Archive for the ‘News and Journalism’ Category

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Heart over head;democracy is dead

May 14, 2008

In the Sunday Hindustan Times of May 11,2008, Vir Sanghvi has written in is article “The American President” that whatever be the merit of Barack Obama, Americans are likely to choose republican John McCain as he fits more into the mould of White Anglo sexan protestant which, historically in the recent past, a majority of American Presidents have tended to be. Sanghvi is so sure of this assertion that in his own words he is willing to put his money where his mouth is.

I had read somewhere that Democracy has meaning only in a literate society and in the same vein, American and British democracies were more vibrant. There is some merit in this as we have evidenced how in Bihar Lalloo Yadav ruled Bihar by person and proxy over a period of 15 years without commensurate merit. One can imagine poor, illiterate people casting their vote parochially in favor of their caste or religion without giving a damn to merit but if educated people also allow themselves to follow heart over head, one wonders what is in store in the long run?

Apart from Americans, the emotional element is very much evident in British society where monarchy persists though in this day and age, it is clearly our of vogue. Though South Indians are perceived to be down to earth, it is not too tough for a filmstar to become a prominent politician without any commensurate merit. Heart predominates also because the head does not decide the merit parameters of politicians.

In his Article “to woo UP, Rahul should tie the Dalit knot” of 5/5/2008 , journalist Jug Suraiya says “The proclaimed Yuvraj of the congress party, Rahul should emulate kings and emperors the world over who have used marriage as an instrument with which to forge links with other principalities and powers to help them extend their own domains. “
That’s a new one but may not be a bad idea while the going is good. Had India been a completely literate society, dynasties would never have lasted for four or five generations where American and Russian Presidents cannot stay in power for more than two terms.

It is really strange that people like President Putin of Russia who has given a superb performance in terms of turning around Russia has to think of abdicating power even if technically whereas other politicians can continue without merit on the strength of heart alone. God alone knows when genuine democracy will arise on sheer merit. Democracy seems more dead unless we use more of head.

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New media with/or New Idea

January 16, 2008

Delhi Bloggers and New Media Society had it first meet at a farm in Shivaji Marg on Saturday, 12/1/2008 . I had not heard the word New media before that.

Though new media may be the term for different types of internet enabled communications, the word also brings memories of the recent sledging controversy for which Harbhajan Singh has to face charges for calling Andrew Symonds a monkey. From all accounts, it seems that even if he said that, he must have been provoked by Symonds. Apart from cricket, Australia has been a force to reckon with in Tennis and even hosts one of the four grand slams this time of the year. If sledging were allowed in Tennis, it would create such a funny situation if players were to shout obscenities after every shot or whenever they feel like. In doubles it would be even funnier as the players at the net can really get intense in the exchange of words when they feel like it . It would be even more amusing in sports like wrestling, judo, golf etc. The only reason why the cricketers get away with sledging is that they are not audible; one report even suggested that they deliberately say nasty things when they are away from the stump mikes. If that is correct, another form of “New media” should be introduced; what is to stop the ICC from forcing the players to carry a small microphone(new media) on their person. If that is not embarrassing enough for the players, whoever abuses should be chucked out for ten games straightaway unless we want to permit sledging in the name of “gamesmanship”. This way it can be new society with new media at least on the cricket field. One must appreciate cricket writer Peter Reobock for using the term “ a bunch of wild dogs” for the Australian team and demanding Ricky Ponting’s resignation – that is the gutsy new media of a different kind.

New media also reminds of another issue. Recently, when Amitabh Bachchan’s mother died, both the Times of India and Hindustan Times flashed pictures of a distraught Abhishek and Aishwarya on their front page on the same day. It reminded me of what Mr Bachchan said in an interview some years back” Even if the color of my beard changes, it makes front page news. I don’t know what to do”. In the late seventies and early eighties when Mr Bachchan was the reigning superstar, he replied when asked about the desirability of performing certain roles, “If eight hundred million people want to watch this, what can I do? “ There maybe a point there but I don’t think that the readers of Times of India or Hindustan Times want to know about the personal occasions of filmstars on their front pages. I am sure that represents a tremendous opportunity cost and a tremendous opportunity lost. It would not be out of place to mention here that one journalist even made it to Mr Bachchan’s bedside when he was sick sometime back. Time for introspection, time for new media.

In general, it will be the day when new media follows up on an issue instead of following the policy of “loving them and leaving them” where news stories are concerned. There should be a pending issues section in newspapers where issues for which no solution has been found are continuously displayed. That apart, when any media, whether it is mainstream media or web media, is able to bring about the kind of transparency and accountability in politics that is there in both sports and films ,that would be new media indeed. New media is not just about new technologies but new ideas as well.

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Test Cricket or Hit Wicket ?

