Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Should Indian media be regulated or should it be like an unbridled horse?

Chander Mahadev Katju is king or is content king? The raging debate over an incalcitrant media busy passing of news in the form of trivia and advertisement is a serious enough charge that needs to be discussed threadbare sooner than later. The rising decibel levels now find a booming echo in the corridors of power saying it has tipped the norms of decency and fairplay. The media’s role as that the ultimate whistle-blower has come under a cloud considering the increasing commodification of culture and values. Let me deal with the issue of media turning into a monster much like an unbridled horse that needs to be reigned in and blinkered. Allow me to deal with this issues from a journalist’s perspective. For a trained journalist like me authentication, attribution and credibility form the bedrock of media coverage. And self-regulation is the name of the game. What cannot be verified cannot be published or aired. That is why in journalistic parlance we say “when in doubt cut it out.” These in-built mechanisms are the bedrock of a fair and impartial media. Further, according to law, no one is guilty unless proven so by a court of law. Hence we journalists always feel the need to apply what I call legal cushions. Terms like reportedly, allegedly, charged with, accused of, are in-built terms that ensure fairplay and objectivity. After all, the journalist writes the first draft of history and hence has a huge sense of responsibility. And therein lies the charm of journalism as a profession. Keeping this premise in mind, we need to realize that the broadcast media in the country is still in its teenage years. And at such an age it is bound to make mistakes. Instead of condemning and condoning its role, at this point in time, the nation needs to introspect on the authenticity and ethical values that dog the media, more so the broadcast media. Tracing the legacy of Indian media’s hoary past, let us not forget the stellar role Indian print media played during the country’s independence struggle. It had the unique distinction of fostering the idea of India and ensuring its secular credentials. Luminaries of the freedom struggle—be it Mahatma Gandhi, Lokmanya Tilak or Gopalkrishna Gokhale – wielded the pen to mould and shape public opinion. The fact that a leading English daily showcasies its 175 years of existence as the unbiased conscience keeper of the nation maybe stretching the argument too hard to digest given its British vestiges . It would be pertinent to mention that the once staid and conservative DD that monopolized news on visual media, had to give way to a robust private media in the nineties. This paradigm shift changed the way news was presented in the country. The race for TRPs and Breaking News notwithstanding , Indian broadcast media has broken new grounds in journalism. In effect there are over 8 crore broadcasters in the form of micro-bloggers and individual users of social networks. According to the Information &Broadcasting Minister, Manish Tiwari "revenue models of Indian media organisations have not been well-constructed, leading in turn to issues of paid news, private treaties, tyranny of TRPs and sensationalism. In the same vein, we need to dwell upon issues like Trial by Media and the bane of plagiarism, which some media experts believe have become a malady afflicting the media. Let us take some important happenings where the more articulate and activist TV channels sought to dispense justice, at times even throwing caution to the winds. While in the case of the Jessica Lal murder case the broadcast media played the role of a whistle-blower, but in the Arushi murder case, or the Mumbai terror attack on 26/11as also the Nithari killings, fingers of bias & prejudices have been raised. On May 31, 2013, there was a pithy comment made by one of the experts discussing the IPL spot-fixing controversy anchored by Arnab Goswami on Times Now. He pointed out that the TV channel and its Chief Editor had made it into a prestige issue by seeking the immediate ouster of N. Srinivasan as the Board of Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) President. This comment in effect sums up the mood of the nation. Even as the boundaries of public domain and personal privacy get blurred, we need to take stock of this situation. Hence , it is time we ran a reality check on broadcast media since it has become the favourite whipping boy of the political class. By highlighting the IPL spot-fixing scandal, exposing coal block allocation better known as the Coalgate scam, 2G spectrum allocation scam, and Nira Radia tapes, it would seem Indian media is slowly but steadily coming of age. Or is it just a mirage? At the other end of the spectrum, let us look at one of the low points in recent media history. Last year’s high octave sting operation carried out by Congress businessman-politician Navin Jindal’s business house Jindal Steel & Power Limited (JSPL) on two senior journalists of Zee News reportedly seeking Rs 100 crore as ‘silence money’ for not carrying damaging stories on coal allocation, raised a stink and brought to the fore the seamy underbelly of Indian media. In its issue dated October 25, 2012, Firstpost.com reported: “Naveen Jindal’s press conference in the context of the allegations that Zee TV executives attempted to negotiate a deal—tantamount to blackmail—to back off on a story which, ostensibly, could damage Jindal Power and Steel Limited (JSPL), in