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Remembering M Balamuralikrishna: The legend, pioneer, and human

The evening of 22 November, 2016, saw one man’s name dominate the shared mental space of the Indian South: adorned and adored vocalist, composer, and teacher, Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna passed away. Today, we collectively revisit his legacy and pay homage to the legend whose music touched so many lives.

The news broke at about 5.30 pm, after which the (mononymous ‘Balamuralikrishna’) sir quickly dominated the news cycle: “veteran Carnatic singer passed away at 86;” the great “scholar, singer, guru . . . a game changer” was being mourned by civilians and celebrities alike. (While we’re on the matter, dear Deccan Herald, might I suggest renaming your article? Figure of speech aside, he may have passed away, but he is still very much here, in our psyches. He has become the number one searched term here in the South, where I write from, and is the fourth most discussed topic in the entire subcontinent. (Listen closely — I can almost hear the feet of sabha directors shuffling to arrange for memorial concerts already, can you?).

The Legend Behind the Man

His tale as we know it to be, is quite legendary. On the east coast, in Andhra Pradesh, you will find the Godavari river breaking out into her many tributaries. Squarely placed in between the southern most streams, with a base made of the Bay of Bengal, resides the village of Sankaraguptam, where Balamuralikrishna was born. Folklore leads its natives to believe that Lord Shiva spent time here once, when in hiding from a boon gone wrong. Such is the village to house the fitting beginning for the legend. More than half a century later, he would be given the keys to the landmark city of Vijayawada, about 150 kilometers away from his birth village, as the crow flies. The government would name him an ‘Honorary First Citizen.’

So the story goes: his mother, Suryakanthamma, was a vainika. Her father — Balamuralikrishna’s maternal grandfather — was a composer named Prayaga Rangaiya. His own father, Mangalampalli Pattabhiramaiya, was a multi-instrumentalist, playing his wife’s signature instrument, the veena, alongside the violin and flute. Balamuralikrishna was not afforded the chance to grow up in the arms of his mother. On the thirteenth day of his life, she is said to have complained of a headache. She passed away three days later. His mother’s elder sister, Subbamma, took over the responsibility rearing the child. She named the young one Krishna, but called him Murali. Hence was born the name ‘Murali-Krishna.’

He is said to have stopped school at age 10 (fifth standard), at the advice of the principal, who insisted the young boy instead focus on music. His father, charged with continuing the family’s musical legacy, would later choose to enroll his young son under the tutelage of Parupalli Ramakrishnaiya Pantulu. His guru, PR Pantulu, traced his own lineage to that of Thyagaraja, claiming a relationship that was only thrice removed. This would place Balamuralikrishna as the fifth sishya of a paramparā that could claim the legendary member of the Carnātic trinity as one of their own.

In a 2011 cover story for Sruti, one reads the fantastical story of his first concert, and the creation of his moniker:

On 18 July 1940, on Ashadha Suddha Ekadasi day, exactly nine Hindu calendar years after his birth, Muralikrishna ascended the stage – with Kambhampati Akkaji Rao (veena) and Radhakrishna Raju (mridanga) as his accompanists. He paid obeisance to his guru seated in a corner of the platform. The Kalyani varnam Vanajakshiro was the opening item, followed by Sobhillu in Jaganmohini.

Young Murali’s music seemed to challenge the audience: “Are you looking for melody? It is inborn. Do you expect mastery over laya? It is there in abundance. Sruti, laya, arithmetical manipulations – are all at my beck and call.” Though the allotted time was thirty minutes, the concert crossed three hours. The audience was unaware of the passage of time.

When the recital came to an end, Pantulu stood up to say a few words, but his voice choked. Tears rolling from his eyes, he rushed into an adjacent room, carrying Murali on his shoulders and started to weep. Musunuri Bhagavata took Pantulu’s place and spoke at length about Murali’s music. He said, ‘This boy reminds us of the young Muralikrishna of Brindavan, who swept away the universe with his sweet music. This young Muralikrishna may henceforth be called “Bala Muralikrishna.” Hope you will all agree.’ From that day, Murali came to be known as Balamuralikrishna.

