Kashmiri Pandits Still Await Justice

January 19, 1990 may be just another date for you and me. However, for the thousands of Kashmir Pandits who had to flee their homeland leaving behind everything, this date will never ever be forgotten.

Today, on January 19, 2022, if we look back at that tragedy, it is fair to say that the Kashmiri Pandits still await justice. A short recapitulation of events that took place in the Muslim-dominated State which was then called Jammu & Kashmir is given in my blog post of January 22, 2020 titled, ” How Kashmiri Pandits Lost Their Azaadi”.

Today, I saw so many tweets from displaced Kashmiri Pandits that are touching. “32 Years and counting. Our genocide is forgotten” says India 4 Kashmir; ‘Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. What About Our Human Rights? ” asks Gita S Kapoor; ” Shameful that even after all these years, the wiping out of a community from our own land is Not recognised as a Genocide, as an act of Civilizational Terrorism. Justice Delayed is Justice Denied” tweets Rati Hegde; . These are but a few of the many tweets expressing anguish that not much has happened to bring those responsible for such targeted human suffering to book.

Shedding blood on religious lines is not new to India as our country was born with this as the gory backdrop. I suggest you read my review of ” The Holocaust of Indian Partition: An Inquest” by Madhav Godbole. for perspective of those far away days. The British were in hurry to leave India, and our politicians were in a hurry to grab power. No one imagined the short term consequences and the enormous cost in terms of human suffering.

After the gruesome murders and carnage that took place during the Partition of India, two events stay in the memory as blots in our “secular” society- the first was the Sikh Massacre in 1984 often toned down to be called Anti-Sikh Riots!! Do read my review of books on this subject elsewhere in this blog. One of them needs particular mention, ” When A Tree Shook Delhi” by Phoolka and Mitta

The second was the Massacre of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990. A book worth reading is Rahul Pandita’s, ” Our Moon Had Blood Clots” published in 2013 which captures his memories of fleeing Kashmir as a 14 year old in 1990. No one knows the true figures but certainly hundreds of Kashmiri Pandits and their family members were raped, killed, or brutally injured when they- over 350,000 of them- were terrorized in leaving their home by pro- Islamic mobs. Why the then Prime Minster, V P Singh did not call out the Indian Army to bring about peace in Kashmir is anybody’s guess. Perhaps he hesitated because he himself had been elected to power only a month or so ago, and did not want to rock the boat of a fragile coalition which he ran.

How the story of the Kashmiri Pandits will end is anybody’s guess. It is astonishing that for far lesser crimes, thousands all over the world -especially certain NGOs -scream about the abuse of Human Rights and Democratic Values. For the hapless Kashmiri Pandits, sadly, there hasn’t been a whisper from them- just a frosty silence. Strange are the ways of our democracies in recognizing and addressing human suffering.

Aiyyo Shraddha

Have you come across Nandini Rao, teacher in Bul Bul Vidya Mandir? Or, Reena Dalal, India’s biggest Makaan Matcher? You will recognize her as the same lady who speaks on National Doctor’s Day, On Goal Setting, On Adoption of Stray Dogs, and on HR practices with equal flair and aplomb. She is none other than Aiyyo Shraddha, who has 1.55 lakh subscribers for her YouTube channel, 20k followers on Twitter, 352,000 followers on Instagram, and 318,000 followers on Facebook!!

Shraddha, is for me, one of India’s best entertainers on view at present. In a world of stand up comedy, where it is considered fashionable in some circles, to have vulgar language, with a lot of f’s and b’s and other expletives thrown in for good measure, she stands apart for her clean- yet remarkable funny shows.

Her shows are what in the old days used to be described as “family” shows. This means -from the grinning 8 year old to the gurgling 80 year old- all can understand and appreciate her wit and humor. Her themes are based on current goings on and naturally topics like Covid, work from home, and all that is going on around us feature in one form or another.

Shraddha, I understand, is a girl from Mangaluru who grew up in Mumbai- hence the mastery over Marathi shown from time to time in her shows. She is equally adept at English, Kannada, Tulu, and Hindi. This is a useful part of her armory, where she can adapt to different roles. Talking of which she plays several roles in the same episode. In a popular series, she is a young lady herself, besides being both her mother and her father!

