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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)

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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.

The eternal bias

The cricketing world has again gone wild when the news surfaced that India has formally complained that Jimmy Anderson of England had physically pushed Ravindra Jadeja when the players were walking off towards the pavilion during the lunch break. As this apparently happened in the pavilion tunnel and outside the purview of the television camera’s, there is a lot of conjecture and speculation happening on the facts and figures. ICC has been called in and a panel will be sitting to investigate the matter through an official enquiry. This is where the facts end, as of today.

Now comes the reaction from the media, ex-players from both the countries impacted here. I have studied the reactions and found out that the reporting in the Indian media has been limited to reporting the incident. That’s all – no hanging of any culprit has taken place, no allegations of sure foul play has been alleged, no abusive or aggressive stand taken by any ex-cricketer of India.

What’s has been the reaction of the British media? Well, at least the main newspapers have reported the incident, but some indications of “cry baby” India has been there in some of the newspapers. But the interesting thing is the view from the English ex-players. Many of them have already drawn the conclusion that lies have been told by the Indian team and all these are absolutely rubbish, etc etc.

I really wonder what drives this behaviour. Just because India is a country where unfortunately corruption is quite rampant allows people to believe that most of the Indian players will lie, make false allegations given a chance? Or is it that as has been true for last centuries earlier, English opinion is always correct and third world countries do not have the right to even voice their opinion?

I remember when England lost a test series vs India in England years back, one Chetan Sharma played havoc and was alone responsible to bring victories for India. Reactions from the English team? Chetan Sharma must have chucked the ball as otherwise how come India can win a test! When Flintoff took off his shirt in Wankhade stadium after defeating India, that was celebration of the aggressor; when Ganguly did the same on top of Lords balcony, that was a shame to cricket!

Come on! Grow up… The days of colonial rule are over and now the once-timid countries will stand up and give the same medicine, with more dosage than before. Whether some people like it or not, the world is changing; the equations are changing and soon it may happen that people will listen to some music that they never dreamt to be heard!

Till the matches end, let Indian team give fire back to fire; let them treat opponents in the same manner as they have been treated. Obviously we should play in the spirit of the game, but if the spirit vanishes from the opponents, we should be tough, aggressive yet showing a dignity that the opponents will find hard to digest!

We want a mature, patient, civilised world …. not to be ‘trigger-happy’

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We live in a so-called civilised world driven by the power of law, which has been formed by thoughtful groups and lots of common sense. One definition of ‘civilised’ means to have a high state of culture and development bound by basic virtues. We have found lots of ‘unions’ which gives us a platform to resolve issues at the highest levels, in case disputes are hard to solve at lower levels. We have vowed for following the rules, the ‘unions’, the ‘bodies’ we have formed across the world.
We call ourselves ‘mature’ – which has an inherent meaning of looking at a broader picture, taking lessons learnt into account  and then take decision based on facts, based on debates and consult these ‘unions’ & ‘bodies’ to come up to a decision that will be respected by all. When decisions are taken, it is normal that all parties who participated in the decision-making debates may not come to a unanimous consensus – but when a majority decision is taken, even the parties who had been advocating for the reverse, respects that. These all come under ‘maturity’.

We call ourselves ‘patient’ and that is linked to ‘maturity’. By patience, we imply that a decision will be taken by weighing different options, by hearing all sides of the story and then coming to a meaningful conclusion which we believe has been taken after much deliberation and to the best of our efforts. For that, respecting other’s opinions, understanding the context and the implications of the decision is key.

However, still why do we have the most ‘powerful’ and most ‘matured’ persons takes huge decisions in a trigger-happy manner without even deliberating with a broader forum ? Maybe that is the correct decision – but why do we have to behave like a ‘know-it-all’ person without any ‘patience’ and declare that the rest of the ‘unions’ and ‘bodies’ are of practical no-use, simply because we fear that those ‘unions’ & ‘bodies’ may come up with more logical & mature thinking that may result in a different decision ?

I hope we all can really behave as a civilised, mature and patient way resulting in uniting the world to collectively take a decision (and not just by myself) that will benefit in the long run ….

Definitely, I am an animal !

It is said that human beings after all are animals and hence possess qualities that are called commonly as “animal instincts”. However, one of the reason why these animal instincts are not displayed very often in public space is because human brains have an extra ‘layer’ of sanity, education, sense of ‘good vs bad’. But when circumstances push and push human beings to the limit of sanity, the strength of these animal instincts become so forceful that it overcomes all other senses and is then displayed in bouts of madness, extreme behaviour that defies common sense and understanding.

