Archive for October, 2011

‘Media is diverting attention & dividing people’

31 October 2011

The Press Council of India (PCI), a statutory body for “preserving the freedom of the press and maintaining and improving the standards of newspapers and news agencies”, has a new chairman: Justice Markandey Katju, a former judge of the Supreme Court of India.

In an interview with Karan Thapar for CNN-IBN’s weekly programme Devil’s Advocate, Justice Katju, known for his “mayhem, humour and quotability” in the courtroom and his long, ponderous newspaper articles, lets loose:

Karan Thapar: In a recent interaction with newspaper and TV editors, you said the media have become irresponsible and wayward, and that the time has come when some introspection is required. Are you disappointed with the media?

Justice Katju: Very disappointed with the media. I have a poor opinion about the media. I mean this. They should be working for the interests of the people. But they are not working for the interests of the people and sometimes, politically, they are working in an anti-people manner.

You have said one of the basic tasks of the media is to provide truthful and objective information to form rational opinions. Is that not happening altogether or is it not happening sufficiently?

You must first understand the historical context. India is passing through a transitional period in our history. Transition from a feudal-agricultural to a modern-industrial society. This is a painful and agonising period. When Europe was passing through this period, media played a great role. It was a great help in transforming European society.

Is that not happening in India?

No. Just the reverse….

Indian media is very often playing an anti-people role. One, it diverts the attention of the people from the real problems, which are basically economic. 80% people are living in horrible poverty, unemployment, facing price rise, healthcare. You divert attention from those problems and instead you parade parade film stars, fashion parades, cricketers, as if they are the problems.

Two, very often the media (deliberately) divides the people (on religious lines). This is a country of great diversity because it is a country broadly of immigrants. We must respect each other and remain united. After every bomb blast, almost every channel report that Indian Mujahidin or Jaish-e-Mohammed or Harkatul-jihad-e-islam have sent e-mails or SMS claiming responsibility. Now an e-mail can be sent by any mischievous person, but by showing this on TV channels and next day in the newspapers the tendency is to demonise all Muslims in the country as terrorists and bomb throwers.

Third, the media must promote scientific ideas to help the country move forward, like the European media did. Here the media promotes superstition, astrology. You know, 90% of the people in the country are mentally very backward, steeped in casteism, communalism, superstition and so on. Should the media help uplift them and bring them up to a higher mental level and make them part of enlightened India, or should it go down to their level and perpetuate their backwardness? Many channels show astrology, which is pure humbug, total superstition.

You began by saying that you had a very low opinion of the media, that you were deeply dispapointed. I get the impression you don’t think very much of the media at all?

There are some very respected journalists…. General rut is very, very low and I have a poor opinion of most media people. Frankly, I don’t think they have any knowledge of economic theory or political science or literature or philosophy. I don’t think they have studied all this.

So the media is in effect is letting down India.

Yes, absolutely. Because media is very important in this transitional period. The media deals with ideas, it is not an ordinary business, dealing in commodities. Therefore, people need modern scientific ideas. And that’s not happening.

View the full video: ‘Media deliberately dividing people’

Also read: What the stars foretell for our avivekanandas

H.D. Kumaraswamy will become PM one day: astrologer

How the BJP raised witchcraft to statecraft

The only place black magic works is in your mind

How Big B has pushed India to regressive, new low

Can the Sai Baba make Shashi Tharoor win?

Congrats, your taxes have helped buy 265 ads

31 October 2011

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: After the advertising blitzkrieg to mark Rajiv Gandhi‘s birth and death anniversaries, and the death anniversary of his grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru earlier this year, Union ministries and Congress-led State governments and departments have once again splurged heavily to mark Indira Gandhi‘s death anniversary today.

In the 12 newspapers surveyed, there are 64 advertisements of various sizes, amounting to approximately 31½ published pages to mark the assassination of the former prime minister on this day, 27 years ago.

In contrast, Vallabhbhai Patel, the late Union home minister, whose birth anniverary too falls on October 31, gets 9 advertisements in the same 12 newspapers, amounting to 3 published pages. While there are multiple advertisements for Indira Gandhi, no paper has more than one ad for Patel.

The breakup of the Indira Gandhi ads are as under:

Hindustan Times: 22-page main issue; 9 Indira Gandhi ads amounting to 4¼ broadsheet pages

The Times of India: 30-page issue; 13 ads amounting to 6¼ broadsheet pages

Indian Express: 22-page issue; 9 ads amounting to 4 broadsheet pages

Mail Today (compact): 36-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 2¾ compact pages

The Hindu: 24-page issue; 8 ads amounting to 4 broadsheet pages

The Pioneer: 16-page issue; 7 ads amounting to 3¼ broadsheet pages

The Statesman: 16-page issue; 4 ads amounting to 2 broadsheet pages

The Telegraph: 22-page issue; 5 ads amounting to 2½ broadsheet pages

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The Economic Times: 26-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1½ pages

Business Standard: 14-page issue; 2 ads amouning to 1 page

Financial Express: 20-page issue; 1 ad amounting to half a page

Mint (Berliner): 24-page issue; 0 ads

This computation is only for 12 English newspapers; many other English papers have been left, as indeed has the entire language media which are more numerous than the English ones, several times over.

Among the 13 advertisers wishing the dear departed leader are the ministries of information and broadcasting, commerce and industry, steel, women and child development, health and family welfare, human resources development, development of north east region, and social justice and empowerment.

The state governments advertising their love are those of Rajasthan, Delhi and Andhra Pradesh. Besides, most newspapers carry an advertisement inserted by the Congress party.

All told, so far, this year, tax payers money have been spent in buying 265 advertisements amounting to 132 published pages in the 12 newspapers.

Last year, on the 19th death anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi, the historian Ramachandra Guha wrote in an edit-page article in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that on May 21, 2010, perhaps Rs 60 or 70 crore were spent by the taxpayer — without his and her consent — on praising Rajiv Gandhi. Since the practice has been in place since 2005, the aggregate expenditure to date on this account is probably in excess of Rs 300 crore.”

Also read: Rajiv Gandhi death anniversary: 69 ads over 41 pages in 12 newspapers

Jawaharlal Nehru death anniversary: 24 ads over 11 pages

Rajiv Gandhi birthday: 108 ads across 48 pages

M.Y. Ghorpade: maharaja, minister & a lensman

29 October 2011

It is one of life’s ironies that Bellary that is now the byword for mind-numbing, blood-curdling corruption of the Reddy brothers’ kind, also produced Murari Yeshwantrao Ghorpade, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 79.

Son of the erstwhile ruler of the kingdom of Sandur, which falls in what is now Bellary, M.Y. Ghorpade (seven-time MLA from Sandur) handled the finance and rural development ministries with aplomb, a stint which saw the State take a lead role in Panchayat Raj.