exchange for increased advertising has done media—and society—yeoman service. What the Jindal-Zee TV controversy has done—whatever the final outcome—is to force a discussion on practices that are unquestionably reprehensible. Incidents in the recent past have exposed unhealthy and cosy relationships between media and corporate India, media and politicians, politicians and corporate India, the issue of paid news under the guise of editorial, and so on. The very next day, the two senior journalists countered Jindal’s charges stating: “We have been the forerunner in exposing Naveen Jindal’s double standard as a politician and industrialist in Coalgate scam. To suppress the coverage that Zee News was telecasting on Coalgate, Corporate Communications team from JSPL first tried to bribe Samir Ahluwalia with Rs 25 crore, which he declined straightway. This was an offer from JSPL to stop the coverage of Coalgate scam. Undeterred the JSPL team offered Zee News and Zee Business and advertising deal of Rs.100 crore, to somehow stop the coverage on air” Curbs On Social Media As for efforts to curb the effects of social media in the year 2011, the then Union telecom minister Kapil Sibal’s threatened to “discipline” social networking sites leading to a raging debate on the government’s intentions behind the move. If that was not reason enough, the courts too stepped in to regulate the internet. In yet another blow to 21 social networking sites including Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo! and YouTube, a Delhi court issued summons to them for facing trial for allegedly Webcasting objectionable contents. Metropolitan Magistrate (MM) Mr. Sudesh Kumar took cognisance on a private criminal complaint and has directed the Centre for taking “immediate appropriate steps” and also file a report in the court. According to news reports, the court's order came three days after another court in a civil case had restrained these sites including Facebook, Google and YouTube from Webcasting any “anti-religious” or “anti-social” content promoting hatred or communal disharmony. In the fresh case, the Court said, “it appears from a bare perusal of the documents that prima facie the accused, in connivance with each other and other unknown persons, are selling, publicly exhibiting and have put into circulation obscene, lascivious content which also appears to the prurient interests and tends to deprave and corrupt the persons who are likely to read, see or hear the same.” “It is also evident that such contents are continuously openly and freely available to everyone who is using the said network irrespective of their age and even the persons under the age of 18 years have full and uncensored access to such obscene contents,” the Court said. This brings us back to the debate that should the media be regulated or should it be let loose like an unbridled horse. For instance, Print media which I call the mother of journalism, has by and large managed to adhere to the norms of fairplay, ethics and values. But in some sections of the print media, the get-rich-syndrome has taken its toll. During the last general elections in 2009, some prominent national Hindi & English dailies were charged with passing of paid news as news report in their main editions. The Election Commission swung into action to ostensibly stem the rot On the brighter side, during Anna Hazare’s India Against Corruption (IAC) crusade against corruption, both broadcast media as well as social media donned the activists’ robe and mobilized public opinion in such a way that it became a national movement, albeit for a short time. In this complex media maze, despairing voices are being heard regarding the state of present-day media. According to the Press Council of India Chairman and former Supreme Court Judge Markandey Katju, three major defects hound Indian media. Making a strong case for reining in both print and broadcast media, the judge observed sometime in 2012: In an article published in The Hindu he spelled out the three issues that ailed the media. The media often diverts the attention of the people from the real issues to non issues. The real issues in India are socio-economic, the terrible poverty in which 80% of our people are living, the massive unemployment, the price rise, lack of medical care, education, and backward social practices like honour killing and caste oppression and religious fundamentalism etc. Instead of devoting most of its coverage to these issues the media focuses on non issues like film stars and their lives, fashion parades, pop music, disco dancing, astrology, cricket, reality shows, etc. The media often divides the people: Whenever a bomb blast takes place anywhere in India (whether in Bombay or Bangalore or Delhi or anywhere) within a few hours most T.V. channels start showing that an e-mail or SMS has been received from Indian Mujahideen or Jaish-e-Muhammad or Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islam claiming responsibility. The name will always be a Muslim name. …Why should they be shown on T.V. screens, and next day in print (the T.V. news at night often sets the agenda for the print media news next morning)? The subtle message being sent by showing this is that all Muslims are terrorists or bomb throwers. The media promotes superstitions. As I have already mentioned, in this transitional age, the media should help our people to move forward into the modern, scientific age. For this purpose the media should propagate rational and scientific ideas, but instead of doing so a large section of our