(I highly recommend this article for those interested in learning more about the myth of the legend that he is).

The larger-than-life details don’t stop there. He started performing at 6, says one. Seven, says another. He performed and composed before he started to receive training, says one. He has over 400 compositions to his name. He has performed over 20,000 concerts says a grieving Tamil Nadu governor – nay, the number is closer to 25,000 says another. He accompanied the legends of his day in violin, we read. “And mrudangam!” cries another. “Did you know about the time he played the viola for Ariyakudi?” (I didn’t. Did you?)

Kamal Haasan called him a “maha-guru,” the “great teacher.” Tamil Nadu claimed him as one of their Kalaimamani-s, the nation claimed him as a Padma Vibushan. Even in France was he claimed, with the Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. (For a full list of his impressive accolades, might I suggest this link).

The Spirit Behind the Pioneer

It is important for us to remember that Balamuralikrishna transcended the realm of Carnātic music, in that he did not play only by its rules. He sang memorable numbers in Bollywood movies, building an impressive fan base out of Carnātic rasika-s and film fans alike.

Many opinions of him are floating around now, but the chorus largely sings the tune of a man whose voice they can still hear in their hearts. The sopranos sing of a Carnatic musician. The baritones sing of a Bollywood actor who sang. The tenors sang of a prolific composer. The altos sing of a game changer. Jayanthi Kumaresh says of him: “there are musicians who flow along the current of the wave that music is. But there are those who create a change in the wave.”  Says Aruna Sairam: “His was a free mind — his music wasn’t pocketed into any particular set-up. Also, he was aware of the knowledge he was sitting on. It was because there was his childlike approach that made everything sound effortless.”

A strong sense of identity is consistently found in him across the span of his eight-decades: in a telling interview for The Hindu, Gowri Ramnarayan wrote six years ago that “[he was] convinced that his love for verse, [made] him excel in handling the Trinity. ‘When I sing Sadasiva Brahmendra or Jayadeva, [says Balamuralikrishna], you will think that the composers would have sung like that.’”

He tells Gowri:

“I flew into the skies with ‘Sogasu Nee Somma Kalyaniragini.’ The moon melted like butter, the stars ran helter-skelter trying to find the source of the music. The woman’s half-closed eyes brimming with feeling energised [Lord] Brahma into fresh creativity. The woman was none other than Kalyani Raga. Others saw her too! . . . My love songs will make you feel I have a lover beside me. Can’t sing without experience!”

This honesty when describing one’s own sense of self is refreshing in a cultural norm that expects humility to trump pride, even at the cost of authenticity. When asked if he regretted any of his bold choices, he says to Gowri: “I am content, won’t change even the controversies. They improved my knowledge.” Balamuralikrishna did not buckle to the will of controversy. Many may have agreed or disagreed with his choices, but his public persona has been largely consistent: a feat for someone in a largely populist and group-think-led world.

M Balamuralikrishna. PTIM Balamuralikrishna. PTI

M Balamuralikrishna. PTI

Improvisation is a skill possessed by practically every Carnātic musician. But to do so with the intention of crystallisation, to unabashedly pen their own compositions, is most certainly not. In a genre where the likes of the Carnātic Trinity dominate — not only with their compositions, but with the tales of their divine lives — to compose can be seen as your attempt to rank yourself self amongst them. This can be a dangerous move in a world where the composers of the past have risen steadily to the status of sainthood; the aesthetics of Carnātic music has strong lines of Hindu (if not Brahmin) sensibilities woven into its fabric. To compose, then, can require one to defend their own divinity as per the understandings of a largely Brahmin sensibility — piety as it is understood here, rarely allows for the brand of pride and self-confidence that Balamuralikrishna showed throughout his career.

