Archive for June, 2006

How do you say 54X74-1990=2006 in German?

30 June 2006

It’s the biggest match of the World Cup so far, Germany vs Argentina, in Berlin tonight at 8.30 IST, and the numerologists have got their calculators handy.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story/7587.html

Pinching the baby and rocking the cradle

30 June 2006

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh goes today to Maharashtra’s Vidharbha to connect with a region where farmers who have been committing suicide in droves: 1,800 of them have perished in the last 48 months alone. But guess who is among those leading the kisans to the noose? Singh’s own partyman.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story/7582.html

Elephants, snakecharmers and now… Hanuman

29 June 2006

From Scott Adams‘ blog: 

***

“Thousands of people are queuing up to worship a man with a 13 inch tail in India. Chandre Oram, from Alipurduar in West Bengal, is regarded as an incarnation of the Hindu monkey god Hanuman.

“Oram also loves climbing trees and eating bananas, according to the Press Trust of India. He said: “People have a lot of faith in me. They are cured of severe ailments when they touch my tail. I believe I can do a lot of good to those who come to me with devotion.”

“However, doctors say his tail is a rare but known congenital defect and that he is not a god. Although it has made Oram an object of devotion, it has also brought him some problems.

“He added: “Almost 20 women have turned down marriage proposals. They see me and agree, but as soon as I turn around, they see my tail and leave: “I have decided to marry the woman who accepts me and my tail. Or else, I’ll remain a bachelor like Hanuman.”

“Doctors have offered to remove the tail surgically but Oram has refused their help. His sister Rekha said: “He will not survive without his tail. It has become part of his being, his existence.”

***

http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_1886208.html?menu=news.quirkies

CHURUMURI POLL: Is it all over for Sania Mirza?

29 June 2006

The defeat of Sania Mirza in the first round of the 2006 Wimbledon tournament last night, on top of the second round crash out of the Australian Open, lobs a question that has been on most thinking people’s minds: has the on-court magic of the oomphy Hyderabad lass vanished for good? Admittedly, Sania who has been battling injury for some while, played with strappings on her right elbow as well both her ankles yesterday.

Still, with a 4th round appearance in the US Open being the furthest she has gone in a Grand Slam tournament in the last two years, the question is: have her opponents worked her out after her initial blitz? Is injury caused by poor fitness the cause, or is she too distracted by all her various commitments, too weighed down by expectations? She is still at a very respectable 38 on the WTA rankings, but at this rate will she ever win a Grand Slam title?

Since you are so damn smart, did you know that…

29 June 2006

URGENT: Send your wishes to German consulate

29 June 2006

The Arjuna Award winner I.M. Vijayan, a former captain of the national football team, has been denied a visa by the German consulate in Madras to visit Germany for the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup because his bank balance of Rs 50,000 was found to be “not impressive”. 

“I had to wait from 5 am to 2 pm without food or water. I have been to foreign countries many times and have clean credentials. I don’t know if they found my dark complexion and ragged looks inadmissible,” Vijayan, who has also acted in a few Malayalam movies, has told the Bombay paper, DNA.

Vijayan will appear again for his visa. Please send your best wishes to the German consulate for their exemplary standards.

http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?NewsID=1038344

The most optimistic country in the world: India

29 June 2006

Indian consumers are the most optimistic in the world in terms of their expectations for employment opportunities and the health of their personal finances. We top AC Nielsen‘s Global Consumer Confidence index with a score of 127. The global average was 92.

http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=062806A

Don’t laugh when somebody says sorry to kill you

29 June 2006

But Unny in today’s Indian Express makes you do just that with this extraordinary word-less cartoon on the LTTE ideologue Anton Balasingham‘s “regret” for the death of Rajiv Gandhi.

http://www.indianexpress.com/showcartoon.php?picId=1633

The second most famous Mysorean in the world

29 June 2006

SUNAAD RAGHURAM writes: Like all of us, he too is playing host to age. But age, in his case, seems to be a casual cousin who just dropped by. Not a long staying relative who bears upon you the burden of his visit’s upkeep.

He’s more like a sun kissed flower. Vibrant, colourful, joyous and bright. Age alights upon him like a bee and buzzes off in an instant.

K. Pattabhi Jois has seen 91 summers. Or winters, if you like. But… But the eyes still flash bright hues. The smile is friendly and full. It doesn’t matter that it is denture assisted. The skin is taut and blemishless.

