Thursday, May 31, 2007

'Super 30' rocks again in IIT JEE'2007

Yesterday, the results of the coveted and one of the most challenging entrance tests, IIT Joint Entrance Examination' 2007 were declared. This year, 2,43,029 candidates wrote the entrance test, out of which 7,200 candidates are eligible to seek admission to 5537 seats in IITs at Mumbai, Delhi, Guwahati, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Chennai and Roorkee and the other two institutions in Varanasi and Dhanbad. This year 54,025 girls wrote the entrance test and 587 of them have qualified.

The results of this pattern come every year, but the results are something, which offer complete satisfaction having made to one of the best schools in the world. Most of the selected students come from middle-class or upper middle-class backgrounds and prepare for the exams through private coaching and correspondence course material from groups like Brilliant Tutorials, FIITJEE, etc. Cost factor being a prime concern and access to good study material another important factor to consider, students from rural or semi-urban are generally not able to match with those students from towns and cities. This point assumes that most of the students who crack the IIT JEE undergo some sort of training or mentorship other than the regular course material used at +2 level. To put a halt to the practice of more than two attempts to make into the IIT's, thus indirectly discouraging the mushrooming of private tuition schools, IIT examination board has introduced the new rule that allows an aspirant a maximum of two attempts to take this test.

Whatever may be the case, in the past few years, a small group of desperately poor, talented students have made it into the IITs. This year also 'Super 30', a grooming school located in Patna, the capital of Bihar, one of India's least developed states in India will be sending 28 bright chaps to the IITs and the remaining two, both Dalits are hopeful of sailing through once the results of SC/ST aspirants are out.

What makes 'Super 30' special is this. Anand Kumar, a local mathematician, and Abhayanand, Patna's Deputy Director General of Police and a lover of physics, founded the school in 2003 to help promising locals get ahead in the caste-based society. The name of the group is 'Super 30' as both Anand and Abhay scour Bihar's least privileged communities for 30 bright students to coach them for the exam, providing free lessons and housing. The results from this intelligent group speak it all. 18 of them cracked the test in 2003. In 2004, 22 of the 30 came out with flying colors. The number of successful candidates increased to 26 in 2005 and 28 in 2006.
The 'Super 30' heroes this year include Pranav Prince whose mother works as a tailor to support the family. There are also a nurse's son and an FCI godown watchman's son. "Hard work + 'josh' = success," formulated Abhishek Kumar, another 'Super 30' star who is ranked 327th in the IIT-JEE this year.
Reading this news, it reminded me of one of my batch mates, Sudhanshu from my graduation school days. Sudhanshu hailed from a small town in Bihar. He was called 'Pondy' in my batch, a sort of introvert who in spite of a tight schedule and strict regime with the course program was often lost in his world, engrossed in solving problems in Mathematics and working out puzzles most of the time. Four years back when we left campus, he had a high paying job in a multi-national firm. But the sophistication, worldliness and chamaak dhamaak of corporate world, couldn't hold back his true inherent aptitude for long. He ditched his job within one year and took to teaching Mathematics and helping students to crack IIT.

Dost, I am proud of you.

Also why I felt good when I read this news is because of the fact that, today education is a trump card for those from the lower [both in terms of economy and information] strata of the society to march with the new world, kaadam se kaadam milake. Moreso results like these spread the awareness among the rural populace that even they can make a mark. To give an example, Santosh Kumar, was one of the products from the 2006 batch of 'Super 30', and his story is classic example of never-give-up and dream for the best in the world and work towards it. Santosh is from Dumari, a village in the Bihata district, about 22 miles from Patna. Nearly all in the village of 3,000 residents scratch out a meagre living as farmers. Santosh after attending the village school used to sell vegetables the family cultivated in a nearby market town.
Santosh saw that "education was the only way out of poverty," he says. At first, he planned to study so he could become an officer in the Indian civil service. After high school, he enrolled in the Patna College of Commerce, and then he heard about the IITs and the Super 30. "I went straightaway to Anand Kumar and told him: 'I dream of IIT, but I have no money.' He gave me his test, and I came second in the class. [He] let me into his Super 30 -- free," Santosh recalls.
In the IIT JEE'2006, his efforts paid off, when he won a coveted seat at IIT Kharagpur. He ranked 3,537 out of the 5,000 students chosen.

Early this year, Norika Fujiwara, a former Japanese beauty queen and actress, made a documentary film on 'Super 30' for its innovative and successful attempt to send poor children to India's top Engineering Colleges.

Also, this post was of special interest to me, as someone in my own family had a more low-toned version of what few chaps had undergone as mentioned above. Close to 26, years ago my father's younger brother had topped in his Bachelor's Degree at IIT Kharagpur and was awarded the Gold Medal in Dept of Electrical Engineering. He had got scholarships to make to the top schools in the US for his Masters Program, but the family didn’t have enough funds to sponsor his air-tickets then. Somehow the finance part was taken care through loans. My uncle later completed his Masters and then his Ph.d and today heads and operates one the best Electrical Engineering Company with offices at various locations in the US and in Canada.

As in the words of Bubli the movie in "Bunty Aur Babli",
chote chote sheroin se
khaali boore dopehroin se
hum to jhola uthake chale

Keep reading and remain connected.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, May 28, 2007

Why Is India the most Interesting Country in the World ?

