Thursday, December 25, 2008





Merry Christmas

I am at Cochin for the festive season.

This year Christmas seems to be rather subdued. Some say it is in remembrance of the victims of 26/11. If true, that is something noble.

There is not much of color lighting. May be it is because of the bad power situation. Decorations and celebrations are also down. Last night, around midnight, I had a long drive across the city. There were hardly any carol groups on the streets.

I am told that liquor sales are also less. That is something unusual for Kerala. Are people being patriotic, or tightening the purse strings in view of financial the meltdown? Will this mean more mosquito menace after Christmas? To understand this question, you’ll have to read

http://parayilat.blogspot.com/2008/10/merry-mallus-and-mosquitoes.html

Season’s Greetings to all of you











Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Photos: Kerala chillies





Photos from Olavipe by me. Copyright reserved.
Click to enlarge.
Also see: Photos: Kerala fruits

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Weddings, then and now

A joke heard in Cochin: If you have a son or daughter to be married, follow these steps in the given order - arrange a good caterer, book a hall, fix time with temple/church, and then, start looking for a bride/ bridegroom. During wedding seasons there is such a rush to book halls and caterers.

People often end up arranging places that they can ill-afford for the wedding reception. Sometimes it is the other way. Social snobs could feel that a venue is below their status. In such cases a whispered apology accompanies the invitation, ‘Sorry, we couldn’t get a better place’.

There was a time, not too far back, when holding a wedding reception in a hotel/ public hall was not the done thing. (I am talking about Kerala and more specifically, Syrian Christians.) The inference was that the host neither had a house good enough for the function nor the people to organize it. Even now, some prominent families hold marriage parties at their residence.

Inviting for the function was a time consuming process. The hosts had to visit the houses of relatives and important people and personally invite. There would be categorized guest lists: (1) those to be personally invited, (2) cards/letters to be sent by hand, (3) invitation to be mailed, and (4) those to be invited/instructed by supervisors to attend.

Personally inviting too had certain rules. Ladies would attend the function only if a lady was involved in inviting. No card or letter was to be given to close relatives. The invitation to them was actually a request to conduct the function.

And they would come, days ahead of the wedding. Those who were not from the same locality would stay with the host. Actually, each function was a family get together – wonderful days spent jointly in a clannish atmosphere.

It was the right of the ammayi (father’s sister) to bring the sweet to be given to the bridal couple after the marriage - that was known as ‘ayini’. Originally ayini was ‘churut’, a savoury made with coarse rice powder and palm syrup filled in a crisp, thin cone. Some used grated coconut with sugar instead. In course of time, most people switched over to cakes.

Along with ayini, Ammayi would bring many baskets of sweets and delicacies. The quantity would depend on her husband’s finances – own or borrowed.

This is running too long. I’ll cover just a couple of points more. In the old days there would be separate cookhouses for vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. And exclusive eating pandals too, based on category and caste/class.

I must mention here about our chief manager, Narayana Kaimal. In all his 60 years of service with us, this member of an aristocratic Hindu family never consumed anything that was cooked in our house. Well, except tea or coffee. And bakery bread. He wouldn’t take even those, once large supplies of fish and meat for a major function began arriving.

Now conducting a wedding is so easy. Entrust the whole matter to an event manager. If you have that kind of money.


Also see:
Syrian Christians (Nazranis) of Kerala: Some interesting customs
Sadhya - a sumptuous Kerala meal

