Mahadevan's Monologues

If we had the vision and feeling of ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence. – George Eliot

Saturday, March 19, 2011


The Brahmin community in Kerala ( other than Namboodiris) and all castes in Tamil Nadu have the practice of marrying within the family. Marriage among second and third cousins is quite normal. In fact the boys in Tamil Nadu have the first right of refusal( right to marry the murai ponnu) before the girl is sought to be married outside the cousins circle. A few view this practice as unscientific and trace the ailments suffered by the offspring to the close relationship between the parents before marriage. At the same time the community is vehement that first cousins both on the paternal side(father’s brothers) and maternal side (mother’s sisters) do not intermarry and the prohibition on “Sagothra’, marriage stems from this practice atleast as far as the paternal side goes. In a number of cases girls marry their maternal uncles though boys marrying their paternal aunts is not permitted. If one tries to look for logical support for the practice, one would find that medical science too frowns upon inbreeding. At the same time, as in those days, the source of income was common and wealth was held in the name of family, in order to preserve the family wealth and income, marriage within the family was encouraged at the permitted level. Another reason could be, as the families were living under the same roof, intermingling of boys and girls of marriageable age was quite normal, and such intermingling facilitated marriages between cousins. Unlike boys’ Convents, such intermingling provided a healthy sexual outlook. In astrology too, there is no prohibition on marriage between cousins. One cannot visualize any other reason for such close within the family marriages.
It is in this context, the research done by Professor Kari Stefanson of CODE Genetics , Iceland , that throws fresh light. According to this study, marriage between first and second cousins had more children than distantly related couples with good chances of getting more grandchildren. Thus, mating with cousins has reproductive advantages. As a large family was always encouraged and those with more children having been considered blessed, no wonder, marriage within the family circle was widely practiced, if one accepts Stefanson study findings. As a corollary, should we not discourage marriage within the family atleast on the demographic ground, when our objective is to have lesser number of children ?
Readers more familiar with the subject, perhaps would enlighten us further..



Friday, March 18, 2011


In his excellent small Book ‘One Minute Manager’, author Kenneth Blanchard says that every one of us is endowed with competence of varying degrees to perform a task and also commitment of divergent intensity to complete an assignment.

Thus, those with less competence and more commitment, often slog without much success. Many workaholics belong to this category. They are hard working but not efficient or effective. There are others, who are quite competent, but are not committed enough to the cause. A good number of trade union leaders in enterprises come under this category. They are extremely capable, but their commitments lie elsewhere.

Those with very low degree of commitment and competence cannot be entrusted with any responsibility. They need constant monitoring, guidance and course correction. They retard an organisation’s progress.

Individuals with high degree of commitment and competence can be delegated any task. We have two classic examples in our epics. Hanuman was highly competent to surmount any difficulties and navigate his way and his commitment to Sriram was total and unshakable. Therefore a major responsibility was delegated to him and he completed the project with great acumen. Bhishma Pitamaha was a totally accomplished man. Archery, bravery, political strategy or sheer knowledge, everywhere he outshone others. Bhishma had sacrificed his personal glory and pleasures for the interest of Hastinapura. To him the only mission in life was to serve the interest of Hastinapura’s Rulers. He abdicated his thrown to serve his Cause, an example which centuries later, King Edward VIII followed in England . No wonder, Bhishma was made the supreme commander of Hastinapura’s ruling forces in the Kurukshetra War.

Those with very high degree of commitment, often have a narrower view and are oblivious to their surroundings, save their one cause, object or mission. In his eagerness and commitment to protect the interest of Hastinapura’s rulers, Bhishma didn’t realize that he was not on the side of the Champion of Dharma. Whoever fought Hastinapura had to be repulsed back, seemed to be his war strategy. As the Commander of an army, he cannot allow his enemy to escape. And, as he had taken a vow never to attack a woman, he didn’t attack Sikhandi, Sikhandi being a woman in his previous birth. Thus, at times, his commitments circumscribed his performance. Interestingly, apart from his physical prowess, courage and blemish less dedication to Sri Ram, we haven’t heard much about Hanuman’s dexterity in other areas. Those who instead of trying to understand the Vedas, their metaphysics and Philosophy and devote their days nights in merely repeating their stanzas, Sankara calls as ‘Vedabhyasa Jatas’ - meaning fools who merely repeat the Vedas. One needs to have a wider vision and not mere focusing on a spot.

