WHENEVER I SAY (and it is quite often) that there is no unemployment in India but most people are “unemployable”, I get angry rebuttals or derisive laughter.
But I still hold it is true. Most school students do not know what they want to be. A very large number of people see employment as just an accident. An extremely large number of people do not enjoy what they are doing. Those who want to be singers or writers or painters end up as doctors or engineers. Being a player or an athlete was, till recently, never an option – all play “is a waste of time; it will not feed you.”
Brilliant could-have-been architects would be poring over accounts and those who could have made excellent doctors would be…. We can go on and on. There are too many square pegs in round holes. And the main reason for this sorry state of things is our education system.
One of the worst failures of the country, whichever party is in power, is in the field of
NEWSPAPER AND TV NEWSCHANNEL photographers are now called photojournalists. The Wage Board for Working Journalists in India applies to them also. So they no more just mechanically take photographs but also take them to reflect the spirit of the news and often succeed in conveying the news more than words.
Having been the first reporter in central India to start taking news photographs along with reporting in 1959, I was faced with a dilemma: Are the news photographers just to capture the moment that would never come back or do they have a social responsibility also? For example, if present when a crime is being committed, do they report to the police and if they see a disaster do they, besides photographing it, also try to prevent it?
The question has still not been convincingly answered. Perhaps it is sufficient to say that being journalists they have the same ethical issues as print or TV journalists
But the temptation of having “exclusive” pictures and scoring a ‘scoop’ may, sometimes, cloud their vision. It was even alleged that during the agitation for a separate Telangana state in India some of the ‘self-immolations’ on the Osmania University campus were inspired, if not actually staged, by photographers and/or reporters.
It is like a journalist setting fire to a building or causing an accident just to get a scoop. When, as chief of a news agency bureau, I had an exclusive ‘story’ on a disaster in which there were many casualties, the media column of a Marathi daily (obviously at the instance of a rival journalist) alleged lack of social responsibility.
Nic Ut’s 1973 Pulitzer winner photo
The writer of the column was perhaps not so well conversant with English as to read in my report that the DIG of Police proceeding to the spot for rescue and relief work was quoted to confirm the news. Luckily, the writer left journalism soon.
There are photographs which have changed the course of history or touched the conscience of the world. A photograph of a young girl, weeping and running naked on the road with her body burning due to a napalm bomb, did more to touch the collective conscience of the United States of America than any other action.
The ‘Napalm Girl’, snapped by Nic Ut for Associated Press in a moment of desperation in 1972, “encapsulated the terror of the U.S. war in Vietnam. The legend of Phan Thi Kim Phuc, the girl in question, was simple and gratifying to opponents of the war.” She survived and is now settled in Canada as an inspirational speaker and peace activist.
Nic won the 1973 Pulitzer for his photo.
The conscience of the whole world on its inaction over famine and starvation deaths in Sudan was stirred by another photo, also of a young girl. Assailed for his inaction, photographer Kevin Carter committed suicide. I quote below a social media post about the photo (on top). They called it “The Vulture and the little girl”.
The photo of a vulture waiting for a starving Sudanese girl to die was taken by Kevin Carter who later won the Pulitzer for this picture, but he lived just a few months to enjoy his supposed achievement because he later got depressed and took his own life.
He was actually savoring his feat and being celebrated on major news channels and networks worldwide.
His depression started when during a (phone in) interview someone phoned on and asked him what happened to the child. He replied, “I didn’t wait to find out after this shot as I had a plane to catch.…”
And the caller replied,
“I put it to you that there were two vultures on that day. One had a camera”.
His constant thought of that statement led to depression and his ultimate suicide.
In whatsoever we do, let humanity come first before what we can gain out of the situation.
Kevin Carter could have been alive today if he just picked that little girl up and taken her to the United Nation’s feeding Center where she was attempting to reach.
