By KAUSTAV BHATTACHARYYA

There was maintained a calibrated detachment from the humdrum world of politicking. Rather the philosophical abstract world of ideas of politics was acceptable and welcomed. Apart from playing sophisticated games, enjoying music there was the pleasure of devouring good cuisine. The culinary heritage and tradition of Piedmontese exclusive clubs is worth the legend. In these Clubs food was served with all the elegance and formality as mentioned in the memoirs of Emilio Segrè, a Physicist and Nobel Laureate, “A Mind Always in Motion: The Autobiography of Emilio Segrè”, “On Friday I saw Carlo Perrier at Turin. I had lunch with him and his brother at the Philharmonic Club, in a great 18th century palace with butlers in white stockings and livery, but with average food.” The culinary items with respect to their ingredients and style of preparation and cooking is highly interesting and filled with powerful snippets of insight into history and tradition of Piedmontese region.

These ‘charming’ characteristic needs further exploration and analysis which is discussed in this second and concluding part of article on the Piedmontese nobility.

POLITICS IN THE CLUB – GENTLEMEN’S RULES:
This specific dimension of the elite Gentlemen’s clubs imbued with the ethos of aristocracy needs to be emphasized; a safe and comfortable distance from the world of politics. The society insisted on being totally apolitical and despite having members who were political heavyweights: the nobility types, diplomats, serving ministers. As a matter of fact quite recently, about 20 years back, one of the senior members had to step down due to his close affiliation with the ruling political dispensation of the day. It would be safe to state that the broader political position or temper of most of the members were liberal and moderate.

Perhaps the Indian context would be worth comparing with where the elites even the aristocratic ones are constantly yearning for political power and participation. Our elites need to ponder and reflect upon a situation or equilibrium to use an economics term whereby they can refuse government responsibilities and can exist and operate sans political patronage. What would be truly remarkable in 21st century India given the low ebb of politics to create a niche world of elites where it operates and independent of the political sphere.

A glowing instance from Whist Society is that of Cavour who on assuming the mantle of President in 1860 no longer intended to accept any government responsibilities given his disappointment with the armistice of Villafranca.

CUISINE – ARISTOCRATIC ‘AROMA’ & STYLE:
The Philharmonic Society Whist Club was reputed for its elegant, high-class dining so let’s explore some of the reputed dishes or culinary items including entrees, hors d’oeuvres and desserts.

Moncalieri Tripe, or in Trippa di Moncalieri is a traditional Piedmontese cuisine which is basically a sausage concocted from the tripe and the belly of cattle, like sheep, goats and pigs. This is procured locally from the Moncalieri rural cattle located in the province of Turin. Hence there is a distinct touch of local authenticity. I ‘macaron’ della Val Rilate is a handcrafted macaroni which happens to be a marvellous medieval tradition produced in the charming rural landscape of Montechiaro d’Asti. The process of making the macaroni involves rolling the dough around a knitting needle and the seasoning is a guarded Monferrino secret.

la finanziera is a traditional, archetypal Piedmontese dish in which beef and white meat is used for making. The name traces its origins to the dress usually worn by bankers and high-finance around 1800 who loved this culinary item. Bollito misto, a crowning glory of the traditional Piedmontese gastronomy is a variant of simple boiled meat which needs to be prepared with care, correct choice of meat portions cut, appropriate accompaniment of sauces and paired with good wine. The entree needs to be served with the right side dishes like boiled potatoes, buttered spinach, sautéed mushrooms, sweet and sour onions and a cup of broth. This dish occupied a grand place in the Italian cuisine of nobility, it is noted that around the 1800s King Vittorio Emanuele II would venture off to the small town of Moncalvo for a hunting session for wild game and then enjoy a hearty ‘convivial’ meal of Bollito with his friends. Bollito found its way into the landmark book of Italian gastronomic literature, ‘Libro de Arte Coquinaria’(The Art of Cooking) authored by Maestro Martino.

