December 30, 2005

Girish: Giving up his childhood for dad’s greed?

Elsewhere on this site I wrote about eight-year old chess champ, Girish; had read about him in ‘The Hindu’ and, after a phone talk with his father, I shot out messages to 40 e-pals on our MyMysore network for exploring sponsorship possibilities. On meeting Girish’s father, Mr Kaushik, and from his subsequent conduct I am constrained to believe that helping such a guy might not be such a good idea, and it might even hurt the chess kid’s future.
My perception is shared by Ms K R Prathiba, a social activist, who lobbied Girish’s case for sponsorship at the Town Hall; took the boy and his father to the mayor on the very day she met Mr Kaushik. She was to set up a meeting for him with the DC the subsequent day. But then Mr Kaushik, presumably, found something else to do. He didn’t even bother to inform Prathiba, let alone thank her for the trouble she had taken.
Lack of such niceties apart, I found Mr Kaushik to be not very straight-forward in his talk. He told me that the recent New Delhi trip for the Asian chess championship ties had set him back by Rs.15,000 (of which Rs.7000 he claimed was entry fee). What Mr Kaushik neglected to mention was the Rs.50,000 cash award announced by the Central ministry for sports. The first we heard of it ( Prathiba and I ) was when the mayor quizzed Mr Kaushik, “Isn’t there a cash award that goes with the chess gold ?”
And then there is this aspect. In response to my network messages an e-pal put me wise on the danger in pushing child prodigies into public shows. This had happened again and again, he said, and added, “parents who want to exploit the rare talent of their kids are sometimes too greedy for fame and profit to think of giving the kids a chance to experience childhood”.
(See item: Girish brings chess gold to Mysore)

December 24, 2005

Civic activism

Wish I am proved wrong, but I sense that our civic authorities (read mayor/commissioner) have already made up their mind on the Devaraja Market issue. The kind of public pressure we tend to exert doesn’t seem to work. This may be because of a conspicuous lack of rapport between MGP/ACIC and MCC. Correction - it's mutual mistrust. Isn’t there something we are missing here? I thought both have the same mission statement - strive for the public good. Besides, I don’t get the point of another group. Is the Association of Concerned and Informed Citizens (is that right?) an alternate group or an alternative to MGP?
Problem is some of our self-styled caretakers of the interests of ‘informed’ and ‘concerned’ citizens do not seem to realize that they are not taken very seriously by an overwhelming majority of lesser residents. Maybe it’s our mindset. We tend to view with suspicion even the most civic-minded individuals who show up too often in newspaper photos and press statements.
I can see my friend Dr Shenoy taking me on. Do I suggest MGP stay silent when things go wrong? We have been through this, Dr Shenoy and I, in private conversations. His grouse is the good work MGP has done in exposing wrong-doings and the wrong-doers goes unappreciated. As for arm-chair critics, his prescription is, “why don’t they come forward, and take over?” A valid question, to which other arm-chair critics and bloggers might have a definitive answer.
It is not my case that MGP has no role to play. Nor would I say that those at its helms are less capable. In fact, they have expertise in varied fields. To my mind there appears to be an attitude problem – an attitude of confrontation towards MCC. Elsewhere in this site I have held forth on how MGP could do better.
As for arm-chair critics such as yours truly, there are many of us who are not cut out for a meaningful role in MGP. So of us are more inclined to do some public good in our own limited sphere. Individual efforts of a civic-minded few have made a big difference to life around them.
I read a web magazine piece about an NRI pair -”. Aravinda Pillalamarri and Ravi Kuchimanchi – who transplanted themselves from the US to Gujarat, to bring electricity to an Adivasi village . When the web editor Veena Rao asked what NRIs could do to help people back home, they suggested that urban educated individuals, especially NRIs, can help by taking a live interest in issues of public concern back home, and ‘write to our government officials and civic authorities, who tend to behave differently when they know they are being watched, especially by NRIs’. I see a message here for non-resident Mysoreans with a feel for Devaraja Market.
Incidentally, Aravinda and Ravi were the inspiration behind Ashutosh Gowariker’s “Swades”, a Shah Rukh Khan starrer..

