Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

ambedkar - holy cow

my letter to tehelka got prime placement in their letters to the editor space.

primed by that, i am now doing the full blast onto that space. this is my next one. a topic which i think is less explored. ambedkar.
Ambedkar's contribution to India's nation building process is stupendous and unquestionable.
It is however very sad that he is being made a classic 'sacred cow'.
While it is understandable that politicians will selfishly build this image, it does not behove 'intellectuals' and 'intelligentsia' to toe the same line.
Gandhi, Ambedkar, Nehru, Patel, Azad and their eminent colleagues have left behind a rich body of work for us to build on and develop.
It is a sheer waste of time to engage in silly rankings on who was more eminent.
Mohan Kumar (April 19) falls into this trap.

The greatness of any individual lies not solely in their magnificent achievements, but also in their imperfections.
more to follow.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"I think revolution begins with the experience of poverty"

this is tenzin tsundue, the tibetan youngster who created some ruckus in bangalore in 2005, when the chinese head was visiting india.

i also think, he explains gandhi's tactics better than many:
The difference between Gandhi and His Holiness is that His Holiness is non-confrontational. He says truth is important, the ultimate goal, but Gandhi said truth should prevail and there should be human effort toward this. He confronted unjust authority, risked others’ lives and called for sacrifice. This is how he created mass mobilisation.....That awakening is something Gandhi was able to do. When he said, ‘Swadeshi! Non-Cooperation!’ everyone took off their clothes and burnt it. Such direct confrontation, based on truth, puts the perpetrator in a very difficult position.
read the entire interview here.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

whats in a name?

i am not sure shakespeare thought about this name when he made his observation on names - luke ronchi.

isn't that what rakhi sawant and sherlyn chopra are instructed at the start of their photo shoot!

btw - he plays in the IPL for mumbai indians. and they are pronouncing his name as ronki. wonder what bhajji calls him.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

searing verse

the farmer suicide situation in maharashtra shows no sign of abating inspite of the Rs 60K crore loan waiver in latest budget.

i found this spell-binding poetry from a recent article in indiatogether.

Amhi vasare vasare, muki upasi vasare,
gaya panhavato amhi, chor kalatat dhar,
tapa tapa gham unarato, unarato bhuivar,
moti pikavato amhi, tari upasi lekare.

it translates

we are calves, dumb hungry calves
we tend to the cows, thieves walk away with milk and cream
we sweat and sweat on fields
we cultivate pearls, but our children remain hungry

the poet is no more.
tragedy, no doubt.

why bother?

a must watch - an inconvenient truth. the movie that got al gore the nobel peace prize.
must have seen it 3 times in multiple combos on DVD, cable etc.
each time i have been less impressed by al gore. while the message of imminent catastrophe is acceptable and even within the best realms of probability, the messenger makes it less credible.

coming to the title of this post.
i first heard of michael pollan from this terrific speech.

pollan writes an excellent article in response to the movie, titled 'why bother?'.
nice weekend reading.
he quotes wendell berry a lot. i have a seminal speech of berry. another post material.

Friday, April 25, 2008

what a waste!

perfect time to be anorexic and bulimic.
along with meeting ones mental disorder of wanting to be thin and emaciated, one is also contributing to saving the world from the imminent food crisis.

while tons has been said about the issues around:
1. shift to bio-fuel cropping
2. population increase

and what not...
so many multiple theories and conspiracy theories with billions of dollars worth of scientific research now being pumped into this space, it is the best time for agriculturists and food scientists.

here is a nice alternative solution to the problem - a real alternative perspective.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

the farmer loan waiver fiasco

sainath writes 2 nice articles which beautifully capture the entire drama-baazi around the 2008 Union Budget's most discussed moment - the Rs 60K crore farmer loan waiver.
he puts it in such brilliant perspective in 2 scything articles:
Between 2000-04, banks wrote off over Rs. 44,000 crores. Mostly, this favoured a tiny number of wealthy people. One 'beneficiary' was a Ketan Parekh group company that saw Rs. 60 crore knocked off. (The Indian Express, May 12, 2005). However, those 'waivers' are done quietly. In 2004, last year of the NDA, such write-offs went up by 16 per cent. Such 'waivers' have not slowed down since the entire article here.

a tiny Wall Street cabal which gave itself bonuses worth billions of dollars just weeks before the crash gets a bailout of Rs.1,19,520 crores. That's almost double the Rs.60,000 crores given to tens of millions of farmers in dire straits in this the entire article here.

