Tuesday, March 16, 2021

The virus is not my enemy – Part 1

By Joseph M. Pinto

As I finished reading the last of the fourteen prose-poems in this 85-page reflection by Vinita Deshmukh, entitled Lady Corona, on the reality of the Covid-19 pandemic, I began to re-read the first poem. And my personal beliefs got reinforced:

‘The virus is not my enemy. Who says this is a war against a virus? The virus is as much a part of Nature, as us, humans. This is not a war against Nature. Let us learn to live in harmony with Nature.’ Across the peace protests & resistance of the 1960s, she echoes my feelings.

Vinita Deshmukh is one of India’s most sincere & honest journalists. She belongs to the tradition of activist-journalists, who have pioneered the use of RTI while doing investigations. While struggling with the grief on the loss of her husband, she found her poetic voice in Grieving to Healing (2017).


We cannot write well, unless we think well. And so, when we read a few rare pieces, we feel we can hear the writer … think.

In Lady Corona, we listen to Vinita Deshmukh speaking with herself. But it is not a straight-forward dry monologue or wandering think-aloud. Vinita is immersed in a passionate dialogue with her husband the late Vishwas, who went away suddenly, in front of her eyes, on 19 January 2017.

Vinita’s love & longing invite Vishwas to “come down for a while” to the bench on Parvati Tekdi, Pune, India, where they were sitting, when he left her behind.

And so, with vishwas by her side, Vinita reflects on the virus which has throttled our Earth.

The headings of her chapters paraphrase “the social causes, the philosophical aspects and the lessons that human-beings ought to learn from this Covid-19 pandemic.”

Money makes man mad …

Home is where the Hate is … The Pain of having Plenty … and of the Pill … Too much of anything is good for nothing …

The new celebrities: doctors, nurses, hospital staff; police; ordinary people providing essential services at personal risk.

The nobodies: stranded migrants, fleeing the lock-down imposed in the cities; walking home to their villages in lakhs …

Venom over religion and race: black lives matter; the Delhi riots … Let’s break free from the lockdown ... Will the world change?


This V & V journey is illuminated by the black & white drawings of Rupinder Kaur. Of themselves and without the aid of the poems, her twenty pencil-sketches are a tribute to “the resilience of human-beings and hold out young hope for the bright future, over-coming the dark days that lie ahead.”

Vinita may claim that Lady Corona, in the form of Covid-19, has “over-powered us all”. But Vishwas, “a misfit in this world of commercialism & selfishness”, takes Vinita by her hand and shoulder-to-shoulder, they together over-come and learn to live in harmony with this tiny monster, who is not going away anytime soon.

Vinita’s poetic prose also comes as a surprise gift to those readers, who are already immersed in the human imagination.


During this trying pause, the clear language of public health and science has been replaced and subverted by the mumbo-jumbo of mythology, and the vulgar language of war. 

With fake-items about the pandemic going ‘viral’ on the www (world-wide web), what happens to the virus itself. We come down to earth – the virus ‘spreads’.

A small aside to Dr. V. Shantha, Chairperson of The Cancer Institute, Chennai, who died recently. Writing “On cancer & terror” in a letter to the editor of The Hindu, dated 14 May 2010, Dr V. Shantha says:

“It has become common practice to refer to anything that is difficult to control or manage, for whatever reason, as cancer. This reference is made irrespective of whether they are aware of what cancer is, its nature, the advances that have revolutionised understanding of the disease, concepts in management or its treatment …

“Actively involved in cancer care and control over the last five-and-a-half decades, I am disturbed by such references. It would seem that the reference is made without appreciating the tremendous negative impact it has on cancer control activities. Years of effort to educate the public that early cancer is not only curable but also preventable, that modern advances have brought many cancers considered fatal and incurable within the ambit of curability, can be completely erased by just one reference to cancer like the one made by President Obama (reported on page 1 of The Hindu of May 14, 2010).

“Cancer is a biologic phenomenon. Terror is man-made. Where is the need for such a reference? In the long-term interest of cancer control, especially in developing countries, the National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, which is renowned for its work in the area, should appeal to the U.S. President to withdraw the reference to cancer.”

As the pandemic moves into a post-vaccine phase, has the time come for an eminent virologist to write another letter to an editor on “The virus and terror”?

