BLOG - Krishna Vattam

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Anne Frank diary-keeper dies

She would have died in the concentration camp like other six million Jews , unwept, unsung and unrecognized had not there been a guardian , a guardian of the diary, the 15 year girl left behind before she and her family were hounded out and sent to concentration camp.

The world as such , people with varied ethnic, cultural, national and linguistic backgrounds, would not have known that Fuehrer,the tyrant the like of whom the long human history has not known, had partly succeeded in exterminating lakhs of Jews in the countries he had occupied, but failed in his mission to destroy the bunch of papers,the diary Anne Frank had left behind. It is through the covers of a small red checkered cloth covered diary book, Anne Frank survives, recording a moving commentary on the war and its degeneration of the human spirit.

The diary's guardian, Miep Gies,to whom all those across the globe who cherish human values owe a deep sense of gratitude, for having guarded this extraordinary document and giving a new lease of life to this young girl, died at the age of 100 in Amsterdam on January 11, 2010. She was the last survivor of a group that helped Anne and her family hide from the Nazis in Amsterdam during World war II and kept her diary.

After Anne and her family were taken to concentration camps, separating her father Otto Frank, and mother and her sister Margot,(Anne died in the Camp in 1945, and Margot died earlier) Gies saved her diary . She handed over the diary to Otto, who survived the camp and published it in 1947.Anne became famous posthumously .Now translated in more than seventy languages, her diary remains one of the World’s best selling books, a poignant document of the ultimate shining nobility of her human spirit.

It was in this hide out, secret annexe, Anne spent her last twenty five months , living in constant fear, unconscious of the fact that she was going to make a great impact on human mind.

Miep Gies received several honours from several governments and institutions and last year had an asteroid named after her by the Astronomical Union, a well deserved recognition indeed. “There is nothing special about me “ a humble this Dutch non Jew lady wrote in a book first published in 1987.” I have never wanted a special attention .I was willing to do what was asked of me and what seemed necessary at that time” this noble lady said.

Those of you , who have not read “The Diary of Anne Frank” please do read and I have read and re-read her and experienced spasms of anguish and pain at the turn of events in her life with haunting thoughts that if a Dutch informer had not betrayed the family and had they stayed in the hide out just for eight more months Anne, her sister and mother would have been liberated as the War ended in May 1945.But God willed otherwise. But she lives in hearts of millions of those who have read her , heard about her or seen the cinemascope presentation “the Diary of Anne frank” by George Stevens.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Primary School Drop Out Honoured by Engineers

Who is an educated person? In our common perception today one who is a graduate is educated and if he is a postgraduate or one with a Ph.d he is highly educated and accomplished. Four decades ago the bench mark for being considered as educated was a pass in SSLC. In other words, conversely , in our thinking one who had no schooling or had not studied in colleges is not educated person.

The Institution of Engineers ,Mysore Chapter, honoured one such “uneducated” person last year, breaking its old two and a half decade old convention. What are the special traits, attributes or qualities these engineers saw or considered in that uneducated person as to distance itself from its self- established norms as to bring this fifth standard drop out as to drape him with shawl, read citation and eulogizing him along with retired engineers on the same dais.

What they saw in this forty one year old Bogadi Sreenivas were the innate sterling qualities that “Vidya” ,education, that ingrains in a person , the qualities that many of the so called educated lack and the qualities Sreenivas is endowed with.

While many of us remember that Master Builder and Great Engineer Bharata Ratna Sir M Vivesvariah on his birth day, as a ritual, Sreenivas, a machanic with his little scooter garage in Vidyaranyapuram has deified him placing him on the same pedestal as he finds a place for Lord Venkateswara. Sreenivas The photo of the Lord is placed along with Sir M V and and lights oil lamps one before the God and another one whom he has deified, before he starts to his garage. You can find these two photos

in his garage along with Sri Raghavendra Swamji.

August 27 is an important day for Sreenivas for it is the birth day opf Sir M V .He distributes sweets to people in the neighbour hood of his garage. Senior Citizens who go for repairs enjoy privileges. If it is minor repairs he will not charge and if they are of major one needing replacement of parts he will ask them to get and will only collect nominal “labour charges”.When the Institution of Engineers honoured him they had given him Rs 1000,With thius corpus fund he added Rs 29,000 and with annual interest accrued on Rs 30,000 Sreenivas has adopted a girl and meets her school fees. (He is father of three daughters).While we the scribes tend to have the word “Press” painted on our vehicles with a sense of ego, Sreenivas had sports the name of the name of “Sir M.V.painted on his scooter.