December 17, 2005

Siddharth is out and kicking

In my opening blog piece – New Avatar – I referred to my son and his wife conceiving around the same time. His ‘baby’, a revamp of, came out in September. Meera took longer to deliver Siddharth – nine months, to be precise. I don’t suppose genetic engineering has yet come up with a mechanism to shorten the process or devised an enabling technique to have a baby without pangs. Mid-way through the 24 hours that Meera spent in the labour room my son sent an e-mail saying she was going through severe discomfort and pain, but managing with great calm and confidence. And this was just a build-up to an excruciatingly painful finale that took several hours in coming.
The FIR (first information report) said the new arrival weighed 6 lb.13 oz., was 20 inches long, fair, with a headful of jet black hair. Time of birth: 7.03 a m (in San Francisco); 8.33 p m (IST).
I don’t know if other NRI parents ponder over this: Which time do we take into account to draw up the child’s horoscope? US, or the Mysore time? “Our time, of course, 7.03 a m,” said Meera, from her Oakland hospital bed. She made sense.
My thoughts, however, are philosophical, if utterly anachronistic. Astrology, presumably, predates America by thousands of years. Legend has it that someone in Ayodhya drew up Lord Rama’s horoscope, which was ages before they invented the concept of Time Zones. If there hasn’t been much change since, in the way we draw up horoscopes, wouldn’t ‘India time’ be more compatible than the relatively recent US Time Zone phenomenon? A swift Yahoo Search reveals that Time Zones were first instituted in US by railroads on Nov.18, 1883, though an amateur astronomer, William Lambert, had reportedly made a plea in 1809 to the Congress for establishment of time meridians.

December 13, 2005

What’s in a name(u), Bangaluru ?

Mr U R Ananthamurthy, who started it all, was heard telling NDTV that Kannada had this capability to embrace a foreign term by suffixing a ‘u’ – a table becomes ‘tableu’, a chair, ‘chairu’, and a bore, ‘boru’. Kannada is that simple. Tamil, a designated ‘classical’, tends to complicates things.
Had Madras been part of Karnataka we could have, simply, added a ‘u’ and called the place ‘Madrasu’. In its current Tamil ‘avatar’, Chennai has little in common with the good old Madras. I’m sure Mr URA had sound reasons – cultural and emotional – for coming up with an idea, so thought-provoking that it managed to move our government into action within days. Normally, any bright idea the government receives is put through the bureaucratic wringer, of a departmental committee, cabinet sub-committee, legislature debate, resolution and such rigmarole.
I, for one, find the name-change idea particularly appealing, as it plays on our innate instinct for keeping up with the Joneses. If TN and Kerala, not to mention W B and Maharashtra, have done it, why shouldn’t we?
But then in a democracy we have people who raise silly questions, such as, ‘what is the big deal?’. Bangalore, whichever way you pronounce it, would stay a city of IT-walahs, drought beer, bad roads, and traffic jam. What’s in a name? Bangalore, by any other name, would still have traffic jam.
We could say this about Mysore. When it becomes Mysooru, it won’t rhyme with eyesore.

Sheila Irani, an inspiration

Irani, F K is a name Mysoreans associate with Ideal Jawa. They don’t make the mo-bike anymore, but the brand name – Ideal Jawa - is still with us, in reference to the building housing Mysore’s Rotary headquarters and one of the city’s better run schools. The Irani name is also linked to a not-so-widely known, but equally well-run, institution – Chamundi Children’s Home. It’s a living testimony to Sheila Irani’s work of charity, says my friend T V Raghottam Rao, who is actively associated with the home. They take care of 25 boys and girls who are parentless or from broken homes. Inmates are schooled till Class-12, and in any vocational training of their interest. Many from the Chamundi alumni are known to have made it in the outside world. We don’t know if the trustees have case studies.
Statistically, it’s a drop-in-the-bucket effort. But Chamundi home represents an endeavour that has inspired individuals. Paddy Navin, a theatre person in Britain, is one such individual, says a report in ‘Star of Mysore’. A visit to Mysore in 2002 and meeting with Sheila Irani proved an inspiration for Paddy to do her bit for the underprivileged in this part of the world. Back in London, Paddy organized a concert that raised funds enough to educate four children till the college level. Two of Paddy’s chosen children – Pushpa,10, and Esther, 8, are now studying at the Good Shepherd’s School, Masinagudi, near Mudumalai, TN. If only everyone in our own entertainment world – actors and producers – were to emulate Paddy’s example, it would be a turn-around in the lives of thousands of our underprivileged children.