Vinita’s poems encompass all these issues: Across nations, the pandemic is perceived as a law-and-order problem and a lock-down is imposed as a solution for what is a public health issue. Little public education is conducted about the changes required in personal & social behaviour. On the contrary, the people are abandoned to the mercy of willful misinformation.


Throughout the poems, V & V embody the words: “When men carry the same ideals in their hearts, nothing can isolate them – neither prison walls nor the sod of cemeteries. For a single memory, a single spirit, a single idea, a single conscience, a single dignity will sustain them all.” ~ Fidel Castro.

V & V share the same ideals that both lived by: care, compassion (karuna), kindness and simplicity: “Remember what Mahatma Gandhi said: the world has enough for everyone’s need, but not for their greed.”

Let us enjoy the V & V prose-poems; re-claim our lives, if we can dare, from the decadent ‘normal’ of the pre-Covid-19 days; restore the only Earth we share; reconcile the differences that divide us; re-live our humanity in harmony with Nature; keep vigil for our children and grand-children.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Professor I used to run away from

By Favita Dias

WHEN I joined Goa University in 2010, I was anxious. Of course, why not, right? It was a new place and a new environment all together. Besides, I was now all grown, a big girl, or at least I thought so. Joining the University was a matter of pride for me, not only because I was the only one to get there among my friend circle, but also because I was a first-generation learner from my family.

Like most students who, on joining a new institution or a class, are curious about the institution or the class and the class teacher, I too started inquiring about the teachers, and tried to find out about the type of students in the class, who I could be friends with, etc.

As the courses started, we met the professors. They all seemed to be so high profile. We asked our seniors about the teachers, the courses, if it is easy to pass, etc.

There was this one professor who, according to our seniors, was a torture for the students because of his teaching and evaluation method. He taught Classical Sociology, a compulsory course, and Social Research Methods, an optional course. He would give only presentations in class, make the students read long essays and, on top of that, evaluate the students every day. I mean just imagine, you read, make your own presentation, and cannot even bunk the class because you would lose out on class evaluation marks. Any student would be scared of such a teacher. At least for me, and surely for most students in my class, it would be a tough time because not many of us were used to reading and making our own notes and here we had to do presentations everyday or else lose marks. I would be so happy when it was not my turn to present. He was always with this serious face, with no smile on his face.

I still remember his first class. Normally, on the first day, teachers do not really teach. There is this ritual of introducing one another. I assumed it would be the same at Goa University. Mostly it was, but not with this professor. He came into class with some pictures and arranged them on the floor. He then asked us to take one picture and talk about why we chose that picture. I remember I chose a picture of an old man with his grand-daughter. After we all spoke, he told us to reflect upon the pictures that we chose and then started talking about ‘self-reflection’ through the pictures we chose.

We were only four of us in his class. I remember one of our friends would make fun and mimic the professor. He had few teeth and one tooth would be out and she would mimic that look of his. We would be thrilled if he didn’t come to University, which would seldom happen. Our seniors had told us that he had had a major heart surgery because of which he had got an extension, or else he would have retired. I was hoping that by the time I reached the final year he would retire.

YET, I opted for the Social Research Methods course, even though I had an option to take some other course. One reason was that our seniors had told us that this course was beneficial, if we wanted to do a dissertation. Another reason was that my best friend was taking the course.
In his Social Research Methods class, I appreciated his way of teaching. Suddenly the classes were becoming interesting. I was getting emotionally involved. I saw my confidence grow. I could speak up boldly in the other compulsory courses as well. So finally I decided I would do my dissertation under his guidance during my final year.

In the second year, I was more comfortable and would encourage my juniors to take his courses. But, like me, even they were not used to reading and making their own notes and presentations. It could be because we were not exposed to any other culture of learning apart from rote learning, the notes being dictated during lectures. So, not many would take optional courses taught by him.

In his class, however, I noticed that even the quietest and most shy students would speak up. The reason was that no matter what we said, no matter how dumb we sounded in class, he always valued our opinions and views. This he called ‘Voice’. Even if our answers were not related to the topic, he would make sure that we did not feel like losers. He would somehow try and relate our views to the context. He would always say there is no wrong answer, it is always right from at least one perspective. Sometimes, if it was not possible to do so during the current lecture, then the point made would find a connect in the next lecture. I think this was the best thing I ever experienced in a classroom.

He would tell us: “Never let the child in you die.”

