Category Archives: Tamilnadu

Chennai: Come December…


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Myself 

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Chennai floods (Source: ndtv.com)
Chennai floods (Source: ndtv.com)

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December 1, 2015:

It rained through the night in Chennai, Tamilnadu, India. The incessant rains that plagued us for the past three weeks did not seem to abate.

At 7.11 am, while I was still in bed my boarding and classmate Sunderaraj Kagoo, former Managing Partner of Star Brand Sweets, Colombo, had given me a call. I was not able to call him back since my cell’s battery had run down.

There was no way to charge my cell because we had  no electricity supply.

Of all the rainy days that started in mid-November, 2015, today it rained heavily and forcefully.

Since the cable TV line was completely out and my 100 MB internet connection was dead, there was no way to know what was happening around us. We were not able to go out of our house to shop for essentials due to the torrent.

My second daughter Subodhra living in Palayamkottai, 620 km away from Chennai, phoned my wife. She said it did not rain there in Tirunelveli. She inquired how we were faring since she saw several news channels on TV covering the floods in Chennai. She said that Velachery, about 5 km from our house was flooded and that boats were being deployed to evacuate the marooned from their flooded houses to safety. My wife assured her that we were safe.

At 6:45 pm electricity came on.

At 6:48 pm my cousin Lawrence rang up inquired whether we were safe. He assured us that his house safe. I could hear children shouting and music in the background and immediately knew that the first birthday of his second grandson Tom Philip was being celebrated. I blessed the child over the phone and told Lawrence that even if they had invited us for the birthday party we would not have made it.

At 7:00 pm my wife, daughter Sujatha and I ran to the house on the first floor of the flat opposite our house to attend the first birthday party of a year-old toddler.

At 7:30 pm while the party was on, the electric power was cut off and we had the birthday dinner by candle light.

We returned home at 8:00 pm.

It poured heavily.

At 9:00 pm since we had no electricity, TV broadcast nor the internet, I tried to call my daughter Subodhra at Palayamkottai to know about the situation in Chennai that she would have seen on TV . Alas, to our bad luck the Vodafone network was out of service.

At 9:20 pm remembering the phone call from Sunderaraj Kagoo, I tried his number, but I was not able to get through. Then I noticed that my service provider Aircel too was out of service.

Since there was no electricity, we were not able to turn on the electric mosquito repellers and had to sleep at the mercy of the swarming mosquitoes.

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After the inundation of the arterial Grand Southern Trunk (GST) Road south and north of Tambaram, all roads leading to Tambaram submerged at various stretches making Tambaram inaccessible to the rest of the city and for those heading towards Chennai city from Chengalpattu.

December 2, 2015:

It rained heavily in the morning.

I saw a few strangers in our neighbour Lokanayaki’s house. She told me that they were her relatives from nearby Pallikaranai and flood waters had entered their house up to their neck and so had come to her house for shelter.

Around 4:00 pm the rain ceased and there was only a pleasant drizzle. I took this opportunity to venture out on my two-wheeler to buy essential foods and medicines.

All the ATMs in our neighbourhood were out of service.

I went to one of the local medical shops. The proprietor was there and I asked him whether the card machine worked. The proprietor reluctantly said no. Then he asked how much my purchase would amount to. When I said more than ₹500, he said he would try to accommodate me since the backup battery had almost died out. He then took my order which amounted to ₹580 and switched on the card reader which came to life after a bit of coaxing. I thanked him for obliging and left the shop with the medicines.

The main road between Velachery and Tambaram is flooded in many places with hidden potholes lurking under the muddy waters. So, buses are not plying. I am not able to travel on my two-wheeler more than 100 metres either way from Pallikarani Oil Mill Stop.

I took the risk and waded through deep waters on my vehicle for about a kilometre and finally saw eggs stored on plastic trays at a shop. I bought a dozen eggs for ₹6 each.

On my way back home the engine of my two-wheeler stopped. I cranked the fuel tap to reserve and retraced my route. I found more than 50 people waiting in a queue to fill their motorcycles and cars at the petrol bunk. Finally, after waiting for about 30 minutes my turn came and after filling the tank with petrol and oil for ₹200, I returned home around 5:30 pm.

At 6:30 pm it was dark. I ventured out on my two-wheeler to buy a pair of batteries for my LCD torch. Almost all the shops were closed. Finally, I saw an electrical shop where an oil lamp lit the inside dimly. Luckily the batteries were available and I hurried home.

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In the evening we heard that Chennai was officially declared a disaster area.

December 3, 2015:

Rains continued to plague Chennai.

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Around 11:00 am we saw an army helicopter crossing far away from our house.

Around 1:30 pm we received electricity. We were able to see TV programmes.

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PM Narendra Modi viewing flooded Chennai from a helicopter (Source: financialexpress.com)
PM Narendra Modi viewing flooded Chennai from a helicopter (Source: financialexpress.com)

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We were made aware that the Chief Minister of Tamilnadu viewed the damages wrought by the incessant rains from the comfort of a helicopter. We also came to know that the Prime Minister who had come all the way from New Delhi too viewed the damages travelling on a separate helicopter.

At 6:30 pm some of our neighbours hurried towards the main road. My wife told me that the ATMs were working. I too took my debit card and ran to the main road. We were all disappointed for one ATM displayed the “Sorry. No money!” sign and the other two ATMs had shuttered down. It was a rumour.

Around 7:00 pm the electric supply was cut off and we were once again in the dark.

Around 7:30 pm my nephew Raphael Leo came home by motorbike to our house to inquire whether we and his mother-in-law who lives about 200 metres away from our house were safe. My son Subas Raj in Ellicott City, MD, USA had contacted him on WhatsApp and had asked him to check on us.

Though relief efforts were well underway across some of the flooded areas in Chennai, the lack of any coordinated relief response forced thousands of its residents to evacuate their houses on their own.

December 4, 2015:

From 5:00 am we had no rain and the sun shone through thick clouds. We were happy and thought the rains had finally ceased. With a letup in rainfall, floodwaters gradually began to recede in some areas in Chennai though 40 percent of the city remained submerged. Safe food and drinking water was in short supply.

Still no cell phone service. And there is no internet.

The electric supply comes in spurts. TV works intermittently even when electricity is available.

The internet was available from 1:45 pm today.

At 2:30 pm ominous dark clouds started gathering and it started to rain heavily.

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A patient getting shifted to another hospital from MIOT Hospital after flooding of the area due to heavy rainfall in Chennai . PTI
A patient getting shifted to another hospital from MIOT Hospital after flooding of the area due to heavy rainfall in Chennai . PTI

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Around 6:30 pm I saw the heart-wrenching news on TV channels about the loss of 18 patients who had died at the MIOT International Hospital in Manapakkam, Chennai, due to overflowing of flood waters from Adyar river that breached the hospital’s walls, damaging equipment in its path.

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Three Ministers: Natham Viswanathan, Gokul Indra, Selur Raju) (Source: vikatan.com)
Three Ministers: Natham Viswanathan, Gokul Indra, Selur Raju. (Source: vikatan.com)

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Two TV channels showed AIADMK Tamilnadu State Ministers Natham Viswanathan, Gokula Indra, and Selur Raju being chased away by the public when they visited the Chief Minister’s R.K. Nagar electorate. They had come to the CM’s electorate to meet the people in lieu of their head. The ministers arrived in a cortege of 18 cars, and without getting down from their vehicles, the ministers spoke to the people. This infuriated the people. They asked the ministers to get down from their vehicles and get their feet wet as they did. After an argument, the ministers with the protection and cordoning by the police escaped the fury of the mass.

