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Monday, January 30, 2006


How does this work exactly ? Who gets to determine and lord over what an individual of a nation gets to say, and what he/she does not ? And what if the content of statements made run against the grain of popular opinion, couched in fact as they may be ? And the standards of media being what they are….

One of my “discovered” authors, Orhan Pamuk got a fortuitous reprieve recently. For those who came in late, Pamuk is a Turkish writer of growing popularity living in Istanbul and has written on the unsettling conflict between behaviours and mores borne out of intrinsic Turkish ( read mostly Islamic ) origin and of European ( not necessarily Christian ) descent. His forte is a tapestry of richly hued characters and a rootedness of locale, a belonging of place.

Now sometime in last February, Pamuk granted an interview to a Swiss ( that most insipid and uninspiring of nations ) magazine that spoke of his condemnation of the genocide of Kurdish and Armenian hordes ( some thirteen lakhs of innocent civilians) by the Turks during the First World War. Expectedly, he was pulled over for “insulting Turkish identity and national pride” and subjected to widespread vilification and hatred, some of his detractors being fellow writers. And this week, since the law cited was itself retrospective, he was let off on a judicial technicality to a collective sigh of relief. The criminal charges have been dismissed, although the rather tenuous charge of insulting national pride remains a lurking shadow. And the entire matter has been conveniently jettisoned by a glazed media, wholly preferring a trial and prosecution it seems.

So returning to the question—how different is it in India ? We have as many histories as historians and with a mild twisting of “facts’”, a contorted apparition of history can be , and perhaps, has been arrived at. I find that while most of them have in their basis in religion, or customs/tradition, there are many logical fallacies which are glossed over unrepentantly. Or does national pride blind one to truth, achingly fragile as it may be ? Or does one live and let live, secure in the comfortable warmth that ignorance or indifference offers….



Saturday, January 21, 2006


Over the years, my sports-watching on the telly has been with a resolute finger on the Mute-button except on the odd night where after a hard day’s work, I could extract some pleasure from listening to obdurate footer fans holler in the wind on cold wintry days, singing off-key but loudly. The esteem that I held sports commentators in my younger days has undergone an inevitable erosion, so for all I care, the commentary box could have been blown to smithereens—may not have made an i. of difference.

Part of the agony has been caused by lunatics let loose with a microphone and the whole planet as their audience. Add a dash of dubious international experience and one is held hostage to their warbled wisdom, annoying anecdotes and extra-terrestrial modes of speech. Let us ignore cricket for the time being, that could fill a train to Pakistan; tennis coverage is full of VJ Amritraj whose abysmal tennis knowledge is compounded by his verbosity, whose every exclamation is a plagiarized one and whose locker room stature is too daunting to ignore. In Athletics there is seldom much to say as the action is over far too quickly, but for the protracted long distance battles or field events, Steve Cram and others fail to translate the onsite excitement to the viewer. Gillian Clarke’s shrillness is exacerbated by her maudlin recounting of even engrossing matches. By and large, football commentators are aware on ceding ground to the decibel levels in the stands and are suitably subdued.

That leaves us with golf, which as a spectator sport is as rivetting as watching an egg hatch, the mosquito drone of F-1 and others has me reaching for skin protection, basketball is too confusing, and the rest is silence.

Of late, the latest sports channel on the Indian C & S firmament caught my attention—hockey coverage when the whole nation steadfastly ignores it, live Davis Cup action, and presence of an actual contemporary tennis player who was more than adequate.

A round-the-year challenge made to my folks is that a prominent Indian channel that prides itself on its professionalism will never manage one sports coverage section, without an error, just one. Borne out on the two days that I mistakenly tuned into their show, surely the worst sports anchor in the history of Indian television—whose grasp of any game is appalling, unintelligible and long years of admired accents have left her rudderless and exasperating. One tennis match set at the Aussie Open was pronounced as having ended 9-5 ( Ed-Where are you, Jahangir Khan !), and the very next day, a score of 6-6 was displayed in a completed match. I am not even getting started on so-called qualitative matters. And this is what privatization has done for us, Hurrah ! Sometimes, silence is indeed golden.


