Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Sunday, 29 January 2017

When Democracy speaks the wise listen!

And it has spoken loud and clear this time in Tamilnadu. Scans through monarchy and Indian mythology show that great kings have always heeded to the collective consciousness of people.

Call it a long-enduring sport, a slice of culture or a religious practice, Jallikattu has it all and is the reason behind the bustle. Emotions rode high and have now calmed down. So it’s time for some critical analysis.

Reference in Ancient Tamil Literature

A number of references can be found in the classical Tamil Sangam literature of world renown, on Jallikattu or ‘Eru Thazhuvudhal’ [Embracing the bull] which has been in vogue for thousands of years.  

One of the poems depicts an interesting Jallikattu scene. The bull comes out victor wearing the player as a victory garland. There are no references in these poems on the bull being slayed. So there have been regulations more in favour of the bull from the outset.  

Interestingly it has been used as a show of valour to win one’s bride in those days.

Saint Nammalwar sings in Nalayira Divya prabandham [a collection of 4000 devotional Tamil hymns sung by saint-poets known as ‘Alwars’] on how Lord Krishna played Jallikattu or Eru Thazhuvudhal [Embracing the bull] to win the hand of His lover Nappinnai [perhaps an equivalent of Radha]

‘அன்று உருவேழும் தழுவி நீ கொண்ட ஆய்மகள் அன்பனே!...’
[Lover of the cowgirl whose hand you won by embracing the bull that day …]

The bulls are an integral part of the religious services as Temple bulls. Jallikattu is used as part of the religious celebrations during Pongal the harvest festival that honours farmers.

It is considered as a mark of valour, pride and cultural symbol of Indian heritage. It is also an engaging sport for the youth and helps in preserving indigenous breeds and agriculture.

It can be construed why Jallikattu has had such an effect among the masses in Tamilnadu. People connect at religious, cultural, literary, social and economic levels with it and it has remained interwoven with their lives for generations. It is also quite possible that it would have spread to other parts of India in centuries bygone. For example it is played in some parts of Andhra Pradesh to the day.

Animal Love

Showing compassion and love to animals and all living beings is the noblest of principles. We indeed need to speak up for the speechless. However some of such speeches and statements made by the so-called activists such as the representatives of PETA India are insensitive to native values. In some cases they take a partisan stance devoid of a holistic outlook and critical analysis. There are brutal slaughter houses still in operation all over the world which yell for the immediate attention of animal lovers.

One of the humorous tweets from Maithun_TNP makes a strong point:
'Who is PetaIndia to decide against a ban about Jallikattu? Make a bull stand between a slaughter house and Arena, let the bull decide'. 

Vegetarianism is the first concrete, logical and practical step one could take as an animal lover. One of the arguments in this matter is that humans are higher species than their animal counterparts and therefore slaughtering them for food is justified. How convincing is that? In layman terms you can torture and slaughter animals in barbaric ways for food but can’t play with them because it’s cruelty. No jokes intended!

‘That doesn’t make Jallikattu right’ argue the so-called activists.

‘What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important’ said Dwight Eisenhower one of the greatest presidents of USA. The Eisenhower matrix is widely used to increase productivity in whatever we do. The ‘crying baby’ and ‘kitchen fire’ are more important and require immediate attention than ‘dusting the windows’.

The activists should first attend to the most important and urgent tasks such as closing down slaughter houses. Perhaps they are diverting their inability in doing this towards sensational alternatives such as Jallikattu. The gigantic business proposition and demand behind animal slaughtering can make it tricky for them but from an ideal standpoint that is the war they need to fight as animal lovers.

What about animal cruelty then? We can’t assume that the bulls undergo cruelty in legitimate Jallikattu until it is proven. When fairly played, it appears that the bulls enjoy as much as the player. How do we know they don’t? Some bulls stay in the arena on their own challenging and engaging with players all around. Are we trying to spoil their sport? We need more scientific, incontrovertible methods to capture and analyse animal emotions to perfection. Until then all arguments on animal cruelty in Jallikattu are educated assumptions at best and pathetic misnomers at worst.

Since there is a humongous lack of awareness in the subject, the ‘Jallikattu-ignorant’ should be educated with proper evidences before it goes to court next time. Why target the fouls when there are many legitimate goals scored in the game?  

