Ron Hansen gets it ….

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WHY I WILL NOT VOTE FOR MY OLD “FRIEND” TRACY FISHER – over $250,000 of our kids’ money wasted ….

Recycle Tracy Fisher

President Harry S. Truman once said, “The Buck Stops Here”.  The phrase refers to the notion that the President has to make the decisions and accept the ultimate responsibility for those decisions.

Based on this, for what I am about to tell you, the buck stops with Board of Trustees President Tracy Fisher.

In a nutshell, Coppell ISD interfered in my child custody matter.  Coppell ISD did so by getting its attorneys to file a Petition in Intervention in my child custody case.  According to an Administrative Law Judge based in Austin, he had never seen this type of action by a school district, interfering in a custody matter, in his 25 years on the bench.  And that too regarding a trivial dispute over how many emails I should be allowed to send (then) Assistant Superintendent, Brad Hunt (see link at the bottom for details).

Thus far, Coppell ISD has spent more than $250,000 in legal fees in this matter (based on information obtained via Open Records and estimated to date).  This figure will continue to grow as the legal matter is still ongoing and could reach the half a million dollar mark before the legal matter concludes.  This is money that should be spent educating our children.

To put this amount in perspective, $250,000 could have paid the salaries of 5 Coppell ISD teachers for a year

Why is “Coppell ISD” taking money that should be spent on our teachers and our children and handing it over to a law firm?

We all know “Coppell ISD” is not a real person.  So, who made the decision to give Coppell ISD’s lawyers a blank check to spend unlimited amounts of money to interfere in this private matter? Who made the decision to divert sacred public education funds to a private law firm?

There are only 2 suspects – the Administration (headed by Brad Hunt) and the Board of Trustees (headed by Tracy Fisher).

I have known both Brad Hunt and Tracy Fisher for almost a decade and have had excellent relations with both of them.  I even regard Tracy Fisher as a friend! 

I have repeatedly tried to reason with them to stop this madness, reach a settlement (non-monetary, involving just resolving some communication issues between me and Coppell ISD personnel) and end the bleeding (of dollars) from Coppell ISD – and from Coppell families and taxpayers.

Amazingly, both of them, in addition to contending that they are not responsible for making these type of legal decisions, also act blithely unconcerned that massive amounts of public funds intended for our children are being wasted

So, from the look of it, the lawyers are now in charge of Coppell ISD and essentially have a free rein to bill at their own discretion with little to no oversight from district management or the Board of Trustees.

Then what can be done to stop this continuing bleeding of taxpayer dollars which should be spent on education, not litigation?

For the solution, once again I go back to Harry S. Truman’s saying, “the buck stops with the President”.  In this case, whether she will accept responsibility or not, the buck stops with Coppell ISD Board of Trustees President Tracy Fisher.  And since she seemingly has no clue how to stop this hemorrhaging, she has to go and make room for someone else who can take charge of the situation and stop this obscene waste of our tax dollars, money that has been diverted from our children’s education.

That is why I am dumping my old friend Tracy Fisher and will not be voting for her in this coming election.

Post Script:  If those of who have read this far and are curious as to what in world happened between me and the powers that be at Coppell ISD that led to this situation, this link should give you an idea: http://venkyvenkatraman.com/2017/04/my-secretary-brad/

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Called in during KERA program THINK on “Inside The World Of Competitive Spelling”

For the past two decades, the Scripps National Spelling Bee has been dominated by Indian-American competitors. Vauhini Vara was once a champion speller herself. She joins us to talk about why these youngsters make such formidable competitors – and about the role the contest plays in their assimilation into American culture. Her story “Bee-Brained” appears in the new issue of Harper’s.

I called in and asked a question of the guest Vauhini Vara.  You can find my question and her response starting at the 39th minute in the audio file above.

 

 

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My secretary, Brad ….

How did a grievance complaint against a Coppell Independent School District (“CISD”) tennis coach end up making CISD’s School Superintendent my de-facto secretary resulting in a lawsuit by CISD against me?  Here is the unbelievable tale …

Many years ago, a tennis coach in a Coppell Middle School sent me some rude text messages and I complained to the school Principal.  When she declined to take any action against him, I decided to file a grievance with CISD, confident that the controversy would get resolved pretty expeditiously since it appeared such a black and white case.