How is it this scooter repairer was drawn to Sir M V and what is it that he found in this great engineer that others might not have noticed, or having noticed ignored them ? Sreenivas had been reading writings on the great sons of India. One such book was on the life and ideals of Sir M V . He felt it would not serve any purpose if one reads and forgets those ideals. If some of them are

practised in one’s life , there could be no better way of remembering him , he articulated within himself. He is a model “employer” also. There are four or five fellow workers in the garage and if in a day the earnings are more than the average he distributes the extra earnings among all of them.

Sreenivas, after obtaining permission from concerned officials, visited Krishnarajasagara Dam some years ago, to study the great marvels created by Sir M.V. He is working on a model of KRS and when it is completed he intends to present it to the Institution of Engineers.

Well, You call him educated or uneducated ; I leave it to you.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The greed that lands one in a state of misery

People with varied interests, background and different strata of society come to my newspaper office daily. Some of them walk into my room and if I am free engage myself in conversation with them for a few minutes.
Recently, a person, known to me for a long time, well placed in society, who retired after serving as a senior officer in the Central Government ,had come to meet me. He is fond of cars and changes his automobile whenever a new brand comes into the market.
In the course of our casual talk he told me that his fellow-officer had bought a “luxury car” by paying Rs ten lakhs and drives around merrily .There was a feeling of jealousy, coupled with a sense of remorse. “ Well, You can also go in for a similar car”, I asked.
“Where can I get Rs ten lakhs”, he questioned me.
“You have a car, your family is blessed with good health and you are relatively financially sound. There are people who cannot afford to purchase a cycle. D’t you think you are blessed.”?
He got up from his seat and remarked sarcastically, trying to hide his sarcasm, by faking a smile “ Mr Krishna Vattam, it sounds philosophical, but philosophy is different from reality”

After he left, I began to ponder over the mental- make up and his attitude to life. Instantly Purandaradasa’s exposition, on the greed of men, in his beautiful composition “Binnahake Bayillavayya” flashed my mind.” “He has given him this much, but he desires some more. Even the desired one is given, he asks for more.He desires that he be spared from suffering , and a life of comfort.
He desires that the life he led in the past(youth) should come to him, Oh;Purandara Vittala”
I began to wonder as to why we do not realize that the state of happiness does not come from comforts he enjoys.The two are different. In a moving lorry , laden with sand, a helper sleeps on the heap of sand , where as sleep evades some although they lie down on a cosy bed and surrender to sedatives.. In their mad hunt of the mirage of happiness, they stray away from the path and land themselves in a state of self inflicted misery.
I do not mean that a man should not aspire to go up the ladder in one’s life. But the means chosen should be fair. When they see others being happy, they feel jealous of them.
Yet another bard, in his immortal, magnum opus, “Manku Thimmanna Kagga”, DVG (D.V.Gundappa ) says “If the flame of jealousy is burning in your being, where do you get water from (to extinguish)it .If this flame has made its home in you, where is the place for sleep? He cannot sleep , can any one free him from the state of agony.God only can save him.”
The words of wisdom of the enlightened do not appeal to them, much less influence them , for their chosen path is different, one of self inflicted pain, suffering , agony and state of being jealous.
I am reminded of a story relating to “Club 99 “ In short the story revolves round a maharaja and a lowly man. The King, inspite of the wealth, men and material, is unhappy, where as he finds that man going about his job, singing and dancing.The raja questions him the secret of being happy.That poor man answers, saying what he needs is a small shelter, and food to eat twice a day.I work and am blessed with them.
The king was not satisfied with the answer and narrates this incident to his minister.
“Your Highness” obviously that man is not a member of the Club 99.
The same night the minister went to the dwelling of that poor man, placed at the door steps a bag full of 99 gold coins. Next morning that poor man found the bag and was dancing with joy on finding the bag full of 99 gold coins. As he counted the coins again and again that sense of joy vanished.To earn that extra one coin, he slogged day and night , and the sweet strains of song he was rendering were no longer heard.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sabu: Mysore's 'Slumdog', Hollywood millionaire

If there is an Oscar for life-time achievement of an actor in real life, it should have gone to Selar Shaik Sabu. His was a rag-to-riches story, of a mahout boy from Mysore who made it to Hollywood in the 30s. The Sabu story has the potential for a film that deserves to be made with Hollywood collaboration. Sabu, brought up in poverty in Mysore, and discovered by a British film maker, made his million in California.

