Five-Star Jails For Politicians

Behind Bars
V.K. Shashikala  ruling from her new Secretariat

GOING TO JAIL FOR TAKING PART in the struggle against British rule was a  status symbol in the early days of India’s Independence. Many got pensions as ‘freedom-fighters’  for that  (though some politicians could have manipulated to show that their jail terms for crimes were for participation in the ‘Satyagraha’- peaceful civil disobedience.)

During decades of Congress rule corruption and highhandedness of the ruling class was so rampant that one felt most of them deserved  to be jailed.  Few were prosecuted  Continue reading Five-Star Jails For Politicians

Idiot’s Tale Signifying Nothing


cartoonWHEN I INCLUDED A WHOLE CHAPTER ON CARTOONISTS   IN MY BOOK ON  Journalism ‘A TOWN  CALLED PENURY – the Changing Culture of Indian Journalism’, I did not even mention Mangesh Tendulkar, the cartoonist who died a few days ago.Penury

That was because of my ignorance about many cartoonists in language publications, like Tendulkar was in Marathi periodicals.  But his one cartoon  on death (see  above) published following on his own death — made me think deeply about our own lives and achievements, the pride and ego about a momentary ‘greatness’ soon forgotten.

That was what Tendulkar’s cartoon was about. For the uninitiated the top letter on the tomb- stone (in Marathi) is ‘Kai‘ (short for Kailaswasi – meaning ‘now in heaven’) an equivalent of ‘the late’. Under it  ‘Mi‘, in Marathi means ‘myself‘. It is,  therefore,  about  his   own  tombstone getting the treatment which poles and such structures usually get from dogs. Continue reading Idiot’s Tale Signifying Nothing

Let’s Have More of Corruption

Image Credit: Bolte Raho (even the spelling is corrupted!)

A FRIEND SENT ME YESTERDAY A FILM CLIP which, according to him, was the shortest film ever made in the world to have won an award.

It showed an official sitting in his drawing room with a pile of files, as his little daughter played around the room. As each file is opened he finds a currency note and signs the paper.  He throws on the floor any file that does not have a note. His daughter picks up the file but he puts it aside. She sees that he signs only the files which have money.

The little girl then puts before him her school  ‘Report Card’ and gets scolded for poor marks in some subjects. He refuses to sign the card and puts it aside.

A few minutes later she returns with the card. When he opens it he finds a few coins from her pocket money inside the card. That opens his eyes; even his child knows that he is corrupt and signs only when he is bribed.

Next to the ‘love’ theme with the hero and heroine dancing around trees singing duets, Indian films focus on social evils like corruption, dowry system and caste

A  decade of  ‘Scamocracy’

discrimination. Millions see the films and even shed tears for those wronged by the evils.


And yet the social evils not only continue but thrive. During the last government in India a new scandal got exposed every day. Some of that regime’s scandals are still being exposed. A cartoonist once showed a newspaper vendor shouting that day’s sensational headline: “NO SCANDAL TODAY’!

No amount of sloganeering and condemnation in films and editorials  have reduced the evils. They are accepted by the society as normal. As I mentioned in another post, no parent would refuse a match for his daughter (in India’s arranged marriage system) because the boy’s father made money by corrupt means.

Even our religious rituals – making an offering to God and asking for a favor in return – promote bribery. There is no social stigma attached to corruption. It may be illegal, but is not considered immoral or unethical.

It took an extreme step like imposition of Emergency with Press censorship and jailing of thousands dynasty rule to be ended. And it came back when its replacement was a weak, divided, coalition.

India threw out a corrupt government to elect the present NDA government. But it has not yet thrown out corruption itself. So extreme corruption which makes life difficult for millions may be required to make people fed up and finally throw out corruption.

Let corruption grow — to end it.

PS –The friend claimed the two-minute film was the shortest ever made to win an award (he called it an Oscar, unaware that there are no Oscars in India).  If I remember right around 1966 Promod Pati won an award for a 50-second documentary  (yes, less than a minute) titled “And Miles to Go“.

In it the camera spans down from a jet plane flying across the screen to an old woman and a child holding a slate (those days children used slates to learn writing). For a second you think the grandmother is teaching the little girl.  Then you realize it was the other way around. ‘And Miles to go’ were words from a Robert Frost poem, found scribbled on a paper on first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s desk after his death.

Yes. Half a century later, it is still miles to go for a corruption-free society.

                                 Congratulations on getting 500 total likes on UnstoppableAfterSeventy.

