Archive for the 'Obituaries' Category

Murder of a rationalist

Narendra Dabholkar, fighter against superstition, was killed on August 20th, aged 67. Obit in The Economist:

When the men on motorbikes shot him, four times in head, neck and chest, Narendra Dabholkar was crossing the bridge by the Omkareshwar temple in Pune, in western India. But he had no intention of offering a garland there, saying a prayer, pressing a coin in a priest’s hand or adoring the Shiva linga. He did not believe in such behaviour. In fact, it appalled him; and he had hoped to spread his scepticism all through the state of Maharashtra.

He was a slight and courteous man, with unfashionable spectacles, in simple khadi shirt, slippers and cotton trousers: no one to notice on the street. Yet over three decades, ever since he had decided to switch his work from curing bodies to curing deluded minds, he had become famous. The organisation he had founded in 1989, the Committee for Eradication of Blind Faith (MANS in its Marathi acronym), had 180 branches in the state. In village after village he and his activists would confront the babas, sadhus and other “godmen” who preyed on the poor and simple, challenging their claims and reporting them to the police. He investigated and demystified cases of black magic and possession by ghosts; he campaigned against animal sacrifice, the prodigious waste of drinking water and good food during religious festivities, and the pollution of local rivers during Ganesha’s birthday festival by the immersion of thousands of idols made of plaster of Paris. More:

Jazz singer Pam Crain, R.I.P

Naresh Fernandes (@tajmahalfoxtrot) just tweeted that Pam Crain, the diva of Indian jazz, has died.

More about her at jazz singer Radha Thomas’s blog.

And here she is with the Braz Gonsalves band.


MIT tribute to Amar Bose

In MIT News:

“Amar Bose was an exceptional human being and an extraordinarily gifted leader,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif said. “He made quality mentoring and a joyful pursuit of excellence, ideas and possibilities the hallmark of his career in teaching, research and business. I learned from him, and was inspired by him, every single time I met with him. Over the years, I have seen the tremendous impact he has had on the lives of many students and fellow faculty at MIT. This proud MIT graduate, professor and innovator was a true giant who over decades enriched the Institute he loved with his energy, dedication, motivation and wisdom. I have never known anyone like him. I will miss him. MIT will miss him. The world will miss him.”

In 1964, Dr. Bose started Bose Corporation based on research he conducted at MIT. From its inception, the company has remained privately owned, with a focus on long-term research. More:

B Raman, India’s seasoned spymaster and trenchant US critic, dies at 77

Chidanand Rajghatta in The Times of India:

His last tweet on May 30, as he battled the final stages of terminal cancer, read, ”Hanumanji willing, shd be back home coming Saturday.” But as his life ebbed away over the last fortnight, Bahukutumbi Raman might have noted, in his usual dry and dispassionate manner, that (1) Hanumanji was not around (2) Hanumanji must have had other pressing matters and (3) One should prepare for scenarios without Hanumanji.

That’s the standard government memo template he used for many years to convey matters of great strategic pith and moment to his fans, friends, and followers. He was not given to hyperbole or emotion or drama. Through the months of his cancer treatment, he tweeted about it in a matter-of-factly tone, once chastising someone who was persuading him to eat — ”Affection for terminal cancer patients shd be simple and normal, not instructive.” Through pain, medication, and therapy, some of which he disdained, he kept up a steady feed of advice, counsel, guidance, and inquiry to his constituents in the strategic sphere. It included telling the Government of India on the eve of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recent visit to Tokyo that ”Ind-Japan shd make China’s seeming strengths into strategic vulnerabilities.”

On Sunday evening, the 77-year old Raman – Raman mama to some of his acolytes – one of the founders of India’s spy outfit Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and the public face of its underrated and understated analysts community, passed away in Chennai. In the arcane world of espionage, where practitioners generally keep a low profile (particularly in India), Raman became a prolific contributor to public discourse on intelligence matters, often challenging conventional wisdom, and going upstream of establishment flow, especially on Pakistan and the United States. More:

Thatcher, Chandraswami and I

India’s former foreign minister K. Natwar Singh in The Hindu (Extracted from K. Natwar Singh’s new book “Walking with Lions — Tales from a Diplomatic Past,” HarperCollins):

India House is among the better known diplomatic establishments in London. I first set eyes on the imposing building in 1952, when I was a student at Cambridge University. Thirty years later I entered India House as Deputy High Commissioner. One of my less attractive duties was to meet the unreasonable demands of visitors from India. Not all were disagreeable but many were.

Early in the summer of 1975, Mr. Chandraswamy telephones me. He was in London. The late Yashpal Kapoor had asked him to contact me, Chandraswamy invited me to meet me at his place. I said if he wished to see me, he should come to India House. This he did the next day. At the time he was in his late twenties. He was in his “Sadhu” attire. He did not speak a word of English. Now he does.

