Showing posts from 2008

Singing roads

Recently our esteemed blogger Raji posted a note on the musical happenings abounding in Chennai. Wistfully thinking of partaking in all those and desirous of seeing the spring event 'Thyagarajostava' some day, I recalled a newspaper report some months ago about singing roads. Yes, you did not read wrong, singing roads. Now imagine you living by the roadside and a car speeds through and you hear refrains of say ‘enthoru mahaanu bhavulu’…how would that sound? Well that is roughly what this is all about. Specially constructed roads that emit musical tones as cars speed through.
The first of the musical roads in California was installed by Honda in Lancaster.When Honda cars went over it, it would hum the ‘William Tell’ or Lone Ranger Overture. The idea was to have it as a marketing campaign. I do not know if it was done for a limited time or if the locals have gone crazy with the tune after some months of hearing it. Japan who started the concept has a few melody roads and South Ko…

The legend of Vavar

One of the first things that strike you as you start to understand religion, especially in Kerala, and when you start out as a Kanni Ayappan on that glorious trek to Sabarimala (now that is an experience by itself, do the whole thing including the trek from Pampa via Erumayur) is the strange anomaly, you first visit a mosque to seek good wishes from a departed Muslim soul called Vavar. You are told by the senior swami in the troupe (the guy who has planted one or more coconut trees at Sabarimala) that Vavar Swami, a great friend of Ayappan is entombed at that location. Later on as you grow older, you marvel at the occasion where there is no religious enmity and where all religions are allowed to participate in this pilgrimage, and they continue to do so, in the millions every year, men, children and older women alike. The myth like the Cheraman Perumal myth lingers on.

As it is done, you start the Peta Thullal session near the mosque and move on to the other activities…but that is not …

Abraham, Ashu and the Genizah

What a strange name for a story, would be the first thought in a reader’s mind. A Malayali seeing this would balk, because he can imagine the complex undertaking straightway. I thought for a long time if I should make this a dry & factual article and decided against it, after all, others have done that already to this story, so I decided to focus more on the individuals in the story. Well, this story, my friends, will take you back to the Malabar between 1130 and 1150 and into the lives of an unlikely couple, Abraham Yiju and Ashu Nair.

Most people would not like to dwell too much on the environment and conditions around life in those days, but prosperous life and honest trade did exist at that time. It was a time before the Portuguese onslaught, a time of the powerful Zamorins, a time when many traders and expatriates from Europe lived on the shores of the Malabar. Syrian Jews lived in Cochin, Arabic Jews were all around, like our man Yiju, and the Bombay ports had Iraqi Jews and…

The magical tongue

The human tongue is fascinating to say the least. Without it you cannot taste, you cannot talk or sing, you cannot feel the temperature of what you are ingesting and you cannot do inane things like touching your nose, picking teeth or checking if they are there, affixing stamps and closing envelopes, whistling for fun or calling attention….Ever wondered why people lick a wound? All animals do so, humans also do it. Some years back, I read something about it, but promptly forgot, even though I would automatically lick a finger that got cut or burnt. It could very well be an evolutionary aspect and have a scientific base…but that is my hypothesis of course

Peter Aldhous of New Scientist explains in his article - Our mouths are full of potentially dangerous fungi and bacteria. Yet even when we bite our tongues, the wounds rarely become infected. Now American researchers have explained why our mouths are so resistant to infection. Whenever a mammal's tongue is damaged, they say, the wo…

George Orwell & India

For Orwell book fans, this small blog is not about his great writings, but about the person himself and his relationship with India.

How many of you know that Eric Arthur Blair a.k.a. George Orwell - that brilliant writer who wrote moody books like Animal farm and 1984 was born in India and always had a fond corner in his mind for India? He was born in 1903 at Motihari (a place now in Bihar and famous for the giant Buddha statue – and the place where Gandhi first practiced Satyagraha!) in Bengal. But alas, today, Motihari has a dubious distinction; it is the kidnapping capital of Bihar where people are abducted even for 20 flashlight batteries!!

Well as the story goes, Orwell’s father who was heading the Opium department (the buyer for the Brit government) insisted on farmers planting Opium in the fields during certain seasons. The farmers hated it as it spoilt the soil and invited MK Gandhi, fresh from South Africa to champion their cause…and that was the origin of Satyagraha and the O…

Mumbai - The aftermath

Too much written, too little said, too much chatter, too little matter. Two faces from the crowd, two faces from the many saviors of the day.

The man in the line of fire, Look at the him and his smile, the humility writ on his face, he is the one who gets little recognition, the one who is under all the pressure, the one whose life is on the line..

