March 28, 2011

'THIRD EAR' that opened our inner eye

Ravindra Bhat is my journalist friend for over two decades. He is a senior reporter with Prajavani daily. A couple of back, he asked me to be a part of a book release function he had penned. Yesterday  was the event in which I took part. Veteran Literateur Chandrashekara Kambara graced the function. The title of the book is Murane Kivi , meaning "The Third Ear". Ravindra Bhat has come out with this excellent, unique, special work in which he himself is a real act. The title, the content, the narration.... all is refreshingly different.     
It is the true story of a life journey. Ravindra Bhat's second son  Niranjan is the Hero of this book. He is a deaf child since birth. As we all know, if one cannot hear since childhood, he cannot speak. Speech follows hearing. We tend to repeat what we hear. For those unfortunate children who are denied the ability to hear, speaking is altogether an alien ability. It is the saga of a mother who has sacrificed her all wishes, to achieve that one supreme wish - that of making her Niranjan a normal human being. It is a revelation to see all those things, which we take for granted appear so different. The methods adopted to teach alphabets, to inculcate emotions, to differentiate between animate & inanimate things......they are just superb.

This book is a must read, for anyone who wants to know about others. Few years back, I was greatly moved after reading an inspirational classic- 'Tuesdays with Morrie' by Mitch Albom which introduces you to many facets of life.

I should say, “Murane Kivi”  made the same impact on me.

While he was the Deputy Chief Minister, Sri Yeddyurappa as had visited the school where Niranjan studied. On seeing these great souls he had expressed his candid feelings thus. "God had determinedly sent your children here to live as deaf & dumb. But the mothers who have defied those Gods and made these children to talk like normal Children are greater than those Gods, and here is my salute to them". I am sure, anybody who starts reading this unputdownable excellent piece of work will definitely endorse that statement.

The biggest and the most touching part of today’s event was the young Niranjana himself, on the dais who has learnt to speak in a completely different manner made welcome speech. His mother Deepa Bhat was beaming with joy when her efforts bore fruit in his welcome speech. She must surely have forgotten all her trials & tribulations she has been through all these years.

I hereby urge all my friends to experience this great effort of a self-denying mother and we will know what a mother means. Please, if you can. The book has been published by Sumukha Prakashana.

March 26, 2011

10 Things to learn from Japan

10 Things to learn from Japan

1. THE CALMNot a single visual of chest-beating or wild grief. Sorrow itself has been elevated.
2. THE DIGNITYDisciplined queues for water and groceries. Not a rough word or a crude gesture.
3. THE ABILITYThe incredible architects, for instance. Buildings swayed but didn’t fall.
4. THE GRACEPeople bought only what they needed for the present, so everybody could get something.
5. THE ORDERNo looting in shops. No honking and no overtaking on the roads. Just understanding.
6. THE SACRIFICEFifty workers stayed back to pump sea water in the N-reactors. How will they ever be repaid?
7. THE TENDERNESSRestaurants cut prices. An unguarded ATM is left alone. The strong cared for the weak.
8. THE TRAININGThe old and the children, everyone knew exactly what to do. And they did just that.
9. THE MEDIAThey showed magnificent restraint in the bulletins. No silly reporters. Only calm reportage.
10. THE CONSCIENCEWhen the power went off in a store, people put things back on the shelves and left quietly

Why The Japanese Aren't Looting
Foreign observers are noting with curiosity and wonder that the Japanese people in disaster-plagued areas are not looting for desperately-needed supplies like bottled water. This behavior contrasts sharply with what has so often happened in the wake of catastrophes elsewhere, such as Haiti, New Orleans, Chile, and the UK, to name only a few.  Most people chalk up the extraordinary good behavior to Japanese culture, noting the legendary politeness of Japanese people in everyday life. 

Culture does play a role, but it is not an adequate explanation. After all, in the right circumstances, Japanese mass behavior can rank with the worst humanity has to offer, as in the Rape of Nanking. There are clearly other factors at work determining mass outbreaks of good and bad behavior among the Japanese, and for that matter, anyone else.

