Friday, December 16, 2011

Con of the Millennium: Bharat Ratna for Sachin Tendulkar.

Whoever masterminded the campaign to get the Bharat Ratna conferred on Tendulkar must be a PR genius (or “guru” if one were to use a contemporary marketing buzzword). Imagine the amount of work that must have gone into whipping up the clamour in the media to nominate the player for the honour. The quantum of lobbying with the sports, culture and home affairs ministries and the PMO – all the foxy manoeuvres – must have required a phenomenal amount of money, influence and patience. Then came the imaginative master stroke to cloak the ludicrous proposal in a mantle of credible provenance: the enrolling of the late Dhyan Chand as his fellow conferee for the coveted award. Strike the right emotional chords. After all, Dhyan Chand played in all three Indian field hockey team winning the Olympic Gold in a row in 1928, 1932 and 1936 − the first two times as a player and in the last instance as a playing captain. He deserves to be a Bharat Ratna without doubt. Field hockey happens to be the poor cousin of cricket in India. By implication, Dhyan Chand is the underdog with whom the Master of the Universe is willing to share the crusade to win the country’s highest honour. What magnanimity! (By the way, is this the same large-hearted Sachin Tendulkar who sought in 2003 to get a Rs.1.1-crore Import Duty and Excise exemption for the Ferrari gifted to him by the manufacturer?) Even Anna Hazare, Middle India’s current hero and poster boy, and Asha Bhosale are demanding a BR for ST. The brainy Babus who have broadened the eligibility criteria for Bharat Ratna to include excellence in all fields of human endeavour need to ask themselves a simple question. Shouldn’t Har Gobind Khorana (1922 - 2011), the winner of the Nobel Prize for his role in the discovery of RNA vis-à-vis the genetic code not be the first in the queue? There is a precedence for this: Khorana’s Indian-British compatriot and fellow Nobel laureate, Prof Amartya Sen, got it in 1999. Is discovering RNA any less of a human achievement than scoring 99 centuries?

Friday, December 02, 2011

Getting caught is the only crime.

Call me cynical if you must. But, as a lifelong fan of Leslie Charteris’s The Saint, I’m hugely amused by the scathing criticism being heaped on Quentin Rowan. His crime? Copy-pasting an entire debut spy novel, Assassin of Secrets, and getting it published by Little, Brown’s Mulholland Books under his alias Q R Markham. His “sources”, according to his own confession, were Charles McCarry, Robert Ludlum, John Gardner and Adam Hall. MediaBistro’s Galleycat has copy-pasted this now no more extant bio-sketch of the author from his British publisher’s website: “Markham has been a parks department employee, laundry-truck driver, door-to-door knife salesman, telemarketer, rock ‘n’ roll bassist, literary scout, book-reviewer, small business owner, and consultant. His writing has appeared in the Paris Review, Bomb Magazine, Witness, The New York Post, and more.” To this impressive pen portrait of a “man of many parts”, Publishers Marketplace’s News Director Sarah Weinman added the precious nugget of information of his status as a co-owner of Spoonbill & Sugartown in Williamsburg. Galleycat also gives a relevant excerpt from Rowan’s essay published in October (“9 Ways That Spy Novels Made Me A Better Bookseller”): “From the great fictional spymasters like George Smiley, I learned how to be cold in my mind: free from values and concerned with nothing but the results of an action” There’s the nub of how his mind works, if you get my drift. Now even the 5 glowing reviews of Assassin of Secrets are missing at the websites ( and Goodreads) where they were originally posted. You can find their skeletons at Google Books, although the excerpts of the novel are missing. Is all this literary snobbishness, a desire to be on par with the proverbial Caesar’s wife or what? Remember the Oprah Winfrey-James Frey fracas back in 2006? That one was about fraud and not plagiarism, be warned.