Archive for July 13th, 2006

Maaama, Ambi Mama beats Maaama, Mani Mama

13 July 2006

KANCHAN HARIHARAN ( a hard-Kaur Tamil) forwards a survey that has revealed that ‘Ambi Mama‘ is the leading relative among Tamil Brahmin families worldwide, with six in ten families having one of their own (a 60% representation). Apparently, Ambi Mama held off stiff competition from Mani Mama (with 55% representation) and Baby Chitti (39%) for a well-deserved win.

“It’s a great day for all Ambi Mamas. All the years of hard work—drinking coffee, criticizing the Indian team selection and complaining about blood-pressure—have finally paid off. Yay!” said Ambi Mama, a spokesman for the Ambi Mamas Association of Dear Old Rascals (AMBASSADOR), a division of the Hardcore Brahmin Organisation (HBO).

Mani Mamas all over the world watched in anguish as the final results were announced, plunging them into gloom. “It’s no fun being a Mani Mama anymore”, said Mani Mama. ” Maybe if I change my name to ‘Ramesh Anna‘, I will have a brighter future,” he pondered pointlessly.

The survey also said that a respectable number of families (or a number of respectable families, as the case may be), have a Vaidhi Thatha, Bangalore Anna, and at least one random guy named ‘Chandroo‘ who is at all functions, but no-one can really place (and may not be related at all).

Predictably, bringing up the rear were non-entities like Driscoll Periappa, Jessica Alba Anni and Darth Vader Mama, which had zero representation.

“Brahmins are way too conservative, dude!”, complained Cleveland Shankar, one of the more modern Iyer boys (or boyz, if you prefer. We offer multiple-choice reading. You’re welcome.) “When are they going to drop old duds like Venkatakrishnan, Suresh and Balaji, and start using hipper names like Jason, Beyonce and The Human Torch?” he asked, to wide applause from a group of people watching cricket on a nearby television.

Not all are happy with progress, however. “These youngsters are ruining everything by naming their children Archish, Dhruv and Plaha,” thundered Badri Athimber. “Can you imagine how it will sound? Dhruv Mama, Anamika Athai, Archish Chittappa—Ugh! Phooey! That is so not cool!!” he growled, using expressions of disgust picked up from his states-based co-brother.

When asked for their response, several Brahmins living in Adyar merely arched their eyebrows, pursed their lips, and continued waiting for the December music season.

Monet ain’t a Malayalee impressionistic painter

13 July 2006

Ravishekhar S. forwards this fantastic Calvin & Hobbes strip which all our mothers need to stick up their non-stick pans. (For additional insights on why most of us haven’t grown up, check out the 25 best Calvin & Hobbes strips painstakingly picked for your pleasure.)

Machcha, why can’t we do what Israel does?

13 July 2006

HARI SHENOY writes: July 11, 2006 is yet another date that will go down in the annals of our history for its infamy. The terrorists, it seems, just can’t get enough of targetting us, be it the IISc, the Akshardham temple, our Parliament, crowded bazaars in Delhi or our vital railway commuter lines in Bombay.
The usual rhetoric spewing from the mouths of everyone important who can actually do something about it is disgusting to listen to, given that they seem disinclined on doing anything.

Our country has continuously exposed itself as a “soft” state, and despite all that talk and negotiations with the leading countries in the world about “rooting out the evil menace of terrorism”, all our great leaders do is to sit and read out statements prepared by their secretaries expressing “deep shock and anguish” in a flat monotone that does not convey either sentiment.
Kudos, therefore, to Bombay-ites who jumped into rescue efforts without waiting for any specific authority figures to appear on the scene and for taking the initiative towards addressing the immediate needs of those injured.

But what next? Will we sit there twiddling our thumbs till the ‘T’ gang strikes at us again?
The whole world has examples showing us what we can do in the face of terrorist threats. Shift focus a little towards the west, and you see Israel.

