Thursday, October 29, 2015

The platform for politics in India is not yet flat

Nandan Nileknai had successfully led one of the biggest IT companies in India and taken it to higher level of performance. His opinions were respected by whole of the business world. Thomas Friedman got the idea for writing his book ‘The World is Flat’ while talking to him. Nandan’s wife Rohini has earned a good name in well targeted philanthropy. His investments in start-ups have been doing well. He is the man behind ‘Aadhar’ card. He was the chief of a national level Govt. organization before joining politics. There was no looking back and no challenge looked big for him.

When many were expecting he would change the face of politics in India for good, he lost the first election he fought and he has already announced leaving politics.

What do you think went wrong?

Well, if UPA had won the elections, Nandan would have become a Cabinet Minister or held some powerful position in some Govt. organization and would have changed the things for good. But that was not in his destiny.

First thing to note is, it appears like his timing for joining politics was not good. There was pro-Modi and anti-Congress wave during the last parliament elections. The results which gave a majority win for NDA confirmed that.

On a second note, it takes time to establish oneself as a politician. Nandan was well known in business circles and his credentials were great. But how will that matter with voters? They would be more comfortable with a person who is more approachable than a person admired by learned fellows. All the voters knew Nandan was rich and he is not into politics to earn money. But how many times he was seen on the streets solving petty issues and taking the Dias in the local events establishing himself as one of their own? He was hardly active in such matters given his busy schedules in his earlier roles. If you think party workers would have helped him to bridge that gap, think again. The party workers at the root level are loyal to their local party leaders. How many such local leaders were supported by Nandan in the previous ward or assembly elections? When his efforts are not visible, it is safe to assume that Nandan might have remained unapproachable for party workers too, forget the voters. Next let us look at the opponent Nandan had to fight with, which was Anant Kumar of BJP party. Anant Kumar is a seasoned politician. He had won in Bangalore South constituency already and had established his candidature well. His background in RSS had made him a good orator. He knew how to play the caste card well. He had supported the local leaders during all political and party matters. Adding to his advantages, Modi wave was in favor of his party. So his win against first-timer Nandan was not a great surprise.

Lastly, wins and losses are part of politician’s life. But he has to remain loyal to that profession for future success. Look at JD(S) party, no matter they win or lose, they are in politics. Despite his personal wins in elections, it took BS Yediyurappa many decades for his party to gain power. It takes really long time to establish oneself as a politician and some luck to get into a position of power. But if person leaves the profession in between, it becomes difficult to come back as voters will begin to question the motive.

Now that Nandan has taken a decision to leave politics, he might have well thought about it before coming to the conclusion. His colleague at Infosys, V Balakrishna too fought the election and accepted defeat. Nandan would have won the election someday if he had remained in politics and worked on his shortfalls. But it is his personal decision to stay away from active politics. That is not really a motivator for those with entrepreneurial background planning to get into politics.

The platform for politics in India is not yet flat.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

ಮಲ್ಲಿಕಾರ್ಜುನ ಶಿಖರಕ್ಕೆ ಬೆಳಕಾಗಿ

ರಾಯಚೂರು ಜಿಲ್ಲೆಯ ಮಸ್ಕಿ ನನ್ನೂರು. ಸಾಮ್ರಾಟ್ ಅಶೋಕ ತನ್ನನ್ನು 'ದೇವನಾಂಪ್ರಿಯ' ಎಂದು ಕರೆದುಕೊಂಡ ಶಿಲಾ ಶಾಸನ ಇಲ್ಲಿದೆಯಾದ್ದರಿಂದ, ಈ ಊರು ಇತಿಹಾಸದ ಪುಟಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಸೇರಿ ಹೋಗಿದೆ. ಇಲ್ಲಿನ ಬೆಟ್ಟಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಪುರಾತನ ಕಾಲದ, ಬಹುಶ ಶಿಲಾಯುಗಕ್ಕೆ ಸೇರಿದ ಮಾನವನ ಪಳೆಯುಳಿಕೆ ಸಿಕ್ಕಿರುವುದು, ಇಲ್ಲಿ ಸಹಸ್ರಾರು ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಮಾನವ ವಸತಿ ಇರುವುದನ್ನು ಸೂಚಿಸುತ್ತದೆ. ಹಾಗಾಗಿ ಪುರಾತನ ಕಾಲದಲ್ಲಿ ಪ್ರಮುಖ ವಾಣಿಜ್ಯ ಕೇಂದ್ರವಾಗಿದ್ದ ಮಸ್ಕಿ, ಅಶೋಕನ ಧರ್ಮ ಪ್ರಚಾರಕರಿಗೆ ಶಾಸನ ನಿರ್ಮಿಸಲು ಸೂಕ್ತ ಸ್ಥಳವಾಗಿ ಕಂಡಿದ್ದಿರಬೇಕು. ಅವರು ಲಂಕೆಗೆ ಸಾಗಿ ಹೋದ ದಾರಿ ಇದೆ ಆಗಿದ್ದರೂ ಆಶ್ಚರ್ಯವಿಲ್ಲ.

ಅಶೋಕನ ಕಾಲದ ಮಾತು ಬಿಡಿ, ಇಂದಿಗೆ ಜನಪ್ರಿಯತೆ ಇರುವುದು ಇಲ್ಲಿನ ಬೆಟ್ಟದ ಮೇಲೆ ವಿರಾಜಮಾನನಾಗಿರುವ ಮಲ್ಲಿಕಾರ್ಜುನನಿಗೆ. ಶ್ರೀಶೈಲದ ಮಲ್ಲಿಕಾರ್ಜುನನೇ ಇಲ್ಲಿ ನೆಲೆಸಿದುರುವಾಗಿ ಪ್ರತೀತಿ. ಶ್ರಾವಣದ ಪ್ರತಿ ಸೋಮವಾರದಂದು, ಈತನ ದರ್ಶನಕ್ಕೆ ಬೆಟ್ಟ ಹತ್ತಿ ಬರುವ ಭಕ್ತರು ಮಸ್ಕಿ ಪಟ್ಟಣದವರಷ್ಟೇ ಆಗಿರದೇ, ಸುತ್ತ ಮುತ್ತ ಗ್ರಾಮಗಳು ಮತ್ತು ಕೆಲವರು ಇನ್ನು ದೂರದ ಊರುಗಳಿಂದ ಬಂದಿರುವರು ಆಗಿರುತ್ತಾರೆ. ಕೆಲ ವರ್ಷಗಳ ಹಿಂದೆ ನೂರಾರು ಮೆಟ್ಟಿಲುಗಳನ್ನು ಹತ್ತಿದಾಗ ಮಾತ್ರ ಕಾಣ ಸಿಗುತ್ತಿದ್ದ ಮಲ್ಲಿಕಾರ್ಜುನ ಇಂದು ಗಾಡಿಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಭುರ್ರೆಂದು ಬರುವವರಿಗೂ ದರ್ಶನ ಕೊಡುತ್ತಾನೆ. ಬೆಟ್ಟದ ಬುಡದಲ್ಲಿ ಆತನ ಪತ್ನಿಯಾದ ಭ್ರಮರಾಂಭೆಯ ಸುಸಜ್ಜಿತ ದೇವಸ್ಥಾನ ಇದೆ. 

ನಾನು ಚಿಕ್ಕಂದಿನಿಂದ ಈತನ ದರ್ಶನ ತಪ್ಪಿಸಿದ್ದಿಲ್ಲ. ಸೋಮವಾರ ದಿನ ಬೆಳಿಗ್ಗೆ ಐದು ಗಂಟೆಗೆಲ್ಲ ಎದ್ದು ಸ್ನಾನ ಮಾಡಿ, ಕೈಯಲ್ಲಿ ಊದು ಬತ್ತಿ ಹಿಡಿದು, ದಾರಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಮನೆ ಇರುವ ಸ್ನೇಹಿತರನ್ನು ಜೊತೆಗೂಡಿಸಿಕೊಂಡು, ಬೆಟ್ಟದ ಮೊದಲ ಮೆಟ್ಟಿಲು ತಲುಪವಷ್ಟರಲ್ಲಿ, ಕತ್ತಲು ಹರಿದು ಬೆಟ್ಟ ರಂಗೇರುತ್ತಿತ್ತು. ಆದರೂ ಹಿತವಾದ ಗಾಳಿ, ಎಲ್ಲಕ್ಕಿಂತ ನಮ್ಮ ಉತ್ಸಾಹ, ಬೆಟ್ಟ ಹತ್ತುವ ದಣಿವನ್ನು ಮರೆಸುತ್ತಿತ್ತು. ಹತ್ತುವಾಗ ನಡುವೆ ಎಲ್ಲೂ ಕುಳಿತು ಕೊಳ್ಳಬಾರದೆಂಬ ನಮ್ಮ ಹುಡುಗು ನಂಬಿಕೆಯಿಂದ, ಮೇಲೆ ದೇವಸ್ಥಾನ ಸನ್ನಿಧಿ ತಲುಪವವರೆಗೂ ನಿಲ್ಲದೇ ಸಾಗುತ್ತಿತ್ತು ನಮ್ಮ ಪಯಣ. ನಡು ನಡುವೆ ಹಾಗೇ ನಿಂತಲ್ಲೇ ಏದುಸಿರು ಕಡಿಮೆ ಮಾಡಿಕೊಂಡು, ತಿರುಗಿ ನೋಡಿ ಎಷ್ಟು ಎತ್ತರ ಏರಿದವೆಂದು ಆಶ್ಚರ್ಯ ಪಡುತ್ತ, ಹಾಗೆ ಇನ್ನು ಎಷ್ಟು ಮೆಟ್ಟಿಲು ಉಳಿದಿರಬಹುದು ಎಂದು ಊಹಿಸುತ್ತ, ಕೆಲವೇ ನಿಮಿಷಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಬೆಟ್ಟದ ತುದಿ ತಲುಪಿರುತ್ತಿದ್ದೆವು. ಅಲ್ಲಿ ಒಂದು ನಿಮಿಷದಲ್ಲಿ ಮಲ್ಲಿಕಾರ್ಜುನ ಪ್ರದಕ್ಷಿಣೆ ಮುಗಿಸಿ ಹೊರಗೆ ಬಂದು ದೇವಸ್ಥಾನದಲ್ಲಿ ಒಡೆಸಿದ ಕಾಯಿಯ ಕೊಬ್ಬರಿ ಮುರಿದು ತಿಂದರೆ ಅಷ್ಟೇ ವಿಶ್ರಾಂತಿ. ಅಲ್ಲಿಂದ ಕಾಣುವ ವಿಹಂಗಮ ನೋಟದಲ್ಲಿ ನಮ್ಮ ಮನೆ, ಶಾಲೆಯನ್ನು ಗುರುತಿಸುವ ಕಾಯಕಕ್ಕೆ ತೊಡಗುತ್ತಿದ್ದೆವು. ಊರಿನ ಪರಿಧಿಯಾಗಿ ಒಂದು ಕಡೆ ಮುಖ್ಯ ರಸ್ತೆ, ಇನ್ನೊಂದು ಕಡೆ ಹಳ್ಳ, ಮತ್ತೊಂದು ಕಡೆಯಿಂದ ತುಂಗಭದ್ರ ಕಾಲುವೆ, ಇವುಗಳ ನಡುವೆ ತ್ರಿಕೋಣ ಆಕೃತಿಯ ಪ್ರದೇಶದಲ್ಲಿ ದಟ್ಟ ಜನ ವಸತಿ, ಇದು ಬೆಟ್ಟದ ತುದಿಯಿಂದ ಕಂಡು ಬರುವ ನನ್ನೂರಿನ ಪಕ್ಷಿ ನೋಟ.

