Monday, May 21, 2007

Moving ...

Due to various reasons, I am moving this blog to Wordpress.
Here is the new link : India Syndicate

Please note: moving to Wordpress has not improved the quality of my is just a ego trip.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Can you google backwards ???

For those of us who cannot think straight, someone created this :

Now I can google the net backwards and forwards...and backwards and forwards...and...uh well ! you get the idea.

Insurance insurance

No...the title of this post was not a typo. Read on on, I say !

Our first story comes from Richard Reich's blog:

Selling your insurance policy !!! eh ???

Here’s an area of controversy and concern. There’s a new industry that’s sprung up called the “Secondary market for life insurance”. Here’s how it works. It’s mostly for elderly or ill people. The origination of this started some years ago when terminally ill people who needed financial help turned to their life insurance policies and sold them to investors. They got a percentage of their insurance amount based on how long they were expected to live.
This intensifies my belief that everything has a market. Not only can you pawn on your own life, you can do so on others' lives too !!!

The second insurance story ?

Wedding Insurance ... yes !

Love may be priceless, but unfortunately getting married can be very expensive. If you have recently become engaged or currently planning the wedding of your dreams, you should see if wedding insurance is right for you.

Wedding insurance is a form of special event insurance designed to provide financial protection if you have to cancel or postpone a wedding because of death or serious injury in the immediate family, the bride or groom is called to military duty, a natural disaster such as a hurricane or earthquake occurs on your special day or other insured disaster.

I know what you are thinking --- but I am sorry.
One thing that is generally not covered, however, is change of heart.

Now, I ask myself: I know that love is priceless and so forth, but consider this: Suppose you had a girlfriend and you bought her gifts, flowers, chocolates. And then, after an expensive courtship, she ditches you and marries someone else. Is there an insurance policy that can recover your losses due to this unforeseen catastrophe ? If yes, how would one calculate the premium for such a policy ? Would they match horoscopes, tastes, eye colour ?

Think...think ....

Going in circles...

Atanu Dey gives some background to the recent hullabaloo about British personnel taken hostage by Iran :

Ever since oil was discovered there at the turn of the 20th century, Iran has been the object of plunder and high politics. From then onwards, both Russia and the UK repeatedly tried to control the country. Then, during World War II, Germany needed Iran’s oil and, in order to prevent this, UK forces invaded Iran and opened a pipeline to Russia, then our ally in fighting Germany.
Then there are references to the Iraq occupation and the real reasons behind it:

Ever since the Germans tried to build a Berlin-Mosul railway a century ago, oil has been the main motivator of Western nation policy towards the Middle East, but most American and British people are totally unaware of this as they cheerfully pump petrol into their cars. They still don’t fully realise why Bush and Blair invaded Iraq in 2003 nor, in the latest foolish episode, why Bush persuaded Blair to trespass on Iranian waters in the hope of provoking Iran into excessive reaction, giving cause for powerful American response with, Bush naively assumed, world-wide support.
This may be too simplistic a statement of facts. Nevertheless, I think this holds true in most scenarios: think Afghanistan where the Americans , for so long, supported Osama Bin Laden when he was fighting the Soviets. Now he is enemy number one.
Closer home, the Indian Army helped train the now-dangerous LTTE into the efficient fighting unit that it is now. Today, we are hunting them.

The world, it seems, is going in circles. It would be mighty funny if not for the fact that millions of innocent lives are lost or destroyed in the process.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Who is the Knowledge Commission working for ?

I did not notice this story earlier. It only came to me today while reading this post :

We have heard this story before. Remember the early 90's stories of Indian software engineers only working on low end maintenance projects? Or the early 2000 stories that only low end call center work is outsourced to India? What Dr. Bhargava says is likely to happen. The first that will test the waters are going to be younger educational institutions, those that have little to lose & a lot to gain. The Ox-Bridge/ Ivy Leagues will come in much later. But why should we quibble? Does the color of the cat matter as long as it catches the mice? If the new entrants offer value, they will have a market. If not, they will need to go back to the drawing board and rework their India strategy. Any one who is under the mistaken belief, that all a foreign university needs to do is to set shop in India and every one will flock to it, needs to read about the struggle of MTV, Pepsi, Coca Cola, Pizza Hut etc. to gain market share in India. India is an extreme value conscious market. You need to get your value proposition right to crack the market and the same will apply to higher education.
The things our Government would have us believe !
If only we, as citizens, took the time and effort to understand these issues, we could dent such efforts from our government.

