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?

 

A trained model couldn’t have posed better*

30 October 2013

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A leopard gives a photographer the “look” after falling into a well in a village in Karwar district on Tuesday night. The feline was later rescued by the authorities and released in the forests.

* Or, maybe, on second thoughts, an untrained photographer couldn’t have captured this better.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

The runaway kid who runs an idli-dosa empire

29 October 2013

From The Telegraph, Calcutta, the story of Jayaram Banan, the son of a bus driver in Udupi who ran away from home to Bombay as a boy, and now runs a chain of south Indian restaurants in the north under the brand name Sagar Ratna.

“I worked as a serving boy and then manager in small-town restaurants before moving to Delhi, where I turned entrepreneur,” he recalls. Banan opened a canteen-style idli-dosa outlet in Delhi’s defence colony market in 1986. He called it Sagar.

“The butter chicken-loving Delhi lapped up his southern fare. Apart from the Sagar Ratna chain, Banan runs Swagath for south Indian coastal cuisine. Launched in 2001, it now has 10 outlets.

“Some of Banan’s restaurants are exclusively owned, some are parnerships and some franchisees. “We plan to double our turnover and the numbers of restaurant in the next five years,” he says

For the record, even today Jayaram Banan stands outside his very first Sagar Ratna™ outlet in defence colony and welcomes guests for half-an-hour every day at 7 pm.

Vir Sanghvi wrote:

“I discovered that he has never once sat at a table and eaten at one of his restaurants. Most days he eats at the Defence Colony Swagath but takes the meals in the kitchen. I’ve known him to drink the odd whisky but he will not touch liquor at one of his restaurants. As far as he’s concerned, the restaurants are places where he is meant to serve, not enjoy.

“His dedication and drive are also exemplary. He leaves home at 9 am every morning and rarely returns before 11.30 pm, trying to visit as many of his restaurants as he can. On Sundays, he leaves at 7 am and visits all 29 restaurants in the Delhi area. There is no other way of maintaining standards, he says.”

Photograph: courtesy Growth Institute

Read the full story: Bon appetit

Also read: How V.G. Siddharth built Coffee Day cup by cup

Why Vasudev Adiga wants a COO for idli-vada-sambar

A good dosa is like your first love: unsurpassable

Do glaciers move faster than Bangalore Metro?

22 October 2013

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Two years on, and M.G. Road to Byappanahalli is still the only metro link in Bangalore that is up and running. Elsewhere, like here opposite the Vidhana Soudha and High Court, as Bangaloreans wind their way around boards and barricades with a frown on their faces and a curseword on their lips, it appears as if Namma Metro is a project in perpetuity with a deadline schedule all its own. A bit like M.S. Ramaiah‘s famous buildings.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Why on earth does Bangalore metro look so ugly?

Also view: The complete namma metro photo portfolio

Another petty ending to a ‘world-famous’ Dasara

19 October 2013

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K. JAVEEN NAYEEM writes: No you have not read me wrong and I have not made a mistake in what I have written. I did say ‘petty’ and not ‘pretty’. This year’s Dasara may have been a pretty show especially with its new eco-friendly, LED lighting which stood out as something uniquely different from what we had all seen in the past.

But I cannot help feeling that this year it also became a festival of petty squabbling.

Yes, it was nothing but that, between politicians and bureaucrats, between the real power-keepers and Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, the virtual symbol of royal power and between the Kavadis, the elephant-keepers, and the administration which owns the elephants.

Just before the grand finale this year, there was an ugly and much publicised stand-off between our elected representatives on one side and the deputy commissioner and the police commissioner on the other, over the issue of free passes. I can only say that these kinds of confrontations look very undignified and amount to washing very dirty linen in full public view and media glare.

Issues like these should be settled and sorted out in some official privacy well in time without finding a mention in the press.

In a show with limited seating capacity I do not see why hordes of supporters of politicians should be given free access to have a ringside view while all those who elect them to power are denied a decent seat despite paying through their noses to have it reserved. I agree that in a ‘you scratch my back and I will scratch yours’ set-up there is nothing much one can do to get rid of such despicable things but there has to be a limit to this kind of madness.

Politicians should make it known to their fans that too many free passes will only deprive access to that many guests and therefore this kind of largess cannot be accommodated beyond a reasonable measure.

It is a very well-known fact that year after year we find many holders of VIP Passes and even Gold Cards arriving at the torch light parade venue only to find their seats already occupied by gate-crashers who simply refuse to vacate them despite intervention by the police personnel.

I have myself seen many foreign tourists simply going away in disgust at not being able to get any assistance from the officers who are posted there to prevent such occurrences. Such incidents will only give much negative publicity that only negates our efforts to popularise our Dasara across the globe.

Many mega-events similar to our Dasara are held all over the world every year but we do not see the slightest disorder in the way they are conducted. It is time we learnt to maintain some semblance of order here too. But now this remark of mine should not mean that we should immediately dispatch a delegation to study how it is done there!

