destination india

Thursday, March 31, 2005

check out the checks

It was a revelation that our daily dose of R. K. Laxman’s inimical humor ‘You said it’ brings along with it rays of hope for some. Enterprising individuals successfully conduct a betting syndicate on the unique figure of ‘how many checks are there on the shirt worn by the Common Man each day’. It seems one gets fantastic returns if one is able to guess the correct figure.

This brings to memory a story I read way back in the sixties. It was a Bengali story penned by the great novelist Shankar. It was about young men who, in exchange of monetary considerations, agree to let bed bugs feed on their blood. Some women believe that feeding blood to bed bugs will bring them prosperity and pave the way to heaven. Therefore, advertisements appear in the newspapers and selected candidates are asked to report in the night. Once the victims reach the destination, they are allowed to feast on a range of real goodies and then sent to the roof. There they have to spend the night and earn their pay checks by giving the bed bugs their dues! The whole affair may appear to be repulsive but, such events do occur. Like people selling their blood for money in the blood banks. The numbers of people who eke out a living in this manner are quite large.

Or people doubling up for heroes in the action scenes. They remain anonymous. The money they earn is a pittance compared to what the original actor commands. But beggars are no choosers. Therefore, if one discovers that he bears some sort of resemblance to an established actor, he makes a bee line for the studious of Mumbai. It is rumored that Saddam Hussein had several duplicates. With the way action movies are coming center stage, Bollywood also may have to start searching for more than one duplicate of Hritwik or Abhishek. Can anyone enlighten us on who was the first duplicate of the silver screen and in which film it occurred?

You are welcome to visit for a change –
The Reader’s Nook

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

retirement solutions

Those who are in the service of the Government of India are governed by an entity known as the upper age limit. How that limit has been arrived at is never disclosed. Suffice it to say that at regular intervals, it is reviewed and increased – in the 1960s, it was 55; then it went on to become 57, then 58 and finally it reached 60. For those not in government service, the very concept of an upper age limit is considered as something ridiculous and downright silly.

For them, the opportunities have to remain unlimited – most celebrities of the screen and theatre retire when the going is good. Exceptions are always there – with sunken cheeks and white beards, they try to re-enact popular characters of their youth. Some of them even try to gyrate to hip swinging music of the day. The effects leave a lot to be desired but, who bothers. Dominate as long as you are able to, is their punch line.

Much has been written on the reluctance of politicians and sportspersons to step down with grace. The attractions of monetary rewards are temptations not easy to ignore. As experience increases, they devise newer and newer methods of augmenting their bank balances. For them, retirement is literally the end of the road. Those who have the energy and the drive set up consulting services, or conduct coaching classes after retirement. The objectives are to utilize the expertise gained in service to help out others in the same or similar profession or to disseminate knowledge to the younger generation. In this way, they ensure that precious time is not wasted on idle thoughts. Also, such activities egg them on to keep their knowledge bank up-to-date.

With the opening up of our economy, external players have entered the market. They have their own versions of retirement solutions. It would be worthwhile to find out whether they can provide retirement solutions to batsmen whose bad patches never seem to end or who believe in the never-say-die attitude to pocket one last record.

You are welcome to visit for a change –
The Reader’s Nook

Thursday, March 24, 2005

confidence building measures

One more acronym has hit the news board – CBMs. I first thought it to be a derivative of EVMs or a clone of IBM. It is, in fact, something called Confidence Building Measures – the General wants it, the Sardarji wants it. So, let us have it.

The concept of CBMs is not new: we have known it for ages. When we join school or college or take up a job or get married, we are always wary of others. A manager has to prove his worth not only to his subordinates but also gain the confidence of his superiors.

Suspicion is second nature to us.

We suspect each and every action of the other party. If colleagues, we doubt their intentions; if the Boss, we misconstrue his (or hers!) advances; if a student, we hesitate to accept the sincere gestures of the teachers; if a ma-in-law, we feel the bahu is out to ruin the family – that too after going into her antecedents over and over again and comparing of horoscopes! In order to normalize relationships, all of us have to master the art of CBMs. There are no handbooks in the market to promote this subject – if someone does come forward, he could be a millionaire ten times over. A title like ‘how to overpower your opponents and leave your mark?’ would be an instant bestseller. It might even go to win fabulous prizes!

Humans are basically creatures who do not know the meaning of the word trust. Remember the story of the two friends who were chased by a bear? One of the friends climbed up a tree, the other lay flat on the ground pretending to be dead. The bear walked up to him, smelt him and walked away. The friend climbed down the tree and asked his friend what the bear told him. And, the friend replied – never trust even your own brother or something similar.

You are welcome to visit for a change –
The Reader’s Nook

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

when heights matter

It was with mixed feelings that I read the news item about one of our Parliamentarians complaining of the size of his seat in the hall. Apparently, he is a bit too tall. If he were in the ruling side, he could have occupied one of the more spacious chairs up front. Unfortunately, right now, he has to adjust to prevailing situations. Grumble he might, to grumble is everybody’s birthright. To come out of this predicament, he could switch sides and get his position elevated to more comfortable levels.

