Bhrigu's question

कभी जो याद भी आता हूँ मैं तो कहते हैं के आज बज़्म में कुछ फ़ित्ना-ओ-फ़साद नहीं - मिर्ज़ा ग़ालिब

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Location: the valley, California, United States

Bay Area, Strategy Manager, Haas- U. C. Berkeley, Marathons

Friday, December 16, 2011

What Dravid should have mentioned in that speech

Former Indian captain Rahul Dravid delivered the Bradman memorial speech in Australia yesterday. For those coming in late, Bradman was an Aussie soldier who died in Gallipoli while fighting for Kemal Pasha’s side and won the Nishan-e-Turkmenistan Cross. This speech has been met with unanimous approval by my Facebook friends. They’ve marveled at Dravid’s knowledge of history, his awareness of the traditions of Indian cricket, his openness, and his erudition. While I’m broadly in agreement with them, I do take issue with the claim that he was intimately aware of Indian cricketing traditions or exhibited a sense of transparency.

While Dravid touched on the superficial aspects of the origins of Indian cricketers, such as their childhood struggles when they read their algebra textbooks under a street lamp, he did not shed light on their close relationships. Perhaps, he wanted to be circumspect and not bring up caste-related matters in front of a foreign audience This is a modest attempt to fill that gap for the historical record.

But first, I must impress upon you the theory of the Ten Degrees of Narayana Murthy. Every Kannada Brahmin is related to Narayana Murthy, the Chairman platypus of Infosys. A recent conversation that my mother had with a friend illustrates this point. I introduced my friend Raghavendra Rao to her.

“Oh, Raghavendra Rao? That’s a Madhwa Brahmin name.”

“Yes, aunty. I am a Madhwa too.”

A few minutes later after my mom waterboarded Raghavendra to get information on his matha (mutt), gotra, and horoscope from him, she declared, “Oooh. Now I get it. You’re Narayana Murthy’s wife’s cousin’s great-aunt’s husband’s sister’s brother-in-law’s grandson’s first cousin. I am Narayana Murthy’s great-grandmother’s second cousin’s father-in-law’s grand-daughter’s sister-in-law only.” {Editor’s note: This sounds overtly long in English, but Kannada, like other Indian languages, has specific words for each relationship which makes the whole thread fit a three second sound bite. Every Madhwa is thus connected to Mr. Murthy, Mr. E.A.S. Prasanna, and Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and therefore is a cousin to every other Madhwa. }

Raghavendra turned to me and said, “Wow, dude. I didn’t know we were that closely related! Awesomeness!”

Get it? Likewise, Rahul Dravid has a Ten Degree relationship with every cricketer who has ever donned an India cap.

Dravid is a long-lost Iyer from his father’s side and a Indori Deshashta Maharashtrian from his mother’s side. Iyer’s are the Tamil version of the Kannada Smarthas. Ergo, Dravid is related to Javagal Srinath and Gundappa Vishwanath from his father’s side since all Iyers/Smarthas are related. It is a matter of conjecture as to why a dvaita philosophy following Vishnu worshipping Deshashta would marry a Shiva worshipping advaita following Iyer. After all, Iyers believe in the dictum ‘aham brahmasmi’ (I am Brahman, the ultimate truth). How can you have marital accord with that kind of belief? The Dravid household must have had its share of imbroglios.

Mrs. Pushpa Dravid (mother of Rahul): “Gavaskar is a superb batsman. He is a true patriot. After all, he is a Marathi manoos.”

Mr. Sharad Dravid (father of Jammy): “Heh. Vishwanath plays all the crucial innings when India needs it. Gavaskar focuses on records only.”

Mrs. Pushpa Dravid: “How can you say that? How can you compare thirty four hundreds with fourteen?”

Mr. Jam-saheb of Indira Nagar: “Aham Brahmasmi!”

Mrs. Pushpa: “Arrey deva, dochki tujhi. Talking to you is like talking to a Wall only.”

Since Vishwanath’s wife is Gavaskar’s sister. Dravid is related to Gavaskar, Tendulkar, Manjrekar, and others of that kind. Gavaskar is married to Marshneil Mehrotra, which provides the crucial bhaiyya link to Dravid. Rahul is thus a distant cousin to the bhaiyya contingent; Sehwag, Kohli, Bhajji, Dhoni, et al.

Are you with me so far? It was easy to establish these simple relationships quickly. But I had great difficulty in tracking down the connection with the other parts of the Indian team that belong to what Doordarshan newsreaders of the 1980s used to call as ‘members of one community’. I had to dig deep and talk to knowledgeable people such as K. N. Prabhu, Rajan Bala, and Raju Bharatan to figure this out. Bharatan was unbelievably helpful with his encyclopedic knowledge.

After he had sung a Lata number composed by C. Ramchandra for an unreleased film, he dug out his famous work ‘Indian cricket, the vital phase’ and thumbed its pages. He found on page 71 something that he liked. “I can’t believe that I wrote this wonderful pun. Check this out. “Abbas Ali Baig’s last claim to fame had been a kiss planted on his bashful Hyderabadi cheek by a bold young lady whose act didn’t quite have the CCI members smacking their lips with approval.””

“Most wonderful,” I responded dryly.

