Saturday, February 24, 2007

RADIO GA GA.....

‘I think the primary function of radio is that people want company’

- Elise Nordling The Future of Radio, SXSW 2006

Its 8.30 p.m. on a Saturday evening and I am sitting at home with my laptop typing this post. Keeping me company is the World Space receiver/radio. Music pours out of the speakers taking me back in time….

I have always been an aficionado of the radio. When I was a tiny tot, we had a big radio at home. It was a valve radio, and hence its performance improved as the valves heated up. It also had a magic eye that would light up once you managed to get an excellent reception, which sadly, was very rare.

My favorite station was Radio Ceylon, subsequently Christened Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation & then as Sri Lanka Radio. Radio Ceylon is the oldest radio station in South Asia being set up in 1923. I particularly remember listening to ‘Binaca Geetmala & to that inimitable voice of Mr. Ameen Sayani coming floating on the airwaves on every Wednesday evening. (Binaca Geetmala was a highly popular weekly radio countdown show of top film songs from Indian Cinema listened to by millions of Hindi music lovers, that was broadcast on Radio Ceylon from 1952 to 1988. It was the first radio countdown show of Indian film songs, and has been quoted as being the most popular radio program in India during its run.) During my teenage years, it was fashionable to send in requests to Radio Ceylon’s daily morning show – a radio programme, replete with RJ, English Songs, requests and dedications.

Then we had the BBC; the British Old Lady, that brought in news that our own Akashvani (All India Radio) hesitated in announcing. (Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s death was broadcast at 12 noon by BBC and at 6.00 in the evening by All India Radio). BBC would also satiate our thrist for cricket commentary, whenever India toured England. In fact India’s triumph at the Cricket World Cup 1983, was heard on the airwaves brought to us by BBC. Dwelling on the subject of Cricket Commentary, we tuned into The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) during England’s Ashes tour. And, it was on the airwaves of ABC that I heard for the first time Micheal Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean’ and Men At Work’s ‘Down Under’. Mind you, all this was prior to the digital era. So one would have to fiddle with the tuning knob to stay connected to the station!

Our own Akashvani or All India Radio (AIR) kept us company through thick and thin. I remember listening to the 6.10 p.m. five-minute Sanskrit news, when we were in school – it was done on the instructions of our Sanskrit master who wanted us to familiarize ourselves with one of the politest language on earth. (AIR covers 99.37% of India's populace, broadcasting from 225 centres around the country with a total of 384 channels and transmits in 24 different languages and dialects).

In the 1990’s I hosted a programme entitled ‘Music of my Choice’, a programme of light western music, on the airwaves of the Mangalore Station of All India Radio. It was an experience. The programme would be broadcast on alternate Saturdays and it wasn’t live. Recording would be done on a Wednesday. I would proceed to the studios of AIR in the morning, say at 10 a.m. My work would begin in the Music Library. There I would go through a reasonably good collection of Vinyl records, select a few, proceed to one of the unoccupied studios and play the selected songs. There was a two fold purpose of playing them; firstly to be sure that the records were in working condition & secondly to make a note of the time taken with the help of a stopwatch. After the songs were selected, I would prepare a few lines for each song as an introduction. Next, I would proceed to the recording studio and have my voice-over recorded on a spool tape. Having finished with the voice-over, I would hand over the tape, the list of songs and the selected records to the programme director. On Saturday, I would tune in to the station and at 6.15 p.m. and my voice would come floating on the speakers. It was a strange thrill!

But on one fine day, the AIR presenter goofed up. She played my voice-over alright, but the songs were in reverse order. People, who did not know that this wasn’t live, called me up asking what went wrong. Next day at church, I was being given strange looks. That was that! I did not go back.

In 2001, I purchased a World Space receiver. People around me were skeptical when I extolled its advantages. There were many ‘doubting Thomas’s’ amongst my friends. Gradually, they too wanted a set. Today, family and friends enjoy the convenience of World Space!

Radio is moving forward at a great pace. There is the internet radio & just today I was reading an article on how one could create a programme that could be podcast.

We have come a long way……..

Dwelling on the topic of Internet radio, I must share with you a very pleasant experience that I will cherish for a long time to come.

