Friday, April 15, 2011

Meeting with MOBUTU Sese Seko

                  Meeting with MOBUTU Sese Seko

                                           ( From Ambassador's Journal-1975)


I had just returned from Paris in October 1975 , fatigued and looking forward to some rest, but External Affairs Secretary Jagat Mehta insisted that I accompany Minister of State (MOS) Bipin Pal Das , who was undertaking a tour of seven African countries to drum up support for a seat in the UN Security Council. I could not resist the temptation of a safari across the African continent, beginning from Nairobi (Kenya) and jetting through Kinshasa ( Zaire), Lagos (Nigeria), Accra(Ghana), Abidjan (Ivory coast) and Dakar (Senegal); all of it in thirteen days. And then continuing on north east to London , before taking an Air India flight back to India.


We started from Bombay and reached Nairobi on 8th October evening. MOS Das and the delegation, which also included officials Saifullah and Dhawan, had a meeting with the Kenyan Foreign Minister and a dinner in his honour by the Kenyan host. Flying early next morning from Nairobi, we arrived a few hours later in Kinshasa, capital of Zaire after a technical halt at the airport of Burundi's capital Bujumbura, situated on lake Tanganayika. On arrival at Kinshasa situated on river Zaire, after being received by the Zairian Foreign Minister and the Indian CDA, Captain Inder Chopra, we were put up in one of the villas which like most African countries, Zaire had also constructed to house Heads of State for the Organisation of African Unity summit .The sprawling complex of villas, each with attached kitchens was comfortable, but most were empty and neglected. Every morning I had to run around and yell to get hold of the cook for the morning cup of tea.


There was a heavy and almost identical schedule for the two days stay in each capital, except Nairobi. Meetings with the host Foreign Minister , my meetings with the officials, reception for or by the Indian community and a dinner with the host Foreign Minister and the crowning audience with the Head of the State. It was a hard grind , keeping notes, preparing telegrams, messages and press hand outs. And finding time to do sight seeing. By the time we reached Dakar, I was way behind in my report making and missed out on the sights. With a heavy schedule and hot and humid climate , I became sick and was on antibiotics. But it was an enjoyable and educative tour , with a relaxed and very understanding MOS ,who did not frown if, we had a drink or two .


We waited for the most important meeting in Kinshasa with the Head of State , in this case , Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Waza Banga. Well , that was his full name and meant; the fearless warrior who will go from strength to strength leaving fire in his wake. With security already severe in most African and Arab capitals ( till early eighties one could walk into New Delhi's South Block , now converted into a citadel , literally after a nod at the Reception Officer), the audience with Mobutu was never precisely indicated and announced and cancelled at short notice many times. We were finally driven to one of his many palatial residences, three quarter an hour before ` schedule'. This palace was located on river Zaire, from which this country took its name, like so many others ( as India has from Indus- which alas is in Pakistan.) The Residence was beautiful, elegant and palatial. A large seagoing vessel was anchored at the steps leading to the river front.


After waiting in an ante-room we were ushered into Mobuto Sese Seko's presence. As usual, he was well dressed with the regulation leopard skin cap and a fly whisk, requirements of tribal kings and chiefs., which many African Heads of State sport . After the exchange of greetings, Mobutu enquired about Indira Gandhi's health , whom like all African leaders, from both sides of the cold war divide , he held in high regard and mentioned her constant struggles and ceaseless activity. After a suitable pause Mr Das , a learned teacher cum educational administrator from Assam, went on his what would appear to be rehearsed piece if ,like us you heard it tens of times ; why India a Non-aligned country and in the forefront of struggle for independence of Afro-Asian countries and fight against imperialism, colonialism and exploitation should get his vote .


Mobutu was much younger then at 44 years and alert like a leopard. After a few minutes he promptly closed his eyes and went to sleep. Mr Das went on and on for nearly half an hour , while Mobutu had his siesta. The meeting was held in the afternoon. Mobutu then opened his eyes as if he was listening carefully and promised' his vote to the special envoy of Indira Gandhi.' Mr Das thanked him and we left.


Subsequently we lost the contest to Pakistan and the guess at India's UN Mission in New York was that not all the seven African states, who had promised their vote to us had done so. The conventional wisdom in New York was ( and perhaps even now is) that votes of many African delegates could be bought , cajoled or got by blackmail.


There was a reception for the Indian community, fifty persons in all, mostly Sindhis. In spite  of a full program, after dinner ( mercifully most official dinners end early), we sans MOS went to have a look at the city lights and life. In most African capitals, whatever the creed of the ruling party, by sunset one can hear drum music and the sound of swaying rhythmic beats. In our tour of the city we went by many dancing places, where young boys and girls were queuing to get in ,and into some we went in too. The beat and the rhythm was infectious. The rhythm courses through the African blood and once the drums start beating no one can resist. In Dakar I remember a Ghanaian Ambassador , who you think might collapse any moment , he was fat and ungainly, but once the beat was on, he was transformed into a dancing virtuoso.


We also had a cruise on river Zaire. It is very wide at Kinshasa, perhaps like Brahmputra in flood and across at the other bank we could see the city of Brazzaville, the capital of Congo ( former French colony).There is perhaps no other river across which two capitals are situated. Imagine capitals of India and Pakistan like that or that of Turkey and Greece.. What is now known as Congo was called Congo ­Brazzaville and Zaire (before 1971  was called Congo- Leopoldville , after the King of the Belgians, its colonisers). The capital Leopoldville , was christened Kinshasa. ( Mr Kabila the next war lord and the chief of state got Zaire re-christened back as the Democratic Republic of Congo)


River Congo, or Zaire is the longest river of Africa, and second in length and discharge in the world. With an area of 2.4 sq. million kms, Zaire is three/fourth India's size, with a population of over 40 million. In terms of resources, it is perhaps the richest country on the African continent. lt has huge reserves of copper, cobalt, diamonds and other minerals. Agriculturally it is rich with many rivers. It has half of Africa's and one eighth of world hydro- power potential .It is covered with rain forests so has abundance of timber. It is home to many tribes; the important ones are Bantus, Sudanese .and pygmies.


But the population has been most unlucky in its leaders. Independence in 1960, brought a civil war becoming the focus of cold war rivalry, with Soviet leaning Lumumba becoming the Prime Minister. But soon Mobutu, a former sergeant major, now the commander in chief , got Lumumba murdered. UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold was  killed while flying over Zaire, in late 1960.


India  has an old association with Zaire; Indian soldiers went there on a UN peacekeeping mission in 1960. Venerable Indian diplomat Rajeshwar Dayal was UN Secretay General's Representative, with the then Indian Ambassador DN Chatterjee, having chronicled his experiences of the events in a book.


Mobutu became the President in 1965 after a military coup. He took full advantage of US and West's fears of the Soviet designs in Africa and offered to act as their surrogate. The revolution and independence in the Portuguese colonies and the arrival of Cuban troops in Angola gave him a new lease of life, with Mobutu openly cooperating with the apartheid White regime in South Africa. In many former Communist states , the new free marketers, many old party apparatchiks ,are privatizing state industry into their names or those of their friends. Mobuto was remarkable ; he privatized the whole state for his personal benefit; salting away more than $ 4 billion dollars in Swiss banks and elsewhere , in full glare of Western media, with support and acquiescence from Western countries and their leaders. While in most of Africa, living condition of people has worsened over decades , perhaps it is much worse in Zaire. Pity, when it is such a rich country in resources.


In world affairs and media Africa has been politically marginalised and once again become a dark continent. One hears little except, famines, civil wars, fight among neighbours and since 6 months- Zaire and the fate of Mobutu. Gone alas are the days when both West and East , in fact all ,rival powers competed for their support . Aid and experts poured in. Statements from Kwame Nkruma, Sieku Toure and others hogged media headlines. There is little to cheer up now. The living conditions  are deteriorating day by day. But the continent is very rich in mineral resources and its time will come. Hopefully earlier than we might think.


K. Gajendra Singh; Ankara, May,1997.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bhiwani: My Small Town in Haryana


Bhiwani: My Small Town in Haryana 


Since Vijender Singh won a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics, the first ever in boxing and two of his mates, Akhil Kumar and Jitendra reached the quarter finals, Bhiwani, a small town in Haryana, has become a household name in India, and perhaps even in the world of boxing. In India's boxing contingent, four out of five were from Bhiwani. At the Athens Olympics, out of four, three Indian boxers were from Bhiwani. No wonder Bhiwani, with boxing rings scattered around the town, is called little Cuba. Vijender fought valiantly but lost to his Cuban opponent. Cuban boxers did not win a single gold this time. But under Fidel Castro, this Caribbean island has produced a dazzling succession of Olympic boxing champions including TeĆ³filo Stevenson, one of the greatest of all times, who like other Cuban boxers refused to turn professional with assured millions to win in USA, another great boxing nation, where this game is dominated by Afro-Americans, who in the absence of other professions barred to them, excel in boxing, basketball, athletics and music.

