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Saturday, June 29, 2013

REMEMBERING A DAD - 06/28/2011

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

ACUMEN + ZEITGEIST = RAJINI

If there is someone who possesses the startling ability to cover topics from A through Z answering with brazen honesty and innate wisdom, it has to be the one and only Super Star, Rajinikanth. Don't trust me? I stumbled on these two videos, yes, I admit that because I didn't know they existed in You Tube until now.

You see, the Rajini brand of openness is quite infectious. The two interview videos below provide an insight into the man, the myth and the magic that is Sivaji Rao:

A 1995 Q and A with S.V. Ramanan            K.Balachander's Interview at DA   

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

UTTARAKHAND TRAGEDY - UPDATE

Rescue operations resumed in full swing in Uttarakhand even as the death toll climbed to 822 after 127 more modies were recovered from the rubble that used to be Kedarnath. There are still around 8000 left stranded that are being rescued. The rescue operations received a setback when a rescue MI-17 chopper crashed leaving all 8 aboard the chopper dead (5 crew members and 3 civilians).

Meanwhile a photo journey of the aftermath and reaction of Swami Ramdev to the apathy of the authorities in handling this crisis:

Sunday, June 23, 2013

UTTARAKHAND TRAGEDY

Words fail to describe the tragedy caused by the catastrophic floods in Uttarakhand, that could have claimed around 5000 lives and has left over 19,000 people stranded. It has also left the holy shrine of Lord Shiva, Kedarnath temple, in utter disrepair in its wake. The grim surreal picture of devastation appears to us as if it were a re-enactment straight out of the Hollywood movie 2012 scene, where a giant wave overpowers a Tibetan monastery. So much for the mocking disbelievers who ridiculed the content and the import of 2012, the movie that deals with global climate changes.

As usual, the Indian Armed & Air Forces, and ITBP/NDRF have stepped up to provide relief and rescue effort to all the hapless devotees left bewildered and clueless about mother nature's sudden fury. Prayer and help is pouring from across the nation to the affected pilgrims. So far over 70,000 have been rescued. There are over 8500 soldiers on ground zero working day and night conducting the daring rescue. It is hard to believe that one of the key mountain abodes of Lord Shiva and holiest shrines on the planet visited by millions every year, has been subjected to this unimaginable destruction. Only the first family amongst Gods knows why this happened right under their own godly sovereignty.

As pictures after pictures of the rescue operations keep pouring in, one can only sit and watch in wide-eyed terror as to how the events unfolded from last week when the rains started battering this North Indian territory unmercifully and relentlessly, through the present news of death toll and stranded victims.

If the photo (click for video) below of the giant statue of Lord Shiva in meditative posture seen submerged under the torrent, and the videos of the extent of devastation at Kedarnath cannot scare the living daylights, I am imagining what else will?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Welcome Summer Solstice 2013!

Google's Doodle for Summer Solstice 2013 (click on image below to link to the video):

Solstice is derived from the Latin words Sol (Sun) and Sistere (to stand still).

The summer solstice occurs when the tilt of a planet's semi-axis, in either the northern or the southern hemisphere, is most inclined toward the star (Sun for Earth) that it orbits. Earth's maximum axial tilt toward the sun is 23° 26'. This happens twice each year, at which times the sun reaches its highest position in the sky as seen from the north or the south pole.

The summer solstice occurs during a hemisphere's summer. This is northern solstice in the northern hemisphere and the southern solstice in the southern hemisphere. Depending on the shift of the calendar, the summer solstice occurs some time between December 20 and December 23 each year in the southern hemisphere and between June 20 and June 22 in the northern hemisphere in reference to UTC.

Though the summer solstice is an instant in time, the term is also colloquially used like midsummer to refer to the day on which it occurs. The summer solstice occurs on the day that has the longest period of daylight – except in the polar regions, where daylight is continuous, from a few days to six months around the summer solstice. Summer Solstice is celebrated and welcomed all over the world, specifically by paganism, but most recognize the event in some way with holidays, festivals, and rituals around that time with themes of religion or fertility.

