Posts Tagged ‘E.R. Ramachandran’

Is a pilgrimage to Badrinath, Kedarnath worth it?

21 June 2013

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: In the unprecedented rain that poured in Uttarakhand last week, pilgrims and the government were caught off-guard, resulting in large-scale death and devastation in the abode of the gods: the temple towns of the Himalayas.

With the rivers in spate, roads and dharamshalas washed off, bridges broken, over 50,000 pilgrims, many of them from the Southern States, are said to be stranded in various places such as Kedarnath,  Gauri Kund, Badrinath, Joshimath.

The death toll officially stands at 150, but the casualties may well run into thousands if relief doesn’t reach pilgrims who are stranded. The weather, hilly terrain, official apathy and inadequate infrastructure have all added to the problem and despite the heroic efforts of the Army the toll may rise further.

This brings in its wake the following questions.

Should the elderly take up such a pilgrimage at all?

I know my question will raise hackles among quite a few. Consider this.  In a country, in a culture which doesn’t particularly value human life, especially those of women and elderly, where State governments fight over the most trivial of things, should the weak of limb take up such a pilgrimage at such enormous risk?

The weather is inhospitable, the dizzy terrains can even scare away the boldest of Formula 1 drivers. The rickety private minibuses and state road transport bus services with sometimes cleaners at the wheel are hardly dependable while negotiating ghat sections, even a small variation in weather can cause landslides, affecting food and medical supplies to these temple towns.

Under such harsh conditions is it safe for the elderly to venture into such trips that take anywhere between two and three weeks? How do their families feel when they see on television the heartrending scenes of people being washed away?

True, the pilgrimage is a part and parcel of Hindu psyche and has been handed over from time immemorial. It is the very essence of one’s living, so to say. It brings a sense of completion of one’s worldly life and prepares for moksha.

Still, is it better to introspect in times such as these whether it is is worth the effort?

# Shouldn’t the government fund these visits as they do for visits to Mecca?

If visits to Badri, Kedar are subsidized by the government, the vast majority can take a flight to Delhi and take helicopter rides to the temples and complete the entire trip in a week’s time. Perhaps it is not a pilgrimage in the strictest sense of the word, but surely it is a lot safer for the traveller and for the nerves of those waiting back home.

Shouldn’t the government offer subsidized rates and facilities to Hindus too? Parity demands that Hindus too should be given an equal opportunity like their Muslim brethren.

Considering the strain on the government and defence forces that such disasters and relief and rehabiliation efforts take, isn’t it better to run safer subsidized pilgrimages than incur huge mindboggling costs in relief operations?

If the government can run the Kumbh Mela with pinpoint precision for over a month, complete with food and medical facilities why can’t they think in similar lines?

In Coorg, ‘jumping japak’ when there’s a goooal!

16 April 2013

Photo Caption

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: At a time when Hockey India (HI) and the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) are at each other’s throats and dragging Indian hockey down the drain by filing cases against each other, in an idyllic part of the world 225 hockey-mad families are participating in the biggest tournament of its kind.

The idyll is Coorg.

In the cradle of Karnataka hockey nay Indian hockey, the 17th edition of the inter-family hockey tournament, which has entered the record book, quietly got underway near Virajpet on Sunday. And, despite IPL being on everybody’s lips, the passion for hockey remains high.

Some of the most popular names of Indian hockey, M.P. Ganesh, B.P. Govinda, M.M. Somaiya, Poonacha and Arjun Halappa have come from the hilly, coffee-country. If hockey has to have resurgence, is it time hockey is moved to Kodagu than be a part of Delhi where they play hooky with hockey and are mostly busy with court cases?

Photograph: Members of a visiting Punjab team in a duel with a local Kodava team at the inter-family hockey tournament at Balugodu Kodava cultural centre, near Virajpet in Kodagu district on Sunday (Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: What a martial race does when there’s no war

There’s blood on the ground when sticks rattle

Sirf dekhneka, or IPL will sue the hell out of you!

5 April 2013

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Most people think the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is a body that controls cricket in India. This is only partly true though.

Cricket is after all a game of cause and effect, in a manner of speaking, but BCCI controls all aspect of the game including how you should watch cricket, read about cricket stars or see their pictures. You just can’t ‘Eat cricket, Sleep cricket’ the way you want, unless BCCI has approved it.

In the 1980s, the Dutch introduced ‘Total football’ when the likes of Rudd Gullit and Van Basten moved all over the ground looking for the ball and playing every position.

In a similar manner, BCCI has introduced ‘Total Control of Cricket’.

The Indian Premier League ( IPL), only in its sixth year, has  already seen life in full spectrum. After a great start it was banished to stage its second edition in South Africa on the orders of then home minister, P. Chidambaram, himself an all-rounder having handled various positions in government. Subsequently it banished Lalit Modi himself.

The issue of cheer girls issue went all the way up to Parliament with the House equally divided as in every household.

Each year, IPL has to usher something innovative in the cut-throat TRP game of television.

Now, in its sixth year, IPL6 has introduced some edicts that would put Moses’  Ten Commandments to shame.

I had a chance to talk to the affable IPL director Sundar Raman who was ever ready to dispel any thoughts of control.
We were seated at the Wankhede stadium where, for a change, commoners can come in and the king of Bollywood, Shah Rukh Khan, is banned.

Farah Khan and party were practicing the moves for IPL-6′s theme song ‘Jumping Zapak’‘ whose tagline reads, ‘Sirf dekhneka nahi’.

“Mr Raman, why are you so possessive about photographs of cricketers. You don’t let anybody else take pictures. I can’t even ask you a question that has the word IPL in it.”

“Look. IPL is not an acronym or a sports league anymore. It is now an international brand name on which millions of dollars ride. We can’t let all and sundry use the name, can we?”

“‘I am surprised you don’t let even the media use pictures or quotes without being risking being dragged to court or facing an IPL firing squad. Don’t forget, IPL chairman Rajiv Shukla was himself a journalist not too long ago.”

“You are referring to Shuklaji’s status long time ago. I doubt whether even he remembers that!. He is also a minister of parliamentary affairs apart from being close to the vice-president of the Congress party.”

“My apologies, I forgot to add his  recent qualifications. The 8-point edict you have released on IPL reads like the dos and don’ts of a military academy for cadets joining fresh from college! It would do tribute to the best legal companies in the world like Baker and Mckenzie, Latham and Watkins, or Weil, Gotshal & Manges. After seeing your commandments they might be tempted to come to you to draft a clause or two.”

“Thank you, that would be nice. We drafted these ourselves. I drafted quite a few of them myself, when I was in my bathroom.”

“There is a particular clause which I have taken from sans serif;  I hope you don’t have any objection to this,

ii. publish any photograph that relates to the Pepsi IPL or any previous seasons of the IPL that is sponsored by any third party, or contain catchphrases that refer to any third party (e.g, “Entity A’ Moment of the Match”),

“How come this covers even previous seasons of IPL sponsored by any third party?” I asked.

“We just don’t want to leave anything to chance,” said Mr Raman.

“What if a spectator clicks any player or a ball going for a sixer which Ravi Shastri would call a  Pepsier? Would that constitute a serious offence and come in the area of infringing your draconian laws?”

“Again, it depends. Offhand I can’t answer that without consulting our legal team.  If along the trajectory of ball there is a Samsung Galaxy blimp in the sky and the spectator knowingly or unknowingly catches it I am afraid he will be in a problem. In fact our skysweepers might arrest him.”

‘Great!  What about pictures of cheer girls? They don’t wear too much of clothing anyway.”

“True. To be on the safer side, it’s better you don’t catch even an alphabet of our co-sponsors in any part of the body!” clarified Sundar Raman.

As we finished Farah Khan was making the housewives from Marine Drive dance to Jumping Zapak.

Andheri raat mein, Diya tera haat mein phone

15 August 2012

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Freebies are the lubricants that grease the wheels of democracy in India—and the cranky old engine needs to be serviced at least once in five years. Wine and money have traditionally played a great role in ensuring that the cogs, also known as contestants, run smoothly for the next few years.

Of late, though, the traditional attractions have partly given way to other more persuasive and trendy modes in terms of sops. If DMK gave colour television sets, AIDMK promised free laptops in the last election. More recently, the Uttar Pradesh chief minister promised digital tablets.

Not to be left behind, the ruling UPA government reportedly hit upon a scheme to put a mobile phone in the pocket of every BPL ( Below Poverty Line) family before the next general elections. If things had gone as planned, this was to be announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his Independence Day address at Red Fort this morning.

However, the ‘Har haath mein phone’  project seems to have been abruptly put on the backburner, though it should surprise nobody if it is launched with full fanfare before you can say 2014.

Costing an estimated Rs7,000 crore, the project would have “empowered” every BPLite all over the country.  Unfortunately, there was some spoilsport who put a spanner in to the works.

Disputes broke out over the actual number of BPL families. While the government thought there were 6 crores of them, state governments put the figure at closer to 11 crores and our ever-correct planning commission put the families at a safe 8 crores. Problems due to distribution, power shortage, recharging, battery replacement etc were also envisaged.

Imagine ‘har haat mein phone’ scene would have created in the country. It would have brought back memories of Dada Kondke’s 1985 movie ‘Andheri raat mein, Diya tere haat mein’ movie of double entendres.

It would have met the double agenda of Congress to win the elections and decimating the opposition.

Apart from being a stepping stone for winning the election ‘hands down’, what other uses would this massive project have served?

# In India more food is wasted than consumed the day after any marriage. The number of dishes, the menu drawn up etc is measured on a social scale than actual consumption. When marriages are conducted over a week with mehendi, sangeeth, Bollywood song and dance acts, what are a few crores for unconsumed food thrown away after each meal?