Like in most middle-class Indian families, her parents too encouraged to do well in academics. Predictably, like many of her background, she completed her engineering and worked for a few years in the IT industry. She then realized that her true calling was in entertainment. She was a RJ in a popular Kannada channel Fever 104FM for nine years. I think the creative resume she sent was one of the best I have ever seen.

Later she became a host/anchor in Colors Kannada and later head of non-fiction content there. She is now on her own, producing , directing, filming and acting out her content on different social media channels. She also played the role of the fiesty landlady of a Women’s PG in Bengaluru in the Amazon Prime hit film, “Pushpavalli”.

In case you haven’t seen her shows yet, do check them out. I am sure those expressive eyes and knock out punch lines will draw you back to her shows, as they do for me.

“Glimpses….” Grows As A Blog & Separate Show

As many of my readers know, I spent the most part of 2015-16 and the first part of 2017 working on a writing project involving my Alma Mater, The Lawrence School, Lovedale (estd. 1858). Elsewhere in this blog, you will find several blog posts about the “Glimpses” writing project.

A team of Old Lawrencians contributed towards “Glimpses Of A Glorious Past: An Informal History of The Lawrence School, Lovedale” in May 2017. The ebook was launched by the President of the Old Lawrencians Association (OLA) Rukhmini Krishnan Reddy during the annual Founder’s celebrations.

‘Glimpses….” then made an appearance for the first time in the OL Assembly- 7 on November 14, 2020. The OL Assembly is a virtual show aired on the second Saturday of every month. It has elements of entertainment, history (by way of a segment on “Glimpses…”) and a popular quiz, called QuizDale. In the November 2020 episode of the OL Assembly, we covered the origins of the “Glimpses….’ Project and how it took shape, culminating in the release of the ebook, which was, over time, published in 3 volumes: Book 1 covering the period from 1858 to 1908; Book 2 from 1908 to 1958, and Book 3 from 1958 to 2008.

Recently, it was decided to delink “Glimpses…” and some other segments from the OL Assembly and launch them as separate shows on their own. I am delighted to say that the first show of “Glimpses….”, as a show on its own, was broadcast on October 16, 2021 on the YouTube and Facebook channels of the Old Lawrencians Association.

It was also decided to set up a blog to complement ‘Glimpses…” and this was done in October 2021, simultaneously with the new show. This blog will have blog posts about important and interesting events and people featured in the book.

We expect these two new avenues of communication will increase the engagement with the Old Lawrencian community. We also expect these will enhance their love for their old School and its heritage of over 160 years.

Your Website Reflects You

The Covid 19 pandemic has brought about sweeping changes in our lives, many of which we wouldn’t have thought possible even five years ago. The use of the internet both for work and for leisure has increased so dramatically over the last few years that people are now talking of “digital wellness.”! Some popular social media sites, like Facebook for example, and makers of devices, like Apple, for example are providing you with the means to bring an abrupt end to your browsing if you exceed laid down limits of time!

In December 1995, only 16 million people or 0.4 % of the world’s population used the internet. In March 2021, this figure had shot up to 5,168 million or 65.6 % of the world’s population, says an article in The Global Village Online.

With such huge growth, one can imagine the competition you, as a business or indeed any organization with a digital presence, face to attract and hold the attention of internet users. The amount of work they do online – and the staggering work hours- is now forcing people in many countries to cut down on their discretionary time online.

So, your website has to be capable of grabbing and holding that attention, which is fleeting, at best . The experience at your website will determine whether or not the person will come back! He/she has so much choice these days, that they would simply go elsewhere for their needs.

