Posts Tagged ‘Sir M. Visvesvaraya’

Wodeyar got more than what he leaves behind

11 December 2013

Photo Caption

Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar (third from left) with his wife Pramodadevi (third from right), and his sisters (file photo)

As Mysore observes a spontaneous bandh, as plebs and celebs spill platitudes, as newspapers and TV channels plunge into panegyrics, Dr Prithvi Datta Chandra Shobhi of the department of history at the Karnataka state open University provides a much-needed critique of Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, the last scion of the erstwhile royal family of Mysore, in The Indian Express:

“Wodeyar’s more notable public preoccupation in the last decade had been the legacy of his family. He spiritedly contested a script written by Lingadevaru Halemane, a Marxist playwright and linguist, which was to be used for a “sound and light” show at the Mysore palace.

“Wodeyar contended that his family’s history and accomplishments ought to be highlighted as the singular factor in creating modern Mysore.

“He demanded that everything else, including the contributions of people such as Sir M Visvesvaraya or the history of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, be deleted from this hour-long show. Halemane’s script was altered several times but Wodeyar wasn’t satisfied.

“Even though the “sound and light” show has been occasionally held, it hasn’t become a permanent feature at the Mysore palace. Wodeyar’s resistance has been a determining factor.

“Wodeyar’s inheritance was immense. His legacy isn’t. His royal counterparts from northern Indian states have had greater success both in politics and especially in business. Such success may have eluded him but in Mysore he remained a simple, decent but significant presence, especially during the annual Dasara celebrations.”

Read the full article: Mysore ‘last prince’

Also read: Tell the full, fair, undistorted story: Wodeyar

Srikantadatta Wodeyar: part of Mysore’s royal history or not?

8 reasons Karnataka is wrong on Cauvery issue

8 October 2012

Like a bad penny, the Cauvery “dispute” returns to the national discourse every few years with both the “riparian” States involved the story, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, making the same noises—the former of everlasting injury and the latter of arrogance, with the Centre acting like a traffic policeman with his hands tied.

Every time the dispute flares up, and that is usually when there is scanty rainfall, the same revanchist forces of linguistic chauvinism and parochialism dust themselves and utter the same threatening cliches.

The world’s topmost water resources experts—the moviestars of Gandhinagar—descend on the streets. Bandhs are called, roads are blocked, resignations are offered, the ruling party flexes its muscle, all-party delegations meet the PM, and the media beats the familiar wardrum that sends shivers down the spines of those who can remember 1991-92.

Lost in the melee is sense and common sense. A dispute involving a couple of districts in the deep south holds the rest of the State and its relationship with a neighbour hostage. Karnataka’s fair name as a law-abiding State and the reputation of Kannadigas as a decent, civilised lot is muddied in the eyes of the nation and the courts.

Here, a lawyer conversant with the intricacies of the dispute lists eight reasons why Karnataka is once again barking up the wrong tree in circa 2012.


1. When the agreement of 1924 was signed between the Maharaja of Mysore and Madras, the former diwan of Mysore,  Sir M. Visvesvaraya, supported it unequivocally. The said agreement gave 80% of all the water to Madras, which is equal to 360 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) at the Border.

2. The Cauvery Tribunal, reduced the quantity from 360 TMC as provided by the agreement of 1924 to 205 TMC in its interim Order, or 192 TMC in its final Order, which is a reduction of about 50%. During the years of drought, the shortfalls are to be shared equitably by riparian states. How is this distress to be shared?

3. According to Tamil Nadu, if the shortfall in the flows is 40%, its share ought to stand reduced by 40%. On applying this simple mathematical reduction formula of pro-rata, the shortfall in the flows given to Tamil Nadu comes to 40 TMC as on 19 September 2012.

4. However, the Prime  Minister rightly ignored the pro-rata formula when he passed the Order on 19 September 2012 directing Karnataka to ensure 9000 Cusecs till 15 October 2012 equivalent to only 20 TMC. This 20 TMC not only includes the arrears but also the monthly quota. Therefore, in real terms, the Prime Minister has only given 10 TMC towards arrears as against 40 TMC which ought to have been due to Tamil Nadu under the pro-rata formula.

5. Present storages is about 65 TMC. Even in the worst year of 2003-2004, 30 TMC flowed into the Karnataka reservoirs till December. So, in this year too, a similar quantum of water can be expected.

6. Cauvery is a political issue for the Vokkaligas. Historically, none from the Vokkaliga belt in Mandya and Mysore ever raised a word of opposition in 1924. Even after independence in 1947 or the re-organisation of States in 1956, none from Mandya or Mysore sought revision of the agreement of 1924. It is only after 1974, that the Opposition to the 1924. After 1974, the opposition in the Vokkaliga belt started but it is selective, targeting Non-Vokkaliga Government.

7. Mandya Vokkaligas opposed the Varuna Canal because it benefitted the Lingayats and Backward Classes in Mysore District. Mandya Vokkaligas do not bother when water is released from Kabini to fulfil the Order because Kabini caters to Lingayats, SC, ST and OBCs.

8. The ones who should really be complaining are Coorgis, since Coorg does not have drinking water though more than half the Cauvery water comes from there.

Photograph: Kannada movie stars (from left) Pooja Gandhi, Prameela Joshai, Shruti, Tara and Sudharani emerge out of the Raj Bhavan in Bangalore on Saturday after submitting a memorandum to Governor H.R. Bhardwaj on Cauvery issue (Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: If it’s summer, it’s time for a nice Cauvery row

Not everybody is a loser in the Cauvery dispute

What Montek Ahluwalia can learn from Sir MV

31 May 2012

“I don’t think many Indians care about the country,” he (George Fernandes) said. “By Indians I mean those in the highest places. If they cared they wouldn’t have been looting the treasuries as they are and they wouldn’t be allowing the crooks of the world to treat this country as a grazing ground. Some day we will sink and this is not anything to do with China or with Pakistan. It is because this country is cursed to put up with a leadership that has chosen to sell it for their own personal aggrandisement.”

I was struck by the note of despair in his voice. It was hard to believe that this was the country’s Defence Minister speaking, a politician who had reached the pinnacle of his career.

