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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A Thanks Giving Day story: The Letter Addressed to God.


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Myself 

By T.V. Antony Raj

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A still from the film "Slumdog Millionaire"
A still from the film “Slumdog Millionaire”

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A few days ago, during the incessant rain and floods in Chennai, Tamilnadu, India, a little boy wanted 100 rupees to buy food for his family who had not eaten for two days. He prayed to God. When nothing happened and no one officially came to help them, he decided to write a request letter to God.

A puzzled post office staff on seeing the letter addressed to God forwarded it to the Chief Minister.

The amused Chief Minister thought that 100 rupees would be a lot of money for a little boy to buy food. So, she instructed her secretary to send the little boy 30 rupees instead from the Chief Minister’s relief fund.

When the little boy received the money he was delighted. He wrote the following ‘Thank you’ letter to the CM:

Dear God, I thank you for sending me money through the Chief Minister’s Office Secretariat in Chennai. However, I would like you to know that corrupt asses there must have swindled 70 rupees as their commission! “

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RELATED IMAGES

Images of floods in Chennai in November 2015 (google.co.in)

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Chennai floods and the aftermath (thehindu.com)

From Hope to Heartbreak: the Pathetic Case of the Frustaci Septuplets


More than 6,218 readers have viewed this post.

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Myself .

 By T. V. Antony Raj

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Patti Frustaci, a 30-year-old English teacher at Rubidoux High School, in Riverside, California, and wife of 32-year-old Samuel Frustaci, an industrial equipment salesman for a Buena Park firm, had already conceived a child, a healthy toddler named Joseph.

Even though they already had a healthy child, Patti and Samuel opted for fertility treatment. From August to November of 1984, Dr. Jaroslav Marik, a pioneer in his field with a stellar reputation treated Patti Frustaci at Tyler Medical Clinics Inc., of West Los Angeles, where Marik was a part owner. He treated Patti with the drug Pergonal, a fertility drug used for fertility issues in women, especially women who are anovulatory and oligo ovular.

When ultrasound examinations performed during the following January revealed the presence of seven fetuses which meant that the fetuses had a slim chance of surviving until term. When Patti’s obstetrician warned of the possible outcome, and counseled her to have a selective abortion by which a doctor would remove several of the fetuses in order that the remaining unborn offsprings would have a better chance of survival. Being Mormons by faith, the Frustacis invoked God’s teaching and spurned abortion.

Patti Frustaci got admitted in St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, California on March 25, 1985.

A 38-member medical team was constituted at St. Joseph Hospital to assist Patti’s obstetrician, Dr. Martin Feldman,  in what was to become the first largest multiple births in the medical history of the United States of America.

The average duration of a normal pregnancy is 280 days (40 weeks), calculated from the first day of the last menstrual period, with 85 to 95% babies born between the 266th and the 294th days. Common deviations thus range up to 14 days in either direction. However, in the Frustaci case, the medical team determined that the babies would have a better chance of survival if they completed 28 weeks of gestation in the mother’s womb before their birth.

Patti’s hypertension threatened to deprive the fetuses of nutrition. As a result of hypertension, the team of doctors scheduled the surgery after her condition declined from good to fair.

On May 21, 1985, Patti Frustaci was wheeled into the delivery room at St. Joseph Hospital.

Beginning at 8:19 am, the operation went smoothly without any hitch led by Dr. Martin Feldman. It took only three minutes for the caesarean section team to deliver the first septuplets in the United States, prematurely at 28 weeks. For Dr. Feldman, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The seventh-born septuplet, later named Christina Elizabeth, was stillborn, apparently died in the uterus several days before. The 32-year-old Samuel Frustaci, had a moment alone with the stillborn baby and held it as did his wife Patti after she came out of the general anesthesia.

The weights of the septuplets ranged from 15.5 ounces (439.42 grams) to 1 pound 13 ounces (822.14 grams).

