What to do when in India

In the right earnest, I have been a true supporter of the 2010 Commonwealth Games (CWG). My country, my city is gearing up to play host to multinational and multi-sporting event. Despite all the alleged scandals and last minute delays, I believe that the games will happen. I am not a supporter of Suresh Kalmadi or his team members, but I am supporting my country. I do not want that a child in the African continent, who has probably not heard about India till now, gets to know about it as a nation that could not keep the spirit of the games alive.

But, one look at the travel advisory issued by the CWG committee and it first brings a smile on my face and then makes me swallow my smile.


To start with, the guidelines on Visa and, medical and travel insurance seem pretty decent.  But, that is about it, here we go now:–

  • What to pack? Formal clothes are not necessary but something elegant is always appreciated. In many hotels, restaurants and trains, the air conditioning can be rather chilly

>>Well, yes, elegance does not hurt, does it?

  • “If you are male introduced to a lady or a grown-up girl, don’t take the initiative of offering a handshake. If she extends her hand, you must reciprocate, but don’t be the first to extend your hand. If you are female and are being introduced to a male, it is up to you, the female, to take the initiative for a handshake. The rule of thumb is that the female extends her hand first, and the male reciprocates.”>>Please will you drive some sense into the Indian male community too? Probably ask them to not stare/ogle/pass comments/tease……?
  • The Western practice of a peck on the cheek as a form of greeting a lady or a grown up girl is JUST NOT DONE when you are in India unless you happen to be in ‘Westernized Indian’ circles or in the company of people in the glamour industry such as models and beauty queens (even then, DON’T take the initiative if you are male).>>Yes, refer to the Richard Gere incident, even if the lady is ok with it, a lot many may not be!
  • If you find the lady is not extending a hand shake, go for the Namastey. Even with men, the Namastey can be an excellent little PR gimmick! Follow it up with a kaise hai (how are you?) and you have broken the first block of ice if one there was!
    >> Ah, well! Suresh Kalmadi ji, aap kaise hai? 

  • Be aware that public displays of affection (hugging, kissing) are generally not appreciated.
    >>Yep, PDA is a strict no! No sarcasm here
  • If somebody has invited you home for dinner, carry with you a bottle of wine accompanied by a bouquet of flowers or at least a box of sweets or chocolate bar for the children.
    >>Why? When did it become customary in India to carry wine bottles? Don’t get it for me at all~! 

  • Many Indians are in the habit of shaking their head in the course of conversation or taking instructions. Don’t show amusement if you witness this.
    >>I am just not amused with this advisory.
  • Wash your hands before and after eating.

>>Do they generally not wash hands?

  • The units of Indian currency are the Rupee and Paisa (100Paisa equal 1 Rupee). Paper money is in denominations of Rupees 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000. Coins are in denominations of Rupees 1, 2, 5 and 10.
    >>Hey, so 50 paise coins have been called off officially?
  • Some hotels include service charges on their bills. In such cases tipping is not necessary. Where this is not done, a tip of 10% is customary. If you are in a big group and the food bill is high, the tip on the total can come down to 5%.
    >>Hey, I thought tips are discouraged.. 

  • In India, public toilet facilities are few and far between and outside of the hotels and restaurants can be of dubious cleanliness. We recommend taking every opportunity you can to use a clean toilet in hotels and restaurants and that you carry tissues/wet wipes with you.>> Instead of wasting time writing this advisory, you could have used the funds to build some public toilets and spent some more towards hygiene!
  • Self- drive cars though available are not recommended as it is not advisable for you to drive on the Indian roads with all the traffic.
    >Yes, there are a lot of uncovered manholes, places we dug up and forgot to cover back and what not, right Mr Kalmadi?

I think some advisory should have been issued to the CWG committee also.

Female escorts for India’s Dhoni

July 16, 2008

Mahender Singh Dhoni has hit the headlines for dropping out of the Sri Lankan tour of the Indian cricket team citing fatigue as the reason, perhaps the first ever cricketer to do so (correct me here if I am wrong).

Now, Dhoni, Indian one day cricket team and 20-20 team skipper has made news by employing female bodyguards apparently to ‘save’ himself from his female fans.

Did that bring a smile to your face? It sure did, but then for Dhoni who is considered one of the ‘hottest’ cricket star it must have been quite a decision!

[News Opinion] Premier League—-professionals and their isms

April 26, 2008

While the media has decided to ‘ignore’ the Indian Premier League (IPL) and not give ‘undue’ footage to it, IPL is trying its level best to give ‘news’ to our fraternity.

