Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Known Turf, Unknown Turf: Annie Zaidi

By John Cheeran
Of course, Annie Zaidi writes about her known turf in Known Turf, a good thing to do if you are a journalist. Deeply made aware of her religious identity by people around her and shaped by the rigours of journalism, Zaidi has put together a few sketches of India where the predictable rules.
The sneering attitude of men towards women dominates the pages though Zaidi starts her book with a lot of promise by venturing to find out why Chambal is such a fertile terrain for dacoits.
Someone, indeed, threw this book at me and having read Known Turf I’m grateful for that assault. Between the lines, I could recognize Zaidi’s silent wish to be another Arundhati Roy. No crime that is. The true tales narrated by Zaidi did not make me shudder or wonder for the fact that one has been quite familiar with such situations. It is a pity that life has not prepared most of the reporters in English language newspapers in India for a class steeplechase; many ordinary moments in urban and rural life are epiphanies for such tribe when they step out for a story. Zaidi, too, is no exception. Her forays into reporting make no fresh ground but issues that she writes about such as dalit resurgence in Punjab, struggles of weavers in Benares and starvation deaths in MP do deserve readers’ pause.
Zaidi’s anxieties and self-doubts on her beat, at a certain level, assail the reader as when she writes “what do you do when a man minus three limbs in a government hospital trauma ward begins to sing?”
Her attempts to answer questions such as ‘what are you’ and ‘where are you from’ in the latter half of the book, however, should have been restricted to blogosphere.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Make Shashi Tharoor IPL Commissioner

By John Cheeran
If I were the President of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), my man to clean up the IPL mess would have been Shashi Tharoor.
I understand that the BCCI is all set to strip Lalit Modi of the IPL Commissioner’s post, come Monday. Is there anyone better qualified to replace Modi other than Tharoor?
Tharoor loves cricket even though he has other mature loves in his life. He now knows what’s exactly wrong with IPL and cricket administration in India. He, of course, knows to tweet as well as Modi and may be he knows to outbid a few others within the boundaries of the rulebook.
And most importantly, Tharoor does not have a full time job, so can devote his considerable energy to the job at hand. Now that Sunanda Pushkar has given away her sweat equity in the Kochi IPL franchise there is no longer a conflict of interest!
I hope Shashank Manohar and Arun Jaitley read this blog post before Monday.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Why my blood boils when I hear of Tharoor, Sunanda, IPL and Lalit Modi

By John Cheeran
Former minister of state for external affairs Shashi Tharoor invoked poet Vallathol Narayana Menon’s famous lines
Bharathamennu Kettal Abhimana Poorithamakanam Antharangam
Keralamennu kettalo thilakkanam namukku chora njarambukalil
in Parliament on Tuesday to lend substance to his mentoring of the Kochi IPL franchise.
The nationalist poet had urged Malayalis to swell with pride in their minds when they heard the word Bharath but when they heard the word Keralam blood should boil in your veins.
It has been a tumultuous week for Shashi Tharoor, Sunanda Pushkar and Lalit Modi since April 11 when Modi’s tweet set off a chain of events of which the last is not heard of yet.
It would have been foolhardy on my part to comment on the issue without understanding the facts related to the Kochi IPL franchise. Information about what transpired in the stratosphere of IPL and BCCI is still hard to come by but it is quite evident that a lot is not right with the secret society of BCCI and the uber secret society that is Indian Premier League.
It is now quite clear that Shashi Tharoor made a grave error of judgement when he more than mentored the Kochi IPL franchise. Tharoor has made a fervent appeal to the sentiments of Malayalis when caught in the silly point of sweat equity thanks to the Modi tweet and it is hard even for me to buy into that argument.
Yes, the world of cricket and high politics is not an easy party to gate crash either in New Delhi or Mumbai and racism of different colours are in operation in such elitist places.
But had there been no sweat equity for Sunanda Pushkar, Tharoor could have been justified in his batting for Kerala as an MP from Thiruvananthapuram.
The lesson is that you should not mix your love with your work. You can love your work but cannot work your love. Not that Tharoor does not know this. He, of course, has had much diverse encounters in life than I can ever aspire. But still he was foolish to push for Pushkar’s cause.
Tharoor’s crime was this he forgot that Lalit Modi was the other half of his profile. It did not take much time for Tharoor to figure it out that IPL and Indian cricket is a secret society where players and politicians guard each others facts and figures. You could slough off your morality and integrity and have to be accountable only within that charmed circle. Well, his understanding was quite right but then he would not have bargained for the kind of compromises that you are supposed to make to remain in that secret society. Tharoor made the mistake of becoming one among the cabal even for a short duration and the kind of pacts that are signed and sealed within the 22 yards of IPL would have emboldened him to close his eyes towards the sweat equity provisions to his friend, possibly at the behest of the motely crew of the nascent Kochi IPL franchise.
Tharoor did that and has paid a huge price for the sweat equity worth Rs70 crore.
Having said that I want to reiterate that Tharoor’s decision to mentor the Kochi IPL was a bold move but he should have worked it out without seeking the management brand building expertise of Pushkar. The Union minister for external affairs pushed the boundaries of the imagination for an average MP from Thiruvananthapuram. But what me and others like me were not prepared was the involvement of aunty Pushkar.
I have no qualms with Tharoor’s choice of friends. Let him marry Sunanda Pushkar and do whatever that pleases him.
At 56, Tharoor remains a romantic and that gladdens my heart. Before him Shah Rukh Khan is an inferior monkey. I admire his written words and Tharoor’s The Great Indian Novel is one of the finest works in English produced by an Indian author.
But all these do not give him the right to demand for his friend what’s not largely unheard of in corporate world. But, then, again Tharoor would not have asked anything in return for his mentorship. The only thing is that it sounds a bit incredible to me and the rest of India.
John Cheeran at Blogged