Thursday, September 30, 2010


"If a tiger had sex with a tornado and then their tiger-nado baby got married to an earthquake, their offspring would be Rajinikanth. Or, as his films are contractually obligated to credit him, "SUPERSTAR Rajinikanth!" Read on about him in Slate.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Quotable Quotes on Punctuations

No iron spike can pierce a human heart as icily as a period in
the right place. -Isaac Babel

If the semicolon is one of the neglected children in the family
of punctuation marks these days, told to stay in its room and entertain itself, because mummy and daddy are busy, the apostrophe is the abused victim. - John Humphrys

Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke. - F. Scott Fitzgerald

I like them — they are a three-quarter beat to the half and full beats of commas and full stops. Prose has its own musicality, and the more notation the better. I like dashes, double-dashes, comashes and double comashes just as much. The
colon is an umlaut waiting to jump; the colon dash is teasingly
precipitous. - Will Self

Saturday, September 25, 2010

From The Hindu dated September 25, 2010 by T.S. Subramanian on the inscriptions in the Big Temple, Thanjavur.

With the 1000th anniversary celebrations of the building of the Raja Rajesvaram temple under way in Thanjavur, there is an air of festivity in the town.

Built by Raja Raja Chola (who ruled from 985 -1014 Common Era), the Big Temple is not only a magnificent edifice with its majestic vimana, sculptures, architecture and frescoes, but also has a surfeit of Tamil inscriptions engraved on stone in superb calligraphy.

“This is the only temple in the whole of India,” says R. Nagaswamy, former Director, Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department, “wherein the builder himself has left behind a very large number of inscriptions on the temple's construction, its various parts, the daily rituals to be performed for the Linga, the details of the offerings such as jewellery, flowers and textiles, the special worship to be performed, the particular days on which they should be performed, the monthly and annual festivals, and so on.”

Raja Raja Chola even appointed an astronomer called ‘Perunkani' for announcing the dates, based on the planetary movements, for celebrating the temple's festivals.

Again, this is the only temple in India where the King specifically mentions in an inscription that he built this all-stone temple called ‘kattrali' (‘kal' meaning stone and ‘tali' a temple). This magnum opus, running to 107 paragraphs, describes, among others, how Raja Raja Chola, seated in the royal bathing hall on the eastern side of his palace, instructed how his order should be inscribed on the base of the vimana, how he executed the temple's plan, the list of gifts he, his sister Kundavai, his queens and others gave to the temple.

List of 66 bronze idols

The inscriptions provide a list of 66 beautiful bronze idols Raja Raja Chola, Kundavai, his queens and others gifted to the temple. The inscriptions elaborate on the enormous gold jewellery, inlaid with precious stones such as diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, rubies, corals, pearls, for decorating each of these bronzes.

Interestingly, the measurements of all these bronzes — from crown to toe, the number of arms they had and the symbols they held in their arms — are inscribed. Today, only two of these bronzes remain in the temple — that of a dancing Siva and his consort Sivakami. All the jewellery has disappeared.

Dr. Nagaswamy, who recently authored a book, Brhadisvara Temple, Form and Meaning, said highly specialised gemmologists classified the gems according to their quality and weight. Even the lacquer used inside the beads and the thread employed for stringing them together were recorded. There were references to white pearls, red pearls, chipped ones, those with red lines or skin peeled off.

Gifts to the temple

Raja Raja Chola gifted gold vessels to the temple, and their weight, shape and casting were mentioned in the lithic records. Even a small spoon, ‘nei muttai,' for scooping out ghee, finds a mention. The inscriptions throw light on the temple's revenue from various sources, the mode of payment and the meticulous accounting procedures. “It shows the care and attention with which the temple property was entered in the registers and the responsibility fixed for handling them. Raja Raja Chola had an extraordinary administrative talent, unsurpassed either before or after him,” Dr. Nagaswamy said.

The inscriptions even speak about the temple's cleaners, sweepers, carriers of flags and parasols, torch-bearers for processions at night and festivals, cooks, dancers, musicians and singers of Tamil and Sanskrit verses.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

English R.I.P.

Reproducing an article that appeared in The Washington Post.

The English language, which arose from humble Anglo-Saxon roots to become the lingua franca of 600 million people worldwide and the dominant lexicon of international
discourse, is dead. It succumbed last month at the age of 1,617 after a long illness. It is survived by an ignominiously diminished form of itself. The end came quietly on Aug. 21 on the letters page of The Washington Post. A reader castigated the newspaper for having written that Sasha Obama was the "youngest" daughter of the president and first lady, rather than their "younger" daughter. In so doing, however, the letter writer called the first couple the "Obama's." This, too, was
published, constituting an illiterate proofreading of an illiterate criticism of an illiteracy. Moments later, already severely weakened, English died of shame.

