The road to perdition

ON February 27, Modi inaugurated the Shivamogga airport, walking hand in hand with new best friend BS Yeddyurappa. (The talk in political circles in poll-bound Karnataka is that BSY is being set up as the fall guy in case the BJP loses the elections scheduled for May 10th. If on the other hand, the party wins, it will of course be “thanks to the visionary leadership of Napoleon Narendra Modi…”)

Anyway. While inaugurating the airport, Modi said that henceforth, those wearing hawai chappals can now travel by hawai jahaz. The strain of coming up with new catchphrases is showing on his speechwriters — Modi has been using this hawai chappal trope since 2017, at least.

So I bought myself a pair of chappals from the nearest Bata outlet and asked Make My Trip to suggest the easiest way to get to Shivamogga. The site tells me that the fastest way from Bangalore is by cab, and the recommended way is by bus.

I scrolled down looking for flights, and found two — one takes me to Hubli from where I can take a cab; the other takes me to Mangalore from where, again, I can get a cab.

Look, I am not saying Shivamogga people wearing hawai chappals can’t travel by hawai jahaz — I’m merely pointing out that they have to find a functioning airport first, because Modi “inaugurated” a ghost airport, one with no flights coming in or heading out. As Ashwin Mahesh says in his Deccan Herald column, the inauguration is itself the achievement.

While on the subject of inaugurations, on March 12 Modi dedicated the Banglore-Mysore Expressway to the nation. The ungrateful nation — or at least that segment thereof that uses this highway — kicked up a fuss when the toll, which is stiff enough already, was hiked by several percentage points within three weeks of the PM giving us this “gift”.

Higher-ups have now put the hike on hold for three months, by when the elections will be over and the recipients of Modi’s largesse can pay up or else. We still don’t know when work on the highway will be completed — but given its state when I last took it a couple of months ago, the work will take considerably longer than three months.

Mysore, by the way, is represented in Parliament by journalist-turned-politician Pratap Simha, representing the BJP. He has, to put it mildly, had a colorful career thus far. Besides kicking up a fuss about Tipu Sultan’s birthday being celebrated in Karnataka, and using Hanuman Jayanti to roil the communal waters, he took objection to Gurmehar Kaur’s comments about the ABVP during the anti-CAA/NRC protests and compared her to Dawood Ibrahim. Unlike fingerprint or DNA analysis, though, Simha omitted to give us the various points of comparison.

He then went after Prakash Raj, suggesting that the actor had left his wife to “run behind a dancer”; following a legal notice sent by Raj, Simha publicly apologized

All of this is to say that Simha is no “sickular liberandu”. But even he found the highway issue a bit much and, on the last day of March, said via social media that he has requested the NHAI to withhold the toll hike since work on the road “is yet to be completed”.

That’s the thing about Modi’s various gifts to the nation — it is all smoke and mirrors. If he were Santa Claus, he would be shinning down every chimney in every state, lugging an empty sack.

Then again, it is no secret that these “inaugurations” are merely pretexts to visit poll-bound states on the public’s dime and campaign for his party. An Economic Times report dated May 2022 says the PMO has sought details of projects ready for inaugurations or for the laying of foundation stones over the next two years — that is to say, until the May 2024 general elections. Earlier, in July 2018, the same website had reported that the PMO had asked all ministries to furnish state-wise details of projects that would be ready for foundation stone-laying or for inauguration until December 31 — that is, during the runway to the 2019 general elections.

Elsewhere, I read that on April 1, Modi reviewed the security situation along India’s borders with Pakistan and China, at the Combined Commanders’ Conference, and told the chiefs of the army, navy and air force to be prepared to “deal with fresh threats”.

It must have been a fairly short review because, on the same day, Modi flagged off another “semi-high-speed” train from Bhopal (and ‘interacted’ with children who are supposedly traveling on it — to where?).

The coinage continues to puzzle me — isn’t “semi-high” basically medium speed? More to the point, is the staff shortage in the Railways so acute that the PM has to go around flagging off trains?

In his speech, he talked of “some people” who have given supari to “various people” to tarnish his image, and that “some people” are sitting outside the country supporting “these people” and “some” are doing their work sitting outside the country.

“These people” have been continuously trying to “spoil and tarnish Modi’s image”, said Modi.