October 21, 2007

Yesterday(20/10/2007), 20/20 World Champions India won the solitary 20/20 match against one day World Champions Australia which prompted Skipper M.S.Dhoni to declare with an air of conviction, “This proves that the World Cup victory was no fluke”. Considering that India did practically everything right and dominated throughout the match and that too against Australia, one cannot but agree with the captain.

The world cup and this victory should pave the way for a 20/20 revolution in India. Even before the world cup victory, Indian Media baron Subhash Chandra of Zee Telefilms knew what he was doing when, while introducing his India cricket league, he was focusing only on the 20/20 format. He had probably foreseen the potential and the popularity of these kind of matches which were earlier played only in South Africa and England. Even in a typical one day match, the real fireworks begin only in the last one- one and a half hours in most matches. Why not focus only on that? Management is more about leveraging which implies getting more for less and it is high time that the cricketing authorities woke up to popular demand. In a market economy, that is the ultimate arbiter. It is a good thing that the BCCI has announced the Indian premier league and I hope that it proves a death knell for test matches.

Frankly, after watching the 20/20 world cup, the one day matches appeared to be more like Test matches which test the spectator’s patience more than anything else. The first one day international between India and Australia was washed out after the first innings got over. Had it been a 20/20 match, both the innings could have got over and the spectators could have got their money and time’s worth in the first three and a half hours itself. Even from the vagaries of nature point of view, it is better.

One strange complaint often repeated about cricket that it brings the whole country to a standstill and people don’t work which is also shown in the recent, wonderful movie on cricket, “Iqbal”. If a 20-20 match beings at 6 pm, it can still finish around 10 pm and resolve any such complaints. It would then be like watching a movie which would prove to be a very good alternative form of entertainment apart from taking care of work-life balance.
Much before India started playing 20/20 in the world cup, I had suggested in another forum in an article on “Lateral thinking in cricket” that since one-day cricket was far more popular( which is why the current Australia-India test series has no test), there could be a best of five or best of three one day matches at each playing centre instead of test matches. Now I feel that only 20/20 should reign. It may seem now but one can even have two matches in one day which would be so much better than boring test matches which tend to put people off to sleep. It is quality and not quantity that matters.

Though cricketers are of the view that Test match is the real cricket, the contest between the bat and the ball, the contest of both mind and body, I have always believed that one day cricket is another type of test. In test cricket, stamina and endurance are tested but here temperament, quick thinking and pure stroke play is tested, which, like alacrity in fielding, may not be every cricketer’s cup of tea. In one interview, Dhoni admitted that 20/20 drains both the mind and the body because of its intensity. It is like an exam where one has to finish the paper within a given timeframe and therefore cricketers have to be on their toes all the time.

Only genuinely good cricketers can do well in both forms of the game- Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar have scored 34 and 37 centuries respectively in Test cricket but in one day cricket, Gavaskar has only one century against Tendulkar’s 40 centuries. The difference in class is obvious. Even considering the fact that Gavaskar played only 108 one day matches, considering his stature, he should have scored at least 10 in one dayers. That apart, since he is an opening batsman, there is no excuse for not performing well in the one dayers which to my mind is equally real cricket on different parameters and considering the fact that the world cup is played in one dayers and now 20/20. What is real can change with the times and preferences of people..

Since I grew up on Gavaskar, I was a great fan of his but in the context of instant cricket, one can only say that while one can appreciate his phenomenal powers of concentration or the Wall Rarhul Dravid’s longevity on the wicket, would one want to spend one’s time and money to see all that? Tennis star Martina Navratilova had once said in the context of concentrating “ I just concentrate on concentrating” and that is what happens in a test match which is more like an art movie and one has to have good concentration to appreciate Gavaskar’s concentration. On the other hand, in a 20/20 match, concentration is spontaneous and is there straight from the word go when one is assured of Dhoni or Yuvraj’s blitzkrieg by one cricketer or another While comparing, former captain Kapil Dev correctly pointed out “Who would want to see a one day match when one can get more from three and a half hours than what one gets in eight?”.

I would extend the same philosophy to test matches which are no match for 20/20 where return on time and money is concerned. I read in an article that one of the persons instrumental in starting test cricket was a man of wealth who did not have to work for a living. No wonder they are so long. Contrast that with today’s world where even a genuine connoisseur of the game cannot sit through the whole test match unless he is retired. Consider the opportunity cost. If there is even a best of three 20/20 matches at each centre, it will not only ensure more cash collections for the BCCI, but ensure adequate return on time and money for the spectators. If it rains, the rest days in between can be utilized to fill up the gap rather than watching boring test matches being washed out which can be even more irritating. Considering their disadvantages, they are bound to die a natural death anyway.

