Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Key to Sussex?

Two royals seeing eye to eye

by Niranjan Ramakrishnan

Shortly after news  of Pataudi's death, a friend of mine sent me the following one-line email:

Who was the other cricketer with one eye?........Ranjitsinhji.

I thought this didn't make any sense. I had read somewhere long ago how Ranji's cousin Duleepsinhji, on first going to England, was told by some doctor that he had a problem with his eyesight.  His house master dismissed any such notion saying that no relative of Ranji could possibly have anything wrong with his eyes.  Besides, I reasoned, it's one of those things you expect would be common knowledge if true.

Ranjit Singh
Then it occurred to me my friend might be joking.  He was talking, no doubt, about Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who did indeed have only one eye!  One of the Yehudi-Menuhin-is-a-violinist. Mahatma-Gandhi-is-a...non-violinist  variety, it seemed.

After dashing off a clever note to my friend saying I wasn't aware that Maharaja Ranjit Singh played cricket, something impelled me to read up on Ranji just to be sure. On Wikipedia at first glance, there was lots about his time in England, his cricket of course, and his disputes over the title to his principality of Nawanagar.  There was no prominent mention of any business of making do with one eye, etc.

As I read through the Wikipedia page, though, I found the following passage deep in its bowels:

"When the First World War began in August 1914, Ranjitsinhji declared that the resources of his state were available to Britain, including a house that he owned at Staines which was converted into a hospital. In November 1914, he left to serve at the Western Front, leaving Berthon as administrator.[note 9][209]  Ranjitsinhji was made an honorary major in the British Army, but as any serving Indian princes were not allowed near the fighting by the British because of the risk involved, he did not see active service. Ranjitsinhji went to France but the cold weather badly affected his health and he returned to England several times.[210] On 31 August 1915, he took part in a grouse shooting party on the Yorkshire Moors near Langdale End. While on foot, he was accidentally shot in the right eye by another member of the party. After travelling to Leeds via the railway at Scarborough, a specialist removed the badly damaged eye on 2 August."

Don't ask me how an eye damaged on 31 August needed removing on 2 August. I'm merely quoting Wikipedia verbatim.

This was long after his prime cricketing years. He had played his last test match in 1908, and seems to have last played serious county cricket in 1912. He played for Sussex, even captaining it briefly (as did Pataudi).

For all that it is my friend who will have the last laugh. Wikipedia again:

"Ranjitsinhji's last first-class cricket came in 1920; having lost an eye in a hunting accident, he played only three matches and found he could not focus on the ball properly. Possibly prompted by embarrassment at his performance, he later claimed his sole motivation for returning was to write a book about batting with one eye; such a book was never published.[166]"

Was there any famous cricketer (other than Pataudi) from India who played with a visual handicap? Well, you can bet your right eye on it.

Niranjan Ramakrishnan is a writer living in the USA. He can be reached at

Monday, September 19, 2011

Who controls your food supply?

The Food Bandits
"The number of hungry people has soared to nearly 1 billion, despite strong global harvests...Just four companies control at least three-quarters of international grain trade; and in the United States, by 2000, just ten corporations—with boards totaling only 138 people—had come to account for half of US food and beverage sales. Conditions for American farmworkers remain so horrific that seven Florida growers have been convicted of slavery involving more than 1,000 workers. Life expectancy of US farmworkers is forty-nine years."
Read full article... 

Nation Magazine's upcoming Oct 3 issue carries an anchor piece by Francis Lappe Moore (author of Diet for a Small Planet), along with replies by well-known experts on the topic of food security: Raj Patel, Vandana Shiva, Eric Schlosser, and Michael Pollan.

That this is a vital issue of both individual liberty and national sovereignty is without question. That it is discussed so little is a reflection on our myopia.

Raj Patel in his piece Why hunger is still with us says,
"[W]e’re growing more crops than ever before not for direct human consumption, or even animal feed, but as biofuels, to keep cars on the road. Already, more than a tenth of the world’s total coarse grain output is used for fuel, and the OECD predicts that within a decade a third of all sugar cane grown on earth will be used not for sweetening but for combustion."
  Eric Schlosser places the problem in larger context,
"The corporate monopolies and monopsonies, the contempt for labor unions, the capture of federal agencies, the corruption of elected officials, the lies routinely told to consumers, the disregard for the environment and for public health—none of these things are unique to the food industry. You will find them in the oil, chemical, media and financial industries, among many others. They have become commonplace in the US economy. They are signs of a much larger problem, of a society where a handful of corporations choose the lawmakers, dictate the laws, control production and distribution, widen the gulf between rich and poor."
And increasingly, one might add, none of these things are unique to the United States either. As Vandana Shiva says of the situation in India,
"But the biggest threat we face is the control of seed and food moving out of the hands of farmers and communities and into a few corporate hands. Monopoly control of cottonseed and the introduction of genetically engineered Bt cotton has already given rise to an epidemic of farmers’ suicides in India. A quarter-million farmers have taken their lives because of debt induced by the high costs of nonrenewable seed, which spins billions of dollars of royalty for firms like Monsanto."
Far more significant than who wins in 2012, don't you think?