Therefore, whenever we see such incidents, we feel that is the limit of humanity and then we are on that grey corridor of uncertainty between an animal and a human being. This limit varies between person to person and probably gets dictated by the cumulated mental state of mind the individual has been for some months or years. Otherwise, how will you justify that in situations of mob violence, many ‘sane’ persons tend to lose themselves for that fraction of a second and actively participate in the act of insanity. Some gets triggered by the sense of frustration on the system and breaks down into a bout of extreme violence only for a couple of minutes. After that, you will very often find that person not only normal but also regretful with his insanity accompanied by self questioning of “how could I do that ?”

But today’s topic is not animal instinct – rather on the fact whether we ‘sane’ animals love to see acts of ‘animal instincts’ in play when human beings disintegrate amidst strong and pushy atmosphere ? If there are certain players doing this and we see a live (or rather edited) display of the mental disintegration on television, do we love to see that ?

I believe so ! Because that’s what reality shows like Big Boss (the Indian version of Big Brother) tends to do. We sit on a sofa, drinking tea, waiting for some explosive scenes to happen within a group of diversified individuals being mentally pushed to a limit. And if one episode ends without any quarrel or any clashes, we feel ‘bored’ and switch off the television. Basically, in the name of a contest, we human beings love to watch animal instincts being displayed by human beings, who in normal life are known to be well-behaved and dignified.

To trigger the most unpredictable behaviour amongst the people, the producers selects people who have varied upbringing experiences, who are mentally strong (and hence can be brittle as well) and put them in a ‘circus’ arena to bring out their ‘animal instincts’. We, the common people, sit around to see the circus and applaud loudly if someone screams or threatens to hit out others in scenes of extreme stress.

We sometimes are not so much interested to speculate on who will win this years contest, but we are definitely well-informed through the ‘trailers’ whether tomorrow’s episode has a quota of violent behaviour and hence, we make ‘time’ to watch the episode at any cost, in spite of tolerating the break in continuity through the numerous advertisements.

Definitely, I am an animal … are you ?

 

Of dictators and oppression ….

Very recently one of the leading newspapers screamed in its headlines “The Last Dictator is dead” and rightfully so as the world celebrated the death of Gaddafi amongst a turmoil burning in the streets of Libya. These incidents are often described as the win of the good over the evil and hence supported by most sane people over the world. I also fall amongst the same category – but this incident forced me to think a little beyond the apparent dictatorship and the oppression of the common people, who look for a decent and happy life with his / her loved ones.

Whenever we think of oppression, the obvious picture that haunts us a ruthless dictator stealing away fundamental rights, freedom and stalls the voice of dissent or difference in opinion with a strong hand, resulting in deaths without trials and extreme violation of basic human rights. However, if the same or similar incidents happen with a democratically elected body or a country’s government or even a philosophy followed by thousands, do we react in the similar manner ? Is it that actions against oppression happens only when we have certain individuals implementing those acts and not when groups or governments do the same ? Is it that military action is successfully carried out when the world tries to remove dictators like Hitler, Saddam Hussain, Gaddafi, but the same world remains not to carry out aggression against groups or governments carrying out similar acts ?

Let me ask some questions that come across my mind and leave to you to define whether this is oppression :

  • When freedom of speech is stopped by a certain sect of political philosophy and currently ruling big nations in the world, is this not oppression ?
  • When certain policies of democratically elected governments take away the daily livings of common people without much options given to them, is this not oppression ?
  • When certain foreign policies of powerful countries goes “all out” against some weak but strategical nations rich with natural resources, is this not oppression ?
  • When certain corporations neglect safety measures that lead to disasters which are termed as “accidents” resulting in death of hundreds of innocent people, is this not oppression ?
  • When corporate greed leads to unethical practices resulting in crisis across the world resulting in erosion of hard-earned money of commoners leading simple lives, is this not oppression ?
  • When deadly weapons of mass destruction are invented and stored by any country for the purpose of saying “just listen to me or you might be in trouble”, is this not oppression ?

The questions are too many and my mind says that the answer is quite simple and obvious.

If this is so, then where are the world forums and others going “all out” to finish off these kind of oppression ? Where are the tough talks from various leaders threatening of more actions including military actions to eliminate these elements ? Haven’t seen much so far and I doubt whether I will have the privilege of witnessing in my lifetime …

Last question before I end – why is that we don’t see ‘actions’ to eliminate these kinds of oppression ? Why is that we see only selective ‘actions’ when the evil is removed for the sake of the good ? Is it that behind these actions (and lack of actions), there are bigger motives of self-prosperity and economic dominance from the powers of the world ?

Well, nobody answers these questions and frankly speaking, I do not expect any explanations – while the world will wake up after few months or years to find many more dictators and eliminate them all for the good of the people ….

