Friday 1 December 2023


While the French revolution gave the world 'Liberty , Equality and Fraternity' which reverberated throughout the world , though necessarily immediately like in India, it also gave a killing tool some sort of a status in the French  society! Guillotine which was promoted by a surgeon became respectable at that time since it symbolized equality in  death also! When it was introduced in 1789 by Dr.Joseph Ignace Guillotin as a lawmaker this was the logic behind and the name of the equipment got stuck to the family name.Till capital punishment was stopped recently in France in 1981, Guillotine was continued to be used.

As the Guillotine way of execution which was quick and considered to be more humane compared to the various ways of execution existed till those days, the King Louis XVI was slaughtered in 1793 in public, declaring the country to be republic followed by queen Marie Antoinette in the same year! 

During the days of 'Reign of Terror' (1793-94) fight among revolutionaries themselves following execution of the King took place while Jacobin's eventually took control, 40000 such executions took place using Guillotin.Such executions were popular among the masses as an entertainment and staged in public.

How Guillotin came into France...

The story of beheading was different in the world.At least 500 years before Guillotine was put into practice in France, similar but more crude and other ways of executions were there in Ireland ,Italy and England. "Planke" of Germany, Scottish "Maiden"  and "Mannaia' of Italy are some of them. "Halifax Gibbet" was used in England in the 12th century.

In 1790 Dr Joseph Ignace Guillotin did not invent the machine but as a lawmaker promoted  it that death penalty shall be equal to all regardless of crimes committed or social ranking of the person who did it!In fact this machine was invented by another surgeon Antonie Louis.Initially the machine was called as Louisette.

 Dr. Guillotin presented his six articles as follows and became law in France.Quote:

1. Offences of the same kind will be punished by the same kind of penalty.

2. In all cases where the law imposes the death penalty on an accused person, the punishment shall be the same, whatever the nature of the offence of which he is guilty; the criminal shall be decapitated; this will be done solely by means of a simple mechanism.

3. In view of the personal character of crime, no punishment of a guilty person shall involve and discredit to his family. The honour of those belonging to him shall be in no way be soiled, and they shall continue to be no less admissible to any kind of profession, employment and public function.

4. No one shall reproach a citizen with any punishment imposed on one of his relatives. Whosoever ventures to do so shall be publicly reprimanded by the judge. The sentence imposed on him shall be written up on the offender's door. Moreover, it shall be written up on the pillory and remain there for a period of three months.

Confiscation of the condemned person's property shall in no case be imposed.

6. The corpse of an executed man shall be handed over to his family on their request. In every case, he shall be allowed normal burial and no reference shall be made on the register to the nature of his death.Unquote.

The machine...

The device releases a sharp blade from a height of 226 centimeters.With the combined weight of the blade and counter the Guillotine can cut through the neck of a human being within .005 seconds!According to Guillotine, this invention was one of the best deals of the revolution-humane,equalizing and scientific!A guillotine blade that was originally used during revolution for executions is exhibited in Paris at the Police Museum.Still it seems like a star attraction!

By the time joseph Guillotin died at his age of 75, the machine had become synonymous with terror with his family name stuck to it. After his death , his relatives approached the Government to change the name of the machine which was rejected.It could be a paradox in history that instead the family changed the name!

Earrings and Tricoteuses of the revolution period

Tricoteuses is a French term used to describe 'a knitting woman' who used to flock in thousands and watch the live executions staged in public while continuing to knit!It became a nickname to describe the women who sat to watch the executions by guillotine and cooly knit enjoying the scenario! The liberty cap they knit those days became infamously popular. Charles Dickens in his famous novel 'A Tale of Two Cities ' has popularized the images of Tricoteuses profusely. Even fashion was influenced by the  earrings modelled after Guillotine as seen above!!

Ironically Hitler made the Guillotine the state method of execution in the 1930s and 40s with 20 such machines placed across the German cities killing thousands!

