Amit Paranjape’s Blog

Sachin Tendulkar For Bharat Ratna

Posted in Cricket, Current Affairs by Amit Paranjape on February 25, 2010

 

Sachin Tendulkar (image credit: wikipedia)

I have been thinking about this for the past few months; especially after Sachin Tendulkar completed 20 years of his amazing international career in November 2009.

The Bharat Ratna is India’s highest civilian award. The past 41 awardees represent an august group. This award has had lot fewer controversies around it, as compared to the ‘Padma-‘ awards. What better candidate this year than Sachin Tendulkar! And I think he could be the youngest ever (by a wide-margin) to get this honor. In this brief blog post, I will discuss my thoughts on why Tendulkar richly deserves this award.

At The Absolute Pinnacle Of His Discipline

Recent Bharat Ratna awardees include Lata Mangeshkar and Pandit Bhimsen Joshi. I have tremendous respect for both and have been a big fan of their music. They (along with other past awardees like Bismillah Khan, Pandit Ravi Shankar and Satyajit Ray) represent the absolute best of their discipline. Their glorious careers have spanned over many decades.

I would like to include Sachin Tendulkar in this list. He is the undisputed world leader in his field…and he has been at this level for many years. All his records and his amazing 21 year old career speak for themselves. But numbers alone don’t do justice to his skill and talent! Just as the great music maestros have enthralled their fans over all these years, so has Sachin. In fact rarely does one see a sports icon who has literally billions of fans, all over the globe. His contributions in making international cricket what it is today, are huge.

 
The Great Role-Model: Humility, Passion, Leadership and Work Ethic
 
But Sachin’s greatness goes beyond his individual success and his ability to entertain. He has been a great role-model for an entire generation of sports fans in India and around the world. In today’s world of media hype and controversies, he has managed to stay above the fray. One of the first things that strikes you when you follow his career, is his humility. Modern day professional sports and being humble, don’t exactly go hand-in-hand. But Tendulkar has been a strong exception.
 
His passion and love for the game are still as fresh as they were two decades back. Every time he is on the field, this passion radiates through to the entire team. He still has that school-boyish, infectious enthusiasm.
 
His leadership on and off the field, is often not discussed as much as his batting. Tendulkar has been the clear leader in whatever team he has been part of. Leadership doesn’t come through titles and designations. It comes from the respect of peers. It comes from a great work ethic. It comes from an ability to put the team ahead of an individual. Sachin will gladly field on the boundary line…something most ‘senior’ players don’t do. Leaders also need a new level in mental toughness. Sachin Tendulkar has played through innumerable crises, both on and off the field. And each and everytime, he has emerged stronger.
 
Few people talk about Sachin’s physical endurance. To play professional sports at this level takes exceptionally good physical fitness. To play at this level for over 20 years takes something really special. Let alone cricket, but how many professional sportsmen have played at this level of competence for such a long period? Sachin’s physical endurance as well as his consistency comes from a great work ethic. This practice and hardwork is not seen on the field. After yesterday’s record-breaking 200 at Gwalior, where he batted for nearly 4 hours – many, including the commentators were predicting that he will not return to field..at least for an hour or two. But as the South African innings began, Sachin was right there! There are countless such incidents throughout his career.
 
 
 
Far too many times, the Bharat Ratna award has been bestowed in the twilight of the winners’ careers. Here is an opportunity to change that!
 
