Author Archives: Sanjay Jha


Speakership Series :- Sanjay Jha.

India's Dravid hits a shot against the West Indies in KingstonCrisis comes in many shapes and forms, colors and size, but it always has one constant element; surprise. Most crisis, even forecasted ones, appear at unexpected times. Thus, it poses challenges, both manageable and monumental , insurmountable and difficult, that need to be overcome.

It could be a financial collapse, negative publicity, fraud, legal wrangle, declining market share, an attack on the brand or corporate reputation, competitor onslaught etc. At every step, and practically all the time, leaders get tested. It is never easy, as they have multiple stakeholders to handle, satisfy and placate. Remember, in calm waters, every ship has a good captain.

Real leaders actually shine like a knight in shining armor when their organization’s are threatened. They emerge not only unscathed, but also winners in the long-run. Even if they frequently encounter short-term adjustments or are compelled to make a tough transitional change, they use the lessons to emerge stronger in the future


Chetan Bhagat, Twitter Trolls And Some Gentle Advice

Popular fiction-writer Chetan Bhagat’s column last week in a mainstream newspaper caused considerable heartburn among hardline right-wing social media fanatics, frequently christened as #ModiBhakts. What set them off was Bhagat’s explicit expostulation of the Internet Hindu’s predilection for abusive, offensive language; he even attempted to define their socio-psychological-behavioural profile. Many were offended. They easily are. #ModiBhakts are egregiously hypersensitive. One word against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and you have perpetrated sacrilege. Expect a deluge of diatribe, an avalanche of abuse.

twitterabuseWhen Modi attempted the public relations stunt called #SelfieWithDaughter, manyprotested against the synthetic attempt to showcase concern for the social menace of gender discrimination. Actress Shruti Seth made no bones about her cynicism of the cheesy call; social activist Kavita Krishnan joined in. Promptly, they were subjected to a Twitter assault, bordering on perversion. Earlier, Nandita Das was similarly ridiculed. Right-wing trolls are brilliantly organised, with a sharp sense for collective hunting. Their vicious outbursts are also instantaneous. Once they #hashtag you, then you must trend. After that it is like a Talibanesque public execution; all are cordially invited to attend the grand finale. Bloodletting runs in their veins. Modi’s cautionary advice to his beloved fans must be seen in this context – it is just a cosmetic ruse. Modi himself has followed many such damaged, lily-livered bullies.


About a year ago, Hasiba Amin, President of the NSUI, Goa unit, and face of an advertisement (part of the Congress party campaign for elections 2014) was subjected to mindless slander and wicked slurs, all with an unambiguous intent to hurt. On social media, reputational capital dissipates like salt in water. It is like a cold monstrous machine that surgically invades your world with remorseless resolve, oblivious to your protestations. It has successfully devastated many victims, some who have vowed never to return. Twitter exchanges have become scatological. It is sad.


Many well-known personalities ranging from TV anchor Rajdeep Sardesai, Congressman Dr Shashi Tharoor, actor Shah Rukh Khan et al have been subjected to acidic assaults. Actor Salman Khan recently expressed his anguish on the constant attempt of his fans to denigrate SRK and Aamir Khan. He even threatened to quit social media if their insane intimidation continued.

narendra_modi_hand_paintitng_photo_303904507Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra quit Twitter a few years ago after being mercilessly attacked, later returning and at last count boasting more than 10 million followers. Sometime ago well-known TV anchor Sagarika Ghose also faced unspeakable vitriol on Twitter, with trolls not-so-subtly threatening to harm her teenage daughter. Barkha Dutt of NDTV has been subjected to equally harsh treatment; the list is endless.

So what makes Twitter so rife with diabolical activity? Why the vile abuse, the nasty character assassinations? There are some straightforward explanations — access to otherwise elusive celebrities, deliberate provocation to attract attention, pent-up anger on matters of religion, ideology and faith, or maybe just a different viewpoint one is obsessive about. Twitter anger is also caused by an incessant desire to be connected and also the need to be heard; it is like an obsessive compulsive disorder. If not careful, both the follower and the followed are dragged into the ugly black hole. I personally rarely block abusers, barring odd instances when the insults and threats extend to family members or long-deceased ancestors — that infuriates.

“I personally feel that those who abuse on Twitter have not yet experienced pain or human suffering or loss.”

blog_2What Twitter is tragically missing is a cheeky, wacky, delectable sense of humour, those sharp observations that slice you into delicious bits but still leave a lingering smile. Instead what you see is vehemence, virulence and vituperative attacks. Conversations turn into verbal brawls. Social media becomes anti-social.

To a great extent , the answer lies in our demographic social media profile — young, educated, restless, middle-class, tech-savvy , conservative, self-centered, drawn to showmanship and sound bytes, and above all, macho nationalism. Political parties know the segments that are susceptible to extreme propaganda, where anger can be skillfully manufactured. Even in the late 1980s, supporting the right-wing patriotic jazz of the saffron kind was considered cool. The hate brigade is strident, intolerant and prides in circulating unalloyed religious connotations in its discourse. There is savage pleasure, bordering on sadism, in tearing down others. There is black and white, no 50 shades of gray here.

