Friday, December 31, 2010

Sunday, December 26, 2010

2010 - Looking Back

This year, I spent most of my time on net on crossword blogs and blogs and websites on Vaishnavism. Few sites I visited frequently are:

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Thanjavur Story

Itching to lay my hands on Pradeep Chakravarthy's Thanjavur: A Cultural History. S. Muthiah in his Madras Musings Column in The Hindu writes: "Every time I meet Pradeep Chakravarthy I'm delighted, for in his bubbling over with enthusiasm for the past I see hope for heritage in the State. There are so few young persons interested in the historical that when I meet a young person with the same passion as I have for all that has contributed to our present, a person like 35-year-old Pradeep for instance, it raises my spirits considerably to find that there is are young people who will continue to keep the fires of heritage burning.

It doesn't matter that my interests in the past are different from Pradeep's. He's interested in temples, their architecture, their stories, their sculptures and vahanas, the songs and dance they have generated over the years, and the inscriptions in them — many of them disappearing — that record bits and pieces of royal and social history".

Fossils in Peru

Fascinating article about fossils in Peru. Read here

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mobile phones - More BaneThan Boon

Two good eye-opening articles about the other side of mobile phones in The Hindu yesterday (December 13th 2010). Here are the links:

Monday, December 13, 2010

Boating Ahoy !

This bit of news is cheering to residents of Velacheri.

"Civic agencies will soon start work on a boat house and other tourist facilities
at Velachery lake. Inspecting the lake on Thursday, Mayor M Subramanian said the project to convert the area into a tourist attraction would be taken up at a cost of Rs 7 crore.

"The corporation will dredge the lake to deepen it and construct a boat house. Works would start soon after tenders are floated. A consultant has been appointed and designs have be drawn up," he said.

Read more: Velachery lake to have boating facility soon - The Times of India

Thursday, November 25, 2010

His Presence Purifies

Reproducing from today The Hindu's religious column which talks wonderfully about Vaishnavite Acharyas and their total devotion to the Lord.

Lord Narayana's descent to this Earth as Krishna made this earth more effulgent than Vaikuntha, for His presence makes a place bright.

The Vaishnavite Acharya Koorathazhvar wished that he had been born in Gokul, for that was where Krishna had grown up. The cows that were in Gokul, in Koorathazhvar's time, would be descendants of the cows that existed in Krishna's time; as such they were lucky ones, weren't they? Their ancestors would have been cared for by Krishna. All great men know the value of being in a place graced by the Lord, M.V. Anantapadmanabhachariar said in a discourse.

Parasara Bhattar said he would be glad even if he were just a street dog in Srirangam. What is the use of being a dog in Srirangam, we might wonder. After all a dog is not going to be able to enter the temple for darshan of the Lord. But Parasara Bhattar reasoned out that when the processional deity of the Lord was taken out, if Bhattar happened to be a street dog there, he would be shooed off by temple officials. Hearing the commotion, the Lord would turn in the direction of the dog. Thus, the Lord's loving glance would fall on him (Parasara Bhattar). Wasn't that a blessing to aspire for?

Great men prefer living in places where the Lord has taken up residence. Once Peria Tirumalai Nambi, the uncle of Ramanujacharya, came down from Tirumala to welcome his nephew.

He had brought with him some rice to eat on his downward journey. When he opened the packet, he found ants in the rice. All he had to do was to remove the ants and then eat it. But Peria Tirumalai Nambi didn't want to set the ants on the ground, for they were from Tirumala. What if they happened to be some devotees of the Lord who had taken birth as ants to live in the divine presence? So, he took the ants all the way up the hill and left them on top of the hill.

Bees living in the hives on the wall of a Vishnu temple in Tamil Nadu are said to be the devotees of the Lord, who have taken birth as bees to worship the Lord here.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Rainwater harvesting is always in the news these days. Out apartment is undertaking this in a big way. It was featured in The Hindu couple of days back.
Here is the link

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Being The Hindu Crossword fan, today is a momentous day. Today it is the 10,000th puzzle.

I follow these 2 blogs religiously.
Here are the link. This blog is exclusively dedicated to The Hindu Crossword. This blog talks about crossword in general. Very useful for greenhorns and veterans alike.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Let me share this quote. "In the case of good books, the point is not how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you ". -Mortimer J. Adler, philosopher, educator and author.

We read so many books but few only remain etched in our mind, right ?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

New book On Kashmir

Today read an article in The Hindu (Oct 23, 2010) by Hasan Suroor about a new book "The Collaborator" by Mirza Waheed. "The Collaborator, originally titled In the Valley of Yellow Flowers, has been described by its publishers Penguin/Viking as a “heartbreaking and shocking story of what happens to a community, and a family, that must live through a conflict that is all too real”.

Having liked Basharat Peer's Curfewed Night, I hope to get hold of "The Collaborator" soon.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Against Book Ban

As we all know, Mumbai University banned Rohinton Mistry's Such a Long Journey after Shiv Sena protest. I feel this is a retrograde step. As the author puts it:

“Does he have to? No. He is clearly equipped to choose for himself. He could lead, instead of following, the old regime. He could say something radical — that burning and banning books will not feed one hungry soul, will not house one homeless person nor will it provide gainful employment to anyone [unless one counts those hired to light bonfires], not in Mumbai, not in Maharashtra, not anywhere, not ever.

“He can think independently, and he can choose. And since he is drawn to books, he might want to read, carefully this time, from cover to cover, a couple that would help him make his choice. Come to think of it, the Vice-Chancellor, too, may find them beneficial. First, Conrad's Heart of Darkness, in order to consider the options: step back from the abyss, or go over the edge. Next, the Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore's Gitanjali. And I would urge particular attention to this verse: ‘Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; Where knowledge is free; Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;...Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake'.”

Hope his voice is heeded and they withdraw the ban forthwith.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


The game of life is the game of boomerangs. Our thoughts, deeds and words return to us sooner or later with astounding accuracy. -Florence Scovel Shinn, writer, artist and teacher (1871-1940)

How true !

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A third of ‘extinct' mammals found alive

Some cheery news.

Reproducing Ian Sample's piece which appeared in The Hindu on September 29, 2010.

The Guadalupe fur seal was feared extinct, gone the way of the dodo after being slaughtered by Russian and American hunters for their skins. None could be found at breeding grounds and as sightings elsewhere tailed off the species was consigned to history.

