March 31, 2005

Dance Bars in Maharashtra.

Government of Maharashtra decided to shut down all the dance bars in the state except in Mumbai. The reason given is that they "ruptured the cultural fabric of the State and the Government had lacked the wherewithal to enforce rules that governed them."

This is a highly disturbing act for numerous reasons. Firstly, the government appointing itself as a guardian of the cultural fabric is a dangerous trend. No one can presume to be the cultural beacon in a society and force their vision on others. Every person has his own views. Personally, I do not think much of dance bars and in my view, they are recreation only for people of a very superficial personality. But that is no reason for me to force others not to go to dance bars. Essence of a civilized society is the preservation of individual freedom. The state has absolutely no business telling people how to conduct their lives as far as there is no threat to individual freedom. So if people want to go to dance bars and indulge in whatever activities that are prevalent there, government has no right to stop them - as long as these activities do not lead to criminality.

Here comes the second disturbing aspect. The foremost responsibility of a Government is to make sure that the various systems in the society do not degenerate into disorder and criminality. Every other function of the government must necessarily be of secondary importance. Things have come to a pretty pass when the Government says that we lack the wherewithal to enforce some governing rules, so we will just close the whole thing down and not bother. This is the most depraved thing a government can say. They might as well say tomorrow that we do not have the wherewithal to stop the corruption in government offices, so we will close down all of them, or we do not have the wherewithal to deal with aftermath of earthquakes, train accidents, so we ban constructing high rise buildings, or traveling in trains, or we do not have the wherewithal to deal with the corruption among politicians, so we will just pass a law that legalizes anything that politicians do.

There is a significant difference between ideological/cultural issues and issues immediately threatening the individual rights of citizens. There might possibly exist (though I doubt it) a logical proof that a certain ideological or cultural trend will lead to criminality in future, but a state should not concern itself with ending all ideological roots of disorder. That simply is not the purpose or the intention of a government. This should be the work of intellectuals through education, where there is ample scope for debate, freedom of opinion and freedom of disagreement. Government enters the picture only when things degenerate into disorder. Banning dance bars is equivalent to banning certain political or cultural ideologies, and it is a very immoral act.

March 29, 2005

All's right with the world!

The year's at the spring,
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hill-side's dew-pearled;
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn;
God's in his Heaven --
All's right with the world

--Robert Browning.

March 28, 2005

India - Pakistan.

The embarrassing capitulation of India on the final day of the third test will be the lasting image of this Test series in the hearts of the fans - both Indian and Pakistani.

For Indians, it will signify the whole Test series and indeed the fortunes of the team in the last one year. After the victory in Pakistan (in both ODI and Test series) a year ago, Indians were deservedly proud and everyone looked forward for higher things. But it has been a steady decline after that (a series defeat at home to Australia, lackluster victory over South Africa at home and expected victory over Bangladesh, and a string of very disappointing results in ODI). In this series it self, we started with much expectations and as the definite favorites. As such, the 1-1 result is very disappointing. And the fact that we lost with only seven overs left makes the disaster more telling, as one can not help wondering how close we were to saving the match in spite of our very inept batting. Some indication of that inaptitude is given by the following:

Our fearsome four in the middle order scored 39 runs in 205 balls lasting 261 minutes. Then our last five scored 54 runs in 163 balls lasting 225 minutes.

If our middle order had managed to play for another 42 balls between them, we would have saved this match. But they did not. There is no plausible excuse for this. It is just that we did not apply ourselves well when needed. Some soul-searching is indicated before we embark on our next series (Sri Lanka in India in April).

For Pakistan, this surely is a very gratifying result. They came into the series with nothing to lose. Their record in the past 12 months had been nothing to inspire confidence, and the 3-0 drubbing they received in Australia was still fresh in the memory. Indeed, Pakistan were the decided underdog. But they performed credibly for most of the series and topped it nicely with a series-leveling victory in the third test. Sure, they were helped by the lack of killing instinct and lack of determination on the part of Indians, but their performances on the last days of the first and the third tests deserve praise. And in the last test, they made things happen by their batting prowess. In the first innings, they batted beautifully with Younis Khan and Inzamam playing with Indian bowlers. And in the second innings, they scored 261/2 decl in 50 overs. On a fourth day pitch this was remarkable and makes the Indian performance on the fifth day all the more appalling.

