Editorial 1/ Hard talk
Editorial 2/ Dream merchants
Within a changing history
Fifth Column / Placed on the right side of god
Letters to the Editor
This above all

 
 
EDITORIAL 1/ HARD TALK 
 
 
 
 
Plainspeaking is good, but to be effective it has to come from the proper source. The Supreme Court undoubtedly voiced the thoughts of many citizens when it remarked on the incompetence of the Karnataka government and the negligence it has shown for eight years in failing to capture the sandalwood smuggler, elephant poacher and kidnapper, Veerappan. In its oral rebuke, the court further said that if the state government cannot handle either the criminal or the ethnic unrest arising from the abduction of the filmstar, Raj Kumar, it should retire and make place for a government which can. All this might find great support among citizens in substance. But a layman might be puzzled by the role the court is apparently playing here. The government of Karnataka, dithering and befuddled over the Raj Kumar episode though it may be, is a democratically elected government. Such a criticism would sound right coming from its legislators, for they are there in the assembly for this precise function. The residents of the state too, might voice their criticisms of the government’s incompetence, and they are free to do so through the formal channel of the ballot box. The court’s remarks appear out of place, especially in view of the fact that it has always insisted, and rightly, that law and order is a state subject.

India’s democratic structure is finely balanced on the three institutions of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. The fine balance can be maintained by each institution discharging its functions within its own jurisdiction and interacting fairly with the others in the process. This interaction is seldom ideal and overstepping jurisdictions always causes problems. The Supreme Court’s statement about the inefficiency of the Karnataka government had been preceded by a stay order on the release of prisoners whom the state had decided to free as a way of meeting Veerappan’s demands. The court was responding to a petition made to it. But once again, the boundaries around a state subject, that is, law and order, and a state decision regarding prisoners within the state appear to have been blurred. Undeniably, the abduction and its aftermath indicate a terrible failure of the state machinery, as does the fact that Veerappan has been at large for so many years. Yet, a court, being a formal institution with set areas of functioning, cannot ask a state government to make way for another. The crusading attitude of the higher courts of the land, which became manifest after the disappearance of one-party rule at the Centre, has done a lot of good in many areas. But the higher judiciary’s habit of speaking up where it should reserve its opinion will not help the already delicately balanced machinery of democracy. Confusion and misrule should be corrected through the correct procedures. Else plainspeaking will do more harm than good.    


 
 
EDITORIAL 2/ DREAM MERCHANTS 
 
 
 
 
West Bengal’s stately progress towards the freeing of markets has acquired another milestone. Since September 1, the government has allowed the state’s film exhibitors to increase and decrease the price of tickets according to the intrinsic commercial merit of films. The time taken for the Left Front government to see sense in this matter is certainly symptomatic of the manner in which economic reforms are implemented in the state. The Eastern India Motion Pictures Association has been urgently proposing the freeing of government control since 1996. It renewed its appeal in April 1998 after the orgy of blackmarketeering during the Titanic season. The then information and culture secretary, Mr Amit Kiran Deb, had promised a decision “in a few months”. The reforms calendar obviously exists in another dimension of time. Meanwhile, not only have scalpers thrived and the city’s once flourishing cinema halls fallen into vice-ridden delapidation or have been forced to shut down, but also the entire middle class filmgoing culture in Calcutta has been effectively finished off by the stranglehold of state control and taxation. The flourishing, technologically advanced cinema halls in Delhi and Maharashtra, where there is no ceiling on ticket rates, are a study in contrast. Significantly, West Bengal still cannot let go entirely. Hall owners have to give a three-day notice to the state department before changing the ticket price. The Bombay high court had struck down precisely this mandatory condition in the Entertainment Duty Act.

The state can now look forward to several improvements in the distribution and viewing of films. First, there will be a definite decrease in blackmarketeering, which causes a major loss of revenue for the exhibitors and the government. According to a 1998 estimate, the government loses Rs 20 crore to scalpers every year. Second, together with the flushing out of this criminal culture, the hall owners’ increased income would also ensure the improvement in the physical conditions of the halls and in the audiovisual technology of film projection. Moreover, the competition generated by the freeing of the market could only be salutary. The government could also be collecting up to Rs 20 crore more in taxes. Third, with the upgrading and decriminalization of its cinema halls, Calcutta could now hope for a revival of its cinema culture. Its government-sponsored film complex can only accommodate a limited number of people and only attracts a certain middle to high brow audience. Entertainment is certainly not a fundamental right and there is no reason why a government should make cinema part of its “public welfare” economy, when basic services like health and education are in a shambles even when they remain within its control.    


