Monday, 29 April 2019

Response

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The wise don't fret and fume
because of unexpected weather
increasing  taxes, being caught in traffic
or because people don't vote in the metros

They simply know that raising blood pressure
over matters that they have no control is futile...

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Thumbs up for Now!

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Another set of jubilant youngsters
their big moment, cracking civil services exam
celebrated by the media, parents, friends...
So happy for them!.

A little sad too, knowing
tomorrow their political masters, could be criminals
wolves in sheep's clothing
with only intent of winning elections
remaining in power, and enjoying its loaves
without audit or scrutiny


As for the bright youngsters, as they age
most would learn to join the system
slip into its comfort
rather than be idealist fools
fighting it, the system at a heavy price! 



Monday, 15 April 2019

Looking Back: Life and Times of a Senior Citizen

Being residents of Bangalore I have known Dr Baburajan for quite some time now. But it is only recently that we discussed about his life's journey spanning eight decades. I found it very fascinating that a person equipped himself with necessary qualification and changed careers working as a teacher in a school, an agricultural scientist, college lecturer and finally a medical doctor specializing in gynecology.  He worked in England as a doctor for seven years but returned to India, Here is a senior citizen who has seen some huge ups and downs in life... It was a unique experience for me Rajeev Moothedath (RM) to interview Dr Babu Rajan (BR).

RM: Could you tell us a little about your family background and early life?

BR: My father, K.K.Raman was a Tazhildar and First class Magistrate in Kerala Government service. My mother was a teacher in State Government School. This meant frequent transfers for both our parents and disruptions in the education of us children, three brothers and two sisters. We lived with mother wherever she was posted and father used to visit us in the holidays or weekends.

RM: In such a situation, you would have got less time to spend with your father. What kind of a person was he as a civil servant?

BR: I remember him as a person who was fearless in doing his duty irrespective of the circumstances. . When he was posted to Kodungalloor (one of the rare periods when we lived together as mother was also posted here at that time) in the fifties he was to implement the ban by the Government of Cochin on animal and bird sacrifices, that had been going on since ancient times at the Bhagavathy (Bhadrakali) temple. People came even from far of places, in Tamilnadu and Andhra to offer sacrifices and were disappointed to know that it would not be permitted.

Father stuck to his guns in enforcing the order unmindful of agitations. Frustrated devotees came before our house and killed the animals and birds leaving behind blood and bones. However, all this did not deter him from performing his duty. 

RM: Would you say that your father was not a religious person? After all, in those days there could have been fear of the Goddess herself  being displeased.

BR: Well, in a way you are right. He was more of a person oriented to rational thinking and was mostly busy with his work. It was mother who was religious and visited temples. Although later in life he developed an interest in horoscope reading as a science, he had not got the horoscopes of us children written at birth nor had he matched horoscopes when he got married.

RM: After schooling how did you plan your further education?

BR: I took science and math for my intermediate (as Plus two was called then) after schooling. Between us three brothers, my younger brother and I were good in studies. As he secured a few more marks than I did, mother said “Let him study for medicine. You become a teacher like me." As I knew the family could not afford to send all of us for professional courses, I agreed and enrolled for B.A. Botany (interestingly those days B.A. was awarded for a science degree)

RM: So, how did you become a doctor?

BR: Well. I guess it was all destiny at play. Soon after my graduation, I got a job as a teacher in a school with a modest salary. A few months later, the agricultural Department advertised agricultural scientist posts, which was a gazette officer position. At that time, there was no course in Kerala for agricultural graduation and therefore the position was offered to Botany graduates. I applied, got the job, and worked there for two years. In the meanwhile, agriculture courses were started in Kerala and the first batch of graduates came out.

RM: Did this development affect you? 

BR: Yes, in a big way! The government issued a notification stating that henceforth the post of agricultural scientists shall be filled up only by agricultural graduates and that those having a Botany degree would be eligible for their next promotion only if they acquired MSc in Botany. As my future was adversely affected, I had no choice but to do post-graduation. I applied for the MSc (Botany) courses to various universities. I got admission to a new university, (Sagar University) started in the state of Madhya Pradesh.

This was a blessing in disguise. Sagar University, even as we wrote the final exams, offered all students appointment as lecturers at a handsome salary (salary offered was higher than that of a first class civil servant in Kerala) subject to the condition that they pass the exams with a class.