Before the start of the Olympics and during it, as other fancied Indian participants failed even to qualify for the final rounds, Indian TV channel sports anchors, now focused on boxing, started looking up for Bhiwani, a district town 125 kms west of Delhi. Soon TV teams and reporters turned up at this till now obscure town to cover the aspirations and reactions of boxers' families and the town's excited and proud residents. Except for hockey's gold and other medals, one silver in shooting and just two bronze medals in wrestling and tennis, Indian athletes did little to cheer her billion population throughout Olympic games since India began participating. But on the trough of India's economic upsurge, the best ever Olympic performance with Avinash Bindra 's Gold in 10 meters air rifle shooting and another bronze in wrestling for Sushil Kumar from Delhi , somewhat fortuitously, was reason enough for exuberant celebrations all over India for its masses hungering for sports icons.

Except for rifle shooter Bindra, who hails from a very well off family in Chandigarh, which provided him for a decade, not only moral but most of the financial support, a prerequisite to produce a world beater, the boxers and wrestlers come from poor families; children of bus drivers, conductors or marginal farmers. India is not a sporting nation and the bludgeoning middle class is yet to take to athletics and other sports as a professional career option, except for cricket, which with a religion like following in India, now supports the cricket world.

I was born in Bhiwani in 1938, when it was a small dusty Tehsil town in the backward region of undivided Punjab of Hindustan and treated as Kalapani aka punishment postings for officials by ruling mandarins in Lahore.

When I went over to Banaras in 1954 to study engineering, Bhiwani was a subdivision of Hissar district of Indian East Punjab. When I said Punjab was my home state, many would start conversing in Punjabi, which certainly was not my mother tongue. We were still learning Punjabi from refugees, who were forced to flee their homes in Multan, Jhang and other cities in newly created Pakistan. They had lost their belongings and many of their relatives were butchered on way to India. Some would brag unconvincingly about big gardens and properties they had left behind. However they were all hardworking and aggressive in business and transformed the city's commercial environment. The Haryanvi women started changing over to Punjabi dress -salwar kamiz, more practical than the billowing skirt, short shirt and head cover. Of course I learnt to understand Punjabi only when in 1958 I started teaching electrical engineering at Patiala. The salwar –kamiz has become perhaps the most popular wear in India, specially among the young, although jeans, a fashionable western import, is now taking over in major cities and towns.

Many would ask me where was Bhiwani situated. Most had not heard about it, except for residents of cities which textile industry, since Bhiwani boasted of two textile mills and an Institute which trained textile engineers. Bhiwani also had a degree and teachers training colleges, run by local Seth Kirori Mal Trust, which also runs Delhi's Kirori Mal college. Some literary types would exclaim, " Oh! Bhowani Junction!" and had to be corrected that Bhiwani was a non-descript meter gauge rail station. The locale of novel 'Bhowani junction ' was perhaps inspired by Jhansi's railway hub.

However, after the division of East Punjab into Punjab and Haryana, its dynamic and development obsessed Chief Minister Chaudhary Bansi Lal, soon got its railway station transformed into a junction, by cajoling the Indian Railways to build a broad gauge link from Rohtak to Bhiwani. A politician friend related how it was done. When Bansi Lal made the request, the Railway Minister, in usual fashion said that " Yes, we will do it after the land survey etc-- in next years budget ". But Bansi Lal, a shrewd and go getter Jat, replied that the Haryana government had completed all the required surveys. The Railway Minister then talked of acquiring land for the project , which could take some time. Bansi lal had brought along his officers ready with draft notifications for acquiring land and signed them on the spot. Once he was determined to achieve something, he would go all out for it. He is rightly known as the builder of Haryana (and Bhiwani) adding irrigations canals, lift irrigation schemes, industries, roads, universities and historic and tourist spots at Panipat and Kurukshetra. His drive and rough and ready methods specially during the 'Emergency rule' of 1975-77, when he had shifted to New Delhi as the Defense Minister brought him much notoriety but at least in India, people knew about Bhiwani, Bansi Lal's home town.

Haryana was carved out of Punjab in 1966. This region had been neglected both as part of undivided Punjab and East Punjab. It soon flourished and took advantage of its proximity to Delhi, as can be seen in Gurgaon, near Delhi, home to national and international companies in automobiles, motorcycles, tractors, white goods industries and sunrise IT and BPL business. Haryana is now one of India's richest states in spite of little local raw materials.

During 1940s and 1950s , Bhiwani was a dusty waterless town, with Rajasthan's sand dunes encroaching right inside the city's western limits. Birla's education city of Pilani in Rajasthan is only 50 kms west of Bhiwani and Churu, home town of Laxmi Mittal, the steel baron, is not far away. I remember perpetual water scarcity in Bhiwani. Summers brought in hot abrasive sand storms. Two water channels, one for city's water needs and another for the two textile mills, were called small and big nehers  – canals or rivers. As a child if we jumped from one bank we would hit the opposite side. No wonder I never learnt swimming. There were many big ponds dug around the town to store rainwater for drinking, washing and for the cattle. Between Bhiwani and Rohtak, 45 kms away on way to Delhi, one could spy only one little garden. There were a few gardens around the city, otherwise it was just dust, sand and more sand with some dry shrubs here and there.

When I visited Bhiwani in 1970, on home leave while posted at Ankara,  I was almost shocked to see that between Rohtak and Bhiwani, not only there was greenery and booming agriculture, even sugarcane was being cultivated near the city. The old city gates had been rebuilt in splendor,  there were new smooth concrete roads with traffic signals, not that any one followed them. Shop keepers were selling apples and grapes like wild berries of old days. There was a growing smell of prosperity all around. Earlier, even those who owned thousands of arid land were forced to join the army as simple soldiers for a livelihood. Now with networks of canals and water pumps, they had come into riches and indulged in politics and usual aggressive activities. In general, owing to the abiding influence of Arya Samaj, few ate meat. I myself became a non-vegetarian while studying at Banaras. Unfortunately the sudden upsurge of wealth has brought in evils like drunkenness and alcoholism.

An unusual instance when Bhiwani was mentioned with some astonishment was at Rome Airport in 1984 by the Italian airport manager of Air India, when I then posted at Bucharest in Romania and was transiting via Rome for Delhi. Apart from my passport, he had also seen details about Haryana politician –academician Ch .Hardwari Lal, Om Parkash, an Indian businessman settled in Prato, near Rome and the then Deputy Managing Director of Air India, Chaman Lal Sharma, all connected to Bhiwani. With scarce foreign exchange, not many Indians, not even rich ones, could then travel abroad.

The town is believed to have been founded by a Rajput chief Neem Singh to honor his wife Bhani. The name Bhani later morphed into Bhiyani and subsequently to Bhiwani. The town also has a conspicuous religious dimension. Because of a large number of Hindu temples it is called "Chhota Kashi". Like Rajasthan, the arid land of Bhiwani has produced a large number of rich traders and industrialists. They splash colossal sums building big Havelis (mansions) and there are many in Bhiwani and in ostentatious marriage ceremonies. But owners of these mansions made their money in Kolkata and elsewhere, where they operated, occupying a small space in a ill lit room in bazaars. Perhaps, embarrassed how to explain to their Maker how they came into their ill gotten wealth, some by hoarding food grains during famines and scarcity, to atone for their sins, a few have built temples and Dharamshalas (charity rest houses) and to perpetuate their names, schools and colleges.

Bhiwani has produced two chief ministers of Haryana state and a couple of Cabinet Ministers for New Delhi. The state has been a model of political innovation, not always of the right kind .It added the term Ayaram-Gayaram, for political defections, now so prevalent all over India; political parties and individuals changing allegiance for political or monetary gain

It was sickening to watch Indian politicians crowding out the returning Olympic medal winners for photo-ops. Almost all sports associations have fallen in to the clutches of politicians and their favorite civil servants or hangers on, which are used for patronage and free trips abroad. As politicians do elsewhere, many awards and prizes are announced after wars or sports medals, but not disbursed .

A few decades ago, many politicians would turn up, a few months before the Olympics in European capitals, say of East Germany, a major sporting force then and request for a coach so that India could win a few medals. That attitude has not changed much since then. India did not even qualify for entry into hockey at Beijing. There is just no accountability or even remorse for their colossal failure.

Wrestling, football, hockey, volleyball used to be favorite sports in Bhiwani. It appears that now boys from lower middle classes have taken to boxing in large numbers, for, a national or international medal ensures a job in the police at lower level of say sub-inspector. Vijender has been promoted to Deputy Superintendent of Police rank. Like most Indian states, jobs are sold, with political elites using even transfers and threats of transfer to milk money from the civil servants. No wonder they in turn do nothing unless bribes are paid. Well, what would you expect when honorable members accept money for raising questions in the Indian Parliament and during the recent vote of confidence, according to Members themselves, the going rate for transfer of loyalty was 250 million rupees, a big sum. But political dynasties have garnered thousands of millions of rupees each, even held in foreign currencies abroad.

