Archive for April, 2006

A Horse for Mr Ashwath

30 April 2006

At the launch of the Mysore editions of Deccan Herald and Praja Vani at Hotel Metropole this evening, the Kannada thespian K.S. Ashwath narrated a story. A classic and quaint Mysore story.

Ashwath, one of the landmarks of Saraswathipuram, said he took great pride, before his cinema stardom and even after it, to do the little chores of life on his own.

Like going to Devaraja Market to bring fruits, flowers and vegetables for the family.

This daily, almost ritual, expedition was taken on foot. Some while later, he began using a tonga and usually it would be the same tonga which would take him around. 

One day, the tongawallah came home to Ashwath and poured out a tale of woe: the tonga owner had dismissed the driver and he was now c/o footpath. 

Sweet Mr Ashwath immediately took pity and bought he out-of-work tongawallah a tonga, complete with the horse. The only condition was that the tongawallah would take the owner on all his daily peregrinations around town for a small fee. 

Everything went smoothly for a while, before the tongawallah began playing truant and even dropped out.

Ashwath was now stuck with the tonga and the horse. And the horse was losing weight and health rapidly. 

Ashwath goes to a man called Byra who owned a few tongas in Kanne Gowdana Koppal and relates his problem. The man takes one look at the horse and says it is unwell, and that he would put him back him in shape in a few weeks. Ashwath agrees.

Once the horse is back on its feet, Ashwath now finds a new tonga-wallah to ferry him around, but soon this tongawallah too begins playing the same tricks and he too drops out.

Ashwath is now stuck with an unhealthy horse and a tonga with a driver. Worse, he doesn’t know where to park the damned thing each day and night. 

Finally, a frustrated Ashwath is put out of his misery by a friend who suggests that he sell the tonga, horse and all. Ashwath agrees.  End of story.


What this story had to do with the launch of the two papers one doesn’t know, but the story was a reallife throwback to an R.K. Narayan story from Malgudi Days (?), when Ananth Nag wins a road-roller in a prize but doesn’t quite know what to do with it, with the result it becomes an albatross around his neck. 

T.J.S. GEORGE: Immaturity breeds incompetence

30 April 2006

It’s not often that T.J. S. George speaks his mind on journalism. At least, not in public.

Founder-editor of Asiaweek magazine, editorial advisor to the New Indian Express group, and the author of numerous books ranging from music (MS), to words (Enquire Dictionary), George is the ultimate wordsmith but also, paradoxically, a man of few words.

In a rare interaction with the Mysore District Journalists' Association (thank you Amshi Prasanna), George took questions from journalists and journalism students on Sunday morning.

Among the key points he made:

# There is a lot of immaturity in Indian journalism; out of that comes incompetence.

# Journalism is getting less and less important in Indian media, and content is no longer king.

# Money-success has become the be-all and end-all of newcomers in journalism.

Go to the T.J.S. George page on the right of the screen for the full text, and come back here to leave a comment.

Javagal Srinath: World’s Most Famous Mysorean?

30 April 2006

Finally, Deccan Herald has launched its Mysore edition today. Yours truly has a piece in it on the World’s 10 Most Famous Mysoreans i.e. Mysoreans who have taken the name of our City far and wide.



To attempt to identify Mysoreans who have taken Mysore’s name far and wide is a treacherous exercise. Some will ask if these are the only people who are responsible for the City’s reputation (they are not). Some others will ask if those who do not make it to such a list have not contributed (they surely have). And still some others will ask if only the boldface achievers matter unlike those toiling anonymously (not at all).

There is even an bigger question than all these: isn’t the notion of spreading a City’s name too provincial, maybe a touch too parochial if not faddish? After all, nobody sits down to do a list of New Yorkers who made New York famous or Londoners who made London famous. So, why should we bother about Mysoreans who made Mysore famous? And what, pray, are the parameters in choosing them?

To take the first question, it matters because Mysore is, in the end, a pretty small town. Pretty, yes, but small. We may be inching towards a million, but we are still a tenth the size of Bangalore. So, whoever emerges out of our agraharas, mohallas and nagars and makes it on the national or global stage commands an aura. It’s not an inferiority complex; just an honest recognition of the fact that there is a world outside Mysore.

Naming names also matters because implicit in it is the hope that it will inspire their townsmen (and women) to excel and rekindle the dazzle of decades past.

As the historian Ramachandra Guha wrote a few years ago, the Mysore kingdom had the good fortune to be ruled by progressive maharajas and still more progressive diwans “who between them started modern industries (including a steel mill), ran efficient railways, built an impressive network of irrigation canals, patronised great musicians and artists, and created and nurtured first-rate colleges.”