Out at the Indian Institute of Management, a dedicated trio gets together on a day of the week and run K–dio, short for Campus Radio of IIMK. It is the brainchild of Deepak Oram, a PGP I student. The idea for K-dio was born, I am told, over endless plates of maggi noodles and milkshakes out at the night canteen of IIMK. The first show went on air in January 2007. The RJs are Jayesh Jagasia and Nisha Surendran. There's never a dull moment with Jayesh around, a witty wise-cracker, as is apparent from his popularity on k-dio. Delivered in a low baritone voice and dead seriousness, Jayesh packs quite a punch in his PJs. Nisha Surendran is his ever dependable sidekick on K-Dio. She has impressed everyone with her wit, humor and amazing comic timing on air. Both are PGP I students. There is never a dull moment as I was soon to discover.

The K-dio logo

On February 17th, I had finished a course on Business Laws. (I was to leave the IIMK campus on February 18th.) At around 7.30 p.m., I had a call from Deepak, who invited me to be the guest on that night’s K-dio broadcast. I was intrigued and excited too. I readily agreed. Deepak told me that the programme would be live and would begin at midnight, and he would pick me up from my room at 11.45 p.m.

And so it was that at a few minutes after midnight, the internet campus radio K-dio went on air and for the first time there was a Professor as a guest. What followed was 2 hours of magic. I was interviewed, albeit hesitantly at first. Jayesh and Nisha conducted phone-ins, played requests and updated everyone on what activities were slated for the next day. It was a wonderful experience. K-dio reached a peak of 79 listeners in the wee hours of the morning. (I was told that this was a record of sorts, as the previous peak was 76 listeners)

RJs Jayesh & Nisha

Speaking to the trio after the show, Deepak remarked “We are yet to tap the full potential of K-dio, and a lot of ideas are flooding in from all quarters.” Jayesh, in his inimitable style said “One thing though is for sure - batches may come and go, but K-dio is here to stay!” Nisha chimed in “It's Live! It's exciting!”

As I walked back to my room, my mind replayed the words of a song that JJ had played just a few minutes back….

I'd sit alone and watch your light
My only friend through teenage nights
And everything I had to know
I heard it on my radio
Radio

- From the song ‘Radio Ga Ga’ by Queen.


Monday, February 19, 2007

MUSINGS…..ABOARD A TRAIN

For once, the train is on time. I have a first class ticket. That means I have some space for myself. I take out my Creative Zen Nx; select Richard Clayderman as the artist for the journey. Soft strains of ‘Medley of Four Seasons’ filters through the earphones. I take out my camera; can’t afford to miss the picturesque journey from Calicut to Mangalore. The train sidles out of Calicut with a minimum of fuss. Soon it picks up speed and a kaleidoscope of the Kerala countryside unfolds outside the window. The rocking motion, the gentle piano notes and the rushing scenery make me muse…..

Crossing Elattur Station at top speed

The placement season is on at most B Schools. Preliminary news filtering in is that the students are having a field day. The pay packets are increasing. My thoughts turn to my colleagues teaching at the B Schools. With a monthly salary (basic) that fetches a Professor Rs.18,400-22,400, an Associate Professor Rs.15,000-20,400 and an Assistant Professor Rs.12,000-18,000 with a measly Rs. 500 increment for Professors in alternate years, it is hardly a wonder that IIMs should have a dearth of quality teachers. Teachers’ salary , mainly in the US and EU, are at least 20 to 25 times more than that of IIM teachers annually. An average IIM graduate is being offered a much better salary than the one drawn by the IIM Director. Wonder how long will this go on?

The Road Bridge across River Korapuzha, Elattur

Backward minds cannot take a country forward. ‘Parzania’, the film about Gujarat riots, is not being shown in Gujarat. No, not because it is banned, just that Mr. Babu Bhajrangi, whose writ runs in Gujarat, decided that it should not be shown. Who is this guy? He is the principal accused in the 2002 Naroda Patiya slaughter, (the greatest single atrocity of those days) during the Godhra carnage. His favourite pastime nowadays is to beat young couples found enjoying each other’s company in college campuses or public parks. Mind you, he has hundreds of thousands of people who look upon him as a hero.

