Archive for November 4th, 2007

Musharraf as the Lincoln of Pakistan!

November 4, 2007

Like me, if you thought Musharraff’s guest column in Rajeev’s almanack a joke, you might want to think again. Here is what he says in his guest column:

I am Pakistan’s Lincoln. He suspended habeas corpus, I suspended the whole constitution. Same difference. I am Pakistan’s Gandhi. He disobeyed laws that he considered unjust and so do I. I am Pakistan’s Savior. Jesus Christ was a victim of Judicial Activism by Pontius Pilate. So am I the victim of extreme Judicial Activism by one Chaudhary.

Here is what Hindu reports him as having said:

Comparing his situation with that of Lincoln, Gen. Musharraf read out his quotation justifying imposition of martial law in 1864. “The justification was necessity,” he said.

Quoting Lincoln, he said life cannot be put to risk for a limb and sometimes a limb had to be amputated to save life.

🙂 In any case, I am happy that Musharraf is keeping himself abreast of what Lincoln wrote. As the Tamil writer Jayakanthan titled one of his short stories, சாத்தானும் வேதம் ஓதட்டுமே (Let the Devil also read the scriptures).

La Sa Ra: RIP

November 4, 2007

From Shencottah, I learn that La Sa Ra passed away (nearly a week ago). After reading his blog, a search in the 31 October, 2007, Hindu Tamilnadu page got me a short note titled Tamil novelist dead:

L.S. Ramamritham, veteran Tamil novelist, died here on Tuesday, his 92nd birthday, after a brief illness.

He is survived by his wife, four sons and a daughter.

Born in 1916, Mr. Ramamritham was a native of Lalgudi and one of the writers of the ‘Manikodi’ era. He had worked in Punjab National Bank for 30 years, and settled in Chennai after retirement.

He authored 300 short stories, six novels and 10 collections of essays. ‘Putra’ and ‘Apita’ are among his notable works. A recipient of several awards and honours, he won the Sahitya Akademi award in 1989 for ‘Chintanadi,’ a collection of autobiographical essays.

I first read La Sa Ra when his Chinta Nadhi (Thought river) was serialised in Sunday edition of the Tamil daily Dinamani called Dinamani Kadir. In the literary edition of the same newspaper (I think that was called Thamizh Mani), I have also read several essays by him; I particularly remember one in which he reminisced about Manikkodi writers, in which group, he was one of the youngest: he ended that essay with the memorable sentence அவர்கள் ஸதஸ்ஸில் நான் யார்? ஒரு கோழிக்குஞ்ஞு (Who am I in that court? A mere chicken). On more than one occasion, in some conference or other, I have felt the same way, and always thought that La Sa Ra summarised all asepcts of such an awe inspiring experience in a single sentence.

La Sa Ra’s writings, irrespective of whether they were fiction or non-fiction, were full of autobiographical elements; by a similar token, his non-fiction, I always felt, carried a bit of the fictional element too. He never hesitated to write about poverty — in fact, some of the most moving pieces of his writing are those essays and short stories where he describes the humiliation of poverty.

La Sa Ra also wrote a great deal about food and music, both of which, I enjoyed a lot. Unlike the other Tamil writers I knew and read at that point, La Sa Ra did not hesitate to write a heavily Sanskritised Tamil or to introduce English words in his writing; I think that is one of the reasons why there were always complaints about the difficulty of his writing style (and, some even went to the extent of accusing him of elitism).

As I noted in these blog pages several times in the past, La Sa Ra was in some respects a Tamil Raja Rao; like Raja Rao, he was heavily influenced by the Sanskritic (and, to some extent, also Brahminic) tradition; like Raja Rao, he believed that the writing process is more akin to meditation; like Raja Rao again, he believed in the potency of the written word: if Raja Rao called it mantra, which can materialise thoughts into objects, La Sa Ra’s famous sentence was நெருப்பு என்றால் வாய் வேக வேண்டாமோ? (If you say fire, shouldn’t your mouth be baked?).

La Sa Ra is probably the last of the Tamil writers who can (and, more importantly, want to) write a four page piece (It was called ஷன்கு புஷ்்பம — Clitoria ternetea்) which is a meditation on meditation itself. He might probably be also the last writer who wrote so much about the process of writing itself. He will certainly be missed. Equally certainly, he would be remembered and read for a long time to come — and, I believe, this certainty would have pleased him.

On forced imposition of markets and economic aid

November 4, 2007

Kerim at Savage Minds:

A good example is the recent failed attempt by aid organizations to employ markets to distribute much-needed mosquito nets:

In doing so, Dr. Kochi turned his back on an alternative long favored by the Clinton and Bush administrations — distribution by so-called social marketing, in which mosquito nets are sold through local shops at low, subsidized prices — $1 or so for an insecticide-impregnated net that costs $5 to $7 from the maker — with donors underwriting the losses and paying consultants to come up with brand names and advertise the nets.

When Kenya started giving nets away for free instead of charging for them coverage increased dramatically and the “deaths of children dropped 44 percent.”

The story seems to be a bit different from what I heard from Jacqueline Novogratz at TED though (about mosquito net distribution in Tanzania).