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.

Friday, 1 March 2019


Yes, in modern history of the world there was a night named as such-night of broken glass.That was the night shattered glass windowpanes littered streets of Germany.It is remembered as the beginning of the Holocaust.Yet many of us may not be aware of that night which in German is known as Kristallnacht.

In 1933 Hitler came to power.Since then most of the Nazi laws enacted to oppress Jews were social, political and economic in nature but remained non violent.But it changed over night.During this night for the first time Nazi action against Jews turned violent and deadly!

On night of 9-10 November 1938 in Germany Nazi paramilitary forces such as SS along with civilian supporters targeted German Jews in a pre planned mission.Thousands of helpless Jews were arrested,Jewish homes and shops were destroyed while synagogues were burnt down!

The background...
Hitler blamed Jews for almost everything which went wrong in Germany in his time albeit they were less than 1% of population.He believed that Jews were responsible for the economic and social damages inflicted on Germany during  First World war.Once he came to power in 1933 he strongly believed and advocated that Jews could not assimilate to German society though they were in Germany for many centuries because they were not Aryans!Ideology of Nazism was based on concept of the superior race of Aryans!He sincerely wanted Jews in Germany to leave the country for good to elsewhere.And he started taking forcible action to make it happen!

Initial action against Jews by Hitler was the announcement of boycott of Jewish shops in 1933.Paramilitary officers were engaged to dissuade shoppers entering Jewish shops.Thereafter the Nazis took effective action banning kosher butchery.Jews were denied practice of legal profession and entry to civil services.Voting right for parliamentary elections was called off.Sex between Jews and Germans(Aryans) was an offence. Persecution of Jews became official albeit it was not for the first time in Germany.History has recorded that Jews were treated in a similar way during the time of first crusade!

On 7 November same year a Polish Jew walked into German Embassy in Paris and shot at a German diplomat who died two days later of his wounds.He was a refugee who wanted to avenge the deportation of his father to Poland.It seems Nazi party got something they had been waiting for... 

Night of broken glass..Beginning of Holocaust...
On night of 9-10 November thousands of Jews-30000- were arrested,Jewish shops were looted and destroyed.Jewish homes were attacked and vandalized.Hundreds of synagogues were destroyed.In the rampage 90 Jews were killed.Most of the arrested men between 16-60 were transported to concentration camps at Dachau,Buchenwald and others.

Streets of Germany and annexed parts of Austria and Czechoslovakia were full of shards of broken glass that night.While Nazi arm like SS with support of few Germans carried out this operation,Nazi Govt declared that it was spontaneous outbursts!!While heavy fines were imposed on Jews for this, they were deprived of taking compensation from insurance companies.

Following night of broken glass half of Jews who were in Germany for centuries migrated to neighboring countries.We all know what Nazis did to the remaining half .....

Jews,Holocaust and Palestinians in my life...
I hail from town of Kochi which is not typical of India.The main difference with most of  other such B grade towns in India is the fact that Kochi is cosmopolitan all along.Among my schoolmates there were Jews.But they left the country in late 1950s and early 1960s for Israel.They had left not because of persecution of any kind from the Indian society but for Israel.I understand that many of the Jews so left the country keep on coming to the town in their old age regularly on visits or even own apartments for such stays!Although they left for good, names such as Jew town and Jew street remain intact to this day in this sprawling city along with few well preserved synagogues and cemeteries exhibiting famed tolerance of Indian society.

It was in later life-in my early 20s- that I knew about Holocaust.When I started reading about that I came to know of the hardships Jews had to face in Germany and elsewhere.Leon Uris and Elie Wiesel have painted the atrocities Jews had to undergo in ghettos and concentration camps vividly in their books.I have seen couple of movies based on such themes as well.I really felt sorry for what had happened to them. 

It was when I started my career in Doha that I had the opportunity to mix with a lot of Palestinians.Some of them became my good friends.Almost all of them were second generation Arabs who had to leave the country when Israel was created, now mostly holding passport of Jordan.Through them I have heard first hand many times their own bitter experiences with authorities in Israel while trying to to meet their own relatives or on other contexts. I felt sorry for them as well.

I look forward to the day long lasting peace in the region with all concerned parties prevail.I am an optimistic person and I really look forward for those moments.... 

Friday, 1 February 2019

NO MORE CARS PLEASE.... MAKE BOMBERS AND TANKS!................................. How US became the largest producer of warfare equipment from 19th position!!

It is estimated that US now accounts for 34% of all global arms sales amounting to more than US$100 billion.World's second largest exporter of weapons is Russia but US is 58% higher than those of Russia!When this news caught my attention, though it has a negative tinge of war and violence, I was curious how this happened.All these developed countries-barring a few like Japan-are making whopping revenue by doing this while developing countries like India remain largest importers!!

From a position of 19th,US came up all the way during the second world war,a position US retained since then to this day.How could US, a democratic country  attain it decades back relatively in a short span to counter the axis of two largest industrial and military giants of the world then - Germany and Japan is interesting to any person with a corporate background.