I remember: how I grew with him! During my dissertation I would cry when I shared my experiences with him. In the process of writing my dissertation, I overcame a lot of my fears and pain. I was more confident than I was when I had joined the University. Today, when I reflect back, I understand that my dissertation could have been better if I had understood the importance of letting myself be ‘vulnerable’. That is something I learnt later.

EVEN after finishing my Masters, I continued to be in touch with him. But the relationship changed when I shared my caste experiences with him, something that I had never shared with anyone earlier. I shared my experiences with him because I remembered the intense discussions we used to have in class about caste and discrimination. But I was also sure that he would not judge me. I was not afraid of being judged or looked down upon because of my caste. Once I could pierce my fears, my life looked up and there was no looking back.

I was introduced to the Social Justice Action Committee, where like-minded people took up the cause of discriminated communities. This made me feel that I am not alone. I started fighting for reservations along with them. The Professor never forced me to do anything, nor did he give any advice. He always gave me his ear and then asked me questions, like “Why do you want to do it?”, and tell me the possible consequences of my actions. It was not always easy to get an answer for his question, but still he would insist: “Choose what makes you feel good about. Live with the questions that you don’t find the answers to. Eventually, you will find the answers. And even if you don’t find the answers, it will be fine because the questions might disappear.”

The most important thing he taught me was to reflect on the origin of the pain, the fears and the insecurity. And he would always say it comes from our childhood. He would always say ‘Nurture the child in you’; that our education system expects us to leave that child outside the classroom. He always tried to help us get this child into the classroom. That is what made learning fun.

As an example, I remember a friend of ours was very fidgety in class, so Sir gave her the freedom to walk in the class whenever she felt like. And then she was able to concentrate. No teacher would bother to notice that we were bored in a class; in fact they would feel offended if we yawned in the class. But, Sir would make us yawn and stretch our bodies when we were bored. He would say yawning gives oxygen to our body and will help in concentrating.

ONE of the important lessons I learnt was the importance of vulnerability, and that it can be our strength. Throughout my journey with him, I have felt vulnerable, but never felt judged. Today my vulnerabilities give me strength.

Here I am now, teaching as an Assistant Professor in the same Goa University and in the same department as Sir. I was hoping that I would get the room where he used to sit; the room where I have so many fond memories of him. That wouldn’t give me a bit of his intelligence or patience; but I have great memories in that room. I always want to be like him, and teach like him. I tried to use his method in my class and failed miserably. I learnt that it is a demanding task. Not only because you have to read and study in detail, but also because the system doesn’t encourage it. Students too felt that I was doing ‘time pass’ by making them reflect on their day-to-day habits and ways of living. They felt they were not learning anything new.

But Sir Alito had that special thing. He would not teach us something out of the world. He would teach us about our festivals, ways of talking and dressing, about how we are at home. He would make us reflect upon it and bring different perspectives into the classroom as compared to what the theorists that we were learning in class had to say. Once, he gave us an exercise of going to a place where we would never go, and eat something there, and then share our experience in the class. So, taste is not only in the mouth or tongue, it is there in the surroundings. I mean a simple example of our daily habit was used to teach us about ‘Habitus’. That was how he taught us.

When I was facing difficulties in my first year of teaching at the University and wanted to quit, Sir said that he would still be proud of me and of the work that I was doing, no matter how short my teaching career turned out to be. I was scared of being judged by people for not valuing a job that many people aspire for, but he never did that. That was Alito Siqueira and I am proud to be an “Alitorian”.

Favita Dias is working as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology, Goa University. She is part of the first group of Scheduled Tribe women from the Gawda tribe to be appointed as Assistant Professor at the Goa University. Her areas of interest are caste, gender and sexuality. She writes about the systemic injustice and humiliation that she faces within higher education.

Also subscribe to the blog Hanv Konn (re-searching the self)

About the blog Hanv Konn by Alito Siqueira:

"Learning and Recovery are Messy and Emotional" 

Alito with his friends & colleagues created this blog. He encouraged students to create knowledge through project work based on their own location, using multiple formats — text, digital stories and new media — and with their own non-standard English.  Such learning he felt is active, and tends to motivate students to search and read academic articles as avid users, in contrast to passive receivers who memorise texts and class room lectures. As a mentor he worked with many of the essays in this blog. Looking back, he sees this small innovative learning practice as the activity through which he learnt best from students—their lived experience and communities, as well as teaching methods.

