Mandatory reading

Live blogging is the hardest thing to do on this medium. Live chats are relatively easy — the audience gives you your cues, and all you need to do is respond. With live blogging on the other hand, you need to pull off the far more difficult balancing act of absorbing all that you are seeing and hearing, and to simultaneously synopsize, frame it all instantly in fine prose.

It is high art — and here’s a high quality artist at work: Amit Varma, live-blogging TED-Mumbai.

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Give it up for Gauti

Seriously. Give it up for Gautam Gambhir — the lad has cojones.

A day after being reported by IPL Commissioner Lalit K Modi and promptly reprimanded by the IPL’s hanging judge, Gambhir hits back with the frankest statement by an Indian cricketer I’ve seen till date.

I said what I said and I stand by it. But it cuts both ways. For instance, people said we (Delhi) gave an ordinary performance against Mumbai and we did. But we didn’t overreact or fuss about what anyone said. We picked ourselves up and raised the bar.

I don’t believe in saying things I don’t mean. If you’re looking for platitudes or banal gestures, I don’t think you’ll get that from me. I don’t mean to sound arrogant, I’m not, but I also can’t be a hypocrite.

You go, Gauti. And from all of us who have had it up to here with the predigested pap that cricketers routinely serve up to the media and the public — please don’t change.

Just write

“I want to write” — those four words are one of the occupational hazards of professional journalists.

We get that all the time, in mails, in social gatherings, wherever — someone coming up to us and saying he or she wants to write, and could we please help.

What they mean, more often than not, is “I’d like to have your job — writing whatever you like, and getting published and paid for it, and having fans and all that good stuff.”

I’m not dissing those who say they want to write, and ask for advice. I get my share of those in mail, and try to respond as constructively as I possibly can. PD James however makes my point for me:

Don’t just plan to write—write. It is only by writing, not dreaming about it, that we develop our own style.

Exactly. You want to write? Then do just that — write. Even a decade earlier, you could claim there was a lack of “opportunity” — by which you meant, no one is willing to publish my masterpieces.

Not any more — today, you can create your own opportunities. Start a blog, and use that to publish your writing, to find your voice, to test it against the whetstone of instantaneous public criticism and thus to hone it to a fine edge.

I got that PD James quote from this source. There is way more, on the related blog. And here’s a collection of 60 tips from six writers — many of them gems.

Oh, and whatever you do — don’t do this.

Have a good weekend, you guys. See you Monday.

Uber security

I’m so glad to see that at least one chief minister in this country is taking the issue of security seriously, and doing something about it rather than wait for P Chidambaram and his NSG.

Here you go.

In a controversial move, the Mayawati government in Uttar Pradesh on Friday decided to start recruitment for setting up a police force to guard parks and memorials for Dalit icons without waiting for Governor B L Joshi’s nod for a bill and an ordinance for the same purpose.

“The need for a trained force for the security of these memorials and parks was felt by the government and the state cabinet today decided to recruit ex servicemen to raise a battalion of some 1200 personnel for providing security to nine parks, memorials and museums in Lucknow and NOIDA”, Cabinet Secretary Shahshank Shekhar Singh said here.

I wonder if this elite force will be trained to keep pigeons and crows from crapping all over those statues?

The cookie cutter

Most cricketers, when they find themselves having to talk to journos and face press conferences, learn to master platitudes and banalities.

That is Amit Varma. Sid Vaidhyanathan in his letter to me the other day expressed similar sentiments. They are the rule, not the exception — any journalist who has covered cricket will tell you of the incredible boredom that is part of the ‘press conference’, and the difficulty of taking the most antiseptic utterances and crafting a story that won’t put you to sleep on the instant. [I gave up the struggle a long time ago — since 1998, I haven’t attended a single press conference, either by players or by the administration].

So why do even otherwise intelligent players speak in platitudes? Here’s why:

At the presentation, Gambhir had said, “I think Rajasthan was never a threat. Except for Yusuf Pathan, the other guys were pretty ordinary. We thought Yusuf was the only danger-man and didn’t bother too much about anyone else.”

Gambhir was reported by IPL Chairman Lalit Modi and admitted to the charge after receiving details of the report.

Arrogant? Perhaps. But harmless, surely? At press conferences, in pre-match ‘interviews’ and elsewhere, journalists routinely ask players/captains what they think of the opposition, who the danger players are, and what plans they have made. “How do you plan to tackle Sachin Tendulkar?”, goes the question. And more times than not, what you get is, “Sachin is the greatest player in the world, he is capable of winning a game on his own, we have obviously made our plans, not just for him but for the others as well because any player can win the game on his day blah blah…”

Gambhir was merely answering that question honestly: we think the only player in the RR lineup capable of taking the game away from us is Yusuf Pathan. But that was enough to earn him a reprimand — because his off-handed honesty is contrary to the antiseptic prose that the cricket establishment mandates for its prisoners players. And of an IPL Code of Conduct so exhaustive, it will take an entire season to read through and assimilate it.

Here though is the kicker: Gambhir is “reported” by none other than the IPL commissioner Lalit Modi himself. Makes sense — you can’t have players devaluing, in whole or part, a product he is busy pimping marketing to anyone with a spare buck in his pocket, can you now?