Archive for August, 2010

What’s in a name? The key to a casteless society?

31 August 2010

Hegde, Gowda, Jois, Shetty, Rai, Iyer, Iyengar, Gounder, Namboodiri, Menon, Nair, Nambiar, Reddy, Naidu, Rao, Patnaik, Hota, Panda, Naik, Shinde, Jadhav,  Patel, Shah, Desai…

Chatterjee, Mukerjee, Bannerjee, Sen, Das, Roy, Sharma, Verma, Bhat, Shastri, Chauhan, Mishra, Dayal, Choudhary, Gupta, Thakur, Sinha, Singh, Dutta, Yadav, Paswan, Meena….

All of you, yes, all of you need to drop your caste-name as surname if India is to produce a casteless society, is the clarion call of Anbumani Ramadoss.

The former Union health minister writes in The Hindu:

“It would be naive to assume that dispensing with caste names will lead to a casteless society. Caste names are only part of the problem rather than the solution. There is no pat solution for this dilemma. The adoption of generic names would be a small but definite step towards eradicating caste from this society.

“To bring about a caste-free society, not only caste (brand names) but also the mindset of the developed sections towards their less fortunate brethren should change. Social justice can be achieved only when all sections of society have a level playing-field socially, educationally and economically.

“To bring about this change, we need to acknowledge the centuries of discrimination faced by the oppressed sections. For significant progress to be made, in our quest for social equality, the developed class should cease looking on in amused contempt of and derision towards its less developed counterparts.

“It is easy enough to dismiss a name or rather the implications of a name as being unimportant and preposterous. But let us not be ostrich-like.”

Read the full article: What is in a name?

Photograph: As part of his padayatra in Dalit colonies, Sri Vishvesha Teertha swamiji of the Pejawar Mutt, lights the lamp at a Dalit home in Kailashapura in Mysore on Monday. (Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: What’s in a name? What’s in a bold-faced name?

What’s in a name? What’s in a set of initials?

What’s in your name? What’s in your naamam?

What’s in a name? Divinity, but defeat too

What’s in name? Aha. What’s in 108 names?

CHURUMURI POLL: Indians in spot-fixing too?

30 August 2010

The spot-fixing scandal to hit Pakistan cricket only confirms a growing sense of unease about the game. The scams surrounding IPL, the haze of drugs hovering over some players, the scandalous lifestyles of some others, the disappearance of top-flight talent from most teams, the politicking, etc, all suggest that the sport is being sullied and milked dry by players and administrators with dollar $ign$ in their eye$.

Obviously, this is a state of affairs that a sport greatly loved in this country but played only by a few others can afford. If an individual was going through so much strife, a shrink would recommend a break, a rest, a holiday, so that the patient can step back, catch a breath, and allow the mind to catch up with the body. Equally obviously, it is unlikely cricket’s money-mad administrators will even contemplate such a possibility.

Pakistan cricket is clearly in ICCU. But that’s not saying much. Is Indian cricket in any better shape? If India is the hub of bookies who are behind match-fixing, as alleged by former captain Rameez Raja, is it possible that Indian players too could be involved in the Pakistani game? Or, are our players clean and beyond reproach (and approach) after the last match-fixing scandal?

The son stroke that didn’t strike Dhrutharashtra

30 August 2010

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Ajji went on an impromptu fast on shravana shanivara.

Ajji! What’s the matter? Why, this lightning fast?”

“Every year I go on a fast on this day. This is a vratha invoking Ganesha to remove all the obstacles and grant us a trouble-free life ahead.”

Ajji! If I have a problem with my boss or in my office can I expect you will go on a fast to save me?”

“Why should I go on a fast to save you from punishment if you have done something for which you deserve punishment? I will go on a fast to make sure you pay for your sins!”

Ajji! Looks like I can’t depend on you. It seems Dasharatha would do anything for the sake of Sri Rama. Motilal Nehru did the same when his son Jawahar Lal had to sleep on the floor in jail during the freedom movement.”

“All examples of puthra vyamoha! The Dhrutharashtra-Duryodhana example would be more apt. At least Dhrutharashtra was blind and couldn’t see his son’s follies. But what of the others who can see their childrens’ paapa and yet are blinded by their puthra vyamoha?’

“Some people feel they are following Gandhiji by fasting.”

“Gandhiji did not use the powerful tool of upavasa or satyagraha for personal causes like promotions or preventing  law from taking its course. That is why the biggest empire in the world at that time, Britain, bowed to his dream of swarajya for India, no matter what S.L. Bhyrappa says now 60 years after enjoying freedom! Had Gandhiji fasted for silly personal reasons, he would have been a laughing stock and Britain would have humiliated him.

“When would fasting be a powerful tool Ajji?”

“When it is not used for personal gains. Prof De Ja Gow is a very learned and respected man, a writer and a past vice-chancellor.  Had he fasted for cleanliness in public life he would have done a singular service against corruption. People would have applauded him had he fasted against his son’s  actions or against the University.”

“That’s true.”

“I would have joined him in fasting even if it was not shivarathri! Had his son Dr J. Shashidhar Prasad been proved innocent, both father-son duo would have been revered in academic circles for different reasons. Prasad because he was innocent and DeJaGow for challenging the son to prove his innocence under the law of the land keeping his relation aside.”

“Unfortunately it didn’t happen that way.”

“Not many can do that. I sympathize with Prof DeJaGow. But the least he could have done was to allow law to go to its logical end and not trivialize this into a drama which lowered his own image. His one-day fast would have been apt had it been held at Bhoomi Geetha in Rangayana!”

“What about H.R. Bharadwaj, the governor?”

“His behavior with the vice-chancellor Prof V.G. Talwar was stupid, insensitive and deserves the highest condemnation by one and all. And one more thing….”

“What’s it, Ajji?”

“For heaven’s sake, this phoot-lawyri cum governor should change his name. It is an insult on two counts. One for the great rishi Bharadwaja and secondly for the Bharadwaja Gothra!”

“Ha, Ajji.”

“He behaved like a creep while ill-treating a learned VC of a University which had titans like Dr S. Radhkrishnan, Prof. K.N. Pannikkar and Dr K.M. Shrimali occupying his chair once.”

