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History of Cane sugar


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Myself

By T. V. Antony Raj
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Sugar is the universal name for a variety of sweet-tasting carbohydrates, derived from various sources. Sweetmeats, confectionaries, chocolates, alcoholic liqueurs, sweet beverages, etc. use sugar for sweetening.

The English word ‘sugar’ is derived from the Arabic word سكر sukkar, which came from the Persian شکر shekar, itself derived from Sanskrit शर्करा śarkarā, which originated from Tamil சர்க்கரை Sarkkarai. Thus, the etymology of the English word ‘sugar’, in a way, reflects the spread of sugar from India to the western world.

Rich Cohen in his article “Sugar Love” (A not so sweet story) published in the National Geographic says:

“In 1700 the average Englishman consumed 4 pounds a year. In 1800 the common man ate 18 pounds of sugar. In 1870 that same sweet-toothed bloke was eating 47 pounds annually. Was he satisfied? Of course not! By 1900 he was up to 100 pounds a year. In that span of 30 years, world production of cane and beet sugar exploded from 2.8 million tons a year to 13 million plus. Today the average American consumes 77 pounds of added sugar annually, or more than 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day.”

Sugarcane

Most plants have sugar, but only sugarcane and sugar beet are endowed with sufficient concentrations for efficient extraction. Around 80% of the world’s sugar is derived from sugarcane.

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Sugarcane crop
Sugarcane crop

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Sugarcane is any of several species of tall perennial true grass of the genus Saccharum, tribe Andropogoneae, native to the warm temperate to tropical regions of South Asia, and used for sugar production. They have stout jointed fibrous stalks that are rich in sugar. They grow six to 19 feet (two to six meters) tall. All sugar cane species interbreed and the major commercial cultivars are complex hybrids.

The crop has been cultivated in tropical climates in the Far East since ancient times.

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The island of New Guinea.
The island of New Guinea.

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Eight thousand years ago, sugar featured prominently in the food of the inhabitants of the island of New Guinea, the world’s second largest island, after Greenland. During sacred religious ceremonies, their priests sipped water sweetened with sugar from coconut shells.

The use of sugarcane spread gradually from island to island, and around 1000 BC reached the Asian mainland.

By 500 BC, the Indians were processing crystalline sugar from sugarcane. In India sugar was used as a medicine for headaches, stomach flutters, impotence, etc. The art of sugar refinement passed from master to apprentice and remained a secret science.

Sugar found its way to Persia around 600 AD and as luxury rulers entertained their guests with a variety of sweets. From there Arabs carried the knowledge and love for sugar. The Arabs perfected sugar refinement made it into an industry. “Wherever they went, the Arabs brought with them sugar, the product and the technology of its production,” wrote Sidney Mintz in Sweetness and Power. “Sugar, we are told, followed the Koran.”

From there sugar travelled with migrants and monks to China, Persia, northern Africa and eventually to Europe in the 11th century.

The first Europeans to know about sugar were the British and French crusaders that went east to wrest the Holy Land from the Arabs. Having their taste buds excited by sugar they returned with stories and memories of sweets. Unfortunately, they found the temperate climates in Europe unsuitable for cultivation of sugar cane, which needed tropical, rain-drenched fields to grow.

The sugar that reached the West through a trickle of Arab traders was rare and was classified as a spice. Due to its high cost only by the nobility consumed it.

With the spread of the Ottoman Empire in the 1400s, trade with the East became more difficult for the Europeans. To the Western elite who had fallen under the spell of sweets were propelled to develop new sources of sugar.

So, it was the age of exploration for the Europeans – the search for new territories around the world.

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Infante Henry, Duke of Viseu aka Henry the Navigator (March 4, 1394 – November 13, 1460). (Source: From the Polytriptych of St. Vincent in the National Museum of Ancient Art, Lisbon).
Infante Henry, Duke of Viseu aka Henry the Navigator (March 4, 1394 – November 13, 1460). (Source: From the Polytriptych of St. Vincent in the National Museum of Ancient Art, Lisbon).

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Infante Henry, Duke of Viseu (March 4, 1394 – November 13, 1460), the third child of King John I of Portugal, better known as Henry the Navigator, was an important figure in the early days of the Portuguese Empire and the Age of Discoveries in total. He was responsible for the early growth of European exploration and maritime trade with other continents.  In 1419, Portuguese sailors in the service of Infante D. Henrique claimed Madeira, an archipelago about 250 miles (400 km) north of Tenerife, Canary Islands, in the North Atlantic Ocean. In 1425, Infante Henry sent sugarcane with an early group of colonists who settled in Madeira.

