How Bangalore looks from up above. British professional adventurer James L. Kingston climbs up a crane to come up with dramatic pictures of a city which, increasingly, doesn’t quite look like this from down below.
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?
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.
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
The commodification of women portfolio
Anu Prabhakar: Another example of commodification of examinations
Aindrita Ray: Surely all that glitters is more than just gold
Jennifer Kotwal: The best ice-candy melts before nice eye-candy
Nicole Faria: Denims, diamonds, Miss India and the Mahatma
Priyanka Trivedi: See, a brand ambassador always gets good press
Gul Panag: You are almost tempted to say ‘Intel Inside’
Mandira Bedi: It 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
Sanjana Jain: ‘Minority’ appeasement of sarees in political season
The relationship between politicians and journalists is usually an after-dark activity in India, with neither participant ready or willing to put the other’s involvement on the record.
Wise heads in politics will counsel newcomers against getting too close to journalists, because, well, you never know when the snake could discover its fangs.
Grey beards in journalism will lament such proximity, because, well, it could harm the holy grail of our profession that textbooks say exists—“objectivity”.
K.B. Ganapathy, the editor-in-chief of the evening daily Star of Mysore, swerves off the beaten track to pay a heart-warming tribute to the three-time BJP MLA in Karnataka, the former mayor of Mysore, H.S. Shankaralinge Gowda, who passed away yesterday.
It was 1979; Star of Mysore was into its second year of publication from its office in Saraswathipuram near Kamakshi Hospital.
One afternoon, a young, lean, tall man, neatly dressed with his shirt tucked into his pants held in by a leather belt, wearing specs with thin plastic frame, came to my desk hesitantly wanting to discuss an incident to be published.
He was an angry young man. There was clarity in his speech and honesty in his voice.
The officer in charge of issuing cement permits in those days of scarcity and license-permit Raj at the divisional commissioner’s office was partial and corrupt, he said and wanted the paper to expose him.
He had come to me after creating a scene at the office with the support of the disappointed permit-seekers. I grabbed the opportunity and published the story with his picture.
Lo and behold, a leader was made.
Having been a journalist in Bombay, I knew every leader would have his detractors. Soon, I was fed with information about his antecedents, specially as a manager in the Janata Bazar. But I knew there was not much truth in it.
He was already into poultry business with his unit at Martikyatanahalli on Bogadi road, eight km from city. He was staying with his family in his own house near our office. His name was H.S. Shankaralinge Gowda.
And soon we became very close friends.
The first quality I found in him was his helping nature. Second quality was his societal concern. The third quality was his immediate reaction both in words and deeds.
To me he was a unique kind of a person. Naturally our contact blossomed into friendship. This bonding had helped both of us in succeeding in our chosen field of activity.
To cut out details, he as a politician and I as a journalist and newspaper publisher.
I remember those early days, he on his scooter and I on my motorbike, going to his farm, in the evening, to spend some ‘quality’ time enjoying boiled eggs and omelette aplenty or even a chicken fry. And he would load my motorbike’s side box with vegetables and trays of eggs on the rear seat despite my protestation.
To further strengthen our friendship, he found out a three-acre land close to his which I bought, but later sold, just as he himself did with his farm.
Again, it was at his insistence and moral support that in 1983 I built my own house at Kuvempunagar in a 60×40 site.
A dashing man of courage and confidence, I was convinced by him that I could build a house knowing that I did not have required money.
In the meanwhile, he was wanting to become a politician, Janata Party politician. By then I had built personal rapport with the leading politicians of Janata Party in city as a journalist and through my elder brother late Dr K. B. Subbaiah.
Again rivalry and he was nowhere in the race for Corporation election ticket.
I was doing the background work no doubt, but it was his presence of mind and the way he reacted in lightning speed that enabled him to wangle a ticket from Janata Party.
One day, he was in my ‘own’ house at 7 O’clock in the morning on his scooter. By then I had a Fiat car.
