Happy 70th Birthday ! Kaushalya Singh

Given her penchant for poetry , I thought  It would be appropriate that Kaushalya’s Platinum Birthday Greeting should be  poetry. Trouble is : not many words rhyme with Seventy  (bounty , shanty  , Damyanti  were some that came to mind : none appropriate you’d agree !) When dismayed , parental intervention often comes  to one’s rescue . Taking some liberties & alliterative licences , a few lines were thus couched :

“7 decades ago, of the first month on the second day

A genius was born to Ganga & Kay Bee Kay


A sibling to Mira  , she barely knew

That Kay Bee Kay & Ganga were not quite through


With biennial gaps in which to wallow

There were one two three , nay, four to follow


If I go any further , I might incur the wrath

Of Family elders who might begin to froth

How dare you !! they might begin to shout

Alliteration be damned , I might get thrown out “


Kaushalya showed early  signs of genius as a School Girl . Her Maths teacher Goswami Master ( endearingly referred to by the Kanuga Clan as KHURCHANDOO in a respectful reference to his bald pate which he perennially scratched with the Red Pencil which he seldom needed when checking Kaushalya’s homework ) often  commented , in utter bewilderment , more to himself than to anyone else : “ DIKKAT KAHAAN PAIDAA HOTEE HAI —-“   in an obvious reference to Kaushalya rattling out complex equations of Algebra when all Khurchandoo wanted was a quick proration of his monthly tuition fees after netting the days he couldn’t make it to the Kanuga citadel ( a tough ‘un in itself in those pre-calculator days ) .

Her genius earned her the endearing sobriquet “ Guryaanee” amongst her siblings.

She wrote poetry from a very early age , in a Burgundy Red Diary . One of her poems which I was particularly fond of  was “ Naree “  :  I shall say no more though : the last time I recited a few lines she was quite annoyed !! Admittedly I had made a few unacceptable changes .

Fast forward to her post graduation as M A ( English Hons ) & LLB from Calcutta University . As a student in Calcutta , she was pursuing a lot more than her post graduation & wedding bells were not too far with Ganesh Prasad Singh , G P for short . It was the mother of all weddings , with the groom choosing to arrive on an Elephant . But then that , as I am so very fond of saying , is a tale for another day.

The White Stork soon delivered , in quick succession , two Chota Geniuses , a boy who went on to set  River Liffey on fire , & a girl who continues to set river Thames ablaze . Its wonderful that both are with Kaushalya on this special day , along with their loving spouses 

A warm hearted person in good times & bad , Kaushalya has been sentimentally close to all her siblings.  I often remember with a whole lot of fondness , our days at Mayfair Gardens in Calcutta , when , as a fresh graduate & no pocket money now that I was at home in Flat 303  my Kwality Choco Bars at 3.30 each afternoon were funded by Kaushalya from Flat 304 Belatedly , my heartfelt thanks on behalf of the Ghais & on my own behalf !! . Always the first to come forward to  help & ever the low-profile do-gooder , that’s our  Kaushalya .

 I should have loved to be with you on this special day  

& raise an impromptu Bubbly  toast .

But that wasn’t to be , & the best I can offer

Is this impromptu on-my-Blog post  “

Have loads of fun , because all that matters on this day is love and heartfelt cheer

Happy Birthday !


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A United Europe !!

Most travellers to Europe ( Schengen countries to be precise ) have often contrasted the tedious inter-state cross-border traffic in India , with the zero-checkpoint transition from one member state to another in the Schengen zone. Of course some EU member states have so far not embraced the United Europe phenomenon in terms of their Visa regimes & Currencies , but they are in a minority within the EU.

Picked up an interesting story  on the internet recently about how united Europe really is : reminiscent of a short story I once read about a house in Ireland where the Dining room , the porch , & the Wash Rooms were in Northern Ireland , whereas the Sitting Room , Kitchen , & Bed-rooms were in the Irish Republic , or a configuration similarly ridiculous : imagine the supper travelling across the border from the Kitchen to be served in the Dining room , or a quick hop across the border in the stillness of night, to take a leak ( in the Wash Room : where else !! )

However, I digress , being a slave to old habits which proverbially die hard . Returning to what I picked up on the internet , & I quote :

” A metal strip on the floor of Eurode Business Center marks the border between Germany and the Netherlands. On one side of the building, there’s a German mailbox and a German policeman. On the other side, a Dutch mailbox and a Dutch policeman ———– The border is open enough that a single building can span it. No border guards, no checkpoints. But a letter sent from the German side of the building takes a week to get to the Dutch side. —— a computer security company —-  has offices on both sides of the building. On one side,  employees call German customers on German phones. On the other side, it’s all Dutch. —-the company’s CEO, has two offices, one on either side of the border. He carries his laptop back and forth all day long.

——– ( true story of )  a Belgian carpenter who spent his days doing carpentry in Germany, then drove home to spend the night in Belgium. The German company he worked for paid for the car. Belgium wanted to tax the car because it spent the night in a Belgian driveway. Germany wanted to tax the car because it spent the day on German roads. The fight was such a big deal to both countries that they went to court to figure out who got to tax the car. (Germany won.)

This is how a united Europe is being created. Slowly, case by case, one Belgian carpenter at a time. ”

I have regrettably not made a note of the writer this story belonged to but acknowledge a cut & paste job done above to make a point : what point ? one might ask ! To be brutally honest , I haven’t the foggiest except that it makes an interesting READ .

