International Yoga Day

I always viewed Narendra Modi with an eye of suspicion (and I still do to a certain extent). But I have to admit — the International Yoga Day was cool. I mean really cool! Hats off to our Prime Minister!

Note: I am not one of those nut cases that asked what has Modi done in his first year as Indian Prime Minister. What do you think can be done in a year? I can see that he has definitely sown a lot of seeds. Now we have to wait for them to grow. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

yoga day

yoga day modi

This is indeed the Dwapara yuga!

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World War 1: 100 years of Madras Bombardment

A hundred years ago, on September 22, 1914, a German light cruiser, SMS Emden, launched an attack on the city of Madras (Chennai). Emden silently crept into the Madras harbour area and at 9:30 PM opened fire. About 130 shells were fired at the city. The ship managed to destroy four oil storage tanks containing 350,000 gallons of oil, sunk a merchant ship, and started to fire at will over the city. In the process, Emden managed to cause some damage to the Madras High Court, buildings of Boat House of the Madras Sailing Club, Port Trust, and the new National Bank of India. The shells reached as far as Poonamallee High Road, Choolai, Casa Major Road and Nungambakkam. Thousands of people evacuated the city in fear, as rumours of another German attack spread thick and fast. Five people were killed and 26 were injured in all. By the time the British Navy responded, SMS Emden was nowhere to be found. Incidentally, Madras was the only Indian city to be attacked during WWI.

Today, walk in to the Chennai Egmore museum, and you can find one of the unexploded shells. Take a walk along the eastern wall of the Madras High Court, and you can still see the memorial tablet that was installed at the exact same spot of the shelling.

Bombardment_of_Madras_by_S.S._Emden_1914

Bundesarchiv_DVM_10_Bild-23-61-13,_Kleiner_Kreuzer_-SMS_Emden_I-

sms_emden

How Florence Nightingale got Madras its drains

The Hindu : Cities / Chennai : How Florence Nightingale got Madras its drains.

This is an interesting article that I read in The Hindu about the story of how the city of Madras got its drainage system. Can you believe that the ‘Lady with the Lamp’ is responsible for the drainage system in Madras?! Click on the link to read about it.

Earthquake in Chennai!

Today, Chennai experienced three tremors with the first one being the longest; it existed for more than 40 seconds. The second and third barely existed for 10 seconds. I was in my cubicle at office when I experienced all three tremors – it was kind of strange at first, but later it turned out to be pure fun. I evacuated many people from my floor and later joined them to have a great discussion about how everyone felt about it. No one panicked, in fact it was so much fun! One funny thing was that I was the only person who felt all the three tremors. Some only felt the first one and some, the first and the last. The best thing about this earth quake was that no casualties or injuries and damages have been reported (so far) – even in Indonesia where the magnitude was 8.5. I feel sorry about those people there. I am sure that I would have panicked if I was there at that time.

Anyway, All’s well that end’s well!

The Hindu : Life & Style / Metroplus : Madras Miscellany: Madras’s first ‘Big Match’

The Hindu : Life & Style / Metroplus : Madras Miscellany: Madras's first ‘Big Match'.

Madras’s first ‘Big Match’, its first cricket ‘Test’ of sorts, if you will, was played 150 years ago this year. This match, played in 1862 in Guindy, became an annual home-and-away fixture that was played till at least 1895. There are no details of that first match except that it resulted in a win for Madras.

The earliest records of cricket being played in Madras date to 1792. Those early matches were played on The Island ground. Later, there were matches played on the Esplanade. And then there came a third ground, ‘Guindy’. This was probably the area opposite the Assembly Rooms, adjoining the Racecourse. Chepauk came into the picture only in 1865 when the ground was granted to the Madras Cricket Club that had been founded in 1846.

The first detailed report of a match that I’ve come across was the Madras-Bangalore match of 1875 that was played at Chepauk. In the two-day, two-innings match, Bangalore triumphed by eight wickets after, in the first innings, its “last wicket fell one run only ahead of Madras”. There was one noteworthy name on each side and they both played notable roles in the match — and elsewhere. George Gough Arbuthnot top-scored with 29 not out in Madras’s first innings’ total of 96. Arbuthnot, by then knighted, was responsible for the Arbuthnot Crash of 1906 and went to jail for a year, probably the only knight to spend time in an Indian prison.