About 10 minutes after delivery, to compensate for the immaturity of their lungs and immune systems, the six surviving Frustaci septuplets requiring a higher level of care were transferred to the adjacent CHOC Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at St. Joseph Hospital and placed on respirators and antibiotics.

At St. Joseph Hospital, where the babies were delivered and as Patti Frustaci remained in the intensive care unit, the switchboard was flooded with calls of well-wishers. Many of the calls were from new mothers offering support, prayers and outgrown baby clothes. Also, bouquets of flowers and huge baskets filled with stuffed toys arrived at the hospital.

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 Sam Frustaci visits with baby, May 23, 1985. The infant is nicknamed 'Peanut' (Source - corbisimages.com)
Sam Frustaci visits with baby, May 23, 1985. The infant is nicknamed ‘Peanut’ (Source: corbisimages.com)

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On Thursday, May 23, 1985, the sixth-born septuplet, David Anthony, the tiniest of the six Frustaci septuplets who survived birth, nicknamed “Peanut,” went into “respiratory distress” around 7 pm. The doctors were able to resuscitate him. He died the following day, Friday, May 24, 1985, at 12:34 am.

Peanut was brought to Patti from CHOC after he died, and she held him for about an hour. According to Samuel Frustaci, the hardest thing for Patti is the fact that she never got the chance to see (Peanut) alive.

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Parents of septuplets Samuel Frustaci and wife (Patti) leaving the hospital
Parents of septuplets Samuel Frustaci and wife (Patti) leaving the hospital

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On Wednesday, May 29, 1985, around 12:30 pm, wearing a lavender robe and cradling a bouquet of roses, a joyous Patti Frustaci emerged from St. Joseph Hospital on a wheelchair to the cheers and applause of employees of the hospital. A jubilant Samuel Frustaci accompanied his wife Patti, passing a horde of reporters got into a waiting car en route to the home of Patti’s parents where she would continue recuperating while her five surviving septuplets remained behind at CHOC. A wagon full of stuffed animals attached to balloons followed her car.

The second-born septuplet, James Martin, who was in the most critical condition and had been given a 50-50 chance of survival died after 16 days on June 6, 1985.

Three days later, on Sunday, June 9, 1985, Bonnie Marie, the fourth-born septuplet, who for so long beat the odds against her survival, died at 12:25 pm. She lasted a week longer than they gave her.

All three infants succumbed to cardiopulmonary failure and arrest due to severe hyaline membrane disease, a disorder of the alveoli and respiratory passages that result in the inadequate expansion of the lungs.

The three surviving septuplets, two boys, and one girl: Steven Earl, Richard Charles and Patricia Ann, were on oxygen and medication to fight infection. Because of their traumatic birth, the doctors suspected that both boys may also have cerebral palsy. The Children’s Hospital of Orange County released them one at a time beginning in mid-August 1985 as they recovered from problems that afflict premature babies.

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Patti Frustaci holds her son, the last of her three surviving septuplets to leave Children's Hospital of Orange County.
Patti Frustaci holds her son, the last of her three surviving septuplets to leave Children’s Hospital of Orange County.

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Extraordinary expenses such as the cost of their medical care amounted to more than $1 million, offset only partially by offers of free food, goods and services and an exclusive interview contract with People magazine. As the infants died, many withdrew their endorsements and many offers never materialized.

The first birthday for the three surviving Frustaci septuplets was marked by disclosures that the two boys have cerebral palsy and all three suffer from eye, hearing and breathing disorders. The two boys had hernia surgery and all the infants attached to monitors that sound a warning when breathing stops.

Initially, the Frustacis considered the births as a “blessing”” on their family, but grieved the loss of four children. Then the reality of caring for three premature infants quickly became an ordeal.

Since they followed the Mormon faith, it stands to reason that the outcome of the pregnancy was God’s will. But since they could not sue God, the Frustacis went after the next best candidates, the Taylor Clinic and Dr Jaroslav Marik.