And the Policeman in Khaki, One of the underequipped, underpaid, and one of the ridiculed lot - See his expression – a parent's understanding, with an undercurrent of grim anger and sadness .

In the aftermath - With the people they live for..

No other photographs can say it better…Mumbai, we cry with you...

Thanks to the unknown photographers who posted these photos….

Somali pirates and the Indian Navy

Many years ago, the architect of India naval strategy, eminent historian and reluctant diplomat KM Panikkar said: "A navy is not meant for the defense of the coast. The coast has to be defended from the land. The objective of the navy is to secure the control of an area of the sea, thus preventing enemy ships from approaching the coast or interfering with trade and commerce and conversely after securing the control to blockade the enemy’s coast and destroy his shipping. The Indian navy, whether it be large or small, must learn this lesson. Its purpose is to protect the seas and not the land and if it cannot protect the seas vital to India’s defense, then it is better not to have navy at all”. He further argued that “while to other countries the Indian Ocean is only one of the important oceanic areas, to India it is a vital sea. Her lifelines are concentrated in that area, her freedom is dependent on the freedom of that water surface. No industrial development, no commercial growt…

Talpade's flight over Chowpathy

One of the conquests many attempted since Da-Vinci’s time or even earlier, is flight by man, powered or un-powered. There were people who attached wings to their backs, some even attaching feathers to their arms, but in the end injuries, hurt egos and even death were the results.

Historic documents such as the Vedas and some Indian epics do mention flight and structures termed Vimana’s but nobody seems to have taken them seriously (inspite of claims & rumors that NASA's ion engine is based on the vedic texts). The contents of the book Vimanika Sastra and all the innuendo put together by H Childress and Berlitz, were dismissed as hogwash by many learned scientists. Having read the “the anti-gravity handbook” and the Vaimanika Shastra translation myself, I should agree that both leave a number of new doubts and questions in the reader’s mind rather than answering them. It could be so since the original Sasthra text itself is considered incomplete.

1800-1900 was a period of inventi…


I read a lot and yes, as always, I simply enjoy the feel of the paperback in my hand. Hardbound editions are difficult to hold for a long time and even though the typeset is big, your wrists ache after a while. There are very many nice ebooks available (for which I am grateful to Googlebooks) and I find the compact Acer Aspire One Netbook competent enough to handle these. So now, many historical ebooks from Google books can now be read on it in peace. It is still tough on the eyes, even with the LED backlight and towards night you wonder how all that sand got into your eyes. But still nothing can beat a real book, even if yellowed with age, or smelling musty and allergic – sufficient reason to encourage a swig of Benadryl or some such antihistamine before the attempt. Sometimes I wonder why some cruel guys mark, underline and write cryptic comments on these book margins ( 2nd hand books) and then finally decide to sell it ‘as is’.

It is funny – Does development kill the need to read or…

Shanta P Nair Kerala’s Nightingale

Thumbi Thumbi va va…Picture a scene - a song from 1956, K Raghavan master’s music and Vayalar’s lyrics. The nervous Vayalar Rama Varma would have been sitting and listening to his very first lyrics for the movie ‘Koodapirappu’ being sung by Shanta Nair. After the opening lines, he would have finally relaxed, and allowed the magic of the experienced singers voice to take over. Or switch to another scene – The great MB Sreenivasan is tuning a song for Kalpaadukal. He asks ‘Shanta, do you think you can do a duet with a young newcomer’? Shanta says (a time when stalwarts usually refused to sing with newcomers) – ‘of course, why not’ – thus introducing Yesudas into the singing scene, singing the chirpy song ‘Attention penne’. Or the great Baburaj doing his very first movie ‘Minnaminungu’ with Shanta singing ‘Vallittu Kannezhuthanam’…or some years later, enthralling Salilda with her own composition for a ‘Salilda movie’.

Sadly, yet another great singer of yesteryears passed away recently (Ju…

The Mini CAT

Ah! This is not feline at all; CAT in this context stands for compressed air technology. Now, I had read about this development from newspapers some days back and I was wondering when and how the development will hit the streets what with the influence of the powerful oil & conventional automobile lobby.

A few days ago, I was listening to the LA 103.5 FM station and one of the RJ’s said, “know what India’s TATA is launching? an air powered car” and the lady DJ wise cracks “aha, so the car has windmills on it or what”. My blood pressure rose in a jiffy, but came down when the male DJ calmed her and me down by stating all the great things about the car. Of course the end of the clip was spoiled by another RJ who said well, “Nowadays Indians can also lay their hands on Jaguar and Range rover and all those high end cars”. I did feel he was a bit sanctimonious about the whole thing, but let’s let sleeping dogs lie.
Politely the others said wow! Fantastic! And all that…not remembering th…