Friday, May 4, 2018

The Vote that Counts!

In less than a week from now, Karnataka goes to polls to elect the next Government to power. In Kodagu, the election has captured the imagination of all sections of Society especially with candidates from most parties not being sure of their nominations until the very last minute. Politics has become the favourite topic of discussion at all social gatherings so much so that it has put bad prices for coffee and pepper to the background for the moment.  

Almost all parties seem to be fighting this election based on the charisma and capabilities of their National leaders. The common ground cutting across party lines seems to be about voting right for the greater good of the Country. However, as a voter, I must say that I am disappointed that not one of the candidates for the 2 seats in Kodagu has shown any inclination to fight the elections on local issues or even sat down with the electorate to understand and prepare a manifesto that reflects the needs and aspirations of their electorate. The electorate is again being hoodwinked into "voting responsibly" for the betterment of the Country but at the cost of their land and future. 

The issues that we face in Coorg are many; Large scale Deforestation, sand mafia, timber mafia, illegal land conversions, Linear development projects such as railways and highways under the garb of development, exploitative tourism etc are sounding the death knell of this district. Culturally too, the way of life of the Kodavas and other indigenous communities of Kodagu are being threatened by divisive appeasement politics. Added to this, the district is besieged with the total lack of proper medical facilities and public infrastructure, very bad internet connectivity etc. Yet, our Politicians are busy indulging in petty politics at the cost of the future of the district and its people. 

It saddens me to see that no politician worth his salt has spoken out on these issues or tried to address them on their own free will. Our Politicians have only spoken about these issues when they have been pushed against the wall or when they have been called to address a gathering, They have used people and these issues to create a platform for themselves without doing anything to address the actual issue or taking up the matter with their political masters. Unfortunately, Kodagu is faced with a problem of a dearth of good leaders. Petty politics and the greed for money and power have made our politicians blind to the actual reality.

For a long time, it was generally believed that the Kodavas or rather the people of Kodagu are just arm chair activists and just cannot come together. However, the last one year has seen a tremendous change in Kodagu. The protests against the proposed railway line and highways in Kodagu and the recent huge gathering in Mysore showed that people are not going to take things lying down. People from all sections of Society are starting to question the powers to be and I would like to believe that this is the first step towards ensuring that we protect our interests.

Whatever change that is taking place in Kodagu is happening despite the system. Voluntary Citizen initiatives is what is starting to create and drive the change. Be it cleaning campaigns, installations of dustbins and segregation or questioning illegal activities or even going to court or meeting bureaucrats and Government representatives to oppose projects that threaten the fragile ecological balance of the district, it is the assertiveness of a few like minded individuals that is driving that change.

It is true that we the people of Kodagu have been indifferent to what has been happening around us. As long as one was not directly affected, it did not matter to a lot of us. Even today, we seem to continue on the same lines. However, I must say that the times, they sure are changing. Today, we seem to be connecting back to our roots and thanks to social media, the acts of a few good men and women is inspiring others to get their hands dirty.  And this inspiration is what we need to sow the seeds of that big change that we are looking at. 

We need to accept the fact that with just 2 MLA seats, we do not matter to the fortunes of any political party in the State. But every single vote of ours matters to the 2 MLA's who will represent us. We are not in a position today to choose a leader that is worthy of representing us. But we definitely are in a position today to ensure that we will be taken seriously in the future.

Hence, no matter which party we support or what our ideology at the moment is, we need to ensure that we go out and VOTE. OUR TIME IS NOW!

If people don't vote, everything stays the same. You can protest until the sky turns yellow or the moon turns blue, and it's not going to change anything if you don't vote- Dolores Huerta (American labor leader and civil rights activist)




Friday, September 1, 2017

Let us look at the bigger Picture.


This year will probably go down in History as a landmark year for Coorg and its people. The people of the district are starting to discuss issues that we have been trying to brush under the carpet for the longest time. From arm chair activism, we are moving to a situation where we are starting to walk the talk.

I have personally been a part of 2 protests in the last 3 months, the first held at Madikeri in the first week of June and the second held at Kutta on the 26th of August 2017. The Kutta protests is especially significant as it helped bring the conversation on development vs environment out in the open.

The time has come for us to start a dialogue in understanding the development that Coorg as a district needs. Of course, all of us who are advocating against unplanned developmental activities have a responsibility of looking at the whole situation holistically and ensuring that legitimate land owners do not feel threatened. It is imperative that the fight against unplanned development activities also calls on the Government and the powers to be to protect interests of planters and original land owners of Coorg who have been cultivating land for the past few generations. There needs to be a sustained dialogue at the village level, where both sides talk to each other and understand the actual situation especially considering the fact that vested interests have fed people misinformation as information resulting in a hatred against people advocating for the regulation and stopping of unplanned development activities. I am not going into the merits of the ESZ or what the rules actually mean for that needs to be done at the ground level and not in an article. I am no legal or environmental expert to give my two bits.

