Monthly Archives: April 2011

“Sai Baba is dead, how do you feel?”

I have been asked this question incessantly over the last two days. Here’s my reply.

I was young when I joined the school in Puttaparthi. Too young to make sense of anything that was going on around me. My parents dropped a few hints, I loved the train journey, and before I knew it, I was in the school.

It was all a little too overwhelming at first. The mandir, the darshan, the bhajans, the lines, the lakhs of devotees. Before I could make sense, I fit in. There was a leitmotif of spirituality in everything in my life.

For ten years, my life revolved around Sai Baba and his teachings. I didn’t know if he was god or not. I didn’t have the time or courage to ask myself, and I didn’t feel the need to.

And then, I came out. It was when I realised there is a world beyond Puttaparthi. When I spoke of Sai Baba, they asked, “Which one? The bandana baba or the afro baba?” They asked me about my experience, and I could see the twinkle in their eyes.

“Does he create real gold chains?

“Did you get any?”

“Why doesn’t he create a huge oil pit so we don’t have to import it from Iraq and all?”

I began to question my own beliefs. Life took such a whirlwind spin after that, I barely had the time to think about such stuff. Somewhere along the line, I got disillusioned with religion, spirituality, and god.

It was not a conscious decision. I slowly realised that I only prayed when I was in trouble. Upon trying, I realised things turned out ok even if I did not pray.

I am not religious. Nor am I among those who say “I’m spiritual, but not religious”. I don’t know what that means. I just do what I like, and look for the maximum fun I can have while doing it. That pretty much sums up the philosophy of my life.

The years rolled on, and Puttaparthy became a fond memory. Of childhood, friends, and fear of sin.

Now, when people ask me how I feel about Sai Baba’s death, I don’t know what to say.

I don’t believe in God, but there are parts of me that have been irreparably influenced by Puttaparthi.

I never waste food. I am part of voluntary organisations that work for children. If someone needs help, I will do my best. Religion, caste and other such things don’t mean crap to me. I’m no Magsaysay nominee, but I will help a person in need, as much as I can.

Is he god? I don’t know. I don’t care. Is it even important?

It all depends on what you take away from someone’s work. While some say Sachin is the greatest batsman in the world, others say India loses when he scores a century. But haven’t we all called him god on our facebook status updates?

When I look back at Puttaparthi, it is not the huge mandirs that I remember. Not the string of dignitaries, the enviable fleet of cars, or the golden mandir in the ashram.

The image I remember is of a poor man waiting his turn in the general hospital. He is dark, his coarse hands folded in prayer, and tears flowing down his eyes.

I am educated, rational and pride myself for being responsible for my own fate. But that poor man?

His life has changed forever. His children and their children will have a livelihood. They will get access to drinking water, free medical treatment, and a good education.

If that man calls Sai Baba god, what is the harm??

The Worst ads in this World Cup

Every World Cup comes with its own set of advertisements. The ads, and the jingles remain in your memory long after the World Cup has gone. Like the ‘Hoodibaba‘ and ‘Karlo duniya mutthi mein‘ ads in 2003 and the ‘Nothing Official About It’ ads in 1996, all of them remain etched in the memory for a long, long time.

This World Cup however, has to be the one with the worst ads ever. None of them make you see them again, and all of them seem to be setting really low standards in creativity, and then digging further.

Lets begin with the ones that seemed ok. Vodafone did live up to the hype created for the 3G ads, and the ads peaked at the right time. Just while I thought the Zoozoo ads were getting a bit laborious, the Zoozoo ad showed everyone who’s boss. The Change the Game series seemed ok if you could stretch your imagination a bit, and did not ask some vital questions. What, for example, was Dilshan doing, trying a saree in the first place?

I wish they had one for Shanthakumaran Psychopanth. They should call it ‘Pull Shot’. In this, the captain is behind the stumps and has a gun. When he sees Psychopanth abuse the batsman, he ‘pulls’ the trigger and the bowler is shot. Ho gaya ‘Pull Shot’.