In a recent interview in the Economic Times, Ghorpade, chairman-emeritus of Sandur manganese and iron ores, reminisced on the horrific notoriety of his home-district:

“We have a strange reputation of following all the rules over the last 50 years. This corruption will finish us off. To see Sandur also not free from this makes me very, very sad. The mistake that was made was that small mines were distributed like toffees and chocolates. Now these people are not able to supervise operations or add value to the business.”

Unlike politicians of the Parappana Agrahara kind who spent their working days more as real estate brokers trying to gobble up every square inch possible, Ghorpade, did just the opposite some weeks ago: he offered to donate 150 acres that were part of his inheritance to nature conservation.

A Cambridge post-graduate in economics, Ghorpade was also an award-winning wildlife photographer, his black and white pictures winning several national and international prizes. In 1983, he becomes the first wildlife photographer in the world to be honoured with the prestigious International Award of Master Photographer.

Photograph: via Karnataka Photo News

Also read: A wise man sees not the same trees a fool does

How a Ghorpade came to be called a Ghorpade

Are Indians endemically corrupt as a people?

29 October 2011

2G scam, CWG scam, mining scam, Adarsh housing scam, NREGA scam, coffin scam, matchfixing scam, denotification scam…. There is no escaping India’s favourite four-letter word in the papers and on television, and in everyday conversation.

Everybody—ministers, MPs, MLAs, industrialists, godmen, corporate executives, film stars, corporate executives, cricketers, anti-corruption activists—everybody, it seems, is in it, in some form or the other, to bend the rules and make a quick buck or a trillion.

As Rajat Gupta, the India-born former head of McKinsey, the global consulting firm, enters the overflowing hall of the shame, for his alleged role in insider trading involving the Sri Lanka-born Tamil, Raj Rajaratnam, the columnist Malavika Sangghvi asks a pretty obvious question in Business Standard:

“As the global poster boy of corporate India stands arrested and faces trial, I think the time has come to raise that awful question that has been the elephant in our drawing room for years: are we (how do I put gently?) endemically corrupt as a people?

“Think about it. Some of the world’s biggest scams originate here, our bandwith for unscrupulousness takes in intricate byzantine multi-crore schemes as well as the petty potholes-on-the-street-kickback-to-penny-pinching authority variety. We know scams, rackets, tricks and cons in all their creative genius, while our heroes, leaders, poster boys and icons all tumbe off their pedestals with sickening regularity.

“In India, misconduct or fraud or wrongdoing has no caste or class barriers, it is common to all, the great unifier, the one truly democratic creed that we all subscribe to.

“The holy river that we bathe in to cleanse ourselves of all sins is muddy and filled with garbage, the milk that we drink first thing in the morning is adulterated, the air that we breathe has been mortgaged to polluting industires, we elect people with criminal records to Parliament, our leading film stars have served a sentence in a jail or two, and our cities are vast sprawls of vested interest.”

Read the full article (if you can find it!): Business Standard

External reading: ‘Indians are c*****s’

Photograph: Rajat Gupta (centre) in happier times with Reliance Industries’ Mukesh Ambani (left) and GE’s Jack Immelt (courtesy MSN)

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Also read: India’s most secular religion has to be corruption

Ramachandra Guha: “India’s too corrupt to become a superstar

CHURUMURI POLL: Do B-schools have a problem?

Do they teach this at Harvard Business School?

As they say, ‘Picture abhi baaki hain, dost’

28 October 2011

Namma Metro is here, but it is not the full thing; in fact, it is not even ten per cent of the full thing. It was just the trailer. While eager-beavers cheerfully go through the “metro experience” on the jampacked M.G. Road-Byappanahalli stretch, work continues in a langurous sort of way in Yeshwanthpur.

Photographs: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: After all, a metro station doesn’t open every day

After all, an airport doesn’t open/close every day

Pujaris, pudaris and the people on namma Metro

Namma Metro as a study of the Indian psychology

Also view: The complete Namma Metro photo portfolio

Raichur malnutrition deaths & BJP ‘governance’

27 October 2011

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: More than 2,600 children under 6 years of age—that’s two-thousand-six-hundred children under six years of age—are reported to have died of malnutrition in Raichur district over the past two years as per data provided by the women and child welfare department.

The irony couldn’t have been more stark or striking: hot and arid Raichur is, after all, home for India’s only active goldmine, Hutti, in Lingasugar taluk. Another 4,500 children are reported to be on their deathbed due to malnutrition in Deoburg and Manvi taluks  of Raichur.

“The entire system has collapsed. It has now become a sociopolitical and economic issue. Karnataka claims to be a progressive state but look at what is happening in these villages,” Dr Akhila Vasan, a child healthcare expert and worker, has been quoted as saying.

Yet, the response of the State government, whose leading figures utter the words “governance” and “development agenda” like a stuck record, is stunning to be believed.

B.S. Yediyurappa, who took a chopper to every known and unknown temple and mutt to save himself from the long arm of the law, and his BJP colleagues who are cooling their heels in Parappana Agrahara, never found time to visit these villages and take effective steps.

The minister for child and women’s welfare C.C. Patil, who was directed by new chief minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda to visit the district by September 26, has still not found the time, and it is already October 27.

The minister for medical education, S.A. Ramadas, who was  busy splurging taxpayers’ money and hogging all the limelight during Dasara, hasn’t heard of this or hasn’t been bothered enough to respond. Leave alone visiting the affected villages, he hasn’t stepped out of Mysore, fearing he might be upstaged by his friend-turned-foe–cum-colleague Shobha Karandlaje.

And, needles to say, the State’s health minister has been missing in action. So, who was the State’s health minister under Yediyurappa the last two years? B. Sriramulu.

Aha, that explains everything.

Graphics: courtesy Mail Today and Frontline

External reading: Hard to follow

Another reason why South is ahead of the North?*

24 October 2011

From all of us, to all of you, a very happy and safe Deepavali. Wherever you are, may the lights usher in peace, happiness, health, laughter, and just a little bit more prosperity. Hopefully, someday, the rest of India will make the effort to understand why we always celebrate every festival one day before them. Wink, wink.

(*churumuri cannot guarantee that this joke will have the same effect on everyone!)

Photographs: Commercial Street in Bangalore, all decked up on Deepavali eve, on Monday (Karnataka Photo News)

2010: Lights, camera, action and a very happy Deepavali

CHURUMURI POLL: Advani yatra in Karnataka?

24 October 2011

Lalchand Kishinchand Advani‘s near-comical anti-corruption yatra—with the HUDCO scam-tainted Ananth Kumar (whose links with the 2G scam tainted Niira Radia are well known) as the navigator—has predictably taken a farcical turn even before the rath rolls into BJP’s gateway to the south, Karnataka.

