Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Free Time Of Our Leaders

I sometimes wonder if our desi politicians really have any work to do.

Last time when I visited Bangladesh, I was struck by the fact that common people simply seemed to have a lot of free time on their hands.

A fistfight erupts between two college kids outside New Market, a crowd gathers to watch the fight. A pickpocket is captured by someone, a mob gathers around to beat him up. An accident happens, and immediately a huge group of onlookers gather to peer at the wrangled mess of a rickshaw and a scooter. A poor, mad woman decided to climb up the electric pole, leading to thousands immediately gathering at the base to watch her get electrocuted/saved.

To the people in the crowd: don't you have any work?

I was in my uncle's car near Savar and the driver got into a narrow alley. Immediately one kid appeared from nowhere and appointed himself as traffic director, stopping rickshaws, directing pedestrians and making way for the car.

It's Friday, the imam says something to the crowd, and immediately 10,000 people gather for a protest, getting offended about something that affects them remotely at best.

Again, don't you have any work to do? Kids to pick up from school, dawats to attend to, groceries to buy, take the car for servicing? Despite one of the lowest GDPs in the world, with record unemployment and poverty, how do you have so much free time? I mean, people actually sit home and watch Test cricket for 5 days!

And if this is the common folk, what about our politicians?

Today, Bangladesh won in cricket, beating Sri Lanka by 4 wickets. And what did our politicians do?
Parliament unanimously passed a felicitation motion Wednesday congratulating Bangladesh cricket team for its first ever one-day victory against Sri Lanka in Bogra.

With all the problems facing the country (the Opposition boycotting parliament, India accusing Bangladesh of promoting illegal immigration, Farakka dam issue, CHT insurgency, bombs in Dhaka, US politicians accusing Bangladesh of terrorism, election laws reforms to be debated) this is what they do?

Congratulate the cricket team? Soon you will the PM Khaleda Zia calling them up personally and announcing cash and land prices for the team.

What about Pakistani leaders?

They are facing growing discontent in Baluchistan. Women in Pakistan are denied justice when raped. Thousands of people are still marching over cartoons (or are they). The US is letting off explosives inside Pakistan. The terrorists are using the border areas to fight Kabul.

And, as Zainub pointed out, what is Musharref upto these days?

Why, he attends cricket games (for full 8 hours), grabs the mike from an announcer and comments on the Indian wicket keeper's hairstyle.

Honestly, no wonder nothing gets done back in those countries. That the countries still function is a testament to the existence of Allah.



NAB said...

Hahahaaa...crowds gathering at the drop of a hat. I like your observation. Never really caught on to it myself. Very astute! :D

Em said...


For what it's worth, you're right in saying the parliament and the PM have more pressing issues to deal with. However, let's be honest: congratulate the cricket team or not, neither the PM nor the parliament would have utilized the time in dealing with the problems you've rightly raised.

My point? Ceteris paribus. Rather than simply vegetating on their fat cat pays that the taxpayers are furnishing to get Khaleda her collection of sarees, and our MPs their obnoxious cars, at least congratulating the team serves a purpose. You'll probably agree that most country heads personally congratulate their flag-bearing players (Richard Krajicek was KNIGHTED when he won Wimbledon). Granted, beating SL in a one-day isn't Wimbledon, but our team hasn't worked any less hard, and they deserve a nod from the country leaders.

Anonymous said...

haha...hilarious comment mez... soon u will see them taking up the role of commentators for the live cricket games... :) or maybe even start a betting-ring to see if their team would actually win...
(Its not like they do everything legal anyways...a little bit of illegal-ness isnt going to harm their reputation much)

- Behbood

Anonymous said...

apnar ki hingsha lage je oder onek free time ar apnar eto free time nai? lol

mezba said...

@Nowal: yup, that is one striking thing about Dhaka. Instant crowds. I stayed over at New Elephant Rd for my vacations, and crowds were never a problem!

@Em: I know what you are saying. Our cricketers do deserve applause. I would rather though our Parliament discussed those other important issues first, and left the applausing and congratulations to some special occassions. Also, if they have to discuss sports, they can discuss support structures, youth structure, lack of sports facilities in rural areas and so on. But T completely understand what you are saying. If anything fruitful is to come from this parliament ...

@Behbood: Our politicians are the ultimate Teflon-politicians, same faces year in and out, no matter what they do!

Anon: Ektu ektu to hingsha hoyei! :-)

Zainub said...

First of all, many congrats on the win against Sri Lanka, I managed to catch the last few overs of this match, roughly speaking from the point when Bangladesh needed about 20 odd runs to win, and I did not leave my living room until after I’d seen the winning runs hit. All of my household are obsessive compulsive B'desh fans (unless of course when Pakistan are playing you guys!), and we were all so pleased.

You know what, I've now actually witnessed each of B'desh historic triumphs live on telly personally (the 99 WC win vs. Pakistan, the win against Zimbabwe which gave you your first ever series win, the first ever win against India, the win against Australia during the Ashes summer and now the win against Sri Lanka too!). I must be a good omen! Shame I couldn't watch today's game, probably would have won that had I did! ;)

Now on to your post about politicians and cricket. Seem like you don't know the golden rule of bring a successful politician in the sub-continent, Mezba? This is all part of the great Micheilievan approach you see. All desi politicians love cricket, or they have to rather. Or else how would they divert the nation's attention from other pressing issues? How well they project an image of them being very generous and kind, and passionate and patriotic? How will the waste time then? How else will the waste our hard earned tax money then?

The Mushy-Dhoni incident wasn't isolated, as I said Mushy has a habit of turning up at least one game per season, and he also frequently throws around huge sums of money of as "special" prizes on to the players when we when win (you could approve of this if it was done to Pakistani footballers, who are hopelessly underpaid, but for cricketers it is a no brainer, it isn't like the PCB isn't paying them or that there is any shortage of money in the sport it self). The height of the madness came about last year, when we returned home after drawing the test series with India and wining the one-day series.

The government actually sponsored a day long celebratory rally, which was televised live on state television, plus a reception at the PM's, plus a live, congratulatory "show" (again state sponsored) that went on till about mid night (it showcased all the national cricketers, various ministers, the PM, the President, and a host of celebrities, all of whom come on a stage one by one and sang praises of the team).

And yes, believe it or not, Mushy is actually also the Patron in Chief of our cricket board, whatever qualifies him to be that, I will never know. Oh and yes, we even have senate standing committee on sports, whose ministers have nothing better to do then ask the head of various sports boards to submit the answers to their questions (one of which at one point was, "What are the reasons for Pakistan's defeat against India?") in writing. Can you imagine this happening any where else in the world? A government associated "inquiry" into why a national sports team just have to shake your head, and sigh. That's all you can do.