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

March 29, 2009

Jai Ho democracy

The Indian election mercury is rising & the cacophony of the worlds largest exercise in electoral franchise is reaching a fever pitch. Indian Politics & elections are noisy and messy , the interminable debates & tamasha makes interesting viewing on TV, IPL anyway dint stand a chance. It could be described as nautanki at its best, the political realignments that are shaping is a good example to cite. Are the wily politicians smelling the votes & the voter moods in advance? The sight on the Gaddi is seen to be blinding political & ideological leanings. The Election commission in its act appears to be a harried shepherd trying to reign in wayward sheep’s scurrying in all possible directions with its guidelines & diktats. They are not dealing with sheep's though, wolves would be a apt comparison. No wonder this cacophony gets replicated in the parliament when it begins its act after the elections. The poor old fellow, Somnath Chatterjee, the erstwhile speaker of the last hustling was so exasperated with these unruly fellows that he blurted in its final session ‘ the people are watching your shameful act & will punish you in the elections’.

Compare this with the meeting of the people representatives of the People’s republic of China . The image flashes of orderliness & tranquil equilibrium of the thousands of delegates behind a massive auditorium & its red mascot. But this is like any of the images that the bamboo curtain dishes out to the outside world. Remember the opening ceremony of Beijing Olympics? Perfect it had to be , the state had gone the distance to show superimposed images of fireworks displays just in case the actual ones did not explode while cute kids lip synched songs for others which the state did not deem attractive. In both instances the state dished out its projected image – about the system that symbolises perfection, about its collective harmony that operates like one big efficient machine.

The nanga naach of our democracy does not make interesting sight nor sound or can hold it own against the efficiency or orderliness of above. But like the squalor of ‘Slumdog millionaire’ it does tell a story of its own that may have a more universal appeal than that of closed societies which build a facade that hides more than it shows. Indian democracy seems to be an antithesis to such systems/societies, it challenges consensus & tranquil equilibrium and many a times common sense, deifies individuals over the system but at the end of the day works to provide power to its people to choose its aspirations through the ballot boxes. There is no contrived cheer or made up images neither are bullets or tanks to stop them like in Tiananmen Square. Jai Ho democracy!

March 21, 2009

Sandalwood @75

I picked the last issue of Sudha for its cover story on Sandalwood (i mean the Kannada film industry) turning 75. It made interesting read, for someone who grew up on copious amounts of its influence in the far away towns of North Karnataka no amounts of words or reams of thoughts can explain its phenomenon. So I’ll restrict myself to a some random nostalgic soliloquies. This is one wood that is supposed to bear a symbolic semblance to its more famous product from this part of the country. The actual sandalwood, it’s said matures well with age adding to its lustre & smell. It becomes precious. But the same cannot be said of this Sandalwood which has been ageing in the reverse order,it has been mired in problems, some of its own creation & some to external forces.
A lot of my friends from outside the state and settled in Bangalore cannot comprehend the phenomenon of its mascot Dr.Rajkumar. His pictures dot many a public places but many have not heard or seen him. They will not because he was a shy & reticent person who avoided public glare unlike most people today. His films belonged to the 1950s -80s period (he was on the wane in the 1990s) & he reigned over a different cult of commercial cinema that has very little semblance to current genre of films. He carried the reputation of the Industry in its fledgling years & it is said that the last point of his film distributed in the region marked the territory of the film Industry. His golden voice & his song numbers added to his vast repertoire of talent and immense popularity cutting across all section of the audience. He came from a strong theatre background & his films in many ways espoused his personality which was steeped in simplicity & good values. Yet it’s sad to see many groups use & abuse his name for parochial gains.

Sandalwood also churned out an amazing array of cinematic talent in the Acting, Filmmaking, Music fields that finds little peer today. Maybe it’s got to do with the lack of Institutional support & framework and partly to the dying Theatre culture that once flourished under stalwarts like Gubbi Veeranna that fed it with a constant stream of talent. Puttanna Kanagal in my opinion was the equivalent of Satyagit Ray to the Industry in terms of sheer quality & the ‘hat-ke’ themes of his films. The duo of Ragan-Nagendra in the 1960 -80 period brought in melody of pure brilliance on par if not better than the best in the country of its times.
There were several Actors & Actresses who also held immense sway over the imagination of masses. But 2 of them hold almost mystical sway, maybe because of their untimely & tragic deaths. Its Shankar Nag & Kalpana. Shankar Nag was brilliant in portraying the common man, his one film ‘Auto Shankar’ made in the mid 80s was so popular that most auto-wallahs in Bangalore still carry his photographs. He is well known outside the state as director of the immensely popular TV serial ‘Malgudi Days’, he brilliantly & almost with perfectionist zeal recreated the fictional Karnataka town which was the base of RK Narayan’s stories. Kalpana on the other hand ruled the industry in the 1960 -70s but was far ahead of her times. Others who left their mark were Ambarish (anti hero), Vishnuvardhan (the challenger), Anant Nag, Manjula, Jayanthi, among lots others. One cannot also forget greats like Rajnikanth, Illayaraja, Yesudas, SP Balasubramaniam & Kamal Hassan who have been associated with Sandalwood for decades.
One redeeming feature of the Industry has been to hold its own among other more influential Tamil & Telugu film industries by churning its creative outputs on the vast body of original literary works in Kannada. Some of its most memorable & National/Int’l award winning films have come from the works of local literary greats like TK Ramarao, Girish Karnad, UR Ananthamurthy, BV Karanth, Gorur Ramaswamy Iyengar among others . And the remake culture is threatening that. It is sincerely hoped that the current torch bearers in the Industry like Girish Kasarvalli , Manoharmurthy & Jayant kaikini among others will place it back on its pedestal.

