An orbit of influence is a dangerous whirlpool

Whose swirling eddies suck in many an unsuspecting fool

Birthing chat bots and echo chambers

Fueling incendiary passions and stoking deadly embers

Always remember the wisdom behind taking things with a pinch of salt

Enjoy life with swigs of unadulterated single malt.

(Word Count: 50)

Sammi Cox Weekend Writing Prompt #201

Unsung Valour: Forgotten Warriors of the Kurukshetra War – Curated by Sai Swaroopa

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As unerring in impact, as the immaculately whetted tip of an arrowhead employed in the epochal Kurukshetra war, “Unsung Valour” is an unvarnished, unabashed and unashamed tribute to some of the heroes whose fearless and valiant exploits in what arguably has to be the greatest war every fought – mythically or otherwise – in the annals of human history, remains muted if not altogether forgotten. As the introduction to the book astonishingly elucidates “about 466 confrontations were recorded with 216 going in favour of the Pandavas and ninety-two in favour of the Kauravas. The quantitative study was a striking contrast to the popular imagination cemented by later retellings. A stunning aspect of this study was that about twenty-five per cent of the victories on both sides were contributed by warriors who aren’t given their due in the popular imagination.” Imagine sacrificing the skirmishes and battles of the Siege of Lille, Battle of the Scheldt, and the Yelnya Offense at the altar of Dunkirk, Stalingrad, and Normandy! Indic Academy, with this collection of stories curated by renowned mythology writer Sai Swaroopa attempts to remediate the above travesty, and it would be an understatement to proclaim that their endeavour has succeeded in great measure.

Whilst it would be defeating the purpose of this review to recount and regale the reader with the relevance and radiance of every protagonist in the book, it would also be equally remiss if a few of the gems are not concisely articulated. The tone and tenor of the collection is set by Ms. Bharathi Venkat, who in “The Fall of The First Son” holds forth on the selfless Iravan. Born to the Pandava Prince Arjuna and a Naga Queen Ulupi, Iravan is an accomplished archer as well as a master illusionist. When the battle between righteousness and chicanery commences, Iravan offers his services and that of the indefatigable Nagas to the Pandavas. Ms. Venkat highlights in exquisite detail the courageous exhibition of skill and strength by Iravan on the battlefield, which unfortunately ended in his demise at the hands of Alambusha, a Rakshasa.

Ranjith Radhakrishnan probably pens the story of the book (in my personal opinion) containing within its confines the portentous ruminations of Shakuni. “Shakuni: The Dice of Death”, captures in an eviscerating  fashion the deceit, despondency, and deviousness of the sinister Shakuni. A master at every possible subterfuge and chicanery, Shakuni sets the scene for the apocalyptic war by defeating the Pandavas by treachery in a game of dice and divesting them of their kingdom. Now as the battle rages on, Shakuni is plagued by self-doubt and recriminations. As Mr. Radhakrishnan illustrates in a refreshingly ingenious manner, “The dark deep set Onyx like eyes” of Draupadi haunt and taunt Shakuni in dream and waken state alike. “She had many names: Krishna, the dark-skinned one; Yagnaseni, born of the sacrificial fire; Panchali, the Princess of Panchala. It was her, no doubt. The blazing flames of sulphur that Vidura reminded him of were inscrutable black onyx now. Black as death.”

“The Invincible” by Ms. Roopal Vaish on Jayadratha, the antagonist is so expertly done, that it almost induces a feeling of approbation in the reader for a man, who otherwise, is worthy of the strongest rebuke and detestation. Narrated in the first person, this is one of the best stories in the book. Spurred on by a boon from Lord Shiva that accords the unique privilege to Jayadratha of defeating all the Pandavas – barring Arjuna- in battle on a single day, The King of Sindhu is all primed to play a pivotal role on the 13th day of the Kurukshetra war. The cockiness, arrogance and a perpetual attitude of smirk that irritates friends and foes alike is encapsulated in such an effervescent fashion by Ms. Vaish that the reader keeps going to the story again and again.

Glorious and exemplary deeds of audacity by Ghatotkacha, the son of Bhima and Bhagadatta the son of Narakasura, the demon slayed by Krishna, by Mr. Shivakumar G.V and Mr. Deepak M.R respectively make for some riveting reading. The description of duels, be it the formidable Bhagadatta wreaking havoc whilst sitting atop his ferocious and gigantic pachyderm Supratika, or a rampaging Ghatotkacha creating wanton pandemonium amongst the entire Kaurava army by laying waste thousands of redoubtable combatants with a fury hitherto unseen, take the reader to unchartered terrains in so far the breadth of imagination is concerned.

