Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
- Stop or reduce the use of air-conditioning on vehicles. The citizens should be willing to forgo some small comforts in the interest of the nation
- Improved driving techniques can save fuel. Two simple examples – (a) cold starting a vehicle in reverse consumes more fuel. Park the car front forward at night, and (b) maintaining a steady pace on highways instead of ‘speed and brake’ pattern saves fuel. There is much more.
- Traffic jams result in idling waste. Switch off the engine if you have to stop for more than a couple of minutes. Also, the concerned authorities should give more attention to streamlining the traffic.
- Good road surface increases fuel efficiency. Single lane roads, unscientific speed breakers and potholes result in vehicles guzzling up gas.
- At home, reduce the use of cooking gas. On each cylinder, the oil firms are absorbing Rs.306.
- Reduce petroleum based power production.”
Monday, December 13, 2010
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Monday, November 15, 2010
Kerala kitchen – some implements of the past shows some of the wooden kitchen implements used in the past. What is not included in this post is ural in which rice is pounded for de-husking, and making powders.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Obama is the guest and India the host. Traditionally, we give great importance to hospitality. Adhithi Devo Bhava.
Let us listen to what the President of America has to say. The rethink of the Communists on boycotting Obama’s address to the MPs is a sensible decision. Prakash Karat’s Cambridge speech about breaking away from the shackles of the past seems to have had some effect. The 1940s which was mentioned in that speech reminds one of Quit India movement. The Leftists stayed away from that massive uprising by the people of India. At that point of time Brittan and Soviet Union were on the same side, in World War II.
The Chief Minister of Maharashtra, who received the US President into India yesterday, was invited to a meeting hosted by the Americans. There was a condition that he should submit identification papers for entry to the venue. He refused to attend the function.
The US officials did apologise saying that it was a clerical error. There have been quite a few ‘clerical errors’ by the US in the past. They did not care then. Now the apology mode is on. India has grown into a big boy.
The BJP spokesman criticised Obama for not blaming Pakistan at the memorial function at the Taj Mahal Hotel. It was a poignant occasion. Talk about Pakistan would come later, and it did. Here we must understand that Obama is in a difficult position. The naïve US policy, starting from the time of John Foster Dulles (Secretary of State 1953-1959) of ‘Brinkmanship’ fame, has placed that country in a peculiar situation. The American funding ($ 2billion even recently) is used by the Pakistan Army to fight effectively or not the extremists on the Afghan side and at the same time carry out terrorism against India.
The Indian National Congress was not far behind the BJP. Some of the Party people felt that Obama should have mentioned Nehru when he was in Mumbai. How many Indian Presidents and Prime Ministers visiting the US have talked there about Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln?
Why are we so sensitive of what other countries say about us? It indicates a lack of self-confidence. We are what we are. And the world is recognizing our position.
Yesterday (Saturday) evening in a discussion programme about Obama’s visit on a major national TV channel there was a young fellow. What I understood was that he is a research chap from the CPM. He was critical about India spending money to create jobs in the US and the business contracts that were signed.
The people who concluded the agreements are well-known for their business acumen. They are not going spend money just because some Americans would get jobs. It is all business. For instance, Spicejet could have gone to Boeing or Airbus for the 33 passenger jet aircrafts they need. They took a business decision to place the order worth $ 2.7b with Boeing.
This order creates thousands of jobs at Boeing which otherwise would have gone elsewhere. But what happens when those jets come to India? We need more pilots, cabin crew, ground handling staff, people to organize transport arrangements etc to handle the increased traffic. More jobs are generated. Every genuine import either sustains or creates new jobs. When we imported heavily from Russia, the Left leaning pundits did not raise any objections.
Obama has conceded some of our demands, but there is much more to be obtained. Let us be confident that our Prime Minister and Government are capable of handling India’s interests.
Friday, November 5, 2010
Last March I had posted about Our lilies of the balcony. Those were red lilies. Last month we had two white lily flowers. Three photos I took of them are given below.
The next picture was taken at my sister Mariamma’s house. Is it a spider lily?
