Sunday, August 30, 2009

Celebrating ONAM the traditional way

Kerala is gearing up for celebrating Onam. With Onam comes performance of different art forms for which Kerala is famous for. These days we can see these art forms only in Government sponsored Onam stalls and TV channels.

For those who are not familiar with the various art forms associated with Onam celebrations in Kerala, here is a glimpse of these. The performance in these videos is substandard but something is better than nothing.

Onappattu - a Kerala folk song that welcomes the festivities of Onam and the one which describes the greatness of Mahabali and the prosperity he brought to the people of Kerala during his reign as the Maharaja of Kerala.

Thiruvathirakali – the dance performed by women of Kerala

Thumbithullal – another art form performed by girls and women of Kerala.

Kummatikali - a colorful mask-dance of Kerala. During the Onam festival, Kummattikali performers move from house to house collecting small gifts and entertaining people.

Pulikali – my favorite.


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Friday, August 28, 2009

The Wail Behind the Invisible Veil

This post is written by my friend and guest blogger Karthikeyan Chandran. He blogs at Glocal View
How many times have we heard that our culture is the best in the world? How many times we ourselves have repeated the same without even giving a second thought to what we are saying? What is this culture, tradition, the nebulous set of values that we are so proud of? Recent events that i have been witness to made me think. It made me evaluate the set of values we hold in such high esteem and the conclusion that i arrived at was completely at odds with ideas that were ingrained in me since my childhood. Notwithstanding all the paeans we have heard about how Indian culture gives a special place to women, i found ours to be deeply misogynistic which punished women in every walk of life, in every stage of their life. Each and everyday we are witness to so many atrocities committed against women that we don't even bat an eyelid anymore.
Right from the day a girl hits puberty, she is shackled with a whole set of rules that should put anyone to shame. Even in things like eve-teasing and sexual harassment that women go through on a daily basis, the excuses to justify such acts (like the girl invited trouble by not dressing properly) simply reeks of sexism. Or take the atrocious act of rape. How does our society treat women who have been raped? They are branded and face innumerable hurdles before they can even get married. How is this a tradition/culture that we have to be proud about? If art forms, popular or classical, does imitate the real world (or viceversa) it doesn't look great either. How many times have we seen a reel hero marry off his sister to the guy who raped her, and we don't ever feel a sickening feeling in our stomach watching such scenes. How in God's name is this justified? How many of us even notice the sheer stupidity and vulgarity of such an act? We don't because this misogynistic tendency is instilled deep in our thoughts right from our childhood, all in the name of Indian values, that we don't even realize this. I can give a whole list of dialogs from Tamil Superstar with his ridiculous misogynistic dialogs.
Another blatant hypocrisy in our society is the ridiculous value that is placed on female chastity (alone). If it is that important for the functioning of the society i am sure it would have been placed for both men and women. Why is infidelity of men condoned so easily, yet women are punished so hard. Or how many of us even question our own mythologies (not if they are real or not, but the underlying principle). How many of us think about Ramayana and question whether Lord Ram was wrong when he asked Sita to prove her chastity by going through agnipariksha? Again, as i see it, Sita was the victim here. (i know this is going to ruffle a lot of feathers, but i am not sure i have heard any decent explanation about this).I am not sure i am so proud of a culture that penalizes the victim than the criminal.
Dowry system, institutionalized to such a ridiculous extent in parts of our country that each educational degree carries a particular amount, should make us hang our heads in shame. The irony of the whole thing is, as the society becomes more literate all these practices (mind you, i am not even going into superstitions and rituals here)are supposed to wane. But i see the dowry amounts being discussed here as a matter of fact among desis (the educated world traveling ones) with respect to their degrees, their income and GC status. Some might try to explain this away with how the idea in the old days was doing the right thing by giving a girl a share from her father's side. In this day and age, when the property rights have been properly written, it doesn't hold good. I am sick and tired of having to listen how it all made sense a few thousand years ago, so its not all bad. I say Bullshit. I hear the same explanation many times to explain away the caste system. Again, i say Bullshit.
What do we do to widows, young and old? They are branded and they are not allowed to attend any functions. They are not allowed to remarry (easily). They are forced into a life where each and everyday is a monumental sacrifice, a fight for survival, a struggle for acknowledgment. What does our society do to a woman who loses her husband say at around 30 years of age with a little kid? Is ours a compassionate culture that places value in rehabilitating them, one that strives to help her get over the personal loss? No, it is one which doesn't want her to part of any other happy occasion like a marriage. It is one which never ever wants her to have another companion in life, even if she has another 40 years ahead of her. It is one which wants her to stay put in a corner praying till she drops dead and be grateful that she was born in a "wonderful" culture like ours. It is a story like this, of a young 30 year old widow, that made me think.
Is there any reason to be proud of this invisible veil called culture that is so cruel to half the population? I don't see one, do you?
(Note - This is my first post here at Sonyvellayani. I expect to post atleast once every two weeks. Originally published here.)
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All In The Family - Interview With Padmaja Venugopal

