Thursday, November 26, 2009

V P Singh – The Unsung and much hated Hero

I can foresee the type of vitriol that’s going to be spewed on my blog space with the posting of this blog. Nevertheless, I am going ahead with it, braving the venom. For Viswanath Prathap Singh was a politician I admired very much. Also, tomorrow, the 27 of November is his first death anniversary. If he had had his way, India would not have been an easy victim of Islamic terrorism, in the absence of adequate internal support groups which mushroomed alarmingly in the wake of the unfortunate demolition of the Barbri Masjid.

True, some of his reforms may not have been good for the privileged class – the Indian Middle class- to which I belong. But I admired him precisely for that. He himself belonged to the royalty, but he was not obsessed with his survival. His obsession was with the tasks he felt he could perform given the powerful political positioning that he enjoyed for a brief period. He behaved like a man in a hurry to bring about certain changes in the society before he was toppled and relegated to political oblivion. For this, he took the road not taken by any politician of free India, which, sadly, did not take him to the desired destination. The implementation of Mandal Commission was the first of his major reforms. What followed this brave, bold and daring politically suicidal decision from the then Prime Minister V P Singh is history. Every political party which claimed to be socially progressive dumped him, thereby exposing the hypocrisy of its claims.

The arrest of L K Advani progressing towards Ayodhya is the most gutsy thing that any politician has done. It is Prime Ministers and chief ministers of this material that we need in India today to deal with anti social elements like, say, the Thackerays, who are terrorizing Maharashtra. Today, with the Libernam report tabled, I cannot help thinking if Babri Masjid would still have been there if V P Singh had been the Prime Minister of India then. The Hamlet of the Indian politics, Mr.Nnarasimha Rao, about whom it is believed that he had a hidden communal agenda, behaved in an ignorance-is- bliss manner when the mosque was being systematically demolished as per expert plans drawn up by architectural engineers, and executed by trained kar sevaks. This is true, notwithstanding BJP’s laughable explanation about the demolition being a spontaneous action.

The Liberhan report is politically motivated. The timing and the findings are meant to divert attention from the scams that are casting a cloud over the ruling Congress party, and also to get the minority votes in the coming assembly elections. One doesn’t have to be a political pundit to see that. It’s obvious for the world to see. Otherwise how else could he have absolved the then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao from all blame? AS the top leader of the nation, allowing Babri masjid demolition to happen by looking the other way was a sin of omission for which the nation cannot forgive him – because this nation has paid/is paying heavily on account of that. It’s no secret that the Bomb terrorism which began with the Mumbai blasts, the permeation of terrorists mentality among a large number Muslims who till then were Indians first and then only Muslims, the communal clashes, the Mumbai Riots, ethnic cleansing post Godhra, the jihad spreading like wild fire, the growth in numbers of hate filled kar sevaks, the willingness of Indian Muslims to become jihadis – all these constitute the chain reactions triggered off by that sad demolition at Ajodhya about which Justice Leberham has submitted a report which exempts the main person on whom accountability should have been pinned – Mr. Narasimha Rao.

The Congress party’s secular credentials are also suspect, though, in this aspect it is the best of the bad lot. When BJP, which was giving external support to the VP Singh government, withdrew that support following VP Singh's couragoeus and patriotic action of issuing orders to arrest Advani who was heading for Ayodhya for the grand finale of the demolition drama (began earlier on a rath in Kanyakumari), V P. Singh’s responded with a move which he knew was bound to be a political harakiri. He put the issue to vote in the parliament, hoping against hope that some members of parliament will respect the dictates of the conscience as lawmakers of a secular democracy, instead of obeying the party whip, which in effect, amounted to supporting the communal agenda of the BJP. He chose this course of action knowing full well he will be defeated. But he wanted to create a new culture in Indian politics where conscientious politicians were given a chance to put the country and its constitution above petty party considerations. He felt the cause for which he was willing to throw away his political career was a fundamental issue. He exhorted the Indian politicians to do a soul searching. If he had succeeded, he would have brought in a political culture which would have made India a different place today – a better one no doubt. But he was defeated on the floor of the house which would not have happened if the Congress under Rajiv Gandhi had not voted against the government. The lie of the secular agenda of the congress party was exposed. But then, how could one expect Rajiv Gandhi to forgive the man who exposed his hands sullied in the Bofors deal, or allow a potential political rival to rise on the wave of clean, principled politics? After all, he was Rajiv Gandhi and not Mahatma Gandhi.

VP Singh was a statesman. He was a patriot. He was not a power monger. He was one who was always willing to admit defeat and resign, as a matter of principle. He was also a politician who tried many permutations and combination to stay in power, but only long enough to be able to bring about the changes he felt had to be made in order to create an order where equity was the rule, secularism was an imperative, and in which corruption had no space. But we failed him. We, Indians failed to see the honest politician in him.