So why are there thousands of Guadalupe fur seals swimming off the coast of Mexico now? As naturalists gladly admit, reports of the species' demise at the end of the 19th Century were premature. Small numbers of the animals clung on in island caves and were rediscovered only decades later. The population is now thriving, with the latest estimate putting their number at 15,000 or more.

But the case of the Guadalupe fur seal is far from unique — and more animals feared extinct could be waiting to be rediscovered. A survey of the world's mammals published on September 29 reveals that more than a third of species once feared extinct have since been spotted in the wild, in one case 180 years after the last confirmed sighting. Rare mammals that were considered dead but later rediscovered were typically missing for 52 years.

The Guadalupe seal was hunted to apparent extinction by 1892, but a tiny colony was spotted on the island by two fishermen in 1926. After a failed attempt to sell two of the animals to San Diego zoo, one of the fishermen went back to slaughter the colony out of spite. He later turned up in Panama to sell the skins, but was killed in a bar brawl. The seals were only rediscovered and protected when a zoologist tracked down the second fisherman, who revealed their location on his deathbed in 1950.

One rodent, the Bahian tree rat, which lives in forests on the Brazilian coast, went missing in 1824. Despite efforts by conservationists, the animal was not rediscovered until 2004. The bridled nailtail wallaby was once common in eastern Australia but seemed to die out in the 1930s. It was spotted in 1973 by a contractor who was preparing to clear an area of land. After he raised the alarm, the habitat was bought by the local parks service to save the animal. Another creature, a small marsupial called Gilbert's potoroo, was missing for 115 years before it was rediscovered in the south of Western Australia in 1994.

Diana Fisher, who led the survey at the University of Queensland, said the number of mammals going extinct was still accelerating despite large numbers of lost animals being found.
‘In the grip of sixth extinction'

Conservation experts have already warned that the world is in the grip of the “sixth great extinction”, as imported species and diseases, hunting and the destruction of natural habitats deal a fatal blow to plants and animals.

Writing in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Fisher lists 180 mammals reported as extinct, feared extinct, or missing since the year 1500. Of these, 67 were later found to be alive and well. Animals that were picked off by new predators were rarely rediscovered, while those threatened by a loss of habitat or hunting by humans were more likely to be holding on in small colonies, she found.

The survey highlights the uncertainties in lists of extinct species, but Fisher said it should help conservationists target their searches for missing species by focusing on those most likely to be alive.

More than 25 large-scale searches have failed to find thylacines, the carnivorous, dog-like marsupials that have not been seen in Australia for nearly 80 years.

Fisher said her analysis puts the chance of the species surviving at “virtually zero”. Mammals that were hunted to extinction before the 20th Century, such as the Steller's sea cow, the Falkland Islands wolf, the sea mink and the large Palau flying fox are also unlikely to be found now, Fisher said.

“Conservation resources are wasted searching for species that have no chance of rediscovery, while most missing species receive no attention,” Fisher said. “Rather than searching ever more for charismatic missing species, such as thylacines in Australia, it would be a better use of resources to look for species that are most likely to be alive, find out where they are, and protect their habitats,” she added.

According to Fisher's survey, the most likely missing mammals to be found alive are the Montane monkey-faced bat in the Solomon Islands, the Alcorn's pocket gopher, which was last seen in the high forests of Mexico, and the lesser stick-nest rat, a large, soft-furred desert animal from Australia

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.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Quote on Education

I encountered this quote on education "It has always seemed strange to me that in our endless discussions about education so little stress is laid on the pleasure of becoming an educated person, the enormous interest it adds to life. To be able to be caught up into the world of thought -- that is to be educated. -Edith Hamilton, educator and writer (1867-1963" and thought how our Indian educational system (at least majority of them) is woefully inadequate. Enormous stress placed on rote method is saddening. It is nice to read about alternate methods of education being tried out by some visionaries.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Sufi Poem

Sharing a warm Sufi poem by a great Persian Sufi poet Shiraz (1315 - 1390).

I Have Learned So Much

So much from God
That I can no longer

A Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim
A Buddhist, a Jew.

The Truth has shared so much of Itself
With me
That I can no longer call myself
A man, a woman, and angel
Or even pure

Love has
Befriended Hafiz so completely
It has turned to ash
And freed

Of every concept and image
My mind has ever known.

Translated by Daniel Lazinsky.

Friday, August 27, 2010

New Frog Species

Nature never fails to spring a surprise on us. I just read this news item about smallest frog species found in Borneo. Read on :

Researchers on an expedition in Borneo have found a new and very tiny species of frog.

Male adults of the new species, named Microhyla nepenthicola, grow to approximately one centimetre in length. The researchers first discovered the diminutive red and orange amphibian on an expedition to Kubah National Park in 2004.

They have now described the discovery in the journal Zootaxa.

The team found the frog when it emerged from a small pitcher plant, Nepenthes ampullaria, in which it lives. The plant lives off decomposing organic matter that collects in its deep pitcher-shaped cavity. The little frog uses this as a habitat.

It lays its eggs there and when the tadpoles hatch, they live in the gathered organic goo until they mature.

Apart from its size, the amphibian has some unique features that set it apart from other species.

The scientists believe that its miniaturisation and "reduced webbing" may be the result of it having to navigate the slippery zone of the pitcher plants on which it depends.

Scientists Indraneil Das from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, and Alexander Haas from the University of Hamburg in Germany, discovered and described the species, which they named after the plant.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Espacular Nonversation !! !

Wonder what does it mean ? Check this link out

The Man Who Refused Million Dollars

Mathematical geniuses, few of them, have an eccentric quality to them. Our own Indian genius, Srinivas Ramanujan, always attributed his genius to Namagiri Thayar at Namakkal, his family deity. Now we come across a Russian genius, Grigory Perelman, who has proved a tricky conjecture but has refused the award. He has become reclusive and lives with his mother in St. Petersburg. Here is a link on him

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Happy Birthday Chennai

Every year on August 22nd, Madras Day is observed. Let me wish great times ahead for my favourite city.

For more information, click this link

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Vuvuzela enters Oxford Dictionary of English

Vuvuzela, the much encountered term during FIFA World Cup this year, has entered the Oxford Dictionary of English. Here is the newsitem From Telegraph:

Along with other new words like tweetup, cheeseball and turducken, it is included in the third edition of the dictionary, published today (August 19, 2010).

The word vuvuzela has only been in common use since the summer when the long horn began to be heard at the World Cup matches in South Africa.

It is one of more than 2,000 new words and phrases included in the dictionary for the first time.