Olympics had become a cold war arena of competition in physical prowess between Capitalism and Communism, which has somewhat cooled off after the collapse of the Soviet Union. However sport persons from Russia and former communist nations are still doing well. China topped the list of gold medal winners in Beijing, displacing USA to second place. Winning a medal still requires national endeavour in which the state, corporate interests and individuals all participate jointly.

Apart from the latest training techniques, supporting gizmos, sports medicine and psychology, doping techniques aka administration of drugs to enhance athletic performances have also seeped in; an ancient practice from the days of Roman gladiators who used stimulants such as strychnine to pump themselves up for a battle. Doping is done through gene therapy i.e. by inserting genes into a cell which instruct the body to produce large amounts of a hormone, protein, or other natural substance that enhance performance. Dope manufacturers keep a step ahead of means to detect it. Most sports suffer from it including cricket, with players from Pakistan i.e. Shoaib Akhtar and Mohamad Asif and the Australian spinning wizard Shane Warne to name a few.

There are numerous examples of doping in recent history from athletics. Sprinter Marion Jones of USA, who won five Olympic gold medals, used drugs and has been convicted. Boxer Jason Giambi of New York says he turned to steroids beginning in 2001. Ken Caminiti, once an 'Outstanding Player' insisted half the players in baseball shared his steroid weakness. He died at 41 of a cocaine overdose.

Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, who lowered the old 100-meter mark at the 1988 Olympics, was found using illicit testosterone and banned. But Carl Lewis, his rival and supposedly Mr. Clean and a loud one, had reportedly failed drug tests before the 1988 Olympics (the charges came out only after his retirement). And of course the ever popular Diego Maradona from the slums of Argentina - the Pele of the generation- who was expelled from the 1994 World Cup after testing positive for too many drugs to count. Apart from American Tour de France star Lance Armstrong since 1999, Richard Virenque of France, Italy's Marco Pantani (dead) of a drug overdose last winter) and, most recently, Tyler Hamilton of the United States have all tested positive for steroids or blood-enhancing EPO. The list of doping of athletes is long and endless. It is like a cat and mouse game, with athletes and players from advanced nations generally succeeding more often than not.

 K. Gajendra Singh ,Delhi .30 August,2008

K Gajendra Singh, Indian ambassador (retired), served as ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan from August 1992 to April 1996. Prior to that, he served terms as ambassador to Jordan, Romania and Senegal. He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies. Copy right with the author. E-mail:  

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Comments on Cricket Commentators


Comments on Cricket Commentators


Problem with Indian cricket commentators even for TV is that most suffer from usual Indian verbal diarrhea of argumentative kind .They know it is not Radio but keep on yapping and trying to show their so called knowledge , disturbing the ball by ball display .The situation is made worse by endless mostly stupid ads mostly either copied from the West or imagined and forced by illiterate oil, detergent or peanut selling Baniyas with little vision or taste repeating the ads as if the public is dumb like them. Nowhere in the world except in India , the TV audience is so shabbily treated .They are the backbone of the game providing revenues .Sometimes hardly 40% of the time is given for the ball to ball display in between .Watching a batsman out is as satisfactory as coitus interreptus .Verily it only confirms that Indians are killjoys .I immediately change the channel for a minute or so .


Take for example one Arun Lal and Ravi Shastri, born perhaps with genetic inferiority complex . Arun lal is so biased . he is always wishing and willing for the fall of Indian wicket or a century by the opponents . Is he bribed as are Pakistani players by India's opponents. It is worth a check .Ravi Shastri is not much better .No wonder they are favourites of countries playing against India and are called up . They are like non-Indian NRIs and non-Indian RIs. Thank God for intelligent former great player-commentator Sunil Gavaskar. Will the BCCI ban Lal and Shastri from Indian matches . Just listen to Australian, English or Pakistani commentators .


Among the worst foreign commentators is Tony Greig of apartheid south African origin whose commentary against Indian players is almost racist .He has been involved in many unsporting controversies  .A major one I recall when as MCC captain in mid 1970s, before the tour ,he had declared that he will make the West Indies growl , reminding them of the slave era. The elegant and brilliant West Indian players said nothing but Tony was welcomed with short pitched fast bouncers around his ears at over 6ft .He was soon out and some West Indian players quietly escorted him out up to the boundary line towards the pavilion .In a recent test against Srilnka , when Indian batter Suresh Raina was on 96, Tony (do all Tony's like Tony Blair suffer from some grave malady ) recalled how Raina was once out first ball by Murlitharan , who was to bowl .The embarrassed Srilankan commentator reminded that since then Raina had played hundred ODIs and T-20s and many centuries .Raina got his century.Such racists must be banned.


A refreshing change is a former Australian captain now commentator , Ian Chappel , which is a pleasure to listen too .He is more of an exception among Australian politicians and cricketers, and almost all diplomats and press men I met with in my 35 years as a diplomat and 15 as a analyst of international affairs .

Retd Ambassador K. Gajendra Singh 10/10/10

India and the Cricket World Cup-Cocktail of Gladiators & Moolah with Racial Overtones

                                      FOUNDATION FOR INDO-TURKIC STUDIES                          

Tel/Fax ; 0040213163021                                                        Amb (Rtd) K Gajendra Singh                                                       

Emails;                                                   Flat No 5, 3rd Floor                                                                    9, Sos Cotroceni,

Web site.                                                                                         Bucharest (Romania)                                                                             18 April, 2007.

India and the Cricket World Cup
Cocktail of Gladiators & Moolah  with Racial Overtones
by K. Gajendra Singh                                     ,    18 April, 2007

"The last positive thing England did for cricket was invent it." Ian Chappell.
"My definition of a foreigner is someone who does not understand cricket." Anthony Couch.
"The people of India -- they are the ones whose attention, enthusiasm and love and support drive the great game, and business, of cricket in this country, and around the world." Greg Chappell.

Although in audience reach Cricket World Cup does not match football but in passions, racial overtones , money making and cheating it is like a heady sports cocktail, brewed since Greek Olympic games and Roman gladiator combats.

In the current 2007 World Cup, the stunning exit of India and Pakistan left passionate billion and half followers of the game in the subcontinent in a daze and disgust triggering Tsunami like disaster for the commercial operators nurturing and feeding on the game. It was as if Germany and Brazil were ousted by India and Pakistan in football World Cup preliminaries. 

"Cup loses fizz as big teams fall " wrote Scyld Berry in Sunday Telegraph adding "Nobody is going to watch the advertisements designed for the hundreds of millions of Indian viewers aspiring to a mobile phone, a motorbike, a fizzy drink or a refrigerator."

Ever since cricket was transformed by Australian TV entrepreneur Kerry Packer from organized loafing by clad- in-white fools, wherein even five 6-day long Test matches many times produced no victors, into a day long pulsating combats by multi colored gladiators in former British colonies and a few other centers, this repetitive spectacle has morphed into a cash cow for marketers of white goods, consumer items, TV channels and advertising giants.

Including non-resident Indians from the poorest to the rich, India now contributes 70% of the game's revenue, the pie everyone wants a slice off.

Following the corporatisation of cricket in the era of consumerism , the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) ,the apex organizing body netted annual revenues of Rs 500 crores.( $1 million= Rs 4.4 Crores ) Last year, it sold telecasting rights for Rs 2,750 crores! Air Sahara sponsorship rights for four years at a price tag of around 300 crores, Nike became Indian cricket's official kit sponsor for five years by spending a cool Rs 196.66 crores. The TV rights with Nimbus got Rs 2,714 crores. Indian Government Doordarshan channel made another Rs 160 crores.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) sold broadcasting rights for the current and the next World Cup for an even higher $1.1 billion (Rs 4,950 crores). Sony Entertainment Television sold advertising at Rs 5 lakhs for each 10-second spot, raking in an estimated Rs 350 crores to Rs 400 crores. But all these mega deals have almost been washed away in Caribbean waters. The sponsors are now wary of long term agreements. After all it is business, people are not watching cricket . Disgusted a council of 20 villages in the Indian state of Haryana banned watching cricket.

Dwarfing this is the money invested in betting , which is illegal in India. Called satta it takes place on the sly, made easier with internet and cell phones (which also helped nab match fixers and the corrupt players.) Estimates of betting in India vary from US$5 billion a year to as high as $40 billion.  An India Pakistan match can exceed $250 million. For the World Cup, with 51 matches the estimates were up to $4 billion.

Now take India's star players. Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid make Rs 12 crores to 20 crores a year for endorsing products ranging from biscuits, shoes, cosmetics, cars to life insurance. Ganguly charges an annual fee of close to Rs 1.5 crore per endorsement. Even newcomers like Mahendra Singh Dhoni become multimillionaires overnight. But after the Caribbean debacle, for a match recently in Baroda, top Indian cricket stars were booed.

So you can imagine the losses all around. Instead of the 'scheduled' India- Pakistan encounter on 15 April, from south Asians, who did not cancel their reservations and turned up, Indians supported Ireland and Pakistanis Bangladesh. Ireland won.