However, that being said, I believe it is time for us to start putting things in perspective when it comes to the argument on development vs environment. It is important that we understand and take responsibility for the legacy that we are going to leave behind for our future generations. The Kutta protests saw some really strong views emerging with those supporting the protests being made to look like people who are anti- development and working against the interests of the future generations. The fight against unplanned development activities is not to deprive people of the land of a livelihood nor is it about benefiting people outside the district to have a good life at the costs of the inhabitants of the land as is made out to be. We need to understand that the greatest strength of this land of ours is in its natural heritage.

Development for a fragile landscape like Coorg needs to be defined by understanding the basic needs of the people of the land. In today's day and age, connectivity is important and nobody can say no to development. But this development needs to be defined by the people of the land for our own benefit. Of course, we need better roads connecting the nook and corner of the district. But surely, we do not need a 4 lane highway to achieve that. Nor do we need a train that will do more harm than good. Will these development solve the man animal conflict that seems to be increasing every day. Elephants today for example are going into places that we did not even imagine that they would venture into. And is it because we have somehow increased our green cover or is it because stupid policies have eroded our Forests of its natural greenery?

I only wish that the people who are calling for so called development talk about the things that actually matter. Like better internet facility where our Children and adults in very village in the district have access to information; better medical facilities in the Villages where every PHC has basic medicine and good doctors. None off these people have called out the Hospitals for not storing anti- venom considering the habitat that we live in. I find this hypocrisy appalling. If the development that these people are considering is to ape our unplanned cities like Bangalore, then we might as well live in Bangalore.

If we need development, then we need to talk about bettering our agricultural practices and access to modern machinery and markets. In the last couple of years we have slowly seen smaller boutique brands like Flying Squirrel, River side, Black Baza, Papakuchi and others emerging from Coorg. I would like to imagine a situation 10 years from now where we have many more such brands emerging from Coorg marketing home grown products. Do we not have the potential to have pepper or honey brands from Coorg? I only wish the vision grows to better our land without losing its greenery. Tourism that is more class than mass, where regulations ensure that the tourist operators make profits and the tourists come back to see the beauty of the place for what it is instead of what it used to be.

I find it amusing that the very people that are expected to uphold the interests of the Community seem to be indulging in a slander campaign with the sole intention of discrediting a certain group of people to satisfy their egos. If these organisations really cared, then they will stop being glorified event managers managing real estate space and actually start working for the betterment of the land and the community. How many trees have these organisations planted? Do these real estate spaces have a plan to mitigate garbage menace and ensure a clean green venue status? If they are for holistic development, then these organisations and real estate spaces should ban plastic in their premises for a start and start composting their waste. Isn't that modern development? If these organisations want to work for the greater good of the community, how many classes have they conducted in the leading Schools of Coorg in educating our Children on our culture and land. We only talk about how we are losing our culture and don't seem to be doing anything about it.

A lot of our so called leaders in Coorg have let their egos get the better of them. They have gotten so used to being put on a pedestal that they have somehow come to an impression that they know better than everybody else. And if they get irritated with somebody or some organisation, then all they have to do is run a slander campaign to discredit the other person. I believe that they would only do it if the other person has somehow managed to push a few buttons. I wish we get leaders who understand the pulse of their electorate and work for the the greater good of the electorate. Leaders who join and support the cause instead of being invited to join a cause. Leaders who understand the need to protect the land and its people.

The fight to save the Greenery of Coorg is not to convert the whole of Coorg into a forest. The fight is to protect what the land has been offering us without asking any questions of us. Have we ever considered as to how lucky we are to have got this on a platter? We of course love to go into nostalgia and talk about the good days of the past where nature provided us in abundance. From Baimbale to the Kummus to the koille meenu to madhu thoppu (maddu puttu), we took it for granted that we are always going to get it. What are we going to show our Children tomorrow? I cannot for the life of me imagine going to a supermarket to buy these things or showing our Children tomorrow all of this in pictures.

The responsibility is ours to protect and preserve what little we have left. As Kaveriamma's children, it is our basic duty to protect our devarakadus, streams and rivers that our ancestors left behind for us. And to make sure that the Children of tomorrow get to see and enjoy all of this and more.

Now I have a weapon to clean and some belting to be done. Happy Kailpod! And may our ancestors put some sense into all our heads.

This land, this water, this air, this planet - this is our legacy to our young- Paul Tsongas

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Power to make a Change!

We are three months into the year and from the story unfolding so far, looks like 2017 is going to be the year of the the people. A year where the electorate will stand up to ask for their rights and ensure that their elected representatives deliver on their aspirations. The Jallikattu movement and the fight against the steel flyover have shown that people power is real and active and that the powers to be cannot hoodwink the people anymore and think they can get away with it. Technology has ensured that everybody has access to information at the swipe of a finger. 