Zabajone al foie gras is a variant of the Italian dessert Zabajone served with the foie gras. Zabajone is an Italian dessert famous in the top tables of haute cuisine which was an accidental creation of the chef to Duke Carlo Emmanuele-I of Savoy. The original name was apparently Sambayon in honour of Saint Pasquale Baylon. The chef randomly poured some fortified wine into an egg custard. This soon emerged as the pudding served amongst the Piedmontese aristocratic circles and remained their favourite. The serving with foie gras add the decadent touch to a dessert steeped in tradition.

LOCAL AND ROOTEDNESS – CUISINE
If we were to now deconstruct and interpret the aristocratic influence or touch of many of these culinary servings then let’s first consider the characteristics which define or distinguish them as ‘noble’ cuisine and sets it apart from the rest. First and foremost which springs to mind is the ‘local’ rooted nature of the ingredients and recipes. Hence ‘local origins’ is very important for these culinary dishes to qualify as aristocratic. In many instances the Nobility patronized elite Gentlemen’s Clubs which inscribed the local shared identity onto their elite habitus and practices. There is a powerful lesson in this age of populist anti-globalization, anti-elitist sentiments about the importance of connecting with local culture and heritage like cuisine. Today most elites at the global stage have distanced themselves from local authentic reality of life and are basking in the suspended rarefied groundless sphere of luxury and opulence. This is most exemplified by the rise of Skyscraper tall restaurants overlooking the landscape of the city or region.

TRADITION AND HISTORY – CUISINE
Next we can locate this idea of a legacy of history associated with the great courts and families and their kitchens like for instance the dessert Zabajone arising from an accidental blunder committed by the chef in the kitchen of the Duke. This kind of ‘closeted’ history lends a certain mystique and charm to the culinary recipe and perhaps it tastes a bit romantic!! The cuisine has to have some association with history of a noble family kitchen or personal preference of the Royalty like that of the Bollito Misto favoured by the venerable King Vittorio Emanuele II. This is akin to a kind of endorsement of the cuisine and its taste by the most discerning and highest echelons.

FAMILIARITY NOT EXOTIC CUISINE
Apart from these two characteristics one which I would propose is that of familiarity like what’s served by grandmother or what one savours in the dining table for routine meals of the day. In many of the literature on these elite Gentlemen’s Clubs one finds the leitmotif or recurring theme of a familiar and homogenous environment which prompts many to define it as their ‘second home’. In the case of Circolo dell’Unione all the interviewees who happened to be members referred to the Club as their ‘second home’. For instance in most of the culinary dishes mentioned there is a sense of familiarity for the members and for instance the dish of La Finanziera which was enjoyed and relished by the bankers. This again needs to be reckoned by our contemporary global elites who revel in creating exotic esoteric ambiance of dining and entertainment. A great penchant and desire to clip and cut-off the roots of one’s existence or origins is clearly manifested and even applauded. Many commentators have derided this as the proverbial bourgeoisie 21st century exotic excursion.

In the summary one can appreciate and understand the way Piedmontese nobility went about creating a special niche for themselves in the sphere of socializing and aesthetics. Besides we learnt about a glowing instance of Continental European nobility. This demonstrates that there are multiple ways in which fading elite can retain its prestige and exude glory without craving and conniving for political power.

A paradigm shift and its time are here and now!

The much-dreaded Covid 19 virus menace is here . We in India and the rest of the world are in the midst of this crisis. The only consolation, if we can call this time a consolation is that other more developed countries are equally in a bad situation and we have to all fall in line and co-operate with the government’s various steps that are also daily changing as the menace are changing daily. Now, it is three months since. We are all in a lockdown whose time limit is unknown as we write.

Work from home is the current slogan and how long we are to be confined in our home and how to unlock the blockade is an open question and nobody seems to have an answer. May be till the time when some new medicines come out and this as of now is very uncertain. How long the economic activity can be blocked?

There doesn’t seem to have any answer. Anyway, the reality is that we are all confined to our homes and the workplace culture has to change. And some work has to be resumed simply because the poor and the unorganised sector would be hard hit. One positive outcome of this current crisis is that the new technology of digitalisation has helped an increasing section of the workplace into turning over to the culture of work from home!

