The English as she is written

My mother once came home from work howling in glee over a leave application one of her colleagues had submitted for her “kind consideration and favorable action”. It read, in relevant part: “Dear most respected madam: As my wife is dangerous and I am the only husband to look after her, I request… et cetera.”

On a related note, I found this in my mailbox just now:

Honourable Sir/Madam,
With due respect, I Submit few lines for your kind consideration. I Have come to know through reliable
that you are devoted service for  the  well being of human rights.

I Have poor family my children are going his school and college.

If you would not help us then Education will remain incompletely.

Incidentally I may Submit that I Have a large . poor family .

Therefore  there  is nofinancial support for me.please financial help me ,I will not only be a great relief to a poor family but will also be a great act of charity on your honour part. I am waiting your favourable reply.

I Respect you please help mefor purpose of this letter and  not disappoint me.


The half smart response

Going to the movie house is not my idea of a fun end to a week, but this weekend I wanted to make an exception for Kaminey — the Vishal Bharadwaj signature  is guarantee enough that the film I spend my time and money on won’t prove to be a dud.

As it turned out, I didn’t go — because there is swine flu in Pune, didn’t you know? So instead, I ended up chauffeuring the wife all the way from Chembur to Thakur Mall in Dahisar, because there was some ad about some furniture sale at “unbelievable prices” and the other half wanted to see if she could pick up some nifty bargain [she didn’t — the unbelievable prices were a consequence of unacceptable quality].

On our way back, we stopped at this new mall in Chembur, K-Star, so I could browse for books at the Odyssey outlet there.

Both malls were packed to the rafters. The only free space was around the box office — because the theaters were shut.

I suppose there is some logic underlying the decision to order that theaters stay shut while the malls housing them stay open — but damned if I can figure it out [likely, some bureaucrat must have come to the wholly scientific conclusion that swine flu does not affect shoppers, only those who are stupid enough to sit through interminable Hindi films].

The moment that made my day was watching this youngster in the car park at the Chembur mall: blue jeans, fade haircut, light green T, and a swine flu mask to match. Every so often, he would move the mask to one side to take a drag on his cigarette, then carefully pull the mask back into place. Nice. I so like when educated young people take all the proper precautions.

Thanks to Amit Varma, I discovered this piece by Swaminathan Aiyer. Relevant quote:

In 2001-03, the Registrar General conducted a survey to gauge the main causes of deaths in India. Heart disease came first (19%), followed by respiratory diseases like asthma (9%), diarrhea (8%), respiratory infections like pneumonia (6.2%), tuberculosis (6%), and cancer (5.7%).

Applying these percentages to India’s annual deaths of around 9 million, we find that 1.37 million people die annually of respiratory diseases and infections, 7,20,000 of diarrhea, and 5,40,000 of tuberculosis. These are staggering numbers. They imply that on an average day, 3,753 people die of respiratory diseases and infections, 1,973 of diarrhea, and 1,479 of tuberculosis.

Seen in this light, 20-odd swine flu deaths are almost laughably trivial. I do not laugh, because every death is a tragedy. But i am infinitely sadder for the millions whose plight has been swept out of public view, and is actually being worsened by upper-class panic.

Amit has more, on the twin topics of swine flu and Shah Rukh. And Great Bong has even more, on the last named.

Memo to Shah Rukh

Dear Shah Rukh:

Just watched with immense fascination your interaction on TV with a bunch of journalists. As always, you showcased your ability to speak at the rate of knots. Kudos.

One minor quibble. You said, with considerable warmth, that you don’t consider yourself anyone special, that you never ask for special treatment, that if you are raising a fuss now it is for a larger reason. You point out that our former President APJ Abdul Kalam was similarly hassled, and that you believe a person of his eminence should never have been subjected to such indignities.

Since you seem a bit short on detail, here you go — the Kalam incident.

Two minor points: The incident happened in an Indian airport. The people involved were the staff of a private airline, not the immigration officials of another country. Arising from that — when time permits, please could you send me a link to what you, and your colleagues in the film industry, said in support of Kalam at the time?

