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Archive for August, 2010

The trouble with giving a piece of mind is that the other fellow might give his in return to shut you up. It is called repartee. Most of us can give a fitting reply only when the point is quite lost. OK we suffer from a delayed reaction for which the French has an expression, l’espirit de l’escalier staircase wit literally. Wit has its own shades: savage, gentle, and even whimsical. In the following examples Indian lawmakers tilt lances with dunces and clever in the House as well as in public rallies.
Lately we find Indian politicians indulge in witticisms but being politicians they do not wish to draw blood but votes. It is Union of India under which they shoot their mouths but with an eye on the electoral bank they want to please the lowest denominator of their constituent. Recently a Bihari politician in response to a politician in Maharashtra threw his gauntlet down. He declared in Bihar no workers from outside the state are welcome. Next moment he backtracked all that blood and thunder speech to say Bihar welcomed all. A nit is a staircase wit who has got his foot in mouth. One with cold feet will never make a wit.
How do we define a wit then? Giving full expression of one’s gift of the gab to its terseness is an art. Only a wit can deliver it when time calls for it and to maximum effect. I am afraid that art is now dying.

When Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister of India Vasant Sathe was the Minister for Energy who just had undergone a bypass surgery. Before the Cabinet session got under way the PM inquired after his surgery and turned to Mr. Jagdish Tytler, the Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation and mentioned the pressure exerted by the then Chief Minister of Andhra for increased flights to Hyderabad. Mr. Gandhi was keen to win over the people of Andhra, who had dumped Congress and put Telugu Desam in power. With an eye for the coming elections the PM wanted Mr. Tytler to see that their demands were given priority. Meanwhile Sathe stepped in urging that airlink to Nagpur was streamlined since Nagpur was the heart of India.
Somewhat distracted by this demand he could only say, “These days there is a tendency to bypass the heart.”
2.
Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed who had the dubious honor of being the President during the Emergency days was noted for his gentle humor. While he was the Food Minister of India there were agitated and angry scenes in the House over reports of starvation deaths. Piloo Mody M.P, heavy in girth and of ready wit made a dig at the Green Revolution and asked ‘Where is all the food going despite the Green Revolution?’ Ahmed looked at him and said, “A look at Mr. Mody will convince the House where all the food is going.”
3.
In 1986 there was a demand from the Uttar Pradesh government for importing bullet-proof jackets. Thiru Gopalaswamy of DMK used the question hour to raise the issue in the House. The member wanted to know whether bulletproof pants also would be considered which the Home Minister suspected was a frivolous one. A.B Vajpayee raised this question, “ What is the use of bulletproof jackets without bullet proof pants?”
Rajiv Gandhi replied: “To preserve the Hon. Member’s chastity.”
4.
DMK party made well use of cinema to drive home its message. It fought Brahmin hold on the South Indian politics and helped the people who earlier were on the fringes of power, and downtrodden because of Aryan bias in the communities that had rode on the coat tails of British Raj. CN Annadurai was one of the leading lights whose oratory in Tamil as well as in English was seldom equalled since the formation of Tamil Nadu.
In one of the public speaking engagements he was interrupted by a youth who asked,’ Can you give me a sentence which contains ‘because’ coming continuously thrice?’
Catching the heckler’s question CN Annadurai raised his hand slightly and asked,’Ah, you want a sentence in which because comes continuously thrice?’
The heckler nodded.
After a pause CN replied, ‘My friend, no sentence ends in because, because ‘because’ is a conjunction.’
5.
The resignation of Mr. Chandra Sekhar over a political scandal on Surveillance Issue led to the dissolution of Loka Sabha in March 1991. Before the government fell there were rumbles as far as in Tamil Nadu where Karunanidhi had to resign over allegations that he was soft on LTTE operations inside the State. Thus there was no love lost between Chandra Sekhar and Mr. M. Karunanidhi.
Three elected governments in Assam, Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu fell; in the fourth Haryana which was at the center of the Surveillance controversy the Congress(I) wanted Prime Minister to dismiss the government. But Chandra Sekhar refused to act.
In this background M. Karunanidhi took part in a meeting at Patna the leader of the DMK compared the PM to a monkey. He said,’Once upon a time there was a magician who gave his pet monkey a few garlands,one at a time. These garlands were Assam, Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu.Then the magician gave another garland called Haryana to the monkey, hoping the monkey would tear it apart. Instead the monkey wore the garland around his neck. This angered the magician who threw the monkey into a well’.
6
S. Satyamurthy(1887-1943) first arrived to take seat in the Central Assembly in 1934 from Madras. He was nicknamed the trumpet boy of the Congress but he could hold his own when he had to take issues with treasury benches and Indians alike.
The debate in the Central Assembly over the recent hunger strikes staged by political prisoners was a stormy one. After an impassioned speech by Bhai Paramanand(1876-1947), Sir Henry Craik,- the same worthy who could boast of having worn the same coat for eight years, in order to defuse the heated atmosphere took the floor. He began glossing over the Andamans where the political prisoners were sent, as not bad as made out in the Indian press.
Satyamurthy interrupted the hon’ble member to ask,” In view of the hon’ble Home member‘s description, does the Government of India intend to change their Summer headquarters from Simla to Port Blair?’
The House broke into laughter.
7.
J.B Kripalani was a freedom fighter and a Nationalist who didn’t however seek with the freedom at Midnight the spoils of war. Within five years after the country won Independence he broke with the Congress party to found Kisan Mazdoor Praja Party. In the election for parliamentary seat he stood from Bombay. He was beaten by VK Krishna Menon who as the Defense Minister had to answer for the debacle, which India suffered in the Border dispute with China.
It was the debate in Parliament over thenational defense and Acharya who represented Amroha was present. So was Krishna Menon and Acharya took the floor and first looking towards him he said,’I hope Mr. Menon, that you will defend yourself more effectively than you defended the country from the Chinese invaders.’ For once VK Krishna Menon was
speechless.
8.
In the wake of the easy success China had on our North-Eastern Border in the House there were questions, which were sharp and acrimonious. On one occasion Nehru decried the importance of Aksai Chin region, which the Chinese had run over. He added that not a blade of grass grew there. It prompted Mahavir Tyagi to show his bald head and he said not a single hair grew there. He said that it was no reason for having his head chopped off.
benny