If commitment has to enhance competence, commitment should play the role of an enabling force and not a retarding one. Krishna too had commitments but his commitments were made subservient to his competence. Arjuna’s commitment to a wrong sense of reverence, compelled to him to lay down his arms. Unlike Bhishma’s commitments, Krishna ’s commitments didn’t distract him. Mahatma Gandhi’s commitment to peace and non-violence did not stand in the way of his fighting the British.

Our commitments should be such that they do not make our competence meaningless. Commitment to a wrong cause can make our competence destructive. We have been reading daily about able men, being led astray because of their commitment to wrong causes.

And finally, let us enhance our competence in our chosen field and make our commitments to add value to our competence. An Abdul Kalam, a Dr.Narayana Murthy and a Mahendra Singh Dhoni exemplify this.



Tuesday, December 23, 2008


The Maharashtra Cabinet has decided to introduce a Bill shortly, in the State Legislature, seeking to legalise ‘living in arrangement’ between a man and a woman. Union Minister Renuka Choudhary wants not only legal sanction, but also moral support from the society for such living in arrangement. Let us now examine the legal, moral and sociological implications of the proposed measure by the Government.

When all over the world, economies have crumbled, India and a few others have escaped with minor bruises. Dr.Manmohan Singh attributes the International economic failures to lose regulatory controls. In India, we have one of the finest regulators, the Reserve Bank of India and this Regulatory body’s extra zealous efforts certainly helped us in maintaining a semblance of discipline. Thus, regulatory mechanism plays a vital role, when diverse operations take place. Marriage is a social regulatory institution evolved as human civilization advanced. Lord Sriram was singled out for praise for remaining monogamous. Today millions of us are monogamous and yet we are not praised. Why? In Sriram’s time, monogamy, that too among the Royals, was not a virtue. And yet, Sri Ram chose to remain faithful to his wife and is admired for that. When we have come out of that state and the vast majority remains within the wedlock, respecting the Institution of Marriage, should we move out of this stage of civilization? Hinduism and Roman Catholic Church considers marriage as a sacrament. When we realize that Regulatory mechanism, certainly help us, should we opt out of it? ‘Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread’.
Excepting Special Marriages Act, Marriages under which is optional, we do not have common Marriage laws, governing different communities of their marriages, divorce and inheritance. If Marriage laws are different, will the proposed laws for Living in arrangement’ apply mutatis mutandis to different communities? We have been hearing constantly about the attrition in software and BPO industries. ‘Living in arrangement often would lead to attrition in man-woman relationship and if attrition as such is obnoxious, how can we encourage attrition in man-woman relationship? Today children outside wedlock, generally carry a stigma, in all communities (celebrities excluded). Will the legitimization of their parents’ relationship erase the stigma? Perhaps Mrs. Renuka Choudhary had this in mind when she asked for moral support to ‘living in ‘arrangement.

Living in arrangement, by definition is not likely to last for long period and therefore how do we work upon laws of inheritance? How do we nurture children, when there is constant reshuffling in parental relationship? Relationship within the Institution of Marriage is the rule and relationship outside marriage is an exception. Should we seek to make the exception as the rule?

And finally let us be governed by the oft repeated common sense axiom – when in doubt, don’t.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


In his well known Play ‘Pygmalion’ (Source of the Movie ‘My Fair Lady’ ), George Bernard Shaw says that ‘the difference between a Lady and a flower girl lies not in what they are, but how they are treated’. What a great observation!

A poor flower girl did not have proper English diction and cultural finesse. A Professor, determined to transform her, gave her all the treatments normally meted out to a well groomed lady and this poor timid girl, became indistinguishable from a maiden from May Fair. Many culturally advanced families adopt children from orphanages and transform these children into examples of excellence in etiquette. It is how they were treated, that made the difference.

We have this evil tendency of looking down upon some and treating them contemptuously while venerating others. Karna, because of his alleged low class (caste!) birth, was not treated humanely. Duryodhana gave him a ‘local habitation and a name’ and what a difference it made! He proved himself to be the most dreaded warrior and for sheer prowess, was spoken of in the same breathe as Arjuna and Parasuram. The treatment meted to him made the difference. When we treat somebody contemptuously, we lower his/her self esteem which in turn would extinguish their potential abilities. Some teachers, snub a few students who, as a result, never blossom. Those who are encouraged at home and in the school turn out to be bright students.

The Monarchs in the earlier periods, when they conquer a territory, would take a way the women to their harems, reduce the men to be mere slaves and such vanquished kingdoms never produced geniuses. A bruised ego cannot innovate and improve upon.

Reaching out to people, extending a supporting arm, providing a healing touch or even a mere reassuring look can do wonders. Daughters in law in the earlier generations were not very assertive. They always used to look for moral support from some members of the family, besides their husband. This support, they greatly used to cherish. Even those fiercely ragging boys and girls, seek to justify their actions saying that they merely try to remove inhibitions and build up a feeling of camaraderie.

Today we use phrases like ‘level playing ground’ which essentially means to give identical good treatment to all. The conditions of the then social outcaste in our society, reflects very poorly on our cultural traditions. They therefore flock where their feelings are assuaged. That is why great social reformers always tried to provide equal treatments to all. Baba Amte dedicated his life to the well being of lepers, the most condemned group in the society.

In large organizations, well established trade unions, gradually nourish the newly joined employees and they remain fiercely loyal to such Unions. Here again the treatment given to the employees, won their hearts.
The Vedanta Philosophy and Indian sages say that every one is potentially Divine. The whole purpose of life is to fully realize this Divine nature. We do not look down upon anybody as Sinner. When we look upon every one as potentially Divine, how do we condemn people as unworthy? Let us condemn the acts and not the persons. Let us also praise the individuals and not merely their fine gestures. This attitude can certainly transform Flower Girls into accomplished Ladies.
And finally as John Dryden put it, ‘let us raise Mortals to the Skies and not pull Angels down’.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Recently the victorious 1983 World Cup Indian Cricket Team, went to Lords and relived those pleasant moments after the victory. Very often University Alumni proudly recall the happier days they spent together in the Campus and hostels. In fact, in IITs, every year one batch celebrates its Silver Jubilee. To every guest we proudly show the marriage album or run the DVD to look back at the ceremonies. We always find a thrill in reliving our glorious moments of the past.

Dhyanchand dribbling the Hockey stick, Prithipal Singh converting the penalty corners in his own characteristic way, A Chuni Goswamy scoring a goal in sheer speed, a Kapil Dev turning out a tantalizing out swinger from an immaculate side on action, kissing the edge of the bat and landing safely in the slip’s hand - would we not proudly recall every pleasant moments of the past?

Thousands of Tamilians would ooze out saliva when they recall the softest Idlies of Ambi’s Café, be it at Chennai’s Broadway or Trichi’s Theppakulam. How many of us, in our thirties, forties, fifities and sixties go into raptures, if a mention is made about our barefoot days in the streets of Malabar or Travancore! The thrill they provide us today is perhaps much more than the ones we actually experienced when the past were present then. The ecstasy increases in proportion to the distance traveled in time.

The raptures do not confine to the Time past alone. Time future also promises pleasant moments. No wonder Robert Browning, considered to be most optimistic of all English Poets, asked

“Grow old along with me,
The Best is yet to be”.

If we believe the ‘best is yet to be’, would the thought of death torment us? We should always have something to look for, that alone keeps us alive. One shudder to imagine a situation, where one does not have anything to look for. Looking for something always make Life meaningful. Those who do not have things to look for, lose charm in life and start developing suicidal tendencies. Dramatists and story writers captivate us, by keeping us in anticipation for the denouement. The few days prior to the Marriage day in the Family are the most thrilling days. We anticipate our friends and relatives from distant places to arrive, and spend happier hours together. When the ceremony is over, to escape the tedium, we go back to memory and try to relive the past.

It is not only distance in time, that provide us the delirium, it is also distance in space, (both Physical and mental) that exhilarate us. Referring to Jawaharlal Nehru, my English Professor Mr.Banerji used to say, ‘he is like a Star that twinkles from afar. We are lesser mortals. Let us admire him from the distance’. Being lesser mortals, would we not admire a Sachin Tendulkar, a Vishwanathan Anand or a Lata Mangeshkar our contemporary heroes/heroines, from a distance?

Distance enchants. But the thrill is diminished by proximity. Those in love, may view this as blasphemy.

Friday, June 27, 2008


Justice Dalvir Bhandari delivered a separate but concurring Judgement, in a Bench of five Judges.

Hon.Justice Bhandari said that Constitutional Amendment No.93, empowering the Government to provide reservation of seats in Government aided educational institutions, would be ultra vires and invalid if the creamy layer is not excluded. Why creamy layer should be excluded? Justice Dalvir Bhandari quotes Justice Sawant in the earlier larger Bench that pronounced a Judgment on Job Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes.

“Society does not remain static. Industrialization, urbanization, the advance on political, social and economic fronts, the social movements of last several decades, the spread of education and the advantages of special provisions including reservations secured so far, have all undoubtedly seen atleast some individuals and families in the backward classes, however small in number, gaining sufficient means to develop their capacities to compete with others in every field. Legally they are not entitled any longer to be called as part of the backward classes whatever their original birthmark.

The non-exclusion of creamy layer or the inclusion of forward castes in the lists of backward classes will therefore be totally illegal. Such illegality offending the Constitution of India cannot be allowed to be perpetuated even by Constitutional Amendment.” What an emphatic assertion!

Justice Bhandari also ordered the Government to exclude the children of the former and present Members of the Parliament and Members of the Legislative Assemblies and the Office Memorandum of Government of India be amended accordingly. . However, creamy layer exclusion cannot be extended to Scheduled Class and Scheduled Tribes, as the whole discussions even during the earlier larger Bench judgments were confined to Socially and Educationally Backward Classes only.

Imposing Reservations on unaided Educational Institutions violates the Basic Structure of the Constitution by stripping the citizens of their fundamental right under Article 19(1) (g) to carry on an occupation, according to Justice Bhandari. However, other Judges did not pronounce any Order on this, though they concurred with the observation, because none of the unaided educational institutions have challenged the constitutional amendment. About Minority Institutions, “we will take a step in the wrong direction if Minority Institutions (even those that are aided) are subjected to reservation”, Justice Bhandari added.

Justice Bhandari also observed that ‘once a candidate graduates from a university, the said candidate is educationally forward and is ineligible for special benefits under Article (15) (5) of the Constitution for post graduate and any further studies thereafter’.

“It is reasonable to balance reservation with other societal interests. To maintain standards of excellence, cut off marks for OBCs should be set not more than 10 marks out of 100 below that of the general category”, Justice Bhandari added.

To sum up, in the case, Nagaraj and others Vs. Union of India, Supreme Court has beautifully summarized the context in which Reservation can be considered which Justice Dalvir Bhandari, quoted in his observation:

“We reiterate that the cutting limit of 50%, the concept of Creamy Layer and the compelling reasons namely backwardness, inadequacy of representation and overall administrative efficiency are all Constitutional requirements without which the structure of equality of opportunity in Article 16 of the Constitution would collapse”. What a fine exposition of judicial pronouncement!

So far I have briefly narrated the pronouncements of the Five Judges Bench. I now give below my own observations:

1) Three out of five Judges have opined that University Graduates should be treated as not educationally backward and therefore at the Post Graduation level, there is no need for reservation. Taking a cue from this, some have approached the Supreme Court again, pleading for the exclusion of Reservation for Post Graduate Courses (IIMs for example) and till the Court pronounces an Order on the Plea, one should not venture an opinion.

2) Again, three out of five Judges have opined that even for those eligible for Reservations,
there has to be a cut off mark, though lower than the cut off marks
for the General Candidates. There is no unanimity on the exact cut off mark concession.

3) The Highest Court of the Land in two different Benches – one a Larger Bench of
Nine Judges and the other a Five Judges Bench, has unanimously concluded that
Caste would be the starting point and that Creamy layers are to be excluded. Government has the Authority to define Creamy layer and such Governmental
definitions are subject to Judicial Scrutiny. In other words, lacuna in the Governmental Orders can be challenged in the Courts of Law.

4) Creamy layer class and Socially and Educationally Backward class are
mutually exclusive. One therefore expects, atleast the Left Political Parties, that swear by Class, to take up a principled stand on the subject. CPM has taken up
a stand( though they would not stick to it on electoral considerations) and other left parties do not have a studied position, till now.

5) As I had mentioned in my earlier article “Potential and Promise”, still all those who compete are not equals. In the 2008 IIT JEE examinations, more than 1400 successful candidates had undergone one/two years of full time study at Bansal Classes, Kota. A vast majority did not have and cannot afford this facility. What more, the educational institutions through which they pass out, do not have the requisite standard. Till all over India, identical educational standard is made available, candidates from backward institutions, but with high potential, need to be identified and protected. As the IPL has brought out potential Cricket Players to the forefront, there has to be a similar system, that would bring out the candidates with high potential. I am sure, some of the rural and backward schools have many brilliant students who need to be brought to the forefront.
If true social justice is to be done, all promising students from backward schools and colleges are to be brought to limelight and enabled to brush shoulders with the bright and well bred ones.

Thursday, June 05, 2008


In Part I, I presented the summary of the judgment of Hon. chief justice .Balakrishnan. In this part II, I give gist of the judgment pronounced by Hon. Justice Dr.Paschayat, who delivered the judgment on his behalf and also on behalf of another member of the Bench – Hon. Justice Thakkar.

Hon. Justice Dr.Paschayat agreed with the Chief Justice that as held by the larger Bench in the Indira Sahney case, Constitutional Amendment No.93, inserting sub-clause 5 to Article 15, was not in violation of the Fundamental Rights portions of the Constitution. He also drew support from the earlier larger Bench of the Court in the Indira Sahney case that to begin with, Caste could be the basis. This is because, though poverty was the prime cause for Social and Educational backwardness, caste factor further aggravates the backwardness. Secondly the special treatment relates to a class and not to individuals. Therefore, in his opinion, other Backward Castes, as determined by the Commission for the purpose, set up by the Government, in conformity with the recommendations of Supreme Court in the earlier Indira Sahney case, would constitute the socially and educationally backward classes, after the Other Backward castes are ridden of ‘creamy layer’. Including the Creamy layer of the other Backward Castes and the forward castes in the reservation eligibility category would violate Article 15 and 16 of the Constitution as un-equals would be treated as equals. Other backward Castes, cleansed of Creamy layer, alone would become Socially and Educationally backward classes eligible to be treated differently for the purpose of public employment and higher education. However, the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes list, as prepared by the Government, is subject to judicial scrutiny. Wrongful inclusions and exclusions can be challenged by writs.

Justice Paschayat points out that the backward classes need justice, the general classes demand equity and the interest of the State mandates excellence in education and services. Therefore to properly identify the classes that need support, Justice Paschayat suggests that the list of Socially and Educationally Backward Classes is to be reviewed every five years ( Chief Justice Balakrishnan suggested every ten years). To weed out the educationally advanced, Justice Paschayat recommends a cut off minimum educational qualification- University graduation. Chief Justice Balakrishnan did not recommend any cut off qualifications. In the opinion of Justice Dr.Paschayat, the University Graduates are educationally advanced and therefore there need be no reservation at the Post Graduation level.

As a compromise between reservation for socially and educationally backward classes and the need for excellence in Society, a minimum cut off marks - five percent less than the cut off marks for General Candidates should be the minimum requirement for Reserved category Students, Justice Paschayat feels.

Justice Paschayat also said that though running a Private unaided educational institution is a profession and hence is protected by the fundamental rights provisions of the constitution, in as much as no Private Institution has challenged the Constitutional Amendment 93, he is not pronouncing any Order on it.

Thus, while agreeing with the Chief Justice that Constitutional Amendment 93 was legal and that providing reservation of seats for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes after the creamy layer are taken out of the eligibility list, he also suggested a reduced review period of five years, a cut off qualification and a cut off mark of 5 marks lesser than the cut off mark of the general candidates. For the selection of candidates for post graduate courses, no reservation need be done, Hon. Justice Paschayat reiterated.