Moshe and his (new) Imma

….candles mark the spot where Rabbi Holtzberg was shot
dead….pictures adorn the stairwells……Rabbi Kotlarsky helped rebuild the centre…..”You can overcome challenges, even the most
horrific of challenges…..You can and must rebuild….hope that evil will not prevail”

Six years have gone by, in the blink of an eye. Today (August 26) is the grand re-opening of the Chabad House, in Colaba, downtown Mumbai (same location where the 26/11 attacks took place). It all looks quite gorgeous and we do not doubt the sincerity of the folks involved. Having said that, it does seem that these people have some sort of a death wish.

Given the hostile relationship between Indian and Pakistan (only 960 years of warfare left) it will be a brave man who can guarantee that 26/11 will never repeat. From what is known about the current state of (safety) preparations, we have grave doubts.

The little orphan boy (Moshe Holtzberg) is now 8 years of age (he looks to be a complete cutie pie) and his nanny (Sandra Samuel of Mumbai) is with him. For a person who is so unfortunate as to lose his mother (and father) as a baby, it is sure nice that he has a mother-figure to love him and make him feel loved. A thousand cheers for the Imma (mother in Hebrew) and her boy.

Holtzberg, the Jewish toddler who survived the 26/11 Mumbai terror
attack, is “doing well”, growing up in a “complicated situation” with
his grandparents, and Tel Aviv thanks Indians for saving him, the
Israeli envoy here has said.

“He is going to school. He is a
very healthy, happy and a strong kid, growing up under a very
complicated situation,” ambassador Alon Ushpiz said during an hour-long
meeting with editors at the IANS office here.

“He is growing up
without his parents. This obviously isn’t easy. He’s staying with his
grandparents,” the envoy said. “Also, in this case, an Israeli was saved
by an Indian citizen. His nanny took him out.”

When IANS spoke on phone to Moshe’s grandparents in November, he was
with them in Afula, a city in north Israel, 140 km from Jerusalem. They
said he was growing into a self-assured lad and was like any other
seven-year-old boy.

Moshe escaped thanks to his Indian nanny, Sandra
Samuel. She risked her life to rescue the toddler who was sitting beside
the blood-soaked bodies of his parents, crying. Since then she hasn’t
left him and was given Israeli citizenship.

On Tuesday, Aug. 26, surrounded by guests and more than 25 Chabad
emissaries in Asia who will be there for a regional conference, Chabad
of Mumbai’s headquarters—also known as Nariman House—will open its doors
once again.

“This will definitely be very emotional for many people,” affirms Rabbi Yisroel Kozlovsky, who now co-directs Chabad of Mumbai together with his wife, Chaya
“This six-story building was continuously operating until the attack.
We’re not moving into a new building; we are returning to our original
building, and we will be continuing all of the activities that took
place here, and hopefully, grow even more.
“We remember what happened, but we are working for the future.”


Kozlovsky explains that after a year-and-a-half of living and working
together with his wife in Mumbai, he more fully understands why Gabi
rushed to purchase a large building for his operation.

“There are so many possible complications here, bureaucratic and
otherwise, that it becomes very difficult to work without a permanent
base,” he says. “Now we will have security rooms, a synagogue, offices,
guest rooms, a restaurant and a commercial kitchen.

It will be very
different than running things out of a 1,200-square-foot apartment, but
it will, G‑d willing, allow us to grow. And it is, of course, fitting
that we do this in the same place as Gabi and Rivky.”

He adds that the official opening will also serve as the starting
point for the next phase of reconstruction: a $2.5 million museum to be
built in the apartment where the Holtzbergs lived and on the floor where
most of the murders occurred.

“I think this is really a message for the whole world,” adds
Kotlarsky. “You can overcome challenges, even the most horrific of
challenges. You can and must rebuild, and this project serves as a
beacon of light and hope that evil will not prevail.”


By all accounts, Jewish life in Mumbai has benefited a great deal
since the Kozlovskys arrived. And the size of the community itself has
grown, including the new addition six weeks ago. Chaya Kozlovsky gave
birth to their second child, a baby boy, whose brit milah was celebrated at the Knesses Eliyahu Synagogue in the city.

“I think it’s the first Indian Menachem Mendel,” jokingly observes the new father.

While continuing ongoing Chabad projects, many of which were
initiated by the Holtzbergs, the Kozlovskys have worked diligently on
increasing their activities. 

A Jewish kindergarten will open in time for
this school year, and with the recent opening of Mumbai’s new diamond
district in a different part of the city, they have established a
satellite Chabad center in that area to serve business travelers.


Link (1): 6-years-after-the-horrific-26/11-attacks-Mumbais-Chabad-House-reopens

Link (2): Jewish-toddler-survivor-of-26/11-attack-doing-well




An all-weather friend

…..Pakistanis will not countenance
infringement by India of their sovereignty….imposition
of conditionalities….exactly the kind
of whimsicality and bullying that led to the Austro-Hungarian Empire
attacking Serbia a hundred years ago…..

Pakistanis have a long running complaint about India….the Indian Press is unreasonably jingoistic. The expectation is that (just like in the West) Indian journalists should be speaking in multiple voices and be open to a broad range of viewpoints.

Thus, for example, while Israel has formidable champions amongst neocons, the denizens of Gaza draw a lot of sympathy from the left-liberal side. There are even opinion makers who back the regimes in Iran and Syria, urging accommodation from a realist standpoint (they may not be our bastards, but we need them on our team to fight other bastards).

Given that there is so much unfinished business from Partition I and Partition II, we feel that it is unrealistic to expect much in the way of fair and balanced journalism when it comes to coverage of South Asian politics. This can be traced back to the (massively influential) two nation theory: for every
Hindu truth, there exists an equal and opposite Muslim truth.
For Partition II and the events leading up to the 1971war, there is a further tweak– a Hindu truth, a Bangladeshi Muslim truth, and a Pakistani Muslim truth!!!
Sandipan Deb (link below) makes this pertinent observation from a meeting between Indian journalists and General Musharraf in 2001:

Thirty years later, at the breakfast meeting with Indian editors during the Agra summit, Pervez Musharraf
brought up 1971.  

He accused India of being a wanton aggressor—an
utterly delusional and repulsive statement that denied the shameful
rejection of national election results; an inhuman genocide
Operation Searchlight) that left three million people dead—including all
doctors, engineers, teachers, intellectuals the Pakistani army could
find—and hundreds of thousands of women raped (perhaps the first time in
the 20th century that rape was used systematically as war strategy);
and India overwhelmed with 10 million helpless refugees from what would
soon be Bangladesh.


This is the Hindu truth which (in its full form) claims that 1971 was primarily an ideological war waged by the Pakistani Army against Hindus in Bangladesh. 

The target #1 was Hindu intellectuals: the teachers, the doctors, the professors (referred to as buddhi-jibi in Bong). Target #2 was the Bengali Hindu peasants. People used to be killed upon inspection of the male organ (circumcised or not).

Of the ten million refugees were driven out from their land, the overwhelming majority was Hindu. They were never invited back and (shamefully) many remain as refugees scattered across India, even after 40 years have gone by.  

