Archive for January, 2010

Dear God: Do the Reddy Brothers pray like me?

30 January 2010

It doesn’t hurt to pray, goes the old saying, more so if you are the bruised and battered leader of God’s Own Party.

Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa, who, like the former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda, spends an inordinate amount of time going to temples and mutts, cavorting with godmen and astrologers, and in conducting homas, havans and yagnas to ward off the evil omens and Reddys threatening his government, takes a dip at the Triveni sangama during the Poornakumbha Mela near T. Narasipur on Saturday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Government work is God’s work in Gokarna

Do our gods sanction our politicians’ silly games?

It’s true, God helps those who help themselves

Cell without a number, lensman without a name

29 January 2010

A television cameraman on his cellphone blithely watches the sun go down on the 500th anniversary celebrations of the coronation of Sri Krishnadevaraya at Hampi on Friday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Adolf Hitler and the rise and fall of the iPad

29 January 2010

In which the iFuhrer und iReichskanzler gives it to, verdammt!, Steve Jobs‘s unmanly tamponieren, gives up on Apple, and hopes HP will get it right.

Link via Aniruddha Bahal

Also read: An Apple a day keeps Steve Jobs away from us

11 similarities between teh iPhone and Rajnikanth

What if Microsoft, not Apple, had made the iPod

WARNING: this is not a film shoot or a trick shot

28 January 2010

At  the 500th anniversary celebrations of the coronation of Sri Krishnadevaraya at Hampi on Thursday, a lensman hits paydirt, capturing a micro-second of pure magic.

Photograph: Mallikarjun Swamy/ Karnataka Photo News

Why V.S. Naipaul can’t quite understand Muslims

28 January 2010

Jnanpith Award winning Kannada playwright and actor Girish Karnad in The Pioneer, Delhi:

“Music is germane to Indian life. Through Bhakti tradition from the 6th century till the 19th, singing was believed to take you to god, even without classical training. It went to the heart of Indian families. The sufi class also made music central to the Indian tradition personality.

V.S. Naipaul who has written scathingly about Indian history, seems to have something to say about everything but nothing on music. So he must be tone deaf. This leads to him making a mess of the Muslim contribution as you read his diatribe. But he doesn’t understand music, so what can he speak? Poor fellow. Totally at a loss.”

Read the full article: ‘Naipaul, poor fellow, must be tone deaf’

As the Bard of Bellary didn’t say: Topi or not Topi

27 January 2010

At the inauguration of the 500th anniversary of the coronation of Krishnadevaraya in Hampi on Wednesday, Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa respectfully admires the crown adorning Union finance home minister Palaniappan Chidambaram‘s pate, while Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of the Art of Living lends a helpful hand.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Uneasy lies the wig that wants to wear the crown

The the great great Sri Sri NGO NGO scam scam

A video strictly not for Bhau Raj Thackeray’s eyes

27 January 2010

On the Zee Marathi show Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, Tamilian Abhilasha Chellam sings Aata vajle ki bara from the Marathi movie Natrang.


Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries Limited, at a book release in London:

“We are all Indians first. Mumbai, Chennai and Delhi belong to all Indians. That is the reality…. India’s corporate world has moved away from ‘licence raj’ after economic liberalisation, Mumbai’s poor taxi-wallah is still dealing with licence raj.”

Also read: Non-Maharashtrians vie for top prize in Marathi music show

CHURUMURI POLL: Free to work anywhere?

Hopefully, the Chinese are watching this salute

26 January 2010

On the day the Indian republic turns 60, a screenshot of the homepage that no longer flickers as brightly as it used to on computers in China. After its belated outburst against Chinese censorship, is Arunachal Pradesh in India or China, or is it a disputed territory, for the folks at Mountain View?


