Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Amazing Shaktimaan

It was a lazy evening. The sun was setting, and we were sitting on the rocks, and two of my friends were debating on who was the greatest superhero – Superman or Batman?

I just sat back and smiled at their ignorance. These fellows were lightyears away from the truth. The greatest Superhero of all time was not some Marvel of the West. DC ki AC ki taisi.

The greatest superhero was right here. Homegrown, and our very own.


Now wait, all you snobs who read this and sniggered, just you wait. In the next ten minutes, I am going to wipe that smirk off your face.

Here are some of the reasons why Shaktimaan can beat any of the others with his left hand (he is right handed):

Powers: What differentiates a Superhero from a hero? Quite simply the superpowers they have.

The conventional superheroes have a limited set of powers that they exercise when they get an opportunity. Most of these powers are related to strength, speed, agility, or a special weapon. And here is where Shaktimaan beats the others hollow.

HE HAS GOT INFINITE POWERS.

Being a wise man, Gandalf never shows his backside to Shaktimaan.

Every episode of Shaktimaan revealed a new power. He could fly, burn metal with his gaze, crush rocks with his bare hands, among many other awesome things. Now, suppose Superman is flying to Canada to save someone. You construct a huge wall in middle. What does the Man of Steel do? Turn around and risk flying over the Bermuda Triangle. What does Shaktimaan do? He just appears there!

AWESOMENESS TEST #1: DIFFUSE A NUCLEAR MISSILE

How Iron Man does it: Check for speed, velocity, trajectory, impact, and target.

How Shaktimaan does it: Bicycle kick

You see, in the 21st century, you cannot fall back on your limited set of powers. You have to innovate and use your mind to work out of problems. And Shaktimaan? Unlimited powers, mofos! Eat that!!

Shaktimaan propogates Indian culture:

As your parents, elders, neighbours, their elders, politicians, TV shows, films, and anyone else will tell you, what makes us the greatest nation in the world in spite of our poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, and corruption, is our culture.

Now, Shaktimaan upholds Indian culture. He never does vulgar stuff (like that Superman fellow flying around in his inners) or He-Man (whose costume and bob-cut blond hair make you wonder – “Is He Man?”)

Shaktimaan was born out of the rays that came out of the foreheads of seven rishis, and hence Indian culture is inherently there inside him. He regularly chants Gayatri mantra, Om, and other such prayers on the show.

Shaktimaan does not have sidekicks and lady loves:

Even though Superman has been around for more than 50 years, the charms of a woman still make him go weak in the knees. Spiderman fellow toh is a big pansy fuck, peeping into a girl’s window in the night. Which superhero does that, man?

A superhero’s life may be awesome, but the one curse they share is that they cannot marry, start a family, and go shopping – maximum they get to kiss the girl in the end of the film, that’s all. Even though they know this, all the superheroes cannot resist the charms of a woman.

Shaktimaan? Hah! He has resisted Geeta’s charms for more than a decade now. He doesn’t indulge in love-shove bullshit (also it’s not Indian culture, ya).

Another thing superheroes suffer is sidekicks. Now tell me, if you are a superhero, why do you need a sidekick? Why not create an army then? Losers! No wonder Batman’s sidekick is called Dick! Shaktimaan is enough by himself, ok? He doesn’t need these daisydicks sidekicks and other distractions.

Shaktimaan has a paunch:

In India, everyone has a paunch. We are a country of extremes when it comes to body shapes – an Indian will either be stick thin, or have a paunch. Shaktimaan, who understands market dynamics (plus the whole rishi forehead – centre of knowledge thing), has a paunch, and has no qualms showing it off.

Shaktimaan packing a paunch

In this way, he gives hope to millions of Indians to aspire to become better, super versions of themselves. And what is this need to have abs and all, man? If you are a superhero, you anyway have superpowers. Why do you need to wake up in the morning and do pushups and crunches? Dumb fellows!

