Archive for February, 2011

Every good picture is worth a thousand volts

28 February 2011

Chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa and energy minister Shobha Karandlaje go their separate ways after the launch of Belaku Yojane—a programme to encourage the use of compact flourescent lamp (CFL) bulbs—at the head office of the Karnataka power transmission corporation (KPTCL), in Bangalore on Monday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also view: The B.S. Yediyurappa photo portfolio

Should NRN open world Kannada conference?

28 February 2011

The letters to the editor of Kannada Prabha carries this epistle from the Kannada writer, Baragur Ramachandrappa (translated):

“I am writing this letter against the backdrop of reports that Infosys chief mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy has been invited to inaugurate the Vishwa Kannada Sammelana (world Kannada conference), to be held in Belgaum from March 10 to 12, 2011.

“If there is any truth to these reports, my humble request is that the honour should instead go to Kannada cultural personalities or to VIPs like the President, prime minister or vice-president.

“I do not have anything personal against Narayana Murthy. He is a Kannadiga entrepreneur and we are justly proud of him. But that is exactly why we must be getting him to inaugurate the global investors’ meet, not the world Kannada conference.

“Outside of his entrepreneurship, what is his contribution to Kannada? Not even a Kannada font has come out of his multinational company. On top of it, he has been a vociferous champion of education in the English medium from the first standard itself. It is to be noted here that learning English and teaching in the English medium are two different things.

“It is also to be remembered that he had lobbied with the S.M. Krishna government to change the State education policy to open English medium schools to help children of his employees, and had even had a discussion with me when I was chairman of the Kannada development authority in this regard.

“Besides, the income-tax department has only just slapped Infosys with a demand for Rs 450 crore for wrongfully claiming tax exemption.

“Instead of Narayana Murthy, the invitation could have been extened to poet laureate G.S. Shivarudrappa, Jnanpith Award winners U.R. Anantha Murthy or Girish Karnad, veterans like Patil Puttappa, D. Javare Gowda or M. Chidananda Murthy, renowned poets like Chandrasekhar Kambar, Chennaveera Kanavi or Nissar Ahmed, etc.

“Or we could have called upon a folklore artiste.

“On the other hand, by calling upon somebody who is just a entrepreneur to inaugurate the Vishwa Kannada Sammelana is an insult to Kannada culture, literature and folklore. If the invitation cannot be revoked at this juncture, it is best Narayana Murthy is invited as a ‘guest’ to the inauguration.”

File photograph: N.R. Narayana Murthy watches and Infosys CEO and MD, ‘KrisGopalakrishnan, speak at a conference organised by the all India management association, in Bangalore in October 2010 (Karnataka Photo News)


Also read: Narayana Murthy and the Netaji Bose fixation

The Mahatma, Narayana Murthy and information technology

Who’s U.R. Anantha Murthy? What is his contribution?

Like, how you scoop a saree is how you score?

28 February 2011

In which the Sri Lankan all-rounder Tilakaratne Dilshan‘s famous Dilscoop™ turns into a Pallu Scoop at the expert hands of the actor Anjala Zaveri.

CHURUMURI POLL: Will you vote for Hema Malini?

27 February 2011

The BJP’s decision to nominate the former dancer-actor Hema Malini as the party’s nominee for the Rajya Sabha polls from Karnataka is now a fait accompli. In itself, appointing an “outsider” is neither unprecedented, unconstitutional nor unwelcome. Parties and politicians have their own requirements (seemingly political, but usually financial) and there are other institutional and individual dynamics at play.

The lawyer Ram Jethmalani has represented the Janata Dal, Shiv Sena and BJP from three different States, because his legal eye was required by parties and personalities in them. Moneybags like the stud farm owner M.A. M. Ramaswamy and the mobile phone operator turned media baron Rajeev Chandrasekhar get in because, well, they can afford to. The Kannadiga owner of Garuda mall (Uday Garudachar) tried Bihar but failed.

Another reason is that many politicians stand no hope in hell of being elected given the role cash, caste, community and other imponderables play in our politics. Prime minister Manmohan Singh represents Assam because South Delhi, a prime beneficiary of his reforms, didn’t think the great reformer was worthy of their vote. The Kannadiga Jairam Ramesh represents Andhra Pradesh; Venkaiah Naidu, a Telugu, represents Karnataka.

However, Hema Malini’s candidature doesn’t sit so easily in such silos. Au contraire, it raises some fundamental questions about the kind of candidates parties push through the back door; about the track record of candidates and their ability or lack thereof to shoulder the expectations of the people they represent; about how the hands of legislators are tied by the whip in what is supposed to be a democratic setup. Etcetera.

For starters, is a rich dancer-actor, who has previously represented the party in the RS, the only “artiste” the BJP could think of for the State? The playwright Girish Karnad says the ‘Dream Girlhadn’t asked a single question in her earlier term. Words like “dud, daddi, buddi illa, inefficient” have been freely used by Kannada “buddhijeevis” to describe the BJP candidate. Plus there are murmurs that her candidature doesn’t have the backing of all BJP legislators and that has she been imposed on them to quell the dissidence.

To be sure, Karnataka has been through this debate before, when businessman Rajeev Chandrasekhar was pitted against the literatteur U.R. Anantha Murthy. Then, too, similar questions had flowed forth. But it tells us something about the worldview of Basanti of Sholay when she promises to take special interest to develop Ramanagaram. Was the BJP incapable of finding a writer, dancer, intellectual who could earn the legislators’ vote other than Ayesha Bi?

It’s easy to blame our woes our legislators, the party whip, and the system, for these infirmities.

Here’s a straightforward, counterfactual question: If you could take part in a Rajya Sabha election, if you weren’t bound by the party whip, would you vote for an outsider, “dud, daddi, buddi illa, inefficient” celebrity like Hema Malini, party affiliation notwithstanding? Or would you back a home-grown intellectual, a drama and theatre expert with his ear to the ground like Dr K. Maralusiddappa, party affiliation notwithstanding?

Towards nuclear disarmament from Gun House

26 February 2011

A hoarding that merrily plays around with the English language that has come up in Mysore for an anti-nuclear yagna to be performed at the Shankar Mutt opposite Gun House on March 1 and 2, by the “Mother Sonia Gandhiji World Welfare Committee.”

Photograph: courtesy M.R. Suresh

The Immortal Picture Story of namma ‘Uncle Pai’

26 February 2011

The effusive tributes that have followed the passing away of Anant Pai, the Karkala-born creator of Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) and Tinkle, shows the hold that the comics and the magazine have had over four decades despite the media explosion after the advent of satellite television in the 1990s.

The life of amgal “Uncle Pai”—as generations of children addressed the former Times of India executive who was also behind the Indrajal series that brought Phantom and Mandrake into our consciousness—was not without life’s cruel irony: both his parents were dead before he was two.

