For immediate release

That is the subject line of the various emails acclaimed Hindu statesman Rajan Zed routinely — too routinely; there are two dated today and one dated yesterday, and over the last month and a half there has been at least one every single day — sends out [earlier samplings].

The latest collection: Rajan Zed is prepared to be outraged if — if — the planned Hollywood project on the Ramayana with Keanu Reeves playing Rama and possibly, Aamir Khan playing Hanuman [now there is inspired casting for you] turns out to be a Hollywood-style re-imagining that does not adhere line by line with the accepted narrative. He urges the makers to stay true to the story and the spirit of the timeless epic and other Hindu scriptures.

Zed, who is president of Universal Society of Hinduism, further said that Ramayana was a highly revered scripture of Hinduism. Hollywood was welcome to make a movie about Ramayana but the final product should be the true depiction of it and not a fantasized or a re-imagined version to fit the Hollywood machine, which was likely to hurt the Hindu sentiments. Moreover, as Hinduism was largely misunderstood outside India, the distortion would add to the confusion. Hinduism was the oldest and third largest religion of the world with about one billion adherents and a rich philosophical thought and it should not be taken lightly.

Rajan Zed further said that Ramayana was an integral part of Hinduism and was held in such reverence that Hindus believed that simply reading/hearing of it showered blessings upon the reader/listener. Rama, the hero of Ramayana, was incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and was worshipped by Hindus.

Ramayana, an ancient Sanskrit scripture that consists of 24,000 stanzas, explores various themes, including human existence, concept of dharma, etc.

In another email, he spots a Twitter post from Lindsay Lohan that she is “all about Karma’, welcomes her interest, and volunteers to supply Lohan with a set of Hindu scriptures to help her in comprehensive understanding of its philosophy. He also volunteers to share his knowledge with her.

Oh, and he also notes that Malta’s Constitution says “Religious teaching of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Faith shall be provided in all State schools as part of compulsory education.” That is clearly bad, says Zed — Malta should instead come up with a comparative religion class teaching basics of all major world religions, including the viewpoint of non-believers. This will make Maltese “children well-nurtured, well-balanced, and enlightened citizens of tomorrow. Moreover, students should have knowledge of the entire society to become full participants in the European community.”

So now you know. Why should you care? Because he is a Hindu spokesman, that is why [covering all possible bases, he is also an Indian American spokesman. And occasionally, Indian spokesman]. So what do you mean, why should you care? He is your spokesman, is why.

[Not mine. I occasionally resurrect him because he is so fun. Like Pavlov's dog, I am becoming conditioned to checking for his name in my email box each morning and grinning with anticipatory delight as I click 'open'. And if you protest too vehemently about my occasional forays into the wonderfully woolly world of Zed, I will in a spirit of malice treat you to every single email of his, so there.]

Afterthought: Do you think Zed is the answer to the BJP’s leadership crisis?

And in passing, a question for those of you who are practicing Hindus: what is the ‘traditional Hindu way’ of blessing a couple in the post-honeymoon phase, please? Also, I missed out on this blessing, whatever it is, 20 years back when I got married — is it too late to get mine? Is there a statute of limitations, do you think/know?

Anand Jon: gone but not forgotten

Americans, suggests Easy Rawlins creator Walter Mosley in an essay for a Newsweek special issue [which, incidentally, makes for good reading], is obsessed with true crime.

Americans are not the only ones: I’ve been following, fairly obsessively, the Anand Jon case since his March 2007 arrest through the November 2008 jury verdict and last week’s sentencing by LA Superior Court Judge David Wesley – and I’m damned if I’ve come across a more tangled tale.

Like Mosley’s Americans, I like my heroes squeaky clean and my villains doom black, but the Jon case, playing out against the background of the colourful world of haute fashion, is painted in shades of unfashionable gray.

Is Anand Jon a designer more intent in creating an image [he at one time claimed to be a protégé of no less than Giorgio Armani – a claim the label was quick to refute] than in creating clothes?