Cheers for now & atb

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The Brits are coming

My Brit brother called earlier in the day to tell me what he was up to on a balmy winter day in jolly old England & brought me up to date with happenings relating to his 4-month old grandson Rishi . That reminded me of an exchange of letters between Rishi & me when he was 2-months of age : cute inanities I had stored up for use in a blog some day & forgotten all about. Memory thus jogged , I have retrieved the exchange reproduced hereunder :

Rishi wrote to all & sundry when he was 2 ( months of course ) :

I am Rishi. Seven weeks, six days and 12 hours old. In a little while I will be able to crawl, talk, walk, swim and play football. Then my diary will be pretty full. So I thought, I will give you all a status update now. How I am getting on etc. Because in a little while I will be too busy for that.

Up until now my life is superchill. And so it should be. I laugh a lot and I am happy most of the day. In return I get to sleep in late, take an afternoon nap or just close my eyes in my rocking chair for a minute or five. My mum tells me there are people who spent a lot of money to spend two weeks chilling like this at the pool in an all inclusive resort.

So what do I like? Lights have been my life joy from day one. I don’t care too much about the toys. A soft toy called Giraffe? Come on! But lamps! They have been fascinating me since day one. Me and lights, is like fish & chips. I also like my friends above my bed, they dance quite cool on the music. And yesterday I met a new friend in something they call the mirror. I studied the chap for a bit, and decided he was cool so gave him a smile. He smiled straight back at me, so I think we will get on. Oh and I like chatting, in person I mean. I am not that digital yet, although I have been on Skype many times.

What else? O yes, I can do stuff. For example, I can put my fist in my mouth. Can you do that? And I can eat and sleep at the same time. How superchill is that!

Rishi xxx

Hereunder my response on the facebook post :

Hey pal ! Grt 2 hear 4rm u.

I too can put a clenched fist into my mouth & often speak & think differently & sleep in business meetings all at d same time without anyone noticing. That is a skill u will develop once u r SLIGHTLY older & about my age .

Till then ENJOY ur new friends & experiences.

The thing called mirror is very interesting . I too have one. But these days I can reflect without looking at it ! All my luv & cheers & God Bless u.

He has not responded so far : some day he will : may be soon & in person : my brother mentioned the Brits may undertake a Passage to India early in the new year .

Cheers & looking forward to meeting the youngest “super-chill” member of the extended family

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Namastey Europe

Got back mid November after 3 glorious days in Paris and 7 days in the Netherlands . Weather all through was most kind and at sub 7 in Pune on return continued to be so

Stayed at a beautiful village called Houten in the NL with plenty of early morning walks along elaborate parks and water bodies and very friendly rural folk nodding their good mornings to the elegant old man from India . Amidst busy schedule at office , managed an evening in Utrecht and a day in Amsterdam. Met a French woman in Amsterdam who had spent many years in Auroville and knew Dr Dilip Dutta , formerly of Digboi Hospital  : small world !!

Came across a firang bhikharan ( beggar ) in Utrecht ( usual Mumbai traffic- signal story : she was homeless with two kids and no job etc  ) :  reaction : yehan key bhikhari bhi angrezi boltey hain !! ( even beggars speak English here !! ) : small world indeed !! Ran into beggars in Paris Metro ,  Champ-de-Elyssye , and Rue de Theatre too.

Got  introduced  to Greek cuisine for dinner on the banks of the Utrecht canal. Also became aware of  the use of duck fat instead of vegetable oils in most European establishments, leading to a prompt change in  daily bread from  stuffed omlette to cold salads and jacket potatoes with tons of butter : long live the Brits for this amazing invention of pub food : duck fat in European cuisine : ugh !! .

The bullet train from Amsterdam  to Paris was an experience one was  so looking forward to : had booked well  in advance to experience their cuisine  / wifi connectivity / tea and coffee from all over the world and so forth.” We regret” the announcement declared  shamelessly in 3 languages , that there was no activity in the train kitchen due to an electrical fault and that there would therefore be no hot meals nor tea or coffee : keep wifing and drinking early morning wino for 3 hours if u like !!  Shatabdis back home are better : at least one can hop off at a station for a quick samosa and chaai !! . Small world indeedee !!

The hotel in Paris was a comfortable walking distance from Eiffel tower , Louvre , Lover’s bridge , Statue of liberty , Arc de triumphe , and Notradam . Everything was exactly where it was on my last visit over 30 years back . “La ca change” one might say , except for the old Organ at Notradam which was 775 years of age the last time & had progressed to over 800 years this time around , still playing with awesome acoustics.

Plenty of happy Chinese tourists , some sheepish looking  Desis in Delhi kee sirdee attire ( a sartorial wonder that can not be described : has to be experienced !! )  invariably with grumpy wives introduced as “meri ( my )  missus“: seemed genuinely envious that I had no missus , meri or otherwise  , and bus-loads of  American couples . Most importantly , I finally had a smoking room and could also smoke in taxis and public places . Cigerette packets in stock ex Mumbai were finally put to good use. The Dutch must learn such liberalism from the French .