But, once Bangalore became the capital of the new democratic State, Mysore has had to play second fiddle. In other words, the accomplishments of the World’s Most Famous Mysoreans are all the more important because they have come largely in spite of the State, not because of it. They might not shout they are Mysoreans from the rooftops, but in what they do or have, they epitomize the spirit of Mysore.

It is a shamelessly subjective list, of course, which does not make a distinction between those who were born in Mysore and those who merely worked here; between those alive and those no longer. And we do not even consider the maharajas (ah, democracy!) because it can be even more shamelessly admitted that without them nothing that would have been possible, and their imprint is over everything you see, touch and feel.

Still, here goes:

10. ASSORTED ARTISTS: It’s difficult to figure who made Mysore more famous in the arts, culture and literature. The man who rose to become President of India (Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan) or the man who served as advisor to three Prime Ministers (H.Y. Sharada Prasad). The man who became India’s best known sociologist (M.N. Srinivas) or the philosopher who became a byword (M. Hiriyanna). The man who was India’s best veena player (Doreswamy Iyengar) or one of its finest violinists (Chowdiah). The man who became India’s most famous cartoonist (R.K. Laxman) or one of its most famous lensmen (T.S. Satyan). But this much can be said, you could take them out of Mysore, but never could take Mysore out of them.

9. RAJA RAMANNA: Not all Mysoreans are calm, peaceful or docile. And proof comes in the shape of Raja Ramanna. In the quiet of his study and at concerts, he played piano most magnificently, sure. But in the rough and tumble of India’s atomic energy establishment, Ramanna was the proverbial hawk, guiding India’s nuclear fortunes in Pokhran and playing a key role in getting some key defence labs and outfits to the city of his birth. Upon retirement, Ramanna spent lunch after lunch with M.N. Srinivas, pining for set dosas and moaning over maiden overs bowled for Bradman Cricket Club in the 1930s.

8. JAYALALITHA JAYARAM: For the rank of the world’s most famous Mysorean woman, it has to be a toss-up between Jayalalitha Jayaram and Kamala Purnaiah-Taylor aka Kamala Markandaya. But the Tamil Nadu chief minister wins largely because it is easy to relate to her, unlike Markandaya who, in life as in death, remains a bit of a mystery, and not just to Mysoreans. But then, so does Jayalalitha, each time a battle breaks out for Cauvery water.

7. Sir M. VISVESVARAYA: If “world famous” has almost become part of the name of Brindavan Gardens, which was Mysore’s biggest tourist attraction outside of the Palace till the Cauvery dispute broke out, it is the handiwork of Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya, chief engineer of the Krishnaraja Sagar dam. In setting up Asia’s first hydro-electric power plant not far away at Shivanasamudram, Sir MV showed 100 years ago what enlightened leadership and engineering vision can do for the masses. One hundreds years later, each summer, Mysore’s only Bharat Ratna reminds Mysoreans of the lack of both.

6. FAROUKH IRANI: Long before Rishi Kapoor eloped with Dimple Kapadia on the ‘Bobby’ bike and before the sleek but sissy Japanese bikes invaded our lives, the silence on Indian roads was broken by the manly rumble of the Jawa and Yezdi motorcycles. Its owners are unlikely to have looked under the hood to see the place of manufacture, but Irani set the benchmark for corporate social responsibility decades before IT companies began crowing about it. Not only did Irani run a company which made cheap, reliable bikes, he ran a great school, top-class cricket and football teams, a traffic park for children and more.

5. N.R. NARAYANA MURTHY: His Sunday morning toilet-cleaning no longer gets the media attention that starting his company from his wife’s funds does. But Mysore is a key landmark in the Infy founder’s CV. It was here he went to school, it was here he went to engineering college, and it is here he has set up Infosys’ biggest campus. As a citizen of the flat world, Murthy doesn’t proclaim the city of his origin often enough, but in setting up the leadership development centre here, he has made sure that Mysore becomes a must-visit stop for hundreds of Infoscions on the way up the corporate ladder.

4. R.K. NARAYAN: The jury will always be out on whether Mysore is Malgudi. But in opting for a career in English writing when it was far from the in-thing, R.K. Narayan showed that a fertile imagination can plough over geographical location. Whether he is the most famous Indian writer on the globe can be debated. Whether he is more famous than Kuvempu or A.K. Ramanujan is also debatable. But in his stories and characters, and in the manner in which he told them, Narayan brought the simplicity of small-town Mysore like no other. Or, maybe, it was small-town Mysore which chose its muse without our knowing.

