Friday, 1 November 2019


It is very rare in the history of the world that an Asian power has defeated an European force anytime.Barring defeat of Russia by Japan in 1905 which stunned the world,I was not aware of similar episodes.But one of the recent  whats app forwards I had received gave me a hint on Battle of Colachel in which forces of an Asian king defeated none other than the Dutch forces!I do not know why, but it boosted my own morale a lot to know that it happened right here in India, that too around present capital of Kerala State!!

In 1741 the Dutch maritime forces, the most dominant colonial power of that time was defeated by forces of Marthanda Varma, ruler of the Kingdom of Travancore. Height of the irony of the episode is that the Dutch naval commander  De Lannoy who was caught live as a prisoner, served the kingdom of Travancore as a trainer of the forces who later became trusted commander-in- chief of kingdom for 37 years during which many annexations were carried out!

This unparalleled leaf of history is obviously little known in Dutch or European historical chronicles. I am afraid that even in historical texts of India basically carved out by erstwhile British colonialists hardly this is mentioned or very briefly covered.It is sad that Indians are still depending on 'Macaulayite' curriculum which was designed to  pump into our veins  the wrong notion  that Europeans are superior!This reminds me of an African proverb which says that 'until lions have  own historians,tales of hunt always glorify the hunters'.Now it has become the turn of lions in India.....


                   Painting depicting surrender of commander of V.O.C.forces at Colachel   /Plaque o.f V.O.C 

What motivated colonists to come to India...
We all know that it was for pepper, the 'black gold', that European powers wanted to find a sea route to India and Indies in the 14th century.They wanted to 'out smart' the Arab traders who were doing the intermediary role of trading spices  through Indian ocean between India and Egypt (Alexandria) without announcing India is the source of origin.

By that period,royal powers of Portugal,Spain,The Netherlands, France and Britain were encouraging professional seafarers and colonists.They were ready to accept the dictated terms of professional colonists citing risks, to find a sea route to India/ Indies.Countries such as Germany,Sweden,Belgium,Italy,Denmark also entered in the list of colonists later.If one thinks that the intention of the royal powers was  restricted to find a sea route  only to trade with the East decently, it is far from truth.They always had three aims mainly: by trade or not, to fetch the wealth of unknown lands, take the natives as slaves to their countries if possible, or keep them as slaves in own country and export their religion.The poor,rich or royal but cultured Indian could have never comprehended these malicious intentions those days.They always welcomed visitors wholeheartedly, while preferred not to venture out of the country for religious restrictions.In short, a vast, rich and resourceful India with hundreds of kingdoms within who were fighting each other, was a sitting duck for the colonists to plunder!

Emergence of VOC.
Ever since Vasco da Gama became successful in finding such a route in 1497 the Portuguese had the upper hand in  procurement of pepper and other spices from Asia. Initially they were managing the trade by Casa Da India, the royal trading house founded in 1500.By 1600 East India Company (EIC) was formed by a group of merchants in London which was chartered by Queen Elizabeth I in competition to Portuguese and Spanish interests.Soon in 1602 Dutch East India Company was formed by The Netherlands, named as VOC in short in Dutch, the full name is a bit difficult to read-Vereenigde Oostindisclye Comapagnie.It is considered to be the earliest successful international corporation in the world and first formally listed public company. With the back up of a fleet of 100 naval vessels and  forces, the Dutch VOC wanted to monopolize spices trade along with other products like silk,tea,rice,soybean, sugarcane etc. and establish colonies.They were empowered to build forts in foreign colonies, keep armies,  wage wars and negotiate with local rulers. VOC flourished from day one of formation.Investors in the company made a fortune.So also The Netherlands. VOC was a state within state.

VOC gets consolidated in Indonesian archipelago, enters India but...
Once VOC got established in Indonesia and Ceylon with trading posts in Japan,China, Bengal in India and elsewhere,they wanted to take their share of controls for procurement of pepper from coasts of Malabar.But some of the kingdoms of Malabar coast were already in trade with Portuguese or British. Once Kingdoms of Cochin and Calicut had fallen online,Dutch Governor Gustaff Willem Van Imhoff who was stationed at Ceylon wanted Kingdom Travancore too their way to monopolize the trade of pepper and other spices.Marthanda Varma who was on throne did not heed to Dutch requests initially which turned to be commands later.The king wanted to continue to do spice trade with the British(EIC).To make matters worse Marthanda Varma overran some of the principality like Kayamkulam with whom the Dutch had trading relations!

The VOC decided to use military pressure on the king to subdue him to dictated terms.In spite of such a warning also the King of Travancore stood his stand.

Battle of Colachel....
In August 1741 under command of Eustachius De Lannoy forces of VOC reached Colachel, few kilometers away from the capital of Kingdom of Travancore. Though VOC had superior artillery firearms power, tactical decisions of the King who directly commanded the war along with his Prime Minister Ramayyana Dalawa    with the back up of the well trained Calvary had beaten the VOC forces.Commander De Lannoy along with other 24 Dutch officers were taken as prisoners.

