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Monday, December 9, 2019

'double room with twin occupation' ~ stay in hotels - legality !!!


Lot happened Maharashtra – every political party tried teaching a lesson to others. As usual, there were newer definitions of ‘secularism’ and political shrewdness! – and what was ‘politically right ?’.  in between how much do you enjoy your stay and what are the criteria when you select a hotel for your stay at the place of travel!

Miles away, on the busy Delhi-Jaipur National highway, inside a luxury resort, many Congress Corporators of Maharashtra were housed, away from the media and ensuring their loyalty. Keeping them in good spirits, the Congress party remained busy holding discussions with the NCP and the Shiv Sena with regard to the government formation in Maharashtra.  Before ridiculing this, have in mind that this has happened many times in the Nation, and also in our own Tamil Nadu. After the death of Ms J Jayalalithaa, a  luxury resort 80 km off  Chennai was at the centre of a political storm in Tamil Nadu – as two factions claimed the majority. But how much life has changed, there has been some rejig and the party is still in power.  It was more or less the same situation when MGR passed away in Dec 1987 – reportedly MLAs were held up in a ginning mill and later  Mrs Janaki Ramachandran proved majority before the Governor, albeit for a short while.

This is no post on politics or MLA’s stay in hotels – but more on stay on hotels!  ~  sometime back, Tamil Nadu police sealed a service apartment in Coimbatore after a surprise raid.  The raid was said to have been conducted over complaints from neighbours and news in print and social media that unmarried couples were being permitted to stay in hotel rooms, which was termed as "immoral." The rooms were subsequently sealed off, with the police citing the absence of a 'Form D' certificate and the proprietors of the premises allowing illegal activities in the rooms as reasons. The objectionable activities alleged including the serving of liquor and allowing unmarried guests to occupy the rooms.

Thousands of miles away, in Japan, a  hotel room for a dollar sounds pretty great, right? Just one catch. There’s a camera in the room that will live-stream your stay. The brain behind this novel idea is 27-year old Tetsuya Inoue who runs Asahi Ryokan, a hotel in Fukuoka, Japan that’s owned by his grandmother. The other rooms go at $24 a night, but if you’re really broke this is the room for you.  It’s something like living a day on The Truman Show, except you actually know that you’re on camera !  The camera is fitted in such a way that the bathroom is out of range, and the camera records video only – so all conversations will remain private.

.. …. In a Quiz, a man and a woman colleague who formed the team were asked – if you are to travel together and book a room at a hotel – what will you say in te reception while booking a room ?  .. [if not a single room and if one were to stay together – would call it a double room or twin room ?]  .. .. .. When traveling or booking hotel rooms, people often come across the terms twin and double room. Most of us are under the mistaken impression that the two are the same as twin means two and double also means two. Though Twin and double refers to the number ‘Two’, there is a difference between Twin and double room in hotel terminology.  Double refers to a room where there would be only one large bed and in twin room, there would be two small beds. In twin room, the beds are separate where as in double there is no separation of the bed. Couples usually prefer double rooms. On the other hand, if one were to say ‘double room with twin occupation’ there will be two separate cots !

Of the many Acts, perhaps the one some would be uncomfortable is : the Immoral Traffic (Precention) Act 1956.  The Act inter-alia defines “brothel” as -  includes any house, room, [conveyance] or place or any portion of any house, room, which is used for purposes of sexual exploitation or abuse,  for the gain of another person or for the mutual gain of two or more prostitutes.

Now read this interesting observations made by Madras High court in the Coimbatore case.  Justice MS Ramesh passed the judgment observing that a live-in relationship of two adults is not deemed to be an offence. The occupation of a hotel room by an unmarried couple would not attract an offence; and the court also ordered de-sealing of the  hire service apartment in Coimbatore, which was closed after authorities found an unmarried couple occupying the apartment during a search.  Noting that the state law allowed possession of stipulated quantities of liquor by an individual, the Judge also said the consumption of liquor by the guests on the petitioners' premises cannot also be termed as illegal.

Observing that a live-in relationship of two adults is not deemed to be an offence, the Madras High Court has said that the occupation of a hotel room by such unmarried couples will not attract a criminal offence. "Apparently, there are no laws or regulations forbearing unmarried persons of the opposite sex to occupy hotel rooms as guests," Justice said in a recent order. While that being so, the extreme step of sealing the premises on the ground that an unmarried couple was occupying the premises is totally illegal in the absence of any law prohibiting the same, he said.

According to the petitioner, they were running a hospitality service in Service apartment  in Coimbatore.  A search was conducted on the premises by a team from the office of the Tahsildar and local police on 25 June last. The team found liquor bottles in one of the rooms occupied by the guests and in one room two adults who were not married were staying. The premises was then sealed.  The petitioner contended that such an action has been taken based on the viral news spread on the social media about the premises. The prosecution said the petitioner's premises had not obtained Form D and without details of the guests in the booking registers, illegal activities by the guests were permitted. In view of the objections from the neighbouring womenfolk, the action was taken against the petitioner.

Law is often ………..  !!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
9th Dec 2019.


Friday, December 6, 2019

Vandu murugan comedy ! Zameen .. ... Avocado and politics !!


