Posts Tagged ‘India’

Corruption, religion, spirituality & the Dalai Lama

13 September 2012

The Dalai Lama at a seminar organised by the Ramakrishna mission in New Delhi on Tuesday, quoted in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“I recently went to Ladakh and someone told me, for example, if the government gives them Rs 100, only Rs 20 reaches them. Rest 80 per cent disappears.

“This is very sad.

“Indians are religious-minded people and they fear God.

“It is a big contradiction. On the one hand they pray in the morning and through the day they do corruption. This is not done. When you deny God and deny spirituality then at least one can understand.”

Read the full article: Dalai rues mix of graft & prayer

Also read: Do our gods sanction our silly games?

Are Indians endemically corrupt as a people?

India’s most secular religion has to be corruption

Ram Guha: India, not a rising or an emerging power

‘India, not a rising power or an emerging power’

19 July 2011

Ramachandra Guha in a piece titled “India is too corrupt to become a superpower”, in the Financial Times, London:

“The Republic of India today faces challenges that are as much moral as social or political with the Mumbai blasts having only temporarily shifted off the front pages the corruption scandals that more recent dominated. These (scandals) have revealed that manner in which our politicians have abused the State’s power of eminent domain, its control of infrastructural contracts, and its monopoly of natural resources, to enrich themselves….

“This activity cuts across political parties—small and large, regional and national. It has tainted the media too, with influential editors now commonly lobbying pliant politicians to bend the law to favour particular corporations…. [The] current wave of corruption scandals will put at least a temporary halt to premature talk of India’s rise to superstardom.

“Such fancies are characteristic of editors in New Delhi and businessmen in Mumbai, who dream often of catching up with and even surpassing China.

“Yet the truth is that India is in no position to become a superpower. It is not a rising power, nor even an emerging power. It is merely a fascinating, complex, and perhaps unique experiment in nationhood and democracy, whose leaders need still to attend to the fault lines within, rather than presume to take on the world without.”

Agree? Disagree?

Photograph: courtesy Garima Jain/ Tehelka

Also read: India’s most secular religion has to be Corruption

‘Editors and senior journalists must declare assets’

Why bother since it’s about soda and water?

18 July 2011

The start of a big series is three days away; the 100th ever encounter between the Coloniser and the Colonised. But guess what India’s skipper and his premier spin bowler are squabbling about as they prepare to face what seems like the more well-rounded Test team in the world today? McDowell’s No. 1 Platinum and Royal Stag.

CHURUMURI POLL: Are we safer without Osama?

2 May 2011

Osama bin Laden is dead. The founder and leader of Al Qaeda was apparently killed in a “firefight” with American special forces in Abbottabad, 80 miles north of Islamabad in Pakistan on Sunday. The assassination throws many a hypothesis to the wind: that he was already dead; that he was hiding in the caves of Afghanistan; etc.

It also calls the bluff on Pakistan’s claim that Bin Laden was not on Pakistani soil. The fact that he had found safe refuge not in a tribal badland but in an urban pocket, not far from the Pakistani capital, will end up being debated forever. So, was he there all this while under the benign patronage of the Pakistani army and/or intelligence?

Also likely to be debated is the US President Barack Obama‘s primal statement of fact, that “Justice has been done” with the assassination. Is killing a terrorist by adopting the same means the terrorist adopts, the only way the world’s oldest democracy could find justice for the victims and families of 9/11?

But the key question is: will the death of Osama really bring an end to post 9/11 terrorism as we know it, especially since Osama was not the leader of a mass movement, but the brain and mascot behind an idea? Will the West be free of terror attacks with Osama gone, or will other terror organisations continue to find their inspiration from him even in his physical absence? Is the killing of Osama likely to provide fuel for demands that India too should pursue its terror-mongers and perpetrators and “smoke ’em out” and hunt them down?

CHURUMURI POLL: India 1983 or Sri Lanka 1996?

1 April 2011

Now that the hyper-hyped, pressure-cooked, emotion-laden, diplomacy-injected semi-final is out of the way, here is a simple question: which subcontinental team will have the honour of becoming the first to win cricket’s quadrennial showpiece for the second time in Bombay tomorrow?

Will India repeat 1983?

Or will Sri Lanka repeat 1996?

