Monday, March 28, 2011

The knockout round

Well, I’m not someone who lives, eats and breaths cricket like other worshippers of this game from India or anywhere in the world. And I’m also not like one of those craaaaaazy cricket fans....who will stay awake like owls, skip meals, bunk office, stand in serpentine queues, or climb over trees to catch a glimpse of a cricket match. But well, an India versus Pakistan match undoubtedly is a big high profile match played between two neighbors, who currently are not in talking terms with each other. Besides…a match between the conflicting nations is like a Supermoon phenomenon that happens once in 15-20yrs. And hence, when a match of this magnitude eventually happens, it creates a stir amongst people, stimulating their patriotic emotions for their country even more. The announcement of the semi-final world cup match between India and Pakistan brings in a lot of excitement and nervousness among the citizens of the respective nations. And this excitement only builds up as the day to the final knockout round approaches.

When the world cup 2011 began and the whole world was excited about it...I wondered whether I lost my mojo....because, the world cup excitement was just not sinking in. But the drab feeling took a somersault during the energetic quarterfinal rounds of the World Cup. Especially the do or die India versus Australia - the world champions - match which I was hoping and adamant that India wins come what may for two basic reasons. One obvious reason is so that we play Pakistan in the semi-final and secondly, to watch the over confident Aussies pack up even before entering the semi-final round for the first time ever. Except of course, I wished the talented, consistent, and committed player of the Australian team, Binga (Bret Lee) would stay back for his fantastic innings in the World Cup. Even in the quarter final round versus India, Binga continued his relentless fight back even after being badly hurt. And this is called true sportsmanship!

Is cricket diplomacy really required?
So, why all this fuss about the India versus Pakistan match? For some, this game is not just a match but it is more like war, while some diligently use it as an opportunity to build relationships. As soon as India entered the semi-finals and was scheduled to play against Pakistan in the semis on Wed, 30th Mar 2011, the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh invited Pakistan PM (Yousuf Raza Gilani) and President (Asif Ali Zardari) to India to watch this match with him in Mohali. There was a hue-and-cry across the borders, wherein people started debating about whether there was a need of such an overture.

Well, many people can say many a things. But in my opinion, this kind of overture indeed makes a difference! With so many failed attempts in the past to strike a diplomatic conversation with Pakistan (more importantly after 26/11 terrorist’s attacks in Mumbai), there was no channel of communication open to engage the two nations once again. The 26/11 terrorist attacks, the Kashmir issue, the Kargil war are continuous impeding points which kept the two nations away from striking a mutual conversation with each other. Well a game that is worshipped by India and Pakistan simply made this possible.

The immediate upshot of the invitation saw the release of Indian prisoner Gopal Dass from Pakistan jail after 27yrs of imprisonment since 1984 over spying charges. Furthermore, the President of Pakistan has promised many more similar releases of Indian prisoners in Pakistan jails. So cricket indeed is doing what nothing else could do! Even if this diplomacy may not be long lasting, we achieved quiet a bit with only an invitation by our diplomats.

The people anyway are excited and simply can’t wait for ‘The Day’ to arrive. But everybody wants to know what’s going on in the minds of the players of the two teams right now. The captain of the Indian cricket team, M. S. Dhoni, in his calm avatar coolly says that they will play their normal game and that this match is very important for the team to proceed to the finals. While, the Pakistan captain, the good looking all-rounder Shahid Afridi, plays the mind game to attack the Indian player by saying that his team will not allow master blaster, Sachin Tendulkar, or for that matter any Indian player to make 100runs in this match.

Can an India vs. Pakistan match be fixed?
In the midst of thrill and anxiety, disturbing claims about match fixing involving the Pakistan player’s seeps in just two days before the match day. To this of course Interior Minister of Pakistan, Rehman Malik clears the air saying that such a thing won't happen and he also warned his team players to refrain from doing such a thing.

But the question to ask here is whether an India versus Pakistan match can ever be fixed. Will players from any one of the sides accept loads of cash to lose against their warring rivals…I don’t really think so!

Oracle prophesies
Bejan Daruwalla, India’s well known astrologer predicts India’s win over Pakistan. And also predicts India - Sri Lanka final, in which India will win. If Paul the octopus was alive today…probably we would have taken his second opinion to confirm Mr. Daruwalla’s prophesy.

On that note, am praying hard that India wins this match against Pakistan and that the Oracle’s prophesy comes true. Fingers crossed and a short prayer to the almightily is what the nation is doing. There are people who have postponed their surgeries, have gone on leave, and have even postponed crucial plans to be able to watch this match. India Inc. has set up special screening for their employees, while some of them have declared a half day.

Personally, I have no special plans...I simply plan to leave early from office on that day and then catch the match from the luxury of my home. Eat, drink and make the most of this supposedly big day for cricket fans and Indian patriots. Some craziest fans are going to Mohali to watch the match. Reportedly, rooms in all hotels are booked to over-capacity. The big wigs from India Inc., Indian Film actors, and people from the governing body have used referrals and even paid a bomb for the tickets on that day. So this one's going to actually be a power-packed match drawing in maximum eyeballs.