Some of the main factors that users value in a website are :_

  1. Ease of use. Can they navigate easily? Is the site too cluttered with so much information and so many options that it is confusing and complex? Many cite the example of Amazon being a site that is considered easy to use, despite the plethora of choices.
  2. It Should Work! Very basic, but frequently we see websites that have links that don’t work, information that is woefully outdated, and an overall feel of being sloppy. Such websites are probably doing more harm than good to the interests of that organization.
  3. Both Attractive and Functional: yes, it has to look good and at the same time work like, to use an old world phrase, a “well- oiled machine”. After all, it represents your business. It is often the first interface with the customer/potential customer. At times, designers in their attempt to dazzle the visitor to the site load so many widgets and jazz on to the page that it becomes sluggish and takes ages to load. No one has that kind of time to wait, these days!
  4. Mobile Friendly: this wasn’t a big consideration when we entered the internet age, but now it has become one of the most important features. The reason is that more people use mobile phones to access the internet than ever before.
  5. The Four Second Test: read this article in Forbes which is indeed an eye-opener. With rapidly decreasing attention spans – an average of 8 seconds for millennials and 2.8 seconds for a younger Gen Z, the content on your page becomes that much more crucial. If it can’t convey what you want in four seconds, it fails the test!!

These are some of the factors that will determine the success of your website in today’s world. Let’s remember that good, bad, or ugly, your website reflects you!

Edward Ralph Dexter

In the ongoing Third Test match between India and England at Headingley. Leeds, I noticed that the English cricketers wore black arm bands. This is usually done as a mark of respect for someone who is no more. I soon came to know that the person in question was someone whose cricket career I followed with great interest in my younger days: Edward Ralph Dexter. He passed away on August 25, aged 86.

Born in 1935, he played for Cambridge, Sussex and England. He was called “Lord Ted” for his elegance and languid grace. Dexter was a dashing batsman with a very attacking bent of mind, especially when it came to fast bowlers. He was one of the most powerful hitters of the cricket ball of his times.

In those days, Test cricket wasn’t played as frequently as it is now. From the time he made his debut in 1958, Dexter played 62 Tests for England being captain in 30 of them. He scored 9 Test centuries and finished with an impressive average of 47.89. He last played for England in 1968.

We in India saw him for the first time, when he captained the visiting MCC team in 1961-62 after the more established players like Peter May and Colin Cowdrey opted to skip this tour.

As cricket crazy youngsters, we followed the Tests only though the cricket commentary on the radio, as we didn’t have television in India those days. We of course read every word of the reports of the Test matches in the daily newspapers. Some of the innings that Dexter played still remain fresh in my mind, although decades have gone by since he dazzled the crowds with his batting.

In the Lord’s Test in 1963, facing the menacing fast bowlers Hall and Griffith of the West Indies, Dexter hammered 70 in just 75 balls out of a total of 102. Another innings was his 180 against the Aussies in 1961, the year he was “Wisden’s Cricketer of the Year..”

Dexter in later years served as the Chairman of the Selection Commitee in England, and President of the MCC. He was instrumental in fashioning what we now know as the ICC rankings for players.

In this video, tributes are paid to Dexter on his being inducted in to the ICC’s Hall of Fame in 2021. Ian Chappell recalls that Dexter was the hardest hitter of the cricket ball he had ever seen.

Fans of Dexter would love this delightful piece written about him by Arunabha Sengupta in 2016 . Clearly he was , as that article said, “one of the most colorful characters to grace English cricket.”

Farewell, my childhood hero. May Edward Ralph Dexter, dashing and debonair, rest in peace.

“The Case That Shook An Empire” by Raghu & Pushpa Palat

I have often felt that writers of our Indian history have tended to give grossly disproportionate prominence to some figures and totally ignore some others. Here’s a case in point.

Until this book came along, I must confess rather sheepishly that I as a reasonably well-educated person hadn’t even heard of Sir Chettur Sankaran Nair. So for me, his accomplishments described in “The Case That Shook The Empire” by Raghu and Pushpa Palat were really quite astonishing. and most revealing. “One Man’s Fight for the Truth about the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre” is the perfect summary of the book.

The book was published by Bloomsbury India in August 2019. It was well received by appreciative readers. It made major headlines recently when it was announced that Karan Johar and his film production house have bought the rights to make a movie based on the book.

To think that in the 1920’s when the British Empire was at its peak, an Indian fought a famous British Administrator in a British Court of Law about an appalling event that took place in India was indeed news to me. I am sure millions of others wouldn’t have heard of this case. To that extent the authors have done Indian history valuable service by researching, writing and publishing this book. Thanks to them, I am sure, many more people will come to know of – and admire- their illustrious forefather. Raghu Palat, is the great grandson of Sir Sankaran Nair.

