India’s best supported English football club

I had been thinking of doing this poll for quite some time. Here’s my motivation behind it. India, with its massive population power (~1.2 billion) is a largely untapped market when it comes to European football. Only perhaps German side Bayern Munich have played a few games in India, and they have always been watched by audiences in excess of a 100,000 at the Salt Lake stadium in Kolkata. Sadly, one of the biggest reason of this absence is the lack of quality in the Indian local sides, and hence the inability to provide reasonable pre-season fixtures. This though, doesn’t in any way imply a lack of fan-following for the major European sides. On the contrary, there are huge fan groups for almost all top English clubs.

The percentages might comparatively come out smaller when compared to the support for say, the national cricket side or any of the IPL sides, but it should be noticed here that even small percentage numbers mean huge real population numbers with a market of the size of India. So is it your club that stands to gain the largest from this untapped market? Lets find out who you support –

Multiple votes don’t work 🙂

Looking beyond the AIEEE

Tonight I share an article where my father expresses his views on a situation many Indian parents end up facing  –
9th June, 2012 11:44pm
 
I was half sleep when a text message woke me up. It read – ‘AIEEE 4111′. It was from one of my ex-colleagues whose son was aspiring for an admission to one of the top engineering institutes in the country. The rank, 4111, was a really excellent one  in the AIEEE exam, considering especially that more than a million candidates appeared for the exam in May. In fact, what makes this rank even more remarkable is the fact that the first 3000 – 3500 students may not even join any of the institutes available through the exam as they would be most probably be joining one of the IITs or dropping an year to improve their JEE ranks the next year.
 
The message made me wonder about 2 other students, whose parents I knew.  I informed them immediately that the AIEEE results were out. On calling them the next day, I found out that one of them had secured a rank of 45,000 while other had ranked around 2,35,000. Creditable as they were, such is the cut-throat level of competition for the limited number of seats, that they would normally not be enough to make it to one of the  nationally reputed top engineering colleges.
 
The first question that came to my mind was – What should be the next step for these two students ? What if one of them was my own son or daughter? Would I consider this a failure on my child’s part? Sadly, in India, most parents do. What they need to realize is that this is definitely not the end of the road; but rather a great chance to explore other exciting education and career opportunities. We have, over the years ended up building a regime of expectations from our children, where the two most direct routes are –
 
Engineer -> MBA
 or
Doctor
 
In my view, only if a student is really interested in the various engineering courses offered, has appeared for other entrance exams like the BITSAT or State entrance exams and scored well, should he/she opt for pursuing the engineering route. To me, it makes no sense what so ever, in both settling for a mediocre institute or in bluntly keeping on banging for an engineering birth by dropping an year (and possibly more). I would rather sit with my son; discuss our options; take a hard, long look at his interests; and pursue a field that would play to his confidence.
 
I would not really go into great detail, but here are some of the opportunities (assuming a science background in the +2 years of school) you might want to explore if you find yourself in a similar situation –
 
-A direct officer level entry to the Indian Navy (Logistics Branch) or a Marine engineering degree through the navy or otherwise.
-Look for an esteemed career with the Indian Army beginning at the NDA
-If you have a penchant to sketching or design, try for an admission to one of the top architecture or fashion design institutes.
-Take up an under-graduate course in Hotel Management or Business.
-Take up a course in sciences if your child has a dream for it. Remember, there are always excellent opportunities available in R&D, especially in bio-sciences, pharmaceuticals, space, etc.
-There are several courses very similar in structure and opportunities to engineering like BSc (IT), BSc (Computer Sciences). One could always pursue them even whilst preparing for another attempt at the engineering exams, instead of entirely wasting an year.
The list is of course long, and great success always follows wherever passion and hard-work are. I can only advise and eventual success depends upon the individual’s drive. In the end, it is of utmost importance to understand the psyche of each individual student and providing the right counsel.
– Sudhir Kumar Pant
With over 30 years of experience in IT & Telecommunication, Sudhir is one of the founder members of the safalmantra initiative and the prime visionary behind the idea. Over the years, his counsel and initiative has been helpful to many young students looking for the best career option.

Maha-Freak-‘India’nomics – a shot at India’s sudden rise to stardom !