At this, our first meeting, he dropped names. After a few days he again come to see me. He invited my wife and me to have dinner with him.

The food was delicious. After dinner he said to us, “I will show you something you have never seen”. He then produced a large sheet of white paper and drew lines from top to bottom and left to right. Next he produced three strips of paper asked my wife to write a question on each strip, make a ball and place each one on a square on the chess board. My wife wrote the questions in English. He closed his eyes and went into a trance. I was, by this time getting restless. Suddenly he asked my wife to pick up any of the paper balls. She did so. Opened it. Chandraswamy then told her what the question was. He was spot on. My wife, who is an amateur astrologer, was sceptical at this stage. When Chandraswamy got the next two questions right, she was amazed and interested. I was intrigued. I could not, as a rationalist, accept mumbo-jumbo. Neither could I dismiss Chandraswamy as a complete hoax. More:

Freedom From Famine — The Norman Borlaug Story

Norman Ernest Borlaug (March 25, 1914 – September 12, 2009)was an American agronomist, humanitarian and Nobel laureate who has been called “the father of the Green Revolution” and “The Man Who Saved A Billion Lives”. See Wiki

In Times of India: By cranking up a wheat strain containing an unusual gene, Borlaug created the so-called ”semi-dwarf” plant variety — a shorter, stubbier, compact stalk that supported an enormous head of grain without falling over from the weight. This curious principle of shrinking the plant to increase the output on the plant from the same acreage resulted in Indian farmers eventually quadrupling their wheat — and later, rice — production.

It heralded the Green Revolution.

Below, Freedom From Famine – The Norman Borlaug Story:


Pandit Ravi Shankar (1920-2012)

Pancham-taar may have snapped, but the dhwani remains, writes Sadanand Menon in The Hindu:

That the superstitious buzz about the world ending on 12.12.12 proved to be a dud, was no consolation for millions of music lovers across the globe yesterday. Their universe ended with the news of Pandit Ravi Shankar breathing his last in a hospital in San Diego on the night of December 11. Over the past seven decades, he had come to be identified the world over with his iconic Sitar, the complex string instrument which became the ambassadorial face of Indian classical music. As the violin legend Yehudi Menuhin, himself a close friend of Shankar, remarked in an afterword to Shankar’s 1999 autobiography, “…from mastering an instrument, we ourselves became instruments of something that possessed us”.

Till the last, Ravi Shankar was admittedly at the peak of his creative enterprise. Even as recently as the first week of November, aged 92 and braving deteriorating health, he had performed in concert with his daughter and shaagird Anoushka Shankar Wright at Long Beach, California. It was a passion and a creative journey that began in the narrow Tilebhandeshwar galli in the ancient city of Benares in the 1920s and soon spun out into a fairy tale romp across continents and cultures into a comprehensive insemination of the imprint of Indian classical music on global music.

Today, trying to talk of ‘Ravi Shankar’ to an average Indian is akin to trying to talk of ‘Mount Everest’ to a group of Sherpas. His name has inveigled into the nooks and crannies of popular culture as ubiquitously as ‘Taj Mahal’ or ‘Jantar Mantar’. From music clubs to hair cutting saloons, from tailors of desi attire to the corner paan shop, there was something suave and ‘international’ about appropriating him for local name-boards. Why India, even in Manhattan, New York, I once counted three ‘Ravi Shankar Indian Diners’ on 5th Avenue alone. The name became the stamp of India. More:

The NYT obit

RIP: Dave Brubeck

Take Five comes full circle: By Naresh Fernandes at


RIP: Ardeshir Cowasjee, veteran Pakistani columnist

In Dawn:

One of Pakistan’s oldest and most renowned columnists, Ardeshir Cowasjee, passed away in Karachi on Saturday at the age of 86.

Cowasjee, whose weekly columns graced the Dawn newspaper from 1988 to 2011, was suffering from chest illness and had been admitted in a Karachi hospital’s intensive care unit for the past 12 days.

Born on April 13, 1926 to Rustom Faqir Cowasjee and Mucca Rustomjee, Ardeshir joined the family shipping business after completing his education from the Bai Virbaiji Soparivala Parsi (BVS) High School and DJ Sindh Govt Science College.

He had two children with wife Nancy Dinshaw. His daughter lives in Karachi and works in the family business and his son is an architect in the US. Their mother passed away in 1992.

