Tushar's Blog

This is What I Do, I Think


The Subtle and Cruel Reminders

Nothing to do with the post but it is funny. 

Around three years ago, I wrote about how proud I was being a sportsperson. Keeping in touch with regular games- cricket, football or badminton; it used to be a good feeling. I was playing, running around, and having moments of ecstasy and joy with myself whenever I performed well. This small happiness used to keep me going. I was happy.

I was.


Probably those were the last days of my being on the field regularly. Too many things happened too quickly and caused things to change. Transfer, marriage, daily chores- life became busy. 24 hours seems less; I wanted 30. There were so many things I need to do and was procrastinating. And playing was not even in that list. I thought I am done being a sportsperson. But still, I tried to convince myself that this is not the case. I will be strong and will come out of this eventually. Just a slump, being out of form. I will improve. This cannot go lower.

I was wrong. I could not bluff myself. I had not hit the bottom yet. And did that soon.

During my organization’s annual cricket tournament, while batting, I got cramps. So bad that I could not feel my feet. So bad, I needed people to make me stand. Honestly, it is not a big deal. It happens with professional sportspersons every time. They get it even after continuous exercises; I am just an average guy. So, I should just chill.

For me, it was the lowest point about me a self-proclaimed sportsperson.

I used to despise (silently) my fellow mates whenever they used to get cramps or get unfit during a match. How old they were-22? A 22 year old guy lying flat in middle of the field, waiting for help, looking at people looking at him sympathetically - unacceptable. And if that is the case, please stay at home and play book cricket. The field will not take anyone for granted. Everything evens out. I know it sounds cocky and arrogant but that was the way it was. I could not care less.

That day everything leveled. My pride, arrogance, cockiness- everything. I felt helpless when I could not even stand. I said sorry to all those present 10 times- both for wasting their time and for not being good enough to play. I thought I was fit. Running behind trains, buses and taxis- I always had my daily dose of fitness. I will stand the demands of the game. I did not realize that body is not responding as positively as my brain is. I should have been playing book cricket within the four walls with the kids of the society.

What is the point of all this? You get the idea I believe. EXERCISE!!!!

In my 28 years of existence, I have not done enough exercise. I mean I did not have any separate time for fitness in my day. I did not do enough warm-ups before games. In fact, I used to hate them. Being gifted a lean (slim, rather) body by the almighty; I never had bulging tummy problems or cramp issues. So, I have managed to pull it off for better part of my life. Also, being in touch with sports till the end of college helped me retain the body and fitness- whatever of it I had.

I should have realized that this will end someday. As I got into job five years back, regular sports became a rarity. It was all about playing at weekends if the place is right. Otherwise, you can say bye-bye to them. I bid farewell and the good work in early days helped me hold on to the spirit and shape. And now as I am moving away from field, the reality is becoming glaring. Today, it stares right into my face and often ask- do you have in you?

As of now, NO! The saddest part of this is that I know but I am not doing much about it. I know I need to hit the gym, sweat out and maintain regular fitness regime. And this needs to be a long term process. I will be hitting 30 soon and things will go bad from here if I keep ignoring. Add to that mid life blues/crisis/whatever you call them and one hell of a routine to keep up with.

Around a year back, my body send me a subtle reminder of how things are not improving. Heard of runners’ itch? Well, you used to run regularly. Good. Then you stop it because you need that extra hour sleep. Nothing bad in there. Six months later, your wife tells you that she feels embarrassed taking you out on weekends because you look like her elder brother. It hurts. So you wipe off the dust of your shoes, tie up the laces and swoooooosh from home. Couple of minutes later, you take a breather and scratches your thighs ferociously. That is because as you started running again, your veins expanded and sends the message to brain which it reads as itch. Normally goes away in a day or two but still a strong signal. I got this signal, ignored and paid a good price for it.

Today, I can procrastinate again. And I could have stopped writing about this. My goals, my health should be my problem. Why to make people read about it? But frankly, I want friends and colleagues around me and whatever number of readers I have to remind me of this important task. Exercise, spend some time sweating and get body used to moving. Get the machinery started. Keep it oiled.

