Archive for March, 2010

An ‘open’ letter from Nithyananda’s biographer

31 March 2010

A couple of friendly interviews with friendly interviewers, and a couple of boilerplate statements, emerged from the self-proclaimed paramahamsa, Swami Nithyananda, after his videos rocketed to the top of YouTube for not quite the reasons he would have liked, before his final lawyer-dictated confession announcing “retirement”.

But what of the disciples, who had pledged their lives (and families and careers) in his service? What do they think of their guru being caught in such a compromising position? How do they face the ignominy of betrayal by one who was supposed to show them the path to true bliss but was himself tripped on the way to a lesser one?

This letter, written by a Nithyananda’s biographer, who was part of the inner circle, to other disciples with the invitation that it be disseminated to a wider audience, captures a hitherto unseen side of the story.

***

Dear xxx

Nithyananda spoke to me some days after the March 2 exposure. He did not deny that what was portrayed in the so-called sex tapes was untrue.

He said he did not act out of lust and that he was passive.

He  likened himself to Shiva drinking the hala hala, destroying the collective unconscious through tantric practices.

He said that other masters have done similar things.

What had I done wrong, he asked?

He did ask me to convey this to devotees. He apologised profusely and asked me if I had questions. At least at this point he was honest. The ashram is still in denial mode.

I had no questions though.

I had no questions because by then I had completely disengaged from Nithyananda as a master. But, I had no anger, hatred or vengence against the person who till a few days ago I considered my master and for whom I would have given my life willingly had the need arisen.

I felt liberated when I discarded the mala, bracelet and pictures. What, then, changed?

***

The first qualification of a guru is satya, truth and honesty. I do not know about others, but Nithyananda had always told me and a close group in the early days how he was not a man or a woman, how he had no chakras below the anahata; how he was beyond sensory pleasures and that he was the quintessential brahmachari and sanyasi.

We believed him implicitly. I was 56 then, not a child. Of course, he also said at times that facts were not truth!

It turned out that he too was a man, given to sensory pleasures like the rest of us. Many of us put him on a pedestal and found him wanting. That was not his fault but ours. We were fools. But if he has indeed damaged the life of young men and women, then it is a different matter.

There is visual evidence that the sex acts were with sensory pleasure and with lust, evidence that these acts were not limited to Ranjitha alone but extending beyond to other men and women, and proof that ashramites/ brahmacharis/ brahmacharinis were expected to be part of tantric sex practises based on documents that they signed. These are facts and the truth shall sooner or later will come out, now that the CID chief has given his contact numbers inviting people to contact him.

Even with an ordinary man these would be serious charges meriting criminal investigation. In the case of a spiritual master these are unforgivable.

Someone [articulating similar views] has been accused of guru droha. Who is committing droha against whom? What is droha? Is not misleading thousands of innocent people seeking spiritual truth into a web of lies and sex not droha? Is responding to such immoral practises by disengaging from the so-called  guru droha?

Some people seem to have perverted ideas of right and wrong, and karma. Can’t we stop to think that it is existential justice that these lies were exposed before it was too late. The sapta rishis from tapovan were watching for sure, but not smiling. If that is not karma, I don’t know what is.

For those not knowledgable, do understand that tantra was never part of the sanyasic parampara. It was called the vama marga or the left-hand path followed by aghoris who were antisocial homophobes. It is a crime to term oneself as a sanyasi and brahmachari and indulge in such acts calling them conveniently tantric practices.

There are 64 tantras and only one is on sex.

Shiva taught 112 sutras and only six are on sex. Those six were meant for grihastas not brahmacharis, as Nithyananda himself told me. So, even if one had to practise tantra why focus on sex? Especially when one claims he is impotent.

The biggest droha was committed by asmad acharya to the guru parampara starting from Sadashiva to Shankara. To say that Shankara, Ramana, Ramakrishna and Vivekananda also indulged in such acts is the biggest droha against gurus.

Who is committing guru droha?

If you want to bury your head like an ostrich and call someone who has committed both guru droha and shishya droha as your master, the karma will affect you, not others.

For those who revel in experiences of the ‘non-normal reality ‘ kind, Osho says in his book, “Don’t be fooled by experiences. All experiences are tricks of the mind. All experiences are mere escapes.”

Since 50% of what Nithyananda spoke is from Osho, he will surely agree with these words. In any case let peace and bliss be upon the world.

Nithyananda certainly had siddhis. He could do many seemingly miraculous things. But, so can thousands of others with siddhis. It is now known that he spent four years till 2000 in the Ramakrishna Ashram and not in parivrajaka as claimed.

So, the so-called ‘enlightenment’ experience perhaps was a tantric initiation from the aghori babas. Certainly not one that would allow anyone to declare himself a paramahamsa and initiate unsuspecting innocents into sanyas and brahmacharya.

As his biographer, people have accused me of lying on all these facts including the birth-date. I have to accept those accusations as I was foolish to believe, as I was equally foolish to teach over a thousand people in turn to believe.

I grew up with masters with ashta maha siddhis far more powerful than Nithyananda exhibited. They were grahastas and never claimed enlightenment. In fact Nithyananda accepted my previous master as an ashta maha siddha saying that he wasn’t sure if he was enlightened.

What an irony that his own enlightenment was so shortlived!

Making others believe in one to be enlightened is one of the ashta maha siddhis, not a sign of enlightenment. An enlightened master like Ramana never cared!

For many of us, it is time to turn inwards rather than depend on another person to guide us. The one thing I shall be grateful to Nithyananda always would be for turning me towards the atma guru and away from the form. This made the disengagement easier.

I do not care for the experinces I had with him. The teachings in any case were from the scriptures.

One eminent inner-circle man had told me a year ago that I could not be depended on and that is why I was not an insider and not invited to inner-circle meetings. My honesty, in their mind my foolishness, was unacceptable to the inner circle. I was truly blessed by Existence in keeping me away from such corrupting influence.

All of us who have now disengaged and left Nithyananda and his mission did so because we are honest. It is enough that we had thus far believed foolishly. We do not wish to lie to others as many others are still doing. That to my mind is atma guru droha, the worst crime of all, which some are engaging in still.

If anyone in the ashram disputes any of these points, evidence is at hand.

Those who wish to, may circulate this to a wider audience.

Cheers

RRA

Also read: Another good swami in the service of mankind

When the mountains spoke silently down below

Wanted: a uniform civil code for man and godman

Just one question I’m dying to ask Nithyananda

The truth, according to little Nithyananda

More truth, according to little Nithyananda

Now a major video: My experiments with truth

‘Initiator’ Nithyananda seeks spiritual seclusion

Nithyananda spoke to me some days after the March 2 exposure. He did not deny that what was portrayed in the so called sex tapes was untrue. He said he did not act out of lust and that he was passive. He  likened himself to Shiva drinking the hala hala destroying the collective unconscious through tantric practices. He said that other masters have done similar things. What had i done wrong, he asked? He did ask me to convey this to devotees. He apologized profusely and asked me if i had questions. At least at this point he was honest. The ashram is still in denial mode. I had no questions though.

