Hasn’t The Holy Book told us that the stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone (Ps. 118/22), Mt. 21/42), etc. Not for nothing.
Here is a screenshot from my perspective of what is happening in the scholarly world of communication, culture and media studies, across the world. For a little scholar in Humanities and Social Sciences, even a little citation is worth in gold.
The reason for such excitement is that on a landscape where there are very few journals to publish (compared to the four-fold more journals in sciences), little “applied” knowledge” to “solve” day-to-day glitches associated with machines and health, and tens of thousands of scholars from the developed world vying for attention, it becomes immensely difficult for a developing world scholar to research and publish. Worse still, is the challenge to be noticed. And in a market place, where you have to teach 16 “theory” hours every weeks amid all other unaccounted works, these 16 hours (against the 4-9 hours of teaching per semester or zero hours of teaching for good researchers, with hefty allowances and salaries), it feel like 160 hours!
So, there you go!
Make sense of out of it if does!
This time, it’s only facts. No reflections. No analytical comments.
The Government of Karnataka has finally consented to upgrade St Joseph’s College Autonomous, Bengaluru, (SJC) to a university under the RUSA scheme. RUSA stands for Rashtriya Ucchatar Shikshan Abhiyan (National Higher Education Mission) formulated by the UPA-II government headed by the Honourable former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh (2013). That scheme provided for a few top colleges in the country to be upgraded to the rank of a university and contribute to nation-building.
Ever since efforts have been on. I have been an invisible, unsung part of it ever since I came to SJC in January 2014 .
After a lot of efforts, in 2018, the Government of India (MHRD) invited us to be upgraded to be a university, along with two other colleges in the country – Pune’s Ferguson College and Bengaluru’s Government Science College.
The state government was not keen on biting the bullet because it would have to commit to 40% of financial responsibility in addition to the 40% of the one time grant of R. 55 crores.
After that, it required a lot to get the bill passed by the government. Finally, on 02 February 2021, the Karnataka Assembly passed it, and on 05 Feb the Legislative Council passed it after the Governor had signed it.
Now the Bill goes back to the Assembly for signatures and to the Governor for his approval. Then the ball is in the court of the Jesuits, especially their leader, to make sense of the legal jargons and its implications.
It is a matter of pride to become a university and grow independently. But there are concerns over many of its clauses and conditions.
Keeping fingers crossed.
24 Jan. 2021. For any research scholar, this is too small a thing to boast about. But for an Indian scholar in humanities and social sciences, it is OK to be proud of himself/ herself.
First, in Indian academics (especially in humanities and social sciences), there is hardly any research happening. We have been cosy with the sarkari (government) salary that we get for signing in the registers, without doing much of actual teaching or some decent research.
Those who have been shaken by the UGC’s mandates/ pressures to do research, have succeeded in browbeating the higher education monitor! Teachers still get huge salaries, but are not accountable to anyone! They guide PhDs but expect students to publish papers in indexed journals and give them credit. That is the pity of our academics.
What more? If you look at our academic administrators, it is more pathetic. Many of them are neither academicians nor administrators. They occupy chairs not by merit; not by teaching and getting promotions based on research, teaching, & co-curricular activities, instead by bribing, filing fake affidavits and falling at the feet of politicians and corrupt officials for favour. If academic leaders are like this, what do you expect the generation of youth under such tinpots? Yatha rajah thatha prajah! As the king, so the subject.
In this context, even a single paper published independently, in good quality journals, and out of sheer passion makes difference.
I have published very few papers; but published them in good journals. And they are not co-authored for decorative purposes to get credit for someone else’ work. And when these papers are cited by others, especially by well-known journals, it feels great.
Recently, my citations reached a meagre number of 13, with h-index 2 and i10-index 1. This i10-index makes me proud. The google scholar showed me these metrics quite sometime ago; I took a screenshot, and kept it with me proudly. But by the next day the i10-index had disappeared from the metrics page, with the 10th citation of a single paper having been deleted, too. On the third day, I noticed the 10th citation of the that particular paper had re-appeared, and my i10-index had returned. Then again, on the fourth day, it disappeared. About three weeks had passed, and today once again it has appeared.
Here I have taken a screenshot of the same and also share with you the link. Feel happy with me (:-
Today I woke up to a rude shock. Fr Ronnie was no more!
