Archive for September, 2010

CHURUMURI POLL: End of the Ayodhya dispute?

30 September 2010

Using the  “faith and belief of Hindus” as a key barometer, two of the judges of the three-judge Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court have ruled that the “area covered under the central dome of the disputed structure” in Ayodhya, is the birth place of Lord Ram.

# “The disputed site is the birth place of Lord Rama. Place of birth is a juristic person and is a diety,” writes Justice D.V. Sharma. “It is personified as the spirit of divine worshipped as birth place of Lord Rama as a child. Spirit of divine ever remains present everywhere at all times for any one to invoked at any shape or form in accordance with his own aspirations and it can be shapeless and formless also.”

# “The area covered under the central dome of the disputed structure is the birthplace of Lord Rama as per faith and belief of Hindus,” writes Justice Sudhir Agarwal.

# “For a very long time till the construction of the mosque it was treated/believed by Hindus that somewhere in a very large area of which premises in dispute is a very small part birth place of Lord Ram was situated,” writes Justice S.U. Khan. “However, the belief did not relate to any specified small area within that bigger area specifically the premises in dispute. After some time of construction of the mosque, Hindus started identifying the premises in dispute as exact birth place of Lord Ram or a pleace wherein exact birth place was situated.”

Has the Ayodhya issue reached closure with the title being divided between three parties or will the use of “faith and belief of Hindus” to legally adjudicate that Lord Ram was indeed born in Ayodhya open up an entirely new flank, if and when the case goes up in appeal before the Supreme Court?

A view from up above of the water down below

29 September 2010

Technicians peer down Crest Gate No. 11 of the Krishna Raja Sagar (KRS) dam, which breached on Tuesday night due to a technical flaw and the pressure of water. The ferocity of the water gushing out was noticed only early on Wednesday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

How well do you know your Ayodhya alphabet?

29 September 2010

On the day before, Bellur Ramakrishna stirs up the alphabet soup that is the Ayodhya dispute, garnishing it with the names, faces and jargon that have become an essential part of the political meal for a generation and more.

Also read: Hindutva-vadis have gorged on Ayodhya since 1947

The man who sowed the dragon seeds of hatred

L.K. Advani offers nothing creative, only resentment’

CHURUMURI POLL: Who will win Ayodhya title?

In Ayodhya, Dasaratha‘s wives gorged on idli-dosa

CHURUMURI POLL: Lord Rama, man or myth?

A stylish lesson in humility from namma Rajni

29 September 2010

There will be many tales told about Rajnikanth in the next few days as Endhrian aka The Robot checks in to a screen near you. Many of them (told by the man himself) will be true, of course, but they will mostly have been manufactured by the buzz machine that modern movies live (and die) by.

Nice to hear, easy to forget.

But the truest stories about Rajnikanth are truly about his humility and humanity despite achieving such stratospheric heights of stardom. About not forgetting his past. About where he comes from. About not losing touch with old friends. About being able to do things he did when he wasn’t earning in crores.

Selvan Shiv Kumar, the Bangalore photographer who passed away recently, detailed one such story about Raj Bahadur (left), who drove the BTS bus on which Rajni was conductor, in his last blog post.

***

By SELVAN SHIV KUMAR

Raj Bahadur lives a one-room pad in Chamarajpet where the superstar visits him in disguise to meet him and stays with him during his Bangalore sojourns.

Rajnikanth, says Bahadur, is still the same old friend he was during their tenure as driver and conductor in the BTS (Bangalore Transport Service) now BMTC; if anything, their friendship has only deepened even as Rajni kept growing from actor to superstar.

Bahadur says Rajni’s simplicity is evident: ‘When he comes to see me, we drink the same old rum with egg-laced delicacies from my sister who lives one floor below mine. When it is bed time, he sleeps on the floor without any complaints.”

Bahadur says Rajni comes unnoticed to his home in various disguises—from beggar to plumber—and leaves after staying with him for a day or two depending on his mood, often sharing his experiences from the netherworld he inhabits.

Once, Rajni was on a shoot in Rajasthan. The role demanded that he dress up as a beggar. In between shots, Rajni decided to visit a mountain-top temple close by since he is a strong believer. On his way to the temple, a lady dropped a Rs 10 note into his palms thinking he was a beggar.

After paying obeisance inside the temple, Rajni was on his way out and getting back into his SUV when the lady who had given him ten 10 rupees noticed him again. She ran towards him and apologised and asked for her note back with his autograph.

Rajni refused: “I am sorry. This note is mine now and I am going to keep it for life.”

This, Bahadur says, Rajni still cherishes as one of his best moments in life as an actor and still carries the Rs 10 in his purse as a remainder that all humans are equal.

For a man who started his job as a bus conductor with a monthly salary of Rs 30 more than 25 years ago, to the star who now gets paid Rs 30 crore per film and yet remain unmoved by all the money is a great feeling. And more so since he is a great friend till death parts us, adds Bahadur with tears in his eyes, which he was unable to stop.

Also read: When a tiger has sex with a tornado

11 similarities between Rajni and the iPod

A hit, yes, but why does Rajni have such a hold?

The most testing day in the life of Rajnikanth

Don’t tell us you didn’t know this one about Rajni

How Rajnikanth caught the lion

When a tiger has sex with a tornado: Rajnikanth

29 September 2010

The release of Endhiran aka The Robot this Friday is creating sufficient noise in the media as almost every movie seems to do these days. But since it is Rajnikanth, and since the movie also involves the action director of The Matrix, the creature designer of Jurassic Park, and the music composer of Slumdog Millionaire, Shankar‘s movie it is also getting a bit of foreign press.