RM: Did you accept the job?

BR: After writing exams, I went back to Kerala during the holidays and enquired about job opportunities. There were jobs available as lecturers but the salary was very low. Therefore, I decided to go back to MP and work for the Sagar University.

Around two years into my job in MP, a student came to me in tears and said that he has missed the opportunity to do medicine as he was short of a few marks. I told him that some universities have a quota for students pursuing MBBS from other states. I immediately wrote to two of my friends in Kerala. Both of them responded and send one application form each, for entrance to Calicut medical college. I gave one form to the student and the other one was lying on my table for a long time. 

RM: So, how did you end up doing medicine? 

BR: I was just coming to that.  One day as I looked at the application form on my table, a thought came to me. The situation at home had changed quite a bit since the time I started working. I was sending a part of my salary home as a support to father. Now all my siblings had completed their education and were settled. Perhaps, I thought to myself, it is the appropriate time to dream bigger and forward that application. I send it across, not sure that I would be selected for the course. Soon after though, I got a letter from the college asking me to join bringing the original certificates.

RM: You did not have to look back after that?

BR:  I returned to Kerala in high spirits. However, when I met father he said that since both he and mother had retired in the meanwhile, he would not be in a position to support my further studies which also involved mess bill and stay in a hostel in Calicut.

 I had almost given up the idea when a thought came to me to meet and take the opinion of my brother in law (sister’s husband) who was the HOD  of the Trivandrum  medical college .When I met my brother in law, he said that opportunities like these should never be allowed to be lost. He offered to bear the living expenses at Calicut and said “let you father contribute only the college fees.". Thus, I joined the Calicut medical college and completed medicine.

RM: As you were on a journey of continuous education, it would have meant a late marriage?

BR: Yes, I was in my early thirties when I got married. Although an arranged marriage, there was initially resistance from the sisters of my bride Prabha, as there was a good age difference between us. 

RM: After completing the medical course, you moved to the UK for employment. How did that opportunity come by? 

BR: Those days, UK representatives used to be on the committee that finalized the medical education syllabus in India. Therefore, the Indian MBBS degree was recognized in UK and other countries that accepted the UK degree. We just had to apply to be considered for employment, leading to higher studies.(I did MRCOG). 

It is only in the seventies around the time of the emergency that the Indira Gandhi Government decided to do away with UK representatives on the committee. Consequently, Indian MBBS was no longer automatically valid in that country. However, you still can serve in UK as a doctor after passing their qualifying exams. They hold these exams in the northern and southern parts of India every year so that those interested can apply.

RM:   Normally, those who have moved to the west are reluctant to come back to India, but you returned after seven years - Why? 

BR: My children a son and a daughter were growing up. I did not want them to continue in that culture. I felt it was better to relocate while they were in school itself so that they could smoothly assimilate with the Indian culture.

RM: Looking back, do you think you made the right move? Were you able to meet the objectives of your decision?

BR: Well, I had initial teething troubles setting up a practice from the scratch. After all, I had left behind a comfortable life with the Government of UK, paying a regular monthly salary. In due course Ashwini nursing home that I started in Kammana Halli Bangalore began to do well. My son Vidya was a very bright child and he took part in school Quizzes including national level competitions on television. He later gained admission to the prestigious IISC, Bangalore.

My daughter Agatha went on to do her medicine from the Mysore medical college. She also found her life partner Raju Reddy, while studying in the college. Although, initially both Raju's parents and we had objected to the union in view of the cultural differences, we relented realizing that they were serious about their intent. Today they are happily married with two children and are settled in the UK.   

RM: It must have been a big shock for you and your wife to lose your young son in a road accident at the age of 22. How did you cope with this catastrophe? 

BR: Words cannot express our pain. Any death is painful, but to lose your only son at a young age when you are still alive is very difficult to come to terms with. I was devastated to such an extent that I became a recluse. I preferred to stay alone in a room, hardly spoke even to my wife and barely ate any food. This went on for around three months. It was then that I had this experience- Can’t say for certain whether it was a dream, a vision, or a reality.