 
Other Related Links
 
Bharat Ratna Award; List Of Awardees (wikipedia)
 
Sachin Tendulkar Career Record (cricinfo.com)
 
Sachin Tendulkar – Wikipedia Page
  
Blog Post: ‘Sachin Tendulkar: Off The Field’
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NOTE ADDED May 5, 2010 –
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Sachin Tendulkar is on twitter!
Finally Sachin Tendulkar has made his appearance on twitter! It’s great to see him tweeting. His twitter id is @sachin_rt . If you are not a twitter user, but still want to see his tweets, you can directly go to his twitter page:  http://twitter.com/sachin_rt
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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The Disappointing State Of Shaniwar Wada

Posted in Pune by Amit Paranjape on February 15, 2010

Shaniwar Wada (Image Credit: Wikipedia)

The historic Shaniwar Wada fort is not just Pune’s pride; it is the pride of Maharashtra and India. It was the citadel of power of the great Maratha Empire of the 18th Century. At its zenith, the Maratha Empire controlled an area over half of present day India and rivaled the size of the Mughal Empire that preceded it. The Peshwe were amongst the last major powers to surrender to British in 1818. Small and modest in comparison to the Mughal Forts like the Lal Kila in Delhi, the Shaniwar Wada had its own charm, and was witness to some very important history of the Indian sub-continent in the 18th century.  

For more information on Shaniwar Wada, please click here.  

A massive fire in 1828 destroyed most of the buildings inside the fort. Only the foundations, the periphery walls, and the main entrance survived. The exact cause of this fire is not known. Post this fire, the British had no interest in rebuilding this symbol of Maratha Power. The fort deteriorated over the coming decades. Post independence, Shaniwar Wada saw some restoration work and development.  

I recently visited Shaniwar Wada after nearly 25 years. Being a big enthusiast of Pune History, I was eagerly looking forward to seeing the sites of the historic buildings, and the beautiful water fountains.  

I was extremely disappointed. The condition of the fort is disturbing. Apparently, some restoration work is going on, but that’s no excuse for the current state! And the person at the ticket window (they charge Rs 5 entrance fee; Rs 100 for foreign visitors) confirmed that this state has been there for a while.  

Nearly half of the sign-boards inside the fort, that describe various buildings and structures, are missing. Partial restoration work/construction can be seen at multiple sites, and construction material is dumped haphazardly at various places. Pieces of trash can be seen lying everywhere. Lawns are not maintained properly. The periphery outside the main walls of the fort has a small iron fence, creating a 10-20 feet buffer zone between the fort and the streets. This fence is broken at a few points. The grass here gives an impression that no one has tended to it in years! And it has become a mini-garbage dump.  

I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.  

Most public gardens in Pune are maintained so much better than this historic monument. And they don’t even charge an entry fee. Question is who is responsible for maintaining this fort? Is it the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)? I understand that the ASI does a nice job in maintaining historical monuments like the Lal Kila, Ajantha, etc.  (This is what I have heard from friends who have recently visited there… I haven’t been there in a long time).  

Then what is the problem with Shaniwar Wada? Funding? Priority? What Else?  

What can be done to get the attention of the right authorities? Is a ‘Public-Private Partnership Model’ an option? What can Punekars do the restore the pride and glory of this great monument? Looking for your suggestions and inputs.

Sri Lanka Trip – 10 Interesting Memories

Posted in Travel by Amit Paranjape on February 10, 2010

We recently made a short 3 day trip to Sri Lanka. Thoroughly enjoyed the visit. Great Nature, Nice People, Good Food and Cost-Effective! Yes…with the current exchange rates – the prevailing prices for hotels, food, transportation, etc. seemed to be a lot cheaper than in India.

Also, in the increasingly painful international visa regulations, Sri Lanka is amongst the few countries where an Indian Passport holder can get a Visa on arrival, if travelling for tourism purposes (with a stay of under 30 days). So you can literally board a plane and get there. And note, the Chennai – Colombo flight roughly takes the same time as Mumbai – Goa.
 
In this blog post, I am highlighting 10 interesting memories from this trip. Frankly, we ran short on time. My recommendation is you plan for at least a 5-6 day trip. We are also looking forward to another trip there soon!

 

 
Old Cars/Vans & Repair Shops
 
Upon landing, as you head on the road from Colombo Airport to the city, you cannot help but notice a series of old-car repair shops. Various car brands (mainly Japanese) replacement chassis are laid out in the front. You also notice that the cars and mini-vans are a lot older than what you would see in India. I guess given the depressed tourist economy during the past 2 decades of civil war, not many new vehicles were imported. Hence these repair shops seem to thrive.
 
