Black Candy Blues

Lewis Hamilton’s F1 win could well be an indicator for things to come. The United States goes into elections today, and for the first time in its history, a black man is being touted as a heavy favourite. And Hamilton’s F1 win may be seen as an indicator for things to come.

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Not getting into any race-driven ( excuse the pun ) feelings, but an Obama victory would certainly be refreshing, what remains to be seen is whether he can deliver the change he’s promised.

The important thing here is not to rule out his very formidable opponent in Sen. John McCain. As a former POW, he’s displayed the strength, at both physical and mental levels to make this fight far from a one-sided affair. Even though i’ve always believed the US electoral system to be error prone, it always provides interesting outcomes. May the best man win!

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Chelsea have bounced back brilliantly from their Bridge defeat to Liverpool, and have snatched the top spotin the PL again after falling to 2nd last Sunday. Emphatic victories against Hull ( 3-0 a ) and Sunderland ( 5-0 h also involving a Nicholas Anelka hat-trick ) have ensured they have a far superior goal difference ( +23 ) than any of the other title contenders.

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A movie that i saw recently was Burn After Reading. From the very impressive duo of Ethan and Joel Coen ( of The Big Lebowski, Fargo, and No Country for Old Men fame ), this movie , for me, couldn’t stand up to their previous highs. Although loaded with the highest-end cast of George Clooney, Frances McDormand, Jon Malkovich, Brad Pitt and Tilda Swinton, the movie fails to find a stable plot and keeps juggling between a situational comedy and a Government thriller. The background score is very impressive, and helps build suspense towards a climax, which ends up being very soft.

Overall i’d rate this movie at 7/10 for its background score, and the impressive cast.

Rajdeep Sardesai’s letter to Raj Thackerey

This comes after I recently got involved in the  “Migrants in  Mumbai” debate at kv’s blog.

My Dear Raj,

My apologies for having to communicate through the editorial pages of a newspaper, but frankly am left with little choice since you seem to have decided to stay away from the so-called ‘national’ non-Marathi media. Let me at the very outset say that I am impressed with the manner you have carved a niche on the political landscape of Maharashtra. I distinctly remember meeting you in February last year soon after the Mumbai municipal corporation elections. It wasn’t the best of times: your party, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena had been marginalized while your cousin Udhav Thackeray and the Shiv Sena had captured power in the city. With many of your supporters deserting you, you appeared down, if not quite out. Twenty months later, I see you’ve bounced back: every local and national daily has you on the front page, you are the subject of television debates and your politics has even united Bihar’s warring netas.

And yet, my friend, there is a thin line between fame and notoriety, more so in the fickle world of politics. Bashing north Indian students may grab the headlines, getting arrested may even get you sympathy and strident rhetoric will always have a constituency, but will it be enough to secure your ultimate dream of succeeding your uncle Bal Thackeray as the flagbearer of Marathi asmita (pride)?

If Balasaheb in the 1960s rose to prominence by targeting the south Indian “lungiwala”, you have made the north Indian “bhaiyaa” the new ‘enemy’. In the 1960s, the Maharashtrian middle class in Mumbai was feeling the pressure of job competition for white collar clerical jobs. Today, it seems that there is a similar sense of frustration at losing out economically and culturally to other social groups in Mumbai’s endless battle for scarce resources. With the Congress and the NCP having become the real estate agents of the state’s rural-urban bourgeoise and the Shiv Sena a pale shadow of its original avatar, the space has been created for a charismatic leader to emerge as a rabble-rouser espousing the sons of the soil platform.

But Raj, I must remind you that electoral politics is very different from street agitations. Sure, round the clock coverage of taxis being stoned and buses being burnt will get you instant recognition. Yes, your name may inspire fear like your uncle’s once did. And perhaps there will always be a core group of lumpen youth who will be ready to do your bidding. But how much of this will translate into votes? Identity politics based on hatred and violence is subject to the law of diminishing returns, especially in a city like Mumbai, the ultimate melting pot of commerce. Your cousin Udhav tried a “Mee Mumbaikar” campaign a few years ago that was far more inclusive, but yet was interpreted as being anti-migrant. The result was that the Shiv Sena lost the 2004 elections – Lok Sabha and assembly – in its original citadel of Mumbai. Some statistics suggest that nearly one in every four Mumbaikars is now a migrant from UP or Bihar. Can any political party afford to alienate such a large constituency in highly competitive elections?

