A FRIEND WAS SHOCKED at the low levels to which the Bharatiya Janata Party and Narendra Modi can stoop. He was convinced that the posters on the Bihar Congress leaders (picturre above), mentioning the caste of its leaders and thanking Rahul for making the party so inclusive and diversified, was BJP’s handiwork.
It did not occur to him that by the same logic it could be said that Mahatma Gandhi —having finished the job of struggle for freedom from the Biritish and making Nehru the PM — was killed by the Congress Party so that the BJP could be blamed for it.
IT IS A STRANGE coincidence that online and print media flashed the two news items on the same day: one about the Nagpur Mayor, Dr Nanda S. Jichkar, BJP, taking her son to
the US as her private secretary and the other about former minister Kapil Sibal deriding a little known Bharatiya Janata Party worker for washing the feet of a party MP.
Sibal strongly reacted to the later – and reports that the worker also drank the water with which the feet were washed. He immediately related it to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the man every Congressman loves to hate (though the PM had nothing to do with it). Sibal forgot to mention that the first political leader to hit headlines for similarly washing the feet of his mentor was none other than a Congress leader, Dr Shrikant Jichkar.
The late Dr Jichkar, whom I knew personally, was not some illiterate unknown worker but a former Maharashtra minister, once India’s youngest MP and one reputed to be the most educated politician in India as he has the largest number of degrees.
In Maharashtra, the second initial is usually the father or husband’s name and some may have wrongly thought the two Jichkars, both from Nagpur, were related, just as many may have thought that S. B. Chavan, whose feet Dr Jichkar had washed, was the borhter of Y. B. Chavan, the state’s first and most famous Chief Minister. But I knew Dr Shrikant’s wife was Rajashree. A little search revealed the Mayor’s husband was an RTO named Sharad.
And neither Kabil Sibal nor any other Congress leader was outraged about Dr Shrikant’s act. None of them issued statements condemning him. What prominent Congressmen do becomes reprehensible if done by an unknown, lowly, BJP man!
An office-bearer of the Congress Party killing his wife and trying to burn her in a hotel tandoor (a furnace) or youth Congress workers in a special train looting shops at stations along the way are their own actions and the party chief has nothing to do with them, but if a BJP man violates traffic rules, Narendra Modi is to blame for it.
Whether owing allegience to a leader simply because he belongs to the dynasty and wagging tails everytime his/her name is mentioned is any less than washing feet is for people to decide. But before anyone from another culture is shocked or surprised at these Indian traditions, these oriental customs have to be understood in their context.There is someting oriental about them, alien to the occidental mind. A Chinese-American teacher in my journalism school six decades ago said that a floor has to be kept “so clean that you can eat off it.” Then she would explain that people don’t eat off the floor in China. I told her I undeerstood what she meant, as I was an oriental too.
In Uttar Pradesh state of India, someone passing by a Brahmin known to him on foot or a bicycle, used to say “Pai lagoo panditji” (I touch your feet, learned one). This verbal feet touching – whether the Brahmin was really learned or not – comes from generations of customs that have lost their original meaning and have been ritualised – like most of Hinduism.
I do not know whether the custom, even in its ritualised form, continues or not, but I do remember the days when Pandit Kamalapati Tripathi, then Chief Minister of UP, used to meet visitors with a single chair for himself in the room. Every visitor had to touch his feet first. It is said Tripathi used to remember months later a visitor who did NOT touch his feet and hold that against him. He was a Congressman but Jawaharlal Nehru was not blamed for it. Feet touching is one of the first such rituals Modi stopped after becoming India’s Prime Minister, a fact never acknowledged.
Feet touching or prostrating on the ground at the feet of a learned and revered person was considered a mark of reverence for hundreds of years in India. At a parents’ day in a school just 30-35 years ago, I used to see an eminent scientist in full suit prostrating before the swamiji (poston June 30,2017: A Spiritual Space Scientist) who ran the school. It was a sign not only of respect but also humility, a virtue regarded highly in Indian culture.
The story of Dr Nanda taking her son to USA as Secretary though he was not an employee of the Municipal Corporation of which she is the Mayor also seems to have got a big play in the media because she too belongs to BJP.
Without defending her, I am reminded of the story of the first Chief MInister of Andhra Pradesh, Tanguturi Prakasham (being a Brahmin, he was always addressed as Pantulu or Panditji, as Nehru too was). The first linguistic state of India, Andhra, had Karnool as its interim capital, with many offices in tents.
