Posts Tagged ‘A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’

How Shekhar Gupta busted the ISRO spy ‘scam’

29 September 2012

The ISRO spy scandal of the early 1990s has come to an end with the exoneration of S. Nambi Narayanan, the scientist (wrongly) accused by the Malayalam and later national media of selling secrets of the satellite organisation to a couple of Maldivian women.

The son of the then Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao‘s son too was merrily reported during the media mayhem.

Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta writes of how he came to report the story in India Today, which was one of the few mainstream media organisations at the time which did not fall for the artlessly woven fiction.

It was towards the end of 1994, when Rao’s minority government was tottering in its third year that the story broke. It was then hailed as the biggest spy story, the most damaging security breach ever in India’s history and it looked as if the entire Indian space and missile programme had been exposed, and destroyed from within, for just a little bit of free sex and quite a bit of money.

I wasn’t directly covering or handling the story yet, but was as outraged as any fellow Indian would have been.

It was in that period that on one of my frequent visits to Chennai (then Madras) I found myself sitting next to a prominent scientist of ISRO pedigree (let’s not name him just now). In-flight conversation veered inevitably to the ISRO spy case.

He did not engage, and was careful not to say yes or no to anything.

His reserve broke only once, when I said, how could such senior scientists be keeping thousands of such classified documents (the police case said 75 kg) in their homes and be selling them to India’s enemies?

He looked into my eyes, and said, deadpan: “ISRO is an open organisation, my friend. At ISRO, we do not classify anything.”

Then what is this case all about, I asked.

“You go and find out,” he said, “You used to be an investigative reporter, I believe,” he said….

The result of that long journalistic investigation, ultimately, was a six-page investigation published in the January 31, 1995 issue of India Today, headlined, ‘The Great Espionage Mess’. Three brilliant colleagues worked with me on that investigation, Jacob George in Cochin, M.G. Radhakrishnan in Trivandrum and Saritha Rai in Bangalore).

Our conclusion was that what was hailed as a great espionage story was in fact a shocking frame-up. It was full of fabrications and inconsistencies….

A couple of years after the story was published… the same distinguished scientist walked up to me. I folded my hands in polite namaste, but he surprised me by poking my chest to the left with his forefinger.

And then he said: “What you did on the ISRO story was like applying balm to our wounded hearts. We had built that organisation and that rocket project with our blood and sweat. You people helped save it from being destroyed.”

That scientist, if you haven’t guessed already, was A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

Read the full story: ISRO spy case test

When Shekhar Gupta met Abdul Kalam

16 June 2012

As the prospect of a “contest” for the President looms between the UPA nominee Pranab Mukherjee and the former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta writes of the latter in his weekly column:

“I wrote two National Interest articles more critical of Abdul Kalam than any you have seen anywhere…. The second was published when he had been named candidate for president. That Saturday morning I got a call from Brajesh Mishra, then the national security advisor (NSA).

Arrey bhai kya likhte rehte hain aap, Kalam sahib pareshan hain,” he said and asked if I’d go and have coffee with Kalam on Monday at 11 am in his Vigyan Bhavan office.

“I walked in dutifully, a little bit apprehensive, rehearsing my usual defence. Kalam greeted me most warmly. Inquired after my wife’s health. They were both regular evening walkers in South Delhi’s Siri Fort Sports Complex.

“Then he gave me coffee and asked if I had read his India 2020: A Vision for the New Millennium. He gave me a copy and fondly signed it. I was still waiting to hear his complaints. But he instead asked if I would be inclined to know more about his vision, even participate in his project.

“I need brilliant, patriotic minds like you,” he said.

“I made some embarrassed thanks-you-are-so-kind-but-how-can-I type of noises. He refilled my coffee and said more nice things about me, my writing and my views. Then he topped it with: “Shekharji, I have never found anything on which I disagree with you.”

Now this is not the script I had come rehearsed for. But I was now figuring the man had a politician’s tact, thick skin and magnanimity. He would make a pretty solid politician, I said to myself. I was never wrong on that one.”

Read the full article: National Interest

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: What’s so sacrosanct about Abdul Kalam?

India’s greatest poet since the Bhakti movement?

8 September 2008

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: As Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw showed, if you have to die, you must die somewhere in the vicinity of Delhi, so that the movers, shakers and brokers of the capital can easily assemble to “bid a tearful farewell”.