“True Ajji.”

“But tell me what will a Governor of such calibre understand the significance of either his own name or how to treat learned academicians when all he knows is how to please his political bosses and there lies his role in l’affaire Ottavio Quattrocchi!”

‘Sunlight gets the votes. Twilight gets the notes.’

29 August 2010

For months, the UPA mantra was growth and development at the cost of food and general inflation. Gigantic projects and investments at the cost of spreading Maoist violence. Infrastructure development over the rights of tribals and other indigenous people, no matter the environment.

Suddenly, the Congress seems to have done a u-turn at a hairpin bend. P. Chidambaram‘s my-way-or-the-highway approach has few takers in his own party. Dozens of projects are hanging fire under Jairam Ramesh‘s environment ministry. There is talk of giving locals a 26% stake in projects, etc.

Course-correction? Or just clever politics?

The veteran editor and wordsmith M.J. Akbar provides perspective on the Congress’ sudden leftward lurch, as evidenced by party general secretary Rahul Gandhi‘s rally in Orissa after the Vedanta project had been shown the door, in The Sunday Times of India:

“It is axiomatic that a largely impoverished nation needs a political party that the poor can identify with. The Congress has set out to be the party of the poor in daytime, and of the rich at night. Its sunlight politics will fetch votes, its twilight policies will enable it to govern.

“This is an extremely clever act whose opening scenes are being played out for a new generation that is vague about Indira Gandhi and amnesiac about Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. The hero of this drama must have the charisma to dazzle the poor and the flexibility to keep the rich onside.

“That is the challenge before Rahul Gandhi. His avowed role is to be the guardian of the poor in Delhi, which means that the poor need protection from Delhi. He is at home with the elite in the evening and is now making the effort to capture the sunshine hours.”

Cartoon: courtesy Prasad Radhakrishnan/ Mail Today

Read the full article: Crown prince Rahul cannily turns left

Also read: In one-horse race, Rahul baba is a two-trick pony

‘Politics is about solving problems, not evading them’

After Manmohan who? Chidu, Diggy or Rahul?

‘Most opaque politicians in the democratic world’

Jesus, Mozart, Alexander and apun ka Rahul

A functioning anarchy? Or a feudal democracy?

Rahul Gandhi‘s ascension: a foregone conclusion?

One question I’m dying to ask Rahul Gandhi—Part I

One question I’m dying to ask Rahul Gandhi—Part II

Only question anyone should ask Rahul Gandhi

CHURUMURI POLL: Bring back Rahul Dravid?

29 August 2010

India’s batting in the just-concluded one-day tri-series against Sri Lanka and New Zealand will surprise nobody who knows which side of a cricket bat to hold. Up one day, down the next five, “the world’s strongest batting lineup” has crumbled on featherbed tracks against wibbly-wobbly bowlers.

Conclusion: much as the team might boast of roaring tigers and purring cubs, it lacks the elephantine solidity that is essential for consistency. Enter Wasim Akram. The greatest southpaw to have held a cricket ball says Rahul Dravid, condemned to Test match duty, should be brought back into the side because the 36-year-old has plenty to offer in the 50-year format.

“In the sub-continent, the current batsmen can do well, but on overseas tours, India need a solid and experienced batsman like Dravid,” Akram has said.

Agree? Should India go back to an old warhorse? Disagree? Should India persist with the failing youngsters in the hope that they will one day come good?

Also read: Who cries in Bangalore for Rahul Dravid?

CHURUMURI POLL: Should Rahul Dravid retire?

One two ka three: Kate, Duplicate and Triplicate

28 August 2010

Pride, three times over, is writ on Geeta Chopra‘s face after delivering triplets—all girls—at The Cradle in Jayanagar in Bangalore on Saturday.

Naming twins is child’s play: Neha and Sneha. Vijaya and Sujaya.

But how would you name triplets?

Seriously.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Life after near-death is always a scary feeling

28 August 2010

‘A heady confluence of crime, business & politics’

28 August 2010

In his column in The Telegraph, Calcutta, Ramachandra Guha compares the IT frenzy in the Bangalore of 2000 and the mining frenzy in the Karnataka of 2010. The two phenomena, he says, represents contrasting shades of globalisation, the benign and the brutal, and contrasting forms of capitalism, progressive and barbaric:

“When the world economy offers opportunities for knowledge workers creating products that do not use much energy and do not damage the environment, these must be grabbed with both hands. When the world economy instead invites us to exploit scarce natural resources quickly, and without a thought for environmental sustainability, then we must be more sceptical.

“In their search for the big buck, the Bellary mine lords have shown a profound lack of concern for the law and for their fellow citizens. On the other hand, the best among Bangalore’s software entrepreneurs have made their money fairly and legally, spent a small fraction on themselves, and a larger fraction on various charitable and philanthropic causes.”

Guha also quotes Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, the New Delhi journalist who is making a documentary on the Bellary mine lords:

“According to him, the case of mining in Karnataka represents the first time that such close links have been forged between the worlds of crime, business, and politics. In the past, a Mumbai mastan occasionally fought and won an election; other mastans funded the odd politician. But never before have those who made money by illegal and even violent means so brazenly and effectively taken over the politics and administration of an entire Indian state.”

Read the full article: The best and the worst

Also read: Shashi Tharoor on Princess Diana and Globalisation

TWEET THIS! Shashi Tharoor and Globalisation 2.0

Aloo mirch, tandoori chicken and globalisation

In one-horse race, Rahul baba is a two-trick pony

27 August 2010

One common lament against the “future former prime minister of India” (as opposed to the “former future prime minister of India“) is that Rahul Gandhi‘s views on the pressing issues of the day—mining, Maoism, price rise, land acquisition, etc—are not known, except to himself and (probably) his mother’s inner voice.

Yesterday’s rally in Orissa, 48 hours after environment minister Jairam Ramesh rejected Vedanta’s bauxite mining project in the Niyamgiri hills, is remarkable for two reasons. One is the magisterial phraseology that provides proof, full and final, that UPA ministers are there to do his bidding, although there are 204 Congress MPs besides him.

