Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Aftermath of a Gita Ban – From Vladivostok to Vaikunta...


Reports that a Russian court has dismissed the ban on a commentary titled The Bhagawad Gita As It Is, based on the Bhagawad Gita, a holy scripture of the Hindus, reach the heavens, where Lord Vishnu, a form of whom – Lord Krishna – was one of the protagonists in the scripture; the other being his disciple, Arjuna. We now attempt to hypothesise what would have been a conversation between the Lord and his disciple in the wake of the dismissal of the ban.

O Lord, forget me, save the Gita from the controversies clouding it


Arjuna:
O Mahavishnu, have you been acquainted with the latest developments?

Lord Vishnu: My child, you seem to be agitated, as you were at the start of the battle at Kurukshetra. What is it that bothers you now?

A:
The ban on the Bhagawad Gita.

L:
 Oh, the trial in a Russian court against what was once an old conversation between us? Do tell me, O Arjuna, what has happened now? I must confess that I have failed to update myself on happenings in the world ever since I began residing inside a particle at a European laboratory called the CERN in order to enable some scientists discover me.

A:
The Russian court has dismissed the ban on the Gita, O Mahavishnu.

L:
That is definitely a good tiding, O son of Indra. Kindly explain to me the imbroglio that the text was involved. I was beginning to doubt that I had unwittingly promoted extremism.

A:
I must say I too had similar doubts O Lord, but I implore you not to place faith in the journalism of the humans, especially Indians. Swargaloka’s newer inmates tell us, in horrific detail, about the phenomenon called paid news that is devouring the Indian media.

L:
Paid news? This is all too confusing for me, O Arjuna. My head is swirling. I feel the earth beneath my feet giving way. Suddenly I am seeing nothing but darkness. O son of Kunti, lead me out of this nightmare as I did to you at Kurukshetra, eons ago.

A:
It is no longer Kurukshetra, O Lord. It is presently called Panipat, and is located in the Indian state of Haryana.

L:
Spare me the geography lesson, will you? I guess the enlightenment you attained from me seems to have worn off.

A:
Forgive me, O Lord. It must have been my enthusiasm to present the past to you. After all, it isn’t too often that the creator himself stands flummoxed.

L:
Any more of this sarcasm and I will have to unleash my Sudarshana Chakra on you.

A:
O Lord, it all began with a religious body in Russia wanting their government to ban the ISKCON...

L:
Hold on, what is this “icon” that you are talking about.

A:
O slayer of a slew of demons, from Pootana to the evil king Kamsa, it is not icon, but ISKCON, the International Society of Krishna Consciousness.

L:
You mean that a society exists in Earth to spread my message?

A:
Yes, o son of Devaki. It is popularly known as the Hare Krishna movement.

L:
I must say I am flattered.

A:
There was this religious organisation that, according to news reports, wanted to ban this movement in the Russian province of Tomsk, as they could not digest the progress being made by it. A commentary on the Gita by one of your devotees, The Bhagavad Gita as It Is, landed in controversy for its strong language.

L:
(Smiles) I am able to see a parallel with this and the discord between your brothers and your cousins, the Kauravas.

A:
The issue soon reached court, and despite repeated hearings, the religious group could not make any headway, with the judge picking flaws in their arguments. Soon, the issue reached Indian shores, where frayed tempers soon became the norm. Even Muslim and Christian groups objected to the ban on the Gita.

L:
You have gladdened me at last, O Arjuna. Although steeped in mistrust and rancour, different religious groups in India have at long last arrived at a common platform. What happened next?

A:
The issue soon reached the Indian Parliament, where lawmakers debated vociferously over it.

L:
Vociferous debates aren’t new to the Indian Parliament, are they? Surely, O Arjuna, I gather that you must be missing out something else.

A:
Subtle indeed is your sense of humour, O Lord. Parliament members across party-lines rose in unison against the ban proposal. In fact, a law maker was quoted as saying, “This session is a golden day in our history when all differences were deleted to express solidarity for Gita, the book of India.”