West Indies' exit midway dampened even local interest. On its eight islands where the matches are being staged, the financial investments in infrastructure are being rendered in fructuous and could perhaps temporarily halt the game's march as a spectator sport to new centers, which the expected revenues would have funded. Bangladesh, the new boys on the block, who stunned fancied India and later even beat South Africa, bring exuberance and enthusiasm but little money in endorsements or to the games common kitty.

As Greg Chappell rightly commented it is the people of India who drive the game and the business in India and the world. If the Americans had learnt cricket before they threw out the British colonists, it would have become another ball game altogether. Yes, the Yanks do play, but a simpler and less sophisticated version of cricket and call it baseball.

Cricket fever affects even political life in India. Politicians are wary of cricket matches being played during election time. Attendance at election rallies simply dwindles. But the problem has been resolved by installing huge TV screens at venues to attract voters.  Some years ago Bharatiya Janata Party leader L K Advani on a tour of India found little audience because of a cricket tournament. Advani's rath (a specially designed bus with state-of-the-art comforts and technology) was quickly fitted with TV screens to telecast the matches live. Viola ! In trooped the crowds.

The world controlling organization Imperial Cricket Club founded in 1909, morphed into International Cricket Conference in 1989. It now has 97 members; 10 full Members that play official 5 day long Test matches, 32 Associate Members, and 55 Affiliate Members. But the control is still manipulated by the white man (or his proxy).  But India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh now provide half the top teams and should become the decider region.

Even before the second world war, as US economic muscle grew, the international financial centre shifted from London to Wall Street, New York. Washington with 25% contributions to UN income bullies it to toe its line. The HQ of ICC has already moved away from London to Sharjah in UAE towards the sub-continent.

The unspoken simmering tensions between the whites, the former rulers, and brown-blacks, the subjects, erupted into an almost open split a few years ago in South Africa after white umpires and arbiters unduly penalized Indian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan players, while white players were let off lightly for infringing the rules. India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have won the Cup once unlike the English, the New Zealanders and South Africans. West Indies twice and Australia thrice, the latter are the firm favorites for 2007.

A tragic element was added by the assassination of Pakistani coach Bob Woolmer, a white South African, soon after Pakistan's shock defeat by Ireland. Like other East West conflicts say in Iraq or Palestine , Western media hacks started coloring up the truth and accused Pakistan players by innuendos. Yes , there have been accidents and unsavory incidents. Umpires have been beaten up in the past sometimes, in the West Indies, when a local hero was given out. But an English eleven on a Pakistan tour, a few decades ago, took the cake. Unhappy with the Pakistani umpire's decisions, one evening it cornered him, smothered his head with a towel and bashed him up. Now only one of the umpires is local in bilateral games while neutrals stand for other games. The abrasive Australians while touring India with its media launch aggressive campaign against Indian umpires in the media. The gentle and timid Indians end up erring in their favor.

It was heartening that London's the Guardian, which is quite objective on Arab- Israel dispute, Iraq, and even Iran (not when British James Bonds intrude into Iranian waters), took a balanced approach to the Cup happenings. In "This innuendo about the Pakistan team is a disgrace ", Mike Marqese wrote on 26 March --that the reaction has more to do with stereotyping and hyperbole than the facts.

"It is a serious matter - as umpire Darrell Hair found out - to accuse a team, purely on the basis of supposition, of cheating to win a cricket match. It is an even more serious matter to accuse a team, or a player, of taking bribes to lose a match. But to accuse a player or a team of being involved in the death of their coach raises the stakes by several orders of magnitude." Hyperbole may be the bane of sports journalism but "The rush to judgment here is fuelled by that other bane of sports journalism, national stereotyping."

A quick verdict on Woolmer 's death would have taken away what ever attention remains from the Cup so it is as well that investigators are taking their own time.

BBC and MK

But trust Tony Blair's BBC, which gave only 2% time to the opposition viewpoint on the US-K led illegal war on Iraq with its objectivity when analyzed being the worst of the western channels i.e. CNN, ABC, DEF and others, to keep up the usual refrain.

In a piece titled" Is India's slip good for cricket? "on BBC website of 27 March, 2007, wrote one Mukul Kesvan (MK) [ Author of 'Men in White' - a book on cricket , what else] , that purging of Pakistan and India, the dysfunctional giants of South Asian cricket would act as a tonic to the Cup and make it a happier, less toxic tournament.

Continued MK "The arena-like excitement of ODIs was tailor-made for that great South Asian sport, chauvinism." "Defeat, especially at the hands of the old enemy, led to a suspension of cricketing relations (India stopped playing Pakistan in Sharjah after a sequence of defeats led to allegations of foul play) [The cheating etc is well established and the atmosphere generated only hate between Indian and Pakistani spectators –something West loves. But how Indian spectators clapped Pakistan's victory in Chennai and Pakistanis almost to a man stood up earlier cheering an Indian win, in hot spot Karachi, when the two resumed playing after many years in 2004.]

"The rise of the bookie and the phenomenon of match-fixing which nearly destroyed cricket's credibility as a competitive sport, was a by-product of the new South Asian audience for one-day cricket. – "The corruption that bookies have brought to the game has had foreign recruits like the late South African captain, Hansie Cronje, but it remains a sub-continental blight.

" And these bookies, these villains are South Asian - located in India and Pakistan for the most part, countries where the criminalization of betting has driven the betting 'industry' underground.--Cricket will buckle under the weight of the sullen, thin-skinned nationalism that Indian and Pakistani fans bring to the game and it can certainly do without the bookie-driven corruption that feeds off this perverse enthusiasm."

Of course MK 's book, advertised above will sell to even whites if written in a similar vein and BBC is delighted a brown man is trashing South Asians. He would even be invited to well paid seminars in the West . But MK is either being to BBC what Tony Blair is to George Bush or exposing his ignorance about the world of sports in which West dominates or tries to by hook and mostly by crook. Sports and arena combats remain vehicles of chauvinism and nationalism since the days of ancient Geek Olympics and Roman gladiator games.

On England's loss to New Zealand, commented Simon Hattenstone, "In September 2005 Andrew Flintoff was a national hero. England had won the Ashes and Freddie went on the lash for 32 hours. How we cheered when he told David Gower, the morning after the night before but not yet halfway through his epic bender, "To be honest with you, David, I'm struggling. I've not been to bed yet and the eyes behind these glasses tell a thousand stories."

"We celebrated with him, we laughed at the story that he urinated in the garden at No10, we marveled he was still upright as he walked off the bus, the word "twat" scrawled on his head.

"Eighteen months and one Ashes whitewash on, Flintoff is a national disgrace. After spending the night drinking following World Cup defeat by New Zealand, "borrowing" a pedalo (now known as a Fredalo) for a jape, capsizing and nearly drowning, he has been relieved of the vice-captaincy and outed by the management team as a serial drinker with a problem. Am I the only one confused? What are the rules - you can only drink when you're winning?"

After the match fixing scandals exploded, top Indian cricketers like Azharuddin , Ajay Jadeja and others were banned from playing, In 1994 Salim Malik was accused of attempted bribery by Shane Warne and Mark Waugh but they themselves accepted payment from bookies for providing information, an incident which was downplayed by Australian authorities. South Africans are wary of letting some of its stars investigated in India.

Does MK watch proletarian but immensely more popular football game. He has perhaps not heard of English football fans, the hooligans, any day much worse than the Indian fans .They acquired notoriety across the continent and gave nightmares on match evenings to European police till they were tackled on a war footing by combined EU forces. Teams and venues where fans indulged in hooliganism, were punished. The Turks in Istanbul were ready when fans of an English club came over to play, injuring and even killing some of them.

English footballer Beckham, past his prime, is still hero worshipped at home, even when he was benched by his Spanish Football Club, which bought this brand, shelling out tens of millions of Euros. Now the 'Bend like Beckham ' brand will play football, where else but in USA , the mother of all brand names, where the game is called soccer.

As for money, match fixing and corruption, the dictator- coaches (Compared to English coach Ferguson and others, poor Greg Chapell is but a lamb and Wright only a kid when dealing with the Indian matador cricketers .Or Woolmer was allegedly slapped by Shohaib Akhtar), not only football but most games like boxing,  tennis, cycling, athletics et al are brimming over.  But so much money is involved that no one dare expose the corrosive truth. A few revelations only indicate the tip of the tip of the iceberg.

Some controversy was added when Sunil Gavaskar rightly criticized the uncouth behavior of Australian cricketers who now are at the top in both the Test cricket and ODIs. West Indies ruled cricket for a decade black washing the Australians time and again but they remained gentlemen players. Unfortunately the Australians have reduced the game to fisher men brawls or miners quarrels. While Sunil's example of Australian cricketer David Hookes who was killed in a brawl outside a nightclub was unfortunate, for which Sunil, the gentleman, soon apologized but whole of Australia came down on him heavily.