The truly interesting claim is this: the genocide of Bangla Hindus was suppressed by the “secular” Mujib-Indira team…..because they wanted to portray a national struggle to the world, not another Hindu vs. Muslim fight.
The Pakistani Muslim truth is what General Musharraf alludes to in part – India as a wanton aggressor – but for the full flavor one should refer to school text books of Punjab (link below):

The Punjab Textbook Board published the following text on the causes
for the separation of East Pakistan in 1993 for secondary classes —

“There were a large number of Hindus in East Pakistan. They had never
truly accepted Pakistan. A large number of them were teachers in schools
and colleges. 

They continued creating a negative impression
among students.
No importance was attached to explaining the ideology of
Pakistan to the younger generation.

The Hindus sent a
substantial part of their earnings to Bharat, thus adversely affecting
the economy of the province.

Some political leaders encouraged
provincialism for selfish gains.
They went around depicting the central
Government and (the then) West Pakistan as enemy and exploiter.
Political aims were thus achieved at the cost of national unity.”


To this one can add Sharmila Bose’s thesis (which gains credibility because a Hindu Bengali is on record supporting the Pakistani Muslim Truth).

As she tells it (and we paraphrase) Pakistani Army Officers (as well as foot-soldiers) being highly noble in disposition, extremely disciplined through training, and unimaginably chivalrous by heart, could not possibly have carried out many (any?) attacks. Some bad things may have happened in the fog of war, nothing more.

Bose concludes that actually it was the Mukti Bahini who killed huge numbers of innocent Biharis and further suppressed the fact by inventing fictional genocides and rape-fests.
Finally you have the Bangladeshi Muslim Truth. To put it briefly (and simplify), we (Bangla Muslims) were under the boot of the Hindus (and the British) for centuries. We got rid of both of them in 1947. Next, we were oppressed by the Punjabis (who stole our jute money). We got rid of them in 1971.

India was (as usual) up to some mischief but we gave a fitting reply to all that in 1975. Some Hindus may have left voluntarily for India. A few Bihari traitors got what they deserved, nothing more.


All that said there is that familiar observation of India being a land of contradictions- whatever you think of India as true, the opposite is also true.

As long as Mani Shankar Aiyer – born in Lahore (10 April, 1941) and presently, Congress MP from Rajya Sabha – is around, Pakistan is assured of an all-weather friend. He has always been an Aman ki Asha type, and he has now openly accused the Modi govt of being a bully (and being whimsical).

Not only that. MSA has issued a most dramatic (melodramatic, in our opinion) warning that just like World War I was ignited through the Austrian empire making unreasonable demands of Serbia, there is a prospect of World War III breaking out in the sub-continent unless India under Modi stops being unreasonable. What more does a friend have to say?

Working out a viable relationship with Pakistan is in India’s vital
national interest. But the wholly bogus nature of the Narendra
Modi-Nawaz Sharif bonhomie on the occasion of Modi’s republican
coronation now stands revealed in all its nakedness. 

In a childish
display of extreme petulance, the India-Pakistan foreign secretary-level
talks have been called off.
The excuse proffered is that the Pakistan
envoy had met with, and was scheduled to meet again with, Kashmiri
“separatist” leaders on the eve of the talks. He had been warned after
Round I of his interaction with them that if Round II took place, India
would spurn dialogue and revert to the two-year-long stand-off.

The excuse is wholly misplaced. The Simla Agreement of 1972 removed
Jammu and Kashmir from the international agenda and effectively placed
it in the ambit of bilateral discussion and resolution: “a final
settlement of Jammu and Kashmir”. The trade-off was simple. India
recognised that there were issues relating to J&K that needed to be
resolved and Pakistan agreed to secure the resolution of these issues
bilaterally instead of in an international forum. 

In actual fact, India,
much more than Pakistan, especially in recent decades, has shied away
from bilateral dialogue, while Pakistan has attempted from time to time,
but without success, to revert to the UN. But the basic position today
continues as it was four decades ago at Simla — India accepts that there
is an external dimension to J&K, and Pakistan that dealing with
these issues is strictly remitted to the bilateral, not multilateral,
sphere of diplomatic interaction.

On the domestic front in India, the principle of “the sky is the
limit” has long been instituted for determining the parameters of
“autonomy” for J&K; autonomy that must, however, fall short of
challenging the integrity of India or the finality of J&K’s
accession to India. All else is negotiable. 

On the external front, it is
recognised as legitimate for Pakistan to raise issues relating to “a
final settlement of Jammu and Kashmir”. It was in pursuance of this legitimacy granted to Pakistan by the
Simla Agreement of 1972 that, just under two decades ago, the P.V.
Narasimha Rao government recognised the legitimacy of Pakistani envoys
and political leaders including Kashmiri “separatists” (under the
umbrella of the Hurriyat) in their consultations in preparation for
successive phases of the ongoing dialogue process. 

There has thus been a
bipartisan, indeed, multipartisan understanding within India (at least
till now) that such interaction falls in a class by itself and so does
not constitute a casus belli or even a casus diplomati to break off the
bilateral dialogue to which both are pledged.

Had Modi any new objection to this, he was duty-bound to make it
clear to Nawaz Sharif when he met him in New Delhi and they discussed
the resumption of the dialogue. The Pakistan desk of the ministry of
external affairs knows full well that Nawaz Sharif was attacked on his
return to Pakistan from New Delhi for his failure to meet with the
Hurriyat, as his predecessors had done. 

This became such a big issue
that when I was in Pakistan days later (in the august company of Ved
Pratap Vaidik), both formally and informally, this was stressed. Thus,
the consequences of warning High Commissioner Abdul Basit against
maintaining his scheduled meeting with the “separatists” should have
been clear to the meanest intelligence in the MEA. If the meeting with
the Hurriyat leaders were called off, the howls of protest in Pakistan
would have drowned all attempts at dialogue. There was nothing to be
gained from making an issue of such a trivial matter.

I say “trivial” because nothing earth-shattering, either for us or
the Pakistanis, has resulted from earlier meetings of the Hurriyat with
the Pakistanis, including visits of Hurriyat leaders to Pakistan that we
ourselves had permitted. From a Pakistani point of view, meeting the
Hurriyat is an excellent way of selling to the Pakistani public the
explanation that “Kashmiri” wishes are not being ignored or bypassed in
the dialogue process. 

From the Indian point of view, the “separatists”,
who are Indian citizens, whatever their view, are of such significance
as to have warranted our “interlocutors” talking to them. What harm,
then, can come of Geelani et al letting off steam in Pakistan House —
the same steam they let off on a daily basis in the Valley?

Then there is the question of sovereignty. Pakistan may be weaker
than India in every respect but there is at least one in which Pakistan
is our equal and will remain so, and that is in the dimension of
sovereignty. If India as a sovereign country refuses to buckle under
Pakistani pressure, it is only natural that Pakistanis will not
countenance infringement by India of their sovereignty. That is why the
imposition of new conditionalities, flying in the face of precedents,
will be seen as infringing on Pakistan’s sovereignty. 

