Archive for the ‘World Affairs’ Category

Some Jallikattu, if I may…

January 15, 2017

Its been a long time since one blogged… So a big Hi first, how have you been, and a Very Happy Maattu Pongal to all!

I was listening to an old recording of Swami Akhandananda’s discourses… (He was a great sage of Brindavan… A rare combination of a shrotriya [master of Veda-Shastra] and a Brahmanishtta [a Self-Realized Sage])…. Swamiji mentioned an interesting point about Dharma… He said that Dharma gives one a certain latitude to non-conform as well.

For eg, take the festival of Holi. It is well known that on that day many people indulge in Bhaang and other herbal-highs… On the day of Holi, such indulgence has been permitted in tradition… On days other than Holi, it is not. It is not even legal, one presumes. Supreme Court wouldn’t hear of it I am sure. But on that one day, the law just looks the other way – and perhaps winks.

Or take Diwali (Deepavali)… On Diwali night, many people offer Lakshmi Puja by gambling the whole night! That is the tradition… On other days, the same people would (mostly) refrain from gambling….

Now, these ‘exception’ days, act as a safety-valve of a pressure cooker. That one day of diversion, allows the adrenalin in man an outlet… And keeps him in bounds of mainstream law on other days… That is the way the traditional society manages emotional needs of man… Rather than putting a blanket ban, give a controlled exception… Have some plasticity… Make the structure earthquake-proof (by giving that “play’ in the foundation)… It is to keep the overall structure of society within bounds of Dharma that some exceptions are permitted in tradition, when a person can non-conform…

Ok now… Take a deep breath… This whole brouhaha about Jallikattu.

Here is what DrikPanchang says about the festival today – called “Maattu Pongal” (Pongal of Cows)…

“Mattu Pongal – In Tamil Nadu Makara Sankranthi is celebrated as Pongal. The day following Pongal festival is known as Mattu Pongal. The day of Mattu Pongal is dedicated for livestock worship. People in rural areas worship cows and bulls and decorate them with different colored items.

The day of Mattu Pongal is notoriously famous for Jallikattu.  Jallikattu is a bull taming sport played in Tamil Nadu as a part of Pongal celebrations on Mattu Pongal day.”

Today is Maattu Pongal. Happy Maattu Pongal!

On this day, cows everywhere in Tamil Nadu, are celebrated.

Here is a picture of a cow being offered worship in Sri Ramanasramam (Click here for blog source )

asram-cow

The post describes the festival – “Maattu Pongal the third day of the Pongal or Harvest festival is the day consecrated to the cows. Everywhere, on this day, cows are bathed and decorated with flower garlands and then puja is performed to them with offerings of sweet pongal and fruits. In Ramanashram too, it has always been the tradition right from the time of Bhagavan to celebrate Cow Pongal in a graceful way. Devotees will remember that Sri Ramana was very fond of the cow Lakshmi and He used to feed sweet pongal to Lakshmi with his own hands on Cow Pongal day.”

Here is a picture of Ramana Maharshi with a new born calf.

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Indeed, one should witness Maattu Pongal in Tamil Nadu to experience the sheer joy of cooperative joyousness of man and cow. Cows with bells on horns, horns gaily painted, turmeric and kumkuman applied on head and body, garlanded with lovely flowers, and sometimes with garlands of murukku and other eats…. Being offered worship, formally… And being given a Pongal feast…. What a joy…

And as one of the sideshows of this day, happens the Jallikattu…

Why create a ruckus over it?

It is an “exception”.. A safety-valve release of adrenalin…

And what better release than this? Here are a couple of quotes about bullfighting from Ernest Hemingway…

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And one must hasten to add that Jallikattu has a fundamental difference from Spanish bullfighting. In Jallikattu, the players compete to hold and hang on to the hump of the bull, and the one who manages to hold on till the bull reaches the finishing line wins. No ropes, sticks, whips, weapons are used. It is hand to hump sport… (For more info please click this link )

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So, I think we should take the balanced view on Jallikattu, and understand the context as well… The numbers are not many… Happens once a year, as per tradition… And it is outweighed heavily by the celebration and worship of all cattle that day…

The numbers and cruelty is not even remotely comparable to what is routinely accepted in society when it comes to Butchery of birds and animals for food – day in and day out…. Here is a youtube video of Paul McCartney…

So – if you really want to protest about cruelty to animals, you know where to go…

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Now coming to the matter of Law…

Law is known better as “letter of law”, and is a technical thing. And I am not qualified to speak of that. There are many experts weighing in on that, and we can hear them…

I wanted to share a more general view on Law – from ancient tradition.. And this has nothing to do with Jallikattu specifically.