Okay so here’s the facts. This nation, with its 1.2 billion people

  • is not rich,
  • by far prosperous,
  • diseased and hungry and corrupt,
  • and still inhabits the largest number of slum dwellers in the world.

So the ‘slumdog’ is pretty much barking, but the ‘millionaire’ is here. He’s shining, no, he’s not wearing the Armani’s yet, certainly not the playboy, but you give him a dare, and he’s upto it. He’s being talked about, and looked at, and everyones interested, and throwing glances only the super-hot will get. He’s hot, boy he’s hot !

There are now references like :

” The following list is Forbes ranking of the world’s richest billionaires as of February 12, 2010, and does not reflect changes since then. There are 1,011 names in this year’s list. United States currently has the most billionaires amongst the world’s top 10 but India is expected to soon overtake the United States to gain more billionaires among the world’s top 10 than any other country”                       – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forbes_list_of_billionaires

“Chelsea is a big club, and probably the most suited to be bought, if [the owner] ever decides to sell. Located at London’s posh west-end, with a sufficiently large stadium, high attendances, no debts, and huge markets in Americas and India. Infact, I’d fancy one of those Indian tycoons buying it”              – Some random BBC Chelsea forum

Jai Hind!”                                                                                                                                       – US President Barack Obama

In hushed tones, all over the world its being talked about as the land of new riches. In unprecedented trends, the west desperately wants jobs in a country, where they once used to receive Hardship allowances, for so much as landing. Its the breeding ground of world’s richest businessmen, owners of Formula 1 teams and English football clubs and steel magnates, the playground for the world’s most successful companies, not just IT companies, but retailers, automobiles, power, steel and manufacturing, textiles, and you name it, everything is going Indian; everyone wants a slice of the burgeoning Indian pie.

But, how and why, this sudden rise in expectations, this unforeseen stardom, this rise in power ? Is it the relaxing of the Indian market laws, or is it the media, its scrutiny into everything ? Has it got something to do with the Governments, and their plans of development ? Or can it have, umm, well, something to do with the Indian girls? Perhaps it has.

The market laws were, well, apparently non-existent in the 50s and the 60s. Of course, being a young country, those markets were not very strong. Add to that, the relative adolescence of technology ( well, for 1 there was no internet, no cheap airfares to reach India, no cheap calls), yes, you would not really have expected much awe to be generated. But wouldn’t a new and open market be better suited to investment of any kinds, to see your money grow. But there was none. The Cadillac never came, the hotlines stayed back, even the computer never touched base till the early 80s. There was coke, but pepsi stayed back, Levis and Pepe never thought of the cheap manufacturing costs. It could’ve been big, but the bang never came.

They opened up again in the 90s. Yes, this time it was different, probably the perceptions had changed. They fancied India, but from a distance. No one really interested to come down and have a look. If anything, the soft drinks thought they could sell. But anyone who drove, still drove a Maruti, the phone was BSNL/MTNL, the finest suit was still a Grasim or Dinesh. They looked, and they looked harder, but none wanted to take the jump.

At the same time, cable TV arrived, and in a big way. The physical goods might not have landed, but whatever could be sent via satellite, was sold. Western media giants tried to push the cable television market, and along it brought with it, the inevitable birth of “Dynamic Media”, read, television news, news reporters, media driven justice drives, undercover scandal exposures, which also poured down to the expansion of print media, and media in any form fathomable. A billion Indians wanted stories, everyone wanted the truth, and everyone loved the spice, the unmasked faces. Suddenly, the News was in!

But media was fighting within itself; it was bringing news at cut-throat competition. Yes, it was causing shivers amongst the corrupt, the evil, the hypocrites; but the scandals, the news would not stop pouring in. So the evil, never really stopped being evil, the corrupt, though straightened to an extent, never really became incorruptible. Infact, in its exceedingly growing involvement with the dirty, the media started growing dirty. Instead of uncovering scandals, it started planting them, in order to make the Big Newsnight. Often, the reporters turned out to be scandalous, instead of the righteous ! In the long run, the Indians who loved their media, started to mock it on public forums, for its desperation, for its over-denigration, for its incompetency, and almost “Freakshow” programming in some cases (read India TV, AajTak, Samay et al). Quite surely, an aspect the Indians grew to disrespect themselves, couldn’t really have made it walk the red carpet.