L:
And...

A:
Even intellectuals in Russia were critical of the ban. Eventually, the court had to dismiss the ban.

L:
You surprise me with your wisdom, O Arjuna. Granted that I had enlightened you once, but that was way back then. Are you holding back something else from me?

A:
(Looking sheepish) Thy glories never cease, O brother of Balarama. I updated myself on the issue by accessing the Wikipedia webpage on it to sustain our conversation. However, I do have a poser for you, O Lord. The philosophy “Do your duty, leave the results to me” is the essence of the Gita. I do not see that happening in this entire incident.

L:
Elementary, my dear Arjuna. Was it not my namesake of the Indian foreign minister who registered his protest with his Russian counterpart, a day before the judgment on the ban was to be delivered?

A:
By my Gandiva, it had escaped my mind completely. But, tell me, O Lord, how did it occur to you?

L:
You keep forgetting that we have the state-of-the-art 3G network in Vaikunta, my son...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Rajapattai: High on Brawn, Low on Brain

Appeared in City Express, the daily supplement of The New Indian Express, on Tuesday, December 27, 2011
A still from Rajapattai... Has the director bitten more than what he can chew?
Despite having an enviable star cast, and a noted director and music director at its helm, Rajapattai (king's way), a masala movie in essence, has a storyline that makes the viewer realise that stifling yawns is more daunting than playing rapid-fire chess.
No surprises in this love plot

'Annal' Murugan (Vikram) is a gym instructor who aspires to become a villain. A righteous person, he saves Dakshinamurthy (Vishwanath) from goons who are out to bump him off. It transpires that Dakshinamurthy was fleeing his greedy son (Avinash), who wants him killed for his wealth. In offering support to the geriatric, Murugan makes many an enemy, and by extension a slew of fight sequences follow. In exchange, the senior citizen helps his protector in his conquest for love, who is cupid-struck with Deeksha Seth. Things turn murky when a local politician, Akka (Mithra Kurien) – no prizes for guessing whom the character is based upon – plots the eviction of an orphanage run by Dakshinamurthy.
Fisticuffs that bore one to death

So far so good. Vikram revels in displaying his sinewy contours and bashing up his adversaries to pulp; Vishwanath, as the tutor of the various ‘sutras’ of love, leads the viewer on a rib-tickling journey. Deeksha is the movie’s official PYT – whose appearance is limited to the romantic scenes/numbers. Rajapattai tumbles down the abyss in the second half, never to recover, what with the barrage of incongruous sequences that take for granted the viewer’s suspension of logical thinking. And pray, what was the director trying to prove with the episode involving Pradeep Rawat apart from extending the movie’s duration? As if this were not enough, Yuvan Shankar Raja’s background score sticks out like a sore thumb. Rajapattai’s lone saving grace, though, is its running time, at only around two hours.
No 'O Podu' here...

It is hard to imagine that this was the director who once gave us movies like Vennila Kabbadi Kuzhu and Azhagarsaamiyin Kudhirai. Vikram, in a song, appears as Jack Sparrow, The Joker and forest brigand Veerappan, croons a number, shakes a leg with Shriya Sharan and Reema Sen, but fails to overshadow the movie’s inconsistencies. He is verily the boy atop the burning deck of the Casablanca that is Rajapattai.


Images: (southdreamz.com, filmics.com, chennaionline.com)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Convicting our Philandering Politicians – Them and Us


Flipping through the newspaper the other day, a report caught my eye, for reasons far too obvious. It was titled “Former Israeli president jailed for rape”. The article detailed how the former President, Moshe Katsav, harassed his women colleagues sexually, including rape, while serving in different capacities, and how he was forced to step down when matters came to a head that his continuance in the office of Israel Presidency was untenable. And yes, he did, all along the while maintain his innocence, to  no avail. The irony was that he had to begin his jail term not long after his 66th birthday. A fact one needs to highlight here (bold, italicise and underline) is that he was forced to step down from office to face trial, and get convicted eventually.