Nevertheless, one day, a two-way switch in the corridor near my bedroom (which can be switched on from inside or outside the house) lighted up as if on its own. It certainly was not switched on from the inside. I then heard my son’s voice “Dad, I am fine. There is nothing to worry about. You should not continue like this. You have to take care of  sister and mother. I assure you, I will come back. I will come back again as your grandson.” 

It was a strange experience. However, from that day, I began to slowly come out from the grief and depression. I never mentioned the incident to anyone else. Years later when my daughter gave birth to a son in the UK, she telephoned to tell me that she had named the child “Vidyasagar”. I was taken aback. I had not made any such request to her but on her own; she had named the child “Vidya”

 I believe this was an interesting coincidence seen in the light of my ‘dream’ experience. Even to this day, I communicate with my son, Vidya in a form like a mental telepathy. You could call it prayer. I have requested that I may be given a ‘painless death’. I feel reassured that this request will be met.

RM: It is said that in the initial days of grief, you were touched by the gesture of a pastor who had come to your house on his own on learning of the tragedy and prayed for the soul of Vidya, So much so, you even considered converting to Christianity? 

BR: Those were difficult days. Yes, I did think about it, but my wife Prabha was adamant that she would not change her religion at any cost. 

RM: Is there any change in your belief system based on life experiences over the years? 

BR:  I told you earlier that I did not have any belief in horoscopes. I also told you that my father in later life, developed an interest in astrology purely as a science. Vidya was born around that time. Father wrote down his horoscope but was evasive in giving details. He said the boy would study well and make a mark. When I pressed, "what else?” he said in a roundabout manner that he may not live long. We forgot all about it until years later the tragedy struck. Today, based on my personal experience, I cannot discount the significance of such readings or influence of a higher power in our lives.

RM:  Presently, you lead a retired life moving forth between India and UK where your daughter lives. Looking back, Could you share some professional experiences that you are proud about? 

BR: well they are quite a few. However, I will share just one for the record. A woman had come to us at Ashwini nursing home, complaining of acute stomach pain. I did an elaborate, tricky three-hour surgery to extract a mass of flesh from inside weighing as much as seven Kilograms. It is not often that one comes across such cases. 

RM: It is rarely that a person goes through so many varying, diverse bitter- sweet experiences in a single life span. Thank you Dr Baburajan for taking the time to share your life experiences. Thanks a lot!

BR: Thank you Rajeev. It was a pleasure talking to you.

Monday, 8 April 2019

Captivating Lines from Here and There-27

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  • Judgement is the constant evaluation of things as right or wrong, good or bad. Labeling,analyzing,classifying creates turbulence- From the book "Seven spiritual laws of success" by  Dr Deepak Chopra, Author
  • Make a decision that any time you come into contact with anyone,you will give them something- a flower, a compliment, a prayer,caring, attention,affection, appreciation, love- " Law of Giving" under the seven spiritual laws.
  • In all fields, the key to leadership is enthusiasm, inveterate (confirmed in a habit) curiosity and continual learning. Yet, these things are not work- Richard Koch, Author 
  • It is only after the pain has subsided by acceptance that a person becomes fit to listen to advice, not before. 
  • Doubt closes the power flow. Faith opens it- Norman Vincent Peale, Author
  • While attempting to change some one else's mind (1) Be sincere and truthful.Don't be manipulative (2) Appeal to what someone else already believes. Don't impose your own belief system (3) Be aware of the other person's blind spots. Don't assume they are open minded (4) In general, persuade through reason, not emotion. Don't assume emotions are not in play however (5) Make the other person feel right.Don't make them feel wrong-  Dr Deepak Chopra. Author   
  • Bhagawad Gita says that even higher than the peace of meditation is the peace that comes from surrender of the fruits of one's actions. In this state, we are free from the rigidity of self expectations, enabling the unexpected and the remarkable to emerge- From the book 50 self help classics by Tom Butler Bowdon
  • It is important to follow your bliss everyday because in doing that you will be happy and as a consequence your belief will be strong- from the book "Hero" by Rhonda Byrne 
  • Self image is what other people think about you.self esteem is what you think about yourself.
  • For enhancing your self esteem, look into the shine of your eyes and affirm" I am beneath no one." " I am fearless." " I am immune to criticism."- Dr Deepak Chopra, Author

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Interview with an actor- nay, a doctor who dared to be an actor for a while....