A thing that we have been seeing regularly over the past few years is the sulking of the scion of the royal family. By either refusing to allow public display of the royal throne or lending the golden howdah for the procession, he behaves like an over-pampered child who craves for attention knowing very well that these two artefacts are required for the Dasara every year.

Although we have all heard of elephants having tantrums, these days we have been noticing their keepers too being afflicted by this malady. The mahouts and kavadis now regularly resort to arm-twisting tactics to get some extra attention and perks during the Dasara which is the only time when they can flaunt their importance. This is nothing but blackmail.

Knowing that their job is unique in that the government simply cannot find substitutes to manage the elephants which are indispensable symbols of the Mysore Dasara, they choose to go on a strike for the silliest of reasons like not being allowed into the palace grounds through a particular gate.

All this, despite our government bowing down to really comic levels to keep their ego flying high, like getting the State health minister himself to massage their backs or the district-in-charge Minister to serve them food while the media covers and comments on everything they do like having their haircuts and baths before the final day.

While it takes people from many other professions like carpenters, gardeners, sweepers, painters, drivers, tailors, folk artistes and policemen to make the Dasara possible, I wonder why only the mahouts, kavadis and their children should get all the attention and special treatment?

It is time someone made them understand that as paid government employees it is their duty to see that they work cheerfully in a spirit of mutual co-operation with all others.

We all take pride in calling the Dasara a ‘world famous festival’ and yet no one responsible for showcasing it thinks of providing its telecast a proper English commentary in at least one channel for the benefit of all the non-Kannadigas who watch the show on the television or the net.

Although many channels relayed the footage of the Dasara procession and the commentators repeatedly drew attention to the fact that the show was being watched live round the world, not a single one of them thought it proper to provide even subtitles in English.

Should we not ensure that the millions of non-Kannadiga viewers too understand what is happening when they are shown the different activities related to the festival and what the different tableaux and troupes in the procession represent? As hosts of Dasara festivities should we not ask ourselves if we can afford to be so indifferent to the needs of others whom we invite as our guests at the grandest and the biggest festival of our State?

(K. Javeen Nayeem is a practising physician who writes a weekly column in Star of Mysore where the full version of this piece appeared)

Photograph: A stilt-walker at the Dasara procession on the final day of Dasara 2013 in Mysore (Karnataka Photo News)

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

Karanth & Bendre in the hands of Muthappa Rai?

18 October 2013

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The Frontline page which called him one of Karnataka’s “most elusive criminals“ who “allegedly operated extortion rackets”, no longer exists. His once-colourful Wikipedia page has been cleaned up to state dryly that Muthappa Rai is a “former underworld don and entrepreneur“.

But can even the convenient company of such literary diamonds of the land—K. Shivarama Karanth (left, bottom) and D.R. Bendre—give the Jaya Karnataka chief, the man Wired magazine called “The Godfather of Bangalore“, the kind of lustre and legitimacy he seeks?

Here, Rai and gang take part in a rally to demand impartial education.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: On Ugadi, a brand-new Kannada warrior emerges

Pampa to Champa: what a fall, my countrymen

Thankfully, Ripley‘s museum is located in Bidadi

A giant leap to stop the criminalisation of politics

A few more sites is all they need for a nice layout

POLL: Have Tatas, Birlas, Ambanis let India down?

17 October 2013

Hell hath no fury than an industrialist scorned. The naming of Kumar Mangalam Birla, the youthful chief of the Aditya Birla group, in the 14th first information report (FIR) filed by the central bureau of investigation (CBI) in the coal allocation scam, has set the cat among the pigeons of India’s business class, which suddenly cannot decide whether to run or to hide.

Birla has only been named in the FIR—not arrested, not convicted, not jailed. But from HDFC’s Deepak Parekh downwards, everybody who is somebody in Bombay is behaving as if the skies have fallen down and giving certificates of good conduct to the Hindalco chairman, whose company is accused of garnering a 15% stake meant for public sector undertakings.

Birla is, of course, only the latest businessman in a scam under the cavernous nose of the Congress-led UPA.

Before him, there was Naveen Jindal, the tricolour-waving head honcho of Jindal Steel, who is also a Congress member of Parliament, also in the coal scam. Before him, there was Ratan Tata and Anil Ambani and Sunil Mittal and the Ruias of Essar and the Khaitans in the 2G scam.Before (and after) them, there was (and there is) Mukesh Ambani in the KG Basin ripoff. Add to that a Keshub Mahindra of Union Carbide, and you have the who’s who of South Bombay.

Considering that most of them are involved in allegations of usurping natural resources (spectrum, coal, gas), the question to ask is: have our industrialists and businessmen, who otherwise paint themselves as the heartbeat of the nation, let the country down with their greed and avarice? Do they even have the locus standi to talk of “policy paralysis”, when they have their hand in the till, and how?