Bharatan continued, “Dravid’s maternal ancestor visited Bombay in the 1903-04 timeframe. He tonga-pooled a ride with a Konkanasta Brahmin called Yeshwant Agarkar from Girgaum to Chickalwadi. When they reached their destination, Shri Agarkar very kindly offered to pay with the words, “Tumhi thamba. Mi deto.” He fished in his pockets but, as is traditionally the case with Kobras, he could not find his wallet. After a few minutes, Dravid’s ancestor paid the tongawallah. Sheepishly, Agarkar invited the other Deshashta fellow home. When they got there, Yeshwant Agarkar’s mother said, “I would have offered you tea but we just finished having it,” and sent the Debra packing. Dravid’s ancestor was so impressed with the joint marshalling of resources that he offered the hand of his sister in marriage – against all opposition – to Agarkar. There you have the connection. It also explains why Ajit Agarkar refused to trouble the scorer down under by being very economical with the bat.”

If Dravid was related to Agarkar, it opened a lot of doors. Ajit Agarkar is married to a Muslim and since everyone knows that Muslims marry their cousins and are related, Ajit Agarkar was just a few degrees away from Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, Javed Miandad (the son of a former Mumbaikar Gujarati cop) and Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi. It was easy enough for Bharatan and me to connect the dots of Dravid with the Test playing Muslim relatives of Agarkar.

Bharatan continued, “Pataudi was married (when he was alive) to Sharmila Tagore who is a great niece of Rabindranath Tagore.”

I knew that Rabindranath won the Booker prize for his famous neo-realism novel, ‘Gitanjali Express’. This established the crucial Bengali connection. Every Bengali’s great-great-grandmother was a sibling of Saurav Ganguly’s great-great-grandmother. That lady was also a sibling to the ancestor of Kishore Kumar Ganguly. In fact, the entire population of Bengal circa 1911 was comprised of siblings who sadly lost touch with each other after Curzon got naughty.

Bharatan agreed, “The genetic disposition of the single-point father of these siblings explains the virility of Saurav’s cover drive and the tireless natal efforts of that ancestor’s wife explain his fatigue filled deliveries.”

I exclaimed, “So, Dravid is Ganguly’s distant cousin.”

Bharatan nodded, “But wait. That isn’t all. One of the siblings married a Chattopadhyaya, the grandfather of Harindranath and Sarojini Chattopadhyaya. Sarojini, as you know, married a Naidu. That Naidu had an inter-caste marriage with V. V. S. Laxman’s grandfather’s third cousin’s wife’s brother.”

“That clears it.”

“There’s more. The great grand niece of that Adam-like Bengali chap married E. A. S. Prasanna.”

“How cool is that?”

“There’s more juicy Iyer-ish coffee. One distant cousin in the Iyer’s side of Rahul’s family married the Iyengar Krishnamachari Srikkanth.”

I was aware of that connection. Just as Madhwas have a ten degree connection with Narayana Murthy, Bhimsen Joshi and Prasanna, all Iyengars of the world are related to Venkatraghavan and Srikkanth. This is quite a peculiar trait with Iyengar males. They establish kinship very quickly with Venkat and Cheeka, but claim a distant relationship with Hema Malini and Vidya Balan. [I don’t know whether Ms. Balan is an Iyengar. I’m merely speculating since she has the classic Iyengar snout.] A reliable source informed me that young Iyengar men don’t want to be too closely related to Ms. Balan since they can talk to their aunt and plead, “Maami, neengal koncha alliance ponnu.”

Thus, Dravid is also related to that Iyengar, Sadagopan Ramesh. It was rumored that Ramesh lost his spot in the Indian team since he – in his ignorance - made un-parliamentary statements about a film-star who was going around with a married former test cricketer. These statements were allegedly made within earshot of the said cricketer. But that’s not quite true. Ramesh, in fact, did make statements, but different ones, during an in-flight intellectual conversation he had with Dravid on the qualifications of the Bengali and Konkani so-called Brahmin communities. He apparently quoted an uncle who said, “Thooo. These fish and fowl eating useless rascals aren’t Brahmin at all I say,” and added that he didn’t agree with his uncle’s sentiment. Unfortunately, the cricketer heard only a part of that conversation. What followed was a proverbial Ashwathama-is-dead kind of interpretation. And Ramesh was never heard of again.

The next steps get tricky. Orthodox Kannada Madhwa and Smarthas are quietly vary of marrying Iyengars (at least the Kannada speaking type) since they doubt their racial credentials. Apparently, Ramanuja, when he was shunted from TN, came over to the old Mysore kingdom and converted a lot of Jains to Iyengar-ism. So who knows, the person next to you wearing the three-stump & inverted bails mark on his forehead could be a long lost gujju. This tenuous link could potentially establish a link of Dravid’s with Parthiv Patel. But neither Bharatan nor I could find supporting evidence to establish this as fact.

So, there you have it. This thesis establishes a more intricate web of relationships that create camaraderie within the Indian camp. The purpose of this exercise was to merely document the links for the historical record and not rake up casteist sentiments. India is a progressive nation and caste & religion have been effectively eradicated from the midnight hour of 26th January 1950 when the British walked away from India to provide good natured security for the Arab population during the turbulent aftermath of the partition of Palestine.

Next up. How Pakistani cricketers are distant cousins of Osama Bin Laden.

(c) Arun Simha