Thursday, May 29, 2008

British aid to India?

BBC Radio broadcast a short debate between two people, one from a British pro-taxpayer's organization called The Taxpayer's Alliance arguing against the British (taxpayer's) aid to India and the other from Christian Aid arguing for aid it.

The point behind the former's argument is the country has a fast growing economy and has a lot of money at its disposal. India should find means to redistributing its wealth itself instead of depending on British tax payers. Christian Aid says that taxation is the only means the Indian government has for redistributing its wealth, but faces unique problems like a large poor, population with very less means to earn their living, socially exclusion like the caste system, all of which call for immediate attention instead of waiting for a set of social reform policy to be implemented effectively.

I feel that a revamp in public administration, policy making and enforcement especially for poverty alleviation on part of Indian government is due even if this discussion is not considered. If the British funding is indeed revoked, it would be a blessing in disguise since (hopefully) it will put Indian government in a tight(er) spot and push for some innovative solution.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Demonizing plastic

"Never reuse coke bottle for storing drinking water. It may cause cancer", I was told by a friend once. That was shocking! I thought, "Can plastics react with food material in time and cause such harmful effects? Can't trust things with looks, can you?". Yet, somehow the statement seemed to make sense. After all, it is plastic! Its non-biodegradable, and with so much campaign to ban plastic, it has to be right!

From then on, when I see a plastic bottle lying around my kitchen or being reuse, my stomach used to churn and images of cancer victims vomiting blood on to the wash-basin or white kerchief (the colour contrast dramatized the fear factor!).

Recently, however, I came across a link to that talks about Myth and Reality about plastic Environmental Information System (ENVIS) an Indian government sponsored body " collect, collate and disseminate information relating to Environment to Universities, Registered Societies or Private Bodies or State Government Departments / Organisations."

Apparently, the whole campaign about plastic and cancer is just a sensational media campaign of what was a Master's Thesis that didn't go through the rigour of scientific peer review. Reuse of plastic is still not recommended for fears of spreading infection resulting from human contact and improper cleaning. But no cancer involved. This link and the pages that follow (find the small "next" link right at the bottom of this page link) offer a good insight not only into plastics, but also into the difference possible between the object and the perception of the object! For example, the link calls into question the use of paper as an alternative to plastics. It says

"Paper is not eco-friendly

We need to remind ourselves that making of paper and products consumes a lot of chemicals and requires a large amount of water and effluent problems are severe. Besides paper, unless coated with polymeric materials (or wax), cannot withstand wet conditions which are widely prevalent in India, particularly during monsoon periods. Paper making also consumes a lot of energy. In the Indian context the most serious problem is the availability of pulp. Environmental degradation has unquestionably occurred due to pulp manufacturing activities as commercial forestry, on large scale, is still a taboo. Padmabhushan Prof. M. M. Sharma (FRS) "

The article's take is that the only factor that can be called malicious to life is human. It repeatedly points out that plastic is not bio-degradable, but they are 100% recyclable. The solution to managing plastic is to recycling and recycling is entirely in our hands!

However, few details are unclear to me. My understanding is that there are recyclable thermoplastics like those used for making poly-bags and non-recyclable ones like Bakelite. What of the second kind?

Further, the link offers incineration as a way to get rid of plastic. I find from other links dedicated to protecting the environment that incineration is a widely hated method of generating energy from the waste. Unless an alternative method to this method exists, it seems that minimizing the use of plastic seems to be the best way forward.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Kam khatam, Dukhan band

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This strip of land right opposite to our office building in Japan was occupied by a building of about 8 to 10 floors. Demolished, cleared, leveled, metaled and bordered with those iron rails. Total time taken 2 days!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Toriniku Roku-Ju-Go

If you are an Indian, and if you are especially a southie, you would have definitely heard of Chicken-65. If you are a non-vegetarian, you are a likely fan of Chicken-65.

Chicken? Yea! You know... then one that usually comes out of a hen's egg? The bird with under-developed wings that is part of the famous chicken-or-egg riddle? Ya! That one. Chicken. Now that you've got the first part, what the hell does "65" mean?