I have an interest in Indian epics.

Here is a scene from Ramayana…

When Bharata comes to forest to ask Rama to return to Ayodhya… Rama questions him on how the Kingdom administration is being carried on by Bharata. One of the verses is:

कच्चिदष्टादशान्येषु स्वपक्षे दश पञ्च च।
त्रिभिस्त्रिभिरविज्ञातैर्वेत्सि तीर्थानि चारकैः।।

Rama asks Bharata: Do you keep under your surveillance, employing in each case three spies, each unknown to the other and to the rest of the world, the activities of 18 important authorities of other countries and the fifteen of your own?

Now, one of the 18 authorities that Rama is alluding to is one called as “prAdvivAka” – an official of justice.

Who is a prAdvivAka?

Govindaraja’s ‘Bhushana’ commentary on the above Ramayana verse says:

प्राड्विवाक: व्यवहारप्रष्टा । तल्लक्षणमुक्तम्– “विवादे पृच्छति प्रश्नं प्रतिप्रश्नं तथैव च । प्रियपूर्वं प्राग्वदति प्राड्विवाकस्तत: स्मृत: ।।” इति।

(PradvivAka is an examiner of  worldly matters. His characteristic is mentioned as “In a dispute, he asks questions and counter questions. He puts his questions in a pleasing manner, and so he is known as prAdvivAka”)

(prAd – questions, with vivEka – discerning intellect – and so prAdvivAka)

Now, the fundamental attribute of a person holding the office of prAdvivAka is that he should be a scholar of Dharma Shastra, and a thorough knower of prathA (tradition).

Here is a cut-paste from the Net:

“Raghunandana, the 15th/16th commentator from Bengal and an encyclopaedic author of 28 treatises clearly stated in his discourses on Vyavahara (Vyavahara tattva) that Lokavyavahara or popular custom, convention or the existing social practice enjoyed far superior edge over Sastric norms. He elaborated that if there was a dispute of larger dimension which could not be solved locally, the parties would report to the king or the Zamindar. The king would appoint an expert – Pradviveka (usually Brahmin, but occasionally a ksatriya with exceptional ability) proficient in both Sastric norms and customary practices. He questioned both parties, and after careful consideration he was expected to offer his opinion. Finally, the king would pronounce the final verdict as the supreme authority, though he was expected to ratify Pradviveka’s opinion under usual circumstances.”

So… In our traditional concept of prAdvivAka administering justice, local tradition, custom, practice is extremely important to be understood when viewing what is right or wrong. And our Ancient system of justice provided for it. And please note, Bhushana’s definition mentioned earlier – “He puts his questions in a pleasing manner, and so he is known as prAdvivAka”… Will the learned courts take note!

So here’s my two rupees (still a valid coin!)

Local tradition has jallikattu. It is a controlled affair, and a part of one day of Pongal harvest festival which is dedicated to celebrating cows. It is a sport. It releases Adrenalin. Let it be. Regulate it, where needed. Let it be an exception to be allowed on a special day. Remember Holi, Diwali etc… Add Pongal…

Some cud to chew…

krishna

Hare Krishna!

 

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Children’s World

July 5, 2015

Welcome to my childhood world of books! .
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You would have heard of the Dolls museum in New Delhi… Started by the greatest Grandfather of all time – Shankar of Shankar’s weekly immortality (far more than fame)… It is Shankar who started this museum, sometime forty or fifty years back…. A place where I have spent a substantial part of my school holidays, in the magic world of children’s books… It started like this. Maybe I was ten or eleven years old… I had written a poem and showed it to my father. The next day he took me to Nehru House, the building which houses Dolls Museum, and introduced me to the one and only Kesava Shankar Pillai … I remember the day still.. Shankar fixed his eyes on me… Read my poem… Spoke to me… Went in somewhere and came back with a load of children’s books, and just gifted them to me… Books published by his Children’s Book Trust… Many written and illustrated by him. He then took me to the BC Roy Children’s Library, right there, and enrolled me as a member. A world of children’s books opened for me… I went there whenever I could. Fact that my father’s office (CAG office) was right opposite helped. I would go with him, spend the day in the library, and then return with him… My favorite was Billy Bunter Series. I read them all. Then there were all the Enid Blytons, the Hardy Boys series, Three investigators. Biggles, Jennings, Nancy Drew, etc etc etc… After I passed out of school, I had to leave Delhi, to pursue my engineering studies. And I never went back to see the library. Till a few weeks ago. Last month, in June, when I was in Delhi, I was in that area. Having lunch with a colleague. After lunch, I took him along, and went checking on the library. It was still there…. I went up, feeling rather like a child, somewhat nervous, and opened the door… And I looked in… It was like coming back to heaven… A heaven of one’s childhood, which had not changed a bit…

