Four Years Later...

The UPA government just completed Four years in office. And apparently they are celebrating. For what - managing to stick to the elusive chair for this long without any major hiccups? As in they managed without any major threats of the government dismantling. Well, if that is what they are celebrating then they must applaud themselves.

Four years is a long time to be in government and do nothing at all. Yes, there will be reviews and opinions. Each review and opinion will be different. And I, in my own right, have an opinion for this government doesn’t urge me into a detailed review. I guess the last statement already set the tone of this post.

Once I was excited about this government. That was when it hadn’t yet been formed. I still remember the elections of 2004. The elections results were just out and the BJP, despite their India Shining campaign, a farce, were comprehensibly beaten with no chance of returning to power. The mandate was not clear though. I had hated the Religious politics played by the BJP and was well and truly sick of it. Talk in the air was that the Congress might be able to form the government with help of others. And hard core Indians detested the idea of an Italian widow being the premier of our nation. Sitting in Gaurav’s home, I remember him getting pretty angry at such a prospect. So was I, for it hurt the Indian pride in me and Gaurav and every one like us. But out of the blue, for no reason at all, maybe another of my intuitions, I blurted out “Wait and watch, Manmohan Singh will be the next PM”.

And the lady from Italy, after her sanctification, duly obliged. A complete outsider with no experience of popular politics, though a masterful economist, Dr. Manmohan Singh was bestowed with the responsibility of leading the country into the future. For me it was kind of a personal victory. For no reason at all, I had thrust my dreams and hopes of a better India in the able hands of Dr. Singh. I felt, India, after nearly 60 years of Independence had finally landed a worthy and capable leader. No one can doubt the brilliance of Dr. Singh. He single handedly brought back the country from the brinks of an almost-certain economic collapse and his policies helped propel us into a bright future. For that the nation owes him a great deal. An intellectual, a liberalist, a reformist and a visionary is what India needed in her leader.

But India needed a Leader. And there is more to a leader than just intellect. The prerequisite will always be that he be a visionary and dreamer, someone who can see the future. But one needs to be bold and courageous to chase his dreams, make his visions a reality and shape a better future. He needs to put his fears to rest and act, in the direction he sees as the most viable. Pick up a team which shares his ideas, can bring new ideas to the table and finally implement them. He needs to shrug off the trivialities and petty oppositions and move on beyond those. Most importantly he needs to “do things” and the hallmark of a truly great leader is that he does things right. In India, even “doing” would be extra-ordinary.

Dr. Singh started with showing us huge dreams. He promised a lot, even inspired confidence. The least that was expected of the PM was economic reforms, keeping in mind his glorious record as the Finance minister during the Rao term. India might be growing, but a considerable portion of the Indian Population still lives under the poverty line. And the guidelines for the poverty line would take you by surprise – if you can buy yourself food worth some 2200 calories per day, you are above the dubious line. Economy might be growing but many sectors needed great care. Manufacturing isn’t growing at the same rate as the economy; one of the indicators of sustainable growth. Infrastructure, power and education need huge reforms. Roads and power draw more investment and propel growth. These have to precede economic growth, not the contrary. The state of public education and healthcare systems is in total disorderliness. And much more. We can go on and on about these but one needs to stop and give the man a chance.

A chance he was given and what a chance. To be the Prime Minister of the largest democracy of the world at a time when it was one of the fastest growing economies of the world. An economist could not have dreamt of a better opportunity. But the opportunity did come with too many clauses, which ended up tying him up and constraining him. He was the PM but every decision had to be approved by the party high command. He was leading a coalition government with more than a dozen regional parties, each one with their own agenda. But the pain in the butt proved to be the Leftist parties. Left has never been in a government (they still aren’t yet posses the power to govern the government) and all they know is to oppose any and every thing. And 60 years is a long time to perfect the art.

Somehow the whole event gave me hope, hope of a better future. Even though my intuition came true, I had missed the finer details. I have no idea what freedom he had in choosing his team. Was he the one who made the choice or was the bunch of crap thrust upon him? Whatever it was, he blundered with his team.

Arjun Singh as the HRD minister; who has spent all his time chasing the Reservations for OBC’s in centrally funded institutes. Even if the Bill gets implemented it will affect not more than a thousand people in a nation of over a billion. The only other notable contribution from the honourable minister has been statements in the media about the fees hike of the IIM’s and surprise, surprise how Rahul Gandhi should be our next PM. These endeavors when the most basic needs of the country are primary education. Ramados as the Health Minister; who implement a bill in the Parliament to get of the AIIMS director because of a personal feud. Such is the team chosen by the great man. The list can go on. Who knows, one might even write a book about the misdemeanors of the bunch of talented old men. But I am not totally jobless.