Grady Hendrix attempts to crack the Rajni phenomenon in the online magazine, Slate:

“If a tiger had sex with a tornado and then their tiger-nado baby got married to an earthquake, their offspring would be Rajinikanth. Or, as his films are contractually obligated to credit him, “SUPERSTAR Rajinikanth!”…

“Onscreen, when Rajinikanth points his finger, it’s accompanied by the sound of a whip cracking. When he becomes enraged, the director cuts to a shot of a gorilla pounding his chest or inserts a tiger roaring on the soundtrack. Echo is added to enhance his “punch dialogues,” rhyming lines uttered at moments of high drama….

“The Superstar doesn’t just mop his brow with a towel; he flourishes it like a bullfighter. Putting his sunglasses on is an operation as complex as a Vegas floorshow. His action scenes are so mannered that they’re like watching a new form of macho Kabuki.”

Read the full article: The biggest star you haven’t heard of

Also read: 11 similarities between Rajni and the iPod

A hit, yes, but why does Rajni have such a hold?

The most testing day in the life of Rajnikanth

Don’t tell us you didn’t know this one about Rajni

How Rajnikanth caught the lion

CHURUMURI POLL: Who will win Ayodhya title?*

28 September 2010

Now that all the manufactured hurdles in the path of a judgment in the Ayodhya title dispute have been cleared by the Supreme Court, which way does it seem the verdict will go?

***

*This poll was originally posted on 17 September 2010.

Hindutvavadis have gorged on Ayodhya since ’47

28 September 2010

On the day the judiciary put an end to the dilatory tactics of the executive in the Ayodhya title dispute , by ruling that the Allahabad High Court can go ahead and pronounce its judgment, Mukul Kesavan writes in The Telegraph, Calcutta, that the Babri masjid issue has travelled in the direction of the Hindutva-vadis since Independence.

And the smuggling in of the Ram idol into the masjid in 1949, the opening of the gates by the Rajiv Gandhi government in 1985, the demolition of the mosque in the presence of the presiding deities of the BJP, A.B. Vajpayee and L.K. Advani in 1992, the acquisition of the land by the Centre in 1993, all have had the shameless complicity of the State:

“In the context of the demolition, not only is an existing mosque first encroached upon, then razed, not only does Hindu worship continue on the site, but one of the consequences of this vandalism is also an apex court judgment that suggests that mosques, all mosques, are no longer protected by Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution because they aren’t part of the basic furniture of Islam.

“It’s worth noting that this was a majority judgment from a five-judge bench; in the words of Gary Jeffrey Jacobsohn, a constitutional scholar: ‘[T]he two dissenting judges, both of whom were Muslims, had an understanding of the obligations of Islamic practice that differed sharply from their three Hindu colleagues in the majority.’

“”So, instead of a majoritarian campaign of violence and destruction (which led to the mosque being razed and thousands of Muslims being attacked and killed in the wake of the demolition) being punished, Muslims found themselves a) minus one mosque, b) the victims of vicious, orchestrated violence and c) at the receiving end of a judgment that made their places of worship an optional extra, not sacred places protected by their constitutional right to religious practice.”

Read the full article: Closure in Ayodhya

Also read: The man who sowed the dragon seeds of hatred

L.K. Advani offers nothing creative, only resentment’

CHURUMURI POLL: Who will win Ayodhya title?

Does BJP have no decency left to defend its own?

In Ayodhya, Dasaratha‘s wives gorged on idli-dosa

CHURUMURI POLL: Lord Rama, man or myth?

Why Prince Charles should not inaugurate CWG

28 September 2010

With a cyclone in the chai cup brewing over who should cut the ribbon at the Commonwealth Games in the absence of the Queen, who should we consult for expert guidance on matters royal?

Sanjeev Bhaskar and Kulvinder Ghir from the British sitcom Goodness Gracious Me, of course.

Also readJust one question I’m dying to ask Suresh Kalmadi

A devil’s idea from hell’s labyrinth to ruin us all

The Times of India and the Commonwealth Games

3 reasons why ban on cow slaughter is ridiculous

27 September 2010

Vinod K. Jose, who watched cows in his upper-caste neighbour’s house in Manipal being looked after by a servant belonging to the Koraga tribal tribe who ate beef, on why “Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill 2010″ is fraught, in Caravan:

1) People who coexist with cattle—the ones who get their hands dirty looking after the animals— should not be left out of the debate against those who make higher moral claims of militant vegetarianism, those who preach the doctrine of the sacrosanct bovine, yet watch the animals eat plastic and urban waste and return no physical care to the animals.

2) Cows were not ‘sacred’ during the Vedic and post-Vedic periods. Indra had a weakness for bull meat, and Agni for bull as well as cow, the texts say. Taittiriya Brahman says: atho annam via gauh (verily the cow is food). And in Charak Samhita, the Ayurvedic medical text, cow’s flesh is prescribed as a medicine for various diseases.

3) Beef contains 22.5 proteins while rice has only 6 to 8 percent and wheat only 10 to 12 percent. Also for its essential amino acids, animal proteins are qualitatively better than vegetable proteins. This is also a reason lower-caste Hindus continue to eat beef in spite of ritualistic Hindus making it a taboo.

The right to one’s food preference has to be respected just as much as another’s right to avoid a particular food.

Read the full article: The beef over buff

Also read: Is ban on cow slaughter ‘majority appeasement’?

The cruel, repressive regime of Colonel Sanders

Leaves so large you could serve a thali on them

Citizen-Journalist quiz on Commonwealth Games

26 September 2010

Citizen-Journalist E.R. RAMACHANDRAN is pleased to present the Commonwealth Games quiz.

