Archive for the ‘Not Just Mysore’ Category

Once upon a time, at Gulbarga railway station

6 October 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph: courtesy Wikipedia

The total number of colours in this picture is…

11 October 2012

Students of the Satya Sai institute of home science turn out in their colourful best at a youth festival organised by the women’’s University in Dharwad on Thursday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News


Also read: Save women from having to save the saree

2011: How the Dharwad peda enhances your smile

2009: 22 ways to smile in a blaze of earthy colours

Another gig for ‘Papa Rock’ in another world

10 January 2012

In the Bharat that is India, it is only those who play by the book, who stick to the code, who do not stray from the straight and narrow, who get the 21-gun salute. The game-changers, the pathbreakers, the non-conformists, the iconoclasts barely get a look-see from even the most modern of media.

Artists, yes. Graphic artists, no.

Classical musicians, yes. Rock stars, no.

Last Thursday, Amit Saigal, one of the titans of the Indian rock music scene, met a watery end in Goa to almost deafening silence from the media which otherwise thinks it reflects and celebrates India’s youth. Here, a childhood friend pays tribute to a true rockstar.



I was on my way to Dabolim airport from Anjuna on Thursday when my phone rang twice around 1.30 pm flashing “Amit Saigal“. I had called Amit two days earlier when I was at Ashwem beach; I knew he was staying there.

My call had gone unanswered – so typically Amit, I told myself.

So, when I saw his name flash on my mobile phone screen I thought he was returning my call. But I could not take it immediately as I was checking in at the airport.

Once I had done so, I called Amit back on his number. It was not Amit on the other side; it was Gavin, Amit’s friend from Australia, with whom I was vaguely familiar. Thanks to the noise of the airport announcements and Gavin’s accent, I could barely make out what he was saying.

And then Gavin said: “Amit is dead.”


Amit and I had known each other since we were five years old. We had gone to the same school, St. Joseph’s in Allahabad. Amit stood out due to his unusual looks among us, Allahabadis. His complexion was western white; his hair was light in colour, almost blond.

He was built stoutly; he looked handsome.

Teachers at our school pinched his cheeks often. He was never the one who scored high grades but had a flair for writing English. Due to his appearance many of us thought he was a foreigner or an Anglo-Indian and kept some distance from him.

In school, Amit remained a bit of a mystery for us even though he would try his best to make us laugh with his fake ‘angrez’ accent, which mostly went beyond our comprehension. He could mimick very well at school functions; he was good at holding an audience’s attention.

Despite his well-heeled background (a bahadur used to bring hot food every afternoon at the lunch recess for him) anyone of us who broke ice with him found him to be just like us.


Amit Saigal came from an aristocratic family of Allahabad engaged in the business of printing UP government’s school books and stationery. His grand uncle was an Independence revolutionary of sorts and ran a publishing company by the name of Chand Press in the 1930s and ’40s.

The Saigals lived in a sprawling bungalow in the Civil Lines area and owned furniture and cutlery that would rival the Nehrus of Anand Bhawan. The Shankaracharya had stayed at the Saigal household at a time when Maharshi Mahesh Yogi was his mere sevak.

After we had finished our school, Amit’s father sent him to England to attend a printing technology fair. The experience could come in handy in running the family press, or so Saigal senior thought. But when Amit returned from ol’ Blighty, his suitcase only contained literature on his future port of calling: rock music.

Rock music in Allahabad of the 1980s might sound like Teejanbai performing for the Pope, but the truth was slightly different. Due to a sizeable Anglo-Indian community, there were a small yet die-hard rock music loving gentry.

With the help of the gear he got from his England trip Amit started a rock band on the Prayag.


Amit and I lost touch with each other after school, after my family moved to Delhi. In 1993, with his now ex-wife Shena, Amit started India’s first rock magazine from Allahabad Rock Street Journal, a sort of cut-paste job from foreign music magazines peppered with profiles of a few Indian rock bands.

Initially RSJ was a sheaf of stapled sheets put together by Amit and Shena and personally handed out by them at IIT festivals. But soon the magazine became hugely popular among the student communities of the metros. Over a period of time, Amit became a cult-like figure among the youth of India’s north eastern states.

He once received a fan’s mail, which the letter writer claimed to have written with his own blood.

When we met again around 1996, our professions were a bit similar. Amit asked me to design the glossy format RSJ. The cute little boy from school had grown his hair. It was turning silver now, flowing below his shoulders like a rock star.

He looked even more incongruous than in Allahabad.

“Don’t you get cat-calls in Allahabad for your women-length hair?” I asked.

Amit turned around and said: ‘Ham phorener hain na.’

The fact was Amit couldn’t care less.

That was Amit. He conformed only to the extent where he would not make his peers too unhappy with what he did. His rock star spirit was genuine; he did not work at it, he was born with it. He liked himself to be a bit on the edge, but one foot was always firmly planted on the ground.


Indian independent musicians will remain ever indebted to Amit Saigal for the possibilities he opened up for them in his lifetime. In the mid-90s RSJ started an annual three-day independent rock music festival, The Great Indian Rock, at Delhi’s Hamsadhwani theatre to a capacity crowd of 10,000.

For the first time Indian rock bands from across the country found a professionally managed platform to perform for a large audience. GIR over the years discovered many amateur rock bands which have graduated to professional bands now.

Fondly called “Papa Rock” by the army of musicians he unearthed and honed, Amit started club gigs called Rocktober-fest in many cities of India. The surge of live-bands we see now playing at different bars and restaurants all over the places in emerging India were triggered by RSJ a good decade back.

In 2004, RSJ took the rock band Orange Street for a 4-country rock tour of Sweden, Norway, Estonia and England. This again was the first time an Indian band was touring Europe on this scale. I followed the band on this tour as a writer and a photographer for my magazine Outlook*.

In 2009, Amit’s RSJ banner was up for more than 200 nights at different gigs all across India.

This November Amit kickstarted a weeklong international music festival in Delhi, The India Music Week.

We met a few times during the festival and he told me how physically exhausted he was putting together a festival of this size. He wanted to take a break from work, to re-energize himself in Goa for a few weeks, like he always did at the end of the year.

I told him I would join him towards New Year Eve.

Around 10 in the morning on January 5, Amit sailed out with Gavin and a few others on Gavin’s boat from Panaji dockyard to sail to Palolim. About 100 metres before Palolim beach the boys jumped into the calm waters of the Arabian sea for a swim. They were a having a lot of fun swimming.

Amit said to Gavin that next year he would bring his daughter Aditi over.

Amit floated on his back gazing the blue skies above, his favourite position when he used to be in the water. After a while, his mates noticed he was floating face down. They sensed something was amiss. They pulled Amit on to the boat, gave him the oxygen mask to breathe. But it was too late.

“Papa Rock” had already left to organise another gig, in another world.

File photograph: Amit Saigal takes the mike at the author’s wedding at Amber in Jaipur in November 2009

Also read: North meets South on the banks of Cauvery

The End of Ramankutty’s midnight conversations

14 May 2010

AMBIKA SEN writes from Madras: My mother told me this true story.

Our ancestral home in Mannapra was a grand old Kerala mansion. Ramankutty, my mother’s maternal uncle, lived in it. The old gentleman was very popular and much respected in the large household.

As was the practice in Kerala families, who lived in their tharawads, all the men and women had their own personal rooms. My grandmother’s room was right next to this uncle’s room.

Every night, she overheard the old man talking to someone just before he put out his lantern and went to sleep. She couldn’t hear the content of this conversation clearly. This made her curious. Often she had thought of asking him about it, but never did.

Perhaps, she found it somewhat improper to be curious about such details concerning the old gentleman.

One day, when she was serving him his dinner, she remembered about this nocturnal chat and couldn’t resist asking him about it.

“Oh, that,” answered Ramankutty, most casually, “is just an old friend who visits me every night.”

On being repeatedly asked for details by my grandmother, who thought that all this was a joke, he came out with the truth and told her the whole story.

He said that for quite some time, he has had a late-night visitor in the form of a cobra, who would come in through the opening in the ‘Ove‘* and curl up under his  bed. He would promptly disappear at the crack of dawn.

Every night Ramankutty would wait for his nocturnal friend and never slept till he heard the snake coming in and settling under his bed. The bed was made of planks of teak. He would speak a few words  to his friend: like asking him how was his day, did he get enough to eat, etc, before going to sleep.

It was this talk that my grandmother overheard almost every night.

Surprisingly, she was not perturbed by the story.

Strangely, even the other members of the household didn’t attach much importance to it. This nightly routine of Ramankutty went on undisturbed for some time.

One day, Ramankutty left Mannapra to visit some of his kin, who lived in their ancestral home, not far from ours. On the same  day, after he left, one of our relatives arrived on a visit and stayed on for the night with us. He was shown Ramankutty’s room to sleep.

Moments before the guest actually went to sleep, much to his horror, he saw a huge cobra crawling in through the ‘Ove’*. All that he did, as an impulsive reaction, was to reach for his walking stick and kill the poor, unsuspecting visitor.

At the same time, quite excitedly, he cried for help, and woke up the entire household. He told them how narrowly he had escaped death and thanked God for it.

Everyone rushed into the room to look at what had happened. None moved. The house guest, who looked at them for sympathy, was greeted with utter silence. He saw horror and grief etched on their faces. It was a sleepless and an agonising night for everyone.

Ramankutty came home the next day and broke down on hearing what had happened.  He was inconsolable.

My grandmother and others felt awfully guilty. They had forgotten to mention about the uncle’s  nocturnal visitor to the guest. It seems uncle Ramankutty, who was totally devastated on hearing what had happened in his absence, found it impossible to come to terms with the demise of his dear friend.

He did not sleep in that room.

It seems all day he kept muttering to himself:  “Poor fellow. He did not harm anyone. All that he wanted was a quiet, undisturbed night’s sleep before he went out to survive in the harsh world of wilderness. He didn’t deserve death in my room.”


*‘Ove’ was a raised platform in one corner of the room which, in a way, served as an attached closet. This area was covered with wooden panels on three sides with a portion kept open to go in. Inside this enclosure, there was  a place to keep a large kodam (brass vessel used to draw water from the well) filled with water and a lota.

A portion of the platform towards the wall was slightly lowered with a hole in the wall opening out.  This enclosure was used as a urinal in the night. Lotas  filled with water from the kodam would be poured on the floor to clean the place after use, The water flowed out through the opening in the wall. It was through this opening that the snake entered the room every night.


Ambika Sen sent this story to the photojournalist T.S. Nagarajan after reading his story ‘A king os snakes‘ in his recently published private book ‘A Pearl of Water on a Lotus Leaf and Other Memories‘.

Also read‘I thought she would live forever’: A true love story’

Say it again: ‘I’m happy seeing my parents happy’

27 March 2010

The inclusion of Ranganath Vinay Kumar in the Indian squad for the Twenty20 World Cup is much deserved, statistically speaking. But it is also nothing short of seismic, sociologically speaking.

The man hails not from traditional urban cricket centres like Bangalore and Mysore, but the humbler cotton cocoon of Davanagere. It wasn’t on the lush green grounds of some international school that Vinay cut his cricketing teeth, but on the hard outfield of the Mothiveerappa high school grounds.

He wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth, with his mother dropping him off at a coaching class in a fancy car; the servant lugging the kit. Rather, like Vinod Kambli, he was born on the other side of the railway track; his father driving a hired autorickshaw to eke out a living for the family.

And unlike plenty of recent worthies who have been fast-tracked into India’s most coveted club, Vinay has had to strain every sinew in match after match, with bat and ball. There was no “godfather” holding a gun at the heads of the selectors. Despite the bucketful of wickets he had soaked up in the last three seasons, he wasn’t considered good enough for a BCCI contract by the worthies.

But, unlike the benne dose (butter dosa) that his hometown is famous for, all who know him and have dealt with him, have only one thing to say: Vinay is the Rahul Dravid of bowling: gutsy, hard working, tough as nails, never say die and streetsmart. The word impossible has been scratched out of his cricketing lexicon.

And, surely, anybody who remembers a dead coach on the biggest day of his life, has his heart in the right place?

Here’s how sections of the media covered the selection of a true son of the soil.