I’m still trying to pick my way through that word salad. But at least it is a change from directly accusing the former prime minister and a former vice president of India, among others, of conspiring with people from Pakistan to take out a supari on his life, as he did on another famous occasion. Even the normally restrained Dr Manmohan Singh lost his cool on that occasion; Modi went into hiding when the issue was raised in Parliament and left Arun Jaitley to clean up the mess.

So now it is “some people”, “those people”, “other people”…

THE media reports that Amit Shah “tore into” the Nitish Kumar-led government in Bihar for its failure to check communal violence during the Ram Navami celebrations, and said rioters will be hung upside down if the BJP government comes to power in 2025 when the state is scheduled to go to polls.

Thus far, I haven’t seen any reports of rioters hanging by their heels in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and other states that also witnessed communal violence and gaslighting during the recent “celebrations”, and have BJP governments in place.

Amit Shah is, last I checked, the Union Home Minister. His primary responsibilities include internal security.

Though in terms of Entries 1 and 2 of List II – ‘State List’ – in the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India, ‘public order’ and ‘police’ are the responsibilities of States, Article 355 of the Constitution enjoins the Union to protect every State against external aggression and internal disturbance…

Quote from the Ministry of Home Affairs website

In other words, Shah’s remit is to take action if the states don’t, or won’t. So why does he have to wait till a hoped-for BJP win in 2025 to take action in the case of serious internal disturbances serious enough to warrant hanging perpetrators by the heels?

Related, read this meticulous report, Routes of Wrath, which documents incidents of communal violence during the Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti “celebrations” of 2022. In the aggregate, it turns the stomach — but read it anyway.

Meanwhile, the media reports that a Muslim cattle trader was murdered in the Ramnagara district of Karnataka by cow vigilantes who, despite the trader having all the appropriate paperwork, beat him up, demanded a bribe of Rs 2 lakh to let him go, and when the trader, Idris Pasha, couldn’t or wouldn’t pay up, thrashed him to death. One Puneet Kerehalli, the leader of the ‘cow protection force’, is conveniently absconding. Karnataka is governed by the BJP.

NB: I’m off to Kerala — Thalasserry and Mahe first, and then Kozhikode — tomorrow, so this is my last post till I get back to base on the 11th. Take care all, and stay well.

The views in briefs

Very nice — in a ‘can you really fool all the people all the time’ sort of way. Modi is an SPG protectee (in fact, he is the only person covered by the SPG). His life is under constant threat — at least, that is what he says during his campaigns. There is a Khalistani terrorist wandering about the country, and all the king’s asses haven’t been able to locate him. No protective unit worth its FN P90 submachine gun will allow a protectee to go wandering about in areas that have not been thoroughly vetted and secured in advance. Or, simply put, there is no such thing as a “surprise visit” by a top-level protectee — it just won’t be permitted.

This would be laughable, if it weren’t frightening — frightening, as an indicator of how the BJP has figured out, correctly, that its core constituency is so very easy to fool. And how it deploys its army of jobless ministers, compromised media, and paid ‘influencers’ to spread the propaganda far and wide. Like, so:


YESTERDAY was Ram Navami. And the “celebrations” involved thugs wearing saffron markers of identity fishing for trouble outside various mosques and Muslim territories across the land: Surat. Mathura. The Dargah Haji Abdulreham Malang Shah mosque, Maharashtra. Jalgaon, Maharashtra. Mumbai, and one more. Gujarat. Jahangirpuri, New Delhi. Khargone, Madhya Pradesh. Kishanganj, Bihar; and Bihar Sharif, Bihar, where a library with over 4500 books was set ablaze. Bulldozers figured in a Ram Navami procession. Hyderabad, where a ‘Tiger’ whose hate speech forced even the BJP to suspend him led a procession, took an oath to convert India into a Hindu Rashtra, and rubbed it all in by including Nathuram Godse in the iconography. (While on iconography, here you go: Ram, shaded in size by Modi and Shah) And in many other places across the land, including in West Bengal.

So here’s a thought: Maybe we need to build more mosques rather than temples since the regime and its stormtroopers believe that no Hindu festival is complete unless it is “celebrated” with acts of vandalism outside Muslim places of worship.

It’s not just the saffron brigade, though. There is a fish shop a 10-minute stroll away from where I live. Despite the ease of ordering online via Fresh to Home and similar outlets, I prefer to get my fish from this shop. I know everyone there; no matter how busy they are, we take turns to get tea from the neighboring outlet; over tea we catch up on news and gossip — everything from how the fishers of Tamil Nadu and Kerala are doing, to the impending elections in Karnataka, to whatever else happens to come up.