Edited excerpts from the Foreword by Favita Dias:

“Each story of Hanv Konn is more inspiring than the other. These life stories of the writers themselves highlight some kind of injury, whether due to caste discrimination, gender discrimination, class, language, family, etc. They touch our deep-rooted and hidden feelings of pain, because they come from those who have experienced the pain and have struggled with it.

“The stories offer a path to validate the pain and heal it. They can help mobilize people with similar experiences to fight against the pain due to discrimination of any form. Most things that we see, hear or experience are considered to be part and parcel of life. But these same day-to-day events, if given a deep thought, can change the way we see them.

“The texts can also be used in classrooms as reading material. First, students can become aware of the kinds of discriminations in our society, and the injuries that they cause. Secondly, it will help students from the marginalized sections (and others) who have some hidden injuries. By the simple means of sharing their own experiences they can find validation and possibly a healing of their injuries. The stories can bring about a change in the way students themselves see the day-to-day events in their lives and think more sensitively about vulnerabilities — their own and of others.”


Alito was one of the most sincere & honest teachers that Goa, India and the world has seen. The test of his honesty & sincerity can be seen from his friends, colleagues and especially his students.

I thank Vasudha Sawaikar and Favita Dias for these pieces and for drawing my attention to the blog Hanv Konn. I am always sorry that I never had the chance to meet Alito. But then I did not have a chance to meet John Holt (How Children Learn, 1967) or A.S. Neill (Summerhill, 1921) or the hundreds of educators like Alito, who placed the child and the adult learner FIRST.

Take care. Enjoy yourselves. Peace and love. Have fun, as U learn.

Your support is my strength.
- Joe.

Pune, India; Sunday, 13 October 2019.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The book of my memoir on my mother is ready!

My dear family, friends, colleagues and students,

The book of my memoir on my mother is ready!

U will recall I wrote the first five parts in the form of four blog-posts here on Against the Tide, during 26 April to 25 May 2009. Your response encouraged me to write 20 more chapters. Now ten years later, the book is going to print in time for the 50th death anniversary of my mother! Like the blog-posts, my memoir is titled: ‘Lessons my Mummy Learned Me’.

Finally, the book of my memoir on my mother is ready!

Date of publication: 02 May 2019.
First edition: 1,000 copies.
A get-together on the occasion of its publication
will be held on Saturday, 18 May 2019, from 10am to 1pm,
at Akshar Nandan Shala, off Senapati Bapat Road in Pune.

The book is for private circulation only; not for sale. Hence, the first edition will not be available in book-stores or on-line. I am privately printing hard-back (hbk) and paper-back (pbk) copies. Hbk copies are available for Rs.250, while pbk copies are for Rs.200.

The only way, however, to get the hbk copies is to pre-order. I will print only as few/many hbk copies as are pre-ordered. Hence, hbk copies will not (not) be available later. U can pre-order only the hard-back (hbk) copies before 2 May 2019, available for Rs.150 (rupees one hundred and fifty only) – a discount of Rs.100. This includes postage charges to anywhere in India. U will have to pay postage charges for delivery abroad.

Pbk copies can not (not) be pre-ordered and will be available at the venue of the publication ceremony on Saturday, 18 May for Rs.150 (rupees one hundred and fifty only) – a discount of Rs.50. They can also be ordered for Rs.200 after 18 May 2019. Pbk copies may be ordered in the same way as the hbk copies. If pbk copies are available, delivery will be made by post on a first-ordered, first-served basis.

So to ensure your copy of the memoir, please pre-order.

One of my sincere & honest students, Jivraj Chole (and his wife Reshma) of Uchit Media, are handling the distribution from Pune. Send a letter in writing to:
Uchit Media, First Floor, Late Building,
Behind Kulkarni Petrol Pump, Kumathekar Road, Pune - 411 030;
or an e-mail to: uchitmadhyam@gmail.com.

Your hbk pre-order, before 02 May 2019; or pbk order, after 18 May 2019; will not (not) be accepted on phone (by voice or sms or WhatsApp msg). For details about how to pay, please contact:
Uchit Media: uchitmadhyam@gmail.com ;
or Jivraj Chole: jivrajchole@gmail.com ;
or Reshma Chole:  palve.reshma@gmail.com .

To ensure your copy of my memoir, please pre-order.