Other newcomers include: tweetup (a meeting arranged through Twitter); cheeseball (lacking taste or style); and a turducken (a roast dish consisting of a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey).

Two of the greatest influences on current language have been the internet and the financial crisis.

Paywall (which restricts website access only to subscribers), microblogging (posting short entries on a blog), netbook, viral and defriend have all arrived in our language because of the internet.

The financial world has also provided a host of new words including toxic debt, deleveraging (reducing debt by quickly selling assets), overleveraged, quantitative easing and staycation (a holiday spent in your home country).

Many of these were words that, in the past, were only used by economists and City experts, but which have now crept into normal parlance.

The world of national and global politics has contributed a number of new words and phrases including exit strategy, the fog of war, a surge (of troops), overthinking, catatrophizing (presenting a situation as considerably worse than it actually is) and soft skills (personal attributes that let you interact harmoniously with others).

Scientists have provided words connected with the climate. Carbon capture, carbon storage and geoengineering are all ways to help fight global warming.

Other new entries are :

* wardrobe malfunction : when someone exposes an intimate part of their body after clothing slips;

* chill pill: a notional pill to make someone calm;

* bromance : a close but non-sexual relationship between two men;

* LBD (little black dress). This refers to the simple evening or cocktail dress that, it is claimed, should be part of every womans wardrobe; and

* frenemy : a person that one is friendly with despite a fundamental dislike.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


As the beautiful vale of Kashmir is yet again in flames, I am reminded of a poem by Agha Shahid Ali.

We shall meet again, in Srinagar,
by the gates of the Villa of Peace,
our hands blossoming into fists
till the soldiers return the keys
and disappear. Again we'll enter
our last world, the first that vanished

in our absence from the broken city.
We'll tear our shirts for tourniquets
and bind the open thorns, warm the ivy
into roses. Quick, by the pomegranate-
the bird will say-Humankind can bear
everything. No need to stop the ear

Let us hope peace prevails in Kashmir and Kashmiris hearts are won over by peace and not by guns.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Last Saturday, watched Madrasapattinam with my wife. The film worked very well for me. The movie managed to evoke the atmosphere for 1940s Madras - clean River Cooum (now notorious for its stench), trams running, etc. Amy Jackson has essayed the role of English girl wonderfully. Arya as dhobi plays his role creditably. Songs are tuned nicely by G.V. Prakash. Even minor characters like the painter, scaremonger are well etched. Cochin Haneefa dazzles in his role as translator. It is sad to note that this was his last film. Kudos to director M. Vijay.

Friday, July 23, 2010

God the Artist

I stumbled on this poem (quite old one) in a Tamizh blog - here is the link

Let me reproduce it here.

God the Artist

God, when you thought of a pine tree,
How did you think of a star?
How did you dream of the Milky Way
To guide us from afar.
How did you think of a clean brown pool
Where flecks of shadows are?

God, when you thought of a cobweb,
How did you think of dew?
How did you know a spider's house
Had shingles bright and new?
How did you know the human folk
Would love them like they do?

God, when you patterned a bird song,
Flung on a silver string,
How did you know the ecstasy
That crystal call would bring?
How did you think of a bubbling throat
And a darling speckled wing?

God, when you chiseled a raindrop,
How did you think of a stem,
Bearing a lovely satin leaf
To hold the tiny gem?
How did you know a million drops
Would deck the morning's hem?

Why did you mate the moonlit night
With the honeysuckle vines?
How did you know Madeira bloom
Distilled ecstatic wines?
How did you weave the velvet disk
Where tangled perfumes are?
God, when you thought of a pine tree,
How did you think of a star?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Vuvuzelas falls silent !

At last the soccer fever has subsided. Spain has won the FIFA World cup. The final match was a dreary affair. It will be remembered most for the referee doling out cards like one supplies candy :-)

World Cup Soccer 2010 in South Africa will be more remembered for deafening vuvuzelas and the notorious Jabulani ball. As someone remarked ""Long after individual matches and goals are forgotten, this will be remembered as the Vuvuzela World Cup" . ""Thanks to the World Cup, the vuvuzela has the entered the shared language of the world and joined the ranks of words that need no translation".

Last but not the least, who can forget Paul the psychic octopus ? All the predictions of it came true eerily.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Battle of Red Versus Orange

At last FIFA World Cup Football final is just a day away. Hot favorites Spain has a golden chance of winning the world cup for the first time ever. Will the Dutch put spokes in its wheels ? Can Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben & co sink the Spanish Armada ? Will Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, David Villa see Spain through ? Let us wait and watch the battle of La Rojas ( The Red ones) as Spanish team is called versus the Oranjes.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

My Blog Recommendations

Check out this blog

It is full of great pictures of sculptures with descriptions. One can spend hours together perusing the contents.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Yet Another Soccer Feast

Today in World Cup Soccer, Spain takes on Germany. I expect it to be an absorbing tussle. Can Spain stop Mannschaft in its tracks ? German team impresses me a lot. So youthful and full of vigor. Let us wait with bated breath.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Soccer Feast

Today in FIFA World Cup Soccer (July 3rd), Argentina will be battling Germany in one of the quarter finals. Will Maradona's boys conquer the Teutons ? Will Thomas Muller and Ozil stop the marauding Argentinians ? Hopefully an exciting tussle is on the cards. Now that Brazil is eliminated, Argentina stands a good chance of laying its hands on the cup if they stop the Germans in their tracks.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Native Dog Breeds of Tamil Nadu

"The hounds of Tamil Nadu (Rajapalayam, Chippiparai and Kanni) have been brought back from the dead. Can the Kombai, another breed from the State, be rescued from the jaws of extinction too?"

For full article click

Monday, June 28, 2010

Dying Art of Letter Writing

Do anybody writes letters nowadays ? E-mails and SMSs have almost sounded the death knell for the art of letter writing. As for myself, I do not remember writing a letter in the last 10+ years or more.

I came across this wonderful article in The Hindu yesterday (June 27th 2010) on this dying tradition. Read on :

Do people still write letters, that is, by their hand? This question will seem absurd for a generation intoxicated by gadgets that eliminate face-to-face-interaction and insist on using fingers to type on keys or press mobile phone buttons rather hold pens to write on paper. Technological innovations bombard us every day at a breathtaking speed that we seldom reflect on how our social lives have changed, how social phenomena which held sway for centuries have been rendered redundant if not totally irrelevant.

Solemn obituaries have been written for the old fashioned typewriter, the pager and the telegram. Let us pause and spare a moment for the vanishing handwritten letter.

