“Savarkar And His Times” by Dhananjay Keer

Firstly, let me make a confession. I really didn’t know as much about Swantraveer Savarkar (Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, 1883-1966) as I ought to. Having lived in Mumbai briefly, I knew of course that the old Cadell Road in Mumbai had been re-named Veer Savarkar Marg. I had no idea he had died just a few years before my time there.

I had heard of course about his long years of imprisonment by the British in the notorious Cellular Jail in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. However, there was much about his life and career that I did not know. Continue reading ““Savarkar And His Times” by Dhananjay Keer”

Tewatia’s Triumphant Turnaround!

To many avid cricket fans like me, Rahul Tewatia was just another name. I knew he was an all rounder of sorts, primarily a left arm spinner who could also hit the ball hard. He had been with different franchisees during varying seasons of the Indian Premier League ( IPL). I remember him with the King’s XI Punjab and the Delhi Daredevils. This year he has gone back to Rajasthan Royals (RR) where he started his IPL career. Yesterday he played the game of his life for them!

Thanks to Mayank Agarwal and K L Rahul, King’s XI Punjab seemed at one stage all set to reach 250. To their credit, the Rajasthan Royals (RR) bowlers pegged them back in the second half of their innings and the Punjabis finished with 223. A very good score considering that most teams who batted first had won matches. Indeed when Steve Smith chose to field on winning the toss, many felt it was a wrong decision by the RR captain- one of several where he was to prove people wrong!

Thanks to Sanju Samson, RR got a good start and were making a fight of the match. Tewatia was sent in to bat at No. 4. Obviously his brief was to hit out and accelerate the scoring. Unfortunately for him the opposite happened. Try as he did he could not get the ball away. Doubt turned to scorn and anger as he crawled to 8 in 19 balls, when the acute need of the hour was to press on-regardless.

They say that the never say die spirit sets some people apart. We saw it in Rahul Tewatia yesterday at Sharjah. His team needed 51 runs to win in 18 balls. In the 18th over of the RR innings, he hammered 5 Sixers off the bowling of the West Indian quick Sheldon Cottrell. This equalled Chris Gayle’s record of the most Sixers in an over! After 17 runs off 23 balls he blasted an astonishing 36 runs off the next 8 balls!! He deserved to stay till the end but he fell in the 19th over but his batting had brought his team to the cusp of victory.

This was an amazing turnaround for the fortunes of RR- and for Tewatia of course. Those who were cursing him a short while ago, now praised him to the skies. Those who criticized his skipper Smith’s decision to send him at No. 4 were now saying that was sheer genius! It proved beyond doubt that there is so much truth in the old adage- one over can change the game.

RR won with three balls to spare and King’s XI suddenly found themselves having lost two of their first three games. Indeed the first game against Delhi Capitals should have been won easily by them. They bothched up the Super Over and now this!

Rahul Tewatia has established himself as an accomplished hitter of the cricket ball. I dare say his fortunes will change for the better thanks to that one over which got him and his team 30 most valuable runs. His team created a IPL record – the highest total chased down – scoring 224 to win the match. The millions watching the match all over the world were treated to some amazing cricket yesterday. In the heat of the battle, West Indian Nicholas Pooran of the King’s XI did some extraordinary fielding which will be remembered for a long, long time! He had scored a duck in the Super Over in the last match!

The low profile Tewatia suddenly finds himself hitting the headlines every where. He will now have to live up to this reputation. I wish him all the best in his future career.

He has shown he is a young man with a depth of fortitude and very high on self-belief.

Indian Premier League (IPL) 2020: Records To Be Broken!

Fingers crossed! If everything goes off well for the next 53 days, we can say that even the pandemic Covid 19 -also called the Wuhan Virus- could not halt the triumphant march of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

The 13 th edition of what is arguably the richest cricket tournament in the world is being played in the UAE this year. From September 19 to November 10, 2020. Being one of those die hard cricket fans, I must have seen most of the matches- on television of course- since the inaugural match at our own Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru way back in 2008.

For the statistically inclined cricket fan , the IPL is a delight. Records are created and records are broken with regularity. Every year the standards of the game go up, especially in the fielding and catching. The batsmen and bowlers too strive to master something new and innovative to beat their opponents.

Today’s blog post is written with the millions of record tracking cricket fans in mind. All data is taken from the IPL website . Let’s see how many of these records will get beaten in this year’s IPL, even without the customary roar of supporting crowds to egg on the players!