In this context, it would be worthwhile to consider the fact that ever since Independence, we have had quite a number of Parliamentarians who had the height. They stood tall among a whole lot of mediocres. Their stature increased with their work. They knew that, once elected to Parliament, they have to sacrifice because, to them, service to the Nation came first. When they sat in session, they discussed the agendas as mature individuals are supposed to discuss, weighing all the pros and cons before arriving at decisions. They had respect for each other. Party ideologies were prevalent even then. In spite of all that, they moved as a Team to conquer the ills of our country. Ills like lack of education, health, sanitation. They also evolved schemes to provide food grains at reasonable prices. However, in their enthusiasm to provide guarantee of permanent jobs, these gentlemen, unknowingly, created Frankenstein. The monster learnt that it could wield considerable clout and could twist the arms of the administrators in the name of Democracy. Striking work at the drop of a hat became the order of the day. Muscle power gradually took over the power of gentle persuasion. The leaders and the led joined forces to create empires of their own.

Of course, when we are treated to visuals of people who walk out of the prison gates and saunter down the aisle of the Parliament, head held high, to take the oath of office, we wonder how long we will be able to tolerate such sins (not scenes!)

You are welcome to visit for a change –
The Reader’s Nook

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

puppet on a string

The 21st. of March is celebrated as World Puppetry Day. It was started in 2000 by UNIMA – British Union Internationale de la Marionette, the World’s oldest theater organization. The day is an occasion to draw attention to puppetry, its creative abilities and its appeal to the masses as yet another form of art.

Remember Elvis Presley’s song – ‘Every time you look at me/ I’m as helpless as can be/ I become a puppet on a string/ You can do most anything to me …?’

Well, whenever a leader faces problems with his electorate, he takes recourse to the well known phrase – ‘I’m only a puppet on a string!’ The implications are that he is at the mercy of his Boss who controls him remotely. Like remote sensing satellites.

Jokes apart, puppetry has been a form of art known to us for centuries. When Doordarshan was still in its infancy, puppet shows were a popular medium of entertainment in villages where radios were also few in numbers. The puppet shows used to be main attractions in local village fairs. They were considered good vehicles for communicating the Governments policies (like family planning, hygiene, disease control etc.)

A small news item prompted me to search the net for more useful information on puppets in India. The following samples extracted from relevant websites may appeal to readers:

‘…..Traditionally, India has a rich heritage of puppetry. The history of puppetry in India dates back to around the 5th century B.C. The early puppet shows in India mostly dealt with histories of great kings, princes and heroes and also political satire. Religious portrayals in puppetry developed in South India with shadow puppets performing stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata. Besides dealing with religious themes, Indian puppetry also conveys useful messages from Panchatantra and other mythological and historical epics….’

‘….The European scholar Richard Pischel, in his book The Home of the Puppet Play, stating that "The birth place of fairy tales has long been recognised to be India. They wandered from India to Persia and then the Arabs brought them to Europe…."

‘……Bhartiya lok Kala mandal was founded by Padma Shri devi lal samar in 1952. The main objective of the Institute is to conduct studies on the folk art, songs and festivals of regions like Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh etc and to revive a vanishing folk culture. The institute has a puppet unit that trains children, teachers and other artists in the art of puppetry, as this is a very powerful non-conventional educative medium. It also boasts of regular performances that are a feast to behold. A group of 25 artists go on tour, both within India and abroad with a repertoire of puppet-shows and various folk dances. Their performances have brought the Institute a number of honours on a national and international level.


India has a tradition of about 2000 years in puppetry and the style that the centre presents is the oldest and most developed one. Legend says that the puppets come from a celestial body to entertain the human audience and have whistle -like vocabulary which nterpreted in human language. The puppets are abnormally stylized, symbolic, and colourful. The first Indian puppet play "Sinhasan battisi" was produced in this style(popularly known at present,as "Rajasthan Style"). This form of puppetry has been in existence since the time of Emperor Vikramaditya and the puppeteers claim their heritage from the entertainers of his time. The centre aims at the preservation of traditional puppetry through regular research, experimentation and performances. The centre also offers regular courses in puppetry….’

You are welcome to visit for a change –
The Reader’s Nook

Monday, March 21, 2005

imagine a scenerio like this

Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the United Nations wants to restructure the United Nations. President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam expressed unhappiness at the way our Parliament and parliamentarians function. He desired that leaders take a serious re-look at the prevalent system and rectify its ills so that we regain some of our lost glory.

Side by side, on the small screen, we see a group of kids cleaning up their immediate neighborhood by collecting all shapes and sizes of plastics for disposal. We have also started seeing Mr. So-and-so or Mrs. So-and-so or Miss So-and-so carrying two buckets of water each to save the precious commodity. Everyone is trying to spread the message that too much of anything is bad. As the TV spot goes – it takes one person to set a new trend. No, we should not call it a revolution – the word revolution conjures up visions of militancy!