There are, in fact, lessons to be learned from the Japanese good behavior by their friends overseas, lessons which do not require wholesale adoption of Japanese culture, from eating sushito sleeping on tatami mats. It is more a matter of social structure than culture keeping the Japanese victims of catastrophe acting in the civilized and enlightened manner they have displayed over the past few days.

The Cruise Ship and the Ferryboat
Many years ago, a worldly and insightful Japanese business executive offered me an analogy that gets to heart of the forces keeping the Japanese in line, that has nothing to do with culture. "Japanese people," he told me, "are like passengers on a cruise ship. They know that they are stuck with the same people around them for the foreseeable future, so they are polite, and behave ve in ways that don't make enemies, and keep everything on a friendly and gracious basis."

"Americans," he said, "are like ferryboat passengers. They know that at the end of a short voyage they will get off and may never see each other again. So if they push ahead of others to get off first, there are no real consequences to face. It is every man for himself."

Despite the existence of massive cities like Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya, people in their neighborhoods are well known to those around them. There is little urban anonymity. When I first lived in Japan on a work visa and had my own apartment in a residential neighborhood of Tokyo, in 1971, I was paid a friendly visit by a local policeman. It was a completely routine matter: police are required to keep track of every resident of their beats, and they want to know the basics, such as your work, your age, and your living circumstances. In my circumstances, immigration papers were also of concern, but for Japanese, it would be the koseki, a mandatory official family record kept on a household basis, reporting births, acknowledgements of paternity, adoptions, disruptions of adoptions, deaths, marriages and divorces. Every Japanese is not just an individual, he or she is officially is a member of a household (ie), and the state keeps track.
Following the gathering of my information, the policeman no doubt returned to his local substation (koban), which are found every few blocks in urban areas, to record the information for his colleagues. To an American it seemed quite extraordinary, a violation of privacy. But in Japan a lack of anonymity is the  norm.

Soon after the beat cop's visit to me, local merchants began nodding to me as I walked to and from the train station, as if they knew me and acknowledged me. I was fairly certain the word had gone out via omawari san (literally, the honorable gentleman who walks around, a polite colloquial euphemism for the police) that I was a Japanese-speaking American in Japan on legitimate, respectable grounds. For a year or so, I was a member of the community.

The Tohoku Region (literally: the Northeast, in practice, the island of Honshu north of Tokyo) where the earthquake and tsunami hit hardest, is far less urbanized than the rest of the main island of Honshu, and has for many decades seen an exodus of young people to the big cities elsewhere in Japan. Going back to the feudal era (i.e., pre-1868), Tohoku was poorer than the other regions of Japan because its northern climate can support only one crop of rice per year, rather than the two (and in the warmest places, even three) which were cultivated in the rest of Japan. Since Japan's industrialization, Tohoku's relative poverty has diminished, but it is still less economically developed and more rural than its neighbors to the south and west in Japan, and has relatively little in-migration from other parts of Japan.

The main city of Tohoku, the green and (once) lovely city of Sendai, had a million people and a state of the art subway, but is a city of neighborhoods with little anonymity. In the smaller cities and villages, it is almost impossible to misbehave and not be recognized by one's neighbors.

Anthropologists speak of Japan as a "shame culture," as opposed to a "guilt culture," meaning that people are constrained to behave themselves properly by an aversion to being judged negatively by those around them, rather than internalizing a moral imperative. Broadly speaking, that is true today. But it is also true that most contemporary Japanese have internalized a deep respect for private property, that is manifested in a ritual of modern life for children, one which we might do well to emulate. When a child finds a small item belonging to another person, even a one yen coin, a parent takes the child to the local koban and reports lost property. As chronicled by T.R. Reid in his wonderful book about living in Tokyo, Confucius Lives Next Door, the police do not resent this as a waste of time but rather see it as part of moral education, solemnly filling out the appropriate forms, thanking the child and telling him or her if the owner does not appear to claim the item, it will revert to the finder after a certain period of time.

