Gita, Guru, Ekta and Ecevit..

People going to war need strong motivation and clear reasoning. Well, that is what we believe, though it is not always so. Many a leader is caught in that bleak twilight of indecisiveness and the final nudge is often provided by deeply ingrained beliefs or often, a dose of spirituality or persuasive advice from a friend or confidante.

We all know that in the Mahabharata, during the battle of Kurukshetra, Arjuna was expertly guided by the wisdom of Krishna in determining right from wrong. We also know that it was somehow captured verse for verse, word for word (I have always wondered how ‘shlokas’ muttered in the heat of battle by Krishna sitting in front of the speeding chariot, to Arjuna standing behind - bow in hand, got captured on paper without any errors…Early tape recorders maybe??) in the great Bhagavad Gita. Hopefully somebody can educate me on this!!

At least one present day invasion has Bhagavad Gita as the guiding light behind it, not for the act itself, but as the motivator for the indecision faced by the leader. Today the person involved is no more, but the country is becoming popular in India after being pictured in the Mani Ratnam’s movie ‘Guru’ (remember Mayya mayya?) the ongoing soap “Kasam Se’, Sanjay Kapoor’s recent cooking sessions and other serials by Ekta Kapoor, the lady with a vengeance. The country is none other than Turkey, a place where we spent over five years of our life and very dear to me.

And the person who was guided and motivated by the Bhagavad Gita? The late prime (1925-2006) minister of Turkey and an Indophile – Bulent Ecevit. Ecevit Bey had the Gita to support him many a time in his political career, including an occasion when he had to fight his friend Ismet Inonu in the political arena. Ecevit studied Sanskrit, then Bengali after reading Tagore’s Gitanjali. Only after he had learnt Bengali did he venture to translate those works into Turkish.

WHEN Bulent Ecevit decided, on July 20th 1974, to send an invasion force to Cyprus, he could find many reasons for it. Greeks and Turks on the island had been killing each other for years. Turkish-Cypriots, the minority, needed protection against "genocide". A coup had been staged by a Greek guerrilla leader in the name of union with Greece; and if it succeeded, Turkey's southern coast would be "almost imprisoned", as Mr Ecevit put it later, among the Greek Aegean islands. But these considerations, weighty as they were, were not what fortified him as he was briefed that day, in an underground bunker, by a group of sweating generals. He was thinking of the Bhagavad Gita", which he knew in the original Sanskrit; and the "Gita" taught that if a man was sure he was morally right, he should not hesitate to take action.

The first Turkish translation of the Gita was done by Ecevit who had just finished college then (they say, in 1947) but it was soon banned in Turkey by Adnan Menderes, the then PM of Turkey. It was Ecevit who eventually lifted the ban after he became PM in 1974.

As a young man Ecevit took some Sanskrit lessons at the Indology department of Ankara University. Later, when posted as cultural attache to the Turkish embassy in London, his love for poetry and a philosophic bent led him to Rabindra Nath Tagore and the Bhagavat Geeta. He learnt Sanskrit to better understand the Geeta and Bengali to appreciate and later translate some poems from Tagore's Geetanjali. Most of Tagore's works, numbering about 20, have been translated into Turkish.

Ecevit always reaffirmed his faith in the Gita and while visiting India in 2000, he went on to say that the Gita could be considered Krishna’s advice to all politicians. He added that the Gita reminded him of his duties as a politician, and as a crisis document that should be always at hand for one, especially when you have to go against a person you like and whose views you may not agree with!!

It is all strange, India found fault with Turkey invading Cyprus and supported Greece on the issue in the world arena, while its leader was citing the Gita!!

Tail note – Prachi Desai, our Bani maam seems to have had a great time out there in Turkey, shopping and sight seeing. I can only agree with her. It is a great country to visit and live in!!! Sometimes I sit back and smile thinking of the Turkish reaction to the hordes of Indians at Topkapi and other historic places, a country where the common man knows little about India other than Raj Kapoor in Awara. I still remember the time when my parents visited us in Turkey. The Dolmabache palace we took them to while sight seeing had a school excursion going on and the children were wide eyed seeing my mother dressed in a Sari, they had never seen one before and clamored to get photographed with the strange looking ‘Hintli’ (Indian) woman. Much to my mom’s embarrassment!!

