Posts filed under ‘Politics’

Abdul Kalam – A Life to be Celebrated

As I observe the outpouring of condolence and grief at the passing of Dr APJ Abdul Kalam I realize that his life is one to be celebrated. In life and in death, President Kalam stands out as a towering personality.

Apart from his poverty- to-Presidency story and his tenure as undeniably India’s most popular president, what is it that makes his life so special?

kalam3First of all I realize that a lot of my friends (and a lot of everyone’s friends) have either met President Kalam or know of someone who has met him. Yes, Abdul Kalam was a people person; he reached out everywhere.

I have had the honor of meeting him (and having my work performed in his presence) on three occasions; once in Lexington KY and then in Seattle WA where we had a private audience with him and then at a reception held in his honor at the residence of the Consular General of India in Houston.

He was dear to anyone that went in for higher education; he was an inspiration to all school children. He was and is viewed as a man that blazed forth the torch of inspiration – almost leading you to a guaranteed growth path – full of hope.

It didnt matter whether he offered namaaz or whether he read the Gita each day. All that matters is that there is probably not a single soul in India who would utter a word against him. Isnt that a rarity? Any celebrity has adversaries. Not President Kalam who was dear to one and all. There is thus no surprise that every other post on Facebook feed (or for that matter, anyone’s FB feed) is about him.

His love for Art Music (Karnatic Music in particular) was something that has been talked about in the media. Yes; in his speech in Lexington, when he talked proudly of Indian cultural heritage he did make a mention of the Vaggeyakaras of South India – Tyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Syama Sastri(gal). Yes, in a characteristic Tamilian manner he referred to Sastri as Sastrigal (in a speech in English).

He quickly struck conversation in Tamil with my then 13 year daughter in Seattle when we presented him with a recording of the Indo Colonial Music of Dikshitar (Vismaya). “unakku Dikshitar pidikumma ma? enakku Tyagarajar taan ma pidikkum. ‘yandaro mahanubhavulu”. (Do you like Dikshitar? I like Tyagaraja the most”).

He stands out tall in his death. What an enviable way to leave one’s body behind? No prolonged hospitalization; no illness; no accident. No premature death; he had lived a full life. He was doing what he loved best until his last breath. He was teaching; imparting knowledge. It is an undeniable fact that the body ages – and the death bed images of most people are vastly different from portraits taken in their moments of greatness. President Kalam looked no different at the time of his death than he did during other great moments in life.

In fact, he was never ever past his prime.

Such a life is to be celebrated. His death in fact reminds  me of the last section of the movie ‘Dreams’ by Akiro Kurusawa where the death of a ripe old person is actually celebrated by the entire village.

Yes, we are all proud to have been acquainted with this well lived life in one way or the other.

Kanniks Kannikeswaran

July 27, 2015

July 27, 2015 at 8:28 pm 6 comments

Media Hype

I do care about what happens in the world. I do not like to be cocooned in a bag or live in a well like a frog.

I like the newsmedia as it lets me know what is going on in the world.

But does the newsmedia want to keep me informed of what is going on or does it want to keep me at the edge of my seats all the time?

This morning when I opened MSNBC’s website, there was a ‘Breaking News’ alert on the top, on a read band that read ‘Bush says Econonomy has serious issues”.

Oh my God! So what has happened that msnbc has reported it as a hight ticket breaking news! That too in Red!

It turned out that later when they updated their site, all that had happened was that Bush had made a speech in Kansas to push his economic relief package through the congress and this was a rhetoric to emphasize his point.

Now, there are some serious issues here. There are issues with the economy, I agree. There are greater issues with the way in which it is interpreted.

The president uses his bully pulpit to create rhetoric of any kind. In his first term, it was optimistic rhetoric. Now, it is at the other end. It wasnt too long before economic woes had been underplayed by the Whitehouse. Now, when  President who paints a rosy picture of his accomplishments, how are people going to react to it?

The second problem is with the media. Over the last few weeks I have been reading news items that report the slightest fluctuations in job data or in housing data.

Come on. Can the housing market grow for ever? There have been plateaus, even dips in the past. We are just going through one of those; one that has resulted from foolish lending practices, without any broad vision of the future.

Why does the media have to keep predicting a doomsday?

The strong hype that the media puts out is going to be a greater threat to the economy.

It always has to be sensational. It is either the media. Or it is Obama’s sensational victory in Iowa. Or Hillary’s comeback in New Hampshier. The hype is even comparable to the level of excitement that prevailed in a presidential election in 1996. And this is only a primary. But, the media wants to maintain this level of sensation.

In this day and age when there is an overabundance of information, there is ample scope for creating news and news headlines out of mere pieces of statistics. As the old cliched phrase goes, there is always the truth, the lies and the statistics. It behooves the media to behave responsibly in deciding what is a piece of breaking news and what is not.

February 10, 2008 at 4:30 am Leave a comment


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