Archive for the ‘Issues and Ideas’ Category

Can NaMo solve Bangalore’s garbage problem?

3 June 2014

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To the eternal mortification of the naysayers, Narendra Damodardas Modi has won an admirable election for the BJP and is now firmly installed as the 15th prime minister of India. As an example of one man single-mindedly pursuing his goal and achieving it against a mountain of opposition this is success nonpareil.

churumuri is happy to be proven spectacularly wrong—and humbled. Somewhat.

That said, the difficult part is meeting the ocean of expectations that Modi channelised into his victory. In urging voters to vote for him by voting for BJP candidates, Modi deftly turned a parliamentary election into a presidential one, in which all the nation’s hopes were somewhat irrationally invested in one man.

As if members of Parliament don’t count.

As if members of Legislature don’t count.

As if members of city corporations don’t count.

A good test of the new prime minister’s supposedly omniscient powers and abilities is in supposedly “high-tech” Bangalore, where sights such these is today commonplace in a City governed by the prime minister’s party; in a State governed by the Congress.

Is it reasonable to expect a “municipal” problem to be solved by the PM, whose MPs also represent the City? If yes, how precisely would Narendra Modi go about this? And how many days should it take for “Achche Din” to dawn on the hapless residents of Bangalore who voted for him and his party?

Why South Indians are different from ‘Punjabis’

10 May 2014

The differences in the mindset of South Indians and North Indians has been the object of much fascination and in no small measure, pride and envy. The stereotype of the rough, rugged, aggressive, foul-mouthed, back-stabbing, money-minded, itching-for-a-fight “Punjabi/Bhaiyya/Bihari” stands in stark contrast to the soft, docile, introverted, passive, friendly “Madrasi”.

The reasons usually trotted out for this obvious gap are the rougher terrain in the north, the inhospitable climate with extremes of summer and winter, and the number of wars and invasions at the hands of the Mughals and the British, not to mention the bloody Partition at the middle of the last century.

These factors, it is assumed, has made the North Indian tougher, hardier, and in their absence, South Indians have become somewhat soft and namby-pamby.

But could it also be that we are what we eat?

New research by American and Chinese scientists shows that there are psychological differences between people in rice-growing and wheat-growing regions, which, according to The Telegraph, Calcutta, “could also explain certain cultural differences between similar populations in India.”

“The study suggests that people in rice-growing provinces [in southern China] show higher levels of holistic thinking and loyalty to friends or relatives and appear less prone to conflict than people in northern wheat provinces.”

The study, which will appear in the US journal Science, shows that farmers who cultivate rice need to cooperate with neighbours to cordinate flooding and dredging of paddy fields. Cultivating wheat takes only about half as much effort as rice—and the lighter burden of wheat allows farmers to look on their own plots without relying on neighbours.

“Rice agriculture provides a disincentive for conflict,” Thomas Talhelm, a psychologist and research scholar at the University of Virginia says. This makes people in rice cultures avoid conflict, while people in wheat cultures can afford to be individualistic and less resistant to conflict.

The study shows that rice-growing and rice-eating people were more interdependent and holistic in their thinking and display higher levels of loyalty. The scientists also found differences in divorce rates—the rice-growing south had lower divorce rates than the wheat-growing north.

So, next time you chuck a rice baath and order a roti, guess what you are doing to yourself?!

Or guess what the growing appeal of idli and dosa is doing to them?

Photograph: courtesy NDTV

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Are north Indians lawless?

5 reasons why South India is better than the North

Ram Guha: Would war have made South Indians different?

Why aren’t more South Indian firms on the Sensex?

Anna-sambaar to the American on the Blackberry

When the heart pines for panneer butter masala

Zen and the art of eating the Mysore masala dosa

English or Kannada? Does the State know better?

9 May 2014

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K. JAVEED NAYEEM writes: The recent judgement of our apex court striking down the appeal of our State government to make primary education in the mother-tongue compulsory has attracted both flak and appreciation from citizens’ groups and citizens depending on which side of the fence they stand.

What we should understand here is that the education of our children is a very personal matter in which all decisions are best left to the parents.

The State even with the help of experts in the field of education, who claim to have based their conclusions on studies, however extensive, cannot simply declare that it is easier for children to gain their education if their learning process is started in their respective mother-tongues when the experience of their parents is different.

In fact, these experts cannot claim to be more knowledgeable than most parents like me who have themselves studied in English medium schools and whose children have followed in their footsteps very comfortably.

My parents who had studied in their mother-tongue like millions of others thought it sensible to put all their children into English medium schools simply because they felt out of their personal experience that it was a better path than the one they had trod.

It is only because of this simple realisation that generations of parents in the past have taken great pains and have gone to great lengths, relocating themselves from villages and small towns to cities, often jeopardizing their occupations and livelihoods, just to enable their progeny to get a firm foothold on the most useful education.

Thanks to the proliferation of good schools even in the remotest reaches of our State today, this exodus is no longer necessary.

While I have seen dozens of cases of parents transplanting their children from mother-tongue medium schools to English medium schools, I am yet to come across someone who has thought it wise to do the opposite. When this is the case, can assumptions that come out of a few years of academic research rival the learning that comes out of generations of experience?

If research is the gold standard for determining what is good and bad for us, why do most educated and enlightened parents move heaven and earth during the school admission season year after year, standing in long queues, braving not only the sun by day but even the chill by night, before the gates of English medium schools?

Why are these schools proliferating like mushrooms after a good monsoon, while mother-tongue medium schools are going abegging for students and shutting shop in despair, unable to sustain themselves against the tide?

Before we shout ‘unfair’ at what is happening in our society we should pause for a while to ponder. To ask ourselves if this monstrously overwhelming majority of parents, desperate to give their children an English medium education can all be wrong?

What we all need is a good and useful education that while giving sustenance to our children does not kill the language of our State. This can be ensured by paving the way for education in the English medium for all those who clamour for it with a strict stipulation that the language of the State, Kannada in our case, is compulsorily taught throughout the entire schooling process, without any exception.

The State government should be satisfied if the importance of the language of the State is not undermined in any of the schools on its soil and the so-called experts if they so desire, making the best use of their wisdom, can get their kith and kin to study in their mother-tongues.

Most people who are now advocating a return to education in the mother-tongue are the ones who have never tasted the fruits of a firmly grounded education in the English medium. If the others think that ‘English medium delayed is English medium denied,’ what is wrong with it?

(K. Javeed Nayeem is a practising physician who writes a weekly column in Star of Mysore, where this piece originally appeared)

Photograph: A view of the meeting of the great and the good in the Vidhana Soudha in Bangalore, on Friday, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court judgment on the medium of instruction for class 1 to IV. (Karnataka Photo News)

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Also read: Should NRN open world Kannada conference?

When did 328 become greater than 100,000?

Yella not OK, guru. Nanna makkalu is not learning

Don’t gift them fish. Teach them how to fish

Can Azim Premji do what the government can’t/ won’t?

Yedi is fiddling when namma naadu is burning

Do our netas, parties really care about education?

When will our kids start questioning? Don’t ask

 

Meanwhile, in parts still not hit by the Modi Wave

24 April 2014

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Election time is one of most exhilarating periods in the life of the less-than-aam aadmi, when politicians (and the media) suddenly descend on earth, files move, officials respond, there is food on the table, water in the taps and a freebie around the corner.

After the election—and till the next one—it is another story, which is why we are like this only.

Exactly a week after polling day in Karnataka, it’s back to square minus one in Belgaum as the familiar mid-summer sight of girls and women lugging empty pots to collect water, when they ought to be studying and playing and having fun, dot the landscape in village Alataga.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Why the Mysore palace does not run out of water

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

To Narendra Modi. From the Maharaja of Mysore

24 April 2014

As the words I, me and myself trip off the ads, lips and trolls of the man who thinks he will rule India soon, a sobering blast from the past. This, here, in his own hand, is a plaque commemorating Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar‘s note to his subjects upon completion of 25 years as the maharaja of Mysore.

Dated the 8th of August 1927, the choice of words is revealing. While the English part of the letter has the King speak of himself in the first person singular—four “I”s and four “my”s—the Kannada part is replete with the collective “namma” (our), with not a word screaming “main” as is now the wont.

The man who thinks he will rule India soon may like to remind himself that it was in Krishnaraja Wodeyar’s reign that Mysore became the first state to have a democratic system of governance.

And as the man who thinks he will rule India blithely watches his minions spew words of exclusion in 2014, it’s also useful to remember that Mysore, under Krishnaraja Wodeyar, was the first State to provide reservations for the weaker sections of society in government jobs.

Also read: Rama, Rama rajya & Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar

When the maharaja’s son failed an examination

Why the Queen sold her diamonds and jewels

It requires lots of two legs to launch three legs

23 April 2014

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Nothing, it seems, can be sold to consumers or projected to the media these days, without a bunch of girls posing for the lenses. The 23rd piece of evidence in our commodification of women series, of models posing for camera tripods, in Bangalore on Wednesday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

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The commodification of women portfolio

RamyaOne more example of commodification of women

RamyaAnother example of commodification of women

Anu PrabhakarAnother example of commodification of examinations

RamyaLike, bombers get scared looking at bombshells?