“Now, old at 85, tired, and disillusioned with a country that just cannot pull itself together in any way and get on with life in this day and age, I have decided to call it a day,” he wrote in a column in December 2011 for Dawn. More:

Mourning Cowasjee: Tributes in Dawn

From Cowasjee’s last column, Winding down, in Dawn on 25 December 2011:

On this last Sunday of this year, this is my final column in this space. Now, old at 85, tired, and disillusioned with a country that just cannot pull itself together in any way and get on with life in this day and age, I have decided to call it a day.

To quote Winston Churchill (without at all making any even vague comparison) “I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the ordeal of meeting me is another matter”. The weekly writing has been a long and rewarding haul, and the column can record a few incidents where it has made a difference. I must also thank all those readers who have responded, generally favourably and with common sense.

Mourning a man who mourned for Pakistan: Nadeem F. Paracha in Dawn

Old man by the sea: when Nirupama Subramanian of The Hindu met him


Ethnic politics in Mumbai’s melting pot: RIP Bal Thackeray

Meena Menon in The Hindu analyses Shiv Sena founder and leader, Bal Thackeray’s origins and legacy

Bal Thackeray, the man who could bring Mumbai and the entire State of Maharashtra to a standstill by a single command, and whose ethnic and communal rhetoric added a strain of perpetual menace to an already fraught metropolis, died in Mumbai on Saturday. He was 86.

Never one to mince his words, he once famously described himself as the “remote control” of the first Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party government in Maharashtra in 1995. Two months ago, as the illness to which he eventually succumbed spread, he told Saamna somewhat mirthfully that he didn’t have the remote control for age in his hands.

Ever since Thackeray founded the Shiv Sena, or ‘Army of Shivaji,’ in June 19, 1966, it has set the tone for politics in the State. With his brand of rather vicious humour and fondness for mimicry, he forged a bond with his followers, speaking to people in a language they could understand. Exhorted by his father Prabodhankar Thackeray, young Bal formed the Sena as a social organisation. Its aim: to take care of the Marathi manoos, who were ostensibly slighted in their own State due to a proliferation of migrants to the prosperous region. more

Also read Vir Sanghvi, Pritish Nandy on Bal Thackeray

In Frontline, How Thackeray & Co. figure in the Srikrishna Commission Report on Mumbai riots

In Economic TimesPatrick French on problems his heirs will have to face

Prabuddha Dasgupta

From his book Women, published by Penguin

One of India’s most respected fashion photographers, Prabuddha Dasgupta, 58, passed away Sunday while he was at a photo shoot near Mumbai. A self-taught photographer, Dasgupta was known for his ground-breaking black and white imagery which established a new visual style for India’s emerging fashion scene in the Nineties…Dasgupta divided time between Goa and New Delhi. He was in a relationship with top model Lakshmi Menon, 30, who has done shows for Jean Paul Gaultier and Hermès including campaigns for the likes of Max Mara, Givenchy, H&M and Nordstrom, among others. [The Hollywood Reporter]

In April this year, Geoff Dyer did a profile of Prabuddha in The Paris Review: read here in Asian Window

Obituary: Captain Lakshmi

In The Economist:

As she moved, pert and bird-like, round her tiny rented clinic in industrial Kanpur in northern India, Lakshmi Sehgal made her patients feel completely safe in her hands. Lightly but firmly, her fingers moved across the swollen bellies of pregnant women, or felt for a pulse, or probed a wound. Her sister said she had always had the technique to reassure. Those same hands, in West Bengal in 1971, had massaged the scrawny limbs of Bangladeshi refugees, and in December 1984 had soothed the burning eyes of victims of the explosion at a chemical factory in Bhopal.

They also knew how to fire a revolver and prime a grenade, change the magazine on a Tommy gun and wield a sword. They were as skilled and ruthless as any man’s, for Dr Lakshmi had been trained beside the men to become a killing machine. From 1943 to 1945, in the jungles of Singapore and what was then Burma, she commanded a brand-new unit of the Indian National Army in the hope of overthrowing the British Raj. The Rani of Jhansi regiment, set up by the independence leader Subhas Chandra Bose (left of her, above), was for women only, the first in Asia. It was named after a heroine of the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny against the British, a widowed child bride who cut her saris into trousers to ride into battle. For Dr Lakshmi, another rich tomboy who had married too young, a rider of horses and driver of cars who had eagerly thrown her foreign-made dresses on a nationalist bonfire, the rani made an irresistible model. More:

Zindagi aur maut

Suparna Sharma on Rajesh Khanna in The Asian Age:

It’s strange how films speak to you when you are young. I didn’t watch Anand, I grew up with it. When my mother didn’t understand me, when my heart broke for the first time, when someone died, when I felt unloved, when I was low for no real reason, he was there. Always. If I have to die young, I would often think, it should be to lymphosarcoma of the intestine. I knew how to play that part. He had taught me.