Saturday, October 30, 2010
You might be aware of the clans of Scotland. I shall deal with that briefly elsewhere in this post. But what prompted me to write this is receiving recently a memento from the Parayil Family to which I belong. The inscription on it says that I am “an inspiration to the Parayil Meets”. It was a very touching occasion for me.
A photo of the souvenir is given below:
All that I did was to suggest ten years back that all family members should try and meet together once a year. The others took it up and have been organizing the Parayil Meet (Kudumbayogam) on a grand scale all these years. The event is normally held in one of our heritage homes on the second Saturday of the month of May. This year I could not attend the function. Therefore the souvenir was delivered to me in Chennai by a family member.
What made me propose such a meet was that with nuclear families living separately and people moving to far away places for work, members of the larger family hardly get a chance to meet each other. In my family unit for instance all the six of us (4 children) meeting together is a rare event.
This is far different from the time when the male members put up houses near the tharavad (ancestral home) and the married off girls came home for at least a part of the major holidays.
That was how it was when I was young. On Saturdays and Sundays the cousins would come home or we go to their houses. Later on, when I was in the boarding houses or hostels, the weekend meetings were only possible during long holidays.
In the last fifty years so much has changed. I was the first person from the Parayil Family to go for a job. That was in 1958, after six month management training in Bombay (Mumbai). Some people were shocked that a family member was to start working for someone. To them, the fact that my uncle Jose Kallivayalil was the Chairman of Ruby Rubber Works Ltd where I started my career did not make any difference.
But Appan.(my father) was a man of foresight. He knew that land limitation laws which would curtail the size of the holdings were on the anvil. He encouraged me to take up the job. My brothers followed suit and so did several cousins, in different fields. In the next generation, a job is almost compulsory. By God’s Grace, all of them have done well in their careers.
But the family became scattered. The members are in different parts of India, Singapore, Australia, Gulf, Europe, North America, and South America. That is all fine. But think of the children. Many of them lack proper awareness of their roots, can’t recognize even close relations, don’t realize that they have people who would stand by them, and are ignorant of their traditions and culture. During the short trips to Kerala once a year or so, it is not practical to meet everyone.
In our case we find that since the date of the family meet is pre-fixed, the members plan their holiday trips to coincide with it. And the meets are really fun, with kids to old people involving actively and enjoying themselves. Also, meaningful discussions take place.
I know of some other families too who have family meets. It would be good if more families organize such get together.
Scotland is the best example of the clan spirit. The world’s largest clan meeting was held in Edinburgh on July 25, 2009. One hundred of Scotland’s clan chiefs and representatives of clans from around the world attended.
Opening the convention the Duke of Rothesay said, "It seems to me that today's event represents the stirring meeting of Scotland's history and its living heritage." The Scottish First Minister’s comment was "Obviously the Homecoming year has a visitor aspect to it. But all of these people are celebrating their heritage and roots. These are deep roots and affinities that stretch back centuries. To mobilise that wonderful diaspora to make a contribution to the future of our country is a massive thing." (From BBC report.)
India can benefit too if family attachments are sustained. No politics, no religious exploitation. Just people of the same ancestry assembling and enjoying, and making plans to help each other and others outside the family who need assistance.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Last month Anjali published a post titled Ritu. It is about a Malayalam cinema by that name. The writer is annoyed and angry about the movie mainly because the story is an old tale and the script writer has not bothered study the subject and background well enough. I haven’t seen the picture but can understand why Anjali is upset. Many of the new Malayalam cinemas are like that.
Some years ago when I visited Chennai a friend asked me to join him and the scriptwriter of the Malayalam cinema he was producing for ‘working drinks’ at their hotel. I found him and the writer with a collection of English movie cassettes. This was before the CDs and DVDs. They were shamelessly copying from the Western cinemas for the Malayalam picture. I never saw that movie.
The story and script form the heart of a movie. The director, cameraman and actors work to transfer what is written to the celluloid. A good director would work only with a credible and well written screenplay. He and the writer would discuss and finalize the script.
