Democracy and democratic traditions must be defended by all means and upheld much more extensively. Today, both inside India as well as in the outside world, the cause of democracy is not having a positive environment. The so-called big powers are not shining examples of a vigorous. Democratic world, far from it, there is a distorted picture of a world in turmoil. See the great democratic country like the USA with its well-defined features.

An elected President is held up at the doors, so to say, by a loser with his own ego and much else. This is a great shame to the entire world that pins hopes on a world open to multi-cultures and very enriched democratic traditions and history. And see the US has a written, rather well-written constitution and yet the one who wins a popular mandate must be gracefully welcome by the one who loses the mandate. See what Donald Trump is doing!

As for other big powers, in Russia and China and for that matter others who are middle level countries, in the Middle East and elsewhere, there are many deficiencies in terms of what we would call the very many democratic traditions and values.

In India, we have a very strange scenario of contradictions and very many discomforts too. See, the Indian Prime Minister on the occasion of laying the foundation stone for a new Parliament complex, what should be a very appreciative tones from many sections, we have a prolonged farmers agitation going on and the very foundation stone ceremony is marked with a Supreme Court stay order and the injunction that no physical alteration can take place before the apex court gives its final verdict.

Of course this is a discordant note and also the Opposition parties’ criticisms are far from complimentary. The PM has observed that India is the mother of democracy, fine! It requires a more thought-out observation that would have made a wider appeal.

India is of course a great democracy. It has the largest written Constitution and also, it has incorporated the best features of values and documents from other countries and a secular democracy. Why bring in the Hindu priests in the ceremonies and give a rather less than full robust secular feature?

Exercise of power
Exercise of power is a very tricky affair. Running a State is not an easy option. The office of the Prime Minister in a democracy and that too in the size of Indian democracy to put it bluntly has never been practised before in any other country and that too in a country under an elaborate Constitution like that of India has no precedence in history. We are a new country with just less than a century of actual practice of democracy. The last 70 odd years of Independence, now looking back we can say with some confidence is far from satisfactory seen from several points of view.

Pandit Nehru perhaps was fairly successful to uphold and even taught in a way many aspects of Parliament behaviour. But after Nehru’s things went out of hands and Indira Gandhi most destroyed the very fabric of democratic norms, arbitrary exercise of power took the fairly democratic foundations off the track and since then we have been not proceeding on any sound path with coalitions intervening. We have also to note very seriously the damage done by the great nationalist party, the Indian National Congress which starting from Indira Gandhi to her successors, from dynastic heirs to other cronies had the unfortunate impact of further destroying the democratic values and leading the very apparatus of the party and the government machinery into the unforeseen path of further ossification of both the party and the government institutions.

This is also very critical for any further efforts for the revival of the institutions. So we have to accept the harsh fact that in the eyes of the outside world, wherever democracy and democratic values are upheld the deficiencies of Indian democratic institutions would be seen critically and we have to introspect seriously the short-comings in our democratic practices.

Democracy has many more meanings, liberal atmosphere is the first condition for an open society. Today we don’t find any such atmosphere. There is a pervasive fear everywhere, at many levels.

The critical feature of democracy is an open debate and a free criticism in the media. We have to also refer to the many deficiencies in the media freedom, there is the phenomenon of social media restrictions, fake news and an atmosphere of aggressive polarization of issues, many other social and religious issues.

The economy
India is not only the world’s largest democracy with the largest population, India is also a very large economy, the world’s fifth largest. So, Indian economy’s performance matters a great deal not only for signing the living standards of the Indian people, we have one of the largest poor people, malnutrition and the socio-economic condition of the largest number of people is of serious concern.

How is the Indian economy performing?
Considering India also has a peculiar distinction of a large professional economists population fortunately or unfortunately most of these clever population have now migrated and we don’t have the expertise of such high nature are settled in the USA and they at best make periodical visit to their mother country and give sporadic advice and thus we are deprived of some of the high quality expertise.

We have poorly viewed this pool of abundant talents and one of the suggestions here is that our Prime Minister must sit with the experts who might not support the new ideology of Hindutva and so we have to make special efforts to get this talent to serve the country.

Surely, professional economists alone won’t suffice but we have to go beyond the current practice of slogan-based catch phrases to pull the economy out of the present negative GDP growth paradigm. Economic growth is not as straight, as we find the pronouncements of the government functionaries.

The world is much more integrated and economic growth of any country is tied to the wider world. And no one country alone can prosper at the cost of others, big or small. See the current negotiations between the European Union chief executive and the British Prime Minister, World economic growth is interdependent. And India is luckily poised for a balanced all round growth and our resources, land, water and geographical spread the regions are so favourable that India could be a large world agriculture economy. We are first in agri exports, especially rice and milk products and so we have much stake in agricultural reforms.

In all these issues, we need greater consensus building, more democratic. The consultations with various stake-holders would only produce good outcomes. Based as we are in the South, we confess we don’t know the ground realities. As we see on the 18th day of protests continuing, there is now politics in the goals of the on-going agitations and so we need more patience and more negotiations.

