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“I kept getting tripped up and kicked to pieces …,” said Brazil’s superstar player, “and the referee did nothing to protect me or my teammates from these rough-house tactics.”

Neymar, describing how he was battered at this World Cup and is now out after a Colombian opponent fractured his back?

No, this was Pele, recalling opponents’ vicious fouls that hobbled him at the 1966 tournament, part of what prompted a (later rescinded) vow from the king of futebol never to play in the World Cup again.

In short, the warning signs that Neymar was going to be targeted, that rival players without his genius would use force to stop him because they don’t have his skills, were decades old. They were there for all to see in Brazil — except, clearly, for referees and FIFA officials who are as guilty as Colombian defender Juan Camilo Zuniga for Neymar’s ruined World Cup. They did too little to protect the 22-year-old from football’s brutes, the cynical masters of the dark art of kicking rivals black, blue and out.

And now it’s too late. Time will mend Neymar’s fractured third vertebra. But it will never be able to give back the one chance he had to win the World Cup on home soil. He will have retired whenever football’s showcase tournament next visits these shores. That wound can never be healed.

Zuniga’s post-match explanation — “I didn’t mean to hurt him” — was as worthless as Brazil’s currency in the days of hyperinflation. Zuniga may not have intended to break a bone. But any time anyone takes a running jump at the small of someone’s back with their knee raised like a battering ram, physical damage is likely, predictable and so also avoidable.

At best, Zuniga was reckless. We would call police and personal injury lawyers if someone charged us like this on the street, sending us to hospital. In football, Zuniga’s lack of care toward another human being didn’t even earn him a caution.

FIFA and the Brazilian government needed so badly for the football to be brilliant at this World Cup. And it has been, partly because FIFA referees are being lenient with fouls, not handing out as many cautions and red cards as they should and letting play run on. That is what Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo did when Zuniga ended Neymar’s World Cup, leaving him face down in agony on the pitch.

But what Carballo didn’t do is as much of a concern. He blew for 54 fouls but handed out just four yellow cards, two to Brazilians and two to Colombians. In short, he saw ugly play all around him but didn’t do enough to stop it.

That is being repeated across this World Cup. There was no caution for Belgium players who hacked in succession at Lionel Messi’s legs as he made a first-half run for goal in Saturday’s quarterfinal The slow-motion was hypnotic, revolting, showing boots aiming not for the ball but for the calves, shins and ankles of the four-time world player of the year.

The hatchet-men are so good, trained even, at hiding their destructive intent. They leave seemingly innocent legs trailing like trip-wire. When they could land on grass, they instead come down on opponents’ ankles and feet, fragile bones vulnerable in today’s ultra-light shoes.

They tag-team, taking turns to foul particularly gifted players to lessen the risks of a referee’s card for repeat offending. They pretend to look elsewhere when they thunder into a collision. When he flattened Neymar, Zuniga was looking up at a ball he was never going to get, because it was falling for the Brazilian in his path.

And don’t fall for the myth that Brazil players are above such cynicism. They targeted Neymar’s opposite number for Colombia, James Rodriguez. Watching two 22-year-olds being bullied was not pleasant.

FIFA statistics counted 35 tackles on Neymar at this World Cup. Just one player so far got more, Chile’s Alexis Sanchez, with 36. FIFA’s tallies also show Neymar was one of the most fouled players. That is to be expected given that he runs at opponents and, as an attacker, is at the heart of the fray.

But unexpected and alarming is why referees are being more lenient than they have been for decades. According to FIFA, they have shown an average of fewer than three yellow cards per game, a rate lower than at any World Cup since Mexico in 1986.

“The bar for yellow cards has been set much too high,” retired Swiss referee Urs Meier, who officiated at the 1998 and 2002 World Cups, wrote Saturday for the website of German weekly Focus.

“An awful lot is being tolerated,” he added. “No one should be surprised that people are injured.”

But with FIFA’s referees curbing their interventions, games have been end-to-end and goals have rained in. FIFA President Sepp Blatter and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, both eyeing re-election, are delivering World Cup bread and circus. The pulsating football has, for now, largely pushed aside bothersome questions about spending billions on stadiums and suspected corruption.

Even without Neymar or Messi or Mueller, the show must go on.

Dedicated to Sivaji Ganesan on his birthday – 1st october 2013

Rajini & Kamal looked upto him for style!

Overacting has been one thing that the legend of Tamil cinema has been often accused of. Even you might have heard such a thing from someone or might have even thought so yourself. It is not really surprising that many of today’s youngsters and those accustomed to new age cinema find Sivaji Ganesan as one who went overboard with his expressions. It is a classical example of the generation gap, the present not being able to digest or accept what was considered great in the past. There can be no two opinions about the fact that Chevalier Sivaji Ganesan is a legend. But there are many who see chinks in that legacy. I believe it is a case of not being able to understand the great man and the times that he was part of.