Friday, December 19, 2008

More on fighting terrorism

Here I am trying to answer some of the questions raised in the comments on Terrorism: A shocked nation awakens
1. By asking for more proof that the 26/11 plot was hatched in their country, the Pakistanis are probably trying to probe how much details India has in its possession. It is also an attempt to confuse the issue. Not revealing all the cards we hold may be a wise policy at this juncture.
2. India allowed the Americans and the British to interrogate the surviving terrorist. Pakistan possibly cannot follow this example because they have not made any meaningful arrests linked to 26/11. They are just trying to fool the world.
3. Mug shots of the dead terrorists, DNA etc., can link to the records archives of our agencies as well as those of friendly countries. Also, the items recovered from them do tell tales.
4. We should be grateful that at least one terrorist was caught alive. There could be still more information to be extracted from him. Bringing him to trial has many benefits. Firstly, we are committed to the rule of law and cannot resort to lynching culprits. Secondly the trial would help in sustaining public attention on the question of terrorism. Thirdly, the solid evidence that India claims to have would be subjected to judicial review and more credibly presented to the world.
5. Kandahar was an avoidable bad dream. But the politicians who were involved in that episode keep blabbering loud about fighting terrorism.
6. The handling of 26/11 by the officialdom, at least in the initial stages, was inefficient, to say the least. Proper analysis of the mistakes should help us to streamline our strategies, tactics and operational procedures for the future. The controversial media reporting of the tragedy has been taken note of and the News Broadcasters Association has issued guidelines for future coverage.
7. To take a pessimistic view of the prospects of India is self-defeating. As Happy Kitten has rightly pointed out, to feel that India is finished would amount to surrendering. Morale has to be kept high. Winston Churchill's famous 'We shall fight' speech on June 4, 1940 was one of the major factors that turned the WW II around. Britain was almost on the verge of collapse at that time. India is nowhere near that situation. What we require is not oratory but the courage of conviction and concerted action.
8. Surgical or pre-emptive strikes by India should be resorted to if they become essential but such operations require Entebbe-like planning and precision. That in turn needs quality intelligence. Hopefully, the proposed National Investigation Agency would provide the necessary input.
9. AR Antulay might have put his foot in his mouth, but on one point he is right. It is incredible that in a warlike situation three top police officials were caught together in one car. That was a fatal mistake. Some of you might recall the entire AC Milan champion football team perishing in an air crash some decades ago. In very prosaic terms – never put all your eggs in one basket.
10. It is possible that there might be more terror attacks on India causing further loss of men and materials. We should be prepared – it is an undeclared war on the country that may not end with one battle. We are a strong nation and we shall overcome.

(You can read Churchill’s famous speech at http://www.presentationhelper.co.uk/winston_churchill_speech_fight_them_on_beaches.htm It is said that after the formal last sentence of the speech over the BBC, Churchill covered the mike with his hands and concluded with words to the effect – and if everything fails we shall hit them over the heads with empty beer bottles which is about all that we have got to fight with.)
Also see:
Mumbai: The Last Post and after

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Kerala photos: Ponnozhukum Thodu

After reading From the Memory Box: Ponnozhukum Thodu – the stream where gold flows fellow blogger Nebu (Nebu’s reflections http://nebugeorge.blogspot.com/) was kind enough to send me some photographs of Ponnozhukum Thodu. He was passing by the stream and took these pictures with his mobile phone camera. Thank you, Nebu. You don’t have to be apologetic about the quality of the photos. They are good enough.

Incidentally, Nebu is a regular contributor to the ‘Time Out’ feature of the New Indian Express.

According to Wikipedia, The Ponnozhukum thodu, ‘flows through Elikkulam, Mallikassery, Vilakkumadam, Edamattom regions and joins the Meenachil near the Shree Krishna Swamy temple, Bharananganam’. I have not found out where it originates.

The walkway to the stream. On the left are teak plants.

Another view of the walkway.

View downstream. The Thodu looks narrower than I remember.
Obviously the reason is the granite retaining walls
which were not there earlier.

View upstream.

This is what used to be the private bathing ghat.
The water still looks clear though rather stagnant.

For me Ponnozhukum Thodu is a stream of memories.















Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Terrorism: A shocked nation awakens

The demons that planned and executed the 26/11 attack on Mumbai must have realized that their venture has turned out to be counterproductive despite the mayhem it created. Like never before a nation has awakened to the need to fight terrorism with all its might. The solidarity resolution by the Indian Parliament portrays that resolve more than anything else.

Initially, at least some sceptics might have wondered whether it was wise for India to take the matter to the UN Security Council. Happily, it has resulted in consolidating world opinion against Pakistan. That country stands exposed.

I had published earlier a post The Benazir tragedy: is Pakistan a failed State? Now the world is asking whether Pakistan is a rogue state or terrorist state. In the comity of nations Pakistan stands isolated.

That by itself does not solve our problem. We must realize that the countries which condemn terrorism have their own compulsions and may not walk the full distance with us. India has to fight her own battles.

Attack Pakistan? Certainly not. Any aggression by India at this stage would be playing into the hands of Pakistan as it would divert world attention from the terror factor. We should be ready for war if it becomes inevitable, but cannot afford to be trigger happy and vitiate the unprecedented support that we have from the other nations.