I read somewhere that since around 60 countries play hockey and around 160 play chess(recently Vishwanathan Anand also became world champion), as only 20 countries play cricket, being world champions in cricket is not that great an achievement. While I do not entirely agree with that, I do feel that the 20/20 format because of the time element and excitement is more suited to getting other countries interested in cricket and who knows, in the era of globalization, cricket may prove to be a prime example. Who better to promote all that than India, current champions and a nation where cricket is passionately followed. Even from an international perspective, it is better.

One can always have one test match instead of three to satisfy the puritans just the way there is a critics award and a popular award. As for job satisfaction of the cricketers, 20/20 could be made tougher to make it commensurate with a test match. Some cricketers even say that if one has a good technique, one can do well in any form of the game. If true, they should not crib about 20/20. The most ridiculous argument that I have heard against 20/20 is that sixes will lose their novelty if they are hit so frequently. I don’t think that “familiarity breeds contempt” applies here’ Yuvraj hitting six sixes in an over is a case in point. Sixes have improved in degree(they are really huge now) and frequency and one can never have enough of them. The cricketers can be encouraged to play with technique and could be given special recognition so that both them and the “cricket buffs” among the spectators are satisfied. It could be a win-win situation for all.

Another criticism leveled against 20/20 is that it is too much against tradition; it is too unorthodox. In my view, that is what makes it appealing and successful and coincidentally happens to be the reason behind Reliance’s phenomenal corporate success- ‘Being unconventional is the biggest convention in Reliance.'(For those interested in details, my published article- Thinking out of the box). It would not be out of place to mention here that there used to be a Bollywood movie in the late seventies called “Khubsoorat” which had actress Rekha singing a song “Saare Niyam tod do(Break all the rules), Niyam pe Chalna Chod do( Forget convention)”. That is what 20/20 represents and that is what makes it new and appealing(lkhubsoorat)

There are some people who will argue just for the sake of argument but the fact remains that continuing to play more tests when the same time could be used for 20/20 is a huge opportunity cost and opportunity lost especially when we are proving to be so good at it. Test matches should played the way art films are made- more an exception than the rule. Now, it seems that the one day matches strike the right balance.

Former England Captain Nasir Hussain had said before we won the world cup “Cricket being so popular in India, with millions playing gully cricket, India is bound to do well in 20/20 ”. Every person plays to his strengths. So should every nation, especially one in which Cricket is deemed a religion and which has a spiritual legacy. Spirituality implies impermanence and non-attachment which now needs to be practiced with Test cricket. Not doing so would be like shooting oneself in the foot or in cricketing parlance, getting out hit wicket, a situation which does not augur well for Wold Champions. Arriving can prove tougher than striving and we should try and sustain our success instead of it being a one time “flash in the pan” affair. We ned to focus where we excel and towards test matches, we must adopt the attitude of “chuck(leave)de, India”

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Who watches the watchdog?

September 7, 2007

Today it came in the papers how Sachin Tendulkar had to repeatedly clarify that he was not contemplating retirement because of the controversy sparked by his one statement ,” At 34, it is difficult to recover after a one day match” . The report said that how some Marathi newspaper stated he was contemplating requirement and then how he, the manager Rajiv Shukla and Rahul Dravid described the report as completely false. What a waste of energy!. About a couple of months ago, it happened with Saurav Ganguly. I don’t remember what the issue was but in the end Mr Ganguly was telling the journos ,”I can understand that there is tremendous competition in the media but at least you should have checked with me. I was just a phone call away”

In recent times, the Jessica lall case is one case where one can really be proud of the media. One wonders why it has to resort to all this. I was in Rajkot about a month and a half back where I asked a very reliable source about the case of Pooja Chauhan who had roamed the streets of that town half clad to protest against dowry. While there is some element of truth in the story, we learnt that someone from the media encouraged her to do that. That’s being really proactive.

When I read Hindustan times editor MR Vir Sanghvi’s lucid articles and a lot that is written in newspapers and magazines, one really wonders whether the so called communication revolution can bring about a change for the common man or is it all a sham or intellectual fun.? There were so many articles about the common people favoring Abdul Kalam continuing as President and even the fact that had there been a direct contest, Mr Kalam would have won hands down. Yet, the elected representatives were able to thwart democracy or the voice of the people. How is then, the common man any better off than his ancestors with all the communication hullabaloo ? Even Internationally, Mr Bush went ahead with the Iraq war with practically the whole world against him.

Now, the Times of India has started a leadership lead India campaign. They are encouraging young people who “have it in them” to apply. One of the surveys says that a majority of people believe in honesty as a trait. That is obvious but if I shout from the rooftops how I honest I am, after the way Satyameva Jayate failed, is it going to make a difference?. How does one monitor honesty while the person is in office. Going by the old saying “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely” and the fact that the future is not always an extension of the present, how can one ensure that somebody continues to be honest. How does one judge the honesty and competence of politicians ?.