In this context, it would be worthwhile to set new norms for our future leaders. The recently concluded ‘Indian Idol’ contest could be taken as a guide and suitably modified to throw up a team of youngsters for the future. They would have to fulfill certain basic criterion to become eligible.

Let us define the requirements – (i) must be in the age group 30 – 35 (ii) must be graduates (iii) must have adequate knowledge of the place from where he/she wants to contest (iv) must possess some knowledge about current affairs both of the world and of the country and (v) must not be related to any politician. The entrants can fill up a simple form, downloadable from the net or on plain paper and submit it to the local administrative Head (panchayat, collector, DM’s office, municipality, corporation etc.). After the cut off date, details of all contestants would be fed into a computer. This will be followed by a randomly generated computer list which will be declared in all leading newspapers. No, there would not be any special categories – in case some such person does come up through the system, he or she would be welcome to participate in the contest. The initially short listed candidates would gradually boil down, by a process of elimination, to the finalists who would be grilled by the media and the respective electorates. The responsibility of conducting this mega event could be entrusted to Doordarshan. The complete process may take six months to a year.

The prize would be coveted seats in the Parliament.

You are welcome to visit for a change –
The Reader’s Nook

Sunday, March 20, 2005

the huddle in the middle

Does anybody know the message they pass on to each other when Saurav and his boys huddle together before embarking on their annihilation missions?

They say their prayers which goes thus - don’t miss catches because catches win matches; save runs, don’t gift them away; convert our twos into threes; prevent the opponent’s boundaries; don’t get run out because run outs are for kids; and, finally, Dada, give us some more centuries.
Readers are welcome to this list.

In the recent Test Match victory at the fabulous Eden Gardens in Kolkata, Afridi freed his team from the initial shackles on day four. But Younis was unable to tighten the noose on day five. Inzamam tried to jam the flow of runs while fielding and got himself in a jam while batting. Youhana doesn’t believe in ‘hna-nah’ (yes-no) and Abdul Razzaq loves to raze down the opposition but their efforts went in vain. Asim Kamal did perform some ‘kamal’ (wonders) with the bat and Kamran Akmal, a non believer in ‘kam’ (less) runs, (the century is proof enough), could not deliver in the last round. Danish Kaneria, their new find, is not from Denmark, there is nothing Danish about him. If only he could have ensured an Indian total within manageable proportions, the story could have ended differently.

All of them played into the traps laid by the awesome ‘Awe’-nil Kumble.

On the umpiring side, there was Steve Bucknor. Umpiring in his 100th Test match, he unfortunately missed out on another’s probable century. The heat must have got onto him or was it old age? His mate Darrel Hair appears to hate finger rising exercises, probably supports hair raising ones. The TV umpire A V Jayaprakash, hidden in the TV box misses out on the joys of ‘prakash’ (being seen).

Yes, our Team has delivered – with so many record holders in our midst, we should keep on delivering. But, consistency is not our middle name. At times, we muddle up our thinking. Huddles are fine so long as they pay dividends. They lose their charm when your Team starts sliding.

You are welcome to visit for a change –
The Reader’s Nook

Friday, March 18, 2005

catch the taste match

From Chennai to Chandigarh, from Delhi to Dibrugarh, from Kolkata to Coimbatore, everyone has something special to offer to tickle your taste buds. Depending on the size of your pocket, you can seize their packets – looks may be deceptive, mere looks may not always do justice to the final product. Chana-batura in the Udipi Hotels of Bangalore may not taste the same as that in the street corners of Hauz Khas. Similarly, the super soft rawa idlis of Mysore can never compete in taste with rawa idlis in Mumbai. ‘Mishti doi’ (sweet curd) and sponge rosogollas are typical Bengali delicacies that have yet to be cloned like its Mughlai parathas. The only regret is that the prevalent fast food culture is forcing these typical delicacies to contain themselves in tiny pockets. Large Hotels do conduct experiments once in a while by organizing lunches with typical local dishes on the occasion of festivals. But, the rates are pegged at levels that discourage commoners. They can only read about these in the papers or see glimpses of the celebrations on the small screen and sigh – ‘if only I had the power…’

It is reported that Malabari parathas from Kerala have carved a niche for themselves in the International market. The state government’s efforts have ensured that this ethnic food of the Muslims of the northern Malabar region literally goes places. Earlier there were only two companies making these parathas and curry for exports. Now there are as many as fifteen small and big names associated with export of this product. Demands exist from the US, European countries, Gulf countries and Australia, where the South Asian population is gradually increasing. As a spokesman of one of the leading companies mentioned – his company makes fifty thousand parathas daily over a twenty four hour period to meet the growing demands!

Any program that showcases great cooks and their still greater cookeries become instant hits. No matter which channel or what language, recipes that tickle ones taste buds are bound to grab attention. Remember the catch line ‘taste the thunder?’ It’s all about bowing down to tastes.