This easy camaraderie has unlooked-for advantages. The other day, I was picking out white pomfret while waiting for the usual cup of tea. The guy who cleans the fish caught my eye and discreetly shook his head in a ‘don’t buy’ gesture. Later on, over tea, I asked him why. Not fresh, he said; not good for you. He didn’t seem to have any such qualms when another customer picked out half a dozen of the same fish and asked for them to be cleaned.

Anyway, so I walked over yesterday morning — and found the shop shut. The five men who staff the shop — all Hindus, by the way — were sitting on the step, smoking. Shut today, one of them said. Whyfor? BBMP diktat that no non-veg shops should be open on Ram Navami.

I live in a quiet, secluded neighborhood; I’ve seen such edicts ignored before, without any fuss being made. So what changed now, I asked. I was told that they had opened their shop as usual at 4.30 AM (which is when they take delivery of fresh fish trucked in from the two states to the south). Around six, a group from an apartment complex diagonally across the road had come over and told them to shut down if they didn’t want trouble. Just regular folks, my fisher friends told me, but they were aggressive, they took pictures, they stood there till the shutters were downed.

While walking back home, fish-less, memory threw up something I had read sometime during the Covid lockdown. Here is the passage in full (not from memory; I looked it up):

It doesn’t matter if Trump or Erdogan is brought down tomorrow, or if Nigel Farage had never become a leader of public opinion. The millions of people fired up by their message will still be there, and will still be ready to act on the orders of a similar figure. And unfortunately, as we experienced in Turkey in a very destructive way, even if you are determined to stay away from the world of politics, the minions will find you, even in your personal space, armed with their own set of values and ready to hunt down anybody who doesn’t resemble themselves. It is better to acknowledge — and sooner rather than later — that this is not merely something imposed on societies by their often absurd leaders, or limited to digital covert operations by the Kremlin; it also arises from the grassroots. The malady of our times won’t be restricted to the corridors of power in Washington or Westminster. The horrifying ethics that have risen to the upper echelons of politics will trickle down and multiply, come to your town and even penetrate your gated community. It is a new zeitgeist in the making. This is a historic trend, and it is turning the banality of evil into the evil of banality. For though it appears in different guise in every country, it is time to recognise that what is happening affects us all.

Quoted from How To Lose A Country: The 7 Steps from Democracy to Dictatorship by Eve Temelkuran

Hindus vandalizing places of worship belonging to other religions to “celebrate” the birthday of a god they have weaponized. And Muslims are stopped from praying inside their own homes and, worse, fined for doing so.

See what Temelkuran meant by the evil of banality?

“The evil that men do lives after them…”, a half-decent poet once wrote. And that is the crux of this problem: around the world, authoritarians are facing a blowback; several have been forced to flee, while others are facing escalating protests. But it no longer matters whether they are in power or not — the evil they have seeded in society has taken deep root.

Meanwhile, we (myself included) sit on the stoop sipping our tea and smoking our cigarettes. While on which, check this out: a flashback to a time when people with standing, with a voice, used that voice, that influence, to speak out against evil:

PostScript: Arvind Kejriwal keeps upping the ante, with his speeches in the ongoing session of the Delhi assembly. Here is his latest salvo via a Twitter thread:

The allegations are specific; they are — by virtue of being made in the Assembly — part of official records. And noticeably, the government machinery has carefully refrained from responding to the specifics.

On the whole, it is good that Kejriwal is keeping the pressure on the government, more specifically on Modi, despite all the attempts at distraction. But there is also a smart calculus at work here.

Thus far, Rahul Gandhi’s USP — and the point his supporters keep making — is that he is the only one brave enough to directly take on Modi (and the RSS). Kejriwal is now usurping that mantle, and it is a politically shrewd move. He had avoided the Congress last year and earlier this year; he was carefully silent during the Bharat Jodo Yatra; when RG was sentenced by the courts and promptly disbarred from the legislature, he jumped off the fence onto RG’s side — and now he is gradually positioning himself as the alternate RG, with the added advantage that there is no bar on his contesting elections, unlike in the case of the Congress leader.

The Chanakya Gambit

THIS is by a distance the funniest ‘news’ I have read in a long time.

