Rishi Kapoor loves recalling how he felt like a prodigal son when he first visited the Johnnie Walker distillery in Scotland. The Scotch label, he remembers feeling at that time, owed his family at a least a square metre of land for the services it had rendered to it for three generations.The whisky-gargling generation of Bollywood heroes has made way for Bacardi-loving hunks. The three Khans of Mumbai’s dream factory – Aamir, Shah Rukh and Salman – are famous for their love for Bacardi and Coke, so is Sanjay Dutt, and fawning film journalists dine out on stories of how Salman and Sanjay just breeze through their parts even after a night dedicated to Cuba’s exiled rum.But if there’s a drink that’s synonymous with Hindi cinema, it’s VAT 69. Think of any villain of the yesteryear, from Ajit to Pran, and there’s bound to be the light green bottle of VAT 69 somewhere in the background of the frame.Maybe the satraps of Bollywood couldn’t bear to see their favourite Johnnie Walker Black being sullied by bad company.VAT 69′ s biggest Bollywood moment, however, was when a very drunk Shatrughan Sinha lipsynched Zindagi Imtihaan Leti Hai swigging from a bottle of VAT 69 in the Manmohan Desaiblockbuster Naseeb (1981).For reasons I haven’t been able to fathom, the whisky of the villains went out of favour in the retail market despite all the free publicity it got from Bollywood, but VAT 69 is being re-launched in a new bottle and will be available across the country for Rs 900 (its price point, clearly, makes it the poor cousin of the guy who keeps walking). VAT 69, incidentally, is owned by Diageo, whose topselling brand is Johnnie Walker.advertisementThe world of alcoholic beverages can be incestuous.Will Bollywood be drinking to its health? I doubt it. Bollywood’s new generation tends to swing between Bacardi and wine ( Winchester- educated Saif Ali Khan is said to be quite a wine connoisseur, for instance), but VAT 69′ s recurrence in popular culture doesn’t cease to surprise me.Sir Ernest Shackleton took a stock of VAT 69 with him on the 1914 Imperial Trans- Antarctic Expedition. Gregory Peck drank it in the 1949 World War II film, Twelve O’Clock High.It shows up frequently in James Hadley Chase novels, and in Fawlty Towers, and puts in a guest appearance in Raymond Chandler’s The Lady in the Lake . And in the film version of Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana, starring Alec Guinness, one of vacuum cleaner salesman James Wormwold’s agents is found killed with a bottle of VAT 69 in his hand.Even the high priestess of feminist literature Simone de Beauvoir had a thing for VAT 69. A character in one of her lesser- known novels, She Came to Stay (1943), makes this statement that’s often quoted in cocktail parties: ” When I’m rich and run my own house, I’ll always keep a bottle of VAT 69 in my cupboard.” That’s a line Diageo can filch for its promos. California Burger doesn’t sound any goodCan you imagine a Superbowl final without hot dogs or a Kentucky Derby sans a Mint Julep, or an English Premier League match without the lager fumes blowing across the stadium?Every big-ticket sports event becomes synonymous with a kind of food (or drink), so what is the signature offering of the Commonwealth Games going to be? We now know all about the kitchens that have magically become operational in the Games Village but what about the appetites of spectators?With Fast Trax, a lesser-known fast food chain backed by the Rs 1,000-crore meat processing company, Hind Group, getting the contract at the last minute – as we have come to expect by now – for catering to spectators and the media during the Games, it looks like the event will be remembered for the California Burger.I’m not being hyper-nationalistic, but shouldn’t thick chicken burger with mint yogurt sauce-in place of the traditional mayonnaise- been named after hamaari Dilli? I would’ve loved to dig into a New Delhi Burger, or Shera Tikki Wrap. And I would have wolfed down a Purani Dilli take on the vada pao with aloo tikki and chhole.Such finer details must have escaped Fast Trax – after all, it has had to plan in record for over 16 lakh meals that it estimates it’ll serve across 97 outlets at all the 12 stadiums during the Games. It promises to flip a burger in three seconds. I’ll be around to see if Fast Trax delivers on its promise.A