Any inquiries about the book with me may be made by email to: lessonsmemlm@gmail.com

Your support is my strength.
- Joe.

Pune, Tuesday, 09 April 2019.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Just Satish, my fair friend ...

One of Goa's and India's finest human beings and a world citizen, Satish Sonak passed away of a heart attack on Friday, 7 April 2017. He died at the age of 59, while arguing a case in a Panaji court.

By Joseph M. Pinto


I first met Satish Sonak and Harshada Kerkar, when I joined Gomantak Times (GT), Panaji, Goa, as editor in July 2003.

My first impression of Satish was of a fearless citizen.

I left GT within twelve months, but kept constantly in touch with them. Now that he is no more and I have lost my close & dear friend, my last impression of Satish is of a good human being, compassionate and caring.

But always his over-powering character is that of a free, frank and fearless, but fair citizen.

FREE: As a lawyer, he was his own master. 

I recall telling him that some of our earliest freedom-fighters and patriots were lawyers and, therefore, their own masters. He added, “So we are free to be servants of the people.”

In the tradition of Gandhi’s guru, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, who set up the Servants of India Society in 1905, Satish always kept himself “free” to serve the people of Goa and of India.

FRANK: If U knew him, you could walk up and ask him a question.

If you wanted an opinion, he could be trusted to be frank. If he did not know the subject, he would say, “Sorry, Joe. I do not know. I can’t say.”

If he felt that you were likely to disagree with his view, he would be careful not to hurt your feelings, while he asserted his own. He wanted to keep your friendship, while he disagreed with you -- frankly.

FEARLESS: This trait is critical, because Goa is such a small state. 

Everyone knows some-one in Goa. So it is easy to be afraid of hurting the interests of some-one you know, when you take a position in the public interest.  

Every activist in Goa can cite examples of how fearless Satish was. How he struggled hand-in-hand and shoulder-to-shoulder with the poor and needy -- on paper, in court and on the streets of Goa!

FAIR: His deep sense of justice did not make him self-righteous. 

Despite being fearless, Satish could be counted upon to be fair. He was careful not get carried away and become an arrogant "know-all" or a gullible "do-gooder".

“Fearless … but Fair” is a rare combination, especially in Goa, where everyone thinks he or she is more sincere & honest than his or her neighbour or even friend.

As a working journalist and editor, I could trust Satish Sonak one hundred percent.

As citizens and patriots, how can we pay tribute to Satish?

First, ask hard questions to those in power. Do not be afraid. For example, use RTI to pursue the powerful, ruthlessly to the very end. 

Speak up! Stand up!

Second, understand and respect the first three words of the Preamble to our Constitution: “We, the People …” 

The people of India, ie, you and me, are sovereign, not Parliament. Do not ever get over-awed by parliamentary democracy. Satish was a Gandhian to the core and practised civil disobedience, since he knew the law.

Third, and above all, be compassionate and hold Gandhi’s Talisman close to your heart:

“I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man [woman] whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him [her]. Will he [she] gain anything by it? Will it restore him [her] to a control over his [her] own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj [freedom] for the hungry and spiritually starving millions?”

Satish loved our people, the poor and the needy. He looked deep into their eyes. And listened to the voices of the voiceless. He felt their hearts, beating with his own.

That brave heart is still.

Farewell, my fair friend, just Satish!

(A version of this tribute appeared in two local newspapers, Gomantak Times and the Goan, on Saturday, 8 April 2017.)

Thursday, December 10, 2015

FTII : Put them on mute mode

My dear family, friends, colleagues and students,

When I posted "Dark days ahead - be prepared to resist!" on 16 May 2014, little did I anticipate the heroic struggle of the FTII students in Pune. Their protest, resistance and struggle has given me, and thousands of other upright & patriotic citizens, the hope and courage to carry on.

Khushboo Upadhyay, my diploma student, passed out from the Department of Communication of Journalism, University of Pune, in 2011. Later, she joined the Acting Department at FTII, Pune.

I asked Khushboo, one of my most sincere & honest students, to write about the struggle of the FTII students, which is an inspiration to students and to citizens who uphold "dissent in democracy".

She wrote the piece on 30 August 2015. But somehow, I forgot to post it on my blog. Sorry, my dear Khushboo, I post it now. 

Intolerance is not new to India or the world. Socrates and Tukaram faced it.