This being the case, it is sad to see an educated well informed community and District accepting everything that is thrown at us without even raising an eyebrow. Kodagu is besieged with a lot of problems, most of which is our own doing. However, our big fat chest thumping egos has only helped us brush things under the carpet without taking any of the things head on. I have been harping on the need for us to start a dialogue and raise awareness on ground. From marrying outside the community, to selling property, to the advantages and perils of tourism or the beauty of Coorg and the Culture, everybody in Coorg has an opinion on every single one of these issues. But when it comes to doing something about it, the very same people are always seen walking away rather than confronting the issue. 

This does not mean that there is no change happening on ground, People are starting to get together to address various evils plaguing our Society. From controlling garbage menace to advocating against unplanned developmental activities, small groups of people comprising people of all age groups and genders are starting to spring up across Kodagu in trying to address these issues. However, we seem to be really slacking in being able to get these various groups on to one single platform. 

For the longest time, I have heard my parents and elders talk about their childhood and the joys of running around in clean green Kodagu. Any family get together invariably turns to a flashback session with anecdotes on their childhood adventures. My own childhood was filled with all our cousins coming together and spending time in tanks or streams or just going for a walk into the estate or playing hide and seek in the forest next to our property. Sadly, I cannot for the life of me imagine my nieces or nephews or my kids tomorrow doing it for we have become self sustaining nuclear families busy with our lives. Also, you never know what you might run into. Even though we have always lived right next to the Forest, we did not even imagine running into an elephant during the day. Times have changed and we need to change with it and there is no doubt in that. But what about those things that we can control. 

Today, we have been handed a lifeline and an opportunity to correct the wrongs and start fresh. The ESA is much needed for Coorg and one which will help us get Kodagu back to its past glory, But our elected representatives and other politicians seem to be hell bent on creating panic by spreading false information. The ESA notification does not target the planters or the original inhabitants of Coorg as it is made out to be. Instead, it protects the interests of the planters and the original inhabitants of Coorg from further destruction. Nobody in Coorg has even understood the whole report but have been mislead into believing that it is bad for us,

Kodagu is facing its worst drought in decades. Our rivers, streams and ponds are running dry. Elephant menace is spreading with man animal conflict springing up in newer areas everyday, The ESA is the answer to addressing and tackling these problems. It coming into existence will not stop us from shade lopping or using chemical fertilizers or for that matter building a house inside the estate, Of course, it affects those who were indulging in exploiting our Natural resources for commercial purposes. And hence our politicians cutting across political lines have all come together to oppose this as it will put a stop to all their illegal activities, be it sand or stone quarrying, land conversion for resorts, layouts or cutting of trees for so called development activities.

The time has come for all of us to come together and get our hands dirty in helping us protect and preserve whatever little is left of Coorg, We might not agree or like those environmentalists who are fighting the cause at the moment. But how will they know that some of their views are wrong, if we do not make an effort to join the cause and express our views. I do not want to sit for a drink in a few years from now and sound exactly like my Dad's generation is sounding now. 

I would humbly request all the Kodava Samajas, the various groups advocating various reforms in Coorg to come together for this cause. Imagine, being proud Kodavas without a Kodagu that we can relate to. What is the use of a Samaja then if we cannot work towards protecting our land? Our culture, language is dying, the only thing that we can hold on to dear is our land and it is time we do something about it. Let us forget our egos, our disagreements and hatred for each other and come together for the greater good of our future. We might be losing our language, diluting our Culture with new age practices and all this needs to be addressed. But what good is it trying to solve any of these issues if we do not have a place called HOME. 

I just turned 33 and am planning to start a family soon. I want my kids tomorrow to see a Kodagu that I saw and enjoyed and I believe that it is my responsibility to make sure it happens. I don't want to look back at today 30 years from now and regret the fact that we had a chance to change the status quo and did not do anything about it. We have a duty to our forefathers and our future generations to preserve and protect our land. 

Spread the word and galvanise support, Our time is now!




Friday, September 9, 2016

Namma Cauvery? The Hypocrisy!

It is that time of the year again when History repeats itself and our Dear Mother, River Cauvery is the cynosure of all eyes. Unfortunately, this History seems to be repeating itself so often that there seems to be no end remedy in sight. The past week has seen protests erupt across Karnataka against the Supreme Court decision on the release of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu.

