Being Tongue-in-cheek about Mr.Kerry O’Keeffe

To claim that one’s remarks have been ‘taken totally out of context’ is a boiler plate damage mitigation mechanism that is resorted to by public personalities in general and politicians in particular, to cover up any inappropriate statements that may have escaped their mouths. Kerry O’ Keeffe is no exception to the stereotypical norm. From the confines of the commentator’s box during the Melbourne Test, O’ Keeffe courted controversy by making disparaging, derogatory and disgusting remarks about the apparent caliber (or the lack of it) of first class cricket in India, before proceeding to question the rationale behind naming conventions of Indian cricketers. Dwelling on a triple hundred that was clocked by the debutant Mayank Agarwal the previous season, O’Keeffe held forth on the quality of the opposition: “Apparently [Mayank Agarwal] got his triple-century against Jalandar Railways canteen staff. Who opened the bowling for them that day? The chef. First change? The kitchen hand. And they’ve got the spinner as well, the casual uni student.” This seemingly irresistible rib tickler was accompanied by raucous guffaws, courtesy Keeffe’s fellow commentators. O’ Keeffe apparently was not done yet. In what can only be termed despicable, O’ Keeffe spewed forth some more nonsense. “Why would you call your kid Cheteshwar Jadeja?” This again to yet another bout of boisterous laughter. So much for an innate sense of humour!

Unsurprisingly, O’Keeffe’s ill-timed remarks did not go down very well with the Indian populace, and rightly so. The former Australian cricketer was lambasted and panned on social media. In response to the deluge of criticisms, O’Keeffe has now penned, what can only be termed, a faint and sorry excuse, for an ‘open’ letter of apology. The letter is neither apologetic nor remorseful. On the contrary, it is a condescending and even arrogant attempt at justification. Justification for remarks which in the first place were directly misaligned with the preservation of professional integrity. Let alone offering a sincere apology which would have placated people, O’ Keeffe brazenly seeks to transfer the blame onto his listeners for misinterpreting and misconstruing his words. “That interpretation is not who I am. It is not what I represent. My style as a commentator is to attempt to find a quirky view to lighten up some of the serious analysis. When I made a remark about Indian first-class batting averages within their domestic cricket competition being made against a “canteen” bowling attack, I was being entirely tongue in cheek. I was certainly not disrespecting Indian cricket, where I toured as a schoolboy and for which I have the greatest admiration as a cricketing nation.”

First of all, there was no pereivable need for Kerry O’ Keeffe to be ‘tongue-in-cheek’ in the context of the game. Tongue-in-cheek is defined to mean, “speaking or writing in an ironic or insincere way” There was neither a need for irony nor room for insincerity on the part of O’Keeffe while donning the mantle of a commentator. It beggars belief to comprehend why a commentator would or should take on tones of insincerity while reporting the goings on of a Test Match!

Secondly ‘lightening up a serious analysis’ does not mean crossing all tolerable limits of dignity and decency. At the outset why on earth would a ‘serious’ analysis need some lightening up? Kerry O’ Keeffe seems to have been oblivious to the fact that there is a definitive line between humour and haughtiness, insight and insensitivity; and lucidity and loose talk. If he really had the ‘greatest admiration’ for India as a cricketing nation and was ‘certainly not disrespecting Indian cricket’, he would not have resorted to such insulting gimmicks in the first place. O’ Keeffe also goes on to state: “I have worked alongside my dear friend and colleague Harsha Bhogle for almost 25 years”, as though this absolves him of all shame and guilt. Harsha Bhogle is not the conscience keeper of India. So what if O’ Keeffe has been partnering Bhogle in the media for 2.5 decades? This fact in itself does not invest him with an unbridled license to shoot his mouth away indiscriminately. This sort of ridiculous escapism transforms the bad into the worse.

O’ Keeffe would have done his reputation a world of good if he had just come clean and unconditionally apologized for his unwarranted remarks. Instead by trying to defend himself by treating the entire unsavoury episode as a ‘transferable option’, and seeking to establish a weak entente, he has further dragged himself deep into a quagmire of infamy. The so called open letter of apology does more harm than good. It makes Kerry O’ Keeffe look like a vain, obdurate and uncompromising apologist trying to wriggle away from a hole which he has dug for himself.

