Telegraph Calcutta

Leh Belaiyaa Bhool Bhulaiyaa


We are heading somewhere. But where it has become difficult to tell. In fact, more than just difficult. It’s baffling to tell where we are headed, because we seem to be heading in many directions and different people are saying very different things about what it may mean to be going in those directions. When we are told we are heading straight, other people seem to think we are heading backwards. When we are told we are heading up, other people seem to think we are heading down. When we are told we are headed sideways, other people seem to think sideways, this side or that side, is no way to head. Ki mushkil. Are we even headed? As in, do we even have heads any more? Or have we all been beheaded and are flailing about six inches shorter than we used to be? Without heads any more, and without, therefore, the ability to do what heads are meant to do. Perhaps that is what it is then, we are not headed. Continue reading “Leh Belaiyaa Bhool Bhulaiyaa”

Telegraph Calcutta

How David Gower does it off field


Someone did say famously, and ringingly, that you’d pay just to watch David Gower stroll to the crease and take guard. It’s a description that has aged well; on the evidence of this evening, you’d pay just to watch David Gower walk up to the lectern and lean, with that looming hunch of his, gently on the microphone.

Here’s the bionic version of Strunk & White: The Elements of Style, the walking, talking, posing, pausing version of it. Were you to notice carefully, it’s never been in what he wears, not in the flannels he hung out years ago, not in the crisp tailored suit and impeccably polished shoes he wore on Wednesday; it’s all worked into his bones, they only listen to languor’s command.

Gower himself has aged well too; he’s goldie locks no more, but it’s tough to credibly argue he isn’t silver streak. A big sexagenarian bolt of it whose presence can be quite as arresting as the indelible image of Bonnie Gower at the crease, wooden sabre in hand. There is a genuine sabre tale in the works too somewhere but we shall come to it in a bit.

And so when that bolt is invited on stage — Lord of the 2019 edition of the Tiger Pataudi Memorial Lecture — and begins by saying, “That’s all we have time for this evening, I’m afraid,” you know you’ve arrived in the presence of a singular style.

The Air India presents Tiger Pataudi Memorial Lecture is a joint initiative by The Bengal Club and The Telegraph in association with The Oberoi Grand, Kolkata.

Gower spoke for an hour thereupon, and for an hour everything in the Ballroom of the Oberoi Grand remained riveted on the bolt centre stage. You are permitted not to look elsewhere when David Gower is on show.

It’s also permitted not to instantly break into laughter and applause when David Gower has cracked one, because his angles of humour can often be impossibly obtuse.

He spoke for, instead, with artfully restrained wistfulness, of a hundred per cent record as England captain against the West Indies. Took more than just a moment to process that. Turned out it was a record of hundred per cent defeats. And once the reality of it had sunk in, a startled applause followed.

Gower had themed the evening “Fun. Style. Excellence”. He littered his discourse with illustrations of each category that have illumined the game — Root, Bumrah, Smith, de Villiers, Jayawardene, Gayle and, of course, Kohli, with no prejudice to those who couldn’t be named for shortness of time — but nobody quite in those lists fitted all three categories. Gower did. And he was saying it without having the faintest need to say it; it was clear as daylight on a day there is daylight. When you have David Gower, fun, style and excellence fall away as synonyms, no more.

What Gower did spell out was what’s not fun, style and excellence. What Steve Smith and David Warner got up to on the playing field in South Africa isn’t — “You don’t need sandpaper to win a game of cricket.”

What Ravichandran Ashwin did just the other night against Jos Buttler of Rajasthan Royals just the other night isn’t either.


“What happened with that Mankading was wrong. Yes, it was entirely lawful, but there’s more to it than the law. Ashwin says it was instinct that made him do it, I hope in time he has occasion to revisit and revise his opinion on what he did. I am not entirely of the school that says win at all costs, there are ways of winning that, for instance, do not need sandpaper.” Add Mankading to that, please.

As Gower spoke, Ashwin’s side were struggling against KKR no farther than a dog’s pee walk. Gower, who did declare a late-evening ambition of catching the latter half of the Eden game, may well have muttered a “just as well” to himself.

There’s another occasion he spoke of to which “just as well” might fit, and allow us to return to the promised tale of the sabres. Gower snatched the Ashes from the Aussies as captain of England in 1985, but the next bout the adversaries had, in the 1989 season, the Aussies returned to smoke out Gower’s team. At the end of it, Gower invited Allan Border, his rival skipper, home for a congratulatory drink.

It was planned over a toast of champagne. Gower chose to uncork the bottle French fashion; it’s apparently called saberage, or some such thing. Only, the Gower household possessed no sabres. He chose a garden axe for the job.

And so instead of sabring the champagne cork, French fashion, he axed it. And the tiniest shard of flying glass caught the side of Border’s temple.

“It’s the only blood I drew that season.”

Just as well. Style can, on required occasion, be cutting.


Telegraph Calcutta

Where Is the Chow? Kidar hai?

I am having to speak. I am. Not that I imagined I would have to. Not that I wished to. But these are not times of one’s wishing or whim. These are not times that afford the luxury of the uncertainties of would or could. These are not ordinary times. These are times that do not belong to silence. These are times that demand everyone speaks. And of course I am not everyone, do not get me wrong. I am Mahadeb. I am EVERYONE. And I am having to speak. FROM this place I am in, remote and unknown, and yet not so. I can see. From wherever I might be. I have the ThirdEye. I am the ThirdEye, the AllSeeingOne.
And yet there are some things I yet cannot see. I see the homes of people, homes settled under the dark night. Homes where the lights have been turned off and the doors and windows shuttered. Homes where they whose homes they are, peaceably sleep. Or so I assume. Or so is my wish and my blessing. And yet I cannot see… But of that in a bit. Of that in just a bit.

Continue reading “Where Is the Chow? Kidar hai?”

Telegraph Calcutta

Let Us Now Choose A few Good men


Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beeeeeeeep. Yeh aakaashwaani hai. This is All IndiaThatIsBharat Radio bringing you the news. Shhhhhh… zzzzzz… shhhhhhhhh… rrrrrrrzzzzz… The news, read by Mahadeb. The headlines… But the headlines are nonsense. They are  the same headlines. They are all about the same thing. They are all about the same man. They are all about bad news. News that is not good for us. Those are the headlines. Those have been the headlines these past years. Do you want
to hear the headlines again? I am done with those headlines. So, deshwaasiyon, I am giving you the news but I am not giving you the headlines. Enough.

Continue reading “Let Us Now Choose A few Good men”

Telegraph Calcutta

Architect of Fractures: My piece from 2002 on how @narendramodi might chart his political career post the Gujarat violence ( and where he has arrived today (


An Architect of Fractures

There are many who believe that this man is headed not for Gandhinagar but for New Delhi, that the tide he has unleashed will soon gobble up his mighty mentors—Atal Behari Vajpayee, Lal Krishna Advani and company—and deliver him at the helm of the Party and the Parivar, perhaps even of the country. In a skewed but probably telling sense he has already raised the bar of competition higher than any other Indian chief minister would; he is not in a contest with locals, he has pitted himself against Pervez Musharraf, or at least that’s what the pitch of his campaign is. And when he picks adversaries at home, he picks Sonia Gandhi, hardly ever Shankarsinh Vaghela, his former shakha-mate and chief provincial challenger. The psychological template of his battle is not provincial, it’s national, that’s the stage he is fashioning. Continue reading “Architect of Fractures: My piece from 2002 on how @narendramodi might chart his political career post the Gujarat violence ( and where he has arrived today (”

Telegraph Calcutta

Highway Through Hell: My travels through the terrain which claimed the lives of 40 CRPF jawans mid-February

Through such a minefield did the security bosses think it fit to roll down a caravan of 78 troop-laden trucks.


Leithpora in Pulwama, the site of the February 14 explosion. Photograph by Sankarshan Thakur

Twenty years ago, as the war over Kargil began to pirouette, was when I first went into Badami Bagh, the vast garrison headquarters of the 15th Corps on Srinagar’s southern flank. Journalists required military permits to approach the warfront — then, a tortuous 10-hour wind through Sonmarg, Zojila, Gumri, Matayen, Drass and Kaksar — and Major Pramod Purushottam signed one for me and Sajjad Hussain, who would drive me up in his rickety Ambassador. Five months later, Major Purushottam was blown apart in the first fidayeen assault on Badami Bagh. Continue reading “Highway Through Hell: My travels through the terrain which claimed the lives of 40 CRPF jawans mid-February”

Telegraph Calcutta

All of it’s Fake All of it’s News


There’s a teetar caught in the dogfight which is not really a fight between dogs. Wonder why they call it a dogfight when there are no dogs involved at all. Perhaps another way of giving a dog a bad name? Who can tell? But a dogfight it is and dogs are not involved. That much can be reliably said. Even Sources, those most reliable of all things, have affirmed to us that no dogs are involved in dogfights. Sources have told us so many reliable things these past days, we have been told there should be no room to question them.

Continue reading “All of it’s Fake All of it’s News”