De Lannoy becomes trainer and later Commander- in-Chief of Travancore.. 

Even though De Lannoy was taken a prisoner, the king was impressed with war tactics he had performed.In turn as days went by, De Lannoy also started admiring the ways of the king and the land.That could be the reason when the king offered the position of trainer of his army, De Lannoy readily agreed.

Over the years,De Lannoy reorganized the Travancore forces on European lines, introduced gun power and fire arms to the forces.He was made as commander-in-chief who masterminded and built many forts at strategic positions which proved very helpful in the following years. De Lannoy annexed a number of local principalities to the kingdom.King Marthanda Varma died in 1758 but De Lannoy continued to serve the kingdom until his death in 1777.

Tombs of De Lannoy along with that of his wife and son can be seen at the church attached to Udaygiri fort even now.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019


Elvis Presley,Chuck Norris and Jimmy Hendrix are well known American celebrities for me from my adolescent age but I never knew that they were descendants of native Americans until recently.Native American is the official and polite version of 'red Indian', the tag Christopher Columbus gave to natives when he landed in the Americas for the first time centuries back,the story is too well known to be repeated here.There are only few more such class of celebrities US ever had in any field, definitely not comparing to the vast population of native Americans US had or  over 5 millions of them as of now.

While I have all the appreciations for the Americans who built their magnificent country to the levels of what it is now in relatively a small span of time- around 300 years- I also wanted to know what has happened to the native Americans, who were original inhabitants of the land for at least 10000 years prior to new settlers, all these years. That's how I landed to Ishi, who is considered to be the last aboriginal native American in US.He passed away  in 1916 quietly in the protection and care of fellow Americans.But unfortunately that was never the typical relationship Americans had with natives!

Christopher Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci...                                         
Columbus never landed in the main land of north America in any of the four voyages he made.Under the sponsorship of Spanish monarchs Columbus, the Italian explorer and colonist, made his first exploratory trip and landed at Bahamas,Cuba and Hispaniola in 1492.He landed in Lesser Antilles in another trip next year while in 1498 he discovered Trinidad and north coast of South America.During his final trip he landed in central America- the strip of land between north and south Americas at present- in 1502.Columbus sincerely thought that the lands which he had found out were the Indies and named the indigenous people he met Indios (Indians).

Amerigo Vespucci was another Italian navigator and explorer who actually identified by his trips sponsored by Spanish king that the new world, Columbus discovered was not a part of Indies but a separate land mass.The name America is believed to have made after his first name in 1507.

Primary settlers in north America...Jamestown, Mayflower, Mayflower compact...
For more than 100 years after the new continent was discovered nobody went there from Europe for any sort of settlement.The first settlers arrived  from England with the support of the king James I and settled on an island which they named in honour of their king-Jamestown.The territory they named after England's late virgin queen- Virginia.That was in 1607.

In spite of the first settlement in 1607, American historical chronicles trumpets the second settlement of Europeans in US as the beginning of such settlements.It was in 1620 when 102 persons traveled in the enduring crumpled condition in the ship Mayflower.Among the 102, 19 were male servants ,3 female servants while few others were crew of the ship.During the difficult journey 2 persons- one passenger and one crew- perished while a child was born!! Passengers were in fact seeking religious freedom while settling on the new land.They were Christians known as puritans or pilgrims who were against Roman Catholic church beliefs while they could not agree to practices of Church of England(Protestant) either.The place where they landed was named as Plymouth since it was from Plymouth,England that their journey commenced!

Mayflower compact, a brief contract signed by 41 adult male pilgrims promising cooperation among the settlers, practice of their religious belief and general goodness of the colony of the settlement is considered to be the seed of American democracy.

After that settlement of 1620, tens of thousands of English puritans arrived in the new world.The Dutch came in 1626.Spanish started settlement more or less in the same period but in small numbers. Their actual settlements commenced in mid 18th century.Between 1850 and 1930 more than 5 million Germans settled in America. Irish,French and others poured in....many as indentured servants or bonded labor to the promising new world.

First Thanksgiving Day is celebrated but........
It is recorded in history that the English Mayflower settlers were welcomed by friendly local tribe of Wampanoag. But 50 among the Mayflower settlers died during the first winter. However they were helped by the natives which had the a friendly chieftain named Massasoit, to settle comfortably including teaching the pilgrims how to grow maize, corn and beans.After the first seasonal harvest, which was a bumper crop, pilgrims decided to spend three days of festivity, feasting and prayers.The local Indian tribe were their honored guests for the function, which was the first Thanksgiving Day in US!!