On October 7, 1985, the Frustacis filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Tyler Medical Clinics Inc. of West Los Angeles, the fertility clinic that treated Patti Frustaci, and her physician, Dr Jaroslav Marik who prescribed and injected Patti Frustaci with the fertility drug Pergonal.

The suit accused the clinic and the physician of failing to monitor fertility medication properly and to perform tests that could have indicated the potential for multiple births before conception. It blamed them for health and developmental disabilities of the surviving three babies afflicted with eye problems and considered developmentally retarded.

The suit also alleged medical malpractice, four wrongful deaths of their babies, loss of earnings and of earning capacity as a result of the overprescription of the fertility drugs. The Frustacis sought $1 million for current and future medical expenses, and $1.25 million for non-economic losses – $250,000 for each parent and for each of the three surviving infants.

The fertility clinic admitted no wrongdoing.

In July 1990, the Tyler Medical clinic agreed to pay $450,000 immediately and the three children would receive monthly payments for the rest of their lives. If the surviving three children live to a normal life expectancy, the award could total $6 million.

Dr Marik, the fertility specialist who treated Patti Frustaci, refused to participate in the agreement. The doctor said at a news conference that he was not to blame for the plight of the Frustaci septuplets because Mrs Frustaci was a patient who did not follow instructions and had a tendency to decide what she wanted to do.

On Monday, June 22, 1987, Patti Frustaci was driving from Las Vegas to Barstow on Interstate 15 with her three surviving septuplets. Her van got stuck in the sand in the middle of the highway when she tried to make a U-turn across the centre divider. California Highway Patrol officers arrested her on suspicion of drunken driving. She was released five hours later on her own recognizance and her 2-year-old infants were handed over to their father.

On December 21, 1990, Five and a half years after the birth of the septuplets, the 36-year-old Patti Frustaci treated with the same fertility drug, Pergonal at another clinic gave birth to healthy twins – a boy and a girl, at Loma Linda University Medical Center in Loma Linda, California. They named them Jordan Browne and Jaclyn Lee.

Pathetically, the family broke up. Samuel and Patti Frustaci divorced a few years later.

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Sri Lanka, the Island Paradise with a Colourful Heritage


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Sri Lanka map

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The “Island In The Sun” is the title song of the 1957 movie bearing the same name. It was written by Irving Burgie and sung by Harry Belafonte.

Oh island in the sun
Willed to me by my father’s hand
All my days I will sing in praise
Of your forest waters, your shining sand

As morning breaks, the Heaven on high
I lift my heavy load to the sky
Sun comes down with a burning glow
Mingles my sweat with the earth below

Oh island in the sun
Willed to me by my father’s hand
All my days I will sing in praise
Of your forest waters, your shining sand

I see woman on bended knee
Cutting cane for her family
I see man at the waterside
Casting nets at the surging tide

Though this song addresses the island of Jamaica, it is equally applicable to Sri Lanka the pearl of the Indian Ocean and nature’s treasure chest.

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Sri Lanka, also known as India's Teardrop and the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, is an extension of peninsular India that got separated from the mainland.
Sri Lanka, also known as India’s Teardrop and the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, is an extension of peninsular India that got separated from the mainland.

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The island paradise, formerly known as Ceylon until 1972,  is in the northern Indian Ocean off the southeast coast of the Indian subcontinent in South Asia. Sri Lanka has maritime borders with India to the northwest and the Maldives to the southwest.  It is one of the most delightful destinations in the world to visit.

Sri Lanka is the home to one of the oldest civilizations in the world. Though the island’s documented history spans over 2,550 years, evidence shows that it had prehistoric human settlements dating back to at least 125,000 years. Its history boasts of planned cities, magnificent palaces, temples, and monasteries, expansive reservoirs, green forests and gardens, monuments and works of art.