Here is an interview of Padmaja Venugopal, daughter of K Karunakaran in the program “Mukhamukham” with Nikesh Kumar. In this 45 minute program she talks in detail about the split in the Congress party, her relation with her father K Karunakaran and her brother K Muralidharan, about the Rajan case, her political ambitions and much more. She appears to be million times matured than her brother K Muralidharan.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Going Back to India for Good – Tale of Two of My Friends

Most of us who leave India to go to other countries for studies/job will think of going back to India for good sometime later down the road. I have two friends who had identical educational qualifications who left India almost 10 years back to two different countries with plans to come back after earning some quick bucks.

Both my friends D and M completed bachelors in Civil Engineering from Kerala in 1997. D got an admission for MS in structural engineering from a university in US. M meanwhile did MS in structural engineering from a college in India. Now let us see how their life has changed.

Let us take the life of D. My friend D came to the US, the land of opportunities with great hope and dreams. He dreamt of earning and saving in US dollars and using all those savings to settle back in India. Reality struck him as soon as he landed in US for MS. Life as a student was tough – not the one he was expecting. To make life worse he never got any scholarship during the first three semesters of his studies. He completed his studies by Fall 2000 and he was fully submerged in debt. By the time he graduated the US economy was going south and he had to wait for another 6 months before he could land in a job. Now it is time to pay back the debts. It took him almost 18 months to pay the debts he had incurred during his graduate study. By that time he got his H1B visa and the company applied for his green card.

Now his parents started pressurizing him to get married. All his efforts to buy some time were in vain and within three months of paying of all his debts he got engaged and married two months later. To impress his newly wed wife he bought a new luxury car, furnished his apartment with brand new stuff – as typical of American life everything on loan. Again major part of his salary was now going to repay these debts.

In couple of years his wife got pregnant and soon his two bed room apartment was not spacious enough to accommodate the visiting parents. Like any Indian out there he buys a spacious four bed room house. Now two third of his salary goes to paying the mortgage for this house and he has to meet all the other expenses with the remaining salary. Credit card companies get richer as he started using these cards to cover the expenses over and above what his salary can afford.

I talked to him a few days back and we were talking about his initial plan of going back. He was telling me that all he wants now is to pay off all the loans which he knows will take years. He bought the house when the housing market was peaking and he cannot even dream of selling that in the near future without incurring any loss. He is so preoccupied with how to make both ends meet everyday that going back to India is the last thing in his mind.

Now my other friend M – he finished MS around the end of 2000 from India and got a job in Kuwait as a structural engineer in 2001. He got married like my other friend after working for two years but this friend was well settled in life when he got married. Most of the salary he got was savings for him as he never had to pay for his accommodation nor travel to and from the office nor yearly vacation to India. Within the last eight years he had enough savings to build a house for his family in India and now by this year end starting a structural engineering design company in Kerala and moving from Kuwait for good. He was telling me that he had enough savings to survive for another couple of years in India.

If you are in US the story of my friend D may sound very familiar to you. You may be able to see yourself somewhere in the story I was telling, right? So what is the moral of the story? Once you are in US, you are sucked into the system so much that going back to India (of course if you come here with plans to go back for good once) is really tough compared to going back from other countries. If you add children to this equation, going back from US becomes really tough.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Interviews Worth Watching of South Indian Film Personalities

Amritha TV airs this program, “Thirakkil Alpam Neram” anchored by Rekha Menon. Every week Rekha talks to a famous personality. The anchor Rekha is a class act and has the ability to bring the best out of the person she is interviewing. The interviews are set in a casual background and the questions are very informal. Here is a collection of interviews Rekha has done with film stars from Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