Britain’s documentary maker Robert Flaherty with his wife Frances, were in Mysore with a film crew , wanting to do a feature film based on Toomai of the Elephants, a story by Rudyard Kipling. They were looking for a native boy for the lead role in Elephant Boy. They spotted him at the elephants’ stable , where the Palace elephants were being maintained. It was lunch time and senior mahouts were away,leaving the young boy in charge of the stable. The boy, in a lungi and wearing a white turban , was excited on seeing the foreign visitors, and showed off the way he handled the gentle giants with much ease.

The Fleherty couple, ended their search, saying, “here's the boy we're looking for”
Writing about the couple’s encounter with this lad ,Robert’s biographer Paul Roather, recalled how they felt about the incident. “ My most treasured memory of this day is of Sabu. He made his appearance slowly astride on elephant, and there they stood in the middle of the very large compound for the world to see.---.The manner in which he handled the ponderous, lumbering elephant was enough to stir one’s confidence and trust in him”.

“I have found a gold mine” wired Flaherty to Mr Alexander Korda, producer of the Elephant Boy, who was in London. A good part of the film was shot in 1935 and 36 in the jungles around Mysore,with which Sabu was familiar. Since there was delay in completion of the Film , the team was asked to return to Britain, where rest of the film was shot, at the Denham studio in London.. The film was a box office hit and the performance of Sabu was universally praised; he became an instant star.

The New York Times review commented:"Sabu, the Indian boy is a sunny faced ,manly little youngster. His naturalness beneath the camera’s scrutiny should bring blushes to the faces of precocious wonder children of Hollywood”. Born in Karapura, the famous site of Khedda of yester-years in Heggadadevanakote taluk of Mysore District, on Jan 24,1924, Sabu was illiterate and an ophan, haaving lost his mother when he was in the cradle, and his mahout father, when he turned seven. He was the youngest stable boy in the Maharaja” ward.

Before his discovery by the British film maker Sabu who had not traveled beyond Mysore. After the success of The Elephant Boy Korda signed up Sabu on a long term contract. Sabu became the ward of the British Government and was given excellent schooling. His third film the The Thief of Bagdad was a smash hit . A grand fantasy with flying horses, magic carpets, the film was about a dashing youth helping out a deposed king to regain his throne and winning the hand of the prince.

When Kordas moved on to America, Sabu went with them ; became an American citizen in 1944 and embraced the Episcopalian faith. When Hollywood super stars like Gary Cooper and Ronald Reagan stepped out of the studio to fight against the Nazis in World War 11, Sabu also joined them as a gunner and was honoured for his courage and valour.

He married Actress Marilyn and had two children, Paul Sabu who established a Rock band Unit while Paul’s sister owned a stud farm in California. Sabu died young, at 39,of heart attack and his body was interred in the famous Forest Lawn Cemetery among other film personalities.

Earlier in life when Sabu returned to his home town, Mysore, in 1952 for a film shooting, his former mahout boy in the Palace elephant stable stayed as a guest of the Maharaja Sri Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar. That generation of people that grew up in Mysore with Sabu is no longer there. The Palace Elephant stable gave way,in 1960s, for a private hospital. But Sabu's memory and film legacy are kept alive, thanks to occasional screening of some of 22 films, in which he acted during his 28-film career,in some of the English film channels.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Memo to TV9: Don't give up

Home they brought the warrior dead, unsung and unwept”

I had read this poem as student of eighth standard in the Municipal High School in my native Bellary. I do not remember either the name of the poet, or the circumstances under which he wrote or to whom he was addressing. I reckon it reflects the manner in which we treat martyrs.

A soldier who dies in action or fighting terrorists is brought home and buried with state honours, only to be forgotten the day after. No memorial; nor a street named after him, like it is done in the case of even a minor politician. how many of us today can name even a handful of the hundreds who sacrificed their lives for the country ?

In the Indo-Pak war, 1971, among those who died in action was a Mysore lad, Major Mutgekar, son of a senior official in the Railway Workshop. The day we heard of his loss I called on his parents in the Railway quarters.In fact, his father wiped my tears saying “ we are proud of our son“. As Correspondent of the Deccan Herald and Prajavani I initiated a campaign and had the issue raised in the then Municipal Council. All the councillors with one voice agreed that a street should be named after Mutgekar.

When nothing happened for months I contacted the Municipal President. He feigned ignorance, saying a new Council was in place after the elections and he did not know about the decision taken earlier. He however went through the proceedings of the meeting wherein the subject was discussed and showed me the proceedings; a demand was made for naming a street after Mutgekar, but no resolution was adopted. The municipal president agreed to consider the mattter when the issue naming any new street came up. But I gave up in disgust. Must admit I failed as a journalist, by not following up my own campaign.