So much like his resolve to do what he has been doing in stages almost every waking moment for 77 of his 91 years. Learning, lecturing and teaching yoga. His has been a journey. Long, timeless, poignant, exciting, frustrating, fulfilling and in a sense, eternal.

Perhaps the greatest living guru of ashtanga yoga in the world, Jois lives in Gokulam, Mysore. If he is not teaching in London or Paris or Melbourne or New York or San Francisco, that is. His is the life of a man whose soul has been satiated by the sheer attainment of a life’s ambition; the fulfilling of a karmic yearning; the continuing of a tradition that is steeped in his very being.

To him life is yoga. And yoga is life. There is nothing beyond it. Not anything that he has tried seeking. He ran away from his home in the village of Kowshika near Hassan as a 14-year-old boy. Getting into the train to Mysore from the station at Ambuga, a neighbouring village, four miles away, because he didn’t want any one to notice him or even recognize him.

The mind had been made up. To answer some strange otherworldly calling.

Watching guru S.T. Krishnamacharya demonstrate yoga at the Jubilee Hall in Hassan one 1928 evening, stirring in him some irresistible awakening. “It’s the shaping of the soul over many lives,” he says. His answer to why he got so irrevocably drawn to the pursuit of yoga. Long years of ‘tapas’. At the Sanskrit College in Mysore.

In the early days, the meals were frugal but the insults to the heart were substantial. Poverty snapped at his heels like a persistent dog. He could only glare back and keep going. His resolve was cast in solid iron and his mind wavered only as much as a mountain would against a mild breezy waft.

The numbing sacrifices in life. The honing of his very internal rhythms to suit the lifestyle of a yogi. From an unearthly young age. Waking up at 4 in the morning. When the rest of the world remained snugly curled up in the folds of a hazy dream. Pushing his limbs to do the mind’s bidding. Yoga practice. And more of it until the sun was high up in the sky. Day after day. Week after week. Years went by.

There is to him the visage of a yogi. The mellow glow of knowledge and achievement. But there is not even a hint of the ego. Quite surrealistically humble. He doesn’t speak the English language beyond the customary ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’.

Yet there’s some unbelievable communion happening all the time between him and his tens of hundreds of western students. They call him guruji. And in return they get a soulful of benediction. Or so it seems going by the way they fawn over his presence.

I have seen him walk the long cavernous halls of airports in the west amidst the gloss, the glitter, the lights and the shrill crescendo of revved up jet engines taxiing for take off. But he is his own self. In his white dhoti and shirt and pump shoes.

He neither understands the thousand reasons his co-passengers have to be on the same plane nor does he want to know why else the world moves. To him he is on his way to Los Angeles or Encinitas or Hawaii because a student has invited him to be there.

Only the boy from Kowshika has touched 91 years of age!

Also see: The World’s Most Famous Mysoreans

IS CORRUPTION IN OUR BLOODY GENES?

28 June 2006

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: Nationwide breastbeating has just begun over the arrest of Nadeem Kashmiri, a Bangalore BPO worker, for allegedly being part of a racket that ripped off close to Rs 1.8 crore from HSBC clients. Coming on the heels of scams built around Karan Bahree (Infinity e-search) and Samuel Thomas (Mphasis-Citibank), there are now questions galore on the inadequacy of our cyber laws, the data protection mechanisms, the future of BPO if this keeps on happening, etc.

Things like these happen in other countries, too, if only to prove that human beings are after all human with their own moral and ethical frailties. But the key question is: Is India the unrivalled global capital of cads, crooks, cheats and the corrupt?

An extraordinarily rotten society of venal scamsters, individual and institutional, willing to do anything, everything, for a few rupees more?

Look at the pantheon of people caught with their hand in the till in the recent past: Actors, bankmen, bureaucrats, businessmen, constables, cricketers, culture czars, customs officials, defencemen, electricity linemen, engineers, excise officials, foreign service officers, government clerks, income-tax officials, industrialists, journalists, ministers, phone linemen, police officers, politicians, professors, software tycoons…

Of course, there are honourable exceptions. but….

It’s a heart-breaking question to ask, but is it—corruption, crookedness, cheating—in our genes? Does any other country in the solar system match this kind of mind-numbing, bottomless desire, across the board, to loot and scoot?

TOP SECRET: Who is that TV anchor?

28 June 2006

The Hoot reports that during a recent recording of a panel discussion on reservation for an English news channel, a pro-reservation panellist turned to the big TV honcho anchor and said: “Isn’t it amazing that someone like you who came out of St Stephen’s with pass marks and got rejected by UPSC after failing the exams, has reached the heights you have? Now isn’t that because of the quota of the old boy school network?” Which channel, and who is the anchor?