I had no questions because by then i had completely disengaged from nithyananda as a master. But, I had no anger, hatred or vengence against the person who till a few days ago i considered my master and for whom i would have given my life willingly had the need arisen. I felt liberated when i discarded the mala, bracelet and pictures. What then changed?

The first qualification of a guru is satya, truth and honesty. i do not know about others, but nithyananda had always told me and a close group in the early days how he was not a man or a woman, how he had no chakras below the anahata, how he was beyond sensory pleasures and that he was the quintessential brahmachari and sanyasi. We believed him implicitly. I was 56 then, not a child. Of course, he also said at times that facts were not truth!

It turned out that he too was a man, given to sensory pleasures like the rest of us. Many of us put him on a pedestel and found him wanting. That was not his fault but ours. We were fools. But if he has indeed damaged the life of young men and women, then it is a different matter.

There is visual evidence that the sex acts were with sensory pleasure and with lust, evidence that these acts were not limited to ranjitha  alone but extending beyond to other men and women, and proof that ashramites/ brahmacharis/ brahmacharinis were expected to be part of tantric sex practises based on documents that they signed. These are facts and the truth shall sooner or later will come out, now that the CID Chief has his given his contact numbers inviting people to contact him.

Even with an ordinary man these would be serious charges meriting criminal investigation. In the case of a spiritual master these are unforgivable.

Someone accused Veena of guru droha. Who is committing droha against whom? What is droha? Is not misleading thousands of innocent people seeking spiritual truth into a web of lies and sex not droha? is responding to such immoral practises by disengaging from the so called  ‘guru’ droha?

Some people seem to have perverted ideas of right and wrong and karma. Can’t we stop to think that it is Existential justice that these lies were exposed before it was too late. The sapta rishis from Tapovan were watching for sure, but not smiling. If that is not karma , i don’t know what is.

For those not knowledgable, do understand that tantra was never part of the sanyasic parampara. It was called the vama marga or the left hand path followed by aghoris who were antisocial homophobes. It is a crime to term oneself as a sanyasi and brahmachari and indulge in such acts calling them conveniently tantric practices. There are 64 tantras and only one is on sex. Shiva taught 112 sutras and only 6 are on sex. Those six were meant for grihastas not brahmacharis, as nithyannada himslef told me. So, even if one had to practise tantra why focus on sex? Especially when one claims he is impotent.

the biggest droha was committed by asmad acharya to the guru parampara starting from sadashiva to shankara.

To say that Shankara, Ramana, Ramakrishna and Vivekananda also indulged in such acts is the biggest droha against gurus. Who is committing guru droha? If you want to bury your head like an ostrich and call someone who has committed both guru droha and shishya droha as your master, the karma will affect you not others. Veena, Rahi and i have more respect for Existence than all Bidadi ashramites put together.

For those who revel in experinces of the ‘non normal reality ‘ kind, Osho says in his book Meditation, ‘Don’t be fooled by experinces. All experiences are tricks of the mind. All experinces are mere escapes.’ Since 50% of what Nithyananda spoke is from Osho, he will surely agree with these words. In any case let peace and bliss be upon the world.

Nithyananda certainly had siddhis. He could do many seemingly miraculous things. But, so can thousands of others with siddhis. It is now known that he spent 4 years till 2000 in the Ramakrishna Ashram and not in parivrajaka as claimed. So, the so called ‘enlightenment’ experince perhaps was a tantric initiation from the aghori babas. Certainly not one that would allow anyone to declare himself a paramahamsa and initiate unsuspecting innocents into sanyas and brahmacharya.

As his biographer, people have accused me of lying on all these facts including the birth date. I have to accept those accusations as i was foolish to believe, as i was equally foolish to teach over a thousand people in turn to believe.

I grew up with masters with ashta maha siddhis far more powerful than nithyananda exhibited. They were grahastas and never claimed enlightenment. In fact nithyananda accepted my previous master as an ashta maha siddha saying that he wasn’t sure if he was enlightened. What an irony that his own enlightenment was so shortlived! Making others believe in one to be enlightened is one of the ashta maha siddhis, not a sign of enlightenment. An enlightened master like Ramana never cared!

For many of us it is time to turn inwards rather than depend on another person to guide us. The one thing i shall be grateful to nithyananda always would be for turning me towards the atma guru and away from the form. This made the disengagement easier. i do not care for the experinces i had with him. The teachings in any case were from the scriptures.

One eminent inner circle man had told me a year ago that i could not be depended on and that is why i was not an insider and not invited to inner circle meetings. My honesty, in their mind my foolishness,  was unacceptable to the inner circle. I was truly blessed by Existence in keeping me away from such corrupting influence.

All of us who have now disengaged and left nithyananda and his mission did so because we are honest. It is enough that we had thus far believed foolishly. We do not wish to lie to others as many others are still doing.  That to my mind is atma guru droha, the worst crime of all, which some are engaging in still. I would have normally kept silent but was proked by unwise responses to Veena.

If anyone in the ashram disputes any of these points in the mail, evidence is at hand.

Those who wish to, may circulate this to a wider audinece.

cheers ram

Hopefully, the Cochin team will do the needful

31 March 2010

Kanishk Tharoor in The Guardian, London, on the preponderance, rather the monopoly of “white” cheer girls in the Indian Premier League:

“The choice made by IPL organisers in this regard suggests, first, the unsettling marketing conclusion that Indians really just want to see white skin. Second, and perhaps more troubling still, it suggests a quiet acquiescence to the view of the conservative elements of society that Indian women are somehow more sacred and less carnal than their western counterparts.

“Not for them the tight tops and bared thighs of IPL cheerleading. Just like the licentious foreign woman, the idea of the modest Indian woman is closer to fiction than truth. It is the kind of fantasy that animates attacks on girls who had the “audacity” to have a drink at a pub (as happend in Mangalore last year). It is an ideal that masks the sexual violence perpetrated against Indian women on a daily basis.”

Read the full article: Cheerleaders shame Indian cricket

Image: courtesy Satish Vijaykumar, via H. Natarajan

Since 1907, two world wars, 15 prime ministers…

31 March 2010

On the eve of the dawn of his 103rd year on this planet, Sri Shivakumara Swamiji of the Siddaganga Mutt in Tumkur, performs morning pooja on Wednesday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: What role should swamijis, religious gurus play?

Madi, the mutt head, and the hand that helped

Should swamijis travel abroad by air?

How religion met politics while you were asleep

What Congress can do, BJP can do even better

31 March 2010

Siddharth Varadarajan in The Hindu:

“The Delhi and Gujarat massacres are part of the same excavated site, an integral part of the archaeology of the Indian State. Eighteen years separate 2002 from 1984. Eighteen is normally the age a human being is considered to have become an adult. Inhumanity also seems to take 18 years to fully mature.

“In an act of conception which lasted four bloody days, something inhuman was spawned on the streets of Delhi in 1984; by 2002, it had fully matured.

“Paternity for the ‘riot system’ belongs to both the Congress and the BJP, even if the sangh parivar managed to improve upon the technologies of mass violence. Both knew how to mobilise mobs. Both knew how to get the police to turn the other way. Both knew how to fix criminal cases. Both knew what language to speak, even if one set of leaders spoke of a ‘big tree falling’ and the other paraphrased Newton. Both had the luxury of not being asked difficult questions by criminal investigators.