I know that even if the PM tried things on his part, many of his ideas and schemes have been shot down either by the Party High Command or any of the coalition partners or most famously by the Left. The most recent example is that of the 1-2-3 Nuclear Deal. It was one golden chance to be recognized as a Nuclear Power. It would enable India to import Nuclear Technology as well as fuel for the existing Nuclear Power Plants, which by the way are running short of fuel. This being the election year, the Finance Minister has passed pardoned loans to small and medium farmers, which makes no economic sense in the near or distant future.

All of this gives me the impression that the government has been pretending to DO than the actual DOING. Farmers need electricity and fertilizers and most importantly economic viability. They need a stable market where they can sell their produce. They need safeguards against natural calamities which will ensure that they aren’t wiped out by one act of nature. Though the later is tough, the rest are pretty much doable. Reservations seem the most ludicrous of the lot – holding the nation at ransom for a few petty election points where there are villages with no schools or those lucky ones to have a school building but with no teachers. The Health Minister, it seems, did not even try to pretend.

Kinder critics might pardon Dr. Singh for here was a tied up man with the responsibility to run the government for its term. Too many constraints, too many people to keep happy. Somewhere in the way he might have lost his script. I ain’t that nice. For he erred and erred big time. He tried to comply with every ones wishes and keep everyone happy. He seemed to have forgotten that he was the PM and let himself be governed by petty people. He failed to provide India a suitable leadership. He failed the post that he held. Sadly though, he failed himself

Thank You, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Today, 22nd of May, happens to be 149th Birth Anniversary of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - the master creator of the most famous fictional character - Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes has had the single greatest influence on me - got me inspired me into reading, thinking on obscure lines, connecting the dots. Most importantly, he taught me the art/science of deduction. Each one of the stories got my mind racing, wanting to read as fast as possible, try and put the pieces together and decipher the story before the ending has been described. Me being me, could not always decipher the end - sometimes getting it wrong, sometimes inconclusive and sometimes even the right answers. Or maybe just plain lucky. The man after all, through a series of 4 novels and 56 short stories, had never been beaten. Not for nothing is he the most famous fictional character of all times and 221 Baker Street once was the most famous address in the world (it is a fictional address). I was so fascinated by the man once that I got myself a violin, just to impersonate him.

The creator of such a wonderful series and an impossible character has to be great man himself. No amount of praises can be suffice for the pleasure and the rush of pulse that we experienced through each and every of your works.

Thank You. Thank You so very much. Thank You Sir, for changing my life...

The Beautiful Game : Barca... :)

FC Barcelona or, Barca as they are known, have always been associated with the beautiful game. Win or lose, they stick to their game. And when the whole game falls into place, they are a delight to watch. And watching them win the beautiful way is joy. Such is the magic in their play. Hold the ball, create space, pin point defense splitting pass, beautiful football. Add to that the galaxy of stars – Messi, Ronaldinho, Henry, Eto’o, Deco, Iniesta, Xavi, Toure and many more. Awe Inspiring...

Barcelona can claim to have the best possible attacking players in the world right now. Their front six can walk into any team in the world right now. Messi, Henry, Eto’o, Ronnie are the front four. They actually have to compete for their positions. Any other team and each one would be the leading striker. Of the four, only Messi has his position secured – he is fit, he starts. The rest have to actually battle it out. No other team in the world can afford to bench any one of them. Not even Real Madrid in their prime with Zidane et al. . Midfield is again filled with amazing players – Deco, Iniesta, Xavi and Toure. Only three have to be picked and again only Toure is safe – only because he is the only holding mid of them. Imagine Deco being benched. Such is the talent and brilliance in the team.

Nonetheless, anyone would agree that Barca have a poor defense. Abidal is brilliant as left back and so is Milito as the centre back. Even Milito can split the defense with his long through balls or crosses. Puyol and Marquez are okay. And right back is a serious trouble for them – Zambrotta despite being Italian isn’t great. Not bad a line-up but they somehow they aren’t the best defensive team in the world. But their weakest link would be the goalkeeper – the Dude in the team, as we call him. Valdez as he is known is one stupid fellow with panache for making glorious mistakes at the wrong times. Spill the ball into his own net, clearing the ball to the opposition, giving away cheap corners but mostly he lets in goals which ordinary keepers would save any given day. Yet he stands tall in the goal every match.