A couple of weeks back, I attended a lecture by the famous Indian historian Ramachadra Guha at Landmark bookstore in Bangalore. This also happened to be the occasion of releasing his latest book 'India After Gandhi'. Without much formal literary tucket, the author took on stage and started his discourse in his soft and mellow voice, the topic being 'Why Is India the most Interesting Country in the World ?'.

Suddenly he took a 500 denomination banknote of Indian currency. The banknote has its amount written in 17 languages. English and Hindi on the front serve as the link languages, and 15 vernacular languages on the back, along with an image from the Dandi March. Each of these languages signifying vigorous culture, literary tradition, symbolic imagination, metaphors, legends, myths, etc. That is the diversity of India.

The present generation has taken this diveristy for granted but how was this multifariousness accomplished. Close to fifty nine years ago, this nation was battered by civil war and partition, movement of millions of refugees across the borders and finally so many disparate princely states had to be united and integrated. All this was done, through 'a democratic form of government' even though many people had the apprehension that a poor, divided and diverese country could not sustain the practise of free and fair elections.

India is a true pluralistic society and infact the idea of India anticipates the idea of the European nation by 50 years. Almost all the members of the European Union earlier were glued together by three common parameters, a shared language, a shared religious faith and a shared territory. To be Brit was to concentrate around a cold island, who were mostly Protestants and who despised the French. Similarly to be Polish, meant united by a common language, a mostly common faith and to be Polish is to hate the Russian and German oppressors. But to be an Indian one need not subscribe to any particular language or dialect. S/he can follow any religion that the individual wishes and of course we don’t have a common enemy, though media keeps tom-tomming that we share bitter strands of animosity with our neighbor, Pakistan. It does not erect a wall of separation between state and religion. There are boundaries, of course, but they are porous. In short, it interprets separation to mean not strict exclusion but neutrality.

The reality of the 'multicultural', describing the presence of many cultures within a society, has been present in India for several millennia. But multiculturalism as celebrated in India is different. It is a special kind of relationship adopted by the state towards different cultural communities that fall within its sovereignty. To deepen our understanding of multiculturalism, to understand it’s internal tensions and foresee its problems and accordingly to refine and focus policies, the entire world needs to look to and learn from India.

To cite a simple example, in the 14th Lok Sabha election, 2004 the real surprise witnessed in the IT city of Bangalore (North) constituency, was from the debutant and former police commissioner of Bangalore, H.T. Sangliana of the BJP. He defeated six time MP and Congress giant Jaffer Sharief. Just get a little bit deeper, Sangliana, a Christian from Mizoram contesting for a seat in a prominent city in Southern India, under the bastion of BJP for the first time, defeats a Congress veteran. That's fantastic, something without parallel and comparison anywhere in the world. This clearly shows how multi-lingual and multi-cultural our society is.

India, is in the limelight these days for being one of the fastest growing economies, registering a growth rate of around or above 8% for the last couple of years. Put in a crisp and a compendious way, the change and transformation can be broadly classified under the following points.

1.Realm of economy – from an agricultural economy to a service oriented economy with appreciable contribution in the field of manufacturing, technology and science.

2.Realm of settlement – from an agrarian community to a one that is slowly migrating to cities and towns. It is estimated that by 2020, there would be more people living in urban and semi-urban India than in the villages and rural areas. This by itself is unparalleled anywhere else in the world. The urbanization of Indians is accelerating.

3.Realm of polity – from a colonized civilization to an independent one.

4.Realm of society – from a hierarchical feudal society in which discrimination was the norm to a democratic society where participatory action is the norm. If not in practice but in theory we have a talismanic guide in the form of 'Indian Constitution'. The Constitution, a towering public document, capturing the finest in the human spirit. It's all-inclusive, tolerant, liberal, noble, wise and extensive. It is more than sufficient to illuminate the darkest road. Enough to steer a nation, or a man.

Guha, an acclaimed historian considers, India the most interesting country in the world. Being a person who has spent his life in the shade of library racks, archives and one who makes a living studying India, he introduced the audience to some precious jewels, to illustrate, track and trace some of the changes that powerfully support his point that India is the most interesting country in the world. In his journey of 30 years, he has encountered and rubbed shoulders with some interesting mortals, whose immortal achievements have made his study all the more engrossing.

Sunderlal Bahuguna and the Chipko movement are interlinked to the present generation. Chipko movement started in the 1970s, as an organized resistance to the destruction of forests spread throughout India. The name of the movement comes from the word 'embrace', as the villagers hugged the trees, and prevented the contractors from felling them and one of the founders of this movement was Chandi Prasad Bhatt. Bhattji was raised in Gopeshwar, a small mountainous village and later in his life became a ticket clerk in Rishikesh for the bus company. He felt deeply concerned over the plight of the mountain people as a whole, and he often walked through the mountains to talk to the villagers about their problems. Among the most important, of course, were the shortages in farmland and jobs. But added to these were oppressive government policies concerning the forests and raising voice for the protection of the forestland. In 1956, Chandi Prasad found hope when he heard a speech by the Gandhian leader Jayaprakash Narayan, that he dedicated his entire life for the welfare, goodwill and the betterment of his fellow men in the mountains.

