Friday, October 08, 2010
Just like non-smokers have a right to not inhale cigarette smoke, smokers have a right to smoke. If there is a ban on smoking at the airport or the train stations then there ought to be a smoking zone demarcated at those places that allows smokers to smoke. Well, it is not an illegal activity. Every adult above the age of 18 has a right to smoke tobacco.
If one were to walk into an airport, and pee near the check-in counters, the person would be fined or put behind bars. The person would be told that ‘there are loos in this airport and that’s where you need to go and pee’. So to ensure that a person can answer the call of nature, all airports and stations have loos. After all, it is everybody’s right to go take a pee.
Somehow, this sort of consideration is not shown towards smokers. We need to go and indulge from time to time. It is legal. What is not acceptable is that smoking zones aren’t always given to indulge in a perfectly legal activity. Till the Bombay airport was refurbished, there weren’t any smoking zones. I am yet to hear of any train station having a smoking zone. The Calcutta airport does not have a smoking zone. Most restaurants and pubs have been dictated to ban smoking on the tables, but they have not been dictated to ensure that an area is given for smokers to smoke. I would certainly feel like a wretch smoking on a restaurant table and a kid sitting nearby inhaling that smoke. But why couldn’t Ramadoss feel like a wretch when I could not indulge in a perfectly legal activity?
There are also some who get into the MORAL of the whole thing. I have read and heard time an again, senseless things like ‘smoking should be completely banned in India’; ‘Cigarettes are the causes of so many deaths’ and so on and so forth. Well, let me put some statistics forward. Out of the total revenue that India earns, 8.8% is earned from excise duty of cigarettes alone. Bidis, cigars etc. contribute a further 3.3% to the government’s coffers.
Furthermore, the tobacco industry employs 62 lakh people in India. Bidi manufacturing is the biggest cottage industry in the country. So all those who want to ban smoking completely in India, please consider these facts. Banning smoking would not only lead to a huge dent in India’s revenues, it would mean 62 lakh jobless people in one go, just for some nonsensical people’s so-called high-moral ground.
Some might cite the fact that smoking leads to cancer and that needs to be a reason enough to ban smoking. This argument is rubbish. Firstly, smokers who get cancer are extremely heavy smokers and even among them not all get cancer. Secondly, there are more people in India who suffer from diabetes and high cholesterol than cigarette related diseases.
So, first ban sugar so that diabetics can live. Ban butter and cheese so that nobody in India suffers from cholesterol problems. Then talk about banning cigarettes. And, may I add, cigarettes give more employment and revenue to India than butter and cheese and sugar.
The same NGOs and saviours of the earth will not move their bums to ensure that a Govt. of India ruling – cigarette shops should not exist within 200 meters of any school – is stringently followed. They will not ensure that a person selling a fag to an underage kid is put behind bars. They will not work to ensure that there are no cigarette shops within 200 meters of a school. I can show you many cigarette shops in India that are within a few meters from a school.
Well, I hope the right of smokers is preserved. They are old enough; they are indulging in a legal activity; and they should be given their space to smoke. There should not be a draconian rule like what exists in places like, say, Phoenix mills in Bombay – where one cannot smoke anywhere in acres and acres of place.
Punish the irresponsible smoker who smokes at the airport. But also ensure that he has an option of walking into a smoking room somewhere nearby. That way both smokers and non-smokers would remain happy.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
It was raining, and the 11-year old could not go out to play cricket. He was restless and kept looking at the clock, for there was only an hour’s day-light to go. Sadly, Mother Nature didn’t seem considerate enough to relent. The boy’s restlessness was understandable. After all, he wanted to hone his batting skills, he wanted to drive and cut and pull; he wanted to be Sachin Tendulkar, he wanted to be the best.
His mother saw him forlorn and lost and asked him to play in the garage instead of waiting in the veranda. The boy saw sense in the suggestion. He picked up his bat and a tennis ball and walked in to the garage. He switched the light on and prepared to battle. The moment the light was switched on, he was transported to another world. This was no longer a garage, it was Eden Gardens. And he had to practice his craft here for the day; he wanted to be Sachin Tendulkar, he wanted to be the best.
