World Badminton Championship

Saina Nehwal has won her first two matches and plays 6th seed Shixian Wang tomorrow. Shixian Wang comes into the quarter finals beating Jie Yao, the 11th seed in a slightly more emphatic style. So lets see if Saina can enter the semis. The other quarter final to watch tomorrow is between Hongyan Pi (5) and Xin Wang (3). The winner of this match will clash with the winner of Saina vs. Shixian in the semi final.

Meanwhile current world number one, Yihan Wang is out of the tournament. [update 8PM IST, 27Aug: She’s out of the tournament. Toobad – but I think she was outclassed well and truly in 34 minues flat]

BTW, I made one observation about tags and google searches and hits on websites. It’s quite surprising that not a single soul has stumbled upon my website through google using the search phrase “Saina Nehwal”. So I ran a quick analysis on what search topics have been most successful in diverting traffic to my website and the result was quite an eye opener. Other than searching for me, people who spend their time looking for fairness creams and pani puris are more likely to come up to my site as compared to people looking up John Abraham’s butt or Katrina Kaif. Or Saina Nehwal for that matter. I felt quite let down since the whole purpose of writing about that man’s butt was to get more iballs. I thought about it for a couple of minutes and then guessed what must be amiss with my logic.

It’s the thing about statistical long tails and probabilities. Since Saina, Katrina and butts are much written about the chances of my humble ramblings on them getting shown up early enough in Google search rankings is miniscule. But since the likes of pani puris, fairness creams and IFCI sit on the long tail, the chances that my website will get picked up, if someone is looking up on these topics is high. It runs counter to common logic – that write about hot topics and you’ll get noticed more. Niche positioning. I am amazed at the kind of people that my writing resonates with – imagine being patronised by someone who is interested in “fairness creams for Muslim boys”! Or surfers  concerned if eating “pani puris will cause blindness”.

Some time back I had read a very insightful book called “The Long Tail: How Endless Choice is Creating Unlimited Demand” by Chris Anderson. The book talks about the growth of niche markets and specialist sales on the internet. So taking a leaf from this book and applying the conjecture developed above, I guess the key to getting more and different people to look at my website is to use many many tags (Napster, Amazon, eBay use the limitless potential of online store to stock up an enormous array of merchandise) and tags that are off center. If this post sounds like a pathetic lament to increase the traffic on my site as opposed to writing what really interests me and my core group of readers, then you hear right. Screw it. I dont care how many new sets of feet trample my online space. I will write what I want to write.

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Uncommonwealth games

Wish I could ask this question to someone in the Finance Ministry: Why the fuck should I pay all these taxes and bear the indirect heat of the GST (at least in the short term) if this is how your team is going to use up the money? Given that method of GST implementation makes the Union Finance Minister all the more powerful, these questions will surface.

I am referring to the collosal waste that is being planned in Delhi in the name of Commonwealth Games. The latest issue of India Today carries a story on the issue – and that is just the beginning. Many more voices of dissent will start surfacing as the date comes closer.

Maybe we should call it Cogresswealth Games?

The total expenditure of the Games is now estimated to be Rs. 40,000 crores! That’s roughly 3.8% of our total external debt. Crazy.

Shera is the mascot of the Games this time around. Thats a tiger. In the last 9 years the tiger population in the country has dropped from 3,600 to 1,400. Just 1,400 – less than the number of employees in a mid sized Indian company. I wonder what even a sum that’s as little as 5% of Rs. 40,000 crore could do for our tigers.

We will have to face a lot of humiliation and embarassment at the world stage for this seemingly idiotic decision to host the Commonwealth Games here. It will be a good test to really see how thick skinned we are as a nation; how moribund the opposition (BJP and its allies really are) is and how the ruling Govenment manages to grin and justify – as the days roll by. And I wonder what is Rahul Gandhi doing? I think these type of events are a good platform for him to get into and be known even more. Good test of organisational skills and gives international exposure too. Not that he needs them – but I think young and younger Indians would be more impressed by performance than lineage.

