Monthly Archives: November 2011

Sultan Khan: a king at heart

Humility is the hallmark of a person and by this yardstick Sarangi maestro Late Ustad Sultan Khan was miles ahead of others.

This is no obituary piece or great remembrance, but an experience that came to my mind the moment I came to know of his demise.  Having only met him once and listened to his song tracks a few times I cannot vouch more about the maestro, but can share an incident which spoke volume about the man.

It goes seven years back in time, somewhere around February March 2004. It was Monday for sure for I had just entered office a couple of hours behind   time for I was returning back from Jodhpur.

Responding to the good afternoon, my bosses reading something handed me an envelope and looked at his watch signalling me to rush. I saw the envelope stepping out and it was press invite to meet Ustad Sultan Khan at Park Royal hotel,Nehru Place.

It started  10 am sharp and I was already over two hours late for the interview.

I rushed with my photographer  by 1 pm and by then all the media had left and Ustadji was in his room set to order his lunch.

Outside his suit I pleaded with the publicist Harish Sharma, “I have just returned from Jodhpur and got late.” I tried to make my point and before I could further argue a voice emerged from the room.

Jodhpur se kaun hai? (who’s there from Jodhour?),” said a voice. I dashed in fancying my chances, but was clueless what was in store for me.

Wearing a chequred lungi and white kurta, an elderly man was sitting on the bed leaning against the wall. A smile emerged as I walked in, “Aap ho jodhpur se, kathe birajo( you are from jodhpur and where in the city do you stay put),” he asked signalling me to sit on the bed  next to him.

I said near masjid in jalap mohalla and he said I used to live near that place barely a kilometre from my house, he recalled an elderly khan sahab in my area and was chatting as if we had known each other for ages.

“Take your note-book out,” he ordered. Very sweetly without me asking he quickly started speaking about his album Piya Basanti and in a matter of few minutes responded to all my questions.

As I was about to pack my bags he said, “aaj daal roti aur subzi le aao, (get daal and bread with vegetables), will eat with the pandit after a long time.”

He held my hand and said I am your elder and you can’t say no to me. Over the next half hour we chatted and had lunch, much to everyone’s amazement.

Done with lunch, he took his paan daani and offered me a pan, “isme tambaku nahi hai (there is no tobacco in this one.)”

Taking the paan, I just wished him well and he patted my back and put his hand on my head as a gesture of giving blessing.

As I came out of the room amazed Harish commented, “you got a lottery today.” I just smiled back.

That was the end of my tryst with the Sarangi player, may be would have listened to the Piya basanti track a couple of times later playing on TV, but still today that hour spent with the maestro is clear in my memory.

May his soul rest in peace.


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Oops he missed it again! Sachin falls six short of the magical hundred

Sachin Tendulkar dismissed on 94 at Wankhande stadium on day four of the final test against West Indies.

This is the simplest and the most non-Indian way to describe the yet another ‘alleged’ heart break of the nation. For the highest run scorer in the game yet again got out in the nervous nineties in his attempt to hit the century of centuries.

Tenth time in the test’s to be precise and 28th overall nervous nineties dismissal for the master blaster.

After Cyrus Mistry out of the blue hogged the headlines on the day reserved for Sachin Tendulkar headlines, for every time since March 12, 2011 when Sachin hit  century no 99  the little master sets his foot on the field to bat headlines anticipating the ton of tons precede.

It’s indeed an unmatchable feat, would be the biggest high in the history of the gentleman’s game and might put Sachin in his own league when he is not second to Sir Donald Bradman who had an enviable 99.94 test average – but it’s still a century away.

More than anyone of us, media and experts included who like Sachin and follow the game scoring in triple digits is more important to him. He is the one who has done it 99 times and there is no doubt that he will not do it one more time, but can we allow him.

Can we not analyse every score he takes and put that extra burden on his ageing shoulders, can we let him be himself and hold our emotions and headlines till he scores the required number of runs.

While he does what he does best, score runs, let’s not devalue or ignore the contribution of these 94 runs in the context of the game. Also lets praise the effort of Ravi Rampaul, for he did the best for his team by taking one of the most prized wicket in the game.

Take a back seat and enjoy the game, I am sure we will enjoy the little masters feat more if we let it come when it has to come.

Tough one but not tougher than scoring all the runs he has scored over the years. Certainly not.

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UP: Divided it develops, thinks Mayawati

Divide and rule. Well that’s the first thing that came to mind when I read a news flash stating that the Uttar Pradesh assembly has passed the resolution to divide the state into four parts.

Not getting into the debate of effective governance and the size of the state trying to forcefully set up a proportional formula, what amazes here is the tactic and timing of the move.

UP is gearing up for assembly elections 2012 and a section believes that this move by the Bahujan Samaj Party supremo is a sign of desperation, while others feel it might actually give her the edge in the yet to be declared elections.

Look at it whichever way what emerges is the first reaction wasn’t away from mark.

There’s a plea for division in the name of development citing that size does matter when it comes to performance, of governments. Bigger isn’t better and in times of crisis smaller ones can be managed better and quicker.