For two years, 2005 and 2006, my husband lived on Mumbai’s Carter Road, very close to where Rajesh Khanna’s bungalow, Ashirwad, is. I never could walk past it. I would, almost unconsciously, cross the road and walk on the other side every time I knew I was close. I must have done so a 100 times, and I think I looked at the house maybe twice. In my head the house is white, the gate is always open and there are gulmohar trees. I couldn’t just walk past it, that open gate. Because it wasn’t Rajesh Khanna’s house. It was Anand’s house and he was dying.

I don’t know whether it was deference, or some irrational fear of what I’ll do if I see Anand. I had seen him in his loneliest moments, and he’d been with me in my darkest hours. We knew each other, Anand and I. But we couldn’t say hello. We couldn’t acknowledge each other in any other space except where he’s supposed to be, and where I’m supposed to be. That’s our bond; that’s our relationship.

I remember once having coffee early Sunday morning at the Barista past his house and thinking, what happens to an actor who finds glory in suffering. Does he recreate tragedy in real life, too? Does he think of the applause when he finally signs off? The loudest, last applause? So does he script it, then — his life and the climax? More:

Tribute to a bureaucrat for whom public service was a passion

Sanjaya Baru in The Hindu:

I received with shock and grief the news of the passing away of R. Gopalakrishnan, an officer of the Indian Administrative Service, a former colleague in the Prime Minister’s Office, where he served as a joint secretary and later as an additional secretary, and a development policy strategist of exceptional talent and rare dedication to public service.

I feel the urge to pay tribute to his memory because it is necessary to place on public record the patriotic service that a good civil servant performs behind the closed doors of government offices. Often their work goes unrecognised publicly, even unrewarded professionally. The lives of millions of Indians have improved in the past decade because of the good work and professional creativity and commitment of an officer like Gopalakrishnan.

Gopal, as all his colleagues and friends called him, has of course been posthumously rewarded with a fine tribute from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, whom he served through his entire first term and well into the second term, despite his failing health in the latter period. In his condolence message, the Prime Minister acknowledged that Gopal “was the brain behind a number of flagship initiatives of the government.” The PM also said, “He had a very fertile mind and did not allow bureaucratic fetters to dull his creative instincts. I remember him for the single mindedness and the passion with which he pursued his ideas.” More:

Joy Mukherjee (1939 – 2012)

Remembering Anthony Gonsalves

By Naresh Fernandes

Midway through Manmohan Desai’s classic 1977 film about three brothers separated at birth, a man in a top hat and a Saturday Night Fever suit leaps out of a giant Easter egg to inform the assemblage, ‘My name is Anthony Gonsalves.’

The significance of the announcement was lost under the impact of Amitabh Bachchan’s sartorial exuberance. But decades later, the memory of that moment still sends shivers down the spines of scores of ageing men scattered across Bombay and Goa. By invoking the name of his violin teacher in that tune in Amar Akbar Anthony, the composer Pyarelal had finally validated the lives of scores of Goan Catholic musicians whose working years had been illuminated by the flicker of images dancing across white screens in airless sound studios, even as acknowledgement of their talent whizzed by in the flash of small-type credit titles.

The arc of their stories – determined by the intersection of passion and pragmatism, of empire and exigency – originated in church-run schools in Portuguese Goa and darted through royal courts in Rajasthan, jazz clubs in Calcutta and army cantonments in Muree. Those lines eventually converged on Bombay’s film studios, where the Goan Catholic arrangers worked with Hindu music composers and Muslim lyricists in an era of intense creativity that would soon come to be recognised as the golden age of Hindi film song. More:

Mario Miranda: The Man who made Miss Fonseca famous

Pritish Nandy in Economic Times:

When I walked into The Times of India for the first time, in the winter of 1982, to start my life in journalism, the first person I bumped into was Mario.

I knew him by his popular comic-strip characters. The sexy and charmingly stupid Miss Rajni Nimbupani, the Bollywood heroine who ran around trees chased by an assortment of heroes, each more forgettable than the other.

Miss Fonseca, the buxom Anglo-Indian secretary, the office clerk Godbole, the fat corrupt politician Bundaldass and his glib, but slightly befuddled, assistant constantly trying to explain to his boss the mysteries of the world outside politics and the making of money.

I had grown up on these characters long before I came to Mumbai or what was Bombay in those days, the city Mario loved to death. It was here I discovered how real they actually were. More:

Stalin’s daughter I missed

K.P. Nayar in The Telegraph:

Svetlana, who assumed the name of Lana Peters after marrying American William Wesley Peters three years after her arrival in the US, unburdened herself 11 years ago to Naresh Chandra, then Indian ambassador in Washington, about her life’s crises and dilemmas that were inevitable as the daughter of one of the most pugnacious leaders in history.