“He has not appealed to take stay on his conviction. What kind of arrogance is this? You want favour. You want to continue as an MP and will also not go before the court,” he said, adding from where such arrogance comes from.

Amit Shah, speaking at News18’s India Rising program

First: Rahul Gandhi hasn’t said he wants to continue as MP. The BJP colluded with the courts and then used its clout in Parliament to get him (a) sentenced, (b) debarred and (c) kicked out of his allotted MP quarters. At no time during these farcical proceedings did RG say he wanted to continue as an MP.

If Shah, the vaunted BJP strategist, says now that RG should appeal, is he suggesting that the original court decision and the subsequent disqualification were wrong?

From a strategy point of view, if RG doesn’t appeal within the statutory 30 days, the BJP will find itself well and truly behind the eight-ball. Send him to jail, and you make a martyr out of him, plus give the combined opposition a cause to rally behind — a cause sufficiently emotive to draw the aam janta in.

Also, if he doesn’t appeal and the conviction stands, he cannot contest in 2024 — and with that, poof goes the BJP’s main talking point: That RG is an entitled ‘shehzada’ who is desperate to become PM, and that his attacks on Modi are fueled by this ambition.

From a realpolitik point of view, I find myself wishing that RG refrains from appealing, and forces the BJP to either put up — send him to jail — or lose face by not following through on its own strategy.

While on this, much of the commentary around the RG disqualification is that it was done to keep him from raking up the Adani issue in Parliament. An old-school BJP leader from the south, who was part of the Vajpayee-Advani era and who hates what the Modi/Shah combine has done to the party, raised a different point during a chat last evening.

“What is the point in disqualifying Rahul — he will only raise the issue out on the streets,” the leader pointed out. “What the party wanted was ways to stall the Budget Session, ensure that no discussion took place. Have you read the Budget? This is the last one before the elections — and it is so bad that you can’t afford discussion. Have you heard Modi or Shah or any of the others talking up the Budget, like they usually do? No, right? That should tell you what the real goal is — RG just happened to give them an issue; the machinery did the rest, fast-tracking the case through the court, getting the right judgment, and throwing him out of Parliament, knowing that the Opposition would latch on to that, cause a fuss in Parliament, and give the Speaker a chance to stop all proceedings.”

It’s an interesting hypothesis — and the fact that no one in the regime is talking of all the good things in the Budget, even in the midst of a key election campaign, seems to underline the point.

Whatever the reason, the latest masterstroke appears to have boomeranged, big time. And as each day goes by without RG and his lawyers approaching the higher courts, the BJP’s stress levels go up.

Keep an eye on how this plays out — it promises to be illuminating.

PostScript: In the press conference that got this particular ball rolling, RG kept asking the question: Who gave Adani Rs 20,000 crore? I pointed out in an earlier post that all indications are that something big is brewing, and that someone has been whispering in the right ears.

Kejriwal just upped the ante, changing RG’s question into a statement: That Modi is Adani’s financier, and that Adani is merely a front for the prime minister. What is significant is that he didn’t do it during a random media interaction, or on the stump — the Delhi CM’s statement was made in the Assembly, ensuring that it goes straight into the official records.

The silence greeting Kejriwal’s direct accusation speaks volumes. And the recent statements by first RG, then Kejriwal, is the clearest indication yet that someone on the inside is ready to spill the beans.

Interesting times, as the Chinese curse goes.

STFU about Savarkar already

On the 4th and 5th of February, I was at the Vidharbha Literary Festival, held at the Chitnavis Centre in Nagpur — on the metaphorical doorstep of the RSS headquarters.

There was, I learned after reaching the city the night before, considerable right-wing angst about some of the invited speakers — people like Aakar Patel, Josy Joseph etc. Indirect pressure was applied on the organizers. Four speakers who were on the RSS shit list dropped out at the request of the organizers (which meant that I had to do a couple of impromptu sessions to fill gaps in the schedule, but that is a different story for another time).

More recently, I learned that the RSS had planted people at the event to monitor the sessions and report on the content. A contact sent me a smuggled copy of the report. It is an interesting document if only because it shows that the right wing does not want any discussion at all about almost anything at all — the report criticizes every single session from a right wing/Hindutva lens.

One line in the report jumped out at me:

Offensive and derogatory statements for Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh by Prem Panickar (my surname is spelt with an ‘e’, but never mind that) as he stated the term ‘Sanghi Chaddiwale’ for Swayamsewaks.