Har haath mein phone’ would have precisely helped reduce wastage on a national scale.  Most of the BPL phoneites would already be present outside marriage halls even as saath pheres are being taken. The food otherwise that would have gone wasted will now at least fill BPL family stomachs thanks to their networking with phone in har haath.

#  Recently Indian Railways who are supposed to carry passengers safely were given an additional job; that of disposing tons of food grains which were not fit for even animal consumption.

The railways had dumped their merchandise safely near Jagatpur, Odisha. The poor with nothing to eat dug into the riverbed and carried whatever they could in their bags. People rushed into feast on food certified unworthy of even animal consumption.

Well, with ‘har haath mein phone’, the BPLites would not have allowed it to happen. They would have networked and tracked the movements of the train, kept each other informed at every station and swooped on the food before it was buried in the sand. At least digging to retrieve grains from riverbeds would have been avoided.

# And in Sharad Pawar’s Maharashtra had they introduced the project, farmers, instead of committing suicide would have watched Dada Kondke’s old hit in the powerless nights across Maharashtra on their mobile phones.

5 reasons Gavaskar’s wrong about playing Pak

20 July 2012

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar has criticized the Indian cricket board’s decision earlier this week to revive cricketing relations with Pakistan with a three-match ODI series in December this year.

Reason: he feels Pakistan is not cooperating in the probe into the November 2008 siege of Bombay despite the mountain of evidence that has been piled at its door.

“Being a Mumbaikar, I feel, what is the urgency (to resume cricketing ties) when there is no co-operation from the other side?”

Gavaskar is a great cricketer and a weighty columnist and commentator to boot. His views carry enormous weight in the cricketing fraternity. He can make or mar ties between BCCI and PCB having been part of the BCCI and International Cricket Council (ICC) administration for a long time.

However, “Sunny” is plain wrong in questioning BCCI’s rationale for resuming cricket with Pakistan three years after the dastardly attack on his hometown?

First: BCCI would have dared to approach Pakistan with a tour proposal only after securing the government of India’s clearance. Perhaps it was Pakistan which came up with the proposal first.

Either way, Union home minister P. Chidambaram and external affairs minister S.M. Krishna would have discussed the issue threadbare with the Prime Minister and only after his (and/or the cabinet’s) clearance would the BCCI have made the first move to invite Pakistan for a tour.

It is the Indian Government that will decide whether Pakistan is cooperating in the Bombay terror attacks, not BCCI and definitely not Sunil Gavaskar. At least we haven’t reached that stage in the BCCI.

So far.

Second: While one certainly appreciates his views that as a ‘Mumbaikar’  for the tragedy that struck on 26 /11, he cannot decide whether there is cooperation from the other side. Not even BCCI. That is again strictly the job of the government.

Once the Government gives its clearance after satisfying itself of all the aspects and give its nod, the board and the cricketers should do their assigned jobs, as rightly pointed out by Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni in a media conference.

Third: I am sure every player would have felt terrible about the attack, irrespective of whether he was a Mumbaikar or not. So is it with every Indian. In fact it was with that spirit that the whole team played a match against Andrew Flintoff’s England and both teams came in for huge praise from all over the world for their fantastic gesture.

However well meaning, parochial sentiments on a national issue like terror are better consigned to the dustbin, particularly from a cricketer of the calibre of Gavaskar.

Fourth: Sunny is on firmer ground when he questions BCCI with regard to squeezing this tour in a year which is already quite packed.  Here again, if he is questioning the tour on cricketing grounds, he should have also questioned the wisdom of selectors’ acceding to Sachin Tendulkar’s ‘pick and choose’ policy, especially in ODIs,  a subject which has been dealt by quite of few cricket experts and commentators at length.

This affects balance in the team, creates uncertainty in minds of younger cricketers about their future as they have to make way whenever he ‘feels’ like playing cricket. One would have expected Sunny to question the selectors or Sachin in his weekly column regarding this but that did not happen.

It is only Sanjay Manjrekar who has rightly dared to question this in the past.

Fifth: Why should cricket and cricket alone be the barometer of ties between India and Pakistan? Despite 26/11, the two countries seem to have started finding ways of doing business. Its politicians meet happily, its bureaucrats do, there are growing trade ties, etc.

So, why should cricket be held hostage to terror? It is, after all, a sport.

Also read: Gavaskar: India’s most petulant cricketer ever?

Save Indian cricket: keep Sunil Gavaskar out

Are Gavaskar and Shastri India’s only cricketers?

Gavaskar of 2010 is the same Gavaskar of 1981

Why some of us just love to hate Gavaskar

‘What’s wrong if Aamir Khan exposes ‘butchers’?’

13 June 2012

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Ajji returned from Allahabad, suntanned after a brief visit.

Rama Rama. It’s unbearably hot. Agni nakshtra should be reworded as Agni Raaakshsa. Mysore is heavenly with dark clouds and signs of rain already.”

She was happy to be back and touching base with her friends.

As she watched Aamir Khan‘s Satyamev Jayate episode on disabled people, she wiped a tear.

“This is really needed. We are blind to all these kinds of things even when we were surrounded by it day in day out.”

“What is it, Ajji?”

“Female infanticide. Because of dowry and so many other beliefs, people are getting rid of female foetuses. It is such a shame that it is being practiced even today with some unscrupulous doctors abetting the crime. Idu paapa alveno?

Howdajji. Nowadys who bothers about paapa and punya?”

Alvo! We take pride in reciting Lalitha sahasranaama. We take pride in Dasara celebrations worshipping Goddess Chamundi. We also celebrate Durga puja. But nobody in the world kills foestuses as we do the moment we know the baby is going to be a female. It is widely prevalent in the North.”

Nobody could question Ajji’s views on North having just come from there.

Howdajji. We are masters of hypocrisy.”

Alvo. We have so many Gods and godmen. Why is nobody is raising their voice against this? Why don’t swamis teach their baktha vrundas that it is against religion, scriptures etc? What kind of discourses do they do?” she demanded.

“Swamijis are busy in their own fiefs, Ajji. They are busy celebrating their birthdays, fighting pitched battles with the media, and the like.”

“Our Software Seethamma was saying that a couple of weeks ago in Satyamev Jayate, Aamir showed the malpractices of doctors—their unabashed habit of writing out a battery of tests and examinations so that can get a cut and doing operations even when it is not necessary.”

“True Ajji, it created a lot of controversy. The medical council wants Aamir Khan to apologise!”

“Seethamma told me last night that film actor Sridevi’s mother was operated on the wrong side of her brain by a New York doctor.  They are called as ‘medical butlers’ there it seems!”

Ha ha ha, Ajji.”

Ashte alla kano. Our ex-governor T.N. Chaturvedi’s son died on the operation table in Bombay Hospital while being operated for back pain—not a life threatening case at all—by a famous doctor and his team. A young boy who had come home for holidays from America walked in to the hospital for a comparatively simple operation and came out dead. If this is the fate of famous people, God only should save ordinary people like us!”

Howadajji. Aamir Khan is precisely taking up cases where it is proved doctors are corrupt. A few years ago, Ketan Desai, president of medical council of India and his associate Jitendra Pal Singh were arrested  for taking Rs 2 crore for giving recognition to a medical college in Punjab.”

Ayyo manehaalra! What kind of doctors will we get from such colleges? We will get medical butchers as surgeons! I hope they are in jail now.”

“Yes, Ajji.”

“Crooks in every profession say contractors who adulterate cement etc must be exposed. But  if some doctors who are supposed to be in the ‘noble profession’ and have taken oath that they will serve mankind indulge in selling body parts,  make money unscrupulously playing on our emotions Aamir Khan is rightly exposing such charlatans. Satyamev Jayate means ade alva. Only truth should triumph in the end.”

Neenu helodu khandita nija, ajji.”

Also read: An open letter to Aamir Khan from a Kannadiga

CHURUMURI POLL: Aamir Khan vs doctors?

The half-truths of Aamir Khan, the truth fountain

Ajji: ‘The only thing to fear in life is fear itself’

27 April 2012

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Ajji was reading Praja Vani, once owned by Netkalappa, which was a favourite of Bangaloreans along with P.R. Ramiah’s Tayi Nadu, a long time ago.

She was unusually silent. Normally Ajji slices and dices reputations as well as she does vegetables.

“What happened, Ajji? You are quite different this morning,” I teased her.

I was reading about the renovation of Niranjan Mutt in Mysore where Swami Vivekananda stayed there once.”

“Yes. He stayed there before he went to Chicago to address the World Congress on Spirituality.”

“It seems he said there, ‘Be not afraid of anything. It is fearlessness that brings Heaven even in a moment’.”

“That’s right, Ajji.”

“Our Prime Minister also has advised the boorokrats.”

Ajji, adu bureaucrats not boorokrats. What was the advice?”

Yeno sudugaadu.  He has asked them to be fearless in their work.”

“Isn’t that good advice? What’s wrong with it?”

“If you ask somebody not to eat onions, first you must not eat onions yourself. So goes a proverb in Kannada.”

“What have onions got to do with his advice asking them to be fearless?” I demanded.

Alvo! He himself chickens out on every occasion. He refused to confront A. Raja on 2G spectrum; also Kanimozhi. Didn’t want to sack Suresh Kalmadi on CWG. Wasn’t that lack of guts?”

“You have a point there, Ajji. But he attributed his lack of fearlessness partly to coalition compulsions.”

Ajji took no notice of my interruption. She had compiled a dossier on the PM’s lack of action like our home minister on Hafeez  Saeed’s involvement in terrorism.

“Then there was S-band scam in the ministry of space which is directly under him. Then there were the file notings of P. Chidambaram in the 2G scam. The Prime Minister kept quiet in public and in parliament. He chose to answer everything in his customary eloquent silence.”

“What you say is true.”

“He didn’t take Kapil Sibal to task when he declared that the amount of loss to the exchequer from 2G scam was zero, instead of Rs 175,000 crores as calculated by CAG. He should have sacked Sibal if he had worked fearlessly.”

“Hmmm….”

Rahul Gandhi failed utterly in the UP elections. Why is he not acting fearlessly and sacking him?”

“Looks like he has deliberately forgotten how to act fearlessly,” I intervened.

“It’s not that he doesn’t know how to act fearlessly. During Narasimha Rao’s days as finance minister he took bold steps to liberalize the economy. The economy boomed because of that. He was only a finance minister then, not a Prime Minister.”

“That’s true.”

“Though he is the Prime Minister now, I think he is taking orders from somebody. That’s why he can’t act fearlessly.”

“Do you think he is taking orders from his wife as all men do?” I  asked.

“I wish it were like that. Then at least outside he would have acted fearlessly!”

“Then who is he taking orders from?” I challenged Ajji.

“I think he is hemmed in both at home and from outside. That is why he is helpless. When he is asking the borokrats to ‘act fearlessly’ he is expressing his own wish. He remembers he acted fearlessly once. He wants to be like that again but realizes he can’t; that is why he is advising the borecrats to act fearlessly,” Ajji surmised.

Will there ever be another like Rahul Dravid?

9 March 2012

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: When will we ever see a cricketer like Rahul Sharad Dravid again?

Facing the fastest of bowlers in spotless flannels not a crease or button out of shape; executing classy cuts and drive on off and leg; crouched at first slip with the same intensity of focus and concentration that made him the most difficult batsman to get out… the wall, if you will.

He is only retiring from the beautiful game, of course, but rare will be the cricket eye that will not wipe a tear of memory.

Dravid brought to his cricket that rare steely determination to rough out any situation out in the middle and rarer grace and conduct that embellished the game even more.

Taking upon himself things which he had never done before for the sake of the team or for sake of his captain was what cricket all about for him.

Be it opening the innings with Virender Sehwag in Pakistan or donning the wicket-keeper’s gloves for one-day internationals so that Sourav Ganguly could get the balance right, it was all part of Dravid’s unsaid commitment for the team. He took upon the new roles himself with nary a complaint.

Never was a word said against anything or anyone in public, for the cricket he had learnt and practiced would always be fair and can never be ungentlemanly.

If Lord’s didn’t bestow the rare honour of scoring a century on debut, when he was out for 96, Dravid came back after 16 years to score that elusive century on a tour in 2011 where he alone played a lone hand in the entire series, though for a losing cause. Dravid’s name went up at Lord’s as a centurian, a fitting honour for India’s best ever one-drop cricketer.

Dravid’s failure with the bat, if we can call the two months out of 17 years of Test cricket in Australia, surprised the cricketing world including his opponents. That is understandable. Time and again he was the wall between abject submission and victory.

Steve Waugh, looking for victory in India in what he called the Final Frontier ran into Laxman and Harbhajan Singh—and Dravid—who turned a certain defeat into victory at Eden Gardens.

Indian cricket will never be the same without Rahul Dravid, but then a generation of fans all over the world  have been lucky to see one of the best cricketers of the game who had combined the craft of excellence in batting with grace, elegance and humility as his hallmark.

Good Bye, Rahul Dravid. And thanks for what you did both on and off the field.

So, when will we see a Rahul Sharad Dravid again?

Not in our life time, I guess.

Photograph: Rahul Dravid, Test cricket’s second most prolific batsman, after announcing his retirement from international cricket in Bangalore on Friday (Karnataka Photo News)

External reading: Suresh Menon in BBC: A special player

Also read: Player no. 207 is the modern-day Vijay Hazare

India’s greatest match-winning batsman is…

Who cries in Bangalore for Rahul Sharad Dravid?

In a team of lottery tickets, one surefire winner

If this can happen so close to Vidhana Soudha…

3 March 2012

N. Manjunath, a photojournalist with Karnataka Photo News, is beaten up by advocates at the City civil court in Bangalore on Friday.

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: What is wrong with our Black Coats?

Why are lawyers, who are supposed to uphold the law, protect innocents, work along with their compatriots in other professions like media and police, taking law into their hands are behaving like front-rank hooligans, time after time?

Amidst all the mayhem let loose on cameramen, lady journalists and media equipment at the civil courts in Bangalore on Friday, the police stood transfixed and immobile.

Was it deliberate and on orders?

If a set of thugs wearing whatever colour of coats turn into hooligans and beat up everybody, shouldn’t the protectors of law prevent this massacre? Were they waiting orders from the home minister or the chief minister himself to take any action?

If this kind of lawlessness is condoned by the government of the day, barely a kilometre from the scene of action, God help rest of Karnataka living in far flung places.

When  photographs both still and video clippings are available of those who were indulging in arson and beating up everybody to initiate action against them, why do they need a  ‘thorough enquiry’ which will take its own time?

The question again arises: who is ruling the State?

How is it that lawyers are repeatedly breaking the law and no action is even contemplated against them?

Less than a month back they held Bangalore city to ransom which resulted in massive rasta roko with school kids unable to go home; ladies caught in the melee. Again the BJP government didn’t take any action.

Friday’s episode is a shameful repeat of the previous incident but with a larger question mark over the government’s ability to protect a free press. It appears the State might have taken the ‘tit for tat’ on the porno-gate issue.

When Karnataka is trying to invite more investment into the State, if law and order becomes an issue every second day, the government can say ‘goodbye’ for foreign investment. Investors mainly look for a government which upholds law and order, an environment which is safe to conduct business free from Rasta rook etc.

If the Government does not see the warning signs it will go the West Bengal way. There’s no doubt about that.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: How Kannada channels hit back at lawyers

How the BJP turned Karnataka politics into a cartoon

Why news of the porn scam did not reach Athani

The porn film the BJP ministers should have watched

Five questions for L.K. Advani and Arun Jaitley

24 February 2012

His mouth already full, metaphorically speaking, former chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa lunges for a plate of chakkuli and kodebale from the next table, at a meeting of leaders and legislators at his residence in Bangalore on Thursday.

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Who exactly is ruling Karnataka right now?

Exhibit A: The Mahatma Gandhi national rural employment guarantee scheme (MGNREGS) guarantees  employment in rural areas. Of the Rs 2,153 crore approved in the budget, districts in Karnataka have spent only Rs 1,265 crore—58% of the allocated funds—despite severe drought.

Exhibit B: Studies have shown 37% of children are underweight, about 28% are undernourished, and 5.5% of children die of hunger before they reach five years. Prevalence of malnutrition in Karnataka in Raichur and other districts has reached epic proportions.

Exhibit C: The process of naming a Lok Ayukta to replace Justice Santosh Hegde is still going on months after he remitted office, even  as minister after minister or official or other is caught every now and then with mind-boggling income totally unrelated to his / her income.

Exhibit D: The ‘blue babies’, the 3 MLAs  who were watching porn material while the legislative assembly session was on have already shamed the party, on top of all those caught in similar misdemeanours.

These are only few examples.

Despite all these major problems confronting the State and the ruling party, the only issue the BJP MLAs and BJP ministers seem to be interested in is: when will D.V. Sadananda Gowda pack up and go leaving the seat for B.S. Yediyurappa?

For this, dinner meetings spending lakhs of rupees are held,  the ex-CM dashes in and out of either Benares or Vaishnodevi, burning tax-payers’ money as if he is just taking a stroll from his bed-room to drawing room. The Veerashaiva swamijis, who are ready to jump into this any time, have become willing partners in this plot.

Confabulations are held in resort after resort, plans are afoot to unseat the CM by hook or crook.

Here are five key questions:

1) Why are sanctimonious BJP and RSS leaders tolerating such natak from its political actors in Karnataka, week after week, month after month?

2) Why is BJP president Nitin Gadkari putting up with such an audacious and brazen lust for power, giving room for suspicion?

3) Now there seems to be a plan to bring in Jagadish Shettar, a Lingayat, to replace D.V. Sadananda Gowda, a vokkaliga, becasue Yediyurappa cannot become CM immediately. How can the BJP make such casteist moves so openly?

4) Why is the central BJP allowing the authority of present chief minister to be so openly eroded?After all they nominated him for the post after all sorts of discussions and he is the elected leader of the legislature party.

5) Why are leaders like the former future prime minister of India L.K. Advani and the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley mum on the subject? Can they unseat a CM and replace him with another against whom cases are still pending, no matter how much he hankers for the post?

BJP will again become a laughing stock if they bring back Yediyurappa due to coercion, religious and caste politics.  The cases against him are still on and he has not been declared innocent. He is only out on bail.

Meanwhile, let the administration be damned in the State.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Will BJP win Karnataka again?

How BJP turned Karnataka politics into a cartoon

Raichur, malnutrition deaths and BJP ‘governance’

Yella OK, guru. Nanna makkalu is not learning

Why Karnataka nixed sex education proposal

12 February 2012

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: According to a statement by an official of United Nations children’s emergency fund, in April 2011, the Karnataka government prudishly turned down a UNICEF proposal to impart sex education to school students in classrooms.

While attending a state level consultation on ‘Adolescent children and their issues’, a senior UNICEF official was quoted as saying:

“We cannot shy away from reality. Adolescents around the world are engaging themselves in sexual relationships. They risk getting infected with HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, if they lack awareness. Moreover, girl children are at the risk of having unwanted pregnancies. In such a scenario, sex education should be mandatory.”