After I woke up and had my Mass and breakfast, I started reading my favourite newspapers online – the recently subscribed New York Times and Washington Post. And my friend called me – with whom I have regular telephonic conversations. But never at this time in the morning.
He told me, ‘you have some sad news. Fr Ronnie is dead!’ I couldn’t believe my ears.
‘yes, he is no more!’
Fr Ronald Menezes was born on 10 March 1972, in Moodbidri in the Mangalore district of Karnataka. He joined the Jesuits in 1992, and was ordained a priest in 2008. He started teaching at St Aloysius College High School in Mangalore, when I was teaching at St Aloysius College. I was in the process of establishing a community radio, Radio SARANG 10.8FM, and Fr Ronnie was a constant companion and friend to me; he encouraged me no ends.
We lived in the same Jesuit community for a few years, and he was a good companion to me. On his initiative, we joined a yoga training workshop at Fatima Retreat House organised by Fr Ronnie Prabhu SJ, under the tutelage of Mr V.L. Rego. Once he got fired for joining prayer late! I came to know of it much later.
He was a very quiet man, a bit in his shell. And there was every danger that he get ignored and misunderstood, especially when and where people prefer high-flying, pleasing types. He never liked to be a pleasing type of man; he preferred to be honest and straight-forward even if hidden from the limelight and favours. The above incidence of getting fired for a silly reason is one of them.
He was fragile, and happened to be a loner.
Fr Ronnie was by himself – silent and quiet. But when a situation arose, he was up there with his sharp humour. His jokes and his wit were spontaneous, original, his own, without any malice.
Among his students, Fr Ronnie was a hero, a much sought after teacher. He was an extremely committed man and a priest. You could never fault him on his duties or negligence. Extremely simple, easy-going, caring, dedicated, and witty.
It is difficult to believe that the 48-year old Jesuit priest is no more; he left us and went away free from the compulsions of this world and its masters, to his own Master and Creator.
Rest in peace, Fr Ronnie. I miss you.
The year gone by has been a tough one to most of us, except to politicians and their darling Ambani, whose profits rose in many crores.
As for me, it’s been about 10 months of sitting at home, without venturing outside my compound walls. I was teaching online, sitting in my room. In between I had a major health hiccup: lumbar pain resurfaced, and I had to undergo a surgery to correct a disc. Thanks to Dr Thimmapa Hegde, the surgery went on very well, and I was back home on the very next day.
After Christmas, almost everyone was going home. So I thought why not I? I shall take a short break and rest at home for a week, away from my familiar, distracting settings. And thus, I took the longest home-leave of my life – five days!
It was very nice to have Arron and Antony welcome me in Mangalore. They were my students, and always been wonderful, since 2004! Now, both are working men. Then, there was my brother Gilbert with his son Gavin and three guests/ relatives kids, with his vehicle.
In Mangalore, my house is in a luscious, lush green ambience of rural beauty of a stretch, where I grew up. On the bank of river. There are cows and cattle, dogs, cats, and chicken. We grow arecanuts, vegetables, and fruits in abundance. A beautiful house girdled in a green drapery all-around. Early mornings are little birds, worms, and crickets chirping and chittering to wake me up. Of course, plenty of peacocks. Life is really peaceful, away from the distracting, polluting amenities of modern life.
My stay is coming to an end. Tomorrow (4 Jan 2021) I leave, after taking some rest. This is first time I stayed so long at home in the last 35 years. The first time I didn’t go anywhere else, except twice to the church for Mass. The first time when I didn’t do any significant work – other than sleep, eat, drink, some social media, and a bit of play-, inspite of my laptop with me🐵.
Thank God for the new year
Thank God for my family
Thank God for everything.
Now, am looking to a better year ahead
It’s been long since I visited home. Feels like an eternity. Though, when I actually visit home, I don’t spend more than a day -at the most two-, I like to visit home.
The most I cherish at home are its “natural settings”, the simplicity of rural life, the lush green ambience, the sheen and lustre of nature coming alive, and the life that oozes out from every cell and its pore of life.
My house in Mangalore is ensconced in the hills and valleys of the mother nature. On the one side is the Phalguni river, which we swam in our childhood to attend the school and the church, or when we still couldn’t cross it or swam through it, we hung on to our elders’ shoulders and let loose ourselves in the water like a floating leaf; river in which we almost got drowned umpteen times, whose waters refreshed us through our every nerve and sinew; whose skins the fish caressed gently massaging and tickling us. Thanks to the industrial greed – now there are two bunds/ dams across the river; one to generate electricity, another to supply drinking water to Moodbidri town. Consequently, the river has silted and flattened, leaving hardly any water flowing through it outside the monsoon season. Now it is December, there are a few puddles from which little streams struggle to flow down, keeping life still floating.