After all, this is a nation which murdered the Mahatma.

Every nation gets the leaders it deserves.

But history will remember Vishwanath Prathap Singh as a valiant son of india whose fatal flaw was that he loved his country above his political career, and as one who went down fighting to correct the systemic flaws in the polity of the nation and as a statesman who sacrificed power and position to take that first unpopular step in providing a level playing field for all citizens, especially those who were crushed by centuries of social oppression.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Of Mallus, Bongs, Van Gogh and Don Mcleans

Am no connoisseur of art. To tell you the truth, I'm unworthy even to undo a connoisseur’s sandal strap. Have a mere smattering of the history of art. The paintings that appeal to me are usually the ones that anyone who knows anything about art would jeer at.

As a kid, I used to pour over a gigantic book of paintings which had more than 300 famous paintings. I enjoyed them ‘cos there was a footnote at the bottom of each full page painting, which gave interesting information about that particular work. There was this painting by I don’t remember who, which shows a huge potbellied Cardinal Woolsey walking with his head down. The annotation given below the picture was Cardinal Woolsey’s words in prison to the effect ”If I had served my God as I served the king, he would not have left me to the wolves”.

And then there was this painting by I don’t again remember who(Some West?) which shows Admiral Nelson dying in the battlefield. His last words formed the caption: “My God and My Country”.

Some of Rembrandt’s bathing themed pictures shocked me. I thought he was a vulgar person! So much for my knowledge of art :-).

As I grew older, whatever I knew about art was what I had picked up from my scanty reading on the subject. I remember being very angry with Sri Aurobondo for ridiculing Raja Ravi Varma who was my hero because he, Ravi Varma, was a mallu. Mr. Aurobindo thought Ravi Varma’s use of realistic style was like using the cast off clothes of the west! The western artists had already graduated from the realistic to impressionistic. I found umpteen numbers of explanations which smacked of ignorance and parochialism and the fire of youth to explain away Mr. Aurobindo’s take. He was a bong, I once argued heatedly with my friend during a seminar, when Mr. Aurobindo’s article came up for discussion. Bongs think that only what they have adopted from the west are worth it, I snapped. They behave as tho the rest of India has no right to appropriate anything of the west, I snarled. And they claim to be the seat of the renaissance in India during India’s miserable colonial days - the ones who lit the lamp of creativity in the Indian soul darkened and skewed by centuries of colonial subjugation. I’d have none of it, no matter what Mr. Aurobindo said. I argued that Bengal’s creativity smacked of slavishness and slavery, for Calcutta was the seat of the Company and the Empire for long years. I remember the lecturer intervening at that point and asking both of us (my rival, by the way, was not a bong but a tambram who was just trying to needle the usually silent-as-death mallu that was me) to shut up as neither of us knew anything of what we were talking - one more uninformed than the other, she fumed !

Needless to say, I later felt ashamed of my unusually vocal performance, but I justified myself to myself on the grounds that this mallu needling had gone too far this time!

To come back to the subject of my post, despite being such a huge dimwit about art, I developed a huge fascination for Vincent van Gogh during my graduation days. In a very strange manner, this fascination grew into an obsession through a strange coincidence.

It all began with the book LUST FOR LIFE by Irving Stone. I had just finished reading THE MOON & SIXPENCE which was Maugham’s book about Gauguin, and was persuading a friend to read it when she gave me THE LUST FOR LIFE. I loved the book ‘cos we had been introduced to impressionism and its impact on literature in the lecture classes. But it was the character of Van Gogh which scared and fascinated me. I still remember reading with utter horror the way he shaved off his ear because he kept hearing strange whispering (he had these bouts of insanity), packed the dismembered ear, walked into a pub holding the packet and bleeding profusely, and left it to be delivered to one of his prostitute friends there. Her scream when she opened it rang in my ears for many days. The despair which might have made that great painter who found his calling in life a little late in life, haunted me. After completing the book, I went picture hunting – for Van Gogh’s paintings. The book I mentioned earlier had only a sample of Van Gogh’s work. I hunted in the libraries and found some paintings in encyclopedias and other reference books. I began to get a little familiar with his works.

Now comes the coincidence.

It happened on one of those early days of my Vincent Van Gogh euphoria. It was just past seven in the morning on a Saturday, and I was listening to the Voice Of America Morning Show which was a favourite programme with a lot of people in those days. Suddenly the host announced a new composition by Don McLean’s titled VINCENT. It was, he said, about the Impressionist artist Vincent van Gogh whom he briefly introduced with facts I was more than familiar with.

I couldn’t believe my ears. I had by then developed a sense of proprietorship over the artist. And my excitement knew no bounds at a song having been written and sung about him, just after I had discovered him.

Then the song began.

