Neither Right, Nor Honourable

Subhash Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh – deliberately suppressed
A NEWS ITEM about an Indian being killed in Canada, made a young relative comment that it must be the work of a ‘nigga gang’

This is the popular conception — that negroes (nigga gang) — are all evil. In the US many teenage blacks,innocent and not armed, get shot dead by police who ‘presume’ that they were armed, just because they are black.

Becoming‘, Michelle Obama’s new book, speaks of several cases of such racial discrimination. The entre problem of racialism is addressed without any bitterness, in sharp contrast with the ‘Dalit’ debate in India. On the other hand, when blacks get shot President Donald Trump argues they are to blame for not being armed. Indians know how prevalent victim-blaming is there in this country.
Guns are not free. Most blacks cannot afford them. Big money from guns makes the National Rifle Association (NRA) so powerful that it runs USA. No party can touch them.

It reminds me of freedom fighter Rt.Hon. Srinivasa Sastry, one of the top experts in English. Chided by the Principal of his college for not wearing a shirt,he replied: ‘Sir, if I had money to buy a shirt, I’d have bought a book with it.’

Perhaps you have never heard of Rt.Hon. Srinivasa Sastry (always addressed as Rt. Hon. and never just Mr or Sri) History in India is written and taught for generations to suit one dynasty.

Rt. Hon
Rightly honourable

Valangaiman Sankaranarayana Srinivasa Sastri, CH PC, was an Indian politician, administrator, educator, orator and an activist in the Indian freedom struggle, acclaimed for his oratory and command over the English language.

Srinivasa Sastri was born to a poor temple priest in the village of Valangaiman near Kumbakonam, India. — says Wikipedia. Today he would have been condemned by the ‘liberals’ as a Brahmin.

Born on September 22, 1869, he died on April 17, 1946 at Mylapore in Chennai.

It is said there was a dispute about the pronunciation of a word in the British House of Commons. An MP said his was correct: he had heard Rt.Hon. Srinivasa Satry pronounce it that way!

Gandhiji took him to the London Round Table Conference on India’s freedom struggle to draft the English resolutions. The shirt story NEVER fails to bring tears to my eyes, even if I tell it 100 times. But we know nothing about him but know all about third-rate White leaders and writers.

Many, born in Telangana, never heard of the,20-year-old Urdu newspaper editor Shoebullah Khan of Imroze, brutally killed by Razahars (now MIM) for opposing the accession of Nizam’s state of Hyderabad to Pakistan.

All because Congress wanted to deny that Sardar Patel and many others, like Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Subhash Chandra Bose, Maghfoor Ahmed Ajazi, Rani Laxmi Bai of Jhansi, Veer Savarkar, Rajguru, Chandrasekhar Azad, Prafulla Chandra Roy, Rasbehari Bose, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Alluri Seetarama Raju and thousands more, played any role in freedom struggle.
Alluding to all of them as dogs, the party’s Lok Sabha leader Kharge said “not a dog barked” for freedom when only the Nehru family and Congress were fighting for it. He, obviously, does not know that Congress then was not a political party but and umbrella organisation – a movement – under which all, including socialists and Hindu groups, functioned. Then one family appropriated it by naming its party Congress and falsely calling themselves Gandhi.

British called M. K. Gandhi a “half-naked fakir.” Congress wanted to do even better.

It ignored all others but Nehru and his dynasty. All others are dogs.
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Journalism of Fake News Era


Lt. Col. Sandeep Ahlawat (courtesy: SOLDIERING)
HAVING BEEN A journalist since 1956 (though first newspaper appointment letter only in 1958) I am dismayed at today’s journalism of Fake News, paid news and sensationalism for TRPs.

It was therefore heartening to see the rejoinder of Lt. Col. Sandeep to a cartoon published by The Economic Times equating the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) to a housing society guard.

‘Liberals’ who were silent when thousands of Kashmiri pandits were uprooted and thrown out of J&K are now shedding copious tears for Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar as India refused to admit them.

A political party which lives on vote bank politics may have inspired their sorrow. As it is a Times of India group publication, I presume it may not be a case of paid news.

I take the liberty to publish the entire rejoinder here:

Dear Economic Times/Mr R Prasad,
Your Cartoon on (my Chief of Army Staff and) the Chief of the Army Staff of the second largest Army in the world is hopelessly distasteful, and downright repugnant and flawed on the following counts.

1. A guard at the housing society is not responsible for the territorial integrity of the housing society but CAOS is responsible for the territorial integrity of the Republic of India!!