Sooner than later, you body will ask for it.
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No Vote for Arvind Kejriwal

In my previous office, I had a boss who was a strong Congress supporter since last 35 years. More than that, he was a bigger BJP hater. I remember hearing him and see him arguing with my other bosses in the run up to Lok Sabha elections 2014 where Congress was expected to get a drubbing. Not many were supporting the ruling party in those days but he kept his stand. And he did try to justify Congress among all the graft and inefficiency accusations. But he never supported BJP. Never did any phrase in praise of BJP come out from him.

My personal opinion that time was that he was being too emotional. And too arrogant. It is OK to have choices and dislikes but hating a political party to this extent that you support other one in spite of evident corruption and shortcomings was too much. But then I saw Aam Aadmi Party and its founder/ leader or whatever, Shri Arvind Kejriwal was doing. And my thinking changed.

If you are in a habit of reading newspaper every day (or headlines), you know that what circumstances led to the formation of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). It is no less than a fairy tale. Kejriwal formed AAP in 2012 and contested in 2013 Delhi Legislative elections and surprisingly, formed government with BJP. He did resign 49 days later, on 14 February 2014, stating he did so because of his minority government's inability to pass his proposed anti-corruption legislation due to a lack of support from other political parties. Exactly one year later, he formed the government again in Delhi with winning 67 out of 70 seats. And this is not a reality show but an example of democracy.

I must say, I was very much inspired and fantasized by AAP’s overwhelming victory at that time. Quitting and then winning with more than 95%- a fantastic democratic coup. I read almost every article in newspapers, editorials, opinions and views trying to understand how AAP managed to outsmart more seasoned parties. The volunteers, the IT cell, the man himself- everybody did the right things. And it was indeed very intriguing. It looked like he had actually learnt politics with keeping his core principals intact. And there was a hope that, as his twitter profile says, Bharat Jaldi Badlega (soon, there will be a change).

A little more than one year to the date and I see in Kejriwal a man who is less CM and more of a whiner. A man whose job is to worry about everything other than his state. A man, who comments on every issue, insults PM on open platforms, defends his mistakes through Facebook and Twitter and thinks that the entire system wants to see him out of Delhi. And a man who is obsessed with the thought that PM Modi is obsessed with him and his government.

For leaders today, being on Twitter and having direct conversations with public is a normal thing. Many ministers, notably Mr Suresh Prabhu and Mrs. Sushma Swaraj are doing it very effectively. But what is not normal is to promote/ endorse fictional items that are provocative and may lead to serious consequences. Kejriwal has made one agenda- post anything that goes against the centre so that his more than 7 million could see it and preach it to create a ripple effect.

Take example and see this one- https://twitter.com/ArvindKejriwal/status/699437799158579200. Arvind Kejriwal, Hon’ble Chief Minister of Delhi posted this picture on Twitter on Feb 15, 2016 when a certain wave of anti-nationalism was strong in the country. This picture has no credible source, no known publisher. It does not take a mastermind to take a shot at what may happen if people actually start taking things seriously. In that time, that should have been the last thing to do. But the CM of Delhi is not that bright and he went ahead- political and social naivety at its best. Come on Kejri Sir, even I do not forward chain Whatsapp messages that are meant for creating only one thing- unrest. You, the CM of India’s capital must be having a sounder head.

And one thing that put the final nail in the coffin was the below post made by Kejriwal Ji on Feb 29, 2016 after a day he was booked in sedition case.

मेरे ख़िलाफ़ देशद्रोह का मुक़द्दमा किया है।
इनकी नज़रों में दलितों, ग़रीबों और पिछड़ों के लिए आवाज़ उठाने वाला व्यक्ति देशद्रोही है। मैं ग़रीबों और दलितों के लिए संघर्ष करता रहूँगा।
एक बात बोल दूँ -मोदी जी से बड़ा देशभक्त हूँ मैं।
मैं पूछता हूँ -देश के टुकड़े और देश की बर्बादी के नारे लगाने वालों को अभी तक मोदी जी ने गिरफ़्तार क्यों नहीं किया? क्योंकि नारे लगाने वाले कश्मीर से हैं और उन्हें गिरफ़्तार करने से कश्मीर में महबूबा मुफ़्ती नाराज़ हो जाएंगी।
हमारे सैनिकों का बॉर्डर पर रोज़ क़त्ल हो रहा है। और मोदी जी जम्मू में अपनी सरकार बनाने के लिए ऐसे देशद्रोही तत्वों को बचा रहे हैं जो देश के टुकड़े करने की बात कर रहे हैं?