CISD has a grievance procedure which can be found in http://www.coppellisd.com/Page/13790 .  I utilized this process to file my grievance.  What followed was an eye opener.  There are 3 levels to the procedure, the final level being a hearing with the CISD Board.  At every level I got what appeared to be prima facie a fair hearing.  However, each time the result was the same, a terse “DENIED” with no explanation as to the rationale for the denial.  This was pretty frustrating for me since even in court one can ask the judge to explain his/her ruling by filing an appropriate Motion.

I used the grievance procedure a few more times on other matters over the years with pretty much identical results.  Eventually, CISD took a step that from my standpoint was a clear retaliation.  The new Superintendent Mike Waldrip had just taken office and within a month or so he ordered that all future communication between CISD and me had to go through the Assistant Superintendent, Brad Hunt.  I know for a fact that was his personal instruction since I got a copy of the email (via an Open Records request) he sent to that effect.

That meant that even if I had the simplest of question of any teacher or coach regarding anything to do with my daughters, the Assistant Superintendent had to be the middle man.  To his credit, Brad Hunt was very cooperative and responsive.  Clearly this was not his decision and many times it appeared that he might be OK with revising the arrangement but then he would come back saying nothing could be changed.  Mike Waldrip obviously was the one who was calling the shots.

The result was hundreds of emails between me and Brad Hunt over a period of several years – that would not seem a whole lot if sent to a bunch different teachers, coaches, administrators, etc, but a substantial work load if it one person was going to be the middleman and receive/respond to all emails. In effect, Mike Waldrip turned Brad Hunt into my personal secretary!  And while expressing my frustration with this convoluted arrangement about a week or so ago, I referred to Brad Hunt as my secretary while sending a “prohibited” email to a teacher.  When Brad Hunt acted terribly offended to my referring to him as my secretary (as if an Assistant Superintendent was an upper caste person and the secretary was a lower caste!), I sent an email to him stating “Based on the role you are playing vis-à-vis my communication with the school, whether you like it or not, you have de-facto become my secretary” and asked how much was he getting paid compared to his secretary.

Apparently that incensed the powers-that-be so much that CISD suddenly suspended a scheduled Level 2 grievance hearing and filed a “Petition in Intervention” with the court on March 31, essentially intervening in my personal child custody matter and asking the court “to place reasonable limitations on Respondent’s communications with Coppell ISD through Brad Hunt”.

Bottom line – being a third year law student, I know how to respond effectively to this lawsuit without incurring any costs but CISD will be paying its lawyers thousands of (our) tax payer dollars, presumably to teach me a lesson (which I am confident that they will not succeed in doing) – a total waste of money – and not at all befitting of CISD’s supposed slogan “We are all one team” implying students, parents, teachers and administrators all work together for the larger good of the school system.

To conclude, unless Mike Waldrip has gone rogue and got CISD’s lawyers to file a lawsuit against me without informing the Board, our elected officials are (most likely) involved in this matter – in which case, clearly some fresh blood with some common sense is needed on the Board and hopefully that will come about in next month’s Board elections.

Postscript: while researching for this article I found out that Mike Waldrip is paid a salary of $254,616.00, Brad Hunt is paid $153,591.00 and his secretary (whom he shares with two other big wigs at CISD) is paid just $43,862.08.  I would say making someone who is paid $153,591.00 perform secretarial functions is a sheer waste of CISD’s resources and the blame for that lies squarely on the shoulders of Mike Waldrip. The question is who will take him to task and bell the cat to end this abuse of personnel and resources?

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Excerpt from my Criminal Law Final Exam

Realizing that it has been quite awhile since I blogged about anything, I figured an easy way to kick start my writing was to reproduce my answer (with some minor edits and inclusion of a picture) to a question posed in my Criminal Law final exam from my previous semester at law school (where, surprisingly, an ultra liberal professor gave me a good grade for this response!).