Contrast this with some events that happened in our country:

a)
A woman went missing in Rajasthan; Bhanwari Devi to the uninitiated. Although the needle of suspicion pointed to senior Congress minister Mahipal Maderna, the government pretended that nothing had happened and put on a false demeanour. It emerged that the minister was indeed in a relationship with the woman, who was actually a nurse and married to someone else. As if by magic, the angle that Devi was having a CD that had a video of the minister in a compromising position with her popped up. Even filing a CBI charge-sheet against the minister and directives from the High Court that he be prosecuted weren’t enough to budge the government to drop the tainted minister. The minister was dropped eventually, but only after widespread public resentment, not to mention the salacious, in-depth media coverage of the issue.

b)
Closer home in Karnataka, a minister of the BJP Cabinet, M P Renukacharya, was accused of raping a nurse (what’s it with politicians and nurses?), and threatening her to pose for some “intimate” photographs. The lady had the presence of mind to save a copy of the photos for her, some of which surfaced in the media, when the nurse, after attempting suicide, claimed that she released the photographs only to prove her innocence. She was also claimed to have been the minister’s lover and was discarded after he used her sexually. Unsurprisingly, the minister vehemently denied the charges and accused the woman of morphing the images. Again, as if by magic, files relating to the case disappeared from the women’s commission, where the nurse had lodged a complaint. The official version is, that she “withdrew” her complaint. Renukacharya continues to be in the government, as the excise minister.

c)
Then there is the instance of another Karnataka BJP minister, Hartal Halappa, who was accused of raping his friend’s wife. The template of a rejoinder that the charges were being framed only to malign his political career came from the minister. Even after a DNA test revealed that traces of his semen were found in items of clothing belonging to the minister and the victim. The minister then mysteriously developed a health complication, a heart ailment. It must have been heartbreak indeed for his cavorting to come into public view. This was followed by the charade of his transfer to a Bangalore hospital that he was suffering from a medical emergency. The case lodged against him, needless to say, died a natural death.

d
) Let us not forget the big-daddy of sugar daddies of our politicians, N D Tiwari, a three-time chief minister who was not only said to have maintained a concubine for a long period of time (not a crime in itself, as long as the partners are consenting) and fathered children with her, but also denied doing so, despite his “progeny” claiming that Tiwari was his father. The paternity case was rejected in court; however, Tiwari chose to bring disrepute to democracy again – this time through the office of the Governor. A clipping of him romping with three young women surfaced in the media. The owner of the media house that broadcast the clipping said that it was not doctored and that he was prepared to slug it out in the courts; a woman who arranged the sting said that Tiwari had reneged on his promise of offering lucrative government contracts in exchange for the sexual favours. Tiwari, though, had the politician’s almighty rejoinder ready with him: “I am innocent, the charges are being heaped against me only to tarnish my reputation.” He has not faced prosecution since.

Perhaps, we need to show more spine while convicting our politicians. Surely they are not the Gods, are they?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Dastadly Proposal of an Imbecilic Minister

Enough is enough, Mr Kapil Sibal



Scarred by scams and scandals, of which the UPA-II government seems to be mired in abundance, and pushed on the backfoot by the opposition on virtually every issue of national interest, it seemed as if the government was waiting for an opportunity to release steam. Hence, Union Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal’s – no greenhorn to the foot-in-mouth syndrome himself – epic blunder of a proposal that social networking sites, Google, Facebook and Twitter in particular, ought to be brought under censorship.

Unsurprisingly, India’s netizens have railed against the proposal. In fact, stating so may rank as the understatement of all time. In one imbecilic statement, Sibal signalled his return as the new butt of jokes that serenade the nation, upstaging titans such as Digvijaya Singh and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, to name a microscopic few, in the process.

