Saturday, February 28, 2009

Slumdog Cocktail and fortified Kerala spirit

The Kerala tipplers, famous for their drinking capabilities, could be a confused lot for the time being. The State Government has just released the new liquor policy. It permits stronger drinks to be marketed in Kerala.

Before coming to the Slumdog Cocktail, let me briefly explain what I understand about the new liquor rules from newspaper reports. Don’t get put off by the accounts figures.

Till now, the hard stuff could only have an alcohol content of 42.86% v/v (volume to volume) with a tolerance of plus or minus 1%. The revised rule increases the tolerance to 3%. This means that the strength of the liquor one buys could be anywhere from 39.86% to 45.86%.

The million dollar question is: will this change result in more liquor consumption, or reduced the intake?

The new policy has two possibilities that would coexist. One is that the quantity of alcohol consumed by a person would be less if the lower tolerance level is applied. They would be paying the same price, but at least it would be more liver friendly. On the other hand, at 45.86%, for no additional cost the customer would be getting potion that is really potent.

I must be turning dull in my old age because I can’t understand the rationale behind the change in the specifications. But one thing appears certain – after the initial perplexity, the Keralites would keep on blissfully downing the stuff regardless. Come hell or high-water, the spirits must be kept up. The espirit de corps!

You would be wondering about the Slumdog connection.

Well, at the 81st Oscar Awards party, one of the drinks served was imaginatively named ‘Slumdog Cocktail’. It was a vodka based mix according to Jijeesh Kuttalita of Malayala Manorama (, prepared with raspberry and lime (juice?) and served with a lollipop.

If prepared with fortified Kerala vodka, fewer Slumdogs could induce deeper slumber.

Also see:

A Vodka Story.

From the 81st Oscar Awards, a new message for the ..

Friday, February 27, 2009

Kerala photos: Fast changing Cochin skyline

Today's evening news on TV stated that Kerala has become unusually hot.
One of the reasons mentioned is that the high-rise buildings
that have come up in recent times are blocking air circulation.
I took these photos at Cochin about two months back.
Some greenery is still left.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bloggers, beware of legal implications

It is not only plagiarism that bloggers have to be careful about. A Division Bench of the Supreme Court of India headed by the Chief Justice has ruled that bloggers could be liable for libel or even criminal charges for the content they publish in their web logs. (The Times of India, Chennai, February 24, 2009.) I think Contempt of Court is also a possible risk.

The reported case relates to a 19 year-old from Kerala who started a discussion group on the Internet against the Shiv Sena activities. A Maharashtra Court issued summons against him on the basis of a criminal case filed by a Sena functionary.

The blogger obtained anticipatory bail from the Kerala High Court and then approached the SC to have the criminal complaint quashed. The SC said no; even comments published on a blog could attract legal action.

I suppose this position will also be applicable to the persons who send in the comments. One cannot escape the mischief of law by posting them under the ‘Anonymous’ label. The IP of the computer from which they are sent can be traced.

Every citizen, whether blogger or not, has the right to express himself. In certain States of the US, I understand, bloggers claim the status of journalists. (This has to be verified.) This does not mean one can ignore other applicable laws which include provisions against hurting public sentiment. Claiming that the views expressed are purely personal is no defense.

In the United States lawsuits against bloggers are on the increase. They involve millions of dollars. Details of legal actions against bloggers in that country can be seen at

In a report dated July 20, 2008 Huma Yusuf states that around the world 64 bloggers were arrested since 2003 according to a publication by the University of Washington. More than half these took place in Egypt, China and Iran.

Some bloggers’ associations, it seems, run awareness programs for their members. There were also reports that insurance against lawsuits were planned in the US for the benefit of bloggers. The cheapest policy was to cost $540 per year. It is not clear whether the scheme is put on hold because of the financial meltdown.

According to an estimate, two new blogs are created every second! In an article posted on USA TODAY. Com (October 2, 2006), Laura Parker says, ‘The blogosphere also is the Internet's Wild West, a rapidly expanding frontier town with no sheriff.’

That is an apt description. And, that is all the more reason why bloggers should apply restraint in what the write and the comments they allow to be posted on their blogs. We can’t have ‘Injuns and cowboys’ shoot at each other in the 21st century.

