Monday, April 27, 2009

Farewell - Feroz Khan

Feroz Khan passed away early this morning. The long battle with the dreaded disease, fought valiantly, is now over.

Feroz Khan joined the film industry in the early sixties, and set out to establish himself, amidst stiff competition from others like Dharmendra, Dilip Kumar, Jeetendra, and the like.
In the next two decades he acted in some of the most popular 'hits' of the times - Arzoo, Oonche Log, Safar and Aadmi Aur Insaan. And while he mostly played second lead, he managed to carve out a niche for himself. with his rich baritone voice, the sofisticated style of dialogue delivery which will always be remembered is distinctly different and 'classy'

Feroz Khan found reasonable success with his production ventures too. 'Qurbani' produced by him in 1980 turned out to be a huge block buster. Other films followed at regular intervals. Everytime, Feroz Khan came back from behind, refusing to be forgotten in the annals of Bollywood history.

The last time we saw him on screen was in the the lovable role of a 'Bhai' named 'RDX' in the recent comedy - 'Welcome'

As an individual, he stood apart from his colleagues and contemporaries because of a certain sofistication, a certain finese in his personality, which reflected the good upbringing and grooming that he had benefitted from.

With the passing of Feroz Khan, another memorable chapter in the long history of Bollywood comes to a close. Feroz Khan's quality contribution to Hindi cinema will always be remembered, especially by those who belonged to his generation.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

An open letter to Gen. Kayani from Col (R) Harish Puri

from: The News, Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dear Gen Kayani,

Sir, let me begin by recounting that old army quip that did the rounds in the immediate aftermath of World war II: To guarantee victory, an army should ideally have German generals, British officers, Indian soldiers, American equipment and Italian enemies.

A Pakistani soldier that I met in Iraq in 2004 lamented the fact that the Pakistani soldier in Kargil had been badly let down firstly by Nawaz Sharif and then by the Pakistani officers' cadre. Pakistani soldiers led by Indian officers, , he believed, would be the most fearsome combination possible. Pakistani officers, he went on to say, were more into real estate, defence housing colonies and the like.

As I look at two photographs of surrender that lie before me, I can't help recalling his words. The first is the celebrated event at Dhaka on Dec 16, 1971, which now adorns most Army messes in Delhi and Calcutta. The second, sir, is the video of a teenage girl being flogged by the Taliban in Swat -- not far, I am sure, from one of your Army check posts.

The surrender by any Army is always a sad and humiliating event. Gen Niazi surrendered in Dhaka to a professional army that had outnumbered and outfought him. No Pakistani has been able to get over that humiliation, and 16th December is remembered as a black day by the Pakistani Army and the Pakistani state. But battles are won and lost – armies know this, and having learnt their lessons, they move on.

But much more sadly, the video of the teenager being flogged represents an even more abject surrender by the Pakistani Army. The surrender in 1971, though humiliating, was not disgraceful. This time around, sir, what happened on your watch was something no Army commander should have to live through. The girl could have been your own daughter, or mine.

I have always maintained that the Pakistani Army, like its Indian counterpart, is a thoroughly professional outfit. It has fought valiantly in the three wars against India, and also accredited itself well in its UN missions abroad. It is, therefore, by no means a pushover. The instance of an Infantry unit, led by a lieutenant colonel, meekly laying down arms before 20-odd militants should have been an aberration. But this capitulation in Swat, that too so soon after your own visit to the area, is an assault on the sensibilities of any soldier. What did you tell your soldiers? What great inspirational speech did you make that made your troops back off without a murmur? Sir, I have fought insurgency in Kashmir as well as the North-East, but despite the occasional losses suffered (as is bound to be the case in counter-insurgency operations), such total surrender is unthinkable.

I have been a signaller, and it beats me how my counterparts in your Signal Corps could not locate or even jam a normal FM radio station broadcasting on a fixed frequency at fixed timings. Is there more than meets the eye?

