Thursday, September 27, 2007

dancing in the rain ...

i haven't watched people dancing spontaneously for a long time now. in my early twenties, i used to dance for hours in a small town below the ghats, my soul town, by the western ghats, as it rained for hours.

yesterday, the nation rejoiced as bombay was seen dancing in the rain to the tunes of chak de for five hours with a band of boys on a historic march. most of them have not seen the sweet home for three months. they have been away, in the land of whites and then in the land of black and white. breathing cricket all the time. well, none of us even dreamt of winning a world cup. but the band of boys had a rare self-belief. like, the kapil's devils.

at hindsight, the boys, it looks, had the right willow. shewag, gambhir, yuvi, robin, dinesh and dhoni. everyone likes to hit. they all crave to get after the bowlers, each one in his own characteristic way. shewag, square of the wicket; gambhir, driving down; robin, scorching and scooping; dinesh, always innovating; yuvi, the thunder bat and dhoni, straight cutting! given an option, they will attack all the way. twenty overs suited these daring batters perfectly.

on sep 24th at johannesburg, gambhir was dancing, not in the rain, but down the wicket to caress the cherry to extra cover and mid-wicket boundaries, in an expedition of elegant batsmanship, on a slow pitch.

to start with, walking in for the injured shewag, yusuf, when a nation was wondering on his identity, hoisted asif for a straight six. no one expected such ruthlessness. it was plain disdain. robin floundered again driving a rising delivery. tactical and shrewd, shoaib brought the spinners on straight-away after seeing yuvi's scintillating form against pacers.

at times, the most indisciplined attack, the pakistanis were on target. they knew that their record against india in world cups. not even a single win. this was the final. umar gul had measured the pitch well and the indians faced the music. the one length delivery he bowled landed on the scoreboard. he had the last laugh as gambhir's scoop was gulped by asif at short fine-leg. gambir had showed the world that even in the shortest format, batting is not about breathing fire but is also about craftsmanship.

if we look back, the team dancing started with the brutal aussies wanting twenty from two on a cool night in durban a few days ago. harbhajan doing a banghra at deep mid-wicket. the team was a minute away from eliminating the champions.

but one billion started dancing at the same kingsmead as yuvi carted the cherry over long-on for a sixth time in six balls at the kingsmead ground to the delight of one billion. having seen the same faces and strokes for fifteen years, sachin, dravid and sourav, the india had something anew to celebrate.

the little fellows were not the masters. they knew little about reputation. they are not purists. they had no respect for opposition. they had a plan. and the plan had a place for a young boy named rohit. hardly a hitter of the cricket ball, the little chap has a brilliant cricketing brain that rescued his team twice taking the total to respect and thereby giving the bowlers a chance.

ah! the poor bowlers, in a baseballish version of cricket. there were two reinventors in the bowling department. it was remarkable for pathan and bhajji to have found the lost rhythm when the nation had finished them off. the cup is as much a tribute to the duo who were nowhere in the cricketing horizon as much it is to the young guns rudra, straight and swinging, and sreesanth, wayward but wicket-taking. after a long time, the nation delighted itself to the constant clatter and cart-wheeling of stumps.

i am not sure if joginder can dance. the televisions did not show his true emotions. well, those bowling at the death, the very death, can't have expressive faces. by design or by choice, the wary-looking joginder was tossed the ball to bowl the last over. twice, that too in the semi-final and final. remember, sandhu's inswinger licking the off-stump of greenidge. like that ethereal image, joginder's run up to bowl the last over, and misbah's lone mishit and sreesanth's near spill, will remain etched in the memories of at least two generations.

thats the emotion, the game of cricket has on the lives on the people of the sub-continent. while an entire nation erupted in joy and dis-belief, another nation went into deep mourning across the borders. that is a nation that never forgets, especially the defeats. on the field or on the front. it always looks to hit-back. on the cricket field, we can always hope for another fairy tale final, like the wanderers.

