Friday, August 21, 2009


Just like most heavy weight boxing bouts, the build-up to a 100 meters race is everything. The actual event, the race itself, is over before you can blink. In fact at the rate Usain Bolt is going the only way to watch a 100 meters race will be to play it back in super slow motion.

In June last year Usain Bolt ran the 100 meters in 9.72 seconds. A professor of kinesiology (the science of human movement) interviewed by The Independent predicted he could run faster. But he added a provisio only if Bolt sprinted right to the end of his races rather than slowing down to see by how much the competition was trailing behind him.

On Wednesday Aug 19, Bolt shaved another 0.11 seconds off his own record and took it down to an incredulous 9.58 seconds. Incidentally, the cameras caught him once again looking back at his rivals as they trailed yards behind him.

By now Usain of course must know he's not competing against anyone. There simply isn't any other human on the planet in his class.

From here on Bolt will compete against time and his own body to push the limits of what's humanly possible.

So just what's humanly possible? How fast can the human race be able to run a 100 meter race? Could humans run as fast as Cheetahs that quite literally tear up the Earth at 70 mph. At the moment an average athlete runs a 100 meter at about 27 mile per hour and Usain Bolt has excited the imagination of kinesiologists who are queuing up to predict where Usain Bolt could land up. The athlete, ever the optimist, has backed himself to stop at 9.4 seconds. This means over the next few years Bolt will become faster by 0.18 seconds. It may seem like a fraction but on the track it translates into many yards.

Skeptics however believe Bolt's height could limit his aspirations. Apparently smaller athletes have a better chance at eclipsing Bolt as they generate more force to body mass. But the manner in which Bolt keeps disproving his critics only a pocket dynamo on steroids seems capable of beating him to the ticker tape.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


The right-wing BJP has sacrificed its senior leader Jaswant Singh at the altar of political expediency. His views that the founder of Pakistan M. A. Jinnah was a great and secular man and one who had been wrongly projected as the villain behind partition proved to be too much for the 'saffron party' to stomach.

Jaswant Singh's praise for Jinnah the BJP's leadership concluded undermined one of the Sangh Parivar's key organising principles. In the 1940s the development of the RSS (the BJP's ideological forbearer) was 'fuelled by a desire of some Hindus to organize themselves in reaction to the growing mobilization of Muslim separatist movements', like presumably, the Jinnah led Muslim League.

With Jaswant questioning this basic hypothesis in his book(Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence)he has in a sense questioned the RSS's and by extension the BJP's raison d'etre. No wonder senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley justified his expulsion by saying, "Jaswant questioned BJP's core beliefs''.

The expulsion prompted Jaswant Singh to self-righteously lament that his ouster signifies the closing of the Indian mind and he chose to portray the BJP's decision as one that militates against the best democratic tradition of intellectual discourse. "I think, in Indian polity and political parties, if aspects like thinking, introspection, discussion, reading and writing end, it will not be in the interest of the country."

Rhetoric aside, the sentiment behind Jaswant's parting shot is unexceptionable and his expulsion could well prove to be a point of inflection for the politics of the BJP and should be a point of debate for those who are concerned that the space for reasoned debate in India's political culture is rapidly shrinking.

Dialogue and inquiry are vital to political institutions, especially political parties because they are in themselves a means to an end. A means through which people express themselves to ensure the democratisation of governance.

By expelling Jaswant Singh without even the pretence of a trial the BJP has signalled to others within its ranks that debate is at par with dissidence and therefore won't be tolerated. The consequence is easy to see: The party will crustify ideologically. An ossified BJP is in danger of drifting that much further away from the fast changing political reality of today's India. In such a censorious environment one wonders whether there is any real point to the 'Chintan' (brainstorming) that is supposed to be going on in the 'baithak' (meet) in Shimla.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


That Shah Rukh Khan allegedly invoked the name of U.S secretary of State Hillary Clinton in an attempt to 'soften up' immigration officials at the Newark Airport is of far greater significance than the debate currently raging over the rights and wrongs concerning the star's detention.

By trying to invoke 'status' to seek exemptions, SRK has instantly turned from victim to transgressor and has relinquished the right to protest.

Of course back home SRK's supporters, some of whom are in government, have missed the point completely. The majority that has examined the issue have chosen to focus on the merits and demerits of U.S immigration protocol and the transgression that is social profiling. Few have asked the more basic question: What made SRK think that by dropping a name or two he could get a government official to ignore his duties or bend in compliance?

In 'our' part of the world people's actions are informed by what we routinely refer to as the 'baap ka raj' attitude. Status in 'our' part of the world is everything.

The upper caste believes his status grants him the right to subjugate, the cricketing icon believes his celebrity elevates himself above the game, the politician thinks his seat of power exempts him from the laws of propriety and the 'backward' thinks it is his right to expect privileges.

Consider this, on the day Shah Rukh Khan landed back in India, elsewhere a former minister of the realm and a serving member of Parliament, theatrically indignant, threatened to launch a 'militant movement' against the nation. K Chandrashekhar Rao's grouse: The Union government hadn't lent a sympathetic ear to his impassioned calls for separate statehood for Telangana a region in Andhra Pradesh.

And on the same day across the border in Maharashtra the state's agriculture minister Balasaheb Thorat was arrogantly dismissive when it was suggested that he had violated the law of the land by entering the cage of a Tiger cub for no other reason than to ostensibly amuse himself.

Like KCR and Thorat, SRK's genuinely hurt because his experiences have conditioned him to believe that a 'nobody' cannot question a 'somebody'. His celebrity status, like it is the case with other stars in India, has guaranteed him the license to disregard rules that apply to the lesser mortal. Recent history is replete with examples too numerous to list.

KCR, the former Union Minister believes his status as a Member of Parliament accords him Constitutional immunity and the privilege to say whatever he feels like, however outrageous even if it verges on sedition or inciting violence. KCR's thinking has been conditioned by what he sees around him. All too often his ilk have flouted the law - killed, raped, robbed, bribed but seldom brought to book. Had any other ordinary citizen stood on a street corner and preached sedition he would have been thrown into jail no questions asked. No one would have stood up in support and quoted from the charter of rights.

If this is true of KCR then the Maharashtra State minister believes his status allows him an automatic right to help himself to the state's resources. If a Minister or bureaucrat can run up millions in unpaid bills and never brought to account then Throat, the minister in question, has a right to think he too can help himself to any state resource.

SRK’s sob story hasn't gone down well with the global media because the rest of the world is flat. Status doesn't automatically open doors, buy privileges or guarantee exemptions. It may masquerade as a calling card, a coat of arms or an old school tie but it certainly isn't treated like a badge of honour or a license to dodge rules.