Cricinfo/ A break that was long overdue: “Vinay’s friend, Harshan, used to tell him, ‘If you get Sachin Tendulakar”s wicket, you will definitely play for India. Whoever has bowled him—S. Sreesanth, Piyush Chawla— has played for India.” Last year, in the IPL in South Africa, Vinay got Tendulkar with a beauty in Port Elizabeth. So Vinay called Harshan, and asked, ‘Okay maga [mate], I have got his wicket, now tell me, I’ll play for India or what?’ Harshan, like the selectors, had an excuse ready. ‘No, I told you to get him bowled.’

“In the third season of the IPL, at the Brabourne Stadium, Tendulkar was in much better form than he was in Port Elizabeth. He was moving across and playing unbelievable flick shots from in front of the stumps. Vinay, though, got one to nip in a touch extra, and hit the exposed leg stump. Harshan texted immediately, ‘Get ready to play for India.’ Six days later, when he was driving to another friend’s place, on a short break from continuous IPL matches, Vinay got the belated call-up.”

The Times of India/ Auto driver’s son rises: ” Having been let loose for a couple of days by the management of his IPL side, the Royal Challengers Bangalore, Vinay chose to go for a long drive in his Santro, mostly in a bid to escape the tension that has always enveloped him and his family whenever the national selectors meet. Had this scene taken place a few years before, he could well have been moving about in an autorickshaw, not the usual hired one but the one driven by his dad Ranganath to keep the family fire burning.”

Hindustan Times/ Happy to see my parents smile: “I had been expecting this for a while and every time I would be disappointed. My parents would ask me why I wasn’t getting selected despite good performances. Sometimes I would tell them that perhaps I wasn’t destined to play for the country…. Now I am happy seeing them happy.

Maybe God wanted me to work harder and longer…. We weren’t financially strong, and me being the eldest, it was my duty to take care of them. But looking at my interest in the game, they encouraged me to continue playing. They never made me feel guilty about the fact that I wasn’t helping them in running the family.””

The Hindu/ Vinay has a legacy to live up to: “Indian cricket’s latest heroes are continuing to emerge from the hinterland. Vinay is a fresh example of an iron-willed small-town lad carving his space under the sun.”

Deccan Herald/ Gutsy Vinay gets T20 cut: “The wait, which appeared eternal, is finally over. His State team coach K. Sanath Kumar’s reaction was laced with a tinge of sadness when Abhimanyu Mithun was picked for the first Test against South Africa in February. While he was all happy for Mithun, he was disappointed that the big-hearted Vinay missed out on the opportunity. However, Sanath is a happy man now, with Vinay getting recognised at last.”

DNA/ Bangalore medium pacer pulls a fast one: “The wait is finally over for Indian cricket’s ‘Nobody’s Child’…. It’s been a long journey for the son of an automobile spare parts dealer in the small town of Davangere. Despite taking the highest number of wickets in first class cricket in 2007-08 and 2009-10, Vinay was not considered for a central contract by the BCCI. But he did not lose hope and believed that his day would come.”

Cricinfo/Maybe God wanted me to work harder and longer: “Few people get the chance early, few have to wait. We weren’t financially strong, and me being the eldest, it was my duty to take care of them. But looking at my interest in the game, they encouraged me to continue playing. They never made me feel guilty about the fact that I wasn’t helping them in running the family.”

CricketNext/ Vinay ready to put his best foot forward: “”I am very happy for my son. I am sure he will perform well for the country,” said Soubhagya, his mother. “Though the call has come later than what we had anticipated, I am happy for him. My son is a very hard worker. I am confident that he will make India proud,” said Vinay’s father Ranganath.

The Telegraph/ Vinay thanks selectors: “I would also like to thank my coach Prakash Pawar, who is no more, and L.M. Prakash for recognising my talent and developing me into what I am today. K. Jeswanth and K. Sanath Kumar were also instrumental in shaping my career. I’m grateful to former Karnataka bowler Y.B. Patel. He would say that I will go on to play big cricket and always encouraged me. Even on his deathbed, he told someone to hand over a kit bag to me. I haven’t used it. I treasure it.”

Vijaya Karnataka/ Dil khush: “Whenever the selection committee sat down to pick the team, I would sit in front of the television to see if my brother would be included. I felt proud when he sent titans like Sachin and Saurav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag back to the pavilion. My brother just loves Rahul Dravid. He has his pictures pasted in every corner of our home,” says his sister Vinutha.

Top photograph: courtesy

Bottom: Vinay’s mother Soubhagya (right) helps sister Vinutha (centre) stuff doodha pedhas into the mouth of his coach L.M. Prakash in Davanagere on Friday (courtesy Praja Vani)

Also read: A real workhorse from the land of benne dose

Gundappa Vishwanath: From Bhadravathi, the Bhimsen Joshi of cricket

Javagal Srinath: The world’s most famous Mysorean?

Oh my god, can this be India’s all-time best XI?

What Laloo didn’t show Harvard’s business grads

10 March 2009


M.R. SURESH, on a train ride from Agartala to Dharamnagar in the northeast, discovers what a shortfall of civic consciousness and a surfeit of official callousness can do to a “brand-new” wash basin.

“When the train services began three months ago, the people were happy to get their first train to Agartala. But the bogies are in a pathetic shape. My co-travellers were cursing all the governments for neglecting the northeast, although the region provides teak, tea and many natural forest produce and minerals.”

A sight for sore eyes in the ruins of ‘Beejapoor’

30 December 2008

KPN photo

Bijapur, on a misty morning, through the golden arches of “the second largest pre-modern dome in the world”, the Gol Gumbaz, on Monday.

Photograph: Saggere Ramaswamy/ Karnataka Photo News

Look who’s hopped on to the great brand wagon!

6 May 2008

SHRINIDHI HANDE writes from Madras: We are already used to Australian apples, Californian grapes and other more exotic fruits from foreign shores sporting a small, slick sticker, branding themselves against others. Buying them and being seen to be buying them has become a small matter of status and prestige.

Would we react the same way to fruits grown in our midst?

Roadside sellers on the outskirts of Pondicherry have started slapping a sticker on tender coconuts and toddy palms that they sell on ECR (East Coast Road). The label, in Tamil, advertisers the brand name of the coconut, and has empty slots for date, weight, and price.

That set me thinking: Can we trust such labels? Is this smart marketing to woo a new class of consumers—or just stupid imitation?