If you write a book, you must write do so somewhere between south and central Delhi, as Presidents (Abdul Kalam), former Union ministers (Lal Krishna Advani or Jaswant Singh), South Block mandarins (Pavan K. Varma, Vikas Swarup, Navtej Sarna and Nirupama Rao) have shown.

For, if you do, Jnanpith Award winning authors, Bollywood actors and lyricists will crawl out of the woodwork to read and recite your magnum opus. And the media, otherwise snapping like mad dogs at your feet, will gratefully roll over and allow itself to be given a nice little rub on its bloated underbelly.

Take the case of Kapil Sibal‘s ‘I Witness: Partial Observations‘ published by IndiaInk (Roli Books).

It’s a collection of 84 “poems”, mostly composed by the Union science and technology minister’s own admission “on the cellphone during long flights”. What you and I call SMS.

But looking at the red-carpet treatment the putative poet’s book has received from our supposedly “cynical media”, it would seem the greatest poems since the Bhakti movement have been penned on a Blackberry in the business class of British Airways before the babes brought in the booze.

# On NDTV 24×7, Sonia Singh assembles a half-hour show on the politician as poet.

# On CNBC-TV18, Karan Thapar, who otherwise eats politicians for dinner, actually looks lovingly into the eyes of the new prodigy on the block.

# In Outlook, there is a two-page profile of the “nano poet”, with the breathtaking line, “Bio-tech: scientific surgeon’s knife/ genetic investigator’s dream”.

# On NDTV 24×7, Shekhar Gupta does a full Walk the Talk with the “peripatetic poet”, and follows it up with a full-page of excerpts in The Indian Express.

On top of the specials, there is the routine too.

In Bangalore, The Times of India gleefully records the presence of actor Waheeda Rehman and Biocon’s Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw at the release.

In Delhi, The Hindustan Times grimly documents Sibal’s self-proclaimed “natural affinity for rhymes”.

Sure, the media’s duty is to shine the light on fresh new talent. Sure, as Sibal said in Bangalore: “We (politicians) too are sensitive. We too have feelings like any other ordinary mortals.” And sure, there is an element of surprise, if not an undercurrent of fun.

But where is the balance?

Do gems such as these qualify as poetry:

# A constitutional/guarantee?/No panacea/for inequality

# I never have understood/why so many of us/have to die

# TRPs of channels,/soap operas,/get hits for you./News that matters/serious content,/of limited value

# The Left has suffered for a lifetime now, of an ailment they can’t diagnose The symptom however that troubles them most is that they can’t see beyond their nose

Is this a book of poems, or the first book of SMSes?

Vijay Nambisan, a published poet, writes in The Hindu:

“Kapil Sibal is entirely justified in referring to these pieces as ‘partial observations’. But neither he, nor Shashi Tharoor on the back cover, nor even the more fulsome front inside-flap copy-writer, is justified in calling them poems.”

Maybe, if the media went about being so serious, it would be a very boring media. Maybe, there is a some laughs to be had out of all this just as we laugh at Lalu Prasad‘s chalisa. Maybe, this is just desserts for charming Mr Sibal, a fine lawyer with a fine sense of humour.

Maybe, it’s a publicity coup for his publishers. Maybe, it’s a small price to pay for editors and publishers who want to be on the right of Sibal. Just good PR, nothing lost in humouring a Union minister.

But…

But would a fresh young poet in Delhi, especially one aged 60, get such play in our media? Would a fresh young poet in some other part of the country, get such play? Would an out-of-power politician get such play? Would an out-of-power, non-Delhi, non-English poet get it?

Above all, is this stuff even halfway good?

Or just page 3 pap?

As Indrajit Hazra wrote in a piece accompanying a “review” in the Hindustan Times:

From the shores of a droll ministry
comes outpourings from a head.
Now, if it wasn’t Kapil Sibal
we would have left them unread….

Sudha Murthy, the wife of the Infosys chief mentor, N.R. Narayana Murthy, recently complained to a wellknown short story writer that the media wasn’t taking enough note of her literary output.

“I have been writing short stories for 50 years and nobody is taking note of me. And here is a rich but bored housewife who is writing short stories as a hobby demanding it as a matter of right,” the short story writer told her son out of exasperation.

India’s celebrities, it now appears, are secretly hoping that their every fetish and fancy be recorded for posterity. Funnily, it seems, a celebrity-driven media is unquestioningly falling for it.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News (digitally altered)

Also read: How many poems can fetch a poet Rs 8.5 crore?

A box of poems is mightier than a sten-gun

Da Ra Bendre on why nitrogen is nonsense

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