With minister after dishonourable minister, led by the former chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa, warming cell after VIP cell at the central jail in Parapanna Agrahara, and more on the way, the hypocricy of Advani’s “antim yatra” is there for all to see: should he or shouldn’t he visit “India’s most corrupt State“?

Orignally, the plan was that the “former future prime minister of India” would bravely wade through the “mine”field that the Reddy brothers have rendered of Karnataka. Then, as the noose tightened around several BJP ministerial necks over the denotification scam, it was amended.

Yes, he would come to the State, but only to the coastal parts, not Bangalore, where Yediyurappa & Co are spending a dark Deepavali and Dhanteras. But, before the world could digest the flip-flop, it was clarified that Advani would stick to his original gameplan and visit the State capital on October 30, as the Ananth Kumar faction, which reportedly wants Yediyurappa expelled, wanted.

Before Team Advani changes its mind again, here’s the question: should Advani visit Karnataka? With what face can he rant against corruption when a BJP-ruled State can very nearly be run from the central jail, or when his own navigator is not beyond scrutiny? And if he does make it to Karnataka, what should be Advani’s sentinel message?

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: L.K. Advani‘s antim yatra?

CHURUMURI POLL: Will the BJP dump B.S. Yediyurappa?

How China changed the politics of Karnataka

CHURUMURI POLL: India’s most corrupt CM?

How the BJP completely lost the plot in Karnataka

Those who live by the Reddys shall die by them

Namma Metro as a study of the Indian psychology

22 October 2011

Be it Delhi then or Bangalore now, there is something about the metro rail that seems to do something to us as a people. There is a sense of pride, a sense of ownership, a sense of participation—a sense of the “public”, like we are in this together—that instantly and inexplicably bursts forth and brims over.

Just what is responsible for this is not very clear or obvious.

It could be as simple as the plain relief that it promises from traffic hassles. Deeper down, it could also be the sense of awe at the accomplishment of something so neat, efficient, gigantic and useful—all in our midst, at the promised time and, what’s more, by our own countrymen and women.

The sense of “Yes, we can.”

Make no mistake, rare is the Delhiite or Bangalorean who hasn’t cursed the inconvenience caused by the construction of the metro or the delays. But once it rolls out, we do some very un-Indian things: we stand in line, we observe the rules (and glower at those who don’t), we cheer at it, we take part and proudly pose for pictures to say, “We were there”.

Photographs: Karnataka Photo News

Also readAfter all, a metro station doesn’t open every day

After all, an airport doesn’t open/close every day

Pujaris, pudaris and the people on namma Metro

Also viewThe complete Namma Metro photo portfolio

The cons, cheats & frauds lording over Karnataka

21 October 2011


RAVI KRISHNA REDDY writes from Bangalore: It is truly a sad state of politics in Karnataka.

Charlatans and confidence artists, with none of the qualifications desired by a good and mature democracy, have taken over the polity in the State in general and the ruling BJP in particular.

Fraudulent actions like forging documents and providing false affidavits to swindle the State’s (and the public’s) money is second nature to some of the ruling party ministers, MPs and MLAs.

As can be seen in the case of heavy industries minister Murugesh Nirani, and in the case in which the chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa and his erstwhile colleague S.N. Krishniah Shetty are in judicial custody (reported by Praja Vani), people in power have thrown all laws to the wind and behaved like professional cons.

Our elected representatives and their families are putting Frank Abagnale Jr. to shame.

The sad state of the BJP does not end with its senior ministers and career politicians. It extends to greenhorn politicians like Yediyurappa’s son B.Y. Raghavendra, the Chitradurga MP Janardhana Swamy and others.

Instead of using the people’s mandate to steer and shape their own, their party’s (and the State’s) long-term future, they used their election as a godsent opportunity to secure their personal fortunes in double quick time.

These people were granted large 50′x80′ BDA sites worth Rs 3-4 crore for a meagre sum of Rs 8 lakh within months of taking oath, on the basis of false affidavits that carried outright lies in some cases and misleading information in some others.

And all this, in the era of the right to information (RTI).

It may be true that the politicians are the true reflection of our society, and perhaps it is not just politics that has gone wrong in Karnataka. After all, supporting a family’s corruption and protecting errant sons and sons-in-laws is not unknown in our society.

To give just one example, D. Javare Gowda, the former vice-chancellor of Mysore University—a well known Kannada writer who translated Tolstoy to Kannada and a one-time disciple of Kuvempu— went on a fast to save his son from corruption charges.

Octagenarian Gowda’s son is not a child. He himself is probably a grandfather in his late sixties; yet his father went on a fast to influence and threaten the State to scuttle the ongoing investigation on the irregularities he had committed while he was the VC of the same Univeristy his father had served.

A father going to jail for his son’s crimes and a son making use of the father’s influence and power to stay out of it, shows that something is truly rotten here.

Everyone, it seems, has come around to believe that corrupt practices are somehow OK if it involves members of their family.

Everyone, it seems, has come around to believe that corrupt practices are somehow OK if it involves members of their caste.

Everyone, it seems, has come around to believe that corrupt practices are somehow OK if it involves members of their party or ideology.

I know “everyone” is not the right word here, but “majority” is also not the right word as it may imply that 49.9% do not support corruption, as it is not true in this context.

The onus on exposing the corrupt and setting Karnataka back on track lies with our journalists, but they are not very different either, it seems.

I happened to visit Mudhol couple of weeks back. I was shocked to see a palatial bungalow on the town’s outskirts. It belonged to a serving minister. I am not qualified to assess monetary worth of this palace, but it was spread over acres and the people over there were saying that it had lifts inside.

It may be worth half a billion rupees, if not a billion.

The work and expansion of the sugar factory was in full swing. I had gone with a friend to the sugar mill run by the minister as he had not been paid for his sugar cane for the last six months.

So this factory has dues, but the expansion work and the bungalow next door tells the money is flowing. Where is this money coming from?

What are our journalists doing?

Can ministers or elected representatives like MLAs and MPs run private businesses or occupy offices-of-profit when they are serving a public office? I think the laws in our country are vague on this subject but the Reddy brothers’ phenomenon and that of other elected representatives underlines Karnataka’s current rot.

If Nandan Nilekani had to resign from all the posts of Infosys Technologies when he took charge of the UID position, shouldn’t the same rule be applied to our elected representatives to prevent public office from being used, abused and misused for private good?

Why are our journalists not raising this issue?

The media in Karnataka, especially the electronic news media, is now largely controlled by politicians, with four out of the five Kannada news channels being owned by active politicans. Minister Nirani also owns a channel and apparently he does not like bad press.

