On the death of an author

January 17, 2015

Suchitra Vijayan in The Hindu:

Right-wing Hinduism, mostly alien to Tamil Nadu, has become increasingly normalised. Liberal freedoms are under threat, in the guise of language marchers, the morality police, religious rioters and the many-headed mobs. Ironically, the state that is meant to protect has remained a mute spectator allowing Perumal Murugan’s constitutionally protected right to become subverted. At the same time, with exemplary zeal, the government has passed laws like the Tamil Nadu Entry into Public Places (Removal of Restriction of Dress) Act, 2014, that unconstitutionally legislate on issues relating to private bodies purely with an intention to expand its voter’s base. The State government no longer governs in furtherance of the Constitution, but in the perusal of votes at the cost of subverting fundamental rights.

Take a look!

Continuing journey of a musician

January 15, 2015

A must-read from Sanjay!

On growing intolerance of fringe groups

January 14, 2015

The Hindu Editorial:

Noted Tamil novelist Perumal Murugan’s Facebook page went blank on Tuesday in a virtual closure of his identity as a writer, in a shocking illustration of the growing intolerance of fringe groups constricting public discourse. It is ironic that the author was made to virtually recant to buy peace after the recent controversy over his novel Madhorubhagan, first published in December 2010, purportedly offended the sensibilities of some dominant sections of society in the western ‘Kongu’ belt of Tamil Nadu. This, ironically at a time when many parts of the world are uniting in solidarity to uphold freedom of expression in the wake of the terror attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

 

Chronicler of Kongu

January 12, 2015

A R Venkatachalapathy in The Hindu. A must-read and I also hope that we do not go down this route of book burning and banning.

Panchayat elections and eligibility criterion to contest

January 5, 2015

Aruna Roy in The Hindu:

The introduction of educational qualifications as eligibility criteria for contesting panchayat elections has shocked and angered rural Rajasthan, including supporters of the ruling BJP.

A must-read article for some of the interesting anecdotes and incidents that Roy describes:

I have been trained for 40 years of my life, particularly in democracy, ethics, and governance, by illiterate but highly educated people in rural India. We have traded skills. Naurti, now Sarpanch of Harmara (Ajmer district), is “illiterate,” but learnt to use the computer at the age of 50 and teaches middle and high school dropouts how to use the computer. She has no class 8 certificate, but uses the website of the Ministry of Rural Development. Who is more skilled between us is debatable. I would not advocate that Naurti head the Ministry of Human Resource Development or that she teach me Shakespeare, but in matters of governance in the panchayat she is heaps better. My informal learning about the invention of scientific thought, of Galileo and Kalidasa, have provided a worldview worth the learning. But I am not equipped like Naurti to understand the nitty-gritty of getting a panchayat quorum to take a difficult and just decision when faced with a contentious issue. I do not know if I could face the ire and possibility of violence for standing against sati, without caste or money on my side, as she did. She will not be trapped into a situation by unethical, unjust people; nor will she be trapped by the writing on a paper that she cannot understand.

I remember Beelan, 65, scoffing at me 35 years ago saying I had nakal (copying by writing) whereas she had akal(mind). I could not remember figures and money spent, but many of my illiterate friends remembered details to the last paisa. A weaver of Ikat in Odisha is a mathematician — not only in simple arithmetic but in the intricate art of dividing numbers to form patterns.

Roy’s conclusion is also worth quoting:

The cherry on the cake is that the State government as well as the Centre proudly tout formal learning as an unnecessary criterion for choosing Ministers. In reality, 90 per cent of their work is through the written word, unlike that of the sarpanch who deals with the human condition.

Competent versus exceptional

January 3, 2015

Here is Paul Graham on the need to allow immigration of programmers into USA:

We have the potential to ensure that the US remains a technology superpower just by letting in a few thousand great programmers a year. What a colossal mistake it would be to let that opportunity slip. It could easily be the defining mistake this generation of American politicians later become famous for. And unlike other potential mistakes on that scale, it costs nothing to fix.

So please, get on with it.

Of course the entire discussion is based on the premise that

… there is a huge variation in ability between competent programmers and exceptional ones, and while you can train people to be competent, you can’t train them to be exceptional. Exceptional programmers have an aptitude for and interest in programming that is not merely the product of training.

I do not know how far it is true and if true, why it is so. Of course, that would be the most interesting question to ask and the answer might be worth the pursuit!

Ram Guha on B G Verghese

January 3, 2015

I was on vacation in the South Canara and Hassan districts for the past one week (and visited Shravanabelegola once more — a place that one can visit every year and feel the awe and peace every single time!). So, missed the news of the passing away of B G Verghese. Here is Ram Guha’s obituary in The Telegraph:

On coming down from Cambridge, Verghese joined the Times of India. He worked in that paper in the first, heady decades of Independence, covering the first elections, the conflicts with Pakistan, and the construction of high prestige projects such as the Bhakra-Nangal dam. This was a time of hope and idealism, when the politicians and bureaucrats were honest and committed to building a new India, a time Verghese describes with empathy and zest in his immensely readable memoir, First Draft.

I am yet to read First Draft but will get to it sometime.

Vanoli Anna: RIP

December 24, 2014

Hindu reports on the passing away of Koothapiran. The Sunday evening programme of Siruvar Solai was much anticipated one at our home. Vanoli Anna with radio where children’s groups can perform for the programme and Azha. Valliappa with Gokulam where children could contribute pieces to be published in the magazine did a lot to promote creativity among school children.

Rudranghsu Mukherjee’s Parallel Lives

December 22, 2014

An excellent book; I am almost half-way through. Strongly recommended. Here is Mukul Kesavan on the book; here is Narasaiah.

The Magician’s Land

December 17, 2014

A good read; I agree with this reviewer — this probably is the best of the three books — even though, I found some of the later chapters a tad too lengthy.


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