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