3. THE UNSUNG ARTISAN: It isn’t just the rich and famous who have put Mysore on the world map. Long before the media darlings emerged, Mysore was well known on all the continents for its jasmine, agarbathis, sandalwood and ivory inlay work. And behind all of those were unsung, underpaid brand ambassadors who toiled manfully with scarcely any recognition or expectation. But if today Mysore is on the lips of millions, hugs and kisses must go to every restaurateur and chef who believes that splattering Mysore on the menu card is the shortest route to a customer’s wallet. Mysore Pak is most certainly ours, but Mysore Sambar, Mysore Masala Dosa, Mysore Meals, Mysore Bonda?

2. K. PATTABHI JOIS: S.T. Krishnamacharya and B.K.S. Iyengar may have preceded him in fame; and kundalini yoga may be more famous. But in transmitting ‘Ashtanga Yoga’ to the world and restoring Mysore’s place as the yoga capital in the country, few will ever match what octogenarian Pattabhi Jois has done. Starting out from a tiny nook in Lakshmipuram, Jois teaches the way to achieve the union between the jeevatma and the paramatma to the who’s who of show business, including Madonna, Sting and Gwyneth Paltrow. And on any given day, Gokulam, where he now resides, resembles an Olympics Games village, with hundreds of foreigners practising the craft at the hands of Jois and his grandson, Sharath, when not zipping around the streets.

1. JAVAGAL SRINATH: There have been other international sporting superstars before him. Leg spinner B.S. Chandrashekhar for sure. And there are others like golfer Rahul Ganapathy and Davis Cupper Rohan Bopanna now. But for the frequency with which the words “Mysore Express” or “Mysore Missile” have adorned his name over a 12-year international cricketer, there is no more famous a Mysorean on the planet, at least in the 10 cricket-playing nations, than the Rama Vilas Road racehorse. And certainly, no one who in his modesty and humility despite his extraordinary accomplishments, epitomizes the true essence of the typical Mysorean. As somebody wrote recently, “The only thing un-Mysorean about him was his pace.”

‘Kuvempu didn’t name his son, he sentenced him’

30 April 2006

T.J.S. George, one of India's last great editors, is in town. George, like everybody else interested in these matters, was amazed at the remarkable condition of Kuvempu's house in Vontikoppal as opposed to the despicable condition of R.K. Narayan's in Yadavagiri.

At which point, yours truly butted in to say that Kuvempu's son K.P. Poornachandra Tejaswi had in fact turned the ancestral home in Tirthahalli into a wonderful musem.

At which point, George remembered Y.N. Krishnamurthy, the legendary Kannada editor, humourist and punster.

Apparently, YNK used to say that Kuvempu had not named his son, he had sentenced him. Just.

URGENT: Please send your best wishes to Y.S.R.

29 April 2006

An Indian engineer (Suryanarayan) lies kidnapped by the Taliban somewhere in Afghanistan. They threaten to kill him in the next 24 hours if Indians working in Afghanistan do not leave the country. Obviously, his family—a wife (Manjula) and three young children—are totally distraught in Hyderabad.

They go to the Chief Minister's residence. But the CM refuses to meet them. Yes, you read that right, the CM refuses to meet them because, they didn't have a prior appointment, according to the CNN-IBN correspondent. Come tomorrow, they are told.

Dr Y.S. Rajashekhar Reddy and his staff deserve our very best wishes for not letting emotions and feelings come in the way of their imperturbable sense of procedure and protocol at a trying moment like this. Please send it to them.

On the other hand, as Rahul Dravid would say…

29 April 2006

On a day when it has been revealed that the Prime Minister's Office knew all along the extent of the displacement caused by the Narmada dam but yet put the onus of proving the number on the Narmada Bachao Andolan, E.R. Ramachandran gets the inside story on how the Centre plans to rehabilitate them.

"Using Sonia Gandhi's villa in Italy is an option as Rahul Dravid would say. But then, again as Dravid would say, such options are limited." Click on the ERR page on the right for the full text.

SARASWATHIPURAM ANDAVA: cuppu, conu, ballsu

29 April 2006

SUNAAD RAGHURAM writes: Musing over our childhood days in Saraswathipuram, my mind goes to the time when bicycles were a vital mode of transport, among the young and the elderly.

Which meant that you had to go to one or the other ‘cycle shop’ in the neighbourhood for repairs, routine maintenance and ‘blow’. ‘Blow’ being the euphemism for checking tyre pressure!

In the same line as ‘coffee pudi’ Vasu’s angadi, between the 4th and 5th main roads, was a ‘cycle shop’, of which a lean, dark-skinned guy was the head honcho.

His name was Andava.