“Two years ago you had come to me saying the Niyamgiri hill is your god. I told you I would be your sipahi (soldier) in Delhi. I am happy that I have helped you in whatever way I could. What is important is that your voice was heard without violence,” he told the party-sponsored rally.

Implicit in the choice of words is the imprint of an arch feudal, who otherwise bemoans the easy ride he has got in politics. The tone is one of, “I can get it done if I want to; they will do what I tell them to do.” Implicit also is the entitlement to power without the responsibility.

The other reason Rahul Gandhi’s speech is remarkable is because it provides proof, full and final, that while he may belong to the Nehru-Gandhi clan, the literary flourish of his great-grandfather so eludes him that all he can do, it seems, is to weave the same us-versus-them fiction about India again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

“There are two Indias—ameeron ki Hindustan (India of the rich) whose voices reach everywhere , and garibon ka Hindustan (India of the poor) whose voices are seldom heard,” he roared in the two-dimensional monotone that always draws applause from the cheap stands.

Remarkable concern for the downtrodden, you might say for one born with a silver spoon, spinning around in SUVs, and spending late nights at Smoke House Grill.

Remarkable till you realise this is exactly what he had said in July in Kanker, Chhatisgarh:

“There are two parts of India. One part is the part you see in urban areas, growing very fast. There is another part of India, a forgotten part of India, and tribals, Adivas and Dalits are part of it.”

Which is exactly what he had said in Ranchi in October last year:

“Two Indias have been created. One India is yours and my India, the India of basic amenities and opportunity… the other is of poverty-stricken villages where opportunities are very rare.”

Which is exactly what he had said in Calcutta in April last year:

“It angers me when I think that there are people who have more money than anyone else in the world. And there are people who don’t have food.”

Which is exactly what he had said in the budget debate in Parliament in 2008-09:

“There are two distinct voices among India’s people today. The louder of these voices comes from an India that is empowered… the other voice is yet to be empowered. The two Indias are fundamentally inseparable.”

Which is exactly what he will say in god knows where, oblivious of the role his father, grand-mother and great-grandfather may have played in creating and perpetuating the India versus Bharat myth.

At which point, someone should gently tap the not-so-young man on his shoulder and remind him of what Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru once said. That everything you say about India—including the existence of two Indias in India—is true.

And so is its opposite.

Cartoon: courtesy Keshav/ The Hindu

Also read: ‘Politics is about solving problems, not evading them’

After Manmohan who? Chidu, Diggy or Rahul?

‘Most opaque politicians in the democratic world’

Jesus, Mozart, Alexander and apun ka Rahul

A functioning anarchy? Or a feudal democracy?

Rahul Gandhi‘s ascension: a foregone conclusion?

One question I’m dying to ask Rahul Gandhi—Part I

One question I’m dying to ask Rahul Gandhi—Part II

Only question anyone should ask Rahul Gandhi

CHURUMURI POLL: Is ‘Saffron Terrorism’ real?

26 August 2010

As if he wasn’t popular enough, home minister Palaniappan Chidambaram—the darling of the Hindutva crowd for his seemingly tough, no-nonsense, hands-on approach to Islamist and Maoist terror—has bitten the hand the claps by alerting the nation to the “new phenomenon of saffron terrorism“.

“There is no let-up in the attempts to radicalise young men and women in India. Besides, there is the recently uncovered phenomenon of saffron terrorism that has been implicated in many bomb blasts of the past. My advice to you is that we must remain ever vigilant and continue to build, at the Central and State levels, our capacity in counter-terrorism,” he told top police and security officers.

Chidambaram’s comment comes in the wake of the discovery of a common footprint behind recent bomb blasts—from the Mecca masjid in Hyderabad to the Ajmer dargah in Rajasthan, and a bunch of incidents in Malegaon, Goa, Thane, Nanded, and Kanpur.

The overall toll isn’t high, but the intent, to create disharmony and mutual distrust, is.

The involvement of high functionaries of the saffron brotherhood, past and present, has sent quivers through the RSS and its political face, the BJP.  But, above all, the revelation that the Hindu lunatic fringe can do what they accuse the Islamic lunatic fringe of doing has been a bit of a shocker.

Questions: Is Chidambaram barking up the wrong tree by sounding an alarm on “saffron terrorism” (which is gramatically a step-up from George W. Bush‘s “war on terror”) ? And will his seemingly tough, no-nonsense, hands-on approach continue to attract the BJP’s encomiums?

Or is smart Mr Chidambaram just doing a bit of course-correction following the increasing criticism of his abrasive approach from his own cabinet and party colleagues?

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Can Hindus not be terrorists?

CHURUMURI POLL: Proof of Hindu terrorism?

CHURUMURI POLL: Ban the VHP and Bajrang Dal?

Godse‘s way of thinking is alive and kicking’

One sanna step for man, one giant leap for anna

25 August 2010

As usual, a dozen curious eyes watch Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa cross a road divider with customary athleticism, after inaugurating an underpass in Madiwala in Bangalore on Tuesday.

Photograph: 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

Life’s a cycle. What goes up must come down.

A leg up for the one is a leg up for the other

The emperor’s new clothes has a loose button

Why does this poor, selfless soldier cry so much?

The great Indian rope trick adds inches to a giant

Even Alan Donald would quiver at such a glare

A continuing civilisation that’s forever churning

25 August 2010

CPM member of Parliament, Sitaram Yechury, making his case for the Nalanda university, in the Rajya Sabha:

“We are the churning crucible of human civilisation, and that is what these lands represented. Various tendencies have come; we have assimilated various tendencies, and on that basis, we have advanced. And today the BBC describes, in its Epic History series, India as the only continuing civilisation in the history of human civilisation anywhere in the world.

“I think we have come to a stage in India where this churning crucible that is called the Indian civilisation has a variety and divergence that is unknown and unconceivable anywhere in the world— from the Kashmiriyat to the Dravidian civilisation to the pari mahal, where Dara Shikoh wrote that famous treatise called Majma-ul-Bahrain, where he was talking of the synthesis of Sufism and Upanishads, mingling of the two oceans….