The BJP leader L.K. Advani said his party “can’t win the confidence of the people if its own house is bedevilled with similar weaknesses.” Kannada journalists merely—and merrily—reported it.

Now is the time for journalists in Karnataka to rid their house of corruption, fear, injustice and insecurity. In that process, maybe the cheats and frauds in the disguise of public representatives would also be controlled and be brought to book.

(Ravi Krishna Reddy is a US-returned software engineer who contested the 2008 assembly elections from the Jayanagar constituency as an independent candidate)

File photograph: Former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa with his son B.Y. Raghavendra (extreme right) and the state BJP president K.S. Eshwarappa at the party’s state executive committee meeting in Hubli in July 2011 (Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: My dear IT brothers and sisters of Karnataka

Don’t laugh at the the joke of the year, decade, century

Pujaris, Pudaris & the People on Namma Metro

20 October 2011

Four years, six months and five days after work began on it, the first official train of Namma Metro rolls out, to the coconut shells of the priests, the wave of the politicians, and the throng of passengers and the press, through crowded M.G. Road and Ulsoor, in Bangalore on Thursday, 20 October 2011.

Apparently, it took 96,900 tonnes of cement; 33,400 tonnes of structural steel; 1,500 tonnes of hi-tension wire; 215,000 metres of electrical cables; 3000 workers and 300 workers for just the first 6.7 kms of the 108.66 route, spread over six stations, a distance that will be traversed in 14 minutes.

Photographs: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: After all, a metro station doesn’t open every day

After all, an airport doesn’t open/close every day

Also viewThe complete Namma Metro photo portfolio

After all, a metro station doesn’t open every day

19 October 2011

On the night of the morning before Namma Metro rolls out, the M.G. Road station looks all decked up and ready to go as young and old file past to be a part of history in the making.

Well, it certainly won’t be inaugurated by you-know-who.

PhotographsN. Manjunath & Bhakthar BabuKarnataka Photo News 

Also read: After all, an airport doesn’t open/close every day

Also viewThe complete Namma Metro photo portfolio

Should gods, goddesses have caste identities?

19 October 2011

In a roundabout sort of way, Mysore is at the centre of a raging debate in the seats of learning in the nation’s capital.

The Mysore-born A.K. Ramanujan‘s classic essay “Three hundred Ramayanas” has been dropped from the history syllabus of Delhi University because it could hurt the feelings of the super-sensitive folk who have a firm and clear idea of how their gods and goddesses ought to be portrayed.

Meanwhile, in an unrelated move, a section of students of Jawaharlal Nehru University are planning to celebrate “Mahishasura Day” next Tuesday in honour of the demon-king to whom Mysore owes its name and whose statue (in picture) adorns the entrance of the temple atop Chamundi hills.

What gives “Mahishasura Day” an additional edge is the attempt to give Mahishasura a caste identity, the contention that he belonged to a backward community, which, if true, gives Mysore’s already strong reputation as the seat of social reforms a monumental push.

The journalist-author Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a JNU alum, wonders if it is OK for humans to see gods through the prism of caste.

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By NILANJAN MUKHOPADHYAY

Do Hindu gods and goddesses have caste identities? Can one bring in the divisive issue of caste when talking about them? Would it be right to say that one particular god or goddess is a Brahmin while the other is a Kshatriya, a Vaishya or even one of the OBCs?

These thoughts surfaced in the mind after reading a news report mentioning that a section of students in New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University have decided to “observe ‘Mahishasura Day’ on October 25 to reiterate that the demon killed by Goddess Durga belonged to a Backward Community.”

The report elaborated that the All India Backward Students’ Forum “decided to honour Mahishasura after a tussle with another section of students who had allegedly taken the forum head-on for putting up ‘blasphemous posters on the campus during Durga Puja that hurt religious sentiments’.”

Having been the only university in which I ever enrolled, I have an overt interest in developments related to JNU. The report led me to speak to friends which, though not adding much on the incident per se, sharpened stray thoughts sparked off by the report.

I have been aware of the academic discourse on the caste profiling of mythological characters – especially from the Ramayana. At the level of popular culture, I have tracked Dalits celebrating ‘Ravana Melas’ to protest the burning of his effigies on ‘Dussehra’ and his portrayal in mainstream Hindu culture as the epitome of evil.

The step in JNU to observe Mahisasura Day is something similar, so prima facie there should not be any opposition to it since Ravana Melas have been held at various places for years. But spreading the trend elsewhere and to other mythologies would dilute the symbolic nature of the protest.

It also has the potential to boomerang.

Mythologies have portrayed Lord Krishna as a Yadav king but I have not come across any Upper Caste Hindu refusing to revere him.

If we extending caste profiling of mythological characters, gods and goddesses, a situation may arise when any OBC group may suddenly declare that Upper Caste Hindus do not have the right to include Lord Krishna in their pantheon.

Instead of eliminating the caste order, that would only widen the existing schism.

There is also the added problem of ‘fitting’ in the gods of the ati-Shudras or Dalits. Will OBC groups allow Dalits to consider Mahisasura to be their god also and allow entry into temples?

We have caste-based parties or political parties that draw their strengths primarily from one caste. Gods have not yet been split on caste lines. Instead of doing so, it would be best to allow people to follow their own gods – and if any group has a ‘problem’ with the mythology of one group then it’s best to shut one’s ears.

After all, the bulk of these gods and goddesses either wake up once a year or come visiting just the once. Thereafter, it is a matter of routine personal religiosity with no community participation.

(Journalist and television anchor Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay is the author of Demolition: India at the Crossroads. This piece originally appeared on the Asian Correspondent and is reproduced here with permission)

Photograph: The Mahishasura statue atop Chamundi hills in Mysore (Karnataka Photo News)

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Read the full Ramanujan essay: Three hundred Ramayanas

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

A.K. Ramanujan: the old woman and her keys

How our buddhijeevis became one-tongue ponies

Is Samskara a little too sexy for post-graduate students?

How many sheets does it take to cover an ex-CM?

18 October 2011

Once upon a time, last week, B.S. Yediyurappa used to furiously wave a “V” sign at anything and anybody with the most manufactured grin on his face. A week is a long time in politics; three days even longer. Today, as he is ferried horizontally from hospital to hospital—at the advice of pliant doctors—in a crude attempt to avoid the ignominy of a stay in jail, policemen (and other factotums) use hospital bedspreads to prevent photographers from capturing the former chief minister’s pretty face for posterity, a privilege not available to lesser mortals.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News 

Also readThe best pictures of Yediyurappa on planet earth

The waiter who rose to be a vedic encyclopaedia

18 October 2011

Mathoor Krishnamurthy (left), the executive director of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bangalore, passed away on October 6 at the age of 84. Mathoorji, as the world called him, rose from his humble beginnings as a waiter and bus conductor, to be chief of BVB’s London centre for a quarter of a century.