hema, rekha, jaya aur sushma

we were buying a simple detergent cake .
in this segment, the brands are dominated by my least favourite (most avoided) firm.
so while trying to choose an alternative, i asked for the one brand that really shook the above in the 90s.
this was the one brand that was the favourite of the aunties in the title.

but no, not available.
shocked, i got to their website (linked above). see all the stats. ends in 1999.

ok, the aunties are dead. but we found the naanis :-)
sri mahila griha udyog lijjat pappad, who make a sassy brand of detergent called SASA.

more power to them.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

asking nero for a fire extinguisher

telehka covers the hot issue of water scarcity in their latest issue.

what i found extremely ironical is this part:
Coca-Cola in India follows the policy of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Recharge for water management. Over the last eight years, we have reduced our water usage ratio by 35 percent. We have installed 320 Rain Water Harvesting (RWH) projects across 17 states in partnership with government organisations and local communities. We currently supply drinking water to 100 schools in India and will increase it to 1,000 in three years time. Bottled water, as any other product in any category, offers quality, purity and easy availability. However, our focus should be to ensure easy access to potable water for all citizens across the country.
coca cola's rampant ground water abuse is well known. Plachimada, Mehdiganj and Kala Dera and who knows how many more.

i reproduce my letter to tehelka below:
Shantanu Guha Ray writes (Water, Water Everywhere? - April 10, 2008) on a burning issue.
But asking for solutions from Coca Cola India is akin to asking Nero for Rome's fire prevention plans. Coca Cola's ground water depradations at Plachimada, Mehdiganj and Kala Dera are well documented.
Even in the best interests of unbiased reporting and giving each side a valid hearing, I never expected Tehelka to completely disregard the double standards of Coca Cola in this matter.
seriously tehelka is losing it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

cost of water

in areas of water shortage, water is supplied through tankers, etc.

while it appears to be an intermediate solution to an otherwise tough problem, there is an element of cost which is neatly highlighted by this article.

there is a XL sheet somewhere in there and download it and play the game.
i was totally shocked by the results.

Monday, April 07, 2008

bhopal is dying again

this is a long and full of links post. on a topic which i thought a knew a bit. not until i read the latest tehelka story and dug up some more. take time and read at length.
  1. bhopal died in 1984.
  2. the timeline of the history of union carbide in bhopal till date.
  3. the poisoning has not yet stopped. more here.
  4. how the indian government and indian industry is falling over itself to let Dow chemicals (who took over Union Carbide) off the hook.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

the mahatma's marksheets

The Mahatma's Marksheets
Ramachandra Guha

Once, while I was in college, I picked up the autobiography of a man who, at various points in his career, had served as vice-chancellor of the University of Delhi, governor of the Reserve Bank, and finance minister of the Government of India. Curiously, his memoirs had as many pages on his achievements in school and college as on his experiences running central banks and devising union budgets. He first reproduced his matriculation re­sults: the marks listed by subject, never less than 96 per cent. We then learnt of how, in his intermediate examination, he set a record that stood for years in the Bombay Presidency. As if this was not enough, a statistical proof of his gold medals in the B.A. and M.A, followed. Later, as I read more such works, I came to regard this as characteristic rather than curious. When they came to write their memoirs, famous professors of sociology and high officials of the Indian Civil Service alike seemed to single out, above all other high-water marks, success in school examinations. Then I came across an exception: the autobiography of Mohandas K. Gandhi. The Mahatma claimed: 'I was not regarded as a dunce in high school', before—in the spirit of truth with which the work was conceived— speaking of the difficulty he once had with Sanskrit and, for a time, with Euclidean geometry.

Gandhi spoke in general terms, but his somewhat vague recollec­tions of life at school were to be given a devastating specificity in a book published in 1965. It is called Mahatma Gandhi as a Student, and its author, J.M. Upadhyaya, had been principal at the high school in
Rajkot where the Mahatma had spent seven years.

Upadhyaya's book packs a great deal into its seventy-four pages. The boy Gandhi, we learn, changed several schools before he reached the age often. At times his attendance was noticeably lax: a mere 110 days out of 238 in standard III, for example. His marks at the annual examinations normally averaged between 45 per cent and 55 per cent. In junior school he was always comfortably beaten by one Tribhuvan Bhatt, who in the manner of 'coppers' of the time ended as a babu, albeit an elevated one. (His last job was as chief minister of
Rajkot state.) The one early sign of the young Mohandas's superiority to his fellows was that his elder brother Karsandas was a less distinguished student still. Karsandas lost two years, and ended up in the same class as his sibling, where he usually logged lower marks.

Things turned worse in middle school. Mohandas's attendance slipped again, as he attended on a sick father and a newly wedded wife. Asked to repeat a year, he bucked up and for once 'grew quite serious in studies'. He achieved 8th rank in class, with a (for him) remarkably high overall score of 66.5 per cent. The momentum carried over into high school. Outside the classroom, his life was rich in incident—he played the 'lustful husband', experimented with meat, and tried un­successfully to sell some of the family gold to payoff a debt incurred by brother Karsandas. Yet, despite this, his attendance at school was 125 days out of 125, and he came fourth in class, with an average in excess of 60 per cent. In Upadhyaya's words, 'he could no longer be described as a mediocre student.'

This judgement was put sternly to the test in the third week of November 1887, when Gandhi travelled by train to Ahmedabad to take the matriculation examination of
Bombay University. This was his first visit to a city he was to later make his own. In a lovely detail, Upadhyaya notes that Gandhi's examination number was 2275. There were 3067 candidates in all. Of these, 799 were success­ful. Gandhi's rank was 404th, and his marksheet was as follows:

English 89/200

Gujarati 45-5/100

Mathematics 59/175

General Knowledge 54/150

The total, 247.5 marks out of 625, comes to an average of about 40 per cent. Mohandas K. Gandhi could once again be described as a mediocre student.

Mahatma Gandhi as a Student
is a work that bears testimony both to the author's industry and to the Gujarati respect for old records. And it contains much more than marksheets. We learn here that despite his rather ordinary performance in examinations, Gandhi's middle-school teacher marked his conduct as 'very good', whereas the best any other student achieved was 'good'. Upadhyaya's reproduction of the English paper that Gandhi answered in his matric exam seems to give certain clues to his later development. For 45 marks, he was asked to 'write an essay of about forty lines on the advantages of a cheerful disposition.' Could not this answer have helped encourage him to become that rara avis, a politician who was never known to have lost his temper? For 25 marks, he was asked to paraphrase a poem which described how Jesus would reveal himself only to the poor peasant, not to the rich men whose chariots went contemptuously 'whirling past'. Might not this exercise have stoked a precocious awareness of exploitation and injustice?

We must also consider the significance of the sociological snippets that Upadhyaya so casually throws our way. Consider this: Mohandas's best friend in high school was a Muslim, while their headmaster was a Parsi. The school building was constructed with a gift of Rs 63, 000 from the Nawab of Junagadh. In his last years in school, as Mohandas's marks percentage climbed into the upper fifties, he was given a scholarship of Rs 10 per month, this award being in the names of two Kathiawad nobles, one Hindu, one Muslim. Should we not consider this as part of an early training in multiculturalism, as essential pre­paration for the making of the inter-religious Mahatma?

But, the cynic will say, we can't finally gel away from the mark sheets. Byway of apology and, indeed, justification, let me then remind the reader of the career of one Albert Einstein. Nothing, writes one biographer, 'Nothing in Einstein's early history suggests dormant genius'. The boy was able to speak fluently only at the age of nine. When Albert's father asked the headmaster of his elementary school what profession he thought his son should prepare himself for, he got the answer: 'h doesn't matter; he'll never make a success of anything.' Later, at the Luitpold Gymnasium in
Munich, Einstein was 'still slightly backward' and failed to complete his diploma. Later still, after he had moved to Zurich, Einstein failed the entrance examination to the university. 'The accepted reason for his failure is that although his knowledge of mathematics was exceptional he did not reach the necessary standard in modern languages or in zoology and botany.'

Such, in summary, were the academic records of the two men commonly regarded as the best, the wisest, and the most influential indi­viduals of the twentieth century. Long ago, in the 1930s, the
Bombay journalist D.F. Karaka wrote a biography of Gandhi entitled Out of Dust, He Made Us into Men. The reference was to the countless nationalists whose heroism and self-sacrifice was a direct consequence of the Mahatma's influence. Without him, these Indians would have been content being ordinary lawyers, teachers, brokers, and clerks or, perhaps, even black-marketeers. One knows what Karaka meant. So did J.M. Upadhyaya, except that he added a meaningful caveat: 'Gandhiji, it has been well said, could fashion heroes out of common clay. His first and, undoubtedly, his most successful experiment was with himself.'

hat tip : shuchi

the demise of april fool

i enjoy playing pranks.
i never bother playing a prank on april 1.

i like being fooled.
even on april 1.

i recall, that during school days, april 1 used to see friends and some family members trying to pull a fast one. in good spirits and all that fluff of course.

since last few years, april fools day is largely some newspaper running a big scam story.

but other than that, the aam junta seem to have given up.
thats good in a way.

when did you last play an april 1 prank?