In November 2015, a rare weather phenomenon brought extra-heavy rain for a few weeks in Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Saudi Arabia. The freak weather led to the death of thousands of people in Iraq also brought excessive rain and hail storm to an otherwise hot and dry desert area in Iraq.
This video footage captured on November 16, 2015, shows the incredible sight of the river of sand and round uniform hailstones, some the size of golf-balls, moving at a rapid pace through the desert in Iraq.
The Tamil and Sinhalese New Year, generally known as Tamizh Puthandu (Tamil: தமிழ் புத்தாண்டு) in Tamil Nadu and among the Indian worldwide Tamil diaspora, and as Sinhala Aluth Avurudda (Sinhala: සිංහල අලුත් අවුරුද්ද) in Sri Lanka, is a major anniversary celebrated by the Sinhalese and Tamil people in Sri Lanka.
The festival date is set with the solar cycle of the Hindu calendar, as the first day of the Tamil month of Chithirai. It, therefore, falls on or about 14 April every year on the Gregorian calendar. The same day is observed by Hindus elsewhere as the traditional new year but is known by other names such as Vishu in Kerala, and Vaisakhi or Baisakhi in central and northern India.
The Sinhalese New Year / Sinhala Aluth Avurudda has a close semblance to the Tamil New year / Tamizh Puthandu and is a public holiday in Sri Lanka. It is generally celebrated on 13 April or 14 April and traditionally begins at the sighting of the new moon.
On January 29, 2008, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)-led Government of Tamil Nadu enacted the Tamil Nadu New Year Declaration Bill 2008 which declared that the Tamil new year should be celebrated on the first day of Tamil month of Thai (14th January) to coincide with the Tamil harvest festival of Pongal. However, the Tamils in Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia and Canada continued to observe the new year in mid-April.
The law enacted by the DMK-led Government of Tamil Nadu was met with resistance by the majority of Tamils in the state and elsewhere. It was also challenged in court, questioned by Hindu priests and many Tamil scholars around the world. Many in Tamil Nadu ignored the DMK government legislation and continued the celebration of the traditional Puthandu new year festival in mid-April.
The then opposition All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) in Tamil Nadu subsequently condemned the decision of the DMK Government in that state and urged their supporters to continue celebrating the traditional date in mid-April.
In an effort to placate popular sentiments the DMK-led government renamed Tamil Puthandu as “Chithirai Tirunal” (the festival of the Tamil month of Chithirai). It maintained April 14 as a public holiday purportedly to commemorate late Dr B.R Ambedkar, who was the Chairman of the Drafting Committee of Indian Constitution even though all the television channels in Tamil Nadu continued to telecast festive “Chithirai Tirunal Special Programs” on April 14, 2010.
In April 2010, the Governor and the Chief Minister of the Indian Union Territory of Puducherry, which has an ethnic Tamil majority, wished and greeted the public for the Tamil new year 2010.
Subsequently, on August 23, 2011, an AIADMK majority-led government rescinded this law legislated by the DMK majority-led government by a separate act of legislation in the Tamil Nadu Assembly.
John Brown (May 9, 1800 – December 2, 1859) was an American radical abolitionist who believed in and advocated armed insurrection as the only way to overthrow the institution of slavery in the United States. He had 20 children of which 11 survived to adulthood.
In mid-October 1859, John Brown and 21 other men seized the federal armoury at Harper’s Ferry, the holding place for approximately 100,000 rifles and muskets, with the hope of arming slaves and start a violent slave liberation movement that would spread south through the mountainous regions of Virginia and North Carolina.
Within 36 hours, the revolt was suppressed by local farmers, militiamen, and US Marines, the latter led by Robert E. Lee, the commander of the Confederate States. The raid resulted in thirteen deaths – twelve rebels and one U.S. Marine.
John Brown was hastily tried for treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia, the murder of five men (including 3 blacks), and inciting a slave insurrection. He was found guilty on all counts. He was the first person convicted of treason in the history of the country.
