Monday, May 7, 2012

A Revisionist historian's take on "Brilliance" of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar: Dated 06 July 2412

The following is a sarcastic take on revisionist historians and their selective interpretation, notwithstanding their academic brilliance. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
For the past fifty years there has been a concerted effort to arouse nationalism among us Indians by invoking various "greats" of antiquity. One of the oft quoted one is that of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar (Tendulkar, hereafter), a cricketer (a British game of yesteryears, played in India mainly by upper class Bramhinical society). Various greatness is ascribed to him by a great many historians of various shades of saffron. Notwithstanding such propaganda, a serious academic effort has not been made to ascertain the exploits of the allegedly "Brilliant" cricketer. Similarly, it was also alleged by Hindu fanatics that Indian football team reached semifinal in 1956, a myth that has been busted by various historians of last century as a myth similar to King Arthur, England. Since most of the digital and print records of the time have been literally turned to dust with the three World Wars (III, IV and V) there exists not much of records of the time. The Right Winged Fundamentalist Historians (RWFH, hereafter) needed a capitalist hero, who could achieve super human feats, especially after the socialist government of the time had an unbridled reign of hundred years of social equity.

In my view Tendulkar, though an above average cricketer, could not hold candles to contemporary batting greats such as Md. Yousuf-Pakistan (also known as Yousuf Yohana before embracing Islam), Shiv Narain Chandrapaul-West Indies, Tamim Iqbal- Bangladesh and ofcourse all time great Inzamam Ul Haq-Pakistan. In the following article (republished from Asiatic History Journal JANU-History Dept) we will deconstruct the myth that is Tendulkar and separate facts from fiction.

Contextual Setting: Tendulkar's background and contemporary India Tendulkar belonged to a very upper class Saraswat Brahmin family of India. At the time India had a severely oppressive caste politics and nearly everything of one's life was pre-ordained based on the caste that one belonged to. Therefore, it was not very difficult for Tendulkar to find a place in the Indian National Cricket team, a coterie of high class Hindus with an occasional minority player thrown in to maintain political correctness. From the rich compensation from his tenure there (which in below will prove only an average one) he opened a number of hotels, real estate investment etc. A neo-liberal India (so called liberalised in 1991) was the right setting for an upper class rich Hindu to become a full fledged capitalist. It is a neat combination that we have seen repeating itself throughout the capitalist world over centuries.

Fiction#1: Long International Cricketing Career Tendulkar's batting career, estimated by various later day historians, ranges between 1989 to 2013, a whopping 24 years. Tendulkar is described as a dimunitive man (just about 5'5" in height), with stocky built hailed from the Indian province of Mumbai, Maharashtra. People of Mumbai were not known to be athletic, which is true for entire Indian people even today. Mumbai was a typical coastal city of India and therefore its climate was hot, humid, incredibly polluted [Indian Meteorological Archives] and devoid of any open spaces. Though cricket was a popular sport there compared to the rest of the country, but it can be safely said that these climatic conditions almost never produce any good sportsperson of the endurance that is needed to sustain 24 long years of international cricketing career. He may have been associated with the team in various ways, coach, commentator (a popular vocation of English speaking upper class cricketers post retirement), sponsor (he owned many hotels as a neo-liberal capitalist). As a class conscious subservient society that India was (and in many ways, it still is despite 270 years of UPA rule) it is not unconceivable that records of many cricketers were added to his aggregate by later day RWFH to create a hero out of him. This is similar to "Elements" being ascribed to Euclid, or Pythagorean thought to Pythagoras.
The correct batting career, as researched by Bendy Doniger-IV, Satish Chandramouli, Rohilla Thappar could well be between a modest 4 years to a liberal 10 years. Even Inzamam Ul Haq had a career of 15 years despite its athletic 6'3" frame, residing within the excellent climate of West Punjab. Even if one takes a overly liberal view of the cricketing years of Tendulkar, topping 10 years will be in the realm of fantasy.

Fiction#2: Runs Scored
If sun were to rise, and that too from the west, then Sachin would have scored all those runs our RWFH friend will like us to believe. They ascribe a magnificent 33,000 runs to the man with nearly 15,000 from test matches and rest from ODIs. Considering a correct estimate of 10 years of cricketing life (lows and all), Tendulkar should have been scoring at a rate of 1500 test runs and nearly 1800 ODI runs per year. Great batsmen like Inzamam or Yousuf would find themselves rejoicing in Rooh-af-zah and milk had they scored even 1000 ODI runs in a year. I think our RWFH friends have lost their sense of proportion in the blind zeal of finding a hero out of a common hotelier of Mumbai. An archaeological evidence from the city of Sharjah dated c.1993-95 clearly records the "exploits" of Tendulkar in the words of a few spectators (neutral Arabs): "Aquib Javed took wickets of Tendulkar at will and the Indian team looked helpless in front of Pakistani greats like (sic) Inzamam, Aquib, Waqar and Wasim. The Indian batsment looked like fish out of water and danced in the pitch like headless chickens."
Now, Aquib was a very average bowler who could not hold on to his place in the illustrious Pakistani team (WC winners 1992 and runners up 1999) even for 4 years. Even then the so called great Tendulkar (at his peak then) couldn't do anything of much mentionable. Therefore, it seems highly unlikely that Tendulkar would have scored anything more than 400-600 runs per year in Tests and ODIs each. This then takes the overall tally to about 4000 test runs and about 6000 ODI runs, a 10,000 runs in total. This would have caused enough euphoria among the common upper class masses (lower classes did not have access to TV or cared about it; let us be reminded that 42% of Indians then lived below $1.25 then). As with any hyperbole prone society such as India, this figure must have bloated to 33,000 in the centuries to come.

Fiction#3: 100 Hundreds
An elementary mathematics student would know the answer that a 100 hundreds should be equal or more than 10,000 runs. This in the first place is gobbledegook of first rate, as proven by the author in the paragraph above. Therefore, it even doesn't merit any print space to argue on this.

To sum up, a Frustrated Right Winged Hindu Fundamentalists (FRWHF) have desperately tried to created a hero out of a neo liberal capitalist hotelier to develop a sense of misplaced nationalism (which by very word is misplaced enough) among masses. Tendulkar seems to be the first choice, hailing from a Upper Class Bramhin family, which fits the bill perfectly. However, it their zeal FRWHFs may have ignored a few fundamentals such as evidential support, application of logic and above all common sense. It would at least serve their patrons right to recruit better academics or to seriously upskill them.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Judgemental Society

If one were to believe what our texts, general media say about Indian culture, its rich traditions and heritage, its renowned religious tolerance, our belief in non violence it gives an impression that this is the best country one can live in. If our cinematic claptraps have to be trusted, then this our villages are full of pure milk and honey, a little dusty, but wtf, look at our ever helpful smiling neighbours, the entire village is one happy family.

I don't know about pure milk and honey, but we have been certainly brought up on very pure bullcrap indeed!

First, lets handle the culture and traditions bit-All this clamour by the cultural fascists who want to paint the country orange are guilty of malafide ignorance about our diversity-regional, linguistics, ethnic, religious, caste, class and what not. Even in one religion, lets say Hinduism (though I believe there is no such thing. It is a foreign coinage), the sheer diversity in philosophies are mind boggling (ranging from there is no GOD to multiple Gods). Similarly, in Islam there are many faiths ranging from Deobandi types to Ahmadiyas (who by the way are not even considered by many as true muslims). Anyway, many of these diverse practices and belief are so different that they are in conflict against each other, natural consequence may be. Since the fascists' narrow interpretation of "Indian culture" is so monolithic, their wish becomes command for their cadres. Worse part of this is, these people are not only politicians or such public figures always. They can be found at your neighbourhood, your building society, market, office, stadiums and nearly everywhere else and in all religions. They come in various hues and shades and are virtually unrecognisable. What the hell, they sometimes can be found in your own mind, showing up in some moments of truth.

Next, Heritage - Now whose heritage do we talk about? Indian history (whatever is deciphered so far) is rife with so diverse socio-political purpose, that it can atleast be cut in three dimensions. These three dimensions are region, time and class (as a surrogate for caste in the medeival ages). The political actions, its social and economic moorings change significantly if one travels in any of these dimensions. The same society, in different times may act very differently and to complicate the matters further, different practices may emerge for different castes. For evidence, pick up any two history books (of real historians) on the same topic and they will not be similar. For instance, read on the reign of Aurangzeb by JN Sarkar and SM Jaffar. While I agree that the historians since time immemorial have interpreted their versions of truth based on which camp they belong to. But still there are some irrefutable points that both sides bring out which the either side choose to ignore. So whose heritage are we talking about.

Thirdly lets take our hallowed Non Violence. Have you heard of any country that treats its women so badly that they are killed either through abortion or as new born or if she is unlucky enough to survive both then throughout her childhood, bit by bit? I am of course exaggerating, but the gravity of the situation today is horrifying. This country treats its poor badly, like animals. This country treats its old badly. So what kind of non violence do we preach to the world? Doesn't our poverty levels (whatever limits the Hon'ble Planning Commision decides) tantamount to violence of gigantic proportions? We aspire to sit in the high tables of UNSC and G20s or G-Timbaktoos but what treatment do we mete out to our fellow citizens? What honour do we bestow to our olds? Leave the Govt., how do we treat our grandparents and parents once they cross a certain age? Keep a hand on your heart and ask yourselves, do you want to grow old here? Frankly, I am not. To borrow my mothers words, the retirees should be given a cynide pills along with their superannuated compensation as an option.

I think that far from all the myths propagated across the world most of us (sometimes me included) are a bunch of intolerant hypocrites, who are too judgemental, too parochial and too engrossed to notice (let alone care for) it.