Maybe, your not even looking at winning seats at the moment, but simply staking claim to the Sena legacy in a post Bal Thackeray scenario. Perhaps, thats exactly what the ruling Congress-NCP combine in Maharashtra wants: like a market leader who gets competing brands to crush each other, the Congress-NCP leadership seems to be practicing divide and rule politics once again. They did it with Balasaheb and the communists in the 1960s, with Bhindranwale and the Akalis in the 1980s, even with the Kashmir valley politicians in the 1990s. A larger-than-life Raj Thackeray suits the ruling arrangement in Maharashtra because it could erode its principal rival, the Shiv Sena’s voter support. It’s a dangerous game, but often when politicians run out of ideas, they prefer to play with fire. It’s a fire that could leave Mumbai’s cosmopolitanism scarred for life.

Now, before you see my writings as the outpourings of an anglicized non-resident Maharashtrian, let me just say that, like you, I too am proud of my roots. I too, would like to see the cultural identity of Maharashtrians preserved and the economic well-being of our community assured. Where we differ is that I am a citizen of the Republic of India first, a proud Goan Maharashtrian only later. Fourteen years ago, I left Mumbai for Delhi to seek professional growth and was distinctly fortunate to be readily embraced by the national capital. Like millions of Indians, I too am a migrant and a beneficiary of a nation whose borders don’t stop at state checkpoints.

Moreover, I cannot accept that ‘goondaism’ is the way forward to forging a robust Maharashtrian identity. By vandalizing a shop or stoning a taxi, what kind of mindless regional chauvinism are we promoting? Taking away the livelihood of a poor taxi driver or beating up some defenceless students from Bihar reflects a fake machismo that is no answer to what ails Maharashtrian society today. The Maharashtra I once knew was inspired by the progressive ideals of the bhakti movement, by a Shahu-Phule-Ambedkar legacy of social reform. Are we going to dismantle that legacy under the weight of hate politics?

When you started your party a few years ago, it had been pitched as a party committed to a “modern” Maharashtra. If that vision still stands, why don’t you take it forward in real terms? Why don’t you, for example, set up vocational courses and technical institutes for young Maharashtrians to make them competitive in the job market? Why not, for that matter, start English-speaking classes for Maharashtrian students to equip them for the demands of the new economy? If cultural identity is such a concern, why not launch a statewide campaign to promote Marathi art, theatre and cinema by financially supporting such ventures? If Mumbai’s collapsing infrastructure worries you, then target the politician-builder nexus first. And isn’t it also time we realized that Mumbai is not Maharashtra, that the long suffering Vidarbha and Marathwada farmer needs urgent attention? Why not use your political and financial muscle to start projects in rural Maharashtra instead of focusing your energies on Mumbai’s bright lights alone? An employment generation scheme in a Jalna or a Gadchiroli may not make the front pages, but it will have far greater value for securing Maharashtra’s future.

Jai Hind, Jai Maharashtra!

Chelsea home-run:An interesting reference

Here’s an interesting piece i came across

Ding dong, Chelsea’s streak is dead.

Thanks to a deflected shot by Xabi Alonso in the 10th minute off Jose Bosingwa, Liverpool topped Chelsea 1-0 Sunday morning at Stamford Bridge to end the Blue impressive 86-game home unbeaten streak.

Chelsea’s last defeat at Stamford Bridge was in February 21, 2004 to Arsenal.

To put it in perspective, that’s six months before anyone knew what “Lost” was. In that time the Red Sox have won two World Series. It’s the same month Kanye West released his first album and since then has sold over 12 million units worldwide.

For more perspective, the previous English record had been 63 matches held set by Liverpool from 1978-80. Chelsea might be unlikeable, but they absolutely owned this record.