Revamp ? Really ?

It is official: the Indian cricket team has failed and we are all looking for an entire revamp of the way the game is played in the country.

The intellectuals are asking for a new coach, a new captain and a whole new bunch of players. Out with the old, they say .. and we lesser mortals are echoing that sentiment in our own humble little ways.

But I catch myself wondering sometimes : is the premature exit from the World Cup the only debacle this country has faced in its history ?Didn’t we lose a war to China in 1962 ? Didn’t we have our Parliament attacked not so long ago ? Didn’t the Babri Masjid go down to hooligans in the last decade ? Didn’t the country lose billions and billions of rupees to scams almost every year ? Anyone remember the train blasts in Mumbai last year ?

Why bring all that up ? Because I think the cricket team — or any team for that matter — is essentially a reflection of who we are as a nation. We are a nation of over-stressed, under-paid, under-privileged, cowardly, lazy, un-enterprising, safety-seeking individuals. We do not seem to be able to break the shackles of our society so easily. Even in this day and age, there are only a handful of people in our country who defy the societal norms and break free — look at our movies for example. How many new formats, new stories have we used in the last 20 years ? I can still watch the same movie that my dad watched as a youngster: only the film crew has changed. There are very few new, unexplored subjects that our film-makers deal with even today. It wouldn’t be all that bad if not for the fact that we actually watch these movies in the millions. Messrs Shahrukh Khan and Karan Johar keep re-making their own movies every year and we greedily lap it all up !

I ask myself: what advances has our Parliamentary system brought in ? I see the same bunch of greedy, self-serving, risk-avoiding politicians that my dad used to talk about when I was kid. God, even the reservation policy has been there for the past 50 years ! How long did it take our government to bring in economic reforms ? How many archaic laws has the government modified to reflect the present ?

And we want to revamp our cricket team !
Suppose we do revamp the team. New coach, new captain, new (younger) players. The old players are asked to retire. The new guys come in with new enthusiasm, a bold new approach to the game. After a few years of stumbling around, they start winning matches; they start beating the big boys; they reach the finals of the World Cup. And the ads start going “Hoo ha India..aaya India”. The public calls them the “ambassadors of a new, young India”; “the face of a new fearless India that is ready to capture the world”. The expectations rise (you see, we are now a would-be super-power; we cannot lose); the pressure builds; cost of failure sky-rockets; billions of dollars are invested on each player in the team. Slowly, the players start caving in to the pressure one-by-one. Then what ??? Well, we all know then what, don’t we !

Success is a double-edged sword. You can either be rich and famous or you can have a life; not both. You cannot have your cake…and so forth.

If the Indian team is rebuilt tomorrow and they somehow start winning again, can we, as fans, promise that we will not start applying pressure ? Can we, as fans, promise not to be vulgar in our appreciation (a la the “Blue Billion” ) ? Can we, as fans, promise to try and learn more about the game than about the players’ personal lives ? Can we take the odd defeat or two without asking for heads to roll ?

I don’t think we need a new cricket team. I think we need new fans. We need a better attitude as a nation. You know why the US and Australia produce so many successful sports persons ? Because sport is celebrated there. Kids do not go the ground to play so they can become multi-millionaires when they grow up; they play because they love the game; because the parents know that sports teaches them valuable lessons that textbooks cannot (of course, I am exaggerating; there are folks in these countries too who put pressure on their kids. But I am trying to make a point).
When the Indian Olympic Committee talks about “tapping the sports talent in rural India” , it scares and sickens me. Why can’t we let kids be kids ? Why do we have to look for a way to make money even from their simple lives ? True, training is necessary. You have to groom sports persons; but please, let us give them space; let them enjoy their lives while they still have time. We, cannot. We have to find out the best way of making money, more money and put our kids and youth through the drills; be it cricket, the IITs or the call centers. And, since these are such great avenues for making money, we want more people to be able to enjoy the benefits (a la reservations, more cricket coaching centers, more accent-coaches etc). It doesn’t matter to us that not everybody is built to do these things. It doesn’t matter to us that we are all different individuals. No: we cannot accept that. Our kids have to become super-star cricketers, or get into IITs…etc. Life, what life ? This is the only life we know.

