Wednesday, August 12, 2020

World Elephant day ~ Chirakkal Kalidasan

Somewhere saw that today is ‘International Elephants Day’ ~ Westerners create and celebrate days . .. for us things are different – our love for animals especially elephants is of a different class – Triplicanites loved temple elephant Azhwan.  There are legends about Elephants- movies, songs,  video albums, even statues, FB pages and more on - Guruvayur Kesavan,  Thiruvambadi Sivasundar, Thechikottukavu Ramachandran, Mangalamkunnu Karnan, Chirakkal Kalidasan, Puthupally kesavan, Pampadi Rajan , Thrikkadavoor SivaRaju, Mangalamkunnu Ayyappan. Cherupplassery Rajasekaran,  Cherupplassery Parthan, Paramekavu Sri Padmanabhan, Thiruvambady Chandrasekaran, Guruvayur Nandan, .. to name a few of the elite tuskers of Kerala !  -  Though may not be the rule – most Temple elephants in Tamilnadu are lonely ie., there would only one in the Temple and mostly they are females : Srirangam Andal, SriVilliputhur – Jayamalyatha; Sriperumpudur Kothai;  Thiruvanaikaval Akila, Madurai Meenakshi – Parvathi;  Thiruchendur Devayani;  Thiruvidaimaruthur Gomathi;  Nellaiyappar Ganthimathi;  Rameswaram Ramaletchumi;  Sivagangai Sornavalli; Thirukkurungudi Valli;   Azhwarthirunagari Adhinathar thirukovil – Adhi Nayaki; Thirukkolur – Kumudavalli; Irrattai Thiruppathi Lakshmi .. .. to name a few.

Elephants are not new to tinseldom. In  ‘Nalla Neram’, a MGR starrer  released in 1972, the storyline was around choice between love (his wife) and friendship (his loyal and devoted pet elephants). .. .. one of those elephants was Rathi, who lived a long live till 77.    She had shared tinseldom with MGR, Rajnikanth and Rajesh Khanna.  Rathi starred alongside MGR and Chief minister Jayalalithaa in 1971 released film - Neerum Nerupum, directed by P Neelakandan.   After a 6 year hiatus, Rathi starred in Rajnikant’s  ‘Annai Oru Alayam’ where Sripriya was the heroine.


Sure you would have seen Bahubali.  Baahubali 2: The Conclusion -  directed by S. S. Rajamouli and written by his father K. V. Vijayendra Prasad starring  Prabhas, Rana Daggubati, Anushka,  Tamannaah, Ramya Krishna, was released in 2017.   The film is set in medieval India and follows the sibling rivalry between Amarendra Baahubali and Bhallaladeva; the latter conspires against the former and has him killed by Kattappa.  In part1, the film had an iconic moment when Shivdu scoops the giant shivlinga from the ground to place it under water and keep his mother away from suffering.   In the second part,  the drama unfolded with  Prabhas’s entrance where he fights with an elephant to protect Shivagami.    The scene was put in perspective of Baahubali’s immense strength and love for his mother.  Though it was all graphics, Rajamouli shot scenes of a famous elephants of Kerala.

Chirakkal is a census town in Kannur district in the state of Kerala, India. It is 7 km from Kannur town.  From the dense forests of Karnataka, Manniserry Hari, an elephant lover brought Kalidasan to Kerala. Within a limited time frame, this elephant became famous among the people with its unique physique. And with a height of 314 cm, it is even known as ‘junior thechikod’ with its stature that resembles Thechikottukavu Ramachandran,  Chirakkal Kalidasan is a legend.  It is Kalidasu that was part of the film ‘Bahubali 2’.   

On August 12, 2012, the inaugural World Elephant Day was launched to bring attention to the urgent plight of Asian and African elephants. The elephant is loved, revered and respected by people and cultures around the world, yet we balance on the brink of seeing the last of this magnificent creature.  Conceived by the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation and filmmakers Patricia Sims and Michael Clark in 2011, the first international Elephant Day was celebrated on August 12, 2012. The aim of the day is to sensitise people about better treatment of captive elephants and against the illegal poaching and trade of the jumbos for ivory.

Given the latest incident of the death of the pregnant elephant in Kerala after allegedly consuming a cracker-stuffed fruit, death of elephants in some Indian states due to human-elephant conflicts, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar highlighted the measures to curb the same. The Vice President too pledged his support to ‘Haathi Hamara Saathi’. On the eve of World Elephant Day, Javadekar launched a beta version of the national portal on human-elephant conflict called ‘Surakhsya’. He also released a document on the best practices for ensuring the human-elephant coexistence. Sharing a video he tweeted, “India has nearly 60% of wild Asian elephants not just because of strong wildlife laws, but because we Indians revere, are more tolerant & affectionate towards animals.   

