Archive for June, 2009

Who killed MJ? Those who’re killing Rakhi Sawant

30 June 2009

Rakhi

S.R. RAMAKRISHNA writes from Bangalore: Who killed Michael Jackson?

No, definitely not his doctors. Nor his rivals. Nor the sharks to whom he reportedly owed money. It is unlikely any of them would have wanted him dead that badly.

Michael Jackson began as a heart-wrenchingly sweet singer. Looking at his innocent early pictures, you wouldn’t imagine he would grow into the freak that many thought he became in his later life.

MJ’s music was nervous, frenzied, jumpy. It was almost atonal, and you won’t find much in his oeuvre that you could call mellifluous. His music and dance went together.

One didn’t mean a great deal without the other.

mikol jksoncThe beats, many of which he mouthed out before his musicians put them down on paper and played them, are cut, broken, hyperactive. This may sound blasphemous, but like Pandit Kumar Gandharva, who sang in short bursts to make up for a single lung, MJ created an art he and only he could perform.

It couldn’t get more idiosyncratic, more individual. MJ created his art from his neurotic twitches.

What happened in his early days—his troubled childhood when his father took up with his third woman, and his youth as a member of the family band, when he had to share a motel room with older brothers making out with groupies—wrenched him painfully out of his innocence.

His love life was doomed.

He came to be accused of child abuse.

He lived in hell, and his art could never be respectable.

It was street-like, it was exaggerated, it was fascinating.

All of this must have made him king of pop. Perhaps pop, when it needs to be as successful as it was with MJ, needs freaks. The largest selling artiste in history was also the unhappiest. He didn’t like his looks, he didn’t like his colour, and he tried to change all that with the help of modern medicine.

As the police are now telling us, he had nothing but pills in his body when he died. No food. Just medicine. That’s a stark metaphor for his broken world.

MJ made a fortune out of being neurotic, and the pop world fuelled his success and made its own fortune out of him. It takes a smalltown Rakhi Sawant, dreaming of taking on the suave, English-educated stars of Bollywood, to create a freak who sells.

She is today’s freak, checking out her grooms on television, creating hysteria for the moment when she ties the knot, and raking in some millions in the process. Who knows what emotional misery awaits her and the boy she weds on prime time TV?

So who killed MJ?

Could it be those merciless accomplices, pop and commerce?

S.R. Ramakrishna is the resident of MiD-Day, Bangalore, where this piece first appeared

Photo montage: courtesy Ashish Bagchi

Illustration: courtesy Jairaj T.G.

Also read: Michael Jackson‘s oh-so-slight Mysore connection

Sometimes you are up, sometimes you are down

29 June 2009

KPN photo

Five months and two days ago, B.S. Yediyurappa was flaming mad when somebody pulled the chair from behind him at a press conference addressed by BJP president Rajnath Singh in Bangalore, landing him on his back when he sat down in the full glare of the cameras, still and video.

On Monday, the Karnataka chief minister was all smiles reliving the frozen memory at an exhibition organised by the Photojournalists’ Association of Bangalore at the Chitrakala Parishat. To Yediyurappa’s right is K. Gopinathan, the chief photographer of The Hindu, who captured the frame.

***

The B.S. Yediyurappa photo portfolio

Is it an idol? Is it a statue? Is it a mannequin?

One leg in the chair, two eyes on the chair

Yedi, steady, go: all the gods must be crazy

Kissa Karnataka chief minister’s kursi ka: Part IV

Why did the chief minister cross the road divider?

CHURUMURI POLL: A Bharat Ratna for PVN?

29 June 2009

Pamulaparthi Venkata Narasimha Rao is one of the forgotten heroes of Indian politics. He had very nearly retired from active politics and returned to his home-state, Andhra Pradesh, when Rajiv Gandhi succumbed to the suicide bombers in Sriperumbudur during the course of the 1991 election campaign. PVN re-entered the “cesspool” to become India’s first prime minister from the South, eventually becoming the first from outside the Gandhi-Nehru clan to complete a full five-year term despite leading a minority government.

The slow, soft, measured “Chanakya” quietly ushered breathtaking economic reforms through Manmohan Singh that, at first,  rescued an almost bankrupt nation from collapse and then set it on the path of high growth, while beginning the dismantling the licence-quota-permit raj. Yet, it would be fair to say PVN, who presided over the demolition of the Babri masjid in Ayodhya paving the way for the BJP-led government of Atal Behari Vajpayee, has not got his due, either as a  prime minister or as a visionary.

Corruption charges swirled around the scholarly Rao and his family in his later years. He could not get a decent funeral in Delhi. And even to this day, there is only grudging acknowledgement of PVN’s role in India’s contemporary politics. At Rao’s birth celebrations on June 20, Chiranjeevi, the film star-turned-politician, floated PVN’s name for the nation’s highest civilian honour, Bharat Ratna. Is it time for the nation to salute PVN’s role? Or has he already been consigned to the dustbin of history?

Also read: If all PMs are Bharat Ratnas, why are we like this?

CHURUMURI POLL: Anybody for the Bharat Ratna?

The Bharat Ratna adorns a gem from Gadag

CAMPAIGN:  A Bharat Ratna for Dr Raj Kumar?

The difference between spiritualism & journalism

29 June 2009

RamakrishnarrShooting the messenger is the world’s favourite hobby. So, the media is roundly berated by media consumers as the harbinger of bad news. Media personnel have been termed by critics as the “nattering nabobs of negativism“.

We suck the warm, positive air out of this wonderful world the rest of humankind inhabits. We separate the wheat from the chaff, and print the chaff. We lead if it bleeds. We make up, steal, distort, spin, sin. Etcetera.

Well….

Well, it turns out, the criticism is not just not new but a lousy cliche.

At a seminar on the “Significance of Spiritual Journalism”, held under the auspices of Viveka Prabha, the monthly magazine published by the Sri Ramakrishna Mission, Mysore, the president of the mission in Cuddapah, Swami Atmavidanandaji, showed just why.

Reports Star of Mysore:

“Scribes tend to underplay the truth and highlight the negative aspects of the news to gain popularity. That creates a false picture of any incident giving wrong information to the readers.

“Once Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa visited a friend’s house and he was asked to sit on a bench where there was a newspaper lying on it.

“Paramahamsa asked his disciple to remove the newspaper and clean that bench with holy Ganga water.

“Asked for the reason, Paramahamsa said that the newspaper carried only bad and negative news. Therefore, it was necessary to clean the bench and then only sit on it.”

After narrating the incident, Swami Atmavidanandaji, reports the paper, called upon the journalists to imbibe spiritualism in their approach and writings to come out with “true-to-life” news.

***

Now, how “true-to-life” could this anecdote be?

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa lived from 1836-1886. None of the pictures show him holding or reading a newspaper. How likely is it that in the home of a devotee at least 120 years ago, a friend would have subscribed to a newspaper? Even if he did, were newspapers already in the sordid business of distorting the truth and spreading negative news?

