Thursday, April 25, 2013

Lord Sachin - This is not cricket.

The 23rd of April every year is a very important date in all Indians calendars. As you may well know Cricket is our religion. This is a date on which, for once, India is Monotheist, that is all of India believes in one God. That God, for you pagans, nonbelievers, livers under rocks, is the day Sachin was born. He is our God! 23rd April 2013 was an even more auspicious day. It was His fortieth birthday.

My day began with a quick bath and I hurried to my Puja Room and garlanded His photo. Then, after that was done I told HRH the Queen of Kutch to cook some fish for lunch, Maharashtrian style, as that is His favourite food. HRH told me that while she cooked, I could have a look at the new wax statue of Him. It appeared in the morning newspapers. It was really beautiful; I felt an inner peace when looking at the wax statue. His expressions are beautifully captured and His glorious smile and twinkle in His eye shine thru. I then had a quick nap, I needed that after the fish and the rice and Varan. Since it was an auspicious day, HRH the Queen of Kutch had made some Sheera which she served me after having it blessed by Him.

After I woke I pottered around and then settled down to watch the match between KKR and MI. No beer for me. I had done Puja in the morning so no alcohol for me. On putting on the TV I saw something very disturbing, all the hosts and guests were wearing false moustaches. I was upset, I thought they were mocking Him, but, thankfully, it was some sort of plug job for some sort movie and tied in NGO. Anyway, once that was sorted out and some sort of poem recited, I was ready for some cricketing action. It is not every day that Lord Sachin has a birthday, much less His Fortieth.

The toss was done and KKR to bat, who really cared. All we wanted was for Him to bat and score a century on His fortieth birthday. Then it was time for the MI innings to start. Before long He was on the crease and was batting. It was when He was to face His first ball, that I realised that cricket is no more a gentleman’s game. Cricket has become a game with aggression and unnecessary anger and competition. The KKR team had the audacity to bowl over arm to Him? This was, as the cliché goes, not cricket. Lord Sachin should be bowled to underarm. I mean it was his Fortieth birthday. There was a World record to be created. The only man who scored 24 or 31 or pick any number in a T 20 match at Eden Gardens on his fortieth birthday. This would have been a record impossible to beat. But this was not to be, they were bowling over arm!! I was livid. But who could I turn to? And, soon enough, Sunil Naraine had Him bowled.

But despite that, please remember He scored two. That is a World record. No other person has scored two on his fortieth birthday in a T 20 match. That is how great He is.

This was too much for me to bear. So I switched off the TV and went to bed.

Times have changed, cricket has changed.

One of my most devoted readers Ravi Kuddyady has sent me this link. Do read this blog. There are now 3 of us who think along the same lines - me, Ravi and the blogger. The world is changing.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Bombay Gymkhana and its `servants'.

I am a member of the hallowed Bombay Gymkhana Limited. The website grandly states, and, I happily quote that the Bombay Gymkhana is “Located on a prime site on Azad Maidan in South Mumbai and offering the finest sporting facilities to its members, the Bombay Gymkhana has had as fascinating a history as that of the city of its birth.

When the Bombay Gymkhana was established membership was open to only Europeans. And there was good reason for this. As the website explains “Until the restructuring of the Fort area in the 1860s after the demolition of the ramparts, the foreshore beaches and maidans of the city, such as the Bombay Green and the Esplanade formed the core of Bombay's social and sporting life. The maidans were popular venues for a variety of sports and especially cricket. The British had their Hunt and gymkhanas, swimming, yachting and racing clubs but had no formal club-houses.” It was obviously felt that in addition the Europeans needed club houses. Aaah what a life!

Times have changed after that. Today Indians are allowed membership at the Bombay Gymkhana. Not only that, today, many Indians are European citizens, we call them NRI’s.

Actually it is quite a nice place and is quite a nice Club. I often swim there and on occasion have one or two, too many beers. Like all good Clubs, the Bombay Gymkhana is full of intrigue, nepotism, allegations of corruption, ulterior motives, political machinations et al, that keep many people busy, occupied, and, at times, give them a lot to talk about when at the bar, especially 2 pegs down.