The Governments, they come and the Governments they go. They promise, they win, and they try to work. And they try to suffice their greed while they work. The small cut that remains trickles down to whatever the small amount of work they could put together. Not that there isn’t work. The education available now, although still nowhere near the levels set in the west, is light years ahead of the previous decades. The infrastructure is toiling to get a newer, shinier look. But a lot remains to be done. Health services have hardly improved, or for that matter, become any inexpensive. The standard of living is to a large extent (ignoring the lets call it “creamy layer”, very original, eh!) really poor. The leaders have become, no less corrupt, only smarter in their ways to smartly (read very secretly) amass the public money. The Governments surely have played a bigger role than any of the other above mentioned aspects in inviting the west over home, but they’ve not really motivated no one.

So where has the motivation come from? Where has this new found zeal to succeed, and grow rich, and make name spurted from? In short, where has the stardom, the “world’s favorite baby” tag come from?

Lets take this discussion to a lounge in Mumbai, where the author is meeting two lady friends, who’ve met eachother after a long time. They’re discussing the intricacies of their lives, or rather gossiping, and this author is bored to hell, and gulping it down with beer, only when, the girls start discussing another of their girlfriend, who’s set to get married soon. The girls discuss the options this girl had as her suitors, one was apparently a nice IT guy, another a doctor, and the third had just finished his business course from IIM-B (lets call it the Indian Yale). The girl’s decided in unison, of course it has to be the IIM guy ! The author, puzzled by this shocking matter-of-factly unison probed into the why this decision? But the girls could only figure out, “ C’mon ! The richest/best prospects guy obviously “. The author pointed out, had this been the case, the great Indian heroes of yesteryears, who played poor coolies, or laborers, or as unemployed daredevils who fought for righteousness (read Amitabh, Dharmendra, and annoyingly repetitive Mithun) would never have had happy endings with their rich/or even not so rich good-looking heroines. The girls’ simply responded if there were any such heroes to be seen, in any movies, anymore. Shockingly true again ! So the girls had changed. The rich men were in. Now, I’m not being chauvinistic and announcing that this was the only action in place, and that the women were not striving to get any richer by themselves, but they certainly did want the rich boys, and infact it was quite obvious to all of them !

The author, still in disbelief, tried to bring up the matter with any and all of the lady friends he happened to talk to. And the responses that came up were strikingly similar. The old school days of chivalry, and of the rugged, the fighter against injustice, the righteous man were gone. Their men now had to be rich, and ready to empty their pockets, and if they were not already, they had to strive for it, study for it, work their asses off for it, because, to the women, it was quite obvious they had to be, if they had to be with them ! In his research, he came across “The one I marry has to be earning atleast 20 lakhs an year (i.e, Rs 2 mil)”, “What’s the point marrying someone, who doesn’t earn enough to be happy with, or rather to shop with (and a scary LOL)” and “C’mon the guy has to be making more than the girl, those [not so rich] guys can marry someone else ! “ and most shockingly “After I marry, who wants to work or anything, I’ll just spend heheh”.

So, the Indian girl has spoken, and she’s driving every guy to riches, and again not that she’s not trying for the riches herself, but she is, atleast as it seems, aiming high (read in everyone’s league their highest) when it comes to the guys. In effect, a richer girl by herself expects to land a richer guy, and the productive cyclicity of money-making is driving the Indian youth to crazy new heights ! Gone is the good life, they all want the best life now (and the best squeeze !). And the “Indian Baby”  is going global with that best life.

Okay, I know this work might sound really shallow, but those were real girls, and when asked to contemplate on the reasons I figured, none of them seemed to disapprove. Although, they found it awkward, they couldn’t really deny the reasoning. So contemplate ! 😛

The Big Indian Blog Democracy

Internet seems to have finally caught up with the old-school Indian political parties. And so, even though all major competing groups still presented 70-somethings as their Prime Ministerial candidates, the presentation just that bit more savvy, in an attempt to entice the tech (or tech-pretend), blog reading, wikipedia searching Indian www-er.

So what’s in store???

