The importance of sidewalks and a call for a manifesto or bill of rights for pedestrians. I wanted to avoid the word ‘pedestrian’ for its obvious pedestrian connotation. But, I also did not want to marginalise the pedestrian who has historical rights to entire roads to a mere sidewalk by using the word ‘sidewalker.’ So, I use both interchangeably.
‘Think of a city, and what comes to mind? Its streets. If a city’s streets look interesting, the city looks interesting; if they look dull, the city looks dull.’ – Jane Jacobs
“When people say that a city, or a part of it, is dangerous or is a jungle, what they mean primarily is that they do not feel safe on the sidewalks.” – Jane Jacobs
“I will [tell] the story as I go along of small cities no less than of great. Most of those which were great once are small today; and those which in my own lifetime have grown to greatness, were small enough in the old days.” – Herodotus
The attention of the political media is currently focused on the five states going to the polls during February/March. I am jumping ahead to speculate who will be the 15th President of India to succeed Ramnath Kovind whose term will expire on 24 July 2022. As we will see, the outcome of the five state elections will play a critical role in who the next President will be.
Those who are/were in high positions fall into two broad categories. At one end are those who are/were a decoration to their posts and continue to be so in public memory. At the other end, the designations are a decoration around their neck. Some such indicator would be required to remember who they were. In between are those whose positions rub off on them over time, and they grow to become distinguished personalities. Presidents of India are no exception. On the brighter side, barring a few, the rest have done the nation proud.
The collective contribution of the four Benegal brothers, Sanjiva Rao, Narsing Rau, Rama Rau, and Shiva Rao, to the idea and making of India has few parallels. Sons of Radhabai and Dr. Raghavendra Rao, a medical doctor, they are a fine example of what being rooted in Indian tradition and values, but being open to modern and progressive ideas can achieve. Despite their conservative upbringing, two found their spouses from another country, and a third from another community. All could have achieved much more than what they did only if they had been ambitious, or compromised on their values or ideals. But, every one chose to serve the country in their own humble ways. In an era of credit grabbing and blame passing, the Benegal brothers remain relatively unknown and under appreciated. Continue reading “The Benegal Brothers”
The year 2021-22 marks the sesquicentennial of Allama Abdullah Yusuf Ali. His remarkable life, caught between many worlds, was chaotic and turbulent, with its triumphs and tribulations, and a lasting legacy.
In December 1953, six months after Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, London experienced another severe winter. The same time, previous year, the city had suffered the Great Smog. Wednesday, the 9th, was freezing cold. Movement was difficult. In the evening, in Trafalgar Square, Westminster, the police found an old man in tattered clothes, destitute and disoriented, on the steps of a house. He had a suitcase full of papers, but no money in his pockets. They admitted him to the Westminster Hospital, which discharged him the next day. A London City Council home for the elderly, in nearby Dovehouse Street, Chelsea, took him in. The same day he suffered a heart attack, and was rushed to the St Stephen’s Hospital. He died soon thereafter. Continue reading “Abdullah Yusuf Ali: Triumph and Tragedy”
Caroline Keen, A Judge in Madras: Sir Sidney Wadsworth and the Indian Civil Service, 1913-47, Harper Collins, 2021. Rs. 699.
Most British (and Indian) officers of the Indian Civil Service diligently maintained copious diaries filled with detailed accounts of their working life in India with the hope of turning them into one or more books after retirement. Only a few of them successfully sustained the habit throughout their service. Fewer still turned them into books. One of those who wrote a manuscript after retirement, but never published it, fearing lack of demand and publisher interest, was Sir Sidney Wadsworth. Born in 1888, Wadsworth joined the ICS in Madras in 1913. Also posted to Madras, from the same batch, was Benegal Rama Rau, later Governor, Reserve Bank of India. Sidney retired in 1947 to the Isle of Man, where his father in law, Sir Robert Clegg ICS, also of Madras, spent his last years. “A Judge in Madras” is based on the draft memoirs of Sir Sidney Wadsworth. Continue reading “Sidney Wadsworth: A Judge in Madras”
This is a centenary remembrance of Late MKK Nayar (1920-1987), my father’s boss, who belonged to the first batch of IAS.Though belonging to the Tamil Nadu cadre, his significant contributions include construction of the Bhilai Steel Plant, modernisation of FACT fertilizer plants, and to the world of sports, arts, and culture, in Kerala and beyond.Continue reading “Everyone’s MKK, our MD uncle: A Centenary Remembrance”
Today is the 74th Independence Day. As I write this, Malayalam news media is full of discussions on the gold smuggling scandal that has been the rage for the last six weeks. In stark contrast to the jet setting life style and outlook of present day leaders, I was reminded of two incidents from a few decades back. Continue reading “A train journey with PKV”
In monetary theory, Goodhart’s Law states that “when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.” That is because people, and even governments and other organizations start gaming the target. Named after Charles Goodhart, Emeritus Professor at the London School of Economics, and a former Chief Adviser and External Member of the Monetary Policy Committee at the Bank of England, who had propounded it, Goodhart’s Law was originally formulated in the context of monetary policy during the Thatcher years. But its utility goes beyond monetary policy in explaining various phenomena where targets are met, but underlying performance is poor. Continue reading “Are we Goodhart-ed? Some questions for pandemic times”