Tailpiece....The Cross

Having written about Guillotine and how it was regarded as a symbol of equality on death in a modern society in France and elsewhere, if I skip about a killing device which has become arguably the most popular in the history of the world, I would be unfair.The Cross, the most important symbol of Christianity  not only remains a symbol of  hope and peace... but also revered among Christians for last 2000 years!


Wednesday 1 November 2023


Kerala , my home state in India is blessed with a lot of locally grown tropical fruits. Pineapple is one among them. This exotic fruit is so cheap here that it is available for less than half a USD a KG! And it is abundantly available during the season.But when I read somewhere that pineapple was a status symbol among the elite in Europe some time back- in 16th and 17th century- I decided to make a trail of it to have a better understanding of the theme.

Pineapple is a native of South America especially to Brazil and Paraguay. It was known as 'Ananas Comosus' in Guarani, a local live language which existed there from the days of the conquest of the Spanish. It was Christopher Columbus in 1496 who brought a lone pineapple which survived his long voyage of weeks- in a ship which had only wind power- from the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe to Spain. He presented it to King Ferdinand as "pina de Indes"- Pine of the Indians thinking that he had just discovered India for this island!. The king fell for the taste of the fruit which was unknown to anyone in Europe till then! The hey days of pineapple commenced that day!!

As pineapples started being available in a limited way in Europe, the wealthy went wild with the taste of this fruit. Along with the taste, pineapple became synonymous with nobility and wealth as it became the favorite of Charles II of Scotland, Catherine the Great of Russia, Louis XV of France and King Ferdinand of Spain!


From the Mayas to "Pineries" of Europe...
Around 750 BC, the Mayas and Aztecs of Mexico were the oldest civilization which cultivated pineapples. Soon it might have spread around the areas of that Continent , but nothing is recorded until Christopher Columbus who transported the first pineapple to Europe in 1496 which he named as "pina de Indes"-Pine of India. Just 25 years later Magellan too discovered the pineapple plant in his exploration of Brazil. Spaniards named the fruit "pinas" due to resemblance to pine cone.
In Europe by mid 1600 pineapples were successfully cultivated in specially designed hot houses called "pineries". In 1677 the first European grown pineapple in England was presented to King Charles II and soon "pinery" became a status symbol.

Pineapple madness...
As the pineapple became sought after, rivalries broke out among the aristocrat families of Europe! It was so expensive that only few could eat it. At one stage it was "rented" out to banquets for display! Pineapples were carved into stones, carpet, sand, wood by artists making pineapple a luxury. By 18th century, the fruit became an architectural feature of selective buildings.In Europe  such a craze reverberated to the extent that a single fruit cost $8000 by today's standards!

How the price came down....
By early 18th century, steamships came into existence for navigation. Long voyages could be made in rather short periods unlike the earlier ships which were depending on wind power. Transport of pineapples in bulk also could be facilitated in shorter period which made Europe to get fresh supplies from far away countries which were colonized by then. Pineapple became a product of colony and prices came down!

 So also many countries of South America. In 1888 John L Jensen, a new migrant to US made a modern plantation of 133 acres extent and export center at Florida. In 1899 James D Dole ,a Harvard graduate developed a modern pineapple plant of 65 acres at Hawaii who was known as pineapple king!

And now..
As the scientific world found out that pineapples are low in calories while high in vitamins,minerals and an antioxidant, the fruit- fresh as well as canned- became very popular.Largest producers of pineapples currently are Philippines, Costa Rica and Brazil.Even fresh pineapples come under world renowned brands like Del Monte,Dole and Chiquita.The best and tastiest pineapple is the Caribbean Antigua Black Pineapple although it is not black.

Pineapple cultivation was introduced to India in 1548 by the Portuguese colonists in Kerala and Goa but was limited to traditional cultivation.Assam,Meghalaya and Tripura are the states where pineapples are grown largely in India currently.There is a village named Vazhakulam near my home town which is very well known for this exotic fruit which I believe has a geographical tag for taste and quality. I have read the other day that Kerala state is in the process of making wine from locally grown pineapples and few more fruits.I am sure that only few might have observed Pineapple motifs built on famous Charminar at Hyderabad as seen below.Interestingly it is there since 16th century built by Qutb Shahi dynasty. 


