Archive for March, 2006

Namaskara Hari

31 March 2006

What are advertisements and commercials? How authentic must they be? How seriously should they be taken? How much leeway do advertisers and their agencies have in conveying the message? These have long been important issues and they have been lobbed in the air once again by an 11-year-old boy who has threatened to sue a company for the harassment, he says, it has caused to him through its latest Television Commercial (TVC).

Worse things happen, of course, but the controversy is emblematic of how political correctness is killing humour in the country and a sign of the kind of country we are becoming.

The TVC in question involves the internet jobs company, www.naukri.com. It features an arrogant boss called “Hari Sadu”. Mr Sadu is one of his moods with his employees when he tries to make a restaurant booking. Unfortunately, the booking clerk cannot quite catch his name. So, an employee intervenes, and spells out Hari Sadu’s name, and helpfully adds, “H for Hitler, A for arrogant, R for rascal, I for idiot”. As ads go, this is harmless, funny, and effectively drives home the point that if employers don’t treat their underlings well, they can always go to naukri.com and look out for another job.

Far from it, says 11-year-old Hari Bhanot of Chandigarh. He claims that, thanks to the naukri.com commercial, his schoolmates are making fun of his name. So, 11-year-old Hari Bhanot, who clearly seems to be a precocious lawyer in the making, has sent a legal notice to naukri.com asking them to cease and desist. He not only wants the company to take off the commercials, but also wants what few 11-year-old boys have demanded: a compensation of Rs 10,000,000, or one crore rupees, from the company for damages caused to him and his reputation.

All this would have been laughable if it were not for the fact that a controversy of this nature shines a neat mirror on us. Our skins are getting mighty thin: we cannot recognize fact from fiction and we cannot take a joke. Worse, in a media era, we are becoming overeager to secure, by hook or crook, our 15 seconds of fame. It is not difficult to see where this “case” will end, but if everybody whose name is featured in an ad or in a movie or in a song or in a short story were to start suing, claim injury to image, how will ad agencies, movie makers, song and fiction writers convey their message?

When skeletons were falling left, right and centre from namma Lakshmipuram hudugi Jayalalithaa Jayaram’s cupboard, a school girl from Tamil Nadu of a similar name wrote to ‘Outlook’ magazine (www.outlookindia.com) about what this was doing to her image. Wonder why she didn’t sue the papers, magazines and TV channels for Rs one crore each? Because she would have been laughed out of court.

Freudian tip

31 March 2006

Returned by bus from Bangalore.

I am not kidding, but I actually saw a showroom called "Rakshitha Tyres" on the main road in Mandya.

If you have seen the daughter of B.C. Gowrishankar and Mamata Shankar you will realise why this should seem so funny.

Or, why she could have as well starred in 'Swantaragaali', as her arch rival Ramya puts it.

Or why she could be the "kg star".

Shed a tear for the good doctor

31 March 2006

Bumped into Balu this morning on the train to Bangalore for my weekly lecture at the Indian Institute of Journalism & New Media (www.iijnm.org).

Balu is actually Dr. (Flt. Lt.) M.A. Balasubramanya. He was my senior in Nirmala School, but his brother M.A. Kumar (who just spent his last day at CFTRI today and will join Infosys soon) and I were together.

Balu and some of his doctor-friends run the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (www.svym.net) that has given medicine a good name.

Anyway, that's not the story. The story is about who killed good doctors. As usual, I was openly gloating about how (most) doctors now have even less cred than journalists and lawyers, and Balu narrated a little incident.

He said a bunch of some 56 young doctors had gathered recently, and as naturally as night follows day, the talk eventually veered around to who or what had fetched their  brethren (and sistern) their current notoriety as rapacious money-minded bandicoots.

(Balu says 40 per cent of debts in India today are due to medical expenses.)

The assembled docs agreed that good doctors even in the past were well-off if not wealthy, but they all pined for the reputation and recognition that their earlier compatriots enjoyed despite the size of their wallets.

At which point, says Balu, the young doctors themselves kind of began to agree on what had gone wrong.

The previous generation of doctors had sought done their best at their jobs. That had fetched them a reputation. That reputation had fetched them recognition. And that recognition had fetched them renumeration.

Today's doctors, not all but most, had reversed the sequence. Which is why, things have come to such a pass.

Does any other cricketer in India…?

30 March 2006

Had gone to the Railway Station to see off wife on yet another of her incursions into India that was Bharat. 

Guess who was in the queue for the Shatabdi Express? 

Javagal Srinath is who.

Question: Has anybody caught any Test cricketer (not counting the one-Test wonders) standing in a railway queue?

As the title of Barry Norman’s memoirs goes, “And why not?”

‘Mavinakayi Chitranna’ in 5 easy steps

30 March 2006

For most people, obbattu marks the high point of Ugadi, but allow me to strike a seriously contrarian note: It’s the mavinakayi chitranna that really gives the Kannada New Year the eating edge.