Being untruthful to himself, and deliberately trying to mislead the listeners whom he professes to serve, O’Keeffe has clearly demonstrated that he has lost all credibility to discharge his professional capabilities behind the microphone. That doyen of all cricket commentators, the master and an extraordinary gentleman, the late great Richie Benaud, once famously said, “Put your brain into gear and if you can add to what’s on the screen then do it, otherwise shut up” Mr. Kerry O’ Keeffe would do splendidly well to reflect on this one remarkable quote, and for facilitating such an introspection, we sincerely hope that his employer provides him with an extended leave of absence to ruminate, reminisce and hopefully, remember.

However, Kerry O’ Keeffe amidst all this turbulence has achieved what none of the Australians in the playing level have managed to – deflect the limelight off both India’s memorable and epochal victory as well as Jasprit Bumrah’s coming of age as a fast bowler to reckon with!

I am not for a moment being ‘tongue-in-cheek’ about this here!

Belt And Road Initiative: A Chinese World Order – Bruno Macaes


The Belt and Road Initiative (“BRI”) also known as One Belt One Road (“OBOR”) was unraveled to the world for the first time by Chinese President Xi Jinping in September and October 2013 during visits to Astana in Kazakhstan and Jakarta in Indonesia. This mega initiative was thereafter enthusiastically promoted by Premier Li Keqiang during state visits to Asia and Europe. The Chinese government calls the initiative “a bid to enhance regional connectivity and embrace a brighter future.” Touted to be the most expansive, expensive and extensive effort rivalling (or even exceeding) the Marshall Plan in its sweep and covering a humongous number of countries in its wake, the BRI threatens to create a tectonic shift in the geopolitical order characterizing the globe today. However, is this initiative an attempt by the second biggest economy on the Planet to exercise a ruthless economic and political hegemony over the world or is this a tide that will lift all ships uniformly thereby ushering in a new era of co-operation hitherto never seen before?

Bruno Macaes, formerly Portugal’s Europe Minister (2013-15), attempts to answer the above tricky questions in what has to be one of the most informed, articulate and unbiased works – as yet, on China’s astounding aspiration. Taking an unbiased perspective and using the neutral lens of a political analyst, Mr. Macae brings to bear the potential outcomes of the BRI. At the heart of BRI, argues Mr. Macaes, lies the general principle of “Tianxia” – which literally means All-under-Heaven or World. The Chinese Tianxia, “emphasizes, togetherness, a complex network of ties between countries. They are much more substantial than mere legal ones. Virtues are regularly invoked; countries have relations of dependence, generosity, gratitude, respect and retribution.” It is this call of togetherness that bring together both land and sea components under the BRI. Known respectively as the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Twenty First Century Maritime Silk Road, the Belt Road courses through the continents of Asia, Europe and Africa. China is pulling all stops to ensure that finance is not a constraint for the materialization of this epic scheme. “The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, founded on December 25, 2015, with its headquarters in Beijing and an authorized capital of $100 billion – about half of that of the World Bank – considers Belt and Road projects as one of its investment priorities. Thus it approved $509 million in investments for its first four projects on June 25, 2016……in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Tajikistan….” Funding for the BRI seems to be of no issue whatsoever to China. “Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the largest bank in the world by assets, is already taking part in 212 projects relating to the Belt and Road, with credit facilities exceeding $67 billion.”

However, this very seemingly unending slush of funds has the pernicious potential of setting the participating countries on the path towards perdition. The debt trap into which the recipients of Chinese funding might find themselves, may force the borrowers to relinquish strategic assets in their own territories to the lenders. Consider this: “In December 2017, Sri Lanka formally handed control of Hambantota port to China in exchange for writing down the country’s debt. Under a $1.1 billion deal, Chinese firms now hold a 70 percent stake in the port and a 99 year lease agreement to operate it.”  China itself has acknowledged this fact. “In April 2018, Li Ruogu, the former president of the Export-Import Bank of China, argued publicly that most of the countries along the routes of the BRI did not have the money to pay for the projects for which they were involved…..the countries’ average liability and debt rates had reached 35 and 126 percent respectively, far above the globally recognized warning lines.”