Then, there are little hillocks all around, forming a couple of apparent valleys on the other side, and extending towards the river. Well, did I say the river! My house is on the bank of this river, and I feel I am floating in the river, almost every time! Thanks to this formation, we never run short of drinking water or water for our gardens/ cash-crops any time of the year! Formerly, it was the fish that fed us 12 months a year; not any more, though.
Then, there are the cattle and the dogs and the cats. They bring so much of cheer to me. Currently, three country dogs are at home, who look after themselves and us, as well. From my childhood, dogs have been a part and parcel of my life: A few dogs used to play cricket with me (they would do all the fielding for me!); some used to accompany me to the Church or the shops when I had to walk all alone through the “haunted” forests, either for mid-night Mass or on emergency! Imagine, my one dog wading through dozens of other dogs along my way to the Church or shops – almost a kilometre to two-long distance, in my company!
Of course, the cattle look the most innocent and lovely! Though big, such cute and expressive animals! Last year, my brother sold almost all of them; but this year, he purchased a few more. I love to spend time with them, feeding them, petting them, and energising myself in their company. Nothing to do with the brainless cow-brigade of the communal mafia of our country. Simply because cows and animals are a part of my life.
We always had two or three cats. This time we have two of them: one -as my nephew calls him- is the Old Man, the other -as my sister-in-law calls her- Chipli. They are the inside aristocrats! The elites who don’t have to do anything, except eat and play! By the way, this time Chipli is a special one: my sis-in-law found her strayed outside our ‘compound’, it seems; orphaned and mewing; for three days. Finally, she brought her and tied her down lest the dogs kill her. Now she is the cynosure of my home. Very pretty and shy, scared of children! But I have never seen my sis-in-law speak to any pet with such affection and fascination as to Chipli!
Paava Kadhaigal (Sin Stories, 2020, Netflix). Touted as Netflix’ foray into Tamil cinema, Paava Kadhaigal reminds us of the OTT giant’s Lust Stories anthology, and is modeled as such. The four short films (ranging between 33 and 38 minutes) by Sudha Kongara, Vignesh Shivan, Gautham Menon, and Vetri Maaran deal with a similar theme of love, family pride and honour, and the raw reaction of the community against transgressions.
Sudha Kongara’a Thangam deals with the third gender (Sattar) and choice of one’s life commitments. Sattar with his rare sexual identity, ridiculed and abused in his community/ neighbourhood. His father ’s only reaction is beatings unlimited. There is only one boy good to him -Sarvotthama (Hindu), whom Sattar considers his ‘love’ only to realise that he loves his sister Sahira. There is the communal angle to commitment of the youngsters which is a curse of our modern Indian society.
The second, Love Pannum Uttranum by Vignesh Shivan has a daughter in love with their driver, and the family’s response. Another daughter is elsewhere, living a life free of all restrictions, living her freedom. She loves a weird man B3, or is she a lesbian as made out to be? Was it a game to mislead someone? The father seemed to have relented with his first daughter’s, or has he? What about the freewheeling second daughter?
Gautham Menon’s short Vaanmagal is a case of mistaken identity of the younger Ponnuthayi kidnapped, against her elder who has just come of age in an extremely conservative neighbourhood. The family’s dilemma is how to deal with their family honour – the village has started speaking of her rape, which the mother (Simran) denies. If they lodge a complaint, the entire village will come to know. If they don’t, how can they be at peace. And the consequence of the rape itself? Probably the last sequence is an unexpected, shocking one.
The fourth is Oor Iravu by Vetri Maaran. It is about the father’s (Prakash Raj) favourite daughter Sumathi (Sai Pallavi) who had eloped with a boy of another caste, and now expecting. It’s the baby shower day, and Sumathi has to face her family, recounting the consequences of her actions on the other siblings and the family’s honour; but her father has arranged it all. How will her baby shower go on at her mother’s house? It’s some good acting by Prakash Raj and Sai Pallavi, besides a better deal by Vetri Maaran in dealing with a controversial subject.