Shaktimaan is concerned about the future of the country:

Shaktimaan has a humane side. After every episode, he advices children on different subjects – like switching off fans and lights before leaving the room. His sole purpose of existence is not just victory of good over evil. He is not avenging his father’s death. He is concerned in creating good citizens for the country.

Also, in the 21st century, one cannot go about breaking bridges and buildings. One needs to think about the environment, sustainable superheroism, and limited resources. This is where Shaktimaan scores over others by a large distance.

Sl. No. Superman Spiderman Batman Ironman Shaktimaan
Can fly Yes No No Yes Yes
X- Ray vision Yes No No Yes Yes
Concerned about Society Yes No No No Yes
Free from female distraction No No No No Yes
Can you walk around in his costume? No No Yes No Yes
Can deal with nuclear attacks Yes No No Yes Yes
Loves kids Yes Yes No NA Yes
Emit Fire, Water, and use other elements? No No No No Yes

Yeah, fuckers! Who is laughing now?

Unfortunately, for all his awesomeness, Shaktimaan was given a raw deal. If it was aired on BBC, we would have had aliens sitting in a dharna demanding him for themselves. Unfortunately, he was on Doordarshan.

And the world forgot about him – the Messiah of the Good, the hero with a heart, fists of steel, and at the same time a khata-peeta khaandan ka ladka.

You were not meant for this age. Your time did not respect you. On behalf of the world, the era, and all the homo sapiens of the earth, all I can say is:

The Art of Not Giving a Fuck

The Students Union in the University of Hyderabad is formed after yearly elections. The major players in the game are SFI (Communist Party of India), the ABVP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and the Ambedkar Students Union.

The SFI-ASA coalition won the elections for a second consecutive term this year and formed the Students Union. Where do I fit into the picture?

I live in ‘A’ hostel. As the chronological naming goes, it’s the oldest hostel in the University, and has been chugging along in the age of modern buildings and wi-fi internet. The shitty condition that the hostel is in, provoked me to put up the following poster at different places in the University like Gops (the Food Court), the Students Canteen, and ShopCom (the amazing place with the amazing men’s saloon called Gaylords).

I spoke to a few people in the hostel itself about this issue, and asked them if something could be done, and here are the responses that I faced:

“Chhod na bhai, aur ek maheena baaki hai. Kyun jhamela kar raha hai?”

“What can we do? It has been in this condition for a long time now.”

“I know this is the condition, but I don’t know what to do about it.”

Nobody so much as bothers to call the hostel incharge, or even lodge a complaint. We’d rather live with water leaking from the tank than do something about it. Rather rely on your imagination than do something about the internet problem.

And that is when it struck me, that as a nation, we have carefully cultivated the Art of Not Giving a Fuck.

Image showing an Indian man not giving a fuck.

We are a country of vegetarians, but we love our scapegoats.

Whenever there is a scam, the amount of rupees is passed around, looked at voyeuristically, and passed around. A few jokes are made on Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, and images are ‘shared’ on Facebook, and that’s it.

Most of the people I know dont vote. Funnily, in the largest democracy in the world, to vote is seen as a sign of the poor. The images we are shown of elections is a 90 year old woman being carried to a polling booth, or villagers who have turned up in huge numbers to the polling booth.

Look up the ‘About Me’ of anyone, and in the ‘Politics’ section, you will see a response like ‘I hate politics’, or ‘Politics and Politicians Suck’. This pisses me off a great deal.

But then, as a nation, we have mastered the Art.

Now, there are many advantages in the Art of Not Giving a Fuck.

This man stopped giving a fuck 14 years ago.

It is a constant state of Nirvana – nothing bothers you, because nothing really matters. We are taught values like hardwork, honesty, and sincerity. But never to raise our voices – to be heard, to speak. No.

Mastering the Art also makes it easier for you to fit in. Most people don’t give a fuck, so you will fit in seamlessly into a group of whining people who derive pleasure in talking about the great evil called ‘the system’. This hydra-headed, poison-spewing monster called ‘The System’ is responsible for all our problems. We need something like The Matrix, to deal with The System.