Guha cited an incident that happened way back in 1980, when as a student of sociology from IIM Calcutta pursuing his Ph.d; he had visited the Gharwal region. During his visit, he met Bhattji and another doctoral student from the University of Roorkee from the Dept of Economics. This chap from Roorkee wished to select 20 villages, 10 of which would be more or less on a motor road, and another 10 located more than five kilometers away from the road. His idea was to deliver a questionnaire to the villagers on the availability of various goods and services, to examine the economic hypothesis that access to roads was crucial to rural upliftment.

This student of economics sought help of Bhattji to choose those 20 villages. Bhattji without having any access to maps or survey sheets exposed to the enthusiastic student the entire demography, particulars and specifics of 20 villages. Here is man, who had lived, suffered, endured and tasted the problems of the people and learnt each bit of their mountainous spirit. A great pioneering environmentalist, thinker of remarkable range and achievement who, by virtue of his own innate modesty and lack of command over English, remains much less known and honored than is his due. His achievements are probably lost in the pages of history but the Indian Government was kind enough to honor this towering personality with the Padma Bhusan in the year 2005.

To Indians, cricket is a religion but this devotion and exaggerated zeal for the game has lost its charm in the last couple of months after India's early exit in the recent World Cup. To Indians, the arena of spin bowling brings to mind stalwarts like Bishen Singh Bedi, Prasanna, Anil Kumble, etc. But it would come as a surprise to many that the India's greatest and the first slow bowler before Indian attained the test cricket playing nation status was Babaji Palwankar Baloo, a very prominent Dalit leader in the later part of his career. Baloo is the most important character in one of Guha's book 'A Corner of a Foreign Field'. Baloo was a fantastic cricketer and the book talks about how cricket can influence both social and political history. Baloo's career mirrored the struggle against caste oppression, how he rose to a respectable person both in the cricket circles and in politics despite his caste, this is the story of Baloo who was one of the two gentlemen who helped the negotiations between Gandhi and B.R.Ambedkar while forging the well-known Poona Pact.

Indian elections are something that draws in lot of drama, crowd, promises, rallies, booth capturing, etc. Now think about such a scenario for a nation that had just attained independence, with most parts of the nation still in turmoil along with a flurry of other issues and problems. It decided to go for election and move straight into universal adult franchise, something not meant for weak hearted and it needs lots of grit and gumption to go for it, something without parallel at that stage in world history.

We remember T.N. Seshan, M.S. Gill, J.M. Lyngdoh who have donned the role of Chief Election Commissioner but the baap of them all is none other than the first Chief Election Commissioner of India, Sukumar Sen. We all have forgotten his inestimable and incomputable contribution as he left no essays or was he advertised much in the press. He was educated at Presidency College and at London University, where he was awarded a gold medal in Mathematics, later to join the coveted Indian Civil Service in 1921. He served in various capacities before assuming the role of Chief Election Commissioner. The job was arduous, complex, and intricate as 176 million Indians aged 21 or more were ready to vote, of whom about 85 per cent could not read or write. The identification of the voters, naming of the candidates and registering them and the entire logistics involved both in terms of human labor and material, would drive any one crazy. Mind you all this was happening when the there was no penetration of telecommunications even in the cities and towns of India, forget about the rural India for that matter. The alphabet 'e' as is predominant in any aspect of our life today was another regular rudiment of the 26 set English alphabets.
Some numbers will help us understand the scale of Sen's enterprise. At stake were 4,500 seats — about 500 for Parliament, the rest for the provincial assemblies. Two lakh twenty four thousand polling booths had to be constructed, and equipped with about two million steel ballot boxes. For the making of these boxes 8,200 tones of steel was required. Sixteen thousand five hundred clerks were appointed on six-month contracts for typing and collating the electoral rolls, constituency-wise. About 380,000 reams of paper were used for printing the rolls. Fifty six thousand presiding officers were chosen to supervise the voting, these aided by another 280,000, so to say, "lesser" staff. Two lakh twenty four thousand policemen were put on duty to stop violence and intimidation.

The elections and the electorate were spread out over an area of more than a million square miles. The terrain was huge, diverse and — for the exercise at hand — sometimes horrendously difficult. In the case of remote hill villages, bridges had to be specially constructed across rivers; in the case of small islands in the India Ocean, naval vessels used to take the rolls to the booths. A second problem was social rather than geographical: the diffidence of many women in northern India to give their own names, instead of which they wished to register themselves as A's mother or B's wife. Sukumar Sen was outraged by this practice, a "curious senseless relic of the past", and directed his officials to correct the rolls by inserting the names of the women "in the place of mere descriptions of such voters".

[Excerpt taken from the book 'India After Gandhi']

Other than managing this herculean task with great elan and sophistication, there are two examples that I learnt highlights the brilliance, the technical and managerial prowess of this great mathematician.

1.He knew that most of the electorate was illiterate and so he introduced the use of large pictorial symbols by which the uneducated and ignorant voters could identify their party of choice. Drawn from daily life, these symbols were easily recognizable: a pair of bullocks, a hut, an elephant, an earthen lamp and so on and so forth. To avoid impersonation, he had given the idea of using a variety of indelible ink. Simplicity defined and applied in the most natural form is how I can describe this.

2.Close to 2 million ballot boxes were used in the first general election and fortunately Sukumar Sen was involved for the second general election in 1957. In the course of 5 years, the Indian electorate had increased considerably, but Sukumar Sen had sent orders beforehand to preserve the ballot boxes whose number was close to 2 million from the first general elections. So for the elections in 1957, only 300,000 new ballot boxes were manufactured to take care of the newly grown population. Such was the foresight and strategic bent of mind of this genius.