Like all Congress chief ministers, he too faced opposition and ouster moves by factions in the party itself, one led by Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy, who later became India’s President. In the state legislature there a no-confidence motion was moved against Prakasham for appointing his own son as his PA — just what the BJP Mayor of Nagpur did.
The Opposition had Communist stalwarts like P. Sundaraiah and Nagi Reddy. My friend the late G. Krishna, who had covered the legislature, told me of the fiery speeches of the comrades, the machinations of Sanjiva Reddy in engineering the no-trust move and the moving reply to the debate by Prakasham Pantulu .
Prakasham had earned millions as a Mylapore lawyer in Chennai and sacrificed all the wealth for the freedom struggle (travelling in what Congress leader Sashi Tharoor called the cattle class with followers and asking if someone had bought a ticket for him as he had no money to buy). He was called Andhra Kesari (Lion of Andhra) by Gandhiji as he bared his chest to British bullets during the freedom struggle.
The Chief Minister told the legislature that he had appointed his son to take care of him as his PA because he was a patient of prostate enlargement, as a result of which he had no control over bladder and bowel movements – a condition in which no outsider appointed as his PA would care for him.
The speech, according to Krishna, was so touching that it literally brought tears to the eyes of the Opposition leaders who crossed the floor to the CM’s seat, held his hands and said sorry to Prakasham Pantulu before withdrawing the no-confidence motion.
It is not known under what circumstances the Mayor showed her son as her PA. She did not even appoint him as a PA formally. Her act cannot be equated to that of Prakasham Pantulu, but it does remind me of a Chief Justice of AP High Court who, just days before his retirement, wanted to go to some place in the USA for medical treatment (of course at government expense). This was challenged in a public interest litigation.
But none was filed against many Indian leaders going abroad for treatment even though Indian hospital standarads have improved so much that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj opted for a kidney transplant in India
Sibal, in his tirade, asks if BJP members of Parliament would wash Modi’s feet and drink that “dirty water”. Whether Jichkar, who drank the water off Chavan’s feet, drank ‘dirty’ water or clean water after washing the feet clean first is not known. The same is also not known in the case of the BJP worker.
But what is known is that washing feet clean before any ritual is very highly valued in Indian traditions — something even Kapil Sibal cannot find fault with.
There are many people inside the Congress party working hard for the victory of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Sanjay (Anpadh, gawar) Nirupam has now joined their ranks.
The most prominent among them is Mani (Neech Admi) Sankar (chaiwala) Iyer who contributed most to Modi’s victory by calling him a lowly tea seller and asking him to serve tea at the next Congress session.
Renuka (hahaha) Choudhary opens her mouth against Modi only to add to the votes he would win in the next election.
Both the defectors (Renuka from Telugu Desam and Nirupam from Shiv Sena) had used foul language against Congress earlier – and made it win. Now they joined Congress and are using foul language to help Modi win.
Shashi (Hindu Pakistani) Tharoor absuses Modi for advocating Hinduism and then circulates a video on why he is a Hindu. Congress has coalition with Muslim League and has helped Razakars (those who wanted Nizam’s state – now Telangana – to join Pakistan) start a party – Majlis Ittehadul-Muslumeen (MIM) and calls itself secular by slaughtering a cow in public and holding a beef party in Kerala.
A Congress leader who promised the post of a judge to a woman lawyer in return for sexual favours talks of the importance of judiciary!
Congress lawyers argue court cases favouring triple talaak and nikah halala and play vote bank politics of giving IDs and ration cards overnight to migrants (to show them as citizens).
And they call for advancement of minorities! They declare Rahul is a ‘janaudhaari’ Brahmin though the grandson of Feroze never had an Upanayanam (thread ceremony).
Decades of Congress rule in India resulted in a political culture of treating political rivalsasenemies.
Obviously Rahul’s only qualification is that he is son of Rajiv, who they swear by.
After all the symbol of Bharatiya Janata Party is Rajiv (lotus) and the mother of Indira ‘Gandhi’ was Kamala (also lotus).
Today, September 5, is Teachers’ Day in India, being the birthday of a great teacher andthe second President, Dr S. Radhakrishnan.
On this day we should also remember Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, the late President of India and famous space scientist.
What is heart-touching about Dr Kalam is his commendable reverence for his teachers. He mentioned them in his books and attributed all his achievements to them.
In ‘Wings of Fire‘ he says he could become a missile scientist because of the teacher who taught him mathematics in primary school in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu. He recalled his name too.