After 50 years , could be at the time of next generation after the death of Massasoit, all the warmth of the relationships between the settlers and natives had vanished. Enmity and mistrust came in between.War broke out in which 600 settlers and 3000 natives were killed.English fire power was proved too strong for the natives!Native chieftain at that time was King Philip, son of Massasoit- as named by the settlers whose actual name was Metacom, was captured and killed.His son, grandson of Massasoit, was prisoner along with his wife and 9 years old child who were taken out as slaves along with a number of natives to west Indies!!

        Statue of Massasoit at Plymouth, the native who helped the  European settlers.

Through out north America as the settlers came in, native Americans were forced to relocate to new places from own lands which they resisted. Skirmishes broke out which tuned out to be full blown wars.To make matters worse for the natives, the Europeans gave them some thing more.Smallpox, measles, typhoid and few other epidemics .I understand this was deadly for the natives in which millions perished.Nobody knows the exact number perhaps.This genocide continued in one form or other until 1924,when US granted citizenship to all native Americans. 

You stay...I go!
It was in August 1911 that Ishi walked into American culture at Oroville,California from wilderness where he was leading a solitary life for 40 years.All his fellow natives of the tribe got killed or died, he didn't have any other choice. Ishi is identified as the last native American ever lived who is believed to have born between 1860 and 1862.

When he was asked about him name, he said that he didn't have any as there were none of his people to name him. He was named as "Ishi' which means man in his own language Yahi. He was taken care by University of California where he cooperated with professors and all the staff.Next few years he demonstrated his skills in hunting and spoke his tribal stories and songs.He was a gentle man.In 1914 Ishi was diagnosed with TB,and on 25 March 1916 he died.His brain is preserved, body cremated.

"You stay..I go" is believed to have been his last words!!Was it a just a coincidence or did his last four words echo what he and all his native brethren thought of  settlement of Europeans in north America?

Sunday, 1 September 2019

A SIGN IS BORN!....................thanks to Thomas Edison who insisted to get his patent fees!!

We all know that Thomas Edison is one of those persons in the world who has to his credit maximum number of inventions- over 1000! But many of us may not know that Edison was equally a shrewd business man who made a fortune with his patented inventions!

When the cinematic projector was invented in 1892 by his employee but patented in Edison's name, he ensured to receive his share of the huge money so generated as the people fell in love with movies on a screen!Soon Edison created Edison Studios at New Jersey which made a number of movies.But contrary to his expectations he could not continue that for long.

While Edison Studios was located in the east coast of US, a new location in the west of US  emerged out of blue to outsmart stringent patent rules of Thomas Edison.A name which was nowhere in the map of US thus far caught the attention of every film maker of that country-Hollywood!! Did Thomas Edison over drive himself forcing a handful of Jewish filmmakers in early 1900s creating Hollywood or was Hollywood  built on privacy?Little known history of Hollywood, a name or the sign of which is synonymous with world cinema and entertainment to this day!

Big six studios of Hollywood...
Big six studios of Hollywood are 20th Century Fox,Warner Bros,Paramount Pictures,Columbia Pictures,Universal Pictures and Walt Disney Pictures as far as I know.These names are all very much familiar to me personally from my teenage days.When I got a chance to see some of the studios in person recently it was more of a nostalgic feeling for me. But I never knew a fact all these years.All these big time studios are owned by American Jews barring the exception of Walt Disney Pictures.They were mostly made from scratch at Hollywood, one of the neighborhoods of the city of Los Angeles,California.Another hardly known historical fact is that all these film makers ran away from east to west coast of US  from Thomas Edison who insisted to get his patent fees!!

Thomas Edison invents the cinematic projector....ends up with MPPC
In 1892 William Dickson invented the 'Kinetoscope' which is a cinematic projector.Since William Dickson was an employee of Thomas Edison,the later was obviously listed as inventor of the patent.Edison created his own studios which made a number of films.But he found that a number of film makers were trying to avoid his studio and patent laws to his disadvantage.Edison filed a number of lawsuits against many independent production companies,film producers and theaters in this context.

Edison also took initiative to form a conglomerate as Motion Picture Patents Company(MMPC) and forced rival production productions to join this.Finally a situation came wherein MPPC dictated almost everything-imposed fees and licences on theaters and movie makers!But few among the movie makers were very unhappy and thought of a plan  to get rid of New Jersy,Edison and MPPC. Carl Laemmle of Universal Studios and Adold Zuker of Paramount Pictures were among them.They looked west of US ,somewhere close to Mexican border. In case Edison's men come after them at the the new destination, they have to disappear to Mexico!!Plus they were looking for cheap properties...

Hollywoodland emerges...finally to deliver Hollywood!

Hollywoodland was just a name in order to attract buyers picked up by H J Whitley who is considered as father of Hollywood who developed 500 acres of hilly land in the suburbs of Los Angeles in 1923.This place was handy for those  film makers to establish their new studios.Ideal weather conditions,varied terrain,cheap properties,no patent fees...all made Hollywoodland to make films.But above all, the main advantage was to vanish to neighboring Mexico in case Thomas Edison's men came citing patent laws!!