Guha went on showcase many other masterminds such as J.B. Kripalani, who was elected to the Lok Sabha four times, and from three different States: from Bhagalpur and Sitamarhi in Bihar, Amroha in Uttar Pradesh, and Guna in Madhya Pradesh, Tarlok Singh, who studied economics at the London School of Economics before joining the Indian Civil Service in the 1930 and was responsible for the successful settlement of the refugees in the Punjab Province after 'the greatest mass migration' in history that occurred post independence in India, etc.

Although, Guha calls himself a 'Nehruvian', someone born and brought up in the India that was developed and influenced by the ideas of Nehru, it was Mahatma Gandhi, whom he considers the greatest and the most interesting individual of this century. He didn’t extend beyond this stating that it was a different topic and probably he would deliver another lecture to fortify his stance i.e. supporting Mahatma Gandhi.

Guha was charged up to mention to the crowd that the most interesting person whom he has ever met in flesh and blood was the Kannada polymath Shivaram Karanth. He was a multi-talented individual and was well trained in not less that 60 disciplines/professions and was world class in atleast 16 of these. He was a writer, social activist, environmentalist, Yakshagana artist, movie maker, scientist, teacher and thinker. I was aware of this virtuoso, since my college days as a member of SPIC MACAY. Shivaram Karanth is closely associated with revival of the folk art form Yakshagana and he hailed from a village, Saligrama in Udupi district of Karnataka, very near to my engineering school in the coastal hamlet of Surathkal. It won't be unfair to call him 'the Einstein of India' [his looks were similar to Einstein and also his unusual innate abilities equalled those that of the German scientist.]

It was more than one and half hours of non stop talking by Guha by then. So he stopped the lecture and left the stage open for questions. One of the questions that was posed to the historian was:

Question : Why is your book named 'India After Gandhi' and not 'India After Independence' ?

Answer : [As told by Guha, though not in the exact words, but the gist is here]. Before India attained independence, the history of India for close to a century centered on two powerful forces. On one hand there was the mighty British empire and on the other hand was this one man army and his principles that invoked an entire nation for freedom. A man named Mahatma Gandhi lacking physical strength or vitality but was steel willed in his path of attaining independence using the weapon of non-violence and peace. Volumes, reams and tons of tomes have been written discussed, debated and taught on this topic by both the Western and the Eastern world. But we have never looked at Indian history with the same astuteness and profundity after independence. The after independence history of India is one that is a potpourri of pity and contempt, of fear and admiration and the historian [i.e. Guha] has presented that in a balanced, non-partisan, unbiased and non- ideological way moving between history and biography. The story of modern India is story of people with extraordinary characters like long serving Prime Ministers, Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, the Kashmiri rebel-turned-ruler Sheikh Abdullah, the Tamil film actor-turned-politician M.G.Ramachandran, the socialist activist Jayaprakash Narayan.

Guha concluded his talk saying that India is the most interesting, exciting and absorbing nation in the world to study history and philosophy. The western world may offer an individual the comforts and pleasures of material life but the depth of intellectual richness and knowledge that any person can derive from this land called India is immeasurable. Something that cannot be parameterised. The smell, the scent, the conservation, the change, the order, the freedom, the organized, the disorganized, the complexity and the simplicity all coexist in India. This is a real challenging field for any philosopher, thinker and historian and Guha even said that, he won't mind being born in this land for 10 times to study this miracle called 'India'. There is a continuous fight for survival yet there is harmony and interdependence among one and all [forgetting the little black spots that tarnish Indianess,on and off.]

The evening ended with a refreshing note and I was happy that my trivia cells had not gone dormant and were still active as I was able to answer most of questions that were tossed by Guha intermittently in the course of his lecture. I was delighted over the fact that I got an autographed copy of the 900-paged book from Guha and my effort of wading through the Bangalore traffic at 7P.M. and making to the lecture in time was worth it.

Keep reading and remain connected.

[Note: If any of the readers is interested to start a series titled something like 'Discover India', if you have any thoughts and ideas and interested to post blogs and writeups, please feel free to email be at beheraDOTtanay@gmailDOTcom . The idea is to unravel more of this fascinating nation that you and me are unaware of thinking more in terms of IT, M&A's, Technology, Nanotechnology, Travel, Business, Malls, Profit/Loss Sheets, Digital World, Busy traffic, concrete jungles and hope you get what I am hinting at. The world that you and me live in has shed a bedsheet over the thick and rich bed of knowledge, lets dig into the bed.]

Labels: , ,

Monday, May 21, 2007

Make Your Trip, Hazar Rupaiya Aur Dush Manzilain.....

There is a series called the Globe Trekker telecast on Discovery Travel and Living which is based on adventure tourism. Since I follow this series often, I know that this is very popular in over 40 countries across the globe.

I always envy the principal host in each episode whose job is to travel with a camera crew to a country or a new location and experience the sights, sounds, and culture that the location has to offer. The show often extends beyond being a travelogue and delivers viewers a more bona fide look at local culture in the what-you-see-what-you-show format. The hosts of the show indulge themselves in the different aspects of regional life, social life and to put it short they live life with the locals their way without any rehearsed sequences.

