Sunday, September 10, 2006



Michael Schumacher bids adieu to Formula one. News. Nearly 98% of the people knew this was coming. They said they read it in his body language. Some read it in his age. 37. But one comment that was on everyone’s lips was “Love him or hate him, but you can’t ignore the fact that he is the sport’s best to date.” Well, no one can agree more. You don’t have to take the critic’s word for it. Its in the figures. 153 podium finishes, 90 of them on the top step with 68 pole positions. Maximum race wins in a season. Longest reign as a world champion…. The records page is endless. A quasi rain God. By and far the only driver who can tame wet weather and win a race, not once but multiple times. He has made F1 driving an art. Watching the 7 times Westmeister tame the rest of the pack and emerge on top, is a sight to savor.

They nearly always attribute it to good machinery. No doubt, the Ferrari is a sterling car. However it was not always so. Ferrari was an ailing team, loaded with money, but low on talent and drive. Race engineers came and went, using Ferrari as a means to make a quick buck. None managed to deliver until the 3 musketeers Michael Schumacher , Jean Todt and Ross Brawn struck up a deal. Even then, they just somehow managed to breathe some life into the team, but failed to break the 20 year title-less run of Ferrari. They came close, by single digit points to clinching the ever-elusive title, but failed, with their predicaments being augmented by their star driver breaking his leg in an incident. Finally the wheel of fortune turned, and Ferrari began winning, in 2000, 2001,2002,2003 and 2004. and the whole world started doubting the team for foul play, calling them boring, calling Schumacher’s techniques mundane. No one wanted to enjoy the fact that they were watching history in the making. Here was a man with sheer talent and the drive and motivation to succeed and achieve, going for his goals and achieving them. Here was a man who turned down lucrative offers from successful teams to stick around with Ferrari and win with the ailing team. All Formula One drivers are in a class of their own. They are by and far the best drivers in the world. Running a successful company that is running like a well-oiled machine, does not need magic. However, turning a malfunctioning behemoth into one of the most venerated success stories ever, should not be shunned as the work of sheer luck or chance. A certain article in the papers went on to say that Michael Schumacher simply understood his machinery well. Well, granted, but isn’t that what all F1 drivers are supposed to do? How can a race engineer tweak your car, without understanding from you how it feels when you are inside it? If you come down to brass tacks, isn’t that the quintessence of the F1 driver’s job? So, if he understands his machinery well, isn’t he by and far the best in what he does? Isn’t he able to perform better than the rest of the people in his league?

Spoken like a true Schumi fan, you might say. I agree, I cheer for Michael Schumacher. But not because he always wins. But because he is the person that he is. Most people call him arrogant, haughty and an automaton. What they don’t realize is the fact that he has come a long way from being a young first son of a brick layer in Kerpen in Germany. He has come a long way from being the green eyed boy with stars in his eyes, but a few pennies in his pocket. He had the talent. He worked as a mechanic to understand how a car worked. He outclassed everyone else in smaller races, he caught the attention of a rich man, who agreed to finance his driving career. He did not have a father or brother in the industry. Whatever he is today, he can look back and feel proud that the edifice called ‘the legend of Michael Schumacher’ has been built by his hard work. He had a dream, he worked really hard to achieve it. He is still the shy man who refuses to open up to the public eye. Face it guys, he has had his fair share of media flogging, starting from his Benetton days to the wish-everyone-would-forget incident at Jerez. Just because he prefers to stick to his job and not discuss his favorite color in public, one cannot generalize and call him arrogant.

A certain correspondent said Michael’s farewell won’t evoke the emotion that Agassi evoked when he quit the sport. Well, for starters, Formula 1 does not enjoy as huge a fan base as Tennis. Till a few years back, although we had youngsters joining tennis academies aspiring to be the next Sampras, we did not have kids aspiring to be Michael Schumacher. In fact, Schumi was not even the topic of casual lunchtime discussions. He became a legend in the new millennium, when there was no looking back for Ferrari. And again, one question to be asked here is, why are sportsmen loved and idolized? Because they are vulnerable? Because they are more human? Because they are more easy to identify oneself with? Or is it because they show that spark and motivation, to succeed and be at the top of their game at all time, thereby exhorting the millions of their fans to excel in whatever they do? No one cheered for Rod Tidwell, in Jerry Maguire as long as he was playing a lackluster game. What made the fans write “IN ROD WE TRUST” all of a sudden, for the same man? Well, the answer is simple; he showed that he had the extra something to be the best. That is what role models are made of.