The case of the missing pace

This is the real case of the missing pace – a very common phenomenon in India. I am not sure whether the BCCI have filed a FIR at the police station; but going by so many of these cases in recent years in Indian cricket, it is high time a FIR is filed immediately or a JPC is set up to investigate why this phenomenon is so self-repeating like corruption in India.

It’s not rocket science nor a brilliant invention that would provoke an ‘Eureka’ that in cricket (whether the classical test cricket or the shortened version of one-day cricket or the ‘tamasha’ version called T20) that every cricketing nation would love to have certain quality pace bowlers in her armoury – a set of pace bowlers who justify the word ‘pace’ in all respects. This is because a genuine pace bowler can be a match-winner and can potentially ‘destroy’ not only the batting of a team, but also the mental strength that the team has. His impact is huge – both literally and psychologically.

The very sight of a ‘real’ pace bowler is a true poetry : his running down his run-up, gathering momentum while glaring at the batsman on the other end, the final leap with his hands as high up as possible, the shifting of the momentum to his shoulders, the grump accompanied by the fast movement of the arms downwards, the shifting of the center of gravity as the body is hurled towards the ground, the lightning fast passage of the ball like a bullet and then the final recovery of the bowler to restore balance and destroy the huge energy generated by his bold steps in his follow-through, occasional glare at the batsman after he manages to evade the 145 km / hour ball kissing the sweat generated in his wavering nose …. Aggression at it’s best and that is what we all look for from each pace bowlers.

People of my generation had been accustomed to see Dennis Lillee, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall followed by Imran Khan, Ian Botham, Bob Willis, Curtley Ambrose ; then followed by Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram, Alan Donald and finally to the recent generation of Shoaib Akhtar, Brett Lee, etc. Everytime, we used to think – if we had even one of these qualities, then who can stop us from winning matches ? What did we get from our own system ? Except for Kapil Dev (that too, he did not have that genuine pace as compared to others), we always craved for more – and our answers were limited to Manoj Prabhakar, Chetan Sharma, Jawagal Srinath ! What a contrast !

However, it’s not that we did not hear of pace bowlers in the truest sense whenever somebody made a debut. When I was very young, I heard from my uncles that there was a great pace bowler named Barun Barman who could not make to the team because of one Kapil Dev. Then heard of a bowler bowling at a great pace – Winston Zaidi – who again could not make it big. In recent times, players like Munaf Patel, R P Singh, V R V Singh, Ishant Sharma, Irfan Pathan, Zaheer Khan made their debut who could bowl consistently at 140 km/hr and some of them like Zaheer could bowl swinging yorkers at that pace. We were so much happy when we saw their bowling – when they broke the stumps repeatedly in their first 2 / 3 series.

However, only in India we have the unique case when we have the same young pace bowlers bursting into the international arena and then losing their pace at such a pace that we, the cricket fans, can’t keep pace with ! That’s a mystery nobody has been able to resolve yet. Because all these ‘promising’ bowlers, who started their careers at 140 km/hr pace (with some of them like Ishant Sharma even hitting 150 km/hr) lose their pace within just 1 year of international cricket.

Look at the case of Munaf Patel – his initial pace was huge and we were proud to have answered Brett Lee ! But within one year, his pace dropped considerably and now probably bowls at 120-130 km/hr ! That has provoked Andy Roberts to make a sarcastic comment of “When Munaf Patel came here in 2006, he had some pace. Now he is spinning the ball!” !

Why does this happen only to Indian players – whereas within the same sub-continent, Pakistan and even Sri Lanka has been consistently producing bowlers of that quality ?

  • People blame the docile pitches in India for this debacle – my point is that why will a bowler lose pace just because the pitches do not have any ‘life’ for a pace bowler ? They might not be able to take wickets – but as they come to international cricket by bowling at high pace on the same wickets, then why will they lose pace just after 1 year ?
  • People blame the pace academies that we have – my point is that through the same academies bowlers like Chaminda Vaas can bowl at same pace, then why can’t our bowlers bowl ? And if someone says that the coach named Dennis Lillee cannot teach how to bowl fast, then who can ?
  • People say that bowlers tend to pickup injuries fast (example is Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel) – my point is that is applicable for all bowlers across countries … how many times Brett Lee has picked up injury, how many times Donald has picked up injury ? After injury, I haven’t seen them dropping pace considerably – specially when they are below 30 years.

Frankly speaking, I haven’t found any solid reason behind this concern – except that the bowlers tend to ‘relax’ and ‘enjoy’ once they are selected in the Indian team. To me, it’s more of an attitude problem than anything else ! Maybe the bowlers themselves know best and it is high time they think seriously that this is not a joke that other countries would like to continue saying in the future !

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