Will India’s strong top-order conquer Sri Lanka’s strong bowling lineup? Or will the equally strong Sri Lankan top order conquer India’s weaker but so far effective lineup? Will the middle order (and the injuries) be the achilles heel for both teams? Does India have the home team advantage, or does Sri Lanka have the edge have played before on the newly laid Wankhede track? And which ice-cool wicket-keeper will turn out to be the better captain in marshalling his resources, Kumar Sangakkara or Mahendra Singh Dhoni?

Will the boys in blue ensure that Poonam Pandey (in picture) will have to keep her promise of baring all if India wins? Or will the other boys in blue protect her modesty?

Also read: Who will win the 2011 World Cup?

CHURUMURI POLL: Semi-final bigger than final?

CHURUMURI POLL: Semifinal bigger than final?

28 March 2011

It is just the semi-finals of the cricket World Cup, but India’s response to its last-four meeting with Pakistan at Mohali on March 30 shows a supposed superpower’s silly Pakistan Obsession. Newspapers and news channels report every drip of news about the teams, about the venue, about the fans and about the match as if the two countries are meeting for war—minus the shooting.

There is the artificial injection of diplomacy into the proceedings with an otherwise soporific prime minister Manmohan Singh suddenly waking up to invite his Pakistani counterpart to come witness the “clash”. They are supposed to watch the match together, but we are dutifully informed that there will be an informal meeting followed by a formal one, with diplomats meeting on the side.

The response from the other side is no less frenzied. There is a wild clamour for visas as if apocalypse is the day after. Long festering issues, like the release of prisoners, are suddenly fasttracked with the kind of mindlessness that escapes both countries in peacetime.

All this means just one thing: that when India and Pakistan meet on a cricket field, there is more to the batting, bowling and fielding than meets the eye. Pumped-up patriotism meets carefully marinated prejudice. Suddenly, the eleven men in blue are at once ambassadors of and warriors for peace, lugging not just their cricket coffins, but also their nation’s ambitions, aspirations and animosities.

The simple word on the street in both countries is: it is OK if we lose the finals but we must win the semi-finals.

Obviously, there is a background to such primal emotions: the memories of Partition, the wounds of wars over Kashmir, Bangladesh and Kargil, and the attack on Bombay. Still, there are questions to be asked. Like, is such maddening frenzy such a good thing, either for cricket or for diplomacy? Like, can 100 overs of artifically manufactured excitement paper over 64 years of organically engineered hatred?

Like, cross-border terrorism notwithstanding, can India really put all its eggs in the Pakistan basket? Like, should we expect 11 young (and ageing young) men—whose basic skills lie in hurling, hitting or halting five-and-a-half ounces of leather and cork—to do what politicians, bureaucrats, armymen, businessmen and diplomats can’t do, won’t do or are not allowed to do, which is act maturely and strive towards peace and prosperity on the subcontinent?

Like, is all this pressure such a good thing for either Dhoni or Afridi, and their boys?

Hopefully, the Chinese are watching this salute

26 January 2010

On the day the Indian republic turns 60, a screenshot of the homepage that no longer flickers as brightly as it used to on computers in China. After its belated outburst against Chinese censorship, is Arunachal Pradesh in India or China, or is it a disputed territory, for the folks at Mountain View?


Anne Applebaum on the patriotic Indian crowd, on Slate:

“Not nationalistic, not imperialist, not aggressive, but rather self-critical, focused on what is still wrong as well as what has gone right… No one remotely intimidated by being there, no one afraid to say anything aloud. It’s that sort of patriotism, so hard to find in China and Russia, that gives India its lively novelists, its open public culture, its energetic film industry. It’s that sort of patriotism that, if it can be encouraged and maintained, will keep Indian politics diverse and democratic over time—even if the economy stops growing.”

Is China India’s greatest security threat, or not?

4 December 2009

The relationship between India and China has in recent months become, as the cliche goes, the cynosure of all eyes. Border roads and dams; military incursions; a row over the Dalai Lama; illegal Chinese workers on Indian soil, Google™ maps, all have become milestones in the steady escalation of tensions.

The media has been at the centre of the dispute, and there is a feeling that “sections of the Indian media” (in other words, “anti-China media”) have been inclined to ratchet up the volume, ostensibly at the nod of their American, capitalist masters.