Michael Schumacher’s story is something all fairy tales are made of. Starting with a dream to make it big, working hard to go that extra mile, just to ensure his goal remains within reach, achieving all that he targeted, and finally quitting while he is still winning, this story of the multi-millionaire legend of F1, sounds straight out of a feel-good movie. And yet, this is one fairy tale that has come true

Thursday, June 22, 2006


They say scents or smells are the most evocative in nature. But on that front I beg to differ, because according to me, the juxtaposition of a place and a certain kind of weather have the propensity to throw the mind so heavily into a retrograde that it is difficult to shake away the wave of emotion that overpowers one at the time. I say this as I had the good fortune of experiencing a similar emotion just yesterday. I was to go to Bandra, Hill Road to be precise in order to pick up a receipt. That such a trifling incident would trigger such a reaction as to provide me the opportunity to experience unalloyed joy for the remainder of the evening was something I had not expected as I boarded the train that was to take me from my workplace to Bandra. But the moment I saw the diamond-shaped board that read BANDRA, I was reminded of a friend who once told me that that I could lose weight if I managed to cover the distance from my college to Bandra station in 7 minutes flat. I was tempted to try the 7 minute exercise again, but refrained from doing so as my goals were different today. I stepped out of the station only to cross the booking counter, where I saw a girl standing with a college bag slung across her shoulder, glancing fervently at her watch and at the exit point of the station. It looked like time had frozen for me. The same scene 4 years ago, the same cloudy sky, the same fervent look, the same crowd billowing out of the rather narrow exit arches at Bandra station; just the person was different as I was then waiting for one of my friends who was to accompany me on the then 15 minute walk to college.

I walked across the road, heading towards Hill road, crossed the familiar Bandra bus depot and saw the ever crowded 505 bus stop, as crowded as ever. Some things never change! I finished my task and came back to the road, to find the clouds intact, yet not a drop of rain. The sunlight permeated through the grey clouds and lent an orange hue to the environs. My heart was in ecstasy looking at the mellow appearance of the surroundings as I started walking back towards the station to get home. I reached the cross roads near the most important landmark of our time, more crucial than even the Gateway of India, the point of Journal and Assignment exchange…. Lucky restaurant. I waited a good 2 minutes there and ultimately decided to take the 7 minute joyride! I started walking along the all-so-familiar road, that all-so-frequently-traversed road, that oh-how-I-wish-I-could-come-back-here road, that led to the one place that will remain etched in my memory forever…. Thadomal Shahani Engg College….. MY COLLEGE!!!

I crossed the familiar yellow boards with black writing that declared ‘XEROX’ in different spellings and 3 different languages, and I went back to the time when my team mates and I went from pleading to threatening one of those shopkeepers to insert a missed page in our project report 12 hours before submission!!! I then crossed the lane that led to yet another of our favorite hangouts, the lane that led to the G7 multiplex. I had lost count of the number of crappy and good movies I had seen there. The multiplex was still there, one of the screens was showing the Da Vinci Code today, but that squabbling over which movie to go to till 20 minutes before the show, ditching the idea of walking for want of time and then hurriedly dividing ourselves into groups of 3, squeezing into a rickshaw like sardines, exhorting the driver to go fast through bumper-to-bumper traffic and ultimately encountering a ‘house-full’ board…. Those times were gone! And all of a sudden, I could hear myself humming Aqua’s ‘turn back time’. Heaving a sigh I walked on. I then crossed over to Linking road, and came across the towering edifice of Shopper’s Stop. People who were walking by might have laughed looking at a girl staring and smiling at a tall building! Little did they know that one monsoon, in pouring rains, I had trooped to the same mall with a bunch of friends curious to know what was happening at an ‘Ethnic India’ festival! And what did I take back from there? Around 20 miniature unbaked pots, made by own hands and scores of memories of how we got drenched but prevented the pots from getting wet, taking turns at holding them and covering them with our wind-cheaters, laughing and giggling all the way back, thoroughly unmindful of the surroundings. ‘If only I could turn back time… If only I could…..’