Sugarcane found its way to other newly discovered Atlantic islands such as the Cape Verde Islands, and the Canaries.

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Christopher Columbus by Sebastiano del Piombo, 1519. (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Christopher Columbus by Sebastiano del Piombo, 1519. (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

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In 1493, when Christopher Columbus set off on his second voyage to the New World, he too carried the cane. He planted the New World’s first sugarcane in Hispaniola.

From then on dawned the era of mass sugar production in the slave plantations in the Caribbean islands.

Within decades the Portuguese and the Spanish expanded sugar cane plantation to Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Cuba and Brazil. They cleared the rainforests for sugarcane plantations. The Portuguese turned Brazil into an early boom colony, with more than 100,000 slaves producing tons of sugar.

The harvested crop of sugarcane was crushed and ground and then pressed to extract the cane juice, which was thickened into a syrup by boiling. This produced sugar crystals, which were dried before storage. The raw sugar was piled in the holds of ships and carried to Europe for refining.

Until the 15th and 16th centuries, sugar was classed with nutmeg and cardamom as a luxury spice enjoyed only by the wealthy upper classes.

The original British sugar island was Barbados found by a British captain on May 14, 1625. Tobacco and cotton were grown in the early years, but sugarcane overtook these two on the island as it did wherever it was planted in the Caribbean. Sadly, however, the fields got depleted, the water table drained within a century, and the ambitious planters had left Barbados in search of other island to exploit.

In the 17th century the British established large-scale sugar plantations in the West Indies. The price of sugar fell. Sugar changed from a luxury to a staple item. Since the fall in price made it affordable to the middle class and the poor, the demand for sugar increased.

But the sugar trade was tarnished by its colonial heritage of inhumanity and exploitation. Profits from the sugar trade helped build the British Empire. When the enslaved native population dwindled due to disease or war the planters replaced them with more slaves brought from the west coast of Africa with the expansion of the Atlantic slave trade.

By 1720 Jamaica became number one in the sugar market.

Until the slave trade was banned in Britain in 1807, more than half of the 11 million Africans shipped to the New World ended up on sugar plantations.

The slaves from Africa found the life hard. In the Caribbean millions died in the fields, pressing houses, or while trying to escape. Gradually the people in Europe came to know and understand the hardship of the slaves. While reformers preached abolition, housewives boycotted cane sugar produced by the slaves.

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François-Marie Arouet ( 1694 – 1778), known by his nom de plume Voltaire. French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher.
François-Marie Arouet ( 1694 – 1778), known by his nom de plume Voltaire. French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher.

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In 1759, a slave in Voltaire’s Candide, ou l’Optimisme, missing both a hand and a leg, explains his mutilation:

“When we work in the sugar mills and we catch our finger in the millstone, they cut off our hand; when we try to run away, they cut off a leg; both things have happened to me. It is at this price that you eat sugar in Europe.”

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William Johnson Fox (1786-1864) - an English religious and political orator .
William Johnson Fox (1786-1864) – an English religious and political orator .

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William Johnson Fox (March 1, 1786 – June 3, 1864), an English religious and political orator in An Address to the people of Great Britain on the propriety of abstaining from West Indian sugar and rum. [London], 1791 wrote:

“So necessarily connected are our consumption of the commodity, and the misery resulting from it, that in every pound of sugar used, (the produce of slaves imported from Africa) we may be considered as consuming two ounces of human fleshA French writer observes, ‘That he cannot look on a piece of sugar without conceiving it stained with spots of human blood.'”

Fox’s pamphlet was widely circulated, and helped promote the idea that sugar was contaminated with the blood and flesh of the suffering slaves who produced it. Nonetheless, production of sugar never stopped.

Current Production of Sugar

The use of sugar beet as a new source of production was developed in Germany in the early 19th century. By the end of the century, production of beet sugar had spread across Europe and beet had overtaken cane as the primary source of sugar there.

Sugarcane is indigenous to tropical South and Southeast Asia. Different species likely originated in different locations. Saccharum Barberi originated in India and Saccharum edule and Saccharum officinarum from New Guinea. Almost 70% of the sugar produced globally comes from Saccharum officinarum and hybrids of this species.