From a report submitted to RSS HQ on the Vidharba Lit Fest

As an example of how the right-wing ecosystem will twist anything to its own advantage, I’ve never seen a better. (Actually, I have, but I haven’t experienced it personally). Here’s what actually happened: There was a panel discussion on why the left and right have drifted so far apart, and whether we would ever be able to bridge the gap.

At one point, I said that we had to stop talking past each other and start talking to each other. And that becomes impossible if we stick labels on each other, call each other names.

I asked the audience for a show of hands: How many like jam on their toast? A few hands went up. I picked one and asked him whether he makes jam at home or buys it off the shelf. When he said he usually bought jam from the store and named his favorite flavor, I asked him if he could list all the ingredients. He couldn’t.

That, I argued, was the crux of the problem. Labels obviate the need for you to think for yourself. Thus, if you stick labels like ‘liberandu’ or ‘pseudo-intellectual’ or ‘commie’, whatever, on the left, or ‘sanghi’, ‘chaddiwala’ and such on the right, you don’t see an individual as a human being, but as a type; you put him or her in a box that suits you. And you can’t have a conversation with a ‘type’. So, I argued, the first step towards bridging the gap is to see each human being as an individual in his or her own right. (The audience — in Nagpur — applauded, to my considerable surprise and delight.)

That was what actually happened. In light of that, see how the report — written, my source tells me, by a ‘journalist’ — frames it.

In passing, think for a moment of the RSS plants in the audience, and the journalist who compiled that report. You know what the organization you work for wants and what its mindset is (In this case, lit fest equals right-bashing). So you provide what your org needs — reasons to take offense. And you pocket your two pieces of silver…

And all of that brings me to Savarkar, and to Rahul Gandhi’s recent press conference. “My name is not Savarkar, it is Gandhi — and a Gandhi does not apologize” might get him plaudits from the peanut gallery, but it is just bad strategy.

Firstly, to say you will never apologize smacks of arrogance — we are all human, prone to mistakes. When you make one, you apologize and, if possible, try to put it right.

More importantly from a realpolitik angle, you don’t go out of your way to give your opponent a chance to take back the conversation.

Throughout the 40-odd minutes that interaction lasted, RG kept turning every question back to his main point: Who gave Adani the Rs 20,000 crore. Perfect — that is what you do, stay on message. But he lapsed twice, and lost most of what he had gained.

The first was when he needled a reporter about being a BJP shill. He was right, as far as that goes — “insulted OBCs”, the BJP talking point, kept getting thrown at him. But what his irritated response did was give the media an excuse to take the high ground, such as it is. ‘Reporters will ask questions, you cannot insult them’ became the talking point — not merely for the captive sections of the media, but also for the likes of Rajdeep Sardesai, whose striving for “balance” only ends up with him doing awkward splits while straddling a barbed wire fence topped with broken glass.

The second was the Savarkar reference. What did he accomplish? The BJP latched on to it; sundry trolls with Cabinet posts hammered away at him over it; Eknath Shinde says the party will launch a state-wide yatra to celebrate ‘Maharashtra’s hero’; Savarkar’s grandson threatens to file an FIR… (Um, while on that, someone tell him it is the police that files FIRs.)

The net result is that in the days following the press conference, not a single media report or social media ‘influencer’ needed to mention the Adani question — they had two handy distractions handed to them, gift-wrapped. Pity.

The Opposition needs to keep the conversation in the here and now, stay focussed on the questions of today. Stay on message. And they need to decide what that message is that they all agree on, first.

PS: This Twitter thread is… everything.

The views, in briefs

THE Greek fabulist Aesop told the story of a horse that once quarreled with a stag. The horse approached a hunter and asked for his help. The Hunter agreed. “But,” he said, “if you desire to conquer the stag, you must permit me to place this piece of iron between your jaws so that I may guide you with these reins, and allow this saddle to be placed upon your back so that I may sit steadily on your back as we follow the enemy.” The horse readily agreed, and the hunter saddled and bridled him.

With the hunter’s help, the horse chased down and overcame the stag. Having thanked the hunter, the horse said “Now please get off my back and remove these things from my mouth and my back — they hurt me.”

“Not so fast, friend,” said the hunter. “I have now got you under bit and spur, and prefer to keep you as you are at present.”

