Showing posts from 2010

Travancore, CP and the Monazite sands

Many of you would have seen the Petromax or used one at home or seen it at the many festivals of Kerala on pole tops or ledges. Today its place has been taken by rechargeable lanterns and the such from the gelf, or the esteemed tube light. The gas lamp of these old times had what we know as a hanging gauze mantle. We pump the kerosene which creates a fine mist with air in the lamp, we then set it alight, the gauze catches fire and turns incandescent emitting a bright white light. Around which people sit and did various things, especially in Kerala like indulging in active gossip, creating intrigues and talking ill of others (paradushanam), drinking lots of toddy or other inebriating liquids and exchanging necessary & unnecessary banter, and after a while breaking out into impromptu tribal type dances singing thithitaro thithitai. But well, we are not going to talk about petromax gas lamps or toddy, we are going to get to the mantle, at least the mantles used around the late 19th c…

VP Menon – The Architect of Modern India

Bringing order from the nightmare of Chaos Introducing - Rao Bahadur Vapal Pangunni Menon.
While perusing the stories of Nehru, Krishna Menon and many others I had covered in these blogs, I came across VP’s name now and then. And like the man he was, he and his character were such that they remained largely hidden in those niches and corners. It took me much effort to prise open some of that persona behind them. It could be so that VP wanted to remain hidden, for it is certainly curious that a person of such greatness has not a single biography or major biographical article written about him.  In fact even in encyclopedias, his private life is given a couple of paragraphs of space, though much is written about the actions he took and his work. So this article tries to keep the long narrative connected to the person while only gleaning over his majestic work
I am happy that Vijay my friend prodded me to check his story out. VP belonged to to a place I know reasonably well, for at Ottapal…

The Story of Babul Mora

The other day we all listened to a sonorous recital of the famed ‘Babul Mora’ in the Saigal style by our good friend Subash, during our music Samaroh session. As I had the responsibility to introduce the song, I did a little digging and come up with the brief background. The song took us back many decades, and as we watched the emotions play on Subash’s face and the mournful words came out of his mouth all the watching eyes and faces were rapt in attention. The song played over and over in my mind for a long time since then, taking me back to memories of many more favorites by Saigal and Mukesh. Many others have written about this story, but well, I thought, I will provide it some more depth and make an article of it.
I used to visit Lucknow often in the mid 80’s. At that time, I was neither interested in history nor did I have the slightest interest in Nawabs or kebabs. But I loved to stay at the not so popular hotel called Hotel Carlton which was a converted palace, somewhat musty an…

A Story from Appenzel

The story of Heiden’s Room 12…

You’d have also felt sometimes that some people believe that they are always very correct and well, I’ve come across some Germans who belong to that category. Like the other day (well actually it was many years ago) I was flying Lufthansa from Zurich. I had settled down in the cattle class (as Shashi Tharoor tweeted to the delight of his detractors a month or so ago and created a furor) and occupied the arm rest before my neighbor did, for it was going to be a long flight. A few minutes later, the blond and axe face stewardess approached, walking ramrod stiff (not looking at all like the petite German Claudia Schiffer, unfortunately) and asked me what I would like to drink.

Remember that this was at a time in the 90’s when Europe had in general a dim view of the Asian population. It was well before the IT boom, well before the acceptance of Indian expertise and before they started serving Desi food in airlines like Lufthansa (as they ‘proudly’ do these …