Also a  desperate course correction of the PM’s one-track approach!
There is a clear disconnect with rural India as far as the UPA government is concerned.

Yes, there are schemes like rural employment guarantee scheme. So are other schemes focused on the “distribution” of benefits to the rural mass of people? Yes, all the social sector programmes have a rural focus, if you stretch the definition of rural focus. This is in a way, not even well-defined even here, is what the Manmohan Singh-led governance has come to.
There is clearly lots of dissatisfaction with this sort of view.

See what he is speaking about just on day one after the terror attacks which had shaken the very confidence of the Indian people. The Pm is talking about that Indian economy would grow at 7.5 per cent! Is the time to speak such prosaic topics?

Clearly, this government has been found wanting when it comes to agriculture, rural India, the very many institutions that are helping to lift the rural India and help to integrate it with the faster urbanisation process of development.

What about the funds so budgeted for the rural development? For the panchayat raj institutions. Have ever even for once, even for the token sake ever the PM had talked about the panchayat raj? Has the Pm ever talked about revamping the co-operative institutions, from banking to other producer co-ops like the milk unions or other units like co-operative sugar factories or other such  innovations that had sustained the rural India, rural Industries etc?

Not for once the PM had shown any visible empathy with the continuing distress in the farm sector. The recent injection of about Rs.750 crores for the distressed districts where the farmer’s suicides took ominous turns is not properly conceived.

The UPA government, the very many luminaries of the regime, the ministers or others, has not shown any interest in any systematic development of all regions. Even in the North East  there are issues of great significance, not just economic development, but migration, the great sense of alienation and the consequent displacement of people, the rise in violence etc needs addressing in a big way. Read More →

People must get at the truth fully!
PM’s talk of rate of growth, convening of teams and a lackluster image no inspiration!  Terror strikes India in a massive way!

Shakes our confidence and our collective response needs some hard questioning!

Is the government as it has responded enough of a guarantee for future security?

It is not easy to come to terms with the reality that had hit India in a brutal way. The 10-member gang of heavily-armed terrorists had caused havoc with the very   foundations of the Indian nation.

What started and how it ended would never go away from our minds and public memory, at least in this instance, won’t be anyway shorter. Rather this memory would lengthen by each passing day.

Now, how the government has responded leaves us rather not reassured, but rather more anxious about what would happen next.

The Prime Minister, for one, soon after the attacks, looked thoroughly shaken and his eye balls were rolling about as the nation watched the Chief Executive through his spectacles and he ,as usual failed for  words that didn’t rise up to the emotional pitch every other citizen reaches so  suddenly and so spontaneously.

It looked at first as if the government response would be more of the same, a quick flying visit by the PM and Sonia Gandhi and followed by the same routine, emotionless and bureaucratic language. Yes, it first looked like that and we have to admit that some people, like Shobha De took exception to the lifeless language of the PM and the very nation felt let down and the country felt like an orphan, to say the  least. No one seemed to be in control of the situation. Read More →

What chances for freedoms today?
Human rights ensured or violated in today’s world?
Sunny summer? Or, a winter of discontent or despair?
Thoughts on our freedoms and security!
 
The day and the time when the leaves glow yellow and golden when the sun shines!

Where are our freedoms today?
What are the freedoms we can afford today?
Who are the freedom-givers and the takers of freedoms?

I write this on the day when the First World War ended. It is called in the West as Armistice Day and “celebrated” or remembered is the right word perhaps, by the winners of the war and also in a manner by the losers as well.

Each country remembers its war dead. In India too, there used to be a war veterans day. I used to witness this day in Bangalore every year when the Indian army units used to put the flower decoration to the war memorial at the very heart of the city, right at the busy junction of Residency and Brigade roads. This is the war memorial for the Indian soldiers who died (or sent in masses for massacre?) at the Mesopotamia campaign. I have got a book somewhere in my library on this “infamous” campaign which was the folly of the British raj then and the infamy is being perpetrated, in my opinion, on an ignorant nation!

 What is the point of decrying an old folly, you might ask.
No, our present day politicians are equally guilty, I would say!
Why?