Somebody please tell Pratap Reddy the net’s here

28 June 2006

S.S. KARNADSHA writes from Bangalore: Something very interesting has been happening with the July 3, 2006 issue of Outlook magazine.

Across the country, in cities big and small—Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, Bangalore, Madras, Hyderabad, Poona, Hubli, Guntur, Vizag, Chitoor, Madurai and Coimbatore—some unidentified people have been buying up copies of the magazine available with retailers and have been placing orders for thousands more.

The circulation people at Outlook say they have never witnessed such panic buying in the magazine’s 10-year history and the situation on Monday and Tuesday was so absurd that retailers who normally sell about 10 copies were calling up to place orders for not less than 500 more.

Why this panic buying? It is not because of William Dalrymple‘s sexy cover story on the 1857 mutiny. In fact, the cover story is rather disappointing. Dalrymple speaks more about himself and the Orient he discovered, than the last Mughal— Bahadur Shah Zafar and the first war of Independence.

Then what is it that has caused this unprecedented buying spree? It is anybody’s guess. Stop on page 38 and you will see a story on Apollo hospitals and its owner Dr Pratap Reddy‘s “less-than-clean history”. The story is headlined “Anatomy of a Cover-up.” This two-pager is what has caused the flutter in the market.

Yours truly did some investigation on this by getting on to the streets in Bangalore. He asked retailers on Margosa Road in Malleswaram and Shesadripuram, if those who had placed orders for copies with them had left phone numbers to be contacted when the extra copies arrived.

They said “yes” and gave the numbers: 2331***0, 4112***5. When we dialled, they were numbers of a Apollo health care centre and a Apollo pharmacy. Retailers also revealed the ones who had come to pick up the copies had idenitified themselves as Smita and Dhananjay.

Isn’t it surprising that Dr. Pratap Reddy who has built a Rs 1,500 crore business, is naive enough to believe that he can actually block the dissemination of information in these tech-heavy times and Internet age. Does he think he is living in China or the former USSR?

*** 

See the Outlook article on Apollo: Anatomy of a Cover-up

Also see: Do you trust private hospitals?

CHURUMURI POLL: Are our temples anti-women?

28 June 2006

The admission by the Kannada actress Jayamala that she had entered the sanctum sanctorum of the Sabarimala Temple and touched the feet of Lord Ayappa idol in 1987 has set off a tsunami in the chai cup. The news of the “sacrilege” has led to the liberal use of words like “sordid” and “shameful” to describe an incident that happened with the alleged “connivance” of the thantri who presided over the monthly pooja.

Admittedly, women between 10 and 50 are not permitted by a rule of the Temple. Admittedly, non-Brahmins are not permitted into the sanctum sanctorum by a rule of the Temple. Still, are such rules a good thing in this day and age? Is it fair to keep women out? The Travancore Temple Board wants to initiate a series of rituals to cleanse the abode of all “such” impurities. Can we really be talking of “impurities” and “desecration” merely because a woman of menstruating age gained entry?

George doesn’t just beat around the Bush

28 June 2006

England and America, it is often said, are two countries separated by the same language. AMRITA THOMAS forwards this chainmail doing the rounds on US President George W. Bush‘s amazing ability to twist and turn the Queen’s tongue:

***

# The vast majority of our imports come from outside the country.

# If we don’t succeed, we run the risk of failure.

# One word sums up probably the responsibility of the governor, and that one word is ‘to be prepared’.

# I have made good judgments in the past. And I have made good judgments in the future.

# The future will be better, tomorrow.

# I stand by all the misstatements I have made.

# We have a very firm commitment to NATO; we are a part of NATO. We have a very firm commitment to Europe; we are a part of Europe.

# A lower voter turnout is an indication of fewer people going to the polls.

# We are ready for any unforeseen event that may or may not occur.

# For NASA, space is still a high priority.

# Quite frankly, teachers are the only profession that teach our children.

# It isn’t pollution that is harming our environment; it’s the impurities in our air and water that are doing it.

# It’s time for the human race to enter the solar system.

# Public speaking is very easy.

***

And you thought vice president Dan Quayle who vowed to learn Latin because he was going to Latin America was bad. 