The Chief Minister of Delhi, Ms. Sheila Dixit (or Mr. Suresh Kalmadi) had boasted that the Commonwealth Games are a small thing for India and that we would like to see the Olympics come to India. Olympics, my foot. I have full trust and faith in the International community and the Olympics organising committee to not lose their sanity. We seem to have lost our way in planning for these Games. I doubt if I will be alive to see the day when the Olympics kick off in India. Any hopes surely seem to have been dashed by the manner in which these games have been organised. Despite spending those crazy sum of monies, almost every stadium, every activity seems to be plagued with delays. The recent rains in Delhi have effectively washed away any hopes that a few may have been harbouring. Here are some examples:

  • Siri Fort Badminton complex – wooden floor has buckled due to water seepage. It is here that Saina is expected to deliver us our gold in badminton. The entire floor will have to relaid. Super.
  • Yamuna Sports complex – this is brand new. Environmentalists are crying hoarse that this will damage the fragile Yamuna ecosystem but the Supreme Court quashed their petitions are ordered the fun and games to resume. Resume they did, but have been abruptly halted since the false ceiling has fully caved in and the ensuing waterlogging that. Divine intervention?
  • Dr. S.P. Mukherjee Swimming complex – (this is my favourite) When it was being inaugurated, a waterpipe burst and it sprayed water on the people present during the function. But no one seems to have been bothered, since why would you not expect to get wet when visiting a swimming pool? 😐
  • The cycling velodrome – We built one. Then some grim international governing body came in and said that we need timber cycling tracks. The velodrome was reconstructed and now its been flooded. cool.
  • Talkatora Boxing Stadium – Virender Kumar will have to first learn to swim then think of the winners’ podium for there is/was more than a foot deep of water surrounding the stadium
  • etc etc etc

Then there are the delays in the Games Village. 34 village towers need to be prepared to house the teams and their entourages but only 6 of them seem to have seen the light of the day. ITDC is now constructing these (see box) and shortage of manpower is being cited as reason for the delay. All my non-Indian readers, I really don’t understand what you mean when you seem to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of people in India! Speaking of the foreign hand and foreigners, I feel that the organisation of these Games is a brilliant case study to demonstrate the continuing Indian fascination for anything foreign. The underlying lack of self confidence in our society and polity seems to be coming out here.

I smell a rat here. Kickbacks? Favourites being granted contracts? Subversion of the bidding processes? I do not know how many medals will come to India but I do not think that the Opposition parties will let the ruling Congress and its allies get off so easily on this. As I said earlier, this drama is yet to enfold and will be a good test to see if there is any life left at all in the BJP.

The balloon will cost Rs. 40 crores. If it gets used in the closing ceremony as well then the bill will increase further. The helium for this ridiculously expensive balloon is coming from Russia and the management of the balloon is going to be carried out by an Italian company called K-Events. For all you know, maybe the balloon is coming in from China. I don’t know if you know that the Adidas Jabulanis (footballs used in the recently concluded FIFA World Cup) had an Indian connection – the latex for the bladders came from Kerala. But why should we use anything that’s Indian? It’s only imported maal for us. Will the balloon have anything Indian at all? Maybe the ropes used to hoist it up? That’ll be the great Indian rope trick. And yes, the money of course is as Indian as it can be!

Another painful action item is the removal of filth, beggars and animals from Delhi’s streets. Garbage is fine; animals may be fine; but beggars are NOT. They are citizens of India. You can’t just pick them up and dump them somewhere else. This sounds like what they used to do with people during the emergency. Not that I was around to understand anything during that Congress induced madness, but read Vikram Seth’s tragic, A Fine Balance to get one view of that era. Already some terrorist groups have seem to have become active. Some 10 – 15 kilograms of RDX have been seized. China banned vehicles from some roads in Beijing for the Olympics. That move is good according to me, as long as it does not severely inconvenience the lives of the locals. Having been in Delhi, I know that cordoning off any major road there will cause havoc. Add a bit of rain. And the famous Delhi spirit of agitation. You get a perfect recipe for disaster. A local NGO seems to have estimated the number of beggars in Delhi to be around 120,000 and the number of stray dogs at around 250,000. The cleanup operation of these beggars and dogs is expected to cost around USD 65 million. That’s around 325 crores of INR! Fantastic.