Coming from a theater background (he acquired the title Sivaji from theater), expressing in a very pronounced manner came naturally to him. Being subtle was not the flavor of those days and if you watch cinema of the early Sivaji era, you will see that what many call overacting now was the norm in those days. Cinema had not evolved enough to accommodate subtle expressions. It was more or less a theater setting with the camera being kept straight and the actors being asked to perform within the frame, the occasional close up shot being given for the expression of surprise, shock, romance or whatever. Even the dialogues were theatrical. All techniques like bottom and top angle cuts, lighting that suited the situation, precise make-up that enhance cinema so much were non-existent. Sivaji Ganesan began and for a large part, worked in such an era as an actor who excelled in emotional roles. He just kept along with his times.

The greatness of Sivaji Ganesan comes to light when we look at the range of roles that he has done in his career and the range of styles that he adopted in each of his movies. Not many actors of our times have shown the courage that he has. To do a full fledged hateful negative role while you are still a leading hero takes a lot of confidence and Sivaji Ganesan showed that in Andha Naal. Actors of our times have shown a liking to the negative role, but not the totally despicable type. Even if they have, they have also chosen to have the security of playing a double role with one character being a do-gooder. Andha Naal had Sivaji Ganesan as a completely unscrupulous person who would not even stop short of treason to make money. His detractors (though few and oblivious of his greatness) should take a look at this performance. They also should take a look at Uthama Puthiran where one can see upon close observation, a striking similarity to Rajnikanth’s famous brisk walk. Then, there is that famous scene from Thiruvilayaadal where he runs towards the shore after slaying a shark, very similar to what Superstar does. Even Kamal once said in a function that actors of all ages have taken something out of Sivaji Ganesan’s book, be it style or acting skills. What Sivaji did so many years back is adopted and replicated by so many contemporary stars- a compliment to his greatness.

And if any of you still doubt whether the great man was overdoing it, then take a look at some of his films in the 90s. Cinema had evolved and he had understood the change. His performance in Thevar Magan must count as one of the finest in Tamil cinema, please go back and see the scene where he and Kamal Haasan talk in the courtyard, discussing about the hotel that Kamal proposes to build in the city. Such performances can come only from an actor of brilliance of the highest order, only a true genius can adjust to changing times and Sivaji Ganesan was one.

Once the famous journalist and cartoonist Madan was asked, ‘Who is the better actor, Marlon Brando or Sivaji Ganesan?’ He said, ‘Marlon Brando is an actor who delivers to perfection what the director asks of him but Sivaji Ganesan used to do more than just that, he used to analyze and add to the character and performance. So, Sivaji is greater.’ Do we need to say more? Another interesting fact is that in a survey conducted long back it was found that Sivaji Ganesan had a greater female fan following than the great M.G.R. Not because he always did emotional family subjects, but because they liked his style. If anyone still feels that the great man did more than what was required of him, then they are in the clutches of ignorance. Perceptions change with time. What was right then need not necessarily be right now and what we celebrate as acts of genius today may be ridiculed upon tomorrow. Wonder how youngsters thirty years from now will react to the patent star mannerisms, intro songs and one liners that we enjoy so much at present. The greatness of Sivaji Ganesan must never be subject to scrutiny. Seldom do men like him grace the screen.

Chris Gayle has got four whirlwind hundreds in the IPL this season. But it’s an eye-opener to find how he plays an ‘average over’. That is six balls. Let’s get down to the number-crunching game.


RCB’s Gayle has score 512 runs in those four innings facing 232 balls. In that, he has played 78 ‘dot’ balls, hit 40 fours and 46 sixes, played 154 scoring shots, scored 436 runs in boundaries and 76 runs in other ways. He has played 68 balls which were neither boundary balls, nor ‘dot’ balls.

Based on this information, we can conclude that he had scored at 13.24 runs per over during those century knocks.

And ‘on an average’ (collating the above stats), his six balls went like this: two ‘dot’ balls, two singles, one four and one six. That’s 12 runs. Those additional 1.24 runs are offset because of his sixes and additional singles. He had hit a six per five balls in those tons. So in five overs, he had hit six sixes. 

His four IPL hundreds came against KKR and Kings XI (both in 2011), vs Delhi (2012) and vs Pune this year.

Without taking any credit away from Gayle, it must be said that the Jamaican has feasted on ordinary attacks due to his amazing skills. He faced 26 bowlers in those century knocks. But only two (Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar) seem to be world-class.

Here is list of bowlers from Gayle’s hundred knocks.

 Irfan Pathan, Balaji, Unadkat, Shakib, Bhatia, Tiwary, Abdullah.
Kings XI:
 Praveen Kumar, Harris, McLaren, Ablish, Chawla, Nayar.
 Irfan, Umesh Yadav, Aaron, Russell, Negi, Venugopal Rao.
 Bhuvnesh, I Pandey, Dinda, M Marsh, Murtaza, Finch and Wright.