The rules were simple. The garage shutters were pulled down behind him; stumps were drawn on the shutter using crayons. The boy would stand with the stumps (garage shutters) behind him and hurl the tennis ball at the wall ahead; and when the ball came back, he would hit it with his bat. It was a new bat and a heavy one at that. His father had suggested that it might be a tad too heavy for him while buying it, but the boy was adamant. After all, his idol used a heavy bat and so should he; he wanted to be Sachin Tendulkar, he wanted to be the best.
He threw the ball at the wall, and the tennis ball quickly bounced back at him. By the time he gripped the bat and swung it, he heard the sound of the ball crashing into the shutters behind him. Well, the bat was too heavy for him to lift and swing, in a little more than a second; for that was the amount of time the ball took to come back to him after being hurled at the wall. He could have under-armed the ball to the wall very slowly, but he wanted to face the fastest bowlers in the world. That’s why he insisted on throwing the ball with full force instead of gently under-arming it to the wall. He had to learn how to face the fastest bowlers in the world; he wanted to be Sachin Tendulkar, he wanted to be the best.
The boy composed himself and launched the ball again. He swung the bat at the ball and again heard the sound of tennis ball on garage shutter. He walked down what he imagined was the pitch, tapped it like the batsmen did. He kept a running commentary on, and at that time the commentator said that this was a very fast pitch. It would require immense grit and skill to save this one for India and the boy had it. After all, he wanted to be Sachin Tendulkar, he wanted to be the best.
This process kept going on and on for half an hour. Swing, miss, ball crashes into the shutter. Not once did the boy lose hope. Not once did he throw the ball a little gently on to the wall. But every single time he swung the bat, he did not hear the sound of the bat hitting the ball. Each time the ball hit the shutters, each thud louder than the last one. Then finally, his mom called. It was time for homework. He raised the shutter and crawled out, walked into the house with bat and ball. His mom smiled at him and asked him if he batted like Sachin Tendulkar. The boy gave a wide grin and said “no, Ma! I didn’t. Today I bowled like the best, I bowled like Allan Donald.”
Friday, April 16, 2010
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Does this mean that there is no meaning to what Dav Whatmore and Wasim Akram would have done? It’d be incorrect to say so. But what ultimately matters is what the men do on the field, when there is no second chance. That performance is driven by the captain.
Rewind by a year. South Africa, IPL-2. Shah Rukh Khan thought John Buchanan was the guy who’d lead KKR to victory. The natural leader of the team was Ganguly. SRK had no guts to be forthright and say that he wanted to sack Ganguly. They came up with silly things like 4 captains for the tournament, and then the captaincy was taken away in a very wrong way. Yes, it is the owner’s prerogative as to who the captain should be and who should be given the sack. But things need to be done with dignity and as a man.
I saw KKR lose matches that they should have won. McCullum as a remote-control leader was uninspiring. The real leadership resided with Buchanan, who was sitting in the dugout. Players can’t look beyond the boundary line for leadership, they need to see it on the field. Coming to this match, now.
KKR looked like they’d lose this match, quite a few times. But the difference was that this year they came back from the brink and won a match they should have lost. The difference was probably in the leadership. Probably Whatmore and Ganguly have an arrangement that beyond the boundary line, Whatmore is the leader and when they step on to the field, Ganguly is. I saw the man make 3 bowling changes, and all of them produced wickets. I saw a charged-up team. It’s just one match, but I saw a change.
I don’t know if they can make it to the semis this year. That’d mean that they have played most of their matches well, leading up to the knock-out, and then they can hope for 2 good games. KKR finished last in the previous edition of the IPL, and that had nothing to do with the then captain. The owner screwed things up. This time, SRK has left his team in his captain’s hands. If KKR does better, it is because of Ganguly. If they don’t then the captain should take the flak.
