Wednesday, June 25, 2008


After having got my Visa, I am now at my Patti's place. There is a temple for Lord Balaji at a place called Chilkur, a half hour drive from Hyderabad. I was told that this temple was very famous among students going to the USA and many of them come here and do 108 Pradhakshanams after getting their Visas. (Actually, it seems that it is customary to do 11 before you appear for your Visa, and then come and do 108). I had to get up at 5:30 AM on a cold rainy day to get ready and ended up waiting for more than 45 minutes before my Patti's driver to come. It was about 7 when I reached the temple at Chilkur and I was a little amazed see the crowd that was already busy doing the Pradhakshanams.
It was as though the entire city had descended on this small town, you could find all sorts of people-young, old; slim, fat; dark, white; fit, unfit....and the Praharam was used for diverse purposes like running, jogging and sitting apart from doing the Pradhakshanams of course. Only then did I realize that the devotees who came to the temple were not confined to just the US goers and their kin. The rush at the temple for doing the Pradhakshanams was akin to our own Ranganathan Street during Deepavali times and I swear on GOD, this is not an exaggeration. The ground was a little slippery and hence I took care to land safely more so after I heard a thud when a girl slipped and fell quite miserably.(mind you I was clad in a dhothi!!) The Pradhakshanams were small no doubt, but the milling crowd made it impossible to move even remotely close to being free. It seemed as though I was surrounded by a barricade with a fat, slow moving woman in the front, a thin, brisk, young man looking for a 'gap' to get past me, a very vocal Bhaktha on my left, chanting Govindaaa Govindaaa GHOvindaa and a newly wed (not so sure!) couple to my right. It took me ages and some meticulous planning to break past this cavalcade, but my 'freedom' was short lived as I got myself into another of those formations!!
After a point of time, I couldn't continue to keep track of the number of Pradhakshanams, but just couldn't be done with it as I was under the watchful eyes of my Paatti. I saw a board in the temple which read-"Concentrate on GOD, not the numbers" and this gave my (count)enance a huge relief !! After doing a couple of rounds more, I just couldn't go on and as I moved to the place my Paatti was sitting, and as I neared the place, I could her in conversation with somebody on her cell phone. Just as I was about to tell her that only 10 more Pradhakshanams remained (when I had hardly done 30), I heard her tell my mother, who was on the line, that I could have completed only 50 by this time!!! I managed to convince her that I had finished 73 (the fact that its prime makes it a little more authentic, doesn't it??)!!!
This meant, I had to spend atleast another half an hour doing the Pradhakshanams but this time I made sure I did not get entangled in any 'Vyuhams', so to speak. I saw a guy sporting a bright red shirt and the reason it caught my attention, apart from the fact that it was bright, was the fact that it had something written on it. It read 'FCKU' and I started exploring the contents of what was written. Even if the missplet word was intended, it 'spelt Gulti' all over it as the 4 letter word hadn't been used even in 1 proper sense, let alone sentence and it brought back memories of the "Gultis at NITT" t-shirt!!
The crowd didn't thin even a bit and it was getting unmanageable now, atleast for me. Everyone around was chanting Govinda and it was only today that I knew that the chants could be variegated in meter and tune -a pleasant sweet sounding one(full of Bhakthi and josh), the one said with gritted teeth(this was when I bombarded into an old (not so) gentleman), the one that managed to come out in between laughter(a guy was sharing a joke with his son)!
Though I managed to miss the count for the number of Pradhakshanams I did, I did keep track of another count:-
Number of people who barged into me (knowingly or unknowingly) = 356
Number of people I dashed into unknowingly =479
Number of people who were caught unawares, when
I threw my weight around =173
After reading this blog, please don't dismiss me off as JUST ANOTHER atheist (pun not intended)!!
If you still mistake me for an atheist, 356, 479 and 173 add up to 1008 (now don't be so skeptical)-thats divine isn't it? OM NAMO NARAYANAYA!! ellam avan seyal.....
P.S I just came to know that the temple has an alias - 'VISA' BALAJI TEMPLE, CHILKUR !!!

Monday, June 16, 2008

What next?? (or should it be who)-contd.