To date, I can’t forget the moment the first lines of the song -STARRY STARRY NIGHTS- wafted in to the room from the telefunken radiogram which had the radio at the bottom and the gramophone on top. I sat doubled over on the moda, my ear close to the speaker of the radio, listening to the incredibly beautiful song. The melody was the strangest I had heard. And listening to the tragic story of the artist ( ‘how you suffered for your sanity’ ), the details of his paintings, the insanity that he grappled with till he died and the brilliant colours that literally ‘blared’ out of his works (all of which formed part of the lyrics) gave me goose bumps. And the words “This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you” sung so soulfully, melancholically had a sort of hypnotic effect on me.

Wondering why I’m waxing so eloquently on what must appear to be trivial nonissue? You see, for a young woman trapped in the little town of Kochin, in the most conservative of Syrian catholic families, books and the radio were the only window to the big world out there. For her such experiences are not mere trifling matters.

I still haven’t got fully away from the shadow of Van Gogh. Every time I hear Don McLean’s number, some of those old sentiments are revived, leaving behind a hangover of the encounter with an artist whose work I understood less than superficially, but whose insanity changed my perceptions of the very concept of sanity.

That I guess should explain the mildly(?) insane jumble of heterogeneous themes in this post?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

CNN IBN let down by other national channels?

CNN IBN is making claims about the show of solidarity by other media representatives. But the behaviour of the other English channels was much below the expected mark in a show of support and team spirit.

At the moment, I am watching CNN IBN showing the meeting of the media representative at the Chief Minister’s House. NO OTHER CHANNEL IS SHOWING IT LIVE!

Even yesterday, the attack on CNN IBN was shown only as part of the news. NDTV, HT, TIMES NOW could have at least given it half the coverage it gave when, say, Promod Mahajan was shot by his brother. The channels were, then, competing with each other to bring out into the public a matter that was best left alone. It was a family feud which the family concerned did not want to become national news. But all channels went after the news slurping and drooling, with runs and reruns and inane conjectures and sensational presentation.

Surely what happened yesterday in CNN IBN is much more important, not just to the channel concerned or to the media, but also to the very fabric of democracy. But HT went on talking about its Shiela Dikshit scoop, in a one-uppish manner. The other channels with other matters. This was just another bit of news. I think the regional channels gave more importance to this horrible event.

SAD. We citizens appear more concerned with and anxious about the attack on the fourth estate than the national channels. The issues involved are very serious ones, some of them being:

o The kid glove treatment meted out to Shiv Sena in the past 40 plus years resulting in their confidence that they can get away with murder, rioting, lynching and every despicable undemocratic terrorist act

o A false perception of the Shiv Sena supremo among the general public, the Centre and the State government and the poor helpless people of Mumbai. How come he has the freedom to utter and write fascist, seditious and communal thoughts but not the other papers and media? They now claim that CNN IBN provoked the attack by criticizing BAL Thackeray! Who on earth is he? Is he above the law of the land? It is time that the MEDIA, the administration, both in the state and the centre addressed these issues and arrived at a course of action – no matter how extreme- to bring law and order back into Mumbai. Every provision in the book must be evoked to put down internal terrorism.

o The freedom of speech, that bastion of democracy, that is being targeted time and again by political groups with muscle power.

To all channels, this is a request from the people of India. Please please give more time space to this issue and follow it up till the miscreants and the brain behind them are brought to book.

Hope somebody is listening.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Attack on the Press: IBN Office falls victim to SS ire.

The Shiv Sainiks have done it again. The attack on IBN office is a clear and strong message to the media to tone down the reporting of the unlawful deeds of the party.

Why is the nation tolerating the SS and the MNS? Why is it that we allow them to get away with murder, arson, looting, lynching and violence of the worst nature? Why are they more equal than the others?

The quiet demise of the Sri Krishna Report is a shameful chapter in the history of our democracy. The inaction of the administration, its refusal to take it up on the pretext of not opening healed wounds amounted to a green signal to any group with muscle power and without faith in democratic values to scoff at the law of the land.

The home ministry can send forces armed to the teeth to deal with Maoists and Naxals. Surely, the SS and the MNS are not armed like these violent groups. What is it that restrains the Centre or the state governments from taking them on the same way? Why do they throw up their hands in helplessness against the SS and the MNS? Are they not legitimizing unlawful act by not coming down heavily on them? Isn’t it this inaction on the part of the government that emboldens them to take law into their hands?

An MP from Kerala was disqualified for using religion in his election speech. Now here is a political party which has an open agenda of regionalism, communalism and linguistic parochialism. In the name of these unconstitutional issues, they take law into their hand and indulge in violence.

Why doesn’t Election Commission disqualify them? What happened in the Maharashtra assembly during the swearing in was enough reason for drastic action against the party which beat up the MLA. Why is the government just looking on? Why are the ministers just mouthing platitudes?