But if Twitter loses that fine sense of conversational chit-chat, it will plateau before an unavoidable fall, as embitterment and ennui will combine to deliver that coup de grace lethal punch. No social media is an endless phenomenon, it needs nursing. Facebook has survived because it got personal, Twitter is in a no-man’s land, and can leave you cold. Too many tech-roughnecks freely abound. But freedom of expression must find its own self-regulator.

Celebrities jumped on to the bandwagon to give their fans carefully doled out peeks into their hallowed lives, but even a fan following can be a treacherous invasion. You end up at the receiving end. Celebrities too need to stop gloating about their followers’ list — in a sense they inadvertently or sometimes furtively court the trouble-makers.

So will the Twitter-anger ever dissipate, or will it only get further aggravated? I personally feel that those who abuse on Twitter have not yet experienced pain or human suffering or loss. After all 75% of the users of social media are below the age of 30, when the world appears to be in one’s supreme command and a dazzling future awaits. But the “hi bro” generation will one day inevitably experience the vicissitudes of life; they teach you something. They will find that these can alter you in ways one can’t imagine. It happens to all of us, beginning with the loss of a loved one, usually our parents. Nothing is ever the same again. Loss teaches you empathy. You feel the pain of others. It is good to smother the hate, it gets us nowhere. Even on an impersonal platform like Twitter, you realize the futility of humiliating and hurting anyone. Everything in life is transitory.

“A quiet moment of introspection or a little consideration may help. Or knowing that when you threaten her with physical intimidation that Sagarika Ghose is a mother of two children.”

blog_3As you experience the pain of loss, you stand isolated as the world whizzes past you in its rhythmic deliriousness, essentially disinterested in your anguish. And then at that moment, all that terrible hate, mindless abuse, ill-tempered talk and nasty campaigns become so irrelevant. Nothing binds us more to our fellow-beings than the transitory nature of human existence. Our fragility, our vulnerability is our common bond. No matter how different our thoughts, don’t we all need to somewhere fight a troubled conscience? Finally aren’t we all bound by our mortality? Does that hate really get us anywhere?

A quiet moment of introspection or a little consideration may help. Or knowing that when you threaten her with physical intimidation that Sagarika Ghose is a mother of two children. Or that young Hasiba Amin is just doing her best. Or that Shruti Seth and Kavita Krishnan are the contemporary modern intelligent and brave women who manifest a new India. With or without a selfie.

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Sachin Tendulkar. Nothing else

( As the great Tendulkar retires from cricket, will some things ever be the same again? Perhaps never . )

1999. It was a decade since his debut in international cricket. He had already become a global phenomenon. India had begun worshipping their national idol with spectacular unanimity — a rare feat by itself. The World Cup tournament was underway, the biggest cricket show on earth. There was mounting euphoria and breathless anticipation all around as India had returned to their ground of renowned conquest of 1983 – England. India was considered a dangerous threat to reigning champions Sri Lanka and looked a redoubtable claimant to the prestigious throne. But every match mattered especially at the qualifying stages. Then suddenly his father died. Sachin Tendulkar was all of 26.

What followed can be easily fathomed. The shocking heart-breaking disclosure. A long and lonely painful flight to India over 10 hours. Security checks and perfunctory procedures to be followed. A family reunion under emotionally draining circumstances. A widowed mother. Pain. Memories. A loss that can never be humanly compensated. But he returned. Another 10 hour long flight. A jet lag, may be. Words of consolation from team-mates. Media attention. Maybe another sleepless night five days in a row. But he was still back. Determined. Resolute. Passionately committed as ever. Continue reading below


We watched him in awe and admiration—virtually thunder-struck, bowled over by his incredible batting. His father’s s funeral was perhaps not behind him but still within. But he had summoned preternatural energies, invoked his own inner faith, found his fortitude. Sachin Tendulkar was at Bristol playing a key group match against Kenya. He went on to score a resplendent 140 not out (101 balls), and on reaching the century mark looked up at the skies, in a silent poignant conversation with his just departed father. Perhaps watching him from the heavens. It was a moment that no one who saw that match will ever forget, and even if you were to watch it now, it will bring a lump to your throat. I believe that knock at Bristol symbolizes Tendulkar. A fighter whose love for the game surpasses mortal comprehension. A team man to the ultimate conceivable core. Exceptionally tough from within, with a capacity to internalize adversity, not easily decipherable in that soft voice and chubby cheeks in a still boyish impression. Above all, a very proud Indian.