I can understand that if we do some kind of processing (cleaning, purification, packaging, preservation, etc) on a food item, to some extent we can justify branding them (for example, buttermilk). But just because you grew it in your own farm, with your preferred choice of fertilizers, plucked it from the tree, and brought it to the market (read roadside), can you justify affixing a sticker on a natural product and calling it “my brand”?

Is branding tender coconuts supposed to evoke “instant recall”? Will it bring a loyal set of consumers who go around looking for the same brand wherever they go?

Does it bring additional value to a consumer?

The Greatest Bottler up above doesn’t specify an expiry date for his products—so what date are they planning to mention there? Date of plucking from the tree? Or “best-before” date? Anyone with any experience in downing tender coconuts will be able to judge them by looking at the visible freshness of the fruit. (If there’re lots of wrinkles and dark spots on the surface, then it is over ripe.)

Ergo: dates don’t make much sense.

Ditto the weight of the coconut.

For most of the other fruits, measuring by weight makes sense but in the case of tender coconut, it is an irrelevant parameter. I don’t think there’s any mathematical relationship between the weight of the unit and quantity of water inside.

A visibly huge and heavy coconut can have an equally thicker shell and very little quantity of liquid inside while a small-sized one can be full of fresh and tasty water. So trying to reach at some conclusion based on weight would again fail.

In fact, it is extremely tough to predict the taste and quantity of tender coconut and coconut gravy. A vendor usually asks if you prefer to have only water or water with kernel (coconut meat). But even seasoned vendors cannot assure you that his pick will be 100% accurate, though by sheer experience he might manage to pick an appropriate one.

You could argue similarly for Toddy Apple.

The only advantage of branding, if any, is that it might convince certain customers (probably techies and international tourists, provided they are not much familiar with the fundamentals of tender coconuts) to believe they are going to have something of a better quality.

Photograph: Shrinidhi Hande

Cross-posted on Kosambari

God moves in mysterious ways for a 3-year-old

27 February 2008

While media mavens feverishly debate whether journalists should abandon their professional duties and lend a hand in moments of crisis, a three-year-old Afghan girl born with a deadly skin disorder that could claim her life if left untreated, is being operated by Western surgeons, thanks to the efforts of an Italian photojournalist, reports the BBC.

Shabana (in picture), afflicted by neurofibromatosis, was spotted by Gabrielle Torsello in 2005 while he was shooting pictures in Kabul. He organised her first operation in the City when she was just nine months old. Now, she and her father Janat Gul have flown to Rome for further operations.

“It is a blessing in disguise. When God wants to help you, He provides all the means,” said Janat Gul, who works loading and unloading trucks in Kabul. “I am a poor person and I couldn’t dream of this happening to us. I wish we had all these facilities in our own country.”

Photograph: courtesy BBC

Read the full story here: Shabana’s story of hope against the odds

The sickening weight on the backs of outcasts

14 February 2008

L.C. Jain on Baba Amte in Deccan Herald:

“He once organised a scavengers’ (night soil collectors’) union, but when they struck for higher wages while he was still vice chairman of the municipality, he refused their demands because the town committee lacked funds. The strikers charged he was unsympathetic because he had never carried a pan of night soil on his head.

“‘Imagine our plight during the monsoon,’ they pleaded.

“They challenged him to do the job and then reconsider. Baba Amte accepted the challenge and was assigned 40 latrines. Daily he collected the steel pans of excrement from the backs of houses and carried them on his head to the disposal sites. It was revolting and sickening labour and affected him profoundly, deepening his regard for, and commitment to, these outcasts. The scavengers received their raise.”

Read the full tribute: Riding sports car to serving lepers

Also read: Silicon City has night soil carriers

MP ki safai dekho

Once upon a time, when doctors were like angels

2 February 2008

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: I was once treated by a doctor who was a ‘Gold Medalist’, a fact which was emblazoned after her name on the signboard outside her door.

She first treated me for malaria, which on its own or due to the doctor’s medicine soon turned to typhoid. After two weeks of various medicines, visiting gastro-enteritis and pneumonia on the way, both the doctor and the patient were nearing the edge of (her) knowledge bank and (my) existence.

The reputation of the gold medal was fast turning into silver and bronze.

It was around that time, somebody asked me to see Dr Mitra (name changed), a rare doctor in Delhi who most of the times never behaved like one. As I staggered into his clinic when my name was called, I found a youngish sort of man smoking in between large helpings of elaichi and diamond sugar bits.

Before my wife could finish my case history, he beckoned me to come out in the open and I followed him. Amidst the throng of patients waiting to see him, he asked me to gaze at the sunlight first and follow his fingers which kept moving sideways. He quickly went back to his room.

As we ran after him, he pronounced: “It’s jaundice. Throw away all the medicines. Bed rest for two weeks; only pathli dal and double-cooked kichdi. Next!”

We settled his bill and came out. How right he was!

Dr Mitra soon became our ‘family’ doctor and gradually, a friend. Once I went to him with a heavy cold and sour throat. He said, between puffs: “Salt water. Gargle thrice a day. No smoking till this stops!” I asked him, “How come you are smoking, doctor?” Quick came the repartee, “Who is having a problem? You or me?”

Whenever my wife and I would visit him, his first question would be, “Who is sick now?”

Once, when we were near his clinic, we felt like saying hello to him. We waited for our turn and when he threw his usual who-is-sick-now glance, we told him we had just walked in to say hello. He laughed heartily, “Looks like both of you are sick this time!”

When we invited him to come for dinner the following Saturday with his wife, he was surprised but agreed. He came in a suit with his wife, had a beer before dinner and gave a beautiful exposition the architecture of various Delhi heritage buildings! Otherwise laconic, he could talk of cricket for hours keeping the syringe in his hand much to the relief of the patient!

Once when we met him at a party, he was holding forth on the Emergency that had been clamped then, with a motley crowd gathered around him. When I asked him, “Long time, no see Dr Mitra,” he shouted back, “It’s fine. Keep it that way!”

While he was examining a patient, a persistent call from a big wig irked him no end: “Listen! I can’t drop my patients and come to see you. Just hop in to your car and come over. I will see you as soon as you are here. You won’t die! I will take the responsibility, if anything happens on the way.”

After a couple of years, I visited Dr Mitra with my colleague, who had two children and the elder of the two was mentally challenged. The family was going through tough times, unable to come to terms with the situation. Dr Mitra asked me to bring them home.