You are welcome to visit for a change –
The Reader’s Nook

Thursday, March 17, 2005

keep them on their toes

The amount of money spent for conducting the Lok Sabha sessions run into Rs 1.23 crores per day or approximately Rs 23,083 per minute. Our President had said that ‘MPs were elected to legislate and to debate and that they should uitilise optimally the trust bestowed on them by the electorate.’ Frequent disruptions and walk outs paint a rather dim picture of the leaders. At the slightest pretext, our leaders stage a walk out. What useful purpose is served by such meaningless protests remains shrouded in mystery.

Trust Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee to come up with a probable solution to this major problem faced by the Indian democracy.

Somnath-dada is a respected 85 year old leader, accurate in his assessment of situations and having considerable influence among all political parties, irrespective of their color or creed or affiliations. He knows his subject and, in a bid to ensure that the MPs do something constructive as long as a session is in progress, he is trying to formulate new steps. These may control the sudden disruptions in the proceedings of the House that the taxpayer is compelled to accept.

Somnath Chatterjee’s solution is simple – jumble the questions of ‘Question Hour’ so that the ministers involved remain on tenterhooks and be ready with whatever answers are sought for. The members ask the questions, the Minister concerned are expected to provide the answers.
It seems, the present practice is that the bunch of questions put up by members is subjected to a lottery and 20 out of them are selected. These are ‘starred’ questions. At the end of the day it is found that the member in whose name a particular question is entered is not present in the house. This is because the question is at the end of the list and the member feels that it may not come up for discussion on that particular day, hence he diverts his attention elsewhere and may not feel it worthwhile to be present in the house!

The solution – jumble the questions so that no one will know when his question will pop up! This way, every one will be kept on his toes.

You are welcome to visit for a change –
The Reader’s Nook

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

let their tribe increase

India is certainly unique in all respects. It is reported in the media that we are ranked 8th in terms of number of billionaires, with countries like Italy and UK behind us! This is after inclusion of an NRI steel tycoon. If he were to be excluded and, even if only resident Indians were to be considered, our rank would be 13th.

The information generates a feeling of goodness all round.

These are official figures and do not take into account undisclosed incomes of our politicians, screen celebrities or players. Money keeps flowing into their coffers – it’s a one way street. Income tax sleuths put on a show to impress lesser mortals. It is a wonderful game involving people from all walks of life. We have the Income Tax officers and staff along with representatives of the media to conduct the raids first hand. Then, in the late night slots, we get a group of knowledgeable persons debating on the plus and minus aspects. To make the effects livelier, we are linked to reporters on location and are shown the haggard faces of the suspect and his family as the raid is in progress. That is the end of the evening’s entertainment! Drama over, they all retreat to their respective corners.

Experience has shown that Income Tax people prefer to come after a commoner who is honest and is forced to pay tax based on the logic of ‘tax-them-at-source’. First deduct, then let them put up reasons why they should get a part of it refunded.

We have as many as thirteen official billionaires in our midst. We also have people who survive on ant’s eggs and raw herbs. We disown starvation deaths and pass them off as ‘deaths due to illness resulting from lack of nourishment’. It is agreed that wealth is not generated overnight. It has taken us more than half a century to arrive at the magic figure of 13 – let us hope that the next 13 will arrive in lesser time. Let us pray that their tribe increases so that some Good Samaritan may come up some day to share the riches. A wonderful feeling could, then, really take off.

You are welcome to visit for a change –
The Reader’s Nook

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

all about leakages

Leakages have now hit the TPDS – Targeted Public Distribution System. ‘Leakage’ is a euphemism for mishandling of assets by inefficient people at the helm of affairs. Every year the Government defines certain measures for those below poverty level – subsidized food grains is one of them. But, the benefit does not reach them. The reasons are known to all – thieves down the line, wastages (due to poor storage conditions) and distribution to those who are certainly not below poverty line. These are termed as leakages!

Leakages are as old as mankind itself.

I, for one, still recollect my school days when I learnt how to cope with leakages, leaking fountain pens to be precise. We were brought up on ink, liquid ink. The branded ones came in sealed bottles – there were blue black, royal blue, red and green colors, among others. For the less affluent, there used to be ink tablets or tiny powder packets, the contents of which had to be dissolved in water to get the ink. They came cheap, only you had to have a pen that did not leak!

Then came leakages associated with question papers. Normally, these would be isolated instances where the over enthusiastic teacher would disclose to his or her near and dear students a few of the questions that were sure to come in the exams. This was privileged information, meant only for a selected few. The objective was clear - the students would secure good marks and, the teacher would gain recognition of being a good teacher!

Subsequently, ‘paper leakages’ became a well managed business. We have coaching classes mushrooming all over the countryside – each of them promises ‘sure set of questions’, of course, in return of suitable monetary considerations. The extent of its reach is tremendous.
Then we come to leakages in the Annual budget. Finance ministers, over the years, always have had some surprises up their sleeves. Every year, just before the D-day, rumors flood the market – the FM will increase tax on this or that. So, buy and stock them before D-day. Several times there were proposals to demonetize certain high value currency notes: implementation was not possible because the news leaked out!

Leaking is the name of the game.

