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India vs Australia – Ruminating over the build-up

Need any words be wasted on highlighting just how anticipated, important, promising yada yada yada this game is. I reckon not.

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  • Wouldn’t want to join the massive ongoing guessing game about what the match-day nature of the SCG pitch is going to be like. However, reports do suggest significant wear and tear from a long season which is being viewed as a  turn of events that will favour India more (the huge impact of spin on the SA vs SL match played here is also being taken into account). Conversely, as of last night, the pitch was still sweating under covers which for non-aficionados, essentially means that it’s not likely to be as much of a spin-haven as expected. Either way, I don’t think the impact of the pitch will go THAT long a way in deciding favourites. Fingers crossed for a nice sunny day in Sydney and an un-interrupted semi-final
  • Michael Clarke’s dismal record against Ashwin and Jadeja is well documented and widely known. If nothing else, this will, in the least, give India a psychological edge over the Aussie skipper. Not to mention, MSD has used Suresh Raina to reasonably potent effect.
  • In my view, Glenn Maxwell and Steve Smith pose the greatest threat from the Aussie batting to India’s plans. I’m sure backroom plans are ongoing to try and outfox the dangerous duo. Nevertheless, it is quite naive to undermine the potential impact the rest of the Australian batting can have. Finch, Warner and Faulkner can , one their day, take the game away from any opposition single handedly.
  • I get the jitters, as an Indian fan, upon the very mention of Mitchell Starc’s name. Boy oh boy what consistency and at that pace too! He surely ought to be negotiated with utmost diligence by the Indian batsmen. Last thing any of us want is him wreaking havoc and making it a one-sided game.
  • I don’t think concerns over Kohli’s form are founded in fact. I would say he’s had a solid tournament. Not too many big scores but that’s more a function of India chasing small totals in 2-3 matches. Not to mention, he did get a confident century against Pakistan, in what was very much a “big game” for the Indians. He didn’t ever look to me like he was struggling or searching for form.
  • Inevitably, one has to talk about the proposed “sledge-fest” that the game has been duly promised to be. It’s one of those things: Whether you like it or not, it’s gonna happen. I did enjoy the tension that was palpable in the Aus vs Pak game, which was, in no small part, due to the frequent, untamed displays of aggression. Nevertheless, it was refreshing to watch a sledge-free game of cricket between Sa and NZ. It was none the less exciting, nail-biting and unforgettable than the former (possibly more). It does feel slightly odd that world-class professionals are on nattering about word-wars before the big game.
  • To me, it seems to be a very evenly matched contest. I really hope it’s going to be as riveting and evenly matched as the first semi final, if not more. the rivalry will definitely be a factor that’ll up the ante a bit.

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Why picking a nationalist to head your state isn’t half bad

At the very outset, I’d like to dispel any doubts as to whether this ensuing article claims to be expertly opined and painstakingly researched. It’s not. It’s just what came of a dubious thought that wandered through me: Why are nationalists (more often than not, clearly right wing and annoyingly religious) so successful at generating trust and in turn, votes? Especially, in the light of Narendra Modi’s landslide victory in the recently concluded Indian General Elections and Nigel Farage’s (UKIP Head Honcho) growing popularity in Britain, I thought there ought to be a reason, be it subliminal. In my head, there are enough in common between these men and indeed most others of their ilk to warrant looking for an underlying phenomenon/cognitive process behind their electoral success of (In a world that is interestingly and widely described to be progressively liberal).

I definitely abhor or at least hold quite some contempt towards the idea of nationalism defined literally and traditionally: Undying, unfounded and blind loyalty towards and faith in, your country, and worryingly, in most cases, race, language, culture (!!) and religion as an extension. I especially hold qualm with the claim that a given race or believer of a certain religion is inherently superior/ ought to be treated different. In addition, the idea of blindly (To the point of irrationality) loving your “country”, (which is a largely symbolic construct save for how it’s endowed and governed) is to me just plain stupid.

