palace that defined a major conflict in the book:

“Arjun saw that it was a pamphlet, written in Hindustani and printed in both Devanagari and Arabic script. It was an appeal directed to the Indian soldiers, signed by one Amreek Singh of the Indian Independence League. The text began: Brothers, ask yourselves what you are fighting for and why you are here: do you really wish to sacrifice your lives for an Empire that has kept your country in slavery for two hundred years?