First it was the cheer leaders row and then, today it is Harbhajan Singh ‘slapping’ Sreesanth.

First we go about imposing a ban on the cheer leaders. We term them as ‘vulgar’ and ‘indecent’  and then we say that they need a dress code and may be a code of action also.

What more, some people have gone of the extent of comparing them with bar girls.

Let us pause for a few moments, let us think about it, come lets think together. Is it the rules, regulations and codes that we require or is it a ‘broader perspective’ or a ‘open mind’ that is needed the most at the moment?

The issue is that men stare at them for longer than required duration. The issue is that men turn up for these miniscule 20 over matches to watch these girls ‘cheer’ the players rather than for the game itself.

But do men leer only at these skimpily clad girls? Set out on the streets and you would find them staring at a fully dressed woman also.

And as far as the girls demeaning the Indian culture is concerned, then you better censor all these shows that are shown on the New Year’s eve or these dancers and singers and hosts on the realty shows who turn up in weirdest of clothes. Or any Bollywood flick for that matter.

Anyway, hypocrisy is what they call is at its best at times when it is least required.

Now this ‘slapping’ issue. Wonder by Harbhajan manages to come back to the limelight again and again and for the wrong reasons!
Harbhajan, the captain of the Mumbai franchisee of the IPL team, supposedly slapped S. Sreesanth of the Mohali team on Friday (April 25) after the paceman of the winning Mohali team shook hands with the captain.

And at the press conference these men tell the media ‘please talk cricket’. Well well well, only if you played the game honey!

[News Opinion] Olympic Torch Relay–its over…

April 17, 2008

Well, the day is over and so is the Indian leg of the Olympic torch relay. And not so surprisingly, I do not have much to write about the relay other than the fact that some athletes, sportsmen and Bollywood actors took part in the relay- which of course concluded peacefully.

But apart from adjectives like star-studded and peaceful or may be historical, there are not many words that I would like to describe it as. I am neither anti-China nor am I anti-sports, but then the manner in which it was conducted was a mockery in itself. The very purpose of the relay gets defeated when it takes place under such heightened security.

New Delhi was turned into a fortress with most of its ‘important’ roads sealed causing inconvenience to the common man (ok, may be I can skip this part of the information here). The route and timings of the relay were kept a well guarded secret till the end, obviously for security reasons. Hundreds of Tibetan exiles were arrested hours before the relay following the nip it in the bud policy.

And when the relay began, the torch bearers were accompanied by so many commandoes that it hardly looked like a relay.

What was the relay for? Was it a mere formality? They did make it one for sure at the end of the day. I did not understand the very need to have the relay. Was it just to please China? And why did India pour so much money to maintain security? So that it doesn’t end up rubbing the dragon the wrong way?

For me the Olympic torch relay that took place in New Delhi sounded like a cracker that refused to go off at the last moment.

[News Opinion] Olympics without the carols

April 17, 2008

It sounds as if it is Christmas time without the carols, sounds as if it is Holi, the colour of festivals sans the colours.

I mean to say that the very essence of Olympics has given way to the Tibetan ‘freedom struggle’. It has been over two months now that I have been tracking the Tibetan ‘story’, I have been watching the entire episode from close quarters, have been reporting the issue on a daily basis and have been writing more than two stories on the Tibetans daily. And it is today, early in the morning, just a few hours before the Olympic torch relay, I am trying to anticipate the Tibetan strategy.

Not only me, but the entire media is interested to know what the Tibetans exiles who have congregated in the Indian capital city of New Delhi from across the nation are planning to do.

We shall most likely be positioning ourselves at  the Chinese embassy lane, at the enclaves that are predominantly Tibetan colonies in the capital city. Though I am interested in knowing whether the torch reaches its next destination safely from the Indian leg or not.  I would like to know whether it goes from here untouched, but then again, what I want to know is whether the Tibetan succeed in their attempt to disrupt the relay.

But then today I feel that the torch relay is more about the Tibetans than the Beijing Olympics.

As a journalist, I know that instead of writing plain vanilla stories like ‘and people from all walks of life took part in the torch relay’ or say ‘top Bollywood star dons a different hat’…I am for sure going to write things like, ‘Olympic flame sets the Indian capital on fire’ or, ‘torch goes untouched!!!!!’ (exclamation intended).

Anyway, do not worry about the titles and the headlines, will keep you informed about them, rather, will post all the headlines by the end of the day.

