A tenth-class fail on endosulfan

By Uma Sudhir

The first person I called after I got the news that India has agreed at Geneva to phase out endosulfan, was Sivanna. This farmer from rural Karnataka cheerfully approved of the Indian government’s decision.

“Let them ban it amma. They will be doing us some good.’’

I had met Sivanna when we were driving back from Puttaparthy to Bangalore airport. He was working on his four-acre vegetable field along with two other young men, trying to dig little trenches in the mud, so water could reach the rosette-like cabbage plants in every nook and corner.

Sivanna told me with a grin that he was a “tenth class-fail’’, unlike the two young men with him, his nephews. Ramesh, an engineering student and Seenappa, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in science.

“They hopefully won’t have to live with eternal uncertainty, and dirty clothes and hands for working on the muddy field, under the sun,” he said, not bitterly, but almost cheerfully. The 38-year-old said when he started, he inherited nothing. He is proud that with his hardwork, he now owns four acres.

“There is not a single vegetable that I don’t grow. Horticulture is a high-risk, high return crop but I take risks and work hard, that is why I have all this today and we are sending our children to school.’’

I asked him if he used endosulfan on the cabbage, beetroot, knoll-khol, tomatoes that I could see on his field.

“No. I use other pesticides. I stopped using endosulfan more than two years ago. No one in this area uses it. There are massive problems with it, madam. Even if someone else is spraying, the person standing on the other side can inhale and faint. You end up with headache, so many problems, that we don’t use. We have had to take so many people to hospital because of it.’’

Are you aware that there is a debate on whether or not it should be banned, I asked. What about Kasaragode? Have you heard what happened there?

“No, madam, but please go ahead and ban it. We don’t need endosulfan. It only causes more problems for us.”

“Even the flowers drop if there is a slightly excess dosage. So it is best if the government bans it,’’ he replied.

You can ask anyone in this area and this is what they will say, Sivanna said. I spoke to Ramesh in a nearby field. “We have stopped using it a few years ago. In fact, even the labour doesn’t come in if we are spraying endosulfan, because of the effects,’’ Ramesh said.

What about the cost? The pesticide industry, the Indian government and even some farmers organizations say alternatives will cost some some 10-15  times more. Isn’t that true, I asked.

“That may be true but they are not thinking of the longterm cost on their own health.’’

The next evening, when I got a call from Sivanna, I could sense he was agitated, disturbed. “Madam, I was telling you yesterday. I came for a wedding to Chikballapur. My cousin sprayed endosulfan this afternoon because he didn’t know and the shopkeeper sold him endosulfan and he fainted and we had to rush him to hospital. The government must think of the health of the people, madam.”

Words of wisdom that comes from experience. Glad the Indian government was forced to listen to that wisdom of a `tenth-class fail’, for whatever reasons.


Writing on the wall

By T S Sudhir

Actor Rana Daggubati tweeted : “Just passed by a billboard that says “Improve your handwriting”, I really  need to enroll.”
Rana, I mourn my handwriting, everytime my fingers run on the keyboard. Like I am now. There was a time I was immensely proud of my handwriting. Now 9 out of ten times, I cannot read what I write. Ok, that is an exaggeration. Let us say 6 out of 10 times. Still bad, isn’t it. Specially for a journalist for who jottings make all the difference to content in a report.
I miss my fountain pens that were a treasure. Every alternate Sunday, I would carefully clean them and then fill ink from the inkpot. Will this generation even get to see an inkpot?
When I see ads in newspapers featuring handwriting experts, I wonder if they get enough number of clients. They must be, if the world is full of people like me, saddened at the loss of a good handwriting in the world of the mouse.
I checked out a few handwriting websites and was rather fascinated by the handwriting tips that were dished out. How if you “write with your fingers”, you are a gone case.
An expert Dyas A Lawson writes : “People who inevitably have trouble with handwriting and calligraphy write with their fingers. They “draw” the letters. If you finger-write, that is the first, most important thing you must un-learn.”
“The right muscles are not those in the fingers. You must use the shoulder-girdle and forearm muscles. This muscle group is capable of much more intricate action than you think and tires much less easily than fingers, besides giving a smooth, clean, sweeping look to the finished writing. Though it seems paradoxical, since we’re accustomed to thinking of small muscles having better control, the shoulder-girdle group, once trained, does the job better.”

