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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Tony Greig is no more - remembering Chennai 1977 test when he played


Remember watching the tall imposing frame of 6 foot 6 inch frame, Tony Greig during that infamous tour of 1976-77; a photo in The Hindu those days [of course a black and white one – some colour photos did appear in Saturday Special of The Hindu, a Cricket supplement ?] of the tall Greig carrying the little super athletic Alan Knott, the great wicket keeper. 

Sad, that imposing person is no more finally succumbing to lung cancer ~ or to the heart attack at the age of 66 on a day after the boxing day.  Tony had been a familiar figure.  Born and raised in South Africa, Greig moved to England to pursue an international career. Greig played 58 Tests for England - 14 of them as skipper - before quitting the team to join Australian tycoon Kerry Packer's breakaway World Series.  He was a quality allrounder who fell to Packer's offer to be one of the architects, captains and chief recruiters for the World Series Cricket revolution. That brought his move to Australia and integral place on the Nine commentary team, a role he maintained alongside overseas work for more than three decades, until his diagnosis. Channel Nine's tribute, which extended as far as a half-hour television special following the nightly news, was summed up with these words: "Tony Greig is a name synonymous with Australian cricket - from his playing days as the English captain we loved to hate, to his senior role in the revolution of World Series Cricket, his infamous car keys in the pitch reports and more than three decades of colourful and expert commentary."

Early this year, he was back to the establishment delivering MCC's Cowdrey Lecture at Lord's in June where he explained the reasons behind his decision to sign with WSC, before entering into a typically passionate discussion of the game he loved.  Cricinfo reports that at the  time of his death, Greig was with his family, including his second wife Vivian, his daughter Beau, his son Tom, and two adult children from his previous marriage - daughter Sam and son Mark.

In Tests he scored 3,599 Test runs at an average of 40.43 and was also more than handy with the ball, claiming 141 wickets at an average of 32.20. A  right-handed middle-order batsman and medium-fast seamer, Greig  made his Test debut for England against Australia in 1972, and captained the national team from 1975-1977 after succeeding Mike Denness as skipper.

Mike Brearly and Tony Greig – photo courtesy www.dailymail.co.uk
He captained England to a great 200 win at Chepauk way back in January 1977, a series otherwise marred by the ‘vaseline incident’ of John Lever.  At Chepauk, it was the 3rd Test of the Series and England crawled to 171 for 5 on day 1.  Amiss was dismissed cheaply by Madanlal and the other opener, another South African Bob Woolmer made 22.  The reserve wicket keeper Roger Tolchard literally played no shots but remained in the crease far too long.  Greig made a half century as England were all out for 262 with Bishan Singh Bedi taking 4 wickets.  England had the mercurial Derek Randall, arguably the best fielder.

Indians were shot out for 164 ~ Greig  bowled just 4 overs.  RGD Willis ran in fast, long and furious and it was a sight to look at – there was Chris Old and the wily Derek Underwood but it was the left handed John Lever who took a 5 for … Gavaskar, Brijesh Patel, Kirmani and next Prasanna made double figures. In their second innings England declared at 185 for 9; with Chandra taking 5 and Prasanna 4.  Set to score 284, India gave a pathetic display getting dismissed for a paltry 83.  RGD Willis took 3; John Lever 2 and Underwood 4.
It was not a high scoring match and with a first innings total of 262, England won by 200 runs.  Chepauk on that match was bouncy and helped pacers.  It was during the Indian innings, the maligned vaseline incident took place.  Lever, who took five for 59 in the innings (two of them on the previous day) was reported by umpire Reuben to be carrying on his person a strip of surgical gauze impregnated with vaseline. Umpire considered it to be a breach of Law 46. The M.C.C. authorities did not deny the presence of the offending strip of gauze, but offered an explanation for its use. Their version of how it came to be discovered by the umpire did, however, conflict with that of Mr. Reuben. The umpire said that it came adrift while Lever was delivering the ball. M.C.C., on the other hand, claimed that Lever found it a hindrance and discarded it himself.

The M.C.C. explanation for the bowler having possession of the gauze strip was this: "During the morning session, both Lever and Willis had suffered from smarting eyes because of sweat running into them from the forehead. So, on the advice of the team's physiotherapist, Mr. Bernard Thomas, they went out wearing these gauze strips which were intended to divert the trickle of perspiration away from their eyes."

Ken Barrington, the M.C.C. manager, said that while there had been a technical breach of the law governing fair and unfair play, the offence was totally unintentional. At a press conference the following day, the rest day, the captain and manager emphasised in further defence of Lever that the gauze strips were not worn until after lunch and that by then England had made such large inroads into the Indian innings, that such unfair methods were quite unnecessary.  Years later at Lords in 1994, Michael Atherton was caught on camera surreptitiously rubbing loose soil taken from his pocket onto the ball ~ but claimed that dirt was merely to help dry his hands. 

During that tour, Indian captain Bishan Singh Bedi, however had suspicions that Lever had used polishing agent of some kind even during the Delhi test, when he routed Indians.  Whatever it be, it was laid rest more because it was a breach committed by the English and perhaps Indian Board was not all that strong those days.  Those of us who saw the match those days belived : Lever was unplayable; Indians fished out side the off and there was something that aided the prodigious moment of the ball when Lever bowled.  Lever took 26 wickets in that series but never reproduced anything closer later.

The tour of 1976-77 was personally very successful and significant  for Tony Greig as he defeated India at home 3-1.  Months later Grieg joined Kerry Packer to become a key man, was sacked as England captain.  Cricinfo trivia relates that that the last day of the Madras Test was the first time the BBC broadcast live ball-by-ball commentary from India.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

Friday, December 28, 2012

dented painted women holding candles on street - agonising remark


India at times, is painted as a land of snake charmers and we get agitated that foreigners do not know much about us ~ there are times when our own politicians do not know or do not care to know about this great land !!

In my school days, have read about this word ‘painted harridan’ ~ an unpleasant old woman, who shouts a lot. Those were the days when we read for the sake of marks and understood nothing…..