When he went to Gujarat immediately after the riots there when Narendra
Modi was the Chief Minister of that state, many ‘sicular liberals’ were irked and criticised him for it, as though a Muslim he was made the President by the ‘communal’ Bharatiya Janata Party.
What they forgot, or deliberately chose to ignore, was that the visit was in connection with the birth centenary of his teacher and Guru, Dr Vikram Sarabhai, father of India’s space program.
And they attributed it to his loyaoty to BJP!
It was perhaps the only reason found by the Congress to deny him a second term and instead put up a dynasty loyalist, who brought brown the level of the post, Pratibha Patil, as President.
THE LAST POST in this blog, on the need for bipartisan politics, came into the spotlight with quotes from the eulogies to the late Arizona Senator John McCain and the emotional, angry, thought-provoking speech by his daughter, Meghan McCain.
It also evoked some interesting reactions. While many agreed, in emails or personal conversations, with the need for bipartisan politics in India some were uncomfortable with that conclusion. It made one thing obvious: Some agree with and admire Prime Ministerr Narendra Modi for his expressed views and stand, as I do; some others’ support for him is purely dogmatic, as they belong to his school of thought, just as the opposition to him by some is just because he belongs to another religion.
“I am not a Hindu, so I must oppose whatever he says and find fault with it,” they think just as the supporters think, “He stands for Hindutva, just as I do, so I must support him.”
It is for you to decide which of the two categories the following e-mail an ex-student sent (which explains the ‘sir’) belongs to
This was a wonderful piece. As usual, bringing out a nuanced argument about the issue at hand.
I agree with the fact pointed out by McCain’s daughter … America was great always and need not be made great again (as Trump wants to) but was immediately drawn to the potential to compare with India — Modi and his ilk trying to do it … India is great already … no need to do what is being unnecessarily pushed in the
name of development.
But reading this para … “The Arizona senator planned to make his death an extraordinary political moment that has elevated a national debate on the values on which the United States was founded. McCain’s funeral marked the largest gathering of the bipartisan political establishment… I could not help but wonder … why did you not throw in a comparison here with Vajpayee’s death and the funeral spectacle that was made?
The only difference is … McCain planned it and Vajpayee was in no position to do it. But had he been, he would not have done it.
Do you agree with the conclusion that Vajpayee, during whose regime relations with an
inimical Pakistan were the most friendly in 71 years of independent India and who did not hesitate to praise Indira Gandhi as goddess Durga when she took courageous action against an event that brought into India an influx of refugees never before experienced by any Western country, would not have advocated bipartisan politics – if he was not reduced to a vegetable existence in his last days
perhaps due to Parkinson’s and/or dementia?
Would Vajpayee have decided to ignore the dynastic parties crying hoarse about ‘intolerance to Muslims’ just to create their vote banks without realising that educated, enlightened Muslims would see through the game?
Would Vajpayee have not called for a bipartisan stand when the so-called liberals shed tears for the Myanmar minority of Rohingya Muslims while they said nothing about the influx India faced during the Bangladesh war?
Would Vajpayee have not questioned the ‘liberals’ backing Kashmiri militants who threw out thousands of Pandits from their own land and are now demanding human rights and ‘independence’ for a land they forcibly occupied as invaders?
Had Hindus been not tolerant of other religions, would many countries where they left imprints of their culture and religion not have become Hindu countries when India itself, being partitioned on the basis of religion, chose to be secular?
The reason some supporters of the coalition ruling India feel embarrassed is that Modi too is considered a maverick rightist like with Donald Trump who, like Modi, is also an “outsider” (not in the ruling dynasty or a professional politician seeking power for self-aggrandizement) who got elected unexpectedly. Any comparison with Trump would lead to Modi’s ‘Hindutva’ stand being compared to Trump’s reliance on “redneck Bible-belt white supremacist’ support to come to power. Both are taking some not-very-popular strong decisions.
And it is grudged both are bringing to their countries economic prosperity and success.
VETERAN JOURNALIST KULDEEP NAYAR passed away today, at the age of 95, perhaps bringing to close with him an era of honest reporting in this age of fake and paid news.
Thousands of journalists, political leaders and people in public life condoled his death — some of them not even knowing the names of his 15 books or his name itself. Former Shiv Sena leader and now Maharashtra Congress president Sanjay Nirupam tweeted “Veteran journalist Shri Kuldeep Nayer’s demise is a big loss to Indian journalism. He was a peace activist & a great nationalist. Have fond memories of working with him in Rajya Sabha. Beyond The Line & India after Nehru were his most popular books. My condolences to his wife Bharti.”