I took him to the government house to meet Azeez Sait [the late Congress leader], made him speak to M.S. Gurupadaswamy [former Union minister], went to T.V. Srinivasa Rao’s house in Vidyaranyapuram where Shankaralinge Gowda’s challenger for the ticket too was there.
He gave me a sheepish smile and whispered, “what have I done to you?” in Kannada.
First I went into a huddle in a room with H. Kempe Gowda, the city president of the party, Azeez Sait and T.V. Srinivasa Rao. Gurupadaswamy did not come but had given his consent. Then I called my friend and introduced him to the party honchos.
Well, Shankaralinge Gowda never looked back.
It was I who advised him to change his sartorial choice immediately to that of what politicians are seen wearing. In his case, kurta and pyjama, with a stoll.
I was his political guru (and he would embarrass me by declaring it in public meetings) till he won the first MLA election from the BJP which he joined, again, at my insistence and a little help. Later, both my guruhood and friendship too faded away to the point of occasional telephone contacts.
I recall today the timely help given to me by Shankaralinge Gowda when I had faced threat to my life and harassment by those who were upset by what was published in those early first 10 years. It was during those trying days Shankaralinge Gowda showed his sterling qualities of heart and head for a friend.
If anyone doubts the time tested saying that ‘A friend in need is a friend indeed,’ here I am to vouch for the veracity of such a saying. He was a friend who stood by me, specially on two occasions.
One, when I was harassed and threatened by one who was exposed for cheating students seeking medical college seats and two, when my life was threatened by another group taking offence to what was published connected to LTTE.
Shankaralinge Gowda may not be with us today but his memory and my days of friendship with him will always remain indelible in my memory.
Adieu my friend, goodbye.
RIP, Shankaralinge Gowda.
Text and photograph: courtesy Star of Mysore
Also read: A song for an unsung hero, C.P. Chinnappa
Like Arvind Kejriwal overshadowed Anna Hazare leaving the old man suitably stumped and stupefied, Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani has taken a giant leap into electoral politics that should leave his former colleague, N.R. Narayana Murthy, moaning in his majjige-huli.
By joining the Congress a day after he was named the party’s candidate from Bangalore South, Nilekani has put his political money where his voluble mouth is, a far cry from Murthy, who after aiming to be the President of India, said he was happy to be India’s ambassador to the US, before finally returning to his parent—and sneaking in his son Rohan Murthy in a fit of meritocracy.
But parachuting in politics is the easy part, especially if you have the ear of Sonia Gandhi and the earpiece of Rahul Gandhi. The difficult part is landing, and in a few weeks from now, Bangalore South will show (and Nilekani will learn) if the “urban, educated, literate, middle-class” truly wants change, or if it is happy with Ananth Kumar.
On his YouTube channel, paid twitter messages, and super-soft interviews with business correspondents whom he courted in his previous avatar, Nilekani paints himself as a son of the soil, being born to a Minerva Mills employee, in Vani Vilas hospital, who lived in BTM layout, etc.
He even tries to speaks in Kannada.
But there is plenty Bangaloreans do not know of Nilekani. So, what is the one question you are dying to ask the Bangalore South candidate?
Like, have his number-crunchers already computed the victory (or defeat) margin on their computers? Like, will he run away, as NRN did from the Bangalore international airport project, at the first hint of criticism? Like, all Congressmen, does he too think Rahul Gandhi is god’s gift to Indian politics?
Like, does he see Rohini, Nihar or Janhavi taking over from him, should he win, in the best traditions of the Congress?
Also read: Not yet an MP, could Nandan become PM?
SUNAAD RAGHURAM writes: Mandakalli airport. 10 kms south-east of Mysore.
A four-seater Cessna 172 waits on the tarmac on a balmy early March morning. The young and affable Captain Harshit Gupta (25) is at the controls.
