India Uncut

This blog has moved to its own domain. Please visit for the all-new India Uncut and bookmark it. The new site has much more content and some new sections, and you can read about them here and here. You can subscribe to full RSS feeds of all the sections from here. This blogspot site will no longer be updated, except in case of emergencies, if the main site suffers a prolonged outage. Thanks - Amit.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

All for God

I can't think of a more heartbreaking message than this at the top of a Bulletin board:
I'm so distraught; I can't stop crying! What did I do wrong? Is my son in Hell now for killing himself??
However, if you read the background to what happened, I think you might agree with me that there is no reason to feel sorry for this woman: she was one of the reasons her son took his life.

Religion was the other.

(Link via email from Shrek. Also see: 1, 2.)
amit varma, 11:58 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Who wants to be a shrink?

You do! It's the most fun profession ever! Reuters reports:
An Australian psychologist charged with indecently assaulting a patient told a court on Tuesday that forcing his female patient to wear a dog collar and call him master was within a psychologist's ethical guidelines.
Heh. That should clear up self-esteem issues fast enough.

Update: Rishi writes in:
I've always wanted to be a shrink. I'd go around zapping my office colleagues to a height of six inches and then crushing them like ants.
I'm going to have nightmares about six-inch-tall ants now.
amit varma, 3:23 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

One more Mukhtaran Mai

Reuters reports:
A group of Pakistani men has been accused of raping a teenaged girl and forcing her to parade naked through her village because one of her relatives eloped with a young women from the men's family, police said on Wednesday.
What I find depressing is that from that first sentence, we can construct the rest of the story ourselves and get every significant detail right. That's how common and predictable these kind of crimes have become. And not just in Pakistan.
amit varma, 3:11 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Proud to be Indian blah blah blah

How predictable that Tata's win in the battle over Corus should become an opportunity for people to indulge in nationalistic jingoism. Tell me, is there any reason why an achievement by a corporate group of which I am neither a shareholder nor an employee should make me feel proud? Pah.

There isn't a better illustration of what I'm talking about than this message board on Rediff. Some exquisite samples (all from different messages):
Keep the national flag fluttering high! Best wishes for future conquests.

True to the Indian tradition of the indomitable fighting spirit, you have done it once again!

It is a signal to the whole world that India has come out of its deep slumber and is kicking.

We are proud of you, You have made INDIA proud again in front of world forum.

You will be leader in makeing india proud.

we indians are doing well and are the movers and shakers of the world......u Tata has inspired all of us to beleive in ourself and look forward to do wounders

Simply i'm really glad and congrats to everyone in the country .......... i guess every Indian will be proud of this ....

The whole country salutes the invincible Tatas.Proud to be an Indian, always!!!!!!!!!!
Sigh. If I thought like these buggers, their grammar and punctuation would make me ashamed of being an Indian. How silly would that be?

(Also read my previous posts on national pride: 1, 2, 3.)
amit varma, 2:40 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Ian Botham in Madhya Pradesh

Ian Botham is in a jeep, travelling through Madhya Pradesh in a jeep, two South African friends by his side. Suddenly, a group of rowdies stop the jeep.

They peer inside.

Their leader turns back and says something to his men. Instantly, they pull the South Africans out and start beating them up.

Hours later, a tired cop asks them why they did that. The reply comes:

"We had to beat them up. Those two men were carrying Beefy in their jeep."

* * *

Yes, yes, I know, it's a ridiculous story, why did I even bother, yada yada yada. But is this not quite as ridiculous?
amit varma, 2:29 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

On immigration

PTI reports:
India has cautioned Britain that it would be the ‘loser’ if its immigration laws were not liberalised to allow freer movement of workers from the sub-continent nation.

"Short of permanent immigration, we are asking for freer movement of personnel who can render services abroad," Finance Minister P Chidambaram told The Times.
I couldn't agree more. But what, I wonder, does Mr Chidambaram feel about immigration into India from countries like, say, Bangladesh? Do the same principles apply?

Update (February 1) : Vivek Kumar writes in:
Though the PTI article doesn't mention it, the comments relate to Mode 4 of GATS which has to do with temporary movement of skilled workers across borders to provide services. While this issue itself is quite complicated, it has no relation to the immigration into India from neighbouring countries. India has a very liberal Visa regime for Employment Visa and it can be renewed without the applicant having to go back to his/her home country.
I wrote back to Vivek about how I support immigration in general, and some interesting points came up in our discussion. Consider that our visa policy is against immigration of unskilled labour. Consider also our minimum-wage laws. They actually provide an added incentive to illegal immigration, as it is easy to employ illegal immigrants at ultra-low wages because they have no rights anyway. "If the market were to determine wages," writes Vivek, "the demand for illegal immigrants would be a lot less because there would be plenty of Indians available to work at those market wages."

I'm against the minimum wage in any case, as it harms the poor people it is intended to protect. (Milton Friedman expresses it superbly here.) And I'm also in favour of a liberal visa policy, even for unskilled labour. But that's a piece for another day.
amit varma, 2:22 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Aishwarya and the tree, redux

Remember when Aishwarya Rai married a tree? Well, a lawyer named Shruti Singh has filed a PIL against such practices in the Patna High Court. She feels that "marrying a Manglik girl to tree, God or animal prior to her marriage to the human bridegroom is a practice of untouchability which has been prohibited under the Indian Constitution."

I find this Manglik-nonsense as ludicrous as Ms Singh does, but as long as there is no coercion involved, and neither Aishwarya nor the tree object, I don't see what her problem is. If Aishwarya wants to go through this rubbish, that is entirely her choice.

And besides, it gives me great joy to imagine the tree marching up to Abhishek on his wedding night and yelling, "Get yer branches off mah wife!"

(Link via email from Arjun Narayan.)
amit varma, 11:52 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

"I'm blogging"

It's hard work, ok? Watch:

(Link via Digital Inspiration.)
amit varma, 12:55 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

It's pointless. Ok?

Of all people, you'd expect soldiers going to war to understand the futility of life. Well, apparently not.

There's something immensely perverse about people wanting to have children after they're dead. No?

(Link via email from Sanjeev Naik.)
amit varma, 11:48 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Bal Thackeray and the burning city

Once he was dangerous, now he's simply pathetic. Check out the latest issue the leader of the Shiv Sena has taken up. If ever there was a straw man...
amit varma, 11:19 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Lalu Prasad Yadav, exorcist

This is hilarious:
Trouble is in store for Railway Minister Lalu Prasad. The Bihar government is planning to initiate action against him for his alleged role of an exorcist at his native village in Phulwaria.
Apparently, Lalu allegedly "acted like an exorcist" during "the recent consecration of a temple at his native Phulwaria village." Sadly, videos don't seem to exist, or hordes of surfers from Bihar would no doubt be on YouTube as I type these words.

Perhaps there's a revenue stream there. BhootTube. "Exorcise yourself." Rabri Devi could be the CEO. And you don't need me to tell you what the logo could be. Heh.

(Some previous posts on Lalu: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21.)
amit varma, 11:08 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

"The more fragile figurine"

Indiatimes begins a slideshow with this remarkable intro:
Actresses make pretty pictures. And these days, even more so, as the dress has come back in vogue! Dare bare acts are passé. Our ladies, these days, prefer to ‘dress’ up. ‘Smart’ has been replaced by the ‘dainty’, and the tom-boyish image and well-toned frame that was famous once, during the Dhoom 1 phase, has been swapped with the more fragile figurine. And even a well-toned Bipasha Basu in Dhoom 2 , has made sure to add a frill or two...
Sigh. No doubt the guy who wrote this excerpt thought, possibly in Marathi or Hindi, that this was exceptionally well-written. I just want to know what his editor was thinking.

Or maybe there's no editor?

(Previous posts with Purplocity/Verniness: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32.)
amit varma, 10:56 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The problem with Wikipedia

Immense recognition comes.

Actually, mindless surfing is something we've done before Wikipedia, and even before the internet, when we mindlessly surfed channels on our television. It's just that it's now become so much easier. Perhaps I need to go cold turkey.

But then, how will I blog?

(Link via email from Aadisht.)
amit varma, 12:38 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

"The difference is why you drink"

Check out this superb film by Clemens Kogler and Karo Szmit:

(Link via email from Anand, who is selling Chó Guevara T-shirts these days. Heh.)

Update: Mohit points me, via email, to Jessica Hagy's Indexed. Laburnums dance in a romantic haze. Limpid laughter leaps.
amit varma, 12:25 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Monday, January 29, 2007

Mostly plants?

Just check out the diet you need to be "maximally healthy." Tremulous trepidation trembles. I think I'll just live an unhealthy, enjoyable life, and die young and unmourned, clutching a kabab in my greedy fingers as I breathe my last.

(Link via email from Shrek.)
amit varma, 4:19 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

On why I blog, and suchlike

Finance blogger Ranjan Varma (no relative of mine) wrote to me recently asking to do a Q and A with me. I can't imagine why anything I would have to say would be of any value, but I answered his questions, and the interview is here.

Also, the Indibloggies traditionally conducts an interview every year with the previous year's winner of IndiBlog of the Year. As I won the prize last year, thanks to your generosity, they want to ask me a few questions. and they want readers to ask those questions. So if there's something you'd like to ask, you can hop over here and leave a question.

And no, don't bother asking about cows. My lips are sealed on that subject.
amit varma, 4:04 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Rahul Roy and the voting mechanics of Bigg Boss

As I have been predicting for weeks, Rahul Roy has emerged the winner of Bigg Boss. My prediction would have been different had the voting mechanism been different. The way it worked, audiences had to vote to get people out of the house. If they'd had to vote to keep them in there, Ravi Kishen or Rakhi Sawant would have won.

Rahul's strategy was superb, and tailored to the voting mechanism, whether he intended that or not. He kept a low profile, fought with no one, and hardly spoke. Viewers hardly noticed him. They had no reason to either like or dislike him. This meant that when they had to vote, he didn't even come to their minds. They had no reason to vote him out.

This would have worked against him if they had to vote to keep people in the house. Rahul would have slipped through the cracks soon enough, as would Carol Gracias, who was the runner-up. Ravi Kishen and Rakhi Sawant would have thrived. They are the kind of flamboyant, outspoken people whom you can't help but notice, and who are much more likely to be strongly liked or disliked by people. This worked against them in a format where the viewers had to express their disapproval; it would have helped one of them win if the viewers had to vote to keep people in.

Indeed, Ravi could have won if the final showdown was between two people instead of three. (The viewers had to choose between Ravi, Rahul and Carol.) In that case, supporters of Ravi would simply have voted to get the other person out of the show. But the way it ended, Ravi's fans would effectively have to vote twice -- once each for Rahul and Carol -- to put Ravi one up. The costs of expressing their support was double what it would have been had the voting format been different, or had there only been two people left. The cost of casting a vote against him, on the other hand, was half of that.

In any case, I'm glad Rahul won, even though all his talk of God does make me cringe a bit. Over the weeks that I watched the show, he was the only person who didn't seem to be putting on an act for the cameras, and who managed to keep a sense of perspective about him. He never cracked, never showed any nerves, and rarely expressed any negative emotions towards anyone. Either he didn't feel any, in which case he's impossibly saintly, or he simply kept himself together in difficult circumstances. Good show.
amit varma, 11:18 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

What's the point of learning Latin?

There isn't any, writes Matthew Engel in the Financial Times.

The same thing could be said of learning Sanskrit in India, I suppose. You may think that's a bad thing or a good thing or just a non-bad-non-good thing, but it doesn't matter: Sanskrit will decline as Latin will, and there's a simple reason for that: opportunity cost.

As time passes, there are more and more things we can do with our time, which makes it less and less likely that kids will learn dead languages, or that their parents will want them to. And so it goes.
amit varma, 9:15 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Why glamorize the python?

What about the 11 guard dogs who died doing their duty?

(You will note that this is a clumsy attempt at allegory, which I have avoided so far for immensely good reasons.)
amit varma, 2:44 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The Malt March

The Times of India reports:
Seeking to press for an end to prohibition, a group of persons who like to clink their glasses and say 'cheers' plans to take out a 'Malt March' which they feel is akin to Mahatma Gandhi's historic Salt March.
Some people might think that this is a mockery of the thinking behind the Dandi March, but I disagree. These guys are also fighting for freedom: the freedom to have a drink if they so desire. More power to them.
amit varma, 1:10 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

An epidemic of collapsing schools

One school collapsing, and children dying, is tragic enough. But from the way headlines are laid out on the Times of India's site, you'd imagine that schools are collapsing all across Surat. Look:

I hate to lecture, but there are smarter ways of clustering, and showing earlier versions of the same story. Pah.
amit varma, 12:51 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Unspeak: the deceptive power of words

Ravi Venkatesh points me, via email, to an excellent article in Slate on Unspeak, "writer Steven Poole's term for a phrase or word that contains a whole unspoken political argument, deserves a place in every journalist's daily vocabulary." An example:
Pro-life supposes that a fetus is a person and that those who are anti-pro-life are against life, he writes. Pro-choice distances its speakers from actually advocating abortion, while casting "adversaries as 'anti-choice'; as interfering, patriarchal dictators."
In another article, Slate features more such examples contributed by readers, which include "affirmative action," "equal opportunity," "anti-war," "progressive," and "anything that contains the word agenda."

As for Indian examples, Ravi writes, "in India, referring to non-right-wing parties as secularists is similar - you are, by default, labeled non-secular if you don't support them."

Quite. Indeed, two examples that instantly come to mind are socialist and liberal. Not supporting socialism seems to imply that you don't care about society, while it is actually socialism that is harmful to society, especially the poorer members of it. And while liberal once did mean liberal, today, in the sense in which it is used in America, it is quite the opposite. Thus, I may be liberal and be against American liberals, and I may care about my fellow human beings but abhor socialism, but so pernicious is the Unspeak that those become difficult points to get across.

Also: do check out Steven Poole's blog. And you can buy his book here.

Update: On a related note, do read about "the triumph of euphemism."
amit varma, 12:21 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Faster than thought?

I never knew an economy could grow that fast. (See first headline.) This is almost science fiction.

(Link via email from Petu.)
amit varma, 12:16 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

A Landmark day

Yes, yes, I know I haven't blogged in more than 24 hours, but you can call off those search parties, I have an innocent explanation: I was travelling. I'd gone to Pune for the first ever Landmark Quiz in that city, and with Rishi and Aadisht as my team-mates, ended a lowly fourth. The third prize was 9k worth of books, and there was no fourth prize. We didn't even win the best team-name prize for calling ourselves 'Mosquitoes with Battleaxes.' Pah!

I couldn't blog in the breaks between travelling and quizzing because I forgot to get the wire that connects my laptop and my Hutch GPRS phone. Some children got cheap thrills out of this. Bah!

Once I am a little rested, therefore, regular blogging will resume. Who can fight sleep? It hasn't been done.
amit varma, 1:24 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A cow-friendly budget?

Star of Mysore reports:
'Children and cows are sources of energy on earth. If children grow well, we can build a knowledgeable society and by protecting the cows, we can build a healthy society', said Sri Raghaveshwara Bharathi Swamiji of Sri Ramachandrapura Mutt, Shimoga.

Addressing a press meet at Pathrakarthara Bhavan here this morning, the Seer said 'children are divine and so are cows. The government's move of including milk in the school mid-day meal programme is most welcome. In that backdrop, it would be highly appropriate if the next budget was made cow-friendly'.
All I can say is "Pah!" Since when have children been divine?

(Link via email from Anand Krishnamoorthi, who got to it via Dave Barry.

Previous posts on cows: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 , 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77.)
amit varma, 8:32 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Write from your bum

Not from your heart, says Anita Sethi in her post, "How not to write a novel: A step by step guide to failure."

I must be exceptionally talented: not writing a novel has come quite easily to me so far. Maybe I should try writing one.
amit varma, 6:59 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Cleavage Dutta and Bikini Jaitley

Verniness abounds! Consider two fine excerpts. First, here:
You would have missed ‘cleavage Dutta’ in Bhagam Bhag but for her chartbuster Signal. Her short dress teamed with ostrich feathers took the attention of a spunky Akshay Kumar and comeback Govinda.
That's a remarkable paragraph, and I have absolutely no idea what it means. Stunning stuff.

And then consider Celina Jaitley's response to a question here:
Bikini doesn’t sell today. There was a time when I sported it and started a trend. Many other actresses followed the trend later on. But today I don’t think bikini has remained as hot as it used to be then.
What to say now? Maybe Ms Jaitley should just start a monokini trend.

(Previous posts on bikinis: 1, 2.

Previous posts with Purplocity/Verniness: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31.)

Update: She's everywhere. More Celina in Sonia's new post.
amit varma, 2:50 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Mallika Sherawat removes trousers

The Times of India reports:
There is more trouble coming for Mallika Sherawat. After filing a complaint over her alleged obscene performance at J W Marriott Hotel in Mumbai on New Year's eve, advocate and Baroda Bar Association president Narendra Tiwari has furnished some more evidence in an attempt to substantiate his claims in a petition filed earlier this month.

Tiwari has now come up with photographic evidence that the star had removed the trousers of a man on stage during the performance.
The photos are below (courtesy ToI). But really, the only person who has any right to complain about that is the gentleman whose trouser Mallika removed -- and that too only if she was, heh, doing it against his will. What's Mr Tiwari's problem?

Update: Greatest headline ever: "Mallika will strip all men."

The things people object to!

(Link via email from Fleiger Adler.)
amit varma, 2:33 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Ryszard Kapuscinski and the shape of tunnels

Ryszard Kapuscinski is dead, one of the finest chroniclers of the 20th century taking his leave of the 21st. Kapuscinski spent much of his career as a foreign correspondent, working by day on the kind of traditional reports we see in our newspapers. But, as Michael Kaufman of the New York Times writes:
At night, he worked on longer, descriptive essays with phantasmagoric touches that went far beyond the details of the day’s events, using allegory and metaphors to convey what was happening.

“It’s not that the story is not getting expressed” in ordinary news reports, he said in an interview. “It’s what surrounds the story. The climate, the atmosphere of the street, the feeling of the people, the gossip of the town; the smell; the thousands and thousands of elements that are part of the events you read about in 600 words of your morning paper.”

[...] Though each of Mr. Kapuscinski’s books was distinct, they all shared a sense of shimmering reality. There was, for instance, his account of the departure of Portuguese settlers from Angola as independence and civil war settled on the country. He described how everything of value, from cars to refrigerators, was leaping into boxes and floating off to Europe.

In preparing these articles he never took notes and used memory to stimulate his poetic imagination. In “Imperium,” he evoked the wintry cold of the old Soviet penal colonies by quoting a schoolgirl who said she could tell who had passed by her house by the shape of the tunnels they had left in the crystallized air.
Another example of his vivid writing, that paints a world while never drawing attention to itself, is quoted in Chandrahas's post on Kapuscinski. Indeed, if you aspire to be a journalist or a writer, do check out some of these remarkable books: "The Shadow of the Sun," "Imperium," "The Soccer War," "The Shah of Shahs." In fact, all of them.
amit varma, 11:55 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The Itch Virus...

... is on its way to India.

Such joy. I love the comments, especially, where a number of people take all this rather seriously. Along with the well-known Irony Deficit and the Sarcasm Deficit, our country also seems to have a basic Humour Deficit. Languorous laughs linger.

(Link via email from Kind Friend.)
amit varma, 11:40 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Bangladesh to overtake Indonesia by 2090

Well, suchlike.

The thing is, it isn't a race. We're all running not to overtake each other but to get ahead of where we were before. That's all.
amit varma, 5:20 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

A treatise on wife-beating

To think that this is the 21st century. Watch this video: it begins with the words, "If the husband wants to use beatings to treat his wife..."

And really, this is not just about Islam. Religion is merely a codification of the evil that already exists within all of us, to different degrees, and humans are prone to beating others weaker than themselves, whether they are wives, children or helpless animals. If God really existed, the smart thing for Her to do would be to wipe out the entire human race and put the dinosaurs back on earth. At least there would be no hypocrisy and self-righteousness.

(Link via email from Ravikiran.)
amit varma, 5:04 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Koena Mitra in the men's loo

No build-up to a childhood anecdote can be so cheesy:
Could you imagine our sultry beauty Koena Mitra shouting on the top of her voice to tell that she was a girl and nobody believing her?

And not only this, she was even dragged to men's loo, with her pleads to go to girls' loo unheard.
Just imagine. Long will I now fantasize about being dragged to "girl's loo."

"Why have you dragged me here?" I will ask, immensely worried. "What do you want?"

"We have been reading your blog for months now," the sexiest of the 50 girls who dragged me there will say. "And now we want an answer to the question that has been robbing our nights of sleep, our minds of calm, our lives of peace."

"Wh-wh-what question."

And then all the girls will scream at one go:

"Just what is it with the cows?"

I'm not telling!

(Previous posts with Purplocity/Verniness: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30.

Previous posts on cows: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 , 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76.)
amit varma, 3:58 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Don't do it

I wish all wannabe writers would read Charles Bukowski's marvellous poem, "so you want to be a writer." An excerpt:
don't be like so many writers,
don't be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don't be dull and boring and
pretentious, don't be consumed with self-
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
over your kind.
don't add to that.
don't do it.
Read the full poem.

(I was reminded of this poem, which I'd read ages ago, by a comment on Kitabkhana.)
amit varma, 3:51 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Gandhigiri in China?

Well, why not? After all, there's Maogiri in India.

(China link via email from Gautam Ghosh.)
amit varma, 6:20 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Shah Rukh Khan and Oprah Winfrey

Why, I wonder, do we keep looking to the West for benchmarks to validate our own stars? Isn't Shah Rukh Khan big enough by himself?
amit varma, 6:12 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Women don't have to worry about getting an erection

I think that needs to be said. ANI reports:
Porn star Jenna Jameson has slammed her male counterparts for needing sex-aid drugs to perform their raunchy acts on screen.
Well, duh!
amit varma, 6:09 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Raju and the baby elephant

Whoever thought a man like Raju could exist?

Yesterday in Jaipur, returning to our hotel after a spell of shopping for some lovely ladies, Chandrahas and I hailed an auto. Some gratuitous bargaining was done, and then we duly sat inside. Hash asked me something about the manufacturing sector. I replied. Then the auto-driver's head turned around, without any perceptible movement of his shoulders, as if his neck was a screw.

"Your English is very excellent, sirs," he said.

The head swivelled back. Hash and I looked at one another. Then the head turned around again. "My name Raju, full name Noor Khan. Where are you from?"

"From Bombay," said Hash.

The head looked at the road in front. Only vehicles and people. No problem. It turned again, as the auto kept charging forward.

"I had business in Bombay. Diamond business. I used to supply diamonds to the Taj. But I left." The head looked ahead again.

"Why did you leave?"

The head turned. "Because I was robbed. I bought diamonds from Surat. Some thief stoles my diamonds. Then I decides, enough. Enough! So I leaves."

There was a pause, as he looked at us, and the auto kept moving forward. Then he said:

"Now I runs bellydancing company."

We burst out laughing, rude as it was. "Bellydancing?" says Hash. "Where do you get the bellydancers from?"

"I makes them."


"I makes them. I takes bra, panty, and I puts beads on them. Glitter, you know. I will show you."

There were a few moments of silence, as Raju looked ahead of him, and we tried to figure out what he meant. Then he said:

"I have a wife from English."


"Yes, I have a wife from English. I have also been, England. I have lived there. My wife is in England now, with my daughter. I would also join them. But I do not join them because I have responsibility here."

"What responsibility?"

"I have a baby elephant to look after."

We burst out laughing at the thought. Raju's head turned around, looked at both of us, then swivelled back. He suddenly stopped his auto in the middle of the road. He leaned out, and gestured to some waiting Japanese tourists to cross the road. They crossed, bewildered. Raju started the auto again.

"Everybody knows me here," he said. "I speaks 18 languages." As if to demonstrate this, he leaned out and shouted at a cow.

"And I will show you pictures of my wife. She is from English."

We reached our hotel, and Raju took out an album of photographs. Instantly, his tall tales became just an unusual truth. There he was, with his arm wrapped around his "wife from English." There they were together, in a landscape that is clearly in England. There was Raju playing with his pretty daughter. There they all were, a happy family. So he's a bedraggled, skinny autodriver, but he told the truth. Why didn't we believe him? How fascinating his story really must be.

He started taking out birth certificates of his family, and xerox copies of their passports. Embarrassed, we asked him to stop. I asked if I could take a couple of photographs and write about this. "Yes, yes," he said, delighted. He posed with the pictures you see below. We paid him for the ride. We shook his hands. And then, as we were leaving, he said:

"Next time you come to Jaipur, I will show you my baby elephant."

amit varma, 5:52 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Monday, January 22, 2007

Poetry and Rushdie at the Jaipur Literature Festival

The Jaipur Literature Festival got over yesterday, and I can't help thinking what joy would have come if it had been like other Indian festivals. People could have been making bonfires of books. They could have burst firecrackers near authors. They could have fasted till sunset while reading. Perhaps they could all have thrown colours on each other in a literary kind of way, and then felt each other up with a poetic air. Maybe they could have formed a procession, carried some books to immerse in the sea, and molested everyone in the way. That's what Indian festivals can sometimes turn into, but I'm glad to report that this one was somewhat more dignified.

My primary reason for coming here was not to hobnob with the literati, who seem to hold bloggers in some kind of amiable contempt, but to hang out with friends, which I duly did. Jai, Chandrahas, Space Bar and Nilanjana were great company, and the last named gave us some great litty gossip about, ahem, and, um, you know. (No, Ahem and Um You Know did not sleep with each other, but fought over a word. Writers!)

I was also hoping to catch a couple of good sessions on writing, and I wasn't disappointed. There was an enthralling session on the first day on the poetry of Dom Moraes, Nissim Ezekiel and Arun Kolatkar, with Jeet Thayil, Keki Daruwala and Jane Bhandari discussing their work and reading from it. I don't understand poetry, but I did read it avidly in my college days, and it was nice to be reminded of things I used to like but had forgotten. ("My backward place is where I am." Such beauty.) Poetry and pretentiousity often go together, but much of this session was magical.

The second day featured a memorable session in which Suketu Mehta chatted with William Dalrymple. Mehta unleashed wisecracks with a practised ease, and spoke at length about Vidhu Vinod Chopra and his many wives, showing us photographs he had secretly taken at Chopra's place in a fascinating slideshow. Well, ok, he didn't -- I made that up. As Parveen Babi once said, "The fun lies not in the world, but in the imagination. Amitabh is Satan."

On the third day, there was a double dose of Salman Rushdie, who was magnificent. First, in a press conference that will no doubt be reported in much detail, he lambasted Outlook and the Hindustan Times for their shoddy reportage of his visit, and for getting facts wrong. Then he spoke about books, and writing, and the state of the world, and so on. He responded to the usual banal questions with good humour, and such wit flowed that I'm sure even the tabloid reporters there forgot about the non-appearance of Mrs Rushdie.

He was even better in the evening, when he chatted with Barkha Dutt and said shortly after it started:

"Chhagan Bhujbal is an asshole."

Reporters: "Sir, can we quote you on that?"

Rushdie: "Yes!"

And then he went on to tell us about about Bhujbal's pride in being racist and fascist, and how he had a green telephone that looked like a frog and croaked when a call came, and how Bhujbal would then become a man talking to a frog. "How can you hate a man who is talking to a little, green frog?"

At one stage Barkha Dutt, who seems to come at everything through the prism of her politics and her preconceptions, told him that all his novels were political in nature. Rushdie denied this: "You feel that way because you're a political person." He then went on to speak about how novels should preserve the space of the personal, and insulate it from the politics all around. I have always felt that only bad art can have an overt political agenda -- expressed by Milan Kundera quite superbly, so go read him -- and that while a novel can have politics as part of its backdrop or context, its central concern should be, as my good friend Jai would say after a ponderousness alert, the human condition.

Rushdie also took apart the media. I don't remember his exact words -- one hopes they are reported in full by the reporters present -- but Barkha at one stage asked him how he would feel if the media stopped writing about him completely. Thus amused Rushdie. "Why don't you try it?" he said. The audience roared.

