Monday, April 30, 2012

Interview with Jampala Chowdary
Jampala Chowdary,one of the stalwarts in Telugu Internet world interview in Andhra Jyothi. Jampala has also contributed much to social work and welfare through TANA, from educational scholarships, health clinics, to encouragement of folk dances. These are not mentioned in the interview which is more about his background and contributions to organizational work about Telugu literature. Known to be a good organizer, established psychiatrist and teacher and much admired for his contributions to Telugu world. He has also contributed to social work in USA through many organizations. In fact a global citizen.
P.S. An earlier interview with Jampala Chowdary

Sunday, April 29, 2012


After seeing reports like this: In praise of … Unctad and In Defence of UNCTAD it is good to see UNCTAD Meeting Overcomes Serious Disagreements apparently with some support from the Brics: Five BRICS chalenge the Neoliberal North. The Doha Mandate and other related documents here and press releases here P.S. There seems to be some prevailing paradigms and alternative views such as those expressed by UNCTAD do not seem to get mention in many of the main stream blogs or news channels. So far, I have noticed mentions of UNCTAD mainly in The Guardian, Financial Times, and

Saturday, April 28, 2012

How Usha Kiron fell in love with her husband after marriage

From Usha Kiron-Memories (
"My husband is a man with no complexes whatsoever. When I was expecting my first child, Amiya Chakraborty died. That was the only time I ever brought up the subject with my husband after we were married. I asked his permission to go to Amiya’s funeral. My husband was most understanding and insisted that I do the same. That is the only time I ever stepped into Amiya’s house, after I had promised his wife about not meeting him."
It also has the story  of  interaction with Uday Shankar and also her daughter's impressions.
Another excerpt:
"Once in Madras however, catastrophe took place. I was thrown out of the film and sent packing back to Bombay. It was just a misunderstanding, coupled with Udayji’s mercurial temperament and my militant naivette. For a dance sequence, I had to wear a transparent Manipuri costume. Since I was conscious of it, I wore a white slip underneath. Mrs. Uday Shankar asked me to remove it for the shot, since it would have looked very awkward. I didn’t pay heed to it. So later, Udayji noticed it and bellowed at his wife for not taking care of the costumes. She in turn screamed at me. After that incident, I used to hang around the set with a permanent sulky expression. This used to get on Udayji’s nerves and one day he bellowed once again. ‘Don’t you know how to smile?’ I in turn, replied hotly, ‘No! You teach me how to smile! ‘ And that was the end. In retrospect, I would still credit him with shaping my inherent talent, more than any one else. He is an education in acting and dancing for any actress."
Minai has good news about Yday Shankar's Kalpana

Here is a video song from Patita

Friday, April 27, 2012

Neo-liberalism to neo-extractivism

Dani Rodrik in Ideas over Interests:

"The most widely held theory of politics is also the simplest: the powerful get what they want. Financial regulation is driven by the interests of banks, health policy by the interests of insurance companies, and tax policy by the interests of the rich. Those who can influence government the most – through their control of resources, information, access, or sheer threat of violence – eventually get their way.

It’s the same globally. Foreign policy is determined, it is said, first and foremost by national interests – not affinities with other nations or concern for the global community. International agreements are impossible unless they are aligned with the interests of the United States and, increasingly, other rising major powers. In authoritarian regimes, policies are the direct expression of the interests of the ruler and his cronies.

It is a compelling narrative, one with which we can readily explain how politics so often generates perverse outcomes. Whether in democracies, dictatorships, or in the international arena, those outcomes reflect the ability of narrow, special interests to achieve results that harm the majority."

Dani Rodrik finds this in complete and misleading and suggests that
"It was economists and their ideas that made it respectable for policymakers and regulators to believe that what is good for Wall Street is good for Main Street.
Economists love theories that place organized special interests at the root of all political evil. In the real world, they cannot wriggle so easily out of responsibility for the bad ideas that they have so often spawned. With influence must come accountability."

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tyler Cowen asks for references on education in developing countries

Tyler Cowen's post
There are lot of links in the comments. My two cents. I wonder whether education in developing countries can be disassociated with education in America and Americal influence particularly through foundations. There is an old book of Edward Breman which discusses this; relavent parts from the book here:
There is a more recent paper by Jayant Krishnan which discusses the American influence on Indian legal education:
There is also an article by David Warsh on the influence of foundations in American business education

Monday, April 23, 2012

Similar songs, different singers

Two Songs - Jayasimha (1955) (Telugu) - Jai Singh (1959) (Hindi) from YouTube

(trying the new format)