It is interesting to see four directors are given a free-hand in dealing with sin-stories, and all four have a plan to expose some relevant transgressions of our contemporary society. Full stop.
The first two are pure raw violence and abuse, call it ‘reaction’ of a society over-conscious of their sham called family honour and community pride. The subjects of the films are too big for a short film, much less for the narrative have spun off. Raw-ness is the rule of life in uncivil societies governed by revenge and factitious attributes. But they, by themselves don’t make it art, just as a raw stone doesn’t become a piece of architecture unless carved and shaped, or blasts of noise make music unless arranged in some pattern and controlled action.
The last two shorts are a shade better in comparison to the former. Menon’s short is much better, thanks to Simran who carries the film on her shoulder. Vetri Maaran’s Oor Iravu is high on drama, and sentimentalism, its overall tone is not bad, though. Probably, Sai Pallavi and Prakash Raj’s thespian personae have had much to do with it.
It is Marriage Story (writer & director: Noah Baumbach, 2019, Netflix). A gripping family drama of a female TV actor Nicole brought to limelight in Hollywood by a Broadway director Charlie, and their only child Henry. Starring Scarlett Johansson (Nicole), Adam Driver (Charlie), Azhy Robertson (Henry), Laura Derm (Nora Fanshaw), Ray Liotta (Jay), and Julie Hagerty (Sandra).
The film begins with Nicole and Charlie at a marriage therapist writing what they liked about each other. But Nicole wouldn’t read it aloud for Charlie, and she walks out of therapy. Then follows a long deal with family lawyers to settle the matters, since Nicole wants a divorce. What is at the centre of the plot is not their marital problems; no! not their little son, whom both of them love. It is the city they live in: Nicole is acting, and has moved to LA; Charlie is working on a Broadway project, and is wedded to New York! Neither of them would like to relocate. It is a question of their emotional investment over their lifetime commitment.
Nicole approaches Nora, the best lawyer in family matters, and others are wary of her. Spitz -like a father-figure- advices Charlie for out-of-court settlement, and the price of a court case. But Nicole isn’t game to it. Outside lawyers, Nicole and Charlie share a warm relationship. Henry is their focus. Charlie has a special fondness for Sandra, Nicole’s mother, the envy of Nicole.
When Charlie catches hold of Jay to fight Nora, it is a dog-fight; there is no looking back. That is where you witness some of the hottest scenes (sorry, that is how it is, if you thought it should have been elsewhere!) In a bitter court battle, Jay accuses Nicole of hacking Charlie’s email and over-drinking (no-no for a mother, as Nora tutors Nicole), and Nora accuses Charlie of sleeping with his set manager and cheating on Nicole! Finally, Nora secures a slightly better deal of Henry’s custody (45-55%) for Nicole; she would have wanted settlement in terms of money, which Nicole didn’t bother about. When Henry is tired of to-and-fro between LA and NY, Charlie shifts to UCLA to be closer to his son, and -wait- Nicole already has a new boy-friend, by now! Oh…!
The movie is full of energy and bitter-sweet drama. There is some memorable acting from almost all – be it Nicole or Charlie or the little Henry or Nora or Sandra or Spitz! Everyone excels in some convincing, spontaneous acting. Scarlett, Adam, and Azhy definitely stand out.
I particularly loved two moments – when the two lawyers work out a deal out of court, they order some meals for themselves. Everyone chooses what they want; but Charlie is clueless. It’s then Nicole picks the menu from him, and selects his meal! The second is in the last sequence: even though it’s Nicole’s prerogative for Henry’s custody that day, she asks Charlie to take him. As he takes the child away, Nicole leaves in the opposite direction. Suddenly she turns back to Charlie, goes to him, bends on her knees, and ties his shoe-lace!
Well, there’s the third and fourth moment, too: Henry reads aloud an old letter; it happens to be Nicole’s therapy-letter to Charlie what she liked in Charlie. When Charlie comes in, Henry wants him to read it for him. As he reads, Charlie’s tears start gushing down; in the meantime, Nicole has come and is at the door listening to Charlie’s reading. My final sequence: Nicole asks Charlie if they can work it out… which Charlie wanted right in the beginning, and Nicole wasn’t open to. The conversation becomes unbearably hot… fight breaks out abusing parents, and personal attacks… As Nicole cries, Charlie is mad with rage and sorrow… he punches a hole in the wall (waah!) Charlie breaks down and goes down his knees even as he shouts at her, and it’s Nicole’s turn to come close to him and massage him on his back… Ooooh…. Now that is the chemistry, that is acting! There is too much of energy packed in it, drama enveloping, melodrama feeding the spectators, and characters explored in-depth.
