Thursday, January 19, 2012

Confessions of a Madhesi

Yours truly has been affected, both emotionally and ethically, with two cases this week.
Case 1: Most of the people who subscribe to daily newspapers were shocked while having their morning tea, reading of the arrest of Former Minister and current lawmaker Shyam Sundar Gupta (Longer power cut hours has made sure not many can watch Television). The reason was simple, somebody as powerful as a former minister getting nabbed in course of investigation of high-profile abduction case. This was certainly no storm in a teacup.
Case 2: Government decided to appoint Nagendra Jha as Director General of Survey Department. Not many have forgotten that the man in question is the same person who has been accused in past, of giving Rs 800,000 to the family of late Hindu Yuva Sangh leader Kashi Tiwari. That was no gift but an offer of payment to keep their mouth shut and not to drag then Land Reforms and Management Minister Prabhu Sah into Tiwari’s murder case. Minister Sah was the prime accused in the murder case. Now Mr. Jha is the same person, who, during his tenure as Chief District Officer of Parsa was held by the locals of Birgunj while using a stolen vehicle last year.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Cause to Worry?

The word is enough to startle you, especially when it’s loud enough and you’re not expecting to meet anyone, walking through the capital’s streets. Your eyes are on the pavement that you’re walking and suddenly you lift your head. It was a stranger, not even remotely close to anyone I’ve seen or met.
In a matter of split second, I realized that he was not calling me, and had stopped another passer-by. But then, as I passed by, I happened to be close enough to hear what they were speaking.
“Nepali blue film, dai,” the caller was saying, carrying a bunch of CDs in his hand.
“What? Have I gone nuts?” Thoughts raced across my head.
This is broad daylight, and this is no lonely alley. For God’s sake, this is pavement in front of Kathmandu Mall, opposite Tundikhel, and has public transport stand, where thousands of people and hundreds of vehicles stop. It is one of the busiest streets of Kathmandu during daytime.
But this was for real. The guy, with worn look but agile movement, was trying to convince another gentleman, perhaps in his Mid-20s, to buy porn.
“Nepali ho dai, ramro chha. Kati bideshi hernu hunchha,” he was saying. (Meaning: It is Nepali and is good. How much of foreign ones would you watch?)
The prospective buyer, who apparently was as shocked as yours truly was, shook his head in refusal and walked off. But yours truly was too shocked to move. Feet stuck in cement. How can this be? I turned back (by then had already passed both), tried to have a glance. This did not look like a joke. He meant business.
This is was not a shop, and there was no hush-hush conversation. He was speaking normally, as if selling socks or other clothing items, just like many others in this pavement do.
Million thoughts raced my mind till then. I also thought – “Why did he not ask me?” – just as I was trying to spot any police nearby. But I hardly would recognize one, even if I saw one. I was blank. Having made a few circles around him, I tried to take a picture with my mobile device. Not to show him in public, but to remind myself, if at all it was real.

I needed some time to cool down. Have a coffee. To reflect upon what was happening. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, walk that street. Children, young adults, women. He was trying to speak to almost everyone.
“Is it legal now?” I was thinking, answering to myself “Of course not”.
“Nobody stops it? Where are those, who talk of market regulation and raid on shops and eateries.” Of course, no answers…
Reminded me of a story I’d read in Nepali Times (English weekly) some time earlier, about how children are exposed to pornography at early age. Maybe last year. Maybe year before that. Luckily, I found it on the internet. It was in the issue #507 (18 – 24 JUNE 2010).
It reads:
[A ten-year-old student was throwing up, complaining of headaches, and refused to go to school for days. Unable to identify any physical causes for the child’s distress, his father (a child counselor) sat him down and asked him if anything out of the ordinary had happened. After much coaxing, the boy revealed that his computer teacher had shown him pornographic images online.]
The same story also quoted an NGO CWIN (Child Workers in Nepal) data saying 79 percent of young Internet users had seen offensive materials online, either accidently or intentionally. It also talked about parents not knowing what their children were viewing in the World Wide Web. It was an interesting story as it said 2 percent of the child respondents (1,430 children aged 12 to 18) said porn sites were among their favorites.
It would be interesting for most adults my age that during our growing up years, we heard of so many stories of dingy rooms in some areas of Kathmandu showing pornographic movies. Those days, it was talked in the hush-hush tones. Those were early 90s. Move over 20th century, this is second decade of 21st century and whatever you thought of as clandestine is ready to be hurled down your throat. That too, with a lot of noise…
Thankfully, yours truly realized, he doesn’t have children. If he had, he would be worried… Very Very worried…