Indian National Congress is a party with tradition ~ associated with the freedom struggle, whipping out the sentiments of people of this land against the ruling Britishers.  The present Congress is perhaps a far cry away and keeps nothing of the old tradition is what is understood when you hear the words of politicians uttered time and again, making us wonder whether these leaders are in touch with ground or not.  Yesterday, it was a high profile politician, the son of President Pranab Mukherjee - Abhijit Mukherjee who occupied all slots of media for his reported `dented and painted’ remark knowing fully well that there would be a hue and cry in the media over it.  There was expected outrage which included that of his sister.  A couple of days ago, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde had compared the crowds protesting in New Delhi against the gangrape of a paramedical student to Maoists. Soon after that the party’s Andhra Pradesh unit chief had questioned why women should move around in the night. A week ago on a primetime television show, party MP Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam had made derogatory personal remarks against BJP leader Smriti Irani. In a season of self-goals, the party is scoring them heavily.

Already,  people are feeling bad that none of the top leaders, including Sonia Gandhi,Rahul Gandhi and Manmohan Singh speak to the media.  In an age where every word you speak is dissected threadbare for hidden meanings, every slip of tongue makes national news and every wrong gesture travels to news consumers across the country in seconds, leaders should be adept in media manners. They cannot simply hope to escape unscathed after making a loose statement.  More importantly, they are expected to be socially responsible. 

The 23 year old student is  battling for survival after she was brutally gang-raped sadly is reported to have lost her intestines and has been airlifted to a specialty hospital in Singapore for possible organ transplant.  There are millions of concerned Indians, who have since been praying for her resurrection.

Abhijit Mukherjee is the son of the President of India, Mr Pranab Mukherjee.  He is a MP ~ elected from Jangipur, West Bengal in the by-election. The seat was vacated by his father President Pranab Mukherjee after he was elevated to the highest office of the country. The furore is about the views expressed by  Abhijit Mukherjee to a local channel on  the women protesters. He said,"What's basically happening in Delhi is a lot like Egypt or elsewhere, where there's something called the Pink Revolution, which has very little connection with ground realities. In India, staging candle-lit marches, going to discotheques - we did all this during our student life too, we were students too - I know every well what kind of character students should have. Those who claim to be students - I can see many beautiful women among them - highly dented-painted - they're giving interviews on TV, they've brought their children to show them the scenes. I have grave doubts whether they're students, because women of that age are generally not students."

‘painted woman’ has more than a veiled derogatory  reference to a woman whose appearance suggests she is promiscuous.

The problem in Indian politics is that many rise to higher echelons due to their family connection or using other means ~ they are Netas representative of common people.  They are used to lavish spending and are not affected by anything that affects ‘aam-admi’.  Only recently we heard a CM uttering that Rs.600/- is enough for a family of 6 for a month.

with regards – S. Sampathkumar.



Thursday, December 27, 2012

India Vs Pakistan ~ dazzling century by Srikkanth at Eden Gardens


A report on India Pakistan match when I have vowed not to post anything on the present Series between India and Pak.  Yes I still remain committed.

This is almost 25 years ago ! ~ of the real dazzler – Krishnamachari Srikkanth, whom I adored and followed fanatically.  Hours before or even days before the match would start our talks and expectations on Srikkanth succeeding in a match.  He was unconventional, not so consistent ~ still ended up making …. 4091 runs in One dayers and 2062 in Test Cricket.  He made 4 centuries at which point, he was the one with highest no. of centuries in One day for India – far cry when Sachin retired with 49 one day centuries under his belt. 

Srikkanth made his debut against England ~ his first inning uncomfortable stay was soon ended and in the second, was run out wandering out of his crease by a throw when ball was not in play and immediately Pataudi commented that this boy should learn that this is not Juhu beach.  Those days, it was felt and widely perceived that the purist Sunil Gavaskar who was vastly different by temperament and technique chided him and did not support him; though lesser mortals like Ghulam Parkar were well supported.  Srikkanth redefined batting with powerful hitting and playing lofted shots over the infield ~ amazing technique those days when batsmen were only used to driving the ball all along the carpet.

Rajan Bala was a great sports writer who at times was harsh ~ he was writing on the inadequacy in the technique of Srikkanth.  He wrote ‘Srikkanth and coaching manual have little to do with each other’. ~ and after this innings at Calcutta, he wrote – I am becoming his fan, which is something neither I nor Srikkanth ever thought would happen.  

It was an emotive Series that started at Chepauk in Feb 1987.  Pak played first, immediately lost Rizwan Uz Zaman to Raju Kulkarni; Shoaib Mohammad made a century; Miandad made 94 and helped by an unbeaten 135 by Imran, Pakistan made 487 for 9 declared and when play ended on 4th Feb 1987, the second day, Indians were 15 without loss with Srikkanth unbeaten on 5.

5th was a rest day and 6th started with great expectation for Chennai fans ~ all roads led to MA Chidambaram stadium and there was the mad scramble for tickets – there were heads everywhere – people occupying all vantage points to have a glimpse of Krish Srikkanth playing the pace of Imran Khan; there was Wasim Akram, guily Abdul Qadir and Tausef ahamed to reckon.  It was breath-taking assault as Srikkanth, cut, pulled and played with gay abandon to reach his maiden century in front of his home ground with all present cheering merrily.  He finally got out to Tauseef making 123 with 18 fours and 2 sixers.  Gavaskar, Mohinder, Vengsarkar all made runs too as Indians declared at 527 for 9.   If I remember aright, there was successive 4 and 6 off Imran that delighted the crowd.  The match meandered to a draw and the Man of the Match was shared by Imran and Srikkanth.

On 18th Feb was the 2nd One dayer at Eden Gardens, Calcutta.  Gavaskar had vowed not to play at Calcutta as crowds jeered him earlier.  Lalchand Rajput opened with Cheeka and was bowled by Imran; Raman Lamba too got out soon to Imran.  That was a day when Srikkanth cut, pulled and swatted Pak bowlers.  In those days, when 250 and a strike rate of around 80 were great, Srikkanth made 123 off 103 balls with 14 fours and 1 six.  India despite that cavalier knock, finished at 238 for 6 in 40 overs, which appeared a good winning total.  Imran went for 59 in his 10; Wasim Akram 49.  Rameez Raja and Younis Ahmed gave Pak a sound start but it was the thunder of Saleem Malik which stole the show.  He made 72 off 36 and took the match away from India.  A crowd of 90000+ reportedly saw that match. 