Is he a hubris-ridden arriviste [his ‘I am my own God’ line gave prosecutors a compelling beginning for the opening statement] whose sense of entitlement turned him into a sociopath, or unwitting road kill in the path of a bunch of women looking for an easy route to the top?

Or does the truth lie somewhere in the middle of those two extremes?

I have no personal knowledge of the man outside of a handful of ‘same party, same place, same time’ encounters; sister Sanjana I ‘know’ in the ‘hello darling how’re you doing muah-muah we really must do a dinner one of these days’ way, but no more.

Absent personal knowledge, I’ve been following the case through the reportage, such as there is, on the internet – and available matter in the public domain throws up more questions than there are answers.

A favorite resource has been the reporting [her magazine feature for lamag.com here] and blog [Waxman’s trial-related posts here] of Sharon Waxman, and of the LA Post’s Steve Mikulan [post sentencing summation here, earlier Full Court Press posts here]. Here are two fairly extended pieces on the case, and the man; and here’s Manish Vij summing up recent stories.

The sense you get is that at various times, the prosecution stuffed up and so did the defense; that there is likely a fair degree of exaggeration in some of the victims’ accounts but also enough truth to suggest that Jon deserved to get it in the neck the way he did. [Besides the evidentiary weight the jury gave the testimony of some victims while rejecting the inconsistent testimonies of others, there is among lesser reported themes the point that some of the instances of sexual contact date back to 2004 – and in those, Jon was in violation of the terms of his probation after a nolo contendere plea to a charge of child abuse in 2003].

What leaves a bad taste in the mouth is the post-verdict media blitz mounted by Sanjana. Television viewing wasn’t among my priorities last week, but I did catch a bit of her shtick on NDTV vis a vis Rajdeep Sardesai, where among other arguments, she suggested that in one instance, the victim was 17 years and six months old, and hence could not be called a child – ergo, her brother was innocent.

Huh? Duh!

Getting everybody and his uncle KJ Jesudoss to speak out for Jon is one thing, but over the top doesn’t even begin to describe some of Sanjana’s antics following Jon’s incarceration. Like the time she walked the ramp at Fashion Week in New Delhi.

“I did it for Anand,” says Sanjana. “The fact that I can be a model and walk the ramp is a statement that I want to make to the other models. If I’m gonna dress for the ramp, somebody is going to touch me and if I turn around and accuse him of inappropriate touching – it’s ridiculous. I want those models (who’ve accused Anand) to get the message that I walked the ramp too.”

Again, duh! Jon wasn’t being accused of coming into contact with a model while adjusting her costume ahead of a fashion show – so what precisely this little stunt was supposed to prove is beyond me.

There is also the ‘racism’ charge, which has played out as a percussive undercurrent to the proceedings ever since Jon was arrested. Mercifully, the Indian American has largely steered clear of that one, despite the family’s best efforts to suggest that the designer is being victimized only because he is an Indian.

While on the India connection, back in 2007 Manu Joseph [now with Open magazine] reminisced about the boy he had known in college. What Manu diplomatically left out is the story that was pretty much general currency at the time — that Jon had knocked up the teen daughter of a very prominent business family, and had to flee in the face of the family’s wrath.

Anyway. This morning, an email landed up in media inboxes. As below:

Hello Everybody,

It’s time to prevail justice.

We need yourself and your help to SAVE a life of young Indo- American man of age of 32.

After loosing Big cases of OJ and other Celebrities DA of Los Angeles County FRAMED Celebrity to SHOW public that they are DOING something.

Let’s raise your voice for justice and save INNOCENT victim from Rape charges. No doubt Judge Wesley has given “”PRE MEDITATE” judgement to support DA’s office to retain credibility as District Attorney.

The DA’s Office have been fall short fighting against Rich people’s attorneys and at the same time revenge is taken out to Innocent Victim because he does not have fund to hire attorneys.

Who is the judge? A judicial politician who gets thousands and thousands of dollars to fight election to be elected judge. Let’s open the diary of donors to judge Wesley.