To this day when the best hotels and banquet halls display fruits from all over the world, it will be crowned by a fresh pineapple! Many countries of the world call pineapple as ananas to this day especially those who speak Arabic, Hindi, German, French and Greek. This is the story of Pina de Indes or ananas  oops pineapple!


Sunday 1 October 2023



October 4, 1957.Moscow time 10.29 PM. As Russia launched the first artificial satellite named 'Sputnik 1' -meaning fellow traveller in Russian language- US ,the west and the rest of the world were taken aback by surprise!Russian(Soviet) news agency TASS and Radio Moscow announced that the successful launch  could be seen with the use of a powerful binocular and even record the Beep-Beep signal  using apt instruments!As the scientists and others in US watched and listened in awe, mixed with panic than happiness, this Soviet spacecraft passed over them many times a day!! The space war between Russia and US had begun that day during another already  ongoing war- the cold war.

Before the excitement over Sputnik 1 was over, Russians fired the 'Sputnik 2' just after 4 weeks, on November 3 1957! The world got bewildered knowing that a dog named 'Leika' too was sent in it into orbit making it the first living creature ever to do so.On May 15 1958, 'Sputnik 3' was launched with a lot of instruments fitted on them, though other than the Russians nobody knew what  precisely those were.When the Russians sent their cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin into space for the first time three years later, on April 12,1961 they sincerely thought that the Americans were left much behind in the race. Russians were proved wrong.In another 8  years thereafter, the Americans could make a human walk on the moon for the first time as a befitting response to USSR! Neil Armstrong made the 'Giant Leap for Mankind' on July 20, 1969 as we all know!!

Slightly bigger than a basketball, with whiskers like features  of a cat as antenna, it was the launch of 'Sputnik 1' by Russia (erstwhile USSR)- not US- that opened the doors of the space age, heralding the space race and space explorations which continue to this day.Remarkably this war has taken place during my time and many more players have joined since then-France,Germany,UK,Japan,China, India and more....Definitely this topic would not have come to my mind, if India had not  made the mission Chandrayaan 3, becoming the first country to soft land a satellite successfully recently on the  southern polar region of  the moon.I am trying to take stock of how this race had started historically than scientifically especially for the reading of youngsters and old timers alike, including my grand daughters Maria and Serah...who will understand well later, if not now....A must read...

Development of Science in US and Russia(USSR)...

In spite of the fact that at least eight Founding Fathers of US including Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were renowned scientists,  most of Europe was much advanced in scientific explorations comparatively till almost mid  20th century.

Russia's history of development in Science started from Czarist days.Peter the Great established the Imperial Academy of Sciences as early as in 1725.In 1917 when the Communists came to power there, already  that country had 4 full fledged universities. USSR gave much importance to Mathematics,Nuclear Science and Astronomy thereafter, churning out thousands of Scientists and Engineers, much more than relative to world population then.

But all these actions did not bring the standards in Russia either to what was available notably in Britain and Germany because of the long established scientific infrastructure, societies, universities and institutes there over centuries.Then what made US and Russia(USSR) lead the race of space explorations all of a sudden?

US ,V2 and a man from NAZI to NASA....
Nazi Germany was much ahead in Quantum Physics and Rocket Science compared to any other countries of the world.But Nazi thoughts of Hitler were not conducive for Jew citizens who were leading among the scientists in that country even to survive there.As Nazis started their influence over Germany and Italy,there was a steady flow of Jewish German scientists to US, which the latter encouraged.The famous Albert Einstein was one among them who migrated to US in 1933 which was followed by a lot.We all know how the US managed to have the first nuclear explosion with the help of such emigrants including Oppenheimer in 1944.

