Tag Archives: Swami Vivekananda

Sudheendra Kulkarni ends his ‘Express’ column

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Sudheendra Kulkarni, the former left-leaning Sunday Observer and Blitz journalist who became a close aide of former prime minister A.B. Vajpayee and BJP president L.K. Advani, has ended his column in The Indian Express.

Kulkarni, who was jailed for his alleged role in the cash-for-votes scandal and wrote a book on Mahatma Gandhi and the internet upon his release, writes in his farewell piece:

“I always tried to use this valued space to write what I believed in, and on issues of concern and interest to society.

“Although I have long ceased to be a Marxist, there is one maxim of Karl Marx which continues to hold a sway over my mind, and which consciously or subconsciously dictated, each time I sat down to write my column, that I should take this communication with my readers seriously.

“Ideas, Marx says, become “a material force as soon as they have gripped the masses”. And they grip the masses if they are radical (which, to me today, means if they are truthful in the Gandhian sense of Truth).

“To be radical,” Marx adds, “is to grasp the root of the matter. But for man the root is man himself.” Man-making, in the words of Swami Vivekananda, is the mission of all education—and journalism is nothing if it does not regard itself as an educator of society.

“I sincerely attempted through this column to accomplish two things. Firstly, I tried in my own very modest way to participate in the ongoing battle of ideas in Indian society, believing both that good ideas are what India desperately needs and good ideas are what ultimately will triumph.

“Secondly, with the hope that spurs every goal-oriented social-political activist who has access to some media space, I hoped that my words could influence some positive change somewhere in our society, even though this hope is increasingly giving way to the realisation that Gandhiji was right in exhorting that one can influence change in the world only after creating the desired change in oneself.”

Photograph: courtesy NDTV

Read the full article: Thank you

Also read: Do journalists make good politicians?


An oxymoronic pursuit called Spiritual Journalism

Shooting the messenger is the world’s favourite hobby. So, the media is roundly berated by media consumers as the harbinger of bad news. Media personnel have been termed by critics as the “nattering nabobs of negativism“.

We suck the warm, positive air out of this wonderful world the rest of humankind inhabits. We separate the wheat from the chaff, and print the chaff. We lead if it bleeds. We make up, we steal, we distort, we spin, we sin. Etcetera.


Well, it turns out, the criticism is not just not new but a lousy cliche.

At a seminar on the “Significance of Spiritual Journalism”, held under the auspices of Viveka Prabha, the monthly magazine published by the Sri Ramakrishna Mission, Mysore, the president of the Cuddapah mission, Swami Atmavidanandaji, showed just why.

Reports the English eveninger, Star of Mysore:

“Scribes tend to underplay the truth and highlight the negative aspects of the news to gain popularity. That creates a false picture of any incident giving wrong information to the readers.

“Once Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa visited a friend’s house and he was asked to sit on a bench where there was a newspaper lying on it.

“Paramahamsa asked his disciple to remove the newspaper and clean that bench with holy Ganga water.

“Asked for the reason, Paramahamsa said that the newspaper carried only bad and negative news. Therefore, it was necessary to clean the bench and then only sit on it.”

After narrating the incident, Swami Atmavidanandaji, reports the paper, called upon the journalists to imbibe spiritualism in their approach and writings to come out with “true-to-life” news.


Now, how “true-to-life” could this anecdote be?

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa lived from 1836-1886. None of the pictures show him holding or reading a newspaper. How likely is it that in the home of a devotee at least 120 years ago, a friend would have subscribed to a newspaper? Even if he did, were newspapers already in the sordid business of distorting the truth and spreading negative news?

Were all Bengali and English newspapers indulging in scurrilous journalism back then? On every page, every day, everywhere? Or was there a specific story that day that the Swami was aware of? If it was the latter, wasn’t Paramahamsa guilty of branding all newspapers as bad and negative?

And what precisely is “bad”?

How did Paramahamsa know that the disciple had holy Ganga water at home to be produced at that very moment? How was he sure that its miraculous powers extended to wiping the sins committed by newspapers and journalists? Would it work only for all-seeing him, or for the disciple too?

And did he get the holy water and did it work?

