Who or what is a "courage" or "risk", Mr. PM?

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh claims that "strong and inclusive growth" of India's economy is possible, but requires "courage and some risks" - referring, of course, to FDI in retail. It should not be a surprise if the words of the Prime Minister in this context appear to echo those of the chief executive officer (CEO) of a commercial venture. But then, it is not altogether wrong if one considers the Prime Minister of India that. After all, the Prime Minister is the de-facto head of the executive, and the Indian nation, like all nations, is a commercial venture.

Now, the difference between other nations and the Indian nation is that the souls in the latter are very diverse in their ability to venture commercially. In fact, entire linguistic peoples in India possess none of it. The Kannadigas, who are a nation by themselves going by the universally accepted definition of the word, have not had much to contribute to this whole venturing thing, commercial or otherwise, from a few centuries, if only because there is more to life than it. There are no great Kannadiga commercial ventures to write home about; nor have the Kannadigas had much opportunity to write anything home in the first place. Home is where the Kannadigas have always lived; the English word 'travel' has no native Kannada equivalent. So much about the great Kannadiga venturer and his ability to display "courage and some risks" in the new battlefield into which the Prime Minister wishes to draw the Kannadigas.

Even history tells us, if we care to listen, that the very concept of a vaishya - the businessman varna - is missing from Karnataka in particular and South India in general. This varna has, however, been very much present and very much active in North India. When India was not a nation, i.e., when it had not yet incorporated itself as a commercial venture, this difference mattered little, for the vaishyas of the North largely stayed put there. But consequent to the disaster, these vaishyas have had an entire nation to wander into and graze, including Karnataka, without caring so much as two hoots for the language or culture of this state which are, among other things, vaishya-less. The British came close to creating a Tamil version of the vaishya by establishing the so-called Madras Presidency. But this is, however, not vaishya enough from northern standards because of its sheer infancy and inexperience, if not because of its racial composition.

But pity the Kannadigas that even the British did not think it opportune to set up a Bangalore Presidency so that they could have basked in its splendor! While it is too late to blame Fate for this historical injustice, it is imprudent to forget the lack of venturing ability of the Kannadigas. This shortcoming, of course, is opportunity for the northerners. A vaishya-less Karnataka is an unguarded field for the true vaishya, true in all senses of the term. They have already come grazing, and there is not a little that they have already taken from Karnataka. There are not a few hurdles, either, that they have created for the Kannadigas as a people to cross before they can claim any reasonable claim to possessing a vaishya varna.

Now, with the coming of FDI in retail, northern grazers will come to possess the added force that comes with foreign investment. The foreign investors are not going to wait until a Kannadiga version of the vaishya emerges - something that hasn't in the last few millennia. No, they want profits in the next quarter. Therefore, it is a given that they are going to place their bet on the vaishyas that are already there, alive, and kicking, and migrating, complete with a word for 'travel' in their language, and whose race has been known for migrating southwards from the known beginning of Indian history. That is, they are going to shake hands with the northern vaishyas most, and at most the Tamil vaishyas of the lesser Cosmic Being. The Kannadigas, as usual, will be left to do their usual shudra jobs of keeping everything spic and span, nice and tidy.

So much for strong and inclusive growth, Mr. Prime Minister. We'd like to opt out, sir, because the growth may be strong, but it can never be inclusive - we Kannadigas need some time to get included. I only hope you have not already excluded Kannadigas from this whole existence thing.

FDI in retail and a not-so-small detail

Get on to any news channel debating about FDI in retail, and one point makes itself stand out if you’re a discerning Kannadiga. And that is: the entire debate is conducted in such a way and by such people that we Kannadigas are not even part of it.

We are not even deemed necessary in a debate whose pre-decided outcome—viz., the ‘coming’—is going to decide our existence on the planet. This is the how genocide works: it starts by denying any effective role to the victims in what matters to them, i.e., by removing them from the scene. Kannadiga Removal - akin to (Red) Indian Removal during the European colonization of the Americas - cannot but be lucrative to those waiting to come to Karnataka for much needed room. The colonizer always fantasizes about empty colonies which his ilk can milk. Until the last native is removed, he even speaks of his unyielding concern for them.