Have you heard of the Pattali Makkal Katchi in Tamil Nadu? This is a front floated to ‘restore Tamil pride’. Newspaper reports say that this outfit wants students and youths not to be seen on the streets after 8 p.m. They want cinema theatres to have only two shows a day. They want women to know that ‘equality is not drinking and smoking like men’. A trained 300 – strong ‘Army of Black Shirts’ will keep vigil across the State and will enforce the strictures. And, of course, they have declared that ‘people of other states would not be allowed to exploit Tamils’. Sounds familiar?

The Black Shirts would have the support of the ULFA and the Shiva Sena. ULFA is ‘persuading’ people from Bihar to leave Assam. Meanwhile a film, purportedly made with the blessings of the Sena, called ‘Amchi Mumbai’ which shows why people of other states should leave Mumbai has not found favour with the censor board. When the Cauvery issue became turbulent, cable operators in Karnataka switched off Tamil channels. Wither my country?

A view of the Vadakara River

This time around, the valentine’s day has been less violent than usual. Of course, some couples were chased for the benefit of TV cameras. A western custom has become deeply involved with the Indian Diaspora, going by the sale of Valentine cards and trinkets; all this due to the concerted effort of our so called patriots.

I can’t but recall the ban of the film version of ‘Da Vinci Code’ in Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Goa and some other states. It was a play for Christian votes. But not one country where Christianity is the dominant religion banned the movie. That makes me muse:

‘Jesus Christ will not be hurt by a movie & Indian Culture will not diminish because couples hold hands, or for that matter mooch, in a public park’.

On a bend...and at top speed!

Meanwhile, the war in Iraq doesn't seem like ending. If it was in Mr. Bush’s hands, he would have started a war with Iran and North Korea; not necessarily in that order. Meanwhile, the pro-American media, runs daily doses of how the allied troops are winning the hearts of the Iraqi’s. Can’t imagine how? They are confined to heavily fortified barracks – behind blast walls and razor wires. There, while air conditioners hum, the ‘boys’ watch beamed soap-operas and have roast meals. When they are on patrol, they are secure behind armour with a heavy machine gun trained on the civilian population. Winning hearts of the common Iraqi indeed!

View of Bekal Fort from a speeding train

The rhythmic motion of the train lulls me to sleep. I have slept for a mere 3 hours in the night. (More like it was the morning of Sunday.) We are on time, by the time I wake up, at Kasargod. Forty minutes later the train drops me off at Mangalore. The enthusiastic porter carries my luggage and runs towards the entrance after crossing an overbridge. At the entrance, he places my bags on the floor. I offer the customary Rs. 20. He asks for a further Rs. 10. I look at him quizzically. He smiles and mutters that prices are rising. I hand him a 10 rupee note. Probably the government will take my cue and increase the salary of my colleagues?

Monday, February 12, 2007

MY SECRET LIFE!

The Circle of Contemplation, IIM Kozhikode

I was at my critical best, watching a pretty starlet being interviewed on TV. The line of questioning was the same as in innumerable interviews that you get to see on the ‘idiot box’. I must have gotten under the skin of my friend, who remarked ‘Lets see you questioning in a different manner’! That got me thinking. What could be different?
Therefore, I put my grey cells to use and came up with the following line of questioning. Just to make it that much more interesting, I have answered the questions posed.
I drive/ride: I love to ride my scooter. It’s the best way to get about; given the present circumstances of clogged roads. I also like to walk. Busy schedules, sometimes, keep me from doing it. People have been walking for years. You see more as well when you walk.
If I have the time to myself: I like going to the mountains. Trees and mountains can teach you what books cannot. Nature fascinates me. I would love to pitch tent on the banks of a stream and spend sometime there. Unsavory mosquitoes, creepy crawlies and snakes pose a problem though!
You wouldn’t know it but I am no good at: Patience. I am absolutely impatient. The trinity of my mother, my sister and my wife will vouch for that.
Comfort eating: Soup and a sandwich
When I was a child I wanted to be: Progressively I changed my ambition – Auto Driver, Bus Driver, Teacher, Priest, Loco Driver, Pilot, Cricketer, Author …..endless. But looking back, guess I still want to be a locomotive driver. I continue to be fascinated by trains!
I wish I’d never worn: I cross- dressed once to surprise a pretty girl. Guess I scared her. Don’t blame her; imagine seeing a girl with a moustache & very hairy legs!
My favourite building: St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City - an architectural delight; but if one goes by intrigue, the ruins of Belur & Halebeedu in Hassan District of Karnataka State. What prompted the rulers to erect these buildings in an out-of-the-way place? What happened to the builders?
It’s not fashionable but I like: Avoiding big fat Indian/Mangalorean weddings. They embarass me no end - particularly the toast and the bridal march & the crowds. I wish each time I could attend a wedding with just fifty people as guests!
The shop I can’t walk past: Crossword, Sorab Hall, Pune. I like to browse the book collection and the music ollection. I can spend hours together lost in the wonderful world of fiction & music. The best invention ever: Tablets (medicine). Can’t imagine what we would have done without them.
These would have been my 10 questions to any famous personality or for that matter to anybody. It would open up a treasure trove of information. Most importantly, it would keep the conversation going for hours together.
What about you? Will you answer my 10 questions?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