Sibal’s rationale for gagging the internet in India is as laughable as the proposal itself. According to him, the “cultural ethos” and the “sensibilities of people” are important. Agreed, but can someone explain to him that the Indian Constitution, in Article 19 (1) (a), enshrines its citizens the freedom of expression? And that our social networking sites are already flagging and removing objectionable content? Most importantly, whose “sensibility” was he was referring to? Reports that Sibal was anguished at a morphed picture of self-styled godman Yoga guru Baba Ramdev carrying Sonia Gandhi in his arms – which became a rage on the net, and will continue to, thanks to hon. Sibal, have hit the internet already. Will he start his megalomaniac censorship drive with these reports?

In comparison, this makes the backlash to the Danish publication that carried a supposedly derogatory cartoon of Prophet Mohammed – which even led to the straining of diplomatic ties – seem like a quarrel between school kids.

Obvious as it is, the sea of unpopularity that the UPA-II has been wallowing in ever since it came to power must have been the prime reason for the minister making the statement. It would not be an exaggeration to state that this government is the most inept and morally backward our nation has ever seen. In fact, had it not been for a hopelessly divided opposition that is bereft of inspirational leaders and continues to run around in circles, UPA-II should have been laid to rest long ago. It would not be misappropriate to liken the UPA-II regime as a government that should not have been. (Still in doubt?  Take this test. Question no 1: Name a contemporary politician that you feel proud of. Question no 2: Do you think Manmohan Singh is an able prime minister?) Needless to say, elaborating on the scandals that have erupted in recent times is as pointless as wearing sunglasses at night. The aam-aadmi, cherished by our political parties, may not know what Section 49-O of the Indian Constitution guarantees him, but is certainly well-informed on the intricacies of the loot of the now infamous 2G spectrum scandal. But we digress.

Does this mean that such websites are emotional powder kegs of ammunition waiting for someone to light their fuses? Going by Sibal’s logic some of the worst riots the nation has ever witnessed in recent times, the Godhra train massacre and the killing that followed, the naxal menace and the insurgency in Kashmir, can be attributed to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. By the way, the Babri Masjid demolition took place when Indian households were struggling to make long-distance telephone calls, leave alone broadband internet.

Adding to this quagmire is the principal opposition party, the BJP’s stand on the issue. It welcomes the proposal, but does not approve of Sibal’s move. This can be construed as any ruling party is bound to face discontent, and no ruling party is prepared to face criticism.

Sensibility or not, such a proposal could be passed in India, only if it were a banana republic governed by a tin-pot dictator. Already, the UPA-II and with it India are showing signs of progressing in that direction.

And I challenge, nay invite Sibal to start his censorship drive with this blogpost!

Friday, December 2, 2011

The English Alphabet, in the Prism of Bellary

Bellary, synonymous with illegal mining, rampant corruption and ex-minister Gali Janardhana Reddy, is in the limelight, for the right reasons, for a change: it is all set to get its representative to the Vidhana Soudha, the seat of power of the Karnataka Assembly, after it went to the hustings recently. If C and HTML programming and even mundane tasks like cooking can have a dummy’s guide or a dictionary, then the chequered past of the iron-rich district of Karnataka, too, can have one.
So, here goes:

A – stands for AP Mines and Mineral Development Corporation (APMMDC), whose director V D Rajagopal (not to be confused with this author!) was arrested in connection with illegal sanction of mining leases to the behemoth that is Obulapuram Mining Company, owned by jailed former minister G Janardhana Reddy; also stands for Anantpur district in AP where OMC was also said to have obtained the permits for mining; also stands for ‘able independent’ which JD(S) state president H D Kumaraswamy took great pains to explain that it was not former health minister B Sriramulu (but turns out, actually is); also stands for A A Biswas, the deputy commissioner and district election officer