I am told that it is difficult for your troops to "fight their own people." But you never had that problem in East Pakistan in 1971, where the atrocities committed by your own troops are well documented in the Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report. Or is it that the Bengalis were never considered "your own" people, influenced as they were by the Hindus across the border? Or is that your troops are terrified by the ruthless barbarians of the Taliban?

Sir, it is imperative that we recognise our enemy without any delay. I use the word "our" advisedly – for the Taliban threat is not far from India's borders. And the only force that can stop them from dragging Pakistan back into the Stone Age is the force that you command. In this historic moment, providence has placed a tremendous responsibility in your hands. Indeed, the fate of your nation, the future of humankind in the subcontinent rests with you. It doesn't matter if it is "my war" or "your war" – it is a war that has to be won. A desperate Swati citizen's desperate lament says it all – "Please drop an atom bomb on us and put us out of our misery!" Do not fail him, sir.

But in the gloom and the ignominy, the average Pakistani citizen has shown us that there is hope yet. The lawyers, the media, have all refused to buckle even under direct threats. It took the Taliban no less than 32 bullets to still the voice of a brave journalist. Yes, there is hope – but why don't we hear the same language from you? Look to these brave hearts, sir – and maybe we shall see the tide turn. Our prayers are with you, and the hapless people of Swat.

The New York Times predicts that Pakistan will collapse in six months. Do you want to go down in history as the man who allowed that to happen?

Col. (Retd.) H. B. Puri

Friday, April 24, 2009

School to Blame?

My heart goes out to the parents, relatives and freinds of Akriti Bhatia of Modern School, who passed away the other day, after an asthma attack while still in School. 

Expectedly, the parents and friends of Akriti have put the blame squarely on the School for negligence which caused the death. While investigations will take their own course, let us pause and reflect on what happened, before we jump to conclusions on who was responsible.

At about 10 am in the morning, Akriti complained of an asthma attack, and rang up her mother to send the car to School so she could come home. The mother advised Akriti to go to her Aunt's place instead of coming back home. At about the same time, she informed the Class teacher about her state, and requsted to be excused and let off early.

While everyone waited for the car, Akriti was escorted to the 'sick room' where the nurse administered Oxygen to her. After a while Akriti herself informed the nurse that she was feeling better. The nurse inquired whether Arkiti needed to be put on a nebuliser. Contrary to the parents' allegation that the School did not have a nebuliser, that fact was that the Scholl did have one. It was Akriti who answered in the negative, stating that she already had had two doses of asthma medicines earlier during the day.

The parents also alleged that the School did not call an ambulance and instead wasted time waiting for Akriti's car to arrive. But the fact is Akriti herself confirmed that she was feeling better after the Oxygen. In fact, she spoke again to her mother, confirming that she is leaving School for her Aunt's place. Judgeing by Akriti's response and her inlcination and will to proceed to her Aunt's home, the Scholl allowed her to, and did not feel the need to carry the Oxygen in the car.

Akriti was put on a wheelchair to be taken up to her car, from where she would proceed to her Aunt's place. A decision taken by her own mother. Then her condition detiorated and the nurse decided that she needed to go to the hospital instead. The parents also alleged that the nurse - Lily Kutty, was not qualified. But the fact is she is a qualified nurse who has worked in a reputed hospital in Delhi, and was employed with the School for the past 18 years with a clean track record. To repeat, it was the nurse who decided that Akriti needed hopitalization immeditaely.

She was taken to the nearby hospital a mere 10 minutes' drive. Unfortunately just as she reached the doorsteps of the hospital, she collapsed, and despite resuscitation measures administered by the Doctors, she could not be revived. 

A life lost is a life lost. An irrepairable loss indeed. And one can understand fully the implications, impact, agony and frustration at losing a grown up child.

But the point is - is the School, or any individual employee involved in this mishap, really to be blamed? Even an error of judgement, can be debated. But negligence? I would not think so.