I am not going into the merits of the case for that is for our Legal teams to argue and Courts to decide. I find this whole exercise of protests and Bandhs a hogwash for I firmly believe that nobody actually wants to find a solution to the problem. If we have rains, then nobody talks about the excess water at our disposal for we really have no solution to using excess water, do we? It is only when the rain Gods fail that we actually realise the gravity of the situation. From accusing the State Government to not appointing the right legal luminaries and not being assertive to accusing Tamil Nadu of being greedy and demanding excess water, we have all the right excuses to make our case but the sad part is that the crux of the whole issue get washed underneath it all.

River Cauvery, or Kaveri Mathe or Kaveriamma as people would like to call it is definitely a true provider to the people of a large part of South India; while it is the source of water for farmers to till their lands or for others to quench their thirst, it also the biggest provider to people from all walks of life to grab the limelight. From Politicians trying to wrestle power from one another to so called patriotic organisations pushed into the oblivion, the River gives all of them a chance to grab their pound of flesh in their quest for power.

A lot of the individuals and organisations that have called for the Bandh against the release of water are hypocrites. For far too long, these people have used Kannada Pride and Cauvery to further their personal ambitions. Almost everybody from the Political, social and Entertainment fields have joined the chorus against the release of water. The bottom line is that Cauvery is an issue that has maximum benefits for everybody provided you join the bandwagon. Everybody is going to get air time and regional news channels, always desperate for content are going to use the issue and these people to garner maximum TRPS.

My problem with these hypocrites is this, you cannot save the river by picking and choosing issues. The popular slogan this time around seems to be "Kaveri Nammadhu". Its ironic that they say it with so much pride when all they have done is abuse what they call theirs. Wearing and flying the red and yellow and burning effigies of people is not going to get more water; nor is attacking people of Tamil Nadu by accusing them of being greedy going to get water. It is good to see so many people bringing regular life to a stand still to put their point across. But the sad part is that almost all of them have been hoodwinked by our Politicians, Bureaucrats, Businessmen and other vested interests for far too long. All of them are talking about not having enough water for irrigation and drinking water purposes but do not care as to where the actual source of the water is. The truth is that nobody really cares to find out the reasons behind deficient rainfall and water flow and our dear media will not enlighten people with the truth for that will not benefit anybody. I will not be surprised if a lot of them think that KRS is the source of the River.

The primary catchment area of the Cauvery, Coorg has been abused by all these vested interests including local representatives. Kodagu seems to be one of the favourite destination for people from all walks of life. From being a favourite destination of the Film Industry with its scenic spots to holiday makers looking for a getaway for the weekend, Coorg provides for everybody just like River Cauvery does. It provides for the timber mafia who are hand in glove with the politicians to fell as many trees as they want as it does for the Sand mafia to transport all the sand they need. People looking for a place to buy, just need to contact somebody from the land mafia and you will have a place in either a converted wet land or a villa property for the right price. This is the reason why all these pro- Cauvery activists who are making a hue and cry over the issue at the moment are hypocrites.

Where were these activists when locals in Kodagu were protesting against the high tension power line project? The same State Government crying foul over the Supreme Court decision today slapped sedition charges against the locals protesting against the power line project. The media covered it at a glance and the politicians made these local activists look like jokers who are against development. It is very easy to dismiss these activists as those with their own vested interest and against development. Yes, they have their vested interest which is a love for the land. Sadly, a lot of such activism for a larger good cause gets lost in this garb of development.

Of course, Coorg needs development and tourism. We need better roads, better infrastructure, Hospitals, Schools, Colleges and grounds. But this development needs to be a sustainable one. Unfortunately, the powers to be equate development to be that of building railway lines, 4 lane roads, high end layouts or resorts. Instead, what we actually need is development that will benefit the locals without damaging the environment. Why can't the development be about improving the infrastructure? The district had nearly 7 Olympians in the contingent to Rio this year. So, the development can be about improving sports infrastructure in every part of the District or getting mobile and internet connectivity to every nook and corner or roads with markings and reflectors to name a few. These jokers that we would like to call our representatives have no such vision and we people have our heads so far in our backsides that we will not do anything about it except write about it in a blog like what I am doing at the moment.

If the Government of Karnataka along with the other Politicians cared so much for Cauvery, then why doesn't the State Government declare Kaveri Sankramana as a State Holiday for starters. If you do not celebrate "Namma Kaveri Mathe", then what is the use of calling her "NAMMADHU". Our Politicians instead want to be the ones in the front row at Talacauvery on Sankramana or they will make their presence felt on Sankramana by distributing Food to devotees and then making a case for them to build a centre and a guest house in Talacauvery which will definitely not help in improving water capacity of the river. I sometimes wonder if the larger idea is to take control over Cauvery by sidelining the people of Kodagu.

These unplanned activities are the reason for the Cauvery to be in the news for all the wrong reasons and as people of the land that is Kaveriamma's, it is time for us to pull up our socks. None of these red and yellow flag lovers will ever come to help save the catchment area, Kodagu. We need to assert ourselves and make sure that we preserve, protect and nurture the river and our land for our future survival if not for anything else. As I write this article, I am hoping that people in Coorg have better sense than support a bandh that serves no purpose.

