Category Archives: General

Lokpal tabled in Parliament

View the story “Lokpal Bill tabled in Parliament” on Storify]

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What a crying shame!

We have spent Rs 75000-odd crores, according to some estimates, on the Commonwealth Games to heap shame on ourselves. How Indian indeed!

On Thursday, the BBC has put up images of the Commonwealth Games village that will make any self-respecting Indian’s head bow in shame.

Doesn’t it makes us all wonder why the government went chasing after the rights of a Games that evokes such little passion in the first place? After all, this was no Olympics, no Asian Games, no FIFA World Cup, no T20 World Cup even.

The less said about the planning too, the better.

Funds were released late, despite us winning the bid in 2003. And once they were cleared, no proper organisational structure was put in place.

Whatever happened to that very Indian trait – the need to weave an intricate bureaucratic web ALWAYS? Our babus and ministers display an undying love for it when there is little need. At a time when we needed a clearly thought out hierarchy the most, though, almost no effort was made.

Instead, we kept it simple. Our idea of a successful organising committee was having Suresh Kalmadi at the helm. Does more need to be said?

The Delhi government and various lower-level committees that were involved in this massive non-exercise shouldn’t also be forgotten. Their list of failures are so long that it even winds its way via the doorsteps of India’s legendary metro man E Sreedharan, whose team was given such a tight deadline that they found themselves dealing with a sad mishap that claimed lives.

Sitting at the head of this ruinous extravaganza was a Prime Minister, who kept a studious distance from this all. The rest of the world might call him wise, but what was the wisdom in his approach of considered silence till today?

Worst of all, we couldn’t even cobble together a decent bunch of spokesmen when the shit hit the ceiling.

Oops! Dangerous word that – the ceiling. But I am getting away from my point. Couldn’t we at least spot our Lalit Bhanots and shield them from the world media and the microphones then?

Since it is the queen’s games, let me end by posing the moot question once again – why at all did we have to get into this right royal mess?

The lesson we Indians must learn at least now is to avoid such attempts at advertisement in future.

Yes, in incredible India, bribes can be taken and given; corners can be cut; deadlines can be missed and power can be abused – but not on the world stage, please.

R Rajesh Kumar

Why Indians are obsessed with family dramas

Shah Rukh Khan in Fauji

Shah Rukh Khan in Fauji

If Shah Rukh Khan had been born ten years later, would he have got a chance to play Fauji’s Abhimanyu Rai, the TV role that took him closer to superstardom?

More importantly, would Fauji have even been made now, when all you see on TV are weeping bahus, scheming in-laws and talent shows where the talented rarely win?

If you are among those who wonder why a nation that lapped up classics like a Tamas and a Hum Log now insists only on watching endless family dramas, you might find your answer in Venita Coelho’s new book.

Soap! Writing and Surviving Television in India is tagged “A Handbook For Aspiring Writers”. But you don’t need to be an aspiring writer to enjoy this one.

Venita’s insights into the history of Indian television, peppered with her own experiences – from being a “runner around” at UTV during the Doordarshan days to being the Vice President at Sony Entertainment Television – make this book a priceless read.

Stories on family politics, she says, will never go out of fashion because they are what Indians have loved most down the ages, right from the time of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.

And though we follow the Western structure of story telling in the movies, where there is a beginning, a middle and an end, Television is where the Indian structure of story-telling is alive and well. Our great narratives, like the Panchatantra, never end: One story leads to another, Arabian Nights style.

The book traces the evolution of the Indian soap and explains why despite the red tape and the bureaucracy, the Doordarshan era was the golden age for fiction-based shows. It speaks of TV bosses  who were sacked while they were choosing dessert during lunch hour, of program heads with no creative bone and no Hindi, of burnouts and impossible deadlines.

For aspiring TV writers, Soap is a book like no other.

With live examples, Venita explains how to work your story, how to sell your story to the channel, how to sustain the pressures of having a daily show on air and how to use flowcharts, graphics and power point presentations to track characters, family trees and the plot.

The book goes right down to the basics: it tells you how to copyright your idea, how to deal with the health hazards of being a writer (carpal tunnel, a bad back…) and even how to demand – and get – the money a channel owes you!

A must-read for anyone interested in the strange world that is Indian television.

Interview with Venita Coelho: The woman who ran away from Television

Soap! Writing and Surviving Television in India is published by Harper Collins.  Buy a copy here

Sarita Ravindranath

Why does Kashmir seem so far away?