Were all Bengali and English newspapers indulging in scurrilous journalism back then? On every page, every day, everywhere? Or was there a specific story that day that the Swami was aware of? If it was the latter, wasn’t Paramahamsa guilty of branding all newspapers as bad and negative?

And what precisely is “bad”?

How did Paramahamsa know that the disciple had holy Ganga water at home to be produced at that very moment? How was he sure that its miraculous powers extended to wiping the sins committed by newspapers and journalists? Would it work only for all-seeing him, or for the disciple too?

And did he get the holy water and did it work?

Encyclopaedia Britannica reports that “it was about this time [1880s] that Calcutta newspapers and journal articles first referred to Ramakrishna as the Hindu saint or as the Paramahamsa.” Did Paramahamsa express his scepticism of these labels being given to him by “bad and negative” newspapers?

All these are silly, trivial questions, of course, but that is the essence of journalism, asking silly questions and putting “the truth” to the test. As the old saying goes: there is nothing called a silly question, only silly answers. And “Spiritual Journalism” by its very definition is an oxymoron; either it can be spiritual or it can be journalism. One is based on faith, the other on facts.

In other words, where specifically has this wondrous story of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa on newspapers been recorded and reported? And by which journalist, writer, biographer?

Tell us another, O Spiritual One, and stick to the facts.

Or shift to journalism.

People, not the press, are the real Fourth Estate

28 June 2009

The press in India, like the press elsewhere, holds on to the belief that it is the Fourth Estate of democracy, after the legislature, the executive and the judiciary, although the press in India, as much as the press elsewhere, finds its institutional and individual integrity increasingly under question.

In an article on the Open Page of The HinduRadheer Mahendrakar uses the results of the recent general elections to argue that the people are the real Fourth Estate, acting as a more effective countervailing force than the press, especially when they perceive a threat to democracy.

Mahendrakar says the collective wisdom of the people—the “miracle of aggregation“—showed up when Indira Gandhi clamped the Emergency, when V.P. Singh indulged in social re-engineering, when the BJP made religion an electoral platform through Hindutva, and when regionalism threatened to get ahead of nationalism.

“For generations, we have accepted the ‘press’ as a vital element of democracy….

“In politics, it is fair to say that the Indian voter is the Fourth Estate representing a counterbalance to the political parties of different ideologies—the left, right and centre. Time and again, the Indian voter has drawn the contours of do and don’ts in politics and chastened the parties when our democracy showed signs of dilution.”

Implicit in the point is the suggestion that a profit-hungry media in its quest for eyeballs and bottomlines, has forgotten, abandoned or is ignoring some of its fundamental duties. In other words, despite the press, the people as a group seem to be able to reach a decision that is very likely the correct decision.

Read the full article: How the miracle of aggregation works

Eyes are not just about the sight, it’s the vision

27 June 2009

KPN photo

In their symmetry and synchronisation, visually challenged dancers showed they were no worse than their differently abled brethren in Bangalore on Saturday. The event was Helen Keller‘s Day, where 55 NGOs came under the banner of RVM to show their skills.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Michael Jackson’s oh-so-slight Mysore connection

27 June 2009

Michael Jackson‘s impact on the Indian mind can be seen in the dance competitions on TV every night, where young and not-so-young Indians, male and female, flaunt the results of the rediscovery of their bodies, bumping, grinding and holding their crotches, with fathers, mothers and others applauding happily.

If anybody came close to meeting The Man before the phenomenon, it was Prabhudeva, son of the South Indian choreographer, Mugur Sundaram, whose family has built a marriage hall in Visveswaranagar in Mysore to reaffirm their links to their City of origin.

Prabhudeva met MJ on his only visit to Bombay in 1996, thanks to Anupam Kher. Not surprisingly, the theme of the meeting of the lord and awestruck devotee was silence.

“People repeatedly ask me, “What did Michael Jackson say to you?” “What did you say to him?” All I remember is that I was struck speechless, but that face-to-face encounter, however brief, sent a thrill down my spine, a rendezvous accomplished almost as if I’d completed a long-planned pilgrimage.”

In the video, above, from the Tamil movie Kaadhalan which also launched him as a movie star, Prabhudeva moonwalks to the strains of A.R. Rehman, Suresh Peters and the late Shahul Hameed, for a couple of seconds in Mysore (1:45). The film, directed by Shankar of Sivaji fame, had busty Naghma as the female attraction, with Girish Karnad playing her corrupt and cruel governor-father.

Boys will be boys, MPLADS will be MPLADS

27 June 2009

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: The Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) is a very popular scheme among all MPs irrespective of the party or caste they belong to.

Under the scheme introduced by the P.V. Narasimha Rao government in 1993, each MP has Rs 2 crore per annum at his disposal, to spend on projects in his or constituency. The money is not directly given to the MP, but routed through the deputy comissioner or district collector.

Naturally lads will be lads, and MP lads being more so, they happily squander the pocket money the way they want and routinely end up short. Result: there is now a proposal to hike the MPLADS allocation to Rs 5 crore per annum.

There is a ministry of statistics and programme implementation which keeps tabs on the activities of MPLADS and how the money doled out by the government is used, abused or misused.

I had a chance to meet the Programme Implementation Group (PIG) chief who was quite earnest to talk on the subject.

“I am glad there is at least one organisation to keep a check on the drain of funds from MP quarters.”

“MPLADS has many subsets not many are aware of. There is a Members of Parliament Kickback India Development scheme (MPKIDS). Here the junior MPs, basically kids, are initiated by seniors as to how the system works. It is here they take up projects such as construction of bus stand, drinking water taps  in slum areas, autorickshaw stand etc. Poor MPs have to give massive kickbacks to contractors to get the projects going,” elaborated the PIG head.

“No doubt it’s heart rending to see MPs go through such hardship,” I empathised.

“Another subset of MPLADS is Member of Parliament Fabrication, Underutilization and Nexus Development (MPFUND). Here the money involved is much more as there is a lot of fabrication involved in material or books. Underutilization is a must here and this is where politics and business meet, what we call Nexus Development. MPFUND needs money anywhere from Rs 5 crore to Rs 100 crore to see some real development. Right now they will make do with Rs 5 crore. But I am sure the finance department and PMO’s office will see the plight of MPs and double the amount every year so that there is a comfortable operating level of at least Rs 100 crore for each MP.”

“I am so happy for the info. Is there any other info you would like to share?”

“For smaller projects they use terms such as MPSYPHONS or MPJUICERS but these are for projects less than Rs one crore which they get as routine.”

“One last question, Sir. How do MPs get such huge amounts of money at such short notice in the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha?” I asked.

“We call this MPQUICKFIX. We are not sure how this works. But we should be able to solve this by the time they are ready to table currency bundles next time,” concluded the PIG head.