RamyaNow, what will those fools do with these kids?

Aindrita RaySurely all that glitters is more than just gold

Jennifer KotwalThe best ice-candy melts before nice eye-candy

RamyaWhat it takes to smoothen some rough blades of grass

Nicole FariaDenims, diamonds, Miss India and the Mahatma

Priyanka TrivediSee, a brand ambassador always gets good press

RoopashreeObjects in the mirror are closer than they appear

Gul PanagYou are almost tempted to say ‘Intel Inside’

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

Mandira BediIt ain’t so easy to woo an iPhone4 user, sister

Tejaswini Prakash: As if we didn’t have traffic diversions already

Pooja Gandhi: Why Vodafone subscribers experience call drops

Raveena Tandon: From a flower of stones to a stone of flowers

Sameera Reddy: Finally, some ‘commodification’ we are OK with

Jayanti, Bharati, Tara, Padmaja Rao: The great gold obsession

Bhavana: When you see plastic, just bend and pick up

Priyanka: How to keep your head up with half a kilo of gold

Sanjana Jain: ‘Minority’ appeasement of sarees in political season

Why your TV couldn’t show you this ‘mega rally’

25 February 2014

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Sitaram Yechury addressing the Left rally in Hissar, but without the “Jimmy Jib” cameras

The point has been made before, that the current political coverage, especially on television, is more than somewhat skewed, tilting unabashedly towards Narendra Damodardas Modi of the BJP vis-a-vis Rahul Gandhi of the Congress.

Now, the CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechuri explicates it a bit more in the Hindustan Times, comparing the TV coverage of Arvind Kejriwal‘s Aam Aadmi Party vis-a-vis the Left parties and unions.

“Two days ago, the Left held a Haryana-level people’s rally for a political alternative at Hissar. On the same day, AAP held a rally called much after the Left rally announcement at nearby Rohtak. The latter was widely covered by the corporate media while the former was hardly mentioned notwithstanding larger participation.

“This is not surprising. Earlier, when Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement was on in the Capital, over two lakh workers organised by the central trade unions had converged at Parliament against corruption and price rise. While the former hogged 24/7 media coverage, the latter hardly found any mention.

“Clearly, for the corporate media, a so-called ‘morally’ upright alternative that does not adversely affect profit maximisation is always better than an alternative that aims at improving people’s livelihood while not excessively promoting profit maximisation!”

For the record, though, Kejriwal launched into the media at the Rohtak rally, inviting a statement from the editors guild of India.
Photograph: courtesy Ganashakti
Read the full article: Sitaram Yechuri in HT
Also read: Is Modi media biased against Rahul Gandhi?

 How Narendra Modi buys media through PR

Modi‘s backers and media owners have converged’

‘Network18′s multimedia Modi feat, a promo’

NaMo, PaChi, chai, MaShAi and Mahabharatha

20 February 2014

Those who know Gujarat politics know that its chief minister Narendra Damodardas Modi‘s claims of having been a tea-seller at Ahmedabad (or was it Vadnagar?) railway station in his youth is a minor “fake encounter with facts”. Sonia Gandhi‘s man friday from the land of Amul, Ahmed Patel, has helpfully clarified that Shri Modiji was only a fafda-seller at his uncle’s shop.

Nevertheless, that hasn’t stopped some Congressmen from revealing their upbringing.

Mani Shankar Aiyar with Doon school, St. Stephen‘s college and Cambridge in his curriculum vitae said Modi could sell tea at the Congress office, prompting the BJP (or its corporate sponsors) to do some “Chai pe Kharcha” to organise Modi’s “Chai pe Charcha“.

More recently, when Modi began doing some major fake encounters with economic facts, finance minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, with Harvard on his CV, stepped in to remind the world that what the BJP’s “prime ministerial candidate” knew about economics could be written on the back of a postal stamp.

The condescending comments revealed the class prejudice prevalent in Indian society and politics, writes P.M. Vasudev in Deccan Herald. But it is not something Aiyar and Chidambaram discovered with Modi on the horizon; we have grown up with it since the time of the Mahabharatha:

“With many of the negatives in contemporary India, it is possible to trace to the Mahabharatha the attitude underlying the statements of Aiyar and Chidambaram.

“At the display by the Pandavas and Kauravas on completion of their training in military skills, their guru, Drona, dared any person in the assembly to challenge Arjuna.

“When Karna rose to do so, Drona insulted and humiliated him about his lowly social position as the son of a chariot-driver and questioned how he could dare challenge a prince.

“Of course, in doing so, Drona brushed aside the main issue – namely, the skills of the contestants.

“Betraying deep-seated rank prejudices, he taunted Karna about his social position. It is a different story that Duryodhana, who had his own agenda to put the Pandavas down, stepped in and made Karna the prince of a small state, so he could compete with Arjuna ‘on a par.’”

Read the full article: Class prejudice, competence & spirit of democracy

Photograph: courtesy Daily Bhaskar

Also read: Do they teach this at Harvard Business School?

Democracy by SMS: Do we really know the best?

12 February 2014

The Aam Admi Party in Delhi has made a virtue out of “consulting the people” whenever it has a sticky decision to make. Should Arvind Kejriwal take Congress support to form the government? Place a missed call. How should members of Parliament make laws? By asking the mohalla sabhas.

Inherent in this line of thinking is the wisdom of the crowd. That the top is uniformally rotten, compromised and far from the salt at the bottom of the earth.

Really? asks the economist Prabhat Patnaik in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“The view that the top-down approach should be eschewed and the people, as they are, should be entrusted with decision-making, is based on flawed thinking. It idealizes the people as they are, and sees them as a pure and undifferentiated mass that is entirely a repository of virtue.

“In fact, however, the people in their empirical state of existence, are neither pure, nor pristine, nor homogeneous, nor free of the web of local-level power relationships.

“Consulting the people under these circumstances amounts to bowing before these power relationships; apotheosizing the people under these circumstances amounts to glorifying these relationships; and the decentralization of power and resources under these circumstances results not in an elimination of corruption, or even necessarily in a reduction in its level, but rather in a decentralization of corruption.”

Image: courtesy CNN-IBN

Read the full article: Wrong at the top

CHURUMURI POLL: Should RSS be banned again?

8 February 2014

The release of audio tapes and transcripts of four interviews conducted by a journalist of the monthly magazine, The Caravan, which show the terror-attack accused Swami Aseemanand in conversation with the RSS sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat in 2005, virtually implicating him in targetting civilians, once again show the twice-banned “national voluntary organisation” in disgraceful light.

“In the last two interviews, Aseemanand repeated that his terrorist acts were sanctioned by the highest levels of the RSS—all the way up to Mohan Bhagwat, the current RSS chief, who was the organisation’s general secretary at the time,” reads a press release. “It is very important that it be done. But you should not link it to the Sangh.”

While BJP and RSS spokespersons have questioned the veracity of the tapes and the ethicality of the journalist managing to enter the jail where Assemanand is lodged to record the interviews, they do not detract from the elephant in the room: the alleged involvement of RSS functionaries in attacks of terrorism, raising the spectre of “Saffron Terror” with the intent of political mobilisation.

For some the tapes will only confirm their worst fears: that the RSS, which was banned (by then home minister Vallabhbhai Patel, no less) after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948 and the demolition of the Babri masjid in 1992, is upto no good. That such an organisation should be playing a quite conspicuous role in shaping the future and fortunes of BJP in circa 2014 will please them even less.

Many others, though, will suspect the timing of the release of the tapes on the eve of a general election, and the rather candid admissions of a terror-accused who over the last three years seems to have somehow forgot to spill the beans to his custodians in jail and interrogators in court.

Obviously, the charges are still a long way from being proved. But if they are, on the strength of mounting evidence—Colonel Shrikant Purohit, Sadhvi Pragya Singh, Indresh Kumar—should the RSS be banned a third time? And if Narendra Modi, whose installation as the BJP’s  “prime ministerial candidate” was one of the RSS’s biggest successes last year, does end up becoming PM, will his government have the guts or the objectivity to take such a tough call?

Also read: Should the RSS be banned—part I?

Will an RSS-run BJP be more vicious in future?

How Karnataka is becoming Gujarat of South

Did R-Day Tipu tableau insult Kodavas & Jains?

28 January 2014

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ARUN PADKI writes: 65 years after to the day when the Constitution of India was adopted paving the way for the birth of Republic of India, has the government of Karnataka undermined the spirit of our democracy by displaying a tableau of Tipu Sultan?

Knowing very well that the antecedents of Tipu are hazy and not one that could be showcased as a symbol of the State or Karnataka’s pride, the government of Karnataka’s decision to make him the theme of its tableau at this year’s Republic Day parade is not in good taste.

The fact that this tableau was chosen over Kodagu-the land of warriors tableau is only rubbing salt over their wounds.