TO THE GOVERNOR OF KARNATAKA, FROM US

27 June 2006

A churumuri delegation today called upon the Governor of Karnataka, His Excellency T.N. Chaturvedi, on behalf of churumuri readers, to submit to him a memorandum seeking civic recognition for R.K. Narayan in Mysore in this, the centenary year of his birth.

The team comprised the photojournalist T.S. Satyan, the historian Ramachandra Guha, Sunaad Raghuram and Krishna Prasad. The memorandum contained copies of all the articles and comments carried by churumuri as part of the week-long campaign in April.

The following is the verbatim text of the petition submitted to the Governor:

***

Your Excellency, the Governor.

Thank you very much, Sir, for agreeing to see us and give us a hearing.

As you may be aware, CHURUMURI.WORDPRESS.COM is one of the world’s fastest growing web logs.

Recently, churumuri conducted a week-long campaign to secure R.K. Narayan his due in the City where he spent much of his writing life, Mysore. This campaign has drawn international attention, and the historian and writer Ramachandra Guha wrote a column commending churumuri‘s campaign in The Hindu recently.

We, the readers of churumuri, are astonished to learn that there is not a single monument to perpetuate the name and memory of R.K. Narayan in the whole of Mysore.

There is not a road or an avenue named after R.K. Narayan; there is not a circle, square or roundabout named after R.K. Narayan; there is not a statue of R.K. Narayan; there is not a building or hall or room named after R.K. Narayan; there is not even a University department named after R.K. Narayan. Nothing.

We, the readers of churumuri, believe that a great wrong has been committed on a great writer. And we believe that the time has come to rectify this wrong in this, the 100th year of the birth of R.K. Narayan. (RKN was born on 10 October 1906).

Mr Governor, we would urge you to use your good offices to secure justice for R.K. Narayan. It is not for us to suggest what you should do, but you may like to consider one or more of the following suggestions thrown up by readers of churumuri.

1) The naming of a prominent road, circle or square in Mysore after R.K. Narayan.

2) The naming of the walkway on the periphery of the Kukkarahalli lake in the Unviersity of Mysore campus after R.K. Narayan.

3) The awarding of a posthumous doctorate degree on R.K. Narayan by the University of Mysore.

4) The setting up of a walk-through “Miniature Malgudi” on the campus of the University of Mysore, alive with characters R.K. Narayan introduced to the world.

5) The setting up of a museum, along with a replica of his study, in the name of R.K. Narayan on the campus of the Unviersity of Mysore, so that future generations can see how India’s bestknown English writer in the English language lived and worked.

6) The setting up of a scholarship or fellowship in the English Department of the University of Mysore in the name of R.K. Narayan.

7) The naming of any one train connecting Karnataka and Tamil Nadu (since R.K. Narayan lived in both States) as “Malgudi Express”.

8) The setting up of a children’s library in the name of R.K. Narayan to immortalise R.K. Narayan’s name and to preserve and nurture the innocence of children through his books.

9) Events to be held by the University of Mysore and Dhvanyaloka, or a festival of some sort to be held by the department of Kannada and Culture.

We hope, Mr Governor, that the Government of Karnataka will not be lacking in recognising and rewarding a true son of Mysore who took its name far and wide into the hearts of millions of readers on every continent.

Yours sincerely

The readers of churumuri.

***

The following readers of churumuri by virtue of responding to the R.K. Narayan Campaign are deemed to have appended their signatures to it. Some of the names are screen names that internet users employ.

T.S. Satyan, A. Madhavan, Krishna Prasad, Sunaad Raghuram, Prithvi Datta Chandra Shobhi, Gouri Satya, P.M. Vijendra Rao, R.S. Krishnaswamy, Chetan Krishnaswamy, H.R. Bapu Satyanarayana, Bhamy V. Shenoy, Mohan Das Konanoor, Raviprasad P.K., Anupama G.S., Gopal Shetty M, G.V. Krishnan, Pamula Anandraju, Prakash Tumkur, Praveen G.K., Ravishekhar S., Amrit Yegnanarayan, D.P. Satish, S. Narahari, Kozhikode Chandu, N. Raghavan, Dileepa P., N. Niranjan Nikam, Rajnish Wattas, Rahul Bapat, Nikhil Moro, Jeevarathna, Kumar V.S., Rajiv, Suma, Sukhi, Raj, Ravi, Prasad, Venky, Amber, Vijay, Vinay, Suresh, Chitra, Gowrish, Nataraj, Preetam, Prakash, December Stud, onceuponatime, Aatmasakshi, Trinity, Nash, Lazy drive, tarlesubba.