And the man who gave life to such immortal characters as Suppandi, Shikhari Shambhu, Kalia the Crow and Tantri the Mantri, remained childless.

He was trained to be a chemical engineer but spent only three months working as one: “One month, plus two months’ notice.” Yet, he was the “parental scholar” to millions of children, young and old. In 50 years of married life, Uncle Pai and his wife Lalitha Pai stayed apart from each other on just one single day.


Editorial in The Pioneer:

“For those of us who remember a time when the blackberry was just a fruit and Shaktimaan the ultimate superhero, the death of our beloved Uncle Pai has led to melancholy mixed with nostalgia. A traditionalist to the core, he believed that strong cultural roots and solid understanding of one’s heritage was the key to success.”

Jerry Pinto in the Hindustan Times:

“One day, in February 1967, I was in Delhi,” he told me when we met several years ago. “There, at the junction of Gurudwara Road and Azma Khan Road was a shop called Maharaja Lal & Sons. It was selling televisions sets. At that time, Delhi had television but Mumbai didn’t. A quiz show was in progress. None of the contestants could answer a simple question like, “Who is the mother of Lord Rama?” I felt bad about that but I tried to explain it to myself. They were not interested in mythology, not interested in the past. They were looking to the future. But then the next question was about a god from Mount Olympus and all of them knew the answer. I realised that these young people had been alienated from their own culture. And I realised that comics might be a way of bringing them back.”

His nephew Prakash Pai in Mid-Day:

“When we met him on one Sunday morning, he simply asked us a few questions about Indian mythology. We simply had no answers to his questions, though we knew everything about Archie comics. That was when he told us that he would start a movement to enable us to know about our own heritage.”

Pradyuman Maheshwari in Exchange4Media:

“With apologies to my teachers, I must say that whatever bit of Indian history I know, it’s thanks essentially to the Amar Chitra Katha series of comic books.

“I first met him as a rookie journalist in the late 1980s. Pai was looking for writers for Partha, a magazine he had started, and I was happy to moonlight. He didn’t pay big monies, but the Rs 200-300 a piece was enough for a few good meals.

“Meeting Pai for me meant keeping aside a few hours. Or perhaps more. He would regale me with stories about governments – from Prime Ministers like Atal Behari Vajpayee recognising his work or some State government according Tinkle special status in schools. Those were days when Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana had the nation glued to the telly, and I would often ask him why he didn’t do Amar Chitra Katha for TV. He was very keen, but preferred the animated form to costume drama. When I once suggested that I would love to be associated with the TV avatar of ACK, he asked me to take the lead and present a proposal which I did and he took me to Padmini Mirchandani at India Book House.”

Murali Gopalan in The Hindu Business Line:

“It was always my ardent desire to meet him and, one afternoon nearly five years ago, I called Pai to break the ice. The first thing I remember was his enthusiasm and warmth while greeting another aficionado of comics…. I confessed to him that The Phantom was still my top favourite to which Pai reminded me gently that he was actually part of the think-tank that brought Indrajal Comics to India. Apparently, surveys showed that The Phantom would click with the masses since it was being featured in the comic strips of The Illustrated Weekly of India and there would be a readymade connection. It did not, therefore, make sense to think of Batman or Superman as the first local offering. The first issue was The Phantom’s Belt way back in 1964,” Pai told me with authority. I gasped at his memory and told him that I had been trying to get a copy of this comic for years.”

Reena I. Pur in the Associated Press:

“He believed the best way to communicate an idea or value to a child is through stories. He taught me everything I know. He wanted comics to become a medium accepted in schools.”

Report in The Times of India:

“Most publishers were sceptical [of Amar Chitra Katha] but Pai persisted and the series finally began with the launch of the first title, Krishna. He lent it the auspicious Indian touch by titling it number 11 instead of one.”

Saloni Meghani in the Mumbai Mirror:

“In the 1980s, Anant Pai, universal uncle for an entire generation or two, caused a scramble among siblings on afternoons when an Amar Chitra Katha or Tinkle was slipped under the door by the magazinewalla.

“He helped mothers bribe children into finishing their homework with ‘bumper issues’ on the 10 avatars of Vishnu or Birbal‘s tales. He shaped the stereotypes of Rakshasas and Rajput princesses in the minds of many. And if it weren’t for him, we would have known precious little about the Panchatantra or the Jataka Tales.”

Pooja Pillai in The Indian Express:

“As for Tinkle, it was a magazine not only for the children, but also by them. It was launched by a 12-year-old girl, Elaine D’Lime, who had won a nationwide contest organised by Pai, and to this day, it continues to be influenced by its young readers. In fact, many of its readers eventually grew up to join the staff of the magazine, such as senior illustrator Savio Mascarenhas, who has been with the magazine for 16 years.”

Sharon Fernandes in The Indian Express:

“Way back in 1986, I wrote a question in neat cursive, using a pencil: “What causes hiccups?” I wrote my age, address and the name of my school, and made sure I stuck enough glue to the Re 1 stamp on the envelope. I remember walking with my mother to the post box to mail my letter to Uncle Pai, to get my question printed in Tinkle, copies of which were my most prized possessions. The question would be printed in the “Tinkle tells you why” section. I was nervous, and I am sure I prayed every night for Uncle Pai to read my letter…. My question never got printed, but I got an envelope, saying thank you for sending it across. I didn’t mind. I had a letter from Uncle Pai and it meant the world to me. It always will.”

Abhay Vaidya in DNA:

“I noticed the seriousness with which Pai treated letters pouring in from children — on postcards, inland letters and envelops. He was famous as ‘Uncle Pai’ and we got letters from all corners of the country; the smallest of towns and talukas. Since he could not reply to all individually, there were printed letters in handwriting font with his signature. I was quite impressed when I first saw those letters and helped in the chore of mailing them.”

Actor Siddharth tweeted:

“A tear and a prayer for the demise of the legendary Anant Pai. He is as much a part of my childhood as my education at school. RIP, Uncle Pai.”

Jammu & Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah:

“Sad to hear about Uncle Pai. Grew up on a steady diet of Amar Chitra Katha comics from Kashmir Bookshop & my yearly subscription of Tinkle.”

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

Also read: A letter to Uncle Pai

ACK Title No. 11

Guess what I bought my girlfriend on Feb 14?

24 February 2011

Ordinary mortals buy roses for their beau on Valentine’s Day. Sons of the soil buy TV news channels.

Well, that’s what Bangalore Mirror, the tabloid from The Times of India stable is reporting.

Former Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, son of the former prime minister and “humble farmer” H.D. Deve Gowda, already runs a general entertainment channel called Kasturi through his legislator-wife Anitha Kumaraswamy.

HDK is now reported to have bought the struggling 24×7 Kannada news channel, Samaya, for Rs 60 crore, as a “gift” for chhoti memsaab, the former movie actress Radhika.