Nazi Germany was able to develop the first long range guided ballistic missile code named V2, much ahead of others.It was the brainchild of the Nazi German aerospace scientist Werner Von Braun and his team. V-2 was the world's first functional large scale liquid propellent rocket which the Nazi army secretly developed at Peenemunde island in Germany. Just before  the Red army captured this island on May 5, 1945, Braun and his entire team of about 125 and about 1600 other German scientists had moved out secretly to surrender to US forces along with truck loads of related research papers. The secret US operation was code named as 'Paperclip'!No one knows the correct numbers.

 US was able to place Wernher Von Braun as Director in NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). He was on the cover of lot of American publications later including Life magazine! The fact that he became a US citizen and regarded as the 'Father of Rocket Science' in that country was never an accident!Redstone missile which made Alan Shepard possible as first US astronaut to travel into space in 1971 was a direct derivative of V-2! 

 At the same time I don't think that US Science was anyway substandard before the Germans reached there.But they took advantage of the situation before and after the WW2 which definitely gave an impetus to the scientific society there.Since 1950s to this day ,Americans have won half of Nobel prizes awarded in Sciences is a world record yet to be broken! When the Electronics, Medicine, and IT boom started too, Americans are the leaders for sure.

                      German Scientists picked up in Operation Paperclip in US-1946. 
           V2, Forerunner of all ballistic missiles, developed by Nazi Germany.

Russia (USSR), ROSCOSMOS, V.2 and Nazi Germany...
Russia was fully aware of Braun and V-2.But they couldn't stop him and the team of 125 going to US as they preferred to surrender to them, though it was Red army which reached Berlin first on May 2, 1945 with access to Reichstag and Hitler's dwelling.Russians did the best of next  available options.They took the V-2 assembly facility at Peenemunde to bits to decipher their workings ,along with detailed drawings and shipped available data to Moscow! Americans and the British had to wait another two months until July 4, 1945 to have an entry to Berlin. But they had their pieces of cakes from elsewhere in Germany!

ROSCOSMOS is equivalent of NASA in Russia, if you don't know.Under 'Operation Osoaviakhim', Russians identified about 2500 Nazi German scientists - altogether 6500 including family members-  who were transferred to Soviet Union latest by October 22, 1946 in 92 trains!The famous rocket engineer Helmut Grottrup, who was a colleague of Braun was one among them.He along with other Germans such as Johannes Hoch,Kurt Mogus etc have contributed German technology to USSR.Here I have to mention that Grotropp defected to West Germany in 1953 and invented the first smart card of the world thereafter! Americans exploded the first atomic bomb in 1944, but Russians followed suit in 1949, now you know how!The famous rocket of USSR code named R-5M was made on the basis of V-2 as seen below!

                                          Soviets in Berlin hoisting their flag over Reichstag
And V-2....and India
V of V-2 stands for a difficult German word to pronounce for me- 'Vergetltungswaffezweir' which means 'Vengeance weapon'.It is estimated that thousands of concentration slave workers had perished in  manufacturing them by Nazis.Nevertheless both countries- America and Russia - considered V-2 as antecedent  of their own ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles and used effectively related German scientists, is a true record of history which even those countries don't deny! When US and West used to look down on India while getting into the bandwagon of atomic club or aerospace club with our own humble but honest efforts with all our problems including poverty , I never knew that they had such a  negative past! And I don't think that most of fellow Indians  either!!Perhaps even those who live in the west  now also may not be fully aware, as only after the cold war was over it is known in public domain.But look at the double standards of the western outlook! They laugh at us, forgetting what they did in this field with the Nazis'!

    The cartoon published in NYT when India sent record number of             satellites in a day. They later apologised for the same. Given another       opportunity probably, they may repeat!

        In 1925 -almost 100 years back- a US cartoon predicting that one                        day the balance of power would shift!

Always remember that the great invention of 'zero'('sunya' in Sanskrit) by Indian Mathematicians in the 5th century , was more than nothing.That's why Albert Einstein himself told once:"We owe a lot to Indians , who taught us to count without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made".Intelligent westerners like Max Muller,Mark Twain,Romain Rolland, Will Durant...the list can be longer ,have testified similar accounts, if you require such consolations from west itself.But I also remember that we cannot live quoting our glorious past alone.

India is very young country in the quest of aero space adventures comparing to existing experts.But the new economic situation of the country making it one of the richest in GDP have opened many avenues for the country and countrymen. And the situation will be much better as years go by.We may not have Godfathers to help us or need not be copy cats as the west did but still I feel that in the next 25 years, India will turn around to be a full blossomed robust nation in this respect.All we do is inject  a sense of nationalism in the veins of Indian youngsters , giving professional opportunities to grow in our own country,who now make serpentine queues in front of US and other western consulates to immigrate! Make them understand that after scoring excellent grades from top most best institutes of the country, which are on par with the best in the world in Sciences and Engineering, not to settle for selling FMCG or beauty products or cool drinks here or abroad just for the sake of some more  monies to earn!Sure,nothing wrong with those careers but they are making  others loose  chances for an entry to study  Science and Engineering in such prestigious colleges of fame and become world class scientists and engineers! Let us resolve problem of poverty in India also along with becoming a super power house in Science, Technology and Economy- not forgetting Arts, Literature, Humanities and others- reminding the fact that Science can help it being accomplished, more than anything else! We have to grow ourselves and protect ourselves! We have the right capabilities.We have to make it happen.

I shall sign off here after making two cartoons as above.The first one  could be a repeat for you.Elite Space Club of US/Europe making fun of India, when the later shot more than hundred satellites in one go, a world record so far.The second is to show that all westerners are not fools.One of them had made a cartoon about 100 years back forecasting what India would do now and in future! US cartoonist Bob Minor  had published in 1925, predicting that one day the balance of power would shift to China, India and Africa!I don't think that even an Indian could dream of such a status for India at that time!

Definitely I may not live long enough to see this situation happen.But that is secondary.


Tuesday 5 September 2023

400,000! 4 LAKHS HITS!!

400,000 ! 4 LAKH.... HITS!!  

In spite of all the differences among us, this world is still small!!

400,000 and going on strong!That's the total number of readers worldwide who have visited my blog MUSINGS FROM DOHA at so far. It is amazing, gratifying and equally encouraging for me to note that the readership has spread to 110 countries in  all the continents as shown above! Most of such countries are well known but quite a few are not that known- no offence meant to them- like Burkina Faso, Kosovo, Montenegro, Moldova or North Macedonia. Then, there are a few from 'unknown countries', classified as such by Google, presumably Cuba, Sudan, Syria, Crimea, North Korea or Iran, details of which is not known.Around 150 articles on various topics- on first of every month- are published so far on this blog. Two books are published based on selective topics namely ' Gandhi? Who's That?' and 'Kaleidoscopic Musings' , still available on Amazon. So far 1700 valuable comments are received from the readers worldwide! I thank each one of my readers , near and far, for your continued support. As far as I am concerned it is incredible but true! It also shows that in spite of all the differences among us, this world is still small!!

The following three articles are in the top of the chart in popularity now :

1.What and How to negotiate business deals.

2.63,Ravipuram Revisited and 

3.Five minutes before closing time......Beyond Lutyens Bakerloo and Chausath         Yogini.

And maximum  number of the readers are from the following 10 countries in that order now...

1.US                                                          6.Ukraine

2.Hong Kong                                               7.France

3.Indonesia                                                 8.Germany

4.India                                                        9.China and

5.Russia                                                      10.Qatar.

Of all, readers from US is 20%,Hong Kong 13%,Indonesia 10%,India 8% and Russia 5% followed by 6- 10 and rest of 100. Thanks to Google technology without which I could not have even dreamed of this feat. Perhaps more than anyone, I myself enjoy writing... keeping my old mind busy, young and creative.Thank you very much for your valuable supports.Namasthe!

Friday 1 September 2023


The recent release of the Hollywood movie "Oppenheimer" , brought to my mind an avalanche of related thoughts, not mentioned in the movie, about the dropping of the first atomic bomb.I was not born then.The 'Little Boy'- Thin Man was the original name- and the 'Fat Man' were the names given to the atomic bombs by the Americans which were used in Japan. Why the Americans gave those funny names- which doesn't look funny to me- anyway?

The American bomber aircraft which dropped the bomb at Hiroshima was named as 'Enola Gay'.But who gave this strange name for this bomber? The pilot did.His name was Paul Tibbitts. He chose the name to honour his own old mother! Finally was it a honour or dishonour for her, I don't know.Because Paul who thought himself  to be a hero to his country men finally  decided  not to have an engraved grave fearing backlash from protestors for years to come!

On August 6, 1945 the 'Little Boy' was dropped over Hiroshima!Three days later  on August 9 the 'Fat man' was dropped over Nagasaki! The world was never the same again!!In fact, Nagasaki was not the original primary target but another city named Kokura.But on that fateful day Kokura was in morning fog! As such the pilot mistakenly or otherwise targeted secondary Nagasaki- which culminated a new expression 'Kokura's luck'!! 

I hope this article will enthuse especially the youngsters of the new gen on the subject. Many oldies of my generation as well may not be aware of these historical facts, many of them were classified information once.For example America decided not to include Albert Einstein , one of the their greatest Physicists to chair or even include in the team of ' Manhattan Project' formed to build the first atomic bomb!!  America decided to drop atomic bombs in Japan      in spite it was explicitly clear that Germany didn't have one as they surrendered unconditionally!! Why?

                                            Models of Fat Man and Little Boy on display at the Bradbury Science 

                      Museum Los Alamos National Laboratory. Image courtesy of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

From Pupil Hall, Manhattan to Los Alamos desert, New Mexico desert....

On atomic theory, a forerunner of making such a bomb, a number of scientists have contributed.Among them John Dalton and Frederick Sodely, both English scientists of 18th century and Pierre and Marie Currie, French scientists and Rutherford the New Zealand scientist  of early 19th century stand out. There could be others.Interestingly HG Wells, an English scientific fiction writer wrote about  an atomic bomb as early in 1914 in his novel 'The World Set Free'. There were efforts for splitting atom in France, Italy, Japan and Germany from late 19th and 20th centuries.

As the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, many leading Jewish scientists fled from that country for safe havens.In spite of this exodus, German Scientists Hahn and Strassmann could lead an operation there for making an atomic bomb.  Leo Szilard, a leading German scientist came to US and joined University of Chicago in 1942 and joined efforts to make the bomb. Prior to that in 1939 scientists of Columbia University could conduct a nuclear fission experiment successfully in the basement of a Physics lab named Pupil Hall, right in the heart of Manhattan very close to Broadway! Hardly few knew that then, even in US!

In August 1939, Albert Einstein wrote an official letter drafted  by Szilard to then US President Franklin D Roosevelt warning the impending danger of the Germans if successful in making an atomic bomb.Though US took serious efforts only after they entered the WWII, a committee was formed  which eventually gave birth to the secret move named 'Manhattan Project' to make a bomb in 1942 !Leslie Groves, an officer from US Corps of Engineers headed it while the team of scientists was headed by Robert Oppenheimer, another German Jew who migrated to America.  Interestingly Albert Einstein was sidelined by the Govt since he was thought to be left leaning politically and US Army intelligence didn't clear his name!!He was listed as a security risk!!However on July 16 1945 in the desert named Los Alamos near New Mexico,US the first nuclear test took place code named 'Trinity'! Robert Oppenheimer, father of nuclear bomb didn't live long as a hero there!

From Los Alamos desert to Hiroshima and Nagasaki... 

Harry Truman came to the seat of Presidentship in US soon after the death of President Roosevelt on April 12,1945. Team Manhattan was ready with  bombs as they recommended a short list of cities of Japan including Hiroshima and Kokura to be bombed as primary targets.They selected the cities, least affected by bombing thus far, so that the effects of the bombs could be measured better and the world could see possibly the might of a new military power on earth!

Meanwhile it was known that Germany was no more a nuclear threat as the country surrendered to the Allied forces on May 7,1945. As such two petitions signed by Leo Szilard and other 59 scientists involved including Robert Oppenheimer in making the atomic bombs urged the US President , commander-in- Chief in July 1945 not to use the atomic bomb in Japan.Unfortunately such  petitions never reached the President as Leslie Gores, Head of military sat on it!!

Both bombs were were transported to Tinian Island, Japan which was under command of American Forces on the ship USS 'Indianapolis' for assembly on July 26, 1945. Four days later this very ship was torpedoed by the Japanese Forces is another hardly known part of history!On August 6, 1945 at 2.00 AM the American Bomber B29 Superfortress named Enola Gay left the Japanese isle of Tinian and  headed for Hiroshima.At 08.15 AM local time the 'Little Boy' exploded! Three days after on August 9 the second bomber named as 'Bock's Car' dropped the 'Fat Man' over Nagasaki at 11.02 AM local time!The name of second bomber was so given by the pilot Frederick Bock who was selected to drop the Fat Man at Nagasaki.But on that fateful day due to technical reasons another pilot Charles Tweeny did that, could be another twist in the history!


Enola Gay is 'proudly' exhibited at National Air and Space Museum at Washington DC while Bock's Car is on display at US Air Force Museum,Ohio. I have seen Enola Gay in full sheen which is displayed at Washington but could not appreciate for some reason. But the meaningful funeral  silence maintained by the visitors at Peace Memorial at Hiroshima which I could experience 6 years back, lingers in  my mind to this day!

Before I conclude this article, I have to also mention about the Indian connection of Robert Oppenheimer. He was a German Jew by birth but like many other German scientists and philosophers he was interested in Indian Hindu scriptures especially 'Bhagavad Gita'. After his initial interests in the book reading the translated version, he took all the pains to study Sanskrit, the original language in which the book was written thousands of years back, to know more in depth about the meaning of the verses in the book first hand!!


Tuesday 1 August 2023


We all know the sad plight of the recent Ocean Gate expedition - to explore the wreckage of the sunken ship SS Titanic.In fact for the last few decades wealthy and adventurous tourists have been paying heavily to catch a the glimpse of the wreck of the luxury ocean liner. This reminds me of a novel titled 'Futility' about which I want to share with you.This spins around one John Rowald who was in the US Navy but dismissed from service due to alcoholism.To make a living John joins a  mighty British ocean liner called 'Titan' as a deck machinery assistant.The ship collides accidently with a floating iceberg in North Atlantic Sea. Then only like others in the ship, John understands that the number of lifeboats arranged in the ship is much lower to what is actually required! The ship sinks to bottom of the sea eventually!

Does this story remind you  particularly of the actual story of 'The Titanic', the unsinkable ship ? Yes,it does. But when you note that this novel "Futility" was first published in 1898, fourteen years before 'The Titanic' was launched to sea  in  1912,one will be surprised obviously.

What the American author of many short stories and novels named Morgan Robertson did was exactly that. The poor chap never made a claim to be astrologic when the Titanic hit the bottom of the Atlantic.He always thought that the actual wreck of SS Titanic was just a coincidence to one of his stories!In spite of  this creation in fact he failed to make a living as a professional writer until his death. Believe it, he had given an alternative title to this particular book- 'The Wreck Of Titan' which is getting popular among readers these days! Man makes plans but God an Yiddish proverb.


The 'Titan' and the 'Titanic' - the similarities are more than to be ignored...

The movie 'Titanic' of 1997 is one of the all time high box office hits ever made.Based on the actual story of one of the worst but biggest shipwrecks we ever had, I am not going to elaborate it once again since it is too well known. Commencing the maiden journey from Southampton, UK on April 10, 1912, the liner hits an iceberg on April 14 culminating in the drowning of 1517 passengers out of 2224.The main reason was that there were not enough lifeboats in the ship for safety although the ship is believed to have the best ever of that time!

Quite interestingly Robertson has written in his story a lot of similarities about the actual ship Titanic 14 years before it took the maiden journey.The very name of the ship was 'Titan' which was closer enough to the actual 'Titanic'! Both are described as the biggest ships of that time and could take a speed of 20 knots. Both were 'unsinkable'! The mishap was taking place in North Atlantic. Though Robertson is an American writer he envisaged the story to take place in a British liner. Hitting on an iceberg and shortage of lifeboats are the other two close similarities- one story and the other factual history. 

                      Morgan Robertson                                                       Periscope
Once the tragic end of the 'Titanic' came out in the press,Robertson got a lot of publicity.He was more known as a clairvoyant- one who claims to predict the future, which Robertson strongly denied.It was a strange coincidence according to him. And Robertson being an expert on maritime trends might have influenced him while writing the stories.

Inventor of Periscope ?
Periscope is an instrument fitted in a submarine which allows the vessel to see targets when submerged, if you don't know.Robertson is believed to have claimed to have tried for the patent of a Periscope.In any case he has described about a Periscope in his novel named 'The Submarine Destroyer' in 1905 and also in other few fictional creations.


Saturday 1 July 2023


We cannot comprehend who people were once, by looking at the best of their careers. The best living  example is the current Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, who was once selling tea but recently seen by everyone making an unforgettable and impressive address in Joint session of US Congress, a week back! Coming to US presidents there is no single career path to the white house and American Presidentship although most of them were lawyers.

Americans seem to regard Abraham Lincoln not only as one of their great Presidents but also a great man! I am fully with them in this matter. Emancipation Proclamation he had issued on  1 January, 1863 against all odds stating that ' all persons held as slaves are and henceforth shall be free " itself is enough to make him great.

But how many of us know that Abraham Lincoln did varied jobs before he became a President? He  was a licensed bartender for some period- a part owner of a small store in Illinois named Berry & Lincoln! He was a wrestling champion as well! Most interesting of all is that he was the only President to receive a patent though he was a self made person in Education!!! Here I am to share three of his earlier jobs which are less well known- a bartender, a patent holder and a wrestler.

A bartender.....
Abraham Lincoln had served in the Black Hawk war, the war between United States and native Americans. It was after that he had met his friend William F berry. Abraham Lincoln joined him to open a  store in Illinois at New Salem where he lived from 1831 to 1837. Co owned with his friend Berry, it was  a general store which was licensed to sell alcohol in quantities greater than a pint for off premises consumption.

Berry was an alcoholic and used to sell goods while Lincoln was dealing with customers and reading. As they fell into debt in 1833 Lincoln sold his interest to his partner. Lincoln joined as a post master. Lincoln remained at New Salem and he studied law and earned a legal license.

A Patent holder....
Abraham Lincoln had a brief experience as a ferryman. His invention" adjustable buoyant air chambers" could be attached to the sides of the boat. They could be lowered into water and inflated to lift the boat over obstruction in the water. On May 22,1849 Lincoln got a patent which was numbered as 6469 for a device to lift boats over shoals as below.

A wrestler........
Wrestling was already an established sport among native Americans in the 15th and 16th centuries when the first Europeans began arriving in North American continent. Abraham Lincoln started wrestling as early as in 1830 at the age of 21.Strengthened by physical hard work in the fields Lincoln had an impressive physical specimen who was 6' 4" tall.

He had completed 300 wrestling matches for more than a decade and lost only once. He was wrestling champion of his county in Illinois. While working in the store he had a famous bout with Jack Armstrong also a wrestling county champ. I am sure that only few know the fact that Lincoln was enshrined in the national wrestling Hall of Fame along with few others who became US Presidents! See what all jobs Lincoln did before he became a great emancipator who said in his later life "Be sure to put your feet in the right place, then stand firm"!



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