media propagates superstitions of various kinds. While many prominent journalists largely accept that their industry’s standards are falling, they furiously refuse the idea of setting up any “outside regulatory body”. “Don’t shoot the messenger” “I am against external regulation. The media should regulate itself,” Outlook magazine’s former editor-in-chief Vinod Mehta said in a panel debate on media regulation aired by private news channel CNN-IBN on 1 May. Siddharth Varadarajan, Editor of The Hindu, appeared on the same show, where he agreed with Mr. Mehta. He pointed out that external regulation may not be very useful in improving journalistic standards. . CNN-IBN’s National Bureau Chief Bhupendra Chaubey wrote on his Twitter page: “Me to Justice Katju: Guiding of editorial content shouldn’t necessarily be regulation”. Adding fuel to the debate, a constitutional panel of the Supreme Court recently invited suggestions regarding the framing of guidelines for media coverage of pending court cases. While legal experts clarified that the court is not trying to “gag” the media but is only setting up guidelines, this move by the Supreme Court has sparked fierce opposition from some senior journalists. Veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar said he would lead a movement against any guidelines for court reporting. Mr Katju may have drawn severe criticism for his comments, but he has managed to arouse a debate on journalistic standards. Mr Mehta acknowledged the scope for improvement, saying, “If we keep fudging the issue, then we are opening a window of opportunity for outside intervention.” MP Shashi Tharoor of the Congress party, speaking on the same show as Mr Mehta, said “the media has astonishing powers to make or unmake people’s lives and reputations”. Mr Tharoor also says that the government should not indulge in regulation and a media body should do the job.“If we speak of better-regulated journalism, we are speaking of better journalism,” he said. But we need to remind the critics that the time when the media was gagged and muzzled--depending on which side you are on-- during Ms Indira Gandhi’s Emergency era, the effects of this exercise were devastating to say the least. Even today the imposition of emergency on June 12, 1975 and the invocation of the dreaded Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) evokes sharp reactions. A blog post on the issue best summed up the mood of the nation then, and this is what veteran journalist, and Times of India Editor Mr. Inder Malhotra said: "There is no doubt whatsoever that the period of Emergency that began in June of 1975 and ended in March of 1977 has been one of the most squalid chapters in modern Indian history. For those of us who lived through it, it was a nineteen-month nightmare. It was terrible, a country's total ethos changed overnight. The world's largest democracy, with a single stroke of the President's pen becomes one of the numerous tin-pot dictatorships with which the third world was then infested. Hundred thousand people were arrested and jailed, this is the number, equal more or less to what the British arrested in the whole 1942 movement." Then there was unspeakable harassment of a much larger group of people. There were certain very strange phases of it. For one whole year India was reverberating with slogans of 'Indira must go'. "If it was the JP movement alone, Indira Gandhi would have fought it. It was the Allahabad High Court judgment that made her position totally untenable. If she had some sense she would have followed her initial impulse, which lasted no more than five minutes." Speaking about reactions of the press and judiciary he said, "My own community - Times of India at that time, was under the Government, they took the position that whatever was lawful will be obeyed. Indian Express and one or two others tried to place blank, some papers even quoted Rabindranath Tagore. Mr. Advani after the Emergency told the Indian press that -- 'you were asked only to bend, but you crawled'. Unfortunately, the institutions of democracy were damaged. But was Indira alone responsible for it? What about those whose job it was to protect the integrity and autonomy of those institutions. They were very happy to fall in line. Judiciary - the less said the better." On 25th June 1975,the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi imposed an emergency in the country. Fundamental Rights stood suspended, censorship was imposed on the press and prominent political leaders were arrested. Keeping these issues in mind, freedom of the press does not mean throwing caution to the wind, it does not mean unbridled criticism, it does not mean that your criticism is not tempered with reason and rationality. It means acting responsibly, it means respecting the fundamental rights of an individual,. To conclude, we will do well to remember that there is no special statute that safeguards the role of the fourth pillar of democracy. The Indian Constitution does not provide freedom for media separately. But there is an indirect provision for media freedom. It gets derived from Article 19(1) (a). This Article guarantees freedom of speech and expression. The freedom of mass media is derived indirectly from this Article. Article 19 of our Constitution deals with the right to freedom and it enumerates certain rights regarding individual freedom of speech and expression etc. These provisions are important and vital, which lie at the very root of liberty.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Flute & The Falcon