The new sign Hollywoodland which was erected on the top of Mount Lee continued to be there till 1943.That year Hollywood Chamber of Commerce was given authority to remove the last four letters and restrict to the name Hollywood which hangs till this day. As I understand it is a registered trademark owned by the Chamber of Commerce.If any film maker wants to include a shoot of the name,substantial monies are to be paid to the chamber!There are very few occasions where the Chamber has decided to change the sign of Hollywood for few days.Interestingly when Pope John Paul II visited Hollywood, the second L was covered to read as Holywood!!

It was Whitley who also opened the famous Hollywood Hotel which is the site of famous Dolby Theater now which hosts the annual Oscar ceremony.As I was walking on the footpath of Hollywood Boulevard, over "Hollywood walk of Fame" where the celebrities of Hollywood and elsewhere- over 2200- who have made significant contributions to the world entertainment industry are embedded  in five pointed pink stars, my mind was full of nostalgic memories of early and mid 1970s during which I was in love with Hollywood!!

Thursday, 1 August 2019


America keeps on charming me whenever I make a visit there.I am amused when I see toilet rolls in a store with head of the President of the country printed on it for sale.But if one is not happy with it, he or she also has a choice to buy a toilet roll with the face of the head of opposition !! I dont know whether it is the limit of expression of personal freedom or stupidity but I am amused.Seeing supersized food portions people eat or when I get a big glass full of ice cubes and some cold water when I ask for a glass of water in a restaurant, I remain fascinated.

I am charmed to see  that Americans always think of everything big- not only food portions ...automobiles,size of roads.American pharmacy is not just drug store but mini shopping mall where I had purchased even  a bottle of Jack Daniels!They love to see the national flag fly everywhere in the country all the time- homes, cars, offices...even as bikinis on the beach!I find them mostly polite and sincere in their jobs!I remain charmed when the old American lady tourist guide mentioned that San Francisco has a substantial number of Indian medical doctors and IT techies and thanked us for 'sending them' over,I am more than pleased for her expression of undiluted politeness!

Having said all these, one place where I am charmed the most during the recent visit is when I saw the Golden Gate bridge at San Francisco.Not because it is an internationally recognized icon of US, but simply a stunning beauty combined with marvelous engineering to be a  feat of 20th century..Charming Chrysopylae.....

                                                                                                                                                                    'Whats in a name'.....
The name Golden Gate has no connection with gold rush of California.It has no  connection either with the golden ambiance the bridge radiates in the night due to special lighting. Chrysopylae is a Greek word which means golden gate.It was John C Fremont, explorer who ran for the office of the President of United States who used the term-Chrysapylae in 1846.While crossing the bay he noted that it reminded him of the harbor of Istanbul, 'Chryceras', another Greek word meaning golden horn.He had obviously meant that the San Francisco bay is a golden gate to trade with orient in future!The Golden Gate bridge spans over the Golden Gate straight which is the entrance to San Francisco from the Pacific Ocean.

Recap of history of the bridge...
I think the Americans have advantageously used steel as a building material for heavy structures than anyone else in the modern world.Brooklyn bridge,NY built in 1900,Empire State building and Chrysler building in Manhattan built around in 1930 are good examples of best use of steel in the earlier years of steel as a structural material.

It was Joseph Strauss a Jewish German settler civil engineer who advocated for the feasibility of such a bridge in 1920s. A  lot of opposition he had to face not only from the reps of the people but the press and even US Navy!While the technical people doubted ability to cope up the engineering challenges the bridge brings up , many economists warned that such a bridge would be exorbitantly expensive, nature lovers pointed out that it would be environmentally disastrous, while the Navy was worried about the  safety and security around the Bay!I have a positive observations on these criticisms to note that Americans were aware of these problems even in those years.But Joseph Strauss kept on the drive while the first design was proposed by him in 1919 as below.

                                  discarded proposal of the bridge

No one liked the design which was summed up as ugly.The press commented on the image as 'upside rat cage'!However Golden Gate Bridge Co was formed in 1928 while Joseph Strauss was appointed the chief Engineer of the co.Another Engineer Charles Ellis and Architect Irving Morrow along with Strauss can be credited with the design of the bridge- cable stayed suspension bridge with two towers- as we see now.Relationship between Ellis and Strauss did not go well.Ellis was fired from the job and Strauss ensured that Ellis did not get any credit for the wonderful job he did including a mention of his name on the plaque which was erected on site later on completion of the project.Eventually the authorities found out this grave omission which was finally addressed in 2007.  Construction of this ambitious project was commenced in Jan 1933.

