Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Advantage Dynasty

     The plain and simple tea seller's profession is the current fascination in our (Indian)  political circles. 

     Mani Shankar Aiyar scored a self goal in 2014 when he patronisngly offered to allow the then PM candidate to sell tea during his party’s next meeting. It was almost like the elitist ex-Stephenian, unable to accept the success of a man of modest origins, was suggesting, how dare a tea seller set the bar so high for himself when such ranks or titles are the birthright of a chosen few of Lutyens’ Delhi ? After all he hadn’t been to The Doon school, St.Stephen’s or the Trinity Hall, Cambridge like Mr. Aiyar and his upper crust buddies did.

     Three years later, the grand old party did an encore and shot itself in the foot by insinuating in a meme, that their bugbear is better off selling tea. Have they unwittingly played into the hands of their rivals who love to whoop it up and turn such insults to their advantage?

     Dynasties in India feel a sense of entitlement to the corridors of power and treat their boroughs as personal fiefdoms. The Nehru-Gandhi gharana hands over reins to the successive generations, as a matter of inheritance. The heirs and their extended families accept the transfer of power as an established convention and willingly carry forward the legacy. 

     While the dynasts rule and dole out largesse to the sycophants as a reward for loyalty, the lesser mortals have a snowball's chance in hell, of winning a leadership battle. In a dynasty, the race for the coveted top job is a no-contest with no rules and no minimum score required to win. 

     That the Lutyens’ glass ceiling has finally been breached by a man of humble beginnings, spells doom for the exclusive club that has set the benchmark for seven decades, in the art of political flair and social finesse. In these privileged circles, it is considered an offence to be unsophisticated, and a sin to work hard and rise to the top. 

      Is the old order changing, to make way for the new? Only time will tell! 

     "If nothing ever changed, there would be no butterflies". India waits as the butterfly takes wing. 

Latha Raghuram



Sunday, 25 September 2016

A view of London

      If you are a foreigner in London and have visited the city a few times, you are by now familiar with the quirks and idiosyncrasies of the British kind.

     Landing at the Heathrow, the British passion for queueing is visible all around at the immigration counters. Over to the streets of London and day to day life and the British, queue for everything from supermarkets to cinemas, bus-stops, train stations, aircrafts, plays, football tickets, post offices, groceries,  hospitals and malls. Ten people in the queue is “long”. Obviously they haven’t been to India or Tirupathi to understand what a queue or a serpentine queue is all about.

     Jostling, pushing, shoving and elbowing , to get ahead in a queue as we do in India is considered a misdemeanour and the British show their pique by just glaring at you and conveying a message that you are an ill-mannered upstart.

     Staring, ogling, gazing, gawking and gaping, are national pastimes in India, observed across all age groups and all echelons of society. One stares at foreigners, women, bejewelled, bedecked aunties, or anyone who is eminently stare worthy. The subject of the gaze either ignores, looks away or simply stares back, because, we in India, grow up getting used to being stared at by all and sundry.

     In London, on the contrary, if you are on the train, tube or bus, one never makes eye contact with fellow passengers, leave alone stare! One is required to look at the back of newspapers held by the commuter in front of you, at the ceiling, floor, destination board, route map on the sides, or if nothing else, simply out of the window! On an escalator in the tube station, one always stands on the right to let other commuters race up or down as the case maybe.

     You can safely look at the dogs or pets that accompany the masters or mistresses on the train and even smile at them. They may make eye contact with you, but do not bark or wag their tails like their energetic Indian counterparts because they are far too well bred to attempt indiscretions of any kind.

     One learns soon enough that a roundabout is actually a traffic circle, a jumper is a sweater, a jacket is a coat or an overcoat, a motorway is a highway, aubergine is brinjal and crisps are chips.

     Discussing and predicting the weather patterns is a widespread obsession in England. In India we escape to the hill stations in search of cooler climes, but in a wet and rainy country, a few hours of sunshine in a day is celebrated with a nationwide outpouring of pure delight.

     The British are charming people nevertheless and if one lives here long enough, one may even begin to enjoy and appreciate the grey skies, rain and the cold weather. 



Wednesday, 27 January 2016

The Leap year girl

     She is a dynamo, she is zealous, she is persevering, she is earnest, she is quirky, and she is adventurous. 

     She is the youngest of five siblings and born on the 29th of February, her birthday is a quadrennial event. She is hence unique, in more ways than one. 

     She is a brilliant teacher, who believes in teaching from the heart and not from the book. She guides her students to the next plane and makes winners out of all of them, irrespective of their levels of proficiency.

