The Merchant of India and his Friendly Nemesis

While growing up, I used to be fascinated about the three Vijays of Indian Cricket, namely, Vijay Merchant, Vijay Hazare and Vijay Manjrekar, drawing parallels with three Ws in my mind. As I grew up, I realised, while Mr. Manjrekar was the better batsman in his family, the other two Vijays were in different class, both in terms of age, as well as batting class and averages.

There are a lot of things, that can be told about the two Vijays, not least Cricket with Vijay Merchant or Mr. Hazare who breached the Don’s defence twice, a feat not many bowlers achieved, leave aside, the person being one of the two best batsmen in the team. But today, the story is different. Merchant is the Indian Numero Uno, the batsman with the highest First Class average after who else but the Don, he was the founder of Mumbai School of Khadoos Batsmanship, a tradition modified only with the arrival of a curly-haired teenager more than 5 decades later. While the biggest tragedy for Indian Cricket according to Merchant was that Hazare (a Test batting average only .07 lower than Merchant) couldn’t be the finest Indian batsman due to captaincy load.

The batting rivalry of the Don Bradman and Wally Hammond is well-known to the cricket literati, their Ashes rivalries where eventually the Don would prevail over Hammond besting Don’s previous efforts. Similar story-line developed in a similar time frame on the grounds of India, most famously in the matches between Bombay and Maharashtra (Baroda later).

The run race for the highest individual innings by an Indian between the two Prima Donnas began in 1941-42. Merchant’s innings of 242(3) for Hindus against Muslims in Bombay Pentangular was the highest score by an Indian till date. A record, duly broken by Hazare in the very next season with a score of 248 in the same championship against the same opponents, for “The Rest” against Muslims.

The next year, the final match featured, Merchant’s Hindus versus Hazare’s The Rest. Hindus batted first, with Merchant yet again breaking the record with a 250 in the team score. Not to be outdone by the other Vijay, Mr. Hazare scored a mammoth 309 out of a team total of 387, a 300 run partnership with his tailender brother scoring 266 out of them. Thus becoming the first Indian triple centurion.

Final saga of the story again came from the Merchant, scoring a 359* almost a week later, settling the debate for one last time. Hazare although scored another 316 but couldn’t best Vijay Merchant, the Indian Numero Uno.


Modiji : If Only!!

16 May 2014 is a memorable day in recent Indian history. It was a day of collective national orgasm, even the people who couldn’t differentiate an ‘o’ from a ‘a’ were orgasming at the Namo chant. For the right wing which forms a major core of his vote base and might find the word orgasm a tad offensive, I can say, the nation was in a hysteric frenzy, highly hopeful about the future, expectant of a wide gamut of changes. I too was hopeful
More than a year has passed, the Govt has been analysed by a variety of more than competent voices, pens and keyboards. I am but a tiny, nondescript voice in this whole sea, BUT a voice nonetheless
Modi the Ideologue? – Modi had come to the scene as कर्मठ  politician. He was the doer, the implementer we had been waiting for ages. India has had a rich history of spiritual-cultural gurus through its history. What we need rather is a British (or to generalise Western) tenacity, orderliness and diligence, the work ethic what we call. The first call which came with Modi was “Swachha Bharat” definitely a much needed one, kudos to him for the initiative. Man ki Baat was an interesting initiative, although I didn’t much favour a PM spending quite sometime every week to basically do BC on Radio. Par theek hai Modi sahab apne thoda zyada  bolte hain. Then came a whole lot of foreign visits. Activity in India corresponded to World Yoga Day. Everybody around me has felt happy and encouraged by the initiative except the doctors who had to go to early morning yoga under the orders of Dept of Ayush. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the initiative except some Muslims protesting. But we already had a Baba Ramdev, and this work could better be left to him rather than the PM and the official government machinery. Health improvement initiatives are not the right or duty or the territory of government, it should be more concerned with providing the sustenance, even which many Indians are lacking.
I had these points rankling my brain but the straw on the camel’s back was #SelfiewithDaughter. Its as noble an  initiative as ever. But the PM, (who himself actually left his wife stranded) should be formulating and implementing policies on ground which work for betterment of girl child rather than tweeting about it. The fact that the fathers who are actually tweeting the pics would have families which would provide atleast  superficial equality to their daughters.
Modi in one of the pre-election interviews had said, ‘Kuch banne ki mat socho, bas karne ki socho” and right now he only thinks (atleast acts) only to banana or banna, Bharat ko mahan rashtra, Yoga ko world icon, India ko tourist hub. If Only!!
HRDDD!!! – If there is an issue more important than administering or policing a nation, it is educating a nation. As I would like to say, this world has been a knowledge society from paleolithic to today. The one thing which we need to focus most in this mechanised, industrial, scientific age is education. The decision to appoint our Tulsi Bhahi to the post reflected all that was intended to about the importance of the ministry, and the value of education, a decision even the Modi fans regret about.  In no analysis of mine have I ever marked Modi as criminal rather ascribing things like Scams, Black money, land bill and stuff as guilt in conduct at max. But his neglect of education is the biggest criminal assault on the future of India he is committing. Schools are pathetic, libraries are absent, secondary education is fraught with cheating. And all Mrs. Irani is giving more and more of taxpayer to bringing up more IITs & IIMs, quite a colossal waste in whose details I wont even go.
Its not that he doesnt have the people. He has Maneka Gandhi, the lady who is associated with bringing out humane and far reaching changes wherever she has committed herself. She is the in-charge of Women and Child empowerment agreed but where did the talks of merging ministries and cutting red tape go. Child and Education together can be the best option. If only!! Mr. Modi would listen?