And the self-proclaimed No.1 should realise that in a cricket match the heroes are the ones who are sweating it out on the field. Not the ones beyond the boundary line. Team sport is different. It is not like a film or a soft drink, for which you select a team to make a good product. In a team sport, the team is the product.
P.S. On 24th April, nothing would please me more than seeing Sachin Tendulkar lift the trophy on his 37th birthday. He represents the city that is my home. If not him, then it should be Sourav Ganguly. After all, he is the best person to have led my country in cricket
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Friday, February 05, 2010
I believe, if a corporate has come in for a long term then the cause being promoted is honorable. However, if they intend to use the tiger as a way to create goodwill for themselves with a short burst of publicity, then this is simply not done. We have seen, in the past, many celebrities and companies using a burning issue just to promote their films or products.
I do not know how much is being spent by Aircel to protect the tiger. What I definitely do not know is what the way forward with this campaign is. There are a couple of outrageously stupid links on the website that Aircel is promoting–
1) Speak up: This is what the text is on this link – ‘Write a letter or an email to editors of popular newspapers and magazines, asking them to support the cause and highlight the urgency to save our tigers. The more people we can reach and inform, the stronger our roar will be’
What I fail to understand is that why there are no articles by people actively involved in tiger conservation? Isn’t it important to highlight what people like Belinda Wright, Dr. Raghu Chandawat and Valmik Thapar have been writing and doing?
2) SMS, contact an NGO responsible for tigers, Preserve our natural resources, Be a responsible tourist.
Well, all is this utopian rubbish. SMSes do not help stop terrorism, where humans are killed, how is it going to save tigers? What NGOs do we get in touch with? All of us know that we must preserve natural resources and be responsible tourists. This is told to us right from our school days in moral science classes. But, almost all of us buy air-conditioners, use plastic bags without looking at the microns and litter when we travel. What is the use of writing this rubbish?
3) Donate: And here, they have provided a link to the WWF India website to make cash donations.
The third point takes the cake, in terms of stupidity of suggestions. Let me try and explain why.
As per the Project Tiger website, there are 38 reserves in the country which are project tiger reserves. There are other forests too, where tigers can be found, but these are not project tiger reserves. The government gave a grant in the 2009 union budget this year, to protect the tiger.
The generous grant was of Rs. 50 crores. That’s all the union budget of 2009 could spare for the national animal. This means, that just the 38 project tiger reserves would get Rs. 1.3 crores each, per annum to protect the tigers. And what all is needed to have a stronger tiger task force? Here is a very concise list:
- Equipment to monitor tigers: This includes radio collars etc.
- More number of people need to be employed to patrol the reserves day and night, so keep poachers out. The reserves are under-staffed and many vacancies are yet to be filled, and even if they are filled up, the number of rangers and forest guards still needs to double
- Proper fire-arms and weapons: Today, the poachers have more sophisticated weapons than the forest guards. It is the sad truth• More vehicles to patrol the forests
- Need to create more motorable roads so that the forests can be patrolled and guarded even during the monsoons. Currently, the forests are not guarded for 3 months of the monsoons and 50% of poaching happens then
This is a very small list, probably missing many more things that go in to save the tiger. But would Rs. 50 crores suffice to provide even half of the aforesaid? I seriously doubt it. This is where I find a disconnect. If Aircel is indeed hell bent on saving the tiger, the crores spent on making brand-films and plastering cities with campaigns could have added to the Rs. 50 crores of pittances the govt. has given. It would have done the tiger more good had a few extra equipments been bought out of that money than ensuring that a person in Juhu sees a Save Our Tigers hoarding.
Some may say, Aircel is not into charity. They are in the business of mobile services. That is exactly my point. If they are in a business, then run a business. Do not try and be clever and create awareness about your brand, using the plight of the tiger to your advantage.
And, there are many more pressing issues that concern the tiger’s existence that people need to be made aware of. The biggest issue is the one that concerns passing of the Tribal Bill in the parliament that has literally sounded the death knell for the national animal. Why don’t these corporate houses join hands with Wright and Thapar in revoking that bill?