God save our democracy.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


What a shame! While a congress member, Murali‘s motivation was always personal - to seize power in the party. In the mind of the ordinary citizen who are Congress supporters, Murali is the ultimate symbol of treachery. One cannot forget the Ernakulan 2003 September byelection during A K Antony’s chief ministership, when the Karunakaran father and son duo, in a shameful show of groupism, supported the Marxist candidate Sebastian Paul , while enjoying the privileges of congress party membership.

What does Congress need such corrupt backstabbers for? I wouldn’t use the Brutus analogy here, for Brutus was a noble man who stabbed from the front, because he loved Rome more. With this father and son duo, it was a fight to bring down Antony who was trying to assert himself as the CM by installing Principles into the Congress party, and bring about unpopular reforms that were good for the state and would bring pay dividends eventually. If the Centre had stood by Antony, the congress would have been a much stronger party now, and emerged, by this time, like a phoenix, after the initial setbacks that the Karunakaran duo would have succeeded in causing.

But then, Antony did not put his foot down, as he did once after the Emergency. Oomen Chandy and his supporters were helpless. The high command gave enough time for Antony to save his face and silenced Oomen Chandy’s resistance to the Karunakans by giving him the Chief Minister ship. A magnificent opportunity for self correction was lost. That same hook or by crook attitude is what we see today. There is no room for principles in politics. Also, what we witnessed on 2003 was the question of WHO ARE THE INHERITORS OF THE CONGRESS PARTY? tHE DYNASTY OR THE HARDWORKING PLEBIAN. Needless to say, the high command had its own reasons to favour the former.

But there are many fools of which I am one, who never give up hoping. I know that for many ordinary Congress voters like me, the 2003 bye elections was a defining moment for our political affiliations. The Indian National Congress was no longer the only party for us. In the absence of an alternative, there was a loss of interest in politics, resulting in a reluctance to cast our votes.

The High Command does not realize the damage that it is doing by taking this very epitome of arrogance and corruption back into the party. A person who can go public calling his own sister Munjenma shatru (enemy in the previous incarnation), who kept party hopping, who fell out with the father and who has harshly criticized every congress leader of import and who has proved to be absolutely without scruples when it comes to self aggrandisment, is being taken back into the folds of the party. Party, for goodness sake, is not a family matter. It should factor in the concerns of the voters. Such decisions should not be taken, ignoring the wishes of the people.

Ideally, Oommen Chandy, Chennithala should break away from the Congress and perhaps go into an electoral arrangement with the parent party. They have enough political base for that. That’s the only way this prodigal son can be leashed once he returns.

Once again, shame on Congress High Command! A party which takes decisions for old time’s sake, and succumbs to emotional blackmailing by a stalwart who has never been the best party man but whose only endearing quality to the High Command is the support he extended to a Prime Minister when she was being isolated by her more conscientious partymen for trampling over democratic values , is not a party for which I’d take the trouble of casting my vote for.

It’d be a betrayal of my conscience.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sachin Tendulkar’s most daring Ton

'Mumbai belongs to India. I am a Maharashtrian and proud to be a Maharashtrian, but I am an Indian' – That was Sachin Tendulkar

That was the master blaster’s most courageous hit.

Sachin, despite being a person who religiously steers clear of controversies, did not shy away from airing his views in answer to a query from a scribe. It required as much courage to make this statement as to go out there in the middle without a helmet and a visor to face world’s fastest speedster all geared up to draw blood. So inflammable are the fumes released into the Mumbai troposphere by the Shiv Sainks and the MNS. The great sportsman skyrocketed in our esteem by daring, in his characteristic quiet and modest way, to make a statement of this nature in a city where the Shiv Sainiks and MNS workers have effectively terrorised into silence all those big names who'd led the Mumbai- for- all- Indians campaigns.

Sachin may not have expected this reaction from the Shiv Sena supremo. But then, who is Mr. Thackeray to deictate whether Sachin should play cricket or golf or kabadi or talk politics or enter politics? Why this sense of proprietorship over anything Marathi? No Maharashtrians should think anything different from or outside the Bal Thackeray's thinking box?

Thackeray appears to be still smarting from the party’s performance at the recent elections. Hell, I guess, has no fury like the Shiv Sena chief spurned by the electorate.

If Tendulkar will stand by what he said, or recant or hold out the olive branch to Thackeray waits to be seen.

