Sachin Tendulkar is so sweet you can eat him up

16 December 2013

Photo Caption

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

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 private zoo owner climbs up Forbes celeb pole

14 December 2013

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Celebrities live in a strange and nearly unbelievable age of make-believe, where often times bad news is good news.

For all their cinematic talent and box-office success (and, on top of it, demonstrated decency in public life) neither Dr Raj Kumar nor Vishnuvardhan ever figured like or towered over their peers and compatriots in the national consciousness.

But Darshan Tugudeep (in picture, left) is a different kettle of fish.

The “challenging star” of dozens of execrable films which strangely seem to have a magnetic hold on moviegoers; the “challenged star” who beat up his wife, stubbed a burning cigarette, tore her dress, bit her ear, threatened their son, and pulled out his revolver sparking homas and processions from his equally challenged followers, has made it to Forbes India magazine’s list of the top 100 celebrities in the country.

In fact, the Mysore-born star debuts healthily at No. 65, three places lower than Sudeep at No. 62.

The accompanying text for Darshan reads:

65. Darshan

Earnings: Rs 24 crore

Fame rank: 98

“The Kannadiga actor [who has a private zoo] is among the highest paid stars from the South Indian film industry…. Darshan won the best actor award at the south Filmfare awards for his role in 2012 historical biopic Krantiveera Sangolli Rayanna. Like many of his other peers, Darshan too is attempting to build a business that is independent of his acting skills. His family currently owns a a shooting unit…. Apart from a production house, Darshan has started a film distribution business, giving a boost to his earnings.”

In contrast, the text for Sudeep, who earns less and is apparently less famous, is positively bland.

62. Sudeep

Earnings: Rs 13.50 crore

Fame rank: 61

One of the few Kannada actors to have successfully transitioned across language barriers, Kichcha Sudeep had a pretty varied and fulfilling year. He won a slew of awards for his role as the villain in the Telugu-Tamil fantasy movie Eega.

The only other Kannadiga celebs on the list are Deepika Padukone who is at No. 11 with earnings of Rs 39.50 crore, Rahul Dravid who is at No. 30 (Rs 7.66 crore), Aishwarya Rai who is at No. 51 (Rs 13.50 crore), Prabhu Deva who is at No. 90 (Rs 8.50 crore).

Also read: What Darshan‘s brutality says about Sandalwood

Darshan scandal reveals Kannada bias, bigotry’

CHURUMURI POLL: Should Darshan be banned?

When wife-beater Darshan campaigns for Congress

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

***

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

kesavan front

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…

How the Maharajas shaped Mysore & Mysoreans

11 December 2013

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Mysore

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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.

***

sunaad

By SUNAAD RAGHURAM

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, ‘VeeneDoreswamy 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

Also read: My daddy, His Highness, the Maharaja of Mysore

Once upon a time, at the Maharaja’s study circle

When Bishen Bedi bowled from the Maharaja College end

Mutton chops, mudde and saaru with Srikantadatta Wodeyar

The maharaja’s elephant that made me a photographer

Rama, Rama rajya, and Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar

Why the Maharani sold her diamonds and jewels

The policeman who stopped the Maharaja

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?

Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar: RIP

10 December 2013

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At the ‘Khaas Durbar’ during Dasara in Mysore, Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar ascends the golden throne for the rituals

KPN photo

During Dasara in Mysore, Mr Wodeyar wears the royal attire and is escorted to and from the rituals with the pomp and glory of bygone days

KPN photo

During Dasara in Mysore, Mr Wodeyar wears the royal attire and is escorted to and from the rituals with the pomp and glory of bygone days

PHOTO CAPTION

During Navaratri, Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar himself conducted some of the poojas in the main Amba Vilas Palace

NEWS

Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar poses in front of the Bangalore Palace in this file picture

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Mr Wodeyar, with his rival turned friend Brijesh Patel (second from right) after his election to the Karnataka State Cricket Association recently

NEWS

Mr Wodeyar with his wife Pramodadevi Wodeyar

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

Also read: My daddy, His Highness, the Maharaja of Mysore

Once upon a time, at the Maharaja’s study circle

Mysore’s three richest families—after Srikantadatta Wodeyar

When Bishen Bedi bowled from the Maharaja College end

Mutton chops, mudde and saaru with Srikantadatta Wodeyar

Where on earth is Bangara Doddi Naale?