And then there are the issues of sovereignty and territorial security. Just a day before the event unveiling the BRI, India pulled out of the gathering citing that in the currently envisaged form, the BRI would impose unsustainable burdens of debt. Also the fact that the proposed China Pakistan Economic Corridor (“CPEC”) would wind through the disputed areas of Gilgit and Baltistan in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir did not further India’s enthusiasm either for the project. The recent standoff at the Doklam plateau between the Chinese and Indian armed forces over the incursions of China in the Himalayas reflects the fragile state of political relations between the two Asian behemoths. India however, is not the only nation that is wary of the China initiative. Many of the littoral states with whom China is hemmed in, in a maritime dispute over the ownership of islands are expected to be locked into the BRI providing a much needed leverage and boost to China’s claims of marine supremacy. President Donald Trump has expressed his aversion to the BRI by terming it “insulting.” After becoming the leader of Malaysia following a shock election victory in 2018, Mahathir Mohammed has been outspoken in his desire and determination to terminate many “Chinese contracts” which were consummated by the erstwhile Government led by the now ousted and infamous Najib Tun Razak. Rampant corruption and utter disdain to the process of tendering are cited to be the main reasons underlying this move. Similarly, there has been stiff opposition to the Laos-China railway. Estimated to cost US$5.95 billion with 70% of the railway owned by China, while Laos’s remaining 30% stake will be mostly financed by loans from China, the exorbitant costs of the project now threatens its viability.

The very pivot of global politics and economics threatens to be upended by the BRI. A new world order that has China at its pioneering front has set off multiple scenarios of dystopian possibilities. While the project itself entailing a humongous estimated outlay between $4 – $8 trillion is a long way from being concretized and consummated, it has set off conflicting tremors with each shock having its own peculiarity and profound implications.

A good way to grasp such wholesale ramifications would be to get hold of Bruno Macaes’ work.

Hole in the Soul

SPF 10-14-18Joy Pixley 3

(Photo Credit: Joy Pixley)

“For a desert to bloom, willpower needs to meet love”, the words of Ash reverberated in Venky’s ears. This year the summer was particularly harsh. The sun seemed intent on bearing down on anything and everything that moved and shook on Mother Earth. Venky did not mind this much because it was keeping in tandem with his current state of mind. Anger tinged with anxiety; hopelessness mixed with hurt.

The blazing sunshine neither roused a cheer in him nor scalded him. While no brightness was potent enough to dispel the darkness of the soul, no heat was powerful enough to brand a scarred one either. As Venky mechanically went about watering, trimming and weeding the rough outcrop at the ranch, yet another favourite quote of Ash assailed him, “the merits of society can only be appreciated from the outside-in.” This was her logic underlying the move to buy the ranch and live ‘Off-grid’.

Her enthusiasm was infectious, her effervescence contagious and her exuberance transferable. She was the tide that could lift all ships. But she was also a roiling hurricane that could wreck. And wreck him, she did.

Now, for Venky, while willpower was in abundance, there was no love.

(Word Count: 200)

Written as part of Sunday Photo Fiction. Write a story of around 200 words based on the photo prompt given (above). Hosted by Susan Spaulding. For more details visit HERE.

To read more of the stories based on this week’s prompt, visit HERE.






The Ash Meltdown

(Photo Credit: Sue Vincent)

The brooding clouds in monochrome haphazardly blotted out the blue sky lending a somber veneer to the entire landscape. Even though the sun was bravely trying to dispel the surrounding gloom, it efforts – as encapsulated by the bare branches of the tree behind which the star seemed to be hiding – were turning out to be an exercise in sincere futility.

Venky stood on top of a promontory that lent a spectacular view of the landscape. A herd of restless antlers had just streaked past the grasslands. There was the unmistakable smell of rain in the air. Besides where Venky was standing was a small wooden table atop which was placed a half empty bottle of Singleton Single Malt Scotch Whiskey and a pair of high powered binoculars. Scotch and scenery were two favoured companions of solitude, especially when such a solitude was involuntary. Venky had thought more than just twice before making this journey. The memories attached to this place were too numerous and too scarring. Yet he had to come.