     Her infinite energy and enthusiasm are legendary. She is an avid traveller and hops from town to town, city to city and country to country, if only to be with her loved ones for a few hours to celebrate an occasion.

     When in her company, there is never a dull moment as she keeps everyone enthused and guessing her next move.  She loves exploring new terrain and follows a standard operating procedure that is flexible for fellow travellers, allowing for last minute changes in venue, time, date, duration and mode of transport.

     If anyone in the group has an unyielding boss, she has no qualms about picking up the phone and requesting him to allow her nephew/niece to extend his/her stay. 

    She is omnipresent, whizzes in and out of nowhere at lightning speed and never misses an opportunity to participate in an event she fancies. Her persuading skills and never-say-die attitude have won her many battles. Forever a sport, she endures the constant ribbing from her family with a smile. 

     She is an amazing mother to two adorable boys, a devoted wife to a caring husband, an affectionate sister, a loving daughter and a dutiful daughter-in-law. She is all set to don the role of a mother-in-law to a lovely young girl.

     There's more. She is a music enthusiast, a yoga exponent and a philanthropist. 

      She is the good-natured one – Suguna. She is the universal friend, philosopher and guide and I am proud to be her sister-in-law.

     Suguna soon turns sixty. We wish her many more action-packed years ahead and pray she stays indefatigable, for we cannot perceive her any other way. 

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Set your House in order

Dear lawmakers,
     WE voted you to power and WE gave you the opportunity to be a part of our Parliament- the temple of democracy, because we trusted you and believed that you would deliver on the promises you made to us. We, the gullible public are today watching you holding the country’s economic and social progress to ransom by your mulish conduct, whichever side of the fence you are on.

     You swear by the Constitution and sing hosannas to democracy at the drop of a hat, but the fracas and filibuster we see in the Parliament day after day tell us a different story. What is the message you are sending out to the world that is watching us when we are on the cusp of an economic surge?

     Spar, if you have to, but please do so over issues that relate to the citizens of the country and not over trivial personal and political rivalries. WE empowered you to fight for a better quality of life for us and not to treat us to this unedifying spectacle on a daily basis, wasting the country’s time and money.  

     Session after parliament session has been frittered away waging wars over who is more corrupt than the other or fighting ego battles over matters that have nothing to do with the common man’s problems.

     The privileges you enjoy as parliamentarians are phenomenal, and as average citizens of the country we neither get to live in the palatial bungalows of Lutyens’ Delhi nor do we have access to free business class tickets (including an attendant), free Railway tickets for life, free phone calls, free electricity, pension (even if the House is dissolved in 13 days like the Vajpayee government), unlimited quantity of petrol/diesel in the name of security, or other subsidies like you do.

     You owe all of the above to us because WE facilitated your entry into the hallowed precincts of Parliament. We have always wondered if other countries are as charitable towards their Parliamentarians!

     We work hard to pay for each of the above necessities for ourselves. If we abscond from work or walkout from office after a skirmish with the boss, we don’t get paid for the lost day, like you or Sachin Tendulkar or Rekha do. We would either get fired or lose our salaries or both!

     We are a tolerant citizenry and have survived corruption and chicanery for over six decades. Our destiny is in your hands for now, but in another 4 years, we will determine your future. Please spare a thought for the poor, downtrodden and underprivileged who stand to lose heavily from your intransigence.

     Please understand the language of conciliation and rapprochement in the larger interest of the nation’s welfare.
                                                                          Distraught citizens.

Latha Raghuram






Monday, 20 April 2015

The RaGa saga

     Is there such a paucity of talent or intelligence in our population that we are so eager to foist the crown on a reluctant prince just because he has a certain lineage? Is pedigree, heredity or ancestry vital to lead a nation or a political party?

     Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. However, in this context, the probable wearer fled the scene well before the coronation.
     Our fixation for a name or dynasty is legendary. Exceptional genes are entitled to extraordinary privileges in our country. You could be absconding from your chair for two months and continue introspecting or meditating (chintan-manan in native parlance) in undisclosed locations or you could be pondering over strategies to stage a comeback. Deciding the duration of your clandestine vacation is your birthright.

     You could be flying kites in Laos, windsurfing in the Pacific, chasing butterflies in Peru or fishing in Myanmar.You could still return and find your seat unoccupied, get a hero’s welcome for re-surfacing after a mysterious sabbatical and even have your cohorts celebrating with firecrackers and laddus. An elevation to a higher job, is the coveted trophy for making a stealthy exit and a furtive homecoming. Your outstanding genes bequeathed to you by your illustrious forefathers ensure that you are unaccountable to the voters, even if you choose to play truant. 

