Citizens' Issues
Flights of fancy

Why do we consciously or unconsciously seek the authority of the Caucasian to demonstrate our own ability to operate in the modern world?  Are we world-class only if we dress European?

Here I was going through the boarding gate, handing over my boarding card to the boarding inspector. I suppose that is what he must be called since boarding was what we were doing, not like pirates and corsairs leaping from the rigging lines onto the merchant ship, for they scarcely sought permission, but here we were being polite and requesting permission to come on board.

Anyway from the corner of my eye I saw a poster mounted on a stand. It featured a pretty girl, perhaps four years or so, of that age when tooth fairies make frequent appearances. She held in one of her little hands a palette. She looked quite professional and adept, and she well may have come from a long line of painters.  In the other hand, she held a brush which looked poised to turn the air vermillion or cerulean or magenta or one of those colours that only painters and women can identify.

The purpose of this very posed and poised picture was to tell us, the ‘boardingers’ or boarders that this was the entrance to Gate 5 and 5A. I was impressed.

But what I found particularly interesting apart from this vital piece of information (God forbid that we had boarded the wrong ship), was that this girl was blond and blue-eyed, possibly of Scandinavian stock, though at the moment I can’t remember the name of a really good Viking painter from whom she may have descended.

Given that I was in south India where Dravidians ancient occupants of this land were the predominant genetic strain, with nary a Caucasian chromosome to offer, I was struck by the anachronism of it all. Surely ebony would have worked as well as ivory, I thought.

And then it hit me. I winced.

In the airline business in India it seems that western dress and western mores are better semiotic signals of efficiency and professionalism than the vernacular, the home grown ethnicity of costume or even face.

To that end we have an airline which features a very pretty model, not even a flight attendant giving you the flight safety instructions on a video screen. She is Czech I believe. She is as white as porcelain alabaster and I would venture that she doesn’t know Hindi, though she has been well rehearsed and the dubbing and lip-sync are quite commendable. Of course I am not sure that featuring her gave me any more confidence about the procedures in the event of engine failure, de-pressurization, landing on water and the consequent fastening of life jackets and emergency whistles. But I must confess that she looked pretty in an orange vest.

Then there is the other airline which has each female flight attendant, (I used to call them hostesses which was a lot more friendly than the functional attendant, someone who I expect to see mostly manning toilets, but be that as it may and it is not germane to this ramble at all) coiffured with a wig cut to resemble a model’s hairstyle from Paris. I am no connoisseur of women’s hairstyles but they resembled to my untrained eye the cut of Audrey Hepburn’s hair in Roman Holiday.  Sort of a cross between a bouffant and a page boy, I would think. (Here I am impressing you with these terms!)

They also wear dark suits and stockings. This airline has positioned itself on punctuality, and I suppose these replicas of women from Paris in Coco’s era help in that delivery of customer satisfaction.

On the other hand there is the so called national carrier. Stained by age and possibly indifferent neglect by bureaucrats who have no business sailing any ship whatsoever, they have like many fat merchant galleons of yore been boarded again and again by privateers and so now languish, awaiting fair winds again.

Their maids of delight are dressed in colourful Indian costume, wear their hair in an Indian coiled bun, if they have long hair, and are generally of a slightly older average age than the other airlines’ staff. 

The airline itself is not particularly efficient, but when on board these flight attendants perform with better efficiency and courtesy and maturity. But that is possibly my parochial point of view.

My actual point is why do we consciously or unconsciously seek the authority of the Caucasian to demonstrate our own ability to operate in the modern world?  Are we world-class only if we dress European? 

The cheongsam of the Singapore Girl may argue against this notion.

But it may just be that dressed this way or that we just can’t be as good when it comes to service, mass produced and delivered. So we compensate our imagined inadequacy with costume.

We are a truly exceptional people when we offer and proffer our individual hospitality in our houses and our homes.

Maybe we don’t know how to make a business of it.

(V Shantakumar is the former chairman & CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi in India and now the managing partner of Doing Think)



Ashok Malkani

5 years ago

Our author, true to his calling has hadressed up his pet peeve in pukka adspeak. " Maids of delight are dressed in colourful Indian costume ---" Heavens have mercy but where did that come from !!!