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An elderly librarian waved us in…. The layout was more or less the same… The shelves of books had were in the same places. The walls were lined up with children’s paintings. The low tables and chairs were still there… Stamps from around the world were showcased in glass…. Lets pause a moment… Who was this BC Roy after whom this library is named? Many of us would have seen greetings of “Happy Doctors Day’ on 1st of July…. That day is celebrated in honor of Dr BC Roy. He was born on July 1 1882 and he died on July 1 1962. About him, here’s an excerpt from The Hundu, in article tiled “A Doctor Par Excellence’  – “Dr. B.C. Roy was one of the foremost national leaders of the 20th century. A legendary physician, distinguished political leader, philanthropist, educationist and social worker, he was one of the longest serving Chief Ministers and is rightly hailed as the Maker of Modern West Bengal.”..  A look at his Wikipedia entry will tell us how great a man he was. He was awarded Bharat Ratna too, and he was one who deserved that and more.

As great as him was the man who made the library named after him. Sri Kesava Shankar Pillai. His wikipedia entry begins – “Kesava Shankara Pillai (Malayalam: കെ. ശങ്കര്‍ പിള്ള) (31 July 1902 – 26 December 1989), better known as Shankar, was an Indian cartoonist. He is considered the father of political cartooning in India. He founded Shankar’s Weekly, India’s Punch in 1948. Shankar’s Weekly also produced cartoonists like Abu Abraham, Ranga and Kutty, he closed down the magazine during the Emergency of 25 June 1975. From then on he turned to making children laugh and enjoy life. He was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1976, the second highest civilian honour given by the Govt. of India.[2] Today he is most remembered for setting up Children’s Book Trust established 1957 and Shankar’s International Dolls Museum in 1965.

For me, as for thousands and thousands of children across the world, Shankar was someone from Devaloka, Our house (with many children) subscribed to ‘Children’s World’ magazine that he brought out. All of us brothers (four) have written poems and stuff, in the magazine. I have participated in the annual Shankar’s On the Spot Painting Competition, which was held in Delhi, sometime around February (I think). The competition, which commenced  sometime in early 1950s and is on till this day. There was also the worldwide Shankar’s International Children’s Competition, of art and writing, which now gets more than a hundred and fifty thousand entries every year….. And the prizes, in those days, was given by dignitaries such as the Prime Minister or President of India.. Such was it’s magic! How can one ever thank that world’s greatest and most hard working magician, Sri Kesava Shankar Pillai!

Coming back to my visit to the BC Roy library.. The rows of bookshelves are designed keeping children in mind. Books within easy reach of small kids. Rows narrow walkway in between…. Broad for kids… .

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I instinctively walked to the shelves which had Billy Bunter books…They were not there… I went to the catalog, just like I did forty years ago, found some Billy Bunter books and went looking for them…. They had all been borrowed. Found some Hardy Boys books.. .

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My friend was chatting with the librarian.. Called me over… The librarian told me he was there since the early 70s, which meant that he was there when I had been coming. I said I remembered a Malayalee librarian. He said – Yes, that was the main librarian, and he and another lady assisted that gentleman… He had joined the library when he was in his early 20s… A lovely man. Serving the cause of children’s reading for over forty years. Surely some award should be given to him. Here he is… A Mr Rana, if  I recall his name right.

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Reluctantly, taking leave of the library, I went down to the Children’s Book Trust shop… What a spread! .

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I found books that were presented to me by the great Mr Shankar, all those years ago. Still there. Still beckoning me with their magic. I  bought some of those books, the very titles which I had savored when I was a kid. I bought them now, as a gift for my new born grandson, for him to read a few years from now…. .

