Take that’, says Twitter to NYT, two years after condescending cartoon on ISRO

Take that’, says Twitter to NYT, two years after condescending cartoon on ISRO

As scientists celebrated this historic achievement, Twitterati reminded the New York Times of a cartoon it had published in 2014. TNM Staff| Friday, February 17, 2017

With news channels and social media flooded with the countdown to ISRO’s launch of 104 satellites into space, the average citizen could not have missed this record rocket launch.

Within the first 18 minutes of its launch, the rocket which lifted from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, sent three India satellites into orbit. What followed next was a feat that has gained immense praise from international space agencies. In a matter of 600 seconds, 101 international satellites were let loose in pairs.

As scientists behind the space mission celebrated this historic achievement, Indians took to social media to remind the New York Times of a cartoon it had published in 2014.

This cartoon shows India, represented by a man in dhothi and a cow in tow, knocking at the door of the ‘elite space club’ in an effort to gain entry. It was printed merely four days after India successfully placed a spacecraft in orbit around Mars.

The cartoon led to uproar among readers, who termed it offensive, condescending and a stereotypical depiction of Indians. Faced with huge criticism, the New York Times was forced to issue an apology.

Image credit: YouTube

The paper may have come out with an explanation but the cartoon has not been forgotten. Now two years later, newspapers and people alike have come out to give what they claim is a ‘fitting….


Meeting the Nobel Laureate Grameen Banker Prof. Younas

I had the rare honour of listening to and personally meeting Prof. Muhammad Younas, the Nobel Peace Laureate of 2006.

Prof. Younas  is from Bangladesh. He is known for bringing light into the lives of millions of poor women across the world, and to begin with Bangladesh.

The Nobel Laureate is known as the Banker of the Poor, for his unique concept of starting Grameen Banks – to lend small amounts of money to poor women to start small businesses. This helped them to be free from the clutches of bigger sharks who would otherwise swallow in the name of exorbitant interest rates and (when their accumulated interests become un-payable) attaching properties.

‘Poor people need money; not rich. Rich already have. But if you lend money to the rich, what is the use?’ asks Prof. Younas. What is the use?

‘Banks say, poor don’t return money. I have lent money to the poor, and they have returned. To return, you need to first give. Banks don’t give, so the poor can’t return,’ Prof. Younas is very practical. Without lending, how can you expect it to be returned?

His success in Bangladesh soon spread to the world, too. Today Grameen Bank philosophy has been adopted by millions and millions of people across the world. But the Bangladesh Government doesn’t appreciate it!

The Nobel Laureate was in Bangalore on 09 February 2017.  Tobby was kind enough to invite me. In the meantime, Manoj came to St Josephs College, and extended an invitation. That sounded good too.

I usually don’t like to pose for cameras or selfies. But it is worth being captured with a Nobel Laureate like Prof. Younas or Bharat Ratna Prof. CNR Rao, with whom I shared the dais in January.

Back in 1992-93, I had the privilege of personally meeting another Nobel Laureate and Bharat Ratna Mother Theresa, at Loyola College in Chennai. Later in 2007, ten years after her death, I spent a month in Howrah, Kolkata, with Mother Theresa’s MC Brothers, helping out in their people affected with leprosy . There, I visited her house in Kolkata, her first work in Kali Ghat (in Kolkata), Shishu Bhavan (babies house), her chapel, etc. Those moments are ever green in my mind. Now she is a Saint in the Catholic Church. It is not surprising that even non-Christians, agnostics, and atheists say that the Mother was a saint even before the Church declared her a saint; she was a living saint. And who can dispute that?

Such men (and women) have the power to make life meaningful. And I cherish those memories.

Soliloquy between research papers

It’s been sometime since I posted last. Life has been a pressure cooker.

On 16 Jan I travelled to Kerala to chair a session of Research Papers presentation at Calicut University. It was quite a hectic time – after all my own research, classes and tutorials for students. Then read the presentation papers and make critical comments. But it was  good experience.

Travelled back the same night, and after engaging some more classes over the next two days, I travelled to Ahmedabad, Gujarat to present my research paper at their national conference. Good conference, badly organised. After attending those two days, I returned without sleep, like the entire week!

Then got busy with another paper – to be presented at an International Symposium. I am still working on – lots of work is pending; the deadline is over, I can’t give up. Even as I work on the paper, besides teaching and guiding seminar papers of my students and supervising other research activity of the College; and it is not at all cake walk!

You know, I miss blogging!

