Friday, May 30, 2008

The Heady Cocktail called IPL

Sixes galore, Sexy sirens oozing oomph, legends licking their wounds, rookies ruling the roost, celebrities hogging the cameras, corporate honchos cheering or sneering their teams, last ball defeats, one run margin victories, celebration kisses, frustration slaps, the glitz and the glamour have all made the first Indian Premier League tournament a heady cocktail. And everybody’s head turned.
IPL is not just cricket. It is much more than that. It is multi-billion dollar business doused with showbiz glamour and publicity. It has seeped into everything and it is everywhere. Newspapers write reams about it, TV commercials eulogize each team with song and dance, T-shirts, caps, mascots, fireworks and what not. Everyone is gripped by the massive fever of it.
Is it good for cricket. A tough question to answer but it has done a whale of good for cricketers. With one shot and with just one tournament every player has become a millionaire. With hitherto unknown names like Rohit Sharma, Venugopal, Amit Mishra, Sangwan, have overnight become heroes.
As for cricket is concerned, the game has been evolving over the years. From only leisurely 5-day test matches to 60 overs one days to 50 overs day night matches to Twenty20. All forms of game survived and prospering without any threat from one form of game to another. And the composition of international cricketers into different teams in IPL too is not new. It has happened 3 decades back thanks to Kerry Packer. Frustrated by the refusal of the establishment to allow his TV stations to have a slice of the cricket pie, media magnate Kerry Packer surreptitiously signed dozens of the world's leading players. The ICC and national boards spluttered and tried to ban players, but in the end were forced to cave in to Packer, whose deep pockets and slick marketing methods left them looking like past age dinosaurs. The legacy of World Series Cricket is felt to this day and as a result of the two-season venture, cricket was changed irreversibly.
Lalit Modi’s brain child, the IPL too is making the national cricket boards of different countries splutter. Lured by the big money, players are putting enormous pressure on their respective boards to influence ICC to draw up international cricket schedule keeping in view the dates of IPL. That is the power of money.
What has the common cricket fan has in all this. For an average Indian who wants to enjoy his evening with as much low cost as possible, the IPL has come as a boon. It is double edged with live entertainment of cheer leaders, cameras zooming on to the glitterati combined with cricket. Cricket in fact is a side-kick here. If IPL is glitzy why not add more glitter and glamour to it?
Three Cheers to IPL.

Monday, May 12, 2008

One Man's Vision- Life to Many

It was 3 am sometime last year. I was waiting for my cousin at the Begumpet airport. The ambulance of the EMRI with lights flashing came in. Two young medical attendants stepped out. As the curious crowd looked on, they pulled out a stretcher and walked a few yards. An old woman with ragged clothes and unkempt hair was lying on the floor semi-conscious. She had no possessions with her except for a stained German silver plate, obviously used for begging. The medical attendants carefully laid her on the stretcher and pushed the stretcher into the ambulance. With its siren blaring and lights flashing it sped away to the nearest government hospital. The full impact of it struck me after a few minutes. In this country, where medical facilities for the Poor are nominal, a dying beggar was given emergency medical treatment and shifted to a hospital. And at no cost.

It was 3 years ago. Senior Executives trooped out of the meeting with a look of incredulity etched on their faces. They were coming out of the Founder Chairman of Satyam Computers, Ramalinga Raju’s office room where he unveiled that day his vision of an Emergency Management Research Institute ( EMRI) and a toll free number to call in emergencies similar to 911 in the US. In response to the emergency call, ambulances with ultra modern life saving equipment and trained personnel will rush in. All this service at no cost and all funding from his pocket. Without exception, all the executives were skeptical. He would not budge. Like a bull in a China shop, he smashed away at all objections and with a passion bordering obsession, he followed up his vision into action. The result. Raju brothers have spent over 50 million dollars from their pockets and the nation now has a single toll free number 108 for all emergencies and Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat have over more than 600 ambulances equipped with the state of the art life saving devices and thousands of trained personnel in emergency medicine. The movement of the ambulances is tracked through GPRS from a central station. Anyone with just access to a phone can utilize these services without spending a single rupee. Till date over 30,000 lives have been saved. Other states are now queuing up to enter into MoUs with EMRI to manage the emergencies. Latest is the Indian Government which is entering into an MoU with EMRI for a nation-wide emergency management.

In all these years, the governments in spite of having massive infrastructure and monies at their disposal could not even conceive let alone implement such an initiative. Now in a short span of less than 3 years, Raju has proved that a world class system is possible even in India that is accessible to all people at all times at no cost.

Raju brothers might have been poorer by a few hundred crore rupees, but they have earned the gratitude of a billion people. One man’s vision now saves lives of thousands. Raju deserves the Noble Peace Prize.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Airport is International but Standards are Indian

A few weeks back the New Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad became operational. Lot of hype was created about the excellent infrastructure in the airport and the international standards it adopted. I happened to pass through the airport last weekend and I was shocked at the poor standards.
The airport has a three lane road leading to the single entrance gate. The passengers disembarking from vehicles take at least a minute to unload their luggage and lug it on to trolleys. Since there is only one entrance gate, vehicles get piled up one after the other in no time on all the three lanes. Since at the entrance security person must look at the tickets before allowing passengers entry, invariably a queue is formed. I have never heard let alone watch a queue to enter into an airport until this time. All this because of the single entrance gate. Only B-grade airports in small town have single entrance gates.
As you enter the airport, the high ceiling with glittering steel girders and dazzling lights greet you. You are impressed. You look down to the floor and you are greeted by a dull coloured one sq.foot granite slabs. Because of such small sized pieces the spaciousness of the lobbies does not get reflected. The chairs are comfortable. The washrooms are cramped. You will have to literally rub shoulders with your neighbor peeing along with you and if you venture a sideways glance you will be shocked to see the other man’s dick.
Aerobridges are in use. But when I returned the next day, the plane was not connected to the aerobridge. I could see passengers from several other aircraft being ferried by buses. As bus after bus discharged its cargo of passengers near the single escalator, again a queue is formed. You come out of the airport again through a single exit gate. There is only a three-lane road adjoining the kerb, which is hardly 100 meters long. The lane adjoining the kerb is occupied by the radio cabs, shuttle buses and only four car slots are left for the passengers. One lane is occupied by VIP cars with red bulbs on the roof. Since only four car slots are available for passengers, by the time they put the luggage in the boot the only lane available for traffic flow gets blocked. Passengers have to wait for at least 10 minutes for their cars to come, as drivers have to walk a long way to the parking and drive to the exit gate at a crawling speed . As passengers pour out from the exit gate, the kerb is jammed with people and trolleys. Chaos reigns supreme.
This is the most passenger unfriendly airport I have ever passed through.
If I rate Changi airport at 4.5 on a scale of 1 to 5 on passenger friendly amenities, I will hesitate even to rate this airport at 2.5.

Friday, May 02, 2008

The Mystical Dollar And The Number 13

Of all the currencies I have held in my hands, the US one dollar bill is the most intriguing. There are more mystic symbols on the one dollar bill than on the walls of Greek temples. Even dollar symbol $ is intriguing. Remember not long back we used to draw two vertical lines on the alphabet S to denote dollar. It is believed that the dollar symbol is nothing but the abbreviation of the United States, the alphabets U & S super imposed on one another. The bottom of the 'U' disappears into the bottom curve of the 'S', leaving two vertical lines. Now only one line is drawn.

Coming back to the symbols on one dollar bill, I have always wondered what the symbols meant until recently when the meaning of the mystic symbols was revealed by Discovery Channel in a program “ uncovering the past”. The dollar bill was designed more than 200 years back. On one side of the bill, the portrait of George Washington is displayed in the center of the bill. To the left of George Washington is the Federal Reserve District Seal. The name of the Federal Reserve Bank that issued the note encircles a capital letter, (A-L), identifying it among the twelve Federal Reserve Banks. The sequential number of the bank, (1: A, 2: B, etc), is also displayed in the four corners of the open space on the bill. To the right of George Washington is the Treasury Department Seal. The balancing scales represent justice. The chevron with 13 stars represents the original 13 colonies. The key below the chevron represents authority and trust.

The Reverse:-

The reverse of the one dollar bill has an ornate design which incorporates the Seal of the United States. To the left is an unfinished pyramid with 13 steps. Pyramid is associated with Strength and Durability."The unfinished pyramid symbolizes a country which is strong and will last for ages but is in building stage. The separated cap of the pyramid, portrays the all-seeing eye, an ancient symbol for divinity. . The Latin phrase Annuit Cœptis, 13 alphabets, is located above the pyramid. It literally means "he/it favors the things having been begun." Another Latin phrase “Novus Ordo Seclorum” is shown on a ribbon below the pyramid and it roughly means "a new order of the ages". Written at the base of the pyramid in Roman Numerals is MDCCLXXVI or 1776, the year the United States Declaration of Independence was signed.

The eye above the pyramid is popular among conspiracy theorists, and alleged to have connections with the Free Mason cult. Several of the initial dollar bill designers including Thomas Jefferson was believed to be Free Masons. To the right is the Seal of the Unites States portraying its national bird, the Bald Eagle. In front of the eagle is an unsupported shield which symbolizes the fledgling country's ability to stand on its own. . Above the eagle's head is a glory with 13 stars, representing the original 13 colonies. Clutched in the eagle's beak is a ribbon with 13 alphabets which reads "E PLURIBUS UNUM" (From many, one) indicating a unified nation. It also holds an olive branch in one talon and arrows in another and the head always pointing to the olive branch symbolizing the inclination for peace but the readiness to fight.

Of all the countries superstitious about number 13, the US takes first place. We do not find 13th floor, room no 13 anywhere, yet look at the repeated appearance of 13 number on the dollar bill.

13 stars above the eagle
13 steps on the Pyramid
13 letters in ANNUIT COEPTIS
13 letters in E PLURIBUS UNUM
13 vertical bars on the shield
13 horizontal stripes at the top of the shield
13 leaves on the olive branch
13 berries on the olive branch
13 arrows

In several cultures the number 13 is powerful and represents the beginning. May be the bill designers added all the mystic symbols on the dollar bill to make the currency a formidable one.