A few days ago, after a swim, I looked at the Notice Board by the pool and this caught my eye. I did not have my camera, anyway cameras are banned in the Club premises, so I whipped out my mobile phone which has a camera and took this photo. I apologise for its quality. I hope you have realised, once again, how we in India are basically power-mad nut cases. Cameras are banned but phones with cameras are all right.

“No member or guest shall give to any servant of the Gymkhana any sum of money or gratuity on any pretext whatever, and any servant found to have received such money or gratuity shall forthwith be discharged.”

In today’s context, how utterly impolite and politically incorrect. `Servant’!!! My gosh!

What is fascinating is how really anachronistic, unreal, incorrect and legally unenforceable this direction/Diktat  is. The `servants’ referred to are actually employees of the Gymkhana. I can only hope the Managing Committee does not regard contractual employees who work at the Gymkhana as their `servants'. To clarify, external security staff, contracted catering staff and so on. The `servants’ are waiters, accountants, clerks, cooks and another delightful term `Hamals’ which means a porter or a dogsbody. All these `servants’ are members of a Trade Union and are obviously not only regulated by the myriad employee protection laws but the `servants’ are most aware of their rights.

So, if you are in the bar, as is my wont, and you get some attention from the bartender, sorry, `servant’, and you give them a tip for their efforts, they get the sack. If your wife is at the Gymkhana enjoying a Meetha Bhel with her girlfriends while she waits for your son to finish his game of squash and she tips the waiter, well, tough shit, waiter is sacked. How utterly delightful. How wonderfully unfair. You give a tip and he gets sacked.

Folks, this state of affairs as I have explained, is not a laughing matter or something that is being written by me because I feel there is great injustice towards the `servants’. Frankly, this state of affairs simply shows how many people live in `La La’ land blissfully unaware of any reality. To explain the position with a small bit of legalese, the Bombay Gymkhana is constituted as a not for profit private limited company. Therefore it has what are known as Articles of Association which are basically a set of rules and these form a contract between the Gymkhana an the members. The `servants’ are not regulated by the Articles. The `servants’ have their own service contracts. So, if `servants’ are not bound by the Articles of Association, how in God’s name will the Managing Committee discharge a `servant’ if he accepts gratuity is something I do not know. I would like to see how the Managing Committee get the Courts to uphold this.

But such legal niceties are not something the Gymkhana would like to look at. Besides that, is it a crime to tip someone? I certainly do not think it is. Obviously the Managing Committee thinks it is far better to live in La La land, invoke unenforceable rules and simply invite trouble on themselves if they do try and dismiss a `servant’. Mind you, there is a large part of the Gymkhana's staff that are not the Gymkhana's `servants'. They are employed by external contractors. Sacking them should be as simple as A B C for the Managing Committee I presume. 

See what I mean by nut cases? 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Mumbai Police. The best yet!

Sorry folks! The last few days have been most uninspiring. Humdrum, banal news, absolutely nothing happening anywhere to stimulate my mind. There is just so much of the Rahul Gandhi, RaGa, Pappu nonsense you can take. Similarly, my mind had turned into mush listening to the fact that Narendra Modi polarises opinions. Sick my friends, absolutely sick. And then the IPL! If your mind has not been destroyed by the RaGa NaMo nonsense this will do the job. Between 4 to 8 hours, depending on the schedule, of absolute soul destroying stuff on television.

I was reaching the end of my tether, getting truly fed up, looking at a half way sensible place to escape to when, out of the blue, I read the headlines on this morning’s newspaper.

“Cop lucky to survive after being stranded in office lift for 36 hours

This was an amazing story on so many levels. I read every word. I then read the story in the Hindustan Times. I was riveted. This brought me back to reality, which is India. For those who do not know what I am going on about, I suggest you first read the article.

The good Police Inspector Suresh Masaji Sonawane works in the Crime Branch of the Mumbai Police. The Mumbai Police is second only to Scotland Yard, I am sure you must have heard or read this. The Crime Branch is a division of the Mumbai Police that is at the very cutting edge, the sharp end, and the finest and best officer’s man this division. First problem is that our protagonist Suresh Masaji Sonawane was, unfortunately, at the wrong end of another cutting edge, a neurosurgeons scalpel. Sonawane had undergone brain surgery and was consequently, shall we say, damaged. This happened in 2008, 5 years ago. Remember Sonawane is working in the Crime Branch. His wife is quoted that post surgery the valiant Suresh Masaji Sonawane prefers low profile postings. So working in the Crime Branch of the Mumbai Police which, as I have said is second only to the Scotland Yard, is a piece of cake, a low profile stress free posting. Who the hell cares, the crime has already been committed. Have you not been told not to cry over spilt milk?