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The Malayalam short film titled "Acid" published on You Tube on March 13, 2019 is unique in a way.  Directed by  Dr Arjun Kartha, the think tank behind the project are all doctors.It highlights the problem of acid attack victims. 250 to 300  people are  attacked by acid in the country every year.  It was a surprise for me to learn that  the roles of the  main characters in the film are also  portrayed by doctors. They have  performed effortlessly like professional actors. In a short duration, not only does the film highlight the various dimensions of the problem but manages to maintain suspense ( the identity of the attacker is kept a secret) and interest of the viewers till the very end. This short flick already has a viewership of 10,498 and counting.

I got an opportunity to interview Dr Minu Surdas who played the role of Padmini Menon, the protagonist in the movie . Dr Minu is an ophthalmologist who did her MBBS from Thrissur Medical college and post graduate specialization from AIIMS, New Delhi. She is presently working at Nethra Eye care centre, Irinjalakuda, Thrissur Dist. I spoke to her when she was on a private visit to Bangalore recently. To secure her interview, the fact  that she is a cousin of my wife Jitha, helped quite a bit!

Rajeev Moothedath (RM): At the outset let me congratulate you and the entire team of doctors for collaborating on a wonderful, socially significant initiative! How did you come to be associated with the project?

Dr Minu Surdas (MS): A few doctors based out of Alapuzha in Kerala have been  contemplating for some time now  about  making a short film highlighting this menace. Although I live in Trissur, my name was suggested by Dr Sumesh of the Alapuzha team who is a friend. When prodded a couple of times, I agreed on the condition that shooting be done in the weekend so that there is less disruption in  my routine work. It is another matter that for accommodating various requirements we had to shoot on working days.

RM:  When amateurs get an acting opportunity, there is a tendency to be overtly dramatic and engage in overacting. I felt that you played your role quite naturally-  "Behaving" rather than "acting", as directors would say. How did you manage this?

MS:  In my heart, I knew and was clear that  I would play my role naturally. Director Dr Arjun Kartha also had the same approach. Further, I had been a big fan, right from childhood of the award winning Malayalam actor, Late Shobha who was known for her natural acting.

RM: The make up is very important for your character. How long did it take for putting on the make up and how many days of shooting did you do for this short film?

MS:  It took around two hours of make up to create the disfigured face. we did two days of full shooting in and around Thrissur. Later I went to Alapuzha for a day for completing the dubbing which was done in a studio there.

RM: Being a lady with a pretty face, did you feel uncomfortable and apprehensive about being seen on the screen with a disfigured face?

MS: Not at all. To tell you the truth, the make up helped me to feel free and act without inhibition. It felt as if it is not me, the doctor who is acting, but someone else.

RM: Tell us about your family:-

MS: My husband Dr Surdas. R. is a senior consultant Urologist and transplant surgeon at Mims Aster Hospital Calicut. I have two sons, Ram aged 12 and Bharath 10 years.

RM: One can see that the film has been well received on You tube and viewership is increasing by the day. would you be willing to act in future as well?

MS: Well. as you know all of us  are practitioners of another profession viz medicine. We associated with the project because of the social significance.Now that it has been well received, who knows, depending on the character on offer, I may look at it. 

RM: Thanks a lot Dr Minu. It was a pleasure interacting with you and understanding the challenges and nuances of treading on a new path.

MS:  Thank you. I enjoyed giving this interview as well.



Go ahead and watch the film - Emotions, pain and suspense has no language.... 


A brief  about the content of short film  for readers unfamiliar with Malayalam:
  • ·         A person comes to his senior & says he wants to share a secret. This secret is revealed in the end
  • ·         Girls visiting restaurant like the food , wants to meet chef/cook. Shocked to see they are all victims of acid attack.
  • ·         Journalist visits house of “woman of the year” padmini menon to know more about her activities & motivation to work for rehabilitation of acid victims for over 10 years. She herself is an acid attack victim
  • ·         In India the stigma is not on the attackers but on the victim which needs to change. Her foundation has a venture for photography and fashion ramp show to remove inhibitions about revealing one’s face in public- Aim to bring back colour, flamboyance & confidence to the soul. free eye surgery is arranged for victims at Shankar Netralaya chennai
  • ·         During course of interview she informs of the relevant deterrent  sections : in 2008, Eighteenth Law commission  proposed section 326  and S 114 B. As per the 2013 amendment Act if an offender is caught he will get  minimum 10 years of imprisonment which can go up to life imprisonment and heavy fine.
  • ·         Punishments: A man from Kottayam who attacked his wife with acid  when their two month baby was on her lap (Child lost its eyes) is presently in jail. Similarly, other cases from Cuttack, Mumbai  Delhi and Lucknow have all been punished.
  • ·         In answer to question she reveals how she met her husband Hari , MD of an IT firm. She had initially rejected his offer of marriage as it could be out of sympathy. But his kindness during the trauma and reassurance helps her decide to marry him 
·    At this point of time, Padmini’s husband Hari  joins the interview. To the question "How is it that in your own case, you are still not able to trace the person who attacked you?" she says “ it is my fate”.