Mangoes, Congress Grass and America

PL 480 – now how many know what that is all about? People from Bangalore will definitely know about Congress grass, because it has been the main cause for most allergy related misery & skin diseases out there. Ever figured out how it reached the city? It is an interesting story, because the seeds or the weeds traveled long and far to reach Bangalore…Parthenium or carrot weed (since it looks like a carrot plant), one of 10 worst weeds in the world, traveled with the PL 480 wheat that was imported from USA (some say Mexico – I am not 100% sure yet) many years back, under the Public loan 480 generously provided to India.

Now, Parthenium is called Congress weed or Congress Grass, do you know why? As far as I could gather, the white flower looks like a Gandhi cap …It is also called 'Safed topi 'or Gandhi Bhooti!!! But I could not see any resemblance, Was it because Congress was in power when the wheat import took place?? (Or maliciously meant to mean - as spread out & ingrained as the Congress party in India?)

SO what happened in 1956?? After partition, Western Punjab, India's wheat bowl had gone to Pakistan. A spell of successive bad monsoons added, there was a severe food crisis by 1955, reminiscent of the Bengal famine. India had no options. Chinese were already starving. Russia, India’s quasi-ally didn't have enough for its own people. Europe was just recovering from World War II and could not help. India didn't have any foreign currency to buy food even if it were available. Millions of people would have to be left to starve, if the US had not came to India’s rescue. That was how the famous PL 480 wheat import deal with US was signed by India in 1956.

US prohibited mango import from India for many long years. To tell you an interesting story, in 1960, during a state visit by Nehru, Alphonso mangoes imported from Bombay were served for Nehru’s state dinner with JFK by BK Nehru, the Indian ambassador. There was a caveat, after dinner, all seeds were to be collected & handed over to the USDA for incineration. Can you believe that these things happen??

Last month - May 2007, heralded the lifting of the US ban and the ushering of the mango madness (I agree – it is madness to buy 12 mangoes for $38) as they call it out here in USA….Why were mangoes banned for so many years? Apparently certain ‘not so good’ pesticides were used by Indian farmers. Nowadays these mangoes are especially ‘gamma ray irradiated’ at Kalpakkam or BARC or someplace to make them fit for (As far as I know only homesick desi’s eat them for now, even at $38/box) consumption.

So it was probably fitting, when India had its turn, asking US to limit Parthenium in its wheat exports or face non participation in wheat tenders…Incredibly the US export wheat samples has 12,000 weeds per 200 tones as against the 200 weeds permitted!!

The devil is in the details - Parthenium hysterophorus is a weed that was imported into India along with the PL 480 US wheat seeds in the 50s. The weed has since grown into uncontrollable proportions invading million of hectares of uncultivated wastelands, roadsides, railway tracks, etc. The fast growing weed is a nuisance in public parks, residential colonies and orchards. Not only that, it causes health hazards such as skin allergy, hay fever and asthma in human beings and is toxic to livestock. It squeezes grasslands and pastures, reducing the fodder supply. Scientists describe it as a "poisonous, allergic and aggressive weed posing a serious threat to human beings and livestock. The early Sixties saw massive quantities of wheat shipped to India under the "Public Loan 480" (PL 480) plan of the U.S. Seeds of the noxious weed, Parthenium, which subsequently became a menace in the wheat fields of Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, also got shipped along. Chandrabhan Prasad also provides other details in his article ‘Untrustworthy Indians

And a bit about the Alphonso mango itself – It gets its name from Alfonso de Albuqerque of Portugal who brought the mango to India in the 16th century. Called Apoos in Bombay, it is grown in the Konkan area and Pune. Picture courtesy Wikipedia

Tailpiece - I hope the USDA which was quite worried about flies & pesticides in Indian mangoes, can take responsibility for the Parthenium eradication in India!!!