i wonder if there could be another world cup final as dramatic as this. from the first six to long on to the last six over long-off, it was thrilling all the way. with ups and downs at every corner. think back on the pak innings. imran freeing arms, hafeez edging and kamran missing, the out-of-place younis khan, and the run-out of imran. then irfan's three dismissals. shoaib mistiming a pull, the stupid-slog by afridi, no one knows if he will ever mature, and the rattling of tariff.

you think you are home. misbah is still there. taking it to the very end. wonder how the pak selectors took these many years to unearth such cricketer, cool as a cucumber. he is thirty three. he also represents the raw cricketing talent all over the sub-continent, mostly undiscovered. the last six off a full toss brought back memories of chetan sharma's full toss at sharjah two decades ago.

thankfully, the band of boys were too small at that time and probably have no memory of it. the rest is history, including dancing in the rain. it is nice to have new generation, dancing all the time, not caring for the mumbai rains.

briefly, the boys will be back in the homes, in small towns, by the villages, shouldering the soul of the nation. these small town fellows have truly emerged from the shadows symbolising the spirit and soul of the nation to a whole new generation.

this is an unprinted page in the nation's cricketing lore. myself waiting for the day the small town fellows will make it big in print. To imprint the simplicity of soul truly on the literary landscape.

lets keep dancing in the rain, even if its a hailstorm!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Gram Jyoti aka e-Exploit

Ericsson, BSNL, Airtel, Apollo Hospitals, Edurite Technologies, Turner Broadcasting and an NGO Hand-in-Hand are partners in reaching out to about one-and-a-half dozen remote villages around the
ancient sea port Mahabalipuram.

Pioneered by Ericsson's WCDMA/HSPA technology (basically 3G), the Gram Jyothi scheme would ensure that these villages are connected to the world through broadband for e-health and e-education. It may look like a programme of combined Corporate Social Responsibility, though in reality, it is the roll out of a fantastic business model to leverage cutting edge technology to tap the rural economy. Not in lakhs or thousands but in installments of one or two rupee per family per day.

Each partner provides a service and has his share in the business. After a visit to Vadugambadi panchayat to have a taste of the pilot project, an Ericsson boss said the 3G technology could be rolled out simultaneously in the villages along with cities once the government grants license for the technology. Using the existing GSM towers of the operators, Ericsson could roll out broadband to lakhs of villages with no landlines across the country but connected through GSM network in a cost-effective manner. Offering 3G using existing GSM network could cost about 25 percent more, said Ericsson's director for 3G Programme.

Radiating 3G signals through existing telecom operators, Ericsson would have business partnerships with like-minded service providers to offer services like e-health, e-education and e-governance for the benefit of the local community. At the office provided by the panchayat free of cost, the staff of the concerned agencies and a few trained village youth help doctors from Apollo Hospitals in Chennai to diagnose the illness of the villagers through a detailed discussion and prescribe tablets or syrup for common ailments. The medicines are also given to the villagers free of cost; for now.

``There is no free lunch,'' says Prof K Ganapathy, president, Apollo Telemedicine. For the system to be self-sustaining, there has to be business in it ultimately, he emphasised. Apollo has a plan to collect 50
paise per person in the panchayat that roughly has about 3,000 inhabitants. The panchayat is yet to accept the plan.

Once the deal is through, Apollo will earn about Rs 50,000 per month from the panchayat. ``If we can offer the e-medicine service to thousands of villages, then it is blue chip,'' Ganapathy said. Insurance companies also are in the loop. We presume that there will not be thousands of patients to be take care for serious illness, Ganapathy reveals his heart. With his experience in tele-medicine for over seven years, Ganapathy feels the 3G platform to be stable. So, the technology is there. Will the villagers accept? Giving away a rupee or two will not be a problem, says an elder adding that the men spend hundreds in bottles.

Simultaneously, a teacher sitting in Chennai starts lessons to three schools around Mahabalipuram. As the technology was being tested, the teething troubles are there. But the video and animation are quite good.
Again, e-education comes free of cost for the first three months, the trial period. ``We will offer lessons in Tamil as well,'' assures a technician from Edurite. It will come at a subsidised rate. Wonder, why the state that distributes television sets to houses is not giving it to schools and have the best teachers take classess. Vikram Sarabai thought this fifty years ago. Still, the governments are thoughtless.