On the whole Pakistan came out of the series on a bright note - with much to be done still, but at least showing that they can go back to their glory days of old. Indians, on the other hand, come out of the series, kicking themselves for not showing enough zeal and purpose in the closing moments and for that reason throwing away all the good work done earlier. And they have to address this problem in future.

March 25, 2005

Corporate America.

Here is a nice article giving some idea of the power structure at the top end of American firms and that addresses the illusion of effciency thereof. And here is another article that explains the nomenclature of Corporate America.

March 22, 2005


Today I watched a wonderful documentary called Spellbound. It is about National Spelling Bee, a nation-wide spelling competition
in the US for children below the eighth grade. Initially, there are
local competitions all over the country and about 250 children
will be selected to go to Washington DC and compete for the
national championship.

In the documentary, they follow the stories of eight kids who took part in the National Bee in 1999. It starts with their preparation for the local bees and is very well paced with comments from the kids, their parents, siblings, friends and teachers. Each of the eight students is dealt separately and this takes about 50 minutes. These are a very diverse set of families. The beauty of this documentary is that the audience is made keenly aware of the passion and hard work involved and how deeply the parents, teachers and the kids themselves feel about this whole thing. Many of the kids have parents of humble origins and common place lives. Their pride in their child's abilities and how much it means to them are very touchingly portrayed. One mother says, while looking at some words her daughter had mastered, "I do not know many of these words, which is rather makes me want to go back to school". Kids too seem very matured, intelligent and make very rational assessments about various things.

Last forty minutes or so actually depict the two-day national bee in Washington. And all the tension, intensity and suspense are brought out very beautifully. We are taken through the successive rounds very efficiently and more and more children are eliminated. Some of our eight protagonsits are also eliminated at various stages. When that happens, the reactions of the parents and the kids are very interesting. All the kids are most rational and take things in good spirit. Some of their reactions are funny too. Finally one of our protagonists wins.

This documentary made a very good impression on me. The spirit and the exuberance of children is so beautiful and it is very forcefully conveyed. The actual medium of a spelling competition itself is not that important, but it is a very interesting subject. Definitely, this is a must-see for anyone interested in such things.

March 20, 2005


I came to Boston this morning after a 36 hour journey in Greyhound. It was a good experience. More about the journey later on, hopefully. I have been to various parts of the US and I must say I am most impressed with the east coast. Boston and New York are wonderful cities. Hopefully this trip will consisit of a visit to New York also. We are planning to go there later this week.

This is my second trip to Boston. I was here last spring break too. Tejsawi is missing this time, but there are Raghav and Anandam. It was nice meeting Baskar, Amit and Himadri after one year. We went to lunch and then walked along the river. We all had a very engaging and somewhat acrimonious, but perfectly good natured, discussion on wide-ranging issues like socialism, globalization, political freedom and Grothendieck in a coffee house called Algiers. It was a very enjoyable debate. We must have given them a headache by the loudness of our debate, but hopefully we redeemed ourselves somewhat by giving a 50% tip. From there we had another long walk along Massachusetts Ave and continued our discussion. Then we spent sometime in Rodney's Used Book Store. We came home, made some food (parathas and chola), ate and then had more interesting chats, this time on math (particularly algebraic groups). Then we played TransAmerica for little bit. Finally I watched the movie Rain Coat, which impressed me in a certain way.

On the whole a very enjoyable day. Now I must really sleep as my eyes are barely able to remain open. More in the days to come.

India seem to be on the verge of winning. 3 more wickets in 38 overs. Hopefully they will have no problem in completing the job successfully this time.

March 16, 2005

Sachin Tendulkar.