What do we do then? Irrespective of whether the world formally endorses it or not, let us, in our policymaking and actions, accept Pakistan for what it is – a rouge state with nuclear strike capability.

There is nothing Islamic or patriotic about that country’s strategies and convictions. Perpetual conflict with India is a necessity for some key personnel of Pakistan either to stay in power or for other reasons. Possibly, Pakistan has more uniformed millionaires than any other country. As a result, that country has become a haven for terrorists and criminals and remains backward. It is incredible why some Western countries pump money and materials into Pakistan for ‘fighting terrorism’ when it is evident how those funds are utilized.

India should have the toughness to call a spade a spade. Ever since its inception, Pakistan has been spreading untruths about India. What is the point in talking about ‘bhai-bhai’ relationship with such an entity? Let us not waste our time and energy on peace talks. It just does not make sense. If Pakistan has any meaningful peace proposals let them submit those for our consideration.

The biggest buffoonery is Pakistan’s suggestion to have a joint investigation into the 26/11 attack. It does not even deserve a response. Let us do it our way, and quickly too. Let us also not trust Pakistan’s claims about banning terrorist organizations and arresting their leaders. Sufficient time has been given to the culprits to transfer funds to other names.

The suggestion for a Federal Investigating Agency is intrinsically good. But it should not turn out to be another intelligence gathering outfit. We have so many of them, ready to play the blame game at the slightest provocation. Coordination and accountability should be the key words.
There should be clearly defined channels for passing on intelligence and for action taken reports.

Experience from the recent elections to the State Assemblies should deter the political parties from politicising the issue of terrorism. As long as we stand united, there will always be an India, bright and shining.

Also see:
Mumbai: The Last Post and after

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Nostalgia: Two Yercaud photos

Yercaud is a lovely hill station (elevation about 5000 feet) in South India. It is famous for its two lakes, waterfalls, scenery and schools.
This was the Waterfalls Estate bungalow, Yercaud.
It was home to my wife Annie till our marriage in 1961.
My father-in-law, PC Abraham Pallivathukkal had bought the coffee plantation from an Englishman, HF Carey.
Annie and her siblings stayed there and had their schooling at Montfort and Sacred Heart’s (SHY). Two of our children too studied at SHY before I shifted them to Bangalore.
Seen in this old photo are our daughter Rosemary and her two children.
The building now houses a convent.

A view of the more than a century old Sacred Heart’s (SHY).
Photos by KO Isaac. Copyright reserved. Click on the photos to enlarge.
Also see:
Boxing: ‘Tiger’ Nat Terry – a champion and a gentl...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Kerala photos: Chinese net, village pond, nadumuttam

Chinese net, a common scene along the Vembanad Lake

Our bathing pond at Thekkanattu Parayil, Olavipe.

Nadumuttam (inner courtyard) at Olavipe. My grandchildren Adithya and Archana,
at play. Photo taken about 12 years ago.
Copyright reserved. Click on photos to enlarge.
More Kerala images at:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Incommunicado days

Once you are used to the internet facility it is awful to be without it, even temporarily.
Last week we relocated to a new house. My wife and I used our daughter’s place as transit camp for a few days while professional packers & movers handled the shifting. Everything was in place when we moved in on December 3.
Well, everything except the landlines.
The phones were supposed to have been connected within 24 hours at the new address but it took the service provider 12 days to do that. The connection finally came through only yesterday evening! No blog posts or emails for a week. Don’t know how many days it will take me to catch up with the backlog.
The good news is that on the 8th of December I had the bandage on my broken foot taken off. It is such a relief being mobile again though I have to be careful about the foot for a few more weeks.
The doctor gave me an advice as I was leaving the hospital after the bandage was removed – don’t repeat the episode. I have no intention to.
One good thing about the forced internet inactivity was, as in the case of
Life without computer, that I could spend more time on reading. Currently I am going through ‘How Green Was My Valley’ again after decades. Do you remember this timeless classic by Richard Llewellyn? It is so beautiful. I believe that at one time it was a bestseller second only to The Bible!
Settling down at a new place has an element of excitement – getting to know the surroundings, the people around, exploring the area which I am yet to do. But locating things within the house, however well-marked the packages are, takes time.
The biggest bother at the moment however is identifying the electric switches. It certainly will take some time for one to get used to a new place.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Life without electricity

Recently, during Life without computer my granddaughter (Annie Nayanika; we call her Nonee) asked me what toys I used and what kind of games I played during my childhood. That was an interesting question and my mind went back decades.