Expected challenges ...unexpected solutions
As expected a lot of problems the company had to face during the construction.As Americans believe to this day in 'safety first' while executing projects, the primary concern was to minimize the number of site accidents.Excellent safety measures were taken including provision of safety nets below for workers who were working in heights.Hard hats were insisted for workers and  for any one who enters the site.It is a pity that what US could achieve in these matters 90 years back,India cannot even today!Anyway it has to be appreciated that only 11 workers died during the construction period of the bridge.

In order to help workers from hang over from booze, they were offered free Sauerkraut juice- made from fermented raw cabbage- in the mornings.It is recorded that productivity increased.I think this practice has to be adapted in Kerala State where I live now!

The color of the bridge is orange which is unique to any such bridge anywhere in the world.They could have painted with golden color to match its name.Actually orange was the color of the primer, first coat of anti corrosion paint in which the steel members were supplied to site for erection after fabrication at New Jersy and Maryland to Philadelphia in rail cars and shipped from there through Panama canal!It seems Strauss and the team decided to retain the 'international orange' color since it goes well with surroundings and against the seasonal fog of the San Francisco Bay, clearly visible to ships.It seems the US Navy wanted the bridge to be painted with gold and and black stripes!The bridge was finally opened to public on 27 May 1937.

Post construction woes.... 
The bridge had to be closed on three occasions due to heavy wind in 1951,1982 and 1983...After some years on inspection it was noticed that the vertical cables that connect the deck and main suspension cables got corroded than permissible levels.As such all the  suspended wire ropes were replaced with new ones.The whole operation was done without any publicity or notice of motorists or other bridge users to avoid panic among them.

On 50th anniversary in 1987, cars were banned for few hours but the public was allowed to walk.Against an expected crowd of 50000 almost 300000 people came to celebrate the grand occasion. A deflection of seven feet at the central span of the bridge took place as it is recorded that day.Though provision for this was allowed in the design of this suspension bridge, it was alarming for those who observed that on the occasion! I am sure that authorities will avoid a similar type of celebration in 2037 when it will be  100th anniversary, the way they did on the 75th anniversary!!

On opening day in 1937, The San Francisco Chronicle referred to the bridge as 'A thirty-five million dollar harp'!Yes,the Americans could engineer a gigantic harp in steel which will remain so for centuries to come.

Images:courtesy google.

Monday, 1 July 2019


Eating under canvas shades of street pavement restaurants of Europe is an experience which I used to enjoy.While the temperature is around 15-20 degree C, as the sun plays hide and seek behind clouds, having a beer or coffee or lunch at leisure is a great experience.It was one of such occasions at Rome that I had my first encounter with a miniature Manneken Pis.A Chinese girl peddler wanted to sell cigarette lighter in the shape of a peeing boy.Instead of piss, fire comes out of the boy as one clicks.It was cute.When I decided to purchase it 20 years back, I did not have the faintest idea that the lighter was a miniature of Manneken Pis, which is a landmark of Brussels.Later only I came to know about the little peeing boy-Manneken Pis- which is arguably one of the best attractions of Brussels and has more close friends there...

The city boasts of two more pee episodes in the form of statues.One of a little girl Jeanneke Pis and the other which is of a dog- Het Zinneke !Here I am sharing about a city where Karl Marx and Fredric Engels chose to write Communist party Manifesto which became more famous because of its pee statues ....

The boy continues to pee...
While in Brussels, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels concluded the Communist Party Manifesto with the following catchy declaration "The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains.They have a world to win.Worker of the world,unite".It was written in 1847. Slowly but steadily it became famous among the communists which spread to many countries.Contrary to expectations or predictions of many  such an declaration lost its charm later. Towards the end of last century communism itself lost its ground which is now limited to only very few countries.But interestingly the Manneken Pis, the boy continues to pee to make city of Brussels famous to date from inception in 1619!

There are quite a number of mysteries behind this statue public fountain.But no one is sure of anything in particular since it is as old 300 years!One such story is that during middle ages tanners in around that place used to let their children urinate on leather since the ammonia in urine helped to make leather more supple.Out of such a wild practice the sculptor got an idea to make a statue which pees.Another such story is that once Brussels was surrounded by enemies-kept under siege-in  the 14th century who wanted to detonate the town using the gun powder.A little boy named Julienske saw the burning fuse.He was quick enough to pee on it to make it damp.The sculptor honored the boy making such a statue in action!

The first bronze statue is made by Duquesnoy the elder in 1619.It was dstroyed in 1817 but the pieces were found and glued together.Since then the statue has been stolen and retrieved several times through out the history.But after last of such an incident the original was kept in  the city museum while an exact replica is placed on the spot!Following the complaint that the fountain wastes more than 1000 liters of potable water down the drain,Manneken Pis has a special channel installed to reuse the water it discharges now. The statue which is only 24 inches tall may be inversely proportional to its popularity.As a part of tradition, city of Brussels dresses up the little bronze statue at special occasions while the wardrobe consists of more than 800 costumes, mostly donated by other countries/institutions. I am sure the little boy will continue to inspire.