He goes about his routine pre-flight checks on the small aircraft with well-rehearsed efficiency, clambering up on a footstep on the side of the tiny aircraft to check the fuel levels inside the two tanks mounted on either side of the wings with a wooden dipstick in hand.
As Capt Gupta turns on the ignition, the piston driven aircraft comes to life more like a motorbike, spewing greyish exhaust smoke from a pipe located to the right side of the body.
As the whirring propellers make their perennial arc, Capt. Gupta radioes air traffic control, seeking permission to take off. The mandatory interaction over; he eases the aircraft into taxiing mode.
On board are two other men: Ales Palicka and Shibu Alexis.
As the Cessna slowly lurches forward in a northerly direction with the greyish hued Chamundi Hill in the distance, looming large with a forbidding omniscience; and makes the mandatory turn to the left seeking the asphalted runway of the Mysore airport, it is about to be part of an aviation rarity in India—a sky diving expedition!
Among the two other men on board the aircraft, Palicka (31) is a Czech hailing from the town of Karviena. He has a hard earned diploma in commercial sky diving from New Zealand, at the only sky diving school in the world close to Christchurch, which offers a diploma after 32 weeks of intense training.
Ales was a back packing tourist in New Zealand in early 2009 when he encountered a man at a bar who floored him with his extraordinary zest for life explaining to him that he was a sky diving coach. That man went on to colourfully describe to the young and impressionable Ales that it was the most exciting sport in the world where you could live man’s oldest fantasy; the fantasy of flying in air!
‘People pay me to jump out of a plane and have fun. What better way to live?’ the stranger had laughed uproariously.
Ales was hooked for life. He raised the necessary NZD 50,000towards fees and equipment (the helmet alone with the cameras cost him NZD 5000), partly with help from his parents and partly through a bank loan. He then went about diligently learning the intricacies of sky diving.
Alexis(26) is a techie and a sky diving enthusiast who has driven down all by himself from Chennai to be part of the indescribable adventure of playing a gliding eagle high up in the sky for a short while at least.
All these three men are about to embark on a 45 minute expedition in the skies above Mysore, underlining the city’s least known status as the one and only sky diving destination or drop zone in technical skydiving parlance, in the entire country;recognized by no less an international accreditation agency as the United States Parachute association (USPA), which recognizes authentic drop zones around the world.
How did Mysore of all the places, known more for its sandalwood, silks and royalty come to be recognized as the only perfect sky diving destination in the country?
Ales explains why. Ideal weather conditions, perfect visibility, clear airspace, a full-fledged airport with a terminal building and a functioning air traffic control tower, a fire station and most of all, very sparse air traffic in the skies above the city.
With just one single commercial flight operating out of the Mysore airport throughout the day, the rest of the day cannot be anything but perfect for sky diving. The itinerary for the day is so precisely charted that when the larger commercial aircraft is within fifteen nautical miles of the airport, all skydiving activity is halted with the entire paraphernalia on the ground.
With Mysore being one of the most popular tourist destinations nation-wide with innumerable places of interest around, Ales has every reason to believe that the city has the potential to become one of the top destinations for sky diving in the world.
Well, he should know, because he has done over 2600 jumps across the globe.
Big cities anywhere in the world and so also in India simply cannot offer any semblance of an ideal condition for this sport because the air traffic above them is so high that planes keep landing and taking off like a flock of birds. And the danger of men gliding about in the sky strapped to parachutes amidst all this frenetic aviation activity is simply too serious to contemplate.
It was this reality that made Dr Aanchal Khurana and her business partner Commander Kaul scour every perceivable part of the country seeking the right airstrip for launching sky diving expeditions under the aegis of Sky Riders, the sky diving division of their company Kakini Enterprises.
Meeting people, understanding procedures to be followed and permissions to be sought, they zeroed in on Mysore with the help of two local adventure enthusiasts, Satish Babu and Deepak Solanki, and decided that this is where they would set up base.
It was October 2012. Dr. Aanchal’s company has since facilitated some 200 jumps in the skies above the royal city with the pink domes of the Wodeyar’s palace in the distance.
