Sunday, 1 December 2019

BEYOND THE BLUE SKY AND GOLDEN HILLS OF CALIFORNIA....

All of us know the good old story of Sir Issac Newton and the fallen apple which given us ultimately the Theory of Gravity.In the same way one Frank McNamara was hosting a dinner with his business clients in a restaurant in New York.He felt embarrassed when he realized at the end of the dinner that he had forgotten his wallet to make the payment. McNamara who was the Co Founder of Diners Club thought of a multi purpose charge card to avoid similar situations in future. Thats how the first credit card was rolled out in the world.That was in New York in 1950!

I never thought a small informal chat recently with Reeba, a young family friend of ours in Doha will land me up in trail of evolution of credit cards which we all use all the time.When she said that she is currently undergoing some sort of a specialization course on credit cards conducted by a British Institution,she has aroused my enthusiasm to learn more on the subject.

Back to McNamara of Diners club.His first card- charge card- which was introduced to cover 17 restaurants in New York grew in number... met with initial success.In spite of this he sincerely thought credit cards were just a fad!In 1952 he sold his share in Diners club just for $200000!! Unfortunately for McNamara credit card was not a fad.Around the world now there are more than 10000 credit card transactions made every second!!Join me to the the world of credit cards....it is not drab as it looks ...it is more than interesting.



Idea of a novelist...
Credit card is something you get from your bank with your request or even without it these days.Bank's keenness  in issue of such a card is understandable since credit cards are one of the most profitable sectors of the banking industry.It is so easy that you need not sign on their agreements -instead you automatically agree to their terms on first use of the card which runs to several pages-new card is delivered at the earliest!The competition among the banks in this matter is so stiff that some banks issue such cards on the same time a new account is opened with a new bank!!Actually the issuing companies of the credit cards want to limit the use of the cards with an expiry date but compelled to have one in order to accommodate the fact that the magnetic strip on the card has only a life of 3-4 years.

US has contributed the most in creation of credit cards which we use today, than all other countries put together! So also now it is the first country it is mostly used followed by Sweden,Canada and UK!! Interestingly, the term 'credit card' is first used in this world not by a banker or an economist but a writer.Edward Bellamy in his Utopian novel named 'Looking backward 2000-1887' has used the word credit card many times albeit  for spending than borrowing in 1888.

Having said about Diners Club,I have to mention about John Briggs, a banker from New York also who successfully introduced a charge card in 1946 which was known as 'Charge-it'.The user had to have an account with his bank while the bill had to be cleared at the end of the month.

Creator of VISA card lost his job?
To best of my  knowledge on the subject,American Express and BankAmericard have introduced their first credit cards in the same year 1958.The name of later was changed to VISA in 1976 which stands for Visa International Service Association.I am sure only very few may be aware that the blue and gold colors in the first VISA logo represents the blue sky and golden hills of California where Bank of America is born!

It was the brainchild- or at least he was instrumental- of an employee of the bank named Joseph P Williams that Bank of America produced their first credit card BankAmericard. He was Senior Vice President of the bank who was in charge of products and approaches at that time and the card was the first credit card in the real sense of it. Within a year or so, frauds related to credit card caused many problems for the bank which initially lost$8.8 million.And Williams who had launched the idea of credit card had to resign on his own or situation around him forced to leave the bank!!Being a corporate man myself I can fully fathom that unfortunate situation albeit it looks odd and unfair when someone makes a postmortem of the whole scenario.Thankfully his career after the incident was not that bad. He formed  Uni Serve corporation in 1962 buying credit card operations of Chase Manhattan Bank which he could sell to American Express in 1965!New York Times announced his death in 2003 as "JP Williams, 88 Bank card creator, Dies"

The most popular...expensive...glamorous cards around the world
Visa seems to be the clear winner in popularity in the world which is leading in 123 countries.MasterCard and American Express follow suit internationally while the later is the most popular in US.There are quite a number of other cards- all American- like Discover,Citi,Capital One,Bank of America,Chase.....

Most expensive credit card in the world is recorded as Sberbank Visa Infinite Gold card from Kazakhstan!The card is made of pure gold,diamonds and mother pearls costing $100000!!


                                     Most expensive credit card 

Among the glamorous- millionaires- credit cards could be Chase Sapphire Reserve,Ink Business Preferred credit card, American Express Centurion card,JP Morgan Chase Palladium Visa,Dubai First Royale Master card,Coutls Silk ....the names can be more but all based on American brands.Most of these cards extend the membership by invitation only based on high net worth.

The field of credit card is all American with little room for others including European ones, basically because living on credits is not a popular idea elsewhere than US.China came to the field in early 2000. UnionPay card is the most popular in China but is said to be ahead of Visa and Mastercard based on total value of payments transactions in the world.Japan has JCB while South Korea has Bc card.

Rupay cards....
India which aspires to be a five trillion economy not far, entered the world of credit cards very late as in 2014.Rupay card which is product of NPCI-National Payments Corporation of India has already made a headway with 30% market share over Visa and MasterCard  in India which currently heading for a fair share in the international market.   

Parameters of the cards.....
I was also trying to research further  on the size whether it is so determined to fit into a wallet or purse or anything similar like the modern rail road track width derives from a Roman chariot.It is not.

Size and shape of any credit card- credit, debit,ATM or other payment cards inclusive- is the same as we all have noticed. 85.60mm*53.98mm to be precise with rounded corners.Even radius for those curved corners are specified, so also thickness!Then who specifies those physical parameters including details of magnetic stripe and computer chip of this plastic money?It is ISO/IEC.ISO stands for International Standard Organisation while IEC stands for International Electrotechnical Commission. In fact all such cards have to comply ISO/IEC 7810.2003.

Credit cards numbers conform to the Luhn algorithm, which is named after its creator Hans Peter Luhn who was an IBM scientist.

Tailpiece...
A common clause in the terms and conditions is that the cardholders waive their right to sue the credit card company! Many cards operate on zero liability policy!!And the card holder automatically agrees to all these clauses with the first use of the issued card without signing on any paper!!!

I am sure that millions of card holders while they enjoy the credit cards  are not aware of the these hidden clauses...or even if they come to know, they might ignore for the convenience and instant personal credit they are offered in the modern world.

Photos/data:courtesy goggle

 

Friday, 1 November 2019

UNTIL LIONS HAVE THEIR HISTORIANS......TALES OF THE HUNT ALWAYS GLORIFY THE HUNTERS !!

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

YOU STAY...I GO !

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

CHARMING CHRYSAPYLAE...

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

THEY PEE ALL THE TIME........TO MAKE THEIR CITY FAMOUS!!

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

THANK YOU!

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
42605
India
19232
Ukraine
15069
Qatar
11111
France
8380
Russia
4894
Germany
3733
United Arab Emirates
3698
China
3035
Israel
2958
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.