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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Of Jayalalitha and Karunanidhi

I remember seeing Jayalalitha in my Colony in Chennai somewhere in 1986 or 1987.
She was the "Proganda Secretary" of the AIADMK then, and MGR was the Chief Minister.
The post was entirely one created by MGR for her: there was no post of Propaganda Secretary before her, and none existed after her.
No-one, either in the AIADMK or outside quite knew what were the duties of such a post: I guess it would be safe to say that these onerous duties were entirely speculative in nature.
Jayalalitha would have have been in her early forties then, or maybe 40.
She had the beginnings of corpulence in her figure then, and she looked like a fairly fat, fair woman, with big eyes.
The party workers set up a dais at the end of the street where I lived, and it was a very hot summer day.
I do not remember now whether some kind of municipal or byelections were on then, but I remember that Jayalalitha came at around 3 pm in the afternoon, and gave her address.
She was dressed in a dazzling white sari with the AIADMK's party colours at the border, or pallu. The speech was very sedate, and delivered in a very slow, uninspiring way, as if by some person who was learning to speak publicly. The poor in the area, some two hundred of them listened to her, without much enthusiasm, and after half an hour, she was gone. The pandal was taken down within an hour of her departure, and that was that.
I also remember seeing Karunanidhi addressing an election meeting in T. Nagar, but this was when Jayalalitha was in power. It was late one night, and I was walking by the T. Nagar bus-stand, when I saw that a pandal had been set up in one of the bylanes. Karunanidhi was speaking, and I stopped by, to listen.
He was speaking of Jayalalitha's "sadism". Though the rest of what he said was in pure Tamil, he used the English word "sadism" to refer to the pleasure Jayalalitha derived from harassing him, his family and DMK party workers. He went on, slowly, but gripping the audience attention, as he built up his case: Jayalalitha's sadism, his party's tolerance and dedication to the Dravidian cause, his affection for MGR (who had passed away) and his hope that the Tamilian people would return to their senses. It was very different: here was a practised speaker, who knew how to sway people by his oratory.
Years later, as AIR's News Correspondent, when Karunanidhi was dragged out of bed and locked up in jail by Jayalalitha, I came to Chenni to report on the drama for radio. The DMK workers were furious that Jayalalitha had the guts to get their leader physically manhandled by the police, and in the protests, they were obscene and ribald about Jayalalitha. Gone was the pretence that they were gentlemen. In the slogans they raised, they referred to Karunanidhi's great virility ( as evidenced by his bigamous marriages, his various children with the various wives ) and what Kalaignar would do to her, and how Jayalalitha needed a good dose of just that from him.
On the whole, I felt pity for the Dravidian movement, to have splintered and be led by such a poor quality of leaders, and issues which were so personalised and trivial....

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Stairway to Heaven

That's a pic of St. Paul's cathedral, as seen from the Tate Modern, across the Thames. The Millenium Bridge looks at though it is leading up to St.Paul's, though it actually does not. I took this pic because of its intriguing Christian allegory of a bridge to heaven...the window through which the pic is taken, also reminded me of the imagery on stained glass windows of churches.
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Travails of a parent at school admission time.....

It was school admission time, from 10th to 11th Standard, for my daughter.
We spent 40,000 crores on the Commonwealth Games, and yet last month found me and wifey begging, grovelling and profusely apologising to the principal of school in South Delhi where we were seeking admission, for my daughter's interest in sports, and her medals and certificates in football, basketball and running. It was as though it was a serious and shameful addiction: how dare your girl actually have secret ambitions in the sports arena?
Earlier, two teachers from the school "interviewed" us: with these kind of sporting (read: shameful) activities, your daughter can never keep up with her peers in studies, we were told.
How can you think of studying for the 12th exams, if some of  your energy gets diverted? She was asked.
Our defensive explanations, that we think a well-rounded individual needs to be good at sports as well as academics was scornfully brushed aside: we have seen what happens to those who are interested in sports, they do poorly at academics.
Finally, my daughter was asked to decide: if you want to get in here, forget your sports.
I was asked: what if your daughter does poorly, six months down the line?
The girl's long list of games certificates was not even given a cursory glance.
In the end, we had to give a guarantee: come what may, her academics would always be dazzling, and in no circumstances would her sports activities be allowed to come in the way. And ofcourse, there would be no question of pursuing sports when she was in the 12th standard.
After this ordeal, spread over two days, my daughter, with A grades, and the top basketball player of her previous school, was given admission to this other school.
Furious at the school, I instead lashed out at my daughter when I got home: she would have to give up most of her sports activity, and the most important thing was to ensure that she would get the top grades.
This, I guess, is the fate of most parents whose children, especially girls, participate in sports.
Is it surprising that India's ranking in world sports ( not the decadent game of cricket) is dismal? Will any amount of money, lavished at these sports extravaganzas, change the scenario? If a school in Delhi, located 500 metres from the Nehru stadium, just six months after the Games, behaves in this way, is there any hope left for sports in India's thousands of schools?
Just like maths and physics, excellence in sports needs to be recognized on the report cards, and factored into the CGPA and SGPA. That way, people who are good in sports will not be penalized and forced to give up sports.