December 6, 2005

Mysore in a debt-trap

Thank you, Gen. Vombatkere, for putting us wise on how ADB loans work. It hasn’t occurred to the powers that be that they owe us an explanation of how a Rs.140-crore loan has morphed into a Rs. 295-crore liability. It took Maj. Gen. S G Vombatkere (retd.) a trip to Manila (where he attended a civil society consultations at ADB headquarters) to figure it out for us. As he explains, ADB charged a mere two-percent interest on its loan advanced to India government. The Centre passed on funds at eight percent to Karnataka. And the Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development and Finance Corporation (KUIDFC) gave it to the Mysore municipal corporation at 12 percent interest.
MCC can't get it from ADB, straight away. I can see that our municipal commissioner can’t just fill in a loan form and get a DD for the loan amount directly from ADB or IBRD. It is understandable that those doing it for us are entitled to service charges. But what I didn’t know, (did you?) is that development loans help, mainly, ‘development’ of the intermediaries; and, what is worse, have the effect of pushing the end-user (of loan) into a debt-trap.
Going into the nitty-gritty of how the money was spent by our civic body, with what results, would open quite another can of worms.
Meanwhile, how do we get out of this loan mess? My guess is that our municipal corporation would go in for a steep hike in levy, in line with the time-honoured bureaucratic ploy – ‘When in debt, pass the buck’. The buck stops with the law-abiding tax-payers here.
This is where our public administration/finance whiz-kids ought to think of something out-of-the-box. If it were a private firm, ‘liquidation’ would be the word.

December 2, 2005

Munnabhai’s message & Iqbal’s impact

I checked out with administrator of a lead hospital , specializing in heart, if he had watched ‘Munnabhai MBBS’, and whether he sensed a social message - ‘Healthcare with humour, and compassion’. His response was, ‘we all know most simple ailments can be complicated with a psychosomatic factor that has to be addressed’. He referred to head-ache, most bowel symptoms, and many other unexplained ones.
Evidently, the Munnabhai storyline has aspects that medical administrators wouldn’t find amusing. But then the movie wasn’t made for their amusement. This Bollywood masala mix obscures its message in clownplay. Our kind of films are not made with social change in mind. In fact, as actor-director Naseeruddin Shah put it at the Goa film festival, ‘I’d write it off (cinema) as a medium of social change’.
Mr Shah appears to have been proved wrong, for once. Iqbal, a film in which he plays a role, has indeed impacted the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) into making a radical addition to its school curriculum. NCERT, taking a cue from Nagesh Kukunoor-directed ‘Iqbal’, plans to teach sign language to std. III students in all NCERT-run schools in the country.
Iqbal is a deaf-mute boy who dreams of playing for India cricket team, as a pace bowler. He has the backing of Khadija, his ten-year-old sister. Kadija learns sign language to interact with Iqbal, and to interpret his hopes and aspirations to the world at large. Learning from Khadija’s example, NCERT has decided to include teaching sign language in its school curriculum. If normal children could learn to communicate with the hearing impaired, the needs of the disabled could be better understood, and the disabled could be fully integrated into the mainstream school environment.
Kamala Balachandran, in her Deccan Herald article, summed it up by saying the NCERT idea is simple, and yet so potent that it could revolutionize the way the next generation of children would look at a disabled person.

November 21, 2005

Scaling walls for sport

When someone mentions scaling walls, many of us tend to think of our college days. A wall is something to be jumped over when you reach the hostel after hours. Some walls come with a convenient hole our thoughtful predecessors on the campus had left behind. It was one such hole in the compound wall of Kirorimal College (Delhi University) that served as a short-cut to the Kamla Nagar coffee-house, frequented by those of us in neighbouring colleges – Ramjas, DSE or the Hindu.
My friend and Bangalore-based Statesman correspondent Tyagraj Sharma would know what I am talking about. But the wall he has in mind nowadays is the one his college going daughter, Kavya Sharma, scales for sport. The 16-year-old has no use for hostel walls (Is she a hosteller, Tyagraj ?); she goes for the one that is 60-ft tall. Kavya is poised to tackle the wall in Hong Kong this December at the Asian Youth Sport Climbing championship.