‘Push down the Haughty, push up the Humble’

5 December 2013

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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.

***

kbg

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’

A worthy contender in era of Android and iOS

3 December 2013

Photo Caption

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

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

The 8th Wonder: How Chandru became Sumitra

26 November 2013

8th Wonder

“I am a victim of multiple disadvantages. As an uneducated transgender from a poor Dalit family, I am cursed in more ways than one. I have been teased, insulted, beaten up, stripped and abused by strangers and acquaintances—even by those who I considered friends and family.

“People ask me what I do, and I say, ‘commercial sex work’. This ends the conversation many times. But some tend to drag it. ‘Why?’ I am asked. A smile is my only answer. As if they care. As if someone like me has many choices. As if a different answer would make them reconsider how they look at us.

“Born as Chandru, I went under the knife to become Sumitra. The surgery did not just change my gender. It changed my life. I worked in hamams (public bathrooms) and did other odd jobs before I moved into this role. Here you are always the unwed wife, never the mother.”

“Looking at Hampi, I wish someone called me the eighth wonder. That is because I am as beautiful as the ruins of a grane empire, if not more. What is more, I move on against all odds, sans the pomp or fame of Hampi.

“My grace transcends my beauty, although very few tend to notice it. That is because beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, while grace springs from the heart…. These stones are so much like me, yet so different. If ruins can conceal beauty within them, so can I.

” I may be easy on the eyes, but completely shattered inside.”

Photograph: courtesy K. Venkatesh

Words: coutesy Rishikesh Bahadur Desai

***

Photo Caption

The Kannada actress Radhika (centre) at the inaugurates of “The 8th wonder”, an exhibition of pcitures by K. Venkatesh at the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath in Bangalore on Monday.

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

A ‘teesra’ from a legspinner is still a legbreak

20 November 2013

Photo Caption

Former India and Karnataka cricket captain, Anil Radhakrishna Kumble, delivering the Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi lecture in Bombay:

“In 1990, as a teenager, I took my first steps in international cricket and was eager for encouragement and a kind word in the cricketing world. I came across a comment from an accomplished Indian cricketer and a respected leader of men.

“I quote: ‘This lad, I don’t see him winning Test matches for India, either at home or abroad. He rarely turns the ball. At best he can be restrictive.’

“The assessment came from Mr Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi.

“Two decades of international cricket and 619 Test wickets later, it is indeed a great honour and privilege to address this august gathering.

“It was my misfortune that I never had a chance to confront Pataudi on his comment, but I am confident that had I done so, he would have had a good laugh. Unlike many men with a reputation for possessing a sense of humour, he was capable of taking a joke against himself.

“In cricket, as in most things in life, perceiving is believing. I think it was the great English left arm spinner Wilfred Rhodes who said that if the batsman thinks it’s spinning, then it’s spinning. As you might imagine, it is a philosophy I can identify with.

“In recent years such gifted bowlers as Shane Warne and Saqlain Mushtaq have spoken of the ‘zooter’ and the ‘teesra’ respectively to keep the opposition guessing and wasting hours in their back rooms figuring out what these exotic terms meant.

“Perception. It is all a matter of perception. After all, what can a teesra be? A leg break bowled with an off break action that turns out to be an off break after all?”

