Posts Tagged ‘Star of Mysore’

When an Editor salutes a politician, it’s news

7 April 2014

Star of Mysore editor-in-chief K.B. Ganapathy (right) with the politician H.S. Shankaralinge Gowda, who passed away yesterday

Star of Mysore editor-in-chief K.B. Ganapathy (right) with the politician H.S. Shankaralinge Gowda, who passed away yesterday

The relationship between politicians and journalists is usually an after-dark activity in India, with neither participant ready or willing to put the other’s involvement on the record.

Wise heads in politics will counsel newcomers against getting too close to journalists, because, well, you never know when the snake could discover its fangs.

Grey beards in journalism will lament such proximity, because, well, it could harm the holy grail of our profession that textbooks say exists—”objectivity”.

K.B. Ganapathy, the editor-in-chief of the evening daily Star of Mysore, swerves off the beaten track to pay a heart-warming tribute to the three-time BJP MLA in Karnataka, the former mayor of Mysore, H.S. Shankaralinge Gowda, who passed away yesterday.

***

By K.B. GANAPATHY

It was 1979; Star of Mysore was into its second year of publication from its office in Saraswathipuram near Kamakshi Hospital.

One afternoon, a young, lean, tall man, neatly dressed with his shirt tucked into his pants held in by a leather belt, wearing specs with thin plastic frame, came to my desk hesitantly wanting to discuss an incident to be published.

He was an angry young man. There was clarity in his speech and honesty in his voice.

The officer in charge of issuing cement permits in those days of scarcity and license-permit Raj at the divisional commissioner’s office was partial and corrupt, he said and wanted the paper to expose him.

He had come to me after creating a scene at the office with the support of the disappointed permit-seekers. I grabbed the opportunity and published the story with his picture.

Lo and behold, a leader was made.

Having been a journalist in Bombay, I knew every leader would have his detractors. Soon, I was fed with information about his antecedents, specially as a manager in the Janata Bazar. But I knew there was not much truth in it.

He was already into poultry business with his unit at Martikyatanahalli on Bogadi road, eight km from city. He was staying with his family in his own house near our office. His name was H.S. Shankaralinge Gowda.

And soon we became very close friends.

***

The first quality I found in him was his helping nature. Second quality was his societal concern. The third quality was his immediate reaction both in words and deeds.

To me he was a unique kind of a person. Naturally our contact blossomed into friendship. This bonding had helped both of us in succeeding in our chosen field of activity.

To cut out details, he as a politician and I as a journalist and newspaper publisher.

I remember those early days, he on his scooter and I on my motorbike, going to his farm, in the evening, to spend some ‘quality’ time enjoying boiled eggs and omelette aplenty or even a chicken fry. And he would load my motorbike’s side box with vegetables and trays of eggs on the rear seat despite my protestation.

To further strengthen our friendship, he found out a three-acre land close to his which I bought, but later sold, just as he himself did with his farm.

Again, it was at his insistence and moral support that in 1983 I built my own house at Kuvempunagar in a 60×40 site.

A dashing man of courage and confidence, I was convinced by him that I could build a house knowing that I did not have required money.

In the meanwhile, he was wanting to become a politician, Janata Party politician. By then I had built personal rapport with the leading politicians of Janata Party in city as a journalist and through my elder brother late Dr K. B. Subbaiah.

Again rivalry and he was nowhere in the race for Corporation election ticket.

I was doing the background work no doubt, but it was his presence of mind and the way he reacted in lightning speed that enabled him to wangle a ticket from Janata Party.

One day, he was in my ‘own’ house at 7 O’clock in the morning on his scooter. By then I had a Fiat car.

I took him to the government house to meet Azeez Sait [the late Congress leader], made him speak to M.S. Gurupadaswamy [former Union minister], went to T.V. Srinivasa Rao’s house in Vidyaranyapuram where Shankaralinge Gowda’s challenger for the ticket too was there.

He gave me a sheepish smile and whispered, “what have I done to you?” in Kannada.

First I went into a huddle in a room with H. Kempe Gowda, the city president of the party, Azeez Sait and T.V. Srinivasa Rao. Gurupadaswamy did not come but had given his consent. Then I called my friend and introduced him to the party honchos.

Well, Shankaralinge Gowda never looked back.

***

It was I who advised him to change his sartorial choice immediately to that of what politicians are seen wearing. In his case, kurta and pyjama, with a stoll.

I was his political guru (and he would embarrass me by declaring it in public meetings) till he won the first MLA election from the BJP which he joined, again, at my insistence and a little help. Later, both my guruhood and friendship too faded away to the point of occasional telephone contacts.

I recall today the timely help given to me by Shankaralinge Gowda when I had faced threat to my life and harassment by those who were upset by what was published in those early first 10 years. It was during those trying days Shankaralinge Gowda showed his sterling qualities of heart and head for a friend.

If anyone doubts the time tested saying that ‘A friend in need is a friend indeed,’ here I am to vouch for the veracity of such a saying. He was a friend who stood by me, specially on two occasions.

One, when I was harassed and threatened by one who was exposed for cheating students seeking medical college seats and two, when my life was threatened by another group taking offence to what was published connected to LTTE.

Shankaralinge Gowda may not be with us today but his memory and my days of friendship with him will always remain indelible in my memory.

Adieu my friend, goodbye.

RIP, Shankaralinge Gowda.

Text and photograph: courtesy Star of Mysore

Also read: A song for an unsung hero, C.P. Chinnappa

9 steps for success from a (super-successful) editor

When a freelance writer cannot meet an editor

When the Maharaja’s son failed an examination

14 January 2014

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Jayachamaraja Wodeyar with Queen Elizabeth during her visit to Bangalore (courtesy Wikipedia)

Star of Mysore editor-in-chief K.B. Ganapathy reproduces this delightful anecdote from the January issue of the Kannada magazine Uthana, published by Haldipur Vasudeva Rao:

“Mysore Kingdom was being ruled by His Highness Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV (also known as Nalavadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar). He had adopted his brother’s son Jayachamaraja Wodeyar as his heir apparent to the throne as he himself did not have children. During his reign, the University of Mysore was established.

“Jayachamaraja Wadiyar was studying in the intermediate class in the University. T.S. Venkannayya was the head of the Kannada department. Working with him in the department were Thi. Num. Srikantaiah and K.V. Puttappa (Kuvempu) who had just then completed his post-graduate study in Kannada and joined the department as a teacher.

“When the results of the intermediate examination was announced, it was found that the heir apparent to the throne Jayachamaraja Wadiyar had failed in Kannada examination.

“Some days after the results were announced, a call came for T.S. Venkannayya from the Palace to meet the King. On the appointed day and time, the Durbar Bhakshi (Palace Officer) came to Venkannayya’s house in the Palace vehicle and took him before the Maharaja.

“As Venkannayya was waiting in the designated place, the Maharaja came in and the former got up in reverence greeting the Maharaja. Acknowledging the greeting, Maharaja requested Venkannayya to take his seat but he continued to stand waiting for the Maharaja to take his seat.

“However, the Maharaja remained standing waiting for Venkannayya to sit down first out of reverence to a teacher — educationist. Finally both resumed their seats simultaneously. Then followed a brief conversation between the two in the following manner:

Maharaja: The Prince has failed in the exam…

T.S. Venkannayya: Yes, Your Highness. The Prince has failed in Kannada.

Maharaja: What should be done now to make him pass the exam?

Venkannayya: Your Highness, the Prince has to write the exam once again.

Maharaja: Still, if he fails?

Venkannayya: He must be given private tuition.

Maharaja: Okay, will you give him the tuition?

Venkannayya: No, Your Highness. Except in the University classes, I do not teach outside.

Maharaja: If so, how to solve this problem?

Venkannayya: We have one youngster Puttappa who has recently joined Kannada Department. He is very good in teaching. I will entrust him the responsibility.

The Maharaja accepted the suggestion and entrusted the responsibility to T.S. Venkannayya and got up, an indication that the interview was over.

Venkannayya too got up, but in the meanwhile, as arranged before, the Durbar Bhakshi brought a silver tray full of fruits, betel leaves and a gold tasselled shawl and held it before the Maharaja who, after honouring the teacher with the shawl, presented him the silver tray with fruits.

Durbar Bhakshi dropped Venkannayya at his house in the Palace vehicle.

As Venkannayya emptied the silver tray, a surprise awaited him. There was an envelope with one thousand rupees — a huge amount for those days. When Venkannayya sent the silver tray back to the Palace, it came back with the assurance that the tray too was for Venkannayya.

It weighed 108 tholas!

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

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

When Bishen Bedi bowled from the Maharaja College end

Mutton chops, mudde and saaru with Srikantadatta Wodeyar

The maharaja’s elephant that made me a photographer

Rama, Rama rajya, and Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar

Why the Maharani sold her diamonds and jewels

The policeman who stopped the Maharaja

‘Push down the Haughty, push up the Humble’

5 December 2013

Tejpal-AmulMAIN

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

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

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

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

***

kbg

By K.B. GANAPATHY

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

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

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

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

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

The merchant was taking bath.

His beautiful unmarried daughter saw the Sadhu.

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

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

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

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

The merchant was disturbed.

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

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

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

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

Unquestioning piety has its dangers.

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

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

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

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

They get married.

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

Public memory is short.

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

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

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

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

How true!

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

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

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

***

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

There lived a proud but benevolent King.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life yourselves up, dearie, or get into my elevator

POLL: Is sexual harassment rampant in Indian media?

Online petition to protect Tehelka journalist’s privacy

Tarun Tejpal was trapped in a skin not his own’

Tarun Tejpal: Fear and self-loathing in Goa

Aroon Purie and Vinod Mehta on Tarun Tejpal

Tarun Tejpal, Manish Tewari and relief at PBC

***

Tarun Tejpal on the five facets of his life

How Congress regime stepped in to help Tehelka

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

NYT, WSJ weigh on Tehelka‘s Goa controversy

Tehelka promoter says he didn’t turn off FW tap

7 steps to protect your life and limb at an ATM

22 November 2013

atmattack_shylaja

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph: courtesy IBN

Also read: When an ATM stands for anything but money

The ATM generation that is banking Anna Hazare

When an ATM stands for Any Thing but Money

8 November 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another petty ending to a ‘world-famous’ Dasara

19 October 2013

Photo Caption

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An open letter to Rahul Gandhi from an Editor

11 October 2013

Photo Caption

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

***

Dear Sri Rahul Gandhi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what?