Perhaps more successfully than any other people of the world, the Japanese have evolved a social system capable of ensuring order and good behavior. The vast reservoir of social strength brought Japan through the devastation of World War II, compared to which even the massive problems currently afflicting it, are relatively small. Japan has sustained a major blow, but its robust social order will endure, and ultimately thrive.

March 25, 2011


Bangalore is reeling under serious drinking water situation. Even otherwise, the city was not getting its requisite quantity of water. That is why, few years back alternate day supply came into practice. Now, this summer which naturally witnesses a 15 to 20 % increase in the demand has made the situation still more difficult. Added to this, the proverbial leakage, unaccounted water loss, failure of bore wells, greed of private tankers who are not ready to join hands with the BWSSB to supply water, are making the situation even worse. The Board Engineers and the staff with all their inadequacies are addressing the problems. 

Every day we hear, read about the supply breakdowns from different parts of the city. The frequent power fluctuations add up to the already critical problem. Yesterday I and Shobha Karandlaje had convened a meeting of KPTCL, BESCOM & BWSSB to take necessary steps to sort out some issues.

Last year over 1000 Borewells were dug all over the city. Now over 50% of them have dried up. On demands from the People's Representatives, more bore wells are being dug, which we know is neither proper nor feasible.

Yesterday night I went to Gayathri Hospital, Vijayanagar and met a person called Shankara Rao who was undergoing treatment for the bruises on his body. He was under a big shock. His sobbing wife was inconsolable. The reason...?  Shankara Rao, who is a water supply inspector was attacked and profusely beaten by a mob in what appears to be a planned act.  Strangely a camera team from a popular TV channel was present before the mob arrived in a matador. The hapless inspector begged for his life, pleaded for his inculpability. A local leader was encouraging the participants in this orgy to hit more.  Job done, the mob along with the instigator dispersed. Their 'adventure' got very good coverage which might have upped the TPR rate for that channel. BUT, what about that hapless employee and his weeping family members. How if, the BWSSB employees, who are also there to serve the common man , go down their morale, and become inactive ? Will that not lead to deterioration in the water supply condition?

This 'irresponsibility' may become too costly. We had heard of Cash for News in a section of the media. Now this 'planned attack' or 'action' for exclusive "breaking news" is really dangerous.

I, along with the Board Chairman rushed to the hospital consoled the victim and his family members. Board is taking care of the treatment and will bear all the necessary expenditure. We also spoke to the workers' union office-bearers and expressed solidarity. BUT, I also appealed to the workforce to stand up to the challenge and rededicate ourselves to see that the problems are surmounted. Our single minded effort should be to do our best to take water to the doorsteps of the citizens which is their fundamental right.

YES. It is my belief that we have a duty which we should perform whatever may be situation. AND we will do it.

March 14, 2011


Seva Bharathi is a Non Government Organisation working for the betterment of students. Yesterday, the Organisation observed its 25th anniversary. The seer of Suttur mutt had graced the occasion to bless those students and their parents. I was part of the celebration too as a member of the audience as I also have been associated with the Organisation since its inception although on a smaller scale.

In its 25 years of existence Seva bharathi has offered guidance to over 20000 students of SSLC, PUC and various degrees belonging to many government, corporation run, aided, unaided educational Institutions. Over 60 teachers and lecturers have lent their helping hand to the Organisation in offering guidance to the students.

You might ask me what is so special about it. I will tell you how it stands apart... The teachers who guide students have been doing this benevolent service for all these years without expecting anything from the Organisation. And the Organisation too is offering the coaching for the students without taking a penny from them. The service so humanitarian is not an effortless job considering the number of people involved without having any financial backing and surviving strongly for well over 25 years!

The teachers who come down to teach the students have their own names in the Educational field too. Yesterday, while I watched the event, two incidents that were narrated were successful in moving my heart and that should inspire any one.

Here was one teacher who was scheduled to take up a class in Sevabharathi on a day. Incidentally, on that day, he was running very high fever. Being mindful of the students’ anticipation for him, he took an auto straight from his faraway home and nearly collapsed on reaching the Institute. Volunteers had to help him to reach the first floor where the class room was situated. On seeing the students eagerly waiting for him in the class room, the high fever running in him got subsided completely for over one and a half hours till the class ended. The fact that it resurfaced immediately after the class and he had to reach his home back by auto with the help of volunteers is a different story. While the incident was narrated, that the teachers had some unknown source of inspiration and the satisfaction to come down there so selflessly and offer help to those children, it took every one by awe.

Another young lecturer’s story too is absorbing. He works in a faraway town of Nagamangala of Mandya District as Head of the Department of a subject. Every day, he leaves his home at 6 AM to Nagamangala to attend his daily chores in College, leaves Nagamangala in the evening to reach Bangalore at 7 pm near Navarang circle, catches an auto to come to Sevabharathi and immerses himself in teaching to those students. Every time, he carries with him an immense satisfaction of offering benevolent service. Another person who is an officer of a central Government Department too teaches here on all of his own volition. There are many people such as them who are selflessly toiling hard to make a difference in these students’ lives.

Behind all this, there is a team of energetic people who stand tall for this cause. This group led by Mr Ramanand has carried forward the legacy of excellent service for many years now. I felt, the word OBSESSION must have come into being thanks only to the personalities like them. You should see Mr Ramanand. He is so obsessed with his motto that he has taken voluntary retirement from his service at State Bank of Mysore some 15 years ago at a relatively younger age to carry forward Seva Bharathi’s intentions. Right since then, he is immersed in the service of these children. 

The teachers, parents, students who all were gathered there yesterday, were beaming with pride and appeared as if they were celebrating a family event. It was a wonderful moment and surely a reason to hope! 

March 11, 2011

Can we believe it?

Mint, The Business Daily, in its issue of March 9th has published “The Economic Times: 50 years and Counting”. It tells many things about E T- which is a rival daily paper- including the circulation figures of E T which is far ahead of Mint. This is what we can call healthy Journalism. People want a similar healthy politics. Please read the column on my blog today.


March 07, 2011


It was 25 years back; on a day 40 young friends from different walks of life had resolved to come together with a single pursuit of doing their bit to Society. The then urgent question of their lives was “what you are doing for others?”

We had named the Organization as “Samvedana” true to the self less intentions we carried. We ensured the Organization had no office bearers and no hierarchy as well. Everyone was equal and everyone was raring to take up responsibilities.

The days that followed reinstated the intrepid spirit in these young minds. We had pursued many society oriented initiatives like organizing health camps, helping out the poor and the people in distress without expecting any returns, felicitating the achievers and doing whatever that reinstates the faith in the system. Each event was the responsibility of a member and he would lead the show with all the help from others.

This urge to serve has not faded at all during the times that have followed. This Sunday was again an event of service. A huge health camp for poor was organized in Rajajinagar. It was special because, many specialist checkups like the ECG, EEG, Bone density tests, gynaec, children checkups, eye tests were conducted. There were a variety of health checkups for every one by the biggest names in the medical fraternity. Dr Manjunath, Director of Jayadeva Hospital, Dr Sri Prakash, Director Minto Eye Hospital, Dr. Bhujanga Shetty, Narayana Nethryalaya.. etc., were personally present and added glitter to the camp.

Over 900 people took part in the camp and got free health checkups. Medicines sponsored by leading health companies were distributed free of cost. Over twenty five patients who were diagnosed to have problems would be operated in Jayadeva Heart Hosptal, Narayana Nethralaya and Minto Eye Hospital very shortly without taking a penny from them.

It has been twenty five years of existence for Samvedana. When we started it off we all were energy personified. Now, when I sit back and think, what we did to the Society through “Samvedana”, it gives me mixed feelings.

However, I am happy that my friends still believe in extending help to the needy and am hopeful that they will carry on with the spirited purpose through the years to come.

Special thanks to all those who were part of this event.


March 05, 2011



Why not Mr Narayana Murthy of Infosys for Vishwa Kannada Sammelana? We all know Vishwa Kannada Sammelana is for every Kannadiga ..and is beyond Kannada Literature.  We want it to be a ‘’Janothsava” and let us not make the sparkling water murky. My views appear in  Kannada Prabha dated 5-3-2011