There are a lot of things that we need to do but that is for another day. For starters, do not let any politician or organisation to attend Sankramana at Talacauvery. Please support all local organisations working towards protecting the catchment area. If you do not agree with them, then tell them where they are wrong. The time has come for us to act.

I am also hoping that this article provokes people to either agree with me or infuriate people to atleast show me the middle finger.


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Wake up and Smell the Coffee!

It has been nearly a year now since my last article. I had ended it with the words of Jane Goodall, "Change happens by listening and then starting a dialogue with the people who are doing something you don't believe is right". And right now. I don't think anything is right when it comes to my hometown, Kodagu. 

Two issues have grabbed the attention of the people of Coorg in the last couple of months. And both these issues actually affect the very identity of Kodagu as we know it. One is the proposed railway line which affects the environment and the other is the Court order against certain traditional practices. And both these issues have got dramatically different reactions. While the former has garnered a lot of attention online with people of all ages using different means to raise awareness, the latter has sadly been brushed under the carpet almost as a sort of acceptance. 

We fortunately have learnt a lesson after the failure of the campaign against the Power Line project. This coupled with the awareness on the need to protect the environment has ensured that people from all walks of life are now supporting the various groups involved in the fight against the railway line. It is heartening to see the communication centered around Mother Cauvery and I believe that this has helped garner widespread support from all over the World. However, all the online campaigning will not help much if we do not see some action on ground, And by action, I do not mean violence. I mean galvanizing enough forces on ground to cripple normal life. For until and unless we get people to come and support these causes on ground, we will not be able  to make much of an impact. The Railway Minister has reacted to the campaign and has tweeted that he will look into it. But what is he going to look at when our elected representatives have not even given a single statement either supporting or opposing the project. Why do we even call these people our representatives if they are not going to understand and stand by the pulse of their electorate? 

I am no saint nor do I think I have the answers to all the problems plaguing us. But I believe that if we do not start speaking about it, we will only fall deeper into the pit that we have dug ourselves into. I blame us, the people for we have brought this upon ourselves. We are a society that thrives on arm chair activism. Almost anybody and everybody in or from Coorg has an opinion on anything and everything. We criticise every single thing around us but when it comes to taking a stand publicly or going for a protest, we somehow have no time for any of it. So while we comfortably share and write about issues on social media platforms, the time has come for us to hold a mirror and look long and hard at ourselves and see the truth for once in our lives. 

The campaign against the Railway Line started to make waves after the "Toast to Cauvery" initiative where one holds a glass of water and raise a toast to Cauvery. It is a brilliant campaign and helped strike a chord with friends from outside Coorg especially in cities or places that depend on the river. However, while it is nice to think innovative for a campaign, it is time to ask ourselves if we really hold the river in the same esteem that our forefathers did before us. How many of us Kodavas have gone to Talacavery in the recent past? How many of us celebrate Kaveri Sankramana in the true spirit of the Festival? I for one went to Cauvery after nearly three years because I had to go and barely make it home to Coorg for Kaveri Sankramana. We have become tourists to our own practices and places of identity. And that is the hypocrisy. We say it is ours but don't show it. 

I love the fact that our Culture is very different from a large part of the Country, but while we have opened up and become liberal; we somehow seem to be identifying ourselves to be that of pork eating guzzlers with a short fuse. Of course, it is all about individual choices. I truly respect the fact that each individual has the liberty and freedom to make choices that they think is right. For that matter, I do not like the Kodava Samaj or any other body to tell me what makes me a Kodava. But a time has come for us to feel the need to preserve what is left of us being an indigenous community. 

These practices are what makes us who we are. The past three odd months has seen authorities clamp down on centuries old practices to implement a Court order. A Court order that most of us did not know about until it was implemented. The said Court order banned animal sacrifice in places of worship in Coorg. Every temple Festival this year saw a huge contingent of Police around the premises making sure that no animal sacrifice took place. So much so that people wee intimidated and hurt that they were not allowed to practice what they truly believed in. I have an issue with this attitude of the Courts and the system in general where individual rights and practices have no voice. The whole media is going to town about Freedom of Speech and so on but what about my rights. There are some people who will argue that animal sacrifice is cruel and we need to have more humanity and stop this but that change if at all needs to come from inside the Community and not by the high hand of the law. 

So will they then go on and tell us that we cannot offer Karana to our ancestors? Today, it is about animal sacrifice, tomorrow it will be about our rights to own guns and day after our right to our land and it will only continue to get worse. Our language and a lot of our traditional practices are already dying a slow death. As a society, we have always been open to adapting and moving with the times but of late, we seem to be adapting better to those things that dilute our practices. As an indigenous population, we need to preserve whatever little is left of our place and our Culture.  

