About the Blog

This is my diary....what I make sense of, around me. You'll find short prose on contemporary topics that interest me. What can you expect - Best adjectives? …. hmm occasionally, tossed around flowery verbs ?…. Nope, haiku-like super-brevity? … I try to. Thanks for dropping by & hope to see you again

November 28, 2008

Remembering Mandal Cha Raja

Like the Lalbaug cha Raja, a massive idol of Lord Ganesh that is installed in Mumbai every year, this raja of Manda strode tall in the political space in the late 80s & early 90s with his mandal plank of providing 27% reservations to OBC in Govt Jobs in India. I have distinct recollection of the not so happy memories of my college days when this issue erupted & how? And at the center of it was its chief protagonist, VP Singh who died yesterday.

Come to think of it, he heralded the defining moments of Indian political space which had begun to emerge out of one party dominance in India. The Mandal & Mandir issues gripped mass psyche on either sides of the political spectrum almost at the same time. The mandalization of politics, as I recollect inflamed passions & created mass student appraisal like never seen before. The immolation of Rajeev Goswami in Delhi at that time really captured the popular sentiment among the youths of that period. The forces of Liberalization had not yet been unleashed, and for many students like me, Government jobs were a logical career aspiration. But in one stroke it appeared that VP Singh took all the dreams away. I have never seen, before or after , the vigorousness of the uprising and vociferous protests by the students & masses. The main street of Belgaum was a sea of humanity protesting & marching to the Deputy commissioners office on the day of protest & submitting the memorandum. The scene was replicated in almost every small & big city in India at that time. As the College Miscellany secretary , I led a bunch of protesters shutting down classes in RLS Institute & Lingaraj college at that time. And in the process I ran into the fiery & feared teacher Prof.Malali who was taking his classes. Instead of scowling & firing me , which he was notorious for, he told me come on to the class stage (the old Lingaraj college had classes with a raised platform for teachers) & express whatever angst I had, and in no uncertain terms. He was not ready to disperse his class and I had no options.

Waves & waves of similar protests erupted from every city in India, big or small. It was as though there was another mass uprising in the country after the Quit India movement but this time against the Government & its policies.VP Singh faded away soon after, ill health gripped him which some attribute to the moral & mental baggage that he carried from this misadventure. A tinge of mixed nostalgia remains through his death.

November 11, 2008

The case of missing sparrows


Last week I drove down to Mysore on a Business visit in the the company of my friend & Business colleague Madhu Shetty, who I must say kept me in humored conversation throughout the 5 Hour to & fro drive with his unique perspectives & insights on many mundane things like Palaces, Politics, Business etc., As we stopped by the Deputy Commissioners (DC) office for a scheduled business meeting with the DC , my attention drew to 2 large black Siberian cranes strolling in the vast open lawns surrounding the DC’s office. I turned to Madhu & wondered how such exotic birds wandered in the open & that too in the middle of the city? He was quick to remind me that the birds were from the nearby Rangantittu bird sanctuary and as he lit one of his countless cigarettes asked me a rather innocuous question; have you seen any Sparrows in the open now a days?

As I set myself wondering & recollecting my flash Grey memory as to the last time I saw a sparrow in the open, it suddenly struck me that HE WAS RIGHT! It has been ages since I heard the relentless chirping of house Sparrows and their common sight that I had been used to in my childhood days. Now making up a case for a missing small common bird may be insignificant compared to issues like Global warming & other larger environmental issues we face today but is a definite pointer to the relentless pressure that rapid urbanization & development is exerting on the Habitat of such Birds . Madhu went on to say that the proliferation of low frequency electromagnetic waves that we use in today’s ICT (information & communication technology) applications may have driven this birds away. That may well be true but there could be other reasons as well - Fewer trees, polluted air, rising temperature and dipping water tables. Take the case of Bangalore, a study done by Indian Institute of Science (IISc) points that urban development has taken away 65% of the vegetation during the last 2 decades. Now that means far lesser greenery that is so vital for the birds feeding & nesting habits. Rapid concrete cover is effecting a twin blow, it is reducing greenery & at the same time depleting ground water table since bore wells spring up simultaneously. Tress can sustain ground water table that in turn sustains greenery and the birds but all this is getting destroyed in a vicious cycle of urban side effects. There is another angle to this issue, trees like Gulmohur , a native of Madagascar & an icon of Bangalore greenery is not suited as nesting tree for birds . So are Eucalyptus and Acadia , that are used to provide artificial green cover are not native trees and neither to they provide natural habitat for the birds and insects nor do good for the soil.

A small silver lining to this problem is that of late many Pvt Cos and Social groups have come together to bring back the Green cover to the city . The former funding the social initiatives of the latter as a part of their Corporate Social responsibility (CSR) programmes.

November 4, 2008

Presidential ticker

As the final lap of the presidential race gets over , one can’t help get over the withdrawal symptoms of what has been the end of another soap like saga on television. For some time now, we have been witnessing all the twists & turns , hopes & frustrations and of course lot of media innuendos & political gibbeckry on this seminal event . No other reality show comes even close. Strip all the paraphernalia surrounding this event to its bare essentials and what you get to witness is two contenders for what Dan Brown would call ‘a position of Power’. I am talking of a position of power that has been endlessly glorified & mystified in countless Hollywood flicks and novels adding to the aura surrounding the post. So essentially what would be the 5 things about this job that the 2 contenders Barack or McCain be after? Here’s my list

1. Party conclaves & Campaign : The run up show is no less grandeur than the one culminating in the taking of Oath & secrecy. No other reality show can even stand up to this, one massive PR exercise choreographed masterfully to the last frame. The confetti’s, the audience with picture perfect placards, the light & razzmatazz and of course the carefully rehearsed dialogues & punch lines of the candidates can even put Terminator dialogues to shade. A whole battery of Poll wizards, spin doctors & Communication and presentation specialists and Campaign strategists make up this jamboree.

