Category Archives: Indian events

Influence of one Mr. Ray

I make it a point of not missing any Felu’da movie, irrespective of the actor who is playing that role. Whether it was Soumitra or Sabyasachi or Abir or anyone, I don’t care. Today was another day when I went to watch Double Feluda movie directed by Sandip Ray. This was a special year as this was the year when Felu’da turned 50 years, even when the creator of the character is no longer present amongst us. More than the two stories depicted in the film, I was sent to direct nostalgia when I saw the end tribute from many of the actors who played immortal characters of the journey of Felu’da captured in celluloid. This made me pause to retrospect the influence one Mr. Satyajit Ray had on my growing up.

When I was a child, I was introduced to story books by my parents and I must have immersed myself in the love of reading; because the moment I can think of my first memories of my life, I saw myself devouring any story book I got hold of. My brother shared the same love towards books and that always created a big problem – there was always a major fight when new books or magazines came to our house – who will read first !! And one of the major attractions, if not the only attraction, was the magazines of Anandamela and Sandesh where the stories of Felu’da and Prof Shanku will come. The order of priority was Felu’da, then Prof Shanku, then TinTin followed by others. Clear priority definition – never had any ambiguity on this aspect as a child.

Actually Sandesh magazine came to our house to stop the fight with my brother on who will read Anandamela first, when that was the only magazine subscribed by my father. I still remember that there was an office near the Triangular Park in South Kolkata from where either Sandesh was re-published or distributed. Back from school, we used to stop there for 5 minutes to buy the latest issue of that magazine and I used to hold that tightly in my hands. Anandamela used to come automatically through the newspaper vendor.


Picture from internet
As any normal child, I used to draw pictures when I was a child. Crayons was a good past time; but what I enjoyed most was drawing pictures using just a normal pencil. Nine out of ten times, it was a picture of Felu’da or Felu’da in action that I tried to copy in my drawing. It was always a great pleasure of growing up when somebody could recognise my drawn picture as something that at least was resembling Satyajit Ray’s drawings even by a poor 10%.

Came the movies of Satyajit Ray for children starting with Goopy Gayne Bagha Bayne. Movies are always enthralling for kids – and it was kind of moving to an ecstasy world by watching Satyajit Ray s movies. The ultimate was when the character that moved me from my childhood days, I could see them in almost real life. Sonar Kella and Joy Baba Felunath – this were the two movies that actually transformed the drawn pictures of Felu’da into someone I could relate to. I still don’t know how many times I must have seen these two movies.

Science fictions never appealed me that much, whether be it in story books or be it in movies. But somehow I was fascinated by the Professor Shanku s stories. I could relate them as very much possible in real world and not just fantasies. Probably that was the reason why Prof Shanku was so much liked to me.

Before I end, I have encountered so many writers through their creations in my life so far. My love towards detective stories or thrillers is quite strong. So starting from Enid Blyton to Pancha Pandab to Kakababu to Kiriti to Byomkesh to Sherlock Holmes to Alistair Maclean to Agatha Christie to Moitrayee Bhaduri – journey has been good and still continuing. But no one has touched me so much as one Mr. Satyajit Ray – he has been a big, major part of my growing up. Later on, I went through his gammot of movies and writing, but the pleasure of growing up with Felu’da, Prof Shanku and Ray’s other stories has been tremendous. Whenever I think of Satyajit Ray, the first image that comes to my mind is that he was my best friend while growing up.

And I still remember the thing that I did with my first every salary I earned – I gave the salary to my mother and she in return gave me some money to buy something that I liked. I then requested my father to take me to College Street as I wanted to buy some books. Everybody thought I would go for some food items – but I pleasantly disappointed them :-) Along with my father, I went to Ananda Publishers office at College Street and bought the complete set of Feluda and Prof Shanku at one shot  !!!!

That thing came naturally to me and probably that only told of the influence of Satyajit Ray in my growing up. Thank you Sir !!!! And my journey still continues when I rush to a movie theatre whenever any story of Satyajit Ray is converted into a movie, irrespective of the actors or director ….

The annual gainless pain …

A typical Bong (Bengali) will always look forward to buy new clothes or other associated things just before the start of the Durga Puja. That’s a tradition that is there for centuries and some of these traditions are good to keep – I don’t have any problem with that. But when this annual thing becomes a big blister on the poor backside of myself, that’s when I feel the pain. Shopping is an activity that is generally loved by all women and absolutely loathed by majority of the men (at least that’s what I have observed over the years). Again, I have no problem with that fact of life. But being induced into “forced shopping” mode is something that can bring in sweat even in the coldest of the winters.

