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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 October 2005, 09:51 GMT 10:51 UK
Cricket, gigolos - but no snake charmers
Nick Bryant
By Nick Bryant
BBC News, Delhi

A diplomatic crisis in cricket, Delhi's "desperate aunties" and a head-scratcher over a symbol for India provide the BBC's South Asia correspondent with food for thought.


Pig-headed leaders. Intractable negotiating stances. Fierce national pride. Bruised egos. Backroom diplomacy. Angry demonstrations. Burned effigies. And, in the end, a fragile truce.

Indian cricket coach Greg Chappell with the captain Sourav Ganguly in Zimbabwe
A new soap opera staged for all to see - Indian cricket's face-off
The Indo-Pakistan peace talks have nothing on the row engulfing Indian cricket.

It's often said that cricket became so very popular in this Brahminical society because it is one of the few sports in which you do not have to touch either your team-mates or your opponents.

But the politics of Indian cricket is a full-on contact sport - one which combines the raw aggression of smashdown professional wrestling and the precision swordsmanship of fencing.

Fundamentally, the public spat between Greg Chappell, the bolshie Australian who now coaches the Indian team, and Sourav Ganguly, the equally bolshie Indian captain, involves a straightforward clash of personalities.

Perhaps the answer to this problem lies in that great modern-day Indian success story - outsourcing

But as many commentators have rightly pointed out, it also speaks of a clash of cultures: the amateurism, factionalism, and bureaucratic incompetence which has so often hamstrung the running of Indian cricket, with the professionalism required to compete on the world stage in the modern era.

The Indian cricket board has arrived at a quintessentially Indian form of conflict resolution. It has appointed a committee.

Perhaps the answer to this problem lies in that great modern-day Indian success story - outsourcing.

Combine the backroom brilliance of a company like Infosys with the on-field skills of Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, and the Indian team would surely become world-beaters.

Help is only a phone call away.


Cricket remains India's national obsession. But sex seems to be running it a close second.

In recent issues, the country's foremost news magazines, India Today and Outlook, have both published intensively-researched sex surveys.

The studies combine the country's new-found fascination with sex, and its long-time obsession with statistical analysis (another explanation, by the way, for India's fixation with cricket).

Did you know, for example, that almost half of the women in Mumbai (Bombay) would like to attend a male stripper show?

Or that one in 10 women in Delhi admit to having seen a pornographic film with their boss.

Indian models in a fashion show
News magazines say the Indian sexual revolution is in full swing
An accompanying article talks of the rise of the Indian gigolo - a favourite, we are reliably informed, with Delhi's very own Desperate Housewives, a demographic known her as "Delhi Aunties".

All this is proof positive, conclude these serious-minded news magazines, that India's much-vaunted sexual revolution is in full swing.

The letters pages in the follow-up issues are predictably vituperative.

"The latest issue of Outlook is nothing short of pornography," e-mails an angry reader.

"We would like to unsubscribe if this is to go on, since we have children and working staff at home."

Another reader writes that the rise of Indian gigolo speaks of a new breed of Indian "alpha women," with the economic wherewithal to break free of the "shackles of mundane relationships".

An elderly reader from Bangalore simply asks: "What is the going rate for a man like me - 75?"


'Why do you always show snake charmers in your reports from India on the BBC?"

On a recent flight from Mumbai to Delhi I found myself fielding that question, one which has dogged my predecessors for years.

(For one of them, Daniel Lak, a similar question - but substitute "bullock carts" for "snake charmers" - provided the inspiration for his recent book, Mantras of Change: Reporting India in a Time of Flux).

The question has become an occupational hazard.

Karsan Nath charms his black King Cobra
What's the defining image of India?
The truth is I have never included a snake-charmer in any of my reports. Nor did Daniel ever feature bullock carts.

But from 16 October our international TV network, BBC World, is running a series of reports as part of a special week of coverage of India week which has set us thinking: Is there an image which neatly encapsulates a country which has long defied neat encapsulation?

Many think that the face of the new India belongs to tennis sensation Sania Mirza, the country's hottest new celebrity.

Perhaps we saw the defining image on that trip to Mumbai, when we filmed a slum-dweller scavenging for scraps on a stinking rubbish heap just yards away from a shimmering, mirror glass office building.

Any suggestions on this front are all gratefully received - but no snake charmers - no bullock carts - and no Indian gigolos please.

Your comments:

The new face of the India should be the face of the 24/7/365 non-stop telemarketer sitting in the dusty and dark call center and trying to sell to the whole world.
ApnaBusiness, Dallas, USA

The Golden Temple in the morning and a misty morning in Punjab with children going to school.
Ranjeet, UK

It is how little children are walking to school and laughing, chatting and looking forward to the day. They are piled up in rickshaws, autos, scooters, all crowded but still looking comfortable.
Radhika Guruju, Phoenix, USA

A few years ago I had come across a picture of a donkey (not bullock!) cart that was transporting a satellite dish. That is the true image of India. Progressing by staying put.
Arti, London, UK

India is captured in its vast plains, the mammoth mountains, the free flowing rivers, its vast oceans & above all its beautifull creative people. All this can not be captured in a single snapshot & thats what differentiates India from the rest of the world.And if you still wish to capture India then maybe a picture of the globe shot from space would be fitting because India is but a snapshot of all the exists in the world.
Rohit Vashist, Bangalore India

The first thing that comes to my Mind when I think of India is a picture of a small child selling newspaper and groundnuts on a crowded road of Delhi and that is ,still, I think the symbol of India , no matter how modern and how westernised India has become.
Anisa Chaudhary, NJ, USA

I think a snapshot of young children from the major Indian faiths - Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Christianity, Jainism - playing together would encapsulate what India represents to me. A country striving for acceptance and integration of all its people.
Shobhit Arya, London, UK

For me one of the important themes that define India is the "General Compartment" as the unreserved coaches in Indian Railways are called. Any one can jump in, haggle with the incumbents for a slice of the sleeper, becomes an occupant and stubbornly refuse a place for new comers. That's the way the Aryans did it; the Moghuls did it; the British did it; now the Indians are doing it to themselves.
Natarajan Ramachandran, India/USA

I am waiting for the day when my India will give me a killer software application like Windows which will have the label "Made in India". This can be the only symbol of modern India.

Bathers on the banks of the Ganges at sunrise: the bathers represents the Indian soul, the sun rising signifies India's awakening to a modern world and become more globalised.
Mohan, USA

According to me the symbol for India should be a farmer ploughing his field because the roots of India are in villages only.
Smriti, Delhi, India

For me, a visionary leader like Gandhi is the real representation of India. For modern India the Taj is the icon.
Vinay, Bangalore

Being a predominantly Hindu country, Hindu temples on the outskirts of New Delhi or Vishnu Devi Temple in Jammu should encapsulate the new India. Despite its ongoing Westernisation it is the Hindu religion that is a symbol of toleration.
Rohit Prabhakar, Brussels, Belgium

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