Select at least one area of concern or weakness in the American criminal justice system that was discussed during the course of the semester. After you identify the problem, propose potential solutions to this problem, drawing from cases, readings, and class discussions as well as your own life experience.

For this question, I am picking an issue currently in the news, that is the death of black men in encounters with the police.

Firstly, let me speak from own life experience.  I came to this country some 30 years ago from a country where the police was generally reviled as corrupt and and inept.  They were poorly paid and trained and hence easily susceptible to being bribed.  People who had no “connections” could easily be subjected to all kinds of atrocities during encounters with the police and while in police custody.

So when I first landed in NY city and the very police officer I encountered addressed me as “Sir”, I was quite amazed. The respectful manner that the police officers in the US behave towards law abiding citizens still surprises me everyday. And, I am yet to have a negative encounter with a police officer in any of the states in which I have lived in the past 30 years.

So I  have to admit that l am prejudiced in favor of the police in America (especially the one below)!

Officer Josh Jackson

And so the current piling on the police in America, depicting them as out of control, racists, is somewhat hard for me to swallow.

Let’s take some of the cases that have been recently in the news.

First the Michael Brown case.  This “kid” had just assaulted a store owner and stole from the store.  Then he walks out and minutes later he is shot and killed by a police officer.  The initial account that he had his hands up and was trying to surrender to the police officer turn out to be false and it appears that he may have charged the police officer who showed some signs of injury from the encounter.  The policeman was not indicted and walked free.

Next the the Eric Garner case.  Here this person was apparently selling contraband cigarettes for which the police attempted to arrest him and he resisted arrest. While trying to subdue him, he was apparently put on a choke hold (an incident that was videotaped by a member of the public) and subsequently died. A grand jury would not indict the police officer.

Finally, the current case of Freddie Gray.  This was a person with a long criminal history who suffered fatal injuries after being arrested and while being transported in a police van.  After days of rioting, six police officers have been charged with various crimes.  Of the six, three are black, three are white – and one is a woman (black).  If remains to be seen whether they will be proven guilty as charged or whether they will walk free.

The common factor that I see in all of the above cases is that none of the individuals who had encounters with the police were exactly choir boys. But when the media gets into a frenzy, they make each of them look like they were fantastic, blameless, paragons of virtue!

Having made the above points, I will admit that there is an occasional bad apple in every profession – and the police cannot be an exception because they are also human beings like you and me.

But overall, they are doing a thankless job.  Trying to keep the peace in high crime neighborhoods where the perpetrators and the victims are both black.  They have no control over the social dynamics that produces such a dysfunctional society but they are left to deal with the consequences.

Clearly we do not want to demoralize the police force to a point where they stop vigorously policing areas which have maximum crime and where is the greatest need for their services but where there is also the greatest probability of having fatal encounters with black men.

The solution, according to me, has to be technology driven.

Body cameras on every police officer (which cannot be turned off by the police officer) will ensure that every single thing that a police officer does while on duty will be on record.  So there will no longer be a he-said, she-said, they- said after any fatal encounter between the police and the public.

And after fatal encounter, the video information should be made public within 24 hours.  If it appears from the video that prima facie the officer might have done something inappropriate,  he should be immediately transferred to desk duty till an impartial investigation is conducted by an outside agency after which the police officer should be given due process and punished if guilty or exonerated if found innocent.

The whole process should be completely transparent so that police officers can continue to do their job effectively while also being aware that there will be definite consequences for any inappropriate behavior.

And if these solutions are implemented, hopefully, next time the there is a police shooting of a black man, the public will trust the process rather than going out into the street and rioting for “justice”.

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Land of the free and the home of the brave?

FreenBrave

Growing up in India when we had one radio station (All India Radio) and one TV station (Doordarshan) both of which mostly served up government propaganda, we used to listen to the BBC to get the “real” news (and I must confess I tried to model my English on some of those great newsreaders!).

During those days we marveled at the freedom that Americans seemed to have to say whatever they pleased without any fear or favor.  We saw them even toppling a president (Nixon) whose Watergate cover-up was worse than the crime.  Truly the land of the free and the home of the brave, we thought.