An architectural beauty, yes, but user-friendly?

16 October 2013

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Back when it was built, the Vidhana Soudha in Bangalore perhaps looked big and beautiful and daunting, and conveyed the full might of the “State”. It perhaps even inspired some of those who secured a five-year lease of occupation. But who can argue that it is the most the user-friendly, for the rulers or the ruled, in the 21st century?

Notwithstanding that, dozens of replicas of Kengal Hanumanthaiah‘s architectural legacy have sprung up all over Karnataka. If the districts have scale-models in the ‘Mini’ Soudha, in faraway-Belgaum there is a near-replica of the original one, the Suvarna Soudha, and it doesn’t look half as pretty when your gaze turns to the shepherd.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Bangalore’s best building since Vidhana Soudha

When George Fernandes tried to blow up Vidhana Soudha

Gavaskar vs Vishwanath = Tendulkar vs Dravid?

12 October 2013

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Although they were part of the same Indian team—sharing the dressing room, sharing partnerships, sharing victories, defeats and draws—cricket fans detected a faint undercurrent of competition and conflict between Sunil Gavaskar and G.R. Viswanath.

On one level, this was the old battle between two stellar domestic Ranji Trophy sides, Bombay and Karnataka, playing out subliminally through its two leading lights, one a fearless opener who faced the fast and the furious without a helmet; the other an artist who wielded the willow like a brush.

On another level, it was a deeply ingrained stereotype, that “Sunny”, for all the records against his name, was a selfish, mammon-worshipping run-machine with one eye always on the right-hand column of the scoreboard, as opposed to the selfless “Vishy”, who put the team’s interests before his own.

It would have been easy to blame the media for the Gavaskar vs Vishwanath row, but this was in pre-television, pre-internet India of the 1970s and ’80s.

Gavaskar’s pathetic gesture of batting left-handed, down the batting order, in a Ranji match Bombay were losing against Karnataka only confirmed the worst suspicions of cricket followers, but all was forgiven when Gundappa chose Sunny’s sister Kavitha to be his wife.

Action replay.

Was there a similar vibe between Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid? The former, a run-machine from Bombay who adored Gavaskar, and the latter, a touch artist whose idol was Vishy?

Like their icons, Tendulkar and Dravid were kingpins of batting. Without the other, each would have had less to show; without both, the side would have suffered. They played hundreds of matches, scored thousands of runs together.

Still, was it all hunky-dory between the two?

Did Dravid have his team’s interests when he declared the Indian innings in Pakistan even as Tendulkar was within striking distance of his first double-century? Did Tendulkar conveniently lose his form when Dravid was captain?

Two days after Tendulkar announced his pre-retirement from the game, Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta writes:

“My most revealing journalistic Sachin moment came in an NDTV Walk the Talk.

“‘If you had to take one stroke from each one of your four great batting peers, Dravid, Virender Sehwag, Sourav Ganguly and V.V.S. Laxman, what will it be,’ I asked.

“‘It will be Sehwag’s cut, nobody cuts like him,’ he said, ‘Ganguly’s cover drive, Laxman’s flick off-the-hip and Dravid…’ he paused for a moment to think.

“And what will you take from Dravid, I asked, my mischievous journalistic sensors abuzz, thinking of the little issue the two had just had in Pakistan (Multan) when Dravid had declared with Sachin not out at 194.

“‘I will take Dravid’s defence,’ he said, ‘nobody has a defence like his.’

“I called 10 self-proclaimed cricket experts to ask if that comment was bitchy or brilliant. The verdict: 10:0, brilliant.

Now, wasn’t that a stroke of cricketing genius?

Photograph: Sachin Tendulkar takes a nap on the floor of the dressing room in 1989, as New Zealand swing legend Sir Richard Hadlee (right) and left-arm spinner, Saggi Venkatapathy Raju, look on (courtesy H. Natarajan)

Read the full article: Since 1989

Also read: India’s greatest match-winning batsman is…

Why some of us just love to hate Sunil Gavaskar

From Bhadravati, the Bhimsen Joshi of cricket

Sunil Gavaskar: India’s most petulant cricketer ever?

An open letter to Rahul Gandhi from an Editor

11 October 2013

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K.B. Ganapathy, the editor-in-chief of India’s leading English daily evening newspaper, Star of Mysore, pens an open letter to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.

***

Dear Sri Rahul Gandhi

Let me come to the point, for you are a busy man. And it is the busy man who has time to spare. Please spare a few minutes to peruse what I have written here concerning Karnataka, my State and its Chief Minister of a little over 100 days old, Sri Siddaramaiah.

I know him from the day he was a lawyer, law teacher and then an angry young politician inspired by Jayaprakash Narayan and the socialist leaders of Nehru-Gandhi years. Hailing from a backward village of an industrially backward district Mysore, he had the dream of ameliorating the living conditions of the oppressed and the have nots.

