Purohit’s Patronising Pat – A Non-Issue Blown Up

Purohit and 'Prof. Nirmala

Tamil Nadu Governor Purohit who owns ‘The Hitavada’ daily and ‘Prof.’ Nirmala Devi

IS  A STRANGE EXPERIENCE to see someone you know personally being trolled and an incident involving him/her being blown out of proportion.

The Governor of Tamil Nadu, Banwarilal Purohit, finds himself (to put it in the words      of  a newspaper) in “yet another” controversy (as if he has been the perpetrator of many scams) when he patted the cheek of a woman reporter after she asked a question  as his

The apology
The letter of apology  (courtesy Dainik Bhaskar

press conference ended and he was leaving.  The  “controversy” about which many reporters “sought clarification” was a remark by  Nirmala Devi, the assistant professor of a college whose voice clipping asking college girls to please university officials sexually to get better marks went viral. She had said she was once present on a dais from which the Governor, Banwarilal Purohit, spoke. Many questions were asked implying, suggesting, or questioning,  the governor’s involvement  in some  racket with the professor. Nirmala  has been  arrested  on charges of luring four  girl students to extend sexual favours to university officials. 

Having worked for 15 years as a news agency head in a city where Purohit brought out an English daily and ran Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan   schools with several branches (where a majority of  teachers are  women) and knowing several journalists, including women, who worked in his newspaper, I had never heard of his behaving inappropriately with women or having any ‘affairs’.

Such matters, even when not published or exposed, cannot be hidden. There are always whispers about them – and there were none about Purohit.   A businessman, he had taken over the newspaper from a politician who was notorious not only as a “hero” of the Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi but also for making advances  to a film actress, among other things.

Patronising pat
 The InShorts item

The Press, which had no guts to oppose the Congress minister then, was trying to make out as if  Purohit had some link to the woman professor simply because, as the Chancellor of all universities in his State, he happened to address a meeting from a stage on which she was also seated. As soon as the clip about her “advice” to the college girls went viral he had, as Chancellor of the university, he ordered a probe.

Touching someone “without permission” is, of course, not at all proper. The Chennai Press Club found his action an “outrageous” and “unbecoming conduct,” which was “neither exemplary nor condonable”.

An apology was demanded and  it was sent, signed by Purohit himself, by the Raj Bhavan immediately to the woman journalist who made a big issue of it on the social media, narrating how  she felt violated and washed her face many many times after the incident. She also sent a protest mail, though she too felt his action was ‘grandfatherly’.

He mailed back, “I considered that question to be a good one. Therefore, as an act of appreciation for the question…I gave a pat on your cheek considering you to be like my granddaughter.”  In his letter of apology, the Governor said he was in the print media for 40 years and that the “pat on cheek” was done with affection  to express his appreciation for her question, which came too late to be answered.

“I do understand from your mail that you feel hurt about the incident. I wish to express my regret and my apologies to assuage your sentiments that have been hurt,” Purohit added.

It is true that women in India do not like to be touched – even handshakes are normally replaced by the joining of hands in ‘Namaste’. Purhohit’s  act was patronizing and many do not like it.  I recall a former Chief Minister and an ex-Minister (incidentally both died in accidents) talking to me with  hands on my shoulders as if they were my friends,  –though I disagreed with both.  And they did not even know me well. Pats on the back were too many to be remembered.

But  then it was not considered inappropriate. Neither was a former President’s reply  (to a query by reporters why he always spoke exclusively to a particular woman reporter): “You wear saaris and come, I will tell you.” It was meant to be a joke and taken so.

Being patronizing is disliked. It may probably be an issue of cultural gap; Banwarilal Purohit  comes from Maharashtra  where the segregation of the sexes is not as severe as in the South. His association with a saffron party may be another (and perhaps the main) reason.  It could also be a hangover from the days when very few women were in the media, while they perhaps outnumber men now.

Whatever it is, his intentions cannot be doubted to blow a non-issue blown out of proportions by a Press with priorities mixed up.

Will US Walk Out On Gun Culture?