 
 
WITHIN A CHANGING HISTORY 
 
 
BY RAJAT KANTA RAY
 
 
Ashin Das Gupta once asked a candidate for a lectureship in history: “Can you give us a reason why we should not regard Thucydides as a journalist?” The candidate fumbled and I too was perplexed despite being a selector. Now I know that Thucydides, like a journalist, reported on events in progress, but he had a critical attitude to the nature of evidence. Had he been alive today he would have been considered a practitioner of what is called contemporary history.

Rudrangshu Mukherjee admonished us (“Question of teaching”, August 18) for “erratic” teaching performed as a “chore”, with no regard “to the comprehension and interest of students”. He charged us with a failure to live up to the teaching ideal of Kuruvilla Zachariah, Susobhan Chandra Sarkar, Amales Tripathi and Ashin Das Gupta, the former heads of the department of history in Presidency College.

I might have wished that before pronouncing on the matter, he had consulted, not just one student, but a few others as well, which might have enabled him to grasp his informant’s evidence better. I might also have wished that he had taken my colleagues’ version, because the concerned teachers’ self-image would be judged by historians to be an essential part of the evidence. But in exercising his right of admonition as an alumnus and an honorary lecturer, he has served the college community well by making us reexamine ourselves.

Despite the adverse changes that began in the Eighties with the large scale transfers of the old teachers, my ex-teacher, Kajal Sengupta, among others, stuck it out in Presidency College because she could not bear the thought of leaving what she calls our “second home”. All my colleagues who were in college when I began teaching here in 1975 have gone, but the portraits of the illustrious quartet continue to look down upon the staff room, sometimes oppressively, sometimes encouragingly.

For many of my colleagues of that generation, serving the college was serving the country. And the commitment to the college which I still observe among my present colleagues, especially during the backbreaking months of the admission test when they work around the clock, derives from the admonishing glances of all those portraits in the staff room. They are helped by the students who are actuated by the same sense of commitment which once made the Hindu College and the Presidency College of Bengal what it is in the history of modern India.

The conditions in which we work today would have been inconceivable not only to Zachariah and Sarkar, but to Tripathi and Das Gupta as well. The change that crept over the institution in the last quarter of the 20th century and which manifested itself with unwonted hardness in the Nineties, induced some of us at length to change our teaching strategy towards the end of the century. As Uma Dasgupta has written on the basis of the recorded experiences of the students (which form part of the records of the Susobhan Chandra Sarkar Memorial Collection on the History of the Presidency College), the students of the Nineties live in a competitive, pragmatic world in which success in examination and getting on in life matters more than it did in the Seventies.

Every year, there is heartbreak as the results come out, and the evidence of whimsicality in Calcutta University’s examination system, which has lost all legitimacy, accumulates. A seminar on “The parallel system of education”, in the newly set up girls’ hostel, brought home to us the extent to which private tuition has replaced class work as the avenue to examination success.

In any case, the rise of the joint entrance examinations and the Indian Institute of Technology entrance tests to dominance has undermined the status of the broad knowledge to be acquired in the arts and sciences. Those who come to the arts are socially condemned as “rejects”, and in several science courses, the class is half emptied when, at the end of the first year, students leave the college for engineering/medicine after having obtained entry on the second try. Coaching the students to do well, as we sought to do earlier by covering examination topics systematically, has been reduced to mockery.

I should add that I have nothing against the syllabus: in fact, under the direction of Amales Tripathi, I wrote up the course outline for six and a half of the eight honours papers of the existing syllabus at the turn of the Eighties. Keeping within this syllabus, some of us decided in the late Nineties to press the topics into a running theme to rouse the spirit of inquisitiveness and analysis in class. Indian history between 1857 and 1947 now became the story of the growth of a civil society; and how thereby the communitarian and hierarchical society’s response to imperialism in 1857, was later transformed into modern nationhood under the Congress.

Among the questions attempted by the informant’s batch in the annual examination of 2000 were: one, compare the India of 1857 with the India of 1947 and tell in a few words what was so different in 1857; two, what difference did the introduction of the rule of law make to the Indian social formation and, three, when and how did the population of India begin to perceive the Congress as the alternative to the raj as the government of India.

Out of a total of 22 examinees no less than nine students won the distinction of having their answers read out in class as examples of first class answers. The questions were not stock questions, and the answers reflected intelligent thinking and perfect comprehension of the ideas conveyed in class.