Kumaraswamy told Bangalore Mirror, “Samaya channel is up for sale, and I am in talks with its owner. We still have not completed the deal.”

When we asked the ex-CM whether he was buying the channel for Radhika, he guffawed and hung up.

Kumaraswamy, a former film producer, no longer makes the pretence of keeping his relationship with the actress secret. The two have appeared as a “couple” in religious ceremonies.

Kasturi channel has already begun running “Coming Soon” promos of its news channel—tentatively titled Newz24. The rumour is that a former print journalist reported to be close to Kumaraswamy and currently heading a news channel is likely to take charge of the news channel operations.

Samaya, launched by Congress MLA Satish Jharkiholi, has been struggling since launch. Former Suvarna News editor Shashidhar Bhat recently joined the channel but what happens to him under the new owner will be breaking news.

The change of ownership of Samaya is only the latest evidence of a massive shakeup in Kannada media in which big money, with the tint of politics and business, is beginning to shape the public discourse in Karnataka like never before, no questions asked.

The shakeup has already seen Vijaya Karnataka editor Vishweshwar Bhat join Kannada Prabha and Suvarna News editor Ravi Hegde join Udaya Vani. (Both Kannada Prabha and Suvarna News will soon come under a common owner, the “independent” member of Parliament, Rajeev Chandrasekhar who has an affinity for the BJP.)

Last week, tourism minister N. Janardhana Reddy—one of the infamous Reddy brothers—recently launched a news channel called JanaSri.

Link via H.B. Kumar

Read the full article: HDK is buying a news channel for his party—and for Radhika

Image: courtesy Bangalore Mirror

Also read: Everyone is naked in the chief minister’s hamaam

One question I’m dying to ask H.D. Kumaraswamy—I

One question I’m dying to ask H.D. Kumaraswamy—II

The most idiotic commercial of the year (so far)?

22 February 2011

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes:  Much of television is generally mind-numbing, but the latest TV commercial for the TVS two-wheeler, Wego, insults your intelligence like nothing else.

When accidents are spiralling out of control, when we are facing a spurt of head injuries and teenage deaths, when traffic police and NGOs are exercised over how to curb all this without playing spoilsport, here comes a TVC which shows teenage girls new ways of embracing death—by doing acrobatics on a pillion- ride on a scooter.

Obviously, the commercial comes with the standard disclaimer, usually glossed over by idiot box watchers, that the ad is performed by professionals and is not to be tried at home.

Still, what is the message that the commercial sends out to its target group, young men and their impressionable girlfriends, a daughter to some, a sister to somebody else?

That trying out such stunts is hep?

That such callisthenics “rock”?

That putting your life on the line to show your love is “fun”?

Does T.V. Sundaram Iyengar & Sons—a solid, “conservative”, family-run company that prides itself on its values and ethics—have no qualms of what such advertising could be doing to young minds, if not in urban centres at least in the small towns and villages, where too such commercials are received?

Has TVS heard of “peer pressure”? Or hasn’t it?

When will we ever learn that there is no need for bravado on the streets? Safety should be the criterion. As it is, our terrible roads, insufficient lights, monster vehicles, maniacal drivers—and mobile phones—play a daily of dance with our young ones. take enough lives.

TVS takes it to a new height. Or is it depth?

I know I can write to the advertising standards council of India (ASCI) and complain, but does TVS really require a fiat from the industry body to react?

Dancing tips for the batting nawab of Najafgarh

21 February 2011

How to play the upper cut?

Virender Sehwag receives a four-step recipe from Ranbir Kapoor in the latest Pepsi TV commercial:

Upar se aane ka,

Neeche dabaane ka,

Peeche uthaane ka,

Haaa, haaa, haaa!


One of the great charms of cricket is its anecdotes and surely Virender Sehwag, an icon of batting at its simplest, features in one of the greatest?

Playing for Leicestershire against Middlesex, Sehwag found Abdul Razzaq revere-swining the ball alarmingly. He called his batting partner Jeremy Snape and said he had a plan.

“We must lose this ball,” Sehwag said matter of factly.

Next ball, Viru smashed the ball clean out of the ground. The ball was lost. The replacement ball would, obviously, not reverse right away.

“We’re all right for one hour,” he told the non-striker, who told Warne.

Also read: Water melons, threshers and the World Cup

Nothing official about it yaar, kee farak painda?

Yum Ess Dee has the bat. Do you have the balls?

If pesticides in Pepsi can piss you off, how come…?

Pepsi chief Indra Nooyi‘s Mysore connection

What can a statue at Rs 25 crore do for Kannada?

21 February 2011

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Ajji applauded the Kannada Sahitya Sammelana president G. Venkatasubbaiah for his forthright remarks.

Kaddi thundu mado haage helidrallo on corruption. He didn’t mince any words.”

Ajji, at his age and wisdom, he doesn’t have to hide behind niceties. In fact, being a lexicographer, he could have chosen any number of synonyms to drive home his point.”

“I am happy Kannada ruled in the City even if it was for only five days. People seem to have woken up after a deep slumber,” replied Ajji.

Howdu Ajji. I thought they did a mistake in not having a sammelana for nearly five decades in Bangalore. We had almost lost Bangalore for Kannada.”

Adu seri, Ramu. Bhuvaneshwari statue maadtharanthallo. They should erect ‘bhoomi thayi’ statue considering the enormous love and obsession our leaders have for bhoomi that is site-u, especially in Bangalore.”

Ajji had bowled an unexpected doosra, just like Bhajji.

Ha, ha adu nija, Ajji! Bhuvaneshwari statue will be similar to the Statue of Liberty in New York. Our CM has announced Rs 25 crore for it.”

“Your brother Suri had sent a picture of that long back.  A lady wearing a crown which had horns.”

“Horns alla Ajji, she wears seven spikes representing the seven continents and the seven seas.”

“Anyway, kannadakke kombu bandilva… that will represent our present seven Jnanpeeth winners: Kuvempu, Da Ra Bendre, Shivarama Karanth, Masthi Venkatesh Iyengar, V.K. Gokak, U.R. Anantha Murthy, Girish Karnad.”

Sariyagi heLde Ajji, it is indeed a great pride for us.”

“They will start with 25 crores and end up spending  somewhere near 250 crores.”

“That is a distinct possibility, Ajji.”

“Later, all sorts of temples will spring around this. Before you say Yenappa -Hogappa, duplicate temples of Shani Mahatme, Mookambike,  etc would have sprung up in the vicinity making it another centre for agni pareekshe and dosha parihaara. It should be a centre for Kannada and only Kannada here.”

Howdajji, there is always that danger.”

“Why can’t we have a  good Kannada library? Or a mini-theatre for watching art movies and documentaries in Kannada? Or a research centre for development of Kannada.”

Nija Ajji, this will help promote Kannada arts.”

