Saturday, September 19, 2009

Ill prepared for Commonwealth Games. So, what's new?

So with just over an year to go for the commonwealth games, Indian authorities finally wake up to the realities.
That we are ill-prepared. That the work for the stadiums etc. is going on (IF it is going on at all, that is) at a snail's pace and won't probably be completed in time.
Why did it take them so long to learn this lesson? That we Indians are ill-prepared, more often that not?
We were ill-prepared to counter 8 men who could simply land up on our shores, walk openly on our streets into our buildings and spray bullets randomly.
We were ill-prepared when hijackers could take control of our aircraft, land in Amritsar, take off again, land in Lahore, get refuelled, land in Dubai, take off again, and land in Kandahar.
We were ill-prepared when an aircraft could simply fly over our skies and drop arms in Purulia.
We were ill-prepared when hoodlums blinded with hatred could butcher thousands of Sikhs in Delhi in 1984.
We were ill-prepared when 13 bombs went off one after the other in our economic capital.
We were ill prepared when 7 bombs ripped apart our suburban trains.
We were ill-prepared when people could drive into our Paliament complex armed with automatic rifles.
More recently, we were ill prepared when a Chief Minister could coolly build a monument (of herself!!!) over ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY ACRES OF LAND IN THE MIDDLE OF ONE OF OUR STATE'S CAPITAL.

So, dear authorities, why are you so surprised? We have been ill prepared always. Even to counter our own internal detractors, leave alone outside forces. So why are you surprised, really?
OK, forget all these 'serious' matters. You are into sports, right? So let's consider that only.
Not too long ago, in 2009 in fact, your own Mr. Suresh Kalmadi did this very trick in Pune. With the Commonwealth Youth Games. The city of Pune needed better infrastructure, not the Games. We gullible residents of Pune beleived that development of roads etc. with the Games would eventually lead to the better infrastructure that we so badly needed.
The Games came. The roads were not ready. In fact, the planned Games village was also not ready. Shooters were practicing two days before the Ganes with construction workers still walking around the site in a frantic bid to complete the work.
The Commonwealth Youth Games came and went. And dear Mr. authorities, the road near my house (Paud road. One of the main arterial roads in the city - its unfortunate that it was not the one that led to the stadium!) is STILL being dug and re-dug and re-re-re-dug for THE PAST TWO YEARS !! It is exasperating, to say the least.
And where has Suresh Kalmadi been in all this? Invisible. We only saw him when he came for the blessed Games here.
So, dear authorities, don't worry. The Games in 2010 will happen. Suresh Kalmadi will make them happen. But soon after the Games, the stadium walls will develop cracks, velodromes will crumble, polygrass will come off, but it will make not an iota of difference to Suresh Kalmadi. He will continue to rule.

Cutting costs. At what cost?

The current austerity drive and what not of the Government is all fine, but I am afraid it is not going to work.
It is already not working, in fact.
Can the government do some SERIOUS cost cutting instead? Like doing a rethink about the level of security that is provided to politicians left, right and center? Like seriously disinvesting and privatising some of its dysfunctional PSUs? Like not providing freebies to all and sundry in form of subsidies?
This so called austerity drive by ministers traveling economy class and other nonsense will only serve as a political gimmick. And I suspect that is all it is supposed to do. So in that sense, it is a sparkling success!
Other than the fact whether it works or not, consider its implications otherwise. If all politicians start traveling by train like Rahul Gandhi, imagine the amount of security that will have to be deployed at railway stations and in trains. (Already there is a brouhaha over Rahul's train being pelted with stones.)
It will only create more nuisance for the common man. We already have enough trouble at airports with politicians; why cause the same at railway stations?
So - all you khaadi-clad netajis, please go ahead and do what you have to do. Because anyway I don't think you really run this country. It is run by the government machinery (and please, don't mistake yourself to be THE Government, ok? I mean the people in offices who work. WORK. Do you understand) and by the millions of 'aam aadmi' who work honestly, earn their salaries, pay their taxes, send their children to school, board public transport only after buying legitimate tickets, and follow road rules when driving.
All unlike you, who do nothing of this sort.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Southern mania

More than 60 people have died following YSR Reddy's demise in Andhra Pradesh. Some of these due to shock, others due to suicide. So much that YSR's son had to make an appeal to people to stop taking these drastic steps. One channel in fact reports this number as a shocking 122 people.
I can understand the feeling of sadness following the death of a leader. I felt it myself when Pramod Mahajan passed away. I had never seen him, leave alone knowing or interacting with him. Still.
But suicide? That's a different matter altogether.
What is it with South leaders, that they are able to whip up this frenzied support from masses? Or does it have something to do with South Indians as a whole? Political figures becoming colossal icons in the minds of people is not rare in South. MGR, NTR, Raj Kumar, Jayalalitha, Karunanidhi... the list is endless. Chiranjeevi is the latest addition to this I presume.
Or is it something that is a very Indian trait? But I don't see such frenzy in other Indian states, it is too pronounced in South. I am sorry if I sounding parochial, but there seems to be more to this than meets the eye.
How does culture influence the way we see our leaders? Did something similar happen after the demise of Gandhi, Nehru or Patel? I was not born when that happened. But I clearly remember Indira Gandhi's assassination and its aftermath. I don't recall so many people killing themselves (they killed others, but that's a different story). Now, Indira Gandhi was a national figure, unlike YSR or anyone else mentioned above. There surely were people who grieved her passing away, but not many took the drastic step of ending their own lives.
So instead of it being an Indian trait, is it a Dravidian trait? And if it is, what part has cultural upbringing played in this trait becoming so pronounced? Or is the loud media that plays a part in this sordid drama?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Gastronomic marathon

There are many things for which I consider myself extremely fortunate. There is an equally plausible statement about some other things that make me feel I was born at the wrong time and place but then - I am feeling far too optimistic in life currently to dwell upon that.
One of these things that make me smile from ear to ear (I don't do that literally actually. Some of my friends say that I hardly smile !!!) is the work that I do. Within that, there are some sub-topics. Foremost of course is the myriad people that I get to meet - they enrich my life continually. I travel a lot and that brings a collateral benefit. FOOD. Yes, I get to eat a startling variety of food. I am sure that it all puts my digestive system in a disarray trying to figure out the forever-varying inputs. Now why do I say this about the variety of food that I get to eat? I have a very good reason for this claim. Now, how many people get to eat the following - ALL within ten days?

In Lucknow -
Tunday Kabab
Murg Shanno Kabab
I forgot their name but they were melting-in-the-mouth-type-paneer-kababs.

In Kolkata
Kakra Chingri (for those who are un-initiated into Bangla cuisine, this is crab and prawn, with lots of mustard oil of course, cooked in a banana leaf)
Chingri Aloo Poshto
Hilish Maachh
A gigantic fish that goes by the name Betaki

In Kolkata - specifically at Flury's
Almond Pretzels
Almond and Honey Horseshoe
Cheese Croissant
Cheery Bun

In Chennai
Idlis at Murugan (TN Chetty Road, where else?)
Dosas at Saravana Bhavan
Filter Kaapi - South Style, of course

Statutory Warning - there is a dish called 'Seven Taste Uttapam' available in Sarvana. Its a fraud. Its just seven tiny little Uttapams with different toppings. And one of them, hold your breath, is actually Mixed Fruit Jam! Just in case you think I am joking, there is another one with ketchup too.

So - that's how I am fortunate, barring the odd mis-adventure of Uttapam Seven Taste. And the list does not stop there. I am going to be in Hyderabad on the day after. And its Ramazan time. Yummmmmm...