B – Bellary district. No other district, in recent times, has impinged itself upon the state’s political landscape or has dictated the fortunes (literally) of the government. The spectre of the district looms large in every significant political development, be it the ousters of former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa and mining baron G J Reddy, not to mention that of the latter’s confidant, B Sriramulu; also stands for Brahmini Steels, owned by Reddy, whose unfettered growth could have resulted in the making of India’s own Arcelor-Mittal! (But we digress)

C – Chanchalaguda prison in Hyderabad, where GJR, one-time emperor-cum-mining baron-cum-kingmaker, is now cooling his heels. Reddy, whose household articles were entirely made out of gold, now has to contend with the jail’s aluminium plates; also stands for Congress, a party that has perhaps, ever since the BJP stormed to power in Karnataka, forgotten to win elections

D – stands for Deve Gowda H D, the maverick leader at the helm of the JD(S), which has partnered political parties of all hues – right, left or centre – and whose ideology is as ambidextrous as ambidextrous can get; also stands for denotification scandal, whose tribe, it seems, has a never-ending list of political leaders, ranging from Yeddyurappa, former minister Katta Subrahmanya Naidu, Home Minister R Ashok, and now Congress leader D K Shivakumar

E –  Election Commission, once an emasculated institution that was taken seriously after people like T N Seshan and K P S Gill occupied its directorial posts. After all, no election goes without reports of seizure of money/liquor/articles, intended for distribution to voters

F – stands for Fan, the electoral symbol of Sriramulu, whose exit from Karnataka BJP was as dramatic as his rise within it. His name occupies prominence in the Lokayukta report on illegal mining (see L); also stands for Fakirappa Sanna, Raichur BJP MP and Sriramulu’s relative, who demonstrated that blood is thicker than water by vociferously campaigning for his brother and in the process earning the party’s boot

G – the alphabet Bellary watchers need to watch out for most, as it stands for Gali Janardhana Reddy. Apt that Gali literally means wind, as the winds of change occurred in the power centre when GJR partnered the BJP. Such was the clout he wielded over the ruling establishment that whenever he sneezed, the BJP caught a cold. His fleet of Rolls Royces, Mercedes, not to mention choppers, were the stuff fashion and lifestyle magazines would love to gloss over. His rise, along with that of his brothers, Somashekara and Karunakara, can be attributed to the insatiable demand for iron ore across the world, more so in China during the Beijing Olympics, when they made a killing, with the then Yeddyurappa-led government looking askance to his fiefdom; also stands for Gadhilingappa P, the BJP candidate for the Bellary byelections, not to mention Gokul R, the deputy conservator of forests of Belekeri, who was transferred after he detected irregularities in the export of iron ore, and eventually reinstated

H – Hegde Santosh, there can be no middle path to how politicos react to this man whose report paved the way for the downfall of a government and a CM – every politician either reveres or loathes him. Just ask former CMs H D Kumaraswamy or B S Yeddyurappa (also read K, L)

I – Stands for illegal mining (what else?). No other factor could have led to the conduct of the byelection; no other factor could have resulted in ignominy to our beloved netas, in addition to generating heat and light, with the former in copious qualities

J – for Jeevan Kumar V Gaonkar, the Lokayukta ADGP who was infamously transferred from Karnataka following his purported conversation with Deve Gowda. The former PM later reacted that “if a mere telephone call can cause transfers, then so be it”; also stands for JD(S), the political party whose influence, at present, seems to be limited to pockets in Hassan and Ramanagaram districts (see D for more details); also stands for Jindal Steels which has been accused of offering vast donations to a trust floated by Yeddyurappa’s sons in exchange for favours in grant of mining leases

K – Kumaraswamy H D, whose decibel levels dipped when his involvement in illegal mining was made public in the Lokayukta report on illegal mining. The BJP owes a lot to this person, for had it not been for his refusal to transfer power to Yeddyurappa in the BJP-JD(S) coalition government, snap polls, in which the BJP won the maximum number of seats, may never have been held, and Shikaripur’s beloved legislator may have never become the CM. Among his numerous gaffes, his inviting a rebuke from Santosh Hegde on his matrimonial lives stands out the most