This was precisely the reason why I wasn’t orgasming when Anna Hazare was giving us our Second independence movement.

If you remember, it was the time of revolution – nations were rising up against decade-old regimes and fighting for their rights. The protests, both in the Middle East, as well as in India, were by the middle class – by urban, educated, youth who were sending out a message that something needed to change.

The result is out for all to see. Governments have been overthrown in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Jordan. Emergency laws which were in place for about three decades, have been lifted in Syria and Algeria. New laws have been formed and old regimes toppled.

What do we have in India? Nitpicking, mud-slinging, hateful personal remarks, and a lot of jingoistic bullshit flying around. The result being that the Anti-Corruption movement seems like a superhit film of the last year that has passed.

If only Anna Hazare asked each and every one of the protesters to file a complaint, request for an enquiry, or file an RTI application, we could have done something about corruption

What is sad is that the whole thing fizzled out. And we Indians are a funny lot. We can believe that a group of monkeys created a bridge by floating stones from India to Sri Lanka. But we cannot believe that we can do something to solve our own problems.

So if there is talk of a nation-wide movement once again, people will be cynical to even step out of their homes. What could have been the most important piece of modern legislation, lies tattered, like the blouse of the hero’s sister in a B-grade film.

But sometimes, just filing a complaint, asking for information, or writing a simple letter is enough. It hardly takes ten minutes.

But then, do you give a fuck??

UP Elections and the False Hope

Now that the UP elections has successfully delivered a slap on the faces of undeserving people and a pat on the back for lesser deserving people, I would like to bring in a point of view that has vanished between the brouhaha that has caught the attention of the literate, aware, urban Indian.

Firstly, the ousting of Mayawati came as a relief for me. At the risk of sounding like a Right-Wing fanatic, let me disclaim that I have absolutely no problems with Dalit emancipation. It is not difficult to understand that a community that has for ages immemorial been subdued politically, economically and culturally, sees a hero in Mayawati – the behenji who has made it big in the big, bad, world of Indian politics. That is all fine.

But when I speak to Dalit sympathisers about the huge amount of wealth that she has collected, and obscene flaunting of wealth (like the garland made of 1000 rupee notes), they have absolutely no answer. A garland of 1000 rupee notes in no way betters the situation of Dalits, nor does it ensure a greater participation in politics. If anything at all, it sends out a message to others “I have acquired huge amount of wealth. Come join in – it’s a free for all!”

I respect Mayawati for the different bastions that she has conquered, and when she won a fourth term in 2007, I sincerely felt she would be different from the ruling Samajwadi Party under Mulayam Singh. Five years down the line, things have gotten worse. Setting up parks and statues of Dalit leaders, bring in a sense of cultural pride -yes, but it does just that. Factors like education and employment bring in social respect, and one can only fantasise about the 2,500 crores being spent in building schools and colleges. Maywati, sadly, for all her efforts, will be remembered as the richest Chief Minister of the country – a mirror image of the class she fought all through her life.

The second bit of positive news was the terrible performance of Rahul Gandhi in the Assembly elections.

In Indian politics, being a Gandhi son is like being Sachin Tendulkar’s son in the BCCI room. I have tracked his career over the last years, and I must say I had hopes pinned on him till a few years back. He seemed sincere and honest – for eg, when the CBI had found that 4 of the last 5 terrorist attacks were co-ordinated by rightwing Hindutva groups, he was the only one to talk about Saffron Terror. He seemed like a sincere guy. But then, I am an Indian – it is easy to bullshit me, I guess.

When the UPA won the second term, I was hoping Rahul Gandhi would take up one of the key portfolios and work in the Cabinet of ministers. It would be a good place for him to learn the tricks of the trade, and a possible launching pad for his obvious Prime Ministerial ambitions. But I was shocked to see he didn’t take up any port folio.

