Category Archives: T.V. Antony Raj

All Men Are Same!


Myself 

 

 

BT. V. Antony Raj

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The traditional Chinese New year holiday is absolutely the worst time to travel anywhere in China when millions head home to spend the traditional Chinese New year holiday at their parental homes, and railway stations like Guangzhou in Guangdong, a province in South China, see around 175,000 passengers daily.

The phrase “All Men Are Same!” was coined after a Chinese woman lost her husband in a crowd during the festive season.

It was a nightmare for the Chinese woman and her husband to reach their cosy hotel in an alleyway off the main tourist thoroughfare. They had to push and shove their way through the thick crowd of people who all looked the same, and got separated.

She desperately searched for her husband and ultimately went with a man to his home who too had lost his partner in the crowd.

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Mansa Musa I – the Richest Human Being in All History


Myself 

 

 

BT. V. Antony Raj

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When we talk about the world’s all-time richest people, we immediately come up with names like Rothschild Family, John D Rockefeller, Warren Buffet, and Bill Gates.

The Celebrity Net Worth website compiled a list of the world’s 26 richest people in the last 1000 years. Oddly, there are no women on the list, only three members are alive today and 14 of the top 25 are Americans.

Here is the list of  the ‘26 richest people of all time’ (courtesy:  independent.co.uk):

1. Mansa Musa I, (Ruler of Malian Empire, 1280-1331) $400 billion

2. Rothschild Family (banking dynasty, 1740- ) $350 billion

3. John D Rockefeller (industrialist, 1839-1937) $340 billion

4. Andrew Carnegie (industrialist, 1835-1919) $310 billion

5. Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (last Emperor of Russia, 1868-1918) $300 billion

6. Osman Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VII (last ruler of Hyderabad, 1886-1967) $236 billion

7. William the Conqueror (King of England, 1028-1087) $229.5 billion

8. Muammar Gaddafi (former Libyan leader, 1942-2011) $200 billion

9. Henry Ford (Ford Motor Company founder, 1863-1947) $199 billion

10. Cornelius Vanderbilt (industrialist, 1794-1877) $185 billion

11. Alan Rufus (Fighting companion of William the Conqueror, 1040-1093) $178.65 billion

12. Bill Gates (Founder of Microsoft, 1955- ) $136 billion

13. William de Warenne, 1st Earl of Surrey (Norman nobleman, ??-1088) $146.13 billion

14. John Jacob Astor (businessman, 1864-1912) $121 billion

15. Richard Fitzalan, 10th Earl of Arundel (English nobleman, 1306-1376) £118.6 billion

16. John of Gaunt (son of Edward III, 1330-1399) £110 billion

17. Stephen Girard (shipping and banking mogul, 1750-1831) $105 billion

18. Alexander Turney Stewart (entrepreneur, 1803-1876) $90 billion

19. Henry, 1st Duke of Lancaster (English noble, 1310-1361) $85.1 billion

20. Friedrich Weyerhaeuser (timber mogul, 1834-1914) $80 billion

21. Jay Gould (railroad tycoon, 1836-1892) $71 billion

22. Carlos Slim (business magnate, 1940- ) $68 billion

23. Stephen Van Rensselaer (landowner, 1764- 1839) $68 billion

24. Marshall Field (Marshall Field & Company founder, 1834-1906) $66 billion

25. Sam Walton (Walmart founder, 1918-1992) $65billion

26. Warren Buffett (investor, 1930- ) $64billion

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Mansa Musa I

Topping the list is Mansa Musa I (c. 1280 to c. 1337) was the tenth Mansa of the wealthy West African Mali Empire making his fortune by exploiting his country’s salt and gold production. The term ‘Mansa’  translates to “sultan“, “conqueror” or “emperor”.   

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Detail from the Catalan Atlas Sheet 6 dated 1375 at Bibliothèque Nationale de France showing Mansa Musa sitting on a throne and holding a gold coin. (Artist: attributed to Abraham Cresques)

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As a young man Mansa Musa I  built many mosques which still stand today.

After Mansa Musa I death in 1331, however, his heirs were unable to hang on to the fortune, and it was substantially depleted by civil wars and invading armies.

Click here to read more about –> Mansa Musa I 

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Oh, Sweet Poison, Thy Name Is Sugar!


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Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj
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“It seems like every time I study an illness and trace a path to the first cause, I find my way back to sugar.” – Richard Johnson, Nephrologist, University of Colorado Denver

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What does the word “sugar” mean to you?