The contribution of Kodavas to this country is immense and on this community Tipu committed atrocities unimaginable that befits a king. Only a warlord or one with extreme perversion and hatred could do these heinous acts of murder, maiming and forceful conversion.

The other people who suffered similar atrocities during Tipu’s regime were the people from Coastal Karnataka, mainly Catholics and the people of Malabar who were forced to flee to a friendlier King, the Raja of Travancore and the rest staying back, after accepting a religion forced onto them.

The government could have chosen from and done justice to the citizens of the state and country by showing Karnataka in true spirit: The splendour of Mysore Dasara in the 18th century or the Saavira Kambada Basadi (thousand-pillared temple), a Jain temple that is spell binding.

Since Dasara has its own platform to exhibit’s the splendour, this can be given a miss.  As a true Mysorean, even I would not complain since we are a State with lots of diversity. One State, many worlds…indeed!

For centuries Jains in Karnataka have given more to the society than one can imagine.  If the monuments they have built, their generosity and the benign leaders of the past are one aspect, the education institutions of today and the charity work they are doing in today’s world is another.

They do not ask for favours from Government unlike others although the the UPA government has conferred them the title of ‘minority’ in an election year.

Tipu’s contribution to culture, literature, Kannada language and more importantly secularism is always questioned.  Kannada was replaced with Farsi language.  As far as making him a freedom fighter is concerned, biased historians have compromised on his correspondences with the French to overthrow the British.

The Government of Karnataka has played dirty politics by displaying a tableau of Tipu with the elections in mind.  It is for the people who are the target of appeasement here to understand the facts of about Tipu and not get swayed by these short term gimmicks.  Mutual respect and equality is important than being appeased or tolerated.

And today, Kodavas and Jains, being small communities, have become inconsequential to the politicians as they are not a vote bank.

Also read: Oldest book in President’s house is on Tipu Sultan

Should a University be named after Tipu Sultan?

CHURUMURI POLL: Tipu Sultan vs Kempe Gowda?

‘Most Hindus and most Muslims are communal’

Did the ‘Tiger of Mysore’ really tame a tiger?

Tipu Sultan and the truth about 3,000 Brahmins

Tipu Sultan left his last meal unfinished’

‘On TV evidence, Rahul doesn’t have it to be PM’

28 January 2014

Rahul Gandhi‘s interview with Times Now editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami has already led to a torrent of scrutiny and criticism, and there will be more tonight as the wise sages in Bombay and Delhi sit down to parse every paragraph and syllable.

But how did smalltown India receive Gandhi’s arangetram against the stylish backdrop of an M.F. Husain painting?

Here, K.B. Ganapathy, the erudite editor-in-chief of the evening tabloid Star of Mysore shares his thoughts.

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By K.B. GANAPATHY

Last evening I had my sundowner early enough to be ready to watch the TV channel Times Now at 9 pm waiting for the soon-to-become prime minister of India, Rahul Gandhi. He was to appear before Arnab Goswami, that loud-mouthed Times Now anchor who loves his own voice more than those whom he interviews and tackles in a panel discussion.

I was ready with a writing pad and a pen to write about the interview.

This interview, Arnab claimed, was Rahul’s first since he won the 2004 parliamentary elections. Rahul’s response was a denial saying he had given many press interviews but dodged the crux of the question that it was Rahul’s first TV interview.

Now, after I laboured through a languorous interview of over an hour, I discovered that this was the way Rahul was answering every one of Arnab Goswami’s questions. I am sure many attentive viewers too may have made the same discovery as yours truly.

Rahul, apparently in a show of bravado, told Arnab Goswami, who was going back in time, “…draw me back as much as you want.”

Arnab grabbed the opportunity and asked why Congress was avoiding announcing the prime ministerial candidate. The answer was something like this: “Issue is how a Prime Minister is chosen. It is MPs who select the Prime Minister. We have respect for the process.”

Arnab Goswami: What about 2009?

Rahul Gandhi: There was an incumbent Prime Minister.

In fact, knowledgeable people know whenever there is a person available in the Gandhi dynasty to become Prime Minister, that office would go to the member of that dynasty only.

In 1984, Rajiv Gandhi was sworn-in as prime minister, soon after Indira Gandhi’s assassination without consulting the MPs. It was the majority of CWC that chose the prime minister even though, left to the MPs, Pranab Mukherjee, being No. 2 in Indira Gandhi’s Cabinet, would have been chosen.

In fact, that was the reason for Pranab Mukherjee to leave Congress. Rajiv Gandhi too ignored him after assuming power. Let it be.

Sadly, Rahul Gandhi was unable to explain convincingly about this contradiction in what he told Arnab Goswami and what had happened in the Congress Party in the matter of choosing a Prime Minister.

Rahul Gandhi, in his detour of an answer, denied there was ever any arbitrary decision taken in choosing a PM, whatever it meant.

Questioned if he would face Narerddra Modi in a debate, once again the answer was devious and said, ‘You must understand Rahul Gandhi. I want to ask you a question…’ For this, Arnab’s answer was, ‘I can’t be a half journalist. I ask this question because Narendra Modi is challenging you on a daily basis.’

Answering further questions, Rahul went rambling — people of honesty are destroyed by the ‘system,’ question of losing or winning an election does not arise, etc.

After the interview, Arnab Goswami invited Vinod Mehta, that veteran journalist and mentor of Outlook magazine along with another author for their opinions about Rahul’s interview. Vinod Mehta rightly said, recalling Rahul’s concern for correcting the ‘system,’ that all these years, all those who tried to fix the system got themselves fixed and threw up their hands in despair.

I thought of Rahul’s father Rajiv Gandhi to whom the ever helpful media gave the reverential epithet Mr. Clean. This Mr Clean went to Bombay soon after becoming the Prime Minister, delivered an India-shaking speech criticising the power brokers in his party and vowed to end this menace that was the cause for corruption.

What happened? Soon Rajiv Gandhi himself got mired in corruption scandal of Bofors gun deal, lost the election to V.P. Singh and the rest was tragic history.

Question: Narendra Modi calls you Shehzada. Are you afraid of losing to Modi?

The answer was again abstract and irrelevant. ‘Rahul Gandhi wants to empower women. We will defeat BJP etc., etc.’

Question: Is Narendra Modi responsible for Gujarat riots? Courts gave him clean chit. Congress wants to put Modi on the back foot on this issue. What about 1984 Sikh massacre in Delhi? Was Congress responsible?

Here, Rahul Gandhi had a new take by way of answer. According to him, in Gujarat, the government headed by Narendra Modi abetted the massacre, while in Delhi the Congress government tried to contain the killings.

Arnab Goswami told Rahul Gandhi that while Narendra Modi got the army in 48 hours, in Delhi, it took 72 hours and many Congress leaders were arraigned in criminal cases in this Sikh massacre and the cases are still being dragged on.

Listening to this part of the interview, I was wondering why the learned media wizards and the smart politicians don’t see a distinction between 2002 Gujarat riots and 1984 Delhi massacre. The Gujarat violence was a communal riot. It is not important who provoked it because that will not justify killings at all.

The law of the land should prevail, not mass violence.

Here, both Hindus and Muslims died, but majority of people who died were Muslims. However, in Delhi, it was not a communal riot. It was a pogrom, like what happened to Jews during World War II in Germany.

Just because two Sikh security guards killed our Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, some Congress party members and admirers of Indira Gandhi allegedly massacred innocent Sikhs in a sudden, surprise attack. Now, 30 years on, our country’s legal system could not punish the culprits!

Will Rahul Gandhi, if and when he becomes the Prime Minister fix this ‘legal system’ so that aam aadmi gets justice without delay. Can he? I doubt.

To be honest, much as Congressmen would like to make Rahul Gandhi the Prime Minister of India, my gut feeling, after seeing him face the interview, is that he will not fit into the Prime Minister’s slot.

He was simply not clear in his mind what he wants to do for the country’s many challenging political, economic and social issues.

Yes, I must mention here that Rahul was asking Arnab Goswami why he was not asking questions about issues related to corruption, women empowerment, bringing youngsters into politics, etc. This was when Rahul was unable to face the tricky, difficult questions from Arnab Goswami.

Rahul did not seem a person with intellectual streak or with oratorical or debating skill.

Power of speech is what makes a leader.

History is replete with such leaders — Julius Caesar, Antony, Hannibal, Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Lenin, Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose…. At present Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal.

After seeing the interview, I don’t think, Rahul has what it takes to make one a Prime Minister or a great leader.

He was asked: If he wants to end corruption, how can he have alliance with Lalu Prasad Yadav of Bihar who has been convicted of corruption? The clever answer from Rahul was that the alliance was with the Party RJD and not with Lalu Prasad Yadav.

Likewise, he was asked about the ‘dynasty’ of which he is the No. 1. His answer was again a clever one: “In every party one could see ‘dynasty.’ I did not sign up and say I must be born in this dynasty or family,” etc., etc.

He further clarified in his own rambling, inchoate manner, to a question, his opinion about the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). It was a non-answer ! He was for opening the ‘system’ to end dynasty but there is no Abracadabra to do that.