Its like saying that the mother herself was negligent, because she did not rush in her car to the School, to personally take care of her own child. Negligence? No we would hate to think that way. But an error of judgement? Possible.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

It's just one game won...

So, Mr. Khan's team won a match yesterday.

Big deal? Seems so, for him. In the interview with Madira Bedi yesterday, he made it more than obvious.

So what's the problem in the team owner being happy if his team won a match? No problem - in being happy per se, and expressing it.

But I definitely have a problem with the attitude with which you let your feeling be known to all cricket fans, and your fans across India and the world.

Your attitude suggests that you have a problem with all your critics and you cannot digest any criticism. So you tell the World what you will say to each critic when your team wins the Trophy and when you go back to Kolkata with the IPL trophy, riding a 'barge' ..

And while you should be thankful that your team won courtesy the Duckworth-Lewis method, your comments about M/S Duckworth-Lewis suggests utter contempt for the method as well as its authors. Being a team owner, have you by now, studied the method comprehensively? You haven't because you openly expressing your ignorance.
If you had done so, you would have appreciated it as the only scientific way to conclude a game under specific circumstances.

Using words on open media which border on being vulgar, cracking jokes which aren't really amusing many people least of all me - all suggest an underlying attitude of pure arrogance and a poor sense of humor. And above all, a very large degree of immaturity for sure.

You might be there in S. Africa to be with your team and to be involved, motivating them and seeing them win. You might be trying to tell all of this to all the viewers, but what you are ending up doing is to convey a sense of insecurity and desperation and an urge to stay in the limelight even there in the IPL tournament, unlike most other owners who maintain a low profile.

Come on Mr. Khan -its only cricket. And its only one game that your team has won.

Keep your fingers crossed. While I wish you good luck, it just could happen that you miss that ride to Kolkata on that barge..

Mayawati and her Ambedhkar Udyaan

Just across the road from where I work, there is a huge wall that has recently been constructed, of red 'Kota Stone' running all along the length of the main road for few kilometers. Obviously, there is more behind the wall, but the common passerby cannot make out what.

But now the cat has been let out of the bag. A brand new 'Dr. Ambedhkar Udayaan' is being constructed - thanks to the sole initiative of the current chief minister of the State of Uttar Pradesh - Madam Mayawati.

This park is estimated to cost the ex-chequer a whopping Rs. 300 crore. Actually the tax payers' money. It is supposed to have statue of not only Dr Ambhedkar, but of Mayawati herself. And apart from these, there are expected to be seven elephants made of granite, that will add to the glamour of the brand new park !

Why is it being built? Does the common citizen of UP want it? The answer as expected is a 'no'..

A most 'warped' sense of expression of respect to a great man? Or a way of spending public money, supposedly for a good cause and then siphoning a neat sum out of the budget?

Thankfully, the residents of Sector 15A, opposite which this park is being built, have now filed a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court of India, to obtain a stay. Apparently, environment related considerations have been totally ignored, in the zeal and the hurry to get this project off the ground and completed.

Two such Ambedhkar Udayaans were constructed in the City of Lucknow many years ago, by spending equally lavishly. One, very close to where I lived. And my personal observation was that the local residents went for their morning and evening strolls, walk, exercise and so on, to every single park in the area but the Ambedhkar Udyaan.

The question again is - Who are these parks being made for? And more importantly, Ms. Mayawati the self proclaimed disciple of Dr. Ambedhkar, who projects herself as probably the only individual of the present generation who truly remembers and respects this great champion of the 'downtrodden' should pause and think - Is this how Dr Ambedhkar would like to be remembered? How about spending the 300 crore rupees in improving the lives of the poor, the downtrodden, the so called 'Dalits' residing in UP?

Mayawati - wake up !Because the common man has woken up, and noted that behind your 'warped' sense of display of respect towards Ambedhkar, there's actually an attempt to hoodwink the public.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Election Circus comes to town

It's election time in India! And the common man is once again witness to what can best be described as a political circus that has come to town.

