Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. Musings from someone who sees stories everywhere.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Today news reports, blogs and e-mails are flowing fast and freely. There's a lot of emotion and drama. People are rushing to light candles, attend meetings and generally charged to 'do something'. Many are also demanding that the authorities do that elusive 'someting.'

Others are saluting the 'spirit of Mumbai' and bravely trying to carry on as usual.

But at the end of the day, this incident may be as quickly forgotten as the previous terror attacks in Mumbai, and the recent bomb blasts in Surat, Delhi and elsewhere. I wonder how long it will be before the media and the public forget this horror and run after the next cricket match or a child trapped in a well.

Will any lasting lessons ever be learnt from this tragedy? Will there be a greater political will to prevent such thigns from happening?

Many of us are wanting to do something. IMHO a starting point could be if we mobilised opinion for a better pay package and more advanced equipment (weapons, bullte proof vests etc) for the true heroes who risk their lives to keep us safe. It's a sad anomaly in our country that youngsters who take porders for pizza from overseas callers can earn much more in a safe job than protectors of our security.

Ending with a prayer for peace,

Friday, November 28, 2008

mumbai mayhem

The unfolding terror drama in Mumbai is truly shocking. My memories of Mumbai are personal and warm. We lived and worked there for four years. True, the commuting distances are huge and life is just too hurried and hassled for the city's teeming millions. True, one has the jostle through crowds, negotiate heavy traffic and polluted air.

Yet warm human memories remain etched in my soul. The time when I was stuck in a jam-packed local train and the rough-looking fellow commuters came to my rescue. The time when I slipped on the steep steps of the railway overbridge and strangers came forth to ask if everything was ok. My sweet elderly neighbour who let all the kids returning from school play with her cute little pooch, the memories are many. I've always loved 'Maximum City' as a vibrant place where every stranger can feel welcome. Mumbai has always been India's, and my personal city of dreams. I found the city much more disciplined and comfortable for working women compared to many other Indian cities.

I used to take my son out to Gateway of india when he was a tot. We sould browse through the Prince of Wales Museum and the Jehangir art gallery, where the ancient artefacts and miniature paintings never failed to elcii wonder from my little one. We would end the outing with a boat ride and a stroll by the Taj Hotel. We used to love those outings. the News images seem to be coming from another world.

I only hope and pray that the nighmare will end soon. We must not allow a misguided few to ruin what has been built over generations.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

gems from the wilderness

I recently had the pleasure of interacting with a renowned wildlife photographer, Mr. Naryanaswamy. Each artist consciously and unconsciouly lends his own perspective upon his work. In Mr. N's photographs of wildlife, I perceived, apart from his deep love for nature, an interest in the more amiable and friendly aspects of wild animals. The stories behind many of these photos are interesting too. My article based on our conversations was published some days ago in Deccan Herald, the school edition. Since it isn't available on the web, I'm posting it here.

By Monideepa Sahu

When peacocks fly, they display startling flashes of bright orange feathers on their wings, which are otherwise hidden. Wild jungle fowl appear drab to blend in with their forest surroundings, but bright, colourful highlights illuminate their plumage in the sunlight. Armed with the best cameras and sharpest lenses, international award-winning wildlife photographer K.M. Narayanaswamy films many such gems of natural beauty. Among his many honours, he is the ARPS (Associate of Royal Photographic Society, England), and was a member of the Indian team that won the Silver Medal (Nature Prints) in the 14th Biennial FIAP World Cup Photographic Competition in Spain. One of his most appreciated photographs is of three wild tiger cubs inside their den deep in a forest. “They were just three weeks old, and barely the size of kittens,” K.M. Narayanaswamy reminisces. “Even their eyes had not yet fully developed, and that is why they appear blue in the photo. I resisted the urge to cuddle the cute little cubs. We must never touch, or otherwise disturb the babies of wild animals. Even if the mother is not present, she can sense the presence of humans, and she may panic and abandon the helpless babies.” Photographing the adorable tiger cubs was a difficult and dangerous task. As Deputy Conservator of forests, he would instruct the forest guards to keep him posted on movements of wildlife. When he learnt of the presence of a mother cub and her newborn litter, his excitement was boundless. He and his team painstakingly tracked them for days through the dense jungles, and then hid themselves near the den. When the mother went away to hunt, K.M. Narayanaswamy stealthily went within three feet of the den’s entrance to take unique pictures. “If their mother had seen me, I would not have lived to tell the tale,” he tells us. “Even though I was careful to keep at a distance from them, the mother sensed human presence and immediately moved them to a new hideout after she returned.” This marvellous picture won prestigious international awards, and has been included in many international books on wildlife.

