Telegraph Calcutta

The Game of the Thrones


Oh that one too. That one too is resuming sometime today at a screen very near you. The interrupted tussle for a faraway seat of power, too far away and too frozen to be anywhere near real in this sizzling onset of summer, but, therefore, just the fantasy that might seduce us. What’s fantasy is forever a fancy. But that’s not the game we are talking about. And that’s not the throne either. We have our own Game of Thrones underway. Not a fantasy, alas. Not a faraway thing, alas. Not a thing of the screen nearby which can be opened and shut at will, alas. It is upon us, whether we wish it or not. It is real, whether we wish it or not. It cannot be switched on and off, whether we wish it or not. Continue reading “The Game of the Thrones”

Telegraph Calcutta

Elections 2019 — A test for We the People

India goes to the polls this week; her people are on test. The 2014 vote was a rejection of UPA II, which had come to be widely perceived as discredited and disabled, and a profuse investment in hope generated by Narendra Modi. The 2019 election will scrutinise the citizenry on what choice it makes — critical judgement on blithely belied hope or subscription to hype and a more robust heave away from the spirit of the Constitution. Continue reading “Elections 2019 — A test for We the People”

Telegraph Calcutta

Jaane kahaan gaye woh din


We are looking. We must look. Because we have been told there is something here to look for. And what better time there is to look but now? Not for Mahadeb, don’t get me wrong. Mahadeb has been gone a long, long time but no, we are not looking for Mahadeb. We already know he is there. Not yet on his throne of timber and tin on Sooterkin, not serving out tea and petrichor coffee in earthen bhaanrs to his loyally thirsting clientele, no. We’d have been happier for him being there, among us. But Mahadeb isn’t lost. He speaks when he needs to. He makes his presence felt on rights and wrongs. He appears through his voice which is like no other voice, and through his intangible presence which is like no other presence. Mahadeb knows he is essential to things, Mahadeb can’t be gone. There is no need to look for him because when you need Mahadeb he is there to be found. Rest assured. Continue reading “Jaane kahaan gaye woh din”

Telegraph Calcutta

An unchallenged overlordship has come to reign, even within the government

For the thief in watchman’s clothing All eyes out, O you people, ho! On your vigil be unstinting What do they say_ Yes, Jaagte Raho! (4).png

A low shot should no longer be a thing of surprise or unease; applause for a low shot should be. Ravichandran Ashwin has been justly knocked for his unfortunate choice of manner to send Jos Buttler off the field. But then that’s cricket. What’s at play for the trophy of 2019 patently isn’t. So when the prime minister, Narendra Modi, makes a cheap crack, such as the shoddy and desperately conjured “sarab” (when, in fact, he was meaning sharaab) acronym for the challenger alliance of the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Lok Dal and the Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh, it becomes occasion for applause and admiration. Or, when he twisted a student’s question on dyslexia to poke fun at Rahul Gandhi, he drew unseemly peals of laughter. Or, when his tandem mate and Bharatiya Janata Party president, Amit Shah, describes the Opposition as a collective of rodents, reptiles, insects and sundry other species other than human, it passes as if a just standard of political discourse had been set. Continue reading “An unchallenged overlordship has come to reign, even within the government”

Telegraph Calcutta

Leh Belaiyaa Bhool Bhulaiyaa


We are heading somewhere. But where it has become difficult to tell. In fact, more than just difficult. It’s baffling to tell where we are headed, because we seem to be heading in many directions and different people are saying very different things about what it may mean to be going in those directions. When we are told we are heading straight, other people seem to think we are heading backwards. When we are told we are heading up, other people seem to think we are heading down. When we are told we are headed sideways, other people seem to think sideways, this side or that side, is no way to head. Ki mushkil. Are we even headed? As in, do we even have heads any more? Or have we all been beheaded and are flailing about six inches shorter than we used to be? Without heads any more, and without, therefore, the ability to do what heads are meant to do. Perhaps that is what it is then, we are not headed. Continue reading “Leh Belaiyaa Bhool Bhulaiyaa”

Telegraph Calcutta

How David Gower does it off field


Someone did say famously, and ringingly, that you’d pay just to watch David Gower stroll to the crease and take guard. It’s a description that has aged well; on the evidence of this evening, you’d pay just to watch David Gower walk up to the lectern and lean, with that looming hunch of his, gently on the microphone.

Here’s the bionic version of Strunk & White: The Elements of Style, the walking, talking, posing, pausing version of it. Were you to notice carefully, it’s never been in what he wears, not in the flannels he hung out years ago, not in the crisp tailored suit and impeccably polished shoes he wore on Wednesday; it’s all worked into his bones, they only listen to languor’s command.

