Archive for August, 2008|Monthly archive page

An ‘Indian’ Outlook to the Olympics gone by

Spectacular closing ceremony. Stunning peek into London Olympics 2012. And, of course, Impressive display by the Indians.

If I were a statistician, I would say that after a period of almost zero growth for about 20 years in Olympics, India has had a 200% spurt in Olympics tally (1 medal status since 1988 and 3 medals in Olympics 2008 ) – an indication of a nation growing not only in its economic strength but also in Sports.

Only if statistics were true and would serve some direction – if ever they were.

– I can understand that countries like US, China, Russia and Great Britain can win the most number of medals, simply because of superior infrastructure and being either authoritarian rules or private enterprises.

– What I don’t understand is countries like Estonia, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Azerbaijan winning more medals than India? Surely, their infrastructure could not be superior to us. Surely, we did not have to content with 5000% inflation and worry about where the next morsel is coming from. And surely, they do not have a 1 billion population and a growing economy like us. Then, why or how could they win more medals than India – rather, how have they been consistently winning more medals than India?

I am not discounting the players of Estonia, Ethiopia etc., in fact, I admire them that inspite of challenging odds, they strived towards perfection in their art and succeeded in it. What I am sad about, is the fact that the situation may not change for the better in 2012 or even the 2016 Olympics even after a wonderful performance by Indian players in this Olympics.

I heard people prophesizing that improved infrastructure, no politics and genuine meritocracy would lead to more Olympic medals. I also heard people saying that most sportsmen are on lookout for those Government jobs that our beloved democracy hands out rather than winning Olympics. What’s more, I also heard that it is sad that in a nation of 1 billion people, we have only a few Olympians and hence the derivation that more people should start participating in Olympics.

Well, there is talking the talk and then, there is walking the talk. I often wonder if people would want to ponder a question – ‘Would I send and encourage my son/daughter/brother into playing sports professionally?’ That one question is powerful enough to gauge whether you truly believe in something you say/talk. We are masters at talking about how the government should be run, but does anyone want to participate in Elections? Similarly I guess, in the nature of continuity that we are now so adept at, we are masters at talking about the direction that sports should take in India, without really wanting to get into the dirty secrets of it.

However, I would go even further – that question of self-inquiry has deeper ramifications:

1) We are a country with a huge middle-class. Being in middle-class implies staying within limits, not taking risks, every month’s salary being of prime importance and all such. Most other countries that I mentioned previously like Estonia, Ethiopia etc has a huge poor class. The only way out for them is to win – and win big to secure their future. It is the medal or abject poverty – thereby driving them harder. In the US and other developed countries, there is money in sport. For the huge middle-class in India, sport is not an option – no money, no security and hence no encouragement from the family.

2) Second, and more importantly, simply put, there is no pride in being in sports. Unless, somehow anyone reaches the pinnacle in sports, like V. Anand, or A. Bindra – there is literally no other big name that pops up in mind (S.Mirza, of course, for reasons other than sport). There is a certain pride associated with a job (however monotonous), pride associated with a business (small or big) (however risky) but no pride associated with sports. That kills most of the young sports enthusiasts – our future sportsmen who migrate to jobs or business.

A plea to the Government – please don’t throw money at sports. Throwing money has never solved problems and never will. In case of Sports, increase visibility, increase pride associated with it, improve economic prosperity and then – an entire ecosystem around these themes will come up automatically- playgrounds, stadiums, schools, competitions, coaching, etc. – which will win us more Olympic medals and thereby make the dream of every statistician come true – wherein he would see the result fit into his/her conclusions rather than the usual other way round.

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Olympics = Close to Perfection?

I have always wondered what ‘Perfection’ looked like – rather, is there anyone in the world doing the perfect thing or is there a perfect person? As a child, I had always been taught a maxim, which I have held dear over the course of many years –

Perfection is the Goal;

Nature tolerates Excellence.

Over the years, I have come to believe the adage to be true – we are really built to become perfect beings, but never are due to a variety of reasons – laziness being the prime among them. Not having any perfect role model/never seeing anything perfect might also have been one of the reasons. Achieving a level of maturity to understand what is ‘perfect’ is also one of the reasons. This Olympics, for whatever reason, has taught me what ‘perfect’ is meant to be.

Olympics is unique among sports events. It is a sporting extravaganza. For 15 days, the eyes of the world would be on who’s who of sports. Make no mistake, each and everyone participating in the Olympic events are the best their countries could come up with. All the players would have practiced for years together to showcase their talent in this particular event – an event through which they would be known forever. The kind of pressure and media-hype the players have to go through and yet perform to the best they can is what makes these Olympic events even more special. The winners of these events even more so.

