Monday, February 26, 2007

Veer Savarkar - remembered

Today is Veer Savarkar’s 41st death anniversary.

I was fortunate to witness funeral procession of Veer Savarkar from the balcony of one of our relatives( Bapat Maushi) in Lamington Road. I remember my father, after hearing the news of Savarkar’s demise had asked us to start from our home at Andheri to reach this place ( How he did during pre telehone days – that I don’t recall). By evening, when Savarkar’s cortege arrived , the entire road from Apsara Talkies that led to chowpaty was swarmed with people. I had not known about him then but that image of funeral procession has remained in my memory. The other congregations that come parallal to this were that of witnessing Nehru’s urn in Nasik to be immersed in Godawari river, Lining up on western express highway in Bombay to watch heroic welcome of Neil Armstrong, Eldrich and Triumphant Indian cricket team after winning first test match in England.

I wouldn’t have known about Savarkar’s death anniversary, had it not been for my attempt to post a reply to my friend’s outburst against Savarkar -in our yahoo group forum. Normally, I don’t take notice of such remarks and observations as everyone is entitled to have his opinion and beliefs, but his remark was far too caustic for me to remain quiet.

My repost to my friend’s claims went something like this: (It’s been edited to keep only those points that are relevant to Savarkar)


It is understandable of Congress party projecting Savarkar as an opponent with his Hindu Mahasabha taking opposite view and later hardening their stance after Mahatma Gandhi's murder. Congress party with ignorant political creatures like Mani Shankar Ayer can act in childish manner to boycott the ceremony of installing Savarkar's portrait in Parliament, They can defend terrorists and ignore revolutionaries such as Savarkar, Madanlal Dhingra , Bhagat Singh. But what is surprising is that those of us who don't get swayed by our political masters do not take cognizance of Savarkar as a great patriot, revolutionary, poet and writer. How can people t ignore that these very people inspired incandescence of freedom - it may not be in same measure as Gandhi did with his non violence but sure it did rattle British Empire.

The life of Savarkar is an exemplary illustration of one individual who can have abundance of intellect, talent, intensity and firebrand freedom fighting abilities. If one takes a glimpse at his writings, poetry and prayers. One cannot but be in awe with such a personality. Yes, he has and had a distinctive political ideologue but one must not forget that he almost envisaged what would happen to India and Kashmir if separate state was to be created from India. If we look at today's situation, he was not far from that prophesy.

Yes, there is a letter written by Savarkar to offer his full-fledged support for early release but you can't condemn him on that count. Gandhiji also gave support to British Empire to fight alongwith them during Second World War. But what congress party conveniently forgets that there is also a letter by British home secretary that says "'it will be dangerous for the British Empire to release Savarkar. His pleas are a ruse to get out the jail. Once out he will organize an underground movement against the British. I therefore reject the petition on the ground that it will be a danger to public safety.' If congress says, that Savarkar become British stooge in order to avoid jail and capital punishment, why did Subhash Chandra Bose, Pandit Nehru welcomed him for 'poorna swaraj declaration 'in 1937? How come various socialist leaders like S M Joshi and Achyut Patwardhan wanted him to join their socialist movement? If he wanted to serve British, Why his own party Hindu Mahasabha vehemently opposed the Cripps commission ?

The fact remains that Savarkar did undergo solitary confinement, standing handcuffed on cross bar fetters and suffered tortures for the murder of the English district magistrate of Nasik and plotting of efforts overthrowing British government. Can his daring escape from porthole of ship be ignored? After his release, congress party accuse him of lying low but history shows that it was due to stringent conditions of his release but even during his confine in Ratnagiri, his efforts of social reforms are well known.

It is propaganda of congress uses is Savarkar was a part of the Gandhi murder conspiracy and he was acquitted by mere technicality. Gandhi murder case had approver 'Digamber Badge' who had testified that Savarkar had blessed the assassins in their mission. But Nathurm Godse in reply to chargesheet denied that he was guided by Savarkar and he did with his own intelligence and judgement.' Court exonerated Savarkar for want of evidence. If Congress was convinced of Savarkar's complicity, why didn't Nehru's Congress government appeal against Savarkar's acquittal? Is it fair to brand anyone murderer when he is acquitted?