Instead of running after Sachin and Saurav, the media should also report why the board President is not appointing a CEO to run cricket affairs as promised. It is strange that Sachin is accountable to Mr Pawar and the nation for a poor world cup performance but nobody bothers about how the board or its President performs. That is why we have only symbolic presidents (Pratibha means talent in Hindi) instead of performing Presidents( Mr Abdul Kalam)

A day after(8/9/2007) writing this post, it came in the papers that the sting operation on Delhi govt school teacher Uma Khurana maybe a fraud. This only vindicates what is written in the post above. Then during the last one day international between India and England, Sachin Tendulkar was again given out when he did not seem to be so. What is use of technology and the third umpire then? That is also kind of media and one is not proactive when one supposed to be.

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Stop harrasing Hussain, it is high time; Artists should be prudent whether they paint or rhyme.

August 3, 2007

This is in reference to Mr Shashi Tharoor’s article “It’s time to stop harassing M F Hussain” in the Sunday times of India on 29/7/2007. I think this is his third article on the subject where he keeps defending Mr Hussain’s independent right as an artist to keep portraying Hindu gods and goddesses in a naked form. Recently, we also had some controversy where some artist from a design college in Gujarat was also condemned for the same reason in sculpting.
Sometime ago, Mr Vir Sanghvi, the editor of Hindustan times had expressed the view that freedom of expression was all very well but it entailed a sense of responsibility. One may express himself artistically on touchy issues but did it have to be there for public consumption?

I can’t help but agree more with Mr Sanghvi. The first prime minister of India, Mr Jawaharlal Nehru had expressed his displeasure on religion because of the kind of violence that had taken place in the past in the name or organized religions and the fact that it was contrary to what they preached. When there are so many things to choose from, why choose something that is bound to arouse controversy unless it was started with some ulterior motive in mind. From a practical perspective, it is deemed that no publicity is bad publicity.

Though not much of a poet, I started my poetic career in making silly limericks on issues and things. Then I gradually graduated to poetry on other people’s wives apart from my own ( one has to lose the battle to win the war.). Just as bunking school which was more stringent gave more thrill than bunking college, writing poems on forbidden fruit was more challenging This is an example of my “artistic expression”:-

When your husband goes abroad

I happen to be quite good at spur of the moment Hindi limericks. Needless to mention, initially the ladies were delighted and my thrill knew no bounds on receiving handsome compliments. However, for all their spontaneous responses, I never got a request for an encore after the first two or three narrations. For a while I was perplexed but it soon dawned on me that sooner or later, the husbands( hasna band) were bound to intervene. I could understand their plight because for all practical purposes, I was one myself. All good things have to come to an end and my poetic initiative could not but have a premature end

Mr Tharoor, in his previous articles had expounded on the virtues of what is called “reasoned argument” but one only needs vested interest and a good imagination to circumvent that. In my case :-

1) My friends knew that most of my poetry on their wives was frivolous and there was not anything remotely romantic in them.

2) My friends also knew that I wrote “serious serious” articles on intellectual matters in spiritual/ intellectual/ HRD magazines and was therefore “safe”.

3) Dale Carnegie had mentioned once how one’s spouse and one’s occupation were the two most important decisions of one’s life. Since I have already written almost 15, articles on the latter( links on my blog – http://mypyp.wordpress.com/ ) and practically nothing on the former( I am glad my wife has not read Dale Carnegie), one can assume that for me, spouse/spouses were on the backburner.

4) One Punjabi gentlemen had once asked me “ Do you Gujarati men address your wives also as “ben”. I refuted that strongly and after spouting a spur of the moment limerick on his wife told him “ We may not call them “ben” but this is just to show you how can we can address the real ben(other people’s wives) if we choose to. Then, I resolved to improve this absurd “ben” image of Gujaratis and set out to narrate poetry on other people’s wives with a vengeance.

5) By a process of serendipity, I discovered that my silly rhyming was acceptable when, once in a blue moon, I managed to write somewhat “classy” poems on spirituality, cricket etc accepted by some reputed
websites. One sample:-

The legacy of September 11,2001

Since practicing rhyming on the ladies had led to all this “achievement”, I could argue that it was all for a noble cause.

6)It is said that “God punishes the intention, not the action”. Apart from the above, I give vent to my artistic expression on all sorts of subjects- from the ball boys on the Tennis court to the delicious cooking. I may make poetry on someone who I may not attractive enough but whose name rhymes well and vice versa.It is not difficult to prove that it is the love of poetry or more specifically, the delight of rhyming and as long as the motives are noble, nobody has any business getting perturbed.