Now, this is not about the case. Only Kejriwal ji knows what he did and said in his visits to JNU and related events. I hope media and police and the people involved know better. It is the tone of the message that disturbs me. There is desperation in his message- a desperation of getting noticed and gaining sympathy. Desperation of people should come with him and shed a tear.

Sometimes I really want to be in Delhi and see if Kejriwal has really made some progress in his governance. He is surely making a big progress in his way to become a stupid politician. Taking social media seriously and posting messages which portray a picture that he is being victimised and targeted is just not right. Even Congress, who lost both General Elections and Delhi Elections in humiliating way, has at least maintained this dignity. But Kejri could not. Calling Prime Minister a ‘coward and psychopath’ was the nadir in his hatred driven ‘trying-to-be secular and honest’ attempts. I can talk about him visiting Hyderabad and Dadri and skipping Malda but let us ignore it for time being. 

I don’t have sides in politics. Yes, I do have to believe whatever different news channels are telecasting and then decide which one is the true picture. But certainly, I am not a pro-BJP or an anti-Congress. But today I know I am not going to vote for Arvind Kejriwal or Aam Aadmi Party for a very long, long time. May be there will be some day when he will redeem himself but I sincerely doubt it and I know there is one party I am not going to vote for. I will be like my boss
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Fight Club- An All Time Classic

I first watched Fight Club in 2011 on a train journey from Ajmer to New Delhi. After the journey, I was having severe headache- part from the hospitality of Indian Railways and part from the movie. What the hell did I just see? The way it started and the point where it ended did not make sense to me that time (and I still am not sure whether I have connected the dots now). So, I watched it again. And again.

And I became a fan. Now, if you will ask what the theme of the movie is; I might shrug my shoulders. As I mentioned above, I am still yet to find the head and tail of it. There are high chances I never may find it and I don’t care about it. I watch this movie just for the sheer way it is filmed.

The craving for the movie comes for a very simple reason- the passion of the characters. Brad Pitt’s in-your-face dialogues and antics and Edward Norton’s innocence- they seem to relate. I must tell you here that it took me around 4-5 times to notice the fact that Norton’s character did not have a name. It’s all Tyler Durden, some of Martha and Bob. And they all stayed with me.

Brad Pitt has been a gem in this. His portrayal of Tyler, a I-don’t-give-a-shit character who believes in doing what he thinks is right is superbly executed. The dialogue delivery, body language, facial expressions and have all been right up there. It is hard to see how anyone else can have played this role better. Brad just nailed it. And no wonder that one of the sexiest ladies on the planet is her dear wife.

There are lines in the movie which have hit me hard.

The things you own end up owning you.”

“Tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of Raymond K. Hessel's life. His breakfast will taste better than any meal you and I have ever tasted”

“We’re consumers. We are by-products of a lifestyle obsession…” 

“This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time”

“Warning: If you are reading this then this warning is for you. Every word you read of this useless fine print is another second off your life. Don't you have other things to do? Is your life so empty that you honestly can't think of a better way to spend these moments? Or are you so impressed with authority that you give respect and credence to all that claim it? Do you read everything you're supposed to read? Do you think every thing you're supposed to think? Buy what you're told to want? Get out of your apartment. Meet a member of the opposite sex. Stop the excessive shopping and masturbation. Quit your job. Start a fight. Prove you're alive. If you don't claim your humanity you will become a statistic. You have been warned- Tyler.”

I won’t say that it applies to me but then, there is truthfulness to them which I can’t deny. They are true to the core and may be uncomfortable too, as they try to bring me back to the reality I keep running away from. We are so busy with buying a full HD tv, a king size bed, a decent car and credit cards that we forget that “On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero”.

Fight Club has influenced me a lot. Sometimes, I want to pick up a fight on the road. I want to be a part of a fight club. I want to hit few people- some I hate; others I envy. Some are relatives and office people; some are ‘friends’. I want to get rid of the tendency of what will be the consequences before doing something stupid, foolish, new. Throughout my life, I have put a lot of constraints on myself. I could have done lot of things differently and I regret that. now, I want to simply let it go.