Nevertheless, I mantain that I would gladly pick a nationalist to head my state. First and foremost, because, I think the only people who become/seek to become politicians are those who (at worst, just at face value), believe in the concept/idea of a “nation”. they are people who usual profess blind love for their countries. This, more often than not, means that they take problems plaguing the country seriously and personally. They, more often than not, swoop down on areas of the nation that are in disarray, and sort them out, much like a stern yet loving parent would. They take infrastructure seriously. They take the global economic prestige of the nation seriously. It  veritably helps that most of them believe, to large yet varying extents, in the market). Thus, in the most tangible and “concrete” parameters, they are usually brutally effective; They also usually cause large amounts of money to flow into a nation , through Foreign investments, of one sort or the other and rev up internal production. Therefore, to the citizens of a given country, the markers of success and development witness exponential elevation under the aforementioned types of government. Hitler was a staunch nationalist; Much as he is and ought to be hated for his stances, he forged a strong and happy (well, if you were “Aryan”) Germany that did unprecedentedly well in terms of economy, infrastructure and organisation. The Autobahns, Porsche, VW Beetle and Hugo Boss are just some of the big german names that the world has come to strongly associate with ingenuity and top-notch quality. I could list a handful of other examples (both historical and contemporary) but that ,in my opinion, is aside from (and possibly dissuasive) to the point.

However,  I do concede that sometimes, when these guys get awfully and quite contradictorily fussed up about their religious, racist and generally discriminatory beliefs, it could get quite intrusive and painful to deal with. Nevertheless, in cases such as in India now, I would always choose the nationalist for the lack of a side with an immaculate stance on both governance and philosophy.

Ruminations at 35000 feet above sea level

This happens to be the first ever time that I’m writing whilst aboard an aircraft. It’s been a while since I updated my blog – not that my life is seeing a dearth of noteworthy happenings- just that the afflatus never seized me in the recent past. A strange phenomenon-  being unable to write. I’m thinking about doing a piece on that sometime but not for now.

Flying: An interstice. One of life’s many interstices – like riding on the elevator, or pretty much passively riding anything (passive being the operative word).  I have no idea what this piece is about. Well maybe this could be considered a meta-piece that studies the very nature of it’s creation. I just need to get myself back on the proverbial saddle after about a month of not writing anything (noteworthy, at least). So I’ve decided to kill time on this boring flight (my phone doesn’t work! no music 😦 ) So, on that passing thought on interstices: Interstices have always been somewhat of an interest to me. I hail from a decade wherein one didn’t have easy access to either mobile computers or phones. i.e when you travelled, all you did was travel. You could read; you could talk, you could play cards but mostly, you just sat and waited to arrive at your destination. At least, most of the time, that’s what I did. I didn’t have a “walkman”, didn’t like reading whilst in motion and had an inexplicable disdain for card games. So, when I try to recollect travelling in that age, I remember just sitting with my thoughts (i mean, in a particularly active way) and ruminating on countless subjects, tirelessly. I grew up like that and Im fairly certain that these experiences have scarred me for life. Till date, the image of myself whilst on a trip, is best characterised by that of a junkie in need of his next fix. I have this incessant nag in my head and I just can’t seem to find peace until my destination arrives. nevertheless, as many know (but, for reasons I don’t exactly know), the act of travelling offers more scope than average to conduct thoughts of a particularly reflective nature in one’s head. I, for one, found the answer to some of life’s most pertinent (or so they seemed then) questions whilst on the move. That can be quite fun, especially when one can find means to channel/streamline one’s thoughts as I’m doing right now.  This feeling of impatience that I mentioned is, a lot of times, juxtaposed by this feeling of excitement (one which I definitely do not have now) which is mostly caused by an anticipatory feeling of freshness/new-ness that being in a new place promises

I have always wanted to travel with someone I really cared for/ loved the company of. The very idea always seemed far-fetched to me, mostly because it has never happened. Offset that is, also, by the fact that there aren’t many people whom i love to the extent that i would love to be sealed shut in a metal container with them. I once took two really-long train journeys with my present-day best friend. The sad thing was that back then, we were different people and hated each other’s guts. He used to be snobbish and snarky and in hindsight, i can very well see why I elicited such behaviour from him. That’s the closest I have ever come. Even recently, There was a plan with somebody. I don’t think it’s happening anymore and it’s strangely left me quite stoic. Pardon the cliche, but it really just serves to prove that life can be really unsteady, transient, unpredictable and all that. Life as you know it today could stay the same or change. The changes can sometimes be so drastic that you are left reeling; Not quite as much by the specific impact of the change as that of this feeling of unfamiliarity with your own life. These feel like ends of chapters in the great book that is your life i.e the punctuation marks.

