By George, What a Life

THE COCA-COLA MUSEUM at the company’s headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, did not show one major event in the history of the world’s biggest beverage company – or I missed it in multiple visits to it over the years.

George Fernandes, the Socialist leader who passed away today, Jan.29, 2019 at the age of 88, had made the Coca-Cola shut down its operations in India in 1977 when he was the Industries Minister in a coalition government at the Centre. The dynamic trade unionist, who had won an election from jail, was living a vegetable existence for the last few years due to Alzheimer’s. He was so much out of public eye (with our media busy reporting only the diaper changes of Taimur Ali Khan) that many may not be aware that he was still alive.

As I had mentioned in several posts on this blog on the deaths of eminent persons, I refrain from writing about their lives already published and stick to personal experiences about them. It is known that he was one of the main accused in the Baroda Dynamite Case hoisted on him by Indira Gandhi while imposing the Emergency, along with a journalist friend Kotamraju Vikram Rao and CGK Reddy, General Manager of The Hindu daily, as they were all followers of Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia, but not many would know that charged along with them was Chandru (as we used to call him), manager of The Hindu’s bureau office at IENS building on Rafi Marg in New Delhi.

Chandru and dynamite? Many who knew the bachelor and affable retired journalist, always helping others, would have protested if told that Chandru had hurt a fly. His ‘offence’ was that he had sheltered Reddy in his house when the latter went ‘underground’. With the legal system as it was during the Emergency, all the accused would have been convicted and some, mainly George and Vikram, may have been even hanged – had Indira Gandhi not believed the sycophant intelligence agencies to lift the Emergency, only to lose the elections.

What brought George Fernandes into national prominence, however, was his becoming a ‘giant killer’ by defeating S.K. Patil in the Lok Sabha election of 1969 from South Bombay. Patil, a Union Minister, was known to be one of the strongest candidates with big money power and had an iron grip over Bombay Pradesh Congress Committee.

As one of those involved in the Patil Vs Fernandes campaign in Bombay, I remember how ‘Netaji’ Ladli Mohan Nigam of MP and sometimes Madhu Limaye of Bihar used to plan what Fernandes was to speak the next day. An excellent speaker in English, Hindi, and Marathi, Fernandes executed the script brilliantly. The strategy was planned at the meetings and Fernandes was just the performer.

With an eye on the large Muslim vote of Bhendi Bazar area in the constituency, Sadoba Patil one day issued a statement supporting the choice of a Muslim as the next the President of India. The next day Fernandes addressed a public meeting in Bhendi Bazar. Welcoming the choice, Fernandes spoke of how Ahmed would live in the Rashtrapati Bhavan, with its dozens of rooms and famous halls with dazzling decorations, while ‘Abdul Rehman of Bhendi Bazar’, (a fictitious character) lived in a 10X10 room with his large family and get up at 3 a.m. as drinking water taps opened only then for one hour in that area which had restricted water supply.

Fernandes’ imaginary camera repeatedly spanned from the luxury of Rashtrapati Bhavan to the harsh realities of Bhendi Bazar and almost brought tears to many eyes. It was a campaign that would have made a better book than Theodore White’s ‘Making of The President’ series about the Presidential campaigns in the USA. And even today Congress relies solely on minority vote-bank politics.

South Bombay had some very rich areas, as well as some Gujarati pockets, both believed to be pro-Patil. George Fernandes addressed several small meetings on terraces in those areas. His victory parade that night, with hundreds of affluent youth joining the labour whom Fernandes led as a trade unionist, was memorable.

George, born in Karnataka, came to Bombay to join the trade union movement which was then led by another Mangalorean like him, who happened to be externed from the metropolis then. So he stayed in the Bombay Labour Union office. Others in the union found his stay, with many people coming to meet him, disturbing and threw him out after some days. So for a few days, he slept on the footpath on a newspaper till he could make alternate arrangements.

During the campaign, I heard stories of how some young women, one of them a prominent writer, were enamoured of him. Yet he remained a bachelor till late, when he married Prof.Humayn Kabir’s daughter Leila and had a son.