“Unsung Valour” does yeoman service by instilling the valuable trait of curiosity into readers young and old. This treasured attribute will go a long way in not just furthering the quest for knowledge, but also aid and abet in according one of the greatest band of unsung heroes their rightful, honoured and storied place under the Sun. The laudable efforts of Mr. Harikiran Vadlamani, founder of Indic Academy and Advaita Academy, who conceived this project and Mr.Chetan Mahajan of the prestigious Himalayan Writers Retreat, who mentored the talented writers during a five-day online workshop call for special mention and appreciation.

“Unsung Valour” is a succinct, subtle, and saccharine agglomeration of cause, consequence, and courage. Story telling in its simplest and most telling sense!

Klara and The Sun – Kazuo Ishiguro

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Absorbing, influential and extremely thought provoking, “Klara and The Sun”, represents the Nobel Laureate Kazuo Ishiguro’s bold attempt to grapple with an urgent, relevant, and essential conundrum, by masterfully employing the medium of fiction. Humanity today is close to achieving a degree of intersectionality between man and machine that was hitherto deemed unimaginable. This convergence is pregnant with possibilities, benevolent as well as malevolent. Such a paradoxical potential has led to a cleave where vociferous optimists take cudgels with vehement pessimists. “Klara and The Sun” is a reflective and meditative rumination on the collision and coalescence of humanity and Science.

Klara is an Artificial Friend (AF). AF is a novel euphemism for ‘friendly robot.’ In fact a voluble woman in the book likens Klara to a “vacuum cleaner” possessing humanoid features. “One never knows how to greet a guest like you. After all, are you a guest at all? Or do I treat you like a vacuum cleaner?” Klara is selected by a young girl Josie to be her AF. Before Josie ‘handpicks’ Klara from a clutch of similar AFs, Klara spends her time watching the sun rise and set, through a window in a storefront where she is ‘displayed.’ Klara is an older version of a breed of AFs that has been superseded in both sophistry and capability by a new variant popularly known as B3. However what Klara lacks in ability, she more than makes up for in acuity. An uncanny facility to perceive the emotions and passions of people around her makes Klara a singularly unique and extraordinary AF. Klara has a reverential attitude towards the Sun since solar power is beneficial for her functioning. This ‘plants’ an innocuous albeit unwavering notion in her that the Sun stands for ‘nourishment’, a nourishment that is soothing and all powerful.

Klara’s experience is set in a period, where on account of a phenomenal technological breakthrough, parents are provided the luxury of having their children “uplifted” via a process known as genetic editing. Josie is an “uplifted” child herself. A bright and intelligent girl, Josie suffers from a debilitating illness which in addition to severely restricting her physical capabilities, also threatens to bring to a premature end, her very tenure on earth. The one bright spark (in addition to Klara), in Josie’s otherwise challenging existence is her neighbour Rick. Rick however, on account of certain unfortunate circumstances is not an uplifted boy. Children who are not “uplifted” are almost entirely deprived of enjoying privileges such as admissions to prestigious institutions, and consequential career prospects. They have no choice but to fall back on their innate abilities and natural talents to compete with an aggressive and disparate tribe of similar unfortunates.

As a spectator to the interactions between Rick and Josie, Klara understands the complexities that characterize human behaviour and the sizzling under currents that dominate inter-personal relationships. Even though perplexed at first, Klara, in a gradual manner succeeds in getting a grip over the various emotions that permeate human communication and contact. “I believe I have many feelings, the more I observe, the more feelings become available to me.” Klara’s understanding is also representative of a phenomenal writer at his lambent best. Ishiguro’s inimitable imprimatur of conveying the profound in a most simplistic (but not reductionist) manner makes Klara’s journey a brave exploration of uncharted terrains. Consigned by the intellectual and the rustic alike as a mere assemblage of nuts and bolts strung together by unseen wires, Klara is relegated to the background and is a mere footnote in the grander scheme of worldly things. Yet she demonstrates a mettle and character that would put even the most meticulously groomed amongst all Homo Sapiens to utter disdain.

The Sun rises, spreads kaleidoscopic patterns of light on whatever is touched by its rays, obediently goes down once his work is done for the day, all under the serene stare of Klara. But Ishiguro in his irrepressible style introduces a devious twist which not only upends the normal lives of Rick, Josie and their loved ones, but also threatens to dismantle Klara’s faith in humanity itself. The compassion epitomizing Klara’s very functioning is overlooked by an opacity on the part of humans who wrongly and routinely attribute mechanistic traits to her. The assumption that Klara is devoid of all feelings, bereft of all emotions and impervious to sentiments forms the bedrock of a thinking that is muddled in and by entrenched dogmas.

