Read the Printed Word!

Sunday, March 18, 2018


I have always been fascinated by Bharathiyaar’s songs. My father had most of the songs learnt by-heart and had a habit of singing out loudly at home. So ,in the pre-radio days that is the only channel we grew up listening to.

Over the years , with more and more resources available on the Internet, I have read up the songs, commentaries and have listened to various versions of the songs rendered by celebrity singers and commoners alike. Every time I listened to a song, it has been absolutely amazing to note that the great poet’s songs sound as captivating in every avtar, every form at any part of the day.

Recently, I listened to , or I should say ,saw a video version of a song on the you tube presented by the Indian Raga group. It is a channel I follow regularly  and it is heartening to note that the current generation loves the poet as much as we did.  Here it is .

What I liked was the way, the artists moved seamlessly from a classic style to a folk style on the same song, with the same instruments. The words are so beautiful; sound so great, yet so simple to understand, and the flow is so smooth adapting to every style or raagam it is sung in. Tamil being an ancient language, many poets are tempted to use high-flown words to show off their learning. But Bharathiyaar’s songs are so contemporary in style that even though many of the words are hardly ever used in spoken Tamil, every word hits home as if it is your mother speaking.

It is not just the beauty of the words, the meaning conveyed is so sublime that every time you hear a song it is so much more inspiring !

Just to appreciate his writings , one feels, a life time is not enough you wonder how on earth did he compose so much in a short span of twenty odd years !
to listen to  Bharathiyaar's songs  ....  Click 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Aadhaar Card and I

There is much talk, or should we say, heated arguments, in the Social media about Aadhaar card and how it impinges on privacy of citizens. By and large , the elite are disturbed by loss of privacy while the vast majority of the unwashed masses couldn't care less one way or the other, about the whole issue .

There would definitely be some genuine people who like Henry Thoreau believed that any govt can only be detrimental to individual freedom . Those interested in his philosophy can check out “Walden Pond”. It's something like, “I want nothing from the govt,except to be left alone”. That is understandable. people can find a secluded spot and  live with Nature ;No Taxes, No identity and all the privacy you want and more viz, Solitude.

In my opinion, most people who oppose Aadhar , simply want their income and expenditure hidden from the Govt and general public unless they want to disclose something. How else can you explain a person giving minute to minute report of every meal and every event on every social media under a name like 'cool_cat' or 'nameless' , and yet claiming to be “a very private person” when it comes to getting Aadhaar Card issued?

When I first heard about Aadhar Card and Nandan Nilekeni's Project , I could never have imagined the opposition to the venture. Identity cards were already  ubiquitous. People in the corporate world , wear their cards proudly, with a fancy ribbon, during entire period of  working hours, if not 24 x 7. Then you have Passport,Driving license, PAN Card,Voter ID and so on, none of which prompted this kind of threat to privacy as Aadhaar does now.

As an army man, for a long time I had had no card other than the Identity Card issued by the army. It did not have address or phone number and it was not to be photocopied or handed to anyone even temporarily. I had nothing by way of proof of identity or proof of address for anything like opening a bank account. Particularly in the south, it was so difficult to explain that I had no documents at all like telephone bill, electricity bill, Ration Card or Seshan card(Voter Identity Card). Not that we had free electricity just that the electricity charges were directly recovered by our paying authority at Pune, based on reports sent by MES.(Military Engineer Service) , irrespective of where we were stationed.

So, how did we get about in the civvies street ? we had a certificate made by the Battalion about where we lived and worked. Since it had a heading like “To Whomsoever it may concern”, It was generally referred to by soldiers and sailors simply as “whomsoever”. It could be used as “Ek whomsoever chahiye, bank account kholna hai” As for the family members of a soldier, it was even more difficult to provide any kind of proof of their existence.

Coming back to the time when the aadhar card was introduced, we were thrilled. We trooped down to the designated place, where all faujis,serving and retired gathered along with their families to put our thumb impressions.

When the card finally materialized, it was a great day. Though the photo on the card was anything but flattering, it was a card accepted in the civvies street. The magical 12 digits gave us an address proof and identity proof. At last we had something other than “Whomsoever”.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Truth, Half-Truth,Post-Truth, Alternatiive-Truth and anything but Truth

Truth and accuracy are corner stones for any kind of  journalism.