But we most certainly hope that an icon like him would lend a hand to the noble cause of unity in diversity.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Tendulkar Impact

When the nation celebrates Tendulkar’s twenty years sway over its imagination, a voice keeps ringing in my years. My son’s:

“If not for you, amma, I’d have been another Tendulkar”

He grew up in those days when the one dayers were reducing the work output of the entire nation on the day the matches were held, when grandmothers in thuni & chatta were clapping hands and yelling adiyedda! Piddiyeda! oddeda! (hit, take that catch, run) discarding all ‘dignity’ and restraint that were traditionally associated with the grand old ladies of the Christian household. It was an age when television and one day cricket gave birth to a new class of cricket lovers. My son was born into that age when India lived cricket, breathed cricket, thought cricket and dreamt cricket.

My daughter too was obsessed with that sport. She too could rattle off statistics, but her interest got snuffed out the minute her hero Azaruddin was dropped. After that, it was mostly an academic interest in the game for her.

Ever since Mathew was old enough to walk steadily, he used to play cricket, with plastic bats, sticks, paper balled up & tied with jute string or with whatever that could serve as bat and ball. He would play with whoever was willing to play with him, irrespective of age and gender. Once, while in Bombay, when all the parents of the apartment complex had kept their boys indoors during the weekend to prepare for exams, I caught my son playing cricket with a three year old child who could just about walk, with his baby bat and ball, much to the delight of its young mother – and Mathew seemed to be enjoying it too!

When Mathew was in the 7th standard, he decided to get serious about his cricket. WE had just moved to Trivandrum. He found out that there was cricket coaching in the Police Parade ground by Kerala Cricket Club at 6.15 am.
“Not fair to ask papa to take you everyday. He works late “
“I’ll go by bus”.
He persuaded us to allow him to take public transport. Thus the first time he traveled alone in KSRTC was to go for cricket training.

Those days, he used to come home excited and tell me all about cricket. The only thing I remember from what he said was “Batting, amma, is all about body balancing!”. Sounded pretty odd to me – so I remember.

He was in 9th standard when he persuaded us to allow him to go the Khar Gymkhana Club for cricket coaching. I was dead against it.
“Amma. Imagine being in Bombay and not going for cricket training!”
The idea didn’t sound as preposterous to me as it did to him.My husband, a great respecter of individuals and their individuality, okayed this demand instantly, leaving very little opening for my veto.

And Mathew went for coaching four times a week, on the way back from school. On those days, he reached home by 8, bathed, ate and slept, without touching his books. The following mornings, he’d get up just in time to perform his daily ablutions, down his breakfast and rush to school.

The other mothers of the boys of Mathew’s age group in the apartment complex admonished me for letting him go for coaching in this crucial stage of his high school. Their children were pestering to be allowed to go for coaching. Mathew’s mom became a hero with them! But I was besieged by doubts about the wisdom of our decision to give in to his wishes. Since his performance in studies was good, I could find no excuse to stop the coaching.

But when he was promoted to the 10th standard – the final year in school, that crucial year which would decide his future , and therefore which makes all mothers paranoid and nervous and anxious – I put my foot down. No more coaching. Mathew tried every trick in the book to convince his father who was in half mind seeing how earnest the son was. Also, he had greater faith in Math’s cricketing abilities than me. And he was indulgent too. I remember getting a call from him once while I was at work to say that he’d given Mathew permission to go for the one day, day and night match between India and Sri Lanka (I think) - ALONE. Mathew has already reached the Wankhede stadium, he told me. So there was no point in me kicking up a racket, I thought. But how the poor hypertensive me survived that time till the boy came home, only God knows! It must have been a conspiracy between the father and son to tell me only after he was dropped off at the stadium.

As for me, I wasn’t sure how good he was at this game. True, older boys who belonged to various cricket clubs used to call Mathew as a substitute when someone did not turn up for the one day tournaments. Mathew used to come home ecstatic at his performance – literally with stars in his eyes, no doubt seeing himself as a future Tendulkar!

But I had my way. His cricket coaching was discontinued.

For a very long time, my son never missed an opportunity to tell me that if not for me, India would have seen another Tendulkar.

Today, I hope that my son, who is doing pretty ok in his chosen field (academics) would say “Amma, if not for you, I’d have been a wannabe Tendulkar”

My post on Criket:

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Power Stations in Space

Japan is planning to construct a solar power station in space from which energy will be beamed down to earth using lasers!

If the experiment is successful, the beginning of a permanent solution to the energy crisis is in sight, scientists feel. There’s no dearth of solar energy in space.

Am not competent to even pass a casual comment on the feasibility & success of this project, but I cannot resist the temptation to indulge in a hypothetical fantasy.

What if such solar power stations in the space can take care of the bulk of the energy needs of man?

I see a world jolted by a dramatic and drastic change in the existing economic equations, with the oil prices nose-diving to crash land on the rock bottom. In this world of space energy option, an apocalyptic vision would burst upon the US and the West regarding the Middle East, and they would suddenly become acutely conscious of the sovereignty of the Arab countries. This would result in resolutions being passed to refrain from any more political/military intervention in their affairs. Iraq would be dropped likehot potato and all the American soldiers would be back home, perhaps being trained to fight in space suits.

