I miss India, its holy cows, their bows and howls

October 12, 2011
In my land, news clamours for attention. So what if some are dug deep from the dung that it stinks. They are news after all – they are heard, read, told, re-told, analysed and put to bed only to be scratched to surface a few days later. Why? Because the new bit of information needs to be compared and weighed against the buried shit.
One such sham winding and whining ever since the British took leave of us is the honorary class.
If an institution bells one holy cow, then another pulls along the more senior one from the herd only to be mau-maued. And for a few days the howls make tamasha of the awardees as news, views and sinews do the rounds until another power monger dangles the carrot and decides to de-serve the ‘conferred’.
The fact that undeserving candidates continue receiving honours from deserving institutions that make wrong choices only speaks of an inherent deficiency in the very system.
The holy cows of India should be explained the phrase – It is better to deserve without receiving than to receive without deserving!
South Indian megastar (or is super bigger than mega, please correct me if I’m wrong) Mohanlal is the latest one to cry foul. He has postponed all assignments to pacify the Indian Army. He was allegedly seen flaunting the honorary Lieutenant Colonel’s uniform in a commercial. 
This I will call the mother of all shams simply because it involves one of the highest bodies in India.
What the hell does the Indian Army lack that it had to rope in someone like Lal to promote itself? Had the third largest military force in the world chosen someone even seemingly fit for the uniform, it would have absolved itself of some misdoing. Squeezing his one-pack belly with the belt of honour to accommodate the stars on his leaning shoulders! With all due respect to the actor in him and the talent he nurtures, the Indian Armed Forces deserves the shit it has got itself into (however fake or true) for choosing someone who does not even have a proper gait or physique.   
From Bollywood actors to sportspeople and artists all have been grazed by tall orders. One such episode broke all ceilings when the President’s office alleged the honorary doctorates awarded to Nasreeuddin Shah, Shabana Azmi and Asghar Ali Engineer were without Madame President’s approval. This was in 2009. And the act continues.
Schools and academies of artistic genres should be honouring these actors, not universities and definitely not the Indian Armed Force.
Educational institutes need to wake up to the real world. At a time when employers devalue highly-priced degrees on sale in institutions shouldn’t the scores of unsung heroes doing research out there be honoured. They would provide better role models to youngsters than these glamour quotients.
When ex-President Bush was honoured with a degree by Yale University in 2001, the students boycotted the function, because they did not believe he deserved it. An example for Indian students here.
But the depressing fact is the PR activity includes educational institutes themselves.
The Chennai High Court early this year pulled up MGR Medical University for conferring honorary doctorates to seven doctors. Doctorates are not freebies, it said. Doctorates are given to those who bring a new perspective to the field of study in such a manner that helps society. But today politicians who haven’t seen the inside of a college are honorary doctors if they donate substantial amount to any educational institution.
Dr APJ Abdul Kalam – a mentor, innovator, visionary, and statesman – refused to accept an honour from a university, stating he was satisfied with the ones he has earned with his hard work and determination. Does this require explanation?
Nisha Sanjeev

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