Hanna Yale                         Hannah Yale  — leader of the  schools Walkout against gun culture                                          

THE GUN LOBBY rules the United States of America. Whether Tweedle Dum is in power  or Tweedle Dee makes no difference. The real government is of  the gun lobby.

The country’s  God is the Gun, because it earns billions by making guns (and other instruments of death) and selling them to poor ignorant idiots all over the world — walkout  Foothill  Technology  High  School’s  initiative against  US  gun shooting “epidemic”

ranging from dictators and  ‘Defense’ ministers to terrorists.

Yesterday’s attack on the office of  YouTube by a woman who had  a grievance with it Continue reading Will US Walk Out On Gun Culture?

On To My Last Journey



This is not about my ‘kicking the bucket’ nor was that about my real obituary -which would never be written anyway as I am not important enough for it. It is about a trip I am planning to the ‘Char Dham’ (four centres of pilgrimage) – Badrinath, Kedarnath, Yamunotri and Gangotri – next month.

Continue reading On To My Last Journey

Need To Re-discover India

REMEMBER THE TIME, NOT LONG AGO, when every gaidinliuSouth Indian in Delhi, Lucknow, or Rajasthan or anywhere in the North was referred to by the locals as a ‘Madrasi’?  Or every North Indian in the South a Marwari?

The ignorance of, and misconceptions about, linguistic or ethnic groups other than their own  has been massive, but is reducing gradually. Earlier people from south moved north for jobs. Most ‘babus’ were Tamilians and almost all nurses, anywhere in India, Malayalees (they mostly are,  even now).

Migration, to some extent, brought Indians with different languages, faiths and cultures a little closer. There used to be a National Integration Council and when a crisis like war or a major disaster occurred efforts were made to make all the citizens feel united.

RANI GAIDINLIU                 Continue reading Need To Re-discover India

Slaves By ‘Democratic’ Choice

img-20170214-wa0015The ight of choice is the  essence of democracy.

We are an independent, democratic, nation because we choose – between our caste and the rival caste, between fair and black faces, between the known devil and the unknown.

We choose between prostrating, grovelling and cringing before a fair lady and a black man who was doing the same along with us just a few weeks ago. All because she danced around trees with a ‘star’ whom we adored. Continue reading Slaves By ‘Democratic’ Choice

Coming of (Old) Age in India

blog-imagesSometimes people start believing the fiction they create about  old_age_themselves. Having written two books on journalism I pretended to be an author. It did not matter that the books were rejected by all journalists, including those I trained (not one was ready to read and those who did refused to give even a few lines of feedback) I decided not to ever write about journalism. How the books proved to be duds is  another Continue reading Coming of (Old) Age in India

Fight to Stop Perverts

crimes-against-women-in-indMass molestation of women on Bengaluru’s most important streets -MG Road and Brigade Road-during New Year revelry, is a week-old story. Even as the public outrage is still on, come reports of a 24-year-old woman molested in Baghpat (UP) by four men who also chopped off her ears for resisting rape  and of molestations heralding 2017 even in Delhi and many cities..

The Times group, especially its news channel Times Now  has started a campaign to  ‘Stop the Perverts’. Karnataka Home Minister G.Parameswara’s first reaction was that it was no Continue reading Fight to Stop Perverts

Name the Prejudice

Some people, like politicians and film stars, thrive on controversy. Their careers depend on publicity – good or bad. Psychological studies have proved that bad news attracts more attention, and therefore spreads faster and wider, than good. So, to be in the eyes of the public, ‘stars’ (or their PR agents) ‘leak’ rumours or scandals against themselves. They prefer being written against. Being ignored means death.
But to be controversial and become the centre of a raging social media debate from birth is the privilege of the scion of the Pataudi dynasty. Saif Ali Khan Pataudi and his wife Kareena Kapoor, named him Taimur and thereby touched off a debate on the social media like Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp. What was the right of the parents, to chose a name which an individual has to live with for his or her whole life, has come into the public domain.

rhodes_inida The ostensible reason for the digital storm is that the name happens to be that of Taimur Lang (Langda -lame- shortened. He had a deformed leg). Taimur was an Islamic invader from Mongolia who had attacked and sacked India, especially Delhi, with unequaled barbarity. Over 1.7 crore people were killed and thousands of women raped. But he was not the only one who did it. Other invaders and rulers like Ghajni, Sikandar, Babur, Tipu and Aurangazeb emulated him. Even after that the name Sikandar was given to many in India, without any protests. And yet India is home to the second largest number of Muslims in the word! To get their votes, some call India intolerant!