Of these, seven are foreigners and 19 Indian bowlers (most of them don’t play in international T20s).

Though the runs scored by Gayle per over during his century knocks against the Indian bowlers (13.03) and foreigners (13.7) don’t differ much, he had hit one boundary per three balls against foreigners; and one boundary per 2.72 balls against Indians.

Gayle had faced 19 combined balls of Yadav and Bhuvnesh scoring 26 runs with two fours and two sixes with nine ‘dot’ balls. That comes to just 8.21 runs per over, way low than his overall 13.24.

Of these 26 bowlers, he had played ‘dot’ balls against 24 of them, excluding Ablish and Finch. But then, these two bowlers are a part of those six (others being Tiwary, Abdullah, Nayar and Rao) who didn’t bowl a minimum of six balls to Gayle.

It’s clear that Gayle manages his dot balls, nerves and singles remarkably well; plans his assaults; and executes his boundaries in cold-blooded fashion.

His cool exterior hides his basic instinct to attack. It’s quite clear that the relative quieter moments that he spends on the crease help him hit boundary shots at will.

So, the challenge for the opposition think-tank remains in forcing him reach to the ball with marked front-foot movement; bowling with wicket-taking, and not containing, intentions with quality bowlers (preferably swing or offspin); or unsettling him so that he can come out of his well-spread routine of dots, singles and boundary balls.

If Gayle continues to bat like this, even attempts of mental disintegration through verbal volleys, or other innovative means, can’t be ruled out.

Throughout human existence, one question has burned uppermost in the minds of human beings, whatever their sex, race or culture: “So what’s for dinner?” From most place around the world, the same answer has come back – food.

Food? How predictable! Fans of cuisine find a diet limited to items defined “edible” woefully dull. Instead we consume naga (metal-dissolving) chillies, Cambodian water bugs, fried banana skins and strange black, sludgy, night-market condiments which appear to be a mixture of used engine oil and finely ground gravel!! And those are the conservative ones. There are people around us with diet preferences that include rocks and houseware. This is a scientific fact. A recent study of global eating habits conducted by Oxford Brookes University in the UK concluded that “throughout the world, every day, millions of people eat earth, clay… and foods conventionally regarded as inedible by most Westerners.

For gourmand Allah Wasayo, the perfect meal is a nice carpet. Most people lack variety in their diets, says the 59-year old Pakistani, who likes to follow his lunch with a dish of broken glass and some grass clippings. At a buffet in a five-star hotel in Karachi, reporters watched him eat light bulbs and pulverized teacups. “I eat carpets, cups, saucers, pieces of glass, chicken curry and grass with the same fervour,” he told the Dawn newspaper.

Wasayo us just one of  a long line of creative diners, a list which includes a woman who lived largely on ice, and a man who claimed to eat nothing but air. More recently, YouTube fans have been entranced by Dasarath from Kanpur, who drinks his beer and then munches down the glass.

One super-omnivore, Wang Chengke of China, wolfed down some ashtrays and beer bottles and was then checked by doctors. They concluded he had gastric juices five times stronger than most people. It’s not clear what practical purpose his skill could be used for. Maybe China could develop some sort of dining army who could eat their way through the enemy forces.

But the diner who most sticks in my mind is Ram Rati, 82, who has been happily chomping her way through a medium-sized beach. She has been eating sand since she was a child. “I eat on average around one or one-and-a-half kilos of sand per day”, she told Asian News International. Her granddaughter Shikha said: “The doctor said if she had no health problems, let her eat.” What a glorious attitude. “If grandma want to eat a major tourist attraction, let her eat.”

For most people, a taste for the inedible is merely a food preference, but for some, it’s a matter of life and death. After super-hot-curry became the favorite food of the British, army generals started receiving requests from British troops for chicken curry, lamp tikka and pulao rice. But today’s active soldiers eat 4000 calories a day and take toilet breaks only once every 72 hours. Generals had grim fears that history would be changed because battles would be constantly interrupted by British Soldiers telling enemies they have to go to the loo. Several top scientists were commissioned to find ways to replicate Asian flavors without system-churning spices. In the end, they provided ration-packs with the fieriest spices served separately in sachets for those who could cope.

Personally, I think they should go the whole hod and train and their soldiers to eat the most extreme food. After all, the sight of men biting the necks of beer bottles and crunching glass in their mouths is guaranteed to strike fear in the hearts of anyone raised on less challenging diets. Which is why Allay Wasayo, despite his fame, remains a bachelor. No family will provide him with a wife. “They think I might eat her,” he laments!!!

The audio of the much awaited Power Star Pawan Kalyan’s Panja is out in the stores and there are high expectations from the film and a personal expectation for Pawan Kalyan himself following the debacle of his last two movies – Puli and Teen Maar!! Here is my review of the music for the movie given by Yuvan Shankar Raja.

1.  Panja – Artiste – Yuvan Shankar Raja; Lyrics – Ramajogaiah Sastry

Rating – 3.5/5; Repeatability Factor – High

The number Panja, pipped to be the concept of the movie which would have (or expected to have) Pawan Kalyan performing some stunts is the opening song in the album and gives the required “Panja” to the album. The number is all about energy and Yuvan’s voice is just the right attribute. The album has tones of rock music in between and gives a glimpse of Bryan Adams or Bruce Springsteen in some places.  A sure repeat number and I am sure the listeners would love this song!!!

2. Ela Ela – Artistes – Hari Haran, Shweta Pandit; Lyrics – Chandra Bose

Rating – 4/5; Repeatability Factor – Very High

Now, why do always the second songs in the album the best ones?? I still can’t understand the reason. Yet another amazing number from Yuvan. This is a number which can be emulated by none and a typical Yuvan specialty!! Hari Haran and Shweta too add a lot of energy to the number. Simple and yet sweet lyrics by Chandra Bose, which again is possible only to him!! The song is expected to be shot amazingly at beautiful locations. If there is a number which would make this album a special one, this is it!!!

3. Veyira Cheyyi Veyira – Artiste – Saloni ; Lyrics – Ramajogaiah Sastry

Rating – 3/5; Repeatability Factor – Little

Just like the sauce in the noodles item songs adds the taste and spice to the movie. These days hardly find the movies without item songs.  Veyira Veyira song is such a mass song of this movie. There are a lot of similarities with “Gajja Ghallu Mannadi” from Khushi, this is not a fast beat song but would definitely be a favorite song for mass audience.

4. Kshanam Kshanam – Artiste – Shweta Pandit; Lyrics – Chandra Bose

Rating – 2.5/5; Repeatability Factor – Very Little or No

A short song, rendered by Shweta Pandit, is the female version of Ela Ela. The number could have been great if the artiste was different as the song requires better understanding of the language to emote as heroine expresses her feelings in this song.   The song is too short for the audience and the listener to remember.

5. Anukoneleddhuga – Artiste – Belly Raj, Priya Hemesh; Lyrics – Chandra Bose

Rating – 3/5; Repeatability Factor – Fairly Ok

A sweet song!! Belly Raj and Priya Hemesh have done a wonderful justice to Chandra Bose’s lyrics. The simplicity in the lyrics is the uniqueness of Chandra Bose, which he has mastered over the years and is always successful!!  One line in the song goes – “Aidhu pranala sakshi ga,naalugu kaalala sakshi ga,moodu pootallo rendu gundello okate prema ga”, is my personal favorite.

6. Paparayudu  – Artiste – Hemachandra, Sathyam; Lyrics – Ramajogaiah Sastry

Rating – 3/5; Repeatability Factor – Good

The Mafia Don story completely turns to a village backdrop movie in second half. Brahmanandham is playing the one of the main role in this movie. After a long time Pawan again opened his mouth before a mike as a singer with his excellent voice. This is completely a funny song which praises Brahmi’s character. Pawan kalyan dance is expected to be the highlight of this song. I promise you will definitely listen this with a smile on your face.

Overall Verdict

The album on the whole is good with a few numbers which are going to create a buzz in the charts. Though Yuvan does only a few films in Telugu, his understanding of the expectations of Telugu listeners and particularly Pawan Kalyan fans is worth a praise. Considering that Pawan Kalyan never had a bad album in his career, this album is sure rock the charts soon. My picks are Ela Ela, Panja and Paparaydu in the order. Good luck team Panja !!

Overall Rating – 3.5/5

A small collage of the pictures from my recent trip to Mauritius…..

Sara Dickey, in her writings on film watching in Tamil Nadu entitled ‘Consuming Utopia’, talks of the unique film viewing experience that the mass indulges in, and the various connotations that it may have. Cinema in Tamil Nadu has an overpowering effect on the audience with more movies being produced and watched per capita in South India than almost anywhere else in the world. She talks of how movies are a pervasive visual and aural presence outside of the theatre with dazzling posters lining the main street, smaller posters slapped onto spare wall space, movie songs blaring at every street corner and every social occasion, trading of movie star cards, copying of their fashion and hairstyles, etc.

The text chronicles the relationship between cinema and its audience in Tamil Nadu.

Cinema is a public spectacle and most of its consumers belong to the urban poor. Dickey claims that in Tamil Nadu, film-viewing is generally seen to be largely a lower-class preoccupation, while film making is a terrain that belongs exclusively to people from the middle and the upper classes. Cinema is one of the main vehicles by which the urban poor, limited by a lack of economic resources, are drawn into the growing public culture of India.