This is my concept note on a film on India as a Soft Power. I have used the symbology of the flute to represent Indian mysticism and the falcon to symbolise Rumi's brand of Sufism that emanated in Konia in Asia Minor, now Turkey. Read on...
Like a bend in the flow of the Ganga cascading down Lord Shiva’s head, India has long been celebrated as the fountainhead of religious democracy, where a dialogue with the divine is a daily life-enriching experience. And the universal idea of God being a manifestation of unconditional love—beyond the shackles of rituals and rites—has been best reflected in the precepts of Vedanta soaked in the spirit of Sufism. The ethnicity of the Sufi Dargah and its universal appeal, cutting across religious lines is evident in the Sufi edifices that dot this proverbial land of milk and honey. God is one, concur both Vedanta and the Sufi Dervish. And, Sufism, in Persia and Turkey, was inspired by the tenets of Vedanta where the celebration of the Guru-shishya system and the concept of a higher self as a revered step towards self-realization are the underlying themes. The soul has been described as a bird caught in a cage and it is the release through music and bhakti that it finds salvation. The universal appeal of Lord Krishna, as the shepherd of the soul, the ultimate romantic ensconced in the unconditional love of the Gopis even as they sway to the sweet strains of his flue was a sight the Sufis too could not resist imbibing in their poems and spiritual experiences. Such is the universal appeal of Indian religious symbols and myths. Much in the same manner for the greatest of Sufi saints Rumi, India was both an inspiration and a fountainhead of diverse forms of religious beliefs and experiences -- where the celebration of God was best manifest by the flute of Lord Krishna, It is important to note that both the Sufi mendicant and the bhakti ras exponents like Narsi Bhagat and Surdas believed in the power of music to awaken the soul. According to Persian scholar Prof SMH Abdi, Rumi’s labour of love Mathnavi Khanas begins with the Song of the Reed wherein he states: ‘Listen to the reed how it tells a tale complaining of separation’. This universal appeal finds favour in the Skand Purana which tells us that “Brahma as the sound is the highest Brahma. According to Vedic text, “When a man enjoys grace, the flute is played on for him”. Suffice it to say Rumi’s Mathnavi is a collection of stories which are from and about India. Strongly influenced by India, Hindu and Buddhist tales and fables form the bedrock of his book of poems. Drawing extensively from Buddhist fables Rumi’s central anecdote was one where he talks of the elephant and the selected perception of the seven blind men. For this mystic seer, the symbol of the bird being caught in a cage was a recurrent them. He also talks of Kalila & Dimna, the Arabic and Persian names of The Panchatantra. Ruminating his experiences in Konia, Rumi imbibed Indian thinking and spiritual beliefs and his tumultuous meeting with his alter-ego and disciple Shams of Tabriz awakened the poet within the master thus reestablishing the guru-shisya concept. Figuratively speaking, Maulana Rumi was the nightingale who became a falcon -- a hunter of spiritual truth. –the baz as it finds constant reference and is echoed throughout his works. This baz embodying the sufi spirit winged its way back to India in myriad forms. Using the flute and the falcon as the central symbols we can pan Rumi, the seer, who, deeply influenced by India, in turn, inspired mystic movements for over a span of 700 years. His teachings and influences were factored in, in the cultural fabric of the area where such movements spawned. As a cultural melting pot, Raja Ram Mohan Roy’s perception of Rumi’s Sufi principles spawned the Brahmo Samaj movement. Roy, deeply influenced by the Vedanta and the mystic musings of Rumi made a thorough study of Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. Max Muller considered him the ‘the first man to effect a synthesis between East & West. Roy’s movement reached its climax in Guru Rabindranath Tagore. Tracing the flight of the Rumi falcon as it were, we next shift focus to Swamiji Maharaj, founder of the Radha Swami sect, who was deeply influenced by Sufism and Rumi and propounded the concept that if one met the perfect faqir, he has met Almighty God, as there is no difference between the two, To buttress his belief he quotes Rumi: ‘If you accept someone to be your spiritual guide, You will find him an embodiment of God and the prophet’ Finally, we close in on Allama Iqbal, the greatest secular symbol of 20th century India, The poet who prided himself on being the Indian disciple of Rumi, and distilled Sufism in the modern Indian context. According to Dr Abdi, Rumi was to Iqbal what Virgil was to Dante . This symbiotic relationship between Sufism and Vedanta, this ultimate and universal establishment of the guru-shisya parampara best reflects India as a soft power, For, India has long influenced and will continue to influence spiritual dialogue and evolution across the world in a technology-churned and stress-driven world

