Facebook posts – 2017

(A compilation of my posts on Facebook, so far in 2017.)


We have sacrificed a young girl at the altar of so-called meritocracy. We are saying RIP to a girl who should have lived and served in peace.

To hell with NEET and all forms of elitist entrance exams. While, in the short run, Tamilnadu’s marks-based selection process is the most pragmatic way to go, and education should be a state subject, it is time to push our imagination beyond that as well.

Our children should be allowed to pursue the futures that they want, irrespective of what their past exam scores tell.

What they desire is more relevant than what they deserve (as decided by someone else).

Scarcity of seats and infrastructural constraints are falsely created political constructs to protect elitist turfs and centralised power. Who can decide if Anitha is eligible to serve her Kuzhumur village as a doctor? Neither Lutyen’s Delhi nor St.George Fort can ever be in a better position to make that call than our Anithas themselves and their local communities. What matters is not whether Anitha could have been among the best doctors in the world or the country (of course, she could have been) but if Anitha could have been the most suitable doctor for Kuzhumur. We don’t need legislation and incentives to force city-bred doctors to serve in villages. We need power with our local communities to groom their own doctors and engineers, and freedom and opportunities for individuals to choose their vocation. There will be more natural balance in this seeming chaos than any centrally designed system.

In the current tangle of expectations and disappointments that our administrators, politicians and judges have got our children into, the only sensible thing to do this year is to give admission to all the candidates who are eligible both under the State admission process and NEET. There surely will be infrastructural constraints. But whatever be the cost, no more young life should be destroyed.

Next year, get rid of NEET permanently.

In future, get rid of all artificial scarcities, and move to a system that places maximum value on the aspirations of the individual and the needs of local communities.


CBSE vs State Board, NEET/entrance exams vs Board exams, BJP Vs Congress, ADMK vs DMK: by constructing such lose-lose binaries, and blunting our imagination and free thinking, does the system(constructed by us, of course) defeat us.

(P.S.: I see that I’ve happened to list my choice of the lesser evil on the right side, in all the cases)


Nothing gives more joy than seeing a dear friend doing well against all odds. After watching Arunachalam in action at IIT Chennai, one can’t miss to notice how much his students respect him and adore him. It was even more heartening to see his care for his students, especially those who need his care, his awareness of the changes that creep into his style due to academic pressure and his keen intent to correct them. Super, my friend.

We need people like you to make an impact in the bastions of elitism to make concerns of the poor a priority.


I had to do the last rites at the funeral for my Periyappa (father’s brother) last month, whose son had also passed away a couple of months earlier. Since the death was unexpected, it didn’t strike me then that it was his daughter, and not me, who should have performed the last rites. (Even if it had struck me then, not sure if I could have done anything about it.) It dawned on me 2 days later, when we were preparing to perform the 3rd day rites. Then I ensured that his daughter and I did most of the rites together. But who was I to grant my sister the right that was hers in the first place? I have been debating this with my family since then.

My friend, Anu Lall, has written a moving piece on this. She and her mother have had the conviction to simply do what seems to be the most natural thing to do when our loved ones pass away.


One nation, one tax, one culture, one religion, one belief, one food, one language – let me contribute one more to this list: One Name. It will solve the Aadhaar-PAN linking issue at one stroke of another midnight, and give relief to so many of us, especially Tamils, who have this complicated ‘initial’ business. Why have the inefficient system of names, when much more efficiency is already possible using numbers and biometrics?



The sad story of radium . How many times have we seen this repeat?

/Unlike the company’s own research into radium’s beneficence, this study was independent, and when the expert confirmed the link between the radium and the women’s illnesses, the president of the firm was outraged. Instead of accepting the findings, he paid for new studies that published the opposite conclusion; he also lied to the Department of Labor, which had begun investigating, about the verdict of the original report. Publicly, he denounced the women as trying to “palm off” their illnesses on the firm and decried their attempts to get some financial help for their mounting medical bills./


When all hope in humanity seems lost, a simple statement like this restores it.


Choosing not to leave an important task to his peers, Jonathan Swift had written a wicked and delicious self-elegy of sorts.

What poet would not grieve to see
His brethren write as well as he?
But rather than they should excel,
He’d wish his rivals all in hell.

Her end when emulation misses,
She turns to envy, stings and hisses:
The strongest friendship yields to pride,
Unless the odds be on our side.

Vain human kind! fantastic race!
Thy various follies who can trace?
Self-love, ambition, envy, pride,
Their empire in our hearts divide.
Give others riches, power, and station,
‘Tis all on me a usurpation.
I have no title to aspire;
Yet, when you sink, I seem the higher.
In Pope I cannot read a line,
But with a sigh I wish it mine;
When he can in one couplet fix
More sense than I can do in six;
It gives me such a jealous fit,
I cry, “Pox take him and his wit!”