I must appreciate here that for once that talkative, argumentative, belligerent Arnab Goswami was too condescending to Rahul Gandhi; too patient, too gentle and may I say too sympathetic to a person sitting before him, tensed up, with a smear of sweat on his pink visage, not sure of himself in answering the questions.

And I thought it was rather rude and even unkindly on the part of Arnab Goswami to ask Rahul Gandhi if he was prepared for a TV debate with Narendra Modi.

By now I had come to anticipate Rahul’s answer to such direct, taunting question and, as I correctly guessed, he said ‘his party would be ready for such a debate’. Now Manish Tewari, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Digvijay Singh… please get ready to face Narendra Modi.

And finally, it was interesting to hear in the beginning of the interview itself about Rahul Gandhi’s educational qualification about which that acerbic Dr Subramanian Swamy had some doubts. Surprisingly Rahul in turn asked Arnab Goswami if he was ever in Cambridge.

When the answer was yes, Rahul mentioned about an ‘affidavit’ he had filed etc., etc. about his having a degree from Trinity College.

Well, that was an insipid, boring interview, but I was left wondering, as I retired to bed, how could Vinod Mehta say Rahul’s was a creditable performance? Honesty in journalism may not always be the best policy.

After all, his own magazine Outlook has described Rahul Gandhi as ‘Sunset Prince’ and after watching this interview, I don’t think Outlook was wrong in its opinion.

(This piece was originally published in Star of Mysore)

More proof that the biggest poll issue is price rise

25 January 2014

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A sea of yellow over Anand Rao Circle in Bangalore, as autorickshaw drivers and owners take out a procession towards Freedom Park, demanding a reduction in the price of gas cylinders that they use.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

If Kejriwal is ‘anarchist’, how about L.K. Advani?

25 January 2014

VIKRAM MUTHANNA writes: Ever since AAP came to power in Delhi, they seem to have become the favourite punching bag of the media, intellectuals and politicians.

Arvind Kejriwal was declared a threat to Indian democracy — an ‘Anarchist.’

Yes a dose of criticism is healthy, but to speak in a tone suggesting that voting for Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was a mistake and that they have become a menace is not only unfair, but also a disservice to a nation that is in the threshold of change. It also reeks of fear and propaganda.

All this sudden blaming and name calling of AAP by many Indians makes one wonder if most Indians really want a corruption-free India?

It seems many want AAP to fix just enough corruption to make life convenient?

Convenient enough that they don’t have to bribe to get a Driver’s License, but then not so efficient that it becomes impossible to bribe a Policeman when caught riding without a helmet or jumping traffic lights. Is that what it is? Selective anti-corruption options.

First, the Congress and BJP called Arvind Kejriwal’s two-day protest an anarchist movement. Really? For starters, where was this fear of anarchy when L.K. Advani took his chariot of fire all the way to Ayodhya and the BJP lotus bloomed from 84 seats to 183 in 1999?

Where was this fear of anarchy when Bajrang Dal ran amok beating up young girls across the nation on Valentine’s Day teaching them lessons in morality?

As for Congress, where was their fear of anarchy when Sikhs were massacred? Has any party even apologised for these acts? Where was the Indian upper middle class and intellectuals’ fear of anarchy then?

Now, a party very different, has come to power in the capital. It feels helpless as it is unable to control its own Police force and stages a peaceful dharna because the Union Government is unwilling to even discuss the issue and every one calls it ‘anarchy.’

Yes may be there may have been a slight traffic inconvenience to the Delhi citizens, but can’t a citizen handle being inconvenienced a little by a protest which will give him better policing?

We always want someone else to fight out fights, to make our lives better, without inconveniencing ourselves. How selfish is that?!

Indeed we want AAP to work within the framework of the law, but isn’t peaceful dissent within this framework as well? Yes, when it comes to politics, everyone suffers from amnesia. Indeed two wrongs don’t make a right, but still, to call AAP’s protest in Delhi ‘anarchy’ is just plain unfair.

While they say Kejriwal is turning India into a Banana Republic why is no one asking about the Bill to bring Delhi Police under the Delhi Government which has been pending for 15 years? What is waiting for? Is it on purpose?

After all ‘timing’ of passing certain laws or bills is in fact a political strategy. More than to benefit the citizens it is meant to win elections. This what creates a Banana Republic, not a government that sits in peaceful dharna.

The Delhi CM wants to give good governance to his people and good law and order is part of it. So he wants control of law and order, which he is not being given, so the protest. Is that wrong?

In that case, when H.D. Deve Gowda, a former PM of this country sits in dharna on Mysore-Bangalore road to get us Cauvery water for agriculture, drinking and cooking, does it make him an anarchist?

Now the Delhi Police say they act only upon issue of a warrant, but still when a crime is underway do they need a warrant?

Everyone in Delhi knows the area between Saketh and Malviya Nagar has had issue of prostitution. The residents of Hauz Rani which lies between these areas, had complained repeatedly for months and no action was taken.

Finally when a Minister goes to have a look, orders the Police to act, it is termed ‘vigilantism.’

How would the upper middle class “cultured” citizens react if they had a “Service Centre” next door? We are sure, they would have called the Home Minister and warrant or no warrant it would be cleared in a jiffy.

The details of the Delhi incident of course were made murkier and louder by now what seems like an anti-AAP media.

The same media which went hyper and showed us doctored tapes of AAP reportedly accepting cash, which some say cost Shazia Ilmi of AAP her seat, who lost by just 326 votes. But then once it was proved the tapes were doctored the raw footage was never shown.

The man who made it, earlier was given ample screen, but was never brought back to be grilled. In the Delhi incident a media that gets a sound byte from all and sundry did not get too many residents’ opinions. There was also no clarity and consistency in reports, why?

So while the media says the AAP Minister Somnath Bharti has brought bad name to India internationally, maybe selective journalism did too?

The same media just before the elections said AAP will not get more than 6 to 10 seats, in a way encouraging voters not to waste their vote and stick with the winning horse, the BJP, only to be proved wrong.

Is the Corporate owned media with other varied interests suddenly scared that too much anti-corruption may come knocking on their own doors or are they trying to play ball with BJP which is sure to win many more seats than any other party right now?

Also interesting is the fact that as one watched the AAP Minister wagging a finger at the Policeman, the Policeman too wagged his finger right back! Wonder if he would dare to do so at a BJP or a Congress Minister?

No way.

He knows very well what will happen. It seems it has not sunk in the officialdom that an aam aadmi has come to power, because AAP does not project power like traditional politicians do, which can be brutal and leave one in a perpetual vindictive legal limbo.

In fact, our politicians follow the same principle as that of the British. Independence ushered in only a change in management and not swaraj. No wonder the laws that British used to suppress us is still in use and no party wants to change it.

Forget the laws and attitudes; even the residences did not change. Soon after independence Nehru moved into Flagstaff House (Teen Murti Bhavan), the palatial residence of the former British Commander-in-Chief, our President moved into the palace built for the then Viceroy of India.

This is why it is said, “Democracy did not adopt India, Indians usurped democracy because it could be moulded to fit earlier structures without threatening them. It caught the popular imagination not for the new values it symbolised, but for the possibilities it opened up for the consolidation of the old. The miracle of India is that the practice of democracy has flourished within its boundaries for over six decades in the absence of a democratic temperament.”

AAP, it seems is here to rewrite democracy and they must be critiqued but not shouted down into oblivion and death.

True, AAP is in a hurry to become a National Party without getting its structures in place. They are advised to prepare well, for they need to survive, grow and deliver us not just from corruption, but help us rewrite our democracy, that will allow us to transcend into pure patriotism.

(Vikram Muthanna is the managing editor of Star of Mysore where this piece originally appeared)

The Talibanisation of Kannada cinema—Part II

15 January 2014

VASANT SHETTY writes from Bangalore: Bangalore is home to “Sandalwood”, the Kannada film industry.

The industry produces 120-130 movies an year and, like other major film industries in India, has about a 10% success rate.

Unfortunately, unlike other film industries, Sandalwood is known for banning dubbing of content to Kannada.

This unofficial ban on dubbing content effectively isolates Kannadigas who know only Kannada (approximately there are 2.5 to3 crore Kannadigas who know only Kannada and no other language) from the sea of knowledge and entertainment that exists in other languages.

We must note that the ban has no legal sanctity and is put in place by a private trade bodies like Karnataka film chamber of commerce (KFCC) and other similar organizations.

The private ban was put in place six decades ago in order to give boost to the then ailing Kannada film industry under the aegis of the legendary actor Dr Raj Kumar. The protectionist measure helped the novice industry to scale from less than 10 films a year to more than 100 films a year.

But like other typical protectionist schemes, the continued “PRIVATE” protection has resulted in isolating Kannadigas from receiving worldly knowledge in visual form and is fast turning counter-productive from the view point of increasing language’s reach.

Several past attempts by concerned individuals to debate the unconstitutional ban on dubbing was shot down in the guise of protecting of language and culture by vested interests.