For everything else, there's Mastercard !


How much is the square of 48 ?

Do you know how to calculate squares of numbers close to 50 ?

Do you ? do you ??? huh ??

I will do you a favour : read this :

When Bethe and Feynman went up against each other in games of calculating, they competed with special pleasure. Onlookers were often surprised, and not because the upstart Feynman bested his famous elder. On the contrary, more often the slow-speaking Bethe tended to outcompute Feynman. Early in the project they were working together on a formula that required the square of 48. Feymnan reached across his desk for the Marchant mechanical calculator

Bethe said, "It's twenty-three hundred."

Do you know who is Bethe ?
See, how many things you learn just by reading this blog !!!

Grandma stops traffic on Bannerghatta Road...!

Sometimes, I wonder where the will and wish to do good comes from. Is it the youth ? does it come from our exposure to other cultures ? is it from our extensive education ?

And then sometimes, I think not.

Don't know what I am talking about ? Read this:

I was riding in a car on Bannerghatta Road. Work is finally getting done on that road to widen and pave it, so traffic was moving at a fast pace. As we passed an apartment complex on the left, I noticed an old lady with a red handbag making her way off the footpath and on to the road, probably in anticipation of a bus or to flag down an auto, I thought. But she did not stop moving. As our car passed her, she strode toward the middle of road, holding up her red handbag.
Read on...there are some things in this country of ours that just defy explanations !

Chalo India: Now, own Bollywood

Cutting the Chai writes about Moserbaer putting video pirates out of business in this informative piece:

A DVD for Rs 34! That would definitely be a cause of worry of the Pirates of Palika, who peddle their stuff for Rs 75-Rs 150. A VCD's for a mere Rs 28. My neighbourhood DVD rental charges Rs 30 for a day. Looks like he'll have to think of competitive pricing soon.
Like they say, "It happens only in India" !

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The horrible world we live in...

India Uncut never fails to shock me...

Read this piece...I do not want to post any thoughts...I am left speechless.

If you’re straight, imagine one more time the dystopia gay Indians live in, where not just sex but love and companionship are elusive. Isn’t that criminal?

Thanks to Amit Varma for bringing this piece to us.
How insensitive can we humans be ?

Opening access to research

Quite an old piece but relevant today:

Rising journal costs restrict access to scientific research. Martyn Bull reports on a campaign to get institutions to set up free internet archives

If the purpose of scientific publishing is to increase access to knowledge to enable further advances in science and technology, then researchers are not doing much to help. Too often they care more about the impact of publishing in a high-status journal than how many people might be able to read it.
The report advocates radical change in the scientific publishing process to prevent escalating costs and restrictive publisher agreements choking access to scientific research. It recommends that authors disseminate their research for free on the internet by storing articles in institutional archives, as well as backing a switch from “subscriber pays” to “author pays” publishing.
The SHERPA initiative is arguing that scholars put their research work on university/institution archives so the general public can access them free of cost.
My question is: how then, do the research scholars make money ? It is correct that journal costs are way too high. However, I do not think making the papers themselves free will help.

What are your comments ? Is that the way to go ?

Banning cricket !

Villages in Haryana ban cricket:

"We all have taken this decision and those who go against it will have to face social boycott. We've enshrined this in the Panchayat records of 28 villages," said Tewa Singh, head of Dadan Panchayat.

"We will stop playing it (cricket). We will play kabaddi, football, volleyball and wrestle instead," Pankaj, a resident of the village, said.

How about banning politicians, I say. Surely, politicians do more harm than silly, incompetent cricketers !
"Social boycott", my foot ! Who would want to have anything to do with such a society, anyway !!!

The thing with trust....

Excellent post on a blog that is fast becoming my favourite:

At the bus, plenty of angry shouting, more stones flung, a window broken, three youths scream at us: "We don't want your peace talk, tell it to the RSS who did all this, now get out while you can!"
The thing with trust is: it takes a long time to build and once it is broken, it is very very difficult to get it back.

So, what I wonder is this: how do we so readily believe in God, whom we have not seen in all these years, but are not ready to trust our neighbors whom we have grown up with ? How do so readily trust our politicians who rain catastrophes and scams on us by re-electing them again and again, but are not willing to forgive our friends ?

I am worried...deeply worried.