Read the full lecture: Perception and practice

Photograph: Former India captain Anil Kumble arrives to address the meet-the-press programme organized by Bangalore Reporters Guild, at the Press Club of Bangalore, in Bangalore on Wednesday (K–arnataka Photo News)

Also read: What Sania Mirza needs to learn from Anil Kumble

The secret of Anil Kumble‘s success is his un-Kannadiganess

BCCI, Anil Kumble, Infosys and a silly PR exercise

‘The protector-in-chief who keeps India safe’

19 November 2013

For most TV news consumers, Arnab Goswami is both a name and a phenomenon. But there are still large parts of the world to be conquered by Times Now‘s bulldog of an inquisitor. Here, B.V. Rao, editor of Governance Now, and former editor of the Indian Express in Bangalore and Bombay, explains the name and the phenomenon to a childhood friend who lives in Canada.

***

Dear Sharada

Sometime ago during a Googlegroup discussion you innocently asked: “But who is Arnab?”.

In India not knowing Arnab is against national interest. You are lucky you live in Canada. But if you don’t want to be deported on arrival on your next visit, you better pay attention to this complimentary crash course on the subject.

Arnab, as in Arnab Goswami, is India’s most-watched prime time news anchor and editor-in-chief of Times Now*. But designations don’t even begin to describe him or what he is famous for.

You must have heard about hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. Arnab is also a storm, a news-storm that hits India every night via his show, the “Newshour”. Nobody is quite sure how, but somehow Arnab gets to know the questions that the “whole nation” wants answers for, or the sinners the nation wants hanged before midnight that night.

In effect then, Arnab speaks for a “billion-plus people” each time he takes centre-stage.

I can’t say for sure if he took this burden upon himself voluntarily or if his employers made it a contractual obligation. Whatever it is, the fact is that Arnab has come to relish asking the most “simple and direct” questions to the most dubious people demanding instant answers to complex problems because the “nation wants to know” and it wants to know “tonight” as in right now.

That’s how impatient India has become while you’ve been away, Sharada.

***

The Newshour airs on weekdays from 9 pm and continues till Arnab’s pleasure lasts. Often the show stretches up to 10.50 pm. That’s actually “News hour-and-three-quarters-and-then-some” but I guess Arnab has not asked himself a “simple, direct” question: how many minutes make an hour?

That, or his primary school maths teacher is not his viewer. In which case it is safe to say Arnab speaks for a billion-plus minus one Indians.

You will see that at the altar of national interest it is not just the hour that is stretched.

About two decades ago, Dileep Padgaonkar was the editor of the Times of India owned by the Jains of Bennett & Coleman who also own Times Now. Padgaonkar had pompously proclaimed that he held the second most important job in the country after the prime minister’s.

Arnab hasn’t said it, but I think he disagrees with Padgaonkar on the pecking order:  it’s now the prime minister who holds the second most important job in the country.

Hence Arnab runs the show like he would run the country or like the prime minister should but doesn’t.

You see, Sharada, there’s an awful lot of stuff the nation wants to know by nightfall but our prime minister isn’t much of a talker. Arnab fills the need gap. He opens his show with a passionate agenda-setting preamble that spells out all the problems of the day and how he wishes to solve them. We gratefully receive this wisdom and call it Arnab’s Address to the Nation, a prime ministerial duty that has fallen on his broad shoulders because the real guy has abdicated it.

***

Let me tell you this, however. Arnab is a very reluctant power-grabber. It is not his intent to upstage the prime minister or make him look silly.

He gives the prime minister an entire day to prove his worth and gets to work only at 9 pm when it is clear that the latter can’t handle stuff.

He then solves all outstanding national issues of the day in just one 110 minute-hour of feverish debates where he grills the skin off the back of everybody who dares to stand in the way of India’s national interest.

He is unrelenting in his pursuit of the truth and doesn’t give up unless everybody has agreed with him.

“I am worried”, “I am concerned”, “I won’t let you politicise”, “I don’t agree”, “you can’t get away….” are some of the phrases he uses to suggest he is in complete control and that endears him to a nation starved of decision-makers.

Arnab hates home work. He wants to settle everything here and now, tonight. As a result, in Arnab country, there is no trace of the policy paralysis that has grounded the prime minister in the real country. Here you get resolutions, decisions, orders, diktats, judgements, justice and denouements all in one place, one show, by one man.