“By the way, Ramu, how will outsiders and foreigners learn Kannada? Namma software Seethamma helthidru, in France, they use only French for all their daily transactions, it seems. She spent six months visiting her daughter, a software engineer. Seethamma rattles some kind of ‘butler French’ now.”

“Almost like your ‘Butler English’!”

Ajji ignored my comments.

Namma Airport-galalli, gandasara picture haaki ‘Gents’ antha bareethare. Naavu Englishinalle ‘Gandasaru’ antha yaake bareebaardu? Haage hengasina picture haaki, ‘Ladies’ antha bariyo  badulu ‘Hengasaru’ antha Englishinalli bariibahudu. After sometime I am sure they will start using the term.”

Howadjji! This can definitely work.”

Haage ‘push’, ‘pull’ baagila picture baredu arrow haaki ,  ‘thalliri‘,  ‘eleyiriantha Englishnalli bareyabahudu. Hanigoodidre halla. A drop finally becomes an ocean. We can start slowly and innovate. We can indicate by picture and write Kannada words in English alphabets to start with. Once people become familiar with lots of words, we can introduce Kannada letters. We all learnt Hindi after mastering Hindi songs!”

Nija Ajji.”

“Bangalore has great artistes and young enthusiastic students and engineers. They can create Kannada words through symbols in malls, cinema theatres, railway and bus stations, traffic signals etc. The Rs 25 crore should go for such initiatives. That is what Karave, Kannada rajya koota, AKKA, Thamma, etc should be doing to promote Kannada.”

Ajji, you are now hitting sixers like Sehwag for Kannada. Wonderful.”

Hodeebeku kano. If we don’t make efforts to spread our language, who will”

Noorakke nooru nija, Ajji.”

The whore who couldn’t dance blames the floor

19 February 2011

T.J.S. GEORGE writes: Does the media distort facts? The Prime Minister thinks so. By “focussing excessively” on scam after scam, does the media spoil India’s image? The Prime Minister thinks so.

For the leader of a government that is neck-deep in scams, it is natural to think as the Prime Minister does. But that does not make it right.

In fact the Prime Minister is hopelessly wrong.

Manmohan Singh was in conversation with television editors. A great deal can be said in criticism of news channels. Generally speaking, they are amateurish, childish in their “me first” claims, irritating in their competitive sensationalism, more irritating in their loudness, superficial, repetitive and often plain unprofessional. But, like newspapers, they are essentially mirrors.

News journalism may have its weaknesses, but functionally it merely reflects the reality around it. It does not generate governmental corruption, it only reports it. If scams demoralise the nation and spoil the image of the country, the blame lies squarely with politicians and officials and fixers who produce the scams and benefit from them.

The Prime Minister must attack the scamsters, not the mirrors.

Actually, the media is doing an incomparably valuable national service by bringing corruption to public attention. After all, if the media had resolved not to do anything that would “spoil India’s image,” what would have happened?

The shame of India would have spread anyway as the world would have known that India was a country where a roll of toilet paper could be sold for Rs 4000, and where decisions on spectrum allocations were made in Chennai’s Gopalpuram area, and where there were billionaires with more illegal funds in Swiss banks than billionaires in the top five countries put together. It is the people of India who would have remained in the dark about the extent of their rulers’ criminalities.

Worse, India would have sunk deeper and deeper into corruption since the corrupt would have been emboldened by the fact that they would never be exposed. The media, for all its excesses, has put the fear of god into the hearts of the criminally inclined politician, bureaucrat and “crony capitalist”. That even their private conversations may someday become public property is one of the best disincentives we have against corruption. The Prime Minister would have been smart to acknowledge this instead of suggesting that the media was negative in its attitude.

It is true that the media also has developed a taste for corruption. It has a long way to go before it can be called mature and creative. But even in its present three-fourth-baked state, it performs the function of a conscientious opposition. Without the media playing this role, Indian democracy would lose much of its substance especially since the formal opposition in Parliament is playing a petty obstructionist’s role.

Both in Delhi and in the various states, the Opposition’s role is to oppose – oppose for the sake of opposing. If the Government says the sun rises in the West, the Opposition will say: No, it rises in the North. In no other democracy is Parliament’s functioning completely blocked as a form of Opposition politics. Even on urgently needed social and electoral reforms, they never show the unanimity they readily bring out when their salary increase bills come up for passing. When corruption cases come up, different parties take different positions as all are entrenched in corruption in different ways.

In such an environment the media becomes the only reliable forum for actionable information and democratic mobilisation. Even those who get the wrong end of the stick really have no reason to grumble. As Ram Mohan Roy explained: “A government conscious of rectitude of intention cannot be afraid of public scrutiny by the Press since this instrument can be equally well employed as a weapon of defence”.

Those who are beyond defence cannot of course use the weapon. But Manmohan Singh should have known that the real scoundrels who spoil India’s image are outside the media.

Oh fish! How he feels for the poor animal’s plight

18 February 2011

He is many things to many people, but make no mistake, B.S. Yediyurappa is an editor’s dream come true, every photo-op being a potential disaster scene.

On Friday, the chief minister happily posed for the cameras at his latest disaster scene, the mathsya mela at the palace grounds in Bangalore. For contrast, we offer member of Parliament, D.V. Sadananda Gowda, who lives up to his name each time he opens his mouth.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News


The B.S. Yediyurappa photo portfolio

1) Is it an idol? Is it a statue? Is it a mannequin?

2) One leg in the chair, two eyes on the chair

3) Yedi, steady, go: all the gods must be crazy

4) Kissa Karnataka chief minister’s kursi ka: Part IV

5) Why did the chief minister cross the road divider?

6) Sometimes you are up, sometimes you are down

7) Dressed to thrill: Yedi-Chini bhai bhai in Shanghai

8) Survival of fittest is a great photo opportunity

9) Drought relief one day, flood relief the next

10) How a chief minister should drink tea. (Or not.)

11) Let the rebels know, the CM will not bow one inch

12) Even four pairs of hands can’t stave off the flak

13) Yediyurappa regime slips into yet another sandal

14) Behind every successful cyclist, there are a few men

15) Life’s a cycle. What goes up must come down.

16) A leg up for the one is a leg up for the other

17) The emperor’s new clothes has a loose button

18) Why does this poor, selfless soldier cry so much?

19) The great Indian rope trick adds inches to a giant

20) Even Alan Donald would quiver at such a glare

21) One sanna step for man, one giant leap for anna

22) A party of loafers, thieves, liars and land-grabbers

23) Three years in power = three rings, or is it four?

24) Say hello to the sarsanghchalak of the ‘ling parivar’

25) Why you didn’t this picture in today’s papers

26) Across, the line, feet wide apart, head still high

27) A matador takes the bulls by their horns (almost)

28) Relax, it’s not the dress code for namma Metro

29) And how a famous head looks after the ‘2G’ scam

CHURUMURI POLL: Is BJP blackmailing Congress?