ಬೆಟ್ಟ ಹತ್ತುವದಕ್ಕಿಂತ ಇಳಿಯುವುದು ಸುಲಭದ ಕೆಲಸ. ಆದರೆ ಸುಲಭ ಮಾರ್ಗದ ಬದಲಾಗಿ ನಡುವೆ ಬಳಸು ಮಾರ್ಗದಿಂದ ಸ್ವಲ್ಪ ಕಡಿದೆನ್ನುಸುವ ಮಾರ್ಗದಿಂದ ಇಳಿಯುತ್ತಿದ್ದೆವು. ನಡುವೆ ಯಾವುದಾದರೂ ಕಾಡು ಪ್ರಾಣಿ ಧುತ್ತೆಂದು ಎದುರಾದಿತು ಎನ್ನುವ ಆಶ್ಚರ್ಯ ಮತ್ತು ಆತಂಕ ನಮ್ಮಲ್ಲಿ ಮನೆ ಮಾಡಿರುತ್ತಿತ್ತು. ಆದರೆ ಮಂಗ ಮತ್ತು ಕಾಡು ಪಾರಿವಾಳ ಬಿಟ್ಟರೆ ಬೇರೆ ಏನೂ ಕಾಣ ಸಿಗುತ್ತಿದ್ದಿಲ್ಲ. ಬೆಟ್ಟದಲ್ಲಿ ನೈಸರ್ಗಿಕವಾಗಿ ಮೂಡಿದ ಜಾರು ಬಂಡೆಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಮನಸಾರೆ ಆಡಿ, ಸಿಹಿ ನೀರ ಭಾವಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ನೀರು ಕುಡಿಯುವ ಹೊತ್ತಿಗೆಲ್ಲ ನಾವು ಶಾಲೆಗೆ ಹೊರಡುವ ಹೊತ್ತು ಹತ್ತಿರವಾಗುತ್ತಿತ್ತು. ಮತ್ತೆ ಮುಂದಿನ ಸೋಮವಾರ ಬರುವುದಾಗಿ ಮಾತನಾಡಿಕೊಂಡು ಸ್ನೇಹಿತರೆಲ್ಲ ಮನೆಗೆ ಮರಳುತ್ತಿದ್ದೆವು. ಇದು ಶ್ರಾವಣದಲ್ಲಿ ಬರುವ ನಾಲ್ಕು ಅಥವಾ ಐದು ಸೋಮವಾರಗಳದ ನಮ್ಮ ದಿನದ ಆರಂಭ. ಆ ಆನಂದವನ್ನು ನಾವು ಸ್ನೇಹಿತರು ಶಾಲೆಯಲ್ಲಿದ್ದಾಗ ತಪ್ಪಿಸಿಕೊಂಡ ನೆನಪಿಲ್ಲ.

ಆದರೆ ಕಾಲೇಜು ಓದಲು ಊರು ಬಿಟ್ಟ ಹೋದ ಮೇಲೂ, ಶ್ರಾವಣದಲ್ಲಿ ಕನಿಷ್ಠ ಒಂದು ಸೊಮವಾರವಾದರೂ ತಪ್ಪದೇ ಊರಿಗೆ ಬಂದು, ಮಲ್ಲಿಕಾರ್ಜುನನ ದರ್ಶನ ಪಡೆಯುತ್ತಿದ್ದೆ. ಶಾಲಾ ದಿನಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಇದ್ದ ಬೆಟ್ಟದ ಬಗೆಗಿನ ಬೆರುಗು ಈಗ ಮರೆಯಾಗಿತ್ತು. ಆದರೆ ಸಂಪೂರ್ಣ ಧಾರ್ಮಿಕ ಸ್ವಭಾವ ನನ್ನದಲ್ಲವಾದರು, ಇಲ್ಲಿಗೆ ವರ್ಷಕ್ಕೆ ಒಮ್ಮೆ ಬಂದು ಹೋದರೆ ಒಮ್ಮೆ ಸಮಾಧಾನ ಎನ್ನಿಸುತ್ತಿತ್ತು. ನಂತರ ಉದ್ಯೋಗಕ್ಕೆ ದೂರದ ಬೆಂಗಳೂರಿಗೆ ಬಂದಾದರೂ, ಈ ರೂಢಿಯನ್ನು ತಪ್ಪಿಸಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಹಾಗಾಗಿ ಮಲ್ಲಿಕಾರ್ಜುನನಲ್ಲಿ ನನಗೆ ಭಾವನಾತ್ಮಕ ಸಂಬಂಧ ಬೆಳೆಯುತ್ತ ಹೋಯಿತು. ಸೋಮವಾರ ರಜೆ ಸಿಗುವುದು ಕಷ್ಟವಾದರೆ ರವಿವಾರದಂದೆ ಬೆಟ್ಟ ಹತ್ತಿ ದರ್ಶನ ಪಡೆದು ಮರಳುತ್ತಿದ್ದೆ. ಬಿಡುವು ಇರುವ ಸ್ನೇಹಿತರು ಜೊತೆಯಾಗುತ್ತಿದ್ದರು. ಅಲ್ಲದೇ ಶ್ರಾವಣದ ಪ್ರತಿ ದಿನ ಬೆಟ್ಟಕ್ಕೆ ಭಕ್ತರು ದರ್ಶನಕ್ಕೆ ಬರುತ್ತಾರೆ. ಸೋಮವಾರಕ್ಕೆ ಹೋಲಿಸಿದರೆ ಭಕ್ತರ ಸಂಖ್ಯೆ ಮಾತ್ರ ತೀರ ಕಡಿಮೆ. ಆದರೆ ಸೋಮವಾರದ ಗಜಿ ಬಿಜಿಗಿಂತ ಬಿಡಿ ದಿನದಲ್ಲೇ ಮಲ್ಲಿಕಾರ್ಜುನ ಹೆಚ್ಚು ಪ್ರಶಾಂತವಾಗಿ ಕಾಣ ತೊಡಗಿದ್ದರಿಂದ, ಅದನ್ನೇ ಆಯ್ದುಕೊಂಡೆ.

ಪ್ರತಿ ವರ್ಷದ ರೂಢಿಯಂತೆ ಈ ವರ್ಷವೂ ದರ್ಶನಕ್ಕೆ ಹೋಗಿದ್ದೆ. ಅದೇ ಆಹ್ಲಾದಕರ ಅನುಭವ. ದಾರಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಮಂಗಗಳು ಪ್ರತಿ ವರ್ಷಕ್ಕಿಂತ ಸ್ವಲ್ಪ ಜಾಸ್ತಿಯೇ ಅನ್ನಿಸಿದವು. ಮರಿಗಳೇ ಜಾಸ್ತಿ ಇದ್ದ ಮಂಗಗಳ ಗುಂಪು, ಆಹಾರ ಅರಸಿ ಹೊರಟಿತ್ತು. ಅವುಗಳು ಸರ ಸರನೆ ಮರ ಏರುವ ಪರಿ, ಬಂಡೆಯಿಂದ ಬಂಡೆಗೆ ಕರಾರುವಕ್ಕಾಗಿ ಹಾರುವ ಕುಶಲತೆ ನೋಡುತ್ತಾ ಕೆಲ ಹೊತ್ತು ನಿಂತಿದ್ದೆ. ಅವುಗಳ ಮೇಲೆ ನಾನು ತೋರಿಸಿದ ಆಸಕ್ತಿ, ಕುತೂಹಲ ಅವುಗಳಿಗೆ ನನ್ನ ಮೇಲಿರಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಅವುಗಳು ದಾರಿ ಕೊಟ್ಟ ಮೇಲೆ ಬೆಟ್ಟದ ತುದಿ ತಲುಪಿದೆ. ದರ್ಶನದ ನಂತರ ಹೊರಗೆ ಬಂದು ಕೆಳಗೆ ಕಾಣುವ ಊರಿನ ನೋಟ ನೋಡಿದೆ. ಊರು ಮೊದಲಿನ ತ್ರಿಕೋಣ ಪರಿಧಿಗೆ ಸೀಮಿತವಾಗದೆ ಎಲ್ಲ ದಿಕ್ಕುಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ವಿಸ್ತರಿಸುತ್ತಿತ್ತು. ಹೊಸದಾಗಿ ಕುಡಿಯುವ ನೀರಿನ ಯೋಜನೆಗಾಗಿ ನಿರ್ಮಿಸಿದ ವಿಶಾಲವಾದ ಹೊಂಡ ದೊಡ್ಡ ಜಾಗ ಆಕ್ರಮಿಸಿಕೊಂಡಿತ್ತು. ಬೆಟ್ಟದ ದೇವಸ್ಥಾನದಲ್ಲೂ ಉತ್ತಮ ಬೆಳವಣಿಗೆ ಎನ್ನಿಸುವಂತ ಸಣ್ಣ ಸಣ್ಣ ಬದಲಾವಣೆಗಳಾಗಿದ್ದವು. ಆದರೆ  ಇಷ್ಟು ವರ್ಷ ಸುಣ್ಣದ ಬಿಳಿ ಬಣ್ಣದಿಂದ ಹೊಳೆಯುತ್ತಿದ್ದ ದೇವಸ್ಥಾನದ ಹೊರ ಭಾಗ ಕೇಸರಿ ಬಣ್ಣ ಪಡೆದುಕೊಂಡಿತ್ತು. ಆ ಕ್ಷಣಕ್ಕೆ ಸರ್ವಜ್ಞನ ವಚನ ನೆನಪಾಯಿತು: 

ಕಲ್ಲರಳಿ ಹೂವಾಗಿ, ಎಲ್ಲರಿಗೂ ಬೇಕಾಗಿ,
ಮಲ್ಲಿಕಾರ್ಜುನ ಶಿಖರಕ್ಕೆ ಬೆಳಕಾಗಿ,
ಬಲ್ಲವರು ಹೇಳಿ ಸರ್ವಜ್ಞ

ಆದರೆ ಈಗ ಮಲ್ಲಿಕಾರ್ಜುನ ಶಿಖರದ ಬೆಳಕಿನ ಬಣ್ಣ ಬದಲಾದ ಕಾರಣ ಬಲ್ಲವರಲ್ಲಿ ಕೇಳಿ ತಿಳಿಯಬೇಕು ಎಂದು ವಿಚಾರ ಮಾಡುತ್ತಾ ಬೆಟ್ಟದ ಕೆಳಗಿಳಿದೆ. ನಂತರ ಲೌಕಿಕ ಜೀವನದಲ್ಲಿ ಅಂದು ಆ ಪ್ರಶ್ನೆ ಮರೆತು ಹೋಯಿತು. ಮತ್ತೆ ಇಂದು ನೆನಪಾಗಿ ಈ ಲೇಖನವಾಗಿ ಹೊರ ಬಂತು. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Short Story: Return of the Protector

It is historical town of Hampi, situated in South India. It was home to a forgotten kingdom. Historians called it India’s Rome. But unlike Rome, residents of this town had deserted this place soon after their king was killed in the decisive war. It has remained uninhabited for centuries since then. It has only visitors. People come to offer prayers in the temple to Lord Virupaksha. Not all of the temples see prayers being offered in them. Many of the temples were destroyed soon after the war and some were damaged by treasure hunters in the period aftermath. River Tungabhadara does not overflow during season, like she did in the times when Hampi’s fame was at zenith as a dam built nearby collects the water and lets a small stream flow through the river path. Tourists arrive in big numbers to this place attracted by its glory, beautiful monuments and architecture. But at the night all visitors return to their respective hotels and houses in the nearby town named Hospet, which means “A New Town” in the local language, leaving Hampi to its darkness and a ridiculous quietness.

In this town which found a permanent place in Indian history, one man earned his living working as a Guide. He is a guide with a precise knowledge of history and deep insights into the lives of those who lived an ordinary life and those ruled as kings during the times of Vijayanagara kingdom. His tall and healthy physique gave him a commanding presence. He would have been a soldier if not a guide, such was his stamina and he never appeared tired in the day long walks. Tourists could not keep up with him while climbing the small hills and big boulders to get a better view of the place. He was able to read people with ease and had the ability to take people along with him, more like a leader than a guide. His dramatic gestures, vivid expressions on face coupled with pitched but loud tone would make it easier for even the least creative human being to imagine the sequence enacted by him. The details he provided seemed to be more realistic for those tourists who had done their reading before visiting the place. His poetic exclamations would make the places of Hampi more interesting and human. The travelers who came from different corners of the world were in a treat if they got hooked up with this Guide and they would return with a sense of satisfaction of knowing the place better and a day being well spent.

All travelers won’t be done in a day and some stay back as they think visit for a day won’t be enough for a place like this. On the second and the successive days of their stay, who else can guide them well than the one they had on their first day? They naturally turned to him. And they would ask now, what is his name, by the way? On the first day, it never mattered. A guide is a guide, what name he has should not matter much as long as he had done his job well. But on the second day, it makes sense to know the name of the person who is guiding them. But this Guide would tell some name and he would not respond to it when the tourists called him by that name. The next day, he would say a different name for himself. When the tourists ask how come it is different every day, he would say in return

What is wrong with that? We have different names for different seasons, why should I stick to one name forever?

It made no sense to the tourists but they would smile and rather focus on their purpose of visit. When someone else raised the same question again, the Guide would argue

People change things. They get new clothes for themselves. Few change their life partners with ease. I changing name is not a serious matter”.

Though not pleased with this answer, tourists would stop arguing with him. They understood it is none of their business and they would simply call him ‘Guide’ and get on with their business.

This Guide was always to be found at the foothills of Hemakuta if he is found nowhere else. So tourists had no issues in locating him. From there the Guide would take them for exploration of the town. On the walking trails, the Guide would narrate how the caves in the surrounding mountains served as temporary residences for those visiting capital of Vijayanagara kingdom during 13th century and how the kings learnt the hard way that, it was strong horses which gave an upper hand to their enemies during wars and the resolutions Vijayanagara Kings took to strengthen their cavalry but yet how their failure to breed horses was causing them troubles. Such details were making the walks of tourists less tiresome. Few tourists wondered how he has more details than the book of Robert Sewell. Some thought this Guide belonged more to past than the present. Others thought he just makes up the stories to make the tour interesting.

He would take the tourists to numerous temples and demonstrate how they did not just serve religious purposes but doubled up as the stage to showcase the talents in music and dance by the evening. They were the places to bring cultural transformation in the society which had suffered from multiple attacks and suppressed from its natural expression. He would emphasize on the efforts of Vijayanagara kings to popularize the festival of Vijayadashami also known as Dasara, a festival for celebration of the win of good over evil. On the way to their next spot, he would show tall watch towers and explain to tourists how the multi layered defense system of the town worked. He would detail out the preparations the kings made before the wars and how a war fought wrongly would reduce the army size to a miniscule which would push out the next war by at least a decade as they had to wait for the natural population to catch up and provide soldiers for their army. He would also take them to water feeding canals running from the river which aided agriculture and also filled up multiple Pushkarani in the town to provide drinking water, then to neatly laid out streets and rows of houses of those serving the royal family explaining how the subject of “Town Planning” was put to good use.

By the evening tourists along with the Guide would return to Lord Virupaksha temple or sit on the banks of Tungabhadra River. Tourists would sit in the form of a circle around the Guide and he would tell them few more stories. On one such evening, they began to discuss the historical events behind the birth of this town. Kampilaraya, a king ruling over the small state with capital at Anegundi had lost the war to northern invaders. Sangama, who was father to Hakka and Bukka was at the service of Anegundi rulers as a treasurer and as a head of an army branch. When they lost the war, the entire Anegundi kingdom was put to destruction along with their king. Sangama too had died in the war. Hakka and Bukka were held as prisoners in that war but they managed to escape after a couple of years. Once they returned, they found a mentor in sage Vidyaranya. And their dream to establish a new kingdom took shape.

The Guide opined that, the rain of gold coins was an exaggeration but it is Hakka and Bukka with the help of sage Vidyaranya being able to locate the hidden treasury of Anegondi kingdom helped them to build this city of Vijayanagara, the city of victory and establish a new rule. Hakka and Bukka were brave and ambitious. The political situation was in their favor. They had the right mentor too. Their efforts did not go waste and their success was phenomenal. The small state born on the banks of Tungabhadra River expanded its horizons to the basins of River Krishna towards north and River Kaveri in the south. It erected a strong defensive wall against the northern invaders, revived the unique culture and traditions of southern India. Art and literature gained the prominence in a land free of fear. Society flourished. Fame got spread.

A tourist asked “How Hakka and Bukka did look like?

The Guide replied “Hakka was tall, lean but strong and Bukka was short and fat

The Guide provided some more details on them. Hakka was focused on raising army and expanding the empire and Bukka being a fine administrator, took care of domestic matters and the shouldered the responsibility of building the town of Hampi. Both brothers had unquestionable commitment towards their people and the town they had built. It was their life energy. Even after their death, people did not forget their love for Hampi which led to birth of a legend. Locals believed that ghosts of these two brothers visited the town whenever it was in danger. Their appearance served as a warning to the people to become cautious. One of the tourists mentioned he had read about this in a novel and he felt it was a good fiction. Nodding his approval the Guide continued:

Though their appearance was taken seriously initially, it lost importance in the continued glory, unquestioned supremacy of the later kings of Vijayanagara and their arrogance proved too costly for them in the fifteenth century war”

The war fought at Talikota was against the union of five kingdoms but yet the soldiers in the army of Viajaynagara had outnumbered their counterparts and were expecting a victory like they their numerous wins in the past. But the destiny had a different plan. They lost the war and their king was killed. A two century long glory had come to a sudden end. Magnificent city of Hampi was reduced to ruins in a matter of days.