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It cost less than 200 Rs for five books.. The four above, and one biography of Shankar, written by his daughter in law Alaka Shankar, all in good paper, beautifully illustrated (by Shankar himself), large fonts… I also found ‘Children’s World’ magazine, and bought one for Rs 20…. Browsing through the biography of Shankar, I found an old black and white photo of the BC Roy library…. I think I am there in it. .

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The one in the black shirt, right in the middle. I think that’s me, and on my left, my elder brother… Not sure…

But back now,
here’s me,
just as happy,
in a selfie,
in the BC Roy children’s library…

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That’s all for now. This is Inky, Hurree Jamshet Ram Singh, the Nabob of Bhanipur, signing off from the library of Greyfriars school!

The joyfullness is terrific! 

“Atasözleri” – A Friday Fare

March 29, 2013

Sometime ago, flipping through some airline travel magazine, I came across an interesting article about a wonderful country – Turkey…  An ancient land of rich, diverse culture… Whose melody I could get a glimpse of, when I read a quote of their novelist, Orhan Pamuk, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006… Asked about his creativity, the writer said: “”I am just listening to an inner music, the mystery of which I don’t completely know. And I don’t want to know.”  (btw… Net Info says Orhan Pamuk is partner with Kiran Desai, Man Booker Prize winning novelist… Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam -> वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् … The world is one family….. )

A statement like that of Pamuk surely invites you for more… And surfing around during moments of ‘creative pause’ in the workaday ‘fast-forward or perish’ mode of life, I came across some old Turk wisdom….

Ok… Proverbs time…

The Rig Veda says: आ नो भद्राः क्रतवो यन्तु विश्वतः… Let noble thoughts come to us from all the world… And so, here comes…

Translations of some ‘Atasozleri’, the Turkish word for proverbs….literally means – “Ancestor Words” …

  • Do not roll up your trouser-sleeves before you see the stream
  • The person who holds the honey, licks his fingers
  • If dogs’ prayers are answered, it would rain bones from the sky
  • He who wants yogurt in the winter must carry a cow in his pocket (meaning: if you want something difficult, you must be willing to take the trouble to obtain it)
  • He who has burned his mouth on milk blows on yogurt before eating it
  • If they said there was a wedding in the sky, women would try to put up a ladder
  • It’s not a festival time, it’s not a pleasure trip, then why did my brother-in-law kiss me? (Meaning: There must be a reason behind this… daal mein kuch kaalaa hai…)
  • A defeated wrestler is not tired of wrestling.
  • Even if you know a thousand things, still ask someone who knows
  • Sharp vinegar only damages its container

  • A bachelor feels like a sultan
  • To a bachelor, divorcing a wife comes easy
  • The fly is small, but it can upset your stomach
  • The tree branch should be bent when it is young
  • Free vinegar is sweeter than honey
  • The one that falls in to the sea grabs even a snake
  • If you give him cloth, he’ll ask for the lining
  • Stretch your feet according to your blanket
  • I tell it to my daughter, for my daughter-in-law to understand
  • Reversing losses at whatever point is a profit
  • A village that you can see in a distance does not require a guide
  • The one who enters a Turkish bath, sweats
  • Demand a task from a lazy person, and be ready to receive advise
  • It is better to walk around a bush than fight with a dog.

Wanna hear the sound of ‘ancestor words’?

  • “Ben ağa, sen ağa, bu ineği kim sağa”

Meaning:  I’m a chief and you’re a chief, who will milk the cow?

OK… folks… Have a Thoughtful, Happy, Good Friday!

Gandhi Smrti

October 19, 2010

Sunday, Sep 12th of 2010. New Delhi.

Yamuna was in spate. After visiting the Nizamuddin bridge to see Yamuna flow in full glory, decided to visit Birla House, the place where Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated.

The place is now known as Gandhi Smrti (Gandhi Memorial).

When we reached there, the skies opened up, and it started pouring.  A big sedan drove in, and an elderly politician stepped out, accompanied by a band of men. “Kshatriya Shiromani zindabad zindabad” slogans were raised by his men, shattering the peace of the place.

Leaving them to be, we started to explore the place.

The first thing that captured my sight was the “World Peace Gong”, in the front garden.