It smacked of arrogance – to think that being born in the Gandhi family entitled you directly to the Prime Minister’s post. Over the last two years, Rahul Gandhi treaded the same, beaten path of other Indian politicians. His visits to Dalit houses – dressed in crisp, white kurtas and sneakers – pissed me off majorly.

However, the Palm was delivered a convincing slap on the face when the results were declared, faring badly even in traditionally Congress strongholds. I was curious to see what Rahul Gandhi would say after the defeat. This is what he had to say,

“Look, we haven’t done well in the whole of UP. I view my work as working for the poor of the country. My work shall continue.”

Well, stop bullshitting me, my friend. You are just another leader in the Congress party. If not for your genes, you might not have been there in the first place. And please stop using terms like ‘my work shall continue’. You’re not Mother Theresa, you are Son Gandhi. Drop the halo, please.

Now that I am done ranting about the positives of the elections, let me get to the bit with the false hope.

The word ‘change’ has been an integral part of our vocabulary ever since Barack Obama won his Presidential campaign. ‘Change the system’, ‘I want change’, ‘Change is good’ etc. are vague terms that don’t mean anything.

‘Change’ is again being talked about with Akhilesh Yadav becoming the new Chief Minister.

Sorry to break the news, my friends – this is hardly change at all.

For all the faults with Indian politics, nepotism is the worst disease. We have naturally come to accept that a politician’s son will become a politician too. It is the feudal Zamindari system all over again, and we see no problem with it.

I cringe when I see politicians’ sons paraded as the next hope for India. Sadly, all the so-called new faces of politicans are all sons of earlier politicians. The media has never seen this as a problem, instead calling it the new face of Indian politics. They clearly forgot the ‘r’ in between the word.

Samajwadi Party is the same party that rescued the Centre during the 123 Agreement, and brought people like Sanjay Dutt (a convicted criminal who has served an extensive jail term) to campaign for them in earlier elections. Even though Amar Singh has been kicked out of the party, I don’t see much changing, primarily because Akhilesh Yadav is the son of Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Even in Punjab, Sukhbir Badal, the son of Prakash Singh Badal, has been hailed as the next hope.

But are we such a hopeless country that we accept sons of leaders as our leaders? Is it too much to ask for new faces, youngsters who have risen primarily on the basis of their work and experience??

So don’t go by the news headlines, my friends. One dynasty has been toppled, only to be replaced by another dynasty.

In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker defeated Darth Vader, who was actually his father. In real life, bullshit is recycled and handed over to us as ‘change’.

Eat, and make merry!

 

Karan Thapar vs Kapil Dev

 

The year was 2000. My heroes, idols and inspirations all lay on the floor, humiliated and accused. The game I had played for most of my life, and one day (foolishly) hoped to play was hit by the matchfixing scandal.

It was the time when private news channels were sprouting everywhere, and India was seeing a shift from the behenji on Doordarshan news, to the sansani-sensation style of reporting.

Karan Thapar was acquiring a reputation for being a hard-hitting interviewer, and was working with BBC.

This was the time when Kapil Dev, arguably India’s biggest cricket icon then, was also named in the list of cricketers accused of throwing away matches for money.

Kapil Dev was our fathers’ Sachin Tendulkar. There was something that was endearing about Kapil Dev, to make him an icon of an India that emphasised on honesty, simplicity and hard work. The way he played his cricket, his opinions, even the products he endorsed, had a lack of sophistication to them.

Kapil Dev was invited to an interview by Karan Thapar.

************************************

To his credit, Kapil Dev was the only one among those accused to have agreed to do an interview in the first place. None of the others – Azhar, Jadeja, Mongia, or Prabhakar had come on a show to defend themselves.

I personally think Kapil Dev took the interview a little less seriously. You can see he is dressed casually in khaki shorts. Kapil’s naivety probably led him to think it would be an ‘Aap ka Adalat’ kind of a show where jingoistic lines win you applause from the audience, and emotional dialogues are given prominence.

Clearly, Kapil Dev did not know much about Karan Thapar.