Please fill in and send us your entries before the due date mentioned below. If you miss the deadline, no problem; send it before the next due date.

Prizes are indicated at bottom. An empowered group of ministers (EGoM) headed by Sri S. Jaipal Reddy if he is still in charge till then that is, will announce and distribute the prizes.

Your time begins now (or then):

***

Question 1:  In your opinion, who is the biggest villain of the Commonwealth Games 2010?

a. Mani Shankar Aiyar
b. Suresh Kalmadi
c.  Manohar Singh Gill
d.  Sheila Dixit
e.  All of the above, plus Dr. Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi

Question 2: Which of the following presents the biggest threat for participants in Delhi CWG?

a) Falling roofs
b) Collapsing beds
c) Dengue, malaria, gastroenteritis
d) Dogs on beds
e) Leaky toilets
f) Waterlogging in bedrooms
g) Mudslide on running tracks
h) Filth, muck in games’ village
i) Politicians, bureaucrats
j) Terrorists

Question 3:  How many kilometres of toilet paper have been imported by the organising committee for the games?

a)  10 km
b)  100 km
c)  1,000 km
d)  None at all. Yamuna water is there everywhere

Question 4: Who should take the oath on ‘spirit of fair play’ before the games?

a)   Queen of England for starting the fiasco with the ‘Baton Relay’  function.
b)    Suresh Kalmadi
c)    Lalit Bhanot
d)    M.S. Gill

Question 5: Who will be the chairman of the organising committee for the Olympics Games to be hosted by India?

a) Suresh Kalmadi
b) Kalmadi’s son
c) Kalmadi’s daughter
d) Anyone else?

Question 6: Who will be the athlete of the games?

a) Shera
b) A.R. Rehman
c) Arnab Goswami of Times Now
d) Athletes who manage to reach the venues

Question 7: Who should get the ‘Drutharashtra’ award for extraordinary vision, conceptualisation and implementation of CWG Delhi?

a) Suresh Kalmadi
b) Mike Fennel and Mike Hooper
c) Mani Shankar Aiyar for ditching the Games
d) Manmohan Singh

Question 8: Who exactly is responsible for the mess that is CWG- Delhi?

a) Indian Olympic Committee
b) Commonwealth Games organising commitee
c) Central public works department
d) Delhi Development Authority
e) Centre government
f) Delhi State government
g) Both governments
h) All of them

Question 9:  After the Games what do we do with Kalmadi?

a) Honour him with Bharat Ratna’
b) Hang him from a roof which doesn’t collapse
c) Make him president for hosting Olympics Games
d) Make him deputy chairman of planning commission
e) I have my own private plans

Question 10: Which movie title best sums up CWG 2010–Delhi?

a) Monsoon Wedding
b) Gol-Maal
c) Any Ramgopal Varma movie
d) Chori Chori
e) Chupke Chupke

***

Deadline for submission of entries: Just before opening ceremony of Olympic Games hosted by India.

Prizes: I Prize:  Honorary menbership of IOC + 100 strips of paracetamol to fight dengue
II Prize: chairman of cleaning committee + 100 rolls of imported toilet paper
III Prize: drug inspector to test athletes for doping + 100 inhalers

***

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

400th year of Dasara, and we can’t remember?

25 September 2010

GOURI SATYA writes a small epitaph for our sense of history, in Business Standard:

“Dasara 2010 in Mysore due shortly will be historic. It was 400 years ago that the 10-day celebrations was conducted for the first time. After annexing Srirangapatna in the battle of Kesare, now a part of Mysore, one of the early and prominent rulers of the Wodeyar dynasty conducted the celebrations for the first time in AD 1610.

“But, the Karnataka government was caught napping. By the time the administration realised the significance of the event, it was too late.

“After annexing Srirangapatna, which was part of the Vijayanagar domain, Raja Wodeyar continued the tradition of the Vijayanagar rulers of Hampi-fame in this historic town near Mysore for the first time. Raja Wodeyar defeated Vijayanagar representative and royal chieftain Thirumalaraya at the war in Kesare and annexed Srirangapatna.

“The maiden Dasara was modeled after the Vijayanagar celebrations. It was held with great éclat of which a graphic description is available in literary records. He not only introduced the celebrations in the then Mysore province but also laid down how it should be conducted by the royal family in the days to come. The rules he laid down 400 years ago is faithfully followed till today by the Wodeyar family.

“The fact that 2010 will be historic, dawned belatedly on the organisers of the festivities and they have initiated steps to cover up their laxity.

A logo marking the 400th year, drawn by a young artist, has been accepted by Mayor Sandesh Swamy. However, the Dasara publicity posters released on Thursday in Mysore fails to take note of the eventful mark. Nowhere does it mention of the historic fact or carries the logo.

“After realising the historical significance just a fornight ahead of the Dasara celebrations, to commence on October 8, the district authorities are persuading the department of posts to issue a special stamp and a first-day envelope. Steps have also been initiated to have a silver coin specially minted for the occasion. The ‘Gandabherunda’ or the double-headed eagle, the insignia of the rulers of Mysore, is the proposed design for the silver coin of 10 gm.

“The 400th anniversary could have been turned into a significant event with grand celebrations with long-drawn planning. However, it will be again another state-sponsored Dasara just like those of the last couple of years.”

Photograph: courtesy U.B. Vasudev

Also read: Dasara in punya bhoomi vs Dasara in karma bhoomi

On the morning of the first day of the nine nights

What is so famous about “world-famous” Mysore Dasara?