If Ishiguro’s magnificently Dystopian “Never Let Me Go” wrestled with the ethical dilemmas underlying the humanization or dehumanization of mankind by in the oblique context of organ harvesting, “Klara and the Sun” in a significantly less Dystopian vein attempts a reconciliation between man and machine. As Ishiguro seems to clearly imply, even in a world swirling with pessimism and wreaked by pandemics, there is hope. Lest one be carried away by this seemingly positive import, this is not a hope nested in the Panglossian oeuvre that has besotted the likes of Steven Pinker. Instead, the optimism takes a more measured and nuanced tone that would ordinarily be the prerogative of say, a Daniel Susskind.

While Ishiguro might not have reached the artistic apogee that blazed through the hallways and bedrooms of the immortal Hailsham boarding school, the symbiotic relationship between Klara’s complex humanoid circuitry and Josie’s equally complicated amalgam of human emotions, spurs the reader to believe that there is a place in the world for a new future, a future characterized by sanguinity and succour.

The Case for Basic Income: Freedom, Security, Justice – Jamie Swift & Elaine Power

The Case for Basic Income – Between the Lines

The early part of the twentieth century birthed an extraordinary concept, where the ethics of work was deemed synonymous with the concepts of diligence, discipline and frugality. Termed the Protestant work ethic, this philosophy was first purveyed by the German sociologist, Max Weber. Also known as the Calvinist or Puritan work ethic, this thinking laid the steppingstone for the birth of capitalism. Unwittingly, the Protestant work ethic also resulted in a “sacralization” of work. Irrespective of the quality, indignity, brutality, or even futility of the nature of the job, the employee or worker was supposed to bear the same as a badge of honour. This entrenched dogma has led to a sustained and consistent opposition to schemes such as Universal Basic Income (“UBI”) or Guaranteed Basic Income. Politicians as well as taxpayers, irrespective of the ideologies they espouse seem to stand on a harmonized footing in their deplorably common belief that any scheme involving an unconditional payment of money would in the larger scheme of things, turn out to be a deleterious “largesse” encouraging sloth and vice. Award winning Canadian journalist Jamie Swift and Head of Department of Gender Studies in University of Toronto, Elaine Power, set out in gut wrenching detail the timely conception and untimely evisceration of a Universal Basic Income Pilot (“UBIP”) Project in Toronto.

Indefatigable efforts expended by the likes of Hugh Segal, former Senator, political strategist and a vociferous proponent of Basic Income, and health economist at the University of Manitoba, Evelyn Forget, whose meticulous revealing of 1,800 boxes of raw data from a similar Basic Income Project in Mincome in the 1970s lent further credence to the concept, resulted in the region of Lindsay being selected as the ‘saturation’ for the institution of a Universal Basic Income Pilot (“UBIP”). Supposed to be for a duration of three years, the Project was flagged off by former Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne in late 2017. However, in spite of its tremendous success (as attested to by the beneficiaries of the scheme) the UBIP was brought to a grinding halt by the newly elected Premier Doug Ford, a Member of the Progressive Conservative Party. Ford, within days of terminating the scheme announced with great pomp and splendour his intention to reduce the cost of beer to just one buck. Talking about priorities!

As Swift and Power beautifully illustrate, the COVID-19 pandemic that is wreaking wanton havoc across the globe has brought to light a new set of unsung heroes in the form of essential workers, and health care providers. But while the world was temporarily honouring these ‘heroes’ a precarious socio-economic situation still ensured that these people were forced to put their lives in danger by taking the public transport on a daily basis and ensuring that there was no interruption in their services to the general public. However, with some of these essential workers taking on multiple roles especially as caregivers in old age homes, the risks to both the caring and the cared takes on ominous proportions. The Canadian Institute for Health Information reported that some ten thousand long-term care workers were infected. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the need for ushering in safety and security for the economically underprivileged and racialized segments of the society. The Canadian Government, responding to this clamour introduced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (“CERB’). A whopping eight million Canadians applied for benefits under CERB. However as the authors illustrate an incorrigible linking of paid employment with CERB ensured that close to 1.4 million Canadians did not qualify for CERB. Again the sacralization of work had reared its ugly head.