And More Sops for Legislators

Yes, but do their hearts —  if any — beat for the poor?

THE POST URGING PRIME Minister Narendra Modi to abolish lifetime pension to politicians keeps doing the rounds on WhatsApp and other media,  coming again and again.


It  had prompted my posts supporting the appeal.  The second was when Telangana  government  of decided to build big bungalows for MLAs, mostly big landlords, in their constituencies. Another post Continue reading And More Sops for Legislators

Boycott China Call on Chinese Phones

DIGITAL MEDIA LIKE WHASTAPP,  TWITTER  AND OTHERS  ARE AGOG WITH CALLS TO boycott  Chinese goods in view of China’s  belligerent and aggressive moves in Sikkim and Arunachal

Boycott call
Acharya’s cartoon, tweeted by Kurmavatar, Srikakulam

states  of India on the border between the two countries

An association of school         principals in Mumbai asked schools to discourage their students and  parents from buying Chinese water-bottles, pencil boxes, sketch pens, measurement rulers,  writing pads and erasers.  Indian  markets are overflowing with Chinese goods ranging from crackers to mobile  Continue reading Boycott China Call on Chinese Phones

‘The Last Post’ Origins Lost?

Last PostFOUR   MONTHS AGO, I  POSTED  BOUT  THE ‘nuisance’  of WhatApp forwards  (Forwarded As Received, Feb. 24) being  sent by people without even  verification. So when a friend forwarded a message about the ‘Last Post‘ played by buglers at military funerals, I ‘Googled’  to find out more.

The serious-minded lady associated with social work is specially interested in holding events to pay tributes to martyrs and promote welfare of and respect to the uniformed men who lay down lives for their country.

Her post said the ‘Last Post ‘ played by military bands at funerals of armed forces men  began in 1862 during the American Civil War, when Union Army Captain Robert Ellicombe was with his men near Harrison’s Landing in Virginia ..

The Confederate Army was on the other side of the narrow strip of land.. During the night, Captain Ellicombe heard the moans of a soldier who lay severely wounded on the field. Not knowing if it was a Union or Confederate soldier, the Captain decided to risk his life and bring the stricken man back for medical attention. Crawling on his stomach through the gunfire, the Captain reached the stricken soldier and began pulling him toward his encampment.Final salute

When the Captain finally reached his own lines, he discovered it was actually a Confederate soldier, but the soldier was dead..The Captain lit a lantern and suddenly caught his breath and went numb with shock. In the dim light, he saw the face of the soldier.. It was his own son. The boy had been studying music in the South when the war broke out. Without telling his father, the boy enlisted in the Confederate Army. Continue reading ‘The Last Post’ Origins Lost?

Slippers for a ‘VIP’ (Old Ones Will Do)


Ex-Prime Minister of UK David Cameron stands in London train as there was no seat. He did not shout  “Do you not  know who am?”  or beat other passengers  for not offering him a seat.  Indian  MP  or  so-called “VIP’s” , of any party, would not have  shown such restraint. And no ex-PM in India would have traveled in a train like a common man as David  Cameron did

To  Shriman Argeeji,                                     Member RWA Managing Committee

Respeccted Bhau Saheb,

Congratulations for being in the news once again even before we could answer your letter to the Resident’s Welfare Association about the grave injustice done to you,an eminent member of a prominent caste to which some kings belonged, by Apartment security men, whom we have now removed (they were from North East, anyway (not amchi maanus).

We read in the newspapers that you have again had a brush with authority, now the Mumbai police. The reporter did not say how many times you beat the policemen with slippers. It may be because (1) he/she was weak at counting, (2) thought it was too obvious Continue reading Slippers for a ‘VIP’ (Old Ones Will Do)

In Search of Indians – in India

This is being written in a hospital. During almost a month spent outside Intensive Care Units, Operation Theatres and in wards, there is one thing that made me think deeply about and stirred memories: how we, in India, are not Indians but Kannadigas, Telugus, Maharashtrians, Biharis or……
It brought back memories of an editor, imposed on the local edition of ‘national’ (in reality ‘notional’) English daily, who was being introduced to the seniors there. “I hate Malayalis” was his instant reaction when introduced to a Malayali sub-editor and “I hate Kashmiri Pandits,” when it was the turn of a KP senior journalist.