2. 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue : This boxlike stone structure with hipped roof, balustrade and columnar entrance designed by architect James Hoban maybe the smallest presidential mansion in the world but has unrivaled power & prestige .Nicknamed the Loo, Dick’s den, the Clinton bedroom etc , the most dominating aspect of the Oval office is said to be the colorful American eagle emblazoned on the room’s oval carpet. The eagles left talon clutches an olive branch and his right a bundle of arrows. It is said that during times of peace, the eagle faced left –towards olive branch but in times of war it faced right –towards the arrows.

3. Presidential retreat : Established as "Shangri-La" by President Franklin Roosevelt, it was subsequently renamed Camp David by Dwight Eisenhower. Serves the President, providing the First Family and their guests with solitude and tranquility and uniquely private place to work or relax. It is said that George Bush has officially spent 365 days — a full year — at Camp David in his tenure. You can actually go on hunting trips in its vast woods & accidentally shoot a friend like Dick Cheney did.

4. The Nuclear briefcase/Nuclear command: The black briefcase with the codes to engage & activate USA's arsenal of Land & Sea based nuclear weapons is one hell of a gadget that the president carries everywhere and everybody is wary of . It’s the ultimate silver bullet that the president can bite & bomb the earth to its Cretaceous era. The Russians have an equivalent one, code-named Cheget just to keep the president in check and play a game of cat & mouse if it comes to it.

5. Airforce One : This machine is the commander-in-chief’s portable home court in which he often flies to other countries in peace times while in war times is safely tucked away a couple of thousand feet away in sky. Mockingly called the ‘the flying phallus’ for its 6-foot-high letters trumpeting UNITED STATES OF AMERICA on its fuselage intimidating & mimicking the power influence and muscle inside, it has over 4000 Sq ft of interior floor space, including 4 separate sleeping quarters, berths for 26 member flight crew & 2 galleys capable of providing food for 50 people.

November 1, 2008

Rajyotsava ruminations

Today is Karnataka Rajyothsava and this year celebrations have more pomp and gaiety since Kannada has been official recognized as a ‘classical’ language along with Tamil & Telugu. On this occasion my thoughts echo on  linguistic activism and its proponents.

I find a  disturbing trend  of the so called groups/associations taking the self imposed mantle of protecting its rights and interests and project it as representative of the community. I am saying this because a small marginal group with dubious intentions and political agenda are usurping at the cost of silent majority.

And sadly the intelligentsia and people who matter most belongs to the latter. To put this thought in perspective it will be important to note that people who have richly contributed to the progress and development of Kannada language has been people who spoke other languages and vice versa.

Four out of the seven Kannada Jnanpith laureates have other languages as their mother tongue. D R Bendre spoke Marathi, Masti Venkatesh Iyengar spoke Tamil, Shivaram Karanth came from the Tulu heartland while Girish Karnad spoke Konkani. Many other important writers in Kannada – D V Gundappa (Telugu), T P Kailasam (Tamil), P T Narsimhachar (Tamil), G P Rajarathnam (Tamil), Tarasu (Telugu), Samsa (Tamil), Na Kasturi (Malyalam), Gorur Ramaswamy Iyengar (Tamil) among others did not have Kannada as their mother tongue.

The first person to prepare a comprehensive compendium of Kannada – English dictionary with 70,000 words was a German, Rev F.Kittel in the 19th Century. My relative K Madhav Pai (Konkani) has distilled the complex meta philosophical Kannada couplets of D V Gundappa (DVG) in 2 lucid books in Kannada called Kaggokti Sampada, Part 1&2.

Even when it came to representing the political interests of the community, Veerappa Moily (Tulu) and Dharam Singh (Rajput - Hindi) have been elected as state chief ministers and had long chequered political careers. Similarly Kannidagas like Guru Sri Raghavendra & E V Periyar have vastly influenced other regions in the Religious & Political space. The former is a revered saint with large following in 3 southern Indian states of AP, Karnataka & Tamil Nadu while the latter was a prominent figure in the Dravidian movement in Tamil Nadu.

Bilingualism is something that flourishes in our state, and many people including me speak two languages (Kannada  & Konkani). Karnataka is probably the only state which is microcosm of many distinct ethnic and linguistic communities , and I am not talking of Bangalore alone, the Tuluvas,Kodavas, Konkani’s, Kshatriya Marathas, Jainas are all very distinct ethnic communities with sizeable populations and history and all have symbiotically blended into the state cultural and social milieu. The Karnataka tourism tagline is very apt “One state many worlds” and would make any anthropologist's delight.

The Kannada language itself has various forms, when one talks of Kannada, it is not a singular tongue, but one with many dialects. For instance, Mysore Kannada, Hyderabad Kannada, Mangalore Kannada, Dharwad Kannada, Coimbathur Kannada and so on.

However on the eve of its 52 Anniversary, it is a fact that Kannada language & culture is facing relentless pressures of modern times and the various facets of this anxiety is well captured by Sugata srinivasaraju in his seminal book “Keeping faith with the mother tongue” , a must read for anybody interested in this topic .

(some of the facts stated in this article has been taken from this Book)

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