Kukkarahalli mo(u)rning walkers

The walkway is okay. It is the lake that lets out a stench that makes morning walkers reach for their hanky to stick it on the nose. The sewage inflow and the spread of algae are the result of our inaction. The Mysore University that has jurisdiction for the lake’s upkeep pleads helplessness. The municipal corporation hasn’t been proactive in clearing encroachments on Dewan Poornaiah canal. The walkers, residents living close to the lake and other stake holders have petitioned, protested and called for greater accountability on the part of everyone other than their own.
We all know what needs doing – clear feeder channels to help fresh water inflow; block inflow of sewage. We even got funds for doing it – ADB loan. Yet the morning walkers may well have to take out, before long, a mourning walk; and Kukkarahalli may well become Algaehalli. This, as my friend E R Ramachandran said (in ‘The Mysore Mail’) can happen only in Mysore.

November 14, 2005

A glitzy ‘Id’meet

An Id Milan, lined up by Anjuman-e-Hadeeqatul Adab at Le Olive Garden, Sunday, was a glitzy affair. Scented ladies, suited gents, local admn. top brass, academics, and other high-end professionals comprised the guests list at a meeting marked by laudatory speeches and sumptuous buffet. If the idea was promotion of harmony among the ‘Hindu, Muslim Sikh, Isai’ elite, the organizers were, perhaps, preaching to the choir.
Mysore municipal commissioner, Mr A B Ibrahim, hit the nail right on its head when he expressed doubts if such elitist gatherings would have a trickle-down effect on the mindset of the masses. He would rather have Id Milan organized at the grass-roots level, promoting a mingling among communities at the middle-class and poorer localities. Mr Ibrahim spoke of the need for wider circulation of Koran, translated in the language of the locals, among all communities. For Koran was a lot more than a religious work; it was a book on life and how best it is led. Islam was a far more enlightened faith than people gave credit for. Gender equality and women’s right to property was there in Islam centuries earlier than western civilizations thought of them. Islam is egalitarian; it stipulates that the faithful should spare two percent and a half of their income for the welfare of the poor. And it had all been worked out way back in the 5th century. Wasn’t this a magnificent religion, as G B Shaw put it? Mr Ibrahim’s lament is that Islam today is the most misunderstood religion, all over the world. Listening to him gave me a fresh perspective on our municipal commissioner, who, like his faith, has been much misunderstood by the caretakers of ‘concerned’ and ‘informed’ citizens.

A Sikh at his ‘taavu’s Id milan’

Dr Javeed Nayeem, master of ceremonies at Id Milan, invited from the audience a representative of Mysore’s community of the Sikhs (13 families) to address the gathering. An elderly Sikh who took the floor held the audience attention with his earthy talk and anecdotal message of harmony. He thanked organizers for so honouring him on the occasion of, what he called, ‘my thaavu’s Id’. Thaavu is one’s father’s elder brother – ‘Gurudev is our (Sikhs) father; and the Prophet is our thaavu’.
His message was that sharing love and affection with others, in other communities, works wonders – ‘you should all try it sometime’. Speaking from experience, he was once caught up in an Id day traffic jam, while on his way to a conference on the JNU campus, New Delhi. The bus carrying him got stuck on road near an Idgah. Sensing the hopelessness of the situation the Sikh stepped down onto the street and hung around in front of Idgah, as the congregation streamed out after ID prayers. Finding a Sikh at the doorstep of Idgah a Muslim asked, ‘what brings you here, sardarji ?’
‘It is my thaavu’s Id’, said the Sikh, explaining to the Muslim stranger they were spiritual cousins. So pleased was this Muslim that he lifted the Sikh off his feet with ‘juppi’ (bear-hug of the passionate kind). He wouldn’t let him go without ‘kathirdari’ at his (Muslim) home. The host later sent his car to reach the Sikh to the JNU campus. On reaching the venue ‘I found the others traveling in my bus had not made it to the conference’.
Moral of the story: a ‘juppi’ with stranger can, sure, work magic.