I  have treasured the paper cutting of Indian Express dated Feb 26, 1987 in which Rajan Bala hailed innings as a great display, comparing Srikkanth with Mushtaq Ali of yore.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
27th Dec 2012.

Hail the spirit of comeback man ~ Joginder and his travails


That picture froze in the minds of Indian cricket lovers ~ an Indian win in the World Cup – the inaugural World Cup ~ and the man in the frame, little known ……….  .. ..  For some life is always difficult ~ one falls quite often but still contrive to stand up tall !  Quite often, we think that some achieve greatness easily and for some greatness is thrust upon.  Tinseldom is one place, where we assume that people rise to the top so easily and sports, especially Cricket is another.  India cricketers go through a grind ~ they play at University level, play league cricket; rise to play for the top teams in 1st Div league; represent their State and Zone and eventually would get to play for the Nation.

Certainly not easy ~ though we hear some rise meteorically – beating their components and getting Indian jersey.  May be a good opener, middle order, good fielder, good wicket keeper, spinner, pacer, swing bowler, all-rounder – you are spotted by a IPL franchisee, play a couple of matches, swing around swivel to the top, earn a lot of money in the process ~ luckier enough if you get an opportunity of an Indian cap ~ perform well in a match, rise to starhood, become a permanent fixture in the squad !! – Sounds so sweet and so easy. 

At New Wanderers way back on 24th Sept 2007, that one delivery remains frozen in the memories of all cricket lovers – Misbah bends to play that fatal scoop; ball going high on the air, landing in the hands of Sreesanth ~ the bowler was Joginder Sharma……………. Later played for Chennai Super Kings too…….  Surprised to see that the bowler who bowled that last over in the nail-baiting traumatic finals did not play a single T20 after that !!!! ~ that is not all – you have more surprises when you read to follow the Haryanvi all-rounder’s career.  He has played 4 One dayers and 4 T20s for the Nation.  His last match was epochal – the finals of inaugural T20 World Cup; India won by 5 runs.  India scored 157 ; there was Rudra Pratap Singh, S Sreesanth, Yusuf Pathan, Irfan Pathan and Harbhajan.  

That scoop of Misbah-ul-Haq is history now. Pakistan started the final over needing a manageable 13, though with their last pair at the crease. Dhoni surprised everybody by asking Joginder to bowl that last over.   That became 12 from six after Joginder Sharma bowled the widest of wides, then 12 from five after Misbah played and missed. He played and hit next time, launching Sharma's nervy full toss down the ground. Six from four; one stroke would do it.  Joginder was only of modest pace but  Misbah's shot Hproved too ambitious ; the Wanderers erupted in deafening ecstasy. undreds of Indian tricolours waved in late-afternoon sun as the victory lap began. Misbah was dangerous and the normal tendency would have been to go to Harbhajan – Dhoni opted for Joginder – before you appreciate read further.

A few days earlier, in the Group match against India on 19th Sept 2007 – best remembered for that Yuvraj blasting Stuard Broad for 6 sixers in the 19th over, Joginder made his debut and was hit all over the park milking 57 off his 4 overs @ 14.25. Thus, more matches after that performance was boon and that chance to bowl the most tense last over was dream for Joginder – he did well there – but never got another opportunity.  In between he also bowled the final over in India's closely fought semifinal victory over Australia in the tournament with 22 runs required, taking two wickets as India won by 15 runs.

Back home, he was rewarded with a IPL cap, that too for Chennai Super Kings ~ but could not get enough opportunities in the starpacked side.  Eventually, he found himself alongside, George Bailey; Doug Bollinger; Suraj Randiv; Scott Styris; Yo Mahesh; Abhinav Mukund; Sudeep Tyagi; K. Vasudevadas and Ganapathi Vignesh ~ the unfortunate ones to be released by the Franchisee, left out of the squad.

Life was tough for this mentally tough Haryanvi.  In Nov 2011, Joginder was seriously injured when his car rammed into a BPO vehicle in Dwarka in south-west Delhi.  Joginder was reportedly driving, suffered head injuries and was taken to a private hospital in the area. He was later shifted to another hospital in Pashim Vihar where he underwent a surgery. "I had a major head injury, fracture and clotting, was in the ICU, needed head surgery and about 40-45 stitches," recounts the Haryana allrounder Joginder Sharma, talking about his car accident last November which nearly ended his cricketing career.

A year on, he has returned to the Ranji circuit, signing autographs as a knot of kids surround him before the day's play in the cricketing outback of Hubli. It has been a difficult journey back to the field for the man who has been the cornerstone of Haryana's Ranji side for several seasons.  Doctors had remarked at that time ‘Kuch bhi ho sakta hain (anything can happen).’ But Joginder was man possessed, determined to play again.  He attributes a lot to  physio Amit Tyagi who has helped him recuperate.  Perhaps more than the stress of the final over, the mental trauma of getting back was a bigger challenge ~  breaking down the psychological barrier was the most important thing. Joginder has had plenty of injury problems in the past couple of years, even before the accident: an ankle problem that needed surgery and a neck injury as well, and there was more trouble on the comeback trail.

Earlier this month, Joginder sprung back playing for Haryana against Uttar Pradesh.   He batted well and proved his fitness levels by bowing 30 overs  in the second innings against UP. It may be too difficult for him to earn back another cap for India, he may never bowl another final over in an International – but one must appreciate and salute the spirit of the strong willed – Joginder.

Joginder ~ Wishing you good health and a comeback to the National Team’

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
27th Dec 2012.
With inputs taken from cricinfo.com.

'Theek Hai' is not right and 'foot-loose' is...........


When things go wrong, they go terribly wrong…. Ordinary words assume extraordinary significance sometimes…….  Heard of an expression ‘foot-loose’ – meaning – having no attachments or ties; free to do as one pleases…

Before that another expression which literally means 'it is alright' or 'it is okay' ~ sometimes used to express low to moderate appreciation while receiving a particular piece of information.  It is the term “Theek hai”.  “Theek hai?” asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the end of his just-over-a-minute-long address to the nation this morning asking people to maintain peace after Sunday’s violence during the protests in Delhi against the rape of a student.