Nirupam does not know that Kuldeep spelt his name as Nayar, unlike most Punjabi Nayyars and one Punjabi who adopted the Malayalam version, Hollywood film-maker Meera Nair.
And his most famous book on (the then) current affairs was ‘Between The Lines’ not ‘Beyond The Line’ as mentioned by Nirupam, who perhaps did not read Kuldeep’s bylined column of the same name. The condoelnce served only to remind readers that he, Sanjay, was a member of Rajya Sabha.
A Pakistani daily, The Express Tribune, distorted RIP (Requisit in Pace or Rest In Peace as commonly understood) to ‘Rest in Power’. Had he hankered after power, he would have cashed his job as IO in Press Information Bureau, later, or as Press Secretary to Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri.
Anyone who is 80 and waiting near the exit gate of life, for it to open, is likely to read most obituaries and write on them. Sticking to my practice of writing only personal recollections when eminent people die – and not what is already in public domain or on Internet – I recall meeting him several times.
As the Editor-in-Chief he visited The Indian Express daily (then undivided) at an edition which I had launched as the first chief sub-editor. Talking to him I mentioned his student days in the USA.
A close friend, the late Dr Singammal Iyengar, told me that when she went to the USA for the second time for her doctoral studies at the Northwestern University at Evanston near Chicago, he was in the prestigious Medeil School of journalism at that university. As a ‘senior’ she bossed over all the Indian students, helping them overcome the culture shock and teaching them expected basic behaviour.
Her contact with journalism was minimal: she thought the United News of India (UNI) news agency which he headed when she ttold me about “that boy Kuldeep”, was a part of the United Nations!
A look at Kuldip Nayar even in his later days shows he must have been a very handsome, tall, Punjabi youth. Many girls wanted to be noticed by him and told Dr Iyengar that he never socialised (that is, dated) and vanished after classes.
So Singammal summoned him to the canteen and asked why. He told her that as soon as “school” ended, he went to work for his pocket money. Educational loans were unheard of in India and most Indian students worked, some even in restaurents and motels. This led to a joke by Dr Laxmanswami Mudaliar (or his twin brother Dr Ramaswami), who as Vice-Chancellor at a convocation where Chester Bowles, the then famous US Ambassador in India, said in his welcome speech, “I am told in America, you give degrees for dishwashing.”
The intended pun was to say that American universities had degrees even in subjects like dishwashing, with a dig at students getting degrees after washing dishes in a restaurent.
Kuldeep was very quick on the uptake. He guessed that I was referring to the incident narrated by Dr Iyengar. He laughed it away, saying, “Oh, in those days, I had no money and had to work.” Having started his journalistic career in Urdu newspapers, he never wrote to show off his knowledge of English and even admitted wirting was not his forte.
But humility certainly was. At least twice I took students of the journalism departrment, as a teacher in charge of their Delhi ‘study tour’, to his house and he spent quality time with them. I remember him chiding the Head of Department for bringing the students late. “You must teach them to keep time,” he had said.
I regret that in my book on Indian journalism I wrote (as a joke, mentioning that he was a hihgly respected journbalist in India) about Kuldeep Nayar’s arrest by Indira Gandhi during the Emergency. I said someone described him as “Journalist-in-law”. He was the son-in-law of Bhimsen Sachar, the first Chief Minister of Bombay Presidency (before states were reorganised) and brother-in-law of the late Justice Rajendra Sachar.
But then who would remember such trivia. I hope journalism students would remember at least Kuldeep Nayar
A WORD THAT WAS used too frequently in recent political debates in different contexts – so frequently that it has almost lost it’s meaning – is ‘empowering’.
Just 2 days ago I wrote on this blog how empowering the white cane, audio books or the enhanced ability of touch are to the blind. Most of the blind use not only touch but also sound and smell to great advantage.
They have these faculties far more developed than ‘normal’ people. Most ‘sighted’ people can hear without listening, see without noticing and touch without feeling. And they take these facilities for granted, not even thankful for having them and doing little for those denied them.
Elsewhere, I mentioned Sateesh Sehgal. a Delhi friend who was retained in Mumbai by filmmaker Gulzar for the entire duration of the filming of his classic film ‘Koshish’ starring Sanjiv Kumar and Jaya Bhaduri, as he did not want a single scene in it which would not go with the deaf and dumb. A perfectionist like him would never compromise.