Last year when the Hindi cinema actor Aamir Khan set out to do a social awareness program called Satyameva Jayate, he wanted to make this program available in most Indian languages using the means of dubbing.

In Kannada, the general entertainment channel Suvarna was planning to air this program in Kannada and as soon as the news broke out, sundry trade organisations affiliated to Kannada film and TV industry made sure that Suvarna channel backed off from that idea.

When Suvarna put the first episode of  Kannada version on YouTube, it received more than 30,000 views in 24 hours and strangely the very next day the video was pulled out from the internet too. Cartels from the film and TV industry were suspected to be behind this.

Amidst all this, Competition Commission of India (CCI) entered the scene after a complaint was lodged with it on the grounds that the ban violates the freedom of choice of a Kannadiga consumer from watching the best of entertainment and knowledge programs from across the world in his mother tongue.

The dubbing debate seems to have entered the last leg with recent media reports (Udayavani, 7 January) indicating that the CCI has come down very heavily on all associations affiliated to Kannada film and television industry for their blatant anti-consumer and anti-competition actions. This has triggered raging debates on Kannada TV and social media about pros and cons of dubbing once again.

On a serious note, is there anything to debate at all?

It’s an open and shut case. Whoever wants to see original content, they should have their choice, and whoever wants to see dubbed content, they should have their choice too.

In this context, we are running a petition requesting the chief minister of Karnataka and his administration to ensure that the citizens of Karnataka are able to exercise their freedom of choice.

I request all those individuals who believe in liberty, freedom of choice, democracy and rule of law to sign this petition and show your support for this people’s cause.

Sign the petition here: http://chn.ge/1izOkfI

Also read: The Talibanisation of Kannada cinema and television

An open letter to Aamir Khan, from a Kannadiga

What the Darshan‘s brutality says about Scandalwood

CHURUMURI POLL: Could Jayalalitha be PM?

20 December 2013

Counting the chickens before they are hatched, is a familiar human frailty. And, as elections draw near with intimations of the mortality of the Congress-led UPA, there are many who are rehearsing their speeches from “the ramparts of the Red Fort” in the not unreasonable expectation that dame luck may not just smile but wink at them at the polling booths thanks to a lame duck government.

The Usain Bolt of them is, of course, you-know-who, who shall not be named. But a not quite unlikely silhouette is emerging from the shadows: Jayalalitha Jayaram.

With poll after opinion poll predicting that virtually 250 of the 543 seats in the next Lok Sabha may be occupied by non-Congress, non-BJP parties—with Tamil Nadu having 40 of them—the straws are somewhat leaning towards the Mysore-born AIADMK supremo who is now that State’s chief minister for a second term.

In just the last week, H.D. Deve Gowda (who became PM with 12 MPs) has suggested her name:

“An inner voice tells me that Indian polity is going through a sea change, and as a believer in the Hindu dharma, let me tell you that someone from the south is going to become the Prime Minister,” said Gowda, a frequent visitor to the Sri Ranganathaswamy temple in Srirangam, which also happens to be Jayalalithaa’s assembly constituency. “I wholeheartedly support the candidature of Jayalalitha for the Prime Minister’s post provided such a favorable political mobilization takes place.”

Now, the AIADMK general council has echoed Gowda’s sentiments:

“All the members of AIADMK want Jayalalitha to become prime minister this time and we have been working in this direction for the last three-four months. The federal structure of the country should give a chance to political leaders of other states to lead the country,” said M. Thambi Durai, an AIADMK leader in the Lok Sabha.

At a function held in Madras last year, Cho Ramaswamy of Tughlaq magazine said that Jayalalitha stood a good chance if Narendra Modi became unacceptable to NDA allies.

Obviously, this is speculation predicated on the assumption that neither BJP nor the Congress will be in a position to form a government on their own or with the support of their allies. But the fact that Jayalalitha has not met the BJP “prime ministerial candidate” Narendra Modi on three occasions, nor have her representatives been present at Modi’s rallies in Tamil Nadu, suggests that the flame of hope burns bright in more than just one Gujarati’s heart.

Questions: Does Jayalalitha, with her food schemes, her grasp of English and slightly understated demeanour in her latest term, stand a chance if AIADMK wins, say, 32-35 of the 40 seats? Is she a more accetpable bet than Narendra Modi? Will she be acceptable to other parties like Biju Janata Dal and Trinamool Congress, which are also likely to score heavily in Orissa and West Bengal? Will her proximity to the left parties (the CPI’s D. Raja won with AIADMK support) make her more amenable to Mulayam Singh Yadav‘s Samajwadi Party, just to spite Mayawati?

Is it time a Mysorean became prime minister? (Just kidding.)

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Is Jayalalitha PM material?

A BIAL by any other name is still a hideous KGIAL

14 December 2013

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Some of India’s most inanimate public structures have seen massive sex-change operations in the post-colonial age: Lady Willingdon‘s park became Lodi Gardens in New Delhi; Queen Victoria terminus became Chattrapati Shivaji terminus Bombay.

No such complicated medical procedures were required for “hi-tech” Bangaloreans, where the Bangalore international airport (BIAL) smoothly (well, nearly smoothly) transitioned into the Kempe Gowda international airport (KGIAL) in the 50th week of the year of The Lord 2013.

BIAL was termed the “most underdesigned, underconnected, woeful piece of infrastructure that is the face of new India to the world” by Janagrahaa founder Ramesh Ramanathan when it opened five and a half years years ago.

Another critic said:

“The entire [BIAL] airport looks like a block of hollow concrete bricks. Add to it flawed design and bad colour combination and it looks positively aesthetically challenged… The graphic inside gives you the feel of an old government office built without any architectural sense….

“You could easily mistake the first floor of the airport for the Forum Mall. I did not see anything that reflects Indian architecture, anything that represents our core values; or which tells the world that we are no longer a developing nation.”

Sure enough, a joint house committee of the Karnataka legislature too came to similar conclusion: it said the airport was not of international standards and slammed the the multinational corporations for “faulty” design and construction, and “poor quality of workmanship”.

The good news is that BIAL,which was now part of the GVK group after Zurich Airport pulled out,decided to do something about it.

The bad news is the new, expanded, revamped airport looks just as hideous, with nearly no local motif; just a large industrial shed which through it’s increasingly frequent change of ownership gives the faint whiff of a scam no one wants to catch.

Meanwhile, GVK wants to sell a part of its holding. Get the drift?

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: 5+1 questions for Ramesh Ramanathan, R.K. Misra & co

PPP: where public is the puppy of the private

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

Us and them: bricks and mortar vs click and mouse

CHURUMURI POLL: Bangalore airport, a disaster?

A ‘strong state’ isn’t what you think it should be

14 December 2013

India often attracts the epithet of a “soft state“, whenever it is seen by right-wing and conservative hawks and hotheads as acting “weakly” on Pakistan, terrorism, China, Maoism, etc.  But the muscularity of the Republic cannot be judged from sabre-rattling or machismo, with blood as its signature.

The writer, scholar and academic Kanti Bajpai writes in The Times of India that a strong state is one that has decision-making, implementation, regulatory, adjudicatory, and enforcement capacity. On all these, he says, India is pathetically weak.

“India has 700 diplomats, the same as Belgium.

“The IAS has 5,000 officers, one per 250,000 people.

“We have 560 MPs, one for every 20 lakh people. Both Britain and Sri Lanka have one MP for every 90,000 people.

“There are 31 million cases pending in the Indian judicial system. The upper courts alone have a backlog of 4 million and the Supreme Court has 59,000. India has 1.2 judges per 100,000 people: the ratio in Australia is three times, and in the US nine times better.

“This is with 1.2 billion people; imagine the situation in 2050 when the population will be 1.7 billion!

“Indian commentators today are transfixed by the issue of corruption and whether Narendra Modi will become prime minister. In the larger scheme of things, neither corruption nor Modi matter. There are much bigger things to think about.”

Image: courtesy Mail Today

Read the full article: Imagine all the people

Also read: Jerry Rao: Neither soft nor hard, just flexible

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External reading: The myth of India as a soft state

Joginder Singh, IPS: “Are we a soft state?”

UPenn: India between “soft State” and “soft power”

Manoj Joshi: ” Fumbling soft state”

From Bindiganavile to Jind via Central Asia

13 December 2013

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Where is hometown in the world of elastic geographies?

What is mother tongue in the era of mixed parentage?

In this, the first chapter from his new book, Homeless on Google Earth (Permanent Black), the historian, cricket writer and novelist Mukul Kesavan—son of B.S. Kesavan, the Mysore-born scholar who became the first Indian director of the National Library in New Delhi—writes on home in the wired world.

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By MUKUL KESAVAN

When I was 7 or 8, I asked my father where I was from.

Or what we were, which seemed, then, to amount to the same thing.

My father told me that I was a Kannadiga and that we were from Mysore, the name by which Karnataka was known in 1965. At the time I was a schoolboy in Delhi so the information was useful; “where are you from?” was the first question you were asked in class. The second question, but second only by a short head, was “what does your father do?”