But could the opposite also be equally true? That “sections of the Indian media” (in other words, “pro-China media”) have been inclined to play down the tensions, ostensibly at the nod of their Chinese, communist masters?

Some proof comes from the manner in which the Lowy Institute for International Policy‘s survey of Chinese attitudes about their country and its place in the world is being reported.

# Exhibit A, above, is from the December 2 edition of The Indian Express, New Delhi, whose Delhi-based correspondent avers that 40 per cent of Chinese think India is their country’s biggest threat “after the United States”.

# Exhibit B, below, is from the December 4 edition of The Hindu, Madras, whose Beijing correspondent reports that environmental issues are perceived to be the biggest challenges facing their country. “60 per cent of Chinese did not view India as a threat…, only 34% viewed India as a threat an the rest were non-committal.”

For the record, prime minister Manmohan Singh said during his recent State visit to the United States that he could not understand the reasons for China’s recent “assertiveness”.

Turned on its head, is China India’s greatest threat? Or not?

Newspaper facsimiles: courtesy The Indian Express and The Hindu

Also read: Is India right in barring foreign media?

Censorship in the name of “national interest”?

‘A narrow idea of India fuels illiberal tendencies’

24 November 2009

Professor Jyotirmaya Sharma of the University of Hyderabad in Mail Today:

“The label of India being the largest democracy is not enough. It is not sufficient for us to go through the motions of conducting elections; sending representatives to Parliament and legislatures is not enough. Along with democracy, we need to build liberal institutions in the country.

“A narrow, official conception of nationalism often comes in the way of suppressing dissent, ignoring minority views, and demanding compliance in the name of an abstract idea of the nation. In turn, these illiberal trends fuel the demand for unity, which often is authoritarian tendencies masquerading in the name of keeping the country united and strong.”

Illustration: courtesy R. Prasad/ Mail Today

Also read: ARUNDHATI ROY: India is not a democracy

ARUNDHATI ROY: Election is not democracy

In a team of lottery tickets, one surefire winner

19 November 2009

Kunal Pradhan in The Indian Express:

“At a Thai restaurant in Islamabad, after the first day’s play in the final Test in 2004, Rahul Dravid politely declined to stay for dessert, saying he needed to sleep because he had to bat the “whole day tomorrow”.

“Not early, not in the morning; the whole day.

“It led to a few involuntary sniggers at the dinner table, but Dravid had chosen his words carefully. Ten not out overnight, he was unbeaten on 134 when stumps were drawn the following evening. And then, for good measure, he batted almost the whole of the next day as well, finishing on a career-best 270. It wasn’t the most attractive knock, and not nearly his most fluent — in fact, at 12 hours and 20 minutes it was the longest innings by an Indian player ever — but Dravid had ensured, almost single-handedly, that India won their first Test series in Pakistan.”

Read the full article: Higher than The Wall

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Should Rahul Dravid retire?

Who cries in Bangalore for Rahul Sharad Dravid?

Just 4% of population but 7 Brahmins in Indian team?

Don’t blame the boys for lack of preparation

29 September 2009

If Australia beats Pakistan, India is out of the Champions Trophy. If Pakistan beats Australia by a slender margin, India has to beat West Indies by a huge margin. If Pakistan beats Australia by a huge margin, India has to beat West Indies albeit by a lesser huge margin.

All very confusing? Not if you drink Pepsi—as Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ishant Sharma, Virender Sehwag, Praveen Kumar and Robin Uthappa do. Not even this advance, under-water preparation was enough to prepare them for the ravages of a rained-out match against the Aussies last night.

Bookmark Uthappa’s classic line at the end.

Because your television can’t devote 23 minutes

19 September 2009

On Thursday night, Al Jazeera English devoted a full half-hour to a calm, clear and cogent discussion on why India and China are at loggerheads on “the longest disputed border in the world”, and what it means for the two countries especially in the context of India’s growing proximity to the United States.

Two Million Mutinies just this Independence Day

12 August 2009

“Good news from India” in The Economist, London.

The piece was written shortly after the UPA won the 2009 elections, but on the eve of the 63rd Independence Day, it takes on a whole new meaning, even sounds like a grim warning:

“About 27 million Indians will be born this year. Unless things improve, almost 2 million of them will die before the next general election. Of the children who survive, more than 40 per cent will be physically stunted by malnutrition. Most will enroll in a school but they cannot count on their teachers showing up, After five years of classes, less than 60 per cent will be able to read a short story and more than 60 per cent will be stumped by simple arithmetic.”