At present, Brazil and India are the world’s two largest sugar producers. For the past 40 years, these two countries have accounted for over half the world’s production of canesugar. The European Union is the third-largest sugar producer and accounts for around half the world’s production of beet sugar.

World sugar production (1,000 tonnes)

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Largest producers of raw sugar as percentage of world production, 2007-12

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Largest exporters of raw sugar as percentage of total exports by volume, 2007-12

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Fast facts: the sugar lowdown (Source: fairtrade.org.uk)

  • Sugar is one of the most valuable agricultural commodities. In 2011 its global export trade was worth $47bn, up from $10bn in 2000.
  • Of the total $47bn, $33.5bn of sugar exports are from developing countries and $12.2bn from developed countries.
  • The sugar industry supports the livelihoods of millions of people – not only smallholders and estate workers but also those working within the wider industry and family dependents. 
  • Around 160 million tonnes of sugar are produced every year. The largest producers are Brazil (22%), India (15%) and the European Union (10%).
  • More than 123 countries produce sugar worldwide, with 70% of the world’s sugar consumed in producer countries and only 30% traded on the international market.
  • About 80% of global production comes from sugarcane (which is grown in the tropics) and 20% comes from sugar beet (grown in temperate climates, including Europe).
  • The juice from both sugarcane and sugar beet is extracted and processed into raw sugar.
  • World consumption of sugar has grown at an average annual rate of 2.7% over the past 50 years. It is driven by rising incomes and populations in developing countries. 
  • The top five consumers of sugar use 51% of the world’s sugar. They include India, the EU-27, China, Brazil and the US.
  • Brazil plays an important role in the global sugar market, as the world’s largest sugar producer, the world’s major exporter and one of the highest per capita consumers, at around 55 kg a year. 

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The Peeping Tom of Our Lane


Myself

By T. V. Antony Raj

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The people in the lane where I live are all respectable. However, an old woman living on the first floor of a nearby apartment has been lately having trouble with a ‘Peeping Tom’ living in a nearby building. Every time she goes to her bathroom, this peeping tom looks through the Louvre and stares at her.

She complained to the old caretaker of the building about this annoying peeping Tom but he wanted positive proof before he could take any action.

So, the old woman went to a friend’s apartment in the adjoining building and took a photo of the culprit peeping into her bathroom!  

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Gotcha!!!

Today I Saw the Super Blue Red Moon.


Myself

By T. V. Antony Raj

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Watching the Red Super Full Moon at the end of the Lunar Eclipse from my home in Jalladampet, Chennai, India.

I took these photos with my iPhone. The cloudy sky was obscuring the moon like a transparent veil.

Date: January 31, 2018 Time: 7:05 pm

A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth moves between the sun and the moon, preventing sunlight from reaching the moon. A total lunar eclipse occurs during a Blue Moon, Red Moon and a Super Moon. It’s a rare event that some have started to call a “super blue blood moon.”

Today’s total lunar eclipse occurred on the second full moon day of the month,

When I looked at the moon at 7:05 pm, it looked a bit larger with a reddish glow.

It is called a Super Moon because the full moon is closer to Earth, looking bigger and more luminous than normal. The last time this lunar phenomenon happened was in 1982. The next blue moon lunar eclipse during a  Super Moon will not happen again until 2037.

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Here is a photo of the Red Moon taken by another person.

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Red Moon during the Lunar Eclipse

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Even a Domestic Helper Needs to Be Respected.


Myself

By T. V. Antony Raj

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A Filipino maid (Source: edengracemaids.com)

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domestic helper, domestic worker or domestic servant, also in extreme instances called “a menial”, is a person who works in an employer’s household.  

All over the world, many domestic helpers employed by urban families are people from the rural areas and most of them are live-in domestics receiving their room and board as part of their salaries. Often, their living quarters may not usually be as comfortable as those occupied by the employer’s family members. In most cases, they sleep in the kitchen or in small rooms, such as a box room or closet in the attic or basement of the house.

The domestic helpers do a variety of household chores: clean and keep up the house, cook, do laundry and ironing, buy food from vendors and shops, take care of children and elderly persons;  and do other errands such as taking children to school, etc. 

The contribution and skill of domestic helpers have been highly praised by some employers, but many households undervalue their contribution.