It all starts with the sentimental bombarding of “you need to go as this is a tradition where the entire family buys stuff for the rest of the family”. At times, I give a damn about traditions – and this is definitely the most appropriate timing to exercise that. When that foils, then comes a rapid fire intense round of negotiations with kind of risk-reward scheme of terms and conditions.

“Ok, lets do one thing – we will visit New Market or Gariahat for 2 hours and after that we can still have that mutton biryani, even though your doctor has advised against it”. Never before I have witnessed such Mother Teresa equivalent kindness – this is that historic moment of individual’s life when the Home Minister can overrule the doctor’s years of acquired knowledge and experience. That’s the only time when that elusive “mutton biryani” suddenly becomes devoid of all cholesterol, LDL’s – even though the same biryani is served for the rest 364 days a year. But that’s when lesson’s learnt are applied and I think of the last year when I was butchered like an innocent lamb who just fell for that extra bit of ‘lush green grass’ coming free. So, I stand up tall like Netaji Subhas Bose and counter that satan-like greed for biryani – “You just give some space and I will get freedom for myself”. Normally that statement is followed by a nasal humming of “amake amar moton thaakte dao, aami nijeke nijer moton ghuchiye niyechi”.

But as always, it’s the home minister who passes the law and as a common man, inspite of how much rebellious you can be, its the time of execution. The only hope in all of this is the agreement on three contractual clauses of:
– the ordeal will be not more than 1 hour maximum and limited to one shop only. So the participation will be in the final selection round and not during the initial never-ending rounds of shortlisting things
– playing mobile games are allowed even during the exercise – not because I don’t want to participate, but I claim that I am good at multi-tasking
– this clause is more of a request to be complied on a “best effort basis” – very feebly the petition is raised that if this happens in an non-air-conditioned environment, this poor soul will feel very near to Satan. That always is met with a steely ice-frozen look (without words) – and that’s when you can not only hear the sound of silence, but also realise the power of silence !

Now I enter the shop with a mood that can scare the friendliest of any living being. Because just being dragged out of a half-sitting-half-sleeping stupor while watching a nonsense movie like Housefull-3 is not always energising. Nevertheless the ordeal starts. This is normally accompanied by unique characteristics like:

– running around like a headless chicken with the only rule of “follow thy master”
– pausing to check Facebook or Whatsapp amounts to threatening of “the time spent on these useless activities will be deducted from the 1 hour negotiated time”. Nawaz Sharif will also be looked upon as a toddler, given the intensity of these threats
– hands should be occupied by holding dresses. You will never realise that even after “short listing”, there will be still so many dresses to be tried out
– looking at oddly shaped women in front of trial rooms. 80+ kg women darts out of the trials rooms wearing skin tight dresses only to get a nod from an impatient husband waiting outside the room, who just happened to hide a big yawn before giving a million dollar smile and saying “looking too good” … and then the transition from that smile to a big frown comes in a lightning speed, that will make even Usain Bolt feel proud !
– once the trials are over, then comes a period of intense subjective and objective analysis on which 3 dresses out of 12 are the best. If you try play smart and want to end the ordeal by quickly selecting any 3, then you will be virtually guillotined by the AK47-like spraying of bullets of defending the selected 3
– finally standing alone in the queue with 3 ladies dresses. Why alone ? Well usage of idle time has been recommended by all. The waiting time in the queue can be executed by any dumbass like me while a last minute tour of the remaining store can be utilised.

After all this, when you come home, sip a cuppa on the sofa with a game of football on, and then thank God by saying “thanks for giving me strength this time”, you hear from another room that I need to go again tomorrow as we have forgotten shopping for a loved one !! Why do we have so many loved ones ? Why, why ?

Come on !! Not again !!! “Bidroho aaj, bidroho charidike, bidroho aaj” ….. that’s the only time when the socialistic concept of rebellion comes to life for me

Happy last minute Puja shopping everyone !

 

‘Fair’ Journalism

When I was in my teens, I remember that the main source of getting information was through a limited number of newspapers and Doordarshan News. The debate that time was on the style of reporting – amongst the English newspapers in my home city of Kolkata, while it was reported that The Statesman did ‘direct’ reporting with a ‘matter of fact’ tone, it was alleged that The Telegraph reported the same incident with more ‘flair’, more in a story-telling mode. However, I don’t remember much controversy on the whether there was distortion of facts or not. And on a lighter node, watching Doordarshan News was a kind of a torture because of lack of visuals – still the incidents were reported on an ‘as is’ basis.

