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Archive for February, 2009

Chennai Central Prison

high-prison-walls-with-electric-fencesPhoto courtesy: Maya Menon

I have visited the Chennai Central Prison twice (not as an inmate 😉 ).

These historic buildings are intrinsic to Chennai and I feel quite sad that they are going to be demolished.

My grandmother was also posted there as the medical superitendent; being a government DMO doctor. Since my mother learnt bharatanatyam, she once performed at the Diwali prison celebrations.

My friend Maya Menon has written a great post about this historical building that is soon to be demolished.

Excerpts:

Opened in 1837, this prison has housed various freedom fighters and many political leaders including the ex-Chief Minister Ms. Jayalalitha, her close aide Sasikala, current Chief  Minister Mr. M. Karunanidhi and his son Mr. M.K. Stalin. It has also housed various state and central ministers like Murasoli Maran, Arcot Veersamay and so on.

It had housed 2000 plus prisoners when it was closed back in 2007 and the prisoners were moved to Puzhal. We were told that the government plans to pull down the structure and the place would be utilised by the General Hospital (which is next door) for its expansion and another part of the land would be taken by Railways.

I wonder why the government doesn’t want to  convert this place to a tourist destination. They can restore the blocks, display photographs, have sound and light shows and even have special theme rides like the ones in disney land. I am sure a lot of private players would come forward if government is willing.

Has anyone filed a PIL against bringing down such a historic place?

Do also check out the cute story of Kuruva, Kuruvi at Maya Menon’s.

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white-roses

My grandfather E J Chandran Job died. There is a saying, one shouldn’t talk ill of the dead. So bowing to polite conventions, I spoke at the funeral service of various incidents in his life that showed him in a good light – his bravery in the three wars – Indo-Pak & Indo-China, his education in Madras Christian College (also my alma mater) and his care of my dad.

My grandfather was born in 1921. He was the son of a Christian school headmaster in Chengalpet. He also had as many as 8 siblings – sounds like a large family but that was pretty normal in those days.

At his 80th birthday, there was a big celebration and he spoke about his life and his ambitions. I was of course quite uncomfortable about the whole thing – I would have never invited a host of people just so that I could hear good things being said about me. Of course, I maybe wronging the poor man; he might have just meant it as a celebration of life. But the ceremonies on that day and the overt praise of my grandfather as a sterling example of a Christian was too nauseating for me.
Anyway my grandfather told the audience that day that he wanted a good life and so he wanted to study for medicine (I would have thought nobler ambitions like serving the poor might have been mentioned. But I guess my grandfather had decided to be candidly honest). In his large family, financing the education of all the kids was a problem. So my grandfather had to forget his ambitions and join a course in agriculture and plow the family fields while his elder siblings started their medical studies.
But soon, fortune smiled on him. He finished his degree and he became an anaesthetist…this was another cause for derision by other less-charitable relatives. For some, you didn’t qualify as a doctor until and unless you passed out of CMC Vellore or got a string of M.D.s attached to your name.
Since he wanted a “good life,” he next applied for the Indian Army.
Now here comes the not so-good part. He tried to join the Indian Army when it was still being commanded by the Britishers. It has always been a source of irritation and shame to me that my grandparents had no part in the Indian freedom struggle and were more concerned about securing their own lives. During the freedom fight, colleges were continuously on strike, students were protesting, getting beaten up for it and jailed. Of course the number of students who gave up their education for the country were a minority. But I wished my grandparents were part of the freedom struggle. Having been involved to a certain extent in the student movement in my college and unions, I can’t imagine how people chose to be selfish and career-oriented when the whole nation was in an uproar.
white-roses2When my grandfather finally joined the Indian Army, it was thankfully in Indian hands. But he didn’t like the life of a Brigadier and didn’t stay in the Army for more than a couple of years. He soon got married to my grandmother Vedavathy and joined the Indian Navy as a surgeon commander – officer cadre. They of course had a splendid life there – the parties, the large mansions, the servants, the cars, the salary, the perks and everything that went with the fantastic title – surgeon commander.
Being a Naval doctor, he has seen three wars, visited many countries on board the INS Vikrant and been ribboned, decked and felicitated on many occasions. According to my grandfather, the most memorable trip he had was when he visited Persia – the land of the Bible. Since my grandfather was not the type who would fawn and flatter his superiors, he found that he was always the one who missed out on foreign assignments. He very rarely was photographed or honoured as the others in his rank were. The few newspaper articles in which he was featured/photographed, have been carefully preserved my grandmother (to be shown to envious and less-fortunate relatives.)
When he was captain of the mess, he once had the honour of sitting down for dinner next to then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Protocol dictates that the captain should have been in close attendance on Ms Indira Gandhi, but the Navy’s norms were that the captain of the mess should sit at the head of the table, preceded by the Captain of the ship. So my grandfather had his “big moment,” when he was able to converse with the Prime Minister. He told her about much needed improvements for the ships that were long-pending. Since there were many other things that he discussed with Ms Gandhi, he didn’t think she’d remember. But surprises of surprises that very week, all the improvements needed for the ship were carried out on ostensibly the Captain’s orders; but my grandfather and others saw the hand of Ms Gandhi in all of this.
My grandfather’s other “big moment” was when he saved a man’s life during wartime. My grandfather’s father i.e my great grandfather had died during the Indo-Pak war. A telegram announcing his death reached the ship, while it was carrying out wartime naval exercises.
white-roses11My grandfather due to a concatenation of circumstances was the only doctor aboard the ship. In a mishap, one of the air fighters was seriously hurt with brain injuries. My grandfather got the telegram, but continued to calmly administer first aid and then carry out an operation. After the surgery, the Captain said he could arrange for him to leave the ship and attend his father’s funeral. But since my grandfather felt that the man’s condition was still critical, he chose to stay with him and didn’t leave the ship till he felt he could safely leave the sailor in the care of the ship’s nurse. By the time he reached Chengalpet, his father had been buried and the funeral service over.