Today journalism includes Web and Social Media besides Print and TV. While Print media can still stick to the orthodox way of News reporting (Truth and accuracy) the other three avtars of journalism shoot from the hip. TRP and sensationalism and being fast on the trigger takes priority over truth and accuracy.

The same incident gets reported by different channels so differently that they don't even look like the same incident; so much so that a good guy in one version becomes the villain in the other.

Here's an incident reported by 

The Right Wing says a police officer was kidnapped on suspicion of being a Muslim. 

The BBC, which can be absolutely non-partisan where no White-man was involved , says simply India Policeman lynched in Kashmir. 

NDTV says "Man opens fire outside Mosque; killed by mob". It is further elaborated; man was taking photographs, when confronted he opened fire. He was caught by people and beaten to death ;police called to restore peace. 

By time you read the third narrative, it appears that a criminal was trying to disturb peace in the area and was brought to justice by law-abiding citizens and the situation was handed over to police.

Having gone through different sources , the headlines and the full story , it is amply clear that it is not the just the style of the individual reporters , but a deliberate stand taken by the Editors, based on their political ideologies and Revenue sources. 

It is really the headlines, sub-headlines and Pictures that matter as not many people read the full story. Even if they do read, it is the headlines and pictures that stick to memory, not the fine print.

Is it possible that there occur genuine gaps in a story ? I doubt . Recently I came across a term "bending of facts, at times beyond breaking point". What a way to refer to  "A white lie"?

If there is something to be happy about, by and large, the bias and prejudices are consistent. Stories which favour the stand taken by a channel are amplified and ones that are against are suppressed.

Our panelists for debates are also so biased , spokesperson or not. A seasoned TV viewer can watch a debate on  TV with the audio switched off; he would still be able to make an accurate guess of who said what . 

As a database enthusiast, all I can think of is to create a database of channels and quantify their bias. Each channel can be given a deviation quotient for Left Wing and Right Wing stories, separately. Then one will be able to compute all and arrive at minimum truth, maximum truth and average truth!

In the battle of Kurukshetra, when Dronacharya was met with misinformation from all directions, he looked up to Yudishtra for the truth. Yudishtra told the truth, though his words were selectively suppressed by Krishna.

Do we have a Yudishtra to look to when we are bombarded with all kinds of truths, half-truths, post-truth,alternate-truth and anything but truth ? The issue is further complicated by fake photographs and videos even from reputed journalists.

Under the circumstances is there any point in reading newspapers or watching TV for news ? May be for advertisements which are more truthful!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Twitterati Times

Today most people live in the cyber world, be it on Twitter , Whatsapp Stock Market or Chess. This is just an attempt to understand the behaviour of Twitterati who spend at least 2-4 hours a day doing over 100 tweets per day . (This , in all probability would be more than the conversation they have had with their spouses over a whole week.)

A random bit of statistics as thrown up by google says, “A day's worth of Tweets would fill a 10 million page paper book

Twitter is different from other SM platforms like Whatsapp and Face-book for two reasons. Firstly, there is a 140 characters limit to the posts (though that does not deter some Miltons or Twiltons, from posting a thread a mile long) Tweeting is an art by itself. Secondly, you have only your followers reading your tweet. If you can post an abusive tweet, there is good chance that you would get re-tweeted and reach a larger audience. Another ploy used to reach out is to go piggy back on celebrities as done by people going for crowd funding or doing “missing persons “ posts.

Labeling anything can be so misleading . It gives an idea that we understand but then a label is just a label, not necessarily understanding. The world of medicine gives high sounding names like Idiopathic Polyneutritis to describe a malady, but a cursory look into  Wikipedia is enough to realize that “idiopathy” is just a way of way of saying in Latin that you know f*** all about the disease.

With that disclaimer , let me go about giving some labels to the Twitterati who populate the cyber world.

Firstly we have labels like Bhakts ,(nothing to do with the Bhakti movement of the medieval period) Aaptard, Libtard and so on. We don't know what all else would be suffixed with 'tard ' to coin a derogatory term.While it may be true that the term Bhakt may actually refer to a real devotee of our prime minister, the term is used on anybody who supports the govt on any issue or it may even apply to someone who is not critical of any policy spelt out by the Govt, at any point of time. You cannot be a Rahul Bhakt. In case you are devoted to the Feroz Gandhi (just to differentiate from Mahatma Gandhi) family, you would be called a Congi , not Bhakt. Bhakt can only apply to Modi and not even for Shiva , Vishnu or any other entity in the sacred space.