Read the full article: Good news from India

Small step for majority is giant leap for minority

2 July 2009

KPN photo

On a day when India did what many advanced democracies cannot find the gumption to do—legalise gay sex among consenting adults—sexual minorities celebrate the Delhi High Court verdict at the Theological College in Bangalore on Thursday.

“In our view, Indian constitutional law does not permit the statutory criminal law to be held captive by the popular misconception of who the LGBTs (lesbian gay bisexual transgender) are. It cannot be forgotten that discrimination is the antithesis of equality and that it is the recognition of equality which will foster dignity of every individual,” the bench said in its 105-page judgment.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Gay sex decriminalised in India

One question I’m dying to ask… M.S. Dhoni

15 June 2009

India’s ouster from the Twenty20 World Cup in England shows that 20 winks is all it takes for a defending champion to be validating return tickets. Since there is no place for logic, form, strategy, etc, in this version of the game, any post-mortem is not only illogical but pointless.

Nevertheless, all the world loves a champion and all the attention (and anger) will now be focussed on Mahendra Singh Dhoni whose face is used by advertising geniuses to sell bikes, cars, ceiling fans, chyawanprash, hair oil, phones, shoes, soft drinks, newspapers and nuclear plants built under the Indo-US deal. (OK, not the last one.)

What is the one question you are dying to ask Kaptaan Kool?

Keep your queries short of length, aim them at the head, neck and chest, and hurl them at over 140 kmph.

Also read: Prem Panicker on the defeat and after

Mysore Scandal Soap: Why Dhoni doesn’t wash

If Aishwarya Rai loves the state of her origin…

‘Blood stains can’t be wiped out by getting rich’

5 June 2009

The collective memory of the Chinese of the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 has been wiped clean on the ground that if the tanks hadn’t rolled in, China would have descended into social chaos and the Chinese economy wouldn’t have been opened up, transforming its destiny over the last 20 years.

Venkatesan Vembu, the east Asia correspondent of DNA, sees a parallel between China’s efforts “to move on” by harping on its economic strides, and Narendra Damodardas Modi‘s efforts “to move on” from the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 by using the plank of industrial development.

“Although the precise details of the Indian parallel are admittedly different, what it has in common with the Tiananmen case-study is an emerging mindset that believes that the bloodstains of history can be wiped away by “making people rich”….

“But the harder China’s Communist rulers try to erase the memory of Tiananmen, the more it becomes manifest that for all their claims that Chinese people have “moved on” from 1989 in their embrace of riches, China today continues to be haunted by the ghosts of that massacre.

“Likewise with Modi, the memory of 2002 cannot — and should not — be erased until some semblance of justice is seen to be done to the victims, and the perpetrators of the riots are punished. Only that will exorcise that persistent memory. In the absence of that, attempts to whitewash that tainted record count for nothing. Even all the riches of the world cannot remove the bloodstains of history.”

Read the full article: Modi and Tiananmen

Also read: ‘Gujarat was vibrant long before Narendra Modi

Why the US is right to deny Narendra Modi a visa

The Economist calls Narendra Modi ‘a disgrace’

The difference between India and China is this

5 June 2009

No media debate on Asia is complete without comparing India to China, or vice-versa. Even among middle-class media consumers, there is a barely disguised contempt for the slow pace of growth in democratic India, for all the “obstacles” in the path of progress and development, compared with the frenetic pace in The Middle Kingdom.

But is there a comparison to be made at all?

Is China really in India’s league, notwithstanding the growth rate, the forex reserves, etc?

On  top is a CNN video of its Beijing correspondent attempting to go to Tiananmen Square on 4 June 2009, the 20th anniversary of the massacre, before being engulfed by umbrella-weilding “undercover” police.

As the legendary Atlantic Monthly correspondent James Fallows, now based in Beijing, writes:

“This is the kind of thing that makes you hold your head and say: Rising major power in the world?”

And this, on top of a ban on Twitter and Facebook, and censorship of television stories which begin with “In China today…” or “Twenty years ago in Bei….”