The parallel being
drawn in some quarters with India snubbing Pakistan by talking to
Baloch separatists is as misbegotten as it is misplaced, for Balochistan
is not an issue between India and Pakistan. We have neither had nor
sustain any claims on Balochistan. On Kashmir, the Pakistanis do — and
that has been acknowledged by India, even if India is (rightly) adamant
that there can be no compromise on its sovereignty over the whole of
J&K, as a result of the Instrument of Accession and Article I of the
J&K constitution.

Such are the subtleties of diplomacy. They go ill with foreign policy
strutting on a 56-inch chest. I am sure the MEA as an institution knows
all this but is helpless because all power is being increasingly
concentrated in one authoritarian. 

We stand warned that whimsicality and
bullying are going to characterise our relations with Pakistan over the
next five years; exactly the kind of whimsicality and bullying that led
to the Austro-Hungarian Empire attacking Serbia a hundred years ago,
leading to the devastation of the two world wars.


Link (1):

Link (2):

Link (3):



Chilling hypocrisy

….”The moment I realised that the illustration had created a
controversy and had hurt many people, I deleted the tweet for having
inadvertently hurt their feelings”….

We do not question the right of Teesta Setalvad to tweet vile pictures….freedom of speech must work (and seen to be working) for offensive speech. We are miffed because she considers all of us to have the IQ of a…..we are unable to point to a living organism that would be stupid enough to fit….who will find nothing improper or bizarre in her explanations (see detailed statement below).

We inadvertently hurt feelings of others when we are not sufficiently aware of how they think and if we do not understand (and appreciate) their beliefs. This is how we get Ganesha Toilets to be marketed in the West. But come on…a jihadi Kali…AND a jihadi Krishna?  

Surely ignorance is not an excuse when you are
known the world over as a champion secularist (this is sincerely meant),
as a symbol of peace and as a person who stands up against hatred. You want to be a flame-thrower and then plead ignorance? What next, kill your parents and seek mercy as an orphan??

Setalvad is exposed as just another bigot, who
plays the same game that she accuses Hindutva-vadis of doing…dividing
people in the
name of religion. Such examples of moral blindness will gravely harm the secular
cause (we take no pleasure in saying so, but if she was that
un-thinkingly brave she could have thrown in a photo-shop of the
Prophet in the mix as well).

Thing is, we are convinced that activists such as Setalvad mean well. The message they hope to convey is also a fair one: terrorism committed by Hindus can be every bit as vile as terrorism committed by Muslims. Also, while religion is blamed for fomenting trouble (and we have often voiced such a sentiment ourselves), the underlying cause is often elite greed, the powers that be rule, do so by dividing we the commoners. If religion was not a divisive factor, they would find something else (language, caste,..).

There was indeed a much better way to promote the message that she wanted to convey. Muslim clerics have repeatedly denounced the actions of the Caliphate in Iraq. Why not say that the way of the jihadists is not the way of majority of muslims?

Secularists should be focused on ways to neutralize (or at least mitigate) the harmful side-effects of religion…..this will not be achieved by setting one religion against the other. If Setalvad has not figured this out by now she should step back from the cauldron…pronto.

Setalvad has now made a nice little rod for her own back. A number
of FIRs have been launched, even otherwise her life may be in danger
. We sincerely hope that she (or an associate) does not get hurt, though their credibility will be hurt…for a long, long time.

Two FIRs were lodged in Gujarat on Saturday against social activist
Teesta Setalvad for uploading objectionable images of Hindu deities on

The first FIR was lodged at Ghatlodia police station here by Vishwa
Hindu Parishad activist Raju Patel, while the other was filed by Kirit
Mistry at C Division police station in Bhavnagar.

Further, an application seeking legal action against her was filed at
Gomtipur police station in Ahmedabad by a Shiv Sena worker Jitu

Setalwad had yesterday tweeted a photo-shopped picture showing, among
other things, ISIS terrorists with the American journalist James Foley
just before his beheading.

Inspector AG Gohil of Ghatlodia police station told PTI that Setalwad
had been charged with various offences under the Information Technology
Act and Indian Penal Code sections 153(a) (promoting enmity between two religious groups) and section 295 (a) (outraging religious feelings).

As per the FIR filed in Ahmedabad, “the photo showed a member of
minority community with the Sudarshan Chakra while another photo showed a
terrorist beheading a journalist. This act by Setalwad has hurt the
religious sentiments of Hindus”. 

Setalvad, on the other hand, apologised
on Saturday on her blog as well as on Twitter.

 “Sincere apologies for inadvertent tweet,” she tweeted.


Link: firs-against-social-activist-teesta-setalvad-in-gujarat-over-controversial-tweet




The man loved by (all) women

…..”I want to create new Pakistan not only for you
but also for me…once Naya Pakistan becomes a reality, I will
marry”…..62-year-old Khan said to thunderous applause…..
What do women want? Do they blindly, madly fall in love with a 62 year old man, who is still described as a …heartthrob? Your child will be 18 when your man reaches 80!!! We are not ill-wishers of anyone, but what if he does not reach 80? What then??
We are agnostic on the WDWW question, but it is our sense that women want exactly the same things as men. They want power, money, glory (we are talking of ordinary people, not saints). In our opinion, most men want a loving family just as much as women. Once we reach true equality in society we would expect a much higher number of risk-taking, balls-busting women villains (not just the sly, manipulative ones).

But for now, it is a man’s world and the path to glory, money, and power is usually channeled through men. This is perhaps a major reason why women feel attracted to men, especially those who (as they know in their hearts) would not have much time for them, who cannot relate to them, who may like them (as we like any of our possessions) but cannot love them.

Thus a twenty year old girl may not mind marrying a 60 year old man (even if he is married), and dream of having babies and creating a clan where SHE rules (as opposed to the old hag who is unceremoniously pushed off stage).

As for the men…well what can we say? Your ego may tell you that a girl, young enough to be your daughter, loves you for your special qualities…well think about it. Would you marry an old lady for p-m-g (surely there are some men who will do so)? Would you honor her and respect her…and even love her? Could you??

and a heartthrob Imran Khan, who is leading his Tehreek-e-Insaaf party in
anti-government protests here, has said that he will marry once his dream ‘Naya
Pakistan’ was fulfilled.  
his daily nightly address, Khan last night told this to thousands of his
supporters camping in front of parliament, demanding Prime Minister Nawaz
Sharif’s resignation.
“I want to create new Pakistan not only for you but also for me because
once Naya Pakistan becomes a reality, I will marry,” 62-year-old Khan said
to thunderous applause.

Khan married British heiress Jemima Goldsmith in 1995 but the marriage flopped
and both agreed to separate in 2004.
They have two sons, Sulieman and Qasim, who live with the mother in Britain.
There are reports that Khan was under family pressure to marry again to put an
end to media speculation and some nasty comments in the social media about his
alleged affairs.
Khan still has kept himself fit and is considered very popular among women.