The high points of Paris were the Eiffel top at night / a day at the Disney Land in the midst of their 20th anniversary celebrations / absolutely out-of-this-world fireworks display against the backdrop of a massive Christmas Tree , a simulated free-fall inside an old service elevator at the  Hollywood Towers horror-Hotel  , Armagaddon- special- effects , Cinerama 5-D experience in a space ship -gone -wonky , the Hollywood boulevard , and of course a Champagne-reservation at the  Lido . A 10 minute parade to Mridangas, Tabla , Shehnais,  and Sitar with artistes “dressed” as Hindu Gods and Godesses could be extremely  offensive to a sensitive Saffronite  ( was moderately offensive to me too. But the champagne had just been popped and the ICICI card swiped for a small fortune : a protest walk -out then would be churlish : thankfully for the Lido a Punjabi old lady and her  daughter were the only other Hindus present  and speaking for myself I rationalised that God resides in all !! Besides , the lead-artiste in a diaphonous gold brocaded saree looked absolutely Divine !!

Some stray observations :

1. Turkish taxi driver in NL : critical of his dual citizenship and felt like the proverbial “washerman’s dog of neither home nor the river bank” .

2. Egyptian taxi driver in NL : left Egypt after Sadat was assasinated : didn’t like Hosni Mubarak and was too young to know much of Nasser. Didn’t think Tehreek square was a good idea and felt Egypt must revert to a monarchy : good news for King Farokh’s descendents , if any

3. Algerian taxi driver in Paris : loves to smoke a cigarallo while driving : khoob jamega rang jub milenge teen Yaar : hum tum or Benson bhai !! ( its party time when he meets a fellow smoker specially of brand Benson )  Has no political inclinations : loves Raj Kapoor , Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachhhan and , hold your breadth , Kareena Kapoor and has never heard of SRK.  Buys French subtitled Dvds of Hindi movies : proudly showed us DVDs of Gopi , Ram Aur Shyam , Deewar that he had bought @ Euros 1 each for his end-of-day entertainment. Was heart-broken to hear about Kareena getting married to Saif.

4. Namastey and Aap kaisey hain was often heard at the hotel from french employees : (30 + years ago during my last visit even English was barely spoken or understood ).

Astounded at the multiplicity of pieces of  luggage , both checked-in and cabin ,carried by desis : felt nice to be travelling light : perhaps shall be so  even to the final destination when the time comes !!

Cheers for now

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Passion Emotion Sentiment

These three words are often used in our daily lives as synonymous , whereas they are in fact as different in their connotations as the proverbial chalk is from cheese ( I have never quite understood why chalk & not butter or peanuts or Peanut Butter are contrasted with cheese : but then who am I to question what I can not comprehend !!  ) .

Coming back to the question of Passion , Emotion , & Sentiment I give in to my temptation to  quote ( & not plagiarise ) from a post in Speaking Tree a few days back ( yes , I do have a blog there, regrettably in disuse rather like a bomb-shelter wherein I shall seek refuge one of these days  if / when the going gets tough !!   ) which  more or less sums up one facet of Vedanta thus : ( simplified internally for ease of my own understanding )

”  Entertain Passion but do not be Passionate ;

   harbour Emotion but do not be Emotional ;  

  respect Sentiment without turning Sentimental

The above, practised over a period,  transforms character of :

  •  Passion from personal to impersonal ,
  • Emotion from selfish to unselfish ,
  • Sentiment from preferential to universal

Does this mutatative philosophy make one indifferent & by extension irresponsible towards affairs of  one’s immediately proximate  world ?

Quite the contrary :  

—– ( it ) ” merely changes the quality of such feelings from sensual to sublime ”

In our daily lives , we come across challenges which we tend to circumnavigate unless their outcome , if confronted , could make a material difference to our self-serving goals. Opportunities are often wasted , unless these are directly  correlated to our own well being. Many , if not most , can not see beyond the two-dimensional self-serving picture. The larger picture , in the third dimension , is often blurred & leads to inertia & rationalistic indifference.

So far so good !! Quoting ( as opposed to plagiarising ) from a Speaking Tree blog , combined with my innate ability to waffle make a heady cocktail . Vedanta may well change the quality of one’s feelings from sensual to sublime , but at a more mundane level , certain external stimuli do in fact change one’s feelings from sublimity to the very coarse & sensuous . An effective way to contain & indeed reverse the phenomenon is to allow the moment to pass by without offering a conscious  resistance to its passage.

Every human passion/emotion/sentiment , at the end of the day , tends to be either contextual or interpretational. And the context & interpretation thereof largely gets shaped by one’s perception of oneself in a given situation.  Centrality of one’s being in the enormity of the Universe often does the mischief . And one begins to develop a delusion of every event & non-event in the universe having some sublime relationship to oneself. Universality of passion / emotion & sentiment then becomes preferentially introverted.

There is a method in every randomised kaliedoscopic formation of events & non-events . Each such formation offers a propelling force , a challenge , & an opportunity . One responds to this invisible force differently on different occasions. On occasions that one does get propelled forward the results can be quite overwhelming

As the old saying goes , it is all about taking an opportunity head- on the moment it makes its presence felt.

Unhappily , realisation such as above comes rather late in the day for many such as me . However , looking back at lost opportunities can only aggravate the already stagnated situation . I for one have decided to take each day as it comes , celebrate it in its entirety , & not waste a moment looking back in the rear view mirror : after all rear views can at best ensure safety on the road whereas taking the full frontal windscreen in one’s perspective leads to a movement forward .