Amitav Ghosh in his book ‘Countdown



Reading an article some time back in India Today magazine, and on May 21, 2012 in The Hindu about Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the great Sardar, deputy chairman of the planning commission for the last nearly eight years, I was livid with anger and felt ashamed of myself as much as helpless for being unable to do anything to stop such alleged stealing and squandering of my nation’s wealth, created from the sweat of my countrymen for the development of my country.

Though a democracy, see how helpless we the Aam Aadmi are. And to think that his case of extravaganza in splurging our country’s wealth on himself is just a tip of the iceberg of a behemoth of Indian bureaucracy, frightens me.

I was suddenly made aware that what is bugging this country’s development is not just corruption but also a very highly indulgent bureaucracy rolling in luxury at State expense. Instead of helping build our nascent free-nation, these pseudo-intellectual, highly educated bureaucrats are bleeding our country of its tax and natural resources.

Thanks to the RTI Act and some of the newspapers like The Hindu and news magazines, this kind of ‘corruption by other ways,’ is also being exposed.

As I was reading The Hindu article by P. Sainath, I was reminded of bureaucrats of my own princely State of Mysore — some of the Dewans — specially two well-known ones: Sir M. Visvesvaraya and Sir Mirza Ismail, legends in their own time and perhaps for all the time to come in the matter of administration and honesty.

About Sir M. Visvesvaraya it is said that when he was on official tour and stayed in the government guest house (also known as inspection bungalow) after his official work, he would switch off the electric light and remove a candle from his pocket and light it for his personal work! That’s the level of honesty.

What a contrast to the total degenerate conduct of Montek Singh Ahluwalia, as reported in The Hindu.

It is keeping this Sardar in mind, the renowned author and journalist Khushwant Singh, being a Sardar himself, with natural pride in such situations which anyone would display, had said, in a lighter vein I suppose, that the prophesy of a Sikh Guru that ‘Raj Karega Khalsa‘ had come true with three Sikhs in top positions ruling India — Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, Army chief Gen J.J. Singh (Retd) and Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

This was during the 2004 victory of Congress. UPA-1 rule. But now, the Sikh Army Chief is not there but the other two are there in office. However, the question is, doing what? Oh, yes. From June 2012 when the new Army Chief, Lt Gen Bikram Singh, takes over as Army Chief it will again be ‘Raj Karega Khalsa.’

But, what about Montek Singh Ahluwalia?

A real Sheikh of a country that is ready to fall apart, the Centre cannot hold. If you have not read the The Hindu article, here I give a sample of it.

The title itself is sarcastic in tone — “The austerity of the affluent.” And it gives a peek into the details of financial abuse of office, “A rural Indian spending Rs. 22.50 a day would not be considered poor by a Planning Commission whose deputy chairman’s foreign trips between May and October last year cost a daily average of Rs. 2.02 lakh.”

And this man tells the Supreme Court and the dumb Indians that an Indian who spends (or earns) Rs. 29 a day in urban area and Rs. 23 a day in rural area is not a poor man.

What cheek, what gumption, what audacity and what economics!

The man undertook, between May and Oct. 2011, “four trips [abroad] covering 18 nights [which] cost the exchequer [tax payer] a sum of Rs. 36,40,110; an average of Rs. 2.02 lakh a day,” according to The Statesman News Service, says the article.

At the time it happened, that amounts to US $4,000 a day. And we are a poor country? Absurd. This is a poor country for ‘Aam Aadmi,’ not for bureaucrats like Montek Singh Ahluwalia and politicians. The truth is that this is a rich country where poor people live, because of rulers like Ahluwalia and other corrupt leaders.

There is more startling statistics to come from RTI: “Dr Ahluwalia made 42 official foreign trips and spent 274 days overseas during a seven-year tenure. That is ‘one in every nine days’ he was abroad. And that is excluding travel days. The India Today story found that his excursion cost the exchequer [of our country] Rs 2.34 crore. This could be apart from what Indian embassies abroad spent on him on frills such as hiring limousines. Even a Moghul Emperor would not have had this kind of luxury, freedom and enjoyment.

Apparently, Ahluwalia was and is a law unto himself as much as a boss unto himself.

No one to question him, not even his de jure boss, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.

And remember, all this when our ‘dumb’ Prime Minister pleaded for austerity in 2009 and his Cabinet responded handsomely to the call. The message was for the opposition too. But look at this. This is the spirit of austerity practiced by the ruling party, as also the BJP opposition.

Praful Patel (UPA-NCP) cabinet minister and Nitin Gadkari (NDA-BJP) have hosted two of the costliest weddings ever, says the report.

The Hindu article mentions many more instances of such spending of looted money by our netas, bureaucrats and industry tycoons as you and I watch the world collapse around us helplessly.

What did Chanakya say in his ‘Chanakya Neeti‘?

“Do not live in a country that does not allow you self-respect, honour, means of living, a family, kith and kin, friends, well-wishers, ways of education and self-development. Quit such country. It is not fit for living.”

Alas! Quit and go where?

Jeena yahan marna yahan

Iske siva jaana kahaan…

(K.B. Ganapathy is the editor and founder of India’s most successful English evening newspaper, Star of Mysore, where this piece originally appeared)

Photograph: Deputy chairman of planning commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, at a hydrogen energy exhibition in June 2007 (courtesy Manvender V. Love/ Press Trust of India)


Also read: Montek Singh Ahluwalia gets a Padma for what?

Ayyo, Amma, Maami, is tea a national drink?

CHURUMURI POLL: Is the ‘dream team’ exposed?

Why does Mysore need Jamshedpur for water?

24 May 2012

KIRAN RAO BATNI writes: The price of water has gone up by at least five times in Mysore, which is a stone’s throw away from the Krishna Raja Sagara dam.

Those who were paying Rs 75 per month are now required to pay anywhere from Rs 400 to Rs 500.

Just a few months ago, a company called JUSCO completed installation of their pipes and meters in addition to the existing ones, promising 24×7 water and better customer service. Residents had to pay anywhere form Rs 500 to Rs 2000 to install T-sections, complete the piping from the curb to the water meter, and patch up the masonry.

I’ve always wondered why Mysore, home to Sir M.Visvesvaraya, one of the greatest civil engineers and water management gurus in the history of mankind, had to knock on the doors of a Jamshedpur Utilities & Services Company Ltd for distributing its own water.