The setting sun, the dark clouds, the irregular spread of trees and the unspoken but beautiful wilderness all had the inviolable imprimatur of Ash. His very own Ash, with whom he had laughed, lived and loved. A free and restless spirit; a bird with expansive wings meant for soaring towards great heights; a soul which was a prism of dazzling colours; and a music whose chords were maddeningly unpredictable. If he was the silence she was his sound; if he was the reader she was his words and where he was order she was chaos. They always said unlike poles attract. Yes, attracted he was, irresistibly, inevitably and impossibly. Her appeal lay in her unpredictability. She could drive him to the brink of frustration and exasperation, yet drawing him dangerously close. But it was a matter of time before the bird has to fly away. And fly away it did. But not before leaving him with a burden of memories that was both bitter and sweet.

As Venky took yet another generous swig from the bottle, he concentrated on the setting sun harder than usual.

Some portraits were best left unfinished. Some stories best remained unsaid.

This is a response to the #writephoto Prompt – Clouds curated over at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo. Click on the link to read other stories inspired by the ima


Don’t Let The Kitten Drive The Car – Akanksha Sharma

A very candid, pleasant and moving book, “Don’t Let the Kitten Drive the Car” narrates the travails and triumphs of Simba, an abandoned street cat who is offered refuge and succour, initially by a kind humanitarian called Dhruv and later by the Gupta family. Of special mention is Akriti Gupta a visually impaired young girl who takes to Simba and forges an inseparable bond with the feline.

But what makes the book interesting and eminently readable is the message conveyed. Although light hearted and funny, the book touches upon various themes of social significance such as bullying in school, empowering the differently abled and a crying need for inculcating the virtues of compassion towards animals. When Akriti gets bullied at school and is forced to keep mum about it (for a brief interlude at least), the story resonates with the plight being faced by thousands of innocent children who are a perennial target of inveterate bullies. However, the way in which Akriti overcomes her seemingly insurmountable obstacles is to say the least – inspiring.

“Don’t Let the Kitten Drive The Car” – A commendably honest effort.

Prediction and Purity

Swan CCC7

(Photo Credit: Crispina Kemp)

At the periphery of the lake was the feeding area. A rectangular patch of land paved over and four nicely decorated lamp posts erected at each corner. This was where Venky and Ash found their ‘Tipsy’.  On a cool evening with a welcome breeze caressing their faces, the duo, while sauntering around the park, stumbled upon this wonderful milky white bird slowly and unsteadily waddling about.

“It’s funny that a bird so unmatched in elegance while gliding on water is so ungainly while trotting on land.” Ash exclaimed before instantaneously baptizing the swan ‘Tipsy.’

Today all alone, with collars hitched up as protection against a blustery weather, Venky tossed some grains at Tipsy. “She won’t be back Tipsy. Unlike us she is a bird not amenable to prediction. A real Black Swan.” Tipsy was too preoccupied with the grains to either hear him or to see his tears.

(Word Count: 148)

Written as part of the Crimson’s Creative Challenge #7 More details regarding this challenge may be found HERE.


The Goat Stone

(Photo Credit: Randy Mazie)

The intriguing appearance of the intrepid goat induced a degree of curiosity hitherto unknown amongst the locals. At times standing shock still as if deeply analysing the epitaph, while at others delivering exactly three knocks of ascending proportions with its horns, to the tombstone, the antics of the goat was bewildering.

Freudians, Jungians and self-acclaimed Jane Goodalls came in droves only to leave scratching their heads and tugging at their beards.

The mystery of the ‘goat stone’ was finally solved by Parveen who linked the behaviour of the goat to changes in the patch of grass protruding from a crevice.