Personally, when I’m going through a major transition period in life- one characterised by a sudden, far-reaching change of huge consequence- I either am in a blurred state of mechanical semi-consciousness or in one of super-conscious perception where I’m overly aware/perceptive of pretty much everything. Sometimes, I oscillate between these states. I don’t, personally, subscribe to either ideas of being torn, internally, by changes or having to make efforts to “bring back a semblance of balance”, so to speak. In my case, extrinsic factors stopped having that much of an impact a long time ago. They do affect me but it’s never too long before I gain perspective. A sudden shift of positions. A small click and poof I’m looking at the thing with callous indifference. For instance, I couldn’t have imagined, say 2 months ago, the idea of living without a smartphone. I had become so used to enjoying the myriad ways in which it made my life easier/better and when I killed it, I was plunged into an existential limbo of sorts of the better part of 30 minutes. 2 months on, I’m surprised at how quickly I adapted. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t appreciate getting my phone up and running again or that I didn’t love it in the first place. It’s just that I, and IMO, pretty much everyone, can live without a particular commodity/person and not have my consciousness boil with internal strife.

I love it when my ears get blocked due to high cabin-pressure and I have to breathe through them to restore normalcy. It’s a weirdly pleasurable sensation. On that absolutely random thought, I feel I ought to conclude this meandering post. Nevertheless, I’m making a promise to myself to post more specific and relevant pieces up on the blog regularly henceforth.

P.S: This was fun. This aimless stroll of an article. The romantic in me would say it’s a photograph of my mind, flash frozen in time. 😀 😉 :O 😕

Life after Roger Ebert; The mantle passes

`I would like to begin this post by stating that I staunchly believe that critiquing is quite veritably, an art in itself. It takes,among other rare and demanding virtues, uncommon levels of objectivity, a keen sense of observation and an encyclopaediac knowledge base in the concerned area.

Roger Ebert, my all time favourite movie critic, passed away earlier this year. The film aficionado in me suppressed many a silent tear. His loss to me was profound in an extremely selfish way and was sorely personal.

I discovered him when I first started realising that Rotten Tomatoes’ tomatometer, in itself, was not a reliable indicator of a movie’s watchability/merits by my standards. I started reading individual reviews of films and over a period of time, one critic’s tastes, reviews and accuracy (again by my standards) definitely stood out. The rest is a long history of my torrent download list being a product of constant deferral to his judgement.

Why did I like his reviews so much? Firstly, his piranha grip over the English language and his effortlessly eloquent writing style resonated with me. Secondly, his overall set of cinematic ideals, in terms of aesthetics, technicalities and pretty much everything else conformed to (and sometimes, shaped) my own. In addition, his acute objectivity helped transcend philosophical and idealogical differences (he was a theistic socialist; I’m a raging libertarian atheist) that could have possibly led to a difference in perception and patronisation of certain loaded subjects. Lastly, what made him stand apart was the method of rating films as products of their relative genres, which he pioneered.

Naturally, my film-life suffered due to the existence of a palpable black hole when he died and going was tough for a few weeks. Then, in a fashion decidedly congruent with the whole “when a door closes, a window opens” school of bullshit, I stumbled upon my next favourite critic through a Roger Ebert obituary that he had published in an Indian daily; The co-incidence is definitely gasp-worthy. The new holder of the coveted mantle is Baradwaj Rangan, who writes reviews for The Hindu and also publishes his stuff on baradwajrangan.wordpress.com. With to-die-for witticisms, uncannily overlapping personal tastes/beliefs (to an extent  unimaginable with even Ebert) and a thorough disdain for the nonsense, Rangan had me scouring his blog for reviews of my all time favourites and choking with teared joy on having found the perfect patch for the hole. It was also poetically fitting that he was tam brahm.

I believe I have started admiring him as a proper writer and not just a tool to ease my filtration process for films. Sadly, his job’s dictates mean that he reviews a lot of films that don’t usually feature in my to-watch list. I end up reading reviews for a lot of films that I know I would never watch, if only to entertain myself with his writing.

I strongly recommend his blog.

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The AAP Effect

the knight in plain white

the knight in plain white

I would like to preface this by saying that I have extremely anti-statist views when it comes to governance. I like my governments small and unobtrusive (possibly even non existent).