Then came a whiff of fresh air, when Prannoy Roy started with a capsule programme of “World This Week”. We had a glimpse of the world in a 30 minute slot. The whole family used to be riveted in front of the idiot-box watching impacts that happened across the world. That probably gave us an indication of media-starved Indians what journalism and news reporting should be like in the years to come. Immediately, Prannoy Roy became a household name and the making of mega-stars in the news making industry started from that moment of history.

electronic-media-aquarius-media

Next came a barrage of channels that carried out news using the cable television distribution channel. NDTV was the pioneer with 24 x 7 news first time in India probably ? It was still Prannoy Roy who led the show and budding news anchors started to make their marks in the national arena. While NDTV became a household brand, many other breakaways mushroomed in the market and they also became strong brands very soon. All facets of life – politics, international news and dynamics, sports, entertainment – everything started to be covered across channels. Associated with the competition, came the fight to gain TRP which is directly proportional to viewership.

Frankly speaking, I did not even hear the very word of “TRP” and its significance only till recent past. The other word that I learnt in last few years was “paid media”. Initially I was perhaps naïve not to believe in that. Why will an journalist put in a biased view of an incident when his / her job was to report on what happened ? But to my dismay, I soon discovered that different news channels started to portray the same incident differently – imposing their ‘point of view’ on that incident. I don’t know whether that falls under the ethics of journalism, but I did not like that concept at all.

You report on what happened on a ‘matter of fact’ mode – it is upto the individual viewers to make ‘judgement’ on different perspectives. I, as a viewer, am not interested with what a channel thinks, but rather I would prefer that freedom to be given to me. Unfortunately, that became the fashion. Very soon, we could see one incident being portrayed in one way in one channel and the other channel showing the same incident in a totally different way. Coincidentally, the views matched with the biased interests of different political parties. And I could not remove the thought from my mind on whether the media has become “paid media”. This thought started to get deep in my mind when some of the mega-stars of Indian TV channels were “alleged” to be the ‘middleman’ between business houses and political parties, trying to broker some deals.

Now, that has gone to another level. In order to score high on the battlegrounds of TRP, circulating unverified video’s, telecasting so-called “doctored” clips has become the order of the day. Whether the media houses are themselves producing the same or whether the so-called “paid media” channels are just executing orders from their masters – it is not clear to me as a viewer. But the very consequence of all the actions has resulted into an individual doubting each and every news whether that is the truth OR whether that is a lie; whether that is the truth OR whether that is just a biased version of the story !

While the electronic media has evolved drastically in India in last 20 years, I think the deterioration has been drastic as well. You just keep on shuffling the news channels and I can bet, any person can guess whether that channel reports in line with what Congress party wants to say or what BJP wants to say or what Left parties wants to say !

Overall, the trust that was there 20-30 years ago on printed and electronic media has now vanished from the common man. I don’t know whether the media channels feel the same, but as an ordinary Indian citizen, I feel ashamed on how “fair” journalism has fallen so low !

Hope some day better things will prevail in journalism and till that date, I can only keep on hoping !

 

Friendship 

The year was 1981. A ten year old kid arrived at a new place, new home along with his family. The feelings were quite mixed – happy to see a new and bright, bigger home; slightly depressed for being uprooted from old friends. Feeling of sadness got increased in a couple of days when Sunday came up as that was the time to play, but where are the friends ?

Coaxed out of home by his parents, the kid trudged along reluctantly to the play ground that was near to the new home. Probably sweat started to roll out – not just because of the month of July in a typical tropical Indian weather, but also because of the enormity of the challenge  that lies front of the kid. Unknown environment, unknown park, all alone, degree of being introvert scaling new heights, yet expected to gain company and friendship from a place which is absolutely unknown. Happiness lies on a thin thread – it was a do or die situation.

The kid saw some kids of his same age playing football in a small area as the bigger park was occupied by seniors playing the same game. Probably the seniors booted out the juniors who were now forced to take refuge in a small piece of plot, which was difficult to define as a play ground. Yet, the guys were playing football so happily, running around the ball and kicking it with some venom.

The kid just stood silently holding the rails of the big gate watching the game. Inside him, the eagerness to join the match was so immense, but his shyness prevented him to run to them. After all, he did not know anyone of those running around the play ground. It was probably the biggest ordeal faced by him. Seconds felt like minutes, minutes hours. And still he was standing all alone, clutching on the rail as if holding that will give him great mental strength.

