Monday, February 25, 2008

Australian Brand Of Cricket

They say they are hard and competitive. But do they fall to the other side of the line more often than not while playing? I would say "Yes" as well as "No".

Yes, because I am an Indian and in recent past they have been involved with non-cricketing issues with Indian team members only. At those times, it feels like they are rude, arrogant and snobbish all at the same time. They sledge at people and when people sledge back, they feel bad about it and run to match referee to interfere. They cannot take other people's spit-at-the-face attitude while they are ones who started it all. I was most hurt by Andrew Symonds column in an Australian paper on returning from last Indian tour, where he took shots on everything about India - its people, its crickets, its climate etc... Well, if you feel so bad about India, whey are you then signed up for IPL?

Now to the other part - No, because this is the way their society is. They are born and raised tough - unlike Indians. Parents there take their kids to fishing & sailing trips which is unlike us. This is the way their treat their life and their sports and they are competitive about it. It would be pretty hard for us to understand what they are like. One thing is for sure that they love their cricket.

Overall, I think there is surely some extent of arrogance in Australian cricketers - especially after Steve Waugh left the stage. And it is easy to be arrogant when you are successful.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bulla ki jana mein kaun?

A great sufi song by Baba Bulleh Shah - one of the greatest sufi poets to walk on this earth.
Na maen momin vich maseet aan
Na maen vich kufar diyan reet aan
Na maen paakaan vich paleet aan
Na maen moosa na pharaun.

Bulleh! ki jaana maen kaun

Na maen andar ved kitaab aan,
Na vich bhangaan na sharaab aan
Na vich rindaan masat kharaab aan
Na vich jaagan na vich saun.

Bulleh! ki jaana maen kaun.

Na vich shaadi na ghamnaaki
Na maen vich paleeti paaki
Na maen aabi na maen khaki
Na maen aatish na maen paun

Bulleh!, ki jaana maen kaun

Na maen arabi na lahori
Na maen hindi shehar nagauri
Na hindu na turak peshawri
Na maen rehnda vich nadaun

Bulla, ki jaana maen kaun

Na maen bheth mazhab da paaya
Ne maen aadam havva jaaya
Na maen apna naam dharaaya
Na vich baitthan na vich bhaun

Bulleh , ki jaana maen kaun

Avval aakhir aap nu jaana
Na koi dooja hor pehchaana
Maethon hor na koi siyaana
Bulla! ooh khadda hai kaun

Bulla, ki jaana maen kaun

Not a believer inside the mosque, am I
Nor a pagan disciple of false rites
Not the pure amongst the impure
Neither Moses, nor the Pharoh

Bulleh! to me, I am not known

Not in the holy Vedas, am I
Nor in opium, neither in wine
Not in the drunkard`s craze
Niether awake, nor in a sleeping daze

Bulleh! to me, I am not known

In happiness nor in sorrow, am I
Neither clean, nor a filthy mire
Not from water, nor from earth
Neither fire, nor from air, is my birth

Bulleh! to me, I am not known

Not an Arab, nor Lahori
Neither Hindi, nor Nagauri
Hindu, Turk (Muslim), nor Peshawari
Nor do I live in Nadaun

Bulleh! to me, I am not known

Secrets of religion, I have not known
From Adam and Eve, I am not born
I am not the name I assume
Not in stillness, nor on the move

Bulleh! to me, I am not known

I am the first, I am the last
None other, have I ever known
I am the wisest of them all
Bulleh! do I stand alone?

Bulleh! to me, I am not known

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Book Review: "The Age Of Kali" By William Dalrymple

William Dalrymple's fourth book, published in 1998, is again on Indian subcontinent (mostly India but also touches upon Pakistan & Sri Lanka plus a brief visit to Réunion, an French island in the Indian). It is a collection of essays collected through his nearly a decade of travel around the Indian subcontinent. The name, Age Of Kali, is a reference to KaliYuga - which is the time (as per Hindu cosmology) when world's imperfection's become so big that there comes a need to start the whole cycle of life afresh. He is surely an Indophile Scotsman, which become more evident after reading this book - where he (despite all the essays of political corruption, ethnic violence, and social disintegration) does feel for India's diversity and the will to survive all times. Nearly half of the essays in the book are not written in his usual travel chronicle style - they are more like interviews and interactions with people. And nearly, in each chapter, he asks some tough questions which the subcontinent is still facing. I would not say that the book is dark, but it would still make you think "why did not he found any happy stories to tell in India?".