Gower himself has aged well too; he’s goldie locks no more, but it’s tough to credibly argue he isn’t silver streak. A big sexagenarian bolt of it whose presence can be quite as arresting as the indelible image of Bonnie Gower at the crease, wooden sabre in hand. There is a genuine sabre tale in the works too somewhere but we shall come to it in a bit.

And so when that bolt is invited on stage — Lord of the 2019 edition of the Tiger Pataudi Memorial Lecture — and begins by saying, “That’s all we have time for this evening, I’m afraid,” you know you’ve arrived in the presence of a singular style.

The Air India presents Tiger Pataudi Memorial Lecture is a joint initiative by The Bengal Club and The Telegraph in association with The Oberoi Grand, Kolkata.

Gower spoke for an hour thereupon, and for an hour everything in the Ballroom of the Oberoi Grand remained riveted on the bolt centre stage. You are permitted not to look elsewhere when David Gower is on show.

It’s also permitted not to instantly break into laughter and applause when David Gower has cracked one, because his angles of humour can often be impossibly obtuse.

He spoke for, instead, with artfully restrained wistfulness, of a hundred per cent record as England captain against the West Indies. Took more than just a moment to process that. Turned out it was a record of hundred per cent defeats. And once the reality of it had sunk in, a startled applause followed.

Gower had themed the evening “Fun. Style. Excellence”. He littered his discourse with illustrations of each category that have illumined the game — Root, Bumrah, Smith, de Villiers, Jayawardene, Gayle and, of course, Kohli, with no prejudice to those who couldn’t be named for shortness of time — but nobody quite in those lists fitted all three categories. Gower did. And he was saying it without having the faintest need to say it; it was clear as daylight on a day there is daylight. When you have David Gower, fun, style and excellence fall away as synonyms, no more.

What Gower did spell out was what’s not fun, style and excellence. What Steve Smith and David Warner got up to on the playing field in South Africa isn’t — “You don’t need sandpaper to win a game of cricket.”

What Ravichandran Ashwin did just the other night against Jos Buttler of Rajasthan Royals just the other night isn’t either.


“What happened with that Mankading was wrong. Yes, it was entirely lawful, but there’s more to it than the law. Ashwin says it was instinct that made him do it, I hope in time he has occasion to revisit and revise his opinion on what he did. I am not entirely of the school that says win at all costs, there are ways of winning that, for instance, do not need sandpaper.” Add Mankading to that, please.

As Gower spoke, Ashwin’s side were struggling against KKR no farther than a dog’s pee walk. Gower, who did declare a late-evening ambition of catching the latter half of the Eden game, may well have muttered a “just as well” to himself.

There’s another occasion he spoke of to which “just as well” might fit, and allow us to return to the promised tale of the sabres. Gower snatched the Ashes from the Aussies as captain of England in 1985, but the next bout the adversaries had, in the 1989 season, the Aussies returned to smoke out Gower’s team. At the end of it, Gower invited Allan Border, his rival skipper, home for a congratulatory drink.

It was planned over a toast of champagne. Gower chose to uncork the bottle French fashion; it’s apparently called saberage, or some such thing. Only, the Gower household possessed no sabres. He chose a garden axe for the job.

And so instead of sabring the champagne cork, French fashion, he axed it. And the tiniest shard of flying glass caught the side of Border’s temple.

“It’s the only blood I drew that season.”

Just as well. Style can, on required occasion, be cutting.


Telegraph Calcutta

Where Is the Chow? Kidar hai?

I am having to speak. I am. Not that I imagined I would have to. Not that I wished to. But these are not times of one’s wishing or whim. These are not times that afford the luxury of the uncertainties of would or could. These are not ordinary times. These are times that do not belong to silence. These are times that demand everyone speaks. And of course I am not everyone, do not get me wrong. I am Mahadeb. I am EVERYONE. And I am having to speak. FROM this place I am in, remote and unknown, and yet not so. I can see. From wherever I might be. I have the ThirdEye. I am the ThirdEye, the AllSeeingOne.
And yet there are some things I yet cannot see. I see the homes of people, homes settled under the dark night. Homes where the lights have been turned off and the doors and windows shuttered. Homes where they whose homes they are, peaceably sleep. Or so I assume. Or so is my wish and my blessing. And yet I cannot see… But of that in a bit. Of that in just a bit.

Continue reading “Where Is the Chow? Kidar hai?”