A couple of recent incidents made me wonder whether America today was that much different from India of the past when it came to freedom of speech and expression (guaranteed by the First Amendment to the US Constitution).  And following are those episodes.

My multi-talented daughter, Sakshi, even when only 12 years old, combined her skill using technology and her flair for drama to make and post on YouTube several short, entertaining videos on various topics – you can see one of them at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkUMpvzEwB0 ).

Then in December 2012 she made a fateful video that brought her video producing “career” to an abrupt end.  Below is the video she posted on Youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-wbwR209Pk&feature=youtu.be

But oops – there is no video – because it got “censored”.  And why did that happen?  In that video (posted in a Youtube account controlled by her mother), Sakshi had depicted one of her elementary school teachers (without naming either school or teachers) as crazy enough to have mood swings and verbally abuse the children and another teacher putting her feet on the children and twisting their arms during PE class.

When the video was first posted, I was in India along with my mother and she and I had a good laugh at the video which we thought was clearly a parody (like a Saturday Night Live skit).  But what followed was unbelievable.  An EMail from the principal, Pam Mitchell, asking that the video be immediately removed and hinting at dire consequences if that was not done.  And in the course of arguing that the school could not demand removal of a video that did not mention the name of the school nor the teachers and was not made during school hours nor using school equipment, I filed an Open Records Request and found a whole army of school officials (including Assistant Superintendent, Brad Hunt), seemingly alarmed by the video, were writing conspiratorial EMails to each other about how to deal with the “situation”.  Clearly this video was not being treated as a childish parody – which suggested to me that something more serious was going on.  Or possibly the cover-up was just worse than the crime – shades of Watergate!

Cutting to the chase, Sakshi caved in to the pressure (despite my total support, telling her to stand her ground) and wrote a letter of apology to all and sundry and the video was taken down.  And, as I feared, Sakshi did not make another video in this series – and her budding video “career” came to an abrupt end.

Fast forward to several years later.  Sakshi, now several years older, is in Newspaper class where she is a “reporter” writing articles online on various topics.  One of them is titled “Kids in Asian families forced on to unwanted career paths” which as the title suggests is not flattering towards “Asian parents” in general and me (as her father) in particular.  In her bid to make a point and add some drama, she had crossed over from reporting/opining  on facts to writing fiction – and here is the link to that article posted on the school’s website:

http://www.coppellstudentmedia.com/2014/09/12/kids-in-asian-families-forced-on-to-unwanted-career-paths/comment-page-1/#comment-3274

But oops again – there is nothing there!  So what happened this time?

This is the sequence of events.  I posted a comment disagreeing with Sakshi’s contentions.  Sakshi promptly deleted my comment.  I took this up with her teacher suggesting that if any of his student “reporters” wrote and posted online anything controversial, then readers should be given an opportunity to respond on the same page and disagree.  However, rather than allowing that, the teacher promptly had the article itself deleted.  And that, in my opinion, was a pity because what could have been teaching moment was lost and Sakshi suffered the ignominy of one more her products (resulting from some hard and dedicated work) being “censored”.

And the irony of all this is when I brought this article to the attention to Brad Hunt (the Assistant Superintendent, who behind the scenes was doing his best to get Sakshi’s video deleted because “it would upset the teachers who are sensitive people”), his comment surprisingly was “Sakshi is a strong writer.  I think given that this article is in the “opinions” section that it should be treated as such, her opinion.  “.

Apparently what is not good for the geese is good for the gander!

And the unfortunate lesson Sakshi probably learnt from all this is that she lives in the land of the (not so) free and the home of the (not that) brave!!

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Small town politics in the USA …

Coppell Parade

I wanted to write something about democracy the day after Independence Day in the US and what came to mind was a posting I made on Facebook a couple of months ago during local election season and the reaction that resulted from it – see the string in its entirety below (except for some expletive-laden comments by, strangely enough, a couple of women, which the moderator deleted).