***

We thank the readers of churumuri for taking part in this Campaign, and we hope something will emerge out of this. We may fail, but the satisfaction of having tried is ours. To access any or all of the R.K. Narayan pieces, simply type in “CAMPAIGN” in the Search window.

CHURUMURI POLL: Do we need quotas in media?

27 June 2006

G.N. Mohan forwards a survey of the social profile of key decision makers in the “national” media conducted by the Centre for Study of Developing Studies. Its key findings are that the India’s “national” media lacks social diversity and does not reflect the country’s social profile.

Hindu upper caste men dominate the media. They are about 8 per cent of India’s population but among the key decision makers of the national media their share is as high as 71%. Only 17 % of the key decision makers are women. Their representation is better in the English electronic media (32%).

The media’s caste profile is equally unrepresentative. ‘Twice born’ Hindus are about 16% of India’s population, but they are about 86% among the key media decision-makers. Brahmins alone constitute 49% of the key media
personnel. Dalits and adivasis are conspicuous by their absence among the decision makers. Not even one of the 315 key decision makers belonged to the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes.

The OBCs comprise only 4 % compared to their population of around 40% in the country. Muslims are only 3% among the key decision makers, compared to 13.4% in the country’s population. Christians are proportionately represented in the media (mainly in the English media): their share is about 4% compared to their population share of 2.3%.

These findings are based on a survey of the social background of 315 key decision makers from 37 “national” media organizations (up to 10 key decision makers from each organisation) based in Delhi. The survey was carried out by volunteers of Media Study Group between 30 May and 3 June 2006.

Questions: Is it time for reservations in the media to restore the balance of coverage? Or should the media voluntarily seek to introduce diversity in the newsroom? Would better diversity have resulted in better coverage of, say, the reservation issue? Or are these issues only limited to the North of the country? 

So what if we won’t get a single medal at the WC

27 June 2006

Unny, in today’s Indian Express, has some consolation for his countrymen and women moaning over their country of a billion people and several trillion dollars not having a single gold, silver or bronze at the FIFA World Cup.

http://www.indianexpress.com/showcartoon.php?picId=1606

Can the Sai Baba make Shashi Tharoor win?

27 June 2006

The Indian Rationalist (sic) Association has demanded that India withdraw the nomination of Shashi Tharoor for the post of United Nations’ Secretary-General. The president of the association, Sanal Edamaruku, has labelled Tharoor a “hardcore propagandist of obscurantism, miracle-belief and all kinds of superstitions, who does not miss a single opportunity to raise his voice in the international media in favour of paranormal claims and in praise of godmen and miracle mongers.”

Edamaruku cites Tharoor’s defence of the Sai Baba of Puttaparthi despite his (Sai Baba’s) outrageous behaviour towards many young devotees.

“In International Herald Tribune (dated 3 December 2002), Tharoor declared Sai Baba’s conjuring trick of “producing holy ash” to be a miracle. He certified that Satya Sai Baba did materialize gifts for his devotees from thin air and boasted that he himself was the recipient of a gold ring with nine embedded stones. The secret of the godman’s magic was already exposed by rationalists and his hand-sleight tricks were caught red-handed by television cameras and shown in television documentaries around the world. But Shashi Tharoor remained his staunch defender.”

Edamaraku also slams Tharoor for writing about another “holy” figure thus:

She took to standing in a crucified position, and blood appeared spontaneously on her hands and feet—the stigmata of Christian lore. Like Saint Teresa of Avila centuries earlier, she suffered seizures during which she levitated: neighbours would come to her family home on Fridays to see her suspended high against the wall in a crucified pose. 

“If a person who has such sinister views about India and propagates them with arrogance can contest as India’s nominee for the UN top office, it is shameful for all progressive-minded Indians,” says Edamaraku, and demands the withdrawal by Tharoor’s nomination.

http://indianrationalists.blogspot.com/2006/06/indian-rationalists-call-for-withrawal.html

Questions: Is the rationalists’ association simply grabbing a bit of the spotlight? Should Tharoor’s personal views on godmen and women be held against him? By sponsoring his candidature, has India done a disservice to the scientific outlook enshrined in India’s Constitution? Or is this just much ado about nothing? On the other hand, if the Sai Baba really has those magical powers, as Tharoor claims, can he pull off his disciple’s win? 

It’s not the money, stupid, it’s the will to win

27 June 2006

M.J. Akbar, writer extraordinaire, says in the Asian Age that little Togo’s showing in the FIFA World Cup erases all excuses for India’s no show.