Sri Lanka due to its geographic location and endowed with natural harbours has been the cynosure of strategic importance from the time of the ancient Silk Road through to World War II.

Today, Sri Lanka is a republic and a unitary state governed by a presidential system. The capital, Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, is a suburb of Colombo, Sri Lanka’s largest city.

Sri Lanka is home to many races speaking diverse languages, and following different religious faiths. It is the land of the Sinhalese, Sri Lankan Tamils, Indian Tamils, Moors, Burghers, Malays, Kaffirs and the aboriginal Veddas.

The island has a rich Buddhist heritage spanning from the time of the Indian Emperor Ashoka Maurya (304–232 BC) of the Maurya Dynasty who ruled almost all the Indian subcontinent from circa 269 to 232 BCE. The first known Buddhist writings of Sri Lanka, the Pāli Canon dates back to the Fourth Buddhist Council in 29 BCE.

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Stilts or Pole fishermen, Sri Lanka (Source: agmisgpn.org))
Stilts or Pole fishermen, Sri Lanka (Source: agmisgpn.org))

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The island is one of the most beautiful and delightful destinations in the world for tourists to visit. Its historical planned cities, magnificent palaces, temples, dagobas, monasteries, monuments, sculptures and other works of art, expansive artificial reservoirs, green gardens, etc., illustrate the characteristic rich history of its ancient rulers.

Here is a video titled “Heritage of Sri Lanka” produced by The Ministry of National Heritage Sri Lanka, which I enjoyed viewing and I hope you too will be delighted to view it as well.

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The Hadith of Gabriel


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Myself . 

By T.V. Antony Raj

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In Arabic, the word ḥadīth (Arabic: حديث‎) means a “report, account, narrative”. To Muslims, the word Hadīth connotes “report on the words and actions of Prophet Muhammad”.

The Hadith of Gabriel (ḥadīth Jibrīl) in Sunnī Islām, is the single most important Hadīth. It is found in both the Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī and the Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim.

The five pillars of Islam

Though not mentioned in the Quran, but summarized in the famous hadith of Gabriel are the Five Pillars of Islam (arkān-al-Islām أركان الإسلام; also arkān ad-dīn أركان الدين “pillars of the religion”) which are the foundation of Muslim life – five basic acts in Islam, considered obligatory by believers. They are:

  1. Shahadah (belief, confession, or declaration of faith – Muslim life)
  2. Salat (obligatory worship in the form of prayer)
  3. Zakat (compulsory alms or charitable giving or concern for the needy)
  4. Sawm Ramadan (self-purification by fasting during the month of Ramadan)
  5. Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime)

The Arabic word Ṣawm (Arabic: صوم‎; plural: صيام ṣiyām), regulated by Islamic jurisprudence literally means fasting – to abstain from eating and drinking during daylight hours.

The Muslims of Iran, Central Asia, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh use the words roza/rozha/roja/oruç, derived from Persian.

The Muslim communities in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, Southern Thailand and Southern Philippines call it puasa, the word derived from Sanskrit, upauasa.

Annually, Muslims, worldwide, observe self-purification by fasting during the month of Ramadan which lasts 29–30 days based on the visual sightings of the crescent moon.

The word Ramadan derived from the Arabic root ramiḍa or ar-ramaḍ, means “scorching heat” or “dryness.” It is “obligatory” for adult Muslims to fast, except those who are ill, diabetic, traveling, pregnant, breastfeeding, or during menstrual bleeding.

The Quran states:

The month of Ramadan is that in which the Quran was revealed, a guidance to men and clear proofs of the guidance and the distinction; therefore whoever of you is present in the month, he shall fast therein, and whoever is sick or upon a journey, then (he shall fast) a (like) number of other days; Allah desires ease for you, and He does not desire for you difficulty, and (He desires) that you should complete the number and that you should exalt the greatness of Allah for His having guided you and that you may give thanks. [Quran 2:185]

Bowling Green is a small public park in Lower Manhattan at the foot of Broadway next to the site of the original Dutch fort of New Amsterdam. Built in 1733, originally including a bowling green, it is the oldest public park in New York City surrounded by its original 18th-century fence. At its northern end is the Charging Bull sculpture, which is sometimes called the Wall Street Bull or the Bowling Green Bull.