Handling of Myanmar – 18 Indian Army jawans were killed in Manipur inside India. India’s response was, to enter the territory of another sovereign nation and conduct army raids there. Indians got a hashtag #56InchRocks, PM Modi became the No-Nonsense PM, Parrikar the bad ass Defense Minister. But, is there any point of view which could convince me that this was the ideal step to take, in such a situation. Instead of taking it as a national insult or a terrorist attack, this should first of all be seen as a huge failure of the intelligence agencies for people to come from across the border and stage such planned outrage. Second, what would happen in case some such attack comes from Pakistan or Bangladesh, we can’t storm in there. Congress inaction was a big no no but the BJP/Parrikar knee jerk reaction and chest thumping “We don’t keep the army to preach peace” isn’t much of a positive twist either. Even the mighty (read US) can’t sustain and succeed in the wars of this age, leave aside a lowly India. There was no mention of intelligence failure or the need to develop preventive, resistive capabilities and we got a chest-thumping-making-fool-out-of-himself-previously-respected-defense-minister. If Only!!

I haven’t really gone into the points mentioned so brilliantly in the following article which were my initial thoughts.
Indian Foreign Ministry – I had decent respect for Sushma Swaraj, then she was assigned the role of a Sarkari Babu in Foreign Ministry. The poor lady had not much say in policies and implementation I can fairly assume. So bored with nothing to do at office, our honourable FM took to twitter with her personal handle being used as the SOS contact, Indians stuck in different countries ping the foreign minister of our country with the honourable minister even replying to the tweets. I had heard a lot about Modi’s micro management but that involved a foreign minister doing the work of a Secretary or Assistant was not what I had expected it as. To top it, these instances were pushed to the public timeline by the BJP bots as the example of the ‘Most Badass FM we ever had’. Head—Wall :Bam: #redefinition-of-duties-of-foreign-minister-max. It would have been so much more prudent of Modi to keep the ministry (AS he has obviously has to fulfill the ambitions of a global leader) and utilised Sushma Swaraj elsewhere. If Only!!
Schemes –  Chinnaswamy stadium receives less DLF Maximums in an IPL season as perhaps the number of new schemes launched in recent times. Make in India, Bullet Trains, Smart Cities, Jan Dhan Yojana to name a few. Make in India was an interesting concept, I am still much hopeful about it producing results. Bullet trains is as ghastly a suggestion as Marie Antoinette asking people to eat cake if they can’t have bread.
Smart cities seems a dream too far when you realise, Chennai a major Indian metropolitan(?) city got its first metro train today and that there were 70cr Rs alotted to a city, a pittance if you try to work it out. Lets first make our cities and then we can think of smart cities.
A very succesful practice adopted by China and most prudent people is to start a scheme on a small scale try and find out the weakness, strong points and implement a better tested out alternative on a larger scale. The Jan Dhan schemes launched which include opening tiny accounts,  giving basic insurance cover are perfect examples of good gone bad. Most of the benefits are availed of by the educated, middle class rather than the actually needy villager. Instead of the bank based model, we need to focus on the Banking Correspondent based model targeting the villages instead of the cities if we actually want the schemes to bear fruits. But
If Only!!!