Perhaps like the South Vietnam girl. the Sudanese girl too may have survived. And Kevin Carter too may have lived on to take more such photos. I was reminded of the address to journalism students, whom I took on a ‘study tour’ of New Delhi, by the famous Indian photographer Raghu Rai, whose photograph of a Bhopal gas tragedy victim (a small girl again) being buried haunts many memories (see ‘A TOWN CALLED PENURY – the Changing Culture of Indian Journalism’ page 158) and of Kishore Parekh who showed the whole world the Pakistani atrocities in what is now Bangladesh. And also of the world’s greatest portrait photographer, Karsh of Ottawa, who said he photographed not a face but a personality.
What a good photographer needs is not just a view, but a vision.
Dirty communal Cong politics against ‘communal’ BJP
At Gwalior Gurudwara, Sikhs have recently honoured the chief of the party which marched the Army into the Golden Temple and organised the genocide of Sikhs after the murder of Indira Gandhi, who had imposed Emergency. And the Sikh state had voted Congress to power. This is politics!
And the party, which believes ONLY Rahul Gandhi or his Italian mother can contest for Congress president’s post, to quote Mani (Chaiwala) Shankar (neech aadmi) Aiyer, as they being to the dynasty, and ñone of the others in the party are intelligent enough. That is dynasty politics!
It will definitely come back to power, by building vote banks of religious minorities and some ‘dalits’ – both kept deliberately poor and backward by it.
It’s leader in Lok Sabha says ONLY the Gandhi family had fought for India’s freedom and not one of the ‘dogs’ (all other freedom fighters) lifted a finger for it.
A college suspended a student within 2 days for organising a meeting to celebrate Bhagat Singh’s birthday but will take 20 days to ‘investgate’ her crime. Politics can distort history..
Hardly anyone in Telangana read about a Muslim journalist who laid down his life opposing inclusion of Hyderabad state of Nizam in Pakistan as those who killed and cut his hands were secret allies of Congress. That is poltitics of convenience.
Politics are supposed to be for good governance and ideology. But they just remain means of amassing wealth and power.
THE LIST IS GROWING longer by the day, with most news items referring to the same topic.
Most of the names may surprise many people: authors Chetan Bhagat and Suhel Seth, senior Journalists M. J. Akbar, Hyderabad Times of India editor K.R.Sreenivas and
Hindustan Times bureau chief Prashant Jha, actors Nana Patekar, Alok Nath and Jitendra, scientists Rajendra Pachauri and Kanuru Rao, filmmakers Subhash Ghai, Vikas Bahl, Gaurang Doshi and Sajid Khan, top executives Suresh Rangarajan (Tata Motors) and Phaneesh Murthy… and more by the time you read
All of them have been achievers, not ordinary people. They otherwise would not have hit the headlines and would have remained unknown like thousands of others who did the same — make unwanted sexual advances towards women using their positions.
Back in India, Akbar resigned to go to court
Rajendra Pachauri headed the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that was awarded the Nobel Prize. Seth had held forth on TV panels to preached morals, Rao was dismissed as chief of Faridabad’s Health Science Technology Institute, Phaneesh was sacked from a top post by Infosys. Vikas Bahl’s ‘Queen’ was a film that extolled a woman.
And women were the weakness of allthese men!
A Twitter user said even Prime Minister Narendra Modi may be the target of the #MeToo movement. Another hinted at charges against the most respected man in Bollywood, Amitabh Bachchan.
There has been a flood of tweets and posts on social media which made it clear that there are three types of acts to which women victims object to – sexism, sexual harassment, and assault (rape) or violence.
Most complaints are of the first two varieties. That does not, however, mean that the assault and violence against women are less.
Only, many of them go unreported. The reason: in India the victim is blamed, shamed or even stigmatised as if it was her fault. The disbelief is more if celebrities are the perpetrators are or the victims are aspirants in entertainment and media industries where the prevalence of the “casting couch” syndrome is known for decades to prevail so much that is almost accepted as “normal”.
And consensual liaisons are too many. Some women did use that route to advance, and it puts most others, who come up on their own merit, to being thought they came up the same way.
A lot is being written and spoken about the. Even in that Mecca of freedom the United States of America, the problem exists as do sexism and domestic violence. And both the sexes have been the victims.
How can the problem be solved? In even the ‘advanced’ countries several political leaders have had to resign elective posts. And they did so as soon as they were exposed, without, as in , waiting for lengthy media trials, months of denials and court cases that seem to last a lifetime.