To give this some context, one of my American friends recently remarked to me that small town elections here tend to be the nastiest since, unlike in State or National elections, the candidates are well-known to the populace and any criticism is taken personally.  Example: people can call Obama and Bush and kinds of names and attribute to them actions that they may or may not have been responsible for and it is highly unlikely anyone will even bat an eyelid, leave alone come after you in person.  But try the same about someone running for City Council or Mayor in a small town, and all hell could break loose!

Finally, I cannot conclude without commenting one aspect of elections – voter turnout.  A small town election, despite all the noise by rabid supporters on either side, could result in a turn out of less than 10% (and less than 5% for run-off elections).  This is not necessarily because the voters are apathetic to the process – in my opinion, it is just a message from the majority of the electorate that “life is pretty good  and we are pretty satisfied with the status-quo and we really don’t care who wins”.  So to get at least their base to turn out, politicians have to portray a situation which implies that if they are not elected, the sky will fall down and the world as we know it will come to an end – so they resort to a host of negative ads and messages that increases the nastiness – and possibly demotivates many who don’t think they have a dog in the fight to come out to the polls.

 

Given that every politician who gets elected at any level (from local to national) engages in questionable tactics (including the current Mayor in the last election), I find it somewhat hypocritical for people (especially politicians) to pile onto Burrows for his (supposed) fake endorsements. (I think it would have been smarter for him to claim that he was endorsed by George W. Bush, a fact which no one could have verified one way or another!).

Anyway, Burrows’ only prior claim to fame was that he ran against me for the President of Coppell Republican Club and lost last year. However, the exposure he is getting in this forum of over a 1000 people will probably turn him into a minor celebrity and he will get the name recognition that he was missing earlier. Imagine, if you knew neither candidate personally and you were standing in the election booth having to pick between Yingling (whose name sounds vaguely foreign) and Burrows (whose name sounds solidly American) which one would you pick? Just due to this xenophobia among a large section of our community (remember the fate of Akula and Guduru?), the supposed underdog might end up prevailing on election day.

Sometimes ignoring your unknown opponent might be a better tactic than trying to publicly tear him down ….

LikeLike ·  · 
  • Michelle LaFountain Be advised that Nancy Yingling is NOT tearing down her opponent. She has not said anything about his tactics, his letters, or his fake endorsements. 
    Those of us who are aware of his tactics, letters and fake endorsements are the ones making the voters aware of his deceit. Not Nancy. So do not say anything like that again unless you have proof of her saying such things (and I am quite certain you don’t). 

    AND enough already with the comments about her last name, the origins of her last name and the solidly American sound of the candidate who is practicing deceit. 

    Any comments that considered demeaning, racist, or untrue are grounds to be banned from this group. 
    This is your only warning.
  • Venky Venkatraman Michelle – I am one of those who has endorsed Nancy – I have not said that she is the one attacking Burrows – but others are. As far as being a “racist” is concerned – that is pretty laughable since I am a “foreigner” with a “weird” name myself – so your statement makes no sense. Either this is a forum where political posts are allowed or they are not. And if it is allowed, you cannot censor one side and promote the other. And when you allow political debate, you should expect that there will be some controversial postings.
  • Michelle LaFountain It appeared to me that your last statement “Sometimes ignoring your unknown opponent might be a better tactic than trying to publicly tear him down ….” sounds like you are saying that she is publicly trying to tear him down.
    May 9 at 2:24pm · Edited · Like · 1
  • Michelle LaFountain and we are not attacking Burrows, we are stating confirmed truths about his untruths. that is not an attack, it is stating truth.
  • Venky Venkatraman Being in touch with Nancy, I believe her approach has been to focus on her merits (which appear to be substantial) and indeed “ignore” the opponent. I know Burrows as well and I have no doubt what you are stating is the truth. My point is that it may be unnecessary or may be even counterproductive to do so.
  • Michelle LaFountain except for the voters who only have his infamous letter as their only information……
  • Venky Venkatraman Nobody takes those type of letters seriously – all such campaign letters go straight from my post box to the recycle bin.
    May 9 at 2:33pm · Edited · Like · 1
  • Michelle LaFountain You may not take his letters seriously, but low information voters who only know what someone sends them MAY believe it. Kind of like the commercial where the charming idiot says “they can’t put it on the Internet if it is not true”. 
    Out here
  • Venky Venkatraman You make a valid point. Sure both strategies (“ignore” or “fight back”) have their pros and cons and are situation dependent. I am just a commentator in this matter – not a strategy advisor for either side. Hopefully you can see the perspective I was coming from when I wrote this posting.
  • Scott Spray Venky, are you suggesting that Akula or Guduru lost because of their ethnicity? Seems that you are painting with a very broad brush and assuming if a minority candidate loses, those that voted for their opponents are xenophobes or racist. 