“We must remember that we are moving into a higher plane of human intellect and civilisation. Remember the final paragraph of Swami Vivekananda‘s declaration at Chicago. He says, ‘I take pity from the bottom of my heart on those who believe in the destruction of someone else’s religion for the purpose of his own religion. In the final analysis it shall be inscribed on the banner of every religion: assimilation not destruction.’ That is the philosophy with which we have advanced and come to this stage.”

Read more of his speech here: ‘Churning crucible of civilisation’

Any resemblance is accidental and unintentional

24 August 2010

Banker-turned-novelist Sarita Mandanna‘s debut novel Tiger Hills has been received, reviewed and written about with the kind of unquestioning glee that has erased the difference between journalism and public relations.

The latest issue of Tehelka gingerly broaches Mandanna’s possible source of inspiration, surgeon-cum-writer Kavery Nambisan‘s 1996 novel The Scent of Pepper, without mentioning the P-word.

Chapter 12, Kavery Nambisan: Boju danced “matching his intricate footwork with the other dancers; in ever-decreasing circles, he moved to the beat of drums, striking his cane cluster with its tiny bells… the Pariakali, in which the opponents strike each other with canes, but never above the waist. The sport at times is used to settle feuds between the villages…”

Chapter 17, Sarita Mandanna: Machu danced “moving in intricate, ever-decreasing circles to the steady beat of the drums… the bells at the ends jingled softly as the canes swooped and fell… the paria kali… had been tamed now into a game contested during Puthari and used occasionally by the village elders as a means of settling disputes: each contestant… was allowed to strike his opponent only below the shins.”

Read the full article: Hunting the spoor of tiger hills

Also read: A small step for Robin Utthappa, a giant leap for…

Not everybody loves a good stock market story

23 August 2010

Nearly half a dozen English channels and a couple more in Hindi cover India’s stock markets. Another half a dozen English newspaper catch its every cough and sneeze. The treasury benches exult if the index rises; the opposition benches exult if it falls.

Signals on the state of the overall economy are read from tea leaves on Dalal Street. On budget day, the dalals in grey suits give marks to the honourable finance minister. Fear and greed are supposed to drive it. Its scams stars (Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parekh) are legends.

Gordon Gekko is god.

But what really is the state of the Indian capital markets, after 20 years of economic liberalisation and market development?

“Narrow, shallow, illiquid and concentrated in the hands of a few individuals located in a few centres…. A casino frequented by a small closed club,” is the clear-eyed verdict of Sucheta Dalal’s personal finance magazine, Money Life.

In unstarred question number 1669, BJP member Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa asked the finance ministry for details. On August 10, Minister of state for finance, Namo Narain Meena, provided the answers. They are little short of eye-popping in a nation of 18 million plus a billion:

# No. of investors who traded on the National Stock Exchange’s cash market in the first quarter of 2010 (April-June): 30.90 lakh

# Retail investors, high networth individuals and corporate customers who traded in this period: 52%

# Institutional investors and proprietary traders who traded: 48%

In other words, the big bogey about institutional investors, Indian or foreign, is a big bogey. Truth is retail investors are more in number in institutional investors, although their quantum of participation may be smaller.

# Of the 30.90 lakh investors, 90% of the trading in the April-June quarter came from a grand total of 192,200 investors

# 80% of the turnover came from 41,654 investors

# 1,50,546 investors (that is 78% of the 30.90 lakh investors) accounted for 10% of the trading turnover

# 8,727 investors accounted for 70% of turnover of which 413 were proprietary trades, mainly brokerage houses

# 60% of trading from 1,563 traders

# 50% of the trading turnover came from 451 traders, of which 156 were proprietary traders.

***

The numbers are equally dismal in the much-vaunted derivatives segment which saw trading of Rs 58,31,715 crore in the first quarter of the current financial year. In response to question 1692 from Mohammed Adeeb, the minister revealed:

# Only 5.75 lakh clients traded in derivatives in the three-month period

# Of these, 90% of the trading came from 18,035 players. Meaning 97% accounted for 10% of trading, while 3% accounted for 90%

# 2,188 investors accounted for 80% deriatives turnover

# 537 investors accounted for 70% of trading

# 223 investors accounted for 60% of trading, of which over half were proprietary brokerage firms

# 50% of NSE derivatives trading came from just 106 investors, of which 58 are proprietary traders

# 67% of all tansactions in the derivatives markets are by day-traders

Infographic: courtesy Money Life

Read the full articles here: Part I, Part II

Also read: Has the ‘India Story’ changed inside a week?

CHURUMURI POLL: Is the India Story over?

CHURUMURI POLL: Has the dream team been exposed?

Consider yourself ‘passed’ if you can count all

23 August 2010

At an abacus and mental arithmetic competition at the national games indoor stadium in Koramangala in Bangalore on Sunday, nearly 1,700 children exercised their grey cells and mental muscles.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: If you can count the exact number of people

Did Adolf Hitler fetch S.L. Bhyrappa’s freedom?

21 August 2010

The American humour writer P.J. O’ Rourke says the Soviet Union did not collapse because of Ronald Reagan or Margaret Thatcher or Star Wars; it collapsed because of Bulgarian blue jeans.

The Kannada writer S.L. Bhyrappa who tilts at the windmills of history like a latter-day Don Quixote, is no humourist; even the Sancho Panzas who sit at his lotus feet wouldn’t accuse him of a sense of humour. But the “Arun Shourie of the South” can still crack a joke, with a scowl.

Speaking five days after the 63rd anniversary of independence—at the 72nd chaturmasya of Sri Visvesha Teertha swamiji of the Pejawar Mutt, go figure—Bhyrappa has declared, apropos nothing, that India did not attain freedom because of non-violence or hunger strikes.

But because, well, the British were bored and tired of staying on.

Maybe even plain pissed—in their Bulgarian blue jeans.

“The British did not leave India because of ahimsa or upavasa satyagraha. You can only cleanse your conscience with a hunger strike; you cannot drive out the British.

“After World War II, the British were sapped of all energy. Moreover, the troops stationed in India were agitated. This was the main reason for the British to leave India.

“At the time of granting independence to India, the then prime minister was asked how much ahimsa had been a factor. He replied very little.”