It was  meant to be only for the people recording Prime Minister’s address to the nation, but the words, ‘theek hai’ were broadcast on all television channels. Within no time, social media went abuss.  Someone tweeted “If sabTheekHai, there’d be no reason for you to speak @PMOIndia. Wish words seemed as if they came from the heart & not from sheet of paper.” ~ and another Newschannel person was quoted as tweeting : “Sorry, but PM’s speech was without feeling, wooden and totally unequal to the situation. The ‘theek hai’ at the end revealed it as theatre!”. 

The remark “Theek hai’ was telecast without editing, which set off a virtual war in the PMO and the Information and Broadcasting ministry.  In its aftermath reportedly, five Doordarshan staffers were suspended  for dereliction of duty and  a full blown blame-game  started among officials in I&B and the PMO.  There are queries on whether it was undue haste ?  Was the situation so alarming that the PM had to go on air immediately without waiting for the Doordarshan crew or even an announcement about the address? Why was the established protocol, of using only the government-owned Prasar Bharti or Doordarshan in all programmes featuring the Prime Minister, given the go-by? Why was a private party, ANI, preferred over the public broadcaster? Why was an unedited recording fed live to the TV media when it was the PM himself speaking? Why was the PM allowed to record without the aid of a teleprompter?   ~ more Q – less answers and more blame !

The  incident which has  subjected  the PM to ridicule on the social media, it is claimed that Doordarshan was not even know of the timing of its broadcast.  It is stated that the official broadcaster was the last to telecast it after the recording had already made the headlines. Officials in Prasar Bharti, which runs DD and All India Radio, said this was the first time in history such a goof-up had happened.  The five employees, now suspended, were considered to be the best of the lot in Doordarshan, which is why they were chosen in the first place.

Reportedly, the DD employees were caught in the traffic and arrived late at the PM’s residence by which time the ANI recording had already started.  The communication advisor said the camera was in place and he should start recording right away.  But when the “Theek hai?” remark at the end of the address went viral on Twitter, action was sought to be taken against DD staffers for reporting late.   

Foot-loose or loose Words :  In another place, Dr Manmohan Singh in his address to young IPS officers told that Police should not lose sight of the human rights of citizens and should be prepared to deal with challenges associated with urbanisation that was assuming “a monstrous shape”. “We have a large number of footloose young men who come to urban areas from rural areas in search of jobs, in search of livelihood strategies and if they do not get well absorbed in the process of development in rural areas, they can become a menace in society,” Singh told Indian Police Service (IPS) probationers who called on him on Wednesday. This was PM’s first message to the police after the Sunday’s crackdown at India Gate, which came in for widespread criticism for the force’s highhandedness.

As part of urban policing, he said the police must learn to master and understand what motivated people to take to heinous crimes such as rape and “what is it that we can do to wean (them) away from heinous path”. Singh reminded the IPS probationers, a third of who are engineers, that the people did not have a “good image” of the police. “This must change,” he said, reminding them that the police was “charged with responsibility of law enforcement in a humane manner, which respects the fundamental human rights of our people”. India was a “functioning democracy” and the police must “never lose sight of the human rights of the citizens at large”, he said.

While the later part of  the address to young Police officers is comprehensible, the statement that footloose youngmen migrating to urban areas from rural areas, somehow does not sink in too well.  Also  ‘theek hai’ clearly is not ‘right’ for those in DD  who are now feeling the pressure.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.
With inputs from www.firstpost.com

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Mahabrinda Natyam [kuchupudi dance] enters Guinness records


The ‘Mahabrinda Natyam’, is in news ~  a performance by 5,794 artistes, comprising from the tender but nimble-footed three-year-olds to the 65-year-olds, bagged a coveted place in the Guinness Book of World Records yesterday.

To us engrossed in Worldly activities, there are many spheres of art not so well known.  Long ago, in mid 1980s came the film ‘Sagara Sangamam’  in  Telugu directed by K. Viswanath,  starring Kamal Haasan, Jayaprada, Geetha, Sarath Babu, S. P. Sailaja.   In Tamil it was ‘Salangai Oli’.  The movie would start with a bearded alcoholic Kamal attending a performance of danseuse Shylaja (SP Shylaja) ~ and when everyone would go gaga over her performance, would criticize the performance.  In an immediate scene, the critic Balu [played by Kamal] would show where she went wrong in Bharatanatyam style and would demonstrate the same in other forms such as Kathak and Kathakali.  The performance was no doubt appealing, though ordinary mortals like us could not understand the subtle nuances……. – that film brought to the fore, that various such forms do exist……

Kuchipudi is a Classical Indian dance from Andhra Pradesh, India. It is also popular all over South India. Kuchipudi is the name of a village in  Krishna District of Andhra Pradesh from where this form is believed to have originated.  Kuchipudi dancers are quicksilver and scintillating, rounded and fleet-footed, they perform with grace and fluid movements.  Understand that Kuchipudi is also performed to classical Carnatic music and  shares many common elements with Bharatanatyam.  

The acclaimed performance ~ the  ‘Mahabrinda Natyam’,  is a performance by 5,794 artistes, comprising from the tender but nimble-footed three-year-olds to the 65-year-olds,  and has bagged a coveted place in the Guinness Book of World Records for the “largest Kuchipudi dance” at the GMC Balayogi Stadium here on 25th Dec 12 evening. Organised by SiliconAndhra to mark the close of the 3 International Kuchipudi Dance Convention, it was a tribute to the late Vempati Chinna Satyam, one of the greatest masters who practised the 600-year-old dance form and who has thousands of disciples across the globe.

The Hindu reports that Praveen Patel, adjudicator for Guinness Records, announced that he was delighted to witness the ‘largest Kuchipudi dance’ and handed over the certificate to Silicon Andhra chairperson, Union Minister D. Purandeswari and State IT Minister Ponnala Lakshmaiah. The earlier record was set at the second such convention at the same venue in 2010 when 2,850 artistes performed.

It was  an occasion for ‘Telugu pride’ to be showcased like never before and it was apt too, considering that it was just two days before the inaugural of the World Telugu Conference in Tirupati.