All that glitters is gold for the next ten days

My daddy, His Highness, the Maharaja of Mysore

If we can send man to the moon, why can’t we…?

24 September 2010

If we can send man to the man, why can’t we get our storm water drainage system right? A Karnataka state road transport corporation (KSRTC) bus lies almost completely submerged in water under the railway overbridge on Subedar Chatram road in Bangalore on Friday, after heavy rain lashed the State capital for over two hours.

Photographs: Karnataka Photo News

Just one question I’m dying to ask Suresh Kalmadi

24 September 2010

The Commonwealth Games 2010 have been a stupendous PR disaster for a country that likes to think that it is racing alongside China. What was to have been New Delhi’s response to Beijing’s Olympics, has become a 21st century epitaph of ancient Indian specialities such as corruption, nepotism, inefficiency, unaccounability and worse.

Now that the shit has really hit the false ceiling, metaphorically speaking, what is the one question you would like to ask namma Suresh Kalmadi, the chairman of the organising committee who was known as Suresh “Calamity” in the Indian Air Force because of his ability to run into calmaities calamities with his car every so often?

Like, would Rahul baba have handled this better like his papa did the Asian Games in 1982? Like, is his sense of hygiene the same as his Man Friday, Lalit Bhanot‘s?

Please keep your queries short, civil and direct—and deduct 10% at source.

Cartoon: courtesy R. Prasad/ Mail Today

Also read: A devil’s idea from hell’s labyrinth to ruin us all

The Times of India and the Commonwealth Games

External reading: A ringmaster’s reckoning

CHURUMURI POLL: Are modern spinners better?

23 September 2010

First, it was the turn of a modern-day legend to slay an old one.

Offspinner Muttaiah Muralitharan, who has endured a lifetime of taunts over his bowling action, hit back at his chief tormentor in India, left arm spinner Bishen Singh Bedi, calling him “an ordinary bowler”, rating the other members of the famous spin quartet—B.S. Chandrashekhar, E.A.S. Prasanna and S. Venkataraghavan—above him.

“He (Bedi) did not have any variation. He just bowled left-arm spin and the pitch did the variation for him. That is what he bowled. I saw some (of his) bowling of his playing days. He would have been hammered every ball had he played in the modern era,” Muralitharan said, a week after his retirement.

Now, it is the turn of a legend of the past to slay a current one.

Sir Gary Sobers has said Australian leg spinner Shane Warne was overrated and that Subhash Gupte was a much better leggie than the Sheikh of Tweak.

“Someone who is called great from today’s game is Shane Warne, but I have got my reservations about Shane. I think he is a great bowler, but I’m not sure how well he compares with spinners overall. I think people get carried away with this man’s ability as he hardly ever bowled a good googly.

“To me, Shane Warne is a great turner of the ball. I like his aggressive attitude, I love the way he attacks batsmen and I give him 100% for that as not enough spinners bowl with that approach, but in my estimation Subhash Gupte was a better legspinner,” Sobers says in his new book.

Comparions may be odious, but is old necessarily gold? Or, are modern-day spinners better than spinners of the past?

Are the accomplishments of older spinners any less remarkable than that of newer ones although they mostly bowled on uncovered pitches? Or, are modern spinners better because they are able to bowl in all forms of the game with equal success, against booming bats, and with field restrictions designed to help batsmen?

Or, was Gandhiji the best spinner of all, better than Bedi and Warne and Murali? (Just kidding.)

What she means is her portfolio, but she could…

23 September 2010

The Twitter bug bites the newly sworn-in minister of Karnataka, Shobha Karandlaje, in a Freudian sort of way.

What the controversial MLA from Yeshwanthpur probably means is that she has been allotted the “power” portfolio in the recast team. But having unwittingly been made a sacrificial lamb in the battle between chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa and the Reddy brothers last November, the tweet could well contain a note of exultation at having got back what had been cruelly snatched from her.

Pavan Murali writes:

“It would be great if our ministers realize that with power comes responsibility. Not once have I seen a minister rejoice when they have had to shoulder additional responsibility, but we always see them unable to contain their excitement when offered more power. Unfortunate.”

Then again, as the historian John Dalberg-Acton said famously:

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Linka via Pavan Murali

The Gateway to the South opens up once again

22 September 2010

On the day of her return to the BJP ministry in Karnataka, 10 months after the Reddy brothers had earned her scalp, Yeshwanthpur MLA Shobha Karandlaje takes the blessings of mentor and chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa after being sworn in as minister, at the Raj Bhavan in Bangalore on Wednesday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Survival of the fittest is a great photo opportunity

Yella vokay, sototu-bootu, salwar-kameez yaake?

The handshake everybody loves to watch closely

The gateway to the South as seen from up above

Is media resorting to self-censorship on Ayodhya?

22 September 2010

The run-up to the court verdict on the title suit in the Ayodhya dispute has seen plenty of activity built around the media. The News Broadcasters’ Association—the body representing private television news and current affairs broadcasters—has issued a set of four guidelines to all editors of member-news channels:

1) All news relating to the High Court judgment in the case should be verbatim reproduction of the relevant part of the said judgement uninfluenced by any opinion or interpretation.

2) No broadcast should be made of any speculation of the judgement before it is pronounced ; and of its likely consequence thereafter which may be sensational, inflammatory or provocative.

3) No footage of the demolition of the Babri Masjid is to be shown in any new item relating to the judgement.

4) No visuals need be shown depicting celebration or protest of the judgement.