Recently TV 9, a popular Kannada channel carried on a campaign to name the recently constructed Hebbal fly-over in Bangalore after Major Unnikrishnan. His parents live close by and the area was a favorite haunt of the army major. In its two-hour live telecast ministers, leaders of opposition parties,and others were interviewed and TV9 anchor, Mr Ranganath Bhardwaj, spoke to representatives of various organisations

Film stars, who with one voice, backed the TV 9 channel in calling for Government action. I wish TV 9 doesn't leave this here; would like to see their campaign taken to its logical conclusion,lest we forget Unnikrishnan and his sacrifice.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Heegu Untoe

Call it supernatural power or fear psychosis,Nature seems to be guarding itself against the plunder of vast granite rich boulders in Kadakannahalli in Channapatna taluk of Ramanagara district in Karnataka.

TV 9 Kannada Channel in its programme Heegu Untoe (Can it be so), featured a phenomenon which like Cassandra in Greek mythology prophesies about the evils that befall upon those who intend to mine in the area, or encroach the land around the boulders that lie scattered. Lured by this dollar-rich-spectacle one Mr Srinivasa Gowda, along with his friend, struck a deal with the village pradhan and gave him Rs 75,000, with assurance that he would be paid such amount monthly.

Learning of this deal a few years ago some villagers cautioned Mr Gowda about the curse, and narrated an incident where in, as the TV Channel reported it, a villager, who wanted to build a house in the area had to face a series of tragedies in the family.

Mr Gowda, paying no heed to the well-intentioned caution by the villagers, brought skilled workers from Tamilnadu to quarry the area. As they were on their job, the workers encountered reptiles chasing them.They fled the scene, never to return. Meanwhile the village temple priest, who had been approached by Mr Gowda to perform puja to rocks before commencing the quarrying, had his right hand "benumbed"; and, sometime later, Mr Gowda's father died. And Mr Gowda himself was killed in a road accident.

It is not just the boulders, even the open space around them appear to be so protected by 'devine intervention'. The TV9 reported that the S M Krishna government had sanctioned a marriage hall, which was built near the temple. However,when the first marriage was to take place there an ant-hill sprung up in front of the mantapa. The priest declared this was not a good omen and the marriage was not solemnised there. According to villagers , the efforts made to remove the ant-hills were of no avail.

This may sound cock and bull. But reality is that all attempts to exploit the natural resources in the area have been in vain. The villagers believe the local deity protects the area. Heegu Untoe

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Media insensitivity

We, journalists, some times, betray our darker side - insensitivity in our approach to news-gathering.
"What's the lead for the day, sir", Ms Gayithri asked;
"Still there is time to think of a lead," I said, "one more hour".
Soon after Gayithri left my chamber, Guruprasad came in to say, "Sir, ETV Showed Kumaraswamy campaign in Ramanagara".
"What else you expect from him, other than going round the constituency; how does it make news" I asked.
He left, only to return, after watching some more ETV - "Sir, 40 people have been admitted in hospital, following vomitting".
"We have a lead", I said. Gayithri nodded her head; promptly sent for Aruna and instructed him to get details from the hospital; and tell Yadav (our photographer) to get a picture - "Tell him we need it for the lead, the pictures must be in by noon".
Ganapathi took notes from Aruna and wrote the lead. And as we were about send the page for 'pasting' One PM news mentioned 80 as the number of those admitted in the hospital. We changed the headline, Higher figure raises news value of a story.

After the 'pastings' were sent for printing, I reflected the run of events ; on my attitude to human life, sufferings of others, accidents and deaths. Journalists are given to adopting such clinical attitude to human tragedy , in their eagerness to get a good lead. I wonder if we react the same way, if the victims included our kith and kin.
I hasten to add that I do not mean that we should not discharge our duty as newspersons. What I mean is, in our approach to news gathering, we ought to think beyond the number of casualities, to convey in our reporting a sense of fellow-feeling. So that readers do not get a wrong image of the media fraternity.

The burden of this post is that media has responsibility to conduct itself in a humane way while reporting human tragedy. Accidents happen and they cannot go unreported, but an enlightened media can refrain from hying it for a lead story, unmindful of its impact on the victims, their kin and others affected by the tragedy.

I remember having read about a western journalist who, seeing a vulture attacking an emaciated child, preferred to take pictures of the sight rather than shoe away the attacker. Had he intervened as normal humans do in such circumstances, the journalist would have missed a Page One picture.
We have a lesson to learn from this.The poet in Mr M Veerappa Moily, former Karnataka chief Minister, was so disturbed on reading the report on the vulture and the child that he poured out his anguish in a poem.