Andava it turned out was not necessarily a man who believed in upholding business ethics. Instead, he was out to make a quick buck from all those who entered his lair!

"Andava, swalpa blow hodyappa," we would intone. Quite surreptitiously he would go around the parked bicycle, as if checking its every part. Then he would lift the cycle by its handle and thump it down to the ground a few times. He would turn the handle vigorously a few times and then slowly reveal his ‘diagnosis’.

"Cuppu, conu, ballsu hogidyalla mariAppa-nge helappa…Change madisbidodu olledu…" Andava would whisper, and for a whole generation, "cuppu, conu, ballsu" became words to be dreaded. 

Panic-stricken we would invariably rush back home, seek some money and return promptly to Andava’s ‘shop’ to get the necessary repairs done! After all, cycles had to be maintained!

It was long before we came to realise that the scoundrel was making fast cash out of us with the same refrain, ‘cuppu, conu, ballsu’!

CHURUMURI POLL: Are Indian Muslims better off?

29 April 2006

Actor, producer, director Feroze Khan has kicked off a major storm in Pakistan with his comment that Muslims in India are better off than Muslims in Pakistan.

"I am a proud Indian. India is a secular country. Muslims in India are making lot of progress. Our President is a Muslim, our Prime Minister a Sikh. Pakistan was made in the name of Islam but look how the Muslims are killing each other," Khan has been quoted as saying during the launch of his brother Akbar Khan's Taj Mahal.

What do you think? Are Indian Muslims doing better than Pakistani Muslims? If so, in what ways? Considering that safeguarding the interests of Muslims was the reason for the creation of Pakistan, has Partition backfired? If so, who is responsible? Tell us.

MADAGOO! Once upon a time in CFTRI School

29 April 2006

From Washington D.C., Alfred Satish Jones writes of the happiest day of his life: being selected for the CFTRI school cricket team.

“After I’d put on the abdomen guard, the only way I could walk was with my legs spread wide, like a Dasara Kesari pailvaan approaching his next victim at the beginning of his kusthi match,” writes Jones.

Click on the Alfred Satish Jones page on the top-right and come back here to leave a comment.

Are ‘Ruthless Asian Babes’ getting too ruthless?

29 April 2006

The author William Dalrymple put a totally new spin to the Kaavya Viswanathan disgrace last night. He was saying on television that Kaavya was just another example of 'Ruthless Asian Babes' who would do anything to achieve what they want: success, money, recognition, whatever.

Dalrymple also included Faria Alam, the football association secretary of Bengali and Pakistani descent who stumped Sven-Goran Eriksson; and Joyti De-Laurey, the Goldman Sachs secretary of Indian origin accused of stealing £4,404,678.

That set yours truly thinking. Who else would qualify as a Ruthless Asian Babe?

Preetii Jain, who singed Madhur Bhandarkar? Zaheera Shaikh, who tried to eat the cake and the bakery? Our own Lakshmi Pandit, Dr B.V. Rajagopal's daughter, who was stripped off the Miss India crown for being married?

What do you think? Is Dalrymple right, wrong or sexist? Who will qualify as a Ruthless Asian Babe in your opinion? Leave a comment.

Also see:

Joke of the Week #5

29 April 2006

The late Sri Lankan foreign minister Lakshman Kadirgamar had a fine and refined sense of humour.

At an after-dinner speech to felicitate the Sri Lankan cricket team in London last year, shortly before he was assassinated, he recounted the story of how the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin had wanted to change the name of his country to "Idi".

Amin instructed his foreign minister to canvas world opinion and return in two weeks. When he did not do so, he was summoned before the megalomaniac to explain.

The Ugandan foreign minister said: "Mr President, I have been informed that there is a country called Cyprus. Its citizens are called Cypriots. If we change the name of our country to 'Idi', our citizens would be called 'Idiots'."

Even Amin could see reason.

THIS JUST IN: My name is Ram, K. Shivram

29 April 2006

Churumuri is pleased to take note the following advertisement which appears on page 6 of the Mysore Edition of The Hindu today.

“CHANGE OF NAME: I, K. Shivaramu (former name), commissioner, social welfare department, 5th floor, M.S. Building, Dr Ambedkar Veedhi, Bangalore – 560001 have changed my name to K. SHIVRAM (new name) vide affidavit before Notary Sri Jayappa on 27.04.2006.”

Wonder why. Can any numerology buffs out there enlighten us on the difference between SHIVARAMU and SHIVRAM?

Also see:

BREAKING NEWS: SMS poll gimmick kills ‘Mukta’

28 April 2006

SUMERU S. RAJU writes: Let me confess. I watch Mukta, the primetime Kannada serial on ETV regularly. For people whose idea of a soap opera is defined by Ekta Kapoor‘s garish K-series or the tantric-twist Tamil serials and their remakes, T.N. Seetharam‘s Mukta is a balm for the eyes and the mind.