Sachin Tendulkar reached a major milestone today when he completed 10,000 runs in Test cricket. He is only the fifth player to do so, and reached the figure in the fewest number of innings - 195. Brian Lara also took 195 innings to reach the milestone. But Tendulkar has an astounding average of 57.80, which is comfortably more than Brian Lara's 52.91, who is second in averages among the five. Here is a good account of all the numbers involved, and here is a list of top 50 run-getters in Test cricket. Notice that Sachin has the highest average among the top 22 players, and only three players in all of the list - Bradman (99.94), Barrington (58.67) and Hammond (58.45) - have more average than him. He has a substantially more average than most of the contemporary players - only Dravid (57.46), Ponting (55.78) and Kallis (55.56) have averages close to his. These figures and more staggering numbers in the One-Day format suggest for sure that he is among the greatest batsmen of all time. And considering that he is still 32 and has a good chance of playing for four more years, one can only guess where he will end up.

In some sense, these numbers define Sachin Tendulkar's career. People always ask whether statistics truly reflect a player's quality. There can not be any definitive answer to this question. One can not claim that statistics are everything, on the other hand it is also foolish to say that they do not mean anything. In Tendulkar's case, the evidence from the records is too overwhelming. He is truly THE most prolific run-getter of all time. And that purely means that in the art of batting, as it consists the task of making runs, Tendulkar has few equals. But there is lot more to Tendulkar than what his records suggest.

Let us deal first with what has become a very common criticism of Tendulkar - that many of his runs have not resulted in Indian victories. The following is a brief account of facts:

To date Sachin Tendulkar has scored 34 Test centuries, and 11 of them (32.35%) have been in matches that India went on to win. Eight of them came in matches that India lost, and 15 in draws. That percentage puts him a fair way down the list of players with ten or more Test centuries – Adam Gilchrist is on top there, as 11 of his 13 centuries (84.62%) have come in matches that Australia went on to win. Australians dominate the top of this list – Damien Martyn is second, with nine of his 11 Test tons so far leading to wins (81.82%), and Don Bradman is third. He scored hundreds in 28 Tests, and Australia won 22 of them (78.57%). Then come Michael Slater, Matthew Hayden, Steve Waugh and Mark Waugh, before the first non-Aussie – Inzamam-ul-Haq, who has scored centuries in 20 Tests, of which Pakistan have won 15 (75%). Warwick Armstrong scored centuries in six matches, and Australia won the lot – he's one clear of yet another Aussie, Darren Lehmann, there (centuries in five Tests, five wins). At the other end of the scale Bevan Congdon of New Zealand and India's Vijay Manjrekar both made centuries in seven Tests, but didn't finish up on the winning side in any of them. Jimmy Sinclair of South Africa uniquely scored three Test centuries in his career, and ended on the losing side each time.

It is foolhardy and logically incorrect to take this to mean that Sachin Tendulkar scores mostly when there is not much pressure, or that he has not helped India to win often. A careful reading of the above reveals that the top seven with most victories when they scored 100s are Australians. Cricket is a team game and all too often Indian team rose or fell with Tendulkar. An undeniable fact is that in 90s, except for stupendous successes at home, often thanks to Sachin,
India had been a struggling team and any spark that was shown by the team had been mainly due to Tendulkar.

In March 1998, in Chennai, Australia were 71 ahead of India on first innings, and as Tendulkar explained then: "They had a lead and I said this will be the innings of a player's life. Because 75-plus by any player would be a big score in the second innings and would help us win the game."

In a quiet moment, the Indian coach, Anshuman Gaekwad, corralled Tendulkar and told him, "I want you to score." Tendulkar, who was still only 24, replied: "I will get it for you, don't worry." He scored 155 and India won the Test.

For a major part of his career, there was no consistent performer to effectively complement his efforts.

Still, if we are intent on nailing Tendulkar, then we must crucify his team as well. If he has failed us, they have failed him, specifically in their willingness to turn an ensemble piece into a one-man show. Perhaps we should acknowledge too that our own expectations distort the picture. To indict him for getting out for 136 against Pakistan is to disregard the fact that the rest of the team contributed 86 runs between them, and 52 of those came from Nayan Mongia. Similarly, if we are quick to remember Tendulkar's cheap dismissal in Barbados in the second innings, we are quicker to forget that, in a low-scoring match, he had already made a valiant 92.