And yes, the Tibetans have emerged successful. They have the attention of the world community, of the international media and they have garnered the support of the common man across the globe.

What more do they need? Autonomy, which I believe, they shall have soon, for sure.

[News Opinion ] Dear Indian Hockey team (old post)

Mar, 11 2008

Dear Indian Hockey team,

I guess this is my first ever letter to you……. I am really sorry for not having written to you earlier.

Though I am dissapointed that you could not make it to the Olympics and lost out to Britain, let me assure you that I am not going to play any blame game….

The fact is that, I am not even in a position to analyse what went wrong and where. I must admit that had it been cricket, I would have at least said that he did not bowl well, or he did not bat well or the umpire gave a wrong decision and what not. But surprisingly or rather not so surprisingly, it has dawned upon me that I do not know the game at all.

Yes, the nation has reacted very strongly and it shall remain a fact that in 80 years, it is the first time that we could not send our team to Olympics, leave alone get a medal. But then, a nation that was busy celebrating the victory of the cricket team, not just the national but the under nineteen team also, a nation that was lost in the racial slur case that the gentleman’s game was engulfed with, a nation whose members of the media wake up to the fact that its national game’s national team is not competent enough only when it lost a crucial game, how cdo you expect such a nation to understand you.

Dear team, yes, it is a national shame that you could not make it to the Olympics, but then, the entire nation shall have share the blame.

While many in the nation can remember every moment of the cricket matches played not only by India, but details of the matches between other countries also remain fresh in the memory, there are millions out here whhave not even watched a single full hockey match.

Not that you are not aware, but yes, apart from the indifferent attitude of the nation,it seems that the authorities are also not competent enough  Look at the kind of money chasing the game of cricket in this nation, look at the amount of money that was put at stake with the annoucement of the Indian Premier League…..but then again, why would anyone put money into a game that isnt even winning matches for the country? And how would a game improve if money is not put in?

What is required is that young players are trained according to international standards. Isn’t is true that you people play on grass and when you go and compete on astro truff, it is a different ball game altogether? The nature, the style and the manner in which these young players from different villages play is of a different genre as compared to the international game they have to play later??

Well, as I said, I am not even in a position to analyse the game properly.

All that came to my mind was that I wanted news channels to play ‘Chak de’ the famous song after you come back with the medal in your hand, that they play the song to welcome you ………never mind, come back, let us all work on it and make sure that next time, we not only put up a good fight but once again re-create the magic ……….

An Indian

(Next time, I hope to write–An Indian hockey fan……..)

Yoga across religions (old post)

Feb 25, 2008

Given the growing levels of intolerance for other religions, not only in the secular state of India, but world over, it is hard to believe that genuine cases of communal harmony still exist.

Though, living in the Indian secular state, where people of different religions, be it Hindus, Sikhs, Christian, Jews or Muslims have been living together since time immemorial, I find it little out of place to report an issue like ?communal harmony?, I would not like the following to go unreported.

In a recently concluded international yoga competition that was held in Surat (Gujarat), people from different walks of life, different countries and religions participated. Before you argue that yoga knows no barriers in today?s world and that the famous Indian yoga guru, late Maharishi Yogi took the ancient science to the rock band, Beetles; read on?..

What was magnificent about the competition, was not the fact that it witnessed a record participation from across the globe, but the fact that people from the  ?Muslim? dominated Kashmir took part in the ?Hindu? based art form competition. What was applaudable, was the fact that participants from the Kashmir valley, shedding all inhibitions about religion, displayed various yoga postures.

You may again wonder what is applaudable about Kashmiri?s taking to the ancient Indian art form which is now famous in foreign shores as well. Apparently, the form of science believed to be indigenous to India is not popular in Kashmir owning to the fear of the people to accept the ?Hindu? art form. The locals find the recitation and chanting of ?OM? as a part of the yoga ?asanas? a ?Hindu? act and hence have not accepted it. But there are many in the valley, who are hell bent on spreading the message of peace and harmony through yoga. And interestingly, they have replaced the ?Om? with ?Allah?.

In normal circumstances, I would have created an issue out of this and talked about how ?small? people can think and how ?micro? their outlook is. But, this is one case, which deserves an exception. I am sure no one would mind the ?Allah? there as long as the strife-torn Kashmir valley is making all efforts to catch up with the rest of the world.

Hope, radical Hindu organizations do not find this as an opportunity to play their murky games. Hope, this simple and innocent idea does not snowball into any controversy…