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“WASHINGTON – A newly discovered type of oil-eating microbe is suddenly flourishing in the Gulf of Mexico.

Scientists discovered the new microbe while studying the underwater dispersion of millions of gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf following the explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.

And the microbe works without significantly depleting oxygen in the water, researchers led by Terry Hazen at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif., reported Tuesday in the online journal Sciencexpress.

“Our findings, which provide the first data ever on microbial activity from a deepwater dispersed oil plume, suggest” a great potential for bacteria to help dispose of oil plumes in the deep-sea, Hazen said in a statement.

Environmentalists have raised concerns about the giant oil spill and the underwater plume of dispersed oil, particularly its potential effects on sea life. A report just last week described a 22-mile long underwater mist of tiny oil droplets.

“Our findings show that the influx of oil profoundly altered the microbial community by significantly stimulating deep-sea” cold temperature bacteria that are closely related to known petroleum-degrading microbes, Hazen reported.

Their findings are based on more than 200 samples collected from 17 deepwater sites between May 25 and June 2. They found that the dominant microbe in the oil plume is a new species, closely related to members of Oceanospirillales.”
With no thanks to BP here we have a new species of microbes that come to our aid. These microbial activity has been set into overdrive by an environmental disaster.
2.
Cause and Effect. Lebensraum of Nazi Germany is a cause and surely has its counterpart in effect. So has man’s wanton destruction of rain forests in changing the climate pattern. In the present case massive oil spill must cause microbes to fight back. This is nature’s way of containing excess demands. It works as some kind of moral force whereby what causes so much upset be it a political system or species is given its comeuppance. The Thousand year Reich will come down in 13 years or a fall in temperature bring the dinosaurs to their knees. These checks and balances are woven out of many causes that no one may control for long. Just the same what modifies the rule of the Might that relies on red in tooth and claw is a manifestation of Moral Law. God has no need to attend to the details since Nature has hearkened to the Will of God in her laws, and sees to it. God is not mocked by those who merely follow cause and effect within certain framework and not from moral standpoint.
benny