18 February 2011

Plenty of pixels have been expended on Manmohan Singh‘s inquisition on television against the backdrop of the scams enveloping his government, and the jury is agreed that the prime minister underlined his image as the lonely hero, blaming everybody—the coalition, the opposition and the media—for his woes, i.e. everybody except himself.

Seen from the PM’s perspective, though, he delivered a couple of telling blows. In reiterating that he will last his full tenure in clear, unequivocal terms, he sent a message to the Congress. And he socked it to the BJP where it hurts most: that it was using reforms like the goods and services tax (GST) as a bargaining chip.

“The reasons that have been given, frankly, I cannot mention it in public. They say because you have taken some decision against a particular person, who was a minister in Gujarat (Amit Shah), we must reverse it.” Singh, however, stopped short of naming the minister.

The Gujarat chief minister Narendra Damodardas Modi has, as is his wont, laughed the charge away, calling it the biggest joke of 2011, although we are just 45 days into it and we might yet seem better jokes in the days and months ahead. But the PM’s charge shines the light on the politics of blackmail that is the bedrock of modern Indian politics.

If B.S. Yediyurappa is accused of corruption, he threatens to reveal all the wrong doings of his predecessors but just stops short of it. The Congress switches on the CBI probe into the disproporationate assets of Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav like a switch, whenever it suits the grand old party. And so on.

But since even Lalchand Kishinchand Advani doesn’t deign question the personal integrity of PM, Manmohan Singh’s charge can’t be wished away. Also, given the kind of trouble the RSS and its inspirational figures like Indresh Kumar and Swami Aseemanand are in vis-a-vis “Hindutva Terror”, the PM’s allegation throws up the big question: for all its sanctimonious breast-beating, is the BJP blackmailing the Congress when no one is watching?

How to describe the colour red to born cynics

17 February 2011

The sight of men in uniform—be they police officers, forest officers or transport officers—invites sniggers in our cynical republic. They are lampooned in popular culture, in songs, films, books, TV serials, as being corrupt, pot-bellied and unfit, making their millions when we are not watching.

The only fear they invoke is in infants being put to sleep.

But there is another side, too, of sweat, toil and tears—and blood–as the spectacles and clothes of excise inspector V.N. Naik show. On Thursday, Naik was part of a team which swooped down on illicit liquor brewers in Karavigudda near Belgaum. Two officers were injured in the clash.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

“Good morning! Your paper is free of paid news!”

16 February 2011

In this era of mercenary managers and predatory propreitors, brave is the editor who can actually stick his neck out—at least in public—and vouch for the virginity of his product. But Aditya Sinha, the new editor-in-chief of the Bombay daily Daily News & Analysis (DNA), clearly doesn’t mind taking the risk.

The masthead of the paper, also published from Bangalore, now sports a seal affirming that the paper is free of the latest scourge of Indian journalism—paid news. And this, in the cradle of the newspaper group that is seen to be the motherlode of all things negative about the profession: medianet, paid news, private treaties and what have you.

For the record, DNA, under its previous editor R. Jagannathan, had kicked off a front-page campaign in 2009 against paid news with a set of advertisements.

Also read: Time to drop the “A” from DNA?

Aditya Sinha on the world view of Delhi journalists


Also read: Pyramid Saimira, Tatva & Times Private Treaties

Times Private Treaties gets a very public airing

SUCHETA DALAL: Forget the news, you can’t believe the ads either

Does he who pays the piper call the tune?

SALIL TRIPATHI: The first casualty of a cosy deal is credibility

Selling the soul? Or sustaining the business?

PAUL BECKETT: Indian media holding Indian democracy ransom

Does he who pays the piper call the tune?

PRATAP BHANU MEHTA: ‘Indian media in deeply murky ethical territory’

The scoreline: Different strokes for different folks

A package deal that’s well worth a second look

ADITYA NIGAM: ‘Editors, senior journalists must declare assets’

The brave last words of Prabhash Joshi

‘Only the weather section isn’t sold these days’

The paid news of India: guess who monetised first?

Free, frank, fearless. No, grubby, greedy, gutless

Editors Guild on paid news, private treaties

The decentralisation of ‘paid-for’ news begins

Nossa krishns é agora um dos desenhos animados

16 February 2011


Três dias após a leitura de um discurso feito para o ministro dos Negócios Estrangeiros português, o nosso Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna torna-se um ajuste de caracteres para os desenhos animados. Amul cortesia dos desenhos animados.

CHURUMURI POLL: Does World Cup excite you?

15 February 2011

The newspapers are running columns and pages of it. The news channels are devoting tens of minutes (and millions of rupees) to assemble the stars. The corporates are unleashing their merchandise and deals to time with the opening, to recreate the spirit of 1983. But is anybody really interested in the 2011 World Cup?

Are you interested in the World Cup? Does it excite you one bit?

The Test match batsman Rahul Dravid says that although the tournament begins on February 19, it gets serious only a month or more later when the knockout stage begins. In other words, much of what precedes it is bunk. The veteran cricket writer Suresh Menon writes: “I am not getting a sense of any buzz…. I wonder if there is actually fan fatigue.”

BBC online news India correspondent Soutik Biswas says:

“Last week, I travelled through Uttar Pradesh which has sent a number of cricketers to the national team. I found little enthusiasm about the event among the locals and spotted no billboards or fan hoardings of cricket stars.The electronics shop owner in my Delhi suburb says there has been no significant surge in TV sales – typically fans migrate to bigger, wide-screen sets before such a major sporting event – despite a high-definition telecast of the event for the first time.”

So, seriously, has the World Cup lost its charm? Is it logout-shutdown-exit for the 50-over format against its 20-over cousin? Or will “Cup Fever”, the usual cliche of headline writers, catch on when, to use the cliche of commentators, “the first ball is bowled”?

Also read: Is Veena Malik the sexiest cricket correspondent?

One question I’m dying to ask Manmohan—II

15 February 2011

Never the most articulate of speakers, a battered and beleaguered Manmohan Singh has reportedly decided to subject himself to a grand inquisition at the hands of the tigers of television. Tomorrow morning, if all goes as planned, a set of TV journalists will fling their questions at the prime minister.

And, hopefully, he will answer them. Live.

Unlike his previous interaction with the media, which came in the backdrop of naxalism, price rise, 2G and “trust deficit”, this time’s pow-wow comes in the midst of soaring inflation, “governance deficit”—and the S-band scam which has brought questions about his “conspiracy of silence, culpable inaction and gross indifference” to his doorstep.

Plus, there is the “Shankaracharya of Lavasa”, Arun Shourie‘s claim that he told the PM that the loot (in the 2G scam) was happening in his name, etc.

Hopefully, the ladies and gentlemen of the idiot box will not hurl soft-ball questions at the PM and will not stop with vague answers. Still, why give them a chance? What is the one question that the Arnabs, Barkhas and Rajdeeps should ask sadda Manmohan (provided they are invited, that is)?