GAMES PEOPLE PLAY


‘Games people play,
You take it or you leave it.
Things that they say, Just don't make it right!
If I'm telling you the truth right now, Do you believe it?
Games people play in the middle of the night’
- From the song ‘Where do we go from here’ by The Alan Parsons Project

The Dal Lake


Have you heard the names H. R. Parihar, Bahadur Ram & Farooq Ahmad Guddu? Most likely you haven’t. These three gentlemen, and many more that will come to light in the coming days, will haunt us in the coming years. What have they done? Read on….
On February 17th 2006, the Indian forces claimed to have shot dead an unidentified terrorist in Kashmir. According to the army, it recovered a Kalashnikov rifle, ammunition and a pistol on the body.
On October 5th 2006, the army claimed that it had it had killed a Karachi (Pakistan) based terrorist by the code name Abu Zahid in an ambush, somewhere in Kashmir. An assault rifle and a wireless set were recovered, it claimed.
In the first week of February 2006, a certain Mr. Nasir Ahmed Deka, a hawker of cheap perfume, on the kerb-sides of Srinagar went missing. He was last seen carrying a briefcase in which he used to store his cheap perfume. His family filed a missing person complaint. What was his connection to the above mentioned incidents? Except that on February 2nd 2007 when Police investigators exhumed the grave of the so called terrorist killed on February 17th 2006, they exhumed the body of Mr. Deka. (Going by the clothes on the decayed body, local residents identified the body to be that of Mr. Deka. A bottle of perfume was also discovered on Mr. Deka’s body after it was exhumed!). The briefcase Mr. Deka used to store the cheap perfume was recovered in raids on the home of assistant sub-inspector Farooq Ahmad Guddu. Was Mr. Deka a terrorist?
The exhumation of the grave of Abu Zahid yielded a body that has since been identified as that of Mr. Shaukat Khan, a cleric reported missing from Srinagar.
Then there are Ali Mohammed Padroo and Mr. Ghulam Nabi Wani; as in other cases, claimed to have been killed as unidentified terrorists.
These shocking truths have come to light following months of internal investigation into the mysterious disappearance of Mr. Abdul Rehman Padder, a resident of Srinagar and a carpenter by profession. A Special Investigation team of the Jammu & Kashmir Police later established that Mr. Padder’s killing was part of a series of murders carried out to make the perpetrators eligible for rewards and promotions.
This has been Jammu and Kashmir’s worst kept secret. Now there is official admission that innocents do get killed and branded as terrorists in the state. An internal investigation of the J&K police has implicated members of the state police and the army in a series of murders carried out to gain rewards and promotions. There have been other cases of atrocities against Kashmiri civilians by the security forces. For example, 12 army personnel, including a commanding colonel are facing proceedings for murdering four labourers in April 2004, and passing them off as terrorists.
The Jammu & Kashmir Police have so far arrested Mr. Guddu & two men from the ranks. Mr. H. R. Parihar & Mr. Bahadur Ram, Superintendent and Deputy of the area coming under investigations, have been removed from active service pending investigation. However the army has yet to make public what action it intends to take.
The editorial in the Times of India Edition of February 5, 2007, says
‘Terror begets terror, irrespective of the political context. J&K has been a police state since insurgency began in 1989. People of the state have been victims of mindless violence, on the part of both militants and security forces, since then. Forces of the state have contributed in large measure to the people’s misery. The political class has failed to enforce the moral and legal authority of the state and abdicated the ground in favour of security forces. The police, paramilitary forces and the army have had a free run in the state. This has not secured anybody’s life, as casualty figures of civilians and security personnel for the past 15 years would reveal. The spiral of violence has spawned a parallel economy that has been exploited by state and non-state actors. Rewards and incentives announced by the state for killing terrorists have fattened this economy. Such incentives have promoted a culture of officially sanctioned bounty killings. The discovery of fake encounters and FIRs is a wake-up call to the state to realise the horror that has been unleashed on the people.’
It is incidents such as the ones I have mentioned above that make the young people of the valley heed the call of jihad. All talk of peace is then systematically massacred. Terrorists from the valley roam the country in search of targets. So next time there is a terrorist attack quite near your place of work you know that you have, among others, Parihar, Ram, Ahmad & their ilk to thank for too!