In a long and sometimes rambling letter, Svetlana told the ambassador that she had been constantly misunderstood and that the story of her defection on the footsteps of the American embassy on New Delhi’s Shanti Path had not been truly told to the world or in its entirety.

The letter, which I have seen, was handwritten closely on standard letter paper on both sides and ran into eight pages, if memory of it from 2000 serves right.

I saw the letter because Svetlana pleaded to Chandra that she wanted to tell the truth about the Indian episodes in her life, that the time had come for telling her side of the story, and asked the ambassador to recommend a journalist who would break it to the world without varnishing it, as tales about “Stalin’s daughter” had often been doctored.

Indian communist Brijesh Singh, the late external affairs minister Dinesh Singh’s uncle, was Svetlana’s third husband. It was to immerse his ashes that she was given permission by the Soviet authorities to travel to India, where she hoped to live and find spiritual solace. But when the Kremlin insisted that she should return to the USSR, she defected to the US instead.

My memory of the letter is not photographic because it was shown to me on the condition that it will not be copied in any form and that I will, under no circumstances, record her address in the US, which was “restricted” information in view of what the Americans saw as threats to Svetlana’s life, although the US perception of those threats varied from time to time. More:

RIP: Dev Anand

In Indian Express, Shubhra Gupta on the eternal romantic

A couple of months back, I saw what would turn out to be my last Dev Anand film, in solitary splendour. It was a first day first show, and there was no one else in the theatre. The film was Chargesheet, and I remember asking aloud, after two and-a-half execrable hours: who can I arrest for this? Because, like Anand’s recent films, Chargesheet was a crime. It was less a film than the misguided wanderings of a mind mired in a fugue, floundering to stay afloat. more

The forever young Bollywood actor-producer’s nephew, Shekhar Kapur, himself a film-maker, writes about the box office disaster that was Ishq Ishq Ishq and how Dev Uncle just bounced back

A suite at the Oberoi hotel. Dev Uncle’s film Ishq Ishq Ishq, had just released the night before.

I was the nephew that had, on a whim, given up a really successful career as a chartered accountant and a management consultant in London to be in the movie business. Somehow being from London made me special for him. It was the city he loved most in the world. Ishq Ishq Ishq was my break into movies. Tiny role, but hey, I got to romance Zeenat Aman, who had changed the very perceptions of what it meant to be a modern Indian girl to all of us.

We had shot the film in Nepal over two months. Trekking all over the mountains. It was an amazing adventure. All the way up to Namchi Bazar and then upto Lukla from where you could almost touch the Everest. It spoilt me forever. I thought this was what the rest of my life was going to be. The dizzyness of altitude matched only by the dizzyness of personal adventures. Much better than going to an office on a cold grey winters day in London. more

Also read Gaata rahe tera dil: Suneel Sinha in The Asian Age

H. Gobind Khorana, 89, Nobel-winning scientist, dies


H. Gobind Khorana, who rose from a childhood of poverty in India to become a biochemist and share in a Nobel Prize for his role in deciphering the genetic code, died on Wednesday in Concord, Mass. He was 89.

His death was announced by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Dr. Khorana was a professor emeritus.

Dr. Khorana, who received his early schooling from his village teacher under a tree, advanced his education through scholarships and fellowships to become an authority on the chemical synthesis of proteins and nucleic acids, the large molecules in cells that carry genetic information.

He received the 1968 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Robert W. Holley of Cornell University and Marshall W. Nirenberg of the National Institutes of Health. They worked independently of one another and received the award for showing how genetic information is translated into proteins, which carry out the functions of a living cell. More: Also in MIT News

The Nawab of Cricket (1941-2011)

In ESPNcricinfo:

Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, who overcame an impaired eye to become a visionary and pioneering captain of the Indian Test team, has died in Dehli at the age of 70. He was suffering from interstitial lung disease. He is survived by his wife Sharmila Tagore, his son Saif Ali Khan and his two daughters Soha and Saba Ali Khan. Tagore, Saif and Soha are prominent actors in India’s film industry.