Maybe the Karnataka government were waiting for the right and experienced teachers to do the job.

Now that problem has been solved.

Three of D.V. Sadananda Gowda’s cabinet Ministers, the tech-savvy Lakshman Savadi, C.C. Patil and Krishna Palemar who were caught while watching a porn video on their mobile handsets while the legislative assembly session was going on and dismissed from Government, can be given the job.

They are eminently suitable to impart sex education and much more.

Now UNICEF should not have any complaints!

Also read: How the BJP turned Karnataka politics into a cartoon

Why news of the porn scam did not reach Athani

The porn film the BJP ministers should have watched

Who wants a 4-lane road to Chamundi Hills?

12 January 2012

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: The overzealous minister in charge of Mysore district, S.A. Ramdas, has announced that he wants to convert the road from Mysore leading upto Chamundi hills into a four-lane one—apart from constructing a shopping complex atop Mysore’s largset immovable asset.

This is the kind of announcement of “development works” that has the construction crowd all keyed up.

But….

But, the question to ask is: do we really need a four-lane road and a shopping complex atop the lovely hills?

As it is, there is no space for widening the road in Chamundi Hills. A four-lane road can only come if they cut into the hills (like they have in Bellary), level the place, and asphalt it. Still, that will not answer the question: Is there a need for it? Will it not destroy the ecological balance?

There are many botanical species that have existed for hundreds if not thousands of years on Chamundi hills. Further, the place is home to various species of birds and insects. They all play their part in maintaining the sanctity of the place and adding to its infinite beauty.

Moreover, there is the question of wildlife. The space for wild animals is being constantly encroached upon by human greed and avarice forcing them to come out in search of food. And Mysore has in the last couple of years, seen wild animals coming into the City and playing havoc, resulting in the loss of lives.

Do we want to get rid of all this in the name of a four-lane road?

And what purpose is it supposed to achieve: that we drive at Formula One speeds to pay homeage to Mahishasura?

The overzealous minister says there is also a plan for constructing a shopping complex at the hill.

Is there such a shortage of shopping arcades in Mysore City that we should set up one more in the sky? And, pray, who are these people who come to Chamundi hills, not to enjoy its beauty, not to partake in its divinity, but to swipe their cards and shop silly trinkets?

When space is at such a constraint on the hills, surely there is nothing unpatriotic in suggesting that the overzealous minister’s emphasis should be on maintaining the heritage value of the hills and the temple?

Before the ghastly plan materializes for which the efforts are already under way, surely there is also nothing unpatriotic in suggesting that the chief minister steps in, reviews the hare-brained idea with NGOs and environmental experts, and buries it six feet deep?

Photograph: Mounted police take a stroll on their horses atop Chamundi Hills (courtesy Shrinidhi Hande)

Also read: Should gods, godesses have caste identities?

When Chamundi betta moves to aamchi Mumbai

Chamundi hills hath no fury like a woman scorned

Why nimma Ajji is OK with world ending in 2012

31 December 2011

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Ajji was doing pooje at the Tulasi katte on the last Saturday of the year.

I was sitting nearby, what with a double attack of seasonsal chill and the Thane cyclone taking Mysore’s temperature down like the famed Indian batting against Aussie pace attack.

Ramoo, ee varsha mugeetha banthallo. Wonder what is in store for us next year.”

Ajji, it will be just like every year. Nothing will change. Each new year only makes us all older by a year.”

Alvo! Namma Software Savithramma was telling me that the world will end  on 21 December 2012. She is planning to see all her relatives before that. She is also planning to visit Benares. I am sure she will sell all her shares before embarking on her trip.”

Ajji! Some 5,000 years ago, the Mayan civilization had predicted that the world would end on 21 December 2012. Nobody knows how far it is true.”

“Well, 50 years ago our astrologers had predicted that the world would end in 1961 because eight major planets were all aligned in one line. They called it Ashta Graha Koota. Also, the year read the same even when it was read upside down.”

“What happened then?”

“Nothing much. It was busines as usual. We had some Chinese kaata after signing the Friendship Treaty which our prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru called ‘Hindi- Cheeni Bhai Bhai’. Cheeeni means sugar but it was a bitter experience like bevu. When they attacked us, our soldiers came running back. It seems they didn’t have proper bullets to shoot with. The defence ministry was apparently making lipsticks instead of bullets in its ordnance factories! I don’t know how far it was true but our soldiers did not have shoes to fight a war in ice and snow. But nothing seems to have changed 50 years later. I understand even now our policemen have bulletproof jackets as thick as happala.”

“That’s very true Ajji. By the way, how did it start Ajji, the Chinese war?”

“I don’t exactly remember. Their goats came to eat grass on our side. When our soldiers objected the Chinese shot some of our soldiers. When there was a furore in Parliament, Nehru told members that Akshay Chin was a useless piece of land as not even a blade of grass grows there. It seems Acharya Kripalani asked the PM whether he should cut his head as he had become bald.”

Ha ha ha. Olle saraku ittddiya neenu. Paravagilla!”

“But what is it that I see in Lok Sabha now? In the name of Lokpal Bill, they are conducting a shouting match every day and night. Some MP came and tore a copy of the bill.”

“That was very shameful.”

“I thought he was going to eat the papers. There was one fellow who was shouting at the top of his voice.  First I thought half a dozen members were speaking simultaneously. Then I realized it belonged to the minister, Narayanaswamy! A.R. Rahman can use him for chorus songs in Tamil films and save money.”

Ajji, what do you think will happen in Karnataka?”

“I think they have started Yadavi kalaha. They will all kill each other. Everybody is stabbing one another in the back.”

“What will happen at the Centre, Ajji?”

Saaku nilliso Ramoo, I am not Kodi matada swami to make predictions! Our politics will hit new low. But it does not matter at all.”

“Does not matter? Why Ajji?”

“It is far better if the world ends in December 2012.  We don’t have to read about daily processions of our ministers to Parappana Agrahara jail; dynasty politics in the name of democracy; clerks and officials who become crooks to loot crores of illegal money; illegal money converted into diamond kirita for Tirupati Thimmappa. Isn’t it better the whole thing ends just like that?”

Nija, Ajji. Noorakke nooru nija,” I agreed.

Ask not what your leaders have done for you…

15 December 2011

With the year drawing to a close and Christmas close at hand, E.R. RAMACHANDRAN is in an expansive mood, compiling a list of gifts that he would like to give out to our various performing and non-performing assets.

1. Asif Zardari: A permanent hospital room in Dubai

2. Imran Khan: A Pakistani political pitch to bowl on

3. BJP leaders in Karnataka: Sites in Bangalore + a room in Parappana Agrahara

4. Jayalalitha: A set of 10,000 sample questions for practice

5. Rahul Gandhi:  ‘India is UP, UP is India’ T-shirt

6. Sharad Pawar: Protective cover for the other cheek

7. Team Anna: ‘Scams within’ report

8. Virender Sehwag: Indore pitch

9. Mamata Banerjee: Fireproof hospital (scale model)

10. Anna Hazare: Jantar Mantar for fasting

11. P. Chidambaram: A pocket map of Tihar

12. Manmohan Singh: A mike

13. Sonia Gandhi: Calendar with a red marker

14. Subramanian Swamy: Permanent room in  Supreme Court

15. Kapil Sibal: Facebook without faces

16. Sachin Tendulkar: 100 centuries of 90s

17. L.K. Advani: Hidden agenda

What gifts would you like to give your favourite performing and non-performing assets, for services rendered or denied in the year gone by?

Check out what ERR gave in 2008: Gifts for some one you love and don’t

Raichur malnutrition deaths & BJP ‘governance’

27 October 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aha, that explains everything.

Graphics: courtesy Mail Today and Frontline

External reading: Hard to follow

Gandhi’s Dandi march to Yedi’s Danda march

16 October 2011

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

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

Konegoo Yediyurappanna arrest maadidrallo!”

Howdajji.”

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

“That’s right, Ajji.”

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

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

“Chief minister ninda thief minister aago haage aaythallo.”

Howdajji.”

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

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

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

Howda, Ajji?”

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

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

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

Howdajji.”

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

Howdajji.”

Uddharavaaythu!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What one Yuvraj can learn from the other Yuvraj

17 May 2011

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: In the second decade of the 21st century, India has two Yuvrajs trying to lord over all they survey.

***

The first Yuvraj is on the cricket field: Yuvraj Singh.

A brilliant fielder at cover-point and a batsman who can hit the leather off a cricket ball at will, he is every captain’s dream colleague.

This Yuvraj is a teen prodigy who came good despite a stormy upbringing: His partnership with Mohammed Kaif when India chased down England’s 326  to win the NatWest series, after being  147  for 5, is part of Indian one-day cricket folklore, second only to the win at 1983; make that third only to the World Cup win in 2011.

When he hit six sixes off a hapless Stuart Broad over  in a Twenty20 match in 2007, even  his critics had to sit up and say “wow”.

“Critics”, because Yuvraj Singh was not having the same success in Test match cricket. A nervous starter, he was vulnerable against both the short-pitched ball and the turning ball in the early part of an innings. Eventually he lost his place in the Test team to Suresh Raina.

To add to his woes, he was injury-prone, lost the vice-captaincy of ODI team, became overweight,  and  somewhat overbearing. He began making news off the field, even going after a pesky spectator who called him a ‘water boy’ because he was in the game only as a twelfth man.

