Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Real Men Cry II

Here is a story, a sequel to my post 'Real Men Cry' dated 12.08.2011:
(The story is quoted by Vithal C. Nadkarni in The Economic Times of 25.08.2014)

There I had quoted the saying:

A son is a son till he gets a wife; a daughter is a daughter for life.

Now this.

After marriage, a couple had vowed to keep their door closed to everyone. One day, the boy's parents rang the bell. The couple saw them and looked at each other. He desperately wished to welcome them but remembering the vow to his wife, refrained from doing it.

After some days, the girl's parents come. This time, despite the agreement with her husband, she opens the door with tears in her eyes. She tells her husband," I'm sorry, dear, but I can't do this to my own parents." He keeps quiet.

Years roll by. They are blessed with two sons. Then they have a baby girl. The father celebrates her birth with a grand party. The wife asks, "Why such extravagance? We did not have such a grand party when either of our sons was born!"

The husband replied calmly, "Because she is the one who will open her door for me."


Your little girl will hold your hand only for a little while but she will hold your heart for the whole life time!  

Friday, 22 August 2014

Mr., Mrs. and Ms.

This week, i had gone, along with other members of the local Rotary Club, to a Government Girls’ High School for planting some saplings in its compound, as a part of our Plantation programme. While sitting in the well-arranged room of the Headmistress, i had a look at the displays there.  The first thing that attracted my attention was a wall-hanging containing the names of the Toppers of the School in the Board Examination in the last 10 years. Another plaque on the wall contained information about the School, like the year of its establishment, number its students and some other matters. I was a little surprised to read the last line in this information-list. It read:  Name of the First Headmistress- Bhubaneswar Mishra. I was intrigued by the words ‘Headmistress’ and ‘Bhubaneswar’. Surely, ‘Bhubaneswar’ is a male name; how can he be the first Headmistress? Apparently, there was a mistake; the name must be ‘Bhubaneswari, a female name; the letter ‘i’ was surely and inadvertently omitted!

After some polite conversation, we rose to go to the site for plantation. I could no longer suppress my curiosity. I pointed to the name and told the Headmistress, “Madam, there must be some inadvertent mistake. Was the first Headmistress Bhubaneswari  Mishra?”  She smiled gently and said, “No Sir, he was Bhubaneswar Mishra.”  He?  I was intrigued and said, “Then why ‘Headmistress’ and not ‘Head Master’?”  She replied, “This being a Girls’ School, most its Heads and teachers have been females but sometimes, due to various reasons, males also are posted here.” She paused, smiled again and continued, “ The first Head was a male.” She paused again and said, “ Because it is a Girls’ School, the official designation of its Head is ‘Headmistress’ and rules being rules, the designation cannot be changed, to accommodate passing exceptions in postings.”

I smiled back in agreement.   

This brought to my mind a news report when Ms. Arundhati Bhattacharya was recently appointed as Chairman of State Bank of India. A few days after she took charge, some wise souls in the Bank’s Central Office felt that she should be officially referred to by the gender-neutral term Chairperson, keeping in view the recent practice in ‘politically correct’ usage everywhere.  However, some wiser people there found out that The State Bank of India Act, 1955, governing functioning of S B I, mentions only the word ‘Chairman’. They opined that the designation cannot be changed without amending this Act; this can be done only by Parliament which had passed the Act! So, the no-changers had their day and the pro-changers had to beat a hasty retreat!!

There is a view that the top post in an organization can be given the gender-neutral term ‘Chair’ denoting a position or designation but purists are not yet ready to accept it.

The name-boards of Branches and Offices of State Bank of India all over the country are bilingual. In English, it announces ‘State Bank of India’; in the local languages it says ‘Bharatiya State Bank’. I do not know whether The State Bank of India Act recognizes the two names simultaneously just as Article 1 of The Constitution of India says, ‘India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.’

Now-a-days, many organizations and Corporate Offices use the word ‘Chairperson’ when a lady becomes the Head but, ironically, revert to “Chairman’ when, subsequently, a male occupies the chair. The term ‘Chairwoman’ is never used.

As i was typing the text of this post, the wife was engaged in conversation, in Odia, with her friend. I overheard a sentence of the other lady. She was saying, “My Mr. does not like ….” etc. I have heard many people saying, “My Mrs.  …” etc. Many Indians, perhaps out of shyness, feel a little embarrassed and hesitate to say, ‘My husband’ or ‘My wife’ and, instead, say ‘My Mr.’ or ‘My Mrs.’ This happens in all Indian languages.