It was Saturday afternoon and the elevator in the building where Sonawane worked had just been repaired, and, as is our wont in India, to save costs probably or because we are simply nut cases, the elevator was shut down. Problem was that our friend Suresh Masaji Sonawane was inside the elevator when it was shut down. Permit me to digress. If an elevator is not going to be used since the building is uninhabited why shut it down? It is not going to be used anyway? But as I have said, in India we are all nutcases. Presumably use of electrical power and wear and tear of the elevator will be prevented if it is shut down when it is not being used anyway.

When our good Suresh Masaji Sonawane did not reach home on Saturday afternoon his wife lodged a complaint with the local police station reporting a missing person, being her husband. The newspaper report states with a hint of what can only be described as wry humour, that Suresh Masaji Sonawane worked in the Mumbai police missing persons bureau that traces, you guessed it, missing persons. When Mrs. Sonawane went to his office to locate him at about 8 pm on Saturday, the newspaper reports that “by then all the policemen had left and the office was locked.

I do hope that you will continue to read and have not collapsed with laughter in a heap on the floor. Please continue to pay attention. This gets better. Why do you think this report get me blogging again!

Obviously, the Crime Branch and the Missing Persons bureau do not work on Saturday afternoons and Sundays. Remember this is a low profile posting. They don’t need to work on Saturday Sunday. We do need our rest. So while the cops are resting, and the lift is switched off and the building is uninhabited our good friend Suresh Masaji Sonawane is inside an elevator car with no light no air and certainly no toilet. No chai paani either, no pun intended.

Monday morning comes along and the elevator is restarted and lo and behold a much weakened Suresh Masaji Sonawane walks out of the elevator. Mrs. Sonawane is notified and she whisks him away. The cops are much relieved as no doubt Mrs Sonawane is.

Into this already hilarious comedy of errors, stage left steps Senior Inspector P. Juikar who is quoted as saying "Soon after he was found, his wife took him to a hospital in Thane. We have asked Sonawane to come to the police station on Tuesday so that we can investigate how the incident occurred. The outcome could have been worse," Folks, I am a lawyer not a Senior Inspector in the Crime Branch of the Mumbai Police. If the honourable Suresh Masaji Sonawane was locked inside the elevator, for ***ks sake how would he know what happened outside the elevator. I think Senior Inspector P Juikar has a bright future; he does have some startling investigative skills.

If this amazing story has not wiped you out by now, here is the cleverest part. This is why the Mumbai Police are second only to the Scotland Yard. A senior crime branch officer, the report goes on to say,  who had been monitoring the search operations since Saturday has been quoted “We are wondering how Sonawane spend two nights without light and air in the building which stinks so strongly of fish.” "It is difficult to bear the smell for even half an hour.” Folks, the crime branch office in the building was closed. Mrs Sonawane could not get in. Lifts were shut down. Remember? What the heck were you Senior Inspector P Juikar monitoring from Saturday? And from where? Home?

I have not made up any of this. All that I have written is from the newspaper report.

I feel so safe in Mumbai. I am so confident that anyone I know goes missing, preferably on a Monday or Tuesday, he will be traced in no time. Going missing on the weekend or close to it is a bad idea.

There is so much to write on this but I shall not.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The right way, the wrong way.

Of all the matters that are in conflict, one particularly problematic area is architectural design and aesthetics, especially in public spaces.

All cities have really beautiful monuments or buildings. With the passage of time, the areas around these buildings get or need modification. Once this has to be done, there is a plethora of opinion as to the best way that this should be done.

Take for example the proposal to establish a shopping Mall and office development alongside the world famous St Pauls Cathedral. What would you do?