In my view, not even a lawyer can refute these “reasoned arguments” though they sound more like the devil quoting the scriptures for his purpose.. The fact remains that no matter how “civilized” we get, in our heart of hearts “A human being is still a creature of emotion, not logic”; The ladies expression of spontaneous delight did me in because sooner or later, the husband’s ego was bound to be hurt. One of them did try to give me a dose on my own medicine and would have succeeded but for the fact that god did not deem it fit to confer the art of even lousy poetry on every Tom, Dick and Harry.

Being a writer, Mr Tharoor would do well to heed Mahatma Gandhi’s words, “

“A writer almost always presents one aspect of a case, whereas every case can be seen from no less than seven points of view, all of which are probably correct by themselves, but not correct at the same time and in the same circumstances. “ Though this is written in the context of motives of people who write books, it is generally true as well. Talking in the context of looking at a thing from a different standpoint in different circumstances, Gandhiji adds “All my life though, the very insistence on truth has taught me to appreciate the beauty of compromise.”. He even described this spirit as an essential part of Satyagraha.

The liberals can go on arguing in the name of freedom of expression but the fact remains that when one can move on to greener pastures(women, children, nature), why restrict oneself to touchy issues? In a country of a billion people, there are plenty of anonymous Greek gods and goddesses who could do with some limelight. Just as Mr Hussain had an obsession with Madhuri Dixit once upon a time, he would probably get more money and job satisfaction on revealing unknown talent. The twenty first century is as it is expected to be stress prone and there is no point in being provocative on sensitive issues. If you put your hand on top of a candle, won’t you get burnt?

Mr Tharoor is bang on target on one issue though. He says towards the end of the article that in his old age, Hussain is forced to live in exile and not allowed to return to the land of his birth because of the threats to his life. For a religion that prides itself on tolerance, this is despicable. He is not a naughty young poet after all.

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Being wrongly critical of the Shilpa-Gere kiss, what all critical issues we tend to miss?

May 1, 2007

A lot has been written about Richard Gere’s peck on Shilpa Shetty’s cheek. Prominent journalista have cautioned against the excesses of the moral police brigade; one journalist even went on to suggest that propriety would also depend upon the kind of kiss and no big problem with a harmless peck. Advertisement Guru Prahlad Kakkar said that what the magistrate said was not the voice of the majority. When the magistrate passed orders against Gere, prominent lawyers spoke of it as a cheap publicity stunt. Very true. Shilpa had herself said that the episode had been blown out of proportion and in pursuing the matter like this, India would make itself the laughing stock of the world. It came on TV and the papers that Gere had apologized for “offending” Indians. That is really the height of things- Richared Gere is a “rich” in charm and I am sure from him nobody would mind hugs, kisses Vagere Vagere(etc, etc)

One wonders why the moral police or even the mainstream media for that matter stand up for issues that really matter and show the kind of reaction that was witnessed when Shilpa was insulted on the Big Brother Television Show. Consider some issues:-

1) After the debacle in the World Cup, the cricket board imposed a strange penalty on the players that they could do only a certain number of commercials in a particular year. Nowhere in the world can such a penalty be imposed on sportspeople. It is not the board’s business(prerogative) to determine what the players are doing in their free time and as some former cricketers pointed out, if they are not performing, just drop them. Did it not do a world of good to Ganguly ? If one has to monitor them, one can make sure that they practice regularly but that too would be ridiculous. The autobiographies of former cricketers Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar reveal how the board tries to manipulate captains and players to its advantage so that no one player becomes too powerful. This too is a stupid ploy in trying to be an autocratic boss in such a transparent sport. It is fundamentally wrong and deserves to be condemned strongly.

2) Talking of Cricket, in the Sunday times that former Australian Captain Steve Waugh(he was in India recently) and former Indian Captain Kapil Dev had criticized the way the cricket match telecast was impeded by the influx of advertisements on Television. Thank god some celebrity spoke up because one always felt that the way the ads were inserted when some interesting/critical moment was to be shown, it was like putting the cart before the horse. Waugh has rightly commented that it is Advertisements that are supposed to promote cricket and not the other way around.. He said that vital comments are missing and the Telecast is plain “Unwatchable”. Kapil’s words are more revealing “Critical moments are lost to Shampoo Ads. At least for the finals, the sponsors will not mind making a little less money so that we can see the whole thing”. Since the sponsors pay the board and this is a perpetual issue, how come nobody speaks against this? Is the board prepared to lose money for something obviously wrong.?

3) There has been a lot of discussion in the news lately about the autonomy for IIMs and how the reservation issue was getting out of hand. Thank god the supreme court intervened because reservations are plain and simply wrong. Meritorious students cannot be made to pay the prize of populist politicians not having the foresight to create more educational institutions. A more practical solution would be online education. Not only this but all vote bank politics should be stalled by the media or the judiciary. Politician bashing has become a full time hobby but there is not enough action to curb their activities strongly. In the UP elections, populist politics is in full swing. Why does not anybody speak about this- is that morally right?