Guinness World Records, known until 2000 as The Guinness Book of Records is a reference book published annually, containing a collection of world records, both human achievements and the extremes of the natural world. The book itself holds a world record, as the best-selling copyrighted book series of all time. It is also one of the most frequently stolen books from public libraries in the United States.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.
26th Dec 2012.
Photo courtesy : http://www.kuchipudi.siliconandhra.org

Monday, December 24, 2012

Farmers committing suicide ~ remembering MGR today


With two more farmers taking their lives, the number of farm suicides has gone up to 10 in the delta districts due to wilting crops this year.  The other day, there was the news of the husband of a famous singer jumping to death in the coovum river……. very sad to hear such stories.  Suicide is no end solution ~ it is cowardice, one tends to say…. But sometimes, the perpetrator is pushed to the end, and gives up one’s life, extremely frustrated and not knowing what to do ~ while few do it in a fit of rage, unable to rein in tempers. Whatever be the reason, there can never be a justification for putting an end to human life by self. May be the committer goes scot free but his family lives in penury thereafter ~ undergoing more harrows than even before.
Suicide (Latin suicidium, from sui caedere, "to kill oneself") is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair, the cause of which can be attributed to a mental disorder such as depression, bipolar disorder,schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse. Stress factors such as financial difficulties or troubles with interpersonal relationships often play a significant role.
India’s backbone is villages and it is sad to hear of the plight of the agrarian. More sad that they are happening in our own Tamilnadu in the rice belts where once rice was grown thrice a year.  The latest suicides were reported from Kadambakudi near Kudavasal in Tiruvarur district and Karakathikottai near Manamelkudi in Pudukottai district. While Sakthivel consumed poison on Friday night and died in a hospital in Kumbakonam, Rengasamy (54) from Karakathikottai was missing since Friday morning. His family members searched for him throughout the day. His body was found near a canal in the village on Saturday. Kottaipattinam police retrieved the body and sent it to the government hospital at Aranthangi for autopsy. Police said initial investigations revealed that he had planted paddy on three acres. Due to lack of water, the crop began to wither. Dejected, he killed himself by consuming pesticide. A case was registered by the police.
While Pudukottai has recorded its first suicide, this is the third case in Tiruvarur district. Three farmers committed suicide in Nagapattinam district, which is the tail end of the delta area.  There is more concern as those connected to farming apprehend that the number would go up further as the crisis worsens.
People sometimes are too sentimental and react violently… do you know or remember that way back in 1987, many committed suicide on hearing the death of MGR.  It is nothing strange that even today [24th Dec being the day of MGR’s remembrance] one can see posters of his death in 1987 and in many places, people especially rickshaw wallahs keep a photo of MGR and offer floral tributes playing loudly his film songs.  Chief Minister and AIADMK functionaries visiting MGR Samadhi and remembering him is but natural – but the commoners still love him, in indeed a special news…
Here is what was observed on the roads this morning at some places – MGR picture with flowers – loudspeakers blaring his hits….. and here is something on the efforts that were made to take him to US for treatment posted on my blog earlier… http://www.sampspeak.in/2012/12/flying-out-mgr-safe-and-something-on.html

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.
24th Dec 2012.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

What is ‘7 degrees C’? that you see on PTC buses


City buses are places for multifarious advertisements ~ still, did you notice and wonder what this sticker reading – coming soon  ‘7 degrees C’?

Chennai, is a city of luxuries ~ there are malls which charge hefty sum for parking fee ~ and a premium charge for entering through a designed entrance.  In the same city, people wait patiently in the bus stops and would not get into the bus which would carry them to their destination ~ because it is an Express service where they will have to pay more ! – paradox in the lives of people.
You know :  Pallavan, Cheran,  Chozhan, Pandian – no not of the dynasties that ruled; nor Thiruvalluvar, Mahakavi Bharatiyar, Dheeran Chinnamalai, Marudhu Pandiar, Kattabomman, Rani Mangammal, to Rajiv Gandhi and more……….. don’t keep guessing – all names of erstwhile transport Corporations in the State.

In the city of Chennai, presently buses are operated by the  Metropolitan Transport Corporation ~ the same Corporation was earlier known as PTC - Pallavan Transport Corporation.  The transport corporation was established on 1 January 1972 with a fleet strength of 1029 buses. The operational jurisdiction is restricted to  Chennai Metropolitan area. The Pallavan Transport Corporation was split into two and a new Corporation, namely, Dr. Ambedkar Transport Corporation Ltd. started functioning in 1994.  In 1997, more changes saw, Pallavan Transport Corporation being  renamed as Metropolitan Transport Corporation (Chennai Division –1), Ambedkar Transport Corporation  renamed as Metropolitan Transport Corporation (Chennai Division-II). In 2001, amalgamation took place and now it is MTC. As of 2012, the corporation operates 42,961 services daily in 800 routes.

…… then there is the State Express Transport Corporation (Tamil Nadu) Limited (formerly known as Thiruvalluvar Transport Corporation), again a state-owned Transport Corporration that runs long distance express services exceeding 250 km and above throughout the state of Tamil Nadu linking all important capital cities, historical places, religious places and commercial places etc., and adjoining states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and the Union Territory of Pondicherry. This corporation operates Semi-Deluxe, Super-Deluxe, Video coach and ultra deluxe buses.  Earlier it was Thiruvalluvar Transport Corporation (TTC) During early 1990s, it  was then bifurcated as J Jayalalitha Transport Corporation(JJTC) and TTC in which JJTC operated interstate routes. JJTC was then renamed as Rajiv Gandhi Transport Corporation. Both TTC and RGTC was later merged into one and called SETC in 1996. There were more Transport Corporations based on the operational jurisdiction. Now the long distance Express Services all ply under one name – one entity - State Express Transport Corporation. 

 Now,  one finds stickers on all Transport Corporations in Chennai city, hailing the arrival of ‘7 degrees C’ ~ it is an advertisement  publicising the SETC’s latest service — delivery of couriers.

Here is a report that appeared in the Hindu.  The transportation of letters and small parcels through State Express Transport Corporation (SETC) buses will commence before the end of this month. “A nominal charge of Rs.7 will be collected for sending postal covers and C stands for courier,” said an SETC official, explaining the campaign. A letter or a parcel handed over to the SETC service will reach its destination in 12 hours and the recipient can collect it from the terminus after producing the necessary documentation, said the official. The cost of transporting parcels is yet to be decided though, the official added.