But anyway, that is wishful thinking. Coming back to the ads, all of them seemed to be following the trend. For eg, all toothpaste companies still had the white coat man endorsing them. The lemon cola drinks had a close up, slo-mo shot of a face getting drenched with water, Rocky style. All the ads for TVs seemed to show that the picture is so realistic, that you will believe its all real.

But among this clutter, there are a few who have truly managed to catch the eye. So, here’s the countdown to the 5 worst ads of the World Cup. Thank God India won the World Cup, otherwise some Creative Director was going to be shot in the parking lot.

So without much ado, here are the five worst ads of the World Cup.

5: Krishidhan

This is a seed company, and in an act of terrific copywriting, came up with the tagline of ‘Beejon ka Tendulkar’. Sad news is, you cannot use the name of a cricketer who is already endorsing other products in the World Cup without paying him. But I am sure even Sachin let the company go scot-free after seeing the ads.

The Krishidhan ads seem like the serials in the afternoon slots in Regional Transmission in Doordarshan. There is a man, who is talking to a young man over the internet. The young man, whose hands are suspiciously under the table, is surprised to see his father on the internet and says, “Papa, aap yahaan?”

In the meanwhile, to show that the guy is in America, there are two American flags diagonally facing each other, on the guy’s desk. Then, his father explains to him how his life took a U-turn once they started using Krishidhan.

In a truly Swades moment, the son takes his hands out from under the table, and says, “Main wapas aa raha hoon, papa.”

4. Hyundai – New Thinking, New Possibilities

There is Shaan, ex-popular singer and annoying host of countless talent shows, sitting in a recording studio. He is given the mike, and he croons, “New Thinking. New Possibilities.”

Right then, we are shown a number of cars, that are forming the words ‘New Thinking. New Possibilities’ on the road.

Exactly. WTF??

3. Parryware – What a bathroom!

Though this ad should feature in the Hall of Fame of bad ads, it manages to stay third because of some truly inspiring stuff that is coming later.

This ad, reiterates the fact that India Inc. is yet to get out of the recession. A total of 15K must have been used for this ad.

An umpire is standing in a match. The crowds behind him, the cheering, the grounds, all fake. The bowler, of who we can only see the left hand, raises his hand and appeals to the umpire. The umpire raises his hand, looks at the camera with a ‘I did it in my pants before reaching the toilets’ look on his face, and raises his pinky.

The next shot, we are shown pictures of a bathroom, along with a voiceover saying, “Parryware. What a bathroom!”.

2: Suzuki Slingshot

This ad has the feel of a detergent commercial. It has all the features of an Indian ad – cute children, clean shaven fair man, hot girl, and annoying Sardar who begins every line with the word “Oye?”.

So this man is getting ready to go to work, and a kid throws him the keys, saying, “Bhaiyya, yeh lo aapka ‘O! Suzuki Slingshot’. The man wonders, “O! Suzuki Slingshot??”

In the next shot, he is shown kicking ass on the road, and wherever he goes, people say, “Oh! Suzuki Slingshot”. To add to the horror, there is a ‘Slingshot, slingshot’ track running in the background, sounding suspiciously like a Nirma ad.

At the end of the day, he gets the girl, and that kid comes back and gives him an “I told you so” look, and everything is right with the universe.

Except that the ad truly sucks.

1. Idea – Keep Cricket Clean

For a company whose tagline is ‘What an idea, sirjee!’, Idea comes up with the most disastrous ideas. Each of their ads, is pushing each other, fighting to break new barriers of stupidity.

At any given point of time, (even if you are watching Sahara Firangi), the worst ads are by Idea. After dishing out crap for two years, how does ‘Idea’ prepare for the WC? By making the baap of shitty ads.

