Will Gautam Gambhir make team India fans laugh like Laughing Buddhas?

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This week we look at some of the most important happenings including Russia-India bonhomie, the Left’s emergence in European elections, Gautam Gambhir’s elevation as Team India coach and the Hawk Tuah Girl Phenomenon.

1) From Russia With Love

India and Russia go way back, a love relationship forged and fused by Raj Kapoor, in which the two nations seemingly have each other’s backs in a constantly-changing global world order, irrespective of how much the WENA (Western Europe and Northern America) folks want New Delhi to stop hugging St Petersburg.

This was evident during PM Modi’s recent trip to Russia, where he was conferred the Order of St Andrew the Apostle, Russia’s highest civilian order. PM Modi also described Russia as “an all-weather friend” and secured a promise to facilitate the return of all Indians “working” in the Russian Army.

The Tiger-Bear bonhomie was at its peak, and the only thing missing was Mithun disco-dancing during the trip. Of course, Modi hugging Putin led to a lot of caterwauling by American think-tankers who conveniently forget that no other country has hobnobbed with dictators of various vintages – from Idi Amin to Adolf Hitler – as they were reminded on X by a host of Indian social media users.

Source: Meme created using ImgFlip

The Weekly Vine Quip: Asking how America can be friends with India because of its relationship with Russia (or imaginary gunmen running askew in foreign lands) is like asking how Lord Voldemort can be friends with Neville Longbottom. There’s one country that has always aggressively pursued its self-interest ahead of the rules-based-liberal world order, and its capital is not New Delhi.

2) Left is Right

Two recent electoral results in Europe have pointed to a re-emergence of the Left. Funnily enough, both snap elections were called for by premiers who knew their time was running out and tried to pull a rabbit out of the hat.  In England, Keir Starmer’s Labour romped home with 412 seats out of 680. However, Starmer’s party has seen a drop in votes from Muslim-majority areas, mostly because he refused to wade into the Israel-Palestine conflict. This led to questions if Labour is alienating one of its bigger vote blocs. Starmer was asked about it recently and skilfully dodged the question, not unlike a shoulder drop to send the defender the wrong way.

Meanwhile, across the English Channel, after two rounds of voting, the New Popular Front (NFP) – a coalition of parties ranging from leftists to socialists to ecologists – ended up with the most seats (182 out of the 577). Macron’s centrist Ensemble alliance ended with 163, while Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally won 143. What happens now is anybody’s guess since these three parties have no history of working with each other.

While Macron will continue as President (France has separate elections for head of state), Gabriel Attal of Macron’s party has been asked to stay in a caretaker capacity. The rest of the cabinet will also continue, as a piecemeal arrangement, and there’s no deadline for nominating a Prime Minister. There’s also no option for another snap poll before June 2025, which means that French lawmakers are free to do what is considered France’s national pastime: sit around, ponder existentialism, drink wine, and discuss literature.

(Source: Existential Comics)

The Weekly Vine Quip: While election results say that the Left has emerged victorious in England and France, many in England will wonder if in Starmer they have finally found their own version of Macron: a centrist who just happens to be in the Labour party.

3) Laughing Buddha or Gautam Gambhir?  

In one of the greatest cult classics of all time, Ajnabee, starring Lord Bobby Deol and Akshay Kumar, there’s a scene where the former finds out that the latter’s password is Everything is Planned, a commentary on the karmic nature of the universe unfolding to its own tune. It certainly seems like that after Gautam Gambhir’s elevation as head coach of the Indian cricket team.

A lot of watchers of cricket and politics – to be fair in India, almost everyone is virtually a cricket watcher – felt that it was inevitable that Gambhir would become the Indian cricket team’s next head coach the moment he announced his decision not to run for the 2024 Lok Sabha Election from his Delhi constituency. Moving from Rahul Dravid to Gautam Gambhir is like moving from a wall to a frying pan, and it will be interesting to see how the fiery Gambhir will deal with Indian cricket’s constellation of stars.

Of course, it’s important to remember that Gambhir’s credentials as a player and coach are superlative. As a player, he played pivotal knocks in two of India’s World Cup final wins, held his own while batting with Virender Sehwag in Tests, and helped KKR to three IPL titles (two as a player and one as a coach).

As Gambhir’s KKR comrade and friend Shah Rukh Khan had memorably said in Om Shanti Om: “Picture abhi baaki hai mere dost.”

(Source: Gautam Gambhir’s image from SRH X handle and Laughing Buddha image generated by ChatGPT Open AI)

The Weekly Vine Quip: Gautam Gambhir’s bonafides are impeccable and only time will tell whether he will be a Roy Keane or a Sir Alex Ferguson. If he does manage to forge a bond among the team’s stalwarts, there’s no reason why Gautam Gambhir can’t be the reason for Indian cricket fans to turn into Laughing Buddhas.

4) Kalki Ka-Ching  

Recently, yours truly – who understands English, Bengali, and Hindi – was stuck in a Telugu showing of Kalki 2989AD without subtitles. It was like hanging out with the in-laws (one is married into a Telugu household), and a Telugu-speaking audience certainly loves its cinema. The Prabhas and Amitabh-starrer brings many of the things we have come to expect from Telugu cinema: huge action shots; inside Bahubali jokes about Rajamouli taking away too many years from Prabhas’s life; a bunch of stellar character actors who seem to be there in every hit Telugu movie with Brahmi leading the pack; and elaborate build-ups that keep the audience waiting for more.

At the time of writing, the most expensive Indian movie ever made (Rs 600 crore) is on its way to cross the Rs 1000-crore mark globally, and the Kalki Cinematic Universe might as well give the Marvel one a run for its money.

The Weekly Vine Quip: Cinema is a visual medium that transcends space-time-linguistic barriers, and Kalki 2898AD’s superlative success shows that Telugu cinema stalwarts have figured out the fine art of cinematic storytelling to transform into box-office success. Despite borrowing from a host of popular sci-fi and superhero movies and the greatest story ever told, the movie never feels unoriginal and leaves the audience wanting more.

5) Hawk Tuah World

One was recently aghast to learn when a senior journalist who covers foreign policy and international relations didn’t know who the Hawk Tuah Girl is. Such startling ignorance cannot be abided by, so here’s a small primer on the internet’s favourite sensation.

21-year-old Hailey Welch, a Tennessee local, while in an inebriated state that clearly allows access to higher mental faculties, explained the key to happiness in a marriage to a bunch of YouTubers. Since then, she has joined a country star in a concert, got a Hollywood management firm and legal representation, garnered millions of eyeballs, sold thousands of dollars of Hawk Tuah merchandise, and hung out with Shaquille O’Neal.

(Source: The Hawk Tuah Girl, meme created using ImgFlip)

The Weekly Vine Quip: The Hawk Tuah Girl’s resounding virality reminds one of the epochal lines from Rudyard Kipling’s If: “If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch, yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.”

That’s all for this week, folks. See you next Wednesday, and don’t forget to sign up on LinkedIn.



Views expressed above are the author’s own.


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