Baby animals and wildlife families find a special place in K.M. Narayanaswamy’s pictures. His photo of a brood of barn owl chicks look like mischievous children posing for their class photo. In a picture taken in Doroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary, tiny cubs try to clamber playfully on their mother’s back as she walks with a serious and determined manner. K.M. Narayanaswamy waited for hours every day at dawn to capture a pair of river terns mating. After their little chicks hatched, he photographed the parents taking turns to feed their young. “Wild creatures can be loving and caring just like humans,” he observes.

K.M. Narayanaswamy’s pictures often capture animals in a friendly and playful mood. He has taken photos of a pair of tuskers in Kabini playing like schoolboys. Two rhinos in Kaziranga face each other in another picture as though sharing interesting secrets. Another series of photos shows a male elephant covering himself with a luxurious slather of mud, and then spraying himself with water from his trunk. “It was like an elaborate spa beauty treatment, which took the elephant nearly three hours,” says K.M. Narayanaswamy.

The brilliant hues of nature also find a prominent place in his photos. His photo of a blue jay or Neelakantha bird is striking, showing he glowing shades of turquoise, indigo and peacock blue of its plumage. This state bird of Karnataka has chosen an equally colourful meal; a bright green fuzzy caterpillar. K.M. Narayanaswamy spends long hours waiting for the right effects of sunlight and shadows on his wild subjects. “The dazzling colours of nature are wonderful,” he says. “They are created by God and not by computers.”

Becoming an internationally celebrated wildlife photographer involved years of dedication and effort. He joined the Indian Forest Service in 1985 where documenting wildlife was part of the job. Inspired by accomplished seniors like Shri. M. N. Jayakumar, he began photography in 2000. His work took K.M. Narayanaswamy to different parts of the country, where he observed wildlife in their natural surroundings.

K.M. Narayanaswamy is deeply interested in sharing the wonderful world of nature with young people. He takes sessions in schools and colleges.

Friday, November 14, 2008

persons with disability may apply

I had researched and written an article on employemnt opportunities for disabled persons in our country. The Article has just been published in Infochange Agenda. Here is a brief excerpt with a link to the full published article.

Today it is an accepted fact that provided a supportive environment to learn and grow, Persons With Disability (PWDs) have the capacity to work efficiently and earn a living with dignity. Indeed, they can be a valuable addition to the skilled workforce. Says Hema Ravichandar, Strategic HR Advisor, "With the talent shortage and war for talent, institutional initiatives to encourage diversity and more importantly, the mindset of inclusivity, it is no longer just a nice to do thing but is actually a business imperative. It widens the available talent pool, while encouraging merit worthy yet differently-abled individuals to make a mark and be productive. Most mature organisations today are sensitive to this talent pool, but only some have initiatives to harness their potential in a structured and planned manner."

The Government and Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) have taken the lead in providing employment and other opportunities to the disabled. Several ministries departments of the Government of India and State Governments provide various concessions such as subsidized rail and air travel, special conveyance allowances to disabled employees, and Income Tax concessions. Award of dealerships by public sector oil companies and economic assistance by nationalized banks at Differential Rates of Interest (4%) to the disabled empowers them to set up their own income generating business ventures. Public Sector Banks also offer concessional loans and donations to organisations working for the welfare of the handicapped.