little bit of trivia: Siraj Qureshi, who heads the Hind Group, is also the chief of the Indo- Islamic Cultural Centre, which has a fine restaurant that you enter, literally, through a back gate for a meal you would normally get only at Jama Masjid.advertisementBurger for veg buffs If you’re vegetarian and are tired of having the McAloo Tikki Burger, which insults both the aloo tikki and the burger, I strongly recommend Choko-la’s Lentil Burger. The name, let me forewarn you, can be misleading, for the burger patty does not have any daal. Instead, it’s made with kidney beans (rajmah) that are spiked with crushed walnuts and masala. It tastes different and its crunchy exterior quilts a melt-in-the-mouth core that entices you with its simple charm. I only wish chefs across the industry get innovative and make life peppier for the vegetarians.
Early in cricket’s never-ending and completely tiresome match-fixing scandal, sports writers with a sense of history turned their gaze to the infamous 1919 baseball rigging scandal in the US. That year the Chicago White Sox had lost the World Series to the underrated Cincinnati Reds and eight of its players,Early in cricket’s never-ending and completely tiresome match-fixing scandal, sports writers with a sense of history turned their gaze to the infamous 1919 baseball rigging scandal in the US. That year the Chicago White Sox had lost the World Series to the underrated Cincinnati Reds and eight of its players were disgraced and banned for life.The star batsman of the team, Joe Jackson-nicknamed “Shoeless” in a literal indication of the near-poverty that led him to temptation-is still seen in baseball annals as the great American fallen angel, the sort of anti-hero Kapil Dev or Mohammed Azharuddin would be if convicted.MD AZHARUDDINThe IT raid found * Evidence of three flats in Mumbai, undisclosed property in Hyderabad, lavish personal effects. The legal upshot The IT team has to go through Azhar’s returns for a decade to decide if he possesses black money. Only if so can the CBI ask if it’s a slush fund.Tortuous.KAPIL DEVThe IT raid found Five properties in Delhi, probable irregularities in coal business, “gifted” cars. Rs 5 lakh jewels in only one locker. The legal upshot Most Indian businessmen have a tax problem. So to try and link his wealth to fixing will require a process similar to Azhar’s. Section 420 looks some distance away.AJAY JADEJAThe IT raid foundThree properties in Delhi, suspicions of more. Name appeared in abookie-business partner’s records. The legal upshot That his nameappears in Hiren Hathi’s diary is not enough.The hawala case precedentis there. Besides knowing shady characters is per se not a crime.NAVJOT SIDHUThe IT raid found Unexplained property. A VDIS declaration of Rs 81 lakh.Plus “gifts” from admirers amounting to Rs 65 lakh. The legal upshotPrima facie the IT-CBI team may be able to ask some sticky questions tothis man. Nevertheless, it has to be proven that his donors were bookies bribing him.NIKHIL CHOPRAThe IT raid found Some inexplicable property papers and foreign exchange. His biggest”crime” seems being Mukesh Gupta’s neighbour. The legal upshot Like anumber of Delhi cricketers, seems to have, unwittingly or not, met a lot of bookies. But there is no direct link of “gift” leading tounderperformance. Can’t be held responsible for neighbours. That final point is crucial for the parallels between baseball’s year of darkness-it was the culmination of betting syndicates’ insidious influence on the game and actually led to a purge-and cricket’s moment of infamy are striking. The most marked similarity relates to the legality of the match-fixing case. When the baseball commissioner punished the guilty players, he did so “regardless of the verdict of juries” and on the day after they were acquitted by the court.advertisementThe reasons for their acquittal sound suspiciously familiar. Some players initially confessed and then retracted their confession. Important documents “disappeared” mid-trial. Nobody was sure precisely which law was infringed in fixing a baseball game. Defendants such as Jackson kept changing their minds, stating they had heard rumours of fixing, had refused offers, had accepted money without meaning to throw matches.Eight decades later Hansie Cronje read from an identical script. Eight decades later the CBI-despite