On 1 January 1942,three weeks after the attack of Pearl Harbour, by an unexpected,unusual Govt decree, American automobile manufactures were asked to stop production and sales of cars, trucks and even auto parts for an indefinite period commencing Feb of the same year.The order  froze even delivery of cars to customers who had previously booked them!US automobile industry, producers of largest number of cars in the world- as high as 3 million in 1941- was transformed completely to turn out plane engines, tanks,bombers and guns within a short span of few weeks!! From 1942-45, for four years only 139 cars were manufactured in US, that too for the Govt purposes only!! Detroit, the automobile city turned overnight to take lead of another role- hub of 'arsenal of democracy'.

United States became United Americans over night...
Until attack on Pearl Harbor took place, Americans were in comfortable position thinking that the venues of actual war are far away places, in other continents.For the same and other reasons there were people who opposed US direct participation in the war-almost 50% of the population.But the shocking,unexpected and devastating attack on Pearl Harbor where 2400 US citizen were killed while 8 battleships and 200 planes destroyed made the change of the minds of the people instantly.United States became United Americans over night.US might have faced a worse situation thereafter only on 11 September 2001.US declared war on Japan, Germany and Italy within 24 hours.

I think it is human nature to behave so collectively.Kerala, my home state had to face unprecedented flooding in August 2018.People of Kerala collectively faced it and came out of the debacle albeit now we are back to our favorite sport- mudslinging and petty politics.

US entering into war had dramatic effect on life of the people.President Roosevelt had to take a lot of hard decisions with the full support of the American congress.Japanese Americans were identified and asked to report to authorities.Later they-including second generation Japs in US and their families- were sent to far off 'relocation centers' set up for the purpose which were nothing more than glorified isolated detention camps.But there was no such treatment for German Americans or Italian Americans!However it may not be fair on my side not to mention that in 1988 under President Ronald Reagan American congress formally apologized for its wartime treatment of these innocent Japanese Americans and paid some token compensation !

Rationing of food, petrol and diesel, clothing,rubber and few other products were introduced among the public.The automobile industry was ordered to change the production line.

US becomes 'arsenal of democracy'....Detroit becomes its center
President Franklin D Roosevelt used a novel but an apt phrase of 'arsenal of democracy' to describe own country as he tried to arouse popular support for sending military aid to nations fighting Axis of powers.Detroit, the biggest car city started playing a pivotal role as all the auto factories started to churn out military warfare products.

General Motors produced 60000 bomber engines for Pratt and Whitney,500000 military trucks, millions of artillery shells and 3800 T17 Stag hound armored scout cars among others during the period of 1942-45.Ford Motors built B24 bombers from their exclusive plant at Willow Run other than plane engines,jeeps, gliders.Each of the  'Battle of Atlantic' fame B 24 Liberator bomber came out of assembly line each hour!! Chrysler built M3 Grant tanks.One will remember that this was successfully used in North Africa against the Germans and Italian forces.They also manufactured Sherman tanks.Packard made aeroplane and marine engines......

The result of such a vigorous move in production was unimaginable.US became the largest producer of warfare equipment in the world from the its standing of 19th in the world in 1939, a position which they hold to this day.

Fiat,Porsche,Volkswagen.... America was not the only country that entrusted auto industry to build warfare weapons.Fiat of Italy also made tanks and aeroplanes. Porsche and Volkswagen had close connections with Third Reich during second world war.But world history is recorded by the winners of wars and conquests mostly, while losers will have hardly a say.....

Photos courtesy:google

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

YKK - Lesser known but better to know SUCCESS STORY !

A very happy new year to all my readers worldwide!Let me open the year on a positive note!

Everyday we all use zippers many times albeit we hardly notice it.It is part and parcel of our life style.Yes;I meant the simple device used for closing openings in our clothing,bags...We do not give much attention to that gadget unless it gets stuck or difficult to operate.In those cases also we blame the manufacturers of those clothing or bags than the zipper.Because almost all of us do not know that the zippers are also branded! 

If you have not noticed any brand on a zipper yet, please do so.Fifty percent chance is that it is branded as YKK especially if the clothing or bag happens to be branded or of good quality.Or to put it in another words, if you have not heard of the brand or sure of the quality of a clothing like a pants,jeans,ladies or children wear the shopkeeper exhibits, may be while shopping in a foreign country on which a zipper comes, all you do is look for YKK brand on the zipper and buy.It will be of good quality if one can believe what the world statistics say....

Here I am sharing the success of YKK branded zippers-originally made in Japan but now globally, including India-which each of the lead brand in the world proudly uses.And about the 'Cycle of Goodness' the philosophical strategy the founder of the company has based its success which can be emulated in any business. A lesser known but better to  know story!

Zippers are a big business!
YKK.This three letters might not ring a bell for many.I was one among them until few years back. It is a trade name abbreviation of Yoshida Manufacturing Shareholding Company in Japanese.Zippers are not small but big business.The global market for zippers is estimated to be $11.7 billion now. YKK makes almost half of all zippers in the world-46% to be exact.Spread in 71 countries,558 locations and 111 companies YKK produces enough zippers to wrap around the world 50 times each year!And that looks incredible but true!

