Tuesday, October 16, 2007

another newsweek article on india's economy

In case you weren't bored enough by the plethora of articles on India's economy, here Newsweek superstar George Wehrfritz and I do a little channeling of Thomas Friedman to pump up India a little before the stock market tanks. The premise: India doesn't have much of an export economy, so it will be safer in a US recession than China.

BTW: Can anybody say "bubble?"

Read on at http://www.newsweek.com/id/43340

new newsweek article on cricket

I finally convinced Newsweek to write about cricket. It wasn't easy, and along the way there was some confusion. For instance, at one point, an edit came back that suggested that a World Cup played in the one-day format instead of five-day test cricket was a brilliant new innovation. (They were talking about Twenty20 of course). But in the end, it turned out OK. It also appeared in Enterprise, a magazine for so-called "high net worth individuals," where I believe they used my complete, and therefore slightly funnier, lead paragraph.

Read on at http://www.newsweek.com/id/43341

Saturday, October 13, 2007

shailaja says....

"I can't believe all these so-called experts on Indian movies keep buying into the claim that Bhool Bhulaiyya is India's first psychological thriller, when it's a remake of the Malayalam film Manichithra Thazhu!"

Saturday, October 06, 2007

i'm no expat

This is a little piece I wrote for Time Out Delhi. Hopefully people took it in the spirit in which it was intended.

White Indian

I'm not an expat. I'm a white Indian. I don't brunch at the Hyatt. I don't skip town every June. I don't have kids enrolled in the American school. I don't have a housing allowance, driver or a cook. I don't say, “India is a difficult place to live, but frankly I don't know how I'm going to survive without all the help when we go back.”

It's not a point of pride. I'm just broke. I drive an eight-year-old white Maruti 800 with a massive dent in the driver's side door (don't get me started). I fly Air Deccan. I drink IMFL. I pay a little more than 10,000 a month in rent. I wobble and say yaar. I know a shameful percentage of the lyrics to “Mindblowing Mahiya.” I even have the Person of Indian Origin card. Designed for non-resident Indians, it's made me a resident non-Indian. Sometimes, in the depths of despair, I contemplate buy property in some wasteland on the road to Faridabad or beyond Ghaziabad or Rohini—places I've never been. I may never leave.

I don't know how this happened. It had something to do with quitting my job as a drone at a “financial newswire” (I used to dream of inventing a computer program to replace myself—it seemed so obvious). I was in Hong Kong, which was too expensive a place to be unemployed. I spoke Chinese, but my fiancee (now wife) did not, and China's notoriously inhospitable stance toward journalists made the simple crossover into the mainland seem much more difficult than migrating to India. Here, I've discovered as a white Indian (and freelancer), the rules are flexible. You don't comply; you do jugaad.

I don't want to complain about the country that embraced me. But it's not easy being a white Indian. Most people think I'm rich and don't know what anything costs, that I have a direct line (like the Bat phone) to the visa officers at the US embassy, that I must be finding Indian food too spicy, or that we have a deep personal bond because they have a cousin who is working in Houston. These things are trying. My neighbors know better. They think I'm a bum, or a shamelessly overgrown trust fund kid. I don't leave the house; ergo, I don't work. I'm always carrying crates of Kingfisher up the four flights of stairs to my rooftop lair. There's loud music and doors slamming at odd times of night (3 a.m., 4 a.m.--even when the puja hour begins and the guys show up for the laughing club).

And I do love the place, albeit in a repressed, white Indian kind of way. There is something wonderful about the smell of Delhi's burnt air in the summer, something inspiring about the street kids who laugh and smile when they see my newly shaven head. Indians are much wittier than Americans, whose humor relies on a sarcasm that belies an essentially naive view of the world. I revel in snatches of overheard conversations: “He is a sportsman... but only at night!” TK, TK. I like running red lights, driving like a prick and cursing at the other drivers for driving like pricks. I enjoy Delhi passtimes like drinking late night whisky in a car parked outside Salim's and booking future drinks at happy hour prices just before deadline. I “white guy” my way into things—a variation on the old Delhi version of the “do you know who I am?” I earn in dollars and spend in rupees. I ask you: For a hack, what could be better?

cricket commentary

Despite all the new activity in cricket -- new channels, two new leagues, a new world cup -- it appears to me that the sports reporting from India, and the commentary on the Indian matches, remains behind the times.

The biggest weakness, as far as I'm concerned, is not the commentators but the number crunchers "in the truck" (i.e. the guys who produce the broadcast on site). Though they do a great job of tracking the performances on the day, and the technology is great for stuff like the Hawkeye etc, their use of historical stats is very poor in comparison with the broadcasts for professional baseball, football and basketball. This is especially notable because cricket, like baseball, should be a game that lives and breathes stats.

One small example: Consider Sehwag, who stunk out the joint for match after match before he was dropped. I can't recall any substantial discussion of his stats, looking at his performances over, say, his last ten and twenty matches and taking into account the quality of the opposition. This allowed him to be selected for the World Cup when he was playing quite badly, and the same stat-ignorance allowed people to conclude that all was well after he blasted a few runs against Bermuda. Runs against bad bowling was never his problem. Consistency was. Armed with the right stats, the commentators should take the selectors to task for their poor decisions.

Which brings me to another point: Stats from domestic cricket should be picked over, analyzed and re-analyzed for hidden stories when the team brings in new players. What are the selectors using to make their decisions, if not numbers? Are they just looking at the guys and saying, "Hmmm. He looks good, and he's from Maharashtra?" Presumably, they have some basis for their arguments. But one gets the idea that they only wake up when a player has a breakout performance on a big stage--such as when Irfan Pathan blew away the opposition in the under 19 world cup a few years back. And that's a big problem for the team. Why else does a Mahendra Singh Dhoni "burst onto the scene" at such a late stage in his career? Did he suddenly become good at 27? I don't think so. He must have been doing great things in obscurity before. What were his stats? Where was he playing? Why was Patel selected and he overlooked? These are questions that should be part of the cricket coverage on an ongoing basis.

Maybe I'm wrong about the players I'm using as examples. I don't know. But if I was constantly bombarded with statistical comparisons--the way I'd be in a US sports broadcast--I'd know for sure.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

surfing india

Thought you folks might want to see me catch my first wave. This was my third day on the board. Surfers: Check out www.surfingindia.net.