Well few among us can aspire for it but whether it would materialise or not is another question. But yesterday I read a blog posted by my blog mate Anita Bora, one of the best photographers I have met and she posted about something 'crazy-yet-exciting'. What is it?

'Make Your Trip' can be touted as a variant of the Globe Trekker in a toned down version but its not phirang-phoren land centric but apna-desh, 'India' centric. It is an event in which a team needs to spend Rs.1000 and cover 10 destinations in a stipulated time frame. This is definitely going to be a challenge and would involve lots of planning in terms of expending techniques while on travel. This is for folks who are die-hard backpackers, overzealous travelers, shutterbug smitten, avid bloggers and those who want to explore the true colors of India and relish its undying spirit.

This initiative is brainchild of Sathish K, who is supported in his endeavor by a group of itchy feet enthusiasts. Check here for the details and other nitty-gritty.

The rules of the game are:
1. Each team consists of two members.
2. Each person is allowed Rs. 1000 and a backpack.
3. Participants are allowed to carry extra money, but are not encouraged to use it unless they are in some deep trouble.
4. Remotest village in a state is a must visit. Farther the distance of travel from starting point more the fun.

As planned for now the dates are as below:
Start Date: 10th June 2007 Morning (Sunday)
End Date : 24th June 2007 evening (Sunday)

The start and the end point should be the same and the participating team may decide the start point. For example, one team that starts from M.G. Road Bangalore has to end its journey on the same place.

In the course of this encyclopedic tour, each team can take pictures, shoot videos, spoil themselves with the local authentic cuisine, dance and participate in the local functions, and of course can scribble about their experiences. I feel it would be more fun if the team can make the post on-line live each day then and there, but this is going to be an arduous task. This is because, the team has a constraint on finance and in India in most of the places, the Internet cafés/parlors charge a bare minimum of Rs.10 per hour for sure. In that scenario the teams, on their return to their home destinations can turn the taped noises they got in the water, a hidden animal found in the soul, and anything and everything that resonates in the mind from the travel into memorable, unforgettable stories.

Well this part of the game shouldn't deter the decision you have already taken. For now there are no winners or no big prizes. It's a bloggers initiative and the idea behind this is to explore India for the sheer thrill and excitement of it. The people who conceived this initiative are trying their level best for sponsorships. Anyone who is interested to provide new implementable ideas or who is ready to offer some sort of sponsorship can reach Sathish.K at [k.sathish at]

So get ready, pack your bags, clean your hiking shoes/sneakers and join the game. Yup just jump in. Also pass on this message and about this event to your friends and other adventure and travel freaks.

Latest update as of 24th May'07 : Sathish has managed to get sponsorship from, an online travel community who will be sponsoring the Rs.1000 per team and also t-shirts for the participants. But all these things doesn't come for free, of course, photos/videos will be expected at the end of the journey.

Keep reading and remain connected.

[Note: Both the pics in this post are taken by Anita Bora]

Labels: , ,

Friday, May 18, 2007

Gonna Take a Walk

A couple of weeks back, something struck my mind and I decided to visit Cubbon Park early morning at 6 A.M. Cubbon Park, the other lung of Bangalore, is a great boon to Bangaloreans, with the city expanding at a rapid pace these days. This is one place, which replicates peace and calmness on earth early morning for those who go for a saunter under the tree canopies and beautiful tree avenues. Its vast stretches of celestial green look form an elegant backdrop for the public buildings like the Memorial Library and the stately Vidhana Soudha.

Morning time is more refreshing and energizing as one finds both the animate and inanimate stirred by the vibrant rays of the run. Men and women walking in tandem making the best use of the branded sneakers, 'Common Nike, Reebok and Addidas ko deekhado' or use the permutations for the placement of the three words, Nike, Reebok and Addidas in the order of your choice. Few people practising yoga stretching and flexing their muscles and trying poses called surya namaskar is a very common sight.

While straying through the park, the eye glances over many exotic and indigenous flowering trees and the avians. Known after Sir Mark Cubbon, the celebrated Chief Commissioner of Mysore, the park was initially known as 'Meades Park' after John Meade, the then acting commissioner of Mysore. But later this was renamed as Chamarajendra Park in 1927. Sprawling over 240 acres, Cubbon Park is a heaven on earth for Banglorites.

Few people call this 'pagoda flower' or the 'wat flower' but the name by which I know this is 'champa'. I have seen women in South India and in Eastern part of India, placing the closed buds of this flower in their lustrous black hair, either plucked from the garden or having got the same on a visit to a temple. In the course of the day the flowers bloom completely, releasing their typical divine fragrance both for the individual to enjoy as well as those in the immediate environment.

The cutting down of trees for widening of roads, laying the metro railway service and construction of fly-overs, dwindling of water table and tanks and shrinking of park spaces due to encroachment have all contributed to the receding greenery in Bangalore. Even the verdant environs of Cubbon are not spared. With the permission of the guard who was brushing his teeth, I entered inside the perimeter of a small pond where the ducks were floating leisurely. I later learnt that this pond is turning to dangerous habitat for these innocent creatures as a sewage pipe runs close to this pond and decants drosses into the pond.