Monday, January 09, 2006


In sport, a great deal of superstition goes into an individual placing himself when the gong goes and play is called. Normally successful sportsmen and sportswomen have been known to astonishing lengths to absolve themselves of being at the spot when play is called. And against this , publications have surpassed themselves in pulling out all stops in ensuring that their fare is picked up, consumed and has the readers coming back for more. (Ed-There was a magazine of ponderous academic intent that did not even have a date when it began, but thereby hangs another tale !)

Printed by A S Vadiwala and published by Krishna Tewari on behalf of Infomedia Ltd., the first (dated ) issue of Cricinfo (magazine ) hit the stands recently and my curiosity aroused, a cellophane-wrapped copy found its way. A nod to the slew of slick advertising that it boasts of and bikes, cars, lifestyle equipment, fuel, and state-of-the-art furniture made it clear the kind of readership it hankered after.

The laboured introduction by Sambit Bal drones on about the splendid heritage and the preponderance of quality writing in the field, and proffers aspirations of valuable cherished material now on print as the raison d’ etre of the entry of the monthly publication into the admittedly crowded arena of public cricketing mindspace.

An interesting aside is that it already has a letters to the ed column, the most catchy being an epistle who wanted medical research to reveal why left-arm fast bowlers do not reach the speeds achieved by right-handers.

Copious plans have been hatched to evoke memories of a TV-less and almost by inference public memory-less era, tales of craft and guile long forgotten and treading on the scabrous bylanes of pop coverage in the form of umpires and stadia. There are several articles spouting various personal and occasionally readable views on favourite cricketers, icons and villains, commentators and the like. For the avid historian, there are oodles of print to lap up as grovelling writers genuflect to talents of admired cricketers of unprepossessing aspect. Recreations of matches and players witnessed in the flesh always arrest the reader in midflight and that was the best part of the voluminous 122 pages for me. The endeavour to familiarize a greenhorn to the glories and chutzpah of yore bear fruition, if only because of the array of authors unleashed almost in cohesion.

Contemporary coverage is less riveting, as ball-by-ball accounts of dreary matches are recounted by tired hands and dulled minds, and even the Pak-Eng series angst has all the appeal of a potted plant growing.. Dravid grants a 29 minute interview and gets a vivid eulogy in an imbalanced piece of awed adoration. Lalit Modi, President of the Rajasthan Cricket Association is an unlikely hero of another that smells, nay reeks, of corporate skullduggery. The quirky antics of the Calcutta cricket fan are analysed in Freudian detail, and a “japery” yarn on the Aus-SA tussle is as flat as the track at Premadasa was. A narrative on the (fairly obvious) threat of Paki potency is upstaged by The Butcher of Najafgarh talking through ( his hat) on his thinking process (sic) during his fetching 155 at Chennai. An interview with Greggie’s vision and Frazer’s executionary prowess fails to settle on any results achieved through his methods and is interspersed with some Dilton Doiley-ish observations on the radiance of the duo’s analytical machinations. The unbearable Bhogle waxes eloquent on the aural charms of Tony Cozier. Whew !

Where Cricinfo fails perceptibly is its predilection with current occurrences to the point where viewed with a hand-lens, glossy blandishment is extolled as the gleam of genuine refulgence, and relative lightweights acquire alarming wholesomeness. Another feature looked forward to was domestic coverage, which dishearteningly didn’t get much more than a footnote. That it did find mention is itself progressive in this day and age ! Bland and unimaginative photography, ne’er a caption worth the name; omissions of the distaff side of the game hardly live up to the “big picture” that Bal promises in his write-up. And for the grammatical errors that have insidiously seeped in past zealous proof-readings might forgotten but not quite forgiven !

In all, certainly another welcome entrant to the fold of sports journalism but with runs to score before the voracious sports-lover echoes “I’ll be back !”


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