Surrender Not Bannerjee

The pages of History which I go through
One of the biggest gain I find
The joy of marvel, the awe of being humbled
When I get to meet the giants of past

One such super cool, Bearded Suave Rockstar
One whose speeches India first heard
Was our dear old Surendranath Bannerjee
Or as I like to call him, SNB

Raja Rammohan Roy,the first modern Indian
Nehru might after all be the first independent one
But, my dear friends, talk of the Indian who was first free
The one who stood as Indian, our SNB was the one

Surrender Not Banerjee was what the British would call him
A fan of Mazzini, Garibaldi, the first Indian ICS
This was the man who scared Hume
And thus we got our own Congress

He was the one who started mutinies and won them too
Fought and won the post of ICS once
Until they couldn’t but dismiss on whim
And thus was born the first radical

Buried in the pages of Moderatism
The free Indian got blown by Tilak
The Rashtraguru faded into oblivion
But not before he had made the mark

Years countless have passed since your birth
Almost a century since your death
And yet this one son of your nation
And a lover of your extremism

Shall always remember you
The one with poise but too the swag to push it up
The one who started it all for us..
The one great grandfather we all forgot

Man ki Swachchhata

Indian win over Pakistan to win Gold Medal in Hockey.Dream come true for so many Indians who wouldn’t have known names of perhaps 2 hockey team players (Sardar Singh might be known because of being flag bearer). The era of 1948,1971 and the ages of percieved equality in 80s and 90s are gone. We have surged ahead of Pakistan. We are an emerging global power, Pakistan is a failing nation, the competition ended years ago.

Pakistan is a separated brother, agreed they are temperamental, hostile but which younger brother is not hostile to seemingly harmless actions of a big brother because of the fear of domination. I saw the fear in eyes of my 1 year old nephew. Kids are kids, my older nephew came and snatched away the toy from his younger brother and played away to glory. We the elders were left to pacify the younger one distracting him away from the toy.I wouldn’t comment too much on Pakistan but India (hopefully) has matured over the years. We are a young nation with the famous “Dividend” , not a toddler. Age of brow beating and toy snatching is gone. India’s vision, as too that of India’s youth, should be higher, better and suitable things rather than the joy of beating Pak to win Gold in a second grade competition against a similarly woeful opponent.

I would have liked atleast one to say, “This should be a building block, India should now aim for greater glory in Olympics”, it wasn’t even a celebration of India’s victory, but a defeat of Pakistan. India has moved beyond 90s in many things, this is one of the vestiges which need to be shed soonest.

With the vested interest making up political leadership in both countries, any chances of peace and brotherhood are limited for India-Pakistan. More than Pakistan, India needs a peaceful Pakistan and good relation for its benefit. Its our prerogative to offer the hand of friendship. Diplomatically its a tough nut. Only way out is “Dil Milna” of the aawam of 2 nations. When I see, some of the most politically correct, unbiased of my friends celebrating Pakistan’s loss. I can only pray for “Man ki Sawchchhata” of some, just to make a beginning. Brothers can fight but shouldn’t kill or humiliate..
Someday before I die in a world seemingly impossible hopefully realistic, I would like to able to shout the slogan “Hind-Pak ek maa ki santaan” without any brow beating or violence.

Gandhi, Godse, Hitler

Very often do I have people asking me the question. Why do I admire/appreciate/whatever Hitler? Don’t I agree with the fact that he was a mass murdered and all that. In many words and at various times, I have tried and explain this answer. Yet, more or less, my words fail me when it comes to expressing it. One (of the few ) good things you can find about him is, The Revolution. He was the one, who came who changed, the man of action. One who had ideas and had the guts and ability to steer the course of an entire nation, and almost the whole world.

