“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.

My Podcasting Journey

Yes, I have taken the plunge and I am so glad I did! I have taken a few steps in my journey into my new hobby: podcasting. As they say, it is never too late to learn. I am delighted that I embark upon this journey a few months before I start my eighth decade.

My podcasts can be found here in Anchor FM by Spotify. If you are an Apple aficionado, you can catch me on Apple Podcasts. Another easy way is to check out Google Podcasts. .

I would like to share my initial learnings which could be of use to those interested in podcasting.

Lesson 1 : You need a focus area. There is no point in podcasting on everything under the sun. You might end up covering too little of too much. It is far better to select an area of interest in which you are comfortable. I chose to start with the board theme of “Books” as I am extremely fond of both reading and writing. As you gain confidence, experience and followers, you can always broaden the subjects covered in your show , but you need to start somewhere -with a focus area.

Lesson 2: Learn the Basics: Like in every field, you will come across a lot of jargon. What is a show, an episode, a condenser microphone, a dynamic microphone, a “bed”, media hosting, MP3 Audio files, and so much else. Don’t get unnerved, as there is no need to know everything about podcasting before making a start. Just learn the basics: how to hold and speak into the microphone, best circumstances to record, how to put together segments through editing, and the like. Don’t get scared away by the stuff you read about equipment required, the complex technologies needed to get your podcast to your audience etc. You don’t need a top class recording studio to start with! I am recording on my IPhone and am quite happy with things!

Lesson 3: Make A Plan : After you have started with a few podcasts, you will realize that a plan is essential to move your initiative forward as you ride the first wave of enthusiasm. The plan will cover what you wish to achieve; the amount of time and energy you are willing to commit to the podcast show; the opportunities and difficulties that you foresee; and a broad time frame to achieve immediate objectives. A plan is essential for success!

There are more lessons, I am sure, but these three are good enough to start with on your podcasting journey. They will determine the schedule of podcasts: will your show be twice a week, weekly, monthly or have a longer interval? A gap longer than a month between episodes is certainly not recommended. Will you invite guests to participate in your podcasts? Who will they be? Will you be capable of managing the dynamics of a free flowing conversation? Or will you have a scripted one? Will you get co-hosts , over time, who are like-minded and have similar interests?

Parting tip: it is advisable to script your podcast in the initial stages, if not for all time. Speaking on the fly is great- if you can pull it off. But it often results in mistakes, time consuming corrections, and your repetition of favourite phrases and words that are best avoided. So, script out your podcast to make it more effective.

Poets of The First World War

The trigger for today’s post comes from some research I was doing for our next OL Assembly. As mentioned in earlier posts, this is a virtual meeting held every second Saturday of the month. In the forthcoming issue we cover the First World War in which 18 Old Lawrencians were killed in action in different battle fields of Europe. In those days, many from my Alma Mater, The Lawrence School, Lovedale were enlisted in the British Army. They joined as ordinary soldiers as distinct from being commissioned as officers.

A look at the Honors Board for 1914 in the School gives us details of former students, who as young soldiers gained distinction for their bravery during the battles at Mons, Flanders, and Gallipolli amongst others. This in turn reminded me of a poem we learnt in School titled ” Dulce et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen. This poem mocked the sentiment- prevalent till 1916 or so amongst many English poets, like Rupert Brooke for instance – that it was sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.

Owen enlisted in 1915 and saw active service in the trenches in Europe before he was wounded in action in 1916. He returned to England to recover from his war wounds. However, in 1918 he went back to the Front, won the Military Cross for his bravery but ironically was killed in November of that year aged 25 just one week before the Armistice. Like him thousands upon thousands of young men lost their lives in a bitterly fought war which saw the use of poison gas in the trenches. The Armistice signaled the end of the war which left 10 million soldiers and another 7 million civilians dead.

To appreciate what the horrors of the First World War were like, you must see an article in The Sun titled ” Blood, Mud, and Misery” published in 2018. You can understand the plight of the soldiers in the trenches over a hundred years ago.