I am not going to reminisce his several illustrious great knocks and statistical achievements because they are already of legend and will be forever repeated but I do believe there are besides the Bristol knock two other instances that manifest the man Sachin Tendulkar more realistically. I thought his decision to resign from the Indian cricket captaincy has never been properly understood. Or appreciated. There were many who intensely criticised him for chickening out of what seemed as his next natural responsibility in and for Indian cricket. Tendulkar, however, did not think so. He did finally what his inner convictions told him. He had no false illusions. No delusions of grandeur. Leadership is beyond mere cricketing greatness and requires several other human traits to make for impact. His decision to quit captaincy reveals the ultimate test most human beings fail in — knowing oneself. They say knowing others is wisdom, knowing oneself is enlightenment. Tendulkar chose to play to his strengths, and despite the power, prestige and pride of leading India rejected the top job because he sincerely believed that he did not possess the mettle to take charge of a struggling, beleaguered Indian team requiring a different kind of dynamism at the helm. He would be happier contributing to an Indian win, after all, wasn’t that the real reason for playing cricket anyway? As it happened, India was to find a suitable skipper in his southpaw colleague Sourav Ganguly who would go on to become one of India’s greatest captains. I think we should also credit Tendulkar for letting that transition happen with dignified ease.

The controversial Multan Test match declaration against Pakistan saw for the first time an emotionally disturbed Sachin, taken perceptibly aback by the sudden decision by his long-standing team-mate and captain Rahul Dravid . He was 5 runs short of a truly hard-earned double hundred against an obdurate bellicose adversary in their own den. I think Sachin felt hugely let down as for the first time he publicly expressed his distressed reaction to the world. What bothered him was not that he had missed a personal career milestone perhaps but the unfortunate corollary that he was playing for personal milestones. He was grievously hurt. What Rahul and he talked in person will have to await their personal autobiographies, but I think it altered personal dynamics within the Indian team forever. It was a defining moment which revealed a visible streak of emotional vulnerability in the brilliant sportsman.

For any professional player in any sport , a physical injury is a horrendous nightmare, a psychological scar that can have serious consequences in their future career. It can destroy a susceptible mind. I remember a famous weekly magazine that had drawn an MRI scanned image of Sachin’s entire backbone on the cover with a story that headlined something akin to — “Is Sachin Tendulkar’s career over?” This was after the agonizing defeat by 12 runs against Pakistan in that literally back-breaking and traumatic Chepauk Test loss. Ten years later the man scores a hurricane 175 in 141 balls and runs faster than his 20 something non-strikers. I think the Hyderabad exhibition was to perhaps send a not so subtle message to a Yuvraj Singh & co that you never call a playing colleague with the mental toughness of raging bull – ‘Grandpa.’ Ever.

sachin tebdulakar

Tendulkar’s innumerable innings will be perennially cherished , but those who saw it say that his double century within a single day at CCI against Australia where Bombay won the match in three short days, mentally pulverized Shane Warne perpetually into a mango pulp. The Test series victory that followed seemed a logical progression. Almost all my friends only wanted the Sachin Tendulkar tee-shirt that he wore for us in the CricketNext.Com match in Dhaka in 2000. I frankly believe that he is one of the most credible outstanding actors in a television commercial — even as a brand ambassador his sincerity shows. After all these years, his first captain K Srikanth is still selecting him and erstwhile team-mate Kapil Dev has developed a healthy golf handicap. Tendulkar shares the dressing room with Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav et al, who are almost half his age. Adaptability has been his characteristic hallmark. It shows.

I was on a flight with him many years ago and Tendulkar was on his way to attending a training camp in Chennai. As we walked from the flight to the arrival lounge I asked him what I think he has been asked a million times. “Just how do you handle the constant and increasing madness of insane public expectations, the distracting cacophony that accompanies you to the ground every time you walk in? The irrational belief that you must score a blazing hundred time after time.” His answer was brief and instant. “It is easy. Once you take guard, settle down and take your stance everything else recedes effortlessly into the background. Everything. Then it is just the bowler, his hand and the ball coming at you. Nothing else.”

In 1989 I was 28 years. Since then, to use a cliche, change has been a constant. I remember Rajiv Gandhi’s dimpled smile and earthy innocence in his handsome countenance. LK Advani’s rath-yatra and VP Singh’s caste card was to change India’ political future and electoral logic. Manmohan Singh’s breakthrough liberalization policy and partial devaluation would bring India into the global sphere in 1991 , even as we watched Jimmy Connors make a dramatic run to the semi-finals of the US Open at the age of 39 on Star Sports, on a satellite channel in India for the first time. Dr Prannoy Roy dazzling us with The World This Week and Newstrack with Madhoo Trehan were our most sought after news addiction. Aamir Khan play the charming tapori act in Rangeela and Shah Rukh Khan winning a near-billion hearts with his inimitable romanticism in DDLJ . Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes capturing grand slams. Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parekh reflecting the topsy-turvy world of financial fortunes , stock market booms and woeful scams. Kargil. A war. A nuclear test. Malls, multiplexes, mobile phones and MS Dhoni. Marathi manoos , Virat Kohli, Mary Kom, Vishwanathan Anand and Abhinav Bindra . A new India. A new tomorrow. Hope. Dreams. Change.