As I watched Michael ‘The Phenom’ Phelps race towards his 8th gold medal in a single Olympics, Usain ‘Thunder’ Bolt thunder across the 100m race to break the world record, Shaun ‘Magical’ Johnson providing the perfect momentum for the US gymnastics team with her graceful, yet stupendous performance and many many more reach medal after medal, I understood that this was being as close to perfect as it can get in Sports.

Rules of Nature are simple, aren’t they? Hardwork and dedication (along with the oldest saying I ever heard ‘Practice makes man Perfect’) is all it takes to be ‘perfect’ in almost any discipline. And yet, it is so very surprising that we are content with just above average (which means, more or less ‘mediocrity’) to spend all our lives. Yet, these sportsmen battle it out, day after day, year after year for the greatest glory in Sports – to participate in the Olympics, and win a medal for themselves (and their countries). What drives them? Is it the money, is it fame? Would you or I want to exchange the best part of our lives (most Olympians are below the age of 30 and on average, would have practiced in that particular discipline for atleast 10-15 years) for money and fame – which again, is only based on winning a medal and not just participating? I think not. What is the probability of winning – 1 in a billion atleast; and what happens if you don’t win the medal after all that effort? You are treated as a loser (atleast in India), someone who could not perform at the highest level and thereby bringing down country’s name (whatever that means!). Yet, the same players pick themselves up and brace for another day, another competition and another event. Hardwork, practice, dedication – again and again and again.

That spirit, my dear friends, makes them perfect – and to all the players who have made it to the Olympics – I salute you!

P.S: There was an advertisement that was telecast a few years back in India – it went something like ‘Do you know the value of 0.1 sec? Ask an Olympian who won the silver and hence lost gold’. After the 100m butterfly event involving Phelps in Olympics 2008, I think it should be changed to ‘Do you know the value of 0.001 sec? Ask Milorad Cavic who won the silver, and hence lost Gold to Phelps!!’ 0.001 sec? 0.001 sec? Surely gotta be kidding, right? 🙂

Save the Planet – Eff you guys!

There, I said it – All you guys who claim/market to ‘Save the Planet’ – you can go eff yourselves (Eff (read it as a single letter ‘f’), of course, certainly doesn’t mean Fraternity, but means a four letter word whose usage would block my blog at the workplace!)

Isn’t it fashionable nowadays to be a part of this ridiculous movement called ‘Save the Planet’ or some such? Everyone wants to save something – Save the Trees, Save the Tigers, Save the Polar bears, Save the Icecaps. Everyone wants to be a part of this green movement which seemingly will save the planet. To tell you the truth, I have never ever, ever seen such self-importance, self-conceit and self-righteousness in any issue till date except for this jazz of ‘Save the Planet’.

Let’s look at certain facts which will ascertain whether we can claim to ‘Save ‘something” – The planet has been here for the past 4 billion years, humans have been part of it for maybe 50,000 years, if not 100,000. We have had Industrial revolution and all this pollution for about 100, maybe 150 years. The Planet has gone through more trouble than our greatest fear of increased greenhouse effect – hundreds of volcanoes spewing ash in the air, earthquakes, floods, comet and asteroid hits, plate tectonics, magnetic flares from the sun, pole reversals – and we have the guts (and the balls, unfortunately!) to even talk about ‘Saving the Planet’ from us, human beings. A passing species, in the entire timeline of the planet. More than 95% of the species that existed on this planet are non-existent today, they just disappeared. Did we kill them all? Why don’t we understand that it is a Nature that decides which species lives and which doesn’t. Are you guys telling me that we should interfere with Nature, a concept which we can’t even comprehend in an abstract fashion, let alone understand it. The planet is fine, perfectly fine – the people are effed.

Let’s not talk about ‘Save the Planet’ – let’s just talk for what it is – we are currently peeing in our pants that our species might get eliminated, the all-knowing, self-important, arrogant species like us, in the near future and we don’t want it to happen. You know, the changing Nature thing. Then, let’s just effing call it ‘Saving our asses’ (let’s be parliamentary and call it ‘Save your future generations’ or ‘Save the Humanbeing species’ or some such – the green marketing folks can certainly come up with a better catchy phrase than me!) That would be better and more self-directed. Let’s save ourselves rather than talking all this mumbo-jumbo about saving the planet. Most people on the planet, including the poor and uneducated will understand this concept rather than the theoretical ‘Save the planet’ concept, where they don’t understand what the eff is all the fuzz about.