That wonderful advertisement of a product that could seal cracks in pipes and prevent leakages depicted it all. The greediest of the sons was more interested in getting his father, who was on the death bed, to sign on the dotted line so that he could lay his hands on the property. He did manage to get the signature but he had not reckoned with leaking pipes – one drop of water falling at a rather inopportune moment on the most critical of locations obliterated the ‘1’ that came before the zeroes!

You are welcome to visit for a change –
The Reader’s Nook

Monday, March 14, 2005

march to stardom

The Father of the Nation conducted his famous Dandi march to protest against the levy of salt tax by the British. The gist of the Salt Tax of 1930 was – ‘it was made illegal to sell or produce salt allowing total British monopoly…. it was illegal for workers to freely collect salt from the coasts, they had to buy them…’

Re-enactment of this Dandi march, originating from the Sabarmati ashram, is expected to go on for 24 days with entrants drawn from all walks of life and from other countries. But, having thrown the ideals of the father to the winds, we now use his name as a stepping stone to success, as we perceive it today. A really sorry state of affairs, if one may say so. We have lost our sense of direction. What we now need is another figure like the Mahatma, a figure who can wage a battle against rampant corruption and hooliganism that is sanctioned by society in the name of democracy. It would have been in the fitness of things if the march was re-enacted by youngsters who believe that Gandhism still has followers. Forcing old timers to participate may draw people purely out of curiosity but the very concept reeks of populist measures. Such feelings have to come from the heart.

Over the past 75 years, the very definition of salt has undergone a sea change. We now have ‘vacuum evaporated nimak’, we have free flowing salt, and we have medicated iodized salts. Large players are in the market, with ads that must have run into crores of rupees to hit the screens.

Sometimes last month, people ran a marathon in Mumbai. On Republic days, the Armed Forces march past in front of the President and other dignitaries. At times of communal disturbances, flag marches are conducted by the military and para-military forces to instill a sense of protection in the minds of the minorities. March is something close to our hearts. We love marches of all types. In fact, our financial year closes on the last day of March. The ‘ides of March’ was made famous by none other than William Shakespeare in Julius Caesar. An astrologer had warned Caesar to ‘beware of the ides of March’, but Caesar ignored the advice saying ‘he is a dreamer, let us leave him.’ Whenever a chance comes their way, people form human chains to express their solidarity with whatever cause they may be supporting, and march their ways to stardom. The re-enactment of Dandi march appears to be of the same group, a gimmick to divert the people’s attentions.

You are welcome to visit for a change –
The Reader’s Nook

Friday, March 11, 2005

give the newbies a chance

The current series with Pakistan has generated quite an amount of goodwill. It would have been even more meaningful if more newbies had been given chances. But, our old, tried and tired team is at it again. A great one for chasing records, we believe in the minimum of experimentation. Once in a while, we do induct someone and drop him like a red hot brick when he fails to come up to expectations; simultaneously we heap criticism on whoever was responsible of trying out the variation.

At the beginning of this series with Pakistan, our leading players had something or the other to prove: Tendulkar needed a century to become the topmost century scorer of World cricket, Captain Saurav wanted 99 more runs to reach 5000 runs, Kumble needed 6 more wickets to reach a magical figure of 450, and Harbhajan was 11 short of the 200 figure mark. Apart from these, the Captain had one more thing to prove – having been minus a century for the last 13 innings in a row, he would have liked to get back into the scoring mood, not nick at outsiders and return to the pavilion with a wry face. It may be noted that the average age of our Team is 30 plus. By the time the next World Cup comes, they would have become old soldiers to whom the comforts of the pavilion would be more welcome than the grueling rigors of jumping, flinging and performing all sorts of acrobatics to prevent runs from being scored by the opponents. Cricket has been transformed today to a game where only the super acrobats can survive, not those who move around the field like sloths.

In comparison, Pakistan has come with a relatively younger side. They know that their chances of a win against a formidable side like the Indians are remote. Still, they have come with larger visions; they would like their youngsters to gain invaluable experience, not just of Indian conditions but also of the cricketing culture.

Not only Pakistan but all cricket playing nations are grooming their youth for the coming years.

In contrast, we still stick to the same team and promote players who have an indomitable desire to remain on top of the charts so that their earning potentials from sponsorship are not easily snatched away by others. This is, I think, what selfishness is all about. Considering the present composition of the Pakistan team, would it not have been better to have given chances this time to more youngsters rather than hoping for individual milestones to materialize?

You are welcome to visit for a change –
The Reader’s Nook

Thursday, March 10, 2005

the teachings of the tube

Recently, there has been a spate of advertisements depicting arrogant kids. If my memory serves me right, it all began with a kid asking Kapil Dev to move out of the way so he could pitch the ball in the correct place. Next, we saw the kid with Saurav and the famous ‘toss-ka-boss’ ad. His latest prey is Sehwag – the kid orders him to ‘get the ball’! One more specimen of arrogance is shown in another kid swaggering to the grocer and demanding a packet of ‘shudh nimak’.