Friday, February 02, 2007

BIGOTRY & TRUTH!

Gujarat is one of India’s most advanced States in terms of conventional development parameters. But there is something deeply wrong in Gujarat. A film duly cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification for public exhibition is not being shown there because the movie hall owners are sacred of incurring the wrath of fundamentalists. If you recall, this is the second such instance. The first film, Fanaa was not screened to punish Aamir Khan for the support the actor provided to those being displaced by the Narmada dam. The second film, Parzania is the true story of a young Parsi boy, Azhar Mody.

On February 28, 2002, he sought refuge along with his family in the house of Ehsan Jafri, a former Member of Parliament, at a housing society in Ahmedabad. Jafri was murdered along with about 60 other members of his community that evening, despite making repeated calls to the police for help. Not so well known is the fate that befell the Mody family.

As the communal killers attacked the Jafri residence, Azhar got separated from his mother and sister and has not been seen since. He was 13, at the time. Parzania is the gut-wrenching story of this boy, and also the story of close to 2,000 people who were killed or went missing in the terror that consumed Gujarat under the stewardship of a particular Chief Minister. Five years later, his regime shows neither remorse nor respect for the rule of law – which is a good part of the reason why cinema owners in Gujarat are terrified of showing Parzania.

There are those who will argue that Parzania is ‘biased’ and does not present ‘both sides’ of the story; they may even contend it is ‘inflammatory’. Ever since the Supreme Court’s 1989 decision in the Ore Oru Gramathil case, it is settled law that the yardstick for determining whether a film is inflammatory or not is the perception of an ordinary person “with common sense and prudence and not that of an out of the ordinary or hypersensitive” person. Hypersensitive individuals are free not to see the film – or to criticize it using democratic means. But to allow threats by bigoted goons to block the exhibition of a film that has won the necessary certification is to defy the Constitution and law. There is another fundamental principle at stake here. Gujarat underwent a terrible trauma in which the communal killers not only targeted and victimized an entire section of the State’s population but also turned hundreds of thousands of ordinary people into silent bystanders or even accessories. It is these mute witnesses of genocidal evil who need to see Parzania. Only if the truth is brought out into the open can reconciliation take place in a polarized society.

***

Rahul Dholakia, the director of the movie is disappointed that his directorial venture Parzania, set against the backdrop of the 2002 Godhra riots, is not finding any takers in Gujarat. Rahul says that there may be some political undertones in his film, but it’s a human interest story at the end of the day. Rahul has not given up hope. He is confident that the film will reach Gujarat for sure. A local rights group called Drishti has started an online campaign, requesting the screening of Parzania in Gujarat. A lot of people have already signed the petition. The Mody family has also come forward making the same plea, so that they can find their lost son. Hopefully, these petitions will yield results soon. Parzania stars Naseeruddin Shah, Sarika and Raj Zutshi in lead roles. The film has been doing rounds in festivals world over and saw a mass release in India on Jan 26, 2007. It has opened at Adlabs Cinema, and I intend to see it soon!

Adapted from:

1. THE HINDU , 2nd February 2007

2. Rediff.com