Mamta cartoons

Monday, April 16, 2012

Saadat Hasan Manto is the gold standard of South Asian fiction

according to Daisy Rockwell in an article about another writer. Tributes by Tariq Ali: Remembering Saadat Hasan Manto and write up with links to some of his writings
Remembering Saadat Hasan Manto
Here are translations of some of his writings
Khol Do
Thanda Gosht
The Dog of Tetwal
The assignment
Mera Sahib
Ten Rupees and Mozelle
From this artcle by Manto about Ismat Chughtai, it seems that Manto was not a diplomatic person. He writes to his wife:
"I met Ismat. You will be surprised to know that as a woman she is exactly like you. I am bitterly disappointed."
An artcle about his alcoholism,
An article about his characterization of an Anglo-Indian woman.
A traveller meets two taxi drivers who knew TOBA TEK SINGH in New York city .
His one time teacher Faiz Ahmed Faiz thought "Manto was not a great artist but he was honest, talented and straightforward.”. For me the gold standard of south Asian fiction is still Sarat Chandra Chatterjee's "Mahesh". P.S. More articles at Viewpoint From the first I learn that there is a lane in Delhi named after Manto.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Some impressions

Now that I have spent about 40 days in India, and off and on spent some some time with local NGOs, I have been getting requests from friends in USA and elsewhere about my impressions and how to organize some help for the poor in India. Unfortunately I really do not know. I spent most of the time in Andhra with middle class friends, and rest of the time visiting the mathematics department of Vivekananda University, Belur Math. I also spent three days in New Delhi talking to Shekhar Singh about RTI and sustainable development and a day in the Narendrapur branch of RK mission trying to understand their work on rural development.

From what I can see, RK mission work is impressive (I am basically an atheist and my main interest is in the mathematics department of Vivekanda University. The work of RK mission in rural developmement, I came to know only during my stay there three years ago through a visitor). From what I could gather, this work started over sixty years ago when a monk sheltered a few young people during the Bengal famine. In return he asked them to help the neighbouring weaver community and slowly the involvement with neighbours srarted. They moved from North Kolkata to Narendrapur and started working with nearby villages taking advantage of the youth clubs in villages to train villagers in agricultural technology. This slowly led to the development of teaching and research departments and an agricultural centre now supported by the government. There are around thirteen units in the Narendrapur centre from a school for the blind to Ayurvedic and Allopathic treatment centres to gardens of medicinal planta to schools to about four units involved in rural development of over two hundred villages. This is all very impressionistic; some more details can be found at Ramakrishna Mission Ashram, Narendrapur. In any case my impression is that some of the work of the mission started in a similar fashion. Some dedicated monk had a passion to do some sort of work. For example one became a monk after seeing his father beat up his mother and wanted to help women. His efforts resulted in Ramakrishna Mission Shishumangal Pratishthan. It seems to start with a combination of a nucleus of need, a dedicated monk with a passion for that work, and also the support of the mission and the community. I found that when I was walking with monks there seemed natural respect and admiration for the people who have given up normal pleasures of life to serve others and even shopkeepers were selling things cheaper to me. It is clear that RK mission is doing great work but it is not clear how it can be reproduced. Unfortunately, the the number of monks seems to stay around 1200 and they do not open new centres without 3-4 dedicated monks.

Then I also visited a couple of small local organizations in AP who have been doing social work for a few years and to whom I have been trying to organize funds on a small scale off and on. One of them T.Aruna in Ongole, a Kamma lady married to a Brahmin and has been involved in various activities with her husband's support for nearly 25 years. Whereas RK mission scrupulously keeps away from politics, Aruna first went along with communists and then with Telugudesam of which she may still be a member. My impression is that she helped a lot of poor women to organize self help groups, got land from the government for several poor, and in addition runs two different centre for the old and women in need with overment funding. The funding seems to come late sometimes 2-3 years late and meanwhile she borrows money to run the centres and seems to have lost all her property in the process. We helped to organize operations for two women in the short stay home. With funding from abroad, there is generally insistence on bills, accounts etc and it is not clear how these can be organized well in India. This accounting requirements seem to be an unnecessary distraction and in two cases I saw that volunteers could not cope with it and asked us to take the money back. Perhaps when reliable people are found, accouting requirements can be loosened. In RK mission, I found that sometines retired people help to keep accounts and there is only accountant for the whole Vivekanda University.

Perhaps the highlight of the trip is chating with Shekhar Singh who oozes aptimism and is justifiably proud of what RTI is beginning to do and now with the help of social audit. Rahul Banerjee whose "Recovering the Lost Tongue" ended in a somewhat pessimistic note now says that they won a few cases using RTI and feels more optimistic. Somehow the bureaucrats let RTI slip through, perhaps they did not take the new NAC seriously, and have not been able to dilute it so far. Moreover, like in any other group, there seem to be several well meaning bureaucrats and the challenge seems to be to organize these various cohesive groups which can work at least locally.

Those are my rough and somewhat incoherent impressions.