Finally one of those playing saw him. The game was stopped. He came to the kid and asked “you new here ?” Reply was quick but monosyllabic “Yes”. Conversation started “where do you stay ?” “That house in the corner” …. And finally the million dollar awaited question “do you want to play ?” A big smile appeared for the first time. But there was a quick twist to the happiness “okay, go stand as a goalkeeper”

The kid was not absolutely elated in hearing that. After all, being a goal keeper is looked upon as a novice in the game, who cannot even kick the ball, but can just hold it, that too for some few seconds only. But who cares ! The ice was broken, new friends being created, life is definitely bound to get better, more happier. The new place, new environment looked more radiant and bright for sure.

That’s how the journey started 34 years ago. The friendship grew into great relationships and even today, the friends remains as true friends, united in happiness as well as crisis situations. Those kids grew up to become adults, professionals, having their own families. But the common bond of friendship grew stronger and stronger, year after year. 

The kid was me and home was at BD Block, Salt Lake, Kolkata. On this day when the world celebrates Kali Puja and Diwali, I think of those days and the still-strong friends. Let this friendship grow, stronger every year to celebrate at least 34 more Kali Puja / Diwali’s. 

দুর্গা পূজা

দুর্গা পূজা
এক রাশ ওণুভুতি
নতুন কাপড়ের স্পর্শ
কাশ ফুলের দুলুনি
ভোগের গন্ধ
প্রতিমা দর্শনের হুড়াহুড়ি
পান্ডেল আলোকসজ্জার চমতকার

দুর্গা পূজা
চিন্তার উপর জয়
মানুষের মিলন
গান বাজনার সময়
সকলের হাসি মুখ
ভুলেছে সবাই তার দুঃখ

দুর্গা পূজা
পাশের বস্তির ছেলেটা
সে তো পেলো না জামার গন্ধ
ঢাকের বাজনা মেটাল না খিদে
কুকুরের সঙ্গে বেঁচে থাকার লড়াই
জানালা তাই তার বন্ধ

তাঁরই মাঝে আধ খাওয়া আইস ক্রীম
খুঁজে পেল জীবনের এক চিলতে আনন্দ
নিল সে এক মহান ওংগিকার
যতই হক বড় উতসব, যতই হক টাকা খরচ
যা থাকবে হাতে, ভাগ হবে সবার সাথে
থাকবে না কোন ওপচয়
কারণ এটাই তো চিরকালের মানব ধর্মের পূজা

Et Tu, Fellow Indians ??

I have been born in early 70’s, 20+ years after India was independent. So my knowledge of Indian history and our great freedom fighters had started with what I was taught through our history books in school. The names of Mahatma  Gandhi, Nehru, Netaji all came to an innocent child’s mind as it is expected from any school education. But nobody told me that time that our history which is taught to frame up young innocent minds is not that innocent – there are conceits, deception, back stabbing everywhere. Only when internet became affordable and access to an open world was at my doorsteps, I started to have these second opinions about what was taught was not correct – rather the messaging that got engraved in my mind during my school days perhaps did not reflect the grave reality. The so-called heroes of Indian freedom suddenly started to become blur at various points of time. The sharp sketches that were there in the history books for some of these heroes no longer looked sharp to me. 

Then as I got busy with my professional work and got to know many people from various parts of India and from the rest of the world, one thing started to slowly sink in very strongly. As a Bengali, we always tend to over-rely on our old time Bengali heroes more as my present generation probably do not have such heroes in abundance. I thought Netaji was one of those heroes who are loved by Bengali’s more than anybody else – while it is naturally true, I was amazed that people across India still reveres Netaji so much even today. Whether it is from Chennai or Mumbai or Delhi, the adoration towards that man is so huge that I never imagined. In many households, people still have picture of Netaji – and here I am not just referring to typical Bengali homes, but across India.

Along with that love, came radical thinking which thrived through heated debates within my friends circle – both personal and professionals. What I gathered through these discussions is that many of the Indians believe the contribution of Netaji to Indian freedom movement was much more than Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, etc. The principle of earning a freedom versus of getting a freedom through “begging” was something that is still debated amongst various groups. I am not an expert on this – so, while I have my personal view, I don’t claim that to be true. However, what I can claim as a proud Indian is that contribution of that person lovingly referred to as Netaji is immense, huge and highly respected by many. 