When Doordarshan started operations in a very humble way in the 60s, it was supposed to be an extension of the medium of learning. The initial batch of programs of Doordarshan was all aimed towards fulfilling this objective. But, if TV is going to teach kids to become arrogant, I feel we should have second thoughts. Such ads may increase the sale of the products but they will also take their toll on the tender minds that are prone to be influenced by such displays.

Viewers of the 60s were limited in number; the reach of the medium was also confined to certain pockets. However, during the tenure of one of the Gandhis, it started spreading its tentacles far and wide. The count went up with every passing day till the map of India was dotted with Doordarshan centers and relay stations. Needless to say, viewers never found anything to grumble about. Decency was the inevitable password, we had a sense of values to protect and propagate.

Subsequently, one day, the sky was thrown open. Others entered the market. Their approach was cautious because the waters were untested. How far can we venture was the question on everyone’s lips? Foreigners wanted to cash in on the immense potential of the multitude of middle classers who had started enjoying freedom with a capital ‘F’. Till then, the only entertainment used to be in the movies – holding hands in the dark, munching potato chips and popping corns in between. Opening of the skies changed all that overnight. Suddenly we discovered that there were channels that really took us places, literally. The number of players kept on increasing till we lost count. To top it all, cricket carnivals became real money spinners. Advertisers found newer and newer gimmicks to promote their products. And – our very own Indian producers realized that this was a medium where you could really spread messages as no other medium can. So, they gave us the world of polygamy, of extra marital affairs, of surrogate mothers, of adolescent sex and crimes. Our soap operas dictated changes in fashion. Western clothes gradually became the norms – today, we do not get serials like Buniyaad but are bombarded by the ‘K’ factor. We do not tune in to classical music but love to watch the remixed videos. Dress is on the way out, but we still have dress designers! Wonder what their contributions are!!

You are welcome to visit for a change –
The Reader’s Nook

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

developing excellence

It is reported that the IITs will be diversifying into other branches of education viz. the Pure Sciences, Humanities and Linguistics. It is planned to take a leaf out of the books of MIT. Selection to these courses will continue to be based on the performance of the candidate in the existing JEEs – so that ‘the top few hundred who qualify in JEE but don’t make it to the Technical Institutes should not be left behind’.

While presenting the Annual Budget, the Finance Minister had mentioned that one of our premier Institutions would be earmarked to become an Institution of Excellence. He wanted it to be molded on the lines of the Cambridge, Oxford or Harvard. Delightful thoughts indeed, one has to admit - noble to the power of infinity. Given the mental setup of Indians, whoever is entrusted with the responsibility to maintain this Institute to be at par with real premier Institutions of the World will have to be a sort of Superman. He would have to ensure that the faculty is really without a blemish, he will have to ensure that the syllabi is not tampered with to suit the likes and dislikes of the political bosses of the day, he has to not only get necessary funds sanctioned but physically ensure that it is credited to the account of the Institute, he has to accept only the best of the best to maintain whatever tradition is set up, he must have the courage not to succumb to peer pressure. The point is – do we have such individuals around? Individuals who have certain ideals, who possess vision, who are upright and do not hesitate to call a spade a spade? From what we can see, each and every level is corrupt to the core. Results of examinations can be manipulated – these are well planned well orchestrated activities, involving various levels of persons occupying critical positions. Those who conduct coaching classes with guarantees of success are available in the market, of course for suitable monetary considerations. In such a setup, which reeks of corruption and incompetence, how long an institute of Excellence can survive is anybody’s guess.

In this connection, allow me to share with all of you, the following comments that I have received in response to my spot on ‘Education in India 20/11/2004’ –


adhir basu
u should have mentined about the innumerable ads of abortion clinics in bus stands, local trains etc.. we are really on the threshold of being counted among the most developed of countries. ha - ha - ha -
Posted @ 11/23/2004 11:25

sharmila pathak, mumbai
my kid has to carry a heavy bag to school every day - if the outlook is so bleak at the end of his passage thro school and college - what do i do?
Posted @ 11/24/2004 12:26 PM

all i can say bout our edn system is
Posted @ 11/26/2004 9:03 PM

sri kant sule
students do not respect teachers any longer - the days of dronacharya and ekalavya are gone for ever. how sad.
Posted @ 11/28/2004 11:35 AM

today's girls know much more about how not to carry unwanted burdens whem compared to their moms and grandmoms
Posted @ 12/3/2004 4:05 PM

neetu pathak
in america, there are special coaching classes so that tiny tots can be groomed to go into prestigeous schools - three groups : toddler, nursery and kindergarten. the ultimate destination is harvard or yale! the charges include training of both parents and their offspring.
Posted @ 12/17/2004 8:45 PM

premchand rai
we required such type of education system that build our mental power,increases our thoughts and provide ability so that we can expres our knowledge and also earn money to fulfill our basic requrirements.
Posted @ 1/7/2005 6:21 PM