But somewhere quietly right behind them all, rising unobtrusively into the endless skyline above, towering away and beyond into the blue skies, that same young curly haired boy from Bandra.  Sachin Tendulkar. Nothing else.

Summer of 2010

IPL Day9-9
(As Published in The Sunday Pioneer on Sunday, May 2nd 2010)

The IPL scam is symbolic of a larger, deeper, terminal enervation of India, feels Sanjay Jha as he pitches for a drastic overhaul to rejuvenate the tarnished brand

We are a maverick freakish nation, forever skating on thin ice, circumspectly maneuvring Maoism one day, food price escalation the other, extraditing David Headley at one end but ultimately crashing headlong into a slippery subject called Sunanda Pushkar, a singular personality who abruptly threatened the world’s largest democracy. Welcome to Incredible India! Till a few weeks ago, Sunanda Pushkar would have sounded like the latest entrant into Raj Thackeray’s MNS, giving it some much needed urban respectability and gender diversity. But no, her name became an overnight bestseller, thanks to an orchestrated attempt by IPL Commissioner (the title itself bestows a peculiar power of unilateral authority) Lalit Modi to insinuate a secret cover-up for monetary gains by one of India’s dapper but controversial Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor. Sweat equity was soon the new buzzword. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was introduced via the media’s proxy medium to Ms Pushkar while attempting deft diplomatic negotiations in Washington with President Barack Obama. An Indian private corporate league tournament meant to be a summer show was snowballing into a political crisis, with the ruling party’s coalition partners allegedly having some deep, dubious, vested interests in the billion dollar plus property. Modi had waxed eloquent on the IPL’s reality TV entertainment quotient; ironically enough, he had himself become its lead performer.

As an economics post-graduate student of the early 1980s I remember reading that India’s population explosion was best explained by the fact that our able millions had produced babies because there was absence of any other form of entertainment. So perhaps unwittingly enough Modi and his august IPL colleagues have contributed to some major national priorities like enhancing per capita income by keeping the IPL matches on till close to midnight hour, and then further extending it by having fashion shows, late-night parties et al to ensure minimum risk of deviation. Maybe that is why IPL even has an entertainment tax waiver? Either way, in the IPL, cricket itself made a grand guest appearance.

By scheduling 60 matches in approximately six weeks through relentless cricket, pre-match discussions and post-match analysis on three hours of hit-and-run chase, the IPL meant to calculatedly numb the human mind into complete fuzziness; all other worldly pursuits could wait. Everything was meant to fade before Robin Uthappa’s towering sixes, Shilpa Shetty’s perennially expanding grin and Lalit Modi’s feverish autograph signing. Bollywood main releases shut down in acute nervousness, news channels were compelled to adulate Yusuf Pathan’s brutalities prior to covering the Prime Minister’s national priorities and for almost two months everything and everyone else appeared like cardboard props, the back-office inventory of the IPL juggernaut. Crowds shouted and shook, cheerleaders danced and corporate czars looked on with a smug expression at their fantasy land. Modi as usual blew his trumpet and the world genuflected in front of his “fool-proof business model” that would have made John Maynard Keynes sweat in his grave. Everything seemed like a hunky-dory joy-ride. Almost. All that Modi had to do was to let loose his irrepressible vanity van through a cocky snide innuendo on Twitter. The rest is history, so I will spare you the subsequent sordid developments which hint at arms money, tax havens, huge bribe transactions, political involvement at the highest levels, power play, and daylight violations of fundamental principles of governance. A scam appears like an understatement.

Lalit Modi is a manifestation of India’s new powerful rich. Everything is measured by commercial exploitation and political contacts; adhering to ethical standards, basic human decency and respect for the law of the land is considered being old-fashioned. Self-aggrandisement and blatant self-promotion are the dominating influences in this new enterprise. What helped his cause was the unquestioned support he received from eminent names such as Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri and others in the IPL Governing Council who have assiduously maintained a stony silence on the subject. One man literally ran amok to bring the IPL to such ridicule.

The IPL, from becoming a frivolous, flippant, fun-like distraction, instead, now raises some pertinent questions we cannot ignore: Are we becoming a morally bankrupt nation, possessing a rhinoceros’s thick hide? Are we so unaffected by such flagrant corruption, opportunism and violation of norms? A poor hungry man who steals a purse or bread is called a thief and gets lynched to death by a violent mob but the same group happily overlooks big-time swindling of tax-payers funds and alleged criminal misconduct by dark-suited well-articulated Page 3 kind of wheeler-dealers? Isn’t that our shameless double-standards on display? What else can prompt post-Independent India’s classic statement hallmarking hubris: I am still Chairman-just suspended. Imagine Satyam’s R Raju saying, I was Chairman-just jailed now.