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

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

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

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

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

Yours faithfully,

K.B. Ganapathy

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

Also read: The editor who foresaw Siddaramaiah as CM

Once upon a time, at Gulbarga railway station

6 October 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph: courtesy Wikipedia

‘Send Javeed Train Waiting Pemmaiah Unwell’

19 July 2013

K. JAVEED NAYEEM writes: The Telegram, perhaps the longest serving mode of communication we have had next to the post, has finally been laid to rest in our country amid much mourning.

I wonder where else it has met a similar fate because I am sure many other countries too would have considered it unworthy of living in the present era which perhaps is the acme of the communication revolution that the world has been seeing over the past two decades.

Much has been written in the print media over the past few days by way of epitaphs and nostalgic recollections of the telegraphic era and I do not wish to repeat the same here. I shall therefore only tell my readers what the telegram meant to me when it mattered to me most in my younger days.

***

The earliest memory of the telegram I have is of the news of my sister being born in Mysore which was conveyed to my father who was then at our coffee estate in Chickmagalur.

I was then four years old and as soon as he arrived in Mysore, we went to see her.

I took one look at her lying in a tiny crib next to my mother’s cot in the Mission hospital where I was born too and promptly announced to my parents that we could keep her with us just for a few days and then return her to the hospital.

My father to avoid the germination of any sibling rivalry, quickly assured me that we would do just that as soon as we took her for a quick tour of our estate, to which I reluctantly agreed. I did not know then that it was I and not she who was destined to go out of the house, just three months later to commence my long education process!

***

I was so fascinated by the speed with which it had once yielded results in summoning my father from so far away that I would now regularly throw tantrums and order that it be sent immediately on similar missions whenever I hurt my little finger or felt hurt that I had not come first in the class running race!

It was a different matter that I would invariably be very successfully placated with just a toffee and told that a telegram had been sent and the delay in seeing its expected result would invariably be attributed to disrupted lines due to bad weather and fallen trees near its destination which was not an infrequent occurrence in the Malnad areas.

As I grew up the telegram suddenly started playing a more important role than summoning my dad.

Until then whenever the holidays started my father under prior telegraphic intimation would send our estate manager and his most trusted lieutenant P.M. Pemmaiah to Mysore to take me to our estate.

He would arrive by bus from Chickmagalur and because I liked travelling by train more than by bus, take me by the first morning train to Hassan where my dad, his elder brother K. A. Sathar and their best friend Muthu Rao would be waiting at the railway station in a 1947 army disposal olive green Jeep to receive us.

From there we would head straight to the Modern Café for my favourite Masala Dosa and Jamoon before heading away towards Chickmagalur.

***

One day when I was expecting my escort Pemmaiah to arrive, most unexpectedly we received a second telegram that read “SEND JAVEED TUESDAY TRAIN WAITING HASSAN PEMMAIAH UNWELL”. When my grandfather read it out with an anxious expression on his face and explained what it meant, my joy knew no bounds.

I immediately rejected my uncle, Prof. M. J. Sadiq’s suggestion that he would accompany me up to Hassan, although it was unanimously supported and seconded by all elders as they all felt that I was too young to travel alone.

I promised and swore that I would be a very good boy on that day and also on all days to come thereafter and would never put my hands or head out of the windows or get down from the train, come what may, except at Hassan.

But opposition was intense and the elders relented only after I declared that I would not eat anything or go unless I was allowed to do it on my own. And, I did it.

To the little boy that I was then, that was the greatest journey of my life and I cherish its memory to this day. The 75 miles I did in just five hours is a world record for me and the greatest part about it is no one in the world can break it now!

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

Photograph: courtesy Christian Science Monitor

A short lesson in humanity from a courier boy

28 May 2013

K.B. GANAPATHY writes: Reading daily newspapers could ignite many unlikely thoughts in the minds of people who are rather sensitive. I probably belong to this class of people and which is why, I was deeply disturbed reading a news item yesterday titled,

“Techie assaulted for parking bike in front of a house — irked residents pelt stones at house”

If it were not for the photograph accompanying the report, it would not have created any deep feeling in me about the pride and prejudice some people suffer from.

Even hubris.

The incident, as reported, was about an IT professional Pradeep who parked his motorcycle seeking shelter from heavy rains that suddenly overtook him, in front of a house in Srirampura, at about 6 pm on Sunday.

Noticing this, the owner of the building, Srinivas, reportedly objected to the parking and a quarrel ensued, resulting in Pradeep being allegedly assaulted.

The residents in the neighbourhood, who were watching the incident, apparently shocked by the conduct of the owner of the building, began pelting stones at the house, further aggravating the situation. The police were informed and their arrival brought the situation under control.

I held the newspaper in my hand for a while and read out the news to my sons who were having breakfast, more as a lesson in harmonious living in a society than for its significance as an earth-shaking event which it was not anyway.

Then, I told them of the news that appeared in Star of Mysore almost a year ago, just to impress upon them the contrast between good and bad in human behaviour during a given situation.

The news was about the former RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan who went missing in our City and was later found.

Sudarshan, 81 years old then, had come to Mysore on a short visit to his brother’s house in Nazarbad. He had left the house early morning for his regular stroll that day. However, he did not return home as expected as he had not only lost his way back home, but was also unable to use his cell phone, which he had left behind.

Sudarshan by then had walked about 6 kms and found himself in Naidunagar. Helpless, he approached a youth who was watering the garden in front of his house and asked for water to drink.

Now look at the civility and nobility of that youth Ashok, 25 years old, working as a courier delivery man, in contrast to Srinivas, who picked up a quarrel with the IT professional Pradeep, who too was in distress of a different kind and sought refuge under the roof of Srinivas’ house.

Ashok did not refuse to give water like Srinivas who refused to give refuge. He took the old man inside his humble abode, offered him a seat and gave him not a glass of water but a glass of butter milk to drink. He even offered Sudarshan breakfast, which the latter refused saying he would have breakfast only after bath.

More importantly, Ashok did all these, not knowing who that old man was. For him it was helping an old man. That is all.

It was only when Ashok switched on the fan and TV that he came to know that the old man sitting in front of him was a VVIP and a Police search was already launched to find his whereabouts. It was only then that Ashok went to the police commissioner and informed about Sudarshan being in his house safe and relaxing.

In my younger days in Pune, a city prone to frequent rains like in Bangalore, I was using Ideal Jawa motorcycle for my transport. As a result, there were many occasions when I had to face sudden pouring of rains, forcing me to nearby houses seeking shelter like the IT professional Pradeep.

No one ever drove me away or quarreled with me like it happened last Sunday at Srirampura. In fact, I still remember one house on Ganesh Khindi road, where I sought shelter. This house happened to belong to a Sindhi family.

I had parked the bike and I had taken shelter under the outer roof, waiting for the rain to abate. Suddenly I see one young boy approaching me with a glass of water which left me wondering then, and on occasions like this remember the gesture of that young boy as nothing less than divine. So was the gesture of Ashok.

Alas! Where has divinity disappeared from this mortal man!!

(K.B. Ganapathy is the editor-in-chief of Star of Mysore, where an expanded version of this piece appeared)

Why the Mysore Palace doesn’t run out of water

21 May 2013

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There are hundreds of engineering colleges around us. There are hundreds of “experts” ventilating on some issue or the other. But every summer it is not uncommon for brand-new localities and brand-new buildings to run out of the most basic of human necessities: water.

Because they are so poorly designed.

The main Amba Vilas palace in Mysore in recent years has attracted more visitors than even the Taj Mahal. Yet it seems to have no such problem. At least not in a life-threatening way.The reason, it turns out, is because the engineers employed by the rajas and maharajas seemed to have a vision beyond their salary packet.

From a news report in Star of Mysore:

While Mysore, Bangalore and Mandya districts are facing severe water woes, the renowned Mysore Palace is free from water woes, as it is not affected.

Thanks to the Wodeyars for constructing 12 tanks with a capacity of 1.20 lakh litres on the roof of the Palace building.

Probably except for the members of the Royal family and Mysore Palace Board officials, none of the other would know about these large tanks which are now providing water to thousands of visitors who throng the Mysore Palace premises everyday.

These tanks are located on the third floor of the Palace building just below the ‘Gopuram’ (Dome) and each tank has the capacity of storing 10,000 litres of water. These tanks also act as natural air conditioners for the entire Palace building. Out of the 12 such tanks, 6 provide water to the Palace and the remaining 6 provide water to the Mysore Palace Board.

Palace Engineers Shivakumar and Murali said that the construction of tanks came as a big surprise to everyone as they are constructed inside the RCC of the Palace roof which will keep the building cool even during hot summer and have been designed in such a way that they provide water to everyone working in the precincts of the majestic structure.

These tanks are designed in such a way that Cauvery water is supplied directly to these tanks through rising pipes. Now, since the supply of Cauvery water has been stopped, an alternative arrangement has been made to supply water from the borewells located inside the Palace premises.

“There are 8 borewells inside the Mysore Palace premises and each of them have been fitted with 5HP motors; through them around 30,000 litres of water is to supplied to the tanks”, said Shivakumar.

***

Photo Caption

In 2007, Vikram Sampath, the biographer of the Wodeyars recounted this story:

“The KRS dam, completed in 1931, created the biggest reservoir in Asia, second only to the Aswan dam across the Nile in Egypt. Since the outlay for the dam exceeded the state budget’s, Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar (then a mere teenager) and his sagacious mother Regent Queen Kempananjammanni sold costly diamonds, ornaments, gold and silver plates of the royal family in Bombay to provide seed capital for the project.”