When you find a tweet with just one of these terms bhakt or libtard, with no reference to any issue being discussed, be aware that the tweeter has run out of arguments or has simply resigned to “You are this and I am that and never the twain shall meet “ in Rudyard Kipling style.

Other Categories


They are generally celebrities with a million odd followers. They being seasonal , appear very active only  to promote their movie or books and then they disappear as suddenly. Promoter of a movie may start early and reach a crescendo at the time of release while promoter of a book starts around the time of release and goes on for some time. After all a book takes months to consume and digest.


They come out with homilies and general advice on perseverance , charity and spiritual evolution. They avoid controversies , unless they are prepared to be labeled pseudo-intellectuals. These days even here, one has to tread carefully as a simple quote from Swami Vivekananda “Arise , Awake and Stop not till the goal is reached” can label you as Bhakt.

The Columnists and News Anchors.

They are the largest group of Twitter users. Some statistics quote , that their threads form about 25% of the Twitter. First they write that they are going to write, then they announce that they have indeed got the column published and then they take post to defend the brickbats or gloat over the bouquets . They may also resort to some stunts to increase the number of followers ,likes and comments. Fake photos can spike the “likership” or comments manifold as @tavleen learnt recently, or so she says. 

The Abuser

They prefer using abusive language to using any logical arguments. They are the ones who are blocked, unblocked and sometimes even get their account deleted. Like the mythical Rakshasa (or gods , in case you are on their side) they hurl abuses from the skies and when blocked or deleted they rise again like phoenix, in different forms to continue their Mayajaal warfare. They also create fake handles. Like the Rakshas Raktabhija each drop shed by the monster can give rise to a 100 more such monsters.

The Modern Ladies

These users move about with a chip on their shoulders, ready to take offense anytime. It is for that reason I wouldn't dare to think of a more appropriate label. They are the products of Mahakavi Bharathiyaar  (Puthumai Penn) and Rabindranath Tagore on one side and Germaine Greer and Simone de beauvoir on the other; a curious mix of East and West.

They are Independent , proud women highly opinionated and can be easily identified by their propensity to blame patriarchy or misogyny for every problem in the society. Of course , I must admit that on most occasions they are right. Acutely aware of female sexuality , they can hurl expletives that would make a sailor blush. It could be very embarrassing for any old fashioned person to be caught up in their discussions on graphic descriptions of sports bra, menstrual cup,  and TWISS , HAUN etc (please have an urban slang dictionary to decode their posts )


These are the guys who are still in whatsapp mode identified by their inclination for forwarding videos and long winding stories , without watching or reading. The South saw an invasion of Whatsappias into Twitter world when Suchithra karthik decided to choose Twitter for a 'tell all about Kollywood' campaign. Most of those accounts must have become inactive now. (Northies , google google , Suchithra who )

The bottom-line is that Social Media Platforms are here to stay , in some form or the other and we are going to spend more and more time fighting or hugging strangers. It can be fun, it can be pain , So let us adapt.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017


For the past six months or so, the happenings in Tamilnadu have been hogging the headlines rather disproportionately.

A non - tamil would often find it difficult to follow the logic , or lack of it, of a common Tamilian ; be it the fierce loyalty of the unwashed masses towards their matinee idols in Cinema and Politics or the herd like behaviour in support of “jallikattu” or “bull-taming”. Any issue remotely connected to “tamil Culture” provokes such an emotional reaction not seen in other parts of the country.

It reminds me of a song by Namakkal Ramalingam Pillai made popular through MGR Starrer “Malai kallan”. (A trivia; the film was produced at Coimbatore , the then popular place for Film studios) .For those who read tamil (and understand poetry) Lyrics

The song talks of the uniqueness of the Tamil people over 2000 years of history and culture. Then it goes on to glorify the tamilian values nurtured through reat literary works like silappadikaaraam, manimekalai, thirukkural, thevaram , divya prabandham and so on. For a more detailed list of ancient tamil literature , one can go to Projectmadurai or Tamil Library

That got me thinking if there is anything really unique about contemporary tamilians in Tamilnadu and the diaspora world over. (Some popular radio stations abroad kalasam , Lankasri, eelam tv, paris tamil radio ). For a complete list

So, here I go….