My father was a librarian and his “native place” was contained, theoretically at least, within his name.

South Indians (or Madrasis as they were known in Delhi in the 1960s) often had two initials before their names: the first indicated a place name, the second was often the father’s name. So B.S. Kesavan expanded into Bellary Shamanna Kesavan, which made me a Kannadiga from Mysore, and if a classmate wanted me to get more specific I could even supply an ancestral place name.

Only it wasn’t as cut and dried as it sounded.

My father, despite his name, felt no sense of belonging to Bellary. The name was an affectation, a lie: an ancestor who had achieved petty government rank had decided that it was grander to claim Bellary, a district capital, as home, rather than the obscure place to which he belonged, a tiny town called Bindiganavile.

When, towards the end of his life, he felt the need to return to his origins, my father led a little cavalcade of cars filled with members of his extended family to Bindiganavile where his ancestors had endowed a temple.

But even Bindiganavile wasn’t where he (or I) began.

There lurked a pre-Kannadiga identity and the clue to it lay in the fact that my father spoke Tamil fluently, as did his brothers.

Some ten years ago, I visited my uncle in Bangalore and found him in a rage. A militantly nativist movement had begun to attack “outsiders” in Bangalore, speciallyTamilians, allegedly because they didn’t identify with Karnataka’s language, Kannada, and continued to speak Tamil.

My uncle, who like his brother thought of himself as a Kannadiga and spoke Kannada like a native, was infuriated that arriviste politicians had declared that people with names like Kesavan and Natarajan were enemy aliens. “Kannada! I’ll teach these fellows Kannada!” he growled, his moustache bristling.

The language my father and his brothers grew up speaking at home was a dialect of Tamil because, many generations earlier, their ancestors had migrated from the Tamil country to present-day Karnataka, following their spiritual preceptor, Ramanujacharya.

Their descendants – B.S. Kesavan and his brothers amongst them – spoke pidgin Tamil within the family and Kannada to the outside world. This didn’t make them linguists, it made them liminal: “real” Tamils thought they were inadequately Tamil while militant Kannada activists refused to see them as authentically Kannadiga.

But it would be inaccurate to say that Hebbar Iyengars (the jati or caste community of which my father’s family was a part) were Kannadiga in the monolingual way in which language chauvinists like Vatal Nagaraj would have liked them to be.

Linguistically, my father was a cosmopolitan: he could make himself understood in Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Hindi, and English; he read Sanskrit for pleasure, and had leant German in Weimar Germany and subsequently forgotten it.

This multilingual ability was, to some degree, the norm in his family.

Nearly all my cousins on my father’s side of the family speak four, sometimes five, languages. So language alone didn’t, couldn’t define home. Home to them was a curious blend of the towns they had grown up in (and it was always a town or a city; there wasn’t an ancestral village that anyone could remember) and their caste identity as Brahmins of a particular sort.

Hebbar Iyengars tended to go on a bit about how light-skinned they were and this anxiety about pigmentation sometimes became the basis of speculative theories of origin.

One cousin, who had read B.G. Tilak’sThe Arctic Home in the Vedas, explained to me that this absence of darkness indicated the northerly, non-Dravidian origins of the Hebbar Iyengar community. In his mind, he was simultaneously from Mysore and the Central Asian steppes, that cradle of white, Indo-European goodness.

My claim to being a Kannadiga, or even my claim to a hybrid Tamil-Kannadiga identity, was nominal.

I first visited Karnataka when I was 21; I was born in Delhi, educated in its schools and colleges, and I’ve been working in that city ever since.

My mother’s family had been Dilli-wallahs since at least the time of the last Mughal: we had the papers to prove that Munshi Nathmal, our ancestor, once a minor clerk in Bahadur Shah Zafar’s administration, turned his coat and defected to the British the moment Delhi rose in revolt in 1857.

I had none of my father’s languages: for many years I couldn’t even tell if he was speaking Telugu or Kannada or Tamil; it was just a sludge of South Indian to me. I spoke Hindi and English and nothing else, which used to prompt my father to say that I spoke my mother’s tongue, not my mother tongue.

If I had a native place, then, it was Delhi.

In terms of location and language I was more an Agrawal from Delhi than an Iyengar from Mysore, but so powerful was the idea of patrilineal descent that through childhood and youth I believed I was “South Indian”.

But even my North Indian identity was an odd confection of fact and prejudice.

My mother’s family had lived in the old city for more than a hundred years. In the Bania narrative of Delhi’s history, everything bad or coarse that had happened to the city since Independence was put down to the influx of Punjabi refugees.

They were vulgar, thrusting, untutored in Delhi’s ways and especially its language.

They said “mere ko” instead of “mujhe”, and “bola” instead of “kaha”.

I soaked up these notions as a child and came to the conclusion that since everyone must have come to Delhi from somewhere else, and since we weren’t (heaven be praised) Punjabis, we must have arrived in the city from UP. My mother even had a cousin who owned ancestral property in Banaras, which seemed to clinch things in favour of that state.

Some years later a maternal uncle gave me a yellowing book with a family tree that traced my mother’s lineage to Jind. Jind had been part of undivided Punjab and was now part of Haryana. I didn’t want to be from Haryana so I said I didn’t believe the family tree.

My uncle grinned hard-heartedly and told me to count from 90 to 100 in Hindi.

I did.

When I finished he said, “Can’t you hear yourself? Instead of the simple ‘n’ sound of ikyanvey, baanvey, tiranvey, chauranvey, which is how someone from UP would count, all your ‘n’ sounds came out like the retroflexive ‘n’ in Haryana. Because Haryana is where you’re from.”

If I was to look for Home on Google Earth, there are a variety of places that I could plausibly zoom in on.

Bellary, Bindiganavile, Mysore city (where my grandfather worked and my father taught), Mlyapore in Chennai (where my father lived many years of his childhood), Central Asia (whence Iyengars might have sprung), Nehr Sadat Khan in Old Delhi (where collaborating banias prospered), even Jind in Haryana.

If there is a moral to my story, it must be that the reality of “home” is subject to alteration, that the native place is as often a place of transition as a point of origin, that instead of being a still centre to which we are historically attached, home is an idea to which we choose to belong.

I choose not to belong to Jind.

(Excerpted from Homeless on Google Earth, by Mukul Kesavan; 314 pages, Rs 595; Permanent Black, 2014; with the author’s permission)

Photograph: courtesy Outlook

Also read: How our buddhijeevis became one-tongue ponies

Why some of us just love to hate Sunil Gavaskar

The best actor in the history of Indian cinema is…

The greatest batsman in Test match cricket…

Not yet MP, could Nandan Nilekani become PM?

11 December 2013

On December 8, as the results of the assembly elections in the four States showed that opinion polls are not always wrong, and as the clamour for clarity on the Congress’s “prime ministerial candidate” a la the BJP grew in overheated TV studios, Congress president Sonia Gandhi said:

“I think people need not worry. At the opportune time, the name of the PM candidate… the name of him will be announced.”

Despite the ungrammatical awkwardness of “him”, the invocation of the male gender in her response triggered instant speculation. Was it going to be son Rahul Gandhi, or could it finance minister P. Chidambaram, or could it be a totally new face?

The Times of India, which broke the news in September that former Infosys man and UID chief Nandan Nilekani was being thought of as a potential Congress candidate from Bangalore South, now reports that Nilekani could be Sonia Gandhi’s “him” with a boiler-plate denial.

When TOI called him, Nilekani’s immediate and only reaction was, “Complete rubbish. This must be a figment of someone’s over-active imagination.”

Obviously, Nilekani’s candidature is predicated on several imponderables. That Rahul Gandhi may not want the top job, should he by a stroke of miracle become eligible for it. That other potential candidates in the Congress will quietly acquiesce should Nilekani’s name come up. Etcetera.

But the Congress moves in mysterious ways, often with some fingers of the left hand not knowing what the other fingers of the same left hand are doing.

In an interview with Shekhar Gupta, editor-in-chief of The Indian Express, for NDTV’s walk the talk programme, Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah takes a few questions on Nilekani’s predicted candidature. The responses are mighty revealing.

Is Nandan Nilekani going to contest one of the three Bangalore seats?

He has not discussed this with me, but it is news which has appeared… Don’t know whether he is contesting or not.

Do you think it is a good idea if he contests ? Will you be happy?

I don’t know because I have not discussed it with him. And he has also not discussed it with me. About 15 days back we met, but he did not discuss it with me.

As a friend, will you advise him to contest, or not?

It is for the Congress to decide. If he wants to contest, then the Congress has to take a decision now.

But will you recommend his name?

Let him say whether he is interested or not. I do not know whether he is interested.

That’s the problem with your party, everybody has to go and ask.

If he comes to the party, I will welcome him. But I don’t know whether he is ready to contest or not, he is willing to contest or not. But ultimately the high command has to decide.

So, not yet an MP, does Nandan Nilekani stand a chance of being PM?

Dream on.