When Rahul Dravid started his international career, he was a purist. He loved (and enjoyed) his game. He was happy. But we, as fans, could not accept that. Why can’t he improvise ? Why can’t he play more cross-batted hoicks ? Why can’t he reverse-sweep (after all, even Wasim Akram can ?). Sachin Tendulkar simply adored the game when he started. He would train for hours and hours to battle every short coming, every chink in his armor. Now, he doesn’t know what the press will criticize him for: for playing too cautiously or for being too reckless !
We killed these great cricketers. We squeezed out the cricket from them and all we have now are super-stars with long records. We are more cricket statisticians than fans (my opening batsman has more runs than yours).

As I watch the England and West Indies teams struggling in this World Cup, I wonder: do we really have a bad cricket team or do we have too many greedy fans ? The most endearing memory for me after India’s loss to Sri Lanka: I wake up on Saturday morning and switch on a news channel. The reporter accosts an elderly couple leaving the ground. They promptly shout: “We need youngsters, we need more youngsters”. Now, how ironic is that !

Time…in due course of time

Time is a continuum and there is no such thing as probability.

Why do I say that ?
Suppose you step out of your home for a Sunday morning walk. You get out of the front door, pass the gate, cross the street, go past the milk booth after walking exactly 255 meters, go past the bus stop after another precise 210 meters, reach the intersection on the main street exactly 400 meters from the bus stop..and so forth. There is no probability at work here. It is not as if you are not sure if there is a bus stop on your way and it is not like there is a 55 % chance that you will see a milk booth on your way.

Now, the same is the case with time. You travel in time (albeit in only one direction : the future). There are milestones on the way (events that take place). There is no “probability” about events. They do take place. Its just that we do not know about these events for sure. In our first example of the morning walk, it would be analogous to our first walk in the neighborhood. The first time we step out of our house (the very first time, mind you !), we do not know if there is a milk booth or at precisely what distance it is from our home. But that doesn’t change the fact that the milk booth is there for sure ! (All references to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle need to be held at an arm’s length for now, please).

Our normal lives are the same. As of today, we can only travel in time in one direction. Hence, it is analogous to saying that when we step out of our home for a walk, we never return to our home again. So, we cannot trace our path, we cannot retrace our steps. We cannot study the terrain and familiarize ourselves with it. Once we cross the bus stop, we can never ever get back to the same bus stop; of course, there would be similar bus stops further ahead in our path. Also, if we are careful enough or retrospective enough, we would find a trend : something that tells us that there is a bus-stop every 1500 meters (or something to that effect). Given a knowledge of this pattern, we are able to “predict” when the next bus-stop is due: this is risk-management in its most rudimentary form. But all this does not, for a moment, make any difference to the actual number of bus-stops in our path. It is not “fate”; it is just geography.

The second factor about our lives is that we all travel in time at the same rate. As of today, no one knows how to travel through time “faster” than the rest of us; no one has found out how to “reach” the future before the others. As a result, there is absolutely no one who can “go to the future” and inform the rest of us about the pitfalls in the path. Also, for the same reason, no one has an unfair advantage on this front. We are all equals in our ignorance of the future (unless events are “fixed”: like sports events, for instance).

The third factor, is that we cannot take a break in our travel in time. Everyone has to keep moving. Time does not stop. Or, to rephrase, we do not stop traveling through time. (I somehow feel it is better to say we are traveling “through” time rather than “in” time which gives readers a sense that I am talking about time-travel sci-fi). This boils down to saying that you absolutely have to take the Sunday morning walk: you do not have the option of staying back at your home.

What if we could travel in time ? What if we could travel in time in both directions (I am assuming, for reasons of simplicity, that there are only two directions in which we can move on the terrain of time) ? What if we could take a break in our movement through time ? What would be the consequences ?

First of all, is it possible to travel “in” time ? I think it is. I think it is just another skill that humans will master in due course of time (pun unintended). It is like flying: it took us time, but we finally learned how to do it. The same will happen with time travel, I feel.