the great drama of the Income-Tax (IT) Department’s “Operation Gentleman”-is on as sticky a legal wicket as the Ohio judicial system was in 1919. In sum, India’s premier investigators admit that nailing the cricketers on the charge of match fixing is well nigh impossible.That is why they are hoping that the trauma of an IT raid and interrogation and sheer public opprobrium will lead to some Indian cricketer cracking up and spilling the beans. After all, it was psychological pressure and that wily being called conscience that did in Cronje and his teammates.Yet, as a cynical Delhi lawyer who represents a senior cricket official snorts, “South Africa ke cricketer bewakoof hain. Hamare cricketer bewakoof nahin (The South African cricketers are fools. Our cricketers are not).” So expect nothing close to the truth-with oath, without oath, in spite of oath. The CBI’s last hope, then, is a slender one.That, however, is getting ahead of the story. For a start, top lawyers can’t even agree if a plain case of cheating under Section 420 can be registered against the cricketers for match-fixing and if so who the complainant should be.Mumbai lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani says, “Any paying spectator can complain that he was made to part with property (ticket fees) to see an unfair match.” While Section 420 is applicable and the matter could even go to court, Jethmalani, Azharuddin’s lawyer, says, “it will be virtually impossible to prove” and obtain a conviction.R.K. Anand, one of Delhi’s leading criminal lawyers, is simple in his verdict: “There is no case.” His logic is that under Section 420 “Whoever cheats and thereby dishonestly induces the person deceived to deliver any property to any person … shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to seven years”spectators cannot file a complaint because the cricketers have not “induced” them to pay to see the match. The only possible aggrieved party is the BCCI, which is committed to paying cricketers a set fee for an optimum performance. Even here, argues Anand, “building a case under section 420 is very far-fetched”.Ashok Arora, another lawyer in the capital, is far more optimistic. “A case under Section 420,” he says, “is absolutely on.” The spectator has paid to see a fair fixture and can be the complainant. “It is a cognisable offence and the police will be forced to investigate.” When it comes to securing a “guilty” verdict, however, Arora is less certain. While “tapes of conversations and the like are evidence on record and admissible if not doctored and so authenticated”, they need to be corroborated.advertisementArora should understand the importance of “corroborative evidence”, a phrase much used in the hawala case, in which he was a defending lawyer and which came back as a whipping memory when, after the IT raids, there was talk of “incriminating diaries”. Apparently, at the homes of certain bookies diaries and books were found with amounts marked against names of cricketers. Hiren Hathi of Ahmedabad, for instance, had-to quote a tax offi-ciala diary seized “with the names of Ajay Jadeja and Kapil Dev written against sums of money”.The chargesheet in the hawala case was filed in 1996 on exactly such a flimsy basis-entries in the diaries of the Jain brothers, showing sums of money against the names of politicians to whom they had allegedly been paid. The case was thrown out of court and the hawala accused walked out unblemished. Now legal circles are wondering if the cricket swindle will be hawala II.Anyhow, with hope in its heart and prayer on its lips, CBI is looking at three stages to a denouement-or mirage.Step I: First the agency has to establish that there are bookies who run a gambling grey market in India and accept bets on cricket. This is relatively simple. Some 100 bookies have been questioned by the CBI since the beginning of May-25-odd are still absconding.Most of the bookies questioned have admitted accepting cricket-related bets-the menu of betting options actually ranges from horse racing to speculation on who will read the evening news on television. Less than 20 bookies have admitted to “links” with cricketers. Eight Indian players figure prominently on this list, six are Delhi-based-including a former Indian captain who is a compulsive punter and even bets while teeing of f at the Delhi Golf