Assuming the next assembly elections are conducted as scheduled, the ruling party, the DMK, irrespective of who leads it, has to contend with anti-incumbency. For reasons beyond my comprehension, the people of Tamil Nadu have not voted back a party in power for a second term again, in the last 20 years (this includes President's Rule two times). I still vividly remember Dr. Kalaignar addressing the press at Anna Arivalayam after a dismal showing in the 2001 assembly elections when he said he accepted the verdict of the people but could not understand why the tally plummeted to a mere 31 from a whopping 173 which the DMK had in the outgoing assembly. The AIADMK and Ms. Jayalalitha, who had been written off after the election debacle of 1996 staged a very strong comeback, increasing their tally from 4 in 1996 to 131 in 2001, and this after scores of cases had been filed against Ms. Jayalalitha for misusing Government machinery. As Dr. Kalaignar mentioned in that press briefing, perhaps the people of Tamil Nadu did have a very short memory. If these occurrences in the recent past are anything to go by, the AIADMK would give themselves a more than just a decent chance of coming back to power.
Post 1967, Tamil Nadu politics has been dominated by the DMK and the AIADMK to such a great extent that the national parties like the INC and BJP have been reduced to being even less than mere spectators. The INC's call to recreate Kamaraj rule continues to remain a mere dream with lack of unity in the local unit. The BJP has never had a significant presence in Tamil Nadu, and the leaders will fully well realize the necessity to side with one of the two of DMK and AIADMK. Though ideologically an alliance with the AIADMK may me more natural, a lot depends on how the verdict of the Lok Sabha turns out. So, with the national players almost out of the picture, the incumbents have to contend only with the regional parties.

(Why I have chosen to write this blog from the point of view of the DMK is because of two reasons
1. the title of the blog!!
2. i have found it a lot easier to write from the point of view of the ruling party!!)

I think it is unnecessary to talk about the small parties which have created little or no impact in elections thus far, either alone or as a part of an alliance, as I strongly believe it will remain the same in the next assembly elections also.
constituency, a The DMDK, led by actor turned politician Mr. Vijayakanth had a pretty good outing in the 2006 assembly elections garnering a vote share of about 8%, which is a remarkable performance on debut. In spite of having such a big vote share, the party ended up with just 1 seat as the votes were distributed across many regions. Mr. Vijayakanth's victory from the Vridhachalam constituency, a PMK stronghold speaks volumes about his popularity and it will be interesting to see how much of his personal charisma helps his party increase its tally this time. It might be a little too premature to comment either way on Mr. Sarathkumar's impact on the elections, but I am sure he would be extremely happy if he manages to win a few seats.
The PMK's relations have soured a little bit with the DMK in recent times and a major political rearrangement may be in the offing especially as the Lok Sabha elections close in. The PMK have traditionally done well in certain regions over a period of time and have a very solid and a safe vote bank.
The MDMK is a much weakened party these days with Mr. Vaiko having to contend with not only political setbacks, but also internal squabbles. I don't see the party severing ties with the AIADMK atleast in the near future. The recognition by the Election Commission of India that the faction led by Mr. Vaiko to be the original MDMK must have come as huge relief for him and his partymen. Given all the political compulsions, walking out of the DMK alliance over seat sharing could well be the biggest political plunder committed by Mr. Vaiko as it practically dented his image as a person with integrity and principles-a rarity these days in public life.
Atleast for now, only the AIADMK has the strength in its ranks to seriously challenge the DMK in an assembly election and vice-versa. The principal opponent of the DMK will be the AIADMK irrespective of how the other parties align themselves. As I said earlier, going by just the pattern, the AIADMK look set to have a good outing in the assembly elections. How much of an impact the Lok Sabha elections would have on the assembly elections remains to be seen. But, if the assembly elections witness a triangular fight, with the third party being the DMDK, we may have a hung assembly again. Both the DMK and the AIADMK would know very well that Mr. Vijayakanth's party is no weakling in the political arena, especially after an impressive showing in the previous assembly elections. The DMDK would look to campaign on the 'give us a chance and see for yourselves' platform and if it does have takers, we could have Mr. Vijayakanth taking an all new avatar-that of a kingmaker!!
As far as the future of the DMK goes, even though it has been controlled by one family and may continue to be in the future, the cadre based party that the DMK is, enables it to have prominent leaders with enviable election records in Mr. Anbazhagan, Mr. Arcot Veerasamy, Mr. Durai Murugan, Mr. Aladi Aruna, Mr. Kosi Mani, Mr. Ponmudi among others, in its ranks. While the absence of even a prominent, let alone strong second rung leadership in the AIADMK, which solely relies on the personal magnetism of Ms. Jayalalitha, might make things a little easier for the DMK's future leadership, the political acumen and personal appeal of Ms. Jayalalitha is something they will have to grapple with. A fully stabilized and strong DMDK only spells more trouble for the DMK.

(As I took a stroll in the road, a vernacular magazine had come up with an interesting headline-"Ayya moves closer to Amma and Puratchi Kalaignar moves closer to Kalaignar"- sensational journalism at its best for you!!)