I notice WordPress and Google tied up with the NDA’s candidate – The controversial, yet charismatic, former Deputy PM, L.K.Advani. Mr. Advani’s portal at http://www.lkadvani.in is almost as good the one used by the democrats for Sen.Barack Obama in the US elections last year. The attempt to tie up with wordpress is also commendable, simply because of the large number of Indian WordPress readers and Google users. The portal boasts of many pro-change one-liners (cudn’t find a better word), most presented in saffron bolds. Another interesting feature is the volunteer scheme, which also smells much like the American system. Also on offfer, is the party’s manifesto and its various sections in elaborate details, apart from discussion forums, polls, links, campaign updates, and Mr. Advani’s own thoughts, which I must admit, rounds up a pretty neat show of aggresive online campaigning, not to mention the Advani for PM (very American) carry tag.

On the other hand, there’s Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh’s own page at http://www.manmohansingh.org. The UPA candidate has long been known for his simple style, which is very much evident in the simple structure of Dr.Sinngh’s page (although this could also be down to the inefficient maintainance). The page carries quite a few links like PM’s Biography, Able PM, Policies, Achievements, Writings, Opposition, etc. apart from from national news updates. One interesting glowing link is to UPA chairperson Mrs. Sonia Gandhi’s page at http://www.soniagandhi.org . This page is also very similar to Dr.Singh’s portal and does intelligent small talk about origins, motives, agendas, and India. The Congress has shown greater reliance on its party blog, which again is a very tech savvy page and inculcates everything concerning the party, the upcoming elections, and a formidable dose of volunteer schemes, forums, public polls, updates, etc.

If you’re more of a party-centric voter, then there are blogs like http://www.bjp.org, http://www.congress.org.in, http://www.cpim.org et al for you to check out. Then there’s also the PMO at pmindia.nic.in to grab more daily bites about everyday chores in the country’s most important office.

Whether the people make up their minds based upon online campaigning, is very hard to predict, but it sure is sweet, and a largely welcome change to the Indian political scene.  The one thing you do have now is choice, and a chance to better understand the choices. Please do vote.

PS: I won’t, coz I could not register in the Mumbai list. The EC guys came home, Iwas college.

Slumdog Millionaire…just what i think as well

This was a very interesting review to Slumdog that i found here. I feel this is exactly how i’d describe my Slumdog experience….

__________________________________________________________________________________________

I did not like “Slumdog Millionaire”. Or perhaps I should say I was not at all impressed. Maybe it was all the hype, the Oscar buzz and the “It is soooo awesome” first-person accounts I have heard over the last few weeks that led me to go into the theater with unrealistic expectations. Perhaps.

First let us get the standard attacks on reviews one does not like out of the way.

Yes yes I am being contrarian to get attention.

Yes yes I am too idiotic to understand a truly great movie.

Yes yes I suffer from a third-world siege mentality where I am offended by anything that does not show my country in a purely positive light.

If we can now move beyond these, then let us proceed.

And yes. If you have not seen the movie, then perhaps you are better off not going below the fold (though I try my best not to give away the ending) if you want to “experience” without any pre-knowledge this supposed masterpiece.

There is a difference between clever film-making and great film-making. Make no mistake, Danny Boyle is immensely clever. “Slumdog Millionaire” is made as an out-and-out “crowd-pleaser” through proper audience-targetting which is done in the same careful way the Chopras target the lovey-dovey high school/college crowd and the Anil Sharmas target the uber-patriots.

This crowd-pleasing is done through punching together as many stereotypes that Westerners have about India as is humanly possible. People live in garbage heaps. A character jumps into a huge heap of human excreta and without batting an eyelid comes running out covered in brown slime, as if its the most natural thing in India, to get an autograph of a star. The hero, a Muslim, sees his family slaughtered by Hindu rioters and sees along with it a rioting kid (presumably) dressed as Lord Rama, in blue paint and with a bow and arrow in hand, standing as a sentinel of doom, an image whose indelibility in the character’s mind becomes a principal plot point.

A character is booked on the flimsiest of charges and then he is beaten black and blue in a police station and given volts of electricity.

What else? Let’s see.

Child prostitution. Check.

Forced begging. Check.

Blindings of innocent children. Check.

Rape. Check.

Human filth. Bahoot hain sahab.

Call centers. Oh yes most certainly.

Destiny. Of course.