Enthusiasts come from as far as Delhi, Kolkata, Chandigarh, Chennai and Bombay. And foreign tourists too. The corporate world of Bangalore, a mere three hours away also constitutes a major chunk of the company’sclientele. All seeking the thrill and excitement of a life time.
Cut to the Cessna. The plane is readying itself for takeoff.
Seated inside the aircraft, one of whose doors has been deliberately dismantled for easier access to the aluminium foot board attached to the frame of the aircraft, Ales Palicka throws a smile and a thumbs up sign. His ‘student’ Shibu Alexis grins and if there is any hint of butterflies in his stomach, he doesn’t show it.
Both of them are wearing heavily padded jump suits with zippers running right through the middle and goggles that make them look like lesser astronauts whose area of activity is well below the limits of outer space! Both of them have a plethora of strong metal hooks attached to their suits. It’s into these hooks that the harnesses will go when it’s time for the jump.
The main parachute made of high quality nylon is lying inside a bag; folded, ready and strapped on to Ales’s back. The rip cord that will activate it when pulled is to the side. There is another reserve parachute too strapped on to Ales with a built in computer into which is fed data in the form of a pre-determined altitude and velocity.
Should the main parachute fail to open, for reasons as varied as the man fainting or his co-ordination going completely awry, resulting in an uncontrollable free fall, the computer on the reserve parachute upon sensing that the pre-set altitude and velocity has been breached, will trigger the Automatic Activation Device (AAD).
The computer smells danger and sends a signal to the built-in cutter that will severe the loop. The compressed spring loaded pilot chute shoots into position unfurling the reserve parachute completely on its own. ‘I always say that sky diving is more safe than driving your car to the airport to do it,’ Ales had joked while being on the ground.
Every six months the reserve parachute has to be unpacked and repacked from its bag as a matter of procedure.
Nobody is ever allowed to even as much as touch it unless he has what is known as a riggers licence, a licence that authorises one to handle the meticulous processes involved in ensuring that the reserve parachute is indeed in working order.
After all, it’s a question of life and death. Ales got his riggers licence from a rigging school in Philadelphia in the United States after five months of study and practice. ‘Such is the level of precaution and safety while sky diving’, assures Ales.
Ales is now asking to Shibu to come closer so that he can strap himself with harnesses to his ‘student’. They are readying themselves for what is known as a tandem jump.
The air is palpable with nervous excitement. Capt Gupta though, is focused on reaching an altitude of 10,000 feet. He has radioed the ATC that he will be within a radius of 5 nautical miles of the Mysore airport, which translates to a vicinity of some 9 kms.
The tiny Cessna takes close to half an hour to reach the necessary altitude of 10,000 feet, climbing up in huge circles. Soon it is a speck in the cloud laden sky above Mysore. Only the drone of the engine can be heard as a distant reminder of the aircraft’s presence somewhere high above.
An altitude of 10,000 feet is the preferred one for sky diving anywhere in the world as anything above that height would be like sitting in the plane for an unnecessarily long period and also the plane itself would be burning more fuel as the air gets thinner above that height.
Soon the altimeter shows 10,000 feet. The atmosphere inside the aircraft is filled with a sense of nervous electricity. There is a sense of joy interspersed with a deep seated feeling of fear, especially in the heart of Shibu, who’ll be making his first ever sky dive.
The thrill, the delight, the enchantment and ecstasy of jumping off a plane from that height into the unfathomable nothingness of the sky with the horizon in the far distance amidst the fluffy white clouds that look like balls of cotton is an experience that can make a poet out of a soldier and a soldier out of a poet in a sense!
Because to summon up all known and unknown reserves of mental strength and will yourself to get close to the door of a moving plane at that fantastic height and jump is something the faint hearted simply cannot achieve. You are stepping into nowhere, into the unknown; letting yourself be a part of the giganticness of an ocean of ethereal blue.