The second ques, which might arise in the mind of anyone reading this title is, Gandhi & Hitler, def can be used in close proximity, but how does Godse get the honour of being his name taken in such esteemed company. Thats where my point tries to sneak through in midst of these names. Godse, if nothing, is an interesting character in Indian history. There have always been assassins through the history of world. Even India has had its share of assassins, so nothing new in that activity. Yet,

This was the man who killed Gandhi, who killed Mahatma, who killed the biggest apostle of peace, who killed a bapu of a nation, who killed one of the most famous person in human history  and (arguably) most famous Indian ever. He, as an individual, should have been absolutely destroyed in the modern history, as it was written by the followers/fans of the Mahatma.

All this said and done, we never find Godse’s name maligned. We never hear accounts of him being a beastly human with more penchant for blood than feelings. Facts are facts which can’t be changed much, but folk lore or the stories are the part which can be fabricated anytime by anyone, and made to look real by the situations, we have seen enough examples of that. This, very fact combined with the statement of Godse, and whatever I have read of him on net and books, makes me put Godse on the same pedestal as Gandhi and Hitler, in the same sense that I admire history.

They were all revolutionaries, they had some (misguided at times?) set of rules, they had some principles, they thought about things and executed what they wanted to, in the fashion they wanted to. What makes them all different from simple, men of actions, is the effect on society. Agreed, Godse wouldnt stand anywhere near the two, and even if he hadn’t, the old man would have died in a few years if not months, by himself (or the self induced fasts). But, his revolution lay not in, ridding India of Gandhi, which was his purpose. Rather, it can be more understood, as a man standing against the Mahatma.

Bose vs Them

Mohandas K. Gandhi at the Indian National Cong...
Image via Wikipedia

Netaji shall always stay  one of the most important and respected figure in Indian National movement, looking through the annals of Indian National movement, he seems to be the only one among the major leaders, who seems to have no seemingly obvious flaws. Nehru is criticized in all circles in India, Gandhi might have been the Numero Uno pre-independence, yet you shall find Gandhi bashers in every corner of India (I am not talking about pro-Gandhi people, as they were and would always be present in large masses everywhere). Netaji, who was at a particular time (perhaps?) more influential than Gandhi (1938-39). But 70 years from that time, and many decades after his supposed death Netaji although popular among Indians by the virtue of his name and his war cries like “Delhi Chalo”, “Tum mujhe khoon do, main tumhe azadi dunga”. He shall always be considered a national hero, but leitmotif of the pages of history have been the question of his death(about which nothing can be done) and the supposed ignorance or negelect meted out to him.

The first part of this riddle, the question of life and death, which in itself is a very interesting question and a question of (perhaps?) national importance. Yet by all senses, the question might have lived out its time. But, the more important question could be the supposed neglect of Netaji, the way he has remained only a name in the history books unlike Gandhis and Nehrus who can be seen as landmarks all over the nation. The question of his death, at best can be termed as a bit of trivia, as the question whether a man died or not on a particular date can only be of certain level of importance to a nation of a billion. The question, whether a certain leader has been amply respected or not, has he been given his proper due or not, is one which can be perceived as one national importance and thats what I shall try to pursue in the next paragraph or two (which is the max such a platform can allow me).

The powers at the centre is censured time and again for neglecting his contribution and name (and perhaps rightfully so). This might seem an act of disrespect to the ‘bharat mata ka veer putra’. There certainly could have been more recognition for the man. But, looking at it all from a broader (and different) perspective might/should not arise such issues in the mind of people. Even if we emulate the views/doctrines of the Great man himself, which if it has to be described in one word, can be called Realpolitik, which in lay man terms can be defined as bit of ‘opportunism’. One of the comment he made was, if he had to shake hands with the devil for India’s independence he would do that. Hence if we look at him taking his own ideas as the backdrop, it can be seen (to an extent) to be consistent with his doctrines. It’s the opportunism/realpolitik which has kept him away from the well deserved honour. The Gandhi/Nehru ideology has been the winner in the struggle among the Freedom Fighters, and hence Subhas has more or less remained in silent pages of history.