The relation between Tamil film, their producers and the audience is a very intrinsic one. The audience demand is catered to religiously as this is the ensuring factor of a success at the box office. The creation of a successful film doesn’t require fulfillment of all the audience desires. However, what should be kept in mind is that the ideas presented in the film not clash with any of these desires.

The form and content of Tamil film is highly melodramatic. Tamil filmmakers employ opposed tactics of portraying crisis as a difficulty as faced in the viewer’s own life. Due to the conflict of the ‘what is’ in the viewer’s existence and the ‘what could be’ outcomes in the movies, the melodrama incorporated into Tamil movies is both a reality and a fantasy, and thus, internally contradictory. The basic reason why viewers accept these honey-coated projections is to escape the drudgery of their own lives.

We must keep in mind that neither realistic representation nor pure fantasy alone dominates this melodrama’s appeal. It is based on the resolution of the two. Much of this setting is taken from their daily life. More often than not, these films project certain elements which are more luxurious or modern than most viewers have or will ever experience in their own lives.

Viewers’ comments demonstrate active engagement with and response to cinema. The attitudes that viewers express in private conversations differ from critics’ opinion and also the general public opinion. The majority of statements that are made by poor urban viewers about movies’ morals and the connection with their own lives have to do more with their personal relationships than a critical analysis. A sizable portion of respondents may also comment on the portrayal of class differences. Most people view cinema as having a variable influence dependant on their innate propensity. Viewers also believe that watching movies and seeing situations that speak of their own circumstances can have effects on their behavior.

Tamil cinema provides viewers with a sense of Utopia in two basic ways:

1. Through a portrayal of luxury that far exceeds the circumstances of most Tamil lives.

2. Through resolution of many viewers’ most persistent and deep seated anxieties.

Movies are not just a three hour relief from poverty, but something much more complex than that. They feed hopes that a spectacularly easier life is available. They show how various concerns of societies are solved simply. Whatever problems the society may face, movies assure their audience that they can be resolved. Viewers themselves reject films that have tragic endings and do not like to watch movies in which problems are shown realistically. Dickey notes that the viewers feel that films provide relief from their immediate and long term worries in several ways. The communication that takes place between audiences and creators of spectacle is in no sense un-directional.

Dickey completes her analysis with the split between image and reality. She says that this is repeated in other aspects of cinema and indeed is extremely frequent. The question then arises whether such a split or contradiction is central to the pleasure that Tamil or perhaps other cinema offer.

An adventurist’s final destinations!!!

This is a series extracted from MSN and a few other websites on what could be the few destinations on the planet, which, are yet to be explored and tested!!! From Australia to Mongolia and from Bolivia to Greenland, this would present a list of destinations which can be called the world’s last remaining adventures!! Sit back and enjoy!!

The forest of undiscovered creatures

Aprada tepui, a remote rainforest mesa on the border of Venezuela and Guyana, is so little explored that in 2006 researchers discovered a cave – Cueva del Fantasma – large enough for a helicopter to fly into it. The area is also home to rare poison dart frogs, carnivorous plants and hundreds of other undiscovered species – and who knows, maybe a cave that can accommodate a jumbo jet.

For more details click here to learn more about Aprada tepui

The territory of the sea gypsies

Most of the beaches in the 800-island Mergui Archipelago, Burma, have never been visited by anyone but the native sea gypsies. That means endless coastlines of virgin scuba diving. The problem is getting there — between 1940 and 1997, Mergui was off limits to outsiders, but now the Burmese government allows limited access to dive boats, though they strictly control their movements.

Click here for more details on Mergui Archipelago.

The highest unclimbed mountain

As far as geographers can tell, the highest unclimbed mountain in the world is Gangkhar Puensum, a 7,570 metre spine of granite marking the border between Tibet and the tiny kingdom of Bhutan. Mountaineers made failed assaults on the peak in 1985 and 1986 but couldn’t knock it off. In 1998, after Bhutan blocked access to the mountain for spiritual reasons, a Chinese team tried and failed to reach the peak from the Tibetan side.

Click here for more details.

Impossible terrain in the Americas

The Pan American Highway runs unbroken from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to the farthest tip of Argentina… except for a 54-mile break between Panama and Colombia known as the Darien Gap. Home to two national parks, this swampy, mountainous terrain has only been crossed by a handful of off road expedition vehicles and a small cohort of hikers. No wonder – impossible terrain and roaming bandits and armed guerillas have kept this one of the least visited spots on Earth.

Click here for more information.

The Yucatan’s hidden underwater world

Mexico’s Yucatan is dotted with cenotes – underground lagoons; some 500km of watery passageways have been documented crisscrossing the peninsula. Scientists and explorers, however, think there could be countless miles of underwater rivers and passages still to be discovered. Several local groups, including the Global Underwater Explorers, discover new caves every year.

For more information click this link here.