Also see:

How I write Blog posts

Contempt of Court - comment and response

Monday, February 23, 2009

From the 81st Oscar Awards, a new message for the troubled world

Resul Pookutty who won the Oscar for sound mixing said in his acceptance speech at the awards ceremony that history was being handed over to him. Yes. He is the first Keralite to win the recognition. Two more Indians received Oscars.

Allah Rakha Rahman (41) was awarded two Oscars, for Best Music (Score), and Best Music (Song) along with Gulzar (72). Incidentally, the former was originally named AS Dileep Kumar but changed it when he converted to Islam. Gulzar is a pen name. His real name is Sampooran Singh Kalra.

That is not all. The best feature film and best short documentary awards were won by India-based stories – Slumdog Millionaire and Smile Pinki respectively. Incredible. As Gulzar said, who would have thought a Hindi lyricist would win an Oscar?

The star of the show was AR Rahman. He is God’s own man. His profession is divine. Like the million colors in nature, the Creator has packed the world with musical notes. But He has bestowed the gift of catching the notes and arranging them into great compositions on only a select band of humans. And Rahman is one among the chosen few.

Music is the sound of love. This is perhaps the point Rahman stressed in his acceptance speech at the Oscars Awards. He said words to the effect: I had two choices in life, love and hate; I chose love and I am here.

A hate-filled Rahman could not have crafted soul stirring melodies. There can be no music in the hearts of gun-wielding, bomb-throwing men.

There was a slogan ‘Make love, not war’ that was very much in use in the 1970s and 1980s. Now Rahman has given us a better one,

Choose love, not hate’.

That is a slogan which should, in my opinion, be given maximum publicity.

Where there is true love, there can be no evil.

Jai ho.

(The image reproduced here is subject to

Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License

Click to enlarge.)

Also see:

M.S. Subbalakshni – The Queen of Song

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Photos: Some beautiful pieces

Photos by me. Copyright reserved.
Click to enlarge.
Also see:
A beautiful carving

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Star wars in Kerala

There are only two mega stars in the tottering Malayalam cinema industry – Mammootty and Mohanlal. (See Malayalam Cinema: Going, going, gone?) They were superstars till a few years back but were elevated to the higher rank. I can’t answer the question ‘by whom’.

It was not like a Lt. General becoming General or a Secretary becoming Chief Secretary. A few of the next in line heroes (some of them are good) were stagnating and required a new label to enhance their market value and someone had a bright idea. Mammootty and Mohanlal were tagged megastars and the others became superstars.

Not that the change made any difference to performance of the actors. Perhaps their rates went up. Histrionic talent wise Malayalam cinema is well stocked. It is just that some of the actors got stereotyped. Anyway, there is room at the top and near the top for all of them. That is, provided the industry survives.

Mammootty and Mohanlal are great artistes by any standards, anywhere, anytime. Who is better among the two is a meaningless question according to me. (Malayalam cinema: Random thoughts)

Any rivalry between them should be on a healthy level. I have not met either of them. I am sure they are decent people who would not involve in petty squabbles. But the same cannot be said of all their fans. Many of their followers are organized into ‘clubs’.

The conflict between the fans of the mega stars came into the open with the release of the star-studded production ‘Twenty Twenty’ promoted by the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA). Almost all top actors including Mammootty and Mohanlal are in the cast.

The protest was sparked off by the posters of that film. Mohanlal supporters felt that Mammootty was given more prominence in the publicity material. It is said that the producers brokered an understanding with the agitating fan clubs to enable smooth release of the movie.

But the embers flared again when the Mammootty film ‘Love in Singapore’ opened recently. The star’s head was cut off from the posters, and flexi boards advertising the cinema were destroyed. Replacements also met with the same fate. The opposite camp retaliated in kind when Mohanlal’s ‘Red Chilli’ was released.

I believe that the posters cost Rs.133 each, and flexi boards Rs.60000 each. One can imagine the extent of this meaningless destruction. The poor producers, many of whom are already deeply in the red, have to bear the additional and unplanned expense.

The simple logic the fans should understand is that even the best actor has a stage only if producers are around to risk the money to make movies. That some film makers producing low quality pictures should close shop is another matter.

[This is inspired by a report in the Malayala Manorama Chennai edition of 18th February.]

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Chennai: Footpaths are not meant for walking?

In many parts of Chennai there are paved footpaths. But most people avoid them and walk on the road. Lack of safety consciousness? Not really. Pedestrians avoid them for different reasons.