Let’s march – Let’s have candle light visual – Let’s FAST in front of DA’s office to prevail justice. If DA’s office so sure why not have re-trial? OR DA’s office does not want the golden opportunity given by Judge Wesley to punish Anand Jon Alexander

Friends, If you love humanity and you love justice Anand Jon Alexander deserves your support.

As Mahatma Gandhi said ” If you can not use your power for betterment of Human life that is ok but Do not destroy human life” Here, Pre meditate judgement of Judge Wesley is destroying upcoming a human life.

The time is an essence and action needs now. Can Anand count on your support?

Please circulate whom you love and whom you trust to prevail justice and Human life.

Fairly hysterical, ditto illiterate – and surprisingly, it comes from Sanjana’s personal email ID. The prose is in stark contrast to earlier emails that, while over the top in some of the allegations made, are characterized by much better phrasing.

At some point there is apt to be an appeal. Hopefully it will be fought on the evidence, and not on hype and hysteria. Hopefully, too, Anand will take a cue from this Sepia Mutiny post.

A clip, finally, from Waxman’s magazine article:

In Los Angeles, 20 of these women have made formal complaints against Anand Jon, resulting in 59 criminal counts, including forci-ble rape, sex-ual penetration by a foreign object, sexual exploitation of a child, sexual battery, and forcible oral copulation. The women say he did these things between 2001 and 2007. Some say they were as young as 14 or 15 when it happened and that he gave them alcohol. Several say they were raped repeatedly and in more than one city. The charges made headlines. Whatever the outcome of his trial here in Los Angeles, which could begin as soon as the end of August, Jon will face still more charges in New York and Texas.

In many of the cases against him, small-town values will collide with big-city realities, especially in the slippery sphere of cyberspace. Meet a girl, diss a guy, seek your fortune on the World Wide Web, and it can have devastating consequences. With a few keyboard strokes Jon found women, ping-ing them through MySpace or on sites such as onemodelplace.com and starsearch.com. Some entered his circle, and when their quest for renown ended, they reached back through the Web to find other former models who felt aggrieved or said they had sex with him.

What these women told grand jurors exposed the world of semicelebrity. Anand Jon was a promising young designer, but he was no Tom Ford, and his ac-cusers are not from the covers of Vogue. They both are from the Los Angeles culture of the nearly known, the almost there, drawn to ac-claim and made aware of the jagged edge just beneath its surface. Some people under-stand this well. Marla Maples, the sometime actress and ex-wife of Donald Trump, is a close friend of Anand Jon. She calls him “one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met.” The women blaming him, Maples told me, are “not comfortable in their own skin.” As a girl from Dalton, Georgia, she says, “it breaks my heart to see this need we have to be famous. It’s very addictive.”

Give us this day our daily orgasm

The Dummies’ Guide to Sex: Kiss. Pet. Fondle. Strip. Kneel.

Pray.

Dear God, place within us love that truly gives, tenderness that truly unites, self-offering that tells the truth and does not deceive, forgiveness that truly receives, loving physical union that welcomes.

Without further comment, this.


The paradox of justice

Among the more bizarre stories I read during my time away is this one — of the man behind the Lockerbie bombing who has been freed on compassionate grounds, as contrasted with the man who remains in jail for writing a book critical of Muammar Gaddafi. Here’s Granta on the freeing of the Lockerbie bomber.

IPL and the battle for Indian cricket

What the prophets of doom have been predicting is slowly coming true — international cricket under the ICC’s aegis is gradually become hostage to the IPL. Consider this:

New Zealand have shortened next year’s home Test series against Australia to two matches to help alleviate scheduling conflicts with the lucrative Indian Premier League Twenty20 season.

Six senior New Zealand players, including captain Daniel Vettori, delayed signing their contracts with New Zealand’s cricket board until late July, after conflicts between the IPL and the team’s international programme were clarified.