Dalrymple covers a lot of ground including Bihar, Rajasthan, Vrindavan, Bombay, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Cochin, Madurai, Goa, Sri Lanka, Réunion Island, & Pakistan: Islamabad, Peshawar. He starts with Bihar, where he finds corruption, caste conflict, government breakdown, and general lawlessness to alarming extent. He then moves to Lucknow, once a beautiful pre-Raj city, where he finds its heritage decaying due to poverty, neglect, corruption, and being replaced by ugly concrete towers. Next is Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh, a "temple town" where many devout Hindus believe Krishna still lives, and also heartbreakingly a place for many thousands of widows, who live lives of terrible poverty and suffering, the result of traditional Hindu society views on widows. Next significant essay is from Rajasthan, a tale of informal social workers among village women struggling to stop infanticide and child marriages and promote education for all children, focusing on a social worker who was raped and faced both caste and gender-based bias. Another good essay is about sati (the act of a widow throwing herself on her husband's funeral pyre); and his visit of the village where a famous sati case was reported in 80s. Then there are some essays on Bombay, Bangalore, Madurai, and Cochin. Next significant essay is a wonderful summation of his interactions with Tamil Tiger - he went to their core areas and met a significant leader as well. The most turning part of this essay is his meeting with the 20-somethings Tiger girls who were trained to give life for the cause. The essays on Pakistan consists of his interactions with Imran Khan, ultra-famous sports star turned politician; the ruins of the fascinating Gandhara civilization (a composite civilization influenced by the Alexander the Great), and an interview with and account of Benazir Bhutto and her family.

It is a good book, written with honesty and dedication towards India. Although some of the initial essays are depressing - but then India is not what you see on travel books.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Book Review: "The Men who killed Gandhi" by Manohar Malgaonkar

“Men Who Killed Gandhi” was first published in 1978. It is like a research work by the author where he tries to unearth the facts about Gandhi’s assassination. Recently, the book has been released with new documents, and rare pictures that leave the readers amused. Interesting archival records include copies of the Air-India tickets used by Godse and Apte to make the trip from Bombay to Delhi and back for the assassination and even their bills at Hotel Marina in Connaught Place where they stayed while carrying out their mission.

It is an informative book about historical facts but it reads like a thriller about a well-laid murder plan. It traces the whole events (partition of India, riots, Gandhi’s fast) leading to the assassination and the trial at Red Fort afterwards. The book tries not to take a side at all – which is a good thing provided the fact that neither of them (Gandhi or Godse) was justified. If Gandhi was not justified to go on hunger strike for releasing 55 crores to Pakistan while India was at war with them, Godse was equally not justified to kill somebody (and that somebody in this case was Mahatma Gandhi). The book states that both Godse and Apte were pledged to the cause of an independent and undivided India. And they held Gandhi liable for India’s division.

The book also points out the leniency with which police handled the events leading to Gandhi’s murder (including a failed bomb attack only two weeks ago). As per the author, if the police would have been fast enough (and would have cut through their internal egos/red-tapism) they would have surely caught all these persons earlier enough to avoid the assassination. On the other hand, book also points out the childish ways of the murders and their co-accused, how on each step they left some witnesses behind to identify them and bring them to justice. It also points out that how Gandhi was all together alienated from the realities of divided India and public sentiments during last days of his life – and paid with his life for that.