But still amidst all these allegations and counter allegations, attack and counter attacks Bangaloreans can proudly proclaim that this is one of the best metropolis in India. I really feel sorry for those people who keep complaining that the city is deteriorating in terms of the greenery stretch. Yes, it is definitely not the B'lore of yesteryears, with globalization touching every tentacle and appendage of life. What we are seeing is the dark side of the growth, the blunder side of globalization. But what have those who complain about the loss of greenery done, why can't each of these fellows go and plant a tree in their backyards or in their apartment complex or in their residential complex or in a nearby park. In this regard, I really appreciate the work undertaken by corporates and firms who have constructed and maintained green islands and small parks at various locations in and around the city. Many school kids and students from different institutes are also voicing their support for the preservation of greenery in my garden city.

The vibrant Gulmohar (flame of the forest tree) is what greets the joggers in this park. To me the most gratifying site was that of kids running here and there under the canopy of the gulmohar trees, to be intersected in their playful activities by elderly couples walking hastily with their pet dogs.

The mauve jacaranda blooming in joyous abandon amid the red gulmohar, and its carpet of petals early morning makes one crave for a long walk. But making sure that the fine spun natural rug on the ground is not disturbed. The entire environ is embellished with some shade, in cool shades of pinks and purples, or for that matter think of any color and you can find it there.

Somehow time passed by and by then I had spent 2 hours in the early morning on a lazy Sunday morning. I walked towards the K.C.Das outlet on Church Street to have poori and alu along with a cup of tea but then the shop was closed since it was pretty early in the morning.

Well then some other time but the visit to the park in the morning was worthwhile, as I don't like crowd. I make my visits to these places before the crowd plunges in when the city life comes into force as the day grows.

For this short and fulflling visit ek chota sa khayal

silence is there.
but then the curl of the hearing widens.
purple jacaranda filtering the morning breeze,
the birds twitter,
life slowly unrolls
and blend into groundbass....

daily life takes its depth, mantle and proportions
but the woods still stand there,
to reveal the secrets and signs,
move ahead take life as it comes.

Keep reading and remain connected.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Privacy Ke Watt Lag Gaye

This kind of information or some variant of this appears in many a websites.

If you give us your e-mail address or login to our site, we will not share it with anyone without your express permission. If you do any transaction, or buy anything online through our website, blah blah......we will not share any information about you with anyone. If at any point you want us to remove your e-mail address from our files or database, just send us an e-mail to that effect. We would do the needful. This is called privacy policy in the e-world which is meticulously mentioned in sites, whether it is followed or not is an interesting question.

May be it works, may be it doesn't in the e-world. Poof! It'll be history.
But here [in the pic] this definitely doesn't work. Privacy aside, this just doesn't work both technically and functionally. Any doubts ;)

Keep reading and remain connected.


Friday, May 11, 2007

Is it not freedom..

eyes do speak up,
you can make a change

eyes fixed on my rearview,
a while back.

but swinging on the edge of the plateau,
there is so much beauty, and so much horror,
the chaos and the carnage,
the smiles and the cries,
those tearful tears.

but but after a hurricane,
as there is equanimity
and oodles of hope...

with my half closed eyes,
i see there is light
it may not be twinkling stars
but it is no tinsel or illusion
it is real..

that will illuminate the dawn,
till the dusk
but if they look at me,
i can feel you within my skin.

that's what freedom is to me.

Keep reading and remain connected.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Rush Rush to Landmark.

Tomorrow i.e. the 9th of May’ 2007, there is a book discussion and public lecture by Ramachandra Guha at Landmark in B’lore. The details are in the advertisement below.

I feel Guha doesn’t need any introduction and his name speaks it all. Just to give you a brief about this stalwart, Guha is a historian, biographer, and cricket writer. Born in Dehradun in 1958, he studied at St. Stephen's College, Delhi, and took his doctorate at the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta. Between 1985 and 1995 he held academic jobs in India, Europe, and North America. Since 1995 he has been a full-time writer, based in Bangalore. In 1997 and 1998 he was Indo-American Community Chair Visiting Professor at the University of California at Berkeley. He has also taught at the universities of Yale, Stanford and Oslo, been a Senior Associate Member of St. Anthony's College, Oxford, a Senior Fellow of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in New Delhi, and a Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin.

This is just a very very brief intro and there is lot more to his literary achievements, his knowledge in sociology, environment, etc, etc. To cut it short he is a moving library. I regularly follow his posts on social and political issues for the general public in 'The Hindu', 'Outlook' magazine, 'B.B.C', 'The New York Times' but am pretty sure that he is sought after in other dailies both national and international.

I will definitely make to this lecture, those interested can join in the cruise for a profound, academic and engaging lecture by this treasure trove of knowledge, views and ideas.

Without further ado, it is over, now, to Ramachandra Guha... Don’t miss.

Keep reading and remain connected.

(Note: This is no advertisement campaign for any bookshop or done for any benefit. I got this info and wanted to share this for the benefit of those interested to participate.)

Labels: , ,

Monday, May 07, 2007

Window With a View.

Yesterday, late evening I had been to NIMHANS to meet a person for a casual visit. This gentleman, Dr.N is one of my father’s friends, someone with whom my father had spent his school days and that relationship continues to this day. Today Dr.N heads the Dept of Psychiatry in this esteemed and reputed hospital. I often visit him, as he calls me to his place to have food and just spend some time. Dr.N, his wife and children are more or less part of my family. Staying away, I visit him on and off to get the feel of home and what I like the most about the family is the simplicity and meaningful deeper relationship.