Jeanneke Pis..

May not be as famous as Manneken Pis but the bronze statue is there in Brussels from 1985.It is the female version of Manneken Pis created by Denis Debouvrie. The statue of pony tailed sister is of the same size that of her brother.

Het Zinneke..

The bronze dog sculpture with a pee pose.Tom Frantzen created this statue in 1998 modelling his own pet dog.Out of three this does not actually wee but sculptured to look as if about to wee-lifting his leg onto a street bollard!

courtesy photos:google

Wednesday, 5 June 2019


I am happy to share the news that my blog MUSINGS FROM DOHA has achieved a hit of 150,000 readers as on date!As far as I am concerned it is simply great considering the fact that I am a mediocre writer who started writing late in life.But what gives me more satisfaction is fact that the readership spreads through out the world- 25 countries.The official figures of first 10 countries/hits where it is read mostly is as follows:
United States
United Arab Emirates
While my first post was ADIOS ....CHATTEN! the most popular write ups among all are as follows....

Apr 1, 2012,

I thank each one of you for the continued support.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

ONCE IN A WHALE.... tale of a whale !

What is common  interest among three countries of Japan,Norway and Iceland? Not only three but one more island also is there-Faroe Island which forms part of Denmark?Nothing much other than whale hunting or Whaling,as far as I know.These countries slaughter whales because whale meat is a delicacy among the people to this day!There are few more countries.....

International Whaling Commission(IWC) founded in 1946 in order to prevent over hunting of whales is still struggling to tame these countries in the matter.In 1986 IWC had imposed a ban on commercial whaling restricted by issue of quotas for the members.Still...

It is no more Moby Dick days now that technology has progressed in this field also like others.No whale in the deepest or farthest ocean can escape the onslaught of human whalers.Not only that very existence of these magnificent  creatures are threatened but our ecological balance as well.Some unknown but interesting musings on the subject.....

Eats more than a whale.....
Among Christians of Kochi where I hail from,there is a joke based on their eating habits.Among the four legged except the tables and among those which fly except the aeroplanes they eat everything!But for them also whale meat is taboo.But in few countries people love to eat that meat.Japan,Iceland,Norway,Faroe Island(Denmark) top the list. Inuits of Alaska,Greenland and Canada also love whale meat.

These days whales are mostly hunted for the meat than anything else but until few decades back that was not the case. Blubber,the fat below the skin of whale is used to make the oil which had many industrial purposes and for lighting the streets in many parts of Europe!!

Tale of a whale....
Whale hunting has been existing from time immemorial.The Basques-a sect of people from border of Spain and France- along with Japs and Scandinavians  are recorded as first to hunt whales commercially by 1050s. Obviously the meat and oil of the leviathan fish might have attracted them.Industrial revolution opened many avenues for the oil extracted from blubber of whales other than lighting oil such as use in soaps,perfumes and cosmetics....As such more countries started indulging in this mindless killing of all sorts of whales-Blue,Sperm,Minke....

Bloody waters of Faroe Island...
Faroe Island is in North Atlantic Ocean, a part of Denmark. It is very picturesque and draws not less than 1.6 million visitors each year. It has only a population of around 50000 but kills not less than .....whales a year!! The locals claim that it is a part of their cultural tradition of last 1000 years and hunt is for their own food and not for exports.Whatever be the justification one can only look once to the photo which I am reproducing typical of whale season of the island... 

And Japan....
Japan has no hesitation to say that whaling is an ancient but integral part of culture and as such no intention of leaving it.Instead they are contemplating to leave IWC International Whaling Commission so that it can once again indulge in commercial killing of whales.Japan remains the country which kills maximum number of whales now.It sends large factory ships named Nisshin Maru for the purpose which can process and store the whales while at sea!

As of now due to restrictions imposed by IWC,Japan is killing them for 'scientific purposes' albeit whale meat continues to be available in markets including famed Tsujki fish market at Tokyo!

Japs always prefer to eat their food as natural as possible.Raw or hardly cooked fish in their menu was a bit difficult for me to enjoy while I was there though I love eating all sorts of fish, having born and brought up in a coastal town.

Photos:courtesy Google.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019


Staying in some of the world class five star hotels around the globe many times is  a rare experience for anyone.When someone else- not you- pays for them the experience becomes much more  sweeter!I am no exception to that.But the very thinking of the successful business deal I  had to make or the tough negotiations I had to face the next day used to dampen my moods initially especially landing for the first time in a country but got over it as years passed.

But which is the best hotel building- limited to the beauty of the structure or architecture- among those I have visited?I need not take time to answer that question or ponder over places in Europe,Far East, US or Gulf states.It is the Taj Mahal Palace hotel at Mumbai!The design is grandeur,  the locale is strategic and the view from the rooms or some of the restaurants overlooking the Gateway Of India with Arabian Sea in the background is simply spectacular.