Why didn’t a MUSCO do this?

Would it have been too good for the consumer, or for the employees?

Anyway. Today, there is neither the 24×7 water (it’s more like 3×5), nor the better customer service. But there’s a five times hike in the water bill. The quality of water has reduced considerably in the last twenty years.

We used to drink directly from the tap twenty years ago, but today we’re forced to buy water filters or UV or RO machines or risk health problems – and these machines need maintenance to the tune of Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 per year, plus the electricity charge and the area they occupy in the kitchen.

Coming back to the issue at hand, corporators of the Mysore City Corporation, upon receiving complaints from a handful people like me are asking people to not pay the water bill, but are shying away from making public statements to the same effect.

MLA and Mysore district in-charge, S. A. Ramdas has issued a statement that the price hike will be withheld. But nothing has happened on the ground, as we just received the water bill with the increased rate.

When I contacted the MCC (Mysore City Corporation) public relations officer, M. V. Sudha (mobile phone number: 9449859915), she explained that the MCC is basically out of funds, hinting that revenue from water is inevitable. K. S. Raykar, commissioner, MCC, didn’t pick up the phone.

If what M.V. Sudha says is right—that the MCC is starved of funds—and I have strong reasons to believe that she is, then everything falls in place.

The MCC is starved of funds because it is not allowed to make revenue to even sustain itself, because of the lopsided ‘democracy’ in which we live, where the concentration of power increases with distance from the people: New Delhi wields more power than Bangalore which, in turn, wields more power than Mysore, over Mysoreans!

Is this democracy?


Barely ninety nine years ago, in 1913, right here in Mysore, His Highness Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar concluded a treaty with Edwin Montagu, under-secretary of State, government of (British) India.

According to the treaty, which clarified the relationship between the State of Mysore and the Government of India, the Maharaja obtained full powers of internal administration, subject only to the general supremacy and paramountcy of the British government – something his father, His Highness Maharaja Chamaraja Wodeyar did not enjoy.

But in less than 34 years, amidst the waving of flags in New Delhi and elsewhere, and the bursting of crackers and some meaningless riots near Lahore and Calcutta, His Highness Maharaja Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar lost all the power his father had obtained in the treaty with Montagu.

It appears that he became worse than the corporator I called today, in terms of the power he came to hold. Of course, some money was thrown in into his kitty, going under the name of privy purse, in return for agreeing to a slight change of job description: king to pawn.

Sir M. Visvesvaraya saw with his own eyes how the Maharaja of Mysore was relieved of nearly all his powers by the Government of India (the free one, the Indian one) which consequently reduced the autonomy and powers of internal administration of the State of Mysore.

What was the State of Mysore has today literally transformed into a municipal corporation, and this municipal corporation is not even the ‘glorified municipal corporation’ that J. Jayalalitha recently talked about when she accused the Central government of undermining federalism.

That glory goes to the government of Karnataka, not to the municipal corporation of Mysore.

Wrote Sir MV, expressing hope that things would change and decentralization would happen as the passing phase passed:

The States are now, for all political purposes, closely integrated with the Centre and though they are units of the Federation, they occupy, in actual working, a lower subordinate position than what they held under the British administration. It is hoped that this is only a passing phase in the evolution of the new democracy. (Sir. M. Visveswaraya, Memoirs of My Working Life, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, 1960, p. 58)

Clearly, Sir MV had hoped for too much. The ‘phase’ has neither passed, nor shows any signs of passing. New Delhi continues to be the new Paramount Power in India – with a paramountcy surpassing that of the British.


In the meanwhile, the greatest minds of Mysore – Engineers, Doctors, CAs, MBAs, etc., have all gone away, or have all turned away, while their aged parents are waiting for money orders to pay the increased water bill with.

Also read: If it’s summer, it’s time for a nice Cauvery row

‘A magic, moving, living part of the very earth’

A century is a long time in State’s power politics

12 October 2011

Asia’s first hydro-electric power station was set up in Karnataka. But that was a century and ten years ago, and that was under the gaze of visionaries like Sir M. Visvesvaraya.

In circa 2011, when politicians and administrators can only see cuts, kickbacks and commissions in every project they undertake (or don’t), school children study by candlelight, in Hubli on Tuesday, as the scheduled loadshedding in the State entered the second day.

Meanwhile, the State power minister Shobha Karandlaje has taken the BJP’s default position on every issue: blaming her Congress predecessors, blaming the Centre, blaming the Telangana crisis and indeed blaming everybody but herself for the power crisis.

Photographs: Karnataka Photo News


'Suvarna News' anchor Ranganath Bharadwaj (right) hosts a show on the power crisis in Karnataka with candle lights in the studios as props

Also read: Nothing romantic about a candlelight newscast

When the witness box resembles a conveyor belt

1 September 2011

One of India’s most progressive States. The cradle of reforms. “Rama Rajya” in the eyes of the Mahatma. The homeground of sage-administrators like Sir MV. The capital of information technology. Etcetera, etcetera.

The adjectives trip off the tongues when the poets start waxing eloquent on Karnataka.

That was.

But a cartoonist doesn’t need a word to describe the state of the State today where one former chief minister after another walks into the witness box on the way to you know where.

Which begs the question: among all the firsts, will Karnataka also become the first State in the Union to send two former real estate agents to jail in the same quarter of the same financial year?

Cartoon: courtesy P. Mahmud/ Praja Vani

Also read: Everybody gets a nice fig lead in the sting parivar

Everybody’s hands are up for the cameras

Classical language status for Mandya Kannada?

A tale of two roads paved with debris & hubris

11 May 2011

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: This is a tale of two roads in Mysore: the Janata marga and the Raja marga.

The Janata marga is the Krishnaraja Sagar road, in short KRS Road. Ever since the present ‘rulers’ of Mysore cast their eyes on this road, it has seen only misery.

Thousands of commuters used this road daily to reach their offices, shops and schools, and to go to the railway and bus stations. On the weekends, lakhs of tourists from all over the country used it because it connected the City with what used to be one of its most famous tourist attractions, the Brindavan gardens.

Such a vital link has been closed for more than a year.