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Dino foetus

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Is constructing an Islamic Center with a mosque near Ground Zero a controversial point?
As an outsider and one interested in what goes on about me my views are my own. Freedom of worship is an article of faith for whoever places premium on good sense than obscurantist principles that religion always espouses. Christian churches, no matter what their persuasion or creed, shall not accept a church that support gay community. Take a recent bombing of a Sufi mosque in Pakistan where the bomber waited for the prayer time to cause maximum damage will be an eye opener for any one that imagines religion is as innocuous as what it preaches. Religion is the opium of the masses and it takes away all the nuances of good breeding, sweetness of civil society,- and Islam has from the time it became an established religion proved the implacable hostility of a believer for any dissent, and this religion is a heady potion for the Semitic race. Just like Hebrews this children of Ishamael cannot see beyond black and white on the point of faith. For a Moslem there is nothing in between. It may be ironic that as far as liberties of individuals under Moslems and Christian rulers in the past they have been far more tolerant to let Christians, Jews and other sect practice their religion in their own quarters as long as they did it quietly and without endangering the public order and peace. Only one go through the atrocities the so called crusaders perpetrated in order to deliver Jerusalem from the ‘infidels’. Catholic Church has shown in comparison far more perfidious in this respect.
For the rise in fundamentalism and terror as a political tool Islam has only taken a leaf out of the policies of the West. An average Moslem on the street equates the west for Christianity and the manner the west has double dealt with the political fortunes the Middle east is now etched in his consciousness. Thus if some fundamentalist Imam in Malaysia says any Christian who utters the world ‘Allah’ has profaned it what is the result? Several churches are torched forthwith.
Now we see a good will ambassador sent by Cordoba Initiative making a pitch for harmony and religious good-will. This is all well and commendable.
Given the past examples one cannot induce goodwill by some fatuous gestures and speeches.
Coming to the controversy of Islamic Center near Ground Zero I remember the government of Yahoos allowing a bar near the kindergarten school. The one who got license to open the bar said he stood guarantee for the quality of spirits he sold over the counter. ‘There shall be no loose, ungodly curses, four letter words around here,’ he was certain. The drinks were meant to be consumed by grown ups and responsible citizens.
What he did not guarantee was the customers under the influence of liquor.
We have a situation similar where the right to practice religion is guaranteed.
benny

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From a toddler to a doddering fool you realize all that you did as a matter of duty was expected of you. So no thanks mate.
All that you did as time and inclination permitted gave you some satisfaction. No comments mate. You did your thing.
When you are past deeds sans teeth, sans joy sans friends all that come to haunt you is not what you could do but what you have left undone or is too late to mend. I don’t know what is all this bother about.
This is where you and your society part company. They haven’t a clue what makes what you are.
benny

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Toots Shor, a New York restaurateur once hailed a taxi cab and asked the driver, “Know of a decent restaurant? I am a stranger here.”
“Yes sir” said the cabbie, “one of the greatest eating places in this world is Toots Shor on 51st street. I’ll drive you straight there.”
At the end of the ride Toots was so pleased he handed the driver a ten dollar bill saying, “Keep the change.”
“T’anks,” said the driver, “T’anks indeed, Mr. Shor!”
2.
Ellsworth Statler, founder of th Statler Hotels was out in town one night with Baron Long, another hotel director. At a late hour the two men found themselves in the railway station. Statler viewing the vast, almost vacant expanse had an inspiration.
“I’ll bet you $100,” said he to Long, “that I can yell louder than you can.”
Both let yells one after another which almost shattered the station windows. At this point an outraged policeman came running towards them.
The pair told him about the bet and asked him to act as judge.
“Sure I ought to run you in,” spluttered the cop, “two grown men making such a row. I’ll not help you decide anything.”
He started to leave, then turned back and pointing to Statler, the smaller of the two and said,” But I tell you one thing. If that little guy hollers like that again, I’ll shoot you both!”
Whereupon Long solemnly handed Staler $100.
benny

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V.K Krishna Menon (1896-1974)

Before I go through Menon’s life let me preface it with a truism: anyone who involves himself in public life must realize politics as played in India or anywhere else is no different. I recall an anecdote from the life of an illustrious Athenian who did yeoman service to his City as Menon did to the country. There are more than two millennia separating Themistocles and V.K Krishna Menon.