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The gong, bearing the national flags of all UN Countries and symbols of the major religions of the world, was presented to Gandhi Smrti by Indonesia, and was installed here on Sep 11, 2006 (almost four years ago, to the date). This was to mark 100 years of Satyagraha. Mahatma Gandhi had started his Satyagraha movement on Sep 11, 1906 in South Africa, to protest against a law that mandated all Asians to submit their finger prints and get formal registration with the powers that be. And in 2006,  the South African Deputy Premier had come to inaugurate this “World Peace Gong” to honor the Mahatma.

So, yes, 9/11 was the date Mahatma started his Satyagraha, a hundred plus years ago…

Going past the gong, one turned across the building to go behind, looking for  ‘Balidan Sthal’, the place where the Mahatma was assassinated. On the way, there was a shamiana set up on one part of the garden, where a function was about to commence.

At the back of the building, we found a statue of the Mahatma spinning the charkha.

 

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To the left of the tree seen in the picture, was the door-like window from where the Mahatma stepped out of, on 30-Jan-1948.

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He was walking to join the prayer meeting in the garden behind. His walking route is marked….

And there, in the garden, an assassin shot him.

A canopy has been erected to mark the place.

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His last words, “Hey Ram!” engraved in the stone marker.

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Standing in the rain, mouthing a silent prayer to God, paying homage to the great Mahatma… After doing Pradakshina of the balidan-sthal, turned back…

Now, the attention was drawn to the function being held in one side of the garden. The one to which the politician had come.

Here is what it was.

They were celebrating the birthday of Feroze Gandhi.

A picture of the stage.

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Stood for a while in the tent to escape the rain.

Going out, one noticed a poster, that jolted me… Description of the carnage at Chandni chowk in 1857… This was the British imperialism that Mahatma did Satyagraha against…Click on the picture to read…

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I came back to Gandhi smrti a few days later, to buy some books. Books written by the Mahatma. Not available in the regular bookshops…

A bright day.

While I paid the bill, I noticed all the staff trooping to the garden. I followed them… The group gathered in the garden, next to the Balidan-sthal, and they commenced singing songs, from different religions. As they sang Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram, I too joined them from far…

Walking across to  one of the security guards there, I asked him if this bhajan was a regular feature. “No”, he said. “A new Director has taken charge today. And she has called for this multi religion prayer gathering of all the staff”, he said.

“The Mahatma lives!”, I thought…

Signing off this post with a picture of the prayer-group, from across the canopy where the Mahatma took the name of Ram, one last time.

Tharoor’s tweets etc

October 3, 2009

Shashi Tharoor is just the kind of man one wanted to see in politics. Educated, eloquent, experienced… A person whose integrity you can take for granted…

And then came his tweets… Lets jump past the cattle-class tweet and come to his Gandhi (the Mahatma) Jayanti tweet. Which started this debate on why we should observe a holiday on that day… Among other tweets, Shashi Tharoor has the following:

– “Vietnamese VP said ydy: in V’nam, HoChiMinh’s birthday is a working day & citizens are expected to put in extra effort at work to honour him.”

– “I want us to start the day w solemn commemoration of Gandhiji & then work, bearing his ideals & principles in mind”…

Nice tweets.

Tharoor is one among the many great Indians who have found inspiration from the Mahatma.

There is this other eloquent and educated person, who is considered the Guru of communications, and is a revered icon of the Advertisement field… He was on TV in a panel discussion about  Mahatma Gandhi (Note: the Mahatma prefix is just to clarify which Gandhi we are speaking of).

And the Ad-man, with folded hands, said that he considered Gandhi as his guru, and that Gandhi had an intuitive understanding of communication… And then he went on to say that even though Gandhi was a South African, he took to wearing Indian dresses at the behest of Gokhale, and that was quite amazing considering that Gandhi was at heart a liberal westerner (or words to that effect)…

Was the loin cloth of the Mahatma merely a “communications device”?

Not sure how many “liberal” westerners go around doing constant japa of the name of Rama.

Coming back to Tharoor and the tweet :

“I want us to start the day w solemn commemoration of Gandhiji & then work, bearing his ideals & principles in mind”…

Here goes…

For one, the Mahatma would not have stayed in a five-star hotel. He would not have done that, for he was frugal with his spending. He would take the least expensive option,  a post card rather than an inland letter, a third-class train ticket rather then an upper class one, a hut rather than a room (what to speak of a suite in a five-star hotel)… He would certainly not justify any excessive spend saying “it was my money that i spent”, and he would not insist on “gym and privacy”.