ஜாமீன் / சாமீன் ~ என்பது பிற மொழியிலிருந்து வந்த சொல். பிணையம் என்பதே தமிழ்ச் சொல்லாகும். ஜாமீனில் விடுவிக்கபட்டார் என்பதை விட, பிணையத்தில் விடுவிக்கபட்டார் என்பதே நல்ல தமிழ் வாக்கியமாகும் !!

Tamil cine fans may not know  Suresh Gopi starrer ‘Chinthamani Kolacase’ – even those who do not know the movie ‘ellam van seyal’ – would start laughing upon very mention of ‘Vandu Murugan’.  Vadivelu as vatta seyalalar vandu murugan has made deep impact – and the scene of his arguing in the Court – getting convicted alongwith the accused, his team returning to tell that after searching all local markets they could not find ‘ za-meen’ was a rib-tickling comedy.

Zameen is an adopted Tamil word .. .. put simply it is bail !  ..  Bail is written permission from a court, allowing a person charged with a criminal offence to be out of jail while they wait for their trial, or some other result in their case (such as a guilty plea or a withdrawal of their charges).   The Supreme Court recently granted bail to Congress leader P Chidambaram in the INX Media money laundering case lodged by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).  Media reports stated that a three-judge bench comprising Justices R Banumathi, AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy pronounced the verdict.  It was further stated that Supreme Court has restrained P Chidambaram from giving press interviews or making statements with regard to the case. Chidambaram has also been asked to furnish bail bond of 2 lakh plus two sureties of same amount. Supreme Court also restrained  that Chidambaram can't travel abroad without the top court's permission. The top court, which observed that economic offences are grave in nature, said "grant of bail is rule and refusal is exception".  ~  .. and is there anything to celebrate a person coming out of jail after 100 days on bail ?

Thousands of miles away, U.S. retailer Rouses Market has set up what is described as the world's largest avocado display at one of its stores in New Orleans. The California-based retail is on Wednesday set up a massive display of around 112,000 avocados at its store on Tchoupitoulas street, according to the company's Facebook post. The company said it was aiming to make a new Guinness World Record.  Avocados ! ~ and why are we reading about them ?

ஆனைக்கொய்யா (பெர்சியா அமெரிக்கனா), வெண்ணெய்ப் பழம் (Butter fruit), பால்டா அல்லது அவகொடா (ஸ்பானிஷ்), வெண்ணெய் பேரி அல்லது முதலைப் பேரி என்றும் அழைக்கப்படுகின்ற ஒரு பூக்கும் தாவரம் ஆகும். இது கரீபியன், மெக்சிகோ, தென்மரிக்கா மற்றும் மத்திய அமெரிக்கா ஆகிய நாடுகளை பிறப்பிடமாகக் கொண்ட ஒரு மரம் ஆகும். "ஆனைக்கொய்யா" என்பது மரத்தின் (தொழில்நுட்பரீதியாக பெரிய விதையைக் கொண்டிருக்கும் பெரிய பெரி) பழத்தையும் குறிக்கின்றது. இவை முட்டைவடிவாக அல்லது கோளவடிவாக காணப்படுகின்றன.

Congress leader P Chidambaram, who had been behind bars since August 21 when he was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the INX Media corruption case, walked out of the jail on 4.12.19.   The  74-year-old former finance minister after walking out of the jail, paid a visit to the residence of  Ms Sonia Gandhi.  The development came after earlier in the day the Supreme Court granted him bail in the INX Media case saying the claims by the ED that he can tamper with evidence cannot be accepted on "face value" as he is neither in "political power" nor holds any post in the government.  The Court allowing him after 106 days of imprisonment had  barred him  from speaking on the INX Media case.  The BJP has accused Congress leader P Chidambaram of violating bail conditions by claiming to have a very clear record as a minister, and said the case against him was essentially about corruption he was allegedly involved in as the finance minister.

Downunder, some 50 avocado trees were completely gutted by robbers last week on a farm in New Zealand, reports local news Stuff.com. Robbers stripped vineyard and avocado farm owner Hamish Jardine's trees in Hawke's Bay after cutting through a fence. "New Zealand is in full harvest, there's no shortage of avocados at the moment, plenty of seconds around. I can't explain the stupidity and desperation. They've gone to a hell of a lot of trouble for ... I can't even say a profit. The whole situation 'just beggars belief," law enforcement officer Alasdair Macmillan, who responded to the call, was quoted saying. Jardine estimated that each tree held about 50 to 70 avocados.  Regular burglaries have caused New Zealand avocado growers to set up cameras and electric fences. Farmers sometimes even camp in their fields to catch robbers in the night. Stolen fruit is often sold online, at roadside stalls and in smaller supermarkets, say growers. 

Much ado about nothing – about onion eating !  .. .. though media tried portraying in a different light that the FM does not care for the rise in price of onions – a member shouted a Q at FM seeking to know whether she eats ‘Egyptian onions’ – and Mrs Nirmala Sitharaman responded that their family does not eat onion and garlic.  Some tried giving a caste colour to the onion !