It’s just your body with no engine!
Complete freedom from thought, you are living the moment as most masters of the art of life and living have extolled. ‘No mortgages to think about, or the recent tiff with your girlfriend,’ jokes Ales as he readies himself near the opening of the aircraft with Shibu strapped beneath him and in a flattened position.
One, two, three and Ales shouts, ‘jump’!
Even before Shibu’s mind can register what’s happening, he is in a free fall on his belly at an unbelievable velocity of 220 miles per hour. The feeling is simply incredible. The adrenalin is pumping, the blood is rushing to the head, the heart is pounding, the mind is perhaps a little numb and the eyes are straining to focus.
And in 40 seconds, the parachute opens accompanied by an incessant flutter and the faint hiss of nylon. Ales has pulled the rip cord. Both of them are soaring now, spiraling into the womb of the cosmos.
The parachute is shaped like a colourful bow up in the sky with two miniscule human figures dangling with their legs. They make turns to the left and then to the right, their manoevres giving them the freedom to use the vastness of the sky as their own private playground. They are now experiencing the sheer unbridled sense of freedom; a kind of unfettered exuberance; a feeling of complete lightness; a sense of unrestricted abandon.
Ales is such a master at controlling the parachute that he finally positions it to land at a designated spot where a make shift wooden stick with a white cloth attached to it is planted for guidance.
As they go around in small circles they eventually touch down exactly on the square piece of grass right in front of the terminal building. There are squeals of joy and euphoric laughter from Shibu as both of them brace themselves to touch the earth with their legs as the parachute billows in the wind behind them.
For Shibu it was an experience to tell his grandchildren about. For Ales too. For he says, ‘The first jump is the most thrilling and the scariest. So is the 100th!’
Infosys co-founder, outgoing Unique Identity Authority chairman, and prospective Congress candidate from Bangalore South, Nandan Nilekani, takes a bus ride as part of the pre-poll schmoozing exercise, in Bangalore on Tuesday.
Ironically, the photo-opportunity happened on the day angry commuters were demanding increased bus services and not just in the IT-BT corridor which gets most of the attention.
Thankfully, the bus conductor did not holler out to the wannabe-MP to keep his legs in front of him.
Hopefully, the ace quizzer remembers the bus number.
Photograph: Karnataka Photo News
Younger brother of the equally accomplished T.S. Satyan, Mr Nagarajan had been ailing for some time and had shifted from Bangalore to be with his family.
The end came at 10.40 am, according to his daughter Kalyani Pramod.
Mr Nagarajan, a former photographic officer in the photo division of the government of India—who became a photographer thanks to the maharaja’s elephant—spent a lifetime shooting pictures of homes and houses, especially their interiors. He wrote about his “most unforgettable picture” in 2006 without the photograph, letting readers imagine—and then provided the picture (above).
Like Mr Satyan, Mr Nagarajan was brilliant with painting word-pictures and wrote several pieces for churumuri, which he then compiled into a book for private circulation. A 4,624-love story of his wife and life companion for 50 years, Meenakshi—“I thought she would live forever“—was received to global acclaim.
Mr Nagarajan’s most selfless act as a photographer was to make available, through churumuri, in 2008 a picture he shot in 1955 for All India Radio of the Kannada literary legends at one table, for all Kannadigas to use and re-use—free of cost, with these words:
“I had just graduated from the First Grade College and was entertaining ambitions of becoming a photojournalist. I had a broken (and repaired) Argoflex camera, a present from my celebrated elder-brother T.S. Satyan, with which I took this picture.
“Akashvani paid me a handsome sum of Rs 6 for using it in their programme journal.
“I stumbled upon this print while looking for another rare picture of my grandmother from a stack of old prints. I feel this picture does not belong to me now. It belongs to all Kannadigas. Therefore, I request churumuri to offer it on my behalf to all lovers of Kannada by placing it in the public domain.”
A book of his pictures Vanishing Homes of India was released by Mani Ratnam and N. Ram last month.