Although this might seem wrong to some people, but then History has never gone by right or wrong, it has always been written by the winners, and with valid reasons. This can even be related to Survival of Fittest, ones who win have the right to do things their way, because its been their method which was more successful hence giving them more of an option of surviving. Hence, Netaji great as he might have been, lost somewhere in the race and since politics is always about masses and voices, and dead men dont posses any voices, so by any kind of rule/system, they are bound to receive less attention and importance than the ones who survive.

Thats why, I think its time, we leave the past and its legacy and start living with the system which has been in place, because it is there only after passing some tests. Even if, we ignore the dying part, saying Gandhi also died, yet his legacy remains strong as ever. Thats where we can find the fault in Netaji for not being able to set up a legacy or a support cast (read : Nehru) which could have carried his name ahead. After all it was the game of politics they were all playing and like any other thing in the world, some win, some lose!

Preemptive Planning

Local authorities and the govt are perhaps two of the most cursed things in India, after our very own legendary Ravindra Jadeja. Each and everyday, we end up cursing some or the other thing related to the administration, ranging from unfilled potholes or the roads which havnt been refurbished after the extended spell of monsoon that the city enjoyed. Yet, since the time I have come to Hyderabad, the HUDA (or whoever is the concerned authority) if it hasnt managed to be the best local development authority, then I would surely rank it above many places I have been to till date.

The whole life, according to me is nothing but a matter of balance, and it is in maintaining this balance that HUDA has more or less succeeded in the, almost 5.5 years I have spent in the city of Nizams. Sure, we shall always have our problems, the roads in old city will always be crowded and congested. The diversions in Hitech City, shall always be hijacked by a group of people, unable to quench their thirst of spending more hours working, taking (supposedly) illeagl shortcuts to reach office early. Still, with such problems which every major establishment shall face with the increase in population, specially the IT inspired population explosion that Hyderabad has experience in past few years.

Such a explosion is bound to fail all the existing systems of a city, yet somehow Hyderabad, much to its credit hasnt yet choked fully. You can still see open spaces, you can still find empty tracts of road, you can still travel 8-9 kms in 20 mins or so. Hyd, as I said, has been about maintaining balance, it hasn’t gone the Mumbai, Bangalore way and as a result making people spend major part of their days on road. Neither has it been lucky like Noida and specially Greater Noida, with having lots of space to extend and huge amounts of capital investment to support the impending infrastructure development. Greater Noida, when inhabited shall be a city to marvel, yet as of now, it just seems a lot of money invested to build lots of houses and lots of good roads, with no people to use them.

One major part of development of Hyd, since the time I have come here is the preemptive planning, a point, which, Not many planners around the country are taking into account. I still remember, once upon a time, the Nagarjuna Circle, used to be one of the busiest places in hyderabad, and was touted (perhaps misgivingly) as one of the busiest circles in Asia. Yet, just the construction of a simple flyover at the place, has decreased that problem by orders of magnitude. That was one example of taking action after encoutnering the problem, a strategy missing in almost all cities, where things are mostly allowed to Let It Be. Chandrababu Naidu, shall be thanked for inculcating a flyover culture in Hyderabad. After the construction of this flyover, the PVNR Express Way was also more of example of acting at the problem. The examples of preemptive planning are the new flyovers which have come up/are coming up in Hitech City and near Gachibowli (respectively). Agreed, the traffic at the Cyber Towers circle has increased exponentially in the last few years. But in no situation had the problem exaggerated to the extents of needing a new flyover. Similarly the situation at Gachibowli circle commanded even lesser attention than Cyber Towers, yet we do have a flyover construction in full force there as well, and, shall sooner than later, be welcomed by the sight of a new one. Yet, the most shocking part was, when I observed, what could only be the building blocks of new flyover near the Begumpet flyover.

I guess, for once we should thank the Authorities in Hyderabad, for trying to do their best in an endeavour to make the lives of us Hyderabadis simpler and more convinient.