Only in the last five years or so, Indian team is coming to perform collectively and there is much less dependence on Tendulkar. It is totally unfair to belittle Tendulkar's legacy because we have not won too many matches during the peak of his career.

Tendulkar's legacy goes beyond his staggering record in the fact that he captured a nation's imagination. Ever since he stepped out to play for India, and courageously and with extra-ordinary skill stood up to the feared bowlers of Pakistan, the Indian nation had been obsessed with him. He was one truly great star who gave the adoring public something to look up to and feel proud. And the amazing achievement of Sachin is that he remained wonderfully down to earth through all this. This and this are very good articles, both written a while ago, which go into this phenomenon.

That is what Sachin Tendulkar means to Indian cricket. For the people who grew up watching him bat - me being one such - he was the center of universe. He defined my whole existence till the age I moved on with life, as everyone does. For millions of cricket fans, Sachin was not just another cricketer. He gave them immense happiness with his exquisite straight drive, he made them bitterly sad when he got out. And he did all this purely through his amazing skill and impeccable temperament. There was nothing Tendulkar could offer to Indians other than his super-human batting prowess, his indefatigable hardwork and discipline and a most heartwarming humility.

March 15, 2005

To an unknown person.

The fountains mingle with the river
And the rivers with the ocean,
The winds of heaven mix for ever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single,
All things by a law divine
In one another's being mingle
Why not I with thine?

See the mountains kiss high heaven,
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister-flower would be forgiven
If it disdain'd its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth,
And the moonbeams kiss the sea
What are all these kissings worth,
If thou kiss not me

-Percy Bysshe Shelly

March 14, 2005

Globalization and the democracy in the Middle East.

It was interesting reading the article New Signs on the Arab Street by Thomas Friedman in New York Times on Sunday, March 13. His basic contention is that promoting free market policies in Arab countries and signing free trade agreements with more Arab countries is the key to transforming the Middle East into a democratic and progressive region. He equates a liberal society which respects individual freedom, freedom of press, freedom of political activity with a society which embraces open economy and export-oriented private sectors:

It [democracy] will arise only if these countries develop, among other things, export-oriented private sectors, which can be the foundation for a vibrant middle class that is not dependent upon the state for contracts and has a vital interest in an open economy, a free press and its own political parties .... that is why, beyond Iraq, America's priorities should be to sign a free-trade agreement with Egypt ....

Now it is interesting too to recall what Mr Friedman wrote a few years ago on the issue of globalization:

For globalism to work, America can't be afraid to act like the almighty superpower that it is....The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist -- McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies is called the United States Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

Thomas Friedman, What the World Needs Now, New York Times, March 28, 1999. Quoted from Backing Up Globalization with Military Might

This is not just a moral sanction of American hegemony in the world - it is an outrageous proclamation of the necessity of it. Mr Friedman says For Globalism to work - work for whom? This is the core issue in globalization and its attempts at making the whole world into one big free trade zone.

It is a noble intention to desire that the various countries interact freely among themselves to share their respective resources and work on the general betterment of their peoples. But as with any idealistic desire, one needs to be very careful whether what is portrayed in the popular culture (i.e media) is the actual truth. In other words, is the free trade and globalization, as practiced today, at the behest of WTO (read, the West), the real way to implement the above mentioned idealistic program?

One just needs to do understand what is happening in the name of various free trade agreements, such as NAFTA. These are being used by major corporations to get hold of cheap labor in many poor countries, without the necessity of any responsibilities such as minimum wages, health insurance to the workers, environmental issues, to name a few. The free trade agreements have come to serve the purposes of the industrial class in the West and its fast growing brother in the developing world. And the notion that the well being of the industrial class, as a matter of course, results in the general improvement in the society is at best reckless optimism.