By and large the playthings were made from locally available materials. Country crafts and carts with wheels made from wood by native carpenters were the favorites. But only a few in the village could afford even those. Many used balls and other toys made from coconut fronds.

Balls were also made of dried latex strips from wild rubber trees which were common in the place. Sometimes the children played with dry odollum fruits, well aware that they were poisonous.

We were economically better off than the others in the village and used to get imported mechanical toys. UK made products was good. The Japanese ones were considered cheap imitations. This was before the Second World War.

Most of the games we used to play did not require any special equipment. Being in a rural area there were so many other means of passing time as well. Fishing for one. Or canoing n the ponds and canals. Chasing butterflies. Catching dragonflies, tying a string to their tails and making them lift stones. And so on.

Nonee was fascinated with all these. When I told her that we had no electricity or telephone till I was about 25 years old, she could not believe it. What shocked her most was that people could live without TV.

How we got power connection is an interesting story. Two top officials of the Electricity Department (this was before Electricity Board was constituted) came home with an uncle. The elder children were introduced to them - first me, then my directly younger brother Mathew.

Uncle told the officials that Mathew was leaving for the United States in a month’s time for higher studies. Going to America was not a common event those days.

One of the officials immediately stated that it would be a shame to the country if Mathew had to tell the Americans that he came from a village which had no electricity. To cut a long story short, power was switched on in our house the night before Mathew was to leave.

Nonee was impressed. Then I exposed myself to a child’s logic by saying that even before electricity came, we had a radio powered by a car battery. Her immediate question was why we did not use the same method to watch TV. I explained to her that TV came to India much later.

Frankly, I cannot imagine how we managed without electricity till the late 1950s.

Also see:

Cricket in remote areas

Monday, December 1, 2008

Mumbai: The Last Post and after

The dead – heroes and the innocents – have been buried. The smoke from the funeral pyres have merged with the air. The haunting notes of the Last Post have faded away. A shell-shocked nation is slowly coming to terms with the Mumbai holocaust.

And, as the battle sounds subside and the smoke clears, what is the picture before the country and the world?

The father of Maj. Sandeep Unnikrishnan refuses to meet the Kerala Chief Minister and Home Minister who come on a condolence visit. Snifter dogs had preceded the CM and party to sanitize the house of the brave soldier who had died fighting the terrorists.

The wife of Hemant Karkare, the Mumbai Anti-Terrorist Squad Chief who was killed by the terrorists, refuses to accept financial assistance offered by the Gujarat Chief Minister. The CM’s party had been virulently attacking the outstanding officer for pursuing investigations that it found inconvenient.

The Opposition leader and his party president refuse to attend an all party meeting convened by the Prime Minister to discuss the aftermath of the Mumbai crisis. They have more important things to do.

The Maharashtra Chief Minister takes a jaunt of the devastated Taj with his actor son and a film maker. The producer claims he has no plans to make a movie based on the tragedy. The Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra goes one step ahead. He announces what happened in Mumbai last week was a small incident – the only man in the world who seems to think so. This person is the Home Minister as well.

Reports come in that the Central intelligence agencies had forewarned the Maharashtra government about terrorist strike, citing Taj and Oberoi as specific targets. Who received these communications? Were they passed down the pecking order? Gathering information is important; reaching it post haste to action centers is critical.

The National Security Guards (NSG) is blamed for delayed arrival at the distress sites. Possibly the deployment could have been much faster. There is criticism that the commandos rushed into action without sufficient intelligence backing and information. Another view is that since the terrorists had started shooting indiscriminately, immediate retaliation was necessary.

While the experts discuss the point, there is another question that needs to be addressed. While waiting for the NSG, did someone bother to collect floor plans of the buildings targeted and provide them to the commandos on arrival? That would have made the operation less risky and more efficient. The details would have been available at the Municipal Office or the headquarters of the companies owning the properties.

Analyzing the details of the recent terror episode and planning for the future certainly cannot be left to the various departments of the governments where action would be buried in red tape. The job has to be entrusted to duly empowered professionals.