A view of the Cathedral from the Millennium Bridge

I quote from Wikipedia. “St Paul's Cathedral, London, is a Church of England cathedral and seat of the Bishop of London and is the mother church of the Diocese of London. The present church dating from the late 17th century was built to an English Baroque design of Sir Christopher Wren, as part of a major rebuilding program which took place in the city after the Great Fire of London, and was completed within his lifetime.

The cathedral is one of the most famous and most recognisable sights of London, with its dome, framed by the spires of Wren's City churches, dominating the skyline for 300 years. At 365 feet (111 m) high, it was the tallest building in London from 1710 to 1962, and its dome is also among the highest in the world.

St Paul's Cathedral occupies a significant place in the national identity of the English population. Important services held at St Paul's include the funerals of Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and Sir Winston Churchill; Jubilee celebrations for Queen Victoria; peace services marking the end of the First and Second World Wars; the wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer, the launch of the Festival of Britain and the thanksgiving services for the Golden Jubilee, the 80th Birthday and the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II. St Paul's Cathedral is a busy working church, with hourly prayer and daily services.

So, this is an imposing building dominating the skyline. St Paul’s Cathedral is an imposing structure by any standard. In 2007, an old building owned by the Bank of England located across the street from the Cathedral was demolished. The developers held a worldwide competition to identify the architect and design of the new building that was to be built. Once the design was revealed it led to polarised views for many reasons. First, this was to be a very `modern’ design standing literally across the road from the Cathedral. Then, this was to be a brown opaque glass facade as opposed to the usual whites, greys, silvers, blue silver and black that most modern buildings are. Does this not sound like what often happens in Mumbai? Prince Charles was most upset and made his feelings known to the developers. Prince Charles preferred older designs and wanted the Cathedral to shine thru. Despite the protests the construction carried on and the building was completed in late 2010.

The new building is actually dramatic. Except, you cannot see any of that from the outside. The new building was quickly dubbed the ‘stealth bomber’ after the B2 Bomber. This name was because of the brown glass facade, the distinctive shape of the building and, in my opinion, because the building is so large and yet so discrete, much like a stealth bomber. You would never know that there is something as, shall we say, crass, located just across the street from the Cathedral. I personally think Prince Charles desire that the Cathedral should shine thru is completely met. Have a look at the photos. The very discreet brown glass building in the right of the photographs is this huge 5,60,000 square foot commercial complex.  

The brown building behind the trees is the mall.
The Mall is behind the bus.

Yes, my dear readers. Right next to St. Pauls Cathedral is the One New Change Shopping Centre, complete with a roof terrace to overlook St Pauls Cathedral, top restaurants and shopping. Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver have restaurants in the Mall. Does the Mall disturb the skyline? Absolutely not. Is it an eyesore? Nope. Is it very popular? Yes.

Contrast this with what we have done in Mumbai. In Mumbai we have the beautiful VT Station building now known as Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. The UNESCO World Heritage describes the building in the following words.

“The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, formerly known as Victoria Terminus Station, in Mumbai, is an outstanding example of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture in India, blended with themes deriving from Indian traditional architecture. The building, designed by the British architect F. W. Stevens, became the symbol of Bombay as the ‘Gothic City’ and the major international mercantile port of India. The terminal was built over 10 years, starting in 1878, according to a High Victorian Gothic design based on late medieval Italian models. Its remarkable stone dome, turrets, pointed arches and eccentric ground plan are close to traditional Indian palace architecture. It is an outstanding example of the meeting of two cultures, as British architects worked with Indian craftsmen to include Indian architectural tradition and idioms thus forging a new style unique to Bombay.

A subway was to be established to allow the tens of thousands of commuters who walk from and to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus on their way to work and home. This caused traffic problems. So the powers that be decided to construct a subterranean pedestrian sub way leading from several roads into Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. The subway had to have an entry and exit point. I must point out that the case of St Pauls Cathedral and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus are no different. In the both cases it was the local authorities responsible for the design of the of the Mall and subway.

In case of St Pauls Cathedral you can barely see the Mall. On the contrary, the Cathedral is on view from many points within the Mall. Mind you the Mall is huge; it has 560,000 square of space. On the other hand you have the Municipal Corporation of Mumbai which has to only deal with the entry and exit points of a subway. And what does our good Corporation do. I do not want to write any more. Have a look at the photos.