Being more of a performer than an original strategist, he did not make much mark in Parliament. When the non-Congress government came to power at the Centre, he was given Defence, Railway and Industries ministries at different times.

It is tragic to see parties led by Dr. Lohia and George Fernandes – some born out of the Emergency which he opposed so strongly, now join hands with the Congress which they all fought – just to win elections and come to power – to be led by a dyngasty.

No wonder Bihar Chief Minister Nitesh Kumar of Janata Dal (U) broke into tears speaking on George Fernandes’ death.

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A Seer Above Politics, Religion

A true ‘Ratna’ of Bharat
SHIVAKUMARA SWAMIJI, who passed away on January 21, 2019 at the grand age of 111 years, is considered a ‘Nadeda Devaru’ (walking god) by many, including those who do not belong to the religious sect of Lingayats, whose most prominent pontiff he was.
He headed the oldest religious centre of Lingayats (the sect that the Congress government tried to divide by declaring Veerasaivas non-Hindu), the Siddaganga mutt at Tumakuru, not far from Karnataka’s state capital, Bengaluru. His death, deeply mourned, led to the state government declaring a three-day mourning cancelling all official functions (though a state minister, Priyank Kharge, son of Congress’ floor leader in Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, defied the ban).
So much has been written about the Swamiji and so many tributes paid to him by celebrities all over India, that writing about his life would be redundant. It was just days after his death that the list of those conferred India’s highest honour, Bharat Ratna, was announced.
The Swamiji’s name was not on the list.
This led to many protests. Some came from people who were not aware that the procedure for deciding on the awardees takes months and others from those who knew but wanted to either politicalize the issue or take the credit for the act when it finally comes, as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party leaders had that a panel headed by the Union Home Minister had already decided to confer the honour and the procedure had begun.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tributes to the seer in his routine addresses to the nation but did not, as he should have, mention that the honour would be conferred on him. A lot of vitriolic speeches and social media posts lamented the delay in conferring the honour, implying that the BJP was against it. That is politics.
The following story narrated by a friend in the field of social work is significant in saying why he remained relatively unknown:
“During tea break in office today, my Korean colleague asked me ‘Please tell me who is Shivakumara Swami, why are millions of people in such deep grief over his demise?’
“I asked him ‘Do you know Mother Teresa?’
“He replied ‘Of course, world renowned Nobel Prize winner popular for her humanitarian works. Who does not know her? We even had a lesson about her in our textbooks’
”I said ‘Very good. Now think about Mother Teresa, her accomplishments and her ecosystem, subtract religious conversions from it, subtract media publicity from it, add 132 educational institutions producing 50,000 graduates annually to strengthen Indian economy, add Gurukuls, the Indian residential schools of spiritualism, educating 10,000 students annually to safeguard traditional academic learning, add free meals facility to all students, add agricultural initiatives supporting 500.000 farmers annually, and that’s how you finally get Shivakumara Swamiji’
“He exclaimed ‘Wow!! This is absolutely unbelievable! He seems to be a role model for humanitarian efforts for the whole world. In South Korea, we knew about Indians like Mother Teresa & Mahatma Gandhi, but I wonder why we were never aware of Shivakumara Swamiji’
“I said ‘There’s a simple reason for it. The global media never tried to highlight his efforts & achievements, because he always wore saffron’.