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AIADMK cadres sticking stickers of JJ (Source: Dinakaran.com)
AIADMK cadres sticking stickers of JJ on foods and other essentials brought in for distribution by some charitable public and non-AIADMK organisations. (Source: Dinakaran.com)

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Then we came across the shameful news that in some areas in Chennai the AIADMK hooligans are abrogating the work done by the charitable people and NGOs in Chennai by sticking stickers of JJ on the food parcels brought by them for distribution. If they could not help at least they should not steal the credits that are due to the helping people with their hard earned money and organizations who do not belong to their party. Instead, these shameless ruffians could have volunteered to work in the flood affected areas instead of stealing efforts made by others; or they could have pressured their higher-ups from the lowly municipal councilors to the Chief Minister to distribute free food from their “Amma Canteens” and distribute free “Amma Water” Bottles.

There seems to be a voltage drop and the electricity might be cut off at any moment.

For now, my family and I are safe. Please see the TV news channels for the overall situation now prevailing in Chennai.

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A Nondescript Village in Tamilnadu, India Stages 100 Dramas Every Year!


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Myself 

By T.V. Antony Raj

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The Valayankulam village located 22 km from Madurai City in Tamilnadu, India has a population of 5705 comprising 1514 families as per the Population Census of 2011.

Map showing Valayankulam

This village has a low literacy rate – 69.57% compared to 80.09% of Tamil Nadu. The Male literacy stands at 77.96% while the female literacy rate was 61.23%.

As per the constitution of India and Panchayati Raaj Act, an elected Sarpanch (Head of Village) administers the Valayankulam village.

Valaiyaangulam Subburaj Theatre (Photo: Dhanasekaran Muthu/ssl.panoramio.com)

Valaiyaangulam Subburaj Theatre (Photo: Dhanasekaran Muthu/ssl.panoramio.com)

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The cynosure in most village festivals in Tamilnadu would be entertainment items such as the theru koothu, karakaattam, dancing, singing, drama or a pattimandram (debating platforms), etc. But, what many, even in Tamilnadu, do not know is the fact that this nondescript village enacts 100 dramas every year  to please the village deity – “Thaanaai mulaitha Thanilinga Perumal” (தானாய் முளைத்த தனிலிங்கப் பெருமாள்) meaning “self-sprouted Thanilinga Perumal”.  So much so, the villagers do not fancy cinema theatres.

Even in this modern scientific era, women barred from entering the Thanilinga Perumal temple, pray to the deity standing outside the temple.

On the stage erected in front of the temple, the villagers allow only performance of dramas. They consider the stage sanctified and none can approach it wearing any kind of footwear.

According to a former village headman, the deity Thanilinga Perumal loves staged dramas; hence his devotees perform dramas 100 days per year to please him.

Devotees entreat the deity to fulfil their request and in return pledge to stage a drama of their liking when the deity answers their prayers.

A drama performed at Valayankulam Thanilinga Perumal temple stage. (Source: Facebook/Art and Cultural Rights of Folk Artists)
A drama performed at Valayankulam Thanilinga Perumal temple stage. (Source: Facebook/Art and Cultural Rights of Folk Artists)

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This tradition of staging dramas in this particular village dates back to the days of Thirumalai Nayakkar who ruled Madurai from 1623 to 1659 when a severe drought brought famine to Valayankulam and other surrounding villages. Since the people believed the deity Thanilinga Perumal loved staged drama, they pledged to perform a drama if he  answered their prayer for rain. Miraculously, it rained and the village had a bountiful harvest. As obligated, the villagers staged a drama the following year to thank their village deity. From then on to date, the village has been performing dramas to please their deity.

Around this time, when king Thirumalai Nayakkar visited the Thanilinga Perumal temple, the villagers entertained him by performing a drama from Mahabharata titled “Abhimanyu Sundari” – the story of Abhimanyu, son of Arjuna and Subhadra, and his first wife Sundari. The king relished the play and praised the actors who took part in it, and those actors adopted the phrase ‘Thirumalai mechinaar‘ (திருமலை மெச்சினார்) meaning ‘Praised by Thirumala’ as their family name.

Consequently, the first play performed during the drama festival would always invariably be Abhimanyu Sundari performed exclusively by members of the Thirumalai mechinaar families

A drama peformed acon stage at Valayankulam (Source: dhinasari.com)
A drama performed on stage at Valayankulam Village (Source: dhinasari.com)

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Every year the drama festival begins on Maha Sivarathri or ‘Great Night of Shiva’,  a Hindu festival celebrated annually in reverence to mark the marriage of Lord Shiva and goddess Parvati – the convergence of Shiva and Shakti. From that day onwards the villagers enact a drama daily for 100 days without any interruption.

Drama "Valli Thirumanam, " performed at Valayankulam Thanilinga Perumal temple..(Source: Facebook/Art and Cultural Rights of Folk Artists)
Drama “Valli Thirumanam, ” performed at Valayankulam Thanilinga Perumal temple..(Source: Facebook/Art and Cultural Rights of Folk Artists)

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The villagers believe that if anyone prays to their deity and pledges to stage a drama, the deity would hearken to their prayers. The villagers of Valayankulam boast that barren couples who pray for issues would come to the temple the following year with their offsprings and offer their thanks by sponsoring a drama.

A drama performed on stage at Valayankulam (Source: dhinasari.com) - 2
A drama peformed on stage at Valayankulam Village ( Source: dhinasari.com)

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Flaming Torches brought by the villagers from the village square to the stage.
Flaming Torches brought by the villagers from the village square to the stage.

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In the past, when there was no electricity, the villagers lit the stage using flaming torches. Hence even now, to uphold the tradition, the villagers carry flaming torches from the village square to the stage with pomp and ceremony before the day’s play begins. When the torch bearers reach the stage, the pujari or archaka (priest) performs special ceremonies in the temple.

Audience watching a drama peformed on stage at Valayankulam (Source: dhinasari.com)
Audience watching a drama performed on stage at Valayankulam (Source: dhinasari.com)

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View of the stage from the sanctum sanctorum of Thaanaai mulaitha Thanilinga Perumal (தானாய் முளைத்த தனிலிங்கப் பெருமாள்)
View of the stage from the sanctum sanctorum of Thaanaai mulaitha Thanilinga Perumal (தானாய் முளைத்த தனிலிங்கப் பெருமாள்)

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After paying the due respects to the seniors of the village, the play will begin at 10:00 pm and will proceed till 5:00 am the following day. The pujari keeps the door of the sanctum sanctorum open during this time for the deity to view the play.

The drama festivities will culminate on Chithra Fullmoon Day followed by a banquet for people belonging to all castes.

The minimum cost of staging a play by mediocre actors would amount to  ₹25,000 and might go up to ₹60,000 to ₹1,00,000 if performed by cinema actors. Almost all Tamil drama actors and artisans connected with the dramatic art have performed or taken part on the stage at Valayankulam before the deity Thanilinga Perumal.

Staging a play at Valayankulam whenever one likes is not easy as anyone might think. Devotees who have pledged to sponsor a play have to pay ₹100 and wait in a long queue for at least a year to stage it on a stipulated date.

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Note: I gleaned most of the above details from the article published in dhinasari.com written in Tamil titled, “வருடத்தில் 100 நாட்கள் நாடகம் நடைபெறும் கிராமம்” (“A village where dramas are performed 100 days per year”) by Mr. S.P. Senthilkumar, a reputed Tamil journalist from Madurai, Tamilnadu, India.

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Miracles Do Happen Even in This Kaliyug.


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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A Mother and daughter in Chennai (This picture was posted on Facebook)
A Mother and daughter in Chennai (This picture was posted on Facebook)

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In  the early hours of August 8, 2015, around 6:30 am,  a  walking group called “Twalkers” saw a mother and her daughter carrying a travelling bag at the Anna University Campus in Chennai,

The Twalkers saw them still standing in the same spot when they came around the second time. They inquired why they were standing there in the early hours.