The prosperity of a business enterprise and of the community in which the business operates, are interdependent on each other. While business enterprises generate income and commerce, they can exhaust natural resources, dispossess original residents of the area of their land, or pollute the environment. What do these enterprises do to compensate the community apart from paying fees, taxes, or one-time compensation to affected people? Today along with the rest of corporate India, IT and ITES companies are waking up to this concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and realising that it comes with its own advantages. Extending the opportunity for employment and upgradation of skills to PWD is one major thrust of CSR initiatives. Indeed, corporates who train and employ PWD stand to gain workers with valuable talents. ‘Nowadays, I find that many corporates perform only 10% under CSR and hype becomes 90%. This phenomenon is good neither for the society nor the company,” says Prof. Y S Rajan. (1) Ideally, CSR has to happen naturally as part of the company’s vision to gain respect and cooperation of the community, and not as short term publicity measure. CSR not only boosts a company’s image, it has several long term positive results. Employees feel more motivated to work for a company with a social conscience. Enhanced productivity and profit is an indirect outcome. CSR is not charity, but a company’s return to the community, which is helping it to grow and sustain profits.

read the full article here

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

fiction as social commentary, a mirror of reality

Fiction - including poetry - should be taken just as seriously as facts-based research, according to the team from Manchester University and the London School of Economics (LSE).

Novels should be required reading because fiction "does not compromise on complexity, politics or readability in the way that academic literature sometimes does," said Dr Dennis Rodgers from Manchester University's Brooks World Poverty Institute.

"While fiction may not always show a set of presentable research findings, it does not compromise on complexity, politics or readability in the way that academic literature sometimes does.

"And fiction often reaches a much larger and diverse audience than academic work and may therefore be more influential in shaping public knowledge and understanding of development issues."

Tom Clougherty, policy director of the Adam Smith Institute, said fiction was "a useful tool in aiding people's understanding, sparking their interest, and humanising issues".

But he warned: "There's a problem. Fiction works by appealing to people's emotions, not their intellect or rationality."

I am now reading Swarnakumari Debi Ghoshal's 'An Unfinished Song.'. Oxford University Press Classic re-issue.

Swarnakumari was Rabindranath Tagore's own sister. Born in 1856 in a progressive family of her times, she was educated in the 'zenana' by private teachers, and was married off at 11 years. She lived in purdah or semi purdah thruoghout her life.

Yet she wrote many books (begun well before her more famous brother appeared on the literary scene) and edited a popular intellectual magazine for decades. She also actively contributed to social work, and helped the cause of widows and female education.
The novel, translated by the author herself into English, portrays a remarkable young woman who wishes to choose her husband on the stregth of his moral character rather than social compulsions. It's a very readable book even today.

A radical idea for those times, when very few women in progressive uppr class families of Bengal had limited access to Western education. Child marriage was the norm, and Indian women had a social position far inferior to what they enjoy today. This heroine would have been a pathbreaker, a rebel. Yet she does this within the patriarchial framework.

Another work of fiction showing us how life would really have been in the past. Or perhaps this is also the athor's dream of how she would have wanted life to be.

No doubt the author's perspective is necessarily limited by her personal experiences and the strata of society in which she has been brought up.

But fiction such as this throws new light on the human side of history and sociology.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

champion of individuality

I haven't been posting of late. Planning to make it up by posting my most recent publications.
Here's a piece published in Deccan Herald 9.11.2008, on Ayn Rand. We read and raved over her books as teenagers, as generations before and after us. The supremacy of the individual, the championing of the right of the individual to grow to full potential, these are indeed admirable. when is there need for curbs and control? Where can we strike the right balance between the needs of the individual and of society as a whole?

Today when blazing flames from Wall Street to Dalal Street are reducing the wealth of nations to ashes, many are questioning the premises of free market economy and mulling over the merits of strict government control.

Ayn Rand’s classic cult novels and philosophy of Objectivism can now be read from a fresh perspective. Ayn Rand (born Alice Rosenbaum, Jan 20, 1905-1982) was a Russian-born American writer, best known for advocating the supremacy of individual rights.

Her passionate pleas supporting personal freedom and laissez-faire capitalism won her many admirers. She defined her ideal of the independent, unfettered genius and a social system where economics need to fit the needs of people, in her bestselling novels The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957). The noted economist Alan Greenspan was among her early enthusiasts.

Read the full article here