Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Of kolams and why they should be banned...

Many of us have seen Kolams in front of houses in Tamil Nadu. For the uninitiated, Kolams are decorative designs drawn outside homes using rice powder. These designs/ patterns are similar to rangoli minus the colour. You can read more about kolams here. The general idea behind drawing kolams seems to be to give a pleasant welcome to anyone who comes home and rice powder is used so that ants may feed on it. Of course, these days independent houses and street houses have given way to apartment complexes and so the practice of drawing kolams is dying. So much so, that those of you who know how to draw kolams may even get a pat on your back by the custodians of Tamil culture!! However, I did discover this morning that the practice has not altogether died down (much to my peril!) and there are some folks who still do it religiously every morning!

Before I go into the details, you must know the procedure to be followed before drawing a kolam. The ground is swept thoroughly to make it as smooth as possible. Then you take water in a bucket and holding the bucket in one hand, you start splashing the water in a semi circle. Those who are health conscious mix cow dung with the water before splashing, as cow dung is believed to be a disinfectant!! After splashing the water, you sweep the floor again to remove any excess water that may be stagnating. Now the ground is ready for you to show your creativity and draw the kolam.

Ok, here is what happened this morning. I was woken up (rather rudely, I must say) by my mother this morning at 5.45 and was asked to go on an urgent errand to my Thatha’s place couple of kilometers away from my place. Reluctantly I ventured out on my bike, driving with half open eyelids which were drooping all the time! I have to pass through a slightly narrow road and I just about noticed a Qualis parked on the side of this road at a distance. But just as I passed this Qualis something hit me very hard and suddenly I found myself dripping wet all over!!! It took me a couple of seconds to realize that someone had actually emptied half a bucket of water on me!!! And it was a miracle that I didn’t lose my balance, as the water was thrown with some force! But by the time I stopped my bike a few metres away and looked for the culprit, she had very well made her escape. The only remnants of her presence were the freshly watered and swept ground and a pot full of rice powder!! While I waited unsuccessfully for a couple of minutes for the person to turn up and apologise, it appears she preferred the safety of her home! So, I got back to my bike and continued my journey and this time, my eyes were wide open!! Now you know why I say kolams should be banned!!

And as if to rub it in, soon as I reach my Thatha's place, he asks me with a mischievous grin if it rained only on me and my bike!!!

P.S: Some of you may point out that I was not affected by the kolam per se but only with the lady throwing the water on me. But the fact is, but for her wanting to draw the kolam, she wouldn’t be watering and sweeping the place, would she?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Lord Macaulay and his address...

Got this forward from a friend today. This is supposedly a part of the address of Lord Macaulay to the British Parliament in 1835. If this were true, I think he did succeed in his attempt!! Incidentally Macaulay happens to be the author of the Indian Penal Code, the Indian Contract Act and several other legislations still in force in India! If this is another hoax, then its been rather cleverly done!! infact, those of you who can read tamil can actually find a discrepancy (albeit a very minor one) with the english text following below!!

Sunday, June 18, 2006


If you are wondering what the title means, I should clarify that it was the title of a piece written by another blogger, Yadhvi, recently! In short, she had written about how little the common man knows about law and also the fact that students are not taught even the basics of law at school. I read that post and just made a silly comment as to what vakils will do, if everyone starts learning the law. But the truth of that post dawned upon me when a young girl came to me with her problem couple of days back.

Here was a young, confident and well educated girl, employed in an MNC and one would think that she would have been a lot more sensible that she had been. She had invested a huge amount of money through a leading stock broking firm a couple of months back. It appears that the persons who were in-charge of her account had taken her for a ride and invested the money without her knowledge and lost it all in the recent stock market crash! She had been so naïve as to believe them totally and had no clue about the whole transaction. And she kept asking me “isn’t it illegal to do this? Isn’t it illegal to do that?” all the time. One must appreciate that merely because something is illegal it doesn’t deter people from doing it. While one understands that she was emotionally upset having lost all the money and can sympathise with her, what I did fail to understand is her total lack of knowledge / information regarding the whole transaction and she merely expected the law to help her!! She hadn’t even taken the trouble to open the correspondence she had received from the stock broking firm all along! Though she did make a few phone calls asking them not to trade in her account, there would be no proof of such calls actually having been made.

Most of us I’m sure have experienced trouble with our mobile service or credit card bills. It’s excessive billing in the case of mobile phones and lots of hidden charges in the case of credit cards! Many of us take the trouble to call the toll free helpline and wait for ages only to hear someone in a call centre answer our questions unsatisfactorily and finally vent our anger at them. While it may make us feel good temporarily it serves no purpose as the call invariably ends with “can I help you with anything else, sir? thank you for calling _________, have a great day”, leaving us more frustrated than ever! But not many of us take the trouble of putting all this in writing and sending it to the service provider. While we may be in the age of instant communication, the law still gives more weightage to the written word than other modes of communication!

The following two latin maxims would summarise the position

Ignorantia facti excusat, ignorantia juris non excusat - Ignorance of fact excuses, ignorance of law does not excuse

Leges vigilantibus, non dormientibus, subveniunt - Laws come to the aid of those who are vigilant and not of those who sleep.

Law is just common sense but is couched in such tedious language that most people are intimidated by it. But it is in our own interests that we should acquaint ourselves with some of the basic provisions of the laws which we may come cross! We are better off that way rather than being ignorant and then blaming the law for not helping us. Further it would also help us in avoiding long drawn litigation and unnecessary legal expenditure. To repeat the quote of Mr.Bumble in Oliver Twist “the law is an ass” and it can be beaten and bent as we choose!!

P.S: I know that what I set out to write and what I have written are totally different things but somehow this is the best I could come up with. Pardon the mediocrity……

Monday, June 12, 2006

Legend of the Kannagi statue!!

Some of you may have read my previous piece in which mention was made of the re-installation of the Kannagi statue. A colleague of mine had always maintained that our Chief Minister’s obsession with the statue had nothing to do with tamil culture and it was a lot more than that and related the story behind the statue! However, I had refused to believe him at that time. Today he brought me the issue dated June 19 of Outlook, which carries the same story he related to me!! You can check out the story here. I’m quite convinced that the story is true. I shall let you draw your own conclusions about the legend behind the Kannagi statue…

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Much ado about nothing....

It’s almost a month since the elections were held with much fanfare in Tamil Nadu. TV channels and newspapers vied with one another to grab our attention (and also increase their ratings and circulation!) with opinion polls, exit polls and a host of other polls as well. And now we have a new dispensation in place, one which is “new” only in the sense that it is not the same one which was there for the past five years! Other than that we all know the present government and its chief quite well!

A new government would inevitably bring with it some changes. Since Tamil Nadu has the unique (or dubious!) distinction of swinging between the two Dravidian parties (since 1989!), we have been subjected to quite a bit of this change!! Undoing what was done in the previous regime seems to be the favourite pastime of successive governments. The first victim of such change invariably used to be the route numbers of our beloved PTC buses!! The ADMK always preferred suffixes like “V”, “J” and “R” to the bus numbers! The DMK, on the other hand, seemed to prefer prefixes, which were invariably “A” or “B”! Understandably, the bus commuters were a much harried lot. The worst goof up was made by the DMK government in 1989, soon after it came to power. They decided that, instead of renumbering the buses it would be better to renumber the bus stops!!! Most bus stops were either marked as “A” or “B” and some important stops alone were marked “AB”! All buses would carry boards in front marked “A” or “B”! Buses marked “A” would stop only in the stops marked “A”! Likewise for buses marked “B”. Both the buses would stop at the stops marked “AB”. The confusion arose because the same bus route would carry the boards “A” or “B” and Murphy’s Law works very well in such cases! Invariably, when we were at a stop marked “A”, buses marked “B” alone will go past us! After a lot of hue and cry was raised, this system was withdrawn in a week or so (if I remember right) in favour of prefixing the bus routes!!

It appears that both these parties have lost interest in renumbering buses in recent times and have now shifted their attention to the Kannagi statue!!! If you are wondering who this Kannagi is and what’s all the fuss about her statue, you can go here and here. The facts, in short, are that there used to be (and there is now!!) a statue of Kannagi on the Marina which was removed by the previous ADMK government in December 2001! The reason given was that a speeding truck had damaged the pedestal on which the statue stood. Karunanidhi, who was instrumental in installing the statue in 1968, termed this a challenge to Tamil pride!! He further alleged that the statue was removed for vaastu reasons! While a lot of hue and cry was made, the statue continued to gather dust in the government museum!! Expectedly, when the new DMK government was sworn in last month, Karunanidhi promised to reinstall the Kannagi statue in its “rightful” place. And true to his word, the statue was re-installed at the Marina today, being his birthday! While one is happy to glance at the statue when passing by Beach Road, one fails to understand why a government would spend all its time and energy in this, soon after coming to power, when there are numerous other issues concerning the people. Of course, Tamil “pride” was at stake, wasn’t it? If you ask me, Tamil pride has taken a severe beating after the way in which these two parties have been conducting themselves when they come to power bickering over silly things and going on a witch-hunt!

Of course, one mustn’t be too critical all the time. The Chief Minister has kept up with his poll promise and commenced the sale of rice at Rs.2 per kg from today!! So, give credit where it is due. It’s a different story that nobody knows how the economics of this scheme would work out. But since the Finance Minister of the country himself has assured that this scheme is workable, we must take his word on it. One sincerely hopes that he made that statement as an economist and not as a politician…

The Tamil Nadu government has also banned the screening of Da Vinci Code throughout the State ostensibly on the ground that they had received representations from various Christian groups and to avoid any law & order issues! To begin with, if they had received any such representation, it must have been a rather secret one!! While many such groups have been protesting in various parts of the country and have also moved some courts seeking a ban, there has not even been a whimper in Tamil Nadu! At least, the newspapers here haven’t carried any such reports. Or may be, if there were any protests here, the newspapers did not even think it fit to report them!! Having enjoyed the book thoroughly, I was really looking forward to watching the movie.... Having banned the movie, I wonder why they haven’t banned the book as well… May be it’s the view of the government that we in Tamil Nadu do not read books at all(at least the English ones, that is) or worse still, they consider a majority of us, not literate!!