“Until now.”

Read the full article: Your riot was worse than mine

Bangalore boys get a thumbs up from global girls

31 March 2010

In an effort to spread cheer and happiness to far corners of the country in these bleak times, the Hindustan Times corners the cheer girls of the Indian Premier League for their considered opinion on crowds at IPL matches, on strict condition of anonymity, of course.

“The Mohali crowds get very crude and nasty. They look as if they’ll get violent,” said one of the girls from Johannesburg (she cannot be named as cheerleaders are not allowed to speak on such subjects to the media)

“Bangalore was their favourite city. ‘The people are good and the atmosphere is brilliant,’ said one of the girls.

“Their second favourite city is Mumbai (and no, they haven’t been hounded by Sena types). ‘We’ve had no problem there,’ the cheerleader said.”

Finally, how was Delhi? The Capital was dubbed “okay“.

Photograph: Saggere Radhakrishna/ Karnataka Photo News

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Ban IPL cheer girls?

Are Twenty20 cheer girls obscene?

The girls promise mischief. Are the boys upto it?

‘Initiator’ Nithyananda seeks spiritual seclusion

30 March 2010

The self-proclaimed paramahamsa, Swami Nithyananda, caught on video and in full colour with a Tamil actress recently, has released the following statement, announcing his “resignation”.

***

“Dear one and all

“In view of the developments in the last three weeks following the media reports on me as the head of Dhyanapeetam, I had met some of the leading acharyas of Hindu dharma at Hardwar.

“Briefing them about what is fact and what is fiction, and candidly discussing what had happened, I had sought their spiritual and moral support, guidance for me, and their views on the future course of Dhyanapeetam.

“I had also undertaken that I would act entirely in accordance with their counsel.

“I have decided to live a life of spiritual seclusion, for some indefinite time, to which the acharyas have agreed in principle.

“In view of this, and to enable the Dhyanapeetam to function with such amended agenda as may be necessary, I am resigning as the head of the Dhyanapeetam and from all the trusts associated with it. A board of trustees consisting from sadhakas of the Dhyanapeetam who are non-controversial, will henceforth manage the Dhyanapeetam.

“I have also requested the Acharyas to help the newly constituted trust reorient the activities of the Dhyanapeetam increasingly to undertake spiritually oriented service activities and to guide the trustees. I have also directed the new trustees of Dhyanapeetam to seek the counsel and go by the advice of the Acharyas.

“I sincerely thank all those who I had the good fortune of being associated with and guiding in the last decade and more. I request all of them to pursue the sadhana they had been initiated into, for, the sadhana is more important than the Initiator.

“The recent media reports do not in any way affect the validity or the success of one’s sadhana. Whenever, if required I will return and talk about all that had happened as an independent witness to my conduct with a clean heart and pure soul, and also in a less prejudiced atmosphere.

“I thank you all.

“Be blissful!”

***

Ashram insiders say the move is aimed at staving off class-action suits on foreign soil, especially the United States, where a bunch of complaints have also come to the fore.

As it is, Nithyananda had been unable to make much headway after the videos surfaced on March 2.

Despite the best efforts of self-appointed soldiers of Hinduism like Praveen Togadia and Pramod Mutalik seeing the controversy as an attempt to defame Hinduism, Nithyananda was unable to get the Karnataka high court to entertain his petition for anticipatory bail.

More recently, the Karnataka CID said “all those affected and victims of Nithyananda” were welcome to depose before it.

Also read: Another good swami in the service of mankind

When the mountains spoke silently down below

Wanted: a uniform civil code for man and godman

Just one question I’m dying to ask Nithyananda

The truth, according to little Nithyananda

More truth, according to little Nithyananda

Now a major video: My experiments with truth

External reading: Why I support Nithyananda while opposing fascist Indian media

Saturdays, girlfriends, popcorn & other memories

29 March 2010

An iconic movie house on an iconic road in Bangalore presents a picture-perfect view to passers-by at the front as machines rip through its innards at the rear.

Plaza Talkies being demolished for the Namma Metro project on M.G. Road in Bangalore on Monday. A metro terminal is slated to come up where the theatre now stands. Barely.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Every picture tells a tale. Babu’s can fill a tome.

Bhavya & Nikhila have plenty to smile. Do you?

28 March 2010

Firsttime voters Bhavya and Nikhila proudly show off the evidence of dipping their hands in the ink-pond of democracy at a polling booth in Malleshwaram in Bangalore on Sunday. The so-called knowledge capital of the country, allegedly swelling with literate, educated masses, again showed scant interest or involvement in the civic body elections with barely one in two casting their vote.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: An epitaph to the literate, educated middle-class

How BJP, Congress, JDS subvert our democracy

When Mother Nature wants to talk to Kuvempu

28 March 2010

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Does Mother Nature step in and take up the task of protecting her environs when human beings willfully start playing around with it?

I have been thinking about this after a two-metre-long crocodile emerged out of the Kukkarahalli Lake in Mysore on Thursday, shocking early morning strollers and joggers.

After the intervention of the vice-chancellor of the University of Mysore, in whose campus the lake lies, and the director of the zoo, the public were kept at a distance and the crocodile safely reentered the waters of the lake without causing any injury to or being harmed by onlookers.

Is this nature’s own self-protection mechanism at work, I wondered.

Reason: The artistes of the theatre repository, Rangayana, located in the vicinity of the lake, have been preparing to stage Kuvempu’s play Malenadina Madhumagalu, and part of the eight-hour, dusk-to-dawn play was to be enacted on temporary structures to be set up at three locations around the lake.

Sensing disturbance to the ecology at large, and to the flora and fauna—fish, crocodiles, birds, snakes, etc—several people had taken up this matter with the deputy commissioner of Mysore and the VC.

The varsity head who at first had refused to consider the Rangayana request had later acceded provided they followed some guidelines with respect to the safety of animals. The VC had also raised questions with regard to the safety of public who would come to watch the play at night in such surroundings.

As it always happens, when human beings dither, Mother Nature takes up the matter herself, and the crocodile’s appearance, to my mind, is a sure even if scientifically unprovable indication.

Before a crowd could collect and kill the animal (remember last year’s killing of a baby cheetah near Karanji Lake?), the VC alerted the zoo authorities and before any mishap could occur, the crocodile, having proved a point, just slid back to Kukkarahalli Lake.

Now forget the play, even the public will think twice before they jog/ walk around the lake, at least for the time being. Nature’s ways to save other species are really remarkable. If only man can imbibe a bit of that humility and not arrogantly intrude their space?

Photograph: courtesy M.A. Sriram/ The Hindu

Say it again: ‘I’m happy seeing my parents happy’

27 March 2010

The inclusion of Ranganath Vinay Kumar in the Indian squad for the Twenty20 World Cup is much deserved, statistically speaking. But it is also nothing short of seismic, sociologically speaking.

The man hails not from traditional urban cricket centres like Bangalore and Mysore, but the humbler cotton cocoon of Davanagere. It wasn’t on the lush green grounds of some international school that Vinay cut his cricketing teeth, but on the hard outfield of the Mothiveerappa high school grounds.

He wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth, with his mother dropping him off at a coaching class in a fancy car; the servant lugging the kit. Rather, like Vinod Kambli, he was born on the other side of the railway track; his father driving a hired autorickshaw to eke out a living for the family.

And unlike plenty of recent worthies who have been fast-tracked into India’s most coveted club, Vinay has had to strain every sinew in match after match, with bat and ball. There was no “godfather” holding a gun at the heads of the selectors. Despite the bucketful of wickets he had soaked up in the last three seasons, he wasn’t considered good enough for a BCCI contract by the worthies.

But, unlike the benne dose (butter dosa) that his hometown is famous for, all who know him and have dealt with him, have only one thing to say: Vinay is the Rahul Dravid of bowling: gutsy, hard working, tough as nails, never say die and streetsmart. The word impossible has been scratched out of his cricketing lexicon.

And, surely, anybody who remembers a dead coach on the biggest day of his life, has his heart in the right place?

Here’s how sections of the media covered the selection of a true son of the soil.

***

Cricinfo/ A break that was long overdue: “Vinay’s friend, Harshan, used to tell him, ‘If you get Sachin Tendulakar”s wicket, you will definitely play for India. Whoever has bowled him—S. Sreesanth, Piyush Chawla— has played for India.” Last year, in the IPL in South Africa, Vinay got Tendulkar with a beauty in Port Elizabeth. So Vinay called Harshan, and asked, ‘Okay maga [mate], I have got his wicket, now tell me, I’ll play for India or what?’ Harshan, like the selectors, had an excuse ready. ‘No, I told you to get him bowled.’

“In the third season of the IPL, at the Brabourne Stadium, Tendulkar was in much better form than he was in Port Elizabeth. He was moving across and playing unbelievable flick shots from in front of the stumps. Vinay, though, got one to nip in a touch extra, and hit the exposed leg stump. Harshan texted immediately, ‘Get ready to play for India.’ Six days later, when he was driving to another friend’s place, on a short break from continuous IPL matches, Vinay got the belated call-up.”

The Times of India/ Auto driver’s son rises: ” Having been let loose for a couple of days by the management of his IPL side, the Royal Challengers Bangalore, Vinay chose to go for a long drive in his Santro, mostly in a bid to escape the tension that has always enveloped him and his family whenever the national selectors meet. Had this scene taken place a few years before, he could well have been moving about in an autorickshaw, not the usual hired one but the one driven by his dad Ranganath to keep the family fire burning.”

Hindustan Times/ Happy to see my parents smile: “I had been expecting this for a while and every time I would be disappointed. My parents would ask me why I wasn’t getting selected despite good performances. Sometimes I would tell them that perhaps I wasn’t destined to play for the country…. Now I am happy seeing them happy.

Maybe God wanted me to work harder and longer…. We weren’t financially strong, and me being the eldest, it was my duty to take care of them. But looking at my interest in the game, they encouraged me to continue playing. They never made me feel guilty about the fact that I wasn’t helping them in running the family.””

The Hindu/ Vinay has a legacy to live up to: “Indian cricket’s latest heroes are continuing to emerge from the hinterland. Vinay is a fresh example of an iron-willed small-town lad carving his space under the sun.”

Deccan Herald/ Gutsy Vinay gets T20 cut: “The wait, which appeared eternal, is finally over. His State team coach K. Sanath Kumar’s reaction was laced with a tinge of sadness when Abhimanyu Mithun was picked for the first Test against South Africa in February. While he was all happy for Mithun, he was disappointed that the big-hearted Vinay missed out on the opportunity. However, Sanath is a happy man now, with Vinay getting recognised at last.”

DNA/ Bangalore medium pacer pulls a fast one: “The wait is finally over for Indian cricket’s ‘Nobody’s Child’…. It’s been a long journey for the son of an automobile spare parts dealer in the small town of Davangere. Despite taking the highest number of wickets in first class cricket in 2007-08 and 2009-10, Vinay was not considered for a central contract by the BCCI. But he did not lose hope and believed that his day would come.”

Cricinfo/Maybe God wanted me to work harder and longer: “Few people get the chance early, few have to wait. We weren’t financially strong, and me being the eldest, it was my duty to take care of them. But looking at my interest in the game, they encouraged me to continue playing. They never made me feel guilty about the fact that I wasn’t helping them in running the family.”

CricketNext/ Vinay ready to put his best foot forward: “”I am very happy for my son. I am sure he will perform well for the country,” said Soubhagya, his mother. “Though the call has come later than what we had anticipated, I am happy for him. My son is a very hard worker. I am confident that he will make India proud,” said Vinay’s father Ranganath.

The Telegraph/ Vinay thanks selectors: “I would also like to thank my coach Prakash Pawar, who is no more, and L.M. Prakash for recognising my talent and developing me into what I am today. K. Jeswanth and K. Sanath Kumar were also instrumental in shaping my career. I’m grateful to former Karnataka bowler Y.B. Patel. He would say that I will go on to play big cricket and always encouraged me. Even on his deathbed, he told someone to hand over a kit bag to me. I haven’t used it. I treasure it.”

Vijaya Karnataka/ Dil khush: “Whenever the selection committee sat down to pick the team, I would sit in front of the television to see if my brother would be included. I felt proud when he sent titans like Sachin and Saurav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag back to the pavilion. My brother just loves Rahul Dravid. He has his pictures pasted in every corner of our home,” says his sister Vinutha.

Top photograph: courtesy rediff.com

Bottom: Vinay’s mother Soubhagya (right) helps sister Vinutha (centre) stuff doodha pedhas into the mouth of his coach L.M. Prakash in Davanagere on Friday (courtesy Praja Vani)

Also read: A real workhorse from the land of benne dose

Gundappa Vishwanath: From Bhadravathi, the Bhimsen Joshi of cricket

Javagal Srinath: The world’s most famous Mysorean?

Oh my god, can this be India’s all-time best XI?

Rajeev Chandrasekhar buys into Kannada Prabha

27 March 2010

After days of speculation, the official confirmation.

Former BPL scion and Rajya Sabha member Rajeev Chandrasekhar‘s “strategic partnership alliance” with Express publications for control of Kannada Prabha is now out.

Below is the full text.

***

“Jupiter Media and Entertainment Ventures (Jupiter) and Express Publications (Madurai) Limited (EPML) today announced a strategic alliance that will jointly pursue media opportunities in various languages.

“Initially, this partnership will cover Jupiter taking equity investments in Kannada Prabha, a leading Kannada daily newspaper, subsequently exploring potential opportunities in  other languages.

“This alliance will enable a vast synergy between two of  Kannada’s most respected news brands, namely Kannada Prabha and Suvarna News 24×7, especially in the wide editorial network across Karnataka and product and space marketing. This partnership and strategic alliance will help propel these two brands and products into leadership positions, by giving the best in editorial, news reporting and features acceptable to millions of readers.

“This is the first time in India that two leaders and well-entrenched players of print and TV medium are coming together.  The resultant alliance is bound to unlock new opportunities in Karnataka and beyond, in turn benefiting various stakeholders such as readers/viewers, employees and advertisers.”

Cartoon: courtesy The Telegraph, Calcutta

Also read: Tomorrow’s news today: spot the difference

Rajeev Chandrasekhar eyeing Kannada Prabha?