How small is Togo’s economy? Its growth rate in 2005 was 1% and its GDP just under two billion dollars. Ivory Coast had the same non-growth rate, and a GDP of $16.5 billion. Paraguay’s economy grew at 2.7% and had a GDP of $7.2 billion. Ghana was in single figures as well, with a GDP of $9.4 billion and a growth rate of 4.3%. Don’t doubt these statistics. They are from the CIA’s World Factbook. One squeak and you could end up in Guantanamo Bay…

Compare with booming bursting buzzing blazing buoyant India. India’s GDP is $720 billion, its purchasing power parity over three trillion dollars, its growth rate 7.6% and its population over one billion. The population of the other countries would lie unnoticed in an Indian district, and the Togoans could be fitted comfortably into a satellite town of Delhi….

It’s not the money, stupid. It’s the will. Without the will there will never come the power.

Also see: Prithvi Datta Chandra Shobhi‘s World Cup Notes

Now that the men are separated from the boys…

27 June 2006

HARI SHENOY writes: 52 matches down and 12 more to go, and the FIFA World Cup 2006 promises to be quite an interesting one. The group stages had some exciting matches that had quality football. But one got the feeling that things weren’t exciting enough for football at its highest level.

With the sole exception of an injury-ridden Czech Republic (minus Milan Baros and Jan Koller among other prominent players) being eliminated at the first stage itself for the minnows Ghana to make it to the knock-out phase for the first ever time, everything else that transpired seemed pretty much normal.

All the usual players and the big stars have, in the least, made their presence felt with their performances. Brazil, Argentina, Germany, England, Portugal, Italy, Spain who can be dubbed as the usual suspects have made it to the knock-out stage without much fanfare.

There have been some memorable moments in the first round, such as Philip Lahm‘s first goal in the WC for Germany against Costa Rica, Henrik Larsson‘s 90th minute equalizer for Sweden against England, Ghana’s 2-0 drubbing of the Czech Republic and so on.

But the first four matches of the knock-out stage have made even the least-interested ones among us who like football all the same, to sit up and take notice.

First up was Germany against Sweden,at the Allianz arena in Munich, with the game slated to go either way before it had started. Speculators were of the opinion that Sweden had what it took to demolish Germany on its day, and people were looking forward to a good battle on their hands.

A certain Miroslav Klose and a certain Lukas Podolski had entirely different ideas. Within 11 minutes of kick-off Klose had managed to setup his precocious team-mate twice for two brilliantly crafted goals. Sweden’s misery was compounded with near chances as well as a Henrik Larsson’s penalty miss, and they were never really able to recover from the blitzkrieg they had to endure in the first 11 minutes.

Argentina vs Mexico at Leipzig was the first game to have gone into extra time in this World Cup. Any game that goes into extra time has that ‘extra’ element of excitement associated with it. When teams are really desperate to prevent their elimination, quality football is on the anvil.

The second match in the round of 16 did ample justice to this assumption, with Maxi Rodriguez coming good in the 98th minute, to ensure that Argentina were pitted against Germany in the quarter finals. Diego Maradona, always in the VIP area watching his country play, was as pleased as punch, as were all the other Argentinians who harbour such high expectations from their team.

England vs Ecuador at Stuttgart was supposed to be a relatively tame match that England was supposed to win hands down, but trust them to make total hotch-potch out of this one too. Star striker Wayne Rooney has just recovered fully from an injury to his metatarsal, which has literally become a bone of contention for the England supporters, with David Beckham injuring his, four years ago in the 2002 World Cup.

At almost the same time, Newcastle and England striker Michael Owen decided to take a bow from the tournament with yet another injury, leaving Sven-Goran Eriksson, the not-so-smug-Swede with just enough of choices to scrounge a decent team.

England’s performance has not really been out of this world so far, and they have just managed to keep themseleves afloat, doing just what is required of them to get ahead. Their supporters are hoping that what they’ve been saying all along comes true in the quarter-finals -“the best is yet to come!”.

Getting back to the match, it took a free kick from captain David Beckham in the 60th of the game to tilt it in favour of the English. England was not without some hiccups, as Ashley Cole brilliantly managed to fend off onto the crossbar what would’ve been a certain goal, as John Terry almost gifted the ball to Ecuador’s Ricardo Tenorio, who almost found the back of the net.