(Word Count: 100)

This story was written as part of the FRIDAY FICTIONEERS challenge, more about which may be found HERE

 For the complete list of entries, please click HERE

The credit for the breathtaking photograph goes to Randy Mazie 

How India Works: Making Sense of a Complex Corporate Culture – Aarti Kelshikar


The redoubtable Mark Twain once said, ” [India is] the One land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for all the shows of all the rest of the globe combined.”  However one should also be careful if not wary of the glimpses offered by one of the world’s most ancient civilizations. India is a throbbing, pulsating macrocosm nurturing a myriad mysteries and plethora of paradoxes. The world’s second fastest growing economy can be a bewildering study in contrasts. As a result of its unique and teeming diversity, while India’s own citizens have problems grasping each other’s nuances, this conundrum increases manifold when a foreigner tries to unravel its innate intricacies. Nowhere is this enigma more apparent than in the professional sector. The working professional in India brings to the fore an inimitable set of attributes that has surprising manifestations in so far as aspects such as man and time management (or mismanagement as may be appropriate), bureaucracy and hierarchy, language etc. are concerned. We Indians like to “prepone” meetings while at the same time failing to show up for one; always address our superiors as ‘Sir’, which has nothing to do even remotely with a past or potential knighthood and have an incredibly elastic notion of time. When an Indian says he will be at a meeting by “9 ish” it is just the preliminary approach for negotiation and not a commitment of any sort.

It is exactly these kind of complexities and much more that Aarti Kelshikar attempts to unravel in her engaging and compelling book, “How India Works, Making Sense of a Complex Corporate Culture.” (“the book”). While not an authoritative manual that dissects and expounds on the cultural anthropology that is unique to India, the book is a very honest examination of some of the common dilemmas faced by both expatriates as well as repatriates (a repatriate is an Indian who after prolonged stints working overseas, returns to his country of origin) in acclimatizing with the work culture in India. As admitted by Ms. Kelshikar herself, the book neither offers ‘quick fix’ solutions nor silver bullets but merely acts as a reliable guide post in informing and educating the unaware about certain common distinctions that are unique to the Indian environment and ethos.

In going about her work, Ms. Kelshikar has interviewed a multitude of people having variegated experience working in Multinationals based both within India and overseas. The fact that Ms. Kelshikar herself is a certified facilitator of Cultural Intelligence from the Cultural Intelligence Centre in the US in addition to being a certified executive coach from the International Neuro Leadership Group invests a great degree of credibility and authenticity to her words. The key findings are corroborated with recourse to published research outcomes. For example, in expounding upon the ‘hierarchy-ridden mindset’ that is prevalent in India, Ms. Kelshikar draws our attention to the work of Geert Hofstede, a Dutch psychologist, responsible for developing a six-dimensional model explaining differences between national cultures. In one of the dimensions called the Power Distance Index (“PDI”), India scores highly with a tally of 77. PDI is the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions accept and expect that power is distributed unequally. Similarly, while attempting to educate the unsuspecting reader into the workings of ‘Jugaad’ (loosely translated as a “hack”, it could also refer to an innovative fix or a simple work-around, a solution that bends the rules, or a resource that can be used in such a way. It is also often used to signify creativity: to make existing things work, or to create new things with meager resources.), a concept inevitable and invariable to the Indian way of going about things, Ms. Kelshikar draws the readers’ attention to the indispensable book, “Jugaad Innovation: A Frugal and Flexible Approach to Innovation for the 21st Century by Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu and Simone Ahuja.

From talking about the heartening notions of Indian Hospitality to the frustrating management of the Indian Stretchable Time, Ms. Kelshikar’s book makes for some absorbing reading. Of special mention is her final chapter titled, “Sugar Spice and Some Advice”, which sheds light on some quintessential dos and don’ts. A professional making his way to India would be none the less wise if she was to pick a copy of Ms. Kelshikar’s book before she boards the flight to India for she might not find a copy of this book at the airport and moreover the Indian airport would be infinitely noisier than the one from which she boarded her flight!

The Man Who Wasn’t There: Investigations into the strange Science of the Self – Anil Ananthaswamy


The concept of ‘Dualism’ is an ancient concept that found a deep entrenchment in the Greek mode of thinking. Plato and Aristotle reasoned that the human mind or soul could not be identified with the physical body. This belief was lent its greatest resonance and boost 2000 years after the time of its proponents when Rene Descartes became its Messiah. In fact, the word “Dualism” was coined by Descartes. Since the word “Cartesius” is simply the Latin form of the name Descartes, the concept of dualism formulated by him came to be known as Cartesian dualism.