Hum Dono and Kala Pani

No, this is not a blog about Dev Saab, but about two of his movies, or shall I say, some aspects surrounding them? These movies depicted the life & times in India during the 50’s, before I was born. I saw both the movies last week, while on long flights between the East and West coasts of USA. I was in the middle seats both times, and not wanting to fall on the neighbors shoulder while nodding off, or not wanting to get caught snoring, I resorted to seeing these two movies. People sitting next to me would really have wondered, what strange old, black & white movies is this guy seeing? And seeing / hearing me hum those fascinating songs in the two movies, they would have found me quaint, to say the least…But one thing I can assure you is I must have been one of those rare persons who watched Dev Anand and Madhubala at 40,000 ft, while flying through dense clouds.

Hum Dono – Set during the Second World War with both Anand’s serving the Burma Corps. Lovely songs, reasonably OK double act by Dev Anand and quite serious a movie actually with all the war scenes shot & directed by a Gora!! Now it is coming out in color as well. Nanda and Sadhana have little to do with a double Dev hogging the screen time. Those were the times when Burma was well known in India, people used to go there to work in the plantations, like at Malay & Singapore. Remember the song ‘mere piya gaye rangoon’? Myanmar, as it is called now still is crazy about Hindi movies though nobody understands it.After the British occupation, the two countries became a part of British Empire. Burma was ruled by the British as a part of British India till 1937. The British brought numbers of Indians to Burma during its rule. On the morning of independence on 4 January 1948, there were some 300,000 – 400,000 Indians living in independent Burma.

During the 60’s Burma slowly started going pro-Chinese and when they did not support India during the border conflict with China, thinks took a turn to the worse. Then came up issues relating to nationalization of most Indian businesses in Burma. Many fled the country. Later on in the 80’s India supported the democratic movement in the country and with that bilateral relations hit an all time low.

How many of you know that 1992 Nobel Prize winning Burmese activist Aung Sang Suu Kyi graduated from N Delhi University before she moved to England and thence to Burma?? As you can imagine, she was deeply influenced by Gandhiji during her 4 years in India…She was a student of Political Science at Lady Shri Ram College - Class of 1964 (Her mom was the Burmese ambassador to India then). She is probably the only non Indian Nobel Prize winner who studied in India.

But listen to this for now….

Kala Pani – One image remains in my mind. That of the beautiful enigma Madhubala (her name fits her persona like a glove). What an incredibly beautiful face hers is. So I went on to read more about her, which of course is a story that you can also read in Wikipedia. Then again, like Hum Dono, it was a reasonably serious movie. Dev Anand has done well, so has Nalini. But watch Madhubala curl her lips to the left in a broad smile and you are hooked, like Dilip Kumar was, like Bharat Bushan, so many others and like the person who converted to marry her just before she died - Karim Abdul (who could that be? Kishore Kumar!!).

Watch the chemistry between the actors in this song…

But what does Kala Pani mean? Black water? Again a mystery for me. The answer was fascinating. In the olden days, no Indian would leave the country of the Ganges to do trade in foreign countries. They left that to the Moors, Christians or Jews. Crossing the black waters was taboo and meant meeting with ill luck, death & monsters.

So when the English wanted to transport cheap labor to Mauritius, crossing the Kala Pani was a major issue. The matter was finally solved with big cauldrons of Ganges water accompanying the families on the ships. These were the first examples of major crossings of the Kala Pani.

But well, I was still wondering what the name had to do with the movie as Kala Pani depicted the Hyderabad Jail where Dev’s dad was incarcerated for life, in the movie. So I floundered on, in the depths of the internet, searching and eventually finding the answer. Well, life sentence convicts were usually sent to the Andaman’s across the black water. Thus the phrase ‘life sentence’ got intermingled with ‘Kala Paani’.

Nowadays there is a PC virus called Kala pani, so beware!!!

