Friday, May 23, 2008

The LA - Loo!!!

Someone has said, at least I have been told so - If you want to check out someone’s shelter, first check his toilet. I did so and have pasted the picture here. This devastatingly bovine but picturesque attack on sophisticated intellectualism is highly regretted. But this is the status of one of the millions toilets provided on Indian Rails by Indian Railway at 8:15 AM in the third AC compartment. Does it ring a bell?

For my friends who have made the cultural transformation successfully by saving water for a piece of paper or who have not been travelling by Indian Railway in the recent past – does it ring the bell? Does the picture not tell you the stupendous change in the system?

I have always avoided the nature’s call in a train journey even if it was 48 hour long Jhansi to Trivandrum distance, for two reasons – 1. If the train meets an accident while I am relieving myself, I do not want my dead body to be found in a toilet in an untouchable position – it’s a phobia actually. 2. The toilets were never clean enough to encourage me for appreciating psychiatry’s chief contribution to philosophy – that toilet is the seat of the soul.

Remember the days when you spent the entire journey next to toilet because either your ticket was not confirmed or the confirmation didn’t matter for the occupants? Remember how you cursed God who made breathing a compulsory activity for life? Do you? Or did you actually know before seeing this photograph that the actual color of commodes in Indian Rails is not white, its milky white?

The moment I saw this scene, I captured it. Now I realize that I actually captured history. Such is the extent of cleanliness that every user feels as if he is making it out with a virgin, toilet seat I meant. Its not just in the books, perfection is actually internalized by the system. Just see the picture clearly and recall the seat in your own toilet. The slope is more in the back wall here as compared to the normal seats. That is because; with so many jerks it has to take because of the movement of the train, a steep slope decreases chances for waste stickiness hence you have to flush out lesser water to restore the virginity of the seat. Sometimes, you can actually get away without flushing also and make others feel you did flush it. Remember, not flushing and getting caught is even worse than cheating on your partner. Arey, Uma Thruman said so

"It is better to have a relationship with someone who cheats on you than with someone who does not flush the toilet."

Technical improvements helping the nature’s cause while its calling you. The slope also means every time you look down, you see your face in the reflection of the seat (it’s so clean) which doesn’t let you feel – “Aah, I have had enough. Let’s go”. You can enjoy yourself more without feeling overworked which has often been the problem with Indian toilet seats. Toilet is a place to have your privacy. It’s a place to be with your self. It’s a place to meditate.

After ages of loss making, Indian Railways is not only making profits but is also able to keep its toilets clean. The Railways Minister does deserve some more applause. Now I have just one reason to avoid any natural relief in train journeys – my phobia. I can happily spend some time in the train with a waiting ticket. I can let others know how the most critical place in a house for a cleanliness inspector is worth capturing a picture and posting it here.

Its time for some disclaimers –

1. It’s tough to sleep in a humid Mumbai night when all you can afford is a fan. Rest you can understand.

2. All you psuede junkies out there, if you think toilet is not a topic worth discussing read what your “Friend” Jennifer Aniston has to say

"When someone follows you all the way to the shop and watches you buy toilet roll, you know your life has changed."

So if you are looking for a change in your life, hire someone to follow you to the toilet roll shop.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

How is your Government?

What are the parameters to judge a government (I am referring to state governments in India) - the various numbers in terms of GDPs, investment figures, the per capita income or others? But these numbers either may not tell the real story or may be misleading sometimes. Or may be it is the infrastructural growth or the ability of the government to provide better standards of living to its citizens. But this is highly subjective in nature. Being analytically challenged I am not equipped to do this analysis. Although one of the measures I always find interesting is to interact with people from different strata of society and ask them about the government which I have been doing in the recent past given the nature of my job which provides me chances to visits various states.

To give you the standard disclaimer – my sample set has been very limited and urban. But I believe if a government is able to reach the common man even in urban area of its jurisdiction and win his trust, its doing a commendable job. At least the government should be able to win some trust without the age old weapons of appeasements. The replies below are based on my memory which is highly unreliable and laziness to remember and write the exact coversation which is highly overtaking. Hence I am giving the gist.

During my recent visit for the credit rating purpose, I had been to Bhuvneshwar and did my little survey. Here are some replies to my questions –

With the Cabbie

Me – Roads are good in your city, isn’t it?

The Cab Driver – Haan Sir. This all has been done after this new CM has come in power.

Me – Is he good?

The Cab Driver – Yes Sir. He is doing some good work. Situation has improved a lot in recent past.

With the hotel guy

Me – It must be off season for you guys, no?