Sadly, Rushdie's brilliant session ended in a reading, as he read out a bit from Shalimar the Clown, and I was reminded again of why I do not like his novels: His wordplay is often excessive and gratuitous, and gets in the way of the narrative. Indeed, I never cease to be surprised that a man with such a remarkable mind can engage in adoloscent linguistic gymnastics. Still, that is a matter of personal taste, and maybe there's something wrong with me.

I leave Jaipur later today, and arrive back in Mumbai on Tuesday afternoon. Blogging shall probably be light, as I will be travelling. Be good!

Update (January 23): Jai reproduces some quotes from Rushdie about God, Neo-Gothic architecture, ham sandwiches and much else. And here's an interview of Rushdie by Barkha Dutt from just before this event -- not the one that I've written about.

Update 2 (January 23): More from Jai.

Update 3 (January 23): Nilanjana writes about the Diggi Palace. And reproduces some of Rushdie's conversation with Barkha Dutt.
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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Divine meltdown

Headline of the day:

Lord Hanuman's idol sheds tears.

Maybe the Lord is tired of existing?
amit varma, 11:43 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Jade Goody's India connection

Trust the Times of India to put news of national importance on the front page: Jade Goody has been evicted from Celebrity Big Brother, clearly a triumph of Good over Evil, or at least Good over Goody, as my room-mate in Jaipur, young Jabberwock, put it.

And has there been a more earth-shattering headline of late than "Shh! Jade Goody has an India connection"? I can't resist quoting a paragraph from that:
She [Goody] endorses a perfume brand called Shh, whose bottles are made in a Gujarat plant. The bottle production has come to a halt following her remarks on actor Shilpa Shetty, unflattering references to India and disturbing public queries about how Indians could eat with their hands when they knew where their fingers have been to. Also, it has come to light that the Indian tourism department’s invitation to her to visit India was unnecessary as she was here in April 2006 to tour the factory. More curious is the claim of some employees of the bottle manufacturer that her father is a black man.
Entire books can be written about this immense saga. Indeed, I worry that they will be.

My previous post on this subject: "Shilpa Shetty and Celebrity Big Brother."
amit varma, 11:35 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Where's the chug chug?

On the lawns of the Diggi Palace, where the Jaipur Literature Festival is being conducted, I saw a sign that said "Blogging Station."

I went and stood besides it for half an hour. No train came.
amit varma, 10:49 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

I'm a huge fan of animals

If not for them, there wouldn't be naked animal activists.

Wait, in this case, animals have nothing to do with it.

Ok, I'm a huge fan of racism as well.

(Link via email from Anand Krishnamoorthy.)
amit varma, 10:44 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Friday, January 19, 2007

Bollywood hails the free market

A version of this piece was published today in today's Wall Street Journal as "Bollywood's New Capitalist Hero." (Subscription link.) It isn't meant to be a review of "Guru", towards which I have mixed feelings, but a comment on one aspect of it.

Who would ever have thought that one of the villains of a Bollywood film could be import duty? "Guru", the latest Bollywood blockbuster by the respected director Mani Ratnam, is that rare film—perhaps Bollywood’s first—in which free markets are lauded as a force for good. Aliens emerging from the Taj Mahal would be less surprising.

"Guru" stars Abhishek Bachchan as Gurukant Desai, a character inspired by Dhirubhai Ambani. Ambani was that rare tycoon who went from rags to riches during the worst years of India’s license raj, building Reliance Industries, which today is India’s largest private sector company. In the era in which Ambani flourished, the state throttled private enterprise with licenses, regulations and sundry restrictions that had at their core Jawaharlal Nehru’s pithy sentiment: “Profit is a dirty word.” Ambani built an empire in spite of this system, enriching millions of middle-class shareholders in the process, for whom he became a folk hero well before his death in 2002.

Ambani’s means were sometimes controversial, and the film reflects this. Towards the end, Desai is on trial for economic offences that have much to do with import duty and the like. He stands up to make his final statement, and is asked if he is going to speak standing up. In a memorable moment, he thunders, “Do I need a license to stand?”

Desai then evokes the name of Mahatma Gandhi, and implicitly compares Gandhi’s freedom struggle against imperialism to his own struggle with the forces of economic oppression. It is an apt comparison, stated with all the drama and flourish that Bollywood is famous for, but it is almost unbelievable that it is being made in a Hindi film.

In Bollywood, over the ages, one of the template villains has been the businessman. He will look suitably sinister, will alienate his own children, and will either deal in drugs or arms on the side, or spend his time evicting slum dwellers. Anything for profit, especially murder and rape. Most Bollywood businessman villains were classic caricatures of “the evil capitalist,” exploiting the workers and growing rich on their blood and toil. They often freelanced as mafia dons or were crony capitalists, but when the hero raged against their greed, this distinction was lost: business—and the profit motive—were itself painted as twisted, and the rare benevolent businessman stood out starkly as an exception to the rule.

Indeed, Abhishek Bachchan’s father, the screen legend Amitabh Bachchan, himself acted in many films as the angry young man who speaks up for the poor against big business. The senior Bachchan’s best years were in the 1970s, when the Soviets were idolized and America and free enterprise were reviled. Times have changed, and for the first time, Bollywood has acknowledged that change.

Some previous pieces of mine in WSJ: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.
amit varma, 7:56 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Embryo manufacture

I think Jennalee Ryan is a very smart businesswoman. You?

(Link via email from Ravi Venkatesh.)
amit varma, 3:15 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Speaking of sentences...

RJ sends me a link to the following story:

Adultery could mean life, court finds

I thought that was marriage.

I will refrain from making a wisecrack here that could get me into trouble!
amit varma, 3:07 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

A midnight correction

I arrived in Delhi a couple of hours ago by a late-night flight on Jet Airways. The plane landed where the international flights do, and after we got down, a bus was taking us all to the domestic arrival terminal. It was the longest bus ride ever. So I turned and said to the gentleman besides me:

"This is the longest bus ride ever."

He looked at me carefully, thought for a bit, and said:

"No, it's not."

amit varma, 2:56 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Onwards to the Jaipur Literature Festival

I'm off to the Jaipur Literature Festival in a few hours, with friends such as Jai and Chandrahas for company, among many other noble souls. Immense pontificating will be witnessed. Joyful literary catfights will hopefully be instigated. Gluttonous quantities of amusement will be partaken of. Perhaps some edification too. Who can tell?

I think I'll give this a pass, though.

So blogging may be lighter than usual over the next three days. But it will certainly be done, to whatever extent. What's the point of going to a writer's festival and not writing?

(Elephant link via email from Nikhil. Scoundrel.)
amit varma, 4:15 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The sizzling couple and the warm bond

It's been days since I last read HT Tabloid. Foolish me. Here's a gem of an opening para from their story on Aishwarya and Abhishek:
He is the waris of cine-legacy of his father and she is the one who captured the world not only once but over and over again with her sheer beauty and elegance. Together they make the most sizzling couple of, perhaps, the century.
Sizzling is right. Suddenly I'm a huge fan of barbeques.

And from another story:
The hottest rumour doing rounds is, Rani Mukherjee is having a clandestine love affair with star director Sanjay Leela Bhansali.

[...] Rani makes no bones in admitting her close relationship with Sanjay as she says, “I share a wonderful friendly relation with him. His mother cooks my favourite food, whenever I visit him. Even I love to prepare his favourite Rice-Chhola, Malai Kofta etc. He often drops in at my house and enjoys my hospitality. We share a very warm bond.”
Delightful potato. Why do all film stars quoted by HT Tabloid sound just the same? I suspect it might be because they're interviewed in Hindi and then translated by the one-man army who seems to run this fine source of entertainment. They can't actually speak like this, surely.

(Previous posts with Purplocity/Verniness: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29. And the meme's catching!)
amit varma, 4:06 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Indian slaves in Saudi Arabia

Do you think the American embassy would have shrugged the matter off, as ours has, if American women were being forced to work in Saudi Arabia against their will? It's disgraceful that our government cares so little about our citizens.

Then again, these are poor Indians, not rich or middle-class Indians with influence. So what do you expect?
amit varma, 3:37 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Chop chop chop chop chop

You don't want this to happen to you:
Surgeon Naum Ciomu, who had been suffering from stress at the time, had been operating on patient Nelu Radonescu, 36, to correct a testicular malformation when he suddenly lost his temper.

Grabbing a scalpel, he sliced off the penis in front of shocked nursing staff, and then placed it on the operating table where he chopped it into small pieces before storming out of the operating theatre at Bucharest hospital.
I don't even want to imagine what Mr. Radonescu felt when he woke up.

Mr Radonescu: Um, nurse, I'm feeling sort of numb down there, as if there's nothing there.

Nurse: That's right. There's nothing there.

Sorry, I should be a wee wee bit more sensitive.

Anyway, the part of the story that really gets me is this: after a Romanian court awarded Mr. Radonescu substantial damages, a doctor's union protested, with their vice-president saying:
Ciomu's case is a dangerous precedent for all Romanian doctors. In future doctors may have to think very carefully about what work they undertake.
In other words, they shouldn't. Joy.

(Link via email from Gautam John.)
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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Shilpa Shetty and Celebrity Big Brother

It seems our government's getting involved.

This is all most silly. You put a bunch of people together in a place for a long period of time and it's inevitable that some of them will turn out to be jerks, and they'll fight and call each other names and so on. Big deal. I'm sure Shilpa Shetty expected no less when she agreed to be part of this show, and by all accounts she's dealing with it admirably well.

But the furore in India is bewildering. I turned on CNN-IBN yesterday and there was Rajdeep Sardesai speaking about it with such gravity that I thought maybe India and Pakistan were close to war. Across our TV channels, panel discussions were on, soundbytes were being taken, clips from the show were being looped endlessly. The newspapers had it on their front pages today, as if India's sovereignty had been threatened and China had 6 million troopers in Arunachal Pradesh. Trivial tribulations trembled.

There's similar fuss in England, it seems, as people file complaints and politicians enter the fray. I'm sure many of those offended will help vote out the people who called Shilpa names, which is exactly the right way to deal with the matter. Expecting the government to get involved, or the broadcasters to take some action, is an over-reaction: they shouldn't step in unless there is physical violence, or something similarly serious, which are surely covered in the contract the participants signed with the producers.

Reality shows of this kind reveal human nature, and it often isn't pretty. Such it is, so it flows.

PS: I am baffled by this statement from Germaine Greer:
As a Tamil, Shetty has certainly had to deal with discrimination at home in suburban Mumbai.
Is there another Mumbai somewhere that I don't know about?
amit varma, 11:53 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The Bastard Quota

TheOtherNilu solves the problem of caste and makes feminists happy with one brilliant post. Catastrophic mirchi!

And ah, from the dropdown on the right of that page, check out some of TheOtherNilu's other posts, starting from the bottom. There's some tremendous writing there.
amit varma, 11:41 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

AXN banned as Indian society falls apart

Anshul Tiwari informs me via email that the TV channel AXN has been banned in India for two months. The UNI report on the subject says:
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on Wednesday issued the order for blocking signals of the channel in the country taking note of its programme World's Sexiest advertisements telecast sometime ago, a senior official said.
Meanwhile, out on the streets, millions on Indians driven to the depths of sexual despair by that depraved show are invading orifices without consent, as the fabric of Indian society falls apart. Oh woe.