Sir Sankaran Nair’s character, with all its idiosyncrasies, has been well sketched by the authors. We visualize a man of strong character, who was autocratic in all that he did, at work as much as at home. He could be extremely blunt. Many a hapless colleague, including Britishers, felt the heat of his scorn and anger when debating issues or when they said something he did not approve of.

In the course of a long and illustrious career, Sir Sankaran Nair held many important positions including that of Member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council. He was also a former Judge of the Madras High Court. I had no idea that at one time he was the President of the Indian National Congress! Indeed, many reckon he was one of the stalwarts in the early days of the INC but his open disagreements with Mahatma Gandhi ensured he was pushed back into the shadows of the party’s history. When his famous legal case was decided in England, there were no messages of any kind from the Indian National Congress, the party of which he had once been the President!

Sir Sankaran resigned from the highly prestigious position as the Member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council ( the only Indian to hold that post) following events at Jallianwala Bagh in 1919. The two Britishers involved in that infamous event, as most Indians know, were Sir Micheal O’Dwyer, Lt Governor of the Punjab, and Brigadier General Reginald Dyer. I learnt from this book that Dyer was later reverted to his rank of Colonel.

The book describes all that followed the tumultuous events in Jallianwalla Bagh, a turning point in the history of modern India.

Taking umbrage at Sir Sankaran’s remarks about him in his book, “Gandhi And Anarchy” published in 1922, Sir Micheal filed libel charges against him. This paved the way for the “Case That Shook The Empire.” The admirable manner in which Sir Sankaran defended himself and his honour is excellently documented in the Palats book.

I wish the editors had been more meticulous. Ever so often Sir Sankaran is wrongly referred to as ” Sir Nair”. In the foreward, O’Dwyer is written as O’Dywer. These mistakes could have been avoided.

My congratulations to Raghu and Pushpa for their book which I found quite absorbing. A strong bibliography lends credence to the meticulous research done by the authors.

Based on my experience of biopics from Bollywood, I am not exactly looking forward to the movie. The book should have been left a book. I hope I am proved wrong ! I must grant, of course, that what a movie would do- especially one from Karan Johar’s production house- to publicize Sir Sankaran’s achievements, could never get done by the book alone.

The Palats’ book is highly recommended for any student of modern Indian history and politics. I would urge the youth of India in particular to read the book.

Goodpods: Changing The Way People Listen To Podcasts

It was interesting to check out Goodpods, the App , launched in 2020, that many are talking about. Their by line says it all. ” Podcasts Are Better With Friends” . This social platform was founded by the brother-sister team of entrepreneurs: Ken Ramberg and JJ Ramberg.

To put it simply, here you can listen to podcasts and recommend them to your friends ( and others) and also check out what your friends ( and others) are listening to. So, if you are one of those who like to go by the recommendations of your friends and other like-minded people, this is the best place for you.

Apart from podcast listeners who are the primary audience targeted by this App, the platform has benefits for podcasters too. You can claim your Podcast Show here and interact with your listeners, which must be so cool.

Kristal Proffitt has a video which walks you through the Goodpod App. This is a quick way of getting the hang of how things work. The basics are well covered. Ultimately, how you choose to use the App is, of course, best left to you. We do pick up hints and tips here which can save us valuable time we would have spent exploring on our own.

I think Goodpods is on its way to changing the way people listen to podcasts. It appears you can import your subscriptions from other platforms like Apple Podcasts. This could be a big benefit to those who prefer to have all they want to listen to in one place.

The platform enables you to search for both Podcasts and People. This is particularly useful when you are new here. You would want to find out what kinds of topics are available, and most followed here, as also who are the people who hang out here. You can to listen to other podcasters, and they may sign up to listen to your podcasts, if they are interested.

Like every other social media site, celebrity endorsements do help push the concept along. I notice that Malcolm Gladwell and Gretchen Rubin, whom I have followed on other social media platforms, amongst many others, have taken to Goodpods,

As a podcaster, its nice to know that people can subscribe to your show. They can play and listen to an episode, download it, and share it to friends, groups, or to other social media sites like Facebook, Instagram Stories and Twitter. They can, of course let you know what they thought of your episode by rating it and /or writing a review.