Link: Imran-wants-to-marry-in-Naya-Pakistan




‘are we reading or writing tonight?’

guarded his crate of Hercules Rum like a sentinel……clank the
latch on the gate a specific number of times in a peculiar rhythm
that only Raju and his regular clients knew….and this he kept changing
every week….Raju would emerge from the dark, the bottle cradled in
his arms.
As Arun Ram explains: “reading” is code for rum, “writing” for whisky.

We have mixed feelings on this, we dislike the booze culture, but we dislike prohibition even more. The pressure has to come from society, through education and via persuasion. Yes, we admit that religion has a role to play as well. Else all you will do is drive the business under-ground and bring forward more death and suffering.

Still there is one bright aspect of prohibition (apart from the fact that it has never worked..despite trying hard)…the escapade stories are really good…this is one more…enjoy.

I have been away from Kerala, my homeland, for
almost 20 years now. The thought of returning for good never crossed my
mind — till last Thursday, when the government spelled out its plan to
make Kerala alcohol-free in ten years.

Before you get ideas of I being a teetotaller, let me make it clear
that I like my whiskey only in large pegs, never small. Those who gasp
at the word prohibition don’t know the fun part of it. Believe me, I
have been there, done that. I landed in Hyderabad in 1995 when NT Rama
Rao had just introduced prohibition. Initially it was frustrating, being
denied one’s weekly quota of ‘mandu,’ as the Telugus call it.

But soon I discovered the pleasure of finding bootleggers, and the
process of procuring booze became as heady as having it. Indeed it was
costly at Rs 500 a bottle of rum and Rs 750 for whiskey, given that
one’s salary then would not be enough to throw a party for a handful of

As a reporter, the battle for the bottle expanded my network of
sources — to watchmen, jawans and the dark underbelly of Hyderabad.
There was Raju, a bank watchman at day and bootlegger at night. 

I don’t
know about the safety of the bank’s vaults near Khairatabad, but Raju
guarded his crate of Hercules Rum like a sentinel. One had to clank the
latch on the bank’s gate a specific number of times in a peculiar rhythm
that only Raju and his regular clients knew — and this he kept changing
every week — and Raju would emerge from the dark, the bottle cradled in
his arms.

Then there was John (hi John, hope you have retired and aghast in
Kerala) an army man at a barrack near Nampalli station. At midnight, I
would sneak into the nondescript building that was the shelter of a
dozen jawans, and ask for ‘sadhanam.’ Those who didn’t know the code
word and walked in to ask for rum or whiskey were driven away at
gunpoint; you ask for ‘sadhanam’ and a smiling John comes with a bottle
of sparkling dark XXX Rum ‘for defence services only.’

This network endeared me to many senior journalists in Hyderabad. I
was, in effect, the journalists’ bootlegger. Soon after sundown, my
office telephone would start ringing. The bureau chief of another
newspaper wants two bottles of whiskey, there’s a promotion party at his
place; I am invited though. 

Free drinks were the bonus of good
contacts. When I wasn’t in office — those days cell phones were a rarity
— my pager would beep with messages like ‘are we reading or writing
tonight?’ Reading meant rum, writing whiskey. Remember, you had to dial a
call centre to tell the sweet lady your message to be sent to the
friend’s pagers. Code words, you see.

The richer tipplers took to mobile bars. You hop into a car stacked
with liquor, drink as much as you want as the driver takes you through
the city for an hour or two, and you get dropped— happily sloshed. On
weekends, there were ‘conducted tours’ of insipid places on the Andhra
border where the only activity would be binge drinking on Saturdays and
Sundays before you get back to work nursing a hangover.

Prohibition as a state policy dates back to the Xia Dynasty in China
more than 4,000 years ago. Several countries and a few Indian states
have tried to impose the dry law, and most of them realised the
stupidity of it sooner than later. In Gujarat, where the law is in
force, you get the best brands of alcohol delivered at your doorstep. In
Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland, where the official dry law runs, you get
the most indigenous of alcohol, distilled from rice, bamboo shoots and

I can’t wait to have all these in Kerala. In Chennai, I have to
grapple with my sufficiently drunk brethren at dingy Tasmac shops. Soon,
in Kerala, I could put my feet up, dial the nearest bootlegger and say:
“Make it a double large, Mr Chandy.”


Link: make-it-a-double-large-mr-chandy




Suicide Tourism

611 people not resident in Switzerland had
been helped to die between 2008 and 2012….all but four of whom had gone to
Dignitas….ages ranged from 23 to 97….over half of the ‘tourists’ were women.
Unlike the Caliphate-bound, hip-hop artists lusting after head-less homies, these Switzerland-bound folks are the gentle and thoughtful type. They kill themselves, presumably because they feel guilty of being a burden on their near and dear ones.

Indian patriots should be pleased…as of now the score reads: India: 1, China: 0. But this should be no ground for complacency, as they say, a good start is only half the game.

Switzerland (Canton of Zurich to be precise) is the primary beneficiary of suicide tourism because of Dignitas, the NGO foundation, which performs/advocates for euthanasia of unfit people – the old, the infirm, the tired and the sick (see link below). Just as Irish women travel to the UK for terminating pregnancies, scores of British (and German) tourists are traveling to Switzerland for terminating lives.

It is not our place to comment on public policy but we observe that tourism in India is facing some head-winds (lack of safety for women, lack of alcohol…even in God’s own country). Just like surrogacy tourism, suicide tourism can be a potentially new line of business. And unlike Dignitas, in India you have an infinite ways to end your life.

It is our understanding that this is very much in line with Indian (Hindu) culture and tradition. In Vedic times, a person’s life was divided into four phases or the Chatur-Ashram: Brahmacharya (study time as a child), Garhasthya (family time as a couple), Vana-prastha (literally escape to the forest, leaving the family behind) and finally, Sanyas (live your life out in the forest). The average age of the suicide tourist today is 69, which is exactly following the Vana-prastha/Sanyas mode.

The message (then and now) seems to be clear: do NOT trouble your family or the larger society with your old age problems. This concept of a life without value is also applicable to youth with health problems (presently as young as 23). It is surely a matter of great pride that people world-wide are appreciating (and following) age-old wisdom about old age.


The numbers of ‘suicide tourists’ going to Switzerland to take their own lives
have doubled within four years with citizens from Germany and UK contributing
to the largest per cent. Those with neurological conditions, such as paralysis, motor neurone disease,
Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis, account for almost half of the cases.

While 123 people undertook suicide tourism in 2008, the number rose to 172 in
2012. The data shows that nationals from 31 different countries were helped to die in
Switzerland between 2008 and 2012, with German (268) and UK (126) nationals
making up almost two thirds of the total. Other countries in the top 10 include France (66), Italy (44), USA (21),
Austria (14), Canada (12), Spain and Israel (each with 8).

The data base made public on Thursday morning shows one case from India as well
in 2012.