Implicit in this line of thinking is the belief that the independence movement was a passive one, not an active one. That freedom was something that the Brits gifted us, handed down to us; not something that Indians fought for and won. In other words, if the Brits didn’t want to give it to us, we wouldn’t have got it.

Implicit is the belief that all the wars, mutinies, marches, strikes, boycotts, sacrifices were futile exercises that we now humour ourselves with in Amar Chitra Katha comics. In other words, the Brits didn’t take any note of them and wouldn’t have at all if their energies and attentions hadn’t been otherwise diverted.

Implicit is the belief that independence was a sudden, spontaneous, off-the-cuff development. An event not a process. That after 200 years of rule, the Brits just woke up on 7 May 1945 and decided enough was enough. That none of the months and years that preceded it had any role in it. In other words, had it not been for WWII, we might as well have kissed independence goodbye.

In other words, we must thank Adolf Hitler for engaging the Brits in a war that fetched us freedom?

Above all, implicit in the quasi-rant against ahimsa and satyagraha is a palpable lack of belief in, and contempt for, Gandhian modes of protest. In other words, a vote for un-Gandhian aggression and machismo, sotto voce,  as chain-mailed by other patron-sants of the sangh parivar before, like this one here in 2008:

“World War II ended in the summer of 1945. In the general election that followed, Winston Churchill lost to Clement Attlee. With the war-torn economy a shambles, Britain was in no shape to hang on to the vast colonial empire. In March 1946 Attlee decided to grant independence to India.

“The following years saw independence granted to many colonies—Burma, Ceylon, Ghana, Malaysia, British Guyana and others—that had no history of freedom struggle. So it is correct to conclude that independence to India was a given with or without satyagraha.  The truth is that non-violence was inconsequential in achieving India’s independence. “

Of course, it is a point of view, one which those who hold it are well entitled to hold.

The only question though: would S.L. Bhyrappa‘s negative post-facto vote for ahimsa and satyagraha have turned positive had the characters behind them boasted different surnames or belonged to the other end of the ideological spectrum, one of whose brave members pumped three cowardly bullets at 5.45 pm on 30 January 1948 into the upper thigh, abdomen and chest of the man who was its apostle?

Photograph: courtesy S.L. Bhyrappa

Also read: S.L. Bhyrappa on Avarana

S.L. Bhyrappa versus U.R. Anantha Murthy

S.L. Bhyrappa on the N.R. Narayana Murthy issue

Why non-Christians will never comprehend her

21 August 2010

Sunanda K. Datta-Ray in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“No individual or even private organization can ever do more than offer solace to a select few. Private activists are not to be discouraged but even the most selfless among them only nibble at the edges of suffering. Only sweeping government action can create the social welfare net needed to tackle destitution on this enormous scale….

“It’s impossible for a non-Christian layman to assess Mother Teresa’s impact and legacy because India’s haunting problems of poverty, disease, malnutrition, illiteracy and joblessness did not figure at the top of — or anywhere in — her agenda.

“My saying so offends devotees with more faith than information, but I repeat it with the full authority of the good lady herself. She forbade me pointblank to confuse her with social workers: she did what she did not to save the poor but because “Our Lord” ordained that her soul could be saved through serving the poor.”

Photograph: courtesy Catholic home and garden

Read the full article: The edges of suffering

Also read: Pramod Mahajan on Mother Teresa

In the nervous 90s, stitching up old memories

20 August 2010

The main Amba Vilas palace in Mysore, the cynosure of all eyes that now attracts more tourists than the Taj Mahal in Agra, turns 100 years old in 2012.

U.B. VASUDEV in Tampa, Florida, sends panoramic pictures of the palace shot by him last March. Each of the panoramas, a magnificent addition to existing photography of the palace, were created by stitching five frames together (click on the picture to view a larger image).

Vasudev also adds this comment:

“With one and a half years to go, I hope they will spruce up the palace before the anniversary. It is heart wrenching for us who grew up in the erstwhile Royal Mysore. It is unfortunate that we take things for granted without realising their value when we keep seeing it every day.”

Virtual tours: Mysore Palace

Kollur Mookambika temple

Well-armed men circumvent shoot at sight orders

19 August 2010

On World Photography Day, well-armed visitors write thousands of words to the background music of a fountain at Lal Bagh in Bangalore on Thursday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

2009: A lensman’s eyes reaches parts others’ eyes don’t

2008: With so many legs, who on earth needs a tripod?

***

Also read: Is the end nigh for black and white photography?

T.S. NAGARAJANMy most unforgettable picture

The maharaja’s elephant that made me a lensman

Why namma Gopi (almost) cried in January 2008

How a world-class yoga photograph was shot

CHURUMURI POLL: India’s best prime minister?

18 August 2010

Bruised and battered by crisis after crisis, prime minister Manmohan Singh has received a rare stamp of approval from fellow-sardar Khushwant Singh. “The dirty old man of Indian journalism” has rated Manmohan as the “best prime minister” India has ever had, higher than Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and his other successors.

K. Singh lauds M. Singh’s integrity, calling him its “best example“. Unlike “impatient” Nehru’s instinctively anti-American and blindly pro-Soviet Union stance, “humble and simple” M. Singh, he says, has a free and open mind, and cannot ever be accused of nepotism, as Nehru and his “petty and dictatorial” daughter Indira Gandhi could.

In contrast to “dynamic” Sanjay Gandhi, K. Singh terms his elder brother Rajiv Gandhi as more of a “boy scout“.

Singh’s scorecard comes in the same week as an India Today mood-of-the-nation opinion poll, showing Manmohan Singh’s popularity at its lowest in his sixth year in office. Singh gets a measly one per cent approval rating, compared with Rahul Gandhi (29%), Atal Behari Vajpayee (16%) and Sonia Gandhi (13%) as a prime ministerial candidate.

Question: Who has been India’s best prime minister?

‘Who told you I am a Tamilian? I am a Kannadiga’

18 August 2010

The hand of India’s most famous newspaper cartoonist, R.K. Laxman, lies still in a hospital in Bombay without a pen or pencil in its grip. Not even sure if (or when) it will regain the strength to pick up a pen or pencil to regale the millions who have woken up to the magic behind its mind for decades.