In the following video, Lisa, a domestic helper from the Philippines, comes to work at the household of Serene, her Singaporean employer. Serene takes Lisa’s passport and work permit, and does not allow her to take a day off. One day, summoned by the Principal of her daughter‘s school Serene realizes that she is inadvertently drilling her daughter on how to treat others badly and needs to mend her own ways and set a good example for her own child about respecting and appreciating others. 

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A Short History of the Royal Enfield


A Broke Biker

IMG_2256

By Godfrey Vijay

Royal Enfield logo.

In 1851, George Townsend established a sewing needle making mill named “Givry Works” in Hunt End, near Redditch, Worcestershire, in the West Midlands of England.

The Wednesday, June 25, 1862, issue of Worcestershire Chronicle reported that George Townsend and Co., of Girvey Works, exhibited needles made for sewing machines.

In 1880, George Townsend and Co., the needle manufacturers advertised a “Needle Case.”

After 1880, George Townsend’s son also named George, invented a saddle for bicycles that used only one length of wire in the two springs and in the framework. This saddle was patented and marketed as the “Townsend Cyclists Saddle And Springs.”

In 1882, after George Townsend died, his son, George Townsend Jr, and his half-brother bought into Givry Works. They manufactured a crude bicycle. Then they started making components including saddles and forks for cycle manufacturers.

By 1886 complete bicycles were being sold under…

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Mattu Pongal, the Third Day of the Four-day Harvest Festival of South India.


Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

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To mark the end of the harvest season, the Tamils in Tamilnadu, Puducherry, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia, celebrate the festival called Pongal (பொங்கல்) or Thai Pongal(தைப்பொங்கல்). The farmers in these regions thank the Sun, the principal energizer that helps to reap a bountiful harvest.

In Tamilnadu and Puducherry,  Pongal is a four-day festival comprising Bhogi Pandigai, Thai Pongal, Maatu Pongal, and Kaanum Pongal. The Pongal festivities begin on the last day of the Tamil month Maargazhi and culminates on the third day of the Tamil month Thai (January 13 to January 16 in the Gregorian calendar).

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Maattu Pongal (Source: happy-2013.blogspot.com)
Maattu Pongal (Source: happy-2013.blogspot.com)

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Cattle are important and are a form of wealth to people living in rural areas all over the world.

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Nandieshvara

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In Hinduism, the bull Nandi is the mount (Vahana), attendant (gana) of the god  Shiva, and also the gatekeeper-deity of Kailashagiri, the abode of Shiva. According to a legend linked to Mattu Pongal, Shiva sent Nandi from the heavens to earth to deliver his message to the people on earth that they should have an oil bath every day and eat once a month. Nandi inadvertently advised delivered the message that people should take an oil bath once a month and eat every day. When Shiva came to know of his message related to food delivered wrongly, he was annoyed and in a fit of rage, banished Nandi to earth to live permanently among the farmers and help them to produce the extra food crops needed for the people to eat every day.

The rural folks in Tamilnadu and the Tamils in Sri Lanka dedicate the third day of the four-day-long Pongal festivities to their cattle and call it Maattu Pongal (மாட்டுப் பொங்கல்).  Though the name Maattu Pongal seems specific to Tamil Nadu, it is also celebrated in other southern states such as Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

According to the Gregorian calendar, Maattu Pongal is celebrated on January 15, the second day of the Tamil month Thai ((தை ).   

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Maattu Pongal (Source - tamilrasigan.wordpress.com)

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The rural folk show their affection towards their cattle by applying kungumam (kumkum) on their cattle’s foreheads and garlanding them. They then feed their cattle with a mixture of venn pongal (sweetened rice), jaggery, banana, sugar cane and other fruits.

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The sport of Jallikkattu (bull embracing)

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Youths trying to tame a bull at a jallikattu held at Idaiyathur, near Ponnamaravathy, in Pudukottai district, Tamilnadu, India (Source - thehindu.com)
Youths trying to tame a bull at a Jallikattu held at Idaiyathur, near Ponnamaravathy, in Pudukottai district, Tamilnadu, India (Source – thehindu.com)

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In many parts of Tamilnadu, the youths take part in the adventurous ancient sport of Jallikkattu (or sallikattu), also known as Manju virattu (chasing the bull), and eru thazhuvatal (bull embracing) to celebrate Mattu Pongal.