With two Canadian billionaires Galen Weston and David Thomson enjoying the same proportion of wealth as is the prerogative of the poorest 30 percent of Canada, establishing exclusion criteria for a UBI only goes on to accentuate the perils of inequality. As the authors illustrate, Canada has always been a fertile ground for propagating the benefits of Basic Income. The Basic Income Canada Network (“BICN”) in fact as the authors write, “published the first-ever detailed set of policy options for a Canadian Basic Income, identified as an unconditional cash transfer from the state to individual people.” In a landmark report issued as long back as in 1971, the Special Senate Committee on Poverty headed by Senator David Croll, recommended a national Basic Income Plan to be income-tested and funded by the federal government. There was also the Mincome Project established in Winnipeg and Ottawa in 1974, with predominant funding provided by the federal government. The Canadian Council on Social Development (“CCSD”), supported a guaranteed annual income initiative christened as “CORE”, in the 1980s. CORE, critically strived to accord recognition and importance to what Swift and Power term to be an “amorphous” category of “community Development”, along with “voluntary work, education and training, and child rearing.” Thus an auspicious beginning was made towards an attempt at “desacralization” and redefinition of work.

Riding on the back of such illustrious and formidable social initiatives, the UBIP was kicked off with great fanfare, when in April 2007, Premiere Wynn stood before four thousand people from Hamilton-Brantford, Lindsay, and Thunder Bay to inaugurate the Pilot. The proposal was for every beneficiary to receive $17,000 per year. The programme was a resounding success as it enabled many people otherwise dependent on food banks and disability benefits to hope for a life of dignity, self esteem and good health. Single mothers such as Jodi Dean, whose daughter Madi Dean was suffering from an incurably debilitating disorder such as osteogenesis imperfecta, and patients such as Lance Dingman who, a fall and eighteen surgeries later still chose to lead a life of independence and courage, were immensely benefitted by the UBIP as were multiple other small business owners and labourers.

Yet Doug Ford and his party decided to pull the plug on a perfectly well functioning UBIP, just 8 months into its introduction. This was a scheme that taken an immense load of stress off its beneficiaries and lent them a degree of status and confidence. Behavioural psychologist Eldar Shafir and behavioural economist, Sendhil Mullainathan, “showed that reducing stress about money allowed people to think more clearly.” Ford and his party were egged on in their indiscreet action by the likes of the vitriolic Brian Lilley. A columnist for the Sun, Lilley terms the UBI “stupid” and rails against it at every given opportunity. This is in stark contrast to the views of long standing and rabid UBI advocates such as Guy Standing, Philippe Van Parjis and Yannick Vanderborght, who are steadfast in their opinion that building a Basic Income floor simply “helps equalize what people are given and more roughly “what they might achieve with what they are given”.

In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle holds forth on the virtues of a contemplative life and articulates how happiness can be established through virtue. Perhaps it is time to bring this simple yet profound philosophy to bear. It is time to undertake a brave and timely “desacralization” of work. A delinking that would ensure that in times of rampant robotization and automation, displaced workers can still find their footing. To quote Daniel Susskind in his seminal work, “A World Without Work”, “economists had thought that to accomplish a task, a computer had to follow explicit rules articulated by a human being — that machine capabilities had to begin with two-down application of human intelligence.” But machines are “now deriving entirely new rules, unrelated to those that human beings follow. This is not a semantic quibble, but a serious shift. Machines are no longer riding on the coattails of human intelligence.” 

A UBI is not just to ensure that a harassed worker escapes a bad boss and still manages to lead a life of basic sufficiency and adequacy, although this in itself is good enough a reason. A UBI however goes beyond this. It attempts to bestow facilitate an aspiring yet economically debilitated individual to find genuine purpose in life. With this book, Jamie Swift and Elaine Power do much more than just add credibility to this proposition.

(The Case for Basic Income: Freedom, Security, Justice by Jamie Swift and Elaine Power is published by Between The Lines and will be released on the 3rd of May 2021)

Tax The Rich: How Lies, Loopholes, and Lobbyists Make the Rich Even Richer – Morris Pearl & Erica Payne

Tax the Rich!: How Lies, Loopholes, and Lobbyists Make the Rich Even Richer:  Pearl, Morris, Payne, Erica, Patriotic Millionaires, The: 9781620976265:  Amazon.com: Books

It would only be fair to state that the trio of Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos would be consternated with the facts contained within the confines of “Tax The Rich”, and for obvious reasons. A cross between a polemic and a plea, Morris Pearl and Erica Payne’s work is more a manifesto for income and wealth redistribution rather than a book simpliciter. Coupled with the fact that one of the authors of the book, Morris Pearl is a multimillionaire himself, some of the radical proposals promulgated represents a war on the rich, by the rich! The authors begin the book on an ominous note by paraphrasing the words of fellow millionaire Nick Hanauer, “the pitchforks are coming… for us Plutocrats.” And for good measure, Morris and Payne add their own chillingly dystopian footnote to Hanauer’ s bleak prescience, “he got it mostly right. But it won’t be pitchforks. US civilians own more than 393 million guns, 120 guns for every one hundred residents. I want to ask my fellow millionaires, do you really think you can protect yourself from mobs of angry, hungry people?”