Since you will have a dossier on Siddaramaiah, I will not dilate.

However, what prompted me, rather provoked me to write this letter of appeal to you is the news that broke out last evening on TV channels and that appeared in cold print this morning saying that about 20 Congress MLAs have sent a complaint against Siddaramaiah to the Congress high command.

As if to prove the blind belief of many earlier Chief Ministers of Karnataka that whoever visited Chamarajanagar — whose inhabitants are mostly Dalits and Scheduled Tribes — would lose power, these 20 MLAs must have submitted their complaint.

It may be their belief that the bold decision of Siddaramaiah to visit the “cursed” district could be an auspicious moment for them to conspire to bring down Siddaramaiah and then allow the TV and the Press to go to town saying, “didn’t we say he would lose power after visiting Chamarajanagar?”

Dear Sri Rahul, I want you to congratulate Siddaramaiah for his deliberate, daring visit to Chamarajanagar despite advice to the contrary. In doing so, he has led the motley crowd of people steeped in superstition from the front urging them to give up such blind belief. Siddaramaiah, thus, has set a personal example, unlike other Chief Ministers. Now, it should not be shown as if he made a mistake by going to Chamarajanagar.

I will only say this. If you listen to these disgruntled MLAs and sack Siddaramaiah, it will tantamount to yourself subscribing to the superstition and thereby perpetuating the same in this century of reason and scientific temperament.

And in any case, the people of Karnataka know what could be the nature of their complaint. The MLAs generally want their favourite (read corrupt) officers to be posted in most ‘revenue” generating departments like police, revenue, PWD and zilla panchayat. The deputy commissioners (DCs) are tough nuts, being IAS.

So these MLAs want the Chief Minister to give them their favourite police inspectors, tahasildars, executive engineers and CEOs of ZPs.

Totally self-centric, not Karnataka-centric in their conduct as MLAs.

In the past, the Chief Minister, in order to remain in his seat, used to oblige these MLAs. But, have we seen corresponding increased development in the constituencies of these MLAs? No. Reason: Self-aggrandisement.

However, there is another complaint tagged on to the first one, “that Siddaramaiah is ignoring the MLAs’ requests and he is surrounded by his old friends and old gang etc.” This one is to provide a moral facade to an untenable complaint. They alleged that Siddaramaiah goes by their advice.

So what?

Ramakrishna Hegde had his “Brains Trust.” Every Chief Minister will have to consult, apart from the Cabinet colleagues, somebody in whose wisdom, expertise and experience he has trust.

According to reports, Siddaramaiah has five such advisors. I understand they are not only committed and loyal to Siddaramaiah but also to his party, Congress. They are: 1. Kempaiah, IPS, retired. 2. Ravi Bosraj. 3. Chenna Reddy. 4. Konanakunte Laxman. 5. MLA Bhyrati Suresh of Krishnarajapuram, Bangalore.

If it is true, it will be perceived by the people, not by politicians and bureaucrats, that these five will be like ‘Pancha Ratnas’ similar to the ‘Navaratnas’ in the courts of Ashoka and Akbar. Like your mother listened to her inner voice about 10 years back, you had better listen to the voice of the people of Karnataka.

More importantly, development of the State is possible only if the Chief Minister is allowed to complete his term, unless he is incompetent or corrupt. For now, Siddharamaiah is competent, what with many years of experience in the earlier governments of JD(S) and he is our Mr. Clean.

For Kannadigas, development is more important than 2014 Parliamentary election.

Yours faithfully,

K.B. Ganapathy

File photograph: Karnataka governor H.R. Bharadwaj administrating the oath of office to Siddaramaiah during the swearing-in ceremony at the Sree Kanteerava stadium in Bangalore on Monday (Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: The editor who foresaw Siddaramaiah as CM

Is ‘Modi Media’ partisan against Rahul Gandhi?

11 October 2013

In a cash-strapped election season which has seen “corporate interest and media ownership” converge, it is arguable if Narendra Modi is getting a free run. Every whisper of the Gujarat chief minister and BJP “prime ministerial aspirant” is turned into a mighty roar, sans scrutiny, as the idiot box ends up being a soapbox of shrill rhetoric.

In marked contrast, there is only grudging media adulation for the Congress’s Rahul Gandhi even on the odd occasion he does something right, like two Fridays ago, when he barged into a Press Club of India event to stymie an ordinance passed by the Congress-led UPA government, intended at shielding criminal Members of Parliament.

What’s up, asks Malvika Singh in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“The press and the Opposition leaders began to pontificate on the language used by Rahul Gandhi. They spent hours damning the use of the word ‘nonsense’, which only meant that something makes no sense.

“They were clutching on to whatever they could find to ensure they gave no credit for Rahul Gandhi. The bias was crystal clear and gave the game away.

“Why is the press distorting the simple truth? Is it because the press would have to doff its hat to Rahul Gandhi, about whom it has been rude and sarcastic? Why is the press being partisan? Why the double standards?”