Below is a helpful table of solstices and equinoxes (equal day and night) for astronomy maniacs, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Click above for an expanded view
UT date and time of
equinoxes and solstices on Earth
event Northward
equinox
Northern
solstice
Southward
equinox
Southern
solstice
month March June September December
year
day time day time day time day time
2010 20 17:32 21 11:28 23 03:09 21 23:38
2011 20 23:21 21 17:16 23 09:04 22 05:30
2012 20 05:14 20 23:09 22 14:49 21 11:12
2013 20 11:02 21 05:04 22 20:44 21 17:11
2014 20 16:57 21 10:51 23 02:29 21 23:03
2015 20 22:45 21 16:38 23 08:20 22 04:48
2016 20 04:30 20 22:34 22 14:21 21 10:44
2017 20 10:28 21 04:24 22 20:02 21 16:28
2018 20 16:15 21 10:07 23 01:54 21 22:23
2019 20 21:58 21 15:54 23 07:50 22 04:19
2020 20 03:50 20 21:44 22 13:31 21 10:02

It's time to welcome summer solstice in our own literary manner, by watching the comedy play of William Shakespeare A Midsummer Night's Dream spoofed by the inimitable quartet kings of pop-rock music, Beatles (click on the cartoon below):

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Semmozhi SiRppa Poonga a visual treat

Semmozhi SiRppa Poonga, a Classical Tamil Sculptures Heritage Park is situated in the outskirts of Chennai Metro in Maamallapuram (Mahaabalipuram) on the Beach Resort Campus of the Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation (TNTDC). It is indeed a veritable treat to the eyes (Photos by R. Ragu/The Hindu Online Newspaper):

A panoramic view of Semmozhi Sirppa Poonga with Tiruvalluvar in the foreground

Saturday, June 15, 2013

FATHER'S DAY: A dad beyond compare

Other Father's Day specials in: World Pundit, Photo Pundit, Video Pundit and Poem Pundit. And for those like me, grieving their beloved dad.

How is it that one can even write a memoir and wish others on Father's day without a few tears in solitude? Around end of this month in 2011, a family lost its most precious gift to the unforgiving sands of time. Not a day of this month passes in that family's haunting memories without the conscious fear of that dreaded day and moment. That wonderful man who departed from his earthly home to his eternal home was my dad, P. Krishnaswamy. He was a father like any other, and quite unlike any other as well.

He was a gem of many facets. But what I would like to cherish most about his fond memories and share with everyone, was his selfless act of risking his life to save those of the Chennai residents during the 1978 floods. He was the city's special flood officer directly deputed for the task by the Chief Minister of Tamilnadu at that time, Bharat Ratna M. G. Ramachandran. My dad was then the Assistant Director of Fisheries in charge of the Chengalpattu district. Through the entire night that Chembarambakkam Lake bund was predicted to give in and flood the entire city, my dad was camping near that bund in the continuous downpour. He was later called to the thottam and commended by MGR for his astute handling of the flood situation, the daring rescue/food distribution operations and due diligence. My mom was then an announcer at AIR Chennai and was also on special flood duty. It is indeed a pity that there are neither photos of 1st floor level flooding in Kotturpuram, nor any archived articles even from The Hindu on-line newspaper, available on the web.

As a government servant, he was also an inventor. He did a novel research sponsored by Shriram Fibers Limited to strengthen twine fishing nets using chemical treatment so they would be stronger than even nylon nets. He has also done pioneering work with fiberglass boats fitted with Evinrude/Yamaha outboard motors as a low cost option for fishermen wishing to switch from the more dangerous catamaran. He was a subject matter expert in fishing nets/gears/boat building. In addition, he was also a certified diver and navigator. Many a Tourism and Industrial Fair would have been lackluster for his department, save for his creativity and management skill. I still treasure my three gifts to him, a book on Ichthyology, a Seiko watch he lost because of a crafty relative, and Galileo binoculars to substitute for the Yamaha brand he received as a complimentary, but gifted it to his assistant instead.

At the personal front, he was a polyglot and an engaging speaker on many subjects. He was paradoxically orthodox and heterodox simultaneously. But all of his maverick thinking was firmly rooted in impeccable convincing logic and rare intuition. An astrologer, astronomer, stage actor/director, sportsman, philatelist, philosopher, mentor, singer, musicologist, outspoken political critic, self taught mechanic, he was generous, sociable, scathingly humorous but with a quicksilver temper. An avid diary writer for life and a tech savvy blogger in his later years, he and my mom were voted the oldest blogging couple in Chennai. At least for us brothers, he was a father beyond any compare, who we miss everyday in our unspriteful lives. Each father's day will be yet another day of solemn remembrance. Of the many friends and relatives who love my dad so dearly unto this day and join in this tribute are my mom, my cousin Mrs. Rangam, my extended family who were my dad's pallbearers, my wife his doting daughter-in-law and most fondly my son who was my dad's best buddy.

The video below is a snippet of his eventful life. I dedicate it to those that are mourning, remembering or celebrating their fathers, on this Father's Day:

JOKES UNLIMITED: WITTIER WAITER

Contributor: Smt. Rangam Balaji.

Customer  : Waiter, do you serve pigs?
Waiter    : Please sit down sir, we serve everyone.

Customer  : Waiter, is this a lamb chop or pork chop?
Waiter    : Can't you tell the difference by taste?
Customer  : No, I can't.
Waiter    : Then does it really matter?

Customer  : Waiter, there's a dead beetle in my soup.
Waiter    : Yes sir, they are not very good swimmers.

Customer  : Waiter, there's a fly in my soup.
Waiter    : That's all right sir, he won't drink much.

Customer  : Waiter, there's a fly swimming in my soup.
Waiter    : So what do you expect me to do, call a lifeguard?

Customer  : Waiter, what's the meaning of this fly in my tea cup?
Waiter    : I wouldn't know sir, I'm a waiter, not a fortune teller.

Customer  : Waiter, this soup tastes funny.
Waiter    : Funny?  But then why aren't you laughing? 

Waiter    : I've stewed liver, boiled tongue and frog's leg.
Customer  : Don't tell me your problems. Give the menu card.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A BRAINY COOL DUDE EGALITARIAN

That is Nandan Mani Ratnam in a nutshell. He is the only son of the talented celebrity couple Suhasini and Mani Ratnam. His parents need no introduction to most Indians around the world. For those that don't know them yet, a brief introduction is a must. Suhasini, who turned 50 recently, is a national award winning South Indian actress well known for her debut film Nenjatthai KiLLaathe and box office hit Sindhu Bhairavi. Her life partner Mani Ratnam is the scion of Venus Studios Late Sri Ratnam Iyer and a world famous director who shot to instant fame through Roja, a cult film in its own right. This was followed by a spate of blockbusters like Nayagan with Kamalhassan, Thalapathi with Rajinikanth and recently Ravan with Chiyaan Vikram. He is reputed to have introduced the Oscar winning composer A.R. Rahman. A reticent man of sparingly few words, Mani usually plays low-key and is the guiding benefactor of the NAAM foundation. Readers may liberally contribute to the cause of empowering the underprivileged women through NAAM website or in person.

So who is Nandan and why do we care? You would, if I told you he wrote a booklet on communism at the age of 15. His 27-page pamphlet on Leninism titled Contours of Leninism was released with a lot of fanfare with many communist party heavyweights participating. He was then a Red Volunteer at the 19th All India Congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) held at Coimbatore. Nandan says that his interest in reading has attracted him to Marx and his principles. According to him, Marxism is the most cogent, comprehensive and highly developed complex of theory and practice. I am not sure that is entirely true given the failure of the Soviet Union and the eastern block. But as they say, it is strange if you are 20 and not yet a communist, stranger still if you are 40 and continue to be one.

His doting grandpa Charuhasan, leading lawyer and award winning thespian, once mentioned in an interview on Coffee with Anu (hosted by his niece Anu Hassan) that he is concerned about Nandu's ideological leanings. Instead, I would like to consider this bright, young, handsome lad who reminds me of my own independent-minded 16 year old, as a promising liberal with egalitarian views that seems to belie his  elite family background. It is good that an youngster has fire in his belly. Reminds me of how, even while pushing close to 50, I continue to uphold the dream of a Utopian world with the same unquenchable passion I had when I was barely 12.

Of course, it is also worth mentioning in the passing that his grand uncles are Ulaga Naayagan Kamalhassan and Sri. Chandrahassan (Anu's dad). I am sure this young Nanda Kumar will bind the redoubtable Kamal to accede to his real age, some day. So Nandu, as he is fondly called by his family and friends is Articulate, Brainy, Charming, Daring/Dashing, Cool Dude, Sociable but with a Socialistic bent. This bright star of the multi-talented family of Hassans is a graduate of Philosophy from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. What promises are in store for this young cub raring to make it big, only time can weave that magical story. Will he become an accomplished and successful actor like Kamal, a trend-setting writer/producer/director like his dad or simply turn to politics? Even he may not be so sure. For now he is quietly contented,  basking in the limelight that is already gifted to him. His dad is Mani Ratnam, and his mom Suhasini. PuligaLukku piranthathu Poonaiyaagumaa?

Is revolutionary thinking a maternal family inheritance? You decide:

Friday, June 07, 2013

DEEWAR - A FAMILY DIVIDED

Deewar PosterDeewar is a cult film penned by the famous Hindi film script writer duo Salim Khan (father of Salman Khan) and Javed Akhtar (husband of Shabana Azmi), directed by Yash Chopra and released in 1975. As of 2013 it celebrates it's 38th anniversary of unmatched success in the memory of any average Indian cine fan. But the core issue of a family divided by an unseen wall of conflicting values is relevant even today. This post is an unabashed tribute to the Mukunds and Ravis of today who serve their parents with great devotion, tailoring their ambitions and personal life for a greater cause, akin to Ravi Verma of Deewar.

The film stars Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor in lead roles as the antagonist and protagonist. Nirupa Roy actually lives her role as the ideal mother unable to bridge their growing wedge. Reflective of the tumultuous politics of the early 70s in India, Deewar unfolds the story of two impoverished brothers who, after their family is betrayed by the misplaced idealism of their father, struggle to survive on the streets of Mumbai. The two brothers, Vijay and Ravi Verma follow different career paths: Vijay is a smuggler and Ravi the policeman who is asked to hunt Vijay down. To make a long story short, the ensuing and escalating engagement between the brothers and a mother torn between her love for both, forms the crux. There is a particular scene in the film where they face-off with powerful dialogues about either standpoint. Ravi finally snubs Vijay that he may have everything else in the world, but not their mother (Mere Paas Maa Hai). The story ponders on the moral, social and legal dilemma that confront brothers who have parted ways not entirely attributable to fate. The incisive questions posed by the film is being faced by every generation.

In spite of the best efforts of Ravi and Sumitra to kick sense into an exasperated, hunted and uncompromising Vijay, the film sadly ends with Vijay being shot at by Ravi during a chase. The climax of the film is the scene where Vijay is lying on the lap of his mother Sumitra and tells her he is very exhausted from all the running away from life and would like to peacefully sleep. I can never watch this particular scene without moist eyes, thanks to the brilliant acting and touching cinematography. The film succeeds in mesmerizing its viewers to empathize with the central characters.

The story provides ample scope for elaboration of the key characters - a mother and her two sons. An unforgettable scene between the mother and her elder son Vijay is when she thunders at him - Who were they that tattooed on your arm? Who were they that disgraced your father? Who were they that insulted your mother? None of them mean anything to you, but you mean the world to me as I am to you. If that be true, then why are you even attempting to purchase my love with your scant riches? Vijay is stunned by the question. Why? Because he is used to his way of life and any compromise to live a standard lower than what he has achieved would be hard for his pride to swallow. He tries to blame God, the society, his social stigma and his painful childhood to hide himself from his true feelings, which is to obey his mother and live together as a family once again. At some point, he is even shown to be willing to give it all up, but cruel fate intervenes and disrupts his plan.

If we look carefully beyond the obvious melodrama, we can draw parallels to our own lives. Some of us are Vijays - torn between filial love/duties and ego/ambitions. Some of us are Ravis - fiercely filial, duty-bound and honest. But most mothers are like Sumitra - torn between her love for a prodigal son and the other who upholds their family ideals to her satisfaction. This film made such a profound impression on me during my adolescence, that I used to imagine myself as Vijay, while my brother would be Ravi. However, I still shudder when viewing the film's tragic climax.

The classic face-off scene from Deewar (click image below):

Brothers split over their mother in Deewar

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Pardon My English Not Looking Good

These uproarious signboards forwarded for readers pleasure with India Pundit, by K. Vijay Kumar (my cousin):
In a Bangkok Temple: IT IS FORBIDDEN TO ENTER A WOMAN, EVEN A FOREIGNER, IF DRESSED AS A MAN. 
Cocktail lounge, Norway: LADIES ARE REQUESTED NOT TO HAVE CHILDREN IN THE BAR. 
Doctor's office, Rome: SPECIALIST IN WOMEN AND OTHER DISEASES. 
Dry Cleaners, Bangkok: DROP YOUR TROUSERS HERE FOR THE BEST RESULTS. 
In a Nairobi restaurant: CUSTOMERS WHO FIND OUR WAITRESSES RUDE, OUGHT TO SEE THE MANAGER. 
On the main road to Mombasa , leaving Nairobi : TAKE NOTICE: WHEN THIS SIGN IS UNDER WATER, THIS ROAD IS IMPASSABLE. 
On a poster at Kencom: ARE YOU AN ADULT THAT CANNOT READ? IF SO WE CAN HELP. 
In a City restaurant: OPEN SEVEN DAYS A WEEK AND WEEKENDS. 
In a Cemetery: PERSONS ARE PROHIBITED FROM PICKING FLOWERS, FROM ANY BUT THEIR OWN GRAVES ... 
Tokyo hotel's rules and regulations: GUESTS ARE REQUESTED NOT TO SMOKE, OR DO OTHER DISGUSTING BEHAVIOURS IN BED. 
On the menu of a Swiss Restaurant: OUR WINES LEAVE YOU NOTHING TO HOPE FOR. 
In a Tokyo Bar: SPECIAL COCKTAILS FOR THE LADIES WITH NUTS. 
Hotel, Yugoslavia: THE FLATTENING OF UNDERWEAR WITH PLEASURE, IS THE JOB OF THE CHAMBERMAID. 
Hotel, Japan: YOU ARE INVITED TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE CHAMBERMAID. 
In the lobby of a Moscow Hotel, across from a Russian Orthodox Monastery: YOU ARE WELCOME TO VISIT THE CEMETERY, WHERE FAMOUS RUSSIAN AND SOVIET COMPOSERS, ARTISTS AND WRITERS ARE BURIED DAILY, EXCEPT THURSDAY. 
A sign posted in Germany 's Black Forest: IT IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN ON OUR BLACK FOREST CAMPING SITE, THAT PEOPLE OF DIFFERENT SEX, FOR INSTANCE, MEN AND WOMEN, LIVE TOGETHER IN ONE TENT, UNLESS THEY ARE MARRIED WITH EACH OTHER FOR THIS PURPOSE.. 
Hotel, Zurich : BECAUSE OF THE IMPROPRIETY OF ENTERTAINING GUESTS OF THE OPPOSITE SEX IN THE BEDROOM, IT IS SUGGESTED THAT THE LOBBY BE USED FOR THIS PURPOSE. 
Advertisement for donkey rides, Thailand: WOULD YOU LIKE TO RIDE ON YOUR OWN ASS? 
Airline ticket office, Copenhagen: WE TAKE YOUR BAGS AND SEND THEM IN ALL DIRECTIONS. 
A Laundry in Rome: LADIES, LEAVE YOUR CLOTHES HERE AND THEN SPEND THE AFTERNOON HAVING A GOOD TIME.
Seen in an Abu Dhabi Souk shop window: IF MY FRONT IS CLOSED PLEASE ENTER THROUGH MY BACKSIDE…