~ and the man who had spent 106 days in Tihar jail tried taking a dig at the Finance Minister.   "I thought the Finance Minister said yesterday she does not eat onions, she is not bothered... What does she eat? Does she eat avocado? She does not eat onions," Chidambaram told media.

The avocado (Persea americana), a tree with probable origin in south-central Mexico,  is classified as a member of the flowering plant family Lauraceae. Avocados are commercially valuable and are cultivated in tropical and Mediterranean climates throughout the world. They are now available in super markets touted to be good for ‘diabetes’ and hence selling at a premium. 

Mrs Nirmala Sitharaman not to be outdone responded to PC reminding  him of his own insensitive remark made in 2012. “What was statement given by one of the finance ministers when in 2012 price rise was high…‘When urban middle class can buy a bottle of water for Rs 15 and ice cream for Rs 20, why do they make so much noise about price rise’,”   an year or so ago, he was so out-of-touch that he was shocked that coffee at the airport costs Rs 180/-

Bail is not the end of the case ~ and there could be more to come !

With regards – s. Sampathkumar
6th Dec 2019.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

the local goli Soda ~ would it make a comeback !!


Are you a fan of thirst-quencher ‘goli-soda’ – and would it make a comeback ?  ~  and do you know the relevance of Hiram Codd (1838 – 1887), an English engineer.

Set against the backdrop of Koyambedu market, the film revolves around the lives of four young boys: Pulli ( Kishore), Saetu (Sree Raam), Sitthappa (Pandi) and Kuttimani (Murugesh). They work as coolies, and earn their bread by working as lifters. They lift and transport vegetable goods to various shops.  Spurred by Achi, they try to have an identity in life .. ..  ends up getting an old godown from  a rich Dada, who controls the market.  The mess started by them makes them big !! 

The atmosphere is not hot ~ few months of chill in Tamil Nadu – in the hotter months, the sweltering heat would leave one parched.   You would think that an icy-cold soft drink is the necessity ! – you go to any mall or any shop even it be a roadside one – you get the multinational branded Coke or Pepsi and can enjoy the chill bottled drink.  It might appear to be refreshing but actually it is not – it would neither reduce your thirst nor supplement you in any manner.  Loaded with sugar and devoid of any nutritional value, carbonated soft drinks can only do harm.  You can read that it contains – carbonated water, sugar, caffeine, phosphoric acid, caramel colour and natural flavouring but does not contain any fruit juice or fruit pulp, yes a fruit drink where fruit is not a component in any manner.   An occasional soft drink would be relatively harmless but not when it is consumed displacing nutritional food and beverage.  The soft drink corporations are aggressively marketing their products targetting children mostly through grand advertisements, movies and promos.

Perhaps the beverage industry sells more than any other industry does ! Inside Shopping malls, departmental stores and even your neighbourhood friendly shops – you find breathtaking array of soft drinks.  From the days when you had Fanta, Campacola and Goldspot backed up by Kali Mark,  Bovonto and Mapillai Vinayakar in interior places, the industry has come a long way.   Now you have too many brands of Cocoa Cola, Limca, 7 Up, LMN, Slice, Maaza, Mountain dew, Slice, Sprite, Mirinda, Thumsup, Pepsi – to name a few.   The soft drink industry has been  growing at a hectic pace and Coke & Pepsi have a lion’s share of the market.  Some of the prime reasons for their success would include – their advertisement, marketing technique, supply chain, transportation, shift from returnable glass bottles to pet bottles. 

But how the multinational giants adopted means to  subjugation of desi bottled drinks industry ! is shameful.  Once upon a time, in the Indian Nation, there used to be a drink called soda partnered by another variant ‘paneer’ soda (flavoured version).  One could see handcart containing loads of these bottles being delivered to road corner shops and they would sell in large numbers.  Tamilnadu was a place known for political meetings and speakers.  There would be roadside public meetings attended by large number of masses.  As the speaker would make an enthralling speech, a supporter would come to the makeshift dias, open a soda bottle with his hands and provide it to the speaker lauding his speech.  It was a thirst quencher and had a pride of place in state politics – it is another matter that the same soda bottle was effectively used as a weapon to disperse crowds and make them run.

That is the story of ‘Goli Soda’  - the bottled soda drink which had a marble in its neck.  It was pure carbonated water commonly called soda (not the club soda of these days) – it had a simple process of putting carbon dioxide gas under pressure dissolved into water, making the drink fizzy and effervescent.  A great drink which sold in great numbers -  can you spot them or would you be ok in your child drinking it now ?  - and how did this transformation occurred silently !  

By some token, soda though local was not indigenous.  Its origin is traced to 1872 when  British soft drink maker Hiram Codd of Camberwell, London, designed and patented a bottle designed specifically for carbonated drinks. The Codd-neck bottle was designed and manufactured to enclose a marble and a rubber washer/gasket in the neck. The bottles were filled upside down, and pressure of the gas in the bottle forced the marble against the washer, sealing in the carbonation. The bottle was pinched into a special shape  to provide a chamber into which the marble was pushed to open the bottle. This prevented the marble from blocking the neck as the drink was poured.  This  became extremely popular with the soft drink and brewing industries.