One cannot probably even count the number of parties and 'leaders' striving to come to power. But the common trait amongst all is that they do not have any election agenda or manifesto. So the best that they can do is to downgrade the opponents.

For one National party, the only salient point in their election manifesto is that the present Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh is 'weak'. And they go around the Country trying to convince people not about how they will form a better, more effective and result achieving Government, but simply that the current Government should be voted out.

Then there is another party who take great pride in announcing that if elected they would ban English language and computers in the State of UP. Thankfully on this one, the people of the State have reacted and termed this agenda as outrageous, illogical and repressive. Is this party worth leading India towards progress in the 21st century, or is it yet another manifestation of the 'Talibanization' of this free, democratic and secular Nation?

Then there are supposedly great leaders of political parties who, rather than bringing anything of value to the table, can only talk of 'budhiyas' and 'gudiyas'

Desperate attempts to get elected, come to power and perpetuate corruption.

Apart from being termed outrageous and irrational, most of what these leaders say, also seems to be a joke. And collectively, all of our leaders by letting us know of their thought process, have helped us conclude that they at best can be called a bunch of 'clowns' in a Countrywide circus that has started and will continue for the next few days.

Many of these so called 'Netas', have remained in politics for decades. And in such a long time, have let their own minds rot, as also those of the masses they lead. Almost all of them have talked big and contributed next to nothing to the progress and development of India.

These men some of them well into 70s and 80s, can only think backwards, inwards from an extremely narrow minded perspective. Are they really leaders? Does merely wearing Khadi and waxing eloquent qualify them to be called so?

One election campaign doing the rounds in India, is different from the others in that it does not belong to any political party. Instead it is aimed at making Indians aware of this malaise that India is affected by. And sums it up very logically - when every Indian in service retires at the age of 60, how come these political leaders entrusted with the most significant task of running the Country have no retirement age?

The voter in India needs to think real hard this time. And exercise his franchise in a responsible manner. To bring about change. Conventional Netas, leaders and the like - all need to be 'trashed' Bring young, well meaning, serious minded people to the platform and give them a chance. Maybe people with proven credentials and track record in their professional fields be it social service, bureaucracy or even corporate management.

In short, it is the voter who has to ensure that the management of this Country is a serious minded affair and not a circus.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Cricket - Is the game greater or the money behind it?

Recently we heard about Shah Rukh Khan slamming Sunil Gavaskar, over the latter's comments on Kolkata Knight Riders' Coach John Buchanan's multiple captain theory.

India is a Country where Cricket is a passion and a favorite pastime for a majority of its citizens. But amongst all such self proclaimed experts, there are also Cricket's all time greats, one of whom is Sunil Gavaskar.

In an outstanding career spanning 17 years (1970 to 1987), Sunil Gavaskar's contribution to the game helped the Indian cricket team become an World Class team to reckon with. But more than that, this man mesmerized cricket loving fans across the World with his classy stroke play and fielding, which resulted in a long list of 'all time high' achievements, most of which remain unbroken records to the day.

It was Sunil Gavaskar who broke Donald Bradman's long standing record of the maximum number of centuries in test cricket. Sunil remains the only batsman to have scored a century in each innings of a test match, on three occasions. On his debut tour of the West Indies in 1970-71, he compiled a mammoth 774 runs individually. He was the first batsman in the history of test cricket to have scored and reached the magic 10,000 runs mark. In 1971-72, Sunil, along with Bishen Singh Bedi and Farookh Engineer, was one of the three Indians selected in the Rest of the World team against Australia.

Above all, his knowledge, skill and experience stand above all the records he created. Today, years after he retired from active cricket, the World still recognizes him as an expert of the game. He has contributed to cricket as much 'off field' as he did 'on field'

Sunil's loyalty to the Indian Cricket team which he represented for years, and to the game remain unquestioned.