Reason: A “multi-disciplinary project” involving the railways, Vani Vilas water works, electricity department, public works department, Mysore city corporation, etc is going on here. The work involves doubling the rail track, re-laying the pipes for water supply,  re-erecting lampposts for electricity and asphalting the roads.

But a year on, there is no end in sight to this magnificent project.

So, in these days of high costs of petrol and diesel, commuters and tourists are forced to take detours on roads not equipped to take the load, spending extra money, wasting time and wasting fuel.

No one knows who is in charge; so no one knows who to hold responsible for the mess: there is no coordinating agency, at least not one which we, the public, have been told, which monitors the work by the various departments and which specifies the date of commencement of work and its completion and the total cost.

Just what is holding up the project completion is unclear when other more important works are taken up round the clock and finished in record time in other cities and even smaller towns.

And as we speak, nobody knows whether it will be completed in the next 40 days, as announced by one of the officials, or if it will take another four months at least according to some other “experts”.

The Chief Minister comes here every now and then for his prayers and distribution of money, and the district in–charge Minister stays very close to this road.

Nobody seems to be bothered.

That is what happens to Janata marga. It is nobody’s baby really.


But the Raja marga is different.

The Raja marga is supposed to become the ‘pride’ of the administration.

It is supposed to cost Rs 18 crore to upgrade a present stretch of a road of 4. 5 kms and make it the mother of all roads. Naturally everybody is interested and involved. As the name suggests, it will be a ‘Royal Road’ in the heritage city of Mysore,  giving tourists  ‘a feeling of going back to around one hundred years’.

The first phase of work (between Hardinge Circle and K.R. Circle) is likely to be completed before this year’s Dasara festival.

The highlights of this project are a carved stone barricade, slabs to cover the storm water drain, ornamental lamps and tiles. These are supposed to depict the royal days of the Wodeyars.

Only, to facilitate this “feeling” of going back by 100 years, around 250-300 full grown trees will be felled without which the Raja marga cannot not be completed!

The Raja marga will be put to use for about four hours in a year and it is meant for tourists who can’t even walk on the road.

The KRS road which is used by thousands of tourists and commuters, can at best be described a mudtrack, basically meant for bullock carts with potholes and cannot even be termed a decent road. Most of them come back with problem of backache once they traverse up and down.

It is a shame the Government cannot concretise the road or at least ensure there are no potholes and unevenness for the entire stretch. Maintenance of this important road seems to be totally absent.

And we have money that is being poured into Raja marga in the name of tourists to give them a feeling of royalty hundred years ago.

The maharajas of Mysore and their Dewans, Sir M. Visveswaraya and Sir Mirza Ismail, and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in whose name this disgrace called national urban renewal mission (JNNURM) is being conducted… wish you were all here. You are all missing something.

Photograph: courtesy M.A.SRIRAM/ The Hindu

Sir M. Visvesvaraya on India’s 11 ‘basic wants’

16 September 2010

From The Hindu dated 16 September 1960:

Replying to felicitations made at his birth centenary celebrations in Bangalore on 15 September, Dr M Visvesvaraya, engineer-statesman, listed what he called certain “basic wants” in the country.

These were:

(1) The citizens’ working hours were short in the aggregate – they should be increased.

(2) Working hours should be made regular and disciplined; everyone should put in on an average six to eight working hours daily on every working day.

(3) Every citizen should strive to promote unity, harmony and co-operation in every walk of life.

(4) He should learn to practise diligence, discipline and precision as part of his character.

(5) He should remember that loyalty, honesty and selflessness will help a man to success.

(6) He should show courtesy and service to fellowmen in daily life.

(7) In every country, generally the population may be roughly divided into two parts – some directors and others followers. Arrangements should be made for training and preparing both these classes loyally.

(8) Acquisition of elementary knowledge should be insisted on.

(9) Steps should be taken to maintain a planning committee for preparing detailed views on work and behaviour of the citizens as was being attempted now in some of the other countries.

(10) In schools and universities, a few working habits, business habits and sense of behaviour should be discussed steadily practised and rendered popular and,

(11) Good use should be made of time. It should not be wasted because time was money.

Photograph: Sir Visvesvaraya‘s home in Muddenahalli (courtesy Ajay Ghanti via Picasa)

Also read: Sir MV: The 7th most famous Mysorean in the world?

The finest (English) passage on Karnataka?

When the Mysore turban gave way to the roomal

A small lesson from Sir MV for our munde makkalu

When the Mysore turban gave way to the roomal

1 November 2009

D.P. SATISH writes from New Delhi: This is not the right time to talk about the divide between Old Mysore and northern Karnataka. The northern part of the State is reeling under the flood of the century, and needs all the support and sympathy old Mysore and every other part of the State can give.

But, as Karnataka turns 53, the Rajyotsava is as good a time as any to revisit Chiranjiv Singh, the distinguished turbaned bureaucrat, who beautifully describes the divide in the article below, excerpted from the admirable anthology on Bangalore edited by Aditi De.

Chiranjiv Singh is often times referred to as more Kannadiga than the most Kannadigas. A scholar and a thinker, he has written books on Kannada and Karnataka in both Kannada and English; he was the first secretary of Kannada and culture department. He retired five years ago as additional chief secretary.



The Cultural Backdrop of Bangalore

By Chiranjiv Singh

When Devaraj Urs changed the name of the State from Mysore to Karnataka, there was jubilation in northern Karnataka, but a sense of loss in old Mysore. I remember the unhappiness which many people expressed to me at this symbolic act; for them it was a break with a cherished past, a loss of the rich cultural legacy of the Maharajas of Mysore.

In Bangalore, in a matching symbolic act, K. Balasubramanyam, the respected revenue commissioner of the State, gave up his old Mysore gold lace turban (Mysore peta) in favour of the black cap of northern Karnataka.

“When there is no Mysore now, why should I continue to wear the Mysore turban?’ he said.

The elegant Mysore gold lace turban vanished, along with the culture it represented. It is seen now in Sir M. Visvesvaraya‘s portraits which hang in schools and offices and in the ‘ in memorium ‘ columns of daily papers, where grandparents are occasionally remembered with their photographs.

In the Vidhana Soudha, the northern Karnataka turbans (the roomal) drew attention amidst the Gandhi caps for a while. The minister of urban development Mr Upnal with his outsized turban, was jokingly called ‘the minister of turban development’.