For centuries, personal letters were the dominant mode of communication among people. The postman was one of the most awaited daily visitors in the household. Emotions varied from disappointment when the postman said no letter to excitement and euphoria when he handed out an inland letter card, a post card or an envelope. The inland was the most preferred mode for personal communication as its contents could be protected from prying eyes.

The card was mostly used for conveying pithy messages not requiring confidentiality. Some chose envelopes as it could enclose several pages.

The younger generation might ask what is so great about the handwritten letter? Is it not a waste of time to sit down and write on paper which will anyway take a few days to reach the recipient when the message could be conveyed within seconds by e- mail? The advent of cheap mobile telephony has driven another nail on the personal letter's coffin.

The greeting card also reduced the need to sit down and write down loving messages to our dear ones. The once mighty pen is nowadays used mostly to put signatures.

A printed letter lacks the personal feeling and emotional affinity a written letter conveys. While reading a written letter one can visualise the scene of the writer sitting down and putting down his feelings on paper. There is an instant rapport in the written communication which the printed message or a telephonic talk could never replicate. The familiar handwriting of a dear one evokes such happiness and delight that has to be experienced to be believed. People used to preserve letters for years as these humble pieces of paper afforded companionship in absentia.

Writing a letter requires us to slow down, think and put down our thoughts on paper with careful reflection. It adds a new perspective to our thought process. An e-mail or a telephonic talk is impersonal and ephemeral. A written letter is a permanent record of communication. The greatest and noble thoughts that the world has seen have been penned by their authors on paper rather than on print. The letters of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru contained some of their loftiest thoughts. The world would have lost much if great men had used tele- conversations or e- mail to pour our their wisdom.

People used to polish their handwriting skills by writing more and more letters. Writing also helped to improve the vocabulary, whether it was vernacular or English.

The younger generation is sadly missing one of the most creative and emotionally and intellectually stimulating of human activities — writing letters. E-mails and texting reflect the inability to pause, think and create thoughts which carry the authenticity of intense feeling. The electronic letters have played havoc with grammar and structure. It is doubtful whether smart kids can write an error-free page with clarity. This is not to generalise the weakness. But the sad truth is known to those who are in finishing schools which teach soft skills to the ‘educated' unemployed. Instances of bloomers and absurd letters abound. A techie wrote a letter requesting leave for attending his mother's funeral stating that he was ‘responsible' for his mother's death!

The intent is not to trivialise technology. Ironically, this piece has been typed on a computer and sent by e-mail. But the point is that we must occasionally use the pen and paper medium at least for personal communication. My advice to the young people who work at distant places is to try writing a letter to your parents for a change. Hearing your voice over the mobile is comforting and reassuring. But a telephonic conversation is forgotten soon. But reading your handwriting on paper opens a floodgate of nostalgia and emotional satisfaction which no other medium of communication can replicate. The pen is mighty even in this electronic age. Let us wield it occasionally to create islands of tranquillity and happiness in the vast ocean of sick hurry and digital surfeit.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Patriach of Tamil

I am reproducing an article which appeared in The Frontline in 2005 on Tamizh patriarch U. V. Swaminatha Iyer. His contribution to Tamizh language is unparalleled.

TAMILS across the globe recently celebrated the government's decision to confer the `classical language' status on their mother tongue. This recognition, which puts the ancient language on a par with Greek, Latin and Sanskrit, is not only owing to its antiquity but also its rich literature. What has happened now, say Tamil scholars is only the "official reiteration" of the international academic community's recognition of Tamil literature as `classical', particularly the works such as Paththuppaattu (ten idylls) and Ettuththogai (Eight anthologies) of the Sangam era (from the first and second centuries of the Christian era), besides the better known Thirukkural and Tholkappiam.

Interestingly, the original texts of a significant number of the much-acclaimed literary works of the Sangam period came to public notice only towards the end of the 19th century, when they appeared in print with commentaries. Until then, works such as the Aymperum Kaappiangal (the five great epics) - Silappathikaram, Manimekalai, Kundalakesi, Jeevaka Chintamani and Valaiyapathi, were in the form of palm leaf manuscripts in the possession of scores of families living in various parts of Tamil Nadu. They did not have the skill to read them, and, therefore, did not realise their literary worth. Tamil scholars were aware of the existence of such texts as references in the available works. All that the people knew until then as Tamil literature comprised Bhakti literature, historical works and minor poems. Although very few literary works were available for studies, they did draw the attention of European scholars such as Bishop Robert Caldwell (1814-1891) and Constantine Joseph Beschi (known in Tamil as Veeramamunivar). However, during the same period, Sanskrit literary works attracted more Western attention because of their availability and easy access.

IT was under these circumstances that the need to hunt for the missing palm leaf manuscripts and bring to light the hidden treasure of Tamil literature was felt. Foremost among those who undertook this formidable task was Mahamahopadhyaya Dakshinathya Kalanidhi Uthamadhanapuram Venkatasubbaiyer Swaminatha Iyer (1855-1942), popularly known as "Tamizh thaththaa" (the grand old man of Tamil). A Tamil professor and literary scholar, Swaminatha Iyer's 150th birth anniversary was celebrated on February 19.

He took upon himself the arduous task of collecting the palm leaf manuscripts of great literary works that lay scattered not only in Tamil Nadu but even outside. As part of this mission he undertook long journeys, interesting and fruitful sometimes and unrewarding at others. Ultimately, he succeeded in gathering palm leaf manuscripts of many immortal Tamil works. With the objectivity and detachment of a scientist and the imagination of an artist and critic, he made comparative studies of various manuscripts. Starting with Jeevaka Chintamani in 1887, he printed and published Manimekalai (1898), Silappathikaram (1889), Paththuppaattu (1889) and Purananooru (1894), all appended with scholarly commentaries. Although he brought out about 100 works in all, including minor poems, many of the manuscripts that he gathered remain unpublished.

BORN in 1855 into a poor family at Uthamadhanapuram, near Kumbakonam in the old Thanjavur district, Swaminatha Iyer had his early education in Tamil under some teachers in his village. Although his father Venkatasubbaiyer, a musician, wanted his son to learn music, Swaminatha Iyer was inclined to concentrate on Tamil. When he was 17, he became a disciple of Mahavidwan Meenakshisundaram Pillai, a Tamil scholar, who was in the service of the Thiruvavaduthurai Adheenam in the old Thanjavur district. It was one of the wealthy Saiva mutts in Tamil Nadu, which patronised Tamil teachers and men of letters and propagated its religious philosophy through them. Swaminatha Iyer learnt Tamil under the guidance of Meenakshisundaram Pillai for five years. During this period, he earned the goodwill of the mutt head, himself a Tamil scholar.