An even better performance in the match was by Captain John Pennycuick of the Royal Engineers, who had moved on to Bangalore after he was instrumental in ensuring that the Madras Cricket Club had taken the Chepauk ground into its custody. Pennycuick opened both Bangalore innings, scoring 19 and 18, and was responsible for bowling out Madras for low scores in both innings, taking four wickets in the first innings and five in the second to be, by far, the most successful bowler in the match.

Pennycuick’s is a name very much in the news these days for his engineering accomplishments, but he seems to have made as much of a name for himself in South India away from work. Exploring the Kodaikanal Club recently, as it gets ready to celebrate its 125th birthday, I found that Pennycuick, a Lt. Colonel by then, was one of the seven founder Members of the Club. He was in charge of the P.W.D. office in Madura at the time.

Going through that first score sheet a curious fact stuck out. All the players had a military rank or a Mr. preceding their names. Except an E. Spencer who did not bat in the Madras first innings and an E.J. Firth who batted for him in the second innings, a common enough practice in more gentlemanly times. Once upon a time, there was a practice, following The Times, London’s lead, for amateurs (the Gentlemen) to have their names prefixed with Mr. with the Players (the professionals) not enjoying the same privilege. But this 1875 match was long before the age of the professional in India. So under the British caste system of the times, what were Spencer and Firth? Chepauk ground staff? I make life interesting for myself with such speculation.

Did India ‘snub’ Britain by choosing Rafale?

I am not much of a fan of the sound of cars whizzing past in F1 races nor do I know anything about Nascar, but I do love the sound of fighter jets and I always try to watch films that involve these wonderful machines. I was overjoyed when I saw the pictures of  Dassault Rafale splashed across the front page of some leading Indian newspapers a few days ago – it looked a beautiful beast of a machine! But so does the Typhoon. I was both happy and curious about this final winner. I learnt that the Typhoon had passed all the tests that were conducted by the Indian officials with, er, flying colours; and it seems that it performed even better than the Rafale. I grew a bit concerned at that particular bit of news; if the Typhoon is better than Rafale then why wasn’t it chosen?

typhoon vs rafale

I did some online research and found that it wasn’t a bad choice after all. But I also read some other disturbing content on some British sites.

This is what the Daily Mail had to say about this deal –

‘Well that’s gratitude! We give India £1bn in aid, THEY snub the UK and give France a £13bn jet contract.’

Even British Prime Minister David Cameron has accused India of being ungrateful and in many of the British websites I’ve read anti-India comments made by Britons. See this for example –

‘Yet another clear indication that our overseas aid program is past it’s sell-by date.Time to stop aid to India today and use the money at home where it’s needed.
India has no loyalty to Britain. It sees our bad Colonial past but not the infrastructure and the democracy we brought. Steam engines built in Bolton over 100 years ago still run in India today.
Maybe we could start by blocking all calls from Indian call centres to the UK by way of a ‘thank you’ for the award of this contract to the french.’

I’ve also read some stupid comments made by Indians on these sites in reply. I apologise to all Britons, as an Indian, for those ill-timed, illiterate comments.

This is not about snubbing anyone

I don’t see how ‘gratitude’ can come into play here. This is business and India just did some good business that suits its need. Yes, UK does aid us in billions, but is that an eligibility criteria?

I found the following well-researched, well-written article in The Hindu, a leading English newspaper of South India.

Source: The Hindu

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/article2851361.ece

Author: Sandeep Dikshit

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Strategic lift in Rafale tailwind

The fighter deal is expected to add momentum to France’s interest in working with India in intelligence sharing and nuclear technology

As the dejected consortium of four European countries scales down its operations here after losing the biggest-ever single Indian military tender to a France-dominated grouping, Paris will now be looking to enter into a new era of relationship with New Delhi encompassing intelligence sharing, nuclear enrichment and reprocessing and even joint production of sub-theatre range missiles.

Senior officials in South Block, however, discounted any direct correlation between the fighter order and these issues. Each will be dealt with by the two countries on its own merit and it would be immature to conclude that both sides will plunge headlong into enduring partnerships in all these areas because of the fighter tender going France’s way. But the deal, they feel, will give momentum to France’s interest in working with India on key global issues including changes in the international nuclear order.

Fighter trials

From India’s self-interest, it was fortuitous that the gap in the prices between the fighters offered by the French and the four-nation European consortium was large enough for other factors such as the contentious and subjective lifecycle costs not to come into play. It was also fortuitous that the canopy of the Russian fighter (MiG-35) came off during the trials, enabling National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon to inform the Kremlin about the technical unsuitability of its offering, thus removing another major pressure point.

The Americans, of course, knew their onerous and politically weighted sting in the tail in the form of inspection requirements and Saudi utilisation of the F-16 variant offered to India for a role not suiting the Indian Air Force’s list of requirements allowed New Delhi to knock Lockheed Martin out of the reckoning. The second American offer, from Boeing (F-18), was easy to reject because India had not sought the product and it was included among the six contenders under pressure from Washington. The last contender, from Sweden (Gripen), was also easy to eliminate because of its light weight characteristics.

These factors helped the Ministry of Defence continue with its stand that the technical characteristics of the fighter and the price were the only two criteria at play while selecting the winner for the order, which will swell in value with New Delhi planning to add 60 fighters to the originally tendered 126.

For over a decade, since the controversial and exciting days of India’s second series of nuclear tests in 1998 and the Kargil war of 1999, South Block has recognised the steadfastness of France in standing by India. It was perhaps the only country that did not cancel its maritime exercises after the Pokhran tests as compared with some others that happily went beyond the requirements of sovereignty by seizing Indian defence equipment to appease another country, which had sold components for that military system, that had decided to punish India by imposing sanctions.

Long-term ties

A year later, France stood solidly behind India — along with Russia and Israel — when the conflict over the Kargil heights erupted. Going to war with minimal war reserves, field level commanders at that time, who are now general rank officers, recall how the IAF’s Mirage fighters blasted bunkers in seemingly impregnable positions after the MiGs had not performed up to expectations.

With Dassault’s factory saved from being mothballed, New Delhi would now expect France to standby the commitment made by its President Nicholas Sarkozy for a “complete” civil nuclear partnership with India that would include enrichment and reprocessing (ENR), which is sought to be denied by the cartel of nuclear technology suppliers to countries like India that they think do not conform to their norms.

Unknown to the public at large, France and India joined hands in the civil nuclear field two years after Independence. That agreement to extract thorium from monazite sand didn’t work out but France opened its doors to the young Turks of the Indian civil nuclear establishment leading to cooperation in setting up a fast breeder reactor. This partnership was to continue despite the 1974 nuclear test that led to the transAtlantic cartel to put the squeeze on India lasting for over three decades.

It is also not known that the 1998 visit of Jacques Chirac led to talks on French company Areva opening talks for setting up six nuclear power plants, the second country after Russia to do so, while the rest of Europe and the U.S. were plotting to emasculate the Indian nuclear industry by placing technology transfer restrictions and blacklisting Indian companies. It is natural that after Russia, Indian nuclear scientists have developed confidence in the French ability to stand by their word on civil nuclear matters.

With the character of the French mission here changing into one where intelligence sharing is given importance, officials expect an impetus to revive the relationship that existed earlier on observing the Indian Ocean. France had set up two listening stations on the western coast that were manned by India’s intelligence personnel. These were to be linked with the ones planned by Iran and France in what was to be a trilateral partnership. But the overthrow of the Shah of Iran put paid to these moves. Although Iran is now out of the picture, the France-India alliance would not want a third partner because surveillance capabilities have since been boosted by greater potency of spy satellites.

More intimate alliances in the nuclear, military and intelligence fields would also allow India to spread its influence in western Africa, known as France’s backyard. India has already started expanding its diplomatic presence in these countries and a helping hand from France would add to its stand-alone exertions.

Just like in the nuclear field, what is not known to the public is that the Cheetah and the Chetak — the wasp-like helicopters seen flitting across snow encrusted mountains to service Indian soldiers perched on the heights of the Siachen and the Himalayas — are of French origin. So are the new submarines currently being assembled in Mumbai. France has already been allocated land to set up six nuclear power reactors. But it has always complained that India remains an Anglo-Saxon zone of influence. The order for fighters (and the earlier Rs.10,000-crore deal for modernising the existing IAF fleet of 50-odd Mirage fighters) would help substantially disabuse this notion and set the stage where both countries, which have always professed respect for each other’s national security interests and shared the quest for strategic autonomy, could help further democratise global politics as well as help each other.

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Mr. David Cameron has also assured that there would be no job losses because of this decision and I sincerely hope and pray that no one loses his/her job because of this deal.  Please remember that if India had chosen Typhoon then France would have shut down Dassault Aviation altogether and hence India cannot be blamed if anyone loses their job.

I hope that this would satisfy those who think that India has been disloyal to UK.

Case closed.

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rafale

rafale

dassault rafale

What a beauty!