The fourth match in the knock-out round at Nuremburg was between two highly talented teams, Netherlands and Portugal. It was a really fast paced game that Portugal won 1-0, although at a heavy price. Mid-fielders Costinha (45th minute) and Deco (78th minute) were sent off in a match where emotions were running high. These two players are vital cogs in Portugal’s machinery and will be sorely missed in their quarter final match against England.

Christiano Ronaldo, of Manchester United fame, was also substituted in the 39th minute by Simao Sabrosa after having suffered a couple of rough tackles from the Dutch midfielders, including a painful kick on his thigh from Khalid Bouhlarouz, who was eventually sent off in the 63rd minute. 

Ronaldo was in tears as he was told to come off the field, though in retrospect, it might have just proved to be a good move, given the mayhem that was to follow. Maniche added the final touch to an exquisitely setup goal which had Deco and Ronaldo as its architects, to put Portugal one up in the 23rd minute.

Though Netherlands had possession of the ball for most of the time, they were never really able to penetrate the Portuguese defence, and ended up on the losing side. Giovanni Van Bronckhorst became the fourth player to see red in the 95th minute during injury time, and Portugal cruised through, sort of, to face up against England in the quarter-finals. For the record, this match had the referee showing no less than 16 yellow cards to the players!

Things can only get more intense from here on, with France vs Spain, Ghana vs Brazil, Italy vs Australia and Switzerland vs Ukraine providing all us fans with ample action over the next two days, after which come the quarter finals.

The Teamgeist keeps rolling on!

‘If there is God, would there be only one Warne?’

26 June 2006

SUNAAD RAGHURAM writes: What was to be a usual tryst with a couple of mugs of chilled Kingfisher beer at the Pelican Pub on a windy, cloudy Sunday afternoon in the company of my friend Prasanna, (S.S., not E.A.S.!)turned out to be one rollicking, memory filled walk down the lane of Indian cricket.

As we settled down in the shade of the awning, in walked one of the greatest leg-spinners of all time, Bhagwat Subramanya Chandrashekhar along with a common friend, Kumar

“Hello, hello, hello…,” he began in the manner that typifies him. The toothy grin was perfectly in place. And so was his enthusiasm. Not to forget the completely self-effacing coolness. “I’m so happy to be in Mysore. And to be able to have a beer or two. You know, I hardly go out in Bangalore….”

On Mysore: Let me tell you, I should have decided to buy myself a plot in Mysore a long time ago. It’s such a culturally evolved place. So full of calm. The worst part about Bangalore is the commuting. Even a trip to the market in the neighbourhood takes a good two hours. And then there is the problem of finding a parking space. 

On present day cricket: Oh, it‘s become so very mechanical. Too much of planning. Too much of analysis both on and off the field. I cannot comprehend that lap top guy Bob Woolmer. The naturalness of it all has gone forever. I can tell you, lots of matches these days have been lost because of excessive planning.

I would always tell (Mansur Ali Khan) Pataudi, give me a short leg, a fine leg and a leg slip. If I bowl short they’ll hit me to the fence. If I bowl the right length, you have your wicket. Simple. And they’d say my faster one was as fast as (Dennis) Lillee or (Jeff) Thomson.

Today’s cricketers are so conscious of themselves. Perhaps they don’t even enjoy a beer like the way we are doing now (laughs). But then, there’s so much money around these days, they cannot afford to take chances with themselves, I guess. 

On Shane Warne, Anil Kumble and Mutthiah Muralidharan: Warne is the greatest greatest. My god, he’s too good a bowler. Kumble’s achievement has been phenomenal as well. Moreover, he’s a very good man.

Muralidharan a chucker? Well… it’s surely not possible to have chucked your way to some 600 wickets in life (chuckles). Just take a ball and try literally flinging it at batsmen like you’d fling a stone. Even then you’ll not get wickets. You would stand a chance of getting some wickets if you bowled.

What I mean is Murali’s action is his own. Too many unnecessary things have been written about it. And too much has been read into it.  Let him be. That’s his style of bowling. 

On Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar: For heaven’s sake, it’s not my intention to make undue comparisons but let me be honest, Gavaskar is the greatest batsman to have padded up for India. The quality of bowling during his time was way ahead of the present day stuff.  