***

The only people paralysed are the subjects of his grilling and the bevy of experts he gathers around himself, not because he needs them, he doesn’t, but because it must feel awfully good to invite experts and out-talk them on national prime time.

Like confused baboons trapped in little boxes, the experts, who are neatly arranged around Arnab’s own imposing self in the centre of the screen, keep staring into nothingness most of the time.

Yes, you get the drift, Sharada, Arnab is the main dish here. The rest are just intellectual dips.

For most of their airtime the experts keep putting up their hands or calling out “Arnab….Arnab….” to indicate they want to make a point. Arnab is too engrossed in disagreeing with what he has not allowed them to say to care too much.

Some clever guests try to appeal to his Assamese roots by hailing “Ornob…Ornob”. He ignores them as well.

Nationalism, after all, is above parochialism. The cleverer among them have cracked the code: they just agree with Arnab in exchange for a little extra air time. These are usually the people who have paid close attention to Arnab’s Address to the Nation and picked up the right cues on what to say that will get them his benefaction.

It is tough to figure out why Arnab needs any experts at all because he knows the answers to all his questions. Times Now insiders say that more often than not he finds questions to the answers he already has. On his show, politicians can’t politicise, bureaucrats can’t beat around the bush, sportspersons can’t play games and lawyers can’t use legalese.

In fact anybody who is good at something can’t do what they are known to do, to the extent that even civil society can’t be civil, especially if it wants to get a word in sideways. Everybody has to be direct, honest, blunt and keep things simple because that is what the (one-man) nation wants.

***

Corruption, political expediency, opportunism, forked tongues, doublespeak, dishonesty and hypocrisy, are red rags to Arnab. He takes them head-on with the help of his reporters who keep throwing up “documentary” evidence ever so often to expose scamsters.

Usually this is a thick sheaf of indistinguishable papers that Arnab holds up threateningly. It could be a bunch of used airline e-tickets for all we know, but since we don’t, he waves the sheaf confidently in the face of the enemies of the nation and it is generally assumed he’s got some incendiary stuff in there.

Arnab’s problem-solving repertoire is not restricted to national boundaries. In fact, he is at his best when dealing with nations that have evil designs on India. The patriot in Arnab is best aroused when he is dealing with that evil, failed, rogue nation called Pakistan.

He deals with Pakistan like no prime minister has ever been able to or decimates it like no Army has ever managed to. Each time a blade of grass bends to the breeze on the LoC, Arnab breathes fire at Pakistan for trying to sneak in terrorists into the country. He lines up a battery of serving and retired generals of Pakistan and conducts the verbal equivalent of a summary execution.

Yet, the same generals keep resurfacing on Arnab’s show each time he feels the urge to have a Pakistani or two for dinner. This causes much wonderment among Newshour hounds on the masochist streak that makes the Pakistani generals offer themselves up as bait repeatedly.

So, it is assumed the money must be good. But since Arnab insists that Pakistan is the way it is only because the generals have sold their country cheap, it is unlikely he is blowing his budget for this routine cross-border target practice. Of course, left to Arnab Pakistan would have existed only as the largest crater on earth since the meteors wiped out all life on the planet. Yes, he would have nuked it many times over by now.

The Times of India, the country’s oldest English newspaper and the mother brand from the Times Now stable runs Aman Ki Aasha (Hope for Peace), the widely-acclaimed campaign for ending India-Pakistan hostilities.

Just as Arnab doesn’t seem to know of this campaign, the Times of India seems quite oblivious of the fact that the last time there was absolute peace on the LoC was when Arnab took a two-week holiday in early September. It could be the marketing genius of the Times group to milk the issue from both ends or it could also be that their internal boundaries are not as porous as our LoC.

Apart from conducting war exercises against Pakistan, Arnab land is eyeball-to-eyeball with China, exposes the double standards of America in almost anything it does and highlights the hypocrisy of racist Australia which loves the education dollars from India but not the brown students who come along with.