The ads raise a few pertinent questions. Firstly, who is that woman who has the numbers of Clive Lloyd, Allan Border, Imran Khan, Kapil Dev and Ranatunga? Isn’t that unethical in the first place?

And what is Steve Waugh doing there, talking about keeping cricket clean? Where was he when his brother was talking to bookmakers? It so happened that somewhere in 1994, bookies asked Mark for information about the team and pitch.

“No Idea”, said Mark.

“Well, get idea”, said the bookies.

The ad makes you thankful in a way that India had never won the WC. Imagine Azharuddin talking about keeping cricket clean. If he told a journalist to ‘get idea’, trust me, he’d get ideas.

Not only does the girl seem extensively ignorant of an iota of common sense (“Sir, what to do when someone asks to throw away a match?”). What was she expecting? A tutorial video by Mohammad Asif??

The ad makes you cringe everytime you see it, and is another feather in the crap of Idea.

Like I said, thank god India won the World Cup!!

The DLF-DALDA INDIAN PREMIER LEAGUE

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the DLF-DALDA Indian Premier League.

The Indian Premier League, which shot off like a meteor, is back with its fourth season, and we are all aware of the value of the league. Last year, the total worth of the IPL was valued at 4.13 billion, apart from being the only sporting tournament to be broadcast live on youtube.

This year, the organisers of Indian Premier League have gone all guns blazing, and are riding on the cricket frenzy that has been whipped up by the victory at the World Cup. We spoke to an official of the IPL, who wished to be only called M, and he confirms this, on conditions of anonymity.

HR: Mr. M, congratulations on the fourth edition of the Indian Premier League. Is it true that this edition is going to be bigger than the last?

M: Yes, yes. Of course. There were speculations of the value having dipped, but India won the World Cup, and now India will watch cricket for another 45 days. No problem.

HR: Tell us about the change in the title sponsorship.

M: Well, nothing much to say there. DLF has always been our title sponsors. This year, we have added ‘Dalda’ also as the title sponsors, hence the change in the name of the tournament.

HR: Won’t that affect the ad-revenue equations?

M: No, of course not. We at IPL have always been known for the subtlety in advertising. This year too,  we are trying to maintain that subtlety.

HR: Could you explain how?

M: Well, I am not allowed to disclose all the details, but I’ll give you an example just to illustrate my point. For eg. when Royal Challengers Bangalore are bowling, we shall use the local Bangalore lingo of ‘da’ very innocuously. So, we’ll have the keeper say, “Waisa hi ball daal, da

HR: So…?

M: daal, da. Dalda. Ring a bell?

HR: Yes, sir. Very subtle.

M: Thank you. There have been other innovations too, in this year’s format. For eg, we have sold the fielding positions to corporates too. So this year, you will have a man fielding at ‘Veet Fine Leg’. Then, there is also ‘Kohinoor Extra Cover’.

HR: Last year, there was a lot of ruckus about terms like ‘DFL Super Sixes’ and ‘Karbon Kamaal Catch’. Do we have any of those this year too?

M: Yes, apart from the DLF Super Six, the Citi Moment of Success, and the Karbon Kamaal Catch, this time we have the Moods ‘My Man’ of the Match. That is sure to bring in a lot of excitement to the game.

HR: I am sure, sir. There have also been reports that an irate fan had shot down the MRF Blimp. Is it true?

M: Rubbish. The MRF Blimp is very much there. We are yet to take a call on whether it is going to be used.

HR: There have been reports that you have gone underground and will gradually vanish from the scene. Is there any truth in that?

M: Rubbish! I am just spending some time with myself, away from the limelight. I am doing a lot of reading.

HR: Like?

M: Ahem, there’s this amazing book called ‘Twenty thousand leagues under the sea….”

If you don’t have balls, bite one: Shahid Afridi

Shahid Afridi, the captain of the Pakistan cricket team, spoke to Hasan Raza about being the captain of the Pakistan team, his life, the vagaries of being in the Pakistan team, and all the questions you have ever had about why the Pakistan team behaves in the way it does.