Photograph: courtesy Namas Bhojani/ Forbes India

Also read: Can Nandan Nilekani win from Bangalore South?

Dear Nandan, quit Infosys, join politics, start a party

Nandan Nilekani: the six things that changed India

CHURUMURI POLL: Has Nilekani trounced NRN?

MUST READ: 12 things no one is telling us about namma Nandu

Wodeyar got more than what he leaves behind

11 December 2013

Photo Caption

Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar (third from left) with his wife Pramodadevi (third from right), and his sisters (file photo)

As Mysore observes a spontaneous bandh, as plebs and celebs spill platitudes, as newspapers and TV channels plunge into panegyrics, Dr Prithvi Datta Chandra Shobhi of the department of history at the Karnataka state open University provides a much-needed critique of Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, the last scion of the erstwhile royal family of Mysore, in The Indian Express:

“Wodeyar’s more notable public preoccupation in the last decade had been the legacy of his family. He spiritedly contested a script written by Lingadevaru Halemane, a Marxist playwright and linguist, which was to be used for a “sound and light” show at the Mysore palace.

“Wodeyar contended that his family’s history and accomplishments ought to be highlighted as the singular factor in creating modern Mysore.

“He demanded that everything else, including the contributions of people such as Sir M Visvesvaraya or the history of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, be deleted from this hour-long show. Halemane’s script was altered several times but Wodeyar wasn’t satisfied.

“Even though the “sound and light” show has been occasionally held, it hasn’t become a permanent feature at the Mysore palace. Wodeyar’s resistance has been a determining factor.

“Wodeyar’s inheritance was immense. His legacy isn’t. His royal counterparts from northern Indian states have had greater success both in politics and especially in business. Such success may have eluded him but in Mysore he remained a simple, decent but significant presence, especially during the annual Dasara celebrations.”

Read the full article: Mysore ‘last prince’

Also read: Tell the full, fair, undistorted story: Wodeyar

Srikantadatta Wodeyar: part of Mysore’s royal history or not?

‘Push down the Haughty, push up the Humble’

5 December 2013

Tejpal-AmulMAIN

The elevator implosion of Tarun J. Tejpal and the plight of Tehelka as a result have been discussed ad nauseam after the first emails were leaked on 20 November.

But the commentary, outrage and sympathy have come from the usual set of bold-face colleagues, rivals, friends, socialites, feminists and lawyers, among others.

But how is a scandal like this viewed in smalltown India?

K.B. Ganapathy, the editor-in-chief of India’s most successful English evening newspaper, Star of Mysore, dips into his reading to offer a mythological perspective.

***

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By K.B. GANAPATHY

In a city, on the banks of the sacred Ganga, called Makandika, there lived a Sadhu. He was well-known for his seeming simplicity and piety.

He had taken a vow of silence and lived wholly on alms.

He lived inside the precincts of a temple and often seemed in a state of samadhi (trance). Visitors to the temple were impressed and revered him.

Whenever he felt hungry, he would walk the streets of the town to beg.

On a particular day, he went to a rich merchant’s house and stood in front of the door silently because he was under a vow of silence about which people in the City knew.

The merchant was taking bath.

His beautiful unmarried daughter saw the Sadhu.

In keeping with the tradition of giving to the less fortunate and the holy persons, she came with a measure of rice to give to the Sadhu.

At the sight of the beautiful daughter of the merchant with her perfectly moulded breasts, her slender but not too angular hips, her graceful movements and her lustrous smile and sensuous eyes, the Sadhu was overwhelmed with desire for her.

As she poured the rice into his begging-bowl, he forgot his sacred vow of silence and let forth a groaning sound from his lips: “Oh no, oh no, oh yes, oh no…”

The merchant, who heard the Sadhu groan, looked out through the window only to see the Sadhu walking away in haste, moaning and groaning.

The merchant was disturbed.

Such a sacred person leaving his house with such seemingly hurt feeling! He rushed to the temple post-haste and begged the Sadhu to tell him the cause for the agonising sounds from his lips.

The Sadhu remained motionless and the merchant thought he would not speak, continuing with his vow of silence. But the Sadhu spoke — in a feeble, disembodied voice: “I was distressed at your house as I suddenly saw into the future. That beautiful daughter of yours carries a curse. When she marries, you and your wife, your sons and other daughters will all die”.

“What do I do?” asked a distraught merchant in great anxiety.

“There is only one solution,” said the Sadhu. “Put your daughter in a basket, close the lid and set her adrift in the Holy Ganga. However, tie a lamp to the basket and tether it to the bank of the river with a rope.”

Unquestioning piety has its dangers.

The merchant carried out the Sadhu’s instruction at night to the letter by doping his daughter, without telling anyone in the house.

As the basket with merchant’s daughter was wobbling in the water like a buoy, the Sadhu put his own plan into action. He called his two disciples and asked them to go to Ganga, look for the basket with a light and bring it to him without opening the lid, no matter what.

However, before the disciples could reach the Ganga and sight the basket, a local Prince who had gone to the Ganga for bathing, saw the basket, took it to his Palace and on opening the lid, was overwhelmed looking at a sleeping beauty.

When she opened her eyes, her peerless beauty mesmerised the Prince instantaneously and she too was immensely pleased and overjoyed to see a handsome Prince by her side.

They get married.

The Prince then orders his soldiers to put a monkey in that basket and leave it in the place where he had found it.

At last the Sadhu’s disciples sight the basket, carry it dutifully, despite the jumping noisy animal inside and place it before the Sadhu who by then had become impatient and even a bit angry too towards his disciples whom he asked to leave the place and leave him alone.

By now, the monkey was exhausted trying to escape and was quiet.

Alone in the shadowy darkness behind the temple, the Sadhu prepared to open the basket with pent-up passion and lust. His body chemistry changed awakening the coiled serpent all set to strike at the merchant’s beautiful, nubile daughter!

But when he opened the lid of the basket he was horrified to see a bony, hairy hideous monkey that sprang and attacked him furiously.

It was as if his own vile lust had jumped out of the basket, to punish and sear him for the rest of his life.

***

Like it was to Tarun J. Tejpal, the founder and editor of Tehelka, where his own vile lust had jumped out of the lift, to punish and sear him for the rest of his life — no matter he is acquitted or not.

However, fate may have a different plan for both — the victim and the tormentor. The victim of sexual harassment and rape (now under the new, amended law after Nirbhaya’s rape and death in Delhi), a junior journalist of Tehelka, if not married, may find her prince charming in time, but I am optimistic of a bright future for Tarun Tejpal as well, knowing my country, its political leaders and pseudo-intellectuals.

Public memory is short.

You can kill innocent Sikhs or you can kill innocent Muslims. You may utter a belated sorry when the day of reckoning comes during the election or use some subterfuge and indulge in rigmarole to soothe the seared souls of the survivors of these pogroms. And the perpetrators of the evil are again seen ruling us!

In a similar manner, who knows, the stigma and painful pecking at his once glorious persona may make him even more successful.

What could be the theoretical cause for Tarun Tejpal’s present predicament and plight suffering the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” to quote Shakespeare in Hamlet.

Aroon Purie, the editor-in-chief of India Today explains it this way: “It is the ‘God’ complex which I have seen in so many successful men. They reach such heights of success that they live in their own world and think the normal rules of social behaviour do not apply to them, neither do the laws of the land.”

How true!

Many of the stakeholders in his mushroom companies numbering about eight, are all suspect. There seems to be reasons for this, which only an IT or ED department can unravel.

We find his business empire stinking and also sinking as we access internet. DLF and 2G Spectrum of Unitech, with names of Robert Vadra floating around, do give us a murky picture of his activities — a kind of Tughlaq Durbar.

When at parties, it was ‘who is who’ of Page-3.

***

I was reading a book titled ‘Tales’, a collection of stories by Acharya Ratnananda. Let me re-tell the story before taking leave.

There lived a proud but benevolent King.

One day he called his Prime Minister and said, “Mr Prime Minister, there is a misgiving in my mind that worries me and it is this: As you know, all of us in this creation have some definite work to do. A King rules, a soldier fights in war, a trader trades, a teacher teaches, a preacher preaches, a mason builds, though as people they do other things also. This is law of the nature. Likewise, even the creator, God, should have a job to do. What is that? I would like to know.”

The Prime Minister, unable to answer, suggested that since the question borders on spiritual and metaphysical studies, it be put to the Bishop. Accordingly, the Bishop was called before the King. The King repeated the question.

The Bishop did not know the answer but sought time for fear of punishment.

Next day, the shepherd boy of the Bishop saw his master worried and silent. “What troubles you, Master?” the shepherd boy asked. The Bishop dismissed him in the beginning but later relented and told him the King’s question, “What is God’s work?”

The boy told the Bishop that he knew the answer but would reveal it only before the King personally. Helpless, the Bishop took the boy to the King and said, “This shepherd boy would answer your question. Please ask him the question.”

The benevolent King, though seemed offended at the audacity of the Bishop, all the same, agreed to the suggestion and repeated the question.

