Monthly Archives: July 2010

Kanavu Meippada Vendum

Fresh from discussing the plot of Inception with a friend, I went to sleep yesterday night.

In a dream I had, came Subrahmanya Bharathi. “Was this real?” I asked. No, this is a dream, corrected the Tamil bard. “How wonderful would it be if this were real?” I asked him.“POnathellaam kanavinai pOl puthainthazhinthE pOnathanaal, naanum Or kanavO? Intha gnaalamum poi thaano?” he sang, to correct me again. That was not the purpose of his visit. He wanted to share an anecdote.

It was 1907. The congress session was going to convene in Surat that year. The previous year, there was a big split in the Congress between the extremists and the moderates. This year, people were afraid, the split could deepen. The moderates’ policy was to extend a helping hand to whatever the Sarkar, the British, did in the hope that they would get favourable returns. The returns could be anything. Whether it was freedom or money, the moderates never told anyone. They were proposing to put the name of Rashbihari Ghosh for the post of the President. Of course, he had to be elected. The extremists, especially Bharathi and VOC, wanted Lala Lajpat Rai for President. They wrote to Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Aurobindo Ghosh, who replied saying that if there was necessary support, they could oppose the candidature of Rashbihari Ghosh. The moderates had, in the meanwhile, published an abusive article on Tilak, Aurobindo and Bharathi. The extremists requested the moderates to remove the article. The moderates refused and the extremists spoke about bringing in Lala Lajpat Rai’s name for the President’s post. Lala, however, refused to be drawn into the scene because the moderates told him that his candidature could cause unrest. However, he asked them to remove the article, which they refused. The day of the session came and the moderates put forth the name of Rashbihari Ghosh. Tilak went to the dais to oppose the candidature. He was shooed by the moderates. “’Go to your seat’ they shouted”, told Bharathi reminiscently. Tilak wanted to be given a chance to speak on why he was opposing the candidature. He was continually booed. He then stood there like a log till he’d be given the chance to speak. “It was like watching a silent lion in the face of a 100 elephants going berserk” told the poet. The moderates then started throwing chairs on Tilak. A lot of his supporters including Bharathi went to the dais, formed a ring around him and heaved the chairs away with their hands. Rashbihari Ghosh then started to read his acceptance speech without being elected. “I asked him not to read because he wasn’t elected”, told Bharathi with a laugh. “Suddenly goondas came into the scene and started beating us. The moderates called the police and left the scene”, he grimaced. The extremists were shown out by the police and a moderate went as much to show Bharathi and VOC to a policeman saying they were trying to divide the party at the behest of a vested interest. Moderates, Bharathi says, were absolute third-rates.

“Sir, did this incident inspire you to write ‘Nadippu SuthesigaL’?” I wanted to ask him, but I woke up.

This anecdote of Bharathi’s brought to my memory another incident.

Two weeks back, the Indian home secretary, Mr. GK Pillai called a spade a spade when he said that the ISI could be involved with Lashkar in the 26/11 attacks. Less than two weeks back, SM Krishna went to Islamabad for talks and asked Pakistan to curb Hafeez Saeed for making inflammatory speeches against India. SM Qureshi, his Pakistani counterpart, retorted saying India did not curb Pillay’s statement and they will not curb Saeed. Krishna gave a muted response and came here to say that Pillay’s comment was ill-timed and it did not create the right mood to talk. This was analogous to a landlord reprimanding the guard for stopping a thief. Period.

It was here that Bharathi’s idea was implanted in my mind, becoming a seed. To clarify, there is another incident to be recalled.

It was 1526. Babur was in Kabul with 12,000 men. He was up against the Indian king, Ibrahim Lodi, who had 100,000 men. One of his generals tried to dissuade him against the enterprise, cautioning him that he was up against formidable odds because the Indian king had a huge army of elephants and men. After listening to him patiently, Babur replied calmly, “Don’t worry. We will win because Indians never learn from history”.

As I was thinking thus, there was a pat on my back. “A lesson well learnt”, said Bharathi. “I think, Sir, you are terrific”, I was telling him but he kept patting me stronger.

It was my mother and I was finally awake. Or am I?

P.S. The first incident, apart from my dream, appears in “VOC yum Bharathi yum”, a book containing letters, anecdotes and diaries from the pens of VOC and Bharathi. Regarding the dream, I shall not reveal if it happened or not, because I have promised Bharathi I will not.

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Kannamaa, Where are you?

Mahakavi Bharathi (Timeline: 1882-1921) has been the inspiration for modern Tamizh poets through the 20th and 21st centuries and he will remain so till the Language lasts. This is my all time favourite poem of his where he describes his love for Kannamma. Kannamma was a pet of Bharathi. He was a devotee of Lord Krishna, KaNNan in Tamizh. He gave a feminine form to KaNNan and called “her” KaNNamma. He imagined her to be his Deity, Mother, Wife and the Love of his life, Daughter and in this case, his crush. Yes, he was audacious 100 years back to talk about his infatuation to a woman. The man was fearless. But this is not the only reason to like him or this poem. The lyrical quality or the imagery he studs his poem with is to be enjoyed.

The poem:

Suttum vizhi chudar dhaan – kaNNammaa
Sooriya chandiraro?

Vatta kariya vizhi – kaNNammaa
Vaanak karumai kollo?

Pattu karuneela – pudavai
Padhitha nalvayiram

Natta nadunisiyil – theriyum
NatshathirangaLadi!

Solai malar oLiyo – unadhu
Sundharapunnagai dhaan!

Neela kadalalaye – unadhu
Nenjin alaigaLadi!

Kolak kuyil oasai – unadhu
Kuralin inimayadi!

Vaalai kumariyadi – kaNNammaa!
Maruvak kaadhal koNdaen.

Saathiram pesugiraai – kaNNammaa!
Saathiram yedhukkadi?

Aathiram kondavarke – kaNNammaa
Saathiram undoadi!

Moothavar sammadhiyil – vadhuvai
MuraigaL pinbu seivom;

Kaathiruppenoadi? – idhu paar,
Kannaththu muththam ondRu

Translation:

Kannamaa, is your sparkling gaze the sun and the moon?
Are your round pupils; the dark skies that make men swoon?
The diamonds draped in your navy blue saree from Eden;
Are but stars from the midsummer night’s heaven!
The dazzle of a flower in the paradise;
Is but the allure of your smile!
The deep azure ocean’s unending waves;
Are but your heart’s lingering waves!
The cuckoo’s song is in fact the sweetness of your voice!
And on you maiden, I am infatuated!
Oh Kannamaa! You talk about rules!!!
Rules, are for ignorant fools!
Marry you I will, for that the elders we will seek.
Right now, will I be waiting for a peck on the cheek?

He describes her eyes to be the moon, sun and the black skies… He then describes her saree to be the midnight sky, the flower’s brightness is her smile, the cuckoo’s sweet voice is hers, the ocean’s waves are her heart’s waves.

He hints at her being his Universe; from comparing her eyes to the sun and the moon and her saree to the sky. The Universe is her for this smitten poet. The flower’s brightness is her smile, not the other way round like most other poets would put it. He then says to the probably teenage girl (Vaalai Kumari) that he’s infatuated (Maruva Kadhal). That must raise eyebrows now, not to think about his era. Yes, KaNNamma would’ve raised her eyebrows for Bharathi to see the Sun and the moon. He’s all the more likely to go bonkers. And yes, she would’ve asked him to behave and told him about the rigidity of the system (Saathiram). He’s fearless. He brushes it aside and says to hell with rules. They are for short sighted people. Not for him and certainly not for KaNNamma whose sight is not short, but in fact a representation of the Sun and the Moon. How can she talk about rules like a laywoman? He promises to wed her by the rules she demands he follow, but is now waiting for a kiss on the cheek.

Where are you KaNNamma?

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Nature, animals and genes

This is in no way a PhD thesis, nor am I a scholar. Call this rambling. This is about two outstanding videos I saw yesterday. One was 5 minutes long and the other 60. The first video, courtesy Nat Geo, was about a leopard, called Lakadima, and a baboon.

The hungry young leopard strikes out at the baboon and kills it. So what’s new? As it drags the dead baboon, something moves. The baboon was pregnant. This is unexpected. It delivers a baby as it dies. So what? The animal kingdom is full of rude realities. But within reality, there’s hope. Lakadima is unsure of how to react. It is evening time and evenings in forests are mirthful. There’s laughter and there are hyenas. Just when I thought a swift bite would end matters, Lakadima picks up the baby baboon and places it on top of a tree. What followed took my breath away. It is aggressive defense of the baboon by the leopard. The hyenas are driven away by her. She then proceeds to watch the baboon ceaselessly as though looking for repentance. And the baboon follows her wherever she goes. She is confused. She is a cub. An inquisitive one at that. But somewhere deep down, there is something more than five senses. She lays the baboon on top of a tree and begins to cuddle it. There was something maternal. My friend was saying, “It is nature’s way of saying, ‘I never leave anyone without giving them a second chance.’” Rudyard Kipling was whispering in my ears, “yours truly”. You ought to be dancing in your grave sir. The baboon and its surrogate mother lie down, exhausted, for a well deserved rest.
It was awe inspiring. Or so I thought.
It was 5.30Pm and out of boredom, before switching off the tv, unable to take dross in the name of reality shows, I changed channels to Nat Geo.
The program was King Cobras: A study of their secrets. I was suddenly wide awake.
King Cobra is called Ophiophagus hannah. Being ophiophagic, it eats other snakes and goes gaga over rat snakes. I’ll call it The King. 6m long and injecting 7ml of venom in a single bite, it can kill a fully grown elephant. However being the king, it’s also got an invisible sixth sense. It can control the amount of venom it releases. It can also bite without releasing venom. This would explain why only 4 people in India have died in the last 20 years due its bite. Venom is precious.
The set of investigators wanted to try something which had hitherto never been done. They wanted to radio tag two kings, a male and a female, follow them and study their behaviour in the wild. It’s obvious that snakes are not themselves when we are around. We ourselves are not. They would be able to observe, apart from many other things, how the sexes differ in their habitat.
But first, they need the Kings.
This is in the Western Ghats. Biologically, it’s one of the richest spots in the world. 100,000sq.km in area 100 years back, a meager 13,000 sq.km is all that is left due to deforestation today. That’s 87% of the area we’ve swallowed. It is a biodiversity hotspot, a one which is endangered. As we keep moving in, we intrude the animal kingdom. Let’s see how the King reacts.
The team of investigators gets a call from a village and they set out to meet the king. It’s a Queen. Ahem ahem. After a little coaxing, they capture her. They get a call from another village and there’s another King inside a burrow at the root of a tree. They try pulling the tree down. No luck. They dig the land carefully around the roots of the tree and as the land around the snake loosens, they pull it out. He is a King.
The team anesthetizes both the king and the queen and insert a radio transmitting tag between their vital organs. They stitch the incision and release the snakes into the wild. Two teams follow the king and the queen.
The king goes back to a human settlement. This is worrisome, they say. He’ll be killed soon. They recapture him and release back into the wild. He feasts on rat snakes, spewing venom in copious quantities and paralyzing the poor buggers. He swallows the snakes, his venom digesting them. Rat snakes are no mugs when it comes to a battle. 2.5m long, they are venomous. But hey, I’m sorry. You’re no match for the king.
Elsewhere, the queen is travelling slowly in the wild and feasting. She then performs an important deed all of us are born for. She mates. The queen is now carrying little princes.
The other King is back to a village where there’s ready food. Is there a pattern to his stupidity??? Humans attract rats. Rats attract rat snakes and rat snakes attract king cobras. He’ll be killed sooner than later. The team shifts him back to the wild. But this is not a permanent solution. Humans, in villages which were once forests, are driving animals further in. everything has a break point (Thalaivar Coppola). Something has to give in.
Elsewhere, the romantic and his queen are fine in the wild. But there is an intruder. Another King challenges the supremacy of this King. There will be a duel. But when Kings fight, there are rules.
No biting to spew venom.
No killing.
They must twist around each other and try to pin the opponent to the ground.
The loser leaves the territory and to the winner goes the spoils.
This is fantastic. The intruder and the ruler twist around one another. They are evenly matched. All of a sudden, the intruder pins the ruler to the ground and lands a venomless bite on the ruler’s head. The battle has been won fair and square. The loser leaves the territory and everything is the intruder’s. This includes the queen. He nears her. He starts coaxing and cajoling her. She refuses him. Female chastity??? He lands himself on her neck. No reply. It’s buzzer time for the king. His pride has been dented. He must act. He tries one last act of seduction. It was too late. It was a searing sight. Her neck was bleeding. He was launching himself upon her, his fangs deep inside her neck. It was murder!!! Murder is okay for him now that the battle is over. Psyche of all animals is the same. Man is a social animal. But she is a queen. She fights for life for a staggering 45 minutes, twisting and coiling, making life difficult for the bastard. But he is her physical superior. And King cobras are not immune to their own venom. She then completes the other important activity all of us are born for. The Queen is dead. He is a snake eater. He tries swallowing her. She is the same size as he is. He finds her too large for him. He spits her out with contempt and goes his way. Male chauvinism??? Cold blooded murder I say. He is poikilothermic after all. Has the sociopath broken a rule here??? I’m not a snake. I don’t know.
This is tragedy. The team does an autopsy and finds she was pregnant with 17 eggs in her womb. A funeral pyre is lit and the Queen is laid to rest. The female had travelled 5 km before its death. The male meanwhile had travelled a staggering 75 km.

The team follows another female King, or rather a Queen, who happens to have laid eggs. It’s monsoon and monsoon in the Western Ghats are legendary. Places have recorded 9m of rainfall over a single year. The Queen has a nest for its young ones… yes!!! A nest built by a King cobra. They are in fact the only species of snakes to build nests. But if the rain is too much, the eggs are likely to get washed away. But thankfully for her, rains are minimal. King cobras are extremely protective of their young ones. The Queen stands guard for the eggs which take 100 days to hatch. She goes without food all along. Finally the eggs hatch. She is a snake eater. It wouldn’t be long for her to gorge her little ones. Instinct drives her away. It was awe inspiring, again.
The little ones start to fend for themselves. It is a survival of the fittest. There is no parent figure for guidance. You survive or perish.
Or is it survival of the selfish gene??? I’m reminded of Richard Dawkins’s “The Selfish Gene.” Supposing there is a herd. One of its members spots a predator. Supposing it is selfless, it puts itself at danger by giving a warning signal to its herd. Supposing all selfless members are sacrificed this way. It’ll be the selfish ones that’ll remain. They multiply and their progeny will be selfish. What’ll remain down the line will be a selfish generation that’ll fight within itself. Survival of the fittest started between species and has ended as a fight within the species. Is that what is happening to man?
Mating is an invention of the gene. It is a way to keep itself immortal. We are mortals. Our genes are not. So is selfishness brought about by the gene??? Is that what drove the sociopath to kill the queen??? If the animal kingdom was a lousy Hindi film, Lakadima would’ve killed the sociopath king. Life is just desserts. But life is something more. It is reality and there is always hope in the form of Lakadima.
Nature is the best judge. She was judging Lakadima and the sociopath. Man calls himself a social animal. Nature is judging man.

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How to Name It?

I was talking yesterday with a couple of my friends about Ilayaraja. One reason was our common admiration for the man and the other was in discussing his style. It is difficult to pinpoint The Maestro to one particular style. Then came a discussion on his private albums, How To Name It? and Nothing But Wind.

Both albums serve as indices on fusion of the classical music styles, Carnatic and Western. How To Name It? is a personal favourite of mine though erudite scholars in music consider Nothing But Wind as the more refined piece. Yes, the latter is more intricate and is undoubtedly a magnum opus but the former gets to my heart easily. That’s pretty difficult considering no woman has managed to do that.

The album has 10 pieces and there were 3 that just took me off guard. Just imagining the concept is goosebumpy. It’s not the east meets west in drums and mridangams and guitars and veenas blaring out cacophony in the name of fusion. It’s a fusion of the eastern and western sensibilities. The result, like a Sachin Tendulkar straight drive, has your breath taken away. What romance in fusing Sri Thyagaraja and Johann Sebastian Bach! There’s a track, I Met Bach at my House… Bach coming all the way to Thyaga Brahmam’s house to meet him and the result is music to the ears. Bach’s Bouree in E Minor and the violin’s carnatic version fusing to produce a counterpoint that’s stunning, bewitching, captivating and all this is just for a minute and a half.

What follows this is more bliss as Thygaraja and Bach settle down in …And We Had A Little Talk. It starts with Hamsadhwani in a violin. Sri Thyagaraja is beginning the conversation. It culminates after two minutes in a stunning mini climax where he’s made his point. Bach follows with the western equivalent of Hamsadhwani, and Thyagaraja joins in and it’s a musical confabulation. They converse and Ilayaraja, a spectator all along bursts immediately into a little musical applause as the raga shifts to Charukesi and back to Hamsadhwani. It’s too much I say for a person like me. Poor Thyagaraja and Bach are in circa 18th century blissfully conversing through music (to God) and this man has given it a romantic spin in the 20th century which they are not lucky enough to see through. Lucky me!

And we Had a Little Talk: 
Courtesy demands Thyagaraja to visit Bach. Chamber Welcomes Thyagaraja is a piece where the Thyaga Brahmam visits Bach. Chamber music will have just a few instruments unlike a symphony. It’s typically played in a chamber. The violas welcome Thyagaraja on either side and he goes along the red carpet playing a Kalyani. I think the moment he enters the chamber, there’s the Mridangam that natters “welcome back” to the coversation. What romance! For a layperson like me, it was too much. The Kalyani is a metaphor for representing Thyagaraja and the violas are a metaphor for representing Bach. He’s just fusing the two musical metaphors. How to name it? Nothing but Genius!

Chamber Welcome Thyagaraja: 
These are just 3 tracks that have spawned a page here. His music has given me inspiration and has made my worst days better. He has made me laugh and cry through his music and I’m sure I’m not alone.

He is not Ilayaraja. He is Layaraja.

P.S. The youtube links of the two tracks can be misleading because there is no final say on which track is what. I interpreted the tracks based on the list in the site from where I downloaded the album. As you would see, what I wrote on Chamber Welcomes Thyagaraja comes as I met Bach at my House in youtube.

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MAC, CSK, SRT

This was posted in my facebook profile on April 7, 2010.

It was March 17, Ugadi. I was supposed to go get tickets for the match against Mumbai yesterday from my uncle, a TNCA member. I was going to watch Sachin. Chennai winning would be a bonus. The best thing was I knew where my uncle was, Hotel Himalaya in Triplicane, but didn’t know where in Triplicane the hotel was. Getting a 21H, I got down near Kannagi statue. Kannagi was pointing towards Pycrofts Road, showing the way. Thank you, Mrs. Kannagi Kovalan. The hotel was in Triplicane high road. With more difficulty than Vijay TV, I identified Himalaya, the hotel. Getting the tickets, I then realized that the match was sold out with my uncle assuring me this rush won’t be seen next year for the World Cup.

And yesterday (April 6 that is), the hour arrived. With my dad, sister and Swaroop, a friend who’s a journalist in The Hindu, I proceeded to the stadium. In the train, we thought we received a missed call from my friend Aravindh. This was a first. Missed call from USA. Swaroop was barred from entering into Chepauk. I was tempted to ask if journalists from The Hindu are banned in Chepauk. But the reason given was Jayasuriya was playing for Mumbai and pro-LTTE organizations have held a black banner against him. So you cannot wear black shirts in the stadium. Swaroop was wearing a black T-shirt.

Maxim 1: If you make a rule, make it known to all people.

Maxim 2: If you are incapable of doing that, don’t make a rule.

Maxim 3: If you still make a rule and decide to implement it, we will not question it.

Swaroop went out and after what seemed to be an eternity, came in with a Chennai Super Kings shirt over his black shirt. The toss was just on as we went in and yes, the stadium erupted upon the arrival of SRT.

The match was all time time pass. There were people who were pro-Chennai and there were people who were pro-SRT. It was a mini who’s loud contest in the D stand. CSK said a group. SRT said another. Until SRT was batting, and I saw God bat for the first time, it was a pro-Mumbai crowd. But after he retired and came back, CSK was back. There was a group that was dancing, energising the whole D stand. I must say they danced better than the Mumbai Indians cheer girls.

The match had everything you could ask for. Sachin was the top scorer in the match and CSK won. As we came out onto the Victoria road, we were jammed. The crowd coming out onto Wallajah road and the crowd going into the railway station met midpoint with the cars released onto the road.

Maxim 4: When you have 30,000 people coming out into a single road, don’t allow vehicles.

Maxim5: Refer Maxim 3.

PS: Jayasuriya didn’t play the game.

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Media’s 26/11

Posted in FB on 26/11, 2009.

Disclaimer: It is all fiction and a work of imagination. Not to be confused with anyone real.

Today is 26/11. Or is it India’s 9/11??? Right now in NDTV, Amrita Rao, Suneil Shetty and Akshay Kumar are speaking about national integrity and paying their odes. So are all the Media houses… Don’t Forgive, don’t forget…. runs a caption. India remembers… We will not forget… runs another. Oh shucks!!!! I just thought I can as well add an ode, albeit comical, if I can call it so. I wrote this a year back. Not in Facebook then, I mailed it to a few friends. Now in facebook, I guess I can inflict the torture on all of you. I’ve recycled it a bit, having a year’s hindsight, no doubt.

So here goes…

Dated 29/11/2008.

The indian politicians sat down today for an all party meet. Here’s what a secretely fit recorder would have had to say:

There’s a lot of chattering going on. Lalu and Paswan are bickering in a corner and there are other politicians who are speaking excitedly. Brinda Karat and Jayanti Natarajan are heard giggling.
And then all of a sudden, Sonia and Manmohan enter.
There is a classroom like silence. Sonia begins:

Sonia Gandhi: I’ve got to say that the people are enraged at the politicians.

Brinda Karat: Is it anything new?… in fact…

Shivraj Patil: er… What are we exactly here for?

Sonia: Shivrajji… To counter terrorism. I want some proactive measures taken by the government.

Shivraj: I dont think there’s anything to worry. We are in no way responsible for the terror attacks. The terrorist himself has said that he’s responsible. Nothing to worry.

Manmohan: May I speak?…

Sonia: In fact I want some measures put forward by all party members.

Lalu: v need a phaarmula to phight terrar…

Sonia: Very good. I want more such bright solutions.

Farooq Abdullah: In fact, I want the Indian hand in the terror attack probed. I dont think the Pakistanis would’ve done it. They never told me before doing this. I’m pretty sure it’s an Indian group which has done it.

Sonia: shhh… The BJP would be outraged if they hear it.

Sharad Pawar: I dont think there are any BJP members in this hall… *in hindsight, they are bickering amongst themselves.*

Manmohan: May I offer an opinion?…

Lalu: The role of tha opposison is doutful. I want it probed… Advaniji and Modi were the phirst politisians to vijit mumbai. That is what criminals do. Don’t they?

TR Balu: He is right. BJP would do anything to split the nation. That is why we split from the NDA after 6 years of trying to save the country from being split. In fact Mr. Thalaivar Karunanidhi has offered certain suggestions.

Sonia: Very good. I want more such suggestions.

Sharad pawar: What did he say?

TR Balu: That he condemns terrorist attacks in mumbai. We strongly feel it’s because of the AIADMK the attack took place. We must investigate on those lines also. If you want, our CM will take a flight to Mumbai and tell the same thing to the FBI and massage. This was how he guided the Chennai police with the law college situation.

Manmohan: Isn’t it the Mossad?

TR Balu: Whatever… if you can implement our suggestions, we can celebrate vanquishing terror in Chennai. The film stars will be called to dance. Manmohanji and Soniaji will be the chief guests. Our CM will address the state. It will go down in posterity as something unique.

Sonia: I want some more of such interesting suggestions.

Manmohan: May I speak?

Sonia: Manmohanji.. when did you come?… Anyway, please go ahead.

Manmohan: Why dont we set up an NSG base in all the four metros?

Sonia: That will be looked into. I want all the members to…

Mulayam: If we are setting up an NSG base, all communities must have a share in the allocation.

TR Balu: That is what our CM would also have said.

Paswan: How can these people say that? I wanted to be the first person to say this.

Amar Singh: Arre kya baath hai… you tell the same thing in Bihar. We’ll tell it in Uttarpradesh. Baaluji will tell it to the Tamil people.

Lalu: This is a conspracy against the nason. I want an all committee probe againt Paswan.

(Paswan shouts… Lalu retaliates. Oh!!!… it’s all getting very ugly. Both Lalu and Paswan are escorted out. Both lead their parties to dharnas)

Manmohan: I would also like to bring in a suggestion of setting up an FIA… A federal investigating agency… along the lines of the CIA.

P Chidambaram: What do have the RAW for?

Sonia: That’s a brilliant point. I want Mr. Shivraj Patil to resign. P Chidambaram will be the new Home Minister.

*PC is close to tears*

Shivraj Patil resigns and walks out.

Manmohan: Who will then be the FM?

Sonia: That’s also a brilliant point Manmohanji. You will be the next FM. *Adding in hindsight: If we do scrape through next year’s elections, we’ll relieve you and make Pranabji the FM. We can think about the defence later on. Is it very important? I have a plan. I’ll make Pratibhaji fly fighter planes and the country’ll think that the defence is in safe hands.*

Amar Singh: We cannot accept this. The congress party is having the cake and eating it too. We want a share in the ministry.

Farooq Abdullah: I dont see this meeting going anywhere. Why am I here when Kashmiris are boiling because of the Mumbai attacks. I must calm them.

D Raja (CPI): Yes… The congress is irresponsible. We don’t wish to stay here. It’s an insult to the nation.

(Brinda, Amar Singh, Mulayam, Farooq and Raja leave the hall)

TR Balu: So if that’s it, I’ll make a move. I have to brief our CM that his suggestions were accepted. He can then give a statement saying how hard he’s working for the welfare of the people of the country (he leaves).

Sharad Pawar: I guess I’ll leave. I have to meet Shashank Manohar and other BCCI officials on how to counter Mr. Dalmiya’s notice (he leaves). *In hindsight, it’s still not been resolved.*

Sonia: We’ll tell the press that we condemn the attack and you brief them on the reforms… Jayanti, you meet the press and condemn the BJP for politicising the issue. I have to urgently talk to Quattarocchi.*In hindsight,that talk has worked out the best.*

Manmohan: …

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The Two Escobars: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Once famous for emeralds and gold-now notorious for drugs and violence-Colombia is a soccer mad country whose troubles have taught it the value of compromise. This is the introduction given about the country in Reader’s Digest’s Guide to Places of the World, 1987 edition.

He was born in 1949 in Rionegro, Colombia, to a peasant father. As a teenager, he started indulging in car thefts, starting a life of crime in Medellin (pronounced Me-de-yin). By the 70s, he ventured into drug trafficking and started smuggling drugs to USA. In 1975, he started Cocaine operation, murdered his Boss and became the Number Uno drug lord in his country. He spoke about himself being a decent man who exported flowers and had a simple policy, plata o plomo (“silver or lead”, figuratively, money or bullets). This made him out of reach of the law. He was the most accomplished assassin of the 20th century, having killed 5,500 people. Killing was his day job. His passion was soccer. So passionate he was about the game, it made him build a number of small stadia across Medellin. He was Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria aka Pablo Escobar.

From one of the hamlets in Medellin came Andres Escobar Saldariago aka Andres Escobar, born in 1967, in a devout middle class Catholic family, whose passion was soccer. So passionate he was about the game, he started playing it with vigour. As a teenager, he lost his mother to cancer. When it came to a choice between studies and soccer, he chose the latter and was spotted by Fransisco Maturana, the coach of Atletico Nacional, in 1987. Atletico Nacional was owned by Pablo Escobar.

Pablo Escobar was at the peak of his powers in the late 70s and 80s. But his origins were mediocre. He was very poor that he couldn’t afford fee and dropped out of school. He’s supposed to have told his brother Jamie, “Jamie, look at all the rich people. They move around in cars. They don’t give us a penny. Why don’t we steal them to be as rich as they are?” Thus began his criminal life. In 1976, he established the Medellin Cartel, a powerful drug lobby that dominated by either bribing or killing officers. The same year, he was caught by two officers for smuggling and had them killed. He was a billionaire in no time and in 1987 was listed by The Forbes as the 7th richest person in the World. But on another side, he was sympathetic to the poorest in Colombia, especially Medellin, having suffered the same neglect of the system. The system created him. He took it on. He converted a dump yard that was home for 2000 families and built hamlets, promoted social gatherings and sponsored soccer stadia. He was the poor’s Messiah, their Robin Hood. But he was wanted by the US and in order to gain diplomatic immunity, contested the elections and was elected to the House of Representatives from Medellin in 1982, using enormous goodwill from the poor. He started investing in football, his passion, and had a major stake in the club, Aletico Nacional. By investing in the club, he could launder money, converting black money into white, something that’s happening to Cricket in India with the IPL. It was called “Norco-soccer”. Soon, other drug lords followed suit. The game was cash-strapped and the sudden influx of huge money was welcomed by the Football Federation. Football in the country was so passionate that once, a referee on account of been bought by a rival drug lord’s club and having defeated Atletico Nacional, was killed by Pablo’s men. He was the Boss. “There can only be one King”, he used to say. The result of such massive currency was that the game in Colombia took off. Andres Escobar was in such a time when the clubs could afford to keep the best of the local footballers and buy the best foreign talents. This took the game to an altogether different level. In 1989, he was captain of the club and led it to its first and so far only Copa Libertadores success, similar to Champions League in Europe. They were the champions in South America. Andres Escobar wasn’t a fan of partying but Pablo Escobar used to organize parties for the footballers. He considered them his pals. It was heady days for Pablo and football in Colombia.

However, in 1989, the voice for his extradition was growing and the Presidential candidates promised to extradite him. Three of them were murdered. “Sometimes I’m God, if I say a man dies, he dies the same day” was his quip. In 1990, the new government under Cesar Gaviria Trujjilo started to hunt for him. They had had enough. But they weren’t prepared for the retaliation. With the poor behind him, the streets of Medellin and Bogota burnt. Pablo is said to have killed close to 5000 people during this period, the worst in Colombia’s history. “Better a grave in Colombia than jail in the united States” was his motto. He bribed the legislators who voted to ban extradition. Having done that, he surrendered and was put into La Catedral, The Cathedral, a prison he built for himself with all the facilities and ran his empire from inside. However, he was still glued to soccer. When he was on the run with his associate Popeye, they were hiding in a ditch and the latter could feel the army moving in. He tensed his Mac-10 pistol and turned to Pablo who screamed with the radio in hand, “Popeye, Colombia has just scored a goal”!!!

The national team was the pride of the people and they were out to show Colombia was not all about drugs. They finished first in the South American qualifiers for the 1994 World Cup in the United States. They beat Brazil and hammered Argentina 5-0 in Buenos Aires, 1993, and were given a standing ovation by the Argentine crowd. They brought a style of play thought to be lost from South America. Their game was an art to behold; so much so that Pele thought they were the favourites. Andres Escobar was Colombia’s captain and one of the best defenders in the world. He was “El Caballero del Futbol” or Football’s gentleman. He was an inspirational role model people looked up to and was the President’s and Pablo’s favourite. During a qualifying game, Pablo’s guerrillas and the Colombian armed forces watched the game together and celebrated. Remember India vs Pakistan in the 1999 world cup where in the midst of the Kargil War, armies from both sides watched the game together and resumed hostilities later? Sport does that to men. It binds us and football in Colombia made the rich and poor, the ruler and the criminal; Colombians inside the stadium. The football team was the national ambassador set to repair national image at the international stage. A few months prior to the World Cup, Rene Higuita, their maverick goalkeeper, visited Pablo in prison and played football with him. He was hounded by the Press and a visibly enraged government that wanted to portray football as the squeaky clean side of the nation was embarrassed beyond measure and had him arrested on charges of kidnapping.