It engages you, looks at the institution of family in a more realistic socio-economic context, brings in issues of contemporary boiling (globalisation, corporate ruthlessness, CET admission, underworld dealings, real estate business etc) to the fore and offers an opinion, that is mostly in tune with the saner pulse of the masses.

The only thing about which Mukta seems off-the-mark is when it routinely romanticises the judiciary, but still one could pardon it as that is the most entertaining and popular element of the serial.

At a time when newspapers and TV have become instruments of propaganda for the moneyed, reactionary middle-classes, failing largely to take note of larger social rumblings, Mukta is an exception.

Something that offers a 23-minute catharsis five nights a week and injects mild doses of optimism to a heavily depressed living.

But last night I was in for some disappointment about the serial and its director and lead actor.

T.N. Seetharam alias Chandrashekhar Prasad alias CSP appeared just before the show began and made an announcement.

It went something like this: “Thank you all for watching Mukta. Of late I have been thinking of winding up the serial as we have reached close to 600 episodes.

“But there is immense pressure both from ETV and the viewers on us to continue. I am in a dilemma, so please SMS us and let your opinion known. If you want us to continue the serial type ‘MUKTA Y’ or if you want us to discontinue it type ‘MUKTA N’ on your cell phones and send it to us.”

I forget the number he mentioned.

This, I instantly thought, was unbecoming of the director and all that he made us believe his serial stood for. If this man lacks the independent judgment to end the serial when it should, then, I asked myself, why did I waste 23 minutes of my time every night to watch what he was showing me?

With this one announcement I think Seetharam has shot himself in the foot. He has admitted that the world he created was a make-believe one. The closer-to-reality trust that it had created has been shattered in a minute.

Everything was a mirage after all, he seemed to say. It is a stategic error for a man who had grown in stature and nourishes political ambitions. It was better to sign off as someone who understood the world than as a man at the street corner asking for direction to reach his destination, that too through a cheap SMS poll.

It would be foolhardy to expect a serial to solve the problems of the world but what I mean to say was that I trusted that abstract halo of commitment and integrity in the man. His worldview was more acceptable than others. Even if he were telling lies, he was more convincing.

One has to have faith, at least for therapeutic reasons, or else there is every chance of growing too bitter and mad about life. But by this one act, Seetharam, an intelligent man, has metamorphosed into a moron in my eyes.

The crass commercial purpose of SMS polls is well understood. So, now let me urge you not to participate in this poll, let the director enjoy his dilemma or Trishanku Svarga, that’s if it is true that he has reached that point of suspension.

At least I won’t give you the number that you need to send your SMS to.

CHURUMURI POLL: Are we a dying democracy?

28 April 2006

Look at the Nepalese pro-democracy protestors. Look at the French students who rioted to save their pensions. Look at the Filipinos who take to the streets almost every year to protect their country.

And then look at our own students' response to the move to hike reservations. One protest, one water spray, one meeting with the honourable minister, and all protests are off.

Questions: have we become a hopelessly docile people, happy to let somebody else fight for our causes? Has growing prosperity deadened our senses? Have we lost the fire in the our bellies to stand up and protest? Worse, if Emergency is reintroduced some day, will we—will you—even come out and join a procession?

Why couldn’t the Sardar buy an Arrow shirt?

28 April 2006

Ever since I was told by my father of a possibly apocryphal angadi in Shimoga called Devare Gathi Stores, I have always been fascinated by the names of shops.

And, as if to quench my thirst, there's a lively debate going on in the British newspapers of such shop names, with letter-writers from both sides of the "pond" chipping in.

Here's a sampling:

10) Van Gough: van hiring company owned by Gough family

9) Has Beans: coffee shop

8) Tree Dimensions: landscape gardeners

7) Drain Brain: plumbing contractors

6) Lox, Stock & Bagel: Jewish restaurant

5) Cycle-logical: bike shop

4) Hound of the Basket Meals: mobile canteen

3) Fishcotheque: fish and chips shop

2) Agatha Crustie: bakery

But the top entry has to be a proposal to set up a school where i-Pods are used as teaching devices.

The name? Podshala, of course.


That still doesn't answer the headline of this post: Why couldn't the Sardar buy an Arrow shirt?

Answer: because each time he went to the store, the logo would point him to the next shop.


Seen/heard a good shop name? Tell us.

TOP SECRET: Guessin’ jaisa kuch bhi nahin

28 April 2006

"I think he is overestimated as an economist, and underestimated as a politician." Who on whom? Our lips, as usual, are sealed.