Cycle of Goodness....
Tadao Yoshida founder of YKK firmly believed in a business philosophy which he formulated and practiced as early as 1940s!I am of the opinion that it is still valid 100% but at the same time difficult to practice anywhere anytime.Cycle of Goodness that he envisaged says that well treated workers or employees create a better product, a better product benefit customers or clients and a satisfied customer in turn benefit YKK! They did not change the approach to quality and  customers even after his death in spite they had to face a lot of challenges including that their factory at Tokyo was burnt down in 1945.Of course YKK was supplying zippers needed for Imperial Japanese armed forces during ww2. I am not sure whether it is at that time YKK invented specially made silent zippers for the soldiers!

Yoshida believed that business belongs to society while a company survives through existence.No one prospers without rendering benefit to others.No wonder that YKK is well respected by the world's apparel industry along with many other fields such as bags and suitcases,back pack or even sleeping bag!

Evolution of zipper...which finished supremacy of buttons
Having said so high of YKK,it also has to be noted that YKK did not have anything to do with invention of of the zipper.It was in 1851 that Elias Howe, inventor of the sewing machine, received a patent for a forerunner of a zipper.It seems he was after the sewing machine that he paid little attention to this patent.

it was Whitcomb Judson who improved the gadget further in 1893 to the level of a 'clasp locker'.Interestingly he worked on the product to help a close friend of his who found it difficult to bend to fasten the shoes due to acute back pain!

The modern zipper was designed in 1913 by Gideon Sunback but not the name.Name zipper was developed by BF Goodrich Company.Earlier zippers were used for boots and tobacco pouches until The Universal Fastener  Company later renamed as TALON began mass producing zippers in 1930.By end of WW2 TALON was selling around 500 million of zippers in a monopolized market.

YKK comes in and steal the show.....
The roles of Americans and US companies started dwindling as YKK came to picture.It is even rumored that YKK copied products of TALON initially.But soon  YKK started using aluminium instead of copper for zippers and other innovative ideas which made the later to penetrate to the monopolized market of TALON. I also remember having read that. It is also rumored that the Japanese copied German auto designs initially but made cheaper, efficient and value-for-money versions of them after WW2!!

Back to YKK.They introduced a lot of innovative patented fastenings such as Beulon,Ziplon,Kensin....Finally TALON had to close down in 1993, though I think they have revived since then.In spite of hundreds of Chinese companies have entered to the scene, YKK continues its dominance. It may be because of their belief in their own Cycle Of Goodness!

A bit of own similar experience in Doha....
In this context , I also remember those few occasions where I myself used to 'sneak in' getting friendly with the watchmen, on holidays in some of the project sites of leading companies in Doha.That was when Al Balagh was a small company in the early nineties!!Of course my aim was to look around to see the 'modus operandi' at sites, quality of their work,levels of safety measures and house keeping adapted!!Hardly anyone knew this and I didn't share this with anyone either because nursing  such an idea to learn and observe from the best firms in Doha could have looked to some a bit different than ambitious those days!! For sure my belief in own business mantra- 'excellent quality and timely delivery' also took shape those days !

20 years later Al Balagh Group came up all the way to be awarded as the best national company in 2012 in Qatar, out beating all those leading  firms, projects of which I used to 'sneak in', is also part of history!

photo:courtesy google

Saturday, 1 December 2018

A WREATH FOR TANYA ! ...... Musings from rebooted Russia continues.....

I was flabbergasted seeing the number of churches in Russia!Most of them are centuries old but well kept now.After 75 years of communists rule who were staunch atheists, though they fell out of favor of people in 1991,  I never expected this!I  wonder in a country full of believers how the Bolsheviks could successfully set up a communist regime and rule for more than seven decades, which was basically against practice of religion.I equally wonder after continuous brainstorming of atheism for decades, why the communists couldn't change the faith and  tradition of the Russian people the way they wanted.The reason could be that it was forced on the people rather than  through free thinking like happening now else where in Europe.Now that communism is no more in power, the churches have come back live though practicing Christians remain not a major percentage of population.At the same time the entire population practice traditions such as Christmas and new year, I believe.

The interior of churches in Russia is a feast for the eyes for anyone  for its majestic, artistic beauty, a fact hardly known to outside world since communists never wanted to give such a publicity during their time!The exterior- mostly with onion domes- invites attention with a unique style of architecture.However it could be a paradox that what Russia showcases these days are these churches and imperial palaces than anything else for  a tourist!One of the outstanding churches in Russia , if not the most, is with a large dome but not onion shaped- St Issac's Cathedral at Saint Petersburg(erstwhile Leningrad). It is a product of  engineering marvel combined with fantastic artistry  which made me reminiscent of St Peter's Basilica of Rome.