After spending some time with the family, he asked his wife to take care of the family while he sat with my friend and me.

He said: “Vijay, don’t feel bad if one of your children is mentally challenged. There is nothing you could have done about his birth. These are God’s ways of testing us. You can do one of the two things. Go and leave the elder child quietly somewhere in a forest and come back. Your problems due to the elder one will disappear forever. Your second son will grow normally and will do well. The other thing you can do is to accept the reality and bring them up. Dono, dilpe pathhar rakh kar karna hoga. May be one day the younger fellow will understand and he will protect his elder brother and will be a support to the entire family. You do your best and Bhagavan pe bharosa rakho. The choice is yours.”

The doctor refused any fee, and my friend was happy that he had sought Dr Mitra’s advice. The family went home a happier unit.

As I bid goodbye to the doctor, I thanked him profusely for the encouragement he had given. Dr Mitra just smiled and told me, “It’s nothing yaar. I am a doctor, na?”

As we passed a bedroom to go out, he showed his two children playing with a toy.

The elder one was mentally challenged.

Bunt bird who soared from Manipal to Missouri

30 January 2008

She was born without hands and legs. She was just a day old when she was relinquished to a hospital in Manipal by her poor parents, Kalavathi and Shankar Shetty. She was rescued by an NGO, who called her Swapna. She was adopted seven months later by an American woman, who called her Minda Cox.

In Missouri, which became her new home, Minda rose above her disability to become an artist. Holding the brushes between her arm and cheeks, she showed that what you need to imagine and create is not what she didn’t have.

Nineteen years later, using the earnings from the sale of her paintings and accompanied by her adoptive parent Catherine Cox, she came in search of her biological parents, a reunion documented magnificently by Divya Gandhi and K. Gopinathan of The Hindu here, here, and here.


YOGESH DEVARAJ in San Jose, California, forwards a slideshow from the Springfield News-Leader that catalogues not just Minda’s art but her grit that’s helped her soar over her handicap.

“I like to draw because it’s a slow process and I can do it at my leisure. And I just love how I can kind-of just get lost in a drawing. It kind of represents me. I am resolute and I am growing, and I am getting out of all these stresses and all these barriers. And coming out and succeeding in reaching the goal. I am getting at the stresses, and getting at the I-can’t-do-it and proving to the world I can do it.”

View the full slideshow here: Artist Minda Cox

Photograph: courtesy K. Gopinathan/ The Hindu

‘Mahatmaji fell backwards, uttering Raam-Raam’

30 January 2008

G.N. MOHAN forwards an image of the original First Information Report on the assassination of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi this day, 60 years ago, as published by India’s first woman IPS officer, Kiran Bedi, on her website.

Written in Urdu and Persian, the FIR records the statement of Nand Lal Mehta, an eyewitness to the murder.

“Today I was present at Birla House. Around ten minutes past five in the evening, Mahatma Gandhi left his room in Birla House for the Prayer Ground. Sister Abha Gandhi and sister Sanno Gandhi were accompanying him. Mahatma was walking with his hands on the shoulders of the two sisters. Two more girls were there in the group. I alongwith Lala Brij Kishan, a silver merchant, resident of No. 1, Narendra Place, Parliament Street and Sardar Gurbachan Singh, resident of Timar Pur, Delhi were also there. Apart from us, women from the Birla household and two-three members of the staff were also present. Having crossed the garden, Mahatma climbed the concrete steps towards the prayer place. People were standing on both the sides and approximately three feet of vacant space was left for the Mahatma to pass through. As per the custom the Mahatma greeted the people with folded hands. He had barely covered six or seven steps when a person whose name I learnt later as Narayan Vinayak Godse, resident of Poona, stepped closer and fired three shots from a pistol at the Mahatma from barely 2 / 3 feet distance which hit the Mahatma in his stomach and chest and blood started flowing. Mahatmaji fell backwards, uttering “Raam-Raam“. The assailant was apprehended on the spot with the weapon. The Mahatma was carried away in an unconscious state towards the residential unit of the Birla House where he passed away instantly and the police took away the assailant.”

Read the full FIR here:

Also read: The greatest advertising guru of all time?

When all in Urbs Prima in Indus lept to their feet

21 January 2008

VINAY H, who took part in the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon yesterday, forwards a picture which captures the essence of the metropolis.

“I saw a few boys distributing water bottles to the marathoners who were on the run. I asked one of them if they had been told to distribute the water.

“The surprising answer I received was, “No”. The volunteers were there from six in the morning to nine holding high the spirit of Bombay.”

English liquor shops are catching them young

20 December 2007

K.K. GANESH forwards a picture shot in front of an Angrezi sharaab ki dukaan in Rajasthan, and asks (tongue firmly in cheek): Do they have separate beers for adults and children in Jodhpur? Should liquor shops seek to attract children with such impunity? Or is it just a harmless spelling mistake of a presumably sozzled signboard painter? Is the shop advertising chilled beer with ‘l’ and ‘e’ missing?

Bangalore’s in trouble, but how will you help?

18 December 2007

Everybody has an opinion on why Bangalore has become what it has become, and who caused it. But does anybody have a solution?

As the City’s vehicular population explodes, the tree-lined corridors are being regularly and ruthlessly chopped to widen roads. But is this the only way out? Is it the right approach? And is it a lasting solution that takes care of the rights of pedestrians, the elderly, children, cyclists, pavement vendors and the physically challanged?

# Should public transportation be dramatically and drastically improved to discourage use of private vehicles?

# Should a congestion charge be levied like in London on vehicles entering the heart of the City?

Here’s a chance to make your voice be heard. Hasiru Usiru (HU), a network of concerned citizens that has over the years endeavored to work towards finding creative means in which to conserve the identity of the City, is organising a “Public Consultation” on the impacts and alternatives to the road widening schemes in Bangalore.

The date: Thursday, December 20. The venue: Senate Hall, Central College. The time: 5 pm.

Chief secretary P.B. Mahishi and members of the Bangalore Metropolitan Land Transport Authority are expected to participate. The meet has been organised by Environment Support Group, Citizens Voluntary Initiative for the City, and the Alternative Law Forum.

Also read: Who killed Bangalore?