The moral of the story: If you allow tyrants to use you for your own purposes, they will end up using you for theirs.

I was reminded of this story (which, IIRC, I first read as preface to one of the many books on authoritarianism in my collection) while reading Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s latest essay. PBM argues that Modi is showing all the signs of a tyrant; that he is bent on not merely decimating, but totally obliterating, all traces of opposition by whatever means necessary.

Took him — us — long enough to realize that, didn’t it? When Modi first made his bid for national power, various Opposition parties made common cause with him because they believed he would help them vanquish their enemy (the Congress, Muslims and other minorities, the “Lutyens’ gang”, whatever). And now they are busy in meetings — in Kharge’s chambers, in Sharad Pawar’s home, wherever — to try and figure out how to get rid of the bit Modi has lodged firmly between their teeth, and the spurs he is using to rake their sides with till he draws blood.

“Better late than never” doesn’t work in this context — what we have in India now is a case of the horse having well and truly bolted.

The BJP is well aware that the Opposition has finally woken up and is attempting to cobble together some sort of alliance that will create a joint front to oppose Modi and his basket of deplorables (thank you Hillary Clinton) in 2024. And if anything is certain, it is that the regime has already begun work in the background to divide, so they can continue to rule — and they have both the carrot and the stick at their disposal.

PBM is right when he says tyrants have an existential fear of losing power — what he forgot to add is the ‘why’. For Modi and gang, power was initially necessary for its own sake — an extended ego trip at the exchequer’s expense. But now it is about survival, pure and simple — they know that once they lose control, there is no counting the number of skeletons that will come tumbling out of various cupboards.

Holding meetings over samosas and tea, and then going back to business as usual is not going to help, though. For instance, a day after the Opposition meeting at Kharge’s place to chalk out a combined plan, Uddhav Thackeray was slamming Rahul Gandhi for criticizing Savarkar — a face-palm moment if ever there was one.

Non sequitur: The one thing anyone opposing the BJP can count on is that the party is predictable in its actions. In a post on March 25, I had inter alia suggested that the regime will lose no time in asking Rahul Gandhi to vacate his official premises and that RG can seize the initiative by immediately vacating it himself. Two days later, sure enough along comes the official notification to that effect (Gandhi’s response here).


THE last one month has been a fairly difficult time thanks to health issues (first me, then more seriously, the wife). What kept me going through it all was the Women’s Premier League, and now that it is over I find myself going back to watch random clips.

There is one aspect of the inaugural tournament that I intend to write about for my upcoming column in The Morning Context (which I will link to here when it goes up this coming Tuesday). In the meantime, a few random thoughts in no particular order:

When will the Indian media take women’s cricket seriously? I went to Cricinfo the morning after to read the match report — and wished I hadn’t; it was, not to mince words, a pathetic example of a scoreboard rendered in prose.

Who will come to watch women playing?, has been the BCCI counter ever since at least 2017, when the likes of Harmanpreet Kaur and Mithali Raj publicly asked for a women’s edition of the IPL. Jay Shah, who heads the BCCI, and Brijesh Patel, who is the figurehead, along with sundry other dignitaries got their answer — the crowds have been fantastic, not just numerically but in how engaged they were in the action, in how vibrant the atmosphere (a favorite buzzword when the male version is on) was at both stadiums. But it is really all about this mini-Jemi (in the screen grab below), and all the other kids like her who came to watch, and to cheer, and who will hopefully be inspired to emulate their idols.

Was Shefali Varma out to that Issy Wong full toss? My take is, yes. The rule is that the ball has to be above waist high when the batter is upright for it to be ruled a no-ball, and in real-time and in slow motion, the ball was at — not above — Varma’s waist. My problem is not with the decision itself, but the way it was given. There was one slow-mo replay, then a long lag, then one static ball-tracking image, and that’s all there was. Worse, throughout the decision-making process, the third umpire’s mike was mute. So none of us — the players, the spectators at the ground, those of us watching at home — had any inkling into the third umpire’s interpretation of what he was seeing. Why on earth can’t we get the little things right?

What was the idea of playing the national anthem before the start? The two teams feature players of mixed nationalities, no?