The shepherd-boy heard the question and said that it was a very simple question but since the person asking the question becomes a Shishya, a disciple, and the person giving the answer becomes the Guru, a Master, the Guru should go up and occupy the throne and the disciple must come down and sit on the floor, which is the protocol.

The benevolent King accepts the proposition and vacates the throne which the shepherd-boy immediately occupies.

“Come on, give me the answer. What is God’s work?” The King was in a hurry and impatient.

The shepherd boy said in great aplomb: “Here is my answer. What is God’s work? Well, God’s work is to push down the Haughty and push up the Humble. The God’s work is seen right now here.”

To return to Tarun Tejpal, God seems to be working overtime to cut him to size and put him in his place. For now the Police lock-up in Goa is his place!

Tarun Tejpal and his cronies, always busy partying with social celebrities and political honchos, must have raised their cut-glasses of joy year-round and clinked them in toast to the chorus: “Cheers, let us screw India.”

This kind of non-patriotic cheering must have stopped since Tejpal’s arrest. So be it. And who has the last laugh? BJP!

(A longer version of this piece appeared on two consecutive days in Star of Mysore)

Also read: Tarun J. Tejpal steps aside as editor of Tehelka

Life yourselves up, dearie, or get into my elevator

POLL: Is sexual harassment rampant in Indian media?

Online petition to protect Tehelka journalist’s privacy

Tarun Tejpal was trapped in a skin not his own’

Tarun Tejpal: Fear and self-loathing in Goa

Aroon Purie and Vinod Mehta on Tarun Tejpal

Tarun Tejpal, Manish Tewari and relief at PBC

***

Tarun Tejpal on the five facets of his life

How Congress regime stepped in to help Tehelka

A magazine, a scam, a owner & his Goan house

NYT, WSJ weigh on Tehelka‘s Goa controversy

Tehelka promoter says he didn’t turn off FW tap

The market, media, and the great dumbing down

3 December 2013

As the TV channels go through the same motions in an election season—predictable opinion poll by predictable pollsters, followed by predictable panel discussion with predictable panelists and predictable cliches, followed by predictable conclusions—Malvika Singh asks a not-so-predictable question, in The Telegraph, Calcutta.

Is the media’s task to supply what it thinks the public wants, or is to shape what it should want?

“When confronted with this question of supreme superficiality laced with high-voltage ego, media men and women explain away their inadequate rendering of events by suggesting that ‘the people’ want the mirch masala and the sensational, not substantive information, and that they are, in fact, reflecting the level and interests of the public.

“Is that what, say, the school curricula should do too? Should university lecturers dumb themselves down for lazy students? Should novelists and storytellers write junk because there is a market out there for the sub-standard? Should Bharatanatyam dancers do the hip-hop? It sounds so frightfully absurd that it merits no discussion when one is told that ‘the market wants it’.

“Surely, the challenge is to shape the market with facts, ideas and wonderfully crafted entertainment based on great stories?”

Read the full article: The endless babble

Also read: Is Modi media biased against Rahul Gandhi?

‘Indian TV is like nautanki, a real-life soap opera’

‘Regional TV better than English news channels’

The four forms of Indian political populism

2 December 2013

Mukul Kesavan in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“Populist politics in India is of roughly three sorts: majoritarian, Mandalist and Congressite. Narendra Modi’s populism is clearly of the first sort. His appeal is founded on his ability to channel ‘Hindu’ grievance, his short way with minorities and his economic stewardship of Gujarat.

Nitish Kumar is a good example of the Mandalist alternative, which promises affirmative action, redistributive State action to help deprived and marginal communities, and stability of law and order.

“The Congress, once the grandmaster of a pluralist populism, finds its best lines stolen by the Mandalists. Weighed down by a dysfunctional dynasty and a clueless dauphin, it is an incoherent party with neither mass politicians nor an ideological position.

“One part of it wants the Chicago School to run the Indian economy even as the other part tries to legislate into being the right of Indians to education, work and food. Given its deserved reputation for corruption and incompetence, the Congress gets credit neither for economic reform nor economic welfare. Its political trump card, pluralism, is cast as the appeasement of minorities…

“The Aam Admi Party’s managerial populism consists of its promises of rational, incorrupt, technocratic governance is similar to one half of Modi’s appeal, his claim to being an efficient economic manager who minimizes sarkari corruption. The difference is that the AAP isn’t lumbered with the communal baggage of the other, unverbalized half of Modi’s charisma: his credentials as a Hindu ‘heavy’ earned a decade and more ago in Gujarat.”

Read the full article: All things to all voters

7 steps to protect your life and limb at an ATM

22 November 2013

atmattack_shylaja

K. JAVEED NAYEEM writes: The recent attack on a lady ATM user in Bangalore was a most heinous crime that sent shock waves across our society because of the impact of the live visuals which everyone saw on television.

Thankfully, the lady’s life does not seem to be in danger although she is likely to take a long time to get over the trauma of the very brutal assault, both physically and mentally. Her helplessness and vulnerability seem to have galvanised our government into some action.

But the news that the home minister has ordered all ATMs in the State to be manned by armed guards within three days seemed like a rather tall order to me. Knowing the government’s propensity to always bite off more than it can actually chew I was not very surprised.

In fact, I was expecting an order just like this going by the very predictable knee-jerk responses we see from the administrative machinery always and only after a disturbing incident.

That is why two buses had to burn and kill more than 50 helpless passengers in less than two weeks before we realised that the rather cosmetic emergency exits are no good in a real emergency. Now arrangements are being made to render our buses much safer and their operations perhaps a little saner.

Arranging armed guards for the thousands of ATMs in the State is an impossible task even in three months let alone in three days, unless our Police force itself takes over the responsibility which again is an impossibility. Armed guards do not come cheap even by the dozen and I do not think anyone can mobilise so many arms and trained men to handle them at short notice.

Although many banks these days have their own weapons and trained personnel to wield them, most of the armed security guards we see around banks, ATMs and in currency transporting vans are ex-servicemen with their own licenced weapons who make a living in their retirement.

They take up this vocation as it matches the kind of work they are used to and because of their excellent training and background, arms licences are issued to them a little liberally than to other ordinary people. So after having realised its mistake in just one day the government has diluted its own orders to posting only guards minus the arms.

Even such guards cannot be procured in a hurry and therefore if the present recommendations of the government are implemented both in letter and spirit we will see many ATMs being shut down by night or even by day for want of guards. And, the situation is likely to remain so till enough guards are recruited and deployed which will understandably take much time.

The new arrangement will now mean having a man, able-bodied or otherwise, near every ATM in attire that looks like a uniform. Still, this is better than nothing as it means having someone there who if successfully and sufficiently woken up from his sleep before one enters the ATM can at least keep a watch over the movements of any suspicious looking characters hovering in the vicinity.

Although our ATMs have many defects from the security point of view, providing adequate security alone is not the complete answer to the problems one faces at them.

People who use them too should exercise some caution based on common sense to ensure their own safety.

I see many people walking into secluded ATMs in pitch dark surroundings at unearthly hours with mobile phones glued to their ears and drawing money without the slightest attention to their own safety. Let alone a lady, even the burliest of men can be rendered completely helpless by just two hoodlums when he is completely immersed in his phone conversation and the ATM operation.

Just because cash is available round-the-clock at ATMs one should not visit them at very odd times unless it is an unforeseen emergency.

If we know that we need cash on a particular day the visit to the ATM can be planned during much safer hours.

When there is a choice, people should try to visit ATMs at busy places like Railway Stations and bus stands if there is urgent need for cash late in the night or early in the morning even if it means a slightly longer drive from home. And at these times it is always better if two or more individuals make the trip so that someone can keep a watch outside while one draws the cash.

Visitors to ATMs in cars should lock their vehicles while they draw cash to ensure that someone does not creep into the rear seat and spring a surprise on them later.

All ATMs should mandatorily have high resolution CCTV surveillance both inside and outside to ensure that the identity of the users is clearly recorded for identification later if necessary.

The shutters of all ATMs should have an arrangement by which they can be locked in the open position allowing them to be closed only by authorised personnel. This can be done by just welding a shackle to the beam above and therefore it should be the first safety measure to be implemented.

The positioning of the machine itself is faulty in most of the kiosks as the user has to operate it without being able to watch the entrance even with his or her peripheral vision. If they are placed sideways they become much safer.

Otherwise a large mirror if installed on the rear wall will ensure this without any major alterations to existing ATMs. A very loud alarm that can attract the attention of passersby, with its button prominently and conveniently placed next to the screen will be an added advantage.

Closing down ATMs for want of guards will only be a retrograde move as it defeats the very purpose of having them and this proposal needs a rethink from a practical point of view. Until we have much safer ATMs, people should be educated to use them with adequate care and caution to ensure their own safety while enjoying the convenience they offer.

(K. Javeed Nayeem is a practising physician who writes a weekly column in Star of Mysore, where this piece originally appeared)

Photograph: courtesy IBN

Also read: When an ATM stands for anything but money

The ATM generation that is banking Anna Hazare


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