‘A City whose soul has been clinically removed’

And how the legal system screwed up on Bhopal

5 December 2007

ALOK PRASANNA writes from Bangalore (part two of a series on the Bhopal gas tragedy): Remember the stand taken by the Indian Government before the New York district court regarding the inefficiency and incompetence of Indian Courts and legal system?Remember all those esteemed professors of law and legal mavens filing lengthy affidavits detailing the faults and flaws of the Indian legal system and judiciary?

Guess what, it was all true. There was no way in hell that the victims of Bhopal would have seen a single rupee of compensation had the case gone to trial in India.

The reasons are manifold, ranging from the inadequacy of the law to the incompetence of the lawyers.

For a start, there was no statute mandating that UCIL (or UCC for that matter) was required to pay compensation to victims. The only relief would be dependent on a fuzzy body of “tort law” or English-judge-made-law regarding negligence, more suited to 17th and 18th century England than 20th century India.

Indeed, many in England had called for reform and specific statutes imposing liability on companies because of the inadequacy of tort law, but no such effort had been seriously made in India before the 1980s. Under tort law, in order to make a valid claim for compensation, it would have been necessary to prove that UCIL and UCC acted negligently, and show the exact nature and extent of damage to receive adequate compensation.

Practical problems would pose more obstacles in this effort. The “evidence” of negligence by workers is usually easy enough to prove. They had a duty to do x-y-z and since they didn’t do so, the gas leaked and so on, but it was a huge problem to show that failure to do x-y-z was the result of what the management of UCIL and UCC wanted, i.e. to maintain profit margins. While UCIL could have been made liable for the fault of its workers under Indian law, UCC proved a bigger problem.

The corporate veil covering UCIL would prove to be an iron curtain that protected UCC. Nothing in Indian law made UCC directly liable, and if the law was changed just for the facts of this case, American courts would refuse to enforce the award on the ground that UCC had been denied due protection of laws. As UCC had very few assets in India itself, enforcement of the award would have to be done with the help of American authorities, in accordance with provisions of American law.

Even if it was somehow shown that UCC was responsible under existing Indian law, making an award that would meet the needs of the victims would have been simply impossible. It was estimated that in order to fully process the claims of all the victims and take evidence in a Court, it would require every single district judge in India working for a few years before the evidence was fully taken. Simply handing out an arbitrary figure without taking the evidence into account would also be unenforceable in American Courts.

So, do victims of mass disasters have no remedy or relief? Not really. Lawyers in the US and elsewhere had been developing this field of “mass torts” for some years and had mastered the skill of getting relief for their victims quickly without engaging in protracted litigation. Those who have read “The King of Torts” and other John Grisham books would have some idea of how this works and what are the advantages and pitfalls of this technique. Indian lawyers had no clue what was going on.

Indian lawyers stood exposed in the Bhopal tragedy. With little or no specialization in the various fields of law, the bewildering complexity of the problem and multi-disciplinary approach it needed completely befuddled Indian lawyers. Long used to adversarial, lengthy proceedings before courts, the legal fraternity had no answer to the kind of problems the Bhopal tragedy failed. While judges did try to solve the problem with a proactive approach towards interim relief and a bit of legal creativity, they were about as effective as Band Aids on a compound fracture.

All of the above would have ensured that had the case gone to trial in India, there would be no chance of relief for the victims, at least not in the lifetime of the survivors or the immediate kith and kin of the deceased.

All of this is past history you may think. After all it has been more than two decades since and at least knee jerk reactions would have amounted to some sort of a reform in the system, right? I mean if Bhopal had happened now it would be different right?


It is a standard question in the first year tort law exam, and every year, for the last decade, the answer is the same.
UCC will not be made liable.

Warren Anderson will not be prosecuted in India, or even extradited to India.

Compensation for victims will take ages.

Half the money will be spent on middlemen who would all take their “share”.

The government, most likely, will bungle, again.

Some changes have been made, in that it is easier to get compensation from say, UCIL, or ensure that the government provides immediate monetary relief to affected victims if the tragedy were repeated. There are also more safety requirements that, to some extent, could ensure that the chances of a large scale tragedy like Bhopal would are reduced. However, with lax enforcement, understaffing and corruption among the enforcing authorities, a disaster like Bhopal is waiting to happen.

It is easy to see Bhopal as a fight between third world victims and MNCs and believe that somehow keeping out MNCs will make us all safer. That is only a small part of the truth. Bhopal is what happens when a moth eaten, inefficient and incompetent legal system (lawyers, judges and law makers included) combines with a corrupt and bungling administration to endanger lives of citizens and deny the rightful claims of victims.

The truth is, we are all living in Bhopal.

Read the first part here: How the Rajiv government screwed up on Bhopal

How the Rajiv government screwed up on Bhopal

4 December 2007

ALOK PRASANNA writes from Bangalore: Today is the 23rd anniversary of the horrific Bhopal gas tragedy. While most people remember or know of the disaster, few, if any, know the full story behind the litigation or why no one can build a legal argument against Dow that can stand up to scrutiny in a Court.

I myself got the details through someone who was involved intimately in the litigation and the rest was filled out by my law school education. It was a complete and total failure of the government of the day and the legal system itself.

In this post, I will deal with how and where the government bungled, and deal with the legal system in the next.

After the Bhopal gas tragedy, before even the crematoria had ceased their grisly work, American lawyers by the planeload were flocking to Bhopal to make a killing out of possibly one of the biggest tort claims in recent history: 3,000 dead (officially), several thousand severely injured for life and possibly lakhs affected. And one of the biggest multinationals of the day, multi-billion dollar company, Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) was involved.

It was a legal feeding frenzy that few would be able to resist.

As initial reports of the pending flood of litigation claims started to trickle through, the Indian government, fearing exploitation, and an opportunity to turn this into an emotive, electoral issue, instantly passed a law prohibiting all but itself from representing the victims in any forum anywhere in the world. Then it went ahead and made a mockery of the move.
It filed suit in the District Court of New York, USA.

By itself, there was nothing legal preventing the Indian government from doing so. US courts had jurisdiction since it was claimed that UCC, a company based in the USA, was responsible. Besides, governments routinely litigate in other countries’ courts for commercial disputes and the like. However, it was not so simple this time.

Before even the first papers had even been filed, the then-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi started making grandiose claims of a $2 billion compensation that his government would be seeking from UCC.

Big mistake.