    That’s like the Obama supporters that claim those that oppose him or his policies are racist.
  • Venky Venkatraman Scott – good to hear from you after quite awhile – hope you are doing well. With respect to your comment, I never said that EVERYONE who did not vote them were racists (some might have just thought they were idiots!) but based on comments I heard from some that “if this Indian guy wins, we will move out of Coppell” suggests that there might be quite a few around. Given that a bunch of white people voted for me to serve as President of CRC last year, I can hardly say (nor would I ever suggest or imply) that everyone in Coppell is a racist. Right?
  • Amy Schuh Venky, if a voter makes charges of out-right lying, its not hypocrisy.
  • Scott Asplund Venky, if a voter makes charges of out-right lying, its not hypocrisy.
    Karen Selbo Hunt Mr. Venkatraman, 
    I normally do not post on Facebook. However, since you personally call me out AND did not agree to communicate in another way – I feel a need. 
    I know we have met, but I do not think you know me. I beg to differ in your assumption “Given that every politician who gets elected at any level (from local to national) engages in questionable tactics (including the current Mayor in the last election)”. 
    I believe there are good solid candidates and elected officials that refuse to engage in “questionable tactics”. They concentrate on their personal credentials and refuse to drop to negative campaigning. I am offended that you would make such a blanket statement and, specifically include me in that category.
  • Venky Venkatraman Karen – you sent an EMail via CRC asking for my EMail id – I responded via CRC that you were already connected to me on FB and could reach me, privately, via DIRECT MESSAGING (which is as good as EMail) – so your statement “did not agree to communicate in another way” is not true. With respect to including you in the “blanket statement” – that was based on the report during the last election that some illegal signs supporting you were put out on the night before the election (which was even reported in the local newspaper). And I know for a fact that your opponent (Marcia, I believe) who I met in person right after the election was pretty upset about it but told me that she did not want to dispute the results since she just wanted to move on. So although it appears you are doing a good job as the Mayor, you, unfortunately, cannot change facts from the past.
  • Karen Selbo Hunt Like I said….I do not “do” facebook
  • Venky Venkatraman OK – Karen – I guess you mean you will “post” on FB but do not “message” on FB – but since I really like you, I will EMail you with my phone number and you can either call or EMail and clarify this issue, if you desire.
  • Karen Selbo Hunt No one, including you, ever asked me about the origin of those signs ….but I had nothing to do with those signs. Do not know who put them out, whether the person or persons were “for me” or “against me trying to make a problem”. 
    I personally would have never endorsed or allowed those signs to be put out because the statement on the signs was not true. 
    Facts are facts….but half truths are still half true.
  • Venky Venkatraman I did not realize neither the Citizen’s Advocate or Marcia questioned you directly about the signs. I believe what you are stating now but by the same token, Burrows can claim that Matt, Bennett, Huffines and Bush all endorsed him but they appear to have “forgot” they did – so it is not his fault! Then may be we should just take his word as well and let him be?
  • Jennifer Jenkins Braafladt I have known Karen Selbo Hunt for 15 years and I believe that she is not only an amazing woman of character, but also a great example of an ethical politician.
  • Bennett Ratliff Venky, for the record, I have endorsed Nancy Yingling for City Council and I have NOT ever endorsed Mr. Burrows.  Do not imply or otherwise infer that I may have done otherwise.  Thank you.
    Venky Venkatraman Et tu, Bennett? Now if George W. Bush also clarifies/withdraws his endorsement, then Burrows will be really cooked!
  • Bennett Ratliff Venky, are you trying to imply that I may have “withdrawn” some prior endorsement that is patently untrue.  I have know and supposed Nancy Yingling since before she filed for office and any implication otherwise is not accurate.
    Venky Venkatraman Alright, Bennett, take it easy, that was in jest. I know for a fact that none of the mentioned individuals (including yourself) EVER endorsed him.
  • Venky Venkatraman The point of my post is that he appears to have little going for him and so he is doing what he needs to do try and win – otherwise why even bother to run. I hope this is the last word on this topic. Thanks!
  • Venky Venkatraman Interesting choice of words, Tara. I might need some guidance from the moderator on the use of expletives in this forum before I can respond to your colorful comment suitably.
  • Cherie Spears Walker This is most certainly NOT the last word on this subject, Venky Venkatraman. Having “little going for you” is no reason to dream up endorsements. I have two emails from Don Huffine’s office specifically stating that Thomas Burrows does not have his endorsement and had been advised/reminded of that fact. Do you not really know any of these people whom you are talking about? You surely don’t know our mayor or you would not be making such absurd statements and accusations.
    May 13 at 8:16pm · Edited · Like · 2
  • Venky Venkatraman Actually, I do know most of the people that I am talking about. I have had a private email exchange with Karen Selbo Hunt about my reference to her and so I am not revisiting that matter. Finally, the election is over and the fat lady has sung and the protagonists have long taken their signs and gone home – so I would think it is time for the rest of us to move on as well.
  • Venky Venkatraman I don’t know you and you don’t know me – so let’s not make this personal – thanks!