At the heart of Cartesian Dualism lies the philosophy that the immaterial mind and the material body are two completely different types of substances and that they interact with each other. This is encapsulated by Descartes’ immortal saying “cogito ergo sum,” or “I think therefore I am.” More than 350 years after Descartes, an intrepid consultant for New Scientist , a renowned science journalist and freelance editor for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reignites the debate involving the existence or the lack of it of the self in a riveting book that is guaranteed to keep you, or your mind at least awake through the nocturnal hours.

Anil Ananthaswamy’s work titled, “The Man Who Wasn’t There: Investigations Into The Strange New Science Of The Self”, (“the book”) is a tantalizing masterpiece that is moving in its intent, methodical in its approach and memorable in its outcome. Anil Anathaswamy’s search for the self has its edifice in thinking about the same in terms of two categories: “the ‘self-as-object’ and the ‘self-as-subject.’…. For instance, if you were to say ‘I am happy’ – the feeling of happiness, which is part of your sense of self at that moment, belongs to the self-as-object category. You are aware of it as a state of your being. But the “I” that feels happy – the one that is aware of its own happiness – that’s the more slippery, elusive self-as-subject. “

Ananthaswamy, in his quest to find answers, hones in on the lessons and insights that are gleaned from certain neuropsychiatric disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Cotard’s Syndrome and schizophrenia, that ultimately serve to thaw our identity. While dwelling on Cotard’s Syndrome, Ananthaswamy recounts, the story of a patient who demonstrated the clinical symptom of Cotard’s: he insisted he was brain-dead despite being alert enough to make that declaration. Cotard’s thus cocks a snook at the classic Cartesian philosophy of the self: “I think, therefore I am.” Studies reveal that sufferers show abnormally low metabolic activity in the frontoparietal network, which is involved in generating conscious awareness. The connection suggests that these neural networks may be at least partially responsible for our sense of self.

Ananthaswamy chronicles how people with schizophrenia face a twisted version of reality. Losing agency over thoughts, experiencing hallucinations and paranoia are some of the unfortunate manifestations of this vile disorder. Functional MRI studies show that patients with auditory hallucinations exhibit hyper connectivity among brain regions involved in speech production, speech perception, hearing and threats. These overactive neural networks, Ananthaswamy says, transform our beliefs of the world and of ourselves.

Whether Ananthaswamy succeeds in unearthing the Holy Grail behind the existence (or the lack of it) of the self, he singularly and triumphantly succeeds in conveying an indelible message to his readers. A poignant, pertinent and perennial need to inculcate the attributes of empathy and emotion. While Einstein’s God might not have played dice, there are some unfortunate individuals in the world who seem to have drawn the short end of an uncompromising stick. These are our brethren whose lives have been turned topsy- turvy by a cruel contrivance of fate and inexplicable workings of their bodies. We, the fortunate ones can only count our blessings the right way by being beacons of hope and help for the more unfortunate number of our fellow citizens. Once we realise that – in my personal opinion at least – we would have realized our true self.

Idyllic No More

SPF (2 of 2)

(Photo Credit: Susan Spaulding)

The house was bang in the middle of nowhere. This very isolation was its appeal; this very absence of connection its allure. The irritatingly enthusiastic albeit simple broker had tried drawing Venky’s attention to what he claimed was an “idyllic” setting. How could the broker know that idyll was so far removed from his customer’s mind that it was never a part of the initial bargain.

A non-decrepit horizontal brick roofed structure, the house offered few novelties. Two sparsely furnished bedrooms and a hardly used smoky kitchen completed the interior. Sufficient in every aspect for a person who counted a dozen hardcover works of Diderot, Hemingway, Rene Descartes and Victor Hugo as his material possessions.

However, it was the backyard that clinched the deal and converted Venky from a prospective customer to a confirmed tenant. Initially conceived to be part of a bed and breakfast set up, both construction and ambition had collapsed in the face of insurmountable obstacles.

The squat cylindrical excuses for stools painted in red and white stripes were exactly identical to the ones he and Ash had frequented when they were together. Now those moments were memories – as was his Ash.

Memories were all that Venky had.

Written as part of Sunday Photo Fiction. Write a story of around 200 words based on the photo prompt given (above). Hosted by Susan Spaulding. For more details visit HERE.

To read more of the stories based on this week’s prompt, visit HERE.