I do not know why I am writing this seemingly serious drivel instead of my usual light hearted banter : something within me is forcing me to do so & my  fingers have involuntarily moved  to key in a serious piece of boredom : my profuse apologies but I could not resist the propulsion.

Cheers for now

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Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time , not so very long ago , News was News covering the proverbial “Man Bites Dog” happenings of universal interest from North East West & South . Debate on the other hand , was debate & never did the twain meet .

News was serious business with Juthika Ratnam , or Devki Nanandan Pandey ( depending upon whether one was a Desi Firang or a Desi Desi in one’s close encounters with air-waves : short medium or long !! ) .

Debate then was debate , with astutely made points & counter-points in civilised seriousness  interspersed with immensely witty , often  scathingly euphemistic jibes traded between adversorial participants within narrow confines of time alloted by , & in language repetitively respectful to , the Presiding official.

Once upon a time , investigative journalism was the oligopolistic domain of the likes of “Indian Express” under Arun Shourie’s scathing Editorial Pen at the seriously sublime  level , & of “Blitz” under Karanjia’s salacious demeanour , content-titillation embellished by the back page treat for lecherous boys & men : latter unmatched by anything I in my innocent years had seen barring  3-D  images cleverly printed on Blotting Paper freely distributed by a certain  trader called Earl Fuller who often brought the good stuff from Singapore on his business trips to meet Dad & his colleagues deep in the jungles of Assam . But that, as I often say , is another story for another day. For the moment , suffice it to say that while family elders had qualified by virtue of age to use the great invention of those times in writing instruments called the biro ( ball pen in modern parlance ) , I was still on a quill & an ink pot ( Parker Quink ) & had the first rights always on Earl Fuller’s naughty blotters .

And, once upon a time , Candid Camera was an outrageously funny ( ha ha- type & not the funny- peculiar variant ) & MTV Bakra was a must-watch flag bearer for a while.

Once upon a time , Governments used to fall at the electoral hustings on allegations of kick backs in mere 9- digits of the Indian Rupee , 21 of which would fetch a US Dollar & 32 a British Pound ( remember a certain INR 64 Cr story !! )

Having officially qualified as a senior citizen for additional 25 basis points on my hard-earned Fixed Deposits , I have often been ridiculed on the flip side for harking back to the old times with boring narratives of how things were once upon a time . That notwithstanding , I should like to hold my ground & hark back to how different things were once upon a time.

At the macro level  candid camera , investigative journalism , titillation , & debate ( more appropriately slanging matches ) appear to have got mixed up in the electronic media’s 24 X 7 blitzkrieg , into an entangled mass of mediocrity  comparable to Hangers in a disused wardrobe or Cut Springs in a hardware store . Parliamentary debates in the world’s largest democracy are few & far between . Presidential debates in the world’s oldest democracy  have also been reflective of a degenerative regression to uncontrolled aggression. Have not watched ( on the box ; where else !! ) Parliamentary debates in the mother of all parliaments : may be what transpires in the HOC is no longer news-worthy or relevent to the boorish times we live in.  Back home, there is thankfully a semblance of sanity in the OUTSIDER debates on Bloomberg with Tim Sebastian ( of Hard Talk fame ) moderating the proceedings with panache .

Thankfully , however , times change not always for the worse , as appears to have happened at the macro level : they do sometimes change for the better too , & have thankfully done so at the micro level of yours aye in recent times . How so !! my well-wishers might wonder . Is it his long term US visa that even NAMO has not been able to obtain , or is it his long term Schengen visa accorded in the Orange Carpet category ( those familiar with Dutch colours will understand ) . Is it a bird , or is it an aeroplane they might wonder in well meaning bewilderment.  Such turn arounds & make overs are beyond words . The feeling of a rainbow wrapped around one’s shoulders is great . Specially when one is sitting atop a hill which , though dwarfed by mountain tops conquered by many,  is nevertheless an improvement  over the erstwhile plateau .

Detailing steals the charm of mystery surrounded by enigma shrouded in the unexplained . The unexplained shall therefore remain a mystery . May the good times last at the micro level : the macros can go to an unheavenly state  & stay there for all I care !!

Cheers for now & atb


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Expectations Reduce Joy !! Ergo The Joy of the Unexpected

  • Started Blogging 4 months back : mid-June 2012 , to be precise
  • Posted a modest score of 27 : the initial two posts a week has petered down to a weekly average of 1.5
  • Crossed the 1500 views threshold : nearly but not quite 100 views a week : highest daily score of 176 views on 5th August
  • Viewership from 14 countries : India , Singapore , Qatar , Kuwait , Russia, USA , UK ,  Canada ,  Germany , France , Ireland , Italy , Denmark & the Chech Republic .
  • Wake up : Australia , Newzealand , China , Malaysia , Indonesia , The Netherlands ,  Africa & South America : you guys do noot know what you are missing !!

I had no Expectations to start with  & am therefore able to savour the joy of the Unexpected  today .  Having now gotten into realms of Expectations ( 3000 views from 25 countries ?? ) , I will probably not experience Joy of similar proportion , going forward .