The franchisees quietly played along in the dubious game that Modi unleashed — the racket of financial valuations. Nobody knew the exact numbers of the franchises’ financial performance in Profit & Loss (P&L) or balance-sheets but rumours were frequently dished out that some of the franchisees had not just broken even but had even become profitable. It was deliberate falsehood being spread. Franchisees were guilty of not denying them, as transparent and professional businesses do. Instead, they fuelled it. The IPL was a happy cozy club, uninterrupted over champagne celebrations. Cricket and the common man were secondary priorities.

Across the entire spectrum comprising of political parties, corporate sector, industry associations, sports federations et al, India’s biggest challenge is its leadership. In the IPL it was evidently woefully lacking. The lesser said about the sleeping Big Brother BCCI, the better. Modi thus became like a swashbuckling buccaneer, the self-styled megalomaniac who cared two hoots for anything remotely resembling sensible governance.

There were two things that perhaps gave Modi his cocooned comfort and serene umbrage: Firstly, his vast political contacts, and secondly, his belief that even if things should go horribly wrong, it would still not affect him. It is a damning statement on the abuse of office by some elected representatives in Indian Parliament. The involvement of political personalities in sports requires a serious national debate in the light of the IPL.

Will we have an IPL 4 given the unpalatable mess we are in? Assuming the IPL can be resuscitated from its current crisis, a drastic overhaul is necessitated to rejuvenate the tarnished brand.

In short, the IPL scam is symbolic of a larger, deeper, terminal enervation of India. It is alright to keep beating the war-drums about our impending domination of world economic affairs and our unstoppable consumer-labour markets, but if we don’t get our house in order that tall promise might just remain a pipe dream. The clock is ticking. And fast.

The following could be the way forward. My suggestions are:


  • As the first round of franchise bidding seems to have been conveniently manipulated to suit favoured parties, ideally fresh franchise auctions ought to happen with terms being listed in the public domain. Clauses barring conflict of interest etc need to be incorporated. The existing franchise owners should be given the right to re-bid or match the highest bidders in the fresh auction to retain their franchises. Essentially, they should have the first rights of refusal. Alternatively, fresh bidding should be done for those franchises where the ownership patterns are questionable. Those who fail to reacquire their franchises must surely be knowing that all businesses come with a risk of failure.
  • The IPL Governing Council should have 11 members.
  • There should be at least three members representing “other” international cricket boards on the IPL Governing Council whose players participate in the IPL.
  • The ICC (International Cricket Council) must be represented to ensure that the tournament is conducted on international norms with presence of Anti-Corruption squads and dope testing etc.
  • If 2 and 3 are enacted, the IPL can then request for being part of Future Tours Programme of ICC and teams can have their best players throughout the tournament.
  • The franchisees must nominate one amongst them to be part of the IPL Governing Council.
  • The Players Association needs to be resurrected and they should have a nominee as well. Who else can argue against that ludicrous salary cap?
  • The BCCI should nominate five eminent citizens including distinguished former players with no conflict of interest issues.
  • There should be an Ombudsman-kind of position created as the eleventh member with a casting vote on sensitive issues which get deadlocked.
  • There should be no salary cap on player earnings and franchises should be allowed to hire any player based on their financial capabilities and risk appetite. This will create the missing element in IPL, the absence of clear-cut heavyweight favourite teams and also give the cricketers their real commercial worth. Local players can have a fixed share of 3-4 places in the playing team.
  • Only 8 teams should play every year with the bottom two relegated on an annual basis. This will ensure that we will not have a mindless 94 matches in 50 days.


India’s Growth Is Unstoppable

The falling rupee has raised serious concerns about the state of India’s economy. The woes being faced by the Government at the Centre has shaken the global faith in India’s growth story, with FIIs and investors having second thoughts on their investments in the country.


The Government’s reaffirming commitment towards the nation’s growth story and allaying fears of India staring at an economical and financial crisis, Sanjay Jha, National Spokesperson, Congress (I), spoke on a `A Defining Decade-Why India’s Growth is Unstoppable’ on 22nd August.

Shailesh Vaidya, President, IMC said, “The Indian economy is currently facing tough times. Factors like high social sector spending, a fiscal deficit amounting to 5% of the GDP using the backdrop of the global financial crisis, a farm loan waiver, besides high minimum support prices to farmers, all combined to weaken our fiscal position and stoke food inflation affecting the Aam Aadmi the most.”

Jha exclaimed, “India is a young democracy, vibrant in nature and a radically transformed country. Today India is a part of the global think tank. No international agenda is complete without India on it. And that in itself is a big achievement. The last ten years have seen us opening up sectors like telecom, retail, pharma, education, healthcare and we grew at a time when most economies were languishing during the financial crisis of 2007.”


Admitting to concerns about the falling rupee and its statutory effect on the Indian economy, he added, “The problem of the rupee falling drastically is partly global and partly domestic. The recovery of the US economy is the main reason for the rupee’s woes. Though the US-Euro zone recovery is bad in the short term, it holds lot of promise over the long term. Unemployment rates are declining and the $4 trillion that went into the emerging markets is now finding its way back home. On the domestic front, the gap between imports and exports is widening. Gold and oil imports are critical elements in our import bills, which need to be controlled.”