With Prakash Raj (in English)

Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

With Director Priyadarshan

Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

With Actor Rajan P Dev

Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

With Actress Kushboo (in English)

Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

With Actor Jayaram

Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

With Actor Thilakan

Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8

With Director Sangeeth Sivan, Brother of Santhosh Sivan

Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

With Actress Sukumari

Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5

With Actor Kunjako Boban

Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

Nice job Rekha, Keep it Coming…

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Is This What Should Happen In 21st century? See This Photo And Decide

See the photo below. This photo was published in Mangalam, a Malayalam newspaper. For more details click here. A train hits the old man in this photo near Kollam in Kerala and the train engine dragged him for about 100 meter before the train stopped. He was taken to hospital after some time and he died in the hospital.

Now see the young people standing near the injured man. All are looking at him as if they were seeing an exhibition. He was still alive when this photo was taken. Why can’t these onlookers help that injured man? How can those people stand and watch as an old man is dying? Do they have something called conscience?

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Insightful Tweets of Shashi Tharoor - Part 2

Also Read: "Cattle Class" and "Holy Cow" Controversy Involving Dr Tharoor - What do you think?

Here is the second part of the compilation of tweets of Dr Shashi Tharoor, Minster of State for External Affairs and MP from Trivandrum. This covers all his direct tweets from July 1st to August 15th. To read tweets prior to July 1st please click here.

July 1, 2009

Another 20-meeting day. Hv told my team they have to leave me some time to read, email and dispose of files

Taped combative interview on "Frankly Speaking" with Arnab Goswami, for telecast on Times Now this weekend

Living fulltime in India aftr yrs, am overindulging in 2 passions denied to me in foreign lands - mangoes (at all meals) and cricket (on TV)

July 2, 2009

Attended Rajya Sabha too on ministerial duty. Sparsely attended but more decorous. Lengthy speeches on ragging!

besieged by more and more requests for Haj quotas, since as MoS i administer the ltd nbr of places offered to Indian pilgrims by Saudi Govt

I get 20 convincing appeals a day from v influential pols for specl considern of their claims to extra Haj places for their own lists.

Success in politics comes fm making difficult choices amongst competing demands and yet satisfying more ppl than u alienate. Not sure I can!

Dealt w tragic loss of 19 Indn seamen aboard Qatari ship ydy. 9 fm Rajsthn, CM distraught. 3 rescued, all Keralites, but other Ks lost. Sad

July 3, 2009

Lok Sabha packed for Rlwy Budget. Every seat taken. MPs know what's really important to their constituents!

July 4, 2009

Saturday: PS just left with two armfuls of files we've dealt with. Caught up on tweets i hadn't been able to read/respond to all week

July 5, 2009

if i don't answr a qsn, it's bcoz i don't hv something worthwhile to say. Kofi Annan taught me there r no stupid qsns, only stupid answrs!

July 6, 2009

Sunday wished happy 92nd birthday to "Leader" K. Karunakaran, the "karanavar" of Congress politics in Kerala. A giant even to his critics

spent a couple of hours at Kerala House receiving visitors&petitions, then dined with party leaders fm the state. Sunday was mainly politics

Budget Day in Parl today. will hear FinMin at Lok Sabha, then switch to ministerial "roster duty" at Rajya Sabha in the afternoon

July 7, 2009

Monday attended briefing session for new MPs. Came back with raging fever and armfuls of brochures abt Parl, took to bed to deal with both

just saw PS off with mountain of files and papers. Minor ailments will not be allowed to stop the business of govt!

exciting cricket news fm SriLnka. Less excited by our selectors leaving Irfan Pathan out. Wld also hv liked to see Parthiv and Sreesanth

July 8, 2009

Spoke my first words in Parl today. Alas, they were formulaic: "I beg to lay papers on the table of the House". One has to start somewhere!

July 9, 2009

Two MPs have come up to me in parlmnt today and asked about tweeting -- might encourage a trend here!

Railway budget approved by voice vote in Parlmnt -- feisty performance by Mamata Banerjee.

Roster duty took me to Rajya Sabha as well, so heard railway debate in both houses. (Ministers rotate on a roster to assure govtl presence)

a lot of you folks ask questions i've already answered in earlier tweets -- it's not that difficult to look back, is it?

