Happy Pongal 2017 with a Kremlin themed Kolam


Wish everyone a very, very, Happy Pongal on this day 14 January 2017.  Pongal is the Harvest Festival of Tamil Nadu, though for various reasons – primarily the failure of both South West and North East Monsoon – has devastated the agriculture of my home state.  To add cruelty to misery, the demonetisation attempted without much thought, has eviscerated the farmers.

But a festival is a festival, for it means not only thanksgiving for the past – very few for the past year – but also a new hope for the upcoming year – may it be plentiful.

Speaking of festivals, it is tradition in my home state to draw kolam – geometric patterns with rice floor – at the entrance of every Hindu home, and also at the puja altar of every Hindu home.

Actually, it is a daily tradition, but the daily kolams are not that elaborate.  Usually they resemble a small square, star of David, 8 sided stars, stacked triangles, or wriggles around 3x3 dots.  But festivals are different, and require an elaborate kolam.

Kolams, for the uninitiated, are chiefly of 3 types:
  • wriggly lines around dots
  • straight lines, including squares, triangles, rectangles, cross, flying cross, diamonds, etc.
  • combo or curves and arcs with straight lines
    • there are also very, very, few kolams with pure arcs and curves
There is one kolam of the last variety – one with a combo of straight lines and curves, which to my eye has always looked brilliant.  I do not know what the ‘official’ name is, but I think-refer to it as the Kremlin kolam.  I call it Kremlin kolam because it reminds me of the Onion domes and spires of the Kremlin.

I never dared to try it out till today, but with that Russian puppet about to be installed as the American President, it would be better to cosy up to Russia.  So spent half an hour today morning to put up this Happy Pongal kolam.  Not that it is perfect, but this is one of the few designs which distract you enough to see the whole picture instead of the errors.

Enjoy it, and have a Happy Pongal.

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Sandford Fleming Google Doodle and Madras Time


Today, 07 January, is the birthday of Sandford Fleming, with 2017 being his 190th, and Google honoured the occasion with a Doodle.  But what is the connection between Madras Time, or its later avatar as Indian Standard Time, and Sandford Fleming?  Especially since Madras Time predates his birth?  Read on, for the 4 major quirks on the subject.

Sir Sandford Fleming was born in Scotland in 1827, emigrated to Canada in 1845.  He as the Chief Engineer for the Canadian Inter-Colonial Railway built it in 1872.  While visiting Ireland in 1876, he missed his connecting train – because those days each locality (county, state, province, colony or country) followed its own local time, set at their fancy – and people moving around quickly, which meant railways, faced problems in time conversions.

So, when he returned to Canada, he proposed that the whole world be divided into 24 uniform Time Zones, with 15 degrees of Longitude in each zone.  This proposal was floated by him in 1879, and was adopted by 25 nations in International Meridian Conference in 1884.

In India, there was the Madras Time, established in 1802, by the first Royal Observatory in India at Madras (est. 1786) and was in wide use.

And here is the first quirk.  It predates even GMT, which came into usage on ships only from 1833, and was adopted by (British) railway companies for their Time Synchronisation through its telegraph service only from 1852, and would not be legally adopted throughout Britain till 1880.

At the Conference in 1884, two official Time Zones for India were announced – Calcutta Time and Bombay Time, with no reference to Madras Time Zone at all.

But here arose the second quirk.  The Indian Railways continued to use Madras Time, because only the Madras Observatory was equipped to transmit Time Signals through telegraph to synchronize time at railway stations.  Thus Madras Time became known as Railway Time.

In 1906, the Indian Standard Time (IST) was established, by adding 9 minutes to Madras Time (GMT+05:21) to round it to GMT+05:30 (actually the rounded Longitude was adopted).  Gradually the Indian Railways moved to IST, however local Calcutta and Bombay Time Zones continued till 1948 and 1955 respectively.

Now for the third quirk.  Because Calcutta Time achieved more prominence (as Calcutta served as British Capital till 1911), till recently on Windows, and even now in Linux Systems, the IST is represented as Asia/Kolkata.