Read the full column: Put an end to chatter

Photograph: courtesy Press Brief

Also read: How Narendra Modi buys media through PR

Modi‘s backers and media owners have converged’

‘Network18′s multimedia Modi feat, a promo’

POLL: What does Sachin Tendulkar’s future lie?

10 October 2013

Many of us, lesser mortals, cannot keep our feet on the ground and our heads on our shoulders after we “succeed”. A good job, a nice designation, a few accolades and some material acquisitions change our accents and attitudes, and pretty soon the fire of ambition in the belly burns out, as we are consigned to the dustbin of history.

Consider Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar who has known nothing but success all his life of 40 and 169 days: 

A Ranji Trophy century on debut, a Duleep Trophy century on debut, an Irani Trophy century on debut—and a magnificent, near-spotless 24-year career of 198 Test matches and 463 one-day internationals yielding 34,373 runs, 100 centuries, 163 fifties, 156 catches and 199 wickets. And millions of fans.

The cricketing achievements of Sachin are obvious: he brought hope and expectation to a nation short of heroes, he brought pride and prestige to the Indian achievement, strength and solidity to the middle-order. But it is the other side of his personality, his personal life, which is an object lesson for most of us, which is almost all of us, not blessed with his kind of talent.

Tendulkar brought middle-class decency and civility to the crease and beyond it. In his personal life, in dealing with fans and followers, in dealing with his superstardom, in dealing with his seniors, juniors and elders, Tendulkar showed a rare ability to not let his arrogance show and to yet carry on zealously.

Question: Now that Sachin Tendulkar has announced that he will end his international career two Test matches from now, where does his future lie?

Thankfully, the elephants don’t have own designs

7 October 2013

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As a gargantuan jury walks past, women take part in a rangoli competition as part of the Dasara festivities, in Mysore on Monday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

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

Should Bollywood have a place in Mysore Dasara?

Once upon a time, at Gulbarga railway station

6 October 2013

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K. JAVEED NAYEEM writes: On the day I left Gulbarga for good, upon completion of my studies and internship, I rode to the railway station from my room on my bicycle. To make things easier for me, my friends had taken my luggage in a cycle-rickshaw a little earlier and were waiting for me on the platform.

As I entered the platform and approached them I saw uniformed men of the Police Band standing in formation a little distance away. Before I could ask someone the reason for this, one of my friends told me that an important Police Officer was arriving by the train and the band was there to receive him.

The train soon arrived and we waited for the alighting passengers to get down before I could board it. But I saw no sign of any VIP getting down which seemed rather strange.

All my friends loaded my luggage into the compartment and expecting the train to start any moment, when I started bidding farewell to them, they asked me to get down with them for a moment, which I did.

All of a sudden there was the sound of crackers bursting and as if on this cue the Police Band started playing and to my utter confusion and consternation my friends grabbed me and tossed me into the air in a series of bumps.

All the people on the platform and in the train were as confused as I was over this unexpected commotion when the station master, S. Tuppadauru accompanied by the chief ticketing clerk Sunder Raj arrived on the scene.

While for a brief moment I thought that they had come to discharge their official duties and disperse the boisterous group of medicos, the station master shook my hand vigorously and congratulated me on becoming a doctor while Sunder Raj thrust a peda into my mouth, stifling any word of protest from me.

Ghani, the over-aged porter who had always carried my luggage over the last six years of my stay at Gulbarga appeared on the scene from somewhere with his toothless grin and garlanded me before bowing down to grab my feet.

Before I could dislodge him in embarrassment, Khan, the canteen contractor who used to always make the bread toast and omelettes to the perfection that I expected, during every one of my visits to his joint over the years, grabbed me in a rib-cracking bear hug.

Very soon Pandurang, the postman, Rajanna, my dhobie and Syed, my errand boy were there too, holding back their tears behind their smiles.

I am not a person given to shedding tears easily but on that occasion I simply could not hold them back. I never expected that I would get such a warm and emotional farewell from so many people after my six-year stay at a place which many people here had warned me would be comparable to hell.

A few bits and pieces of memorabilia from my past may be of interest here.

Sunder Raj the ever-smiling chief ticketing clerk I have mentioned served at the Gulbarga railway station for many years and he was one of the most obliging persons I have seen in my life. He would somehow manage to find and arrange a berth or at least a seat on all the out-going trains for all the medical and engineering students who had to go home at short notice in an emergency.

On the few occasions when he failed in his efforts he would accompany them to the compartment and request the TTEs to make some arrangement to see that they travelled in safety and comfort. And, all this he did without expecting anything in return except a smile.

Whenever anyone exhibited even the faintest trace of anxiety or impatience, his stock phrase was “zara aaram se, zara aaram se. Hojayega,” without the slightest hint of irritation.