Also read: Why the Queen sold her diamonds and jewels

Also view: A panoramic picture of the Mysore palace

The Editor who foresaw Siddaramaiah as CM

10 May 2013

Photo Caption

K.B. Ganapathy, editor-in-chief of Star of Mysore, on the man who will be Karnataka’s next CM, in today’s paper:

“Back in November 2010 I had gone to Siddaramaiah‘s Mysore house with Mysooru Mithra editor M. Govinde Gowda to invite him personally for my second son’s wedding.

“As expected, the house was full of people spilling over to the road with many vehicles parked around. His aide took us to the dining hall where he was sitting at the head of the table alone, probably for our meeting.

“After the initial courtesies and platitudes I gave him the invitation and requested him to bless the groom in a customary way. As is his wont, he was expressionless and silent for a while and said that he would come.

“I did not believe him.

“I asked him about the political mess the BJP was in at that time and he mumbled something that I don’t remember now. However, I told him that it was good that he joined Congress and Congress never disappoints its loyal members in the matter of rewarding them suitably.

“He lifted his inclined head in slow-motion, looked at me and smiled. Who would not like to hear a positive prognosis of oneself?

“I continued. I said in Karnataka, in the past many years of Congress rule, I had seen that senior Congress members who were ministers and aspired to become chief ministers had realised their aspirations even if it was only for two or three years, and gave the recent examples of Bangarappa, Veerappa Moily and S.M. Krishna (who was deputy chief minister like Siddharamaiah).

“Therefore, you too will become the Chief Minister,” I told Siddaramaiah.

“Now I could see his lips turn elastic revealing his teeth from right molar to left molar with a twitch of his snubby nose. Eyes too twinkled for a fleeting second.

“I am happy to tell my readers, Siddaramaiah indeed kept his words and attended my son’s wedding held at Mysore Race Club premises.”

Photograph: Siddaramaiah gestures to the crowd after being elected as the leader of the Congress legislative party, at the KPCC Office in Bangalore on Friday (Karnataka Photo News)

When Dr Radhakrishnan added to Bhagwad Gita

26 April 2013

Ahalya Chari, the head of the Regional College of Education from 1967-70, passed away in Madras recently, at the age of 92. Here, Krishna Vattam, the longtime Mysore correspondent of Deccan Herald, pays tribute and recounts an incident involving “Miss Chari” and another former resident of Mysore, the late president of India, Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan.

***

By KRISHNA VATTAM

In my 40-year-long association with Deccan Herald as a reporter, I have had experiences of many incidents which have left a deep impress on my mind.

One such incident I am going to narrate is my visit to the Regional College of Education (RCE) and its affiliate Demonstration Multipurpose School (DMS) in the Manasagangothri campus in 1965—and the time I spent in the presence of two great teachers, one a Universal teacher, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, and the other, an embodiment of Jiddu Krishnamurthy’s teachings, Miss Ahalya Chari.

It was at the invitation of Miss Chari that Dr Radhakrishnan, the philosopher-savant, had come to Mysore, to participate in a simple function to mark the planting of saplings on the campus.

It was 7 August 1965. It had rained all through the night before. But there was a bright sunshine in the morning. The rain drops that had collected on the tender leaves turned into various hues as the sunrays fell on them.

The entire surroundings seemed to be in communion with God.

It was least anticipated by the gathering that the occasion would pleasantly turn out as an event for presentation of a philosophical treatise and brilliant exposition of the profound truths of the Bhagavad Gita by Dr Radhakrishnan.

A group of girls—Vatsala, Ratnamala, Usha— accompanied by Miss Chari and teachers Anantharamaiah, S. Keshava Murthy and Mohanraj rendered in chorus an ancient prayer found on the inscriptions of the world-famous Belur temple.

The prayer, with its ennobling ideals, had an electrifying effect on the minds of those who had gathered.

It reads:

“Yam Saivah Samupasate Siva iti Brahmeti Vedantinah

Bauddhah Buddha iti Pramanapatavah karteti Naiyyayikah

Arhannityatha Jainasasanaratah

Karmeti Mimamsakah.”

The meaning is “Whom the Saivas worship as Siva, the Vedantins as Brahmam, the Buddhists as Buddha, the Naiyaayikas who specialise in knowledge as the chief agent, the followers of the Jaina code as the Ever Free, the ritualists as the principle of law, may that Hari, the Lord of the Three Worlds, grant our prayers.”

No sooner the group had completed the rendering, Dr. Radhakrishnan asked the group to recite the two lines he recited in continuation of the original three lines.

The entire gathering, having the thrill of their lives, recited the two additional lines:

“Christ & Allah

“Kraistvah Kristuriti kriyapararatah Alleti Mahammadah Soyam Vo Vidadhatu Vanchitaphalam Trailokyanatho Harih.”

The meaning is: “Whom the Christians devoted to work as Christ and the Mohammedans as Allah.”

Dr. Radhakrishnan explained that had Udayanacharya, who composed these three lines, been writing in this age he would have added those two lines which he (Dr. Radhakrishnan) had composed.

While interpreting the 11th verse in the fourth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, the book he published in the early 1940s, Dr Radhakrishnan had an occasion to comment on the wide catholicity of the Gita. In this context, he quoted Udayanacharya and added his own two lines to encompass the whole universe.

The Radhakrishnan-effect is still felt by all those who were fortunate to attend that sublime function. Though those Acharyas — Dr. Radhakrishnan and Miss Chari — are no more amidst us. I cherish that incident.

(A longer version of this piece originally appeared in Star of Mysore)

Newspaper scan: courtesy B.N. Balajee

Also by Krishna Vattam: Before the slumdogs, the Mahout Millionaire

Gangavva, yele southekaayi bandaithe kanava!

When Bedi bowled from Maharaja’s College end

22 April 2013

Bishen Singh Bedi and Eknath Solkar being taken around in an open-topped jeep in front of the Mysore Palace, circa 1981

Sandeep Patil, Kirti Azad and Dilip Vengsarkar on Ashoka Road, as the cricket caravan approaches Janata Bazaar

VIKRAM MUTHANNA writes from Mysore: Recently, I was invited to be part of a group that is trying to raise funds for Pratham Mysore, the highly respected NGO that has helped improve the state of education in our country.

Pratham Mysore has popularised the Balawadi pre-school programme where they pick a few volunteers in a community who are educated till class 10 and above and request them to educate the poor pre-schoolers in their areas. They also have many other programmes, the important one being the bridge programme in both rural and poor urban areas where they teach government school children after school hours.

So far in Mysore, Pratham has successfully delivered education programmes to around 15,000 poor pre-school and primary students in Mysore and surrounding districts.

So it turned out that they wanted my inputs and some publicity to raise some funds to create and support 212 new education centres in rural areas of Mysore. They already manage 182 such centres!

After much discussion it was decided that just like how dinners are hosted to raise money for a cause in the west, we would try to have a gala dinner for which people would pay a premium as there would be some celebrities and in a cricket-crazy nation where cricketers are demigods, the chance of having dinner while hearing stories straight from the horses’ mouths—or shall we say demi-gods’ lips—would be a chance no cricket lover could pass up; especially when there are only 200 invites which would make the interaction more intimate.

So, who would grace the gala that would attract some money?

Ashvini Ranjan who heads Pratham Mysore and is also now the Mysore zone chairman of Karnataka state cricket association (KSCA), confirmed that our own City’s son Javagal Srinath (KSCA’s secretary) and son-in-law Anil Kumble (KSCA president) would participate.

It was also thought that may be these two could also bring in Rahul Dravid with them, and a few more.

Just then, Ashvini Ranjan mentioned in passing how in 1981 they managed to convince a few top Indian national cricket team players to come to Mysore for an exhibition match to raise funds for a Lions school and how once the senior players were convinced, they in turn roped in other national players.

This was impressive and I was curious.

How did a group of smalltown men manage to get 16 members from the national team to our little City in 1981 for fund-raising ?! I pressed for more and the story I heard was worthy of a recount which held many lessons in celebrity-driven fund-raising and dedicated social service.

***

Here is the story Ashvini Ranjan told me:

It seems, in 1981 the Lions Club of Mysore West wanted to build a school and had to raise some funds.

The Club had many enthusiastic members and among them was R. Vasu, one of the partners of Cycle Brand Agarbathies who was very interested in cricket and well-networked in those circles. He came up with the idea of an exhibition cricket match between two teams each with a heavy mix of Indian national players!

Yes, indeed, an audacious idea for that time, and even today. Soon he and the other Lions decided they would have two teams each with a mix of national players, State players and two local players.

After many months of phone calls and umpteen visits to Bangalore, Vasu along with the other Lions managed to convince the core Indian players—then it was Dilip Vengsarkar, Sandeep Patil, G.R. Vishwanath, Brijesh Patel, Bishan Singh Bedi and Roger Binny.

They, in turn, managed to convince others to come with them to play a day of cricket for a good cause.

As soon as all the cricketers confirmed, air tickets were booked and it was communicated to them that a 42-seater luxury bus would be waiting for them at the Bangalore airport to bring them to Mysore.

On the faithful day the bus left for Bangalore airport while the Lions Club members waited in front of Mysore Palace to give them a grand welcome. Late afternoon as the bus approached, the Lions members were excited and waited for the demi-gods to alight from the bus… but only Sandeep Patil and his girlfriend were on the bus!

What happened to the rest?

The members were soon informed by Patil that the others decided that they would come in private taxis and leisurely they started arriving one by one. Though the organisers were worried about the taxi expenses they were relieved that the players had arrived.

***

The players were put up at the luxurious Rajendra Vilas Imperial Palace hotel atop the hill.

That night, they were felicitated at Lalitha Mahal Palace hotel with small elephant statues after which they left for their round of beers.

Next day, they were taken on a procession around the City, which attracted huge crowds and generated so much publicity for the exhibition match that the next day all tickets were sold out, even though a ticket cost a princely sum of Rs. 100.

Also, since there was no cricket stadium with cover or seating, the members managed to have covered seating using coconut branches and bamboo for 15,000 people at Maharaja’s ground. No mean feat.

With tickets sold out, passes given out to keep government officials happy, turf pitch ready, all seemed perfect for the match the next day.