Sanjay Leela Bhansali was not slapped, punched due to Padmavati. The reason is far more serious

Attack on artists continues unabated. It was always there ever since the advent of the right wing on Indian cultural political landscape. But ever since we elected a extreme right wing government, things have gotten worse – the #intolerance debate has only highlighted the bigotry of our political leaders and religious bigots.

Some of lumpen elements which crop up by the night, attack anyone to attain overnight fame, and align themselves with the Sangh Parivar for legitimacy. The latter, enjoys the publicity it gets by the use of violence by these fringe elements. It is blow hot, blow cold. When it fits the Sangh, it claims credit for the immoral policing unleashed by cruelty, violence, and lawlessness; it distances itself from these elements when occasionally courts or law enforcing authorities/ agencies (most of whom are hand in glove with them almost all the time) get after them or public outcry breaks out.

After M.F. Hussain ,H.S. Shivaprakash, M. M. Kalburgi, Pasnare, U. R. Ananthamurthy, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Karan Johar, and scores of other artists and thinkers, now it is the time of another Bollywood biggie Sanjay Leela Bhansali. While he was shooting his fiction Padmavati in Jaipur, he was attacked and slapped by a new outfit called Karn Sena. Where did this come from? The police gave a shameless version to highlight SLB had agreed to reconsider shooting in Jaipur!

It is a shame on our culture which prides itself in the ‘best culture’ (remember Udwin’s India’s Daughter?); it is a black stain on our democracy which guarantees us our freedom of speech and expression.

See the video in the Express link below; it will disturb you.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali was not slapped, punched due to Padmavati. The reason is far more serious

Sanjay Leela Bhansali was slapped and assaulted in Jaipur by a fringe group on the sets of his film, Padmavati. As Bollywood promises support, political reaction is muted. Was this an attempt to save our morality (yet) again or make an example of Bhansali and his film?

Written by Jyoti Sharma Bawa | New Delhi | Updated: January 28, 2017 5:52 pm

Sanjay leela bhansali, sanjay leela bhansali slapped, sanjay leela bhansali assaulted, sanjay leela bhansali padmavati, padmavati set attacked, karni sena attack sanjay leela bhansali, deepika padukone padmavati, ranveer singh padmavati, shahid kapoor padmavati, padmavati story, padmavati rani padmini, karan johar supports bhansali, opinion, bollywood opinion, bollywood business, bollywood hazardous profession, bollywood profession, directors attacked bollywood, protestors sanjay leela bhansali, padmavati news, sanjay leela bhansali news, bollywood news, bollywood updates, indian express news, indian express A furious mob attacked the ace-filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali on the sets of Padmavati and protesters are seen damaging cameras and other shooting equipment while raising slogans and spewing abuses in Hindi.When National Award-winning film director Sanjay Leela Bhansali was slapped and assaulted in Jaipur on the sets of his film, among the first few to come out in his support was filmmaker Karan Johar, who took to Twitter to support the Padmavati auteur. Karan should know just how hazardous it is to be a part of the film industry in India in today’s day and time.

Also read | Protesters slap and attack Sanjay Leela Bhansali, vandalise Padmavati set in Jaipur

Hazardous, you ask? Isn’t Bollywood the cushiest job in India – money, popularity and glam all rolled into one giant goody bag? To understand how Bollywood probably entered the ranks of India’s most hazardous professions, we need to understand Bhansali’s case. Why was he attacked? The ‘protesters’ who took the law in their hands alleged India’s morality was (yet) again under attack by the ‘liberals’ in Bollywood. Bhansali’s Padmavati, for which he was in Jaipur, is inspired by Rani Padmini’s tale and was thereby supposed to be besmirching the name of Rajput queen. So, did the so-called protesters watch the film and not agree with its content? Were they privy to its script and dialogues? Or they had inside information that the director was bent on distorting history? No, none of the above. They had, maybe, heard the film will have Deepika Padukone’s Padmini romancing Ranveer Singh’s Alauddin Khilji in a dream sequence

Sanjay Leela Bhansali was not slapped, punched due to Padmavati. The reason is far more serious

Arnab Goswami’s new media venture is funded by NDA MP and Mohandas Pai

Hindustan Times shutting down editions – it’s dangerously lazy to blame demonetisation

Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Manipur, Uttarakhand, Goa to go to the polls between Feb. 4 and March 8

So that battle lines are drawn. Election dates for elections in Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Punjab, Uttarkhand, and Goa are announced.

The people of these four states will go to elections booths from February 4 till March 8, 2017, and seal the fate of their possible leaders.