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Biju Breezes Into Bombay

Folks, this is the opening chapter of a proposed but imaginary book on a Mumbai-based entrepreneur who set foot in the city after completing his schooling in Allepey, Kerala, his hometown in 1953. Read on... Sweat trickled down his shiny back. With brows furrowed, hands clammy with sweat, he tried to ease his right hand into the fellow-traveller’s trouser pocket. His heart thudded against his chest as the sound of the train hurtling down the rail track rose to a screeching crescendo. For long, hunger pangs had been gnawing at his stomach and he stealthily moved in for the kill. He had made up his mind -- for hunger speaks its own language –that right now all he needed was money . Money to buy himself a hearty meal, money to buy himself a feeling of security even as the Madras-Bombay Dadar Express chugged along closer to its destination. For him, the Bombay of 1953,was his city of nascent dreams, his passport to success. Seventeen was not exactly the age to script a success story nor the fact that he had only recently cleared high school back home in Allepey in Kerala, a prescription to realize his dreams. By now his mouth had gone dry as he furtively glanced at the motley group of fellow passengers s who had boarded the train at Manmad station. The unreserved compartment he was travelling in was by now spilling over with commuters. Biju knew, it was now or never. He steeled his lightning reflexes, honed by three years of playing school football and his hand plunged into his unwitting victim’s back pocket. In a flash, the well-endowed wallet was in his hand. A sigh escaped his parched lips, and even as the wallet disappeared into the waistband of his mundu, Biju Warrier came into his own. No sooner had he moved into the safety of people huddled on in their seats, he began to breathe easy. He then realized he was feeling queasy for this was the first time he had indulged in an act of moral indiscretion. He recalled how his mother despite being thrashed by her husband for not bringing enough money home, would remonstrate him saying “Pray to God, for He will take care of your pains and hunger-pangs.” She would then turn to Biju and repeat her favourite line: “No gain without pain.” For Biju her word was God’s. In one fell swoop as it were, a strong pair of hands squeezed hard on his small shoulders from under Biju’s jibba ( a coarse kurta) and it seemed that his life had begun to curl up like smoke above his shoulder. Oh my, was it the burly constable whom he had seen climb up at Manmad station or was it another professional pick-pocket waiting for easier pickings, Biju was not sure. Like a chicken ready for the slaughter, he looked up resignedly, only to find the owner of the hands that were pushing him down --a handsome and swarthy man in his late thirties, dressed in a white pathan suit. In a flash his hands closed in on the wallet and in one motion he flung it out of the compartment window. “What you did just now, does not behove a Malayalee. We are not morally and culturally corrupt like what one Bombayite said to me one month ago. You see, I can read people’s minds and I can see the spark in your eyes and the dreams that you hide in your heart.” As Biju looked at the man questioningly, he seemed to have read his mind. “Varda, I am Vardararajan, and they call me the Textile Trade Union King of Dadar.” Biju started to tremble and his face turned a whiter shade of pale, but Vardarajan’s hands toussled the mop of curly hair that crowned his head. Biju was touched beyond words and his past came gurgling out like an unending stream of tears. He disclosed to the stranger that he had left for Madras from Moncompu by road five days ago, where his father, the village toddy-tapper spent the better part of the day in a state of inebriation. Chetan Warrier was so stoned all day that despite being a Thevar he could hardly make out the fresh morning neera from the heady brew of arrack it turned at sundown. No wonder then he was called Glass Onion and Biju revealed he would feel slighted every time he heard this unflattering sobriquet. He recalled that as the oldest among four siblings life was a daily grind and they would often go to sleep after taking measly helpings from an odd coconut or two. The coconuts, few and far between, would come as a gift from the Thalaivar’s (headman) wife where his mother Naraini Amma worked as a coconut plantation worker. She would be paid her wages if and when she had gathered more than 100 thengais (coconuts) , which was not very often. Biju recalled his dream of being a man of means and after school, would often lie under the coconut tree—better known as the Kalpa Vriksh or the wish-fulfilling tree. He marvelled at God for creating a tree of which every part and every shred could be used productively. He would often dream that he could make a living selling coconut products once he touched down in Bombay. Or better still, he recalled how his English teacher would ask him to repeat the tongue-twister: “She sells sea-shells on the sea-shore.” Biju told the stranger how he had gone to Cochin on a rare school trip where he saw an entrepreneur getting women workers to collect shells from the sea shore. He would then crush them to form lime and would then sell it to the construction industry. Biju revealed that he was hugely impressed by his spirit of enterprise. Biju would have gone on and on but just then Varda announced that the train had reached Dadar Central. Taking out five crisp hundred rupee notes and placing them on Biju’s hands he said: “Keep this. You will need it in this alien land. Also, here is a piece of paper with my Dadar address. Use this money judiciously and the day you make a man of yourself come back to me, for I know you will make me proud one day.” As the train pulled up on the platform, the Bombay evening sun spread its golden rays, and washed the platform afresh in its heady hues. “At long last, welcome to the city of dreams,” Biju told himself just as Varda disembarked and disappeared into the Dadar sunset.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