The Animal Welfare Board of India has revealed that it would not challenge the Tamilnadu ordinance of allowing Jallikattu.

PETA is primarily an American organisation and their inputs can be referred but not necessarily taken as mandatory in an Indian context. 

Nevertheless the sport needs to be fully regulated, monitored, recorded and the process quality assured as we move forward.  Most would agree that regulation and not an outright ban would serve a sound resolution to the issue.

Food Corruption

Some sections of the protesters and ecologists claim that the Jallikattu ban is an envelope that covers more serious issues such as enabling foreign products and breeds taking over the dairy industry in India. Are these alien products and milk causing a sudden rise in diabetes rates and other health-related issues in India?

It has to be investigated further. The Food Corporation of India should take onus and clarify these to the nation. After all meeting Health & Safety requirements is paramount. The corporation should ensure dietary details are shown in all food products sold in the country. Let people decide what they want to eat and drink.  

Law is supreme

All said and done law is indisputably supreme. Any law-abiding citizen would and should fully attest to the rule of law. We don t need people protesting for everything against court rulings.    

The other side of the argument is that legislation and even judgements have changed in the past but the rights of humans to uphold their cultural values, have not. If a cultural value or belief prevents one committing a crime it has already played a proactive role in pre-empting a law & order catastrophe. So law and culture are intertwined. People sans law can create faults in society but law sans people can lead to a faulty society. The effects of mass resentment can be deleterious to the nation in the larger scheme of things which the laws are required to protect anyway. 

The constitution of India, which is the longest in the world, is the framework and founding principle on which the government and the judiciary stand. Hence the constitution of India is the supreme law. 

Part III of our constitution talks about Fundamental Rights and Part IVA, Fundamental Duties.

Article 29, in particular, is against discrimination. In simple terms citizens have the right to 'conserve and develop' their distinct culture. 

The Fundamental Duties of the citizens of India require all citizens to 'cherish its heritage and preserve its composite culture'. 

Jallikattu is an integral part of such a culture and in fact is part of Indian heritage. Hence according to our constitution it should be conserved, cherished, preserved and developed!

Protest for Jallikattu

There were demonstrations against the Jallikattu ban in 2013 in the Marina and it just had some 17 protesters.  How then the numbers swell up to some millions this time?

Students and Social Media and public resentment!

The self-rising, leaderless movement of students was nothing short of heroic. Tamil people from all over the world connected to the peaceful protests which shone as an example for the world. The last day's violence should be properly documented to know who instigated it. The government and police claim that it was some miscreants who were attacked and not students. But videos on social media tell a different tale. Police actions on peaceful protesters, if proven, is a horrific, weak step and would definitely make a sorry reading in history.

Until we are served with conclusive evidences on what unfolded on the last day, the protest stands to be evaluated based on the first six days. And the result of that evaluation is just exemplary. Mahatma Gandhi and Anna Hazare would be proud people now, students!

‘People rule people’

The original ethos of democracy in one line is just that and nothing complex. Somewhere down the line this vision seems to have gone off the radar or so seem to think the ruling class. Monarchy is now gone for good. Nobody is above public scrutiny and criticism. What effectiveness can be achieved if political leaders are still disconnected with public sentiments and values? The issue here is once elected the common man has no control over the rule. The shrewd politician would know by now that the public umbrage is deep and needs strategic addressing. However slogans loaded with personal attacks against politicians, leaders or activists are not required either.

What can be done now?

This energy should be taken forward into a movement but on intellectual and subtler levels for the larger benefit of the nation. Some such icebreakers below;

1.    Bring about air-tight legal representations on Jallikattu as stated in the constitution to conserve and develop our culture and heritage so as to achieve a permanent solution.

2.    Create a people's forum using social media to provide ‘value information’ on many national matters of significance

3.    Contest in elections: Identify the most qualified independent candidate for every constituency in the state and have representation from this Jallikattu team if required and qualified

4.    Demand explanation and Instigate suitable actions: The Food Corporation of India should explain what actions have been taken on GM food and external intrusion into the Indian dairy industry

5.    Expose and stop people taking money from political parties during election campaigns. Reject freebies

6.    Make a high profile documentary on Jallikattu in English showing how bulls are reared and played with, along with all related elements, to help educate the ‘Jallikattu-ignorant’ media and people 

7.    To appeal to UN Human rights in case of any violations

8.    Organise online fund raisers from all over the world to fight these legal battles

9.    Create people's governance through social media. Create awareness that no one is bigger than the public and that a political leader is just doing a job like any of us

10. Create e-governance: the government, bureaucrats and police department can take cues from students and create active forums in social media. Credibility and lost ground can be gained by being open and engaging with the public through social media in all important matters in state governance.