Citing the size of the court room, the media (print and electronic) have been kept away from the compound of the Allahabad high court, and the court has gone so far as to say that the media must not speculate about the verdict till it has a copy of the operational part of the order.

Now, the Union home minister P. Chidambaram has urged the media to “reserve judgement and not make hasty pronouncements.”

While the precautions are no doubt understandable given the preciousness of human life, a good question to ask is, is the Indian media resorting to self-censorship in order to present a better face? In the process of doing so, is it allowing itself to be told what to do and what not to do, thus depriving viewers of what they should know?

If all this passes muster in the name of “self-restraint”, where does this self-restraint vanish on normal days? Is the NBA’s call for self-restraint now an admission of the utter lack of it on regular days?

Was the killing and mayhem that followed the demolition of the Babri masjid by Hindutva goons, while BJP leaders watched in 1992, squarely a fault of the media? Conversely, if the media weren’t around for this and other stories, would India be a land of milk and honey?

Cartoon: courtesy Keshav/ The Hindu

The world was at his fingertips till he went down

22 September 2010

Between the final procession and the actual immersion, an idol of the four-armed one undergoes a minor transformation, in Karwar on Tuesday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: At 8t Cross, even Ganesha wants a good concert

When Chamundi betta relocates to amchi Mumbai

Once upon a time, Ganesha habba as it used to be

The delightful feminism behind Ganesha‘s birth

When Gajanana meets the JCB on Chowpatty

‘A party of loafers, thieves, liars, land-grabbers’

21 September 2010

On the eve of a comical cabinet reshuffle that has seen partymen and independents walking completely out of step—one gentleman threatening to commit suicide if dropped, another counting his chickens before they are hatched,  a third forever waiting, etc—Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa steps out of the Vidhana Soudha in sync with ministerial colleague Lakshman Savadi, in Bangalore on Tuesday.

“Only ‘lafangeys’ (loafers), thieves, liars and land grabbers have a place in this party and not honest workers,” a four-time BJP legislator from Mysore, H.S. Shankaralinge Gowda, said after Yediyurappa told him he was helpless and could not make him a minister.

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

One sanna step for man, one giant leap for anna

Any resemblance is accidental & unintentional—II

21 September 2010

A nice little slanging match has broken out on the letters’ pages of the newsweeklies over banker-turned-writer Sarita Mandanna‘s debut book Tiger Hills and simmering allegations that it draws its inspiration from surgeon-cum-writer Kavery Nambisan‘s 1996 novel The Scent of Pepper.

***

In the August 23 issue of Outlook, Mathew Panayil wrote:

THESE STRIPES SEEM SIMILAR

“I was reassured reading Kalpish Ratna’s book review of Tiger Hills (Books, August 9). The pre-release reviews I read (even in top magazines such as India Today) were so biased as if to resemble a well-crafted press release by agent David Godwin and Penguin India.

“It was disappointing to find Tiger Hills carried more than just traces of Kavery Nambisan’s Scent of Pepper (1996). The latter is also a family saga set in Coorg. Both books have an episode (one of several such) where the two main male characters participate in a mock battle (pariakali), part of the traditional harvest celebrations. The description is identical in passages: both men in the two books have the women they love watching, both win, and both episodes end in a marriage proposal being made.

“In another instance, female protagonists of both books cut up their wedding sarees to make a costume for their sons,  one for a school play, the other for fancy dress. One boy plays king, another goes as a prince. Both books deal with coffee, westernisation and the nationalist era.

“I travel to Coorg regularly, and know enough on the place  to know the book is full of inaccuracies, and the writer’s knowledge of Kodagu shaky. And eucalyptus in 19th-century Coorg! The bamboo district is in the east, not north. And the title of the Nayakas had been done away 200 years before the period Tiger Hills is set in. One final word: if a book is endorsed in the West, do we have to be so quick to accept it unquestioningly?”

Mathew Panayil, on e-mail

In response to Mathew Panayil’s letter, two Kodavas have defended Sarita Mandanna in the latest issue of Outlook.

BUT NATURALLY

“As Kodavas who are familiar with our culture and as researchers and authors on Kodava culture and tradition, the comment on the review of Sarita Mandanna’s Tiger Hills by Matthew Panayil in Outlook’s letters pages (Aug 23) put us out a bit. The letter-writer had written that “Tiger Hills carried more than just traces of Kavery Nambisan’s Scent of Pepper.”

“We have read and enjoyed both books—both are set in the same community, area and period. However, the plots are different. We maintain that it’s unsurprising when two books about a small community living in a small area, with well-defined festivals (kail polud, puthari, kaveri), dances (kolata, pariakali), crops (paddy, and the coffee introduced by British planters) and social influences (the club culture—another thing bequeathed by the Brits) feature a very similar backdrop!

“Any novel/story set in the Coorg of those times would be described more or less similarly—with familiar phrases, or ‘stripes’, as Mr Panayil puts it. Thus, the insinuation in his letter is unfair.”

Boverianda Nanjamma and Chinappa, Coorg

Almost simultaneously, this letter appears from Yamini Belliappa appears in the current issue of Tehelka:

THE HILLS HAVE EYES

“Refer to Gaurav Jain’s ‘Hunting the Spoor of Tiger Hills’, 28 August. I’ve only read 80 pages of Sarita Mandanna’s debut novel, which you reviewed. The book is riddled with inaccuracies, such as:

1. The book is set in late 1800s and she talks of Nayaks (local chietains) in Coorg, but they were gone 200 years earlier and we only had family heads called Pattedaras.

2. There’s a ‘poleya tribal’ character called Tukra. Poleya means untouchable; tribals were never considered untouchable and certainly never referred to as Poleyas. I think she’s got the Yerava tribe confused with the poleyas.