QUESTION: Is Pramod Mahajan a 2,000 crore man?

28 April 2006

A couple of days after Pramod Mahajan was shot, one of the news channels ran purported excerpts from Pravin Mahajan's deposition before the Bombay police.

Besides the usual dhaap about being humiliated by his elder brother, about being treated like dirt, about having to secure an appointment to meet him, etc, one line stood out. 

"He was a 2,000 crore man but there was no benefit for me."

Did Pravin Mahajan really say that? What could he have meant? And why aren't we hearing more about it?

How Kaavya Got Fame, Fortune and Got Screwed

28 April 2006

Why Kaavya Vishwanathan did what she did we will never know (maybe V.N. Narayanan can enlighten us). Peer pressure? Overweening ambition? A thirst for success at all costs? Teenage mischief? DKCS: don't know, can't say.

But it's great fun to re-read her interview in last week's Sunday Magazine of The Hindu (presciently headlined 'A fairy tale debut') with fresh glasses.

Asked about how she came up with the idea for the story, she says "I totally identified with the angst of the high school experience and thought it was a story I could tell well."

Asked how she wrote the book in the midst of assignments, tests and the rest of college life, she says, "The whole writing part is now a blur to me. I remember going to the library and spending three to hour every day, just working on my ideas."

And asked about whether she had started work on the sequel, she says "No, I haven't. I'm actually terrified about the writing process this time around. What if I have nothing to say? What if I can't write?"

Yeh point note kiya jaaye, your honour.

If we are so good in IT, why are we so bad at BT?

28 April 2006

A. MADHAVAN writes from San Francisco: Foreign travel stimulates the mind and the senses. We are constantly asking ourselves, how does this experience match with what we are used to at home?

Whether during the transit halt of three hours at Changi airport in Singapore or in the angst-inducing Hongkong airport or on arrival at San Francisco, my mind was busy making comparisons.

Take sanitation. I have seldom found functionally efficient sanitary fittings and facilities for the public India.  Perhaps it is our hot climate or the humidity, but our pipes and taps begin to leak and the flush system goes dry after a short time.

Plumbing is an area of conspicuous technological backwardness in India. We may be wizards with software, but we neglect to maintain the hardware of elementary sanitation.

A drain will be aligned slightly up a gradient to the municipal drainage, or a public drain, laid under the ground, may be allowed to overflow into the street.

We need drain inspectors like Katherine Mayo and Sir Vidya Naipaul, caustically impolite though they were, to shame us into consciousness of better sanitation.

A park in Kuvempunagar was recently spruced up with paved tiling for the footpaths and plenty of water for the grass and the flowerbeds. Within a month some of the tiles tilted up as if to mock the Corporation, some stalks of grass ventured to peep between tiles, and tap dripped water continuously.

No gardeners were there to take stop the criminal waste of water, when women in some suburbs have to get up at 3 a.m. and fill their pots in a repeated ordeal of patience and pugnacity.

(When we complained to a stray attendant of a similar leakage in Cheluvamba park, he said we should go the Water Works department.  When I reported to the Chescom office about street lights burning in the blazing day, I was asked to go to the Corporation.)

Yet our construction workers can put up stunning new buildings with granite and marble and plate glass glittering to glory. Go abroad east or west, and you find that the toilets not only work, but are kept functional and clean.

On planes in the economy class, one has to bear with the inevitable queue, the selfish passenger who hogs the facility and the uncouth one who leaves it unclean.

Even so, I found on the long Cathay Pacific flight that a stewardess would come and clean up the place and spray a deodorant for good measure.

And Changi’s toilets are kept sparkling clean by vigilant staff night and day. It is another matter that Singapore vigilance is particularly harsh on those who forget to pull the flush after use.

Is Amartya Sen a traitor for backing Pakistan?

27 April 2006

As someone who detests the manufactured jingoism of modern-day cricket commentators who seem to believe and convey that India has been divined by the Great Umpire upstairs to win against all teams all the time, it greatly pleases yours truly to read Prof Amartya Sen's recent comments on this very delicious issue.

In an anecdote in his upcoming book Identity and Violence, Prof Sen speaks of backing Pakistan against India in the 2004 one-day series. He says he did this because they were losing and he wanted to keep the game interesting.

"But then they kept winning which I thought was a little extreme," says Prof Sen in an interview with The Guardian, London, almost as if in defiance of Norman Tebbit's infamous cricket test for determining nationality.