Barca actually play with the philosophy that “score as many goals against us as you can, we will score more.” And sometimes it backfires. The glamorous front six do everything right but put the ball into the net. But the defense still leaks goals at the same rate. Not the smartest way to play football. No need to be Italian to win games but at least WIN the matches damnit. We invest our hopes and emotions in you guys. Come on guys; give us the beautiful game and the victories. If anyone, you can do it. Be it any team of any style. Not for nothing does the world consider you the best.

It’s been two years now that you have not won any silverware. For a team like yours, it IS a matter of shame. Last season, Barca lost out to Liverpool on away goals in the Champions League. Losing 2-1 at home to a team which did not even bother to attack or pursue victory was stupid and inexcusable. A 1-0 victory at Anfield was not enough. In UCL it happens, but the blunders that they committed in La Liga were amazing. That and any more adjectives wouldn’t be sarcastic enough. They had an almost unassailable lead in the Liga almost till the mid and then they totally lost the plot. Finished on equal points with Real and lost the title on one-on-one results despite having a better goal difference (stupid way to decide the league but anyways the mistake was all Barca’s). It was heart breaking in the end but deserving nonetheless.

This year the fortunes have been reversed in the Liga and UCL. They have been disgusting at the least this year, losing many easy games. But the biggest mistake they made was that they drew too many games at home; games you would expect Barca to ace. They seem to have lost the magic up front. Clear cut chances have been put wide by a team which once could score almost impossible goals. Messi apart, every one up front has been hopeless. Eto’o was out at the beginning of the season, but his comeback hasn’t been exactly great. Henry, since his move from Arsenal hasn’t been the same force he was. Majority of his season has been on the bench, coming on only as a substitute late in the game. By the end of the season, he had to fight even for that against teen sensation Bojan Kirkic. Bojan being a Catalonian has an edge. Yet the biggest let down has been Ronnie. Two years since, he was the World Player of the year, two years running. To see his dismay, all you need to watch is the El Classico at Camp Nou. He went down far too easily and never looked like the man who held the promise of being the “greatest ever”. His antics cost Barca the game.

The mid has been okay. Iniesta has finally bloomed into a fine player. With deft control and incisive passing, he has proved to be a great asset but the best thing about him is that he plays at any position his team demands and yet remains one of the best players on the pitch. Xavi is good, but can do better at times. Being one of the senior most players, one would expect him to be a better leader. His game is good but given his role, better leadership would be great for Barca. Deco is mercurial but is one of the most creative players around. He along with Ronnie, Messi and Eto’o ruled the world for a couple of years. His best is not yet over. Though the same could not be said of Ronaldinho. Toure is good. Great rather. Keep him the way he is.
The defense looks suspect most of the times. But Milito and Abidal are class and lets keep them. Puyol needs to improve, so does Marquez. Barca, honestly need a better central defender. They should keep looking. Also for a right back – Zambrotta has no Italian defending qualities though he is good going up or on the overlap with Messi.

Anyways, all said and done Barca IS the best team in the world on, paper at least. One of the most formidable line-ups in recent times. Only comparisons would be Real in the Zidane - Figo era, and Puscas - Stefano era. Yet something has been holding them back. They haven’t been able to play to full potential. One of the reasons could be the presence of too many stars in the team. Each of the names is huge in the world of football. And we know many stars thrive on Glory. Other probable reason would be lack of leadership on the field. All they miss is one inspiring player who has the potential to lift the team by the collars when it is in dumps. Each one of the Blaugranes has enough potential to change the game in one moment of brilliance. Yet what they lack is the leadership in any of the players. They look defeated as soon as things start going against them. Not the way to play any sport.

All said and done, they still are my favourite team and nothing can change that – unless they migrate from the beautiful game. I just hope that they realize the greatness within them and start winning again – the beautiful way.

(The failures of the last two years has led to their coach being fired a year short of his term. Frank Rijkaard. He was an exceptional player and a brilliant coach and easily the COOLEST guy in any stadium he walked into. He instilled the values of good football in the team. The first three years of his reign were full of glory but the last two have been poor. I just hope that Barca stick to his style but play with a little more energy and belief.)

Good Luck Barca...