July 10, 2009

Addressed the Indian Newspaper Congress this morning. Urged print media to improve coverage of world affairs in our globalized world.

Just arrived at airport at end of long day w 7 mtgs and 2 speeches! Abt to take off for Lisbon via Frkfrt to attend Confrnce of Democracies

Just learned that my high-school penfriend (does anyone still have them?) died 12 yrs ago. Had met her only once but I felt a real loss

When the person gave me the news I remembered vividly her beautiful handwriting & her 60s habit of circling the dot over the "i" in her name

July 11, 2009

Lisbon is so beautiful. In few hrs before my official progm started, went w 2 colleagues up the coast, past lovely resorts Estoril & Cascais

reached westrnmost pt of the European continent, Cabo da Roca & looked out onto vast ocean expanse. Took pix for gaggle of Chinese tourists

strange imagining what people must have felt 600 yrs ago looking at Atlantic and thinking there was nothing beyond but the end of the world

recd briefing at lovely cafe overlooking water. then hotel, interview, don bandhgala, dinner by Portgse FornMin for ministers attending conf

Dinner was grt opptnrty to meet old friends fm UN days, incl a slim & youthful Madeleine Albright who invented the Conf of Dems in 2000

July 12, 2009

good mtg of Conf of Democracies today. India's statement well recd, then lots of bilateral mtgs with Forn Mins (one more due at 8 pm, Nepal)

am flatterd but ovrwhelmd by sheer volume of yr questions -- someone counted 78 querries today. cant possibly answr all! will pick at random

July 13, 2009

Taking off for Delhi. Pilot says strong winds will cut half hour off our flight! Still arriving after midnight though

one of my Tvm constituents, Vineeth Kumar, came 1st in Delhi IIT M Tech exam last week. Joy to call to tell him he made his MP proud!

July 14, 2009

silly HT story claimed MEA had directed me to stop tweeting. Fake news at its worst. theyd recycled an old securty rule frm b4 i joined MEA!

Rule states that MEA computers can't be used for social ntwrk sites. No problem w that. I have nvr had the time or inclin to tweet fm work.

story was disapptng but so too was media's herd instinct as everyone rushed to recycle the false "news". Stepped into Parl and 3 jrnos asked

Anyway day really began with annual Haj Conf. Since Saudi Govt decides how many Indians can go each yr, Govt allocates these seats w Haj Cmt

then to Parlmnt for Pranabda's magisterial response to Budget debate. Then streams of visitors at MEA. Lkng fwd to more of the same tmrw!

my Lisbon speech at Conf of Democracies:

July 15, 2009

long day, ending at 1.25 am working on a speech to the Asian Media Con tmrw. Kapil Sibal did a terrific job in replying to the educn debate

i also arrived from Parl late aftr vote, chaired last ten minutes of a 2-hr mtg of the Cwlth Games Green Council (now a sub-cmt; don't ask)

we're determined Delhi 2010 Games will be the greenest Cwlth Games ever: leave an environmental legacy for Delhi + an example to the world

July 16, 2009

bad start to parliamentary day as question hr in Rajya Sabha scrapped as a result of commotion by BSP MPs -- 1st qsn was for MEA!

caught up on office mtgs and files instead. Intriguing mix, frm CEO of Kerala Flying Club to Ambassador of UAE. Plus 3 speeches outside

spoke about media, democracy and governance to Asian MassComm conf; abt studying in US alongsde Nandan Nilekani; & to Wld Malayalee Council

counted 17 queries in last 2 days that ask qsns i've already answrd in earlier tweets. pls rvw my tweets b4 repeating qsns, thx!

July 19, 2009

Saturday at office till 4, then TV intvws. determined to slow down Sunday! plans are gym, haircut, emails, calls to family & pending pprwork

My views on Indian Ocean co-operation:

July 20, 2009

Hillary visit ends w press conf and dinner at Hyderabad House. All involved describe mtgs as warm and successful. A friendship reaffirmed

brkfst with Sean Maloney of Intel, who is impressed w how upbeat India is. Told him of India's action priorities & the 100-day govtl sprint

for those who've been asking to hear my voice, a 2-minute clip from BBC today:

July 21, 2009

superb piece by my son Kanishk on India's media revolution:

good mtg w Australian Immigrn Min Chris Evans. Candid discn abt violence agnst Indn stdnts, left him in doubt abt how seriously we regard it

You should backup your tweets here: http://backupmytweets.comIt's free!

but also good xchnge abt many issues of mutual interest in a strong bilat relnshp. v talkd cricket. he wants Indn spinners 2 emigrate to Oz!