And then the unthinkable happened: That night it poured and poured.

The next morning the pitch was soaked leaving the organisers with an unplayable drenched pitch. With the turf gone, match delayed and the 15,000 strong crowd growing restless by the minute, the organisers began their hunt for the only alternative — a cricket mat.

Finally a mat was tracked down, and the person renting it knew the organisers’ predicament and charged them an arm and a leg. He charged them Rs. 3,500, a ransom in 1981.

Soon the match was on and it poured again… this time it poured sixers from Sandeep Patil’s bat. Who won? Well, now no one quite remembers for sure. But they all remember that Sandeep Patil hit such huge sixers that they lost two cricket balls.

As Ashvini Ranjan recalls, “We had so much fun that we never bothered about who won. Guess cricket won that day.” With that Mysoreans had witnessed legends in action.

Mission accomplished… or so the organisers thought.

Later, that night, the players were hosted for dinner at the Mysore Palace by Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, with live music. Players like Eknath Solkar sang and did a solo dance much to the delight of everyone present.

The following day the players were to leave, but a handful of them stayed back. They supposedly said they loved the weather of the City and loved the location of their hotel atop the hill so much that they wanted to stay a few more days. But many organisers now say, the players seemed to have enjoyed their beer much, much more than the weather.

In the end after a week of cricket drama, the Lions Club which had invited national players to raise funds for their ambitious school project had managed to collect Rs. 3.5 lakh by way of ticket sales and sponsorships.

All good? Not really.

It seems by the time the cricketers had left and by the time the organisers had paid for their air ticket, the bus that brought just one couple, taxis, the mat, mementoes, beer, food and stay, the Lions Club was left with… just Rs. 18,000! The dream of a school was back to the pavilion.

To add, the free passes they gave to the government officials had eaten into their fund-raising budget substantially.

It seems the cricketers had left feeling high, while leaving the organisers completely dry.

***

While the Lions members were left lost, the then divisional commissioner and CITB Chairman M.P. Prakash, who heard of the debacle, felt bad and offered the Club one-and-half acres of land in Gokulam for the school and told them that for the time being, they can pay the Rs. 18,000 as down payment and the rest they must pay on time in installments.

The club members gladly agreed and today, Gokulam Lions School sits on a two-acre land with a student strength of 650. What 16 Indian cricketers could not do, an understanding, kind and good bureaucrat did. This shows the power bureaucrats have and the good they can do with it.

Today, the 1981 batch of Lions West members laugh at how they lost all their money to the players’ extravaganza, but they still thank the cricketers for generating great publicity which later helped them raise funds to build the school.

After I heard this story, I couldn’t help but ask if Ashvini Ranjan had any photographs of the event so our older readers could reminisce and younger readers could delight themselves.

As expected, Ashvini Ranjan shared the photos adding “Such memories are to be shared, not copyrighted or put away.”

In fact even the photos of this event has a story. It seems the organisers were so disheartened after the event, that they forgot all about the photographs and six months later it arrived in a box at the then Lions Club President Ashvini Ranjan’s house who kept it safely and after a while started gifting it to people who were in the photographs as memorabilia on their birthday or special occasions.

Yes, Ashwini Ranjan and the supporters of Pratham like myself, will once again try to rope in cricketers to raise money, publicity and good will for a good cause. This time, instead of cricket, it will be over good food. But we are also aware and take comfort in the fact that unlike yesterday’s cricketers who had time, for today’s cricketers time is money and they have no time to sit around enjoying beer and good weather.

So there is no way Srinath, Kumble, Dravid and others will get high and leave us dry.

The event has been scheduled for 7th of July 2013 and there are only 200 gala dinner tickets. The cost of the tickets will be announced in the coming weeks. This is a chance to meet, talk and ask whatever you want with the living cricket legends, or if you just like to donate you can contact Pratham through www.prathammysore.org or call Ph: 0821-2412612 or if you just want to have good food and good company you can sit at the table with yours truly and consume a bit of politics, a little bit of art and culture and a large dose of dirty jokes and a fair amount of happy spirit.

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

***

scan0073

The “super-sopper” deployed at the Maharaja’s College grounds, on the morning of the match

Gundappa Viswanath and Bishen Singh Bedi go out to toss on a rain-marred wicket

22

Srikantadatta Narasimha Wodeyar is introduced to the two teams, as B.S. Chandrashekhar, Sandeep Patil, Ravi Shastri and local legend, “Tiger” Prabhakar of Ideal Jawa (third from right, in a skull cap), look on

15

Sandeep Patil with Wodeyar

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“Tiger” Prabhakar, Vishy, Anshuman Gaekwad, Chandra and Roger Binny spill some beers (above); Vengsarkar, Kirti Azad (below)

11

Bishen Bedi with Vishy at the “Sports Club” party

Eknath Solkar, who batted and fielded with a scooter helmet, shakes a leg

Why have Doctors stopped making house-visits?

12 April 2013

K. JAVEED NAYEEM writes: Most of the books that recount the experiences of medical practitioners from a bygone era, which I re-read from time to time, invariably tell us about their very interesting house -visit experiences.

A.J. Cronin’s autobiographical masterpiece Adventures in Two Worlds and his novel The Citadel are two very notable examples while James Herriot’s four omnibus editions are in no way inferior or far behind, although they deal with a vet’s adventures with animals and their very interesting owners.

In yester years, almost every movie would have a scene where a doctor, clutching his signature black bag, would make a house visit to see a patient. Interestingly, on his way out the bag would invariably be carried, by the patient’s son or other relative who would see the doctor off!

The mortifying diagnosis that the doctor would announce almost in a whisper would be TB, which then had no cure. And when a cure for TB finally did come somewhere in the early 1960s the diagnosis promptly changed to cancer, to heighten the impact of the patient’s helplessness.

Another thing that intrigued and amused me then was why while a doctor was shown making a house call even to see a mildly sick patient, almost no movie ever showed a patient being taken to see a doctor in his consulting room as is the practice now.

***

While making house calls was almost standard practice for most doctors in the past, these days house-visits by doctors are almost unheard of and now even in a serious emergency it is almost impossible to get a doctor to come home and see a patient.

Very often when death comes calling at home and the relatives are not able to say with certainty whether the person is dead or only deeply unconscious it helps if a doctor sees him or her to dispel any lingering doubts. But to get a doctor to make a house visit even to do this is not very easy and anxious relatives have no other option but to shift the person to a hospital only to be told there that he or she is beyond any help.

It is also not very easy for elderly persons who stay alone without their siblings or other relatives to seek and get medical help in an emergency. These days this situation has become commonplace, with children working far away from home being unable to attend to the medical needs of their elderly parents on a day to day basis.

And most elderly people have some medical problem or the other which needs periodic attention.

Even for those aged people who have their relatives with them it is not very easy to go over to a hospital if they happen to be very infirm or bedridden especially if they live in an apartment block where a stretcher trolley cannot be accommodated in the elevator.

Considering all these difficulties it will certainly be a very great boon to society if some doctors are available who would be willing to make house calls in an emergency.

Very often I have told many doctors who have not been doing very well in their practices that they can certainly improve their standing by agreeing to make house calls and I have found that those who followed this advice seriously quickly became very successful. But the sad part is that once they become well known and patients start coming to their clinics they invariably stop going to patients’ homes in times of need.

There is indeed a very great demand for house calls in our society and doctors would do well to include this service in their daily practice.

***

Some years ago I met a very successful doctor in Bangalore who is doing very well financially without any postgraduate qualifications. Very surprisingly he has no clinic. He only makes house calls every day and is busy from morning till evening six days a week.

He has a very organised approach and he registers all his calls in a diary and at the beginning of each day he prioritizes them according to the seriousness of his patients and the traffic conditions so that he does not waste time in traffic jams.

Every patient’s number is called back and recorded for safety’s sake and it is also messaged to another mobile phone at home. His driver doubles as his secretary, maintaining his diary and holding on to it at all times. He never accompanies his master into the patient’s house and he never leaves the car during the calls to preclude any compromise to their safety.

This doctor has become so popular that he gets regular referrals from consultants who can keep a better watch on their patients’ progress through him. He has now narrowed down his area of operation to what he can manage best and he told me that there is certainly much scope for many more players if they can co-ordinate their operations.

I hope this trend picks up and helps in getting medical care to bedridden patients’ bedsides in the comfort and convenience of their homes, saving them the bother of going to hospitals for every tiny problem. Thankfully this kind of medical care seems all set to make a beginning in our own city too.

A very close friend of mine and a fellow-physician with very good qualifications and a good deal of experience too called me up recently to tell me that he has seriously thought of starting this kind of practice as an act of public service. I was overjoyed and wished him well as I knew that he would indeed be doing some much needed good to ailing humanity.

I hope he does not get disillusioned by any initial teething troubles that are bound to be there and more importantly I also hope that other members of our fraternity see the sense in what he is embarking on and encourage him. Three cheers to the man who has decided to step out of the box to put some good cheer into the lives of those who need it most!

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

FREE: Four sure-fire steps to ward off Swine Flu

5 April 2013

K. JAVEED NAYEEM writes: Whether we accept it or deny it, it is a fact that Swine Flu cases are on the increase in our country.

It is a potentially dangerous and often fatal affliction with a very high degree of infectivity brought on by physical contact and droplet transmission through coughing and sneezing. Anxious patients and their accompanying persons ask me how they can avoid getting infected.

Here are the most effective measures that can arrest its spread.

# Firstly, avoid shaking hands with all the persons you meet in a show of great Western warmth. A very Indian ‘Namaste’ or ‘Aadab’ can be an equally warm way of expressing your affection and regard without endangering yourselves and the person you are greeting.

# Secondly, avoid hugging people and pecking them on their cheeks as most members of the fair sex do these days. It is certainly more dangerous than shaking hands.

# Thirdly, avoid very crowded areas and air-conditioned halls without good cross-ventilation. Air conditioners are notorious for ensuring that all those present receive a fair dose of the infection they are trying hard to avoid!

# Lastly, if you are in doubt, use hand sanitisers liberally to keep yourself safe after shaking hands, especially with your doctor!