"I am not sure how much into cricket Lord Tebbit is. If you are into cricket, then you would realise that who you are cheering for will depend on your location, your regional loyalty, and also on the nature of the game, where you are in the series and who is playing, how well, and whose playing you would like to see…."

What do you think? Is Prof Sen wrong to back Pakistan? Are we all duty-bOund to support India at all times?

What do you think? Leave a comment.

Also see:

Why we are like this only after 59 bloody years

27 April 2006

GOURI SATYA has an interesting story in today's Business Standard which shows that less than half the water consumers in Mysore foot the entire cost of water supply in the City and bear the tax burden.

According to a reply furnished by the Mysore City Corporation to the Karnataka Consumer Forum, Mysore has 1,12,733 household and 6,862 commercial water connections, of whom only 50,000 are fitted with meters. 

Take a look: 

How the colas are making this a better country

27 April 2006

First, they showed us how we could keep our toilets sparkling clean by sprinkling a few drops. Then they showed our farmers how they could make do without pesticide. Now, by putting a condom in a bottle, they are ensuring our population doesn't explode any more.

In other words, they are making a dirty country clean. They are making an unproductive people more productive. And they are putting the cap on a procreating people.

Cleanliness. Growth. Population control. How could we have asked for more from one bottle for ten rupees? Yeh dil maange no more.

CHURUMURI POLL: Will Rahul replace Manmohan?

27 April 2006

You know how these things happen in the Congress. One day Rahul Gandhi hints he is ready to accept a leadership role, the next day somebody says he should be made general secretary, and pretty soon there are marches of support and processions to 10, Janpath.

Here's today's question: Is Rahul Gandhi being set up to replace Manmohan Singh, not immediately but in due course? Did Sonia Gandhi listen to her inner voice because she wanted Manmohan to keep the seat warm for her son who was far too young to take over after the May 2004 elections? Will Rahul be a good thing or a bad thing? Where will a young Rahul leave the BJP?

Join the debate. Leave a comment.

Tired of bad news? Can you handle good news?

27 April 2006

The media is always accused of looking for bad news. We are told that we ignore the good things, that we are harbingers of doom, the nattering nabobs of negativism. Etcetera.

Well, despair no more. Here’s good news. Or rather here’s a “good news” newspaper. It’s called Praja Kshema, it is published from Mysore, it is edited by somebody called Premataneyashree, and its April issue alone has these warm, feel-good headlines.

 1)     Daksha police adhikari, hechchuvari police mahanirdeshka: Dr Subhash Bharani, IPS (Efficient police officer, additional DGP)

2)     Karnataka raja kanda atyanta samartha aadalithadhikari, food commissioner B.H. Anil Kumar (One of the most efficient officers seen by Karnataka)

3)     Mysore jilleya janapriya jilladhikari, S. Selva Kumar (Mysore district’s popular deputy commissioner)

4)     K.R. aaspatreya mole-tagna assistant professor, badavara bandhu Dr Kiran Kalaiah (The doyen of the poor and downtrodden, K.R. Hospital’s orthopaedic)

5)     Police ilakhege matthondu hesare IGP Kempaiah, IPS (The synonym for the police force)

6)     Mysore-ina Udayagiri thaneya rebel inspector, S.G. Vijaya Kumar (The rebel inspector of Udayagiri police station) 

7)     Mysore-ina K.R. Bank upadhyaksha haagu yelane wardina nagarapalika sadasya, Congress-ina yuva nayaka, G.M. Panchakshari (K.R. Bank vice-president, Ward no. 7 corporator and Congress youth leader)

8)     Mysore-ina Nazarbad thanege Mandya-da huli, chintanasheela inspector H.L. Nagaraj (The Lion of Mandya, the thinking inspector)

9)     Nanjangud-ina Ayyappa swami devalayada kotigobbare, P. Kantharaja Swami (One in a billion)

10) Aahara nigamada vyavasthapaka, mutthinantha manushya, R.S. Ramanna (the food corporation’s man of gold) 

In the interests of good journalism, churumuri offers no comment. N jaay.

CONFESSION: How I passed my maths exam

27 April 2006

SUNAAD RAGHURAM writes: An owl hooted in the darkness just outside my third-floor bedroom. I imagined the precursor of doom to be hovering around in the stillness of the night, its feathered head whirring like a top. The clouds looked sinister, dark and quite demonic. Not a single star twinkled anywhere in the horizon.

There was an air of malevolence about the night. Beads of sweat formed on my forehead. My hands trembled as I tried picking up the glass of water that lay on the side table. My throat was dry. And my normally booming voice, I sensed, had died down to a sad squeak.

I wanted to cry out aloud. But a lump inside my throat made me splutter like a 1955 Morris Minor engine that had long been abandoned.