July 22, 2009

RT @ishaantharoor: his latest story for TIME—can Sufism fight terror?

President Patil's dinner for Ministers. Still can't get over the magnificence of Rashtrapati Bhavan, from the decor to the costumed guards.

The Brits built it to awe us, but its majesty speaks today of the grandeur of democracy. Mahtma G wntd it occupied by a Dalit woman. 1 day!

July 23, 2009

Intrsting panel discn with a number of young MPs (and 1 notsoyoung 1st-timer, me) on Indn pols and devpmnt. Feel encouraged abt Ind's future

first experience of "guillotine" in Parlmnt - 70 demands for grants for ministries voted without debate or dissent after 3 wks of discussion

good lunch meeting with Dy Chmn of Rajya Sabha, Rehman Khan, on Haj matters. A lot of good reform proposals out there

We've set up new website in beta: Pl send comments to & to help us improve it

July 24, 2009

Good visit frm Foreign Min of Papua New Guinea, Samuel Abal. Discussed Indn help for PNG devpmt: connectvty, education, trade, invstmnt.

Just arrived in Tvm to spend 4 days in my constncy - main job is finishing the thank-u tour. Won't be able to tweet much, but will try.

July 25, 2009

Some are parsing every word (and missing word) in the jt statement as if it's a treaty. I'm just pleading for less literalism. (Contd)

My point is that how we understand the meaning of the statement is what matters. The PM has explnd meaning. No pt splitting legalistic hairs

Managed to attend one dinner in a busy Delhi wk, at home of BJD MP Jay Panda. Met many bright pol stars, CEOs and fine cineaste Nandita Das

Back on "pariyadanam" trail in Tvm, thanking voters. Amazing to see public enthusiasm 3 months after the elections & 2 mths aftr results!

Visited Tvm mental health centre, founded 1870, one of oldest in India. Needs Govt funds to become a "centre of excellence".

During Sat pariyadanam saw kids playing tennisball cricket &joined. My loosener was tonked by a teen but I got a few blows in w the bat!

In all fairness I think the youngsters were humouring the old guy by giving me easy deliveries to hit

Played tennis-ball cricket with my twin sons throughout their childhood. But never before in a mundu!

July 26, 2009

Sometimes victory sounds like a demotion! In my campaign song, "Indiayude abhimaanam" has been changed to "Ananthapuroyude yemby"!

For non-Mallus, "India's pride" (when I was a candidate) has become "Tvm's MP" after my win, in the song played evrywhere during pariyadanam

Obsrvn from jeeptop on changing Kerala: lots of women on streets and outside homes; salwar-kameez and kaftan clearly more popular than sari

Met Noble, inventor of world's first uniwheel motorbike. Gr8 to have an inventor in my constituency!

Visited a girl who lost both legs to a train when crossing the track bcoz road to her home was underwater. One more tragedy of underdevpmnt

Will look for prosthetic help for the girl. In her final year of high school. Desperately poor. A couple of Jaipur Feet cld change her life

Day began with moving ceremony on Kargil Vijay Diwas, 10th anniv of our brave soldiers' victory over Pak invaders. Proud day for evry Indian

Reminded audience of how little our country demands of us and how much of our jawans. We must strive to be worthy of their sacrifice

We can't all repel invaders, but we can each do something to make our community, society and nation better for our being here.

Don't mean to sound preachy, but it's the least we owe to those who have given their lives for us, for an idea of India we must each uphold

Paid floral tribute at samadhi of great Kerala CM Pattom Thanu Pillai. His family was present, a great moment

Pariyadanam tour halted for a man waving a UN flag! Unusual sight in Tvm - a UN veteran now retired and a Congress supporter now

Sunday night ten thousand on Shankumukham Beach - amazing opportunity to say thanks to a relaxed and cheering multitude.

More sober atmosphere at still-tense Beemapalli where echoes of police firing 2 months ago haven't died down, &at poverty-stricken Poonthura

July 27, 2009

extraordinary reception from thousands at Amboori, the most beautiful undeveloped part of Tvm district, w the exquisite, neglected NeyyarDam

what an investment opportunity for a creative entrepreneur! Mountain vistas, lush foliage, gorgeous scenery, clean cool air: ideal terrain!