Firstly, the names ; I don’t think there is any other language in the world that figures in names of people as “tamil” does. You have, Tamil chelvan, tamil chelvi, tamilarasu, tamilkudimagan, then thamiz , sen tamil and so on. Even the BJP leader of Tamilnadu unit id Tamilisai(literally meaning Tamil Music) soundararajan. Someone with lots of time and inclination for collectin useless information can check out madurai telephone directory .I can’t even think of one name starting with “Punjabi” or “bangla”, however much a punjabi or bengali may love his mother tongue.

Secondly, Tamils have a craze or affinity for “pattam”. “pattam” is a kind of untranslatable word which can mean an academic degree, lawfully earned, or an honorific bestowed by any formal or informal society, big or small, or even a nick name . For eg Sinnaih Ganesan is better known as Sivaji Ganesan and Jayalalithaa was just referred to as amma. EV Ramasami naikar was so impressed by ganesan playing the role of the maratha leader, he awarded the pattam Sivaji and it stuck. There are other actors with "pattam" like  captain or major based on the roles they played on screen.(Silk smitha did not act as silk; have to trace how she came to called simply as Silk or Silku.) Suffice to say , anybody who is anybody in Tamilnadu needs to be called by some name other than the actual name. Kamalhasan is called “thirai gyaani” or “ ulaganaayagan”

Thirdly is the popularity of debating societies or "patti manram" as they are called in tamil. Top speakers are house hold names and some are even treated as rock stars ; in great demand for any cultural or social functions. While Sunday debates are telecast by popular TV Channels, Festivals like Pongal and New year witness Special Bumper Patti manram. It is absolutely amazing to see a full house patiently listening to a group of men and women discussing a social or literary issue, quite unlike Arnab Goswamy’s panelists. The debate could be a passionate discussion on who was a nobler character in mahabharatam, karnan or arujnan or it could be a subject that touches every life; Who has more influence on bringing up a child, the teachers or parents. It could even be some trivia like idli tastes better with chuttney or sambhar. Week after week people do come up with a new subject for testing their eloquence and of course the capacity of audience to sit through hours of talk-talk-talk

Fouthly, the tamil’s love for silly jokes , particularly in their weekly magazines , is unbelievable.. About 10-20 percent of any magazine is devoted to silly jokes and till today there are jokes in every magazine on such stale issues like “sleeping in the office” “a king running away from battle “. To top it , these days, you also have jokes from the social media forums.

Fifthly, we have the monthly novelettes brought out by leading publications. There are only two genres, crime and romance. A new issue would cost Rs 20 / and an old one as little as Rs 2 or 3. Outside Madras Central you can see the shops selling these books  in Kilos. These novelettes , besides being the favourites of housewives and travelers, are an important source for plots for film directors.

Sixthly, tamils have a great affinity for lottery tickets. Surprisingly there are states like Sikkim and Bhutan who print lottery tickets in Tamil and Malayalam. I think Kerala has clearly overtaken tamilnadu in their attempt to woo Lady Luck.

Last, but the most disturbing trait is the readiness for self – immolation. Whenever a hero like MGR dies , the tragedy becomes personal loss to many a family due to spate of  the self-immolations that follow. 31 people killed themselves when MGR died . Very disturbing indeed. There were other issues like Anti-hindi agitation, Srilankan tamil problems, arrest of a popular leader and so on have triggered self-immolation.

Recently we saw some bizarre ways of protest at Jantar Mantar by Tamilnadu farmers. Not easy to decode; I suppose it is a complex mix of fierce attachment to the language and culture , coupled with total inability to deal with contemporary issues in a rational manner.

PS : This post does not take into consideration, Tamil Brahmins, who are a different species all together. They love Tamil, but they also love Sanskrit, English and any other language. Atleast , I haven't come across any of them with "Tamil" in their names.

The Tamil Brahmin Exodus started long before Kashmiri Pandits. The Dravidians with their anti-brahmin stance and reservations for education, successfully drove them out of Tamilnadu. Fortunately for them , the whole world outside Tamilnadu was good, a sort of carrot and stick; carrot outside and stick within TN. You will find them in corporate board rooms and back offices all over the world. Physically, they are too timid to tame a cat, leave alone a bull. They are outside the purview of this post, which is all about 'dravidians' as they like to be called.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Is variety the curse of life ?