All that aside, a mind preoccupied with the mundane details of how to circumnavigate this issue has not transcended it. In this way, Balamuralikrishna did surpass it. He would have proudly told you himself, that he has many compositions to his name. As the reader may already know, he even has rāgam-s to his name — an uncommon pursuit for the Carnātic composer. He is said to have composed the rāgam Mahati at age 24.

Some of his creations have been contested. Two years ago, SH Venkataramani chronicles of a “Stormy Exit:” Balamuralikrishna had just announced a retirement of sorts, where he would continue singing in radio programs, television shows, and abroad. When asked why he swore off public concerts in the motherland, he was quick to retort that “the dignity of professional music concerts had deteriorated to a very low level and become commercial, communal and political.” This might have been a hard swallow for the rather insular sabha scene, where criticism is not taken lightly. Venkataramani writes: “It was Balamurali’s claim of having created new ragas that got the tradition-bound music circles of the south truly up in arms against him. Balachander vehemently contended that some of the ragas already existed.” In a largely gratification-driven world, that his creations were being spurned didn’t seem to deter him. Other ­rāgam-s of his include Lavangi, Manorama, Murali, Omkari, Prathimadhyamavathi, Rohini, Saravashri, Sumukham, Sushma, Ganapathi, Siddhi, and Pushkara Godvari.

In fact, the same Sruti article I mentioned before writes of how “in 1944, Balamurali provided viola accompaniment to Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar and Chittoor Subramania Pillai.” Viola — would you believe it? Let’s put this in context: pioneers who picked up non-traditional instruments include Sukumar Prasad who started playing the guitar in the 1970s (who would later accompany Balamuralikrishna). There is, of course, Guitar Prasanna who debuted in in the late 1980s. We have our late Mandolin Srinivas who debuted in the late 1970s; saxophonist Kadri Gopalnath became a part of the public sphere in the 1980s. Balamuralikrishna picked up a viola to accompany someone a good three decades before any of this had begun.

My own grandmother, Seetha Doraiswamy, played the jalatharangam. Although she technically debuted at 1937, she didn’t really resurface for another 40 years until her familial obligations were over, in the late 1970s. Regardless, for the purposes of the exercise and tracing the trend of playing innovative instruments in the Carnātic scene, the jalatharangam is not entirely a non-traditional instrument to begin with. But bear with me, as I explain why I am reminded of her: to pick up a non-standard instrument and venture to play your own music on it requires a child-like curiosity, and a clear understanding of one’s own language. There has to be a love for the growth of what is yours. You have to love it enough to not let its limitations limit you. I bring this up because I know this, from having seen my grandmother’s own work — existing outside of the box has its advantages, but the disadvantages can easily topple the scale. I can only imagine the look on attendees’ faces a young man ascended the stage to play a viola (or as my mother called it once, the “periya (big) violin”) for the likes of Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar .

Nearly 72 years later, do we have any viola players playing in our Carnātic circuits? As an amusing aside, I wonder how the landscape of our collective music experience would be different had he instead chosen to go down that route. Would “Viola Muralikrishna” have moved us just as much? What would we have done without his trademark bass voice, which effortlessly glided between three octaves? Who would have instead been our Narada in Bhakta Prahlada? Would as many people know and love reetigoulai, without his Chinna Kannan Azhaikiran? To recount all of this, Oru Naal Pothuma?

Let us remember during this time, as we are flooded with information of him, that no matter what thinks of his musicality and how he lived his life, that this was a man who dared to be innovative.

Can we say that we dare to do so in our everyday lives? Do we boldly take credit for our work? Playfully approach things after decades of training? Innovate?

The Human Behind it All

For those who know him — or of him — we will always have those memories to hold on to. My older cousin tells me once of when she was driving in a late-night, darkened Chennai. She saw a car nearby driving with the lights on. As she peered in, perplexed, she recognised his face. We are all now recounting our memories of him, as thousands of pictures and stories are being shared.

I met him as a child. I was young, perhaps teetering on 10 years of age? To be completely honest, I don’t recall why I was there, but I do remember being upset. I was missing my scheduled weekly allowance for doing non-school or music related activities, yet I was standing in for Tukaram Ganapathi Maharaj, a harikathā exponent. I believe I was there to receive an honour on his behalf. The honour, of course, was to be bestowed by a certain M Balamuralikrishna.

It was loud; people were yelling over each other. Everyone was scurrying. The chaos broke suddenly; the sea of people parted to form a clear path as he came into the room, in a feat of wordless organisation that struck me to be no less miraculous than the many ancient stories of parting seas.

This was indeed an amusing picture: here came a legend, for whom the people collectively silenced themselves, and respectfully sat in awe. And I still sat, uncomfortably under layers of clothing, pouting — mourning the loss of my weekly free-time. Perhaps he picked up on this. I did not know then Balamuralikrishna the legend, but I did know the grandfather, who sat with me kindly.

He did not stay for long. We went on stage, he opened the large silk cloth — the ponnādai, as it were — and with a seasoned flourish opened it and covered me in it, as he towered me. “Smile,” he directed, turning to the camera. I did. Somewhere, in the crowd, my dear friend Bhavya’s mother could be heard telling my mother: “Let her be upset now, it’s okay. One day, she will know the worth of that picture.” As we all look back now together at his prolific career, I wonder if I comprehend the entirety of it, even now.

That’s my first memory of him. Tell me yours?

Ganavya Doraiswamy holds degrees in psychology, and graduate degrees in performance (Berklee College of Music), and ethnomusicology (UCLA). She has lately been on the road with Quincy Jones’s production company for Tocororo, an album that hit #1 in jazz charts. 

First Published On : Nov 24, 2016 09:01 IST

Surgical strikes may earn Modi govt public goodwill, but soldier still denied his dues

Surgical strikes have become the flavor of the season with news, discussions and debates continuing endlessly. It is amusing to watch media Napoleons working vigorously reconstructing the scene on models of the areas of PoK where the 28 September strikes took place, adding personal embellishments — some even hilariously amusing — about how the Special Forces went in, executing high altitude, high opening (HAHO) combat military technique. It is unclear whether they confused HAHO with Naga Ho Ho, and dreamed of themselves in Pentagon’s operations room the previous night or they were simply shocked by Pierce Brosnan endorsing Pan Bahar. But, they did manage to get some not so junior veterans to nod their heads in unison. Certainly not beyond them to next describe that the special forces commandos actually tunneled underground all the way to envelop the terrorist launch pads.

This followed a report that we had also launched surgical strikes in cyberspace — Indian hackers singed the Pakistan government network and locked their computers in the wake of Pakistani hackers defacing Indian sites, and Pakistani hackers reportedly offering to pay our hackers with Bitcoins in order to have their systems unlocked.

Of course this did not start any war in the political area for there were no claims – only an unverified report, no calls for giving proof and certainly no Ghulam Akbar, SP of Mirpur spilling the beans from across the border. On the contrary, the Bitcoins bit may have cocked the years of the enterprising ones; wondering what this hitherto unheard currency is about, what technological find it is, how they can add it to their personal stash and whether it would be categorized black or white money.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

But then, there is this third surgical strike which has been executed with such finesse that no one knows who held the scalpel and who the surgeons are, while the media is busy with the din of the other types of surgical operations. On 30 September 2016, MoD has issued the notification for grant of pensionary awards based on the recommendations of the 7th CPC. This notification very regressively has reduced the amount of disability benefits admissible to disability pensioners relegating the rates to the ‘slab system’ as was prevalent prior to the 6th CPC thereby placing defence disability pensioners at a sharp disadvantage as compared to civil disability pensioners. Would it surprise the public that under this notification, even if a military officer of three star rank is disabled completely (read 100 percent) in combat, he will get a ‘disability pension’ of Rs 27,000 whereas if a secretary level officer of the government becomes 100 percent disabled whether having fallen off his balcony or for any other reason, he will get ‘disability pension’ of Rs 67,500.