The industry thrived and flourished even in cities and they were sold near schools also.  I have seen some goli soda factories in the vicinity of Triplicane though almost none exist today – all eaten by the big fishes.  The giant competitors crushed these small units not only by competitive edge but also by destroying the very fabric.  For the small time soda makers, the cost of soda and cost of retrieval was huge.  A broken bottle would harm not only the man but also the manufacturer.  It is widely believed that the Multinational giants resorted to buying the old bottles in bulk and destroyed them ensuring that the supply chain for the soda industry is broken.  By breaking the very backbone they ruthlessly restrained their competitors.

A close friend of mine (V Koteeswaran) was an entrepreneur running a factory – Vela & Co, in one of the narrow bylanes nearer the arterial Mount road overlooking the famed LIC.  The factory was run on the family traditions, run jointly with the brother of his father.  Decades ago, it was roaring business and around 10000 bottles were made and distributed to city shops when there was tough competition from similar soda manufacturing units.  Now virtually there is no competition – but the production has trickled down to few hundreds.  Not able to rely upon this product alone, they diversified into making flavoured juices, milk, buttermilk and the like.  A bottled soda perhaps returns them 20% of the sale price  which in these days is just not enough, as the turnover is modest to say it modestly.  Life is tough !

·         The story line read earlier was that of ‘Goli Soda (lit.Marble Soda)’, a 2014 Tamil movie  written, cinematography and directed by S.D. Vijay Milton. The film was distributed by N. Lingusamy's Thirrupathi Brothers.   
·         In  1872,  Hiram Codd of Camberwell, London patented a bottle filled under gas pressure which pushed a marble against a rubber washer in the neck, creating a perfect seal. This became known as the Codd bottle. That was the precursor of ‘goli soda bottle’.
·         Unlike its previous poor cousins, this version is priced at Rs.25/- per bottle !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
5th Dec 2019.


how much of value-add does a Coach brings in to the team !!


Way back in Dec 1974, India won the Test at Calcutta against the mighty West Indies led by Clive Lloyd………there were two debutants in that test – Anshuman Gaekwad and Karsan Devraj Ghavri ….both went on the play longer……….. but not many of  you might know that it was one of those Tests when India had two fast bowlers opening the attack – Madanlal and Ghavri. Ghavri in fact bowled 14 overs and took 2 wickets in that match…. In the next match at Chepauk, [remembered for the win and that brilliant knock by the little Master Gundappa Vishnawath on a green top against quality Andy Roberts] – Ghavri chipped in with a good knock of unbeaten 35 and a good partnership, which was instrumental in setting up a good target for an Indian win…  ~ a target of 255 for Greenidge, Fredricks, Kallicharan, Lloyd, Richards, Murray, Boyce, Holder….fell short by 100 runs.   In the 1978-79 Series, when West Indies toured India under Alwin Kalicharran, at Chepauk, Herbert Chang  (ever heard of him !) was left with a bloody mouth.  Chang, of Chinese origin was a left hander played a solitary test – in the second essay, Karsan Ghavri’s bouncer hit him, he was injured, fell on the stumps and was out hit wicket. 

                                   Do you know  what connects Indian Cricketers – Bishan Bedi, Abbas Ali Baig, Ajit Wadekar, Sandeep Paril, Madanlal, Anshuman Gaekwad &  Kapil Dev – in the same order ?

Read about a man -   Angelo Dundee born in Philadelphia- being the  man in the corner helping Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard and George Foreman on their paths to greatness. His most famous moment came with Leonard, when he shouted "You're blowing it son! You're blowing it!" at his man at the end of his 13th  round against Thomas Hearns. Leonard picked himself up and flattened Hearns in the very next round.  .. .. we have seen Coaches gesticulating angrily and passionately from the sides – one well known name Jose Mourinho was  close to tears after admitting his time away from football has made him realise how much he loves the game. The 56-year-old was sacked by Manchester United in Dec 2018 after a disastrous start to the season, which saw the club trail then leaders Liverpool by 19 points.  Since his exit, Mourinho has taken time out of the game and returned to his hometown of Setubal, but revealed he has a void in his life without football.

There would always be unending debates on who makes a great coach and whether a coach can really transform an ordinary team to greater heights ~ remember when Kapil Dev lifted the Prudential World Cup in 1983, the only official was manager Mansingh who perhaps took care of administrative matters. On the other hand, one  man changed the fortunes of New Zealand Cricket yet  suddenly announced his retirement.  Before the 2015 WC, Kiwis have made to the semis of WC 6 times, but never got into the finals. In 2015 in front of their home crowds, they were on a roll, marching to the finals unbeaten, but failed against their trans-Tasman rivals.   The man, the coach - Mike Hesson.  New Zealand coach Mike Hesson has done more to show that a paucity of playing experience need not be a barrier to a plum coaching job. His coaching journey began accidentally. When he was a player for Otago A aged 21, he was offered a contract for a club in Cambridgeshire in England on the condition that he was involved in coaching too.  At 23, when he gained coaching qualification,  Otago appointed Hesson coaching director, working under Glenn Turner. He remained there for six years. After taking up an offer to become Argentina's coach, Hesson returned to Otago a year later, replacing Turner as head coach.  Kenya provided  Hesson's  international job when he was hired after the 2011 World Cup. Only 11 months later he resigned, fearing for his family's security after his family fell victim to an attempted car-jacking and a grenade exploded near their house in Nairobi. When John Wright quit as New Zealand coach in 2012, Hesson became one of the few full-time coaches of a Test nation not to have played a single first-class match. 