Stay focussed:

This Jallikattu movement should be taken forward to save Indian native businesses and farmers. Any character assassination painted on the protest that is untrue should not be allowed to deter the spirit of the young. The general public have thrown their weight behind the Marina protest. The focus is not just to achieve a permanent resolution for Jallikattu but to preserve its ecosystem, biodiversity, protect native breeds and agriculture. Bringing out authentic books, films and literature with adequate evidences in the matter can be of great help.

Jallikattu could just be a curtain-raiser of a larger change that people are seeking and seeing. If people in power are not seeing it now, they will. 

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Pudhumaipithan and 'Stream of conciousness' . A video speech given at a literary forum conducted by Sakitya Akademi on 23.08.2014.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Delhi Gang Rape Verdict - ‘Change or Quit’

Some call it a national shame, many say it’s a cultural problem and few others say it’s time to think whether it’s worth visiting India. Whatever be the form of reaction, the Delhi Gang rape episode has generated an angry wave, both nationally and internationally.

On the fateful December day in 2012, the 23-year old victim was gang raped by six men in a moving bus in Delhi. She and her friend were savagely tortured and thrown out of the moving bus. For over 40 minutes the poor, wounded duo was left naked in the streets as the passers-by did not bother to offer help. To top all these, the police and hospital staff had shown absolute nonchalance, taking their own sweet time to discharge their respective duties. And Delhi streets have seen unprecedented protests since.

Comments in the social media have unanimously condemned the ghastly attack and criticised the concerned authorities for their snail-paced work ethics. Conservative camps have lectured on how ladies should conduct themselves to steer clear of such accidents.

In order to analyse all of the above a series of questions in form of soul-searching would do a world of good.

1.    Should the victim or ladies in general be held responsible for such incidents?

It’s a sporadic joke in a tragic movie. It can happen to anyone. Any such backward sentiments that try to find fault with the victims, in form of conservatism or even tradition, should be shunned. In fact, the brave heart and her companion should be saluted for the fight they had put on.

2.    Rapes seem to be commonplace in India. Do we spot a pattern here, especially in Delhi?

Unfortunately, the answer has to be a ‘yes’ given that two more such reprehensible incidents have occurred since then.

3.    Can it be said that the pent-up passion created in youngsters by the restrictive family culture found in India finds manifestation in such rape incidents?

The UN rape statistics which is general in nature and includes only reported rape cases, declares that the US [84,767] has the highest number of rapes in the world. India [22,972] comes next, though as a distant second, followed by UK [15,934]. If a rate per 100,000 populations is taken, the rates for these countries for the year 2010 are:

US - 27.3; India - 1.8; and UK - 28.8.

The number of rapes in India is indeed high even though the rate per 100000 falls down greatly. Even though one has to account for unreported rapes, especially in case of Indian societies, the rate seems to be relatively low given that the population of India is in excess of 1.2 billion.

There is no evidence to say that countries such as the US and the UK wherein relatively freer cultures operate are any different either. In fact the rape count is much higher in the US. Hence views associating incidents like these with the culture of a nation is often ill-founded and superficial. Culprits are culprits irrespective of where they come from. What matters is the punishment dished out to them and how effectively it is done.

4.    Is there anything else that is wrong in Indian culture that leads to such callous accidents?

Culture is nothing but shared values, habits, sentiments and thought processes of a nation. There is absolutely nothing wrong in Indian culture if it is followed thoroughly. What can create chaos is when those aspects of western culture that does not blend well with Indian culture are slavishly aped unnaturally in cinemas, shows and in life.  

The case of paedophile, serial sex offender Jimmy Savile in UK has greatly affected the public’s psyche. This case, in fact, is more disturbing given that the victims of this vile person have ranged from dying patients to children, over 6 decades. It is strange to note that no charges were made against him despite being reported during his living days. If culture has to be blamed for such incidents, is the Savile episode a reflection of British culture? It would be superficial to declare so.

