April 23, 2020


Should we feel happy for these kids? One bus for every 25 students ensuring proper social distancing. Wow.…/200-buses-from-ups-agra-to-be-sent-t…?

And then we have this, let alone the millions who don’t have this too. This is true meritocracy in action.…/articles…/75228176.cms?

The Family Enterprise

April 23, 2020


1400 coconuts were shifted from the store room and cut in 2 days. My wife did 80% of the work (she claims). But I think our daughter was an equal contributor. Moreover, after running around non-stop in the hot sun, she had enough energy to attend her singing class over phone after 7 p.m.

After 3 more days of drying in the sun, we should be ready with enough oil for a year.

The Pyrrhic War on Corona

April 23, 2020

My essay in Tamizhini.

/Soon after the SARS-CoV-2 virus was identified in Wuhan in December 2019 and a pandemic started developing, the Indian government acted reasonably quickly to bring the Indian citizens stranded in Wuhan and other foreign countries to India, despite the risk of spreading the novel corona virus in India. Irrespective of the merits of the move, the intentions cannot be faulted. However, when a lock down was announced in India, we cared little for the millions of migrant workers spread across different parts of India./

/While the spread of corona in India and the mortality due to corona have not been as bad as other countries, the impact of the lock down has been worse. The objectionable language of war has been used frequently against corona. It must be said in the same vein, this is turning out to be a Pyrrhic war./

‘We shall not want for our daily bread.’

April 23, 2020


The Daily Bread, a 1934 movie by King Vidor, is a simple, well-made, uplifting film from the depression era, most apt for these times.

A young couple go back to the land – a large, abandoned desolate tract, after they are left with no options in the city. They start farming though they have no clue of how to do it. They invite out of job, homeless passers-by, heading nowhere on cars running out of gas, to live on the land and a vibrant, versatile community gets formed. As one can expect, there are challenges. And the movie ends with a predictable but a spectacular, rousing climax.

This dialogue when the first sprouts of corn come out of the barren land sums up the spirit of the movie.

“It makes you feel safe. Confident. Like somebody was watching over you.
There is nothing to worry about. Not when we’ve got the earth. It’s…it’s like a…A mother. It’s wonderful.”


இலமென்று அசைஇ இருப்பாரைக் காணின்
நிலமென்னும் நல்லாள் நகும்.

Seeing them say, “We’ve not,” and loiter,
The Good Lady Earth shall snigger. (Kural #1040)

Notes on corona – 4: Being privileged

April 8, 2020

A few years ago, we decided to forego many of our privileges.

It is not an easy task, and to be truthful, it has been a half-hearted attempt. Privileged people don’t easily become poor overnight. Even Gandhi was privileged to the last….he was simple but never poor; he fasted but never starved.

Today I drove down our elderly house owner to a bank in a nearby village. While waiting for him to withdraw money, I went to a shop there and bought 2 kgs of red bananas at Rs.35 per kg. Less than what we pay even for other types of bananas during normal times. This would be our dinner for two days. [The prices of pulses have gone up but that of vegetables seem to have returned to normal or lower levels, despite the higher margins the traders and middlemen could be charging at this time. Restrictions on movement of vehicles are clearly affecting the perishable vegetable/fruit farmers. We are again hearing stories of farmers letting their produce to rot.]

When we came back, his wife gave me banana stem sabji (வாழைத்தண்டு பொறியல்), prepared after tedious work. She gave more uncooked stem for tomorrow. And she has a heap of bananas from the same tree and will give us a few dozens once they are ripe. She also gave us ultra sweet slices of jack fruit that filled the house with its awesome aroma. All these are from their farm.

A little later my wife returned from our farm. On the way, Parvathi, the lady who grazes her cows on our farm, gave her about 20 palm fruits plucked by her brothers from the roadside and riverside trees, each containing the juicy kernel (நுங்கு) in 2 or 3 hard casings inside the outer fibrous covering. Parvathi was overjoyed today that we have allowed her to use a part of our land this season for sowing sorghum (சோளம்), whose stalks could feed her cows for months. (Apparently there are no buyers now for their palm fruits too.) These not yet fully matured palmyra fruits are eaten by inserting our forefingers inside the casings to poke and scoop the pulpy kernel and then sucked (நோண்டி நொங்கெடுத்தல்?). They taste as good as or better than the mature fruits. Then we figured out a way of scooping with the stem of a spoon. But after poking around so much, the fingers are feeling sore now and our stomachs full. The bananas have to wait for tomorrow.