With respect to the above vastly differing ‘disability pension’ mentioned above, the difference before the issue of this notification was zero. When the government has not promulgated the ‘allowances’ part of 7th CPC till the anomalies are addressed post representations by the military, why have such grave anomalies in disability pension been promulgated? The fact that this unjustifiable notification was issued just two days after the military executed the surgical strikes in POK hurts even more. The question now is whether the bureaucracy has managed to undercut the Modi Government or is this with connivance of the polity. Would the defence minister go beyond theatrics claiming: “I made the Army realize their power”, and explain why this injustice is heaped upon the Armed Forces – is this a gift for the surgical strikes? The 7th CPC apparently is the unfinished grand design of the politico-bureaucratic nexus to completely degrade and demoralise the Armed Forces. It has brought Armed Forces below other government employees including IAS, central armed police forces, police, even the civilian defence employees, with latter consuming large share of the defence pension budget despite their small numbers.

The public would also be unaware the manner in which Armed Forces have been/are being dealt with by all governments. By now, it must be common knowledge that after the liberation of Bangladesh and Indian Armed forces having taken 93,000 Pakistani military prisoners (largest after World war II), a hard blow was inflicted on the Armed Forces arbitrarily by the 3rd CPC wherein pension of soldiers was reduced from 70 percent to 50 percent of last pay drawn. But how many would know that Lieutenant General Vijay Oberoi who lost a leg in battle as a young officer and later became the Vice Chief of Army Staff, had to fight a seven year legal battle to get his disability pension after superannuating from service. So what do you expect soldiers would have to undergo if this is happening to a Vice Chief level officer. And don’t think this happens only during Congress rule. Based on a petition filed by a military veteran that the Government constituted Anomalies Committees to look into 7th CPC recommendations is not granting any opportunity to hear or interact with official defence establishment and even the Standing Committee on Welfare of Ex-servicemen which was ordered to hold meetings every three months by none less than the Defence Minister has not even held a single meeting thereby undermining political authority by lower officials, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has issued notice to the Central Government, also directing that in the meantime the Anomaly Committee shall take into account the views on anomalies affecting defence personnel.

Government may take the surgical strikes in POK to the public for vote-bank politicking for undoubtedly this was a bold decision by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But till the surgical strikes against the ethos and honour of the Armed Forces continue and the soldier is denigrated and denied his due, our enemy’s hybrid warfare of making India hollow from within will keep succeeding. Both the MoD and MoF appear to be playing to the advantage of our enemies – loved by the latter. The question is have the Prime Minister and the NSA being an Army officer’s son taken note, and more importantly would this be rectified?

The author is veteran Lt. General of the Indian Army. 

When did UNGA become a platform for stand-up comedy: Twitter reacts to Nawaz Sharif’s speech

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Raking up Kashmir at the UN, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday glorified slain Hizbul commander Burhan Wani as a “young leader” even as he expressed readiness for a “serious and sustained dialogue” with India for peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes, especially Jammu and Kashmir.Sharif devoted much of his 20-minute speech at the UN General Assembly session to Kashmir and the current situation in the valley and said Pakistan “fully supports the demand of the Kashmiri people for self-determination”.He demanded an “independent inquiry into the extra- judicial killings” and a UN fact-finding mission to Kashmir “so that those guilty of these atrocities are punished.” Insisting that peace and normalisation between Pakistan and India cannot be achieved without a resolution of the Kashmir dispute, Sharif made a number of allegations with regard to the current unrest in the valley. India has blamed Pakistan for engineering and fuelling the unrest.Expectedly Indians active on Twitter had much to say about Sharif’s speech. Burn EpicWill serve Pakistan right LOL Brutal Would have been real fun! Yup, nailed it! Haha True May well be true With agency inputs

