Tuesday, October 12, 2010

CWG - A missed opportunity

CWG IXX, after tons of bad press (press never the less) got off to a popular start..
Since then it has been an affair, which at best is just being managed on the ground.
I’ve been to 4 different events at 4 different stadiums so far and genuinely feel the property (woo u marketing geek, this one’s a fuckin property to you) has lost out on tons of opportunities to deliver an India experience. It has also failed to deliver the experience to India.

In marketing parlance (again, woof, get a life) it has failed the last mile. If somebody tells me the infrastructure is amazing and the performances are world class I’d just ask them to stop eating shit that media feeds them. Reduce tolerance levels, quit the I couldn’t care less attitude and join me wear a t-shirt with Sheila, Kalmadi and Gill hung from the pole vault bar.

What you harp my sissy friend is hygiene, the Olympic Committee wouldn’t let the games happen if this infrastructure wasn’t in place. I believe the one thing the media did right though was get a lot of flak on these corrupted individuals. Yes, it did go overboard criticizing the games themselves when they knew they’ll happen and they’re about sport primarily. It was one of the reasons the first few days were low on attendance, no one bought the tickets, even the tourists were discouraged by all the scandalous reports. Media has an important role to play and its not an easy one, being “neutral and objective”. Is that an excuse to fuck up, looks like it. I hate private news channels, unimaginative loud mouthed presenters and worse content. Get your act together ladies, some of you’re so screechy, my speakers feel threatened when (i) you turn up. Wish Barkha can grow some balls and ask We the people if it is morally ok for Kalmadi to be giving away medals, isn’t their and enquiry on him?? If not ask why not… and now, that’s relevant.

So what are the big issues on the ground – First up city infrastructure couldn’t be worse. Just because we have the darn games doesn’t mean the city should come to a stand still. The games aren’t feeding any one except Kalmadi, (don say Kalmadi, he’s not the only one). Yea I know he aint. But Kalmadi is now a word in my dictionary, it means - extremely corrupt. So yeah, if I have to start tweeting (btw it was of no help, I need to get off social networks) to check traffic on the roads and it takes 3 hours to do 20km, I’m pissed off.
Let’s try and do the math (yes I am doing the math, anyone got a problem), an average office going person in Delhi would be earning about 15k a month (20 working days, that’s about Rs. 750/working day and almost a 100/hr). Out of a population of 20mn at least 40 % would be office going. That’s 8mn office going people. If on an average, and this a very optimistic no., people lose about half hour (total both ways) per day because of CWG. 8mn*50 is the INR 400mn (40 crores, optimistic estimate) worth man hours are being lost on a daily basis. That is over and above what we lose due to the pathetic travel situation anyways. In 10 working days, we’ll lose about 400 crores worth such man hours. Out of which even if the effectiveness of an average office goer is a pessimistic (yea yea I learnt that shit) 40% we’re still losing 160 crores worth such man hours to the games. Having said that this is the cost incurred by the companies across the city employing these office goers. The price that the city’s economy would pay can be calculated on the no. of dollars generated on an average on an hourly basis. Get the drift right?? I don’t particularly give a fuck if you don’t, that’s the amount of math I can do :/
A lot has been made of the effectiveness of “last minute India”. I think it’s just a shame, a fucking lazy approach, like the one we have towards sports itself. Most of the last minute jobs are visibly shoddy; thankfully, they’re not as important. If it’s acceptable, it’s only because either the standards are low or the reasons are beyond the game.

Next up, people who are going to the games are of 4 categories:
1. Tourist – most of who are related to some one on the team
2. Delhiites – who genuinely love sport
3. Delhiites – who’re there because it’s the new deal
4. Delhites – who’re there because they have nothing better to do

Category 1 and 3 are the ones buying the majority of the tickets. Out of which the foreign tourists are basically the astounded lot. You look at them and they have this blankness of a ghost or a physics teacher (mine had it).
I reckon, this astonishment is because of 2 reasons – 1 because they’re ignorant and they dint read up on how disorganized India actually is, so they came in expecting a lot.
The other because they read too much about India and fantasized elephants and cows on the road etc. (Get over it or I’ll whitelist you thick heads) What do they know, all the cattle’s tied at Kalmadi’s Chatarpur farmhouse, being fed by Lalu’s chara which is still in circulation. Category 3 is the typical Shahid – Kareena (Jab we metisque) loving Delhi lot about which enough and more has been documented.

Category 2 is the ridiculous minority, they’re basically just happy to watch the games and the athleticism. They thank god for the absence of IPL type cheerleaders but have nightmares of them jumping onto the scene when they go for the next event.
They bear the pain of bad volunteering, the security farce, lack of hospitality and of course Kalmadis giving away medals.

All this just cuz they realize how big this opportunity is to watch the real thing..

Category 4 is the most amusing, they turn up at events not knowing anything about the sport, not wanting to know anything while their there either. What kills it is when they make their own rules based on the standing that comes on the big screen. I remember these 2 ladies who’d come to watch cycling. During the team event, their like, “the cyclists in the same team have to beat each other and the one who comes last is a disgrace to the team and has to move out in the subsequent lap”. What is sad though is that a serious percentage of this category acknowledge world class athletes like they are freaks. Our lack of awareness of our own body is such an epidemic that the exceptions are treated like aliens. It doesn’t help that most of them have a different skin colour. For these people there is no difference between a “maut ka kuan” performer and a world record holding Kenyan. If anything, they’d believe that the circus freak is more talented.

It is so critical to build a culture where people know how to be a good sports audience. Who to cheer, when to cheer, how to cheer. It is such a critical part of sports as entertainment. And you cant teach the fat Sardaar ji from Karol Baag or the bhenji from Rajendar Nagar or Mrs Sharma from South Ex, it’s the kids who need to be taught.
That’s a another big failing of these games. They’re being looked upon as an end to itself. I’m sure there are tons of “Thank god CWG is over” tweets brewing in a million minds. And I’m surer that the various committees have no clue as to what they want to do with all the excitement and infrastructure developed around the games. In all of the four venues the percentage of young kids was pathetic. How conveniently did the delhi govt. give the schools an off. Couldn they schedule the direction of some of those school busses to the empty stadiums with the PT teachers who should have been re trained in all sports faculties ?????

Also, I don’t know if people know but there are Vetran Athletics that happen at the state, national and international level. These athletes or at least the distinguished ones should have been invited at these events. I took one such athlete to the JN Stadium. This gentleman at the age of 85 does a 100m in 18 secs. Does he deserve to be acknowledged as distinguished audience? or must I give away my 500 Rs. Seats for some Olympic committee foreign guests? This gentleman by the way is my grandfather and he is the President of Delhi’s Veteran Athletic Association.

This is the original Veteran body in Delhi to which a parallel association was started by one Mr. Bhanot a few years back to traffic middle aged people who wanted to go abroad but wouldn’t get a visa otherwise.
I will put in more details about this some other time but the point I’m trying to make is that why weren’t such profiles young and old identified and brought to the game’s premier events. Why weren’t their kids escorting athletes to the medal podium???

There are tons of other things one can critique about, but it irks me too much to go on. So I’m gonna get off the boil now and train some myself so I can walk the talk.

Also closing this one I must highlight that the rush one gets watching an athlete excel is beyond what any other entertainment can offer, particularly if the athlete is Indian.

Cheers to the games for whatever they worth..

Sunday, May 30, 2010

of Charpais, Chaach, Country Cousins and Headlights

We’re gonna get our kicks before this house burns down…

About a month back I’d gone ol the way to Gurgaon to play football over the weekend. It started raining so we couldn play ended up just sittin at me friend’s and having fuck’s sake conversations as usual.

This is when one of the guys Vikas brought up his brother’s controversial (dats another story) wedding that was soon to happen. But it wasn the how’s the whys and the whens that I cared much about, it was the where of it. And to my frenzied delight he suggested it’s going to happen in their village, Neem Ka Thana. Not in Delhi, not even in Jaipur, now that’s just unheard of, certainly unattended to.
Next coupla weeks I pestered our man Vikas for confirmation. A week before the wedding he told me “it’s gonna be 22nd May and you should land up” , invitation enough yeah. There was no question, I was goin, and there was no question I was riding the 5 hours down.
Now then, I thought it’d be nice to have company on the ride and I asked Bhatia, another dude who was part of the initial conversation and happened to be the groom’s roommate. Being a travel freak himself he was totally in no time. To cut the rest of the boring details short we were on the road delayed by 2 hours @7:40 pm on 21st night. Niether of us was in the best shape, Bhatia had a shoulder tear and I was carrying a bug or two in me stomach. Neways, it was quite a regular night ride on the Jaipur Highway. Vikas had told us that we have to get off the highway into a left from a circle that will indicate Neem Ka Thana, what else. We forgot however to ask him how short of Jaipur would this turn be. I for some reason had 40kms short in my head. Anyways, we decided to call him when we would have done a safe 100. So we did, stopping at a Dhaba for our second tea stop. We had left the turn 13kms behind. We thought, ok ..Now that we’re delayed we might as well get some food. So we hogged on dhaba delights. Turned back reached the point from where we now had to take a left, almost missed it because apparently there was some construction happening and they’d done away wit the sign boards and well the circle itself. Neways, asking around, we took the inconspicuous left. It din look like they’d be anything beyond a 10 min ride up, but Vikas had told us it’ll take about an hour after taking the turn. It was pitch dark and the road wasn exactly the ones to rip on. Besides I discovered that after 2 accidents in 6 months I am night blind, meaning I can’t negotiate turns with headlights in my eyes. I say night blindness cuz Bhatia say’s he can totally do that. I’m not really sure if I’m night-blind and a bit jittery because of recent crashes or he’s just got extraordinary eyes. Either ways I was the one riding and the last 1 hr of the journey drained out a lot of the coconut water that I’d put in me system for my stomach.
We were there and it was 1am and the idea of space and time was kinda lost on us. All we needed was a bit of alcohol and a comfortable bed. Vikas and his country cousins arrived and one of the exigencies was taken care off. We got some beer in our system. Infact to be specific I put a Bullet in my head and felt much better. We ate a bit too. Now it was time to sleep and just as I’d expected (yeah right!) we were lead to a gas agency surrounded with fields and made to sleep on the Charpai. Authentic.. ain it. We could see the night sky very clearly and at the expense of sounding a bit pseudo, it was pretty. By the way this was Vikas’ cousin Montu’s Gas agency (It was also called Montu’s Gas Agency) and his Charpai too. After a long night it wasn difficult to put ourselves to bed, expect Bhatia who had to battle a fly through the rest of the night. It’s not funny, we’ve ol been thru those flies who take a special fancy for our skins, and our skins only.

22nd Morning 7am – Isn’t exactly the time you’d wanna wake up on a weekend especially after a long rough night. But when you sleep in the open the alarm clock doesn really sound, it shines, n in Rajasthan part of the world it shine’s rather bright. We weren’t exactly the kinds to comply to the sun easily so we lased around till we din get our cuppa tea, had it and kicked off what was to be an exciting day and a mind numbing night.
There were some complications about how and wher we would freshen up. These continued even when we reached the host’s place. Eventually we did exercise our rights in the tiny shared bathrooms, with 2 rounds each and weren’t we brimming. Young turks ready to take on the world. Except that Neem ka thana could never have been our Normandy. Neways, we meet a lot of people, relationship nomenclature notwithstanding all of them seemed nice but not overtly excited to see a coupla city lads who wouldn even touch their feet. Well, what has the world come to I say.

Right, so we head to a room which has apparently been opened after ages, specially for us. I wonder why, does it self explode, or does it suck in the inhabitants. Neways, it has a cooler and a coupla charpais and a coffee table read in “Soviet Sangh”, hard cover(just kidding, not about the title tho).

Need we ask for more? But before we explore the amenities, we’ve been summoned for breakfast which is well, authentic. White Paranthas with raw onions and tomatoes and a jug of chaach. After filling our empty stomachs we could see charpais everywhere. It was our own little jutey oasis. But sleep we weren gonna get so easily. It was the wedding house, our trip short and this was the only time we could see the market. So we did the done, headed to the market where we met Vikas’s Dad who took a special liking towards Vishesh “Marlboro Man” Bhatia, if you know what I mean. You do not. Well quickly then, The groom’s (Vikram) dad had paid his son a visit in the recent past to discover the fabulous company his son was living in. Their bachelor pad had been just the way it should have been - to the distaste of older folks. Moving on, while in the market we went to the best apparel store, one that was offering a conservative 90% discount. Also headed to a nonchalant sherwani shop to pick one up for Vikram. Job done efficiently, headed home. Could anyone stop us from sinking into those charpais now. No, noone cared as long as the city lads were sinking. 1 and half hours of the most awkward yet comfortable disposition to cradle. It was 4 pm and time to move to the Hotel/resort/park, the wedding location where we were also to be staying with another rather gigantic cousin who’s name I forget. Neways, a far more mammoth challenge was riding the bike to the location in the scorching afternoon heat. Rajasthan literally boils in the afternoon and I dived right into the pot choosing to transport the bike once in for all. Unwise, but that’s what young men are right, brave and romantic. I played my part. I was hungry again and there were a million things that Vikas had to get sorted before the wedding.

There were these all important nothings in between and I’ll cut to the wedding, or just before the wedding.
Pre wedding drinks are a must, and there was a theka strategically located adjacent to the wedding venue. We thru down beer after beef, broke a bottle, cliked some interesting pictures and were joined by Vikas and his cousins and the party just kept getting bigger and wilder. By the time we formally entered the venue, I’d put in some whisky loads of beer and a few packets of Rajnigandha mix into my body. I was buzzing to put it mildly.
At the wedding there was a troop of Rajasthani dancers to keep the guests entertained. Women and men were dutifully sitting separately. There was enough incest in the air. That mixed with the concoction in my head was taking me places. So I headed for the room. And behold, there were women from the girl’s side changing in our room, so I had to keep out a little longer. When they were done, we did our namastes on my way in as they shimmered out. Soon, I was joined by the country clan again and they were urging me to get off my ass as the baraat was there and we had to let it rip to the shehnai & dhol. I couldn be less interested, but I was made to wear the authentic Rajasthani head gear and it put me in the mood. We headed out, moshpited the baraat and were sober again. Went inside enjoyed the performances of the dance troop especially their charismatic (or should I say freaky) front man. Amazing stuff anyways.

While having our dinner some time later we realized it’s going to be a long night, one in which we are not going to get any sleep if we stay put. At 1 am we decided we had to leave, much to the apprehensions of all and sundry. But we had to; the prospect of riding sleep devoid in the heat next morning (which was the only alternative) was not attractive at all. So we started off, into the pitch darkness and towards the many headlights that were to fixate us on our way to the highway. As we hit the highway we were both exceedingly tired and sleepy, stopped at the first Dhaba we found, had some tea and before we knew it both of slouched a sleep on the Charpais. Woke up after 1 and half hours again and moved on, this time to complete our journey. It wasn an easy ride tho. I realized I needed to change my bike’s handle bars as they were causing “accumulation of lactic acid in my shoulders” – Bhatia.
When we reached we knew were done for and dead. As I flopped onto the bed I dint feel very well and was also hungry. But I did not have the stamina to make any arrangements ot ask Bhatia. Bhatia seemed slightly better off, but his fate for the morning was ditto, sleeping like a log.

Monday, March 29, 2010

East India, in good company

K gotto to say this….getting back is n that bad….
Beeen out for 8 days, I’d never done East of India before….
Just gonna quickly make a note of a few things for my own future reference and the benefit of those reading…
Observations that might help people traveling that side of the country…did I say help…now fuck help yeah…
Here goes:
Whoever has not been to the eastern part of India is seriously missing out on loads of shit….When I say that I don mean picturesque scenery and the other overrated jazz associated with traveling. I am talking about people, culture, that collective soul…. Did I say soul ,…now fuck soul… but get the drift…

K so apart from really short similar looking pretty people what does the east have to offer…
Well depends how you look at it…how quickly you look at it …how much of it do you see…k I’m trying to get some serious structure to this writing but am failing miserably…whats new…

K K K…so let me just beef my itenary-

First stop Shillong….
Due to a missed flight got only one night in Shillong as opposed to the planned 2… There isn much to do there apart from sight see and appreciate the simple living people…. So we did that!!
NOTE: when u travel to any part of the country take private cabs, talk to the drivers, they know the city, its part of their job to…In the east, people in this occupation are treated well, like equals, unlike a Delhi where they are well “drivers”, the canine toothed others who’re after your inherited (in the case of most upper middle class delhiites) cash.
Observation: On our way to a particular View Point, saw a few locals stop a car in open space, play peppy local music loud and dance at their picnic…quite a party at 3pm...

NOTE: People there are early to bed early to rise variety (this is the case across the North East).,. so adjust your body clock to school timings for highest productivity.

BTW lost a camera in one of the little taxis (maruti 800s) late at night. NOTE: If you lose something it will not be found, so be careful. Taxis can be reserved (rented by one group) or shared. If they are shared the rent is Rs.10/ride (rate applies across the North East). Little bit of judgment helps but generally people are honest so trust them.

Second stop Darjeeling: Stayed there for 2 nights – Walked around town. Most interesting bit: Went to the Himalyan Mountaineering Institute and museum. Learnt about many successful and not so successful Himalayan expeditions. Got inspired enough to walk 6 kms to do some climbing myself. Very very nice.
Apart from the popular Glenary bakery and restaurant there is this almost secretive drinking hole called Joey’s Pub. A very inconspicuous joint opposite the Inox building.
NOTE: Last orders at most places are 10pm, but if you still haven’t had your dinner, please ask the bar tender (who likes to call himself the accountant) where you could get some grub and you will not sleep hungry or sober.
Also, Darjeeling is right at the centre of the Gorkhaland movement, which is a peaceful(well almost) political movement (started pre independence) to have a separate state for the Gorkha people. The two primary reasons for the movement are :
a) Cultural differences with Bengal
b) Inequitable and unfavorable distribution of the current state’s (West Bengal) resources (mainly cash).
Darjeeling also has the best flee market in East India with casual clothing, shoes and trekking equipment being the most popular products. Also, I stumbled into this music store where I picked three rare rock n roll DVDs. One of them is a critical analysis of The Velvet Underground’s music…let’s c when I’ll be able to watch it now then.

3 Stop – Gangtok- 1 night

Best place for sight seeing and a halt if you are to travel upto the North-west sikkim, something we regrettably could not do because our train tickets for the next day were already booked and you need a special pass (Govt. approved) to travel there. Visited the Tibetology museum, the Buddhist monasteries and the Sikkim flower show. I’m not a flowers kinda guy but those damned orchids, woof.
We stumbled upon this café called Café Live and Loud, which as the name suggests is a live gig joint. And what a live gig we got to be a part of. Most of the band members were from other established bands but came together to play a fabulous set. Met the bassist in the loo. I was too drunk to remember his name. Of the bit I remember, he mentioned he keeps visiting Delhi and apparently they’ve started a Noida School of Rock. Couldn’t get a contact etc cuz I din feel like sounding like the fan and blah. So had a very bad bolognaise and got out in a jiffy as we had to wake up early next morning. Note: In the east look out for the live gigs ;)

Final Stop – Kolkotta – 1 night
My wishlist before reaching Kol:
Watch a Mohun Bagan East Bengal game at Salt lake stadium
Eat Rasagullas
Eat Different varieties of Fish
Pick up an antique watch from the watch street (Radha Bazaar, North Kol)

3 struck out of 4 wasn a bad conversion. Couldn watch the game cuz there wasn any :/ We had a local friend in Kol who himself had come to the city after a bit of a work related hiatus in the Bombays and the Hyderabads. Even he wanted to get re-acquainted with the city so he thot it doubly good to take us around. And he did a bloody good job of it. Knowing Bengali helps. Bengalis carry this serious baggage of being the original Indian intellectuals. They love to talk and usually have a vocabulary to do it well. In some cases though it can be a pain in the ass. Especially when they suddenly switch to Bengali, not realizing that you are not familiar with the rather rasagulla laden language. You can however put 2 and 2 together if your Hindi is good cuz they are very expressive.
Touristy activity: Marble Palace (intriguing), Victoria Memorial (yuk) and the tram (very interesting)
Food for thought and drinks for, well deeper thought: Friend’s place (traditional Bengali), Park street (fish steak), Someplace else (drinks and live Delhi based band,), Peerless Inn(Bengali delicacies), Tantra (the top club in Kol), The Grand(coffee and desert). Forgot my debit card at Some place else and realized I’d done that only when I reached Delhi next afternoon. Called The Park hotel and it is safe with them. Will ask me friend to pick it up.

All in all I had a brilliant East India experience. People are a laidback working class with very clear cultural distinctions across states with Bengal/Kol of course being the most Cosmopolitan (imagine that  ) .