To all my foes, dear Fortune, send
Thy gifts; but never to my friend:
I tamely can endure the first,
But this with envy makes me burst.

“For poetry he’s past his prime:
He takes an hour to find a rhyme;
His fire is out, his wit decay’d,
His fancy sunk, his Muse a jade.
I’d have him throw away his pen;—
But there’s no talking to some men!”

In such a case, they talk in tropes,
And by their fears express their hopes:
Some great misfortune to portend,
No enemy can match a friend.
With all the kindness they profess,
The merit of a lucky guess
(When daily “How d’ye’s” come of course,
And servants answer, “Worse and worse!”)
Would please ’em better, than to tell,
That, “God be prais’d, the Dean is well.”
Then he who prophecy’d the best
Approves his foresight to the rest:
“You know I always fear’d the worst,
And often told you so at first.”
He’d rather choose that I should die,
Than his prediction prove a lie.
Not one foretells I shall recover;
But all agree to give me over.

Now Grub-Street wits are all employ’d;
With elegies the town is cloy’d:
Some paragraph in ev’ry paper
To curse the Dean or bless the Drapier.

“Perhaps I may allow, the Dean
Had too much satire in his vein;
And seem’d determin’d not to starve it,
Because no age could more deserve it.
Yet malice never was his aim;
He lash’d the vice, but spar’d the name;
No individual could resent,
Where thousands equally were meant.
His satire points at no defect,
But what all mortals may correct;
For he abhorr’d that senseless tribe
Who call it humour when they gibe.
He spar’d a hump, or crooked nose,
Whose owners set not up for beaux.
True genuine dulness mov’d his pity,
Unless it offer’d to be witty.
Those who their ignorance confess’d
He ne’er offended with a jest;
But laugh’d to hear an idiot quote
A verse from Horace, learn’d by rote.


Sepoys from Garhwal Rifles refused to obey orders to shoot at the non-violent protestors (Ghaffar Khan’s Khudai Khidmatgars) at Peshawar, during 1930.

I really wish that some of our police have similar courage to act against immoral, politically motivated orders from their political or departmental bosses.

The Police have been seeing, from close quarters, how non-violent the protests have been for the last 6 days, despite such a massive gathering. Yesterday morning, I spoke to a few police officers guarding the evacuated VOC Park ground. They couldn’t deny the peaceful nature of the protests. They looked ashamed and helpless. One of them said, “my son is also in college. Don’t provoke me.” One officer talked about infiltration of the anti-social elements. Even if that be true, it cannot be a justification for the unrestrained assault on other peaceful protestors and the public.

One image (from live telecast of Sun News) that refuses to die down from my mind, is that of male police officers lathi charging women who were stubbornly seated on the floor at Alanganallur – the blood that gushed out from one of the women’s face makes my hand feel greasy even now. There are various other scenes that have shaken me, and left me shuddering through the night and haunted me during the disturbed sleep. Videos have now surfaced showing policemen smashing and setting fire to vehicles and huts, throwing stones and bottles. If all this can happen on live TV, in the capital of a state, I cannot imagine the plight of people protesting for their rights in the remotest corners of our country.

At least now, some conscientious officers should raise their voices, and blow the whistle on who ordered what; on why the government was so intent on giving a violent end to a peaceful protest, especially when the key demand had been met but not explained adequately. Their allegiance should be to the people, to the law and a higher moral sense; and, not to their departments and political bosses.

Whether one supports Jallikattu or not, is irrelevant now. Human rights, at the least, are as important as animal rights.


I think we have stumbled upon the charkha of our times: The native cow.

It is not merely a sacred symbol of a culture nor a proud symbol of a sport of valour.

It can be the symbol of economic revival for the rural community. A symbol of self-sufficiency.

We need to get down to calculate and present the real, wholesome economic benefits of owning the native cow/bull vs the milk-producing Jersey robots. The survival of the urban rests on the revival of the rural, in a sustainable, self-sufficient manner. The cow and water are the keys to it.

At the risk of making a stark truth sound like a full-blooded hyperbole, let me say this: It could be a historic opportunity to save the mankind.

What has largely been an urban protest, needs to be made into a rural movement, where it really matters.


We had a wonderful visitor who came to stay with us at our village. Yogesh Mathuria has been on a peace march, along with two companions, for the last 4 months, walking from Pune to Tamilnadu, and from Madurai, heading to Srilanka, where he walked the entire stretch from South to North. Now he is on his way back to Pune. They set out on their march without carrying any money, accepting food, accomodation and hospitality from friends and strangers, along the way. So not even demonetization could derail them.

It was a great experience (relay)walking with him from our village to Coimbatore.

I was especially moved, when an old man at Meenatchipuram, who was chatting with us about the drought there and the purpose of our walk, asked us to wait, went into his house and returned with a wad of 10 rupee notes. He gave the money to Somnath, saying, ‘This is my contribution to world peace’ (“உலக அமைதிக்கு என்னோட பங்களிப்பு”). Those 20 10-rupee notes were probably all that he had that day.

After reaching Coimbatore, we spent some time with the renowned thinker on Eastern Marxism, SN Nagarajan. World peace was the thread that connected Yogesh and SN Nagarajan.


Last night, we went again to the VOC Park, after 11pm, expecting the crowds to have dwindled after the announcement of the ordinance. It had only got bigger. And was getting even bigger. Cars were parked for a couple of kilometres. Bikes were lined up endlessly. Families after families, with children, women and elderly, were streaming into the ground, which was already overflowing. While, only half the ground was available till last morning, the entire ground seemed to have been opened up and filled up now. I suspect, the number of protestors at any point of time could have touched a lakh this night. With the moving crowds, it could be much larger. There was hardly any police to be seen anywhere. The students were regulating the traffic. The students had formed human chains for over a km on the road, and inside the ground. They were still distributing biscuit packets and water. They were still cleaning up. When it started drizzling, nobody who were sitting on the ground rose up. There were multiple speeches going on. The sloganeering continued to happen, with no respite, in many pockets. OPS and Sasikala continued to be ridiculed. Modi continued to be pilloried.

Jallikattu is not the sole point that has aroused such passion. Had it been the case, people would have been back home watching TV. It has been the tipping point. I am continuing to hope that this energy and awareness has the potential to grow into something broader in the coming years.

At Coimbatore and elsewhere, we haven’t seen anything like this protest festival. We haven’t seen anything like this self-discipline and self-regulation. We haven’t seen anything like this energy.


(I am also posting below the translation of my post two days ago.)

During 2013, huge student protests broke out on the Eezham issue. It did not have a central leadership or clear objectives; it could not achieve significant wins. But, the experience from those protests have paved the way for the massive student protests happening in Tamilnadu now. The national media which took a patronising and hyper-critical stance at that time, now talk about this issue with respect and understanding. The movement has grown strong enough for the central government to be able to ignore it or maintain silence.

Like then, the objectives of this movement also are in a narrow range. It would, of course, be good if the students understand the larger socio-economic realities, beyond Jallikattu. For protection of bulls, games like Jallikattu are indeed essential. But, for saving the native cows, I believe, Jallikattu alone will not suffice. Only by reinventing cow’s economy and village self-sufficiency, can we save the native breeds. More than Jallikattu, using the bulls/cows for ploughing has become rarer. If the cows are breeded only for the dung and milk, it is good neither for the cows nor for us, humans. People have crossed caste and religious barriers to come together now – it won’t be possible to see this anymore as a preserve of a single community. We will have to talk about caste soon enough.

But, all these intellectual endeavours can wait for a later occasion. Jallikattu has been the single emotional strand that has connected everyone. Only if we hold on to this strand, will be able to keep alive the possibility of more, much larger paths emerging from here. Firelings are not born everyday.

At the VOC Park at Coimbatore, I could see only students during my first visit. Later on, general public have been thronging the place. We have never seen such crowds in Coimbatore before (especially, educated women and girl students). Police can be seen only outside the ground. Students organise the thousands of protestors by themselves. From my conversations, I could figure out no leadership, no organising committees. Yet, there are separate places for girls to sit in, human safety chains, continuous distribution of water, biscuits and food, collection of plastic garbage in covers; this rivals any immaculately planned and organised event. We had gone with our daughter (and later with parents); at no place did we fear that we could be crushed in the crowd.

Our educational institutions have taught discipline to our students through NCC, Scouts, exams, continuous assessments etc. Yet, it is now obvious that all these years of oppressive education has not able to eradicate the rebellious feelings and resistance. Our children and youth do need to learn to rebel too. What better opportunity than this for them to do that? This field experience, we can hope, will spur them on to gain more clarity about ideology, politics and economics.

Above all, this protest has been happening as a celebration. There is a festival atmosphere with musical bands, song and dance. At a moment, when we have started to doubt if subjecting oneself to physical suffering for even years has been losing its effectiveness, this festive resistance could be opening up a new path. More than our tears and anger, our collective joy and celebration, ridicule and laughter could shake the establishment.



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