Go India Go....De Ghuma Ke!

Post script:
Undoubtedly…and it goes without saying that I want to see India shining and come out as winners from this big India versus Pakistan match. But in the same spirit, I'm also looking forward to see India’s Prime Minister, Shri Manmohan Singh clap and smile in gusto while he cheers the players from the high profiled and highly guarded stands. It's been long since I have seen our PM do that on camera.

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Before I sign out, as I always say take very good care of yourself and God Bless!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Freedom is contagious

Clapping their hands to freedom, the people of the Arab world are demanding their right to live a free life, to live in Freedom! The very same people who once had their lips sealed to the word called Freedom are now openly talking about it. But then what does freedom really mean? To some it means the right to do what you want to do, in the way you want to do it. To some it means expressing yourself by giving your opinion to anything and everything. To some it means immunity from the power and control of another. And to some it simply means telling someone to stop bossing and imposing strict rules and laws without discussions and consent.

Who said that you cannot live happily, make a lot of money, or live a healthy and wealthy life under an autocratic regime. Didn’t the people in the Arab world under the autocratic regime live a comfortable life, enjoying almost all materialistic highs in life? Coming to think of it, they even lived a better life than people from democratic nations. That’s why, Freedom is not about earning materialistic pleasures in is more about freedom of the mind. It instils the ultimate power to the people to choose, to respond, and to change...and be able to do all this without having to be kicked or brutally killed for not following instructions enforced by a selfish regime.

Constitution for slaves
As the great Martin Luther King said, “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” Quite rightly this is exactly what the undaunted people from Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Yemen, and Bahrain are out to do. They want to live like the people in other democracies who fearlessly and liberally express their right to information and opinion.

It is indeed a big revolution, a kind of a metamorphosis for the people from an autocratic regime to be moving towards a regime that will not ask questions or explanations for their actions. My heart goes out when I see pictures of free Egyptian women singing and dancing as they walk down the streets of free Egypt. They could never think of walking so freely under the Mubarak regime.

The aftermath of revolutions
The fight for freedom is good and ought to continue with greater vigour over the years to come. But then, all in not hunky-dory after the collapse and downfall of such autocratic regimes. Critics argue saying that the downfall of a regime can have a ripple effect and can lead to the crashing down of the economy. Agreed, that there is a lot of uncertainty and chaos until fair elections and selection of a fair government is put in place. But then even the human body retorts when a chain smoker starts his journey towards kicking the butt. It’s indeed, persistence and commitment to quitting the bad habit that makes him conquer it.

Hence it’s not that the newly formed democracies will not win over the vices. They will certainly triumph…we only need to give them some time, our support, share our knowledge and experiences, to help them put things together.

Calling for global response
Protests and uprising in the Arab world demanded speedy and forceful responses from the President of the USA, Barak Obama, and from the top honcho of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon. The whole world demanded quick actions from these powerful public figures against the dictator regimes, which did not care a damn before assaulting their own people, in order to stop the protests staged by them. But then, shouldn’t the world take charge and responsibility to end assaults and autocracy imposed by such dictators. Imposing sanctions is definitely not a solution to this big problem. Sanctions imposed weaken the economy which in turn affects the people. But then what does the world do is the big question?

The world can certainly get a little proactive by taking measures against the dictatorial regimes in the rest of the world. The people there may be dormant today, but the uprising is bound to happen very soon. Talks and discussions with dictators, is the beginning to avoid a chaotic Libya/ Egypt-like situation down the line.

Are people really free in a democracy?
Each democratic nation has a well written living constitution in place which guarantees people their fundamental rights of justice, equality, and liberty. The Constitution also demands accountability from the three estates - Executive, Legislative and the Judiciary. But then again why did we have situations like the 18th Dec 1976 in India, when an emergency situation was called by the then prime minister who in a freak moment pushed through several changes in the constitution to satisfy her hunger for power. Why do we still fight over religion when we are a secular country? Why is there so much corruption by the government...when we are a nation of integrity? Is the Constitution only a showpiece of democracy?

Fear is another roadblock towards experiencing and taking full advantage of democracy. Fear is good...but when the same fear makes an individual a coward, it simply is no good. We do not use our right to information (RTI) to our benefit, because we are afraid of being hounded and attacked by thugs; we do not speak up in our work place and demand our rights, because we are afraid of losing our jobs; we do not expose wrong-doers, because we are afraid that in the bargain our close ones would be hurt. Meanwhile as we are afraid to speak up, the oppressors flex their muscles and get more powerful.

“Fear has its use but cowardice has none,” says Mahatma Gandhi. And hence it is we the people/citizens who can make our democracy live and active by demanding and speaking for our rights. This is what I believe in, but unfortunately my belief is not translated into action in everything that I do. So until I reach the threshold of my conviction, I consider myself a coward! What about you?

Post script:
Reportedly a newly born child in Egypt was named ‘Facebook’ by his parents. Depicting the forceful power of a mere social networking site, which today can be our freedom fighter.