Dhuhr (Noon) prayer in Bowling Green - 1
Dhuhr (Noon) prayer in Bowling Green (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)
Dhuhr (Noon) prayer in Bowling Green (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)
Dhuhr (Noon) prayer in Bowling Green (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)

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While my wife and I were in New York, we saw a faithful Muslim in the Bowling Green at 1:23 pm unmindful of the blaring noise surrounding him, perseveringly reciting the Dhuhr (Noon) prayer. We were spellbound by his faith in God and his steadfast adherence to his religious duties.

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Add this anywhere

Did William Shakespeare Really Say That?


Readers have viewed this post more than 41,574 times. 

Myself

By T. V. Antony Raj

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Shakespeare said

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The above is a widely copied and circulated quote on Facebook and other social networks, but I could not find the source of the quote anywhere in the works of William Shakespeare. Even though the attribution of the above quote to Shakespeare is incorrect, some people due to their ignorance re-post it without verification. Even goodreads.com, searchquotes.com, azquotes.com, and a few other websites have this fake quote on their pages.

Someone had initiated this fraud by copying the part of the text starting with “Before you speak” from the short poem titled “Before You” by William Arthur Ward (1921 – March 30, 1994), one of America’s most quoted writers of inspirational maxims.

Before You
by William Arthur Ward

Before you speak, listen.
Before you write, think.
Before you spend, earn.
Before you invest, investigate.
Before you criticize, wait.
Before you pray, forgive.
Before you quit, try.
Before you retire, save.
Before you die, give.

Even though we have now stepped into the 21st century, a few choose to remain ignorant. I just wonder why these copycats do not surf the internet, enlighten themselves, and verify facts before posting whatever they copy on social media.

On a lighter vein, I came across this comment by Rodolphe in RoDoLpHe’S wOrLd dated August 18, 2011.

To blog or not to blog“, said Hamlet, in reply to Othello who told him “Put out the comment, and then, put out the comment.”

Both knew that Henry the Fifth was spamming Richard III’s blogger account on purpose because the latter dated Cromwell’s third girlfriend. It was Falstaff who discovered the plot because he hacked Iago’s secret identity database.

I hope no one will copy portions of Rodolphe’s comment and post them on social media and attribute it to the Bard of Avon.

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Khanittha ‘Mint’ Phasaeng, the Thai Beauty Queen Is a Garbage Collector


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Khanittha “Mint” Phasaeng,, the beautiful Miss Uncensored News Thailand 2015 - invoking the blessings of her mother amidst trash bins (Source: bangkok.coconuts.co)
Khanittha “Mint” Phasaeng,, the beautiful Miss Uncensored News Thailand 2015 – invoking the blessings of her mother amidst trash bins (Source: bangkok.coconuts.co)

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Many Asians, kneel and prostrate before their elders invoking their blessings. The above down-to-earth photo of Khanittha ‘Mint’ Phasaeng, the beauty queen who won the title Miss Uncensored News Thailand 2015, prostrating and invoking the blessings of her 47-year-old mother Orathai Pormaun, a garbage collector, amidst garbage bins, has won the heart of everyone who saw it on the internet.

According to the Bangkok Post, the 17-year-old Khanittha’s parents had separated when she was young and her mother had remarried. Khanittha lived in a 4-by-5-metre shack with five other family members where her mother also stored garbage for separation before sale.

Because of the crowded conditions at her home,  Khanittha had to move and live with an aunt. Due to poverty, Khanittha was then adopted by a salon owner named ‘Know’, who sent her to school until she completed primary school or Mathayom 3.