With 5412 runs, Virat Kohli, the skipper of the Royal Challengers Bangalore, (which, by the way, is the team I support) is far ahead of the others as the man with the most number of IPL runs under his belt. I don’t see Rohit Sharma go past him this year as he is 500 runs behind. I wonder if anyone will beat Kohli’s record for the most runs in one season- 973 in the 2016 edition with 4 centuries and 7 fifties. The record for the most wickets for a IPL season is held by Dwayne Bravo, who took a staggering 32 wickets in 2013.

I don’t expect the records for sixers to be broken this time around. Chris Gayle has a total of 326 sixers while De Villiers the man next is way behind with 212! Gayle also holds the record of most sixers in an innings (17) with 13 being the next highest. The record for the highest individual innings also belongs to Gayle: 175. I hope someone breaks it this year! I don’t foresee anyone beating Andre Russell’s overall strike rate of 186. Likewise, Chris Morris’s 38 runs in 9 balls to give him the best innings strike rate of 422 will take some beating!!

The fastest 50 record belongs to K L Rahul ( 51 off 14 balls). Some explosive batting like this could well happen this year. Let’s hope so for the sake of the game. Gayle scored the fastest 100 – in 30 balls. I am not sure if anyone will better this in 2020.

In the bowling department, Lasith Malinga’s overall tally of 170 wickets could well be broken this year as he himself is not playing. The best figures for an innings of 6 wickets for 12 runs by Alzarri Joseph is up for the grabs though only two others have ever taken 6 wickets in an innings like him so far in the history of the IPL. Rashid Khan has the best overall economy rate of 6.55 in 45 matches. One record that I wish will be broken is for the most expensive spell ever : 4 overs for 70 runs by Basil Thampi, an average of 17 runs per over!

In the inaugural match of IPL 2020 yesterday, we saw Piyush Chawla don the CSK colors for the first time, after being so used to seeing him for Punjab and KKR . But in the record for playing for most number of franchises, he is far, far behind! You may know that 4 players ( Dinesh Karthik, Parthiv Patel, Ishant Sharma, and Thisara Perera) have played for 6 different franchisees. But “their baap” – as we would say in India – the eternal traveller- has to be Aaron Finch. The Aussie, who has already passed through 7, will be playing for his 8th franchisee when he turns out for RCB this year! I hope he performs better than ever before!!

So let’s get down to the game and hope IPL 2020, despite all the problems, will provide us with some fabulous entertainment!

Remembering Mr Gupta!

A subject that I dreaded in School was Hindi. Perhaps it was more my fault than that of my teachers. To start with I could not understand , for example, why a chair was of the feminine gender and cloth was of the masculine gender. It was not surprising that I struggled all through School!

Mr Ganesh Prasad Gupta, known far and wide as “Gupu” was one of our Hindi teachers at The Lawrence School, Lovedale. He could pack a punch and I write with considerable personal experience in this matter. This was, of course, long before the days when corporal punishment was frowned upon. Masters could- and frequently did- slap us to put some sense in us. Whether they succeeded or not is highly debatable!

For reasons best known to himself, Gupu used the phrase, ” steady slap” as against the more common, “tight slap.” He once asked us to write an essay on ” Urban vs Rural” expecting us to write about the differences in outlook, facilities, economies etc. He was a sticker for exactitude. If he expected 1000 words, by God that’s exactly what he accepted. 999 was not good enough. You had to pass the magical 1000 mark.

I was on 950 words or so and the clock was ticking. We had to hand in our papers soon. To cross the much wanted finish line, from out of the blue, I made the Town Guy say, ( in rudimentary Hindi, of course! ) : ” Hey, look at that guy! ” To which the Village Guy asked, ” Where? Which guy? ” Town guy, ” There, there! ” Village Guy, ” Just look at him, ha ha!! ” Town Guy: ” Yes, look, look, ha, ha ha,” There was more along these lines and the essay finished well past 1000 words.

Over 55 years have gone by but I still remember the walloping I got from Mr Gupta, much to the amusement of my classmates. They howled with laughter when he read out the last few paragraphs to highlight how an essay should NOT be written.