But just across this church, in the same square stands a hotel,name of which  caught my eye-Hotel Astoria.This hotel which has celebrated 100th anniversary in 2012  has withstood the times of  Russian imperialism and communism, now going through the time of the modern rebooted Russia. The name is stuck in my mind because this was the venue Hitler selected and even invited guests on a particular day- 9 August 1942- to celebrate occupation of Russian city of Leningrad during WWII, which never happened. Siege of Leningrad is a unique chapter in the world history.Almost for 900 days the ordeal and trauma the people in Leningrad went through is not too well known.The Nazis or their records hardly existed after the war to tell about the cruelty they inflicted on people.The communist regime in Russia also did not want the actual tragic tales of the people encountered  during these 900 days known to outside world for their own reasons...

                       St Issac's Cathedral and hotel Astoria- in one frame

St Petersburg to Petrograd to Leningrad and back to St Petersburg!
Saint Petersburg,second largest city in Russia was founded in 1703 by Russian Tsar Peter the great but it was so named after Saint Peter, the disciple of Jesus Christ.The name of the city was changed by the imperial Govt to Petrograd in 1914 meaning Peter's city.When Lenin died in 1924 the communist Govt in power took no time to change the name to Leningrad.But once communists went out of picture the city is back to the original name of St Petersburg in 1991.As the change in name denotes, the city underwent different forms of situations. But what the people had to face during the Nazi siege of Leningrad for 900 days is  terrible, consequences of which is not much known to the world till the change of guard took place in Kremlin in 1991.

Hitler wanted St Petersburg badly but not the people...
Capture of Leningrad was strategically important for Hitler.Not only it had a port in Baltic Sea but an imperial capital,a burial ground of tsars  with all the fantastic artistry-literature,art,music and ballet- which can compete with Vienna or Berlin.A non aggression pact signed between Stalin and Hitler did not stop him to attack Soviet Union.On 22 June 1941 by an unexpected but massive operation code named 'operation Barbarossa' Germany ruthlessly attacked USSR.Red army was not a match for Hitler's professional war machines.In less than 14 weeks by 8 September Hitler's forces reached the outskirts of the city of Leningrad.'Great patriotic war' of USSR commences here!

Hitler could have thrust his forces further to take control of the city without much difficulty.But He did not.Instead he made sure that German forces encircled the city from all sides and cut off food and oil lines with the rest of the country.Leningrad became totally helpless and isolated.The reason is unbelievable but true.He did not want to take responsibility to feed the 3 million people of Leningrad.Instead he asked his commanders to keep the vigil to keep the supply lines shut but wait.He expected that within few weeks the people will perish due to hunger and disease!To quote him the city would "drop like a leaf"soon.His idea was to bull doze the great city to rubble once the people are dead!!

The communist leaders and the people caught within Leningrad tried their best to survive with little food left, while Red army from out side made many futile attempts for a counter offensive or to make a way for supply chains.However the siege had to be continued contrary to the quick results expected by Hitler. The severe winter of 1941-42 was more favoring the Russians than Germans.Hitler set a targeted date of 9 August 1942 to celebrate fall of Leningrad. That's how Hotel Astoria- which had a long list of patrons including Rasputin to Lenin, comes into picture.Guests list was made and invitations sent.

Civilians in the city of Leningrad had to face extreme starvation due to the blockade.People were forced to live on 2 slices of bread a day by ration! When that too was difficult saw dust was added to 50% flour while making bread!Scarcity of all basics prevailed.People died in thousands- young and old alike.Mass graves were dug to dispose off the bodies.Stray cases of forced cannibalism took place.Making murder to steal ration card was not uncommon.Parents never let children go out of home after dark!World came to know about this only after Communists went out of power!

But in spite of all these, people kept on their struggle to hold, which was unexpected by Hitler.His proposed day of celebration at Hotel Astoria did not materialize.

Attempts of Red army to find a way to Leningrad was finally fruitful in January 1943.Russia could create a land corridor and started supply of food and other essentials in spite of bombardment by the Nazi air planes.Soon 900 days of ordeal and trauma of the people, this world has hardly seen was over.By the time siege was lifted officially in January 1944, about 1 million civilians- about one third of the population- had perished while another 300,000 Russian soldiers died!!

                                                                   Flower of Life

A wreath for Tanya..
Tanya Savicheva was a Russian child diarist.She was 11 years old when the blockade started. She used to record successive deaths of each member of her family due to hunger and disease  during the siege of Leningrad.Finally she was left alone in the family when she wrote 'Everyone is dead, only Tanya is left' in her diary.She was rescued by the red army after the siege.But tragedy came in another form to her since she too died of internal tuberculosis at her age of 14,as her internal organs had already been affected due to malnutrition!Her diary became very popular in USSR and rest of the world.
A memorial complex called'Flower of life' is made by the authorities later dedicated to the children of the siege at St Petersburg.

photos-courtesy google

Thursday, 1 November 2018

MUSINGS FROM A REBOOTED MOSCOW...Stalin's 'seven sisters'!