Mukherjee’s source told him that she had been taught the history of Presidency College; the uprising of 1857; the question of the Aryan authorship of the Harappan civilization; and the growth of the Congress, civil society and the Indian middle class. I might add that on a rainy day, when half the class did not turn up, I refrained from teaching the day’s topic, and discussed “the history of rain” with this batch. Mukherjee, who obviously did not know these details, concluded that I “jumped from topic to topic” and that “the joy of opening up the minds of the young has obviously lost its ineffable magic for Ray”.

The problem of evidence assumes another shape with the informant’s oral testimony. One of my colleagues, a sincere and competent teacher, told the class that the expansion of Islam was a momentous affair (no “chhele khela”): the Arabs, before they overwhelmed the Sassanid and Byzantine empires, were an obscure desert people (no “chal” nor “chulo”, not “no chul, nor chera”, which is a misquote making no sense). An informal expression to convey a living impression to the students begins to look odd when printed out of context.

The department of history in Presidency College is profoundly aware of the illustrious quartet who created its tradition; and this is reflected in the fact that despite being reduced to practically half its strength, it has more or less coped with the conditions, and has sought to acquaint the students with some of the important new research in the respective subjects. Conditions have changed. But we cling desperately to our heritage, and we try and make our students think. And with or without our aid, the students (as their answer books reflect) do undoubtedly think, despite the compulsion of examinations in a hard, competitive and often incomprehensible environment.

Such is our self-image. We are aware all the time of not living up to it. “We aim above the mark to hit the mark.” So J. Huizinga once quoted Emerson while describing the medieval ideal of chivalry, and went on to ask, “But where should we be, if our thoughts had never transcended the exact limits of the feasible?”

The Presidency College is a community consisting of its students, its alumni and its teachers. In sociological terminology it is outwardly a Gesellshaft, a voluntary association for learning selected by admission test, and competitive in its nature. But, by virtue of its long history, it is also a Gemeinshaft, a community. This is reflected no less in the fact that Rudrangshu Mukherjee exercised the right of admonition than in the fact that his anonymous source immediately and voluntarily came forward to clarify matters. All this will, I hope, help us to analyse our strengths and weaknesses. Modern learning is competitive, but at heart it seeks fellowship.

The author is professor and head of the department of history, Presidency College, Calcutta    


 
 
FIFTH COLUMN / PLACED ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF GOD 
 
 
BY GWYNNE DYER
 
 
The senator, Joe Lieberman, Democratic candidate for the United States vice-presidency, made an intriguing claim last Monday (28 August). He said that the United States was “the most religious country in the world.” Personally, I would have thought that Saudi Arabia is even more religious than the US. Muslims have been exposed to the erosive effects of rationalism and modernization for less than half as long as Christians, and in the particular case of Saudi Arabia — home to Islam’s two most important holy places — nationalism, social conservatism, and state policy ally with inherited faith to produce an extraordinarily high rate of genuine belief. Judaism, by contrast, is probably the major faith which has the smallest proportion of people born into it who grow up to be actual believers.

Lieberman himself is a religious Jew who says things like “As a people we need to reaffirm our faith and renew the dedication of our nation and ourselves to...god’s purpose.” But a large minority of Jews, not just in the US, but equally in Argentina, Britain, France and Israel itself, cherishes the ethno-cultural identity embodied in its religion while having little or no belief in the god of its fathers.

Holier than thou

Christianity, like Islam, is a universal religion that does not carry any such connotation of a specific tribal identity. Just as you can be Bosnian, Nigerian or Indonesian and still be an unhyphenated Muslim, so you can be Croatian, Nigerian or Filipino and claim equal status as a Christian. But rather as many Saudis secretly think of themselves as more truly Muslim than the rest, so many Americans think of their country as Christianity’s true homeland.

Listen to the Republican presidential candidate, George “Dubya” Bush, speaking to a Jewish audience in Washington on 28 August: “Our nation is chosen by god and commissioned by history to be a model to the world of justice and inclusion and diversity without division.” The US is a model for all sorts of things, from representative democracy to drive-by shootings, but to suggest that a presumably eternal god with a universe to look after chose this particular political entity, now just 224 years old, as his means of enlightening mankind seems a little presumptuous.

But the American media scarcely commented on this grotesque mingling of divine purpose and mundane politics, so commonplace has this sort of overheated religiosity become in US public life. Most Americans are equally oblivious to how far they have travelled from the intentions and values of the republic’s founders, sons of the 18th-century Enlightenment who wrote the separation of religion and the state into the Constitution.