Problems with Subscribe2 resolved?

After my last posting (http://venkyvenkatraman.com/2014/05/whats-in-a-name/) I realized after several weeks that the notification EMail that usually gets sent whenever I have posted something new apparently went out to just a few of my subscribers.

Ever since then I have been trying to debug this problem with no luck.  Today I sent a Test EMail from my blog and several of you responded back confirming you got it.  So it appears that this problem may now be resolved.

So in case you did not receive a notification when I posted my last blog item (‘What’s in a name?”) and receive this one, I hope will read, and as usual, I welcome any comment.

 

 

 

 

What’s in a name?

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” – William Shakespeare.

So does it really matter that the names of large number of cities and states of India got changed?  This is a topic that I have felt strongly about ever since I was a kid.   And recently my long dormant feelings were reactivated while watching, of all things, CSPAN, where I heard Justice Antonin Scalia (of the US Supreme Court) flatly refusing to refer to Bombay as Mumbai (see video):

When I was growing up in what was then internationally known as “Bombay”, it already had different names in various regional languages of India.  It was called “Mumbai” by the Marati speaking (local) people, “Bumbuy” by Hindi speakers and “Bumbaai” by those speaking Tamil.

Since my parents had migrated from what was then “Madras” (now “Chennai”), technically, people of my ilk (Tamilians) were referred to as “outsiders” and not “sons of the soil” like the native Marati speakers called themselves.

The push to change the name formally from Bombay to Mumbai was also to signal to the “outsiders” that the city belonged to the “sons of the soil” and not to the “outsiders” – so the impetus for the name change was NOT to break-off from the British legacy (as sometimes wrongly portrayed by some).

Eventually, the “sons of the soil” prevailed in 1995 and the name of the city was formally changed to “Mumbai”.

And soon, like dominoes, “sons of the soil” in other cities swung into action – my parent’s city of origin changed from “Madras” to “Chennai”, my place of birth changed from “Calcutta” to “Kolkatta”, the city where I did my graduate education changed from “Bangalore” to “Bengaluru” and so on.  And numerous other cities and states changed names creating a geographical nightmare.

And the laughable part of all this was that aside from losing names that were known internationally for centuries, the new names could be exactly pronounced only by people familiar with the local language and their respective scripts (example Marati, Tamil and Bengali, in case of Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkatta respectively).

So coming back to William Shakespeare and paraphrasing, “A rose by any other name might become unpronounceable!

