Thursday, July 18, 2013

What they are talking about in Kerala

By John Cheeran
Congress in Kerala is in all sorts of trouble. Group war is raging in the party and the CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) is seeking the ouster of chief minister Oommen Chandy. The saving grace is that CPM itself is divided over bringing down the United Democratic Front (UDF) government thanks to the internecine rivalry between party secretary Pinarayi Vijayan and opposition leader V S Achuthanandan, who is now seen as the last communist in Asia, including China.
Consider the charges against Chandy. It has been alleged that Chandy is party to a series of frauds committed by a private company, Team Solar, which swindled people of money to the tune of Rs 10 crore (the official figure quoted by Chandy is Rs 1 crore).  Serious among them is an accusation levelled by Sreedharan Nair, a provincial Congress leader and industrialist, who says he had received an assurance from Chandy that Team Solar is a venture that needs to be encouraged, which made him part with Rs 40 lakh to Saritha S Nair, a femme fatale associated with the solar firm.
Chandy says Sreedharan Nair had parted with his money a week before he met him last July. All Malayalis are now debating whether the femme fatale, Saritha S Nair, was with the Nair Who Had The Money, when he met the chief minister. Chandy, who streams visuals from the chief minister’s office live (Is he the world’s first politician to do so? Will have to check Limca Book of records) says visuals of his meeting with Nair are not available. And the incorruptible Chandy has now appointed a panel of Malayalam speaking Sherlock Holmes to retrieve the lost visuals, sift through them and spot whether there was a sexy Nair, apart from the Money Nair. 
Rivalry among Congress A and I groups has ensured that details were leaked to the media about extensive telephone conversations that Saritha had with chief minister’s office, his assistants and an entire spectrum of Congress leadership in the state, including home minister, members of Parliament and Kerala Pradesh Congress chief Ramesh Chennithala. And remember Kerala’s chief minister did not have a cell phone in his name till now and has been making use of his flunkeys’s phones to stay connected!  
There is no denying that both Saritha and her partner, Biju Radhakrishnan, had a criminal past, before they hit upon the ruling Congress establishment with a seemingly credible and fashionable scheme of solar energy at homes and industrial units.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Who is the greatest living author in Malayalam?

By John Cheeran
Who is the greatest living author in Malayalam? That tag would easily be applied to M T Vasudevan Nair, known as MT, who celebrates his 80th birthday today (July 15).
For beginners, MT has written short stories, novels, screenplays and edited the prestigious literary weekly Mathrubhumi. MT is also an acclaimed film director (six movies) and won the best national feature film award for his first movie, Nirmalyam, in 1973.
The weekend witnessed a deluge of encomiums to the writer, free from critical assessment of his works and that is not unusual. In Kerala, bitching among writers is conducted a little subtly, away from print and sound bites.
MT has written 87 short stories (that’s one count) and the last one (Kazhcha—Sight) was in 1998. He has written nine novels but all that was ages ago. Still there will be few who would not have read MT classics like Manju, Nalukettu and Iruttinte Aathmavu.
Lyricism was MT’s hallmark. But MT’s concerns were limited. He bemoaned a way of life, mostly depicting crumbling Nair joint families and trying on the mantle of the outsider in such circumstances. MT also encouraged the Malayali’s penchant for nostalgia and the beedi smoking author carefully cultivated his aura.
Unlike many of his generation, MT’s struggles have been few and patchy. MT never lived or worked outside of Kerala unlike some of the modern greats of Malayalam literature such as O V Vijayan and Vaikkom Muhammed Bashir. While Bashir pulled off all sorts of tricks while pitching tent at various parts of India, Delhi shaped Vijayan’s writing. Both have written powerful novels that addressed concerns beyond the parochial and maudlin.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Is Muslim League a dead horse?

By John Cheeran

There is little in common between Jawaharlal Nehru and Ramesh Chennithala. The former is India’s most celebrated statesman-prime minister, the latter a khadi-clad Peter Pan in Kerala.

Last week Chennithala, president, Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee, tried to emulate Nehru when he said the rump of Muslim League in Kerala (what is variously described as Indian Union Muslim League Kerala committee, Muslim League, etc) has become a liability for Congress.

It was Nehru who dismissed Muslim League as a dead horse in the post-independence euphoria in 1957. (It is another matter that, two years later, he keeled over and the state unit of Congress struck an alliance with the League in Kerala). Now the dead horse is galloping faster than Congress in Kerala, threatening almost to wreck the United Democratic Front (UDF) coalition.

Will the high command in New Delhi agree about what Nehru said in 1957?

Why do Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi flog the dead horse? The Gandhis can hardly displease the rump of Muslim League in Kerala, for the Oommen Chandy-led UDF ministry leads a precarious existence even with the support of the League. So they will acquiesce, and League will continue to press their arguments.

It is important to realise who flogged Nehru’s dead horse into life.

With a 25% Muslim population in the state, both the UDF and CPM-led LDF are wary of alienating Muslim voters. But one cannot understand the need for a Muslim League, in Kerala’s cultural and social context, in electoral arena. Both Congress and CPM are quite accommodative of Muslim aspirations, so why strike a divisive note on the basis of religion? The answer should come from the Muslim community. League, however, has realized that only thing that matters in a first-past-post democracy is numbers in a given geographical area.

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Look beyond scoreboard; trophies are not the truth

By John Cheeran
The scoreboard is important in cricket, but then you learn to look beyond the scoreboard when you regard sport as more than a pastime. The tragedy in Indian sport is that very few have the courage to look beyond the scoreboard.

That explains the glee that washed over the sport pages of newspapers, magazines and talk shows in myriad television channels after India creditably won the Champions Trophy in England, although contests were less than bloody battles, when you appreciated how famished the Australians and poor Pakistanis looked on the field. But, let us grant that a win is a win is a win.

Much pretty prose was thrown at the readers to yet again anoint Mahindra Singh Dhoni as India’s greatest captain, notwithstanding his gambler’s move to bring an expensive Ishant Sharma into the attack to break the burgeoning England partnership while the hosts were chasing India’s target.

Again, Dhoni succeeded, India succeeded. India have become champions. Yes, Dhoni deserves credit for handling his players well and scripting the tournament victory, away from home.

But victories on the field should not be a licence to fix deals off the field. You can get away with inexplicable decisions on the field, as long as you pull it off. But you cannot apply the same logic, or better still, tactic, off the field while making decisions.

That’s why despite being India’s ‘greatest ever captain’ Dhoni has to answer questions on what has been going on in the IPL, throughout all its six editions, and explain his conflict of interest by running a sport management firm that looks after the pecuniary interests of Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja and Prgyan Ojha, three India players, while remaining as Team India captain.

These are irksome questions. But India needs answers for these questions from Dhoni. It is a pity that India’s feckless sport writers have yet again failed to raise these points while gaping in wonder at the scoreboard.

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John Cheeran at Blogged