After Meenakshisundaram Pillai's death, Swaminatha Iyer was retained in the mutt as a vidvan (scholar). In 1880, he joined the Government Arts College at Kumbakonam as a Tamil teacher, at the instance of the outgoing teacher Thiagaraja Chettiar, also a former student of Meenakshisundaram Pillai. In his autobiography, En Sarithiram, first serialised in the Tamil weekly Ananda Vikatan, from January 1940 to May 1942 and later published as a book in 1950, he gives a graphic account of the rigid selection process he had to undergo before being appointed a Tamil teacher. "Thanks to his erudition in Tamil, skill to explain anything in an interesting manner, training in music and profound love for others, he could easily attract the students," said K.V. Jagannathan, one of his students, in his short biographical note published in En Sarithiram. He was loved and venerated by the students. This was no mean achievement, considering the fact that Swaminatha Iyer had little grounding in English at a time when the craze for English was at its peak, and Tamil teachers did not enjoy the same status as teachers of English and other subjects. After 23 years of service at the Kumbakonam college, he joined the Presidency College, Chennai, in 1903. Even after his retirement in 1919, he continued to teach Tamil. From 1924 to 1927, he was the principal of the Meenakshi Tamil College. He spent the rest of his life as a publisher, which immortalised his name. He died on April 28, 1942, after a brief period of illness, at Thirukkazhukundram, now in Kancheepuram district.

SWAMINATHA IYER's search for Tamil manuscripts began even as he joined the Kumbakonam college as a teacher. Many influential persons who took keen interest in Tamil studies were in touch with him. His meeting with Ramasami Mudaliar, District Munsiff of Salem, proved a turning point in his life. Swaminatha Iyer readily responded to the Munsiff's request to read the palm leaf in his possession and explain it to him. When he knew that the manuscripts were that of Jeevaka Chintamani, which he had been looking for, he was overjoyed. He transcripted the palm leaf manuscripts, a Buddhist work, into paper and edited it with utmost care. He printed and published the epic with notes and commentaries in 1887. It was an instant success. He mobilised funds from all available sources to continue the task of publishing the other invaluable literary works. Donations from Tamil lovers poured in. He also launched a `pre-publication sale' campaign with success.

Then began Swaminatha Iyer's long search for the original texts of ancient literary works. It was a search that lasted until his death. Many people voluntarily parted with the manuscripts in their possession. Swaminatha Iyer visited almost every hamlet and knocked at every door. He employed all the resources at his command to get at the works. As a result, a large number of literary works which were gathering dust as palm leaf manuscripts in lofts, store-rooms, boxes and cupboards saw the light of day. Of them, Silappathikaram, Purananooru and Manimekalai were received by Tamil lovers with a lot of enthusiasm. Purananooru, which mirrored the lives of Tamils during the Sangam period, prompted scholarly research on the subject. In a span of about five decades, Swaminatha Iyer published about 100 books, including minor poems, lyrics, puranas and bhakti (devotional) works.

Referring to the high quality of Swaminatha Iyer's publications, Jagannathan wrote in his biographical note: "What he published was not a mere transcription of the manuscripts in palm leaves. If publication is so simple as that, many others could have done it with success long ago. What Swaminatha Iyer did was to edit and publish these works with detailed footnotes, commentaries and indices, besides biographical notes on the authors. This was very useful and many readers desired to preserve these books for posterity. All this is evidence of not only the scholarship of the editor but also the hard work he had put in."

ANOTHER significant contribution made by Swaminatha Iyer is in the realm of Tamil music, wrote Dr. Arimalam S. Padmanabhan, a researcher and academic, in a paper on the Tamil scholar. Until Swaminatha Iyer came out with his publications of Silappaathikaram, Paththuppaattu and Ettuththogai, music was a grey area in Tamil research.

During the previous four centuries, Telugu and Sanskrit dominated the music scene in Tamil Nadu in the absence of any valuable information on Tamil music. Swaminatha Iyer's publications threw light on the glorious presence of Tamil music in the earlier centuries and paved the way for serious research on the subject.

Abraham Pandithar's Karunamirda Sagaram was the first major research work and it was followed by Vibulaanda Adigal's Yaazh Nool. Both these authors acknowledged the fact that it was Swaminatha Iyer's publications that inspired them to do further research.

"Silappathikaram is the best among the ancient Tamil literary works that provide vast information on Tamil music," observes Prof. V.P.K. Sundaram, another noted Tamil music researcher. "Without Swaminatha Iyer's publication there could have been no Karunamirda Sagaram," he observes. As the son of a famous musician of his time, Swaminatha Iyer learnt music from Gopalakrishna Bharathi, an outstanding musical exponent and the author of Nandan Sarithiram, an immortal work on a Dalit saint.

FOR his invaluable service to Tamil literature, Swaminatha Iyer was honoured with several awards and titles. The government honoured him in 1906 with the title "Mahamahopadhyaya" (Great Teacher). While the Bharatha Dharma Mandal awarded him the title of "Dravida Vidya Bhooshan", Sri Sankaracharya of Kamakoti Peetam honoured him with the title "Dakshinadya Kalanidhi". A doctorate was awarded to him by the University of Madras in 1932.

Tamil poet and nationalist Subramania Bharati, who inspired the freedom movement with his powerful songs, was a distinguished contemporary of Swaminatha Iyer. Paying glowing tributes to Swaminatha Iyer in one of his poems, Bharati called him "Kumbamuni" (the saint from Kumbakonam) and said: "So long as Tamil lives, poets will venerate you and pay obeisance to you. You will ever shine as an immortal."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Poem by A K Ramanujan

As World Classical Tamil Conference is underway in Coimbatore, let me share a wonderful sangam poetry in Tamizh translated by A K Ramanujan.

A River

In Madurai,
city of temples and poets,
who sang of cities and temples,
every summer
a river dries to a trickle
in the sand,
baring the sand ribs,
straw and women's hair
clogging the watergates
at the rusty bars
under the bridges with patches
of repair all over them
the wet stones glistening like sleepy
crocodiles, the dry ones
shaven water-buffaloes lounging in the sun
The poets only sang of the floods.