2. A guard at the housing society does not put his life in the line of fire when situations like 26/11 happen but COAS and his men will not let a Kasab and Co inflict death and mayhem on our countrymen, come what may!! Remember the heart warming sight of soldiers slithering down the chopper, yes… the then COAS had ordered them??

3. A guard at housing society will not land a chopper at rooftop to save a pregnant lady and her unborn child but COAS and his men will stand between nature’s fury and our countrymen like a rock of Gibraltar!!

4. Guard at the housing society does not receive body bags of his men at technical area of Palam airport every alternate day, but COAS does this with a heavy heart and a bleeding soul and he and only he understands the pain of saluting the mortal remains of our fallen comrade !!

5. Last but not the least the guard at the housing society has not taken an oath to serve the Union of India, observe and obey all commands of the President of India even to the peril of his live. COAS and his men will save both the constitution and the Editorial staff of Economic time even at the cost of certain death so that you live in free India and exercise their FoE with Impunity!!

Warm regards,
A hurt serving officer of Indian Army.
Lt Col. Sandeep Ahlawat
Armoured Corps.

PS. Mr R Prasad, please don’t take advantage of the fact that ….. you as a cartoonist enjoy full complement of constitutional rights along with fruits of freedom which the COAS has provided you at the cost of his and his men’s life. Please show some character and don’t brutalise the hon

our of the only organisation that not only keeps the nation together but keeps it “First” always and every time!! And yes illegal migrants must be deported forthwith because you and your ilk do not understand National Security and business of war fighting just as I and my tribe does not understand the business of making cartoons!!

About Sandeep Ahlawat

Lt. Col. Sandeep Ahlawat is a serving officer in Indian Army. Previously, He had sent a legal notice to Twinkle Khanna and Akshay Kumar when they wanted to auction the “Original Naval Officers Uniform” that Akshey Kumar had worn in movies Rustom. The star couple had to withdraw the auction after Col Ahlawat’s objection


Go Go…Goa


Beautiful sunset scene at a Goa beach
VISITING  GOA IS, today, considered the very symbol of romanticism. Goa is not only the ‘honeymoon destination’ but also the one for those who want to renew the thrill of being married.
News from Goa is mostly either about health of Manohar Parrikar or about flesh trade by women coming from Uzbekistan, Russia or one of the countries around them.
Tell-tale sign board in Goa

Years ago, it was about hippies coming there in large numbers and sunbathing, often nude,  on the beaches – to the chagrin of the locals. Protests over the nudism were frequently in news.

The Rajbhavan of Goa has very picturesque surroundings and every visitor should see it.
When I went to Goa decades ago,  Nakul  Sain, Congress leader Ambika Soni’s father, was the Lt. Governor  of Goa (then a union territory). He asked me what was the most striking thing about Goa.
I said it was that the people were very conservative and not ‘mod’  –  unlike the image of Mumbai Goans.
He told me the reason: When the Portuguese invasion came  villagers en bloc became Catholic just changing surnames, with the village inner  power structure unchanged. Joshis became D’Costas,  Chavans became Fonsecas and so on.
Customs remained the same. So was the region’s culture.
A Catholic bride wore green bangles and went to the famous Mangesh temple from the Cathedral after marriage – or so I was told then. In Mangesh temple, a modern brick and mortar structure, there is a protocol: locals  stand first in a row (they stand in  two rows not yo  block a view of the sanctum and  light from a mirror is reflected from outside on the idol at aarati time).
And that local may be a Catholic. Hindus visited the superb Cathedrals too. Hindu-Christian rivalry came much later when Congress resorted to caste politics
Konkani is spoken by all locals, with Christians writing it in Roman script and others in Devnagari (Marathi). So there is a Konkani daily newspaper in Roman and another in Marathi script.
Only when you are in Goa do you realise Konkani has a good literature and cultural heritage.  I was invited there to a Konkani poets’ seminar of on the impact Telugu poet Sri Sri on Konkani poetry.
The invite came when I went to a “Sankranti celebration” by a Telugu organisation and found a very poor veedhinatakam or nautanki  (poor, amateurish, show) being performed.
The man sitting next to me (who later  invited me to the seminar) responding to my sarcastic comment on it, said  they were all labourers who were building a bridge on Mandovi river at Panaji . (The bridge, in Panaji or Panjim, collapsed later.)
The organisation lent them the stage as they were homesick,  being away for a long time.
He told me they all come from one or two villages of Medak district (Telangana)  and are called Palamur (original name of the place) labour, a form of bonded labour where a lump sum is paid in advance and the entire joint family (except one brother who stays back to look after the house or land) goes to work.
All major Indian projects including Bhakra Nangal and Koyna were built by them as they are specialists in earth work, I was told.
I thought it (overnight conversion and Palamur labour) was good information. Now it would be called “unnecessary trash” and not as interesting as Taimur Khan’s diaper changes widely covered by our TV channels.
It was the pre-Google era. Now it would be considered “rubbish”.

