Monday, August 31, 2009

Coutrallam falls - Pics

Was in Coutrallam last weekend. Water was gushing forth and I had a nice bath at both Five Falls and Main Falls.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Madras Week

As fortnight-long Madras Week is underway to celebrate the founding day of the city (August 22, 1639), let me enumerate some Madras firsts. These were gathered from an article in The Hindu few years back on eminent historian of Madras, S. Muthiah.

* The oldest Corporation outside Europe is the Madras Corporation.

* The Guindy Engineering College is the oldest engineering institution outside Europe.

* The first modern library was started in Fort St. George. (now known as the Connemera Library)

* The St. George School and Orphanage was the first Western education institution in the country.

* The oldest regiment in the Indian Army is the Madras Regiment.

* The Justice Party, the first non-Congress party to rule, has its origins in Madras.

* The Ophthalmic Institute is the oldest in Asia (founded in 1819).

* The first hospital was established in Fort St. George in 1664, the first in India.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

We Are All Hindus Now

This is the first para from the article in the Newsweek:

America is not a Christian nation. We are, it is true, a nation founded by Christians, and according to a 2008 survey, 76 percent of us continue to identify as Christian (still, that's the lowest percentage in American history). Of course, we are not a Hindu—or Muslim, or Jewish, or Wiccan—nation, either. A million-plus Hindus live in the United States, a fraction of the billion who live on Earth. But recent poll data show that conceptually, at least, we are slowly becoming more like Hindus and less like traditional Christians in the ways we think about God, our selves, each other, and eternity.

For full article, read

Thursday, August 13, 2009

International Lefthander's Day

"Can openers, scissors and spiral-bound notebooks discriminate against lefties. Despite such challenges, 10 to 12 percent of the human population has historically preferred the left hand."

Today, August 13, is International Lefthander's Day. Thought I am not a lefty myself, let me wish all my lefthanded blogger compatriots happy lefthander's day.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Hiroshima bomb anniversary

"Sixty four years ago on this fateful day, on August 6, 1945 at 8-15 a.m., Brigadier Paul Tibbetz of the U.S. Air Force flew over in a B-29, named Enola Gay after his mother, and dropped a 16-kiloton uranium fission bomb on an unsuspecting Japanese city of Hiroshima. A parachute opened, a flash of light and blasts followed, and suddenly all hell broke loose. The eyes of young girls watching the parachute melted and their faces became bloated blisters. Ferocious fires raged through the city and temperatures rose to 4000 degrees, melting iron and vaporising human bodies. Skin dangled from the fingernails of extended hands seeking help. Houses were reduced to rubble by the enormous blast and people trapped inside were burned alive. Within seconds, thousands perished. The toll rose to 140,000 within a year. Three days later another bomb, named ‘Fat Man,’ was dropped on Nagasaki, which suffered a similar fate."

"On this day of Hiroshima’s devastation, humankind needs to heed what an aging hibakusha (survivors) had to say: “There is only one way to end this threat and that is to abolish these weapons. Either nuclear weapons must be eliminated or human beings face the threat of extinction by weapons of their own creation.”

For the full article go to

Politics of Statues

"Statues make powerful statements about their time and context. They can be abiding symbols of civic pride or relics of a long-ago past .The toppling of statues is the Kodak moment for historical change. The Karnataka-Tamil Nadu statue saga though is something else altogether. It is a monument to intransigent identity politics, the squabbles that can erupt out of apparent nothings and feed into a vast and pointless animus."

Read the full article at

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Plum for a Peach

I read this wonderful article by Usha Jesudasan in The Hindu. I am reproducing it verbatim here.

Mozi, a Chinese scholar who lived in 470- 390 BC was a thorn in the flesh to the Chinese leaders of the time and a strong opponent of violence. Unlike Confucius, who spread the idea of love which embraced only the family and close relatives, Mozi spr ead the message of love and kindness to everyone regardless of who they were. I particularly like his concept of chien ai — “he throws at me a peach, I give him a plum.” The peach has a big, hard stone that can hurt easily. A plum has a soft tiny stone. Meaning, he throws a large, hard object at me to hurt me, I give him something sweet and pleasing to him in return — thus the desire for tit for tat violence is evaporated even before it has a chance to form. Chien ai does not deal with the inner emotions of forgiveness. It just insists on doing the “good thing” automatically. I like this idea very much. How can one possibly be mean and nasty to anyone who gives you a deliciously sweet, juicy plum?

Mozi’s philosophy reminded me of a neighbour I once had who used to go out of his way to be helpful and caring and “sweet” to his adversaries. At the time, I could not understand this attitude. But to my neighbour, his way of life was more than just “doing good to those who hurt you”, it was “making their life ‘sweet’ in some way”. Now, many years later, when I think about this, it makes perfect sense. Giving a plum — that is making your opponent’s life better/ sweeter, takes away the poison and anger from your own heart. From being the trodden-upon victim, one can rise to be the giver of good things and restorer of broken relationships. From being powerless, to being powerful.

Can this idea of giving a plum work in today’s climate of prejudice, suspicion, hate and violence? When injured by someone’s arrogance, ignorance and thoughtlessness, can we set aside our hurt and do something to make his/ her life good and sweet? Our initial reaction is to throw something harder than the one thrown at us, or to stay away from them I use the word “sweet” deliberately, as it conveys more than just a superficial good deed which can be shrugged off later.

To make someone’s life sweet or sweeter, we have to raise them from the pit of ugliness where they dwell now…that is the abyss of violence and ugliness that caused them to hurt you in some way. Pulling them out of this deep horrible place and giving them something beautiful and life-giving can be a huge challenge.

Devi was a housemaid who worked for a tyrannical woman who ran a travel agency. Although she worked to the best of her ability, her mistress was bitingly harsh with her words, and scolded Devi with hurtful words often. At the end of a particularly bad day, she offered to massage her mistress’s feet. On another day it was to massage her head, and run her a hot bath. Devi found that she could do many little things to bring her mistress out of the pit of ugliness, into a better place. Over a period of time, she noticed that the relationship between them had changed. She was no longer just the maid, to be scolded and hurt, she was becoming a friend. Devi came home one day after Deepavali and showed me the beautiful silk sari her mistress had given her. Folds of mango yellow silk shimmered in her hands. She held it against her dusky skin and beamed and twirled in front of my mirror. This is when she told me her story. And in return, I shared with her the peach and plum attitude and how an ancient Chinese scholar coined this phrase. Ever the philosopher, she shook her head and said, “It just seems the right thing to do for me.”

A young teacher who had been particularly snappy and mean to one child in her class told me how one day, she was surprised to get a painted picture from this child. It said, “Have a nice day ma’am. I love you.” She said, “In an instant, my mood which had been miserable for a few weeks changed. I realised I had been lashing out at my students and this child’s sweetness changed it.”

Devi is just a village woman who in her everyday life has worked out for herself the need for making a difference in a hostile world by giving a plum when thrown a hard peach. This little child too had learnt how to deal with someone’s meanness. So, if an illiterate woman, and a child, can make this concept work, then it should give us the inspiration and hope that we too in our families and work places can do the same thing.

In the course of a day, many hard peaches are thrown at us from every direction. We would like to throw some too. But before you do so, I suggest you buy a basket of nice, sweet plums and keep them beside you just to practise this ancient way of ahimsa living. As they say, practice makes perfect.