[Kindly do not give me the explanation of “‘Save the Planet’ is an abstract concept, it’s a metaphor – in fact, we meant saving ourselves”. What the eff are you talking about, eh? I mean, do you think the majority of the population gives a damn or has time to think about abstract concepts and metaphors? Majority are still trying to come to terms with their abstract lives, do you think they would give a shit about other abstract concepts which they don’t understand?]

That brings us to the actual situation – saving ourselves. Certainly, this clear concept throws up difficulties which we humans almost always fail to handle. The concept of ‘Saving ourselves’ has given rise to NIMBY concept – NIMBY is short form for ‘Not in my Backyard’. For example, Kyoto Protocol – a noble agreement where all the nations in the world agree to certain emission standards has not been signed since its inception in 1994. We have actually been negotiating over an agreement for 14 years while the world was emitting more and more greenhouse gases. The developed world wants the developing world to conform to the standards while they themselves wouldn’t want to get binded by ‘harsh’ emission limits. Why talk about governments, let’s talk about us. Isn’t it fashionable to talk about not using plastics and aluminium cans (non bio-degradable stuff seemingly) and yet use it almost every day in retail stores? [Don’t talk about, do we have a choice? Oh yes, we can buy paper or cloth bags you know. But guess what, those cost more and hence, what the hell, let me continue with plastic bags attitude] Or drink cold drinks from aluminium cans by the dozen? Why hasn’t all this green-stuff been made an electoral mandate, atleast in India? Simply because, beyond our mean, self-centered, petty lives, we could care less about others. The same is true for majority of the people from the stupid effing ‘Save the Planet’ movement.

Please guys – let’s learn to care about each other first, let’s learn to live to-gether in harmony – the planet will live on, inspite of us – don’t worry about the planet, worry about yourself.

For all others who still want to ‘Save the Planet’, I hereby humbly show you the finger!

P.S: One of the better articles I have read recently on the fallacy of Go-Green concepts – http://www.newsweek.com/id/143701/output/print

On my Other Blog – The Three Foundational Rules of Business

Restart

After a long hiatus, I have decided to restart my other blog Lucid Views.

I would be presenting various ideas (some borrowed and most my own) about marketing, technology, banking and a whole lot of other stuff.

Also, I would be updating that blog much more frequently than this (probably twice a week compared to once a week on this). So kind readers, do grace your presence on that blog too and provide your valuable comments.

Update your RSS feeders to that effect please. Thanks! (www.lucidviews.wordpress.com/feed)

An ‘Indian Return’ to the Nest!

It was a beautiful evening. The sun was setting behind dark clouds, streaks of orange light glistening across a glorious bluish-orange sky and the wind blowing from the sea into Rakesh’s and Priya’s face. Birds were getting back to their nests in their typical V-formations and people were getting back from work in a hurry.

Rakesh and Priya were sitting at 1 ft distance from each other on the sea shore, distantly gazing into the beautiful sky, the sound of waves making up for the silence between them.

Rakesh had returned from the US after 3 years. He had completed his Engineering successfully at one of the premier colleges in Mumbai, and proceeded to do what most of the Indians did – study M.S at one of the universities in the US. After working for a year after his M.S, he decided to return to India for a holiday.

Priya had waited 3 years for this day.

Rakesh landed at Indira Gandhi Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport at Mumbai on August 16th, 2008. Priya was eagerly awaiting his arrival at the airport with bated breath. They both went a long way back in the past. They had played to-gether in the same lawn, shared most of the toys and as they grew older, spent a lot of time at the beach discussing life. When Rakesh left to the US, Priya felt that she had lost an important limb in her body. Rakesh never left Priya alone – he called almost once in three days, if not daily.

She was expectedly very excited by his arrival.

They both drove back in Priya’s car to their favorite spot – the worli beach. Both of them liked this beach since childhood – the rugged rocks, the sharp terrain against which strong waves hit with panache – it gave them a sense of power and calm at the same time.

As they sat in silence for a long time, Priya realised it was getting darker by the minute and decided to do what she had planned all along. She looked at Rakesh, with tears in her eyes, with an overwhelming sense of having her life-support back. She opened her purse, and said

Happy Rakshabandhan Rakesh bhaiyya‘ and tied the rakhi to his hand.

They both hugged each other and proceed to their home in Worli.

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