Mr Gupta perhaps prided himself on being a stickler for grammar as he would ( for reasons best known to himself) start with the future tense. ” Bewakoof ladka! You need a steady slap!” This was fair warning for fellows like me as to what was coming in the very near future. He shifted then, more hurriedly, to the present tense, ” I will give you a steady slap now.” That was the signal for me to take a deep breath and brace body and soul for what was imminent. Whack! There came the steady slap! Your head reeled and you could actually count the stars. Then seemingly in the distance you could hear Mr Gupta, as correct as always, summarize recent events with his customary, ” I gave you a steady slap!!!” As if you couldn’t make that out!!!

Sadly, Mr Gupta is no more. Wherever he is, if he could, I am sure he would have a chuckle on reading how his ” steady slap” – if not the Hindi he taught- is remembered even after five and a half decades.

The Keshavanda Bharati Case

I read today about the sad demise of Sri Keshavananda Bharati Swamiji of the Edaneeru Matha, Kasargodu at the age of 79. His name will always be associated with the Supreme Court Judgment of 1973 in what has come to be known as the ‘Keshavananada Bharati Case’ . This case was mentioned to us frequently by Professor K Karunakaran ( who taught us Labour Laws in XLRI in 1972-74) as being a landmark judgement. This led me today to go back decades in time and understand what that case was about.

To recapitulate, in 1960, Sri Keshavananada Bharati Swamiji became the Head of the over 1200 year old Edaneeru Matha in Kasargod. It was founded by Sri Thotakacharya , one of the first four disciples of Sri Adi Sankaracharya. In 1971 or so, the Government of Kerala sought to impose restrictions on the Matha property which led Sri Keshavananada Bharati Swamiji to take the case up to the Supreme Court. He questioned the right of the Government to alter the fundamental rights of the citizens of India.

The case was argued for 68 days before a Full Bench of 13 Judges of the Supreme Court of India. It became the centre of attraction during those times for the principles being argued before the highest Court of the land. The Government of the time ( headed by Prime Minister Smt Indira Gandhi) argued that Parliament was supreme in India and the Government of the day could amend the Constitution if it was for the benefit of the people. The illustrious lawyers Nani Palkhivala, Fali Nariman, and Soli Sorabjee represented the petitioners against the government.

The Supreme Court held by a narrow margin of 7-6 that while admittedly the Parliament had wide powers it did not have the power to alter the basic structure of the Constitution. The judges who upheld Swamiji’s plea were then Chief Justice of India S M Sikri, and Justices K S Hegde, A K Mukherjea, J M Shelat, A N Grover, P Jaganmohan Reddy, and H R Khanna.

In the decades that followed this judgement of 1973 has served to be the cornerstone for determining the ” basic structure” doctrine in constitutional law in India. It covers the supremacy of the Constitution, the independence of the judiciary etc. It was often alleged that Smt Indira Gandhi was very annoyed at the outcome of the case and consequently the judges who ruled against the Government were not given promotions due to them. It is a fact that Chief Justice Sikri retired the day after the verdict, and the Government appointed Justice A M Ray in his place. He superseded Justices Shelat, Grover, and Hegde who had ruled against the Government in the process.

While the residents of Kasargod will for long remember Sri Keshavananada Bharati Swamiji for all the good work he did for the Edaneeru Matha, students of law, politics and the Constitution, all over India will never forget him for this landmark case, settled 47 years ago.

Om Shanti, Shraddhanjali to Srimath Swamiji.

Farewell, Shyamgaru

In 1972, I reached the famous Xavier Labour Relations Institute (XLRI), Jamshedpur having been selected for their Post Graduate Honors Diploma in Personnel Management & Industrial Relations. On the first day in campus, a well-built, handsome, bearded guy walked up to me and asked after the preliminaries in Bengali, “Are you related to Shobir Sengupta?” I replied that I hadn’t even heard of Shobir Sengupta. He said I looked so much like him that he thought I might be his brother. Once it was established that I clearly was not and that my smattering of Bengali ended with “hello”, “good bye” and “I love you”, we switched to English. We chatted for a long time. This guy, as it turned out, was to be my classmate but he wasn’t staying in the hostel like most of us. He was a local Jamshedpur boy and his name was M. Shyamsundar Rau.

Our close friendship of over 48 years sadly came to an end on August 19, 2020. Shyam or ” Shotgun” as we called him (because of his resemblance to the star of those days another Bihari Babu, Shatrughan Sinha) passed away aged 70 in Vizag due to the Covid 19.