They were sadly mistaken. Football owed its rise to drug money in Colombia and the two were interdependent; the former on the latter for money and the latter on the former to legalize it. They were just two levels in the tree of the Colombian society helping each other off due to neglect from the higher echelons; they were the middle class and lower classes. The root was rotten. The lower class were the roots. What the system tried to do was polish the outer surface for the world to admire. But the rotten roots would pull it down for the world to laugh at. Pablo was the King. When the King calls, the subjects go. Andres wasn’t keen on going but had to. So had Rene and the rest of the team. Only Rene was caught. He was persecuted. Pablo in prison shot two drug lords because they peddled drugs unknown to him. Anyone had to ask him to break law. That was his law. Exceptions were not entertained. Soon the government, for the nth time, thinking was enough was enough, went after him. He escaped. The government disbanded the ban on extradition and allied with the US to form Los Pepes or the PEPEs, People pErsecuted by Pablo Escobar, to persecute those with him. His brother was gutted. Another brother was shot. His people, the poor, were threatened with dire consequences and were forced to ally with The PEPEs, who did the dirty work for the government; much like Osama did for the US against Russia. PEPE comprised of Pablo’s rival drug lords and his former allies, led by one Carlos Castano. Pablo was asked to show up on Dec 2 1993 or was threatened that all his family would be killed. Pablo Escobar ventured out on December 3 1993. He was shot to death.

The wealthy celebrated, the criminals cried in prison and the poor went to Pablo’s burial. The wealthy were anyway only a few. Without the head, each one was their own boss and Colombia sank further into the abyss. Pablo had banned kidnappings. There was order in the Underworld under Pablo. Now there was none and the roots began to die. The tree was falling apart. Days before the World Cup, a national footballer, Chonto Herrera’s son was kidnapped. He was rescued after the ransom was paid but the rot had set into football. The favourites went into the tournament disturbed.

In the prelude to the event, a witch had called a few players to curse the team. They were shocked in their first game by Romania, 1-3, with the Romaninan legend Gheorghe Hagi scoring one of the best goals ever. In the aftermath, another team member’s brother was murdered for the team having lost. Drug lords had placed huge bets on the team and were seething. They too are from the system. They want the fruit from the tree. They don’t mind chopping it if there’s none. The next game literally was do-or-die with many team members getting death threats. They looked up to Andres, their captain and he strung himself to play the USA in the next game, whom they had beaten in tons of friendly games. But that day, a dark force had entered their psyche. They attacked from all angles but couldn’t score. Then in a routine attack from the USA, their forward angled the ball into the 18 yard box. Andres, as was his routine, tried to deflect it away. He ended up deflecting it into the net. Colombia had lost and was out of the World Cup. It was a tragedy. Andres, by his own goal, had pushed his country out. Back home, people were coping up. The favourites were back. Wanting to show his face to the people, Andres Escobar ventured out on July 2, 1994. He was shot to death. He was the scapegoat for what happened. He was their favourite son and had written in a newspaper after his own goal: Whatever happens, we must not let anger cripple us. It’s been a rare and exciting journey that I’ve had the privilege of being a part of. But life must go on. The rich, poor and the criminals mourned his death. Two drug lords were found to be responsible and their bodyguard was arrested and imprisoned for 43 years and let off 11 years later due to good conduct. The drug lords were Gallon brothers and their escape was mediated through Carlos Castano.

Pablo and Andres Escobar were portrayed by the system to be the villain and the martyr. They were verily two sides of the same coin that was Colombia. One’s life mirrored the others’. The system created Pablo. He took the system on. With him rose football. It raised Andres. He was a part of the system and played along. The system created Carlos Castano to destroy Pablo. With Pablo fell order in the underworld. With it fell law in Columbia. Someone had to pay. It was Andres. The rise of Pablo Escobar mirrored the rise of football and Andres Escobar. His death mirrored the death of football and Andres. Today, 14 of the 18 clubs are bankrupt. Colombia has not been represented in any further World Cup. Heads rolled. The football federation President was arrested for allowing drug-money. The higher echelons didn’t want anything to do with the roots that were now exposed. The system said Andres Escobar was killed for being a soccer player. He was a soccer player killed by the system.

“The difference between a good and a bad man is and will always be the one who does not get caught”: Pablo Escobar.

P.S. This note was inspired by a documentary I watched with my friend Swaroop on the two Escobars.

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Filed under Games, Politik