Media evangels

So how did the US get from there to here? The founding fathers were always an elite minority in a country which was settled, to a large extent, by religious refugees — people who, back home, were generally viewed as obstinate fanatics. Even in the 19th century, as democracy widened the debate, American political discourse took on a distinctly religious tone. And then, finally, came television.

Compare the American presidents of the Thirties, Forties, Fifties and Sixties with those since. It’s hard to believe that Franklin Roosevelt, or Harry Truman, or even John F. Kennedy was actually an orthodox Christian, though they all went to church as part of maintaining their public image. Dwight Eisenhower may have been a believer, but one doubts that Richard Nixon was. Whereas Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, despite their cynical manipulation of the public’s taste for corn pone religiosity, almost certainly were believers themselves. Only George Bush, among recent presidents, has a sufficiently patrician background and style that one suspects him of faking his religious enthusiasm for electoral advantage.

It’s a media phenomenon. While the US remains by far the most religious of the developed countries, in terms of individual faith it is probably a less religious place than it was 50 years ago. But television is a lowest common denominator medium that punishes sophistication and loves simplicity. Moreover, it is ruthless at detecting insincerity, so that faking religious belief is no longer good enough. You actually have to be a believer. A nation doesn’t get the politicians it deserves. It gets the politicians its media dictate.    


 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Street smart

Sir — Pronab Mondal’s article, “Mayor’s monumental folly” (Sept 1) criticized the Calcutta Municipal Corporation mayor, Subrata Mukherjee, justifiably, for setting up a pandal on Ekdalia road. What business has he to cause inconvenience to the passerby? Worse, he is setting up the puja pandal without permission from the authorities. Or does he think that he is the ultimate authority when it comes to any construction on the Calcutta streets because he is the mayor? His comment, “This...has been going on for almost 60 years. So another year hardly makes any difference,” will not lessen the misery of the people. The mayor may not know that the pandal, which is causing tremendous traffic jams, has already made him unpopular among officegoers. Mukherjee is wrong if he feels the public will side with him in his aspiration to win the prize for the best pandal this year. It might be suggested that one who thinks puja pandals are above questions of convenience to the common man is not the right person to be our mayor.
Yours faithfully,
Abhishek Kishore, Calcutta

Wily chief

Sir — .The chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, N. Chandrababu Naidu, and the 29 members of parliament of his Telugu Desam Party have made a habit of twisting the Centre round their little fingers. A.B. Vajpayee, in a desperate bid to retain his prime ministership has consistently capitulated to the unjust demands of this regional party.

Naidu is nothing but a clever version of J. Jayalalitha. Of late, he has been criticizing other states, smug in the belief that he is running a performing state himself. But in reality, the eastern and northern parts of Andhra Pradesh are two of the poorest regions in the country, while the central regions cry out for want of water and power. Only the Godavari basin is prosperous. Naidu has also not been able to curb the Naxalite menace in different parts of the state.

Hyderabad is certainly among the most prosperous cities of India, but Andhra Pradesh cannot be judged by the performance of its capital. In the manner of a French queen, computerwallah Naidu’s message to his distressed farmers seems to be, “If you don’t have food, eat computers.” Naidu is lucky to have a disintegrating Congress in opposition in the assembly. Not only will the French queen’s fate not befall him, but also the power-hungry Vajpayees will continue to dance to his tune.

Yours faithfully,
Arjun Bharat, Calcutta

Sir — N. Chandrababu Naidu’s statement about West Bengal and Kerala is unsavoury and unwarranted. While no one stops him from blowing his trumpet for wooing investors in the most shameless manner, he should stop trying to dissuade investors from investing in other states. The investors are well equipped to judge for themselves where to place their investments.

Yours faithfully,
S.R. Dasgupta, Calcutta

Sir — Why should N. Chandrababu Naidu be criticized for telling the truth (“Naidu mocks at Basu’s Bengal”, Aug 17)? For the last 23 years, the Left Front government in West Bengal has lent its covert and overt support to militant trade unionism. This has resulted in closures of industries, ebb in the flow of investments to the state even after liberalization, unemployment and one of the lowest per capita incomes in the country.

The infrastructure scenario is abysmal. The next of kin of state ministers pursue their studies in the European and American universities whereas English is banned from the primary level of the schools in the state. Either the left sympathizers start thinking in constructive terms, or they stop being irritated by what is true.