Old friends occasionally remind me of a conversation piece I used to use 40 years ago to make people at informal get-togethers talk: “Give a Telugu man a million rupees and he would take the first train to Madras (now Chennai), try to produce a film and lose it all. A Bangalore Kannadiga would invest it in real estate and earn enough rent to live on. Give a Marathi manus the money and he would put it in a bank to live off the interest. A Marwari would lend it at high interest to double it in a year or two. A Gujarati would put it in business to make a lot of money, not wealth, while a Punjabi would start an industry, create jobs and add to national wealth.”
What made me think of these silly stereotypes about different communities was the fact that in all the major hospitals, the lingua franca of the nursing station is Malayalam (just as that of Marwari-owned Indian Express group till recently was not Hindi or English but Tamil). Over half century ago nurses in a Vidarbha town agitated, asking for rice which was scarce after the 1962 China war; they ate just rice alone (that too parboiled rice), as all of them – not just most – were from Kerala.
Imagine mid-1960s, when most towns were not as cosmopolitan as they are today. Imagine chuni-bhakar eating, Marathi-speaking Amravati town in land-locked arid Vidarbha and Kerala where it rained, rained and rained and you crossed rivulets every few miles and young girls from there who spoke nothing but Malayalam and even English that sounded like it. Coming hundreds of miles away, they kept hospitals there – and at equally far and unfamiliar places – running.
Some countries in the world today look to India for trained, dedicated nurses. And there would have been no nursing in India but for these young Malayali girls, an overwhelming majority of them Christians.
The argument that they came just because there were no jobs in Kerala is simplistic.That does not explain the tremendous sense of patience, dedication and compassion almost all of them show. Their Christian roots and belief in Jesus washing the wounds of a leper must have something to do with it.
Had Christianity been not so widespread in Kerala, God’s own country, that state may not have been the pioneer in the nursing profession.
Just when these thoughts were in my mind, a man who rose to eminence for a movement against Malayali pavement shop-keepers in Bombay (now Mumbai) was in hospital (perhaps being served by Malayali nurses). His Shiv Sena later spread the hatred to other groups too, but I don’t recollect his ever assailing the near monopoly of Malayali nurses.
The ‘sons of the soil’ could start roadside shops, sell duplicate goods or take up office jobs to end the dominationof Malayalis in these areas, but the daughters were not equally forthcoming to take up nursing, with its night duties and not-very-easy, often unpleasant, hard work.
This is not the occasion to discuss Balasaheb Thackeray, who is no more, or his ideology, but one cannot deny that the very mention of his names brings forth the hate-images most Indians have about communities other their own. It was not very long ago that most people (even educated) in the Hindi belt thought everyone in the South was a ‘Madrasi’, that Telugus used to refer to Tamil language as ‘aravam’ (unpleasant to the ear), that a Marwari was regarded as a ‘makkhichoos’ or kanjoos (miser), a Marathi a lazy ‘ghati’ or a Bihari as uncouth and backward. Sardars in north, Nadars and Chettiars in south have been butt ends of jokes for decades. In UP brainless, dull people are called ‘Balliatic’ – people of Ballia district of former Prime Minister – the late Chandrshekhar. Warari Manse (Vidarbha people) are supposed to be backward, unsophisticated. There are many more such prejudices.
Similar to these prejudicial stereotypes and mutual mistrust among communities, some jobs are traditionally linked to certain groups – like Malayalis and nursing.
In the days of the freedom movement there was a joke about Netaji Subhashchandra Bose addressing a predominantly-Tamil audience in Mumbai’s Chembur-King Cross area. The Congress then was split between the followers of Gandhiji and Netaji. Reportedly,
Subhash asked: “Gentlemen, are you moderates or liberals?” and the audience, in one voice, answered: “Sir, we are stenographers”.
Just as most stenos, at one time, were Tamilians, earthwork was (and to some extent is) mostly done by Telugu ‘Palamoor labour’ (Mehaboobnagar in Telangana was originally Palamoor), foundry work by Biharis, retail shop-keeping by Marwaris and Sindhis, timber trade by Gujaratis and taxi drivers (at least in Mumbai) were men from the UP-Bihar area. Locksmiths and duplicate key-makers are mostly Muslims, mainly from Aligarh (UP) fampus for its lock-making industry. Most of the male cooks, who satisfy the hunger of many IT employees in Bangalore apartments, are from Odisha. A majority of the ‘pourakarmikas’ (sweepers) of civic bodies in Karnataka are from Andhra. A closer look will reveal many more such links. Say you are a Patel in USA and it would be presumed you run a motel,
How wrong today these stereotypes are need not be proved to any intelligent person.
I knew a senior Bihari journalist who was so impressed by the translation of a story by Masti VenkateshIyengar that he learnt Kannada to read his original works. A Tamilian, Viswanathan was a well-known Bengali film actor. Most actresses in Telugu today are from other languages. RangeyaRaghav, a Tamilian, was an eminent Hindi writer. P.V. Narasimha Rao spoke excellent Hindi and Marathi besides many other languages. Yester-year’s J. V. Raman (of DD) and today’s SitaramYechuri and Swami Agnivesh, all Telugus, speak better Hindi than quite a few Hindis. Those resorting to goondaism to “protect” Kannada are ignorant about three Gnanpeeth-award winning Kannada authors with roots in other languages – Masti in Tamil, Bendre in Marathi and Gundappa in Telugu. That is the greatness of Kannada. Such examples can go on and on.
The resources, geography and climate of a region influenced traditional occupations and led to cultural and behavioural peculiarities that created such stereotypes. With changing times the behavioural patterns changed. Comedian Mahmood’s ‘Madrasi’ said ‘ayyo’ in every sentence and spoke horrible Hindi. Today many South Indian politicians speak fluent Hindi (while hardly any northern leader can speak a southern language). Anyone who finds another’s language unintelligible and funny should know that his own tongue sounds just the same to the other.
And yet these stereotypes live on.
They may provide some fun when used for jokes. But they are dangerous if they lead to the “I hate….” syndrome.