Amboori and Neyyar are proof that not everything lovely in God's Own Country has yet been discovered by tourists. The potential is immense

spotted coconut halves drying in the sun all along the road: brings out the oil for pressing. Counter-intuitive: shldnt sun dry up the oil?

July 28, 2009

You get called a lot of flattering things as a touring pol. One I actually valued was "akshara-snehi" (lover of letters). I've always been!

Awe-inspiring reproduction of Michelangelo's Pieta in Poovar, larger than the original!

3000 schoolchildren lining both sides of road, cheering, smiling, waving, the school's brass band playing and marching - politics can be fun

Gave Rai Fndtion college scholarships to 11 girls from below-povery-line families in my constncy. Chandran Tharoor Fndtion pays their travel

Single best thing u can do for devlpmnt: educate girls. Edctng a boy is good, but u ed 1 person; ed a girl, you change a f'ly & a community

Progress twds twinning Tvm w Barcelona: Mayor sending 2 senior aides to visit. A great coastal regional capital & centre of culture like Tvm

Taking off for Delhi on Indian Airlines (almost one time departure from Chennai)

July 29, 2009

end of very long day, much of it spent in Parliament. PM's robust response to Oppn attack on Indo-Pak jt stmt was highlight

important to stress that natnl consensus has always been on talking to Pak. NDA Govt did it after Kargil & after Parl attack, & Cong supprtd

also attended two dinners; 1 by Cong Pres for all party MPs, then Praful Patel's smaller meal for more typical Delhi mix of pols+journos++

sorry abt delay in tweeting link to pix of my impromptu session of tennis-ball cricket while in Tvm:

in response to many: Tvm office tel +914712324555, fax +914712324666, Delhi +911123014118 0r +911123015716. goodnight

July 30, 2009

My CNN-IBN debate last night on Indo-Pak:

Debate in Rajya Sabha on MEA. A learned and supportive opening by Ashwani Kumar. Oppn to have a go after lunch

spent the day in Parliament. Both houses debating MEA! EAM SM Krishna covered the Lok Sabha and responded, then came to Rajya Sabha

witnessed some pretty lively exchanges and some thoughtful comments in RS, esp by Oppn MPs Arun Shourie & NK Singh and Congress spkrs

rounded off the day by receiving a US-based German investor who has created jobs in Tvm (ventures incl a new hotel & vocational training)

July 31, 2009

Rajya Sabha debate on MEA ends. Minister Krishna's reply broadens the terms of argument by covering whole of fp & not just one narrow issue

farewell lunch today for outgoing Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon, a fine public servant retiring after 37 yrs in the MEA. big loss Au

August 1, 2009

long morning at the office including an interview with Matt Wade of the Sydney Morning Herald, who asked abt anti-Ind violence & tweeting

lunch with old friend and new colleague Salman Khurshid. Joined by Amartya Sen and Ronen Sen: what a treat, & i'm not talking abt the food!

had a presentn this morning on e-passports, w biometric chips by NXP. Indian passports will gradually go biometric (dipmtc ones already are)

Amartya and I spoke abt reviving Nalanda Univ, a pan-Asian project supported by S'pore, China & others. See my essay:

Panakkad Syed Muhammed Ali Shihab Thangal, state president of Indian Union Muslim League passed away today in Kerala. A great loss.

Shihab Thangal was the most respected and influential Muslim leader in Kerala, a symbol of the secular and progressive face of Indian Islam.

I had spoken with him recently and just yesterday received a handwritten note from him. May his soul rest in peace as his legacy lives on.