One may find some solace in the fact that the final call on FDI in retail is to be taken by the State Govt. and that the BJP, which heads it, is opposed to the move. But such is the depth of political insignificance to which we Kannadigas have allowed ourselves to sink in India that it will be naïve for Kannadigas to claim authorship of this opposition. Its authors are the Nitin Gadkaris, the L. K. Advanis and Narendra Modis with our own B. S. Yeddyurappas and Jagadish Shettars nodding their heads in silent reverence and cultivated awe at everything authored by them. But what we are not the authors of, we cannot expect constant benevolence from. Therefore, in the ultimate analysis, Kannadigas do not have the power to stop the BJP from changing its stance when it appears politically lucrative—which it will appear, going by the definition of politically lucrative, very soon.

The Congress government at the Centre is selling FDI in retail as an employment scheme. That it sure is, but for whom? For the more populous and more closely packed North Indians, who else? And where are they going to be employed? All over India! Retail outlets in Karnataka’s cities are already teeming with them; they’re even found blatantly refusing customer service in Kannada. We Kannadigas are not even being requested to martyr ourselves to employ the northerners; it is assumed that we possess the ‘good nature’ to lay down our lives for what is being described as the ‘national interest’. “You’re good boys and good girls,” we’re told, “so be good Indians and make way for your brethren from the North.” Anyone who has dug deep into Karnataka’s history realizes that not a few centuries have elapsed with us making way for the northerners in every field imaginable. So much so, that there must arise no doubt in the mind of the discerning thinker that an Aryan Migration to Karnataka is happening right under our noses.

It is prudent, on the whole, for the Kannadigas to recognize that the BJP cannot be expected to uphold their interests when push comes to shove and a politically meaningful decision has to be made about FDI in retail. The Congress has already let us down. In India, political advantage to the so-called national parties comes from placing North Indians at an advantage. And the overall scheme of things is such that this advantage cannot come but at the disadvantage of politically insignificant peoples like the Kannadigas. It is high time the Kannadigas make themselves politically significant at the all-India level. And how is this to be achieved, save by indulging in a process which draws quite some bad press today—the so-called politicization of the Kannadiga identity? And how is this process to be made possible, if not by staying away from both the BJP and the Congress?

(Pic: http://www.outlookindia.com)

The question of minority languages

No state (or nation) in the world is unilingual. Every state in the world imposes its official language on linguistic minorities to the extent that all government communication is only in the official language of the state. But in India, even languages which have tens of millions of speakers have become minority languages because of Hindi imposition. This is a glaring violation of human rights with no parallel in the world, and therefore our protest.

The states of India have been created such that each has one major language. It was never the intention, and it is impossible, to make every state of India one hundred percent unilingual. I don't have migration in mind here, but the presence of minor languages such as Tulu in Karnataka and Badaga in Tamil Nadu. These two are only cited here as examples; there are such languages in every state of India, whether they have names or not.

If I had the power to grant statehood to even these minor languages, I would. I don't have any particular liking for multilingual states. But neither the people of India nor the states of India have ever had the power to make such grants. It is the Govt. of India which has had it from 1947 onwards. So, when it came to deciding how many states to create, it had no option but to grant statehood to linguistic peoples who crossed a certain cutoff population number. That's why separate states weren't formed for minority languages such as Tulu and Badaga. But if the speakers of such languages want to form new states, I personally don't think there can be any democratic way of opposing it.

We must understand that the very concept of a nation or state involves violence. Once we have adopted the concept, the only meaningful thing to do is to minimize that violence. It can never be eliminated. Right now, we are concerned about the rights of linguistic peoples who are tens of millions in number—such as the Kannadigas, the Tamils, the Marathis, the Odiyas, etc. In such discussions, linguistic peoples who are one or two millions in number or less, unfortunately tend to get not much attention. This cannot be otherwise.