P.S. Shekhar Singh is a friend since 1977. Aruna is the sister in a law of a friend I knew from 1957. Mahan Mitra/Maharaj of Vivekananda University, Belur Math and I have common research interests; we colloborated in 2009, I know him from his work since 1996 and met me first in 2005.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Voice

For Telugus of my vintage, perhaps from the coatal districts of Andhra, this is still the voice:
Laila Majnu - Payanamaye priyatama
A unusual dance by Lalita and Padmini from the same film:
Laila Majnu - O Sarasuda

An excellent book about Uday Shankar

After reading posts about Uday Shankar dances like In Search of Uday Shankar’s Kalpana (1948) and A Documentary on Simkie, Uday Shankar's Dance Partner I started browsing through the internet about Uday Shankar and read this excellent book of Mohan Khokar mentioned by Minai (the link contains a list of books about Uday Shankar):
His Dance, His Life: A Portrait of Uday Shankar
It eulogizes Uday Shankar but does not hide his weaknesses. The author seems to have spent a lot of time with Uday Shankar during the last years of Uday Shankar's life and had about ten hours of tape recorded conversations with him. Though Uday Shankar started as a painter, dance seems to be a part of his life since childhood. The first influence was a 'chamar' dancer Mata Din whose movements he began to imitate much to the delight of his mother who had no daughters. " His mother more than anybody else encouraged him as a dancer, though both then knew nothing of what dance was." This was in the village of Nasrathpur before Uday Shankar was fourteen. By 1930, he was quite famous and when he visited Nasrathpur again ".. Shankar went to see Mata Din, whose dancing inspired him in childhood. He fell straight at his feet'. Somehow without much knowledge of classical indian dances but with memories of Indian paintings and sculptures and with his painter's eye he seems to have internalized dancing. According to Beryl de Zoete, who saw him in 1931:
"When Shankar 'took up' dancing he did not appear as an exponent of one of the traditional schools, but as a choreographer, free to choose what elements he needed from either. His knowledge of Indian dancing was at that time very slight, but he had a real gift for composition and capacity for assimilating style which reminds one of Massine. The magnificient dance poses of the Indian sculptures also played a large part in his education. It was Kathakali, the great dance drama of Malabar, which chiefly attracted him, and he was the first to attempt a transcription of some of its extraordinary techniques and make up, for the Europeah stage. More important still, he caught something of its spirit. I had never before moved quite in this way by dancing before. The dancer did not appeal to the audience, seemed indeed to be unconscious of its presence. Yet his face is not inexpressive, on the contrary it seemed much more varied and striking in its means of expression.But the expression corresponded to another state of being, it was directed inwards, not offering itself to the spectator with the desire to please or surprise. The remoteness of the art, commuting with iyself, as it were, was something new and strangely attractive."

This quote is on page 64 of Khokar's book. The last points were made again by Uday Shankar in the lasr interviews described on pages 165-166:
"It was like something possessed me. I forgot myself. I was no more Uday Shankar. And I forgot I was dancing to the public and I had no concern of how the public was taking me. No such thought came to me. I just went through my paces with complete enchantment."
The book is full of reactions and reviews by contemporaries who saw the dances and the author does not impose his views even though he seems more symapathetic to traditional Indian dances. There are stories of the decline and bitterness and indications that 'Kalpana' may be an uneven film. In fact F. Hall says in 'Honoring Uday Shankar' that only a couple of the dances are excellent. The author wrote two more books, one called "Traditions of Indian Dance" where the last chapter on 'The Free Dance' Has some material on Uday Shankar. There is another on folk dances of India which I have not seen yet. Unfortunately all seems out of print. But the author's son seems to be an influential dance critic and I hope that these excellent books will be reprinted though he says (
"Today, if you are looking for a book on dance, you are likely to be directed to the gardening or hobbies section. No publisher wants to print a book on dance unless there's a known name involved. And when they do, the books cost a fortune."
P.S. There is very little about Simkie, Uday Shankar's most vibrant partner in the book though her name is mentioned several times. Elsewhere, Ravi Shankar remembers his brother's art most from 1030-38 when Simkie was partnering him. In the video posted by Minai, Amalahankar thinks her dancing was nothing compared to simkie's. Some of the details from the book which have not seen before are:
Jlly 21, 1941: Simkie fell suddenly sick... appendicitis.
September 1, 1941: Simkie was successfully operated upon for appendicitis in King George 5 hospital, Lucknow.
And Weddings
March 15, 1941: Ravi Shankar with Annapurna Devi
March 8, 1942: Uday Shankar with Amala
August 4, 1942: Prabhat Kumar Ganguli with Simkie
and this heartbreaking passage on page 156:
"In a mere five years, beginning in 1942, the parting of ways was complete. Simkie gave up performing altogether and tried for a while to direct dance in Bombay films. This discouraged her further. She then joined the External services of All India Radio. This,too, was not for very long. Finally she left India, demoralized and hurt, never to return to this country. She has since preferred to keep religiously away from anything connected with the Shankar cult."