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

Also read: FREE: Five easy steps to a stress-free life

A doctor’s prescription for a happy, new year

Once upon a time, when my doctor was an angel

The doctor who dissected the body of J.B.S. Haldane

Ramayana, Mahabharatha, Upanishads & rape

23 December 2012

Devdutt Pattanaik, chief belief officer of Future group, in a column in Star of Mysore on December 13, before the gangrape in Delhi became headline news:

“For most of human history, the woman’s body has been treated as man’s property, in reality as well as representation. So adultery (where the woman participates) and rape (where the woman does not participate) were both seen as insult to a man’s honour.

“In the story of Parashuram, his mother Renuka experiences a momentary desire for another man. For this crime of ‘thought,’ her own son beheads her on the orders of her husband, Jamadagni. She eventually comes to be associated with the goddess Yellamma, who is associated with prostitution.

“In the story of Ram, Sita’s abduction by Ravan so taints her reputation, and makes her the subject of such gossip, that Ram eventually abandons her.

“In neither story is the woman actually assaulted. It does not matter. The idea of being violated is terrible enough. The idea that what is yours has claimed another in ‘thought’ (Renuka’s story) or has been claimed by another in ‘thought’ (Sita’s story) is enough to deflate honour.

“When we want to put Hinduism on the defensive, and want to establish Indian traditions as patriarchal, these are the stories we tell. We do not tell stories from the very same scriptures that say something altogether different.

“We do not tell the story of Ahalya, a certified adulteress in some versions, a rape victim in others, turned to stone by her angry husband, who is cleansed and liberated by the touch of Ram’s feet. This is the same Ram who abandons Sita.

“Why is the patriarchal Ram cleansing the adulteress? No explanation offered!

“Why is the patriarchal Ram not remarrying after abandoning tainted Sita? No explanation offered!

“Why are plots that reinforce patriarchy given more attention than tales of grace and forgiveness (liberating Ahalya) and tales of commitment (refusal to remarry)?

“We do not tell the Upanishadic story of a boy who goes to Gautama for education and is asked “Who is your father?” to which the boy replies, “My mother told me to tell you that she is a servant and has served many men in every way. So she does not know who my father is. Please accept me as Jabali, whose mother is Jabala.” For this honest answer, the boy is named Satyakama, lover of truth, and made a student.

“We do not tell the Mahabharata story of Shvetaketu who is horrified to find his mother with another man. When he complains to his father, Uddalaka, the father says, “A woman is free to do as she pleases.” When the son questions his paternity, Uddalaka says, “It is not my seed that makes you my child, it is my love.”

“Yes, there are stories where a woman’s body is treated as property. But there are also stories where a woman’s body is not treated as property, where women are seen as sovereign of their own lives. Why are the latter stories not told in schools and colleges and by secular, Left-wing and Right-wing intellectuals?

“I feel there is an imagination that is repeatedly reinforced that ancient times were misogynist and modern secular laws will repair the damage. This is absurd. Jerks who disrespect women in particular, and people in general, existed then, exist now and (I shudder as I write this) will continue to exist, Khap or the Indian Penal Code notwithstanding. Can we please put the spotlight on the non-jerks please?”

Cortesy: Star of Mysore

Esther Preethi and the true meaning of education

26 November 2012

K. JAVEED NAYEEM writes: The week that has gone by had a mixed bag of events that have left me with mixed feelings, both happy and sad.

The news that really stirred my soul and elevated it to an unusually lofty level of happiness was about the Sri Venkateswara University in Andhra Pradesh postponing its engineering examinations by a full week to let the students of one engineering college collect donations to save the life of one of its students — Esther Preethi, the daughter of a poor taxi driver from Madanapalli in Chittoor District, now doing her final year engineering at NBKR Institute of Technology in Nellore.

She reportedly developed liver failure for which she was advised a liver transplant costing almost Rs 50 lakh.

Her father was crestfallen as this amount was far beyond his means and even what he could hope to garner from sources open to him. That was when his daughter’s college-mates decided to do their bit by collecting donations from the public to pay for Preethi’s surgery.

Since the need for surgery was very urgent, as it usually is in such cases, about 540 students of final year engineering rushed to the director of the college, V. Vijayakumar Reddy, with a request to allow them to go out and collect donations by skipping classes.

Touched by the students’ resolve, the college management, too, offered financial assistance and allowed the students to spare no efforts to save Preethi’s life.

Forming about 30 groups, the students went around Nellore town and nearby villages and started collecting donations. Since their examinations too were just round the corner the students again pleaded with their college management to speak to the Vice-Chancellor to postpone the exams on humanitarian grounds.

In perhaps an act of unprecedented magnanimity, the Sri Venkateswara University (SVU) responded to their request and postponed the first semester examinations of its final year, which had to begin on November 14, to give time to the students to help save their ailing friend.

“This could be the first time that a University has rescheduled examinations to allow students to collect funds for a noble cause,” Reddy said after SVU Vice-Chancellor W. Rajendra issued a notification acceding to the students’ request.

My joy is naturally very great because this is the true meaning and spirit of any real education. There is no point in simply quoting rules and applying them mechanically as is usually done all around us when a more humanitarian approach would do much good in a delicate situation.

When the powers vested in us permit us to be kind rather than curt, it is important to take the former approach. I salute all those who did their bit to save Preethi’s budding life and wish her a speedy recovery.

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

***

Also read: From Guruswamypalyam, a lesson for all shishyas

A Hindu iftar for a good Muslim doctor at work

A hero who served the dead and living of all castes

Why can’t our ‘leaders’ speak like Obama?

10 November 2012

VIKRAM MUTHANNA writes: Barack is back, and what a victory speech he gave us!

I say ‘us’ because the speech had something for all of us, in India too.

Like many of us Indians, as I watched Barack Obama’s victory speech on Thursday morning, I was left feeling envious — envious of Americans for having elected for themselves such an inspiring leader as their President.

I was left asking, “Why can’t I have a Prime Minister like him? A Prime Minister who inspires me, makes me feel like I matter, arouses a renewed sense of patriotism even in this severely fractured democracy that is India?”

Just a few days before Obama’s victory speech, our Prime Minister and our future prime ministerial candidate also spoke at a Congress mega rally. What a disappointment it was. No one on the dais could connect with the people they were addressing.

Rahul Gandhi’s ‘screech’ was full of sound and fury, at one point it seemed like he might collapse under his own vocal ferocity. But in spite of all the sound, in the end he shed very little light on any issue.

Instead, he showed us how dim he sometimes can be when he compared support for Kargil war to FDI! Neither did he inspire nor did he inform.

The only good thing about his speech was its timing. It was short.

Then our Prime Minister spoke. The content was repetitive, and like all his speeches, uninspiring. At best it could have inspired a few ventriloquists. Probably Robocop would have done a better job of connecting emotionally to us than our PM.

It is unfortunate. What use is intellect, if it can neither save us nor give us hope or produce words that will inspire us?

More importantly, what most of us would have noticed during the American presidential elections is the role of the family. We Indians never tire of saying that Americans are very detached from their families and add how we are such a family-oriented culture.

But every US President is judged by his family life. Every US President brings up his family in his speech, and never fails to mention the family values they imbibed in their formative years.

On the victory night, Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden both had their families on stage.

In fact, Obama said:

“and I wouldn’t be the man I am today without the woman who agreed to marry me 20 years ago. Let me say this publicly. Michelle, I have never loved you more.”

Then he acknowledged his children saying:

“You’re growing up to become two strong, smart, beautiful young women, just like your mom. And I am so proud of you.”

In fact, not only did Obama thank his family, he also thanked and praised his opponent Mitt Romney’s family when he said:

“The Romney family has chosen to give back to America through public service. And that is a legacy that we honour and applaud tonight.”

Now we have to ask, for a people who claim to be so much more ‘family-oriented,’ how many of our leaders have ever brought their family to the public fore to feel one with the people?

How many of our leaders have thanked their wives for their success (may be they don’t want to create ripples by picking one over the other)?

How many politicians have thanked their children for tolerating their absence?

None.

Even if they do, it is a display to garner sympathy and not family values.

Every Indian politician’s family life is shrouded in secrecy and when their children join them in politics, it is for personal gain, or when they have learnt the dirty tricks of the trade. Or even worse their names surface only when their illegal property is unearthed or a back door deal is exposed.

So political families get involved to stay in power and loot together. It makes us wonder, is there any true patriot among Indian politicians? It seems more likely that they love this country like one would love their goose that lays golden eggs, that’s all.

While we were in envy, Obama’s speech also made us feel miserable, because he made us think about our own nation when he said:

“We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet. We want to pass on a country that’s safe and respected and admired around the world.”

We were left thinking, what do our leaders want to leave behind for our children? A chaotic mess, that churns out black money and mediocrity, over which their equally greedy children can rule?

American Presidents care about legacy. But our leaders care only about power. And the only legacy they worry about is passing on their constituency and seat to their children. So they are either in power or forever in pursuit of it.

No wonder that yesterday Vijay Kumar Malhotra at age 80 won his 40th term as President of the Archery Association of India. It’s astounding that in 40 years, the members could not find anyone better than him.

When this is the case, it’s power that drives our leaders, not the vision of a better India or patriotism. That is why our election is based on promise of freebies, caste and money.

Not on agendas such as social justice, equality and prosperity.

Obama made us cheer for an otherwise arrogant America, when he said:

“We believe we can keep the promise of our founding fathers, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, abled, disabled, gay or straight you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.”

Can any of our leaders say that?

Have we ever heard our leaders say “no matter whatever you are, North Indian or South Indian, no matter if you are rich or poor, Hindu or Muslim, abled or disabled, if you are willing to work hard and be sincere, you can make it in India?”

No. Instead, our leaders have created an environment where you have to be born rich or be crooked to make it in India. We have to be a certain vote bank to avail basic facilities and must be able to mobilise a mob to get justice.

Obama probably is the best thing that happened in recent times to the very idea of democracy. Because when we heard Obama’s speech, we felt inspired to be part of a democracy.

We felt we needed to be part of nation-building.

We felt we mattered.