Like, Mr Prime Minister, “the nation wants to know”, do you think it is all over for you? Like, Mr PM, why was Montek Singh Ahluwalia picked for the Padma Vibhushan?

Please refrain from keeping your queries longwinded and self-congratulatory, thank you.


Also read: One question I’m dying to ask Manmohan Singh-I

Have the middle-classes deserted Manmohan Singh?

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Manmohan Singh still “Mr Clean”?

CHURUMURI POLL: Will Manmohan Singh be PM till 2014?

Why more South Indian firms aren’t on Sensex

14 February 2011

North versus South is an evergreen theme to explore for newspapers and magazines and, of late, some TV stations too.

For decades, journalists, historians and pop-sociologists (all usually South Indian) have compared and contrasted politicians, filmstars, cricketers and others from either side of the Vindhyas to drive home their point (usually that the South is somehow better for the reasons they listed).

In most such scorecards, the South gets good marks for “culture”, simplicity, frugality, artistry, education, filter coffee and the masala dosa. Routinely, south Indians are accused of being docile, decent and civilised but lacking in drive and ambition unlike their thuggish, loud-mouthed northern counterparts, whose cut-throat killer instinct is blamed on their survival mechanisms evolved while combatting brutal invaders and an even more brutal climate.


The February issue of the newly launched edition of Fortune India looks at businessmen from peninsular and heartland India. And the piece (written by a North Indian and a South Indian), like most previously published pieces, is replete with the usual sweeping generalisations about the South that leaves you wondering as always, “Gee, are they really talking about us?”

It says:

# “Companies in the South are seen as generally conservative, non-aggressive and reactive, while their counterparts in the North are considered aggressive risk-takers. The differences are sometimes so stark that they seem like two different countries. That’s an outcome of history, tradition and cultural ethos.”

# “The Bombay stock exchange was set up in 1875, while the Calcutta stock exchange was incorporated in 1908. The oldest exchange in the South, the Madras stock exchange, was established only in 1937. Perhaps because of their historical familairity with, and proximity to, the stock market, the average North Indian business is more willing to raise funds from the stock market than a southern company.”

# “Only two south Indian companies find a place on the benchmark 30-stock BSE Sensex. Both these are IT companies and both were moved to the South. Wipro was founded in theNorth by a North Indian business family belonging to the Ismaili community. Infosys, started by a Kannada Brahmin, was set up i Poone before it moved to Bangalore.”

# “Southern business houses are not in favour of chasing stock markets for better valuations and leverage and do not want to be driven by quarterly expectations…. Even when there is a need for funds, the first option would be internal accruals. Raising money from the market is the most expensive form of fund-raising.”

# “The stark difference between businesses on either side of the Vindhyas is a product of the way they look at growth. Businesses in the South behave like the tortoise in the fable. They move slowly but steadily. Companies are legacies to be inherited and passed on, not just cash cows to be milked dry.”

# “The North which has seen several invasions has provided fertile ground for entrepreneurs and risk takers. For those who have witnessed periodic destruction, being aggressive and acquisitive and living for the moment comes naturally. The mayhem following Partition only strengthened that feeling, especially among those who had to abandon flourishing businesses in what is now Pakistan.”

# “Diversification is more common in North Indian companies, while core competence is valued down south…. When it comes to growing inorganically, North Indian businesses lead.”

# “The ability and willingness to risk capital means that North Indian businesses are more open to going global. South Indian firms are content to grow organically and in their home territory. Fiscal prudence and frugality in the scale of operations prevents South Indian companies from making expensive global plays. Even when they have matching resources they are reluctant to enter the global arena.”

# “It’s not just global forays; companies in the South are often unwilling to cross the Vindhyas. Slow and steady growth has its advantages but the focus on stability could cost a group in terms of missed opportunities.”

# South Indian businesses are generally seen as legacies, so importance is given to succession plans, and handing over begins during the patriarch’s lifetime. Lack of this has dragged down many North Indian businesses. Bitter, open battles led to court battles that lasted for years.”

The only concession the Fortune India piece makes to “Madrasis” is in doffing the hat to the GVKs, GMRs, Satyam and Maytases of manna Andhra Pradesh.

“Andhra guys are an aggressive bunch, says the Fortune India piece. Most of these companies are promoted by families that made their fortunses in farming. They are comfortable taking risks because they know that they can always fall back on agriculture if all else fails. Like most traditionally agrarian communities, they have a feudal mindset. They typical Andhra-backed business hosue is seen as more corrupt than its other South indian business counterparts, an impression fostered by tis willingness to go to any lengths to get its work done.”

Photograph: courtesy Seattle Examiner

Also read: ‘Secret of Anil Kumble‘s success is his un-Kannadiganess’

CHURUMURI POLL: South Indians in the World Cup?

CHURUMURI POLL: Can’t South Indians play Twenty20?

RAMACHANDRA GUHA: An outsider looking in sports insiders don’t

CHURUMURI POLL: Are North Indians lawless?

A World War would have made South India(ns) different?

‘Indians trust magazines* more than newspapers’

11 February 2011

Trust in the Indian media is down sharply by 15 percentage points over the last two years. One out of every two Indians distrusts what they read, see, and listen but—surprise, surprise, OK, no surprise, no surprise!—trust in magazines* is higher than for newspapers, TV news or radio.

These, in short, are the major highlights of the 2011 survey by Edelman, the world’s largest public relations firm. The 11th such survey conducted, the media is the biggest loser in India among the four sectors surveyed, other three sectors being business, government and NGOs.

There were 5,075 respondents in 23 countries for the annual Edelman Trust Barometer. The India section of the survey was conducted between October 11 and November 24, 2010 before the Niira Radia tapes altered the perception of media personnel even more in the eyes of news consumers.

Trust in Indian magazines is at 95% against 93% for newspapers, 90% for TV news, and 81% for radio. The barometer reported a 25% dip in trust in business magazines and TV news, and a 21% dip in trust in newspapers, in 2009, in the wake of paid news, private treaties, medianet and other infirmities.

Online search engines like Google command 93% trust, indicating that most people prefer to search for the facts themselves and trust search engines to help them. Corporate communications such as press releases, reports, and emails show trust levels of 86%.

Interesting if true.

Two years ago, the national election survey 2009 by the Lokniti team of the centre for study of developing societies (CSDS) found that 45% Indians greatly trusted what they read in newspapers, and a similar number somewhat trusted newspaper reports.

* Disclosures apply

Also read: If you trust polls, trust in India dips

From 2G into 3Gs before you can read this line

10 February 2011

Ratan Tata, the chairman of the Tata group, a trained pilot like his predecessor J.R.D. Tata, steps into a supersonic McDonnell-Douglas, now Boeing F/A 18 Hornet (above), and sits pillion behind pilot Mike Wallace at the Aero India show, in Bangalore on Thursday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

‘Buddha, Basavanna, Shakespeare and Marx’

9 February 2011

PRITHVI DATTA CHANDRA SHOBHI writes: A few years ago, most likely in 2005, while watching the proceedings of the Karnataka legislative assembly, I heard M. P. Prakash speak. He was then the deputy chief minister in the Congress-JD (S) coalition government.