So, if the above is true, what stops the government of India to bring to conclusion the human-made mystery behind that person ? The explanations given by the government stating that the truth may impact foreign relations looks so lame to me. Here we are in 2015, with India as one of the top countries in the world and yet, we are worried about foreign relations with countries like the UK or Russia or any other nation ? That too when it is related to the life of one of our undisputed national hero like Netaji ?

Difficult to digest that. So the next thing that comes to mind behind the reluctance to disclose is the untold story of deceit, back stabbing and treachery, which in any case, has been doing the rounds in the Internet for long. Today some of those symptoms of deception are coming out in the open. Press reports are now coming up with very serious allegations of spying out of fear. Attaching one such report from a reputed media house in India – 

http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/nehru-government-spied-on-netaji-subhas-chandra-boses-family-reveal-declassified-files-753933?site=full

So, now it seems that all the so called spicy rumours are actually coming out to be true. There have been many crusaders to demystify Netaji once and for all and amongst them is Mr. Anuj Dhar (Twitter handle of @anujdhar). While I don’t know him personally, but I believe he represents a mass majority of us who wants the truth to prevail …. Soon. Wishing Mr. Dhar s efforts all success because his success will be my success as well.

When treachery, deceit are now in open in declassified documents, that too fellow Indians, fellow people who believed in the common cause of Indian freedom, I am sure Netaji has been saying “Et Tu, Fellow Indians?” for long. While some of us have been hearing this for long as well, let us give the ultimate homage by revealing the truth.

And while the truth might expose and bring down the statues of some of the so called leaders of past India, let that be. Let the people of India know the real characters behind the famous names – because in any place anywhere in the world, everybody will vouch for truth and ultimate truth, irrespective of how much bitter it can be.

Till that time, let the momentum around  “Et Tu, Fellow Indians?” get stronger and stronger till the day when it becomes so strong that all walls of deceit comes down crashing.

The same old story once again ?

The campaign and the hopes for millions are done for another four years. The journey has been completed with an exit from the World Cup after reaching the semi finals. The best balanced team has beaten us convincingly in the final knock out match of India. The response from millions of Indian fans has been written with lots of disappointment, which is quite natural given the passion for the game. However, some of the extreme reactions targeting and questioning the basic integrity of the players have forced me to think that is this the same old story of immaturity once again back ?

Let’s for a second pause and take a step back to visualise the situation before the start of the World Cup. The signals were very ominous for the Team Blue before the start of the campaign:

  • World Cup in Australia where the pitches tend to be too bouncy for Indian liking
  • Comprehensively beaten in last two overseas tours in England and Australia, tending towards complete “white wash”
  • Weaknesses of top Indian batsmen against fast bouncy pace bowling known by the world
  • Last 7 years haven’t produced a class fast bowler who can perform at overseas grounds. There have been patches of individuals who started with lots of hope and then fading away into oblivion with mediocre performances. 
  • Indian bowling attack, specially the pace attack, have been torn apart by the opposition repeatedly. 
  • Ishant Sharma was destined to lead the pace attack and yet sidelined due to injury
  • Morale have been at the lowest ebb ever, specially before the start of the biggest spectacle in international cricket
  • World Cup schedule demanded no “easy” matches for India in the start to gain some confidence
  • Dhoni’s leadership style questioned due to many controversies, on and off the field.

With the above scenario, the hopes of an average Indian fan was very pessimistic to start with. Jokes were around if at all India can win against some of the minnows, there will be hundred reasons to open the bubbly to celebrate.

After one month, India performed above expectations, having all win records in all matches, having bowled out all oppositions in all matches, pace bowlers excelled beyond expectations in all matches, batting up to the mark in all matches, Dhoni back to his cool skilful captaincy in all matches …. except for the disaster that happened in the semifinals against a much stronger team of Australia in their home conditions. That too when the crucial toss going against India.

And then hell broke lose …. Suddenly the same set of people who thought initially that India will be lucky to even reaching the knock out stage, went all arms and daggers out against the Indian team. With such low expectations from the team, when the same team just surpassed all the wildest dreams, suddenly the guns are out blazing to shoot them down ?

The dramatic Times Now channel went on the offensive with comments that Dhoni should have showed some more sad faces after the loss, players did not want to win and hence have been cheating the millions of fans, the captaincy was absolutely ridiculous, the bowling has been pathetic, etc etc. Yes, there have been a failure in that match, but to brand the entire team with those negative comments is totally unfair.