Unfortunately, life is not a movie. And it works in a very different way; a way which is not always pleasant. I’ll admit- if you will look at the big picture, you will say that I should not have too many complaints with my life. But yes, it could have been certainly better. It could have been violent yet rosy like Fight Club. It could have been what Tyler Durden would say- liberated.

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An Open Letter to Arnab Goswami

Let us laugh at Arnab

Dear Arnab,

I want to start this letter with some pleasantries and good will but it is hard to write (or talk) in that way when you know that the person you are addressing is a freaking nincompoop. So, I’ll rephrase it.

Let us start all over again.

*cracked knuckles*

Dear Arnab,

You pretentious prick!!!! (Feels so good to write).

I never had an opinion on you. Or Newshour. In fact, Newshour is neither a news show nor a debate. It is a circus. There are half a dozen, handsomely paid, monkeys sitting around and you, the madari rants for the entire hour. At full volume, your show is good to drown the neighbour’s wailing kids’ voice but debate? Certainly not. The basic premise of debate is to let everyone speak to do a reasoned evaluation. You and your channel only want you to shout. I read somewhere Newshour is more of a Noisehour. It really cracked me up.

But today, this is not about what you do on Newshour. I really don’t give a rat’s ass to that. You love shouting and hooliganism; your channel loves you (I’ll give this to you; it’s still a better love story than Twilight). Today, this is about #ShamedInSydney.

After a superb World Cup performance, winning 7 games on a trot, defeating arch rivals Pakistan and mighty South Africans; Team India lost to Australia (World top ranked side). After a disastrous tour that preceded the World Cup; nobody gave Dhoni and his boys a chance. But they played as a team with everyone performing and lost to one of the best teams in the world. It happens, is not it? One bad match was always around the corner; unfortunately it came on a wrong day. There will be another WC.

Considering how we Indians are, it was not a surprise when I read news about burning effigies of Dhoni and Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma (can you freaking believe this? It is like when you did not achieve your sales target and your boss blames your wife). This is our favourite pastime these days- burning effigies, ransacking shops, breaking buses, throwing shoes and swearing in public; not to forget singing occasional songs about saving the Indian culture. But you might understand. These are mere mortals, sir. I thought maybe they are not that educated to realize that this is not the right way to express your frustration and anger.

But later, your obsession with TRP and hashtags created something that you, probably, have not foreseen. #ShamedInSydney? Who was Shamed in Sydney? You? TimesNow? The nation is sad and low about the loss but we are not ashamed. And you do not make the entire nation. We are proud of the way they played till they met this hurdle. When you invite people to speak in your show, you should have a mind to listen to what they are saying. Atul Waasan and Arbaj Khan were very vocal and against the rubbish you were speaking. They were not agreeing with you. But your bullying inadvertently comes in. It is baffling that after all the hulla gulla and shor sharaba, the verdict on your show is always what you think. Only your opinion counts and as many have told you many a times, this is what you should do with your opinion.

And all the gentlemen alongside you who believe that because India lost by 95 runs, they did not put up a fight; let me ask you this? Who are you to question their professionalism? Were you on the field that day? They did put up a fight. No sportsman when playing for his nation wants to surrender. And India did not surrender. It is just Australia was better that day. Out of 2 teams, only one had to win. It was not India. Just because you did not get to see a match as exciting as South Africa vs New Zealand the other day; you concluded India did not give fight! Arnab, you should join primary school again and learn some basic reasoning.

MS Dhoni took over the reign of this team after what happened in West Indies in 2007 World Cup. He took a team in shambles and made them world champions, winning T20 WC and Champions Trophy on foreign soil. Even after years of criticism and scrutiny where 125 crores Indians are ready to jump on him; he has managed to sail the ship. And you, after one bad match in otherwise terrific campaign, question his fighting attitude. What a farce! If India would have been ousted in the group stage, I am pretty sure you would have ripped his clothes and personally stoned his house. Lucky MSD!