Mr Friedman says that this leads to a vibrant middle class and that paves the way for a successful democracy. While this is far from being self-evident, I just want to mention that this pre-occupation with middle class has become fashionable these days and the concern with the poor and questions of hunger have decidedly gone out of fashion. It is a fact that more than 20,000 people die every day because they are too poor to stay alive. And a majority of human beings live their lives in a constant struggle for livelihood. So there is still some time before we can get genuinely excited about the middle class, whatever that means.

So Mr Friedman's vision of the problems in the Middle East through the economic prism and his recipe for democracy there do not seem convincing. The lack of democracy in the Middle East is the result of hundreds of years of autocratic and authoritarian regimes (some of them actively groomed by the West) and the resulting destruction of any liberal institutions. Another major cause for genuine resentment among Arabs is the state of Palestinian people. These are the major causes for unrest in the Middle East, and the West, with its own vested interests, had a role to play in both issues. The economic reasons have nothing to do with the present chaos. Unless an intellectual and cultural change takes place, the liberal institutions can not thrive, and the West has no active role to play in this. It has to come from the within. As for the issue of Israel-Palestine conflict, the West can play a constructive role in its resolution. But given the various hidden agendas, that seems unlikely.

March 13, 2005

Last Day.

It must be admitted - Pakistan played really well to save this match. There is no doubt about that. But it is also true that Indians could not rise to the occasion and finish the good work. Kamran Akmal played a truly responsible innings and saved the match for his team. Pakistan scored important psychological points by giving India trouble with last two wickets also and actually declaring with 9 wickets down.

Pakistan came back strongly in this match and evened out much of the Indian domination. They must be looking forward eagerly for the next match. Indians, on the other hand, should not worry too much about the last day and come out more positive and determined in the second test.

March 11, 2005

Fourth Day.

Indians are in a very good position to win this match now. We did decently well in the morning getting to 516. Balaji played a good cameo. Then we picked up important three wickets very early. Then Injamam, Youhana played very well. It was important that they had that innings, otherwise Indians would have wrapped up things very quickly. Kumble got the crucial breakthroughs to get us back in the game. Now we should get them quickly tomorrow and complete the good work. One just hopes that it does not rain.

March 10, 2005

Third day.

On the whole we are in a good position, but it could have been much better. Till lunch we played very well because we were positive and natural. After lunch for some reason, may be good bowling, we were bogged down and that lead to some important dismissals. Sehwag's wicket was crucial, though he did more than his share. At the end of the day, we still have a very good chance to win this match.

It was very unfortunate that Sachin Tendulkar could not complete the century and surpass Gavaskar. It will come one of these days, but it is always sad to miss out on a century when you are so close. It has become fashionable these days to say that Sachin Tendulkar's days are over. While it may be the case that his best is behind him, he has much to offer still. Yesterday, he showed that he is on top of his game still - till he reached 50. Then he went into ultra-defensive mode which lead to his eventual dismissal. Often, that has proved to be his downfall. But he showed that the old skill and sharpness are very much there. He might never reach his best again, but it has to be remembered that his best was something legendary. He is derided these days purely because he is not able to reproduce those legendary feats. But age is taking its toll and he is facing some unfortunate injury problems. So it is unfair to judge him by the standards
he set in 90s which was his golden era. Sachin Tendulkar is still very much a force to reckon with and has much more to offer to Indian cricket.

Indian Politics.

Reading about the recent developments in Bihar arising out of the Assembly elections, one wonders how much people take for granted the mountain of corruption and immorality that is present in the politics of our country.

To briefly recall what happened in the election, the following was the final tally:
Total: 243
BJP + : 92
RJD + : 79
LJP: 29
Congress: 10
Others: 33.

With the support of Congress, RJD had 89. Now one needed 122 seats to have a simple majority in the assembly. It was soon clear that Ram Vilas Paswan's LJP held the key to government formation. And to have some kind of stability, one needed the support of some of the independents and others .