The study by Oxford University looked at whether the availability of suicide
tourism in Switzerland had prompted changes in the law on assisted suicide

While assisted suicide (AS) is strictly restricted in many countries including
India, it is not clearly regulated by law in Switzerland. This imbalance leads
to an influx of people — suicide tourists — coming to the Canton of Zurich with
the sole purpose of committing suicide. Political debate regarding ‘suicide
tourism’ is taking place in many countries. Swiss medico legal experts are
confronted with these cases almost daily, which prompted our scientific
investigation of the phenomenon, said the researchers.

Researchers therefore searched the databases of the Institute of Legal Medicine
in Zurich for information on investigations and post mortem examinations among
non-Swiss nationals who had been helped to take their own lives between 2008
and 2012.

The search revealed that 611 people who were not resident in Switzerland had
been helped to die between 2008 and 2012, all but four of whom had gone to
Their ages ranged from 23 to 97, with the average being 69; over half (58.5%)
of the ‘tourists’ were women, who were 40% more likely to choose assisted
suicide in Switzerland than men.

The rises were particularly steep in certain countries,
especially Italy — up from 4 in 2009 to 22 in 2012, and France, up from 7 in
2009 to 19 in 2012. Overall, the numbers of people being helped to die in Switzerland doubled
between 2009 and 2012.

The study published on Thursday in the Journal of Medical Ethics suggest that
the phenomenon of suicide tourism, which is unique to Switzerland, has prompted
legislative changes and/or serious debate in Germany, the UK, and France—the
principal sources of this type of tourism.

Six official voluntary right-to-die organisations are active in Switzerland and
offer AS to their members, providing that they fulfil various conditions. Four
of the six organisations also offer suicide assistance to people who are
neither Swiss citizens nor resident in Switzerland, but who come from other
European countries, for example, the UK, France and Italy, where AS is
restricted by law and anyone contravening this law may be liable to several
years’ imprisonment.

The paper says “our results show that AS is chosen 1.4 times more often by
women. The median age of the suicide tourists in our study was 69 years, an age
at high risk of malignancy or chronic disease. After a decrease between 2008
and 2009, the number of suicide tourists doubled between 2009 and 2012.

“With respect to the underlying diseases, our results showed that
neurological diseases were the reason for AS in nearly half of the study group.
Neurological diseases and rheumatic diseases increased between 1990 and 2012,
while cancer became less common. These results imply that non-fatal diseases or
diseases that are not yet end stage are more often becoming the reason for
seeking AS.”

The authors said, “The phenomenon of suicide tourism has been growing over
the years and is still increasing unabated. Our results showed an increasing
proportion of neurological and rheumatic diseases diagnosed among the suicide
tourists. This implies that non-fatal diseases are increasing among suicide
tourists and probably also among Swiss residents, although potential suicide
tourists with a terminal illness might not be able to travel to a foreign

“The phenomenon of suicide tourism unique to Switzerland can indeed result
in amendment or supplementary guidelines to existing regulations in foreign
countries, as shown by our examples of the top three countries from which
suicide tourists traveled. Political debate in Switzerland and other countries
is continuing, with the possibility of further amendments in the near future,
in both Switzerland and elsewhere, unless Switzerland issues clear and
structured regulations on suicide tourism.”


Link (1): UK-researchers-confirm-worrying-increase-in-suicide-tourism

Link (2):



“Jihadi John” from Maida Vale

Do you have to be rich (or merely middle-class) to own a 1 mil pound home in Maida Vale, West London (W9)? It is part of posh Westminster and if you are a BPeep looking for a villa in St John’s Wood (just east of Maida Vale, home of Lord’s Cricket Ground) it is likely to cost you upwards of 10 mil pounds!!!

Maida Vale was founded in the 19th century and is named after Sir John Stuart, Count of Maida (1759–1815), who was a British Lieutenant-General during the Napoleonic Wars. Maida is a town in the Calabria region of southern Italy, 31 km west of the provincial capital Catanzaro. The British (under the leadership of Sir John) routed the French in the Battle of Maida in 1806 [ref. Wiki].

Maida Vale is primarily known for Little Venice bordering Regent’s Canal, but it has a new reason to be famous. It is the residence of Jihadi John, also known as Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary. John is a hip-hop artist whose rap music has featured on BBC. He is also a “person of interest” in the beheading of the American photo-journalist James Foley.

Perhaps a future Wiki entry will note that there were two famous Johns in Maida Vale, one who fought on behalf of the Anglos in the Mediterranean and one who fought against them in the Middle-East. Will this John be equally fortunate is his battles? We will shortly find out. 

MI5 and MI6 have identified the British fighter suspected of murdering the
American journalist James Foley, senior government sources confirmed last

The masked man with a London accent, who is said to be known to fellow
fighters as “Jihadi John”, was seen in the shocking video of Foley’s death
released by the Isis extremist army last week. While sources gave no details of the man they have identified, a key suspect
is Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary.

London rapper Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, 23, left his family’s £1million home in Maida Vale to join jihadis in Syria. His father Adel Abdul Bary is a suspected al-Qaeda mastermind extradited to the USA in 2012.

The Islamic State fanatic, whose rap music has featured on BBC
Radio 1 Extra, posted the Twitter picture of himself surrounded by bags
of terrorists’ favourite bomb material PETN, reports the Sunday People. A caption underneath read: “Fireworks ;)”

The Twitter page, which has since been taken down, also showed sick pictures of Bary apparently holding a severed human head. Underneath the horrifying image the depraved Londoner wrote: “Chillin with my other homie, or whats left of him.”


Link (1):

Link (2):





For a person who started out in adverts and jingles, Pradeep Sarkar is not half bad as a director (his photography is exquisite). We loved Parineeta (and we fell in love with the heavenly Vidya Balan).

Compared to the (slow cooked) celebration of (old Kolkata) nostalgia in Parineeta, Mardaani is a rough and tough thriller which zips through the jungles of Mumbai. We are not much of a Rani Mukherjee fan (her cousin Kajol is truly wonderful). However in Mardaani she (and her support cast) is very good.

This is a movie which show-cases strong women (Rani as Inspector Shivani Shivaji Roy and Priyanka Sharma as the street girl Pyari) in memorable roles and that is always a plus point in our book. Finally (and most importantly) the villains are authentic bad-ass and arouses just the right amount of revulsion. Good show!!!
Mardaani is a marked departure from convention. For one, the film is inspired by dire newspaper headlines and alarming United Nations reports about India’s missing girls. 
Moreover, in deference to its solemn theme and purpose, Mardaani completely abjures the musical interludes and glitzy frills that the banner usually revels in peddling. And,
last but not least, the film’s policewoman-protagonist has no romantic
interest to deflect her from her mission to rescue a teenage orphan who
has gone missing from an Andheri shelter home.

scores because it adopts an uncluttered approach to the tale of a
fearless Mumbai crime branch officer who pulls out the stops to counter
the wiles of a smooth-talking child sex trafficker in Delhi.

Director Pradeep Sarkar, coming off the twin debacles of Laaga Chunari Mein Daag and Lafangey Parindey after the high of Parineeta, hits all the right buttons this time around.