Book Review: "A Thousand Splendid Suns" By Khaled Hosseini

This is another wonderfully narrated novel by Khaled Hosseini. For those, who have read his first one, The Kite Runner, and appreciated it, would not be disappointed with this one. It is a great read. Written in his usual story telling manner - where he tells some unbearable events with so ease that they become readable – he tells a lot about human relations and how the will to survive is much bigger that the destiny to perish. This is a novel where at some point of time, you feel like putting the book down and crying our heart out. And for me, it is just a wonderful feeling – there are very few writings which can do this. He also has a way of making Afghanistan very real and its people come live in front of your eyes while you read his books.

“A Thousand Splendid Suns” is a female centric novel. It makes the reader feel the plight of women in the conservative societies. It also highlights the impact of civil unrest on women specially. The story begins in 1964, ends in 2003, spanning over the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, the defeat and withdrawal of the Russians that led to the warlords in-fighting, followed by the rise of the Taliban, and ending with the beginning of democratic rule in which the warlords are given legitimate posts in the government. It is primarily set in Kabul with some early incidents in Herat and later ones in Pakistan. It traces the life of two women, alternating between their points of views. First one, Mariam is from Herat, born as an illegitimate country girl to a wealthy businessman, married to a 30 years older Pashtun man in Kabul, and unable to conceive a child (victim of domestic violence due to that). Second one, Laila is a Tajik from Kabul itself, born to a literate family, looses her family in a rocket attack & brothers fighting for freedom over Soviets, and agrees to become second wife of Mariam’s husband due to his extremely calculated manipulations. The two of them, are initially repulsive to each other. But in due time, they gain each other’s sympathy and trust, and become inseparable. After living their lives like rats, as an act of desperation, Mariam kills her husband, allows Laila to run away to Pakistan with her true teenage love along with her kids, and goes to hell as per Taliban’s law. After Taliban’s fall, Laila comes back to Herat & Kabul to pay visit to Mariam’s place and starts a new life in Kabul working among kids affected due to civil war & Taliban rule.

It is an extremely moving piece of writing – well narrated. It is surely worth a read.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Book Review: "If God Was A Banker" By Ravi Subramanian

Generally I do not condemn books and writers but this book is an exception. If God Was A Banker is a debut fiction novel by an Indian writer, Ravi Subramanian. And I think after reading this, you would surely feel that why did I read it in first place. It is a totally amateur-ish, childish & naïve attempt at writing a book. It is not a book; it is more like an typical Indian movie. It is a story of bad boy & good boy, how bad boy reaches to higher things in life but finds himself tangled into his own web; and later realizes that he was bad and returns home and blah blah blah…

There are two main protagonists in this book – Sundeep & Swami. Both of them are from IIM (by the way, the writer is also an alumnus of IIM) – one is bad and the other one is good. While Sundeep rises to the top most position in a bank through his devilish acts, Swami raises to similar heights but with sanity. And then there is the climax, like a bollywood movie, where in Sundeep realizes that he has been bad; gets into organization enquiry and is fired (or asked to put his papers down) from the company. And then he realizes that it was all bad and blah blah blah…

The plot is very bad in the book. The characters are black or white – no gray. Each character would be established as soon as he enters the story – which shows that the writer is too immature. The novel is also loaded with unnecessary (read detailed) description of the sex escapades of Sundeep – totally crap and useless sleaze. The internal politics & working of so-called world’s number one bank has been shown in such a manner that it looks like a middle-man (one of the characters) runs it. And the only thing which people do there is either to screw colleagues wives or their lives. Ok, even if this all happens – what is the need to write a book about it? The novel is totally useless. Do not do the mistake of buying it. If you still want to read it – get your hands on someone else’s copy instead. After reading this book, I wonder how can a IIM guy write such a book – and he gets a publisher to publish it (well, this shows that he is from IIM).

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

भाई, क्या बात है?

गूगल ब्लोग तो हिन्दी में भी लिखता है। यह तो बहुत ही अच्छा हुआ। यह एक और सबूत है भारत के बढ़ते हुए प्रभाव का। और हमे यह फ़ायदा हुआ कि हम अपनी मात्र्भाषा में भी ब्लोग्गिंग कर पाएंगे।

Book Review: "The Kite Runner" By Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner is the debut novel of Afghan writer, Khaled Hosseini. It is also the first novel published in English by a writer from Afghanistan. And it is a wonderful book - so simple to read but yet gives subtle messages about life and human relations in between its pages. Khaled Hosseini succeeds in the blending of his drama with its context. His narrative takes the reader on a journey of self-discovery, where actions, memories and guilt are experienced.

