Friday, June 19, 2009

Cricket to Counter Colonial Rule

(Published in Zeitgeist, The New Indian Express, on 13 June, 2009)

“I’ll talk to you later, I’m filling up application forms!” has become my mother’s favourite line when I call her up to commiserate over the domestic crises in our lives.

She’s been filling up college application forms for my brother since he finished writing his twelfth standard board exams., and realised he could play FIFA without constant recriminations from my grandmother for not studying hard enough.

The GoM – Gang of Mothers – she’s a part of, has put down filling up applications to the most esoteric colleges as the key point in its annual agenda.

“What to do? With sixty-nine percent reservation, these children may not get seats anywhere,” the flag-bearing member of the GoM once told me, “so first there’s the paper work. And sending them abroad is cheaper than paying capitation fees, so Sumathi (Secretary of the GoM), is looking at universities and all. We have to apply for visas next.”

As the chances of my telling my mother about the electric lamp I fixed myself grow dimmer, and politicians offer to lay down their lives at the altar of the Women’s Reservation Bill, I had an argument with a friend of mine about the pros and cons of our country’s obsession with reservation. A feminist by breeding, he is an ardent supporter of sex-based and caste-based reservation, and insists it makes more sense for a ‘majority’ to take two steps back to even out the equations.

Since most progressive individuals find it to be a good idea, I think we should look beyond confining reservation to the borders of our country. We could begin by applying the laws of reservation to the game of cricket, which from being the national pastime has become the national preoccupation as the ICC World Twenty20 Championship is played out. Here’s a list of amendments that should make up for the four hundred years of colonial rule under which we Indians were deprived of our basic rights.

The Handkerchief Amendment:

Re-written Law 29 of the Marylebone Cricket Club’s ‘Laws of Cricket’ (Batsman out of his ground):

The batsmen can be run out or stumped if they are out of their ground. A batsman is in his ground if any part of him or his bat is on the ground behind the popping crease. If the batsman is Indian, his leg-pad, gloves, abdomen guard, chest guard, helmet, cap, socks and shoes may be considered a part of him. This pays tribute to the ancient Indian tradition of reserving seats on buses by throwing handkerchiefs there.

The Swayamvara Amendment:

Re-written Law 1.2 of the MCC’s ‘Laws of Cricket’ (Nomination of Players):

Each captain shall nominate his players in writing to one of the umpires before the toss. No player may be changed after the nomination without the consent of the opposing captain. An exception may be made in the case of the Indian team. The Indian team captain will be allowed to kidnap up to three members of a neutral team, and if the opposing captain is unable to stop them before they reach the dressing room, they will be considered members of the Indian team for the match. This pays tribute to an act of valour from the Indian epic, The Mahabharata.

The Endorsement Amendment:

Re-written Law 31 of the MCC’s ‘Laws of Cricket’ (Timed Out):

The incoming batsman must be in position to take guard or for his partner to be ready to receive the next ball within 3 minutes of the fall of the previous wicket. But an incoming Indian batsman will be given grace time amounting to the sum total of the air time accorded to endorsements by each member of his team.

If Women’s Reservation were to ever open the gateway of the BCCI to me, I plan to make these points part of my manifesto.

The Lone-Luncher's Guide to the Galaxy

(Published in Zeitgeist, The New Indian Express, on 30 May 2009)

“May I join you?”

The four most dreaded words in the English language. What makes them worse, is they’re always trilled out in bright, happy notes just when your nose is blurring into the fine print of a book that’s gripped your attention for most of the previous night. So you’ve managed to grab enough time to eat, and the only person you really want to spend it with is Wodehouse…or Rushdie…or Tharoor…or Murakami…or Kundera. But, out of nowhere, pops someone with whom the most profound conversations you’ve had involve the vagaries of the weather, and you’re forced to subject geographical and geological factors to more intense scrutiny.

I’ve considered walking around with a board that reads:

Dictionary Definition:

Misanthrope (noun, Genum: Homosapien, Species: solitudus eros) – a particular breed of human being that finds the society of other beings of its genum repulsive; averse to company. Often misunderstood, not left alone at mealtimes despite obvious hints to intruders of its privacy. Usually gravitates towards other beings of the species solitudus eros, is unfriendly to other varieties of its genum.’

But that, of course, could defeat its own purpose by turning into another conversation-starter; one that promises to be more entertaining to the Intruder of Privacy than the weather. What would exacerbate the situation infinitely would be the Intruder of Privacy counting itself into the species Solitudus Eros, and claiming kinship with the Misanthrope Order.

That said, I do have some genuine theists of the Misanthrope Order among my acquaintances. We lunch alone together, and shudder at the thought of intrusion. The camaraderie of the shared apprehension motivates us to, sometimes, go so far as to lay aside our newspapers and novels for up to five minutes at a time.

While Misanthropes-Who-Have-Come-Out usually only elicit curious glances from Habitual Intruders of Privacy, who find it hard to digest the sight of two Believers of the Misanthrope Order in conversation, there is a more dangerous species. The Closet-Misanthrope-In-Denial is usually extraordinarily friendly to Habitual Intruders of Privacy, and can initiate ace conversations about the weather, shoes and hair accessories. One of my closest friends happens to belong to this Order of Misanthropes. Her undying hope for humankind allows her to believe her frivolous conversations with Habitual Intruders will be mundane enough to cure them of their unhealthy leanings.

It was on one such occasion, when we were involved in a deeply spiritual discussion on the men in one of our lives, that a bright, happy person walked up to us and trilled, “hi! I’ve not seen you both for a long time!”

“We usually keep ourselves hidden,” I said, having come out in the open a couple of decades ago.

The Intruder giggled and joined us.

“So how’ve you been? I’ve not seen you either!” my Closet Misanthrope friend blurted out, nervously.

“I’m busy, yaar, always. But where have you been?”

“On leave. For three weeks. She just came in to lunch with me, and she’ll go back home again,” I said darkly.


Intelligence is not usually the Habitual Intruder’s forte. The conversation quickly shifted to the Habitual Intruder’s complexion, how her face might be too immature for people to associate her with gravitas, and how that could affect her career.

A more chivalrous woman with an instinct to protect would have made up a phone call, an emergency meeting or a systems collapse that required our presence at a distant location.I went with, “stimulating as this conversation is, I’m sort of bored out of my skull. So if you’d excuse me.”

The day went down in history as the first time a Lone-Luncher has effectively cured a Habitual Intruder.
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