His blood boils so much when an old Sikh is roughed up by a bunch of racist women in the UK that he almost gets the whole of Punjab to rise in revolt against the Indian government’s inaction–even though there is nothing it can do as the gentleman is a citizen of the said country–or builds a tide of emotional revulsion against “inhuman” Norway for snatching an infant from his Indian mother’s custody for alleged physical abuse.

***

I can go on and on, Sharada, but everything good must come to an end and so must my Arnab eulogy.

So, in short and in conclusion, here’s what I have to say: Arnab is not just the editor-in-chief of Times Now. He’s India’s protector-in-chief. He is the guy who is keeping India safe while you are away on selfish pursuits. You are lucky you can get away by not knowing him.

For a billion-plus Indians,minus of course his maths teacher, that is not even a distant option. Because, truth told, Arnab is the best we have got!

B.V. Rao

***

* Disclosures apply

Photograph: courtesy Unreal Times

***

Also read: ‘Arnab Goswami is corrective to babalog media’

Three reasons Arnab Goswami should be PM

There’s a new ‘ism’ in town, it’s Arnabism

Everything is hunky-dory in reflected glory

19 November 2013

Photo Caption

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

Also read: When George Fernandes tried to blow up Vidhana Soudha

World’s best batsman ever? No, the 29th best!

16 November 2013

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As the mammon-worshipping mavens of the cricket board turn a team sport into an individual one in Bombay, as a cash-strapped media engages in a cloying overkill of its original cash cow, as the devout get confused about ‘God’, the BBC asks a simple question.

Was Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar—in whose name a Test match is being played, a gymkhana usurped from children has been renamed, a postage has been issued—is Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar really the greatest ever batsman?

Or, just a fine batsman of the TV age who handled the “pressure of a billion” with quality and equanimity, who never put a foot wrong, whose humility and modesty despite his accumulated millions, and whose motivation was an object lesson to those of us who give up easily?

In the midst of all the hagiography—no different from the bhajan sandhya, sangeet, mehendi and shaadi of a typical Punjabi wedding that Rupert Murdoch‘s Star TV is famous for, with guests from all over—it’s difficult to find a word of criticism, as Tendulkar stands on a mountain of runs, records and reputation.

Still, it must be asked: was he really that good?

The BBC’s Ben Carter throws up three key sets of numbers:

# The highest rating given by the International Cricket Council ratings to Tendulkar was 29 in 2002, after a series against Zimbabwe—below not just the invincible Don Bradman, but also his contemporaries Ricky Ponting, Kumar Sangakkara, Jacques Kallis, Brian Lara, in that order.

# When Patrick Ferriday and Dave Wilson compiled the 100 greatest centuries, again factoring in “intangibles” like conditions, rivals, pitch quality, match impact, series impact, etc, only one of Sachin’s 51 centuries came in, at no. 100. Lara had five.

# When Jaideep Verma compiled the the “impact index”, measuring performances with other performances in the same match, Tendulkar (5) had fewer series-defining shows than Rahul Dravid (8) although he had played more matches. Even Inzamam-ul-Haq fared better.

So, the best, the greatest?

Really?

Read the full article: The 29th best batsman

Also read: Gavaskar vs Vishwanath=Tendulkar vs Dravid?

India’s greatest match-winning batsman is…

CHURUMURI POLL: Are Volvo buses safe in India?

15 November 2013

Such is the hold of aircraft manufacturing giants over governments, politicians, administrators and over the media that few, if any, airline crashes are ever eventually pinned on the plane or its manufacturer. It is, almost always, “pilot error” or “human error”, never the machine’s or its maker’s fault. They are angels.

And so it seems to be in the case of Volvo, the Swedish bus maker, which seems to be have conquered Indian roads and minds with its sexy looking but patently dangerous vehicles.

The fire which roasted alive 45 people in Mahbubnagar last month was blamed on the driver of the Volvo bus.

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And, sure enough, it seems the fire which roasted alive 7 people in Haveri will be blamed on the driver of the Volvo bus.