Scriptwriting is a tough job. It requires understanding the place where the story takes place and the people who live there. The visuals and dialogues should give the impression that the story is actually happening there. This requires great concentration and even visualizing the camera angles. Sometimes research is needed. Attention to details is so important.
This is where Malayalam cinema fails. Most of the script writers just rush through the job. Some introduce theatrical dialogues. The producers go ahead with something that should be thrown into the waste basket. There are enough directors who do not bother as long as they get paid. As a result, 90% of the Malayalam movies fail at the box office.
Some time back I had written a post Malayalam Cinema: Going, going, gone? The same situation continues though Malayalam won 13 National awards recently for the year 2009. Imagine, for discovering a good story, Shaji N. Karun, the director of the best film, Kutty Srank waited 10 years. It is a pity that Mammootty lost out to Amitab Bachan for the Best Actor Award in spite of his good performances in three movies, Kutty Srank, Paleri Manikyam and Pazhassi Raja.
Actually, 2009 had six or seven good Malayalam movies. One of them was Blessy’s Bhramaram. I was quite impressed by the film. It had a good story and script. The final portion of the tension filled movie was shot in the rough terrain of the High Ranges. Blessy, and Mohan Lal, the hero are near perfect.
Both Mammootty and Mohan Lal continue to dazzle. Their latest releases, Pranchiyettan and the Saint (Direction by Renjit) and Shikkar (M.Padmakumar) are reportedly doing very well.
One problem is that the younger set of actors do not get really good chances. They are mostly wasted in quickly assembled, fight and dance oriented movies.
Unless new stories are found and the script writers and the directors put in hard work, Malayalam cinema will continue to be of low standard. The recent National Awards should inspire the industry to come out with better products.
Monday, September 13, 2010
In the beginning there was no road. Adam and Eve didn’t require pathways to roam around in their Garden. Move anywhere and it was Paradise. The first specific road was perhaps the one the original couple treaded when they were banished from the Garden of Eden.
With the increase in the number of their descendants more footpaths emerged. Later on the wheel was discovered and human and animal drawn wagons were made. That required many footpaths to be converted to wider tracks or primitive roads.
The next major development was the automated vehicles with pneumatic tires. They transformed the transport industry. Wise men realized the economic importance of road transport which could move people and goods faster - point to point, warehouse to warehouse.
But the vehicles required proper roads. Road building technology developed and broad modern highways were built in many countries. Better roads meant fiscal advantage in different ways.
On good roads the vehicles can travel faster and more safely. Their maintenance outlay would be minimized. This reduces the cost of transporting goods which, in turn, lessens the selling prices.
Proper highways considerably reduce the turnaround time of the vehicles. The quantity of goods transported on a bad road by three trucks could be probably managed by one lorry on a good highway by making three trips. This means that money required for two trucks could be used for other development activities. Overall economic growth escalates the need for articles and more trucks to carry them.
Realizing the importance of good roads India constituted National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) by an Act of the Parliament to create world class roads with uninterrupted traffic flow. The successful operation of this organization requires the cooperation of the State governments. By and large, such support is there. 60 meter wide National Highways (NH) are coming up all over the country.
But Kerala has to be different.
The State argued that because of the heavy density of population the width of NHs in Kerala should be scaled down to 45m. After a great deal of discussions, NHAI agreed to this though a heavy increase in truck traffic is expected with the opening of the Vallarpadam Container Transhipment Terminal later this year.
It is a common practice in Kerala to hold political meetings on highways. Sometimes rallies and religious functions are held blocking the traffic totally. Recently one citizen went to the High Court against this. The verdict was obvious – roads are meant for traffic and obstructing that should not be permitted.
There were heavy protests from politicians against this verdict. The Judges were abused in public. Kerala Government went to the High Court with a review petition that failed. Now there is talk about approaching the Supreme Court on the issue. And the politicians keep on saying that the High Court verdict would be broken frequently.