A Congress leader was critical of “a singer” (Bhupen Hazarika) being awarded Bharat Ratna, forgetting that a cricket player (whose records are all broken) was similarly honoured earlier. So was actor MGR who spoke of independent Dravidastan.
Another friend, also in social work, thought this was all RSS propaganda. He could not deny that Mother Teresa was more known than Shivakumara Swami or that as a missionary, her primary work was conversion of Indians to Christianity.
Shivakumara Swami is to be seen in the background of some godmen amassing much more wealth than corrupt politicians and some, like Asharam Bapu, Ram Raheem and Nityananda ending up in jail. Religion, it is said, has become the most lucrative business in India.
The BJP demonstrations against Priyank Kharge’s official function, as also the repeated statements demanding Bharat Ratna award for Swamiji are both attempts to politicize the Swamiji’s death.
The friend who criticized Modi for not conferring the award said, “Mahatma Gandhi and Shivakumara Swamiji eluded the Nobel Prize, and not vice versa. Great souls like Swamiji never seek awards in this world. In the next world, they get union with Cosmic Force even which they did not seek, let alone the reward of luxuries in heaven.”
He perhaps did not know Gandhiji not getting the Nobel is the issue of international debate and that the Nobel Committee itself regretted it. They may not have even heard of Swamiji.
The friend also pointed out that Satya Saibaba of Puttaparthi got international recognition even though he wore saffron robes because of publicity. ”Do not fault the media. The world is not against Hindus as the Nagpur set up (RSS) makes us believe. Publicity happens when someone has a machinery to seek it. An effective PR officer would have achieved it for Swamiji,” he added.
I do not know about Mother Teresa but Satya Saibaba whom I visited several times, did not have a PRO. He and the original Shirdi Saibaba were above one religion and never converted people. At Puttaparthi, national days and festivals of all countries, including Pakistan, are celebrated.
In Satya Saibaba’s birthday celebrations I have seen a Pakistani delegation marching as did visitors from more nations than in the UN. I saw people from more foreign countries in Puttaparthi than in New Delhi or even in the USA. Satya Sai has put up world-class hospitals and educational institutions. Those attacking him as fake did nothing but that.
The only foreign countries Satya Sai visited were Uganda (in the dangerous Idi Amin days) and Kenya, though he was invited by many devotees to their countries. His trip to California, for which American devotees there made elaborate preparations, never materialized.
It is not just service that distinguished Shivakumara Swami. “He actually lived a puritan life, did not go overseas to attract attention, and drew admirers and devotees to his own place. We cannot compare him to anyone. He was a ‘Jeevan Muktaha’ of which Adi Sankara wrote in Bhajagovindam. Liberated souls do not seek recognition,” my friend said. No one can deny that.
The recognition is by the people and not by any party. Some political parties may have tried to drag him and his name into politics, but Shivakumara Swami was above it. Fifteen lakh people visited and received Prasad on a single day — which probably only Kumbhmela surpasses.
The pictures of thousands of people weeping over his passing away symbolizes the life of Shivakumara Swami, who wanted jeevansamadhi (being buried alive) and built a grave which he wanted to enter alive, but did not, in deference to the wish of his devotees. It was in this grave that he was finally buried.
One incident related to his equal love for all religions will remain forever in my memory. I went to an Airtel service center to have my cell number, kept in ‘safe custody’ when I went abroad. There I met Burhan Sadiq, who told me he had studied in Siddaganga Institute of Technology.
“I went to Tumakuru and visited the mutt when I came to know he passed away,” Sadiqbhai told me. He did not remember that he is a Muslim.
Neither did Swamiji. He believed in Vasudaiva kutumbakam (the world is one family).