Thangaponnu, the mother told them that she was a shepherdess from Musiri, a Panchayat town in the Tiruchirapalli district. Her daughter R. Swathi had scored 1017/1200 marks in her Plus Two examinations. After applying for entrance to B.Sc. Agriculture course, her daughter had been asked to come to Anna Arangam, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, to attend the counseling session ahead of the admissions process to B. Sc. Agriculture, scheduled to start at 8:30 am. She showed the letter received by her daughter from the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU).

On scrutinizing that letter,  the Twalkers saw the mistake. TNAU had directed Swathi to present herself at The Anna Arangam, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, in Coimbatore, but some people had  inadvertently misdirected them to Anna University, Chennai.

When the mother and daughter realized their mistake, they lost hope of reaching Coimbatore in time because the distance between Chennai and Coimbatore by road is 533 km (331 miles) and would take around 8 hours to travel.When the mother and daughter realized the mistake, they lost hope.

Since the counseling was to start at 8.30 a.m. in Coimbatore, the Twalkers decided to help the girl and her mother reach Coimbatore by air flight. The Twalkers decided to share the flight cost of ₹10,500.

Some Twalkers teaching at the Anna University, spoke to TNAU registrar C.R. Ananda Kumar, and explained to him the situation and asked for extra time for the girl candidate.

The Twalkers brought breakfast for the girl and her mother.

Once the flight tickets were booked and confirmed, the Twalkers took Swathi and her mother to the Chennai airport to board the 10:05 am Coimbatore flight.

The flight Swathi and her mother were on landed at 11:28 am in Coimbatore. Arrangements were made to pick them at the Coimbatore airport. They reached the TNAU counseling venue by 12:15 pm.

Around 2:00 pm Swathi got admitted to B.Tech. (Biotechnology).

Swathi and her mother are now planning to visit Chennai again soon to meet the Twalkers who had spontaneously helped and thank them. The mother said that they would return the money the Twalkers had spent to buy their flight tickets.

Isn’t this incidence a miracle in this Kaliyug.

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The Pallikaranai Wetland in Chennai: Part 2 – Now It Is a Concrete Jungle!


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Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj
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Why am I interested in wetlands and writing about them?

Because I am concerned.

My home in Jalladianpet in Chennai, Tamilnadu, India is just 2.5 miles (4 km) from the Pallikaranai wetland. Now, this once pristine idyllic wetland and many other smaller wetlands, pasture lands and patches of dry forest in Chennai are being transformed into concrete jungles!

That is why I am concerned.

I am not an environmentalist per se. I am just a layman. I seek protection of our natural environment from changes made by harmful human activities. I yearn for improvement in the quality of our surroundings worldwide for the benefit of our present and future generations.

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 My home in Jalladianpet is just 2.5 miles (4 km) from the Pallikaranai marsh.
My home in Jalladianpet is just 2.5 miles (4 km) from the Pallikaranai marsh.

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The Pallikarani wetland serves as nature’s primary aquifer recharge system for Chennai city. It harvests rainwater and the flood water during monsoons and thereby mitigates the desolation and suffering that floods could cause in low-lying areas in Chennai.

Four decades ago, this pristine idyllic wetland had a water spread of approximately 5,500 hectares estimated on the basis of the Survey of India toposheets (1972) and CORONA aerial photographs (1965).

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A large area of the Pallikaranai marshland is now a dump yard (Photo:  anidiotstraveldiaries.blogspot.in)
A large area of the Pallikaranai marshland is now a dump yard (Photo: anidiotstraveldiaries.blogspot.in)

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Lamentably, over the years, the Chennai Metropolitan authorities without giving any thought to the future recklessly chose to dump almost 2,600 tonnes of garbage per day, which is over one-third of the garbage of the ever-growing metropolis, here in this climatic marshland.

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Pallikaranai marsh (Photo: Simply CVR)
Pallikaranai marsh (Photo: Simply CVR)

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Now, the water spread has shrunk to one-tenth its size due to indiscriminate dumping of city refuse; discharging of sewage; disgorging toxic waste products, etc.

Many nature lovers have photographed the current palpable and saddening state of the Pallikaranai wetland. On June 8, 2013, The Hindu published the article “The mired marsh” by Shaju John. He has augmented his article with photographs captured by him in the post-Photo file: The mired marsh.

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A significant chunk of non-biodegradable waste is lost in the heaps.( (Photo: Shaju John/thehindu.com)
A significant chunk of non-biodegradable waste is lost in the heaps.( (Photo: Shaju John/thehindu.com)

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Thousands of tonnes of trash of all sorts containing non-biodegradable waste find their way to the wetland amidst the dumped refuse each day.

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Fires, lit to dispose off the garbage, are a regular and major health hazard.  (Photo: Shaju John/thehindu.com)
Fires, lit to dispose off the garbage, are a regular and major health hazard. (Photo: Shaju John/thehindu.com)

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While traveling along the roads around the Velachery wetland one encounters the unbearable stench emanating from the decaying garbage hillock. Despite the widespread clamour to stop burning rubbish in the dump yard that stifles the air and impairs visibility of commuters, the incessant burning goes on.

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The smoke from the garbage heaps chokes the air for miles around.  (Photo: Shaju John/thehindu.com)
The smoke from the garbage heaps chokes the air for miles around. (Photo: Shaju John/thehindu.com)

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Despite the toxic smoke rag-pickers, mostly children living in inhospitable slums, frequent the garbage dumps.

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The burning continues despite widespread clamour for alternatives. (Photo: Shaju John/thehindu.com)
The burning continues despite widespread clamour for alternatives. (Photo: Shaju John/thehindu.com)

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Air samples from the Perungudi garbage dumping yard registered the highest number of chemicals found in any Indian sample. The air contained cancer-causing and other harmful chemicals.

People living miles around the Pallikaranai wetland continually inhale the omnipresent malodorous virulent air. They suffer the stifling smoke. They have no other alternative than to use the polluted and poisoned ground water. These factors subject them to major wheezing and carcinogenic health hazards.

On June 15, 2012, a concerned Jaison Jeeva uploaded the following video on YouTube. It shows the fire accident that happened at the garbage dumps in Pallikaranai. The incident caused physical and mental disturbance to the people in the vicinity.

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There is an incredible rate of development in the Pallikaranai wetland. The sanctioning of many IT parks has resulted in countless high-rise office and residential buildings.

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A high rise building (Cognizant Technology) on Velachery Tambaram Road.  (Photo - T.V. Antony Raj)
A high rise building (Cognizant Technology) on Velachery Tambaram Road. (Photo – T.V. Antony Raj)

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The campus of the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), Engineering and Dental Colleges, and Hospitals have been built on the marshland.

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One of the flyovers constructed  in the midst of the marshland (Photo credit: N. Lalitha and C.R .Sivapradha)
One of the flyovers constructed in the midst of the marshland (Photo credit: N. Lalitha and C.R .Sivapradha)

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Velachery MRTS Railway station (Photo - Simply CVR)
Velachery MRTS Railway station (Photo – Simply CVR)

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All these encroachments have led to building infrastructures such as the Velachery MRTS railway station, the flyovers, the road connecting old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR) and Pallavaram, etc., in the midst of the marshland.

Sadly, all these rampant developments have shrunk the water spread.

With policies in place to crack down on encroachment, illegal waste disposal, and poaching, there is still hope for saving the Pallikaranai wetland.

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Pallikaranai marsh, which was once a scenic wetland has lost its charm, mainly on account of rapid urbanisation. (Photo:  M. Karunakaran)
Pallikaranai marsh, which was once a scenic wetland has lost its charm, mainly on account of rapid urbanisation. (Photo: M. Karunakaran)

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In 2007, to protect the remaining wetland from shrinking further, 317 hectares of the marsh were declared by notification as a reserve forest by the State of Tamilnadu.