Monday, April 09, 2012

Right to Informatiom

Governments do not seem to like RTI acts:Blair regrets passing freedom of information law. In today's Age Reform on FOI bogs down :
"FEDERAL freedom of information reforms have stalled, with government spending on high-performance shredding machines easily outstripping funding for public servants to handle requests for information."
Compared to this, from Shekhar Singh's articleThe Genesis and Evolution of the Right to Information Regime in India
"Both studies came to the conclusion that awareness about the RTI Act was still very low, especially among rural populations and among women. Fortunately, surveys done in rural areas as a part of the People’s Assessment estimated that in the first two and a half years of the RTI Act (Oct 2005 to March 2008) there were an estimated two million RTI applications filed across the country, of which an estimated 400,000 RTI applications were filed from the rural areas, belying the impression that only the educated urban people used the RTI Act."
The article of Shekhar Singh is from
In addition India also has a number of Social Audit activists, apparently in states like Andhra Pradesh to monitor the progress of various government programs partly using RTI.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Ohoho pavurama

Prompted by this post A Girl and Her Bird(s) in 'Dances on the Footpath', I stated listening again to Bhanumati's Ohoho Pavuramaa in Swargaseema. More songs from the film are in Sakhi Yaa post
Swarga Seema 1945 స్వర్గ సీమ.
Much more about Bhanumati is in several posts at Dhool com ippadiyum oru peN - A Hundred Songs of Bhanumathi including the story of her re-entry into films and about this particular song in the post SOTD #807:A Hundred Songs of Bhanumathi- Part I.
Along the way came this early documentary (Marcus Barley connection) CHILDREN OF THE JUNGLE and several other documentaries from the colonial times.

Glenn Davis Stone on BT cotton

I have been following Stone's writings for a few years (links to some of his work here and here. See also missed the recent posts in his blog due to a trip to India. Here is a recent post:
Bt Cotton, Remarkable Success, and Four Ugly Facts .

He also discusses BT brinjal controversy in the post Decide for Yourself in view of Manmohan Singh's remarks in February “Biotechnology has enormous potential and, in due course of time, we must make use of genetic engineering technologies to increase the productivity of our agriculture. But there are controversies. There are NGOs (non-governmental organizations), often funded from the United States and the Scandinavian countries, which are not fully appreciative of the development challenges that our country faces.”.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Vivekananda University again

For the second time, I spent a month visiting the mathematics department of the Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda University,Belur Math. There are branches located at various places including Narendrapur and Coimbatore. Last time was in 2009 and a new building is coming up which should be ready in an year. At the moment, the classes, offices, library, teaching monks of the university, visitors etc are all housed in one building which is quite comfortable. Unlike many other gated communities and institutions that I visited, the number of workers is very small. There are two gardeners who are helped by a monk, three to four cleaners who are well dressed and equipped with masks etc while dusting and cleaning, three to four help with cooking and serving and a couple of drivers. Total numbers are not clear since some of them seem to do multiple duties; one of the drivers helps with serving food to visitors. There is a dining room and common room for snacks and coffee which is shared by monks, teachers, visitors and workers. There are no dhobis visiting the place; one can wash one's clothes or use the washing machine. It is a pleasant change from other places where one sees armies of workers in the morning and sometimes for the rest of the day.
At the moment there are only three teachers in the department headed by Mahan Mitra/Maharaj but faculty from other places like ISI help with the teaching. Mahan won Bhatnagar prize last year and Kingshook Biswas the Young Scientist award and they have already produced a few Ph.D's, latest being Pranab Sardar. Now one of the funding agencies granted ten positions for Mathematics and Theoretical Physics and since Mahan is a monk that should give about six teaching positions to the mathematics dept. There is another windfall; one retired mathematician Lakshmikantam (taught in Hyderabad and later in USA) contributed his life savings of about two crore rupees and the interest on that should give one position each to the two departments in the general area of dynamical systems. The department has also started weekly expository lectures to college students so as to attract more to graduate studies. I mainly focussed on completing a small notes on algebraic topology which should be ready in a few months and which I plan to put in the expositions section of the departmental websisite.

Like last time, my impression is that RK Mission is in to service and not religion. I actually saw a moslem monk and also christian monks in the mission. I took the opportunity to visit Ramakrishna Mission Ashram, Narendrapur,
mainly to get some idea of their rural development activities. More about these later.
P.S. There was one practice that I did not apprecate. All the cows in the University centre of Belur Math are in one shed and are not taken to graze, though there seems to be plenty of land belonging to the mission nearby. But they do play music to the cows.