Themistocles from his youth wanted glory and was also impetuous. He wanted to make a name for himself and politics was what interested him most. His father desirous of persuading from an uncertain career as politics one day took him for a stroll along the seashore. He pointed many ruins of galleys abandoned pell-mell among the rocks and said, ’This is how people deal with the very vessels that have become of no use to them.’ Themistocles learned hard way that it was indeed so. V.K Krishna Menon’s case was no different. Our Indian Identity may give us certain contours in our attitudes and a frame of reference but these are superficial. In the very core principles we are like every body else.
Krishna Menon was the third child and eldest son of a prosperous lawyer in Tellicherry, in those days part of Malabar Presidency. In 1915 he went to Madras where his debating skills were honed and his intelligence and forceful character brought him in contact with people like Annie Besant and Dr. Arundale. The latter took him to London where he studied under Professor Harold Laski and emerged with first class Honours in1927.
In the newly emerged India League he was the moving spirit. He worked indefatigably for making Indian cause better understood in England. When the Labor Government came in power in 1945 he became the listening post for Nehru to understand the mood of the British government. His service paved the way for a strong bond between him and Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister.
He became the first High Commissioner of India in the UK. Perhaps much of his rapid rise and fall partly owe to the very character: he could be very cutting when aroused and spoke straight off the cuff. He had many enemies abroad and in India. The so-called Jeep Scandal (this was peanut compared to the present day land scam or 4000 crore Hawala scam) and led to his being recalled in 1952 before the five year ended. He was appointed as the leader of Indian delegation while the Cold War was spreading across the world. In 1957 he was able to persuade the USSR to drop its opposition to the admission of 16 Afro-Asian countries as new members of the UN. By the same year he became the Defense Minister in Nehru’s cabinet. Among his many enemies the US also came in and he was in so many ways made to look as a stooge for the Soviet Russia.
As the Defense Minister he made the first efforts to modernize Defense Establishment and developing indigenous sources of supply for all consumable items. His first ministerial efforts were effective.
In early 1962 he stood for election from the same Bombay constituency against Acharya JB Kripalini. He was returned to Lok Sabha with his new popular mandate.
It was the era Nehru’s slogan ‘Indi-Chini- Bhai-Bhai’In Oct.1962 China entered into NEFA area with ease. The failure of India was as much a failure of mistaken foreign policy towards China that had nothing to do with V.K Krishna Menon’s handling of his portfolio. Nehru was indispensable whereas Krishna Menon who had to rely only on himself was expendable. As his successor in the Defense Ministry said, ’The true evidence of the success of Krishna Menon’s success is really available in the results of the 1965 and 1971 conflicts when our troops firmly met and repulsed aggression’. Anyway the Chinese Border debacle sent him into political wilderness. He was not reinstated or his great service to the nation before her independence or after were justly rewarded. It was only fitting and his due for his selfless service that the nation should have celebrated his birth centenary in 1996 but then he had become a footnote to Indian history, – and a forgotten hero.
(Ack: A Forgotten Patriot-a tribute by CV Narasimhan- The Hindu-23-2-97)
anecdote:

