Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Guards of Honor

There are some things we would do out of passion, some for honor, some to keep us from being idle and some merely for money. Materialistic as it may sound, the fact remains that working for passion and honor alone without money enough for happiness (not greed) will slowly eat through to the very roots of that passion and honor. And, even if not for any noble reasons, should we not as a nation in our own self interest pay our uniformed men enough to sustain their selflessness and stop them from walking out on us?
Indian army was once hailed as one of the world's best trained armed forces. Men serve in the army for only one possible reason..they care so much that allowed to stand guard is their biggest honor. We read and talk about wars on Siachen, but how many of us stop to think about the army men as humans with emotions, families, and dreams ? We have gotten so used to the strife around our borders that we have begun to take too much for granted. What men once considered as honor above everything else have understandably woken up to the fact that no honor can be sustained without money.
Another pay commission, another let down. Everyone saw noticeable pay hikes (everyone: read IAS officers, etc) except our armed and paramilitary forces. Am I wrong in thinking that it should have been the other way round? Sadly enough, our bureaucrats make enough money outside their pay checks. Did the government stop to think or did people bother to question what would happen if our armed personnel began to look for underhanded ways of making a living? A mental run on all our borders leaves little room for imagination...
It is still not too late to make amends, in my opinion..the worst that has happened yet is that people are quitting the army prematurely and young blood is not even interested in joining. The NDA and the IMA which are still very difficult to be recruited into is not going to remain so for long. Last year, both these prestigious institutions saw only one third the number of applicants (not recruits) as the number of vacancies. Officers are quick to frankly point out the fundamental problem...the job is not remotely lucrative. Colonels after 27 years of experience can hope to take home a meager 25000 Rs a month. After all the tough years of sacrifice and hardship, all they ask is to be treated on par with IAS officers (although in my opinion they deserve even more), and our government thinks it is unreasonable, and our people and media were more concerned with who was going to win the elections in the USA than addressing this more important problem. I think we have trained ourselves to address an issue only when it gets out of hand and beyond the reach of a simple solution. Unfortunately this is one of those issues which have to be nipped in the bud. We simply cannot afford to have unskilled or dispassionate personnel in our BSF or in our defense forces. We will be ripped apart from every single direction and left with a country half our current size. If we want to continue having an army to fight for us, for once we civilians should fight for them, and keep their dreams and passion alive.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Day of a New Era

Its been three days now since we emphatically won the test series against Australia, but not surprisingly, the excitement has not died. Some cynics argue that the victory is not quite so special because it was on home ground, some others say that Australia came home leaving behind formidable players like Mcgrath, Warne and Gilchrist. While both statements have substance, I (and perhaps many more people) do not think the series victory was special only because we beat Australia in two games (for the Aussies it is, they have not lost so fantastically since they played Viv Richard's team). It is special to me because for the first time in years my faith in Indian cricket has been refurbished. For the first time in ages, I regret not having watched a match fully...for not being in India discussing the finer points of the game (and the politics) with my father or my friends through the night. I have been reminded why cricket is as popular a game as it is.
We did win on home ground, but the manner of victory this time was different. We still prepared spin favoring pitches, but our pace bowlers lived up to and beyond the challenge. We were playing on familiar home turf and if statistics mean anything we would have probably won the series by pluck or luck, but we still dared to try something new. We have shown the cricketing world that we have become a force that is now more difficult to deal with...Kumble and Harbhajan did their job as spinners are expected to, but Ishant and Zaheer have given us a right to expect from them too. Their mastery in producing reverse swing by the 10th over unsettled the opponents and has raised unknown fear in others, not even the Pakistani greats who invented the action would have anticipated this...from India. The signs this time are unmistakable, we will surely in future add more names to the list that started and ended with Kapil Dev. Nothing is possible without an effort, and the efforts have finally begun to show.
Indian cricket is no longer like the time when I first developed an interest in the game, it is now more worth my time. Those were days when fans were justified in switching off their TV sets after our top 4 batsmen were out (then known as the three musketeers and D'Artagnan), because no body wanted to watch our tail play. Our tail was not meant to bat or to bowl. We were widely acknowledged as the world's worst chasers because we rarely won while batting second. Any match victory could be easily attributed to any single man on the team. Winning abroad only happened in the wildest dreams of the most enthusiastic fans. Indian cricketers going for the kill did not happen even there, we not only preached but were virtuous enough to practice our doctrine of ahimsa. All this changed...somewhere, somehow...people who did notice did not understand the full impact of what they were witnessing, Because it was all eclipsed by a more interesting spectacle. The side show has finally ended and people now see what happened behind the scenes, like it so much, and wish that they had not called for the curtains to close on the side show ( I was a part of this band wagon for a brief while) . It is a paradox, but true...the man behind the show got his worth only when he bowed down and quit. I believe it all started with one man...the prince of Calcutta.
If India has today learnt to play and win as a team, it was under him. If we are today not surprised by an abroad win, rewind and remember when it was that you stopped being surprised. He was accused of being a bad captain because he apparently played the divide and rule policy. Even if it were true, it does not matter because we were winning more than usual. He was accused of favoring new young players over the old (give me a break!) and that meant he was jealous and insecure, not far sighted. He reminded his team mates that they were young blood and not old cronies and taught them to aim a blow in return for one rather than dodge them one after the other. The result, he paid for everything in not flesh and blood but in spirit. We squeezed out every last bit from the king of comebacks. Of course he was aggressive against the aussies, give him one good reason why he should'nt have been. A refresher course..Steve Waugh and team openly declared that India had only three formidable players..Sachin, Dravid and Laxman even when Saurav was the captain. In retrospect, what goes around comes around...It was the Aussies who showed Ganguly the way to go and he led India to this path of rebirth, and it hit them before anybody else. Today Harbhajan's statement that Ponting needs to go back and learn some batting is ironic...History has a strange way of repeating itself, Bhaji has proved Ganguly right, again. Ganguly has a lot to be proud of apart from his personal statistics. He created a team from a bunch of men who met regularly to play a game. He awoke the passion within his people (Its not his fault that Harbhajan and Sreesanth get carried away at times, calling people monkeys and showing monkey faces :) ) although I wonder if he did ever point out in his defense that we crossed limits only against the kangaroos and provoked people to see a reason behind that...His only fault was that he was not a born genius like Sachin, but if that is a sin, then every batsman today is doomed to hell.
We missed the dawn of cricket's new era in a plethora of controversies surrounding the king himself, but the day ahead looks long and sunny. The ride can only be more exciting with Dhoni in the drivers seat . He has shown himself to be a player and a man of character. I do not know if his gesture of asking Saurav to captain the last few overs meant as much to either of them as the rest of the cricketing world, but that gesture showed that we were about to say good bye to a man who deserved more than he got...and, got more than he deserved. As Saurav returned the cap to dhoni, I felt he was giving us a final message and I think he is right..: "The future is in good hands, this time please trust them".