Now Bangalore has no time for Gandhi caps or turbans.

The divide between zari peta and the silk roomal remains.

A saying current in northern Karnataka, which was quoted to me by Mahalinga Shetty of Hubli, who was married into the old Mysore family of S. Nijalingappa, the first chief minister of unified Karnataka, meant ‘Don’t trust the zari peta-wallahs’. The zari peta-wallahs thought the roomal-wallahs were odd and rough.

Across this Old-Mysore – northern Karnataka divide stereotypes persist.

When I suggested to a film maker who was planning to make a film and television serial on Shishunala Sharif, the mystic poet-saint on northern Karnataka, who is sometimes compared to Kabir—raised a Muslim and becoming the disciple of a Hindu—that he should use the northern dialect which Shishunal Sharif spoke and wrote in, he said, ‘No, it won’t run. The northern Karnataka dialect in Bangalore is still used only for comic effect.’

If jokes are at the expense of the other, then Bangalore has many others besides the northern Karnataka ones; north Indians, Tamils, Telugus, Marwaris, Christians, Muslims, each one laughing at the other, behind their backs. But for all that, Bangalore remains a serious city.

Swalpa adjust maadi‘ (please adjust a little), that cliched phrase often quoted while referring to Bangalore’s culture, has become meaningless. Calcutta and Hyderabad could as well claim the phrase and, during floods, Mumbaikars showed more adjustment than Bangaloreans.

Perhaps the distinguishing feature of Bangalore’s culture is the ability to live within divisions and to rise above them at the same time and accept the new oppenness. This flexibility is helpful in times of constant change. Food habits are changing; clothing is changing; houses are changing; ways of life are changing; entertainment is changing; culture is changing.

Jasmine sellers are changing over to selling vegetables; demand for jasmine strands is declining because many women now sport short hair and do not decorate their hair with jasmine and Kanakambara flowers. Looms that weave Bangalore silk saris and dhotis are dwindling because men and women have taken to Western and Punjabi garb.

Also read: Chiranjiv Singh on H.Y. Sharada Prasad

The finest passage in English on Karnataka?

Don’t swamijis have a magic pill for Mysore’s ills?

21 June 2009

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Chief Ministers past and present, ministers and district in-charge ministers past and present, leaders of opposition past and present, MPs past and present, and leaders of all hues past, present and future visit Mysore at least once every two weeks.

They make a quick pilgrimage to the swamijis/ mutts of their choice; do a mandatory visit to Chamundi Hills, mouth some words of Mysore being a heritage city and dash off by road, rail or helicopter, only to repeat the exercise after couple of weeks with unfailing regularity.

No CM, no minister, no official seems to bother about the two major projects which should have been tackled nearly a decade back.


This, along with the electrification of the line would speed up travel between the cities, decongest Bangalore, make travel cheaper and safer for small businessmen and daily wage workers apart from reducing the traffic on Bangalore- Mysore  Road and helping reduce diesel consumption and concomitant pollution. It will also improve the lot of people in smaller towns like Mandya and Chennapatna.

So far, the efforts made by the plethora of leaders in Karnataka is, to say the least, laughable.

Every few weeks new “unforeseen” problems are brought up, with leaders making claims that it’s only a matter of time before work on the track takes off before stumbling upon the fact that the land is yet to be procured for the same!

The State has become a laughing stock just being unable to take precise simple steps and work towards completion in a professional manner.


As always, this was also launched with lot of fanfare with views that Mysore should have gradually at least two to three ring roads. The simple matter is the project is left midway due to complications in land acquisition, court cases and what have you. There is (0) zero ring road right now!

No leader in Karnataka is bothered to do something about it.

Due to the lack of Ring Road, the traffic in Narasimharaja Boulevard along the road to Lalitha Mahal Palace has increased manifold.

The Mysore city corporation (MCC) and its contractors (engineering and political) have a quick-fix solution for this. Why not cut the 123 full blown trees of more than 50 to 70 years and widen the road to facilitate increased traffic!

The different species of trees provide an ecological balance for the entire stretch. That an effort could be made to preserve the priceless trees if only architects come up with an alternative plan is not even attempted.

Titans of yore of the likes of Sir Mirza Ismail and Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya must be itching in their graves to come out and show how it is to be done!

It is here one feels the lack of vision, foresight amongst the entire current batch of ‘Leaders’ wedded to the “development agenda”. Nobody, CM downwards, wants to take the time off from their spiritual quest in Mysore to tackle the problems of common man in Mysore.

If the cost of visits of all these leaders for discussions pre-Dasara and post-Dasara were added up, a couple of ring roads and another fresh rail line between Bangalore and Mysore could have easily been built!

When will leaders of Karnataka come together and work for projects which benefit the people of the State?

Rama, Rama Rajya & Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar

4 June 2009

He was 11 years old when he ascended the throne.

Mahatma Gandhi called him a “Raja Rishi”  (saintly king). Historians have compared him to emperor Ashoka. He is seen to have ushered in the golden age of carnatic music.

Yoga and Sanskrit learning took flight under him. Sir M. Visveswaraya was diwan under him. Under them, Mysore became the first State in the country to generate hydro-electric power; Bangalore the first City to have streetlights.

Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar, or Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV to give his real name, was born 125 years ago on 4 June 1884.

Shyam Sundar Vattam reports in today’s Deccan Herald that a political party which has Lord Rama on its electoral lips hasn’t even bothered to remember the man whose kingdom has been described as Rama Rajya on his 125th anniversary. And this, while the BJP government of B.S. Yediyurappa is splurging untold millions in taking out advertisements on the completion of one year in office.


S.M. Krishna‘s gutless regime acquiesced to communalists and parochialists who blockaded Tipu Sultan‘s 200th death anniversary because he was alleged to be anti-Hindu if not anti-Kannada. What is the excuse of the great Hindu nationalists wearing their religion on their foreheads and fighting their elections with it?

Read the full article: State forgets Wadiyar anniversary

Photograph: courtesy Wikipedia

A good dosa is like your first love: unsurpassable

21 February 2009

Can you count the number of dosas about to be served at one glance?