Needless to say, Tendulkar is a wonderful batsman. But somehow the battles of the 1970s were more intense, especially for Indian batsmen. I can never forget Gavaskar’s hundred in the Manchester Test against the likes of Chris Old, (Mike) Hendrick, (Bob) Willis and (Derek) Underwood

On Gundappa Vishwanath’s epic 97 not out in the 1975 Madras Test against the West Indies: Well, it was not my fault that I got out (laughs loudly). ‘Avanu sumne irlarde, eh, nodkolo husharagi, bouncer haktane iga, anta helda.’ (Vishwanath came down the wicket and told me quite unnecessarily that they were planning to bowl a vicious bouncer at me. I got a little too conscious of that and when the ball was actually delivered, I ended up fending exaggeratedly. The result was a catch in the slips. Otherwise he could have got his hundred that day.) 

On Clive Lloyd’s famed West Indian pace battery: Don’t ask me. You should ask those guys who really played them. I would get out first ball or thereabouts (uproarious laughter!) 

On his success as a cricketer: Well, what can I say? I think it was all providence. I never imagined any of the things that have happened to me in my life. I’m not overly religious. But when I sit back and think of the way my life has unfolded, I feel there is some force that has acted upon me.

On whether there is God: Well, well… if God existed there should have been equality in this world. Every bowler should have been as good as me or Warne or Kumble or anyone else. Why are some people more endowed than others? Why are some people more fortunate than others? I just don’t know…. 

More beer….

The afternoon had soon turned to evening! My cell phone rang. It was my wife asking if I had forgotten to come home….

Also see: Swami Ayappa & Lyndon Flora

CHURUMURI POLL: Should Centre control riots?

26 June 2006

The BJP has termed the UPA government’s “Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill, 2006″ as “totally unacceptable”. The BJP’s reasoning is that chapter XI of the Bill, which empowers the Centre to deal with communal violence in a State and take over its law and order mechanism if it suspects that the State does not intend to act, threatens the federal structure of the country as there are no safeguards against its possible misuse.

Questions: Is the BJP right or wrong? Is protecting the federal structure—which means allowing the States to do what they want within the Union—more important than saving the lives of innocent people? If a State is burning, like in say Gujarat, should the Centre haplessly and helplessly look on because law and order is a “State” subject? Or will the Communal Violence bill, like Article 356, be liable for misuse at the hands of overly ambitious central governments?

Which way does the wind blow in the south?

26 June 2006

Quite possibly the most engaging debates on the reservation imbroglio have come from Karan Thapar on CNN-IBN. With proponents like Arjun Singh and P. Chidambaram, Thapar has played the devil's advocate, roasting them for their ignorance of official figures to justify the 27 per cent OBC move. With opponents of the reservation proposal like Arun Shourie, Thapar has taken the opposite position. Last night, Thapar locked eyes with the former Indian Express editor on the eve of the publication of his book, Falling Over Backward:

Thapar: Name one village out of India’s 6,00,000 villages where the Dalits are permitted to stay in the centre of the village. Not only are they banished to the outskirts, but in most cases, they are required to live in the south side so that the wind that blows over them doesn’t pollute the village. That is the extent of discrimination they still suffer.

Shourie: And the wind in all of South India comes from the south my friend. I don’t know where you get this nonsense from?

Thapar: Chandrabhan Prasad, perhaps one of the few Dalit intellectual scholars, who can easily confirm the facts to you.

Shourie: Well, maybe. We have all got impressions about India. India is a large country. Almost every statement about India must be true, but the south business is quite silly because if you come to Goa my friend, you see the wind coming form the south. You come to Kerala, you see the wind coming from the south.

http://www.ibnlive.com/printpage.php?id=13851§ion_id=4

If you can’t catch them, give them a cash prize

26 June 2006

The threat of punishment is not the only way of stopping crimes and offences. Try cash incentives. The Madhya Pradesh forest department is giving away Rs 5,000 to each farmer who spots and provides information about a bird called 'Lesser Florican' aka Kharmor, and the results are there for all to see. The number of lesser floricans in the Sailana sanctuary has shot up from 5 to 26. Now, here's a thought to protect tigers and elephants and other endangered species.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story/7301.html

CHURUMURI POLL: Combat roles for women?

25 June 2006

Following the brouhaha over Lt. Sushmita Chakraborty's suicide and allegations of gender bias in the Army, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee has today said that "women officers could be considered for combat roles in the future depending on their willingness to undergo hard training".

Questions: Is this damage-control by the UPA government or are women really capable of assuming combat roles on a par with men? Are women really capable of doing any work, or is Mukherjee's move a sign of political correctness running riot? Are women physically built to handle a rifle, face the enemy and fire fearlessly? Or are we making a great and good organisation a hostage of gender equality?

Also see: The silliness of Sushma Swaraj


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