Archive for December, 2010

Waiting With Bated Breath

Monday, December 27th, 2010 December 27th, 2010 Praveen Bose

I am waiting for my Aadhar (my UID), when my turn comes. But, when will it come? I had always considered opting out… as I have come to understand, it’s purely voluntary. Voluntary?!

But, will I be able to buy a bus or a train ticket or plane ticket without one? Perhaps book a movie ticket? The paranoid multiplexes may ask for my Aadhar.
For once, we are taking up what’s been rejected by the West (in this case the UK), and with so much gusto.

The UID project comes in benevolent packaging. However claims of good intentions can be sustained only with complete transparency of objectives and participatory processes instead of trying to push through projects with PR and stealth.

I know someone will be watching over me…a la God! Protect me? Or, perhaps protect the State!
Give all the ID cards and then slowly we could opt for the embedded chips within the body. That would make it much easier for the “whomsoever it may concern”. Then, a cyborg I can be.
Maybe, further down the years it could be the gene card too to go with it.. and perhaps even replace it. That would make it easy to give everything (absolutely everything) about me…!! Do we want that? Yes, now that IT firm are set to make big bucks from the project… the gene card could help the biotech companies… the BT that failed to be the IT.

Many people, organisations and even some politicians were questioning the viability of the NID project. The NID scheme is said to have been aimed at tackling fraud, illegal immigration and identity theft—but it was criticised for being too expensive and an infringement of civil liberties.

Perhaps, the least that needs to be done is that UIDAI should make a case to justify why what was rejected in the UK is good for India. It’s surprising how the mainstream media has gone with the idea and has failed to publicise the reports that the UK has rejected the UID primarily because of concerns regarding civil liberties.

The argument, to ensure access to government services is probably due to a lack of information and distorted power structures and an opaque process consisting of fingerprint readers, mobile connectivity and centralised verification will probably not empower the disenfranchised.

But, I am an Indian. Privacy and civil liberties don’t matter to me.

Common sense prevailed over the British and they decided to do away with their ID plan “to reduce the control of the state over decent, law-abiding people and hand power back to them”.

“What’s good for the gander is good for the goose.” That’s what I always believed.
I have never had a tattoo. Maybe I will tattoo my Aadhar so that I don’t have to carry it around all the time.
P.S.: Ever given a thought to the NATGRID?!

Ending recession, musically

Thursday, December 16th, 2010 December 16th, 2010 J Jagannath

It was with much trepidation that I took the really late night bus to Pune for the Bacardi NH7 Weekender. Why trepidation? Using plastic loos for a prolonged period is not my kind of thing and Woodstock is nothing more than a relic of a glorious past. With these niggling doubts I attended the concert this weekend and I wished that the following three people were present among the 10,000 people: Manmohan Singh, Montek Singh Ahluwalia and D Subbarao.

Apart from promoting Indian independent music, concerts like these are a quick-fix solution to the economic slump that we are going through. All those 10,000 people had bought tickets (mine was Rs 1,500 and I was dragged along by a friend) and what more, the people who man the multiple stages (eight in all), the ones in charge of car parks, the bar tenders, the security personnel, all owe some of their living to the 60 bands that belted out their best music.

Vishal Dadlani

And I haven’t even started talking about the engineer in charge, who makes sure that Vishal Dadlani’s growl is absolutely audible, and the multiple lorries that are used to ferry the kit. What more can the trio expect, when people are loosening their purse strings generously at an event where the vibes are post-apocalypse Woodstock?

Here are a few performances that made me mark the event in my calendar as a must-visit every year. Susheela Raman’s meditative Tamil chants from her latest album were just the kind of start a Saturday evening wanted. When she was singing ‘Vel Muruga’, it was as if everyone present were having a pie of her séance. The ensemble performance that included Rajasthani folk artists was the closest anyone could come to a commune with the Divine Being. Susheela’s wicked version of ‘Voodoo Child’ was just the sort of denouement the act needed. Now I got a clear picture of why Sigur Ros’ Icelandic lyrics broke all language barriers. It’s not about the words, stupid!

Following was the headlining act of the day Indian Ocean that at last seemed to have made peace with the death of one of its band members last year. Starting with ‘Bandey’, they went through their predictable-yet-delectable playlist that includes ‘Maarewa’ and ‘Kandisa’. I look at this band and I am really chuffed that they chose to stick to their passion at a time when rock music in this part of the world was unheard of. To think of it, it is still unheard of here considering most of us are yet to go beyond Bryan Adams and— may the force be with them— MLTR.

In gourmet terms, if Saturday was a starter, Sunday was the most expansive platter. I had so much to choose from: right from Shaa’ir + Func to Raghu Dixit Project and Midival Punditz to Asian Dub Foundation. Not to forget, the British indie act The Magic Numbers. This band made up of brothers and sisters seems like a love child of Belle &Sebastian and Drums. Every hook of theirs only reinforced my belief.  Be it the riff-laden ballad ‘Love Me Like You’ or the soothing ‘Forever Lost’, here was a band that in the right time period would have been lumped along with the British New Wave movement.