The pristine African rainforest

There is no road access to Ivindo national park, in Gabon, one of the last intact and unexplored rainforests in Africa. In 2001, during his megatransect of the continent, the biologist Michael Fay discovered the Langoue Bai, deep within Ivindo, a glade where elusive forest elephants, buffalos, gorillas and chimps romp with little fear of humans.

Click here for more information.

The unscaled Tibetan mountain range

For several years, the Japanese mountaineer Tamotsu Nakamura has catalogued the unclimbed mountains in the eastern Tibetan Nyainqentanglha range, which is tightly controlled by the Chinese government. His photos of the unclimbed peaks have the mountaineering world drooling. According to one estimate the area has 164 mountains over 6,000 metres, with 159 yet to be summited.

Click here for more information.

The impenetrable animal refuge

This vast area of thorn and scrubland on the border of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia has remained little developed because of its brutal climate. In particular, the three million hectare Kaa-Iya del Gran Chaco national park, the largest in Bolivia, is an impenetrable thicket that protects some of the continent’s last remaining jaguars, pumas, maned wolves, and at least one indigenous tribe that has no contact with the outside world.

Click here for further information on Kaa-Iya del Gran Chaco National Park, Bolivia.

The unmapped Russian peninsula

Though the Russian Kamchatka Peninsula has exploded in popularity with adventure travellers, especially fly fishers, over the past decade, most of the area’s rivers and streams have yet to be mapped. Last summer, a team of six veteran kayakers set out to descend as much virgin whitewater as they could as part of the Kamchatka Project expedition, which was intended to raise conservation awareness and perhaps spark a kayaking industry.

Click here for more information.

The untouched ecosystem

The Mozambiquan region of Mt. Mabu is so remote that scientists only discovered it when they noticed a blank spot on Google Earth in 2005. When they finally trudged into this mountainous rainforest, three years later, they discovered a whole ecosystem untouched by man, including new species of snakes, butterflies and a chameleon. Now scientists are wishing they could scrub it off the map again to keep the treasure trove safe from local loggers.

Click here for further information on Mt. Mabu, Mozambique.

Raft the unmapped tributaries of the Nile

You’d think that, after 5,000 years, we’d know something about the Nile and its tributaries, but the Blue Nile river, originating in Ethiopia and running through the Sudan before connecting with the main event at Khartoum, was only fully navigated for the first time in 2004 when the filmmaker Gordon Brown and Pasquale Scaturro made it from Ethiopia to Alexandria in Egypt. The river’s countless tributaries and rugged terrain continue to stymie explorers and cartographers.

Click here for further information.

Mountains of virgin snow

There are literally thousands of unclimbed and unskied peaks in British Columbia, but some of the most spectacular are in the Coast Mountains, including the 2,400-metre Spectrum Range and Rainbow Ranges. Skiers with the stamina and ambition to make the trek into the mountains can make genuine first climbing ascents and first skiing descents to their hearts’ content.

Click here for more information.

Kite Skiing Greenland

The vast, unforgiving icecap covering the interior of Greenland has been an exploration blank spot, with most expeditions keeping close to the coast. But in the past decade explorers have begun venturing further and further into the interior, often by kite-ski. In June last year, the Greenland Legacy Crossing set a world record when two kite-skiers travelled an astounding 370 miles in one day in their sleds.

Click here for further information on kite skiing in Greenland.

The wild, unfished tributaries of Mongolia

Taimen are the largest salmonid – think trout and salmon – in the world, with the aggressive toothy fish reaching 100 to 150 centimetres. Mongolia is one of the last refuges of the sport species, and adventurous anglers, often using ground squirrels as bait, are still finding untouched fishing tributaries off the Eg and Urr rivers in the country’s north.

For more information on Eg and Urr Rivers in Mongolia, click here.

The 5,000-metre-deep Australian canyon

Off the Bonney Coast of Australia lies an underwater canyon system so deep and so vast it is only now being mapped. The maze, which reaches depths of 5,000 metres, has turned out to be a biological hotspot, with the specially equipped Southern Surveyor research vessel pulling up undiscovered species of fish and plankton almost every time it voyages out.

Click here for more information the Bonney Coast Under Water Canyon.

The game of politics is a dirty one; here the tenants of democracy are casually ignored, and we the people are simply treated as dispensable pawns that bring glory to the kings and queens. So, as time passes by and India proudly surpasses one year after another of being a constitutionalised democracy, the muck and murk of its working keeps being veiled behind the curtains of development even though its consequences remain evidently visible. The desire for political prominence is so much that in the rat race for power and profit the reason for democracy i.e. the well-being of the common man gets trampled. Today the plight is such that while we suffer endlessly, political forces enjoy the view to the fullest and turn a deaf ear to our cries, heeding to us only when elections come knocking.

The ongoing Telangana uprising is a blatant example of this Indian political saga.