March 14, 2009

The new Blue Gold?

Around the same time last year (20th march 2008 to be precise) I visited the Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi to inquire about the Conferencing facilities for an International Business event planned by Milagrow. What surprised me most was the apparent ease with which I and my excolleague & friend (Anurag Vijaywat) slipped in without being frisked or checked in this heavily guarded complex. ‘Water’ was the main theme of the event that day, I guess they were celebrating World water day 2008 in the main conference hall and that brings me to this blog piece.

It is a known fact that 97% of our planet is salt water, 3% is pure water which is sufficient for all species on earth if you factor in Annual rainfall. It also sustains a $35 Billion a year market for global bottled water market. Blame it partly on the major commodity bull run that we witnessed recently and some to the growing scarcity in some parts of the globe especially major cities, the new questions being asked are; Is water the new oil (Knowledge@wharton)? Is it what speculators now call it- the new blue gold?

A trend has started in USA where water speculators have started to buy large tracts of land to gain control over aquifers. A report in Business week some time back talked of T Boons Pickens (a former corporate raider) buying 68000 acres of Texas land that holds substantial underground water reserve. The article goes on to say how Pickens could be the single largest individual water owner in USA. Call him the ‘water baron’ or ‘commodity raider’ or whatever but he surely has plans to sell lots of it especially to Dallas by transporting almost 65 billion gallons a year over 250 miles. It may soon happen in India too , Anil Ambani & his new found penchant for Natural resources (RNRL) may soon find out that India too has large tracts of wasteland & plenty of water below it . Actually ONGC is already on it, billed as “ONGC Project Saraswati” , the company as a part of its CSR is aiming to find deep acquifers in Rajasthan. The project is Aptly named after the mythical river , that some believe vanished after the desertification of Thar Area.

Water is also becoming a main issue in the geopolitical relations not only within the country but surrounding it too. So not only are states like Karnataka-Tamil Nadu, Haryana-Punjab,TN-Kerala are warring over this issue but also India-Pakistan (Indus barrage),India –Bangladesh (Ganges), India –Nepal and recently China has come into purview. China’s growing interest in Arunachal Pradesh & its annexation of Tibet is being linked to the acute water shortage it’s facing in the mainland. Unlike India which has 9.56% of its surface area covered with water china has just 2.8%. With rapid urbanization it requires humongous amounts of water which it partly got by controlling 1700 Km of the Yangbo river which is the Tibetian part of the Brahmaputra. The remaining 2900Km of this river flows into India through Arunachal Pradesh which experts believe it’s now eying through territorial dispute.

In India water supply is sadly a state subject and therefore grossly mismanaged. The water pricing like any state utility is heavily subsidized & therefore results in under recovery of operating & capital outlay costs. Water like electricity also faces distribution losses upto 70% due to faulty supply pipes & leakages but yet nothing spurs the system for efficiency & conservation. It is another known fact that in major cities in India, the tanker mafia who are hand in gloves with local municipal authorities influence water supply in certain areas and create water shortages to enable their trade to flourish. As I am writing this we are already grappling with this shortage in my Apartment & summer has just begun.

March 1, 2009

India –Africa Bhai Bhai

No,I am not reinventing the jingoism of the Nehruvian panchasheel era but expressing the genuine bonhomie that can be seen between the 2 continental landmasses of late . Africa-India summit in New Delhi, April 2008 and the India-Africa Business partnership summit during 19-20 January 2009 in New Delhi are barometers of this growing affinity that may be partly driven by shared history and partly due to geopolitical alignments that are taking shape.

I attended the latter event recently and got to hobnob and interact with about 250 delegates from 32 countries in Africa. I interacted with several delegates among them in the B2B meetings & conference sidelines and learnt a great deal to share & learn from them. The beauty of such international conferences is that you get to meet people of diverse cultures & backgrounds (even in Africa!) and is quite an experience. Africa is emerging out of its darkness and politicians & mandarins alike opined that the time in History has come for it along with sub continental India to take their rightful place among the comity of nations. MoS for external affairs Anand Sharma made quite a learned & thought provoking speech on the occasion, quite a refreshing change for the dull & drab neta’s that you usually see in such circuits in the Capitol Hill.

India’s famed progress in IT doesn’t quite excite the Africans’ for they are still struggling on basic agenda pertaining to Education, Food, Energy & Health care. Most of the delegates echoed their need for proper hospitals, energy equipments, food processing industry & Infrastructure support like roads and bridges. And there were plenty of Indian companies in the conference waiting to offer them.
Interacting with them dawned upon me small nuggets of wisdom like a few below
• Ethiopians are the closest to Indians in cultural semblance, their music shows great affinity to Indian music.
• Kenyans are generally not great marathoners as generally believed, it all boils down to one tribe called ‘Kalenjins’ which lives on high altitude areas in Kenya.
• Knowing French is one of the easier gateways to quickly deal & settle down for business with many African nations

I also came across a lot of Businessmen of Indian origin who have ventured deep into the Dark Continent and into countries like Rwanda, Burundi, & Cape Verde. And they are doing well going by the feedback of their African counterparts.

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