After all is said, you need to look at B.A. Their Aunties are dressed in saris, very well groomed , looking bright and confident and not likely to berate you, if you have done a cock up in the loo.

Arre' bhai, air hostess and flight attendant are passe', it is Stewardess now.

Finally, if you are single, befriend a stewardess, it does not matter which airline of if they are black, white or aubergine.They are great people.

Ashok Malkani

5 years ago

I have sent a comment twice in a row. Have had the security code checked with my son for correctness prior xmission, but we seem to get it wrong every time.

The bloody system should not wipe out my comment, just tell me to recheck the code !!!.

P M Pattabhi Raman

5 years ago

For that matter, why are we so enamoured about Oscar? Why Cannes Festival has so much importance? why was Shivaji Ganesan, the best actor that India has ever produced thrilled with "Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres" ? Why all our Matrimonial Ads seek "Fair-complexened" life partners?

Shadi Katyal

5 years ago

One fails to understand that what the writer is trying to impress or is this his first foreign trip and thus finding out what the rest of world looks like.
First of all these airlines fly all over the world and thus cannot make specail posters for us xenophobic people.
Secondly how many Indian passengers are all over the world as compared to CAUCASIANS and thus airlines look after majority.
Where you wearing a Dhoti or suite?
Beside if you are so averse to other nations dress, why not fly Air India and learn the true meaning of disrespect and rudeness

Shadi Katyal

5 years ago



Prakash Bhate

In Reply to Shadi Katyal 5 years ago

I have resorted to writing in Word and then doing a copy/paste. Even this two line massage.


5 years ago





5 years ago

"We are a truly exceptional people when we offer and proffer our individual hospitality in our houses and our homes.
Maybe we don’t know how to make a business of it."
Wonderful words - that almost sums up the entire Indian experience...
Our mothers & sisters are the best healers but we suck at healthcare. Our fathers & grand-fathers are the best custodians of our personal assets, but we always mess up public funds. Our houses are mopped twice daily, but we don't care about spitting in public...


sunidhi rao

In Reply to param 5 years ago

absolutely excellent observation to an excellent piece !

Govt will not bail out private carriers: Aviation minister

“Government is not in a position and will not bail out any private airlines. Air India is a public sector unit, so government has an obligation. But Air India will have to become competitive and restructure their costs... as the government cannot keep on pouring money,” civil aviation minister Ajit Singh told reporters

New Delhi: Giving a clear message to ailing Indian carriers, the government Wednesday asked national carrier Air India to pull up its socks and become competitive as it “cannot keep on pouring money” and told private carriers that there would be no bailout for them, reports PTI.

“Government is not in a position and will not bail out any private airlines. Air India is a public sector unit, so government has an obligation. But Air India will have to become competitive and restructure their costs... as the government cannot keep on pouring money,” civil aviation minister Ajit Singh told reporters here.

The minister said Tuesday that there was “some hitch” in Air India’s restructuring plan by SBI Caps, raised by the banks. This would be resolved jointly by civil aviation secretary and finance secretary, he said.

After laying the foundation stone for a new ATC tower at the Indira Gandhi International Airport here, Mr Singh said a Group of Ministers (GoM) will soon meet to decide on allowing foreign airlines pick up stakes in the Indian carriers.

“Finally, the Cabinet will take the decision. The Committee of Secretaries has already recommended raising the FDI limits in the sector,” he said.

His comments came in the wake of reports that government was exploring options to allow foreign airlines pick up equity in Indian carriers.

Asked about demands by private airlines for a bailout package, he said they will have to come up with a viable business plan.

“If the banks are satisfied with their plans and think they can recover their money then they will lend money,” he said, adding that the banks would have to go by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) norms.

On reports of safety being compromised by airlines due to their poor financial conditions, the minister said, “There are problems. Industry has grown so fast in past few years. There is shortage of trainee pilots, stewardess... there are financial implications...

“But as far as question of jeopardising the safety of passengers is concerned, there is no such fear. There is no compromise, DGCA will not compromise and the ministry will not compromise,” Mr Singh said.