It looked like that after the match, if Dhoni, Virat and others had shed tears on the ground like that of de Villiers, we would have been convinced that they were actually trying to win the match !!! Whether the same set of players are devastated by the loss within themselves is not important, they should have expressed themselves with sorrow, tears, wrenched faces, then we would have  said “well played” !!!! Come on, give us a break !!!

I can only wish that more maturity comes to the responsible media channels, more compassion and understanding is shown by the average Indian cricket fans. Let’s not make yesterday, once more !!

10 defining moments of 2014

Another year has just passed by and as we welcome the new year of 2015, I took the first new year resolution that I will pen down 10 defining moments of 2014, which I feel had impacted the world. I am sure 2015 will be an exciting and good year for me – because, here I am taking time out on 1st Jan to honour my new year resolution. Believe me, this is a record for me and I pat my back myself :-) Coming away from the self-glory mode, let me focus on really writing on the 10 defining moments (in a chronological order based on the time of occurrence)

Welcome-2015-Bye-Bye-2014-5

1) Early 2014, most probably around Feb, we came to know the devastation being caused by the outbreak of Ebola. While the outbreak of Ebola is not new to mankind, what this made me feel that we are probably still hundreds of years behind unravelling the mysteries of nature. While technology has progressed by leaps and bounds in last few decades, still we are at a mercy to understand life and it’s manifestations through different forms – some makes us smile with hope, some makes us cry with despair. We can only hope for the best in the years to come ….

2) Political muscle power has been in display over hundreds, thousands of years. In olden days, kings used to force into others land in search of valuable resources. People have killed people easily in wars fighting over territories and show of strength. Ego’s have played big in many leaders of the world, past and present. Wars have been inflicted under the excuses of “imaginary” weapons; gaining “strategic” geographical positions to keep an eye on what others are doing; crippling economic growth or at least try to do so has been in play for years. So, when the Ukraine conflict started in Feb / March ’14, we are once again reminded of the erstwhile Cold War in action. While that struggle of power still continues, sometimes I laugh at the irony of human civilisations – on the one hand we give “peace awards” and talk of peace, harmony, development, growth; on the other side, the same hand does not hesitate to take action to break the same peace & harmony ! What a contradiction of human beings !

3) Disaster hit us when the ill-fated flight of MH370 just disappeared from everyone’s eyes. Yes – just “disappeared” ! In today’s world, when technology is in fingertips of people everywhere in the world, it is sad to convince ourselves that a big flight with so many people can just “disappear” from everything ! Or are we really convinced ? Till date, we have not got any conclusion of this disappearance – and till that happens, let us humans remain optimistic with the belief that the individuals in that flight are safe somewhere !

4) Came May’14 and came an event that has been rare in Indian politics for last few years. Came a political party with absolute majority by itself in forming the government of India after many, many years – thereby decimating the main opposition party by a huge margin. While I will not deliberate on whether this is good or bad for India, what we all have to admit is there is a big brand of NaMo on the rise – that one individual can take on everything and yet succeed in winning the elections is something I have not witnessed in my lifetime. Positive perception of India is on the rise since that day, stock markets have been consistently high – only thing to wait and watch for is whether the “acchhe din” (good days) have really come or not.

5) For every four years, sports lovers across the world always wait for the grand event of FIFA World Cup to happen – so, Jun’14 was the time of the year when people lifted themselves from their frustrations, problems of life and focused attention on the sand, beaches, beauties of Brazil. As always, this world cup also brought great tactical football – apart from that, two things really caught me unawares. Firstly, how frustration and disappointment on performance in one match can bring the demon out (again !) of a star and classy player of Luis Suarez! It was hard to believe even after seeing the replays that he actually bit a player (again!). The other thing was apparent from the first game – Brazil was riding on hope, emotions rather than quality play in the world cup. But that’s not what surprised me – the utter desolation, collapse of their play and riding on emotions was so spectacular that they conceded 7 goals in a world cup semifinals ! Germany scored 3 goals in 76 Seconds and 4 goals in 4 minutes (have a look at this article) – can you still believe that ? I have never witnessed such a collapse in football ever, that too in a semifinal of a world cup !

6) Oct’14 witnessed the recognition of human peace – the Nobel Peace Prize‘s were awarded to Malala (Pak) and Kailash Satyarthi (India). Contributions by these two individuals are undisputed – one a very “matured” girl, the other a great person. But what this made me to think that while so much animosity, fighting happening on a daily basis along the Indo-Pak border, here are two individuals from these two nations talking peace, walking hand in hand. Such contradictory visuals – but you still feel that one day, this “dispute” will come to an end and then common people from these countries can actually walk hand in hand.