L – Lokayukta. The relatively placid proceedings at the Vidhana Soudha was sent into a tailspin following the submission of the report on illegal mining by the office of the ombudsman. Whether the former CM, Yeddyurappa, who was jailed and is now out on bail, and his Cabinet colleagues, who found themselves in hot water when the report’s revelations were made public, will be indicted is something only time can tell. Nevertheless, the fact that this report continues to be talked about speaks volumes about the ground-breaking achievements that it effected (despite allegations flying thick and fast that the report targeted only the leaders of the BJP)

M – mining, doing which the legal way amounts to a paradox in Karnataka (and possibly the nation?)

O – stands for OMC, the mining company owned by GJR that made money in vast quantities – a fact that qualifies for the understatement of the century! Could by extension lead to the expression, “Oh, my crore!”

P – Parmeshwar G, the president of Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee. The more he speaks of asserting his authority in the state, the more he looks out of place, giving clear indications that he is a mere puppet in the hands of his seniors in the state Congress and party high-command Sonia Gandhi; also stands for padayatra, the botched event that was the Congress’ Bangalore-Bellary padayatra, when party leaders invoked Mahatma Gandhi’s name, but failed miserably at emulating the person who wanted the grand old party of India dissolved soon after independence, not to mention their failure at capturing the voters’ hearts; most importantly, also stands for phone-tapping, an ignominious episode in the state’s history when, days prior to the submission of the much-awaited Lokayukta report to the government, phones of the ombudsman’s office were tapped. Expectantly, most in the know-how denied its very occurrence

R – stands for Reddy Republic, or areas in Bellary district which were once under the direct control of the Reddys, as mentioned in the Lokayukta report on illegal mining; also stands for Rajashekara Reddy Y S, the former CM of Andhra Pradesh, revered as the people’s messiah in many pockets of the state. Yet, his close links with GJR are undeniable, of which the speed at which mining permits for OMC were approved speaks volumes

S – stands for Sandur, where a local court literally lost count of the summons that it had issued to GJR when he was in power, possibly drunk in it; also stands for Sushma Swaraj, the ‘benevolent mother’ of the Bellary Reddys, who contested the ’04 byelections against Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi and lost. That she denied her relationship with her ‘children’ when GJR slid into jail proved to be an anti-climatic end to their relationship; also stands for Shobha Karandlaje, the girlfriend of former CM B S Yeddyurappa, as revealed by Wikileaks. Her presence was a thorn in the relationship between the Reddys and Yeddyurappa, who had to sacrifice her post, in order to save the government. The wheel has come a full circle for her, with her back in the government as, paradoxically, the energy minister, and the Reddys facing ignominy

T – stands for Tapal Ganesh, a miner and a sworn adversary of the Bellary Reddys. Switched allegiance with the BJP, against whom he had made many an acerbic comment in the past, rather dramatically prior to the byelections

U – stands for U V Singh, former conservator of forests and Lokayukta official, who was also Santosh Hegde’s Man Friday, and was among those who played a key role in unearthing the mucky dealings in India’s own Watergate, err... minegate

Y – stands for Yeddyurappa B S, former chief minister (also the current de-facto CM), whose proclivity to reach for the handkerchief were the stuff even die-hard fans of daily soaps would laugh at. Litigations do not mean anything to this self-proclaimed champion of the Lingayats who is largely credited with the rise of the BJP in Karnataka; hence, was able to cock a snook at the senior party leadership for his excesses; also stands for Y Srilakshmi, senior IAS officer, and the latest to fall prey to the vastly-grown tentacles of the Bellary Reddys. Was jailed for facilitating deals for OMC during the YSR regime in AP despite making a tearful plea in court


PS: The above list is at best only indicative...