If Rahul is Congress, Who Is Priyanka Vadra? Next PM?

    Congress personified: Muslim cap,Christian cross, Hindu sacred thread,                    Rudraksha garland. If unfit, Priyanka can inherit the throne

THE ONE THING common between the ruling BJP-led NDA and the Congress party which may lead the ‘Mahagut(ter)bandhan’ to power in the next Lok Sabha polls is the loud-mouthed ‘loose cannons’ making silly, inappropriate statements.

The only difference, however, is that while Prime Minister Narendra Modi has maintained dignity by not making  such comments Congress President Rahul Gandhi, himself leads the pack in calling him a thief.  Other sycophants joined him to call Modi a ‘chaiwala‘ (tea seller), ‘unpadh gawar’ (illiterate, uncouth  and ‘neech aadmi’ (low class man).

There are many fringe elements in the BJP who know that Modi depends on their votes to stay in power and so use no restraint in making silly statements. So it was no surprise that many NDA leaders chose to comment on Rahul appointing his own sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as the party’s General Secretary in charge of East Uttar Pradesh.

While one BJP leader commented about Priyanka’s beauty being not enough to get votes and others about the party being dynastic, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said the appointment was an admission that Rahul himself failed as a political leader and needed another family member to help him out,

Sumitra, who entered politics as a novice housewife who defeated a flamboyant Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister P. C. Sethi in Indore in the 1980s, is a very sober, mature, person. What she said was just what political analysts have always been saying, even before Rahul inherited the party presidentship from his mother who inherited it from her husband who inherited it from his mother who …

The commentators speculated about Priyanka being brought in when Rahul gave ample evidence of immaturity and earned the epithet ‘Pappu’. Her entry into politics was no ‘plunge’. She was always the hidden trump card.

And even an idiot knows that the trump card is always thrown in when the other cards in the pack are weak and defeat appears imminent. Another factor that silenced the parties, all of them started to oppose the Congress, was that ALL of them were themselves dynastic.

Had they not been disparate to cobble an anti-BJP front ‘mahagut(ter)bandhan’ to garner the Muslim votes, which BJP had  already alienated due to its  Hindutuva image, the parties now backing the Congress would have criticized her entry.

The Congress either is not confident of fooling Muslims or does not want to lose the Hindu vote entirely.  So Rahul, Feroze’s grandson and son of an Italian  Catholic, declared himself a  ‘janevudhari’  Brahmin (without a sacred-thread ceremony) and put up posters  declaring Priyanka an incarnation of  Durga, the Hindu goddess. Of course that is secular, as is the caste-based choice of  its candidates.

So these developments reminded me of a blog I had put out last July, which I reproduce here.  It said —


Rahul Gandhi’s tweet saying “I am Congress” might have reminded many of his grandmother Indira Gandhi’s Emergency-days campaign (by her sycophants, apparently at her instance), that “Indira is India”.  (I have heard Dev Kant Baruah, the then Congress President, say it in the Central Hall of Parliament. It  is another mater that he was later thrown out of the party).

That no individual is indispensable, that the party is above the leader and that the nation is above party is what any sane person would agree with.

And yet, in most developing countries individuals have been using their power to make it seem that they alone mattered more than everything. Once in power,  all tend to retain power for all time by hook or crook (often by the latter).

The tendency to be lifetime rulers, common in tribal African nations, seems to have spread now to China and Russia, reminiscent of ancient kingdoms ruled by autocratic kings.

Congressmen, obviously, believe that Indira Gandhi can be succeeded only by Rajiv though he had no political background, Rajiv by Sonia though a foreigner, inexperienced and unwilling and Sonia by son Rahul though he was unfit and more of a comic figure.

In fact a senior Congress leader Mani (neech aadmi)Shankar (chai wala) Iyer declared there could only be two persons considered for party Presidentship – the mother or the son. Despite overt wooing of Muslim vote banks, the grandson of Feroze was declared to be a “Janevudhari” Brahmin (wearing sacred thread) though no thread ceremony (Upanayan) was held. He even invented a gotra.

Had Rahul refused (as his mother Sonia did) the sycophants would have unhesitatingly opted for his sister Priyanka and if she thought going to beauty parlours was more important than the strenuous job of being PM, they would have found great talents in her children. If they too preferred playing to the hard job of PM, Congressmen would not hesitate to enthrone the family’s dog which they would find  miraculous and far superior to any of their own selves.

Even those who believed in the dynastic rule of kings would not have been such great believers in dynasty. All because every one of them belongs to some caste and are bound by caste rivalries, while the Indira dynasty had to no caste as Nehru’s daughter Indira married Feroze, either a Parsi or, as some say, a Muslim.

And these casteists, who demand reservations for Dalit (low caste) Christians and Muslims (who claim to be casteless), call Bharatiya Janata Party communal!

All parties with dynastic leaders now join hands with the Congress. But all want the throne.

If Indira is India and Rahul is Congress, what is Priyanka? The next PM?



Is This What We Fought for?