350 for 1 HOWZATT

This article appeared in BTWmag in V A R I E T Y - c h a n d e r m a h a d e

350/1 howzat!

Sachin Tendulkar is here. So is Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. Padma Shri Kalimullah Khan has grafted and grown 350 varieties of mangoes on a single tree

Kalimullah Khan in his Mango orchard

Come summer and the mystic muse of Malihabad beckons the mango lover to soak in the distinct aromatic zing of the Dussehri aam. About 29kms from Lucknow on the Lucknow-Hardoi road resonates the mantra Go (man)go! This is not a prompt to egg on a marathon runner but a teaser to embark on a sojourn to experience the mango musings of Josh Malihabadi, the 18th century poet par excellence. And without further ado let us embark on a journey that would aptly sum up Avadh’s Dussehri spirit and how it transcends the persona of the aam aadmi.

A charming, almost endearing sight greets you as you drive along the Hardoi highway from Lucknow to Malihabad; innumerable orchards and nurseries lining both sides of the road, farmers lying on string cots in the shade, guarding their mango trees against the unwelcome attention of squirrels, parrots and naughty children.

Known as the home of poet Josh Malihabadi, Malihabad is a town in Lucknow district and it was in Malihabad’s palaces that Shyam Benegal shot his 1978 film, Junoon. Presently, Padma Shri Kalimullah Khan, who took to mango cultivation in 1957, shortly after failing his seventh standard, is the town’s most famous resident. His achievments include grafting and growing some 350 varieties of mango – from the bitter-gourd-shaped Karela to the heart-shaped Asroor Muqarar – on a single 100-year-old tree. “Mangoes are my passion,” he readily acknowledges. “They are more important to me than my children.” Despite his advancing years, Kalimullah glides swiftly, weaving his way amid the dense mango orchard and presto.

Avadh is not only about kite-flying, homing pigeons and courtroom trivia nor about the decadence captured in Shatranj ke Khilari, a la Satyajit Ray’s magnum opus. Instead, here you will get a taste of the perfect blend of Dussehri aam, the Kababi panache and Dhai Bhalle’s of Hazratganj. It’s also a city where Salam Alaikum merges so beautifully with Namaste.

The famous Malihabadi Dussehri mango bagged the prestigious Geographical Index (GI) status, bringing it international recognition and protection of its distinct identity.

Raising a toast to the king of fruits, local orchard owner, Naseeb Ahmed Khan says, “The GI status comes as a boon because it will allow us to market our produce at higher prices. However, with this, it will also mean that we must maintain uniform standards of quality across all orchards in the area.”

The thousands of mango orchards in Malihabad, Mal, Rahimabad and Kakori in Lucknow district and other parts of the state including Saharanpur and some other districts of western Uttar Pradesh have trees blooming at the onset of summer. The Dussehri is grown in other parts of the state but the Malihabadi mangoes are ‘special’ for its taste.