Pataudi played 46 Tests between 1961 and 1975 and was arguably India’s greatest captain. He was given the leadership in his fourth Test, when he was 21, in Barbados in 1962, because the regular captain Nari Contractor was in hospital after getting hit on the head by Charlie Griffith. Pataudi was the youngest Test captain, a record that stood until 2004. He led India in 40 Tests and had a successful career despite impaired vision in his right eye, which was damaged in a car accident. He also captained Sussex and Oxford University. More:

On meeting a childhood hero – and letting him down: Edward Craig

‘An innings played with one leg and one eye’

Shammi Kapoor

Obituary in The Economist:

The stately descent of an eyelid; the five-minute burning glance; tears frozen on a heroine’s cheek; the moustachioed hero standing to pained attention; the slowly circling dance of attendants in and out of curtains to some interminable tune. That was old Bollywood, before Shammi Kapoor came along. He could do old-style too, keeping chastely still and delivering his laments and what not, because it ran in the family’s famous blood. But in 1957, frustration boiling up inside him after 19 films which had made him precisely a nobody, he took a different tack; shaved off the pencil moustache; cropped his long hair into a Presley duck-tail, tossed his head sideways, spun round, shook his hips, and exploded on to the Hindi film scene.

The film was “Tumsa Nahin Dekha” (“Never Seen Anyone Like You”). And India never had. Suddenly, stasis and convention were thrown out of the window. On screen at least, in packed and humid cinemas across the country, everything changed. Shammiji never came that much closer to his heroines, but he seethed with Westernised sex appeal. He was a playboy and a clown, a ceaseless ragger of the girls he loved, who would serenade them on moving trains and dangling in bathrobes from helicopters, and who in his most monstrous hit, “Junglee” (“Wild”), in 1961 slid on his front down a mountainside of snow, leapt up (leather jacket sexily torn open), sang to his heroine that people could call him wild, what could he do, swept up in love, and then roared out over the ice-bound forest, “YAHOO!” His teenage audiences yelled out with him, suddenly liberated. He had won the girl just by being his mad self, and had apparently not asked his family or hers. More:

Who brushed out Husain?

In the Hindustan Times, Vir Sanghvi examines the issues that led to the exile of India’s foremost artist, Maqbool Fida Husain who died recently in London.

Now that we are so busy flogging ourselves over our failure to allow M.F. Husain to return to India, this might be a good time to examine the issues that led to Husain’s exile from our shores. Otherwise, we will lose ourselves in paying fulsome tributes without understanding why the artist was hounded out of India. And other artists will continue to suffer the same fate.

As long as I can remember, Husain has used Hindu motifs and figures in his work. Though he was born a Muslim, he was not particularly religious and regarded himself as part of India’s secular tradition, drawing inspiration from all aspects of Indian tradition and life. For instance, his famous Mother Teresa series in which the Catholic missionary was portrayed as an angel of mercy would probably have scandalised the likes of Osama Bin Laden. But for Husain, religion and religious figures were merely an aspect of a nation’s cultural heritage and its everyday life. more

Below, Riz Khan’s Al Jazeera interview with MF Husain

Also read:

Shobhaa De on MFH in The Times of India: ‘All I want is a Mumbai falooda’

“Where is your paintbrush?” I asked Husain Saab when I met him in room number 6 on the fourth floor of the Royal Brompton Hospital, situated in a leafy area of London. This was just two days ago.

He shrugged and smiled wanly. Almost like he had put away his paintbrush forever. Frail in health but robust in spirit, he turned away from the dinner tray brought in by a cheerful nurse and said, “I can’t eat this food. All I want is a falooda from Mumbai.”

And Georgina Maddox in The Indian Express

Obituary: Osama bin Laden, 1957-2011

Kate Zernike and Michael T. Kaufman in The New York Times:

Osama bin Laden, who was killed in Pakistan on Sunday, was a son of the Saudi elite whose radical, violent campaign to recreate a seventh-century Muslim empire redefined the threat of terrorism for the 21st century.

Long before, he had become a hero in much of the Islamic world, as much a myth as a man — what a longtime C.I.A. officer called “the North Star” of global terrorism. He had united disparate militant groups, from Egypt to Chechnya, from Yemen to the Philippines, under the banner of Al Qaeda and his ideal of a borderless brotherhood of radical Islam.

Terrorism before Bin Laden was often state-sponsored, but he was a terrorist who had sponsored a state. For five years, 1996 to 2001, he paid for the protection of the Taliban, then the rulers of Afghanistan. He bought the time and the freedom to make Al Qaeda — which means “the base” — a multinational enterprise to export terror around the globe.

For years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the name of Al Qaeda and the fame of Bin Laden spread like a 21st-century political plague. Groups calling themselves Al Qaeda, or acting in the name of its cause, attacked American troops in Iraq, bombed tourist spots in Bali and blew up passenger trains in Spain.