However, there is a different quirk in the Google Doodle celebrating the 190th birthday of Sir Sandford Fleming.  The Doodle itself is not displayed on the Google home pages of countries across all 24 Time Zones!

Whatever, enjoy the Doodle.

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Did Supreme Court overcook BCCI with Lodha Committee


The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is not a newfangled institution.  It has a eight decade history – having its origins in 1928 with it being registered in Tamil Nadu (then called Presidency of Madras) under Societies Registration Act (of either 1860 or 1908, which is unclear).  And contrary to present public perception, ‘there are no values in the Board’, were the words of Ghulam Ahmed (Test Player 1948-59 & Secretary, BCCI 1975-80).

But Cricket is the only sports in India which is/was being managed without 'official' government interference.  Run like a Non-Governmental Organisation, the BCCI for all its bungling, arrogance, controversies, nepotism, backstabbing, has managed to build up impressive infrastructure.  Somehow, they also managed to find the time to unearth and nurture cricket talent in between.  Cricket is the only sports in which India has World Quality players.  Every other sport in India is managed-organised by Government through Sports Ministry and its officials, and equally mismanaged, have not much talent to boast.

After the IPL controversy, enter the Lodha Committee tasked by the Supreme Court to ‘set right’ the problems.  As usual, whenever a Commission or Committee get in, it becomes a total cluster-chuck, and in the next 5 years, we probably are going to ape the West Indian Cricket board to ruin. Having said that, the BCCI is not totally blameless. Their refusal to adhere to:
  • age cap (suggested in Sep 2011),
  • tenure cap (suggested in Feb 2010),
  • one post cap (suggested in 2 above),
  • under RTI (Right to Information Act) (suggested in 1 above),
  • bar on tainted people,
  • independent auditor,
  • separation of governing councils for BCCI & IPL, and
  • Ethics Office watchdog for Conflicts of Interest,
are wrong and not good business practice.

But the other four important recommendations –
  • no politician (or government official) to hold office,
  • one state one vote,
  • CAG as auditor, and
  • banning commercial breaks on TV
– are simply overreach.  We will take up each issue, from bottoms up to see why.

Banning commercial breaks or advertisement during Live TV broadcast is the most idiotic, backward looking, uncommercial, financially crippling, and ruinous recommendation ever.  It does not need any rebuttal at all. 

Appointing CAG as the auditor for Sports Bodies is totally repugnant.  We should be moving towards an economic model where the governments should worry only about Defence, Money, Energy, Infrastructure, Education, Healthcare, and Environment.  Instead we are looking at imposing more government - on sports!

One state one vote might seem like a good idea.  After all why should a State like Gujarat (pop 62 m) have three full voting members – Gujarat, Baroda & Saurashtra - while Tamil Nadu (pop 77 m) has only one?  Or Telengana (pop 39 m) has none, but Mumbai (pop 12 m) has one?  But since 2000, in Ranji Trophy -
  • Baroda have been finalists thrice, versus
  • 4 runners up for Tamil Nadu,
  • twice for Saurashtra, while
  • Mumbai have won it 8 times
There are two other issues, that of Women’s Cricket which BCCI has consistently treated in a step-motherly fashion, and legalisation of Betting (suggested earlier), of which the first, hopefully would be corrected, and the second never,

Last, if politicians or government officials are to be barred from holding office in BCCI (& in future in all Sports Bodies), how come retired Judges can?  Does it mean that the Legislature and Executive cannot be trusted to act ethically, while the Judiciary can be?  Isn’t that itself prejudice? 

N. Srinivasan must be laughing his head off.

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New Year Resolutions and Greetings for 2017


Of late, my New Year Resolutions seem to be working fine – for me – for 11 months out of twelve.  And in the December of the year, approaching another new year resolution time, just seems to break loose and wreck havoc.

I cannot remember much of what my new year resolutions were about before 2014, for it used to be a long drawn out party, and half the resolutions made at the birth of the new year would not be remembered with sunshine.

It used to be that kind of party.  The 2014 resolution is a personal one, and for privacy issues, cannot be posted online.  But all the other three, starting from 2015, till that of yesterday’s night, are free-for-all.

On 01 January 2015, I decided to kick off my beer guzzling.  Now Beer is colloquially and with a wink, referred to as ‘Barley Water’ (பார்லி தண்ணி in Tamil) by old timers.  I kept on resolutely with the decision, and in December of 2015, Chennai was inundated with – Water – during the Chennai Floods.

On 01 January 2016, I decided to chuck off my three-four-cigarette-a-day smoking habit.  Smoking is referred to as ‘Puffing Away’ or ‘Blowing Away’ (ஊதி தள்ளறான் in Tamil ) by the old timers.  Once again, I stuck on with determination, and in December 2016, you guessed it right, Chennai was ‘blown’ down by Cyclone Vardah.

Today, on 01 January 2017, I have resolved to stop imbibing hard liquor.  Hard Liquor, as everyone knows, is also referred to as ‘Fire Water’, universally.  I hope to keep my head straight all through the year, but thinking of December 2017, gives me shivers – or is it because I’m feeling the ‘heat’?

Whatever it is – shivers due to cold, or shaking because of the heat, watch out Chennai and the people of Madras, Now called Chennai.

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Cyclone Vardah reveals another Mowgli in Chennai


If the earlier Mowgli players were small kids, learning their baby steps on a three foot fallen tree trunk, the Mowgli spotted on 27 December 2016, in the aftermath of Cyclone Vardah which disrupted Chennai life so badly and continues to have its bad impact on the internet life.

This time, the two elders trying to instruct the fully clothed, and not so young Mowgli, reminded me of two other characters from the Jungle Book – Bagheera and Baloo.  No offence meant guys, but the situation was so juxtaposed, I could not resist taking a snap and posting it online.

Unfortunately, this real life Mowgli of Chennai was unable to dislodge the cut off and left over wrist thick branch which was wedged nice and proper.  I deduce they had to use brute force to snap it and tear it down, as passing by later, saw the branch broken in two or three pieces.

So here is the photo of one more Mowgli in Chennai after Cyclone Vardah, along with Bagheera and Baloo – I leave it to you to pick who is the panther and who is the bear.  The inset is from the movie Jungle Book 2016.

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Cyclone Vardah brings out Mowglis in Chennai


Madras, Now Chennai, had a disastrous December 2016.  November passed off, leaving everyone a little teed off, with the questionable demonetisation announcement by the PM Narendra Modi.  However, the initial rush to exchange notes, the bravado, the excitement helped to create a feeling of tamasha in November, and it passed.

But December was a different story.  After almost 20 days of currency crisis, the start of the month began to pinch.  It was so bad that you had to stand in queue in ATM or banks to get your quota of Rs. 2000/- a day, to spend it carefully over the day, paying the grocer, the vegetable seller, newsboys, monthly milk subscription, medicines, et. al.

Then came the death of the Chief Minister Jayalalithaa which effectively disabled Chennai for 3 days.  Soon after came the Cyclone Vardah, which actually shut down Chennai for more than 3 days.  Initially the local and even state administrations tried to play down the disaster – saying that only about 3000 trees have been uprooted.  Actual estimates later put the figure at at least 150,000 if not double that.   The Vandalur Zoological Park alone is reported to have lost about 10,000 trees – and fortunately only 2 lion-tailed macaques managed to escape.

It took the administration another 18 days to cut down and clear up the downed trees.  And parts of Chennai (including the northern side of my street) is without high-speed internet access.  So much for the digital cashless economy being dreamed on by the PM Narendra Modi.

On 21 December, to my surprise, I found some kids doing what has been a forgotten playtime in the metro of Chennai.  Practice their hand at climbing and playing around the fallen trees.  Usually they would be glued to the internet, but the enforced cut off had provided the opportunity for many kids to explore the trees and environment, like Mowgli of Jungle Book fame.

As I walked by, I couldn’t help but notice a particular tree with two kids on it, reminding me of Mowgli and Bagheera on the tree branch in the Jungle Book. And I snapped it.

So here are the two Mowglis – with the image inset from the movie Jungle Book of 2016.

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