Those who are in the IT sector have been pursuing this paradigm shift for some time and it is increasingly being tried. One sector is the IT companies and also the very many small companies and ventures.
Luckily for us at the Vadamalai Media this work from home culture has been a long time practice and readers and patrons, please note that at present that all our practice has been turned over to this new online technology.

Our two sites, agricultureinformation.com and Indiaschoolnews.com have become in effect two of our latest videoconferencing sites and as of now, our two on-going ventures. It is really heartening. That the two sites are fully drawing visitors in more than good numbers than we anticipated. Of course it is too early in the day.

At this point we feel it is only right that we have to enlighten our readers and viewers. That ventures, the various language magazines, two in English and one in each Tamil and Kannada languages have been our mainstay. For over many years, nearly half a century, namely, the one on education and the one on agriculture, namely, Agriculture and Industry Survey, have been our print venture. From our print ventures we are now graduating to the online ventures and as we go on we are confident we would take the online. Ventures to new heights of glory and service to the Indian people.

It would be considered imprudent if we say and claim that serving the largest public good has been our humble pursuit that this pursuit of public good only has taken us into two important Indian sectors, namely of education and agriculture, sectors that we are intimately connected with, as are basically placed in the agri/rural sectors and we are also comfortably placed.

So, from now onwards we hope to reach out to larger sections. And wider reaches of social segments. After all, the Indian social and economic segments are so developing that still about 52 percent of Indian people are dependent upon agriculture and village economies and also the rest of them almost the same per cent of the poor are rural migrants whose plight came to light after the outbreak of the Covid 19.

Our very agricultural economy is, as we must be knowing, is basically rural migrants-dependent. And all our agricultural revival and recovery plans and targets must be only based on this micro-level realities. And that is another world altogether. Let our new realisation of this immense continent of Indian agricultural revival draw us together and a new commitment to our agricultural development. Draw us more and more new adherents to the last technologies that seem to be our only hope and a new faith!

The economic, political and strategic implications

The latest military flare-up between China and India is very unfortunate, to put it very mildly. The carefully built-up friendly relationship, inspite of several provocations to the contrary, stands shattered and a new era of co-existence has to be built up between the two neighbours, two giants of countries with largest populations. It won’t be an easy task by any stretch of imagination. It is a tough task for any leaders, not just the present incumbents but even for the future leaders.

The writer of this column was a student at Santiniketan and Oxford, the Visva Bharati University of poet Rabindranath Tagore that has a well-known Cheena Bhavan whose founder, along with the poet was Prof. Tan Yun Shan, a contemporary of the great Mao, in fact the two were students of a training college and the present writer was also fortunate to be students. I studied Chinese language under him in the 1950s and during the Indo China War in 1950-60s, Chou Enlai was sent to Santiniketan by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (who was the Chancellor of Visva Bharati and I was fortunate to shake hands with Chou when he came to visit our Chinese language class room!

It is a long story. The real donors. To the founding of Cheena Bhavan. Were the Chiang Kei Shak, the long time colleague of Mao and how they fell off and how Taiwan came into being is all very complicated. To cut the story short, I want to state here for the benefit of all Indian people that long time friends of the Chinese people and as Panditji said once in his usual style when he don’t speak at length in the annual convocation addresses is that the present flare-up too is between two incumbent governments and not between the general public of the two countries. So, this distinction must be kept in mind when we discuss the present tensions on our historic borders and the new controversies.

The one point I want to bring home here and now is that the relationships between. China and India are too long and historical and there is a great deal of religious, cultural and social and not to speak of the current interdependence and mutual relationships in the economic and political and strategic spheres.Now, there are some serious issues and I hope the more directly linked and directly engaged experts and experienced persons who could really lend more insightful inputs at the present moment. Immediate issues need to be tackled with care and caution. Certainly it is not going to be an easy task, given the current world scenario.

We understand that the two leaders, Xi and Modi had met at least 22 times and created lot of goodwill and a committed path for more co-operation and mutual. Contributions for expanded market and that means a more expanding market for products of the two countries and as things stood just till now, India is a big market for smart phones, to take one example and likewise, China has a big export market in India for its various products and services. Any disruption now, as one expert has observed that China might have intruded a small piece Indian Territory but it had lost India entirely strategically. To lose India as a friendly neighbour is an enormous mistake and one can be sure the high price paid by China for this folly would be incalculable and only time can tell how big a blunder Chinese leaders have committed.

Of course diplomacy and tactful conduct on the part of the two countries could retrieve the situation. We have to wait and watch how the current scenario plays out. Indians recognise that China is big country and economy, China lost 5 times the size of India and in the race for economic development. We are at least 15 years behind China in many critical infrastructure. Development like airports, railways and roads and even the urban development, as I had the opportunity to observe the developments there on a recent visit.

One or two troubling here. How can the two leaders fail to reach mutual trust and mutual understanding after meeting so many times and in such close encounters and friendship?

This is troubling indeed. If great leaders entertain mutual distrust and lack of warmth and imagination and other noble virtues, how can the civilisation we often talk about can survive and how much we have learnt from history and other great events, revolutions and greater disruptions, like the current pandemic and much other natural disasters, the environment degradations and climate change and. What you have can be understood by our education and spread of mutual sense of brotherhood.

In fact, this is the century of Asia and Asian people. Have much to contribute. There is a long tradition and history here for India and the Indian people. One more side-effect in the present conflict is the role and place of Asia’s small nations. Nepal, Sri Lanka and even Pakistan are all having great. Responsibilities.

You can’t create a great country and achieve any great things unless you have long-terms and vision of sorts. Democracy is the core issue.

It is time that democracies of the world wake up and stand up!

Date : 15.06.2020

Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank
Hon’ble Minister of HRD
302-C, Shastri Bhawan,
New Delhi- 110001
Phones:+91-11-23782698/23782387
+91-11-23382365 (FAX)
E-mail: minister.hrd@gov.in

Sub: To draw up well-thought out higher education policy – reg:

Dear Hon’ble Minister,

Namaskar,

I had not long ago written a letter to your good self regarding the activation of library system in the States where in most of the States have not attended the activation of libraries.

Also lately I had written one more letter addressed to the Prime Minister on the need for education reforms which unfortunately had not taken off in the last six years of the BJP rule, in spite of several attempts to draw up an education policy.

I have been interested in this field for a long time.

Today I read in the Financial Times of London about how the recent Indo-China issue had led to many heart-rending scenes as circulated in the China media, the Chinese Global Times and also in the social media how the Indian soldiers are treated badly. I am sure the Government of India must be aware of these humiliations.

However, what prompted me to write this letter to your good self directly is the urgency, yes I would say so, to draw up a sound education policy that would, I am sure, meet the strategic need. To draw up a higher education policy that would add strength and also reverse the current trend towards lakhs of Indian students who migrate every year to pursue higher education in Western countries, UK and USA and also other countries like Canada, Australia.

By one latest count, again published in the FT, some around 3 lakh Indian students travelled in the year 2019 alone. You must be surely aware that it costs each Indian student nearly one crore for a first degree. While the home students, UK and USA, pay only one third of the same.

Are we not wasting so much of our foreign exchange? Simply because of our poor higher education policy in our country. Our higher education strategy doesn’t contribute to strengthen our country’s intellectual base, not contribute to the self-confidence and creativity and also in sciences and technology. We don’t match with the progress made in the new technologies, in particular in the IT and software fields, as per the latest data on, say start ups and other related tech fields.

When we write to the PMO our letters are filed under some head or other, it never gets the PM”s attention.

You have to engage the best minds of the country to draw up a well-thought out higher education policy and the comparable Indian university system. How long we are going to follow the Western education priorities?

Higher education has already become mass education and the private players have already commercialised the field that no longer contributes higher research and solving problems our country badly needs.

I am sure you are seized with the issues faced by the sector and in my opinion, the humbling truth is that bureaucrats can’t draw up a courageous and independent minded approach to the issues.