Hopefully one silver lining seems to be emerging from the tragedy – the realization that Mumbai is geographically situated in Maharashtra state, but the great city belongs to India.

Ends.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mumbai disaster: a need for centralized and coordinated crisis management


While watching for hours together on TV the latest terrorist attack on Mumbai, I was thinking, on the basis of a study I had done earlier, that the management of the crisis could have been different and more effective if a proper system was in place. This statement is not meant in any way to be critical of the brave and committed efforts by the police, National Security Guards (NSG) and the Defense Forces in fighting the terrorists.

A few years back I had submitted a project profile on National Disaster Management, which also briefly covered terrorism, to the Government of India. The then Cabinet Secretary convened a meeting at Delhi to which I was invited and given the opportunity to speak first. This was followed by discussions.

It was a disappointing exercise for me. Most of the people who attended could only see localized situations, say, like cyclones on the East Coast, and not the total picture. However, I understand that my suggestions including the name for the organization were given due consideration when the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) was formed under the Ministry of Home Affairs. I am not aware how effectively the NDMA is operating.

The world runs on meticulously prepared systems, and dedicated and qualified men who implement and run them. Was such procedure available and followed when the terrorists struck Mumbai on November 26? I do not know.

If such a plan was in force, a unified command would have taken over immediately when the magnitude of the attack became evident. The top officials would have been in the War Room to help the crisis management with their experience, expertise and genius.

Perhaps our intelligence system requires a revamp. It seems to be based more on traditional concepts. And there are so many agencies involved, coming under different ministries and states. Sometimes they cooperate with each other and at other times each proceeds alone. A centralized coordinating mechanism seems to be the answer.

One of the points that I had stressed in my report to the Government of India was that VIPs should stay away from disaster sites. Their visits distract people who are engaged in critical assignments and overburden the police with their security concerns.

And lastly – the people who are agitating to keep non-Maharashtrians out of Mumbai would be doing a great service if they instead focus their energy and efforts to sanitize this great city from terrorists. Those who are so bravely fighting the invaders include many non-Maharashtrians. They come from several parts of the country and belong to different castes and communities.

Ends.

Also see:

Religion, terrorism, and politics


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Life without computer

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Let us spare a minute to pray for the victims of the latest horror episode in Mumbai – the dead, the injured and the hostages, and their families. There is nothing communal about those who are suffering, those beyond suffering – all human beings like you and me.

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‘No work on the computer’ was the medical advice after a plaster cast was put on my left foot which had a fracture. That was earlier this month. The leg, I was told, had to be kept up all the time.

I was quite upset about this. Felt that the doctors were making unnecessary fuss. But they had a point. At the age of 75 one has to be careful about such things.


The first impact of the restriction was that I realized I could still write with hand after depending on computers for about ten years. I acquired a writing board which can be kept on the armrest of my easy chair. I could keep my feet up and write. My daughter keys in my handwritten manuscripts.


In that manner I could keep my blog going, concentrating on posts that did not require research. But emails pose a problem. Don’t know how long it would take me to catch up with the backlog. Hope that no one would be offended by the delayed response from me.


One good thing that came out of my enforced computer holiday was that I could get on with my reading. Currently I am on to Empires of the Indus – The Story of a River by Alice Albinia. It had earned Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Award for work in progress.


This fascinating book combines history with the experiences and observations of the British born author’s travels along the Indus River. Considerable amount of research has gone into the beautifully written work. It is good reading as well as a reference book.


The next one lined up is India’s Unending Journey by MarkTully who had a long stint in India with the BBC. He is a world famous radio personality. You might have read his earlier work, No Full Stops in India.


I was also able to watch some good movies, mostly Malayalam. It is amazing how the two actors, Mammootty and Mohanlal, continue to dominate the Malayalam cinema, something that they have been doing for quarter of a century. At one time Prem Nazeer was known as the evergreen hero. Now it is the turn of these two versatile artists.


But the best thing that has come out of the enforced rest is that I spent more time with my family, particularly my little granddaughter. She tells me about her school, friends, ideas and so on. That is great.


The plaster cast on my foot was taken off yesterday and a bandaged applied in its place. Two more weeks of rest. But I am starting selective use of the computer. In fact this post is done all by myself.


Also see: How I write Blog posts



Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Photos: A coffee mug and two ashtrays



Photos by me. Click to enlarge.
Also see:

Kerala kitchen – some implements of the past

Photos: Flowers from Peermade

Monday, November 24, 2008

Kerala snippets


Tipplers unite.