Overall, it looks interesting and I am very excited to be part of Goodpods. I am certain it will give me the opportunity to listen to some incredible podcasts. I am also hopeful that it will build an audience for podcasts in my Podcast Show, ” Prem Rao: Stories From A Story Teller”.

And, here’s something to cheer about: Goodpods was rated one the top 10 most innovative social media companies of 2021 by Fast Company. We can therefore expect some more exciting improvements in the near future.

“Jerusalema” – Better Late Than Never

Of course, I had heard this song before! Of course, I had felt like dancing to its so very catchy beats. But I had no idea of the origins of the song and how it went viral all over the world. Thanks to internet, I now have a more clear idea of this amazing story of a song that took – and is still taking – the world by storm. Coming as it did during the Covid 19 pandemic, it brought some cheer and hope to millions around the world.

When I first heard the song, I thought it might be in Arabic (mainly because the first video I saw was set in Dubai! ) or Spanish, but I never imagined it was in the Zulu language from South Africa. I now find the song came from Master KG, a South African RJ and musician. He composed the music for the song and it was sung by his sister, Nomcebo Zikode in 2019. The official music video Jerusalema by Master KG on YouTube has mind boggling numbers! Such figures are seldom seen. Released in December 2019, this video has 424 million views, over 4 million likes and 1,32, 000 comments and still counting!

In this video by Brut, Master KG speaks of the origins of this song, how he chose his sister Nomcebo to sing it, how this song became viral, and what it means to him. He explains that it is a song which has hope and prayer and yet is set to such a catchy tune.

I heard Master KG say this song became viral when some folks in Angola danced to the tune holding plates in their hands. This video became viral and the rest, as they say, is history. This started the Jerusalema Dance Challenge! Young kids, of course have danced to this tune, as have police officers, doctors, nursing staff, firemen, soldiers, nuns, and almost every one else! This video has an interesting compilation of different groups all over the world dancing to Jerusalema.

There are many videos out there which teach you the dance steps. But what are the actual lyrics of the song, and if it is in Zulu, what do the words mean? This video has the lyrics with a translation in English to go with it!

The Covid 19 is still with us but in the gloom that it has created all over the world, there are spots of cheer. Wherever we are in the world, we couldn’t have missed ” Jerusalema”. Hats off to you, MasterKG and Nomcebo Zikode, for giving us this song. You have brought a smile on many a face and something to cheer for millions spanning age, gender, creed, colour, and nationality.

Virtual Founder’s in OL Assembly

My wife and I were chatting about our blogs. Shobana had posted in her popular cooking blog Cooking With Shobana, in which I lend a helping hand, but I was thinking of a topic to write about for mine. ” Write about Founder’s! ” she said. ” After all isn’t May all about Founder’s for Lawrencians?”. And, of course , she was right on that count!

The month of May is when we traditionally celebrate the Founder’s Day at my Alma Mater, The Lawrence School, Lovedale. The celebrations are very elaborate and go on for 3-4 days (a full week decades ago when we were at School) covering important events like Trooping the Colour, PT Display, The School Play, and ending with Beating Retreat. Obviously with the raging Covid 19 pandemic none of this was possible this year.

We in our Alumni Volunteer Group who put together a Virtual Variety Show on the second Saturday of every month decided to have Founder’s as the theme for the “OL Assembly” held on May 8.

The President of the Old Lawrencians Association (OLA), Johnny Paul, and the Vice President, Beena Belliappa briefed Old Lawrencians (OLs) on a new initiative taken by the OLA. This aims to help OLs and their families in these terrible days of Covid 19.

I have been intimately connected with” Glimpses of a Glorious Past” an Informal history of our school. This book resides as an ebook in the website of the OLA but we have a segment every month in the OL Assembly as mentioned in this blog post. In this month’s episode, we traced the history of the School Band and of the Founder’s celebrations in general.