Nangada loha purusha ittandu ulla kupyachaale

26 June 2009

KPN photo

Electionallu chotitayithu ikka Lalchand Kishinchand Advani kodagara nalla kularlu aaramalu injithu ikka Siddapura pakkathulla Orange Countylu photo edupuchittandu undu.

Pata: Karnataka Pata Suddi

Idina kooda noti: ‘BJP chopaku karana Advaniye’

Yuddha illethe ippaka kodavanga enthe maaduva?

12 things no one’s telling us about namma Nandu

26 June 2009

Nandan Nilekani‘s appointment as the head of the national ID card project has been greeted with the same seriousness that an appointment to the Vatican would have received. Sure, it’s an important assignment and all that, and it’s a relief to see a technocrat with $1.3 billion in his hip pocket handling it.

But all we have got from the morning’s papers are details anybody with a slow broadband connection could ferret out from Wikipedia. That, and senti-pap like “I feel it’s like a younger brother leaving home.” But Nandan is a more interesting chap than that, with a life, a sense of humour, and a Twitter account.

So, did you know…

***

bestbusbigONE: Nandan used to take a BEST bus from Santa Cruz, where he then lived, and come to Nariman Point where the offices of Bombay magazine were located to meet a young journalist called Rohini Soman, who worked in the magazine brought out by the India Today group. Ms Soman, who became Rohini Nilekani, later became the Bangalore correspondent of Sunday magazine under Vir Sanghvi. Rohini turns 50 on June 30.

TWO: Nandan’s elder brother by eight years, Vijay, is with the Nuclear Energy Institute in Washington, DC.

popeTHREE: Nandan is a top-quality quizzer. He was part of the IIT Bombay quiz team that came third in the 1979 Mood Indigo final. A competitor recalls him as being laidback and generous, unlike the IIT Kanpur team. However, neither IIT team could answer a question that was flung at them: “What is common to the first 35 Popes?” The correct answer came from a young boy from South Indian Education Society: “They were all saints.” The boy turns 51 on June 28.

FOUR: At Patni Computer Services, where Nandan and N.R. Narayana Murthy became colleagues and friends, Nandan’s salary was Rs 1,200, the same as his father Mohan Rao Nilekani earned then.

FIVE: Nandan is not an MBA. He believes that being general secretary of the IIT Bombay students’ union was more education than any B-school could give him. A key test of his man-management skills came in 1977 when a massive cyclone hit Andhra Pradesh when the leftwingers on the campus felt it was inhuman to splurge cash on the college festival Mood Indigo. Eventually, Nandan found a middle path. The festival was held, but money was also sent to the flood-affected.

jairamSIX: When Infosys went public in 1993, no one picked up the stock. Among the first people Nandan tried to sell the Infy stock before the Initial Public Offering was his IIT Bombay senior by one year, co-Kannadiga, and now Union minister, Jairam Ramesh.

India TodaySEVEN: In 2002, Nandan is famously rumoured to have provided the editorial inspiration for an India Today cover story that had nothing to do with Infosys or IT. Suffice it to say, neither the magazine’s current editor nor its then managing editor are likely to have sent him their best wishes on his latest appointment but Phaneesh Murthy is likely to have quietly chuckled.

EIGHT: Despite being born in Sirsi (Wikipedia) or Bangalore (his own blog), Nandan is a not natural with Kannada, and is routinely confused on when to use neevu and neenu. He once referred to Narayana Murthy’s wife Sudha Murthy as “avalannu“, till his secretary Malliga corrected him. Malliga, like Narayana Murthy’s Man Friday A.G. Panduranga alias Pandu, has been with Nandan for 20 years now.

deepika-padukone-kingfisher-calendarNINE: Deepika Padukone is apparently his niece, which should make Prakash Padukone a cousin, which should make Guru Dutt and Shyam Benegal part of the family. (If she is not his niece, bad luck; that should teach these stinking rich IT types that even $1.3 billion in the family kitty can’t buy you the right relatives.)

TEN: Nandan predicted the results of the 2008 assembly elections in Karnataka absolutely spot-on. In an SMS to a top TV honcho, he gave BJP 110 seats; the BJP got 110 seats. However, despite his prescience, Nandan could not predict ‘Operation Kamala’.

4_Gold_ring_22K_50712ELEVEN: Like so many others in the IT sector, Nandan is a devotee of the Sai Baba of Shirdi, and even wears a silver ring to boot.

TWELVE: Doesn’t mind talking about Vatal Nagaraj and his innovative ways of protests.

THIRTEEN: That he signs his bank cheques like these and they still honour it!

***

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Has Nandan trounced NRN?

‘Dear Nandan, quit Infosys, start a political party’

Nandan Nilekani: the 6 things that changed India

Nandan Nilekani: The five steps to success

Should Nandan quit the knowledge panel?

Just in case somebody fails to get the message

25 June 2009

Nela and jala, coffee and kids, Raj Kumar and Jaggesh, poverty and spirituality, state and nation… all colourfully comingle on an autorickshaw that also offers free service to pregnant women and half-rates to the handicapped, at K.R. Circle in Bangalore on Thursday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

CHURUMURI POLL: Has Nilekani trounced NRN?

25 June 2009

They both hail from Karnataka. They were both colleagues at Patni Computer Services. They are both co-founders of Infosys. Both are former chairmen of the iconic IT company. One is 62, the other is 54. One is a Padma Vibhushan, one is a Padma Bhushan. Both are routinely in the list of influential leaders, admired leaders, etc.

And let’s admit it, both are mighty ambitious with solutions for all the problems in the flat world. One headed the international airport project; the other headed the Bangalore Agenda Task Force. Yet, has Nandan Mohan Rao Nilekani stolen a decisive march over Nagavara Rama Rao Narayana Murthy in the “leadership race”?

First Nilekani earned greater exposure and accolades for his book Imagining India, than Murthy did for his collection of speeches, A better India, A better world. Now, after being mentioned as a possible candidate for the Planning Commission, Nilekani has been appointed head of a project to develop ID cards for all Indians.

Does Nilekani’s appointment to a Cabinet rank post give him a headstart over Murthy, whose hopes of becoming President of India were scuppered by the row over the rendition of the national anthem? Or will Murthy bounce back?

Also read: ‘Dear Nandan, quit Infosys, start a political party’

Nandan Nilekani: the 6 things that changed India

Nandan Nilekani: The five steps to success

Should Nandan quit knowledge panel?

The unsung heroes in the dreams of Bangaloreans

24 June 2009

KPN photo

Unknown and unacknowledged, soldiers from strange lands speaking strange tongues, toil away on the metro rail project on M.G. Road in Bangalore on Wednesday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

From Subramanya Folly to Subramanya Revenge

24 June 2009

The decision of the B.S. Yediyurappa government to transfer the commissioner of the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike, S. Subramanya, has set tongues wagging.

Was it because of his “inappropriate” advice to the parents of Abhishek, the boy who was washed away? Or, because he had filed a defamation case against the Lok Ayukta, N. Santosh Hegde?