By T.S. Nagarajan: I thought she would live forever
External reading: The T.S. Nagarajan interview
During his recent whistle-stop tour of Kerala, Rahul Gandhi jumped out of his security cocoon and clambered on top of a police vehicle. But it is not just the Congress vice-president who feels compelled to do these “mass” numbers on the eve of an election.
Exhibit A is former Union minister H.N. Ananth Kumar of the BJP and Exhibit B is the former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy of the Janata Dal (Secular). The former taking part in an event to promote use of bicycles in Bangalore; the latter flagging off a party rally.
Photographs: Karnataka Photo News
Also read: Why Adiga‘s wants a COO for idli-vada-sambar
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
“Mysore Kingdom was being ruled by His Highness Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV (also known as Nalavadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar). He had adopted his brother’s son Jayachamaraja Wodeyar as his heir apparent to the throne as he himself did not have children. During his reign, the University of Mysore was established.
“Jayachamaraja Wadiyar was studying in the intermediate class in the University. T.S. Venkannayya was the head of the Kannada department. Working with him in the department were Thi. Num. Srikantaiah and K.V. Puttappa (Kuvempu) who had just then completed his post-graduate study in Kannada and joined the department as a teacher.
“When the results of the intermediate examination was announced, it was found that the heir apparent to the throne Jayachamaraja Wadiyar had failed in Kannada examination.
“Some days after the results were announced, a call came for T.S. Venkannayya from the Palace to meet the King. On the appointed day and time, the Durbar Bhakshi (Palace Officer) came to Venkannayya’s house in the Palace vehicle and took him before the Maharaja.
“As Venkannayya was waiting in the designated place, the Maharaja came in and the former got up in reverence greeting the Maharaja. Acknowledging the greeting, Maharaja requested Venkannayya to take his seat but he continued to stand waiting for the Maharaja to take his seat.
“However, the Maharaja remained standing waiting for Venkannayya to sit down first out of reverence to a teacher — educationist. Finally both resumed their seats simultaneously. Then followed a brief conversation between the two in the following manner:
Maharaja: The Prince has failed in the exam…
T.S. Venkannayya: Yes, Your Highness. The Prince has failed in Kannada.
Maharaja: What should be done now to make him pass the exam?
Venkannayya: Your Highness, the Prince has to write the exam once again.
Maharaja: Still, if he fails?
Venkannayya: He must be given private tuition.
Maharaja: Okay, will you give him the tuition?
Venkannayya: No, Your Highness. Except in the University classes, I do not teach outside.
Maharaja: If so, how to solve this problem?
Venkannayya: We have one youngster Puttappa who has recently joined Kannada Department. He is very good in teaching. I will entrust him the responsibility.
The Maharaja accepted the suggestion and entrusted the responsibility to T.S. Venkannayya and got up, an indication that the interview was over.
Venkannayya too got up, but in the meanwhile, as arranged before, the Durbar Bhakshi brought a silver tray full of fruits, betel leaves and a gold tasselled shawl and held it before the Maharaja who, after honouring the teacher with the shawl, presented him the silver tray with fruits.
Durbar Bhakshi dropped Venkannayya at his house in the Palace vehicle.
As Venkannayya emptied the silver tray, a surprise awaited him. There was an envelope with one thousand rupees — a huge amount for those days. When Venkannayya sent the silver tray back to the Palace, it came back with the assurance that the tray too was for Venkannayya.
It weighed 108 tholas!
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.
“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 life-size cake of the only cricketer in the solar system to win a Bharat Ratna, made of sugar, cream and eggs, at the annual Christmas-eve exhibition at St. Joseph‘s Indian high school grounds, in Bangalore on Monday.
Photograph: Karnataka Photo News
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
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.
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.
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
The rest of democratic India that is Bharat—indeed, the rest of Karnataka that is not Mysore and Bangalore—will not understand the fuss over the passing of Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, the last link to the rajas and maharajas of Mysore, who lorded over a tiny five-star kingdom for 614 years.
Although Srikantadatta’s own role, even as a member of Parliament, may have been infinitesimal in the republican era, the imprint that the benign and benevolent royals left on generations of Mysoreans is immense: in our education, in our arts and culture, in our attitudes, in our palaces, roads, gardens and clubs.
Here, one grateful 22-carat Mysorean pays a 21-gun salute.
Mysore of the 1970s when I was growing up as a young boy.
There was an air of well-proportioned dignity to it; a rare kind of regality; a sense of easy sophisticated charm; in the quietude and tranquilLity that pervaded the air like a gossamer thin veil, a kind of strange allure that no other place in the rest of Karnataka possessed.
It showed in its beautifully laid out streets; quiet, broad, tree-lined, leafy and handsome. And in the magnificent but slightly dulled mansions of Lakshmipuram with their delicate fountains, more often than not with the statuette of Lord Krishna, standing with his right leg elegantly over his left and a flute to his lips.
In the bungalows of Vontikoppal with their bougainvillea-smothered porticos, where invariably stood in grand aloofness, a car, mostly either a stately black Ambassador or an Austin of indeterminable vintage, a subtle indication of a certain exaltedness.
And in the greying grandioseness of the homes of the privileged. European in style and dimensions, with their wood latticed windows and many structured floors, their green gardens with red geranium creepers hanging from moss covered earthen pots in the balconies.
In Nazarbad and on the rain-tree lined street leading up to that white beauty of splendid stature, the Lalitha Mahal palace, nestling under the imposing omniscience of the Chamundi Hill.
Inside these mansions could be found Mysore style paintings in gold.
Paintings of goddess Chamundi, astride on a lion.
Or a beautiful swing with its ivory in-lay showing delicate flowers and mango motifs.
Or a rattan sofa.
Or a teak or a rose wood one, with its cushions in cream and white.
The massive black head of a gaur or a chital with its huge antlers fixed to the walls around, trophies from a long concluded hunt in the awesome jungles of Bandipur or Kakanakote, not too far from Mysore.
Mysore was unique.
A kind of baby of the Wodeyars, the kings of the dynasty that ruled for an impossibly long 600 and odd years. A baby born into serious privilege. A baby that had everything laid out for it.
Mysore was like none other. For sure. The Maharajas showered it with the kind of luxurious abundance that no other town or city in the state could ever imagine.
So fascinatingly royal in its demeanour and style.
So laid back and mellow.
So very easy in its manner.
The Mysorean was a gentle, soft-spoken, easy-going kind of man for whom the din and tumult of a Bangalore or Bombay was anathema; a kind of culture shock which left him dumb founded.
Not to him the mindlessness of heavy traffic, not to him the frenzied pace of business, not to him the rush hours of life where clambering on to a bus or a train defines the difference between success and failure.
To the Mysorean, life was almost always meant to be an unhurried, relaxed, quiet and elaborate repast. And even to this day, it is largely so.
At the many social clubs that you find in the city. All set up by the Maharajas.
Like the Cosmopolitan Club, the Narasimharaja Sports Club, the Race Club and the Jayachamaraja Wadiyar Golf Club. Where many an evening has been spent observing intellectuals discussing and debating weighty matters of scholarship and the casual gentry deliberating on the timing of Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement!
Over soothing glasses of scotch of course!
The royals of Mysore gave to the city a kind of atmosphere where there could be seen a sense of luminous exuberance in the general affairs of existence.
The impact of the Maharajas could be felt everywhere. In the manner in which stood the royal palace built out of fine grey granite in the heart of the city with its deep pink marble domes, under whose amazing arches on the day of Vijayadashami, erstwhile Maharajas climbed on to the magnificently caparisoned royal elephant with its shimmering silks and glistening ivory tusks covered in a sheath of shiny gold.