Proof of Jallikattu, as an ancient sport of Tamil Nadu, has been corroborated from rock paintings of ‘bull chasing sport’ discovered on massive rock surfaces at Karikkiyur in Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu, which are dated between 2,000 B.C. and 1,500 B.C.

Initially, and were a mild form of sport in the in the southern part of Tamil Nadu, particularly in Madurai, Tiruchirapalli and Tanjavur.

The sport was held in the afternoon or evening of the Mattu Pongal day. After worshipping and feeding the bulls in the morning, their owners tied money in the form of coins or notes on the horns of the bulls and let them loose among the crowd. Young boys chased and lassoed the bulls to retrieve the money tied to their horns.

Nayak dynasties emerged after the fall of the Vijayanagara Empire. During the Nayak rule in Tamil Nadu, this traditional harmless bull-chasing sport transformed into the present form of Jallikattu, which is a bloodier bull-wrestling sport.

Nowadays, ferocious Bos indicus or Bos taurus indicus bulls, also known as indicine cattle or humped cattle, characterised by a fatty hump on their shoulders such as the Pulikulam or Kangayam breeds are selected, trained, and released into a crowd of people. The youngsters to exhibit their valour endeavour to subjugate the bulls by attempting to grab the large hump on the bull’s back with both arms and hang on to it attempting to bring the bull to a stop while it tries to escape. Participants who hold the hump for a long period are declared winners.

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Thai Pongal, the Second Day of the Four-day Harvest Festival of South India.


Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

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Happy Pongal

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In Tamil, the word Pongal means “overflowing”, signifying abundance and prosperity. The Tamils in TamilnaduPuducherry, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia, celebrate the festival called Pongal (பொங்கல்) or Thai Pongal (தைப்பொங்கல்). This festival marks the end of the harvest season. The farmers thank the Sun, the principal energizer that helps to reap a bountiful harvest. 

In Tamilnadu and PuducherryPongal is a four-day festival. It begins on the last day of the Tamil month Maargazhi (மார்கழி ) and culminates on the third day of the Tamil month Thai ((தை ) – January 13 to January 16 in the Gregorian calendar.

In Tamil, the phrase “Thai Pirandhal Vazhi Pirakkum” meaning “the birth of Thai heralds new prospects” is an oft-quoted popular saying among the Tamils. 

The four days of Pongal are Bhogi Pandigai, Thai Pongal, Maattu Pongal, and Kaanum Pongal.

Of the four-days Harvest festival, the second day is the principal day of the festival. This day is known as Thai Pongal by the Tamils and they celebrate it on January 14, the first day of the month of (தை). 

All the states in India celebrate this day which coincides with Makara Sankranthi, a winter harvest festival. On this day the Sun begins its six-month-long journey northwards or the UttarayanamThis also represents the Indic solstice when the sun enters Makara (Capricorn), the 10th house of the Indian zodiac.

In Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Sri Lanka and Malaysia it is celebrated as Thai Pongal.

In Andhra Pradesh, Bengal, Bihar, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Orissa, and Uttar Pradesh, this day is is celebrated as Makara Sankranthi.

Gujarathis and Rajasthanis celebrate it as Uttarayana.

In HaryanaHimachal Pradesh and Punjab it is celebrated as Lohri.

Assamese celebrated it as Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu.

Nepaesel celebrate it as Maghe Sankranti or Makar Sankranti.

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Thai Pongal - Boiling milk

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In Tamilnadu, it is a tradition for the housewives to boil milk at dawn in a new clay pot. When the milk boils and spills over the vessel, the folk blow the (a conch) yell “Pongalo Pongal!  The Tamils consider watching the milk boil and spill over as auspicious as it connotes “good luck and prosperity.

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Chakkarai Pongal

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Later, the women prepare Pongal by boiling rice with fresh milk and jaggery in new clay pots. When the rice is half-cooked, sugar, ghee, cashew nuts and raisins are added to the pot. This traditional preparation of sweet rice or Chakkarai Pongal derives its name from the festival.

Newly cooked rice is first offered to the Sun at sunrise as gratitude for a bountiful harvest. Women prepare savouries and sweets such as vadai, murukku, payasam, etc., which they share with their neighbours.

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Triple Talaq


Myself

By T. V. Antony Raj

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Quran 2-229 in Arabic

In Islam marriage is considered as an extremely desirable institution, hence its conception of marriage as the rule of life, and divorce only as an exception to that rule. According to a Hadith, Prophet Muhammad said, “Marriage is one of my Sunnah (way). One who does not follow it does not belong to me.” (Ibn Majah, Sunan, Kitab an-Nikah.)

The disintegration of a family has an injurious effect on the society. If the family no longer exists, the whole of humanity suffers.

Nature demands that men and women lead their lives together. According to the Sharia, or Islamic religious law which forms a part of the Islamic tradition, the ideal way of leading such a life is within the bonds of marriage.

In Islam, marriage is both a highly sacred bond to which great religious and social importance is attached and a civil contract entered into by mutual consent of the bride and groom.

The state of marriage lays the foundations for family life. Once a man and a woman are tied together in the bonds of matrimony, they are expected to do their utmost, till the day they die to honour and uphold what the Qur’an (4:20-21) calls their firm contract, or pledge.

وَإِنْ أَرَدتُّمُ اسْتِبْدَالَ زَوْجٍ مَّكَانَ زَوْجٍ وَآتَيْتُمْ إِحْدَاهُنَّ قِنطَارًا فَلَا تَأْخُذُوا مِنْهُ شَيْئًا ۚ أَتَأْخُذُونَهُ بُهْتَانًا وَإِثْمًا مُّبِينًا – 4:20
But if you want to replace one wife with another and you have given one of them a great amount [in gifts], do not take [back] from it anything. Would you take it in injustice and manifest sin?

وَكَيْفَ تَأْخُذُونَهُ وَقَدْ أَفْضَىٰ بَعْضُكُمْ إِلَىٰ بَعْضٍ وَأَخَذْنَ مِنكُم مِّيثَاقًا غَلِيظًا – 4:21
And how could you take it while you have gone in unto each other and they have taken from you a solemn covenant?

To this end, the full thrust of the Sharia Law is levelled at preventing the occurrence of divorce and exists primarily, as checks and not incentives.

All men and women are by nature quite different from each other, biologically. It is an accepted fact that everyone, man or woman, has strengths and weaknesses. This is equally true of husbands and wives. So, when a man and a woman are enjoined to live together as husband and wife, naturally they would have their differences.

Unity can be achieved only through patience and tolerance. According to Abu Hurayrah, the Prophet said, “No believing man should bear any grudge against a believing woman. If one of her ways is not to his liking, there must be many things about her that would please him. “ (Muslim, Sahih, Kitab ar-Rada’, 2/1091)

So, in a marriage, each partner should consciously recognize the plus points of the other and ignore the minus points. Nevertheless, in a few cases, unpleasantness crops up gradually increasing the friction between a husband and his wife preventing them from arriving at a just settlement of their differences reaching a stage of desperation that they become intent on divorce.

In such a situation, the Sharia Law gives them guidance by prescribing a specific method for separation.

The Qur’an (2:229) expresses it thus:

الطَّلَاقُ مَرَّتَانِ ۖ فَإِمْسَاكٌ بِمَعْرُوفٍ أَوْ تَسْرِيحٌ بِإِحْسَانٍ ۗ وَلَا يَحِلُّ لَكُمْ أَن تَأْخُذُوا مِمَّا آتَيْتُمُوهُنَّ شَيْئًا إِلَّا أَن يَخَافَا أَلَّا يُقِيمَا حُدُودَ اللَّهِ ۖ فَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا يُقِيمَا حُدُودَ اللَّهِ فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِمَا فِيمَا افْتَدَتْ بِهِ ۗ تِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللَّهِ فَلَا تَعْتَدُوهَا ۚ وَمَن يَتَعَدَّ حُدُودَ اللَّهِ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ – 2:229
“Divorce may be pronounced twice, then a woman must be retained in honour or allowed to go with kindness.” (Qur’an, 2:229)

From this verse, we understand that once a man gives notice of divorce to his wife (not menstruating at that time) by pronouncing twice, “I divorce you,” both are expected to think the situation over a period of two months and should remember God before giving notice a third time. If the husband has a change of opinion during this period, he can withdraw his words and he should keep his spouse with him in a spirit of goodwill. On the other hand, if he still wants to divorce her, he will say again, “I divorce you,” to his wife (not menstruating at that time) and they must again review the situation for a further month. During that period, if the husband has had a change of heart, he has the right to revoke the proceedings. If at the end of the third month he does not change his mind and does not revoke the proceedings then the divorce becomes final and the man ceases to have any right to revoke it. Now he is obliged to part with his wife in a spirit of goodwill, does no injustice to her, and gives her full rights.