Also read: James Fallows: The June 4 report

T.J.S. George in China: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI

‘The date of India’s debut as a great power’

25 May 2009

Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek:

“One can date precisely China’s debut as a great power. It was the evening of 8 August 2008—the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. We might look back a few years from now and date India’s coming-out party to 18 May 2009, the day its most recent election results were announced….

“Over the past two decades, India has been consumed by its internal divisions: of caste, ethnicity and religion. This has made it difficult for the government in New Delhi to mobilize national power to any purposeful end in global affairs. A decentralized and divided polity has punched well below its weight internationally. That’s bad for India and bad for the world. This could all change now. For the first time in three decades, a single party—the Indian National Congress— was given a clear and broad mandate.”

Read the full article: India’s giant coming-out party

Our schizoid, cynical, duplicitous foreign policy

2 May 2009

Venkatesan Vembu in DNA:

“Two ongoing conflicts in India’s immediate neighbourhood—in Sri Lanka and Pakistan—are both close to a tipping point…. But curiously, there’s been a striking dissonance in the responses, which reflects either a schizoid view of our neighbourhood or, worse, cynical duplicity.

“In Pakistan, much of India’s coercive diplomacy is focused on getting Pakistani leaders to crack down harder on terrorism outfits, and there is widespread support even for US military operations against jihadis in Afghanistan and Pakistan…. But when Sri Lanka wages its own “war on terror” against a ruthless terrorist force that, at one stage, India shamefully supported and armed, our political responses get a lot more muddled….

“Chauvinistic ethno-linguistic politics in Tamil Nadu is threatening to hijack India’s foreign policy position that had, after a long time, found the right balance between defending India’s strategic interests and doing the right thing.”

Read the full article: Our schizoid view of our neighbourhood

Whoever said India is in a slowdown or recession?

6 February 2009


After the global economic crisis, the Indian media has been talking of a slowdown, while not quite mustering the courage to utter the R-word yet. Stories of retrenchments, salary cuts, freezes on hiring, changes in spending patterns, abound. But, as with any story in India, the opposite is also true.

NIRMALA SHAMANUR forwards an undated wedding photograph that tells a story of a thousand words—and a few hundred grams  and some spare tolas—on why India remains the world’s biggest importer of the yellow metal. And why, perhaps, Abhinav Bindra‘s feat at Beijing didn’t quite capture the public imagination.

Disclaimer: This photograph is published not to intrude into the privacy of the new couple or to expose them to public scrutiny or ridicule, but to illustrate a larger point on the Indian economy

CHURUMURI POLL: Should India tour Pakistan?

12 December 2008

The Indian cricket team is scheduled to tour Pakistan from 6 January to 19 February, 2009, for five one-day internationals and three Test matches. But Union sports minister Manohar Singh Gill has thrown a major spanner in the works.

This is not the time to tour Pakistan, he says, when “people from their soil are indulging in mass murder”.

“Is it possible for one team to arrive in Bombay and indulge in mass murder, and have another team go and play cricket in the winter afternoon sun at Lahore, immediately after?,” Gill has asked.

The sports minister’s statement is not very different from the stand of senior players in the team like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and M.S. Dhoni who had conveyed their opposition to the Pakistan tour the very evening news the terrorists were rowing their way into Bombay on November 26.

But England has returned to complete its tour of India despite the terror attack on Bombay. So, can the Indians duck Pakistan? And if they do, will it set a precedent, which might have grave implications on future tours to India, the Indian Premier League, the 2010 Commonwealth Games and the 2011 cricket World Cup itself?

Also read: With sports ministers like these, God tussi great ho

CHURUMURI POLL: Bombay attack, whodunit?

2 December 2008

The terror attack on Bombay has turned into a fullblown war of words between India and Pakistan, on the diplomatic and media fronts.

On the one hand, Indian intelligence officials claim, through anonymous leaks in the media, that the nationality of the nabbed terrorist, telephone intercepts when the terrorists were at work, GPS maps found on the seized boat that brought them to Bombay, and the origin of one of the emails sent, leave no doubt that there is a definite Pakistani hand behind the audacious assault.

They are not saying the democratically elected Pakistani government was directly involved, but they are hinting that “rogue elements” within the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) have been sufficiently rattled by the heat on the Afghan border to try to open up a new flank through the banned Lashkar-e-Toiba, possibly in collusion with Al Qaeda, so as to distract the attention of the Pakistan Army.