The intense and vigorous process of putting together an alliance began soon. It is true that in a democracy, a political party that does well in an election is to be credited with having that much
level of popular support. And as such, Paswan's performance was commendable and it was undeniable that he had made a mark. It is not true, however, that in a democracy there is no place for principles. When a political party X wins certain number of seats in an election campaigning on a certain plank, after the election they can not just come together with another party Y (which was its rival few days ago) purely because Y did well and hence was accepted by people. It has to be remembered that the acceptance of people is not a concept in void, and is related to real issues. So X and Y must understand that they got the votes they got because of the particular stance they took on various issues. Taking a pragmatic view, one can admit that the alliance between X and Y is imperative in the interests of stability. But there is no reason for moral glorification on the part of X and Y in the name of bowing to the will of the people.

It was most depressing to observe the developments after the election. Everyone involved was trying to forge together an alliance with utter disregard for principles and political morality. And they were taking the moral highground in the name of public will. And this unscrupulous spectacle was there for everybody to see. It was abundantly clear that the issues of priciple and political morality were the last things on people's minds. The crisis of Indian politics is the absolute acceptance and irresponsible indifference on the part of common man toward this lack of political integrity. And its tragedy is the lack of any silver lining. One does not foresee any significant change in the near future.

I was stuck by the totally uncritical reporting that appeared in the media in the past few days, at least in what I read. They reported the facts without offering any intellectual criticism. Someone in the mainstream media needs to discuss the important issues and go behind the facade to the real reasons. For instance, this article by Rajdeep Sardesai was brilliant for the depth of its political analysis and I enjoyed reading it. But it takes for granted the prevalent political situation, and fails to question its premises.

One hopes against hope that there will be better days ahead.

March 9, 2005

Nice Article.

This is a very good article by Rajdeep Sardesai on the political (ir)relevance of India-Pakistan series.

Second day.

It was disappointing that almost two sessions were lost today due
to rain. But Indians made most of the time they had - scoring 184/1
in 40 overs is a very good start. Sehwag was majestic. He had twolives, but that seems to be an integral part of his batting now. He is
more than happy to try his luck, and he is coming on top more often
than not. One hopes that he goes on to make a big score tomorrow.
Gambhir was solid. He could have gone on but for that rush of emotion. Dravid was reassuring as always. India needs him to be in good form to take an upper hand in this series and he made a good start. Pakistan was lackluster, and except for Danish Kaneria no one impressed. And their fielding left lot to be desired. They will have to improve significantly to put up a fight in this match. With Pakistan though nothing can be predicted. For all we know, they can turn out tomorrow and play like champions. We shall see.

March 8, 2005

First day.

On the whole I think the honors were even, with India having a slight
edge. They can take control of the match by batting well tomorrow.
And one expects the pitch to play better. But I think Pakistan did
reasonably well to get to 312. Considering that they were 191/6, they
did well to reach 312. Asif Kamal played a very gritty innings. Indians
were of course very disciplined and stuck to a game plan.
Balaji bowled very well. We should have cleaned up their innings much
earlier, but apart from that it was a nice performance. Now everything depends on the Indian batsmen. They can take the match away from Pakistan if they apply themselves well.

March 7, 2005

India - Pakistan

Some good articles about the match:

India - Pakistan

Tonight the first test bewtween India and Pakistan is
beginning in Mohali. As has been suggested earlier, this
is one of the most talked about rivalries in all of sport,
definitely in cricket anyway. And as such this series
would be keenly watched. Pakistan is on a full tour of
India after 6 years and so this series assumes added
importance. After comprehensive victory of India in
Pakistan last year in both Test and One-day series,
Pakistan will be looking for revenge. Both teams enter
the series searching for form. Indians are playing after
an unusually long break and Pakistan are just coming
from a drubbing in Australia. All in all, a great series to
look forward to.

Sachin Tendulkar needs just 121 more runs for 10,000
and just one more hundred for surpassing Gavaskar's
34 centuries.


I am Krishna, presently doing my Ph.D in mathematics. As
I endeavor to keep in touch with the world and subsume
more wisdom, my mind has become a recluse of a variety
of thoughts. The intention of this weblog is firstly, to give
some level of coherence to my thoughts and secondly, to
share my thoughts with interested people.

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