Audience

My musical evening, however, began with Monica Dogra’s crunchy voice. While she was singing stuff from both the band’s old and latest albums, I was wondering if this is the closest India can come to Black Eyed Peas and one look at Monica she would remind you of Fergie, a campy one at that. For a brief while I listened to Junkyard Groove and was reminded of a line from poet Jack Black. “No, you’re not hard-core/ Unless you live hard-core.” These guys do.

Up ahead were the electronic duo Midival Punditz, whose 70 minute electronic genius stuff started with a tribute to Edvard Greig (recall the rowing scene in Social Network?). Following that, they beat the bejesus out of the electronic equipment what with a glorious mish-mash of Hindu chanting and schizoid verses. With a little bit of chemical assistance, the music was a guaranteed brain-melter.

The son-et-lumiere, both literally and figuratively, of the evening was Asian Dub Foundation. With an expansive set arrangement that includes dhol jamming with guitar interspersed with rap lyrics, it was pretty obvious that this London group packs a wallop.

Thus, as I was saying, we should be having more of such concerts where people can lounge around and quaff alcohol to get out of the meltdown rut. This might seem like a simplistic solution. But the times are such that I know what ‘quantitative easing’ means but not ‘money’!

“Ich bin ein Berliner”

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010 December 14th, 2010 Pablo ChaterjiPablo Chaterji

“I am a citizen of Berlin.” These are the words with which John F. Kennedy ended his legendary speech in West Berlin in 1963, in which he, in a most polished and civilised manner, stuck his tongue out at Communism and said it sucked. Although the whole of West Berlin was most taken by his declaration, they also suppressed hearty guffaws – a ‘Berliner’, in local parlance, is a rather tasty bakery item filled with jelly. You have to admit that the leader of the free world proclaiming that he is actually a jelly donut is an occasion for much merriment; nevertheless, like the late president, I too would like to take the bold step of announcing that I am a jelly donut. I love that city.

I’ve been to a few cities over the last few years and, although I’ve enjoyed every one of them in different ways, there haven’t been too many about which I’ve felt ‘Hey, I’d like to live here!’. Tokyo blew my mind, but it was just a little too mind blowing for sustained liveability – it operates in another universe altogether. Istanbul is magnificent, both architecturally and in terms of gastronomy, and I would happily go back as many times as I can, but I wouldn’t settle down there – beyond the popular sights, there’s a certain flatness to it. Munich is, like the whole of Bavaria, incredibly picturesque, but after a while you begin to feel like you’re living inside a tourist brochure. In Singapore, after shopping and eating myself to exhaustion, I would go quietly insane. Amsterdam is a wonderful city, but I have a feeling I’d get a little bored there after a while, not to mention irrevocably stoned. Paris is magical and moves hardened cynics into writing romantic poetry – the only problem is that it’s full of French people. Seoul is… well, Seoul-less. Vienna, with its grand palaces and delicious Sachertorte, is captivating at first, but that feeling doesn’t last too long. Bangkok, although vastly entertaining, is a bit too ‘Me-love-you-long-time’ for my taste. I’ve left a few cities out of this list, but they all fall into the same category – great, but not quite great enough to prompt emigration.

Berlin, though – now there’s a city and a half if there ever was one.  For some rather strange reason, I’ve avoided going to Berlin the previous few times I’ve been to Germany. The name ‘Berlin’ conjured up images that were bleak and forbidding, of the sort of über -city that Adolf Hitler had envisioned as part of his Nazi master plan, but which (thankfully) never came to fruition. This time, I decided that I would go, no matter what, and I’m jolly glad I did – Berlin shattered my preconceptions thoroughly.

Mind you, Berlin’s tumultuous past is always around the corner, but never in an overwhelming way. The erstwhile East Berlin, the history of the dreaded Stasi (the East German secret police), the remnants of the Berlin Wall, the Holocaust Memorial – all these and more exist, but Berlin is refreshingly open about them, and there’s a lot to be learned from these things. In every other way, it’s a fabulous city, with its liberalism, multi-culturalism, left-of-field ethic, thriving art scene, laidback people, relaxed vibe, astounding nightlife and great architecture. There aren’t too many cities that I would consider moving to (New York and Barcelona for sure, perhaps San Francisco), but if there was ever a reason for me to go and live in Berlin, I would be off before you could say ‘Berliner’.

Learning of a lifetime

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010 December 7th, 2010 Kalpana PathakKalpana Pathak

It’s hard to believe when Ms Dutt says she did not consider lobbying by Ms Radia to get a certain person into the cabinet, a story.

It is very much a story, for any editor who would want to do it.