Traffic Discipline
 
Most roads are quite tiny, even by Indian standards. Even the major roads, like the Colombo Airport to City Highway, are 2 laned undivided roads. However, the traffic discipline is definitely a notch higher than in India. And the Helmet Rule is extremely well followed! In our 3 days there, we didn’t see a single motor-cycle rider or even the pillion rider, without a helmet. Honking is also quite uncommon (though not as uncommon as in EU/US).
 
Security
 
The long civil war, the Presidential Elections (we were there a week before the elections)  are probably the reasons why we witnessed a lot of security presence in Colombo. Add to that, our hotel was near the Central Business Area that houses a lot of Government Offices. The sight of security personnel with automatic weapons, can be a little disconcerting for a first time tourist!
 
 
Nuwara Eliya – Quaint Old Hotels
 
Nuwara Eliya is a fabulous hill station and an important tea plantation region in Sri Lanka, perched up at an altitude of over 6,000 feet. A 5 hour drive from Colombo through continuously winding roads gets you there. The landscape changes quite drastically as you ascend from the sea-level, into the mountain slopes lined up with tea plantations.
 
The British clearly loved this place and setup quite a few retreats here in the 19th century.  These include the summer residence of the British governor-general. This royal residence has now been converted to a beautiful hotel, quite aptly named ‘The Grand’. Upon entering it, you literally experience the grandeur of the British Era. In this remote place, they have built an amazing place with huge halls, lobbies and regal rooms. The Hotel has done a great job in maintaining the historic residence – with the artifacts, wooden floors, fire places and decorative glass windows.  The grand ball room is quite impressive.
  
This royal residence literally transferred me to that era, and I couldn’t help but draw parallels between a similar residence in Pune – the British Governer’s mansion that is now the main building of the Pune University. Unfortunately, the Pune University Building is not anywhere in the same state as the Grand Hotel – given that both were probably identical in 1947.
 
We stayed at the St. Andrews Hotel – a much smaller hotel but equally beautiful. This was built initially as a residence by a Scotsman who was clearly a Golf Fan. No prizes for guessing the origin of the hotel’s name!
 
This hotel’s main lobby also dates back to 1875 and is very well-maintained. The multi-course European Dinner served at this seemingly remote Hotel/Town was simply exquisite! This hotel also has its own garden where they grow their own herbs and vegetables.
 
Nuwara Eliya – Tea Estates
 
Nuwara Eliya has many tea estates, and we visited one of the more prominent ones – Mackwoods Tea.
 
They provide a nice tour of the tea-making process.  They also have an excellent tea tasting room, as well as a great gift shop.
 
Shopping/Prices
 
While I am not much of a shopping enthusiast myself, couldn’t help noticing the attractive prices of various items: especially apparel. Two large stores/malls that we visited (recommended) in Colombo were: House Of Fashion and Odel.
 
Promenade by the sea  in Colombo
 
The central business area in Colombo has a beautiful promenade by the sea – somewhat like Mumbai’s Marine Drive. The major hotels (Taj, Intercontinental,Hilton, etc.) and Government Offices are in close proximity. There are street food vendors that sell seafood and other local snacks (no BhelPuri/Chaat here 🙂  ). This place is quite popular with tourists as well as locals.
 
Friendly People
 
Based on our experiences (many tourists I spoke with concur!) – Sri Lankans are nice and friendly people. Our first experience started at the airport. The immigration officer was very friendly – not a common experience 🙂 . Maybe we were there during the peak wedding season…wedding celebrations were everywhere. Our hotel had 3-4 wedding related events everyday. Got a chance to understand a bit about their unique wedding customs that differ by religion/ethnicity/etc. Though irrespective of these differences, the weddings were grand parties in general!
 