Most people know Kalimullah for his impassioned speeches about Dussehri mangoes. But there is a lesser-known side to him. Kalimullah loves cricket and is fascinated with Bollywood.

To celebrate the ‘goodness and sheer brilliance’ of cricketing icon Sachin Tendulkar, the Udyan Pandit (he has been conferred the award generally reserved for those who excel in apple orchard farming) has named one variety of the fruit in his orchard after Tendulkar. Called ‘Sachin’, the mango is a unique cross between the Chausa and Amin Gudad Shah (a variety Kalimullah developed himself).

If Sachin has found space in his repertoire, Bollywood’s diva Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is the next to put her name to a mango. And this one is a cross between ‘Kacche Meethe’ and Dussehri. Where Sachin gets a mango to his credit, only a mango will not do for Aishwarya. Kalimullah explains, “I have also named a variety of guava after her. Both the fruits have a distinctly red hue that make it unmatched in beauty.”

Among his most precious creations is a tree in the Mughal Garden at the Rashtrapati Bhawan flowering 54 varieties. The craft developed by him has become a mystery for researchers and agriculturists among the country and abroad who have been left baffled by his work.

The sexagenarian who also finds mention in the Limca Book of Records has the support of his sons in keeping the tradition alive. He has also cultivated a new variety of an all season flowering guava, which on ripening grows as red as an apple.

On the global radar, the diminutive town of Malihabad is tickling the taste buds of people with a sweet tooth. For once at least, commoners can take pride in being addressed as mango people!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Taught For Today

Hi Guys! Here goes my first Column that appeared in The Hindustan Times, Lucknow edition on September 06, 2010. Your invaluable comments please!

By Chander Mahadev
As the provisions of the Right To Education Bill wend its way insidiously into the collective conscious of the nation I cannot but confess that while teachers administer knowledge writers make you experience it. From the profound to the profane, the lofty to the lowly, such bi-polar questions engage my tired mind even as I feel the moist kiss of the September air pregnant with deceit. And as I whiz past on my cocooned virtual world and maneouvre
my being on the information highway -- that charts my mundane life -- I feel orphaned; left to live life in virtual reality. I sight ugly billboards hanging overhead tom-tomming the virtues of technology and I wilt. . The hoardings beseech me to learn English online, on my mobile to be specific and it hurts Without getting hyper about crass consumerism becoming the order of the day, I often wonder about the present , and experience the trauma and tragedy of living in an era of missing models. You may well say these are the laments of a teacher fossilized in a retro generation And as I dissect such wayward thoughts realization soon dawns upon me that the written word is fast losing its sanctity.
Or else, how would you justify the spawning of coaching shops that go by laughably ludicrous names like Oaf Public School and Dabble college—believe me they exist in downtown Lucknow. Oh, yes, this makes me recall a hilarious incident in the not-too-distant past. One fine evening one of my favourite ex-students landed up at my house seeking my urgent attention. He confessed that he was at his wit’s end in thinking up an appropriate and invitingly ‘saintly’ name for a school he intended to set up in his home town . I wondered as to what was so difficult in going about such a piffling issue. He went on to explain that the ‘St’ factor holds immense importance in the Hindi hinterland. And names like St Fidelis and St Agnes lend gravitas if not unimpeachable credibility. In jest I retorted I was presently engrossed in reading the biographical sketch of famed science fiction writer Isaac Asimov so why does he not name his school St. Isaac Asimov School. The last I heard on the issue was that St. Asimov School was up and running and had a student base of 230.
. I can’t but help recall that way back in the seventies and eighties there was a venerable English professor who was canonized by the Indian Government for his pioneering role in sharing his knowledge of classical English. And as a just reward he was anointed governor of Rajasthan, Well, if things have come to such a sorry pass, it would not be long before I find that some English primer may innovatively dish out A for Amitabh, B for Bachchan and C for, well Kat(rina). And if you have any reservations on that score please spare a thought for Dr Radhakrishnan the scholar in whose memory we celebrate this august day. For then I would know all is not lost and that teachers are still worthy of emulation if not veneration. Jai Dronacharya!!!
(The author is a senior journalist and is presently Assistant Professor, Amity School of Communication, Lucknow, and can be contacted at chandermahadev@yahoo.co.in) .

Suggested Column Name: Pedestrian Promises By Wayfarer Chander Mahadev

Amity Mantra: Dhak, Dhak Go!!