Rajeev Chandrasekhar eyeing Deccan Herald?

How the magic potion looks before it sinks in

24 March 2010

Red chillies, green dhania, voggarane. Mass-produced majjige on a hot summer day has a taste all its own that hygienic, homemade buttermilk can never really match. At a temple in Gandhinagar in Bangalore on Sri Rama Navami on Wednesday, devotees of the brew line up to taste the thunder.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

BBMP poll kicks off decentralisation of Paid News

24 March 2010

The election commission of India likes to pretend that it came to know of the phenomenon of “paid news”—advertisements being slipped in under the garb of news to circumvent expenditure norms— only after recent reports of its widespread use during the 2009 recent general elections.

Well, here’s more news for the EC.

A journalist with Citizen Matters, a civic awareness magazine published from Bangalore, writes that she was offered money to write about candidates from three mainstream political parties contesting elections to the civic body in India’s IT capital.

Vaishnavi Vittal writes that an aide of a first-time candidate in ward no. 177 (J.P. Nagar)  tried to slip her a bunch of 100-rupee notes neatly folded in his palm. “Nimma expenditurege (for your expenditure), madam”, he said sheepishly. Less than an hour later, in the same ward, another candidate pulled out wads of 500-rupee notes from his pocket and asked me, “Hana yenadaru kodabeka? (Should we pay you any money?)”

“A similar incident occurred with a party candidate contesting from Sarakki (Ward 178). After the interview, the candidate’s spouse and campaign coordinator repeatedly asked me if they need to pay me for the interview. They went on to add, laughing all the while, that they are ready to pay money even if we don’t ask for it.

“The two of them gave me a copy of a local Kannada publication in which there were several reports, profiling some of the candidates. They told me that they had paid for a report on their party candidate on the front page.”

Read the full article: Cash for coverage comes to BBMP elections too

Link via Kanchar Kaur-Hariharan

Complete coverage: Editors’ Guild on paid news, private treaties

Pyramid Saimira, Tatva & Times Private Treaties

Times Private Treaties gets a very public airing

SUCHETA DALAL: Forget the news, you can’t believe the ads either

Does he who pays the piper call the tune?

SALIL TRIPATHI: The first casualty of a cosy deal is credibility

Selling the soul? Or sustaining the business?

PAUL BECKETT: Indian media holding Indian democracy ransom

Does he who pays the piper call the tune?

PRATAP BHANU MEHTA: ‘Indian media in deeply murky ethical territory’

The scoreline: Different strokes for different folks

A package deal that’s well worth a second look

ADITYA NIGAM: ‘Editors, senior journalists must declare assets’

The brave last words of Prabhash Joshi

‘Only the weather section isn’t sold these days’

It takes 3 Idiots to call the bluff of Pauper Tigers

If you trust polls, trust in Indian media dips

‘Living together is no offence, it’s a right to life’

23 March 2010

A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court of India, comprising Justices K.G. Balakrishnan, Deepak Varma, and B.S. Chauhan, while reserving judgement on actress Khushboo‘s petition seeking to quash 22 criminal cases filed against her after she allegedly endorsed premarital sex in magazine interviews, makes the following observations.

# “When two adult people want to live together what is the offence? Does it amount to an offence? Living together is not an offence. It cannot be an offence.”

# “Even Lord Krishna and Radha lived together according to mythology.”

# “There is no law which prohibits live-in relationship or pre-marital sex.”

# “What is the offence and under which section? Living together is a right to life.”

# “How does it concern you? We are not bothered. At the most it is a personal view. How is it an offence? Under which provision of the law?”

Also read: How is this dress an affront to Hindu culture?

Top-up or bottom-down, it’s there for all to see

Desh ke police kaise ho? Moral police jaise ho

SUNAAD RAGHURAM: Kissing isn’t a part of our culture, pissing is?

Are we becoming a nation of blithering idiots?

When the victimiser again tries to play the victim

23 March 2010

While Narendra Damodardas Modi uses the thin line between a “notice” and a “summons” to put a spin on his non-appearance before the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the Gujarat pogrom—and typically points a finger at those trying to hurt Gujarati asmita—the advocate Mukul Sinha reminds the nation of the Gujarat chief minister’s continued (and successful) attempts at dodging the long arm of the law.

“Since 2004, I have [as advocate for the Jansangharsh Manch] filed several petitions before the Nanavati Commission that Modi be summoned before the commission, whose terms of reference clearly include examining the role played by the chief minister and his ministerial colleagues. We are in 2010. Modi has used every trick in the book to stall a personal appearance.”

Coincidentally, the Gujarat high court yesterday asked the commission to clarify if its decision to not summon Modi was a tentative one or a final decision.

Meanwhile, lest we forget, Gujarat former intelligence chief R.B. Sreekumar jogs everybody’s memory on what happened on 27 February 2002, after the Sabarmati Express was torched.

“Sixty per cent of the killings took place in Ahmedabad, yet no curfew was imposed there till the 28th of February, 2002. On the 27th, the CM called a meeting at his residence. The chief secretary, home secretary, the DGP were all there and he [Modi] said: ‘Bhaiyon, samjho, hinduon ka gussa teen din mein utrega. Beech mein aana nahi. In logon ko kaam karne do.”

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

Also read: Another dastardly secular attack on a Hindu titan

Narendra Modi. Narendra Modi. Narendra Modi.”

CHURUMURI POLL: Will the law catch up with Narendra Modi?

Thankfully, Ripley’s Museum is located at Bidadi

22 March 2010

A front-page report in The Sunday Guardian, the weekly newspaper launched by M.J. Akbar, on yet another brave son of the soil seeking to earn an honourable living in these difficult times. Thankfully, Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum is very conveniently located in the neighbourhood for those who cannot believe their eyes.

Click on the images to view a larger, more reader-friendly frame.

Also read: On Ugadi day, a brand-new Kannada warrior emerges

A giant leap to stop the criminalisation of politics

Look, who’s seeking the help of Muthappa Rai

Give peace a chance, or else there’s always…

Same place, same event, same pix, same caption

22 March 2010

Few events in our society shine a mirror on its inherent complexities more than the miracle that is a “mass marriage”.

In a me-too culture teeming with meaningless, ostentatious weddings lubricated by dowry, the fact that so many are willing sit in line and buck the trend is proof that the desire to do what is right is a universal human trait; and one that goes deep down defying the usual urban/rural, rich/poor, literate/illiterate stereotypes.

***

In pictures, hundreds of couples tie the knot at a mass marriage organised by Congress MLA Santosh Lad at Kalghatgi near Dharwad on Friday Monday.

Photographs: Karnataka Photo News

See the 2009 picture: A snapshot of a…

How BJP, Congress, JDS subvert our democracy

21 March 2010

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: There are four great paradoxes about the long awaited elections to the Brihan Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) being held now.

While the rule “of the people, for the people, by the people” should be paramount in any election, for all the three main parties in the ring, the BBMP polls seems to have become all about strengthening their political and financial clout.

Nothing more, nothing less.