Mayawati defends her government’s decision on the above argument, for nearing the end of her third term as CM she feels UP is too big to be governed and developed as one single state, so divide.

Many also term it as her smart move to rattle other parties ahead of state assembly polls and divert attention from issues like corruption, development among others.

I understand smaller states can be better governed, but on the converse a bigger state gets bigger funds from center, it also gives one clout and can push in the center.

The formation of Uttrakhand from UP along with Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh in 2000 tells us that it’s not a very encouraging scene.

This divide and rule dictate is not restricted to Maywati and UP, elsewhere too we have been hearing similar voices, most notable being creation of Telengana.

For if development is the issue was it not the same in Mayawati’s previous stints as CM, this time round maybe sensing that things might not work the way she wants the move has all the potential to rattle opponents into rethinking mode and also divert attention from the real issue.

Put the blame of your incompetence to fulfill development goals on size of state and confuse the voter.

How effective will this resolution passed in two minutes will turn remains to be seen, but politicians can’t disagree that if intentions and will are right, development can be done in a bigger state as well.

If we and our leaders put our heart to developing together we can grow together as one.

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The fear of not having the Wall or VVS innings to save a test match

Last two days have been marred with the evils of match fixing hounding the gentleman’s game in India where cricket is more than game- it’s a religion.

But away from all the allegations, somewhere on the internet there was some thing for test match fans like me to read. Ever since Sachin Tendulkar scored his last century against South Africa in March 2011, every time he has stepped out to play, the focus has been on the century of centuries, rest seems to be irrelevant, at least for the media.

For a change yesterday was great to read about two stalwarts of Indian cricket who what I think haven’t got their due; Rahul Dravid ‘the wall’ and the ‘Very Very Special’ VVS Laxman.

These days every time they play or even when the reports featuring their antics on the field appear, they come as a brutal reminder, a fear that may be this could be the last few of their heroics of these legendary batsmen comes along.

Was it the last time we were watching these two greats pile runs at Eden Gardens? How many more such innings together?

Miles apart from any such apprehensions I am sure these two players take each innings on its merit and more often than not deliver the same result.

But the mere thought of having an Indian test squad without Dravid and Laxman at No.3 and No.5 sends shivers down my spine. Over all these years they have amassed 21,542 runs and 53 centuries, most of which have ended on winning notes or have saved team India from disgrace of defeat.

Imagining a test series without them is nothing less than a nightmare.

For as long as they are around anything is possible in a test match, whatever be the situation.

For when the Wall takes on to the field there assurance comes along. Even when he is stretches forward and leaves the first ball out side off stump you lean back comfortably in your seat knowing that the stride will be later followed by text-book cover drives when fielders are mere spectators and it’s the ball boys who come into the picture.

New ball or old, bouncy wicket or cracking track when the ever composed Dravid connects the red cherry right in the middle of the bat on front foot with steady head, fans can hold their heads high. That is why 32 of 36 times when he has scored in three digits India has been in safe heavens.

On the contrary though the wristy Hyderabadi is not the most confident starter in the game, few bouncing deliveries played rising up on the toes and a couple of flicks towards mid wicket and you know that he means business. He quickly changes gears and in a matter of a session or two takes the team in a comfort zone.

What makes him truly special is that he has taken India out of trouble the most number of times in the fourth innings the most testing time in the game.

The most recent example of his heroics being the Mohali test against Australia- Laxman’s favourite opponents when he played an inning most can’t and won the test match playing with tailenders.

What makes them truly special is the fact that they perform in the most testing times against the fiercest opponents.

Like true disciples after all these years they compete with self and try beat their own feat of snatching victory from jaws of defeat. Over the years the duo has never hogged limelight or had a great fan following, but in heart of hearts when it comes to test they are the only incredibles in the team whom the fans can put their faith in.

But with each passing inning I wonder what next for without them there are few in the team who can punch lusty blows, but not anyone who can play they gutsy innings these two can.

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Rajasthan: Cabinet Reshuffled, really?

After hysteria, ennui.  Well that’s how things look post cabinet reshuffle in Rajasthan.

There was a lot of shuffle around this reshuffle; hype and headlines flew thick and fast, every millimeter covered by the Rajasthan chief minister was speculated. Probable’s were named and permutations were made, for some it could have been the biggest political move but in the end when Ashok Gehlot showed his cards it was a no-show at the political Casino Royale.

One look at the list of new cabinet and you wonder if there was any real change in the first place, a closer look reveals that there were few.

Notably the chief minister decided to take the reins of Home ministry in his hands from Shanti Dhariwal taking his tally of portfolios to 11. Dr. Jitender Singh got PHED, information & public relations, Mahendrajeet Singh Malviya got an additional charge of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (RDPR) while Bharat Singh was stripped off RDPR. Rest was more or less add-on.

For me it’s hard to understand the logic behind the entire exercise, which may explain why I am not a politician or a political pundit. But I am sure even seasoned politicians would have been taken aback by the turn of events and the outcome.

What remained constant all through the process was resentment. Neither people nor the political class looks happy.