To me, anything that tastes sweet: cane sugar (sucrose), beet sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, glucose, fructose, corn syrup, honey, syrups, sugary drinks, molasses, agave the popular ingredient for tequila, chocolates, toffees, confectioneries, etc.

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Baby and cake icing (Source: tammydeyoungdesigns.com)
Baby and cake icing (Source: tammydeyoungdesigns.com)

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Most of us had our first singular experience of sweetness when we licked the dab of cake icing or a drop of honey from the finger of one of our loving parents.

Even though sugar tastes delicious it is not a food.

Though it is habit-forming it is not a drug, but many people get addicted to it.

The more sugar you taste, the more you want.

Sugar provides instant energy and quickens the muscles, but it is not a nutrient.

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Old Lady enjoying her huge ice cream (Source: Lupe Clemente/flickr.com)
Old Lady enjoying her huge ice cream (Source: Lupe Clemente/flickr.com)

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Sugar is the universal name for a variety of carbohydrates, derived from various sources.

Carbohydrates supply energy for working muscles. They provide fuel for the central nervous system, enable fat metabolism, and prevent the protein from being used as energy.

Before learning to grow food, the carbohydrates that our ancestors consumed for energy must have come from whatever plants that were available to them according to the season.

Around 6,000 BC, people in New Guinea cultivated sugarcane. They drank the sweet juice by chewing the stalks of the sugarcane. The cultivation 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. By 600 AD sugar found its way to China, Persia, and northern Africa. Eventually, by the 11th century, it reached Europe. In England between the 18th and 19th centuries consumption of sugar increased by 1,500 percent.

By the mid 19th century, Europeans, Americans and the people of the civilized world became habituated to the use of refined sugar and considered it as a staple item of food.

Now, we consume sugar daily in one form or another because our body cells depend on carbohydrates for energy. An ingrained love for sweetness has evolved within us and we use sugar generously to sweeten almost all our raw, cooked, baked, frozen food and drinks.

There is good and bad food. Health experts point their finger accusingly at all foods that have sugar and brand them bad. They say that we are in fact poisoning ourselves by satiating our sweet tooth. Some even use the adjective ‘toxic’ to describe sugar and say it disrupts the body’s usual hormonal cycles and endangers our internal and external organs.

All experts say the use of sugar results in high rates of obesity, metabolic disorders like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and many other ailments.

Testing urine by smelling and tasting was once the primary method used to diagnose diseases. Hippocrates (460-377 BC) of Kos noticed that a patient’s urine smelled differently as the course of fever changed. The Greco-Roman doctor Galen (131-201 AD) of Pergamon believed that urine revealed the health of the liver, where blood was supposedly produced. He stated, evaluating the urine was the best way to find whether or not the body’s four humours – blood, phlegm, yellow and black bile – were in equilibrium.

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Thomas Willis (1621–1675) by John Wollaston (Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford)
Thomas Willis (1621–1675) by John Wollaston (Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford)

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In 1675, Thomas Willis (1621-1675), an English physician who played an important part in the history of anatomy, neurology and psychiatry, and a founding member of the Royal Society of London, was the first in modern medical literature to diagnose diabetes by the taste of urine. He observed that the urine of the diabetics tasted “wonderfully sweet, as if it were imbued with honey or sugar.” His taste test impelled him to append the latin word ‘mellitus‘ for honey to this form of diabetes. Ancient  Hindu, Chinese, and Arab texts also have reports of the same sweet taste in urine of patients suffering from diabetes.

Haven Emerson (1874-1957), Emeritus Professor of Public Health Practice at Columbia University, New York, pointed out that significant increase in deaths from diabetes between 1900 and 1920 corresponded with an increase in sugar consumption.

In the 1960s a series of experiments on animals and humans conducted by John Yudkin, the British nutrition expert revealed that high amounts of sugar in the diet led to high levels of fat that paved the way for heart disease and diabetes. But Yudkin’s warning was not heard because other scientists blamed the rising rates of obesity and heart disease to cholesterol caused by much-saturated fat in the diet.

Even though the Americans changed their diet by consuming less fat than they did 20 years before, obesity increased.

Why?

The culprit was sugar and fructose in particular.

Now, we eat most of our sugar mainly as sucrose or table sugar. Americans include high-fructose corn syrup as well.