One should take a holistic view and apply systems thinking in order to paint the big picture. That will obviously include all those protestors in Delhi streets and the media / public who voice opinions against Jimmy Savile in UK, in the respective cases. If it is a cultural problem or something of a routine in these nations, they would probably not be shocked or react in such fashions.

5.    Ok, but is it not true that women are not respected enough in India?

Yes it’s true. It has to change. Period.

6.    What is to be done now?

a.      Excuses on culture should not divert the focus of this wave. Instead an enduring, common sense approach should be exercised in tightening the policing and legal systems of India.

b.      Public will feel free to help, if police is friendly. Police should start thinking ‘innocent until proven guilty’. Had they done that they would have been more responsive to the victims on the fateful night.

c.      People should stop idolising under-performing or useless politicians. PM or CM is a public servant and that’s the way it should be – nothing more nothing less.

d.      Create more fast track courts and judges. It is said that there are not enough funds to do this. Why not stop freebies and expenses made for election campaigns and use those funds to clear the mess?

e.      More training for police with simulated case scenarios. Training should be world class, periodic and not just at the beginning of a career. Clearly, discussing jurisdiction on the spot for ages when the victim is dying is abysmally sub-standard service.

f.       Stricter actions on police officers who fail in discharging their duties

g.    The formalities required in hospitals need re-visiting and should be made people-friendly 

It’s all about change - the beginning of a long change. Whatever might be the final verdict of this case in the court – death sentence or otherwise – the real verdict from the nation is Change or Quit.

It is a verdict handed out by the Indian public to the police, office bearers of law, government and to all such. It says Change thy attitude or Quit thy position.

It’s as simple as that. This mantra can be spread out in normal conversations, social media and during elections etc.

Having come thus far, may I ask the reader [for brave hearts only!] to use a bit of imagination?

Visualise yourself sitting in that bus as a mere passenger and think through the incident. Take a mind tour for 5 minutes. If you have braved through those 5 minutes - and did so honestly - you will then have no qualms in chanting with me – ‘Change or Quit’.  

Saturday, 25 August 2012

The Taming Of The Shrewd (Politician)

An interesting article titled 'How the political class has looted India' has come out in 'The Hindu'. It lashes out - and rightly so - at the corrupt political class of India.

A quick reference to the article has been given below;


An equally interesting response to this opinion was sent to me. It's the need of the hour to probe into these problems and bring out some workable solutions.

The response :

'The Taming Of The Shrewd (Politician)

There was an article titled “Looting India” by A.G.Noorani which appeared in the Hindu dated 30-07-12. It is a wonderful article. Why does this sorry state of affairs prevail?

Millions of people feel that the politicians are looting the country. As it has become a way of life in the country, (as evidenced in the serials where peoples’ emotions are focused and intellect takes the back seat), people are agitated and stay agitated. They like to stay agitated and indirectly shun finding out solutions. Everyone thinks, including the media men, (whose responsibility is to organize, coordinate and follow up unto finish), that somebody else should take the corrective steps. They are satisfied to give vent to their feelings that it is incorrigible. This defeatist mentality is the feeding ground for all corruptions. That too, when the corrupt politicians are united with a lot of muscle power in a defective democratic setup. Even the genuine politicians will have to compromise to keep going. Otherwise those slots also will be filled by corrupt politicians. When everybody knows about 176, still nothing could be done to check the wrong doings or to take immediate corrective steps. Justice takes its time. Even God may be faster. Yes. It is observed in the occurrence of natural calamities, failure of monsoon, floods, famine conditions in other areas, If the elected Government does not get the hint and correct itself, then more severe calamities will come. For instance, there is no occasion to celebrate spending hundreds of crores of public money for advertising even as millions of womenfolk are cursing the electricity department for the utter failure to carry out the promised supply of electricity. Under these circumstances, any celebration and spending public money for that, is a mockery. It is like throwing a lavish party, with dances and music in a death house where near relatives are mourning the demise of the departed.