On Sunday Evening of October 30, 1859, two weeks after John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry, Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862), the American essayist, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, tax resister, historian, development critic, and transcendentalist read to the citizens of Concord, Massachusettes, “A Plea for Captain John Brown” and repeated it several times before Brown’s execution on December 2, 1859. It was later published as an essay as a part of Echoes of Harper’s Ferry in 1860.
In his “A Plea for Captain John Brown“, Thoreau vents his rage at the scores of Americans who have voiced their displeasure and scorn for John Brown. Thoreau says, the same people, who say their prayers and then go to sleep aware of injustice but doing nothing to change it can’t relate to Brown because of their concrete stances and “dead” existences.
About 148 years before, on March 8, 1711, Joseph Addison (May 1, 1672 – June 17, 1719), an English essayist, poet, playwright, and politician wrote an essay that appeared in The Spectator in which he says:
When I lay me down to Sleep, I recommend my self to his Care; when I awake, I give my self up to his Direction.
All the bedtime prayers of the modern pious Christians, then and now, begin with one of the variants of this classic children’s bedtime prayer from the 18th century which is sometimes combined with the “Black Paternoster”, one version of which goes:
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Bless the bed that I lie on. Four corners to my bed, Four angels round my head; One to watch and one to pray And two to bear my soul away.
In his “A Plea for Captain John Brown“, Thoreau criticized contemporary Christians by saying that “The modern Christian is a man who has consented to say all the prayers in the liturgy, provided you will let him go straight to bed and sleep quietly afterwards. All his prayers begin with “Now I lay me down to sleep.”
In plain English, the modern pious Christian does not wish to be disturbed. He looks forward to a future of inactivity. All effort, especially intellectual effort, is distasteful to him and is apt to offend and unsettle him. Hence the intellectual life must not be real; what must be real is the sleep. Sleep seems to be his quest, and in the words of Thoreau “he is forever looking forward to the time when he shall go to his ‘long rest.’“
Last Sunday, during the sermon, the village Pastor told his congregation that one should always embrace his/her mistakes and say “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea máxima culpa” meaning “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault”.
Now the Pastor wonders why his pious gardner hugs him every day and utters “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea máxima culpa!“
The following story is a modern-day admonition to many “I’m holier than thou” churchgoers to not allow transient secular needs to get in the way of their belief and faith.
The tale prompts the readers to assess the true contents of their hearts and find if they aren’t at times engaging in a bit of religious distancing by setting aside their faith when faith becomes inconvenient or whether they stand up for their beliefs and proudly proclaim them even when doing so is to their disadvantage, financial or otherwise?
The judge in the story points out, that there is something untoward about the congregation that puts worldly matters first and denies its belief in prayer.
A Tavern Owner Sues Members of the Baptist Church
In the early 19th century the Goshen Road was the main road in Mount Vernon, the county seat of Jefferson County, Illinois, United States. The Baptist settlers built a church on this road and had a good following.
In 1860, a Mr Drummond got a permit to open the first tavern in Mt. Vernon and he bought the building opposite the Baptist church and launched his business.
The members of the Baptist church who strongly opposed the opening of the tavern appealed to the authorities to shut it down. The officers, already bribed by Drummond with liquor and money turned a deaf ear to their appeal. So, every day, the members of the Baptist congregation started praying to God to intervene.
A few months later lightning struck the building housing the tavern. It caught fire. The members of the Baptist church rejoiced until they received notice that Mr Drummond, the tavern owner was suing them.
In court, Mr Drummond contended that the lightning bolt that destroyed his tavern was the result of the prayers of the members of the Baptist church. The members of the church, nonetheless, denied all responsibility for the destruction of the tavern.
After the preliminary hearing, the judge warily remarked, “It’s difficult to decide the case because Mr Drummond, the tavern owner, believes in the power of prayer and the church people don’t.”
After dating for six months, Antonio and Sophia finally decided to marry. It took such a long time for Antonio to propose because of Gina, the voluptuous unmarried elder sister of Sophia, who from the day he met her was tempting him by offering spectacular views of her braless breasts whenever she came near him.