Captain G.R. Gopinath, the founder of the low cost airline Air Deccan, pays tribute to the slightly built scholar hailing from the Sanskrit-speaking village of Mathoor, who held audiences spellbound with his wit, intellect and wisdom.

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By G.R. GOPINATH

Though I was acquainted with Mathoorji since long, I got to know him intimately only a couple of years ago.

I decided to host a Gamaka concert at my residence. (Gamaka a dying art, unique only to Karnataka, is where a singer adopts a suitable raga as he recites a poem usually from the epics, a raga or a rasa which verily captures the meaning and spirit of the lines).

I called Mathoorji for breakfast to my house to talk it over. He created an unforgettable impression. He was on the dot at the appointed hour. He was dressed impeccably in the traditional style of a Kannada Sanskrit pandit, with a crisp starched white cotton dhoti and waist coat on a white khadi shirt.

His eyes had a sparkle and he was sprightly and mercurial.

He could converse in flawless Sanskrit, Tamil, Kannada, English and many Indian languages.

When I told him that I intended to host a Gamaka concert on episodes from either Valmiki Ramayana or Mahabharatha, and if he could render a discourse on it both in Kannada and English, he was elated, for he never imagined that someone steeped in the business world would find either the time or have the inclination for such a traditional art form.

He had the energy and enthusiasm of an eighteen year old, and he readily agreed.

Sitting next to Mathoorji was an overwhelming experience—as an experience when you are by the ocean. Whether it was a discourse on the Bhagavad Gita on stage or when he conversed in family circles, he was both akin to a gushing mountain brook and the mighty ocean.

He had wit, great story telling ability that held your attention, and could recite extensively from memory from the Gita, Ramayana, Mahabharatha, Upanishads and Puranas, and also from all the great poets of Kannada and Sanskrit. He was a treasure trove of anecdotes and could hold you spellbound with stories both from his own life and from the mythological epics.

He was steeped in tradition and yet very modern in his thinking and a true Gandhian.

Even at 84, he was involved in multifarious activities – producing videos and audios, writing, publishing and giving a daily discourse on TV channels and also in the educational and cultural activities of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Bangalore.

But his most endearing quality was his humility.

He had seen extreme hardship during his younger days and pursued his studies living in ashrams and taking meals at the homes of well-wishers who offered free board. He had worked in various jobs as a bus conductor and a waiter.

When I praised him, he merely said, “We cannot take credit for anything. We are only instruments in His hands – you do your work and leave it to Him”.

He had come home 20 days ago. He was a bundle of energy. He invited me to a book launch on “GandhiUpanishad” which he had just written. He regaled us with stories and anecdotes and as is usually the case with scholars, he was wont to meander from one story to another.

As he was leaving, he quoted a few lines from the ancient ‘Subhashita’ on the virtue of speaking with love and affection.

I asked him to write it for me in his own hand in the small note book I had in my pocket.

This is what he wrote:

“On your tongue resides Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth,
Your tongue can win you friends and relationships,
Your tongue can land you in prison,
 And your tongue can also lead to death.
Is there any poverty for good words?”

Mathoorji  left us suddenly and his death was a shock to all who knew him. But his message lives on.

He showed us that work is worship, love of the particular need not be in contradiction to love of the universal, and non-violence in speech and action, cleanliness and perennial enthusiasm in daily activities and dedicating as much time as one can spare, to doing public good is way to happiness and salvation.

His life was his message.

File photograph: Mathoor Krishnamurthy with sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan, in Bangalore in 2009 (courtesy The Hindu)

Also read: How namma Vijay floored namma Gopi

An epitaph to the literate, educated middle-class

How “munde magane” launched churumuri

CHURUMURI POLL: President Narayana Murthy?

17 October 2011

One day, last week, he was quoted as saying that “it would be a great honour to be the next president of the country” if all political parties agreed to his candidature. The very next day he was quoted as saying that “he had no presidential ambitions whatsoever” and that words had been put into his mouth.

On other days, of course….

Is N.R. Narayana Murthy indulging in a bit of kite-flying or does the Infosys co-founder and chairman-emeritus still have the political and popular cache to be the Rashtrapati? Is there likely to be a consensus on the presidential candidate, as Murthy desires, or is it too fanciful a dream in the current surcharged atmosphere?

Should a corporate honcho, who once expressed interest in becoming the Indian ambassador to the United States, become President of the world’s most populous democracy? Or will his attempts at reviving the pro-capitalist Swatantra Party and his stand on the national anthem and subsidiary Freudian slip-ups go against him?

And if it isn’t NRN, who should it be?

Also read: Cho Ramaswamy on Narayana Murthy as president

Has Narayana Murthy bid goodbye to dream of public office?

Why Narayana Murthy will make a poor President

Gandhi’s Dandi march to Yedi’s Danda march

16 October 2011

Power minister Shobha Karandlaje arrives at the Sri Jayadeva institute of cardiovascular sciences & research in Bangalore on Sunday, to visit former chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa, who was rushed there after he complained of chest pain following his arrest and incarceration in the denotification scam on Saturday night. KPN photo.

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Ajji was watching the TV intently.

Konegoo Yediyurappanna arrest maadidrallo!”

Howdajji.”

“He went where no chief minister from our State had ever gone before, even if it was for a few hours.  As an inmate of the special VIP cell he himself had okayed in an act of great perspicacity, he is sure to have inspected the quality of work first hand.”

“That’s right, Ajji.”

“Is it putra vyamoha which helped him turn a blind eye while his children were amassing wealth even while he was visiting temples day and night, spouting devara naama and vachana saahitya? I wish he had followed whatever he had said while visiting the mutts and temples. It’s sad.”

“It looks like he didn’t mean whatever he said. He is the first former CM in Karnataka to be sent to jail for alleged corruption.”

“Chief minister ninda thief minister aago haage aaythallo.”

Howdajji.”

Adirli kano, Ramu. Advani yavara yathra eega advaana aythallo!”

“Yes. Advani’s yatra against corruption has become a joke now, with a BJP leader in the “gateway to the south” now in a jail called hospital. Advaniji should have started his yatra in Karnataka, ajji.”

Ayyo! Had he done that it would have got stuck for days and months in Bellary and Vidhana Soudha. They would have had to do paada pooje every few yards in the name of some jailed minister, MLA or the other.”

Howda, Ajji?”

“What else? The party which came to power saying it would be different, really showed how different it was. Scam after scam whether it is land or kabbinada aduru. Aduru konegoo sarkaarana ‘adursu’ bidthoo  nodu.”