So…

So, among thousands of folks following Shashi Tharoor, I too sent a reply-tweet:

“On Oct 2, politicians following the Mahatma’s ideals may fast, spin charkha, introspect and pray [if that is not a No-No 🙂 ]”

But then they do very little of these things in Vietnam!

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Ok… To end this post,  let me RT (retweet) (requote) words of the great Mahatma, whose last will and testament, written on the eve of his assassination, commenced with the following lines:

“Though split into two, India having attained political independence through means devised by the Indian National Congress, the Congress in its present shape and form, i.e., as a propaganda vehicle and parliamentary machine, has outlived its use. India has still to’ attain social, moral and economic independence in terms of its seven hundred thousand villages as distinguished from its cities and towns. The struggle for the ascendency of ‘civil over military power is bound to take place in India’s progress towards its democratic goal. It must be kept out of unhealthy competition with political parties and communal bodies. For these and other similar reasons, the A. I. C. C. resolves to disband the existing Congress organization and flower into a Lok Sevak …”

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Now what was that again?

Na tat satyam…

January 7, 2009

Today, the Satyam scam broke out… A sad day for Corporate India…

I am cut-pasting below,  an excerpt from a piece on “Corporate Governance” that I had written in 2005….

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Good corporate governance is about setting strategies, structures and systems that ensure that there is a just and fair value system that reflect  in the working of an enterprise. That people are accountable for the work. And that the work is auditable by non-partisan agencies. And this continuum starts at the top. Yatha Raaja, Tata Prajaa…The values in the top floor has to be seen also in the shop floor. Purity of intent has to be seen in all the acts of the enterprise.

Many, many hundreds of years ago, Kautilya wrote the phenomenal treatise Artha Shastra. It is a remarkable manual on the practice of management, on the art of Governance. Kautilya identifies the two pillars of good governance as  Dharma, Ethics and Nyaya, Justice. He begins with Self Governance. He advises the leader to introspect to identify his atma doshas, i.e. deficiencies to improve or develop himself. He further advises the leader to study deficiencies of his cabinet members and take corrective actions. He states that Mantris could be incompetent. Senapati, or COO, could be over ambitious. Purohit, or Chief Ethics Officer, may not consider the present day practices or traditions while enacting laws or justice, which might lead to injustice.

Kautilya says that the a robust enterprise should have diverse economic interests. It should be active, efficient, and profitable. Efficient management means setting up of realistic targets and meeting targets without using over zealous means. Policies should be prudent and based on Dharma and Nyaya. Profitability should not only mean surplus over costs. It should also mean provision of investment for future growth.  He advises that the leader should have a limited span of control, and warns against centralization of power, saying “one wheel does not move a chariot”. He says that the advisors of the leader should be people with practical experience, character, thinking prowess, sound judgement and the courage to express differences of opinion to the leader.

All of which are recipes that seem as apt for this new millennium as well. A millennium where we are in very exciting times. A  dangerous time as well.

These are times where economic globalization is for real. And a time when at the heart of management is risk management, and the greatest of all risks is “reputation risk”. In the age of internet and worldwide media, bad news travels as fast as light. You lose trust of the stakeholders, you lose everything. A reputation that has taken decades and more to build, can be lost overnight, and we have seen multi billion dollar corporations reduced to bankruptcy – because of failed corporate governance. And how did such cases come to be? Some key people, somewhere, somehow forgot the fundamentals. Fundamentals such as the fact that business of company leadership is to manage the company, and not manage the stock price. That a leader thinks for the future, not for the quarter. That real balance sheet, real profits, real cash are important. That compromise of ethics would only hasten the end.

And in this millennium, more than ever before, the enterprises are seized by the need for speed and urgency. This brings tremendous stress to the systems that they have inherited. Good corporations of before surely had tried and tested business processes. But now, the need is for proving to the world that your business processes are good. You must explain the tests that you carry out, demonstrate the internal controls that you have in place. You must have these certified by external agencies. And last but not least, the buck stops with the Board.

When things go wrong, they go so wrong.

The consequences of wrong choices, of bad governance is well brought out in the ancient epic Mahabharata, that most of us are familiar with. Remember the scene when Duryodana and Shakuni defeat the Pandavas in a game of gambling played with crooked dice. Under the very eyes of such eminent and noble people like Bhishma, Kripa, Drona, Vidura and others, the evil Dushaasana drags Draupadi to the assembly. She pleads for justice in vain. And in anger, she proclaims:

Na saa sabhaa yatra na santi vriddhaa

Na tE vridhaa yE na vadanti dharmam

Na asau dharmO yatra na satyam asti

Na tat satyam yachchalEnAnuviddham….

She says:

“That is not an assembly which does not have elders (In our context, we may take this to mean “that is not a Board that does not have wise directors, including independent directors”).

They are not elders who do not speak Dharma (they are not Directors who do not speak of ethics)

That is not Dharma which is not the truthful. (That is not ethics, which is not based on ‘Satyam’ – Truth…)

That is not the “Satyam” – Truth – which is crooked and devious (Needs no explanation)”.

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Chandrayaan – A voyage to the moon

October 22, 2008

Sriharikota is just 80 kms from Chennai. And I was very tempted to go down there to see the blast off of the PSLV rocket carrying Chandrayaan, the moon voyager.

But then it has been raining heavily in this part of the country. And I couldnt figure out if they would allow visitors anywhere within sighting distance of the launch site. And on a clouded day, one would perhaps see the rocket for a second or two before it whizzed out of sight. And the launch was scheduled for 6:20 am or so, pretty early in the morning… To cut a short story long, I didnt go, and decided to watch it on TV instead.

And the TV channels too didnt seem to be beaming pictures real time. They were showing some older pictures, and suddenly, the anchor announced that they had just heard that Chandrayaan had taken off – and then they showed a short frame of the rocket base alone firing, and then a second or two of the rocket up in the sky, and ‘poof’, gone… cut to scientists in white uniform, all sitting in packed rows, looking at computer screens and controls in front of them…

There were no ‘nine-eight-seven-six-five-four-three-two-one-zero Blast Off’ kind of announcements that one was sort of expecting. The blast off was over, before one realized, double quick!

But then, all said and done, it felt great. Chandrayaan was off! On its way to the moon! Mr Madhavan Nair, ISRO chairman, has said that they have a vision of having an Indian land on the moon in 2015. Now, isnt that something!

A good friend sent me the link to a diary kept by some of the Chandrayaan scientists, carried by Outlook magazine.

Here are a few excerpts from some pages of that diary, kept by K.B. Anantha Rama Sarma, Associate Project Director and Operational in-charge, Chandrayaan-1 Project.  To see the whole diary, you can click here.

**Diary excerpts begin**

02-10-08

Satellite was flagged off at 5-45AM at ISAC, Bangalore.

03-10-08

By 3-45 PM, satellite entered the main gate of Sriharikota range and by 3-50 PM reached the first destination at the launch site, called SP-1B. It was a relief for the entire team who traveled along with the satellite; remember the satellite traveled at a speed of about 20 kmph for about 350 kms!

From the arrival of the satellite it was a marathon for the entire team. Every activity to be executed on the satellite was already finalized to the minutest detail and the activity scheduling was already done few weeks back. Now the time has come for the execution of the plan. All teams were told in advance when they are required.

From the time the satellite arrived all activities went on continuously, round the clock. The defined teams were ready as per their shift timings.

08-10-08 to 09-10-08

Last six months we were knowing only calendar dates, but no days or holidays. This time we were told that Dasara festivals are in progress and Mahanavami is on October 9th.

All of us joined together in celebrating the Dasara and praying for the success of Chandrayaan-1 PSLV C-11 mission.

10-10-08

In less than eight days all the planned activities were completed. The earlier record for any previous satellite at SP-1 was thirteen days and we have done it in eight days! This was due to the dedicated efforts of more than hundred scientists, engineers and technicians belonging to various ISRO centres

11-10-08

ISRO again proves that nothing is impossible. I always wonder what is the driving force behind us? Money? No. Power? No. Fame? No.

It is self-motivation and dedication.

I cannot wait anymore, AND I AM EAGERLY WAITING FOR THE launch of PSLV-C11.

**Diary excerpts end

In these times of mindless violence, brazen corruption, total political opportunism, and general economic crisis, one hardly looks forward to reading the morning newspaper or watching the early mornin news on TV.  But today was an exception. For it was the day we left all this, and reached for the moon. One feels great peace and a silent joy.

Brings to my mind an ancient prayer of the Vedas, the Chamakaprashnam, where one seeks among other things – pR^ithivii cha ma indrashcha me, antarikshaM cha ma indrashcha me, dyaushcha ma indrashcha me, dishashcha ma indrashcha me – ‘May the earth be for me, the space be for me, the heavens be for me, the directions be for me…’

Humpty Dumpty sat on Wallstreet…

October 12, 2008

What does one say when the house crumbles upon you?

What institution do you trust, when you see the biggest and strongest of banks fold up like a pack of cards, and no one, no one, is unduly concerned about accepting guilt or about finding the guilty.

Where does one find hope, even as one shudders to pick up the morning newspaper, whose daily headlines, as one wag put it, says “You don’t want to know this…”…

And if you ignore the newspaper, you are woken up by a cell phone beep – a message from your bank that says – “Your deposits with our bank are safe. Your bank is well capitalized with good liquidity. Please do not listen to baseless rumors. Happy festive season,”

Did you hear that? Happy festive season, they say… Incredible!

(Picture Rome of old… and a message – “Dear citizens… Rome is safe… Happy fiddling – Yours sincerely, Nero).

There is something rotten in the state of governance worldwide.

Perhaps it is time to go back to the drawing board, do some basic thinking, and ask questions like “what is money?”

And I am not sure I would trust an economist or a banker anywhere near that drawing board. For they seem to have fixed the system against the citizen. That seems to be the DNA of its design. For it is abundantly clear that the foundations of the world’s financial superstructure is built with liquids…Its called liquidity…

Meanwhile, two intelligent persons in America are fighting an increasingly boring battle for the captaincy of a sinking ship. Thats the spirit. The farce must go on…

And in one corner of a country on the other side of the earth from America, I squint to read an article that says “How safe is your bank? A must read”.

The Great Debate

October 3, 2008

Or so it was billed to be…

Biden vs Palin

And pundits had gone great lengths to decide strategies – how Biden has to be careful and not get women mad… The only way to win was not to win, or something to that effect… And Palin did herself no favors by that interview with CBS a week ago.

And so it was, today, halfway across the world, one could watch the Biden vs Palib debate, morning time…live…

Biden had a good strategy. He didn’t as much debate with Palin, as much as he battered McCain. It was McCain this, and McCain that… And Palin, while she did a comeback case for herself more than anything else, did pretty much seem like a daughter defending her dad, when she spoke of McCain…”My papa knows what is the right thing to do…”

She showed that she’s a good learner. A real trier. She could reel out names of countries and  leaders, that she may not  have known some weeks ago. She’s working at pronouncing the word “nuclear”. Overall, she survived the debate honorably. And she seemed glad at that.

There was one opening, I thought, which Biden gave, when Palin could have landed out a good hard jab. That was when he was quizzed about his perceived weakness of being ‘undisciplined’. He gave a “oh gimme a break” kind of answer …. “my record shows….and that’s the way I have been, I am, and I shall be. I dont see any reason to change…”… He said, in a rather brusque sort of way, that he saw no reason why he should change…

And I thought that he and Obama were all about ‘Change’…

*****

NB: Another lil thing… If McCain does go on to win, America, perhaps for the first time in history, will have a VP who winks…

I am my brother’s keeper

August 29, 2008

Happened to see Obama’s acceptance speech today.

The Americans know how to put up a show! And Obama is a star. He has a natural grace, like Bolt running the Olympic sprint… he has a great voice… and best of all, he has a winning smile. Thats the clincher…

He came on stage and must have said “Thank You” twenty or thirty times – to an avid audience that refused to stop applauding. He went through his lines with ease… He hammered home his message of ‘change’, made the people chant ‘yes, we can’ and ‘eight is enough’ (of Rep rule)… He took on McCain and the Republican philosophical position and said that the country had lost more than just what you could see and count… it had lost a common sense of purpose in the last eight years of Rep misrule… He emphasized the cause of the common American… He challenged McCain to a debate to figure out who has a better judgment on national security, and deserves to be C-in-C…

It was American Masaalaa at its best.

But did it have the magic of “I have a dream” speech of Martin Luther King of forty five years ago? (Same date as this one)…. I think not… Was it good enough to keep you hearing from beginning to end? I think yes… I think Whitehouse may well see a black President this year…

Barak made one statement strongly… speaking about different aspects and effects of the last eight years of Rep rule, he repeatedly said “We are better than that”…

I think Barak too is better than what he thinks he is… Hope he finds his real self…

I have a dream…