Wouldn’t you come home, if you were Defence Minister: BJP to scribes

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The BJP in Goa on Wednesday shot back at criticism of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar over his frequent visits to the coastal state and asked mediapersons, “would you not have come home, if you were Defence Minister”.”If you were made Defence Minister, would you not have come home? Would you have stayed back in Delhi?” BJP Goa unit general secretary Sadanand Tanavade asked the reporters during a press conference here.He was responding to a question referring to Parrikar’s frequent visits to Goa against the backdrop of militant attacks on Defence bases.The Goa Congress had recently accused Parrikar of being a “part-time” Defence Minister, and said he was more interested in issues concerning the coastal state than matters related to national security.”Congress needs to be more focused on its own party rather than Parrikar,” Tanavade told reporters in presence of state BJP chief Vinay Tendulkar.Tanavade alleged that Congress was adopting publicity gimmicks by resorting to verbal attack on Parrikar to get media publicity.”If you speak about Defence Minister or Chief Minister, you get quick media publicity. That is what Congress has been aiming at,” he said.Tanavade said BJP has been monitoring the criticism through social media and found out that only one particular party was indulging in it.”Majority of the people who respond or comment to this party’s criticism through social media are non-Goans,” he said, refusing to name any political party.

Euthanasia debate: Relieving a human life from agony is not Himsa

The government’s decision seeking views from the public about allowing passive euthanasia is welcome. It is long overdue. But taking the right decision won’t be easy. And it certainly won’t please everyone. This is because death is not a very easy subject. It is often fraught with pain, guilt and the pangs of separation. Sometimes it is a quest for peace by the one who has passed away.

Sometimes, it is an escape from this world so full of toil and care. Sometimes it is with smug satisfaction of a terrorist as he does away with people who are not wanted. But mostly, it is an accident, arriving when least expected. It has preoccupied judges, policymakers, priests philosophers and common folk as well. But the most anguishing part is when a policymaker has to frame a law which legalises someone for ending a person’s life. And nothing illustrates the situation better than the agonizing decision Mahatma Gandhi had to take.

Once, when asked in a letter if a man had the right to give up life when it became only a burdensome and painful thing, Gandhi wrote: “My opinion on that point is as follows.A man who is suffering from an incurable disease and is living thanks to the service rendered to him by others without himself doing anything useful in return has the right to end his life. To fast unto death would be much better for him than to drown himself, for it tests his firmness and leaves room for him to change his mind.”

MK Gandhi did not think that helpingMK Gandhi did not think that helping

MK Gandhi upheld the idea that if a life is in pain, it is not wrong to put it out of its agony and misery. CNN News18

On another occasion, one of the calves in Gandhi’s ashram fell ill and suffered great pain. The veterinary surgeon had declared her past all cure. The heifer lay on one side, unable to move, and as it was a big one, she couldn’t be lifted about in order to prevent bed sores. She couldn’t take nourishment and was being tormented by the flies. Although in this case the sanctity of the cow was involved, Gandhi made up his mind “that the true ahimsa required him to put the heifer out of her misery by having her killed as painless a way as possible.” He then called a doctor and when the heifer was dead, Gandhi was in great pain, took a cloth and spread it over its face, and then walked silently back to his room (From Gandhi a Life by Krishna Kripalani).

When news about the death of the calf spread, there was a great deal of consternation. Angry letters were sent to Gandhi. And finally, Gandhi wrote the following in the Gujarati weekly Navjivan in October 1928.

“The killing of an ailing calf in Sabarmati Ashram, at Gandhi’s instance, had caused much commotion, and he had received some angry letters on the subject. The following is an extract from his long response. Later, Gandhi wrote the following in his diary: “A calf, having been maimed, lay in agony in the ashram and despite all possible treatment and nursing, the surgeon declared the case to be past help and hope. The animal’s suffering was very acute. “In the circumstances, I felt that humanity demanded that the agony should be ended by ending life itself. The matter was placed before the whole ashram. Finally, in all humility but with the cleanest of convictions I got in my presence a doctor to administer the calf a quietus by means of a poison injection, and the whole thing was over in less than two minutes.