Violence on the streets in Kashmir

Violence on the streets in Kashmir

A friend of mine made an interesting observation on Facebook the other day.

“Parliament suspended after two UP farmers were shot by police, 58 and counting in Kashmir,” she said.

My first thought was – “That is true, but practically everything matters more than Kashmir.”

To me (and I suspect to a lot of other people as well) Kashmir is just something I watch on the news channel for 15 minutes before moving on to watch Indian Idol. I guess you could call it viewer fatigue.

Oh don’t get all angry at my lack of sentiment.

I know I should care about Kashmir…and Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Chinese oppression, global warming, animal extinction, Greenpeace, Maoists and even the whales that Japan insists on butchering.

But right now what I really care about is dinner. It has an immediate connection (I am hungry), I am familiar with it (I eat a lot) and I know exactly how to solve the issue (the Dominos downstairs beckons me). That is everything Kashmir is not.

It’s too far away for any connection ( I am in Chennai), I am totally unfamiliar with it thanks to decades of censorship (Free press? Don’t make me laugh!) and when it seems Kashmiris themselves have no idea how to solve their issues,  what do they really expect me to do about it?

And most importantly – the only Kashmiri I ever met never spoke about Kashmir, is currently back in Kashmir and still not very talkative or in touch.

They say all that the young of Kashmir have ever seen is oppression and terror.

Well, all I have ever known is – Kashmiris are treasonous separatists, Pakistani puppets and always out on the roads throwing stones like barbarians.

Of course this is not the truth. Words like military rule, POTA, judicial murder, rape, theft, human indignity and others fight for space in my mind. But first impressions are everything.

What I should be reading are Kashmiri pamphlets handed out by my local chapter of “Free Kashmir,” frankly informing me about
the latest atrocities this nation has committed.

I should be listening to soulful ‘freedom’ songs composed by angst-ridden Kashmiris. 

I should be watching a Kashmiri movie about their plight. A movie made by Kashmiris,  not a bad Bollywood version.

I should leave the theatre so moved that my wallet loosens and I make a donation into “Free Kashmir Fund” box, helpfully placed outside the theatre along with “I support Kashmir” buttons and stickers. Kashmir needs a better, bigger campaign – one that doesn’t dishonour her name.

Ninety-five per cent of India is too far away from the valley and 90 per cent  of our people don’t care because they don’t know.

There is a difference between political movements and anarchy – a small difference.

After all, if you can get enough people to care, you change the world.

Vinayak Hegde

Commonwealth Games: Where the money could’ve gone

Commonwealth Games

Money Games

I feel proud when I realise that India is hosting the Commonwealth Games. As an Indian, it inculcates a sense of patriotism in me.

But the moment I read about the expenditure on the Games – a whopping 30,000 crore and counting – the sense of patriotism evaporates.

India is a country where sports still languishes – apart from cricket, other sports still grapple hard to get their due and most sportspersons have to put up with lack of adequate finances and recognition unlike luckier counterparts like Vijender Singh (boxing), Pankaj Advani (billiards) and Saina Nehwal (badminton) to name a few.

Sample this: In July 2009, Indian hockey goalkeeper Baljit Singh sustained a career-threatening eye injury while he was practicing at a camp at Pune. He was treated at the AIIMS and later in the US.

Hockey India footed the bill as he was unable to fund his treatment in the US.

In January 2010, the disgruntled national men’s hockey players staged indefinite boycott of the World Cup preparatory camp to protest the non-payment of their dues and incentives.

Barely a week later, even women’s hockey players staged similar protests to demand their dues.

And this is no flash in the pan, there’re lot more issues and gloomy stories that go unnoticed.

While a cricketer, with a minor injury, rushes abroad for the best possible medical attention, other sportspersons lack that financial might.

The reason being that most of the sports get neglected due to lack of funds and infrastructure and  sportsmen/women struggle to find a foothold even to make a decent living.

And now after Urban Development Minister S Jaipal Reddy comment that a total of Rs 28,054 crore have been spent on the Commonwealth Games, out of which Rs 16,560 crore was given to the Delhi Government for upgrading the capital infrastructure and building of various stadia, I can hardly fathom the necessity for a country like India to host a event of this magnitude?

When sports in our country suffers due to lack of funds, and sportspersons lead an awful life, it was hardly necessary for us to conduct the Games.