The receptionist of the hotel – Yeah but with lots of companies coming in, we get a lot of business crowed also.

Me – So your CM is getting some work done for you guys?

The receptionist of the hotel – Yeah it’s been a so far so good story. Let’s see how it goes.

With the MD

Me – How has the government been?

MD (of the company I was visiting) – It has been good. They have not extended the license for the mines unless you do some value addition. Hence companies looking for the raw material are also setting up the up gradations facilities.

Me – So lots of new steel companies are coming in? Good. You will get buyers for your pellets.

MD – Yeah. Lots of new facilities are coming in. Plan is to develop the state as steel capital of Asia.

With the Engineer

Me – How is the government, is it as bad as the other BIMARU states?

Engineer (At the upcoming plant) – Well, no one is honest. Everyone is corrupt.

Me – But I heard a lot of good things about your CM.

Engineer – Yeah that is true. There is pressure at the top level to work and some amount of honesty too. They want the work to get done. But the standards deteriorate as you move from top to middle to bottom. But the trickle down effect works.

Me – So at least government is doing some good work.

Engineer – They have to. With pressure from top level, everyone has to work. These days you do see people working in government offices.

There were some other positives and not so negative responses as well about the government. Well, if the common man can shell out some praise for a government, which is not based on caste-based or religion-based or region-based or some other appeasement politics, it must be doing some good work. I have had such experiences only in Gujarat or AP.

For rest of the states like in Maharashtra (Read Mumbai and Pune) or Karnataka (Read Bangalore), there was very little or virtually nothing people had to say in Government’s favor. For UP, people hardly know who their CM is because such has been the political history of the states that by the time you speak out a CM’s name, governments have changed.

For statistics - In 2007, Orissa stood second in the list of states when we see per capita investments data .

Monday, May 05, 2008

Tashan - What is life without it!!!

Heroin lures one of the heroes in the movie to accomplice her in stealing villain's money and betrays him. That was Kareena Kapoor in Fida. Hero blinks his eyes just to realize that heroine has run away with the money making his arse as villain's play-toy. That was Anil Kapoor in Musafir. A cop sets up the hero in villain’s gang as a mole (Only the cop knows about it) and gets killed leaving the hero wondering how to prove – “Main Bekasoor hoon”. The cop was Iftekhar in DON. Heroine works for the villain as "Asteen Ka Saanp" to take her revenge because he killed her father in her childhood. That was so many Parveen Babis & Jeenat Amans in so many movies. Another hero playing colleague of heroine suddenly finds out that she is his childhood love with whom he used to play doctor-doctor and sing "Jab Hum Jawan Honge". This was again a prevalent phenomenon in 80s. He jumps to insurmountable heights with such an expertise like Kiran More did in India-Pakistan tie in WC-92. In cinematic terms, it was ala Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. You mix it all - its Tashan, the so called most awaited movie of summer 2008. After all, what is life without Tashan.

Hold on, if you think it’s just a mixture of cinematic upliftment (in literal sense or may be no sense) and look down at the Saga, there is a plethora of creativity attached.

Have you ever seen a Rickshaw driver in designer jeans, glittering shirt, sport shoes or gold chain as thick as Kareena Kapoor's waist in Tashan's posters? Could you ever imagine it in a town which is not even heard off by anyone (at least YRF think so), Kanpur? Could you? Aditya Chopra could.

Could you ever imagine the hero doing a water scooter stunt in a lake? Okay you saw AB doing it in Dhoom-2. But could you imagine it in a Dhobighaat? Saif Ali Khan drove his water scooter in a Dhobhighat tunnel, jumped over Anil Kapoor to get a peek-a-boo into his cleavage and shot him many a times only to find Anil Kapoor running on a rickshaw-with two-swords-on-the-handle like a bull’s horns after a few seconds.

Or could you imagine reaching from Haridwar to Rajasthan in shortest possible time via beautiful valleys of Laddakh. Its just YRF’s Tashan can do it. After all, what is life without Tashan.

Okay. The normal review - There is the villain BhaiyyaJi who gets killed by the heroine Pooja/Gudia because she wanted her revenge and the hero Bacchan Pandey because he wanted the heroine. The side hero Jimmy just gets an offer lets-do-it -again from the heroine when hero is busy drying heroin’s undergarments. Acting is not worth mentioning and direction seems to be done by some stuntman picked from Tollywood. Some songs are good. Camera man deserves some applauds for creating angles to find curves in Kareen Kapoor’s ultra thin body. She has definitely lost so much fat that even Anil Kapoor seems to possess bigger assets in his transparent vest. For Saif, he must be surviving on huddy because there seems to be no kebab for him.