I discovered during a subsequent visit to Gulbarga that Ghani, the porter died a few years after I left the place and now his son Haneef has donned the red shirt, toiling on the same platform. Khan is no more too but his family still runs the canteen at Gulbarga station as it has been doing over the many years before I went there.

The Raleigh bicycle I rode all through my high schooldays into medical college and out of it was bought for me by my father from a small bicycle shop just then opened by his cousin Umar at Aldur, our native village in Chickmagalur District.

It came to Mysore in a semi-knocked down state riding in the boot of our Dodge car to be immediately assembled by my father in a night-long job to meet my expectation and exuberance of riding it to school the very next day.

On the day I rode it into St. Philomena’s College for my PUC I was approached near the cycle stand by a puny man in a torn shirt and a once white dhoti who offered to engrave my name on its handle bar for a rupee.

I immediately agreed to the proposal and before the slightest risk of my changing my mind I saw him hammering away with a tempered steel nail and a flat iron bar. In almost no time at all I saw my name adorning my bike in beautiful flowing letters. I praised his workmanship and found out that he was Subramani from Chickmagalur.

He in turn was happy that I too was from his place and he offered to engrave my name on my fountain pen for just twenty-five paise. Now, before he could change his mind I placed my still unused blue ‘Mendoz’ pen which I had bought the previous evening for seven rupees, in his hand.

I was so fascinated by his deftness that I started meeting him every morning at the cycle stand to watch him at work on other students’ bikes and pens. Not satisfied with just watching Subramani at work, I started practicing his art at home with a set of self-made engraving tools much to the chagrin of my parents who felt that I was wasting precious time on useless pursuits.

But I soon discovered that I had a knack for this work too and continued perfecting it. Soon after my marriage, when my wife and I started our life together in a story-book rural hospital on the desolate edge of ‘Veerappan Territory’ I managed to make her very happy by engraving her name on all the pots and pans we bought!

This only goes to show that none of the ‘useless’ things we learn as we go along in life are completely useless! They rarely go waste and even if they do not earn us any money they certainly may earn us much admiration.

And, if this admiration happens to come from someone we admire, the effort certainly becomes supremely worthwhile!

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

Photograph: courtesy Wikipedia

Is South Indian cinema better than Bollywood’s?

4 October 2013

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In the fourth week of August, Madras played host to a three-day jamboree to mark 100 years of South Indian cinema.

Song and dance delegations from each of the four states got a chance to show their wares. By all accounts, it was an event hogged and monopolised by the Mysore-born actress-turned-Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalitha Jayaram, to the exclusion of all else in the film fraternity, in an election year.

But does South Indian cinema really have much to celebrate, regardless of the snooty South Indian belief that south cinema is better than Bollywood cinema? Regardless of the talented stars, the macho mustachioed actors, the sexy actresses, the villians, the vamps, the directors, music composers and technicians?

The long-time film critic Randor Guy alias Madabhushi Rangadurai, offers a blistering critique of Kollywood and Mollywood and Sandalwood, in The Pioneer:

“We are where we started in 1913. Indian movies in general and south Indian movies in particular have not moved an inch forward. It is all the same. Personalities have been changed to accommodate youth. That’s the only notable change.

“South Indian language films continue to be the extension of the old theatre. There is no semblance of reality to the real life. There should be logic, reasoning and art in the product.

“Do you think hard hitting dialogues, songs shot with hundreds of co-stars in exotic locations, the hero single-handedly bashing up the goons and walking away with the heroine makes a good movie? I am aghast.. Most of the directors have not seen classical movies and they have not read good books too.

“The movie Nenjil Oru Aalayam (A temple inside the heart) was sent as an entry for the Oscar Award. The man in charge of the category for which the movie was sent laughed at us and asked weren’t there any divorce laws in India. He told us that the story could have been cut short had the protagonists approached the court of law instead of singing songs and mouthing tough dialogues.

“If films represent only glamour and nothing else, well, there is no need to elaborate. If even third grade movies could throw up global leaders from the fraternity, imagine, what could have been the scenario had we produced movies matching the ones made in Hollywood?”

Photograph: courtesy Cinema News Today

Also read: Poll: Is Hindi cinema Indian cinema?

‘Bollywood: India’s most moronic cultural export’

Has Bollywood wrecked our cinema sensibilities?

Do only Bollywood beauties possess glamour?

The greatest actor in the history of Indian cinema?