Or, was there some other reason like you-know-what?

The move has divided the rulers and the ruled. Good riddance say some, bad politics say others.

***

By T.J.S. GEORGE

Don’t believe reports that our justly revered Subramanya is no longer the face, voice and soul of BBMP (Bada Bengaloorina Mukhya Pracharak). In the land where Indira was India, Subramanya is and shall always be BBMP.

Subramanya’s footprints cannot be erased, his legacy cannot be ignored.

For Bangaloreans, Subramanya is indestructible, imperishable, immortal.

True, Subramanya’s empire was not quite of Mughal proportions. But it did cover vast territories from Govindapura (which is somewhere in the Himalayas) all the way to Kengeri (somewhere near the Indian Ocean). Vast multitudes of people live in these territories. Among them there is not one man, one woman or one child whose life has not been touched and shaped by the genius of Subramanya.

Such has been the power of the Magic Boxes and the Tragic Hoaxes he invented.

A combined Akbarnama cum Babarnama will be required to record the major horizons he conquered during his short reign. Since no editor will allow the space required for such a compendium, let us confine ourselves to just one of his gifts to BB, the VIP road from Golf Club Circle to Mekhri Circle.

That short stretch of signal-free highway is a signal contribution by the visionary in Subramanya.

There used to be a police station at the Golf Club circle. In the lockup of this police station, a visiting lawyer was once beaten to death and his body dumped near the railway tracks. No doubt keeping that in mind, Subramanya had the police station demolished (yet another instance of the IAS correcting the wayward IPS).

Putting the opportunity to good use, another skill where the IAS excels, Subramanya also demolished the great-grandmother trees that had spread out majestically and made this area one of the coolest, most verdant spots in cool and verdant Bangalore. A great deal of fresh space was freed for traffic.

Of course there was no signal at the circle. There was no signal at the Windsor Manor Circle either. Between these circles Subramanya gave us a magnificent stretch of road making us feel like we were driving on the New Jersey Turnpike.

Unfortunately, at both ends of namma New Jersey Turnpike, traffic piled up in signal-free chaos. This was because of traffics unpatriotic habit of coming from different directions. The flow from one side has to stop for the flow from the other side to proceed.

How unreasonable!

This became quite a mess at the Windsor Manor circle. During rush hours, especially with KSRTC buses appropriating all the lanes, it was one big chaos. That is why citizens renamed the Windsor Manor Circle as Subramanya’s Folly. To enjoy it fully, go there in the evenings.

If you got past Subramanya’s Folly and thought that everything would now flow smoothly, you would have time to think again. For by the time you negotiate the Palace Guttahally Magic Hoax Flyover, you will resume your crawling pace, bumper to bumper. This is because the traffic has backed up from the Cauvery Circle a kilometre away.

Ah, the Cauvery Circle.

This is already in the Guinness Book as the world’s most stunning U-turn. You’ve got to see it to believe it. A straight road is suddenly made to turn left and then take a U-turn to reach the straight line again. What imagination! What originality! You should see the way the buses negotiate the U-turn and how all traffic pay homage to the planning genius as they move forward in slow motion.

Wonderstruck citizens have renamed the Cauvery Circle also. It is now known as Subramanya’s Revenge.

Look closely in the evening hours. You can see Subramanya on top of a flexboard hoarding, watching the tortuous muddle below and chuckling to himself about the unforgiving effectiveness of the punishment he has meted out to these goddamn Bangaloreans including meddlesome politicians and Lokayuktas.

The sheer genius behind the U-turn inventions has led to two marvelous developments.

First, Harvard Business School has taken it up as a case study. Second, the inventor is getting an international patent on the U-turn.

It does not matter where Subramanya is posted. Even if he is Secretary to the Department of Cockroaches, the twin glories of Subramanya’s Folly and Subramanya’s Revenge will keep him as the face, the voice and the soul of BBMP for ever.

Amen.

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

Not this or that, this and that is the real zeitgeist

24 June 2009

S.R. RAMAKRISHNA writes from Bangalore: Our education and what the elders call “values” are both based on what we revere as classical culture. But whether we like it or not, most of us are children of pop culture.

We are inundated by songs, ads, films, television, and newspapers and magazines, all of which pose a big challenge to what we have learnt at school.

Which is perhaps why we constantly swing between the classical and the popular, convinced that the two can never meet. The songs a majority of us hear and hum are those broadcast by FM radio (and not so much songs sung by Balamurali Krishna or Bhimsen Joshi), and the heroes we look up to hail more from the tinsel world than from the world of real-life achievers.

Our textbooks try to instill in us respect for saints, thinkers, freedom fighters, scientists and poets… but we’re happier idolising models, actors, reality show winners, rock stars, and business tycoons who may have taken short cuts to affluence.

If you work for the government, you will have pictures of Gandhi and Ambedkar at office, but at home, your pin-ups are likely to feature smarter-looking but infinitesimally less illustrious people.

But things may not be as watertight as we believe.

The classical and the pop co-exist in all of us.

Instead of generalising, let me speak for myself. I grew up listening to a bit of Carnatic classical music, thanks to my parents’ love of M.S. Subbulakshmi, and as I stepped into college, a cousin introduced me to the wonderful world of Hindustani music. But all along, I had also heard a lot of film music in Kannada, Hindi and Tamil.

I heard some pop… Abba, BoneyM, the Bee Gees and such other bands popular in the ‘80s.

While I did get to read some books described as classics, I also devoured less famous contemporary writing, pulp fiction, comics, and the glossies.

Which is why I am puzzled by people for whom it is one or the other, classical or popular. For me, it has been both, sometimes more of one than the other, but never just one.

Last week, some of us friends and hobbyist musicians tried a little experiment.  We took some Kannada poetry from the 12th century, set them to Indian-sounding tunes, and then put them in what you could loosely call a rock setting (guitars and drums). We presented nine vachanas at Kala Mandira, an art school in south Bangalore.

We had expected the small audience to be startled by the experiment, since vachanas are mystical poems usually sung in the south Indian and north Indian classical ragas.

A couple of well-known writers, such as G.K. Govinda Rao and “ShudraSrinivas, were upset, and recalled the beautiful melodies that Pandit Mallikarjun Mansur had composed for such poetry. They found us lacking in meditativeness.

Many others, such as the theatre scholar K. Marulasiddappa, sprang to our defence and said the vachanas could be sung in any way, as long as they were respectful of their spirit.

Ki Ram Nagaraj, the famous literary critic, said what we now assume as the vachana singing style was not more than seven or eight decades old, and it was possible the poetry had been adapted to extant styles through the centuries. And not all vachanas are meditative, he said.

Two things occurred to me.

One: Some were disappointed that they had found no raga-like contemplation in rock. In defence, we could say they were looking for contemplation in the wrong place… somewhat like rock fans faulting raga music for not being energetic enough for headbanging.