“Yes. It’s the mining which brought his government down and land scam which sent him to jail. It also brought in so much money to buy MLAs and start Operation Kamala and Vimala and all that to distort democracy.”

Naachikkegedu. When he walked to the governor’s office to give his resignation letter, his daughter had said it reminded her of Gandhiji’s Dandi march! The gall.”

Howdajji.”

“Walking between policemen holding sticks this is a danda march in a way. Adirli, Krishniah Shettru was also sent to jail. Isn’t he the one who brought trainloads of Ganga jala and distributed to all temples in the State during Shivarathri?”

Howdajji.”

Uddharavaaythu!”

“I also heard that the Lok Ayukta police raided ‘hosa Gowdru’ Balakrishna Gowda?”

“Yes, Ajji. On charges of accumulating more than Rs 500 crore of property and wealth, many many times more than his salary as a KAS officer.”

Ayyo Devre! Isn’t he poor  Gowda’s son, our farmer prime minister?”

“Yes. Farmer former prime minister’s son, Ajji.”

“Karnatakaana devare kaapadbeku. Only God should save Karnataka.”

Devaralla, Ajji. Munche Deve Gowdru kaapadidru. Aa mele Yeddyurappa navaru kaapadtha bandru.”

Saakappa saaku! Because of their rule even God cannot save us from total ruin!”

Long arm of law catches up with a desh-bhakt

15 October 2011

Nothing—not the permanent vermilion mark on his forehead; not the myriad visits to temples and mutts; not the prostration before swamijis and godmen; not the advice of astrologers and numerologists; not the maata-mantra; nothing—could eventually save former Karnataka chief minister, B.S. Yediyurappa, from the clutches of man-made law.

Here, after the Lok Ayukta special court rejected his bail plea and issued an arrest warrant in connection with the corruption cases registered against him for illegally denotifying land in and around Bangalore, the ex-CM leaves the court premises in Bangalore on Saturday with a wry smile.

The court sent him to judicial custody till October 22.

Photographs: Karnataka Photo News

Plus: The best pictures of Yediyurappa on planet earth

***

Also read: Do Yeddi & Co have no faith in State temples?

Should netas swear before god in secular India?

How the BJP raised witchcraft to statecraft

Do our gods sanction our politicians’ silly games?

Is Janardhana seve Janata seve in Kumaraswamy book?

CHURUMURI POLL: Black magic in Silicon Halli?

What the stars foretell for our avivekanandas

CHURUMURI POLL: Will BJP dump Yediyurappa?

15 October 2011

The “former future prime minister of India“, Lalchand Kishinchand Advani‘s much-ballyhooed anti-corruption yatra—with the 2G scam tainted Niira Radia‘s former western ballroom dance partner, the HUDCO scam tainted Ananth Kumar, as navigator—has rolled off on the wrong note.

First, a BJP MP has been accused of trying to buy coverage for the anti-corruption yatra by bribing journalists. And now, B.S. Yediyurappa, who had to resign ingloriously as chief minister of Karnataka in the wake of the Lok Ayukta report on the illegal mining scam, has been sent to spend the weekend in jail in the “denotification scam”.

And this, a day after the BJP government in the State sought to rescue the corrupt by punching holes in the Lok Ayukta report.

With Yediyurappa joining a long and impressive line of ministerial colleagues—Janardhana Reddy, Katta Subramanya Naidu, Ramachandre Gowda, Hartaalu Halappa, S.N. Krishnaiah Shetty, M.P. Renukacharya et al—in the hall of shame, his boastful promise of returning to occupy the CM’s gaddi “within six months” is now clearly a very hollow one.

More importantly, images of Yediyurappa’s arrest and incarceration are likely to alter the BJP’s relationship with him inexorably. On camera, for now, party leaders are standing by him “legally”, with the state party chief, K.S. Eshwarappa, who fell at his feet in public as recently as two days ago, calling Yediyurappa’s arrest a “bad day“.

But, clearly for the BJP, which has been riding a high horse of self-righteouness in the wake of the scams and scandals dogging the Manmohan Singh government at the Centre, Yediyurappa is now damaged goods. He may still be a viable political force in the State, a potent Lingayat leader, but any further defence of him will only be exploited by the opposition across the nation.

As it is, the brazen corruption, casteism and nepotism under Yediyurappa’s watch, and his open defiance of the party high command in the run-up to his resignation, have punched huge ethical and moral holes in the BJP’s “gateway to the south”.

After Saturday’s ignominy, the questions are simple: will Yediyurappa stick to the BJP, or will he quit the party in time for the next election? On the other hand, will the BJP stand by Yediyurappa in his hour of trial, or will it ditch him? And either way, will the electorate still back Yediyurappa next time round?

Also read: One question I’m dying to ask B.S. Yediyurappa

The stunning moral collapse of the BJP in Karnataka

How the BJP completely lost the plot in Karnataka

CHURUMURI POLL: India’s most corrupt State?

Getaway of the louts in the Gateway to the South

BJP’s lotus grows in muck, so do BJP’s people

A property broker with a Vidhana Soudha address

15 October 2011

Former muzrai (religious endowment) minister S.N. Krishnaiah Shetty, who collapsed in the Lok Ayukta court on Saturday, after special court judge N.K. Sudhindra Rao directed his arrest, being carried to an ambulance.

Shetty had to quit the B.S. Yediyurappa cabinet last year, following charges of his involvement in a scam in which land procured cheaply from farmers by a firm associated with him was resold to the Karnataka housing board (KHB) at a premium.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

You may not know Rafiq, but he needs your help

14 October 2011

DEV S. SUKUMAR writes from Bangalore: Right through our conversation, I thought those were slices of raw meat there, placed in water on a plate, all bloody and flies hovering around it.

Later I realized it was a beetroot. It’s hard to make things out in the dim light of a single bulb.

Rafiq’s been eating raw beetroot.

The man I spent so much time with, partly wishing I had inherited so many of his remarkable skills, is sinking.

It’s a horrible time to be him, a free spirit in a body becoming fast dysfunctional, memories playing tricks, abandoned by his wife, robbed of his fond possessions, his works of art, and having to depend on the charity of neighbours for food.

The last time I saw him, at the south zone climbing championships, I had a hint of the trouble he was in. His voice was slurring badly, and he was moving with difficulty. He was invited to the dais along with his contemporaries – three or four senior climbers – and when he spoke he broke down, briefly, as he wished them luck.

I had never seen Rafiq breaking down.

Rafiq was a character. I’d heard something of him, that he kept a snake at home and that he was a maverick artist, but the first sight of him startled me. The first thought in my head was that his Maker had put random things together and constructed him.

His bulging eyes were set in the middle of his face; his hair and French beard, all spiky, seemed nailed for good on a face that was leathery and weather-beaten. Tufts of hair exploded from his ears, and that on a head with no neck.