He was there for a day
when they had the floods.
People everywhere talked
of the inches rising,
of the precise number of cobbled steps
run over by the water, rising
on the bathing places,
and the way it carried off three village houses,
one pregnant woman
and a couple of cows
named Gopi and Brinda as usual.

The new poets still quoted
the old poets, but no one spoke
in verse
of the pregnant woman
drowned, with perhaps twins in her,
kicking at blank walls
even before birth.

He said:
the river has water enough
to be poetic
about only once a year
and then
it carries away
in the first half-hour
three village houses,
a couple of cows
named Gopi and Brinda
and one pregnant woman
expecting identical twins
with no moles on their bodies,
with different coloured diapers
to tell them apart.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Reproducing the recent article on Jarawas which I came across in The Hindu

Forget all those wildlife safaris promising glimpses of lions and tigers. Some tour operators in the Andamans are offering more “exotic” fare.

“Early morning proceed to Baratang Island, it is situated in the northern part of south Andaman. It takes 3 hours journey,” says the website of the Andaman Island Adventure travel company. “In between, you would cross the reserve forest area and if it's your lucky day you may see the old inhabitants of Andamans known as Jarawas.”

Listed as attraction

Spotting the Jarawas is listed right alongside other attractions, including limestone caves and a mud-spewing volcano. The entire package costs just Rs. 6,500 a couple.

Andaman Island Adventure is not the only travel agent in the region which is promoting this kind of human safari for its customers. At least three other companies — Moon Travels, Rhino Jungle Adventures and off-beat Andaman Vacations — all advertise the Jarawas as an attraction in their travel packages.


Off-beat Andaman Vacations, however, does warn that while tourists may see the Jarawas, they are not permitted to interact or take photos of them.

Four other companies have recently removed such promotional material from their websites, after protests by the international NGO Survival.

“The Jarawa people lived successfully on their island without contact with outsiders for probably about 55,000 years, until 1998. Today, a road runs right through their forest home, and they risk decimation by disease,” says Survival director Stephen Corry. “They call themselves the Ang, which means ‘human being', yet they are being ogled at like animals in a game reserve.”

Apart from the insult to human dignity, this kind of tourism puts the community at risk, as the Jarawas are unlikely to have much immunity to common illnesses.

As recently as last month, the government of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands issued warnings that such tourism is illegal.

“It has been brought to the notice of the A&N administration that some of the tour operators are promoting tours to the A&N Islands with the inclusion of sightings of, or encounters with, the Jarawa tribe,” said a press release issued in early May. It clarified that the tribal areas of the islands come under the A&N Island (Protection of Aboriginal Tribes) Regulations 1956, and reiterated that the Jarawas are not to be promoted as a ‘tourist attraction' under any circumstances, or even be mentioned in promotional material.

And a paradox

However, such “tourism” is only possible because a controversial highway now runs through the reserve where the 350-odd Jarawas live on. Paradoxically, the same government which issued the warning also insists on keeping the highway, despite a 2002 Supreme Court ruling which ordered that the Andaman Trunk Road be closed.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I would like to share this quote I came across recently. It is by Raina Maria Milke.

"I live my life in widening circles that reach out across the world. I may not complete this last one but I will try". -Rainer Maria Rilke, poet and novelist.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Soccer Mania - Jabulani's Spell

World cup soccer kicks off tomorrow. Billions of us will be glued to the telly. Let us hope exciting fare is in store.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Playing God ?

From The Telegraph:

Dr Craig Venter, a multi-millionaire pioneer in genetics, and his team have managed to make a completely new "synthetic" life form from a mix of chemicals.

They manufactured a new chromosome from artificial DNA in a test tube, then transferred it into an empty cell and watched it multiply – the very definition of being alive.

The man-made single cell "creature", which is a modified version of one of the simplest bacteria on earth, proves that the technology works.

Now Dr Venter believes organism, nicknamed Synthia, will pave the way for more complex creatures that can transform environmental waste into clean fuel, vaccinate against disease and soak up pollution.

But his development has also triggered debate over the ethics of "playing god" and the dangers of the new technology could pose in terms of biological hazards and warfare.

"We are entering an era limited only by our imagination," he said announcing the research published in the journal Science.

Dr Venter, a pioneer of genetic code sequencing and his team at the J Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland, have been chasing the goal for more than 15 years at a cost of £30m.

First they sequenced the genetic code of Mycoplasma genitalium, the world's smallest bacteria that lives in cattle and goats, and stored the information on a computer.

Then they used the computer code to artificially reproduce the DNA in the laboratory, slightly modifying it with a "watermark" so it was distinguishable from the original natural one.

Finally they developed a technique of stripping bacteria cells of all original DNA and substituting it with the new artificial code.

The resulting "synthetic cell" was then "rebooted" and it started to replicate. The ability to reproduce or replicate is considered the basic definition of life.

Dr Venter compared his work with the building of a computer. Making the artificial DNA was the equivalent of creating the software for the operating system. Transferring it to a cell was like loading it into the hardware and running the programme.

"This is the first synthetic cell that's been made, and we call it synthetic because the cell is totally derived from a synthetic chromosome, made with four bottles of chemicals on a chemical synthesizer, starting with information in a computer," said Dr Venter.

"This becomes a very powerful tool for trying to design what we want biology to do. We have a wide range of applications [in mind]," he said.

The researchers are planning to design algae that can capture carbon dioxide and make new hydrocarbons that could go into refineries.

They are also working on ways to speed up vaccine production, making new chemicals or food ingredients and cleaning up water, said Dr Venter.

While a major technological leap forward the life form is still incredibly simple in natural terms. Its DNA is made up of 485 genes, each strand of which is made up of one million base pairs, the equivalent of rungs on a ladder.

A human genome has 20,000 genes and three billion base pairs.

Nevertheless it is the beginning of the process that could lead to creation of much more complicated species, and into a world of artificial animals and people only envisaged in films such as Ridley Scott's Bladerunner and Steven Spielberg's Artificial Intelligence.

Professor Julian Savulescu, an expert in Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford, said: “Venter is creaking open the most profound door in humanity’s history, potentially peeking into its destiny.

"He is going toward the role of a god: creating artificial life that could never have existed naturally.

"The potential is in the far future, but real and significant: dealing with pollution, new energy sources, new forms of communication. But the risks are also unparalleled.

"We need new standards of safety evaluation for this kind of radical research and protections from military or terrorist misuse and abuse.

"These could be used in the future to make the most powerful bioweapons imaginable."

Dr David King, director of the watchdog Human Genetics Alert, said: “What is really dangerous is these scientists’ ambitions for total and unrestrained control over nature, which many people describe as ‘playing God’.

“Scientists’ understanding of biology falls far short of their technical capabilities. We have already learnt to our cost the risks that gap brings, for the environment, animal welfare and human health.”

Dr Venter has called for reviews so that debate keeps up with the science.

He said: "It's part of an ongoing process that we've been driving, trying to make sure that the science proceeds in an ethical fashion, that we're being thoughtful about what we do and looking forward to the implications to the future."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Maoists Versus Indian State

"As for the Maoists, they need to realise this is not a war they can win. The Indian state’s capacity to absorb punishment is far greater than the Maoists’ ability to inflict violence. Whatever else its lacks, India certainly doesn’t need more soldiers, guns and IEDs. What it could use is a strong political movement to give voice to the aspirations of ordinary workers, peasants, tribals, women and other marginalised sections. Mao may have said power flows out of the barrel of the gun. But he also said to put politics in command. Alas, in Chhatisgarh today, there is no politics."

A well-written piece by Siddharth Varadarajan. For full article go to

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Each in Their Own Image

Let me share this quote.

"Ethiopians imagine their gods as black and snub-nosed; Thracians blue-eyed and red-haired. But if horses or lions had hands, or could draw and fashion works as men do, horses would draw the gods shaped like horses and lions like lions, making the gods resemble themselves". -Xenophanes, philosopher and poet (c.570-475 BCE)

Friday, April 23, 2010

World Earth Day

To mark World Earth Day yesterday, let me share a wonderful quote by great naturalist John Muir.

" A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease. Every hidden cell is throbbing with music and life, every fiber thrilling like harp strings, while incense is ever flowing from the balsam bells and leaves. No wonder the hills and groves were God's first temples, and the more they are cut down and hewn into cathedrals and churches, the farther off and dimmer seems the Lord himself."

Monday, April 19, 2010

Jerdon's Courser

What is it, one may ask ? It is the name of a bird, an endangered bird in India. As for how it got its name, Wiki says "The bird was discovered by the surgeon-naturalist Thomas C. Jerdon in 1848 but not seen again until its rediscovery in 1986. This courser is a restricted-range endemic found locally in India in the Eastern Ghats of Andhra Pradesh. It is currently known only from the Sri Lankamalleshwara Sanctuary, where it inhabits sparse scrub forest with patches of bare ground."

The Hindu in last August 09 reported the story of its sighting thus.

"The sighting of the critically endangered Jerdon’s Courser, a ground bird found in scrub jungles, after many years has come as "major boost" to the conservation efforts of wildlife activists and environmentalists, to save the species.

Two Jerdon’s Coursers were spotted by BNHS scientist Rahul Chavan and his local assistant Rahim in the core area of Sri Lankamalleswara Wildlife Sanctuary in Cuddapah district of Andhra Pradesh on the morning of August 6, 2009.

Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden at Hyderabad, Hitesh Malhotra said, "This excellent news is very reassuring. We all need to increase efforts for the protection of Jerdon’s Courser with renewed vigour."

The sight of this rare nocturnal bird has come as a major boost to the conservation efforts for this near-extinct species, according to BNHS.

"It is a big boost to our conservation efforts, particularly to add some land to the Sanctuary, which the proponent of the Telugu Ganga Canal had promised," BNHS Director, Asad Rahmani said.

BNHS has been conducting field research on Jerdon’s Courser for the past years to help conserve the species, in collaboration with UK-based Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Andhra Pradesh Forest Department, University of Cambridge and University of Reading, funded by the Darwin Initiative.

P Jeganathan of Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore, who is a part of the Jerdon’s Courser Project, said that the recent sighting indicates that these rare birds exist in the area and further efforts are required to locate them in more places.

RSPB's International Officer for India Ian Barber said, "Jerdon's Courser is clearly a bird on the edge of existence. Although there is a great deal of international co-operation to prevent this bird's global extinction there are many pressures, especially habitat loss that could force the Courser into oblivion."

The ongoing research work of BNHS and RSPB in Andhra Pradesh aims to gather more information about its ecology, breeding habits, distribution and habitat use.

The survey is in progress in different areas in and around Sri Lankamalleswara Sanctuary. Automatic camera traps are being used to get photographs of this elusive bird and track strips which retain the foot prints, mainly to detect its presence, a BNHS release said."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Two Interesting History Finds

"An inscription of Aditya Chola I (871-907 AD) has been found in a dilapidated temple about a kilometre from Pattisvaram near Kumbakonam by research scholars of Dr. M. Rajamanikkanar Centre for Historical Research, Tiruchi." For more see

Vijayanagara King Sri Krishnadevaraya's throne remains an unresolved riddle to historians. Where does it lie now?

Was it used by Sri Krishnadevaraya's successors after his demise in 1530 A.D., after a 21-year successful rule described as the golden age in medieval south India?

Or taken away by Bahmani sultans after Aliya Ramaraya, son-in-law of Sri Krishnadevaraya, suffered a crushing defeat at their hands in the Tallikote battle in 1565?

However, according to Dr. K. Krishna Rao, an authority on Sri Krishnadevaraya, the throne is very much in Hampi. Dr. Rao's research recently took him there and he “chanced upon” the throne in the famous Virupaksha temple, the place where, historians say, the coronation took place on August 7, 1509.

The throne, resembling a highly embellished chair used for grooms and brides at marriages of celebrities these days, was made of pure silver and full of engravings.

Now, it is being used by archakas as the peetham to place “ammavarau,” the consort of the presiding deity, Lord Shiva, he said.

Dr. Rao said the archakas gave him the tip-off with great reluctance.

Unlike all other structures destroyed by the Bahmanis after the war, the temple remained intact. Shaivite soldiers formed a sizeable chunk of the Bahmani army which participated in the Hampi devastation but they spared the temple as it was dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Thought to ponder

I chanced upon this quote and immediately thought best to share it. Life is not always black and white, the extremes, but mostly gray.

"I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity." -Gilda Radner -actress and comedian (1946-1989)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Was Buddha murdered ?