The language's demise took few by surprise. Signs of its failing health had been evident for some time on the pages of America's daily newspapers, the flexible yet linguistically authoritative forums through which the day-to-day state of the
language has traditionally been measured. Beset by the need to cut costs, and influenced by decreased public attention to grammar, punctuation and syntax in an era of unedited blogs and abbreviated instant communication, newspaper publishers have been cutting back on the use of copy editing, sometimes eliminating it entirely.

In the past year alone, as the language lay imperiled, the ironically clueless misspelling "pronounciation" has been seen in the Boston Globe, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Deseret Morning News, Washington Jewish Week and the Contra Costa (Calif.) Times, where it appeared in a correction that apologized for a previous mispronunciation. On Aug. 6, the very first word of an article in the Winston-
Salem (N.C.) Journal was "Alot," which the newspaper employed to estimate the number of Winston-Salemites who would be vacationing that month.

The Lewiston (Maine) Sun-Journal has written of "spading and neutering." The Miami Herald reported on someone who "eeks out a living" -- alas, not by running an amusement-park haunted house. The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star

described professional football as a "doggy dog world." The Vallejo (Calif.) Times-Herald and the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune were the two most recent papers, out of dozens, to report on the treatment of "prostrate cancer."

Observers say, however, that no development contributed more dramatically to the death of the language than the sudden and startling ubiquity of the vomitous verbal
construction "reach out to" as a synonym for "call on the phone," or "attempt to contact." A jargony phrase bloated with bogus compassion -- once the province only of 12-step programs and sensitivity training seminars -- "reach out to" is
now commonplace in newspapers. In the last half-year, the New York Times alone has used it more than 20 times in a number of contextually indefensible ways, including to report that the Blagojevich jury had asked the judge a question.

It was not immediately clear to what degree the English language will be mourned, or if it will be mourned at all. In the United States, English has become increasingly irrelevant, particularly among young adults. Once the most popular major at the nation's leading colleges and universities, it now often trails more pragmatic disciplines, such as economics, politics, government, and, ironically, "communications," which increasingly involves learning to write mobile-device-friendly ads for products like Cheez Doodles.

Many people interviewed for this obituary appeared unmoved by the news, including Anthony Incognito of Crystal City, a typical man in the street.
"Between you and I," he said, "I could care less."

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Srivaishnavite Invocation

" LakshmeenAtha samArambhAm nAthAyamuna madhyamAm |
asmadAcArya paryantAm vande guruparamparAm || "

I found this translation elsewhere. It goes like this : That wondrous lineage of preceptors, that starts with Sriman Narayana, and came through Nathamuni down to my own
Acharya, I salute that.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

26/11 Martyrs Now Comic book Heroes

I came across a snipper in the Young World of The Hindu and googled for more info and came across this article published by Mumbai's Mid Day. Read on.

He perhaps couldn't run faster than a speeding bullet or clear tall buildings in a single bound. But no one would doubt that 26/11 martyr Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan was a real-life hero. And very soon you will be able to read the tales of courage of this braveheart on your mobile handset or at the click of a mouse.

Gurgaon-based Aditya Bakshi, an officer in the Merchant Navy, has released Braveheart of Mumbai, a 52-page comic book that details Sandeep Unnikrishnan's valour while he was fighting Ajmal Qasab's associates in Taj hotel two years ago. This is a part of the series that began in 2008 with a comic on Kargil martyr Capt Vikram Batra followed by one on Col N J Nair.

Aditya, son of Major General (Retd) G D Bakshi, feels it is very important for everyone to know about these real-life super heroes.

"My first comic was a black and white but around 10,000 copies were sold which inspired me to go ahead. In our latest series we have used the best available graphics and colours. Two young students Sony Thokchom (penciller) and Dipak Prajapati (colourist) assisted me," he said.

"We narrate the story to the parents first and ask for details. Then we contact the respective units to gather more information. Then starts our work of designing and creating graphics for them," explained Aditya.

The book not only chronicles the sequence of events that culminated in Major Unnikrishan's tragic death, it also brings out little-known facets of his personality and personal life.

"Did you know that Major Unnikrishnan had a premonition about his death? He had told a few of his friends some days before the fateful day that the nation would remember the way he died," said Aditya, who worked on this project when he was on a break from his job.

Aditya has been making the rounds of schools to popularise his comics. "We are planning to start a campaign 'Adopt a Hero' where we'll go to schools and colleges with senior defence personnel and will narrate their stories which will create awareness about their valour and courage," said Aditya.

Soon all the comics would be launched on the digital platform. A Japanese company has shown interest in making an iPhone application of the comics in English and Japanese.

Major Unnikrishnan was the team commander of 51 SAG deployed in the operation at the Taj Mahal Hotel to rid the building of terrorists and rescue the hostages. He entered the hotel in a group of 10 commandos and reached the sixth floor through the staircase. Major Unnikrishan led his team from the front and engaged the terrorists in a fierce gunfight. He was shot from the back, seriously wounded and succumbed to injuries.