The song that goes with the lines "Indrapala padasheershamoo" casts the elephant, Kaalidasan, as the hero.  The video draws out the true allure of Kaalidasan and when combined with a melodious song and stunning visuals depicting the Kerala culture like Pooram, Theyyam; the near five-minute music video is a real treat for viewers. Jinodkumar Pillai and Vibin Vinayan presents a thrilling video on the famous elephant of Kerala. Elephant lovers are still  complaining for not featuring Kaalidasan's mahout Sharat (Mambi), reportedly he was  too shy to face the camera.   Kaalidasan has a popular Facebook page and fan clubs in Kerala.

Even as we celebrate days and hail elephants, hundreds of them are dying elsewhere due to human greed for their tuskers and somewhat mysteriously in Botswana. Between May and July of this year, the remains of hundreds of elephants were discovered near the Okavango panhandle, in northwest Botswana. They were often found close to waterholes and distressing photographs showed they had crashed headfirst into the earth, indicating a sudden death. Other sickly elephants were emaciated, weak, and barely able to walk. Close to 400 of them have died.  Deliberate poisoning was initially suspected due to the ongoing conflict between farmers and elephants. However, this was later discounted as carrion feeders such as vultures were unaffected. Botswana is home to around 130,000 elephants, Africa's highest population of the animals, according to the BBC. Around 10,000 of those live in the grassy Okavango Delta, which floods seasonally.

There are Western and African countries where rich can hunt and kill elephants – they pay the Govt the requisite fee, given license to kill – armed with sophisticated weaponry, they track and kill elephants and then carry them home as trophies.  Understand that in  South Africa, the laws are basically, if one owns land, they owns the animals there too and hence hunting is common.    In the name of Game hunting – they call it sport, and kill unarmed animals with machine guns – this is no game, but savagery. PETA or anyother organization claiming to fight for animals, first should fight this organized brutal killing before raising any voice on elephants being tortured in India.

Before concluding there is a famous lie – that Mahakavi Subramanya Barathiyar was killed by Triplicane temple elephant.  Understand that somewhere in June 1921, frail Barathi who had been haunted and subjected to harsh treatments in jail was pushed by the elephant.  He did fell down, but survived – toured later, spoke at a conference in Karungalpalayam on July 31 and breathed his last on Sept. 12 (early morning of) 1921.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar


Photos of Chirakkal Kalidasan taken from web /FB page.

Vladimir Putin, Sputnik in news ~ as Global Scientists pour scorn on new vaccine !!

The overall number of global coronavirus cases has crossed the 20 million-mark – 20,521,644  to be specific, while the death toll has reached 745,918. The US accounted for the world’s highest number of infections and fatalities at 5,085,821 and 162,919, respectively.  The World is looking forward to the known remedy – a vaccine, and yet when one was announced, Scientists have poured scorn !!

Katerina Tikhonova  is a Russian acrobatic dancer, and director of two initiatives at Moscow State University: the National Intellectual Development Foundation (NIDF) and the National Intellectual Reserve Centre (NIRC).  Her sister is in news! More so because – she has had immunization with the latest vaccine ! and she is the daughter of Vladimir Putin.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin (1952) is a   former officer of the KGB who has served as President of Russia since 2012, previously holding the position from 1999 until 2008. He was also the Prime Minister of Russia from 1999 to 2000 and again from 2008 to 2012.

Putin was born in Leningrad (now St Petersburg) and studied law at Leningrad State University, graduating in 1975. Putin worked as a KGB foreign intelligence officer for 16 years, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, before resigning in 1991 to begin a political career. He later moved to Moscow in 1996 to join the administration of President Boris Yeltsin. He served as Director of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and Secretary of the Security Council, before being appointed as Prime Minister in Aug 1999. After the resignation of Yeltsin, Putin became Acting President, and less than four months later was elected outright to his first term as president and was reelected in 2004.

During his first tenure as president, the Russian economy grew for eight straight years, with GDP measured by purchasing power increasing by 72%, real incomes increased by a factor of 2.5, real wages more than tripled; unemployment and poverty more than halved and the Russians' self-assessed life satisfaction rose significantly.  The growth was a result of a five-fold increase in the price of oil and gas which constitute the majority of Russian exports, recovery from the post-Communist depression and financial crises, a rise in foreign investment,and prudent economic and fiscal policies.