A month before the wedding Gina phoned Antonio and asked him to come over to their house to check the wedding invitation.
When Antonio parked his car under the porch of Sophia’s house. The usually noisy house was calm. When he rang the bell, Gina opened the door and he could feel a hint of trepidation in her mien as she pulled him inside and shut the door. Embracing him she said that she was alone in the house and had been waiting long for such a moment to express her feelings and desires for him and wanted to sleep with him as many times as she could before he married her younger sister.
When Gina said, “Let’s go upstairs to my bedroom and ...”, he just stood there stupefied. As she climbed the stairs, he rushed out of the house. He froze in his tracks when he saw Sophia and all the members of her family standing near his car, and Sophia’s father was holding a gun. They all smiled and cheered.
With joyful tears streaming down his cheeks, his future father-in-law gave the gun to Sophia. He hugged Antonio and said, “You have passed our little test. We don’t think we can find a better man than you as a faithful husband for my younger daughter. Welcome to the family!“
Just then Gina came out of the house and joined her family members. They all went laughing into the house with Antonio. After dinner, Gina accosted Antonio and while offering a view of her gorgeous braless breasts, whispered, “My offer still stands even after you marry my sister!“
He smiled slyly as acceptance of her offer and silently vowed to keep his condoms always in his car as a precautionary measure and never in his pockets!
The “Lucky Bamboo”, a common office decoration often marketed as a Chinese good luck symbol, is not really bamboo, it belongs to the same family as the lily.
Other common names for this plant include Sander’s dracaena, ribbon dracaena, curly bamboo, friendship bamboo, Chinese water bamboo, Goddess of Mercy’s plant, Belgian evergreen, ribbon plant, etc. Although the word ‘bamboo’ occurs in several of this plant’s common names, this plant is of an entirely different taxonomic order from true bamboos.
Dracaena sanderiana, also known as Dracaena braunii or the ‘Lucky Bamboo’ is named after the German–English gardener Henry Frederick Conrad Sander (1847–1920). It is a species of flowering plant in the family Asparagaceae.
Lucky bamboo is an attractive, popular plant that could be grown indoors. In certain parts of India, the plant has become the most popular indoor plant and is usually imported from China and Taiwan.
According to the principles of feng shui and Vastu Shastra, this plant considered as auspicious could bring good luck. Some believe that by keeping the lucky bamboo plant inside houses and offices in decorative pots would bring them happiness and prosperity.
Though several this plant’s common names precede with the words ‘China’ or ‘Belgium’, the plant is native of the tropical rainforests of Africa and parts of Southeast Asia.
Do you know that there some people who are off limits?
If a person is messing with someone who is already in love with another, or with someone who expects a serious relationship, or with someone married, with the intention of only a new ‘conquest’ and no love, would you approve his/her action?
If your answer is ‘no‘ then you too should not do it.
If you truly love another person and realize you are off limits then stop messing with that person’s life right now. If your feelings for that person is really deep, it would indeed be hard for you and it would take a long time for you to get over your infatuation. If you do so it would be worth for your reputation, and sooner or later someone who is not off limits will come along for you to love without any inhibition, and then you will know that your decision to stay off limits was worth the wait.
“Beating Retreat” is an old military tradition, dating back to the 16th century England when the troops ceased fighting, sheathed their arms and withdrew from the battlefield at the sounding of the Retreat and returned to their camps or castles, lowered their flags and cased their Colours and Standards.
On June 18, 1690, James II (England and Ireland) who was also the King of Scotland as James VII, had his drums beaten as an order for his troops to retreat. Later in 1694, an order from William III read “The Drum Major and Drummers of the Regiment which gives a Captain of the Main Guard are to beat the Retreat through the large street, or as may be ordered. They are to be answered by all the Drummers of the guards and by four Drummers of each Regiment in their respective Quarters“.
In the early 1950s, Major G.A. Roberts from the Grenadier battalion of the Indian army was asked to develop the “Beating Retreat’ ceremony as part of a military tattoo to display the musical prowess of massed bands comprising pipers, drummers, buglers and trumpeters from various regiment bands of the Army, Air Force and Navy.