Anne Applebaum on the patriotic Indian crowd, on Slate:

“Not nationalistic, not imperialist, not aggressive, but rather self-critical, focused on what is still wrong as well as what has gone right… No one remotely intimidated by being there, no one afraid to say anything aloud. It’s that sort of patriotism, so hard to find in China and Russia, that gives India its lively novelists, its open public culture, its energetic film industry. It’s that sort of patriotism that, if it can be encouraged and maintained, will keep Indian politics diverse and democratic over time—even if the economy stops growing.”

CHURUMURI POLL: Padma Bhushan for BGS head?

25 January 2010

If Barack Obama being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize within a fortnight of taking office and eventually bagging it was a page straight out of Ripley‘s Believe it or Not, the Congress-led UPA government of Manmohan Singh has sprung an even bigger surprise by decorating Sri Balagangadharanath swamiji of the Adichunchunagiri Mutt with the nation’s third highest civilian award, the Padma Bhushan for “social service”.

While the swamiji‘s spiritual claims are relatively unknown, he has happily mixed religion with politics and business in his tenure. Once seen to be close to former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda, the two had a much publicised fallout with the H.D. Kumaraswamy regime slapping a criminal case on the seer on charges of encroaching government land. Gowda later went to the extent of seeking to split the Vokkaliga community by patronising a rival seer and mutt.

In openly batting for his caste at most times, Balagangadharanath Swamiji has perhaps been no different from most other swamijis in the State, he has been upfront in trying to make political capital out of it. In the field of education, which is the mutt’s chief claim to fame, the swamiji has, at best, a patchy record. In healthcare, the Apollo Hospital run by the BGS group has played a less-than-honourable role in eyeing prime real estate. Etcetera.

Question: Does Balagangadharanath swamiji deserve the Padma Bhushan? Or not? Does it raise the value of the honour? Who do you think swung it for him? And should the Congress-led UPA have obliged?

Also read: Should a chief minister fall at a godman’s feet?

What role should swamijis, religious gurus play?

This day, that age, the mission got a statement

25 January 2010

The front page of the Karnataka’s first English daily, Deccan Herald, 60 years ago, on 26 January 1950, the day India became a republic with the adoption of a Constitution.

Launched in 1948, the paper was then edited by the legendary Pothan Joseph, who, besides editing The Dawn when it was started in Delhi by Mohammed Ali Jinnah, also had a role to play in the Hindustan Times, The Mail and The Hindu.

Also read: Why January 26 is more important than August 15

CHURUMURI POLL: Is India @ 60 crumbling?

24 January 2010

Which ever way you look at it, 60 is a fine milestone. Institutions celebrate their diamond jubilee when they turn 60. Individuals mark their sashtiabdhapoorthi when they turn 60. But when a republic turns three score, as India does on 26 January, it is an opportune moment to lean back and look into the rear-view mirror.

Have we accomplished the mission of our founding fathers (and the odd mother), the Constitution-makers? Are the three pillars of our democracy—the legislature, the executive, the judiciary—in better shape than when we moved into them? Have we erased the social and economic imbalances, inequalities and inequities? Have we made the laws, built the institutions, set in motion the processes that could result in a just, free, fair society down to the last man (and woman and child)?

Or, are we crumbling and coming apart, as evidenced by the criminalisation of the legislature, the undercurrent of casteism and communalism, and the bottomless corruption that now seems to have afflicted the judiciary, the armed forces and the media? With a third of the districts under “red menace”, with growing regionalism, and the threat of terrorism, are we just sitting on a tinderbox, lucky if we see our way in the present shape to the platinum jubilee?

Do our GDP growth rate and stock market figures hide the rot within?

We could have used Photoshop to get this effect

24 January 2010

But we didn’t. A snarling canine chases a winged one at Naguvanahalli near Mysore on Sunday.

Photograph: Narayan Yadav/ Karnataka Photo News

Adolf Hitler and the rise and fall of the third IPL

24 January 2010

In which the Fuhrer und Reichskanzler gives it to Lalit Modi and Wasim Akram and Mohammed Kaif and other delicious ones after he learns, verdammt!, that 11 Pakistani players—including Shahid Afridi—haven’t been “bought” for the dritten edition of the Indianisch Oberste Liga.