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Volvo claims its buses are safe, that drivers and bus staff are trained to deal with hazards and accidents, and that is overspeeding that is killing people. That rapacious bus operators have ill-trained, underpaid staff, who try to cut corners to reach destinations ahead of schedule.

Questions: looking at a large Volvo bus with a tiny door in the front on the road, does it give you the sense of being safe? Are the speeds it can do suitable for Indian roads? Why are mostly private buses falling involved in such horrific accidents? Will a blackbox or speed governor really make travelling safe?

Photographs: Karnataka Photo News and The Hindu

Picture No. 34 in the world’s best BSY portfolio

12 November 2013

Photo Caption

Former Karnataka chief minister and the president of the Karnataka Janata Party, B.S. Yediyurappa, with KJP leader Shobha Karandlaje  during the fledgling party’s indefinite strike at Anand Rao circle in Bangalore, on Tuesday, demanding the rollout of the ‘Shaadi bhagya’ scheme for all communities.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also view: The world’s best Yediyurappa photo portfolio

India’s most photogenic former CM strikes again

When an ATM stands for Any Thing but Money

8 November 2013

K. JAVEED NAYEEM writes: These days we have been having a spate of serial government and bank holidays.

Last month it was because of the Dasara coinciding with Bakrid which also happened to be holding hands with Maharshi Valmiki Jayanthi across just one working day in between. This month it was because of Rajyotsava coinciding with Diwali, with the Naraka Chaturdasi and Balipadyami sitting astride on either side of a Sunday.

The net result of such coincidences is that an already non-working government hardly gets to work and banks which have now left most of their work to computers and ATMs, simply leave customers’ needs to fate. And, as we all know, fate is usually very unkind.

It is a very well-known fact that in our country, even on normal working days, most of the ATMs do not work satisfactorily.

But on occasions of serial holidays like what we saw very recently they are completely useless. Except for the very rich, for most ordinary people, a savings bank account is a safe place to keep their hard-earned money and draw it in time of dire need. This is what the ATM service is supposed to ensure.

But I have seen anxious and upset people running from one ATM to another outside banking hours, trying to squeeze some cash out of them in vain.

Just to test how futile this exercise is I decided to draw just Rs 10,000 last month during Dasara time. My quest led me through seven ATMs before the one at the main branch of the State Bank of Mysore yielded fruit.

This month, during the extended Diwali holidays, to test the system once again, I repeated the same exercise in a journey that took me across 14 ATMs from N. R. Mohalla, Bannimantap, Ashoka Road, Medical College, Railway Station, Yadvagiri, Jayalakshmipuram to Gokulam.

After this most interesting odyssey I was able to squeeze cash from four different ATMs only in Rs 100-notes to get my Rs 10,000. For me this marathon was interesting just because I was not really in need of any money but was only on a voyage of discovery.

The messages that greeted me ranged from a blank and unresponsive screen to ‘off line’, ‘out of order’, ‘unable to dispense cash’, ‘this card is not valid’, ‘unable to read card’ and ‘try a lesser amount’.

When I decided to obediently follow the last bit of advice at four ATMs, I had to go on lowering my request like a beggar who solicits money for a meal from a not-so-generous giver, until they agreed to give me a maximum of Rs 500 each. And, it was not anybody else’s but my own hard-earned money that I was asking for and thankfully it was not for a meal.

I have had such exasperating experiences with a non-performing debit card or an empty or non-functioning ATM despite a full bank account, that I now never enter a hotel or buy anything from a shop unless I have sufficient cash in my wallet to pay the bill.

Armed thus, I then pay by card, keeping the cash aside to bail me out of a potentially embarrassing situation. At petrol stations I first swipe the card and then proceed to get my tank filled only after a successful transaction.

Although a letdown at an ATM is a fairly common experience in our country it is almost a rarity abroad. I have not had any problems whatsoever while drawing money from any ATM anywhere outside the country during any of my visits abroad although all my bank accounts were local with international debit card facility.

