Arnie vs. Bill Clinton for California?

Arnie announced last Fri that “he’ll be back” running for re-election in 2006. The Democrats have a battle on their hands. I think, despite his low ratings, Arnie will come back to power unless Democrats field a very strong visible candidate. At present neither State Controller Steve Westly or State Treasurer Phil Angelides meet this requirement in my opinion.

There are rumors that another movie star (Warren Beatty) or maybe even Bill Clinton might run for Governor of California. Frankly, I think it will be a great match up if Bill Clinton took on the challenge (I sure hope he does). With Hillary planning for White House bid in 2008, having hubby Bill in-charge of California might not be a bad after all?

Yusuf Youhana turns to Islam: Religion in Sports

I was surprised to read about Youhana converting to Islam. Everytime he scores a century, Youhana diligently looked upto the heavens and gestured with the Christian cross sign. So I got the feeling that he was a devout Christian. His permanent presence in the Pak team in the company of Danish Kaneria gave the Pak team semblance of diversity and secularism. Now that is no longer the case. Wonder what is going through Danish Kaneria these days as the odd man out.

Over the years, I have noticed that the Pak team has had an increasing tendency to indulge in a public display of religious fervor — the joint prayers on the field, the captains reference to Allah prior to answering interview questions etc. I don’t see the need to mix religion and sports, especially when games are emotionally charged affairs and spectators on both sides can get out of hand fairly quickly.

I am not against any religion, nor am I against the Pak team, but I think it will help everyone and the game in general if sportstars keep their religious displays off the field. There is enough communal trouble in the world as is, let visible individuals (who automatically become role models) like sportstars downplay religion rather than promote it.

Sourav-Chappell saga

Its very unfortunate that Ganguly chose to go public about his internal squabbles. Personally, I have a lot of respect for Ganguly and what he has done for India cricket. Unfortunately, it appears as though he is going through the same crisis faced by most India sportsman (politicians included) about when to call it quits. Of all the Indian cricketers, I think Sunil Gavaskar is the only one who went out on his own terms. Pretty much every India top star has been dragged out at the end of his career: Kapil Dev, Vishwanath, Vengsarkar, Bedi, etc.

In the case of Ganguly, I think the intense pressure just got to him. He probably knows that his days in the team and as captain are numbered for many reasons possibly even beyond his performance. So he proably thought that with a century behind him he could build up some support!

The commission scheduled to meet later this month includes Gavaskar, Shastri, Venkataraghavan, Chappell and R. S Mahendra (the Board President). While Mahendra has past scores to settle, Chappell has his reputation at stake and will do whatever it takes to build Team India. The others are tough task masters and will feel the onus of setting the direction for the Indian team for the years to come. In short, it a pseudo selection committee where the stakes are high. Its good to know that Chappell is trying to clean house and I hope he succeeds. I still think Ganguly is a good captain, but it appears as though the standards set by Chappell are a little too much for him. If this is true he must go.

Ridiculous wait time for US Visa in Chennai

Wait time for a visa to the US from Chennai is now 162 days!! I don’t see how companies doing business with the US can send someone here on a visit with these kinds of delays. As for those visiting foe pleasure, you might as well forget it! Given the amount of business between India and the US, its about time the US established a couple of additional visa processing centers in Bangalore, and Hyderabad for instance.

Book Review: Kite Runner

Title: Kite Runner
Author: Khaled Hosseini
Type: Fiction

The early part of the book is set in Afghanistan, then moves briefly to Pakistan, and then to the US. The lead character spends his early years in Afghanistan with his Dad and then leaves the country during the Russian occupation and later returns during the peak of the Taliban rule. The story revolves around this eventful journey during which the lead character, Amir, transitions from boyhood to a grown up, married man and finally a published author. Circumstances draw him back to Afghanistan, and the story then traces its way back for a US-Pak-Afghanistan-Pak-USA round trip during which he is exposed to life threatening events and deep emotional trauma.

The book appears to be (at least partly) autobiographical. The lead character in the book is referred to in first person (“I”) throughout the book. In other words, the story is told in a narrative style. Some parts of the book refer to Fremont, and other parts of the SF bay area. It was nice to read references to places that I could relate to. Incidentally, the author is a physician based in the SF bay area. There are quite a few references to Hindi movies and Hindi music. The author has certainly been influenced to some extent by these films. There are scenes that can be directly adapted into hindi films! Fight scenes, sick person coughing blood yet refusing treatment, display of unusual courage despite fatal consequences, romance despite minimal interaction etc.

I hear that this book is a big success. It also happens to be author’s first book. Given all the recent trouble in Afghanistan, the timing of this book could not have been better (it was published sometime in mid 2003). The book is certain to appeal to the western audience, in particular. There are plenty of references to contradictions of mullahs, muslims who drink, atrocities of the Taliban, stoning to death etc. etc.

Overall, a superbly written novel, and a most engaging read. Its only about 350 pages and not one of those long novels. I highly recommend the book especially if you like fiction that involves family drama.

I’ll be curious to read the authors next book. The deeply autobiographical nature of most maiden efforts often result in powerful, poignant storylines that often lead to huge successes that are hard to replicate. Also, subsequent books often tend to suffer from high expectations created after a successful first book. In any case, an excellent first novel.

India’s donation for Katrina Relief

India donated to Red Cross for Katrina Relief. Pretty impressive! India also played a major role in assisting other countries hit by the Tsunami earlier this year. Besides, almost every day there is talk in the US media and in political circles about being competitive with India and China.

Clear sign of a growing south asian power!