Expectations do indeed Reduce Joy

Cheers & atb

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People Protest and Politics

   “—-The lady doth protest too much, methinks ” 

                                           William  Shakespeare                                                      

This post is NOT about Ms Mamta Banerjee , even though I did , at one stage ,  contemplate using her ” Maa/ Maatee / Manush” ( roughly translated : Mother / Earth / & People ) slogan as the title ,  till better sense prevailed . This post is NOT about  machiavellian antics of the lady who has , in the past few days , rocked the UPA II governmental boat , & hastened  processes of realignment across  political spectrum in New Delhi . NOR is this post about  decline & fall of the once frontline state of West Bengal in the Union of India . This post is most definitely NOT about her ragtag agglomeration of sycophants , ranging from a former leading light in a front- line Industry body to an erstwhile quiz master well past his best-by date . This post , I daresay with all sincerity & conviction at my command , is NOT about a nation-wide suspicion about a chemical disequilibrium in the collective wisdom  of a certain regional political party with aspirational delusions . In short , this post is NOT about anything that can get me into trouble when I visit Kolkata next . With adequately protective disclaimers in place , let me get on with what this post is about , contrary to what the opening lines & photo might inaccurately denote .

Key word in this post is  “Protest” as an interface  between People & Politics .  Argumentative that we are as a nation , we have had more than our fair share of protests in the past 12 to 18 months , culminating in an inelegent shirt-strip  brouhaha at Vigyan Bhavan New Delhi  the other day , causing visible discomfort to the Honourable PM even before he could start his inaugural address , as his security detail looked on in paralytic  inertia.




We had , in recent times, witnessed Shoe-Gate with a torn shoe ( ahh !! the prudent Indian protestor !! ) hurled at then Honourable Union Home Minister Chidambaram at a press conference ( the journo missed Chidambaram by a mile even though the latter did not duck  , unlike his predessesor in this format of protest ,  George W Bush during his final visit to Iraq as American President ) . Shoe-Gate was followed closely by what one might call Slap-Gate with Sharad Pawar , then Honourable Union Minister for Agriculture at the recieving end .  And now Shirt- Gate aimed directly at the Honourable Prime Minister . I hasten to clarify that the prefix “then” to Honourable does not denote that the aforesaid gentlemen are no longer honourable ; the connotation is with reference to ministerial portfolios held when the aforesaid protests occured. The ‘S’ centricity of these protests is quite uncanny & could , going forward , inspire a post called ” Shoe Slap & Shirt ” to displace the hitherto “S3” space- domination by late Raj Kapoor’s magnum-opus .  There I go again with my customary digression !! Getting back quickly on track , suffice it to say that these individual formats of protest carried out by deranged persons in isolation  reflect meaningless antics  underserving of more than a passing & bemused attention. That BJP , the principal opposition in Parliament , attempted to legitimise  Shirt-Gate as reflective of middle- class angst against UPA merely reflects their bankruptcy of political finesse .

Protests have been in human DNA since pre-historic times . Lord Rama , so Ramayana tells us , was banished for 14 years by his polygamous father Dashratha , following a rather unique form of protest by his step- mother Kaikayee to get her biological son Bharat designated heir-apparent in preference to her step-son & rightful next-in-line Rama. There was no counter protest by Rama nor by his biological mother , probably because they understood the futility thereof  given  Kaikayee’s bewitching control over Dashratha’s decision-making dubiousness . In Mahabharata too , crown price Bhishma was forced , in the face of an unusual protest by his prospective step-mother , into a vow of life- long celibacy to ensure not only that his in-the-womb step-brother got designated heir apparent but also that his step brother’s progeny , yet unconcieved , would be the undisputed heir-presumptive .

Oliver Cromwell’s campaign culminating in Magna Carta , after a lot of blood had been shed to nurture the foundations of the British parliamentary democracy , is an example of protests turning ugly & violent but leading eventually to a sustainable model of justice & equity.  American Civil war  &  Boston Tea Party  come in the same genre of bloodletting protests in larger long term interests .

Contrarily , India , both pre & post-independence , has  had some highly impactful defining moments in Protests , mostly peaceful & sometimes metaphorically violent (such as the innocuous shoe polish blackened face at the sublime level , or laying siege for varying lengths of time, to restrict & confine the besieged person  ( Gherao  )  at a slightly elevated level of sublimity. Laying siege through Gherao or a variant thereof in a peaceful Dharna ( literally meaning squatting ) was seldom violent & was mostly embellished with a smattering of singing “old-fasioned, foot-tapping ,hand-clapping , knee-slapping ” songs with  ‘nary-a-note-in-tune’ . Instances such as the ChaddiGherao ( stripped down to underwear ) siege  at movie star Dilip Kumar’s villa on Pali Hill , Mumbai to urge him to return the Nishan-e-Pakistan , Pakistan’s highest civilian honour , conferred upon him by the “enemy”  have been few , far between , & at worst amusing .

“Protest” per se is not a bad thing .  To quote Abraham Lincoln ” To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.” 

However , contemporary politicians appear to lack the art of  protest with symbolism , elegance , & innovative freshness . Ironic !! Given that Mahatma Gandhi , Father of the Nation, inspired innovative forms of peaceful , non violent & impactful protest across the world but was apparently not able to pass the legacy on at home : at least not to political dispensations of our times . Ironically ,  politicians across party affiliations do invoke Gandhi’s  name perfunctorily before launching shrill , cacophonous , & boring campaigns of protest .