To this day, the precise reach of his power remains unknown: how many members Al Qaeda could truly count on; how many countries its cells had penetrated; and whether, as Bin Laden boasted, he sought to arm Al Qaeda with chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

He waged holy war with distinctly modern methods. He sent fatwas — religious decrees — by fax and declared war on Americans in an e-mail beamed by satellite around the world. Qaeda members kept bomb-making manuals on CD and communicated with encrypted memos on laptops, leading one American official to declare that Bin Laden possessed better communications technology than the United States. He railed against globalization, even as his agents in Europe and North America took advantage of a globalized world to carry out their attacks, insinuating themselves into the very Western culture he despised. More:

RIP: the last maharaja of Jaipur

Nicknamed Bubbles after barrels of champagne were apparently drunk to celebrate his birth, Brigadier Bhawani Singh, the last titular maharaja of Jaipur has died after a month-long hospitalisation for cardiac treatment. The 79-year-old Singh, who was also head of the Kachwaha clan of Rajputs, was crowned maharaja of Jaipur after the death of his father in 1970. A year later, in a move to shore up popular support, Indira Gandhi, abolished privy purses — the sum of money guaranteed by the Constitution to India’s royal families for agreeing to merge with independent India in 1947 — along with titles and other benefits that she saw as anachronistic in a modern India.

Brig Bhawani Singh was the eldest son of Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II and his first wife, Marudhar Kanwar of Jodhpur. The legendary beauty, Gayatri Devi was his father’s third wife. Gayatri Devi had a brief political career in the late sixties and seventies when she stood as a candidate for the Swatantra Party. Retribution came during the Emergency, when Gayatri Devi was arrested along with Bhawani Singh under blatantly trumped up charges. After the Emergency was lifted in 1977, Gayatri Devi retired from active politics.

Bhawani Singh served in the Indian army and was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra, India’s second-highest gallantry award, for his contibution in the 1971 Indo-Pak war.

It’s a measure of his popularity that the Rajasthan government has announced a two-day state mourning. Jaipur’s last maharaja was cremated with full state and military honours in Jaipur.

For more read here and here.

RIP: Tiger guru Fateh Singh Rathore

In New York Times, Dennis Hevesi doffs his hat to a legend in wildlife conservation

Yes, there was that day in June 1976 when, after years of roaming the hills, valleys, lakes and gorges of Ranthambhore National Park in northwest India, Fateh Singh Rathore stopped in his tracks as the orange blur of a tigress glided through the forest, trailed by four prancing cubs.

It seemed a harbinger that the great striped beasts that once reigned over a wilderness held by the maharajahs of Jaipur might finally be spawning a whole new generation.

But his optimism was premature. Tigers are not yet extinct, but neither are they flourishing; the struggle to stem the extinction of Ranthambhore’s, and the world’s, tiger population continues.

Mr. Rathore, who fought that fight for four decades and was known among environmentalists as the Tiger Guru for his understanding of the majestic cat, died on March 1 at 73 on his farm outside the 116-square-mile tiger preserve he did so much to create. The cause was cancer, his son, Goverdhan, said. more

Bhimsen Joshi

Obit in The Economist:

Music seemed to require him to use every part of his body. From a slow, mesmerised, almost motionless start his eyes would roll upwards, foreshadowing the ascent of the notes that emerged from his distended, gaping mouth. His hands flailed, as though reaching for some imagined object just out of his grasp. Perhaps Bhimsen Joshi was trying to bring back to earth a soaring note from one of his magnificent taans, the series of rapid melodic passages with which great classical singers in the Hindustani tradition of northern India demonstrate how skilled they are.

Few could sing them like he could, his sonorous voice ranging effortlessly over three octaves as he explored the nuances of ragas—Indian music’s tonal settings for improvisation and composition, each associated with a season or a time of day. Yet those who packed concert halls to listen to him sing, as Indians did for over six decades, rarely mentioned his technique. Instead, they would talk about how he had made them feel, on a night long ago at the Dover Lane music conference in Calcutta, or under a tent in the grounds of Modern School on New Delhi’s Barakhamba Road, when he sang a raga of the monsoon—and suddenly the skies were full of thundering black rainclouds, even though it was bone dry and bitterly cold. More:

A farewell to India’s Henry Kissinger

K. Subrahmanyam’s pragmatic recommendations had a direct bearing on some of New Delhi’s most profound national security decisions of the last half-century. Rory Medcalf in Foreign Policy:

India’s most respected guru of strategic and nuclear affairs, K. Subrahmanyam, passed away on Feb. 2, 2011, at age 82. In his lifetime, he came to wield a profound global influence that few Indian policy thinkers can claim. His analysis of India’s difficult strategic environment was repeatedly borne out by events; his pragmatic recommendations had a direct bearing on some of New Delhi’s most profound national security decisions of the last half-century.