I found this scribble in my running notes taken during the tournament: “Over 12, Sophie/Parshavi”. Cue the real reason so many of us have been rooting for a women’s IPL for so long now. Parshavi Chopra, all of 16 years old, was bowling just her second over (having taken out Hayley Mathews with the first ball of her first over). Facing her was Natalie Sciver-Brunt, arguably one of the best all-rounders in the women’s game in this or any era. NSB pulled the first ball from Parshavi for four; followed it up with a loft over long-off, against the turn, for a six, and then stepped back and square-cut the third ball for four. Parshavi’s head visibly dropped; she looked lost — understandably, because she had tried three different lengths and been punished thrice in a row. Sophie Ecclestone was waiting for her near the bowling crease; the senior pro put an arm around the teenager’s shoulder and spoke to her earnestly. The stump mike picked it up clearly: Slow it down, Sophie told the youngster; pitch it further up; rip it. Still talking, Sophie walked Parshavi back to her mark. Ball four was fuller, around off, turning away. NSB was forced into an ungainly pull for a single to midwicket. Ball five — the googly. Harmanpreet Kaur, no less, stepped back to cut, misread the wrong ‘un totally, and saw it turn back in and hit her in the box. Ball six, full again and with flight and loop and dip; Kaur managed to eke out a single. Parshavi was smiling again as she collected her cap; Ecclestone had an even bigger smile on her face when she went up to pat the youngster on the back. This is the real value of the WPL — the opportunity for talented youngsters to learn from seasoned pros, to accelerate the learning curve.

The final was both low-scoring and enthralling — but I’ll save those thoughts for my column. My favorite part, though? Someone had the brilliant idea of doing away with all the male commentators and putting an all-woman team to both call the play and analyze it. Such joy — no high-decibel hype; just clear, calm commentary and superb insights.

My pet peeve about commentators is that they describe exactly what we are seeing: “Aaaand that has been smashed to the extra cover boundary, GLORIOUS shot!!!!!” Contrast that with — to note just one example out of many — a moment in the sixth over of the Mumbai Indians’ innings, Rajeswari Gayakwad to Hayley Mathews. On length, just outside off. Mathews went deep in her crease to shorten the length, and hit it over extra cover for four. Kate Cross, calling the play: “Such good use of the depth of the crease to create the length she wanted — but what I liked is how she opened her left shoulder up to access the extra cover region.”

If you want to hit through the point-cover region, you need to close the left shoulder to give you traction; if you are targeting anywhere from extra-cover to mid-off, you open up to get the leverage you need. That is what good commentators do — they don’t describe what you can very well see for yourself; instead, they provide the nuance that helps you understand better what you just saw.

Right, that’s that from me for today. Be well all.

WTF Just Happened?

To start off on a tangent, wildlife conservationist Dr Samir Kumar Sinha learned that the Sarus crane was under threat in parts of Uttar Pradesh, and began working with local farmers to help revive the bird population. Worth noting here that it was an individual — not a government organization — who saw the problem and set out to solve it. This is his story.

Fast forward to last week, when the story of Amethi resident Mohammed Arif went viral on the internet. With good reason — heartwarming stories are hard to find in these dark days and when one comes along, it is worth celebrating. Many celebrated, including Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, who went to meet Arif and his friend. Here is the story:

Now for the sequel: Arif has been booked under provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act. Irony wept bitter tears, because Arif’s original sin was protecting wildlife, to wit, a bird (the state bird of Uttar Pradesh) in distress. As for the bird — it is now in a cage in where there is barely enough room to stand, and none at all to spread its now-healed wings and fly free.

This feels like a metaphor for something that cuts to the heart of who, and what, we are as a country, but I can’t seem to put my finger on it.

PS: It is Sunday. And since morning, I have been racing through work — both housework and the other kind that pays my rent — for one reason: To totally free up my time so I can watch the final of the Women’s Premier League, between Meg Lanning’s Delhi Capitals and Harmanpreet Kaur’s Mumbai Indians.

I’ve only missed two games in the entire league; I must prefer watching the women’s version of cricket, for multiple reasons: The standard of play is high, the skills on display are excellent, and it comes without the inevitable hype that is a component of the men’s game. There is passion on display, without the testosterone-riddled theatrics the men indulge in. And, glory be, the commentary is excellent — if you tune out the men who call the play and listen to the likes of Natalie Germanos, Anjum Chopra, Mel Jones and Kate Cross analyzing the play and providing the sort of nuance and insight you don’t get when the BCCI’s cheerleaders call the men’s game.

Tune in. It’s really worth your while.