Also read: Wonder what Bankay Mian thinks of the insult

CHURUMURI POLL: Has IPL insulted Pakistan?

Can a newspaper bring peace between India, Pakistan?

Wonder what Bankay Mian thinks of the insult

23 January 2010

There is not an issue that the Pakistani qawwal Bankay Mian does not tear apart in under a minute on Pakistani TV. Credit cards, GHQ, load shedding, Black Water, sugar, SMS, Shah Rukh Khan, IDPs, Michael Jackson… there’s nothing he doesn’t take up with irreverence that is insouciant.

In this slightly outdated YouTube video Bankay turns his vocal chords on the Indian Premier League (IPL). Not the “insult” meted out to players from his homeland but to reports that Salman Khan wanted to pick up a team.


Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Has IPL insulted Pakistan?

Can a newspaper bring peace between India, Pakistan?

Also view: A 21-gun cross-border salute for the (retd.) major

The official Bankay mian thread

The curious case of the public sector showcase

23 January 2010

Shyamal Majumdar writes in Busines Standard:

“The Mumbai branch-head of a navratna public sector company wanted to replace a 10-year-old wooden showcase with something that occupied lesser space. He wanted to just dismantle the showcase, but stopped after his veteran secretary suggested that he should at least inform the administration department in Delhi.

“The administration head asked him to send a formal letter detailing the reasons for his inclination to get rid of the showcase. That is required, he was told, as none of his predecessors had any problem with it.

“Two months after the sending the letter, the branch head was told that inspections by the local administration and accounts staff showed that the book value of the showcase was Rs 1,900, and that he should ask for quotations from at least three interested buyers and send them for approval.

“The process of getting quotations took a long time, as the branch head found it difficult to get anybody interested in the rickety showcase. After much coaxing and cajoling, he managed three quotations from local furniture shops. The highest quotation was for Rs 700.

“The documents were despatched to Delhi immediately and the branch head hoped his ordeal was over. But, it took the headquarters another two months to send him a letter informing him that the quotations were considered too low by an eight-member purchase/disposal committee and he should advertise in a local newspaper asking for fresh quotations, according to office rules.

“The advertisements elicited four responses and, this time, the highest bid was for Rs 850. The branch head was told that the purchase/disposal committee was preoccupied with other work and he would have to wait for his turn. The approval came after three months.

“In the meantime, the owner of the furniture shop who was the highest bidder lost interest in buying the stuff. The branch head says he paid the money himself and somehow convinced the gentleman to give him a receipt. The showcase was broken down by the office boys as there were no takers.

“The branch head says he is unable to figure out why it took the eight members of the committee so long to decide on something that yielded the company just Rs 850. “The company spent much more on courier charges alone,” says the young man.”

Read the full story: Have time, will waste

‘Indian media is obsessed with obtuse authors’

23 January 2010

CHETAN KRISHNASWAMY writes from Bangalore: On the many occasions we have swigged beer in Bangalore’s seedy bars, adwoman turned author Anita Nair has ensnared me with her intellectual vigour and literary range.

At other times, she has puzzled me with her flippant—and alarmingly consistent—appearances on Bangalore’s airy Page 3 circuit. It is apparent that Anita loves to gambol with the “wolves and lambs” at these events, although sometimes she vehemently, and playfully, denies it.

Her latest novel, the 329-page Lessons in Forgetting, brings out both these contrasting facets of the writer’s personality. “This is probably the most intense and complex novel that I have ever written,” says Anita, caressing the dancing ringlets framing her face.

The narrative style of Lessons in Forgetting is fast paced but nuanced in a sophisticated sort of way. The primary characters Meera and Krishnamurthy aka Jak, two very different individuals from two diverse worlds, find themselves staring into a bottomless abyss.

Afflicted by a deep crisis, the two individuals come together to exorcise the demons within.