"Intolerance has been growing" for as long as we can remember: since the Partition of 1947; the Indira Emergency of 1975-77; the anti-Sikh riots of 1984; the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 and the subsequent blasts & riots in Mumbai; the anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat of 2002.

Three scholars have been assassinated by intolerant fanatics: Dabholkar, Pansare, Kalburgi.

The FTII strike may be over. But, like all struggles to uphold "dissent in democracy" across the world, their resistance and protest goes on ... 

I will always remember the questions of the FTII students.

By Khushboo Upadhyay

I sit here at the window of my room, in my home, thinking about my friends “striking” on the campus of our film-school in Pune. We are kilometres apart. But I can feel every bit of the pain & frustration they are going through. 

They are my batch-mates, my friends. It's my batch, who is fighting. I was in the Acting Department, which has only a two-year course. So I left the place earlier. My friends got stuck in the strike.

The guys especially (Vikas Urs, Ranjit Nair, Pradyatan Bera), whom I see debating with ‘intellectuals?’, shouting slogans, asking questions, on TV channels today, were the most what you call ‘polite, quiet, low profile’ men on campus. We worked together. We shared feelings; our pasts, our memories, our dreams for the future; our expectations from each other.

And so many more things beyond …

I feel terrible that I can't do anything, now for them; other than mulling over the situation, writing about it (the maximum I can do is write). I feel dependent, caged, in an independent state.

There they are questioning, protesting; getting beaten up, going to jail, sleeping sleepless nights; counting days, minutes & seconds; waiting for THE decision.

Am I talking about thieves? rapists? law breakers? criminals? politicians? high-profile people? You would think so. But ...  

No! No! No!  

None of them.  

I am talking about students, who are protesting against the illogical steps taken by their government for their school.

Their only fault -- they are FILM students.


Film? Yes, that thing which gives you “entertainment”. Ohhhh that Saturday-Sunday thing? There is a school for that? Who studies there?

Definitely some drop-outs, brainless creatures. Obviously, they can’t be some of the best brains in the country. The best brains go abroad; they don't wait for government answers.

And who needs to study Art, anyways? It’s inborn. You are either born with talent, or not. There should definitely not be a school for that. Bullshit!

Ohhhh, there is one? World wide, film-makers respect it? We give national awards to them, each passing year?

Then we should do something about it. 

Please ask that guy, what’s his name? The one who leads our rallies, somewhere. He does some TV shows, and some films to entertain people at night. I have seen him give a speech in bhakti samarohs. You remembered the name? No. Let go of the name. Just ask him to head them.

And ask 2-3 more of our supporters, who made PowerPoint presentations, during the elections to be his core team. They know how and which slides to keep.

They will definitely see to it that our children will show the best slides of our nation to the world.

Task completed.


The students are protesting against it.

Students? Please.

Our children, they are.  

Please ask the PT teachers to give them punishment.

Task completed.


Still protesting? Forget it. Ignore.

Children, if ignored, listen to their parents. There is nowhere else they can go or do.

They are watching world cinema, organising film festivals, making superlative art, listening to lectures by eminent personalities and documenting their lives, using such harmful ways to protest.

Today's kids!

Start examinations, ask them to show their projects. They haven’t completed it? These are unannounced, wrong assessments? Teachers are against it too? Remove such teachers.

Send letters to their parents. Tell the nation their tax money is being used by these kids. These kids are irresponsible and ungrateful.

So what if they earned their admissions by passing exams? Any Tom, Dick and Harry can study, make films, photograph, write scripts, act, and so on?

My assistant clicked so many pictures of our beautiful visits abroad. Such good photographer he is. See! Without wasting time, in getting educated.

And we did every bit to upgrade their course. Coloured campus walls, hanged paintings, put AC in the offices, wallpapers in departments. But to no avail. Poor tax-payer’s money is going down the drain and the nation is not progressing. All due to these children not submitting class projects.

But their parents are law-abiding citizens, paying taxes; their school seniors pay hefty amounts in the name of various taxes.
So what? They didn’t do homework. If they protest now, pack them up and lock them in a room. The darkness will frighten them, enough.

Task completed.



Their seniors also did the same thing. They ask a lot of questions.

Put their situation in mute mode. Like always. Enough time wasted.

You know today there is golden long-grain biryani for lunch with delegates. But you were fasting? I can eat once a day during fasts. And you should never say, “No, never insult it, never ask questions."
Our sanskàars.