Those who have migrated out of Bangalore will eternally argue about the merits of the benne dosa as served in Vidyarthi Bhavan over those served at Central Tiffin Room. Others will slurp with nostalgia when speaking about the idli their father got for them from Veena Stores.

Whatever the debate, at least one thing is certain: those lucky to have eaten in such temples as Brahmins Tiffin Room or Central Tiffin Room know what a good idli is—or for that matter, a dosa, whether plain or masala.

Ratna Rao Shekar, editor of Housecalls, the “longest running magazine for doctors“—and “a connoisseur of the idli just as some are of wine and caviar”—in her quest for the perfect idli and dosa finds her way to Bangalore’s old eateries where idli and dosa have their own geography, chemistry and mathematics.



Just as we are eternally looking for that approximation of our first love—that girl in pigtails on the bus, or the boy with long eyelashes who sat in the back bench of the class but shone radiantly like a sharp ray of the sun—we, it turns out, will for the rest of our lives be looking for that perfect dosa or idli that we ate when we were children in a small street in Malleswaram or Gandhi Bazaar in Bangalore.

Since this is oftentimes only an ideal, like first love which is more imagination than reality, every idli that you eat later falls short of expectation. Either the idlis are like rocks that could be flung at an enemy, or the dosas are more like the ‘choppaties’ of the north, chewy and rubbery.

After a recent eating binge in Bangalore accompanied by those who know about these things, old-time friends who have grown up and aged in these parts, I am now convinced that the best idli and dosa can be had in the Silicon City. And the surprising thing is that this can be done at no great cost.

At Rs 6 an idli and Rs 20 a dosa, you do feel they would at least save on the paper on which such bills are scribbled.

I would like to call these places restaurants, but restaurants require certain standards to deserve their qualification. Some of the eateries like the old Central Tiffin Room (CTR), now called Sri Sagar, in 7th Cross of Margosa Road in Malleswaram are so dark and dingy that you need a torch to see where you are going.

Vidyarthi Bhavan in Gandhi Bazaar has scaled its lighting in its efforts to modernize, but to bright tubelights. At 6.30 in the morning, when the first acolytes are arranging themselves on the narrow benches in anticipation of that dosa that is to die for, that light is rather harsh on the soul. Even if the dosa and potato sagu is heaven on the tongue.

The seating has simple wooden tables and chairs with marble or formica tops and there is no maître here to usher you to your tables. AT CTR and Vidyarthi, it’s best you make your way to a table as fast as you can, or you will be standing until eternity watching all those dosas flurrying past you.

In fact, courtesies of any kind are to be dispensed with in these places.

At CTR, for instance, we stood near the cashier—who sat with an array of gods in the background and a simple cash book in front of him—and kept a hawk’s eye on those on the verge of finishing their dosa or puri and sagu so we could swoop in on the table even before they finished paying the bill.

Worse, in these eateries that seat no more than 50 people at a go, there are no such things as exclusive tables for a group or family. We were eating our dosa and rava idli silently (there is no room here to conduct conversations on current topics of interest such as terrorist attacks or rising prices) when the head of a family seated his oldest child next to us, while he sidled to an adjacent table loudly ordering a plate of dosa for his daughter and piping hot coffee for himself.

In Vidyarthi Bhavan we were lucky to find a table quickly, and waited anxiously for our dosa. Since the bill of fare itself is just dosa (plain and masala), vada, khara and kesari bhath, coffee and tea, the waiter does not even need to repeat your order after taking it down. He knows that most people come to Vidyarthi for the dosas.

It is practically understood that you have arrived here at this early hour (we were there at 7 a.m.) for the Vidyarthi dosa. And the dosa arrives, after a good 15 minutes, not only for us but for a whole lot of others around us who are salivating by this time.

The waiter, a veshti-clad gentleman who comes with a stack of dosas neatly balancing himself and the plates, flings a dosa each on our plates and on those of others sitting at tables around. The accompaniment is just a liquidy yellow-dal chutney that flows across the plate and submerges the dosa.

The dosa is crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, the potato sagu unobtrusive on the tongue without too much of chillies or garlic. And it is made with ghee (or benne, as Kannadigas call it), not Saffola or any other oil that heart doctors recommend!

I was waiting for sambar as in other restaurants, when my companions, having already eaten half their dosa, urged me to start eating without further delay, as sambar was an alien concept at Vidyarthi and an import from neigbouring Tamil Nadu (with whom they were currently at war over language, water and other issues).

Vidyarthi, as its name suggests was started to cater to students in 1943 by two brothers Venkaramana and Parameshwara Ural from Udupi. In the 1970s  it was taken over by Ramakrishna Adiga whose son Arun Kumar now oversees operations.

The who’s who of the country have  eaten here, from scientist Sir M. Visvesvaraya, actor Raj Kumar, playwright Girish Karnad to cricket’s leg-spinner B.S. Chandrashekar. It is said that filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt was so impressed with the eatery that he made a two-minute documentary for BBC on the dingy hall called Vidyarthi where at one time, when short of space, they would seat you in the kitchen itself!

How many dosas in a day do you serve, we ask the cashier.He tells us reluctantly (these are matters of some secrecy) that he serves around 1,000 dosas in a day on weekdays, and on weekends it goes up to at least 2,000.

In fact, when I arrived here on a Sunday I was literally told to go home as it was already 12 noon, and didn’t I know that Vidyarthi closes at 12 on weekends (and in fact by 11 on weekdays)? No, I did not, though many others who looked suspiciously like Kannadigas from Santa Clara and Palo Alto seemed to know both timings and the menu, from the satisfied look on their faces at having consumed their Sunday’s worth of dosa and coffee.

The interesting thing about these eateries is their timing, which can even put the precise Germans to shame. They open without fail by 6.30 or 7 in the morning, and by 11 or 12 are ready to go home.

S. Pradeep of Veena Stores on Margosa Road in Malleswaram wants to offer us something when we arrive at 11.30, but is unable to give us anything we ask for, whether idli or mere coffee, as everything has been sold out like tickets of a Karan Johar film. He does finally give us coffee, but says with an apology that it’s only Bru instant.

“Come tomorrow in the morning,” he says, sad that he could not offer any of the items from his famous store that has men in Malleswaram rushing here in the mornings to fill their steel tiffin carriers with idlis and chutney.


