Cricket In The Old Madras & Remembering My Dad

On September 20, 2019, we quietly celebrated my father’s 93rd birth anniversary. B. Anantharam Rao, (Ananth to his cricketing friends) or B.A.Rao ( to his colleagues in Burmah Shell and Indian Oil) or BAR or simply BA (to his many Club friends in Madras and Bangalore) was born in 1926 in Udupi in the erstwhile South Canara District of the old Madras Presidency, then under the British Raj. His family moved to the big city of Madras, the capital of the Presidency,  to improve their fortunes sometime in the 1930s. Here, they lived in cricket crazy Triplicane, so close to the old stadium at Chepauk with its famous Wallajah Road End and the Madras Cricket Club end. Continue reading “Cricket In The Old Madras & Remembering My Dad”

An Incredible Cricket World Cup Final

Truly, the finals of the Men’s Cricket World Cup, 2019 played at the hallowed Lord’s two weeks ago was incredible!! England faced New Zealand and the game was far more thrilling than anyone would have imagined. I am not sure if World Cup finals have ever ended as a tie since the Championship started in 1975. I  rather think not.

New Zealand batted first on winning the toss and scored 241 for 8 in their 50 overs. Not a great score, one thought, but a fighting one considering they had successfully defended an even lower score to beat India in the semi-finals. This had brought India’s dreams of winning the World Cup to a crashing halt.

In reply, England looked set to win quite easily. They needed 15 runs from the last over with two wickets in hand. Ben Stokes was batting like a champion. At a crucial juncture, by a stroke of luck, an umpiring error in the eyes of many by Kumar Dharmasena awarded England more runs than they deserved. Then, to everyone’s amazement, England barely managed to tie the game. Both teams had scored 241. The rules provided for the Super Over.

This is where things got crazy for fans all over the world. While millions watched every ball bowled with bated breath, most unexpectedly  the Super Over too ended in a tie. England scored 15/0 and New Zealand 15/1. Much to the displeasure of many, including me, the match and the championship was awarded to England because they had scored more boundaries than New Zealand in the course of the match!! Yes, this may have been in the rules but this rule needs to be changed!

When better run rate is considered for pushing up a team when more than one team has the same number of points, why should boundaries scored be considered, that too with so much at stake?? New Zealand, you might recall, had qualified to the semi-finals in the first place because they had a better run rate than Pakistan who had the same number of points.

It was an incredible match but left fans perplexed on many counts. I, for one, feel that in the 2019 World Cup finals both the teams should have been declared winners.

Freedom Of Speech

The General Elections are on in India and in the heat of political campaigning, leaders of political parties sometimes get  carried away and say things they ought not to. Yes, we do have the freedom of speech and expression but that does not give an individual an unfettered right to say whatever comes to his mind, more so if it is detrimental to his political opponents .

I am reminded of our lecturer, Mr Clarence Motha who taught us Political Science. He used to tell every batch the same story every year : ” I have the right and freedom to swing my umbrella as I walk,” he would say, ” but that right  and freedom ends where the finely chiseled nose of my young friend here begins!! ”

In the space of the last few weeks, in my view, the Congress President Rahul Gandhi no less, has been guilty of breaking the law with regard to the freedom of speech. He recently implicated the Supreme Court when he suggested that they too supported his political campaign  and endorsed his “Chowkidar Chor Hai” line of attack against Prime Minister Modi. Only a few days ago the highest court of the land was not satisfied with the regret expressed by Mr Gandhi and asked his lawyer to file another affidavit with a proper apology.

If that were not enough, Mr Gandhi in a political rally in Jabalpur, used the expression, “Murder Accused” against Mr  Amit Shah, the President of the Bharatiya Janata Party several times in his speech.  It is no surprise that a defamation suit has been filed against him in an Ahmedabad court as facts indicate that Mr Shah, was acquitted in 2015.

Politicians are guilty of gross exaggeration in their speeches. I was shocked to hear Mr Rahul Gandhi claim that Mahatma Gandhi ( no relation to him whatsoever) had  been in solitary confinement for 15 years during the Freedom Movement. This is untrue. The details of Gandhiji’s imprisonments, first in South Africa and later in India are listed in this comprehensive website about him.  Also, it is widely accepted that unlike the common political prisoner, the British treated Gandhi and Nehru with kid gloves. They were typically kept under arrest in reasonable comfort and not thrown into some dingy cell and made to do hard labour like the convicts depicted in the old Hindi movies.  The Mahatma, for example, was interned in the Aga Khan Palace in Pune in 1942.

In another case, the Savarkar family have filed a case against Mr Rahul Gandhi for casting aspersions on the character of Veer Savarkar, a freedom fighter, while glorifying Gandhi and Nehru.