It seems that there are several associations organized by the alcohol consumers of Kerala. A prominent one among them is ‘Forum for Better Spirit’. I like the name. It has several positive meanings, except perhaps the alcohol connotation.


In union is strength. And Kerala has so many unions.


Also see:

Merry Mallus and mosquitoes


The cradle of priests and nuns.


Meenachil Taluk in Kottayam Disyrict is a stronghold of Syrian Catholics. Pala (or Palai) is the headquarters of the Taluk (Revenue Division) and the Pala Diocese. Sr. Alphonsa, the first Indian woman Saint of the Catholic Church is from this diocese which has a membership of about 3,50,000.


Pala area has produced more Catholic priests and nuns than any other place in India, and perhaps the whole world. The number of bishops from Pala Diocese in the Catholic Church has exceeded 30.


Also see:

Vedas, Syrian Christians


Sr. Abhaya Case.


The CBI investigating team wanted to question Mar Kuriakose Kunnasserry who was the Bishop of Kottayam when Sr. Abhaya, a young nun was found dead 16 years ago. The aging prelate, who is leading a retired life, went to the CBI office for recording his statement.


The CBI has also requested for an appointment to meet the present Archbishop of Kottayam. In the meantime an Encyclical exhorting that the truth must be brought out in the Sr. Abhaya case was read out yesterday after Sunday Mass in all churches of the Kottayam Diocese.


Also see:

Kerala: The arrest of two Catholic priests and a nun for murder


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Photos: From the local florist

These are the first attempts I made with a new phone camera. Being rather immobile with the left foot up almost all the time,
I had to choose objects within the house. These flowers are from a bouquet that came for me. The results are not too good even with some editing. Anyway, please do have a look.





Also see: Medical ethics: Fleecing the patients




Saturday, November 22, 2008

Kerala photos: A man sized taro plant


Click on photos to enlarge

I took these photos (copyright reserved) of ‘chembu’ (Colocasia) at the residence of Mr. AL Thomas at Cochin. I wonder how big its roots would be when harvested.


The leaves and roots of this tropical tuber are widely used for culinary purposes in many parts of the world. According to UN statistics, Nigeria, Ghana, China, Cote d’ lvoire and Papua New Guinea are the major producers with a combined output of 9.2 million metric tons in 2005.


Taro leaves are a good source of vitamins and minerals. They contain Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Niacin, manganese, potassium and copper. The corms contain high portion of starch and dietary fiber.


The range of recipes using taro is vast – from snacks to curries to burgers. Some of the sites which provide details are given below:

http://www.hawaii.edu/hga/Lessons/maui98/TARO/trecip.htm

http://fooddownunder.com/cgi-bin/recipe.cgi?r=25908

http://www.newkerala.com/recipes/Indian-Recipes/Kerala-Special-Recipes/Taro-Curry-Recipe.html

http://showmethecurry.com/2008/09/01/crispy-seasoned-arbi-taro-root-indian-snack-recipe/

http://www.revver.com/video/1135911/crispy-seasoned-arbi-taro-root-indian-recipe-video/


Taro root.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Also see:

Photos: Vegetables for Onam

Kerala photos: Butterflies of Olavipe


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Kerala: The arrest of two Catholic priests and a nun for murder

In the last two days the CBI has arrested two senior Catholic priests and a nun for the murder of another nun, Sr. Abhaya.

Sixteen years back the body of Sr. Abhaya, a Pre-degree student then, was found in the well of the convent where she was staying. The investigation into the incident, first by the local police and subsequently by the Crime Branch, lasted ten months. The finding was that the young nun had committed suicide.

Abhaya’s relatives and the Action Council that had been formed to ensure justice in the case did not accept this conclusion. The Kerala High Court endorsed their view and referred the case to the CBI.

The CBI officer who handled the investigation was of the opinion that the nun had been murdered. Shortly he resigned from the service alleging that he was being pressurized by his superior officers to accept the suicide theory mooted by the Kerala Police.

Since then, several CBI teams have investigated the Abhaya case. The two priests now arrested were subjected to modern tests like narco-analysis earlier. Nothing conclusive emerged from that. A few times the CBI approached the Kerala High Court for permission to close the case stating that the evidence
was insufficient to proceed against the suspects.

