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Psst... Coach or President?

Poor chandu Borde. Hoping to become consensus presidential candidate by dint of the sterling role he played in India’s first victory over England in 1960-61, writes Indrajit Hazra.

india Updated: Jun 17, 2007 03:24 IST

Poor chandu Borde. Here he was, all ready to turn 73 this coming Thursday, hoping to become consensus presidential candidate by dint of the sterling role he played in India’s first victory over England in 1960-61. Instead, he becomes a ‘cricket manager’ for the Indian team. Yes, I can see Borde making our players trawl through four-leafed obstacle courses in Kilkenny while exchanging notes with leprechauns hanging outside his hotel room next weekend.

It now turns out that Graham Ford listened to his ‘inner voice’ and made the kind of renunciation that Congressmen believe can be made only once every leap millennium. While there was no beating of BCCI chests or wails from the likes of Mani Shankar Aiyar imploring Ford to take on the job, there was also a knock on earlier reject John Emburey’s door. It turns out that Emburey does have some dignity, for he said thanks, but no thanks.

The BCCI trawled through the other two probables, Pranab Mukherjee and Somnath Chatterjee, and then realising that this was becoming too much of a Bengal zone affair, went to the sprightly Shivraj Patil, who turns 72 in October, imploring him to be coach. Patil said no — even to ‘cricket manager’ — and the rest, as they say, is a riddle wrapped in a banana leaf inside a mystery.

By showing that he cares not a jot for the power and the pelf that comes with managing Team India, Patil may have proved his credentials as President material. But there was just one problem: he never played table tennis, a sport associated with the complete lack of power and pelf. The writing was on the blog when posted the information (since removed because Left Front leaders don’t like blogs) about Mayawati and Sonia Gandhi going through a list of table tennis players on Monday night at the former’s Humayan Road house. Till Thursday morning, the frontrunner for the UPA’s presidential candidate was A. Sharath Kamal (Who? Answer: India’s top-ranking table tennis player). But by early Thursday afternoon, No. 2 on the Mayawati-Sonia list, Pratibha Patil (Who? Answer: rising star of the Indian table tennis scene in the 1950s and present Rajasthan Governor) was the Chosen One. Pratibha, 72, retains her mean backhand.

In the meantime there are rumours that once the Indian tour of Ireland and England are over, Chandu Borde will be replaced by Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. Shekhawat turns 83 in October and never played table tennis or cricket.

A Yorkshire pudding

All this talk about ping-pong has made me thirsty. But in my continuing show of support for the Prime Minister, I have cut down on conspicuous consumption and no longer drink during working hours. The same (the lack of conspicuousness, that is), however, can’t be said about Aishwarya Bachchan neé Rai elböw Mannequin.

At the 8th Annual International India Film Academy in Yorkshire, Ash apparently hawed and gushed and preened and spawed (don’t know what that last word means but you get the picture) when Nishabd and Ganga Ki Saugandh star Amitabh Bachchan publicly referred to the young Mrs Bachchan as, well, Aishwarya Bachchan. Jaya Bachchan neé Bhaduri did not roll her eyes.

Shilpa Shetty danced to Crazy kiya re in her birthday suit (a Rocky S dress actually that was specially designed for her birthday on June 8), a piece of information that, of course, affects our lives.

So who was the winner at the Yorkshire jingbang? Answer: the Yorkshire Tourist Board. It has now launched a ‘Top 10 Indian Gems in Yorkshire’ tour to attract people like us. The ten gems awaiting us include a “world class meal” at Mumtaz in Bradford, Britain’s top Kashmiri restaurant (although being Kashmiri, that’s disputed); an “entrancing dance performance inspired by Indian myths and legends” by the Halifax-based Annapurna Dance Company (not the Canadian Halifax but the West Yorkshire one); a painting of Captain Cook “dressed in Indian clothes” at the York Castle Museum.

I’m not interested unless they can guarantee an evening with Geoff Boycott with local boys, the Kaiser Chiefs, serenading.

Run, Budhia run

I went to buy some meat the other day — who am I kidding? I was aimlessly walking the streets of east Delhi — when I saw a print-out pasted in front of a shop. It was a simple ad full of typos announcing a tutorial service: ‘Don’t waste your summer holidays’. Well, one chap who’s clearly wasting his summer holidays is Marathon Boy Budhia.

It seems to me to be more than a tad strange that while bespectacled boys and girls, lugging books thrice their weight, are being cheer-led by their parents to get admissions into the IITs and the IIMs and the II-don’t-know-what-else come monsoon, come shine, a boy who is keen to traverse the distance of 500 kms from Bhubaneshwar to Calcutta is being thwarted. Being a former only child and a Bengali to boot, I’m all for a child’s right to not be exploited. But do I detect a class hypocrisy here? We’re making our daughter cram her brains out so that one day she can become a CEO in Sacramento. But Budhia’s mum, Sukanti Singh and his coach Biranchi Das are exploiting a poor little boy? Sounds to me like it’s another case of we’ll have our social mobility but won’t let the silly, unwashed lot have their spot under the sun. Venus and Serena Williams, where are you?

So hurrah to the Orissa High Court, for issuing a show-cause notice to the state government’s and the district Child Welfare Committee’s attempts to restrain the boy’s run. In the meantime, I’ll bet you an iPod, with the song Nanha munna rahi hoon, desh ka sipahi hoon already uploaded in it, that your pre-teenage son can’t do 75 push-ups.

First Published: Jun 17, 2007 00:15 IST