Fascinating speculative article on Buddha's death in one of the recet issues of The Outlook magazine.
Here is the link

Prince Khusrau

Dara Shukoh, eldest son of Emperor Jahangir, has always fascinated me. This article on yet another unfortunate but interesting and tragic Mughal Prince Khusrau was engrossing. Here is the link

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Money Money Money

For money you can have everything it is said. No, that is not true. You can buy food, but not appetite; medicine, but not health; soft beds, but not sleep; knowledge but not intelligence; glitter, but not comfort; fun, but not pleasure; acquaintances, but not friendship; servants, but not faithfulness; grey hair, but not honor; quiet days, but not peace. The shell of all things you can get for money. But not the kernel. That cannot be had for money. -Arne Garborg, writer (1851-1924)

Millionaire Sells All His Belongings - His Fortune Makes Him Unhappy

An Austrian millionaire, Karl Rabeder, 47, has decided that he no longer wants to be a millionaire for he realised his fortune makes him unhappy. He says that the money prevents happiness.

He decided to sell every valuable belonging. Mr. Rabeder will move out of his luxury Alpine retreat and live instead in a small house somewhere in Innsbruck.

All money from selling his belongings will go to charities which were set up by him in Central and Latin America. He says he does not feel comfortable among rich people; he wants to be a simple person.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Eco Notes

From The Hindu " A little-known rainforest in north-east India could be home to the world’s largest number of wildcat species, with no less than seven species photo-documented by a wildlife biologist at the end of her two-year survey". Read on for more.

Another piece on wildlife which is definitely cause for worry in The Hindu.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dick Francis No More

Dick Francis was one of the thriller writers I really enjoyed reading . Of late though, I did not have a chance to read any of his novels. All his novels were in the setting of horse races and were real delight to read.

Read more on him at

Saturday, February 13, 2010


A unsavory portrait of Mahatma in The Guardian recently. The article by one Michael Conellan drives home the point that Gandhi was a misogynist and most of woman's miseries in India can be attributed to his principles. This article is now being hotly debated in few Tamil blogs.

You can read the article here

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Public Services & Stay-At-Home Mom

Two noteworthy articles in The Hindu. Here are the links

First one is a laudatory article on our much maligned public services.

Second article is about pros and cons of working women and some merits of being stay-at-home mom.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thanjavur Big Temple

Tamil Nadu is a land chock-a-block with temples, big and small. I am not exaggerating when I say that it will take one's full life time to attempt to check out most of them. Famous temples are of course Madurai Meenakshi temple, Srirangam Ranganatha temple, Rameshwaram, Chidambaram. The most important one on the heritage front is the Big Temple of Thanjavur. Incidentally this year, 2010, marks the thousand years anniversary of its completion. Temple is also called Brihadisvara temple. It is a veritable architectural masterpiece built by Rajaraja I, the illustrious Chola emperor (985-1014). As The Hindu in its edit puts it "The high point of design is the vimana (tower over sanctum). This unusually tall vimana was a structural innovation of the first rank....on top of good design, the choice of granite contributed to its endurance. About 50,000 cubic meters of granite were utilized to build this complex..the abundant and richly detailed inscriptions found on the temple walls make it a treasure-house of historical information....Rajarajesvaram's (as the temple was known during the Chola period) contribution to the history of dance is no less important: it is the only temple to have 81 of the 108 karanas or dance postures carved on its walls."

Hoping to make a visit sometime this year.

You can learn more about the temple at

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Circle of Ethics

I came across this passage and thought it would be worth sharing.

In an earlier stage of our development most human groups held to a tribal ethic. Members of the tribe were protected, but people of other tribes could be robbed or killed as one pleased. Gradually the circle of protection expanded, but as recently as 150 years ago we did not include blacks. So African human beings could be captured, shipped to America, and sold. In Australia white settlers regarded Aborigines as a pest and hunted them down, much as kangaroos are hunted down today. Just as we have progressed beyond the blatantly racist ethic of the era of slavery and colonialism, so we must now progress beyond the speciesist ethic of the era of factory farming, of the use of animals as mere research tools, of whaling, seal hunting, kangaroo slaughter, and the destruction of wilderness. We must take the final step in expanding the circle of ethics. -Peter Singer, philosopher, professor of bioethics

Friday, January 8, 2010

Chennai Book Fair 2010

33rd Chennai Book Fair

So far I have visited the book fair thrice. It was nice to see huge crowd thronging the venue. More than 450 stalls were there. I managed to check out most of the Tamizh publishers' stalls. Here is a list of few books I purchased :

1. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

2. Nehru: A Contemporary´s Estimate by Walter Crocker.

3. பிரசாதம் - சுந்தர ராமசாமி.

4. அழைப்பு - சுந்தர ராமசாமி.

5. பள்ளிகொண்டபுரம் - நீலபத்மநாபன்.

6. என்பிலதனை வெயில் காயும் - நாஞ்சில் நாடன்.

7. ரப்பர் - ஜெயமோகன்.

8. மீன்காரதெரு - கீரனூர் ஜாகிர் ராஜா

9. துருக்கி தொப்பி -கீரனூர் ஜாகிர் ராஜா

10. அலகிலா விளையாட்டு - பா. ராகவன்

11. கர்நாடக சங்கீதம் - ஓர் எளிய அறிமுகம் · மகாதேவன் ரமேஷ்

Friday, January 1, 2010

Lessons from Humble Pencil

From Paulo Coelho's “Like a Flowing River: Thoughts and Reflections”

A boy was watching his grandmother write a letter.

At one point, he asked: “Are you writing a story about what we’ve done? Is it a story about me?”

His grandmother stopped writing her letter and said to her grandson: “I am writing about you, actually, but more important than the words is the pencil I’m using. I hope you will be like this pencil when you grow up.’

Intrigued, the boy looked at the pencil. It didn’t seem very special. “But it’s just like any other pencil I’ve ever seen”

“That depends on how you at look at things. It has five qualities which, if you manage to hang on to them, will make you a person who is always at peace with the world.

“First quality: you are capable of great things, but you must never forget that there is a hand guiding your steps. We call that hand God, and He always guides us according to His will.

“Second quality: now and then, I have to stop writing and use a sharpener. That makes the pencil suffer a little, but afterwards, he’s much sharper. So you, too, must learn to bear certain pains and sorrows, because they will make you a better person.

“Third quality: the pencil always allows us to use an eraser to rub out any mistakes. This means that correcting something we did is not necessarily a bad thing; it helps us to keep us on the road to justice.

“Fourth quality: what really matters in a pencil is not its wooden exterior, but the graphite inside. So always pay attention to what is happening inside you.

“Finally, the pencil’s fifth quality: it always leaves a mark. In just the same way, you should know that everything you do in life will leave a mark, so try to be conscious of that in your every action.”

Wishing all bloggers a very happy and successful 2010.