Of course, everybody has a right to go to Court but It baffles me that we somehow seem to miss all that concerns us, especially in the legal or political fields. The need of the hour is a body, a think thank of the young and the old that brings the various organisations in Coorg under one platform. A body that is not just a committee of power and prestige but a body of individuals from all walks of life that helps the various groups get maximum traction for each of its causes. Judicial overreach and unnecessary judicial activism needs to be curtailed. Every single one of us needs to get our hands dirty or at least support those who are willing to get their hands dirty. We need an organisation that will work with the Officials and against the Officials, from solving individual problems to regulating tourism and land lawsIt is time for us to be assertive and take control over our lives before we get run over and don't even realise what hit us.. 

So its time to wake up and smell the Coffee!!........ 



Friday, June 12, 2015

Time to signal the start of a new Era!

I have been wanting to write this article for nearly a month now but have just not been able to put my thoughts into words. It's too vast a subject to be put into one article. I had written an article more than a year back venting my frustration on the state of affairs in Coorg (http://mach-chewed.blogspot.in/2014/01/is-it-only-me.html).

While that was about venting my frustration, I would like to believe that this is about trying to start a discussion on the way forward for the Kodavas and the present district of Coorg. As responsible individuals, I believe that it is important that we start a conversation now, rather than sit down for a drink 5 years later and regret that we had a chance to correct the course but did not do anything about it.

There are numerous organisations in Coorg that are working on various causes and as much as one hates them or loves them, one cannot agree that they are trying to make a difference. The organisations might not be getting the support from the general public due to a whole lot of issues, be it lack of credibility of certain members or the lack of knowledge on the part of the public. However, one cannot deny that these organisations have tried to highlight issues, bring it out in the public domain and have pulled up the establishment whenever possible. The death knell of most of these struggles has been the indifferent attitude of the Public. We Kodavas in particular are brilliant arm chair activists. We have an opinion on anything and everything, but when it comes to going for a protest or just joining a protest for symbolic reasons, we somehow get busy. It is time to change that attitude.

The criticism of my brethren aside, the biggest let down in Coorg has been that of our Political leadership. Our so called leaders cutting across party lines have failed the district of Kodagu and its people. Of course, we are a politically irrelevant district in terms of numbers with just 2 MLA seats and a half MP seat which is really not going to be of an impact to the fortunes of any political party.

This being said, one cannot deny that the District has been very consistent in its voting pattern. There is no doubt that Kodagu is a BJP loving District. The Congress and the not so relevant JD(S) have almost been pushed to the side-line. But as a consistent BJP voter for the longest time, I am disappointed and let down by my elected representatives. The recent protest against the High Tension Power line is a case in example. The BJP leadership in Kodagu has let vested interests reign instead of listening to the pulse of its people. What is the use of having elected representatives if they do not reflect the aspirations of its people?

Of Course, we might not have had a case legally and the struggle might have started late, or the Courts might have ruled against the protesters, or the BJP leadership might not have seen eye to eye with those leading the struggle but can the BJP leadership deny the fact that a vast majority of its constituents were against the power line. If so, should we continue voting for the BJP which has definitely failed its people? Every party leader will have to toe their party line but that does not mean that they fail the people who have elected them to power. Would this have happened in a place like Mandya?

Here we are going gung ho about Mr. Modi and the strong leadership at the Centre but does this mean that we forget what is necessary for us. I just wish the BJP leaders with a Kodava majority understand this. The struggle against the power line should have been headed by the elected representatives; instead the BJP showed that its dislike for organisations like the Kaveri Sene and others was bigger than the issue. A simple act of supporting the protesters, meeting them on ground and taking them along to meet the relevant people would have won more accolades and helped the BJP push the other organisations to the side-lines. The BJP leadership needs to understand that while they have to follow the Party Diktat, they can do so with a simple Mantra, "Think Globally, Act Locally". This does not absolve the representatives of the ruling party in the State from not acting for the interests of the people of Kodagu. Why didn't the Congress leaders stand-up and protest against the power line? Instead, their leaders prefer to show their assertiveness by interfering in settling Family feuds.

But more than everything else, all our Politicians cutting across party lines and organisations chase vested interests and lose connect with the people. Most leaders in the district somehow seem to think that they have to follow the same old rhetoric, i.e. minority appeasement, opposing one view simply because you are from a different political party etc. If there is any place that needs it political leaders to rise above politics, it is Coorg, Not one political party in Coorg can take credit for its development. Coorg has developed because of its people

Ideally, the situation is ripe for a Kodagu based political party. A party that reflects the aspirations of its people,  a party that has holistic development as its nerve centre; A party that balances culture and economic development. Will it work is another question altogether. At this moment, we we need to start representation from the local level, village panchayats, Co-operative society and the Zilla panchayat; A force that every political party needs to appease to win a MLA/ MP election. We need to become a force to reckon with.