Any lawyer would connect this statement to the filing of the suit in the USA and ask the American court to dismiss the case since the Indian Government was “forum shopping”, or in lay terms, simply looking for the best bargain. American Courts since 1981 had stopped entertaining foreign claims that could be filed elsewhere, but had been filed in the USA with the sole motive of getting a better award of damages. Besides, India didn’t exactly have the burgeoning foreign exchange reserves we have today, and this conclusion was all too easily drawn.

To counter this, the Indian government made an even more stupid move. It claimed that the Indian judicial system was incompetent and inefficient to deal with the problem. It got professors and experts to file affidavits running down the Indian judicial system before American courts.

Humiliatingly, it was upto the UCC lawyers to defend the Indian judicial system asking for the case to be moved to India. They also pointed out the simple logistical problem of having to haul thousands of documents, mountains of evidence and thousands of witnesses halfway across the world for a trial.

Naturally no American court wanted to be stuck with an expensive, unending case on its hands and the district court of New York threw out the case. The Indian government cut a pretty sorry figure as it dragged itself to the district court of Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh for the next round of litigation. Before the same judicial system and judges it claimed were incompetent and inefficient.

The case dragged on without coming close to trial. It had been three years since the tragedy and the government had not a single cent to show for the efforts it had put in. Desperate it asked for some form of interim compensation from the district court, and received the princely sum of Rs. 250 crore, or a little more than $150 million dollars. Immediately this was challenged by UCC’s lawyers and the matter soon reached the Supreme Court.

Sensing the need to put an end to this sordid affair, the Supreme Court asked the parties to settle the matter in light of the victims’ plight. They did. UCC got away with a $470 million payment, and the government had something to show for its efforts. The devil, unfortunately, lay in the details.

When making the payments, UCC demanded that it must not be held directly responsible and all criminal cases be dropped (Warren Anderson, CEO of UCC, had been arrested and released on bail payment of Rs. 25,000). Faced with the prospect of prolonged negotiations and litigation and abject surrender, the Indian government, with all of its sovereign power chose abject surrender.

While the Supreme Court later overturned the second condition as being against public policy (sparking an Interpol hunt for Warren Anderson), these conditions effectively meant that UCC got away virtually scot free. This was made concrete with the acquisition by Dow, effectively ending all existence of the UCC.

A few low level workers and officers of UCIL (the Indian subsidiary of UCC which actually ran the plant) were prosecuted for culpable homicide causing negligent deaths and sentenced to a few years in prison. The big fish, including Warren Anderson, got away.

The saga doesn’t end there. The long and painful process of disbursing the amount began and took about 20 years after the settlement. Long slow and laborious the “tribunals” set up by the Government to hand out the awards functioned pretty much like Courts and one needed the help of numerous touts, lawyers and doctors before rightly deserved compensation was gotten. The net result was that the victims didn’t get as much money or as quickly as was promised.

All of this can possibly attributed to run-of-the-mill bungling by the government. Except in this case, the government was as liable as UCC for the Bhopal gas tragedy. Both UCC and the Indian government were shareholders in UCIL. UCIL alone was too small (all assets amounting to Rs 100 crore only) to be made wholly liable for the affair. Any attempt to make UCC liable as a shareholder would automatically make the Indian government liable on an equal footing.

Take a step back and look at it from a distance. One of the defendants in the case, by using its sovereign powers, has usurped the claimants’ rights and ensured that it has not been made liable. It has gone to the extent of settling the case for a far lesser claim than promised instead of fighting for every last penny and virtually let the offenders go scot free.

Next: why the Government couldn’t have done much better even if it tried.

Bombay grass is 5000% greener than Gulbarga’s

27 July 2007

Hittala gida maddalla,” is an old Kannada saying. It means we are blind to the medicinal qualities of the herbs that grow in our own backyard. That we think that even the wild weeds beyond our fence have magical potential.

The truth of that aphorism comes home to roost in a story by G. Manjusainath in Deccan Herald today on the week-long “Gulbarga Utsava” held in the north Karnataka district in December last year.

The government released Rs 5 lakh for the Utsava. And the purpose, as always, was high and noble: to provide a forum for local artistes and to help them to showcase their talent before their own. And, sure enough, it did.

Gulbarga-based sugama sangeeth artiste Malashree Kanavi performed. Gulbarga-based flautist Sheikh Abdullah Khan also performed. But, the organisers also called in the singer Kailash Kher from Bombay, and four others from Hyderabad: A. Musa Haji, Ashraf, magician Shankar Junior, and kawwal Sayyad Ali.

That, too, you might say, is OK. We must be exposed to talent from outside. But the real story in what the local artistes were paid as against the outside talent. And that real story comes because a citizen (Sheshmurthy) used the Right to Information Act to demand the details.

Kailash Kher: Rs 3 lakh
Musa Haji: Rs 75,000
Ashraf: Rs 50,000
Shankar Jr: Rs 30,000
Adil: Rs 20,000

And the locals?

Malashree: Rs 2,000
Khan: Rs 2,000

In a way, the Gulbarga Utsava story is not very different from the ongoing Mysore Utsava where organisers opted to bring in outside talent from Bangalore by claiming that local artistes were demanding the moon. But if we are willing to pay a bomb to accommodate “outsiders” why is it so difficult to loosen the purse strings for the locals?

You could argue that this is the way of the market. That big-ticket artistes have the draw and appeal which local artistes will never be able to match. And that Bhimsen Joshi or A.R. Rehman should not be expected to come if they are going to be paid the same as local artistes.

But, disparity among equals?

‘We’ve become so busy we’ve no time for God?’

23 July 2007

RATNA RAO SHEKAR writes from Hyderabad: It was with some disbelief recently that I read a news item about how you could go online and offer prayers to a deity in a Vishakapatnam temple. A soon as you logged on, a bell would be rung in the sanctum, and an aarti performed in your name! A government that is going increasingly hi-tech told us smugly that this facility would in time be extended to other temples in Dwaraka and Benaras!

In our connected world we have made many things easier for ourselves—and SMS and email messages have indeed made communication more convenient. But to assume that we could buy God’s grace through a computer seems a little too ludicrous.

We imagine we are so busy (perhaps in talking to stock brokers and real estate agents to see how much more money we can make) that even grace should be available to us without much exertion. There was a time when people saved for a lifetime and walked for days together to reach Kashi.

That was effort, but that’s another story.