Coming to the topic of looting India, a relevant question has been asked by A.G.Noorani about how the increase in assets of politicians (as shown in their own statements submitted before elections) is being taken casually! And for the same reason, a case has been pending against Ms.Jayalalitha for years and years incurring a lot of expenditure for the Government, wasting everybody’s time. Why don’t the newspapers (including the Hindu’ ) list out such increases in the cases of all politicians along with that of Selvi.Jayalalitha and showcase the need for action or no action on all the people instead of listing out one person only for action.. Why can’t we strive for a scientific mechanism to check the recurrence of this phenomenon and make corrections in the system, to make it foolproof and show the lead to the world?

The solution for this problem and many others are given in my book. “Vettrikku Vazhikattum Melanmai” but nobody makes any use of it. The never failing Kural shows the way.

Find out the disease, the cause for it, the proper means,

Most effective method and give treatment to bring results. (Kural-948)

The root cause for the disease of ‘Looting the Society by the politicians’ is uncontrolled Power. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. So the question boils down to the ‘Taming of the shrewd (Politician).

On this again,Valluvar throws light.

However chosen, when put on the job

There are many, who perform differently. (Kural 514)

So he finds fault with all kinds of selection for appointment - written exam, interview, on the job training, in-basket game, election, selection etc. Then what is the way out? In another context he says, that one should know the book on measurement (Alavai Nool) He says that the performance of the administrators should be constantly and continuously observed and evaluated so that mistakes can be avoided or corrected as and when the operation is in small scale. If not, the work has to be considered in identifiable parts and then integrated so that constant monitoring and evaluating is possible. Since this is not done now, it has given room for all malpractices. We evaluate the working of the MLAs and MPs once in 5 years and that too subjectively giving consideration for caste, creed, party, money, relationship etc.., which makes the judgment absolutely wrong.

This is not being done even in advanced countries where of course the fourth estate does a part of the job, though not so effectively. We can do it because we have done it earlier in Tamilnadu, with great success. The greatest of all Indian emperors, the imperial Cholas, whose empire spread far and wide, even in foreign countries touching China (Rajaraja Cholan and Rajendra Cholan), some 12 centuries ago, from 6th to 16th centuary AD, had successfully implemented a system, following the system which was prevalent here in 907 to 955 BC (Paranthahan -1 ) as evidenced in Uthiramerur and Pallipakkam (Tanjore) stone carvings (Kalvettukkal)

That was possible, even in the absence of democracy, where the power was heaped at the top(King). The kings were benevolent, who followed the dictums of their conscience, who followed the “Dharma” (Aram) explained in the scriptures, and who were accessible to the poets who roam about the country and give valuable feedback to the king. And there was an ingenious, brilliant arrangement which had horizontal and vertical link ups. The real power centre was the village as against the present setup where villages are neglected and power flows from Delhi downwards. There was a group of five (Imperum kuzhu) selected to rule and a group of eight (Enperaraayam) who will constantly and continuously watch if the rulers rule properly, keeping up their promises and taking timely action. Now this continuous monitoring is not in vogue. We only do post-mortem after all the ills/malpractices have been done. We make a big move at first vociferously and then forget the 176 after sometime.. Newspapers, nor any public bodies (media) do not follow it up anymore in a systematic manner. So, the main solution for the problem of ‘looting politicians’ is formation of evaluating groups in every village panchayat, vertically linked up to the district, state and country. Evaluating groups which will have representation for the masses, media, curriculum (R&D), parties etc. Even in parties, there could be a group of ministers who will rule and a group of more powerful evaluators.

This Time Bound Action Plan (TBAP) can be put in place.

  1. Shocking News. When they are reported in the press, make it a point to periodically discuss progress and report the progress until the solution is found or the problem is solved/corrected.
  2. Likewise, plans for the country, state, district, taluq, village (Ward) to be published with the TBAP in the newspapers/News channels and progress to be assessed. Such a planning Diary will reveal the percentage of achievement of the planned goals.
  3. Reduce the importance of politicians. They are the users of wealth (as against their predecessors who were Thiyagis who sacrificed) More importance should be given to those who produce wealth, jobs.
  4. Form groups to evaluate the promised performance within the time frame specified (TBAP). This should be done at all levels, starting from village panchayat to national level at Delhi.
  5. Even in parties, there should be two groups, the rulers and the evaluators.
  6. We have to hold a seminar to discuss these matters and from the groups of evaluators with arrangements to report findings in the newspapers and Channels at periodical intervals.