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Road connecting old Mahabhalipuram Road (OMR) and Pallavaram over Pallikaranai Marshland, Chennai, (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)
Road connecting old Mahabhalipuram Road (OMR) and Pallavaram over Pallikaranai Marshland, Chennai, (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)

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Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve  showing the road connecting old Mahabhalipuram Road (OMR) and Pallavaram that bisects the marsh
Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve showing the road connecting old Mahabhalipuram Road (OMR) and Pallavaram that bisects the marsh

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Even so, it is the opinion of the scientists and researchers involved in the study of the wetland that an additional 150 hectares of undeveloped region located on both sides of the road connecting old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR) and Pallavaram that bisects the marsh should also be declared a forest reserve.

An official release on Friday, June 9, 2006 the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) underscores the need to protect the rare species of fauna and flora in the ecologically important wetland of Chennai.

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Dumping sewage into the Pallikaranai marshland.
Dumping sewage into the Pallikaranai marshland.

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To retain the groundwater recharging potential the TNPCB banned the dumping of garbage and discharge of sewage and industrial effluents into the Pallikaranai marshland. The TNPCB directive states that untreated sewage should be discharged only into the sewage treatment plant operated by Metrowater at Perungudi. The TNPCB warned that violators of its directions would be Penalized without prior notice under section 15 (1) of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

On June 10, 2006, The Hindu in an article titled “Dumping banned in Pallikaranai marsh” said:

The punishment under this section involves imprisonment for a term, which may extend to five years or with fine, which may extend to Rs.1 lakh, or both. In cases of repeated violation, the penalty involves additional fine, which may extend to Rs. 5,000 for every day during which the contravention occurs, after the conviction for the first violation.

Further, if the violation continues beyond a period of one year after the date of first conviction, the offender is liable to be imprisoned for a term that may extend to seven years. According to the press note, the basis of the directive is a routine inspection of the Perungudi dump site and the marsh zone by the TNPCB, which found that unsegregated garbage along with other wastes emptied into the marshland by the Chennai Corporation and other local bodies as well as private agencies. This garbage is burnt by ragpickers, causing nuisance to the residential areas and setting off air-pollution. The inspection also observed that untreated sewage collected from nearby areas in tanker lorries was being discharged into the marshland.

The TNPCB has also constituted a Local Area Environment Committee to protect the marsh. The public can refer any complaint on discharge of sewage or solid wastes into the marsh area by any agencies to this committee through the District Environmental Engineer, TNPCB, Tambaram (Phone 22266239). The Pollution Control Board’s announcement comes just days after a non-governmental initiative released the results of a recent study on air quality.

In April 2008, the Madras High Court directed the State Government of Tamilnadu to remove all encroachments on the Pallikaranai marshlands. The Madras High Court also directed the Chennai Corporation not to allow the four municipalities – Pallavaram, Madipakkam, Kottivakkam and Valasaravakkam – to dump garbage at Perungudi after April 30, 2008.

On April 3, 2008, The Hindu in an article titled “Court directive on Perungudi garbage dump” said:

Passing interim orders on two writ petitions, the Bench said the State Government should not permit any construction activity on the marshlands. The court appointed a six-member expert committee, with Sheela Rani Chunkath, Chairperson, TIIC, as its convener to inspect the Perungudi Municipal Solid Waste Yard, CMWSSB treatment plant and the surrounding areas and submit a report regarding the suitability of the present site for usage and the continuance as a municipal solid waste ground and sewage treatment plant; to review compliance of various legislations, guidelines, rules and regulations in relation to dumping of solid waste and discharge of sewage; to review the earlier studies done by various agencies, and the measures taken and proposed to protect the Pallikaranai marsh and render suggestions for restoration and protection of the marsh.

The committee would also suggest measures for remediation of the land, ground water, flora and fauna in the marsh and Seevaram, Pallikaranai, Thoraipakkam and Perungudi villages. It would also consider the cumulative aspects of dumping of garbage, discharge of sewage and conversion of the marshlands to other use and suggest scientific alternative methods of dumping of garbage and discharge of sewage in the light of the methods in other countries.

The committee would conduct public hearing to ascertain the views of the residents of the four villages. The report should be made within six months, the Bench said.

Pending receipt of the report, the Chennai Corporation was directed not to permit their trucks to dump garbage on either side of the road and to remove the garbage already dumped on either side of 60 Feet Road abutting the residential areas and also the 200 feet road, within four weeks. It should demarcate the area of 200 acres which had been allotted to it by CMWSSB and further demarcate 106 acres which was actually used for dumping waste. Security at the dumping site should be increased to prevent incidents of fire. Appropriate scheme for segregating biodegradable and non-biodegradable wastes should be evolved and submitted to the court within three months.

The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board in its report in respect of the landfill at Perungudi submitted that the Chennai Corporation had not complied with the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000.

Seven years have passed since then, but even now, dumping of garbage and sewage in the Pallikaranai marshland by the Chennai metropolitan authorities goes on unabated.

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The Pallikaranai Wetland in Chennai: Part 1 – Flora and Fauna


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Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj
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Pallikaranai marshland (Photo : T.V. Antony Raj)
Pallikaranai marshland (Photo : T.V. Antony Raj)

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Why am I interested in wetlands and writing about them?

Because I am concerned.

I am not an environmentalist per se. I am just a layman. I seek protection of our natural environment from changes made by harmful human activities. I yearn for improvement in the quality of our surroundings worldwide for the benefit of our present and future generations.

My home in Jalladianpet in Chennai, Tamilnadu, India is just 2.5 miles (4 km) from the Pallikaranai wetland. Now, this once pristine idyllic wetland and many other smaller wetlands, pasture lands and patches of dry forest in Chennai are being transformed into concrete jungles!

That is why I am concerned.

What is a wetland?

A wetland is technically defined as:

An ecosystem that arises when inundation by water produces soils dominated by anaerobic processes, which, in turn, forces the biota, particularly rooted plants, to adapt to flooding.

Wetlands consist of hydric soil, which supports aquatic plants. The primary factor that distinguishes wetlands from other landforms or water bodies is the characteristic vegetation that adapts to its unique soil conditions  and the fauna that inhabit it

There are four main kinds of wetlands: marsh, swamp, bog and fen. Sub-types include mangrove, carr, pocosin, and varzea. Some experts also include wet meadows and aquatic ecosystems as additional wetland types.  (Read my article: Save the Wetlands)

Wetlands of Tamilnadu, India

There are three wetlands in the state of Tamilnadu, in India: Point Calimere,  Kazhuveli, and  Pallikaranai.

In 1985-86, the National Wetland Conservation and Management Programme (NWCMP) of the Government of India listed Point Calimere, Kazhuveli Wetland, and the Pallikaranai Marsh among the 94 identified wetlands in India.

Point Calimere, Kazhuveli  wetland, and the Pallikaranai wetland are three of the 94 identified wetlands under

The forests of Point Calimere 

Point Calimere, also called Cape Calimere (Tamil: கோடியக்கரை Kodiakkarai), is a low headland on the Coromandel Coast, in the Nagapattinam district of the state of Tamil Nadu, India.

The forests of Point Calimere are also known as the Vedaranyam forests. They are the last remnants of the East Deccan dry evergreen forests.

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Point Calimere Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary, Map (Author: Marcus334/Wikimedia Commons)
Point Calimere Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary, Map (Author: Marcus334/Wikimedia Commons)

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On June 13, 1967, the Point Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary with an area of 24.17 square km was created. The sanctuary includes the cape with its three natural habitat types: dry evergreen forests, mangrove forests, and wetlands.

The Kazhuveli wetland

Kazhuveli the second largest brackish water lake in South India lies adjacent to the Bay of Bengal along the East Coast Road. It is located about 18 km north of Pondicherry in the Tindivanam Taluk of Villupuram district in Tamil Nadu.

Once a mangrove forest, Kazhuveli, has degraded over a period of time. It encompasses about 15 villages with a catchment area of 4,722 hectares. A total of 196 minor irrigation tanks and ponds drains into the Kazhuveli wetlands.