November 4, 2005

Blah…to Mysore Blog

In an effort to evolve a Mysore-centric blog group that could synergies with I called/e-mailed friends and contacts. The response was enthusiastic from a few, notably journalist Mr Krishna Vattam, who said he could think of five or six pieces right away for posting. The snag, however, was his utter computer ignorance. But then he is willing to learn. Till which time, his blog pieces are held on hold in his head.
The last I heard was that Mr Vattam is undergoing e-learning crash course from his school-going grandson. After a lesson on how to work the mouse, cursor and the keyboard all that it takes for one to blog is an alert mind, an engaging interest in the life around you, and Internet connectivity. So I thought, till I had these reactions:
- What’s the point in blogging? And who cares for what I have to say?
- Wouldn’t want to step on someone’s toes, by saying something that triggers controversy.
- I can’t think of an issue to write about
- Too many things on my plate to find time for blogging.
- No one comments on what is blogged (this, from a blogger)
- Came to Mysore, seeking a quiet life, with my books and music. Don’t ask me to blog.

November 1, 2005

‘Star’-less Diwali

I can pick holes in its coverage, content, and copy-editing, but I can’t easily do without a daily dose of ‘Star of Mysore’. Aren’t we accustomed to Mysore water, however ‘contaminated’ as MGP claims ? SOM is a daily after-siesta ‘fix’ to which I have become a slave. When she found me pacing about our place like ‘kuttipotta poonai’ (Tamil expression for a form of irksome behavior), for some 20 minutes soon after my nap this afternoon, my wife put it down to ‘smids’ - Star of Mysore immune deficiency syndrome. The paper wasn’t delivered today. It is closed tomorrow as well, for Diwali.

October 30, 2005

Passport forms at Food World

Food World at Devaraja Urs Road, we all know, isn’t just a food items mart. What I didn’t know till yesterday was that you can pick up a passport application form there. I found them on the magazines rack, sharing space with ‘Outlook’ and ‘Women’s Era’ . Holding a passport appears to have become common place among Mysore folks. Who knows, the thoughtful Food World management could next think of setting up a Kodak or Konica booth capable of producing instant passport snaps while you wait at the credit cards counter to settle the bill.

October 27, 2005

Snail mail, endangered

My new-found friend Srihari, B S, says my recent letter to him, written in not-so-legible hand, is kept on his desk, at a prominent spot so that he can see it every day. It serves him as a reminder that the old-fashioned postal mail, as a means of communication, isn’t dead, yet. Mine was the only mail he got by post in recent times. People no longer write; they e-mail, phone or sms each other. It was just as well I didn’t know Mr Srihari’s e-mail ID. If I had, I wouldn’t have written that letter either.
After talking to him I tried recalling if I had, indeed, received mail by post in recent memory. I couldn’t. Do you remember the last time you got mail? I don’t mean the monthly credit-card statement or LIC premium notice. I mean the good old hand-written stuff from family or a friend.
Remember the Pankaj Udhas film number, ‘Chitti aye hai …chitti’. If they remake the film, ‘Naam, today, the song would have to say, ‘E-mail aye hai…e-mail’.

October 24, 2005

Does Narayana Muthy belong here?

Whatever his bio-data says – son of a Mysore school teacher; a product of Mysore University - Mr N R Narayana Murthy doesn’t belong here. So it would seem, judging by our deadpan response to this victim of a politically motivated smear campaign. We wouldn’t have, would we, let this go unchallenged, if Mysore and its people count Mr Murthy as one of our own.
Far from speaking up for the Infosys founder, Mysore is mum. What I can hear is the ‘deafening silence’ on the part of our social activist groups, sangha, parishat, and association of citizens, both ‘informed’ and ‘concerned’. A statement of support or a solidarity resolution would have been a socially gracious gesture. Admittedly, Mr Narayana Murthy or Infosys does not need our flag-waving support. But we would have made him feel good by letting him know that we, in Mysore, are with him.
Meanwhile I find the ‘Touchstone’ column in ‘The New Indian Express’ has put Mr Murthy’s case in perspective.
“Whatever he has done for his company or the community had the hallmark of transparency. Yet a senior politician had the gumption to call him names and treat him as if he were a small-time builder and real estate agent”.
A notable aspect is that the columnist, T Bhanu, doesn’t name the politician even once. Which I think is smart. Why dignify unwarranted accusations by naming the accuser.
“Narayana Murthy is a rich man by any yardstick…..he doesn’t have to buy government and agricultural land, convert it in the name of software development, and later on build flats and villas and realize the proceeds….
“…..And if the Karnataka government is not willing, there are other states ready to invite him with open arms”.
Related item: ‘Infosys, a land-grabber?’