Yours faithfully,
Tuneer Banerjee, Calcutta

Sir — In India, every rain washes off the cover carefully draped over the ugly reality. N. Chandrababu Naidu has reasons to be proud of his cyber-friendly capital city, but he must have forgotten that computers cannot soak rainwater. The result: heavy floods paralyse life in most parts of the state, including the technologically advanced city of Hyderabad. On top of this, Naidu played the familiar politician’s game of passing the buck to the meteorological department, which went on to disclose that it had sent prior warnings to the concerned authorities. Naidu would do better to divert his attention from abusing other states and concentrating more on his own state and people.

Yours faithfully,
Nidhi Dokania, Calcutta

Case of the police

Sir — A commendable step was recently taken by the police to stop the use of high-pitched horns by vehicles violating the decibel limit (“99 cars caught in decibel crackdown” Aug 11). But considering past records, the impact of this kind of effort is usually short-lived. It is not that the entire police department lacks initiative, but there is a general lack of awareness among the public on what the outcome might be if they flout rules. People are not aware that hearing problems may be caused by loud horns. How many people know the information provided in the report: that two out of every 10 Calcuttans have hearing problems, and are on medication?

Also, the notorious work culture in the police department will make drives such as these shortlived. In fact, catching 99 vehicles and penalizing them under Section 190(2) of the Motor Vehicles Act might just turn out to be an annual ritual like the “safety weeks” organized by the Calcutta traffic police. In a city where the traffic police are not themselves aware of silence zones and decibel limits, it would be illogical to expect that this recent drive will succeed.

Yours faithfully,
R.H. Putran, Calcutta

Sir — I fully agree with N. Mukherjee when he says that indifference to the concerns of the public is one of the main causes behind the slackness in the police department (“How to win the public and influence crime”, July 24). This is true in every part of the country. No wonder that the public refuses to cooperate with the department. Corruption has also given the police a bad name. Regular discussions, incentives, counselling sessions for those in service are essential. And finally, the police should be taught to deal with criminals without using force.

Yours faithfully,
Samarendra Kumar Mukherjee, Calcutta

Sir — In the article, “It is performance that has taken a beating” (Aug 29), Shankar Mukherjee seems to harbour a utopian faith in the system of expressing dissatisfaction regarding the corrupt and malfunctioning police department. He feels that people’s grievances against the police would be fairly redressed. The reality is different. Policemen are the uniformed protectors of their non-uniformed brethren — the criminals, a job given to them by politicians. And politicians have the “moral” duty of protecting their successors through the uniformed criminals, the police.

Yours faithfully,
Naibedya Chattopadhyay, Boston

Letters to the editor should be sent to:

The Telegraph
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Calcutta 700 001
Email: [email protected]
Readers in the Northeast can write to:
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G.S. Road, Ulubari, Guwahati 781007
   

 
 
THIS ABOVE ALL 
 
 
BY KHUSHWANT SINGH
 
 

In the neighbourhood of hostility

It is such a topsy-turvy world that at times you don’t know whether you are standing on your feet or on your head. Nothing illustrates our loss of sanity and credibility to uphold the rule of law as much as the way two of our state governments and the media have handled the Veerappan affair. If times were normal, a man who had committed more than 130 murders would have had more than 130 death sentences passed on him and hanged at least once — that would have been enough to serve the purpose of justice.

As for killing hundreds of innocent elephants and hacking down thousands of sandalwood trees, he would have got many sentences of rigorous imprisonment for life. But as I said before, times are out of joint and we are citizens of a mahaan Bharatvarsha where we show more compassion towards criminals than we do to law abiding citizens. We keep feeding ourselves on the myth that we have a discerning electorate which, when it goes to the polls, gives top priority to national interests.

That is utter nonsense. Time and again, voters have returned thugs to assemblies and the Lok Sabha and put caste loyalties above their loyalty to the country. We also have our Phoolan Devi, charged with the killing of about 20 men at one go in Behmai village, granted pardon and now she is an “honourable” member of parliament.

So it is on the cards that Veerappan may emerge a hero of Tamil Nadu and be elected to the Lok Sabha, be made leader of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam or a minister of the Central government. He might make a capable home minister, as he knows a lot more about crime than anyone else in the country. What a scenario!

It is significant that Veerappan kidnapped a Karnataka matinee idol, Raj Kumar. And he is dictating terms not only for himself but also what the Tamil Nadu chief minister, M. Karunanidhi, wants to extract from his Karnataka counterpart. It is the Karnataka chief minister who kept flying to Chennai to plead with Karunanidhi — not the other way round.

I think both chief ministers are being very shortsighted in playing roles — one of a giver and the other of a taker. There is a large Tamil-speaking population in Karnataka: I am told that in the state capital, Bangalore, Tamil is spoken more than Kannada. There have been anti-Tamil demonstrations in Karnataka. If something happens to Raj Kumar, the situation may become perilous.

The Central government must not remain an idle spectator to the tension building up between neighbouring states. As it is, their police has shown its impotence in failing to nab this notorious murderer, robber and thief.

Instead of joining forces to get hold of him and putting him on trial, the two state governments are shamelessly negotiating terms on which he is to be granted amnesty. A strong Central government would have directed the two chief ministers how to tackle the situation before it got out of hand. We do not have that kind of government in the Centre anymore.

Atal Behari Vajpayee, on whom I pinned my hopes, looks tired and jaded — barely recognizable as the man who took over the reins of the government more than a year ago. What has happened to his fiery oratory which kept his audiences spellbound for hours?

On Independence Day, instead of speaking extempore, he read out an uninspiring text of the achievements of his government and faltered more than once while doing so. Who else do we look up to, to get us out of the quagmire in which we have been stuck over the decades?

>Act natural, don’t lose composure

Amitabh Bachchan has been crorepati many times over in the last 30 years. We have not seen a bigger money-spinner or a more versatile actor on our screen: good guy, bad guy, Bhangra dancer, he can pull off every kind of role with aplomb.

For the short time he was a member of parliament, he made a good parliamentarian. He did his homework, prepared his speeches and spoke as an authority on his subject. He is a tall, handsome man with a rich voice. I can’t think of any other person who could have made thundering success of as asinine a show as Kaun Banega Crorepati?.

Everyone wants to become one without having to sweat for it. He has put other top favourite programmes like Antakshari, Sa Re Ga Ma in second and third places by the simple formula of asking moronic questions to an audience comprising of morons.

Under the camouflage of being a test of general knowledge, it is essentially a gambling device with Bachchan playing the roles of a croupier at a casino and a bingo-master at a session of bingo.

My one grievance against Bachchan and most other leading actors in Indian films is that they remain unaware of the difference between acting on stage and acting for the screen. Exaggeration, which is permissible on the stage is not acceptable on the screen.

You may act on the stage but on screen you must behave and speak as you do in real life. Bachchan has stayed a stage actor all his life as have others like Dilip Kumar, Ashok Kumar, the Kapoor brothers, Dev Anand, Shatrughan Sinha and so on.

It is this stage acting rather than acting natural that makes most Indian films unacceptable to cinematographically advanced countries and sophisticated Indians. There are, however, a few glorious exceptions who have stubbornly refused to be stereotyped by Indian directors and producers and left their individual stamps on the Indian film scene.

The name that first comes to my mind is Saeed Jaffery. He is very versatile and an excellent mimic. Though he has often accepted roles in second-rate films to keep himself and his family in comfort he has refused to be directed and acts as he thinks best suited to his part.

The same can be said of Naseeruddin Shah. He his a no-nonsense actor who fits himself into every role he plays as a hand slips into a glove: from Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib to a cranky Parsi.

And, of course, Shabana Azmi: from a maid servant to a peasant’s wife, the girl next door to a blue-stocking lesbian, she lends a tone of authenticity to her acting.

Then there is Amitabh Bachchan’s wife, Jaya Bachchan. She has not done as many films as her husband nor does she have his flamboyance, but in her gentle way she is more convincing on the screen than he.

These four I have named as my favourites. If they have not made crores, they have remained true to themselves rather than take short cuts to stardom and riches.

Verse dedicated to worse politics

<
Who says India is not progressing?
It is making strides in every craft —
In agriculture, in industry, in science and technology
Above all, in corruption and in graft.
There are scams after scams now
In every state and every department
You will find a stinking pot
Lying hidden in each compartment.
The bara sahib and the babu
Are easily bought by the lala
The mantri and the santri both
Treat the criminal as their sala
The rate of corruption has also risen
From five to five thousand, I bet
Not to say of lower staff
IAS and IPS are in CBI net.
(Contributed by G.C. Bhaduri, Meerut)

Banta feared he suffered from inferiority complex. He went to see a psychiatrist. After a few sittings the psychiatrist announced, “Banta, you are not suffering from any complex. You are inferior.”

(Contributed by A.S. Deepak, Chandigarh)    
 

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