On the other hand, Pakistan’s politicians, military officials and the media pooh-pooh the claims. They say the Indians have not produced any evidence to back the claims. How can a country, which knew nothing of the oncoming attack for months, be so sure of everything within a few hours after the incident. India, they say, is in league with the United States and Israel to put down Pakistan. Instead of blaming Pakistan, India should look inward at its own troubles.

Who do you believe is behind the Bombay attack? Is India demonising Pakistan without producing hard evidence? Or is Pakistan protesting too much?

You should remember this even bees saal baad

1 November 2008

On the third day of the third cricket Test match between India and Australia at the Ferozshah Kotla grounds in Delhi, a swarm of bees invaded the playing arena in the post-lunch session. The Indian fielders and the Australian batsmen hit the ground, but the maverick New Zealand umpire Billy Bowden was quick to get up and even quicker to hit the ground once again.

Not so long ago in a common room in Hyderabad

24 September 2008

ALOK PRASANNA writes from Bangalore: Few cricket experiences can come close to the delight of watching a good solid cricket match with one’s college-mates in the common room.

This time last year, on the outskirts of Hyderabad, a group of law students gathered around in a hostel common room to watch a cricket match on an ancient TV which needed more than gentle persuasion to be convinced that it needed to display the live feed regularly.

Seats were at a premium since the common room was not exactly built to accommodate ALL the denizens of the men’s hostel at the same time.

Yet, this was no ordinary cricket match. This was the finals of the Twenty20 World Cup finals between India and Pakistan.

Assignments were forgotten, Moot Court teammates made to understand the gravity of the situation, and girlfriend-time given up with torn consciences as we crammed into the common room as early as possible to catch vantage points close to the TV.

Among us there were the true fans; the ones who set the alarm and woke up at five in the morning to catch matches played in Australia, stayed up to catch England beating Australia in the 2005 Ashes, and cheer every run as South Africa chased down 434 against Australia.

Then there were the India fans who turned up only for matches India played and went away complaining loudly when it looked like India would lose.

And then there were the casual cricketers who would turn up to watch for lack of anything better to do or simply because they didn’t want to be left out of one of two things that involved the whole hostel (the other of course being the Farewell Hostel daru party thrown by the batch passing out that year).

They all turned up for the finals.

The room was full, and all of us clustered around the TV an hour before the match started. Even the pre-match show was watched eagerly, and debate raged about team composition and the batting order.

Over the two weeks we had all become experts on T20 Cricket as we followed the gripping tournament from its blistering start (Chris Gayle smearing South African bowlers all over the park), to the nail biting finish in the India-Australia semi-final (Joginder Sharma going from hopeless pretender to God of the Final Over in the span of six balls).

No one was going to miss the final.

And what a final it was!

A brilliant director with the finest script and the greatest actors would have been hard-pressed to create the kind of emotional rollercoaster this match took us on. From trepidation at the diffident start to growing despair over Umar Gul’s accurate bowling, and some cheer in the form of Gautam Gambhir’s and Rohit Sharma’s clean hitting, the India’s innings alone had it all.

Yet, the widely held opinion was that 157 runs were not enough; not against a team that had brushed aside all comers chasing bigger totals on its way to the finals.

The “despairers” were of course challenged by the die-hards among us who were convinced it was a winning total. A short break to take a quick gulp of air, gather one’s wits and head back to watch the nail biting chase.

The smart ones with the good seats obviously didn’t move an inch.

As the chase began, our sodden hopes soared within the first few overs as R.P. Singh tore into the Pakistani batting, and once Irfan Pathan got into the act, we were sure of victory. Seven wickets down, 50 runs away from the target, Shahid “boom-boom” Afridi gone, just Misbah-ul Haq with the tail, we couldn’t lose could we?

The ranks of the despairers and had thinned and the anticipation of victory made us complacent to that old cliché: “the glorious uncertainties of the game”.

Except of course, there was nothing uncertain about Misbah’s assault. It was calculated, fierce and silenced us by threatening the seemingly impossible. With every six that flew into the stands, the ranks of the despairers swelled once again, and the ancient legend of Javed Miandad, handed down by our traumatized fathers, came into memory.

It is now the last over, 13 runs are needed, and Joginder Sharma is handed the ball. This leads to cries of outrage among some as Harbhajan Singh still has an over to go, but there are others who remind them of the sixes just gone by.

The argument continues into the first ball that has gone way outside off stump and is called a wide. Cries of anguish go up, followed by abuses. The next ball is played and missed by Misbah, and met with wild cheers and fulsome praise.

Now comes the horror ball!

Full toss, an effortless swing of the bat, and a stunned room watches as the ball sails over the boundary for a six. Six off four needed, and the hands go up to the heads, or reach out in prayer to the Gods, and tension is writ large on every face.

50 pairs of eyes watch in silence as Joginder Sharma runs in again. It’s wide, Misbah chases it, unbelievably, tries to scoop it over fine leg, the ball floats up, a hyper-ventilating Ravi Shastri almost calls it a four, and then the ball comes down, the camera finds Sreesanth under it,  he holds on to it, and the common room explodes with joy!

Otherwise inclined to show extreme machismo, we were openly crying, laughing and hugging each other as the unbelievable had just happened. Sure defeat, turned into unlikely victory, turned into last gasp defeat, has just become a snatch-from-death’s-jaws-victory that no one could have predicted.

At that moment, like Indians everywhere, we forgot everything else, our backgrounds, language, ethnicity, region, religion and celebrated like only delirious cricket fans can. We cheered every Indian player who came up to collect a medal, cheering loudest as Dhoni came up to collect the trophy.

We got an idea, perhaps, of what an earlier generation had felt, in the summer of ’83.

In retrospect it was also a stinging reply to a cocky question that I had once asked in a political science class, “What unites us as “Indians”?”

Cricket, obviously.

Long after I forget the classes, the exams or the grade sheets, I will always remember that day in college.

Photograph: courtesy Reuters

Also read: Where were you on night this took place in 1983?

CHURUMURI POLL: Bigger than World Cup 1983?

Do only Gujaratis have asmita? Don’t we Indians?

31 August 2008

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: As we speak, the “sovereign socialist secular democratic republic” of India is moving heaven, earth and everything else in between to conclude a civilian nuclear deal with the United States of America.

Yet, how is it that the same “sovereign socialist secular democratic republic” of India is taking the disgraceful denial of a visa to one of its citizens by the same United States of America lying down?

The citizen I am referring to is Narendra Damodardas Modi.

The Gujarat chief minister, re-elected with a thundering majority by the people of Gujarat last December, has had to address the World Gujarati Conference in New Jersey by video because the US State department wouldn’t give him a visa, the second time this has happened following Gujarat 2002.

On what grounds can a visa be rejected for a person who applies for it through the proper channels on a passport issued under the seal of the President of India?

Judging from its silence, it appears the Congress-led UPA government of Manmohan Singh is “happy” that Modi has been barred entry into the United States. Else, it should have sent a stiff memo in private and raised hell in public for this insult to the democratically elected chief minister of a State.

So far, only Modi’s party, the BJP, has chosen to respond.

“Dictators can go there [the U.S.]… fascists, murderers can go there… but the democratically elected Chief Minister of a federal State of India cannot go there,” the party’s spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad has said. “Should America bow down to this kind of vilification campaign by a group of people whose agenda is anti-BJP throughout?”

Those are good questions, but why isn’t the government asking them? Why isn’t the Congress, which is not entirely populated by angels, not asking them? Why aren’t the non-BJP opposition parties, which too are not entirely populated by angels, not asking them? Why aren’t the media, which also is not entirely populated by angels, not asking them?

Do only Gujaratis have asmita?

Don’t we, as Indians, not have asmita?

Would the Chinese government and media react so sanguinely if one of its not-so-democratically elected leaders was denied a visa? Would the Japanese? If we are an emerging regional superpower, if we are supposedly getting close to the United States and standing shoulder to shoulder, how on earth does the US get away with such a stinging slap?

On the other hand, should this surprise us?

George Fernandes, as defence minister in the Atal Behari Vajpayee team, was strip-searched and frisked down to his knickers, a fact happily reported by deputy secretary Strobe Talbott in his book, Engaging India.

If we could happily accept that national insult, obviously the “Rejected” seal on Narendra Modi’s passport is proof, full, firm and final, that while we as a nation bend backwards to please western countries, we crawl shamelessly, effortlessly when need be.

Especially if a nuclear deal is at the end of the road.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: The Economist calls Narendra Modi a ‘disgrace’

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