I mean, you can pick up a packet of holige, and pretty decent holige at that, all year round from Nalpak or from Kamat Lokaruchi. But ever seen any restaurant in any city serve you good mavinakayi chitranna?

Tomato rice, our bhattaru are masters at, and masters they will be because the stuff is so darned cheap these days that the Corporation authorities are encouraging tomato farmers to crush them on the road so that the potholes remain hidden till monsoon.

Ditto, coconut rice.

But, this is the point, most of the “rice items” our restaurants serve these are characterless, assembly line productions, which any Ramya, Rita or Rehana can make.

Puliyogre, you can get any time because of MTR.

Likewise, BBB.

But mavinakayi chitranna is, as intellectuals like Prithvi would posit, is “predicated” on the availability of mavinakayi, and that my dears is thankfully not so across the country or across the year.

Id est, it is namma speciality, guru.

I was thinking about all this when young Nikhil called from Poona around noon to wish us HNY and all that. “What are you doing for habbada oota,” I asked, “has some Maharashtrian classmate invited you over for Gudi Padva?”

“Nope,” he said, “we are all outsiders here, etc.” (U.R. Ananthamurthy, please note)

So, I asked Nagu, who makes the most divine mavinakayi chitranna on the third rock from the sun, just what magic she worked on it.

Here is what she says she would recommend to feed three hungry stomachs, pining for a slice of home in lands, far and near.

Ingredients: Mukkaal paav rice (approximately 200 grams); one full green raw mango; half a coconut; 3 tea spoons of oil; 2 tea spoons of mustard; 1 tea spoon each of bengal gram, urad dal and methi; 2/3 tea spoons of ground nuts; 10 pieces of red chillies; 2 sticks of curry leaves; half a spoon of haldi; hing and salt to taste.

Method: 1) Cook the rice in a cooker and allow it to cool naturally by spreading it out on a plate. Once it has cooled, add salt and a spoon of oil to the rice. Forget about it for a while.

2) Grate the mango and the coconut, and grind it with one spoon of mustard and 8 red chillies. This is the chutney for the chitranna.

3) Now prepare the seasoning. Take two tea spoons of oil, and add mustard, urad dal, 2 red chillies, the groundnuts, hing and haldi. Add the seasoning to the rice.

4) To the empty baandli, now add one tea spoon of oil and fry the grated ‘chitranna’ chutney for 3 minutes. Pour this on the rice and kals it with your bare hands, repeat bare hands.

5) Dry roast the methi, crush it with a lattange, and sprinkle the powder on top of the chitranna before serving. 

Near Akshay Bhandar

30 March 2006

The Star of Mysore ad proclaiming the opening of a consumer electronics showoom “near Akshay Bhandar” is proof, if any proof were needed, that even if Wal-Mart were to open anywhere along the border of Saraswathipuram and Kuvempunagar, it would still have to declare its co-ordinates vis-a-vis Akshay Bhandar.

Why?

The original provision store, housed in a complex belonging to a brother of a former Mysore University vice-chancellor, has long since been dwarfed by bigger, better, swankier stores in and around the area.

The shop itself holds little magic for consumers any longer.

Still, Akshay Bhandar is on every bus conductor’s lip. It is the rendezvous for real estate agents to meet prospective clients. Every distance is measured from there.

Ditto Paparam House in Vontikoppal.

Ditto Ballal Circle in Krishnamurthypuram, although the eponmyous hotel has long since disappeared.

World Trade Centre, anybody?

Stepping into the New Year

30 March 2006

So you ate the ‘bevu-bella’ and the ‘obattu’ and are planning to hog bigtime when lunch is served, but is eating the only way to step into the New Year?

Just called KNSK in Bangalore to wish. He too was priming himself for lunch, of course, but I quite like what he and his brothers, and their wives and children, do every Ugadi.

They all religiously troop to the ‘samadhis’ of their forefathers on Mysore Road to remember and respect those who came before them.

Of course, it helps if you own a small portion of Bangalore, as KNSK & Co do, but their Ugadi gesture reminds me of Steve Waugh: ‘If you do not know where you came from, how will you know where to go?’

Is Holi more important than Ugadi?

30 March 2006

Why do Kannada newspapers like 'Vijaya Karnataka' deck up their front pages for 'Holi', with colours splashed all over?

And why is their Ugadi front page so tepid?

Gangavati Beechi

30 March 2006

Captain G.R. Gopinath’s slip of the tangoo (see Munde Magane below) brings to mind a lovely anecdote Gangavati Beechi, the Kannada humourist, narrates at humour meets to underline the extravagant use of swear words like ‘Soole Magane’ (son of a bitch) by Kannadigas in the northern part of the State.