·   In the last part of film, the secret (identity) of   Padminii's attacker is revealed.

Monday, 18 March 2019

Glimpses from the Times Literary Fest Bangalore 2019- 3

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In this third and final post on the Times Literary Fest Bangalore 2019, I am sharing the discussion that happened between Mr Devdutt Patnaik and Ms Shoba De on the subject "RAJNITI, RAJDHARMA AND THE GAME OF THRONES" The questions were posed by the latter. Here is a brief  profile of the two participants in the conversation:- 

Shobhaa De is a renowned journalist, columnist, social commentator, opinion-shaper and the best-selling author of more than 20 books. Her column in TOI named ‘Politically Incorrect’ is one of the most widely read columns in India.   


Devdutt Pattanaik is an “Author, Speaker, Illustrator, Mythologist”. He has written 30 books, his latest book being 'Ramayana Versus Mahabharata: My Playful Comparison'. He has also written 600 columns on relevance of mythology in modern time over the past 20 years. Some of his other books are 'Jaya', 'Sita', 'Business Sutra', 'My Gita', 'Girl who Chose and Boys who Fought', etc. 


Question :  How would you distinguish between "Rajneeti" and "Rajdharma" ?  

Answer:  In "Rajdharma", the duty is more important than the "Raj"(ruling) of the state. The duty of the administrator  is to help the helpless and remove anarchy (अराजकता). "Rajneeti" is more about winning elections. As between "Stage craft" and "State craft", in present times the former is thriving with everything having becoming theatrical.  

In the race of  "Winning" Vs" Being Right", the former has become the clear winner. The general  policy is "Everything is fair in love and war"  and that  "You become right if you win". It is about the winner taking all and applying the Matsya-nyaya (Law of the fish- the big fish has the right to eat the small ones). We celebrate successful people, not necessarily good people. 

Question: A good leader is said to be a good communicator. Our PM today speaks a lot, but not directly to the people?  

Answer: It is not a matter of just talking. The question is are we "talking to" or "talking at" people. Both the Shank( Proclamations and announcements) and the Chakra (Review)  of what we promised or set out to do are important. A good communicator also needs to engage in both-counselling and appreciation.  

Question: As a part of effective administration, there is an important need to travel  and get to know the needs and feelings of the people. Our PM does this a lot. Your comment?   

Answer: It is not the act of travelling itself that is important. The question to be asked is "Am I doing it for me or for you?" 

Question: India has had a great oral tradition of samwads and debates.The present generation of  people seem to be losing this art. They also seem to be uncomfortable taking instructions. Do political leaders need training in these aspects?   

Answer: I have conducted workshops for aspiring politicians. They are encouraged to speak out about their insecurities and feelings of not being respected. They are also told not to confuse 'Fear' with 'Respect'. Real leaders empower their followers instead of creating fear. 

Question: These days Rajneeti (politics) does not seem to be in the interest of general human good. It has more to do with 'Ahankar'(arrogance). Comment:   

Answer: Today, we have a situation of USA wanting "to be great again" at the cost of humanity or India wanting to be ahead at the cost of her neighbours. The family tends to become more important than the state. We have seen instances of this in our epics like Ramayana but have not learnt from them-  Rama who is more competent and suitable to rule the kingdom is banished to the forest by his father Dasaratha, due to family compulsions rather than the good of the people. 

Question: What sort of a leader is the need of the hour in India?- A Rama or a Krishna?  