Now, the entire ecosystem of Kazhuveli wetland is completely destroyed and denuded by human inference, chiefly, due the growth of salt pans and aggressive fishing. It is one of the prioritized wetlands of Tamil Nadu.

The Pallikaranai wetland

City in the background of Pallikaranai wetland (Photo:  anidiotstraveldiaries.blogspot.in)
City in the background of Pallikaranai wetland (Photo: anidiotstraveldiaries.blogspot.in)

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The Pallikaranai wetland is among the few and last remaining natural wetlands of South India.

Historically, a large part of South Chennai was a flood plain composed of the large Pallikaranai wetland, smaller satellite wetlands, large tracts of pasture land and patches of dry forest.

The Pallikaranai wetland is a freshwater marshland spanning 31 square miles (80 square km). It is the natural primary aquifer recharge system for Chennai city.

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Source: campbelltown.sa.gov.au
Source: campbelltown.sa.gov.au

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The Pallikaranai wetland situated adjacent to the Bay of Bengal, is about 12.5 miles (20 Km) south of the city centre. Bounded by Velachery (north), Okkiyam Thuraipakkam (east), Medavakkam (south) and Kovilambakkam (west), the Pallikaranai wetland is the only surviving wetland ecosystem of the city.

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Map of Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve Forest.
Map of Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve Forest.

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The terrain consists of fresh/saline water bodies, reed beds, mud flats and floating vegetation.

The original expanse of the Pallikaranai wetland, estimated on the basis of the Survey of India toposheets (1972) and CORONA aerial photographs (1965) was about 5,500 hectares. This vast area has now been reduced to about 600 hectares.

Flora and Fauna

Vedanthangal bird sanctuary in the Kancheepuram District in Tamil Nadu, India, is 47 miles (75 km) from Chennai. It hosts more than 40,000 birds (including 26 rare species), from various parts of the world during the migratory season every year.

Now, Pallikaranai wetland is almost four times the size of the Vedanthangal bird sanctuary and is literally a treasury of bio-diversity.

The Pallikaranai wetland has several rare and endangered species of flora and fauna. The marsh acts as a forage and breeding ground for thousands of migratory birds from various places within and outside the country. Bird watchers opine that the number of bird species sighted in the Pallikaranai wetland is definitely more than what they get to see in the Vedanthangal bird sanctuary.

Figures of the number of fauna and flora found in the Pallikaranai wetland differ among scholars conducting research here.

Among the many quiet contributors to the mapping of India’s natural treasures is Dr. Jayashree Vencatesan, Smithsonian Fellow and researcher, and managing trustee of Care Earth Trust. She obtained a Ph.D. in Biodiversity and Biotechnology from the University of Madras. She is best-known for her research work on biodiversity and studies in wetland ecology.

Dr. Jayashree Vencatesan
Dr. Jayashree Vencatesan

In 2003, the Tamilnadu State Pollution Control Board assigned to Dr. Jayashree Vencatesan the task of conducting a detailed study of Chennai’s last remaining wetland – the Pallikaranai marsh, which is suffering from degradation caused by human impact. The study had two components – to document the biodiversity and to map the extent of the marsh to define or identify a viable unit of management.

In her work “Protecting wetlands” published on August 10, 2007, Current Science 93 (3): 288–290, she states that the heterogeneous ecosystem of the Pallikaranai marshland supports about 337 species of floras and faunas:

GROUP NUMBER OF SPECIES
Birds 115
Plants 114
Fishes 46
Reptiles 21
Mammals 10
Amphibians 10
Molluscs 9
Butterflies 7
Crustaceans 5
Total 337

Birds, fishes and reptiles are the most prominent of the faunal groups.

Dr. K .Venkataraman, Director of Zoological Survey of India (ZSI)
Dr. K. Venkataraman

However, on August 9, 2013, P. Oppili reported in The Hindu that Dr. K. Venkataraman, Director of Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) while discussing the diversity of species in the marshland, as nine species of amphibians, 21 species of reptiles, 72 species of birds, five species of mammals, 38 species of fish, nine species of shells and 59 species of aquatic and terrestrial insects had been recorded, besides a good number of plankton.

The Pallikaranai wetland is the home to some of the most endangered birds such as the glossy ibis, gray-headed Lapwings and pheasant-tailed Jacana.

Pheasant-tailed Jacana spotted in Pallikaranai Wetland, Chennai (Photo: Sudharsun Jayaraj)
Pheasant-tailed Jacana spotted in Pallikaranai Wetland, Chennai (Photo: Sudharsun Jayaraj)

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Purple Swamphen-Moorhen in Pallikaranai wetland, Chennai (Photo - Sudharsun Jayaraj)
Purple Swamphen-Moorhen in Pallikaranai wetland, Chennai (Photo – Sudharsun Jayaraj)

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FulvourWhistlingDucks (Photo: GnanaskandanK)
FulvourWhistlingDucks (Photo: GnanaskandanK)

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Cormorants, darters, herons, egrets, open-billed storks, spoonbills, white ibis, little grebe, Indian Cormorants, darters, herons, egrets, open-billed storks, spoonbills, white ibis, little grebe, Indian moorhen, Black-winged Stilts, purple moorhens, warblers, coots and dabchicks have been spotted in large numbers in the marshland.

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Russel's Viper (Source:  umich.edu)
Russel’s Viper (Source: umich.edu)

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The Pallikaranai wetland is also home to some of the most endangered reptiles such as the Russell’s viper.

About 114 species of plants are found in the wetland, including 29 species of grass. These plant species include some exotic floating vegetation such as water hyacinth and water lettuce.

Since 2002,  presence of new plants and  reptiles have been recorded.

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“The Good Samaritan” Narayanan Krishnan’s Actions Speak Louder than Words!


Myself 

 

 

BT.V. Antony Raj

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If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.
–  Mother Teresa

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Narayanan Krishnan - The Good Samaritan

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Born in 1981, Narayanan Krishnan, a former award-winning chef hails from Madurai, Tamilnadu, India.

In 2002, while working at Taj Hotels, Bengaluru, India, he secured a job as a chef in a five-star hotel in Switzerland. Before heading for Europe, he went to his birthplace to see his parents. There, on his way to a temple, he saw a distressing scene. Narayanan recalls:

“I saw a very old man, literally eating his own human waste out of hunger. I went to the nearby hotel and asked them what was available. They had idli [rice cake], which I bought and gave to the old man. Believe me, I had never seen a person eating so fast, ever. As he ate the food, his eyes were filled with tears. Those were the tears of happiness.”

Narayanan forfeited the job in Switzerland. From June 2002 onwards, using his savings of about $2500, he started distributing around 30 food packets a day for the destitute in and around Madurai City.

Narayanan Krishnan action reminds me of an incident in the Gospel of Mark:

Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21)

akshaya-logo

In 2003, Narayanan Krishnan founded the nonprofit Akshaya Trust. In Sanskrit, Akshaya means “non-depleting.” In Hindu mythology, Goddess Annapoorani fed the hungry with the never depleting “Akshaya bowl”. Krishnan said that he chose the name Akshaya “to signify that human compassion should never decay or perish … The spirit of helping others must prevail forever.”

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Narayanan Krishnan preparing the vegetables.
Narayanan Krishnan preparing the vegetables.

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Narayanan Krishnan wakes up every day at 4 am and with his team, prepares a simple hot meal. After loading the cooked food in a donated van, the team goes out to feed around 400 destitute, mentally disabled, and elderly people in Madurai. He provides them breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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Narayanan Krishnan shaves a destitute.

Narayanan Krishnan shaves a destitute.