If you are a fan of Yash Raj Films (I wonder how you are alive because they ordered Neal & Nikky to kill every one), Tashan is a treat to watch – just the posters I mean because they are good. The other good thing is the name – Tashan. Problem is, good things end then and there.

I agree that the movie was not going be brutally realistic and classically documentary. But when you see the most atrocious stunts repeatedly with the background score like “Bacchan Bacchan Pandey, Sabko Dikha de Tande”, there is always a song when you least want and most expect, jokes told are worth explaining and the entire presentation seems to be so erratic, one just cannot help it. Looks like YRF were hoping to sell the movie just on the basis of Kareena’s fluorescent two piece bikini. When things didn’t work out, he seems to have taken the Mid-Day route to promote the most talked about feature of the movie. But he forgot that this is the age of youtube and the entire scene was out in everyone’s possession within minutes of movie release. That is why they say – Kill Piracy.

YRF seems have taken Kanpur close to their heart by using the city’s background in two of their movies recently. Wish they use their minds to. If they showed HBTI in Lucknow (in place of Kanpur) in Bunty & Bubbly, a vehicle signifying Kanpur is shown as numbered UP32 (in place of UP78). Someone please go and tell them that no where and absolutely nowhere a mafia roams around in a rickshaw. Even if you are creating a hypothetical world of thrill and drama, please do some research and use common sense.

May god forgive Aditya Chopra for all his sins and bless him an orgy with Guddi Maruti, Shakeela and Bobby Darling with all the Tashan. After all, what is life without Tashan.

Friday, May 02, 2008

The Cricketainment!!!

In last week, the three of India’s fab-four showed some form. If Dravid played a classy but short lived innings against Chennai Super Kings, Laxman played a typical “play outside off stump ball in the region covering third man to fine leg” innings. Ganguly played a fighting but a little scratchy innings against a “not so great but helped by the pressure of big score” bowling of Rajasthan Royals.

All three innings could be connected with more than one string. All three innings had typical elements of each individual’s brilliance which has given us an orgasmic pleasure over the years. All of them were more than run a ball innings by some margin but none of them could be considered to be slogs. Sadly, all three ended in a loosing cause. What they provided was the brilliance of traditional batting mixed with modern innovation. What they lacked probably was the necessity of modern cricket especially in t20 – the running between the wickets at express pace, conversion of non existent runs into reality and demolition skills backed by insane cricketing/non cricketing shots. But their success did show that a good player can adjust to any form of cricket even with conventional methods. Their failure to win the match showed that you don’t only need the cricketing skills in modern cricket. You also need fitness to run fast, muscle power to belt the ball into stadium every second over and a little disrespect to coaching manuals. May be they are the last generation of Indian greats who preferred to hit a ball for a four because they had the brilliance and play out the next few balls in the over rather than have a run a ball over. New generation seems to be better in the latter part but do they have it in them to claim a laudable replacement is what needs to be seen.

Let me confess, I started as a hardcore anti-IPL. But once the tournament started, it did develop some amount of interest in me. But finally, I got bored yesterday. I slept off without any intentions in the first match and intentionally went to sleep during the second match. The abundance of quantity of cricket and lack of quality in terms of balance between bat and ball in t20 bored me finally. Mind you, IPL is just 33% over. 67% is yet to go.

Now tell me, one of the reasons why WC07 was considered as a failure was sighted as the length of the tournament which was close to two months. T20 WC in South Africa was a success not only because it was well organized (that is what the reports say) but also for coming as a short & sweet dose of a new medicine. Within 15 days we had seen a tournament which was for the shortest version of the game. On contrary, IPL is the Karmayuddha for 59 matches lasting 44 days. Isn’t it ironical for a tournament of the shortest version of the game to last for close to a month and half? I am talking from the perspective of the television viewer ship because that is what gets the actual revenues. How long one can see the same kind of cricket where the bowlers are no better than a helpless preys, batsmen are heavily loaded predators, the broadcaster is MAX which works on the principles of maximizing the Ads per square inch even during the match, the presentors’s quality is such that they cant even remember the teams that are playing in the match, instead of listening to comments of cricket you get to listen special comments on Imran Hasmi’s kissing skills, you see Lalit Modi on screen every 5 minutes with the comments from commentators “He must be mighty pleased with the success of the IPL” right form the first match and commentator do not fail to mention how the crowd is having a ball in full stands even if the camera is showing the moon?