More than that Hotel Taj Mahal old building which is trademarked, first one to do that in India- albeit a private property owned by House of Tatas- remains to this day more than as icon of India, soul of Indians.....My Indian readers please excuse if some of the info contained in this blog is already known to you...

Aamchi Mumbai... Our of capital of India
Mumbai(Bombay) is a good place but difficult to enjoy as far as I am concerned.Good place because of the cosmopolitan outlook the city bears while bad because it is too crowded even to Indian standards!At the same time I can understand why Mumbaikars-permanent residents of the city- love this great city as Aamchi Mumbai.Nevertheless the areas of Apollo Bunder,Fort,Flora Fountain,Nariman Point,Marine drive etc I like since the day of my first visit to the metropolis in 1971.Given an opportunity, during most of my short visits to the city since then, I used to enjoy walk, window shop and hang around these areas in the evening.I fell in love with the old building of Taj Mahal Hotel from my first sight, of course from a distance only since I couldn't afford pop into five star hotels those days.

But from mid 90s I could enjoy first hand the hospitality of Taj. Quite a few times.But then also the wonderful experiences remained looking out of the window or a walk in the early morning around the area, enjoying the freshness of the sea, while only the milkman or newspaper boys on cycles- later on scooters- were there on the road!But later only I  knew the actual history behind  The Taj and why Indians love this old building which is standing loud and proud to this day.

No entry to dogs and Indians!
Hotel Watson was the only luxury hotel not only in Mumbai but the whole of India during pre Taj days.It was designed by English architects, fabricated in cast iron in England on a sort of pre engineered way and sent to Mumbai on a knocked down basis which was erected as per the blue print.It was owned by a English man which  catered to only English and Europeans from 1863.It is said that there was a sign displaced at the entrance door of the hotel forbidding entry to dogs and Indians!So far it is recorded history.

Jamshedji Tata was refused entry at this hotel citing rules of the hotel towards the end of the 18th century, it is mythicized. To take revenge Jamshedji Tata decided to build a rival five star hotel not far from Watson.I find this a myth than what actually happened though I wish that it was true to satisfy my or for that matter any Indian's  ego. In fact Jamshedji was an ambitious businessman, a visionary  who wanted  to venture into new areas of business and at the same time take his country to new levels of  development.

One cannot say that there was not a revenge taken by Jamshedji .After a few years The Taj Mahal Hotel was opened to public, it was difficult for the Watson to compete with it.The performance of the  hotel went down and down, converted to accommodation and offices and  finally into oblivion!!

Designed by Indians,built by Indians and run by Indians...
Taking a plot of land on lease from Bombay Port Trust in 1898 Jamshedji Tata  envisaged of his dream project hiring services of two Indian architects named Sitaram Vaidhya and DN Mirza.The blue prints were prepared to match with the best in the industry of that time in the developed world. I always thought the  red colored ribbed central dome  makes the perspective of the building catchy which makes me reminiscent of  the iconic  dome of famous cathedral at Florence. Below the central dome inside the building there is a unique floating staircase.During course of construction architect Vaidhya died and in his place WA Chambers was appointed.

Interesting anecdotes......charm of the hotel                                               The doors of the new hotel was opened on 16 December 1903, of course during the time British were ruling India.But from inception this hotel was allowed for anyone irrespective nationality or skin color, a great achievement those days.Again it is only another myth that Jamshedji Tata had put out a sign in the early days at the door forbidding British and dogs!

I always wondered why this hotel was allowed so near to the monument of Gateway Of India until the fact was known to me that Gateway Of India came years later after  the hotel was opened.

When the hotel was opened, there was no electrical supply while it was running on a generator and no lifts.So also the central dome was not finished.The reason is tipped to be as advised by family astrologers!!

The hotel was converted to a hospital with 600 beds during 1914-18 WWI.There was an restaurant named as Greens Mansion next door of the hotel owned by an English grocer.Soon after opening of the hotel this was purchased by the Tatas in 1904.Eventually the new block of the Taj was opened in 1973 in this space said to compete with the Oberoi Intercontinental tower which is not far away. 

In 2008 the hotel had the worst days as it was attacked by militants. All Indians were glued to the live TV channels to what had been happening for the next few days.Thankfully after some months the hotel came back to life once again.The charm of the building is that Indians of all walks of life, from all over the country or overseas, including those who have never dropped in or even seen the building at a distance love it, regard it with Indian pride.I dont think any near parallel is there in this matter elsewhere in the world.The legend will continue to inspire Indians......

Photo courtesy:Hotel Taj.

Monday, 1 April 2019

AT CROSS pursuit of history of cross..