A tiny state, surrounded on all sides by its foes, it still manages to wield power like nobody else in the middle-east can. Though I am not personally appreciative of all their tough-guy acts, there is a very poignant lesson to be learnt from the Israelis, specially in the light of events that have taken place in the region over the last few days.
Three kidnapped soldiers, one kidnappd by the Hamas in Gaza and two by the Hezbollah in Lebanon, has had the nation go on a full-scale battle agenda, and they say they will not rest until the soldiers have been given back to them. The airport in Beirut has had its runways badly damaged by Israeli air-strikes today, with the latter blaming the Lebanese government for the kidnappings.

The entire country has the guts to go to war for the sake of three soldiers and a few home-made rockets that have been launched into their territories.

How about us?

The whole world knows that Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) is a breeding ground for terrorist activities that harm our “State” in more ways that it can bear, and yet the champions of the cause for democracy, the US, wants nothing to do with it, since Pakistan has its own arrangement with them, and buys a lot of defence supplies from ‘big brother’, fuelling the arms race in the subcontinent.
Our country cannot aim to please everyone all the time, and it is high time we put our money where our mouth is. As a sovereign State, we have every right to defend ourselves like any other country under threat has (like the US has done so in Iran and Afghanistan, and we could quote the same example for justifying our actions). And now is as good a time for us to start proving to the world that we can be tough when the circumstances demand so.
Otherwise, there is no telling how many more innocent and unsuspecting civilians have to pay the price for our country being considered a “soft” state by the terrorists.

CHURUMURI POLL: Are stock markets inhuman?

13 July 2006

The blasts in Bombay failed to unnerve the spirit of the Bombay Stock Exchange, where the 30-stock sensitive index (Sensex) rose 316 points yesterday. When Delhi had been racked by blasts on Diwali eve last year, the Sensex soared by over 200 points. (Of course, it mirrored global trends and fell after 9/11 and there were falls after the Parliament and Varanasi attacks.)

Questions: Is the rise of the Indian stock market in spite of blood on the street, an indication of a mature market or a sign of cold-blooded moneymindedness? Are market movements and terror attacks linked, or are they immaterial in a wired world where investors see opportunity even in the face of terror? Should market players take human sentiment into account or should they focus on what they do best because that is the best answer to those who want to bring ruin?

Also see: Markets react to bottomlines, not headlines

7/11: How the world looked at the Bombay blasts

13 July 2006

Bellur Ramakrishna has made collages of the front pages of various newspapers, Indian and foreign, on the way they dealt with the Bombay blasts and the day after.

Like item girls, our MLCs expose themselves

13 July 2006

PRITHVI DATTA CHANDRA SHOBHI writes: Tuesday’s newspapers had two news stories. The first contained the infamous threat of former Assembly speaker Ramesh Kumar to tourism minister D.T. Jayakumar, on the floor of the august house: “I will kill you.”

The second, a smaller story in the inside pages, reported the advice H.S. Ashokananda, the director of Abdul Nazir Sab State Institute for Rural Development, gave to Zilla Panchayat (ZP) members in a workshop.

Which story would offend the legislators, I wonder.

Yesterday, in the Karnataka Legislative Council, members cutting across party lines, condemned Ashokanand, asked the government to suspend him, and demanded that the speaker bring him to the floor of the Council, so that he could be admonished. 

What crime did Ashokanand commit?

According to newspaper reports, in a workshop to train ZP members, here is what Ashokanand said: “Government grants to local government institutions is the right of the people and not charity. ZP members should fight with the government to get their rightful share. They too should ask for separate grants, as is the case with Taluk and Gram Panchayats.

He also asked them how many Legislators speak in the Assembly and Council on behalf of ZP members and their constituencies. Ashokanand further advised the members to consult each other, organize themselves (as local body members do in Kerala) and fight for their rights. Even a military dictatorship such as Pakistan has a better decentralization system.

All right. Note that this is a workshop to train members about their responsibilities and rights. If this bureaucrat-pedagogue cannot speak freely and honestly to his trainees, when will he do so? I don’t find anything offensive in his reported speech.

On the other hand, Ashokanand should be commended for his forthright views and the appropriate forum in which he chose to express them.

Ashokanand ought not to be the story here. 

We have to ask our MLCs a simple question: why don’t they feel any outrage when a senior member, a former speaker no less, threatens to kill a serving minister? If Ramesh Kumar had said that anywhere else, he would have been behind bars. But he cannot be prosecuted for anything he would say on the floor of the Assembly.