If one is trying to popularize a new format, isn’t it more logical for him to give small doses so that the buyers’ interest is turned into addiction and than make merry? Or should he start overdosing from day one telling him it’s a hit? Like every other thing in life, it’s a trade off. You assume that a purist will stick to you hence you can feed him with a lower quality product to fetch the new customers. Or dilute the quality from purist’s side and venture in the new domain. You returns may not be that lucrative but assumptions are also likely to be less risky. Yeah, quality is subjected to purist’s perception of events.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Challenging Test!!!

When Vijay Mallaya had received the first congratulatory text message on his cell phone for selecting a great test side for a t20 tournament after the IPL auctions, he would have taken the good old theory – “A good player is good in every form of the game be it test cricket, ODIs or t20”. Every theory is bound to get challenged and he would have realized it by now. With four out of five matches lost, his Royal Challengers are placed at the bottom of the table. They are even behind an absolutely jaded looking side - Mumbai Indians.

If the last match was a story of fighting their hearts out to achieve martyrdom in form of defeat, today it was the patch up work for the last 25 over’s of the match.

When they managed to get the dangerous Sehwag out cheaply, they made sure they wont be chasing a never heard off score. Delhi Daredevils have their best three batsmen in top three positions. One more wicket would have made the life much easier for RC. DD looked all set to post such a score that would have made them feel that “its good that law of averages caught of with Sehwag here”. But RC made a come back in last 5 overs and once again showed that if you get at least 2 of DD’s top three quickly, they start bleeding. Once they bleed, they could be killed. Kings XI Punjab had done exactly the same in the last match with their potent bowling attack. Although RC have been terrible so far, their bowling is still good with Zaheer, Dale Steyn and Praveen Kumar in the line up. Just that they have been a little unlucky that wicketkeepers have consistently found their best form against them. In the first match, apart from Maccullum everyone struggled. Chennai Super Kings were struggling before Dhoni found his old destructive self which was missing in Australia and England.

It’s the batting which has been major concern for them. Imagine a batting line up boasting of Wasim Jaffer, Rahul Dravid and Jack Kallis. It’s a bundle of three technically sound and gritty batsmen you would feel safe to save a test match on the 5th day. But in t20? Jaffer has hardly played any ODIs, half of Rahul Dravid’s ODI career could be labeled with the “unfit for ODIs” tag and Jack Kallis has often been criticized for his slow batting. They have one fighting demolisher in form of Mark Boucher but so often either he is left to do the impossible or he fails occasionally because he is bound to. He failed in the last match and they lost. He was left to do impossible today and they lost. Praveen Kumar is more of a bowler belonging to the psychology of young Kapil Dev – “If I pay attention to batting, I would not have enough energy to bowl”. Hence he seems to be taking batting in a hit out or get out mode. Virat Kohli seems to belong to the generation of Sree Santh who play more with their facial and body expressions rather than bat or bowl.

Having said it all, RC did play well today. Being a purist, I care a damn about IPL. I watch the matches for two reasons – first, I have nothing better to do after work hours and second for watching some individual performances like Ishant Sharma’s fast in swingers or Warne’s leg spin mixed with his entire build up before the delivery.

Today the treat resided in the partnership of Dravid and Kallis like two technicians at work. The cover drives, the cuts, the pulls, the straight drives, the cheeky steer to third-man were much better than the typical slog to mid-wicket when balls sails 70 meters and commentators on MAX shout – “What a big hit? That has gone miles into the stands” or the so prevalent sweep/scoop to fine leg on a fast bowler.

In addition to that, batting is not all about hitting else what is the difference between Cricket and Baseball. It’s also about the survival or the art of it. The partnership also had perfect defensive shots on the deliveries demanding respect. When a batsman hits across the line and even a good ball sails towards the stands as so often we have seen in IPL, it’s definitely skill but the connection is also a matter of luck. Even a boxer (okay, and ordinary batsman) with bulging biceps might do it with some cricketing skills. When a batsman judges to leave a perfect out swinger which would have got him out with the slightest of indecision and cover-drives the very next delivery similar to it but pitched further up by a few centimeters – it becomes an art. But may be the future wants boxers, not artists.

The daredevil Gautam Gambhir had a spat with Jack Kallis. Umpires intervened and so did Dravid. Dravid tried to pacify Gambheer only to get a reply from him which left a really dejected smile on his face as if the reply left him insulted. No one knows the details on who said what but when once clubs a few events in last fifteen days and today – is there a hint of times to come???

Also at Dream Cricket