3. The character Devanna goes to Bangalore Medical College in 1895. No medical colleges in Bangalore till the 1940s. And he actually sits for an entrance exam, which came much, much later.

4. Madikeri (Mercara), now a town in North Coorg is filled with the ringing of bicycle bells in 1890s. I don’t think it was happening even in London at that time.

5. From atop the Coorg hills, the protagonist Devi can see the Chamundi Hills in Mysore and the Arabian Sea and Kudremukh in Mangalore. Not possible, and even if it’s a figment of her imagination, it doesn’t ring true.

6. Devi enters the sanctum sanctorum of a temple and talks to the priest. No one (let alone a meat-eating Coorgi) is allowed into the sanctum but the brahmin priest.

7. The thick bamboo forests are described as being in south Coorg. They’re in the east.

8. A Coorg feast is being laid out: ghee rice, payasam, jalebis and coffee are the only items mentioned. Anyone who’s even sniffed at Coorg will know that we never ever celebrate anything without several meat dishes. In those days it would have been bison, wild boar, partridge, wild fowl, etc.

9. A wealthy father offers to give his daughter Rs.100, or even Rs.200, every month in 1901 or so. Even in the 1940s, Rs. 30 was considered a decent salary.

“We should all be a bit worried about the slipping standards in literature, which few seem to care about.”

Yamini Belliappa, on email

***

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

Also read: Any resemblance is accidental and unintentional

‘Untouchability wasn’t so much a sin as a crime’

20 September 2010

M.S. Prabhakara, longtime northeast and South Africa correspondent of The Hindu, on the ongoing Brahmin-Dalit interaction in Karnataka:

“[The] demonstrative walkabouts by Brahmin leaders in areas one shunned as literally dirty and polluting , and by Dalit leaders in areas formally barred to Dalits, or the washing of the feet of a Dalit guru by Brahmins, are driven by a fundamentally flawed perspective that sees untouchability as a ‘sin.’ Thus the symbolic atoning by those who provided the ideology, the ‘upper’ caste Hindus like Brahmins — for it was the Brahmins who wrote the texts.

“These attempts to weld a common Dalit-Brahmin platform, united in symbolic acts of unity and togetherness, also make those Dalits who are going along with such a compact complicit in their historic diminishment and exclusion.

“The problem with such gestures is that the practice of untouchability was not so much a sin as a calculated crime, part of a social structure constructed by those who controlled the resources to facilitate the accumulation of surplus and profits in the process of material production. However, it is easier and more comfortable to everyone, even some of the victims of that crime, to give untouchability the spin of being a ‘sin,’ for acceptance of moral culpability costs nothing.

“If, on the other hand, one were to see the practice as a calculated crime for which one has to eventually pay, those who have perpetrated such crimes could, under a proper system of justice, be sent to prison.”

Read the full article: Untouchability: a sin and a crime

Also read: ‘Brahmins need a deeksha to awaken empathy’

You have got to protect two types of Mantris

20 September 2010

A day after the shootout at the Jama Masjid in Delhi, the bomb squad gets to work on Cubbon Road near the Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore on Monday against the backdrop of Mantri towers (in picture) and the abode of the other mantris, the Vidhana Soudha.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

‘Brahmins need a deeksha to awaken empathy’

20 September 2010

As the caste and communal cauldron gets nicely stirred up in Karnataka by the competitive padayatras of Hindu and Dalit seers, the noted Kannada writer, Devanoor Mahadeva, turns the mirror on Brahmins, in an important intervention at a seminar held under the auspices of the University of Mysore on Saturday.

***

By DEVANOOR MAHADEVA

I vividly remember an interview that Alanahalli Krishna did with Kuvempu many years ago.

Alanahalli asked Kuvempu: “Do you really believe that the Madhwa philosophy is a mean one?”

Kuvempu replied: “Mean? Most mean.”

Alanahalli had a hearty laugh over that, and the waves of that laughter still reverberate in my ear.

Kuvempu’s impatience with the Madhwa philosophy can be understood in the context of his broad humanist position. The “Nithya muktha, nithya samsaari, nithya naraki” (“One who is forever free, forever involved in worldly affairs and forever goes through the torments of hell”) philosophy of Madhwacharya holds that the human being and the world do not change.

It renders society static, devoid of dynamism, and makes a philosophy of hellish hierarchies.

Vishvesha Teertha is born in this context and is the head of a mut that propagates this philosophy. He seems to be trying to move out of the inertia, struggling to break the confines of the philosophy. It strikes me as the struggle of a little sparrow caught in a net and desperately fluttering its wings.

There are times that I feel that he ought to be with us, not out there. But when I ask myself if his struggle is truly from the heart and born out of a deep religiosity, I cannot confidently answer in the affirmative.

We begin to wonder if Vishvesha Teertha’s padayatra is a matter of religious faith or religious politicking when we juxtapose him with the vachanakaras who said “Keelingallade hayanu kareyadu”, implying that there is no redemption without defeating the ego, and moved closer to the lower castes with this deeply felt faith.

When asked if a man from the Kuruba community would ever be made the head of his mutt, Vishwesha Teertha lost patience and retorted: “You ask this only to Brahmins. Would you ask the same question to a Christian or a Buddhist institution?”

In fact, any man belonging to the Christian or Buddhist faith can ask his religious institution why he cannot head it. Those religions allow it. But is such a thing possible in a Hindu caste-religion? Did a Kanaka Dasa, who stood outside the door of the temple, not belong to your religion? Or is each caste a religion by itself?