4) There are several mainstream media magazines reporting on how Rahul Gandhi is bracing for the UP battle for better things ahead and some still speculate on who among the Gandhi siblings “Priyanka/ Rahul), who would be better to lead a hundred year old party. All this dynastic politics business is mainly because a significant chunk of the Indian population is still illiterate and is swayed by the Gandhi name. That one can understand but why does the mainstream media has to go overboard in giving them coverage unless it is on true merit. The former editor of Economic Times Swaminathan. S. Venkata Iyer while acknowledging the fact that dynastic politics was rampant, dismissed Rahul Gandhi’s claims of Gandhis acting decisively. The facts that he gives about Nehru’s Vascillation on Kashmir, Rajiv Ganhi’s stand etc on Sri Lanka clearly show that the decisiveness was restricted to the Bangladesh war. The mainstream media should take a cue from Mr Aiyer.There should be some mechanism of detecting and promoting political talent instead of blindly following political families. Could Rohan Gavaskar succeed Sunil Gavaskar?- is sports more significant than politics. How come nobody talks of these issues? Is it because politicians are powerful?

5) Talking of political talent, Hindustan times editor Vir Sanghvi, in his Sunday column has written how we are obsessed with old age where politicians are concerned whereas people the world over look for Dynamism and youth. That is true to some extent though like in cricket teams, there has to be a blend of youth and experience. Why does not the moral police take up such issues- development , needs of society, etc. Once the elected representatives are elected, nobody knows what they do for their constituency for five long years. Why can’t they have immediate accountability for politicians the way they have for cricketers. It is ironical that a politician is heading a cricket board and has penalized the cricketers strongly for not performing in the world cup. Is performance in a sport more important than governing the country.? Why not a similar rule for them? Why doesen’t any moral police outfit discuss issues of develpment, progress, education, infrastructure etc instead of taking up frivolous issues

6) In the corporate world, I have failed to understand one thing. The world over, there is a credit rating system where each individual has a credit history which can be bought for a few dollars. This ensures that nobody fools around with his credit . In India, small companies are always scared of big company not paying their dues and sometimes are scared of even expanding their businesses. This is in direct variance to all this talk about economic progress and making India a so- called “superpower:”. Why doesn’t the moral police or the media take up this issue.

( A day after this post was written, it came in the papers that 400 VIPs owe crores for their illegally occupied bunaglows from all political parties. Why does not the moral police take up this- it is not a kiss but a rape of the tax payer. The media will also sleep over it till someone like one former governer of Bihar is kicked out of his bungalow for non-payment)

Actually, the point is that we all wait for Jesica lalls to be killed or Priyadarshini Mattoos to be raped to force the politicians and courts to perform. There must be millions of emotional and mental rapes because of case delays in the courts of India, there are countless cases suffering because of autocratic bosses and other injustices, some cannot help but put up with shoddy customer service(Cust-se-mar- Customer ) vagere, vagere(etc etc.) The moral police of the media should create a ruckus on such issues- the kind of response Shilpa got because of her insult on the “Big Brother” TV show. What is the use of the so called communication revolution otherwise? We all know how Mr Bush flouted the United Nations and against a majority of world opinon, went on to wage a totally farcical war in Iraq. Why doesn’t the moral police and the media take up such issues?- how are we any different from our ancestors if we cannot use the communication tools to our advantage to prevent an injustice as what happened in the Jesica lall case?. Why should such episodes be sporadically restricted to major injustice?. The way our courts function, every minor injustice becomes a major injustice anyway.

Then why give so much importance to Mr Gere(he should also be judged overall- his association with Aids and Dalai Lama instead of creating an unnecessary hungama):-

In being obsessed about Mr Gere’s and shilpa’s dance,
What all critical issues we leave to chance
What all we choose to publicly miss
By giving too much importance to to a private kiss.

In a lighter vein, it would do our ladies no harm
For them to be swayed by a man of Gere’s charm
Through prose and poetry, let it be heard
Only a nerd would be averse to such activities of Richard.

( Perhaps I should also add that many are proabably envying him including yours truly)

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Sham Jhoothmalani(?) aur Justiceca Hal(?) (Jessica lall)

November 12, 2006

I would like to say at the outset that whatever is written here is only in the context of Jessica lall’s case. One sparrow does not make a summer and therefore an entire life should not be judged by a single act. I would rather not name the concerned lawyer(CL) here though it is obvious whom I am referring to. Though I have been an admirer of his for the bold stands he has taken at times and his professional skills, in his latest avataar, an ordinary citizen is perhaps better off by not referring to him directly. I am not making a sweeping statement but only talking for this particular issue.