Club-and the other two are from Mumbai and Hyderabad.Step II: This involves proving that cricketers were in touch with bookies on match days and kept tabs on odds. The CBI is tentatively optimistic here, particularly due to the mobile phone records of cricketers and big bookies. These indicate regular conversations between the Indian dressing room and the betting nodal rooms as it were.advertisementHowever, all this will lead to is a rough conclusion that Indian cricketers were perhaps punters and could be prosecuted under the Gambling Act (maximum punishment: Rs 500 fine). It will not establish rigging.Step III: The CBI could register a case against a bookie or a player under Section 420 after establishing a direct link between underperformance in a match and monetary consideration. This is where the danger gong is sounded. How do you make clear the channel by which bookies paid corrupt cricketers? Bank deposits? Hawala? Lifetime achievement awards from rich NRIs?Plaintiff’s PointDefendant’s CounterThe CBI’s possible case And the cricketers’ likely answerThey’re cheats: Register cases under Section 420, accusing fixers of cheating spectators of a fair game.Diary items: Names of cricketers have been found against sums of money in bookies’ diaries.Take a gamble: Charge cricketers under the Gambling Act by accusing them of links with bookies.Liar, liar: Invoke sections such as 191 and 193, charge cricketers with hiding or fabricating evidence.Tax evasion trick: The IT raids reveal huge assets, perhaps the result of ill-gotten, fixing-time gains.The King route: Set up a South Africa-type commission, appeal to cricketers to come clean.Who’ve we cheated?: Section 420 requires “inducement” of property (money) from victim. Sticky point.Remember hawala: The hawala case collapsed because diary entries alone were insufficient evidence.Damp squib: It still doesn’t prove match-fixing. Besides the Gambling Act entails only a Rs 500 fine.Truth or dare: Will only work if you prove they’ve lied under oath. Besides real fixers may still get away.Penalty corner: Charge the usual tax penalty and leave us alone. Every second Indian evades taxes anyway.Royal salute: Indian player-fixers are too shrewd to let a minor being like a conscience prick them. In Delhi, one cricketer was gifted a house worth Rs 50 lakh by a noted bookie. The many expensive gifts cricketers receive from overseas “fans” are sometimes used as a conduit to “pay cricketers for services rendered”. The point is: can you link these with the tanking of a specific match? Nishit Dhruva, senior advocate, Bombay High Court, says, “For the prosecution to prove the linkage will be very difficult.”The CBI certainly isn’t confident. As an officer says, even the IT raids haven’t really helped because a particular cricketer’s wealth will have to be correlated with a chosen bookie’s allegation of payment at a given time. Since bribes are rarely paid by crossed cheques that are instantly deposited, this logic has a snowball’s chance in hell of working.It is for reasons such as these that the CBI privately admits it is likely to end its investigations in a couple of months without filing a chargesheet and submit a report explaining its limitations to the Government-and cricket will presumably go back into its complacent slumber. No wonder Adhik Shirodkar, a top Mumbai lawyer, says, “This is no way to go about fixing the fixers. Even if you begin a criminal trial, it will take 10 years.”Shirodkar recommends a BCCI-imposed ban on grounds of “reasonable suspicion”. Arora has a slightly different strategy. If you analyse the secretly recorded Manoj Prabhakar tapes, he says, the testimony offered by some cricketers and officials before the Justice Y.V. Chandrachud Commission and then before the CBI and, should trial begin, before the court, you are likely to find “huge contradictions”.Obviously some people are saying one thing in private and another in public, to protect their friends in a conspiracy of silence, even if they themselves are not guilty. Arora proposes that they be charged under Sections 191 and 193 for giving false evidence and “sent to jail to put the fear of God into others”. Like a crafty bowler, cricket’s cleansing agents may have to resort to a legal googly. Bowling a tidy length doesn’t seem to be getting them anywhere.-with V. Shankar Aiyar in Mumbai