If, after a few years, we realize that these campaigns about ‘Saving Our Tigers’ has resulted in the govt. waking up, I would take back all my cynical words about Aircel, and write an apology on this very space. I so hope I have to. I hope I am made to eat the pie, the one found in the ‘humble’ bakery, a few years from now. But, in my experience, online petitions and smses do precious little for causes, especially the ones that do not involve rights for some human being.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Two things have been irking me for some time now, and both of them are in some ways related to each other. Firstly, the hullabaloo about Pakistani cricketers not being part of IPL; and secondly, the Aman Ki Asha campaign that The Times of India has been running (it is an event, I’m told. I do not read the squalid little rag). There have been these so-called broad-minded and accommodating voices that have been talking about both and my narrow mind feels they are irritating noises, not talk.
First, let me talk about the so-called injustice meted out to the Pakistani cricketers by not allowing them to be part of the IPL. Many have said that it was wrong and unfair, and that politics and sport do not mix. I have no clue which world they live in, that they make statements like these. Politics and sports have mixed since quite some time now. Through sports, statements are made about the political scenario.
When South Africa was banned from sport it was for political reasons, apartheid. The players suffered because of this ban, and I am not too sure if all the players that did suffer were perpetrators of apartheid, or racist. But, as a country South Africa went wrong and was ostracised from sport, thereby rendering the sport buffs slightly poorer for the fact that some wonderful sportsmen from that country could not display their talents to a world audience. Barry Richards is an example. And had the ban continued for another 10 years, we’d not have seen Jonty Rhodes and Allan Donald set the field alight.
Even if we look back at 1936, the Berlin Olympics, Hitler allowed only the people of the Aryan race to compete for Germany – for it was his belief that they were racially superior. We all know Hitler’s role in world politics. And closer, to 2008, the Olympics at China was taken up by the Chinese to make a statement to the world that China is the new super-power. This statement was made by the way the Olympics were organized and due to the fact that China won the highest number of gold medals.
Well, now will the pundits stop talking about politics and sport not going hand-in-hand? India’s relations with Pakistan are at its lowest ebb. Why should Indian franchise owners fund players from the country that funds terrorists to conduct 26/11 in India? Also, they do not know if the Pakistani players would be given a visa to play here. Most importantly, it is the owners’ bloody money and they have the right to not spend it on Pakistani players.
The Indian government has said that it has no role to play in what transpired. Yes, that is true. They did not have the guts to say that a country that is full of terrorists has no right to play any sport in India. They should have disallowed the Pakistan hockey team from participating in the World Cup too. Pakistan is a country where terrorists were allowed to attack a bus carrying Sri Lankan cricketers, it is an anarchy where democracy is a sham. What stops India from stating that Pakistanis will not be allowed to participate in any sport, or cultural programs, until they get their act right? It happened for South Africa and apartheid, didn’t it? Once SA got their act together they came right back in to the fold. The same could happen for Pakistan.
Which now brings me to Aman Ki Asha. Well, how can we hope for peace when Pakistan has shown no urgency to bring the perpetrators of 26/11 to book? How can we accept peace with a country that houses Dawood Ibrahim? Some will say that ‘that is for the politicians, citizens want peace’. That is rubbish. The 26/11 terrorists, and other terrorists, are treated as heroes in Pakistan. So much for the common people there wanting peace with India.
Yes, the Pakistanis are the T20 World Champions and have some very good players in their ranks. But this slap in their face should read as a statement to the Pakistani policy makers, and to the world, that till Pakistan gets its act right on terrorism and extremism their sportsmen and artists have no hope of any sort of participation. No asha of any sort of aman.
P.S. And TOI should refrain from such canard like Aman Ki Asha and do what they are best at. Reporting on the front page about mundane Bollywood stuff, passing them off for stories of national importance. At least, they would not be making any bigger fools of themselves than what they have been able to manage so far.