However, talking from more of an India-exclusive standpoint, I have always maintained that it isn’t going to be one political ideology, be it this end or the other, that is suddenly going to change the traditionally murky Indian political setup for the better. For me, the reason behind the pitfalls was hardly a function of a flawed stance/misplaced beliefs. It was a function of the maleficence and apathy that characterised the reign of many a party ,each claiming to hold dear another set of ideals. In the spectrum of political beliefs/stances, the AAP hasn’t even bothered defining itself. The propaganda had a healthy dose of the Indian political staple of populism and promise of state-handouts. Nevertheless, it isn’t political ideology, at least of the right-left-centre persuasion, that defines AAP.They have defined themselves, or seek to, in terms simple, clear and resonating: anti-corruption. While to the outsider, this may seem like a glaring redundancy, since it’s obvious no party would make corruption their motto, it is tragically common knowledge in India that the two major Central Parties that have enjoyed power for more than 5 decades are ones where corruption runs rampant and unchecked all the way down to the rotting foundations. Established on the aftermath of Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement that caused quite the nation-wide stir, by an active participant in the struggle no less, the party had a clear cut brand positioning, so to speak. Aided by doggedly determined and often clever propaganda that went on for the better half of a year, the party set up quite a good base for itself. This in tandem with the Delhi denizens’ disillusionment with the mostly ineffective Congress government headed by Sheila  Dixit for a decade, secured the fledgling party a historic first-poll haul.

To me, before the AAP wave swept over, there was a fair bit of skepticism. I was not convinced that honest intentions,even if they could be taken as such in the first place, are enough in themselves to run a successful government. Such misgivings were mitigated firstly by the knowledge that the AAP is headed by a person who can a. read b. write and has a degree from a premier institute to boot. That’s comedically (?) rare stuff in India. Sadly, this is a country where high school dropouts unabashedly spearhead top education portfolios and the general bulk of the key legislative bodies are often woefully undereducated. Therefore, for obvious reasons, the AAP is a welcome change in this respect. Although, a point to the counter turned out to be the sad reality of  the party on a number-rising spree, indiscriminately adding potential Lok Sabha candidates into it’s fold, with no apparent considerations of merit (some of these guys have a proven track record for misappropriating large amounts of public money.)

This brings us to the question: is the AAP really going to change things drastically? As I write this, the AAP has been in power for 9 days and I already see progress. The move is being reflected in small changes being made at the grassroots level. It seems unlikely that they have any clarity of stance on the crucial questions that divide politicians and the the science, all over the world; However, they (from the leader’s speeches) seem really keen to usher in a brand of governance that, is self-describedly anti polar to one that has prevailed in this country. They have made good on most of their short-term assurances from their manifesto and that in itself deserves some if not heaps of credit.
Nevertheless, unlike bigoted zealots who are running amok in plenty, overjoyed at having found a new idol to  blindly celebrate and worship, I insist that one can’t, at this moment, make any predictions for the party’s long term viability, steadfastness to it’s resolves or even it’s fate in the Lok Sabha which are almost upon us. These remain to be seen.

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Am I going to get raped in India?

Many a curious and adventure seeking soul ventures to think of making the trip to India  and indeed many do; But, in my own experience, the level of disparity in people’s perceptions of this country is something that astounds me in it’s polarity and incongruity. One may naively extend a weak argument that this could probably be attributed to cultural/linguistic diversity and all that. Not completely unfounded, but I’ve noticed something else; Beyond the confines of linguistic, economic, socio-political and provincial divides, there exists a larger Indian divide: one that I neither claim to understand the basis of, nor seek to define in crisp and clear terms (if “crisp and clear” is your motto, twitter, in my humble opinion, would be more to your liking). This divide stems, I feel, from one factor too many. The fact that the country in discussion has 1.4 billion (the last time i checked) combinations of the previously mentioned factors in addition to factors such as predispositions/natural inclinations, belief systems, moral codes, influences (external stimuli) and many more which my myopic haste doesn’t allow me to consider, is in itself a very convincing probable reason for this phenomenon.

Many a foreigner has asked me questions about india , the answers to which, would involve me making at least a conservative generalisation. I have expressly refrained (not that I completely disagree with the whole idea of generalising/categorisation of people; It’s convenient and accurate to a large part in a lot of cases). It’s because, despite having spent the first 17 years of my life here and intermittent periods in the next three, I still find it difficult to generalise Indians in most terms: be it behaviour, beliefs, what’s appropriate/acceptable, what’s not and so forth. I, being mildly pedantic, also resent it when others don’t accept this diversity of massive proportions, as such and try inaccurately to pigeon-hole people into vague categories like “western”, “orthodox”, “hip” and so on. But, i really think that sort of thing gravely underestimates the inaccuracy of it’s placements; And I don’t even say this from a philosophical POV. I say this in pragmatic terms, on the basis of first hand experience. So , if you are a prospective traveller, with a question in your mind like “what are indians like..?” or even “what are the bulk of them like”, well the answer I would give you is that, even by the most lenient of standards, I wouldn’t be able to say.