I have dual vision of the Middle East. One resembles something like the pre oil discovery days; this brings in tow euphoric dreams of the terror outfits dying one by one with the funding sources drying up.

Alternatively, I see the Middle East still enjoying energy monopoly, having invested heavily in the space power stations.

I see the site of international conflict shift to the space. My vision gets clouded when I try to make out the identity of the super powers in this race to colonize the space. India, yippee, I’m willing to swear will be a potent player considering the head start she has in space.

Now back to earth from this phantasmagoric space expedition - what will our planet look like when our focus shifts from the dark womb of the earth to regions beyond its atmosphere?

Darkness falls and the image is denied.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bloggers Hurry! To the rescue of Kerala!

The best news for Kerala since Independence! Read on:

New Delhi, November 9

With bandhs affecting normal life the Kerala unit of the Congress on Monday said it was likely to take a decision soon on avoiding such modes of protest. “A decision to this effect is likely to be taken soon,” state party chief Ramesh Chennithala said at the World Economic Forum India Summit here.
. . . . . . . . . . . .
“As a major political party in the opposition in Kerala we are seriously considering not having hartals. Our party committee has discussed it in detail. A final decision has not been taken,” Chennithala said. Noting that as a political party in a democracy the Congress had a right to demonstrate and protest he said people were suffering because of the age-old mode of agitation. “There are other ways in which we can protest. In a few days we are coming out with a decision on not calling for hartals. Personally, I am not in favour of hartals”, he said.
(The New Indian Express, Thiruvananthapuram, Tuesday, November 10, 2009)

This is the surest indication that the Congress Party has its fingers on the pulse of the people.

And the party appears to be maturing, and reasserting its faith in principles.

If the Congress can liberate this state from strikes, they will win in the state hands down at every poll. So disgusted are the people of Kerala at the political goons unleashing violence and disrupting normal life in the form of hartals and bandhs.

KUDOS to the
New Indian Express, Kerala edition, too for its earnest and dogged campaign against strikes and for sensitizing the political parties into paying heed to the voice of the people for which the paper provided a platform to express their loud and disgusted clamour against bandhs.

Time for the blogsphere to become proactive. While the Congress party is discussing the issue, the blogsphere must speak. It must resound with anti-bandh sentiments, with loud cheers for the Congress party for considering this very very progressive decision.

Every blogger should contribute her/his mite to this good cause which alone can SAVE KERALA.

This is the golden opportunity for the blogsphere which is labeled as the haven for armchair critics to show that it is more than that.

Yes. We bloggers can make a difference.


Kerala has spoken through the ballot - November 2009.

Congratulations, the voters of Kerala! The UDF has swept the polls, and it won in Kannur very convincingly.

The people have spoken emphatically once again.

The voters have registered their protest loud and clear – against the infighting in the ruling party leading to absence of governance, against rampant corruption and most of all against political parties’ commitment to the party rather than to the people who elect them.

It is a protest of the people against the goonda raj that had Kerala in its grip the past few years.

It is the people’s loud voice of disapproval against the youth wing of the ruling party which had grown into a Frankenstein causing disturbance and spread fear by taking law into its hands.

It’s a protest against the Home Ministry running the state as if it is the minister’s back yard.

People have had enough.

We earnestly hope that the UDF understands the gravity of the burden of expectation that has been placed on them.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Anita's Recipe

Anmma asked my sister-in-law Annu to dictate to my eight old niece Anita the recipe of the lovely wine Annu had made. Now Anita was wonderful with words, wrote impeccably and had a way with words. Whenever she copied or wrote down a recipe for amma, she’d add a naughty comment at the end of it which amma loved.

A couple of months later, amma decided to make the wine. She took out the recipe book and checked to see if Anita’s mischievous comments were there.

There were none.

The required ingredients were listed out to be bought.

“Looks like an expensive wine”, amma said. “For every litre, we need 45 pieces of cloves”.

The ingredients were put in the bharani (jar) and lid was put in place and made doubly secure. It had to be stirred every day for 20 days.

After 20 days, it was time to drain the wine. All preparations and the maddening sterilization of vessels, ladles were over and the wine was strained through a fine cloth which served as the sieve.

Then it had to be kept in the bharani for another 20 days before bottling. Before sealing the bharani amma took out some liquid in a ladle and poured it into a glass.

And she tasted it.

She nearly fainted.

She says she took just one sip and her entire gastrointestinal tract was on fire.

She called up my sister- in- law, who asked her to repeat the recipe. The former was horrified when she heard of the 45 pieces of cloves for every litre of water. She had said 4 to 5 when she dictated the recipe to Anita!

Now, I’ve not been able to figure out if, instead of the usual written joke that accompanied her recipes, Anita decided on a practical joke that once!

And I haven’t been able to figure out too how an expert cook like amma didn’t realize that 45 pieces of cloves per litre could be deadly.

Dalai lama In Arunachel Pradesh

Dalai Lama should not have done it. The understanding between this spiritual leader and India, and India and China was that he will not use the contested soil of Arunachal Pradesh for political purposes. And he did it. (See link below)

Why did he do it?

Enjoying the hospitality of India, it is unlikely that he would have done something so serious that was likely to create diplomatic tension between the two Asian Giants, without the permission of India.

Apparently, India was making a statement through the granting of permission to the Tibetan spiritual leader to visit Arunachal Pradesh. Are the political remarks by the Dalai Lama also an extension of that statement?

Today for the first time, an Indian official stated that the weapons used by the Maoists are of Chinese make, though he made haste to add that this is no indication that the Maoists have any links with China.

Too many things have been happening between India and China in the past few months – the incursions, the dam, issuing separate visas to Kashmiris by China, protesting against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh. Wonder what all these mean.

The average citizen tends to get worried seeing all this, listening to the hysterical voice of the channels while the Indo-Chinese uneasiness is featured or while they talk of the preparedness of the Chinese for any eventuality as against the under preparedness of India. In addition to this, the netizens are invaded by magnificent (but scary on account of their sheer magnificence) clips of the super efficiency and discipline of the Red Army, and the display of that army recently.

We, the people of India, surely wish to see the status quo maintained between India and China. Memories of the Chinese invasion in the sixties after the much hyped Hindi-Cheeni Bhai Bhai still rankle.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Requiescat: Dr C R Soman

It was my friend who works in the All India Radio who suggested that I meet Dr. C R. Soman, who would be the best person to advise me on the nitty gritty of starting an NGO. I was hesitant, because I was not sure if a person so busy would be able to spare the time for me.
“You’ll be surprised, miss (she was my student too) but he is a fine person. I can’t think of better person to help you. You’ll be amazed at the things he is doing for the community – so many years after retirement. I’ll talk to him”.

And she did, after which I spoke to Dr. Soman on Friday, the 23rd October over the phone. It was just a one minute conversation during which I fixed an appointment with him for 26th, the following Monday . Just a minute of minimum conversation over the phone assured me that here was a person who was very friendly, helpful and absolutely without airs.

I met him in his office (Health Action by the People - HAP) the following Monday. I spent two hours with him. He was working on the computer-was putting together a paper, he told me, for publishing. We have collected so much data that I have decided to publish them in an international journal, he said. I wanted to know more about HAP and he gave a brief but comprehensive description of HAP. He explained why it is BY people and not FOR. Community health is dependent on the awareness of people. Every individual has to be conscious of his/her health. The people themselves must take the initiative of maintaining the health of the community. He told me that the data collected by his NGO provided clear evidence linking obesity to all the ailments that stalk the Kerala population. He spoke of his efforts to spread this awareness among young girls. Catch them before they become obese, was his policy. Prevention is better that cure. He told me how he gave talks to young college going students about maintaining the waistline they have at that moment when they sat in the college auditorium listening to him. Maintaining that waistline has more than cosmetic value – it’s a health insurance.

He detailed out how his NGO engages 120 people to collect medical data across Kerala. Most of them came from financially strained backgrounds but have become income generators for their families after joining HAP. He insisted on these girls purchasing two wheelers of their own in order to facilitate greater mobility. He meant it to be this way – his NGO should function at many levels. Its primary functions are to create awareness among people about health and to gather health data for the research activity of the HAP. The organization also becomes instrumental in providing a livelihood for all those underprivileged who serve it besides making medical test facility available at the doorstep.

I offered my service to HAP. I'd been a teacher, and though am a humanities person, I could make presentations if he gave me the material, I told him. He felt that it did not matter which discipline I specialized in; if the willingness to serve was there, that was enough. He promised to send me the Power Point presentations he had prepared to support his lectures on obesity. Whether he would have taken my offer and actually entrusted the task of imparting health knowledge to a lay person like me, I do not know. But he didn’t dismiss my enthusiasm as futile.

He was not cynical or even skeptical about the NGO I had in mind. He heard me out patiently, commended my willingness to become proactive, but warned me that the road ahead would not be easy. He pointed out with specific examples the hurdles that I was likely to face. One shouldn’t be disheartened by stumbling blocks. Must learn to take them in our stride, he advised.

He gave a copy of the bylaws of his organization and two hours of his time - free consultancy, highlighting the ground realities of floating an NGO. And there was no trace of swagger in his tone!

Last Monday, our group met to work out the action plan for launching the NGO, and we talked about inviting Dr. Soman for the next meeting!

When I told him that I was DR. V P Gangadharan’s patient, Dr. Soman, in a very matter of fact tone stated that “Gangadharan is among the last of a dying species of doctors – dedicated, totally committed, for whom the medical profession is a vocation”. He made non committal remarks about Dr. Gangadharan’s troubles while working in a premier medical institution. A couple of days later, I heard from someone who was in the medical college that Dr. Soman was the one who spearheaded the action to protect and support Dr. Gangadharan during his difficult days, for he was convinced that Dr. Gangadharan was on the right side of the ethical boundary.

While talking to me, the telephone rang and he was making arrangements for two air tickets to Bangalore – for him and his wife. “It’s partly official-for HAP’, he told me by way of a small apology for keeping me waiting while he was on the phone.

I do not know if he made that trip to Bangalore. I didn’t pay attention to the dates he mentioned.

A lean tall man, level headed, low profile, cheerful and apparently at peace with himself, and of that type with whom one doesn’t associate ill health - that was my first impression of Dr. Soman. It shocked me to read in yesterday’s papers, ten days after the only one time i met him, that he was battling for his life. Later in the day, the news of the death of this activist who did make a difference and who still had a lot to give to humanity, set me wondering about those extra terrestrial pilots who steer our destiny.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Grave Humour

A morbid post- and mebbe, in bad taste too perhaps, writing so irreverently about it but it has always intrigued me – those moments in every funeral, when tears and sobs are suspended and the crowd, absorbed in and anxious about the actual act of burial, temporarily forget the terrible sorrow of bereavement, and focus attention on the this worldly, practical act of lowering the casket into the womb of Mother earth.

Even as a kid, I used to notice that there was always confusion and raising of voices bordering on irreverence at the most poignant part of the funeral, when the actual deed of returning dust to dust was being ceremoniously performed. The logistics of the process is a little tricky. A slip of the hand or a miscalculation in the coordinated act would cause a catastrophe, depriving the demised person the last moments of dignity.

Those sharp instructions ring out loud and brusque.

Slowly, slowly

All eyes are riveted on the casket balancing precariously on the taut ropes held by those bold ones who have come forward to contribute their assistance and show their solidarity. One can sense the tense interest and almost hear the bated breath!

Rajan, pull the rope up a little. Your side is tilting’


Yes, that’s it.

The bereaved ones too look at the performance, with a new emotion which provides a prosaic, five minute relief from the pain of bereavement - the new emotion being anxiety about the safe and dignified delivery of the casket to where it now belongs.

Now –Now. Together – slowly, slowly - - -careful - - .

People standing behind crane their necks to see the dangerous journey of the casket towards it final destination.

The casket now rests at the bottom of the grave and the crowd heave a silent sigh of relief – and then some return to their grief while others pray, while still some others gossip or exchange pleasantries or share news about the dead person, the loved ones he/she left behind, the responsibilities not completed or a race well run - - - -

While the subject of the conversation lies oblivious to this terminal scene of the drama of life.

I remember two episodes which still make me smile when I think of them. It was the funeral of my mother and I was heartbroken. One of the pall bearers was a young man in his late twenties, a good friend. No sooner had the casket rested safely in the grave than this young man’s glasses (soda lens with pure gold frame) fell on top of the casket. All of us knew that he was helpless without his glasses. Besides, it’s pure gold, I caught myself thinking!!

Leave it, it’s ok, it’s ok, the poor embarrassed chap kept pleading, blinking his helpless eyes to bring his vision into focus. He, no doubt, thought it indelicate to claim his glasses in this moment of deep sorrow for his close friends. Just then the grave digger jumped into the grave on top of the casket .Though for some reason I winced, I couldn’t help smiling at his commonsensical, matter of fact tone when he declared loud, “Why lose it if it is still retrievable? Any way, she (pointing to the casket) is not going need it”.

More recently, during the funeral of a nun, it was a credit card that fell into the grave. The loser behaved in the same manner as our friend mentioned earlier. He didn’t want a fuss to be made over it. This time the comments came from behind me, from those relatives and friends who had come to attend the funeral. The remarks, however, were more or less the same as that of the aforesaid gravedigger , though exchanged in low voices.

Ask the grave digger to pick it up. Not safe to leave it there.
What do you mean? She (pointing to the grave) is not going to misuse it.

Laughter – in low tone.

She wouldn’t have even seen one, leave alone use it while alive and kicking. So it’s quite safe there.

More laughter.

What if someone tries to get hold of it after all of us leave?

Subdued laughter again.

That’s true. Quite possible. Kaalam mosamanu (These are bad times)

The credit card was retrieved, any way.

However inappropriate this script of the terminal stage of human life is, I sort of welcome it. These interludes serve as comic relief in a great tragic play.

It brings to my mind those famous lines: Death, be not proud.

For life goes on inspite of you, you terminator! You can’t throw a permanent pall over the living.