Continue reading Name the Prejudice

Memory Training in Ancient India

Knowledge in ancient India was passed on from one generation to the next through word of mouth. The oral tradition could not have survived for centuries without effective and efficient methods of memory training.

Years ago, an aged Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) functionary told me a story: He was among around 40 RSS workers attending a “bouddhik”  (intellectual discussion-cum-training class) addressed by Eknath Ranade, the brain behind the Vivekananda Roack memorial at Kanyakumari.

At the outset, Ranade asked each of the participants to tell their names and where they came from and where they were working.

At the end of the class, he told each of them his name, town and work place. Then he told them that what he did was not a miracle or an ability he was born with. The organisation trained him to enhance his memory.

There is another story I heard in childhood from my father. Panditaraya, a famous classical Telugu poet from coastal Andhra, adjacent to Odisha, went to Puri to visit the famous Jagannath temple. He did not know the local language. Those days learned people could go around the country using Sanskrit, as the Adi Shankara did to north, east and west.

As he was walking on the road he saw two men quarrelling and shouting at each other. He stood for some time watching them. Then one of the men stabbed the other to death. The king’s men came and arrested the killer. They tried to find out what was the cause of the fight. All passers-by said they did not witness the fight and did not know what led to the crime (as they do even today, to escape the police harrassment and court attendance). The only witness was Panditaraya. He was presented before the king along with the accused.

Panditaraya  told  the king’s court that  he did not understand a word of what  the two were speaking, but could repeat the entire conversation.  And he did so.  He obviously had a photographic memory. The judgement was delivered based on the narration by the Telugu poet who did not know Odia language.

In Arthur Hailey’s book, ‘The Money Changers’, which is about the banking industry, a girl cashier working in a bank  was kidnapped by bank robbers with a large amount of money, blindfolded and taken to a hideaway. The  girl had a photographic memory  and could rant off the numbers of thousands of currency notes in a bundle and the balances in all the  accounts.

When she escaped her captors, she could lead the police to the place where the money was hidden. As she was taken in a getaway car from the bank, she started counting and remembered at what count the car took a turn to the right or left (obviously it was  not a one-way street).

All these stories make it clear that memory can be trained and enhanced. They also emphasise the importance of good memory. In our education system, it is memory that usually determines academic achievement, rather than understanding and assimilation. We live in a society where knowledge matters more than wisdom.

It is only when we  can remember incidents that occurred decades ago, but forget where the wallet (usually),  the spectacles or house-keys were kept a few minutes earlier, that we realise that there are two types of memory – short and long. This is where mind dynamics and mnemonics come in. A good memory, like communication skills, is a major asset for anyone to achieve leadership position in management.

Ayurveda found herbs like Shankapushpi and formulations that strengthen memory power. Some other devices and techniques have also been developed for this purpose. A ‘memory guru’, who says he studied in a Corporation school and started life as a peon claims he could acquire several degrees and a doctorate, by developing  techniques  of memory enhancement. He started  cashing in on his “art”  by starting an institute  for memory training.

Much of literature depends on memories – sad memories that torment and happy memories that one lives by.  Indian films lean much on unscientific and  wrong concepts of memory loss or different types of   amnesia. A long, boring explanation about functioning of the brain is needed to understand these phenomena and this is no place for it.  Selective amnesia is common in out present-day electoral politics in which politicians make promises and forget them till the next election comes.

The most significant scientific invention after mankind developed the wheel is the memory chip – the tiny device on which not only the IT industry and robotics but also several other gadgets depend. We use many of these gadgets without even being aware that their main component is the memory chip.

Any technique, device or practice that helps us understand, develop and use the processes of memory to our optimum advantage would indeed be a boon to humanity.



Author of ‘A TOWN CALLED PENURY  -the Changing Culture of Indian Journalism’             &                                           ‘JOURNALISM, Ethics, Codes, Laws’