I loved the movie. It is such a story! Probably, every couple would identify themselves with this couple. It is everyone’s story, told in universal terms, but very specifically!
The Prom (Ryan Murphy, 2020, Netflix)
I am a theatre buff who hardly watches much of it, thanks to the institutional schedules! Take it from me, I liked this OTT adaptation of the Broadway musical by Ryan Murphy for Netflix. In 2019 October, I was in New York, going around its New York Square and the Broadway. That was such an experience (this blog has details and pictures of my visit, if you go back in time)! So, when I watched this musical, I could identify so much of the Broadway, and relive my experience there.
One more thing: I am not an OTT fan, either, except occasionally: somehow, its aesthetics don’t appeal me much, to a traditional celluloid-fan. And when times change, I can’t afford to be a dinosaur (let’s say Ammonite, in the words of Francis Lee!). But this one, I thoroughly enjoyed.
I make one more confession: I am not a great Meryl Streep fan, either. But believe me, this is the best of Meryl Streep I have seen –spontaneous, convincing, and gorgeous. Among the many thespians, who performed admirably, Meryl stands tall.
Promenade, or prom for short, is the high-school-end event for boys and girls to enjoy; a semi-formal dance soiree. And how the young crave for it! Watch The Prom, and you know it – they give their lives for it.
Emma (talented debutant Jo Ellen Pellman) is convinced she has to attend the prom with her girl-friend Afro-American Alyssa Greene (the charming Ariana DeBose) at the James Madison High School in an Indiana traditional neighbourhood. But don’t ask Alyssa’s orthodox mom (Kerry Washington), who is leading the PTA against such “non-acceptable” choices. The principal Mr Hawkins (convincing Keegan-Michael Key) resorts to an Attorney to settle the matter.
Dee Dee Allen (the gorgeous Hollywood veteran Meryl Streep) and her fellow thespians Barry Glickman (warm James Corden), Angee (Nicole Kidman), and Trent Oliver (friendly Andrew Rannels) have a bad day with horrible reviews panning their musical. They decide to do something to be relevant, name-saving activism to redeem their name. What else but to the aid of Emma to attend the prom? And they mess it up all! Things go horribly wrong, amid all the fun and humming and gyrations, and tears.
When Emma comes immaculately dressed to everyone’s envy, Mrs. Greene (Alyssa’s mom) has had other plans. And all hell breaks loose. How about a TV audience with Dee Dee Allen’s estranged TV-talk-show husband Eddy and his sixteen million viewers? Nothing to beat it! Emma is grateful to the Dee Dee party, till Barry saves the day for Dee Dee and Emma, and Trent for the Emma with her classmates.
What’s in between is plenty of zippy, zazzy music, sprightly singing, heart-throbbing movements, and memorable dialogues. The film exposes the hypocrisies of a little town and the look of the cosmopolitan New York, the battel for relevance by the Broadway stars. Do small minds still rule our dreamland America? Well, there are people all over the planet, just like the small villages of American and big towns of India.
I am caught between struggles for self-determination and how much is too much. Do I sympathise with the young kids who make their life-choices or the parents like Mrs. Greene who love their kids? Or the irrelevant stars of yesteryears battling against stardom and acceptance? One thing for sure: this latest film is likely to be a cult-defining moment in the history of the young. Don’t be surprised, if they parrot the lines from The Prom songs or dialogues or more importantly, behaviours, just like Trent quotes The Bible to win over the kids who quote the same to define their orthodoxy (don’t forget their follies in the same name!).
Amid all the music, rhyme, rhythm, memorable dialogues, convincing acting, tongue-in-cheek humour and mirror that reflects the small-village mentality of American society, there is plenty of ponder over, much to come to terms with, and quite a bit to debate – is it a good movie or only some pulp. Not many have given it a good ratings; but I stand apart – after all, it is an extremely well-made Bollywood, and our own copycat learn a thing or two form it. There is enough of drama and melodrama, sentimentality, tears, and action; and music, singing, and dancing lending heft to it.
One more thing, I liked Emma, the charming, innocent-looking kid who can’t give up, gives up and not give up!