Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Gen. VK Singh issue: Battles with duds or the real thing?

There is no war on, but Gen. VK Singh is creating battles for him to fight. The age row was over when the Supreme Court did not support his stand. But the Army Chief maintains that the Date of Birth (DoB) issue was brought up by interested parties because he “cracked down on corruption”.

Now he is trying to hit back apparently without proper advice and consideration. The two major steps he has taken in this connection are (a) an interview with The Hindu and (b) letter to the PM on the 12th of this month narrating what he claims to be the pitiable condition of the Army and the Air Force.

In the interface with the newspaper Singh says an officer under him approached him with an offer of a bribe of Rs.14 crores if the Army keeps on buying sub-standard trucks that are imported by a public sector company. Whether public sector organizations can have middlemen in dealing with the Defence Forces is another matter.

Strangely, the Army Chief took no action against the subordinate officer concerned. One cannot be blamed for wondering whether he did not have the guts to do so. But he wanted someone else to handle that and therefore verbally informed the Defence Minister Mr. AK Antony. Well, Antony is nobody’s fool. He told the General to take action.

This was about one and a half years back. Gen. VK Singh neither gave a written report to the Minister nor took any action. He simply waited for the person he accused, Lt. Gen. Tejinder Singh, to retire. After losing the DoB case, and at the fag end of his career, he brings the ‘incident’ to public attention possibly in the hope of hitting back at the Government. It would be good if he realistically estimates the credibility he has with the public, politicians and the Government.

Now, let us look at the Army Chief’s letter to the PM which has been leaked out by someone. If he had sent that communication (in all propriety to the Defence Minister) two years back, one could have appreciated his eagerness to set things right in our Army and Air Force. But he has done that just two months before his retirement. Why did he wait all this time?

The questions that comes to one’s mind are whether Gen. VK Singh is at least partially responsible for the apparently dangerous situation the country is facing because of the ill equipped Army and what he did to set matters right. Some people might think that the communication to the PM is advance bail for the condition that the Army is in after two years under him.

The strategy and tactics adopted by Gen. VK Singh seem to have been wrong. Lt. Gen. (Retd) Tejinder Singh has reportedly filed a defamation suit against the present Chief. The CBI is all set to question him. He does not seem to have received any meaningful support from the politicians. Some say that he is frustrated. Others demand that he be sacked.

Has Gen. VK Singh considered the damage that all these cause the morale of the Armed Forces? Then, again, other countries must be laughing at us.  

The citizens have the right to know the truth.  

Also see:

Sapper caste, ‘doopta’, Cotton Maha Prabhu.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Islands in the Sun

Islands are fascinating. In the photo given below you can see two small ones. Islets, really. They are so tiny that normal maps don't show them. Of the four types of islands, continental, oceanic, coral and inland, these beauties belong to the last group. 

They are in the Vembanad Lake in Kerala, off Arookutty. I took this photograph from the Arookutty – Aroor Bridge last week. An interesting fact about them is that they did not exist about 60 – 70 years back. They emerged only in the last few decades. In my young days, several times I have seen the expanse of the lake without these islets. 

We used to travel by boat from our village to Cochin quite often. On such trips, the boats had to stop compulsorily at Arookutty which was, before Independence, Customs & Excise check post for the then Travancore State. North of Arookutty was Cochin State. All water transport going either way had to halt at Arookutty for inspection. (See: Some memories of WW II, Cochin and the 1940s.)

The customs office was on the land mass that you see on the right of the photo. That is the northern tip of the Pallippuram Island. Those imposing buildings are all gone now. The boats had to wait sometimes for hours to complete the formalities. All one could do was to either read or keep looking at the scenery around. The twin islets were not there then.

This brings us to the question how islands get formed. A Hawaiian legend claims that the islands there were pulled up from the sea by the demi-god Maui and his brothers while they were fishing. Such stories apart, islands are created by volcanic activity, coral deposits, landmass separating from the continent, or when water level rises and leaves only the elevated portions visible. Now, there is the trend of creating man made islands. (see Ecology: Vanishing Hills)

Arookutty’s twin islets were not formed by any of these. One could call them barrier islands. They were created by sand deposits by currents in the lake, say, something like river deltas. The tidal currents in the Vembanad Lake are strong.

The boating channel to the Customs quay was between these islets. I remember that the sand dunes that were rising in the water created problems for the vessels. Once the boat I was travelling in was stuck in the sand. Later concrete posts were placed on either side to identify the channel and there used to be some kind of dredging.

After Independence and the Native States of Travancore and Cochin merged, the customs procedure came to an end. The boating channel did not have to be maintained. And slowly the islets came up.

Both islands are inhabited now. I wonder how it would be to live on one of them. There is plenty of fish around and the scope for water sports is tremendous. But I feel the most exciting would be the monsoon time. The wind comes in strong across the large expanse of the lake. Short stays would be ideal but I don’t think there are any tourist facilities yet.

Photo by me. Anyone can use it provided that due credit is given to this blog.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Lilies of Olavaipe

it is now pictures from Olavaipe. I had introduced these beautiful plantsabout 20 years back.
Now they grow in different parts of our estates and bloom dutifully
every March/April.

The structure seen in the background is the western entrance to
Thekkanattu Parayil (our ancestral home) compound.