Yes, even today, our politicians, I mean the more learned and supposed to be well-informed enough, lead us in a much more ignorant manner and hold us, the public in the country and also the public opinion, in the country to a sort of ransom, a blackmail, when it comes to the fate of our lives as a nation and as a people, collectively, I mean.

Why such pessimism?
Yes, there are some valid reasons for me.

For what ends we are asked to sing the praise of the Indo-US nuclear deal?
Has anyone enlightened us so far the wisdom of signing the nuclear deal?
Is it for peace or war? Will the deal make India more secure militarily to face any threats? Or, will the deal ensure just energy alone?

No one has made things clear at all.
Can the nation believe just Dr.Manmohan Singh or Pranab Mukerjee alone?
Yes, it likes that. There is no public debate, no debate worth the name in the Indian Parliament?

Or, was there any such debates?
Yes the TV debates had created more noise and headlines than any wisdom or serious in-depth understanding of the pros and cons of the great nuclear deal.

Now, we are reminded that Narasimha Rao wanted to conduct the nuclear test way back in 1995 and as he buckled under pressure from the US, he wrote to Vajpayee, the incoming Pm to conduct the test and it was done.
Even after that India hasn’t become any stronger vs. a vs. Pakistan and other countries we feared. In fact, now, says the former Navy  Chief Admiral Arun Prakash that there was even then no need for a second test in 1998, the 1994 test was enough. He asks “What is the point of having the nuclear weapons except to get the respect of other countries?”

I hesitated to ask such a question all these days simple because I was unsure whether I might sound an ignoramus! Now, a navy chief had asked such a question I have become bold enough to ask the same question even now. That is after the Pm got busy going around the world, after the USA to China and Japan and again busied himself in the Gulf countries and he is giving the impression within India that he is doing a great job.

I am sorry today I don’t share such a view of what the PM is doing on the nuclear issue and if any other aspect like ensuring our security environment.
Why I say this?

Historical understanding is more critical. I am of the firm belief that it is our history our historical understanding of the international environment is much more critical to ensure our national security. That is why Nehru gave India that unique great inner strength. Today, I as a citizen feel insecure about our national self-confidence. Why? Because, even after the PM (and also after Sonia Gandhi’s two more visits) visits to China, that country is making wild claims on India’s Arunachal Pradesh territory.

Enlightened   rulers  had enlightened  advisers!
Frederick 11 of Prussia had Voltaire to advise him
Catherine 11,the Great had also Voltaire as her adviser
Joseph 11 of Austria had also wise counsellors
The autocrats were at least reformers in their times.
The also sought  the philosophes, Montesquieu and Rousseau.
19th century saw only autocracy and  despotism. At least there was  wisdom, and these rulers sought wise counsel.
Can we say the same thing about today’s politicians, about Sonia Gandhi?
See the sort of advisers and her own ministers!

So, I am asking myself: What these leaders might have talked with the Chinese leaders? Won’t they have raised such sensitive matters and explained the real nature of the issues, our border issues with China?
I am in no position to know the exact situation.

The PM hasn’t also enlightened us as to why such anxiety is created in the minds of the Indian people.

This thought disturbs me as I write.
Now the world wars thoughts are uppermost in my mind.
  
The First World War for Indians means anything? For today’s generation? I don’t think so. Even for the Indians of this generation or the previous one, even for the Indians who have all migrated and live in the UK and the USA, the world wars might not mean much.

I only think so. This is for various reasons.

First, most of the Indians of this day, both old and the young, might not be fully aware of world affairs, both of today and in the days gone by. Most of us just live our lives just for the day. Much for our own selves and for our families and the immediate surroundings. For those who are fortunate, that is those who think they are fortunate, because they had got education or they got a secure job, as in government(I think so this way for In see the Indians of this generation and also those who are of the older generation of yesterdays, like those in government jobs, as civil servants or even as politicians like our own government-servant turned Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh or for that matter any one of the current crop of politicians and ministers)life seems to be just  one more day lived, that is we seem to live all  for our own selves and for the  immediate families only.
I am not sure of how many of our leaders, those who are there as ministers and MPs and MLAs, politics is all about selfless service.