Probably,  most would elect who would fleece them the best, and they don’t have a  choice! And a few would be lucky to elect some meritorious candidates who would also administer the states.


Happy New Year – Happy Old Year


It is New Year once again! Year 2017.  I wish you all a Happy, Peaceful and Contentment-filled New Year. May our world witness much-desired peace and harmony, all over.

I tend to look back at 2016 and see what was it like for me.

Actually, it started with my trip to Seattle University (SU) in  Washington, USA. I flew to the US on 31 December 2015, and reached Seattle University on 1 January morning 2016 (US time). A 68-year old young man sporting a white beard and a red t-shirt was waiting for me outside the Seattle airport. But to get to the point where he was awaiting this little LeRoux Chair (Winter) 2016, was a herculean task. And with no mobile (with active connection) in my possession, it was real adventure!

Thanks to Prof. Russel Powell, Associate Provost for Global Engagement, and the SU administration. They selected me as their prestigious LeRoux Chair. I was nervous. I was adamant not to go to the US at that time and in my given condition. Did not want to go. But Russel would have none of it. Though I had sent the CVs of two great scholars from St Josephs College Bangalore, Russel wanted me. Then I sent four CVs of Jesuits from St Josephs College. After going through the CVs of all four of us, Russel clearly told there was only one choice, and ‘get ready!’ That was the only time I prayed so hard to God for the negative – that my plan of course (to be taught by me at SU) be rejected by their screening committee. No, it was not. Then I prayed that my visa application be rejected. I was happy when the person in front of me in the queue was grilled for almost 20 minutes by the Chennai Consulate. But -to my horror- when my turn came, the same Vice Consul spent just about two minutes, and seemed pleased, congratulated me, and told me that she would recommend me for the visa! That was the moment of determination. Then, there was no looking back.

Before I forget, I must thank Dr Etienne for his constant support and filling me with Vitamin C (‘C’ for Courage).He went out of his way to help me develop a course plan, suggesting readings, and also help clarify my LeRoux Lecture concepts and plans.

I am not sure how well did I vindicate the SU’s faith in me as LeRoux Chair. But my SU students were extremely happy with my taught module. Their anonymous feedback about me to the Student Evaluation (of teachers) says that as much. While one said she wanted to visit India and explore its culture and cinema, two others mentioned in the same anonymous feedback that they would love to pursue a Masters course in Film Studies! And many more things. I was happy.

The LeRoux Lecture on 2 March 2016 was well attended – mostly all professors from SU and a few friends of Su. It was supposed to be a 40 minutes lecture followed by 20 minutes of Q&A. I thought that the time was too short – that is, after speaking 45 minutes. The question hour went on for almost 40 minutes, and there were more questions than I could handle. But to be frank, I still believe, I could have done it differently, could have done it better.

Above all, that was a huge learning experience for me. Learning about American university administration, University-Community relationships (clear distinction unlike our Gordian knots here!), American pedagogy, American student culture, their campus culture, their faculty atmosphere, Endowed Lectures, etc. Additionally, I travelled quite a bit. Paid two visits to California – one in January to Berkley and around (like Santa Clara, Stanford, Google, Facebook, San Francisco, etc.). The second in March to LA – to visit Hollywood. I spent some meaningful time at Loyola Marymount University, Sony Studios (Columbia and others) and above all Universal Studios, Venice Beach, my friend from Hollywood Zach Miller, and what more! Thanks to Eddie Siebert. Then there was a visit to Oregon state – went driving – visiting waterfalls and other territories. I couldn’t ask for more. Met some Indian friends. Had dinners and lunches. Made friends – some for life. Watched Films and documentaries. Sight-seeing and socialising.

One thing I missed – research. Because my Masters students at St Josephs had not completed their dissertation, I had to guide them from SU! That was a bit too much. To guide about 10 students, to read their progress and suggest corrections, and to tend to my own course module, LeRoux Lecture, and the precious new interest that I had found, it needed something special. I was not upto it. I could have done more. I could have done better. I should have published at least one research paper as part of my LeRoux Chair.

Never mind. I did something else.

I returned to India towards the end of March 2016. Soon after me came a team of five SU professors as part of their week-long Immersion Programme. I was their primary contact and host (though they were the SJC guests). That meant quite a lot in terms of organising an international team programme.

Most of my April, I spent in the North Eastern parts of India – Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, and Manipur. My maiden visit. Wow! What a lovely place, people, and cultures! Really fascinating.