7) Indian football arena was suddenly buzz with excitement with the launch of Indian Super League (ISL) in Nov’14. Optimism was running high and expectations were that Indian football will improve by leaps and bounds after this month-long tournament. Rationale was that if you practice, play and rub shoulders with players like Del Piero, Anelka, Pires, Materazzi, James, etc, definitely something will be transferred to the Indian players, apart from sweat and dust. Well, I had already shared my personal views on ISL in one of my earlier blog entitled “Indian Super League (ISL) – the saviour or the conqueror?” (https://ayanmajumdar.wordpress.com/2014/10/15/indian-super-league-isl-the-saviour-or-the-conqueror/). But definitely football had become more “family” game when you saw families going to the stadiums. Whether that enthusiasm still runs high when iLeague starts is something to watch for.

8) Internet freedom has been under threat for sometime now. Internet was defined as a place where expressions can be shared “freely”; technology is being advertised even today as “technology does not discriminate” – but in last 5 years, I have seen a throttling of such speech by ruling governments, whenever someone expresses opinions which does not suit or favour the parties in power. I personally feel that internet should be kept “free” and governments / corporations should not clamp down on the benefits for their gains. I also feel that control should be exercised by police if internet is used to violate laws (like fostering terrorism, human trafficking, etc). But broadly if technology can provide cheap facilities to common man for communication, expressions – then why will organisations intervene and try to control that for their benefits, monetary or otherwise. The small incident that happened in India in Dec’14 forced me to think on this topic – that is when Bharti Airtel planned to impose VoiP charges on consumers just because they are unable to compete with the likes of  WhatsApp, Skype, Hangouts, etc. While this was an incident of curtailing net-freedom because of profits, the issues of internet freedom will continue to haunt us in the years to come.

9) Throughout the year 2014, oil prices have been falling steadily. The oil price has fallen by more than 40% since June, when it was $115 a barrel. Currently is around $70 a barrel. At a meeting in Vienna on November, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which controls nearly 40% of the world market, failed to reach agreement on production curbs, sending the price tumbling. Also hard hit are oil-exporting countries such as Russia (where the rouble has hit record lows), Nigeria, Iran and Venezuela. While experts can analyse why this is happening, my guess as a layman is that again the reason of “conquest” amongst nations is probably the main reason. Of course, as a common Indian, I welcome this “fighting” amongst nations for a change – because at the end of the day, I can buy petrol at a cheaper price. Thanks for this “disagreement” and hope that this “disagreement” increases more and more in the years to come.

10) Finally, as I was almost certain the year will come to an end peacefully with no major incidents, came another out of the blue related to Indian cricket. The “sudden” retirement of MS Dhoni from test cricket at the end of the 3rd test at MCG between India and Australia has opened up all kinds of theories. We love controversies, we love “sudden” decisions, we love to be “experts” – we definitely had another opportunity to voice our opinions, have debates amongst friends and foes, listen to TV “experts” discussing on the issue, etc. Definitely the year ended with a huge energy level for sure :-)

So, with an opening balance of high “energy” levels, I am sure 2015 will be more energetic than ever. With this, I wish you and your families a very happy and prosperous new year 2015 !

Enlightenment after a big slap

The on going India vs Australia test series happening down under is quite gripping in all aspects. We are witness to great cricket from both sides with Smith and Virat Kohli starring from the respective sides. And then there is that ugly aspect of cricket championed by the Aussies which is in ample display on the field. The same menace that threatens the game to a potential physical brawl on the field – sledging!

Sledging is nothing new, thanks to the infamous contribution by the Aussies. But the so-called “sporting” Aussies, who always claim to appreciate ‘hard’ cricket, can’t digest if an opposition team gives back the same treatment. Then the “friendly banter” that the Aussies claim to be an integral part of the game, suddenly becomes an irritant to the game.

So when Virat Kohli led a vicious sledging attack to Johnson while batting as well as while fielding, then the supporter of sledging Ian Chappel comes up with a big concern that soon sledging might lead to physical confrontation.

To quote Ian Chappell – “The more players talk on the field, the more likelihood there is something personal will be said. If something personal is said at the wrong time there will eventually be an altercation on the field. When that happens it will be players who are punished and as is almost always the case, the administrators will escape scot-free, despite being guilty of allowing the problem to escalate to this point. Apart from the danger of an altercation on the field – and if you don’t think that could be ugly, just remember one player has a bat in his hand – there is the simple matter of the batsman being entitled to peace and quiet while he’s out in the middle.”