”Would I apply to human beings the principle that I have enunciated in connection with the calf? Would I like it to be applied in my own case? My reply is yes. Just as a surgeon does not commit himsa when he wields his knife on his patient’s body for the latter’s benefit, similarly one may find it necessary under certain imperative circumstances to go a step further and sever life from the body in the interest of the sufferer.”

It is appropriate that the series of articles on euthanasia commences with this anecdote involving Mahatma Gandhi.

(Disclosure: The author is a senior journalist with Firstpost and is also Hon. Secretary of the Society for the Right to Die with Dignity)

The Firstpost series on Euthanasia will include more anecdotes and views. In Part II, find out how many countries have opted for Euthanasia and Living Will. 

Bankers steer clear of Tata Steel’s UK sale | Reuters

LONDON Britain’s biggest steel business is such an unattractive prize that most major investment banks are not even angling for the opportunity to advise potential buyers on one of the year’s highest profile deals.

The fate of Tata Steel’s (TISC.NS) lossmaking UK division, including its flagship Port Talbot plant in South Wales, has dominated headlines since the Indian company announced on March 30 that it would seek a buyer.

Normally a deal of that prominence and complexity would have bankers salivating at the prospect of fees.

But out of 10 major investment banks contacted by Reuters, bankers at only two said they were sounding out potential buyers. Five said they were not seeking any role and three said they had not made a decision.

Even the two bankers who were looking for a role said they were approaching entrepreneurs and family offices, rather than major steelmakers, who were unlikely to be tempted because of the protracted slump in prices.

“This business burns cash. Would you pay money for that?” said one of the two, who spoke about prospects for future business on condition of anonymity.

Not only would potential bidders be hard to find, but the likely need for a role for the British government in helping any deal could mean a political squeeze on potential fees, bankers said.

Restructuring specialists said privately that they are not seeking mandates either, as the situation is currently a distressed sale rather than a debt restructuring.

Tata Steel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Even the seller hasn’t hired a bank, although sources earlier had told Reuters that Tata would name one. Instead, Tata has appointed accounting and professional services company KPMG and law firm Slaughter and May as advisors on the deal.

KPMG and Slaughter and May already worked on Tata’s sale of its Long Products Europe division in northern England to family office Greybull Capital for 1 pound ($1.42), announced this week, with no investment bank advising either side.

Greybull, which rescued struggling Monarch Airlines in 2014, was advised by consulting firm Alix Partners. The deal included a 400 million pound investment and financing package and saved 4,400 jobs. Greybull has so far not ruled out a bid for Tata’s other British assets.


While a deal for the rest of Tata’s British business could in theory be done without any investment bank hired to give advice, it would be unusual for the sale of such a major asset.

Tata’s UK operations employ 10,000 workers and require large funding capabilities, as well as complex negotiations over everything from pension liabilities to energy subsidies.

Bankers usually try to find a role on deals early on. They argue that their relationships providing corporate clients with other financial services make them ideally suited to advising buyers and sellers alike. They can also provide access to financing where needed.

Apart from Greybull, the only other would-be buyer to have publicly emerged is metals firm Liberty House. Its boss, Sanjeev Gupta, has approached banks to advise on a potential deal, several sources said, but has yet to appoint anyone.

“We, as well as other interested parties, will need to analyze carefully the information received in order to seek an economical and sustainable future for the business,” a spokesman for Liberty House said in an emailed statement.

“Liberty will be appointing a strong and reputable team to carry out that analysis and in the days and weeks ahead.”

Gupta said on Wednesday that he expected Tata to set a deadline for bids on its UK assets at the end of May and believed there would be other bidders involved.

Even then, bankers said the politics of the sale and the loss-making nature of the assets meant fees were likely to be small.

“When the UK government are involved, fees tend to dwindle. Some bank could do it for a million pounds, maybe. But you’re going lower down the totem pole in terms of fees,” one said, discussing prospective business on condition of anonymity.