That privilege, that freedom of speech, especially in the Assembly, is critical for the functioning of our democracy but that same freedom ought not to be abused.

Where is the outrage among our legislators?

Where is the condemnation?

If our MLCs are so concerned with their hakkuchyuti (violation of their rights), “We, the People” will have to be so concerned about their padachyuti (removal from office). When they lose any sense of proportion, this is what we will have to do.

Let Chidananda and his MLC friends remember that.

Yes, Bombay was terrible. What about Srinagar?

13 July 2006

ANUSHUKA RATHOUR writes from Hyderabad: Yes, it’s touching how Mumbaikars have come forward to help out those in distress. Yes, it’s really something we must applaud. And yes, I feel proud when I see Indians reacting this way.

At the same time, it’s a shame—a bloody shame—because our reaction to the Bombay blasts reveals how we have begun weighing human lives differently in different parts of the country.

The seven bomb blasts in Bombay took place around 6.30 pm on July 11. But on the same morning, there were five blasts in Srinagar, killing eight and injuring 14. The grenade blasts in Srinagar happened at 11.50 am. Starting then till about 6.20 pm when the bombs went off in Bombay, the news channels were full of it.

Post 6.20 pm on 7/11, we have hardly heard anything from Srinagar.

It’s all about Bombay now as if Srinagar didn’t happen. It’s as if what happened is routine for the Valley—something that had to happen anway, something that the Kashmiris must live with—but when it happens to Bombay, it makes for bloody news! Live, rolling and endless.

Beginning of the end of Mysore as we knew it?

13 July 2006

ARUN PADAKI writes from Johannesburg: London has it, Paris has it, so does New Delhi. A clearly identified nerve-centre in the heart of the city; a focal point from where these great cities got built, grew and evolved.

Like other great cities, Mysore too has one and it is the main Amba Vilas Palace. Everything—be it dwelling colonies, trading posts, entertainment arenas, playing fields, washing facilities—was more or less built around it.

The western and the northern sides of the Palace over the years turned out to be prominent ones with Sayaji Rao Road hogging the limelight with large buildings housing many of the Palace Offices, small trading areas and a very well-conceived Market.

With the Dasara procession gracing this road, Sayaji Rao Road assumed all the more importance. Whether you live in distant Ballal Circle (is this far off any longer?!) or Bengloor, or whether you have migrated to Boston, this vivid piece of Mysore, in and around Sayaji Rao Road, has held a place of its own in the life of every Mysorean.

Most of us have bargained a rupee or two for a dozen Nanjangud rasabaale or the chickoos on Sayajji Rao Road. On a sultry afternoon, we would have cooled ourselves with the cold badami haalu from either of the Bombay Tiffanies or the Indra Bhavans—or the famous ice-creams from Phalaamrutha.

On a wet day, the lip-smacking dosas or bonda-sambars followed by a hot filter coffee would have kept us going. Not to leave out the Guru Sweet Mart near chikka gadiyaara for our own Mysooru Pak.

The walk from Cauvery Handicrafts upto the Palace is one magnificent aspects of Mysore—something we have cherished for years and something should treasure for years to come.

The once-famous Devaraja Market has its own flavour to offer—the whiff of the fresh greens, the colourful vegetables, fruits, varieties of happlaas and the fragrance of the Mysooru mallige is unforgettable. (Well, not on a wet day though.)

Chikka gadiyaara is witness to a myriad events. The vociferous fruit vendors, the cyclists, the fancily parked autos, the dozens of our Nandinis, yes the cows… they all love this square, don’t they?

Then the circle that adores the architect of modern Mysore, Krishnarajendra Wodeyar.

Undoubtedly, K.R. Circle is the heart of Mysore. A few strides away, in the Lansdowne Building, are two shops located at either end that bring back memories of handmade ice-creams and second-hand text book stores that paved the way for many a career.

The experience on the tree-lined walkway is blissful. You have the option of buying anything worthwhile every step we take. To many, the leisurely stroll is not complete without a glimpse at the well-stacked window of Bata.