But for all of this to even remotely change to start making a difference, we the people of Coorg need to somehow make an economic impact. While we become politically relevant, we also need to start becoming self - sufficient economically. The original inhabitants of Coorg need to start gaining control over land as a first resort. It has started slowly with people of interest coming together and their efforts need to be supported and appreciated. But individuals also need to be responsible. While it is an individual’s right to sell his or her property, it is also one's responsibility to sell wisely. It is no use twirling one's mush and claiming to be a true Kodava while selling one's property to somebody from outside the Community for a few extra bucks. It is time for us to start putting the money back to our Homeland and re- gaining control over our lands.

Tourism is a big Industry and is definitely helping lift the economy of the District, It has given a lot of people an alternate income. But responsibility needs to start at home. We need to find legal and other ways to regulate tourism and maintain the cultural and ecological sanctity of the place.

Before I finish, the other big point is the total lack of PR activity around Coorg. There are so many events taking place in Coorg that need National if not International publicity. Sadly, except for a few articles in the South Indian editions of newspapers and tabloids, none of these events get coverage in the National press. A few Lifestyle shows have managed to capture a few traits/ attributes of Coorg though a lot of them have been done with such bad research that it makes me cringe. The Power line project got a decent amount of publicity due to social media activism especially because of some well-known celebrities sharing and speaking about the protests. It’s disappointing to note that the World's biggest Hockey tournament does not get featured in any main stream Media Channel besides the local vernacular channels. There are some stalwarts from Coorg who have made a mark for themselves in various fields. Besides, there are people from Coorg who are in key positions in various verticals of Media. It’s time to use their popularity to highlight and promote issues. 

I do not have an answer to any of the issues; I just wanted to use this platform to start a discussion with a hope that I as a young Citizen of Coorg make an effort to leave a legacy behind for the future inhabitants of this great land. 

I would like to end with the words of Jane Goodall, "Change happens by listening and then starting a dialogue with the people who are doing something you don't believe is right"




Saturday, January 24, 2015

EDM- What has it done?

India today is at the forefront of the ever growing EDM scene in the World. The last few years have seen the best of International stars descending down to the Country to entertain Fans across all age groups. From Club Gigs to concerts to Festivals, almost all the big names have played across these platforms with some artists making India a must stop destination as a part of their yearly tour calendar. Bangalore with its varied and knowledgeable music listening culture has been fortunate to listen to almost all the acts that has visited India.

I have been fortunate to have been a part of this Bubble as an organiser most times and as an audience on some of the occasions. This is not an article that is going to give my insight into the scene and the Business of it; rather this is an article where I am at my Hypocritical best.

The Growth of EDM has been such that it has nearly replaced Rock & Roll at the moment. The last couple of gigs that I have done has left more questions than answers in my head. Hence, this article more than anything else is just an introspection of those thoughts.

These according to me are the problems affecting the EDM Industry and the Live Music scene on the whole

Promoters and the Glamour:
EDM has grown so fast and big in such a short span of time without even the Foundations being set well. While Rock and Roll in India took more than 20 years of building up with promoters working for a few years to get an Artists down, today, thanks to the internet, the average listener gets to listen to the latest tracks on the same day as the rest of the World. From 10 year olds to 35 year olds, the EDM market has encompassed people across age groups. This coupled with the fact, that it is comparatively cheaper to host an EDM gig has made a promoter of every person with a little money and a few contacts. The want of promoters to push a gig was actually nice when it was restricted to Clubs.

But with big acts starting to tour, the scene had to get bigger which meant big acts, big Crowds, big Production etc. This made some bigger fish want a piece of the action, So people with hardly any experience in the Live Events/ Music space made a beeline for the scene. And sadly, the established players just wanted to cover their backsides and recover their monies; where as the new age Promoters wanted to be a part of it for the glamour. Some of these Promoters were not even involved with the Club scene earlier and hence had no clue on how the business ran except for a few connections and pockets that ran deep. They were willing to pay premium for everything and anything as long as their names and logos stood out. Their Social networking pages were about them mixing with the whose who of the Industry and this made a few other hundred people wanting to be a part of the scene. Little did they know, that the Glamour dies out, the day you enter the Industry. A lot of such new age promoters are already missing from the scene but have left a mark that the rest of us are trying to recover from. Eg: The huge costs that one has to pay for permissions for starters

The Stupid Guest List
Perhaps, EDM's biggest contribution to the Economy has been the birth of Clubs in the Country. From a few Bars & Clubs about 10 years back, we now have a club at every Corner. This ensured that every Club had to have a full house to make any decent Money. And they in turn had to depend upon the Promoters to get the Crowd in. So, more people at a Club, more money for everybody involved,

However, even this changed when the big brands started getting involved and Club Gigs turned into Concert spaces. The Big brands that got these Artists down, obviously want maximum crowds at their gigs and hence have to use local promoters to sell tickets and get in crowds. With a big act every week, the average listener has no money to attend all the gigs. So, it basically boils down to the rapport that the average listener enjoys with the Promoter.