One molecule each of two simple sugars – glucose and fructose, having the same chemical formula, but with slightly different molecular structures, bond together to form a molecule of sucrose.

Because fructose is about twice as sweet as glucose, an inexpensive syrup mixing the two was an appealing alternative to sucrose from sugarcane and beets. In the 1960s, the U.S. corn industry developed a new technology to convert corn-derived glucose into fructose from which high fructose corn syrup was produced. Despite its name, the high fructose corn syrup has 55% fructose, 42% glucose, and three percent other sugars.

The various avatars of sugar are metabolized differently in the body. Our body cells prefer the simple sugars fructose and glucose to the heavier disaccharide sucrose. Enzymes such as sucrase in the intestine split sucrose into fructose and glucose instantaneously. Glucose travels through the bloodstream to all of our tissues.

The human body regulates the amount of glucose in the blood. Glucose reaches all the tissues in the body through the bloodstream. It stimulates the pancreas to secrete insulin, the hormone which helps remove excess glucose from the blood, and boosts production of leptin, the hormone which suppresses hunger.

All body cells convert glucose into energy, but only liver cells can convert fructose to energy by metabolizing it into glucose and lactate.

Too much fructose from sugars and sugary drinks including fruit juices taxes the liver by making it spend much energy on converting and leaving less for all its other functions. This leads to excess production of uric acid that induces the formation of gout, kidney stones and leads to high blood pressure. According to some researchers, large amounts of fructose encourage people to eat more than they need since it raises the levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates hunger.

Sugar also triggers the body to increase production of Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol often informally called bad cholesterol. LDL cholesterol transports their content of many fat molecules into artery walls, attract macrophages, and thus drive atherosclerosis.

Also, excess fructose increases fat production, especially in the liver. The fat converts to circulating triglycerides that are easily stored in fatty tissue, leading to obesity and a risk factor for clogged arteries and cardiovascular diseases.

Some researchers have linked a fatty liver to insulin resistance – a condition in which cells become unusually less responsive to insulin, exhausting the pancreas until it loses the ability to regulate blood glucose levels properly.

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Richard J. Johnson, MD, University of Colorado
Richard J. Johnson, MD, University of Colorado Denver

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Richard J. Johnson, a nephrologist at the University of Colorado Denver has proposed that uric acid produced by fructose metabolism also promotes insulin resistance thought to be a major contributor to obesity and Type 2 diabetes, the disorders that often occur together.

Rich Cohen in his article “Sugar Love” (A not so sweet story) published in the National Geographic quotes Dr Richard J. Johnson:

“It seems like every time I study an illness and trace a path to the first cause, I find my way back to sugar.

Why is it that one-third of adults [worldwide] have high blood pressure when in 1900 only 5 percent had high blood pressure? Why did 153 million people have diabetes in 1980, and now we’re up to 347 million? Why are more and more Americans obese? Sugar, we believe, is one of the culprits, if not the major culprit.”

Now, more than one-third of adults and nearly 12.5 million adolescents and children are obese in the United States. In 1980 about 5.6  million Americans were diagnosed with diabetes. However, in 2011 more than 20 million Americans were found to be diabetic.

Dr Arun Bal, diabetic foot surgeon warns:

“India is facing an epidemic of diabetes. At present, confirmed diabetes patients in India are 67 million, with another 30 million in prediabetes group. By 2030, India will have the largest number of [diabetic] patients in the world. Diabetes is not only a blood sugar problem but brings along other complications as well.”

Dr Suresh Vijan, an Interventional cardiologist, also warns:

“The incidence of heart disease is increasing at a rapid rate. It was 1.09% in the 1950s, increased to 9.7 % in 1990, and 11% by 2000. This rising trend will make India the heart disease capital of the world… Indians face a dual risk of heart disease and diabetes. The risk of death due to myocardial infarction is three times higher in diabetics as compared with non-diabetics. Life expectancy too is reduced by 30% in diabetics as compared to non-diabetics; this translates into a loss of eight years of life… Increased consumption of dense-rich foods along with increasing sedentary lifestyle has increased the incidence of diabetes and heart disease.”

Robert Lustig of the University of California, San Francisco, is crusading against the use of sugar. His YouTube videos “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” and “Fat Chance: Fructose 2.0” have gone viral.

It’s not just the heart, diabetes takes a severe toll on vision too.