The large number of condolence messages that poured in to his family bear testimony to his character. If ever there was a true friend- it was Shyam. He was always caring about his friends, always enquiring about their families and circumstances. Whenever it was required he was there to help. I am not at all surprised to see that he is missed by ever so many professional colleagues, friends, and well-wishers. Before networking as we now know the term became an essential social skill, Shyamgaru was good at it. He had the knack of reaching across to a wide spectrum of society. The many languages he knew came in handy for this facet of his personality.

For most of us Jamshedpur was a new place. We had a large number of fellows from the South, many venturing to these parts for the first time. There were many from Delhi and the North too. We soon realized that the student culture in Jamshedpur had several nuances. Under the veneer of cosmopolitan existence, there was an under current of local Bihari versus the outsider. Our Institute culture, at least in those days, encouraged us to be within the campus most of the time and not get involved with the local students. Despite this, there were the inevitable fights. Shyam armed with his handy hockey stick rescued some of our more adventurous but foolish guys from getting badly beaten up on several occasions.

Shyam helped many to settle down amidst these alien surroundings. He was the last word on what was available where. In the first few days he took us out to what became our frequent haunts. He also became the de facto local guide/ security consultant for the girls in our class.

He was full of life, and always laughing. We used to kid him about his craze for the Hindi movies in the old days. He was one of those ” First Day First Show” types. If it was a Dev Anand movie he simply had to be there on the first day for the first show! We remember him kitted out for the movie ( and a brawl, if required) in his jeans, t shirt and keds.

Not surprisingly as he came from a family that had served Tata Steel (or TISCO as it was then called) for generations, he joined the company when we graduated from XLRI in 1974. He was initially assigned to their Coal Mines in Naomandi. Over the decades he had professional stints in Warner Hindustan, Smith Kline Beecham, and DCM. He was a popular figure in the HRM/PM circuit- always active in professional bodies such as NIPM, NHRDN, and ISTD.

I was happy to know that at a fairly advanced age, he did his Ph.D earning the right to be called Dr M S Rau. His last assignment was in the capacity of Executive Director of the Indian Society for Training & Development ( ISTD).

We were happy that he decided to stay with his son, who is employed in an IT company here in Bengaluru. We used to meet once in a few months and talk nostalgically of the good old days. When we hosted our XLRI Class of ’74 gathering in our house in September 2019, my wife and I never imagined that it would be our last time seeing him.

He went to Vizag to visit his daughter and then the Covid pandemic set in confining him there for the last few months. We heard he was hospitalized for a week and was in the ICU. He seemed to be recovering but perhaps had a relapse and the end came on August 19, 2020.

Shyamgaru, we your old friends over the decades will miss you a lot. As you may have preferred, I end this tribute with a few lines sung by Kishore Kumar : ” Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna” !

“Glimpses of a Glorious Past”: Revised Links

The first mention of “Glimpses of a Glorious Past: An Informal History of The Lawrence School, Lovedale” was made in this blog on June 10, 2017. This was a writing/editing project I was deeply involved in as The Lawrence School, Lovedale has a place deep in my heart. I studied there for nine years from 1959 to 1967.

The book covers a period of 150 years in the history of the School from the time it was founded in 1858 till it completed 150 years in 2008. It was officially released during Founder’s in May 2017 by then OLA President, Rukhmini Reddy Krishnan. Since then it resides in the website of The Old Lawrencians Association (OLA).

Recently we updated the short URLs for the various volumes that make up the book. Here are these short URLs:-

1. Book 1 (1858-1907)             https://bit.ly/3kQZV06

2. Book 2 ( 1908-1958)              https://bit.ly/3kVJkbQ

3. Book 3 ( 1959-2008 ) Part I     https://bit.ly/3fXpMju

4. Book 3 ( 1959-2008) Part II     https://bit.ly/3kVJkbQ

5. Book 3 ( 1959-2008) Part III.    https://bit.ly/2PV6YXA

We opted for the web-based mode so that it is more easy and cost effective to edit, and update. Besides, you the reader can dip in and read as few or many pages as you wish- at your leisure, any time of the day or night, anywhere in the world, on any device!

Our thanks go out to Kartik Raghava Murty ’84 for all his help on the OLA website.

The Glimpses team was made up of : Joseph Thomas, ’57; , Beena Belliappa ’70; Nitya Cherian Matthai ’77; Thomas George ( Teaches at LSL) & your’s truly : Prem Rao ’67.

Vanakkam, Ms Harris

The United States of America, the world’s most powerful nation, goes to the polls in November 2020. Naturally speculations run high- despite the Covid 19 or Wuhan Virus pandemic that is raging around the world- whether the Democrats can wrest power from the sitting President. In 2016, Donald Trump had beaten Hillary Clinton to win the Presidency for the Republicans. Going by his recent speeches, he seems confident of being re-elected later this year. Continue reading “Vanakkam, Ms Harris”

French Biriyani

If you want to see parts of Bengaluru which you don’t ordinarily see in the movies, you must watch the recently released Kannada movie, ” French Biriyani.” The lockdown has had the side effect of us seeing more movies than we have seen in long! So, while fishing around for an interesting movie, I chanced upon this absorbing title. I wondered what on earth could have made the French and Biriyani come together in a Kannada movie! Continue reading “French Biriyani”

Churchill: A Reassessment!

In 1970, I was 19 and had many heroes. Over twenty years had passed since the end of the Second World War and the Independence of  India but the legacy of 89 years under the British Crown was strong in my country.

Being an avid reader of military history from my childhood, naturally many of my heroes were of the victorious British forces during the Second World War. Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader, Wing Commander Guy Gibson VC, Field Marshal Lord Slim, Group Captain Sir Leonard Cheshire VC, Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding are some names that come readily to mind.  One also admired the simplicity and dedication to duty shown by King George VI during the war years. But all these names, the King Emperor included, were overshadowed in published literature by one man: Sir Winston Churchill, (1974-1965)  the war time Prime Minister of Britain from 1940-45 and again from 1951-55. Continue reading “Churchill: A Reassessment!”

What’s In A Name- Part II

In my last post, I had written about a few amusing incidents that came to my mind involving names of people. Here, are a few more!

In some organisations, people are called, not by their names but by their initials! In one such organization, in those days, addressing people as AHP, DAP, PSP, DKR etc was the norm. For many years, people knew me as BPR. They  knew my surname was Rao but I am sure most didn’t have a clue what P stood for in my name, leave alone the B. We once interviewed a candidate called B.R. Acharya. He wasn’t selected, which perhaps was a good thing for him as you know what he would have been called had he joined!!

My Dad’s name was abbreviated to B A Rao when he joined Burmah Shell in the old days.    His friends called him “Bar” which was quite appropriate considering he was fond of a drink. This reminds me of his saying often that amongst his friends were a Daruwala, a Batliwala and – you may not believe this- a Sodabottleopenerwala!! These gentlemen, as you would have guessed, were from the Parsi community. It was common, amongst the Parsis, to have names that reflected the business or profession they traditionally were in.

Sometimes, even abbreviated names are further abbreviated. A case in point was a Tata Steel executive who was a guest faculty at XLRI, Jamshedpur when we were students there. His name was AVLRN Murthy, so naturally he was called, “A to Z Murthy”. Later I came to know that even this paled in front of another such name : AVSRKN Murty.

I have noticed that people spell “Rao” in various ways. In previous generations, relatives in the prestigious Indian Civil Service (ICS) chose “Rau.” An opening batsmen for England with Indian origins during my childhood was Raman Subba Row. This, I felt was misleading as “Row” could be pronounced as in ” row” a boat. It could also be -as in an argument ended in a ” row.”!

While abroad, I have found the rhyming method generally works well. People are prone to pronounce Prem to rhyme with “gem” . I have learnt to say, “Prem rhymes with “game” which makes it more easily understandable. Likewise , rhyming Rao with ” Wow!” also does the trick!! So ” Prem Rao” is like ” Game Wow” !!

My name almost made me miss an important flight while traveling in the US. At Chicago airport while waiting for a connecting flight, the lady called out, “Mr Ray-o” several times. I ignored the announcement because I never imagined she was calling me! It was only when she said, ” This is the last call for Mr Prem Ray-o and Mrs Sho-ban-a Ray-o” that I told my wife, ” That’s us! Let’s go!!”. We ran to her boarding pass in hand. The name was new to me but I was told that Rayo was a common enough Spanish name! 

So as you can see, when Shakespeare asked , ” What’s in a name?” there really is so much  behind a name.