Thanks, and best

From the desk of…

Historic Bollywood-Hollywood pact signals India’s emergence in world cinema

Bollywood emerged as a major player in Hollywood on August 17 as Oscar winner Steven Spielberg finalized his funding deal of $825 million, with major chunk coming from India’s Reliance.

Anil Dhirubhai Ambani, chairman of Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, wrote the biggest check of $325 million in equity, for new DreamWorks Studios operated by principal partners Spielberg and Stacey Snider after about 14 months of financial alliance. Various banks, including Bank of America, provided final leg of financing. The Studios will make up to 21 movies over next four years.

Acclaimed Indo-American statesman Rajan Zed, welcoming this new India-Hollywood partnership, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that this pact signaled India’s emergence as a rising force in Hollywood. It clearly exhibited that India was evolving as a pivotal player in international film arena.

DreamWorks will keep creative control over productions. Walt Disney Company will handle distribution and marketing for its films around the world, except in India where Reliance retains distribution. Amitabh Jhunjhunwala, vice chairman of Reliance Capital, will join Spielberg and Snider on DreamWorks’ board of directors. Under the agreement, Reliance will reportedly match funds in future also.

Funding battle was tough for Spielberg because of evaporation of Wall Street financing in Hollywood, thus opening doors to foreign investment. To raise finance, Spielberg had to sell a half interest in the company to Reliance who was eager to get a toehold in Hollywood, according to reports.

Spielberg and Snider, in a statement, thanked “Anil personally for his foresight and fortitude over the past months”. Ambani said, “Our partnership with Stacey and Steven is the cornerstone of our Hollywood strategy as we grow our film interests across the globe.” For Reliance, the venture is also “a step in the direction of trying to do something on a global scale that appeals to global audiences” and an attempt to accelerate the development of India’s film industry.

DreamWorks’ “Dinner for Schmucks” (Jay Roach), a French comedy remake, will begin shooting in October. Spielberg will start making “Harvey”, remake of a 1950 classic about a man and his friendship with imaginary six-foot-tall rabbit, in January. Both will be released in 2010. Studio will shoot about six films annually.

DreamWorks’ other projects include family film “Real Steel” showing boxing between humans and robots; children’s “The 39 Clues”; an adaptation of the comic book “Cowboys and Aliens”; and action thriller “Motorcade” about terrorists attacking president’s motorcade. It also has over a dozen other movies in development that Spielberg bought from Paramount as part of his company’s separation settlement. He recently completed directing a 3-D film “Tintin” on the classic Belgian comic strip, which will be released in 2011. Spielberg has also reportedly obtained movie rights regarding the life of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Reliance, among India’s top three business houses with a market capitalization of $81 billion and the largest shareholder base in the world, has built a formidable film production slate in English, Hindi and various regional languages of India, and also has development silos with other Hollywood production companies, including those run by actors George Clooney, Jim Carrey, Nicolas Cage, Julia Roberts, Jay Roach, Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks, Chris Columbus, and Brett Ratner.

Rajan Zed, who is chairperson of Indo-American Leadership Confederation, further said that though Hollywood kept the creative control over the productions in this deal, it still would stretch India’s global presence and showed Bollywood’s international expansion. Zed argued that Indo-Americans would like to see more such Bollywood-Hollywood deals where Bollywood would also have command on the creative aspects also.

Ambani is said to be a film buff who hosts screenings of the latest Hollywood blockbusters at his house. Spielberg first went to India over 30 years ago to film “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. About four billion movie tickets are sold in India annually.

Offered up strictly without comment — beyond pointing out that the acclaimed Hindu spokesman is also, by self-definition, an acclaimed Indian American statesman.

Ticket to the NCA

Dilip Vengsarkar is perplexed.

“If Rahul is back because he plays the short balls well, it is a matter of great concern for Indian cricket,” he told Daily News & Analysis. “It means the youngsters cannot play the short balls. This decision means the cupboard is empty. If the youngsters are not technically equipped to play the short ball, then they should be sent to the National Cricket Academy. But I have my doubts.

“Rohit Sharma has missed out because, I thought, he went into a comfort zone. But youngsters like Virat Kohli, Piyush Chawla, Ajinkya Rahane and Dhaval Kulkarni need to be given opportunities at the right time.”