OK, so what would be the consequences ? I don’t think they will be as drastic as they are made out to be. When we have the option of retracing our steps in time, more of us will be able to re-visit their youths, their childhoods. We could do more things by trial and error: if the first time some initiative does not succeed because of some unforeseen event, we could go back in time and restart from scratch: only, this time, we would cover for this “unforeseen” event.
If we hurt someone by acting harsh or speaking rudely because of the “heat of the moment”, we could go back and reverse the whole affair.
We could reverse death. Or could we ? I feel death is outside our time travel area. Once a person is dead, that person cannot travel anywhere, let alone time. Death is the closing point.

All the above seems to suggest that life would become more predictable. However, I believe, humanity craves for the unknown. There is some kind of pleasure that we get through suspense that keeps us going towards uncertainty. I think after the initial excitement over time travel wears off, people will go back to the old way of an unpredictable future because it is so alluring. It is in human nature to seek the unknown: no one likes the dull and predictable life.

What about ethics ? Is there an ethical question involved in time travel ? Will the church not stand up and say that is against the writ of God to predict the future and stop the inevitable from happening ? (remember, the church still has issues with abortion ?)

One last question before I close this long post: Suppose, we learn how to travel in time in the year 2055. Would someone travel to the year 2007 ? If they did, would they be able to travel back ? In 2007, we do not yet know how to travel in time, remember ? Would the knowledge also travel in time with the person ? If it did, we would learn time travel in 2007 from the first person to travel back from 2055. We could then repeat this exercise over and over again and eventually the Neanderthal man would learn time travel, about the wheel, about computers..everything that we know today and will know in the human future. That would be a mess…a huge mess.
This is exactly the kind of conundrum that we do not yet know how to solve.

Alpha: Beta, dude. What’s the plan for the long weekend ?
Beta: The wife and I are traveling to 1492 to witness Columbus discovering America. What about you ?
Alpha: I am traveling back to the last weekend and staying there.
Beta: Damn ! who will I play golf with on Monday morning !!! ???

Posted in Ideas. 2 Comments »

Two is better than one !

Hey…what if we had two brains instead of one ?

There — the most shocking question … right at the top of the post !

I believe we should have two brains. I am aware that each human brain is made up of two halves which perform different functions. However, what I want is a whole new brain right next to my existing one. Well, it doesn’t have to be “right next” to my existing one — for all I care, it could be near my armpit. What is more important, though, is that it should be completely independent of the existing one. Imagine what I could do then : I could watch TV while reading a book. I could read blogs and generally surf the net while working at the report my boss asked me to complete.

I could watch a movie and a cricket match, simultaneously !

The most dramatic impact the second brain would have, however, would be on my behavior. Every time I got angry and was about to do something that I would regret later (like abusing my boss in an e-mail to the entire staff !), my other brain would realize this and work on calming my first brain (now, which of the two brains is the “first”, really ?).
When I start to get too sad, the second brain would gee me up. When I start thinking too well of myself, the additional brain would bring me down to earth.
How convenient !

Going by how much I use the one brain that the Lord did give me, some of my friends would suggest that an additional one would not make much of a difference.

However, I could write two blogs simultaneously..I could write the post and comment on the post, at the same time…I could…………………..sigh !

I am gutted !!

It is 5:30 AM on 24-March-07, a Saturday. I just got up and read the news of India’s defeat to Sri Lanka. I am gutted.
I just wanted to record my disappointment while it still hurt. I am absolutely gutted guys !
I do not feel frustrated at the end of it all. It is sad, though, to have to bid farewell to cricket stars that I have grown up admiring. The one last hurrah from Sachin, Saurav and Rahul was not to be !

I think it is a great lesson for all of us Indians. It just goes to show that it is no good being strong…you actually have to use your strengths. You actually have to show the heart.

And, above all, it is just a game…so, please let us hope, we dont see ugly scenes on the streets tomorrow.

Fuzziness in Life

People tell me that science and developments in medicine will help us prolong our lives and take us closer to immortality.

I don’t believe that. I believe that death is inevitable; and that death is necessary to keep the human race going. Keeping the same batch of humans alive for centuries together will stagnate thoughts and ideas (not to mention evolution).