Saturday, January 7, 2012

New Year, New Hopes…

The New Year has begun for sports sector in slightly unconventional way. Right on the second day of the brand new year, we saw an exchange of blows on a football pitch. Yes, don't be surprised… A football pitch. If you witnessed the players in that exchange, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the players had one drink too many, while bidding adieu to the past year.
Some went on to call it undesirable, while some chose to ignore it. Correct me if I am wrong, but there is no place for violence in sports. I've never ever been able to understand if there could be 'desire' for such a thing. It has to be condemned in the strongest of words, and actions. If your children want to be a football player in future and if they saw it, tell them this is exactly what they should avoid on a pitch, and off the pitch too. Hopefully, it was a one-off incident and we don't see it replicated in future. Five red cards in a match involving top teams cannot be a matter of pride for any.
A few days before footballers – along with them their clubs and their governing authority – shamed 'the beautiful game' in a beautiful city called Pokhara, some cricketers were trying to showcase their talent.
Nepal's cricket coach, Pubudu Dassanayake was on his mission to find new talent. He has, in a few months that he's taken charge of the team, said that Nepal needs more players playing at the highest level. He witnessed some players at the camps held in Pokhara and Bhairahawa.
"From what I saw at the camps, the players look very promising," Dassanayake says. "The good thing is, some of them have raw talent, which can be developed." Now he wants to bring these players to the capital next week and have a separate camp for some of these players selected from the camp.
This could, perhaps be the shot-in-the-arm that Nepali cricket has been looking for. Having raw, promising talent being groomed at a camp will effectively increase the player pool for national selection. There is hardly any better sight in cricket than a raw fast bowler running in and bowling at full throttle or a young batsman cutting or pulling short balls with a gay abandon, without paying any respect to their opponents.
It should be noted here that Pubudu acquired a speed gun – machine that measures speed of the ball – when his wife was coming to Nepal from Canada. Now this doesn't only showcase his commitment to Nepali cricket, but also tells us that we will be able to know exactly what speed our bowlers bowl at. We don't have to talk about the relative speed of our bowlers anymore. The speed gun was used in these camps.
"The fastest bowler I found was clocking 75 miles an hour. And he was a raw talent," Dassanayake says, "With a fitness regimen in place, he should be able to bowl at 80 mph."
This means we could now have bowlers bowling at a lively pace, pushing the opposition on the backfoot, early on.
Interestingly, some players that were in the national scheme at some point, Akash Gupta, Antim Thapa and Dipesh Khatri have also been respotted for future. Akash, despite being a free flowing batsman, had been fed up of the system and had removed himself from reckoning. Now that these players have a chance to be back, there's every possibility that more talents would be positive towards cricket. At the same time, those players who think national team is their birthright, may be shaken to perform. It's always good to have healthy competition within the pool.
Plans are to have a separate bowlers' camp and a tournament involving 50 best players of Nepal sometime later this month, followed by a trip to India for the team to play with local teams. Now it's up to Cricket Association to see it as a cost, or an investment.
Whatever be the case, yours truly sees it as new hopes emerging in the New Year. The year, when we are to play in T20 World Cup Qualifiers…

(PS: The write-up appeared in Yours Truly's weekly sports column - OFFSIDE - in The Kathmandu Post, on 7th January, 2012)