In the light of all the rape/molestation cases that have been under the media scanner lately, it is but obvious that apprehensions are running wild amongst those who once fantasised about getting to India someday. I am not going to be the guy who dismisses these fears as baseless and Im definitely not going to be the guy who delineates the entire country as unsuitable to travel to either. It is a sad truth that a substantial number of Indian men, thanks to a social setup, that, for most part is sexually repressed, have resorted to forcibly violating women (foreign and Indian alike). the argument that “rape happens elsewhere too” is a crappy one. It does happen a lot more here. It is what it is. Coupled with a rusty legal setup and a largely obsolete, apathetic and inefficient police force, the threat is definitely a viable one. But honestly, I severely doubt that it is as likely to happen as most western media/people claim. yes, you are likely to be harangued and even borderline harassed by many a local (that applies to male tourists too). But, I really don’t think the chances of getting raped, provided one takes the most minimum of precautionary measures, amounts to anything of significance. Again, you’ve got to bear the huge population in mind.  I really do believe that if one does a probable cost-tangible benefits analysis and vows to be about one’s wits, a trip to India still is, by my standards, worth it.

I read a blog entry a few weeks ago which was written by a British woman married to an Indian man. She tried to elucidate on the many archetypal indian men whose generalised attitudes/actions go unreported/unnoticed. She said, and i paraphrase (for i tried to find the blog but to no avail…maybe i’ll put up a link on a later date if i’m successful), “Everybody is talking about the Indian man that rapes; What about the Indian man that offers me seats on buses/trains? the Indian man that cares for his family to an extent unimaginable by westerners. The man that drives his sister/daughter to school in the pouring rain and patiently waits while his wife shops” and so on. I liked it despite it’s slightly flawed premise. Especially because, these examples that she mentioned, aren’t minorities but are stereotypical of the average Indian man. That, these people seldom will feature in a tourist’s interactions whilst in the country, is a different thing altogether

scooter

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India and me

After many forays into the arena of blogging: with polarised returns/successes, I came upon the idea of writing a blog about my travels through the subcontinent (pedants to be warned: I might just write something about one of my foreign travels   too). Much as there is to be proud of the vast piece of geographical significance that I inhabit, I never subscribed to any false claims of supremacy or greatness ascribed to this land by it’s fair share of jingoists. The country, and I do not compare, has it’s lion’s share of inequities, appalling evils and cringe-worthy idiosyncrasies. Nevertheless, I do feel that the chaos and the diversity (oh the cliche!) contribute towards it being a country of immense potential in terms teaching one a thing or two about the human condition. The mind boggling multitudes of people can be cited as a primordial reason. That these multitudes don’t inhabit the same cultural framework, economic stratum (oh by a long shot) or any semblance of a collective zeitgeist only adds to the aforementioned chaos; Throw in the scores of (might I add, mutually unintelligible) languages, about half a dozen religions and about a million self imposed demarcations, and you begin to get somewhere, in understanding the scheme of things that drive this nation.

I seek to perpetrate no illusion that I have a clear idea of what divine task I set out to accomplish through this spider-web journal. The idea took it’s birth solely as a collection of pieces I wrote every now and then, in the course of my myriad escapades through the country. As I got through the logistical axioms of setting up a WordPress account and instituting this blog, the wretched mind of mine had already started seeing tangential overtures to the pre-determined purpose of this endeavour. And now, as I write this historic first piece, I still (dare I say, unabashedly?), maintain that I would like this to run it’s course. But, what I do know is that I want this to be about India, being Indian or well you get the idea. I believe this is the closest I have (also possibly, will) come to a paean to the land that bore me (i’ll really try to avoid the cliches hence. honest!)

P.S: The address Indian travel junkie was already taken, much to the chagrin of my very individualistic self. So I had to swallow my intransigent pride at the behest of WordPress and accept the present address despite it’s pluralistic connotations.

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