Telangana has been a conflicted province ever since the Congress government forcibly merged it with Andhra to form Andhra Pradesh in 1956. However, the fate of the state was not even remotely close to the happily ever after fable the Government had hoped it would be, for in 1969 demands for a separate state of Telangana began surfacing. The reasons were many – the Telanganas were discriminated against, and the terms of the Gentlemen’s agreement between the leaders of Andhra and Telangana, which was formulated to safeguard the interests of Telangana, were overlooked. The 1969 circus could not go on for long; it was easily pushed aside by both Congress leaders and the greed of Telangana and Andhra leaders who were drooling over the prospect of governing a large state.

However this time around, 53 years after the formation of the state, the political will of the leaders has finally been regarded – thanks to K. Chandrasekhar Rao, the president and founder of Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) party. By the way, KCR is not a novice; rather, he is the hurricane that has rocked the entire country, especially the Congress center, with his Gandhian attitude. His fast-unto-death skit accompanied by violence in Andhra left the center jittery, so much so, that it finally gave in to the divisional demands. As a result, soon India will consist of 29 states instead of 28, and when Telangana will eventually emerge, KCR along with his accomplices will become the heroic freedom fighter, thus ruling the state for years to come.

A deeper look into all this and you are bound to realise that these Telangana leaders, KCR in particular, aren’t protesting out of love for their state, or even because of the injustice inflicted upon their people. Rather this pretended Gandhian stint is Rao’s ticket to a greater political might. Let us review- KCR, who was once member of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), established TRS in 2001 after his attempts to secure a place in the cabinet failed. Even after his party formed, Rao was unable to achieve any political gains with either the NDA or the UPA in the 2009 general elections. With only two MP’s in his party, the fight for Telangana not only makes him a great leader for Telanganas but also gives him and his party a chance to be the supreme rule once the state of Andhra Pradesh splits.

In retrospect, it would be unethical if others behind the Andhra anarchy do not get a mention. Why let the buck stop here, when there are many others who deserve the limelight.

In 1953, when the States Reorganization Commission (SRC) report was presented, it clearly said that while leaders in Andhra are in favour of a combined state, people in Telangana are yet to form a strong opinion. The SRC also suggested that the merger of these two districts to form a unified Andhra Pradesh should be stalled until the general election of 1961 where the 2/3rd majority of the state of Hyderabad legislature would decide upon the matter. Unfortunately, for Telangana the then Prime Minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru ignored the report, and gave a nod to the creation of the state. However, the Congress chronicles do not end here; during the 2004 elections, it made an alliance with the TRS on the promise that the Congress would help in a creation of a separate Telangana state. India’s premier political party of course did not keep its promise and as a result, its alliance party withdrew support two years later.

Back in present times, conditions in Andhra are far from stable. The central Government (read Congress) is dilly-dallying from its stand of creating a separate state, leaving Andhra Pradesh in turmoil. Amidst the violence and the bandhs, which have now become traits of the state, more important questions, especially those pertaining to the future of Telangana and Andhra have been subdued. One of them is the issue of Hyderabad, which not only serves as the capital of Andhra Pradesh, but also is the heart of Telangana, thus rendering it in extreme complexities. The city of Nawabs is the lifeline of Telangana as the arid province is neither suited for agriculture, nor is it prosperous in any other sense. On the other hand, if Hyderabad is proclaimed the capital of an independent Telangana, which is more or less given, the prosperity of Andhra and Andhraites will be lost. Hyderabad’s status quo is the courtesy of migrant Andhraites, who led the city to its present glory, and thus a separate Telangana brings the fear of forcibly fleeing Andhraites.

The only viable chance for a peaceful and flourishing survival for Hyderabad is to be declared a Union Territory or a Special Administrative region, which of course is a possibility KCR  refuses to acknowledge.

The outcome of the Andhra-Telangana conflict seems grim. The clash between the pro and anti Telangana forces, along with the ever-changing stand of the Government has left the southern state at a standstill. Even our beloved leaders are in a terrible fix, as they cannot make a choice between the wellbeing of the people and political security. The Congress is not ready to risk alliance and support, Andhra leaders want to ignore it all and still desire for a bigger share to govern, and the poor TRS and KCR do not want to let go of their chance to political stardom, namely Telangana. The consequences of this catfight are yet to surface; we can just hope that whatever happens in end- separate statehood for Telangana or a unified Andhra- it is the people in the end who benefit, and not the selfish politicians for whom protests and rebellion is a means to pride and glory.

Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, whose flamboyance on and off the cricket field remains unrivalled, died on Thursday in New Delhi. He was 70. Pataudi suffered from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis ‘ an irreversible progressive lung disease ‘ and was admitted to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital on August 29. Hospital officials said his immediate family members ‘ wife Sharmila Tagore, son Saif and daughters Saba and Soha ‘ were with him for the past three days. Pataudi’s last rites will be held on Friday.What kind of cricketer was Mansur Ali Khan (Tiger) Pataudi, junior?