He is seen as a charismatic macho man – few years back, he was  awarded the highest rank in taekwondo, giving him honorary grandmaster status. It meant that the fit President attained a higher ranking than former US martial artist Chuck Norris. The actor has an eight-degree black belt, while Mr Putin has a ninth-degree. Putin also   holds a black belt in Judo and has been awarded an eighth Dan in the martial art by the International Judo Federation.

Now read the article in MailOnline – the caption itself shows the prejudice – ‘Global scientists pour scorn on Putin's 'reckless, foolish and unethical' claim that Russia has won Covid-19 vaccine race with 'Sputnik V' jab already given to his daughter which he claims offers 'two years' immunity' but has not been fully tested.  Vladimir Putin was savaged by scientists today for his 'reckless and foolish' claim that Russia has developed the world's first effective coronavirus vaccine.

Putin says the vaccine offers 'sustainable immunity' against Covid-19 and says his daughter has already been given the jab, with Russia eyeing up mass injections as soon as October - causing widespread alarm because it has not yet passed clinical trials.   One scientist blasted Putin's move as 'unethical' because an 'improperly tested vaccine' could have 'disastrous' effects on public health, while others warned that there is 'no data' to tell whether the Russian vaccine is effective. Another expert warned that 'the damage from release of any vaccine that was less than safe and effective would exacerbate our current problems insurmountably'.  While small trials can show whether a vaccine is likely to be safe, the usually months-long Phase III tests which measure its effectiveness have not yet taken place, while the WHO has not yet granted approval for the jab.

Nonetheless, Russia claims that 20 countries have already ordered a billion doses of the vaccine, which has been named Sputnik V after the former Soviet space satellites. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has already struck a deal for millions of doses while India, Brazil and Saudi Arabia have previously expressed an interest in the drug, according to Russian officials. The Kremlin and its state-controlled media have touted Russian scientists as global pioneers and turned the vaccine race into a matter of national prestige - leading to fears that safety could be compromised for the sake of Russia's image.

Putin said one of his daughters Maria  and Katerina had been injected with a coronavirus vaccine. Reports in Russia say it was the younger Katerina who was inoculated. The Russian jab is a type called a viral vector vaccine, meaning it uses  another virus to carry the immune agent - damaged parts of the real coronavirus, which can trigger a reaction but not cause an infection - into human cells. Putin's vaccine uses an adenovirus, a type of virus best known for causing the common cold, which has been weakened so it cannot trigger illness. Oxford University's vaccine candidate uses the same method. Russia claims the jab sped through early trials on monkeys and humans, known as Phase I and II trials, and was safe and effective at producing antibodies against Covid-19.

According to some reports, there  are currently 19 vaccines that have been tested for the ability to generate antibody (Phase I), another 11 that have passed this stage and gone on to expended testing (Phase II), eight at Phase III and one vaccine approved for limited use.  Speaking at a government meeting today, Putin claimed that the vaccine has undergone proper testing and been proven safe to use. 'I would like to repeat that it has passed all the necessary tests,' he said. 'The most important thing is to ensure full safety of using the vaccine and its efficiency.' 

Putin said his daughter had a temperature of 100F (38C) on the day of the first vaccine injection, which then dropped to 99F (37C) on the following day.  After the second shot she again had a slight increase in temperature, but then it was all over, Putin said.  He did not reveal whether it was his daughter Maria or Katerina who received the vaccine. However, reports in Russia said it was the younger Katerina who was inoculated. Further reports last month claimed that some of Russia's business and political elite had been given access to experimental vaccines as long ago as April.  The Russian president said he hoped the country would soon start mass producing the vaccine.  Russia has suffered nearly 900,000 coronavirus cases, but the daily infection rate has been slowly falling for several months.  Billionaire tycoons and government officials began getting jabs developed by the state-run Gamaleya Institute in Moscow in the spring, sources told Bloomberg.

Sputnik or спутник literally means 'fellow traveller', but has held a special place in Russian history. Sputnik was the first-ever artificial Earth satellite launched mankind. The Soviet Union launched it into an elliptical low Earth orbit on 4 Oct 1957. At the time, Sputnik was an invention way ahead of its time and had left the USSR’s then adversary USA in a state of shock. Sputnik gave birth to the space age. The successful launch shocked the world, giving the former Soviet Union the distinction of putting the first human-made object into space.   

With regards – S. Sampathkumar



Tuesday, August 11, 2020

During lockdown ~ SYMA conducts Online Essay Competition for School Children

Year 2020 has unfolded newer threats ~ the dreaded Corona Virus (Covid 19) has changed the way people live.  From Mar 24, the Country is under lockdown – and by adopting saner methods, the spread has been somewhat controlled.  We look positively forward to a happier ending, perhaps the evolution of effective vaccine and the threat getting totally contained, if not eliminated.