Hello,I am in 10th standard,well i feel there r lots of drawbacks in our educational system..we dont have freedom in it..i am from SSC ..and we have to literaly mug up exactly what all is written in the textbooks..this sounds damn foolish..well the board does not care whether the child has understood everything or not..we just have to learn for the sake of percentage but not for achieving knowledge..
I have heard in ICSE they have the right to write thier exams in thier own this way thier knowledge gets testified..
Well what do u all say??
You can mail me
Posted @ 1/9/2005 10:30 PM

‘Education system in India needs a drastic change’
Posted @ 1/9/2005 10:31 PM

there is one more example in front of u all like me...
just look at this link..and u'll get a true picture of everything...
well is there anybody could help miserable students like me???
Posted @ 1/9/2005 10:44 PM

there is no doubt that the education system needs a change but so does our understandting of the whole concept of education. education is not just about literacy or about learning english and maths, it is much more than that. but the paradox is that as the price of education is reaching sky high the quality of the same has touched rock bottom.
Posted @ 1/20/2005 7:43 PM

Posted @ 1/21/2005 12:57 PM

prabir ghose
suggest go to one of the search engines and check for the string 'education system in india' - there will be hundreds of thousands of links.
Posted @ 1/21/2005 4:37 PM

My son is studying in VIII Std., ICSE Syllabus. THe syllabus are so heavy. I feel that they should introduce trimester system for ICSE also as they have introduced for State and CBSE Syllabus so that it the burden will come down naturally .
Posted @ 2/15/2005 4:44 PM

Less stress needs to be on exams. Using the method of grading is the best way as it lessens the pressure on children. More stress needs to be laid on paticipation rather than on learning matter by heart.
Posted @ 2/17/2005 10:00 PM

The students are very pressured of what thier teachers doing to them. Give them a break so that they can enjoy the essence of how beautiful is life.
Posted @ 2/19/2005 4:05 PM

My Child is studing in Kendriya Vidayalaya in class I and III. I feel the syllbus is to less and Standard of english is too poor compare to some ICSE School. What is the use of learning Snaskrit and hindi extensively.
Posted @ 2/27/2005 2:19 PM

My daughter is studying in II std in CBSE-NCERT syllabus and finding it heavy and the school is taxing and thus we thought of changing her into to fun learning. Kindly let me know such school in Chennai
Posted @ 3/3/2005 6:29 PM

You are welcome to visit for a change –
The Reader’s Nook

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

why an empire crumbles

We have seen it happen time and again – empires built up over a period of time have crumpled, sometimes in one generation, sometimes over a couple of centuries. Nothing lasts for ever. Especially those that have been built up through unethical means. History abounds with examples. Herr Hitler was one of those who wanted to rule the World – he was unceremoniously removed and left without any obituary. Greed of any type is bad – we teach the child to be satisfied with whatever it has. Unfortunately, it sees us practicing just the opposite and, it follows what it sees rather than what it hears. Desire has no limits, therefore contain those desires, the wise ones say, and you can lead a full and satisfying life. Step outside the laksman Rekha and you have only yourself to blame for its consequences. These are very valid in Public life – as John F. Kennedy said: ‘you can fool some of the people all the time, and all of the people some of the time but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time’.

These are lessons that Indian politicians need to learn. The throne of power where a he finds himself in is supposed to be a gift to him from those whom he represents. It carries with it the hopes and aspirations of those who preferred him to another. It is the responsibility of the leader to prove the choice to be a correct one. Unfortunately, what we get is a leader who has suppressed his opponents by any means foul or fair to secure a forced mandate in his favor. Common sense says that such a situation cannot last forever. A time does come in his life when he may look back in anger but, it will be an extremely difficult task to wrest back the initiative. The passage of time brings with it certain situations that just cannot be reversed.

Large parts of our country still reek of poverty, people live on the verge of death, governments of the day paint rosy pictures but, all said and done, the end result remains pathetic. Politicians have realized that uneducated masses wield tremendous clout in a democracy like ours; they can sway the balances in the favor of whomever so desires by dangling of dry carrots that have no food value. Therefore, let there be darkness. Let us not improve the conditions of these people who are nothing but a group of animals that walk on two legs but are not supposed to think. When the leader asks them to raise their hand, they will obey. ‘…Their's not to make reply, Their's not to reason why, Their's but to do and die:…’ - Lord Alfred Tennyson – The charge of the light brigade’

You are welcome to visit for a change –
The Reader’s Nook

Friday, March 04, 2005

the twist in the story

In our college days we were taught that, in order to produce a gripping novel or a really good short story, there must necessarily be a twist of sorts in the end. We were also taught that the ending should be as near to the climax as possible for the best possible effect. And – that is just what is happening all around us. We take hold of a story and build hype around it forcing one to support it to the hilt only to realize that our homework was not done properly. Those who we thought to be our friends turn out to be people who owe allegiance to the opposite camp. In whatever field it may be, we love to play the losing game and then pat each other on the back and say – after all, in any game there are bound to be losers, it is all about playing. Not necessarily playing for winning but playing for the sake playing. Noble thoughts indeed – that is what we are all made of: hypocrites to the core.