The 240 mile Dandi march of Gandhi in 1930 , culminated in his lifting a lump of salty mud at the sea shore to symbolise a nation’s defiance of the British Raj & with this symbolism , Gandhi ushered-in his renewed “battle of Right against Might” to “shake the foundations of the British Empire” ( quotes in Gandhi’s own words ) . Who can deny the Salt protest ( Namak Satyagraha ) its rightful place as one of most impactful mass protests in history of our nation. And, who can ever forget the emotion-charged Martin Sheen as  American journalist  Miller  in Richard Attenborough’s GANDHI , filing his report on phone of the incident at Dharasana Salt Works in dramatic telegraphic syntax : the only staccato reportage to have ever been read into official records of United States Senate 

Anna Hazare did show some early signs of reinventing Gandhian art of protest & though not in the same league as Gandhi , could have offered a meaningful platform for popular protest , but for eventual & inevitable derailment of his movement from within.

“It’s funny how social activists usually protest against the only things that  have a credible chance of achieving the activists’ goals.”
Craig Bruce ( Australian TV Comedian )

Anna Hazare’s campaign for a strong legislation to curb corruption , in retrospect , suffered from its inherent weakness of piggy-backing on successful formats of protest without correspondingly nuanced focus on finesse . Hunger Strke was a direct lift from Gandhian strategy . However , Gandhi never directed his extremely potent Hunger Strikes against the British Raj nor as a tool for emotional blackmail . Most , if not all , his Hunger Strikes were directed at introspective atonement for personal failures & collective failures of his misguided followers . Gandhi’s  inherent moral authority over those he led brought them around to his ways. Neither Anna nor his key aides command the moral authority of Gandhi to carry a Hunger Strike to realms of mass remorse & course-corrections. ” I am Anna” emblazoned Gandhi Caps worn by his supporters were obviously inspired by ” We are all Khaled said”  campaign to bring to book cops responsible for killing in custody  of  Egyptian activist Khaled Mohammed Saeed as a precursor to Fgyptian Spring of 2011.  ” I am Anna” caps did for a while catch the imagination of masses in galvanising protests against institutionalised corruption . The mutation , post the split in Team Anna , to Gandhi Caps emblazoned with ” I am Arvind ” is laughable & contemptible ( no protective disclaimers needed when it comes to Arvind Kejriwal , the joker who thought he could be the King of Spades )  .

And yet , all is not lost . Whilst Political formations across party lines in Gandhi’s land appear to have forgotten the art of  peaceful yet impactful protest , the proletariat have displayed remarkable courage of conviction in recent times to protest as no one has & created impact leading up to their stated goals. Khandwa farmers’ JAL SATYAGRAHA ( Protest in Water ) in August 2012 illustrates this. Fifty-one farmers , not led by any politician , spent 17 days immersed neck -deep in the reservoir of the Omkareshwar dam till an otherwise indifferent State Government of Madhya Pradesh was forced by power of their truthful courage to address their rehabilitation concerns ( till then neglected despite a Supreme Court direction ) .

Opponents of Kudamkulam Nuclear Power Plant tried to imitate Khandwa Jal Satyagraha by threatening to stand immersed in sea till their demands were met . Their protest however  fizzled out : perhaps because the sea , unlike a reservoir ,  has to contend with tidal ebb & flow .

I have often wondered whether  disruptive protests through  past several sessions of our Parliament could have been better & more effectively choreographed . If BJP, the principal opposition  in Parliament were to wear surgical masks & maintain pin-drop silence during parliamentary sessions , in protest against the UPA Government’s arrogance in power  , instead of disrupting proceedings with shrill , incoherent , & cacophonous sloganeering , they could perhaps have embarassed the Government & shaken its very foundations , rather like Gandhi in Dandi. Instead , they came through not exactly smelling of roses !!





Innovative protests in this day & age of  multi & social media exposure do genrate some interesting Protest banners & signs. An innovative protest sign in this genre is from Arab spring in Egypt 2011 :

Occupy Wall Street ( OWS ) symbolising income inequalities in the “We are 99 %” slogan  has consistently produced meaningless protest signs with little or no impact . That OWS movement has survived despite absence of any focussed agenda  is quite incredible. It probably manifests an underlying frustration at societal inequity without any focussed redressal . NYPD cops continue to earn USD 56,000 per year whereas  Goldman Sach CEO continues with his USD 56,000 per day . Poor who have nothing to eat have not resorted to eating the rich. Signs with such messages  appear to have turned the movement frivolous

Protest , as the dictionary tells us , is etymologically derived from a conjunction of two words in Latin : Pro meaning  Publicly , & Testari meaning Assert . To protest or to publicly assert , one must have a subject of public interest , with larger good of the public at large as the goal post , & a well thought out strategy to reach the same , under leadership that has clarity of vision , mass appeal , & charisma to carry a campaign through .