Today, there is news that the Govt is mulling ways to re-open schools that have been closed ever since March when the coronavirus pandemic hit the country.  As we all know, TN Govt (as alo other States) cancelled examinations – and there is some news that schools may not be reopened before Dec 2020 !   

SYMA has an unsaturated desire for serving the Society.  SYMA [Srinivas Youngmen’s Association]  has been in the field of Social service since 1977.  In 2019, we prospered to having a new bigger premises for our Medical centre and started providing multi-specialty treatment  ~   We have : General physician consultation and free medicines (Rs. 2 since 1989), Blood analysis lab, Gynecological consultation, Physiotherapy, Dentistry, Eye clinic – all under one roof – added private Doctor for ENT ; Pediatrics   and Ortho. We have another initiative – providing quality educational support to poor students – SYMA Growth since 2008.  

Sad, things are at a stand-still as we could not continue the services during Covid 19. During Covid stressful times, everyone is undergoing different types of stress – of health, of being alone, of not being able to do what they had been doing normally, office pressures, work related; financial troubles; family related and more. This is testing time for students too – being at home, not pursuing education.

SYMA mooted an idea of ensuring connect with students and keeping them busy.  We initiated an Online essay competition seeking ‘Hand-written essays of not more than 500 words’ from students of 8th to 12th standards on the theme – *‘Future of Education System post Covid 19’*.  The aim was to keep the students engaged, make them stay positive  and if some real good ideas emerge – the same can be shared with Authorities as well.   Since it was during lockdown – it was a technology driven contest.  Candidates had to register, would receive a link, download and upload their essays on line.   We are really happy in sharing that though this contest was open for a fortnight only – it attracted 90 entries.  Students from far and wide from rural Tamil Nadu, Bangalore, Mumbai, Varanasi and other countries (Indian children living there) – Dubai & USA. 

The contest was conceptualized by our TJ Ramani & Sanjeevi Ragunathan, entirely handled brilliantly by Mrs Jayasudha Sanjeevi.  Essel Narasimha, TA Sathya Narayanan, Mrs Anuradha, TA Sampathkumar, Mrs Saranya & S. Sampathkumar did the initial appraisal – while the final analysis was done by famous History novelist writer, Kalachakra TA Narasimhan, Managing Editor, The Hindu.  Special thanks are due to Mr TAN for picking up the winners in a very short time.  In his words, “ the winners have  written extremely well;  they have ploughed deep into the topic and analysed seriously without eyeing the prize. In fact, when I read these three essays, I could sense that they were more concerned about the future of  education, than in winning the prizes. Using flowery language and ornamental words does not help to make an essay readable. The points should flow like a river and mingle with the ocean of thoughts. And these three have excelled in that.”

Hearty Congratulations to the winners :

1. L. Abhinav (Kendriya Vidhyalaya,  Adyar)

2. Rupali Rai  (Central Hindu Girls School, Varanasi )

3. Amoha Venkataraman (Brigade School, Bengaluru ) 

There are special prizes too – on a different note Ms. Sriamathi R is selected as winner for presenting her essay in Tamil.  She is from Kamaraj School, Chidambaram.

SYMA thanks the winners, parents, our patrons, Judges, Mr TA Narasimhan and all others involved in this.  A Big Thank you to all ~ Corona may keep people inside homes, yet there is always opportunity to connect and stay optimistic, constructive and confident

With regards – S. Sampathkumar,

Secretary, SYMA






Monday, August 10, 2020

Election results are out in Belarus

General Election results are out ! ~  Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko   who has served as President of Belarus since the establishment of the office on 20th  July 1994, appears to have won again. Before launching his political career, Lukashenko worked as director of a collective farm (kolkhoz), and served in the Soviet Border Troops and in the Soviet Army. He was the only deputy of the Belarusian parliament to vote against the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union. Lukashenko heads an authoritarian regime in Belarus.  There are allegation sthat elections are not free and fair, opponents of the regime are repressed, and the media is not free.

Belarus   formerly known by its Russian name Byelorussia or Belorussia, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe. It is bordered by Russia, Ukraine, Poland,    Lithuania and Latvia. Its capital and most populous city is Minsk. Over 40% of its 207,600 square kilometres (80,200 sq mi) is forest.  Its major economic sectors are service industries and manufacturing. Until the 20th century, different states at various times controlled the lands of modern-day Belarus, including the Principality of Polotsk (11th to 14th centuries), the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the Russian Empire. In the aftermath of the 1917 Russian Revolution, different states arose competing for legitimacy amidst the Civil War, ultimately ending in the rise of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (Byelorussian SSR) which became a founding constituent republic of the Soviet Union in 1922. Belarus lost almost half of its territory to Poland after the Polish–Soviet War (1919–1921).  The republic was redeveloped in the post-war years.   The parliament of the republic proclaimed the sovereignty of Belarus on 27 July 1990, and during the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Belarus declared independence on 25 August 1991.