Even during the more than a month- long Haj pilgrimage, which is an occasion where nearly 40 lakh people congregate at one place, I never ever experienced any problem at any ATM. And, the Haj is without doubt, the largest congregation of people in the world which imposes the heaviest load on banking services, with people thronging ATMs wherever they are.

In many countries customers are compensated if they are put to even the slightest inconvenience due to any malfunctioning of banking services. But here in India the customer who is ironically called ‘king’ till he opens the bank account always comes last in any service providing situation and nobody seems to be bothered to set this shameful position right.

When an ATM fails to work and when you approach the bank located just alongside it for help, you are curtly told that since ATMs are serviced and replenished by an outside agency they can do nothing to help. This is so even if you happen to have an account in the very same branch.

At the most they advise you to call the toll-free number given at the ATM which usually remains unresponsive thus exacting a heavy toll on your nerves.

The result is that in an emergency, one cannot completely depend on an ATM to bail himself or herself out against an urgent need for ready cash.

Despite this sorry state of affairs our banks continue to discourage transactions at their cash counters and encourage people to obtain debit cards and draw cash through ATMs.

Is this not then just a ploy to remain indolent and lazy?

Day by day our banking services are only getting more and more expensive for customers without any visible improvement in the quality of the service that they provide. It is now reliably learnt that from the coming year the rents on safe deposit lockers are likely to be almost doubled with the stipulation that not more than two free operations will be allowed per month. All additional operations are likely to be charged.

When it is the customers’ money on which it thrives, should our banking system not care to ensure some minimum standards for the services it is supposed to provide?

Since ATMs are controlled by a central server, is it not possible to monitor cash withdrawal patterns and ensure adequate and prompt replenishment?

And in the event of a series of holidays coming in a row, why is it not possible to keep this refilling system going even if the banks themselves are closed?

But all this needs a will. A will to give ourselves a better and a more dignified life. Until then our ATMs, will simply remain a modern-day bane and continue to dispense Any Thing but Money.

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

OPINION POLL: Should opinion polls be banned?

4 November 2013

Vinaasha kaale vipareetha budhdhi,” is a saying which captures the mood of the Congress-led UPA government very well. As it swerves into the final lap of its second term in office, as bad news swirls all around it, as the foreboding gets grimmer with each passing day, the 128-year-old party has turned its eyes, well, on opinion polls.

In a communication to the election commission, a party functionary writes:

“Opinion polls during election are neither scientific nor is there any transparent process for such polls… our party fully endorses the views of the Election Commission of India to restrict publication and dissemination of opinion polls during the election.”

Random surveys “lack credibility”, and could be “manipulated and manoeuvred” by persons with “vested interest”, is the Congress’ conclusion, which is broadly in line with attorney general Goolam E. Vahanvati‘s legal opinion to the law ministry in which he said a ban on opinion polls would be “constitutionally permissible”.

For a government which has consistently trained its guns on free speech, the latest move is par for the course.

There is no question that many opinion polls are dubious exercises undertaken by fraudulent agencies with little no field presence; sponsors, sample sizes, date of polling, margins of error (all pre-requirements in reporting a poll) are opaque. There is also no doubt that many cash-strapped media houses are happily carrying polls with an eye on the future.

Still, is a ban the only solution? Would the Congress and UPA be in favour of a ban on polls if the Congress was doing well in them? Do polls really influence voters, who chose just the opposite of what opinion polls advised them in 2004 and 2009? Whether dubious or not, does a ban on polls restrict the media’s fundamental freedoms?

Above all, wouldn’t Indian democracy be healthier if a voter is exposed to what his co-citizens are thinking in other parts of the country, rather than being denied access to it?

Should Indian TV introduce ‘equal coverage’?

31 October 2013

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The relationship between Gujarat chief minister Narendra Damodardas Modi and the media, especially “English maedia” as he puts it, has followed two distinct trends over the last ten years.

The first trend was of unbridled distrust on either side. Modi had nothing but contempt for those who sought to buttonhole him on the ghastly incidents of 2002. He walked out of TV interviews or stared blankly at interviewers who reminded him of his role, if any. Ours was not to question.