As Rabindranath Tagore said, we must move towards that 'heaven of freedom' where 'tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection'. We cannot achieve that heaven or that perfection at one shot, but we must tirelessly strive towards them. Maybe, some time in the very distant future, every individual will be a state. That is the heaven of freedom that I wish the entire world becomes. But before we get there, we must first deal with linguistic peoples who are tens of millions or more in number—the speakers of the major languages, if you will. With this problem solved, our minds and hands will be free and trained to solve the problems of the speakers of the minor languages. These languages will themselves start appearing major then. And then we know what to do.

The only way to deal with every Indian language, major or minor, at the same time and in the same way is to destroy the Indian nation. But I don't think this is a viable option—not because of any attachment that I have for this nation, but because of the eternal threat from the rogue nations of the world.

"English Vinglish" must not perpetuate the lie about Hindi Gindi

There is yet another Hindi movie in the works. And there is yet another way of spreading Hindi hegemony in the works. And there is yet another battle that the non-Hindi speakers of India have to fight to assert that they too are Indian.
The movie in question is "English Vinglish", a trailer of which effortlessly made its way to my computer screen on August 14th. In it, Sridevi goes to a US Consulate in India seeking a visa and tells an American officer, “My English…weak”. The officer asks her “Ma’am, how will you manage in our country without knowing English?” Before Sridevi can answer, an Indian officer standing next to the American officer pats him on his shoulder and tells him matter-of-fact-ly: "Like you’re managing in our country without knowing Hindi".

Now, if that does not offend you, you have been programmed to consider Hindi hegemony as patriotism, as millions are continuing to be programmed formally in India’s schools and informally by Bollywood. The reason why the above dialogue is offensive is, English in the US is not the same as Hindi in India. To manage in the US without knowing English is not the same as to manage in India without knowing Hindi. For the umpteenth time, there are hundreds of millions of people in India who don’t know Hindi and are managing well enough, as they have done from the ages. They cannot be compared to Americans—i.e., they cannot be called foreigners yet, and this is exactly what the offensive dialogue does.

The US is often described as a graveyard for languages, and India’s Official Language policy already threatens to turn India also into one. But this is not something to take down lying if at all India is to become a moral nation. Casual discussions near the water-coolers in workplaces in India’s metros are one thing, and a movie is entirely another. But both need to change, and non-Hindi speakers of India must not be described as foreigners in India—even casually—if India must remain united as one nation.

The number of people who believe that Hindi is the national language of India, or that it ought to be, has become huge thanks to the lie perpetrated by the education system. Hindi is forced down the throats of hundreds of millions of innocent non-Hindi children, together with the lie that it is the Raj Bhasha or Rashtra Bhasha, depending on which dark political cloud covers the Sun of Truth. It has become increasingly difficult for the Truth to assert itself—the Truth that all the languages of India have the right to an equal status in India. Given that the number of Hindi speakers is growing out of proportion with the rest of the country, the voice of Truth will find it increasingly harder to be heard. Movies must make the voice of truth heard and not amplify the lie as the offensive dialogue in English Vinglish does.

Will the makers of English Vinglish take the necessary corrective action? The minimum that can be done is to remove the offensive dialogue and make an apology to the non-Hindi speakers of India.

Thoughts on Hindi and India's linguistic diversity

I love all the languages of the world, and given time, I would learn them all. If the theory of rebirth is correct, my love for languages will make me take birth as many times as required to learn every language on the planet. I speak very good Hindi. Even today, when I go to North India where Hindi is the language of the common man, I speak Hindi. But where I live, I utter not a single word of it. By choice.

I hate the imposition of Hindi on Indians. I hate the fact that I was made to learn Hindi in order to feel more Indian, and in order to appease the feeling of a few early politicians who felt it necessary to hide India's diversity from the world. I hate the fact that the growth of my own mother tongue, Kannada, which is spoken by close to sixty million people, is impeded by Hindi imposition. The fact that I speak good Hindi and love the language does not make me stop hating the system which taught it to me.