He had a generous midriff, cloaked in a jacket in which he had all sorts of things. And he rode a Bajaj Bobby – a sort of daschund among bikes — that had become extinct in the 1980s. The overall effect was of watching some character right out of a comic book.

But what a character! Rafiq was the most carefree person in the world. You could drop by at his place any time of the day or night, and he would talk – of animals, birds, insects, bike engines, snakes, mountains, grasslands, hills, boulders, photography.

He was your outdoors man.

He knew every insect, every plant, every bird and every reptile – their Latin names, the calls they made, the games they played. He could distinguish male bird calls from the female, tell you whether it was a mating call or something else.

Where and how he could store all this information, I do not know, for Rafiq was not an academic. As far as I knew, he hadn’t even been to college. He had picked up everything himself.

Similarly, his talents at art were self-developed and just as remarkable. He would do murals from dealwood, which was then considered just packing material. He told me he’d learnt it after seeing a documentary on TV.

He would take a plank of wood, study its grains, and see something in his mind’s eye: Cleopatra; a herd of horses; various forms of (his favourite) Ganesha.

He was just as good an artist of junk. He would go to the scrap yards, pick up some piece of metal – a discarded engine, a handlebar, a shock absorber – and weld it all into some magical piece: an armoured knight; a praying mantis.

He had made an owl out of dealwood. It was something between a mural and a sculpture, an owl on top of a pier.

“You know, that’s because owls have no more place in the cities,” he told me. “This is an owl at the edge of its existence. The pier is its last place on land… our cities have made it impossible for birds like this to survive.”

He had made the mural after the Surat plague, which he blamed on the extinction of natural predators of plague-carrying rats.

I’ve spent days and nights with him, listening to his tales of the Himalayas; of rock climbing in Ramnagaram or Savandurga or Turhalli; of the names they gave those rocks based on the difficulty of climbing; of how he once had a monkey named Jango and what a hit it was with the girls; of how snakes belong to the wild, they can never be domesticated.

(He once told me of the time he tried to carry a cobra in a train; he had put it in a bag, and soon the thing starting wriggling and scared the wits out of everybody.)

We used to sit in his office next to his house. He called it his machan – which it was, because you had to climb into it through a narrow ladder, and he kept all sorts of things there, including his sand boa.

With Rafiq, all of the outdoors came alive; it was not just facts or interesting information – it was lived knowledge, something that came with deep love and personal experience.

What made it all so special was that he was like a sage of the wild, always cheerful and ready with another wilderness story. Somehow, with such a man, you’d never expect anything to go wrong.

Of course, there was his fondness for pan masala.

I remember one conversation vividly. I knew a guy named Riki Krishnan who was an expert on bats, so one day I took Rafiq to meet Riki and they hit it off well. Apart from their common interests in other living things, they shared a love for pan masala. I’d heard horrible stories about it, so I asked them if they shouldn’t be dumping the habit.

Riki grinned, and said, yeah, I know all about it, how it causes fibrosis, how it screws your mouth and taste buds so you can’t eat anything else, but you know, once you’re hooked on to it, you can’t do without it.

And Rafiq nodded.

Riki’s dead. He was diagnosed with cancer.

Rafiq’s barely able to speak.

He says it’s due to a stroke he had after his studio, with all its equipment, was burgled. But he’s barely able to open his mouth, and his words are slurring, so I guess the pan masala must have something to do with it.

I think the burglary of his studio broke him. He had some expensive equipment there, and once that was gone, there was nothing to fall back upon. He told me he’d lost all his prized photo slides as well.

He had some excellent collections – of insects, birds, reptiles – that he would show school children during camps. Rafiq was so good with kids. He was like a Santa Claus of the wild, and he had a fund of stories and a booming laugh that made them all love him.

Once he told me, long ago, that he had had such an adventurous life, he wouldn’t mind it if he “kicked the bucket right now”. But right now he’s a shadow of that brave old self.

His words are slurring, he doesn’t have food to eat, and he weeps at every other thought.

“Life’s a funny thing,” he told me today. After a while he asked me: “What’s your name again?”

(Sports journalist Dev S. Sukumar is the author of a Prakash Padukone biography titled Touch Play)

***

Those who wish to help Rafiq may contact him at:

No.285, 20th Main Road

Marenahalli, Off Chord Road

Vijayanagar, Bangalore 560040

Why modern Kannada films loathe Bangalore City

14 October 2011

The depiction of the “City” in Indian cinema has changed from one of unbridled optimism and opportunity in post-Independent India to the ossification of the great urban dream in the post-liberalised phase.

No City exemplifies this cinematic trend better than Bangalore in which Karnataka’s urbs prima is shown by contemporary Kannada films (like Majestic, Kitty, Jogi and Duniya) in the eyes of Kannada-speaking migrants as a seedy capital of crime, injustice, unemployment, exploitation and worse.

The film scholar M.K. Raghavendra detects at least five reasons for this “unconcealed loathing” of Bangalore by Kannada films, in an article in Caravan magazine:

***

1) Unlike mainstream Hindi cinema which has a large constituency spread across the nation, “Kannada cinema defies the expectation of a pan-Kannada reach: earlier, it restricted its vision to princely Mysore (made up of Bangalore, Mysore and the remainder of southern Karnataka) and it continues to exclude Kannada-speaking regions beyond.”

2) “Mysore, during its rule by the Wodeyar dynasty, was regarded as a ‘nation within a nation’ and, to a large degree, has retained its exclusive culture ever since the time of British India. Vestiges of this sentiment lingered on in Kannada cinema, which was born in 1930s Mysore, even after linguistic reorganisation…

3) “Linguistic reorganisation did not create unity in the way it was anticipated. Bangalore became the capital of Kannada-speaking Karnataka, though it was only a few hours away from Tamil-speaking Tamil Nadu, Telugu-speaking Andhra Pradesh and Malayalam-speaking Kerala. As the two sections of Bangalore grew into each other, the city came to exhibit an unusual degree of cosmopolitanism.

4) The IT industry and IT-enabled services favoured those with an English-medium education. “These companies started to recruit from all over India and estimates show that presently only 10 percent of the jobs in the new economy are held by Kannada speakers. Since these companies pay their employees substantially higher wages, the spending power of non-Kannada workers—increasingly visible in new consumption trends—has become a talking point in Bengaluru.”

5) “Another reason for the disaffection of Kannada speakers is perhaps the endless expansion of Bengaluru, marked by the entry of private builders. Families that originally owned bungalows, as well as farmers on the periphery, succumbed to the needs of the ever-expanding city. Those now occupying the apartments in the city are new entrants to Bengaluru, with visibly greater purchasing power. Farmers who gave up their land in exchange for the compensation available to them have realised its soaring value too late. Given this troubled history, Bengaluru may be expected to represent more than simply an archetypal ‘city’ for Kannada cinema.”