The service will be launched by Chief Minister Ms. J. Jayalalithaa. We have selected one firm for handling the courier service. We have been conducting a trial run for the past few weeks,” said SETC officials. Last year, a similar service was introduced by the Coimbatore Transport Corporation on a pilot basis and it received a good response. “The corporation earned nearly Rs.26 lakh. After this, we decided to extend the service to other corporations too,” said the official.

The courier service will be very secure and there will be restrictions on the type of goods that can be transported by bus, say the SETC authorities. All items which are restricted for transportation by flight will be barred for the service too. All the goods will be properly scanned before being transported. “For us, passenger safety is of paramount importance,” said sources.

At present, the SETC has a total of 959 routes in which the courier service is expected to be introduced. The SETC earns nearly Rs. 1 crore per day as revenue and this has witnessed an increase of 35 per cent when compared to previous years. Officials feel this trend will continue after the introduction of courier service.

with regards – S. Sampathkumar
24th Dec 2012.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Discerning good quality - Joshua Bell experiment ; Chennai Sabhas and Margazhi music season


                                          Come December, Chennai becomes busy; reverberates with music ~ the Carnatic music season.  There would be concerts everywhere in Music Academy, Narada Gana Sabha, Bharat Kalachar, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Brahma Gana sabha, Jaya TV Margazhi Mahothsavam, Vijay TV, Sruthi Laya Kendra  and more.  Carnatic music is one of the world’s oldest and most complex musical traditions, its provenance dating back nearly 4,000-years. This divine, unbroken tradition has been passed down, for generations, from teacher to student in a traditional apprentice system.  Thousands descend from all parts of the World to hear high quality music in various Sabhas. The music and moods of Margazhi are many, there is also the culinary delight.

The other day I happened to hear Anuradha Sriram singing ‘Nandalala’ at Bharathiyar Illam. People search schedules to go to concerts and listen to great singers like  Dr M Balamuralikrishna, TV Sankaranarayanan, TM Krishna, Sanjay Subramanian, Unni Krishnan, Nityashree Mahadevan, Bombay Jayashree, Sowmy, Suda Ragunatha, Aruna Sairam, Anuradha Sriram and more..  [my ignorance in Carnatic music is too blatant and I have tried to list out some names I know ~ not in any order – might have missed out some more important names – please forgive !] .  No doubt the exponents of Carnatic Music are great and treat the listeners with mellifluous music ! – a small doubt lingers – does perception plays a bigger role ?  - Does human mind tend to attach glory and greatness to some while some struggle to reach the higher levels of echelon ?????

Whilst on the topic of what decides quality, the real thing dished out or what one’s mind thinks it to be : do read this real incident that occurred miles away, in a Metro Railway Station in Jan 2007.  I read this, had doubts on its genuineness, checked and found it to be true.
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He emerged from the metro at the L'enfant plaza station and positioned himself against a wall beside a trash basket. By most measures, he was nondescript: a youngish white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap. From a small case, he removed a violin. Placing the open case at his feet, he shrewdly threw in a few dollars and pocket change as seed money, swivelled it to face pedestrian traffic, and began to play.

It was 7:51 a.m. on Friday, January 12, the middle of the morning rush hour. In the next 43 minutes, as the violinist performed six classical pieces, 1,097 people passed by. Almost all of them were on the way to work,  busy pursuing what life ordained.  L'Enfant Plaza is at the nucleus of federal Washington, and these were mostly mid-level bureaucrats with those indeterminate, oddly fungible titles: policy analyst, project manager, budget officer, specialist, facilitator, consultants and perhaps commoners too. Each passerby had a quick choice to make, one familiar to commuters in any urban area where the occasional street performer is part of the cityscape: Do you stop and listen? Do you hurry past with a blend of guilt and irritation, aware of your cupidity but annoyed by the unbidden demand on your time and your wallet? Do you throw in a buck, just to be polite? Does your decision change if he's really bad? What if he's really good? Do you have time for beauty? Shouldn't you? What's the moral mathematics of the moment?

On that Friday in January, those private questions would be answered in an unusually public way. No one knew it, but the fiddler standing against a bare wall outside the Metro in an indoor arcade at the top of the escalators was one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made. His performance was arranged by The Washington Post as an experiment in context, perception and priorities -- as well as an unblinking assessment of public taste: In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?

On that day what that famous musician played were masterpieces that have endured for centuries on their brilliance alone, soaring music befitting the grandeur of cathedrals and concert halls. Leonard Slatkin, music director of the National Symphony Orchestra, was asked the same question. What did he think would occur, hypothetically, if one of the world's great violinists had performed incognito before a traveling rush-hour audience of 1,000-odd people? "Let's assume," Slatkin reportedly said, "that he is not recognized and just taken for granted as a street musician . . . Still, I don't think that if he's really good, he's going to go unnoticed. His guess was that there might be 35 or 40 who will recognize the quality for what it is. Maybe 75 to 100 will stop and spend some time listening.  So the expectation was that a crowd would gather.

~ and the musician who performed that day was a onetime child prodigy - Joshua Bell. Three days before he appeared at the Metro station, Bell had filled the house at Boston's stately Symphony Hall, where merely pretty good seats went for $100. Two weeks later, at the Music Center at Strathmore, in North Bethesda, he would play to a standing-room-only audience so respectful of his artistry that they stifled their coughs until the silence between movements. But on that Friday in January, Joshua Bell was just another mendicant, competing for the attention of busy people on their way to work.

It was a snazzy, sequined idea -- part inspiration and part gimmick -- and it was typical of Bell, who has unapologetically embraced showmanship of an  incognito performance. The event had been described to him as a test of whether, in an incongruous context, ordinary people would recognize genius. He played with acrobatic enthusiasm, his body leaning into the music and arching on tiptoes at the high notes. The sound was nearly symphonic, carrying to all parts of the homely arcade as the pedestrian traffic filed past. Three minutes went by before something happened. Sixty-three people had already passed when, finally, there was a breakthrough of sorts. A middle-age man altered his gait for a split second, turning his head to notice that there seemed to be some guy playing music. Yes, the man kept walking, but it was something. A half-minute later, Bell got his first donation. A woman threw in a buck and scooted off. It was not until six minutes into the performance that someone actually stood against a wall, and listened. Things never got much better. In the three-quarters of an hour that Joshua Bell played, seven people stopped what they were doing to hang around and take in the performance, at least for a minute. Twenty-seven gave money, most of them on the run -- for a total of $32 and change. That leaves the 1,070 people who hurried by, oblivious, many only three feet away, few even turning to look.

