Bhrigu's question

कभी जो याद भी आता हूँ मैं तो कहते हैं के आज बज़्म में कुछ फ़ित्ना-ओ-फ़साद नहीं - मिर्ज़ा ग़ालिब

Location: the valley, California, United States

Bay Area, Strategy Manager, Haas- U. C. Berkeley, Marathons

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Marathon blues - The Week

Jon Stock's article in The Week on the postponement of the Delhi marathon is a must-read.

Two days later, as I was hobbling around the office feeling sorry for myself, I got a call from an Indian friend. "Are you sitting down?" he asked, preparing me for bad news. "The marathon has been postponed by two months." I know that this piece of information, in itself, might not warrant much sympathy. Nobody forced me to sign up for the race and all the hard training that it involves. But let me just recall what I wrote in this column at the beginning of October: "This event will be a good opportunity for Delhi to lay some of the more ignorant stereotypes to rest and show the world that it can organise an international event which is both efficient and infused with India’s unique atmosphere."

Oh dear. More than 5,000 international athletes (including amateurs like me) had made their travel arrangements, booking flights and hotels, to be there for the event. Now, we have all to cancel those plans, at considerable expense, and reconvene for February 12 next year.

If I hadn’t been called by my friend, I might not have been any the wiser. As I write, the race Web site ( still has a clock counting down the days and hours before the December date. It’s only when you read a small window at the top of the page that you see the words, "Due to some unavoidable circumstances, Delhi International Marathon has now moved to February 12, 2006."

I have trained and run three marathons. People who do not run long distances simply may not understand that the schedule is very important. The whole training programme is coordinated in a ramp-up and ramp-down schedule. See this schedule for an example of a training program. You simply cannot postpone a program on a whim. Moreover, people have logistical issues. It is not easy to book tickets, make travel arrangements, take vacation from work and so on.

This is not a one-off issue with marathon organizers in India. A similar thing happened in the Bangalore marathon last year. At this rate, no self-respecting runner will sign up for a marathon in India.

Update. My friend Dhananjay emails:

“I agree. In fact, having reviewed the terms and conditions on the basis of which the organizers have invited participation and collected fees from the runners, I believe there might be a good case to sue the organisers for the losses suffered by the runners. If nothing else, such legal action would send out a signal to all concerned that organising an event of this nature is not child's play. A parallel to this unfortunate event is the cancellation of the third India South Africa ODI at Chennai, which has, now, prompted a livid fan to file a suit at a Court in Chennai to restrain the Ind-SL test match from being held at Chennai so long as the risk of cancellation remains a valid concern.”

Classic poets voices online

Hat tip from a BBC article. Classic poets voices are now online. Excellent.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Two different standards: Dr. Sandeep Pandey's experience

In addition to some of the links in this open letter, and this superb article by an Asha volunteer, many people have opposed certain non-Asha related views of Magsaysay award winner Dr. Sandeep Pandey, whose pronouncements are increasingly embarrassing. It speaks of the greatness of strong foundation of democratic principles prevalent within the United States of America that he has been able to make his controversial viewpoints freely here. As he himself writes:
A senior officer started the interrogation all over again. Just as we were finishing and I was told that I would be let out soon, the officer came across a press clipping from Manila wherein during the trip to receive Magsaysay award I had stated in a press conference that ‘US was the biggest terrorist state’. The officer asked me why I had made that statement. I told him that when I can protest against the nuclear weapons of my country and US possessing the biggest stockpile of nuclear weapons was a bigger culprit and when without providing evidence as to who was behind the Sept. 11 incidents it went and attacked Afghanistan for no reason, why could I not question the US military policy? To my pleasant surprise he said he could appreciate my position and thanked me for my cooperation in the interrogation. I was let out of the airport where Netika and friends were waiting and were now beginning to get anxious.
Contrast that with the fact that Pakistan has not allowed him into POK for delivering earthquake aid. This excerpt from a letter by Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy:
Visibility makes relief choppers terrific propaganda, for good or for worse. This is undoubtedly why the Pakistani government refused an Indian offer to send in helicopters for relief work in and around Muzzafarabad, the flattened capital of Pakistani administered Kashmir. In spite of a much celebrated peace process, Pakistan has also not issued visas to Indian peace groups and activists that seek participation in the relief effort. Sandeep Pandey and other Indian activists are very frustrated.
As a volunteer for Asha, who opposes Dr. Pandey's personal views and actions, I find it amusing that a country that he has criticised with ad-hominems has acted far more charitably than a country to which he has extended an arm of friendship.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Running for a living

An article in the BBC about the marathoner Budhia has this revelation:

Budhia had been sold by his poverty-stricken mother to a man for 800 rupees. Mr Das summoned the man who had bought Budhia and paid him his money back.

Clearly, poverty drives people to desperation. But a society that allows this to happen, that a person actually pays money to buy a human being, in the 21st century speaks volumes about its moral bankruptcy.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Christopher Meyer's DC Confidential

The excerpts of his book are here. It appears that former PM John Major was staying with the ambassador on 9/11. I was intrigued by this:
John Major was due to head off to a meeting of the Carlyle Group, one of the most powerful private equity firms in the US, whose European arm he chaired.Catherine urged him not to go downtown, but he did.

He returned at lunch to say there had been a brief meeting of the Carlyle Group people, who had then gone their separate ways. "I met Mr Bin Laden this morning," he reported. This was, it transpired, one of Osama's many siblings, a major Carlyle investor.

The end of secularism

As we have seen here, here and here, the term secularism has been so redefined in Indian polity that it has lost its original meaning. There was no intent of disassociating religion with the state . In fact, the state, under the Congress, actively perpetuated a myth of secularism - only this time it actively contributed to communalism's step-child; minorityism.

Minorityism is the framing of laws and social mores that contribute to identifying Indians as separate communities through civil codes, reservations and other state sponsored acts. Such differentiation is often accompanied by victimisation.

For example, in essays such as these {and the subsequent comments thereafter}, while ostensibly referring to secularism, only identifies the minorities as victims and the majority community as the perpetrators of crimes. Thus, there is no mention of the ethnic cleansing in Kashmir. Neither to that in Bangladesh - which affects India since so many refugees come into India on a constant basis. There is no mention of the hundreds of Hindus killed in Punjab in the 80s. Hindus don't count at all as victims. If they do, they are referred to in passing, as in the case of the bomb blasts in Bombay . There is a distinct differentiation applied to such acts. They are called terrorist acts. In spite of being perpetrated by minorities, they are not recognized as patently communal acts.

Thus, there isn't any moral equivalence between acts of terror. To be truly secular, one needs to create that moral equivalence. To be truly secular, one needs to shed the baggage of minorityism and victimisation.

Secularism in India needs to be rethought.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Corruption Perception Index (2005)

India is at #88 in Transperancy International's Corruption Perception Index along with Gabon, Iran, Mali, Moldova, Tanzania, Bosnia, Benin, and Armenia. We're more than a point below the global average and around 2 points below the regional average.