The other features that are symbolic of the India Growth story with an eye on the hurdles being faced, he said, “India is the third largest country in the world in the Purchasing Power Parity scales. India is in a cycle of change. Our middle class of 350 million people is larger than all of USA. A country that adapts well will succeed in times of crisis. India is a young. It is the thought process and the mind set that defines a nation. India is currently in a paradox. The corporate sector points to a paucity of talent while unemployment rates stay high. The need of the hour here is to maintain a balance in terms of quality by enhancing skills.”

“We are a parliamentarian democracy. The parliament has to function in order to move ahead. Coalition compulsion is a reality. However, the political system has to deliver. It cannot fight at the cost of stepping on the toes of the common man. Corruption needs to be tackled by framing stronger laws. As a citizen, if you want change, you will have to be politically active” said Jha.


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GOODBYE, SIR ! (There Will Never Be Another Like You !)

rajeshkhanna_new(My piece written on the greatest superstar India has ever produced just a few days ago. Rajesh Khanna passed away today, July 18th 2012)

Last week I was taking an early morning flight to Banglaore and as we headed towards the Western Express highway after crossing the Bandra-Worli sea link , the famous mustard-colored Lilavati hospital gradually appeared in view. It felt acutely strange. The Phenomenon was there somewhere on the 11th  floor apparently struggling with an unknown, but surely, a debilitating illness. I believe there have been very few visitors. At close proximity to several film studios where his appearance once created traffic jams, a commotion hard to contain. Screaming fans sporting his trademark guru-kurta, film-photographers battling the mayhem , love-struck Juliet’s ready to slash wrists and kiss his car’s bonnet, curious onlookers simply amazed at the uncontrollable hysteria. Not too far away from that famous address in town either, Aashirwaad on Carter Road, where people from all parts of the world would come to just see where the King lived, at least momentarily fooling themselves that they were merely a few hundred feet away from the greatest superstar India had ever seen. Or will ever see; Rajesh Khanna.


I first saw Khanna in the ultimate romantic classic Aaradhna in the memorable scene where Sharmila Tagore throws a bucket of cold water on him inadvertently . The audience went  completely berserk. It was to happen again in Andaz when he appeared suddenly on a Royal Enfield ( Zindagi Ek Safar Hai Suhana) with a scarf circumventing his neck, black goggles perched tantalizingly on his nose bridge as Hema Malini hung precariously as a pillion. It was to be seen to be believed. And when he sang Vaada tera Vaada in Dushman, a rogue truck-driver with a golden heart,  a still poor India threw coins right on the aisle and danced alongside. Unparalleled , unprecedented, unmatched since. To understand Khanna’s maniacal craze  ,  one needed to be have been born in the sixties. What you see today is a mere rewind into shredded fading memories .

The golden phase of  Khanna’s  career included sensational hits that came in breakneck speed and rapid succession; Do Raaste, Ittefaq, Bandhan, Kati Patang, Anand, Safar, Amar Prem, Roti and Sachcha Jhoota. It was intoxicating stuff, could drive the sanest cuckoo . Khanna was but human. Worse,  hugely egotistical, a toxic combination. A string of eminently forgettable films which turned out to be box-office turkeys abruptly halted that serendipitous honeymoon in the zenith.

Khanna made dying into an art form, and audiences wept inconsolably in deep throbs in Safar, Namak Haram and Aaradhna. His haunting Babu Moshai in Anand’s final scene can give you the goose-bumps even today . But it was with Haathi Mere Saathi that Khanna captured those susceptible cuddly hearts , the entire young brat population as well . He was the fountainhead of family entertainment , with the sobbing -sentimental  women and  the young romantics queuing up for the first day first show.  The Phenomenon was unassailable, invulnerable, insuperable. Only he could destroy the hard-earned kingdom. He did.

Namak Haraam in 1973 became the turning point in Khanna’s career, as it did for Amitabh Bachchan, his real  nemesis whom he had once contemptuously dismissed . Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s film based on inter-class conflict between the license-raj industrialist’s wayward son and his labor-leader lower middle-class best friend was an epic drama. But the author-backed role of a sulking, emotional fireball suited Bachchan. Khanna’s mild-mannered , mature, mollifying character though brilliantly underplayed got murdered, like Shashi Kapoor’s in Deewar. The superstar’s reign had begun raining off as Bachchan became his direct adversary, who chose films with greater circumspection.

Fortuitous circumstances favored the lanky Bachchan too , albeit immensely talented. One of them was the 1975 declaration of Emergency , which created an inimical, imperceptible anti-establishment mood. The aura of soft, charming romanticism gave way to violent, unrestrained tumult. The Angry Young Man was born, intemperate, resolute, a muscular one man demolition squad. Bachchan’s unusual towering height, impeccable baritone and long side-locks helped. Concomitantly, Khanna chose pedestrian, egregiously bad  films like Maalik, Hamshakal, Shehzada, Aaina , Maha Chor , Chalta Purza , Raja Rani etc.