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Don't Lick the spoon !(Source: news.discovery.com)
Don’t Lick the spoon ! (Source: news.discovery.com)

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The Different Avatars of Sugar


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Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj
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Image source: nourition.com
Image source: nourition.com

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Sugar is the universal name for a variety of carbohydrates or saccharides that have a sweet taste.

The word ‘sugar’ immediately brings to our mind the white crystals we add to tea and coffee to make it sweet.

However, scientifically, the term ‘sugar’ refers to various types of substances derived from different sources: simple sugars known as monosaccharides, and compound sugars: disaccharides, oligosaccharides and polysaccharides.

Any word that ends with “-ose” would most probably denote a sugar.

The range of sweetness we experience when eating foods is determined by the different proportions of sugars found in them.

Many chemically-different substances that are non-carbohydrates may also have a sweet taste but are not classified as sugars. Some of these are used as low-calorie food substitutes for sugar and are categorized as artificial sweeteners.

Saccharides

Saccharides (Greek sacchar: sugar)  are one of the most important biomolecules. They are also known as carbohydrates and control the energy in cells, provide structural integrity, and provide a role in the immune system, development and fertilization in all living things.

Natural saccharides are generally simple carbohydrates called monosaccharides having the general formula (CH2O)n  where n is three or more.

Plants use carbohydrates to store energy and to provide supporting structures. Animals and humans consume plants to get their share of carbohydrates as a source of carbon atoms for the synthesis of other compounds.

Carbohydrates supply energy for working muscles. They provide the fuel for the central nervous system, enable fat metabolism, and prevent protein from being used as energy.

Monosaccharides

Monosaccharides (Greek monos: single, sacchar: sugar) or simple sugars are the most basic units of carbohydrates with the general formula C6H12O6. Examples of Monosaccharides include Glucose (dextrose), fructose (levulose) and galactose. They have one sugar unit with six carbon atoms and five hydroxyl groups (−OH).  They are the building blocks of disaccharides and polysaccharides (such as cellulose and starch). 

Monosaccharides normally found in food (Source: socialphy.com)
Source: socialphy.com

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Each carbon atom that supports a hydroxyl group (except for the first and last) is chiral (a molecule that has a non-superposable mirror image), giving rise to a number of isomeric dextro– and laevo-rotatory forms all with the same chemical formula. For instance, galactose and glucose are both aldohexoses but have different physical structures and chemical properties.

Monosaccharides form an aqueous solution when dissolved in water.

Glucose

Glucose, also known as D-glucose, dextrose, corn sugar, grape sugar and blood sugar is a simple dietary monosaccharide found in plants. It is one of the three dietary monosaccharides, along with fructose and galactose, absorbed directly into the bloodstream during digestion.

Glucose

The name “glucose” is derived from the Greek word γλευχος,  meaning “sweet wine, must”. The suffix “-ose” denotes a sugar.

In a biological sense, glucose is found everywhere. It occurs naturally in fruits and plant juices. It is the primary product of photosynthesis. Most ingested carbohydrates get converted into glucose during digestion and it is the form of sugar transported around the bodies of animals in the bloodstream. It is used as an energy source by most organisms, from bacteria to humans.

Use of glucose maybe by either aerobic respiration, anaerobic respiration, or fermentation. Glucose is the human body’s key source of energy, through aerobic respiration, providing about 3.75 kilocalories (16 kilojoules) of food energy per gram. Aerobic respiration requires oxygen.

Simplified reaction:

C6H12O6 (s) + 6 O2 (g) → 6 CO2 (g) + 6 H2O (l) + heat
ΔG = −2880 kJ per mol of C6H12O6

The negative ΔG indicates that the reaction can occur spontaneously.

Glucose can be manufactured from starch by the addition of enzymes or in the presence of acids. Glucose syrup is a liquid form of glucose that is widely used in the manufacture of foodstuffs.

Fructose

Fructose or fruit sugar, is a simple dietary monosaccharide found in honey, fruits that grow on trees and vines, flowers, berries, and most root vegetables. It is the sweetest of the sugars.

Fructose

Fructose, a 6-carbon polyhydroxy ketone is an isomer of glucose – both have the same molecular formula (C6H12O6but they differ structurally. It is often bonded to glucose to form the disaccharide sucrose.

Along with glucose and galactose, fructose is absorbed directly into the bloodstream during digestion.

Commercially, fructose is processed from sugarcane, sugar beets, and maize.