With a degree in Economics and Political Philosophy from Cambridge, Thapar was also the President of the Cambridge Union, and had won awards for his work, and a reputation of being a no-nonsense interviewer.

It was an interesting clash: a hard-hitting, articulate, informed journalist. And a man who had the reputation of being spontaneous, honest and hardworking.

Like Ravi Shastri would say, “You can expect something big here…”

*************************************

The interview began slowly, with questions on cricket, integrity and some facts. Gradually, the questions got straight to the point. Thapar has this way of getting statements out of his interviewees. He asked Kapil straight – “So you’re telling me that you never accepted any money to fix a match?”. And then asked the same question four times over.

I must say I am not a huge fan of the Karan Thapar style of interviewing. An incisive, caustic approach is fine when you have a corrupt politician to interview, but it restricts you to doing ‘investigative’ sort of interviews.

I believe a good interview is one in which the person feels comfortable and has opened up to you – impossible when you have Karan Thapar looking into you from above.

Kapil took it for a few minutes, this was clearly something he wasn’t prepared for. The usual respect and praise that he people gave him everywhere he went wasn’t there. There was Karan Thapar, and his questions, and it was getting hotter by the minute.

After about ten minutes, there was a tear in Kapil’s eye. He asked for a few moments off, which of course, Karan Thapar did not give him.

Instead, the camera zoomed in on him further. Thapar pushed on with the interview.

Kapil Dev was sobbing now. He spoke in a high-pitched, girly voice – nothing like the man who held the World Cup in his hands. Even after his breakdown, the interview carried on for a good ten minutes, as everyone watched in stunned silence.

****************************

More than a decade has passed since the interview, and that remains the worst shame to have come across cricket.

Was Kapil involved? No one knows for sure.

While Manoj Prabhakar kept saying that Kapil was aware of matchfixing, and there were doubts about a fan having ‘gifted’ Kapil a BMW. However, in the investigations that followed, Kapil’s name never came up.

It’s hard to see Kapil as a matchfixer. There is no science behind this, but the swagger that Azhar had made it easier for me to deal with the truth that he wasn’t entirely honest. Ajay Jadeja never had too much character anyway.

But Kapil??

No one knows what really happened. The matchfixing incident became a ghost of the past, and India quickly grew to become a country that controlled cricket all over the world.

But this episode with Karan Thapar remains one of the most riveting interviews in the history of Indian telejournalism.

Watch the clip here: Link

Rahul Dravid_rare_photos7

The Diary of Rahul Dravid

April 22, 1991: Dear diary,

Today was the first day I seriously considered a career in cricket. Parents want that I do my engineering, but I know they will support me if I told them about it.

Tarapore sir spoke to me today and I felt confident about it. It has always been there, somewhere at the back of my mind. If there was anyone stopping me, it is my doubts. I have only been playing the game for seven years now, and there are some who have been playing for more than a decade now. There are so many who are better, but after Tarapore sir spoke to me about it, I felt I have a chance.

Will speak to dad.

23 June, 96 – All those classes I (unwillingly) bunked, all those hours at the net, have finally borne fruit. My father would have been proud!

I had seen it a thousand times in my head before it happened, but walking into Lords with my bat, I had no words to describe the feeling. I was in the middle with this other new guy called Dada. He has a bit of an attitude, that guy, but he’s a nice bloke.

Batting in England is not as difficult as I thought. I stuck to the basics, and the ball seemed to be hitting the bat nicely. I could not make a century though, so I guess the name of the board can wait.

The team is a nice outfit. There are guys I looked upto, like Azhar (What wrists man, that guy!) and youngsters like me, Dada, and Sachin. Even though I had my doubts in the beginning, I think if I can bat out 30 overs in an innings, I have done my job.

But the journey has just begun. Let’s see how it goes from here…

May 21, 1997: Even though the last year has been good for me, getting my place in the ODI team has proven to be a little difficult.

I like the freedom that comes with Tests. I can leave the ones I don’t want to play, and drive the ones I’m absolutely confident about. But One Day cricket has changed so much, and when India scored 306 in Sharjah last year, 300s don’t seem such a big score anymore.