The growing eye of a raging cyclone turns into a masterly metaphor, an unlikely cerebral backdrop for Anita’s story to take shape: “The only certainty about a cyclone or despair is the uncertainty it triggers. And as with despair, the cyclogenesis of a tropical storm is seldom announced. What is certain is the resultant turbulence.”

Lessons in Forgetting is Anita’s fourth novel, after a collection of short stories, a book of poetry, four children’s books and an anthology of essays on Kerala. Her latest novel will be available in bookstores across the country from Feb 1.

Excerpts from an interview she gave


Chetan Krishnaswamy: Lessons in Forgetting is a rather unconventional name for a work of fiction. How did it come about?

Anita Nair: Actually, I had a different working title, but that began to sound too poetic; it lacked the resonance. I wasn’t too happy with it. One fine morning, this title appeared in a flash. No rhyme or reason. Everytime I am swimming, I actually forget to breathe, and I keep joking that I should take lessons on how not to forget breathing while I swim. Probably, that was the genesis of the title. The final endorsement came from my 18-year old son, whose instinct I have trusted for years.

My publishers leapt at it and found it to be apt as well. Moreover, the title and the plot synchronized well.  Both the characters in my novel  Meera and Jak have had devastating experiences in life. They need to get past it all and move on. They are constantly wrestling with their memories. Even the minor characters need to put behind their past lives and surge ahead. The title seemed perfect.

At a basic level the story is seemingly straightforward, but beneath you realise that it is a highly textured, complex narrative.  I thought that using the scientific genesis of a cyclone as a metaphor to illustrate the evolving turbulence in the lives of your two protagonists was hugely creative.

Anita Nair: I was sitting with my friend Sudha Pillai one afternoon, and she told me that she was working on a cyclone film for National Geographic. That triggered of my quest to understand how cyclones are created and I incorporated my research with a literary touch in the story.

I began writing Lessons in Forgetting in October 2006. The idea was to write a light, feel-good novel. I even began the story with a typical Page 3 party, but eventually decided that I was not up to it. How could I work on some rubbish for three years? I started giving it dimensions, a fresh texture, and in due course found myself working on this rather complex narrative.A lot of the situations, I had to build in my mind, since they were not borne out of my experiences: The husband deserting the wife, raising a teenage daughter, the predicament of a woman not knowing how to cook, etc. I also brought in Greek mythology and constantly compared Meera to the Queen of the Universe, Hera. Indian gods and goddess are not given to perfidies but the Greek gods are more human, and I love those stories.

On the one hand, this novel comes with a strong feminist stamp to it. The women are very strong and independent minded. You bring up female foeticide. But then you also indulge in shockingly old fashioned stereotypes like how marriage becomes essential for a woman, how it gives a sense of security to the woman, how a divorcee or a widow does not find favour in a social gathering, etc. Why this contradiction?

Anita Nair: Being a bold feminist is aspirational and the sterotypes that you refer is reality of the day. I am a woman writer not a feminist. My plot is unintentional on most occasions. I write for the sheer joy of writing, not to make a statement. I don’t write to jolt the system.  I am not an activist.

Aren’t you abdicating your responsibility as a writer in the process?

Anita Nair:  I have often been criticized for being reticent. I believe that what I write should speak for itself.  I am against authors wearing their ideology on their sleeve. Authors themselves are so fickle. Their causes keep changing in keeping with their current obsession. I speak through my books and I don’t want to publicly voice my sentiments or thoughts.

You seem to be taking potshots at the preening Page 3 crowd in your book, something that you are an integral part of. That’s hypocrisy now?

Anita Nair: I haven’t exaggerated the Page 3 culture one bit in my book. It is a world where everybody feeds off each other. That’s exactly how it is. Since I am a part of it all, I may be deprecating myself through this novel. At these parties, there is always somebody hitting on you all the time. Now I am going to be in serious trouble. Nobody is going to invite me ever (Smiling) . Frankly, to this day, I don’t know why I am invited.

Like you mention in your book, the PR guys who orchestrate these events think that you are sexy, photogenic, probably that’s why.