Senior Inspector Shivani Shivaji Roy is given no grand entry scene. She is introduced even as the credits roll.

moment she is engaged in friendly banter with her team of cops in a
police jeep over the angry wife of their stern and unrelenting boss. The very next the armed lady leads a raid on a brothel to nab a fugitive criminal.

Datta’s editing is suitably spiky and cinematographer Artur Zurawski
captures the action without letting his camera get overly obtrusive.

lead actress, who despite being required to spout cuss words, does not
merely deliver dialogues; she speaks her lines with emotion and
directness. Rani does not take recourse to the kind of grandstanding that one usually encounters in Bollywood police action flicks.

the way the character of Senior Inspector Shivani Shivaji Roy turns
out, credit is largely due to the screenplay by Gopi Puthran, who is
also the film’s associate director.

On one hand, Mardaani
invokes the spirit of the Rani of Jhansi in its title itself, as also
of that mythical fount of feminine invincibility, Goddess Durga. The
latter is evoked as a prelude to an anthem that plays on the soundtrack
as the rousing, if somewhat over-dramatic, climax reaches its crescendo
at a point that is well under two hours into the film.

On the other, Mardaani invites inevitable comparisons with the many Bollywood superheroes in uniform that we meet every so often on the big screen. But Shivani Shivaji Roy, a Marathi mulgi wedded to a Bengali doctor (Jisshu Sengupta in a cameo), is a far saner version of Chulbul Pandey and Bajirao Singham.

achievements may be just as heroic as those of the aforementioned
crime-busters, but the methods that she employs are infinitely more
sedate and within the realms of probability.

Sharma makes her presence felt in the guise of the street girl Pyari,
whose abduction is the film’s principal flashpoint.

Because Shivani Shivaji Roy is not your average action ‘hero’, she might not appeal to Dabangg junkies. But for everyone else, Mardaani could be well worth a trip to the multiplex.


Link: mardaani-movie-review




Lion vs. porcupines

…Ananthamurthy said he would not want to live in an
India where the prime minister is Narendra Modi….”I would get phone calls asking me, ‘when are you leaving’?…I would like to visit Pakistan! I have friends there who love India”….“Modi wants India to be a lion but as a Gandhian I can tell you that
Gandhiji wanted India to be a porcupine”…..

As a metaphor it feels appropriate for now….a proud porcupine is any day better than a cowardly lion. Growing up in tiger-land, we know that even big cats are wary of the prickly little creatures. But why stop there? As India grows in strength and sheds its physical (and mental) shackles, she should aim to be an elephant– social, gentle (if you do not harm them), intelligent, and loving, welcoming of orphans (refugees) and quite capable of defending against vicious beasts.

Speaking of elephants and orphans, here is news (fairly typical) from the animal kingdom last week.
A six-months-old male baby elephant which had got separated from its
mother and was partially drowned in a river got its new mother in a
captive female elephant at Rajaji National Park (RNP). The female
elephant too accepted the calf by cuddling it.

According to
Nitishmani Tripathi, division forest officer of Lansdowne forest
division, the calf was found struggling to float in the Rawasan river at
5pm on Tuesday. The calf was rescued and was taken to a forest camp.

DVS Khati chief wildlife warden told TOI, “The elephants are social by
nature. In an elephant herd, when a calf is separated or its mother dies
then other female elephants accept and nurse the calf. In common
parlance, it is known as ‘auntie syndrome’ where other female elephants
become mother or aunts of the motherless calf. ” 


Now the lion of Gujarat has a (well deserved) reputation of crushing challengers without even bothering to shake his mane. However there are still a few porcupines who have no fear, who keep shooting thorns at the king (just like them Hamas rockets??). One example is the classical dance exponent Mallika Sarabhai, daughter of Mrinalini and Vikram Sarabhai (the father of  the Indian space program).  

Another one is the celebrated Kannada author Udupi Rajagopal-Acharya (UR) Anantha-Murthy (21 December 1932 – 22 August 2014). Please note below the excellent profiles by Sudheendra Kulkarni and Ramchandra Guha as well as a very special AIR Mysore interview with URA himself.

The reflections are mostly about Mysore – where bananas and giant pumpkins are abundant and people are generous, where oceans of knowledge are to be explored in the Maharaja’s college, and the bitter-sweet memories of marrying a Christian girl – as it was half a century ago.
It is true that over time Indian politics has become more democratic (the Leader is a Shudra while the main opposition party is led in the Parliament by a Dalit – Mallikarjuna Kharge from Karanataka). Unfortunately it has also become more shrill and people seem to be losing their sense of propriety. Prof. Ananthamurthy is a national icon, and when he passed away it is reasonable to wish for a dignified send-off. But that was not to be. Even as the Prime Minister was quick to send his condolences, Hindutva-vadis were bursting crackers and celebrating. This is not a good thing and Sudheendra Kulkarni is right to condemn it.

Of course URA was a petty man at times, especially in the way he used to bad-mouth Santeshivara Lingannaiah (SL) Bhyrappa, the all-time popular Kannada novelist who writes from the right field. But that is just professional (and ideological) jealousy. Again in such match-ups it is the skill (and fore-sight) that counts- SLB in his recent, rousing novel Avarana has a shifty character who resembles URA!!! With time people will (may) forget the masters but not their creations. It will be a pity if future generations recognize URA only from a book composed by his rival in arts.
Ananthamurthy, Girish Karnad, Gopalakrishna Adiga are all recognized as luminaries in the Marxist-Socialist universe that drove the glorious Navya (new) movement in Kannada literature. Now they are all fading away or gone, just when the left as a whole is dying in India and the right is on the ascendant. Again it is a pity that literature has become so politicized (primarily driven by the need for getting grants in India and acceptance in the West). 

If some one wishes to enjoy an authentic Indian view (and viewpoint), our advise is to avoid the Indians-in-English “lions” and try instead the “vernacular porcupines” (best if read in the original, however excellent translations are now available). Samskara by UV Ananthamurthy (and Parva by SL Bhyarappa) are too good to be ignored by Indians who would like to know more about their history and culture, and to comprehend what needs to be preserved, and what needs to be thrown away. 

UR Ananthamurthy, the great
Jnanpith laureate Kannada writer who passed away in Bangalore on August
22 at the age of 82, will long be remembered for his controversial
remarks on Narendra Modi (before he became the prime minister) in the
run-up to the last parliamentary elections. “I’ll leave India if
Narendra Modi ever became India’s PM,” he had said, a statement that he
later withdrew.

there is far more to Ananthamurthy as a writer than the controversy
over a non-literary matter that he invited upon himself. A person from
literature should be judged, and remembered, primarily on the basis of
his or her creative writing. 

Literature is a product of solitude. It is
also read and experienced in solitude. Best fiction illuminates human
condition immensely more than either journalism or political discourse.

If this is true, then there is no doubt that all those who have read
Ananthamurthy’s novels or short stories, both in original Kannada and in
translation, will forever cherish him – and his characters such as
Praneshacharya in his most acclaimed novel Samskara (1965) – in their hearts.

I read Samskara
when I was studying in the seventh or eighth standard, in my little
home town Athani in Karnataka. I have re-read it several times
thereafter. It left a haunting effect on me.