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He not only feeds the needy, he has also acquired the skills of a barber. With the comb, scissors and razor he carries along with him, he cuts hair and shaves those he serves, transforming them into dignified persona. Krishnan says:

“I cut their hair, I give them a shave, I give them a bath. For them to feel, psychologically, that they are also human beings, that there are people to care for them, that they have a hand to hold, and a hope to live. Food is one part, and love is another part. So, the food will give them physical nutrition, and the love and affection which you show will give them mental nutrition.”

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Narayanan Krishnan hugging the destitute

Narayanan Krishnan, born into the Brahmin caste says:

“Brahmins are not supposed to touch these people, clean these people, hug these people, feed these people. Everybody has got 5.5 liters of blood. I am just a human being. For me, everybody is the same. “

Many destitute people do not know their names or where they come from. Some, because of their conditions, are paranoid and hostile. They do not beg, ask for help or offer thanks. Even then, their attitude only helps strengthen Krishnan’s steadfast resolve to help them.

“The panic, suffering of the human hunger is the driving force in me and my team members of Akshaya,” he said. “I get this energy from the people. The food which I cook … the enjoyment which they get is the energy. I see the soul. I want to save my people.”

In 2010, Narayanan Krishnan was in “CNN heroes 2010” list. He was selected among the top 10 out of 10,000 nominations from more than 100 countries.

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Narayanan Krishnan summarizes his goal:

What is the ultimate purpose of life? It is to give! Start giving. See the joy in giving.

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Actress Bhuvaneswari, the Beautiful Voluptuous Siren Caught in Prostitution


Readers have viewed this post more than 22,655  times.

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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Bhuvaneshwari means “The Queen of the Universe.” In Hinduism, there are ten Mahavidya goddesses and Bhuvaneshwari is the fourth. The goddess is an aspect of Durga or Devi. She can transform situations according to her wish. The Navagrahas (9 planets) and Trimurti (Trinity) cannot stop her from doing anything, and in Tamilnadu it is the same with actress Bhuvaneswari the dream girl of many South Indians and nothing can stop her from getting involved into avoidable problems.

Actress Bhuvaneswari
Actress Bhuvaneswari

According to “Koppiyam” telecast on Raj TV, actress Bhuvaneswari, also known as the poonai kan (cat-eyed) Bhuvaneswari, the voluptuous and sexy actress South Indian B grade actress hails from Sankarankovil, Tirunelveli District, 56 km away from Tirunelveli City. She studied B.Com., at the Rani Anna Government College for Women, Tirunelveli. But other sources claim that Bhuvaneswari was born on June 4, 1975, in Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh, India; and a Facebook page bearing her name mentions her mother tongue is Hindi.

With her beautiful mien and voluptuous figure she got selected to act in an ad for a leading textile firm in T. Nagar, Chennai. From then on she received calls to act in minor roles in TV serials.

In 2002, due to a misunderstanding with a politician the police arrested her for prostitution. When she came out on bail, her husband left her with her child.

In 2003, film director Shankar offered Bhuvaneswari a chance to play the role of a prostitute in the movie “Boys” directed by him. She performed the role with alacrity using her real-life experiences. This movie was simultaneously released in Tamil and Telugu bearing the same name as the title.

Here is a clip from the Telugu version of the movie:

From then on Bhuvaneswari garnered young fans who revered her as their dream girl.

She was then offered scintillating sexy minor roles in many Telugu and Tamil films and seductive villainous roles in Tamil and Telugu TV serials, and more opportunities to prostitute herself came her way.

Bhuvaneswari speaking at a political meeting.
Bhuvaneswari speaking at a political meeting.

Politicians approached her for their party propaganda work. However, when problems arose due to her flesh trade, her high-profile clients and the politicians who banked on her glamour for propagating their party ideology, forsook her.

In real life, Bhuvaneswari got arrested more than once for running prostitution rackets in Chennai. In 2008, police arrested her for prostitution. However, she was given a clean chit and was released due to political pressure.

Actress Bhuvaneswari
Actress Bhuvaneswari

The proverb “Once bitten, twice shy” does not apply to actress Bhuvaneswari.

When the police received complaints from Bhuvaneshwari’s neighbors, they raided her apartment in Shastri Nagar, Chennai on Friday, October 2, 2009. Caught while entertaining her customers, Bhuvaneswari was once again arrested along with two of her accomplices for allegedly running a brothel at her residence.

Her arrest shook Kollywood and Tollywood. She said that she can name many major and minor actresses in the South Indian cine field who charged their clients lakhs of rupees per hour for entertaining within closed doors.

The police said that Bhuvaneswari ran a high-profile brothel for many years. According to reports from one source, she charged rates ranging from rupees 10,000 to two lakhs per hour for their services while another source said she charged two lakhs to seven lakhs.

She was later acquitted.

In late 2012, Bhuvaneswari went with her friends that included her lawyer Mr. Damodaran to see actor Vijay’s movie “Thuppaki” at Prarthana drive-in theatre in Injambakkam, a town in Kancheepuram district in Tamilnadu. As their car entered the premises of the drive-in theatre, it bashed into the car in front. An altercation ensued between their driver and Mr. Kumar the driver of the damaged car. Police reported that Lawyer Damodaran assaulted Kumar. Bhuvaneswari also got out of the car and harangued Kumar.

Selvaraj, an employee in the drive-in theatre tried to pacify the two parties and Bhuvaneswari’s friends beat him too.

On receiving information about the incident, police from Neelangarai Police Station arrived at the scene. While Sub-Inspector Krishnamoorthy and Jeep drive Bhaskar were admonishing Bhuvaneswari and her friends, a gang of thugs appeared on the scene and assaulted the policemen, the theatre staff, and a few members of the public who were in the theatre premises. The thugs also damaged flower pots and digital banners.

When they saw Sub-Inspector Krishnamoorthy staggering as a consequence of the blows he received, Bhuvaneswari and her friends scooted from the scene in their car.

The police registered a case against Lawyer Damodaran, actress Bhuvaneswari, and her friends under nine sections including attempt to murder, damaging public and private property, and so forth, and were on a constant lookout for them.

The police then received information that the absconding actress, the lawyer and others were on their way to Bengaluru via Velore by road. The alerted Ambur police and the highway police inspected all vehicles plying on that route.

At 10 am they stopped a Lenova car carrying Bhuvaneswari. When the police asked her whether she was Bhuvaneswari, she had replied that she was a businesswoman returning to her home in Bengaluru.

After actress Bhuvaneswari and Lawyer Damaodran were apprehended,. Six others involved in the case surrendered to the police, and all were lodged in the Puzhal Central Prison in Chennai.

Bhuvaneswari has acted in more than 50 films in Telugu and Tamil languages, such as Boys (2003), Donga Ramudu & Party (2003), Sema Ragalaiand (2004) Gudumba Shankar (2004), Konchem Touchlo Vunte Cheputanu (2005), Nuwante Naakistam (2005), Hello Premistara (2007), Kurkure (2008), Pinchu Manasu (2009), Vattapparai (2009), Nagaram (2010), Ranga The Donga (2010), Agarathi (2011), Gaali (2013), Sravya (2013), Ala Jarigindi Oka Roju (2013) and many more. Bhuvaneswari acted as the leading heroine in the film “Kurkure“.

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Police Arrest Actress Shruti Chandralekha for Murdering Her Live-in Partner


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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On May 12, 2014, the officials of the Tirunelveli City Police and the District Revenue Department of Tirunelveli assembled at a spot in Asirvatha Nagar in Palayamkottai, Tamilnadu, India, and exhumed the body of a 36-year-old mechanical engineer and a film financier who was reported missing since January 2014.

Ronald Peter Prinzo
Ronald Peter Prinzo

According to the Police, Ronald Peter Prinzo, the deceased, hailed from Parapadi village in Nanguneri Taluk, Tirunelveli District, in Tamilnadu, India. He was married and had two sons.