Congress also ridicules Savarkar on his Hindutva. But Hindu Mahasabha declaration states that "'Let the Indian State be purely Indian. Let it not recognize any invidious distinction on the grounds of religion and race. Let no cognizance be taken whatsoever of a man being Hindu or Mohammedan, Christian or Jew. Let all citizens of that Indian state be treated according to their worth irrespective of their religion or racial percentage in the general population.' After 66 years of India's independence, have we become truly secular? Reservation, appeasement of minorities have not helped India become stronger instead it has divided India on caste and religious lines only to serve the vote banks of respective political parties.

Those who have read about Savarkar would know Vinayak Damodar Savarkar more than what is projected by congress based on 'letter of confession/remorse in cellular jail and his complicity in Mahatma Gandhi Murder case'. As much as Gandhi is understood by reading' My experiments with Truth', In order to understand Savarkar, one must read his books "Mazi Janmathep" (My Life Sentence), and "1857 - The First war of Independence". This was the only book in the world that was banned before even it was printed. One must read his experiences of "Kala Pani" (in Andamans), that reflected the treatment given to Indian freedom fighters by the British and also poems "Sagara pran talmalala", and "Jayostute" and understand his intensity of patriotism.His poems written by thorns and pebbles( he was denied pen and paper) on cellular walls his prison cell are testimony of his endurance and creativity.


During the process of reading the material on Savarkar, I came across two wonderful piece of information. One was letter by S Gurumurty in response to childish act of removing Plaque of Savarkar from Cellular Jail and second a website of Nathurm Godse – who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi. I will add these two separately as both warrant their place on this blog.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Virginity Lost : Great real life lessons

Till I joined my MBA, academic studies were drudgery – examinations were treacherous. I never understood the logic and the purpose of my academic study in real life. I could effortlessly, solve any problems in calculus or trigonometry without knowing any practical significance of it. Having mastered the weakness of Indian education system, getting good grades was never difficult. Education started making sense in the final year of engineering while designing a power supply or setting up electricity distribution for a village. But the question loomed over and over again. Why reinvent the wheel? Why do we judge someone who churn things that has been already been digested. Why test student on proving Newton or Pythagoras when it is already proven. I do hope, education system may have changed in past decade.

Nikil Rao – an avid sportsman and my ex-collegue once mentioned that everything in the life is monotonous with the exception of Sports. I tend to agree with him with a minor addition is that of ‘managing ones own business’ can come close to playing competitive match. Business can never be repetitive. There is always a stress, excitement and fluctuating fortunes at the turn of a new day. If you can imbibe the spirit of sports and business in your life, you have an exciting enterprenual vivacious life full of thrill as that of competitive sports.

‘Virginity Lost’ an autobiography by Sir Richard Branson lets you know precisely that. You live life only once, Live the way you believe in doing so. This autobiography is entertaining, motivating and brutally honest. Few hard hitting lessons that this book will take with you for rest of your life.

Do exactly opposite as has been practiced by traditional companies. Think of your employee first. Take care of them. If they are happy, motivated, they work hard, look after customers. Happy customers bring more sales and higher profit. Robust balance sheet means dividend for shareholders. Traditional companies first thought of shareholders then customers and then only employee. Vijay Mallya is Asian version Richard Branson. His lifestyle and red corporate color emulate virgin. I only hope people who are working with United Breweries or Mallya group are in the same advantageous position as that of Virgin employees.
Don’t ever go into a business purely with money motive: A business should involve your soul, mind and body. It must be fun; it should take you to heights of excitement every second day irrespective of your being in advantageous or disappointing situation. It should provide you an outlet for your creative instincts.
Aim for Big. Think of wider canvas. Create and Aura and. Its everything about the Image that you portray
May all your stab wounds be in the front, and never in the back.
Don’t tell yourself you can’t afford something. Ask yourself how you can. That’s the way he took on British Airways. Lesson: Don’t tell yourself “I can’t afford it,” but ask yourself “What can I do to afford it?”
Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched. Never ever brag your achievements before they fructify. There is raven between abject failure and heady success and often impetuous mind does that.
Develop a core group. Once asked Donald Trump about “secret of his success” He said ‘I hire the best consultants and then exactly do opposite what they have suggested ’. Richard Branson build over the years great friends and gave them what they are at best at and yet at the end of the day went by his own gut feel
No Risk No gain: You can either play it safe and survive, or you can be willing to risk everything in order to be successful. If you want to do something spectacular, take big risks.
Failure is integral to succeeding. How close he came to losing everything that he had earned. his company, his empire, his name, and even his life. Yet, every single time, without fail , he kept doing what he knew was the right thing. He lived on the edge bankruptcy but he kept going because he believed in what he was doing. He also believed that it was all or nothing. He either was a great success or was a great failure. In either case, he wanted to be great.
Never ever ever ever surrender.
If you fail once, get up, adjust your strategy and try again. This is a lesson that’s displayed over and over again with Branson, especially in his adventurous expeditions. If you live, you can try again. And never be afraid to try almost anything, at least once. This is true with every enterprenuer – from Jamshedji Tata to Bill Gates.
Your name and reputation are everything. Protect it by all might. Your name and reputation are everything. Without it, you are nothing.