Early one morning, a young boy arrives at the residence of a friend. The plan is to go jogging.

The friend’s mother is drawing the rangoli.

‘Aunty, aa soole maga yeddi-dana?’ he asks with remarkable sang-froid.

Why only Curzon Park?

30 March 2006

There is something decidedly heart-warming about the civic response to the controversy surrounding the “gift” of 10 ft of Curzon Park-III by the district in-charge minister. On the one hand, it is a pleasing sight to see Corporators cutting across party lines slamming the move. In the cynical world we inhabit, few expect today’s politicians to possess the ability to put the City’s interests above that of their own. That our Corporators have stood up for the Park is good augury, and the City would be grateful if they can do likewise, more often, on the issues confronting Mysore.

At the same time, it is an equally pleasing sight to see the officials of the MCC revealing, in their own sweet voices, the kind of political, bureaucratic, business and other vested interests that are holding this City hostage. According to them, the move to “gift” a portion of the park was done at the behest of an MLA who is reportedly building a hotel on Sri Harsha Road. The MLA brought pressure on the then MCC Commissioner, A.B. Ibrahim, who quietly acquiesced. Mr Ibrahim, who is still in the City, should now confirm or deny the veracity of this very serious charge.

Whether the MLA will declare the hotel among his assets in the election affidavit is a matter which keen observers of our democracy will hope to probe. But “We, the People” should not be fobbed off by this attempt to shift the blame. The question the Corporators and MCC must now answer is this: if they are so agitated over the attempt by the hoteliers to grab the park for parking space, then what were they doing when the hoteliers were flagrantly violating the Corporation’s rules which stipulate parking space to be provided in the basements of the establishments?

As is obvious, large business and residential complexes are violating this very basic rule that is so essential to preserving the open space and greenery that we have been blessed with. Having now belled the Curzon Park cats, the Corporators and Corporation officials, led by the Commissioner, need to tell us just where they stand on the other violators. Pouncing on the Sri Harsha Road violators while letting the others go scot-free will only result in the obvious conclusions being drawn, which is why an urgent MCC response on the issue is now called for.

The MCC needs to serve a stern deadline for property owners to open up their basements for parking of vehicles. Using the basements for running commercial enterprises, for installing generators, etc, will not do. These basements are meant for parking, and if the violators are in no mood to oblige, the MCC should crack down mercilessly. Only 10 ft is at stake at Curzon Park. Hundreds of thousands of square feet are at stake across the City. For the new Commissioner, this could be the first big step to preventing Mysore from going Bangalore’s way.

Who’s the penultimate?

30 March 2006

South India’s self-proclaimed ‘Largest Consumer Electronics and Durables Showroom’ is opening near Akshay Bhandar tomorrow.

The chief guest, let it recorded, is the movie star Deepak of Shishya fame.

Or, as a half-page advertisement in today’s Star of Mysore, says: ‘Ultimate Rising Star‘.

Munde Magane

30 March 2006

Tuesday’s convocation, the eleventh, of the Sri Dharmasthala Manjunatheshwara Institute of Management Development (SDM-IMD) in Mysore was remarkable for a delightful faux pas by the chief guest of the evening, Captain G.R. Gopinath.

In the presence of His Holiness, Veerendra Heggade, in the presence of the faculty, in the presence of the parents, and in the presence of the hundred-odd graduating students, the chief of Air Deccan uttered the M-word.

Munde-magane.

Transliterated, son of a widow.

“Lo, Srinivasa, munde-magane,” Captain Gopinath said, as the VIPs squirmed in palpable embarrassment and the audience which understood laughed and the audience which didn’t wondered what the fuss was all about.

The incident Captain Gopinath narrated, which produced the M-word, went back to his days as a farmer in Hassan district in the late 80s when he had retired from the armed forces, pooled in land from his family, and was thinking big.

Soon, his parents began pestering him to get married. A suitable girl was found.

When his pleas to scrap the wedding fell on deaf ears, Captain Gopinath says he invited the lady, her sister, and their mother to see the circumstances in which he was living then (in a tent) before they made up their mind.

On D-day, the “poor” farmer, i.e Gopinath, was lent a bullock cart by a neighbour to go and fetch the visitors. But, the wheel had not been fitted properly to the cart, seeing which the neighbour shouted to his servant, “Lo, Srinivasa, munde magane, are you planning to get them all killed?”

Captain Gopinath’s use of the M-word, although seemingly sexist, was remarkable because it brought some much-needed levity to the solemnity of the occasion. But it’s also interesting to see its easy acceptance as a part of the patois; as if by common consent no other word would have come close in conveying the spirit of the remonstration.

I asked VB, a well known social worker close to Veerendra Heggade, if SMD-IDM would conduct a homa to clear the air of the slur.

“Not here, but if it had been uttered in Udupi, maybe,” said VB.


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