Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Makeover Mockery

Imagine if a new government were to pass a law that makes it mandatory for people to wear the dhoti and sari in public places. Wouldn’t there be a national outcry? Even the more-sanskari-than-thou Alok Nath may think twice about endorsing the move as it’s an open transgression of personal freedom.

A city name change enacted via government diktat is akin to the enforced costume makeover. The only difference being, there won’t be a pipsqueak of protest as nobody really loses sleep over place names in India.

Yes, there might be the odd hot headed tweet about how uncool Bengaluru is or how Chikkamagaluru is a worthy candidate for a spelling bee contest but the fact remains that no editorials will be written, no celebrity will speak out, no ‘kiss of love’ protests will be staged, as the issue is largely perceived to be a non-issue.

My gripe with the rechristening is not on whether Mysore should be called Mysuru. It’s about the singular lack of discussion and public involvement before the decision was made.

In these times when cities are seen as brands, a name change should only be effected after considerable debate among all stake holders. I mean, what’s the idea of renaming Madras as ‘Chennai’ when Madras High Court, University of Madras and Madras Stock Exchange decide to retain their original names?

The same process is going to play out in Bengaluru. Bangalore University, is in all likelihood, going to retain its name. Wikipedia, Lonely Planet and zillions of outsiders are still going to refer to it as Bangalore. So why waste billions of rupees in repainting road signs, rewriting maps and reprinting stationery all for the sake of puffing up cultural pride, 67 years after independence?

A place name change is kosher, only if backed by a groundswell of popular support. Here we can learn from processes put in place by several American states and municipalities.

A name change form is available for download at the government website. Those in favour have to mobilise 51% support in their area. Then the motion is presented to a government body which in turn forwards this to a committee that holds a public hearing listening to all the pros and cons before sticking its neck out for the proposal. Sadly none of this was followed in Bengaluru and Mysuru. All that was achieved was, we’ve been short changed in the guise of a name change.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Manohar Parrikar Mystery

On November 9th, a political coup was staged quietly in India. The Chief Minister of a small state was handed the No.2 status in the union government overlooking the claims of seasoned veterans like Arun Jaitley, Rajnath Singh, Venkaiah Naidu and Nitin Gadkari. Oh, and by the way, the country got a new defence minister in Manohar Parrikar.

While the mainstream press attributed the sudden promotion to his dynamism, track record and rapport with NaMo, I am of the view that there are higher forces at work here. One look at the numerology numbers of the man, and you’ll appreciate my points better.

Having born on December 13, 1955, three numbers dominate Parrikar’s life. His Birth Number 4 (add the digits of 13), Fadic Number 9 (add the digits of date of birth) and Name Number 8 (add the number equivalents of the letters in his name using the Chaldean system).

Those with birth number 4 are governed by planet Uranus which is known for bringing about radical and unexpected change. Number 4 people are the ones with energy, force, resourcefulness, courage and conviction. They are usually folks blessed with higher mental faculties. Mathematician Ramanujan, Michael Faraday, Immanuel Kant, and Arthur Conan Doyle, belong to this league. The IIT Bombay aspect of Parrikar and the sudden changes in his fortunes could be attributed to the number.

The name number 8 is the one that’s playing a larger role in his destiny, though. When he contested the assembly elections in Goa, Parrikar chose to stand from Panaji. If you do the math, Panaji’s name number is 8. Coincidentally, the letters of RSS (the organisation backing him to the hilt) add up to 8. Do you know the birth number of Narendra Modi who happens to be backer-in-chief for Parrikar? Well it’s 8. The eight story doesn’t stop there. The word ‘Defence’ (his current portfolio) also summates to that number!

‘What about the fadic number 9?’ you may ask. Well, the swearing in ceremony was done on November 9, despite being a Sunday! So you get the drift, right? All I am alluding to is, given the numerical coincidences, I may not be wrong in assuming that the universe is conspiring to dish out power to Manohar Parrikar on a platter. It’s to be seen if he can live up to the faith invested.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Horsing Around

One night while I was tossing and turning, I had a delightful dream. I saw Ravi Shastri all decked up. Wearing riding boots, sporting an equestrian hat, wielding a whip stick, getting ready to inspect his stable.

He had quirky names for his ponies. I can distinctly recollect: ‘Runs on the Board’, ‘Cool Customer’, ‘Tracer Bullet’, and ‘Playing a Blinder’. ‘Slashed’ and ‘Slashed Hard’ were a pair of twins. ‘Mixes It Up Nicely’ was his idea of a cross breed. ‘Up In The Air’ was his show jumper. I woke up in a sweat when I discovered that he had bet all his money on ‘Cricket Is The Winner’!

Jokes apart, race horse naming is serious business. The accent is always on a positive spin. If you run your eye over the derby results, you’re likely to find a ‘Chariot of Fire’, ‘Wings of Glory’, ‘Velvet Blackjack’, ‘Kings Ransom’, ‘Thunder Bolt’, ‘Faster Than Light’ or ‘Cowboys Delight’ somewhere.

Things are a little warped sometimes. The owner tries his hand at having a wee bit of fun by opting for the unusual. A loser steed is self-deprecatingly labelled as ‘Blue Moon’, ‘Another Chance’, ‘Will Run For Food’ or ‘All Over Da Place’ as the case may be.

Nods to movies happen every once in a while. ‘A Horse Called Man’ is a twisted take on the 70’s flick ‘A Man Called Horse’. ‘Beam me up, Scottie’ is a hat tip to the legendary catchphrase that was never uttered in ‘Star Trek’. ‘Blonde in a Motel’ (who incidentally was sired by ‘Bates Motel’) is a reference to ‘Psycho’.

Brands get a liberal plug too from doting admirers. Bacardi, Starbucks, Campari, Victoria’s Secret and Jack Daniels are regulars at many circuits. Note the marked preference for spirits. May be that’s why a tippler named his horse ‘Sotally Tober’!

A few thoroughbreds get their kicks by flirting with profanity. ‘Hoof Hearted’ is everyone’s favourite. Say it aloud and you’ll discover it sounds ingeniously like ‘Who Farted’. Repeat the same with ‘Sofa Can Fast’ and you’ll know why the prancer was nearly blacklisted.

The one I tripped on the most was the almost Groucho Marxy ‘Dewey Cheatum & Howe’. When the announcer utters it, it feels as if he’s bragging on the microphone saying: “Do we cheat them and how!” Now that’s what I call a racy name.