Friday, June 13, 2008

What next?? (or should it be who)

Tamil Nadu's political scenario is at a very interesting juncture even though there are no assembly elections scheduled (immediately) and neither is a major rearrangement in the alliances imminent. More than the present, it is the future which intrigues me, more specifically the immediate future. It would provide a perfect setting for a political thriller and may be we can even expect to see a Iruvar-2 from Maniratnam. Only that, unlike in Iruvar, the sequel's story would be far more complex and the screenplay naturally more racy. Its not merely the fact that it is in the 'future' that makes it interesting, but the nature of Tamil Nadu politics that adds more flavor to the possibilities.
With the political retirement of Dr. Kalaignar not very far off, irrespective of whether it comes naturally or otherwise, the political future of the DMK and along with it that of Tamil Nadu is about to enter a very decisive phase. 'Who after Dr. Kalaignar' would perhaps be the most difficult question to answer at least for the moment and the answer I believe is not straight forward. I can still manage to think of a few possibilities each one more interesting than the other, but what finally happens could not only turn out be different but also, much much more interesting.
According to me, Mr. M.K Stalin starts off as firm favourite to lead the DMK, but his road to the 'coveted' chair could be extremely difficult and challenging. If due to some reason, he is not anointed as the next leader by Dr. Kalaignar, the going could get very tough, though he would still remain as my favourite to lead. Even if he is named as the heir by the man himself, things might only be marginally easier and much of the ease would be perhaps restricted to the psychological level. Mr. M.K Stalin might not enjoy wide spread acceptance immediately but I think he can pull it off. Perasiriyar, Mr. K Anbazhagan has also given Mr. Stalin the green signal. A few years ago, while addressing a public meeting, he said he had no doubts whatsoever about the fact that 'Thalapathi' would lead the DMK in a fair and just manner. He added that he did not have the same confidence on Dr. Kalaignar when he took over the reigns of the party from Mr. Annadurai way back in 1969. This statement coming from the 'clean face' of the party is a big shot in the arm for Mr. Stalin.
Knowing Dr. Kalaignar's deep sense of respect and affection for Perasiriyar, the possibility of Mr. Anbazhagan being named the next Chief Minister cannot be completely overlooked. This would happen only if Dr. Kalaignar decides to step down from the Chief Minister's post a year ahead of the assembly elections and pull off a Jyothi Basu act himself. I would not give even a smidgen of a chance, but it is a possibility nevertheless.
Even if we accept the fact that it would be Mr. Stalin after Dr. Kalaignar, the twists and turns that the sub-plot could have in store for us is mind boggling. The rise of Mr. Stalin has not been accepted with equanimity and grace by all in the party, specifically not by his brother Mr. M.K Azhagiri. While Mr. M.K Azhagiri is a force to reckon with in regions near Madurai, his influence and power is not very perceptible outside. This notwithstanding, Dr. Kalaignar would do nothing to enter the bad books of his elder son which was amply demonstrated even recently when the Maran brothers were not allowed to meet the Chief Minister to wish him on his birthday. Grapevine has it that this incident was a result of specific orders to Dr. Kalagnar from Mr. Azhagiri which 'fore bade' him to even meet the Maran brothers let alone exchange pleasantries.
Dr. Kalaignar is amongst the best brains on the political circuit in India at the moment and it wouldn't need an amateur to shed light on the political future of his family and the DMK, both of which are intertwined inseparably. I wouldn't imagine Mr. Azhagiri to take any drastic step even in the eventuality that Mr. Stalin comes to be the leader of the DMK with a definitive chance of being the Chief Minister some time in the future even if not immediately. But, Mr. Stalin's perceived closeness with the Maran family might affect the party adversely as it would certainly rub Mr. Azhagiri and his supporters on the wrong side. The wrath of Mr. Azhagiri would be the last thing Mr. Stalin would want to contend with especially immediately after taking over the reigns from his father. He would certainly acknowledge the fact that his brother is no push over and maintaining cordial relations with him would hold the party in good stead. Given that, the Maran brothers also wield considerable influence over the party and if vernacular magazines are to be believed, they have control over 45 MLA's in the current assembly.
The ascent to the throne may turn out to be easy for Mr. Stalin, but the road ahead is certainly not a bed of roses. If he is able to hold together and manage the party as well as his father did, given his adversaries, he would be a very happy man when his hey days are over.
The above story merely restricts itself to internal rivalries and problems, but on the political arena no opponents can be rubbished off. But, that's for another time.
As I complete this piece of 'scrawling' to flip through the day's newspaper, a headline reads "DMK to review ties with PMK" and with this, the very first sentence of this blog goes right out of the window, such is the ever changing nature of politics that makes it so interesting!!!

I have just joined the bandwagon!!

For reasons not stretching beyond good old sentiments, I would start off with a cliche- For a long time I have been wanting to write a blog and its only now that I have actually managed to create one.
This would just be a space for me to pen down my thoughts on topics which might interest me, though, I am tempted to see it merely as an opportunity to improve my writing skills, which got some stick at the hands of the GRE evaluators. (and may be I am just making you the guinea pig!!)
I would want to make it as interesting as possible, lets see how it shapes up. My blog would perhaps help me kill some time (and may be bore a (very) few readers!!) in what could be a solitary life in a distant land leaving behind the warmth and comforts of my home, in a couple of months from now. (Hope the visa officer is blessed with a pleasant disposition, at least when I go to him!!)

P.S About the web address, it was a word I found as a synonym for 'scribbling'(my original choice) on Word Web!!! I am adding this just to prevent 'bits' filling in as comments if at all they do!!!