Services on e-governance like obtaining birth and death certificates, paying bills or tax among other things would also be offered in future, for a nominal rate. As e-governance is still in its primitive stages not many villagers have a taste of it. The internet kiosks are basically for kids to play karate and car race. But we are talking about private companies here. Ericsson, plans to have partners for information, entertainment are also
in the loop.

Theoretically, the business model is possible through unwiring and cross-subsidy. Just a reminder. It is not a service. It is purely a business model. It might work but the question is will it work wonders for the rural folk?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Left, Right, Left ...

At about 9 am on a damp, sultry morning in front of the port of chennai, the march against new imperialism was to begin. As always, the Red Flags lent majesty to the air. Sadly, the crowd was so sparse that it could have been numbered within minutes.

None other than Karat was to lead the march. Chennai has a huge chunk of CITU members. It looked like the comrades were asked to work for their families and not for the nation. For now.
A couple of spirited Communist cadre were shouting anti-imperialist slogans. As Manmohan Singh thinks, the voice of the proletariat sounded shrill and meek.

Only a stern-looking Karat and the resolutness of CPI national secretary Raja gave some sort of credibility to this historical march for sovereignty through mass mobilisation. Raja explained why chose the city that had hosted the US flagship carrier Nimitz that bombarded Iraq not so long ago.

Chennai was one of the cradles for communist movement in the nation. In fact, the first May Day parade was marched on the streets of this very city. Till the 1980s, soviet literature was part of the reading habit.

We have conveniently forgotten all of it. The new generation will not even know. Times have changed. This is the New Age. People are no more idealists. They have turned to commercialism in a big way.

For once, it looked the Left was not without allies. The State Agriculture Minister, the DMK strongman, Veerapandi Arumugam and PMK president G K Mani were at the venue. Not to lend solidarity to the Communist struggle but to pay tributes to VOC, a true swadeshi who sailed ships on his own fighting the old-world (British) imperialism. While Arumugam arrived before the Left leaders, Mani came after the march had left. It looked deliberate as the DMK and PMK, share power with the Congress at UPA. They want more money.

Moving on, the Left leaders were accorded warm reception at several points enroute Vizagapattinam. It was off the coast of Vizag, the joint naval exercise was taking place.
It was evident that the Tamils had not cared about the Left's fight against imperialism or they did not care to come out in support. The convoy led by Karat in a Tempo Traveller, a few vans and comrades in motor-cycles, stopped at Sulurpet, Gummidipoondi and at few roadside points.

A dhoti-clad Karat, sweating profusely and shying away from the crowd, spoke as sternly as he could, warning the UPA Government not to take the Left for granted. ``The UPA's commitment is to the people. Not for George W Bush,'' he remarked.

Raja warned the UPA not to deviate from the common minimum programme or face the consequences. ``We mean what we say,'' Raja kept reiterating at all the points.
Into Andhra Pradesh, the Left leaders were happy to see more crowd. At the same time, their hearts must have been gripped with melancholy at the sight of poor peasantry gathering around them. To see if the socialist leaders can give them a cent or two to be sheltered in a hut.

There were many farm women as the landownership was a issue in those parts of the state. The children with thin legs and vacant eyes were there. They are there like that in the rural countryside all through this nation. Not many notice nor care.

When the educated Chennaiites could not comprehend the Left's zeal for sovereignty, the poor women folk visibly had no clue as to what the leaders meant by joint naval exercises or nuclear agreement or even 1.2.3. It was a sad commentary on the times we live in.

The march went on.

Stories From The Soul Town

There lies a magical land. Surrounded by the green ghats to the west, gurgling great rivers on the east, the valley with the very blue sky. A temple town of the tamils. Sitting on the dancing rock on the highland overlooking the valley, the writer procreates the lives of the people of this lesser known south west. Full of strange yet simple souls.