Archive for the ‘Rant’ Category

Sometimes-I-just-don’t-get-it edition

October 19, 2012

This one! Really? Ban free education!?!

Doctors and drivers

August 23, 2011

Rahul has a post about the callous attitude of a medical doctor whose car was involved in a minor accident. I have known of another medical doctor who herself caused the accident and behaved in an almost identical manner. Sometimes you wonder, if, for some people at least, the medical profession, has a negative effect — it makes them more insensitive than sensitive to other human beings and their plight!

On Higgins Bhagavathar and classical music on TV

January 8, 2011

Here is Sriram Venkatkrishnan on Higgins Bhagavathar:

Jon Higgins, who combined research with a performer’s career, was therefore something of a wonder. His singing and his pronunciation, as though he had spent a whole lifetime soaking in Carnatic music, amazed everyone. After all, as Higgins humorously observed in an article written for The Indian Fine Arts Society’s souvenir in 1967-68, “is it not an obvious prerequisite that one must be born on the banks of the Cauvery” to be able to appreciate, let alone sing Carnatic music?

While we are on the topic of classical music, Doordarshan continues its incomparable service to classical music with its specific time slots for classical music — be it national, podhigai or chandana. Of the satellite TV channels, it probably is only Jaya TV that gives some classical music; all the rest  give film music, reality shows and bhakti music but nothing that is truly classical. A pity! Wouldn’t a classical music TV channel be a great idea?

It breaks one’s heart

July 12, 2009

To see news items like this. This is not the first time nor is it the only kind of damage that is being done to our temples in the name of renovation; the news report itself goes on to add

Over the past several years, similar mural masterpieces have been whitewashed at the Meenakshi temple in Madurai, the Arunachaleswarar temple at Tiruvannamalai, the Vishnu temple at Tiruvellarai near Tiruchi, and Siva temples at Patteeswaram near Kumbakonam, Tiruppulivanam in Kancheepuram district and Vedaranyam, all administered by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department of the Tamil Nadu government.

Similar vandalism has been witnessed at other temples in the State, including the Varadarajaswamy temple in Kancheepuram, the Lakshmi Narasimhar temple at Sevilimedu, and the Sanjeeva Rayar temple at Iyengarkulam, both near Kancheepuram.

The latest round of effacement that has been revealed took place about six months ago in the name of renovation, and it is still under way. Sculptures on pillars and inscriptions have also been “cleaned” by sand-blasting: it involves training sand on them at high pressure. This is in violation of a Government Order that bans sand-blasting in temples as it damages sculptures and inscriptions. A sign-board at the temple says Rs. 8,16,000 will be needed for “sand-blasting (chemical wash)” for the renovation.

There are several factors that lead to this kind of scenario; for example, the news report notes that the Executive Officer during whose tenure the murals were whitewashed claims that he never gave permission:

P. Krishnan, during whose tenure as temple Executive Officer the murals were whitewashed, said he never gave permission for such work.

If the EO did not giver permission, who carried out the work and who paid for it?

I remember visiting Sri Villiputtur once and seeing the deities in the Garbagraha painted in garish colours which completely spoilt the visit for me.

I have also lamented elsewhere in this blog about the lack of Bhaskara Thondaiman-ish attitude towards our temples — an attitude of paying as much importance to history and historical information as to sthala puranas; I am not sure anybody who ordered white washing in the Mannarkovil temple had any inkling of what he/she is erasing.

And, of course, the final factor is the culture itself; temples are no longer the vibrant spots of socio-cultural interaction they used to be. Nobody cares about the sculptures or the murals. It is all a business transaction between the gods and the devotees: depending on your current needs, you visit the concerned temple, and make your bargain with the gods and their agents in human form — I remember being disgusted in the Dhanvantri Sannidhi of Sri Rangam temple where an elderly person was making discreet enquiries to all the devotees about their ailments (you see — nobody goes to Dhanvantri sannidhi who is good health is the implicit assumption) and recommending an ayurvedic pharmacy nearby to them all.

As long as our culture treats temples and worshipping another business spot and business transaction respectively, as long as we, as the inheritors of the culture, do not pay enough attention to the details of what we are inheriting, and, as long as the temples are run by EOs appointed by government whose main concern is certainly not maintaining the sanctity and preserving the art forms in the temples, this will not be the last news item of this sort — K T Gandhirajan will keep visiting every nook and corner of Tamilnadu and keep seeing things of this sort to report in the Hindu.

Needed: Open reviews

June 6, 2009

A friend of mine has sent me the manuscript of one of his papers — which is one of the best that I have read in quite a while. Still there seems to be some problems in getting it published, and as he also notes in his e-mail, there is always a struggle between the “real” science and the social science.

Making the peer reviews open is the only honourable option: let the entire world know the comments of the reviewer (at least, if not his or her identity). Things will improve, visibly!

Incomplete, authoritarian, suppressive and brutal democracy

May 23, 2009

Oh, what a fall was there, my countrymen! Then I and you and all of us fell down, while bloody treason flourished over us.

Ram Guha in the Telegraph:

Over the past few years, the government of Chhattisgarh has had a particularly undistinguished record in this respect. The burning of adivasi villages under the government-sponsored Salwa Judum has been documented in a series of independent reports. Then there is the unconscionable incarceration without bail of the respected social worker and doctor, Binayak Sen, on the very flimsy charge of carrying a letter from one Naxalite to another. Now comes this savage act of retribution against a group of law-abiding, peace-loving, and utterly non-violent Gandhians.