Answer: What we need is a Ramakrishna having the qualities of both Rama and Krishna. The righteousness and fairness of a king like Rama and  a charioteer friend  like  Krishna, who can also play Holi with the ordinary folk and understand their needs and aspirations. 

Question: In the Mahabharata, at the end Arjuna has a breakdown seemingly smitten by Krishna?  

Answer: In the Gurukuls, the disciples adored the Guru. They loved him and listened to him but did not necessarily understand him. similarly, the words of Krishna helped Arjuna to tide over the situation of remorse and do his duty. Yet the teachings were too huge for him to retain and utilize effectively for a life time. 

Question: How do you see the strong polarization on religious lines these days? 

Answer: I see this as a reaction to incorrect implementation of secularism. Religion cannot be rejected. Denial of religion has resulted in its coming back in it's worst form. This too shall pass.

Question: What is the distinction between "Hindutva" and "Hinduism"? 

Answer: Hindutva is more about the 'samprataya' (concept-practice) which is a part of the big umbrella of 'Hinduism'. The ultimate aim is 'Atmagyan' ( Understanding self). Yet, one cannot understand self without understanding others.  

Another session at the Times Literary Fest, that I briefly attended was titled "Rethinking Pornography" and the participants were Ms SreeMoyee Piukundu (Dubbed the Queen of Indian Erotica, her latest book is a compilation of her own journey as a 40-year-old single woman interspersed with interviews of 3000 others, including disabled women and those belonging to the LGBTQ community) and Ms Richa Kaul Padte (the author of Cyber Sexy, a book on rethinking pornography publishing by Penguin Random House India) . The discussion was moderated by Mr Aditya Gautam  ( Author of Pornistan: How to Survive the Porn Epidemic in India).  

One would have thought that the subject would invoke interesting insights into why  a rethinking is necessary in respect of the way society looks at  pornography. How this change in perception will benefit society in general and children in particular?  Why the panelists believe that sexual freedom of both male and female is the need of the hour? In their opinion has the institution of marriage served its time and is no longer relevant in the present times? If so what is the alternative to it?

 Sadly, fifteen to twenty minutes into the discussion (on a topic one would have thought  very interesting)) . it became progressively dull with the panelists less interested in discussing issues I mentioned above. They were  reeling out statistics of the number of women in small towns and mini cities who have now become bold and are willing to satisfy their sexual needs and fantasies. This has been made possible by the huge opportunities and anonymity that the social media has provided.

According to the panelists, today many women even in  B / C class cities, cutting across  age groups order sex toys (object or device used for sexual stimulation or to enhance sexual pleasure)   on the internet. They gave out statistics and other details which I am unable to share with readers as I did not note them down.

The audience consisted of  predominantly the younger generation. After some time, I noticed a few young couples leave the venue. I had been feeling distracted and uninterested for some time. I took the cue and using the opportunity, quietly left the place of discussion midway. It would be fair to say that many of the things that I wished to be discussed, may have come up much later in the interaction.

Yes, it may well have. But if you have gone for a movie, the onus is on the director to retain the interest of the audience right from  the first half hour so that the full movie is watched.  I feel that if the moderator had been an older person the subject could have been directed by him/her in a more purposeful and useful manner  such as the impact of the changes in sexual freedom on society ( positive & negative) and the way forward.

In this post, I have discussed two subjects that are so very different from one another. But then that was precisely the USP of the Times Literary Fest. that will be remembered for the sheer variety of its deliberations.
    

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Glimpses from the Times Literary Fest Bangalore 2019- 2

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In the second blog on the Times Literary Fest organized in Bangalore in February, I would like to share about the discussion that happened on the subject " Money Matters- Then and Now". It was initiated and moderated by Mr Ravi Subramaniam renowned banker and author. The participants were Mr Gurcharan Das, Economist & author and Dr Radhakrishnan Pillai, author of a series of books on Chanakya Nithi. Before we start, a brief about each of the three eminent personalities:-

Ravi Subramanian is India's numero uno thriller writer, having written seven bestselling books. An alumnus of Indian Institute of Management (Bangalore), he is currently head of a leading financial institution. A career banker and financial services professional, Ravi has worked with various multinational banks (Citibank, ANZ Grindlays Bank and HSBC) for over eighteen years.