August 2, 2009

had cancelled dinner last night to work on a speech when Anjolie Ela Menon summoned me to event downstairs. Per PGW, Aunts must be obeyed

was a fun event. 1st anniv of Varq resto at Taj, Anjolie's lovely painted platters on display. Also photos by old friend Ram Rehman & othrs

talked security strategy with Anjolie's husbnd (my uncle by marriage) Admiral Raja Menon. I share his enthusiasm for Ind's naval potential

interview in Sydney Morning Herald

managed to miss my own interview on NDTV's new "Your Call" show w Sonia Singh (recorded earlier). They say there'll be a repeat tonight

August 3, 2009

in response to multiple requests, my "Your Call" appearance frm the NDTV website: Link sent by tweeter, hv not seen yet

just had the first skype text chat of my life with my HK-based son Ishaan. Takes longer than talking but you have the words forever

there were a couple of good webcam questions that got left out too, one frm a Stephanian professor of philosophy

from my son Ishaan, to tease me abt aam aadmi:

August 4, 2009

Today began with Brahma Kumaris tying rakhi, a two-decade tradition that began in my UN days. Rakshabandhan is wonderful & uniquely Indian

first vote in Parlmnt on Constn Amndmnt to extend ST/SC reservns for 10 yrs. In fact 4 votes. Electronic machines so results known instantly

Packed house, still registered only 385 votes. wonder how 170 MPs cld miss such an importnt occasion

What a day: 2 Ambassadors, 3 internal mtgs, 4 visitors on Haj issues, +Parlmnt & TVintvw on Asianet. Can't discuss forn pol well in Malyalm!

Spoke at Kerala Hse condolence mtg for Shihab Thangal, towering giant of Kerala's pluralist politics. @ksudhakaranMP spoke pwrfully&movingly

then dinner in honour of Kapil Sibal. Grt enthusiasm abt educnl reform, key to India's transformation. Right to Educn Bill passed today.

thnx for all the retweets abt crossing 20,000 followers. But i fully expect to be overtaken very soon by the delectable @priyankachopra

August 5, 2009

sorry, got too busy to tweet for nearly 2 days! Long days at office - 14 appts ydy, 17 tdy (ending at 9.30 pm after 2 TV intvws)

in midst of it all ydy, visited fellow Kerala minister Prof KV Thomas, recovrng frm nasty bout of food poisoning that knocked him out 8 days

the intvws today were in Hindi and Malayalam. No illusions about my vocabulary and eloquence in either

Both houses of Parlmnt adjourned for periods today. Was in Rajya Sabha when slogan-shouting Oppn disrupted Question hour. Dispiriting

don't understand why they think it's better to adjourn Parl than to have a forum to express their viewpoint cogently within the rules

Recd 16 American state-level elected officials for a briefing at MEA under Aspen's Rodel Fllwship progrm. Good opptnty to get some msgs in.

amongst them: SanFran DA Kamala Harris, now only female candt for Calif Atty-Gen. Subject of forthcoming movie starring @MallikaLA

August 8, 2009

Whirlwind visit to Mumbai Friday. Lively interactive session with Consuls and industrialists. Grt view from top of World Trade Ctr!

Wonderful bk launch hosted by Nita & Mukesh Ambani for "Shadows Across The Playing Field" by Shaharyar Khan &me on 60 yrs of Indo-Pak crkt

Since I've only written half the book I only deserved half a party, but it was a party and a half! Sachin Tendulkar at his gracious best

And also thrilled to meet Sehwag, Yuvraj, Harbhajan; Wadekar, Vengsarkar, Doshi, Manjrekar, More. Schoolboy cricket nut within me in heaven!

Early morning dep Sat for Kochi to address huge mtg of women's self-help micro-finance group, Janasree. Small amnts of money, big results

Then battled traffic to get to Punnamada Lake, Alappuzha for 57th Nehru Trophy Boat race. Nehru loved race in 1952 & donated silver trophy

Story goes that Nehru was so enthused he danced to the rhythm of the oarsmen and leapt into the winning boat! 8 boats raced in 1952, 51 tdy

Some traditions endure and grow. Boat races now involve every community and caste & hv become a huge televised spectacle. Grt fun too!

Sonia Gandhi is here as Chief Guest, + galaxy of Kerala pol ldrs of both fronts incl State Ministers. Boat racing is bipartisan in Kerala

Wld love to develop our waterways for mass transport. Kerala rds so congested that Mrs G will reach Delhi before I get to my constituency!

Even an all-women's race, 4 sleek boats but, alas, all coxed by men. Winners inclded 5 foreign oarswomen. Internationalism comes 2 Alapuzha!