Even Mani Shankar Iyer, former Sports Minister and a staunch opponent of Commonwealth Games, had voiced his concern.

“Those who are patronising the Games can only be evil. They cannot be God. Thousands of crores are being spent on circuses like these while the common children are being deprived of basic facilities to play,” Iyer said.

Think of it.

If we could have used all the money allotted for staging the Commonwealth Games for developing sports alone, our country would have benefited.

The Indian Olympic Association could have toed on these lines to benefit Indian sports:

1) Having a Comprehensive National Sports Policy
2) Providing Funds to State Associations of various bodies
3) Upgrading infrastructures in collaboration with Sports Authority of India (SAI)
4) Form a committee to spot talents at the grassroot level – be it football, hockey, archery, badminton, swimming, boxing or any other sport
5) Provide quality coaching etc…

These are few suggestions that could have benefited Indian sports as a whole, but now with a few of the Organising Committee members of the CWG involved in unbridled corruption, we can hardly believe that there will be a proper utilisation of the taxpayers’ money.

I even doubt, with news of rampant CWG corruption deals coming to the fore each day, whether the Games will be successful at all.

I doubt whether India can project itself successfully as a tourist hub due to this Games.

Once the Games get over, there may be lot of post-mortems.

But one thing will remain the same.

Indian sports will struggle to find that healing touch and its sportsmen/women will sulk in despair for that decent living…

Suvendu Mohanty

Do we really need Sachin’s blood?

Sachin Tendulkar

No need for him to be another baba

Note: A day after this article was published on Sify, Sachin on Saturday (July 24) clarified that there won’t be any blood in the book. Read on to find out why it would have been an unnecessarily undignified act by the little champion, if he had allowed the publishers to go ahead with their original plan.

Almost 21 years ago, it was Waqar Younis who made the then 17-year-old Sachin Tendulkar spill blood in his debut Test with an awkward bouncer.

Now, it is the turn of a publisher.

For those of you who haven’t heard the news already, Kraken Media, the publishers of Tendulkar Opus, plan to print 10 deluxe copies of their 37kg tome with a signature page that “will be mixed with Sachin’s blood – mixed into the paper pulp so it’s a red resin”.

The editions, which have already been pre-ordered, are priced at $75000 each (Rs 35 lakhs at the current rate) and will also feature a DNA profile of the little champion generated from his saliva and more than 1,500 pictures, with each of the 852 pages being edged in gold leaf.

Kraken Media’s chief executive Karl Fowler explained the decision to the UK-based Guardian in this manner: “It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, it’s not to everyone’s taste and some may think it’s a bit weird. But the key thing here is that Sachin Tendulkar to millions of people is a religious icon. And we thought how, in a publishing form, can you get as close to your god as possible?”

Certainly, they have hit upon quite an idea indeed!

Even Deigo Maradona, the other sporting star whose autobiography was touted as an Opus, hasn’t been subjected to this kind of hagiography.

Agreed the cause is good. The Rs 3.5 crores raised from the deluxe-edition sale will go towards building a school in Mumbai.

Agreed also that the market for sports books in India, where Sachin has his biggest fan following, is rather thin.

I am reminded in this context of a friend of mine who ended up spending lakhs of rupees from his own pocket to get his biography on Prakash Padukone, the greatest badminton player India has produced, published. Passion, in his case, only served to burn a gaping hole in his purse.

And of a senior colleague, who was offered a paltry Rs 10000 to do a ‘quickie’ on one of our current batting greats by a publishing major because anything more elaborate and costlier wouldn’t be worth the trouble.

With the sports publishing scene in India being this bleak, Sachin and Kraken Media might have felt (and justifiably so) that it made sense to target just an exclusive clientele instead of reaching out to the hoi polloi.

Finding 10 people capable of forking out Rs 3.5 crore was definitely an easier task for them than launching a search for a million readers willing to part with Rs 350 and buy the book.

Be that as it may, why at all let Sachin’s blood seep into its pages?

Funnily, the batting great was reported to have said that he wanted us to see it just as a “mind-blowing” tribute.

But don’t you feel that while it might behove the leaders of a cult, Sachin has little need to lend his name and his blood to something this shamanistic?

Even his bosom pal Vinod Kambli was shocked enough into admitting that “This is something you could have expected from a Vinod Kambli and not Sachin Tendulkar.”

For once, he  is right.

This is an unnecessarily undignified act for Sachin, whose career has been built on the bedrock of dignity.