We are conscious that these are luxuries denied to the urban middle class and the poor during these dire times. We do not know how long these luxuries can last, if the lock down is extended.

When millions are starving and struggling, such unsought privileges keep leaving you with a deep feeling of guilt. Once we overcome this guilt, we may be able to articulate some solutions for the future. After corona is gone, we still have a climate emergency to deal with. The clear skies would turn hazy in no time.

Notes on Corona -3

April 8, 2020


The bar has been set so low that many of us were just relieved when the centre finally announced a relief package. P.Sainath does a deep dive into it and shows it to be woefully inadequate, and tells us what needs to be done.

/But focusing on COVID-19 to the exclusion of the larger canvas – that’s attempting to mop the floor dry with all the taps open and running. We need an approach which pushes ideas that strengthen public health systems, rights and entitlements./

/The government’s ‘package’ is a curious blend of callousness and cluelessness. It’s not just one virus we’re fighting – pandemics are also a ‘package.’ Of which economic distress can be a self-inflicted or self-aggravated part – driving us from calamity to catastrophe./


Making an apology without admitting your mistakes and then claiming what you did was inevitable is no apology at all. This means the earlier mistakes are not going to be rectified in any way and people will continue to suffer because, well, I’m sorry, it is inevitable and can’t be done in any other way and it’s for your own good. The same, ‘Oh I cry for a puppy hit by a car’ routine.

This is unpardonable. Here is a rather depressing compilation of reports on the deaths related to the poorly planned lock down in India…already nearing the deaths due to corona in India. We can argue over whether some of these deaths should be included here but…if you do argue, no point in arguing with you.


The gap between the privileged students with access to internet, books, online coaching, exponentially increased parental guidance etc., and the not-so-privileged students in their ability to crack entrance exams from NEET to Civil services is going to be widened significantly in this corona induced break.

Merely postponing the exams this year may not help. What are we going to do? This is another trigger for dramatically challenging and changing the status quo.

I am reminded of a research cited by our friend David H. Albert in his book, ‘Dismantling the Inner School – Homeschooling and the Curriculum of Abundance’. An extract from a review I wrote in 2016.

/Brick fifteen: School can fix everything and if things are not going well, the solution is more of it
David says, schools have become the chosen venue for interventions in the life of our communities far beyond their more narrowly defined educational purposes. He cites a research published in 2001, by Karl Alexander, a sociologist at John Hopkins University. Alexander followed 650 first graders and found that, after five years, children from low socio-economic class backgrounds, after starting with only a small deficit, were well behind those from higher ones. But he also found that cumulative classroom learning over the five-year period was virtually the same. The difference was a result of what happened to the reading scores of the two groups during summer vacations.
On that basis, it is asserted that keeping the kids (especially the poorer ones) in school would help bridge the gap. But rich kids gain most when they are not in classroom. So, the question should be what can be done in their homes, families, and communities outside of school and instead of school to improve the quality of their living and learning environments./


This is increasingly turning out to be a lock down of the privileged for the privileged by the hardships of the poor.

/Sanitation workers in Chennai are walking long distances to work during the lockdown, or journeying on garbage lorries. Taking leave for a day during this period invites penalties, even sacking/

/the sanitation workers are finding it hard to get even drinking water in the lockdown period. “Earlier, they would be given water by local residents in the colonies where they work. But many have been saying they are refused water these days.”/


Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey have worked with/for the common man for many decades and it shows in every word of this empathetic essay. When the social distance between the government and honest people on the ground like Aruna Roy or Harsh Mander increases, when you turn a deaf ear to a P.Sainath or Jean Dreze, this inhuman situation is what we would end up with time and again, while the mindless patriots go about banging their plates and setting fires and defending their Supreme Leader, come what may.

As/if the corona and hunger moves down the pyramid, we need to listen to these sensible and knowledgeable voices on how to alleviate the immeasurable pain and anxiety created by it amongst the poor.

/COVID-19 is a disaster that came with prior warning, and therefore did not warrant an arbitrary, unplanned and ill-prepared decision./

/This lockdown is shaping itself as the expedient response of an elite terrified of falling victim to a virus. There is clearly little imagination or application to work out a plan of action based on compassion and understanding of conditions on the ground./

/The propagandists uttered platitudes of support reiterating mandatory ‘social distancing’. The pretended ignorance of how the labour force lives — crammed together, 10 in a room — makes such statements pointless. In the slum or basti, social distancing is a non-existent concept. No order will work unless the government recognises and addresses the dire circumstances of the so-called informal sector. Those secure in isolated rooms in spacious homes, with a huge food stock, cannot wish this problem away./

/Desperation has not robbed them of dignity or independence. There is surprisingly no anger being expressed — yet. All they want is to go home./

/Draconian orders and platitudes will not work. Governments must show leadership, resolve, commitment, and compassion. Resources have to be effectively and optimally used. /

Tell me this is fake news. This is unbearable. Inhuman.


No lock down for us. The lock down has helped unlock and unleash latent energy.

Corona or no corona, coconuts have to be collected and farming has to happen. [And there are two special spectators – Mottled Wood Owls – to watch the spectacle.]

Prime Minister-ji, farmers are also rendering an essential service. I request you to come up with some brilliant 2-in-1 measure to show solidarity with farmers working in the sun and to fight corona. How about sunbathing on roof tops at noon for half an hour? Surely sunlight should be more powerful than diyas and candles in combating corona. Strict social distance to be maintained while taking selfies. Traditional dress to be worn.


Banging the plates seemed to be a harmless indulgence which we could simply ignore. Then we saw processions of people clapping and banging and dancing and marching.

Candle lighting also seems to be another harmless fiddling indulgence to keep the supreme leader happy and proud. I hope there are no candle light marches against corona, or worse, a grid failure, as some experts are warning.

The TN Electricity Board and many experts are advising us to keep our appliances on. I have poor knowledge of electricity and grids, and hence please disregard what I say if it doesn’t make sense to you and don’t ask me, ‘what about earth hour,’ et al.

We don’t have too many appliances at our house to keep on – two ceiling fans, one borrowed Amma table fan and a mixer/grinder. The last time when there was a high voltage due to some repair work in the neighbouring area, my laptop charger and mobile charger both got burnt. The Mac (my bloody old white elephant) adaptor cost Rs.7500. The fans ran at scary breakneck speeds. The PCs at our learning centre have also been damaged a couple of other times due to high voltages, and possible improper wiring – we have just been too scared to use them after that, deciding to wait till we get the wiring checked/fixed or buy some stabilizers.

Follow what the government and your electricity boards are saying, or do your own fact checks. However, having been bitten many times, we are going to be selfish and careful – sorry, we cannot afford to take any chances with any of our devices this time. And in any case, there are no power consuming devices we have that we can run at that time.

If this whole business is fraught with risk for the grid, dependent on citizens taking patriotic precautions at personal risk to their appliances, with no apparent benefits for anyone except the PM, there is still time for the PM to call it off gracefully. And focus on the real issues of the poor.

We have frequent power cuts at night and I hope the electricity board will save me from taking any anti-national decision.

We are going to switch off everything (which we do frequently), go up to our house owner’s terrace, lie down watching the stars and sleep. I do not think all the lights on the farms and the village will be switched off (unless there is a powercut). Yet the sky will be lovely as always. More lovely if the lights go off. The almost-full moon will be bright and will dispel all darkness.,

The sudden clouds masking our evening sky today may have other plans though.


Another sad ‘I told you so’ moment about candle marches.

I don’t know the authenticity of all the videos on this thread (on comments). Nevertheless, the way crackers were burst allover India, even in villages, it is clear we have an Unplanned Lock down and Planned Entertainment.

Did anyone shout, ‘Yay, we have crossed 4000!’ I wouldn’t be surprised.

Meanwhile, one analysis, shared by Yogendra Yadav, put the death count due to the lock down at 77 in the first week alone, not far behind the corona related deaths.