This prescribed method of divorce has ensured that it is a well-considered, planned arrangement and not just a rash step taken in a fit of emotion. When we remember that in most cases, divorce is the result of a fit of anger, we realize that the prescribed method places a tremendous curb on divorce. It takes into account that anger never lasts and tempers cool down after some time.

Those who feel like divorcing their wives in a fit of anger will certainly repent their emotional outburst and will wish to withdraw from the predicament it has put them in. It also takes into account that divorce is a not a simple matter: it amounts to the breaking up of the home and destroying the children’s future. It is only when tempers have cooled down that the dire consequences of divorce are realized, and the necessity to revoke the decision becomes clear.

When a man marries a woman, he has to say only once that he accepts her as his spouse. But for finalizing a divorce three utterances are required, and the Qur’an enjoins a long gap of the three-month period for formalizing it. The purpose of this gap is to give the husband enough time to revise his decision and to consult the well-wishers around him. It also allows time for relatives to intervene in the hopes of persuading both husband and wife to avoid a divorce. Without this gap, none of these things could be achieved. That is why divorce proceedings have to be spread out over a long period of time.

All these preventive measures clearly allow frayed tempers to cool, so that the divorce proceedings need not reach a stage that is irreversible. Divorce, after all, has no saving graces, particularly in respect of its consequences. It simply amounts to rid oneself of one set of problems only to become embroiled in another set of problems.

Despite all such preventive measures, it does sometimes happen that a man acts in ignorance, or is rendered incapable of thinking coolly by a fit of anger. Then on a single occasion, in a burst of temper, he utters the word “divorce” three times in a row, “talaq, talaq, talaq!”

Such incidents, which took place in the Prophet’s lifetime, still take place even today. Now the question arises as to how the would-be divorcer should be treated. Should his three utterances of talaq be treated as only one, and should he then be asked to extend his decision over a three-month period? Or should his three utterances of talaq on a single occasion be equated with the three utterances of talaq made separately over a three-month period?

There is a Hadith recorded by Imam Abu Dawud and several other traditionists which can give us guidance in this matter: Rukana ibn Abu Yazid said “talaq” to his wife three times on a single occasion. Then he was extremely sad at the step he had taken. The Prophet asked him exactly how he had divorced her. He replied that he had said “talaq” to her three times in a row. The Prophet then observed, “All three count as only one. If you want, you may revoke it.” (Fath al-Bari, 9/275)

A man may say, “talaq” to his wife three times in a row, in contravention of the Sharia’s prescribed method, thereby committing a sin, but if he was known to be in an emotionally overwrought state at the time his act may be considered a mere absurdity arising from human weakness. His three utterances of the word talaq may be taken as an expression of the intensity of his emotions and thus the equivalent of only one such utterance. He is likely to be told that, having transgressed a Sharia Law, he must seek God’s forgiveness, must regard his three utterances as only one, and must take a full three months to arrive at his final decision.

On Tuesday, August 22, 2017, in a landmark judgement, a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Chief Justice of India JS Khehar, Kurian Joseph, Rohinton Fali Norman, Uday Umesh Lalit and Abdul Nazeer struck down the practice of Triple Talaq declaring it as unconstitutional on the grounds that it goes against the Sharia Law and the basic tenets of the Quran.

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Tahir Mahmood, a noted Muslim jurist and former chairman of the National Commission for Minorities (thequint.com)

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The Quint spoke to noted Muslim jurist and former chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, Tahir Mahmood, on the obscurity of the debate surrounding triple talaq. Here are excerpts from the conversation.

“If we go strictly by the teachings of the Holy Quran or by the teachings of the Prophet, it is one of the best laws that humankind can have. This law is about 1,500 years old. It is a wonder that we had such a progressive law at that time.

In 7th century AD, Prophet Mohammad gave inheritance rights to women. We did not have equal rights for men and women, but the law provided for at least half the share to be given to the wife, the daughter, granddaughter, the mother, or even distant relatives. This would’ve been inconceivable anywhere else in the 7th century. That was one progressive aspect of it.

But the law as written in the holy book of Quran is very different from what is in practice. The world has no time to look at what the Quran says. Muslims all over the world go by what the community dictates, not by Quranic text.