Sateesh, an expert in sign language, used to tell me how British and Indian sign languages differed. In English showing a ring on a finger meant ‘married’; showing a nose-stud or a Mangalasutra did it in India. He tried to compile an Indian dictionary of sign language. I could give only moral support.
So it was gratifying to receive a mail from a young relative working as a ‘special teacher’ for the dumb, a Press Information Bureau release that the government has brought out ‘The First Indian Sign Language Dictionary’ of 3000 words. It was launched by Thaawarchand Gehlot, Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment.
The dictionary has been developed by Indian Sign Language Research & Training Centre (ISLR&TC) under Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
The basic aim of the ISL Dictionary is to improve communication between the deaf and hearing communities. It provides much information in Indian sign language to the deaf, bringing them into the social mainstream. New words will be added to the dictionary later.
As per 2011 census, there are 50, 71,007 deaf people and 19, 98,535 with speech disability in India. So it was decided by the new government to develop the dictionary to provide them with legal, medical, technical and academic terms along with daily use words. The ISLD has videos with subtitles in English and Hindi terms to help deaf children learn English.
It has everyday terms, 237 legal terms like “Affidavit”, “Acquittal”, over 200 academic terms explaining words like “Nervous System”, “Rotation” and “Revolution”, etc. from subjects like physics, geography, biology, maths, etc. 200 sign videos for medical terms, 206 videos of signs for 204 technical terms used in vocational training or in computer courses.
My friend Sateesh Sehgal’s dream is coming true after almost half a century.
ONE OF THE FAMOUS POEMS by John Milton (Don’t know? Ask Google) is ‘On His Blindness‘. That set me thinking — of MY future blindness.
One of my parents went blind due to glaucoma (eye pressure) months before death. I was told that it was genetic and so I must get checked. Expectedly, when I did, it was glaucoma. Anyone whose parents (or one one them) had glaucoma MUST have an eye-check, I was told, After expensive field vision tests thrice, I was just told to take care. No surgery was advised. Perhaps it was too late.
So, resigned to turning blind (again, I hope, just for months before death) I downloaded several of Librivox audio books. After hearing 19 books of P. G. Wodehouse, it occurred to the old cerebrum: Without sight, how can I know which book to hear and how to start it on the device?
So that set me thinking about blindness and trying to find my way around with eyes closed. I recalled a delightful essay by E. V. Lucas, (who? Google again) which I read decades ago, about a small puppy he named ‘Lord of Life’ for its liveliness. Just to know how the puppy looked at the world, Lucas went around on all-fours looking up at people and things.
That gave him a new view of the world. But how about people who had no vision, or sight, at all? After my social work group organized a vintage car rally with blind navigators carrying route directions in braille, it occurred to me that the whole society/community/country is blind – to the plight of the blind.
So I planned (but could not put through) a public awareness drive with several persons marching blindfolded, running into people, bumping into things, carrying placards on how to treat the blind and respect the white cane – the worldwide symbol of the blind.
It was again in my social work days that I learnt about white cane, mobility training and serving blind people (“The curry is at 9 0’clock and Dal at 3” would make it clear to them when an Indian food plate is kept before the blind). In those days a blind Ph.D. student told me how she could match the colours of her saree and blouse. She associated a colour with each texture she knew by touch – like rayon, linen, cotton, silk, poplin or Georgette.
Editing reports for a consultancy firm, Erin, I found there a blind telephone operator who remembered people by voice, could dial numbers and give extensions. He was also the captain of the state’s blind cricket team.
I recalled interviewing as a cub reporter some 60 years ago, an Indian professor of New School of Social Research, New York, who went around that bustling city with the help of just a white cane.
In India he would have fallen into road potholes or on uneven footpaths, abused, pushed around, bumped into and shouted at by many: “Are you blind?”
He WAS blind.
Or was it the sighted people around, blind to his white cane and black goggles, who were really blind?
AS A FORERUNNER TO AUGUST 15, INDIA’S INDEPENDENCE DAY A FRIEND MAILED ME an old film song from the 1959 filmDidi, 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 someswar1-gmail-com06102016164827dfl140948by 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?
TO WRITE ON A DEATH FOR THE second consecutive day is not unusual for someone nearing it himself.
As I wrote yesterday and earlier, I will tell my own personal experience about Dr. Udupi Ramachandra Rao, popular as Dr. U. R. Rao, who passed away on July 24 (the same day as another scientist, Prof. Yash Pal, I wrote about yesterday..)