When two Russian words -perestroika and glasnost- meaning restructuring and transparency made headlines of international media in 1985, little I thought about it more than reformation taking place in the administrative pattern in communist regime in erstwhile USSR.There were rumblings of discontent reported but I thought it was the tricky work of western media as usual than true  happenings.

Collapse of communism in USSR was never expected by me.But I think at least that was the case with most of the people elsewhere in the world except perhaps with those in old USSR itself and other communist countries which followed suit!On December 26, 1991 the declaration number 142H of supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union officially granted self governing independence to its 16 member republics....

It is 27 years now since then.when I could visit Moscow few weeks back, I was expecting a Russia which has not yet come out  of the malnourished economy and shortages in consumer goods it inherited from the old regime.But again I was wrong.I could see a reemerging Russia...Moscow was just great with its well preserved old churches-with what is left out by the earlier regime,majestic museums and art galleries, well laid out wide roads but with traffic snarls.All the luxury cars are plying  on the roads-Mercedes,BMW,Porsche,Bentley...all the major brands except Russia's own brand Lada!!Hypermarkets were full of local goodies and world renowned brands,places of eat outs were just grand and people were dressed well....

Yet at Moscow one cannot miss two icons of the old USSR which stands loud and clear even now.The metro and 'Stalin's seven sisters'.While the grandeur about the underground metro at Moscow which is built as back as in late 1930 s  is known to many,I do not think people know much about the 'sisters of Stalin', so nicknamed by the west......


A bit of nostalgia....
During my childhood in India, three foreign countries about which I used read a lot were UK,USA and USSR, in that order.While UK was familiar to me as England,USA was America and USSR  Russia.I think I used to know much about them than our own neighboring countries and for that matter even our own north eastern states in India!Could be that status even now with the exception that USA takes the lead position leaving others way behind!

 My brother and I used to have access to United States Information Service( USIS )free- for- all publications.Monthly periodical of  Soviet Land was a similar tool of USSR freely distributed.I did not know then that those were distributed for propaganda but was eager to get them  and was being delivered home free.While USIS periodicals highlighted the success of free press, free market and free economy,Soviet Land trumpeted success of application of communism in their economy, controlled market and quality way of life of the people!I did not understand both of the situations much as I was young and  not hooked to habit of reading those days but found useful to show off among school friends! Other use was also there like my sister said the other day nostalgically that 'Soviet Land was a good magazine for covering her  text books'!!From UK I do not remember having read any particular publication regularly but in later life while in Qatar I used to regularly visit library at British Council for almost a span of 25 years and read books on  all topics of my  own interests!And I have to admit that I stand today fully benefited from such a habit of pre internet days.

The Russian revolution of 1917 is recorded in  the history of the world not only  for overthrowing the imperialist empire there but introducing a new political system in place. Based on communism articulated by two German thinkers Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels in the mid 1800s,a communist country was born here for the first time any where in the world! Communism- as far as I know- is essentially a political and economic system where a single communist party had absolute power over Government.Eventually under different circumstances more and more countries joined this group led by USSR.At its peak by the mid 20th century, when I was young, it even appeared that communism could supersede democracy as the main ideology.But towards the end of the 20th century,contrary to everyone's expectation, it nose dived to very few places...

Moscow skyline under Stalin....and 'The Palace of Soviets' which never came up!
When New York skyline namely the Manhattan got all the attention of the world in early 1930s with marvelous skyscrapers including Empire State building,it seems Joseph Stalin, who controlled the communist party after Lenin, also dreamed of such a skyline in Moscow .The Palace of Soviets -the plan to build the tallest building in the world with 415 meters,last 100 meters with the statue of Lenin was launched at Moscow.The site for the same  chosen by Stalin for his own strange reasons was the very place where a famous church named as Cathedral of Christ the Savior stood.In 1931 it was dynamited to make way for the foundations of 'The Palace Of Soviets'!It seems the communists while in power have destroyed quite a number of churches all over the country in one pretext or other!!

                      'The Palace Of Soviets'-see how it would have looked from
                                         Red Square,an unfinished dream of Stalin!

But the ambitious project had to be abandoned without long as world war II broke out.Stalin could not take up the construction of his pet project never again.It could be a irony that even before  fall of communism all the giant statues and photos of Stalin were removed in the country!And a new church was built in Moscow at the same site by the Orthodox christian community by 2000 which stands to this day!!

Winning the second world war over Germany was a boost for Joseph Stalin to emerge as a world leader and  stamp his boots over his critics in USSR.Though his dream of of making The Palace of Soviets -his eighth sister- never became true, he could accomplish the idea of construction his 'seven sisters'. 

Stalin's 'seven sisters'.......
Joseph Stalin wanted to show his own people and rest of the world that USSR has not become bankrupt due to war.He wanted to showcase -the wealth and might- of USSR.As he was influenced by Manhattan high risers, Stalin wanted and expected visitors to come to Moscow as well and gasp looking at his creations.I think he has succeeded in that matter.I was gasping seeing them even 70 years after those were built !!!