Thanks for My Obituary

in_memory_ofEveryone should, I am told, write his or her obituary once in a while. The bio-data or CV is aimed to impress, to show off, for a benefit. Given that one is not there to benefit after death, the obituary has no such goal. It is a stock-taking of achievements and failings, an assessment of success or failure in achieving socially accepted life goals.

And such an assessment is all the more important when one sets a theme on one’s blog, as I did years ago, which says, quoting Gerard Way: ‘One day your life will flash in front of your eyes. Make sure it is worth watching’. It is believed this happens at the moment of final departure, when it is too late to make amends.

Asked what I would like to be remembered as after death, I had always said I would not like to be remembered at all. It was not because of any false modesty or pretense. Many great people have been forgotten. Even a man of such eminence as Newton thought he was just a particle of sand on a beach.

The question of being remembered after death does not arise for those who are forgotten long before that inevitable event. As a mere foot-soldier of my profession, writing it when still able to write, however badly, is essential for me as no one else would do it later. Generals win wars. Soldiers only obey — and die.

However, I did have an obit written not by one but three friends. Just out of sheer kindness an eminent journalist and editor who was once my junior, published a review of my book in his magazine – long after I dumped it as trash no journalist would read. (As many would agree, reading a book is not necessary to review it.)

And he shared the review on Facebook, the world where, instead of the Earth, most of his generation live.  The review was of no use in promoting the book, but three of his friends (who did not read the book) commented on the review, not knowing that jointly, the comments would read like an obit.

It was an eye opener. All that they remembered was a man who talked too much and edited a magazine financed by a shady character. It did not matter that the “conversations” came from being too long in the profession, having started at the age of 17 and having worked in several States.That the weekly’s publisher was a false-front for a shady financier and hid the fact did not matter, as also the fact that the magazine did not even figure in the 14 jobs I changed. All the rest were forgotten.

It was sheer naivete not to realize that no one wants to know or listen.    Too many memories and too much experience do not mean you know anything. Google tells them all they want to know.

Google will direct you to thousands of links to obituaries. Website ‘Notey’ will provide you ‘Your Daily Dose of Obituaries’. Many Western newspapers blog their obit column separately. Had they read the book the friends would have found out about a Gujarati newspaper which carried pages of classified obits. When you are in seventies  the first thing you see in a newspaper may be the obituaries column.

Writing self obituaries, one of the websites says, is a standard exercise in many literature and communication courses. Every newspaper has, or was supposed to have in the days before the Internet, a “morgue” of periodically updated obits of all eminent persons. In the race for being the first the media today cannot wait for an event – it has to anticipate and be ready.  Now you can download from the world wide web.

When Jawaharlal Nehru died the Press Trust of India did not have an obit ready and had to send two taxis to the Karolbagh residence of K. Ishwar Dutt to have the obit he wrote ferried para by para to its office near Parliament . (Sorry, old stories again — who cares?)

These are the days of capsuled news. Of the many things you did, only one or two will be remembered, if at all.  So, before the occasion for writing the obit arises, decide on what that would be.

It may change the course of your life.