Mr Gandhi is not the only politician  guilty of this. Mr Arvind Kejriwal, the IIT educated Chief Minister of Delhi was sued in a criminal defamation case for the remarks made by him against the country’s Finance Minister  Mr Arun Jaitley. In that case, he was compelled to render an apology in the Court which was accepted by the complainant.

I believe there has to a salutary punishment for defamation. If the accused is allowed to get away with a written apology, as happened in the case of Delhi Chief Minister following his remarks against Finance Minister Jaitley, what is the deterrent to prevent him from doing such a thing again?

In a recent case, the Punjab and Haryana High Court fined singer and composer Vishal Dadlani and political activist Tehseen Poonawalla, Rs 10 lakhs each for hurting the religious sentiments of a Jain monk Tarunji Sagar through their tweets.

Now, that is a deterrent. I am sure they will be more careful when they tweet next time!

 

Politicisation of the Armed Forces. Does This Letter Do More Damage Than Good?

Earlier this month, a controversy broke out involving the usually apolitical Armed Forces of India. Over 150 veterans including 8 ex-Chiefs wrote to the President of India expressing their concern about the politicisation of the Armed Forces. The letter said, ” We hereby respectfully urge you to take all necessary steps to urgently direct all political parties that they must forthwith desist from using the military, military uniforms or symbols, and any actions by military formations or personnel, for political purposes or to further their political agendas.”

Specific mention was made of political parties taking credit for cross-border strikes. Though the BJP was not mentioned in specific in this regard, there is no doubt that these veterans were objecting to Prime Minister Modi taking credit for the unprecedented air strike on Pakistan-backed Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camps in Balakot in Pakistan. This was in retaliation for the terror attack that killed 40 Indian CRPF personnel at Pulwama in February 2019.

In my view, this letter does more damage than good. It shows that some among the veterans are taking political sides and claiming to speak on behalf of the forces ( serving and retired). General Rodrigues and Air Chief Marshal N C Suri disassociated themselves from this petition, thereby creating more confusion. To counter this, the main signatories tried to prove that these gentlemen had actually agreed to the contents of the letter. In short, washing a lot of unwanted dirty linen in public.

Not everyone supported this move by the veterans. Seasoned defence analyst and strategic affairs expert, Bharat Karnad went so far as to call it  “alarmist nonsense!”.

I see nothing wrong in the Prime Minster taking credit for the Balakot air strike. Did he fly the Mirages that hit the targets as his detractors asked? No, of course not. But neither did Smt Indira Gandhi para drop over Dacca in the ’71 War. Yet, history credits her for being the liberator of the erstwhile East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. These leaders did not, as is painfully obvious, actually take part in the fighting, but they had the political will and courage to take decisions which fashioned these military successes.

Franklin D. Roosevelt  ” FDR”  the legendary three-time President of the United States is widely credited for winning the Second World War for the Allies against the Nazis. He took decisions in 1940 to move the United States from its strong isolationist stand to supporting Britain even before the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese in December 1941. He wasn’t there in the many battles fought by the US troops in the 6 year War. Indeed he was a heroic figure in his wheel chair, being partially disabled.

As regards wearing uniforms, many political leaders have done this in the past, even in Western democracies. Churchill, as the British Prime Minister during the Second World War prided himself on strutting around in military uniforms. No one objected to that, then or later.

The main difference between Prime Minister Modi and his predecessors, Prime Minister Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh was that he showed the political courage to order a cross- border strike using aircraft to bomb terror outfits. Even horrendous events like the Terror attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001 which left 9 people killed or the Terror Attack in Mumbai known as 26/11 in 2008 which left over 170 people dead did not result in any reprisals by the Prime Ministers of that time.

I wish the honourable veterans had shown such alacrity in submitting petitions to the President when Lt Gen Biji Kaul actively politicised the Army before the ’62 debacle splitting the officer corps into pro-Kaul and anti-Kaul;  when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi returned 93,000 Pakistani POWs in ’71 without getting back the 54 Indian POW s (who we are not sure even to this day whether they are dead or alive). Or more recently when Lt Kalia’s body was found mutilated in the Kargil War.

 

 

 

Blog Or Coffee Table Book?

“Time and tide,” as the ancient saying goes, “wait for no man.” Actually, they don’t wait for a woman too but as this saying dates back to 13 th century England, I guess they were far less “politically correct”  than we are today. That all of 45 years have flown past since we graduated from XLRI, the well-known business school, was brought home when friends began talking about a reunion of The Class of ’74.  Where should this be held? All other options discussed were shot down when someone suggested that we meet at the good old campus at Jamshedpur itself. Sure, the campus would not be the one that we experienced in our times but this idea had a strong appeal for the majority of our class. Nostalgia, Walk Along Memory Lane et al came readily to mind.  In any case, our Alma Mater has a wonderful concept of “Homecoming” an annual event to welcome alumni batches from the past. It is common for batches to head there for their 25 th anniversary. We plan to be there (body and mind permitting) for our 45th. Continue reading “Blog Or Coffee Table Book?”