The Indian Republic Day festivities officially culminate with the resplendent and colourful “Beating Retreat Ceremony” conducted on the evening of January 29, the third day after the Republic Day by the massed bands of the three wings of the military: the Indian Army, Indian Air Force, and Indian Navy, along with the Central Armed Police Forces and the Delhi Police enthral the crowd with their exceptionally captivating foot-tapping music.
The venue is Raisina Hills and an adjacent square, Vijay Chowk, flanked by the north and south block of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, towards the end of Rajpath.
On February 29, 2019, sixteen military bands, sixteen pipes and drums bands from regimental centres and battalions of the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the State Police and Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) participated in the Beating Retreat ceremony.
Out of the 27 tunes played eight were western and 19 were composed by Indian musicians.
The western tunes were: ‘Fanfare by Buglers’, ‘Sound Barrier’, ‘Emblazoned’, ‘Twilight’, ‘Alert (Post Horn Gallop)’, ‘Space Flight’, ‘Drummers Call’ and ‘Abide with me’.
The Indian tunes were: ‘Indian Star’, ‘Paharonki Rani’, ‘KumaoniGeet’, ‘Jai Janam Bhumi’, ‘Queen of Satpura’, ‘Marooni’, ‘Vijay’, ‘Soldier-My Valentine’, ‘Bhupal’, ‘Vijay Bharat’, ‘Aakash Ganga’, ‘Gangotri’, ‘Namaste India’, ‘Samudrika’, ‘Jai Bharat’, ‘Young India’, ‘Veerta Ki Misal’, ‘Amar Senani’ and ‘Bhumiputra’.
As usual, the event came to a close with the ever-popular tune of ‘Sare Jahan se Acha’.
Here is a video of the “Beating Retreat 2019 – Annual musical extravaganza” posted by Doordarshan National on YouTube:
On January 2, 1954, a press release from the office of the secretary to the President of India announced the creation of two civilian awards: Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award, followed by the three-tier Padma Vibhushan, classified into “Pahela Warg” (Class I), “Dusra Warg” (Class II), and “Tisra Warg” (Class III).
On January 15, 1955, the three-tier Padma Vibhushan award was reclassified into three different awards: the Padma Vibhushan, the highest of the three, followed by the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Shri.
From 1954 onwards the Government of India honours its distinguished citizens on India’s Republic Day (26th January) by conferring the civilian awards for their services to the Republic of India. All persons without distinction of race, occupation, position or sex are eligible for these awards.
The Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award is conferred on distinguished citizens of India in recognition of their distinguished contribution in various spheres of activity including the arts, education, industry, literature, science, sports, medicine, social service and public affairs. It has also been awarded to some distinguished individuals who were/are not citizens of India for their various services rendered to the Republic of India.
The recipients of the PadmaShri award receive only the award. It is just an honour without any monetary compensation. No cash allowance or any facility/benefit in terms of concession etc. in rail/air travel is attached to these awards. The awardees are not allowed to publicize their achievements.
The award does not amount to a title and cannot be used as a suffix or prefix to the awardee’s name on letterheads, invitation cards, posters, books etc. In the case of any misuse, the awardee will forfeit the award. Though there are no specific criteria for withdrawing a Padma award, according to the awards’ statutes, the President of India may cancel and annul any award in the case of any misconduct committed by the recipient.
The Padma Shri decoration comprises a Certificate issued under the hand and seal of the President and a Medallion. The recipients are also given a replica of the medallion, which if they desire can be worn by them during any ceremonial/State functions.
A higher category of Padma award can be conferred on a person only where a period of at least five years has elapsed since conferment of the earlier Padma award. However, in highly deserving cases, relaxation can be made by the Awards Committee.
This year (2019), the Padma Shri was awarded to 94 persons. Of these 21 of the awardees are women, 11 persons from the category of foreigners/NRI/PIO/OCI, three posthumous awardees and one transgender person.
What caught my attention most was the following 14 humble, compassionate, unassuming, unselfish and humane Padma Shri recipients ignored by the media caught my attention.