Uma Chandran
Uma Chandran

Prinzo along with his friend Uma Chandran of Palayamkottai ran computer centers in many towns including Tenkasi, Alankulam, and Pavoor Chathiram. When the computer centers ran at a loss, Prinzo left for Kolkata. There he earned a good deal of money from various ventures. He then came to Chennai and started an online trading business. His friend Uma Chandran joined him as the partner and invested money in Prinzo’s online trading business.

After leasing a house in V.R.S. Nagar First Street, in Maduravoyal, West of Chennai, Prinzo traveled once a month to Tirunelveli to see his family.

Prinzo also financed Tamil films and had acted in a couple of them. Even though the two movies were never released, he got acquainted with many people in the cine field.

Shruti Chandralekha (Source: timesofindia.indiatimes.com)
Shruti Chandralekha (Source: timesofindia.indiatimes.com)

In 2012, he met the gentle, soft-spoken, 22-year-old Shruti Chandralekha, a married budding actress from Bengaluru, at a film shoot in Salem.

Shruti had acted in minor roles in some Tamil and Kannada films. She had gotten married when she was 16 to a person named Manjunath. But after a few years she left her husband and started acting in minor roles in Kannada and Tamil films.

Shruthi moved into Prinzo’s residence as his live-in partner.

After a few months, Prinzo started bringing many other women to his house for his carnal pleasure. This infuriated Shruthi and she quarrelled with him constantly.

The online trading failed. Prinzo’s business partner, Uma Chandran asked him to return the money he had invested. But Prinzo refused to pay him. After that Uma Chandran constantly pestered Prinzo for the money.

Prinzo forced Shruti into prostitution. He decided to make porn movies and relentlessly pressurized Shruti to take part in group sex in the porn films. He also started bringing many other women to his house for his carnal pleasure. This infuriated Shruthi and she quarrelled with him constantly.

An enraged Uma Chandran waited patiently for a chance to avenge Prinzo. He then came to know that Prinzo and Shruti were not getting along well. He and some of his friends met with Shruti and hatched a plot to murder Prinzo.

On the night of January 18, 2014, when Prinzo came home, Shruti gave him poisoned milk to drink while being intimate with him.

After the poison took effect, Uma Chandran, John Prinson, and their friends from Tirunelveli – Honest Raj alias Saddam, Gandhimathinathan alias Vijay, Vijay, Rafiq Usman, Vinoth Nirmal Singh and Elisa – entered the house and strangled Prinzo with nylon rope.

Shruti and the murderers reportedly took rupees 75 lakh in cash, a Volkswagen Polo car, and other valuables from Prinzo and shared the booty.

They took the body in a car all the way from Maduravoyal to Maharajanagar in Palayamkottai and buried the body in an already dug up deep trench in a vacant plot in Asirvatham Nagar.

A fortnight later, on February 1, 2014, Shruti lodged a complaint with the Maduravoyal police saying that her ‘husband’ Prinzo was missing since January 18, 2014.

Justin, brother of Ronald Peter Prinzo
Justin, brother of Ronald Peter Prinzo

On April 12, 2014, Justin Prinzo, elder brother of Ronald Prinzo lodged a similar complaint at the Palayamkottai Police Station about his missing younger brother.

On May 10, while returning to Tirunelveli from Chennai, Justin saw his brother’s car in Madurai. When he intercepted it, he found John Prinson driving it. When Justin asked about his brother Prinson gave contradictory answers and said Prinzo had gone to Calcutta. Not satisfied, Justin informed the police about Prinzon driving his missing brother’s car.

The Maduravoyal police picked up Prinson and he confessed to the crime.

By the time the police arrived, Shruti and Uma Chandran absconded. The police arrested Uma Chandran’s accomplices Sadam, Vijay, Rafeeq and Vinoth.

Umachandran's accomplices showing the spot where they buried  the body of Ronald Peter Prinzo.
Uma Chandran’s accomplices showing the spot where they buried the body of Ronald Peter Prinzo.

On May 12, 2014, Prinzo’s body was exhumed after Uma Chandran’s accomplices showed the officials of the Tirunelveli City Police and the District Revenue Department of Tirunelveli the spot where they buried the dead body. A post-mortem was conducted on the recovered remnants of Prinzo’s decomposed dead body.

In the meantime, Maduravoyal police received information that Shruti was taking part in a shooting of a Tamil film at Mahabalipuram. Before the police arrived, Shruti took off from the shooting venue along with her new paramour Uma Chandran and his aide Vinoth Nirmal.

The police then received a tip-off that she was hiding in the house of a relative in Bengaluru. But again, she escaped to Hyderabad. Shruti and Uma Chandran confounded the police by skipping from one place to another.

Eventually, on Thursday, September 4, 2014, Chennai police apprehended Shruti in Bengaluru. Shruti was produced before a court and remanded.

The hunt is now on to nab Uma Chandran, the prime accused, and his aide Vinoth Nirmal.

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Dhanushkodi – Fifty Years After the Cyclone of 1964


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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A cyclonic storm now referred to as the 1964 Rameswaram cyclone or the Dhanushkodi cyclone started with the depression that formed in the South Andaman Sea on December 17, 1964. On December 19, it intensified into a severe cyclonic storm. From December 21, it moved westwards, 400 km to 550 km per day. On December 22, it crossed Vavunia in Sri Lanka with a wind speed of 280 km per hour.

On December 22-23 night, the cyclone moved into Palk Strait and made landfall in Dhanushkodi, at the southern tip of Rameswaram island, on the eastern coast of Tamil Nadu, India. The devastating tidal waves that were 7 metres high submerged all houses and other structures in Dhanushkodi town  with heavy casualties.

On December 22, 1964, the tidal wave smashed into the Pamban-Dhanushkodi Passenger train and washed it into the sea while it was crossing the viaduct during the cyclonic storm.

 The railway track in Dhanushkodi destroyed by the cyclone of December 22, 1964
The railway track in Dhanushkodi destroyed by the cyclone of December 22 – 25, 1964.

More than 100 passengers drowned in the sea. The death toll was estimated to be anywhere between 115 and 200. The variation is due to the many ticketless travellers. The railway line running from Pamban Station to Dhanushkodi Pier was washed away.

The 1¼ mile-long Pamban Rail Bridge over the Pamban Channel, that links the Indian mainland with the island of Rameswaram was also badly damaged; 126 of its 145 girders collapsed. However, the lift span was barely damaged.

The Pamban bridge after restoration (Source: the hindu.com)
The Pamban bridge after restoration (Source: the hindu.com)

Most of the girders were salvaged from the sea and the Pamban viaduct was working once again in a span of just three months time.

The metre gauge branch line from Pamban Junction to Dhanushkodi was abandoned after the cyclone destroyed it.

Prior to the cyclone, Dhanushkodi was once a flourishing town. Then, the Railway line to Dhanushkodi, destroyed in the 1964 cyclone, went directly from Mandapam station to Dhanushkodi without touching Rameswaram. In those days Dhanushkodi had a railway station, a small railway hospital, primary schools, a post office, customs and port offices. There were hotels, dharmashalas (religious rest houses), and many textile shops that catered to the Hindu pilgrims and travellers to Sri Lanka.

A map showing the ferry route from Dhanushkod, Indiai to Talaimannar , Sri Lanka (Source:-Wikimedia Commons)
A map showing the ferry route from Dhanushkod, Indiai to Talaimannar , Sri Lanka (Source:-Wikimedia Commons)

Dhanushkodi is about 18 miles (29 km) West of Talaimannar, Sri Lanka (then Ceylon). There was a steamer ferry service which operated daily from the pier on the south-east of the Dhanushkodi town to the pier at Talaimannar. The ferry transported travellers and goods, across the Palk Strait.

In the 1950s and 1960s, I used to travel to Ceylon by the Dhanushkodi-Talimannar steamer ferry.

