Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Vande Mataram is the national song of India and is sung on Republic Day. It was written by legendary Bengali author Bankim Chandra Chatterjee in a mixture of Bengali and Sanskrit in his novel 'Anandamatha' published in 1882. It was a hymnal tribute to our imprisoned mother India. Vande Mataram was first sung by Nobel laureate, Rabindranath Tagore in 1896 at a political session of the Indian National Congress. Vande Mataram gave the much-required fillip to the struggle for independence. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari,men, women and children sang this hymn with patriotic fervour and courted arrest. After India gained independence, the first two verses of Vande Mataram were adopted as the national song to be held at par with the national anthem.

Muslims however are not happy with the song as it is in praise of Durgamata.T hey refuse to sing it as they consider it to be against the tenets of Islam. Ironically, Oscar-winning music composer, A. R. Rahman, a Muslim, rendered another touching version of Vande Mataram that is regarded as the second most famous song in the world.

vande mātaram
sujalāṃ suphalāṃ
śasya śyāmalāṃ
vande mātaram

I bow to thee, Mother,
richly-watered, richly-fruited,
cool with the winds of the south,
dark with the crops of the harvests,
i bow to thee, Mother!

śubhra jyotsnā
pulakita yāminīm
phulla kusumita
sumadhura bhāṣiṇīm
sukhadāṃ varadāṃ
vande mātaram.

Her nights rejoicing
in the glory of the moonlight,
her lands clothed beautifully
with her trees in flowering bloom,
sweet of laughter,
sweet of speech,
The Mother,
giver of boons, giver of bliss!
I bow to thee,Mother!

Let us all sing this hymn in praise of our Motherland every morning!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Sabarimala Tragedy-It Could Have Been Avoided

The tragic stampede at Sabarimala on Makara Sankranti day this year when 102 people were killed and 55 people injured caused by a jeep which crashed into them could have been avoided. It has once again brought to centre stage the phenomenon of the flash of light that appears three times every year without fail on this auspicious day. Every year thousands of devotees throng Sabarimala to witness the flashing light across the eastern skies off the shrine. It is generally held by devotees that it is a divine phenomenon, whereas rationalists see it as a hoax on the gullible people committed by the Devaswom Board authorities. Even the Kerala High Court has asked the TDB to clarify the cause of this happening- whether there is a human hand behind it or whether it is a divine dispensation. Undoubtedly, this whole subject cannot be settled legally as it falls under the zone of belief and traditions. People often confuse between Makara Jyothi and Makara Vilakku.Makara Jyothi is supposed to be natural.It is the appearance of a star in the evening of Makara Sankranti day, while Makara Vilakku is admittedly man made.It is a fire which is lit in a hill neighbouring the Sabarimala Hill. It is an unnnecessary controversy hiding the real issue. Why did this stampede take place? It was not because of Vilakku or Jyothi but because of lack of proper facilities for pilgrims.

Interestingly, eminent architect late Laurie Baker had prepared a report about fifteen years back on how without damaging the environment basic amenities could be provided for the pilgrims.He travelled from Pampu to Sabarimala Hill through the thick rainforests when he was 79, no mean a task at that age.In a 36 page report full of illustrations and drawings in his own hands,he had warned that if the roads leading to Pampa ,the base camp, is not made into a fourlane walkway,we would be waiting for a disaster to happen.His prophecy has come true. He emphasised on drinking water,sanitation and cool and shady trees on both sides which would provide relief to the pilgrims who undertake this steep climb to the temple atop. All this was to be done with minimum disturbance to the environment. About 50 million pilgrims visit Sabarimala every year and about 1.5 million pilgrims watch the Makara Jyothi. The Devasom Board and the Kerala Government earn huge revenues from this massive inflow of people. The least that they could do is to follow Laurie Baker's recommendations.

Let them learn from this Makara Sankranti's tragedy and create the basic infrastructure and facilities required for safely enduring an arduous journey by the Ayyappa devotees.

Hopefully the Travancore Devasom Board will wake up and follow what Laurie Baker in his brilliant report has recommended so that another tragedy of this magnitude can be prevented in future.

Sharanam Ayyappa.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Aamir Khan has been three times unlucky in the Oscar so far. It was 'Lagaan' first,then 'Tare Zameen Par' and now it is 'Peepli LIve' which is this year's India's official entry to the Oscars. It has failed to appear in the final nine list.There were 66 films vying for the Oscar in the Best Foreign Language film category. The list will be pruned down further to five nominees by the Academy voters for January 25 Oscar nominations.The 83rd Academy Awards will take place on February 27, 2011, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood.

Peepli LIVE is a telling satire on how the media trivialises the suicide of farmers.It was directed by first-timer Anusha Rizvi.
It focusses on politicians, bureaucrats, television reporters and the local people. PEEPLI LIVE makes a scathing attack on the functioning of media in India and how they would go to any extent to improve their TRP ratings.
Natha (Omkar Das Manikpuri), is a poor farmer from Peepli village in the heart of rural India. He is about to lose his plot of land as he has defaulted in paying back a government loan. Natha chooses to commit suicide so that his family may benefit from government's aid to farmers who commit suicide. His brother (Raghubur Yadav) is glad to push him towards this objective.