The next morning the results of the SSLC exam were to be announced. And what if I had failed in mathematics? What a shame. What unbearable ignominy. What an indelible blot on my famous school. And what of my own future. A million questions haunted my mind.

And then I awoke! The teak paneled clock on the wall in front of me showed 1.35 am. A dastardly nightmare.

A regular occurrence in my life; a kind of fortnightly visitation from an unseen, undecipherable force that seemingly breaks into devilish laughter pointing a finger at me and my discomfiture, my pathetic helplessness. And then life slowly gets back to normal.

I went to a boarding school in Mysore. A school with the reputation of being one of the best in the country. The discipline, the emphasis on values, on spirituality, on the rounding of one’s personality, the multifarious games, physical exercise, swimming, the debates, the bonhomie, lip smacking food and the very joy of living together with friends on a 120 acre campus that looked like one large, beautifully crafted carpet of green!

But amidst paradise lurked evil, personally speaking. A subject that went by the name of mathematics.

Simply unsolvable, it scared the living day lights out of me every time our heavily built teacher walked into class, his frame swaying sideways like a sailboat that had damaged its stern.

The numbers he wrote on the board in class looked like weird hieroglyphic jottings in some dark, dank cave dating back to the era when ‘astrolophythecus’ roamed the earth. His rapid-fire postulations went over my teen aged head like jets that fly past India Gate on the morning of the Republic Day parade, streaming and leaving behind a multitude of vibrant colours, except in this case they were all foggy!

And then the day I dreaded the most arrived. The day when I had to actually ‘write’ the mathematics exam.

Our teachers repeatedly told us that it was terribly important to do well in SSLC. After all it was the ‘stepping stone’ for greater things in life.

As was the practice, the school that you went to was not the school in which you actually wrote these ‘public’ exams. There was always another centre allocated to you in the name of fairness and all that. So I found myself in the ancient looking Matrumandali school in Jayalakshmipuram. This was our ‘centre’.

Day One was a breeze. The language exam. In my case it was Hindi.

Day Two: Social Studies. I always fancied myself as a budding historian. So no problem.

Day Three was English. The one thing that had never been an issue in life. After all, my friends always considered me as the one guy who most resembled Shakespeare in class! Juvenile contemplations! Abjectly foolhardy calculations. But the image had stuck.

In the flurry of writing these exams I had smiled at a girl who sat next to me in the examination hall. She obviously came from a different school. But had been allocated a seat next to me for the reason that her name too, like mine, started with ‘S’.

An alphabetical unavoidability that saved my life, my honour and the reputation of my school!

The girl’s name was Sujatha. A thin girl with two neat plaits, a tiny red flower in her hair and a crumpled frock that was like any other school girl’s. My smile had been reciprocated by an even bigger one from her end.

On Day Two I had asked her the usual question, the very definition of predictable behaviour for a boy. “How have you written the exams so far?”

“Oh, not too bad. But…but the biggest worry is tomorrow’s exam,” she said.

“You mean English? I can’t believe it,” I laughed. And then I played the one roll of dice that should go down in my life as the single most vital move I’ve ever made on the face of this earth! I began rather conspiratorially.

“Listen, I shall take ‘care’ of you during the English exam. Just don’t worry. But how about ‘helping’ me in maths?”

Sujatha was a bold girl for her age. She readily agreed. English went by without much fuss. While I wrote with the confidence of a seasoned master, she hurriedly made her own answers even as I placed my answer sheets on the desk at an angle which was most beneficial to her!

Next day was D-Day. The day of the mathematics exam.

The question paper was passed around. My hands quivered like an arrow in the hands of an unsure marksman. My legs shook like they were made, not of flesh and bones, but pure jelly. My heart beat a steady drum. Like at a funeral dirge.

My mind had long gone blank like an old television set. There was this feeling of helplessness. Of being marooned on an island some 3000 miles away from land. Without food and water. And strength. With the sun blazing down on me.

I looked at Sujatha with the yearning of a pauper, the longing of a beggar for some succour, some help, some intervention in bettering my fate. For deliverance from the morass of unreasonableness that was looming in front of me.

And then she began to write. Which she did with the speed of a train gone crazy. And I just followed her on the tracks!

Two months passed by. For me, every single day began with a long prayer to Lord Anjaneya. Finally the results of the SSLC exam came. And I had P-A-S-S-E-D!

Sunaad Raghuram: Mathematics–67. Never mind the name of my school. Let it be!

Join the fun: Yes, we know you were a child prodigy, but how did you sneak through school and college? Is there a Sujatha in your life who you still haven’t thanked? Now is the time to make amends. Leave a comment.