Stalin is believed to have been particularly influenced with the architectural features of Municipal Buildings at Manhattan which came up as early as in 1914. This could be true or false.But the interiors are definitely very different. Choosing the best of Russian architects and best of his own liking which was Gothic style of architecture,he went ahead. Seven buildings -huge and stylish-were constructed between mid 1940s and  early 1950s in key locations of Moscow.It includes the famous Moscow state University, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and others.As one drives past, I am sure that the looks of the buildings exhibiting the logo of the communist party-hammer,sickle and star- to this day, invite one's eyes.It looks different to Manhattan towers with long spires top  of which rests a Soviet star. All of them looked impressive to me albeit the architecture is a bit different to surrounding buildings which are equally good but not massive as these seven sisters

The seven sisters are built with highly decorative facades,luxurious interiors and intricate stained glass works.I wonder why I did not read about it earlier!Was it because the western press did not want to give credit to communism or USSR itself did not want to give wide publicity for this wonderful seven sisters because it was also a show of unnecessary  opulence which basic communists are against?After Stalin's death the Soviet Govt issued a decree condemning the architectural excess and put an end to the practice of having such buildings !

                        Moscow state University- one of the seven sisters.

Almost all the buildings have underground bunkers, may be because  built soon after the war.Some of the buildings are said to have been completed using forced labor of prisoners or POWs. Again it is difficult to find out the truth since the world is controlled now by western media and they were and are not fair when reporting subjects not to their  tastes!

Photos -courtesy google

Monday, 1 October 2018


Any one who passes through the well laid out sea side corniche at Doha cannot miss the beautiful sights of dhows-large seafaring vessels- anchored or on sail.For years I have enjoyed this while driving around the sea side or more closely while making customary weekend evening walks along with my friends Kutty and Thomachen. Always these dhows also used to invoke in me about the high skilled craftsmanship required in building them where the Indian connection comes.The Indian inborn talent in craftsmanship is not limited to just stone masonry, carpentry or black smithy or technical skills as known to others.It can be extended to many other trades as well.One such talent- not known to many- is dhow making.Dhows are large wooden ships that can be seen in the Arabian Gulf or Arabian Sea.All Arabian Gulf states boast a maritime tradition with these dhows which were used for trade or pearl hunting. 

In fact Al Balagh, the company where I had been working, was instrumental to build a port office building at Doha wharf exclusive for dhows, years back. To this day dhows are being used to transport loads of merchandise between most of the countries in middle east and along the coasts of Africa.I am sure that most of us do not know the fact that these wonderful vessels traditionally were built in India and exported to Gulf states. Although dhows are built these days indigenous  in most of the Gulf states, Indian participation in the form of skilled labor is a likely possibility. 

Used in Arabia ,built in India....
Dhows are large sea worthy vessels primarily used to carry heavy merchandise along the coasts of Arabia.Still they do.In Doha one cannot miss the sight of a number of dhows anchored at the corniche any time of the year.There are modern berths dedicated for the purpose these days.

Now built in few places in Gulf states, the origin of such dhows- locally known in India as Uru-can be traced to a place named Beypore in Southern India.Over 1500 years such sea vessels are being built and exported from this place.Using the same old spice route which existed connecting ancient India , it is recorded that Arabs,Romans and Sumerians used Beypore as a trading post and boat building yard.  

Dhow making...kept as a family secret in India.
Possibly dhow can be the biggest handicraft in the world!The art of dhow making in India is limited to only few families of master carpenters.It is an art but kept as secret passed down through the generations!For the same purpose there are no sketches or drawings or blue prints.From conception to completion it is only in the mind of the master carpenter although a number of skilled carpenters 30-50 at a time will be used in making a dhow.Another interesting fact is that dhows are traditionally built with out any machine tools.Even nails are not used to ward off corrosion while in  sea water!

In water the vessel dip exactly up to the water mark earlier drawn by the master carpenter after making many mental calculations! It is simply amazing to believe that even these days of computers this tradition holds fast!

Why Beypore?
The small town of Beypore, is very close to Kozhikode(Calicut) in South India. Beypore is by the side of a river Chaliyar which leads to the Arabian Sea and rest of the  world.

 It is also just about 40 kms away from Nilambur forests where good quality of teak is grown naturally to this day.The British while colonized India made teak plantations here, the first of its kind in the world.In order to plunder the teak logs en masse the British laid out a railway track deep into this forest town much before it was done so elsewhere in the country.The quality teak grown in this place is so well known to them that in 1805 Lord Nelson decided to build ships in his fleet for Trafalgar with this timber!It is the most corrosion resistant timber against sea water.These years teak also is imported to Beypore from Malaysia for the purpose making dhows to make it cost effective.

Already I told that no nails are used in making traditional Urus. In place coir, made from husk of coconut is used which is locally manufactured.Above all, the skill and craftsmanship was available at Beypore to conceive,execute, commission and launch these large vessels. Right from floating restaurants to cater to the needs of international tourism, to miniature wooden models as curios are made here these days.