Now I realise I was writing wrong all my growing up years. No wonder, my hands would ache during a three-hour exam. I can now blame that on missing out on atleast one question in many a paper.
It is not just the fountain pens that have become obsolete. The typewriter gives it company. Harsha Bhogle writes about how the moment he uttered the word `bored’ during his summer hols, he was packed off to a typewriting institute. Ditto with me. I spent one hour everyday typing `The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog’ a 100 times.
Then of course, there were those messy carbon papers that if not stored properly, would render many a sheet blue.

In this age of notebooks and qwerty mobiles, it is highly unlikely that finger writing will be unlearnt. And Rana, the only time you are likely to pick up a pen is to sign an autograph. So chill !

Why Sai is a miracle

By Uma Sudhir

“Swamy will be back with us. We are expecting that by Wednesday, there will be a miracle or it may take some time. But Swamy for sure, will be back with us,” the APSRTC bus depot manager was telling me very matter-of-fact. Just two days in Puttaparthy, I had long stopped looking wide-eyed with surprise when people told me what might otherwise seem like fiction or a figment of imagination.

Virtually everyone here relates incidents of ‘miracles’ that happened to them, not so much to impress you, as to simply share a detail of their life. I, in fact, got the impression that the devotees and followers were not even in any iota of doubt that the person they were sharing the story with may be sceptical of the stories and interpretations. If at all they were conscious of it, it didn’t make them defensive: it was only as if they were sympathetic that they know and I don’t. That is all the difference they saw.

Vijay Sai, the young proprietor of hotel Sai Paradise where I was staying, says the hotel was opened only four months ago.

“We have not yet finished all works but we had to open it for guests considering the demand. We had hoped to complete pending works in the three summer months when the Swamy is usually away at Whitefield and there is no visitor traffic. Wonder why the Swamy did this,” he wonders, adding almost to himself, “He should have at least told us before he left.”

I couldn’t help asking Vijay, “How come all of you here speak like this? How can you rationally expect that that is a possibility?” I got a smile for an answer, which seemed to say : “Here it is like that only for us.”

The town and its people identify so much with being subjects and followers of Satya Saibaba, it is almost as though there is a blurring of identities. Not just spiritually but quite literally as well. Everyone has Sai or Satya as a prefix or suffix to their name. Every hotel, shop, saloon, stadium, planetarium, health centre, school and college has a Sai connection in the name itself. Not surprising perhaps because everything after all, is directly or indirectly in existence because of Saibaba and his blessings.

The soul of Puttaparthy is Satya Saibaba and so is his body. But with the physical being of the presiding deity no longer here, will Puttaparthy be able to retain its fame and glory and the economic prosperity ushered in by the Swamy?

An emphatic yes, says Adikeshavulu Naidu, former MP and ex-chairman of the wealthy Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD). Naidu is a long time and close associate of Satya Saibaba. He shows me a huge laminated poster of Satya Saibaba with a dozen faces around it, including that of an elephant.

“Those are all my family members. The name for each one of them was given by Swamy. That includes my wife, children and grandchildren. So they all owe their very identity to him.”

When I evince curiousity in knowing about the elephant, Naidu tells me the baby elly was presented by his grandchildren and named by Saibaba as Satyageeta. “It was a replacement for Saigeeta who was with Swamy,” says Naidu.

Almost every follower or devotee I met shared what they called `miracles’, not of the vibhuti or lingam materialising-out-of-thin-air variety but a very personal experience where they felt the intervention of the Baba had made something impossible become possible.

Bhagyalakshmi had come from Kakinada with her daughter. She says a few years ago her husband, a bank employee suffered a serious road accident in which his skull was fractured. Doctors had said he would not survive. When he did, they said he would suffer permanent debility. That he would lose his sight.

But he recovered and she believes it is due to the Baba’s miracle that he is perfectly healthy and active today. “He needed to wear glasses before, now he has perfect vision.”

Jagdish says he has always been a follower of Satya Saibaba but for 30 years, his wife refused to be one. She was sceptical of “men of magic”. On their marriage anniversary, in April 2009, she wanted a darshan of Lord Balaji at Tirumala. After all arrangements were made, and they reached Tirumala, all darshans were cancelled for the day. They were about to return disappointed when they purely by chance met an old associate who worked in the TTD, who said the Baba appeared in his dream the night before and asked him to arrange for the couple’s darshan. Jagdish says his wife then understood the Baba’s mysterious ways.