It would have been a bad time for the ghosts of Hakka-Bukka” said one of the tourists. 

A terrible one” said the Guide with noticeable pain on his face.

Why they did not try to revive the place?” asked a tourist.

The Guide replied “Brief attempts were made but they did not see success as the destructions were devastating. Residents did not have the heart to return to the city they loved and held in pride

He continued “The survivors of the royal family moved to Penugonda and continued to rule from there. But the shine was lost forever”.

He went on to add “Though past residents of Hampi found a new home somewhere else, they did not desert Hampi completely. Even after the extensive destruction, some charm was left in the remains. Fascination for their once beautiful town brought the people back occasionally and the prayers in the temples continued uninterrupted. Many monuments stood test of time and they are mute witness to the rise and fall of Hampi. But they too need some care and protection. If we cannot build things any better, we should protect what is left behind for us

He pointed his finger towards the tower of Virupaksha temple which was coming off in the corners losing its originality and said:

Hakka-Bukka would not have tolerated it”.

It was not just that tower but many of the structures in Hampi were in sorry state and badly needed a revival.

One of the tourists joked “What would ghosts of Hakka-Bukka do now? Will they cry on the boulders of Hampi at night?

The Guide did not respond but looked at the infinite sky in silence. He appeared to be lost in thoughts. Tourists too fell into silence. Some time passed. It was getting dark and the mild touch of cold breeze reminded them it is time to leave. Tourists called it a day to and bid a ‘Good Night’ to each other in the darkness.

It was rainy season ahead. Travelers left Hampi. Some of them wrote to the local Govt. and to UNESCO seeking their attention to the issues at Hampi. Few in authority had met the concerned personnel demanding them to take necessary actions. Some change was about to happen. Local Govt. had decided to revive Hampi and make it a top tourist attraction. They pooled the funds more than they would spend regularly and began their work. Most of Hampi had remained closed for tourists during that work. But the wait was fruitful. Many of the structures got face lift including the tower of temple. It appeared like the whole town of Hampi had got a fresh lease of life.

Then came the summer and the tourists returned as before. But the Guide was nowhere to find. What was his name, he had several of them. At the usual place he was available to tourists; there stood a brand new information center to help them.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

How Gold bonds would win over physical Gold?

Last few years Gold as an asset or investment has not done well, it had negative returns. Though demand and supply decide the price equilibrium for most commodities, Gold’s value depend on multiple factors. It is an alternative currency, so it has inverse relationship with US Dollar. When dollar does not do well, Gold will do better and vice versa. In the last few months, Dollar is gaining so Gold is not. US Fed is set to raise rates and most of the developed world is facing deflation (not inflation) are the other reasons for poor performance of Gold.

Looking at India as consumer base, we import around 1,000 tonnes of Gold every year. That is approx. $40 B of import bill a year. Majority (60%) of that goes to making of jewelry. Around 30% is in the form of bars and coins which is the target market for Gold bonds. Govt. aims to reduce the physical gold bought for investment purposes with proposed bonds and save precious forex. If Govt. and RBI succeed with this plan, India would save around $10-12 billions of imports a year which would reduce our trade deficit by 10-15% a year.

This has some hidden benefits that intrigue me. India is one of the biggest gold buyers in the international market. And if we reduce it by 30% (or 300 tonnes bars and coins), it would impact the demand situation of gold (global demand is around 4,000 tonnes/year) and it may result in softness in price. Other benefit is, reduced import bill will help Rupee. This would mean, Gold price in Rupee terms have higher chances of remaining where they are or soften rather than see an appreciation.

This would mean last few years bad performance in Gold would continue for some more time. And the Gold Bonds offering a consistent and positive return would become an advantage over owning physical gold. I have a wishful thinking that consumers will surely notice this and if they curb some jewelry demand too (and start giving a mix of gold bonds and jewelry as wedding gifts), it would reduce gold imports further.

India has around 20,000 tonnes of Gold with its citizens. As Gold’s bad performance is about to continue and due to that, if some of this reserve gold comes into trading market for monetization, the need to import Gold further reduces for India. Though this trend may take long time to catch up, it is not completely improbable and when the time comes, momentum will be difficult to stop.

The summary is, gold bonds will keep the gold prices in check and reduce the pressure on Rupee. When and how this gold bond scheme will be implemented is something we need to wait and watch.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Writers vs. Government. What lies ahead?

Writers are a minority community. And the way they protest are different from the ways of Aam Admi. Writers need not hit streets, shout slogans or stop traffic to show they are protesting. They can do through their writing (Pen is mightier than sword) and by returning the awards they received.

Writers returning their awards to Sahitya Akademi poses a question. Is Akademi responsible for what Govt. is supposed to do? What kind of an influence Akademi will have on Govt.? Akademi is a link between the writers and the Govt. and is not a platform for solving the disagreements. But writers using the same media to express their dissatisfaction may harm the interests of Akademi. At the end of the day, the fight is between writers and the PM. And the issue is religious intolerance and Govt.’stand on it. Though PM broke his silence on the matter, writers are not happy with his statements.

The issue of religious or ideological intolerance is nothing new. And writers returning awards is nothing new too. Khushwant Singh had done it. Tagore had done it too protesting the incident of Jallianwala Bagh. India had learnt its every lesson and emerged stronger every time. This time too it would come out stronger but the tide might upturn few before it settles.

Writers (if not all, most) are sensitive beings. They sense the change in air and feel the pain quite early. They are the leading indicators of the big change underway. Voltaire to Karl Marx sensed the changes quite early, the social revolutions they predicted did not fail to materialize. Though it took time build the momentum and the larger society to take part in it. British banning Anandmath worked only against them. A Chinese king trying to bury the works of Confuscius were not successful, you know who lasted long. Writers or their works are broad representation of the society, though they are ahead of time many a times. Burning the libraries or neglecting the writers has not worked well for those in power in the history.

Ruling party is not dumb to know this. But they might have overlooked the situation and underestimated the impact. Parties win and lose elections. But society makes their choice. Going by history and wisdom, writers though they are a very minuscule community of voters, are at the forefront of the society. What writers want will be be demanded by the larger society too later. Writers are indicators of what lies ahead. Like the wind before the storm. Wind has already arrived. Is storm building up? It is all speculation, for now.

Will the Govt. care? If not, they will pay the price.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A farmer who broke out of poverty

A farmer is in news and for a good reason. Let me give you some background.

His father was a bonded laborer. Odds were against him like for all poor farmers. But he owes his success to adopting simple measures in his farming.

Non-stop income: His daily income comes from selling milk through dairy farming. Weekly income comes from selling vegetables. Quarterly income comes from harvesting coconut. Half yearly income comes from pulses. Yearly income comes from sugarcane and turmeric crops. 

This is a simple but an effective way of beating the price fluctuations and weak monsoons. A cow or two does not occupy much space in the farm. The coconut trees at the border line do not require intensive care but yet offer a steady income. And the portfolio of crops in the field coming to harvest at different times of the year provide the non-stop income. This inclusive farming when practiced to perfection provides the farmer a healthy cash flow which a salaried person would envy.

No loans and reinvesting in his fields: This farmer did not borrow even while sinking bore wells one every year for eight years. Accumulated money found a purpose and the bore wells reduced dependency on the rain. He had the patience to do that with his own money. This farmer who started with four acres of land now owns about 40 acres.

His name is Puttiah and he inaugurated this year’s Mysore Dasara. His message to fellow farmers – “Be brave to face uncertainties. Suicide is not the solution”. He has proved that farmers can break out of poverty. We should ensure that his story gets known to all the poor farmers so that they too learn to diversify and reinvest and do better.

Farmers feed the world. India was always known as agrarian economy and the farmers thrived here with a bartering system to do all transactions. They ran the economy. All the kingdoms in India were built on the taxes levied on the farmers. Farmer was the foundation of society, religion, and kingdoms. But times changed. Farmers became poor, went hungry themselves. Some of them had put an end to their lives too. In that background, Puttiah’s life has a strong message for the farmer's community on how they can do well in the present world too.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

ಸಣ್ಣ ಕಥೆ: ಮನೆ-ಸೆರೆಮನೆ

ಅವಳ ಹೆಸರು ಜಾನಕಿ.  ಅದು ಸೀತೆಯ ಇನ್ನೊಂದು ಹೆಸರು. ಕಾಕತಾಳೀಯ ಎನ್ನುವಂತೆ ಈ ಜಾನಕಿಗೂ ಗಂಡನ ಜೊತೆ ನೆಮ್ಮದಿಯ ಬಾಳು ಸಾಧ್ಯವಾಗಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಬದಲಿಗೆ ಅವಳ ದಾಂಪತ್ಯ ಜೀವನ  ಕೆಲವೇ ದಿನಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಮುಗಿದು ಹೋಗಿತ್ತು.

ಅದು ಕಲಬುರ್ಗಿ ಜಿಲ್ಲೆಯ ಹಳ್ಳಿ. ಬಿಸಿಲು ಧಾರಾಕಾರ. ನೀರಿಗೆ ಹಾಹಾಕಾರ. ಹಳ್ಳದಲ್ಲಿ ಕುಡಿಯುವ ನೀರು ತುಂಬಿಕೊಂಡು ಬಿಂದಿಗೆ ಹೊತ್ತು ಕೊಂಡು ಬೆವರಿಳಿಸುತ್ತ ಬಂದ ಜಾನಕಿಗೆ, ಅಂದು ಆಕೆಯನ್ನು ನೋಡಲು ಗಂಡು ಬರುವ ವಿಷಯ ತಿಳಿಸಿದ ತಾಯಿ, ಅಂದು ಹೊಲಕ್ಕೆ ಕೂಲಿಗೆ ಹೋಗದೇ ಮನೆಯಲ್ಲೇ ಇರಲು ತಿಳಿಸಿದಳು. ಜಾನಕಿಯ ಅಪ್ಪ ಮನೆಗಿಂತ ಬೇವಿನ ಗಿಡದ ಕಟ್ಟೆಯ ಮೇಲೆ ಬೀಡಿ ಸೇದುತ್ತಾ, ಊರವರೊಡನೆ ಹರಟುತ್ತ ಕಾಲ ಕಳೆದದ್ದೇ ಹೆಚ್ಚು. ಈ ಕಾರಣಕ್ಕೋ ಏನೋ, ಮಗಳ ಮೇಲೆ ತಾಯಿಗೆ ವಿಶೇಷ ಕಾಳಜಿ. ಅವಳು ಜಾನಕಿ ಇನ್ನೂ ಹೊಟ್ಟೆಯಲ್ಲಿರುವಾಗ ಊರಿನ ಗೌಡರ ಮನೆಯ ಟಿವಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ರಾಮಾಯಣ ತಪ್ಪದೇ ನೋಡುತ್ತಿದ್ದಳು. ರವಿವಾರ ಹೇಗೂ ಕೂಲಿ ಸಿಗುತ್ತಿದ್ದಿಲ್ಲ. ಬಸ್ಸು ಹತ್ತಿ ಪಟ್ಟಣಕ್ಕೆ ಹೋಗಿ ಸಿನೆಮಾ ನೋಡುವುದು ವರ್ಷಕ್ಕೋ ಎರಡು ವರ್ಷಕ್ಕೋ ಒಮ್ಮೆ ಸಾಧ್ಯವಾಗುವ ವಿಷಯ. ಬದಲಿಗೆ ರವಿವಾರದಂದು ಗೌಡತಿಗೆ ಮನೆ ಕೆಲಸದಲ್ಲಿ ಸ್ವಲ್ಪ ಸಹಾಯ ಮಾಡಿ, ಹಿತ್ತಿಲ ಬಾಗಿಲ ಓರೆಯಿಂದಲೇ ಕಾಣುವ ಟಿವಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಬರುವ ರಾಮಾಯಣವನ್ನು ಕಣ್ತುಂಬಿಕೊಳ್ಳುತ್ತಿದ್ದಳು. ಅದರ ಪ್ರಭಾವದಿಂದ ಮಗ ಹುಟ್ಟಿದರೆ ರಾಮ, ಮಗಳು ಹುಟ್ಟಿದರೆ ಜಾನಕಿ ಎಂದು ಹೆಸರು ಇಡುವ ಎಂದುಕೊಂಡಿದ್ದಳು. ಜಾನಕಿ ಬೆಳೆದು ಈಗ ಮದುವೆಯ ವಯಸ್ಸಿಗೆ ಬಂದಾಗಿದೆ. ಅಪ್ಪ ಸುಮ್ಮನಿದ್ದ ಅಂತ ಅಮ್ಮ ಸುಮ್ಮನಿರಲಾದಿತೇ? ತನ್ನ ಬಂಧುಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಅವಳಿಗೆ ಗಂಡು ಹುಡುಕಲು ಕೇಳಿಕೊಂಡಿದ್ದರಿಂದ ಇಂದು ಜಾನಕಿಗೆ ಒಬ್ಬ ಗಂಡು ಬಂದಿದ್ದ.

ಬಂದವರದು ಹತ್ತಿರದ ಹಳ್ಳಿ. ಹುಡುಗ ಕಟ್ಟು ಮಸ್ತಾಗಿದ್ದ. ಅವನು ಉಳಿದವರಂತೆ ಊರಲ್ಲಿರದೆ ಸೈನ್ಯಕ್ಕೆ ಸೇರಿಕೊಂಡಿದ್ದ. ಅವನು ಕಳುಹಿಸುವ ಹಣ ತಂಗಿಯ ಮದುವೆಗೆ ಎಂದು ಕೂಡಿ ಇಡುತ್ತಿದ್ದಳು ಅವನ ತಾಯಿ. ಜೊತೆಗೆ ಒಂದು ಎಕರೆ ಜಮೀನಿತ್ತು. ರಜೆಗೆಂದು ಬಂದಾಗ ನೋಡಿದ ಜಾನಕಿಯನ್ನು ಒಪ್ಪಿದ್ದ.  ಜಾನಕಿ ಇನ್ನು ಬೇರೆಯವರ ಹೊಲದಲ್ಲಿ ಮಾಡುವ ಕೂಲಿಯ ಬದಲು ತನ್ನದೇ ಹೊಲದಲ್ಲಿ ಕೆಲಸ ಮಾಡಬಹುದು ಎಂದುಕೊಂಡಳು. ಬೆಟ್ಟದ ಮೇಲಿನ ವೀರಭದ್ರ ಗುಡಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಸರಳವಾಗಿ ಮದುವೆ ನಡೆದು ಜಾನಕಿ ಗಂಡನ ಮನೆಗೆ ಬಂದಿದ್ದಳು. ಕೆಲವೇ ದಿನಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಮನೆ ಒಳಗೆ, ಹೊರಗೆ ಜವಾಬ್ದಾರಿಗಳನ್ನು ತನ್ನ ಹೆಗಲೇರಿಸಿಕೊಂಡಿದ್ದಳು. ಆದರೆ ಎರಡು ಕುಟುಂಬದವರ ನೆಮ್ಮದಿ ಅಲ್ಪ ಕಾಲದ್ದಾಗಿತ್ತು.

ಸೈನ್ಯದ ಕೆಲಸಕ್ಕೆ ಮರಳಿದ ಗಂಡ ಮತ್ತೆ ವಾಪಸ್ಸು ಬಂದಿದ್ದು ಹೆಣವಾಗಿ. ಶವವನ್ನು ಊರು'ಮುಟ್ಟಿಸಲು ಬಂದಿದ್ದ ಸೈನ್ಯದ ಅಧಿಕಾರಿ ಆತನ ಶೌರ್ಯವನ್ನು ಕೊಂಡಾಡಿದ. ಗಡಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ನಡೆದ ಗುಂಡಿನ ಕಾಳಗ ಆತನ ದೇಹವನ್ನು ಜರಡಿ ಮಾಡಿ ಹಾಕಿತ್ತು. ರಕ್ತವೆಲ್ಲ ಸೋರಿ ಹೋದ ಮೈ ಪೂರ್ಣ ಕಪ್ಪಾಗಿ ಇದು ತಾನು ಮೋಹಿಸಿದ ಶರೀರವೇ ಎಂದು ಜಾನಕಿ ಹೆದರಿಕೊಂಡಳು. ತನ್ನೆಲ್ಲ ಶಕ್ತಿ ಉಡುಗಿ ಹೋಗಿದ್ದರೂ, ಆಘಾತದಿಂದ ಹಾಸಿಗೆ ಹಿಡಿದ ಅತ್ತೆ, ಮಾವರ ಸೇವೆಗೆ ನಿಂತಳು.

ಮನೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಎಲ್ಲರು ಅಳುತ್ತ ಕೂತರೆ ಕುಡಿಯಲು ನೀರೆಲ್ಲಿ? ಗಂಡನ ಸಾವಿನ ಮರು ದಿನವೇ ಮತ್ತೆ ತನ್ನ ಎಲ್ಲ ಜವಾಬ್ದಾರಿಗೆ ಜಾನಕಿ ಮರಳಿದಳು. ಹೊಲದಲ್ಲಿ ರಾಶಿ ಕೆಲಸ ಬಿದ್ದಿತ್ತು. ದಣಿಯದಿದ್ದರೆ ನಿದ್ರೆಯೇ ಸುಳಿಯದು. ಕೆಲಸದ ನಡುವೆ ವಿರಾಮ ಸಿಕ್ಕಾಗ ಬೆಟ್ಟದ ವೀರಭದ್ರನಲ್ಲಿ ಹೋಗಿ ಪ್ರಶ್ನೆ ಹಾಕುವ ಎಂದುಕೊಳ್ಳುವಳು. ಆದರೆ ಹಣೆಬರಹ ಬರೆಯುವವನು ಬ್ರಹ್ಮ. ಅದಕ್ಕೆ ವೀರಭದ್ರ ಏನು ಮಾಡಿಯಾನು ಎಂದುಕೊಂಡು ಸುಮ್ಮನಾಗುವಳು. ಬದಲಾಗಿ ಗಂಡನ ತಂಗಿಯ ಮದುವೆಯತ್ತ ಚಿತ್ತ ಹರಿಸಿದರೆ, ಸತ್ತವನ ಆತ್ಮಕ್ಕೆ ಶಾಂತಿ ದೊರಕಬಹುದು ಎನ್ನಿಸಿ ಮತ್ತೆ ಕೆಲಸಕ್ಕೆ ತೊಡಗುವಳು.

ನಮ್ಮ ಪಾಡಿಗೆ ನಾವಿದ್ದರೂ ಸಮಾಜ ತನ್ನ ಪಾಡಿಗೆ ತಾನಿದ್ದೀತೆ? ಕೆಲವರು ಅವಳು ಕಾಲಿಟ್ಟ ಗಳಿಗೆಯ ಮೇಲೆ ಅಪವಾದ ಹೊರಿಸಿದರು. ಮತ್ತೆ ಕೆಲವರು ಜ್ಯೋತಿಷ್ಯ ಹೊಂದಾಣಿಕೆ ಇಲ್ಲದೆ ಮದುವೆ ಮಾಡಿದರೆ ಅಪಾಯ ತಪ್ಪಿದ್ದಲ್ಲ ಎಂದು ಅಭಿಪ್ರಾಯ ಪಟ್ಟರು. ಹಾಗೆಯೇ ಒಂಟಿ ಹೆಣ್ಣೆಂದು ಪಡ್ಡೆ ಹುಡುಗರ, ಕಾಮಪಿಪಾಸುಗಳ ದೃಷ್ಟಿ ಕೂಡ ಈಕೆಯ ಮೇಲೆ ಬೀಳತೊಡಗಿತು. ಎಷ್ಟು ದೂರ ಸರಿದರೂ, ಅಪವಾದಗಳು ಬೆನ್ನು ಬಿಡಲಿಲ್ಲ. ರಾಮಾಯಣದ ಸೀತೆಗೂ ಅಪವಾದ ತಪ್ಪಿರಲಿಲ್ಲ. ರಾಮರಾಜ್ಯಕ್ಕಿಂತ ಕಲಿಯುಗ ಯಾವುದರಲ್ಲಿ ಹೆಚ್ಚು, ಯಾವುದರಲ್ಲಿ ಕಡಿಮೆ?

ಹೆಂಗಸರ ಚುಚ್ಚು ಮಾತು, ಗಂಡಸರ ವಕ್ರ ದೃಷ್ಟಿ ಅಸಹನೀಯ. ಆಗಿಂದಾಗ್ಗೆ ಜೋರು ಬಾಯಿ ಮಾಡಿ ಸುಮ್ಮನಾಗಿಸಿದರೆ ಅಂಥ ಪ್ರಯತ್ನ ಕಡಿಮೆಯಾದಿತೇನೋ? ಆದರೆ ಮೃದು ಸ್ವಭಾವದ ಜಾನಕಿ ಯಾರ ಜೊತೆಗೂ ಮಾತಿಗಿಳಿಯದಿದ್ದರೂ, ಇವಳ ಕೇಳಿಸಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲೆಂದೇ ಆಡುವ ಮಾತುಗಳು ದಿನೆ ದಿನೇ ತೀಕ್ಷ್ನವಾಗತೊಡಗಿದವು. ಒಂದು ದಿನ ಹೊಲದಿಂದ ಹುಲ್ಲಿನ ಹೊರೆ ತಲೆಯ ಮೇಲಿಟ್ಟುಕೊಂಡು ಮನೆಗೆ ಮರಳುತ್ತಿದ್ದಳು ಜಾನಕಿ. ಹತ್ತು ಹೆಜ್ಜೆಗಳ ಹಿಂದೆ ಬರುತ್ತಿದ್ದ ಮಹಿಳೆಯರ ಗುಂಪು ಇವಳನ್ನೇ ಕುರಿತು ಗಟ್ಟಿ ದನಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಮಾತನಾಡಲು ಆರಂಭಿಸಿತು.

"ಗಂಡಂಗೆ ಬ್ಯಾಡ ಅಂದ್ರೆ ಗುಂಡು ಕಲ್ಲಿಗೂ ಬ್ಯಾಡ ಅಂತ ಗಾದೆ ಮಾತೇ ಐತೆ. ಅಂತದ್ರಲ್ಲಿ ಇವ್ಳಿಗೆ ಇನ್ನ್ಯಾರೋ?"

"ಗಂಡ ಬಿಟ್ಟ ಇಲ್ಲ ಗಂಡ ಸತ್ತ ಎಲ್ಲ ಒಂದೇ. ಇವಳ್ ಆಸೆನೂ ಅದೇ ಇತ್ತೋ ಏನೋ?"

"ಇಲ್ದೆ ಏನು? ಇವ್ಳ ಹಾದ್ರ ಕಂಡು ಅವ್ನು ಸತ್ತಿರ್ ಬೇಕು"

ಅಲ್ಲಿಗೆ ಸಹನೆ ಮೀರಿದ ಜಾನಕಿ ತಲೆ ಮೇಲಿದ್ದ ಹುಲ್ಲಿನ ಹೊರೆಯಿಂದ ಕುಡುಗೋಲು ತೆಗೆದು ಹಿಂತಿರುಗಿ ಬರುತ್ತಿದ್ದ ಗುಂಪಿನತ್ತ ಬೀಸಿದಳು. ಅದು ಆ ಗುಂಪಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಒಬ್ಬಳಿಗೆ ಕುತ್ತಿಗೆಗೆ ತಗುಲಿ, ಅವಳು ಕುಸಿದು ಬಿದ್ದಳು. ರಕ್ತ ಧಾರಾಕಾರವಾಗಿ ಹರಿಯಿತು. ಕೆಲವರು ಆಕೆಯ ಕುತ್ತಿಗೆ ಗಾಯಕ್ಕೆ ಬಟ್ಟೆ ಒತ್ತಿ ಹಿಡಿದು ನಿಲ್ಲಿಸಲು ನೋಡಿದರು. ಆದರೆ ಉಪಯೋಗವಾಗಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಪ್ರಾಣ ಪಕ್ಷಿ ಹಾರಿ ಹೋಗಿತ್ತು. ಜಾನಕಿ ಮಾತ್ರ ಸಿಟ್ಟಿನಿಂದ ಏದುಸಿರು ಬಿಡುತ್ತ ನಿಂತಲ್ಲೇ ನಿಂತಿದ್ದಳು.

ಕೆಲವು ಗಂಟೆಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಬಂದ ಪೊಲೀಸರು ಜಾನಕಿಯನ್ನು ಬಂಧಿಸಿ ತಮ್ಮ ಜೀಪಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಕುಳಿಸಿದರು. ಜೀಪು ಶುರುವಾಗುವ ಹೊತ್ತಿಗೆ ಜಾನಕಿ ದೂರದಲ್ಲಿ ತನ್ನ ತಾಯಿಯನ್ನು ನೋಡಿದಳು. ಸುದ್ದಿ ಕೇಳಿ ಆಕೆ ಓಡಿ ಬರುವುದರಲ್ಲಿ ಜಾನಕಿ ಹೊರಟಾಗಿತ್ತು. ಧೂಳಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಅಸ್ಪಷ್ಟವಾಗಿ ಕಾಣ ಬರುತ್ತಿದ್ದ ತನ್ನ ತಾಯಿಯ ಆಕೃತಿ ಕ್ರಮೇಣ ಚಿಕ್ಕದಾಗಿ ಕಣ್ಮರೆಯಾಯಿತು. ಜಾನಕಿ ತಲೆ ತಗ್ಗಿಸಿದಳು. ಅವಳಿಗಾಗಲೇ ಆವೇಶ ಇಳಿದು ಹೋಗಿತ್ತು ಆದರೆ ತಾನು ಮಾಡಿದ್ದು ಸರಿಯೋ ತಪ್ಪೋ ಎಂದು ವಿಚಾರ ಮಾಡುವ ಶಕ್ತಿಯನ್ನು ಸಮಾಜ ಆಕೆಯಿಂದ ಕಸಿದುಕೊಂಡಿತ್ತು. ನ್ಯಾಯಾಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಏನು ಮಾತನಾಡಲು ಅವಳಿಗೆ ತೋಚಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಅವಳು ಮಾಡಿದ ತಪ್ಪಿಗೆ ಜೀವಾವಧಿ ಶಿಕ್ಷೆಯಾಯಿತು.

ಜೈಲಿನಲ್ಲಿ ವರ್ಷಗಳು ಸರಿದು ಹೋದವು. ದಿನವೂ ಅದೇ ಏಕತಾನತೆ. ಇಲ್ಲಿ ಅವಳಿಗೆ ಯಾವ ಜವಾಬ್ದಾರಿಯೂ ಇಲ್ಲ. ಅಪಸ್ವರದ ಮಾತು ಕೇಳುವುದೂ ಇಲ್ಲ. ಅವಳ ತಾಯಿಯೂ ಜಾನಕಿ ಜೈಲು ಸೇರಿದ ಮೊದಲ ವರ್ಷವೇ ಕೊರಗಿನಿಂದ ಸತ್ತು ಹೋಗಿದ್ದಳು. ಹೀಗಾಗಿ ಅವಳನ್ನು ನೋಡಲು ಬರುವವರು ಯಾರೂ ಇರಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಎಲ್ಲ ಸಂಬಂಧಗಳು ಕಳಚಿದ ಮೇಲೆ, ಈ ಜೈಲು ವಾಸ ಅವಳಿಗೆ ಬಂಧನಕ್ಕಿಂತ ಸ್ವಾತಂತ್ರ್ಯ ಎಂದೇ ತೋರತೊಡಗಿತು. ಜೈಲನ್ನು ಸ್ವಚ್ಚವಾಗಿ ಇಡಲು ಅಧಿಕಾರಿ ಹಾಗು ಸಿಬ್ಬಂದಿಗಳಿಗೆ ನೆರವಾಗುತ್ತಿದ್ದ ಜಾನಕಿ ಕ್ರಮೇಣ ಅವರ ವಿಶ್ವಾಸ ಗಳಿಸಿದಳು. ಕಸ ಗುಡಿಸುವ ಕೆಲಸವನ್ನೇ ಶೃದ್ಧೆಯಿಂದ ಮಾಡುತ್ತಿದ್ದ ಜಾನಕಿಯ ಎಲ್ಲಾ ಕೆಲಸಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಒಪ್ಪ ಓರಣ ಇರುತ್ತಿತ್ತು. ನಿಮಿಷ ಮಾತ್ರದ ಆವೇಶ ಅವಳನ್ನು ಈ ಜೈಲು ವಾಸಕ್ಕೆ ತಳ್ಳಿತ್ತು. ಆದರೆ ಸೆರೆಮನೆ ಅವಳಿಗೆ ಮನೆಯಾಗಿ ಮಾರ್ಪಟ್ಟಿತ್ತು.

ಸುಮಾರು ಇಪ್ಪತ್ತು ವರ್ಷಗಳು ಕಳೆದ ಮೇಲೆ ಅವಳಿಗೆ ಬಿಡುಗಡೆ ಆಯಿತು. ಆದರೆ ಅವಳಿಗೆ ತನ್ನ ಜೀವನದ ಮೊದಲ ಇಪ್ಪತ್ತು ವರ್ಷಗಳಲ್ಲೇ ಸಂಬಂಧಗಳೆಲ್ಲ ಮುಗಿದು ಹೋಗಿದ್ದವು. ಮತ್ತೆ ಸಮಾಜ ಜೀವನಕ್ಕೆ ಕರೆದೊಯ್ಯುವ ಯಾವುದೇ ಶಕ್ತಿ ಜೀವಂತವಾಗಿ ಉಳಿದಿರಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಬದಲಿಗೆ ತನ್ನ ಇಪ್ಪತ್ತು ವರ್ಷ ಜೈಲು ವಾಸದಲ್ಲಿ ಅಲ್ಲಿ ನೀರುಣಿಸಿದ ಮರಗಳು ಮತ್ತು ಅದರಲ್ಲಿ ಬಿಟ್ಟ ಹೂಗಳು ಹೆಚ್ಚು ಜೀವಂತ ಎನಿಸಿದವು. ಪರಿಸ್ಥಿತಿ ಅರ್ಥ ಮಾಡಿಕೊಂಡ ಅಧಿಕಾರಿಯೊಬ್ಬರು ಆಕೆಗೆ ದಾರಿ ತೋರಿಸಿದರು. ಆಕೆಗೆ ಅಲ್ಲಿ ಸಹಾಯಕಿಯಾಗಿ ಉದ್ಯೋಗ ದೊರಕಿಸಿ ಕೊಟ್ಟರು. ಜಾನಕಿಯ ಜೈಲಿನ ನಂಟು ಮುಂದುವರೆಯಿತು.

Friday, October 9, 2015

RBI loosens the grip on low cost housing loans

There were minor modifications announced by RBI in the risk weights for housing loans. (Link:

I am providing a snapshot herewith.
Source: RBI
The first change was increasing the slab to 30 lakhs from 20 lakhs. The second change is risk weight is reduced to 35% from 50% for lower LTV ratio categories.

Few primers before we begin. LTV is loan to value ratio, for a house costing or valued at 30 lakhs, one would get a loan of 80% that is 24 lakhs at 80% LTV. For this 24 lakh loan, if risk weight assigned is 50%, then 12 lakh amount of loan is at risk which needs to be covered with a Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) set at 9%. That comes to Rs.1.08 lakh which banks needs to set aside as reserve for each Rs. 24 lakh loan.

Now let us rerun the math for the change in policy. Since risk weight is reduced to 35% from 50% for two categories, for the same Rs. 24 lakh loan, amount at risk reduces to 8.4 lakhs (from 12 lakhs) and the reserve required comes down to Rs. 75,600  (from 1.08 lakh). This differential money banks can use to lend that will increase their profits in the range of 10 bps to 30 bps (0.1% to 0.3%). Banks can choose to pass on this benefit partially or fully to the consumer too.

Changing the slab from 20 lakhs to 30 lakhs was necessary as land and construction costs have gone up. Personally I do not think houses at this price range carry the risk of 35% price drop in adverse situations. But banks and RBI need to be conservative. Probably measures like this have protected India from situation like subprime crisis when housing prices dropped significantly in US during 2008-09. Though it seems still high, reducing risk weight from 50% to 35% to low cost segment is definitely a welcome move.

Now with this change, consumers buying a house valued up to 37.5 lakhs (then the maximum loan will be 30 lakhs at 80% LTV) can benefit and banks would chase this segment as target base. Housing loans are a lion share in most banks loan portfolio and this change will improve liquidity and improve profitability too. If consumers borrowing less than Rs. 30 lakhs get a small rate differential, it would save them a few hundred rupees a month in the interest outgo. But not being denied the loan (even when eligible due to liquidity reasons) is the real benefit. Don’t be surprised if you begin to get calls from bank marketing channels offering you a housing loan at competitive rate. That is expected in the coming months. Distressed realtors too would roll out a red carpet when you go for a site visit.

Though RBI is aiming to make it easier for borrowers of low cost housing, we can observe that it has reduced risk weightage for loans above 30 lakhs too to 35% if LTV is at 75%. This would mean those making a 25% down payment on the houses costing in the range of Rs. 30 to 75 lakhs would also find it convenient to get loans. When credit growth at multiple years low, bond yields reducing, and improving liquidity situation, banks would not turn down the qualified customer. Instead they would outbid each other.

If we have affordability and need but don’t own a house yet, it is time to go out and build (or buy) our own houses. Lower rates, pampering by banks are cyclical. Consumer’s party has begun now and it is likely to stay for couple more years. Take benefit as long as it lasts and pay-off as much debt as possible too. When rates come back, it would not pain you as your loan principal would have been reduced. If you already own a house and have a loan, visit your bank to ensure you are getting revised lower rates. If not burdened, do not reduce your EMI, choose for reducing the loan period. In a 20 year loan period, one can see 3-4 cycles of rates going up and down. Keeping the EMI constant when rates are low helps to offset the burden when rates are high.

If you think all of this does not matter much, you will end up working for the bank more than for your home.

[I am not from banking background. I wrote this post to understand the policy changes better]

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Contradictions and wages

Sri Sathya Sai Hospital, Whitefield, Bangalore
A friend, an ex-colleague of mine had called me up to meet together for a lunch. We had agreed to meet at InOrbit mall in Whitefield. From my office, it is a walking distance of 10 minutes. As I like to walk, I did not let go of this opportunity. I had to pass by Sathya Sai Hospital, a well-known super specialty hospital to reach the mall. There I noticed a bizarre thing. On the footpath, attached to compound wall of this hospital, there was a make-shift, cloth wrapped, temporary shop of medicine seller, selling medicines made out of various spices with a banner claiming to cure all kinds of ailments. There was a loud speaker too to attract the attention. Well, if the patient is cured with the treatment inside the hospital, will he come out and try these medicines or will this be the first stop for him? I did not know how it worked but for a moment I thought India is incredibly contradictory as we have ancient medicines and the state of the art health services made available in one place.

Inorbit Mall, Whitefield, Bangalore
I went on to meet my friend and proceeded for lunch. There, for two person’s meals, we paid a price with which a small family would buy grocery to last for a month. After the lunch, a walk inside the mall gave me a feel that this is a better facility than many of the malls I had visited in US, Europe or Singapore. I again felt contradiction as we hit the street outside we are very much in India with all of its hallmarks. This mall had all international brand stores. Among them there was an arts and crafts shop too. The shop-keeper there was sitting with his legs stretched out on two chairs as if he is not expecting any curious customer to come-in, forget the business. I was thinking how they survive, while my friend was gossiping about office politics.

When I was walking back to my office, again in front of Sathya Sai Hospital, few village men asked me how to reach ‘Kailasa Palya’. I was puzzled for a moment as I had not heard of that place. Seeing my confusion one of them uttered another word – ‘Victoria Hospital’.  Suddenly I was smiling and I corrected them. They needed to go ‘Kalasipalya’ and helped them to board the bus. I could make out that these villagers had brought a patient along with them, they had come to get him treated at this Satya Sai Hospital which is a free service hospital built by Sai Baba. But the rush and waiting periods are so long, many have to return without success of getting admitted here so they were leaving to Victoria hospital which is run by the Govt.

Traffic congestion in Bangalore
When commuting in Bangalore is an adventure for a healthy person, how the deceased would suffer in the crowded public transport system? I really felt bad for the patient. I know more than half population of this world is poor, struggle to make their ends meet. Many are happy to have single meal a day. And when they suffer from ailments, they have to travel miles to the likes of expensive city of Bangalore to get back to their health.

When will this change and when will they do better? Not when some rich donate money, though it helps to some extent. A good society should not depend on few people’s philanthropy. And no use blaming Govt. as they represent the broader society that is us again. Another thing to note is, facilities develop when the affordability in the society goes up. Did you know that Whitefield was a sleeping village fifteen years ago? I had to travel more than 5 km to find a Tea shop on the day I got my offer letter from a company in this area in 2001. Now it is transformed into a modern suburb. Most of the people working in this locality earn well, so you find everything under the Sun here. That is because the spending power of people living here went up and the facilities followed them.

Wages are increasing in rural India too, but they are unevenly spread. When they, from laborer in the fields to construction workers get better wages, life style improves in the villages too. Those villages may not become another Whitefield but become better places than they were before. That would put a halt to those suffering from ill health to arrive in Bangalore, suffer in traffic and experience hell.

If things are going to be expensive as wages are to go up at the bottom of economic pyramid, we should know that it is not entirely unwelcome. History has taught us that prosperity islands will fall out when there is social unrest. It is better to spread the prosperity. Not by donations but through wages as the benefits would reach far and wide. That is what happened in many developed countries so their incomes are at multiples of ours. As India’s economy expands, we will also see wages here going up all over the places. And that will get millions out of poverty, reducing the gap in access to basic facilities. I am hopeful of seeing it in my lifetime.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Being a politician is a hard job

I recently met a budding politician. That meeting had around 20 members, conducted in a prviate house. They were all members of an association of a newly formed layout on the outskirts of Bangalore. This politician was elected to be a Gram Panchayat member in the recent elections. Meeting had two things on the agenda. One is, congratulating him on winning the election and the other, getting few petty things done from him for the layout.

This politician, probably in his 40’s, had a great physique. He looked like a granite rock rawly cut. Huge and strong skull, curly hair, bulky eyes, broad shoulders, solid arms gave him a scary look. But his talk was soft. Surprisingly for a politician, he knew his limits. He was able to explain how the Govt. and Panchayat work in simpler words. He talked to the point, quickly understood what was expected out of him in that meeting. He ordered his men to build a dump yard for collecting waste, promised to build flag hosting pole at his own expense, called up the responsible to repair the street lights and explained how a mud road fix does not help anyone and why it is better to demand for a tar road and who would help as it was beyond his limits. He distributed sweets along with his visiting card. He asked everyone to approach him for whatever things he is responsible for and he would also let the meeting attendees know if he needs any support. Favor reciprocation is an old formula in politics and the underworld. He did all of this in a matter of 20-30 minutes and then drove off in his Toyota Innova, probably to he next meeting.

He kicked off a few thoughts inside me and I am putting down few things I could notice from him. To be a politician, one should not be too sensitive. Everyone does not respond to the politician in the same manner or tone. Irrespective of that he has to treat all of them fairly in public. Else his image is at stake. He should have the knack to take the meetings under his control, to keep it short and fruitful. He should know the truth that society cares only those who win elections and those who lost are good as dogs. It can be a thankless job even for the purest soul. He should strive to promote himself for taking the credit for his good deeds. Else the opposition does it shamelessly. If you don’t eat Tiger does not mean Tiger will not eat you. A politician should know how to defend himself and his family from those who want to put an end to his career or life. If violence scares you, you are out in no time. A politician should know how to manipulate the human behavior. He should shout at some to get things done and be pleasing to few to keep things going. One weapon does not work for all. A politician dons hats of many roles, all at the same time. That of an actor moderating his stance throughout the day, as a psychologist in gauging the people and situation, as a marketer in shaping his image in the people’s eye, as a punter in protecting his interests and so on.

This also makes it clear why many good people do not get into politics, even when tried, they cannot go further. Many good people are sensitive. They cannot stand too much praise or insult. They promote themselves hardly. Even if some are able to overcome this behavior, they might not be in a situation to protect themselves and confront the violence. They are scared off by stronger forces at play. When these are not a problem for few, playing too many roles as a politician throughout the day can be really tiring. A slipped tongue in public or a small fight with the media can damage the image severely and quickly. Factors like this filter out the mass and leave little who are really cut out for politics.

Being a politician is really a hard job. Hope you would agree with me. As politicians would not read blogs, you won’t be one of them I guess.

How Desktop Computers disappeared from our desks?

Let me begin with the accessories. There used to be Floppy Disks (1.44 MB!) which gave way to CD’s which would hold the entire movie or hundreds of songs and other media. Now CD’s are dying a slow death with the rise of Flash Memory sticks which are more reliable and fit in pockets too.

Similarly, the Desktop computers which occupied a large portion on our desks slowly gave way to laptops. When the smartphones began to make any dumb person holding it appear smart, Laptops were needed only for work, to spend the long hour. Otherwise any other quick thing, you would do it on your phone. When this is the trend who would refresh their desktops? Be it corporate or Individual consumer, they did not see a good reason to replace their desktop or upgrade them with higher RAM or things like that as they did a decade ago.

It was Steve Jobs who had said consumer does not know what he wants so market research was of no value for him. He made billions for his company with the roll out of iPhones and iPads. While Apple was grabbing the market share and building a cash pile, the whole supply-chain of Personal Computer (PC) makers from HP to Intel suffered. Swing in the gadget adoption which delighted the consumers changed the fortunes for many in the industry. Winners in the smartphone supply chain like Applie, Qualcom, ARM, TSMC and Foxconn triumphed and those who missed the bus had to cut their staff as their profits halved and their stock prices decimated. HP had to lay-off more than 50,000 people. AMD, a micro-processor maker (competitor to Intel) was another victim as PC sales contracted along with their market share. Now their stock trades below $2, a 75% drop form its price during 2010.

Mobility wave lifted few companies and dumped many. It moved many of the functions done on a bulky computer to a hand held phone. Our desks got cleared but people are glued to their smartphones. Window to the world does not stay on your desk now but in your hands.

Similar changes are happening in the software space too. Many desktop software found replacement in Enterprise-wide applications which are moving to cloud now on per per use model. Automation has taken prominence. Some of the widely used apps like those provided by Google cost nothing for the end users as they found different ways to make money other than directly charging the end user. New technologies and apps have made the life easier for many. Now a housewife orders vegetables online. And you don’t miss any of the gossips with WhatsApp.

All this change happened in the recent past, fairly quickly. For the newer generation, a desktop computer does not appeal any more, it has to rest in peace.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Short Story: Few mysteries are not to be solved

Kunigal, a place in South Karnataka is bigger than a village but not a buzzing town. Due to it is location on the highway connecting Bangalore to Mangalore, it has traffic on that road all the time. But the town goes to sleep quite early. It has a large and beautiful lake on the outskirts and a walk there in the early morning or evening can refresh anyone’s mood and uplift the spirits. A plain patch of land outside the town was the farm for Tipu Sultan’s horses. That stud farm is now owned by a big businessman who owes more money to banks than his worth. Is it the curse of stud farm to bring an end to glory of their owners? But the royal attachments were limited to that farm and most of the town residents earned their living by working in their fields.

In one of those farmer families of this town, Ravi was born. The Sun God is a symbol of positive energy and hope. That belief had made Ravi’s parents to choose this name for their son. They saw that their expectations were coming true as Ravi grew up. Poor background had made him only more determined and there were no clouds to mask his shine. Agriculture was his first interest. He got a degree and masters in an Agri University. The exposure he was getting and his drive to serve a bigger a purpose in life was attracting him to a top job in the Government, that of an IAS officer. His efforts saw that he reached his goal. Only a few hundread are chosen a year among lakhs of aspirants. Ravi had the merit and determination.

While going through the required training in the hill town of Mussorie, he developed strong relationship with his fellow batchmates. When the brightest minds of a nation come together, they come out good. They shape each other and the influence lasts even after they are out in their jobs of running the Govt. machinery. They have the necessary knowledge and ability to judge, some skills are imparted and the rest they learn on the job to keep the best interests of the society. They are trained to take care of the society. But these IAS officers too are human beings and need a shoulder to cry on when the work pressure or personal stress becomes unbearable. Ravi too found a friend in his batchmate. She was smart and ambitious. Did Ravi love her? Did she love him too? But both found their life partners in different persons.

Ravi got his posting as Assistant Commissioner in his home state of Karnataka. It was in a north Karnataka town but in a year he had to shoulder higher responsibility as District Commissioner of Kolar district. And a reformer in Ravi got into action. He got rid of encroachments of Govt. lands. The honesty in him could not tolerate the irregularities and the sand mafia. Quality in civil infrastructure could not be compromised to feed the corrupt elements. Public began to notice the changes and the driving force behind them. It took less than a year for Ravi to become a celebrity. It is not a common sight to find a person who has authority and position but yet simple and down to earth. People of Kolar thought they were lucky to have him but those troubled by his action did not want him to remain there for long. All civil servants know they need to pack their suitcase and move on when the call comes. Ravi was transferred to Bangalore. People of Kolar protested but Ravi had to move on to take charge as Additional Commissioner in Commercial Tax department.

You cannot train a dog not to be loyal. It is what they are made up of. Similarly few people like Ravi would not compromise their honesty even if they are asked to. Ravi in his new role found that there was lots of tax evasion happening to the tune of Rs.1,000 crores. Just two weeks of rides on such businesses brought Rs.138 crores of tax revenue to the Govt. Businessmen does not operate in a silo. They looked for ways to silence Ravi. Death threat calls did not seem to deter Ravi. But something terrible happened. Ravi was found dead.

The sudden death and the mysteries around it created a suspiscion that he could be murdered. Media too strongly supported the suspicion. Protests began. Opposition party blamed the ruling party. Support to Ravi’s family came from all corners of state. Ravi was on everyone’s FaceBook wall. Common men talked if this is going to be the fate of an Adminstrator in the highest authority, what of those without power. Protests became fierce. At the same time, there was news or rumour of Ravi having called his batchmate several times before the day of his death. A failed love story was framed around them. Also of Ravi’s intention to get into real estate business. Then, was it plain suicide? Why a person of Ravi’s caliber would commit suicide, so asked the public. The investigation was assigned to a central institute of some repute.

Everyone had their side of story. No one knew the complete truth. Is it possible for a human being to know another person completely? Victors get to write the history and victims are already dead, they do not stand a chance to tell their side of story. So any history we know of is always one sided story. In the fifteenth century, famous king of Vijayanagara kingdom, Sri Krishna Devaraya had untimely death, before he had turned forty. Was it suicide or murder? There are theories which support both the views. The brave king who did not lose a single war of many wars he fought, committed suicide saddened by his son’s death, so goes one argument. Those who poisoned king’s son also killed the king, says the opposite camp. But the truth was buried along with their death. Speculation never become the truth.

Limelight won’t stay on one individual for long. Though public were still outraged, there were other things happening. A cricket match, a local election, release of ‘Bahubali’ movie, there were so many things seeking public attention. In between all of that, investigation agency concluding that Ravi’s death was a suicide went almost unnoticed or public was not convinced but let go of it. A reformer is dead. God knows the reason. Public will ensure that the saying ‘Public memory is short’ does not turn untrue.

Even if they look back their memory lane, the puzzle of Ravi’s death would remain a mystery for the common person. Like ‘Chidambara Rahasya’ (Eternal secret), few mysteries are not to be solved. They are to be forgotten, comfortably by some, painfully by others.

[It is comfortable to call this a fictional story as what I wrote here is a perception too]