Well, all this is on offer on any day. What about those nine days during Dasara when the grandeur that is Mysore is on display and celebrated? The lazy strolls, the shopping sprees on the eve of Ugadi or Christmas, Dasara or Ramzan, the bargaining, the hawkers, the masaal-dose, filter coffee, etc are all part of our Mysore folklore.

It’s truly a heritage we have proudly inherited and for generations this has been the way of our lives.

Like all good things, though, fears of Mysore being robbed of its charm are creeping in. There are worrisome discussions like widening Sayaji Rao Road or demolishing and rebuilding Devaraja Market.

Is something awry—something worse—waiting to happen in Namma Mysooru?

Lurking a few metres away from where the spice-sellers squat near Theatre de Olympia, and close to K.R. Circle, is Makkaji Chowk, and the vacant land is about to be made way for a hi-tech mall.

Is this to be read as an indicator of an impending disaster on the blessed land of Sri Chamundeshwari?

Is our Mysore way of life threatened?

Will we ever be able to do our lazy strolls again?

May be, we could, if our footpaths are spared, if the Devaraja Market could get some sunna-banna, if the chikka gadiyaara is freed of the cows.

It is clear from the noise that the Mysore City Corporation is creating, that a second Bangalore is in the making. Given MCC’s track record, it might turn out to be worse. Narrowing footpaths and allowing malls and multiplexes in the heart of the city is a cue taken from the BMP’s books.

The proposed mall shares the distinction with another for creating a horrible mess in the central business district of Bangalore. (A peek at this link would be informative.)

If a hurried approval of the mall was a smack on the face of Mysore, the sight of the previous Council of the City Corporation lauding itself for having got the mall cleared, was a disgrace. For, these are Mysore’s own people.

# Are they not responsible for the city and its denizens?

# Are they not supposed to make things better for us, uphold Mysore’s characteristics that are very dear and unique to us even from Bangalore?

# Why such a bigoted, hare-brained approach?

# How can we ever fathom the existence of a mall next to the iconic Palace?

# What will happen to the aesthetic Town Hall and its sprawling campus? Will that be made a parking space for the mall?

# Has any thought been given to the congestion that would result from the mall and the multiplexes within?

# Are we losing out to the selfishness of those who have no social responsibilities and only want to make a quick buck, the city be damned?

In the recent recorded history, the most destructive events have been the big fire that destroyed the Mysore Palace in 1897 and the fires that destroyed parts of the market in the last couple of decades. Is MCC trying to score points over these events and proving to be more destructive? If ever Mahishasura descends from the same position as he is standing atop, surely he would bay for these destructors.

Let us all spare a moment, and ponder over whether we could have a Mysore of the yore with a bit of Mysore of today, and a Mysore that could stand out in the future, a Mysore that could preserve its old fabric and weave a new one with a blend of new age necessities.

To answer the above, a few more questions crop up which the citizens, the political establishment and the administration should get to the table and resolve:

# Shouldn’t we, more so the political leadership, take pride in the City’s heritage?

# Shouldn’t there be a hearty public participation to stand up and oppose any cheap overtures of ‘development’?

# Why can’t the Fort areas of old Mysore be spared from any large-scale modern intrusions?

# Can’t we run trams or dedicated buses in this part of Mysore, which could be a wonderful spectacle?

# Shouldn’t we consider making this a walk-only zone?

Why not learn from Warsaw, where the post-WW II colonies and structures are preserved as they were or from the historic Spice Bazaar of Istanbul which still retains the oriental surroundings?

Or why not emulate Panaji, where precedence has been given to walking over traffic? Isn’t tourism all about walking to explore? Can’t we build the swanky establishments as a new town, a little distance away from the good old city?

Shouldn’t town planning be a practice in true spirit?

In a recently successful movie, Saif Ali Khan threatens Madhavan that he will cause harm where it pains him the most, pointing towards the heart.

What about the ill-conceived ideas of widening Sayaji Rao Road and the mall at Makkaji Chowk? Aren’t they aimed at causing harm to the heart of the city? Will this mark the beginning of the end of the Mysore way of life?