British business secretary Sajid Javid has hinted that the government could take a stake in the assets to help save jobs. The government has also said it could offer state loans to tempt private bidders.

The ranks of experienced steel bankers have also been thinned by a dearth of activity in the sector. Some have left banks, while others have shifted to cover other areas.

Banking fees for the steel industry have been in steady decline, reaching just $688.3 million last year, according to data from Thomson Reuters and Freeman Consulting, the lowest since 2005. The overall value of steel M&A activity in 2015 was $14.1 billion, the lowest since 2009.

“We’re not following up. There have been very few steel deals,” said one banker at a major European institution who said nobody was covering the sector at his bank.

(Reporting By Freya Berry; additional reporting by Promit Mukherjee and Sandrine Bradley at IFR; Editing by Rachel Armstrong and Peter Graff)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Who would you like as the face of the nation: Kanhaiya Kumar or Vikram Chauhan?

It is interesting that two rather insignificant people would come to represent two competing narratives of nationalism in the country — one of the RSS and the other of Mahatma Gandhi-Jawaharlal Nehru — and leave the country divided. An accident of circumstance makes Vikram Chauhan and Kanhaiya Kumar faces of disparate ideas, both deriving sustenance from history but one focusing on conflicts, inconsistencies and asymmetries in the developments of the past, and the other on the underlying assimilative and unifying traits in these; one inherently exclusive, the other compulsively inclusive.

Vikram Chauhan and Kanhaiya Kumar. PTI

Vikram Chauhan and Kanhaiya Kumar. PTI

Chauhan and Kumar are chalk and cheese.

The first wears patriotism on the sleeves and symbolises the macho and masculine construct of patriotism that the Sangh espouses. It would not bother him to thrash fellow Indians and flaunt the act as a badge of honour. With nationalism as justification, he would move around proudly with the Tricolour in hand after denigrating the court and beating up people. Being called a goon or worse won’t trouble him, neither would the subtle reminder that he is making cheap, crude and vulgar an enlightened concept called the ‘nation’.

Evidently, he does not believe in the institutions of the democracy. He can be flippant about the courts, about the police. He knows he can get away with anything with the tacit backing of advocates of his ideology. The state is too powerless against him; his own sense of conviction makes everything else irrelevant.

Kumar, by contrast, represents the nationalist of the other school. He would take the fact of being Indian as a given, an immutable constant in life. He would take for granted the sense of freedom and joy that came with it. He would speak his mind, open his heart on issues, be extremely critical of governments and still be innocently unaware that any of it really amounted to sedition or treason. He would not confuse the government with the nation. A student, he would be critical of and question developments around him, never ever thinking that his being Indian would be questioned because of it.

The difference between the two is the difference between two mindsets: One making nationality a liberal and liberating idea and the other making it a narrow, constrictive one. The country has to make a choice between Vikram Chauhan and Kanhaiya Kumar. It’s unfortunate, but the nationalism debate has gone so far that you cannot stay aloof anymore. A powerful section of the media, in connivance with other forces in the country, is out to divide the country on this question. They are out to brand a whole lot of Indians as anti-nationals in their own country.

It’s reminiscent of Nazi Germany.

If you don’t make the right choice now, you will regret it forever. The idea of India with all its vagueness and internal contradictions has survived for thousands of years despite changes in political dispensation and pressure of other historical forces. It’s co-terminus with the original Hinduism. There’s an effort now to replace both — universal Hinduism with Hindutva and the idea of India with a national India. There have been challenges to both earlier, but this time the threat looks much more dangerous.

The decision that you make involves us directly and the generations to follow. The idea of India cannot be the monopoly of a few. You have to decide what kind of a country you would like to live in. Would you like to live in a country where you are considered an anti-national? The new forces are much more organised in their thought and action than earlier, and much more venomous, so make your choice carefully.

Both of them — Chauhan and Kumar — may be insignificant in themselves and bad options to choose from but what they have come to represent is of critical significance to our future.

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