This book is as much for those who felt stroke of luck eluded their sense of accomplishment as is for business students, teachers, employees and employers. It will change the way you have been taught and trained by theoretical books and teachers who never ventured outside college premises. This book will teach you basic ingredients of any business remain the same over the years i.e. basic instinct and human relationship.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

crow : undisputed king of mumbai sky

After ages, I spotted one sparrow at my home in Bandra.

My immediate fear was ‘I hope she doesn’t get noticed by any crow’. Last month, with little sparrow in his beak, I saw him on the balcony grill, spreading his span, struggling to fit himself on the frill of the balcony, Seeing the feast in sight, few more of his buddies struggled to get their share. He somehow managed to fled and perch on the tree. With sheer struggle, exhaustion and fear I am sure sparrow must have been still by now. Another casualty to ever dwindling population of sparrows in Mumbai suburbs.

When I grew up in Kala Nagar in mid 70’s, coconut trees were just planted and one could see sky horizon up to Kalina from the terrace. Artek Apartments was the tallest building in Bandra East and perhaps the only one with Elevator. At breakfast time, sight of flying green parrots was not unusual. Pigeons would produce babies between narrow spaces in earthen tree pots kept in the balcony. Now slowly all other bird species are being devoured by crow. Over last few decades, sparrows have either been banished outside city limits or face extinction. Mumbai skies now have only domination of one bird and that of crow community. They share aerial kingdom while rats rule the underground kingdom. Stray dogs have their fiefdom on the ground. Most of them lie dormant or hang around during the day but become alert during the night by barking and chasing auto rickshaws.

In any game park, conservationists don’t intervene nature’s law of survival and perish. But they do come into an act if they find particular specie is under threat of extinction. Singapore hates crows and municipality squad shoots them with air gun. They blame crows for making their city dirty. I wonder if bird conservation society in Mumbai has taken notice of the dwindling population of certain birds in Mumbai. During Salim Ali’s time, there was some grand plan to convert surroundings of dharavi/mahim estury (khaadi in Marathi) into bird sanctuary. But now the focus is more on cleaning it from industrial waste to avoid floods during monsoon. Meanwhile, I wonder where the other bird’s species must have decided to migrate.

Now, crow is an undisputed king of Mumbai Sky. Early morning, they start tuning their vocal strings of their cacophonic orchestra to wake people. By 9am, our regular crow visitor arrives on balcony and peeps inside. If curtains are drawn, then he repeatedly hits his beak against window glass plane. Once this exercise is over, he sits on the top side bar on left side of the balcony grill- his reserved seat. As I write this, his spouse (?) has come and fed him something that she managed to get. Or were they kissing? Whatever it was, it was so cute.

One of the Hindu traditions is to offer food to crows as a part of ritual after a man is dead. They say, if crow has eaten food, person’s soul is at rest with no unfulfilled desire for food. At Artek, with such huge population of crows, most people shall have their moksha (salvation) once they are departed. So will be the case, with most Mumbaikars. Preity Zinta is one of her recent interview mentioned ‘every time I come from abroad, I see Mumbai become deteriorated ’. I agree, barring benefit of salvation, crows continue to be menace and scourge for Mumbai.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

National Shame or Call to Honor?

I arrived in Entebbe –Uganda from Khartoum via Nairobi. As my hotel minivan rolled out of Entebbe airport on way to Kampala, Uganda, images of Israel’s daring rescue operation of hijacked Air France plane on June 3rd 1976 flashed my mind. But soon, Kandahar incident of dec 24th 1999 stood like a blot against this courageous and brave commando operation.