Alexander Lukashenko has served as the country's first president since 1994. Belarus has been labeled "Europe's last dictatorship" by some Western journalists, on account of the country's poor human rights record and Lukashenko's self-described authoritarian style of government. Lukashenko continued a number of Soviet-era policies, such as state ownership of large sections of the economy.  Over 70% of Belarus's population of 9.49 million resides in urban areas. More than 80% of the population is ethnic Belarusian, with sizable minorities of Russians, Poles and Ukrainians. Since a referendum in 1995, the country has had two official languages: Belarusian and Russian.   

This photo of Tsikhanouskaya with Maria Kolesnikova, Babaryka's campaign chief, has become a symbol of her campaign. The main opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has rejected the official results that gave President Alexander Lukashenko a landslide victory and her team has vowed to stay in the country to campaign for a change of power. “I will believe my own eyes – the majority was for us,” Svetlana told reporters in the capital, Minsk, on Monday, after widespread reports of vote-tampering in Sunday’s election. Tikhanovskaya said she considered herself the election winner not Lukashenko, and described the election as massively rigged. Her aides said the opposition wanted a vote recount at polling stations where there were problems. They also said the opposition wanted to hold talks with authorities about how to bring about a peaceful change of power.

The country’s election commission reported on Monday that Lukashenko won 80.23% of the vote while Tikhanovskaya took 9.9%, despite a popular wave of support for the opposition candidate, whose political rallies have drawn some of the country’s largest crowds since the days of the Soviet Union. Similar, preliminary results released on Sunday prompted unprecedented protests in cities across the country, posing the greatest threat to Lukashenko – often referred to as Europe’s last dictator – since he came to power 26 years ago.  There were bloody clashes as riot police used rubber bullets, flash grenades, teargas and water cannon to suppress demonstrators. Police detained about 3,000 people, Russia’s RIA news agency cited the Belarusian interior ministry as saying. Further protests are expected on Monday night.

Lukashenko’s victory was quickly endorsed by Vladimir Putin of Russia and Xi Jinping of China. The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, stopped short of congratulating Lukashenko and in a statement called for restraint. Activists said they had reports dozens of people were injured in the fighting and one person may have been killed after being hit by a police van driving at speed. Belarus’s interior ministry on Monday denied anyone had been killed. The Guardian could not immediately verify the death.   Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European commission, called for Belarus to publish accurate results and condemned the violence against opposition supporters. “Harassment and violent repression of peaceful protesters has no place in Europe,” she said. Lukashenko called the protesters “sheep” under foreign control who were “wanting to spoil the holiday”.

Analysts said it was the deepest crisis Lukashenko had faced in his career. He was already facing unprecedented anger over his handling of the economy and a bungled coronavirus response. Before the elections he jailed opposition candidates and targeted foreign allies, accusing Moscow of sending mercenaries to destabilise the country. Internet connectivity has been significantly disrupted since Sunday.

Tikhanovskaya was initially a stand-in candidate for her husband, a popular YouTuber jailed earlier in the year. She has grown into an effective campaigner, attracting more than 63,000 people to a rally last month in Minsk, and thousands more in small cities and towns usually dominated by Lukashenko. She has been joined onstage by two other female politicians in a “trio” that has transformed the image of the country’s male-dominated politics.

The woman at the start – ‘Yuliya Nesterenko’ is a famous sprinter from Belarus. Nesterenko won the women's 100 metres at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens in 10.93 seconds, becoming the first non-black and first non-U.S. athlete to win the event since the 1980 Summer Olympics. She ran all four times (two qualification rounds, semifinal and final) under 11 seconds. After the Olympic games in Athens she took an almost year-long break. At the 2005 World Championships in Athletics in Helsinki she reached the final in the 100 metres, though came only 8th (11.13 seconds).  At the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Nesterenko competed in the 100m again. In her first round heat she came 2nd behind Kim Gevaert in a time of 11.40 to advance to the second round. There she improved down to 11.14 seconds, but finished 4th, normally causing elimination, however hers was the fastest losing time and enough to qualify for the semifinals. She came close to reaching the final to defend her title with a time of 11.26, 5th place, while the first four athletes qualified for the final.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar