TickySpeaks: The Year Gone By

Kartick Jagtap | SIMC Ink

2010 has been a remarkable year for our country. As a fast developing economy that is readying itself to challenge the might of the Americas and the Chinas of the world, India has not witnessed a more significant year in recent times. While it remains a matter of debate to judge a period of time based on events of social, political and economic concern, one can however, put into perspective the time gone by and note some of the interesting events of the past twelve months.

To say that India has been a hotbed of political turmoil will not be an understatement as observed over the past few months. The coalition Government under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been wrung on almost all sides as the Congress has struggled to appease its allies and the Opposition over matters ranging from the organizing of sporting mega-events and property scandals to even technology licensing.

‘Scandal’ was the word of the year as Messrs Kalmadi, Chavan and Raja hogged the headlines on a daily basis. While Kalmadi’s skeletons continue to tumble out of the closet, a certain Mr. Chavan gave into the lure of sea facing apartments meant for war widows. Competing with the two was A. Raja who under the facade of spectrum allotment, ‘allegedly’ siphoned of crores of Rupees.  2010 has been anything but calm for Madam Gandhi.

However, in spite of the actions of our politicians that have tarnished the nation’s image, all was not lost. The emergence of new sporting heroes like Somdev Devvarman and Saina Nehwal was seen as a sign of a younger, diverse India hell-bent on proving itself. We had amore than a decent outing at the CWG and the Asiad and it was probably for the first time in recent years that lesser followed sports shared the limelight usually reserved for cricket. Not to be outdone, Cricket too had a noteworthy year. Riding on the form of the legendary Sachin Tendulkar, India managed to secure the number 1 Test ranking for the first time. Incidentally, Tendulkar himself created history by becoming the first man to score 200 runs in a One Day International. He’s completed the year by creating another record that of completing a record 50 Test centuries.

As 2010 draws to a close, I remain hopeful that the New Year ushers in a wave of responsibility, that our politicians respect the integrity of our country and that our sportspersons continue to shine on the world stage, after all, we are hosting the 2011 Cricket World Cup and the eyes of the world will be upon us!

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Music: Call Me a Dog, The Temple of Dog

When two of the biggest stalwarts of rock, Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder, decide to make music together, the result is nothing short of magnum opus. With hit tracks like ‘Hunger Strike’ and ‘Reach Down’, Temple of the Dog, the only album of the collaboration band of the same name is a masterpiece in its own right. However, if there is one track on the album which did not get the attention it deserved, it is ‘Call Me a Dog’. Chris Cornell pens down his trademark profound, albeit, oblique lyrics for this song about unrequited love in the midst of low self esteem and coming to terms with everything you are but would rather not be. The music is melancholic yet assertive with the soulful piano working its way beautifully through Mike McCready’s raw yet melodic guitar. Cornell’s vocals, however, are the undisputable icing on the cake.  ‘Call Me A Dog’ is nothing less than a minor revelation in Chris Cornell’s singing and song writing abilities. A must hear for all Cornell fans in particular and music lovers in general.

Neehar Mishra | SIMC Ink

 

Book: The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, Kim Edwards

In her debut novel, American author Kim Edwards spins a gripping and moving tale of a family torn apart by tragedy. David and Norah are a happily married couple, bracing the birth of their first child, Phoebe. When David discovers that their newborn daughter suffers from Down’s Syndrome, he decides to give the child away to a nurse and pretends to Norah that she died on birth. David’s secret however, drives him into a shell of silence, and the couple away from each other. Norah, unable to recover from the loss, continually feels her ‘dead’ daughter’s presence, which prevents her from embracing her new life with her husband and second child. Meanwhile, Phoebe continues to live on, in another part of the world, oblivious to the present of her biological parents.

Edwards has a unique ability of brining alive the most complex of emotions, leaving the reader overwhelmed from the very first page. Read it to find out how one secret has the power to set off a chain of events that can destroy even the strongest of relationships.

Soumya Rao | SIMC Ink

 

Movie: The Big Leabowski, Joel Coen

Cast: Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, John Goodman

Script: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (The Coen Brothers)

Some films are destined to be a bigger success through underground appreciation. If the filmmakers got a penny for every time someone highly recommended these films over a casual conversation, they’d be calling themselves James Cameron. And that’s the beauty of watching a film like The Big Lebowski.

The Big Lebowski surrounds Jeffery Lebowski (Jeff Bridges) or the Dude as he refers to himself and prefers everyone to refer to him as. He gets caught up in a series of events because he shares his name with a millionaire. From the casting to the dialogues to the surrealistic depiction of what can only be summed up as being inside a stoner’s head, the entire experience makes you go “whaaaa?” in a salutary way.  Watch The Big Lebowski for a bizarre, one-of-a-kind film experience

Swetha Ramakrishnan | SIMC Ink

The Free State vs. the ‘seditious’ doctor

Ramesh Gopalkrishnan | SIMC Ink :

A scrap of undecipherable handwritten paper, a love letter, three unsigned letters and an email sent to Indian Social Institute (because it shares the initials ISI with the notorious Pakistani intelligence agency) to prove alleged terror links are among the bizarre pieces of evidence put out against Dr. Binayak Sen, an eminent doctor, public health specialist, and the National Vice President of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL).

The doctor was charged on counts of sedition and for knowing and helping the Naxals.

The saga that had been ridiculously playing out for three years finally ended on December 24 at the Raipur Additional District Sessions Court, when Justice B.P Verma held Sen guilty of conspiracy to commit sedition, along with Piyush Guha, a Kolkata businessman and Narayan Sanyal, ageing Maoist ideologue and self confessed Naxal, and sentenced all three to life imprisonment.

Sen, a renowned human rights activist got sucked into the vortex of the case in January 2006 when the septuagenarian Narayan Sanyal was arrested in Bhadrachalam, Andhra Pradesh. Sanyal’s elder brother, Radhamadhab, wrote to Binayak Sen asking for assistance in getting legal help as well as medical attention for an extremely painful medical condition, Palmer’s Contracture, that Sanyal suffered from. From there on, Sen intervened and began corresponding with the officials to facilitate Sanyal’s surgery.

The prosecution argues that Sen met Sanyal in jail 33 times between May 26 and June 30, 2007, carried and passed seditious letters from the Naxal leader to Piyush Guha and was thus involved in the act of sedition. This in itself is a tale of ludicrosity as the argument does not answer how Sen could have possibly carried or passed the letters, when all the meetings took place in the jailer’s room under constant supervision and that at all meetings the duo always spoke in Hindi so that the supervising office could hear and understand everything.

As the police continually pull out absurd and incongruous evidence against Sen from the most laughable of things, signs of the Chhattisgarh Police colluding with their Andhra Pradesh counterparts to manufacture evidence come to light. The case, built on a derisory puzzle, slowly falls in place. The hushed whispers that no one is listening to point to a byzantine back-story of scathing reports published by Sen about a series of fake encounters, false surrenders and custodial deaths that exposed the rut in the government. The reports alleged human rights violations during the anti-naxalite movement of Salwa Judum that point to the excesses of the State of Chhattisgarh. Sen’s arrest is widely seen as the government’s retribution against all the embarrassment.

The real story of Binayak Sen is one of a paranoid state that draws remarkable parallels to the George Bush’s ‘War against terrorism’ propaganda. The myopic act of vengeance by a panic-mongering state with its colluding officials and the judiciary, against an individual, under the sceptre of ‘National Security’ paints a sordid picture of the Indian democracy. The idea of political freedom and the concept of Free State, the very foundations of our constitution stand in stark contrast to the life sentence awarded to Binayak Sen. The court’s decision weighs heavily on the truth that everyone sees but magnificently ignores – the putrefaction runs deeper.

The sad tale of hunger strikes and reliefs

Poulami Mukherjee | SIMC Ink

At a time when the privileged population of India was celebrating the advent of Christmas, the not-so-privileged farmer population was reeling under the burden of tremendous financial pressure.

The reason was the unseasonal and untimely rainfall that affected the sub-continent, especially states like Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.  The climatic whims and fancies resulted in a large-scale damage to crops, with farmers suffering huge financial losses.

However, the Government seemed to be quite oblivious to this damage. Finally, when several pleas to rescue farmers fell to deaf ears, Andhra Pradesh politicos observed hunger strikes to initiate some action from the Centre.

Telugu Desam Party (TDP) president N. Chandrababu Naidu went on an eight-day hunger strike to protest the lack of financial help meted out to the farmers. Naidu’s condition deteriorated to such an extent that he had to be hospitalized.