As a true lover of the game, Sunil commented on the recent decision of John Buchanan to use multiple captains for Kolkata Knight Riders in the forthcoming IPL tournament.
And got slammed for it by the great Shah Rukh Khan in a manner, no ex-cricketer,leave alone a person of Sunil Gavaskar's stature would deserve.

While Gavaskar's comments were about Buchanan and his multiple captain theory, it is obvious that Shah Rukh Khan took them personally. And instead of seeing some merit in what an experienced cricketer had to say, he lambasted Gavaskar. He also made it clear to the World that he paid money to 'buy' a team.

There is no taking away from the fact that all cricketers are professionals and play to earn a living. But has Mr. Khan bought 'slaves' by bidding for the team?

The only justification SRK had to defend his coach and the latter's controversial decision of appointing multiple captains, seems to be the fact that 'he spent a lot of money on his team' And then went on to tell the great cricketing legend "if you have a problem then you buy your own team..."

By making these comments in public, SRK has insulted and humiliated one of the greatest players of cricket with his direct onslaught, totally belittling the "Little Master's' knowledge and experience.

In saying whatever he did, SRK has exhibited how immature a person he is and how irresponsibly he can behave. And above all he has displayed an attitude that stinks of arrogance.

But this episode also makes one wonder - what are we dealing with here? Is this cricket? Little sport and mostly commerce? Where a game is going to be managed by the likes of Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta, Mukesh Ambani and Vijay Mallya?

Where money is everything and only money matters? And universally acknowledged authorities of the game have no say?

If this is cricket then it's no longer a great game. It's the money behind it that matters now.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Murky Politics

India was witness in the recent past, to murky politics. Not surprising though, as politics is a dirty game, more so in India. But what is unbelievable, is the extent to which our so called leaders of the Nation have stooped, to further personal gains and those of their Parties.

We saw for instance, a young 29 year old political 'nobody' trying to launch himself into what probably is the only profession he knows he will succeed in - politics. And what does he do to make a 'grand entry' into the arena? He, in the most blatant and daring manner, publicly spits communal venom, instigating illiterate and innocent rural folk of different religious communities to start hating each other. Why? So that the population is polarized and he gains votes. What an idea to launch his political career !

Then we saw a major political party with some of the supposedly respected senior politicians, all staking claim to be the ideal set of leaders to form the next Government - actually supporting this young man, and justifying his actions.

And then some other Groups, changing loyalties, and breaking alliances by the day.
Dropping friends like a hot potato. All for the sake of votes. Because through votes they can get power....Fooling the innocent masses. So innocent, that they vote but they don't even know the name of the candidate or the Party they voted for ! Or some so poor, that they will go to vote because they get paid some pittance to do so.

The cycle repeats itself, every five years. The intensity, blatancy and audacity enhanced each time. Meanwhile millions of Indians continue to get short changed, manipulated and fooled at the hands of so few...

And who are these 'few' They are criminals - petty thieves to murderers, rapists and even dacoits. Ex-civil servants, who were once branded by their own colleagues as the most corrupt bureaucrats and condemned. With their career in bureaucracy now in peril, they have jumped into the political bandwagon. You have them all. Candidates who claim they can lead this beautiful Country to progress, development and prosperity through the 21st century.

Who is to blame for this mess? It's us. The 'intelligentsia'- the upper and middle class of educated people - actually the totally indifferent ones. Most of whom do not even bother to exercise their franchise...Cynical in their view that nothing will change. Yet forgetting that as citizens of this Country, they too have a responsibility for the sorry state of affairs.

As one television campaign aptly sums it up. If we are not voting, we are sleeping - while this Country is systematically and comprehensively being led to its doom.

It is time the masses especially the educated ones, woke up to this reality. That they indeed are the ones who can influence change. That they can take the current situation head on, and either lead or participate in bringing about change. Simply by exercising their choice. It is time that each one of us recognized the collective strength of a unified movement. A movement to put an end to this form of dirty, murky politics, and to cleanse the entire system. To bring about a revolution in India.

And what better opportunity than now? Because five years later, is five years too late.