As I entered the NIMHANS campus and was going towards the doctors’ quarters, it suddenly started raining, the rain drops falling with force and it actually hit hard. To avoid the rain, I took shelter in a newly constructed building around which a new hospital block is being built. There I saw this family, a father, a mother and two kids. One of the kids was around seven years old [Raju] and this cute sweetheart [Laxmi]in the pic is barely less than a year old. The mound of sand, with a blanket on top was the kid’s playground. Since it was raining now, the mother of the baby, immediately got a bed sheet stitched out of the cement bags and placed it over the blanket. The child was playing with an old plastic tiffin box. She was blushing, smiling, and completely carefree lost in her own world, only to constringe herself when she heard a sudden holloa of thunder.

To my understanding, although the material deprivation experienced by this child is often impossible to precisely quantify, it was apparent that she was using this open environment to sustain normal behavioral development and life. She may be completely oblivious of this fact but I feel she had learnt it that life is not going to be easy for her in future and she has to struggle. Her chubby legs, smeared with mud, adorned with skintight ankle bracelets were making small movements, as she was not able to walk. She was crawling.

It continued to rain for another half an hour and I was basking in this simple umbrella of togetherness. The wife of the laborer made tea and all three of us sipped from the broken cups. The kids took sips, from the parent's cups. I was pretty comfortable in their company, and the feeling of consciousness and discomfort disappeared from the laborer’s wife face, the moment I said, 'Chai badiya hai'. The family though hailing from North Karnataka, had picked up few words in Hindi and so our communication channel was not stymied.

Later when the rain subsided a bit, I took the two kids to a small shop within the NIMHANS campus and got chocolates for both of them. The elder one started munching the chocolate as soon as he got it. The other cute one was struggling to peel off the cover. But once she had the chocolate in her hand, it was she and the saliva mixed with chocolate streaming out of her mouth. Intermittently she was kissing me on my cheek. Awesome: rain, tea and now this cute baby.

Before leaving them and rushing towards the campus colony, I thanked the parents and requested them to take care of these two gentle souls. But I have a small confession to make, while I was proceeding towards doctor uncle's house, a question came to my mind. Another three months after the first rains, once the construction at the site gets over, this family would move on, and so also the children wedged in between struggling life and survival. The way ahead is not easy, predictable or certain but then life goes on. Also a question kept pinging in my mind, did I do the right thing by offering the kids chocolates. Well for me, it was simple joy and few moments of ethereal bliss ness. But what if the kids ask the parents, the same stuff the next day, what are they going to do?

On one side are materialism, modern life and commerce, accelerating at a breakneck speed. Plenitude of fortune, accumulation of gigantic power, and intense self-pursuits defines life for one segment of the society. On the other side is a world that is still struggling and manages to lead a life with dignity in a small bed sheet spread on a hillock of concrete.

Keep reading and remain connected.

[ The pic in the post is shot using my mobile camera. ]

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Aaj Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai

Everyone is talking about the Abhi–Ash wedding or at least one gets the news as one browses the Indian dailies in print and digital media. A couple of weeks back this space was ruled by the grand Liz Hurley–Arun Nayar wedding, in Rajasthan recently. But both these media tom-toming events were for the high and the elite, only a selected few were invited, kissne Salman Khan ko shaadi pe invite nahi ke and then our own Sachin Tendulkar was busy getting out of the cricket circles and ignoring all khit phit, being a privileged guest in Big B’s invitee list. With the Indian summer temperature rising, the Indian marriage season is also getting hot and hotter. Recently I attended a wedding function of one of friends in the heart of Andhra Pradesh, at Kurnool.

......following the engagement function, the marriage happened as per customs and traditions on a weekday. Yes, I stress on the word 'weekday' as panditji had predicted this 'day' and this 'time' termed 'subhamuhartam' as the solemn moment for the union of Ha and Sw. Also since it was on a 'weekday', me along with my friends completed my work and travelled towards the destination by the last bus, not taking the car as no one was ready to drive after a day's work. That day night it had rained in Bangalore before we boarded the bus at 10 PM. The soil though not sticky smelled refreshing from the first showers of the monsoons, competing with other colors of the nature.

The hi-tech Volvo bus journey was easy if not perfectly comfortable and we reached Kurnool at 5AM. The city had received few hours of rain early morning, the red soil breathed of earthy fragrance, the air was live with the chirping birds and the streets littered with withered leaves. Resting for a couple of hours in a guesthouse, we were all ready by 8AM when all the functions and rituals were underway in a nearby 'Mandap'.

The entrance to the 'Mandap', a metal and tinsel affair, was flanked on both sides by banana saplings and earthern pots containing tender, vermillion-sprinkled mango leaves and coconuts. The two columns of the gate were connected by arch decorated with a profusion of flowers. The ground floor of the 'Mandap' was dotted thickly with shamianas and people were busy having their breakfast. By the time I reached the first floor where the marriage was happening in a big hall, every inch of the space was filled with people, each one talking earnestly and loudly to the other.