Former MP Jagan Mohan Reddy also followed in the footsteps of the TDP leader and observed a 48-hour fast to demand relief for the rain-hit farmers.  Prime Minister Manmohan Singh finally gave in to their demands and to those of the 28 Congress MPs accompanied by Jaipal Reddy, Union Urban Development Minister. On December 22 he announced a Rs.400 crore relief package for these farmers in Andhra Pradesh, adding that further help would be extended following reports of surveys.

However, one is forced to infer – had Naidu not chosen the path of observing a fast, the Centre would surely have paid no heed to the situation. Added to that were Reddy’s anti-Congress antics. While his action might have been a subtle way of building ground for floating his own political party in the future, the former MP surely made some heads turn by adding fuel to the fire lit by Naidu.

Does that mean that the only way to extract action from the Centre is to engage in sensationalistic activities like hunger strikes, fasts and protests? All this while, the Centre simply chose to ignore the plight of the farmers. They were more engrossed in the pact with Russia, flaring prices of onions, the endless probes of 2G scams and the like. While the above undoubtedly need attention, the issue of the farmers cannot take a backseat. One cannot deny rights to those very people who are the drivers of our agrarian economy.

The Government should have taken remedial measures the moment they were intimated about the situation of the farmers. They did not have to wait for a hunger strike to remind them of their duty. And their responsibility does not end yet. While they might feel that their responsibility ends with doling out relief packages, the implementation of the same is a different ball game altogether.  A relief package is divided into several components and each of these components has its respective implementing department.

For the farmer to get his share of the relief, the same has to go through different stages at the Central, State, District, Block and finally village levels. In other words, the relief package has to pass through reams of the red – tape and needless to say the process is extremely time-consuming.

The need of the hour is that the Centre implements the relief package immediately. Else, another strike or protest will stir up fresh controversy for a government which is already dealing with too much on its plate.

 

What’s brewing this season?

Swati Deogire | SIMC Ink

What better way to get a conversation started than with a steaming cup of coffee? The hot brew acts as a catalyst and manages to extract words from even the most introverts. But the coffee served on television chat shows seems to be spiked to bring out the devil in you.

Case in point is the popular television chat show “Koffee with Karan”. Started in 2004, the candid director-producer, Karan Johar’s idea of a tete- a- tete with celebrities from the Indian film industry, is a major hit.

The opulent set and rich decor is an extension of the show’s format. However, somewhere down the line, the show notwithstanding its popularity, has lost its identity and has relegated to being a personal battlefield of these stars.

With the likes of Deepika Padukone and Sonam Kapoor blatantly taking on Ranbir Kapoor on national television and Kareena Kapoor badmouthing rival Priyanka Chopra, the Karan Johar- hosted chat show is anything but modest! While on the one hand Ranbir’s character was dissected and his acting prowess scrutinized by the two young ladies, on the other hand, Kareena made public her feelings about Priyanka’s “fake accent”. This agenda (or so it seems) of mudslinging has emerged as a ritual of sorts.

Every Sunday at 9pm, stars from the film industry leave no stone unturned in punching their colleagues in the face. Johar prods and pokes these celebrities constantly to eke out gossips which are doing the rounds in the entertainment industry.

What’s so eye catching about this season is the celebrities’ frankness about each other.  Their newfound bold avatar and candidness about personal rivalries and friendships are simply unmatched. Earlier, actors had a sense of camaraderie and self respect for each other but now it seems that being creatively superior on screen is not enough! Taking digs at each other off screen is necessary to satiate the devil in them.

The audience six years back switched on their television sets to enjoy a cup of coffee with their favourite stars, but with the new season giving the sugar cubes a miss, the audience is not complaining. The increasing ratings every week stand testimony to that fact. Hic!

 

Ten-dulkar Commandments

Kallol Sarkar | SIMC Ink

For 21 years, he has entertained millions with his sublime batting prowess. From a blue eyed teenager to the GOD of world cricket, Sachin Tendulkar has always been revered by his fans across the globe. As he reached his 50th Test century, he wrote a new page for himself in the annals of cricketing folklore.

Cricketing legend M.L.Jaisimha had once said of Tendulkar: “The more I see of him the more confused I’m getting to which is his best knock”. As the Little Master notched up yet another record, yours truly felt why not look back into his top ten qualities and ten of his greatest knocks that make him the living legend of Indian cricket.

a) Talented: Without a shadow of doubt, Sachin is immensely talented. And the world got a first glimpse of this talent when he became the second youngest player in the history of test cricket to score a century. As he scored an unbeaten 119 against England at Old Trafford in 1990, courtesy some astonishing cover drives and fine flicks, he announced his arrival onto the World Stage.

b)  Fearlessness: The greatest treat for any fan is to see Sachin standing up to a challenge. On a bouncy Cape Town wicket, a charged up Allan Donald led the South African attack. They tormented the Indian batting line up and bowled some nasty beamers to Sachin. Instead of getting bogged down, Sachin rose to the challenge, dispatching the bowlers all round the ground. He hit 26 boundaries, on his way to a gritty 169, as the Proteas scampered for cover. For an Indian batsman to create havoc on a home side was unthinkable. But, with Sachin, impossible really is nothing.

c) Game-changer: Tendulkar has the inherent ability to change the course of matches and time and again he has proved that. One such game was the test match against the Aussies in Chennai. India were on the backfoot, having conceded a huge lead to Taylor’s men. But, in came the Master Blaster and toyed with the Aussie attack to race to his century. As he smashed 155 off just 191 balls, he put India in the driver’s seat, and the match was ultimately won.

d) Confidence: Yet another amazing feature of the great man is his confidence. This is best described by his 114 against an Aussie attack that had India reeling at 159/8 at Perth. The way he battled and thrashed Merv Hughes and Craig McDermott to boundaries, was a great example of his ability to never back off from a challenge. This innings is considered to be one of his finest ever.

e) Never Say Die: It has been over two decades but Tendulkar’s attitude towards the game hasn’t changed. Come what may, he has always treated each match as a new challenge and given it his best. His 136 against Pakistan in the Chennai Test stands testimony to that. With a target of 271, India were staggering at 82/5. Sachin however fought on but fell 17 runs shy of the target, after having battled for nearly a day. India lost the game by 12 runs, but Sachin’s innings could never be forgotten.

f) Perfectionist: Watch him closely and you will learn every shot that a cricket manual would have. According to experts Sachin is the most complete batsman of our era. His balance, feet movement and steady head, are in perfect coordination. The brightest demonstration of this came at Headingly in 2002 when he scored 193. Purists refer to it as a batting display made only in heaven.

g) Inspirational: Sachin’s biggest asset to Team India over the years has been his sheer presence that inspires the rest. His match-winning knock of 103 against England in 2008 at Chennai might not have been his brightest innings, but the way he guided Yuvraj Singh, speaks volumes of the kind of effect the great man has on his teammates.

h) Dedicated: Sachin’s dedication to the game is unparalleled and no wonder, he has achieved all that the game has to offer.  His 116 against Australia at MCG in 1999 reflected the man’s determination to succeed and help the team to victory. That India were demolished by 180 runs is a different case altogether, but Sachin, the batsman, was simply brilliant.

i) Team-man: Sachin has forever been a team-man. He has always placed his team above himself. The biggest example being his 194 not out against Pakistan. 6 runs short off a landmark double century, Sachin walked back to the pavilion as then Captain Dravid declared the innings. Any other player would have felt insulted and gone to the press bad-mouthing his captain. But not Tendulkar and to this day he and Dravid remain the greatest of team-mates.

j) Ambitious: Last but not the least, is his ambitious nature, with help of which he not only made numerous records but also succeeded in breaking the already existing ones. Anyone who saw Sachin get his 50th ton, and the sheer emotion with which he raised his bat, would say that he still has it in him to go on and get runs.

Sachin has been nothing less than a magician with the cricket bat, dazzling the opponents and pulling off great wins for the country. Anything written about the great man can never be enough. But on a concluding note, as one of his million admirers, I can only say ‘I Will See God When I Die But Till Then I Will See Sachin’ . 50 is just another number, there are many more to come. Surely.

 

 

GST: Dark Days ahead For Indian films

Avishek Datta Roy | SIMC Ink

We might be at the threshold of a new year and are really excited about it; but for the Indian film producers the year 2011 could be nightmarish.

The Indian Government’s decision to impose the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on the entertainment sector (from 1.4.2011), which is anyway reeling under the burden of a relatively high taxation, could prove to be a disastrous affair.

On the one hand, the multiple tax regime would take its toll on the film producers whose revenue share would come down drastically. The bigwigs of the industry might be able to sustain themselves in the long run after the initial hiccups. The small time producers and independent filmmakers however would be unable to weather the GST storm and shall subsequently perish.

On the other hand, at the end of the day, it is the audience who shall be affected the most as the high cost of production and exhibition of films would be recovered through exorbitantly expensive ticket rates.

Isn’t it a strange paradox that while film industries throughout the world enjoy priority status and are subject to reduced taxes and other fiscal incentives, filmmakers in India receive such a step-motherly affection? Films are the ambassadors of the rich Indian culture on foreign shores and should be nurtured and not crippled with multiple tax systems. Such heinous steps on the part of the Government would only deter the creative aspirations of our filmmakers and quality in cinema shall take a backseat.

Bollywood, which has been in the doldrums this year with biggies like “Raavan” and “Kites” sinking at the box office without a trace, is in urgent need of films that evoke a strong response at the box office to bail itself out. But from what it looks like, its woes are far from over. The only silver lining as of now is the assurance by the Centre that all taxes levied by the state government would be subsumed. However, a clarification of the taxes imposed by the local administrative bodies is yet to be made.

So the next time, your mother cautions you against watching a film at the theatre and instead advises you to rent out a DVD, I think she has a point.

 

UPA sheds tears as onion prices rise

Aaishwari  Chouhan | SIMC Ink

Bribe for loan scam, JPC Probe, 2G Scam… the government had enough on its platter for the onions to add more tears. Beginning mid-December, onion prices which have generally been in the bracket of Rs. 30 – 40 per kg suddenly shot up to Rs. 70 – 85 per kg in retail markets across the country. According to government data, on an annual basis onions became costlier by 33.48%, whereas on a week-on-week basis, the increase was 4.56%.

The reason for the steep rise in the prices of onion is directly associated with the unseasonal rains that have hit onion farmers majorly at the onion hub of Lasalgaon in Maharashtra’s Nasik district. Nearly 70% of the crop has been destroyed in Lasalgaon. As against the earlier yield of 1,000 kgs per acre, the yield this season dropped down to about 15 kgs per acre. Added to this, hoarding has been a major contributor to the sudden price rise.

This sudden jump in prices of onion created panic not just amongst the consumers but also with the government. Rocketing of the prices to as much as Rs. 85 per kg in some markets forced the government to remove customs duty completely on the import of onions which was earlier pegged at 5%. In order to get the situation under control, export of onions was banned with immediate effect. Besides, some imported onions started reaching the market, ultimately contributing to a good fall of Rs. 10 in the per kg cost. Traders say that the ban on exports and duty-free imports can partially ‘fill the gap’ because almost 90% of the demand is met by domestic production.

Earlier last week, onion prices at retail outlets in New Delhi dropped to Rs. 40-50 a kg from an earlier drop of Rs. 50 – 60 per kg. There was a decline in the prices of onions in Kolkata and Chennai too. Prices of the commodity fell by Rs. 10 a kg and were ruling at Rs. 40-50 per kg in the two metros, depending on the quality. However, prices remained high in the financial capital of Mumbai, where the going rate was Rs. 60 – 75 per kg.

Further, it’s not just onions that are getting the consumers teary eyed. Prices of other vegetables like tomatoes, peas and garlic are on an upward spiral too in cities like Mumbai and Patna. This has also been linked to unseasonal rains in the major producing regions. As observed, food inflation has risen sharply for the third consecutive week and it was in this period that the vegetables had become costlier by almost 16%.

Explaining the reason behind the rise in food prices, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said, “Some fruits, vegetables and milk have an element of seasonality in them and sometimes in the market, there is gap in the demand and supply of products, which leads to the increase in their prices… Ultimately, it depends on the series of the core chain.”

At a governmental level, Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar expressed expectation of a much better situation with the arrival of new crops.

It is the mandate of the food and agriculture ministry to ease the supply of agricultural items by way of meaningful intervention (export ban, cut in import duty etc.). However at the same time, caution also has to be exercised so that such policy intervention does not come in the way of international trade in such essential commodities, since it is only such commodities that constitute the all important trade and consumer basket in most sub-continental countries.

With scams to sort out and the inflation issue coming full circle, spiraling food prices was the last thing that the UPA needed to add to its woes. How the Govt. emerges out of this gripping tangle has now become a matter of increasing difficulty.