The 14th Man
In a year in which Raja and Radia, Modi and Kalmadi, Reddy and Yeddy, tirelessly erased the meaning of the zero, it is poetic justice that the accumulation of just two of them by a middle-class boy born in a writers’ colony should have brought a smile on our lips in its final two weeks. But then, almost everything about S.R. Tendulkar of Sahitya Sahawas has defied the human, which is why his ascent of Mount Fifty has been greeted with vuvuzelas blasting at B flat below middle C.
His feats now attract oohs and aahs from around the globe, but Sachin was an early inhabitant of the flat world that his notorious neighbours in Bandra (E) are still trying to shut the door on. In 1987, when Imran Khan’s men were passing through Bombay, a scratch Indian XI was assembled for a limited-overs match as part of Cricket Club of India’s golden jubilee. The visitors batted first but after lunch Javed Miandad and Abdul Qadir excused themselves, leaving just nine men on the field.
When the Pakistani team management sent an SOS for substitute fielders, a soft voice volunteered: “Me zaaoo ka? (Can I go?)” Thus, a 14-year-old stepped on to the escalator from across the boundary.
Spies And Us
Pun unintended, it was truly the best of times and the worst of times for us in the media in 2010. If the big-impact exposes of wrongdoing in the IPL, CWG and Adarsh sneaked in a season of light, paid news, plagiarism and package deals gone sour ushered in a season of darkness. The telecom scam was the spring of hope before embedded journalism in the corporate war behind 2G announced the winter of despair.
But was it an age of boundless wisdom earlier? The legendary investigative journalist Phillip Knightley writes in his memoirs about working for a now-defunct magazine in Bombay which he learnt decades later was actually a CIA operation that had been set up primarily to counter a KGB publication that functioned out of a neighbouring building. The mag changed owner and avatar later, but the name of its last Indian male editor will show that journalists have always lived in an epoch of incredulity. The only difference now is that there is new media to tease the “errors of judgement” out of air-conditioned studios and windswept balconies.
Since each year is about learning something new, here are 20 things your reporter learnt in the old one: the Pope’s official plane is ‘Shepherd One’. Buttocks are the hardest to tan. The Facebook logo is blue because Mark Zuckerberg is red-green colour blind. When you fall in love, on average you lose two close friends. A broken heart is known as Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Restoring virginity costs Rs 1,20,000. In French, the words for inflation and fellatio are very similar. By 57, men tend to wear their pants just seven inches below their armpit.
The world’s most complex mathematical problem is called Poincare Conjecture. In Cuba, barber shops are state-owned. Sex is not dangerous for heart attack patients. The 45-second shower scene in Psycho took a week to film. The male squid’s sex organ is as long as its body. Tennis matches can last three days; snooker championships used to last a year. Menopause affects only 2 per cent of men. Fast-moving elephants run with their front legs and walk with their back ones. Mercury causes ibises to turn gay. Liberalism is genetic. Jokes can be protected by copyright. And an average person makes 22 Google searches a day.
Dream for a Theme*
Contest time: Now that Niira Radia’s ringtone—Pal pal har pal... from Lage Raho Munnabhai—has been cruelly outed by your magazine, surely the lobbyist could do with some help to choose her signature tune for the new year? What song do you think best suits her personality, her line of business and her diverse clientele? There are 10 free annual subscriptions to Outlook on offer. Conditions apply*.
Rajnikanth’s Enthiran alias Robot soared on a cloud of Chuck Norris-style jokes and one-liners this year, and even inspired an iPad application. Who was writing them and what they were getting out of it, knows only god, but it surely helped create buzz about the movie in places hitherto unconquered.
It can now be safely revealed that the Tamil superstar’s next film is to be called Twitteran. He will be playing 140 characters.