Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Blood sport

In ancient times Romans would set humans against animals and watch the resulting gore from specially built stadia. Next came the era of gladiators who fought against each other to the merriment of the audience. That tradition is even now seen in the form of bull fight. The bulls don’t fight; they are killed after getting them so tired chasing a red cloth being waved by the modern day gladiator called a matador. Bulls occasionally behave in a wayward manner and succeed in attacking not the red cloth but the matador. This element of danger is what interests the audience and the ultimate killing is done by piercing the brain of the animal. One of the most brutal of sports practiced in modern times is this so called bull fight.

Next in order is boxing where two humans fight each other. Elaborate rules and gear makes this less bloody than killing the bull but fighters can get killed or maimed for life. The famous Mohammed Ali suffered such severe brain damage that he became a cripple in his middle age. But the sport is quite popular and even Olympic games have this and that too in many categories depending on the weight of the participants.

Next comes car and motor cycle racing. I just cannot understand the popularity of this sport. If impending death is what one wants to watch and call it sport you have a perfect example of this in motor racing. The recent tragic death of two young men, one in motorcycle racing and another in car racing seemed to have heightened expectations and popularity. In our country, the land of ahimsa, a huge track has been built in Noida and we are going to have this bloody sport pretty soon. The likes of Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh and co seem to think that this s sport they should support by buying teams!

Horse is wonderful animal. In grace and bearing I don’t think there is any mammal which is as good looking [including humans] as a horse. What have we done with this animal? We train it to race with a man sitting on the top and urging it to run faster by beating it’s haunches with a specially made strap. And thousands throng to watch. Society women use this as an occasion to show off their costumes and head gear. But again the popularity is partly due to the element of danger where in, the horse as well as the rider may come to harm.

Of course there is an element of injury risk in most sports except probably in table games. Most sports need skill, stamina and fitness and provide pleasure of a different kind. The pleasure is that by taking part in the sport you are actually experiencing pleasure which is based on skill and stamina. The perfect example of such a sport is Badminton. One should watch the likes of Dan of China and Wie of Malaysia playing against each other. It is impossible to believe that a human being can be so fit and agile. There is hardly any threat of someone getting killed playing Badminton, ping pong or Tennis.

As sport loving people we should stop watching motor racing, horse racing and boxing and shift to watching other sports even if it is twenty twenty cricket !


I miss lot of things of yester years. I wrote about the joy of cycling without the fear of being run over. We could go to concerts and plays without worrying about the traffic, parking problems and the hassles of returning late in the night.

The concert in my very young days was a kind of musical dance drama called Yakshagana. The characters would dress in the gaudiest of colors and costumes with elaborate head gears. They would have bells tied to their ankles.There was an accompaniment of song and storytelling with the beat of drums. The performance would begin late at night and go on till early hours of next morning! It combined elements of song, dance, theatre, music and storytelling all in one show. It was superb and held us enthralled for more than 8 hours! The truncated from is still widely prevalent in the coastal districts.

The same applied to classical music, it would start late and end may be six hours later. The singer and the audience were one in appreciation of each other. Such spectacles which were common 50 years back have virtually disappeared now. Modern day classical concerts last not even three hours and in one performance some time ago the artist Amjad Ali spent more time tuning his instrument rather than playing it! I thought with the advent of MP3 CD I would be able to get music which lasts for many hours. By this I mean, a single or two ragas elaborated over three to four hours. My search so far has not succeeded.

Foot paths were foot paths then. They were even and one could walk on them. Now they are either used to park vehicles are dug up and we have to walk on the streets and run the risk of being run over. Many, especially the elderly are forced to stay home and rot. Even the simple pleasure of a walk is denied to them.

All this, we call progress and this consumerist economy is driving this society crazy.

Unsafe Nation

A senior police officer, who was a patient of mine, once told me how easy to hoist a case on any citizen in this country. He even told me how. ‘Suppose I don’t like you and want to trouble you, I will tell my subordinate to book a case of traffic violation on you, that you have not even taken your car out is not the issue. To prove that you did not violate the rule you will have to prove this in front of a magistrate and the case cab drag on for years’. Worse still, he said, he can get me involved in more serious cases of violation of civil and criminal law and the onus of proving innocence is on me. Therefore most people don’t want to even remotely to get involved and if they do they will some have to pay a heavy price in terms of money, time and mental torture.

This is what is happening to Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and co who are fighting the UPA government. Swami Agnivesh, who I thought was a man of character, proved to be such a disappointment. I liked best Anna Hazare’s statement,’ you cannot get a bunch of roses without the thorns’

I hope the vilifying propaganda by the likes of Digvijay singh and likes will not succeed and the common man will, when the time comes to cast his vote against the UPA.