Postscript, dated 10 December 2015: "My batch-mates, who were actively involved, now say 'Let us just concentrate on our working and filming. That can be our only way of agitation now.' "

Your support is my strength.

Peace and love,
- Joe.

Pune, India; Thursday, 10 December 2015.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

My idol, my grand-father: “I am working for the public and not for publicity”

My dear family, friends, colleagues, students and well-wishers,

Amrita Haldipur, SIMC-2006, one of my most sincere & honest students, leads marketing for National Geographic Channel in India. On the 95th birth anniversary of her grand-father, the late Bhalchandra Ambadas Haldipur (1917-1992), she wrote his story.

By Amrita Haldipur

This is a story that I have been wanting to share since a long time now. It’s special, very close to my heart, something that makes my heart swell with pride and brings the widest smile. The hero of my story is my idol, my grandfather.

His name was Bhalchandra Ambadas Haldipur (1917-1992). We all fondly called him ‘Daddy’.

The ONLY person I have ever been scared of. And that fear came from the immense respect I had for him, for the school of discipline he belonged to.

Born in 1917, he joined the Bombay City Police in 1939 as Sub-Inspector, and retired in 1975, as the Deputy Commissioner of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).

He was forced to leave studies midway and join the police. But he went on to become a successful police officer of his time and won accolades for his achievements: he was awarded the President’s Police Medal in 1956 and the President’s Police & Fire Service Medal in 1975.

I was 10 when Daddy passed away in 1992, but the memories he left behind, as a result of his deep-rooted values and beliefs, charming personality; the aura he created, when he was with his family and friends; his tongue-in-cheek humour in the most difficult times, his last words to me – are nuggets that help me move on and lead a life in all its fullness.

Here is why he is special –

Thoroughly ‘clean and incorruptible’, he was known for his tireless and thorough investigations, and fearless drive against crime during his hectic career spanning 36 years in the police force. Whether working in the Crime Branch or Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), he remained a courageous, fearless crime-fighter, who led his men from the front.

My grand-mom has always had interesting tales to tell us about the way he worked. One of my favourite anecdotes is the way he nabbed two of Mahatma Gandhi’s killers – Narayan Apte and Vishnu Karkare in 1948. What set him apart in his investigation procedures was a set of sketches he drew during his chase and trial of the killers.

Sifting through the album, containing yellowish sheets of these sketches, my grand-mom would go on to say:

“Daddy was part of the special cell to trace Gandhiji’s assassins. A team set out to scour the country for the absconders soon after January 30th, 1948.

“And he was asked to track Apte and Karkare, two of the co-conspirators of Nathuram Godse in the assassination. He was posted in the Red Fort, Delhi, during the entire trial period. He drew images of whoever he met – be it the then DSP of Delhi, a sub-inspector at Gwalior, a Pune tailor or an IAF official, for the record.

“During the chase, for weeks, he did not come home, and we didn’t know where he was. (You’ll are lucky to live in the day and age of mobile phones. I wish I had some such help to avoid the sleepless nights, wondering where he is and how is he.) He survived on raw eggs and followed the two from Gwalior to Ahmednagar, their hometown.

“During the days, he would go hunting for both, with guns; and during the nights, he sketched those he met or interrogated, with pencils.

"The day Apte and Karkare checked into Pyrkes Apollo Hospital, near Regal Cinema in South Mumbai, under assumed names, Daddy finally nabbed them, after waiting there for them for seven hours."

Besides this major investigation, he was a key official in the Justice Kapur Commission, set up by the Govt. of India to investigate into various events leading to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.

During the completion of 150 years of the Mumbai Police Commissionerate, he was declared as one of the most important police officers from the Mumbai Police Division to have significantly contributed to the country in the immediate post-independence era.

And this wasn’t all. There was more to him.

A body builder; a pole-vault gold medallist at the National Olympics in 1940; a multi-linguist (he had passed three examinations in Urdu, while in service); started the annual Ganesh Chathurthi festival at Santa Cruz Police Station; one of the founders of the Senior Citizens’ Club of Bombay; a music and instrument buff.

A sincere friend; a loving husband, father and grandfather. Above all, a selfless and modest man. He never discussed his work at home or spoke about his achievements and never let anyone promote him either.

All he said was, “I am working for the public and not for publicity.”

He is the real cool dude, who won hearts at work and in life for his discipline, at a time when there was no media, no PROs, no unnecessary tamasha.