Simple question that comes to mind if this was to be the outcome what took Ashok Gehlot so long to make the cosmetic changes. What made him take frequent visits to Dilli Durbar? It clearly sent a message that CM was not in control of situation.

Braving the Bhawari Devi heat he rushed a cabinet meeting and in a matter of couple of his cabinet walks out merrily handing their resignations to their captain with some blowing the trumpet, “We all stand united behind the CM, it gives him a free hand to reshuffle.”

A question arises that when the team resigned was it right for the captain to cling on to the seat? If it was the case in corporate world or any other world except politics the outcome would have been different.

Well this is politics, so barring a couple of changes from the whole gamut of speculations, no-one really moved departments.

This could have been done sans all the drama.

That’s not all, meeting the press he stated that this wasn’t the last reshuffle, he will keep a hawks eye and tighten the screws.

Now with a freshly pressed old new cabinet, wonder what magic and will the CM wave. Also will the 11 departments including finance and home get their due remains to be seen?

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Assange and Anna: How two crusaders lost their sheen

Julian Assange loses the extradition bail hearing.

The famous whistleblower was back in news. Headlines were made, but they were placed differently. The prominence and vigour with which they were displayed almost a year back was missing. What accompanied were reports on how the Australian has become zero from hero.

This wasn’t something that I could have imagined in December 2010. Following Julain Asaange and reports related to him in media with great interest as a journalism student in London to me the man who came from nowhere looked all set for taking the world by storm.

He had information which no one else possessed; had five of world’s most distinguished newspapers working with him not to mention the innumerable followers and donors. Such was the craze that hackers ‘Anonymous’ took down MasterCard and Visa when they decided to block payments made for Wikileaks.

Few days back Assange announced that Wikileaks was forced to temporarily suspend publishing while it tried to secure economic survival. No big outcry, no further attacks. His bail plea was turned down, the print space shrunk and prominence diluted.

Prior to this his one time trusted lieutenants backed out, opened their own platform, the media partners broke their associations while the new ones didn’t have that impact.

Interestingly he even changed his legal team to no great results so far. Now he is trying to reach out to media more something that he completely ignored or did at will.

Still remember a mail from Sunshine press that came in my inbox on March 9 almost after a month of requests which read

Dear Avinash,

Many people are contacting Julian for interviews, so we are having to be selective as he is so busy. He would like to do one in India. Please can you put in a full bid so we have all the information and are able to make an informed decision.

Please let us know:

What your readership is

What the impact will be

What topic you wish to interview on

How long you need it to be

Would you need to take photos

Do you pay a fee for interviews – we are asking this question now as we are trying to raise revenue

Many thanks,


The last bit was a shocker.

A freedom of information activist asking payment for interviews and that is when I started losing interest in the man I was following endlessly for four months.

Now I am abruptly jumping to a different track, but can’t help compare Assange with our home-grown hero Anna Hazare.

The Gandhian Social worker from Ralegaon Siddhhi who did his bit for the society in his own small yet meaningful ways far away from shutter bugs and hype– till he shot to national fame on April 4,2011.

He sat on an indefinite hunger strike at Jantar Mantar and rest as many say is modern-day history.

The nation was caught in Anna frenzy, out of World cup euphoria and tired of reporting on endless scams sections of print media and some 24/7 news channels found a poster boy; that was the beginning of man taking over the mission he set out for.

In the seven months that followed Anna and his team dared to challenge the parliament, followers across the world were showing support. I witnessed a bunch of enthusiastic Indians camping outside Indian High Commission in London braving rains for the entire duration of Part II of Anna saga at Ramlila.

Such was the frenzy that former IPS and staunch Anna supporter Kiran Bedi said, “Anna is India, India is Anna.” Anna followed by his league of extraordinary gentlemen and women could do no wrong.

This is when he too started going down the Assange way in my opinion. After successfully surviving the allegations on Bushans, things started to go downhill.

Their pressing the cornered government to pass their proposed bill by August 30 was something that didn’t go well with many ardent supporters. Burning the copies of bill tabled by government in Parliament and terming it Jokepal followed. This was the beginning of ‘my way or the highway’ attitude doing the movement harm, from then onwards it was always Anna and Co. first with Jan Lokpal taking a backseat; at least in the public forums and memory.

Then spate of allegations against Team Anna disturbed the equilibrium and harmony of the public crusaders; with the team appealing people don’t vote for Congress in Hissar by elections, they grew bigger then their boots and not surprisingly some core team members walked away.

There were wide chinks in the armour. Followed were allegations(that can be read in Shekar Gupta’s comment Holier than Cow) on Team Anna’s integrity and they so far could not stand the heat.

Today even his next fast call or call it threat hasn’t created the fervour it created last time, its like one other news. The man and his brigade seem to be losing the Midas touch.

With both Assange and Anna losing out on the steam shows that when you rise to unparallel heights in public life the true test of your ability is not how you drive the cause but how you manage the situation.

A champion cause will not take you long, it’s the way you conduct yourself that will.

May be its time for both these crusaders to do some serious thinking and may be mend some of their ways, before they become chapters in history instead of creating one.

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