Thanksgiving? There is Much to be Thankful for

WHAT ARE YOU thankful for? A grandchild asked in the USA where Thanksgiving Day (last Thursday) is a big occasion.

I could not think of anything. That’s perhaps the reason why the day is not celebrated in India.

My ‘nothing’ shocked everyone. Are you not thañkful for being alive? No. I always wanted to end a meaningless and futile existence.

For your family? It only gives me pain – when I realise I am only a burden.

For all the good things you have had in life? I realise that they were all because of others. I did nothing to deserve them. My (late) wife and children tolerated my shortcomings and their good deeds were rewarded with my not causing them any more problems than I already created.

I could have come for just a few days – not months just to justify the big cost of flying here. But I realised it too late.

These are facts I cannot do anything about now.

Yes. There is much to be thankful for… that at almost 80 the end (hopefully) is not far away.

‘Have a Nice Day’


SPOOFS ABOUT Yama Doots (Angels of Death), their Lord, Yamraj, and his accountant, Chitragupta, who keeps records of everyone’s sins (Pap) and good deeds (Punya) must be a part of the memories of most who grew up in India, whatever his/her language. They must have come across these in books, films and dramas.

But to hear a Western version of this in an audiobook, Have A Nice Day by Billy Crystal and his team, an original from Amazon’s Audible the audiobook site, is an exhilarating experience. We have heard of ‘Indian versions’ of many Hollywood films, some very bad and some good like Pach Adams (Munnabhai MBBS in Hindi) and Mrs Doubtfire (which Kamal Hasan copied) both starring Billy Crystal’s friend Robbin Williams, but an Indian concept borrowed by Hollywood is rare.

Billy Crystal
Bill Crystal

William Edward (Billy) Crystal the American actor, writer, producer, director, comedian, and television host is famous for his ‘The Tonight Show’. Made famous for playing Jodie Dallas on the ABC sitcom Soap in the 1970s he became a Hollywood film star during the late 1980s and 1990s, appearing in the critical and box office successes When Harry Met Sally…, City Slickers, and Analyze This. He also provided the voice of Mike Wazowski in the Monsters, Inc. franchise.

The United States of America has many actors and hosts who are equally famous – but is almost unique in one aspect. He has been married to one woman, Janice, for 48 years! It must be astounding – for an American, that too in the entertainment industry.

Billy has been critical of President Donald Trump in the his talk show and it is, therefore, all the more significant that Have A Nice Day (which is more of a play-reading by Billy and his colleagues) is about a Yama Doot (‘Man Without Name’, voiced by Billy himself) trying to take to the nether world, a POTUS (President of the United States), D. Murray who could be on the verge of separation from his wife.

The Agent of Death who agrees to wait till a minute before midnight (as the has to take the south on that date and the day ends only at midnight), invisibly follows Murray as he tries to make amends for his lapses and realises that they person destined to die was the daughter of the POTUS who was Dalila, though called Laila.

When the POTUS tries to prevent her death in a car accident by sacrificing his own life, the Yama Doot realising the greatness of such a sacrifice makes Death’s Front Office (Chitragupta) agree to take his (Yam Doot’s) soul in place of that of D. Murray – a touching end to a hilarious play.

A small book of only 1 hour 24 minutes’ reading, with a big message.

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Books Forgotten, But Worth Reading

Elizabeth C. Gaskell

THE SOCRATIC concept of true knowledge is the ability to know how little one knows. The world’s greatest scientist, Newton compared all known knowledge to one grain of sand on a beach. These equally apply to books: Those who are regarded as well-read or voracious readers know that they had read a microscopic fraction of all the good books written – even in one genre. And some great books are forgotten and remain almost unknown.

One lifetime is not enough to read all the works (including the critical analyses and interpretations) of the books of only Shakespeare in English or of Kalidasa in Sanskrit.

That was, perhaps, how the sarcastic adage that “Classics are books everyone knows about, but no one reads” came into being. But, though unread, classics are known.

Millions of people go through their entire lives without reading a single book (except class books mugged up to pass exams) and talk derisively of ‘bookish knowledge’ or proud of learning from life as ‘graduates of the school of knocks.’ A few authors are known for one or two of their books but many of their works are lost in history,

Will Durant, the American author and philosopher, is famous for his classic ‘ The Story of Civilisation’. How many know of his ‘The Case for India’? The book moved me so much that I felt the government should have bought millions of its copies to distribute them free to anyone who can read English. Another of his books, Our Oriental Heritage also would have made India proud.