I had studied at Santiniketan and Oxford and I can say with confidence that if you don’t intervene the Indian education system won’t change for another one century and more!

Let us start right now and also we have to compete with the world higher education system.

Hope this letter triggers your thoughts and cause some action!

With warm regards,

V.Isvarmurti

We have to wait for an opportune time for things to change for the better

Education budget is now 3.71%, dipped from 6.15% of the Union Budget
between 2014 and 2017.Not just funds can improve education.Education can be improved only if we search for intellectual debate and freedom of expression for the and public intellectuals.Education has become big business in India.It is now becoming more expensive and also more questionable in terms of quality and job market. May be the education sector is also becoming more fast growing economic sector. The only beneficiary,it seems,are the education promotors. The sheer numbers would daunt anyone engaged in this sector. From the primary level onwards, education is also becoming so expensive almost everyday.

The very pressure of numbers is such that even the States and Central Government are forced to take note of the public discontent and there are any number of education issues,from the fees fixed for the LKG to UKG and also the medium of instruction from the very beginning, at the LKG level itself and also the medium of instruction.The teaching of mother tongue is also becoming an issue.Even for admission for the LKG the capitation fees range something from one to two lakhs, if not more.That is one reason why very many new fancy names for the schools crop up.

You can call them by any name, no more such traditional names like Montessori or something else.The edge in admissions is that the new names,new promises and new franchisees and what have you. The daily newspapers carry any number of education ads, many times in a week you have full-page ads and in multicolor. And next to full-page ads, there are also ads for tuitions and also for various competitive exams for various competitive exams. Oh, then you have the American SAT and GRE, GMAT etc.

Why, don’t you know many of the State governments, may be all the States have one education programme. That is they train youngsters for the much-sought after IAS exams. Ministers do promote these programmes as one of their education policies.
Now, even the daily newspapers, in the regional languages have a regular daily pages devoted to publishing the State level competitive exams, questions are published for the State government posts. Take one recent example of the Tamil Nadu Government exams for State government jobs!

It is becoming a scandal of the first order and you have such juicy information about who played what role and every day arrests are made and the so-called accused are produced before the courts and sent to jailfor a number of days. What a waste of time and energy and what a pass we have come to! Then there is higher education.Here every thing is in a mess! There are now separate ministers for higher education. Nothing wrong! We do need ministers to tackle the mess in higher education. Given the complexity in imparting various degree courses,from professional courses,say in medicine and engineering to general degree courses in arts and sciences there is a whole new breed of educationists, administrators to teachers, from Vice-chancellors to professors, a whole new generation of academics are now in great demand.

The only latest news we read is that for instance, with 40 Central Universities there are reportedly 6,000 and odd posts of university professors, teachers whose posts are empty, remain unfilled! If you are interested in higher education (May God bless you!) then you have the problem (or headache?) to get to know the latest developments in the appointments of Vice-Chancellors.In law, the State Governors are the heads of Universities,the Chancellors,they are supposed to be the appointing authorities, the Governors’ signature legitimise the appointments. Then, as we write there are some ex-VCs languishing in jail (or, are they out on bail?). Why this happened? The appointment of VCs is guided by the search committee names. These search committees themselves are problematic.

There are any numbers of illegalities. Only recently, as we know things in TN, some Governors have taken themselves seriously and appointed some names in a bureaucratic manner.One or two good names also have come up. But given the mess in which we have run into this sector we really need to radically constitute a new committee of competent persons who can also stand up to the new types of ruthless education entrepreneurs,whom we term as real adventurers(see the people who are now crorepathis in higher education as you can see them in the Southern States, it is next to impossible to reform this sector unless you assume some extra-Constitutional powers! Education promoters amassed money and wealth through very many devious routes. They are such diverse fields like films, even a Member of Parliament and also in many other fields like media, TV entrepreneurship etc. The final point we want to make is when India would retain its foreign degree seeking craze. The Universities in USA, UK, Australia and New Zealand are minting money by charging Rs.35 lakhs and above! May be we have to raise our hands in the air and say: Helpless in education reforms!