I got my first century today – 107, while chasing, and Chennai was at its hottest! It was satisfying, getting the first ODI century, but the day did not belong to me. Saeed Anwar scored 194 – the highest score in an ODI. It was a nice innings, but Shahid Afridi ran almost 150 of his runs for him.

Take nothing away from Anwar though – brilliant innings! I wish India had some bowlers to support Sri and Venky. I see those guys put in so much effort, bowling in flat conditions at 40 degrees, but there is no one to support them.

But anyway, I think if I put in lots of effort (especially in my shot selection), ODIs will not be as difficult as I thought.

March 15, 2001: WITHOUT DOUBT THE GREATEST MATCH OF CRICKET I HAVE BEEN A PART OF!!!

Eden Gardens is something else!! No matter how much you play here, it feels like home always. As I write this, the resulting madness is yet to sink in. Who would have thought that after being asked to follow on, we would go on to win the match? Bhajji sure is a talent to look out for (he has some temper issues though, and I pity the person who ends up at the receiving end). He took a hattrick, and you should have seen the Australian faces. I was tempted to give them a taste of their own medicine – but I refrained at the last minute. It wouldn’t be the civilised thing to do.

We really needed something like this victory. After last year, the fans had lost respect for the team and the players. Every bad performance was blamed for ‘paison ke liye khelta hai’, and some of the biggest names in our team were disgraced. We really needed something like this.

My innings was satisfying. But the day did not belong to me. Laxman played like he was possessed. What an innings!

Will write more later, Sachin has just opened the bottle of champagne!

23 March 2003: So near yet so far!

We have been working really hard on becoming a competent One Day side over the last few years. The last two years have easily been the best of my career, and thankfully have coincided with an uprising in the Indian team. We are not the genteel, pushovers that we were thought of earlier. Dada has changed we are looked at as a team. I kept wickets throughout the tournament so that we could play an extra batsman, and I think that was crucial to our performance throughout, as many matches had contributions from the likes of Yuvraj and Sanjay Bangar.

We should have fielded better in the final. Also, our lack of bowling experience showed. Sri has been shouldering the burden for long now, and the rest were newbies. It was disheartening, but that’s the game, I guess. There are talks of a new coach being appointed this year. Let’s hope that changes our fortunes for the better.

12 September 2007: I had to take the decision, and I have conveyed my message to the selectors. When Dada was sacked as the captain from the team and I agreed to take over, I had no idea what was in store for me. The disastrous World Cup didn’t help matters at all, and as the captain I take responsibility for the decisions made.

This new guy with long hair – Dhoni, seems quite promising, and Sachin speaks highly of him. He seems to have a calm head over his shoulders and has no issues calling a spade a spade. Something I haven’t been able to do, I must admit.

September16, 2009: When I was recalled into the ODI team after two years, I must admit I was surprised. While many said it was only because we are unable to play in foreign pitches, I don’t see it as a bad thing. It is my team, and I will play for them if they want me to.

What surprised me, however, was that I was dropped a month later, and there was no reason given. I understand the selectors have a high-pressure job and every decision is scrutinised by a cricket-mad nation, but a note explaining a reason. Is that asking for too much?

January 29, 2011: When we set out to Australia in December, few would have thought it would be our worst outing down under in the last decade. I was hopeful of a good show, given the England series. It was disappointing on many levels, and not getting runs was just one of them. Form is temporary – I can deal with that. It was the getting bowled match after match that disappointed me the most. My catching seemed rusty in the series, a problem that has persisted since the England tour.

 

 

March 8, 2012: Woke up to read the newspaper today and read an article about the need for selectors to take ‘bold decisions’. It made me smile. I remembered reading a similar article 19 years ago by Rajan Bala, and I remembered how much hope it gave me. I trained harder in the nets, and read the article again and again, as it seemed that if my efforts were true, they would be rewarded.

It hasn’t been such a bad journey, but it’s time. I know it.