Somehow most ‘singh’ that occupied India’s post independence ministerial posts have been great disappointments. Tradition continued with Charan Singh, Arjun Singh, V.P Singh and Jaswant Singh. All these Singhs came with great fanfare and showed lot of charisma and rekindled hope only to leave behind them traces divided society. But Jaswant Singh went further by demonstrating an act that perhaps has no parallel in public behavior. I don’t know much about Jaswant Singh but his appearance gives an impression of being aristocratic background. He does look physically fit with his erect stance and his straight pointed nose project his military disposition. This supposedly 'most courageous looking aristocratic man’ himself accompanied the three dreaded terrorists to Kandahar in a chartered aircraft in exchange for the hostage passengers of IC-814 and walked back as if he had done a great honor to his country. I am sure he must be the only Foreign Minister of any country who took a pride in making abject national surrender to terrorists in most shameful manner.

Perhaps, Jaswant Singh must not have been sure of his 'courageous act' would guarantee him a place in history books. As soon as his party was thrown out of power, he went on to write his memoir and named it as ‘Call to Honor’. But sensing his ‘calling’ may not evoke public response, he created a furor with a sensational claim that there was a US mole during Ex Prime Minister Mr. P.V.Narasimha Rao's office but when heat turned on him to substantiate his claims, he backed out. I would never even have rummaged through his ‘call to honor’ in book shop , leave alone buying this book. But when I read about Jaswant Singh’s claims of inviting External Affairs Ministry officials to have champagne at his home after his return from Kandahar, I was not just amused but disturbed. What must be the event for celebration? Was it shameful act of cowardice executed to the perfection by his National Govt? I am sure even today, Israel must still be lamenting the loss of their commando leader Colonel Yonatan "Yoni" Netanyahu, the only Israeli soldier to die their daring operation that saved every passenger on that fateful Air France flight from Athens to Paris.

One Entebbe Israeli operation was enough to be a strong deterrent for any international terrorist organization to make another attempt to abduct or hijack any Israeli person or plane. Over the years, Israel’s stand has become crystal clear – no ransom to any hijacker, no matter how powerful hijacked person is - and sure they enacted this into a state law. If India ever to attempt to table a similar law, I am sure it would have same fate as that of woman’s reservations bill. Till such time, we shall continue to have incidents of Rubaina kidnapping or IC 814 hijacking and public servants like Mufti Mohammad Sayd, V P Singh and Jaswant Singh shall use such events in opening gates of terrorist cells and make ‘call to honor’ for their courageous act.

Entebbe with sprawling tranquil Lake Victoria, lush green mountainous carpets on red soil with misty and cloudy equatorial weather may fill up lungs with fresh air for most tourists and make them elated. But for me, this place will always evoke the memories for Israel operation thunderbolt and sadly it would also bring fiasco of Kandahar.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Sidney Sheldon - a great storyteller.

My first reaction was ‘oh **** !!’ after seeing newspaper headline on Bangkok- Mumbai flight. My fellow passenger was taken a back by my reaction and when explained about passing away of Sidney Sheldon, he was amused. I could make out that – being a businessman he may not have had opportunity to know this novelist. But for me, this man, shaped my interest in English books by demonstrating the art of articulating emotions through words in racy, spellbound storytelling. If Harold Robbins helped me take first steps of English fiction, Sidney Sheldon was my companion during growing up years. Others like Irwin Wallace, Arther Hailey and Fredrick Forsyth followed but no one like Sidney Sheldon carved such a big influence on me with If Tomorrow Comes, Master of the Game, Rage of Angels, Bloodline, A Stranger in the Mirror, and The Other Side of Midnight. And all this from an author who started writing novels from the age of 50.

He may have been in the Guinness Book of World Records for the greatest number of languages into which his novels were translated and with more than 300m copies were printed. But biggest tribute for him must have been from India where someone would write and print novels on his name and they would be sold in thousands at railway stations. When he came to India and saw those novels never written by him and sold in bookshops, he was overwhelmed. He even conceded that those weren’t all that bad. He definitely knew the pulse of readers something which soap serial makers have nicely imitated. End chapter with tremendous impact but make people keep guessing what would be next chapter.

Sidney Sheldon ….You will be dearly missed.