     If you are work-weary or bored of playing hide and seek, you could dabble in theatrics and tear up drafts of ordinances, assert that poverty is a state of mind, recommend 12 subsidized gas cylinders for the great Indian housewife, tell industrialists that your nation is a beehive, or make a gallant speech in Parliament about Kalavathi and other impoverished villagers in Vidarbha and forget about their anguish soon after.

     You could also make an offhand remark about India being a computer where your political party is the default program or seek refuge in astronomy by proclaiming that Dalits need the escape velocity of Jupiter to achieve success.. You could ramble incoherently, look forlorn, confused or bewildered and still have a mammoth fan following, worthy of a rockstar.

    Three cheers to the young scion for pulling off a vanishing act with such elan, he could give PC Sorcar a run for his magical money. 



Saturday, 4 April 2015

BAGRU - The textile hub

     Living in Bangalore, the "Silicon valley" of India, it is hard to imagine that, hundreds of miles away, nestling in the plains of interior Rajasthan, there is a small dusty, fascinating hamlet, Bagru, from where some of India’s finest textiles are churned out, using wholly native methods of dyeing, printing and processing.

     In the present day and age of high tech and digitized printing techniques, the practice of using vegetable dyes for dyeing and printing sounds outmoded.  But thanks to the efforts of the Chhippa community that has perfected the skill over the last three hundred years, the art is vibrantly alive and the town of Bagru bustles with activity.

     Jaitex art is a leading  manufacturer of hand block printed fabrics in Bagru. The employees at the factory are highly dexterous craftsmen  from the surrounding villages.Their unswerving loyalty and dedication to the profession is commendable. They create a stunning range of fabrics dyed in alluring earth tones, printed with ethnic images and motifs.

      I attended a one-day hand block printing workshop in their factory, organized at very short notice at the behest of Shri.Udit Sethia. Despite his busy schedule, he made every effort to make it an unforgettable experience for me.

     The workshop was as educative as it was awe-inspiring. The participants are permitted the use of wooden blocks and colours of their choice on fabric provided by the factory. At the end of an extensive procedure of washing, drying, printing and boiling, using natural, and eco-friendly herbal extracts, the result was a yard of fabric that had transformed like sheer magic.

                                                           The beautiful people 

     I was captivated by the humility, simplicity and courtesy shown by every member of the staff during my short stay at the factory. Mr. Ratan and Mr. Lala are two committed employees, whose professional expertise is an asset to the unit.

     Rajasthan is a key destination on India’s tourist map and Bagru is a powerhouse of textiles. The workshop promotes tourism in a novel way by showcasing a traditional art form.

     Shri.Udit Sethia and Shri.Hemant Sethia are genuine ambassadors who have made a conscientious effort to preserve and perpetuate an ancient craft.



Sunday, 29 March 2015



      Manjunath is Bangalore’s quintessential local lad. He could be the boy next door, the milkman, auto driver, newspaper boy, executive or bank employee.  He is omnipresent in Karnataka’s landscape just as Unni is in Kerala, Murugan in Tamilnadu or Srinivas in Andhra. He is proficient in Kanglish, Bangalore’s lingua franca - a quaint melange of English and Kannada.

      Manjunath greets a fellow Bangalorean, with an opening question, “Ootta aayta or tindi aayta or coffee aaytaa”, irrespective of the time of the day. The reply he routinely hears is - “Eega jeshtu” which means he just finished oottaa  (lunch) or tindi (breakfast /snacks) or coffee.  

     His second question in all probability is, “What is your native saar”?

     Next question could well be, “Saar, own housaa, rented housaa”?

     I have never quite understood why Manjunath refers to a non-vegetarian restaurant as a "Miltry Otlu" ( Military hotel ) and a vegetarian restaurant as  a “darshini or Udupi”.

     Simp-simply, sep-separate and sing-single are expressions he translates from Kannada to English. He thinks Kannada and repeats the expression in English, to emphasize the effect.

     At times he laments about the "one to dabal" (double) price of a "gyaas-silendru", (gas cylinder) if bought in black.

     He describes a gruesome accident as “spaattu”. He means the victim died on the spot!

     When he claims he has no "habits", he actually means he is a teetotaller.

      Full marks in a Maths paper is “out of outtu” (100 out of 100), a meter is a "meettru", a scooter is a "scoottru", a dual sim mobile phone is a "dabal simmu", a branded product is "virginallu", a spurious product is"locallu" and a good looking girl, a " figurru".

     Languages have a novel way of adapting themselves to the demands of  the local milieu.

     Kanglish is a charming dialect, sometimes incomprehensible for the English speaking, non-Kannadiga populace of Bangalore.