We felt we had to vote.

We felt we had to be responsible citizens.

In contrast, our leaders have left us feeling deceived and helpless, so helpless in fact that we want to flee this nation the first chance we get. The only ones who are staying back are those who cannot leave due to financial or family constraints; in some cases, the inability to adjust to a new culture.

That is why so many of our young, unappreciated minds go there. They almost always do better than they would have here in their own country. They go there and become whatever they want. Some may disagree, especially our neo-rich, real-estate barons and corporate honchos who say that India is shining and no one wants to leave.

Well, then how come there is still a line outside the US Consulate offices all over India even today and there is no line in sight anywhere near an Indian Consulate in any part of the world?

That’s because India does not harbour an environment to facilitate the development of a decent and dignified citizen.

Instead we are engulfed in the smog of corruption, crony-capitalism, casteism and a lethargic justice system that has only helped the development of a crooked, greedy and self-centered citizenry.

When Manmohan Singh became the Prime Minister with Rahul Gandhi waiting in toe, we assumed there was hope. Instead, in these ‘hopeful’ hands, our nation has become hopeless.

And so today while we watch in envy the American President’s inspirational and touching address to his nation, we are left orphaned with no leaders to inspire us or lead us. The only thing holding us together is our collective sense of greed and insecurity.

We have no hope.

We have only God.

But he too seems to have given up.

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

What the lights ‘n’ sights of Mysore hide from you

20 October 2012

Doorada betta nunnuge” (from afar, even a distant hill looks smooth) is an old Kannada saying.

The sight of the Mysore palace with the Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar circle in the foreground, all decked up for Dasara in Mysore on Saturday, is a shining example of that. “Dasara Works” are going on feverishly even as the festival is veering to an end, but tourists and visitors are unlikely to notice.

For, the lights provide a nice veneer to mask the darkness.

***

Dr K. Javeed Nayeem writes in Star of Mysore:

“We are all in the middle of Dasara which is our most important annual event. But Mysore is still getting decked up for the occasion even after the short-lived celebrations themselves have started and are also about to end. It is a little like the bride still getting dressed even after the priest has started chanting the sacred mantras, completely unmindful of the fact that she is missing and only mindful of not allowing the designated auspicious moment to slip away!

“This is the scenario that meets our weary eyes year after year, ever since the Dasara slipped from the hands of our erstwhile royalty into the hands of our new netas. I wonder why some proper planning does not go into its preparations. At least it can then serve its intended purpose of showcasing our city at its best and making our tourists happy that the time, effort and money they spent on seeing it were worth it….

“Here I am reminded of Aesop‘s fairy tale where work on the project which started off in great haste, has fallen asleep enroute like the hare, while it is slowly but steadily being overtaken by its rival, the tortoise of escalating costs. Instead of wasting money and time on fairy tale projects and trying to achieve the impossible, it would be better if we concentrate on doing something tangible and useful.”

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

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

Should Bollywood have a place in Mysore Dasara?

Once upon a time, on this day, in another age

Mysore Mallige for the Maharani amid gold, glitz

Nagoji Dikshit & his Kantian quest for knowledge

20 October 2012

Sri Siddeshwara swamiji of the Jnana Yogashram in Bijapur, quoted in Star of Mysore:

Immanuel Kant lived up to 80 years and spent all his life in the quest of truth. When asked why he had not married, he replied that he had forgotten about it in his search for truth.

“Similar is the story of an Indian philosopher, Nagoji Dikshit who too went in the quest of truth for 60 years. On the very first day of marriage, he told his wife that he did not want to be tied down by marital fetters and wanted to roam free in search of truth and meaning of life.

“His wife agreed and he went away, only to return six decades later.

“By the time, the wife’s beauty had waned and he too had grown very weak. The wife greeted the prodigal husband with great love and respect. The husband told her that they had two children. When the wife asked, ‘how?’ he showed her two books, filled with knowledge.”

4 reasons why R.K. Narayan deserves a memorial

25 September 2012

15, Vivekananda Road, Yadavagiri, Mysore 570020: the home R.K. Narayan built in 1952 and lived in for nearly half a century

K.C. BELLIAPPA writes: R.K. Narayan is in the news again thanks to the objections raised to a memorial for him by a host of Kannada writers. The fact that many of them are giants in the Kannada literary scene made me sit up and read their press release with utmost care.

Let me respond to their objections.

The first objection is that R.K.Narayan is not a Kannadiga. This is stating the obvious but we should remember that Narayan is first and foremost an English writer. He did not write in any other Indian language. They are unhappy that Narayan while he translated Kamban’s Ramayana into English did not introduce any Kannada literary work to the outside world like A.K. Ramanujan.

To draw a comparison between Narayan and Ramanujan is manifestly unfair.

While Ramanujan was an acclaimed translator who had inwardness with three languages — Tamil, Kannada and English — Narayan was not a translator in the real sense of the term but what he managed to do was to render a free translation of Kamban, generally regarded as a work of inspiration.

Narayan had neither the competence nor the talent to translate Kannada works into English. Hence, this is not a legitimate complaint.

***

The Kannada writers are unhappy that Narayan sold his manuscripts to an American University and did not donate it to any University in Karnataka. They regard this as injustice to Kannada readers who know English.

I honestly fail to understand their specious logic.

Let me now give the real reason behind this decision. During one of my visits to Narayan’s house in Yadavagiri with Prof C.D. Narasimhaiah, he held forth eloquently on his reason for giving the manuscripts of his novels to Boston University library.

He said:

“CD, if I had given my manuscripts to the government archives, they would have dumped it in some corner where it would have been lying gathering dust and I would have got an acknowledgement on a buff paper. In Boston, they are preserved in air conditioned lockers.”

Of course, he added that he was paid $5,000 for each manuscript. In a manner of speaking, Narayan was a professional writer and looked at his writings wholly from a commercial perspective. I am not too sure whether we can question this premise of his.

***

They further argue that Narayan did not know Kannada well enough except for four or five sentences which he spoke with a mixture of Tamil. I think his Kannada was much better than that and this accusation has to be seen in the context of their opposition to the memorial.

Finally, they are of the view that Narayan’s relatives are selling the house just as Narayan did his manuscripts solely for money. The major burden of their argument is that Narayan as a non-Kannadiga does not deserve a memorial in Mysore and the government of Karnataka should not spend any money over it.

To be honest, I read the press release repeatedly to make sure that they meant what they had said.

I cannot understand how writers, eminent ones at that, could take such a stance.

***

Literature at its basic level teaches us to transcend all differences, be it linguistic, religious, cultural or any other for that matter. If they were genuinely concerned about memorials for other famous Kannada writers, they ought to have raised this issue dispassionately without questioning the decision of the government of Karnataka to build a memorial for Narayan.

R.K. Narayan by virtue of his being a writer in English is a pan-Indian literary figure of international acclaim. He is an eminent Indian English novelist who along with Mulk Raj Anand and Raja Rao was responsible for putting Indian Writing in English on the map of world literature.

He is possibly the most widely translated Indian writer.

I suspect that he was also the bestselling author among Indian writers and should rank as one of the richest among them. Narayan will reign supreme in world literature as far as readability is concerned.

There is a larger question whether governments should spend money on building such memorials for writers. England, for instance, has preserved the house of every writer, for that matter of all artists irrespective of their being considered major or minor in importance.

For the lover of arts, it is bound to be a memorable visit wherein he feels the ambience and the spirit of the place.

Depending on one’s familiarity with the artist, memories will come rushing in and result in an aesthetically satisfying experience. As a matter of fact, this is the nearest that one can come to experiencing the real thing. Surely, there is no substitute for this.

I would like to add that all such houses of writers should be seen as slices of literary heritage and not as pieces of real estate.

Here, I am reminded of what a friend from the fourth estate told me. Apparently, the heirs of a well-known politician of Karnataka demanded a fancy price for the house of their ancestor. When the officer concerned demanded that they offer the house free to the government, they refused. It was clear that they were more interested in the money part of it rather than the desire to perpetuate the memory of their illustrious forefather.

To be fair to Narayan’s relatives, they offered the house for sale as there was no one to stay in it. Only when the demolition of the house began did this become a public issue. Star of Mysore Editor-in-Chief K.B. Ganapathy, an ardent admirer of Narayan’s writings, wrote about the necessity of converting the house into a memorial.

Officials and Ministers responded favourably to this demand and it was officially announced that the government will buy the house and make it into a museum. It is more than a year since this happened and hence it is regrettable that such renowned writers are making an issue of this so belatedly.

(Former vice-chancellor of the Rajiv Gandhi central university in Arunachal Pradesh, Prof K.C. Belliappa is former faculty of the department of English, University of Mysore. This piece originally appeared in Star of Mysore and is republished with kind courtesy)

Writer owns up to breaking lamp, 68 years later

6 September 2012

From Star of Mysore:

Mysore, September 6: People usually like to forget the mistakes they committed in the past and would seldom want to recall them. But here is a rare example of a noble soul who not only confessed of his crime committed out of childish naughtiness but also punished himself.

The noble soul is litterateur Dr N. Ratna, a resident of the city and former director of the all Indian institute of speech and hearing (AIISH).

He recently wrote a letter to the Mysore city corporation (MCC), confessing to his “crime” of smashing the lamp globes of streetlights when he was a boy, about 68 years ago.

Dr Ratna says the guilt had been pricking his conscience ever since and he wanted to compensate for the loss he had incurred to public property.

Taking the occasion of the 150th anniversary of MCC as the right opportunity to absolve himself, Dr. Ratna wrote in his letter that though he had lived in Mysore for half the number of years of the 150th anniversary and had served the city in many ways, he intended to punish himself for smashing the light domes by paying a sum of Rs. 2,500 to the MCC.

The letter enclosed a cheque for the amount.

He also added that he was prepared to undergo any punishment that the MCC meted out to him for his “crime”.

The case against Aamir Khan’s view of doctors—II

22 June 2012

K. JAVEED NAYEEM writes: After Aamir Khan stirred up a hornet’s nest with his show about the misdeeds of doctors, I seem to have done the same with my article, which some people have seen as a defensive act from a member of the medical fraternity.

I have received many letters from viewers of the show and my readers too who have vented out their gall at the heart-rending sorrow of the victims and my audacity in protecting the image of the doctors supposedly responsible for it.

Apart from the two cases I discussed last week, many have challenged me to disprove him on the other counts where he has revealed many more misdeeds of doctors. I certainly will do so in full measure before I pull the curtain down on this matter, which I do not intend to do in a hurry.

I stepped in just because I felt that in showing what certainly seemed to be the main issue of that episode, Aamir Khan certainly picked on two very wrong cases to prove his point about all that has gone wrong with the practice of medicine in our country.

***

Yes, medical practice is no longer as sacrosanct as it once was and there is a lot that needs to be set right if it has to serve the needs of suffering humanity.

While someone attempts this, I would like to remind society here that a lot needs to be set right if medical practice has to serve the needs of practising doctors too.

If only Aamir Khan had done a little bit of research to locate some real cases of medical malpractice or negligence and ferreted out the real incriminating evidence behind them, before presenting them before his audience, he would have done some real service to society.

Moreover, instead of just presenting one version of what happened it would have been most appropriate and fair to all concerned if he had simultaneously or immediately after, given a chance for the doctors or the hospital managements to present their defence.

This would have made it more interesting and lent the utmost credibility not only to his show but also to his image and intentions. Of what use is any re-buttal if it has to be done through some other source or on some other platform? Even now, it is not too late for him to arrange this in one of the forthcoming episodes and I hope he does it.

***

Coming to his accusation that most doctors prescribe only expensive, branded drugs even when much cheaper generic alternatives are easily available, I would like to set the facts right here. It is true that for every branded drug there are at least a hundred cheaper versions readily available in Indian market.

This is thanks to our government’s policy of allowing anyone with a little money to ‘buy’ a drug manufacturing licence and start making a killing. Beyond this shred of paper that ensures complete legal immunity no other infrastructure whatsoever is necessary to set up a drug manufacturing plant in a tin-roofed shed, located in a seedy bylane and ply this lucrative trade.

Most such drugs do not have any drug inside. So, what goes into these tablets, capsules or tonics? They contain either plain chalk powder, sawdust or sweetened and coloured water.

If this seems like an exaggeration, why do we regularly have incidents in our country of spurious and sub-standard drugs and even vaccines killing the people who happen to receive them?

Why do the drugs dispensed by our government hospitals fail to bring down the high fever that bends the bodies of the poor patients who go there, while the same drug prescribed by the very same government doctor but dispensed by the private chemist across the road quickly puts them back on their feet?

One of my former professors at the Mysore Medical College who valued his integrity and honesty more than the instant material wealth it would have brought him, refused a promotion and returned from an administrative posting when he was pestered by spurious drug manufacturers to accept huge bribes and clear their pending applications.

He chose to remain in his almost non-paying teaching job, preferring to sleep on a pillow of a clear conscience rather than on a bed of currency notes. Today, without exception whatsoever, every one in the city respects him as the best example and embodiment of the rare qualities that one seeks in a doctor.

And, for this uprightness, he also happens to be one of my guiding beacons and I turn to him for the right counsel whenever I am faced with a professional problem or a moral dilemma.

***

The companies that manufacture branded versions of drugs have a reputation and a track record to protect and they will therefore get periodic quality checks done by authorised agencies to uphold the set standards.

In this respect, many reputed Indian companies and multinational manufacturing giants who have invested much money into research and development naturally keep the prices of their products a little high. This is understandably inevitable and we have to accept the fact that quality can come only at a cost.

It has now become a fashion to simply blame multinationals for all our problems.

Yes, multinationals may be exploiting us with their expensive products and in doing so they may even qualify to be called anti-nationals but at least they give us safe and effective drugs. If your doctor insists on your buying a particular brand of medicine, it is often because he or she has established faith in it.

On the other hand, if you end up buying a generic drug whose manufacturer is unknown and whose quality can therefore never be ensured, with what confidence can he or she treat you?

People may accuse doctors of yielding to the enticement and pressure of pharma companies but that is not the whole truth. If only generic drugs are permitted to be sold in the country as some people wish, the profit margins to the sellers, instead of the quality of the drug, will decide what the patients get.

I would prefer to give up practising medicine altogether if I have to do so without any control over what my patients get as medicine.

That is why all my prescriptions carry a line in small print at the bottom that says: “Responsibility for this prescription ceases if drugs are substituted, redispensed or sold without a valid bill.”

***

Aamir Khan while talking on the show and also before a Parliamentary Standing Committee yesterday about the need to promote generic drugs to keep treatment costs low should have taken a little trouble to ascertain the sources of drugs dispensed at most of the government hospitals across the country today.

As far as I know, we should be surprised if any of these drugs happen to be from any of the top 20 trust-worthy drug-manufacturing companies, which are operating in India. This is thanks to corrupt officials and politicians who rule the roost.

It is an open secret that heavy bribes have to be paid at every stage, to get oneself on the list of drug suppliers to the government healthcare sector and also to get tenders passed from time to time.

Therefore, it is no surprise that as each bureaucratic milestone is painfully crossed, the quantity of the real drug in the formulation naturally keeps decreasing until only the chalk powder, the sawdust and the sugar-water that I talked about, manage to reach the final destination!

***

Common sense should tell us that good drugs that really work, can only come from good companies that can get the prices that do justice to their quality control and good manufacturing practices.

In our country, all the good intentions of a doctor who insists on any particular brand of the prescribed drug can be derailed by many agencies.

With the already prevalent suspicion in most patients’ minds, just a whisper that the doctor is on the payroll or patronage of a drug company, from one dishonest chemist who wants to sell a brand that pays him more, is enough to convert doubt into conviction.

Patients must understand the fact that the best advertisement for any doctor’s capability is the efficacy of his or her treatment and in this respect, no doctor will endanger his reputation by prescribing a drug of doubtful quality simply to get a cut from any pharma company, as alleged on Aamir Khan’s show.

The great Khan further talked of needless lab tests that doctors order just to get commissions from labs who in turn recover these expenses by issuing reports without actually doing the tests.

While I do agree that most labs these days pay cuts to beat competition and stay in business, I do not think any decent medical lab would issue reports without performing the tests. If this practice exists, it is only at the slimy bottom of medical practice where the most unethical practitioners of the art operate and it is no index of the integrity and honesty of doctors in general.

But when something as ugly as selective female foeticide does exist in our country, and since some medical doctors have been found guilty of it, we cannot completely deny the existence of these ‘unperformed tests’.

***

Since doctors too have now been brought under the purview of the consumer protection act, litigation has become easy and cost-free for any disgruntled patient. Patients can now file cases against doctors at the drop of a hat over the most frivolous issues and doctors who used to spend their leisure hours unwinding in tennis courts, are now forced to spend much time and money in standing and defending themselves in law courts.

Very often, they have to be at the receiving end of adverse and financially burdensome judgements, as they cannot prove the correctness of their actions on the strength of paper records and reports.

Because courts go only by material evidence while deciding cases, doctors now to indemnify themselves against litigation are forced to order a plethora of lab tests and also go in for higher and higher malpractice insurance. Naturally, unknown to them, it is the patients themselves who end up paying the cost of these tests and the premiums for these insurance policies.

The commissions paid by labs are just a side effect of this sad development and they are actually not the main cause for the unnecessary tests, which now have to be accepted as quite justified, considering the present scenario. The labs have to resort to this unethical practice because they have to stay in business and recover their investments after paying the steep interest on their bank loans.

Today, it is no surprise that more than 75 per cent of the wide array of lab tests that doctors order, is what the consumer protection act has forced on them. The moment this act came into the scene, the sanctity of the relationship between the patient and the doctor that existed over the years died forever.

With just one stroke of the law-making pen, the sacred Vaidya of the age-old Indian shloka: ‘Vaidyo Narayana Hari‘ was unceremoniously tossed out of the hospital window.

Now, like how it happens in a Shakespearean tragedy, the scene has changed completely and the patient is only an aggressive consumer and the doctor only a very defensive service provider.

You may argue here that not all patients are aggressive and vindictive. But how are we to decide who the good ones and bad ones are, beforehand?

***

In this cat-and-mouse game, Dr Jekyll can become Mr Hyde and vise versa, without warning.

We doctors regularly see not just really aggrieved and wronged patients turning to the courts but also those who did not like the outcome of their treatment. There are records of people having gone to court with false charges simply because hospital bills were not waived off or reduced as requested by them.

I know of many patients who attribute all that befalls them later to the ‘wrong’ treatment that they once received at some hospital.

Similarly, I routinely encounter women who blame the tubectomy operation they underwent decades ago for all the aches, pains, coughs, colds and cancers that they now suffer from.

I have once seen the inside of a consumer court as an expert witness and I did not find it a very comforting or friendly place. While watching the proceedings, I noticed charges being traded left and right by litigants, like paper missiles, without any regard to the wisdom enshrined in any textbook, either medical or legal.

Now I do not intend to revisit the place, especially as a defendant.

What I am going to say here may shock you but even I am guilty of ordering some ‘unnecessary’ lab tests sometimes in my practice. However, these lab tests are only unnecessary from the point of view that if I am fully honest, I really do not need their help to make a diagnosis, which is where all lab tests are meant to help us.

I order these often expensive tests only to keep myself and my practice safe from any medical malpractice litigation. Very often, even where I find the diagnosis staring at me in my face, I never proceed to announce it or treat the condition before I get the verdict straight from the horse’s mouth.

And, here my helpful horse is the friendly neighbourhood diagnostic lab, which is naturally a pretty expensive horse to boot because of all the expensive equipment it bears on its back.

In the event of the need to treat some poor patients, which I do quite often in my practice, I ask the patients’ relatives to simply sign an undertaking that they cannot afford the cost of the recommended tests and are therefore willing to go by my clinical diagnosis.

I then quickly keep this precious document in my bank locker, which I have hired just for this purpose!

For me these uninvestigated cases are the most comforting ones to treat, as they, while making me feel like a real doctor from the good old times, do not impose a strain on my conscience.

Coming to the really pathetic portrayal on Aamir Khan’s show of the plight of women from Andhra Pradesh who seem to have been subjected en masse to needless hysterectomies or removal of the uterus, I am almost certain that this must have been some kind of an insurance racket involving unscrupulous middlemen and it needs to be investigated fully. All those found guilty, including the doctors if any, should receive the most deterrent punishment.

These days whenever patients get themselves some kind of medical insurance, agencies which would have sold them the policy, often prevail upon them to make the best use of the cover before its term expires. They do this to make the insured persons feel that investing on the policy was a worthwhile expenditure because it helped them to get treated for some ailment, real or imaginary.

While most of us would be happy not to have needed our medical insurance cover, many people especially from the lower strata of society, feel cheated if they have to get it renewed year after year without putting its benefits to any use.

I regularly come across many patients who are desperately impatient to put their medical insurance to some use and it is often a difficult task to dissuade them from doing so.

Very recently, a lady came to my clinic with a medical insurance policy for Rs. 1,000, which she had received as a compliment for buying a crate of dish-washing soap. Under its cover, she wanted me to certify that she was under my treatment for which she was willing to share 50 per cent of the amount with me.

When I did not oblige she went away complaining that I was so unhelpful in getting her what was legitimately her due under the policy. She would perhaps have even felt that I stood my ground only because the miserable incentive was not large enough to make me abandon my principles!

***

Aamir Khan should understand and accept the fact that the medical fraternity he is lampooning on his show is guided and governed by many complex issues that deal with life’s most complex and elusive problems.

Practising medicine is more of an art than a science, where two identical problems often do not respond identically despite identical lines of treatment. When it comes to medicine, he is after all only a layman and medicine certainly is not his cup of tea like how it is mine! I wish his attention now shifts to something he understands better.

For instance, the black money that keeps the projector wheels turning or the close liaison between the film industry and the underworld. But that takes the kind of courage that this kind of Khan perhaps does not have in him.

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

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

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

The half-truths of Aamir Khan, the truth fountain

8 June 2012

K. JAVEED NAYEEM writes: Satyameva Jayate, which literally means “Truth Stands Invincible” or “Let Truth Prevail”, is a mantra from the ancient Mundaka Upanishad believed to have been written by our sages in 250 BC.

The slogan was popularised and brought into use by Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya in 1918 when he was serving the second of his four terms as president of the Indian National Congress, and it was later adopted as the national motto of India after Independence.

Today it is inscribed at the base of our national emblem, the Ashoka pillar, and is also found on every one of our coins and currency notes, handled by the rich and the poor alike but without anyone ever noticing either its presence or significance whatsoever.

While it was meant to keep our conscience in a state of constant wakefulness to uphold the greatness of our rediscovered nationhood, we Indians with our dishonest ways and dark deeds have sadly kept its guiding light out of our murky lives.

***

Today, ‘Satyamev Jayate’ also happens to be the title of a very popular TV show being aired on every Sunday morning to tell us Indians all the wrong that is happening in our country which we need to set right.

Very recently, in the fourth episode of this widely watched television show, its host Aamir Khan, the popular film hero, chose to speak about health-care services in India and the threat of ‘rampant’ medical negligence. He called on real life ‘victims’ to share their trauma.

One such victim of alleged medical malpractice was retired Army officer Major Pankaj Rai who lost his wife Seema to what he called a badly botched up kidney transplantation operation.

Without naming anyone or any hospital during the course of the show, he said that his wife died as a result of gross medical negligence at a very reputed hospital in the country when she was subjected to a combined kidney and pancreas transplant that was done without the consent of the patient herself or any of the family members.

What Aamir Khan perhaps did not tell his viewers was the fact that on his show he was all along showing them only half-truths about what had actually happened.

And, mind you, half the truth is very often a great lie.

***

All details of the Seema Rai case are now available on the internet at the click of the mouse button. You can easily find out that the transplant surgeon who was accused of being inadequately trained and ill qualified to carry out the operation was actually someone who was trained in the United States with good experience in multi-organ transplantation.

The physician and nephrologist who treated the patient and managed her on dialysis for more than two years before she underwent transplant surgery too had 16 years of clinical experience in the US before he chose to return to India to serve fellow Indians.

He has been practising in India since 2003 without any charge having been levelled against his competence either in the US or in India.

Now, whenever a doctor who has been able to survive and practice in the US, which is one of the most paying but also certainly one of the toughest environments to practice medicine, chooses to return to a country like India, we cannot easily garland him with the accusation of either being selfish or inefficient.

This doctor in question, therefore, does not need me to write a page of unqualified and unpaid defence for him, to uphold his reputation or image, especially when I do not even know him personally.

***

Major Rai alleged on the show that the doctors who did not even have a licence to do the job, whisked his wife off to surgery in the middle of the night without his or her consent and transplanted the kidney of a cadaver donor, along with a pancreas, that was not only an unnecessary medical procedure but also one that risked his wife’s life as well.

What our famous host or his aggrieved guest did not tell us during the show—where they were applauded and cheered by their captive audience—was the fact that this case of alleged medical negligence has been heard by more discerning experts.

The State medical council in its ruling has clearly said there was absolutely no medical negligence involved and there was no motive of personal monetary gain on the part of the doctors. The incident has also been debated over by many professional bodies both in India, and abroad too, including a law University and all of them have ruled that there was no element of medical negligence involved in it whatsoever.

Despite these rulings, the family has chosen to pursue the matter with a claim for a steep monetary compensation and the matter is sub-judice still.

No monetary compensation can do any, let alone full justice, for a human life lost and for the ensuing pain but while the matter is still undecided they should not have aired their angst with misrepresented facts on a TV show meant for the masses hungry for sensational scoops.

It appears the patient who was on dialysis had registered for cadaver kidney transplantation with a government body called the zonal coordination committee for transplantation (ZCCT). Now, cadaver transplantation means the transplantation of organs harvested from brain-dead persons, which is resorted to when living relatives with matching tissues are not available to donate their organs.

In such a situation whenever a suitable organ becomes available, as it usually happens after a fatal road accident, the patients on the waiting list are informed and asked to report immediately if they are interested in getting the transplant done. There is very little time for this procedure to be undertaken as the organs from a brain-dead donor have a very limited lifespan before they are transplanted.

In the case of a kidney, it is best transplanted within six hours after death and usually not more than twenty-four hours to ensure best function after transplantation.

Moreover, the decision-making has to be fast here as other waiting prospective recipients have to be informed if the first one refuses. And, even after a prospective recipient is identified some more hours are needed to establish tissue compatibility.

Therefore, the summons from the hospital for a cadaver transplant patient to quickly get admitted sometimes comes only as an urgent midnight call and there is nothing surprising about it.

***

On May 1, 2010, when the ZCCT, the agency that allocates cadaver kidney organs, informed that a potential cadaver had been identified and Seema Rai was one of the potential recipients, she voluntarily got admitted to the hospital for the procedure.

The patient was evaluated by the nephrologist and the transplant surgeon who discussed the cadaver transplantation procedure with her family after which she, who was a teacher at an international school, along with her husband, gave the informed consent for surgery.

They did this after discussing the relative risks and benefits of surgery with the transplant team and also, over the telephone, with one of their relatives who was perhaps a doctor in the United States.

According to their nephrologist, the transplanted kidney was functioning very well but three days after the operation the patient developed a severe bleeding disorder called disseminated intravascular coagulation or DIC. This rare complication, which is known to occur after any major surgery or even the delivery of a baby, causes massive bleeding which is difficult to control even after transfusing many units of blood as well as blood products like plasma and platelets.

It can happen in the best of hospitals and a very famous film actress, Smita Patil who could have sought and afforded the best treatment anywhere in the world, helplessly succumbed to it after childbirth. Despite the best efforts, this patient too failed to respond and expired and her death cannot be said to bet a consequence of any act of negligence of either the transplant team or the hospital.

***

In another case, a patient was shown who claimed that a surgeon had amputated one of his toes needlessly. The ‘needlessness’ of this operation was revealed by another doctor only after it had already been performed. I fail to understand how the second doctor could give such an opinion when he or she had never seen what the problem was like before surgery.

In a situation like diabetic gangrene of one of the toes, a difference of opinion can be expressed only before the surgical procedure and not afterwards. No expert, however efficient and experienced can comment on the need for surgery or the lack of it after the condition has been treated.

No mention was made in the show of whether the patient was a diabetic and how well controlled his blood sugar was before the procedure.

From what I could see on the show, the foot looked like a classical case of diabetic gangrene that had been treated with the perfectly approved and appropriate treatment of surgical amputation. In fact, because healing can often be very slow here, it looked like the perfect answer to any diabetologist’s prayer about what the outcome of correct and prompt treatment should be!

***

Whenever truth is told, it should include the whole truth including the inconvenient bits. This show is not just unabashed ‘truth-telling’ but it aims to hammer the truth in after breaking it into convenient bits.

The whole exercise seems structured to appropriate for its lead star the role of being the truth-fountain. My worry is that he presents both a populist and ‘one-sided truth’ on an enormously complex social issue with a dangerous authority that only his kind of stardom can muster.

In his show, Aamir Khan has certainly taken a huge leap from simply raising the awareness of his audience to being a medical expert, interlocutor and activist all rolled into one.

Here he is not just making a fictitious film where he can manipulate facts to create a sensational effect on his viewers. Here he is sensationalising a real life situation in a reality show watched by very well-educated and even a technically qualified audience too in addition to the lay public that laps up as truth all that comes from the lips of their hero.

The show goes beyond a lay talk show, which at least pretends to allow different shades of opinion to argue, debate, agree or disagree with a situation. It only shows a blind judge without any qualification, showing his audience the subtle shades of differ-ence that lend charm to the sunset that his stardom dreads.

Await more comforting truths next week!

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

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

CHURUMURI POLL: Aamir Khan vs doctors?

CHURUMURI POLL: Medical insurance: a big ripoff?

Once upon a time, when my doctor was an angel

Do Mysore’s doctors, hospitals have any ethics?


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