In this churumuri.com exclusive, Laxman’s grand-nephew, the journalist turned corporate manager Chetan Krishnaswamy, paints an intimate portrayal of Mysore-born, Kannada-speaking “Dudu”, with unpublished doodles and illustrations from the family album.

***

By CHETAN KRISHNASWAMY

After resolutely hanging on to the front page of The Times of India for close to 60 years now, it is perhaps difficult for the Common Man to remain in obscurity for too long.

Even as his creator lies in a hospital in Bombay recuperating from a series of paralytic strokes, the Common Man seems to have naively steered himself into the centre of a religious controversy.

A caricature of contemporary politics based on a biblical scene, with the Common Man occupying Jesus’s position, which appeared in ToI in July, hurt a section of the Christian community. Matters seem to have cooled off after the newspaper tendered an apology.

Many years ago R.K. Laxman had infuriated a group of Hindu fanatics when a cartoon showed  them setting fire to an automobile. The group had barged into his room and demanded to know how Lord Ram’s staunch followers could be projected as rabid arsonists.

Much to their annoyance, the quick-witted Laxman expressed his doubts on whether they had all really imbibed the Ramayana.  He went on to expound that the most ardent Ram bhakt was Lord Hanuman, who had gone about setting fire to Lanka with his blazing tail.

Rather confused, the group had trooped out awkwardly.

***

Suffice to say, Laxman has led an unconventional life. In 1960 he divorced his then dancer-wife Kamala and married his niece also named Kamala. Laxman did it on his terms and brooked no criticism.

The genius is prone to being eccentric and intimidating at times.

At a Bollywood party, a fawning crowd sought his views on actor Sanjay Dutt’s involvement  in the Bombay serial blasts of 1993. Laxman said that he did not think that the actor had played a major role in the terrorist act.

“However, the judge should pronounce the death sentence for the way he looks and the way he acts,” added Laxman brazenly.

There was a disconcerting hush that preceded this statement.

***

On most occasions when Laxman travelled into Bangalore or Mysore, I would be his privileged companion. I drove with him (and Kamala) to all his engagements and eagerly absorbed  his wry observations, sarcastic comments and comical anecdotes.

His world view was simple yet fascinating.

Laxman’s spontaneity and brilliance, was most visible when he held forth before an eager, awe-struck audience.

On one occasion, he recounted how he had mastered the art of slinking away from noisy parties that always began well past midnight. At an appropriate hour,  Laxman would sidle up to the host, mumble a vague incoherent excuse interspersed with words like “airport”, “appointment” , “meeting”  etc.

Invariably, the tipsy host would fall for the ploy and accompany him to the exit.  At home, Laxman would contentedly  slurp on his staple fare of curd rice and retire to bed.

Once in Mysore, after we finished attending a seminar, a leading business house was hosting dinner in Laxman’s honour that evening.

After a hot bath we headed to the venue, which was supposed to be at one of the offices of this flourishing  group. The minute we landed there, Laxman  noticed that people were already mid-way through their bisi bele baath and mosaranna.

The bigger crisis was that there was no whisky being served.

In a split second, Laxman grabbed the arm of his old friend, the legendary nuclear scientist Raja Ramanna (who hailed from Vontikoppal originally), coaxed him to abandon his plate and propelled him out.

All of us jumped into Raja Ramanna’s Mercedes and headed to Hotel King’s Kourt for Johnny Walker Black Label and dinner.

Of course, a magnanimous Raja Ramanna paid the bill.

Earlier that day at the seminar in Mysore’s intellectual retreat Dhvanyaloka,   Laxman was edgy while presenting his paper.

At one point, the academic doyen Dr C.D.Narasimhaiah interjected and commented: “You Tamilians have always been humorous….”

The Mysore-born Laxman bore into him from above his thick rimmed glasses and said: “Who told you I am a Tamilian, I am a Kannadiga….”

The loudest applause came from noted Kannada writer S.L.Bhyrappa, who was sitting by my side. I would like to believe that Laxman was quite genuine when he made that comment.

***

On another occasion, chief minister S.M.Krishna was felicitating the cartoonist at Bangalore’s Institution of Engineers. Soon after the event, there was a milling crowd that blocked me from getting to Laxman.

Even as the driver revved the State car with Laxman in it, there  was confusion all around, security was instructed to look for a certain Chetan Krishnaswamy.

Sensing an emergency, I rushed to the car and plugged my head in, he looked at me a trifle irritated  and enquired: “So where are we going?”

That evening, accompanied by my dear friend and former bureaucrat Pramod Kumar Rai, we sipped beer in his guest house.  The next morning the hospitable Chief Minister’s wife sent the Laxmans piping hot idlis for breakfast.

***

On a visit to a not-so-distant relative’s house in Bangalore, he irritatedly whispered into my ears: “Who is who here? The servants and the relatives all look the same.”

Thankfully nobody heard that.

Dudu , as Laxman is called in the family, was born on 24 October 1924, the youngest of six sons. His strict headmaster father Rasipuram Venkataraman Krishnaswamy Iyer was  imperious and remote, preoccupied with his work to bother much about his youngest son.

The mother Gnanambal, who was the Mysore Maharani’s favourite partner in tennis, bridge and chess, was the cheerful collaborator.

Not many know that in his working years Laxman unfailingly sent his mother a portion of his salary by post. When he came to Mysore on vacation, he would spend most of  his time sprawled on his mother’s cot.

The other great influence was his famous sibling R.K.Narayan, who, to young Laxman’s relief, underplayed the importance of academics, connected him to important artists in Mysore and allowed him to illustrate his short stories for The Hindu set in mythical Malgudi.

Interestingly, both the brothers had contrasting personalities.

While Narayan was a teetotaler, unassuming, patient and more gentle; Laxman was mercurial and quite a free-spirited rabble rouser. Narayan mentored his nephews and grand nephews; was always concerned about the extended family’s well being and future.

Laxman was affectionate but seemed more distant.

However, both brothers were non-ritualistic in their spiritual beliefs.  Laxman, though was a little more vocal in criticising established religion and sometimes refused to walk into crowded temples.