What if T.N. Seetharam did sound ‘n’ light show?

11 January 2009

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: The Sound and Light project at the Mysore Palace is in a work-in-no-progress mode with new problems cropping up even as solutions are discovered for the previous ones.

It is now more a ‘Sound and Heat’ project sometimes careening towards a ‘Sound and Thunder’ project as evident from the heated discussions of the script committees.

A spokesman of the palace, who knows the events of the 550-year history of the Wodeyars by heart and has done as much work as Vikram Sampath’s epic work, is bewildered at the turns and twists the project has taken so far.

Launched on the lines of the son et lumiere show of the Red Fort in Delhi which gives a fantastic audio-visual story of  the Mughal Empire, the son et lumiere show for Mysore has been alternately on the boil, on the back burner, and in cold storage with the result a mixture of fetid smell with acrid smoke comes out whenever the audio-visual system is switched on.

On the 5th anniversary of the launch of the project with an end nowhere in sight, the palace spokesman readily agreed to share his despair.

“What do you think of the latest controversy after it was shown to chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa last week?” I asked.

“He didn’t like it. Period. Controversy is the only constant factor of this project. Each chief minister adds his two bits of  wisdom. After spending three crore rupees and the budget still ballooning skywards, they are still not sure what the content of the show should be; hence the kite- flying. Writer Lingadevaru Halemane wants mainly Tipu Sultan with a brief reference to the Wodeyars; historian Nanjaraj Urs & Co want the Wodeyar family but do not want Sir M. Visvesvaraya and Sir Mirza Ismail. Looks like the script writers have had more say in the content than the actual events that occurred.”

“What will happen now?”

“The CM wants a newer script that satisfies every whim and fancy. The DC wants to show it to the public and incorporate their feedback into the script. Nobody is clear. Probably it will become something like ‘Nine hours to Rama’ some years ago. If it is a nine-hour show I am afraid we can show only two shows in a day. We may have to provide breakfast, lunch and dinner to the visitors. Some of them may even demand bedding too. The Palace doesn’t have that kind of money you know….”

“If it comes to that, you can outsource three-tier berths from the Indian Railways. I am sure rail mantri Laloo Prasadji will help. He will be happy to supply food and Rail ‘Pani’ drinking water from Railway canteen if it can help him double his profit. By the way, who will direct such a long script?” I asked.

“Only Ramanand Sagar or B.R. Chopra with their experience of Ramayana and Mahabharatha could have attempted this. But both are now dead and gone. Sir Richard Attenborough would have been ideal but he is not well.”

“How about T.N. Seetharam? After Mayamruga and Muktha I can’t think of any other director in Kannada who can hold the attention.”

“It is a good idea. But there is a danger of the show becoming a mega-serial and may drag on for two tor three years.  He might add some court scenes too which I doubt if the script will permit. But if he insists there is no other option.”

“Where will it all lead to? Do you see an end for this project?” I asked him before taking his leave.

He looked as if he spotted a rainbow as he looked up the sky and said, “If Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar becomes the director there is hope yet as nobody knows his family better. There is a good chance of that happening as he is likely to join BJP soon.”

Finally, it looked like a QED.

Also read: WODEYAR: Tell the full, undistorted story

Once upon a time in Bangalore on Route No. 11

7 December 2008


E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Bangalore in the 1950s and ’60s was still a Pensioners’ Paradise and very much a sleepy town. It was mostly divided into “City” and “Cantonment” with Basavanagudi and Malleshwaram the best known among its residential areas.

Jayanagar and its famous mosquitoes had not made their debut yet.

The City Market was really a conglomeration of various petes—Chikkapete, Balepete, Tharugupete, Akkipete, Cottonpete—holding the business community. Dandu, or Cantonment (‘Contrumentru’ as the villagers would call it) was still a very far off place for most Bangaloreans.

Almost as far as London itself.


One got a fair idea of the City when one used BTS, or Bangalore Transport Service to give its full name (“Bittre Tiruga Sigodilla“, was the other full form).

50 years ago, the only other modes of transport for a common man were the Jataka Gaadi (horse driven covered cart) or nataraja service— local lingo for footing it out.

The word ‘autorickshaw’ had yet to enter the lexicon, the contraption was yet to invade our roads.

Those who worked in Atthara Katcheri (18 offices) before Vidhana Soudha was conceived, or those who worked in AG’s office walked to their offices. After an early meal around 9 am, chewing Mysore villedele with sughnadhi betel nuts, most of them changed in to their kuchche panche with their marriage coat, some wearing the Mysore peta as crown, they set off to their office holding a tiffin box which contained their afternoon snack: a couple of idlis, uppittu, etc.

The same tiffin bag was used to bring back Mysore mallige in the evening along with badami halwa for the waiting wife. The only addition to the office gear was a half-sleeve sweater during winter, and a full-length umbrella which sometimes doubled as a walking stick, during the monsoon.

Bangalore looked almost empty during the day as most of the eligible science and engineering graduates or diploma holders were herded into buses at the unearthly hour of 6.30 in the morning and ferried to HAL, HMT, BEL, LRDE, ITI, NGEF, Kirloskar, BEML, etc.

The city suddenly perked up after the factory hands returned to their favorite haunts like Yagnappana Hotlu opposite National High School grounds or Bhattra Hotlu in Gandhi bazaar for the mandatory ‘Three-by-Four Masale’ or ‘Two-by-three coffee’ in the evenings.


The best way of seeing Bangalore and getting an idea of what was happening in the city in those days was to travel by BTS route no. 11.

Route no. 11 started its journey from Gandhi bazaar in Basavanagudi opposite Vidyarthi Bhavan and took you to Tata Institute (now Indian Institute of Science) on Malleshwaram 18th cross, after eons of time spent amidst chatter, sleep and fights over annas and paisas.

Morning visitors to Vidyarthi Bhavan would already be waiting for the delicious masale dose after eating rave vade when the conductor asked the last of the commuters to get in to the bus and shouted ‘Rrrrighhttttt!’

The bus, initially coughing and moving in fits and starts, would go past the only taxi stand in the City and take its first left turn at K.R. Road and pass through Basavanagudi post office and enter Dr. H.Narasimhaiah’s National College circle and stop at diagonal road opposite Dr. Narasimhachar’s dispensary.