Pearl and Payne reserve their choicest scorn for Zuckerberg, Bezos and Gates – the ‘Three Amigos’ as they are referred to in the book. Arguing that the Byzantine labyrinth of rules contained within a convoluted Tax Code that offer more loopholes for the rich than for the common working man, the authors proceed to illustrate with a blend of acerbic wit and stark vitriol, the various schemes prevalent in the American Tax Code and the recently enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, that acts as an “enabler” to devious profit shifting and tax evasion measures. They discuss the advantages enjoyed by wealthy investors enjoying capital gains exemptions and tax free inheritance freebies by providing simple examples involving two pairs of couples. Doug and Carrie Werkhardt (the last name being a clever take on the words “work hard”) are ordinary people making a decent living by slogging their butts out, whereas Ronald and Melanie Slump (no explanations required), sip daiquiri on the beach and just make money by selling stocks and shares. By a convoluted working of the tax laws, the taxes which the Werkhardt’ s pay far exceeds those paid by the Slumps.

The authors provide a lucid explanation of various measures currently prevalent in the Tax Code that enable rampant accumulation of wealth at the highest levels of affluence, such as:

  • The Carried-interest loophole that allows fund managers to mischaracterize their ordinary income as capital gains tax, by pretending they are partners with their wealthy investors;
  • “The two and twenty” strategy exploited by private equity and hedge funds. The managers of these funds are paid 2% of the total value of the assets managed annually in addition to 20% of the fund’s profits above a certain threshold. The latter component of the remuneration is treated as capital gains since the funds “partner” with the investors;
  • A total absence of intergenerational wealth transfer tax that ensures that the first US$11.58 million of an estate is exempt from estate tax. This is a travesty, according to the authors, especially considering the fact that between 35% to 45% of all wealth in America is inherited;
  • Deferred Capital Gains Taxation benefits that ensure that taxes are paid only when the underlying assets are sold, and not when the value of such assets increase. Hence by choosing not to “sell” the assets forever, one need not pay any tax since there is no “realised gain”;
  • The “stepped-up basis” rule that insulates inherited wealth from being taxed. Instead of the basis being the value of a stock at the time the original transferor bought it, let’s say $10 million, the basis is adjusted to the value of the stock at the time of the transferor’s death, when it is transferred to the heirs. If the value of the stock at the time of such transfer is $100 million, this becomes the “stepped up” basis, and the heirs would need to pay capital gains tax on any value exceeding the $100 million upon sale of the inherited wealth;

After dwelling a wee bit more on extraordinarily convoluted and complex tax avoidance schemes such as the Double Irish Dutch Sandwich structures embraced by various multinational corporations to avail of the minimum tax rates offered by the Irish Tax regime (at the time of this review the scheme has been terminated), and stock options offered by companies such as Facebook to its employees so that they can treat the difference between the purchase price and the exercise price as expenses in their books, the authors propose some radical measures to tax the rich:

  • Equalize Capital Gains and Ordinary Income Tax rates for incomes over $1 million;
  • “End The Bracket Racket”. This proposal envisages increasing the marginal rates of tax on a progressive basis depending upon the income generated by the target taxpayers. The riveting debate between Michael Dell, the founder of Dell Computers and Dutch Historian Rutger Bergman, at the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos is referenced by the authors here. Bergman took on Dell in arguing that the marginal rates of tax for the uber rich should be increased to 70%;
  • Quite a bit of attention has been devoted to the Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders‘ Wealth Tax proposals. During the recent presidential campaigns both Warren and Sanders proposed their own models of a progressive wealth tax regime to tax the rich. While Warren’s “Ultra Millionaire Tax” was expected to garner $2.75 trillion over a decade, Sanders’ “tax on Extreme Wealth”, was estimated to add $4.35 trillion over a decade to the Government coffers;
  • Ban the deferred taxation scheme by switching to a “mark-to-market” system, where affluent investors are taxed every single year on the increased value of the assets they own, thereby foisting on them a periodic/annual tax bill just like any other ordinary taxpayer;
  • The authors also in a very incendiary heading titled “Vote the bastards out, the authors argue that intransigent and corrupt politicians who refuse to take a more nuanced approach to taxing the rich ought to be booted out by the voters.

Controversial, yet thought provoking. “Tax The Rich” instigates a fertile ground for debates, discussions and deliberations on one of the most topical and pernicious aspects of our time. However, where the book disappoints is, in reducing an otherwise essential and relevant discourse to a personal harangue. Whether it be talking about Steven Schwarzman, Sheryl Sandberg, Eli Broad or Sheldon Adelson, the tone employed is accusatory. This could have been avoided.  