The Poetry Foundation compiled an impressive list of poems about the Great War of 1914-1918. Here you can read poems by, apart from Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Edward Thomas, William Butler Yeats, and Rupert Brooke. It ends with ” Then There Was A Great Calm” written by Thomas Hardy after the signing of the armistice.

“Calm fell. From Heaven distilled a clemency;
There was peace on earth, and silence in the sky;
Some could, some could not, shake off misery:
The Sinister Spirit sneered: ‘It had to be!’
And again the Spirit of Pity whispered, ‘Why?'”

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?

On Our Advertisements/TV Commercials

I have been an avid follower of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and watch many of the matches. This year there are no ticket sales simply because there is no audience on the ground due to the raging Covid 19. As a result, I guess, the number of TV commercials have increased substantially to make up for the lost revenue.

Being quite interested in advertising, I don’t really mind! I have always believed that the creativity of those who design our advertisements or TV commercials in India is often second to none. What sets the typical Indian TV commercial apart from all others is the raw appeal to the emotions of the viewer. This is seldom the touchpoint in Western advertisements.

I am not talking of emotions flowing from celebrity endorsement of brands. Surely they must be a force to reckon with which is why top celebrities, be they film stars or cricketers these days, are much in demand to endorse every conceivable product. The message goes out that this product or brand should be good because Amitabh Bachchan or Viral Kohli is using it. Likewise, the feeling that you use the same toothpaste as Aishwarya Rai or Kareena Kapoor probably appeals to millions of people. Otherwise, celebrity endorsements would never be as big as they are.

This report by Duff & Phelps may be slightly dated (2019) but it makes for interesting reading. It says that as celebrities feature in 20 % of endorsements in the United States, while in India the figure is much higher at 50 %. It also talks of the growing clout of “star couples” such as Indian Cricket’s super star Virat Kohli and his film star wife, Anushka Sharma.

Sometimes, celebrity endorsements can backfire! M S Dhoni was at one time India’s most loved sports star. However, his being Brand Ambassador for the Amrapalli Group resulted in the kind of embarrassment he had never faced before. His fan base felt cheated when the builder he endorsed did not deliver their flats on time! Many claimed it was his advertising that led them to trust this builder!! On top of that there was an unsavory dispute regarding his own payments from that group! Of course, those cheated in their purchase of flats argued that the amount Dhoni was fighting for was a very small percentage of his overall wealth. They, it was argued, had sunk a substantially higher percentage of their life’s earning in buying that flat from Amrapali!

Personally, however, these advertisements have never appealed to me. I prefer advertisements which touch my heart or tickle my funny bone. I saw one from Cadbury’s recently- one in Hindi called Laundry– which I thought was superb. But then, this is nothing new as Cadbury’s has always been recognized as a strong brand for many decades.

I also lhought this one from Cello for their Butterflow Pen called Lamba Naam was quite hilarious ! There are so many more I can mention but I shall save that for some other time!

Advertisements are expected to inform, to persuade and remind! The fact that even today we remember so many old advertisements seen on Indian television screens indicates that our advertisers have pretty much hit their mark!

T

Gherao!

As you know, the elections in West Bengal are grabbing eyeballs because of the high-octane campaigns launched by the sitting Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress, and her principal opponent this time, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). She has been ruling the state for 10 years now.

While earlier – before the campaigns began – many believed she would easily win a third term, now- to many observers including me- such a result seems less certain. It is evident from what we see on television and read in the newspapers that it will be a close finish. The bitter battle for votes will go on till we come to know the results on May 2

The central paramilitary forces are on election duty in that state, to support the Election Commission to ensure that free and fair elections take place. An article in the respected Indian Express no less, headlined that the Bengal Chief Minister has exhorted the women of West Bengal to gherao the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF.)

I was shocked to see this headline because it brought back many memories of gheraos in West Bengal. I remember the days in Durgapur when strikes and gheraos were commonplace and there used to a lot of trade union violence. I speak of the period between 1968-1972.