Recently after the Australians had won and received the Champions Cup in Mumbai, India from BCCI President Sharad Pawar, a senior Minister in the Indian Government, they pushed him off for a photo op, in full public view, causing great consternation and anger in India .Would Australian footballers imitate their abrasive and foul mouthed cricket champions in bruising and abusive play in Istanbul if their level got that advanced.

But this kind of behavior is only to be expected from the Australians, including their politicians, diplomats and journalists. In fact the Australians glory in being boorish and uncivilized. Recently Prime Minister Howard criticized Obama ,an Afro-American Democratic presidential candidate, and injected racial overtones. An Australian newspaper commented that Howard would normally cross the road to insult a political opponent but this time he crossed a continent. He was properly dealt with by Obama which in cricket parlance would mean hit for a six.

It is said that English captain Sir Wally Hammond would avoid shaking the Australians by hand, with some persons implying because of his distaste for Australia being a former Penal colony.

To eliminate coarse and unbecoming behavior many sport associations have taken stringent measures, specially in Tennis . Swearing, shouting even hitting the ground with the racket, called racket abuse, is penalized. Such measures must be introduced so that the gentleman's game of cricket does not descend to a wrestling arena for exchanging abuses.


The Greek victory over Persians at Marathon in 490 BC, which the colonial and neo-liberal historians claim the first of the West over East, is now rubbed in as the Marathon race in Olympic games. Is it not a celebration of racism? What if an Iranian won it. Now a days athletes from Ethiopia and Kenya dominate it. How about naming some equestrian event as Manzikert Cup to celebrate Turkish horsemen victory over the Byzantine cavalry in 1071 near lake Van, which took the Turks right up to gates of Vienna?

There is an old cricket story about Sir Ranjit Sinhji (Ranji), a petty Indian Prince of Kathiawar, who invented the leg glance and played for England. After he had executed an elegant leg glance against arch enemy Australia, an English Lord remarked proudly-'one of our own Princes'. Ranji was out the next ball ."Dirty nigger", exploded His Lordship. The English are jolly good sportsmen when winning but not when losing. The national Indian cricket championship honors Ranji who some claim did not even deign to don Indian colors.

The football players from impoverished Africa, physically fitter and hungry for wealth and fame, now dominate many Clubs in Europe and national teams. Look at the French, the English and the Dutch teams color compositions. But racism, which has surfaced afresh in European society after the demise of secular and egalitarian communist and socialist block is becoming a cancer in Europe. Many teams have been warned after their supporters indulged in racist chants and actions. Of course racism is not chauvinism. As for south Asian chauvinism, what is Western nationalism but official racist chauvinism?

Doping of athletes

Doping or administration of drugs to enhance athletic or other performances is an ancient practice. Roman gladiators used stimulants such as strychnine to pump themselves up for a battle. Some skeletons when examined confirmed this. In modern times the word appeared in the early 1900s. Doping is done through gene therapy i.e. by inserting genes into a cell which instruct the body to produce large amounts of a hormone, protein, or other natural substance that enhance performance. With the hope that these doping drugs would not be detected.

There have been complaints of doping of cricketers. Drunkenness with allied activities among British cricketers are well documented and reported with glee and envy in English tabloids. Before the current cup two Pakistan fast bowlers Rawalpindi Express Shoaib Akhtar and Mohamad Asif were withdrawn at the last moment. They had flunked the dope tests but were then cleared. Australian leg spinner Shane Warne was banned only for a year, when his mother administered him performance enhancing drug (always blame the poor mother) and not two or three, otherwise how could he have established the record of highest number of wickets. Sri Lanka spinner Muralitharn, who is likely to overhaul it was harassed and no balled by Australian umpires and not others to make life more difficult for him.

There are numerous examples of doping in recent history from other sports, specially athletics. Sprinter Marion Jones of USA, who won five Olympic gold medals, allegedly used drugs. Once the testing methods improved and someone blew the whistle on dope makers, her performance slipped dramatically. And of many others. Boxer Jason Giambi of New York says he turned to steroids beginning in 2001. Ken Caminiti, once an 'Outstanding Player' insisted half the players in baseball shared his steroid weakness, he died at 41 of a cocaine overdose.

Of course Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, who lowered the old 100-meter mark at the 1988 Olympics, was found using illicit testosterone. But Carl Lewis, his rival and supposedly Mr. Clean and a loud one for two decades, had reportedly failed drug tests before the '88 Olympics (the charges came only after his retirement).

And of course the ever popular Diego Maradona from the slums of Argentina - the Pele of the generation- was expelled from the 1994 World Cup after testing positive for too many drugs to count. Apart from American Tour de France star Lance Armstrong since 1999, Richard Virenque of France, Italy's Marco Pantani (dead) of a drug overdose last winter) and, most recently, Tyler Hamilton of the United States have all tested positive for steroids or blood-enhancing EPO.

Reminds one of many western politicians and media, with CIA chief claiming a 'slam dunk' proof of Iraq buying Uranium from Niger, weapons of mass destruction and Iraq's linkage with Al Qaeda, as the causes belli for attacking Iraq. All turned out to be lies and spins. USA remains a super power in manipulating world sports and inventing better masking of drugs than Canada, so Lewis gained over Johnson. Soviet Union and the East block nations did well in sports and games and were often accused by the Western media of doping. But after the Fall of the Berlin Wall, athletes and sportspersons from those nations are doing very well, with Russia producing an array of female star tennis players, some very attractive ones too. Impoverished US Blacks do well in athletics and sports (and music) because of better physique (and sense of rhythm) and also because these are the only fields left open to them.

The list of doping is long and endless. It is like a cat and mouse game, with big powers helping out their athletes and players. I am convinced that majority of sportsmen and women use drugs.

India's Loss to Bangladesh and the Third battle of Panipat

The loss to Bangladesh raised as much storm as the stunning defeat at Panipat in 1761 might have . If the team India was coached by Australian Greg Chappell then the fighting forces of Hindustan were trained by French artillery experts and were led by Maratha Chieftain Sadashiv Bhau, with Vitthal Vinchurkar and Damaji Gaikwad in toe .

The World Cup debacle took place under the leadership of Marathas again. BCCI is headed by Maratha chieftain Sharad Pawar with another Maratha Dilip Vengsarkar, the chief of selectors. Sachin Tendulkar, who once reminded the all time great Don Bradman of himself was an abysmal failure both against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka .

Tendulkar has averaged 12 against Australia in the last five matches, less than 25 in the last five matches against South Africa and 19 in the last five matches against Sri Lanka. He is tarnishing his own pristine record and image. No one now talks of him along with Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara or even Mohamad Yusuf of Pakistan.

Wrote New Zealand's Richard Hadlee, one of the greatest all rounders and selector; "Aching muscles, taking longer to get over injuries, lack of desire to train or practice, boredom when playing, lack of enjoyment, having achieved one's goals leaving nothing else to strive for and picking up a pay packet for the wrong reasons -- all these are sure indicators that it is time to call it quits."

Ian Chappell, Greg's, equally brilliant elder brother and cricket captain, but not beyond using underhand trick or bowling, also suggested that Tendulkar retire. Lara and Pakistan captain Inzzeman have retired from ODIs.

Like dissensions in Panipat, there were differences with the coach and among Indian players, with Bengali Saurav refusing to speed up scoring in team's interest.  In Panipat, it was a battle lost by Marathas than won by Afghans. There were strategic blunders and internal bickering. The Panipat battle was won by young reserve Afghan troops of Ahmed Shah Abdali, as was the match by young enthusiastic Bangladesh lads.

But Indian players, like politicians, refuse to retire as there is so much money now, Ganguly being the example. And how the regionalism raises its head. When Ganguly was rightly outed from the team, the whole of Bengal batted for him, including politicians, even in the Parliament. If the politicians had a free hand they might even demand reservations based on caste quota.

Indian Cricketers

Now a days millionaire Indian cricketers behave like matadors, not realizing that they are more like gladiators and failure means death and financial oblivion. Indian cricketers rarely surprise me.

But I was surprised that they were beaten by Bangladesh even though they had not done too well in tours of West Indies and South Africa or in the Champions' Trophy .The team had not jelled. Some of the players were trying to get into form against Sri Lanka at home. Injured earlier, Yuvraj Singh did not have enough match practice and ran himself out against Sri Lanka. It was also a mistake to put the future of Indian innings and the team by trying to get Viru Shewag into form against Bangladesh, which had beaten not only India earlier but even humbled the mighty Australia. Sri Lanka were in good nick .This put pressure on Shewag and on the other opener, Robin Uthappa, who could not be sure of his place and feel settled.

Shewag might have scored the first ever and only Indian triple Test century, but he relies purely on body balance and timing. Wealth from endorsements and age slow one down. Coach John Wright used to say that Sehwag was fearless but family responsibilities bring on anxiety. One wrong slice over the slips, a four or even a six in the past could now cost him and family tens of millions of rupees in lost endorsements.

Frankly, Dravid is not a great captain, certainly not at par with Ganguly. It was considered a great sacrifice on Dravid's part when he opted to open in Pakistan, when Ganguly's position was in doubt. It appeared basically a team ploy to keep Saurav out of the eleven. If only Saurav had justified his place in the team. But he would make an excellent non-playing captain.

In many countries politicians happily become ordinary ministers after having been Prime Ministers, but not in caste ridden India. Saurav's return did cause some tensions. Sachin' elevation to Vice Captain was to keep him out if Dravid was disabled. When Saurav was penalized for 4 matches, he should have utilized the time to correct his flaws, which he had to do eventually. But as in Indian politics, a week is a long time.

In some ways Sachin is like Byon Borg of Tennis, an outstanding player but unable to handle personal matters and would face post retirement blues. On the cricket battlefield masses and sponsors want performance. Commitments and dedication alone won't do. There are thousands of young dedicated Indians waiting in the wings.

Some High tides in Indian cricket

In 1983 , I was posted at Bucharest and had gone out with my son Tinoo for lunch at the Japanese ambassador's villa on lakes Snagov. The other ambassadors were somewhat intrigued by my trying to get hold of a transistor, as there was no international crisis. Indian score of 183 depressed me. We came back home and before going for my siesta Tinoo wanted to listen to the scores. I said we would lose in any case, so why bother. He even said that there could be miracles but seeing my mood gave up . But I was woken up by the Pakistani Ambassador who congratulated me on the victory. I said why are you pulling my leg. Only when he insisted I tuned in and was absolutely delighted. In return in Amman in 1992, in spite of Pakistan 's indifferent form in the league matches, I had bet with the Ambassador for their winning the Cup and went over for celebrations with champagne.

After the 1983 World Cup triumph India won comfortably the champions Trophy in Australia. In January 1985 India was playing against Pakistan in Sharjah and before going to the airport to take a flight to Bucharest via Karachi I listened to the commentary in late Vijay Tripathi's room in PMO. It was an unflattering score of hundred something but there was hope. When the door of Indian Airlines opened at Karachi and I stepped out, from the ladders bottom below, my host Consul General G Parthasarathy said loudly, all out for 87.

The Indian team did surprise me during Australia's tour of India in 2003, especially in the turnaround test in Calcutta .With the cohesion and the momentum forged under Saurav, team India did very well in the tests series in Australia too, which I followed over the internet from Brussels. Saurav himself scored a brilliant century (nothing like that has followed since then) in the first Test when as usual India had almost collapsed. On the whole everyone rose to the occasion, specially in batting and did splendidly well. But for some doubtful umpiring decision to give a resounding farewell to Australian captain Steve Waugh we ought to have won. Saurav, with his strong personality transformed a regional Indian team into Saurav team. Still he was amiss in insisting on having Bengal mate Deepankar Dasgupta and mascot Parthiv Patel in the team.

The victorious matadors on return home, got married, made pots of money and basked in adulation. But the team was still hungry with new find Irfan Pathan and Balaji and carried on their momentum in the series in an overawed Pakistan. All that Pakistan coach Javed Miandad would do in ODIs, was to signal from the dressing room to the last Pakistan batsman to hit a six, which he once did in Sharjah. With their coffers full following the Indian visit, Pakistan could afford a foreign coach and did rather well except for the latest fiasco. It is from the money from Indian matches that Bangladesh could also afford a foreign coach.

When the team India returned home from Pakistan, the gladiators collected all the kudos, bachelors got married, put on weight and tried to live on their reputation. Under Chappell's coaching, the youngsters were enthused and the team did well but the old matadors would not be disciplined. The Zimbabwe visit resulted in a totally out of form Ganguly being rightly deprived of the captaincy. But it ignited Bengali nationalism in full. Zahir Khan went on a 'study tour 'of English counties and returned a better bowler. The team did well at home but in the last West Indies visit and since then the performance was uninspiring.

Money remains the motivation

With sustained economic growth and increasing wealth every one is coming over to India for a slice of the pie. Seeing religion like passion for cricket in India and sensing the despair over cricket defeat and potential for making hay by filling the void FIFA President Sepp Blatter on the first ever visit by a President said "We want to wake up the sleeping giant. In the 1960s, the national team was good, but India has probably lost its way." Western investors or the British on a weapons sale pitch always repeat this never failing mantra of a great power on a people hungry for greatness."

A few years ago, suddenly, the international fashion industry entered the bludgeoning Indian cosmetic market by selecting a few Indian beauties at international contests. As if Indian women suddenly became beautiful (One from Nigeria too, the largest and richest nation in Africa. It is another matter that the concept of beauty in Nigeria is for bosomy and bottomy ones). It was just an opportunity for fashion corporate interests to cash in.

India now has former Test cricketers from all over the world pouring into India at the drop of a hat, for well paid commentaries and writing columns, many ghost written by Indians. Just cashing on brand names. They have all come to love India, for its money. Mr Geoff Boycott, perhaps the most boring killjoy opening batsman, is often in India .To earn popularity he named Saurav, the Prince, but in his heydays would not even deign visiting India with MCC teams. Nowhere else were visiting cricketers treated better than in India even then, but for Mr Geoff Boycott, there was perhaps not enough moolah. To partake in the sudden popularity of MS Dhoni, even wily Commando Gen Musharraf dipped in by publicly admiring his long locks. But after his totally abysmal performance, public is now attacking his villa with a swimming pool et al.. As if Solomon has lost his locks.

A large number of young Indians, even from small towns, because of tremendous amount of money as rewards, are being attracted into cricket, with full support from their families, especially mothers. Thus spreading the net for selecting boys from larger numbers in a population of over one billion. The number of boys who have dedicated themselves to the hard task of fast bowlers is commendable and the results are there to see. At no time in the past was there such a glut of fast bowlers. In fact if one falters then twice that many youngsters are ready to fill the breach. But the problems are the immovable batsmen.

Indian diet and genes

In early 1990s in Ankara, I invited for lunch a young Indian Davis cup player, whose father was top world ranked player in another game and asked him why India did not do well in Tennis or other sports. He replied that perhaps there was something in the Western genes which made them superior physically. While waiting for some consular problem to be resolved, another Indian Davis cup player told me in Paris in 1970s why Vijay Amritraj, who was considered as good as Jimmy Connors and Byon Borg did not realize his potential. Because in spite of all the talent Amritraj was just not prepared to go through the grind of 10 hours practice day in and day out as most Westerners do.

It is said that Srinath, the best medium fast bowler after Kapil Dev was a vegetarian. When he asked for tips from a Pakistani veteran he was advised to first add chicken to his diet for strength and stamina if he wanted to be a fast bowler. Look at Indians' diet, the poor ones barely exist. Among the middle and rich classes the diet is not conducive to good health and stamina. Except for some 'outcasts' and tribals, and Rajputs, majority of the Indians have been vegetarians for millennia. Potatoes, chilies, tomatoes, were introduced by invaders. Protein rich Soya, healthy Sun flower oil are recent additions. Apart from wheat and rice, what did average Indian live on, useless protein less vegetables, lauki and tori and some beans and lentils for proteins, over centuries and centuries. The genetic results, physically dwarfed specimens are there for all to see. In games like Rugby we dare not even participate, not even our army teams, bastions of physical fitness.

The nuvo-riche with rich diets and not enough exercise are becoming prone to cardiac and other diseases. Before ample number of Indians can afford healthy food and acquire sporting habits , we must select people, who have lived on a meat diet of whatever kind and those living active hard lives. Kenyans from certain hilly areas are doing exceptionally well in middle and long distance runs .So are the Ethiopians. But we would have leaders of creamy layers thrusting their boys if coaching academies are established.

Some Observations

In Indian political tradition BCCI head Pawar announced 'drastic measures' to set things right , including committees. When things go wrong in a ministry or in district, in spite of the politicians being mostly responsible, the civil servants end up as scapegoats and are punished. The blame has been passed on to others by BCCI. Ajit Wadekar, under whose captaincy came first ever Indian cricket wins abroad in West Indies and England was right when he suggested that Pawar must resign.

But the myth of ministerial responsibility, if it were ever true, expired long ago. Indian sports authorities have been taken over by politicians (followed by policemen) and used for political and economic gains and have suffered. It is a sub-continental disease, politicians messing up sports, in Pakistan, it is the generals. For all his faults it was a businessman Dalmiya who by increasing cricket revenues attracted enormous talent for the game in India and strengthened BCCI's leverage against white dominated ICC.

Another major problem in India's culture and religion is stress on individuality. For example individual religious salvation unlike say in Islam, Buddhism or Sikh religion, where generally the emphasis is on community approach. Or in music where like in the West the orchestra never took roots. Another example is research papers produced by Indians. A survey of research articles some years ago showed joint authorship as follows: India ( 3.6%), UK (20.4%), USA (44%). Single authorship, India (65.50), USA (35.6%).Therefore, in team events, Indians do not do well. They might do quite well in individual games like Tennis or Badminton or individually in Cricket.

Speculative by nature Indians look for a miracle- a short-cut, hence the popularity of a chance game, like Cricket specially ODIs. Indian players become experts in drop shots in Tennis and Badminton or bowl deceptive googly. It is well established that if one works hard, 10-12 hours a day to build up stamina, strength, ability and mental resilience, after 8/10 years, one can reach World level in Tennis or Badminton but barring Krishnans and Amritraj brothers in Tennis and in Badminton, players and athletes of world standard rarely emerge from the Indian soil.

Krishnans and Padukone were masters of the touch-game i.e. drop shots and deception. Deception is sanctioned even in divine manifestation. Rama hiding behind a tree to kill Bali or lies about the setting Sun to kill Jaydrath or false death of Aswathama (horse) in Mahabharata.

One cannot blame the Indian climate entirely, as some tend to do, since the climate of Indonesia, Thailand is no less innervating than of India, but Indonesians, Thais and Malaysians keep on producing one world champion after another in the game of their choice, Badminton. They beat Indians in most other sports too like football. Look at our abysmal record. Poverty cannot be the sole reason either. Why cannot we produce world-cup footballers as do the slums of Brazil, Argentina, and other nations in Latin America.

What really focuses and still fascinates the Indian mind is the 1983 win. Faced by a hostile West Indies attack India were dismissed for 183. But it was an astonishing catch by skipper Kapil Dev who sprinted back 20 yards to latch onto the skier from the marauding blade of the great Viv Richards. It turned the game around and the famed West Indies batting machine inexplicably failed by 43 runs. Earlier India got a real scare when it was five wickets down for just 17 runs on board against lowly Zimbabwe. But an inspired Kapil innings of 175 saved the day.  On the way Australia thrashed India by over 180 runs. Great believers in Astrology, the masses believe that miracles would and could occur again.

Greg Chappell "if you want to be like Australia, you can't run your cricket like Zimbabwe."

For being a good coach you need other qualifications than just being good in that sport. Generally when India or Pakistan appoint retired stars as coaches, they owe allegiance to a region or are beholden to those who helped them in their career. They also have their favorites among the current crop of players. Politicians pressurize them. Generally they are unable to enforce discipline. Only a stern man like Greg can. If Kapil were made the coach, the players would say Bhraji ( elder brother ), let us drink beer- sheer and enjoy Murga (chicken). We will do the fielding practice tomorrow. They might take Sunil Gavaskar to Srikhand party or Bengali delicacies at Eden Gardens.

Caste system has penetrated all walks of life including the game, in a modified way. Top batsmen and bowlers would not improve their fielding as if they are high caste Brahmins and Kshatryas would not do Shudra's (untouchables) work. Hindustan had no revolution and remains profession –born- into oriented. Even in time of perils, only the warrior classes were expected to fight the enemies .The Indian society did not evolve that all take all responsibilities.

In politics, in many countries, say Turkey, politicians who have been Prime Ministers agree to become ministers in changing coalitions. Not In India. Once a Brahmin, the highest in hierarchy, always a Brahmin. The inappropriate Indian electoral system from a small island has only strengthened the pernicious caste system which along with regional and state loyalties has acquired a stranglehold in running of sports, both in training and selection. As in other matters Muslims suffer from similar caste prejudices in Pakistan, made worse by so called Ashraffs vs the converts. Former captains in Pakistani teams create problems there, made worse by Generals, who never shed their uniforms.

In classic Indian hockey we had a fixed 1,2,3 and 5 system, which the Western put paid to when more of them took to the game. In football positions are exchangeable. This of course demands fitness and stamina. In Indian cricket all rounders have come up more by chance than a belief in tying everything. In school days the students would be classed as sportsmen or scholars. You could not excel in both. Sports need intelligence and resilience apart from stamina and skill at higher levels. Without brains you can go up only up to a point. For decades top policemen in Punjab recruited barely literate youngsters as Assistant Sub-inspectors, put them to playing hockey only. They did well for themselves and India too, till Europeans and Australia took to the game seriously and applied their all round training skills, making Indian tricolor fly at hockey meets now a days a rare thing.

Only Foreign coaches have insisted on physical fitness, improved fielding and firmness in dealing with gladiators past their prime. Tendulkar is an exception being treated like God. In Australia with his recent poor performance he would have been shown the door as was Ganguly. In 1950s and 60s opening batsman Pankaj Roy was Bengals' permanent representative in the Indian XI. After 5 poor scores he would score a fifty and continue for another series. Ganguly's return created tensions. The methods introduced by Chappell were making some inroads into insidious south Asian disease. A foreign coach with strong personality is a must to overcome the disease.

K Gajendra Singh, Indian ambassador (retired), served as ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan from August 1992 to April 1996. Prior to that, he served terms as ambassador to Jordan, Romania and Senegal. He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies. Copy right with the author. E-mail:


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Influence of Buddhism on Islam


Tel/Fax ; 43034706                                                          Amb (Rtd) K Gajendra Singh                                                      

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Influence of Buddhism on Islam

Through out history, there was natural interaction through migration and conquest, travel and trade, between the Fertile Crescent, Asia Minor, Persia, Khorasan and Central Asia and Hindustan. Alexander the Macedonian went up to Bukhara and then north west Hindustan. Earlier some Indo- Aryan tribes like Mitannis had migrated from Eurasian steppes and ruled in upper Mesopotamia.  Then the Arab armies marched north east and conquered areas up to the steppes. Then the Turkish tribes marched from eastern Asian steppes to Persia! and Turkey (and the Indian sub-continent). Then came Chengiz Khan and the Mongol hordes.

Culturally, linguistically, ethnically and spiritually there is no area in the world that has so much in common as that formed by the regions connecting the river basins of Euphrates, Tigris; Amu and Syr Darya: Indus and the Ganges. This is an area with a continuous history and cradle of most civilizations and religions; Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, Judaism and Christianity and Islam and their variations. The intermingling of Semitic, Indo-Iranian and Ural- Altaic languages with local languages produced a mosaic of new languages and tongues.

Influence of Buddhism in Central Asia perhaps started from the time of Greek King Menander in Bactria. During the rule of Kushana Emperor Kanishka (who was converted to Buddhism) from Peshawar, not only traders but also religious teachers moved freely throughout his Empire which then encompassed today's Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Xinjiang, Pakistan and Northern India and laid the foundations for the spread of Buddhism. Earlier Asoka had undertaken energetic steps to spread the Dhamma, but his efforts were more successful in South East Asia and Ceylon. Buddhism was taken to Central Asia either directly or via Tibet or Eastern Turkestan (Xinjiang) where with little competition, it was easily accepted . But it was not so in Sogdiana and around it, where Zoroastrians were well entrenched, later came followers of Manichaeism and Nestorian Christians. Conquerors (and traders) spread their religions, but they were also influenced by the cultures and the creeds of the ruled.

To begin with in Buddhism symbols represented Buddha and Tantras. Sculpture representing Buddha in human form is a Greek contribution through Gandhara art from Afghanistan. Starting from Bactria, Buddhism evolved the concept of Bodhisattva Maitreya as incarnations for attaining Nirvana and return to guide and help the laity. This universal and secular religion found favour with Central Asian Turks and Mongols (also Uyghur's in Xinjiang) when it reached there.

Influence of Viharas and Stupas on darghas and khankahs in Central Asia

Excavations have revealed Viharas and Stupas all over eastern Turkistan, up to Bukhara and into Turkmenistan. To begin with, Stupas were built to keep sacred relics (of Buddha and some of his disciples) although Buddha himself was against such practices. Later Stupas became associated with the symbols of remains of saints and cemeteries. The respect and veneration is , perhaps ,based more on Aryan belief in Brahman or the Reality (Universal Soul) and Atman (individual Soul) with the saints having achieved the Union with the Reality. Prophet Mohammed had underlined that God and man are different. (Christians have still not resolved this dilemma fully). Miracles and veneration of dead persons are denounced in Quran (Sura XI, 31).

Stupas started as simple structures, as in Sanchi in Central India (1st or 2nd Cent BC) with a semi-spherical dome for the remains, fenced by a wall and 4 entrances and a Chhatri (umbrella symbolising the Lord and the Sovereign). Later a raised square platform was added under the dome with the structures then becoming more complex and sophisticated, adorned with sculptures like Bamiyan Buddhas and paintings (some times in caves i.e. in Ajanta and Barhaut in India). Viharas are monasteries with cells constructed around a court yard, with Stupa in the middle, for monks to stay during the heavy Indian monsoon rains. Normally the monks were not to attach themselves to any fixed place.

With the spread of Buddhism Central Asians including Turks and Mongols adopted and assimilated phrases from Buddhism i.e. Sanskrit and Pali words like Nirvana =Nirvana (Nibanna), Dhamma =Dharma, Cindan =Chandan (sandalwood), used for funerary ceremony, Aratna =Ratan, Stup =Stupa, Mandal= Mandala, Chakra= Chakra, Bodhistava =Bodhistav, Bakshi (accountant)=Bhikku /Bhikshu (because a Bhikshu once did accounts for the Mongols) etc. 