Anita Nair: What rubbish! No seriously. I think they invite me because I stimulate the atmosphere with my conversation. I have also been living in this city for a long time and know a lot of people. I probably also find a place on the invitee list because of my food writing. Sometimes they want a few token intellectuals to add credibility to the event . Anyway I am not trying to take the high moral ground and belittle anybody. It is just a social observation.

How many guys have hit on you so far?

Anita Nair:  Thankfully I attend these parties with my husband. I can play beautifully obtuse when somebody propositions me. I act like a bimbette.  I remember this guy coming up to me and casually asking whether my husband was still around. He meant whether I was still married. I stupidly looked around and said yes, he’s somewhere around. For the discerning few, a lot of Bangalore’s page 3 characters are visible in my book.

Tell me, do you gasp for breath, get turned on, when you write those frenzied love-making scenes in your books, are you self-conscious at all about this aspect of your writing?

Anita Nair: Actually, when I write the many sexual interludes in my books, I write with a smile.  I cease to exist as a person. I write the scene in my head. Later, when I read them I am almost amused at my vivid imagination.

Sometimes I feel you are writing these graphic details merely to sensationalise or titillate to sell your books. Why would  anybody be interested in how a woman’s armpits smell? You do make that description in your novel, right?

Anita Nair:  No way! Each of these sexual sequences are integral to my story. A certain amount of self-editing happens almost automatically. I know when to stop and not go overboard. But I do have a lot of people coming up to me and perversely dwelling over these facets in my books.

In the early days as a writer, people would come upfront and make a pass at me without even thinking twice. They assume that because you write about sex you are probably sleeping around. They try hard to find out how many men I have slept with. I just play dumb. In real life, if I did everything I write, I would be leading a very busy life.

Do you think you have got your due as a writer?

Anita Nair: The simple answer is, No. The literary establishment has not recognised my efforts. Sometimes, it results in huge self doubts about my abilities. I hide behind this placid façade but it’s not easy. The measures that the media uses to judge creative works  is also completely inconsistent.

It is obsessed with writers like Amitav Ghosh, Amit Chaudhuri, Pankaj Mishra.

It almost seems that a work has more gravitas if it’s obtuse. But the moment a book becomes accessible, it seems to lose value. It’s probably because I haven’t shown the workings that go behind writing a book, the amount of research that goes in, etc. But I am happy when I get a letter from a mother from some remote part of the world telling me that her relationship with her daughter is much better after she read one of my books. These small changes,  that my books bring about in people’s lives are significant for me.

How important is it for a writer to be rooted in the vernacular, in the native milieu. In that sense you pander to the urban elite, don’t you?

Anita Nair: It is very important for a writer to relate to his roots and have grounding in a regional language. I read Malyalam quite extensively. I speak it very well and follow all the literary trends in Kerala. I will be translating a famous Malyalam novel very soon. I will also commence writing a historical novel on medieval Kerala shortly, a world nobody knows about and wrongly depicted in movies.

Why shout for an auto when you can send a mail?

22 January 2010

VINUTHA MALLYA in Ahmedabad directs us to the spiffy website of Samson, an autorickshaw driver in Madras, complete with an email ID for services. Call 98-408-42724 or email for gallivanting—or advertising.

Tala, tappadi, trumpets, and a high-pitched tenor

22 January 2010

Artistes from Karnataka perform the dollu kunitha, the drum dance form in praise of god Ishwara, along side the State’s tableau for the 60th Republic Day celebrations during a press preview in New Delhi on Friday.

Photograph: Vaishali Naidu/ Manipal Photo News

Name of tiger. Age. Name of father of tiger. Age.

22 January 2010

There are no more than 1,400 left in India today; over a quarter of them (about 366) in the western ghats. But each one has to be counted, for that’s how valuable the tiger is. And not just because it’s India’s national animal because also because it is the most endangered species in the world. On Friday, volunteers joined forest department staff during the year-long census at the Bandipur national park.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Why our Nagarahole scores over Ranthambore

In Nagarahole, tigers are like city buses….

Nagalinga raised his arm. Behind was a charging elephant cow’

On the late evening before the promised morning

21 January 2010

The traffic between silk board and electronic city in Bangalore on Thursday. Some of it will, hopefully, move one level up on Friday when the elevated road is opened to the public, reducing the chaos below.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

CHURUMURI POLL: Free to work anywhere?

21 January 2010

Six days before the 60th anniversary of the Constitution of India, the Congress government in Maharashtra has behaved no better than thuggish political parties and outfits acting in the name of language, region and religion by asserting that it will give taxi licences only to those who are able to read, write and speak in the local languge (Marathi) and who have been residents of Maharashtra for 15 years or more.

Chief minister Ashok Chavan now claims that his government was only implementing a 1989 rule of the motor vehicles act that makes the 15-year domicile status mandatory. Nevertheless, the timing of the announcement, when the Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Samithi (MNS) have been upping the ante of antagonism, shows how brightly the flame of parochialism burns in the hearts of mainstream parties who find the ground slipping away.

At one level, the rule is “undemocratic and discriminating”, as the taximen’s union has described it, when the Constitution allows Indians to live and work in any place they please. At another level, it seeks to overturn the cosmopolitan ethos of a great metropolis which has welcomed migrants from everywhere and allowed them to contribute to the City in their own, unique ways, like New York and London.

But there is a third, more dangerous, whiff emanating from the retrograde move. It sets a precedent, sends a signal for politicians and political parties (and the lunatic fringe sitting on the sidelines) whose vision is similary constricted in other parts of the country. And, above all, why are only taxi drivers being subjected to this demanding condition. Why not investment bankers or film industry personnel or mediamen or mall workers or software workers or…?

If today we talk of language and residence as prerequisites for employment, how much longer before caste, community, religion, etc, become sneak into the debate?

Also read: The beginning of the end of India as we know it?

We are all outsiders and insiders in India i.e. Bharat

Please save the Marathi manoos and Mannina Maga

One question I’m dying to ask Raj Thackeray

The statement the IPL team owners didn’t make

20 January 2010

CNN-IBN sports editor Gaurav Kalra dreams up a graceful statement that the IPL team owners could have made instead of the farcical reasons they have been trotting out on why Pakistani players were ignored in the bidding for season 3:

“We, the team owners of the Indian Premier League regret to announce that none of us will be bidding for any Pakistani players at today’s auction. We have arrived at this decision with a heavy heart and after detailed consultations amongst ourselves. Our decision has been conveyed to IPL chairman Lalit Modi and we have requested him to convey the same to the 11 players who were up for auction and the PCB. While we are in no doubt about the high calibre of the Pakistani players available, our hand has been forced by matters beyond ours and indeed the players’ control. We fear that in the current political environment, the presence of Pakistani players may create unexpected security concerns which are best avoided at this time. We apologise to the players and the Pakistan Cricket Board for the inconvenience caused in getting security clearances from their foreign and interior ministries. We would also like to assure the players that the door is not closed on them for future editions of the IPL and it remains our sincere hope that fans will be able to enjoy their resplendent talent in this tournament’s future editions”.

Read the full article: Lies, damned lies and other such balderdash

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Has IPL insulted Pakistan?

CHURUMURI POLL: Has IPL insulted Pakistan?

20 January 2010

There is never a dull moment in the cricket-cinema-commerce circus called Indian Premier League. If season 2 was held in faraway South Africa because of “security fears”, the third edition has run into rough weather with not one single player from Pakistan being “bought” by the franchises.

This, despite a Pakistani (Sohail Tanveer) being the highest wicket-taker in the inaugural tournament. This, despite Pakistan being the reigning world T20 champions. And this, despite some very exciting Pakistani players being up for grabs, including Shahid Afridi and Umar Akmal.

The team owners have said there was “uncertainty” over the “availibility” of the Pakistani players and so no franchise wanted to take a risk. But every newspaper is quoting anonymous officials as saying there was an unwritten Union home ministry “diktat” to stay away from the Pakistanis, which has, of course, been promptly denied.