Going Green

Kuttan-bhai prompted me to with this question, is the old man turning green? I had joked around previously when I wrote the blog on Mushrooms and Switzerland

Let me start with the bad – Yes, it is true that the development of a country is measured by the waste/refuse (trash) it produces. More than that, it is also measured by the plastic it produces I guess! Articles mention that 63 pounds of plastic are produced per person in the US and it just ends in landfills or well, you have to believe this – is dumped in the ocean. That is how responsible we are…Have any of you heard about the sea of plastic in the Pacific Ocean? A floating mass that is slowly destroying the marine & bird life out there, guess how much - many thousands of square miles of it. Have you read about it or heard about it on mass media?
If not, read about it here.......and here (The picture is from the second link) and here. This is the plastic island, 3 million tons of it.

Now this surely is bad, my wife is livid, she is not happy that there is no recycling here in South California. In the UK we used to have separate trash containers for each type of waste and plastic was always recycled!! And I agree, this is not the way it should be. If we create a profitable invention like plastic or radioactivity, we do have to research it through its life cycle, not just the useful (to mankind) cycle. In this sometimes humdrum cycle of life, we are chasing dreams, shadows, fear and opportunities, there is no time even to think about decades & centuries into the future…yes I am guilty………..that I do nothing about it, nor does my thinking about it result in any positive or revolutionary ideas.

My mother wants to recycle everything. She collects bits & bobs, bottles and batteries, plastic and paper and stores them carefully for future recycling, only that there are no buyers or receptacles for recyclable trash in Palakkad. The ‘aakri’ guys who used to howl for bottles & tins are not seen these days, they have better things to do maybe, so the nett result is that the pile of junk at home just increases in volume, year after year and I get furious, when I reach home and see it. My efforts at disposing them are met with vehement non violent protests from my mother, finally I leave her be and I curse the whole concept of recycling..

But then I do think about some of the other high spots on ecology, our planet and the such, yes, in general I am concerned….but in particular…ah! I don’t know.

Climate change
The planet Earth, the solar system, the galaxies & nebulae are so complex, we humans hardly understand the actions & interactions in these creations or happenings. I believe that talking about a possible temperature rise of the planet Earth due to human actions is as vague as thinking about an asteroid hit that can destroy all & everything in the planet. Unfortunately we humans are avaricious beings created to devour away resources, much like other living beings…Collective action about voluntarily restraining ourselves seems not a possible situation to me…But who knows?

Ozone levels
First we read that it is required, up there, so that UV rays are restricted (they harm DNA – cancer etc), then we heard that depletion of the layer is taking place due to man made actions (CFC) and this is also a reason for global warming & climate change. Then somebody said that well, the dammn hole is now
closing mysteriously (maybe also due to reduction of CFC’s!!). Thanks to this site for the wonderful picture & lesson. Well the latest is that the Antarctic hole will close in 50 years!! But then a hole may very well be created by solar storms and other unknown causes on the Artic layer!!

Fossil fuel
I am not so sure that the discovery of petroleum was a good thing. It was good & bad (costs me >$3.50 per gallon); it hastened the industrial revolution, but decreased the possibility of creating clean energy. It is due to the fossil fuel lobby that battery development & efficient cars are not promoted. It also created the wealthy Middle east – though providing employment to a large number of Indians, it has been the reason for all this violent geopolitics of the last two or three decades. Same with Power plants & renewable energy, Solar, wind and wave energy has been delayed…with us depending today on power plants that work to less than 50% efficiency, never more as would be attainable with the other types, when developed…A vicious cycle…
I don’t know how seriously they are taken, though we hear about their protests. This is what they do. Quite a nice ideology..

Greenpeace is an independent, campaigning organization which uses non-violent, creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems, and to force solutions for a green and peaceful future. Greenpeace's goal is to ensure the ability of the earth to nurture life in all its diversity.

Just a simple question – I understand their goals, but will it actually result in peace? How? i.e. Peace for mankind?? I am not yet sure, nor have I spent time seriously thinking about it, but I am motivated by this statement that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk - the founder of modern Turkey, made many years ago,

Peace at Home, Peace in the World - "Mankind is a single body and each nation a part of that body. We must never say 'What does it matter to me if some part of the world is ailing?' If there is such an illness, we must concern ourselves with it as though we were having that illness."