PARADOX # 1 The democratic credentials of the BJP, Congress and JDS (in alphabetical order) in providing a civic government for the people of Bangalore, and the people falling under the umbrella of “Greater Bangalore”, are totally questionable.

It is these parties who, in tandem, have been responsible for the delay in the polls, which were due in November 2006. It is these parties which deprived Bangaloreans of their right for self-rule of the civic body, which is guaranteed by the Constitution, thanks to the 74th amendment.

For more than three-and-a-half years, the citizens of Bangalore have been needlessly condemned to put up with the rule of bureaucrats for no fault of theirs. This unfortunate state of affairs would have continued had not the judiciary rapped the political cabal on their knuckles.

The chief villains of this anti-democratic piece are the JDS and BJP.

It was during the days of the H.D. Kumaraswamy government, in which the BJP was a partner, that the move to postpone the poll was taken. This was done in the name of creating a “Greater” Bangalore by merging the neighbouring eight town municipal councils with the erstwhile Bangalore Municipal Corporation (BMC).

The BJP simply demurred.

When it came to power and when it was its turn, the BJP government of B.S. Yediyurappa compounded the matter further by deferring the elections in the name of delimitation of the constituencies and went on merrily with the game, till the highest court in the land put its foot down firmly.

Now that the polls are on, the BJP is valiantly putting a spin over its scandalous role in subverting democracy and has not exhibited the slightest remorse for its role in a patently anti-people conspiracy.

PARADOX # 2 The three parties have also conspired, directly or indirectly, in denying urbanites in Karnataka as a whole and Bangaloreans in particular of all the other safeguards guaranteed by the 74th constitutional amendment, the most important being the strengthening of the urban local bodies.

Governments run by the three parties, individually or jointly, have in unison ignored the scheme of decentralisation enshrined in the Constitution, and have simply not bothered to put into practice the prescribed two-tiered system of ward committees along with the elected corporation.

The two-tiered system is something akin to the three-tiered system prescribed for the rural areas, the rationale being the participation of the people in the decision-making process from the bottom-up.

If the Constitutional provisions are to be given effect to in both letter and spirit, the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) would have no place in the scheme of things, with the municipal corporation getting the entire responsibility.

PARADOX # 3 The concept of decentralised administration through the empowerment of the urban local bodies is anathema to these political parties.

At no time do the parties talk of giving more powers and sharing resources with the urban local bodies. Quite to the contrary, they are always ready to withdraw whatever powers have been given to them at the drop of a hat, for whatever pretext they can come up with.

The boss of Bangalore is not the mayor, as we are generally prone to believe.

The real power-centre is the minister in charge of Bangalore development / urban development minister. The poor mayor, who has only a one-year term, is always kept on tenterhooks and has only a subordinate, non-executive role to play in the development of the City.

All along it is the party in power at Vidhana Soudha, and the MLAs and MLCs who call the shots, not the mayor or the elected councilors, who find themselves too overawed by the muscle power displayed by the government at timers. Or, are willingly complicit in the subversion.

PARADOX # 4 The concept of development of Bangalore or “greater” Bangalore is quite hazy if not totally non-existent in the minds of all the parties and their leaders.

They only seek to dazzle voters and the media by loosely talking of the “crores of rupees” which are available for spending without even having a ghost of an idea on how it should be spent and on what.

The parties have been unable to show us or put into place, an agreed blueprint of development, which will be implemented over the next couple of decades, which any party coming to power in the government and the corporation would be able to adhere to.

Question: Should voters trust these parties, and their nominees, who have hardly any concept of decentralized urban administration, where the stake holder has an important role to play?

Photograph: Masks of various leaders of the three parties on sale at a store in Jayanagar in Bangalore (Karnataka Photo News)

Balamurali Krishna, Bhimsen Joshi and ‘Amritam’

21 March 2010

VIKRAM MUTHANNA writes: A few days ago, I had been to Chennai on work. The journey from Mysore on the Chennai Express was long, stalling and an extremely cold one, thanks to unrelenting air conditioning.

The next day I returned in the more convenient, fast and comfortable Shatabdi Express.

I entered the chaotic Chennai Central station, got into the train and seated myself 20 minutes ahead of scheduled departure. When I stepped out to indulge in ‘people watching,’ I saw a small crowd approaching the train. People were bending down to touch someone’s feet and many standing with glass-eyed wonder usually reserved for godmen and politicians.

I immediately assumed it was some politician and sat expectantly to see him, but no one came in except a typical South Indian lungi-clad gentleman with a shiny watch and an elegant looking lady followed by a few well-dressed men. I assumed that the politician had moved to the other compartment and went to watch my movie between bouts of naps and Marie biscuits provided by the Railways.

Just before we reached Bangalore, I was suddenly woken up by the waiter who once again offered me another snack. As I was munching on my snack, I noticed more and more people waking up, and as they walked towards the wash area, all of them would look at a particular seat ahead of me and then on the way back, stop and talk to the person sitting in that seat or bend to touch his feet.

Now, I was intrigued and stood up for a mock stretch.

Then I saw the person and immediately recognised his face but could not recall his name. I knew he was a singer with a very different voice. I also knew from my friends that he was a fantastic poet and that I had seen him a million times in the famous national integration initiative song “Mile sur mera tumhara” music video.

No, it was not Bhimsen Joshi, not Hari Prasad Chourasia either.

And then it came to me: the person sitting ahead of me was the revered Carnatic vocalist, Dr M. Balamurali Krishna. I walked up to him and introduced myself, had a little chit chat and excused myself as I didn’t want to be too intrusive.

Soon he was heading towards the wash room and on his way back, stopped by to chat and then suggested I join him and his very elegant friend and manager, the famed dancer Dr Saraswathi.

From the very start, I realised Dr Balamurali Krishna had a sense of humour. When introducing Dr Saraswathi, he said: “This is Dr Saraswathi, my friend and manager. As you know Saraswathi’s veena can sing, so I am like her veena, wherever she directs me, I go and sing.”

After chatting about things in general, I finally asked him two questions that were niggling at the back of my mind: One, whether it was true that Bhimsen Joshi consumed considerable amounts of alcohol before performing?

I wanted to know this because of what my father [Star of Mysore founder and editor-in-chief K.B. Ganapathy] used to claim. That, when he lived in Pune, he used to deliver rum bottles to Bhimsen Joshi.

The reason my father was requested for the bottles was because he had access to cheap liquor from the army canteen. Back then I couldn’t quite believe it. Now, here was my chance to hear from a person who had performed many times with Joshi.

Balamurali smiled and said, “Yes, quite a considerable amount actually. But, back then, it did not affect his performance at all; in fact, maybe, it enhanced it”. Then he continued, “What is amritam, the nectar of gods? It is nothing but alcohol; in small amounts it is nectar and in large amounts poison”.

The mention of gods was the trigger for my second question. I asked him if he performed a lot in temples. He replied, “I like to sing, I don’t care where I sing. Moreover, I don’t sing for the gods, I sing for my people. I see god in people and mother nature.”

He then continued to talk at length about god and people’s obsession with religion and worship. I felt he was like a young child still lost in wonder at the things around him.

At one point he said, “Look at the inventors. Man made medicine, man made aeroplanes, man also made this train we are travelling in. Isn’t it so amazing that someone thought this was possible and made it happen? We should pray for the good of such people, people who make life better for others.”

Balamurali Krishna himself falls in that special category. He has brightened the lives of millions of people across the country—both music lovers and ordinary people. In fact, he himself is an inventor of ragas and an innovative musician.

I asked him if only he used his compositions or whether other people too used them in their performances too, to which he replied: “Others use it too, but it’s a little difficult to grasp. You need to have a sense of adventure, experimentation and an open mind to try new techniques. Otherwise it will be, as they say in Kannada, ‘ade raga, ade tala‘.”

Finally I found it appropriate to ask if he had seen the new “Mile sur mera tumhara” music video. He said he had not and asked me how it was. I said I didn’t like it half as much as the old one as it had an overload of movie stars and the music too was synthetic, which failed to bring out the sense of cultural diversity of our country.

He said: “Well, at least they tried something new. Maybe they can do a different song and a different music-video next year. There must be change. But it’s OK, may be next time they will do a better job,” and then added with a mischievous grin, “Hopefully, next time they can please you.”

No wonder he was the only legendary performer who said there was nothing wrong in fusion music and added “addition to tradition” is important and natural.

I asked him about his daily routine and if he practiced a lot. It seems he never practices. I asked about his younger days when he was a student. He said as a matter of fact: “My master would sing the raga once. Then I would sing along with him once and I was OK.”

I again asked him how he could remember a raga in just two attempts to which he, like a child, smiled and said, “I don’t know. I just remember”. Balamurali Krishna was a child prodigy who gave his first performance when he was just eight years old.

I was immediately reminded of the story of western classical composer and pianist Mozart who once arrives in Vienna, Italy Austria, to perform for the Emperor. When Mozart meets the emperor, Antonio Salieri, the renowned palace composer, presents Mozart with “March of Welcome” which he had toiled to create.

Mozart first displays a childish high-pitched laugh, then after hearing the march only once, he spontaneously ‘improves’ the piece with minimal effort, transforming Salieri’s composition into a grand piano piece.

As we alighted from the train, a few people who recognised him, came and took photographs with him, some diving right onto his feet. I asked him if it gets a bit too much, to which Dr Saraswathi replied that recently at a packed concert, some fans tried to slowly pluck some of his hair to keep as memorabilia.

I warned him to be wary of me for if I found out there was a market for his hair, I would pluck a handful.

Here is one more anecdote that Balamurali himself narrated. It seems that he had once been gifted with a new pair of footwear and had worn them for a concert in Chennai. He had left the slippers outside and after the concert, discovered his slippers missing.

Months later, he got a letter from a fan who confessed that he just wanted to have a memorabilia and so stole the slippers. The fan said that he would return the slippers and hoped that Balamurali would send some small item that he used.

For a man who is deep into an art form like Carnatic music known for its rigorous discipline and purity, he is refreshingly different. He is humorous and open-minded. He is like all great musical geniuses, a free spirit.

I was humbled by his humility and also glad that he wanted to meet me again. I told him I would be glad to meet him too, after all I still have to get my share of a clump of his hair.

(Vikram Muthanna is managing editor of Star of Mysore, where this piece first appeared)

Photographs: via Flickr, and Facebook

Also read: ‘If it sounds good to your ear, it’s Carnatic music’

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

At last, a truly sensible view of Carnatic music

Quotas in foreign Universities on Indian soil?

20 March 2010

The Congress-led UPA government has moved a bill allowing foreign universities to set up shop in India. The entry norms specify a minimum corpus of Rs 50 crore, regulation (but no ceiling) of fees by the University Grants Commission (UGC), non-remittance of profits from educational activities, and a possible exemption from quotas for the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.

R. Jagannanthan, executive editor of DNA, says the bill is designed to kill the IITs and IIMs, and all government-run academic institutions. Reason: it gives the foreign universities the kind of leeway and elbow room that is denied to State-run Indian universities.

Result: Indian institutions will become like BSNL, Air-India and ONGC.

“Will the government allow the IITs to set their own fees for regular students, thus allowing them to subsidise the SC/ST candidates and the poor?

“Will the IIMs be allowed to enforce affirmative action in their own way without being forced to admit poor quality students in the name of quotas?

“What will happen when the foreign institutions come here and offer their own salary packages to the best remaining professors? Who will teach at the IITs? Just the dregs?”

Read the full articleKapil Sibal’s bill

Also read: FDI + Indian Universities = Infinite possibilities?

CHURUMURI POLL: Quotas in private sector?

CHURUMURI POLL: Private sector = Unequal India?

Life is a cycle. What goes up, must come down.

19 March 2010

Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa trips and falls during a cycle jatha against rising prices in Bangalore in the run-up to local elections on Friday morning. Only pseudo-secular elements would discover the faint hint of a smile on the faces of a couple of BJP men watching the CM’s tangled feet.

However, the CM’s supporters will be delighted to see this piece of evidence of Yediyurappa’s cycling abilities in Indore, exactly a month ago, on 18 February.

Photographs: Sudhakar Jain/ Karnataka Photo News

***

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?

Sometimes you are up, sometimes you are down

Dressed to thrill: Yedi-Chini bhai bhai in Shanghai

Survival of fittest is a great photo opportunity

Drought relief one day, flood relief the next

How a chief minister should drink tea. (Or not.)

Let the rebels know, the CM will not bow one inch

Even four pairs of hands can’t stave off the flak

Yediyurappa regime slips into yet another sandal

Behind every successful cyclist, there are a few men

Ramayana, Mahabharatha and the Women’s Bill

19 March 2010

Union law minister Veerappa Moily while receiving an award for his five-volume Shri Ramayan Mahanveshanam, yesterday:

“It is instances like Sita‘s fire ordeal which firmed our resolve for the women’s reservation bill.”

“In Sita’s ‘fire ordeal’, Ravan‘s wife, Mandodari, talks to Sita: “Are you not satisfied with the fiery ordeal of life we have tolerated and endured as women till now? Only a man of the epoch can put an end to women’s ordeal.”

Moily did not of course reveal who the “man of the epoch” was on 9 March 2009. Was it him, who moved the bill? Was it P. Chidambaram, who is rumoured to have said the dissenting MPs must be marshalled out?

Or, was it you-know-who?

Meanwhile, the veteran editor T.J.S. George too adds a touch of the mythological to decipher modern-day male chauvinism.

***

By T.J.S. GEORGE

Draupadi had five husbands, each with unsurpassed capabilities. None of them came to her rescue when she was dragged into the royal court for disrobing.

The political Yadavs of our time seem to have taken a self-serving lesson from this episode and resolved that women are unworthy of protection, let alone promotion. Either that or they have forgotten the double curse—pronounced by Gandhari, and then by Viswamitra, Kanva and Narada—that the Yadava race would destroy itself.

Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav and Sharad Yadav have already reduced their parties to tottering relics. Their opposition to the women’s reservation bill and, worse, the hooliganism of their men in the Rajya Sabha betrayed a 19th century mindset.

The hooligans brought such shame to the country that they would be better off under the waters that swallowed up Dwaraka.

But what do we see beyond the fossils of Yadu Kula?