Monday, 9 April 2012

Why Gandhi ticks?

It was one of those evenings when Mahatma Gandhi surprised me yet again. During the dusk of Wednesday 04th April 2012, I had the opportunity of releasing my book ‘Air, Fire & Water’ on Indian independence, at the Nehru centre in London.
It was interesting to note why Gandhi’s business is still valid today and in fact more relevant.
I spoke in the evening on Gandhiji’s Ahimsa or non-violence and why it can have an effect now.
To extend on it, all we need to do is to look at Sri Lanka where ironically Gandhi’s statue has been vandalised recently.
The 26 year long war against terror on the island nation was rounded up in 2009 with more terror by the military, making it hard to distance military from the terror outfit itself, given the scale of civilian causalities.
While violence over violence has ripped off the gloss and shine over the victory of the Sri Lankan army in less than 3 years, Gandhi stands tall, in stark contrast. His universal appeal is on the rise even after 64 years of his demise. And that includes this little thing of vandalising his statue. Whoever did it probably thought they could empty the ocean with a homemade bucket.
Mahatma expertly used Ahimsa to create the collective consciousness that strangely had more power than violence. His methods were not confined just to India as evidenced by other leaders who followed him elsewhere such as Nelson Mandela. The recent example is President Obama who famously said ‘Gandhi is my hero’.
If I ask you to march up, stand there, get beaten up while you chant the mantras about your nation, you would probably call me nuts. But this is exactly what Gandhi asked the millions to do.
The immediate reaction to physical assault is retaliation or retreat depending on who you are. There is a third option – to call the police. However this option was not available for those folks as it was the police who were thrashing them.
So how could Gandhi achieve this unique feat of impressing upon people to go against their natural reflexes, for decades?
  1. Gandhi had a solid national goal to which he wedded his life. His life became a focal point for the masses. They could not see the difference between the goal and Gandhi. Most people need a tangible form to idealise intangible sentiments, however noble they are.
  2. Gandhi was an excellent strategist. He knew what to fight for, what weapon to use and when.
  3. Gandhi was nothing but an external symbol, representation or embodiment of their /our own noble self. Or people perceived so.  Since a noble self does not belong to one single nation, his appeal had to be universal
  4. Gandhi said ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’. In other words he did what he said. This has almost become a cliché that people skip it as a natural, subconscious reaction. But that’s exactly where the point is missed.
  5. Gandhi took criticism. He did what he believed in, at times stubbornly, but not once did he ridicule or spend time in attacking his critics. He left his critics to do their job and so had the energy to attack his problems.
  6. The most charismatic thing in the world is truth or authenticity. Yes we have a glamour world full of artificial cosmetics that are charismatic. But then I said ‘most charismatic’ which includes the longevity factor as well. Gandhi had this truth in him which pulled people towards him, most naturally.
The violence that we see now in the world – be it from terrorist outfits or from a state – seem to have limited success in terms of what they aim for and how far they achieve it. This is because most of them have only the first two points mentioned above, in them.
It’s only the evolution of the mind that can bring about major changes in the world more than revolution. The human mind is the most complex and powerful machinery till date. This is where Gandhi was a master who worked towards this evolution in him and in others. Hence he enjoys this lasting impression. So those of us who use our energies in vandalising statues should re-evaluate and do something more worthwhile.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Sonnet for the soul

 An armed monarch,  order’d his horse a momentary freeze

 At the sight of an old man who sure had a skeleton and skin

 Sitting curled, like a circle in the freezing cold and teasing breeze

 He had none to cover, yet had a warm grin to wear and win

The conqueror, irked, tossed a shawl as alms in regal beckon

 ‘None I take from beggars’ said the naked to the startled king

 ‘For one who needs is the needy and I need none’

 ‘You still need territory, O beggar!’ said the Solomon’s ring

 Attitude galore yields altitude for sure and true majesty

 Riches real are in the mind and not in the external find

 Many he owns, spend he does and makes money today aplenty   

 Does he then stop these in the day next with a satiated mind?

 Skies shower rain, air blows life and silken stars shine

 The best things of life have no bill ever, for you to whine