Understandably, the Pakistani stars are upset, and are talking of being insulted and made fun of. Coming close on the heels of a visa controversy, the air is already thick of a conspiracy. If the players were not going to be sold and bought, why were expectations built up? Will “buying” the Pakistanis making the tournament risky? Will keeping them away make it safer? What will be our excuse if, despite the absence of Pakistani cricketers, there is an attack?

And, is cricket as a vehicle of diplomacy bunk?

Also read: Can’t South Indians play Twenty20?

Why should State provide security for IPL?

Is the 2011 World Cup in danger?

CHURUMURI POLL: Should India tour Pakistan?

He was the first to do it; the first to receive it

19 January 2010

Amid all the gloom over the death of a spate of movie industry mavens, some good news: V.K. Murthy, the Bombay-born Mysore-born cinematographer of all of Guru Dutt‘s films, being chosen for the nation’s highest cinema prize: the Dadasaheb Phalke award, the first time a lensman has been picked for the high honour.

“Murthy broke new grounds, ushered in modern and highly sophisticated techniques and brought in rich visual artistry to Indian cinema. He shot India’s first cinemascope movie Kagaz Ke Phool (1959) and was the cinematographer for all of Guru Dutt films,” an official statement said.

In the frame, above, Murthy with his mentor and director, and alongside, Murthy, 86, with his relatives in Chamarajpet in Bangalore on hearing the glad tidings, the second Kannadiga to do so after Dr Raj Kumar.

Photograph: Newspaper archives (above), and Karnataka Photo News

In an ocean of unctuous praise, islands of dissent

18 January 2010

Jyoti Basu‘s death has resulted, as all death does in the eyes of a star-struck, ratings-driven, uncritical media these days, in a flood of faux reverence that would, in wiser days, have been reserved for demigods with the Gandhi surname, and not only the most deserving of them.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says the nation has lost “a great son who was a great statesman and great patriot.” As if a photocopy is floating around, home minister P. Chidambaram says, “he was a great patriot, great democrat, great parliamentarian and great source of inspiration.”

The posterboy of communism, the father of Indian communism. The titan who had a finger on the pulse of the people. The last bhadralok communist, a genteel communist, who provided to starving workers in Bangalore, who also had a sense of humour.

Yes, Jyotida probably had all those admirable qualities,and more. Yes, the strides made by West Bengal under his long 23-year leadership in land reforms, health and so on. But did he have nothing negative except for his “historic blunder” of enabling H.D. Deve Gowda become prime minister, who has oxymoronically called him “the king among communists“?

Three voices of dissent.

Suman K. Chakrabarti on IBN Live:

“The Communist patriarch, will remain for me a man who killed two generations of Bengal’s talent. And paved the way for the demise of a land which held much promise for the country. A man who presided over Bengal’s industrial decline, a man who enforced an education system where millions of students learnt “A, B, C, D” after six years of schooling, a man who ensured Bengal’s brain-drain and led to the economic marginalisation and decline of the state.”

Abhijit Majumder in Mid-Day:

“The man I grew up hating is dead. It is impossible for me to look at Jyoti Basu except through the glasses of my adolescent and early years in Calcutta. From massive cutouts, from street-corner rallies, from behind the dark windows of his car at the middle of his anaconda convoy, from the misty black drape of power cuts over sleepy colonies in winter, Basu silently watched over us.”

Swapan Dasgupta on his blog:

“As someone who grew up in Calcutta and witnessed the beginnings of its long-term decline, I find it difficult to lionise Jyoti Basu.Whatever his personal inclinations, he was the public face of a socially regressive movement that destroyed Bengal’s age-old refinement. He led the mob that made the Bengali coarse. He unleashed forces that caused the complete destruction of Bengal’s manufacturing industry. He killed the work ethic in Bengal. He helped make Bengalis a tribe of the permanently aggrieved.”