Correction - 8, not 5, foreign nationals in winning women's boat, incl UK, Syria and South Africa! Brought together by a Dubai tour operator

Thrilling final to boatrace with four finalists prow to prow! What am amazing exhibition of strength, grace, rhythm and teamwork

August 10, 2009

Sorry, no tweets for last 48 hours -- overwhelmed as usual when I visit my constituency. Just winding down in Tvm before 6 am takeoff tomrw

Sunday went in a blur of mtgs. Pol ldrs frm 5 of 7 Assembly segments discussing development needs in my constncy. MPs hv 2 crs a yr to spend

But proposals recd so far alrdy exceed 400 crs! All ncsry & well-thought out: rds, drnkg water, drainage, school bldgs. wish i cld do it all

after mtg Cong pol ldrs, addressed fisheries conf & overflowing residents' assocn mtg in Balaramapuram. Total immersion in constncy issues

Still made it for a late night showing of Adoor's latest film, Two Men & a Woman. Hadn't taken my mother & sister to a Mal movie in decades

Sidelight: the theatre tried to refuse my money. I insisted on paying& they gave in. It was so empty they cld ill afford the gesture anyway

Monday began with inauguration of a college union at a ladies' college. Terrific welcome for this former college union President, circa '74

then a solid 4 hrs at mtg of regnl passport officers from southern and western states, to discuss improving procedures, facilities, service

lunch with a Bishop, then ovr 660 ppl showed up for intended 1-hr audience with public. Desperate jostling w petitions& demands, some imposs

imposs rqsts: release of son convicted of drug offences in MEast; job for kid who failed school exams & wants to be engineer; & alwys money

sobering realizn that few voters have any idea of the extent of authority or resources (or lack of both) of MP. W such expectns, disapptmt

for those who asked, I'm a huge Adoor fan. This was four diff stories in 1 movie; a mixed bag, 1 v good, 1 good, 1 middling, 1 weak

August 11, 2009

Visited Kochi passport office. New head's innovations include status updates by sms, speedpost tracking of mailed passports & new waiting rm

Kochi pp office now an excellent example of our determination to improve facilities and services to public w grtr efficiency

Addressed seminar on Indo-Arab relns at Maharajah's College Kochi. Arab diplomats in attendance. Essential to have such events outside Delhi

All Indians have a stake in our international relations. Such discussions shld not be confined to seminar rooms in Delhi.

Inaugurated a community college on my way to the airport. Grt concept to bring accessible job-oriented educn to underprivileged sections

August 12,2009

Addressed 60th anniv of Geneva Conventions. Not retirement age but Shastiabdapoorthi! Even wars have limits & we must uphold int humntrn law

Rahul Gandhi confirmed to me today that his alleged Twitter account was a fake. It wasn't him, not even an aide. Look for verified accts!

good lunch discussion with Indian American Chamber of Commerce. Then lots of mtgs & visitrs, incl 1 to invite me to be Chf Guest at RamLila!

August 13,2009

addressed an overflowing audience at St Stephen's on Why Foreign Policy Matters. Impassioned plea to young to care about international relns

coincidentally my pm mtgs included 3 with retired Foreign Service offcrs. What a wealth of talent, experience & insight we lose to the clock

battling a cold and cough so will call it a night. No reason to suspect swine flu, though! Media-led panic is unnecessary&disruptive

August 14,2009

Met 20+ indian doctors going on a Rotary medical mission to Congo-Brazzaville and wished them godspeed. Inspiring!

It's impt for India to extend people2people help to Africa. And our docs will train Congolese docs, leaving a lasting legacy

August 15,2009

First time on the ramparts of the RedFort on Aug 15. Rained, but cleared enough for us to listen to PM speech unencumbered by umbrellas

it's a solemn moment, and i like the simplicity of the commemoration, very different from the pageantry of Republic Day.

PM spoke v well in Hindi. No translation for the diplomats present. Would be good for each state to repeat the text in its own language

It poured during the flag-hoisting at AICC HQ. Cong Pres waved away an umbrella & braved the rain as natnl songs were sung. I wore a topi!

the probm w those who criticize our Drs going to Congo when there are needs at home is that by extndg that logic we shldnt hv a forgn polcy!

saw that Steve Tikolo got 158 ydy for Kenya. He alrdy averages over 50 in 1stclass cricket & must be the best batsman never to play a Test

good collection of Indep Day Songs: (wld hv been gd to hv also AR Rahman's Ma Tujhe Salaam & DL Ray's Amar Janmabhumi)

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