The practice of triple talaq is most un-Islamic, most un-Quranic. Even if it’s single talaq, the result will be the same. What is being objected to, in the name of triple divorce, is the practice of Muslim men unilaterally divorcing their wives without following the procedure laid down in the Quran.

Triple divorce is a misnomer. The problem is unilateral divorce. The divorce laws are very comprehensive, but no one, including the maulavis, is following the religious text. The law is not just being implemented wrong, its interpretation is being completely distorted. The judiciary is the only means to correct this. There is no other way.”

To read more of the interview click this link:
https://www.thequint.com/news/india/to-ban-triple-talaq-stop-talking-about-uniform-civil-code-tahir-mahmood

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RELATED ARTICLES

Sharia (en.wikipedia.org)

What is meaning of triple talaq (quora.com)

To Ban Triple Talaq, We Must Stop Talking About UCC: Tahir Mahmood (thequint.com)

What is ‘triple talaq’ or instant divorce? ( aljazeera.com)

Nikah, Nikahnama and Talaq: Why understanding it is essential by Rana Safvi (shethepeople.tv)

Acrophobia: Fear of Heights.


Myself

By T. V. Antony Raj

 

Acrophobia (from the Greek: ákron, meaning “peak, summit, edge” and phóbos, “fear”) is an extreme or irrational fear of heights.

Most people, including me, have a natural fear of heights. This fear is known as “the fear of falling“, and those who have a “head for heights” have no such fear.

Here is another video of the humorus swimming pool scene from the episode “The Curse of Mr Bean”  wherein Mr Bean (Rowan Atkinson)  elucidates the fear of falling from a high place.

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The fear of falling

Researchers have found that not only humans even in many mammals, including domesticated animals and pets the fear of heights is an instinct. Experiments with visual cliffs have shown human infants and toddlers, as well as animals of various ages, are reluctant in stepping on a glass floor with a view of a few meters of clear fall-space below it.

Though an inborn cautiousness about heights is helpful for survival, an extreme fear of heights can inhibit the activities of everyday life, such as climbing a ladder, walking up a flight of stairs or even standing on a chair for a while.

Here is a video that illustrates the “fear of falling”.

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Head for heights

Head for heights is particularly necessary for those who climb mountains and hike on mountainous terrain, steeplejack craftsmen who scale buildings, chimneys and church steeples to carry out repairs or maintenance, mechanics who scale mobile and TV transmitting towers, etc.

In the following video, tower climber Kevin Schmidt ascends to the very top of the now inactive KDLT TV analog broadcast 475 metres (1558.4 feet) tall antenna near Salem, South Dakota, United States. I would suggest watching the video at 1080 HD in full screen to feel the experience.

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Are Dogs Colour-blind?


Myself . 

By T. V. Antony Raj
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(Source: ScienceDaily.com)

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Question: Are Dogs colour-blind?

Answer: No, dogs are not completely colour blind. They have a dichromatic colour perception and so perceive a limited colour range when compared to the colour spectrum we humans see.

The dogs see more than just black, white, and grey. Most humans have three different colour sensitive cone cells in their retina (red, green and blue) while dogs have only two (yellow and blue). So, instead of perceiving the intensity of three colours like us, red, green and blue, the dogs perceive the intensity of only two colours: blue and yellow, similar to colour blindness in humans. So, basically, the canine colour field consists mostly of yellows, blues, and violets.

This does not mean that dogs can’t see green or red objects. While blue and yellow are the easiest for them to see, they perceive the intensity of red as different levels of grey.

Many think that dogs may be slightly near-sighted and have a visual acuity (contrast) of much less detail than we humans do and so objects at a distance may appear blurry to them. Studies show that most dogs have an eyesight equivalent from 20/50 to 20/75.  Due to of their ability to visually discriminate motion, they have been known to recognize their owners even at 800-900 meters distance. However, it is widely accepted that dogs do see better at night which is certainly an advantage and one that helps dogs a great deal.

The following video is a rough simulation of what a dog sees with its eyes.

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Now, if you begin to feel sad for your pet dogs, just remember that the dogs have an incredible sense of smell that basically lets it “perceive and sense” the world in different scents.

In the following video, the dog though green-blind perceives the intensity of the green traffic signal as a level of grey and makes us wonder whether the dogs can see all colours.

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