My mind wanders over to another related area. While addressing, why do we distinguish between unmarried and married ladies whereas such two types of males are not so treated?  Why are ‘Miss’ and ‘Mrs.’ prefixed to the names of unmarried and married ladies respectively whereas ‘Mr.’ is prefixed to the names of males irrespective of their marital status? Of course, boys are addressed as ‘Master so-and-so’ etc. but after they grow up, all of them become entitled to the common prefix ‘Mr.’

After marriage, women usually change their surnames to that of the husband. For a lot of people, if a woman does not change her surname after marriage, it seems to suggest that she is not fully committed to the marriage. Feminists argue that it is outrageous to follow a tradition that signifies a woman being handed over from her father to her husband! In the United Kingdom, following the principle of equality between the sexes, a few men have taken their wives surname's after marriage. 

Over the last few years, there has been an increase in couples - in most cases the wife - double-barrelling, the wife adding her husband's surname to her maiden surname. Sometimes, merging and blending also has taken place - the two surnames are combined to make a new surname altogether. However, the tradition of women taking their husband's surname remains still very strong.  

 When assertions of female-male parity came and politically correct terms came to be used more, the new prefix ‘Ms’ has come but this prefix is used very rarely because of its unfamiliar pronunciation.

What caps it all, is the latest gender-neutral prefix ‘Mx’, for use in case of both males and females. First mooted in U S of A in 1977, this term is soon going to be included in Oxford English Dictionary. ‘Mx’ is the short version of the term ‘Mixter’. There is of course a little confusion about whether it is to be pronounced as ‘mex’, ‘mux’ or ‘mix’!  

 Another ‘politically correct’ expression ‘promoted’ ‘house-wives’ into ‘home-makers’.


Why does, in most cases, a girl go to the boy’s house after their marriage? Why not the other way round?

2. The name plate at the gate of the clinic we visited announces: Dr.(Mrs.) Shradhanjali   
     Mishra.' Why doesn't the name plate of a male doctor announce in a like manner:  'Dr.(Mr.) So-and-So Mishra'?

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Andar ki Baat, Accidental P M and Dynastic Politics

Andar ki Baat, The Accidental P M and The Dynasty

K. Natwar Singh’s forthcoming autobiography One Life is Not Enough has blown a storm in Congress politics. In 2004, United Progressive Alliance (UPA), led by Congress, which won a majority in the Elections to Lok Sabha of the Indian Parliament, was about to form the Government. Sonia Gandhi, as the leader of Congress Party, was set to become the Prime Minister. Yet, she anointed Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister, saying that her “inner voice” called her to “sacrifice” the offer. Natwar Singh says that it was no ‘inner voice’ but fear of assassination, albeit in the mind of son Rahul, who had seen the assassination of grandmother Indira and father Rajiv, was the real cause of the ‘sacrifice’. This brings to my mind the punch-line of an old advertisement for men’s inner-wear: Yeh andar ki baat.

Soon after being sworn in as P M, Manmohan Singh promptly and loyally appointed a National Advisory Council, headed by – who else – Sonia Gandhi to ‘advise’ the Government on policy-matters. In his recently-published-book, The Accidental Prime Minister, Sanjay Baru, P.M’s Press Advisor during 2004-09, says that Manmohan Singh became the P.M. by ‘accident’. The book describes how real power was wielded by Sonia Gandhi and how an officer of the Indian Administrative Service was assigned the work of carrying all important files to Sonia Gandhi, before any decision was cleared by Manmohan Singh. Natwar Singh’s book confirms this.

What Sanjay Baru and Natwar Singh have written, was widely believed and more or less known in the grapevine of politics at that time. The only new information is the name of the IAS officer who used to carry the files to Sonia. During its first term, UPA was ruling with the support of Communist Party of India (Marxist) -CPM. The CPM was blocking some of UPA’s policy-initiatives. The joke in circulation at that time was that there were 3 PMs: PM Manmohan Singh, CPM and SPM. The last term referred to ‘Super Prime Minister’ Sonia Gandhi.

At a Press Conference, Natwar Singh has revealed that Sonia Gandhi along with daughter Priyanka went to his house, so many years after dumping him, to plead with him not to reveal the real reason for her opting out of becoming PM.

In his book, Natwar Singh has described how Sonia Gandhi evolved from being a diffident, nervous and shy woman to an ambitious, authoritarian and stern leader.

Sonia Gandhi’s displeasure strikes fear among Congressmen and women. She uses silence as a weapon and her every subtle gesture is a message; an icy stare, a warning. It is common knowledge how a stern look from her sends a shiver down the spine of Congressmen and women.

It may be of interest here to recollect that at that time, Sushma Swaraj had declared that she would shave off the hair on her head if Sonia Gandhi, originally an Italian citizen, became the Prime Minister of India. It may be another matter of interest here that only original citizens of U S A can contest for election as President.      

However, Natwar Singh is no saint. In 2005, the Paul Volcker Report on corruption in the UN oil-for food programme for Iraq named Congress Party, Natawar Singh, his son Jagat and Jagat’s acquaintance as “non-contractual beneficiaries” of Iraqi oil sales in 2001. Soon thereafter, Sonia Gandhi dumped Natawar Singh.

Another book relating to the happenings during the Prime Ministership of Manmohan Singh in 2004-09 is forthcoming. It is Not Just an Accountant by Vinod Rai who recently retired as the Comptroller and Auditor General of India. It gives details of how sheer considerations of survival led Manmohan Singh to acquuiesce to decisions which caused huge loss to the country's exchequer.  

The Yuvraj 

Any discussion on Congress Party brings to mind Dynastic Politics. Years ago, when Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister of India, i had come across a cartoon by the famous R K Laxman. In it, Prince Charles of U K and Rajiv Gandhi were seen in conversation. Prince Charles is seen as telling Rajiv Gandhi, “Like you, i shall succeed my mother.”  U K is a hereditary monarchy.

Dynastic politics in India was started by Indira Gandhi. After gaining unbridled control over Congress Party, she groomed her younger son Sanjay to become the P M after her. After his death in an aircraft crash, she pulled the reluctant elder son Rajiv, then an Indian Airlines pilot, into politics and groomed him as her successor.

Jawaharlal Nehru never planned daughter Indira as his successor. During his advancing years, when he was asked whether she would be the P M after him, he replied, “Indu? No. Perhaps, later.”

It was Mayavati, once the Chief Minister of U. P. and the leader of Bahujan Samaj Party, who derisively referred to Rahul Gandhi as ‘Yuvraj’ (the heir apparent). Critics of Congress Party call the Nehru-Gandhi family ‘The Dynasty’ and ‘The Family’. A few years after Indira Gandhi Gandhi brought in Dynastic Politics, a few leaders in States started their own ‘dynasty’. Prominent among them is M. Karunanidhi Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, whose son is now the Deputy C.M. Bal Thackerey’s son Uddhab has succeeded him as head of Shiv Sena. Mulayam Singh’s son Akhilesh has succeeded him. Much before that, Sheikh Abdullah was succeeded by Farooq Abdullah as C.M. of Jammu Kasmir. His son Omar has succeeded him. Biju Pattanaik’s son has become Chief Minister of Odisha. However, Biju Pattanaik never planned this. After his death, his followers brought Naveen into politics. Many Members of Parliament and of State Legislative Assemblies all over India have brought in their wives/children/nephews into politics.

Is Dynastic politics bad? What are its strengths and weaknesses?

In a party led by a dynastic leader, the leader is more secure against defection. There is more stability. However, dynastic parties block new talent. No matter how capable and talented a politician from outside the family is, he/she can never occupy the highest position in the party. The moment a person in a junior rung shows capability, his wings are clipped as the dynastic leader feels threatened. In Congress Party, the top three positions are ‘reserved’. No one else can aspire to take the position of Sonia Gandhi, Rahul or Priyanka.

As Kanchan Chandra, Professor of Politics at New York University says, dynastic MPs and MLAs are more likely to have College Degrees and less likely to have criminal back ground.

It may be argued that in many cases, doctors’ children become doctors and lawyers’ children become lawyers. However, here it must be remembered that there are prescribed and clear qualifications to become a doctor or a lawyer. A doctor or lawyer may help her/his child to acquire these qualifications but family-connection does not substitute these as it is often found in dynastic politics. And, doctors and lawyers do not have followers; they have patients/clients.

My question to the members of Congress Party remains: Can’t the 129-year old party throw up a leader, instead of looking up, to The Family? Does it not pinch the dignity of every Congressman/woman? Do the leaders of the Party, below The Family, not trust each other or will not accept one out of them.


A subsequent revelation by Justice Markandeya Katju brought to public knowledge how Manmohan Singh gave in to pressure of 'coalition politics' to interfere in a judicial appointment. One District Judge had granted bail the DMK supremo Karunanidhi. This Judge was elevated as an Additional Judge in Madras High Court. Justice Katju as then Chief Justice of Madras High Court, wrote to the Chief Justice of India that there were allegations of bribery against this Additional Judge and suggested for an investigation by Intelligence Bureau. The investigation confirmed the charges. The Chief Justice of India recommended not to confirm this Additional Judge, who was thus to be reverted as District Judge. A DMK Minister met Manmohan Singh and told him that if this would be done, DMK would withdraw support and the Manmohan Singh's Govt. would collapse. Manmohan Singh gave in to this threat and wrote to CJI to reverse the recommendation. The CJI gave in to pressure from Govt., the Additional Judge was given an extension and was ultimately confirmed as a Judge of the High Court!