Click on the photos to enlarge. Copyright Reserved.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cricket: Goodbye Mr. Dravid

Millions of words have been written about Rahul Dravid in the last few days after he announced his retirement from Test and First Class cricket. Accolades are pouring in on this gentleman player who is undoubtedly one of the greatest batsmen in world cricket history. The man has scored over 13,000 runs in Tests, more than 10,000 runs in the one day mode, and taken a record breaking 210 Test catches. His stature in the game is equal to or higher than that of Don Bradman.

Have the officials and the media been fair to this man who was a unique ambassador for the game and India? I would say no. Please see my posts  ‘Cricket: Board games and bucks – Rahul Dravid out!’ (September 16, 2007), and Cricket: Rahul Dravid’s ‘colonel’ bogey (November 2, 2007). An armchair critic once wrote that Rahul had to take up wicket keeping because his batting was not good enough to assure him a place in the Indian team. The rumours were that a powerful lobby was behind the ‘pull down Dravid’ campaign.

But they too knew what a great player the man was. The compliments paid to him verbally and in writing after he announced his retirement are genuine. And the tributes came from them all – officials, media, team-mates, players from other countries, and the public.

Why did Rahul Dravid retire at this point of time? Easy answer is his failure on the recent Australian tour. That is not correct, as the former India Captain himself has said. He can bounce back for more batting achievements. I feel, strange as it might sound, he decided to hang up his boots because of the three or four catches he dropped in the recent matches. That indicated the aging

Well Dravid, adios. You will always be a hero to millions. And, we still look forward to you playing in the IPL.

Note: The photo is of ‘Rahul Dravid at the Bangalore test (7-Oct-2004) of the Australia v/s India series (Sep-Nov,2004). Picture taken by Geetanjali Chitnis and uploaded to Flickr under BY-SA license. Source URL:

Reproduced from Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

Another Award for my blog

The Liebster Award has been presented to my blog by
Raji Muthukrishnan ( I am really honoured
and thrilled by this recognition. I thank my visitors who have brought up my blog to where it is today, Liebster (I believe
that in German the word means ‘Favourite) and
Raji Muthukrishnan.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Cinema: Makaramanju, Lenin Rajendran presenting Raja Ravi Varma

I got to see Makaramanju only yesterday though the film was released last year. In my blog post Lenin Rajendran going ahead with Raja Ravi Varma movie I had translated the name of this Malayalam film to English as Winter Mist. The official name however is The Mist of Capricorn.

Makaramanju is an allegorical presentation of certain segments of the Royal Painter’s life and his creation depicting of the mythological parting of King Paruravas and Apsaras Urvashi. The raja falls in love with Sugandha Bhai (Anjali Bhai in the cinema), his model for Urvasi. In Makaramanju the painter alternates as the king, and the model as Urvashi. There is a continuing interchange between the eras of Ravi Varma and Pururavas, and the characters.

It is remarkable that the Director Lenin Rajendran who wrote the script also, cast Santhosh Sivan, an established cinematographer and director, in the main role. He has done a good job as Ravi Varma and Pururavas. In fact, one wonders in which role he shines better.

Urvashi is played by Karthika Nair. Makaramanju is her second film, and the first in Malayalam. But before dealing with her performance one has to mention Nithya Menon, the pretty young actress. Her portrayal of the Jasmine Girl in the beginning of the movie, though not very demanding, is beautiful. She models for Ravi Varma a few times. Then she is murdered by unknown persons, perhaps at the behest of some jealous lady. There is talk that the painter could be involved. In disgust Varma leaves Travancore and goes to Bombay (Mumbai).

That is where Sugundha Bhai comes into his life. Karthika does her dual role well. She does present the two personalities handled by her satisfactorily. Quite apparently, the naturalness that Nithya Menon so pleasantly presents is not consistently seen in Karthika’s performance. The reason seems to be that Urvashi is an Apsaras who was banished to earth and therefore is different from mortal females.

As Sugandha Bhai she is more earth bound. Sometimes there is a whiff of sophistication that does not blend. For instance the way she alights from the car – all very modern and confident. Such finesse is not expected from a woman of her level and situation in the story. The car itself is a model that came out after Ravi Varma died. The boat ride of Varma and Karthika also indicate an element of modernity. Such drawbacks could have been avoided, but really they are only a bit of dust in the corner of a brilliant canvas.

Raja Ravi Varma is the man who gave faces to Indian goddesses. Millions keep the prints of his paintings of Mahalakshmi and Sraswathi and others in their prayer rooms and worship them. The Royal Painter chose his models with great care. They were from different walks of life. Soon a rumor started that his models were prostitutes and widows and there was a court case. The Director handles this situation with great ease and there are no boring sequences.

The movie has a thread of sensuality. It is often thin, occasionally thick. That is quite natural for the story in the manner in which it is presented. But there are a couple of negative aspects as well. The rather prolonged erotic scenes slow down the movie when it is already slack at certain places. Also, the same body positions and movements at least on two occasions are illogical in the land of Kamasutra and tedious to watch.

The scenic locations are beautiful. Cinematography by Madhu Ambatt is superb. Music by Ramesh Narayan and the singing are good. In every sphere the movie maintains high standard. That is nothing surprising in a film by Lenin Rajendran. He has created a high quality piece of art.

The King Pururavas – Urvashi painting by Raja Ravi Varma is reproduced in my blog post mentioned at the beginning of this article and also in  Art and Wine. Ravi Varma’s Mahalakshmi painting can be seen in Ashtalakshmi Temple, Chennai.