I asked our car’s driver about the cricket – clearly Sri Lankans are very passionate about cricket and their team. Was a bit surprised to hear that the most popular player in Sri Lanka right now is not Sangakara, Jayawardhane, Jayasuriya or Murali… Its Dilshan! Also, the most popular Indian cricketer in Sri Lanka right now is Sehwag.
 
Food
 
I am not any expert in Sri Lankan cuisine, but from what I sampled there, got an impression that there are distinct influences from South India and East Asia. I liked the Hoppers (a rice ‘Dosa’ like preparation, sometimes also made with rice and eggs) as well as String Hoppers (somewhat like thin rice noodles). The Curries were quite tasty and reminded me of the Thai/Malaysian Curries. No surprises that most major hotels have excellent selections of continental and Indian cuisines available.
 
The Historic City Of Kandy
 
We spent the least amount of time in Kandy, something we definitely need to rectify when we visit next. This historic city was the capital of Sri Lanka before the British Era began in 1815. There are many historical monuments, the star attraction being the old Palace. We heard that the botanical garden there is also extremely impressive – unfortunately, didn’t have time to visit.
 
 
Notes
 
Photo Credits: Sarika Phatak
 
Useful links about Sri Lanka:
 
 
 
 
 

 

Chevy Cruze – First Impressions

Posted in Cars by Amit Paranjape on February 1, 2010

Chevy Cruze (Image Credit: Wikipedia)

  

I recently test drove the new Chevy Cruze. There has been eager anticipation about this new Sedan (not just in India, but globally as well…) and I too was keen to see a launch from the ‘New GM’. Over the past 2 decades, I haven’t been a huge fan of American Cars, compared to their German and Japanese counterparts. I was hoping that this new generation vehicle would change it. However, I was disappointed. The current Cruze model was originally developed by General Motors with its Korean counterpart/division (Daewoo).  Note – given the price and feature range, I am comparing this vehicle with Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic and Skoda Laura.       

As you get in the car, the interiors strike you as pretty unappealing. The leather upholstery is definitely not up to the mark. Even leather seats fitted in after-market shops can look and feel better. The ergonomics are not ideal as well. Yes, the car does boast a tilting Sun Roof. The Electronics Multi-Function Control Display is pretty decent. Climate Control is also provided. And the car has a ‘Button Start’ instead of your regular ignition key. But other than these add-ons, the car’s interior comfort and styling still leaves a lot to be desired.
 
Probably the best technical feature of the Cruze is its 2.0 liter 150 BHP Turbo-Charged Common Rail Diesel Engine. This powerful machine provides a nice acceleration ( comparable with the Skoda Laura’s Diesel Engine 2.0 liter 140 BHP). The claimed fuel economy is also quite good. The 16 inch wheels provide good traction and ride. A slight lag is noticed when you accelerate, but that is typical of Diesel Turbo-Charged Engines. Presently, only a manual transmission power-train is available in India, however an Auto-Transmission version is planned for later this year. The handling and maneuverability of the Cruze is not as great as compared to its German/Japanese counterparts in the same category. Same goes with the overall ride feel.
 
I think one of the other big things going for the Cruze is its price – quite aggressively positioned under 15 Lakhs (1.5 Million). I think this and the fact that it has a Diesel Engine (not available in Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic) will be a plus. The Indian Consumer somehow has a huge fascination for Diesel Engines, and how they seemingly cost less. The simple logic being that Diesel gives a better mileage and is cheaper (by about 20%) than Petrol. However, very few do any real math to figure out how much they really drive and how much the real difference would work out to be, as far as the ‘Total Cost Of Ownership’ for a Petrol and a Diesel Engine! For cars that are greater than 10 Lakhs in Price, the savings with Diesel (if at  all) workout to less than 1 Lakh (or 10%) of the price of the car in most cases (Driving about 100,000 km in 6-7 years).
 
To summarize, I think the Cruze might do reasonably well in India given its engine power, price point and perceived diesel economics, but will definitely not rank up there when it comes to handling, smoothness and driving comfort.
 
 

 

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