Dhow festival at Doha....
For the last couple of years Annual dhow festival is conducted at Doha to reflect the country's rich maritime heritage.About 100 dhows of different sizes, shapes are exhibited here which were once used for trade and pearl hunting which is not only attracted by the locals but from neighboring countries as well.

Saturday, 1 September 2018

NOT 7 BUT 1010 TIMES!...The motivational story behind the success of that "finger lickin' good" chicken that we all know!!

Retrospectively from whatever exposure I have in managing corporate business, I would say now that Dreaming is the first step in the path of success.Dream is not something that you see while asleep.Dream is something that doesn't let you sleep, if I borrow a quote of late Dr.APJ Abdul Kalam. Second step towards success is Ambition.Ambition is the strong will to achieve your dream.If it is closely followed by the gist of the inspiring story of King Robert the Bruce and the spider which we all know-Never give up,keep on trying-one's third step is ready to step on.But how many times one should try?

The spider in the cave taught King Robert the Bruce and us to try seven times or more.Beaten on battle after battle six times, King could drive back his enemy on the seventh attempt taking a cue from the spider.But to be successful in modern business scenario this number need not be correct.However from my experience such a magic number doesn't exist while it  depends on the logical intuition from what one gets through the unsuccessful trials.

I want to share the story of a person who kept on trying without success in business 1009 times.But the 1010th time it clicked.Eventually his product became a household name in US and Canada, later Europe and now the whole developing and developed world.He himself became the brand ambassador of the product while his iconic photo became equally popular.Even a child would recognize his photo...

I have in mind the inspiring story of Colonel Sanders and his Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC).

Farmhand to 'colonel'.......
Sanders was all along a small time salesman of tires and insurance ,fireman,blacksmith etc. since he was a drop out from the school in the seventh grade.His  financially poor family background forced him to go for a series of petty jobs.He tried unsuccessfully many petty business ventures as well. But he was a natural cook.His passion was cooking and loved it.

He acquired a petrol station cum service station with a small restaurant in Kentucky in 1930.As his food became popular he got rid of the petrol bunk and went for a full restaurant.Ten years after, around 1940 that he figured out how to pressure fry a chicken seasoned with selective herbs.His restaurant became more and more popular but his idea to sell his chicken recipe  based on a franchise model to sell to other restaurants did not click but kept on trying for years...Here I find Sanders a different person.Normally anyone would have  have been contend with the success of the restaurant or would have advertised more on the new recipe of the chicken he serves in the restaurant.But thinking of making a franchise out of his chicken fry, that too way back in 1930s shows special acumen he had in the field!

He was conferred with the title of Colonel by Governor of Kentucky in 1935 in appreciation of the quality of the food he offered in the restaurant.Honorable Order of Kentucky colonels is a long standing charity organisation and nothing to do with the army.Buts that's when Sanders started dressing in white suit and black Kentucky bow tie which eventually got associated with KFC.May be here one can make a cue on his special way of dressing up. He wanted to stand out in the crowd and noticed, ultimately to his own baby-chicken recipe.

His changed modus operandi...
His pursuit to find a buyer of his franchisee chicken recipe KFC continued for 12 years without a tangible result.In 1952 he could make a deal with a restaurateur  friend.That was in his 1010th attempt!His royalty was 5 cents a bird sold.Sanders could make few more similar deals locally but that was when he had to face some more unexpected hardships. 

                              Inside the old restaurant of Sanders at Corbin,Kentucky                  

A new interstate highway bypassed his restaurant.He had to sell off his location at a loss in 1956.A business which he expected to stabilize and grow had to be abandoned.His monthly social security amount of $115 per month was his main income....

Having no base with an office or a kitchen in his case he changed the style of operation- selling/marketing of his franchise- to be more practical.Again I find a different person in Sanders in this matter.Than waiting for more resources which he knew is not a possibility he decided to try with what he had.He used to travel with his wife in his car, packed with few pressure cookers,flour and spice blends!He would offer to cook his chicken in any restaurant and made a deal of franchise if the owner of the restaurant liked the taste and his terms.It clicked.KFC started in operation in many places of US and Canada without long.Business prospered.America started loving his chicken with 600 franchised outlets!

Sanders sell his company....
In 1963 Sanders was approached by a lawyer of a venture capitalist named Jack c Massey who wanted to purchase the franchisee rights.Sanders who reluctantly started the negotiations finally agreed.

He sold his company for $2 millon. Under the contract the new company KFC will establish its own restaurants around the world and would not compromise the chicken recipe, one thing Sanders was not ready to compromise. Sanders would be paid $40000 as salary ,which was later increased to $75000 along with a seat in the board.He was also given majority of ownership of KFC'S Canadian franchisees.Sanders in turn had to work as brand ambassador for the new company, which is definitely not a win win situation.

Sanders was 75 then while some observe later that he didn't bargain the deal well.But for Sanders his own chicken recipe counted more than the money.He wanted his chicken recipe popular all over the world than anything else.If one goes through history of many famous painters , writers, movie makers the same thing had  happened. Others than the creaters  made multi millions out of those creations.KFC chicken was an artistic creation for Sanders!!