The show brought to the audience recollections of OLs of their best memories of Founders. Krishnadev Rao, a former Head Boy, spoke eloquently on the remarkable leadership displayed by then Headmaster Mr L A Vyas during a Founder’s Parade in 1981. I was very impressed by what the talented current Head Boy, Kian Godhwani said about what they had learnt despite missing the cheer of celebrating a Founder’s. We must remember that only a small number of them are now at School preparing for the Board Examinations, which may or may not take place as I write this.

Some OLs who took part in a memorable event from 55 years ago, spoke of when the School Band participated in the Republic Day Parade at New Delhi in 1966. This was under the leadership of Bandmaster Denzil Prince. Elsewhere in this blog, I have written about Denzil, a former Head Boy, who studied in Lovedale from 1944 to 1954.

We also have a delightful Quiz Show called what else but QuizDale! Here the questions are centered around topics relating to the old School and school life, then and now. OLs, young and old, participate to win points for their House!

The Virtual Founder’s OL Assembly is indeed a treat for any OL. You can (and indeed, I suggest you do) see this at leisure in small chunks, according to your convenience. This is a big advantage of having it on YouTube. Happy viewing, folks!

Of Courts & Judges

The Courts in India have an unenviable task of trying to clear the backlog of cases in a litigation friendly country. As per reports there are nearly 4 crore ( 40 million) cases pending before the Courts in our country, with 10 % of them dating back to over a decade! Yet, while one cannot generalize, about Courts or Judges, as an ordinary citizen of India I am surprised by some of the things reported from the Courts.

In the past decades, what happened in the Court largely remained a mystery as the ordinary person had no idea of what went on and who said what. In the area of Industrial Disputes, in which I have some experience, it was common knowledge that between the two lawyers dates were often ” fixed”to suit their convenience. If A asked for an adjournment this week, the opposing lawyer B would ask for one on the next date which was some weeks away. Hence cases dragged on for months together, if not for years.

The pandemic brought about many changes. Most courts these days have taken to having virtual hearings. This is a welcome move. At least cases do go on and in some Courts large number of cases have been settled during the year or more of the pandemic. Also I notice that online portals such as Bar and Bench give almost ball by ball commentary of court cases, much like in a cricket match. The reader gets to know what the lawyers said, what the judge observed and so on. This is totally new to many of us as we would never have had access to such information before.

This new found transparency has sometimes embarrassed the judges and the advocates! A post that went viral on social media in August 2020 showed Senior Advoacate Rajeev Dhawan caught on camera taking puffs on his hookah while arguing a virtual case before the Rajasthan High Court ! One doesn’t know whether the learned Judge had anything to say to the senior advocate. Perhaps he didn’t as the much respected Mr Dhawan is in his ’70s, a graduate of the University of Cambridge, and a Commissioner of the International Commission of Jurists. Still, so much for setting a good example to your juniors and the world at large!!

In a more recent case, the Madras High Court made scathing observations about the Election Commission of India saying it was “singularly” responsible for the second wave of Covid. It even went to the extent of observing “Its officials should be booked for murder.” In a situation where deaths are mounting all over the world due to Covid- around 3.2 million as of date- even the casual reader would find these remarks rather puzzling, if not petulant.

The Election Commission naturally was stung by these observations and took the case to the Supreme Court which a few days ago agreed the “murder charge” remarks of the Madras High Court were “harsh” and the “metaphor inappropriate “. It was good that they did so! Sadly, over 230,000 people have died in India as of date due to this pandemic. Holding the Election Commission responsible for the deaths during the political rallies has become fashionable but more people are accountable too. What about the politicians – of all political parties- who organized and held these rallies? What about the people themselves, who flocked to them ? What about the media which gave the rallies such extensive coverage making each political party vie for higher eyeballs? All of them knew fully well these could be super spreader events for the Corona virus.

As mentioned earlier, we are these days becoming privy to what actually happens in Courts. Thanks to Bar and Bench, I am reading with great interest the remarks of the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court in the matter of oxygen supply to Delhi during this pandemic. While it makes for interesting reading I couldn’t quite make out what the point in law was for the Courts to decide. Surely, deciding on the amount of oxygen needed for each hospital, city, and State; the methods of reaching oxygen to hospitals; is the job of the executive rather than that of the judiciary?