I don’t remember the context or the issues involved but I clearly remember his speech. And that’s because in a 20-minute response to a debate in the assembly, Prakash invoked Shakespeare, Basavanna, Karl Marx, Gautama Buddha, and for good measure, several other Kannada poets.

It didn’t matter whether he was quoting them accurately or whether his invocation was even necessary. By then, the new breed of Karnataka politician had entered the Karnataka Assembly and it felt so strange to hear Prakash refer to Marx and Shakespeare.

But then Prakash was known to be a different kind of politician – as someone who enjoyed the company of books and writers, of theatre, arts and cinema. He wasn’t simply an enthusiast but an active participant in arts and literature – as a writer, actor and theatre director.

Prakash’s sensibilities were such that when Janata Party was in power in the 1980s, the intellectuals of Karnataka wanted him to take charge of the education ministry. When he was the minister for Kannada and culture, our writers and artists felt he was someone approachable, and further that he would understand their needs and perspectives.

In this regard, he filled the void left behind by K. V. Shankare Gowda of Mandya.

In India: A Million Mutinies Now, Sir V. S. Naipaul writes extensively on Karnataka, which he sees through the eyes of Prakash. In his earlier works on India, Naipaul wasn’t optimistic about the changes taking place in the first three decades of independence, but if he revises his opinion and sees reasons for optimism, if he has a more nuanced understanding of the complexities and contradictions of Indian society and polity, the credit for that at least partially should go to Prakash.

More significantly, Prakash was a politician a writer or thinker could interact with and learn from.

In the last ten years, Prakash was struggling to retain his political base in a Bellary district that had been overtaken by the Reddy revolution. His only son too had apparently become part of the new and booming economy of mining and had benefited from that.

While that may hint at a sad change that had come about in this one time socialist, it also shows the tragic side of Karnataka’s politics: even someone like Prakash had come to believe he needs the mining wealth in order to survive in politics.

Prakash’s demise creates a void in Karnataka politics, which will remain unfulfilled for a while. We may find some faults with him, but he remained a man of culture in an arena that’s increasingly becoming bereft of just that and where fistfights and physical threats have become order of the day.

I would like to remember the man who spoke of Shakespeare in the Karnataka legislative assembly for it is going to be a while before we hear such chatter.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: What M.P. Prakash told Sir Vidiadhar Naipaul

What M.P. Prakash told Sir Vidiadhar Naipaul

9 February 2011

“Multi-faceted” is a word that is loosely uttered in obituaries when somebody of significance dies. But the former deputy chief minister, M.P. Prakash, who passed away today after a battle with cancer, was truly a multi-faceted one. Politician, yes, but also a man of letters: author, theatre personality, and social activist.

Towards the end 1980s, the renowned author and Nobel laureate, Sir Vidiadhar Naipaul, met Prakash for his book India: A Million Mutinies Now, in the company of then Indian Express reporter M.A. Deviah. Below is an excerpt, published without the permission of the publishers, Minerva, in tribute to M.P. Prakash.


Prakash, a minister in the non-Congress state government of Karnataka, invited me to breakfast one Sunday morning. The minister’s house [in Bangalore] was near the hotel, and Deviah came and walked there with me.

Prakash wasn’t among the top crowd-pullers. He had a more sedate reputation as an educated and competent minister, a shrewd and serious politician, yet capable of detachment: someone a little out of the ordinary in state politics.

Prakash, true to his character, didn’t keep us waiting.

Almost as soon as he had been told we had arrived, and before I could pick up one of the papers, he came in from an inner room to greet us, a small, brisk, confident, humorous-looking man in his forties; and he immediately led us to the room adjoining, a dining-room – this part of the house now quite private and personal, quite different in its atmosphere even from the sitting room – where a big table was laid for a most serious kind of Indian breakfast.

And almost as soon as we had sat down at the table, Mrs Prakash appeared, in a fresh blue saree, and began serving us: the ritualised duty of the conservative Hindu wife, personally to serve food to her husband: a duty, but also now, considering what her husband was, a high privilege.

How many of the people waiting outside would have envied her that familiarity with the minister, that attending on him; to how many would she have appeared blessed….


We got up from the breakfast table to go to the State Guest House. Prakash had thought he would have more privacy there, and not be troubled by suppliants.

We went to the main [Kumara Krupa] guest house. It was a big stone building in the centre of the tawny grounds. When we were settled in the wide verandah on the upper floor, I asked Prakash about political power in India.

How did people come by it?

What were a man’s qualifications for power?

Caste, he said, was the first thing of importance. A man looking for office or a political career would have to be of a suitable caste. That meant belonging to the dominant caste of the area. He would also, of course, have to be someone who could get the support of his caste; that meant he would have to be of some standing in the community, well connected and well known.

And since it seldom happened that the votes of a single caste could win a man an election, a candidate needed a political party; he needed that to get the votes of the other castes. So the whole parliamentary business of political parties and elections made sense in India.

It encouraged co-operation and compromise; the very multiplicity of Indian castes and communities made for some kind of balance.

Power achieved here, Prakash said, was very great, in the surroundings of India life, the surroundings of struggle and making do. And the fall, the loss of power, was equally great, and could be very hard to bear.

Prakash said, “When the average politician falls he will have nowhere to go, and no cushion. He may be an advocate in a country area, or a son of a peasant or landlord, or son or brother of a petty merchant; but not a man with a lot of money. And many may not come from a movement.’


‘Movement would be the independence movement, or the movement against Indira Gandhi’s Emergency, or the peasant movement here in this state, or the labour movement, or any people’s movement. When you don’t come from such a movement, and you have nothing to fall back upon when you lose power, you are in a hurry to make money.

‘The power gives so much of comfort, perks, and status – a bungalow, all fully furnished, all personal attendants and secretarial staff. A chauffeur-driven car, and facilities to stay in government bungalows and guest houses when you travel out, and air tickets – you can fly around at the expense of the government. But when you come out of power, if you have no means, you may have to go back to the semi-urban area from where you came. There you can hardly afford to have a secretary or servants. You may have one servant, but not the bunch of servants you had as a minister. Or the free telephone calls.’

Prakash appeared to be speaking against these things, but I thought I could detect a certain lingering over the details of privilege. He had been a minister for six years, and now his government, from what I could decipher in the newspapers, was in some trouble.

I said, ‘Servants. You talk a lot about servants. Are servants very important to these men from the country areas?’

Prakash was a lawyer, ironic, bright: he detected my drift.