When I returned from the North East to SJC in early May, there were a couple of Call for Papers to submit papers for research. That’s when I decided this was a good chance to publish, get my act together. No matter what life is like at home. Never mind the painful and harrowing experiences. Some people -in their avatars- can inadvertently be great motivators for reasons totally opposite. I ran the gauntlet.

Thanks to Dr Etienne Rassendren (English Department) and Dr Michael Rajamathi (Chemistry Dept). Their commitment to research gave me that added fillip. In addition, in our College Research Centre Committee, I had a team of great researchers, who in addition to their regular teaching hours and other roles as mentors, heads, and so on, continue to research and publish. Researchers by passion. I being Director of that Research Centre and convenor of the Research Committee meetings, it was only appropriate that I lead by example. Earlier -at SJC- I was denied a chance to guide Ph.D.s , even though the otherwise bureaucratic Bangalore University was willing to empanel me as research guide with them (the un-academic decision was to be followed by another harsh, highly self-motivated, irrational, and blind denial in the current year). I resolved to do something radical, something different. More about it at an appropriate time in months to come. And all my energy was channelised into research. And success came my way through painful, sleep-missing, desk-sticking hard work. Research.

At the end of the calendar year, I have two papers (to be) published in international journals. One of them is already published (a few days ago). Another could take at least three-four more months before going public. But the articles are accepted.Impact Factor matters!

Then there are two more research papers accepted for presentation in their national or international conferences, to be followed by publication. So, they are under research. A fifth paper on social media and family relationships has been under research since June; should be complete by February-March.

In the meantime, two more things came on my way – unwanted.  A committee to study the possibilities of upgrading St Josephs Colleges (SJC, Evening College, and College of Commerce) to Deemed University status was entrusted to me. I accepted. While this was going on, two more committees were formed to i) formulate Higher Education Policy for SJC and its sister colleges, as well as a ii) Research Policy to be implemented in these colleges. And these were given to me. I got caught/ choked in the pressure cooker of these committees.

But I had great teams of academicians at SJC to work with me and guide me – Drs Michael Rajamathi, Etienne Rassendren, Cheriyan Alexander, Dr Sandra Misquith, and Ronald Mascarenhas just to mention a few. Because of these two committees, I have read and I know (a bit of) UGCs policies on higher education, Deemed Universities, research, APIs, etc. If and when SJCs become a Deemed University, I may not be here (almost certainly); when the Higher Education Policy and Research Policy are implemented fully, I may not be here (almost certainly, though the signs of implementation have already and half-heartedly begun to show up, and no matter who takes credit for it). That is a good sign. Research must go on. Publications must be done regularly, and in reputed journals. Researchers must be recognised and honoured. Teaching must be scholarly and innovative and put a full-stop to monotonous, unidirectional, and dictat-orial” classrooms. SJCs should become a University – preferably under a few good academicians -who have worked in higher education and also have published, without resorting to ghost publications or predatory journals- and not bureaucrats, in key positions. I would be the happiest if our planned University gets a lay person (but a reputed scholar with an independent mind and professional outlook) as its first Vice Chancellor. Ultimately, higher education, research, and innovation should be served. And students should benefit.

And that is why my heart beats – so loud and clear. For St Josephs, for higher education, and research, and for students. For quality and for professionalism – that is where our students’ future is opened.

The Patriarchal Wrestler: Dangal

Dangal – the Wrestler (2016)

The latest Aamir Khan-starrer and production has attracted much attention. A run-away success, Dangal is like Lagaan of 2001, Taare Zameen Par of 2007, or 3 Idiots of 2009. Aamir has something about him which fascinates us and keeps audiences glued to him.

His latest offering Dangal (2016) is no exception to it. The multi-crore film produced by Aamir Khan and directed by Nitesh Tiwari works well as a mass entertainer. Aamir is Aamir. He can strike an instant chord with audience; he can offer something different in a formula industry; he can look for the underdog and lift him/her high to be seen, admired and applauded. And that’s it. Or, feel good about the underdog, and forget it.images

We are accustomed to Lagaan – the ‘nationalist’ drama with our national obsession cricket as metaphor to repay the British in their own coin. We have watched Taare Zameen Par, and have learnt that it is not important to study if you find it not to your taste. Just say you have dyslexia, and you will become an engineer, conquering the techno-savvy Japanese. And how we loved it! We have admired Aamir for his genius in 3 Idiots, even though a few quality film-buffs complained that there was one less!

Whoever would deny that Aamir has understood the mass psychology? Even one better than multi-star obsessed Karan Johar?

Dangal, with some hummable numbers, begins with a household realigning its TV antenna on the rooftop since they were not getting sports broadcast to watch the channel in their village in Haryana. Then we move on to the lovable Mahavir Singh Phogat (Aamir), the country wrestler. He wants -well we all know- a boy to fulfil his dream of winning a gold for India in wrestling. For a gold-starved nation of a billion plus population, what more nationalism would you expect? No! His wife delivers girl after girl; but Aamir is afterall our hero, he doesn’t blame his wife for girls. And we have some humour with every villager turning an expert in delivering a baby boy for Aamir! All that Mahavir can do in his nobility is give up his dream for an Indian gold.

Then one fine day he sees his two daughters have hammered two boys black and blue. Voila! There you are! Suddenly the girls are brought up into boy-mould – regular exercises, shorts (!), wrestling, and even cut their hair short – against their will, because something very good will happen in the future. When the girls fight against all odds (well, it’s their father!) and overcome anti-women attitudes, defeating every male opponent, it’s time for international competition. Now training of the elder Geeta shifts to National Sports Academy (NSA), Patiala. She learns to be a girl, and yet pursue her father’s dream. But she must have an evil coach! And Geeta can’t win a single medal at the international level, even though she proves her father’s training was weaker than the ‘professional’ training of her NSA’s evil coach.

The visuals quickly alternate between her village (younger Babita) and NSA (Geeta). Finally, there is the (in my words:- ) much-defamed, corrupt (for the Suresh Kalmadi-esque) 2010 Commonwealth Games held in Delhi. And what do you expect?

Aamir Khan (with Nitesh Tiwari) packs a good emotional punch; if you are an emotional weakling, be prepared to be suffocated with a lump in your throat. And then there is that typical Lagaan-esque “nationalism” – passion and commitment a gold in wrestling. And you feel nationalistic (why not? The Supreme Court of India has mandated it!)

Many a viewer exists the film screen with that feeling – Wow! Feels nice to be an Indian. Feels nice to be a girl. Feels nice to be a women’s liberator. We love that nationalist jingoism, we love the underdog stories, we love the subtle emotional tear-jerkers.

But the underlying ideology is highly patriarchal. It is the father all through. He has decided his daughters would be wrestlers; he has decided their diet and fitness regime; he has decided their dress; he has decided their hair hinders their wrestling, and hence need to be cut. There is no difference between boy and a girl in their upbringing, in their identity, in their emotional structure. ‘So what?’ you ask, ‘if it blocks their wrestling, and now they succeed?’ No, it’s not just succeed. Geeta has become typically ‘girlish’ with other female wrestlers at NSA – with TV, food, friends, time-pass, and longer hair. And she can’t win a single medal!

There is the father again; and she realises her hair holds the key. She cuts it short, and now there is no stopping her – even against Melissa the Australian who beat her twice earlier, or the unbeatably strong Nigerian and who else! It’s her male-chauvinist father whose memories and advise per her up overcome her failures and be a champion. It is to him she attributes her success, against her ‘professional’ coach – ‘mere Papa!’.

That is how our entertainment media pack these anti-women, highly patriarchal messages. And they go down our sub-conscious as such, in the name of ‘different’, ‘meaningful’, ‘film with a message’ media fare.

Three kudos to Aamir for packing such an entertainer with foot-tapping music and visuals and dialogues and humour. But not for the highly patriarchal, subtly anti-women film.

Fake, and increasingly dangerous

This is the problem with easy access to technologies or lack of conscience! Fake news. And unscrupulous fellows fish in the troubled waters!
BY SHUMA RAHA| IN Media Practice |26/12/2016
An alarming proliferation of fake news that managed to outstrip fact-based news, threatens to topple the credibility of the media
SHUMA RAHA on 2016’s biggest media menace


Last week a story that appeared on a news website called AWD was headlined “Israeli Defence Minister: If Pakistan send ground troops to Syria on any pretext, we will destroy this country with a nuclear attack”.

The story was fake. But before that came to light, an infuriated Pakistan had already reacted to it. Its Defence Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif responded with a warning to Israel on Twitter that “Pakistan was a nuclear state too.”

This dangerous piece of misinformation capped a year that saw an alarming proliferation of fake news. Driven in large part by the US presidential campaign, fake news sites cropped up all over the internet. They peddled flat out lies that masqueraded as news. And no matter how outrageous the fiction, millions swallowed them and shared them on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.

So much so that fact-checking website Politifact has named “fake news” the Lie of the Year. The annual honour, or rather, the dishonour,…. http://www.thehoot.org/media-watch/media-practice/fake-and-increasingly-dangerous-9866