Judiciary confused about ways of dealing with errant judges

RTI petitions yield confusing information on receiving complaints about judges of superior courts

It looks like confusion exists within the judiciary itself about ways of dealing with errant judges. Two different RTI queries have yielded contradictory answers from former Chief Justice of India YK Sabharwal and the Department of Justice on the procedure to deal with complaints received by Chief Justices of the Supreme Court and high courts against judges of higher courts.

In October 2011, RTI activist Subhas Chandra Agrawal filed a query with the Department of Justice, seeking information on commissions constituted to probe tainted judges PD Dinakaran and Soumitra Sen. He also asked about the benefits allowed to judges who resign before enquiry or impeachment proceedings start; and powers of the chief justice of a high court and the Chief Justice of India to receive complaints against judges of superior courts and taking action against them.

In reply, the CPIO (chief public information officer) on 12th November provided a detailed response to his queries. He clearly mentioned the duties of the Chief Justice of India and that of a high court on receipt of a complaint against a judge belonging to a high court or Supreme Court—elaborately describing the procedure of filing complaints, setting up of probe committees and initiating action of removal of the said judge(s).

However, the information clearly contradicts a statement made by former Chief Justice YK Sabharwal, which was quoted in an RTI response from Supreme Court Registry dated 21st April 2006. Mr Agarwal had asked the same question, the reply to which quoted an order by the then chief justice that said, “Neither Supreme Court or Chief Justice of India is the appointing or disciplinary authority with respect to judges of superior courts, including judges of high courts.”

While the process of removal of judges of the Supreme Court and high court can be done only by the order of the president, complaints can be received by the chief justice of a high court and the Chief Justice of India regarding errant judges, and if the complaint is against the chief justice of a high court, it can be received by the president or the Chief Justice of Supreme Court, who may initiate probe and set up enquiry commissions against the judge.

However, the removal procedure is very complex, and till date only two judges—Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court and V Ramaswamy of the Madras High Court has faced impeachment proceedings in Parliament. Only the former was removed successfully.

According to our Constitution, the Chief Justice of India is consulted by the president regarding appointment of judges of high courts, and the chief justice of a high court is also consulted for appointment of other judges of a high court. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is also consulted regarding transfer of judges of a high court.

YK Sabharwal has been a controversial figure, and there are many allegations against him about misusing his authority in order to favour his sons who are in real estate business. Referring to his statement, Mr Agrawal said, “Since two responses from Department of Justice and Supreme Court seem to contradict each other, I appeal that CPIO at Department of Justice may kindly be directed to reveal an exact position about competence of Chief Justices of Supreme Court and high courts in regard of handling complaints against judges of superior courts.”



Dr V P Sharma

5 years ago

The fight should be taken further, more so because of corrosion of morality, ethics and principles in the judicial system, rather whole of society/country. Accountability is the essence of any Democracy and crying from rooftops that we are the biggest democracy doesn't mean that we are the true democracy. The demon of corruption and CHALTA HAI attitude has reached its zenith and has to be curbed. We are a democracy where people who are mediocre rule the country. The intelligentsia is so demoralized that they don't even bother to cast their vote.

P M Ravindran

5 years ago

If the judiciary has given the impression that there is confusion in the matter of dealing with complaints against judges let me assure you it is a put on! And why? Just to convey that there are some means to do that while the truth is that there is nothing other than the preposterous impeachment process. The National Commission to review the working of the Constitution, which submitted its report in 2002, had only suggested the following: setting up a National Judicial Commission 'for making recommendation as to the appointment of a Judge of the Supreme Court (other than the Chief Justice of India), a Chief Justice of a High Court and a Judge of any High Court.' and Recommendation 123 of this Commssion reads as follows:

7.3.8 A committee comprising the Chief Justice of India and two senior-most Judges of the Supreme Court shall be exclusively empowered to examine complaints of deviant behaviour of all kinds and complaints of misbehaviour and incapacity against judges of The Supreme Court and the High Courts. Their scrutiny at this stage would be confined to ascertain whether –

(a) there is substance at all in the complaint; or

(b) there is a prima facie case calling for a fuller investigation and enquiry; or

(c) whether it would be sufficient to administer an appropriate advice/warning to the erring Judge or give other directions to the concerned Chief Justice regarding allotment of work to such Judge or to transfer him to some other court.

If, however, the committee finds that the matter is serious enough to call for a fuller investigation or inquiry, it shall refer the matter for a full inquiry to the committee [constituted under the Judges’ (Inquiry) Act, 1968]. The committee under the Judges Inquiry Act shall be a permanent committee with a fixed tenure with composition indicated in the said Act and not one constituted ad-hoc for a particular case or from case to case, as is the present position under Section 3(2) of the Act. The tenure of the inquiry committee shall be for a period of four years and to be re-constituted every four years. The inquiry committee shall be constituted by the President in consultation with the Chief Justice of India. The membership of the inquiry committee shall not be full time salaried employment. But the terms and other conditions of service of the Members of the committee shall be such as may be specified in the notification constituting the inquiry committee. The inquiry committee shall inquire into and report on the allegation against the Judge in accordance with the procedure prescribed by the said Act, i.e. in accordance with the sub-sections (3) to (8) of Section 3 and sub-section (1) of Section 4 of the said Act and submit their report to the Chief Justice of India, who shall place before a committee of seven senior-most judges of the Supreme Court. The Committee of seven Judges shall take a decision as to - whether (a) findings of the inquiry committee are proper and (b) any charge or charges are established against the judge and if so, whether the charges held proved are so serious as to call for his removal (i.e. proved misbehaviour) or whether it should be sufficient to administer a warning to him and/or make other directions with respect to allotment of work to him by the concerned Chief Justice or to transfer him to some other court (i.e. deviant behaviour not amounting to misbehaviour). If the decision of the said committee of judges recommends the removal of the Judge, it shall be a convention that the judge promptly demits office himself. If he fails to do so, the matter will be processed for being placed before Parliament in accordance with articles 124(4) and 217(1) Proviso (b). This procedure shall equally apply in case of Judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts except that in the case of a Supreme Court Judge the judge against whom complaint is received or inquiry is ordered, shall not participate in any proceeding affecting him.

Sweena Jain

5 years ago

Judiciary is not only confused but is also biased which can be seen from today's news about Sukhram 1993 scam.As Mr.Sukhram was then a minister has been held guilty in scam committed in 1993.He played all tricks initially and was granted interim bail till today i.e 16/01/2012 by Supreme Court.And today extended bail till August 2012.Now everybody doubts whether Mr.Sukhram will ever go to jail at all.Then why waste public money and time in such cases.The ministers and MP's should given immunity for all their acts whether in public interest or against public. And our judiciary is famed for delay which leads to corruption.GOD same Indians.


Dr V P Sharma

In Reply to Sweena Jain 5 years ago

Bang on the point Sweena.

Dr Vaibhav Dhoka

5 years ago

Judiciary has miserably failed to reign in errant and corrupt judges.The reason is India inherited British laws blindly which were dictatorial as they wanted tame Indian and to rule.The handful Britishers ruled for about 1 1/2 century.And their laws were colonial,and what we needed was PANCH system that is settlement of disputes at local level.The British laws have procedural chain which laid to DELAY in JUSTICE.The second most important is SECRECY and JUDICIARY embedded the fear of CONTEMPT in mind of common man who dare not the speak and complaint against an errant JUDGE.And with failure of superior courts in its supervisory jurisdiction the corruption became routine action.Because the investigation in corruption complaint is totally different in justice system as against bureaucracy and other departments.It has failed in all aspect in public eye and due this failure the crime has increased manifold as there is no fear of Law in common MAN. Muscle power took over long back and its due to judicial failure.This is due to errant judges have failed exercise due diligence to be RESPECTED.


Dr V P Sharma

In Reply to Dr Vaibhav Dhoka 5 years ago

We cannot fault the British laws. Our laws are exhaustive enough to deliver justice. Its not a system failure but failure on the part of people behind the system.

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