New Zealand have been awarded the Christopher Martin-Jenkins Spirit of Cricket award for their "sporting conduct" in the aftermath of the World Cup final at Lord's. Kane Williamson's side were beaten to the trophy after a tied super over in the final by virtue of having scored fewer boundaries, and were praised by the judging panel for their "sportsmanship, humility and selflessness in defeat" following Jos Buttler's run-out of Martin Guptill. The award, created in 2013 by the MCC and the BBC in memory of the broadcasting great, is presented annually to the player or team that has "best epitomised the principles of playing hard but fair". "In the heat of battle they displayed a level of sportsmanship that was fitting for such a fantastic final, and indeed tournament.

Now comes the news that former  Indian pacer Karsan Ghavri has been appointed as the coach for the Saurashtra Ranji team. The 68-year-old Ghavri, a former left-arm speedster, played 39 Tests and 19 One-Day Internationals, picking up 109 and 15 wickets respectively in the two formats. Saurashtra finished runners-up in the last Ranji season after losing to Vidarbha in the final.

Bishen Singh Bedi, the crafty left-arm spinner of the famous quartet, who led the Indian team too was the first Indian Coach who reportedly was so upset with team performance in New Zealand that he was quoted as saying of dumping the team into the Ocean.  

Then came Abbas Ali Baig, Ajit Wadekar,  Sandeep Madhusudhan Patil, S Madanlal, Anshuman Gaekwad, the great Kapil Dev Nikhanj,  John Wright, Greg Chappen, Gary Kirsten, Duncan Fletcher, Ravi Shastri, Sanjay Bangar, Anil Kumble and … … Ravi Shastri again.


Media reports suggested that Ravi Shastri is set for a pay hike after being retained head coach of Indian cricket team, last month. According to a report in Mumbai Mirror, there could get a 20 per cent increase and his revised annual package would be somewhere between Rs 9.5 crore and Rs 10 crore. Previously, Shastri was drawing about Rs 8 crore. Other members of the support staff are also expected to get a pay hike, with bowling coach Bharat Arun getting Rs 3.5 crore, as will fielding coach R. Sridhar. However, Vikram Rathour, who replaced Sanjay Bangar as the batting coach may draw somewhere around Rs 2.5 to Rs 3 crore. Mike Hesson and Tom Moody were in the race to become the new India head coach, but the Cricket Advisory Committee decided to reappoint Shastri.

West Indies have appointed Monty Desai as the batting coach of the senior men's team on a two-year contract. Desai, who has held coaching roles with Afghanistan, Nepal, Indian regional teams and IPL teams Rajasthan Royals and Gujarat Lions in a career of over 12 years, most recently worked with batsmen from the UAE and Canada.  .. .. and in the island Nation, Mickey Arthur is set to take over as Sri Lanka's head coach. SLC has agreed a two-year contract with Arthur, the former South Africa, Australia and Pakistan coach, with a formal announcement to be made shortly. Joining his backroom staff will be Grant Flower as batting coach, David Saker as bowling coach, and Shane McDermott as fielding coach, in what is a complete overhaul of the team's coaching setup. Arthur is the 11th  head coach of the Sri Lanka men's team in the last eight years.

New Zealand spinner, Jeetan Patel has been appointed as England's spin-bowling consultant for the tours of South Africa and Sri Lanka. Patel, who performed a similar role during the T20I leg of England's tour of New Zealand, will join the England squad on December 24 ahead of the first Test in Centurion on Boxing Day. As a result, Patel will end his long and illustrious career with Wellington later this month. His final match will be in the Super Smash encounter against Central Stags at the Basin Reserve on December 18. He made his debut for Wellington, the city of his birth, in 2000. He remains committed to playing one final season for Warwickshire, the club he has represented since 2009, in 2020. He will be 40 in May.

Interesting ! ~  and what do you feel on the importance of a coach shaping the destiny of the team ?

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
5th Dec 2019.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Bob Willis is no more !!


A hypocorism is a diminutive form of a name.

In England’s tour of India 1976-77, the man much talked about was John Lever, especially after his spell at Delhi and the Vaseline controversy that followed.  Remember at Chepauk, Lever running in and then this tall loose-limbed  fast bowler with a very long run-up steaming in.  One of his bouncers flew so high that short Alan Knott’s jump was nowhere nearer.  He studied at the Royal Grammar School, Guildford and was a great fan of   Bob Dylan, the American singer. 

Though he was not a great success at Chepauk, in the 2nd Test at Kolkatta in Jan 1977, he was instrumental in their victory by 10 wickets.  In the first innings, he had figures of 20-3-27-5 and added another 2 in the 2nd.  In the next test, he took 6 wickets in an innings.  Bob Willis was the tall,  fast bowler.  Bob is a male given name or a hypocorism, usually of Robert, and sometimes a diminutive of Bobby. It is most common in English speaking countries such as the United States, Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.

Robert George Dylan Willis MBE (1949 –2019) is no more !  .. he played for Surrey, Warwickshire, Northern Transvaal and England. A right-handed and aggressive fast bowler with a notably long run-up, Willis spearheaded several England bowling attacks between 1971 and 1984, across 90 Test matches in which he took 325 wickets at 25.20 runs per wicket, at the time second only to Dennis Lillee. He is England's fourth leading wicket taker as of 2019, behind Jimmy Anderson, Ian Botham and Stuart Broad.  Though he delivered raw pace, from  1975 onwards he bowled with constant pain, having had surgery on both knees. He nevertheless continued to find success, taking a Test career-best eight wickets for 43 runs in the 1981 Ashes series against Australia. He was Wisden Cricketer of the Year for 1978.

Bob Willis, the former England cricket captain, has died aged 70, his family announced on Tuesday.   A case could be made that Bob Willis was the most courageous fast bowler who ever played for England. After operations on both knees in 1975, when he was 26, he seldom bowled without pain, and at one stage had to run five miles a day to build the strength to play at all. Yet through sheer willpower he sustained his career for nine more years, and emerged with 325 wickets from his 90 Tests. Nicknamed "Goose" for his unconventionally loose-limbed approach to the crease, Willis was capable of extreme hostility with the ball, making him England's one true answer to the West Indian and Australian pace batteries that dominated the 1970s and early 1980s.

His finest hour came at Headingley in 1981, when - in the wake of Ian Botham's counter-attacking 149 not out - he tore into Australia's second innings in a frenzied display, delivering an incredible 18-run win with figures of 8 for 43.

After retiring from the game in 1984, he  enjoyed a long career in broadcasting. Willis’ family said in a statement: “We are heartbroken to lose our beloved Bob, who was an incredible husband, father, brother and grandfather. He made a huge impact on everybody he knew and we will miss him terribly.” He formed a noted commentary partnership with Botham; however, Willis' relatively low-key style, in contrast to Botham's ebullience, meant that from 2006 onwards Willis tended to be used as a second-string commentator.

Sandeep Patil was battling disappoints but was selected for the England tour in 1982.  At Manchester,  he hit Bob Willis for six fours (4440444, the third ball being a no ball) -  racing from 73 to 104 in nine balls. He was 129 not out when rain brought an early end to the match.

Remembering Bob Willis, the fast bowler !

Regards – S. Sampathkumar
4th Dec 2019.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

gender bias in chatbots too !


Robots are quite interesting ! (this post is more on bots!) ~ in Rajini starrer Enthiran (Robot) – Chitti, the humanoid robot would read a full book by just scanning it in his face for a couple of seconds.  That perhaps was a thought that Sujatha wrote in ‘Mr Munsamy oru  1.2.1’ – in which a roadside rickshaw puller acquires super memory by an injection that were to lost only for a short period !! I felt ‘Enthiran – the robot’ was a poor cousin of his classic ‘En Iniya Iyanthira and Meendum Jeano’ - the little Jeeno, the cute  robotic dog in the story  woven subtly around a dictator who keeps the Nation under tight grip.  The real identity of the Head when known at the end  was the real classical revelation.  The pet robot dog which can think beyond humans, assists the dumb Nila in search of her spouse Sibi into bigger things.  Towards the end, the cute exceptionally dog loses it memory and back up and fades away !I felt very sad reading of its end  -  illogical it might sound, it was after all a story – yet  !!

Downunder, a bot, Christened Mia, or My Interactive Agent, the AI-backed virtual assistant  made waves that it can respond to 300 of the most common customer inquiries made during the home loan application process.  As you make online transactions on web, a drop down figurine might introduce him/herself and ask  whether any assistance is required .. … in all probability it is no human interface !

A chatbot is a piece of software that conducts a conversation via auditory or textual methods.  Such programs are often designed to convincingly simulate how a human would behave as a conversational partner, although as of 2019, they are far short of being able to pass the Turing test.  Chatbots are typically used in dialog systems for various practical purposes including customer service or information acquisition. Some chatbots use sophisticated natural language processing systems, but many simpler ones scan for keywords within the input, then pull a reply with the most matching keywords, or the most similar wording pattern, from a database.  The term "ChatterBot" was originally coined by Michael Mauldin (creator of the first Verbot, Julia) in 1994 to describe these conversational programs. Today, most chatbots are accessed via virtual assistants such as Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, via messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger or WeChat, or via individual organizations' apps and websites.

Beyond chatbots, there are  Conversational AI used in messaging apps, speech-based assistants and chatbots to automate communication and create personalized customer experiences at scale. Vodafone, like any other storied telco giant today, has been urgently seeking ways to trim costs. Not only are its revenues under pressure from smaller upstarts, it must also spend heavily on upgrading its network infrastructure to handle faster, 5G data speeds.

One cost-cutting idea that Vodafone has chased is to automate certain internal tasks carried out by staff with simple bots and, in some cases, more sophisticated chatbots. The painful result is fewer people on payroll. Vodafone has, for instance, deployed so-called “robotic process automation” bots to automate back-office tasks like data entry. As a result, Vodafone said that in the first half of 2018 it laid off 900 people. .. .. for sure, Vodafone is not alone ! ~ we have heard this in Insurance circles too .. that some backend processing is planned to happen using bots.

Here is an interesting piece read in Forbes .. .. “ Meet Amy. And also Debbie, Inga, Mia, Erica, Eva and Cora”. These aren’t the members of a new, all-female rock group, but names that several large banks have been giving to their automated digital assistants. So-called chatbots have become a useful cost-cutting tools for companies with large subscriber bases (think banks, insurance firms and mobile phone operators). As they replace human call-center workers, such bots will help save banks an estimated $7.3 billion in operational costs by 2023, Juniper Research predicts. But the proliferation of bots with female names raises questions about whether they might also perpetuate gender stereotypes, particularly around the notion of women in the role of assistants. That criticism has already been levelled at Amazon’s digital assistant Alexa and Apple’s Siri.

A Forbes analysis of Europe’s 10 biggest banks ranked by assets shows that at least three have deployed chatbots with female names on their websites and apps. One  chatbot Marie, available to retail customers on Facebook Messenger, was given the name "because it conjures up an image of someone who is helpful and friendly," Female chatbots abound in other regions and industries. Mia, the chatbot released by Australian digital bank UBank, was described by the company earlier this month as “empathetic,” “fun” and “a little bit cheeky.”  

IPSoft, a New York-based software company that sells chatbot technology to banks like Sweden’s SEB as well as mobile network giant Vodafone, has its own white-label version of a customer-facing chatbot, named Amelia. IPSoft’s CEO Chetan Dube denied that the chatbot’s name perpetuated stereotypes, when asked by Forbes during an interview in December, and said it instead highlights “the thought leadership that is represented in females."  "She was the first female aviator that tried to go around the world,” Dube added, referring to the 1930's aviator Amelia Earhart.  Forbes revealed earlier this month that Vodafone was measuring the success of its chatbots on how many staff could be replaced by the software. While that may be an uncomfortable metric, the more worrying consequence of chatbots, according to four industry experts questioned by Forbes, is the risk that they could reinforce certain stereotypes.

“Gender bias is an increasingly serious issue in chatbot design, especially for voice-based chatbots,” says John Taylor, CEO of action.ai, a British startup that makes chatbot software for banks and travel companies. “These assistants often perform tasks that many view as menial.”   Vitor Shereiber, a language specialist at the German language-learning app Babbel, says that focus-group testing might lead companies to assign a gender to a chatbot on the notion that it makes customer feel more comfortable. But, he adds, bots could spread unrealistic expectations of how women should present themselves professionally, just as photoshopped pictures have done for women’s perceptions of their bodies. Part of the challenge for companies is finding a balance between automating customer service without putting customers off. PwC recently described chatbots as being able to “massively enhance customer delight and loyalty” because of their “personal touch.” 

Interesting !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
3rd Dec 2019.

remembering with melancholy ~ Bhopal Gas tragedy ! ~ plight of victims !!


The night of Dec 2, 1984 would ever  rankle as the black day in the annals of Indian history.  Over 3000 died that night itself ; nearly 12000 died subsequently [the exact numbers of affected would remain a mystery!] and thousands maimed  due to diseases induced by methyl-isocyanate that tank 610  of Union Carbide spewed out some 27 tonnes of a poisonous asphyxiating gas from. Thousands of animals died too.   The plant installed in 1969 was to produce a cheap pesticide ‘sevin’ which ironically killed human lives. More than 3 decades & a half,  since that night of terror and death in Bhopal, which saw a cloud of deadly gases explode out of a faulty tank in a  pesticide factory and silently spread into the homes of sleeping people – there are still people affected by the world’s worst industrial disaster ever.  Many who breathed the highly toxic cocktail that night suffered a horrible death with multiple organ failure. Those who survived have suffered multiple diseases in the decades that were to come.

The famed city of  King Bhoja perhaps named Bhojpal after the king and the dam ("pal") constructed by him, slowly fell  to obscurity, and by the early 18th century Bhopal was a small village in the local Gond kingdom. The present capital of Madhya Pradesh is not as famous as many other cities are – in 1969, a factory to produce pesticide Sevin,  using methyl isocyanate (MIC) as an intermediate was started – and in hindsight this has caused untold woes and tribulations to thousands of poor Indian citizens.  … … before we proceed, can you (or would you like) to recognize the actor or more the role performed in that film ‘A Prayer for Rain’.

Politically Arjun singh was the Chief Minister of the State which now too has a Congress Govt headed by Kamalnath.  Meantime, in 2014 – occurred a death, which was not announced by his family,  confirmed from public records – brought  no tears miles away in India – for that ghastly incident.  Warren Anderson was born in New York in 1921, to Swedish immigrants who lived in the borough's Bay Ridge section. They named him for Warren G Harding, who was the president at the time.  After graduating in 1942, he enlisted in the Navy and trained to be a fighter pilot, but never saw combat. After his discharge, he made the rounds of chemical companies and took the first job offered him - by Union Carbide. He climbed the corporate ladder rapidly and ruled over an empire with 700 plants in more than three dozen countries. Then came Bhopal.
The Bhopal Gas Tragedy, 1984 was a catastrophe that had no parallel in the world’s industrial history. In the early morning hours of December 3, 1984, a rolling wind carried a poisonous gray cloud from the Union Carbide Plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh (India). Forty tons of toxic gas (Methy-Iso-Cyanate, MIC) was accidentally released from Union Carbide’s Bhopal plant, which leaked and spread throughout the city. The result was a nightmare that still has no end !!!

This Sunday [1.12.2019] – hundreds of Bhopal Gas tragedy survivors formed a human chain in protest on the eve of the 35th anniversary of the world's worst industrial disaster. The protesters said the exposure to the toxic gas and the waste dumped in the premises of the defunct factory continued to cause them health problems, and demanded that Dow Chemicals, the current owner of Union Carbide, pay compensation under the "polluter pays principle".

Lot happened – the legal battle never gave justice to the victims.  All of us use batteries – one of the well-known names - Eveready Industries India Ltd. (EIIL), formerly Union Carbide India Limited was associated with it.  EIIL started its operation in India in 1905. The first dry cell batteries were imported from the US and sold in the major cities of the country. These batteries were primarily used in imported torches. In 1939, the company set up its first battery plant in Kolkata. This was followed by another battery manufacturing plant in Chennai in the year 1952. In 1969, the now infamous factory in Bhopal was opened. By the time of the Bhopal Disaster in 1984, the company was ranked twenty-first in size among companies operating in India. It had revenues of Rs 2 billion (then equivalent to US$170 million).   EIIL became part of the Williamson Magor Group through McLeod Russel Ltd in the latter half of 1994 following the sale of Union Carbide Corporation's stake in UCIL.

Later, Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), the former parent of Union Carbide India Ltd (UCIL), completely distanced itself from the Indian entity, in which it held a 50.9 per cent stake at the time of the disaster.  The buyer  Dow Chemicals Company, retained its  identity.  With blame shifting hither and thither UCC  said Khaitan-controlled Eveready Industries India should be asked any questions on liability.  According to them,  the ‘polluter pays’ principle would mean liability is for UCIL.   The Williamson Magor Group had no connections or involvement with the operations of the said pesticide plant at Bhopal. Immediately following the accident, the plant at Bhopal was closed down permanently and all licenses were cancelled by the Government.

In 1985, an Act called the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster (Registration and Processing of Claim) Act, 1985 was promulgated, by which the Union of India was authorized to institute the suit for claims and damages on behalf of the affected persons. The Union of India  instituted a suit against UCC USA claiming damages because of UCC USA's direct action in the design, construction and supervision and maintenance of the said plant at Bhopal. The litigation has been long and has never been in favour of the victims.

What is buried deep is how the issue was handled by the then Govt.  -  Warren Anderson, the proclaimed offender in Bhopal gas tragedy case, was allowed to leave India four days after the disastrous gas leak claimed thousands of lives. Anderson was not merely allowed to leave, but was regally escorted out by police and senior government officials treating him like an honoured guest.  The then chairman of UCC had landed in Bhopal on Dec 7, was arrested at the airport and taken to the company's guesthouse. But within hours, he was granted bail and the same police force six hours later escorted Anderson out of the city in a blue government vehicle. Moti Singh, who was then the district magistrate of Bhopal, told Headlines Today that he was asked by the then chief secretary to release Anderson.  Politicians worked overtime to ensure that Anderson had a free run.   The man responsible for the death of thousands was spotted in front of Parliament in the capital.  He sat on a white Ambassador car,  with  no sign of any remorse or tension on his face. Anderson finally left Delhi on Dec 7 1984 and never returned.  He is now no more !

The victims sadly continued to see failures.  The lawsuit   filed in 1999  —Bano v Union Carbide in district court of Manhattan, New York was dismissed in 2003  on the grounds of statute of limitation.  Same year   Janki Bai Sahu v Union Carbide and Warren Anderson was filed in same district court by 17 survivors living near the defunct Union Carbide factory in Bhopal.  Case sought damages, medical monitoring of patients affected by soil and drinking water contamination.  In 2005,  Manhattan district court gave  a summary judgement in favour of UCC against which appeal was filed again. In June 2012,  Court ruled in favour of the defendants, dismissing all claims of their liability and participation in the 1984 Bhopal gas leak;  UCC, parent company of  Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) which operated the pesticide plant in Bhopal, filed an application demanding the dismissal of the suit.  The order delivered by Keenan was the fourth dismissal of this case in 13 years.

The complicated legal battle was lost  ... thus  ended the sordid saga of Bhopal tragedy. .. .. the man at the start is Martin Sheen playing the criminal Warren Anderson in the film -  A Prayer for Rain,  a 2014 historical drama film set amidst the Bhopal disaster.   It was directed by  Ravi Kumar and featured Martin Sheen, Mischa Barton, Kal Penn, Rajpal Yadav, Tannishtha Chatterjee, and Fagun Thakrar in important roles. 

Homage today  to the victims of Bhopal tragedy and truth !

Feeling sad ~ S. Sampathkumar
3rd Dec 2019.

Article made  from various sources in web including wiki; TOI; India today.
Photo source : Robots For Eyes Podcast