Subrahmanyam’s career as scholar, advisor to governments, and policymaker spanned the pivotal six decades from India’s independence to its emergence as a major power. And his forging of a realist worldview in the nation of Gandhi and Nehru — and his ability to make his ideas consistent with their thoughts — was central to that development. He was an early and controversial advocate of New Delhi developing an atomic bomb, although he also advised the government to shackle it with an explicit policy of “no first use” — in both cases, his advice won the day. Although he was labeled a nuclear hawk in the 1970s and 1980s, both in the domestic press and in international nonproliferation circles, he later surprised many by becoming in recent years India’s most prominent voice in support of the campaign for a nuclear-weapon-free world championed by U.S. elder statesmen Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, William Perry, and Sam Nunn. But this position was actually consistent with his larger goal — for India to work credibly on the global stage. In this sense, to be a player in the anti-nuclear game, it helped to have actually achieved building the bomb. More:

Also in AW: The man who shaped India’s national security policies: Siddharth Varadarajan in The Hindu and C. Raja Mohan in The Indian Express.

The man who shaped India’s national security polices

Siddharth Varadarajan in The Hindu on K Subrahmanyam, one of the most respected voices on global security issues, who died on Wednesday at age 82:

Intellectual progenitor of the Indian nuclear weapons programme and by far the most influential strategic thinker of his own and subsequent generations, K. Subrahmanyam’s enduring contribution was the coherent intellectual framework he helped provide for the country’s foreign and security policies in a world buffeted by uncertainty and changing power equations.

He died in New Delhi on Wednesday after a courageous battle against cancer. He was 82.

In a long and distinguished career that began with his entry into the Indian Administrative Service in 1951, Subrahmanyam straddled the fields of administration, defence policy, academic research and journalism with an unparalleled felicity. His prolific writings — contained in thousands of newspaper articles (including in The Hindu), book chapters and speeches over four decades — touched upon a broad range of global and regional strategic issues and invariably generated fierce debate in India and abroad. But it was his early — and even controversial — advocacy of India exercising the option to produce nuclear weapons that made governments and scholars around the world sit up and take notice of his views. More:

C. Raja Mohan in The Indian Express:

Subrahmanyam advised all prime ministers starting from Indira Gandhi on foreign and defence policies and had a decisive impact on India’s nuclear strategy and national security management. Above all, he got India to appreciate the logic of power in international affairs.

As he boldly battled cancer in recent years, he summoned his innermost energies to persist in the promotion of critical thinking about India’s national security. He was determined to make a difference until the very last.

As India rises on the world stage, Subrahmanyam’s contribution in getting its security establishment to ponder the nature of power and its political purpose will long outlast him.

A relentless advocate of a powerful India, he was also strikingly detached from power and its many manifestations in the Delhi Durbar. More:

Bhimsen Joshi is as modern as India

Ruchir Joshi in The Telegraph:

When my father played his Hindustani vocal records on the radiogramme, I would cover my ears. As an eleven-year-old rebelling against almost everything his parents loved, I took relish in calling the noise “classical gargling” or “after-Colgate music”. At that point, I had recently discovered the wheel and it was called Rock n’ Roll. That wheel rolled me to the Blues, while the tyres of life sent me bumping along to a boarding-school where most of the other boys shared my contempt for the Great Indian Gargle. Two things happened between school in Rajasthan and holidays in Calcutta. First, whenever they played some scratchy raag by Omkarnath Thakur on the gramophone in the morning assembly, I felt intensely homesick, connecting that sound to the records that woke me up in Calcutta; gradually, I began looking forward to that spasm of aural pain because it transported me back home for a few minutes. Second, in my early teens I began to listen to more and more jazz. It was sexy and sweet, while Indian classical was like someone reciting Hindi arithmetic sums very fast. It took me till I was almost seventeen to connect some wires between the two traditions.

My father had bought a new album with one of those horrible HMV covers — some old guy’s face, still-black hair clearly slicked back with oil, the photograph overlit, the colours of the skin and the background an evil combo of brown and pink, like the waiting room of some cheap dentist. What made me vaguely curious was that the guy had the same surname as ours. As I placed the record on my new turntable, I sarcastically called out to my father, asking if this was some uncle I’d never heard of. “Yes,” replied my father, “he is your greatest Uncle.” I watched with trepidation as the needle rode the waves to the first groove of this crude-looking local vinyl.

The raag was Miyan ki Todi. It was a winter morning in Calcutta. I was wearing my late grandmother’s grey shawl. My mother was drinking tea and my father was reading The Statesman.

I don’t know about all the various ideas of ‘India’ but, sometimes, thinking of this thing called ‘our country’, I imagine variations of this moment unfolding in hundreds of thousands of households across the land, over the second and third decades of Independence and even later: some kid, some girl or boy, hearing Bhimsen Joshi properly for the first time — on the radio, on a record, on YouTube, or perhaps even live — and being transformed. More: