‘English Vinglish’: Aren’t we permanently colonialised?

Sridevi

A script freshly out of the oven, albeit peppered with its own set of stereotypes. A beautiful cast spearheaded by an actor with gigantic acting prowess. The coming-together of a debutant director and a comeback superstar…

English Vinglish was set for an all-out success when Gauri Shinde’s keen observation of her mother’s predicament of being a non-English speaking woman began to verbalise itself. It seems the rest was all bound to happen: Gauri’s meeting with Sridevi, the latter falling in love with the script and the resounding success that should shame half-baked, dim-witted multi-crore and multi-starred melodramas into submission. Continue reading

Oh, Bangalore of yore!

South Parade, Bangalore.

First came the plague, then pride and then ‘progress’. That quaint, obscure village where rural air refused to settle now wears a façade of inexorable modernity. Long back, behind this façade stood a different kind of past. Ducking under the mystic clouds of nostalgia is perhaps the only way to enjoy it. Continue reading

US Open: Why Federer Will Win 18th Slam Despite Djokovic & Murray in His Way

With two strong contenders—Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray—standing in the way of the World No. 1, some are already talking about how weakened Federer’s chances are. But, should it matter to the Swiss maestro?

Well-trodden path

This is not the first time that Federer has had to wade his way through younger opponents. Leave aside players like Stepanek, Haas, Hewitt and Roddick because most other players are younger and perhaps, stronger.

For the rest of the article, click Bleacher Report

Andy Murray: Will the US Open Be His Next Eureka Moment?

Some of us can script our own life story, only a rare few of us can edit it. It is this editing in sportspersons’ lives that decides where they will eventually stand.

Federer has done it: from being a racket-smashing youngster to a man on a seemingly never-ending tennis campaign of seduction with his preternatural authority in shot-making. As for how influential he is as a human being and as an ambassador of sport, a lot of ink has already been spilled.

For the rest of the article, click Bleacher Report

The decline of Anna Hazare ‘movement’: why it is not surprising

English: india against corruption

Silence, an awkward one at that, is impenetrable especially if it is preceded by euphoria. It is often dense. It leaves one impossibly lonely.

The Team Anna that would stop at nothing to drag the entire nation (most parts of it reluctant) towards a superstructure—its own fixed version of cure to all the maladies faced by an over-populated nation—is now left with the same option of fighting corruption through political process that it refused to be a part of just weeks ago. Continue reading

On the Tunga’s lap

English: Tunga river in front of Sri Mata, Har...

Years of hiatus ended abruptly when I was compelled to visit my village in North Karnataka. Compelled I was because nothing else but only my uncle’s death could have taken me back there. A monstrous 10-wheeler truck had run over him and he had died with his eyes open. It felt as if he stared at death and slid into a world of his own. Continue reading

When doctors themselves become medical tragedies…

English: MedicineMedicine is perhaps the only sphere where we forget our social conditioning about shame. This is where secrets vanish. Morality dies. Theists find new gods, atheists turn agnostic and agnostics turn theists.

Some of these are possibilities, if not certainties.

Beneath all such life-changing events lies pain, something nobody can define convincingly. If you look up dictionaries for the meaning of ‘pain’, you will know what I mean.

We go to doctors with this indefinable pain, looking for a definite solution, succour and what not. But a lot of anomalies can happen in between because very few doctors admit their fallibility and thus, refuse to grow beyond generalisations to offer anything called diagnosis. Continue reading

Of friends and friendship and friendlessness

Path

I happened to meet a person recently who was thus far just an acquaintance. A beautiful person with a beautiful mind and beautiful thoughts.

Everything fell in place like magic: the time, the meeting point, the logistics—all this conjured up over a rather simple pretext of exchanging a book for a hard disk full of movies and music. Continue reading

Dumbing down: Reducing our children to a bunch of box-tickers

It’s out: Some Oxford University students cannot spell ‘erupt’, ‘across’, ‘illuminate’, ‘blur’, ‘buries’ or ‘possess’ correctly, said a news agency report recently. It was quoting the examiners’ reports who termed it a “worrying degree of inaccuracy”.

Sounds bizarre, doesn’t it? Well, they can’t even get ‘bizarre’ right! Continue reading

Roger Federer: 1000th Encounter, 2000th Set & Still Going Lethal at 100th Aussie Open

When I wrote my first article for B/R, I knew I was treading a difficult path. Owing allegiance to any team, any particular player means entering the battlefield with his/her rivals’ fans. They swoop down on you and rip you apart, questioning each of your points, assertions and opinions. Continue reading

Trash issues: Before we seek divine intervention…

Gift Wrap

If festivals are all about finding a means to get closer to divinity, then why is it that they are often associated with our irresponsible attitude towards Nature?

Last week I read about the unimaginable trail of pollution Christmas celebrations leave behind in the UK. Some estimates say that nearly three million tonnes of waste hits landfills by the time the festivities wind up. Continue reading

Are humans superior? Only Nature knows!

English: Mission: STS-41-B Film Type: 70mm Tit...

