Thursday, May 3, 2007

Superstition or fear of the unknown?

I hop by India Uncut regularly, and enjoyed reading this, and also this piece by Mrinal Pande, which the entry links to.

I am not so sure if the analysis is correct though. Much calumny has been heaped upon the Bachchans, and the Big B in particular, for forcing their beautiful and talented daughter-in-law to be to go through meaningless rituals.

Just recently,I read parts of Harivanshrai Bachchan's autobiography - In the Afternoon of Time (Big B's father). Two things stand out in my memory. One is when Bachchan writes of how he was ostracized by his community (for a variety of reasons), and that is why, when he began writing, he dropped his official last name of Shrivastav and took the pen name 'Bachchan'. He writes of how his wish going forward was that each member of his family would look to create his own identity and not hark back to the past lineage.

In the chapter devoted to his son's superstardom, he writes of the harrowing time after Amitabh suffered a near fatal accident in 1982, and how amazed he was by the depth of belief of some of his fans in superstitious cures.

It suffices to say that the Bachchans come across as a fairly rational, progressive family during the book. And yet, 25 years later, we have his son indulging in the most irrational and superstitious of beliefs.

Begs the question, why?

For some reason, my mind went back to a book called Business Maharajah's, by Gita Piramal. In her profile of Aditya Birla, the reclusive billionaire is reputed to have said " Successful people find it easier to believe in God".

For someone like BigB, whose life has seen immense ups and downs, including a close shave with death, has life changed him over the years? Has he come to believe that there is a greater power which determines his destiny at various points, and allows that belief to be shamelessly exploited?

I cant help but feel that the basic driver behind people indulging in superstitious beliefs is just that: pure fear, a fear of the unknown. My take is, dont blame them, blame those who use this fear for their benefit.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Cricket musings

Looking at the current World Cup, and looking at the semis, one thing struck me: out of the four semi finalists, three of them - Aus, SL and SA were in a pretty bad way around mid-late 2005.

Aus had just come off losing the Ashes, and it hurt them pretty bad. SL had gotten a major hammering in ODI's and tests from India around end-2005. SA were definitely on an upward incline, but not doing extremely well.

The fourth semi finalist - New Zealand has pretty much been consistent in 2005, but had endured a 'relatively' bad 2004.

It wouldnt take a major leap of faith to assume that these teams had to reassess and recalibrate their strategies and planning around those times. And it is no surprise that these teams that have done the best in this tournament.

Makes me wonder: given how intense international cricket has become, with the volume of games and the fitness levels required, is a 2 year period pretty much all a team has before it needs to periodically reassess itself completely?

Validation blues

An interesting point of view by Amit Varma on India Uncut.

Its almost a national phenomenon, to seek validation from outside. I dont know about it just being the West though. It seems to me that Indians love to get validation from anywhere and everywhere. It makes us needlessly sensitive to criticism as well.

Many possible reasons exist for this, although I seriously doubt a legacy of colonialism is one of them. It could stem from this: most of us perhaps live out frameworks and paradigms that have been defined by others, especially the middle class ? Or is it a legacy of caste and culture, which basically means that the definitions for everything are in the hands of someone or something else?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Guru left me with mixed feelings. I went in with low expectations, since Mani Ratnam's previous efforts in Hindi had been patchy at best.
Firstly, it is clearly based on Dhirubhai Ambani's life. The parallels are numerous - right from the main protagonist working in Turkey (Dhirubhai worked in Aden), to his run ins with old money (his spat with Nusli Wadia), being mentored by a newspaper baron and the subsequent fallout (Ramnath Goenka), the paralytic stroke (Dhirubhai had one in 1986 or around that time), to of course the similarities in the business - polyester and chemicals. And not to forget, the huge shareholder meetings, which was a first in India at the time.
The movie brings out brilliantly the atmosphere that prevailed in India during the license raj, how difficult it was for an entrepreneur to succeed- yet Mani Ratnam falls prey to the disease that afflicts Bombay filmmakers - which is the need to create a 'hero'. Not even Dhirubhai Ambani's biggest admirers would have accused him of being morally clean or upright ( 20 years on, people like Narayana Murthy and Azim Premji have significantly cleaner reputations) - but Gurubhai Desai at the end of the movie is painted like some crusading messiah, trying to lift everyone out of poverty against the rich elite holding them back.
And in doing so, a lot of things get messed up. Everything is either good or bad - black or white, which is just plain strange. Ramnath Goenka and Dhirubhai fought all because Ramnath chose to support Nusli Wadia and spurned Dhirubhai