His favorite deity has always  been the playful elephant god Ganesha, which he drew with great dexterity and vigor. For his artist eye, the rotund form seemed to manifest itself everywhere: in a tree trunk, a weather beaten boulder, a drifting cloud, etc.

Laxman’s  other enduring  subject has been the common crow, whose quirks have held him spell-bound  since childhood. Curiously, Narayan’s obsession was the owl: he had accumulated a collection of statuettes  over a period of time.

As kids, my cousins and I would be intrigued by this strange collection every time we were able to sneak into Narayan’s  airy room in Mysore.

Is there an explanation for one family spawning two such outstanding creative figures?

N.Ram, the present chief editor of The Hindu, had attempted to respond to that question:

“It happens very rarely but it has happened elsewhere. They express individual genius, which has always defied explanation, but they are also products of a particular family and social milieu that has been congenial to creativity: liberal and modern in outlook, yet imbued with strong values and laidback integrity and respectful of independence and originality.

“The link between childhood and adult creativity is now well recognised in the social science, especially psychological, literature: that is, the importance to the creative mind of a childhood in which exploration and curiosity are encouraged, not restricted or stifled.

“Laxman, a decade-and-a-half younger than Narayan, is very different in make-up, temperament and experience. But he is a product of the same kind of upbringing and social milieu that have fostered creativity, although they cannot of course ‘explain’ it.

“Further, Laxman (who, in his autobiography, tells us that ‘I do not remember wanting to do anything else except draw’) has clearly benefited, from the beginning, from having Narayan around him: to mind him as a child, to encourage his independence and creativity, to have him illustrate his Malgudi stories and novels, to take pride, without ever making a fuss, in his gift and accomplishments. I have observed the two brothers together: so close, yet so different, and so independent from each other—creative contrasts from one distinctive, difficult to replicate, pool.”

***

Although Laxman never wore a wrist watch in his entire life, he had a fondness for tweaking watches and other mechanical contraptions. He was the quintessential man about the house repairing gadgets that had broken down and fixing other knick knacks.

A born engineer!

As kids he would regale us with magic tricks. Coins would disappear and appear, sometimes dropping out of our noses and ears. He always had a bundle of tricks up his sleeve, and was the most awaited guest in our houses.

In the later years, brother R.K.Srinivasan’s home  kept a brown hardbound book for Laxman to doodle everytime he came on a vacation. The book, a family heirloom, has a range of Laxman’s caricatures.

They are whacky, whimsical, political, absurd – perhaps  reflecting Laxman’s relaxed mood. A whole bunch of them are ball-point scribbles, but with the distinctive stamp of the artist.

***

In November last year, Laxman visited Bangalore and Mysore and patiently posed for pictures with the entire family. It was painful to see him wheel chair bound and cheerless. A paralytic stroke had rendered his left side completely useless.

I had lunch with the Laxmans in their hotel room in Mysore and took them for a quick drive around Laxman’s old haunts in the city. He rode with me in silence, periodically making uncharitable comments about the city.

He cursed the lack of street lights, the  bad roads and shoddy planning of what was once his most beloved city. This time,  I was careful not to make unnecessary small talk or embellish his views with my own banalities.

As darkness set in, he wanted to be dropped back to his hotel. Unlike in the past, it seemed evident that the genius  had not enjoyed the drive.  As his helpers heaved him out of the car and placed him on  his wheel chair, he thanked me quickly and cursed the flight of stairs that appeared before him.

***

Recently, actor Akshay Kumar visited him at the Breach Candy hospital in Mumbai to talk to him about his latest film that was based on the Common Man.

Wonder whether Laxman will ever regale an audience about this encounter with the same fervor and zest.

***

Author photograph: courtesy Facebook

View unpublished doodles/ illustrations: here and here

***

Also read: Has namma R.K. Laxman drawn his last cartoon?

Laxman & Narayan: How one family produced two geniuses

Look, who inspired R.K. Laxman‘s common man!

Making all of us smile can make one of us cry

The 13 who stopped and supped at Indra Bhavan

18 August 2010

Venkataramana Pandit Krishna Murthy alias V.K. Murthy, the Mysore-born cinematographer, the first to be chosen for the Dada Saheb Phalke award, on being felicitated by his alma mater Sharada Vilas college, on the Quit India movement anniversary:

Star of Mysore: What made you join the freedom struggle?

V.K. Murthy: Among the fondest of my childhood memories was the inspiration I derived from Mahatma Gandhi. India was fighting for its freedom and Gandhiji was a constant source of inspiration for many youngsters like me. I still vividly remember being arrested and sent to jail. In fact I remember that day so well as if the canvas is there in front of me.

Star of Mysore: … and you found yourself in jail! How did it happen?

VKM: In my student days I was very enthusiastic. I was ready to do anything for the nation. During the 1942 Quit India movement, Tulasidas Dasappa and H.Y. Sharada Prasad were arrested one day.

The next day sheepishly I along with a group of some 65 students on a cycle went in front of the police chowki (jail) shouting, ‘Mahatma Gandhi ki jai, Bharath mata ki jai.’

The guard standing near the jail entrance stopped and told us to meet the jail superintendent. I replied that we are not his slaves and instead asked him to come and meet us.

The Jail Superintendent came out and requested, ‘Please come inside.’ The anti-climax was that when I turned to seek my supporters, there were only thirteen left ! And we entered the jail.

I was thinking they would release us by evening, but we were kept inside prison for three months. The jail superintendent, an Indian named Sheshu Iyer, was a kind-hearted person who often got us eatables and coffee. He even took us to Indra Bhavan (on Sayyaji Rao road) on our way to the Court where we were taken once in 15 days. By the time I was released I had put on 5 pounds weight.

Visit the website: Star of Mysore

T.S. SATYAN: Once upon a time during the Quit India movement

M.V. KRISHNASWAMY: Memories of another day

What the Sri Lankans could learn from Pakistanis

17 August 2010

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: India’s one-day international against Sri Lanka, at Dambulla on Monday, in a ‘must win’ match was a well-contested one. But, at its fag end, it left a bad taste, when off spinner Suraj Randiv deliberately bowled his first no-ball of the match to prevent Virender Sehwag getting a well-deserved century.