Decades ago, in many parts of the country, especially in West Bengal where it originated, the gherao was used by trade unions and other striking outfits as an offensive weapon. To gherao meant to surround a person or persons in a room and keep them in a form of captivity. On the face of it it was supposed to be peaceful protest but confining people to their room, not allowing them to have food, water, their medicines or use the toilet was harassment of the highest order. I have heard of cases where executives almost died due to the stress and strain of being so ghearaoed.

As a student of Industrial Relations at XLRI Jamshedpur, I remember we had studied famous judgements like the ones delivered in the Calcutta High Court in Jay Engineering Case reported in AIR 1968 CAL.

Coming back to the present situation, to instigate the public at large to gherao the police was asking for trouble. I thought of so many things that could go wrong if the agitated public began to gherao the authorities- in this case- the paramilitary police.

My fears were not unfounded. Today’s Indian Express reports that four people were killed in Sitalkuchi in Cooch Behar district in the state of West Bengal. It is reported that a mob of locals attacked the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) party and tried to snatch their weapons. This led to the police opening fire resulting in four deaths. What a shocking state of affairs!

I realize that politics in West Bengal has always been characterized by violence but I do hope things don’t go totally out of hand. There is no place for such violence in a democracy like ours. The sad part is that the ordinary policeman or the ordinary citizen, in this case, get hurt and at times die. Nothing ever happens to the leaders who instigate violence!

Well Done, India! From Donee To Donor

Congratulations to our Prime Minister Narendra Modiji and his team, our scientists and researchers, our entrepreneurs, our doctors and paramedical staff, and thousands of other involved in logistics for this humanitarian work. At a time when the whole world is still reeling with the effects of the COVID 19 pandemic India has sent 56,00,000 COVID-19 vaccines as gifts to many foreign countries. Another 100,00,000 were sent as commercial supply. This move has filled our hearts with pride as these vaccines are indeed precious.

Let’s put things in perspective about the ravaging Coronavirus Pandemic. 219 countries in the world are still coming to terms with this pandemic. They have all suffered in varying degree. As of date over 120 million people have been affected by this all over the world. While over 95 million have recovered, please spare a thought for the 2.6 million who lost their lives. I am sure you too would have lost friends and relatives as I have.

Most people of my generation living in post- Independence India – from the 1950s to the 70’s were pretty much used to our country – and us her people- being donees rather than donors!! At a national level, from time to time, we were dependent on the generosity of other countries to help us out of crisis. Just after Partition in 1947, we saw the rapid spread of malaria which affected some 75 million people resulting in 800,000 deaths. The Canadian Red Cross rushed 92 cases of precious penicillin to India. Today, nearly 75 years later, the Indian Government has agreed to send 500,000 doses of COVID 19 vaccine to Canada based on that country’s request.

India has become the powerhouse of vaccine manufacture. As much as a whopping 60 % of the world’s vaccines are manufactured in India. As of now, two vaccines have been approved by the Government of India for emergency use in the country. The first was Covishield, developed by Oxford- AstaZeneca in the UK, manufactured by the Pune based Serum Institute of India. They say they can make 60-70 million doses a month. The second vaccine has been indigenously developed in india and is called Covaxin. This is manufactured by Bharat Biotech of Hyderabad which plans to make 200 million doses per annum. Some weeks ago our External Affairs Minister Dr S Jayashankar said India had supplied vaccines to 15 countries and at least another 25 were in the queue.

It is indeed creditable that India is offering the vaccines to other countries when we ourselves have a huge challenge at hand. To vaccinate the second largest population in the world! India has started what is probably the biggest and most complex vaccination program undertaken anywhere in the world. The Prime Minister had said that our goal was to vaccinate 300 million people by the end of July 2021. In itself a large number but still a little less than one third of our total population!!

In the first phase, front line medical workers were vaccinated. In the second phase, the aim is to vaccinate elders (those above 60 years of age) as well as those who are 45 and above but have one or the other of an identified list of co-morbidities. As of date, an estimated 28 million have been vaccinated in India. We are vaccinating about 1,000,000 to 2,000,000 people per day as of now.