And in my opinion, Justice Scalia is justified in his insistence on using the original name for Bombay.  And I believe it comes from his conservative perspective (that I share), which is, why change something without any valid rationale to do so?

And why should this topic of  name changes in India be of any interest to my American readers?  Here’s why:

My current home state of Texas was once part of Mexico.  It is projected by the year 2030, Hispanics will become the majority in Texas.  And they might demand one day that names of cities like Dallas, Houston, Austin, etc revert back to the “original” Spanish names.  And the name of the great state of Texas be changed back to Tejas!

And if these demands are acceded to, one fine day, international tourists when making travel plans, will be left scratching their heads as to what in the world happened to Dallas, Texas!  And that would be a real pity!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Tribute to my Mother

Amma and me - baby picture

 

My mother took her last breath on this earth at 4:45 am on October 9, 2013, with me sitting by her side and holding her hand as she lay unconscious on her hospital bed.  In the background was softly playing the Hindu Mahamrityunjaya Mantra:

mahamritunjaya

“OM. Tryambakam Yajamahe, Sugandhim Pushti-Vardhanam, Urvarukamiva Bandhanaan, Mrityor Mukshi Yamamritaat…” which roughly translates to “We Meditate on the Three-eyed reality Which permeates and nourishes all like a fragrance.
May we be liberated from death for the sake of immortality, Even as the cucumber is severed from bondage to the creeper.”

The doctor came in and pronounced her dead and although I knew the end was near even when I stepped onto the plane in Dallas, there was a moment of disbelief.  I was told when I reached Bombay that my mother was clinging on to her life just waiting for me to arrive.  When I reached the hospital, she was unconscious and breathing hard.  As I sat next to her and talked to her hoping that she was sensing my presence at some subconscious level, I was also hoping against hope that she would suddenly open her eyes and give me the special smile that she had for me, her oldest child.  But it was not to be and some 30 hours after I arrived, she left this earth without regaining consciousness.  I never left her side once she passed, staying at her bedside, in the hearse which took her home, during the ceremonies which followed, back into the hearse to the crematorium for more ceremonies till I finally lit the funeral pyre, gently pushed her body into the incinerator, collected her hot ashes with my bare hands about an hour later and then immersed them in the sea at 1:45 pm on the same day.

Now it is more than 2 months since her passing and I look back on her life and the special bond that we had from the beginning of my life to the end of hers.

My mother was married when she was only 17.  She used to tell me that she was a very smart student in school and wanted to be a doctor.  But in those days, girls were not expected to be too smart – just get married as soon as they were out of school and have a family.

I was born to my mother when she was just 18.  She used to tell me that I almost died at birth since my umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck and I choked to the point that I was blue when I was born.  So my survival was like a miracle to her.

And the strange part was that all my life whenever I looked at her, I could see the infinite love she had for the baby who almost never made it.  And from my side, as a child, my mother was this most beautiful person in the world, who could solve any problem that I brought to her, who was my biggest cheer-leader when I was succeeding at something and the person who would console me at times of loss and sorrow.

I realize now that almost everything I did was to try to impress her – and she used to be thrilled with whatever little thing I accomplished.  And she believed that I was smart enough to achieve anything I wanted in life – and she also knew all my weaknesses that held me back from reaching some of my goals.

Now that she is gone, even as a middle aged man, I feel orphaned.  But then I hear my mother’s voice talking to me, repeating what she has told me many times “You have always done your duty as my oldest son and unlike many other parents have about their children,  I have no disappointments at all with you.  So I will never be gone from your life.  Even if my body leaves this earth, my spirit will be always be around protecting and guiding you”.

And, come to think of it, from my side I have no regrets as well.  There was nothing left unsaid or any unfinished business between me and her.  She lived a good life and had a relatively painless passage out of this world (which is ultimately what is sought by reciting the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra).

So I will move forward full steam ahead with my life and ensure that all the efforts that my mother made in bringing me into this world and nurturing me during sickness and health shall not have been in vain.

Finally, when it is my time to kick the bucket, I will have no fear whatsoever, since I have no doubt she will be out there somewhere waiting to welcome me back in her arms once again!

 

 

 

 

 

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