An excavation in 1930s at Moghoki Attar mosque in Bukhara, perhaps the oldest surviving mosque in Central Asia, revealed under it ruins of a Zoroastrian temple destroyed by Arabs and an earlier Buddhist temple beneath it. The name Bukhara itself perhaps derives from Vihara. (Tashkent could be from Tashkhund; region of stones in Sanskrit). There are many ruins of Viharas and Stupas in Termez on Amu Darya (Uzbekistan), Merv (Turkmenistan), Afrasiab (Samarkand), Khojand etc in Ferghana valley and around Lake Issik Kul in Kyrgyzstan .Of course in Eastern Turkistan (and Tibet) apart from the ruins, many thousand old Buddhist manuscripts (300 pages found in Merv too) and books were recovered. Buddhist paintings have also been found in Afrasiab and elsewhere in Central Asia. It is not a simple coincidence that after Islam's arrival all these places became centres of Sufi Islam. From Stupas and Viharas have perhaps emerged sacred tombs, khankahs, darghas and madarsas.

Tombs were not popular in Arab heartland around Saudi Arabia. But the Persian, Turkish, Asian and African, even Berber Muslims accepted Pirs, Calandars, Sheikhs, Babas, Dervishes and others and their tombs became places of worship. Freedom loving eclectic nomads and others resisted Arab warriors in Sogdiana and Central Asia and their still austere Islam. It was only the modified, personalised and spiritual Islam of Persian Samanids based in Bukhara (Ismail's tomb looks like a simple Stupa) that was first accepted by Turks and others in Central Asia .To Islam had been added strands of local religions and beliefs .It is this form of Islam that was spread in India mostly by Sufi saints, but also by forced conversions or inducements.

Sufism developed fully by 12th century by which time Arab Islam had been modified and enriched by streams from Persian, Central Asian and other religions, beliefs and philosophies .It was in the heartland of Arab Islam ie Baghdad and Aleppo, where Sufis saints Al Hajj (for insisting " Ana Al-haq "-I am the Truth) and Suhrawardy were martyred. Because of Sunni hostility tombs were erected much after the martyrdom of Imam Ali and Imam Hussein in Najaf and Karbala. The Wahhabis, Salafis remain deadly opposed to Sufism.

The major Sufi Tariqas ( ways) had central Asian origin or influence i.e., Qadiriyas, Nakshabandis (many current Turkish leaders are its adherents), Rumi's dervishes, Bektashis, the patron saint of non-Turkish (mostly Slav), non-  Muslim ( mostly Christian) born Janissary corps and top Administrators of the Ottoman Empire based on devshirme (slave ) system. Turkey's Shia Alevis' faith (majority from Turkmen Oghuz tribes) has strands from Christian, Shaman and other beliefs.

Intermingling of beliefs and faiths;

Human wish to comprehend and experience the Reality is as old as the natural talent to transcend beyond oneself, until this faculty was dimmed by technological afflictions. There are glimpses of it in earliest Aryan writings like Vedas and Avestan, even among Greek philosophers like Orpheus, Pythagoras, Socrates and others .So the environment and tools existed before formal religions evolved or were revealed.

Buddha himself went through the whole gamut of experiments and meditations including Jain like and other austerities, Hindu systems before realisng Nirvana. And his path and method of meditation were modified in east India, Tibet, China and Japan. If Buddhism influenced the evolution of Sufi Islam then Buddhism itself was influenced earlier by other religions and practices.

Indo-Iranian religion Mithraism flowered between the 2nd and 4th centuries in the Roman world and became very popular among the Roman aristocracy, military leaders and soldiers, traders and slaves with powerful patrons among Roman emperors, like Commodus, Septimium Severus, Caraculla and others. Diocletian built a temple for Mithra near Vienna on Danube as "the Protector of the Empire". He was the god of Light and Sun, contract, loyalty and justice. Celebrations for Mithra's birthday on December 25, the sun's solstice, was so popular in the Asia that Christmas had to be shifted to this day from January 6 to make it acceptable among the masses. Christianity also took over many of the rituals and symbols of Mithraism, like baptism, resurrection and prayers to honor the Sun.

India's Sikh religion also known as gurmat, the teachings of the guru, founded by Guru Nanak (1469-1539), combines many elements of Hinduism and Islam. Guru Nanak believed that one could come close to the God through meditation and devotion .God is the true guru and his divine word has come to the humanity through the 10 historical gurus. Their sacred scripture Adi Granth is also called "Guru Granth Saheb ". The Sikh temples are known as gurdwaras, Guru's door. Many Shi'ites Ghulat groups believe that Ali and the Imams are doors to God. When the Sunni Moghul emperors persecuted the Sikhs and their gurus, Sikh religion took to militancy and those who died for the panth ( gurus' path) became martyrs.

Human beings have evolved many paths to the Reality ie various Yoga systems; Tibetan, Zen, Vipassana and other Buddhist Margs, Jewish Kabbalah, Christian Hesychasm, Gurdjief way, Sufi Tariqas and Transcendental Meditation (TM) in modern times for spiritually challenged materialists. The masses accept what the saints and holy men they trust teach them.

September4, 2004.Bucharest.

(K Gajendra Singh, served as Indian Ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan in 1992-96. Prior to that, he served as ambassador to Jordan (during the 1990-91 Gulf war), Romania and Senegal.  He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies.  The views expressed here are his own.-

Mosque and tombs

The word mosque itself derives from the Arabic masjid, "a place where one prostrates one's self (in front of God)." In earliest times any place could be used for private prayer with correct direction (qiblah, originally Jerusalem, but soon after Mecca). The collective prayer on Fridays, with a collective swearing of allegiance to the community's leadership also strengthens common bonds among all members of the Ummah.

According to some experts, the Quran does not utter a word for or against the representation of living things. But from about the middle of the 8th century a prohibition was formally stated .It became a standard feature of Islamic thought, even though the form in which it was expressed varied from absolute to partial. It has been suggested that Islam developed this attitude when it came into contact with other cultures and it was felt that the dreaded idol worship might return. The Qur'an (Sura ix, 31) prohibits the veneration of holy men and saints. In early Islam there was no special embellishment of funerary sites; 'the tombs of the rich and poor are! alike'. But the human desire to venerate and by many to be venerated is too old and deep rooted. The first changes occurred through veneration of the tombs of holy persons. 

It appears that the construction of commemorative buildings over certain burial places began in the late 9th and 10th centuries especially over those of Shi'ite saints. Then over the tombs, mostly in Iran and Central Asia, of rulers of marginal or semi-independent regions, who often followed non-Sunni beliefs? T! hey were to project status symbols of secular power and were rather ambitious .In contrast, the tombs of holy men were simpler – which went towards satisfying the devotional needs of the population. Generally complex ensembles grew up around the tombs of many saints, like that of the mystic Sufi poet Jalal ud-Din Rumi, in Konya, or of Bayazid, in Bistam (1313). 

Therefore the earliest surviving tombs belong to Shi'ite persona; the shrine of Fatima, sister of the Imam 'Ali ar-Rida at Qum, and that of the Imam Ali in Najaf. The earliest rulers' tombs are of 'Abbasid Caliphs al-Muntasir (in Samarra in 862), al-Mu'tazz and al-Mohtadi (built as a domed square building enclosed in an octagonal ambulatory) and are better preserved. A feature of royalty mausoleums was its concentration, like the Timurid Shah-i Zinda ensemble in Samarqand of 14th and 15th centuries or the Mamluk tombs of Cairo. 

Mausoleums were also built to commemorate Biblical persons, companions of the Prophet and scholars, popular heroes and ghazis (fighters for the Faith). From 12th century secular mauso­leums proliferated all over the world, in Egypt and Central Asia, northern and north-eastern Iran and Anatolia, and also in India and North Africa. They continue to be built, both for spiritual and secular leaders e.g., Firdausi, Avicenna, Umar Khayya! m, the late Agha Khan and the poet-philosopher Iqbal, and particularly im­posing structures for Riza Shah Pahlavl, Ataturk and Mohammed Ali Jinnah. 

The mausoleum of the Samanids in Bukhara, commonly referred to as the Tomb of Isma'il, was constructed before 943 and consists of a square structure with a large central dome and four small corner ones set over a gallery. Especially noteworthy is the use of bricks to create different pat­terns in its various parts. 

Then of course there are the famous imperial Moghul mausoleums, of Humayun (d. 1556) in Delhi, built of red sandstone and white marble; and the marvel in marble, the Taj Mahal, built in Agra by Emperor Shah Jehan for his favourite queen Mumtaz Mahal. The mausoleum of Akbar (d. 1605) is at Sikandra, and of his son Jehangir (d1627) near Lahore. The word mausoleum comes from the structure built in Asia Minor (Bodrum -Western Turkey) for an Asian ruler, Mausolus by his Queen, around the time Alexander the Great passed that way.