What wiki says is interesting. It says that the most logical conclusion is that it originated in North America, named after its price in cents, failed and managed to travel all the way to South India where it became a super-hit. This explanation would be logical if we are talking about Chick-Khans like Mumait Khan or Negar Khan. But here its chickens. Unfortunately!

That it was invented in 1965 seems more convincing. But its bland, unlike the spicy dish itself (I will take my Non-veg friends' words and C-65's looks for truth!). But I vote for the age of the chicken in days (65) as the reason for its name! Its unconventional and the mid violent after taste the explanation leaves behind looks more suitable to the possible taste dish itself might offer!

What the hell does Toriniku Roku-Ju-Go have to do with any of all this? Its just Japanese for Chicken-65.

Toriniku = Chicken
Roku = 6
Ju = 10
Roku-Ju = 60
Go = 5
Roku-Ju-Go = 65!

Haa Haa! All you non-vegetarian Rascala! Mind it!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Repetitve Strain Injury (RSI)

Its a video that we community relations team of our company for the wellness of employees. Its useful for all of us who have managed to establish a symbiotic relationship with our comp for a living!


Friday, May 02, 2008


Its a sort of a deja vu, a semi-repeat of what I had experienced about two years ago. It was a hot and sultry May morning in Madras and I was on Koodal express towards Madurai. Then I had met my uncle, with grace I could make one of the most unforgettable visit to SriVilliputtur.

Now its again summer, hot and sultry evening and I was on Rock Fort Express to attend the wedding of my friend's sister in the Holy Sri Rangam. Its been over ten years since I met my friend. So, that was exciting in itself! As I already expected, all I could do was watch him run hither and thither taking care of the proceedings, as his sister kept smiling broadly throughout! The wedding went well and I took my leave after savoring the unique trichy wedding meals. Mission accomplished! :)

Earlier, as I was preparing for this journey, all I had in my mind was to accommodate the visit of Sri Rangam temple in my tight schedule (after Trichy, I visited Coimnbatore, all in a span of two days!). But my mom introduced me to uRaiyoor Nacciar Koil and said that it is a must-see for temple enthusiasts (like me!)! So, off I went to uRaiyoor!

Moolavar: Azhagiya Manavaalan
Thaayar: Kamal valli Nacciyaar

Temple architecture:
It was not more than a 10-15 minute bus travel from the Chatram Bus stand. At first sight Nacciyaar koil was a disappointment. The main Pagoda (gopuram), with just 5 storeys, was puny in comparison to the imposing Raja Gopuram of Sri Rangam (11 storeys). But upon close examination, it seemed to have some exquisite artforms so far not witnessed by me in other temples. For example, to one side of the gopuram, was the young Krishna flirting with gopikas. There was also Vishnu sitting on Adi Seshan flanked probably by a Chola king, with his sword and shield on his hips. On the other side of the Gopuram was a grand wedding ceremony of Lord Vishnu marrying Sri Devi. That is probably Azhagiya Manavaalan marrying Kamala valli Thayar!

I entered the Gopuram into the temple compound. If one were to have a top-view at the temple compound she would find the temple building at the center, a mid-sized pushkarni (the temple tank) occupying top-left, Swarga vaasal (entrance to the Heaven) towards the center-right. Towards the bottom-right would be a small mandapam. The entire area left for circumambulation is covered by the stone roof extended from the temple building and supported by stone-pillars with beautiful carvings, few of which depict a mythological instance. Towards the top-right side of the top-view, were two pillars, one depicted a couple of monkeys, the other humans, indulged in sexual intercourse. Now, I find that such depictions are more common in temples than one may think. I have found such depictions in Chenna Keshava temple, Chennai and in Govindaraja Perumal temple, Tirupati. It would be interesting to find out the underlying motive behind such depictions.

Inside the temple building, and facing the sanctum sa
nctorum is Garudar (The Eagle, who is the personal transportation for Lord Vishnu). Here He is called Amrutha Kalasa Garudar, as he is seen carrying a vessel of elixir (amruth). One pillar in this area carries a statue of Lord Anchaneyar (Hanuman) right along the height of the pillar. This temple has some fondness to Lord Hanuman for unknown reasons as his images are found on various pillars around the temple.

As I walk towards the sanctum sanctorum, I find the image of Gaja Lakshmi (with two elephants garlanding her from both sides) on top of the inner entrance.

Significance of the Moolavar and the Stalam:
Just as I was about to worship the Moolavar, it was time to close the temple for preparation for Tirumanjanam. During a quick Dharshan, I noticed that the frontal view of the Cakram (the disc) was not visible as is the case in all the other Vishnu stalams. However, only the side-view was visible. As the sanctum sanctorum was closed down, I came out of the main entrance to find the high priest of the temple walking around yelling orders at his disciples. Prima facie he seemed to be a rude person who doesn't entertain unsolicited enquiries about the temple. However, I felt that this could be a great chance to extract the temple history from the horse's mouth. So, I approached him rehearsing my almost forgotten Iyengar accent hoping that it would mitigate his wrath a bit. But when I asked for the "sthala purnam", he seemed to have taken aback by the phrase. Probably because he didn't expect a modern dude like me to even know about such a thing. He said, "I may have time to talk about the Moolavar, but I think it may take too long to answer your questions on the statues on the gopuram. Why don't we sit down?" (Yoohoooo! The Iyengar accent worked afterall!)

  • This is the second of the 108 divya desams of Vishnu
  • Moolavar, Azhagiaya Manavalan presents Himself along with Kamal valli Thayar (in a sitting posture) after marrying her!
  • He is the exact replica of the Utsava murthy of Sri Rangam since Sri Ranganathar of Sri Rangam came here to marry Kamala Valli Thayar. Hence there is no Utsavar here.
  • The Moolavar presents Himself in the posture of using this Cakram against the demons, a unique selling point of the Stalam
  • The Stalam is devoted to Kamala valli thayar, since she is born to the Chola King Dharma Varman who ruled over this place.
  • This place is also the birth place of Tiruppaan Azhwar.
Stala puranam:
Kamala valli Thayar took birth as a human due to the curse of Brihu muni. So, naturally, once the curse is over Lord Ranganathar has to come back for Her. Now it seems Lord Ranganathar had been a little too busy with taking care of people since he arrived here at uRaiyoor as an elderly person. As Kamala valli thayar was fetching water from the river, He promptly proposed to her (!!!) Shell-shocked by his proposal, Kamala Valli thayar dropped the pot (kudam) which rolled into the river. This only worsen her anxiety. Seizing the opportunity, Lord Ranganathar stuck a deal. He said, "If I get the pot for you, you should marry me!". Kamala valli thayar, told herself "There is no way this old man could do that, it is the easiest way to beat his appoaches". She promptly said "Sure!" with out knowing that this old man is The Lord Himself.

The Lord went into the river and came back a handsome young man holding her pot. Understandably, Kamala Valli Thayar sense something fishy about this and said, "now how is that possible!". He said in response, "Sure! it is possible becaaauseeeeeee..." and grew in size and showed is "Viswa Roopam". After this, Kamala Valli Thayar was comprehensively beaten and she was only too happy to marry him. Just as in any other love story, they live happily ever after right here in uRaiyoor! :)

By the way, the river is called Kudamurutti river (Kudam = river, urutti = to roll) after its vital role in the turning point of the love story!

After this I visited Uttamar koil, which has some powerful USP's
  • A one-stop-temple to worship Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and Saraswati (ASTOUNDING combo!)
  • Probably the only place where Lord Brahma has a sannidhi (not verified!)
  • Purushottaman, the name of Lord Vishnu here, who presents Himself at the request of Manavaala muni
After this I visited Coimbatore where I visited Marudamalai. My first ever visit to a Murga temple. It was on an auspicious day and had a good darshan of Him along with a good Tamil slokam recitation (nothing like a sloka that you can actually understand!)