What then is dharma or religion? It is, in fact, the hierarchy of higher and lower castes and practices associated with it. This is why we do not think it is petty when Vishwesha Teertha is not allowed to perform puja in Tirupati.

This is also why we fail to see the hypocrisy of a man who will command people not to convert to other religions without a hint of moral dilemma, but will never declare: “Do not covert to other faiths, I am willing to make you the head of my mutt.”

We are never struck by the cruelty of a system that has accepted exclusion as a tradition.

Vishwesha Theertha is all set to give “Vaishnava deekshe” (initiation) to Dalits. There are already several Dalit cult traditions which have long ago been initiated into the Vaishnava tradition. They follow the purificatory rituals of “madi” and treat their shankha-jagates (conch and cymbals) with reverence and do not allow others to enter places where they are kept. They look for brides and grooms within their own small community.

This has led to greater divisions rather than any coming together.

The seer’s padayatra might increase the population of such dasas among dalits, more people might blow conches and strike cymbals. People who have done this have never moved from their position as untouchables.

When such is the case, the Pejavar seer would do well to re-think his plans of giving “Vaishnava deekshe”.

Instead, giving “thrija” (third birth) deekshe to the twice-born Brahmins might be good for the unity, balance and health of our society. The present dwija initiation is intellect-centric. The Gayatri mantra that is central to dwija deekshe speaks of awakening the intellect.

Intellectual activities could also lead to deceptions, discriminations and a sense of superiority and inferiority. What the Indian society today needs urgently is an awakening of a sense of compassion and camaraderie. I request the seer to give this (the thrija deekshe), especially to the Brahmins, to awaken empathy.

My request should not be mistaken for arrogance. (I am sure U.R. Anantha Murthy would ask me to give him “thrija deekshe” if he were to hear of this new concept!)

India has given birth to many things. In fact we are masters in the business of giving births. We are people who have made rowdies of gods to keep the hierarchies of the four varnas, and the discriminations that come with it, intact. I am asking the Pejavar seer to inspire yet another birth and awakening.

We are, after all, a nation that believes in births and re-births.

Let me add to this logic with another theory: Those who practiced untouchability in their previous births are born untouchables in this birth, in order to experience it first hand. Those who practice it now will be born untouchables in the next birth. If there is any truth in re-births, this could as well be happening.

The Indian mind which has killed itself thinking up logical arguments to justify hierarchies, might as well indulge this logical argument for once to bring about unity.

I am getting tired and weary, but there is no end to this. I am living from time immemorial in the hope of finding love and equality. My dream is that the Pejavara seer’s padayatra would inspire at least a few young dwijas to turn trijas, marry outside their castes, and inspire the birth of a new humanity.

I hope my dream comes true.

Link: courtesy Mahamed Ismail

Translation: courtesy B & B

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News library

Also read: For one good turn deserves another and another

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

What to do after ravaging our natural resources

External reading: Untouchability: a sin and a crime

Dinesh Amin Mattoo: Open letter to Visvesha Teertha swamiji

At 8th Cross, even Ganesha wants a good concert

18 September 2010

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: The 49th music festival of Sri Prasanna Vidya Ganapathi Mahotsava Charitable (SPVGMC) Trust—popularly known as Vontikoppal Ganesha music festival; still more endearingly called ‘8th Cross Ganesha” by Mysoreans across the world—is underway in Vani Vilas Mohalla in Mysore.

In itself, this might not strike non-Mysoreans as anything remarkable. But, hang on, there are so many ironies that abound here.

One, this is no ordinary music festival. This is not your usual “orchestra” belting out bawdy film numbers. This is a classical music festival, as classical as it can get. Two, a small stretch of a road no more than 100 metres attracts some of India’s biggest names year after year to show their wares. And three, ordinary people get a ringside view of the action for free.

***

“8th Cross” artistes span generations: Dr N. Ramani has performed here. So has his son Thyagarajan. So has his grandson Atul Kumar.

“8th Cross” artistes span genres: Carnatic is par for the course, of course. But Ronu Mazumdar comes here to play the bhansuri. Pandit Vishnu Mohan Bhatt comes here to play the vichitra veena.

“8th Cross” artistes span cities: Mysore Manjunath and Mysore Nagaraj (violin) and Mysore-born N. Ravi Kiran (gottuvadyam) are regulars as many homegrown artistes are, but N. Rajam comes here from Benares. Kadri Gopalnath (saxophone) comes from Madras. As does the vocalist and harikatha expert, Madurai T.N. Seshagopalan.

There is the possibly apocryphal story of M.S. Gopalakrishnan going into a shell long years ago—not doing concerts, not meeting anybody, not appearing in public. SPVGMC functionaries somehow landed up at his residence and the legendary violinist was soon unveiling his magic in front of coffee pudi angadi on “8th Cross”.

In short, for those who lament the passing away of classical music, the flood of top-quality music on “8th Cross” , bang in the middle of the road, is a reminder that even nostalgia is no what it used to be.

And it’s not just the oldies. Young engineers and doctors who learnt music in the lanes and bylanes of Vontikoppal, also get a platform to show their “offline” skills.

Two nights ago, IT man Pattabhirama Pandit (in picture, above) sang for four hours from 7 to 11 and delayed folks going home saying, “Don’t go! I am just warming up. I will sing raaga, thana and pallavi (RTP) in Raaga Keeravani, at 9 pm!”

On Saturday, a group of IT engineers gave a ‘venu-veena-violin’ performance.