April.Month of Good Friday for Christians  which is synonymous with a wooden cross on which Jesus Christ is believed to have died.Many may not be aware that the  cross which is the most common symbol of Christianity internationally  now, took few centuries to be recognized so after the death of Jesus Christ.So also the new faith born in Palestine- Christianity was not welcome only there but in any land under Roman rule for few centuries.In fact early Christians were persecuted until end of 3rd century in places like Rome......

During the time of Jesus Christ a cross was just an instrument for the capital punishment while crucifixion was one of the most painful,disgraceful,dreaded and brutal mode of death in history, if not the most. The victim eventually died after several  hours or days from exhaustion and asphyxiation hanging from a large wooden beam.

But how and when did the cross start representing Christianity?During the month of most famous public execution of all time, few non theological rather historical musings on the cross,arguably the most recognizable symbol in the world ....

Crucifixion..when did it start and end?
Crucifixion had become an established form of execution in the Roman empire long before birth of Jesus.It is first attested in ancient history in Persia.That was by 6th century BC.Probably Assyrians and Babylonians(more or less present day Turkey and Iraq) might have used it before.This was later used by Greeks, mainly by Alexander the great and Carthaginians who introduced the method to Rome.

It was Romans who perfected the technique of crucifixion.When I use the term 'technique' I do that intentionally. Because Romans made sure that maximum agony for maximum prolonged period is inflicted on the victim. For this reason it was widely used only for slaves and non citizens from 3rd century BC.It was not used among the citizens.History clearly notes that when Spartacus led his rebellion against Rome,once he and his 6000 followers  captured, were crucified mercilessly. Crucifixion was a common sight in the Colosseum those days. Romans might have chosen this mode of capital punishment to put fear in everyone who wanted to stand against Rome and Roman laws.Palestine was under Roman rule during the time of Jesus Christ.

After execution of Jesus Christ who had few followers,they were not allowed to preach or practice what they believed in any land under Roman rule.Early Christians were persecuted there for the first few centuries of its birth!In other places also people of new faith were not welcome.

 In Rome, Emperor Nero had the distinction of executing quite a number of early Christians!However after continuously adapting Crucifixion as a method of capital punishment for 500 years,Roman Emperor Constantine in AD 341 abolished it abruptly in honor of Christ's death and legalized the new religion on a surprise move once he came to power! Christians started  using cross as a symbol of what they believed in public only after Emperor Theodosius declared Christianity as state religion in AD 380 ! Until then it was represented by other symbols such as Alpha and Omega,Ichthys (shape of a fish)....

Different forms of cross that existed in history... 
Historically there are two methods by which the victim was attached to a cross-by rope and by nails.Roman historical sources indicate that those who were condemned to crucifixion generally forced to carry only the cross beam and not the complete cross.The vertical upright was set on a permanent place where it was used for subsequent executions.

There are different forms of cross that existed in history. The word for cross in Greek and Latin is Stauros and crux respectively.Crux Simplex (I) was single upright post only.Crux Ansata/Anka based on a tau cross surmounted with a loop and Saint Thomas cross are believed to be earliest forms of crosses used in Egypt and India respectively. Crux Decussata is shaped after Roman numeral X.Crux Immissa  is the type of cross in which the vertical beam sticks out above cross beam.This type of cross is believed to have used for Jesus Christ and eventually became the most widely recognized symbol of Christianity.Over the centuries quite a number of different types of crosses came into existence among the believers.

Symbol of Cross...something common among all Christians...
There are tens of major divisions and hundreds of different sectors among the christian believers today.Albeit all are Jesus centrist churches, denominations or congregations, they practice different forms and ways over the centuries, each one believing that theirs is the best! And as a christian I can see that unfortunately some of them may not be necessarily practicing all the time what Jesus lived for-Love, peace and tranquility!But almost all of them acknowledge something in common- cross as the symbol of Christianity!!But in this matter too there are very few groups within Christianity who differs!!

One can find in churches and elsewhere, a cross with Jesus crucified or a simple cross alone.While the first one is a reminder of Jesus Christ's sacrifice, the later reminds the believers of Christ's resurrection adapted by Catholics and protestants respectively.Many cathedrals and churches are built to have floor plans based in the shape of a cross-cruciform- to this day.And during the course of the worship Christians make the sign of cross by touching the forehead,chest and each shoulder few times.

Saint Thomas cross...

                                            St.Thomas cross

One country where Christianity was welcome right from ancient times and flourished without any hardships is my own great country India.Saint Thomas, one of the disciples of Jesus Christ is believed by tradition to have landed in Kerala, South India in 56 AD!It is also believed that he came in search of Jews already in India by that time.Though Christians remained less than 2 % of total population, in 1972 the Govt of India came out with a postal stamp to commemorate the 18th death centenary of Saint Thomas, depicting the Saint Thomas cross which is being used here for the last 2000 years without much changes!!

Photos/Illustrations:courtesy google images.