Two realities are clearly visible. The first is the politics of the bill. The Yadavas talking about Muslim women’s quota is a desperate move to regain some of the Muslim support they have lost. Mamata Banerjee”s visceral hatred of Bengal communists made her an odd woman against women.

The Congress also put its internal politics on display. Singularly lukewarm about the bill on Day 1, it suddenly became determined on Day 2. In the Congress nothing happens until partymen know what Soniaji wants and once the signal comes, nothing can stop them from carrying out her wishes.

A parliamentary system is unhealthy when it adheres to the letter of the Westminster model, without heeding the spirit of it.

The other reality that looms large is that the women’s bill, even if it crosses the obstacles in its path and finally becomes law, will have only symbolic value. It will not by itself give women the human rights they have been denied for ages. That will require social reform and no social reformers are anywhere in sight.

If and when 33 per cent seats in legislatures are reserved for women, around 30 per cent of that will likely go to wives, daughters, nieces and girlfriends of male politicians.

Lalu Prasad himself put his unlettered wife in the chief minister’s chair while Mulayam Singh could only find his daughter-in-law to contest a Lok Sabha seat. The Kanimozhis and Supriya Sules will multiply when reservations become law.

And what will happen when they sit as law-makers?

Will it mean an end to the killing of newborn girls in the villages of Tamil Nadu and Haryana?

Will it stop crimes against women which increased by 30-40 per cent in recent years as against 16 per cent increase in general crime?

Will it bring down dowry killings which doubled in the last decade?

Will it make a difference to one-third of married women in India being children below 18?

In one sense India has already led the way in women’s empowerment. Women occupy top positions in corporate houses, financial institutions and in the arts. They have reached these positions through merit, not the favour of reservations. This will continue, making India an exemplar of women’s advancement.

But it will be foolish to close our eyes to the social debris that has collected over the centuries.

The tendency to treat women as beasts of burden is all too prevalent. Inside a family, discrimination is carried to the extent of feeding sons properly while daughters are kept on starvation diet. This has led to half the married women in India being anaemic.

The largest number of illiterate women is also in India—200 million. It’s all very well for Sushma Swaraj and Brinda Karat to forget ideologies and perform a celebratory embrace. But what about India’s social reality? Yaduvamsha still has a grip on that reality.

Also read: Goodbye democracy, say hello to Quotocracy

CHURUMURI POLL: Sonia Gandhi, smarter than Indira?

‘Women’s bill will only increase State’s power’

CHURUMURI POLL: Impact of women’s bill?

Never judge a book by its cover. Ditto a genius.

17 March 2010

Scratched furniture. Uncut toe nails. Hawaii chappals. A packet of cigarettes on the ground with a phone.

Whose feet, as seen on Wednesday in Bangalore, could these belong to?

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Deepavali in the skies on the day of Ugadi below

16 March 2010

A bird’s eye-view of the M. Chinnaswamy stadium of the Karnataka state cricket association on the night of the first home-match of the third edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL). The Royal Challengers Bangalore beat King’s XI Punjab by eight wickets after having lost their first two matches.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: One question I’m dying to ask “Dr” Vijay Mallya

What Mallya’s team says about Mallya’s mind

CHURUMURI POLL: Twenty20 to promote 60-30?

Finally, a cricket team is only as good as its city

It takes 3 Idiots to call the bluff of Pauper Tigers

16 March 2010

The prostitution of Indian journalism by pimps, promoters and proprietors selling editorial space without letting the reader know what is independently verified news and what is a paid-for advertisement in the garb of news, has attained pandemic proportions.

“Paid News”, as the trend has been sadly named, happens not just during election time, but in between elections too. It afflicts not just the language media, but mainstream English media too. It is not just political news that is coloured, but business, sport, cinema and everything else, including the TV listings.

Above all, it is not something that small papers and extortionists are indulging in to keep their business going; it has become a revenue stream for profitable media organisations to keep the ink black on the bottomline, as trust and credibility are thrown to the wolves by suited-booted “managers”.

The Rajya Sabha, the election commission and the press council are all seized of the issue.

The country’s #1 business investigative journalist Sucheta Dalal who has written fearlessly on the subject—a trend that has deep implications for Indian democracy and reader trust in the media in the long run—throws light on a scandal in which India’s top filmmaker was held to ransom by “a leading media house”.

***

By SUCHETA DALAL

Moneylife has often commented on the brazen sale of news by a leading media house. However, we also acknowledged that the group usually made a win-win offer which was tough for companies to refuse. After all, which company would want to say no to something as lucrative as assured positive coverage, plus a steep discount in advertising tariffs, in return for a small equity stake?

However, in recent times, companies complain about the strong-arm tactics used by the group’s media arm.

Several companies have reported that they are told to appear first on the group’s media channel, during the quarterly results announcements. A print interview is thrown in as a carrot. Or they can face the stick: the prospect of being black-listed by its large circulation dailies.

As for the group’s city supplement, it is not only common knowledge that all its pages are for sale, but it has even dropped the pretence that its news and photographs are anything but paid publicity material.

Yet, the group still managed to shock us, with its recent strong-arm tactics against a top-grossing Hindi movie.

Its director told us how the media-selling arm of the publishing house approached him with a ‘publicity package’ which offered a number of articles and photographs for a price.

The director said a polite ‘No’. He would buy advertisements to publicise the movie, but the editorial would be up to the publication. But he was in for a shock. He was told that if he did not accept the package, there would be no editorial coverage of the movie in any of the group’s publications.

Given the stakes involved in the movie business, the director consulted his partners and friends in Bollywood. Many supported his stand, while there were others who were quite happy to accept the offer. However, our director-friend put his foot down and invited several like-minded producers to discuss the implications of what he calls the ‘dadagiri of this brand’.

The publishing house representative apparently said the director was making a needless fuss. After all, “film journalism is not serious journalism” (suggesting there are no ethical issues in buying editorial coverage).

What is most heartening is that, unlike wimpy corporate India, a dozen top producers and directors got together, discussed the issue and had the courage to say no, even though their stakes are significantly higher. The media house, realising that the issue could get out of hand, then backtracked and actually wrote a letter of apology for trying to pressure the industry.

The story had a happy ending, because the movie went on to set success records.

Why has this not made news? Because Bollywood also realises that it needs big media and is not idiot enough to shoot itself in the foot. Moneylife doffs its cap to the producers who had the guts to say ‘No’.

Also read: Editors’ Guild on paid news, private treaties

Also read: Pyramid Saimira, Tatva & Times Private Treaties

Times Private Treaties gets a very public airing

SUCHETA DALAL: Forget the news, you can’t believe the ads either

Does he who pays the piper call the tune?

SALIL TRIPATHI: The first casualty of a cosy deal is credibility

Selling the soul? Or sustaining the business?

PAUL BECKETT: Indian media holding Indian democracy ransom

Does he who pays the piper call the tune?

PRATAP BHANU MEHTA: ‘Indian media in deeply murky ethical territory’

The scoreline: Different strokes for different folks

A package deal that’s well worth a second look

ADITYA NIGAM: ‘Editors, senior journalists must declare assets’

How much do readers distrust us? Not enough

The brave last words of Prabhash Joshi

‘Only the weather section isn’t sold these days’


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