My grandfather was also the odd man out in the Navy, since he didn’t drink or dance. His religion forbade him from engaging in such frivolous past times. He was of course, praised abundantly by the local pastors for being such an “upstanding example” to the community. But sometimes I feel that a little bit of drink and dancing would have made my grandfather less religious and more human.

Actually there are many, many incidents I can remember about my grandfather…my memories of him are bitter – sweet.

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Mournful

My grandfather – E J Chandran Job died. He died of a heart attack on Monday…pretty stressful…so many things to do – get the photographs, get the headstone, get the ad in the paper…

Well, it at least keeps me distracted from mourning

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kitten1

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See, I’m not the only one finding roses irresistible. Actually I find even the little kitten irresistible. There’s nothing cozier than curling up on a large sofa with a nice book, next to a bowl of tidbits with a nice, furry cat on your lap. I love to scratch their soft underbelly and their ears…to have them snuggle up to you…purring…..Cats are so warm and adorable. The curse of living in apartments is that your neighbours don’t let you have pets. I long for the day, when I can stay in my own house and have all the cats and dogs one would ever desire.

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dollhouseminis

I thought I’d make an announcement. I’m guest blogging at Dollhouse Minis. I was invited by Smehreen or Sumaiya Mehreen, a talented artist, to guest blog along with some of her friends like Linda Cummings. I claim no expertise on the subject other than having created one dollhouse, but Sumaiya assures me the blog is meant for dollhouse lovers…so I’ve started posting 🙂

Sumaiya lives in Texas US. I’ll let her website do the telling for me:

“Sumaiya Mehreen made her debut as an international artist at age eleven, when she represented Bangladesh at the Mitsubishi Impression-Gallery Festival of Asian Children’s Art. Sumaiya is mostly known for her mixed media illustrations. She is also a prominent artist of Henna: a form of traditional body art. The artist currently resides in USA, working on her Graduate Studies in Art & Technology at The University of Texas at Dallas. She teaches Exploration of the Arts at her university, and has conducted several workshops and art exhibitions in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in Texas, USA. The art of Sumaiya Mehreen reflects the influence of her Asian heritage and the high spirits of her tropical homeland: Bangladesh.”