An even greater crush of the people milled around a raised dais at the end. Ha dressed in silk kurta and dhoti looked smart but Sw was quite unrecognizable with the heavy makeup and jewellery most of it gold, dripping from her neck, ears, limbs and braided hair. Very near to the dais, there were few idols and on enquiry, I learnt that 'Gowri Puja' was already performed. The sole intention being 'Gowri' is Mother Durga who symbolizes divine power, energy, womanpower, fertility, etc and this is performed to seek the blessings for the bride.
Picture 012

When the marriage function started, the panditji initially went through a series of rituals like cleaning the groom’s feet with water, exchanging betel leaves, betel nuts, coconuts, etc. Like in north India, where the 'agnihotram' (sacred fire) is the epicenter of all the action, here I found that such a practise existed but of a toned down version.
Picture 010

Musicians played the music from one end of the hall relentlessly and a wave of a hand was enough to tell them to increase the drum beat levels when it was time for the groom to tie the mangalsutra around the bride’s neck and another wave told them to stop playing. At the end of the mangalsutra tying ceremony, the couple put garlands around each other's necks.

Rice being the staple food was poured in abundance over each other's head by the couple in a joyful manner conveying prosperity and abundance. And all those assembled showered flower petals and uncooked, turmeric-colored rice. Beyond the luxuriant foliage of the dais’s decoration, the men were informally dressed in loose shirts and trousers to beat the damp heat. The women made no concession to the weather and were dressed in Kanjeevarams and saris with heavy silk-thread work. Tiers of gem-encrusted gold clung from their necks, ears and arms, not to mention the dense smell of perfumes.
Picture 007

I was standing at one corner dressed in my CK Jeans and a simple blue shirt keeping my shutter busy, while relishing the spectacle of an Indian wedding. I watched with interest as guests came one by one, deposited a large and gaily-wrapped parcel onto the couple’s hands, wishing them a long and happy married life and then posing for a photography. I pity, no no I acknowledge both Ha and Sw as they stood there for close to two hours, accepted the gifts with plastic smiles on their faces, something similar to those that we see in Hindi film 'mahurats'. The flip side of this is later on down the years, when the couple surf through the album, they can get to know that 'this-uncle-that aunty-this cousin-that relative' had come to their wedding and feel nostalgic about it.

The lunch was simple South Indian food, completely vegetarian and dishes comprised of rice, sambar, spicy brinjal curry doused in oil, bhindi and kaju fry, lemon rice, etc to name a few. The buffet lunch was laid in an enclosed space where several tables were neatly arranged as in a regiment. Though the fans whizzed busily above them, it was extremely hot. Crowds of people stood around with plates in their hands, talking, looking around to make sure they were seen. Occasionally they also ate. There were lots of kids running wildly in the food court, competing with their friends as to who would consume the maximum scoops of ice-cream and often in their carefree escapade they bumped against few others in the crowd, spilling the gravy on the shirts and saris. But then, who cares when the kids are having a 'ball-of-a-time'.

It was late afternoon by now and I took some rest after a heavy lunch, before exploring the small mid-town of Kurnool, taking myself out of the cool confines of my A/C room. The rugged landscape with its boulders tumbled about in disorderly masses and glowing like dull fire in the early hours of twilight, possessed a strong and hardy personality. This was comforted by an accidental yet amicable encounter with a nimbu pani seller. Somehow time passed by and it was night, time to board the bus for our return trip.

I fortunately got the window seat and the moment I was seated comfortably, I switched on my iPod, which started humming the songs on my favorite list. I looked through the windowpane. The crescent of the moon thrust a pale light through the translucent film as I reflected upon the superior character, tradition and belief which one finds so often in these simple and age-old customs and functions. I had slept in the mean while, to wake up in the morning when the sunrays struck on my face. Despising the grimy hovels, glassy shops, ornate places, match box apartments, and efficient-looking office blocks which are today’s Bangalore, I return to my flat in order to continue with my daily life, chores and ruminations.

Keep reading and remain connected.

( Note: Trivia on this, note that this blogpost name is a song from a movie. Can you guess the name of the movie. )

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Hamari Maange Poori Karo.

For many of us in India it was a day off away from work. Few smart chaps, took an additional day's break on Monday and so they had four days straight on their fun bank or to put in an uncoiled way, to spend the way they wanted it. I am sure few went to their hometown and few had four days of stress busting mazza, masti and rollicking time in some resort or beach or hill station.

What was the occasion? May Day alias Mazdoor Divas. One of the theories about the history of May Day goes like this. The day rolls back to the United States labor movement in the late 19th Century. On May 1, 1886, unions across the country went on strike, demanding that the standard workday be shortened to eight hours. The organizers of these strikes included socialists, anarchists, and others in organized labor movements. Rioting in Chicago's Haymarket Square on May 4th including a bomb thrown by an anarchist led to the deaths of a dozen people (including several police officers) and the injury of over 100 more.

The protests were not immediately successful, but they proved effective down the line, as eight-hour work days eventually did become the norm. Labor leaders, socialists, and anarchists around the world considered this event as a rallying point, choosing May Day as a day for demonstrations, parades, and speeches. A day to voice their concerns and to fight for their rights, as the organisation structure was more union focused.

That was past and now in present scenario, lets consider the Indian working class framework. With the Indian jobs becoming more office and IT-centric, with plush campuses, glass ridged buildings, etc, the idea and concept of demonstrations, parades, and speeches is more attuned to the industries like textile mills, steel industries etc.

Well for this man past his retirement, May Day is just another day. This senior citizen needs to do backbreaking work for a living. Does this day really hold significance to both the class, the IT/Manufacturing job related class and the senior citizen class, if so how ?

Source of the Pic :

Keep reading and remain connected.

Labels: , , ,