But then who will he vote for?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Rural hell to urban hell

I remember the days when I could cycle from one end of Bangalore to the other end in 15 minutes. That was 50 years ago. Today I cannot do it at all by the bicycle. At this rate of monstrous growth, this city is going to kill itself in another twenty years. It will be impossible to provide the basic civic needs to this large number of people spread out in 50 km radius by our none too efficient civic body, the BBMP.

Many so called people of vision see the inevitability of our towns and cities growing bigger because of migration of people from rural to urban locales and they even recommend an urban based economy. These include the likes of Nandan Nilakeni and the illustrious Narayan Murthy. This inevitability is due to ambitious youth whose numbers make 70% of our population. These young men are migrating to towns and cities in search of better living and more opportunities.

What is the result? Our towns and cities are becoming quagmires of dirt and decay. Our rich and the powerful are hiding behind huge fortress like compounds with security guarding their privacy away from the environmental muck that surrounds them. Most migrants end up as labourers of one type or the other serving these powerful few.

Is this what we want for our country? Is there no way to prevent this migration? Or is it inevitable or even desirable that people move out?

I am not an economist or a town planner. I only write about what I see and observe. I observe the development of a greatly demeaning society because of this migration. My gut feeling is that if we don’t reverse this trend, our towns and cities will die due to lack of resources and poor management.

How can we reverse this? There are some thoughts. These may not be original ones but they keep on occurring to me whenever I think of the rural poor. The minimum wages must be guaranteed as it is being done in the cities. Increasing the job opportunities in the villages will help to reverse the trend. This can be done by major changes in our agricultural policies. The farmer must not suffer and farm produce must get the right price unlike now where the middleman gets most of the money. Rural overpopulation leads to migration of excess labor. Limiting numbers must be our relentless drive. No one in right sense will leave a comfortable rural life to a life for a poor quality urban life merely because of the so called attractions of urban living. They are coming to the towns and cities because our rural economy is failing to provide jobs.

They leave and make the rural economy suffer and clutter and destroy the cities. Bangalore is one such prime example how this can happen in one's life time [mine]

Monday, October 3, 2011

Relevance of Gandhi

Yesterday was Gandhi’s birthday and country celebrated it the usual way. Another holiday to the burgeoning list, no alcohol sold, processions, speeches, garlanding of Gandhi statues and the like. Came evening all were back to their typically ungandhian ways of living.

If there is one country where Gandhian values are practiced least, that is present day India. Let us take one by one. He preached nonviolence as the credo of his life. We have become violent and growing more violent by the day both in verbiage and action. Our movies preach violence and our politicians condone it. Mafia dons and Goonda bosses are given tickets to contest elections by major political parties.

Next in the line of importance of Gandhian teachings was communal tolerance and harmony. He gave his life for this cause. Many are not aware that he was a deeply pained man at the time of Indian independence. He did not want this kind of independence where men of different religious faiths butchered each other. Now not only this intolerance exists but has extended to different sub sects and languages. The major political parties, in Gandhi’s name are actually fostering this and today the country is deeply divided on communal cast and language lines.

He preached minimal needs and manual labor. What do you see around now? Conspicuous consumption and possession of materilals.No one wants to use his hands which include all classes of people. Everyone wants a white collar job. Man who walks wants a bicycle, a cyclist wants a two wheeler, a two wheeler guy wants a car, a car owner wants two of them and better ones. Same applies to money, clothing, jewellery, house and what have you. He advocated spinning yarn as the best mode of providing millions of jobs. Today who wears Khadi? It has become a dirty word as our politicians wear it to show off!

He did not believe in going to temples to prove his piety. But he led the socially oppressed to gain entry into our sacrosanct temples. Untouchability still exists if not visibly but in the mind of people.

Gandhi’s dislike of alcohol was more to do to its capacity to destroy and degrade human life and not because it was bad [it is bad, like too much of food]. In fact his close followers, Maulana Azad and Pandit Nehru were not averse to an occasional tot. Where are we now? every nook and corner we have a liquor shop and Hooch is freely available.

He advocated personal and environmental hygiene and practiced it and preached. We have the worst sanitation and environmental pollution in the world.

Of course he had his quirks. The major one was his advocacy of celibacy as a method of limiting family and was against family planning methods. I am sure he would have changed his views had he been alive.

He probably would have agreed to industrialization where ever it was absolutely required. He would certainly have objected to the loot of our natural resources. Had he been alive he would object even to the export of stones, let alone mineral ore.

So, year after year we celebrate the birthday of this man and venerate him. But follow his teachings, we shall not or will not. As one of my good friends said half in jest and half mocking my stupid idealism,’ he is irrelevant in today’s world’