The sexiest South Indian south Asian actress is…

Why national media ignores the national awards

A dirty old man gets a bath before his birthday

1 October 2013

Photo Caption

As the “fodder of the nation” gets set to spend some lonely nights facing a blank wall, the father of the nation gets a neat scrub on the eve of his 144th birth anniversary, in Bangalore on Tuesday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: 79 years ago, when Gandhi came to Mysore

Rama, Rama rajya and Nalawadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar

Why Gandhi was right about Congress, BJP and JDS

‘Indian media is failing Indian democracy’

22 September 2013

Pratap Bhanu Mehta president of the Delhi-based thinktank, Centre for Policy Research (CPR), in an interview with Karan Thapar for CNN-IBN:

Karan Thapar: How do you view the Indian media? Do you share justice Markandey Katju‘s concern, that by and large it is obsessive, it is narrow-minded, it focuses on middle class – urban concerns, ignoring the real problems that affect India such as poverty, such as joblessness.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta: My concern is not so much the issues it covers. It is that whatever it does, with a few exceptions, it is not bringing sufficient rigour and it is not performing frankly the function of being an honest broker in very, very important debates. The media is failing Indian democracy, I would agree with justice Katju to that extent.

Thapar: I know you are not a participant on television debates but do you watch them or do you find them off putting or irritating?

Mehta: You watch them in the way you would watch an entertainment show. In fact my own sense is that I think people are very wisely making the distinction that news is entertainment. It is not news.

Thapar: But of course it should not be entertainment at all.

Mehta: But of course it should not be. It’s exactly that confusion of roles that is crippling us.

Thapar: So TV debates may be entertaining but in terms of informing, educating, illuminating, they fail.

Mehta: Actually they are quite dangerous because they present a false construction of what public opinion is.

Read the full interview: Pratap Bhanu Mehta

A feast for the stomach—and a feast for the eyes

20 September 2013

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From Mukhwas, a just-published book on Indian food through the ages, by Alka Pande:

Kanteerava Narasaraja (Wodeyar) of Mysore (1638-49) enjoyed tasteful bites served by charming women. The women had to possess certain qualities of beauty to serve the fastidious king.

“‘Their faces had to shine like the full moon with coryllium sparkling in their eyes. Bells were tinkling around their waists and bangles jingling on their wrists as they served food. The women were enchanting, with anklets ringing sweetly announcing their arrival, swaying their wide hips and slender waists’.”

Photograph: via Wikipedia

Also read: Mudde, mutton saaru and mutton chops with the Maharaja

POLL: Can Nandan Nilekani win Bangalore South?

18 September 2013

Kite-flying effortlessly replaces cricket as the nation’s favourite sport before every election, state or national, and so it is in the run-up to 2014, with “guided rumours” of Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani suddenly but not unexpectedly doing the rounds as a potential Congress candidate from Bangalore South Lok Sabha constituency.

For the moment, there is no confirmation from the man, but he has certainly not denied the report which first appeared on the website of the business newspaper, Mint. “It’s speculative,” is how the Sirsi-born software mogul has chosen to greet the unattributed reports which clearly emanate from his “camp”, and all of which uniformally talk of his candidature having Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi‘s imprimatur.

On the face of it, Nilekani has plenty going for him. He is young (58), has a demonstrated track record as an entrepreneur and a technocrat, has ‘written’ an ambitious book on how he imagines India, and is a past-master at charming the pants off the media. On top of that, his wife, the former journalist Rohini Nilekani has pumped in crores into philanthropic projects.

Nilekani’s role in crafting “Brand Bangalore” is not insignificant. It is Infosys that largely put the shine back into Bangalore and made it the country’s unquestionable IT capital. Nilekani was also the brain behind the Bangalore Agenda Task Force (BATF) during S.M.Krishna‘s tenure. So, the Congress’s, if not Nilekani’s, calculation is: this is payback time.

The preponderance of IT types in Bangalore South, the large sprinkling of Brahmins, and a five-time sitting Brahmin MP (Ananth Kumar) who is not on the right side of the BJP’s “prime ministerial candidate”, Narendra Modi, makes the Sai bhakt’s candidature look all very rosy—on a spreadsheet.

But politics is not a zero-sum, page 3 game as the similarly qualified Captain G.R. Gopinath discovered not too long ago.

It is not only software engineers who go to vote, in fact they can barely get their backsides off a spa table on the weekends. Plus, Bangalore South has a sizeable Vokkaliga population, and who doesn’t know H.D. Deve Gowda‘s antipathy to urban, educated, rich, IT-BT types?

Above all, for all the friendly media coverage of Nilekani’s “Aadhar” card, the fact remains he has essentially presided over an unconstitutional scheme which does not have Parliament’s OK, and which has actually taken millions out of the welfare net, while precisely claiming to do the opposite, by stopping leakage and pilferage. These are the people who vote and, sadly for Nilekani’s and Aadhar’s backers, there are thousands of them in Bangalore South too.

So, does Nandan Nilekani, who can just about speak Kannada, stand a chance, if he gets the chance, or is he like so many billionaires deluded about what his billions can fetch? If he does, could he end up being a potential minister in the next UPA regime, if there is one? And, while we (and he) fantasise, could he even be the kind of quiet technocrat who could be Rahul’s Manmohan Singh? Just kidding.

(Or, tongue firmly in cheek, could Nandan Nilekani’s nomination papers get rejected because his date of birth does not match the DoB on his own Aadhar card?!)