Are you one of Nero's guests

Chilling piece here from Alternative Perspective:

Emperor Nero's parties in his garden were attended by all the Who's Who of Rome. Often the the parties were in progress, but then the dusk fell, and night arrived. There was no light around for the guests to continue to enjoy the festivities. Nero came up with a innovative solution to provide illumination: the prisoner and poors were brought and burnt on the stakes party all around the arena to illuminate the garden... Tacitus (The Annals, Book XV, C.E. 62-65 ) noted:

"(they) were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination when daylight had expired. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle."

...and the party continued....

Of course, Nero, as most people know, was mad and cruel - and so, his conduct is perhaps not really so surprising - even if it was sensational.

But what about Nero's Guests?

They were, after all, the prominent elites of Rome - the intellectuals, the traders, the artists... sort of the "owners" of Roman culture and prosperity... (one would perhaps find them similar to our contemporary urban eduacated elites in temperaments and aspirations)...

It is important to understand the psyche of people - our own, actually- who could enjoy their wine and food, while the crackling light from burning bodies provided illumination to their delights...

as the party (i.e., the GDP, the Shopping Malls, the brands, GDP, SEZs, etc.) continues...
It makes me think: is our social responsibility not really an obligation ? Are we condemned to be busy with our own lives and not root for justice !
We are a suppressed and busy people. We barely have enough time for our own lives...we are too scared to rebel against emperor Nero.

Video karaoke, possible ?

Ever remember when you went out for a movie with your friends and then you came to a sad scene where a friend made a funny comment and you all started laughing uncontrollably ?

Ever remember watching a cricket match and your friends shouting "Come on Kumble, dive man !" etc ?

I am dreaming of a software (or a hardware) which will allow me to record viewer comments while the video is running. Then when I get a chance to replay the video (through a DVD or a VCD), I would have the option of choosing either the original soundtrack or the karaok'ed soundtrack.

That would be a great way of enhancing the watching experience. It also has a nostalgic value: I want to recollect all those comments my friends made when we were watching a movie or a cricket or tennis match.
There is one more reason for this longing: I despise the cricket commentary on display these days. I feel my friends read the game better than the bloke speaking on TV. If I ever buy a DVD or VCD of my favourite cricket game, I would like to be able to over-write the on-TV commentary with that of my friends or myself.

What do my readers say ?

Google, Why ?

Why does everyone want to work at Google ? Because, according to Fortune magazine, it is the best place to work in America.

And why is that ?

Check out this video :

Link via this piece from Digital Inspiration

No wonder, the search company gets 3000 new job applications each day - that's more than a million every year.

No wonder, indeed...!

Some kind of History

Touching piece on the convictions for the crimes committed against Sikhs in 1984:

If you check around, you'll find your own crop of similar explanations. The Bhiwandi killings of 1970 and 1984, the Delhi killings of 1984, the Mumbai killings of 1992-93, the Gujarat killings of 2002: pick any one, plenty of your fellow countrymen rationalize it, using words like "retaliation", "justified", "lesson", "water under the bridge" and more. Why, on the day I read about the conviction of Gurpal's killers, I also read a report in the Times of India with this title: "For RSS, Gujarat riots are history."

There's no justice for so many ordinary Indians slaughtered, but it's "history."
History means so many things to so many people. For some, it is a distant scene: something that they watch as if they were watching a movie or a game of cricket. At the end of it, they can brush it off and get on with their lives.
But for some, it is a painful episode which keeps coming back like a recurring nightmare. It leaves an indelible mark on their lives.

It is time we started recognizing the value of human life.

Bad kids ? Train the parents

Interesting piece on the Freakonomics blog:

The paper’s authors conducted a randomized study with 153 socially disadvantaged Welsh parents with children aged 3 or 4. Some of the parents were given a 12-week “intervention programme,” in which two professionals taught the parents how to reward, punish, and discipline their children. The control group of parents were wait-listed for this workshop.

The results showed that the children of the parents who took the workshop behaved significantly better afterward, at least in the short term. The authors make the point that, since childhood anti-social behavior is a strong indicator of adult anti-social behavior and criminality, the findings are potentially very important.

I personally do not agree with this view. I feel that the best parents are those with the best intentions in their heart. Of course, this has to be combined with that essential element called love. Parents have to stop thinking of their kids as extensions of themselves and treat them as individuals in their own right.

What sayest thou ?

Everything considered, its the same story !

A Bangladesh perspective to the slide in Indian cricket

The Bangladeshi Newspaper Prothom Alo said this win is a reply to the Indian's disrespect about Bangladesh. Bangladesh proved India that what is commerce to them is merely a game for them. The article concludes with the hope that India is put down on their feet with this shock. If they still cannot revise their opinion about Bangladesh they will be reminded in the coming tour.
This is typical sub-continent rhetoric. Everytime we beat Australia or South Africa, we talk about how India have shown these great nations their place. Bangladesh, unfortunately, is following that route.
I am reproducing verbatim, my comments on that post (do read the other comments -- I found them nauseating, at best):
It is funny how one win can make dreamers out of losers !
I have nothing but the greatest respect for the way the Bangladesh team beat India in the WC. It was a fantastic exhibition of tight bowling and sticking to the basics. I really liked the attitude of Tameem Iqbal in that eventful over from Zahir Khan --- hope to see more from this kid.

But, please hold on to your horses. You guys have a long way to go. You only have two wins in this cup so far: one against a lazy India and the other against a hapless Bermuda.
Please show us more before we start talking about how Bangladesh are better than India...let us please keep our feet firmly on the ground, shall we ?
Incidentally, I read this piece from Prem Panicker's blog only a couple of days ago. Do read it...

But unfortunately Bangla-desh, like it's more colourful neighbours India, has got mindless followers whose emotion often beats logic. The whole nation was over the moon since early hours of March 26, a very special day in the history of the country. It was quite understandable when we rejoiced the success against Bermuda that confirmed the Tigers of a place in the next round.

But wasn't that something like an excess what followed when many including the knowledgeable section started thinking of 'going all the way to the semifinals' or sweeping comments like 'winning has become a habit for us' or 'I don't want to take the win as an upset'.

All things considered, we are birds of the same flock !

Update: Found this piece about Bangladesh fans burning effigies of their cricketers , huh !

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Does the Sun have a companion ?

Intriguing theory here from scientist Richard A Muller.

Like a thorn in the side of mainstream researchers, Muller's Nemesis theory -- that our Sun has a companion star responsible for recurring episodes of wholesale death and destruction here on Earth -- seems to reemerge periodically like microbes after a mass extinction.

It's a theory that has many detractors. And it's a theory that has been beaten down and left for dead in the minds of most scientists.

Yet it is a theory that just won't die

The theory goes on to state that this star re-emerges every 26 million years to cause a shower of meteors on our planet causing mass extinctions:

Muller's idea for Nemesis came to him 1983. Luis Alvarez, then an emeritus professor of physics at the University of California at Berkeley, and his son Walter had recently put forth the theory that a giant impact had wiped out the dinosaurs. (This idea, like so many others that are now widely accepted, met with staunch criticism when it was introduced because it, too, was not mainstream).

Around the same time, two other researchers had suggested yet another controversial idea, that mass extinctions occurred at regular intervals -- every 26 million years or so. Scientists immediately folded the ideas into a new and breathtaking possibility: Impacts by space rocks were causing massive global species destruction every 26 million years.

I dream that when this "nemesis" reappears, it will sweep away all the planets from the Solar System and our earth will start revolving round this new star, instead of the Sun.
That way, we will all get to see new places in the universe !!!

Now, I ask this: how will that change you as a person ?
Are you ready for the joy ride ?

You saw it coming, didnt you ?

Read on here

Discovered through the award-winning blog OuchMyToe

A new cricket league !

I love reading Prem Panicker's blog:

Subhash Chandra, of Zee TV, has gone and done it: set the cat firmly among the BCCI pigeons.

Just moments ago, at the Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi, Chandra did a Kerry Packer, and announced the formation of an alternate domestic cricket league in India.

The salient points:

#The league will comprise six teams of 14 players each.

#Each team will have four international players, and at least two players who have played or are playing at the national level.

#The remaining eight players will be picked from the brightest young talent available in India. "We have experience in talent-search in the entertainment field; we will use that same expertise to unearth cricketing talent," Chandra said.

#Each team will have a qualified coach, physio and psychological expert.

#The league will be floated with an initial corpus of Rs 100 crore; the prize money on offer in the first year will be $1 million.

#The league will have a professional media manager, and an ombudsman who will handle complaints either from the public or the players.

Read here for more info.

I am hoping that this will bring a revolution in Indian cricket. If nothing else, we will have something to switch to if the national team repeats its recent performances !

Dumbing down...

Whenever I watch a hindi movie, or discuss cricket with my office colleagues, I am faced with what I like to call "dumbing down the topic".

In other words, I find that subtleties are conspicuous by their absence.
Consider a hindi movie: imagine a scene where a character tries to express surprise, horror, anger etc. Then, get back to normal life. The next time a friend gets angry, or surprised, try to note their expression: you will understand what I am saying.
There is such a thing as understatement. The bulk of our movies refuse to acknowledge that fact. Every emotion, every dialogue, every act is exaggerated. While this seems perfectly harmless, what it, in fact, does is that it takes away that "real life factor". When you are trying to tell a story about ordinary human beings (as opposed to super humans), you are trying to get the audience to identify with the characters. You want the audience to feel that they have met this character (or someone resembling this character) in their lives. You want the audience to say: "yes, this is exactly how xyz would react" or "this is exactly how my friend would talk" etc. This gets the audience involved in the story. They are not watching the movie from an outsider perspective: they are part of the action; they start to sympathize with such-and-such character and start to hate such-and-such character. As a director, you have set the platform from where you can run the plot.
The same thing happens when we discuss cricket. Maybe, I am exaggerating. Maybe, this happens only in my circle. I feel that people pass grand statements with all the subtleties removed. I feel this has partly to do with the kind of cricket commentary that we hear on TV. Unfortunately, I get the feeling that commentators from the sub-continent tend to describe what we used to call "aankhon dekha haal" in All India Radio parlance. They just describe what is happening on the ground. There is no word on the tactics being followed; there is no word on why a particular shot went wrong or why a particular bowler is consistently bowling wides down the leg-side. I feel, further, that commentators from Australia, England, West Indies etc do a better job with such things.
Now, why is that ?

Is this because we, as a nation, abhor subtleties ? Do we celebrate exaggerated emotions ? Do we, culturally, lack the ability to dissect things ?

What do you think ?

Why we don’t have product-making companies?

I found this very elaborate and very thought-provoking piece:

Our obsession with stars and brands

I agree stars are important. It’s the obsession with those stars where I see the problem. We (as Indians) are obsessed with stars and brands. We don’t need to look deep to realize this about us. Our Cinema (unabashedly called ‘Bollywood’) and Cricket has many examples. The whole focus is on one or two individuals while the rest are completely unknown. It applies to our technology space as well. IITs are a brand. Therefore, anything to do with technology in India is referred to IITs while hundreds of universities and other institutes get no mention at all. If an IITian starts a paan shop, the heading goes, “The IITian left his cushy job to start a paan shop right across the street…” If they start some dumb political party, the article reads, “The IITians instead of going to US have sacrificed their careers to start a political party to better India…” A mere contraption of no significance from IITian gets the attention of starving media. This media is more interested in writing ‘This IITian has done…” than writing what he has actually done. The media is only feeding into our own obsessions. They reflect our sentiments- that of ordinary people, the families, and the societies
The same is true of our software-services companies. Why we did not look at other important industries is because these services companies were hogging the limelight for more than 20 years now. In fact, they are hogging the complete light while the rest of the industry is languishing in the dark. Bangalore, which is supposedly the ‘Silicon Valley of India’ (which I don’t agree at all), has lavish office spaces (look at Infosys and ITPL) which almost resemble a developed world. These are the same office spaces which have been glorified by the likes of Thomas Friedman (who has added more fuel to the celebration of our mediocrity). On the other hand, the same Bangalore provides extremely worse conditions to the industrial sectors where hardware and manufacturing houses are located. I have visited some of these manufacturing places- they don’t have roads, they are connected by muddy paths which have huge cracks in the middle, they don’t have water or electricity and this place looks like a remote village of India in the 16th century. The attention of whole of media, political administration, elite, institutions, investors, has been directed towards software-services companies while other industries do not get basic amenities. Software-services companies get lands at very low price; they get tax-holidays, exporting and importing is easy for them. Meanwhile, the manufacturing and other industry of India is putting with policies of old economy.
I posted a comment on that blog which I reproduce verbatim here:

You make a compelling argument. However, I beg to disagree.

If the software services industry is such a rage, it is for a reason. I am not suggesting that the service industry is better, or more profitable, than the manufacturing/product sector. However, the fact remains: manufacturing/product is a long-term thing. You need investments in time, resources, money, training today to get paybacks, maybe 10, 20, 30 years down the line. The service industry has more instant paybacks on investments. It is the nature of the beast.
We, Indians, who are on the verge of starvation, do not have the luxury of time.

However, all is not going crimson. We have a few product companies here (the auto industry, for example) who are making a mark. The turnaround is slow: but atleast there has been a start.

Having said all that, I do feel we need a more balanced education system that does not entirely focus on computer training for kids. Maybe, we need primary schools that run carpenting classes to kids to give them a taste for other skills.

What do you think ? Is the services industry a fad ? Do we need to re-look at the allocation of resources ? Are we putting all our eggs in the Services sector basket ?

When life gives you a lemon...

The next time you feel hard-done by life, read this

I feel happy when I do not overstay at office in the evening and reach home on time, that is 7:35 p.m. Oh how happy I feel to see my wife and childrens. I hope they too feel happy to see me. If I reach on time, I get a royal reception from them, if I am late even by half an hour, I have lot of explanation to do.
After dinner, we, that is I, my wife and children go to our building's terrace for a stroll. Nowadays it is sooo hot during the day, the cold breeze in late evening just makes me happy and makes me smile.

Sometimes, the simple things in life are what make it so special.

So, shake off that scowl from your face, wipe off that frown and look forward to the simple pleasures that await you at the other end of life.

Watching the community

My dear dear readers:

You must be wondering if I have sold my blog to someone else : where is the content, you say. Where are those long, silly, sense-less posts; where are those flights of fancy ?
What are all these mail forwards ?

Well, I have decided to stop talking for a moment and look around. I want to read what other bloggers are writing; I want to "soak-in the surroundings", so to speak.

So, hope you enjoy the little nuggets that I post from here on.

Stop hooting, will ya !

Monday, April 02, 2007

Getting their act together !

I stumbled upon a wonderful photo gallery !!!

Getting Their Acts Together

Dig here for more

1960s version of Google

Ever wondered what Google would have looked like if it was created in 1960 ??

Source here

Outsource your complaints !

Are you the kind of person who spends most of his/her life complaining ?
Are you not able to find the time to complain about all the things that you would like to complain about ? Do you wish someone would do the complaining for you ?

Here is a way for you to outsource your complaining...check it out !

Fitness, anyone ?

Go buy this book, if you like the sample pics:

Hey, it's Southern California. You don't break a sweat until you have to !

More pics here

EMI catalogue without DRM

Good News !!! iTunes is slowly moving towards non-DRM music:
Link here:

By now you may have heard today's surprising news: EMI and Apple announced that the iTunes Music Store will offer EMI's entire catalog for sale without DRM! In a press release from Apple, Steve Jobs said, "We think our customers are going to love this, and we expect to offer more than half of the songs on iTunes in DRM-free versions by the end of this year."
Good news...from a dear friend.

Censorship in Iran

Iranian Censorship at its best ...

Magazine cover
The Economist, Apr 15 2006, pp26-27. Advertisement for LG. The woman is wearing a jogging dress.

Magazine cover
National Geographic, Feb 2006, Cover. This issue of NG is about this phenomenon called love. The cover is a photo of a couple in embrace, not really kissing, but almost. On the uncensored cover, that is.

It is astounding that there are people who believe that this kind of censorship will actually work. It is even more astounding that such people are actually in government and their policies are endorsed by millions of citizens who voted them to power !!!

I guess that is the beauty of democracy...

Friday, March 30, 2007

Revamp ? Really ?

It is official: the Indian cricket team has failed and we are all looking for an entire revamp of the way the game is played in the country.

The intellectuals are asking for a new coach, a new captain and a whole new bunch of players. Out with the old, they say .. and we lesser mortals are echoing that sentiment in our own humble little ways.

But I catch myself wondering sometimes : is the premature exit from the World Cup the only debacle this country has faced in its history ?Didn't we lose a war to China in 1962 ? Didn't we have our Parliament attacked not so long ago ? Didn't the Babri Masjid go down to hooligans in the last decade ? Didn't the country lose billions and billions of rupees to scams almost every year ? Anyone remember the train blasts in Mumbai last year ?