One of our tennis kids moved to a world ranking of within the first 100, by dint of hard work and rigorous training – immediately, she discovers a whole horde of people at her doorsteps. They all want to sign her up for promotional ads, starting with vitalising drinks.

Similar appears to be the case with the Formula One hopeful. This 28-year old is already suffering from an identity crisis. He is being mistaken for just an ordinary driver. He has to really struggle with the steering wheel to prove that he is a cut above the average.

Earlier, there was that chubby wicket keeper who loved to keep his coach in good humor by cycling. He appears to have become a victim of circumstances. As some commentators say, the wicket keeper is supposed to prevent the ball from going past him. He is supposed to have quicksilver reflexes; he must be able to move either to the right or to the left depending on who the bowler is and what sort of a ball he is likely to deliver. The wicket keeper should be a master of behind the wicket scenes; he is not required to prove anything in front of the wicket.

We have pinned our hopes on youngsters to lead us from darkness to light. Hopefully, their achievements will act as catalysts and encourage other youngsters to come to the forefront, especially, in Politics. Even though we have the right to elect our leaders, we keep on getting leaders thrust upon us. We want a twist in that story.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

let us settle on the moon

Ever since our cradle days, we have heard the Moon being referred to as Chanda-mama. When we talk about the Moon, we never forget to make a mention of the spots on its surface. We compare this with what we notice in our day-to-day lives and conclude by saying that ‘whatever good there may be, there is bound to be some dark spots also!’ There cannot be good without a pinch of bad. Even pure gold cannot be transformed into attractive ornaments unless a tiny portion of impurity is injected!

Therefore, our very own Moon mission conjures up visions of prosperity.
As it is, we have converted our roads into potholes and ditches that resemble the uneven surface of the moon. Some lovingly call these as moon-craters! The drivers of our public transports perform wonders every minute by criss-crossing through this maze and returning unhurt, unscathed. They deserve praise for ensuring that journeys on these lunar like surfaces are undertaken day-in and day-out with the barest minimum of accidents.

Therefore, it was with certain reservations that I read the news item regarding sanction of Rs 106 crores in the Budget for mission ‘Chandrayaan-1’. The total cost of the Indian moon mission is targeted at Rs 386 crores and the flight is slated for lift-off by 2007-2008. A country where the concept of highways and super-highways is still to be understood, our Moon mission reeks of ill conceived notions. Our leaders in New Delhi had, once upon a time, talked of forming a golden quadrangle to connect the four most important cities. Then there was a proposal to join the rivers so that distribution of river waters could be managed more effectively. Experience shows that these are projects that failed to take off, reminding us of that wonderful TV comedy - ‘Yes, Prime Minister.’

Let us admit the truth – we are gradually running out of ideas to keep the electorate amused. Of course, in this particular case, money could start to pour in if bookings of flights were to be done now – some bright persons could come out with the idea that each ticket would cost one crore rupees. Group bookings would get a concession – less 10%. To make it still more attractive, a note could be added that those who desire to jump on to the moon wagon today will not be asked about their source of finance!

It is possible that such an action may unearth a large reserve of black money!

If we are really able to pull this off, our MLAs could be sent there for safe custody till such time a hung assemblies is re-hung!

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

the chi factor

We have nicknamed one of our most popular actors as ‘Chi’. We have in our midst a renowned politician-cum-reporter who goes by the nickname of ‘Cho’. Our favorite drink is ‘cha’-i and chachi is one of our most beloved addresses – it denotes all the ladies, who are more aged than the person who is addressing. Add to this the fact that chow is one of the most relished dish of today’s youngsters, the fact that cha-cha was once upon a time a form of dance and you get a world of ‘Chi’-s and cheese burgers, not to forget the cheese pakoras!

So we had our FM, also a ‘Chi’ dispensing largesse to all and sundry on the budget day. He declared attractive tax cuts to benefit the honest tax-payer. Possessing a mobile phone does no mean that you now fall in the one-by-six tax bracket and hence it is not mandatory to file a tax return. Someone, it appears, does have some common sense after all – bringing it within the gambit of mandatory filing of returns was a silly idea anyway!

The FM also assured about not increasing the price of cooking gas. We all know that such increases are intentionally postponed to a later date so that the good feeling of a good budget can linger for some time. It invariably amounts to giving a false sense of goodness that is short lived.

Reduction of duties on several important items would imply cheaper final products – like clothes, automobiles, CTVs. Obviously, those in such business will be major gainers apart from the consumers. Probably the culture of ‘buy-one-and-get-one- free’ will be extended – for example, buy a CTV and get a nylon jersey free. Or – buy a 10-lakh car and get a CTV free. There could be really attractive combinations to bring the contents of your wallet into other’s pockets.

The Defense boys wanted more funds, the tourism sector wanted more concessions, the Space team wanted to go to the Moon – so what did the FM do? He cut his imaginary rupee into minuscule proportions and distributes the pieces, leaving the problem of getting the actual rupee to someone else.