The media, not surprisingly, responded with circumspection bordering on suspicion.

The second trend emerged in the run-up to the 2012 assembly elections in Gujarat, which Modi used as his launchpad, first to become the chairman of the BJP campaign committee and thereafter as the BJP’s self-proclaimed “prime ministerial candidate”. Suddenly, influential sections of the media were eating out of his hands.

International news agencies were getting soft-ball interviews, top journalists were asking if there was a middle-ground; media groups with corporate backing host tailor-made conferences; friendly newspapers were getting 16-page advertising supplements; “bureau chiefs” were finding stories that showed Modi’s detractors in poor light.

Why, the coverage of Modi seems to have been a key editorial driver in the recent change of guard at The Hindu, and—pinch yourself—Modi was launching an edition of Hindu Business Line.

The key player in the turnaround of the Modi-media relationship, however, has been television, which has unabashedly been used and turned into a soapbox for advertising the latest detergent from the land of Nirma that promises to wipe Indian democracy clean.

To the exclusion of all else.

As Modi—decidedly more macho, muscular, articulate and telegenic than the Congress’s Rahul Gandhi—drives his brandwagon around the country, most news TV channels have dropped any pretence of trying to stay non-partisan, covering every speech or parts of it, conducting opinion polls, setting up nightly contests, etc, as if the end of the world is nigh.

All this, of course, is before the Election Commission’s model code kicks in.

In the Indian Express, Shailaja Bajpai asks an important question: has the time has come to consider “equal coverage”—where all players, not just Modi and Rahul but even leaders of smaller parties get equal space and time—so that the field is not unduly distorted?

“Countries such as the United States try to follow the idea of equal coverage especially in the run-up to an election — and especially after a politician is declared as the official candidate, as Modi has been.

“Recently, the Republicans threatened that TV channels, NBC and CNN, would not be allowed to telecast the party’s next presidential debates because NBC had planned a TV series and CNN a documentary about Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“Indian news channels don’t let minor matters like equality trouble them. They’re obsessed with the man, to the point that Modi-fixation has become a clinical condition which may soon require treatment.”

Read the full story: The chosen one

Photograph: courtesy NewsX

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 feast, a promo’

For cash-struck TV, Modi is effective  TRP

Why not too many Indians bag the Nobel Prize

30 October 2013

Every October, India goes through the by-now familiar drill of asking why there are not too many Indian-sounding names on the list of Nobel Prize winners. And on the odd occasion there is, asking why they weren’t nurtured by institutes and industries here, and why oh why they had to go abroad to earn their spurs.

Despite Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Amartya Sen bagging the supposedly high honour in recent times, the answers haven’t changed much. The usual cliches of Indians being copy cats, masters of learning by rote, of not being inventive or innovative enough, of debilitating quotas, backbiting, crab mentality are belted.

Delivering the foundation day lecture of the Indian institute of management, Bangalore (IIM-B), the Jnanpith award winning Kannada writer, critic and scholar, U.R. Anantha Murthy introduces a fresh new perspective.

India, he says is in this position, simple because the pool of talent isn’t large enough:

“The hunger for equality is the most spiritual aspiration of a human being. The challenge before premier educational institutes is to redefine “arhata” (merit) and “intelligence”.

“We can create excellence only through equality.

“India is not able to produce Nobel Prize winners because there are many castes and many groups in India that are yet to receive education. Education to me should respect not just the so-called cerebral area but the intelligence of the body. I’d like to see a redefinition of intelligence.

“The poet William Blake spoke of the plight of the poor chimney sweep in industrialized London; let us ask ourselves whether technological strides have resulted in ‘sarvodaya‘ (welfare of all) or if it is at the cost of the tribals and the downtrodden?”

View the full lecture here: U.R. Anantha Murthy

Also read: U.R. Anantha Murthy: our greatest living novelist?

Will Kannada literature climb Nobel peak again?

Look, who’s lobbying for the Nobel peace prize!

Chemistry Nobel, yes, but why not physics?

 


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