It is a question many of us have asked over the years [as late as yesterday on this blog] , in context of various players who have been dumped on the grounds that ‘he has no control’; ‘his pace has fallen off’; ‘he is vulnerable to the away swinging ball’ or whatever chink the wise men spot and use as the reason to wield the axe.

The problem does not lie in selectors spotting a vulnerability and withdrawing a particular player from the frame. The real problem lies in the fact that there is no ‘what next’ on the BCCI’s agenda. Axe, pick next guy, axe, rinse, repeat, just about sums it up. And that in turn stems from the fact that the BCCI is run like a bureaucracy — one, what is more, staffed by people who require no qualifications other than the ability to manipulate elections.

There is one other tangential point the BCCI and the selectors have overlooked. If I was coach of an international squad waiting for the next encounter with India, I’ll be taking a very interested look at these developments. And I’ll be telling my team, “Guys, the selectors have gotten this ‘short ball’ business firmly fixed in their heads — the Indians are going to come out wary. Use the short ball all you can — Rahul has been brought in there to play the short ball, you use it and he will slip into the mindset of defending for dear life, and the others will take the cue and make heavy weather of it.’

Related, Sharda Ugra has a different take on the return of Rahul.

What India is looking at today, are two tournaments where success could translate into the world No.1 ranking for the first time. Both those tournaments are worth winning in the now, rather than serve as theoretical stating posts en route to the Future. The Champions Trophy is being played in South Africa where India’s young batsmen were not exactly at home during IPL2….

Dravid’s return is a message not just to Rohit Sharma, the most exciting amongst Gen Next batsmen, but to the entire generation themselves. That if they are to be worthy of their place in an Indian XI, they need to show more proof of intent, to put that place beyond argument.

It is what Dravid did when he made his debut for India in 1996 – made it impossible for a batsman like Sanjay Manjrekar to play for India as long as he should logically have. It is how the guard has always changed in cricket.

If the selectors have “gone back” to Dravid, it can only mean that new hands cannot be trusted enough for the assignment ahead. If some distant, shining ‘Future’ is to be secured, it is imperative, now and then, for unpalatable truths like these to be told.

I agree with the basic premise(s): (1) That GenNext cannot take its place for granted; (2) That in pursuit of a shining future we cannot neglect the here and the now (a message as relevant for our cricket administration as it is for the national government); (3) That Dravid’s return lends a certain solidity that will serve India well in the short term.

My concern, like that of Vengsarkar above, is that a forward thinking administration/selectors cannot/should not stop with sending *messages*. Optimizing resources is a sine qua non of progress — and in cricket, it is the emerging talent that is our most valuable resource. To pick on promise, to dump on non-performance, and to move on to the next pick and the next dump is short-sighted in the extreme; a more astute governing body would evaluate the available talent, and work to eradicate weakness and enhance strength.

In all this back and forth about Dravid, that is the one question that is not being asked or answered: While we look after the short term, is anything at all being done for the longer term? Or are we content to repair a road here, build a flyover there, and leave the larger infrastructural needs up to the vagaries of fate?

Ganesh a burglar magnet?

In Fairfax County, Ganesh has become a signal to robbers — and how weird is that?

Since January of this year, someone has been targeting homes in Fairfax County based on their ethnic and religious affiliations.

Police say the thief or thieves has been breaking in during the day while the residents are away in the Reston, Sully, McLean and Fair Oaks sections of the county. In each case, the burglar has been going after very specific items…..

Fairfax County Police say the homes favored by the burglar or burglars are in neighborhoods heavily populated by people of Middle Eastern or Asian descent. They say they’ve been looking for homes with religious symbols.

“It’s a Hindu symbol, I believe it’s called a Ganesh—I hope I am saying it right,” said Officer Tawny Wright of the Fairfax County Police Department. “But they hang it, some of them hang it above their garages or in a window, next to their doors, and like I said, and of the 16, a significant number have had this symbol displayed around their house.”

The report suggests the thieves are making the connection between the religious icon with the chance of finding gold jewelry and electronics. Passports and other personal documents are also being targeted, per the report.

Earlier interactions indicate that there are readers of this blog from that part of the world — anyone have anything to contribute, any experiences to share?