The unstated sub-text: six senior Kiwi players including the captain were willing to refrain from signing national contracts if doing so meant they couldn’t go make money in the IPL. And the Kiwi board took the threat seriously enough to make a drastic change to the ICC-underwritten calendar.

The ICC had the option, when framing its latest Future Tours Program, to bow to the inevitable and create an IPL window of a couple of months. But the global body could not be seen to be bowing to the dictates of an upstart league, hence it refused such accommodation — and here on, will find itself increasing facing the problem of top stars opting out of national commitments unless the schedules are adjusted and they are allowed to make full use of the money-making opportunities afforded by the Indian league.

Standby for outbreaks of heartburn from across the cricket playing world; for diatribes on how Indian money is spoiling international cricket. Such polemics miss one central point: the IPL is a fact of life, as is the desire of cricketers to earn as much money as they possibly can while they are still on top of their game, and the solution clearly lies in making a simple accommodation.

The more interesting and potentially more far-reaching confrontation however is internal. The face-off between the BCCI, represented by its secretary N Srinivasan, and high profile IPL commissioner Lalit Modi is prima facie a dispute over the bill presented by the IMG for services rendered — but there’s a far larger battle brewing beneath the surface.

Harsha suggests that it is a personality clash.

The IPL has a visionary in Lalit Modi but if it wants to compete with Wimbledon or the English FA or the Augusta Masters it must create strong systems and ease away from personality cults. Modi and Srinivasan cannot oppose each other!

I suspect that to see this as a battle of wills between Srinivasan and Modi is to concentrate on the battle, and ignore the far larger war. Check out a couple of links from the morning papers: state associations weigh in on IMG dispute, and this other story on the controversy. Clips:

Cricket Board’s affiliates want a reduction in the Rs 33 crore fee payable to the International Management Group for services rendered in conducting this year’s Indian Premier League in South Africa, according to BCCI sources.

“A fee reduction in the range of Rs 7 or 8 crore is what the members want,” sources said.

The 25 associations affiliated to the Board are set to get Rs eight crore each as their share of the IPL spoils and apparently want an increase in this amount.

First up, we have now officially entered into the war of letters. Thus, if Modi and the IPL wave around the letters of Mukesh Ambani and six of the other seven franchises, BCCI secretary N Srinivasan can now wave in response the missives of the 25 associations that comprise the board.

Why would state associations get Rs 8 crore each year, considering they do zip towards the conduct of the IPL? Because that is how the machinery works: the associations elect the office bearers who, in turn, reward these voters with matches, grants etc.

In this cozy little scheme, the franchises are the outsiders — and what the board fears above all else is the prospect of the franchises demanding and getting a share in the decision-making process. Consider this:

It is also not clear why the working committee, the all-powerful arm of the BCCI, was in such tearing hurry to pass a resolution to this effect on this potentially tricky issue. A few working committee members that TOI spoke to admitted to the haste on their part but are livid with the IPL franchise owners for “poking their nose into” something that is clearly “none of their business”.

“The issue involves two parties – the BCCI and IMG. The franchise owners have no locus standi. The matter is being reviewed by the BCCI president, who I am sure will come up with an acceptable solution,” a working committee member said.

There lies the crux of the problem: the BCCI’s honchos cannot permit a situation where its absolute right to take any and all decisions is diluted in any way, and they view giving in to the franchises on the IMG issue as the thin end of a wedge that could eventually create huge fissures in the time honored power structure.

N Srinivasan represents the hierarchy; Lalit Modi, who earlier this year lost elections for the post of president of the Rajasthan Cricket Association, is now no longer a part of that structure, has no stake in it, and would love nothing more than to create an independent power structure.

Funnily enough, Lalit Modi had come up with the idea of franchise-driven sport several years before the IPL was born. He was out of power at the time, and had taken the idea to the then fuhrer, Jagmohan Dalmiya. Dalmiya thought about the proposal and finally turned it down. The reason given? Professionally run franchises, he argued then, would not be content to just pay money into the board’s coffers, but would demand a seat at the top table and a share in the decision-making process.