Delhi is trying to spruce up its image. Or being made to. Union Home Minister, Mr. P. Chidambaram has apparently asked Delhiites to change their “behavioural patterns”and adopt manners befitting of residents of “an international city”. What crap. What someone needs to tell these panjandrums is that yes, clothes do make a man. But for that, the man needs to fit into the clothes. He needs to be trim, tucked in and tight. Delhi is our capital and an awesome city in terms of infrastructure (as compared to the rest of India!). But it is not, and cannot be what these people are forcing it to be. Only hours and hours of sweating it out in the gym can tone your muscles and make you trim. There is pain involved in that. And love. And determination. The Congress party is feeding steriods to Delhi.

And you and I and the father of the pretty girl next door are going to foot the bill.

Saina’s Interim Success

While I’m shuttling around the city of the nizams, searching for a place to stay there have been so many times that I’ve looked up to see posters felicitating Saina Nehwal for her feat of being one short of one. I guess most of us would have read or heard or seen somewhere about Saina getting to world number 2 (with 64,791.26 points) behind Wang Yihan of China.

China = 1, India = 2. Looks good.

If you have been following her comments, you’d know that she has taken measured steps and always achieved the incremental targets that she and her coach, P. Gopichand have set for her. Last year she said,

“For the next year, my target is to break into the top 5 and also make my mark in the All England, World Championships and Super Series events.”

She’s gotten there. At least the ranking part. And now she says,

“It will be difficult to hold on to the ranking but I hope to continue my hard work and win more titles and become the number one player soon.”

But there is a concern. Is this her peak? Or will she head higher. I am sure no one will be answer that – not even Saina, but we’ve seen her ‘homophone-nym’, i.e Sania fizzle out. There so much more to aim for – the coming Olympic gold notwithstanding. But the best part is that she seems to be carrying a very mature head on her 20 yr old shoulder. In a recent interview she said:

“I have been training very hard and with more hard work I am sure to reach the top. I want to stay focused at my game to become number one. It is important for me to make my country proud.”

I particularly noted the phrase “It is important for me to….”. I think she has been coached very well by her parents and Gopichand. I’m some 14-15 summers elder to her and I cannot find any immature volley in her statements. I’m sure fans and observers much elder to me would also feel the same.  There have been quite a lot of financial hardships behind this interim success of hers. Imagine having to spend ~50% of your monthly income on the training of your kid. That’s what her parents did. And when that was not enough, they withdrew from their accumulated Provident Fund savings. When asked why she did not take up tennis, she said:

“No. My first love is badminton. I’m often asked why I didn’t try tennis. Training in tennis is too expensive compared to badminton”

Wow. I like the approach to money. As of now, at least. Sonia made friends with Sania, hope she leaves Saina alone. The former friendly overtures were obvisouly intended to gain Muslim votes but what kind of votes can Saina bring? Jat votes from Haryana? Well, I don’t know for she appears to have stayed in Hyderabad most of her time. But things can change. Currently her ask would be in the range of 20 – 40 lakhs per ad. It can surely climb up to a crore per ad if she bags the numero uno position. I hope money won’t corrupt her game. She’s been promised 101 gold coins if she wins us the World Championship in Paris this August. Then there are the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games due this year as well. Lets see. Gopichand had turned down endoresment offers from the cola companies citing moral resposibilities of sportsmen since they are role models. Maybe he did not want young Indians to take to colas or maybe the money offered was not good or maybe there was the political fear given the drama that kicked out the cola giants out of India and gave us our Thums Ups. Saina’s priorities seem to be clear:

“Todays generation wants to drink everything. I am also one of them. Gopi sir took a very brave decision because he believes if we do anything, the public follows. I don’t see it that way that if I drink, others will also start drinking it”

Very logical and all fine. I also agree with her observation that today’s generation wants to “drink everything”. But I only wish Saina to drink success and more success. Money or no money. It’s all understandable considering that her winnings have been very paltry till a few years back and most of her money was spent in telephone bills since she had to pick up the hundreds of congratulatory calls on her cellphone while being on international roaming! Its not funny really.

Track her please, whether you understand badminton or not. This kid, whose caller tune (till some time back at least) used to a peppy Punjabi number, is the purest and totaly deserving world class sports performance to come out from this land of over 1 billion. How I wish India is a world beater in a team game as well – cricket does NOT count as a team game at all.

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