But wait. Do Hindu saffron-clothed Ram Senas not run havoc through Muslim slums? Do street kids not get taken in by beggar gangs and maimed? Doesnt rape happen in India? Are those slums specially constructed sets? Why do you, third world denizen, get so defensive about your own country? Chill.

Well yes these things do happen in India. However the problem is when you show every hellish thing possible all happening to the same person. Then it stretches reason and believability and just looks like you are packing in every negative thing that Westerners perceive about India for the sake of “crowd pleasing”. Because audiences and jury members “feel good” when their pre-conceived notions are confirmed. On the flip side, nothing disquiets a viewer as much as when his/her prejudices are challenged. So Boyle does the safe thing.

Let’s say I made a movie about the US where an African-American boy born in the hood, has his mother sell him to a pedophile pop icon, after which he gets molested by a priest from his church, following which he gets tied up to the back of a truck and dragged on the road by KKK clansmen. Then he is arrested and sodomized by a policeman with a rod, after which he is attacked by a gang of illegal immigrants, and then uses these life experiences to win “Beauty and Geek”.

Even though each of these incidents have actually happened in the United States of America, I would be accused of spinning a fantastic yarn that has no grounding in reality, that has no connection to the “American experience” and my motivations would be questioned, no matter how cinematically spectacular I made my movie. At the very least, I wouldn’t be on 94% on Tomatometer and a strong Oscar favorite.

But then you say—Boyle is constructing a fairytale, a dash of Indian exotica, a love story. Surely he can take liberties. Make the darkness darker in order to brighten the halo around the hero and heroine.

Ok I get it. That’s why the first shot of Taj Mahal is through filth, when any other shot would have done. That’s why the host of Millionaire is shown heartlessly mocking the fact that the contestant is a humble “chaiwala” as the audience laughs with him in a way that reminded me of Amrish Puri, rolling his eyes and saying “Tu to gandhi naali ka keeddaaaa hainnnn”. Even though this kind of class-based running down will never ever happen on “Millionaire” if for nothing else than political correctness , lets accept it happens just to heighten the drama.

Which brings us to the main weakness of “Slumdog Millionaire”. There are way too many things you have to “accept” in order to enjoy this supposed “glorious celebration of exotica” , too many plot contrivances, too many loopholes you can drive a truck through that you have to turn a blind eye too.

Suspension of disbelief is one thing, after all movies are not logic proofs. But “Slumdog” sometimes gets so focused on the “scents” (excreta) and “sounds” (pain) of India that it does not bother to even try to make some of the fantastic coincidences look even moderately plausible.

But then again, as you said, it is a fairytale. Which means it has infinite license for taking liberties.

The thing is that the same people who are going ga-ga over “Slumdog” saying “Areee yaar, dont over-analyze. Dont see it from a realist perspective. Just enjoy the ride” will go and say “What! She cannot recognize Shahrukh Khan just because he doesn’t have his moustache” and ” Wait. Rahul Roy sings Jaane Jigar Jaane Man and just finds Anu Agarwal in the city of Mumbai by doing that ” and “Gimme a break. Sunny Deol can decimate a full Pakistani armored division with his bare hands and screams. What will these people think of next”.

The reason for that simple. Hindi movies are, by nature, downmarket and silly. English movies made by people like Boyle, even when they adopt all the conventions of the masala film, are not. Why? Because they have been validated by the “experts” as “life-affirming”, “glorious”, “celebration of the power of dreams”. So “Slumdog Millionaire” with its horribly cliched and predictable love story is a “monumental tribute to the power of love”. While Kuch Kuch Hota Hain with its equally cliched and predictable love story is “oooh sooooo bakwaas”.

Even with all the stereotypes and all the plot contrivances, I would have still enjoyed “Slumdog Millionaire” if it had managed to, at any time, transcend its “masala” origins to become something greater, as Oscar winners ought to. As the “Dark Knight” transcended its comic book origins to become a fascinating study of true evil. As “City of God” goes beyond the depiction of poverty in Brazilian slums (which is never its primary morbid fascination) to become an epic about the cycle of extreme violence.