One looks forward to a Pune-produced stereoscopic 3D animation film in mid October called Delhi Safari A story about a group of animals from the Borivali National Park in Mumbai :  a leopard cub named Yuvi ,  his mother Begum ,  Bajrangi the hot tempered monkey , and his anger management guru , Dr. Bagga the bear , who decide to submit a petition to the Government in Delhi  to restrain builders & developers from encroaching their natural habitat in the National Park. A protest in front of the Parliament in Delhi is the goal. The motley group includes  Alex , the parrot who can speak & understand the language of politicians in Delhi.  The movie records their journey & adventures en-route & in Delhi

  Indeed : “In such ugly times, the only true protest is beauty.”
   Phil Ochs ( American Protest Singer ) 

Cheers & atb

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IDP Guru Nanak And I

We have done it again : apart from winning the under-19 Cricket World Cup for the third time ( Great !! ) & carrying parliamentary debates to TV studios & street corners ( not so great !! ) , we have made it to the top of yet another global listing of the wrong kind.  This time around we share top honours with Turkey in a study undertaken by a Norwegian agency , of Internally Displaced persons ( IDPs ) , or Domestic Refugees , for ease of understanding, amongst nations which are not torn by war nor any man -made turmoil nor by Mother Nature’s fury . Over 400,000 Indians have been classified by this listing as Internally Displaced Persons . That is a staggering 334 persons in every 1 million Indians !!

The aforesaid news brought back memories of a very nice painting of Guru Nanak that has adorned the walls of my parental home over the past several decades : in fact for as long as I can remember , as a symbol of my late mother’s faith in “being human”. The uniqueness of this painting , apart from the fact that this was amongst her most prized possessions , is that Guru Nanak’s compassion filled eyes appear to follow your movements to every corner of the room . As a kid , I often used to run around the room & test out the accuracy or otherwise of my mother’s faith that one was always in the Guru’s direct & compassionate gaze. The result was always a resounding yup !! The right palm , symbolising “Ek Aunkar ” or “There is only one GOD ” in all five elements , often kept me off mischief as a kid , as though Guru Nanak , with a direct look-see on me , had raised his right palm in a ” You just watch it kid !! ” admonition .

What , one might wonder , is the connection between a Guru Nanak painting & Internally Displaced Persons or IDPs. The connection lies in that the painting with the 360 degree benevolent vision has in fact been an Internally Displaced Painting or IDP , each such displacement being closely associated with Events & Non Events in the Kanuga clan.

In Bungalow 43 in Digboi  it had the pride of place in the Dining room , primarily because the Drawing Room was a circle ( we called it “Gol Kamra” or ” Round room ” ) & had no straight walls to hang any pictures , leave alone the painting of the presiding deity.

The move to Bungalow F-1 in Duliajan ( # 1 denoted my late Dad’s hierarchical position in the fiefdom but I never did figure out what F denoted ) saw the painting occupying a pride of place in the finally straight-walled drawing room ( we continued to refer to this also as the “Gol Kamra ” or the ” Round Room ” primarily because old habits die hard !! ) .

Post Dad’s retirement , we moved from one accomodation to another ( # 303 Mayfair Gardens , # 901 Mayfair Gardens : both in Kolkata , followed by # 6/4 Lajpat Nagar New-Delhi ) & were ourselves Internally Displaced Persons or IDPs in a manner of speaking , living out of suitcases. Throughout this period , the painting was safely crated with other family jewels , awaiting a final resting place in Dad’s retirement home then under construction.

And then , almost a year later , in the fall of 1970 , the Kanuga IDPs moved to their final destination in New Delhi , an address I oft quoted as my Permanent Address till subsequent events decreed otherwise   ( in India it was customary then to have a Current & a Permanent address to qualify for a  Ration Card or LPG cylinder , or a Telephone connection !! ) .

I vividly remember the animated discussion between my late parents about where the Guru Nanak painting should be displayed in the new Kanuga home . The arguments for & against each proposed location can be the subject of a nice long & wholesome post some day. Suffice it to say , for the present, that the decision finally arrived at was to have Guru Nanak’s benevolence on the main wall of the front balcony , keeping a roving eye on the comings & goings about the front entrance & blessing those within,  every time they ventured out, specially to enjoy the winter sun. The benevolent Guru Nanak seemed not in the least perturbed & continued to bless our “permanent” address as He had done over the years during our IDP days .

But then , as the old saying goes , nothing is permanent : everything is transient with a facade of stability !! And we were soon to discover this when the post- Indira Gandhi  assasination civil disorder  of October / November 1984 happened. Guru Nanak’s painting was once again in discussion & prudence warranted not displaying one’s Sikh faith on the front balcony for all to see lest a Sajju or a Jaggu or a Bhaggu should lurk in the wings quietly marking his next game. In the Alibaba & 40 thieves tale , the solution lay in chalk-marking each door so as to neutralise & confuse the marauding gang . The prospect of adorning  each neighbourhood  balcony with a Guru Nanak painting was so bizzare that it never really merited a discussion. Prudence prevailed over bravado & the benevolence of Guru Nanak was quietly shifted from the front balcony to the Drawing Room , which is where, in my late mother’s opinion,  it rightfully belonged from way back in 1970.

And that is where the Guru Nanak painting rested , for several years , watching over the events & non-events of the clan . My mother passed away soon after , her Chautha rites presided over by the benevolence of the Nanak painting , &  years later , my father , in his sunset years , was often seen looking at it , as though engaged in a private tete-a-tete on the years that had rolled by.

On one of my infrequent visits to my once “permanent” address , about a year after my Dad’s demise , I discovered that Guru Nanak had been replaced by Mother Teresa on the drawing room wall : Mother Teresa ,  with compassion in her eyes , I was told & could not but agree ,  & a palm extended in the aft direction , as though symbolising a ” you are free to leave if you do not approve of the change ” gesture : a thought I diplomatically contained within myself !! . I figured out the reason for this change , without ascertaining the cause & made my way to the Pooja Room to pay respects to my old friend , the much displaced IDP , in His final resting place. He seemed pleased to see me ( but then His eyes always denoted utmost compassion for all  ) & had the right palm up , not so much in admonishment as in an embalming gesture , as though to tell me , as a fellow IDP , that a person or a painting can get physically displaced by the force of circumstances , but internal displacement can be neutralised by directing one’s focus away from so called permanence of addresses towards faith in the Five Elements symbolising  Ek Aunkar.