(AnAugust 2017 blog reblogged)

Relevant even on Jan 26, 2019

AS A FORERUNNER TO AUGUST 15, INDIA’S INDEPENDENCE DAY A FRIEND MAILED ME an old film song from the 1959 film Didi, sung by Asha Bhonsle, Sudha Malhotra and Mohammed Rafi.

The song, ‘Humne Suna That Ek Hai Bharat‘ (We heard that India is United’) summarises India’s recent history – its journey from a struggle for Independence marked by unique principles of non-violence and civil disobedience to dynasty rule, caste rivalry and communal disharmony, not to speak of the dirtiest politics imaginable.

How meaningful were old songs! From those soulful songs that touched hearts to today’s shouting and meaningless cacaphony of ‘lyrics’ without harmony is a similar journey of deterioration.

It was a film that starred the late Sunil Dutt. Can any reader remember the film? Or the name of the first boy on who was shown singing the song?

2019 – A New Year Has Begun

2019 – A NEW YEAR has arrived. Today, January 1, is the day of promises to oneself, New Year resolutions, bucket lists, and plans…a day of greeting everyone you know and even strangers.

This will be followed by unfulfilled promises, resolutions broken, lists that remain on paper and plans that remain in the mind. This is a pessimistic view. Some people do make a new beginning, start implementing resolutions and try to make the new year a happy one as desired

In my case, the last quarter of this year would mean completion of 80 years of age – one more year of a vigil at the exit gate of life, waiting for it to open. The boastful ‘unstoppable’ is slowing down and a decision is to be taken on whether to continue till 80 or make it ‘stoppable’ now — neither acclaimed if continued nor missed if stopped.

This post is being written, perhaps, due to the Indian belief that what happens on a new year day or a birthday will happen throughout the year – which explains why some celebrate these days by feasting and wearing new clothes.

Writing this is, however, not to ensure that this would continue for the year but an acknowledgment of the fact that I have lived, from the age of 16, by writing, with no great achievements in the past and certainly none likely in the few weeks or months that remain. That is the story of most. not all, people on earth.

And yet we wish each other a Happy New Year and celebrate the occasion. The famous poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1937-1984) who migrated to Pakistan during Partition (to start Communist movement there, but was frustrated due to his failure) asks what is new in the new year or how it is ‘happy’.

ऐ नए साल बता, तुझमें नया-पन क्या है

हर तरफ़ ख़ल्क़ ने क्यूँ शोर मचा रक्खा है

रौशनी दिन की वही, तारों भरी रात वही

आज हम को नज़र आती है हर इक बात वही

आसमाँ बदला है, अफ़सोस, ना बदली है ज़मीं

एक हिंदसे का बदलना कोई जिद्दत तो नहीं

अगले बरसों की तरह होंगे क़रीने तेरे

किस को मालूम नहीं बारह महीने तेरे

जनवरी, फ़रवरी और मार्च पड़ेगी सर्दी
और अप्रैल, मई, जून में होगी गर्मी

तेरा मन दहर में कुछ खोएगा, कुछ पाएगा
अपनी मीआद बसर कर के चला जाएगा

तू नया है तो दिखा सुबह नयी, शाम नयी

वरना इन आँखों ने देखे हैं नए साल कई

बे-सबब देते हैं क्यूँ लोग मुबारकबादें

ग़ालिबन भूल गए वक़्त की कड़वी यादें

तेरी आमद से घटी उम्र जहाँ में सब की
‘फ़ैज़’ ने लिक्खी है यह नज़्म निराले ढब की

meanings —
ख़ल्क़ – मानवता, हिंदसे – संख्या, जिद्दत – नया-पन, अगले /पिछले -गुज़रे हुए, क़रीने – क्रम, दहर – दुनिया. मीआद/मियाद – अवधि, बे-सबब – बे-वजह,ग़ालिबन – शायद, आमद – आना, ढब – तरीक़ा l

And yet, as a positive outlook and attitudes play a decisive role in life, I wish all A HAPPY NEW YEAR

And yet, as a positive outlook and attitudes play a decisive role in life, I wish all A HAPPY NEW YEAR