Galactose

Galactose (Greek galakt: milk), a monosaccharide sugar, is a constituent of the disaccharide lactose along with the glucose. It does not occur in the free state. It is less sweet than glucose.

Galactose

Galactose is a component of the antigens found on the surface of red blood cells that determine blood groups.

Disaccharides

Sucrose, maltose, and lactose are compound sugars or disaccharides, with the general formula  C12H22O11. They are formed by the combination of two monosaccharide molecules with the exclusion of a molecule of water.

Sucrose

Sucrose is the granulated sugar that we customarily use as additive in our food. It is a disaccharide with one molecule of glucose covalently linked to one molecule of fructose.

Sucrose

Animated sucrose molecule model
Model of a sucrose molecule (Author: RedAndr)

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Sucrose is found in the stems of sugar cane and roots of sugar beet. It also occurs naturally alongside fructose and glucose in other plants, in particular fruits and some roots such as carrots.

After eating, during digestion, a number of enzymes known as sucrase split sucrose into its constituent parts, glucose and fructose.

Maltose

Maltose, also known as maltobiose or malt sugar, is a disaccharide formed during the germination of certain grains, the most notable one being barley, which is converted into malt, the source of the sugar’s name. It is less sweet than sucrose, glucose, or fructose.

Maltose

A molecule of maltose is formed by the combination of two molecules of glucose.

Maltose is formed in the body during the digestion of starch by the enzyme amylase and is itself broken down during digestion by the enzyme maltase.

Lactose

Lactose is the naturally occurring disaccharide derived from galactose and glucose found in milk. A molecule of lactose.is formed by the combination of a molecule of galactose with a molecule of glucose.

Lactose

A molecule of galactose is formed by the combination of a molecule of glucose with a molecule of lactose.

After consuming milk, during digestion, lactose  is broken down into its constituent parts by the enzyme lactase. Children have this enzyme in them. In some adults, the enzyme lactase does not form as they grow up and are unable to digest lactose.

Oligosaccharides

Oligosaccharides (Greek oligos: a few, sacchar: sugar) are polymeric carbohydrate molecules containing a small number, typically three to nine, monosaccharide units. They are commonly found on the plasma membrane of animal cells where they play a role in cell recognition.

Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS)

Fructo-oligosaccharides, also sometimes called oligofructose or oligofructan, are oligosaccharide fructans. They consist of short chains of fructose molecules.

FOS occur naturally and are found in many vegetables.

FOS exhibit sweetness levels between 30 and 50 percent of sugar in commercially prepared syrups and are used as an alternative sweetener. Due to consumer demand for healthier and calorie-reduced foods, FOS emerged commercially in the 1980s.

The range of sweetness we experience when eating foods is determined by the different proportions of sugars found in them.

Galactooligosaccharides (GOS)

Galactooligosaccharides  occur naturally and consist of short chains of galactose molecules. These compounds can be only partially digested by humans.

Mannan oligosaccharides (MOS)

Mannan oligosaccharides (MOS) are widely used in animal feed to improve gastrointestinal health, energy levels and performance. They are normally obtained from the yeast cell walls of Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

Polysaccharides

Polysaccharides are polymeric carbohydrate molecules composed of long chains of monosaccharide units bound together by glycosidic bonds. Typically, polysaccharides contain more than ten monosaccharide units. Cellulose, starch, glycogen, xanthan gum in plants, etc., are polysaccharides.

3D structure of cellulose, a beta-glucan polysaccharide. (Autho - Ben Mills)
3D structure of cellulose, a beta-glucan polysaccharide. (Autho – Ben Mills)

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Polysaccharides have a general formula of Cx(H2O)y where x is usually a large number between 200 and 2500. Considering that the repeating units in the polymer backbone are often six-carbon monosaccharides, and the general formula can also be represented as (C6H10O5)n where 40≤n≤3000.

Definitions of how large a carbohydrate must be to fall into the categories polysaccharides or oligosaccharides vary according to personal opinions of scientists.

Polysaccharides are an important class of biological polymers. Their function in living organisms is usually either structure or storage-related. Starch (a polymer of glucose) is used as a storage polysaccharide in plants, being found in the form of both amylose and the branched amylopectin. In animals, the structurally similar glucose polymer is the more densely branched glycogen, sometimes called ‘animal starch’. Glycogen’s properties allow it to be metabolized more quickly, which suits the active lives of moving animals.

The different proportions of sugars found in food determine the range of sweetness we experience when eating them.

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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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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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