Also engage the leaders of public opinion, genuine independent experts from sciences and technology and also the IT experts and progressive experts from medicine, entrepreneurship and other fields to pull the education sector that is now hijacked by the brutal exploiters of the education Sector. Education for a country like India needs some very radical thinking. Already, the education sector is out living its current utility. In the engineering sector there is wasteful excess capacity. In the Management Education there again wishful investment.

We have to reverse the current trend of Indian students migrating to the USA and UK. The few these areas very unacceptable, each Indian student pays 40-50 lakhs for a three year undergraduate course that is not needed in the first place.

We offer to list with the planners, bureaucrats and like to share our inputs. We have travelled recently twice to Oxford University and found out how therein UK too, there is quota for State Schools and so the quality of education for the Indian students is far from world class.

So, education, economy and economics, there is a very urgent need to think beyond the routine courses. One more final word on farm reforms. You see the average Indian farmers are not earning any net surplus. This is not a great discovery.

All these issues are complex and we request the Central government functionaries to consult the really qualified experts and draw inputs from a wide spectrum of society.
In Tamil Nadu we see the admissions for the capitation-fee-driven.

We at Vadamalai Media have a long commitment to education sector and for the half a century we are publishing an English language journal, School Education Unique Journal and we don’t like to divert here from the main issues of farmers’ agitation. But education reform also can’t wait. Anyone and given the Prime Minister’s capacity for radical reforms of now, how many of the Indian educators know. That India is losing out about 2-3 billion dollars annually by way of high education fees charged by both the UK and US education sector?

India is facing many challenges and the one current headline grabber has hit media freedom. A well-known name in the TV channels is the Republic TV promoted and anchored by the well-known professional, Arnab Goswamy, has been arrested, yes arrested in a not dignified way, he was manhandled by what we can see and kept under arrest for a day and produced in the court the next day and what we learn from the reports he was treated in all manner of indignity gives rise to feelings of dismay and disgust . Media freedoms in India came by way of many restrictions from the British Raj days onwards.

The story is well told many times over. We need not repeat the same again here. Today in the prevailing circumstances media freedoms are under some sort of threat and fear and intimidation. The career opportunities for the media professionals is now not assured and many reputed journalists, both print media and TV anchors had withered away and many new accounts of what is going on in the many TV companies give us many unsavoury pictures.

First, there is the financial troubles from what we have learnt that the promoters, why most of them come not from any business backgrounds and they are of course skilled and uniquely gifted ones and yet they very soon get caught up in some tangles and thus we learn that even the many gifted anchor-promoters. Find themselves in some trouble or other and they are forced to borrow funds, this often happens by getting “caught” by the big guns! Thus, you will find some, why even the top quality channels are not deep. Debts in the hands of billionaire businessmen. Media ownership is not a big mystery! We don’t really know who owes how much from whom!

There are so many tricks of the “trade”. And thus we see the new changes and also new faces and new partners. The money laundering tangle is one of the big mysteries. And the end result is that today the 900 odd news channels compete in all manner of sorts and what is news and fake news and genuine news are all big questions for the pundits to get involved with.

So the whole business of creating news, genuine news, reliable news from fake news is a totally unwelcome media landscape.

The future seems to be online versions and to that extent the future of the print media. Industry is a question mark. In such an uncertain future of the media industry and the whole question of what a government can do to ensure the So too the career profiles of some of the most respected or once respected names and faces.

Also, the health of the media industry. Even the once much respected venerable BBC TV channel is now going easy on many news items. So too even in India we see even the most committed channels are using the entertainment element, mixing Amitabh Bachan and a film actress or some glamorous faces to draw and retain interest in the serious news watchers.

Is there political patronage for the news channels?

This is a question we have to explore separately. It is better to read some of the latest print stories of the News channels. As for the pine media industry too are suffering because of the steep fall in the sales of print copies of newspapers.

Citizens freedoms – Is a debate for the hardcore veterans. Media freedoms are a much valued part of any democratic or why even to the dictator governments.

In India as we have stated many times over that we need a new media policy to ensure the time-honoured respect and protection of media freedoms. Citizens must be feeling a sense of genuine freedoms in their day to day lives. That is the very heart of a democratic government.

And as we see that freedom really means to discuss and debate issues openly, there would be conflicts of opinion and there would be as the Arnab case shows even class with the executive, why even with the arms of the government like, say, the police and such acts of right and wrong, such excesses have to be dealt with in the exercise of the due process of law.

The courts, why even the political parties and the members of the legislatures have to ensure an atmosphere of tolerance. India’s freedom struggle too was marked by several phases. Our own political history too much was affected by world history, from Soviet Revolution to other happenings and so what we today in India need to keep in mind is that political ideologies, even the current ones, from the Congress to the BJP and other minor or major formulations have to be seen and analysed and applied in the true historic context.

Today, we are driven by much confusion and contradictions formulation of our contradictory political formulations.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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, and 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!