As a schoolboy in England, then known as the Nawab of Pataudi, junior, he was coached by a former Test all-rounder named George Geary. Geary was so impressed by the soundness of his technique and the range of his strokeplay that he predicted that his ward would become the next Donald Bradman. The Englishman knew what he was talking about, for he had bowled to the Don in the summer of 1930, when the Australian scored 974 runs in the four Tests he played.

The young Nawab went on to Oxford, where he hit a hundred against Cambridge, and two hundreds against an exceptionally strong Yorkshire side which included three Test bowlers. With four matches left to play in the summer of 1961, he was 92 runs short of his father’s record for most runs in a season for Oxford, when he met with a road accident, and lost the use of an eye.

Pataudi learnt how to bat afresh, and fought his way into the Indian Test team. Asked when he thought he could conquer his handicap, he answered: “When I saw the England bowling.” A year after making his international debut, he became the youngest ever Test captain. That was merely one of many records that he, a man who did not otherwise care for personal achievement, was to set.

Pataudi was the only man to score Test hundreds with the use of one eye. He was one of 10 sons to emulate their father in scoring a Test hundred ‘ but the only one to do so while playing for another country. Pataudi was the first Indian captain to win a Test series abroad (in New Zealand in 1967-68).

These records testify to Pataudi’s cricketing prowess. But he also holds a more curious distinction. To my knowledge, there are only three people who have played Test cricket under two different names. Two were converts: thus Yousuf Youhana became Mohammed Yusuf after embracing Islam, while Amritsar Gurugobind Kripal Singh was known as Arnold George Kripal Singh after marrying a Christian girl and accepting her faith. Pataudi’s own change of name had to do with the march of history. When, in 1970, the Government of India abolished princely titles and privy purses, the captain of India, henceforth known in the scorebook as “Nawab of Pataudi, junior”, became, simply, “M.A.K. Pataudi”.

Beyond the personal records ‘ curious or substantial ‘ Tiger Pataudi shall be remembered for two large contributions to Indian cricket. Apart from his batsmanship, he was a top-class fielder. Old-timers in the Sussex town of Hove still remember an impromptu competition, called when rain had stopped play, between Tiger and the great South African cover point Colin Bland. The two men, in turns, were given balls to chase and hurl back at a single wicket behind which stood a journeyman in gloves. The Indian matched the Springbok both in fleetness of foot and in the accuracy of his arm.

As captain of India, Pataudi set high standards in the field. He had a special eye for younger cricketers who matched him in that department. Eknath Solkar, Syed Abid Ali and Srinivas Venkatraghavan were three great fielders who made their Test debuts under him. Pataudi was the first Indian captain to emphasise the importance of fielding, throwing, and catching. And he was the first Indian captain to be completely non-parochial. He worked heroically to challenge the sectarian tendencies that then beset the game in this country ‘ with selectors promoting players from their own state, and even senior players doing likewise.

Pataudi himself encouraged talented youngsters regardless of class, caste, religion, or linguistic group. Among his proteges were the aforementioned Solkar ‘ the son of a groundsman in Bombay ‘ two lower-middle-class boys from Karnataka (G.R. Viswanath and B.S. Chandrasekhar), and the Sikh slow bowler Bishan Singh Bedi.

Pataudi was the son of a nawab whose mother had married into the most famous Muslim family in north India. His own wife was a celebrated, and high-born, film star. Despite a background steeped in ‘ and consolidated by ‘ privilege, he played always for the team. In 1971 Pataudi lost his place in the Indian Test side as both captain and player. He fought his way back, returning eighteen months later to play under the captaincy of the plebeian Ajit Wadekar.

He gave nothing less than his best, as in a match-winning innings in the Madras Test, where his sweeps and cuts were a simultaneous affirmation of his team spirit and his continuing scepticism about the quality of the England bowling. Pataudi’s love of cricket contrasted sharply with the love of self-promotion that marks some of his contemporaries.

During the telecast of the ceremonies at the conclusion of the last Test series in England tells me that after giving away the trophy that bears his family’s name, Pataudi began speaking, in his characteristically polite and euphemistic way, of the fact that a good Test team required a robust domestic first-class competition. The Indian television commentators, sensing a challenge to their own complicity in the destruction of the Ranji Trophy, steered the conversation into safer channels.

When he had two eyes, Tiger Pataudi bid fair to become the next Bradman; with only one he was capable of scoring runs against the best attacks. And whether playing with one eye or two, he remains one of the finest fielders to wear Indian colours.

What kind of sportsman was M.A.K. Pataudi? That question can best be answered by setting him alongside his contemporaries. Think then of a player who was as charismatic as Salim Durani, as brave as Mohinder Amarnath, as independent-minded as Bishan Singh Bedi, and as affable in personal demeanour as G.R. Viswanath.

That man was Tiger Pataudi.

(This is an excerpt of an article by Ramachandra Guha in The Telegraph. )