Praneshacharya, its
protagonist, is a pious and scholarly priest living in a Brahmin village
where moral corruption and hypocrisy abound beneath the veneer of
religiosity. A peculiar set of circumstances, unleashed by the outbreak
of plague in the village and culminating in him getting attracted to a
noble-hearted prostitute, push him into a vortex of moral dilemmas. He
finds himself compelled to question Brahmin orthodoxy’s many verities
about untouchability, sex and bookish knowledge.

is not an overtly political novel. However, its story of how
Praneshacharya confronts his own socially inherited convictions about
the meaning and purpose of life contributed in some way to the awakening
of the rebel in me early in my own life. That rebellious attitude
shaped my response to the Emergency Rule (1975-77) imposed by former
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. 

I was a student at IIT Bombay those days
and got involved in Left-wing anti-Emergency activities both on and off
campus. When Snehalata Reddy, a committed Bangalore-based socialist and a
close associate of Ananthamurthy died during the Emergency, a victim of
torture in prison, I wrote a letter (in Kannada) to Ananthamurthy
expressing my anguish over the death of democracy in India and the need
to strengthen our collective voice against it. Ananthamurthy, whose own
allegiance lay with non-Marxist socialism espoused by Mahatma Gandhi and
Dr Rammanohar Lohia, wrote back to me with words of encouragement and

Incidentally, Snehalata Reddy was the heroine who played the role of Chandri, the prostitute, in the cinematic rendition of Samskara.
Girish Karnad acted as Praneshacharya in this gem of a black-and-white
movie, produced in 1970 by Snehalata’s husband and fellow-socialist
Pattabhi Rama Reddy. It became a trailblazer in Kannada cinema and went
on to win many national and international awards. Ananthamurthy’s short
story Ghatashraddha was made into another widely acclaimed film by Girish Kasaravalli in 1977.

Ananthamurthy’s other novels Bharathipura, Avasthe and Divya did not reach the story-telling excellence of Samskara.
I often felt that his literary creation was hampered by his activism.
Yet, as an activist and a public intellectual, he was always very
original and incisive in his thinking and in the way he responded to the
world around him. 

He stuck his neck out for the causes he believed in,
as is evident from his close association with the environmental
movement, his deep sympathy for the empowerment of Dalits, and his
spirited struggle for the protection of mother tongues in India. He
felt, rightly, that the great literary creations in Bharatiya languages
were overshadowed by several mediocre, but commercially successful and
globally more recognised works of Indian writers in English. He was a
patron of progressive theatre, especially Neenasam, a legendary cultural
institution in rural Karnataka founded by his friend KV Subbanna.

was a strong critic of the RSS and the BJP throughout his life.
Promotion of Hindu-Muslim amity was a cause very dear to him.
Yet, he
was a great admirer of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and the admiration was
mutual. When the former Prime Minister went to Bangladesh on a
pathbreaking visit in 1999, he had taken Ananthamurthy (and also the
late Ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh) as a member of his delegation. I met
him for the first time on that trip and we spent a lot of time on the
flight and in Dhaka conversing in Kannada.

Ananthamurthy was
non-traditionalist and yet he had almost a reverential admiration for
the good aspects of India’s cultural and spiritual heritage. I remember
one essay in which he posed an important question, which I am
paraphrasing here:  

“Why is it that even the best of political,
governance, educational and business institutions get weakened,
corroded, eroded and extinct with the passage of time, whereas several
religion-inspired institutions such as maths and seminaries remain alive
and vibrant for centuries? Is it because the former have their
foundation in the transient material world, in contrast to the eternal
certainties that the latter believe in? Is this the reason why people’s
allegiance to the former is always fickle, and to the latter fixed?”


He was
always full of laughter and lived life intensely even when sick. For
the last 10 years he has been critical many times. Through it all he
kept going. Till his last breath he was engaged—intellectually and
politically — which is so admirable.

The biggest loss is that
of a genuine public intellectual. I wrote a piece for his 80th birthday.
I said at the end of it that when he dies, his death will be mourned in
every district of Karnataka. When an English writer like me dies,
maybe, India International Centre will have a memorial meeting. Full
stop. He has such deep roots in society. I don’t think any of the
current writers have that kind of organic connection.

Writer as
a public intellectual, as a moral conscience of society – that’s a
phenomenon that was once quite common in every linguistic group in
India. URA is almost the last representative of it. As society gets more
commercialized, as writing itself gets commercialized, this larger than
life role of the writers gets reduced. He’s the last of the kind.

Twenty years ago, 40 years ago, we had Shivaram Karanth here, PK Atre
in Maharashtra, Nirmal Verma in the Hindi-speaking world, Mahashweta
Devi in Bengal — novelists who took a stand on public issues; who were
seen as conscience-like figures.
This tradition goes back to the 19th
century, to Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, later to Tagore. After print
arrived in India, novels, literary journals, newspapers began to appear
and from then onwards writers occupied an important position in moulding
public debate. They wrote essays and fiction on social reforms, women,
caste, India’s place in the world.

Today, as professions get
more specialized that tradition’s slowly eroding. As writers focus more
on their craft, career, books, advances and contracts, the larger role
is lost. I would say URA and Mahashweta Devi were the last of the those
who were also prominent public figures.


Abdul Rasheed: Welcome to AIR and welcome back to Mysore. What memories
do you carry of Mysore as you plan to return?

U.R. Anantha Murthy: When I come to Mysore, I feel like a student and a
teacher, which is what I was in this City. That trait is very important to me.
And as I come here to AIR, I have very fond memories of being first recognised
and identified as a writer by Mysore Akashvani.

Rasheed: You came to Mysore in 1950-51 from Tirthahalli after
taking part in a farmers’ struggle, after missing classes…

URA: And after failing in my exams.

Rasheed: Yes, after failing in your exams. Can you take us back
more than half a century to the Mysore of the days when you arrived here?

URA: There was a book-shop here called Progressive Book Stall,
run by D.R. Krishnamurthy or DRK as we knew him. As a socialist, I had a
passing acquaintance of DRK and he took me first to the house of Bharat Raj
. Although I had fought on behalf of Kannada medium, I had wanted to
do BA honours in English.

One of my earliest memories is of
Bharath Raj Singh giving me a list of books that had Jane Austen and T.S.
on them. I said I could him a different list, which had Gorky
and Shelley and others on them.

The point I am trying to make is
that I began growing in Mysore, and not just through teachers. When I went to K.V.
’s room I learnt. When I went to the Coffee House I learnt. To tell
you the truth to tell, we rarely went to college. We spent a lot of time in harate.

There was a canteen called Iyer’s
where we had an account. That was the era of one-by-two in Mysore.
Whatever we had, whether it was dosa or coffee, we had them in fractions of
And we would do this several times a day. In the mid-50s, when the
formation of Karnataka was underway, a joke began doing the rounds that in
Mysore there was a demand for two Karnatakas because we even wanted Karnataka

Rasheed: When you look at modern writing in Kannada, especially
after the Navodaya movement, there is a certain shyness, a kind of digbhrame,
that a young writer from a smaller town or village brings when he steps into a
bigger city. As someone who came from a small village yourself, when did you
gain the courage, when did you find your feet in Mysore?

