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Friday, July 21, 2017

Let us give the new President a chance

M. Gautham Machaiah

Our elitist mindset often creates a bias against people who do not measure up to our own convoluted standards. The same holds good for President-elect Ram Nath Kovind who has received a luke warm response from the day his candidature was announced. But are we right in pre-judging the man because he has maintained a low profile all his life?

There have been several precedents where the President of India has risen above party considerations to uphold the Constitution. Kovind's impartial role as Bihar Governor gives an indication that he might follow in the path of some of his illustrious predecessors.

In 1996, President Shankar Dayal Sharma, a thorough bred Congressman invited A.B. Vajpayee to form the government because the BJP had emerged as the single largest party though it did not even have a simple majority. The government fell in 13 days. Sharma could have created a condusive atmosphere for the Congress and allies to form the government, but he did not.

In 1998, President K.R. Narayanan, another Congressman, set a healthy preced Our elitistic mindset often creates a bias against people who do not measure up to our own convoluted standards. The same holds good for President-elect Ram Nath Kovind who has received a luke warm response from the day his candidature was announced. But are we right in pre-judging the man because he has maintained a low profile all his life?

There have been several precedents where the President of India has risen above party considerations to uphold the Constitution. Kovind's impartial role as Bihar Governor gives an indication that he might follow in the path of some of his illustrious predecessors.

In 1996, President Shankar Dayal Sharma, a thorough bred Congressman invited A.B. Vajpayee to form the government because the BJP had emerged as the single largest party though it did not even have a simple majority. The government fell in 13 days. Sharma could have created a condusive atmosphere for the Congress and allies to form the government, but he did not.

In 1998, President K.R. Narayanan, another Congressman, set a healthy precedent when he refused to go by Sharma's single largest party principle and directed Vajpayee to prove he had the majority before being sworn in. In 13 months the Vajpayee government fell with Jayalalitha pulling the rug leading to a phase of instability, when President Narayanan dissolved the Parliament and ordered fresh elections to prevent horse trading and instability.

There is some criticism that the BJP has replaced a statesman like Pranab Mukkerjee with a non-descript Kovind, but let us not forget that the Congress had preferred somebody like Pratiba Patil over Abdul Kalam, who had come to be known as the people's President. And if one has a good memory, you will remember President Ghani Zail Singh who publicly announced he would sweep the floor of Rashtrapathi Bhavan if asked to do so by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

A majority of Presidents of India have proved that they are capable of rising above the party that they hitherto represented and let us hope Kovind follows this precedent.


Kannadatva v/s Hindutva

M. Gautham Machaiah

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has set the cat among the pigeons by igniting the emotion of Kannada pride in the run up to the 2018 Assembly elections much to the chagrin of Hindutva and nationalism advocates.

A strong pro-Kannada, anti-Hindi ‘imperialism’ sentiment fuelled not by traditional Kannada chauvinists but by well educated, English-speaking corporate professionals and volunteers has been brewing in the State for sometime now, and Siddaramaiah has latched himself on to the bandwagon, first subtly and now boldly. The Chief Minister’s clever move seems to have caught the BJP off-guard as the “local pride” agenda does not fit into its hyper-nationalism narrative. At the same time, the newly born Kannada constituency is something the BJP cannot afford to ignore.

The Chief Minister has been deftly moving his pawns for over a year now beginning with the reservation of jobs for Kannadigas in the private sector, followed by a decision to make Kannada a compulsory language in all schools. When there were protests against the use of Hindi in Bengaluru Metro, Siddaramaiah saw an opportunity and declared rather forcefully that he would not allow “Hindi Imposition” at any cost, in contrast to BJP’s befuddled response. His most audacious move to date was the setting up of a committee to explore the possibility of a separate flag for Karnataka.

This has left the ‘nationalists’ fuming, but the Kannada brigade is thrilled. While nationalists are in favour of one-nation-one-flag, others cite the example of several federal countries which continue to remain united though each State has its own flag. The challenge before the BJP now is to arrive at a via media to guard its nationalistic flavour without hurting local sentiments.

The BJP might have suffered a set back over the Kannada issue, but it has already begun consolidating itself in other areas. The ‘vistarak’ (direct contact with workers) programme is a huge success and party has gained an edge over the Congress when it comes to ground level campaigning. The Congress may have to quickly get its act together, because emotive issues alone cannot turn the tide in its favour.

As of now, the Chief Minister seems to have driven a wedge through the Hindutva / nationalist camp by carving out a niche for himself. Is this niche big enough to make an impact during the polls? Is it sustainable? Is it just a fume that will soon evaporate or will it hover over the horizon until the elections? Answers to these questions will be known only in 2018.



Monday, April 24, 2017

When pets die, they take away a part of our soul

M. Gautham Machaiah

We humans claim to love unconditionally. But in reality, all of us expect something in return. If nothing, we at least expect love in return for the love that we give. The only living beings that according to my experience give love unconditionally are dogs. Rivalling humans in selfishness are cats.

When I was a student, our little dog Rover was an inseparable part of our lives. The love he gave us was unquestioned and even when he was punished sometimes, he would forgive and forget as if nothing had happened.

Just as our bond was growing, Rover suddenly fell seriously ill and had to be taken to a veterinarian, who being a man of humour assured us that the dog would soon be running like a wild boar. The doctor then put Rover to sleep. When my brother Vikram and I saw his lifeless body, we were inconsolable.

“Doctor, you said you will make him run like a wild boar, but you have killed our dog,” we confronted the veterinarian, who wryly replied, ““Of course your dog will run like a boar, but in his next life. How can a dog become a boar in this life?” We saw no point in arguing and buried Rover in our backyard. For the next four days at least, the household was drowned in tears.

Once the sorrow waned, we adopted two rabbits who were named Keechu and Meechu by our cousin Kartik, after the popular Tinkle characters. But the rabbits became a source of nuisance, burrowing holes around the house and our father decided to give them away to one of his colleagues who had a big compound.

A few days later we visited the colleague and after a sumptuous meal, Kartik asked him about Keechu and Meechu. Imagine our shock when the gentleman replied with a straight face, “What Keechu, Meechu? You just had them for dinner.” We have not forgiven him to this day.

Our next pet was again a dog, Pepsi, who I adored. When Pepsi littered, one of her pups was brought to Bengaluru by Karthik who named him Kobi. I had never seen Kobi because by then I had shifted to Bengaluru from Coorg, but every time I visited Kartik’s house, the dog would be over-excited and would greet me like a long lost friend. That is the power of intuition that dogs have.

Soon, Pepsi died and when the news reached me, I was heartbroken. Seeing my forlorn face, my colleagues thought I had lost a close family member. When I told them it was a pet, they tried to make light of it. But only a pet lover will understand the pain of losing them.

Then on, we have never had pets, but of late I have a new friend—a cat that has made a neighbourhood club her home. I feed her every time I go to the club, but the next day she royally ignores me and walks away with her tail high in the air. But when she is hungry, she comes to my table and literally demands food, something scratching me and leaving a gash on my skin. On the other hand, the street dogs near my house are ever grateful even if I feed them once in a blue moon. As the saying goes, “Dogs have masters, cats have slaves.”


If I were to have a pet again, it would most likely be a dog, never a cat…but definitely not a rabbit.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Walk daily to heal the body, unclutter the mind and soothe the soul

M. Gautham Machaiah

During my growing up days in Coorg, there were precisely two pharmacies in my hometown Madikeri and both of them attracted very few customers—perhaps an indication of the good health of the people then.  Today, many summers and winters later, as I walk through the main thoroughfare of the town, I find several medical stores, each of them swarming with people like ants taking to honey.

As I jog my memory, I am convinced that if there is one single reason for the health of my town turning from pink to red, it is the complete lack of physical exercise. This is the story of every other town or city.

As children, all our free time was spent prancing up and down the hills till we ran out of steam; not indoors watching television or playing video games like the current crop. None of us went to gyms, neither did the rich have personal trainers, but a daily walk was an integral part of everybody’s life.

This was more a necessity because in the absence of public transport, children from villages had to hike several miles to reach their schools, their parents had to trudge long distances even to buy provisions, while those who enjoyed the luxury of living in towns made it a routine to go for a long walk everyday. A daily walk not only heals the body, but also unclutters the mind and soothes the soul.

Whenever I am on a holiday in Coorg, I look forward to an eight-km cross-country in the lap of nature, but I find very few youngsters sweating it out these days. The regulars are the ‘oldies’ who hit the road without fail come rain or shine. Not surprisingly, many people who are now in their eighties boast of much better health than those half their age.

Walk is one of the best and most inexpensive forms of exercise, that demands the least number of excuses. When it comes to exercise, procrastination is the name of the game: I cannot go to the gym because I have a knee pain…I cannot do yoga because I have a back ache…I cannot attend aerobics classes because I do not have trendy gear. The list goes on.

But none of these excuses holds good for a daily walk. All one needs are 45 minutes and a decent pair of shoes. If a health condition inhibits you from a brisk walk, make it a habit to go on a leisurely stroll; if nothing, it will clear your mind and eventually cure the body. Nay Sayers may still find excuses. Let them be.

Many also practice walking meditation which in simple terms is being mindful. Here, you are not only aware of each step you take but also keenly observe your surroundings, the trees, flowers, birds, fellow walkers… This practice is as good as meditating within the confines of your house, because it not only exercises the body, but keeps a firm check on the monkey mind which is constantly restless. Even half-an-hour of walking meditation is enough to make your body and mind feel light.

People have various motivations to go for a walk: some to keep fit; some to lose weight; some to exercise their dogs; some to gossip with friends; some to steal flowers from their neighbour’s garden. Whatever your reason, keep walking, for if we do not find time to exercise now, we will soon have to make time to spend at the hospital.