Bhajji Vindicated?

>I’m sure everyone from the BCCI to the bhajiwala is relieved that the racial abuse charge brought against Harbhajan Singh by Andrew Symonds has been dropped. By now every Indian, cricket-crazy or otherwise, knows the whole story. To put it in a nutshell, Symonds accused Singh of using the word ‘Monkey’ which, according to Symonds is a racist term, given his African origins. Fair enough. Singh was punished, there was a hearing and finally, it’s been established that Singh did not use a racially abusive term. However he has confessed to using abusive language and has been punished accordingly.

What I don’t get is why the Aussies who’re past masters at sledging are suddenly being so sanctimonious? Racism is unacceptable of course, but what about the boorish behaviour of the Australian team itself? They claim that vile comments regarding the opposing team’s parentage and sexuality are legitimate and above board and that it is all a part of the ‘mental toughness’ required for the game. So while it’s not OK to racially abuse someone, other kinds of vulgar abuse are just a sign of ‘competitiveness’. This smacks of hypocrisy.

So the question is – Has Bhajji been vindicated? Of course not! Unacceptable behaviour is unacceptable behaviour and it has to be punished. But that the Australians are occupying the moral high ground on this one and are deciding who needs to be punished seems patently unfair. Even more so, since Kumble dropped charges against Hogg as a goodwill gesture, but Bhajji has still been punished. Talk about common courtesy!

This is not a racism vs. sledging case. It’s a straight issue of bad sportsmanship. And all sides need to be punished if they don’t stick to the straight and narrow path.

The Aussies need to learn that if they want to dish it, they have to learn to take it as well. They can’t go running to the umpires every time it looks like someone is giving them a taste of their own medicine.

Time for Lights Out in Shanghai

Lights, light lights! That’s what hits the first-time visitor to Shanghai. It’s bright, it’s glitzy and it’s clearly intended to look like a world-class city. I’m not surprised that Mumbai aspires to be like Shanghai. However, I think the ambition might be a little misplaced. As I said, Shanghai glitters. But as we all know, that does not mean it’s gold.

There are lots of things worth admiring in Shanghai. The average level of cleanliness is much higher than in any Indian city I’ve visited. The public transport system is efficient and cheap. Public monuments are well-cared for (this holds true for all of China), foreigners are not gawked at and information is readily available. I’ve also mentioned in earlier posts that the locals are friendly and very helpful.
Familiarity with English is also much higher in Shanghai than in the rest of China (except Hong Kong of course, but that’s a special case).

However, the one thing that bothers me most about Shanghai is the inefficent use of energy. Much of Shanghai’s ‘brightness’ owes to purely ornamental lighting on buildings and trees. By ornamental lighting, I mean lighting that serves no purpose apart from looking pretty. Even residential blocks, such as where I live, are similarly lit up. Moreover, since 2001 the city government has declared that 40 skyscrapers in four districts must keep their lights on until 11 PM. The purpose of this decree is to maintain Shanghai’s image as a world class city, and there is no doubt that the view of the Pudong skyline or the historic Bund is enchanting after sundown, but surely there’s a heavy price to pay for all this beauty?

There is indeed. Astronomical electricity bills and pollution resulting from the production of electricity are one part of it. Another consequence is the high level of light pollution. How serious this light pollution is became clear when the Shanghai Observatory announced that it had to move further away from the city because the blinding lights from the city were affecting it’s capability to conduct astronomical observations.

The city administration seems to be realizing that something is seriously wrong with the way it consumes energy. Last year it ordered a a half-hour of lights out on the Bund on one Sunday evening. This was done to raise citizen awareness about the consequences of inefficient energy consumption.

On the one hand, I would applaud any measure by the city which would curtail it’s wasteful habit. However, there is a part of me which never wants to see lights out in Shanghai. It is a breathtaking sight, but really…is there much choice?

Note: Some of my sources are a couple of years old. I couldn’t find the latest figures on energy consumption in China. Only the article about the observatory is this years. My research was hampered by the same factors which block my access to Blogspot, WordPress and Wikipedia.
The graininess of the picture can be blamed on high ISO, lack of a tripod and the fact that we were on a boat when my sister took that picture.

Chini Ko Hindi Se Pyaar Hai…

>Today, for the first time since I arrived in China, I was asked if I’m a Pakistani. I was a bit taken aback. Usually, most South Asians are asked if they’re from India.

Whenever I say I’m from India, it evokes a ‘Wow!’. The average Chinese is very gung-ho about India and more particularly, Indian food. Everyone wants to try it. And they’re all fascinated by Indian clothes. During the Independence Day celebrations at the Indian Consulate in Shanghai, we all decided to, quite literally, wear our patriotism on our sleeves. So early in the A.M. we marched to the consulate, decked out in saris and kurtas and pajamas and tons of jewellery, for the flag-hoisting ceremony. We drew a fairly large crowd of onlookers, most of whom were positively riveted by our clothes.

Bollywood is also quite well-known. Once, while bargaining vigorously at a shop, my mother was called Aishwarya Rai by the young saleswoman. Almost immediately they arrived at a mutually agreeable price for the item in question. I’ve often wondered how much the Aishwarya Rai compliment had to do with it. (Note: The Chinese are fantastic salespeople. Really. They know just what to say.)

Another time, an old man asked me where I’m from. I told him and he immediately burst into ‘Awaala hooon…!’ And then there’s this security guard in our society who, everytime he sees me, greets me with a half-saluting gesture and says ‘Yindu!’ (Yindu = India).

Seems like Hindi-Chini are bhai-bhai, after all.

In Memorium

>A dear friend departed this world yesterday. He was one of the smartest, wittiest and most idealistic persons I knew. He was a great talker – never short of ideas or words. And he was a passionate person.

We met 14 years ago. We went through middle school together and even after I left to finish my +2 in another school, we remained in touch. We used to talk a lot – anything from Tom Cruise’s supposed homosexual tendencies to communal violence in India to how to eat fettucine was fodder for our conversation. Somewhere in the last three or four years, the conversations became less frequent, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about him frequently.

He was a firm atheist, but if there is a Heaven, I hope he’s there.

I can’t even begin to express how much I’ll miss him. I still can’t believe that he’s no longer only an email away.

I’ll miss you Varun.

See you at the next great adventure.