Here in the evenings, Gokhale, a Maharashtrian, sold ‘Brain Tonic’—a tangy kadalekai (groundnut) concoction with the goods atop his bicycle carrier. The light from his dynamo illuminated the area for you to see what you were eating and for him to check whether he has not been palmed off with ‘sawakalu kasu‘ (disfigured  coin).

Gokhale claimed that students of the National High School and National College figured in the state rank list (and hence dubbed ‘kudumis’) only because his brain tonic was their staple food!

Everything on route no. 11 had “laidback” stamped on it: the issuing of tickets, getting in and out of the bus, and the bus ride itself.

At the end of Diagonal Road you entered the sanctum sanctorum of Shettys or Komatis of Bangalore who sold anything and everything that could be sold from gold to pakampappu, gulpavatte and gunthaponganalu.

The Sajjan Rao temple and choultry by the same name was much sought after for society weddings. The Satyanarayana Temple came much later as politicians became more and more crooked.

Kota Kamakshayya choultry was opposite to the best bakery in Bangalore and may be the whole of south India, the V.B. Bakery.

Dressed in spotless white panche and banians with sleeves, the staff looked as if they were running on  skates taking and fetching orders for chakkuli, kodu-bale, veg “pups”, om biscuit, kharada kadale kayi, ‘Congress’ kadale kayi and  ‘Badam Haalu’. V.B. Bakery’s stuff was made for the gods who, I suspect, had descended on Bangalore not only for this but also for the weather, the doses, and mallige.

Next, after passing Modern Hotel and New Modern hotel where the whiff of SKC —sweetu, khara, coffee—hit your nostrils, was the stop opposite Minerva talkies, which in those days mostly showed Tamil pictures for three shows and wore a culturally superior hat with Bengali movies and that too only Satyajit Ray for the morning shows!

I suspect most Bangaloreans got introduced to Pather Panchali, Aparajito and Apur Sansar—and roso gulla—only through Minerva.

A 200 meters dash from Minerva took you to Mavalli Tiffin Rooms (MTR) in a dingy lane, which morphed into MTR as one of the best eateries in town.


Funds for the monsoon is funds for the drought

5 August 2008

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: The official spokesman was holding forth on the plans of the State Government to celebrate Dasara as never before.

“You might have all seen the photographs of CM B.S. Yediyurappa, the district-incharge minister Shobha Karandlaje, the Mysore MP C.H. Vijay Shankar and the mayor of Mysore Ayub Khan splashed all over the newspapers this morning. The whole team met in Bangalore to discuss how to make the Dasara in Mysore the grandest ever!”

“Why was the meeting not held in Mysore when the topic was to discuss Mysore Dasara?,” somebody asked.

Nobody was going to bring down the euphoric spokesman from cloud 9.

“Let’s not go in to trivia. The point is, in addition to the Rs 10 crore earmarked earlier, another Rs 10 crore has been announced to the kitty. Perhaps this year Dasara will be in a scale grander than the times when the Maharajas were ruling the State.”

“What about money for roads, circles and fountains which no doubt have to be beautified every year?”

The spokesman was getting impatient. These blokes don’t understand even elementary things, he muttered to himself.

“Of course.  Roads have to be asphalted, footpaths have to be leveled and parks have to be spruced up. All these cost money. We hope he will announce more money for these projects which are as important as the Dasara itself.”

“Doesn’t the Mysore City Corporation allocate funds for roads, footpaths and parks?”

“Yes, they do. But due to the summer heat and the monsoon rains most of these works have a shelf life of only six months. Dasara being an international event, you need to have infrastructure of international quality which should last at least till next April when the MCC budget will be available again to take it up to international standards. Moreover, so many foreigners will be coming.”

“Wonderful. Mysore is perhaps the only city in India which gets budget twice a year to improve the same set of roads, parks, footpaths to international standards. This is fantastic. Is the CM releasing any more funds?”

“You know, the rains, which played truant initially is back in full force. All the dams are filling up fast. Rains, particularly in Mercara, have been copious. Our CM has thanked the people of Mercara for these rains and as a part of baagina, is releasing Rs 30 crore, as a mark of gratitude.”

“Coorigs are so lucky! I shudder to think of their fate had it not rained there!”

“Then he would have released the same amount as drought relief fund. Our CM is very kind.”

“Any other largesse from the CM expected?”

“Dasara is still two months away. Depending on his mood and situation he might release more and more, if he finds our roads, footpaths and parks are not up to mark. He might also give more funds to MCC at the recommendation of the district minister. More money could land in the Dasara sub-committees, too, if they find infrastructure is lacking somewhere. Please understand it is an all-round effort. We cannot even make a guess how much money will flow ultimately.”

“Isn’t it wonderful so much more money will flow to Mysore?”

“By grace of God, we will have all the dams overflowing by Mahalaya Amavase. By the grace of our CM, I hope funds too will be overflowing for Dasara,” concluded the spokesman.


What a pity we don’t have a person like Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya now, to build a dam, arrest the flow of money and harness it for the welfare of people?

CHURUMURI POLL: Tipu Sultan vs Kempe Gowda?

19 May 2008

The Bangalore International Airport is due to open on Friday, 23 May 2008, and already the battlelines are being drawn—and redrawn. On the one hand, the captains of Bangalore industry are out on the streets demanding that the old HAL airport be kept open keeping in mind Bangalore’ future potential. And, on the other hand, a right royal battle has broken out over the name of the new airport.

BIAL had perhaps thought that the issue could be swept under the carpet by calling it Bengaluru International Airport. But the CPM’s Sitaram Yechuri has said it should be named after Tipu Sultan, who was born in Devanahalli where the new airport is located. And now the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike has jumped into the scene, demanding that the airport be named after Kempe Gowda.

Questions: Who should the airport be named after? Tipu or Gowda? Are there other worthies deserving of the honour? Sir M. Visvesvaraya maybe? How much longer before someone demands that it be named after Dr Raj Kumar? Is this just a meaningless debate or a genuine expression of identity? If airports in Bombay and Delhi and Hyderabad, and Chicago and New York and Paris can be named after towering individuals, why not Bangalore’s?