HR: Firstly, Mr. Afridi, congratulations on taking your team to the Semi Finals. It has been a remarkable achievement for you. A lot of people are wondering if the last decade of Pakistan cricket could be called the “Age of Shahid Afridi”.

SA: The age of Shahid Afridi is 31. You can check Cricinfo for that.

HR: Never mind, sir. Moving on to the next, burning question. You recently commented that Indians do not have large hearts like Muslims and Pakistanis. What exactly do you mean?

SA: (laughs) Oh! It has all been quoted out of context.

HR: How?

SA: See, I was just giving an example. Now take two cricketers, for example. Say, you take Shoaib Akhtar and Laxman Sivaramakrishnan. Who do you think has the bigger heart?

HR: Akhtar??

SA: Exactly! See what I meant? It has all been quoted out of context.

HR: Ahem, yes. But Aamir Sohail termed your comments immature.

SA: Aamir Sohail hai kaun? Usko cricket ka ‘k’ nahi aata hai.

HR: ‘C’, sir.

SA: No, you see what I am telling you….

HR: Never mind. I can see where you’re coming from. Anyway, moving on, another question that always perturbs cricket followers is the behaviour of Pakistani cricketers. Why are they always in the news for the wrong reasons?

SA: (smiles) See, Pakistani cricketers are very passionate people. We believe that whatever you are doing, no matter how highly or lowly the activity, has to be done with passion. Unfortunately, the media misinterprets it as misbehaviour. Look at Salman Butt, his passion made him remind Asif that the next ball had to be a no-ball. And then, look at that no-ball from Asif.

Normally, a fast bowler would just gingerly step across the line. Asif put his entire foot out. That’s what I call playing your heart out. Look at Shoaib Malik, his passion has led to him being happily married today. Look at Shoaib Akhtar, when he felt the passion, he took out his bat and started hitting Asif, he didn’t even care if the media was there. Unfortunately, the Indian media and people do not have large hearts that Allah…

HR: Yes, sir. We know that story. What do you have to say about the issue of no cricket being played in Pakistan for more than two years now?

SA: Ah! Good you pointed it out. That’s another area where we suffer on account of being large-hearted. What do other countries do when foreign teams come visiting? They only show them the good parts of their country. We believe in giving the tourists the true experience of living in the country.

So when Australia toured, our captain Saleem Malik offered them to underplay. When Sri Lanka toured, they got shot at by terrorists. Now, while these might seem like acts of terror, that is what happens in Pakistan everyday. It is just part of the tour. But nobody understands that. It’s all a part of the Western conspiracy to put us down.

HR: I’m sure the world will view your country in new light after this. Moving on, there have been speculations about you announcing your retirement after the semi final loss to India. Is there any truth in it?

SA: No, I intend to play cricket for Pakistan as long as I can. However, I need some time off. So I might just retire from cricket for a few months and then come back again.

HR: That is another question, sir. Why is it that Pakistani cricketers announce their retirements so many times?

SA: See, like I was saying. Pakistan is a nation of passionate people. When they are in the team, they give their 100%. When they are not in the team, they do not wish to interfere in the selection process by being available for selection. Look at any top Pakistani cricketer, they have all gone through this. Javed Miandad retired and came back, and then retired again. Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram, all came back from retirements. Mohammad Yousuf retired recently, and twice earlier when his name was Yousuf Youhana. Hell! He has even retired from the ICL. How much proof do you want?

HR: I see your point, sir. Coming back to you. You have been in the spotlight earlier, and not for the right reasons. Would you still call it the media’s fault?

SA: When was that?

HR: There was once when you were caught trying to change the nature of the pitch in between a test match.

SA: Oh, that. That was just a religious prayer. Have you ever seen Sufi performers? I was just doing that. Is it wrong to pray on the pitch? It is just that the western world, and the media are so biased against us that they keep planting stories in the media.