With February 2011 being the launch date of the book, the little champion will be well advised to have a relook at this decision of his.

Just to drive home the point once again, Sachin…

Spilling blood on the field is one matter; spilling it in a book for a publisher who considers you a “religion icon” on the strength of your skill with the willow is quite another.

Don’t you all agree too?

R Rajesh Kumar

Will we inherit the dearth?

Hinduism & its Military Ethos

Hinduism & its Military Ethos

Superpower in waiting.  That’s how many of us would like to describe India. An economic juggernaut, a state with nuclear weapons, waiting to take its rightful place at the world’s top table.

Air Marshal (retd) RK Nehra believes that wait is likely to be a long one.

Because, thanks to Buddhism, the once martial Hindus, who still are a majority in Hindustan, have now become peace-loving wimps.

And a ‘soft state’ can never become a superpower, it will always be a waiter at the top table, if that.

I must confess when I first heard about his book, Hinduism and its military ethos, I was less than impressed.

The book jacket, which portrayed a pale brick wall, or pavement, with a crack running down the middle, did nothing to change that impression.

But I should have known not to judge a book by its title, or its cover.

Air Marshal Nehra has obviously spent a lot of time and energy studying not just Hinduism, but every major religion of the world.

He starts by examining the India-born religions, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, before moving on to   describe the Judaic religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam – in a nutshell. (All this, in 13 pages of crisp text.)

He then concludes that “Hinduism,  ‘the first formal religion of mankind’, remained confined to Bharat (India) while Christianity and Islam spread rapidly across the world simply because of the ‘stark simplicity of the creeds of the two faiths. These are easy to understand by laymen with average, (or even below average) intelligence. By comparison, Hindu philosophy is highly complex and their view of life difficult to understand.”

But wait, I digress.

Nehra’s argument is essentially simple: We as a nation lack the killer instinct. We lack the ruthlessness, the cunning, the immorality needed to become a true world power.

And he blames Buddhism for our recent meekness.

‘Of the recorded Hindu history of around 2,300 years, Bharat was under the jackboots of slavery for some 1300 years—a dubious record.’

The ancient Hindus, he says, ‘were a set of martial people who lived by the sword. Somewhere along the line, Hindus lost their way and their martial spirit…(they) developed a deluded sense of Dharma under the influence of Buddhism, and that was the main reason for their downfall.’

While the Bhagvad Gita emphasises the duty to engage in holy (righteous) war, Buddhism and Jainism injected self-defeating concepts like ‘ahimsa, (non-violence), shanti (peace) and satya (truth) into the Hindu psyche,  ‘with disastrous results,’ argues Nehra.

It is that mindset, he says, which produces  ‘patriotic songs’ which say things like: Duniya ka zulum sehna, aur munh se kuch na kehna,’ which loosely translated means: “it is a great tradition of ours to bear all type and manner of atrocities, without ever complaining.

“In addition to ahimsa, another insignia fondly, forcedly and firmly put on the Hindu lapel is that of ‘Tolerance’. It is difficult to utter the ‘Hindu’ word, without uttering ‘tolerance’ in the same breath,” he says.

“The Hindu is being constantly told that his religion and scriptures require him to be ‘tolerant’. It is generally projected as if Hinduism has no existence independent of tolerance; a Hindu should ‘walk’ tolerance, he should ‘talk’ tolerance. During TV debates, one often hears Hindu leaders, both pseudo-secularists and ‘communal’, going hysterical about ‘Hindu Tolerance’. ”

But yet in the Ramayana, he notes,  ‘Laxman displays extreme intolerance in cutting off nose of a woman, Surpanakha. What was her fault? She had only made a marriage proposal to Laxman, who at that time, was without his wife. In any case, those days, rulers used to have multiple wives.’

While in the Mahabharata, Arjun, at Krishna’s behest, killed Karna when he was helpless. Bhima, again at Krishna’s urging, hit Duryodhana on the thigh with his mace, violating prevailing norms of combat.

Thus, ‘the projected tolerance of Hindus, born out of bogus spirituality, is a myth. It is an artificial web woven round the Hindus by people with base instinct and baser intentions,’ he concludes.

Superpower? Top table? Not just yet.

The meek, as they say, will inherit the dearth.

Read Excerpts: Where’s our self-respect? | A clerk, a typewriter, and Pakistan

Ramananda Sengupta