I would love to see Hindi grow and become a language which is on par with English, French, German, Japanese, etc. This it must do by becoming the chosen language for science, technology, and all other modern uses to which modern languages are put. And yes, this it must do without making it difficult for other Indian languages to do the same. This would be Hindi's vertical growth - a perfectly welcome one.

However, Hindi is growing horizontally, more or less like a cancer, by throwing money, half-nude women, and Government rules and regulations around. It is burning up India's linguistic diversity in the fire of desire and unjust law. This horizontal growth of Hindi, which results in both the horizontal and vertical destruction of all other languages of India, must stop if at all India must remain one nation.

Real growth is vertical growth. It's possible. My Hindi friends who don't think this vertical growth is possible aid the destruction of India's linguistic diversity. By becoming a "nation", which is the organized desire of a whole people, Indians have started the worship of a European deity of death called Endless Hunger. Now, this Endless Hunger must consume something. If it finds it difficult to consume the difficulties on the path of vertical growth, it consumes innocent humanity on the path of horizontal growth. This must stop.

Let's say no to pessimism!

I have come to feel that the Kodavas are like any other linguistic people in India, in feeling that their linguistic identity is becoming increasingly meaningless in today's world. Only, the Kodavas may be an extreme example of a people stuck with this feeling. But living with that feeling is no answer to the questions confronting the Kodavas or any other people of the world. I believe that the best way ahead for the Kodavas, as it is for every other linguistic people, is to do away with pessimism and bring their language up to speed so that it can compete in today's competitive world.

There is no denying that languages such as Kodava, that have not much of a history of literature, have more ground to cover than those that do. But this must not turn into fatalism, in the same way that a child lagging behind in the class must not consider his/her progress at school impossible.

I do not like to call any language as underdeveloped or laggard, because these terms are applicable when one uses a linear measuring scale to compare languages. Languages are not linear systems; they are mindbogglingly complex nonlinear ones, and linear scales can never do justice to 'measuring' them. It is as meaningless to 'measure' a language as it is to 'measure' a flower. Kodava Tak may not have much literature, but it has served the purposes of the Kodavas for thousands of years, and the Kodavas are a great people in many ways.

But the unfortunate reality of today is that languages are being measured using the linear scale of modern science, technology and human organization. Languages that have not been tailored to suit this linear scale are being called underdeveloped or laggard languages. The 'proof' of this is the relative material poverty of their speakers, which is oftentimes inflicted by the speakers of the languages 'at the forefront' in this respect.

In such a world, the speakers of every language have two options: (1) to accept the challenge and fight to win, and (2) to accept defeat in the challenge. I believe we should all accept the challenge and fight to win. And when we win, we should remember that we have not won, for believing it to be a victory is agreeing with the oppressors. Instead, we should win with the full understanding of our colossal defeat. Only then can we deliver ourselves from the bondage of the duality of victory and defeat.

(Pic: dinodia.com)

Is this the only way to 'grow'?

Sir Ken Robinson argues in his book titled 'The Element' that it is difficult to identify the things which we take for granted. This is because they 'become basic assumptions that we don't question, part of the fabric of our logic. We don't question them because we see them as fundamental, as an integral part of our lives.'

Throughout my 10+ years of stay in Bengaluru, I could never take it for granted that the way the city is 'growing' is the only way possible. I could never take for granted the dust, the filth, the commotion, the pollution, the confusion. In a word, I could never take it for granted that Bengaluru has to go through a stage of being hell on its growth path.

Of course, whether I take it for granted or not does not matter much, because millions more do. Perhaps hundreds of millions more do. But I cannot keep my thought to myself, so if you will kindly let me speak it.

I don't mean to slight the efforts to cut the above problems that well-minded people are undertaking today. But none of those efforts go to the depth of the problem, which is the model of growth that Bengaluru seems to be cursed with, and that we seem to take for granted.

Bengaluru's growth is not organic. Very few of Bengaluru's growth stories are authored by the 'sons of the soil' (if you can pardon the cliche) i.e., Kannadigas. Kannadigas are at best the pawns in a game of chess played in a cesspool. By and large, they are the ones to whom things are done; they aren't the doers. They are not the Subjects, they are the Objects.