Local elections are around the corner and what might have been another tragic but innocuous incident turns into a big tamasha, with everyone wanting a piece of the cake.All descend upon poor sleepy Peepli to push their agenda. Natha's mother (Farrukh Jaffer]) and his wife [Shalini Vatsa] are perenially quarelling,while his young son urges his father to go through with the suicide so he can use the money to become a policeman. One TV journalist, in a desperate search for a new angle, tries to examine Natha's faeces to determine his emotional state. Nobody seems to care how Natha really feels.

It's a well written and well executed film that deals with a serious issue in a humorous manner. It keeps your attention on the screen all the time. Anusha Rizvi does a great job as a director and handles the subject in a very mature manner.Music is ethnic and cinematography excellent. Manikpuri is brilliant as Natha. Raghubir Yadav as the opportunist brother does well. Malaika Shenoy,as the television reporter, is refreshing. Shalini Vatsa, as Natha's wife puts up a great performance. So does Farrukh Jaffer,Natha's bed-ridden mother.The constant bickering between the two adds humour to the plot. Naseeruddin Shah as the shrewd politician is exceptional. Others in the cast put in good performances.

This brilliant film produced and directed by Aamir Khan,I thought, was a sure winner in the Oscars this year for its original story and outstanding acting by Natha. Hope Aamir is lucky the next time.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Jumbo Onions

Onions are dangerous vegetables for politicians.They have caused collapse of governments in the past.They threaten to do so today.They also bring lots of tears to the common man.

For more than a month onions have ruled the roost.At Rs 70 and Rs 80 per kg,unheard of and unimaginable.But then as they say who cares.A sensitive government should have anticipated the bad crop in Maharashtra which produces 80% of the country's onions and taken positive action.Exports of onions were allowed to go on when an imminent shortage of onions in the domestic market was expected.As usual,the bureaucrats slept and caused lots of pain to the aam aadmi.

Knee jerk reactions like importing from Pakistan were taken. That also did not last long.Then we rushed to China and imported some quantitites. Meanwhile what arrived from Pakistan were rotting in the port. Now, people may like the Chinese onions.They are twice the size of our normal onions and weigh about 250 to 300 gms each.The Chinese believe in big sizes.Whatever they do is huge.But will the imports continue? And stop the tears. Or will the stapled visa controversy stop the Chinese imports?

Union Minister Sharad Pawar was blamed. Rahul Gandhi had a subtle dig. And NCP reacted by saying that they can go alone.BJP accused the PM of being a bad economist as he allowed the prices of onions and other vegetables to shoot up to dizzy heights.

Meanwhile,the crop this time around seems to be good. The prices have fallen and might reach normalcy in another month.Let us hope the Government learns a lesson.Luckily for them the elections are not around.Otherwise,they would have got a solid thrashing.Onions may not remain in centre stage anymore.

Just a thought. Why can't we think of jumbo onions? Has it got something to do with GM vegetables? Then Jairam Ramesh may jump into the fray and not allow it to be grown like he did with brinjals.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A 'Marathon' Walk

For the last few months, I have been suffering from intense pain on my right leg. Right from the hip upto the calf. After lot of medical investigations,including MRI et al, I was told that I was suffering from LSS (lumber spinal stenosis). It is a narrowing of the spinal canal carrying nerves down to the feet. This causes the nerves to touch the wall of the spinal canal causing pain and inability to walk. I was advised surgery to enlarge the passage in the canal. I was given drugs for reducing pain. I took them for a week and then stopped them. I went surfing wildly on the internet to know all about LSS. I visited many ayurvedic sites and acupressure sites.They claim that they can cure my problem. I read books on Yogasanas and even bought a DVD on spinal health presented beautifully by Yogacharya Dr Ananda Bhavnani. I haven't yet decided what to do.

I decided to take an half-hour morning walk with my two dogs and my Ipod every morning before starting on a disciplined regimen. Management experts would call this multitasking.The dogs are happy to relieve themselves, I listen to some spiritual music on my Ipod and get a bit of exercise by walking. The results so far have been short of miraculous. The pain has considerably subsided,I am confident of walking long distances once again and I am seriously considering restarting my tennis. What has helped me in this remarkable change? Right posture? The morning walk? Some basic exercises? I don't know. I am not saying that the diagnosis was incorrect. After all Xrays and MRIs don't lie. Maybe this is only a temporary relief and the pain may resurface soon. Well the jury is still out.

This morning I decided to take a long walk right upto Nariman Point to watch the Mumbai Marathon runners. My s-i-l and his brother were also running.That was an added attraction.The excitement in the Marathon seems to have died down. Unlike in the past there were very few people who had come to watch the Marathon runners and cheer them up.The policce had made huge bandobust but frankly lt it was quite unnecessary.There were lot of foreigners particularly from Africa who were participating.

Walking the distance to NP and back home was a breeze.Totally about 4 KM. But it was a marathon walk for me. I felt no pain and I enjoyed it. So,it is going to be more of walks for the next one month before I start on probably a planned Yogic regimen for strengthening my hip and leg muscles.