Nehru, China and the Indian General Elections

The dates for the General Elections in India have recently been announced. We will know on May 23, 2019 as to who will form the new Government to rule the world’s largest democracy with a population of over 1.3 billion people, for the next five years. It is natural that there will be a huge spike in political activity. Opponents of the ruling BJP-led National Democratic Alliance will lose no opportunity to take pot shots at the ruling Government and its policies. However, judging from recent comments made by leading people in the Congress party, the quality of debate (if one can call it that) will be in the pits this time around.

Pawan Khera, the Congress Spokesperson said some disgraceful things about Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently in a debate that was televised nationally. He said M-O-D-I was for Masoor Azhar, Osama Bin Laden, Dawood Ibrahim, and the ISI!!!  The Congress which in the last General Elections was reduced to 44 seats in the Lok Sabha seems to have decided that this will be a no holds barred contest. The rank and file are probably taking a cue from Congress President Rahul Gandhi who has been very vocal in his criticism of the Prime Minister.

In the recent past, he accused the Government and the Prime Minister of lying about the Indian Air Force strike against Jaish E Mohammed terror camps deep in Pakistan. He asked for proof, ignoring the fact that details of top-secret strikes like these are never revealed by any country. His accusations left many shocked as the country has to come together to fight terror. They did not go down well with everybody including some in his own party. Binod Sharma, a Congress leader left the party after three decades saying Rahul Gandhi’s approach was all wrong.

Rahul Gandhi has been equally vocal about the Rafale deal, claiming that Prime Minister Modi had gifted Rs 30,000 crores to his crony, the industrialist, Anil Ambani. He has not been able to substantiate any of these charges of virtually calling the Prime Minister a ” chor” or thief.  The reputed columnist Tavleen Singh wrote that to get more credibility for his claims it is about time that Rahul Gandhi produced some evidence of his accusations.

What shocked me more was Rahul Gandhi accusing Narendra Modi of being scared of Xi, the Chinese President. “Weak Modi scared of Xi” he tweeted. Most observers would testify that Modi has shown more sagacity than his predecessors in dealing with different countries of the world including China. The fact that China, which backs Pakistan so strongly, did not object to the Indian strike against terror camps in Pakistan speaks for itself.

The irony was that Rahul Gandhi chose China as the topic to criticize the Prime Minister. The track record of the Congress has been dismal when it comes to China over the decades since India became independent. Rahul’s great grand father Jawaharlal Nehru died in 1964 a broken man following the debacle against the Chinese in 1962. His policies of appeasement and grand standing on the international stage as a great statesman came crashing down when the Chinese humiliated the Indian Army in the 1962 war.  The people of Tibet even decades later feel totally let down by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister. Here’s one example of their feelings captured in this article in the website of the Tibetan Association of Southern California titled, ” Nehru and the China-Tibet Blunder.”

The battle has just begun. I am sure in the coming weeks we will see much mud being flung on both sides. The Indian voter has to judge for himself about the political party he would like to see in power. Would he like to give Prime Minister Modi a second term which will continue the stability of the Government or will he opt to give a combination of parties the opportunity to form a Government despite their differing ideologies?

 

Of Malini & Melanie and Memories of Tiffin

Recently, I completed my second serialized short story, called “Malini Vs. Melanie” covered in four installments. Where do we writers get story ideas from? The answer is from the world around us. “Malini Vs. Melanie” in which, of course, the names and situations are disguised is based on a true story I came across during my days as a Management Consultant. In an organisation in which I did some work a young lady was living a Malini/Melanie kind of life but in somewhat greater degree than in my story. She was living with a colleague at work during the work week as Character A in Location A ( somewhat like Melanie) and would return to her parents home every weekend as Character B in Location B, ( somewhat like Malini) if you get what I mean!!  Continue reading “Of Malini & Melanie and Memories of Tiffin”

Death, Be Not Proud!

When we were in school, I remember studying the famous sonnet, “Death Be Not Proud” by the English poet, John Donne (1572-1631) . I must have been around 13 or 14 then and this poem made a big impact at an impressionable age. The first lines remain etched in my mind though over 50 years have flown by since I first came across them. “Death, be not proud though some have called you Mighty and Dreadful, for thou art not so…” Donne mocks death and says it is not something to be feared as it happens to everyone. He concludes by personifying Death, predicting that one day Death too shall die! ” Death shall be no more. Death, thou shall die.” Continue reading “Death, Be Not Proud!”