Khanittha adores her mother. She has never been ashamed of her background or what her mother does to earn a living.  “What I am today is because of my mother. There is no reason why I should feel inferior because my mother and I earn our livelihood by doing honest work.”

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Khanittha Phasaeng sorting garbage with her mother (Source: women.asiaone.com)
Khanittha Phasaeng sorting garbage with her mother (Source: women.asiaone.com)

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The teenager helps her family by assisting her mother sort recyclables from the trash. She also takes on  menial jobs and sells used clothes to help cover household expenses and her brother’s education.

Because she is tall and good looking, some friends suggested that she should enter the beauty contest “Miss Uncensored News Thailand 2015” launched by “Exclusive Star“, the Tabloid magazine, which had just celebrated its 3rd anniversary and entering its fourth year with aims to promote gender equality and same-sex marriage.

The aim of this pageant contest with the slogan “gender equality” was to bring all women together in a beauty showdown, whether identified as female at birth or have transformed to be one over the years. The contest allowed the participation of only Thai women and trans-women between the age of 17-25 years, to show off their beauty and talent for a reward. Applications were available from August 29, 2015, at Imperial World Samrong.

Encouraged by her friends, Khanittha decided to take part in this somewhat cut-throat competition.

The beauty pageant, Miss Uncensored News Thailand 2015 open to both women and Transgenders was held on Friday, September 25, 2015, at the Imperial World Samrong,

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Khanittha 'Mint' Phasaeng, the beautiful Miss Uncensored News Thailand 2015 (Source - daliulian.net)
Khanittha ‘Mint’ Phasaeng, the beautiful Miss Uncensored News Thailand 2015 (Source – daliulian.net)
Khanittha 'Mint' Phasaeng, the beautiful Miss Uncensored News Thailand 2015 - with other participants (Sourc: daliulian.net)
Khanittha ‘Mint’ Phasaeng, the beautiful Miss Uncensored News Thailand 2015 – with other participants (Sourc: daliulian.net)

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When the referee announced Khanittha the winner, she thought it was a dream and wondered how an ordinary girl like herself could have won the title of “Miss Uncensored News Thailand 2015.”

Almost immediately after crowning Khanittha ‘Mint’ Phasaeng as Miss Uncensored News Thailand 2015, many universities contacted the organizers offering her scholarships. This prompted the organizers to scrutinize her application form. They discovered that Khanittha had lied about her education. She had submitted that she had completed senior high school or Mathayom 6 (Level 12) whereas she has only completed primary school or Mathayom 3.

On Thursday, October 15, 2015, a news conference was held near Khanittha’s house in Samut Prakan province, to end speculation whether she would lose the crown.

Somchai ‘Daisy’ Leknoi, director of Miss Uncensored News Thailand 2015, told the press that the contest, held for the first time at the Imperial World Samrong, aimed to provide opportunities to people from all social classes. She said the organizers and the two runners-up held no grudge against her as the event did not limit the gender or education of competitors.  Nobody would take away her prizes, but she should not have lied about her education. Somchai Leknoi said, “However, we think she should apologize for her mistake. We just want all candidates to tell the truth, so they do not face any problems in the future.

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Khanittha Phasaeng, the winner of Miss Uncensored News Thailand 2015, and organizer Somchai Leknoi (Source -bangkokpost.com)
Khanittha Phasaeng, the winner of Miss Uncensored News Thailand 2015, and organizer Somchai Leknoi (Source -bangkokpost.com)

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Khanittha apologized to Somchai Leknoi, claiming she had no intention of lying about her education; her uncle had filled the application form for her and she had failed to check it before submitting it. She thanked the committee for not withholding her prizes. She said that she would spend the money on her brother’s education.

Khanittha THB 30,000 in cash as part of her prize.

After the win, Khanittha ‘Mint’ Phasaeng has gained advertising, film and television work which she hopes will improve the situation at home, and would continue to help her mother collect garbage for a living.

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