This huge rat race where every promoter is competing with the other in terms of attendance has made Guests lists an inevitable part of every Club Night. Today, we have Local artists promoting their nights on their Facebook page with that hurried last minute announcement on the day of the show, "Hurry. call now to have your name on that limited Guest List". The same Artist will go back to his Facebook page and announce that it was a stellar of a gig and the Crowd was off the hook. I really wonder as to how many of that stellar Crowd actually paid to get in.

The logic in most cases is to fill the Clubs and make money on the Bar which is the ideal solution for a Bar or a Club but the fact that this has carried on to the Live Music space is where the problem is or rather where the Hypocrisy starts.

I don't remember the last time I bought a ticket or paid to enter a Club, Concert or a Festival. I thought I was alone but then figured that almost all my counterparts are on the same boat as me. It has gotten to a stage where its normal to be on the Guest list. And if one like me is either an Event Manager, Artist, Sponsor, promoter or a relative of somebody amongst these, then you just shouldn't pay to enter a gig because its our God Given right to get free entry. It's a shame that one has to pay when one belongs to either of these categories. Now with everybody friends with everybody,we have a unique situation where almost everybody at an event has come in free.

More often than not, the conversations after a gig gets very interesting. You will have the organisers/ promoters rave about how they were 7000 pax in the house when a person whose designed the place will know that there couldn't have been more than 5000 pax. And once everybody has left, you will hear the same promoter say that it was a bad gig and that there were so many people on the Guest list that they didn't make money off the entry. And this is where the Hypocrisy starts. At the very next gig done by somebody else, you will see the same Cry Baby walking in with a few Friends of his through the Guest List. We have created a scene that we want to nurture but where we do not respect the Artist or the Organiser. A scenario where we will not pay to attend a gig, PERIOD!. The last I probably bought a ticket for myself was for Aerosmith and that was some 8 years back. So if my Math is right, there is an entire Generation that does not know what it is to pay a ticket; for most of them, their first live experience was an EDM Concert. The time when the Guest List was Born!


The VIP who does not Pay
The people on the Guest list are slightly better off. They just want to get in free for they just don't want to spend on entry but will blow a lot more at the Bar and I can live with that. (Yes, I'm a hypocrite. I usually have about 15 of my closest Family and Friends on the Guest list by hook or crook).

The biggest problem as I see it is the VIP. In Most cases, the VIP area is a specially demarcated zone for Sponsors, Organisers and some "very special people". Slightly elevated from the rest of the crowd, this zone definitely gives a person a sense of accomplishment and a chance to look down at the lesser Mortals. Drinks and Food at this zone is free of cost and comes with all the luxury possible. The VIP is an aspirational zone. So much so that some people are insulted when they don't get into the VIP zone for it makes them look normal which is not acceptable.

So if an Organiser needs Sponsors, he has to make space in the VIP zone for them. And if he needs permissions, then he needs to keep aside all the VIP tickets and a few of the normal tickets. The VIP is a rather unique species. He will come in a fancy car, wear fancy clothes but cannot afford to spend Rs. 3000/- on a ticket or buy a drink for Rs. 300/- at the Bar. And worse than that is the fact that while at the VIP, one shouldn't dance like there is no tomorrow. That is for the Crowd at the General area, In the VIP, one usually has to have a twitch on their nostril and have their heads above the ceiling. I can come up with a very nice full form for VIP in Tamil but will refrain myself from doing it. (Any Guesses?)

So essentially, an organiser ends up spending money on the Artist, production, permission and on the Stupid VIP who will not pay for entry or spend money at the bar.

In other words, the Organiser/Promoter needs to be a Samaritan willing to please everybody by getting an Artist down and then making sure that everybody is satisfied and hopefully at the end of it make some money

Conclusion:
The EDM bubble is here to stay but its time the stakeholders stop and take a hard look at the Industry. It is no use having stellar acts on one's Company profile if we continue digging a hole that we might never get out of.

My wish list is to see an EDM gig where the production is top notch, where the Artist is a big name, with a VIP zone that has butler service and the works but where every single person has paid for their entry. For if we do not do it now, then we have probably sounded the death knell for the Live Music Industry in India.

However, I still don't know if I am going to pay for my next gig but I do know that I will make an effort to pay and make people understand the importance of paying to attend a live event.

From,
The Hypocrite