I was nearing the place that served as my mainstay for a good 20% of my life till date, when to my left was the Barista of Linking Road. This was the place that made me fall in love with coffee places, (though I had been initiated into the scintillating world of coffee long before Barista burst into the urban Indian scene, thanks to my being a south Indian who loves my home brewed filter coffee). This was where we hung out. This was where we completed our assignments. This was where a bunch of 7 of us had spent an hour and a half talking about nothing and everything across two rather distant tables, (much to the chagrin and discreet disapproval of the amiable staff there). This was where our previously planned project group disbanded over a solemn cuppa and this was the exact same spot where the new one was formed. Again over another hot cuppa. This was where my sister waited as I went in to college to hear the result of my first campus recruitment interview and this was where we celebrated soon after. As I crossed the road that took me into the lane that led to TSEC, I was rather surprised at the flutter I felt within. I entered the college building and saw the plinth against the far wall, the Katta as we used to call it. It still had a couple of crumpled note-sheet papers. There was still the one empty coke bottle lying on its side. There was still the odd paper cup in a corner. But what was not there was something that could never come back the way it was. It came back to me morphed into something different and started peeking through the vitreous edifice of my mind. I remembered the time I had hugged my friend upon seeing our first year, first semester result. I remembered the time when I had consoled a distressed friend who was sad that she had lost a year on account of the folly of someone else. The paper ribbons and vibrant balloons, remnants of the year’s festival were still dangling precariously on a thin strand of cello tape. Somewhere in the distance, I heard the typical TSEC cry, ‘TEE….SEC…TSEC…’ and three claps. I heard the roars of joy that used to go up when we used to see our college team up on stage dancing or walking the ‘ramp’ for our fashion show. And somewhere, Bryan Adams screamed ‘Those were the best days of my life!!’ and I heard the auditorium scream with him.

I gazed into the distance and saw the grey clouds still there, yet not a drop of rain. I suddenly started to feel extremely happy, the memories were flitting in and out like butterflies and each memory added that bit of color to my thoughts! I stepped out of the college verandah and started my walk back, determined that this time I will complete the walk to the station in 7 minutes, and not in the 45 minutes I had taken while coming here. As I started walking back, I noticed the grey clouds turn even more dark, and the sudden silent raindrop came gently down. And I was left thinking, ‘ Is this a walk to remember or is this a walk to remember’………

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Human Resource (Anything but) Development

Countless instances in history have shown the number 13 to be an unlucky number. Starting right from the Last Supper to even the Friday the 13th virus!!! But whoever thought that 13 would render such a mortal blow to India's future? And even more saddening is the fact that this monster is being bred by our very own HRD minister. Well, in this case, the 13 is a 13-letter anathema that has the potency of wiping away the very existence of meritocracy, a 13-letter word that has the power of sending a nation into frustration, a 13-letter word that has the strength to spread a cloak of darkness over the future of the Indian youth! This 13-letter curse goes by the name of 'Mandalization' - splitting the youth on the basis of caste! The name Mandal brings back gory images of protests and self-immolation. And today 16 years after having walked through the coal-bed, it looks like we are treading the hot bed again.

There was a time, close to the 'cave-man' era, it seems today, when people belonging to the higher castes enjoyed certain privileges in life. The very initial demarkation, came about on account of the occupation and way of life of the higher castes, on account of a cultured conduct that the higer castes used to adhere to. Situations did get out of hand after a time and the lower castes began to be treated worse than dirt. Fair enough! By the law of means, society needs to put a severly tipped balance back on plane. Granted! But has anyone ever thought that by pushing any measure too far, we are just tipping the scales the other way round? Reservations were initially brought in to instill a degree of confidence in the youth of the then-called 'lower castes' to be unafraid in seeking education, to try and send a message across that they too could boldly come forth and take a seat in the same class as a Brahmin boy and be assured of of the same treatment. Now, because a certain ABC's great great great grandfather was treated like an untouchable by Brahmin PQR's great great great grandfather, should PQR be refused a seat at AIIMS after scoring 95%? According to Mr. Arjun Singh, YES! they say that in the Kalyug, the controlling God - Kali, will exact atonement for a sin in the person's lifetime itself. He doesn't even wait for the same person's next birth. But our very own Human Resource Decimation minister wants to go a step further than Kali. He wants to make the 'higher classes' suffer through the ages, for generations to come, only making way for a similar movement say 30 years down the line, when a certain Suryanarayanan Sivramakrishnan will fight for the rights of OFCs - Other Forward Castes! Who are we kidding here?

The constitution of India, gives a human being freedom of speech. one can voice his protest and be assured of an ear at the other end. But i guess that is the definition of Freedom of Speech in a Utopia, not India, because here, our Government elected to address OUR issues and think of OUR development, can assure us of lathis, water cannons and tear gar over and above a deaf ear at the other end. And this kind of oppression was what we learned about in our history books about the kind of ill-treatment meted out to the Indians, by the British. But today, such atrocities are being dealt out on the youth, the rising sun of India. This is not only the asphyxiation of the future of the Indian youth, it is pure murder of democracy at a point where it is to be nurtured.

A question to be asked here is, do we need reservations at all? the answer is Yes, we do. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, we saw Blacks die, we saw Blacks fight within the Louisiana Superdome, we saw blacks, poor blacks, who were stuck in their homes , waiting for their welfare checks from the government, traumatized with nowhere to go. Reason, racial discrimination. By ensuring reservations at the primary level, we have ensured that the backward classes are not denied a chance to uplift themselves. We have taken one step towards ensuring a uniform social system. This is like adding salt to a dish to ensure a balance in the culinary requirements. If a dish lacks salt, we add a pinch to make it palatable. But that does not mean that salt is the only panacea, and therefore 10 cups of it will make any dish great to taste. It will not only ruin the dish, but also kill the eater. the current decision of the government to introduce higher level of reservation is a case in point. We are simply ensuring the annihilation of the Indian youth. So what if they want to introduce more number of general category seats? that is not goiong to palliate all the aspiring indian masses. The number of candidiates for the general category is far far more than the number of OBCs, and the distance between their cup and their lip is longer than that in the case of the OBCs. So a few more seats is not going to be the solution, instead it is like a slap on the face, wherein, the government wants to try and shut the protesting mouths with a gag, and the students are left vigorously trying to scream out, but are unable to do so!

Deprived of opportunities, the blacks in the west take to crime. Transpose that here; devoid of opportunity, a member of the higher class youth will soon be a petty thief, while his OBC doctor colleague will be busy cutting off a person's pancreas, because the patient had appendicitis. the fortunate few, will board the first flight out to the US, where Indians are still looked upon with respect, still considered over-achievers, where hailing from the same land as Lakshmi Mittal is something to be proud of.

Our beloved Human Resource Division minister has assured an increase in the number of general category seats. But will it assure Ramesh Trivedi from Benaras, a poor priest's sone, with do Jodi kapda and a torn shoe, a seat in AIIMS with 95.7% in Std 12? No, but Ramesh Kardak, a poor OBC with 55% in std 12 can definitely fly first class to Delhi from Mumbai, to pick up his admit letter. Incidentally he got dropped by his chauffer in his personal yellow Mercedes from his home at Peddar Road!

The most important question to be asked here is whether reservation was necessary to be picked up right now, when there are many more glaring issues at hand, and when there are myriad other ways to ensure social upliftment? This is so cleaarly a case wherein the Government wants to make a huge deposit into its OBC-rich vote-bank. Ironically, the Mandal Commission report also deals with many other issues other than reservation. Whether this particular move by the HRD minister will bring about an egalitarian society, is for all to see. but one thing it will surely augment is the firm faith in the minds of the youth that voting is most definitely not going to bring about a change, and so no matter what we can expect in the years to come, we can definitely expect a wave of disillusion in the young minds accompanied by a whole tsunami of brain drain!