This has reference to articles on this issue written by prominent journalists Vir Sanghvi (Editor of Hindustan Times) and Barkha Dutt( NDTV anchor). While calling the CL a friend and lauding some of his past achievements, both have questioned his stand on the Jessica lall murder case. They have tried to convey that while some his past “Houdini” acts- rescuing people like Kehar singh (accused in Indira Gandhi murder case) and Professor Geelani(accused in the parliament attack case) were admirable extrications, Manu sharma who is the accused in Jessica lall simply does not deserve such a release from perhaps the finest criminal lawyer in the country. Here are the links to the articles:-

Barkha Dutt’s article- Ram and Manusmriti

Vir Sanghvi’s article -Lone ranger in white shoes

Another interesting article is by Namita Bhandare which states that even the CL’s family is unhappy with this decision-

Namita Bhandare-Devil’s advocate

Some views of Mr Vir Sanghvi are worth repeating:-

“Some weeks ago, in context of the Mohammad Afzal case, I wrote, on this page, that ordinary people believe that if a rich and powerful man commits a murder in full public view in the middle of Connaught Place , a smart lawyer shall still get him off- so unfair is our legal system. I did not know then that Ram would actually accept this brief and try and get Manu Sharma, a rich and powerful man accused of committing murder in full public view, off.”

“But my words now seem eerily prescient. Lawyers tell me that Ram is conducting Manu’s defense so “brilliantly” that he may well get him off. He has already found a sex angle and has told us that the real murderer was a Sikh. Perhaps, in a week or so, he will tell us that Manu was not even there and that Jessica was killed by Navjot Singh Sidhu/Rabbi Shergill/Manmohan Singh.(all of them)”

After all these years, saying that a Sikh killed Jessica is almost like saying that Kashmir is in the south and Kanyakumari in the North of India or should we say that the CL works in the film industry and Hema Malini is fighting criminal cases. It cannot even pass off as a sardar joke. The CL claims that he is not taking any fees for this- wonder whether that qualifies as a joke since Mr Sanghvi has also stated that this time the person whom the CL is defending is not somebody who is weak and poor and therefore defenceless.

At another place, Mr Sanghvi has stated that the tag of “smuggler’s lawyer” never harmed the CL despite his having defended an assortment of characters who maybe regarded as “murderers, smugglers, gang bosses and desi Mafiosi”. Ironical- One would be normally be inclined to think that a lawyer was supposed to protect the Rams from the Ravans if not for anything else than for the fact that he happens to be his namesake as also the fact that he happens to be “Maryadapurshottam”

In my lage raho Munnabhai post, I had given Gandhiji’s thoughts on a lawyer’s profession which are worth repeating:-

” As a student, I heard that a lawyer’s profession is a liar’s profession. That did not influence me. I had no intention of earning either position or money by lying.” “I have never resorted to untruth in my profession and since a large part of my legal practice was in the interest of public work, I charged nothing beyond out of the box expenses and that too I met myself”. “The true function of a lawyer is to unite parties driven asunder”.

Gandhiji was practical enough to admit though that “Truthfulness in the practice of a profession cannot cure it of the fundamental defect that vitiates it”

One cannot expect anybody to be as truthful as Gandhi was but does one have to go to the other extreme? Even while writing the Munnabhai post, I knew that Gandhigiri was a passing fad. This was revealed last week when the Times of India had headlines of “Gandhiriri gives way go Goondagiri” when traders went on a rampage in Delhi against the imposition of Ceilings of unauthorised properties. In practical life, things happen more in confirmity with the other movie “Maine Gandhi ko nahin mara” which conveys that Indians remember him more is letter than in spirit and that too during his death and birth anniversaries. From another perspective,while Munna(bhai) was cute, can the same be said of Manu? At least here, should we not follow the apostle of truth, our “father of the nation”?

Coimng back to the professional context, I had mentioned in the post how the so called professionals(in all fields) do exactly the opposite of what they are supposed to be doing which is so well expressed by one of the all time great songs of Hindi Cinema. In this context (CL), if the guardians of law behave like this, what is left for the common man? The song is worth mentioning again here:-

In the BMW case, when a rich man’s son got away scott free after bunping off several people with his car, it was mentioned that the practical situation could be described as “show me the man and I will show you the law”. The way things are happening, law seems to have become like a five-star hotel, only for the rich people. Mr Sanghvi has also mentioned the same case in the article and stated how the “justice was available only to those who can pay for it”.. My fahter-in-law is a non practicing lawyer and a jain who would not even harm a fly. Even he has expressed serious reservations about the law time and again.

One day after writing the post, it has come in the Times of India that in the context of implementing the Ceiling, the Supreme court said “”Those who govern should know how important the rule of law is. If there is no rule of law, there will be nothing left in this country”. This is obviously true not only for this country but all countries but should it also not all apply to all parties and not merely restricted to “Those who govern”. What matters eventually is the motives with which the law is implemented but not law-per se. I recently read on some blog how the domestic violence law could be subverted by women with dubious motives.