However, I do think that developments in medicine will allow us to take away the fuzziness in life. Human beings, today, die (and grow) gradually: at least most of us do. We are born small, weak and incapable of doing anything. Then we slowly grow to our full height and strength. We grow to our full mental capabilities. We are at our peak at the age of 22-25. Then the decline starts. Sure, there are exceptions, but the percentage of such exceptions is low.

Most people start losing bone density, physical flexibility and strength, mental sharpness
as they go through their thirties, forties, fifties etc. By the time most people reach 80 (assuming they live that long) they are too weak and incapable to do anything meaningful (like I said earlier, there certainly are exceptions, but the percentage of such exceptions is too low to make a difference).

I feel that this gradual development and de-generation of human beings takes a heavy toll. It is a huge waste of time. If you do not take advantage of your twenties for some reason, your chance is gone. Also, aging takes such a huge toll on the psyche of individuals: most people lose their self-confidence and start considering themselves a poor image of what they were 10, 20, 30 years ago.

I think we should focus our medical developments on removing this waste of time. People should be able to take birth in a fully developed state, live for 20, 30 years in that state, and then die suddenly while still at the peak of their abilities. There would be no waste in development or de-generation time. Of course, people will miss their childhoods, but if you had to choose between 10 years of childhood and 30 years at the age-equivalent of 22, would you not rather choose the latter option ?

What does the child in you say ?

Of Smart People

Long years ago, in my first year out of college and in a job, my boss sat me down for my first performance appraisal.
Looking deep into outer space, he told me “Young man, you are intelligent and hard-working and sincere and honest. But what you lack, is a street-smartness, a kind of ruthless cunning that you need to succeed in this brutal world”.

Ever since then, I have asked myself: how do I get this street-smartness ? Can I ever get it ? Am I doomed ?

It was then that I realized: street-smartness is not an attribute of your brain power. It is a subtle product of your conditioning. The more you are taught as a kid to be polite and kind to others, the less ruthless you turn up as a grown-up. A so-called “soft” person could be as smart as a quick-witted, smooth-talking conman. The only difference is the sub-conscious approach to human situations.

This is not to say that all polite people are kind to their fellow human beings or all glib talkers are cruel — but there definitely is a pattern.
I think it is some kind of sub-conscious choice that people make on how to use their gifts. But then, maybe it is the same with intelligence. Intelligence is not probably some gift. Maybe all human beings have the same capacity for intelligent thinking — only, deep inside, some are willing to use it, while others choose not to.

Maybe, it is the same with animals. It is not that they are not smart per se. Probably, they just pity us human beings and humour us by acting dumb !!!

What say ?

P.S: This is the 100th post on this blog. 100 posts in two and a half years… not bad, eh !

Far off worlds

I look at the night sky and see a star close by a quarter moon. And I wonder …

When I was a kid, our family would sit in a circle and eat dinner..those were the days devoid of the noisy television shows.

Ocassionaly, I would look out the window and look at the stars out in the night sky and wonder. I used to imagine that among those tiny stars, somewhere, was a world very similar to ours.
I used to imagine that there was a family similar to ours, eating dinner at this very moment. I used to wonder if the kid in the family was also looking out at the night sky (for some reason, I just assumed that it was night there too..) and thinking the very same thoughts that I was thinking.
Was it possible that the kid was also me and not some other kid in another world. Was it possible that this “far off world” was a reflection of our own earth. What were the odds that someone had put up a huge mirror and that we were looking at our own reflections in this mirror ?

Was it possible that someone had, with a clever and elaborate mirror arrangement, made the universe look infinite (remember what the interior decorators say: to make a room look larger, put up a big mirror along the wall ?) ? Are we looking at the reflections of our own solar system all around ?

Or is it even more elaborate ? Has this “someone” put an even more clever arrangement of a million mirrors around me so that everywhere I look, I see images of myself — some taller than me, some shorter, some fatter, some thinner and so forth ? Maybe, you do not exist. Maybe you are just a distorted image of mine like those images that we see in the weird mirrors in science museums.

Sound plausible ?