Two: We had blatantly poured out our classical and popular influences into our songs, but to some ears, they are best kept separate. But then again, vachanas encourage the lowest to sing; they protest against orthodoxy with folksy energy and irreverence.

Many of our tunes are folksy, so we could say immodestly that we may have got something right!

S.R. Ramakrishna is resident editor MiD DAY, Bangalore where an earlier version of this piece appeared

***

Listen to Supriya Raghunandan sing Vedava Nodidarenu

***

Also read: M.S. Subbulakshmi, R.K. Narayan and The Swamiji

‘Football is to cricket what Lata Mangeshkar was to MS’

Balamurali Krishna: If it sounds good to your ear, it’s Carnatic music

At last, finally, a sensible view on the state of music

Sitting down properly is rocket science, actually

23 June 2009

KPN photo

Former chairman of the Indian Space Research Organistion (ISRO), K. Kasturirangan (left), assists Karnataka governor Rameshwar Thakur to slip into the couch at the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bangalore on Tueday, as former Legislative Council chairman B.K. Chandrashekhar and at least three others lend a hand. The 82-year-old governor was at NIAS to attend a lecture.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

How Shahid Afridi knocked the hell out of Taliban

23 June 2009

Tunku Varadarajan writes on  Forbes.com that Pakistan’s emergence as champions of the Twenty20 World Cup, with three Pushtun players—-Younis Khan, Umer Gul and Shahid Afridi—at the wheel, have shown the Taliban that you don’t have to flog teenage girls to be a man; all you need to do is flog the ball to all parts of the ground.

“Cricket is a potent secular force in Pakistan, a secular lesson. It teaches people that man-made rules can be just, and give satisfaction. It teaches an honor unconnected to religiosity and modesty, tribal slights and vengeance. It teaches that exuberance can be constructive, and that individualism and innovation can be blessings (and, equally, that conservatism can often be dangerous). Cricket allows Pakistanis to play against men from other faiths and lands, and to belong with pride to a sporting commonwealth of cricket-playing nations that is a world away from the aridity of the ummah.”

Read the full article: Cricket vs the taliban

BJP defeat is a defeat of BJP brand of journalism

23 June 2009

PRITAM SENGUPTA in New Delhi and SHARANYA KANVILKAR in Bombay write: The stunning defeat of the BJP in the general elections has been dissected so many times and by so many since May 16 that there is little that has been left unsaid.

What has been left unsaid is how the BJP’s defeat also marks the comeuppance of a certain breed of journalists who had chucked all pretence to non-partisanship and made it their mission to tom-tom the party, in print and on air, for a decade and more.

The Congress and the Left parties have had more than their share of sympathetic “left-liberal” journalists, of course. And for longer. But most were closet supporters unwilling to cross the divide from journalism into politics, or unwilling to be seen to be doing so.

However, the rise of the “muscular” BJP saw the birth of a “muscular” breed of journalists who unabashedly batted for the party’s politics and policies—without revealing their allegiance while enjoying its fruits “lavishly“—in a manner that would have embarrassed even the official spokesmen of the “Hindu nationalist party”.

Little wonder, Arun Shourie, the granddad of journalists turned BJP politicians, alleged at the party’s national executive meeting that “the BJP was being run by six journalists.” There are different versions doing the rounds on who the “Gang of Six” were, but some names are no longer in the realm of speculation.

# Sudheendra Kulkarni an assistant editor at The Sunday Observer and executive editor at Blitz, rose to be a key aide to both prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and prime minister-in-waiting L.K. Advani, even drafting the latter’s controversial Jinnah speech.

# Chandan Mitra, an assistant editor at The Times of India, editor of The Sunday Observer, and executive editor of Hindustan Times, found himself “mysteriously becoming the proprietor of The Pioneer, without spending a rupee thanks to the generosity of the BJP and more particularly that of L.K. Advani“.

# Swapan Dasgupta, the scion of Calcutta Chemicals (which makes Margo soap), rose to be managing editor of the weekly newsmagazine India Today, before emerging the unofficial media pointsman of sorts for Arun Jaitley and through him for Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.

# Balbir K. Punj, the sugar correspondent of The Financial Express, who churned out masterly theses on conversions and other sundry diversions for Outlook magazine, was nominated to the upper house of Parliament by the BJP like Mitra.

# And then there’s a motley crew of fulltimers and freelancers, including India Today editor Prabhu Chawla, Pioneer associate editor Kanchan Gupta, who did a spell in Vajpayee’s PMO, and weighty political correspondents and editors of The Times of India, The Economic Times and Dainik Jagran.

“Journo Sena” was what the tribe came to be called, an allusion to the “Vanara Sena” (army of monkeys) that helped Lord Rama fight the armies of Ravana in Ramayana.

However, in the unravelling political epic, the “Journo Sena” stands trapped in the crossfire of a party struggling to come to grips with a gigantic electoral loss, firing wildly at each other—or are being fired at by the big guns.

***

First, Sudheendra Kulkarni’s “candid insider account” in Tehelka, a magazine whose website was hounded out of business by the Vajpayee government, came in for searing criticism from Anil Chawla, a classmate of his at IIT Bombay, for blaming the RSS for the BJP’s plight.

“The patient is being blamed for all that has gone wrong, without in any way blaming either the virus or the team of doctors who have brought the patient to the present critical state,” he wrote in a widely circulated “open letter”.

Kanchan Gupta, who many believe was eased out of Vajpayee’s PMO by Kulkarni, took a potshot at his erstwhile colleague.

“Kulkarni who undid the BJP’s election campaign in 2004 with the ‘India Shining’ slogan and fashioned the 2009 campaign which has taken the BJP to a low of barely-above-100 mark has written an article for Tehelka, the magazine which tarred the NDA government, causing it irreparable damage, and is now the favourite perch of those who inhabit the BJP’s inner courtyard, blaming all and sundry except those who are to blame,” Gupta wrote on rediff.com.

In a rejoinder in Tehelka, Swapan Dasgupta welcomed Sudheendra Kulkarni’s mea culpa calling it “a welcome addition to the ever-growing literature on the BJP’s 2009 election experience,” but couldn’t resist himself from sticking the knife in.

“Kulkarni has provided some interesting insights but has also cluttered the picture with red herrings. This isn’t surprising.

There are many in the BJP who insist that the problem with Advani was Kulkarni“.

When former external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha resigned from party posts, ostensibly miffed at the elevation of Arun Jaitley as leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha despite leading the party to defeat, Dasgupta rushed to Jaitley’s defence, wondering how the resignation letter had made its way to NDTV.

“TV editors I have spoken to have indicated that there were two parallel points of leak. The first was through an associate of Pramod Mahajan (who hates Jaitley) and the other was was the unlikely figure of a cerebral Rajya Sabha MP.

“I gather that the follow-up was done by a disagreeable journalist (one who signed the 20-points during the Emergency) whose nomination to the Rajya Sabha has been blocked by Jaitley on two separate occasions,” he wrote on his blog.

At the BJP’s national executive meeting, the “cerebral Rajya Sabha MP” Arun ShourieMagsaysay Award-winning former investigative journalist and author who became a minister in the Vajpayee government—”blamed six unnamed journalists who, he said, were responsible for articles damaging the [BJP] party interest.”

Whether the journalists were all members of the BJP or merely sympathetic to it, Shourie didn’t make clear.

In drawing attention to the journalists in specific, the former journalist may only have been indulging in the nation’s favourite sport of shooting the messenger but he was also underlining the role his compatriots were playing in the BJP’s affairs.

In his column in the media magazine Impact, Sandeep Bamzai writes:

“Arun Jaitley and his band of journalists-turned-politicocs misread the ground realities and the tea leaves completely. Buoyed by several wins in key States, this core team thought that the mood in the States would be mirrored at the Centre when the general hustings came along.

“Price spikes, terror threats and fulminations against a decent PM Manmohan Singh were the new imperatives crafted by Jaitley and his journo boys.

“The entire strategy fell flat on its face and all the journos who hogged prime time on new telly in the run up to the elections turned into disillusioned critics immediately after the results.”

In the India Today cover story on the BJP’s travails, Swapan Dasgupta’s former boss, Prabhu Chawla, seen to be close to incumbent BJP president Rajnath Singh, found fault with Singh’s bete noire Arun Jaitley for being spotted at Lord’s, applauding a boundary by Kevin Pietersen during the India-England Twenty20 match:

“Jaitley, a hardcore cricket buff, was in London with his family on holiday while his party back home was imploding, just like the Indian team.”

On a yahoogroup called “Hindu Thought”, the former Century Mills public relations officer turned columnist Arvind Lavakare, attacked Swapan Dasgupta, presumably for urging the BJP to junk the “ugly Hindu” image engendered by its commitment to Hindutva.

“After quitting a salaried job in a reputed English magazine a few years ago, Swapan’s livelihood may well be depending on his writings being published in a wide range of prosperous English newspapers which are anti-Hindu and therefore anti-BJP. If that is indeed so, Swapan simply cannot afford to project and push the Hindu line beyond the Laxman rekha. Poor dear,” wrote Lavakare.

The comment would perhaps have gone unnoticed, but Dasgupta gave it some oxygen by responding in kind in a post-script on his blog:

“I have no intention of affirming my credentials. To do so would be to dignify Lavakare’s personal attacks as a substitute for an informed debate on ideas.

“I merely hope that the attacks on where I write, who went to college with me and who are my friends are not in any way an expression of envy. It is a matter of satisfaction for me that I get a platform in the mass media (cutting across editorial positions).

“Engaging with the wider world is daunting but much more meaningful than gloating inside a sectarian ghetto. I strong recommend Lavakare also tries earning a livelihood out of writing for “a range of prosperous English newspapers”. It could be a humbling experience.”

Among the few journalists to have spotted the travails of the “Journo Sena”, or at least among the few to have had the courage of conviction to put it on paper, is Faraz Ahmed.

He writes in The Tribune, Chandigarh:

“When the BJP lost power in 2004, all the branded BJP editors—Kanchan, Swapan, A. Surya Prakash and Udayan Namboodri—were pensioned off to Chandan Mitra’s Pioneer. Today, however, each one of them is finding fault with Advani, the BJP and some even with the Sangh.

“These are ominous signs of the demise of a political party and reminds one of the slow and painful death of Janata Dal in the early ’90s when the ‘Dalam’ was dying and BJP was on the upswing and everyone was joining it or identifying with it because that was the most happening party.

“To be fair to these people who naturally represent the rising middle class, they waited patiently for five years in a hope that the UPA government would be a one-election wonder and would die a natural death in the next round. So much for their political understanding.”

Obviously, everybody loves a winning horse and doubtless the antics of the “Journo Sena” would have made for more pleasant viewing had the election verdict been the other way round.

Still, their antics in the aftermath of defeat raise some fundamental questions about their grand-standing in the run-up to the elections: Are all-seeing, all-knowing journalists cut out for politics? Do they have the thick skin, large stamina, and the diplomatic skills required for the rough and tumble?

From the embarrassment they have caused and are causing to their party of choice, it is clear that there is an element of truth to BJP president Rajnath Singh’s statement that he can “neither swallow nor spew out” the journalists.

Then again, L.K. Advani started his career as a journalist.

Also read: How come no one saw the worm turn?

The sad and pathetic decline of Arun Shourie

How Chandan Mitra has his halwa and hogs it too

Advani: Prime minister maybe, but not a good sub

A rose by any other name is still a thorny lotus

22 June 2009

unny

Was the verdict of Elections 2009 a verdict against Hindutva? Was the elections of 2009 a referendum on Hindutva? Is Hindutva a way of life as the Supreme Court averred? Or is Hindutva a bad word? Should the BJP dump Hindutva to become more acceptable to voters and allies? Will BJP become a “B” team of the Congress without Hindutva or a watered-down Hindutva? Is an “Inclusive Hindutva” a tacit admission of an exclusivist nature of Hindutva?

Cartoon: courtesy E.P. Unny in The Indian Express

Also read: ‘Only a  vertical split in the BJP can save BJP’

‘Only person to blame for BJP loss is L.K. Advani’

How the Congress family defeated Sangh Parivar

Is ‘Dilli door ast’ for non-Kannadiga IAS officers?

21 June 2009

M.K. VIDYARANYA writes from Bangalore: Is the “non-Karnataka” IAS officers’ lobby which is ruling the roost in the State, suddenly unhappy with the BJP government of B.S. Yediyurappa?

There is no firm way of knowing but the speculation in the corridors of power in Bangalore is that the “non-Karnataka” officers—officers hailing from outside the State but representing the Karnataka cadre—are miffed with the sudden move to post  former Union Minister V. Dhananjay Kumar as the State’s special representative in New Delhi.

The post, which serves as a liaison of sorts between Bangalore and Delhi, has traditionally been held by IAS officers. The current chief secretary Sudhakar Rao, Subir Hari Singh, Gautam Basu et al have all held the job in recent years.

When Yediyurappa came to power, he namd the former IPS officer Subhash Bharani, who had quit the service to join the BJP and fight the assembly elections. Bharani lost but was accommodated in Delhi till he was named chairman of the Karnataka silk industries corporation (KSIC).

But the appointment of Dhananjay Kumar, a senior BJP leader and former member of Parliament from Mangalore, as Bharani’s replacement has not gone down particularly well, it is said.

Reason: “non-Karnataka” officers,who have for long used the post of special representative to get back into circulation in Delhi and to get more plum postings by working their contacts, feel that the post is slipping away from their grasp with the appointment of a politician.

Gautam Basu, for example, last exactly four months as resident commissioner in Karnataka Bhavan before he moved over to the Union health ministry as joint secretary.

Dhananjay Kumar’s appointment has been facilitated by the simultaneous creation of a new post of additional special representative. The well-regarded Bykere Nagesh, who hails from Sakleshpur and has been working in Delhi for more than two decades, has been named additional special representative.

In theory, the IAS ensures an equitable mix of insider and outsider officers in each State. Half the vacancies go to officers who come from the State, and the other half to officers from other regions.

Among insiders, 33% are promoted from the State civil service. There are thus few home-cadre vacancies for the IAS officers directly recruited through the national examination, which is why most of them are posted to a State different from their native one.

However very few Kannadigas write the IAS examinations to be directly recruited, preferring more paying fields like information technology. The cadre is therefore stuffed full with “non-Karnataka” officers who prefer to use the “Delhi Route” to get out of the State after a few years.

There have been seven such instances since 1993, not counting the two IAS officers who took up the assignment in the specially created post of additional resident commissioner.

These frequent changes, State Government sources say, is a drain on the exchequer. Each time an IAS officer is shifted out of Karnataka to take up the resident commissioner’s post, the State shells out a huge amount, up to Rs 1 lakh, as transfer-related expenses.

While Basu lasted just four months, his predecessor stayed even less, 11 days. Brahm Dutt served probably the longest term, 16 months, before
joining the Ministry of Industries as a joint secretary.

The next IAS officer to travel to Delhi from Karnataka was Sudhakar Rao. After a brief one-and-a-half month stay at Karnataka Bhavan, Rao joined the power ministry. Rao left the ministry to serve as a minister looking after economic affairs in the Indian Embassy in Washington.

Dhirendra Singh fared marginally better by staying for a month more
before moving over to the cabinet secretariat as a joint secretary.

The next in line, Subir Hari Singh, served as resident commissioner for a year and then went over to the Department of Electronics. Anup Pujari took over from him , before relinquishing charge  to join Union Law Minister Ramakant Khalap as personal secretary way back in 1997.

Dhananjay Kumar’s appointment may not mean a full-stop to the dreams of “non-Karnataka” officers, but it certainly marks a semi-colon.

Don’t swamijis have a magic pill for Mysore’s ills?

21 June 2009

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Chief Ministers past and present, ministers and district in-charge ministers past and present, leaders of opposition past and present, MPs past and present, and leaders of all hues past, present and future visit Mysore at least once every two weeks.

They make a quick pilgrimage to the swamijis/ mutts of their choice; do a mandatory visit to Chamundi Hills, mouth some words of Mysore being a heritage city and dash off by road, rail or helicopter, only to repeat the exercise after couple of weeks with unfailing regularity.

No CM, no minister, no official seems to bother about the two major projects which should have been tackled nearly a decade back.

1. DOUBLING BANGALORE-MYSORE RAIL LINK

This, along with the electrification of the line would speed up travel between the cities, decongest Bangalore, make travel cheaper and safer for small businessmen and daily wage workers apart from reducing the traffic on Bangalore- Mysore  Road and helping reduce diesel consumption and concomitant pollution. It will also improve the lot of people in smaller towns like Mandya and Chennapatna.

So far, the efforts made by the plethora of leaders in Karnataka is, to say the least, laughable.

Every few weeks new “unforeseen” problems are brought up, with leaders making claims that it’s only a matter of time before work on the track takes off before stumbling upon the fact that the land is yet to be procured for the same!

The State has become a laughing stock just being unable to take precise simple steps and work towards completion in a professional manner.

2. COMPLETION OF THE RING ROAD

As always, this was also launched with lot of fanfare with views that Mysore should have gradually at least two to three ring roads. The simple matter is the project is left midway due to complications in land acquisition, court cases and what have you. There is (0) zero ring road right now!

No leader in Karnataka is bothered to do something about it.

Due to the lack of Ring Road, the traffic in Narasimharaja Boulevard along the road to Lalitha Mahal Palace has increased manifold.

The Mysore city corporation (MCC) and its contractors (engineering and political) have a quick-fix solution for this. Why not cut the 123 full blown trees of more than 50 to 70 years and widen the road to facilitate increased traffic!

The different species of trees provide an ecological balance for the entire stretch. That an effort could be made to preserve the priceless trees if only architects come up with an alternative plan is not even attempted.

Titans of yore of the likes of Sir Mirza Ismail and Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya must be itching in their graves to come out and show how it is to be done!

It is here one feels the lack of vision, foresight amongst the entire current batch of ‘Leaders’ wedded to the “development agenda”. Nobody, CM downwards, wants to take the time off from their spiritual quest in Mysore to tackle the problems of common man in Mysore.

If the cost of visits of all these leaders for discussions pre-Dasara and post-Dasara were added up, a couple of ring roads and another fresh rail line between Bangalore and Mysore could have easily been built!

When will leaders of Karnataka come together and work for projects which benefit the people of the State?

Is Yale turning India into a Dynastic Democracy?

20 June 2009

ASHVINI A. writes from Bangalore: Scanning the headlines on the Deccan Herald website on Friday afternoon, I came across a Press Trust of India (PTI) report about Indian parliamentarians attending classes at Yale University on global issues and leadership challenges.

My first reaction was “Wow, good idea, will open their minds.”

But it took just a few seconds for my initial enthusiasm to come crashing down. As I scrolled down the report, the choice of MPs selected for the programme intrigued me, and then began plainly irritating me.

Leader of the pack: Abhishek Manu Singhvi, son of L.M. Singhvi.

The other members of the squad:

# H.D. Kumaraswamy: son of former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda.

# Naresh Goyal: son of former prime minister I.K. Gujral.

# Jayant Chaudhary: son of Rashtriya Lok Dal leader, Ajit Singh.

# Shruti Choudhary: daughter of Haryana tourism minister Kiran Choudhary, and grand-daughter of Bansi Lal.

# Priya Dutt, daughter of late Sunil Dutt.

# Mohammad Hamdullah Sayeed, son of the former Union minister P.M. Sayeed.

# Anurag Singh, son of the Himachal Pradesh chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal.

# Mausam Noor: granddaughter of Congress leader A.B.A. Ghani Khan Choudhary.

In other words, eight of the ten members of the team (there is also Prakash Javadekar, who is just the son of his parents) are from political families. Sons, daughters, relatives of political leaders.

First, their family standing and surname helped most of them get tickets to contest the elections and enter Parliament. Now, they are getting preferential treatment for leadership courses!

Democracy zindabad!

In a house of 543 MPs, were there no other “young MPs” who were found worthy of being chosen for this high honour?

(For the record, the India-Yale Parliamentary Leadership program is aimed at “providing insight and perspective to young leaders by giving them the exposure of different fields and ideas.”)

Who selected the MPs?

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) or the Indo-US forum of parliamentarians? Does Yale know of the scam? Or is it a party to it?

How did H.D. Kumaraswamy get on the list? Did he serve as chief minister without these leadership skills? Or did his friend Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who headed FICCI till recently, swing it for him?

Off hand, I can think of at least three other MPs from Karnataka who have been elected on the strength of their own steam without any member of their family being in politics, who could have been on this trip: Dhruvanarayana (Chamrajanagar), Navin Kumar Kateel (Dakshina Kannada) and Janardhana Swamy (Chitradurga).

Looking at the number of “children” who were elected to the Lok Sabha, it seemed to me as if “We, the People” had internalised dynastic politics to the extent of becoming a Dynastic Democracy.

Looking at the Yale list, I am convinced.

Questions like whether leadership can be taught if not learnt in a classroom, and whether leadership for an Indian milieu can be taught by an Ivy League University, are evergreen.

But there are other questions bugging me:

# How is it that these “children” did not pick up leadership skills from their father, mother, uncles?

# Should a former chief minister like Kumaraswamy have been included in the list with first time MPs?

# Can an American university, howsoever great, really teach leadership for an Indian context?

# Are these first-time MPs in danger of being brainwashed and indoctrinated in the American way of thinking and learning?

# Should we not send delegations like these to places in India that are poor, disease-stricken so that they know the reality?

# Should not these MPs spend time with farmers, weavers, fishermen etc who face extreme hardships to make a simple livelihood and have little of no support from Goverment?

Going to Yale is good idea, but visiting different towns and villages at home in Bharat that is India will teach them more lasting lessons about leadership and challanges that an Yale can never teach.

Pretty soon, Parliament is going to take up the question of whether “foreign universities” should be allowed to set up shop in India. Is it reasonable to expect at least eight of the ten to have made up their minds?

***

Disagree with the choice of MPs?

Write to the president of Yale, Richard C. Levin.

Email: richard.levin@yale.edu

Phone: 203-432-2550

***

Also read: Graduates of Indian Universities need not apply

Do they teach this at Harvard Business School?

Why none of us saw Harbhajan slap Sreesanth

20 June 2009

Shekhar Gupta in The Indian Express:

“The BCCI has now come to acquire powers over media coverage on its own doings and performance that nobody in India has ever been able to arrogate to themselves, not under Mayawati, or Sanjay Gandhi during the Emergency. During the Emergency, the government censored our newspapers, it got some inconvenient editors fired, but it did not appoint its own employees as our editors.

“Look at what the BCCI has achieved. It has hired Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri, two of India’s most-loved former cricketers and commentators, on its own “commentary” team and irrespective of which channel wins the bid for covering cricket in India, it has to use these — in this case the BCCI’s — commentators. Incidentally, both are also members of the IPL governing council.

“In fairness, you have to state that almost all cricketing boards would insist on clearing the list of commentators on their sports channels. But I do not believe any carries its own hired, contract-bound voices to cover its own activities. To an old-fashioned media-person and a public commentator like this columnist, this is shocking, institutionalised censorship.

“You want to know how this censorship works? Find out why nobody ever saw any footage of Bhajji slapping Sreesanth in the last edition of the IPL. Because the BCCI had control over the Sony cameras and it seems the footage was destroyed. Would Sharad Pawar have managed to do it if an MP slapped another in Parliament?

“Cricket, even more than politics, is a game played in public, for the public; it’s not a private party, and nobody should have the power to censor it.”

Read the full article: Conflicts of cricket

A satirist takes on the star of the millennium

19 June 2009

jug-suraiya amitabh_bachchan jug-suraiya amitabh_bachchan

amitabh_bachchan jug-suraiya amitabh_bachchan jug-suraiya

The reverberations of Amitabh Bachchan‘s blog comments on the Academy Award-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire are now being felt in the “cesspool” of Indian journalism.

In his reaction to the movie, Bachchan wrote in January:

“If SM projects India as [a] third-world, dirty, underbelly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots, let it be known that a murky underbelly exists and thrives even in the most developed nations.”

That prompted a column in The Times of India by its in-house satirist Jug Suraiya on March 2.

Suraiya wrote that the reason people like Bachchan were angry with SM was not because it showed the world how pitifully poor India was, but because it revealed how culpable all of us were in the “continuance of poverty”.

“The real Slumdog divide is not between the haves and the have-nots; it’s between the hopers and the hope-nots: those who hope to cure the disease of poverty by first of all recognising its reality, and those who, dismissing it as a hopeless case, would bury it alive by pretending it didn’t exist.”

All very harmless, boilerplate stuff, but a month later, on April 3, Bachchan chose to respond to Suraiya with a long rejoinder that attacked the journalist.

I accuse the journalist Jug Suraiya of failing his professional ethical code of conduct by means of wilful error in the collection of facts…. He should be thoroughly ashamed of himself, not only as a professional journalist, but as a human being too. Mere opinion and ill-supported prejudice are contemptible in both species.

“My blog did not ‘spark off the current round of controversy on India’s poverty’… Nor am I ashamed of anything about my country. I may be highly critical in judgement, as any citizen of any nation should be, of the society to which I hold allegiance. In this light, I do not find that material poverty in India is ‘a terrible family secret’ as Jug Suraiya alleges.”

Now, Suraiya has hit back in the latest issue of Magna Carta, the in-house newsletter of the Magna group of publications, which had carried Bachchan’s rejoinder.

(Magna owns the movie magazine Stardust, which led a 15-year-long boycott of Bachchan at the prime of his career.)

In a letter addressed to the Magna group’s proprietor Nari Hira, Jug Suraiya writes:

“The newsletter said there was an ‘eerie silence’ from the press to Bachchan’s rejoinder. This is not quite true. The Guardian newspaper, which Bachchan had cited along with my column, has I am told done a detialed rejoinder to his rejoinder.

“In my case, I did not choose so much to maintain an ‘eerie silence’ as to exercise my option of fastidious disdain: I hold Bachchan beneath my contempt and shall not dignify him with an answer to his rantings (which, I am told, are written for him by an ex-journalist hack).”

Suraiya recounts meeting Bachchan years ago in Calcutta. He says he greatly enjoyed his performances and complimented him on them.

“Since then, of course, he has become an international celebrity who uses his iconic status to endose any and all products from gutka paan masala to cement, cars to suiting. There is a word for such indiscriminate commercial promiscuity. I leave it to you to figure out what it is.

“This together with his much-publicised ritualised religiosity makes him an object of scorn for me, all the more so in that he is, regettably, a role model for so many people of all ages, in India and elsewhere.”

Photograph: courtesy The Times of India

Also read: How Big B has pushed India to a regressive low

Before the slumdogs, the mahout millionaire

It takes all types to keep a City clean and green

19 June 2009

DSC03807

At the beautiful Gangothri Glades cricket stadium in the city that produced English language wordsmiths of the calibre of R.K. Narayan and R.K. Laxman, Raja Rao and U.R. Anantha Murthy, H.Y. Sharada Prasad and T.S. Satyan, a small epitaph to the gigantic ocean of learning, Manasagangothri, behind it.

Also read: So that your childrens doesn’t learn English

Arly to rice makes menu helthy, velthy and vice


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