He said, ‘In the good old days too many servants, for the big landlords, the zamindars, and the feudals, gave a status. Today it is the power. Servants are there to make your life comfortable. If you are a minister, and you travel on an aeroplane, there will be somebody to buy you a ticket. There will always be a block of seats for the government, and these will be kept till the last minute; so there is always a chance that you will get a ticket. And your PA, your personal assistant, will come right up to the airport to see you off’ – Prakash again lingering over the details, savouring the things he still enjoyed – ‘and at the destination somebody will come and receive you. There will be a vehicle at your disposal, and your reservation of accommodation has already been made.

‘But as a man without power’ – and now, as a preacher painting a picture of purgatory, to balance the heaven of success, Prakash began to darken the details of Indian air travel – ‘many a time you will not know where to buy a ticket, where to stand in a queue, how to get your baggage checked. In a western society, which is so very orderly, between a man with privileges and a common man there won’t be a big gap in the physical arrangement of life, arrangement of travel and comforts and stay.

‘Even in western countries it is an innate thing in a man to look to be in power. And it is all the more so in India, because the power means everything here. When an American president leaves the White House, it makes no difference as far as his lifestyle is concerned, and his physical comforts. Many a time in India it wouldn’t be like that, unless you have a will to live in austerity, like the old gods of the Gandhian era.

‘Our new-generation politicians don’t have that spiritual power, and they feel the difference. They try for a while, after they have fallen, to capitalise on their so-called contacts with the authorities. They undertake ertain commissions for people who want things done. But those contacts very soon go away. And the industrialist who courted you drives by in his big car to his rich house in his nice area, and he doesn’t even look at you.

‘Because of industrialisation, and the green revolution in the rural areas, a new class of nouveau-riche persons are emerging, and these people are being exposed for the first time to university education, comfortable urban life, stylish living, and western influences – materialistic comforts. During this transition period, we are slowly cutting from the moral ethos of our grandfathers, and at the same time we don’t have the westerner’s idea of discipline and social justice. At the moment things are chaotic here.’


I would have liked him to talk more personally. But it wasn’t easy. The political crisis in his government, the glimpse of the possibility of the end of things, was encouraging him to put a distance between himself and the delights of power.

It was at the same time bringing out his political combativeness. It was making him moralise in an old-fashioned way (almost as though he had already left office) about Gandhianism, materialism, and the dangers to India of the super computer the people in Delhi were talking about.

At last he said, ‘I wasn’t rich, but I wasn’t poor. My family could live in comfort and with security. This was in Bellary. I have land there, and much of what I needed was produced on my land – millet, rice, tamarind, chilli, vegetables, and fuel. I can go back any time. But after six years in office here I can notice a change in my children. Their formative years have been spent in this opulence and status, and people giving so much concern and attention to them. Now they don’t wish to go back to the village. For me it’s nothing.

‘Bellary is very hot. And many of these relatives and friends of mine feel a little awestruck when they come here. The friends may have a little jealousy, friends from the village, or people who worked along with me in the old days and have seen me walking the streets of a small place. Now they feel I’ve become all important, and there is a jealousy – and this is apart from the ruthlessness of the system, where my own colleagues are pulling down my legs when I am climbing up fast. This is innate in the system, but the jealousy is different.

‘Even my voter, he will be more comfortable to talk to me when I am there, in my abode. But when he comes here and sits on a sofa’ – it was interesting, getting this idea of the world as it appeared to Prakash’s voter, seeing even the drabness of the State Guest transformed – ‘when he sits here, with this big garden, lawn, police people, attendants, it makes him ill at ease, and immediately he feels I am too far away, and that personal equation goes away or changes.’

Prakash said, ‘Our people, because of the long tradition of the rajas and maharajas and feudal lords, they always look with awe and fear on the seat of power, and at the same time they nourish a dislike and hatred towards the seat of power. But there is a dichotomy. They like an accessible, simple, compassionate, benevolent man in the seat of power. But at the same time they have a mental  picture of power – of pomp, pageantry, authority and aristocracy,. These things don’t go together many times.

‘In a case like me, they would like to see me as their good old humble country lawyer – as before 1983, when I came to power and became a minister. But they will respect my authority only if I’m surrounded by a group of officers, and if I myself assume postures.

‘On the 16th of February 1983 I took the oath of secrecy and office as a minister at Bangalore. On the same day there was a communal disturbance at Bellary – with a police firing, seven deaths, arson and looting. I immediately that night left for Bellary by car, 200 miles down. And I immediately assumed the authority there, and started directing the District Inspector of Police, the Deputy Commissioner of Bellary, and other officers. And I was able to control the disturbance in a day.

‘As a lawyer, I had appeared before the Deputy Commissioner of Bellary in several cases, where I used to address him as “Your Honour”. But, as a minister, there was a transformation. I started giving him commands. Within a day there was a change in me. And people wouldn’t have liked it, and the situation wouldn’t have been controlled, if I had just been a mofussil lawyer. It’s a very strange society we’ve created. Democracy has made it possible for people like us to have a different role.’


File photograph: M.P. Prakash on stage (Karnataka Photo News)

At Anil Kumble circle, a sharp googly to KSCA

8 February 2011

Although there is a lot that is similar between the two, there is one key difference between the Delhi Metro and the Bangalore Metro. It is not something that is immediately visible in this bird’s eye-view of the line. Let’s just say that the clue lies in the colour yellow.

So, the answer is…?

Photograph: Santosh R.G./ Karnataka Photo News


The Namma Metro photo portfolio:


In the darkness of night, a ray of light at 19:12:30 hours

The biggest day in the history of Bangalore?

Do not try this at home (if you have a few bogies)

From the BEML end, right arm over the wicket

The giant violin-box hanging above ‘Parades’

It’s still not here, but it’s already kind of here

Yes, it’s for real, and it’s purple and off-white

4 cars, 3 SUVs, 8 bikes, and 16 autorickshaws

Oh God, what have they done to my M.G. Road

Saturdays, girlfriends, popcorn and other memories

Every picture tells a tale. Babu‘s can fill a tome.

Not a picture that will make it to Lonely Planet

Amar, Akbar, Antony. Or Ram, Robert, Rahim

Only a low-angle shot can convey its great girth

Lots of work overground for an underground rail

The unsung heroes in the dreams of Bangaloreans

Water melons, threshers and the World Cup

8 February 2011

“An Indian game accidentally discovered by the English,” was what the sociologist Ashis Nandy called cricket 20 years ago in his labour of love, The Tao of Cricket.

Pepsi takes the provocative hypothesis to its logical conclusion through its World Cup commercials explaining the trademark shots of Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Kevin Pietersen.

Also read: Nothing official about it yaar, kee farak painda?

Yum Ess Dee has the bat. Do you have the balls?

If pesticides in Pepsi can piss you off, how come…?

Pepsi chief Indra Nooyi‘s Mysore connection