October 23, 2005

NRIPA, a Non-starter

The initiative of Mr N D Bhagavan, a public spirited NRI parent (who has a New Jersey-based son), to put in place an NRI parents association in Mysore remains a non-starter. The response has been lukewarm. No more than seven NRI parents have evinced interest in such networking.
Mr Bhagavan announced the NRIPA move in ‘Star of Mysore’ some three months ago. This was followed up with a website item, which evoked some encouraging response. Mr Bapu Satyanaryana, welcoming the move, shared his thoughts with us in a 11-point message e-mailed from Portland, Oregon (where he was then visiting his daughter’s family). A microbiology student at Eastern Kentucky University, Mr Ashwin Das, thought it was a wonderful idea, and informed his parents in Mysore about the NRIPA initiative.
Yet, when it came to filling in a prescribed form, in confirmation of their interest, Mr Bhagavan had heard from no more than seven NRI parents till last month, when he went abroad. – ‘I reckon it prudent not to proceed until my return to Mysore (in March next)’.
As the saying goes, man proposes, God disposes. When Bhagavan proposes, Mysoreans dispose it.

October 22, 2005

Life after 70 plus, for these CFTRI folk

Quite a few of the CFTRI retired folk settled in Mysore are going through a productive ‘second adulthood’. Mr B R Srihari of ‘Star of Mysore’ is among those who have turned 70 and still feel they have a lot of life left in them. He took to journalism five years back, following his retirement from CFTRI. Mr K K Mookerji, on retirement as CFTRI scientist, is into company management. He is MD of a Mysore-based software development firm with a staff strength of 300, and rising exponentially. (Look up 'Making of a Boom Town: Sid Shows Us How' on 'Issues & Ideas' web page.)
Mr Mookerji’s Atlanta-based son counts on his retired father to run his software shop in Mysore – ‘we started with a staff of three software engineers, in an office located at my home’. Former CFTRI director Dr.H A B Parpia, who, in his ‘second adulthood’ is involved in NGO work pertaining to teacher training. He is a leading figure in MGP.
Mr Srihari has recently returned from a 14-week ‘working holiday’ in the US, from where he sent regular dispatches to SOM. During the visit he had occasion to get in touch with Dr Rajagopal Rao, another former CFTRI director, vacationing in the US with his wife Dr Vijaya Rao, former director of the Defence Food Research Laboratory. In his last dispatch – 'Calling From Florida' – before returning home, to Mysore, Mr Srihari wrote about a visit to Maryland, and, what he termed, ‘a spin around’ Bethesda, the seat of the US National Institute of Health, which had funded many CFTRI research programmes in the 1960s. Speaking of the Mysore-based institute’s US connection our 70-year-young SOM correspondent recalled that Dr. B L Amia, a former CFTRI director, had worked for the World Bank in Washington DC in the 70s.

October 21, 2005

The Gowda-Murthy Affair

‘The Statesman’ headline was notable for its irreverence – ‘Gowda bites, Murthy quits as BIAL chief. And media reports on the Gowda-Murthy episode do not help further the cause of government-private sector partnership.
Mr Narayana Murthy appears no good in judging people, notably, politicians. He expected a measure of basic courtesy from Mr Deve Gowda; expected him to talk it out with him (Narayana Murthy), instead of rushing to the media to air his misgivings. The Infosys founder was wrong in expecting a coalition-dependent CM, Mr Dharam Singh, to speak up for BIAL chief and tell Mr Gowda what the score was.
Mr Narayana Murthy scarcely concealed his feeling of having been let down by the Dharam Singh government, which maintained stony silence in the face of uncharitable observations made by Mr Deve Gowda, against Mr Murthy as BIAL chairman. Politicians have a way with words. They are perfectly capable of passing off their prejudices as public perception; and fib, as facts. Our media can’t ignore politicians, and their ranting for propaganda mileage. What newspapers could, however, do is carry a message of caution, as it is done on a liquor bottle or a packet of cigarettes.
A newspaper item ought to carry a ‘reader advisory’, saying ‘this report, published in good faith, is a politician’s account that may not be substantiated by facts of the case, and its resemblance to reality, if any, is remote’

October 14, 2005

Sarkari Dasara, Not Our own

Watching ‘dasara’ telecast on our city channel I sensed a conspicuous lack of proactive public involvement in the proceedings. The parade looked so stage-managed and unexciting that is so typical of a ‘sarkari’ show. It was tough deciding which of the floats was least inspiring. In my reckoning the one depicting the evils of drinking takes the cake. The float displayed a poster-size painting of Gandhi and showcased a bottle labeled with the skull-and-cross-bones logo.
If the parade wasn’t much to write home about, the spectacle we presented elsewhere was pathetic. Take the helipad scene, telecast live on CM’s arrival in the city to flag off ‘Jamboo Savari’. Mr Dharam Singh was greeted by a group of women carrying plastic pots and squatting on tarmac. There were men angrily gesturing at the CM. He was in town to join the festivities and, and one would have thought, that as the chief guest Mr Dharam Singh deserved a cordial public welcome, cutting across party lines. Instead, we see TV footage of our first citizen, the city mayor, resorting to dharna, protesting the delay on the part of the government in the release of a Rs.50-lakh dasara grants.
Far from projecting the image of a ‘people’s dasara’, the TV footage substantiates the belief that it was a state-sponsored dasara, not our own. It turned out to be, not an occasion for all-round festivities, but an opportunity, for party political and group interests, to gain publicity mileage for furthering their own agenda.
It is not my case that the pot-carrying women and the mayor did not have legitimate, and pressing grievances. My point is that the agitators could have been discerning enough in their choice of venue to ventilate their grievances. They could have taken up their issues with CM at the circuit house or wherever he was staying. Incidentally, delay in the release of dasara grants until after the event illustrates the state of utter non-governance, of the government of the day.

See item - ‘Showcasing Mysore’ - on ‘Issues & Ideas’ web page.

October 12, 2005

The Dasara Anil Almost Missed

My young friend Anil has been away, in the US, for years, but retains his schoolboy fascination for Mysore. When I called him at Dallas during my recent US trip Anil said his thoughts were in Mysore, notably this time of the year – ‘you know, I haven’t seen dasara in ten years now’. He hoped to make it this time, if only the US consulate in Chennai would oblige him with an appointment in early October. He needs to renew his US visa and Anil said he was trying to seek online an interview at the visa section for Oct. 2. I presumed the US consulate didn’t oblige Anil, for I didn’t hear anything from him till I left the US on Oct.9.
A couple of days after my return to Mysore I heard from his uncle T V Raghottam Rao that Anil had made it here, after all, in time for ‘Jumbo Savari’. Well, then, as they say, where there is a will, (and an available air ticket) there is a way. I would like to have his take on Mysore Dasara, as Anil sees it after a gap of a decade.

October 7, 2005

Of Snakebite ‘n’ Whiskey

I haven’t met Snake Shyam. When I do, would sure want to ask him about the following: “Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite, and furthermore, always carry a small snake”. The snakebite tip is credited to W C Fields, actor who was known for his eccentric outlook and verbal gags. Fields might not have had the reputation of our Shyam when it comes to knowing reptiles. But then the advice Fields gave carried much spirit. It was thoughtful of him to have suggested we carry our own snake, in case we find ourselves at some place where there are no native reptiles to bite us.
Hawaii is a case in point, they say. There are no snakes indigenous to the island, but South American boas and Burmese pythons are reported to have been spotted in Hawaii. Presumably, alien reptiles found their way to Hawaii as ’small snakes’ in the baggage of people who also brought their own whiskey, just as Fields had prescribed.

October 6, 2005

Raju ‘Banega’ Green-card Holder

Hearing about plans to develop the Mandakalli airstrip into a regional airport my wife’s cousin Raju became nostalgic. He recalled Nehru’s visit to Mysore in the fifties, when, as a schoolboy, Raju had biked to Mandakalli, some 20 km from his native Nanjangud, to get a glimpse of the PM. We hired a bike for the ride, he said, from his daughter’s place in Philadelphia when we phoned him to say ‘bye’ as our US trip comes to an end.
Both his son and daughter are in the US. And Raju, after retirement, has been spending much of his time with them. “They want us, me and my wife, to move in here’, he says, adding that he is awaiting his green-card. As he says, there is nothing to holding him in Mumbai, where he spent his entire working life; and there is no one to go to, in Nanjangud, where he was born and brought up.
Raju, who has come a long way from a humble start in life at Nanjangud, switched himself into a flash-back mode he heard that my wife and I would be back in Mysore in a few days. Probably, he felt envious of us. For Mysore had meant ‘a lot of good time’ for Raju in his adolescence.
Mysore was where he used to go, for a film show, to watch a football game - “we biked there, double riding, from Nanjangud”. Two was company. Besides, the two of them, probably, split the bike hire charge (a rupee for 24 hrs.). Evening movie at Lakshmi Theatre cost eight annas a ticket. Raju and his friend bicycled back to Nanjangud after the show that ended well past midnight. That meant pedaling nearly 50 km, up and down, for an evening out in Mysore. Raju could have it all for a couple of rupees, or less, in the fifties.

October 4, 2005

The Way to an NRI’s Wallet

I reckon our Mysore cooks, from Ramya’s (butter masala), Mahesh Prasad (vada-sambar) or Vidyaranyapuram GTR (set-dosa), can make a killing, if only they can relocate themselves in the US. Where Indian food joints are a thriving business. In California Bay Area you find the Udipi, the Woodlands, the Bhimas, and the Saravanaa Bhavan. I am told Sri Krishna Sweets have joined the bandwagon.
During my current US trip we took a drive to Sunnyvale the other evening for an eat-out at Saravanaa Bhavan. It was a good 40-minute, on the freeway, at 60 mph, from my place, San Ramon. We had to wait for over 30 minutes for a table for four. A ‘dosa’ and ‘vada’ each, some sweet and two-by-three coffee (ordered two glasses to be shared among three) set us back by $50 plus. Which goes to show the lengths to which NRIs go for ‘desi’ food.
I don’t know about the way to his heart, but the way to an NRI’s wallet is through his stomach. They may be dime a dozen in Mysore, but cooks who can turn out a tasty meal are hard to come by in the ‘land of opportunities’. An enterprising ‘mami’ can find self-employment, if she has a way with the dishes. She can build up a client base of 10 or 15 working NRI couples.
The hired cook takes over the kitchen of each client for an evening every week, to cook food needed by the NRI couple for the entire week. The ‘mami’s’ sambar, palia and vattha kozhambu can be held in deep freeze. Cooking for other people’s deep-freeze can be developed as cottage industry.

October 3, 2005

New 'Avatar'

It has taken some time in coming. If it is of interest to anyone, other than my wife and our close friends, my son Ravi conceived of this myMysore ‘avatar’, around the time his wife Meera became pregnant. It is their first child. Ravi has since delivered; Meera is still expecting. Our grandson is due this December. They found out it would be a boy through ultra-sound test. In the country where they live, unlike in India, sex determination through ultra-sound is legit. It is the done thing, if only because enables the couple to agonize over a name, for weeks before baby’s arrival. The latest I hear is that three names have been short-listed. But unsolicited nominations from relatives and well-wishers are still coming.
Ravi’s dotcom ‘baby’ comes with a pre-set name – myMysore. In its new ‘avatar’, the website is simpler, slimmer and, I hope, more user-friendly. Besides, there is an add-on feature for the benefit of Mysoreans with flair for blogging.

Why do people blog? A website on Lahore – lists 15 bloggers-in-residence. Their reasons for blogging include:

  • I blog because I love Lahore (a Karachite studying in Lahore)
  • Wish to share my interests, which include chilling with friends, TV, browsing etc.
  • I blog because I am very, very bored
  • Because I hold conflicting opinions in my head, and agree with both
  • I love words, my food, and kite-flying on the Mall Roadn I can’t get enough of the city I love