URA: Actually, there was never any adhairya in Mysore.
In the Mysore of those days, there was never the kind of wealth that you see,
say, now in Bangalore. If there were one or two cars on the roads, we knew
whose cars they were. If there were a couple of motorcycles, we knew whose they

If there was anything overwhelming,
it was the knowledge and culture of the place.

When we were at Maharaja’s College,
every morning the word would go around, ‘Kuvempu barthidarante!’
(Kuvempu is coming), and sure enough he would come on a jataka gaadi. He
would get down, not look at anybody, not look this side or that, and then get
into the college. We would wait to see that.

Then word would go around, ‘DLN barthidarante!’
(D.L. Narasimhaiah is coming), and sure enough DLN would come in a peta
with an umbrella, holding it like a stick, never ever aware that it had a hold!

Then there was the founder of Mysore
Akashvani, M.V. Gopalaswamy. As I was coming into this interview, I
found a picture of his in the director’s office looking nice and regal in a zari
peta and coat. But that’s not the image I have from college where he
wore a jubba-pyjama.

There was great simplicity in the
Mysore of those days but there was an even greater ocean of knowledge in
Maharaja’s College. There were great speakers. If a good poet was to conduct a
reading, the Junior BA Hall would be overflowing to the aisles.

Rasheed: At Sarvajanika Hostel, you stayed with Subbanna, Kadidal
Shamanna, G.H. Nayak

URA: No. Subbanna stayed at Maharaja’s College hostel. Those
who had a little more money could afford to stay there. But yes, G.H. Nayak and
I stayed at Sarvajanika Hostel. For a few days, initially, I stayed at the
Suttur hostel because my father couldn’t afford to send me much.

But even so, we would manage to get
good food, free food at the Sarvajanika Hostel in Chamundipuram. It was run by
a Gandhian called Subbanna, who would go to the countryside each morning
and bring giant pumpkins and wonderful bananas every day for us boys.

I used to walk to College each day,
and I remember jumping up in the air and plucking twigs and leaves off the
avenue trees when I got a good idea or a nice thought passed through my mind!

What I remember from those days is
how much we would talk. G.H. Nayak and I would talk endlessly in our hostel
room. Then we would come to Subbanna’s room in the Maharaja College hostel and
talk some more. A magazine called Varsity Times had been started by Raghavan
and we would contribute there…

Rasheed: You have been all that any young Kannadiga would aspire to
be. What did you want to be when you were growing up.

URA: If I am a writer, it is because of the memories of my
youth. It’s like a trust from which I can keep drawing endlessly. I was born in
Melige but grew up in Kerekoppa. Ours was the only home in the whole forest,
and whoever came home would tell stories of tigers. I come from a time when
currency notes were still not around and the bearys (muslim merchants)
passing by would sell us paddy and my mother would give them betelnuts in

My father was a shanbhoga who
traveled around. A teacher came home to teach because I couldn’t go to school,
and even when I did so, it was to a Kannada school. From where I came, even
Tirthahalli, which was but a small village, seemed like a big town.
Tirthathalli was my world.

There was somebody called Charles
. I would take his medications to different people, one of whom was
a man called Srinivas Joshi who, even in those days, had shortened it to
‘Sinha’. He used to listen to the BBC on a dynamo he had cranked up. He used to
speak with an exaggerated accent he had picked up by listening to the radio. In
effect, when I was growing up, I could read a Bernard Shaw play, hear
about the Bhagwad Gita at school, and discuss dvaita/advaita
philosophies at the mutt. I became a writer because so many worlds commingled
in little Tirthahalli.

I told Malcolm Bradbury when
we met in Europe that occidental history is like a straight line; oriental
history is a curving one where centuries coexist. It was in Tirthahalli I
realised that, understood that. I met all kinds of people in a small place. It
is said Somerset Maugham traveled the world with a notebook to learn
the essence of life and Kafka sat in a room for the same objective. Yet
Kafka came out with a better world-view. Growing up in Tirthahalli was like

Rasheed: You were talking about your school shirt…

URA: Yes. I was a Brahmin boy who had been reared on strict
notions of madi and all that. My grandfather was very insistent on some
of these rituals. The shirt I wore to school was kept far and away from the
madi clothes and I would hang it on a nail on the wall.

It was at school, while wearing this
shirt, that I would come in touch with people of all castes—Muslims, Dalits,
Gowdas, everybody. I became a writer not by wearing madi clothes but by
wearing my school shirt. I was telling this to M.T. Vasudevan Nair, the
Malayalam writer, and he agreed. I became a writer by going to school, a common

Today, unfortunately, our kids go to
one kind of school and the children of poor people go to another kind of
school. The shared knowledge, the shared wisdom that was available to all of us
is no longer available to modern children. Our children are inhabiting
different Indias. I feel very much about this.

Rasheed: Kuvempu wanted to be an English writer. You too wrote in
English. Yet, you veered back to Kannada. Just what is it about Kannada that
drew you back?

URA: Kuvempu wrote very well in English. Bendre too
could write in English. In my middle-school, I had started a magazine called Taringini
which had pieces in Kannda, English and Sanskrit!

If we stayed with Kannada it’s
because we grew within it. We heard it night and day, at home, school, market,
everywhere we went. Those who know many languages accept the supremacy of one
of them and write in it. Those who know only one language—the niraksharavadigalu—they
are the one who have saved Kannada. I don’t mean to say we need more niraksharavadigalu,
I mean that it is they who have kept alive our art, dance, folk.

I went to Europe. The result was I
had the influences of Kannada, folk and the West. It is not possible to be so
rich in English. If I had started writing in English, I would have lost my
childhood. Writing in English takes you further away from your past, your
relatives, your friends, from your roots. That’s why you find such a strong
streak of socialism in Kuvempu, Bendre, Masti, Karanth. It’s because
they wrote in Kannada.

Rasheed: Tell us some more on your meetings with Tejaswi.

URA: I happened to marry a Christian girl (Esther). It
was difficult to get a house on rent. It was Tejaswi who found us accommodation
in Vontikoppal. It was a small house but a very beautiful house, which is where
my son (Sharat) was born.

Early in the morning, Tejaswi would
come home and we talk on this, that and the other. Then we would cycle off to
Coffee House, he on his cycle and me on mine, with my pregnant wife on the
carrier behind. And there would talk some more.

Then we would break off to go to Devaraja
Market and buy vegetables. Ah, the market, it was so beautiful, the fruits
stalls, the flower stalls, the sandige-happala stalls… There was only
one shop which had Nanjangud rasabaale, and the owner was such a stern
man that if we haggled over the price, he would refuse to sell us the bananas!
Mysore, back then, was a very special city.


Link (1): the-modi-controversy-did-this-great-writer-a-disservice-by-sudheendra-kulkarni

Link (2): A-moral-voice-has-fallen-silent

Link (3):