Khanna’s abrupt marriage to teenager Dimple Kapadia looked like a trite script from a tyro film-maker; including melodramatically taking his old steady girl-friend Anju Mahendroo on a false trail to Khandala. Frankly, a starry-eyed Kapadia and a haloed superstar with  quicksilver mood swings made odd bedfellows;  the marriage, of course,  created massive publicity deserving of heavenly misfits. The acrimonious break-up, and their respective high-profile rendezvous and dalliances with co-stars made equal mast-head copy. Khanna’s predicament was that a dissipating professional career was accentuated by a controversial private life ; he stumbled and fell.

Bachchan lorded Bollywood becoming famously a “ one-man industry”, Khanna had became a peripheral innocuous threat despite a late desperate surge with Souten, Fifty Fifty , Chhaila Babu and Avtaar. Jitendra, Rishi Kapoor and a resurrected Dharmendra and the like had also surreptitiously nibbled away at Khanna’s  core audience. That era also coincided with a sudden spurt of multi-starrers  which saw the re-emergence of mediocre heroes,  but which Khanna’s ego studiously, strictly forbade. His later choices in the same genre were terribly abysmal. Superheroes don’t need deadly villains to decimate them, they are perhaps self-destructive.

When the erstwhile The Phenomenon entered electoral politics in 1991  , it signaled his grudging acceptance of his fragility in tinsel-town. Here too  fate dealt Khanna a lethal blow; he almost blew LK Advani off in New Delhi constituency finally losing by 1000 odd  miserly votes, although comeuppance happened in 1992 when he trounced Shatrughan Sinha. But by 1996 the Congress had become extremely wobbly, and he seemed caught in a dilemma between occasional character roles and New Delhi. He floundered once again. This time more fatally as he misread the changing entertainment space and political dynamics.

What you see in the Havell’s ad is a nebulous apparition of a superstar that never can be replicated in a digital download, multi-screen multiplex age where a golden jubilee is an anachronism. There is no endurance anymore beyond two-weeks even if its Rs 100 crores.  But Rajesh Khanna’s  transitory madness has endured. He must endure even now. After all, “ Zindagi Ka Safar Hai Ye Kaisa Safar,  Koi Samjha Nahin Koi Jana Nahin” still needs to be told in his own words. His tale is incomplete. To have seen such preternatural heights of exhilarating fame and then to experience such impenetrable oblivion requires some inner toughness. The pain of loss, the deep inner turmoil can be devastating. Anonymity can be dreadful for someone accustomed to being serenaded wherever, whenever. Especially when your contemporaries reveled in the new electronic age.

But more later. Right now it is important that Rajesh Khanna leaves the hospital in a happier, healthier state. Get home soon , Sir ! I want to stand outside Aashirwaad once again as I did as a school-kid and be mesmerized , like when I came to Mumbai for the first time. And I know I am not the only one wishing to do the same !

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925028057-3289105-1_s( Published in edited version in Hindustan Times dated April 7th 2011).

In the tense days of JP’s Total Revolution in the mid-1970s when I was still in high school, All India Radio always seemed reassuring, the situation is tense but under control. There is nothing more powerful than the predictable impact of a cliché. It is like a stealthy rogue who emerges with monotonous regularity on appropriate occasions without causing any sweat beads. Best, it works. Compounding them is the never-ending supply of esoteric terms that subtly replace our old hackneyed ones . The first time someone told me to take a rain check, I sneaked a furtive look outside of my window. It was an incandescent day.

The usual guilty culprits are those financial sharks, business managers, hyperventilating media, and even creative copycats, like Bollywood who come up with regular bursts of originality. Add cricket analysts to that list, and you have a veritable mix. Here is a select sample.

In TV studios, the most famous wife is not Aishwarya or Angelina but the nameless one of the great warrior, Julius Caesar. Every day some pontificating pundit will shake his head in acute disbelief and say “ he/she must be above suspicion like Caesar’s wife”. Hardly anyone knows the real contextual relevance behind that salacious origination.

Of course, the corporate-world and the tired media is nowadays obsessed with deficit; poor Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the erudite economist and former finance minister had perhaps never contemplated that he would have such a permanent engagement with deficit financing . .

The new family and friends scheme in corporate India is called crony capitalism; as in Noah’s ark they swim or sink together,  their ill-gotten wealth in tow. The IPL association is strong. The real bane of India is the often heavily promoted short-circuit attitude called jugaad .Mostly uttered by frequent fliers in business class to display their understanding of agrarian India,  it has great sound byte value especially at frozen destinations like Davos. Like Harbhajan Singh’sdoosra by Anglo-Saxon ESPN commentators.

Due diligence is usually overdue, and corporate governance just sounds so Harvard  even the Golden Peacock spreads its majestic feathers in hearing that pious item-number.
In India, it is chronically the “ systemic malaise ” that fails us, despite tech experts like Infosys, Wipro and Cognizant.

In every brainstorming session ( you always wonder where the brains snooze during this supposed blizzard ) the boss energetically pumps up the blank expressions sitting in a semi-circle staring at him open –mouthed ; think out of the box. After a pregnant pause, somebody says, Can I go to the bathroom, please? Perhaps , a preferred  place for intellectual stimulation. Ever since finance pros talked of leveraged buy-outs, the management consultant , the other competing avatar for the buzzword-factory created a “buy-in”, fed up with getting people to just agree.

Personally, I would have sued those consumer marketing guys for sexual harassment for suggesting customer intimacy so liberally in a public platform. But following CRM, the jargon-obsessed had to create a little more familiarity. Next what ; have sex with the customer? Everyone wants to grab that “low-hanging fruit”, not knowing that the crawling worm and fuming competition gets there before your claws do.

If you are simply ill-equipped for that arduous task, you just don’t have it in your DNA; it’s a congenital deficiency. Poor you! Make do, with The Times of India and HT instead.
I have never quite fathomed why HR guys constantly chant competencies, when all they mean is relevant skills.

At the end of the day , say many , especially in early morning meetings with a sense of foreboding finality. Others have just two things to share, and then proceed with a laundry-list of interminable story-telling. It’s not rocket science, says the pin-striped boss, whenever he wants you to feel foolish. Not that he knows rocket science either or do those NASA engineers.

I find silos silly, because actually instead of feeling in water-tight compartments I could name my next dog with that Occidental sounding name. Despite the 2 G scam, bandwidth commands a huge spectrum amongst modern-day managers. If you don’t have it, there is no deal, man ! Who cares for the over-used resources these days?

And if you are indeed not duplicitous, why start every sentence with –Let me be honest ? Everytime someone makes a long monologue but switches seamlessly to having said that , you know they are master of irony and some bad news is in the offing. Notwithstanding is passé.

The metrosexual is the marketing man’s mantra for creating lifestyle market segmentationfor the yuppie-type. While some believe that this is a high on testosterone randy fellow residing  in cosmopolitan cities like Mumbai or Delhi, he is actually the guy who does those mask-like facials every alternate day and blow dries his fluffy tresses, while his nails are immaculately clipped and the chest clean-shaven.

In the long run we are bullish .Sure, but by then you will not remember that flawed forecaster and his short-term grotesque stock recommendations. Your banker will nowadays never take a haircut, meaning a loss. But I thought hair grows back, right ( I maybe an odd exception)?
The IT crowd suddenly introduced us to deliverables, while making their valuations scribbled cursorily in the form of back of the envelope calculation. They also don’t want your contact details anymore, they want your coordinates.

And frankly if those Wall Street greedy sharks can at best come up with a financial  product ominously branded as credit “default” swaps, wasn’t the world expected to not pay-back?? Now you know why the global meltdown happened? By the way,  decoupling does not mean removing  a pair of smooching lovers in Bandstand.

Transparency is what I remember we needed in those days when we made presentations before the PPT took over. But nowadays the T word is like the T-Rex, omnipresent, gigantic, oppressive. Raja, Kalmadi, judges, police, politicians, Lalit Modi are all responsible for this monstrous mess. Best practices are usually best ignored.

Everyone wants to leave behind a footprint , and whether you have a driving license or not, you need to have it all in a dashboard .Its not just the razor blade, but everything has to be cutting edge, especially those PPT’s.  Anything small is now giving that Tata car costing around Rs 2 lakhs some free publicity and is nano, the new mini- midget. So go beyond nano-thinking, folks ! Think big!  Relationship managers were created by foreign banks to forge equations for further monetary fulfillment but under the soft touchy feely designation.

And after those thought-showers, a paradigm shift is the next step to get traction. Isn’t it far less exquisite and so boring  to say , let’s just think differently to create results? And all companies, whether or not in the energy business requiring to transfer gas from the Godavari basin needs a leadership pipeline .
My mind goes into the world of Hughes Hefner over-drive every-time they say Shah Rukh Khan and Priyanka Chopra spent “ quality time together in his vanity van ” . Sure, does it mean Baskin Robbins has no chance whatsoever? But this one has replaced being “ just good friends” by far. Whenever the object of ridicule is targeted in those gossip-infested tabloids, they are  not available for comment

A batsman is usually clean bowled , says Ravi Shastri, but I noticed a hell of a lot of dust and dung on that last stump standing. He is also plumb LBW , never flat-footed or plain lazy. And India has recently shirked its past habitual hangover of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

And when my daughters say, Dad, stop being a loser, they are only affirming what my wife has been stating all along; Speak up, my friend, even if I am not hearing you.

Sanjay Jha is Executive Director of Dale Carnegie Training India. The views are personal.

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