Then there is Pandit Rajeev Taranath, disciple of Ali Akbar Khan, who performed a jugalbandi with Mysore Nagaraj on the violin. Taranath, who holds a PhD in English literature and has written acclaimed critiques on Shakespeare’s works, threw it all and went to learn sarod from Ali Akbar khan.

Well known for his delineation of raaga as much for his proficiency in English literature, Taranath is a sprightly 77 years working out at Talwalkar‘s on Temple Road. Replying to the felicitation before he started playing at 8th Cross, he started with the magical (to Vontikoppal ears) invocation:

Nanoo Vontikoppal navane (I too am from Vontikoppal).”

***

What makes the 8th Cross Ganesha music festival so special?

For one, it is the respect which comes with age.

And for another, it is “taste”.

The SPVGMC Trust has steadfastly refused to dilute the offering regardless of the pressures. (Its Ganesha idol, too, if you will notice, is not some gaudy monstrosity.)

But a key reason has to be its location in the mind’s-eye of residents of Vontikoppal, Jayalakshmipuram, Gokulam.

Like the Tour de France, a sport which comes to the people rather than people going to it, the artistes come to 8th Cross, to where the people live instead of the people having to go to an auditorium to hear them.

For 15 days, the little street is off-limits for motor traffic. Working men and women return home to find some superstar playing in front of what used to be Naganna-na angadi.

City buses, with a pivotal stop at Shanku‘s bakery behind where the idol is installed, rev up to raga alapana and swara.

Life still goes on amidst the music.

Or is it the other way round?

***

As the singers and artistes take their positions after a namaskara to the diety behind and the audience in front, the programmes invariably start on the dot (6.30 pm) with a varna.

With monsoon on the way out and winter on the way in, the elderly come armed for both: an umbrella and a sweater.

Africans studying in Manasagangothri hop over to Just Gelato; American and European yoga trainees flock to Hotel Authana or The Sixth Main. Chinese students staying in Paduvarahalli cross over with their cycles.

8th Cross is a veritable Global Village.

As the singer warms to an alaapana in Kalyani, children from Matru Mandali school in their uniforms cross “8th Cross” after practicing their programmes for this year’s Dasara. Next, tiny tots in their karate attire pass through the footpath trying their latest chop on anybody who comes in his way.

When it is nearing 8 o’ clock, a couple of elderly men furtively take a small walk to the vacant plot behind Amba Bhavan to ease themselves. As the artist start their main raga in Ananda Bhairavi, yoga students, while walking through, grab some chairs sit mesmerised by the music and postpone their dinner at Green Leaf on Kalidasa Road to 9 0’clock and beyond.

Around 9.30 pm when honorary secretary C.R. Himamshu, grandson of  the legendary violinist Piteelu T. Chowdiah, stands up to felicitate the artistes,  a couple of Iranians, unrecognisable without their Hayabusa  motorcycles, walk through to the Austrian cafe, Edelweiss, after buying Iranian bread from Loyal World on Temple Road.

Around the same time, granddaughters and grandsons on their Activas and Scootys arrive to take home Ajji and Paati, by now fully wrapped up in shawls and mufflers. Since the singer has just now started their eternal favourite thukkadas like Krishnaa nee begane baaro, Venkatachala nilayam or Bhaagyaada lakshmi baramma, generation next has to wait a bit longer.

Finally when it is time for mangala, Pavamaana in Raaga Souraashtra another day, another evening of music has gone into the soul as the crowd wade through to take prasada and leave home.

The 49th year is perhaps just as it was in the first year; same raaga, same devotion, same enchantment. Only the artistes are different.

It goes on like this in Vontikoppal.

Year after year.

And sometime around Dasara, donors and sponsors, regardless of the size of their contribution, will get invited to a business-like oota at Eswarana devasthana (Eswara temple) on Adipampa road for making this year’s musical bounty possible.

Soon, it will be time for next year, the 50th.

Photographs: Narayan Yadav/ Karnataka Photo News on assignment; IT man Pattabhirama Pandit with violin virtuoso Mysore Nagaraj (courtesy: Star of Mysore)

CHURUMURI POLL: Who will win Ayodhya title?

17 September 2010

As if its thali wasn’t full enough, Judgment Day in the Ayodhya title dispute has landed in the UPA plate, sending it in a bit of a tizzy. Prime minister Manmohan Singh has issued an “appeal”, with the extraordinary line that “the determination of the issues need not necessarily end with this judgment, unless it is accepted by all parties.”

***

Swapan Dasgupta in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“Both the votaries of Hindutva and the beleaguered defenders of the Nehruvian order were united in viewing the demolition as a point of rupture. For the former, the change would herald a Hindu reawakening; for the secularists, it threatened to destroy India’s pluralism and transform the country into a de-facto confessional State.

“Both sides of the confrontation, it would now seem, were guilty of hype. India wasn’t transformed into a Hindu Pakistan and the Constitutional edifice established in 1950 remained strong and intact. To borrow A.J.P. Taylor’s description of the 1848 revolution in Europe, the Babri demolition was a turning point in Indian history when history refused to turn….

“With the benefit of hindsight it would seem that the contemporary misreading arose from the premise that the Ayodhya movement was overwhelmingly an explosion of faith and sublimated Hinduness. The implication was that a new religiosity had penetrated the popular psyche and begun influencing secular life….

“The Ayodhya agitation encapsulated protest, millenarianism and modernity under one roof. It didn’t usher in Hindu National Socialism as its aesthetic detractors were convinced it would (leading to some facile comparisons of inept boy scouts in khaki shorts with Hitler’s stormtroopers). But it drove a stake through the heart of an incapacitated socialism.”

Read the full article: Twenty years too late


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