Encyclopaedia Britannica reports that “it was about this time [1880s] that Calcutta newspapers and journal articles first referred to Ramakrishna as the Hindu saint or as the Paramahamsa.” Did Paramahamsa express his scepticism of these labels being given to him by “bad and negative” newspapers?

All these are silly, trivial questions, of course, but that is the essence of journalism, asking silly questions and putting “the truth” to the test. As the old saying goes: there is nothing called a silly question, only silly answers. And “Spiritual Journalism” by its very definition is an oxymoron; either it can be spiritual or it can be journalism.

In other words, where specifically has this wondrous story of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa on newspapers been recorded and reported? And by which journalist, writer, biographer?

Tell us another, O Spritual One, and stick to the facts.

Or shift to journalism.

The sad and pathetic decline of Arun Shourie

SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: Arun Shourie is one of the strangest cases on the Indian intellectual landscape if not its most disappointing. A living, walking, moving advertisement of how rabid ideology can addle even the most riveting of minds, stripping it of all its nuance and pretence; its very soul and humanity.


Once a fiery critic of Reliance Industries as editor of the Indian Express, he was happy to deliver a eulogy at Dhirubhai Ambani‘s first death anniversary; even changing the law as minister to benefit Reliance Industries, as alleged by the son of Girilal Jain, the former Times of India editor who held shares in the company, no less.

Once a symbol of middle-class integrity and probity for various scams unearthed his watch, his stint as disinvestment minister was pockmarked with allegation after allegation (although an unattributed Wikipedia entry claims he was ranked “the most outstanding minister of the Atal Behari Vajpayee government” by 100 CEOs).

A slow, scholarly, Chaplinesque demeanour hides a cold, clinical mind that piles the rhetoric and the stereotypes on the poor, the marginalised and the disenfranchised while taking up high faluting positions on terrorism, governance, internal security and such like, through long, meandering essays whose opacity could put cub journalists to shame.

And, as always, selectively twisting and turning the facts to fit his preconceived conclusion, and hoping no one will notice.

To paraphrase Ramachandra Guha, Shourie has become the Arundhati Roy of the right:

“The super-patriot and the anti-patriot use much the same methods. Both think exclusively in black and white. Both choose to use a 100 words when 10 will do. Both arrogate to themselves the right to hand out moral certificates. Those who criticise Shourie are characterised as anti-national, those who dare take on Roy are made out to be agents of the State. In either case, an excess of emotion and indignation drowns out the facts.”

But what should disappoint even his most ardent fans, and there are many young journalists, is how easily and effortlessly a pacifist penman has regressed from “a concerned citizen employing his pen as an effective adversary of corruption, inequality and injustice” (as his Magsaysay Award citation read) to a hate-spewing ideological warrior with fire blazing through his nostrils.

A son of a Gandhian who now openly advocates “two eyes for an eye and a whole jaw for one tooth” with barely any qualms.


At a series of lectures in Ahmedabad on Saturday, Shourie bared his fangs some more:

“India is still a passive country when it comes to taking a stand against terrorism….

It should, in fact, take an extremist stance and must prove that it can also create a Kashmir-like situation in Pakistan.

There are many places like Baluchistan, where a Kashmir-like situation can be created but, “hum abhi bhi Panchsheel ke pujari hain (We still worship the tenets of Panchsheel)”….

“Pakistan has been successfully carrying out destruction in India for the last two decades and has still managed to escape problems, while India on every occasion has failed to present a unified response to terrorism and has suffered as a consequence….”


An eye for an eye? Two eyes for an eye? A jaw for a tooth?

In the name of Vivekananda, should India do unto Pakistan what Pakistan has done to us? Is this a sign of vision on the part of a man who some believe should be the next prime minister, or tunnel vision?

Is such barely disguised hatred and vengeance, hiding behind vedas and upanishads, going to make the subcontinent a better place to live in? Should the people of Pakistan, the poor, the marginalised, the disenfranchised, pay the price for the sins of the generals?

Should a great, ancient civilisation become a cheap, third-rate, neighbourhood bully?

Has Arun Shourie lost more than his soul and humanity?

Has Arun Shourie just lost it?

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu Business Line

Also read: How Shilpa Shetty halted the Chinese incursions

Crossposted on churumuri