First of all, the kerbs are too high from the road levels – almost 18 inches at many places. Getting on to them is not easy, particularly for the elderly. And they are the people who have to be extra careful while walking on the road.

Then, at every 30 feet or so, there is an entrance to a building. The pathway does not taper down at such spots. Therefore, one has to step down to the road level and climb up again after the gate. It could be good exercise but not friendly to people who are in a hurry. The photo below explains the point.

Even if one takes up the challenge, there are problems. The other day I found a two-feet-high boundary demarcation on a footpath as an extension of the compound wall between two buildings. You can step over it if the watchman and his cronies are not sitting on it.

Another impediment I noticed was a three-feet-wide concrete name board of a resident right across the 4.5 feet walkway, at a height of about four feet. One could neither stride over nor duck under it.

Why are the kerbs so high? I don’t think that international road specifications demand such huge concrete blocks. Is there some particular reason why Chennai opts for them? See below a picture from Cubbon Park, Bangalore, originally published in my post Bangalore: Of a club, a park and a Chief Secretary couple

Let us look at the cost of the kerb stones used at Chennai and Bangalore. In the case of the former, the outlay would be more than double. It is not only the price of the input materials for the concrete blocks.

We must also consider the higher transporting and handling charges for the larger pieces. A truckload of the smaller ones would cover much more road length. Then again, much more volume of sand is needed to fill in the high footpaths and considerably longer time is taken to complete the work.

It is clear that that less elevated walkways have several advantages. Why not stretch the available funds to cover more areas and benefit the pedestrians by choosing low-level footpaths?

That is, unless there is other compelling reasons like local conditions to follow the present practice.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

My Valentine’s Day

Those who know my age might wonder what I am talking about. Well, I too had a Valentine’s Day surprise.

I remembered the significance of yesterday on opening the news papers in the morning. There were reports about the security arrangements (at least in South India) to restrain the self-styled ‘Moral Police’ forces causing problems on Valentine's Day. Deciding to watch the TV after breakfast to see what happens, I moved to the dining room.

Suddenly my nine year old granddaughter Nonie (Olakkuda – Palmyra leaf umbrella) blocked my way. She said that the food was not ready and I should wait. That was surprising because the cook had come early in the morning and she is quite efficient.

I returned to the newspapers till Nonie finally announced breakfast. I asked her what was there and she answered ‘Poorie and potato curry’. That is something I like.

I sat down and took two poories in my plate, as directed my granddaughter. Then I realized there was something different about them. They were heart-shaped. There were two such poories for each member of the family. I assumed that Nonie had cut the pieces rolled by the cook to pattern with kitchen scissors.

The previous night she had asked me to set the alarm for her for 6.30 in the morning. I did that but enquired why she wanted to get up that early on a holiday. She had mumbled some answer.

My wife told me after breakfast that Nonie had planned everything the previous night. The little girl woke up with the alarm and went to the kitchen. She rolled the dough in the shape of heart herself. Not quite perfect but nevertheless a tough job.

My granddaughter would have learned about Valentine’s Day obviously from the several programs about it on the TV channels for children. And, undoubtedly, she made the surprise breakfast as an expression of love.

No dispute that the Valentine’s Day and the New Year that many people in India celebrate according to the Gregorian Calendar, are imports from the West.

At least the poorie is Indian!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Gate or compound wall?

Photo by Karthiki. Copyright reserved. Click to enlarge.
Also see:

Kerala Architechture: Thekkanattu Parayil Heritage Home

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

More Olavipe photos by Karthiki

Click on images to enlarge. Copyright reserved.
Also see:

Karthiki captures some Olavipe flowers

Monday, February 9, 2009

Blog Ratna

If there were a BLOG RATNA award and you were the sole authority for selecting the winning candidate, who would you choose?

My choice is very clear. Of course the candidate is from the blogosphere. Otherwise he wouldn’t qualify for the award. He has been a friend for a couple of years or more whom I met for the first time three days back.

You might ask how a person one has not met can be a friend. The best way for me to answer that question is to quote from Ronni Bennettys comment on my post Senior Citizens, blogging is a passport to good health

Ronni says about blogging ‘…it is a godsend for friendship. Real friendships form among bloggers, as strong over time as in-person friendships. And with blogging, one's new friends might be anywhere in the world.’

It could be said that there is some similarity between blogoshpere friends and pen friends. But the latter is a rather confined field, usually focusing on one individual or just a few.