Your hashtag obsession has certainly come to haunt you, is not it? People might not take too much interest in politics, corporate espionage and scam related debates on your show. But cricket binds this nation. You probably did not realize it or just forgot it and created #ShamedInSydney. And within half an hour, there were more tweets with #ShameOnTimesNow for your very childish rant on Indian team’s performance. That is a very fitting reply to your nuisances. Heard that you have taken down all tweets with #ShamedInSydney. You spit and then you......

I tried to search you on Twitter. I figured that being such a popular figure and influential personality, you must be active on social media. I wanted to talk to you there. Turns out you are not using it. Are not you gutsy enough Arnab? Do you fear people will bash you like you do to the guests on your show? Or you just want to be the king of your own den?

I want to write so much more. I want to talk to you. Face to face. I want to raise this question again with you right across me- did India put up a fight that day? And the moment you start ranting, I want to laugh at you. I may roll on the floor. Although it is good enough for me that majority of the nation is laughing at you and your channel but doing it personally would be so fun.

I will close here. Before that, I will say one thing- you are not a journalist, Arnab. You are no good than the very Hindi channels you blast on being biased or polarised. You are one of them. You are the cream of deluded TV news presenters who think that just speaking from the teleprompter or even spontaneously make you a journalist; you are at the top of this fake journalism pyramid. You are a hypocrite.

I don’t know if you have a child, Arnab. If you do, try answering this question when he or she asks that what you said on Newshour was true. Did you really mean it or it was because you had to; it is your job that asks for it? Whatever your answer is, you certainly won’t come out a winner.



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Society- Why So Serious?

Ever heard of Hindu Mahasabha before they announced that they are gearing up for couples’ Valentine’s Day celebrations and would get them married forcibly? Probably not. Actually these people are so busy in saving and preserving the Indian tradition that they prefer to keep a low profile. Such low profile that even when brutal gang rapes are happening, they keep mum. Rape ho jaate hai, ladkon se galti ho jaati hai. Ladki chote kapde pehenti hai. Indian culture toh theek hai na.

Out of nowhere, the group has now awakened to cater to the society’s needs. They are very vociferous about their intentions. And they are not afraid of anyone. In their work manual, 14th Feb is just another day and young boys and girls should not go out that. And those going out should invariably get married; even before they can find out whether they are the right match for each other or not. Later divorces will do, public humiliation is normal but marriage is a must. Moral police is out again after sparing couple of years. Last time, Bajrang Dal was the saviour.

Speaking of Bajrang Dal, they have taken a year off. When I read about their plans for hooliganism this V-day, the answer astonished me. The group has some internal function on 15th Feb and they are concentrating on it. They don’t have time to see what is happening on the dreaded February the 14th. Jab time milega, tab bhartiya sanskriti par dhyaan dekhenge. Abhi ye busy hai.

Another moral police group stood out when Brahman Ekta Samaaj Sanstha, out of nowhere, filed an FIR against All India Bakchod (AIB). AIB performed a comedy show featuring A-list Bollywood stars. It got in a soup because of highly expletive language used in the show. The group’s argument is that they are misleading the youth and setting a bad example is justified to some, not to many. It is a matter of personal opinion. You will admit it; the show was a lot grosser than what everybody was expecting. But then, when the people who are made fun of are OK with it and laughing with all of us on themselves (takes a hell lot of guts to do that); society, why so serious?

For some time, I forgot about moral policing. It seemed to me they came, tried to create some ruckus and when they did not get enough footage, they left. Unfortunately, they have not. And now, the issues with which they are dealing with are more sensitive and have far reaching repercussions. At a time when there is a positivity in the nation with a new and progressive PM taking charge, these FIRs and self made laws and rules are exactly the things we do not need. And do not need to pay heed to.

This valentine day will come and pass. To keep their words, Hindu Mahasabha will try to create chaos and show the media that they are serious. A couple of years later or in next Lok Sabha elections, their leader will be contesting election with promises to make his constituency next to God’s abode. And in his election rally, some 20 year old kid will look at the candidate, see the career path he has taken to reach and wonder if he should do the same instead of studies. It sure looks easy and effective option to him.