She draws illustrations, paintings, applies henna, traditional body-art and translates fairy tales; some of those can be viewed at sliced.

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To view more of her work, visit her flickr account

She started making dollhouses in 2006 and some of her earliest works can be viewed at smehreen-dollhouse.

She says, “I was on eBay looking for a dollhouse when I was blown away by the variety and intricacies of dollhouse miniatures. I couldn’t believe eBay had a section dedicated to dollhouse miniatures! The assembled dollhouses were too expensive for me, so I made my first dollhouse from a kit. I made my first doll in 2007 :)”

On her dolls, she says, “I actually started making dolls by following the patricia rose tutorials. I have been thinking of starting a blog about
my dolls for a while, but somehow I never got around to it. I use the same method as the tutorials: create wire armature, sculpt using
polymer clay, bake in the oven, paint faces, dress them and finally add the hair.”

She also has another blog, in which she tells us the nuts and bolts of building a Garfield dollhouse; more specifically her dollhouses with lots and lots of pictures to add to the fun. Do visit The Garfield blog.

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On her Mini Food blog, she showcases the works of other artists like Stephanie Kilgast and Donna.

Sumaiya can be contacted at Phone: (214) 597 – 1173 E-mail: smehreen@gmail.com

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Sumaiya makes wonderful dolls – that look so ethnic and chic!

Her doll Parvati was inspired by Aishwarya Rai’s potryal of Parvati in Devdas.

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I love reading the accounts of how she makes her dolls. Her chandra is also another beautiful doll inspired by Chandramuki in Devdas.

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Do visit Flickr to check out more of her dolls.

Her dollhouses are also marvellous! At smehreen-dollhouse, you can check out more such lovely dollhouses!

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And since we are talking so much about Sumaiya. I can’t resist posting this pictute of hers, in which she has tweaked it to look like as if she is standing inside her dollhouse 🙂

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security-copyI was checking out the Mozilla Firefox security page and was quite surprised to see them carrying a point by point analysis of why they were 100 times better than Internet Explorer. Isn’t this a bit unethical of Mozilla Corporation…hitting out at another company (Microsoft) and naming it so that no one can mistake whom they’re targeting.

Firefox quotes a story: ““At risk” defined as publicly available exploits with no patch. Source: “Internet Explorer users Unsafe for 284 Days in 2006”
Brian Krebs, Washington Post, 1/4/2007″

And then carries a graphic on why the security risks are more when you use Internet Explorer.

And if you are further not convinced we have Mozilla’s cute fox telling us why we should be:

mozilla-copy

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women_parkMy friend has tagged me!

And I am supposed to tell the www, the 10 most irritating things about me. I don’t pretend to be scrupulously fair or objective in recounting them 😉

Ok, here goes:

  1. In college, my friends wanted to beat me up when I prolonged class by asking inane questions.
  2. I chat online (instant messaging) while I’m on the phone with other friends.
  3. My friends say I keep sucking the straw even after the cup becomes  empty, sounding like a vaccum cleaner.
  4. I hate other people starting every conversation with “basically,” “initially,” “Honestly” and other such words. But my friends say I do the same.
  5. I rarely chew gum, but when I do, I can’t resist popping and smacking them.
  6. When I don’t want to answer a simple question, I go on a long-winded 10-minute ramble and do everything except answer the question.
  7. My mom used to often correct me. My mom: “You shouldn’t yell “on the light” you should request “please, switch on the light.” And don’t be such a lazy boots. You are younger than all of us here and you can very well do it yourself.”
  8. My English Lecturer used to correct us when we asked for permission to skip class. “You can of course leave the class, but I am not going to give permission for you to do so. The question is “May I leave the classroom?.” And this must be the 100th time I am telling you that Ms D Rachel Chitra!
  9. He also told me that my spellings were atrocious. I was always spelling “you’re” as “your.” and “they are” as “their.”
  10. My mom says,  she gets most irritated, when I take a packet of biscuits out of the fridge, finish it and put the empty packet carefully back inside.

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