There was never a never a crowd, not even for a second. The story may seem a little far-fetched, and many commentators have suspected that it is just another hoax. However, it is reported to be true. Joshua Bell is recognized as one of the greatest violinists and  did indeed perform incognito at the metro in an experiment organized by the Washington Post.  As an additional info, Bell played on a violin handcrafted by Antonio Stradivari in 1713 - an instrument that he bought several years ago for a reported price of $3.5 million.  For those uninformed like the ‘Yours Truly’ - Joshua David Bell is an American Grammy Award-winning violinist.  Bell made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1985, at age 17, with the St. Louis Symphony. He has since performed with many of the world's major orchestras and conductors.  Bell was awarded the Avery Fisher Prize on April 10, 2007, at Lincoln Center in New York City. The prize is given once every few years to classical instrumentalists for outstanding achievement.

Getting back to Chennai sabhas, you could find some enjoying the music; some able to do so; while some carry themselves to be around; some cellphone goes off; some loudly talk and some showing disrespect to the concert itself. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
21st  Dec 2012.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Unknown impact of Gujarat polls ~ NaMo leads from front


Unknown impact of Gujarat polls  !!  Nicknamed “NaMo”  - is a phenomenon. He has taken on his detractors, press, officialdom, opposition and has come out successful yet another time.  It is official, Narendra Damodardas Modi is the Chief Minister of prosperous Gujarat again. From being the 3rd of the 6 children of a small tea vendor to a highly successful CM, he has toiled a lot. 

He became the chief minister of Gujarat in October 2001, promoted to the office at a time when his predecessor Keshubhai Patel had resigned, following the defeat of BJP in the by-elections. His tenure as chief minister began on 7 October 2001. He has won the Elections in 2002; 2007 and now in 2012. Everywhere, people talk of anti-incumbency and the difficulty of holding on to public opinion when in power. He has belied all such theories.  He fought the elections on his own, projecting himself and the developmental activities in the State under his reign and the people have reassued their immense faith in his progression, which augurs well for the Nation. 
Fresh from his win in Assembly polls, which pitchforked him in the BJP’s prime ministerial candidates’ race, Chief Minister Narendra Modi said if he had committed any ‘mistake’, he sought forgiveness from the people in his victory speech rendered in Hindi.  Even as the last votes of the Gujarat Assembly elections were being counted, Narendra Modi sought to send a politically correct message. 

He made his way to the home of his one-time senior colleague turned bitter political rival Keshubhai, to call a truce and seek his blessings for the journey ahead. Around two hours later, standing on the victory podium in front of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s state headquarters in Khanpur, Modi, dressed in his trademark saffron short sleeve kurta, played victim and vengeful hero to an audience, which by all accounts, had its sights set on Delhi.

Besides his administrative skills, Modi, seemingly presents himself everywhere in the social media, electronic forum and more.  This election, he toyed with hologram and presented himself electronically at 4 different places.  He uses twitter and other social media regularly.  The Modi impact is felt elsewhere across the Nation and outside too, going by the news that the Bhutanese officials were impressed with the electoral process in the State. 

Firstpost reports that a delegation from Bhutan, which is on a visit to Gujarat to study the election process, is impressed with the peaceful conduct of Assembly polls in the state and hope to take home some electoral lessons. Bhutan deputy governor Chewang Jurmi is quoted as saying, “We have witnessed quite and peaceful elections here. The entire process is very well coordinated and is going on smoothly.” Wishing to replicate the good electoral practices during polls in the Himalayan Kingdom, Jurmi said priority given to senior citizens and women for voting is a good move which can result in voter turnout increase.

He further stated that “Priority to senior citizens and women to exercise their franchise is a step in the right direction.” The door-to-door distribution of voter slips to electors is another electoral practice that has caught the attention of the 10-member delegation.  While, in Bhutan, voters are frisked before they enter the polling station, there is no-frisking of electors in India. It is another voter-friendly process that the delegation from Himalayan Kingdom is interested in implementing in their country. Jurmi said that voters here have the option to exercise their franchise even without Electoral Photo Identity Card (EPIC) by showing any of the mandatory 15 documents, which is not the case in Bhutan, where one cannot vote if one does not possess the Voter Photo Identity Card. The delegation also expressed their satisfaction over the dry day (no alcohol) rule during (Dec 13-17) polling periods.

The delegation from Bhutan comprised four deputy governors, Brigadier Singye Dorji of the Royal Bhutan Army, two Electoral Registration Officers (EROs), a police official, two Majors (one each from Army and Police).  Another members expressed surprise over the fact that electors in India dress as they wish on the voting day while in Bhutan it is mandatory to dress up in National Dress on the polling day. The national dress for Bhutanese men is the gho, a knee-length robe tied at the waist by a cloth belt known as the kera. Women wear an ankle-length dress, the kira, which is clipped at one shoulder and tied at the waist.

So, Bhutan is too impressed with Na Mo and the State of Gujarat and the Indian way of conduct of elections..

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.
22nd Dec 2012.
With inputs from www.firstpost.com

Bangladesh garment unit fire ~ sabotage suspected; 3 arrested


Fire devastates ~ valuable property is lost and sometimes human lives are also lost…

Last month there were reports of ghastly death of more than 120 people when ravaging fire broke out  in the multi-storey garment factory on the outskirts in Dhaka, Bangladesh.  The loss occurred at  Tazreen Fashions factory in suburban Ashulia Savar, 30 km from Dhaka, on 24.11.2012 and quickly spread to the  ground and first floors of the six-storey building. Sadly there were reports of more bodies being recovered and most of the bodies were found to be  severely charred. Fire service officials earlier said several workers of the factory were trapped inside and took shelter on the rooftop of the structure awaiting rescuers.  Hours after the blaze, efforts were still  underway to extinguish the blaze with authorities mobilising several fire fighting units. Television footage showed army troops and fire service rescuers bringing out bodies one after another from the debris as hundreds of people, including relatives of the victims, waited outside.