A very fine statement, Mustafabey, Cok tesekurlar (Many thanks, Mr Mustafa..)
Pics - courtesy various linked sites

A VJ with a difference – Anu

I have not seen very much of her on TV, even though she has lasted well over three years on V -we don’t have Channel V here, but I have read some articles about her and I have seen a few videos of hers uploaded by some very sensible people onto Youtube – or else I would zimbli wud not haave eyard of lolakutti…

Until then the best spoof on Malayalees is the classic Mallu guy in the Gits ad – when I was in forin – I yate uthappam – zimpli mayde itu with gitzu…

But Lola Kutty, this ex Stella Mary’s student, later a teacher at Calicut & stage actress, took on the Mallu world & now ensures that you have access to a full collection of understandable ‘Mallu jokes for non Mallu’s. Maan, this girl Anuradha menon aka Lola kutty is one specimen whom I would like to meet & say yello, you are doing a great joob …Lola mentions that she was living at P.T. Usha street in Calicut and was spotted by some V guys who came for a shooting. "I always wanted to become a runner like P.T. Usha, but my grandmother said that I would become tanned so I decided not to’.

Most Mallu’s get angry when a joke is made on them or on Kerala. Some go outright ballistic …Personally I feel Mallu’s are too serious and it does take a Lola to bring us all down to earth at times.. About the "home" audience that now watches her along with the rest of the country, she says, "I know some Malayalis who want to lynch me, but what I like is that at least now, people know there is a language called Malayalam, and that all south Indians are not Madrasis”.

Man, Look at this girl- in a recent webchat, she comes up with yet another great one liner

guest51: Have you got a proposal after being Lola Kutty?
lola: Yes actually, from someone called Krishnan Kutty. But I declined.

In an interview - You know I thought I was doing a good deed, and I said to Milind Soman, ‘Milind, it is high time you get married and settle down’. I said I will take it upon myself. I will pressurise myself and I will get you a good girl. I showed him so many photos, of all my nieces and cousins. I showed him Blossom, Baby Kutty, Glossy Kutty, Bifocal Kutty, so many I am showing him. He was not interested in them all…

hannel V insists that they won’t give her a makeover like Jassi - Recounting a recent incident, Lola says, "I was at a designer store recently and they told me that if I was planning to have a makeover, they would sponsor me! But there are no chances of a makeover a la Jassi.’’

And I loved her comment about the omnipresent howler Himesh Reshmaniya - “The position of his mike really bothers me. It’s like he’s sticking something up his nose. I tell you, that polyps condition he has is self-inflicted”.

If Lola's dream sounds weird ("I want to be an item girl at least once") then listen to what she'll do when she becomes famous: "Someone should give me a free dinner at a hotel, that would mean I am famous." Don't be too serious about this take though. Lola's like that only!”

Matunga is to a Malayali what a Camel is to a Sheikh, she writes in an article penned by her.

While Lola gets her share of the spotlight, her assistant Shiny Alex is another one to look out for. Could there be more news? Would Lola marry Alex? She exclaims, “Oh no! Alex is already married to a girl called Glory Princess Helga. We are not seeing each other. My taste is much better than that. In fact, I gave him that job.”

Her future - "Next I will be working from the roads. The channel people say they haeve no money to record me in a studio. The show will be titled Lolling with Lola where I will be interviewing celebrities on the road only," she says.

Oh, Lola you are zimbli great fun….BTW Lola Kutty ring tones are coming soon…and, in real life she speaks with a clipped Brit accent, having acquired it while doing a course out in UK.

Her word of advice – “Always remember that fish in the curry is worth 2 in the sea!”

For those who don’t mind a few puns on Mallus – check this out.
Her popular clips
Lola’s Philosophy about experience-

The classic bonieyum or Boney Menon from the Kerala Choir – "When Channel V wos toking about a Boney Yum mix, I asked them if I could be involved in yany kupaacity. I am thankfull to Channel V for giving me a chence to show my true lau to my favouraid pope ardist." Anuradha Menon aka Lola, further recalled her childhood days when her 'Ungle from Dubai' bought her a Boney M cassette and how she used to "listen to Rivers of Baeabylawn."