Photograph: A still from Jogi, starring Shiva Rajkumar, in which a country bumpkin attempts to find his feet in Bangalore.

Read the full article: Meanings of the City

All that glitters is a big gold scam about to burst?

13 October 2011

RAMYA KRISHNAMURTHY writes from Bangalore: Always never very stable, my blood pressure has been shooting up alarmingly over the last few months, and—surprise, surprise— poor Arnab Goswami is not even the cause of it.

Each morning when I skim the newspapers; each evening when I switch on TV; and all day as I go around town gawking at the hoardings or listening to FM radio, the sight and sound of gold has begun to have a disastrous effect on my BP—and all this before NewsHour starts at 9 pm.

Just what it is, I wonder, that has resulted in this sudden societal craze for the yellow metal that goes beyond Akshaya Trithiya.

Have we, as a society, become the wisest investors on the planet, or have we lost all sense of balance? Are we collectively saving for a rainy day, or have we suddenly become materialistic beyond belief? Are we showing our spending power without compunctions, or are we going down the sad road of Kerala?

(When I can’t quite decide, I also ask myself another question privately: have I, as a woman, become a bit of a freak to so loathe what most other women crave?)

***

Look around you to see what I mean: there you have Kannada filmdom’s ace brothers Shiva Rajkumar and Puneet Rajkumar falling prey to the lure of cheap lucre and endorsing this obnoxious phenomenon in a manner their father would never ever have.

The elder brother asking you on radio to get the gold you have at home tested at the Kerala jewellery store (Kalyan) that has paid him to say so; the younger one exhorting you on television to pledge the gold you have and take a loan from the Kerala gold finance firm (Manappuram) that has paid him to say so.

Look at the newspapers: most of the the large, lavish advertisements in our dailies are those of the Kerala jewellery stores that are all over town or are planning to open shop soon (Malabar and Muthoot, Joyalukkas or Jos Alukkas), rival firms from across the border (revealingly) separated by a mere letter or two.

Look at the Kannada television channels: smaller local firms like Shree Sai Gold Palace use smalltime actresses to tout their wares and announce their schemes and discounts. Some like RR Gold Palace narcissisitically flaunt their owners as models, like a latter-day Lee Iacoca.

Why, one of the gold dons even (K.P. Nanjundi of Lakshmi gold palace) even produces and stars in a Kannada TV serial, and am told hosted a conference of a conferences of the jewel-making community of Vishwakarmas recently with the who’s who of Karnataka politics in attendance.

And then you have sites like churumuri, publishing periodic pictures of the actress Ramya or Ainditra Ray, all decked up in gold and other metals.

I know the theory well enough to understand what’s happening: That India always has been a massive gold consumer if not the biggest; that gold has always been a great form of investment, far safer than real estate or stocks or bank deposits; that even at this value, it is a safe investment, and so on.

I am aware that this is not a phenomenon unique to Karnataka and is probably happening in most of the southern States, if not in the rest of the country. And I am aware that even in the days of yore, homegrown stores like C. Krishniah Chetty & Sons and Jewels de Paragon were the big advertisers.

And, anyway, if people are buying gold with their own money or pledging their own gold, who am I to complain?

Still, looking at the gold rush, looking at the manner in which film stars are being used to woo gullible masses, looking at the number of shops opening their doors, looking at the unrealistic levels gold prices are shooting up to, etc, I get the sneaking feeling that we have well and truly entered a giant bubble which might burst any day.

I won’t use the word “scam” yet—and the newspapers and TV channels and FM stations won’t for obvious reasons too—but my guess is we may not have to wait too long before do so.

***

Photograph: Actress and dancer Lakshmi Gopalaswamy at a press conference on the eve of the 13th Jewels of India show in Bangalore on Wednesday (Karnataka Photo News)

***

Also read: Surely, all that glitters is indeed gold?

Don’t ask us what it is, but it sure costs a bomb

Has Akshaya Thrithiya become a major scam?

Make no mistake, someone’s always watching you

12 October 2011

Lights, camera, action. On Bellary road in Bangalore on Wednesday, a passing lensman captures kites watching the passing parade of life, from their lofty perch atop the floodlights in palace grounds.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

One question I’m dying to ask Janardhana Swamy

12 October 2011

The well-earned reputation of the average Indian politician—of a lying, looting, hypocritical, bogus, backstabbing rogue, with his eyes forever focussed on wheeling and dealing, and using his position to make a quick pile to last the next three generations of his extended family—is cynical, of course, but rarely inaccurate.

Which is why “the educated middle-class” is beside itself with joy when one of its ilk makes the cut. The presumption is that their education qualifications and professional experience will somehow make a difference to our polity.

Bangalore Mirror reports today on Janardhana Swamy, a masters from IISc who swiped his greencard at Cisco, Dell, Sun Microsystems and other giant American firms before throwing his hat in the hurly-burly of Indian politics and being elected as a BJP MP from Chitradurga.

According to the report, Swamy secured a 50×80 plot in posh Raj Mahal Vilas (RMV) extension in Bangalore for Rs 7.56 lakh (market rate: Rs 4 crore) after furnishing an affidavit that he owned no other property in Bangalore, although he had told the election commission (EC) that he owned three sites, two in his name and one in his wife’s, worth over Rs 1.5 crore.

“If I had stated that I own three sites, the BDA would never have allotted me the plot. The other sites I have are total waste,” the MP tells the paper nonchalantly.

Swamy’s hunger for land will surprise only a few, but what the 43-year-old MP shows is that the more things change in Indian politics, the more they remain the same; only the protagonists change. So, what is the one question you are dying to ask this “educated, middle class” BJP MP?

Like, how many sites, waste or otherwise, does a three-member family really require? Like, would his “mentor”, N.R. Naryana Murthy, approve such subterfuge? Like, should L.K. Advani‘s anti-corruption yatra pass through Chitradurga? Like, what would he caption a cartoon on his scam, if he were to draw one?

Please keep your queries short, civil and self-righteous. And ‘cc’ your comment to jswamy@jswamy.com

Image: courtesy Bangalore Mirror

Also read: And a snapshot of a simple devotee of Lord Rama

George Fernandes: Pati, patni aur woh & some crores

Mayawati: For doyen of downtrodden, assets is all maya

Kanimozhi: How many poems fetch a poet rs 8.5 crore?

Priya Krishna: One question anyone should ask Rahul Gandhi

H.D. Deve Gowda: A snapshot of a poor, debt-ridden farming family

R.V. Deshpande: A 1,611% jump in assets in five years? Hello!

Should editors and journalists declare their assets?


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