HR: I get your point, sir. Is there anything else you wish to add?

SA: Ahem, well, you could just publish another interview denying everything the day after, I guess.

HR: Thank you, sir. It has been a real pleasure. Any last words for upcoming cricketers of Pakistan?

SA: Yes. You need passion to play cricket for Pakistan. You need a lot of balls too. If you don’t have balls, bite one.

Champions!!

I grew up with stories of the World Cup. I have read magazines, watched reruns on Ten Sports, listened to Madan Lal speak for one hour, but I have never been able to fully grasp what it feels like when India wins the World Cup.

In 2003, it was different. I was doing my first job in a travel agency and PCO booth. There was a small black and white television that someone from the basti behind the agency would willingly donate to us. There would be 20 people huddled up there. Rickshaw pullers, guys who would disconnect calls on their mobile phones to make a call from the PCO, little children who seemed to have vowed not to bathe till India won the finals, and Shankia aka Shankar Ganjadiya.

Shankia lived in the basti behind us. He was always doped. During day, noon and night, he could be found crushing herbs in his hand, and stuffing them in his chillum, and blowing gyaan on people’s faces. He did nothing all day, but he had 5-6 pani puri carts that some kids ran for him, and so he was among the wealthier people in the basti. He would sit and the door, blow away smoke in the air and predict who would win the match. He was no Paul the Octopus, but his predictions (which were flexible and changed according to the situation of the match) made the experience of watching the match even more fun. He would look into the screen, close his eyes (like a warrior in Mahabharat), and then say, “Chauka jiba” (It’ll be a four).

On the day of the final, Shankia did not come to watch the match. I assume he had had a fight with someone and so he was pissed. When I went to his hut to call him to watch the match, he replied,

“Banda match dekhiba, maghiya. Jao ethu!”, which roughly translates to

“(random body part) match you’ll watch, mo-fos! Get out of here”

The mood in the final was somber right from the beginning. Ganguly won the toss and chose to field, and Zaheer Khan chose to sledge at Gilchrist. Both these decisions led to a score of 359 and Indian buckled under pressure. We used to sell cool drinks in the shop, and I remember opening a bottle of Pepsi and gulping it down like a 90s hero when he sees the heroine dance with the villain, whenever a wicket fell. The match was over in 40 overs, the next day was a Monday and I had to go back to school to learn Business Studies and Accountancy. It was tragic.

This time though, there was a difference.

Now, after two days, it has finally sunk in. Till Monday, I was expecting some London newspaper to break the news that the Pakistan match was fixed. Thankfully, the Interior Minister has some clout there.

This time, everyone was ready for the moment. Cameras were brought out when there were 30 runs remaining and poor Facebook was flooded with oily faces shouting out in joy. The screaming in joy, hugging, dancing on the streets and running away when the PCR van arrives have been done with. Now when I sit and write this do I realise that the feeling has truly sunk in. We are the Champions of the World.

So if I ever have a son, before driving him out of the house after his matriculation exams, I’ll have something to tell him. I shall tell him that I lived in the times of a certain Sachin Tendulkar, who had every feather in his cap except this one. Of how he was carried on the shoulders of Yusuf Pathan, which was surprising because the burden of the middle order batting never seemed to fit on them. Of how there was a particular captain who turned everything he touched into gold. How two fast bowlers called Nehra and Shreesanth took turns to become the most hated persons of the country. Of how Sehwag got out for a duck and a million dreams were crushed. Of Gambhir and the innings of his life. I’ll also talk about Yuvraj and Zaheer and throw in a little bit of gyaan about consistency and persistence.

I’ll also tell him that I was a total stud back then and I had six hot chicks writhing next to me when Dhoni hit the last shot, and I told them to get away from me as I ran out to the roads to celebrate. I know he wont believe the last bit, but what the heck!

We are the World Champions. I can say whatever I want !!