People tell me I am retrograde. But, to me, few sensory experiences can be better than the smell of camphor, the crescendo of chants, and the metallic tone of a temple bell in the sanctum.

Computers have made us global. We now have encyclopaedias opening before us at the click of a button. But with all the technology, we seem to know less and less about the immediate world around us.

For instance, you would think that at the click of a button people at the American embassy would know who Prakash Amte was, and not create a fuss when he applies for a visa to visit their country. But when he goes to their consulate in Bombay he is questioned about his income; and when he confesses he does not ‘work’ for money, they press on, insisting he must have some source of income.

I know Prakash Amte (having met him on different occasions over the last 20 years) and can imagine how he must have squirmed with embarrassment even to admit that he receives an honorarium of Rs 3,000 for his work! Needless to say, his application was rejected with the remark that rules prevented them from giving visas to those with low incomes and weak social status!

Dr Prakash Amte from a low social status?

As the son of Baba Amte, he has spent his life in remote villages in Maharashtra, bringing medicine to the poorest tribals. He, and his wife, Mandakini, have made the kind of sacrifices that would bring tears to anyone who knows them. Instead of setting up medical practice in a city like most others, they chose to work with tribals who would otherwise have died of ill-health because they do not have the money or the means to seek medical help.

The US embassy subsequently realized their folly (after surfing the Net, I am sure) and gave the couple the visa. It really makes no difference to Prakash if he does not go to a country whose embassy cannot understand what it is to work for nothing (In America, you have to first build a business empire like Bill Gates, before you get into charity work!) But certainly the world should know that there are people in India who work for nothing, neither money nor public acclaim.

And in our arrogance we imagine we are god’s superior creation and therefore need to save the tigers. But if we shed our false postures we’d realize we too are only a minuscule part of the world we are trying to save. By saving the tiger and everything else around us we would redeem ourselves finally!

Ratna Rao Shekar is editor of Housecalls, the journal for doctors published by Dr Reddy‘s Laboratories


Also read: Should we stop making donations to temples?

Should VIPs get special treatment at temples?

Should Yesudas be let into Guruvayur Temple?

The ten most beautiful roads in India i.e. Bharat

16 July 2007

Frog View unveils the ten most beautiful roads in India, and the first thing that strikes you is how natural beauty, for all our boasting, is really a North Indian phenomenon. Because there is just one road from the South.

Ahtong, Sikkim

Corbett Park Pathway

Numaligarh, Assam


Nainital, Uttaranchal

Almora, Uttaranchal


Patratu Valley, Jharkhand


Manali Pass

See the stunning pictures here: The ten most beautiful roads

Running with the hares, hunting with the hounds

13 July 2007

ASHWINI A. writes from Bangalore: The controversial case of Yadaiah, the ICICI Bank customer who met his end in the custody of the bank’s recovery agents in Hyderabad, is still fresh in public memory. But not, it seems, in the memory of the Bangalore police.

A story in yesterday’s Deccan Herald talks about a brawl between the recovery agents of a mobile phone company and a customer. What is interesting is that of the five -member recovery gang that came to ‘recover’ the money, two of them were police constables!

Should we laugh it away, or is this a warning signal?

Is this the new side-business of policemen? Has the involvement of policemen in the ‘lucrative’ recovery business been okayed by their bosses? We have heard stories of how inspectors and sub-inspectors hold durbar in police stations to settle land disputes and civil cases for a ‘cut’.

Is money recovery their new found revenue model?

If cops join hands with thugs what faith will the law abiding citizens have in the police? Or, is this is just a stray incident of cops going astray?

Read the full story here: Rowdy police, cops in brawl

Related story: Wish good night to K.V. Kamath and his whizkids

Congrats: Medicines were cured of your disease

28 June 2007

forwards an ayurvedic centre’s all-inclusive publicity campaign. OTOH, you can laugh at the fantastic claims and the imaginative use of the English language. OTOH, you can marvel at the durability of the ancient medicinal system and those who propagate its efficacy against great odds in this day and age.

Beware: A new (successful) car stealing method

21 June 2007

S.S. KARNADSHA forwards an interesting mail doing the rounds.


Two car thefts recently took place in Bangalore. One near ITPL-Whitefield, outside the South Gate Parking Bay. And the other, a couple of days later, in Koramangala on the Ring Road near Sanyo BPL office.

Both incidents took place late in the evening. Both were cars driven by ladies driving alone. And both thefts took place through the same technique.

The modus operandi: the car owner/driver walks across the parking lot, unlocks the car, gets inside, starts the engine, and shifts into reverse gear. But…


When you turn to look into the rear-view mirror to back out of the parking space, you notice a piece of paper stuck to the middle of the rear window blocking the vision. So you stop and jump out of your car to remove that paper (or whatever it is) that is obstructing your rear view.

When you reach the back of your car, the car jacker appears out of nowhere, jumps into your car and takes off, practically mowing you down as they speed off in your car.

And guess what, ladies? I bet your purse is still in the car.

So now the carjacker not only has your car, your home address, your money, and your keys. Your home and your personal effects are also compromised.

So, here’s a piece of advice: If you see a piece of paper stuck to your back window when you are getting out of a parking lot, just drive away and remove the paper later! And be thankful that you have read this story.

The primary target is women, but it could happen to the other sex, too.

If you are a South Asian in the United States…

14 June 2007

ADITYA of Bangalore Blues writes: My friend Vinay was recently diagnosed with AML (Acute Myeloid Leukemia) and urgently needs a bone marrow transplant. We, his family and friends, have begun a nationwide effort in the US to find Vinay that match he so desperately needs. We are trying to reach as many South Asians as possible and get them registered at one of our drives.

South Asians are woefully underrepresented in the national bone marrow registry. A Caucasian seeking a match in the registry averages 15 hits; a South Asian 1 or 0. Vinay’s chances of finding a match are 1 in 20,000. You—through a simple cheek swab—could be that miracle match for Vinay. Or for one of many other individuals waiting for a bone marrow match.

Here is how you can help:

  • Please come out and register at one of our upcoming drives. All it takes is a few minutes of your time. A complete list of nationwide drives is available at
  • Please help us get the word out by forwarding this post to as many people as possible.
  • Help organize a drive or volunteer at a drive in your area. Please leave a comment and I’ll get back to you with details.

For more information, please see .