In the slightly standoffish seclusion of the Rajendra Vilas palace in the distance, perched like an eagle’s nest at the edge of the Chamundi Hill where not too many Mysoreans ventured, even when it was being run as a luxury hotel.
In the red turrets of the Gun House next to the main palace, a tony bar and restaurant in the early 80’s, where you found some exquisite continental fare served by liveried waiters in an atmosphere of absolute mellowness, to the accompaniment of cool, soft, easy English numbers sung by a portly singer called Saby who rode an old but well preserved Yezdi to work.
In its culture of music concerts during Rama Navami and Dasara. Where some of the greatest and the most accomplished of singers and instrumentalists from around the country felt it a singular honour to perform.
In the manner in which the University was shaped. Where some of the brightest and most sharp minds came to teach. Like Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, a professor of philosophy at the Maharaja’s College, then one of the most revered institutions of learning in the country.
Like Professors J.C. Rollo, A.B. Mackintosh, W.G. Eagleton, B.M. Srikantaiah and S.V. Ranganna.
Inside whose classrooms with their teak wood tables and benches sat, as students, the likes of M.N. Srinivas, H.Y. Sharada Prasad, T.S. Satyan, ‘Veene’ Doreswamy Iyengar, R. K. Narayan, U.R. Anantha Murthy, P. Lankesh, Kuvempu, Ta.Su. Shama Rao, G.S. Shivarudrappa; the list of the great and the prodigious can go on.
The campus housing the departments of higher learning, so poetically named Manasagangotri.
Where stands, sentinel like, the Jayalakshmi Vilas palace, that takes you back even now, to the time of the 1800s, when Mysore was a tiny little town cocooned in kingly warmth; a reminder of the munificence of the royal family which gifted hundreds of acres of their personal property for the cause of setting up these post graduate schools of learning as they exist today, amidst a profusion of greenery and wooded bliss.
Where apart from students, you find walkers and exercisers of all shapes and sizes, willingly getting their daily fix of muscle toning activity. A lung space so beautiful and leafy, it could perhaps be compared to the ones in the universities in distant England, especially after the cricket ground named Gangotri Glades, one of the prettiest in the whole country, was developed!
As the orange hued flames begin to lick the sandalwood pyre of Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, veritably the last of the royals of Mysore, the mind stills and the heart aches.
Perhaps in the deep longing for the Mysore that his ancestors created and left behind or in the feeling that all good things, as the old line goes, shall never last forever.
Photographs: Karnataka Photo News
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?
Photograph: courtesy Namas Bhojani/ Forbes India
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’
churumuri records with deep regret the passing away of Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, the scion of the erstwhile royal kingdom of Mysore, in Bangalore on this the 10th day of December, 2013. He was 61 years old, and is survived by his wife, Pramodadevi. The Wodeyars have no natural heir.
Mr Wodeyar, was the son of Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar, the last maharaja of Mysore. And as the “erstwhile prince”, he remained the last tangible link with the City’s royal past, playing a key role in the conduct of the ten-day Dasara celebrations each year.
A two-time former Congress member of Parliament from Mysore (who also fought and lost on the BJP ticket), Mr Wodeyar had been elected president of the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) only last week. He played cricket for Mysore University during his college days.
Mr Wodeyar, who suffered from weight problems, had been unwell and greeted KSCA members upon his election, sitting down.
File photographs: Karnataka Photo News
Will the print medium survive the digital age, is a question that is almost entirely viewed through the prism of newspapers and magazines. But there are other uses of printing, too, like for example, calendars and alamanacs. And, as the countdown for 2014 begins, a number of them have hopped up on Avenue Road in Bangalore.
Quiz question: which calendar/almanac used to be India’s highest circulated publication, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC), selling at one time more copies than India’s highest circulated newspaper?
Photograph: Karnataka Photo News
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
A November shower gives photographers yet another opportunity to capture the “seat of government”, the Vidhana Soudha, in Bangalore on Monday.
Photograph: Karnataka Photo News