This was not always the case. Only with the accession of the Princely State of Mysore to India, followed by unchecked and mindless migration from other states (esp. from the north) and the conversion of humans into robots did this hell come to be.

This conversion into robots has eroded Indians' sense of what a good life is - so badly that most educated Indians fail to recognize that they are living in hell, with all its fumes and deadly diseases of both mind and body. This has become the normal way of living, and things only get worse when rich and famous Indians raise their car windows and login to their laptops while the driver manoevers through hell.

If Bengaluru needs to improve, it must return to organic growth based on what the 'sons of the soil' can do, will do, and at their own pace. When outsiders 'grow' a city, they don't tread softly on the dreams of the natives which are spread beneath their feet. This has resulted in massacres elsewhere in the world, but in India, these cities have turned into living hells.

This, as far as I can see, can be prevented only by stressing on organic growth, controlled migration, and by discarding the idea that cities are basically real estate. No, cities are living things with living people, and their development cannot and must not be understood as real estate development.

Life has to blossom from within India's cities. It can't be imported, and it can't be done quickly. Only death can be imported that way, and Bengaluru is proof for this. Only the organic model can help other 'growing' cities avoid replicating hells all over India.

The question is, are we - the educated people of India - ready to question what we are taking for granted? If not, are we really educated, or are we just in a state of paralysis of mind?

(pic: acralive.org)

Wrote book, will blog now!

I just finished writing the book. It's tentatively titled The Pyramid of Corruption. The book addresses corruption which lies in the definition of India's systems of politics and commerce. This is the corruption which is unleashed when those systems are faithfully adhered to, not when deviated from. I will keep you posted on developments. It is not published yet. It became longer than I expected - about 380 pages of 5.5' x 8.5' size.

All that writing in English made me yearn for writing in Kannada. So, I have started a Kannada blog called YANDALLI (ಯಾಂದಳ್ಳಿ). I invite you to take a look at it. It has its own Facebook page, too. I hope to write regularly on it.

Karnatique is receiving an encouraging response from readers even though it hasn't really been active for nearly one and a half years now. So, I think I will write here too, after all. But I believe it is going to be less regular than on Yandalli because I believe there is much more for me to do in Kannada than English right now.

The book has taught me a lot about writing in general.

One important lesson I learnt is the difference between a blog and a (nonfiction) book: the former is a dump of the author's thought, while the latter is the grammar of the author's thought, i.e., the rules which govern the author's thought. These rules are not easily available for the author. The author has to mine his or her mind for that grammar, and it is never going to be a perfect description of his or her thought. That grammar can improve over time, and will if the author puts his or her mind to it. And of course, the author's thoughts tend to change with time.

Also, a blog is event-driven, i.e., an event occurs and the blogger pours out his mind on it. A nonfiction book is not like that. It is not event-driven, but theory-driven. That is, a nonfiction book needs to be centered around theories which describe the rules which govern the author's thoughts about the events that drove him to write the book.

I must, of course, thank the great Kannada linguist, Dr. D. N. Shankar Bhat, for making me realize what really a grammar is.

Water price hike: 'a passing phase'?

The price of water has gone up by at least five times in Mysore, which is a stone’s throw away from the Krishna Raja Sagara dam. Those who were paying Rs. 75 per month are now required to pay anywhere from Rs. 400 to Rs. 500.

Jus' a few months ago, a Co called JUSCO completed installation of their pipes and meters in addition to the existing ones, promising 24x7 water and better customer service. Residents had to pay anywhere form Rs. 500 to Rs. 2000 to install T-sections, complete the piping from the curb to the water meter, and patch up the masonry. I've always wondered why Mysore, home to Sir M.Visvesvaraya, one of the greatest civil engineers and water management gurus in the history of mankind, had to knock on the doors of a Jamshedpur Utilities & Services Company Ltd for distributing its own water. Why didn't a MUSCO do this?  Would it have been too good for the consumer, or for the employees?


Today, there is neither the 24x7 water (it's more like 3x5), nor the better customer service. But there’s a five times hike in the water bill. The quality of water has reduced considerably in the last twenty years. We used to drink directly from the tap twenty years ago, but today we’re forced to buy water filters or UV or RO machines or risk health problems – and these machines need maintenance to the tune of Rs. 3000 – 4000 per year, plus the electricity charge and the area they occupy in the kitchen.

Coming back to the issue at hand, corporators of the Mysore City Corporation, upon receiving complaints from a handful people like me are asking people to not pay the water bill, but are shying away from making public statements to the same effect. MLA and Mysore district in-charge, Mr. S. A. Ramdas has issued a statement that the price hike will be withheld. But nothing has happened on the ground, as we just received the water bill with the increased rate. When I contacted the MCC (Mysore City Corporation) public relations officer, Ms. M. V. Sudha (Mob: 9449859915), she explained that the MCC is basically out of funds, hinting that revenue from water is inevitable. Mr. K. S. Raykar, Commissioner, MCC, didn’t pick up the phone.

If what Ms. M. V. Sudha says is right – that the MCC is starved of funds –, and I have strong reasons to believe that she is, then everything falls in place. The MCC is starved of funds because it is not allowed to make revenue to even sustain itself, because of the lopsided ‘democracy’ in which we live, where the concentration of power increases with distance from the people: New Delhi wields more power than Bangalore which, in turn, wields more power than Mysore, over Mysoreans! Is this democracy?

* * *

Barely ninety nine years ago, in 1913, right here in Mysore, His Highness Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar Bahadur concluded a Treaty with Viceroy Hardinge. According to the treaty, which clarified the relationship between the State of Mysore and the Government of India, the Maharaja obtained full powers of internal administration, subject only to the general supremacy and paramountcy of the British government - something his father, His Highness Maharaja Chamaraja Wodeyar Bahadur did not enjoy.

But in less than thirty four years, amidst the waving of flags in New Delhi and elsewhere, and the bursting of crackers and some meaningless riots near Lahore and Calcutta, His Highness Maharaja Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar Bahadur lost all the power his uncle had obtained in the treaty with Hardinge. It appears that he became worse than the corporator I called today, in terms of the power he came to hold. Of course, some money was soon thrown in into his kitty, going under the name of privy purse, in return for agreeing to a slight change of job description: king to pawn.

Sir M. Visvesvaraya. saw with his own eyes how the Maharaja of Mysore was relieved of nearly all his powers by the Government of India (the free one, the Indian one) which consequently reduced the autonomy and powers of internal administration of the State of Mysore. What was the State of Mysore has today literally transformed into a municipal corporation, and this municipal corporation is not even the ‘glorified municipal corporation’ that Ms. J. Jayalalithaa recently talked about when she accused the Central government of undermining federalism. That glory goes to the Government of Karnataka, not to the municipal corporation of Mysore.

Wrote Sir M. V., expressing hope that things would change and decentralization would happen as the passing phase passed:
The States are now, for all political purposes, closely integrated with the Centre and though they are units of the Federation, they occupy, in actual working, a lower subordinate position than what they held under the British administration. It is hoped that this is only a passing phase in the evolution of the new democracy. (Sir. M. Visveswaraya, Memoirs of My Working Life, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, 1960, p. 58)
Clearly, Sir M. V. had hoped for too much. The ‘phase’ has neither passed, nor shows any signs of passing. New Delhi continues to be the new Paramount Power in India – with a paramountcy surpassing that of the British.

* * *

In the meanwhile, the greatest minds of Mysore – Engineers, Doctors, CAs, MBAs, etc., have all gone away, or have all turned away, while their aged parents are waiting for money orders to pay the increased water bill with.

Come, let us change things.

If you are in Mysore, are living, and have access to email, write to me at kiran at banavasibalaga dot org. Mysore needs you. I’m sorry, you need Mysore. And we all need water at the price we used to pay last month.

* * *

Update 25 May 2012: Many thanks to @maisuru to pointing out some factual errors in the history portion of this article, mirrored on Churumuri. Though I couldn't change the version on Churumuri, this version here on Karnatique has been updated.