From saving lives to arranging for tickets, from the simplest to the biggest wishes, anything that is answered, devotees tend to attribute to the Saibaba’s miraculous powers.

To me, the energy, goodwill and sense of service and discipline with which everyone in Puttaparthy seemed to be conducting themselves, towards visitors, towards each other, coming forward voluntarily to cook in their homes and kitchens and volunteer free food and drinking water so that those who have come for their last darshan, do not go hungry or thirsty, that can only come from a deep influence and inspiration.

A friend messaged asking if the Saibaba phenomenon was a social hypnosis and conditioning. I replied saying that if it can generate such a momentum of goodwill and positive energy, I don’t care if it was brilliant packaging and marketing. Saibaba deserves a big salute.

Battle for Saibaba’s legacy

By Uma Sudhir

Just a day after he died, there is already intense speculation over what happens next to the wealthy Sathya Sai Trust that looks after philanthropic activities and development work in different parts of India. Puttaparthi is agog with rumours of a tussle going on between different groups to gain control.

(Video of the story)

Faith unlimited

By Uma Sudhir

Godman to some, miracle-man to others and revered as God by lakhs of his followers, Sathya Sai Baba had the rich, famous and powerful from the world of politics, business, films and sport flocking to his doorstep. He died in Puttaparthi on April 24. Here’s a look at the spiritual leader’s journey.

(video of the half hour programme)

Hell hath no fury like a cricketer scorned

By T S Sudhir

Whoever said “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” hasn’t been to the Indian Premier League or the IPL. Because burly male cricketers are letting their former franchisee owners face the fury of their anger and scorn.

Take today’s match for instance. It wasn’t birthday boy Sachin Tendulkar or Hyderabad local lad Ambati Rayudu who turned on the screws on Deccan Chargers. It was the duo of former Chargers, Rohit Sharma and Andrew Symonds, who discharged the Hyderabadis’ battery. Their love affair with Hyderabad was obviously a thing of the past.

While Rohit wasn’t exactly a spurned lover, obviously happy to be back in his home side of Mumbai, Symonds, since he is no longer playing for Australia, could have gone the Ganguly, Lara, Jayasuriya way of not being picked up at all, after being dropped like a hot potato by DC. Rohit hit 56 and Symonds 44, as Mumbai Indians gave their skipper the perfect birthday gift.

With today’s defeat, the Hyderabadi bulls are on the horns of a dilemma, languishing at the bottom of the table.

Symonds was only drawing inspiration from former DC skipper Adam Gilchrist. Gilly who is now captain of Kings XI Punjab, played a blistering knock of 61 against the Deccan Chargers in Hyderabad the other night, to help his team to an eight wicket victory. To rub it in even more, he said that he had a point to prove to a particular member of the Deccan Chargers management and while he will not name the person, the person in question would know the barb is meant for him. Ouch ! Doesn’t that sound too much like a scorned lover?

Gilly has reason to be upset. A senior sports journalist tells me that a particular key person has indeed been making uncharitable and unsubstantiated allegations against the former Aussie wicketkeeper, which must have reached Gilly’s ears.

Hell indeed hath no fury like a Chris Gayle spurned. In the West Indian’s case, it was being spurned by two teams. Gayle was not retained by Kolkata Knight Riders and he was not picked up in the auction either. And the West Indian selectors rubbed it in by dropping him for the team against Pakistan over question of fitness.

And Vijay Mallya knows a good brand when he sees one. Royal Challengers Bangalore picked up Gayle as a replacement for Dirk Nannes and against KKR, Gayle ensured he was the king of good times, hitting a century. A Gambhir samasya !

Eden Gardens faced a Gaylestorm that not just blew away all the golden helmets of the Knight Riders, but must have created a storm in Barbados and Antigua as well.

The only one who has not got an opportunity yet to settle scores against his former mates is the Prince of Kolkata. Sourav Ganguly so far is only displaying his dadagiri in TV studios despite rumours that Kochi Tuskers is wooing him all the time. Will Ganguly turn a tusker to trounce his `home’ team? Do I hear SRK singing “Kuch kuch hota hai”.