Well Mr. Chappell, did you and some of the Australians needed the big slap of counter sledging from Virat Kohli and the Indian team to realise that ? Now you realise that this may turn physical, specially when you saw Haddin, Johnson fell apart due to the sledging from the Indian team? Australian cricket always appreciated “mental disintegration” – what happened to that philosophy now, once you saw your own bowler disintegrating on your own home turf? One big slap on the ears have suddenly allowed the same ears to hear a different music.

Hypocrisy has been a forte for Aussies for a long time when opposition gave back same dosage of sledging – then they feel opposition has been doing “racial” comments and don’t have the guts to face sledging… they complain to papa ICC and cry like babies….

However, as long Aussies continue sledging, you will get a stronger dosage back – with lots of spice… Hope you can digest the Indian curry going on – if not, we can provide some complimentary antacids as well.

Indian Super League (ISL) – the saviour or the conqueror ?

The Indian Super League (ISL) has just kicked off in India with a great optimism that it will transform Indian soccer and the “sleeping giants” will wake up and be a formidable soccer power in next 10-15 years. Yes, it has attracted lots of attention in the recent past – good money flowing in, a large number of “star” world cuppers will be in action, lot of media hype surrounding the event, Bollywood and Sports heroes in the fray, big advertisements – all the ingredients for a masala dish are out and are being mixed in true Indian fashion.

 

As I welcome a sudden energy surrounding Indian football, my question is whether ISL the saviour or the conqueror ? When I mention the word ‘conqueror’, it automatically implies that there will be a victor AND there will be ‘death’ of someone. Also, when I use the word ‘saviour’, it means saving or healing an existing disease AND that does not imply death of anyone. Of course, I will prefer ‘saviour’ any day! But based on the events that led to the build up of the event, I have a feeling that ISL is acting as the conqueror rather than a saviour!

We always talk of “inclusive” growth – but in this case, we do not see that happen. Irrespective of the quality of Indian football, over 100+ years, we had Indian football clubs like East Bengal, Mohan Bagan, Salgaoncar, Dempo, etc etc who have been serving Indian football. Yes, the quality was poor – but that was not just the problem of the clubs, but the problem of India as a nation. Hence, if we have to improve the quality and make the “sleeping giant” wake, it has to be started using the same clubs where the footballers play for the entire year. But what do we see here ?

We suddenly have a new tournament with a total NEW set of teams and management, ignoring the current structure and totally ignoring the current set of clubs. It’s like the equivalent of the cricket Packer Series – only difference is that this is allowed by the India football federation, AIFF! If the same model was implemented to improve the i-League using the existing clubs, definitely this would have improved Indian football by leaps and bounds. Nowhere in the world we have seen improvement of football by ignoring current set of clubs – even in Japan, the existing J-League was “enhanced” when Zico and other international players went there to play and boost Japanese football and not creating new football teams, new tournaments, etc. Can we imagine that to improve say cricket in Netherlands, all current teams/clubs are ignored and a new tournament comes in with new teams ? Or to improve Indian cricket standards in test matches, have totally new teams, new tournament and ignore the Ranji Trophy along with all the current state teams ?

The message of ISL has been “I am rich, I have money, ‘poor’ people will start licking my shoes; so I don’t care about others – but lets make a tournament for 3 months and lets have some fun” … will this really improve football ? If the answer is “yes”, then out of 12 months, we play a tournament for 3 months with a set of players, teams, coaches and then for the rest 9 months, the same players goes back to the poor old infrastructure, back to the ‘poor’ old clubs, back with the poor quality coaches ? And in spite of that, our football will improve ? Come on !

If the ultimate design is “kill the old clubs, kill all tournaments like i-league, Federation Cup, make this the only tournament”, then probably Indian football will improve, but by that process it will lose many supporters who are loyal to the existing clubs. The best way to test the popularity of ISL is to have an ISL match in parallel to an East Bengal – Mohan Bagan match and see which match attracts more spectators. I think I can predict the answer ….

Let us not make this ISL the whims and fancies of some rich people, time pass for some bollywood stars and cricketers, who still does not address how the long term old clubs will improve their infrastructure, bring in more experienced coaches, bring in modern sports medicinal research into play. Yes, Indian football needs complete overhauling, but not in this fashion. If same money, stardom, infrastructure was used to enhance the main football tournament in India, the i-league, then definitely our soccer standards would have improved in the long run, without “killing” someone by design!

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