KFC goes multinational...
KFC went public in 1966 and listed in NYSE in 1969.3500 franchised restaurants were in operation world wide when Heublein Inc acquired KFC corporation in 1971.The deal was through for $285 million!Sanders had a bad time with the new owner, it is recorded. Heubelin Inc was acquired by Reynolds in 1982.In 1986 Pepsico.Inc took over  KFC which they purchased for for $840 million, the reason why one was offered only Pepsi and related drinks there.Again in 2002 till this time Yum!Brands is the owners of KFC along with other popular brands like Pizza Hut and Taco Bill and has a  turn over which runs into multi billions.

Sanders died at the age of 90.   

Next time when you pop into one among 20000 KFC outlets in 125 countries, for that "finger lickin' good" chicken, just think nothing good is created easily.

Photos:Courtesy KFC

Wednesday, 1 August 2018


Athens is not like London, Paris or Rome.It is unique in many ways to this day comparing to other European capitals or even other Mediterranean cities. At least that was the impression I got when we- Geetha and I- had a chance to visit the place.May be because it is the oldest living city in Europe and for that matter one of such places anywhere in the world.

Athens can boast of its many contributions which have made the ancient and modern world a better place to live.I think nobody can challenge that fact. We all know that it is the birthplace of recorded history, theater,philosophy and many aspects of Mathematics and Science.Nobody can forget the fact how Olympics originated and revamped in 1896, with its first and majestic Panathenaic stadium in marble which is kept at Athens to this day.But what I would give the best of all the contributions of Athens made to the rest of the world above all, is democracy! Demokratia in Greek from where the word democracy originated means peoples rule!

Athens has given birth to at least three great philosophers ever lived- Socrates,Plato and Aristotle.Here I think I have to note that Athens also gave a very infamous person-Draco.If one cant recognize this name of the person all of a sudden, I wont blame anyone because it is not him but what he made became so infamous.'Draconian' laws anywhere to this day is blamed after old Athenian lawmaker  Draco who lived 2600 years back!Few musings from Constitution Square,Athens...

                          Greek Parliament clicked through a glass door from the hotel room

The Grand Bretagne....
There is a central square in the city of Athens which is interestingly named as Constitution Square.This is also where the Greek Parliament is located.We had the chance to check into a pretty old but good hotel The Grand Bretagne, almost diagonally opposite to the Parliament building.If it was in other countries including India, we would not have got such a place to live so near to a Parliament building because of security reasons.Anyway we could enjoy the sight of the Parliament building in day and night  including the famous change of guards which happens every hour of the day and night.In the night the building looked more serene which forced me to take a click.The above photo was clicked in the middle of the night from our room through the glass door leading to the balcony,overlooking the Parliament!No doubt Athens is a very friendly location for tourists.From the roof top terrace coffee shop of the same hotel one can enjoy stunning view of Acropolis.

Back to democracy of ancient Athens...
I shall go back to 'democracy'.Many basic political terms commencing with the word politics itself originated from Greek language.Monarchy,Aristocracy,Oligarchy,tyranny and of course democracy...all have roots in Greek.

Draco was the first recorded legislator of Athens who lived in 7th century BC.He was requested by the aristocrat citizen of Athens-mostly rich and the privileged- to chalk out a written code of laws to be enforced replacing the prevailing oral laws.Draco did his job but was characterized by its harshness.He gave death penalty for most of the offences whether trivial and serious crimes.His name became synonymous with brutal,harsh,severe laws which lingers to this day as 'draconian' laws!  

Thanks to Solon and few others,in 5th century BC,in and around Athens, the first known democracy came to existence.It is definitely a wonder how the people of Athens thought of this great idea and implementing into a democratic form of Government when rest of the world was under mostly autocracy or in wilderness.It had few short comings such as women and slaves were not permitted in the voting.Instead only Athenians who owned landed property had the right to vote.But the great thought of democracy centuries back is what I admire about Athens... 

Democracy now in the world....and in India
It is said that if a nation conducts free and fair elections,it can be classified as a democratic nation.Of course different political parties with varied interests should be able to take part in the elections.While India is considered to be the largest democracy in the world with its teeming population of 1.3 billion, it is yet to top the list in quality- as per chart of democratic index.According to the same index Scandinavian countries like Norway,Iceland and Sweden are the most democratic ones as stands on date.They are reaching perfection in this matter with scores of 9.87,9.58 and 9.39.

India has a score of 7.23 against US 7.98,France 7.80,Greece 7.29 and Pakistan 4.26.It is understandable considering the large population of India consisting of different classes of people.But it is to the advantage of India that democracy has taken deep roots in the system while economically the country is getting richer year by year. India is one of the richest nations in the world while a lot of poor remain in the country.But I firmly believe that only  when this richness of the country  goes to people and reflect in their standards of living, only then the true democracy triumphs.It may take few more decades but sure to happen.

courtesy second photo-Hotel Bretagne