In this respect, Slumdog is never greater than the sum of its parts. The production quality is top notch but then again even Ramgopal Verma’s turkeys are technically very accomplished. There is not much scope for acting. However Anil Kapoor, who is slowly coming close to legally becoming a werewolf with his ear ornament makes his mark everytime he unleashes his fake American accent, though you keep expecting him to say “jhakaaassss”.

If there is anything unique about Slumdog is its use of the millionaire game show device to further its plot (even though the links between the plot and the questions are tenuous and sometimes extremely artificial), which I believe is one of the primary reason why people get caught up in the movie. The same reason they get caught up in reality shows like “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” and get up and cheer when a total stranger gets a million bucks. However once one goes beyond that device, there really is nothing exceptionally unique to Slumdog, nothing that warrants all the hype and hoopla.

A big disappointment.

The Lonavala Chronicles…

Due to their strong insistance, the identities ov da celebs involved in dis trip haven’t bin revealed, n infact hv bin replaced by even dumber alphabets.

So we finally managed to have the Alibaug-became Karnala( or ws it Karjat )-became Lonavala trip, huh, n no i don’t regret it…infact, it turned out to be a surprisingly refreshing experience.

After much negotiations by D, apart frm me, A,B,L,R, n D ( say ) made it to Lonavala n bk…

The day din’t start britly at all, n despite my D’s strict instructions, i did get up a bit late, n got even later coz my preparations clashed wid ma sis’ goin 2 skul tym( yea dere wr fites invlvd 2). I reached Seawoods’ stn. ( while also seeing a Pnvl bound local leavin) at abt 8, n contemplated getting on it, but no i’m a nice guy ain’t I,YES!, so i got a ticket n w8ed for da next train. Neways, i reached Panvel( n dis tym every1 incldn my frnd A hd bags, coz bags r kewler), n v w8ed 4 our Lonavala bound train. In the train i kept on bein NICE ( k, no, bt i ws atleast betr den xpected i guess ) …so v carried on wid the usual rituals ov DUMB( ? ) Charades ( yep i ws at my skillful best again ), n LONAVALA came, along wid sum SUPER weather, by 11.

No1 v knew in Lonavala, cmd 2 be interested in helping us out wid directions ( 1 ov ’em hd infact gone on to change his cell no., bt dats a wildd guess)…so v trotted on wid the our leader in B, who vowed us to help us reach the promised waters of Bhushi Dam….

More’s to come ( guess m too sleepy rite nw ), inclding y Rajat Kapoor decided to come o’er n say hi….


Barack Obama – An Indian Review

Barack Hussein Obama II might soon go on to become the world’s most powerful man. But what does this Hawaii born African-American Change preacher mean to the Indian Wannabe hip population force??

For starters, in choosing CHANGE, senator Obama means a lot to Indians.

Race might be a hush, denial n oppose topic to the west, but in India, it holds high. The west might see everyone equal, but Indians see whites as whites, n blacks as blacks, infact for most Indians, whites are angrez (foreigners) n blacks negros. N we know we come closer to the latter. An Indian ( like most across Asia, n Africa ) has an automatic favorite for his choice as the next US president, n that has to be senator Obama. We might deny it, n silence it, but in the end the tantalizing idea of seeing a black US president excites us, even if he eventually turns out to be a strong anti-Indian, bcoz dats the only way we think. We don’t want an army guy McCain, to us he’s another Bush, or a celebrity Clinton. We’d love to see Obama up there 9 times outta 10. He’ll always be 1 of our side, the darker side.

The victory of the underdog is another aspect that excites Indians (probably bcoz we’ve long been 1), and seeing a non-existant black suddenly take over the US would be like winning a personal battle. N we luv winning small wars. Then we’ll hv our eyes wide, in anticipation, of how our winner acknowledges us.

Obama’s youth (at 46) raises an Indian’s hope. We look upto our leaders to take cues, to shift power to the youth, we’ve had 70 yr old leaders for too long, n in Obama’s example, we see possibility of change. Whether Obama’ll be able to bring about changes for real, i don’t know, but again the prospect of our way-past-retirement leaders meeting him formally n trying to understand his stand is interesting. To us Obama is cooler.

The US will chose their president next year, but i can foretell, inside every asian, a small tiny percentage of perception towards the US will change, for the good, if Barack Obama is at the helm. Asia, where the US struggles perennially to improve its image, will make US feel a bit more welcome……