This move attracted severe criticism by the Court, which directed that a new team be entrusted with the investigation of the Abhaya case. This was done on the 28th of last month. The new batch of sleuths made the arrests within three weeks claiming that they had gathered sufficient proof against the accused.

Several questions arise from this development. Does the new group consist of super detectives? They seem to have unearthed clinching evidence within a few days. This is something their predecessors could not do in nearly fifteen years!

Or, was the evidence suppressed for unknown reasons all theses years and the new batch of investigators merely went ahead boldly and acted on it? A third possibility is that the CBI team has knocked together a weak case. If that is so, the accused would walk free.

The answers to these questions should be available in the near future.

In the meantime, there is, apart from the legal angle, an important aspect to the Abhaya case. In Kerala the Christian community is strong and influential. But, by and large, the attitude of the community seems to be that the law should take its own course no matter whether god-men and women are involved or not.

So far no political party seems to have attempted to take mileage from the new turn in the Abhaya case.

Also see


The Kerala Scene: Girls forced to join convents?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Fragrance in the air, medicine on the ground

Ylang Ylang (cananga odorata) is a nice tree to have near a house. The fragrance of the greenish yellow flowers is so rich and deep and exotic and lingers in the air for a long time.


Ylang Ylang is considered to be a native of Malaysia and Indonesia, but one can find them at many places in the tropics. We have one at Olavipe which is on coastal Kerala. It is a spindly tree that grows very fast and reaches a height of 40 ft. or more. Propagation is by seeds.


The ylang ylang flowers are widely used in the cosmetic industry. They also have an important role in aromatherapy because of the medicinal properties. The range includes use as aphrodisiac and treatment of sexual problems, stress reduction, digestive problems, palpitation and abnormally fast breathing, healing wounds, emotional stability and so on. It is a long list.


The image reproduced above is from Wikimedia. Here are some photographs of Ylang Ylang I took at Olavipe. Copyright reserved. Click on them to enlarge.






Also see:

Jasmine (Jasminum): Flowers for beauty and for money

Health, Gardening: Periwinkle, a wonder plant

Ixora coccinea (Rubiaceae) - flowers that gods and men love
















Sunday, November 16, 2008

Draw your family tree

The records of each family form a part of the history of the country.


For some reason, the practice of maintaining a family tree has not been prevalent in India. Usually, information is passed down the generations through oral tradition. In the process some details could be lost. Perhaps it is time that you draw your family tree, if it has not been done already, with the information currently available to you


The image of a classic family tree is given below:


It is a beautiful work of art by my brother Anthony Tharakan, on a wall at Thekkanattu Parayil, our ancestral home. Our earliest known forefather is marked at the base of the tree. As it branches out, the descendants come into the picture.


This example of a family tree is difficult to follow, unless you are artistically inclined and have a lot of free time. There is a much easier way – make a simple chart, a kind of upside down family tree. The requirements for starting the work are large sheets of good quality paper, pencils, eraser, pencil sharpener and ruler. Keep all these along with your notes within easy reach on a large enough table.


Tell your family members what you are up to. Even better than that would be to have the children actively participate in the project. It would induce them to develop a sense of history.


At the top of the first sheet, write the name of your earliest known ancestor in the center. Under that enter the dates of his birth, marriage, and death (b.— m. — d.—). Next come the name, dates of birth and death of his spouse. Underline the last line of the entry or encase the whole entry in a box.


Draw a short line, say half an inch, from the center of the first entry and link it to a horizontal line for the second generation. If the first ancestor had three children, draw three short lines again from the horizontal line and enter the details, starting with the eldest in the left. Repeat the process till you reach the present generation.


In the process, you will have to make a decision as to whether you want a comprehensive family tree or one that is confined to your line of descendants only.


The final product would look like a corporate organization chart, with the CEO at the top. This would be a basic family tree. A sample of males only genealogy chart is given below:


You can make it more elaborate by giving codes for each family member, symbols (say for male/female) and historic notes. Leave blank spaces where relevant information is not available. Finally, overwrite the chart with indelible ink.


It would be much easier to make the family tree on a computer. Free software for the job can be downloaded at http://www.myheritage.com/family-tree and similar sites.


Images: Top, KO Isaac. Copyright reserved. Bottom, Wikipedia commons.


Also see:

Senior citizens