Ms Dutt however, may not be completely wrong in not doing the story. Editors do kill stories.

One call from the corporate communication head followed by a meeting and the reporter’s story flies out of the window. All the hard work and home work done, is trashed.

So its not surprising when journos are referred to as “apna dost hai” by the communication professionals (no offense meant).

An instance: While covering one of the most famous legal disputes of its time between two corporate houses, the journalists on the court beat would be treated to refreshments and luncheons, with the corporate communications head picking up the tab. We would be offered lifts to offices and during the ride, brainwashed against the motives of the other group.

Many of these gentlemen and ladies (pretty good at their jobs) however, forget that we stick to reporting only the court proceedings. Despite this, by the evening you would be flooded with calls and emails with different versions even to the court proceedings. While one group would push con-calls with its seniors, other group would have its communication team ready with printed matter to be distributed.

Another company which I had just started writing on, did not want me to do a particular story, so a senior communications manager called up my boss in Delhi to kill the same. When my boss refused, the communication professional called me to convince me how un-important my story was and how I should focus on doing a story which a rival paper is working on. Our equation however, remains for future’s sake.

I guess there’s very little that journalists can do about the entire network that they get into while working. Developing personal equations are inevitable. We do have that with our sources and I am sure we are sources for communication professionals too, to plant their stories. Drawing that line absolutely difficult.

So for me and am sure many other journalists like me, the entire Radia tape episode is learning of a lifetime. As for the government, I guess it could look at granting lobbying a professional status as it enjoys in the US. May be then it may not be as a dirty word as we make it sound right now!

The art of restoration

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010 December 2nd, 2010 Aabhas Sharma

Sitting in a hotel room in Pune, at 1.15 in the night I was desperately trying to find a live stream on the Internet for arguably the biggest game in club football. When Barcelona play Real Madrid, the world stops, or at least the world of football fans comes to a standstill. It doesn’t matter whether you are an AC Milan fan, a Manchester United fan or a Mohun Bagan fan, you have to drop everything else and watch the El Classico.

So what if it turned out to be one of the most one-sided El Classicos of recent times, it was still a joy to watch Barcelona rip Real Madrid apart to shreds. The passing, the movement, the tracking, the closing down of players, Barcelona did everything perfectly. In fact, for most of the part of the last two years, they have been near perfect. And the credit of Barcelona’s brilliance is down to one man – Johan Cruyff. No, it’s not the mesmerising Messi nor the midfield maestro Xavi Hernandez. Not even Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola but it’s the Dutch legend Cruyff who should bask in the glorious sunshine of Barcelona’s victory.

Now you might wonder where does Cruyff come into this when he is not even involved with Barcelona (at least not on the pitch). Obviously it’s the players who perform on the pitch and it’s the coach who tells his team how to play but the foundations of Guardiola’s team were laid by Cruyff.  It was Cruyff who started the phenomenal factory of youth development at Barcelona, which churns out world class talent like Jose Mourinho wins league titles (oh, the irony). Not only youth development, as coach of Barcelona in the early 90s , Cruyff  changed the footballing philosophy of Barcelona which yielded a handsome return of four league titles and other trophies including a Champions League. And guess who was Cruyff’s general of that Barcelona team? It was Guardiola. No wonder the current Barcelona manager dedicated the victory over Madrid to Cruyff and former coach Carles Rexach.

In 2008, Barcelona finished 18 points behind Real Madrid. They had a very good team with players like Ronaldinho, Samuel Eto’o, Deco and a young Messi. But their coach Frank Riijkaard wasn’t able to manage the club to the liking of Barcelona’s hierarchy. They played excellent football as well but something was missing. Barcelona shocked the footballing world when they appointed Guardiola as their manager. People shook their heads and wondered what were they thinking? Especially at a time, when Mourinho was available. But then as they say in Cataluniya, Cruyff knows best. He knew that the the right man to follow his blueprint of Barcelona. And that decision has turned out to be a masterstroke.
Guardiola also knows without Cruyff’s philosophy Barcelona would not have been successful. Of course, they would have won trophies with players like Samuel Eto’o, Andres Iniesta, Messi and Xavi but not by playing football in the most artistic form.

I am not a Barcelona fan. In fact, I don’t even like them that much, But you just can’t help but join the “bow in admiration” gang at the stuff they pull off on the football field. Monday night at Nou Camp was just another chapter of a book whose prologue and epilogue have been penned down by Cruyff.

History will tell us that this Barcelona team is one of the finest – if not the finest – football team of all time. But what must not be forgotten is that while Guardiola would be remembered as the coach who led them to so many titles, it was Messi who scored goals for fun and that it was Xavi who never misplaced a pass, the chief architect of Guardiola’s Barcelona is Cruyff. As Guardiola himself said a few years back “Cruyff painted the chapel, and Barca’s subsequent coaches must merely restore and improve it.” So far, he has done a great job of restoration.