The fear expressed by Dalmiya then is coming true now. This particular shindig will subside soon, with Board president Shashank Manohar finding some kind of compromise formula ahead of the BCCI AGM September 24. But unless I miss my guess, the larger battle for the control of Indian cricket is now fully joined — and its going to be prolonged, bloody and attritional. [Oh, and much fun for us on the sidelines].

Update: Thanks to Cricinfo’s Surfer, just discovered two stories of related interest. Sports attorney Gaurav Sikri looks at the ramifications, legal and otherwise, of the IMG-BCCI spat.

This may not be all that is behind the termination of the agreement however. The fact that the franchisees have come out this time in IMG’s support, leads one to believe that there may actually be other contenders for organising this League, and that is where the dichotomy between aspiration and reality arises. It also reflects the changing mindset of sports in India as they get professionalised and corporatised. In what is subtly being referred to as a unilateral decision, this is actually a protest by the franchisees signifying a realisation of, and discomfort with the perceivable abuse of dominant position on display here by the BCCI/IPL, with respect not only to the treatment meted out to IMG, but importantly, to the franchisees themselves who were not consulted prior to the termination notice.

In the Indian Express, Kunal Pradhan sees the issue as being part of a larger power struggle:

In a letter, for example, Mumbai Indians owner Mukesh Ambani has written: ‘I am personally shocked at the unilateral decision of doing away with the services of IMG… It is also worrying for me that such a significant decision in relation to IPL has been taken without even so much as consulting the franchisees.”

The sentiment is that the new franchisees feel they have the right to demand answers about how cricket in India is being run. And in a Board that has never been faced with such a problem because of its ‘independent’ nature, not everyone is sure how to react in this novel situation.

So while one side is waving letters — from Ambani, Shah Rukh Khan and even former Board chief Sharad Pawar — to oppose the dismissal of IMG, which was praised so lavishly by Modi at the end of the second IPL; the other side’s old-school BCCI survival instincts are considering this a sign that the exclusivity of their private club is in danger of being breached forever.

“Today, they (franchisees) are saying which company should be the IPL’s promoter, tomorrow they will want so-and-so to be the league’s commissioner, and the day after they’ll say we want this man as Board president,” a top BCCI official said on Tuesday, clearly expressing his faction’s biggest fear. “This is not proper.”

Raina’s signature perfume

What's wrong with this picture?

What's wrong with this picture?

Take a look at this picture. What’s wrong with it?

Admittedly, while Raina here is playing a short ball it is not, judging by the evidence of his eyes, a bouncer.

Yet it is a good example of all that is wrong with the youngster when confronted with deliveries not in his half of the pitch:

He is more square on than side on for starters, which means he is not ideally positioned to either duck [if he does, he will actually be ducking into the ball] or to sway out of line.

Equally, look at the positioning of his hands: The right elbow is way off line and almost useless in terms of controlling the bat.

‘Fear of the short ball’ is the indictment leveled in recent times at the likes of Raina and Rohit Sharma, but I’m not sure ‘fear’ is the operative word — it is more a case of defective technique. Aakash Chopra’s column on dealing with the bouncer has a lead image of a player equally technique-deficient: eyes looking away from the ball, bat held at half-cock in a reflexive gesture…

All of which is why I found this story from last week interesting.

What made today’s contest the more fascinating was Raina’s revelation at the end of the game that Dravid was one of the people, along with Gary Kirsten and Sachin Tendulkar, who’d helped him tackle the short ball in the camp before this tournament.

On balance, you’d have to say the youngster has a fair way to go yet before he makes good on his boast to send the next bouncer he gets into the stratosphere.

Back, sort of…

Thanks all for the words of sympathy with ref my cousin. Strange how death seems to hit home with greater impact when the deceased is young — I wonder if it is the thought of a life left un-lived, or the realization that youth does not inoculate you from a sudden end, or a combination of both.

Anyway, back — blogging [and responses to comments left on earlier posts] will resume once I’ve settled back in and caught up with the world; ie, later today.