I once toyed with the idea of pirating ‘The Case for India’ and distributing it free to thousands or making it a free e-book.

Some very good books are forgotten and stay unknown, hidden under the dust of history. I (and perhaps most readers) had not heard of Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, a contemporary of the great Charles Dickens in the mid-1800s.I would never have known about her if I was not listening to an audiobook of D.H. Lawrence, found it boring and moved on to readers’ comments. One of them said Gaskell’s ‘Mary Barton’ was much more interesting. I had not even heard of her and downloaded that audio book.

Besides Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life” she also wrote A Dark Night’s Work, The Grey Woman, The Life of Charlotte Bronte. My Lady Ludlow, Round the Sofa, North and South, Mr Harrison’s Confession, Wives and Daughters, Ruth, Cousin Phillis, Cranford and the Cage at Cranford, The Moorland Cottage, Sylvia’s Lover and The Pastor’s Wife.

All these books are available on the free audiobook site, Librivox. I would not have known about the book had I not discovered, due to the fear of impending blindness, audiobook sites (I subscribe to several such sites) and Librivox, a site which has most books whose copyright had expired, enabling them to be put ‘in public domain’ with the help of volunteers who read them. Librivox also has an e-book version GuteBooks for those who can read on screen.

ALL the books by Gaskell have received 4, 4.5 or 5-star (out of 5) ratings from the listeners. Some books are available in more than one version, read by a different person.

Here is a writer-up on the book by Martin Geeson, on the Librivox site:

Mary Barton was Elizabeth Gaskell’s first full-length novel. It was published anonymously in that tumultuous year of political change, 1848 – only a few months after the Communist Manifesto co-authored by her fellow Manchester-resident, Friedrich Engels. Engels’s experience as agent in his father’s cotton-spinning factory motivated him to write “The Condition of the Working Class in England”, a classic account of the sufferings of the poor under the factory-system.

Elizabeth Gaskell’s own personal contact with the plight of the poor cotton workers of Lancashire also compelled her to a compassionate examination of their lives; but as a middle-class woman, married to an Unitarian minister, her approach to her subject took on a more emotionally complex significance; influenced by religious faith but also by more personal considerations. In the brief preface to the novel, Mrs Gaskell hints at her initial impulse. The loss of a beloved child in infancy led her to seek a therapeutic outlet, but one which left her uncertain of her capacity to contextualize her public, writerly response to the tragedies occurring in the surrounding society of Manchester’s poorest classes:
“I know nothing of Political Economy, or the theories of trade…” She was, however, determined to portray, in novelistic form, the intimate connection between the private experience of her characters and the social forces of her time. The success of the novel led her to proclaim her authorship and move on to further works of fiction, which have secured her in our times a mounting reputation as one of the leading novelists of the mid-Victorian period.
Certainly, the novel features numerous death-scenes, all conveyed with a depth of sympathy that contrasts with the queasy iambics with which Dickens orchestrated the notorious demise of Little Nell. Mrs Gaskell was not, like Dickens, a London-based novelist observing the sufferings of the provincial poor with a journalistic detachment – as evidenced in his own admirable, Lancashire-based novel “Hard Times”. Gaskell lived among the people whose attenuated lives she chronicled – and however hesitantly, as a début novelist, she rendered their experience in literary terms, her writing presents us with a true insight into the sufferings of individuals at a point in history when the mass of human beings fell casualty to the forms of economic progress following upon the Industrial Revolution. Most impressively she called into question the political and social cost of creating a resentful proletariat despairing of survival in (to quote Karl Marx) a “heartless world”.
Our reader Tony Foster is a resident of Manchester and a near-neighbour of Mrs Gaskell (allowing for their separation in time). His superb narration renders the native speech of her characters with an authenticity which ideally conveys the spirit of this book. A truly moving experience awaits everyone who gives ear to this ‘Tale of Manchester Life’.

Much has been written about India’s poverty and books or films (like Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali) which portray it have a big market (and win awards) in the West where the common man still thinks Indians live on trees. But the picture of utter poverty of the working class in 19th century England is startling.

Most of the readers must have read Mulk Raj Anand’s classic ‘The Untouchable’, at least as a prescribed reading for examinations if not out of concern for an oppressed class of the country and a reflection of India’s greatest evil, the caste system.