With the scores level, Sehwag on 99 and India needing one to win, Randiv overshot the crease by more than a foot. Sehwag managed to hit the ball for a six. Unfortunately, it did not count as the no-ball’s contribution of one meant India had won the match.

Sehwag was stranded not out at 99.

It gets complicated when you hear Kumar Sangakkara, captain of Sri Lanka and King’s XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League (IPL), advising Randiv “Remember, if he scores he gets a 100!” which the stump microphone promptly picked up and recorded.

All captains take an oath of fairplay these days.

Was the captain first advising the rookie spinner to deliberately bowl a no-ball and later certifying in the press conference that Randiv did not deliberately bowl a no-ball to prevent Viru’s 100?

Now, Saurav Ganguly says the Sri Lankans did the same to him when Lasith Malinga bowled a wide to give four runs leaving Ganguly stranded at 98. It has happened to Sachin Tendulkar too in a match.

Have the Lankans made a habit of this?

Could they learn something from the Pakistanis?

Let’s go back in history. Imagine the scene when Anil Kumble needed one wicket to bag all 10 wickets in a Test innings, which had been achieved only once earlier by Jim Laker against Australia in 1955.

Kumble was bowling to arch rivals, Pakistan, at the Ferozshah Kotla in Delhi in 1999. The batsmen at the crease: the famous speed merchants, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis.

Have you ever seen a fast bowler giving a wicket away to another fast bowler or a spinner to another spinner? When such is the level of competition, won’t a fleeting thought come across which will say ‘ let me play spoilsport?’

It is to the eternal credit of Wasim and Waqar to have played half a dozen overs before Wasim was out caught V.V.S. Laxman and bowled Kumble giving him 10 for 74.

I know the two were accused of ball tampering among other sins.

Yet, it is again to the credit of the 2Ws, they didn’t get run out nor get out deliberately to a bowler at the other end even if Javagal Srinath was asked to bowl outside the off stump by India’s captain Sourav Ganguly Mohammed Azharuddin.

Not many spoke of their sportsmanship when they played the game in its true spirit. How many cricketers of modern era would have done that? Especially by Asians, in letting another Asian becoming the second bowler in history to capture 10 wickets in an innings?

This is in such a contrast to what we saw Suraj Randiv doing, probably, at the instance of his captain!

Is ban on cow slaughter, ‘majority appeasement’?

17 August 2010

There are plenty of hints that Karnataka is hurtling towards the hustings once again: a high-decibel Congress padayatra on the illegal mining issue followed by a high-profile Rahul Gandhi visit; an execrable series of “sadhana samaveshas” by a BJP government which spews “development” like a mantra; loud whispers of a JDS tieup with BJP once again, with the unthinkable actually becoming a reality in Chamarajanagar; the launch of new Kannada news channels belonging to the BJP and JDS and so on and so forth.

All those straws in the wind can get blown away, of course, but if there is one substantive issue that is setting the political theatre on edge, it is the proposed ban on cow slaughter by the B.S. Yediyurappa government. The “historic” Karnataka prevention of slaughter and preservation of cattle bill, 2010, was passed without debate in mid-July when the opposition was on a dharna. After that, it has been a circus of deft electoral posturing.

First the governor H.R. Bhardwaj held back the bill on the ground that some provisions had inter-State implications. (This prompted the BJP to demand his resignation.) The JDS chief H.D. Deve Gowda met the President Pratibha Patil in early August, urging her not to give her consent to an emotive issue which was part of the sangh parivar’s agenda. The BJP too met the President, and yesterday, the Congress followed suit.

The BJP, which otherwise has little use for Mahatma Gandhi‘s idea of India, conveniently falls back on the father of the nation (and its other pet hate B.R. Ambedkar) to explain its rationale. It says the ban is already in force in seven-eight (mostly BJP ruled) states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh, and in such cradles of democracy as Iran and Cuba. It says the Supreme Court has upheld the ban. And, it says allowing the slaughter of a sacred animal goes against the beliefs of Hindus.

For their part, the Congress and JDS trot out a variety of dietary and economic reasons opposing the ban, chiefly the fact that it is a cheap meat for poor people, especially among Dalits, Muslims and Christians. The leader of the opposition Siddaramaiah has said the State has no business proscribing certain meats. Karnataka Congress chief R.V. Deshpande has talked of the damage to the leather industry. Former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy has spoken of a potential law and order situation if the ban were to enforced, and said the bill could be misused to harass minorities.

The BJP’s stand is posited on its farcical concern for “compassion”—cruelty to the cow—when most animals are malreated. Do all Hindus worship the cow (when India’s biggest beef exporter, Al Kabeer, is owned by a Hindu)? Do all Hindus support the ban? Do all Hindus spurn beef? Do all Hindus want to be stuck with animals, howsoever sacred, beyond their utility?

Professor D.N. Jha of Delhi University wrote in “The Myth of the Holy Cow, that in no major scripture…:

“…is killing a cow described as a major or grave sin, unlike drinking liquor or killing a Brahmin… It is only in the 19th century that the demand for banning cow-slaughter emerged as a tool of mass political mobilisation by right-wing Hindu communalists”.

Also, a ban tests the Constitution on two fronts: the freedom to live and act (and eat) as one wishes (provided that doesn’t infringe on other people’s rights), and the right to “carry on any occupation, trade or business”. Could a ban on cow slaughter spark competitive demands for a ban on slaughter of other animals which are part of the diet, like say pigs?

Questions: To overturn a political stereotype, does the BJP’s plan to ban cow slaughter, in the name of “beliefs and aspirations of Hindus”, amount to “majority appeasement” that plays with individual dietary taste and constitutional freedoms? Is the political temperature being artificially pumped up by all sides to encash their political votebanks when the time is ripe? Are elections nigh?

Admit it, a dog’s life is just a lousy human cliche

16 August 2010

On the morning after, a Maruti Gypsy owner’s two best friends watch the passing parade of low life on Raj Bhavan road in Bangalore.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,347 other followers