If I had a time machine, I would have had only one wish – more time with Daddy. But I’m glad I have no such privilege, because he would have only been disheartened to live and watch the country go to dogs today, as far as corruption and discipline are concerned.

We miss you, Daddy! 

Amrita describes herself as “a vagabond, a people-watcher, a dream chaser” on her blog ‘Being Footloosish’ (a diary of my favourite life experiences that have made me richer with each passing day). I have edited her story of her 'Daddy'. Click here for the original, written as an FB note on 26 August 2012 and posted on her blog on 29 August 2012.

Since I wrote a five-part memoir of my mother on this blog in 2009, I have encouraged my family, friends, colleagues and students to write about the persons who enriched their lives.

Amrita Haldipur’s story of her grand-father is one in this series. I hope others will feel motivated to send me their stories of people who mattered to them - for publication on my blog.

Your support is my strength.Peace and love,
- Joe.

Pune, India; Sunday, 7 September 2014.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Taher Shaikh, editor and a guru to reporters in Pune, is no more

The late Taher Shaikh (1941-2004) was one of the three senior-most reporters, along with Harry David and Y.V. Krishnamurthy, who personified Maharashtra Herald (MH), the local daily English newspaper, published in Pune during 1963-2003.

Taher passed away in Pune on 21 May 2014. He leaves behind his wife Saeeda, daughter Farheen and son Suhail and four grand-children. With my colleagues at MH and other papers in Pune, I share in the grief of his family.

When I joined MH in 1983 as a sub-editor, Taher was at the peak of his reporting career. One of my gurus, Taher held my hand as I learned editing.

In the piece that follows, Babu Kalyanpur, my colleague at the MH Desk, pays tribute to Taher, the story-teller.


By Babu Kalyanpur

A great journalist and a thorough gentleman has passed into the Blue Yonder, now sharing his vast repertoire of tales with the gods.

Taher was endearing. No airs, despite his decades-old experience as a newsman. Young or old, you could count on him, any time.

So many young cubs, ensnared by the glamour and the glitter, were taught the grim realities of, what they thought was, a romantic profession. Taher gave it straight as it comes: a story here and an anecdote there. If you were quick on the draw you picked it up.

No egos involved; no “I am better than you” attitude. Taher understood that every budding scribe needs help, not sniggering comments.

It wasn't just the young hopefuls. He was also the man to go to, whenever there was a crisis. And there were many during the old days. Nothing illustrates his attitude better than the Tale of the Power Cut.

Back in the 1980s, a major grid failure caused darkness in many parts of Maharashtra. Pune city was almost in total darkness. Most newspapers gave up hope and scrapped their editions. There was no option but for MH to follow suit.

This writer, on duty, was still waiting, eternally hopeful. And Taher, as was his wont, was among the last man standing at work. It was getting to nearly 1am. Time was running out.

Just a casual question, about whether there was any hope at all, turned into action. A few phone calls and Taher had information that there was only one newspaper, which had electricity and was printing. There was no stopping after that. Taher called the owners and within minutes we went there and got the issue out.

The point here is that Taher knew everybody. Like a good journalist, he made his contacts and kept in touch with them regularly. It could be an office clerk or a minister, Taher knew them.

He was literally 'King' when it came to the Pune Municipal Corporation. He had inside stories which nobody would get.

That extended to court cases too. He was thorough and accurate when reporting these. His easy style and economy of wordage made the job easier for us, at the desk. Like good journalists, he wrote simple and to the point.

MH was lucky to have such top-shot pioneers – Harry David, Y.V. Krishnamurthy and Taher Shaikh – at the same time: a combined experience of more than 100 years.

Taher was a great fan of cricket and, in his middle-age, even played the game for MH. His only drawback in later life was the “Yes, no, maybe” while running between the wickets, which once earned the ire of this writer. But then …

Back on 15 March this year, a get-together was arranged, for which Taher also came. It was heart-breaking to hold this frail man by the hand and help him to the Food Court at Dorabjee's. Age and disease had their say on this fit and sprightly man. However, his spirit, slightly dimmed, was still there.

This was the last time this writer saw him. And was honoured to give him a helping hand. Must put that picture away now.

And remember Taher Shaikh, smoking incessantly, holding court with tales of yore at the MH office!


Please add your tribute to Taher in the comments.