However, in my reading for 70 years, I had not come across any mention of the Cagots of western France. Elizabeth Gaskell wrote of them in a story ‘An Accursed Race’ included in book of stories ‘Round the Sofa’. Her portrayal of the inhuman way the Cagot tribe was treated all over Europe and even by the Church is not just appalling; it shows the Indian ‘Dalits’ were not treated half as badly. The other stories expose how the aristocracy discriminated against the ‘commoners’ and even denied them education.

And yet the world knows of only the Indian untouchables and caste. The same Church used that oppression and deprivation to convert millions, adding only to its numbers without improving their social status in any way. Other religions followed the same technique besides coercion. All that came of the conversions was creation of vote banks and politics of hatred.

It is significant that fiction and literature took up the social issues of discrimination, poverty and inequality, strengthening the efforts to set right the system. Very little of such use of literature and fiction is seen in India. True some films and books did come out against economic inequality, corruption and caste system, but they were very few or executed badly. I am not aware of any literary works that exposed the crimes against Kashmiri pandits or victims of caste reservations, sexual harassment or other evils.

With smart phone usage going up day by day in India, it is time a free audio and electronic book site of Indian books comes into being. On one of the audiobook sites I borrow books from the Toronto Public Library in Canada.

Is there a single public library in India which has such a facility?

Do We Need Patel Statue?


ON OCTOBER 31 Prime Minister  Narendra Modi unveiled a 182 metre (597.113 feet) high statue of Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, India’s first Home Minister, overlooking the Sardar Sarovar dam on river Narmada in Gujarat.

Many hate Modi for various reasons like being a Gujarati or a Hindu or an RSS pracharak and above all for breaking the monopoly of one dynasty over the top post in India. So a spate of  criticism over the construction of the statue was expected. The main objection was (from Congress) that there was no such statue for Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister and originator of the ruling dynasty, or for Mahatma Gandhi called the Father of the Nation or Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar the new god of neo-Buddhists and Dalits.

Some, who consider all politicians despicable, argued that the amount of nearly Rs. 3000 crore spent for the statue could have been used to build over one lakh schools or 2.8 lakh rural toilets, both  sadly lacking in the country.

The Statue of Unity, as the Patel statue has been named by Modi,  is almost twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty near New York in the USA which is 93 metres or 305.11 feet). It is taller that the Buddha statues at Spring Temple in China (120 m or 393.t ft.) and at Ushika Daibutsu in  Japan (120 m or 393.7 ft.) regarded as the third tallest in the world.

However, according to the website ‘The Mysterious World’  which lists’ the ‘Top 10’ in  many fields, the third tallest statue in the world, situated in Monywa, Myanmar  has a height of 116 meters. It is again of the Buddha. The construction of Laykyun Setkyar started in 1996 and completed in 2008. The statue actually stands on a 13.5 m throne.


This is not the end. The sculptor 93 year old Ram Vanji Sutar, who designed and built the Statue of Unity for Larsen and Tourbo company of Bangalore, India, is also building in Mumbai the 121.92 m (400 ft.) tall statue of Chatrapati Shivaji and Dr. Amebkar statue of  76.2 m (250 ft.) height.

Significantly the three statues next-tallest to the Statue of Unity are of Gautama Buddha, also of  Indian origin. The Gujarat government is also building a 108 m tall statue of Buddha – which would be world’s tallest of him in the sitting posture.

Congressmen and Dalit politicians and the Shiv Sena (which would predictably attack Modi’s Bharatiya  Janata Party for making Patel’s  statue taller than that of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj), oppose the statue for political reasons and not because of the cost.

Others against Statue of Unity  would oppose it only as they are against all statues but have destroyed or disfigured only those of Hindus, but not because “a poor country like India” could  not afford to spend such huge amounts on non-developmental items.

True the statues would not feed the poor or provide education or toilets in rural areas. The same argument was used when my friend Vasaant Sathe, Minister for Information and Broadcasting at the Centre, favoured Indian television switching over to colour. Was colour TV needed for ‘poor’ India?

Had Indian TV remained black and white, would it not have strengthened the belief of most Europeans and Americans that ‘Injuns’ live on trees or that India is a nation of snake charmers?

The same argument would have prevented India building so many new modern airports and many other projects. Those who argue this way are ‘determinists’ holding that after Independence the country should have concentrated ONLY on education or ONLY on roads or ONLY on removing casteism. There can be many arguments on such single aims

But determinism (like the Congress Party’s belief in dynasty rule)  has been proved wrong. We do need development in different fields, as one can promote the others.

True, most statues serve no purpose except emotional.  Many old status are badly maintained and are nothing but repositories of bird droppings. Some cannot even be identified by most people;  their identities and relevance lost in history.

But some, like that of Sardar Patel who had united India and made it one country, certainly have a major role to play.

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