It is a story of a wealthy Pashtun boy, Amir, from the Wazir Akbar Khan district of Kabul; his betrayal (and the guilt of betrayal) with his childhood friend, Hassan, son of his father's Hazara servant; his exodus from Kabul to Peshawar and then to United States when Soviets take over his motherland; his struggle in United States for earning. And finally, his return to Kabul when Taliban’s are ruling the country to rescue Sohrab, son of Hassan. All along the story, runs the course of other events in Afghanistan, from the fall of the monarchy to the Soviet invasion, the mass exodus of refugees to Pakistan and the United States, and the Taliban regime.

The characters are so lovingly drawn - so flawed, so troubled. The story will make you laugh and cry, but more than anything, you will learn about Afghani people, who have suffered beyond words. It also highlights the human cost that the Taliban, and the Soviets for that matter, had on Afghanistan society.

Overall, a great read. You would not like to put it down once you start it. I would surely read other works by Khaled Hosseini based on my liking of this novel.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Bulleh Shah & Sufi Cult

.. Tere Ishq Nachaya, Theyya, Theyya ..

Your Love has made me dance to a fast beat,
theyya theyya,

come, O Great Physician,
else i breathe my last breath!

Your Love made a house within me,
i filled my bowl with poison and gulped it myself.
come quick O Great Physician, or i will die!

a peacock cries in this grove of love,
my pretty Beloved to me is Kaaba and Qibla.
You smote me with Love but never inquired about me.

Ishq (divine love) and fire are same,
but the heat of the love is intense.
fire burns the wood,
but ishq burns the heart.

water extinguishes the fire,
what is the remedy of love?

Gulam Fareed says:
nothing remains
where Ishq makes its abode.

black is my robe,
i am filled with sins,
people think i am darvish.

O Fareed wake up,
and wander around the world,
find someone blessed,
that you also be blessed.

come, O Great Physician,
else i breathe my last breath!

Your love has made me dance to a fast beat,
theyya theyya,

This is a translation (courtesy of a Bulleh Shah song.

In my opinion, Bulleh Shah is the greatest Sufi poet ever born on this earth. Some people may not agree with my thoughts and would like to compare him with Rumi and Shams-i-Tabriz. Because of his pure life and high spiritual attainments, he is equally popular among all communities. Scholars and dervishes have called him "The Sheikh of Both the Worlds", "The man of God", "The Knower of Spiritual Grace" and by other equally edifying titles. His writings are surely the pinnacle of Sufi literature.

Literally speaking, a Sufi is one who is pure or one who goes about with a woolen
blanket. The cardinal features of the Sufi cult are:
(a) God exists in all and all exist in God.
(b) Religion is only a way of life; it does. Not necessarily lead to Nirvana.
(c) All happenings take place as per the will of God; nothing happens if He does not ordain it,
(d) The soul is distinct from the physical body and will merge into Divine Reality according to a person's deeds,
(e) It is the Guru whose grace shows the way and leads to union with God,

The Sufis believe that there are four stages in one's journey to realization:
(a) Leading a disciplined life (Shariat),
(b) Following the path delineated by the Murshid or Guru (Tariqat),
(c) Gaining enlightenment (Haqiqat),
(d) On realization of truth, getting merged into Divine Reality (Marfat).

I have always been fond of Sufi music or Sufi spiritual people. The Sufi cult is akin to mysticism. And I think this is the one aspect which has pulled me towards it. I have been several times to the Dargah Shareef of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer and Hazrat Nizammudin Dargah in Delhi. And whenever I go to these places, I feel a kind of aura around their tombs – which I do not feel at other religious places. And this is one thing that takes me again & again to these places.