Supporters of the Chhattisgarh government deflect such criticism by pointing to the fact that the chief minister of the state has won a series of elections. But democracy does not begin and end with the counting of votes. Those elected to political office are sworn to uphold the rule of law, and to honour the ideals of the Indian Constitution. This holds true at the national as well as provincial levels. It applies equally to Congress-led governments as to Bharatiya Janata Party-led ones. So long as incidents such as the demolition of the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram occur and recur, India will not count as much more than a 50 per cent democracy.

I think Guha is too liberal in his marking scheme when he gives 50% after all the atrocities that he documents — I say, give 15% and fail!

Abi calls Guha’s bluff by calling his piece fluff

April 27, 2009


Now, go read Ram Guha’s latest fluff on IISc.

* * *

Guha’s thesis — that IISc should “establish and make active a proper centre of humanistic studies” — is eminently worth supporting; and it certainly has my support.

Here’s my problem with Guha’s piece. Among the many arguments to support his thesis, he has chosen one that betrays a certain disrespect to the existing scholarship. From B.V. Subbarayappa’s history of IISc, one can learn quite a bit about the real efforts (summarized here) to get humanities included in the Institute’s mandate. Many of these efforts were led by Burjorji Padshah — the one person who put his very soul into seeing the IISc project through.

Does Guha acknowledge any these efforts? No.

What he does instead is to go on and on about virtual efforts by Patrick Geddes, who wrote five letters to Sister Nivedita about the kinds of things that IISc should do. In doing so, he connects these two figures — Geddes and the good Sister — to IISc in a way that is not quite justifiable. They were, at best, peripheral players in IISc’s prehistory. As Guha himself admits, “One does not know whether Geddes’s [letters to Sister Nivedita] reached” Jamsetji Tata, so he’s not even sure if Geddes’s ideas had legs.

If Guha wants to bring them centrestage, that’s fine; but he needs a lot more than “hey, look what I found in the National Library of Scotland.”

Can Guha now rise up to the challenge and pen a proper history of IISc (say, in five pieces) for the Hindu?

Morning miscellany: Madras madness and upma puranam

February 20, 2009

Vikram Raghavan at Law and other things is upset:

Almost 100 years older than the Supreme Court itself, the Madras High Court has been a grand symbol of our country’s commitment to justice and the rule of law. As a school boy and law student, I walked through those magnificent Indo-Sarcenic hallways of the High Court that reek with history, grandeur, and tradition. Having spent formative years as a legal intern there, the court is an indelible part of my legal imagination. It has greatly influenced my pride in what I’ve always considered to be the learned and noble legal profession and, indeed, in my conception of what is just, what is fair, and what is proper. Yesterday’s violent incidents shake those long-held beliefs to the core.

The fact that Vikram is upset is also made palpable by his unconscious use of the word “reek” while referring to the history, grandeur and tradition of Madras High Court.

In the other story this morning, this post of Arun Giridhar makes me crave for the Samba ravai upma (and, the fact that I showed up at the class at 8 in the morning without breakfast does not help me either):

On a very unscientific level, I had suspected once that upma made with fine semolina was digested more quickly (and consequently felt less filling) than upma made with coarse cracked wheat. It is nice to learn that there is a scientific basis for that hypothesis.

Time for a breakfast of vada if not upma, I guess!

What does that mean?

February 17, 2009

I keep wondering when I read mails like this:

Science is only an observation of some facts. The nature is so powerful that all that the scientists (of whom I am one) claim to have invented/discovered are virtually nothing. Many great scientists have admitted this. Of course, Charles Darwin had the right to say what he thought was right and his supporters have the right to endorse him. But no one has the right to say that he alone is right or, more important, what the others say or do is wrong.

And, yes! The writer of the letter is called Darwin Albert Raj! And, yes — Hindu did publish this. Another point on the spiral curve!

Bharadwaj Rangan in the New Year!

January 11, 2009

Bharadwaj Rangan is not very happy with the very first offering of Bollywood this year — Kaashh .. Mere Hote! While I commiserate with him and agree that it might not auger well for the year in terms of quality of movies, at least for reviews like the one that he has written, I guess they are worthwhile; here are a couple of samples!

And that we’d be treated, in this day and age, to one of those romantic interludes where the heroine squeals, “I hate you, I hate you,” when she really, really luurrves her man?

We’re used to films that treat the audiences like morons, but Kaashh… Mere Hote may be something of a first – the characters, themselves, treat one another like morons. The heroine asks, at one point, “Kya?” Then, cleverly intuiting that the hero needs more prompting, she adds, “Kya hua?” Finally, just to make sure the essence of her communication doesn’t get lost in translation, she tosses in an option in another language, “What happened?” But this is nothing compared to Rajesh Khanna’s fourfold declaration of his vision impairment. “I’m blind. I can’t see. Main nahin dekh sakta. Main andha hoon,” he yells, as if offering multiple choices to a contestant on a game show. In that vein, we too shall declare: This film is no good. It’s bad. It sucks. Total bakwaas hai, boss.

Have fun (and, bookmark his blog).