Daily Archives: 06/12/2016

Jayalalithaa 1948-2016

The following word picture  of Jayalalithaa (to use the spellings she adopted in later years for better luck) is based on pieces of information , including  from her distant relatives, that have come my way during the past four decades of my stay in, and association with, South India. (I  am not reading anything being written on Jayalalithaa nor do I intend to. )

First of all a delicious irony should be noted. Tamils and Telugus are crazy about their films, but in the real life they do not follow the script. In Andhra NTR’s political inheritance went not to his son but sno-in-law. Similarly, MGR’s mantle fell upon not his wife but Jayalalithaa. Though of Malayali heritage, MGR had the solid support of the Thevar community. Jayalalithaa’s durability in politics arises from the fact that the Thevar vote bank remained loyal to her.

Jayalalithaa comes from the high-ranking Ayyangar Brahmin caste. Her Mysore-based  mother’s father was a learned Sanskrit scholar, but her mother went wayward. She moved to Madras to try her luck in Tamil films without any notable success. Not much is known about Jayaraman whose name is prefixed to Jayalalithaa’s own personal name.

Jayalaithaa was a very bright girl who left to herself would have become a medical doctor. As it happens with many unsuccessful mothers, Jayalalithaa’s wanted her to succeed where she herself had not. Jayalalithaa teamed up with MGR in many films and moved into politics following him. (It has been rumoured that they were secretly married.)

It is said that she has a (probably disabled) daughter from the Telugu actor Sobhan Babu.

She even ventured into Hindi films. She had a small, rather jarring, side role in the 1968 Dharmendra-Tanuja starrer Izzat. She sang a dance number Jaagi badan mein jwala/ Sainya tooney kya kar daala.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WDk6_YMq8w

Later, an ever-innocent Dharmendra wondered why her picture was being seen in the newspapers so often.

It is noteworthy that while Indians like their male political leaders ( Nehru,  Bajpai) to be benevolent and rather indecisive, they admire focused ruthless women ( Indira Gandhi, Jayalalithaa.) A trait that contributed to their success was the ability to tell a lie to the face without batting an eyelid.


Praising technical jugaad: Celebrating illiteracy


Harvinder Khetal (In love with jugaad,  26-Nov-2016; http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/sunday-special/people/in-love-with-jugaad/328851.html) has done well to draw attention to the interesting phenomenon known as jugaad. One however cannot but notice that she has gone overboard in romanticizing it. Human mind is inherently creative. The level of creativity however is determined by the all-round preparedness of the mind. Jugaad is an improvisation effected by self-taught people using simple machines they are familiar with. It can only serve limited purpose and cannot add much value. Value addition takes place though technological innovation where creativity is successfully applied to state-of art machinery.
Celebration of jugaad displays a patronizing attitude. It sanctifies lack of proper formal training to our farmers and artisans. Imagine what these grass-root improvisers would achieve if they went through industrial schools, polytechnics and engineering colleges!

The following is the abridged version The Tribune published:

Sunday Tribune Letters to Editor 4-Dec-2016
‘Take my word’
The article did well to draw attention to jugaad. However, jugaad can serve a limited purpose. Value addition takes place through technological innovation where creativity is successfully applied to the state-of-the-art machinery. Celebration of jugaad displays a patronizing attitude. It sanctifies the lack of proper formal training to farmers and artisans. Imagine, what these grassroots improvisers would achieve if they went through engineering colleges!
Rajesh Kochhar via email