My latest Amity Meter

Amity Lucknow Campus is all revved up and raring to go on the Dhak, Dhak Go
mode! Yes, I am referring to the most talked about motorcycle ad of the year. And
what you may ask is my reason for drawing this unlikely parallel.
Simple! For the ad's compelling catchline of "Fill it, shut it, forget it," best describes
Amity's education policy. More importantly, with the launch of the Amity International
School on the Mango Orchard Campus earlier this year the wheel has come the full 360
Degree circle.
Yes, you can now admit your
child in Prep school and then just
leave it to us. For we then mould
and shape young minds right
through their academic life --
from KG to the PhD, doctorate,
Soon I hear the click of heels
that beat down the foyer to the
basement lecture rooms. I hear
the babble of voices amid giggles
of delight. To me these sounds
usher in the dawning of a new
morning. And further as one
hears the sound of music that
flow in through their mobile
phones go on to remind me that
yet another odd semester of a
summer has arrived on the Amity
Campuses. Yes the old order
changes and it is fresher-times
and admission time.
Here I am tempted to recall
the story of the Selfish Giant
penned by the unforgettable
Oscar Wilde. I am quite sure
some of you may have heard of
this story in your primary school
avatar. Well, it talks about a Giant
in whose garden played the best
of children, birds and animals.
Irritated by the giggles, chirping
and whistling he banished them
from his lovely garden. The next
day he was shocked to find that
winter had set in right earnest
and all he could see was icicles
and snow. Having realized his
self-centered attitude he set
about cajoling his young audience
back to his garden, and hey
presto, spring and blossoms
returned to his garden.
Much in the same manner
Amity has been donning the mantle
of the soothsayer, the harbinger
of hope and knowledge. The
admission rounds beginning
June, has seen a slew of parents
and hopeful young aspirants giving
their everything to enter
Amity's precincts. They were privileged
to share Assistant
Professor Anviti's motivating
anecdotes and with each admission
round they became that
much more profound and wise.
And to lend gravitas to the sombre
proceedings was none other
than the D-G himself-with his
unique interaction style.

My Ruminations on the "Medialistic" world

Here go my journalistic briefs that appeared in the September 12, 2010 issue of 360 Degrees which is the name of the Amity Newsletter.

Radio Heads: GRIN(S) and hear it

For those of you who thought your career as a Radio Jockey was not the most happening job think again!! If the latest development in the Radio world is any indicators, job openings are sure to follow. The recent launch Gurgaon Ki Awaaz as a community concept may well change the parameters of Radio broadcast. The community Radio portal has also installed the Grameen Radio Inter Networking System (GRINS) that may usher in a revolution of sorts. Their website states that theirs is a free share software and is a one-stop recording and RJing studio and it is up for free. A plug-n-play server to run a community radio station. It enables radio station operators to schedule broadcasts, preview programs, make and receive phone calls, record live transmissions, and maintain an extensive semantically searchable library, all through a single user-interface. It has been designed specifically for community radio stations in remote and rural areas, to keep costs low, provide extremely robust functioning, and enable rich features for greater community interaction

Back to the Written Word
Daily newspapers & Editors have been trying to grab more eyeballs to kindle interest among Gen Next!
And in order to attract more mass communication graduates to opt for print journalism they conducted a self-reflection exercise.. Last fortnight a leading English daily’s editors put on their thinking cap and held a brainstorming session in Delhi to chart a road map to bring more visibility to their newspaper . They decided to re-invent themselves and bring back to focus the role of hard news in their front pages. A moot point was that due emphasis should be given to the fact that newspapers are a vehicle for social change. They came to the conclusion that their state capital editions should carry exclusive stories to awaken the public. And for that to happen they would shortly appoint more budding journalists in their editorial

Come join the mobile content hub!

The Queen of K serial soap operas,- Ekta Kapoor revealed this weekend that Balaji Telefilms is going to enter the field of broadcast content Giving a sneak preview to her new project she hinted that her company is entering the field of Internet Journalism. Flushed with the success of her online programme Bol Niti Bol, shared that with the advent of 3G technology the mobile platform is the way to go. Soon there will be a special content hub for mobile entertainment and content creation. So boys and girls get ready to fine-tune your technical and creative skills for there are plenty of jobs around the corner.