Death penalty, chemical or medical ness and other serious steps have been mooted. Those opposing such steps ask if high punishments have reduced crime. Even capital punishment has not prevented or at least reduced murders.
Social awareness, desensitization and education alone can eradicate this evil.
SPOOFS ABOUT Yam 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.
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 Yam 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 Yam 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.
IN INDIA, EVERYTHING seems to take on a political colour. Human rights advocates cry themselves hoarse when terrorists or a particular community is targeted, but remain silent when victims of terrorism or the other community are the sufferers. If a Dalit is even touched, these opponents of untouchability are up in arms. An ‘upper caste’ person can be subject to any indignity or torture and there is not even a murmur.
It is not news. But very much in the news is a journalist – M. J. Akbar, former editor and founder of two well-known newspapers. Several women journalists have revealed that though he ‘did’ nothing, he had made them uncomfortable by calling them to hotel rooms for interviews or offering them drinks – both “unacceptable” in India, though not elsewhere.
Thanks to an actress, Tanushree Dutta, who is become more famous for her sexual harassment charge than her acting or memorable roles, the #MeToo movement has been revived in India.
She charged Naana Patekar, indisputably an actor of distinction., with sexual harassment. She also attacked Akshaykumar for acting with Nana in a film and Amitabh Bacchan, the most eminent actor of Bombay film industry, for refusing to comment on the issue.
Another ‘right-leaning’ celebrity, singer Kailas Kher, was the next target
Even as these tweets, interviews and Facebook posts about the three kept pouring in on a daily basis, A recent addition to the list if Alok Nath described as ‘India’s most Sanskari actor’ (Sanskari
means cultured or traditional).
It is a welcome movement. But not political witch-hunt in its name.
Akbar is now in BJP and is a minister at the Centre. Nana and Akshay are known to be cooperating with the BJP-led government headed by Narendra Modi. ‘BigB’ Amitabh, has been the brand ambassador of Gujarat (ruled by BJP) tourism and is also believed to be favourably disposed towards Modi. The party also talks of Indian culture and traditions and that, according to liberals, makes Alok Nath a BJP man.
This opened the floodgates of socislmedia posts about 0sexually inappropriate acts of many celebrities: writer Chetan Bhagat, film-makers Vikas Bahl and Gaurang Doshi, actor Rajat Kapoor, composer Anu Malik, even a woman comedian Aditi Mittal and many more. Sexual harassment is certainly abominable and their being pro-Modi does not absolve the perpetrators of any blame. But what is surprising is that the woman journalist who wrote an article about her experiences with Akbar without naming him, continued to work with him and remained silent when he was Congress MP and the party’s leader and spokesman. Now, suddenly, she thought it fit to reveal his name.
Several women journalists tweeted in her support. Is it a mere coincidence that most of them are anti-Modi and had remained silent when Tarun Tejpal, also anti-BJP and the brain behind string operations against that party, was accused of and arrested for rape?
What Nana Patekar and Alok Nath did are certainly indefensible if true, even after some publicly defended them. All the tweets about Akbar, however, say that when the women said ‘no’ he did not pursue the matter in most cases. But Akbar has as many as 20 women tweeting about sexual harassment – the highest so far – and has resigned from the ministry. This must obviously be at the instance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, though no one wants to give him the credit.
And all these reports are coming out years later. It is true that in India even rapes are hidden as women are in no position to complain as victim-blaming is common and mostly the perpetrators are powerful.
A main issue in the sexual harassment debate is that men should learn that ‘no’ means NO and the tweets say that Akbar always accepted the ‘no’. So they, in effect, certify that he did the right thing. That some women journalists take advantage of their femininity cannot be denied. Having spent 60 years in that profession I understand that sexual harassment and misuse of positions of power to take advantage of women.
Jokes about The Asian Age newsroom being called Akbar’s Harem and stories of many flirtations in the profession are known to all journalists. And such stories are sure to be there wherever both men and women work. The Supreme Court of India has outlined what came to be known as the ‘Visakha guidelines’ and has made it compulsory for every establishment with employees to have a committee on sexual harassment
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.