It feels good to see how we have grown as a nation, to the extent that we are considered an important part of the global fight against the COVID 19 pandemic. Even as I key in this post, I read that the United States have agreed to fund the production of 1 billion vaccines by the end of 2022 by an Indian Pharma firm- Biological E.

I would like to finish where I started. I am sure my parents – and some of us much later for that matter – would never have imagined a day would come when India would become in the world of medicine- a donor rather than a donee! Jai Hind!!

Salute to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose!

Today we remember with reverence one of India’s greatest sons on his 125th birth anniversary. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was born in Cuttack on January 23, 1897. I have no hesitation whatsoever in saying that for me, and millions like me, Netaji was the most charismatic and effective Indian leader in the period from 1935-1945. What makes his story all the more fascinating is not only what he achieved when he was alive but the speculations about his death which exists even till today!

I did a quick search in this blog and I find there are numerous blog posts about Netaji. They are summarized here for the benefit of those, especially among our youth in India, who may not know much about him and would be interested in knowing more:-

  1. In “India’s Biggest Cover Up” by Anuj That, I review this extremely interesting book which talks of what actually happened to Netaji after he was supposedly killed following an air crash in the then Formosa on August 18, 1945.
  2. In “The Indian Spy” , I review a book by Mihir Bose on Bhagat Ram Talwar, who escorted Bose out of India to Kabul in the early years of World War II.
  3. In this post on “Our Super Patriotic Hindi Sir ‘, I write about Mr B L Singh, our Hindi teacher at The Lawrence School, Lovedale, who was the first person who told me and my classmates about Netaji. He instilled in us the keen interest to know more about this hero. This post also contains links to many more books about Netaji.

I guess we will never know for sure what actually happened to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. A recent article by Kingshuk Nag suggests he may have been living or imprisoned in Siberia after he went to Russia towards the end of World War II. Mr Nag is a well-known journalist who wrote a book, “ Netaji: Living Dangerously” in 2016.

Whether he died in Russia or in Formosa or in his motherland India is still uncertain. However what is most certain is that Netaji’s leadership galvanized a section of India’s youth during the crucial years when he chose to fight for freedom.

As the leader of the Indian National Army or Azad Hind Fauj he was the first to hoist the flag of an independent India on December 30, 1943 in the Andaman Islands, which he declared the first place to get freedom from the British.

Many were the memorable quotes attributed to Netaji but perhaps the most famous of his words were, ” It is blood alone that can pay the price of freedom. Give me blood and I will give you freedom.”

Let us today- and indeed everyday- remember with pride the man who was more responsible for the hasty retreat of the British from India in the post- World War II years than any other.

Jai Hind!!

On “Budda” aka “Birtish Bolaram” !

Our friend, Saraswati Narayan, is an excellent raconteur and writer. She provided me with the prompt to write this story. An earlier story from her had inspired me to write on Mr Gupta of “Steady Slap” fame. So this is the second round of thanks to you, Saraswati! I think you should start a blog to enable a wider audience to read your stories!

Recently, she wrote about a gardener called Shukra Mali, they had decades ago – in the 70s- in Ranchi. One could visualize him so clearly that it brought back memories of a cook we had around that time in Jhinkpani in present day Jharkhand.

I worked then in the ACC Cement Works there. Four of us bachelors had a “mess” in which the OC Kitchen was an old Gurkha of indeterminable age called Bolaram. He prided himself – especially when under the sauce, which was pretty often- on having served the British for decades. The rest of the small township simply called him, “Budda” or “Old Man” which he didn’t much care for. He would bristle and say his name was, ” Birtish Bolaram” ! He was slight of built but wiry for his age, though a little bent. Years of practice had perfected his navigation skills. Using his own GPS he found his way home, irrespective of where he went, how much he drank or when he returned.