“Tax The Rich” – Invigorating food for thought.

(Tax The Rich: How Lies, Loopholes, and Lobbyists Make the Rich Even Richer ” by Morris Pearl & Erica Payne is published by The New Press and will be released on the 13th of April 2021)

The Irreverence of Rishabh Pant

Story Image

(Picture Credit: espncricinfo)

Jimmy Anderson is the ‘cockroach’ of swing and seam bowling. Emblematic of an indefatigable spirit, the man just refuses to be cowed down or dominated. On the unforgiving tracks of Sri Lanka and India, Anderson’s figures in his last four Tests read 88.5-41-148-13. And the man is all of 39 years old. Yet even the maestro might have had a jaw dropping moment when an impudent, impetuous and yet incandescent southpaw, sixteen years younger than him, almost dropped down on one knee to reverse sweep (yes you read that right) him over the slips for an audacious boundary on the 5th of March 2021.

The Narendra Modi Stadium, the largest cricket ground in the world, was the subject of  contradiction and caustic debates following India’s demolition of Joe Root’s England in the Third Test Match of the ongoing India v England Test series. The pitch on which the game that did not even last the whole of two days, was intensely debated, defended, dissected and denigrated. However the same venue that is hosting the final test match of the series has been a philharmonic that has, after two full days, played a totally different kind of music. A deck that has aided swing, abetted bounce and also assisted the spinners landing the ball on a length.

On this level playing field, where the ball was coming onto the bat with a refreshing nicety, England won the toss and had no hesitation to bat first. However, yet another phenomenal performance by the Indian spinners coupled with some appalling batsmanship saw the English innings fold for a score just over 200. The Indian batsmen, in turn made their opponents modest score look like a magisterial mountain when four quick wickets fell with the scoreboard reading a paltry 80. Shubman Gill and Virat Kohli both failing to open their account.

The mercurial talent and a veritable motor mouth behind the stumps, Rishabh Pant, walked in to partner an unusually quiet, albeit steady Rohit Sharma. In the game of cricket, there is a phrase pregnant with import and indispensability. Match-awareness. Sizing up the situation ultimately leads to the seizing of an occasion. Pant looks to have made these two words an uncompromising flagship of his cricketing lexicon. Curbing his natural instinct, Pant nudged, tucked, nibbled, pushed, and dabbed through the initial bit of his innings. Even when he first lost Rohit Sharma, and then Ravichandran Ashwin, Pant did not look to attack. With India in a precarious situation at 146-6, it looked as though the visitors would be the beneficiaries of an improbable lead.

Washington Sundar, another rising star joined Pant. Sundar has about him a poise that is inveterate and an assurance that is innate. These twin attributes came into play as the 21 year-old played an impeccable foil to the more ‘experienced’ 23 year-old. The pair frustrated England with a combination of judgment and footwork. Getting to the pitch of the ball to the slow bowlers to smother the spin and exercising caution against the quicks, the pair began a process of consolidation. Pant reached an assiduously compiled half century. Between the time, Pant took guard, and pushed a delivery to long-on before acknowledging the crowd and his teammates, he had consumed 82 deliveries. This was the same application which the left hander had brought to bear in India’s epochal victory at the Gabba a month or two earlier.

As and when the scoreboard commenced to take on hues on respectability, Pant’s colours of possibility began to shine in resplendence. After the indomitable Adam Gilchrist, Pant is undoubtedly the most entertaining wicket keeper batsmen. Even though he has some way to go before he can be on par with the greatest wicket keeping batsman of all time (sorry Sangakkara), he is already showing signs of greatness. Collaring the English bowling he slashed, smote, smoked and swept away with gay abandon.

A phenomenal sequence of events commencing in the 81st over and climaxing in the 83rd over held the viewer in a frenzied grip of fevered imagination. Striding down the track to Anderson, Pant spanked the first ball of the 81st over through long off for a scorching boundary. The very next delivery was sent rocketing past the fielders in the infield. Boundary number 2. The only other eventful delivery of the over was a single off the fifth ball.

Over number 82. Enter Ben Stokes. Exit ball. The first delivery of the 82nd over was pitched slightly outside the off-stump. Pant imperiously picked up the stray delivery and swatted it away through midwicket for a disdainful boundary. Washington Sundar, who at the other end might have felt left out did not want to miss out on some magic of his own. Finding himself at the striker’s end after Pant gathered a single, Sundar threaded two magnificent boundaries of his own displaying a regal sense of timing and placement.