Bangladesh thrives on garment industry and reportedly has some 4,000 garment factories, many without proper safety measures. The country  earns some useful foreign exchange through garment exports, mainly to the United States and Europe.   The fire that razed down the multi-floor Tazreen Fashion factory in the Ashulia district on the outskirts of the capital Dhaka, was feared to be the deadliest factory fire in the nation's history.  Opened in 2009, the Tazreen Fashion factory, part of Tuba group, employed 1,630 workers, who produced T-shirts, polo shirts, and jackets. While many got trapped inside, Some people died after jumping from the building to escape the flames. It is unclear what caused the fire, which started on the ground floor trapping many victims in the factory.

At that time it was suspected that an electrical short circuit might have caused the disaster. Generally, there will report of investigations, which eventually will never show any results ~ not always, perhaps.  The ghastly deaths sparked outrage and concern that human lives were not given the due regard and it was a far cry away from safety.  Thousands of garment workers staged protests in the country capital at Dhaka demanding higher safety standards.

Here is the second part of the story, which usually never happens. After the fire, there was huge public anger on the incident.  Subsequent reports suggest that Police have arrested three supervisors from a clothing factory, accusing them of  stopping workers from leaving the building and of padlocking exits. Government officials say preliminary information suggests the fire was an act of sabotage. Reports state that the Govt has opened two enquiries.  BBC reports that based on some enquiries, the supervisors had told the panicked workers at the Tazreen Fashion factory that the fire was just a drill and there was nothing worry.  All the 3 arrested reportedly were mid-level managers of Tazreen who according to some workers prevented the workers escaping from fire, calling it routine fire drill. 

On a different plane, campaigners allege Western firms making clothes in Bangladesh hide behind inadequate safety audits to help drive down costs. The Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), an Amsterdam-based textile rights group, says international brands have shown negligence in failing to address the safety issues highlighted by previous fires, and that this leaves them with responsibility for yet another tragic loss of life.

According to BBC reports, the public anger against the fire has not died down and the industrial suburbs around the Capital continued to be tense with factories having declared holiday fearing large scale labour unrest.  Some workers also vandalised factories and set fire to motorcycles, injuring at least 20 people, the online edition of the Daily Star reported.  There are some who state that the owner of the Tazreen factory had been guilty of "severe negligence". There are further reports that the inquiry would recommend action against the factory owner for negligence, despite concluding that the blaze was started deliberately. The factory owner, Delwar Hossain, has previously denied allegations that the building was unsafe to work in. The Director General of Fire Service and Civil Defence, Abu Naim Mohammad Shahidullah, told the BBC that the factory's certificate had expired in June and was not renewed. Operating a factory without such a certificate is technically an offence. Experts  say that the rules relating to such certificates are often flouted.

The factory which perhaps was not having valid paper permissions,  was making clothes for Western retailers including Walmart, C&A and The Edinburgh Woollen Mill at the time of the fire. Soon after the fire accident, Walmart said it was troubled that one of its suppliers had sub-contracted work without authorisation to the Tazreen factory and that it was terminating the services of the supplier.

All is not well with the garment factories of Bangladesh, which has more than 4500 factories, employing more than two million people. Bangladesh is the world's second largest exporter of ready-made clothes, next only to China. The  sector employs more than three million people, most of them women from rural areas.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

Insurance for Women drivers goes up after EU Gender rules


Things keep changing…. For long Insurance was bookish ~ i.e., Insurers simply went by the book – ‘All India Motor Tariff’ which guided the rates, terms and conditions of coverage of a motor vehicle.  W hen everything was said in AIMT,  the only  factors for rating were the usage, cubic capacity of the car and the zone that the car would be used..  The Registration No.; Engine No. & Chassis No; model make, type of body; whether fitted with electronic equipments; whether owner has membership of Automobile association   etc., were the extraneous factors collected.    In some markets, there are various parameters that go into rating which could including the driving record, deductible, model, make, colour of vehicle, location and area of operation, type of driving (business, pleasure or rarely used), garaging, how much the vehicle would be driven or the mileage done, age of the driver, gender, whether a student,  the safety features installed in the vehicle, membership of associations, the profession of the person owning the vehicle  etc.,

Now a days, you see more cars driven by women – many of them are high end vehicles; there are a  handful of auto drivers too. There is some notion that women are mild mannered and calm at wheels; but poor when it comes to parking. Commonly when  a woman is involved in an accident, on-lookers tend to say that it was her lack of knowledge of driving that caused the accident ! – there are some women who venture out on bikes also !

For long,  discrimination in setting insurance rates was  permitted under EU equal treatment rules allowing the market to base the price of a financial product on the statistical likelihood of a person having an accident, falling ill or dying. Now with the gender bias ban, women will perhaps need to find different ways to prove they are safe at the wheel.  

There are reports that with the onset of new EU rules that ban setting prices according to gender, women’s car insurance would go up by £300.  According to a report in Daily Mail, so far, female driver was paying  £1,247 on average while a man was called to pay £2,004. It is stated that with the change in European rules banning Insurers from setting their prices according to a person’s gender. Women drivers are among the biggest losers; losing the advantage hitherto enjoyed over a man of the same age.   The ruling of European Court of Justice is  the result of a  ten-year legal battle against the proposals by insurers.

The good news for Insurers that their premiums would jump ~ the change applies to all insurance products so men approaching retirement will also suffer, because the value of annuities will drop. Currently, men usually get a higher pension payout than women because they tend to die at a younger age.

According to the  Office for National Statistics,  a woman will typically die aged 89, whereas the average age of death for a man is 85. The Association of British Insurers is quoted as saying that only new insurance policies and renewals will be affected by the rule change.

On a different plane, it was stated that women are more likely to be injured in car crashes because safety features are designed by men with themselves in mind, a study has found.  Daily Mail states that researchers investigated 10 years' worth of data on U.S. motor vehicle accidents and discovered female drivers wearing seatbelts were 47 per cent more likely to suffer serious injury than males.

Belted female drivers suffered more chest and spine injuries than strapped-in male drivers in comparable crashes, they wrote in the American Journal of Public Health.  Women also face greater risk of injuries to the lower parts of their bodies because of their shorter stature, discovered the researchers, who looked at statistics between 1998 and 2008.  The researchers found head rests did not take into account the differences in size and strength between men's and women's necks…

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
21st Dec 2012.
photos courtesy : www.dailymail.co.uk