We don’t know much of his early background, but he certainly served in the old British Indian Army until he was demobilized at the end of World War II. Apparently, some shelling had affected his hearing, possibly during the War. India gained Independence shortly after, but to him the pain of his losing the sheltered life in the Army and his hearing problems, were because of Mahatma Gandhi. This led him to often grumble that Gandhi had not got him ” Azaadi” (freedom) but ” barbaadi'( ruination) !

Since he was hard of hearing the door bell was of no use. The working arrangement made was that he used to sleep next to an open window with a stick alongside. To get him to open the door, the prescribed drill was to use that stick to gently prod him in the ribs! Usually he was alert to approaching footsteps and the stick being whisked away to prod him.

Bolaram was at his best when you told him there was a “party”. He would perk up immensely! After a few shots of rum ( he was at his best when slightly high) he would break out in his own style of English. He would turn out the best possible meal, compete with a spotless white table cloth, cutlery and the works. Decades have gone by but I still remember his cooking on his day! Especially his mutton chops!!

After one of our “parties” a colleague tried to get Bolaram drunk, not knowing that he could quite easily drink him under the table. A few shots made the young man quite excitable but for the seasoned Bolaram this was child’s play . He had served us a great dinner and he was lapping up all the praise everyone lavished on him. The young man thrust one more glass of drink in the old man’s hand. Bolaram looked at him with his hooded eyes, and drank it up in one go ! He then turned, pointing to him with utter contempt, and told us , ” Give it to him the one more peg.!”

Remembering Fr Ed McGrath SJ

Yesterday, January 7, 2021 happened to be the 98th birth anniversary of Father Edward H. McGrath SJ, one of the finest teachers and human beings I have come across. He passed away on August 4, 2017 aged 94 much to the sorrow of thousands who had been taught by him or interacted with him during his time at XLRI, Jamshedpur.

This venerable institution where I had the privilege of studying from 1972 to 1974 was started in 1949 and is now called XLRI: Xavier School of Management. He was one of the Founding Fathers of this institution. Over the decades, he became a legend in XLRI . I think it is fair to say that for many like me, McGrath was XLRI and XLRI was McGrath. More often than not when alumni reached the XLRI campus, the first thing they would do would be to seek out Fr McGrath wherever he was.

Roshan Dastur, who worked closely with Fr McGrath during his time in XLRI ; my classmate, Harriet Silva Vidyasagar, and I decided to have – in these days of Covid- a virtual meeting to remember Fr McGrath yesterday. About 20 people, largely from India and the US, took part in this Zoom meeting which went on for about one and half hours. Each speaker had something nice to say about Fr McGrath. The respect, regard and affection for him was so very evident. He was a great teacher and a perfect role model for being a coach and mentor.

His life and achievements have been chronicled many times. I don’t want to list all that he did during his decades in India. However, this article in his Alma Mater the Regis High School in New York published when he passed away, gives you a quick summary about his life.

I was searching for a picture of the last time I met him, which was long ago. My earlier blog, “People At Work and Play” came to the rescue and I found an old post dated February 5, 2007 titled ” A Pleasant Reunion “. I feel so bad that I couldn’t trace that picture of me holding his glass of beer while he signed Prof Joe Phillip’s book for me !

Decades ago, around 1976 or so, I was working in ACC Chaibasa, in the predominantly tribal belt of Jharkhand. At the office one day, our Peon , Darbari Ram, told me that a ” Gora Saheb” was asking for me. Showing surprise, Darbari whispered that this Saheb spoke Hindi fluently and instead of coming by car had come riding a motorbike! I laughed out aloud knowing it couldn’t be anyone other than Fr McGrath. So typical of him to come to enquire after one of his students as he happened to be in the area!

If you want to master managerial skills or know someone who wishes to do so, I would strongly recommend this classic by Fr McGrath, which has seen many a re-print. His good old : “ Basic Managerial Skills For All” available at Amazon and elsewhere.

I know that Father would have been pleased to see us yesterday at our Zoom meeting , remembering him. I hope he would have given us his approving trade mark, ” Theek Hai”!!