It was the era of McCarthism. Sri.V.K Krishna Menon led the Indian delegation of the U.N General Assembly in New York. He was invited to Meet The Media, a TV program moderated by one Mr. Anatole Stormwell, a favorite of the Senator McCarthy, and a nasty character to boot.
News reached Mr. Krishna Menon that the meeting was going to be a sort of inquisition by a panel, who were handpicked by Mr. Stormwell and noted for their bias. Mr. Menon noted the names and collected some background information on his interviewers.
On the day of interview Mr. Stormwell after a perfunctory welcome briefly traced the career of the guest, dwelling more on the aspects in a way to denigrate by innuendo, and said how he had become the favorite of Mr. Nehru. ”That is wonderful, Mr. Menon from log cabin to White House in a manner of speaking. But tell me Mr.Menon-is it true that you are a communist?”
There were a few raised eyebrows and looks of agitation among the panel and Mr. Menon replied,” Thank you Mr.Stormwell, I would like to return the compliment; you too, sir, have risen from humble beginnings, from selling newspapers in the streets to leading this distinguished panel. I believe that you draw a salary higher than that of the President of the United States. Now that is wonderful,Mr. Stormwell, but tell me is it true that you are a bastard?”
ii
The second Menon did not play second fiddle to any but he wielded a pen and it was formidable as V.K Krishna Menon’s oratory. He authored a book Kazhinja Kalam(Past Perfect) and he ran a vernacular Newspaper Mathrubhoomi (Motherland)
K.P Kesava Menon (1886-?)
At a meeting in Calicut (Kozhikodu) convened by the loyalists during the WWI to collect funds towards the war effort, Kesava Menon was invited to speak in a meeting. As he stood up to deliver his speech in malayalam he was called to order by the Collector as well as the all-powerful British officers present. He walked out rather than having to be to be told his mother tongue was not good enough to express so vital topic of life and death. (There were ten thousands of soldiers recruited and sent abroad to fight for the cause of the Imperial Britain. Besides food supplies were sent out to feed the army on foreign soil than feed the people at home)
Following the example of Kesava Menon the majority of the audience also walked out.
benny

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By way of preface Marcel Carne’s Les Enfants du Paradis (1946) is about theater. From the first repeated three knocks where the curtain goes up we are given to look into the lives of certain personages who are caught up in the currents where their lives entangle with the rest. Most of these are living on the edge- criminals, actors, prostitutes and beggars. The title ‘children of paradise’ clearly indicates they are the stars and their lives are as fascinating and rich whether they for the price of two centimes wish to be the purveyors of lives unfolding before them or boo the actors off the stage if annoyed. Theater within a theater as a form helps us to examine reality and wish fulfillment as relevant to people regardless of class or wealth. What they get to see at Theatre des Funambules may be stock Italian comic characters, fantastic props and situations but they can still hitch their humdrum lives to it.
Before narrating a great scene I shall quote the dialogue between two actors who have had their first taste of emoting before the footlights. Both have been preparing their lives for this break and they have the satisfaction that they did rather well.
Baptiste the mime speaks about the gods who crowd nightly to see their performers, thus:
Yes they understand every thing.They are poor people, but I am like them. I love them. I know them well. Their live are small, but they have big dreams…”
As an actor a mime he duly acknowledges he owes his art to them. Unless he hobnobs with them in their natural haunts and see life as performed by them in their unguarded moments he would be lost.
This explains why he stepped out mysteriously in the night causing the other actor to describe him ‘a real alley cat, Monsieur Baptiste!’
Baptiste’s solitary walk takes him to the scene with Fil de Soie the blind beggar beautifully essayed by Gaston Modot.
The beggar wonders why he is walking on tiptoe. Baptiste has no money to give him but he walks just the same he wants to see everything. Soon the mime and the beggar warm up to each other. The beggar shall treat him that night. They go to the next door, to the seedy ‘Robin Roundbreast’. The beggar says,’You who like to learn things, this’ll amuse you.’
Soon we see the blind beggar is as much surprised what happens there as the mime. The beggar who considered the street as his beat learns a few lessons he never thought possible. Even in low haunts life springs surprises for those have ‘eyes’ to see. The scene where Baptiste realizes the beggar is not really blind is beautifully shown.
Close shot of Baptiste still stupefied with astonishment. Then shot of both of them, Baptiste three quarters back view. The waiter brings two glasses and a bottle.
The beggar says,” You can’t believe your eyes, can you, actor? Smiling.But it is very simple. Outside I am blind…incurable and in here I am cured.. It is a miracle isn’t it?” There is another great acting when the Old clothes man approaches them. Fil de Soie as if by reflex turns away from the mime not to compromise his companion. The beggar then finds that he need not have worried. Jericho knows the actor and they have no love lost between them.
The two scenes at the Robin Redbreast is a key to understand the core value of the film. Art of theater and of course film, is enriched by life. Rich or poor is besides the point.
(ack:classic film scripts/pub:Lorrimer publishing Ltd.,-1968)Baptiste

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