Talking about pen friends, have you read Kunal Basu’s lovely short story, The Japanese Wife (Harper Collins Publishers India, 2008. Rs.395) in his anthology by that name? Do try it.

Returning to Blog Ratna, I met this person at his hotel in Chennai on 6th Feb on my way to a function. It was as though we had known each other for a long time. He is a former journalist, retired from the Times of India ten years back. He can talk knowledgeably on many subjects.

But what has he done for the blogoshphere? First of all, he is an avid blogger. And, more importantly, he has introduced quite a few people to blogging. And they are good writers, worth reading. He has been a mentor and guide to many of them.

Look here, I can’t hold the suspense any more. If it were my choice,

the Blog Ratna goes to GV Krishnan (GVK) of Mysore.

My Take by GVK is an interesting blog to follow. Then there is MYSORE BLOG PARK, which GVK promoted as a ‘parking lot; a one-stop site showcasing bloggers’. The writers range from Lakshmi Bharadwaj (An Amateur's Attempts) an undergraduate student in U.S., to the Chennai-based great-grandmother, Maiji, (Memories and Musings) who has ‘seen history being made at various stages, and at times been part of it’. The topics covered are varied and fascinating. That is a tribute to the team handpicked by GVK.

Another GVK venture in the blogosphere is a group effort, Giving it a shot. It is a blog ‘that banks ideas awaiting people willing to try them’. There is more, but this post is getting to be too long to list all of them.

Well, do you agree with my choice? I suggest to those who are not familiar with the sites mentioned, to visit them and then come out with their opinion.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Christmas time photos from Olavipe by Karthiki

Copyright reserved. Click on photos to enlarge.

Also see
Kerala Photos: Sun shines on Olavipe

Monday, February 2, 2009

Rubin Carter: The Sixteenth Round

Yesterday I happened to see Norman Jewison’s 1999 movie, The Hurricane, in which Denzel Washington is cast in the title role. It is based on the book The Sixteenth Round (Viking) by Rubin Carter. I have not read the book, which also inspired the 1983 novel The Devil's Stocking by Nelson Algren. But the movie touched me deeply.

Who is Rubin Carter? A black American middleweight boxer in the 1960s. Not just another one, but a top contender for the title, and a popular one. Normally, boxing championship bouts are limited to fifteen rounds. But Carter, who acquired the nickname ‘Hurricane’ because of his speed and striking power in the ring, had to fight a sixteenth round, with the New Jersey police and the judicial system.

Born in 1937, he was booked on charges of assault while a young boy. There is a view that he was framed. He ran away from the reformatory and joined the army at the age of 17. There too he had a problematic life and was discharged as unfit for service. On return home he was sent to prison for the escape from the reformatory. Then he was back in prison for four years on charges of street muggings, assault and robbery.

It was during imprisonment that he honed his boxing skills, and on release became a prize fighter. He was always the crowd’s favorite. Then, at the height of his career, he was indicted on triple murder charges and sent to prison for life. It would appear that the police and the prosecution were not transparent in the investigation and trial.

A host of celebrities including Bob Dylan, Muhammad Ali, Selwyn Raab, The New York Times reporter, and George Lois, the advertising guru of Madison Avenue took up Carter’s cause. Bob Dylan co-authored the song ‘Hurricane’ and sang it. See

A retrial and appeal to the New Jersey Supreme Court failed to obtain Carter’s release. The boxer resigned to spending the rest of his life in prison. But during that period Carter educated himself, wrote the book, and with his good behavior, earned the respect of most people, except of course the men who were instrumental in sending him to jail.

In the meantime a dedicated group supporting him kept working on the case. When they had enough material, a legally risky approach was made to the Federal Court. The judge ruled that the earlier trials had not been fair and that the prosecution was "based on racism rather than reason and concealment rather than disclosure."

Finally Rubin “Hurricane” Carter walked free. By then, the wrong conviction for murder had taken nearly 22 years of his life!

Now started The Seventeenth Round (that was the title of an article about him in TIME dated Monday, Mar. 29, 1976). Carter relocated to Canada and started Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (ADWC). He was arrested again once but it was a case of mistaken identity.

In recognition of his work for the convicted innocents, Rubin Carter was awarded Doctorates of Law by York University (Toronto) and Griffith University (Brisbane).

A star-crossed life?

Also see:

Boxing: ‘Tiger’ Nat Terry – a champion and a gentl...

Gunboat Jack, a Bangalore hero of the past