I have been a displaced person all these years , living out of suitcases , but the feeling of being internally displaced is kept at bay very successfully.  As I approach retirement in 4 to 5 years from now  , the search is on for a retirement home ( the apartment in Mumbai was always a stop-gap & given the unplanned chaos that the area has witnessed in the name of development it can not possibly be a peaceful retreat post- retirement ). If I do finally find a good retirement home for myself , I will for sure lay claim to the Guru Nanak painting & take my old pal in as a benevolent companion in my sunset years , with the pride of place in the “Gol Kamra ” .

Cheers & ATB

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Veni Vidi Vici Rishi

I return after 10 days during  which  a lot has happened in the realms of events & non-events . Most significant in this collage has been the arrival of Rishi Kanuga , on 10th August , in London . This one therefore is for you, Rishi : Veni Vidi Vici because I like my blog titles in trios , & tagged to your name because Vici rhymes rather well with Rishi ( except to those who pronounce Vici to rhyme with Ricky !! ) . Most importantly it reflects a hope that having arrived , you will see & conquer ( metaphorically of course ) the world .

First things must  always come first ( that I presume, is why they are called as such ) & let us therefore go through the Welcome address .

Hello there , Rishi Kanuga . Delighted at your arrival . A warm welcome to the Kanuga clan , as its youngest member . I once held that title for decades together & was dislodged by your Dad & others , in quick succession . The incumbent Title holder has had a long reign, also counted in decades . You, my friend , are now the title-holder , with no serious challenge on the horizon .

Let me take you on a tour of some of the Events & Non-Events that marked your arrival , pal , suitably updated now that you are already a little older & wiser .

Big Bazaar hyper markets in India announced a 6-day ” Maha Bachat” festival which closes tomorrow. That notwithstanding, food inflation stayed rock solid at 11 % . Monty , the sirdar at the Planning Commission rushed to Washington to learn new ways & means to challenge inflation. I went on a 3-day training programme at Sun & Sand to learn nuances of new management tools & am busy with a dissertation for the next 30 odd days . Mery Kom won the boxing-bronze & Sushil Kumar a wrestling- silver at the Olympics in your neighbourhood , to take India’s Medal Tally to an all-time high of 6 ( wow !! ) . An incident in Mynamar caused rioting in lower Assam & led to an ugly incident in Mumbai last Saturday. Peace is threatened as a result in Pune , & the Hyderabad police has gone on a preventive high alert . The Government in Delhi meanwhile appealed to all trouble makers to stop doing things unbecoming though commonplace in the country , & went on to announce free mobile handsets for the 400 million officially poor in 12 months & electricity in their homes within 48 months ( handset chargers thereafter ?? ) . A 70-year rope weaver & a 65 -year cobbler reacted on the telly  that they would  prefer food to mobiles : a clear case of ” if they dont have enough at home to eat , let them use a mobile phone ( to order Chinese take- away !! ). Baba Ram Dev ( your grandpa will tell you all about him when you have a moment to spare : right now, quite understandably , you must be kind of busy gurgling your Hi there’s & making new friends ) went on a fast  probably because he is not officially poor ( quite honestly he himself does not appear to know what he is or is not ) &  the Govt , therefore, did not offer him a free mobile . The main Opposition in Parliament went ballistic ( it is not clear whether they too want free mobiles or are genuinely aligned with the Baba or merely want to make an ad-sum noise )  . The Government was accused of having lost its way ( your Dad will read you a story one of these days about a certain Alice in a place called Wonderland who did not know where she wanted to go & was told that she could therefore take any of the several paths in front of her to get to nowhere in particular !! )

To cut a long story short , several seemingly unrelated events & non-events more or less coincided with your arrival. Where’s the connection , you might wonder !! . When you are a little older & read a fascinating subject called Physics , you will come across  an exciting theory apart from the rather dreary phenomenon of falling Apples : the Theory of Chaos . Simply stated , the theory correlates events & non events as non-linear outcomes of seemingly unrelated occurances. For example, India’s Industrial output fell by 1.8 % because mine went up by 18 % .

In the midst of this chaos , one prediction needs to be made. Through your growing up years , back home in India , cobblers will cobble while rope weavers will weave ; Big Bazaars will announce discounts , while Holy men & Yoga teachers will go on fast/s ; Government/s  will  reduce poverty by re-defining its thresholds & by occasional empowering freebies : may be free internet will follow free Ring Ring !! ( to order Chinese take aways on-line ).  And yet, as you gurgle or scream as is your right ( more likely gurgle with joy after gettig featured in my blog )  to demand attention , you could in fact be announcing your arrival to place such disjointed issues & desultory non-issues on notice , so to speak. There is hope yet that our Medals Tally will go up , or our Governments will cease to be directionless , or that poverty will actually get eliminated without re-definitions & so forth. You, pal , have challenges ahead of you : challenges that the preceding two generations  of Indians , including me, chose not to confront .

God bless you young friend

Cheers & ATB

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