Anyway, with the sort of mind I am with today, the day that is today coincided with the Armistice Day. The day also brought back my memories of the times past.

I still distinctively remember the day and the place.
It was the year 1959 and I was a fresh graduate at Oxford and I was on my first European holiday. I was traveling in Europe and I was returning from Switzerland and I was hitch-hiking. I found myself in a remote country side  of France, then  almost I found myself very lonely I was finding it hard to get a speeding car to stop and give me a lift. Till then, I was always lucky to get someone giving me a helping hand. In fact, I remember one day a lady driving alone stopped by my side and asked me, are you from India, and I said yes! She was surprised to see an young Indian student asking for a lift and she asked me to get in. The drive was long in the French country and she was going towards the Swiss border to visit her mother. What I remember to this day was her sunny personality, she was alert and active and interested in the world.

All the time the subject of her conversation was about the eloped Indian lady, one Sonalini Dasgupta, she eloped with the Italian film director one Roberto Rossilini, he was a friend of Nehru and he came to do some documentary on Indian development and that is how he became a friend of the Indian government documentary film department. Ms.Sonalini Dasgupta was the wife of one Mr.Dasgupta of the government department. When she eloped with the director to Italy, she became an overnight celebrity. This, my hostess for that day, was keenly interested in the story and that was one reason, as I found out later, why she gave me a car life, just to chat with me all about this Italian director and the Indian lady.

I was also familiar with this scandal then in the news as Sonalinit Dasgupta was also a student of Santiniketan, years before my time! So, this long drive, she was a good driver and she drove me through the beautiful French countryside and she even stopped for lunch with her mother and I was also called into their home for sharing the lunch.

So, the French countryside and France became my part of the world and shaped my consciousness of the world and the people outside my known world.

On my way back I was not so lucky. I was stuck at one place.
This palace today I remembered on the Armistice Day. This place where I found myself lonely on that far off day was none other than what was to be the worst bloody battle ground of Verdun.

Verdun? Yes, that was the place where this year, this day, went the French President Nicolas Sarkozy, accompanied by so many dignitaries whose names I don’t care to remember at all!

The report of the visit as put in the British newspapers read so well and the words so moved me and sent in a cold wave inside me, made me feel sad for hours together. Here I am at such a far distant land, India and the day I was there at Verdun, is again a far -ff memory and yet Verdun connected me to a stream of consciousness that created so many ripples of  tears inside me. I cried alone and for a longer time than I wanted.

Why I cried?
“The day and the time. When the leaves glow yellow and golden as the sun shines!”

In the battlefield of Verdun, there perished more than 300,000 French and German soldiers, many died after being shot by their own commands for refusing to fight on! Others died fighting. Many others were simply butchered for no valid reasons!

Verdun, even then, to my innocent eyes seemed to be a ghost town and there were not many around. That might be one reason why the town looked ghostly to my unsuspected eyes. The news report today notes that at 11 o’clock, a two minute silence was observed by himself and entourage and the visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel, visiting Australian governor general, Quentin Bryce and the Grand Duke of Luxembourg and many others.
The war monument and the surroundings are dotted with crosses for the dead and the concrete ossuary housed the bones of the 130,000 unidentified dead. What a great human and shall not say, a great blunder of man for triggering this great tragedy.

So too the Second World War. Then, the subsequent human follies, the coming of Lenin, Hitler and their follies, then Stalin, then later Mao and now? The Iraqi war which was launched for what?

George Bush and much more the guilty fellow, Tony Blair, the two lied to the world, there was no invasion by Iraq and there was no weapons of mass destruction, as Tony Blair lied and they, the two men of war of our times, lied blatantly and went on to cause one more modern tragedies, some 300,000 massacred for no visible ends!

Why such a long monologue, readers might wonder.
Yes, I have been haunted by the indifference of people not only in India but also in the wider world about the consequences of the way we live in the world, the way the governments of the major countries are run.
As the visiting writer, the Nobel Laureate, Nadine Gordinar, 85, said in Kolkatta in a speech, the tragic violence is being caused by man in an unceasing manner to this day. In her beautiful phrase, it was a “sunny day in New York in September 2001, when suddenly terror pounded the sky. So too Hiroshima happened on an unsuspected day. Read More →

There have been somehow a good many number of books on the art of photography and also photographic exhibitions are on the rise lately.

In Bangalore, I visited two photo exhibitions, all top class, French names I forget but I remember Cartier Bresson’s widow curating one and two other Frenc names.

One Mr.Poddar is single handedly devoting himself to promoting the photography as an art. I applaud him.

Now the two books I glanced through greatly inspired me. One, a history of photography in India(The coming of photography in India, OUP) and the other Mapin’s publication on “Vijayanagara, splendour in ruins, it is an Alkazi Collection of Photography, all 247 pages of breathtaking pictures all taken some one hundred and fifty years ago! The price of Rs.2,850 is “peanuts”, I told myself!

An Englishman, residing in the nearby cantonment of Bellary seemed to have taken a fancy for photography and the result is the rare collection. The pictures about the boatmen on the Tungabhadra would really surprise you by their unbelievable contemporary look! The man who shot the pictures, one Alexander Greenlaw earns our gratitude for what he had done for the Indian people and their cultural heritage!

The lotus Mahal stands in full splendour! So too the other structures, one doesn’t know how much is lost and how much remains today. Those who visited Humpi and also those who haven’t and plant to visit must acquire this treasure trove!

There is one more book and one more photographic exhibition, this time in Lond. That is the Alakazi collection again, this time it is on “coloured Portraiture in India”

India had had some two hundred years of miniature painting and we all treasure this tradition as our own very Indian priceless heritage. This was before the 19th century before the Western photography art came into India. Even the Daniells, the two English cousins came to India and covered the entire continent and drew all the monuments and Indian life through their tinted sketches and portraitures. Read More →

Private initiatives are making waves in the Indian scheme of politics and national life?

It is good that the Bangalore-based government and private partnership in culture promotion, namely, the Bangalore Habba was postponed in the wake of the Mumbai terrorist attacks.

The mood in the country is not suited for any celebrations of sorts. It is a time for deep anguish and introspection for the nation. Yediyurappa, the Karnataka Chief Minister reflects the nation’s mood, unlike many of his counterparts, his peers in his own state or in the outside states, who shave shown utter insensitivity and irresponsibility, as in Kerala Chief Minister’s case.

Even in states like neighbouring TN we see utter callousness and indifference to the happenings in Mumbai. Where politicians seem desperate as we see the DMK chief Karunanidhi who is losing allies and seeking nonentities as partners!

When the Indian politicians would become men, not just boys! Seeking selfishness and narrow agenda when the country is in the flames, literally and metaphorically?

Yes, it is like this sort of a question only that one seems to ask these days when we look around and take stock of our national life.
How serious we are about our own self-perceptions.

First the positive developments and the positive strengths.
Yes, cultural activities in the country, at least as seen from Bangalore, the booming international city of sorts owing to its international corporate culture, the arts and cultural scene is vibrant.

In one week I read and even attend say, music events, theatre events, paintings exhibitions and international rockers and other arts.
The state government for instance this year announced a grant of Rs.1.5crores and a private company Rs.one crore to conduct what is called the week-long Habba, cultural week.

Kannada film festival, music festival and theatre festival and handicrafts and many such kinds of cultural pursuits.

You can have it to your full satisfaction.
As Padmini Ravi, trustee of the Artistes’ Foundation for Arts (AFFA) says the arts and art infrastructure in the country has huge talent and any artistic promotion is, as she says, is only an investment in our future generation. So, we welcome the cultural promotion events and at the same time we like the arts and culture energises a people and reflect their feelings and moods as well.

There was time that artists from Bangalore went to Chennai to seek recognition. Now it is the reverse! Musicians like Bombay Jayasree and dancers like Leela Samson came to Bangalore to perform!
Where money is there culture follows, right? Read More →