The South Diary
'Grooming' them right
After a hectic fortnight of politics and another hectic fortnight of Anna Hazare's fast-protest, Heggadadevanakote was heaven on earth. A little bit of rustic fervour, a larger bit of forest, good-ol'-Mysore food and some very simple and nice people... and the story of Manju.
I met Manju at one of the tribal 'haadis' (hamlets) in HD Kote. He's working as a naturalist at a resort; was earlier working at the same resort as a tribal dancer-entertainer. But that's just by-the-way. Manju, I was told, married a childhood sweetheart of his a few years back. His wife, I was told, had earlier eloped with another man for six months and later come back to her family and then married Manju. Now in a typical Gowda set-up, a tactful description would've termed this a scandal. But among the Kadu Kurubas, that was quite all-right. In fact, it was not even gossip material.
And then I learnt that women here have been choosing their husbands for centuries. 'Marriage' for them happened if a girl and boy (usually around 14 to 18 years old) went away for more than 3 days. And then the girl's father went in search of them, accepted the marriage and the groom usually gave something as bride-price. It could be a goat or it could be the groom working in the bride's father's house for six months.
And the other option is if a girl had many suitors, then 2 or 3 or 5 of them could come to the girl's house and offer to work there - maybe in household chores, grazing, anything. The girl gets to choose from among them after getting to know them - a lot like a 'swayamvar,' except with a bit of manual labour by the guy thrown in.
Divorce was simple. If you don't like him, leave him. You could marry again. Previously-unmarried guys will marry you. And accept your children as his own. Nobody blinks an eye or says 'wow, really' (except us city-bred, of course).
If this was on Facebook, I'd have said I 'liked' it. I'd have probably said it many times too.
That evening though, I came back to earth. To the Mysore highway which led me to the kadhai that always burns my veggies, the balcony that always fills up with rainwater and the washing machine that always seems too full.
'Unlike' it, I do.
Why I like going to court these days
Why would anyone really really want to go to an extra-crowded court hall, where they close the windows to cut out the noise of 'supporters' outside and you end with just enough breath to keep you alive until you can, where you're caught between thick well-worn black coats with just enough space for one leg on the ground, and there are many moments when you think all you're breathing is other people's sweat?
Well, this week, I discovered that I do like it, in fact. Specially when case number 156/2011 is called out in court hall 24 at the city civil court. Because once this case is announced, the court's marshals call out 'B S Yeddyurappa, B S Yeddyurappa, B S Yeddyurappa' (FYI, he's 'A-1' - accused number 1 - like in David Dhawan movies).
It's a ritual. First, it's the bailiff sitting near the magistrate who calls out the name, then someone halfway down the court hall, and then a cop at the entry-door.
And it has a nice ring to it. I guess, in court hall 24, they take this business seriously. They add a tinge of emotion to it, some pride, some sarcasm, as if they're the ones designated to bring a former chief minister to the box meant for the accused; to tell the world here's a man we're going to treat like any other accused.
Three months ago, Yeddyurappa had one favourite phrase that he'd always utter three times - 'development, development, development.' Three months can be a short time in politics.
Scared of red tape
All said and done, the recent jail-visits of influential netas has scared many in the lower rungs of bureaucracy so much, so that they think twice about doing even taking routine decisions. I met with an assistant traffic manager at the Bangalore metropolitan transport corporation (BMTC) last week for a 20-minute shoot. The permission had been given orally by his bosses, but he was too scared to let us go ahead with the shoot unless he saw "something in writing."
"What if someone files an RTI plea on how I allowed a news crew on a bus? Get me something in writing," was his argument.
Even if it meant I had to wait another day for my shoot, I am glad some of our government officials have been scared off corruption.
Tracing the gold
Wise people at the Tirumala Tirupati temple apparently want the temple authorities to return the diamond-and-emerald-studded golden crown that Gali Janardhana Reddy donated to the god's idol at Tirupati about 2 years back.
The donation, I still remember, cost the Reddys about 45 crore rupees. At the time, they'd just rebelled against the Yeddyurappa government for (purportedly) not giving enough attention to the development of Bellary. The government had sanctioned Rs 45 crore for some infrastructure project and the Reddys claimed they were happy.
Be that as it may. Now devotees feel the 45-crore-rupee crown is bought with black money, so it's a gift of sin. That it should be returned to the Reddys with a 'no-thank-you' note. Wiser people though are apparently arguing whether it is possible to trace the source of the money that bought the crown. So why should it be returned when you cannot really connect the cash that went to pay the jeweler with iron-ore allegedly stolen and smuggled out of the country.
The jury is still out, but there is another question to be answered: will BJP president Nitin Gadkari now consider returning the sword that was gifted to him just last month in August 2011, at a public function as part of 'Vara mahalakshmi puja'?
Will the BJP president now try to trace if the sword was bought from ill-gotten wealth? Or then again, is that an impossible task? Can anyone really find out which of the currencies in Janardhana Reddy's house are "ill-gotten" and which "well-gotten"?
A coalition govt?
One Congressman on what Reddy's arrest means to the BJP: "Oh there will be more quarrelling. Let them quarrel. Even now, it's a coalition government within it. There are so many factions and they're running a coalition government of their factions."
Overheard at the Darshan court-hall
On actor Darshan being denied bail: "Why can't he get bail? After all, he was hitting his own wife."
"If this is what happens if you hit your own wife, imagine what'll happen if you hit other women."
"Why didn't he switch off the lights when hitting her? That way, she couldn't have known what hit her."
And this gem, a contribution from my colleague Abhirr. One woman lawyer to another: "He'll certainly get bail. Because the man who hit his wife was not Darshan. Darshan was too drunk to be himself or know what he was doing."