Why bring all that up ? Because I think the cricket team --- or any team for that matter --- is essentially a reflection of who we are as a nation. We are a nation of over-stressed, under-paid, under-privileged, cowardly, lazy, un-enterprising, safety-seeking individuals. We do not seem to be able to break the shackles of our society so easily. Even in this day and age, there are only a handful of people in our country who defy the societal norms and break free --- look at our movies for example. How many new formats, new stories have we used in the last 20 years ? I can still watch the same movie that my dad watched as a youngster: only the film crew has changed. There are very few new, unexplored subjects that our film-makers deal with even today. It wouldn't be all that bad if not for the fact that we actually watch these movies in the millions. Messrs Shahrukh Khan and Karan Johar keep re-making their own movies every year and we greedily lap it all up !

I ask myself: what advances has our Parliamentary system brought in ? I see the same bunch of greedy, self-serving, risk-avoiding politicians that my dad used to talk about when I was kid. God, even the reservation policy has been there for the past 50 years ! How long did it take our government to bring in economic reforms ? How many archaic laws has the government modified to reflect the present ?

And we want to revamp our cricket team !
Suppose we do revamp the team. New coach, new captain, new (younger) players. The old players are asked to retire. The new guys come in with new enthusiasm, a bold new approach to the game. After a few years of stumbling around, they start winning matches; they start beating the big boys; they reach the finals of the World Cup. And the ads start going "Hoo ha India..aaya India". The public calls them the "ambassadors of a new, young India"; "the face of a new fearless India that is ready to capture the world". The expectations rise (you see, we are now a would-be super-power; we cannot lose); the pressure builds; cost of failure sky-rockets; billions of dollars are invested on each player in the team. Slowly, the players start caving in to the pressure one-by-one. Then what ??? Well, we all know then what, don't we !

Success is a double-edged sword. You can either be rich and famous or you can have a life; not both. You cannot have your cake...and so forth.

If the Indian team is rebuilt tomorrow and they somehow start winning again, can we, as fans, promise that we will not start applying pressure ? Can we, as fans, promise not to be vulgar in our appreciation (a la the "Blue Billion" ) ? Can we, as fans, promise to try and learn more about the game than about the players' personal lives ? Can we take the odd defeat or two without asking for heads to roll ?

I don't think we need a new cricket team. I think we need new fans. We need a better attitude as a nation. You know why the US and Australia produce so many successful sports persons ? Because sport is celebrated there. Kids do not go the ground to play so they can become multi-millionaires when they grow up; they play because they love the game; because the parents know that sports teaches them valuable lessons that textbooks cannot (of course, I am exaggerating; there are folks in these countries too who put pressure on their kids. But I am trying to make a point).
When the Indian Olympic Committee talks about "tapping the sports talent in rural India" , it scares and sickens me. Why can't we let kids be kids ? Why do we have to look for a way to make money even from their simple lives ? True, training is necessary. You have to groom sports persons; but please, let us give them space; let them enjoy their lives while they still have time. We, cannot. We have to find out the best way of making money, more money and put our kids and youth through the drills; be it cricket, the IITs or the call centers. And, since these are such great avenues for making money, we want more people to be able to enjoy the benefits (a la reservations, more cricket coaching centers, more accent-coaches etc). It doesn't matter to us that not everybody is built to do these things. It doesn't matter to us that we are all different individuals. No: we cannot accept that. Our kids have to become super-star cricketers, or get into IITs...etc. Life, what life ? This is the only life we know.

When Rahul Dravid started his international career, he was a purist. He loved (and enjoyed) his game. He was happy. But we, as fans, could not accept that. Why can't he improvise ? Why can't he play more cross-batted hoicks ? Why can't he reverse-sweep (after all, even Wasim Akram can ?). Sachin Tendulkar simply adored the game when he started. He would train for hours and hours to battle every short coming, every chink in his armor. Now, he doesn't know what the press will criticize him for: for playing too cautiously or for being too reckless !
We killed these great cricketers. We squeezed out the cricket from them and all we have now are super-stars with long records. We are more cricket statisticians than fans (my opening batsman has more runs than yours).

As I watch the England and West Indies teams struggling in this World Cup, I wonder: do we really have a bad cricket team or do we have too many greedy fans ? The most endearing memory for me after India's loss to Sri Lanka: I wake up on Saturday morning and switch on a news channel. The reporter accosts an elderly couple leaving the ground. They promptly shout: "We need youngsters, we need more youngsters". Now, how ironic is that !