Also read: 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

Deve Gowda backs Sreesanth, taunts BCCI again

15 September 2013

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Former Rajasthan Royals opening bowler S. Sreesanth has just been banned from cricket for life, for putting his hand-towel out of his pant pocket, as a signal to bookies that he will concede “14 runs”, while bowling in the Indian Premier League.

But such stern action against our Malayali brethren doesn’t seem to deter former Indian prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda from openly and even more conspicuously flaunting his towel on his shoulders, at a cricket match, in Bangalore on Saturday.

BCCI officials, Delhi police and ICC “anti-corruption unit” investigators will, of course, note that this is the second time in as many months that the ex-PM has taunted the “towel rule” that felled Sreesanth for “spot-fixing” in this year’s IPL, and that this time his towel has a green border.

On both occasions, “Mr Deve” has done so in the full presence of mediamen, this time with the president of the Press Club of Bangalore, Ramakrishna Upadhya, bang behind him.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Is Deve Gowda guilty of match-fixing?

POLL: Do you believe Narendra Modi’s PM claim?

5 September 2013

The 2014 general election was supposed to be a head-to-head contest between Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Damodardas Modi, the former ordained by the unspoken dynamics of dynastic politics; the other responding to the groundswell of popular support. Yet, could it be a no-show as the two conquistadors find one excuse more fantastic than the other to exit the ring?

The Congress vice-president reiterated in an interaction with the media in Parliament earlier this year (what he had privately maintained for a while) that becoming PM was not the sole ambition of his life. And now, the Gujarat chief minister has surprised even his fanboys by claiming that he was committed to serving his term till 2017.

“I never see such dreams (of becoming PM), nor am I going to see such dreams. People of Gujarat have given me the mandate to serve them till 2017 and I have to do this with full strength,” Modi said.

The charitable view to take is that both Gandhi and Modi are playing it safe, since neither Congress nor BJP looks likely, judging from opinion polls, to come anywhere near forming the next government. By seeming to be not interested in the race, they keep their options open, should the election verdict surprise them.

The less charitable view is that reality has hit home. Both Congress and BJP will require the support of allies to reach 273, and only Congress seems to be making moves as of now. Even if a non-Congress, non-BJP government comes to power, its longevity is far from certain. So 2014 could actually be a semi-final, with another general election around the corner.

Question: Is Narendra Modi being honest with his reluctance for the PM’s chair? Or is he being too clever by half and trying to exert pressure on his party to declare him the candidate?

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL-I: Modi vs Rahul in 2014?

CHURUMURI POLL-II: Modi vs Rahul in 2014?

Why Narendra Modi will never be India’s PM

Modi vs Rahul? Nah, more like Rajiv vs Sanjay

It never hurts to be blessed by those who vote

3 September 2013

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There are few things more farcical in our democracy than the “Janata Darshan” that is a rage among chief ministers and assorted bigwigs inclined to show off the accessibility, where the aam janata turn up to seek redress from problems that should have been solved long ago by politicians and officials much lower down the ladder.

But in an age when CMs paint themselves as the all-powerful court of instant justice, who are in touch with the masses, it is unlikely to vanish. And in any case, they have their moments, like when the Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah had his cheeks squeezed by a lady who turned up at his home-office, Krishna, in Bangalore on Tuesday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

The spotlight is now on ‘Make Up’ Naani’s son

31 August 2013

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In Lounge, the weekend section of the business paper Mint, the columnist Aakar Patel doffs his hat to Prakash Belawadi.

The engineer-son of ‘Make Up’ Naani and Bhargavi Nagaraj who became an Indian Express reporter, who became a magazine correspondent, who became a television chat show host, who launched a journalism school, who launched a weekly newspaper…

And who made a national-award winning English film, who made a hit Kannada TV serial—and who is winning accolades for his role as a Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) agent in the just-released Hindi film, Madras Cafe:

“Prakash Belawadi started and edited a weekly newspaper, Bangalore Bias (it shut down). He has begun so many enterprises, a media school among them, that I have lost count just of those he has been involved in since 2000, and would not be surprised if he has too.

“Belawadi began his career as a journalist and worked for Vir Sanghvi’s Sunday. He remains a columnist and a first rate one. He has the best quality a columnist can have and that, according to Graham Greene, is never to be boring.

“Belawadi has a dangerous lack of ideology that makes him an aggressive and unpredictable debater. He can casually assume a position, often contrary to one he held a couple of days ago, and unpack a ferocious argument. Like all good men, he likes a fight, and like all good men it is promptly forgotten. He has a quality that is admirable among men.

“He is restless and tireless, and totally uncaring for the middle-class ambitions that most of us cannot let go of, and few of us ever achieve.”

Read the full article: A restless Renaissance man

“prabel” in churumuri: Everybody loves his own Jnanpith winner

Also read: For some journalists, acting is second string in bow

Finally, Karnataka gets an acting chief minister


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