From such a precarious down-in-the-dumps position, Yuvraj Singh rose like a Phoenix in the just-concluded World Cup. He worked hard on his fitness, lost weight and became the original mean and hungry looking man, batting and fielding like a man possessed.

He even sharpened his spin bowling to such a nagging length that he was difficult to score off and took  more wickets than the main spinner in the team, Harbhajan Singh. He was adjudged ‘man of the match’ four times, eventually being declared the most valuable player of the tournament when in the finals he took important wickets and stayed with his captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni to fetch India a famous victory after 28 years.

This is our first Yuvraj, who, despite a stormy childhood at the hands of his father Yograj Singh, started as a precocious talent, went into the doldrums and a period of uncertainty but bounced back and delivered when it mattered most and fulfilled his promise.

His aura is now firmly back.

The “water boy”, Clive Lloyd said, “was drinking from the fountain’.

***

Our other Yuvraj also plays in white, but in a different field: politics.

Quite unlike the other Yuvraj, Rahul Gandhi burst on to the scene with a “home” advantage.

He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. His bloodline was impeccable. His parents were happily married. Being the son of the most powerful and influential Congressman, Sonia Gandhi, he didn’t have to work his way up into the “team”. He was captain material from the day he entered the park.

The crown prince: if not Royalty itself, he was the closest to Royalty in a democratic context.

With his great grandfather (Jawaharlal Nehru), his grandmother (Indira Gandhi) and his father (Rajiv Gandhi) having all been prime ministers, the trajectory was clear for this Yuvraj from the day his mother heard her “inner voice”. Congressmen openly admit this Yuvraj has to only choose the time and day when he would like to become PM and the incumbent will readily make way.

This Yuvraj doesn’t have to bother about critics who criticise him, because they don’t.

This Yuvraj’s teammates doesn’t have to bother about the taunts of rivals and teammates, because they don’t.

This Yuvraj doesn’t have to bother about spectators who make fun of him, because they can’t get close to him.

Sure, he works hard like the other Yuvraj, travelling extensively in his continuing ‘Discovery of India’, campaigning in constituency after constituency. He even tries to get down from his ivory-tower SUV and mingle with the aam janata especially the young. And, he hasn’t shown any undue haste to become prime minister.

Sure, he says the kind of things people like to hear. He says he is against the pomp which most Congressmen fall prey to such as  motorcycle outriders and the “lal batthi” (red-light) syndrome. He admits that he had it easy but wants to democratise the party to allow youngsters to enter politics.

Still, success eludes this Yuvraj unlike the other Yuvraj.

Except for the childlike enthusiasm of the ‘Amul Baby’, the nation doesn’t know where he stands on the key issues of the day. Be it talking about “Kalavathy” or joining protesting farmers, the only arrow in his quiver seems to be symbolism.

His stand on substantial issues like Maoism, poverty, inflation, terrorism, etc, are unknown.

He holds on to his two-nation theory of India as if no other thought passes between his ears.

Worse, he has  exhibited a  penchant to put his foot in the mouth that exposes his limited knowledge of the Indian political system and the freedom struggle. His statement that ‘his family had made sacrifices’ to the country was met with strong criticism, perhaps deservedly so. The WikiLeaks cable that showed that he felt the growth of radicalised Hindu groups posed a greater threat to Indian security than Islamic terror groups, evoked guffaws.

So far, this Yuvraj hasn’t done anything spectacular to show that he has it in him to lead the nation despite the red carpet laid out for him. Indeed, if he was the other Yuvraj he would have been dropped from the team.

If this Yuvraj doesn’t come up with the numbers, doesn’t show leadership qualities soon, his ascendency to the throne will be regarded as a pure dynastic ritual rather than as any achievement that propelled him to that exalted position.

Whereas the cricketing Yuvraj changed his work ethic for the better which got him handsome rewards, the politicking Yuvraj is still only gardening the pitch, after taking guard nearly a decade ago.

Surely, it is time the crown prince Yuvraj took a leaf out of the commoner Yuvraj and belted some sixes and announced himself in the IPL—the Indian Political League.

Else, “We, the People” will be entitled to ask, why and not why not.

***

Photograph: Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi watching the 2011 World Cup semifinals between India and Pakistan in Mohali (courtesy PTI via The Times of India)

***

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Has Rahul Gandhi blown it?

What Amethi’s indices tell us about Rahul Gandhi

In one-horse race, Rahul Gandhi is a two-trick pony

‘Politics is about solving problems, not evading them’

‘Most opaque politicians in the democratic world’

Jesus, Mozart, Alexander and apun ka Rahul

A functioning anarchy? Or a feudal democracy?

Rahul Gandhi‘s ascension: a foregone conclusion?

One question I’m dying to ask Rahul Gandhi—Part I

One question I’m dying to ask Rahul Gandhi—Part II

Only question anyone should ask Rahul Gandhi

The Class Monitor and the High Ranking Bully

31 January 2011

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Once upon a time there was a Class Monitor. He had been appointed Class Monitor as the school teachers thought he was honest, sincere and hard-working.

His duties were to see that the chalk pieces and dusters were readily available in the class.  He was also supposed to wipe the black board clean and keep the classroom tidy. He was to be a role model for the other students in the class.

To help the Class Monitor in his work, the school had assigned some students to work with him. From time to time he would go to the office clerk to replenish the stocks.

In the beginning the Class Monitor was honest, sincere and hardworking. But after some time, he started taking his job lightly. He procured more chalk pieces than required from the school store and started distributing the extra pieces to his friends and family.

Since he was paying less and less attention in class and studying less and less at home, the Class Monitor donated some red-colored chalk pieces to temples hoping God would make him pass the exams and complete the term.

He was also not keeping the class tidy any more, and began distributing dusters of 2″x3″ and 2″x4″ size, mostly to his family members, brothers and sister. He also started distributing mops of 9″x9″  and 12″x12″ which were basically given to swab the classroom.

Soon, other boys in the school as well as the office clerk noticed that dusters and mops were missing, but since he was the Class Monitor, nobody dared complain against him.

Into this class, in the middle of the term, came a High Ranking Bully. The High Ranking Bully was related to the school governess. Since he had the support of the governess, the High Ranking Bully, started troubling the CM.

He started picking up fights with the Class Monitor on each and every issue. Some students whom he befriended informed the High Ranking Bully about the pilferage of chalk pieces, dusters and mops.

He started openly challenging the authority of the CM in the class. The Class Monitor took on the High Ranking Bully and they had several skirmishes rolling over each other in the classroom itself just before the teachers came to the classroom.

Even the teachers were afraid of the High Ranking Bully as the governess was very powerful. They were all afraid of her.

The High Ranking Bully complained to the office clerk about the missing dusters as well as chalks periodically given to the Class Monitor’s custody. When confronted, the Class Monitor justified his action saying all previous Class Monitors had done the same and he had not done anything different.

Amidst all this fight, the class started stinking as it was ages since the classroom was swept and washed. Cobwebs appeared in the corners. Teachers had to endure the stench that emanated from the classroom.

The Class Monitor’s only objective now was to somehow complete the term. The High Ranking Bully however was determined to have him dismissed bringing all his influence for the fight which looked like going to the finish.

There was, thus a stalemate.

Finally, the class mustered enough strength of its own. They had had enough of the Class Monitor and The High Ranking Bully. They decided their class was more important than both of them.

One day, they came with brooms, washing powder and water. They cleaned the class room thoroughly, removed the cobwebs and it was sparkling clean again. Finally, with their new broom they swept both the Class Monitor and the High Ranking Bully out of the classroom.

In a clean well-swept classroom, without the trouble- makers, the lessons now could start again.

A naataka mandali for the theatre of the absurd

23 January 2011

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: I bumped into yesteryear’s Ace Dramatist (AD) at the Ranga Shankara last night.

AD is an actor, playwright and producer who has seen better days. He even the played the role of a thief—kalla known as chor to Hindi audiences—in Gubbi Veeranna’s classic Sadaarame.

As we ordered coffee in the canteen I asked him how theatre was faring these days.

“Our company could survive talkie cinema, cricket, television, even the internet, but now we are being wiped out by another drama company from our own State.”

AD looked down and out.

“You now face extinction from one of your own? Et tu brute!” I sympathised.

AD continued: “You may say so, Ramanna. Ours is a small group of just 8 to 10 artistes. So we do multiple roles in a play, we squeeze ourselves in a small car and go around playing to small audiences in obscure corners of the State. It is hard life but we were eking out a living somehow. But with the entry of KaraNaama,  nobody will call us to stage plays anymore.”

KaraNaama? What is it? A new drama company?”

“Yes. KaraNaaMa is a short form of Karnataka Naataka Mandali. It’s a government company specialising in ‘theatre of the absurd’.”

“What do they do?”

“They do what their name says, naama haakodu, on the gullible public! They also stage plays.”

“How big is this troupe?”

KaraNaama has 224 members. They have a loudSpeaker and a speedGovernor, making the total 226.”

“This is the age of liberalisation, you must learn to face competition from market forces, kanaiah.”

Ayyo, Ramanna, KaraNaama is a huge company with bottomless resources. They have artistes for any role: drunkard, debaucher, broker, agent, killer. If they fall short of cash, they can create fictitious companies and make banks give them crores of rupees. They can play the role of politicians on a padayatra and dance on the street wearing goggles. They can play devout, religous roles. They can play incurable lovers.”

“Really?”

Some can even cry at the drop of a hand kerchief. Cauvery and Kabini are always ready to start streaming down their cheeks at a moment’s notice. Even Master Hirannaiah says he is nothing compared to these pros.”

“This is a big compliment. How do they travel?”

“They move around in A/C Volvo buses which their sponsors have donated for the cause of theatrics in the State.  Every now and then they go and stay in exotic resorts for days together and depending on the situation, kidnap their own members, threaten them and sometimes even auction themselves.”

“Don’t they fight when they travel? After all, 224 is a big number?”

“Yes, they do. Some of them even tear their shirts on stage. That’s where the loudSpeaker comes into operation. Through the loudSpeaker comes the voice repeating itself hoarse: ‘I say, keep quiet!’ or ‘Dayamaadi,dayamaadi, koothkoli’.

“What about the speedGovernor?”

Avankathe ne bere. The speedGovernor makes sure the bus stays within the prescribed speed limit but sometimes when the bus exceeds the speed limit, passengers and public hear words such as ‘Ulta chhor Kotwal ko daante!’ from the microphone attached to the speedGovernor.”

“Amazing.”

“The problem is, the troupe members are unable to see who is the Chor and who is the Kotwal. I understand the speedGovernor is gradually getting defective and needs either an overhaul or some tuning.”

“Ha, ha! Where has KaraNaama staged their plays so far?”

“To a wide variety of audiences actually. The bootleggers association of bewdaas. The illegal gold diggers’ association of Bellary. The benaami land holders’ association. When the attention flags, they manage to get the TV stations to simultaneously stage their plays”

“Which are their most famous plays?”

“They have reworked Hiranniah’s Lanchavatara. They have done an English play called The Last Resort. They have a Telugu bilingual called Reddygaaru-Cheddygaaru. They have a medico-criminal play called Nursoo-Purseoo.”

“With so many artistes don’t they fight among themselves.”

“Fight? They call each other loafers, liars, landgrabbers, they come to exchanging blows, they kidnap each other, they stand on their seats and tear their shirts etc. But when money is offered in crores they hug each other and declare their undying loyalty. Even the experts at NIMHANS can’t explain their behaviour.”

“That explains everything. Do the artistes have any personal ambition?”

“It seems they all aspire to become MLAs one day.”

“What about the loudSpeaker and the speedGovernor?”

“They are disposables. As the Speaker gets old  and cranky, they may sell it off and get a new one; when the speedGovernor loses control and goes crazy, her Boss will throw it and replace the same with a new one,” replied AD.

File photograph: Chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa after inaugurating a forest camp project at Sakrebylu in Shimoga district in July 2010 (Karnataka Photo News)

25 films that our 25 news makers must watch

3 January 2011

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: With 2010 now firmly in the past tense, here are 25 movies that have been carefully handpicked for the 25 most famous and notorious personalities of the year gone by:

***

1. B.S. Yediyurappa: Do bheega zameen

2. Manmohan Singh: Silence of the Lambs

3. A. Raja: Shree 420

4. Suresh Kalmadi: The Great Train Robbery/ Ocean’s XI

5. Sonia Gandhi: Chuppaa Rustum

6. V.V.S. Laxman: Mission Impossible

7. Reddy Brothers: SSLC nanna makkalu

8. Barkha Dutt: Chor machaaye shor

9. Vir Sanghvi: Bawarchi

10. Katta Subramanya Naidu: Makmal topi

11. Ratan Tata: Honour thy Father

12. Shobha Karandlaje: Chickpete Sachagalu

13. M. Karunanidhi: Naan avan illai

14. Rajesh and Nupur Talwar: Oru CBI Diary Kurippu

15. H.R. Bharadwaj: Aaptharakshaka

16. Hartaalu Halappa: Rama Shama Bhama

17. Deve Gowda & Sons: The Sicilian Clan

18. Sharad Pawar: The Onion Field

19. Omar Abdullah: Mujhe jeene do

20. Bal and Aditya Thackeray: Two of a kind

21. Digvijay Singh: Mad Max

22. Shashi Tharoor: Dubai Seenu

23. Niira Radia: Dial M for Murder / The Matrix

24. Ashok Chavan: The Apartment

25. Rahul Gandhi: Waiting for the Moon

***

Which film will you recommend for your favourite personality?

Good morning, here’s the news you didn’t hear

29 November 2010

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN says: Hello and welcome to ‘Corruption Matters! Channel’.

Here’s the news read by Ghoos Bhai Ghoos.

First, the headlines:

# The telecom scandal of Rs 175,000 crore has now crossed Rs 575,000 crore.

# Bangaloreans will have to vacate their homes as the entire City will be denotified.

# India has requested Commonwealth countries to award CWG on a permanent basis to Delhi.

# ‘Parama Adarsh’ complex is to come up opposite Parliament House for freedom fighters.

# And, as usual, sports, business and weather.

Now, the news in detail:

# Reliable sources have told CM!C that the 2G spectrum allocation scam involving A. Raja has swelled to Rs 575,000 crore thanks to the disruptions and non-functioning of Parliament over the last 15 days. The figure, computed and released by CAG last night, was immediately disputed by the national council for unclean public life (NCUPL).

NCUPL feels various ministries and departments have colluded with DoT and TRAI to present a “less than accurate” picture. NCPL estimates the figure should be more than Rs 875,000 crore. Going by the now accepted worldwide industry norms (one spectrum Raja = Rs 175,000 crore), this works to more than 7 spectrum Rajas.

# Moving on, at the rate at which way Bangalore is being denotified, most citizens, except Cabinet ministers and their near and nearer ones, will have to leave the City soon.

The move will affect the IT industry and the Bangalore international airport in particular. The denotification ministry of Karnataka government (DEMI-K) has already issued notices to IT companies to vacate their land. The BIAL will be shortly moving across to Hosur in Tamil Nadu to fly their planes.

Meanwhile, some well-known ministers along with hitherto unheard-of mining companies have floated a joint sector company, ‘Just Grab’, to arrange to and fro transport to passengers at ‘Hosur Kalaignar Airport.’ Passengers will have the choice of air-taxi, air-bus, plain bus to reach airport arranged by JG.

It’s reliably learnt JG has applied for a loan for Rs 500 crore for this project which was sanctioned last month itself. Cheques have already been deposited in specific accounts to speed up matters. This project was cleared with no windows but only a small hole under the table but big enough to push a hand through.

# Commonwealth countries are said to be reacting positively to India plea that all future games, including the opening and closing ceremonies, be held in Delhi. This which will keep the chairman of the organizing committee and various agencies such as NDMC, CPWD, Delhi Metro etc fully occupied till kingdom come.

Your channel has learnt that IOA has specifically requested permission to organize each and every “Queen’s baton exchange programme” as it has acquired sufficient expertise in handling procurement of queen-size toilet papers,  umbrellas and organizing  taxi–service .

# Good news for freedom fighters across the country. A new complex, Parama Adarsh, is being planned bang opposite Parliament House in Delhi  A 62- storey building comprising 552 flats, malls, swimmimg pools, seminar hall, spa, yoga and astrology centres, and tennis courts will come up in the sprawling complex to commemorate 62 years of freedom.

The complex will be built by a conglomerate of builders who will raise loan from LIC housing finance for Rs 1,000 crore. Earnest efforts are underway to trace the freedom fighters.

# And in sports. In a surprise move, both IOA and BCCI have come together. The IOA which has enormous experience in organizing CWG will join hands with BCCI in organizing future auctions to select IPL Teams. IOA will also handle publicity in print and electronic media, Bollywood, fashion shows, etc, for BCCI.

And finally, business news and the weather.

The rupee held its own against the onslaught of brokers trying to sell benami sites, and to form quick and fictitious joint-ownership companies.

The weather continues to be bright and cheerful all over India for denotification, housing allotment, housing loan, telecom allocation, and other scams.

We will be back with more news in an hour, or as and when it breaks.

Do Yeddi & Co have no trust in State temples?

13 September 2010

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Ajji flung the Vishwa Karnataka paper she was reading.

Yenayithu Ajji! Bel-beliggene mood-offu?” I said.

Ideno anyaya! Has the Karnataka government started operating from Shaneeshvara temples in Tamil Nadu or what?”

Ajji sounded the same way Sonia Gandhi did when she asked Manmohan Singh whether he had decided to sell off all the fertile lands to industry to reach 9% growth.”

“Why do you say that, Ajji?”

Ilvo!Whenever they are in trouble due to their illegal and covert operations for personal gains, our BJP ministers either take shelter at Shaneeshvara temples or in the ICU of hospitals.”

Sankata bandaaga Venkataramana, illa aaspathrege sharanu. Who is the latest, Ajji?”

Namma medical education minister Ramachandre Gowdru was taking asylum in Shaneeshwara temples in Tamil Nadu even as the High Court was passing strictures against his role in appointments to medical colleges. It won’t be easy for him to escape. Kashi-ge hodru shani-kaata thappiddalla. Even Shaneeshwara can’t save him from the courts. That’s why he has had to resign.”

“Our CM too every now and then goes away to Tamil Nadu to escape from the Reddys.”

Howdappa! Namma CM often runs away to Shaneeshwara temple in Karaikkal, Surya temple in Kumbakonam, Vaideeshwaran koil in Nagapattinam making handsome donations from the taxpayers’ pocket each time he visits these temples. Alvo! Can’t he donate some of his largesse to beggar homes as they are truly darida Narayanaru? Basavanna, the philosopher and spiritual leader whom our CM quotes every now and then, said, ‘ಉಳ್ಳವರು ಶಿವಾಲಯ ಮಾಡುವರು ನಾನೇನು ಮಾಡಲಿ  ಬಡವನಯ್ಯಾ?’ (The rich build temples what can I do, a poor man?). When will our leaders at least learn to see gods in the poor instead of shedding copious crocodile tears?”

“He is trying to ward off evil stars and is scared he will lose CM gaddi, Ajji.”

“He donates crores to Devanatha swamy temple in Cuddalore, an elephant to the Rajarajeshwari temple in Kannur in Kerala. Day in day out they lecture about Krishna-Kuchela friendship? Can’t our politicians ease the sufferings of beggars, destitutes and flood -affected and spend the public money for the welfare of needy in the State?”

Ajji! Our CM is also taking responsibility on himself follies of his colleagues like Hartalu Halappa.”

“You can call him Hospital Halappa or ICU Halappa! When he was accused of rape, he got himself admitted into an   ICU. Ramu, doesn’t bachcha in Hindi mean a kid? Is that the reason why minister Bachche Gowda likes playing kalla-police chasing somebody or the other in his car and slapping them in public? And then we have Krishniah Shettru who brought Ganga jal in tankers and distributed it to devotees in temples in Karnataka even as he was involved in land scams, a balancing act of paapa and punya! Quite a bunch of characters the CM has assembled in his cabinet from where skeletons often come out rattling!”

“Ajji!”

“One of his colleagues in charge of the ‘begging eradication programme’, almost succeeded eradicating beggars from the face of Bangalore in a period of a fortnight!”

“Ajji!”

Alvo! Can’t our CM oversee the performance of his ministers? He seems to wake up only when scams come tumbling one after the other. The remedy he resorts to is either a quick-fix apology on behalf of the minister or shedding tears for the benefit of TV cameras. If both these fail he dashes to temples in Tamil Nadu spraying huge donations. How can we have clean good governance if either we have suspects who are plain looting the State through mining or land scams or otherwise busy with street fights and doing gangajal prokshane on the masses?”

***

Photograph: Chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa with then minister Shobha Karandlaje in tow, taking part in the nadayiruthal ritual in connection with his offering of an elephant to a temple to the Rajarajewara temple at Taliparamba in Kannur in 2008. Medical education minister Ramachandre Gowda is in the centre. (courtesy: The Hindu)

Also read: Do our gods sanction our politicians’ silly games?

What our stars foretell for our Avivekanandas

Is Janardhana seve Janata seve in Kumaraswamy book?

How Suma didn’t let her eyes block her vision

24 February 2008

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: As she ran along the pathway in the Glass House of Lalbagh, Suma was joy personified. Her eyes glistened as she chased the butterflies swirling in the morning sun. Sudhir and Sushila had taken their three-year-old daughter on a picnic before Sudhir, an officer in the merchant navy, would sail again.

That night, though, Suma fell ill. Probably the early-morning breeze, thought Sushila, but her temperature wouldn’t come down. Suma kept rubbing her eyes as she felt itchy.

The following morning they took her to the Agarwal Eye Hospital. Within an hour, the doctors diagnosed it as Retino Blastoma—cancer of the eye. Within minutes, the young couple heard the bad news: they would have to remove Suma’s left eye.

Is this really happening to us, wondered Sushila, as she saw her young daughter’s face swathed in bandage.

The doctors also suggested that if possible Suma should be taken abroad immediately for treatment so that the infection didn’t spread to the other eye. An ophthalmic research institute in Frankfurt was doing pioneering research on preventive aspects of infection. After hectic calls to Sushila’s cousin Vimala in Germany, the family boarded the flight to Frankfurt.

“Just in time,” was the reaction of doctors who made sure the infection wouldn’t spread. But a day prior to their departure to Bombay, tragedy struck again; Suma’s surviving eye became itchy and doctors asked Sudhir and Sushila to sign the papers to remove her right eye. They also removed the optical nerve to save the child’s life.

A gale had hit a small boat sailing in serene waters. In just two weeks, life had turned topsy-turvy for Sudhir and Sushila. The apple of their eye, born normal, had lost her sight in front of their eyes.

***

The initial years were hellish for Sushila. With Sudhir away for long periods, she had to combat the terrible fate that had befallen them on her own. A bright, chirpy Suma had turned into a lifeless object staring into dark vacant space.

Instead of indulging in self-pity, Sushila decided to face the world with all the courage she could muster. She was determined not to send Suma to a blind school. She got her admitted to a Mahila Seva Samaja. “We will bring up her up as normally as possible,” she would tell Sudhir who marveled at his wife’s fighting spirit.

Suma turned out to be a bright kid; she could grasp lessons quickly. Sushila would read her stories and made her repeat the same. Radio became her friend and later, a trusted ally. She listened avidly to the programmes on BBC for hours and learnt to differentiate the newsreaders through their voice.

It’s a nightmare for blind students taking public exams. Sushila had to go all over the town to get ‘writers’ who would write out the answer papers dictated by her visually challenged daughter. There were times when, with just couple of days to go for an exam, she was still frantically searching for writers.

Suma did her class X and got a first class in her BSc.

When she wanted to study management, Sudhir wanted her to join the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Bombay and stay at his sister’s place. But Suma had secured admission to a school in Surrey, England. “Please spend the money on my studies which you would have otherwise incurred on my marriage,” she pleaded with her tearful parents.

Finally Suma went to England. For someone who had not stepped out of her house without an escort, she changed planes and landed at her college all by herself.

Her roommate was Maria, a West Indian. During weekend breaks, she went to Frankfurt to meet her aunt, alone.

She called BBC and reminisced about their earlier newscasters and mimicked their style of reading news. They were so delighted they called her over to Bush House for tea and asked her to participate in a talk show.

***

Sudhir, having retired from service, often worried about Suma’s future. In three months their daughter would be back. Then what? How would she find life here after studies are over, he wondered.

***

One day, when their TV went blank, Suma and Maria called the TV repair service. A bright young man came and found some components had conked out. He brought the parts and repaired the set. The girls thanked him and invited him to have their afternoon tea with them. Next day he came again and serviced their radio set free of charge.

John Beachcom ran a modest business of an electronic repair service in and around Surrey.

The girls once invited him for lunch at the canteen but decided to cook in their room itself. John joined them in cooking and it turned out he was a better cook than the girls!

The girls graduated with first class and celebrated with John joining them.

When John proposed to Suma that evening, she was speechless. Maria, to whom John had earlier confided his liking for Suma, urged her to consider his proposal. Suma wanted John to talk to Sushila and Sudhir and take their approval first.

Suma bade goodbye to Maria, John and England, and returned to Bangalore alone.

The marriage took place in Jayanagar. John’s mother Michelle, his aunt Clara, and Maria came with John sporting a Mysore peta at the brief wedding ceremony.

For sometime Suma worked in a management firm in Surrey with a guide dog, a golden retriever, accompanying her. Now Suma and John have two children, both boys, Shankar and Chris. Sudhir and Sushila visited them and spent some time in their new house. John has expanded his business into computers. The family came to Mysore for a brief visit last year.

As the kids created havoc at the childrens’ corner at Cheluvamba Park, I could see their mother smile through her eyes.

Also read: The spirit of Subbanna that Bhattru couldn’t stifle

What Seetamma’s son could teach our netas

Once upon a time, when doctors were like angels

2 February 2008

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: I was once treated by a doctor who was a ‘Gold Medalist’, a fact which was emblazoned after her name on the signboard outside her door.

She first treated me for malaria, which on its own or due to the doctor’s medicine soon turned to typhoid. After two weeks of various medicines, visiting gastro-enteritis and pneumonia on the way, both the doctor and the patient were nearing the edge of (her) knowledge bank and (my) existence.

The reputation of the gold medal was fast turning into silver and bronze.

It was around that time, somebody asked me to see Dr Mitra (name changed), a rare doctor in Delhi who most of the times never behaved like one. As I staggered into his clinic when my name was called, I found a youngish sort of man smoking in between large helpings of elaichi and diamond sugar bits.

Before my wife could finish my case history, he beckoned me to come out in the open and I followed him. Amidst the throng of patients waiting to see him, he asked me to gaze at the sunlight first and follow his fingers which kept moving sideways. He quickly went back to his room.

As we ran after him, he pronounced: “It’s jaundice. Throw away all the medicines. Bed rest for two weeks; only pathli dal and double-cooked kichdi. Next!”

We settled his bill and came out. How right he was!

Dr Mitra soon became our ‘family’ doctor and gradually, a friend. Once I went to him with a heavy cold and sour throat. He said, between puffs: “Salt water. Gargle thrice a day. No smoking till this stops!” I asked him, “How come you are smoking, doctor?” Quick came the repartee, “Who is having a problem? You or me?”

Whenever my wife and I would visit him, his first question would be, “Who is sick now?”

Once, when we were near his clinic, we felt like saying hello to him. We waited for our turn and when he threw his usual who-is-sick-now glance, we told him we had just walked in to say hello. He laughed heartily, “Looks like both of you are sick this time!”

When we invited him to come for dinner the following Saturday with his wife, he was surprised but agreed. He came in a suit with his wife, had a beer before dinner and gave a beautiful exposition the architecture of various Delhi heritage buildings! Otherwise laconic, he could talk of cricket for hours keeping the syringe in his hand much to the relief of the patient!

Once when we met him at a party, he was holding forth on the Emergency that had been clamped then, with a motley crowd gathered around him. When I asked him, “Long time, no see Dr Mitra,” he shouted back, “It’s fine. Keep it that way!”

While he was examining a patient, a persistent call from a big wig irked him no end: “Listen! I can’t drop my patients and come to see you. Just hop in to your car and come over. I will see you as soon as you are here. You won’t die! I will take the responsibility, if anything happens on the way.”

After a couple of years, I visited Dr Mitra with my colleague, who had two children and the elder of the two was mentally challenged. The family was going through tough times, unable to come to terms with the situation. Dr Mitra asked me to bring them home.

After spending some time with the family, he asked his wife to take care of the family while he sat with my friend and me.

He said: “Vijay, don’t feel bad if one of your children is mentally challenged. There is nothing you could have done about his birth. These are God’s ways of testing us. You can do one of the two things. Go and leave the elder child quietly somewhere in a forest and come back. Your problems due to the elder one will disappear forever. Your second son will grow normally and will do well. The other thing you can do is to accept the reality and bring them up. Dono, dilpe pathhar rakh kar karna hoga. May be one day the younger fellow will understand and he will protect his elder brother and will be a support to the entire family. You do your best and Bhagavan pe bharosa rakho. The choice is yours.”

The doctor refused any fee, and my friend was happy that he had sought Dr Mitra’s advice. The family went home a happier unit.

As I bid goodbye to the doctor, I thanked him profusely for the encouragement he had given. Dr Mitra just smiled and told me, “It’s nothing yaar. I am a doctor, na?”

As we passed a bedroom to go out, he showed his two children playing with a toy.

The elder one was mentally challenged.

Use technology to slow down the finger of death

19 January 2008

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Much has been said about the umpiring by Steve Bucknor and Mark Benson in the Sydney Test that tilted the balance against India. But what about Perth?

Are we going to hang Asad Rauf for his decisions against Sachin Tendulkar and Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the first innings? Are the Australians going to cry like babies and demand a change of umpires for the fourth Test because of the decisions against Michael Hussey and Andrew Symonds today?

Put another way, are some umpires really biased, as we would like to believe? Does the Umpire Strike Back?

The answer, at the risk of becoming unpopular, has to be a firm ‘No’.

Were Dickie Bird and David Shepherd always biased when they ruled in favour of England? Is Simon Tauffel? Rudi Koertzen? Did these gentlemen give “favourable” decisions for their countries/teams, before the “neutral” umpires system came about? When they were not biased even when they stood when their countries played, there is no way they could be accused of being biased now when they stand as neutral umpires.

With bias removed from the realm of possibilities for wrong decisions, what then could be other reasons?

Incompetence? May be.

But let’s look at the amount of time that the umpires have at their disposal to make the decisions, which we then lazily criticise in the comfort of our drawing rooms as the TV stations show gazillion replays.

1) The umpire has to look out for the “no-ball” (front-foot rule), which means he has to keep looking down at the crease almost to the point of release of ball by the bowler. Then, he must look up, 2) assess the line, 3) length and 4) height for LBW decisions. After this, 5) he must make sure if there was a tickle, and 6) whether the ball hit the bat first or the pad. Then, as the ball travels to the wicket keeper, 7) was the ball off the leg-pad or 8) arm guard, or 9) off the gloves, and finally 10) was the catch taken “cleanly”.

Question: how many times would you, yes you, go wrong if you were expected to do that 90 overs—540 balls—a day?

Imagine how the timeframe gets contracted when a spinner is in operation and there are bat-pad decisions to be made, not to speak of a bump catch! All this in a total of few seconds from the time the bowler is ready to bowl and to the time wicketkeeper appeals for a CBW. Amidst all this, they have to make sure they count 6 balls in the over correctly, and as Billy Bowden showed in Perth it is easy to think five is six, and sometimes seven.

Whoever talks of multi-tasking hasn’t met a Test match umpire!

So why do their decisions appear increasingly horrendous nowadays?

Answer: television and slow motion technology.

Technology has made each one of us a bean-bag Bird. In days long past, a scorer would run to the ground and get a clarification from the umpire as to whether he had adjudged a batsman LBW or caught behind the stumps because the appeal was for both. The spectators watching the match would not even know the decision until they saw the newspapers the next day. This happened to S. Venkataraghavan himself as a player in a Bombay Test.

When Devraj Puri (Narottam Puri‘s father) the All India Radio commentator questioned the supposedly poor umpiring in a 196os Test agaisnt Australia, the spectators listening to the commentary on their small transistor radio sets in the North Stand of the Brabourne Stadium set fire to the stand! It was this incident that prompted the textile executive-cum-cricket writer Arvind Lavakare to propose that TV be used to help umpires.

It took the ICC 25 years to act on that piece of advice. However, television technology, instead of being used as a boon to the umpire has become his bugbear.

The nitwits in the ICC and the networks are using it to expose the umpire in all his decisions be it a no-ball, an LBW or catches taken behind the wickets or catches taken in the slip cordon or anywhere that involves diving to see if it is a ‘clean’ catch. The mistakes of an umpire are scrutinised, analysed ad nauseam by the ‘expert’.

ICC must get technology in to assist the umpires. It must not let player talk of umpires’ mistakes evening out—you win some, you lose some.

Secondly, when the prima donnas of the game are playing, the umpires appear genuinely scared. Watch their body language. They don’t want to displease them. Most of their LBW decisions come when they face a Glenn McGrath or a Shane Warne appeal. But these are no appeals; they are “demands” made with a swirl of the body, eyes glowering at them for 5 to 15 seconds.

It’s as if the umpires are up against a snarling Great Dane or a German Shepherd; one false move and they could be gone!

The umpires are made to feel foolish if they turn down these ferocious appeals. The umpires literally cower under their glare and give decisions. They may look psychologically silly when they turn down the appeals from prima donnas, and would rather be happy to uphold those appeals and be a happy pal among the greats.

Sunil Gavaskar, at the end of second Test in Sydney, admitted as much that Bombay invariably got decisions in their favour whenever they appealed during Ranji Trophy matches as compared to their opponents.

Don’t be surprised, therefore, if an umpire declines to give Sachin Tendulkar LBW for less than 10 in a Ranji Trophy match against a non-Test bowler, say, from Saurashtra or Assam, even if he is out. The umpire might have to face ridicule from everybody. There may be one or two umpires who might, but by and large, statistically, the proportion of umpires willing to take on prima donnas is less than 10%.

It’s like the old story of W.G. Grace being given out early in the innings, only for the umpire to be told by Grace: “The spectators have come to see me bat, not to see you umpire!”

So, what‘s the best solution to minimize the errors/ blunders/ forcible decisions?

Do not differentiate between on-field umpires and the third umpire: They should be made to work as a unit and and as a rule they should consult as a group and give a decision. In a game of over 7 hours of play per day, there is no need to give split-second decisions, especially with so much at stake: personal achievement, commercial interest, and national pride.

To expect split-second decisions which are always accurate is preposterous, even inhuman, considering that a batsman sitting warmly in the pavilion is given two minutes to arrive at the crease, considering that it takes at least a minute to change ends and reset the field after each over.

In the interest of securing “correct” decisions, any umpire of the trio could disagree, especially the third umpire who has the benefit of technology, and in consultation of all the three, the decision should be handed over. All decisions should only be conveyed by the third umpire through “Out” and “Not Out” displayed on the big screen.

ICC should not fall for the dubious claims of time wastage: Cricketers like Geoffrey Boycott now carp about time being wasted by umpires and television replays while wearing the commentator’s hat. ICC should ignore this. In-stadium spectators who can barely catch all the action will not mind the delay through repeated replays if it can secure a flaw-free game.

The TV companies also won’t mind this delay, they can use the time to show a few more commercials.

If an umpire misses a no-ball, which the third umpire must keep an eye out for, in the interest and correctness of the game, he could intervene and reverse the decision. This would be very useful in situations when the batsman gets out (or given out) only to find the replay showing a no-ball. The third umpire, after discussing with his colleagues, can reverse a decision collectively.

The Third umpire should not be a ‘local’ umpire, but must be from the ICC elite panel of umpires. When we have, say, Aleem Dar, Billy Bowden and Simon Taufel as three umpires for a Test, there would be fewer mistakes.

ICC can easily increase the panel of umpires as it is no more a matter of a decision to be given in a tearing hurry by a great umpire. The team of umpires with expertise, experience and technology in hand will make a decision which will be far more accurate with facts and replays helping them in the decision.

If required the three elite umpires can work in shifts on the field, so that the responsibilities are shared without any of the three overly exerting himself.

In fact, mistakes would be eliminated as you have “empowered” the umpires by giving them the technology. They will be on a par with the “experts” and the TV audiences, as they watch the same video and take a decision. Now, umpires make their decisions in few milliseconds, and the experts watch it from all angles for around 15 minutes to condemn the umpires. The spectators watch that for days and make a decision whose effigies have to be burnt.

The prima donnas will feel the heat and cool down considerably. Decisions will be taken without haste; if need be the third umpire can come to the field with a hand-held monitor and show it to his colleagues and then take a ‘collective’ decision. No umpire will be vulnerable or a target of mob fury as any decision is a result of combined thinking.

The umpires can also wear microphones of military specs on them which will pick up whatever happens on the playing square. This will make lot of Australians ‘shut up’ and incidents like Symonds-Harbhajan will be a thing of the past.

When every new technology eventually becomes part of life making it easier, why should technology not be given to the umpires which would help them to take correct decisions? With increasing commercialization , wrong decisions during critical stage of a match can indeed take the game away which is neither good for the sides playing the game, nor for the game and finally not for the paying spectator.

Even the great Don Bradman blamed Darell Hair for starting the “distasteful” controversy over the bowling action of Muthiah Muralidharan in 1995-1996. Bradman wrote: “It was technically impossible for Umpire Hair to call from the bowler’s end even once. I believe Hair’s action in one over took the development of world cricket back by ten years.”

We are at a similar doorstep now. It’s time technology plays an important role in modern cricket to help the umpires rather than watch the playback in super slo-mo to ridicule and hang them at leisure in the comfort of our drawing rooms.

Photograph: courtesy Weather Vanes


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