The Indo-Ceylon Express, also known as the Boat Mail train, plied from 1915 to 1964 on a metre gauge track between Egmore Station in Chennai (then known as Madras) and Dhanushkodi. It took almost 19 hours to complete the journey of 420 miles (675 Km).

Ferry service from Dhanushkodi Pier to Talaimannar in the 1950s.
Ferry service from Dhanushkodi Pier to Talaimannar in the 1950s.

After the Boat Mail train reached Dhanushkodi Pier at 15:05 hours in the afternoon, the passengers after alighting from the train had to pass through the customs before boarding the ferry which used to leave the Indian shore soon after 16:00 hours. Depending on the weather, it took between 2 and 3½ hours to cross the very shallow Palk Bay and reach the Talaimannar Pier in Sri Lanka. The voyage used to be bumpy and nauseating when the sea was rough.

The name of the train changed from Indo-Ceylon Express to Rameswaram Express after the 1964 cyclone. Now, it is a 12-hour journey from Chennai to Rameswaram on a broad-gauge track.

On June 12, 2014, my wife and I along with relatives left Chennai on Rameswaram Express to attend a wedding at Pamban town. We reached Rameswaram the following day around 5:30 am and lodged in a hotel. We hired a van and left the hotel around 11:00 am to see Dhanushkodi.

After travelling for 20 minutes, we reached Dhanushkodi. Even 50 years after the cyclone of 1964, Dhanushkodi remains a dilapidated strip of land.

The driver stopped the van at a spot on the Indian Ocean side where many other vans carrying tourists were parked.

The driver said he cannot go farther as local regulations, meaning rules set by the local cartel of van drivers, forbids it. But the members of that association ply a number of their own vans to ferry the travellers to the end of Dhanushkodi and charge ₹100/- per person. At the end of the journey we paid ₹2,200/-.

After 35 minutes of a bumpy ride by van, on shallow waters and muddy tracts, we reached the tip of Dhanushkodi where Adam’s Bridge, a chain of sand shoals between Dhanushkodi and Talaimannar begins. The distance from the tip of Dhanushkodi in India and Talimannar in Sri Lanka is about 18 miles (29 km). The Dhanushkodi fishermen say that some sand dunes are just 50 yards in length. Surprisingly, the smallest land border in the world, is a shoal in Palk Bay between India and Sri Lanka – just 45 metres in length.

An eerie stillness prevailed around us except for the chatter of the few tourists subdued by the sound of waves. There were a few marine birds pecking on the soggy earth searching for food and many sea eagles circling in the air ready to swoop on any prey they could spot in the shallow waters or on the muddy land.

We saw many Hindu pilgrims bathing in the Palk Bay. The Hindus believe that pilgrimage to the holy city of Kashi (Benares / Varanasi) in North India would not be complete without having the ritual bath at the tip of Dhanushkodi, considered a sacred confluence of the Palk Bay and the Indian Ocean, before completing their pilgrimage to Rameswaram.

St. Antony's Church at Dhanuskodi devastated by the cyclone of 1964 (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)
St. Antony’s Church at Dhanushkodi devastated by the cyclone of 1964 (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)

It was heartrending to see only thatched huts and no buildings with standing walls. The only walls we saw were the dilapidated walls of St. Anthony’s church and of a school devastated during the cyclone of 1964.

Trinkets and ornaments made from seashells (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)
Trinkets and ornaments made from seashells (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)

The main trade other than fishing was the sale of conch shells, and trinkets and ornaments made of shells sold at exorbitant prices to tourists and pilgrims.

Eventually, we left Dhanushkodi around 2:30 pm with a heavy heart after having seen the ravages wrought by the 1964 cyclone.

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A Shortcut to Learn French


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj
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Learn French

THE COMMONEST WORDS IN FRENCH

In 1958, I opted for French as second language for my Bachelors degree, at St. Xavier’s College, Palayamkottai, Tamilnadu, India.

Rev. Fr. Moumas, S.J. (Photo taken in 1979 by T.V. Antony Raj)
Rev. Fr. Moumas, S.J. (Photo taken in 1979 by T.V. Antony Raj)

It was the late Rev. Fr. Moumas S.J., a saintly jovial Jesuit priest from Gascony, who taught me French.

Learning the language was never an easy task. I used to spend a lot of time reading French novels borrowed from the wellstocked college library. In the 1960s and 70s, after graduating, while being employed in Sri Lanka, I used to visit the Library at the Alliance Française in Colombo often, trying to brush up and augment the French I learned in college. During this time, I took down notes and found an easy method to learn French.

Recently, while browsing through my old papers and books, I came across four pages of French words I had picked about 50 years ago. Since I feel that this list would provide a shortcut to you and your children to learn French, I have presented them below. Please pass it on to your friends and their children.

The words in the list occur most frequently in ordinary French, as determined by a word count of 400,000 running words of French prose. The figures after each word indicate its average number of occurrences per 1,000 words. It will be seen that the total is 446.1; in other words, learn these,  and you will know 44.6% of the words of French.

LEARN THEM NOW.

The meanings given are the common English translations.  Others are possible.

à , au, aux, à l’ = to, at, in, to, the, at the, in the, to the = 21.4
aller (v.) = to go = 2.1
autre = other = 1.7
avec = with = 3.4
1avoir (v.) = to have = 13.7
bien (adv.) = well, very = 2.8
bon = good = 1.2
ce, cet, cette, ces = this, that, these, those = 12.0
comme = as, like = 2.5
dans = in, within = 6.7
de, du, de l’, de la, des = of, from, of the, from the = 54.9
deux = two = 1.8
dire = to say, tell = 4.2
1donner (v.) = to give = 1.4
elle; elles = she, it, her; they, them = 8.0
en (prep.) = in, while = 6.3
en (pron.) = of it, of them, some, in the matter = 2.6
enfant = child = 1.1
et = and = 19.1
1etre (v.) = to be = 20.6
1faire (v.) = to make, do, have (something done) = 4.5
femme = woman, wife = 1.2
grand = tall, big = 2.0
homme = man, husband = 2.4
il; ils = he, it, him; they them = 13.7
jour = day = 1.2
le, la, l’, les (art.) = the = 69.4
le, la, l’, les (pron.) = him, her, it them
leur (pron.) = to them, them = 2.6
leur, leurs (adj.) = their
lui (pron.) = (to) him, her, it = 3.8
mais = but = 3.7
2je = I = 15.0
2me = me, to me
2moi = me, I
mon, ma, mes (adj.) = my = 4.5
ne … pas = not = 10.5
notre, nos = our = 1.2
nous = we, us, to us = 4.1
on = one, they, we = 3.9
ou = or = 1.9
Ou … ou,  soit … soit = either …. or
= where = 1.1
par = by = 3.7
pas (neg. adv.) = not, no = 5.6
petit = little, small, insignificant, petty = 1.7
plus (adv.) = more = 4.3
pour = for, in order to = 3.2
1pouvoir (v.) = to be able, can = 1.9
1prendre (v.) = to take = 1.2
que (conj.) = as, than = 12.8
que? (interr.) = what? = 3.0
que (rel. pron.) = who, whom, which, that
qui? (interr.) = who? = 7.6
qui (rel. pron.) = who, whom, which, that
sans = without = 1.8
1savoir (v.) = to know = 1.4
se = himself, herself, itself, oneself, themselves, each other = 8.7
si = If, even, if so = 2.5
son, sa, ses = his, her, its = 8.9
sur (prep.) = on, atop, about, in, on top, over = 3.4
tout = all, every = 6.1
tu, te, toi = you = 1.8
un, une (art.) = a, an = 18.5
un (num.) = one
1venir (v.) = to come =

1.3

1voir (v.) = to see =

2.1

votre, vos = your =

1.3

1vouloir (v.) = to want, wish =

1.5

vous = you, to you =

5.2

y = To it, to them, in it, in them, there =

2.4

Total

=

446.1

 

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