The Indian revival reached a crescendo, with Pant on 89. Jimmy Anderson ran in to bowl the first ball of the 83rd over. The ball was a tad bit short and bowled on and around the off and middle stump line. Rishabh Pant, like a jack in the box, changed his stance, almost dropping down on one knee, before reverse sweeping the ball over the heads of the slip cordon – off balance almost – for an audacious boundary. A popular cricketing website declared that the shot represented an indignity towards Jimmy Anderson. Rubbish! I do not think there is a single batsman in the world worth his salt who would even attempt to foist indignity on this magnificent bowler. Some may term the shot, an impetuosity of youth, while others may lay claim to the impudence of talent. While it could be both, it was in its plain, pure and simple essence, an act of irreverence. An irreverence that is inimitable to Rishabh Pant. An irreverence that is the imprimatur of one of India’s brightest ever prospect. An irreverence that treats a score of 89 as just another combination of numbers in the cosmic world. An irreverence that brings a teeming populace to fill the grounds and keep the game of cricket alive in all formats. An irreverence that no one acknowledges more than the wily genius off whose bowling this improbable shot was executed. Jimmy was neither non-plussed nor deflated. He was just acknowledging. V.V.S.Laxman, waxing eloquent on a TV show at the end of the game emphatically declared that irrespective of the games that may be played throughout the year 2021, this reverse sweep would be the “shot of the year” in his books. It may or may not be. Maybe there might be played an even more contemptuous shot that would take the breath away of friends and foes alike. But it is evident that no shot would be played this year that symbolizes a degree of irreverence attached to Rishabh Pant’s extraordinary reverse sweep.


This was also the same irreverence that saw Pant perish in attempting to smite a short pitched ball off Anderson through the leg side and making contact with the toe end of the bat instead. But before this fault stroke, the marvelous stroke maker reached his third Test Match century by depositing Joe Root over the square leg boundary for a gargantuan six. Irreverence.

This is the irreverence that instils hope when one is down in the depths of despair. This is the irreverence that is revered by so many ordinary mortals.

Stay irreverent, stay cool, Stay Pant!

Dr. Dhurandhar’s Fat Loss Diet – Dr. Nikhil Dhurandhar

Dr Dhurandhar's Fat-loss Diet: Dr. Nikhil Dhurandhar: 9789352770304:  Amazon.com: Books

In the initial part of Dr. Dhurandhar’s book, the reader is provided a chilling perspective on the mushrooming of “quack nutritionists” and “quack dieticians” who unashamedly exploit the gullibility of a helpless section of people. A lady visits the clinic of Dr. Dhurandhar, hoping to receive a dietary regimen that would aid and assist in her desperate endeavours to shed weight. Whilst placing the cuff of the sphygmomanometer on her hand, Dr. Dhurandhar notices a blue-black bruise. Suspecting some sinister domestic incident, the doctor politely asks his patient about the bruise. Her response leaves him poleaxed – the bruises are part of an ongoing weight reduction therapy called “fat breaking treatment.” This astonishing method involves the practioner hitting his patients with a cricket bat all over the body so as to “break down the excess fat” literally! Dr. Dhurandhar immediately educates his patient about both the futility and dangers about this downright ludicrous treatment.

“Fat Loss Diet” is a practical, implementable and scientific foray into the Science of fat reduction written by a veritable authority on the subject. The son of India’s foremost obesity expert, Dr. Vinod Dhurandhar, Dr. Nikhil is a physician and nutritional biochemist who has been treating obesity from the past three and a half decades. Inducted into the US National Academy of Inventors, he is also the Professor and Chairman of the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Texas Tech University. The author begins the book with a very articulate erudition on the interplay between three important hormones/chemicals that trigger appetites and also monitor the balance of fat content in the human body. “A chemical named leptin, travels to the brain via the bloodstream. Too little leptin signals to the brain that there is too little fat in the body whereas too much leptin means too much fat. The lesser your brain receives leptin, the more your brain makes you eat. Whereas, if you have too much fat, the brain notices too much leptin, tries to make you eat less, so you could lose some fat. Ghrelin is a tiny chemical messenger (a hormone) that is made by the gut and generates the feeling of hunger. The hormone tells the brain it is ‘time to eat’. PYY (peptide tyrosine tyrosine), tells your brain when the stomach is full and stops you from eating further. I suppose you are getting the picture. Our free will can still overrule the brain signals and we may eat even when the brain signal says we are full, or refuse to eat, even when the signal is that we are hungry.”