Bas yahi darr hai....
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Chetan Bhagat- The Rise and The Fall

My first encounter with Chetan Bhagat’s writings was in mid 2006 when I accidentally found “One Night @ The Call Centre” in one of my friend’s room. At that time, I did not know who Chetan Bhagat was, his illustrative IIT & IIM background and the fact that this was his second book. I picked it, went through acknowledgments and finished the book in 5 hours. Next day, I parted away with 100 bucks from my meagre pocket money and bought “Five Point Someone” and was done with it in few hours.

As per the introduction, Chetan left his high paying investment banking job in Hong Kong and took his first love as his bread and butter- writing. For me, as a 19 year old college student, this was as fascinating as it could have got. You always look for inspiration and idols around you; something that will kick start you. Chetan, if not an idol, was certainly an inspiration. Not that I wanted to write and be a writer but it was more about to be an endeavour for not becoming a typecast.

Moreover, the intro also said that he wants to change the youth of India and to get the best out of them. His writings were to change the people who read it; to rethink what they have been doing and can they make it better? He wanted to inspire the young ones. As I mentioned above, I was certainly hooked to his books. They had nothing fancy in them but addressed the young readers in a way they felt associated. I still recall that I was a bit angry at many things after “One Night @ The Call Centre”. Agreed that the God in that book was superlative fiction but I believe that much of a liberty can be given to a writer.

His books started a trend and every college kid wanted to get published. In my 4 years of college, commuting from Dehradun to Meerut and vice versa; I read about 50 of these books. Not that I liked them but at that time, that was what I could have afforded to kill time in a bus. All by college students and passouts, ex engineers and MBAs, trying to write what they thought was a bestseller. 1 out of 10 was OK, some were manageable. And majority was too bad that I cursed myself for buying them. I very clearly remember I read a book “20 & Still Virgin”. The book had grammatical and spelling errors and I won’t even talk about the premise of the book. Such crap.

The point here is- Chetan had started what he wanted. He was making teens think, to come up with what they think. Many chose books; some debates. Chetan Bhagat was, in his own little way, starting to change India. His books were selling like hot cakes. Although his reputation did take a hit with “Three Mistakes of My Life”; he more than made up for it with “2 States” (for me, his best book till date; humour and satire in ample dose). His books were now coming as 70mm cinema. Sharman Joshi starrer “Hello” started it and although Amir Khan and Rajkumar Hirani will never admit it, “3 Idiots” was loosely based on “Five Point Someone”. The filmmakers never gave this credit to Chetan but the audience accepted (or assumed) it. Life was good for him. What can go wrong?

Well, many things. It is little hard to believe that an intellectual being like Mr Bhagat could make bad decisions and that too when he has done almost everything right. His next book “Revolution 2020” was a strange one. To be honest, I don’t remember what was exactly in it. What revolution the author was talking about- if you find out, be kind enough to let me know. The book looked more of a rip-off from some old Bollywood drama.

That was year 2011. In between, he turned into a screenplay writer and watched his “Three Mistakes” and “2 States” as “Kai Po Che” and “2 States” respectively. Being a huge fan of the book, the movie was such a disaster that I suddenly disliked the big screen. What was a pleasure to read was a pain to watch. And to top it up, I bought the tickets in black. What a waste.

Year 2014 just shooed away whatever good I thought about him for two reasons. He co-authored the screenplay of Kick. Now, writing screenplay for your book is very OK but to write for a Bollywood movie which had no brains in it is a very different thing. What are the odds that if movies like Kick, Ready, Ek The Tiger etc would have been 5 years back, he would have been criticising them in his TOI columns for being such a nonsense and that they are telling nothing useful to his ‘young Indians’? Fast forward to 2014 and he writes one of those senseless script, movie is a 200 crores grosser and he goes home with a fat pay check.

Second reason- when I read his latest release “Half Girlfriend”. The moment I finished it I knew this would also be turned into a movie. The truth is that the book is written in such a way they he knew it would soon be turned into a movie; he wanted this book too on the big screen. Unlike other books of his; this book has so many coincidences which our Bollywood will perfectly digest and there won’t be any need to make changes. In earlier movies, screenplay is not as exact as the book. They have removed/ changed a lot of things to make it commercially viable. Half Girlfriend is a perfect recipe for a movie. And as I have read, Ekta Kapoor has already bought rights to create a motion picture on the already half baked Bollywood screenplay. Talk about creativity.

In 4 years, Chetan Bhagat became something from nothing with his honest but straight forward and captivating writing. Next 4 years, after establishing himself and making his name, he wrote Half Girlfriend and Kick, both of which he probably would not have written and seen in his college days because of the crap they serve.

The great irony. The great circle.
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Come on India--Let's Football

India’s population- 125 crores. FIFA World rank- 158
Iceland population- 300,000. FIFA World Rank- 34

Yes, that is the difference between the quality of the game in two countries. Our country does not have 11 players who can compete at World Stage. Iceland (and many other African and Caribbean countries) is a force to reckon with, if not the strongest. And this, one of the sparsely populated European countries, almost made it to World Cup finals this year in Brazil, ousted only in the playoffs. African countries have regularly featured in World Cup.

Without going any further, it will be safe to assume that the fault does not lie in the quality of the young players India is producing. The problem lies in the structure. If won’t be an exaggeration to say that the basic facilities for football in India is around zero. The infrastructure lacks; the system is flawed.

You always wonder why so much is wrong with India's football structure? And more importantly, why we do keep shunning this glaring problem? For the record, India has never played in a football world cup. With 120 crore people, we haven't had a solitary appearance in so many editions of the world’s most watched event.

So when Indian Super League came to India, I was excited for many reasons. It is pretty obvious that this event is trying to cash on the success of IPL style franchisee owned city based tournament. And now that IPL has concluded 7 seven hugely successful seasons, ISL has a model to look at to work on its pluses and avoid the mistakes- both on field and off field. Indian premier league has been a huge hit in the country and apart from its commercial value, it has worked as a platform for young players to come forward and show the world what they have got. And mind you, it is not only Indian players but also the foreign players. Shane Watson, who almost lost his international career before he was awarded the Most Valuable Player in the first edition of IPL, will testify for this. ISL plans to do the same to football in India and the football fans here wants nothing else.

To be fair to the organizers, it has been a good start. The first game in Kolkata between Kolkata and Mumbai had a good crowd. Also, the presence of stars and renowned celebrities always feels good. There is lot of brand value associated with the tournament. Ranbir Kapoor, John Abraham, Hrithik Roshan, Abhishek Bachchan have stake in the teams. Also, Saurav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli had taken part in this. And then one or two marquee players whom the fans all around the world celebrate in each of the eight teams have been a big, big crowd puller. If you would have asked me whether you expect to see Alessandro Del Piero or Robert Pires or Nicolas Anelka playing in India in the twilight of their career; I would have bet anything against it. But today they are here, playing in front of Delhi and Kolkata crowds. I bet they will love this Indian affection as much as we want to see them here. And I will say again, this has been a perfect start. Big names who have bought teams, corporate houses involved- everything is perfect. If this extravaganza ends as enthusiastically as it has started; the Indian football can be on the verge of something very big.

But then, there is a big IF here. Everything new has some risk associated with it. ISL is not immune to it. Agreed, there is lot of money involved in this and they are serious about it but then, it is not just about the stars. The success depends on how the players perform on the pitch. That is the only success parameter. The teams have to look beyond the commercial deals, sponsors and moolah coming in. They have to get coaching staff, physios, scouts and act like a proper football club rather than a franchisee which is just interested for the 3 months they play. If they do not get the things on the field right, then in due course; their investments won’t fetch those returns which they are expecting and considering the start that looks probable in 4-5 years of time.

Having said that, I have pinned my hopes on this annual tournament to see football’s rise in India. As a fan, I should not be that concerned with how much money the respective people mentioned above are making with this. I am already indebted to them for starting ISL, for giving the fans of this game in India something to look forward to. The first step is always the hardest and that has been done and got over with. I wish them all the best for number of years to come.

To end, I will say that the initial response to this league has been good. Fans and media have been talking about it on the social media in a positive tone. There is a huge interest that has generated and the same is expected to last till December. And I personally believe if this doesn't take off India’s football, then probably and sadly, nothing will. And if this kick starts, hopefully in next 10 years, we will hear the Indian national anthem one day in a World Cup Finals match and feel the goose bumps. And may be, some will cry.

Nothing betters that.


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