In the meanwhile the question of road width has still not abated. Now the demand is that the NHs should only 30m broad. Basically this comes from the traders and people staying along the roadside. The law and policy of the government is that proper compensation should be paid to the owners when private property is taken over public purpose. But law and logic do not always prevail in Kerala.
Just a couple of weeks back in another case the High Court made a statement that travelling on NH47 in Kerala is like riding a horse! The road condition is so bad.
Now, this leads to another question. If the new tracks are meant for horses, horse carts and meetings, what should be its breadth?
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Saturday, August 14, 2010
This photo is of the first postage stamp of free
The value given is 3 ½ Annas. The currency system in
1 Rupee = 16 Annas
1 Anna = 4 Pice
1 Pice = 3 Pies
It would be also interesting to see the posts
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Monday, July 5, 2010
Well, we have gone through another bandh. Long weekend for some, misery for many. Apart from that has the event contributed anything?
It was said by the organizers that the purpose of the bandh was to make the Government of India aware of the people’s protest against the increase in petroleum prices. One would assume that if the Government consists of sensible people, it would have known that the hike in petroleum prices would make every Indian unhappy. The loss of crores of rupees caused by the bandh was not required to get the message across.
LK Advani is reported to have mentioned that for the first time all the opposition parties came together. That would have been a happy incident if some sensible solution was put forward by them to tackle the issue. At least those among them who are ruling some of the States could have come out with a declaration that their States would forego the windfall that comes by way of Sales Tax every time the petrol prices are increased. No, that is more of unbudgeted money to spend.
Left ruled States, Kerala,
In my opinion the BJP should have a rethink on its approach. It unlikely to gain anything by aligning with the Left. There is the example of the Congress – that party moved ahead once the Left withdrew support. BJP is a party which might head the Government of India again. They should take a more objective and mature view.
It is a reality that the oil prices in the international market fluctuate. A government cannot constantly and indiscriminately absorb the increases to subsidize a price level in the home market.
Perhaps the think tanks of the major political parties should sit down together and work out a price escalation formula for future applications.
Please also see Tackling the oil crisis
Friday, June 25, 2010
For a few months now I have not been paying due attention to my blog. It has been a kind of absence without leave. Some of the regular readers have been kind enough to write to me about it. My apologies to them, and to those who made comments on my posts and did not receive any response.
For the last few weeks I was in Kerala. This was my first trip after the cardiac bypass operation I had in September 2009. I did not even touch a computer there. It was a time of getting together with the family and friends, visits to the club, and attending a few functions. Had a lovely time.
Chennai and Kerala are, as you know, in different weather zones – sweltering heat at one end and pelting rains at the other. Singing in the rain was not on cards. Neither was walking in the downpour without an umbrella. But it was nice being driven around. At the moment the
Olavipe, my home village is all green, just like the rest of Kerala. But it looks better on TV. Last week an interview with my younger brother Hormis Tharakan (former RAW chief) at Olavipe was on the mini screen and the place looked great.
An equally alluring spot is the beautiful riverside house of a cousin, Mathew Manipadam, at Udayanapuram near Vaikom. For the first time in my life I saw yellow hibiscus flowers there. I was really stunned by it. A couple of photos I took of them are reproduced below:
The construction activities in
Given here is a photo of a building I liked.
The structure looks beautiful, rising from the cluster of trees. Imagine it is in a city!
Such trees are not common in Kerala these days. Not much care is given to them. The main reasons for this are (1) it is difficult to get workmen, (2) the wages for unskilled labour is around Rs.300/day, (3) those who climb the palms to pluck the nuts are very few and charge heavily, and (4) the prices the farmer gets for the nuts are uneconomic.
The next is the picture of a special variety of coconut tree from Manipadam house. I believe that it starts yielding in 18 months! But the oil content in the kernel is low. Therefore it is not a commercially viable proposition.
Kerala is slowly changing from the land of coconut trees to a concrete jungle. It is so sad.
Well, I am back in Chennai. The weather gods here are really kinder than they were last month. I am looking forward to keeping up my blog with regular postings.
[Click on photos to enlarge.]