Dr. Dhurandhar places extreme importance on a diet that is strong in proteins. He also clarifies the single significant difference between “weight loss” and “fat loss”. Hence a need to guard against too much muscle loss that will invariably accompany a weight loss programme. Dr. Dhurandhar also warns his potential patients not to embark on a weight loss regimen unless they are mentally ready. A case in point is that of a member hailing from a royal family in India. Hoping to reduce a significant proportion of weight from his existing 110 kgs, he approached Dr. Dhurandhar. But the patient had two conditions. “He drank an entire bottle of scotch and twenty-two bottles of Coca Cola (there was no Diet Coke those days) every day. He did not want to reduce his scotch or Coke, but was prepared to reduce food a bit. Clearly, this was not going to work. A reasonable amount of alcohol could certainly be accommodated in a weight-loss diet. But, not a full bottle of scotch, every single day, let alone those bottles of sugary-sweet water. He was not ready, even though he said he was.” Accompanying a readiness from a mental perspective, care ought to be taken that there is no weight regain after the weight loss regimen period.

Any fat loss programme, according to Dr. Dhurandhar ought to embed three quintessential components:

  1. Adequacy: A diet plan that is low in calories, yet provides key nutrients needed for health;
  2. Applicability: While there is no size fits all approach, the diet should be tailored in such a way that it is relatively homogenous in its application to a large number of people; and  
  3. Quality of life: A carefully calibrated diet should not leave one famished. It should not be viewed by the patient as a punishment.

Ten Components of a Healthful Diet for Weight Loss

Dr. Dhurandhar also highlights ten key and critical components that are necessary in any healthy diet targeted for obese and overweight individuals. While it would be doing the book an injustice to reveal the ten components in exhaustive detail, here is encapsulating some of the salient elements in a nutshell:

Stay Hydrated. At least two litres of water must be uncompromisingly consumed during the period one is on a weight-loss diet;

Pay heed to “cell-healthy fats”. Even though oil, ghee, butter and cream might seem a sacrilege for a person striving to shed the extra pounds, these need to be consumed in moderation since fat is an essential of our body, skin, brain, cells and cell cover known as the cell membrane;

Bone-friendly milk: Unless and until the person dieting suffers from a case of lactose intolerance, milk should be an essential ingredient of the diet. Milk possesses good quality protein and calcium. Curds can be an adequate substitute as all the benefits of milk in terms of calcium and protein is bestowed by curd. In addition, curds will have gut-friendly bacteria which are helpful for the intestines and general health;

Fruits: Fruits provide fibre and vitamins. Fruits, when eaten raw, right after cutting them are rich in vitamin content;

Build up a Protein shield: Consuming protein increases fullness and protects one from feeling hungry. Strategically placed protein snacks at mid-morning and late afternoon protect you from excessive hunger and cravings during the day and at night, respectively.

The book also contains invaluable guidance and suggestion on exercise as a supplement to a diet programme and not a substitute. Dr. Dhurandhar reiterates the fact that the best exercise that would yield visible positive results when practiced religiously and in an uncompromising manner is level and slow walking. Contrary to myths that state that a person need to sweat profusely when exercising, Dr. Dhurandhar emphasizes that it is the regularity and commitment that matters more than intensity and rigour.

“Fat Loss Diet” is replete with implementable, rational and logical suggestions that encourage, inspire and induce positivity. No wonder Dr. Dhurandhar is held in such high esteem by one of Bollywood’s biggest and brightest talent’s Aamir Khan. Not only has the actor penned the foreword for this book, but he has also gladly consented a full disclosure of how he appropriated Dr. Dhurandhar’s assistance in undergoing a transformation from a grossly overweight wrestler to a fit and strong athlete in the film “Dangal”. The Chapter detailing the transformation jointly brought about by the doctor and his disciple makes for some fascinating reading.

Leaving the last words to the man himself: “Let me say this loud and clear – food does not ‘cause’ obesity, nor does greediness or laziness. Surprised? There is more. From now on, forget the words ‘weight loss’. It is ‘fat loss’ that you should be thinking about. Obesity needs a specific and strategic treatment plan because just trying to eat healthier and exercising more will not address the obesity concerns of most people. Furthermore, it is not true that to keep from regaining fat you should live like a sanyasi, giving up all the good things in life like tasty food and drinks and survive on only salads.”


Masquerading as the affected, they come, protest in droves

Unwilling to reason, they hold society to unwitting ransom in their throes

Appropriating the assistance of undesirable elements for their ’cause’

The sheer insanity and lunacy of it all sees no imminent pause

Strikes ought not to be a show of kitsch but a gathering for a purpose

Lest they diminish noble motives before in futility the people finally disperse.

(Word Count: 69)

Sammi Cox Weekend Writing Prompt #198