Gurcharan Das is a renowned author, commentator, and public intellectual. His last book, 'India Grows at Night' was on the FT’s best books for 2013. He is general editor for Penguin’s multi-volume ‘Story of Indian Business.’ He studied philosophy at Harvard University and was CEO, Procter & Gamble India before he became a full time writer. 

Radhakrishnan Pillai is the bestselling author of Inside Chanakya's Mind, and Chatur Chanakya and The Himalayan Problem. He has researched Kautilya's Arthashastra extensively and has a Master's degree in Sanskrit. he is a well-known management speaker, trainer, author and consultant.

Question:  What has been India's approach to taxation and tax rates since the ancient times? 

Answer: Gurcharan Das (GD) :  India has always had a concept of a just tax rate which was pegged at 1/6th of the earnings. The balance of payment between countries has also been in India's favour till the industrial revolution and  British entry on the scene.

Radhakrishnan Pillai (RP) :  As per the Chanakya Niti, taxation was based on the premise "Wealth belongs to the society". The policy of the state is to function as a regulator. Tax collection was to be gentle akin to a honey bee collecting honey from the flowers. Even on occasions when the tax payer was unable to pay the tax the aim was not to punish him immediately in a merciless manner but in stages of sama, dana, beda, danda ( first stage being that of counselling and ending with punishment)

Question: What was the significance of money and money matters?

Answer:  GD:  Wealth was held very important ( Artha eva pradhana). Once the economy is got right, everything else will follow.There was a direct connection between administration of wealth and the temples of ancient times. Often times, trade negotiations happened in the precincts of temples. The relationship between temples and the wealth of the administration is borne out by the recent instances of huge amounts of wealth discovered slashed away in the treasury located at the Sri Padmanabha Swamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.  

RP:  Under the Chanakya Niti, the four principles for dealing with wealth are (1) Wealth identification (2) Wealth creation (3) Wealth management and (4) Wealth distribution. Philanthropy is to be inculcated as a way of life. It is not something to be considered after one has become rich.

Question to GD:  In your writings on the East India Company, you have made some interesting observations. Could you elaborate?   

Answer: This was the time when the best goods were made in and available in India. The world did not wear any underwear until people were exposed to India's fine muslin cotton. On their first voyage to India, the Portuguese brought many things to exchange for the coveted Indian goods. But the Indians were not interested in any of their goods. 

Later, Portuguese ship returned filled with Indian spices. As it came near Sumatra, the British traders took permission from the rulers in Sumatra to destroy the ship after saving the Indian spices and in return offered to give them the goods at much lower prices.  

Question to RP: Economic models are changing by the day whether it is with regard to land, agriculture or patents.How does this impact business?   

Answer :  What it means is that today it is not about doing hard work alone but doing smart work is the key..  

Question to GD:  In your book " The Marwaris: From Jagat Seth to the Birlas ( The Story of Indian Business)", you discuss the importance of the trust factor, A lot of value was placed then on trust? 

Answer: Yes, if  one traces the life and times of Ramakrishna Dalmia, one can see that  a big success was achieved by him from humble beginnings.He took a lot of risk at a young age dealing in London silver in the stock market but this approach was possible because of the trust that he had in self and others even in trying circumstances. 

Question to RP: Trust levels are going down these days and we have also seeing a reduction in the risk taking appetite.On the policy side what can be done to revive these aspects in Indian institutions?  

Answer: Chanakya Niti advises to "test them before trusting." Spying and counter spying was resorted to then while appointing bureaucrats.  

Here GD added: There is a  need to revise and update the insolvency and bankruptcy law. we must raise the growth rate to 8%. Apart from this, if left alone, Indian entrepreneurs  have been doing very well since 1991,when the economy opened up. India grows at night while the Government sleeps.   
We need Governance reform. The problem of court cases pending for ages need to be addressed. Meritocracy should be the criteria for selecting and promoting public servants as well. Technology should be leveraged to cut bureaucratic red tape.  

Overall, I felt that this session was a rare gem, something one may not hope to find in a literary festival which would normally focus on social issues. Although the subject of discussion was "Money matters: Then and now" I had the feeling that the panelist RP chose to play it safe while speaking, and stuck to his expertise of  Chanakya Niti (Then) . He appeared to be very reluctant to share his thoughts on addressing the economic issues of "Now".

So readers it is bye from me for now, till I post the third and final edition on the Times Lit fest shortly.