Mr Sanghvi has used the expressions “deeply flawed justice system” and “ how little faith people have in our legal system” apart from “unfair legal system” mentioned earlier. The common man is so scared of the delay in justice that the judicial system is seen as a remedy worse than the disease. Considering that Gandhi, Nehru, Patel and Jinnah were alll lawyers, they can be proud of the fact that lawyers had a pivotal role in making India Independent. Isn’t it a strange irony that in Independent India, the ordinary man feels stiffled by the law and is almost under siege by the judicial system? If this situation continues to prevail, people might start taking the law in their own hands the way it was shown in the movie “Rang De Basanti”.

One should focus on the brighter side- the Priyadarshini Mattoo case where there are hopes of justice after the recent verdict in the victim’s favor. There again, the day after the verdict, both the Lall and the katara families(fighting similar cases) while welcoming the judgment said that it was late. They feel the pinch because it is they who are fighting and have to go to the courts on a day to day basis. I am sure that the murderers in those cases too must be thinking of approaching the CL.

These cases have come under the limelight because of media and public pressure but there must be countless others languishing in courts because of delays of various kinds. I can remember annother all time popular song from yesteryear’s super comedy “Chalti ka naam gaadi” “ Oh Mattoo, tera tau hua lekin mera kya hoga?” . In the original song, it is not Mattoo but Manu and if the CL succeeds in the Jessica lall case, we can revert to the original song with a slight variation “ Oh Manu, tera to hua lekin justice ka kya hoga?”

Though both Barkha Dutt and Mr Sanghvi have written very well and the media as a whole has played a very constructive role in these cases(even if for their TRPs), one wonders wether the role of the media is that of a watchdog or a bloodhound? Everytime a prominent case emerges, there is a lot of noise about delay in cases but nobody does any follow up and takes the issue to its logical conclusion- why the delay?, what can be done to expedite justice and what is the latest situation? If everytime a Jesica lall has to happen to arouse the consciousness about delay in cases, all the noise about it whether by the mainstream media or the bloggers is nothing but a lot of intellectual masturbation. Even in the Lall case, why did the media wait for seven years and for the verdict to go against the victims? Why can’t the justice system be made faster as in the other great democracy- the United States.? Even in Tennis and Cricket, the follow through is given its due importance. Practical corporate management is impossible without “follow-up”. Why not get to the root of the problem and effect a lasting change?

Both the Journalists have described the CL as the “lone ranger” against injustice. In reality, it is the common man who is the “lone ranger” against the flawed judicial system. Barkha says “ Much is being made of whether media trials have substituted or, at the very least, weakened the judicial process. I disagree. “ She is absolutely right. In a country where the politicians are perceived as corrupt and the judicial system inefficient, only the media can save the common man’s skin . The common man in this context is more like that famous bespectacled character from R.K.Laxman’s cartoons- looking baffled but genuinely confused and helpless.

As for the CL, since he happens to enjoy the stature(more or less) of cricketer Sachin Tendulkar in his field, it’s worth repeating what Tendulkar said in an interview once “ No matter how big a player is, nobody can be bigger than the game ”. In legal lingo “ Be you ever so high, the law is above you” –here, I am talking from a laywer’s perspective . Purely by coincidence, I happen to be reading “Why pride matters more than money” by Katzenbach. Though I am only half way throgh the book, it seems to be all about sustained motivation in the long run coming from pride in one’s work and profession- it states that though money may entice somebody to join an organization, in the long run, it is only meaningful work and pride in performance in one’s work that motivates an individual towards individual and group excellence . The CL already enjoys an enviable reputation in his field and hopefully, this is only an aberration. Barkha has mentioned in her article that the CL does not have to do all this for money anymore and behave like a typical professional(all maynot be like that) which reminded me of an artilce I had written some years ago- Is money the god and profession the religion ? .

Mr Sanghvi has concluded the article by stating that the next time the CL claims to use his legal prowess for the national good to help the weak and powerless, all of India will laugh in his face. One should hope that it does not come to that. There are many of the view that as it is, we already have plenty of entertainment from some politicians.

It would also not be out of place to mention here that some artists have spent a lifetime of poverty despite being very good in their respective fields- Hindi novelist Premchand and Hockey wizard Dhyanchand among them. Others like the famous painter Vincent Vangoh and Shakespeare became posthumously famous. Therefore, Professional prominence should never be taken for granted. People in the wrong profession have described it as “Spiritual suicide” and “lifetime imprisonment”. Therefore, one should have the highest reverence for one’s profession as it sustains both emotionally and financially for a majority of waking hours.

{ Nobody is disputing anybody’s right to hire a lawyer or any lawyer’s right to take up a case. This is just an expression of concern(which I think the journalists too are doing) if a smart lawyer is misusing his smartness. It is also an appeal to his conscience)