Or rather, pah! I'm just happy those jokers haven't banned the internet yet: after all, there's far more sex to be seen here than on poor old AXN.

Also read: Fighting against censorship.
amit varma, 7:59 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Mad-cow-immune cows

I'm a huge fan of milkmaid stompings.

And while you're at it, do check out Lore Sjöberg's predictions for 2007. My favourite:
After another round of acquisitions, including MySpace, Flickr, Yelp and Barry's Totally Awesome Whitesnake Tribute Page, Google runs out of websites to buy. It decides accordingly to acquire itself for an unprecedented $10.4 billion in stock.
Pestilential panties procreate passionately.

(Link via email from Sumant.

Previous posts on cows: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 , 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75.)
amit varma, 7:36 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Which chimp dunnit?

AHN reports:
Authorities at Caddo Parish's Chimp Haven have decided to conduct a DNA test on all its retired male chimps after a female chimp delivered a baby despite every male being vasectomized.

The 40-year-old female chimp Teresa, who's been at Chimp Haven for the past year and a half, surprised the authorities after she appeared with a newborn chimpanzee in her arms.
Really, there should be chimp detectives who can speak chimp language and investigate these kinds of serious crimes. I can imagine this chimp detective lining up three suspects:

Chimp Detective: Chimp No. 1, what were you doing on the night of conception?

Chimp No. 1: Sir, I was watching TV. They got this reality show with some humans who behave like us, and...

Chimp Detective: Enough! That is a credible story. Chimp No. 2, where were you?

Chimp No. 2: I was blogging, sir, in the computer cage. I was writing a post about cows.

Chimp Detective: Hugely believable. And Chimp No. 3, what were you up to?

Chimp No. 3: Sir, I was behaving like a typical chimp outside, picking fights with my friends, harrassing the females, being generally rowdy.

Chimp Detective: Chimp No. 3, it has become clear to me that you are the culprit. Everything you have described is typical human behaviour. A mere chimp could not have done it. [To the cops standing by.] Arrest this chimp!

(Link via email from Prabhu.)
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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Clichés in the Indian media

I've written before, in my piece "Dialect of a cricket writer," about how cricket writers in India use too many clichés in their writing. Well, that's true of Indian journalists across subjects, and is a sign of the poor editorial standards of Indian newspapers. Click on the image below to see a graph, prepared by Factiva, of the top 20 clichés used in the Indian media:

I suppose in the context of India Uncut, usages such as "Immense joy explodes" could be considered clichés. But it is one that provides pleasure, at least to me if not to you, and I shall not cease and desist. Cacophonous clichés clash cantankerously.
amit varma, 8:36 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Outer Mongolia, Inner Mongolia

Maybe I'm twisted, but the following correction (subs. link) in this week's Economist gave me great joy:
The map accompanying our article on Genghis Khan's legacy (December 23rd) was inside-out. The area labelled "Outer Mongolia" was in fact Inner Mongolia, an "autonomous region" of China. Our apologies.
If I was a Mongolian, I suppose I'd be somewhat miffed. But I'm not. Heh.
amit varma, 8:12 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Berserk sadhus and an army of tots

How I wish these two headlines were related:

Sadhus go on rampage.
Tiny tots on treadmills.
amit varma, 4:33 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The sleepwalk of our lives

Zadie Smith articulates the function of literature beautifully when she writes:
A great novel is the intimation of a metaphysical event you can never know, no matter how long you live, no matter how many people you love: the experience of the world through a consciousness other than your own. And I don't care if that consciousness chooses to spend its time in drawing rooms or in internet networks; I don't care if it uses a corner of a Dorito as its hero, or the charming eldest daughter of a bourgeois family; I don't care if it refuses to use the letter e or crosses five continents and two thousand pages. What unites great novels is the individual manner in which they articulate experience and force us to be attentive, waking us from the sleepwalk of our lives. And the great joy of fiction is the variety of this process: Austen's prose will make you attentive in a different way and to different things than Wharton's; the dream Philip Roth wishes to wake us from still counts as sleep if Pynchon is the dream-catcher.

[...] Bad writing does nothing, changes nothing, educates no emotions, rewires no inner circuitry - we close its covers with the same metaphysical confidence in the universality of our own interface as we did when we opened it. But great writing - great writing forces you to submit to its vision. You spend the morning reading Chekhov and in the afternoon, walking through your neighbourhood, the world has turned Chekhovian; the waitress in the cafe offers a non-sequitur, a dog dances in the street.
Read the full piece. And much as it inspires one to write, writing anything at all is so frigging hard. Perhaps I should just aspire to be a reader.
amit varma, 3:45 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

How to perform a prodigy

Bowl like Venkatesh Prasad. According to the intro of this piece, Prasad was "a bowler who had the skill sets to perform prodigies." I can't think of anyone else who can "perform prodigies," whatever that is.

Actually, what really caught my eye about that article was a comment at the bottom where someone says, "Bring more muslim fast bowlers, they don't get scared." This reminded me of a chat I had in 2001 with a national selector. We were speaking at a function in Mohali the evening before the Test in which Iqbal Siddiqui made his international debut, and I asked this selector about what had attracted them to Siddiqui.

"He is a Muslim," the gentleman said.

I almost dropped my drink. "What?"

"Yes, you see, Muslims are better fast bowlers than Hindus. Look at Pakistan's fast bowlers vis-a-vis our boys. They are more aggressive. They eat meat. They have more killer instinct. So we picked Siddiqui."

I won't reveal the identity of this gentleman -- he is no longer a selector -- but cricket journalists who were reporting in those days will instantly know who I'm talking about. As it happens, I rather liked Siddiqui's bowling, and I think all the Muslim fast bowlers who went on to play for India made it entirely on merit. Still, this is what the guy said. And he was a selector.

(Link via email from Sanjeev Naik.)
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