The whole of last week, I had this opportunity to research and collate some startling facts for a booklet that would thrill both adults and children alike.

As I dug deeper into earth history, it didn’t take long to realise that what’s startling to one person might just be plain insipid to another—as these are highly subjective to our own way of thinking and our perception of the world around us. However, I do believe that there are some of these facts that you will also find humbling, just as I did. Continue reading

Do we need nuke energy in a sun-blessed India?

Solar settlement Frieburg, Germany. This town enjoys complete freedom from man-made energy. Individual homes, offices, and industrial units generate solar power on their own.

Looks like, at last, the West is waking up to impending nuclear disasters. Once reactors exploded one after another in the post-tsunami Japan, huge crowds came out with placards in Germany and told the government to “shut down” all the nuclear facilities at once.

Perhaps, it takes a tsunami to realise that nature can spike human efficiency at its absolute best with just a whim.

A life without nuclear energy may sound near-impossible right now. Yet, Germans can take heart, or indeed, be proud of the shining example they have set in their own backyard: Freiburg. Continue reading

Vegetarian? Call yourself “eco-warrior”!

Despite my eco-sensibilities, I am not sure if my carbon footprint is so low that I can brag about it. Until I opt for public transport regularly, stop using the geyser for heating water, and grow my own food, I will remain a major source of carbon emission on the face of this earth. That’s for sure.

However, Continue reading

Can Bangalore afford private penthouse swimming pools?

For the last few days, I have been seeing some real estate ads in newspapers with lavish display of a massive swimming pool inside the club house, with a promise of private swimming pools for penthouses!

It’s not about criticising the idea of luxury. All of us want to succeed in life and live luxuriously.

But where is water for all this? Any idea how many Continue reading

Child sexual abuse: A scary journey on tender legs

Last year, when I was scrambling around to get school transportation fixed for my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, a well-meaning neighbour introduced me to a new issue I was blissfully unaware of: sexual harassment by school bus drivers, helpers. In a hushed tone, she narrated a horrific tale of her friend’s daughter who was sexually abused by the school bus driver. He used to take her to the bathroom each day (my neighbour had no idea how he gained access) and harassed the girl for years on end. By the time the girl could reveal the horror, she was 12 year old and had undergone immeasurable pain and anguish. Continue reading

Munster, the beauty behind the bare winter trees

Munster Cathedral, Basel, Switzerland.

Stroll down Café Kafka (refer to my earlier post on Basel) and you will see Munster Cathedral spittled with the shadows of bare winter trees keeping the medieval spirit intact. With a mixture of Roman and Gothic architecture, this 12th century cathedral was rebuilt after a devastating earthquake in 1356. Forever under restoration, Continue reading

Darshan scandal vs. women’s rights

I will remember October 7 for a horrifying co-incidence as far as women’s rights go.

It is a day when three outstanding women activists – Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, activist Leymah Gbowee of Liberia, and rights activist Tawakkul Karman of Yemen – shared Nobel Peace Prize “for their nonviolent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.”

Closer home, it’s also a day when Vijayalakshmi, wife of Kannada film star Darshan Toogudeepa – first bashed up, tamed into submission, and then forced to withdraw her complaint – goes public, seeking pardon from Darshan fans after he walked out on conditional bail.

“I am extremely happy about this development. I will assure all the fans and friends of Darshan that such things will not occur in future…. I will seek their pardon. It was a bad time and both of us never realised that things will go to such extremities. I am too eager to invite my husband to our residence,” she told a section of the media.

The fans once again went berserk celebrating their star’s ‘freedom’ although it is a conditional bail and investigation has just begun.

How are we to stomach these developments when the fact that a woman’s right to a safe married life was violated in the most heinous manner is indisputable? How are we to put up with this jubilation in the midst of serious human rights violations? How are we to believe that the guilty will be punished when we know how influential and powerful people can tamper with evidence and weaken the case to a point where the very act of filing the FIR would seem utterly meaningless? How are we to continue to believe that it will not set a bad precedent for those who have already mastered the art of wife-beating and those who nurse such tendencies? Most importantly, in what way will this episode empower those women undergoing similar torture from their husbands?

It’s time to analyse this incident beyond the equation between a film star and his fans and producers and in fact, Kannada filmdom itself. Those who heard the loud cheers of Darshan fans would sure have figured out why they got so raucous and celebratory. It’s less about the pain of seeing their favourite star behind the bars, but more about suppressing the rights of a woman. More so if she is a wife of a star whose films revel in exaggerated masculine pride.

(For more articles on this scandal and other issues, visit ‘Candid Comments’ category)

Can a few biscuits trigger a riot?

Flood-hit, hungry and homeless. These few words tell you enough to conjure up images of ravaged houses, damaged crops and huge crowds running behind trucks loaded with food packets, water bottles and blankets.

Massive floods hit North Karnataka in October 2009. Hundreds died and millions were rendered homeless overnight. A month after the tragedy, I visited some of the worst-hit villages in Koppal and Bellary districts in the Hyderabad-Karnataka region.

The afflicted were living in shoddy sheds put up on private land. Drinking water and food were a luxury. Government officials doled out two meals a day, while Dalits were condemned to leftovers. On some days, they simply went hungry. Mainstream media was no more interested in these incidents. Barring sporadic reports on corruption, “the worst tragedy of the century” (the state government termed it so!) was beginning to fade into the past.

At Hachholli in Bellary, the SC/ST colony was wiped out. The local officials had denied even a ham-handed survey to assess the damage. Pushed over the edge, the Dalit community talked to me for hours although they did not see any tangible outcome from this. They just needed someone to listen to their outpourings.

After packing up, I headed towards a tiny shop which had somehow withstood the disaster to buy biscuits for my one-and-a-half-year-old girl. As I was opening the packet, a little girl stood by me and stretched her hands out. Even before I gave a few biscuits to her, I saw some more children rushing towards us. Thinking that just one packet would not suffice, I bought more packets and started distributing. When I saw a little army of children running towards us, I spent a couple of hundred rupees and bought the entire stock.

f7A few seconds later, many young men and women and even elderly and crippled people came running and began snatching the biscuits from the children. The latter started crying and fought with all their might. It didn’t take long to realise that I had actually flagged off a tiny riot. I put my child down and ran to a young panchayat leader. Given the size – at least 450-500 people – it took quite a while before we could bring the crowd under control.

For the next few hours, I struggled to calm my shocked, angered and frustrated nerves. Harder was the realisation of how poverty, corruption and sheer callousness of the government had robbed these people of their basic human dignity.

When I told this to a journalist in Bangalore, she said my approach was “too urbane” and that I was “unmindful of the possible consequences”. Guilt-ridden, I let this criticism go down my throat without a protest. But somewhere deep in my heart, I asked myself: “Since when did buying biscuits for a hungry little girl become a crime?”

As much as it pains me to say this, this tragedy is nothing when compared with the catastrophic tsunami Japan is faced with. Deathly pall hangs over the entire nation. Yet, there is no breakdown of law and order. The people have more than had their share of hell and high water. Yet, dignity has not deserted the wounded souls. People silently queuing up before telephones to hear a familiar voice from the other end is heart-rending. Maybe, it comes from their firm belief in the fact that they have put behind a worse man-made cataclysm. Maybe, it is their firm belief in the kind of system they have built, their faith in governance. They know that they will move on as they did decades ago. They know that they will face it with determination although it is hard to define it at this moment.

Isn’t there a lot to learn from them for a country obsessed with building malls and flyovers?

***

(Pictures: Savita Hiremath)

The tale of two Bangalore lakes

I can spot two water bodies from my living balcony. The first picture shows a lake on the right side. Although it is named after a village, I hardly see people visiting it. There are no benches, no stone bund, nothing else to attract visitors.

The second picture shows a puddle on the left. I have been tracking its evolution for almost six months now. It swells up a little during rains and sparkles beautifully in sunlight. Although there is human habitation a little away from it, this puddle is blissfully tucked away in a safe spot in North Bangalore with only a few buffaloes meandering around the edges.

A quick thought on World Habitat Day with “Cities and Climate Change” being the theme of the year: is it the best way to preserve lakes – just keep them off human beings? Can we Bangaloreans think of saving its few surviving lakes, our lifeline?

(Pics: SH)

Saving every drop of rainwater

All of us know that an ocean has an infinite number of drops. But few of us see an ocean in a drop of water.

Chikmagalur-based Farmland Rainwater Harvesting Systems (FLRWHS) is one such organisation out to save the precious rainwater to tackle acute water shortage in various states.  Through its innovative RWH technology, it has helped rural and urban areas with improved yield levels of bore wells which were either dry, or low-yielding.

Safe drops for children at Allampura Government School, Karnataka.

A rainwater harvesting model on the move.

Hundreds of government schools have benefitted through assured drinking water supply and quality water for cooking midday meals. The children have access to fluoride- and iron-free water for four months in a year. So far, the organisation has recharged over 3,000 bore wells and installed more than 10,000 rooftop rainwater harvesting filters.

Contact Vijay Raj at vijay.shisodya@gmail.com; +91 9448130524.

 

How to forget devastating floods and move on…

Some smiles can never be forgotten. More so if they emerge out of tormented souls that saw dear ones being washed away by flash floods, houses being submerged, fertile fields stripped, and little children turned to starve.

Many parts of North Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh suffered a horrific tragedy in October 2009. In North Karnataka alone, nearly 230 people lost their lives, 6.55 lakh houses collapsed, and over 4,290 villages were affected in 75 taluks across 14 districts, of which 346 villages needed complete rehabilitation. Lakhs of people sought shelter in relief camps. They still do.

Back in Bangalore, “resort politics” had peaked. The dissident faction of the then Yeddyurappa government, led by the Reddy brothers, was holing up in high-end resorts in Goa and Hyderabad busy playing political ping-pong. The miserable CM was twiddling his thumbs.

And, when I visited six flood-ravaged villages across Koppal and Bellary districts a few weeks after the tragedy, there were these divine smiles, too.

(Pics: SH)