Variety is the spice of life , is a much abused cliché . 

It starts with food, goes on to clothes and touches every aspect of life.

A random google search throws up this explanation

Diversity makes life interesting, as in Jim dates a different girl every week—variety is the spice of life, he claims.  

After all "Polygamy is the opposite of monotony"

Of course there is no mention of Mary seeking the spice of life. 

What does it mean in day to day life ? Variety in cuisine has come to  mean changing your dietary preference every day from Mughlai to South Indian, Continental to  Thai and so on. Why do you need so much variety; to break the monotony of course. My question  is don't we need a staple diet to build up monotony in the first place. How else can you break the monotony ?

Secondly, no two experiences are the same as  any experience depends on both the subject and the object .

  When you listen to the same music , over and over, you either get hooked on to it or move away from it. No music worth listening to, leaves the listener unaffected. So the next time you listen to the same music, the experience is so different, and when you listen to a kind of music for over 25-30 years, it becomes a unique experience by itself.

Kolaveri kind  of Music comes and goes, but MS kind of music goes on forever. Firstly , it is not monotony as every time you listen, the experience is more intense, and even if it is so, why should I want to break this heavenly monotony.

 Cuisine is one area where spice plays a major role. Here again, if you ask anyone hooked to the delicacy called curd rice with lemon pickle, he or she  would swear that it is not the same experience but every time it tastes better and better.

These days it is fashionable to serve a variety of cuisine in a single meal. The other day, we attended a wedding lunch at a five star hotel and as per norms, there was a lavish spread covering recipes from every region across continents. The diners are not happy with the taste of one region, but help themselves to a micro portion of every dish that looks appetizing. It is not uncommon to have Manchurian, chicken tikka , noodles and dosa punctuated by Thai soup and Chocolate soufflé 

The next day many complained of stomach upset and with so many dishes, it was indeed difficult to identify the culprit. My own reading is that it was the random order of consuming a random combination of dishes that did it.

 In the pre-refrigerator days, the left over, from the day meal could be carried over for the evening, but any food unconsumed in the evening meal had to be given away. I remember the typical call of the beggars who would regularly make their rounds at night to collect these left overs. The housewives also kept aside some food for these people. These alms seekers mostly ended up with small portions of all kinds of food in their bowls, much like what we find on the plates of variety seekers in a five star hotel. 

So much for variety.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Running commentaries and Media Coverage on Rush for Cash

I remember the first running commentary I heard of India - West Indies Test series in 1966. Those days it was not just a novelty, but pure magic to be able to follow live, an event taking place thousands of miles away. But these commentaries, then,  were reserved mainly for sports events. Today every event or even a non-event is telecast live with tadka or embellishments.

Anyone who is a regular spectator of football, tennis or cricket matches would vouch that watching an event live is so different from watching it on TV. What is a cricket match without the crowd hollering for 'fours' and 'sixes' in unison or what is a tennis match that doesn't give you a neck pain following the ball from side to side. There is something very unreal in lying on a couch with a packet of chips watching the players sweat it out.

 I remember the high altitude posts like Siachin where satellite TV had just made its appearance. MTV Grind used to be a popular show among soldiers and officers alike. What can be more unreal than  men clad in layers and layers of warm clothing gawking at the almost naked men and women basking in the sun. These soldiers would not have seen any female form clothed or otherwise and exposed parts of their own bodies for months.

Seeing the media coverage on the current issues that is how I feel, far removed , disconnected and disoriented. We are subjected to day long tale-commentary on #rushforcash. If some rabble rouser goes hysterical, media personnel are not far behind. Once in a while I go out to the town, to see for myself, the situation on ground. Being from a semi rural town, I can hardly connect the real life situation I see, to the TV news running all day.

I think the best coverage from Ground Zero , on the subject was done by Rajdeep Sardesai on India Today. His coverage from various banks followed by his coverage of the Parliament is nicely summed up in his tweet .(hail twitter for the word restriction)

     Whichever way you throw a fat cat , it always lands on its feet, sometimes crushing some hardworking ants under its feet , further softening the landing. Yeh Hai India. Yeh hai Dunia.

Cartoon : Courtesy: