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.