Sunday, December 24, 2006

And the Indian of the Year is ....

Actually I am a little confused and ready to be termed a cynic but really I want to know what you think about this.Could anyone of you please help me understand exactly why Sachin Tendulkar, Amitabh Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai are nominated for all the 'Indian of the Year' awards, every year? And if Amitabh Bachchan is not the Indian of the Year then he is 'Urban Indian of the Year' (NDTV, 2005). And even though Sania Mirza's rankings slip from 30s to 60s (she is 66th currently) she gets nominated for Indian/Sportsperson of the Year.

Actually what is the criteria for these awards? Being famous and earning enough through brand endorsements to last you a lifetime? Being in the news for any reason, just because you are a celebrity and breaking-news hungry media will fall head over heals to give you a coverage to keep it's news scrawlers rolling? Or simply because the real Indians who make the difference in the lives of many and deserve to be honoured, don't do a good job in increasing the TRP or readership counts?

NDTV's nominees of 'Indian of the Year 2006' include Amitabh Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar, Aamir Khan, Sanjay Dutt (named as Munnabhai, perhaps they found it a little inconvenient to find their winner behind the bars under Arms Act!), Sania Mirza apart from Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh, two other regular fixtures of the list since UPA came to power. I actually wrote them a mail saying them whether they really mean to honour the people and are true to these awards or this is just another gimmick to grab eyeballs by showing an 'Exclusive' with the high profile celebrity. To their credit they had named Kiran Desai (Winner, ManBooker Prize 2006), Arvind Kejrival (Magasasay Award winner and ardent supporter of Right to Information), C.L. Mattu (father of Priyadarshini Mattoo, for fighting for justice in her daughter's case) and Late Major Manish Pitambre (sacrificed his life fighting terrorists in J&K). But honestly I really don't believe any of these people will win. I don't have any doubts on sensibilities of Indian people but the fact is that we often vote for our idols rather the deserving winners. And hence are these awards not reduced to nothing more than popularity contests?

And risking your raised brows, is it somehow related to these celebs' fattenning paypacket from their modelling careers? Isn't a 14 point headline on frontpage (or a half-hour-special on primetime) announcing Amitabh Bachchan as 'Indian of the Year', a very good idea for PR? A win-win for both winner and the channel?

The Week and Outlook give their awards to a truly deserving person whose name you won't have heard ever before but that person would have made difference for his society and community. These awards are not based on reader's polls but decided by the editorial staff. Many others are also heroes from all the walks of life are also featured in these pages.

So I return to my original question, why are the celebrities nominated for such headline-creating-honours irrespective of their not so creditable achievements?

My Indian of the Year? Prof. R.P. Singh (VC, Lucknow University) for taking a step forward in the direction of cleansing higher education in UP. I wish him good luck and all success in 2007.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Hyderabad Diary: Traditions in a Modern City

Sabarimala Sojourn: If you are in Hyderabad (or anywhere in South India) and you see your boss wearing all blacks (and I don't mean 'The Matrix' attire), an ordinary full sleave shirt and a simple pant and barefooted, don't passout! He has no plans of going to any asylum nor is he mourning, he is just planning a trip to the shrine of Lord Ayyappa in Sabrimala.

He will call you 'Swami' and you will have to do the same, call him 'Swami'. He will be having only one meal a day that would have been cooked by himself or by someother Swami. He won't be clipping nails, or shaving or even going for a haircut. And all this for at least 41 days! So if you thought that you could go to Sabrimala for a picnic, just dump that idea.

Every year millions of devotees throng to this famous and recently controversial shrine where entry of women between 10 and 50 years is banned because it is said Lord Ayyappa was a 'brahmachari'. Nothing against Him but I won't ever want to get a glimpse of a God whose 'Purohits' have such a sexist mindset.

City Lights: Reliance Industries started their retail foray by launching Reliance Fresh stores in Hyderabad. The company plans to open 40 stores in Hyderabad of which 17 are operational. One of them is just across the road from my apartment.

The city also boasts of India's first specialized convention center (the company calls it South Asia's best, I don't vouch for that) Hyderabad International Convention Centre (HICC) developed by a joint venture between Dubai's Emaar Properties and Andhra Pradesh Investment Infrastructure Corporation. A new airport is coming up. This year's Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas and visit of US President also added to the high profile of the city.

I think Hyderabad has a significant edge over its South Indian counterparts like Chennai, Bangalore and Trivendram. There is no political/linguistic chauvenism like Chennai, no infrastructure bottle necks like Bangalore and no labor problems like Trivendram. Though uneven development of state and Telangana issue are definite party poopers. Just hoping that Government manages to sustain the development, not only of the city but also of whole state.