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    December 18th, 2014adminRecords, All, Science & Technologies

    Chennai :

    Surgeons at a government hospital in the city set right a neural disorder that causes an uncontrollable shivering of limbs by inserting an endoscope through the patient’s nose.

    Manaangatti, 60, a labourer from Red Hills, could not find proper work for the past five months because of shivering in his hands and legs. He was admitted to the neurosurgery department of Stanley Medical College Hospital in October. Doctors diagnosed the condition as atlanto-axial dislocation.

    “An MRI scan showed that his atlas bone in the spine was dislocated and causing severe compression of nerves. This caused shivering and loss of sensation in the lower part of his body,” said Dr Jacob Grand, head of the neurosurgery department.

    In a procedure performed last month, surgeons inserted an endoscope (a device with a light used to look inside a body cavity or an organ) through his nose and corrected the dislocation by removing the C1 and part of the C2 vertebrae.

    “Conventionally, this is done as a standard surgery through the mouth. We cut open the soft palette and perform the procedure. But in an attempt to avoid tissue loss, we decided to do a nasal endoscopy, which is minimally invasive and relatively painless,” said the doctor.

    Since some bones in the spine had been removed, the doctors used a collar to maintain the position of the neck. Stanley dean Dr A L Meenakshi Sundaram said such minimally invasive procedures reduce blood loss, pain and the length of hospital stay. “Considering the age of the patient, doctors skipped the conventional open surgery and managed to achieve much better results.”

    Three days after the procedure, doctors performed spinal surgery and attached titanium rods to stabilize the neck bone.

    Within a few days, the patient regained sensation in his limbs and could move around normally.

    source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / Home> City> Chennai / TNN / December 17th, 2014

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    December 16th, 2014adminEducation, Records, All

    Coimbatore :

    It came into existence to support the flourishing textile industry in Coimbatore a few years after the IIMs were set up in Kolkata and Ahmedabad. Today, PSG Institute of Management (PSGIM), the first private management education institution in the country, is turning 50.

    The institute was started in 1964, just three years after the IIMs were established in 1961, and offered diplomas in management to feed to growing textile industry which had plenty of skilled engineers but not enough marketing, sales and managerial executives. PSGIM’s history is closely linked to the textile trade of Coimbatore. Around 20 years before Independence the cotton industry began flourishing in the Kongu belt. “Engineer and educationist G R Damodaran started PSG Polytechnic College in 1939 to train and provide diplomas to those wanting to work in spinning factories in the area,” said R Nandagopal, director, PSGIM.

    Later, G R Damodaran, better known as GRD, set up PSG College of Technology in 1951. “Many graduates from PSG Polytechnic and College of Technology became businessmen and industrialists. This helped the textile industry flourish,” said Nanadagopal. But soon the engineers realized that they lacked management skills.

    “In the early 1960s, a group of graduates came to GRD with a problem. They said they were unable to market their products and faced problems when it came to management of resources and putting processes in place,” said Nanadagopal.

    In 1964, GRD approached the department of personnel and training and started a two-year diploma course in industrial management.

    As the institute grew, a department of management science was established in 1971 in PSG College of Technology. “At that time, there was a rule that an institute could start a particular course only if the university to which it was affiliated has the said course,” he said.

    PSG College of Technology was affiliated to the University of Madras then. “GRD pushed for the university to start an MBA course so that PSG Tech could begin one,” said L Gopalakrishnan, managing trustee of PSG Institutions. PSG Tech started a full-fledged MBA programme in 1971, a full year before University of Madras started its MBA course.

    In 1994, the department of management science became PSG Institute of Management. E Balaguruswamy, who later became vice-chancellor of Anna University, was the first director of the institute. The institute has produced around 7,200 management postgraduates. Alumni have fanned out across the world and include Thamarai Kannan, ACP, Chennai, Jagadeesa Pandian, chief secretary, Gujarat and MPs Jose K Mani and R Radhakrishnan.

    Chairman of the alumni association D Madan Mohan said: “When I was studying in the institute between 1985 and 1987, we were one of the few institutions in the country with a computer lab. Now the institute has established a trading centre for students.” In the trading centre, students monitor share market feeds live from New York Stock Exchange and Bombay Stock Exchange and trade them, he said.

    PSGIM has completed 50 years but Nandagopal and Gopalakrishnan feel the institute has a long way to go. “Twenty years ago, we were one of the few management institutes in the country. Today, we have stiff competition from within the nation and also the world. Our challenge is to maintain world class standards,” said Gopalakrishan.

    The institute recently introduced a specialization in family business and entrepreneurship. “This will help firms and companies that do not have heirs to plan succession in a family business. There are some family-run empires that are facing problems and do not know how to resolve them,” said Nandagopal.

    source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / Home> City> Coimbatore  / TNN / December 15th, 2014

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    Lt. Gen. Malcolm Nicolson / by Special Arrangement / The Hindu

    Lt. Gen. Malcolm Nicolson / by Special Arrangement / The Hindu

    When Virginia Jealous speaks to members of the Madras Book Club this evening she might report that midst all the tall grass in the unkempt St. Mary’s Cemetery on The Island she found the tombstones of Adele Florence Nicolson and Lieutenant General Malcolm Nicolson.

    John Jealous, her father, had found them side by side during his first visit to Madras in 1989, soon after he had started on the trail of a woman who was to become the obsession of his life as he pieced together her life during several subsequent visits to Madras and other parts of India for a book that didn’t get written; he passed away before he got to it. Now his daughter Virginia, a poet and a travel writer, who has been following his trail, hopes to write a book on that journey as well as on the woman who was the second great love of his life, Laurence Hope.

    Adela Florence Nicolson / by Special Arrangement

    Adela Florence Nicolson / by Special Arrangement

    What he — and Virginia — didn’t get to see was the mansion where she committed suicide a few months after her husband died. Dunmore House, in Alwarpet, was where Florence Nicolson, whom few knew as the famed poet of the 19th Century, Laurence Hope, and her husband, who called her Violet, lived for some months after they returned to India in 1904.

    Murray’s Gate Road, named after the Hon. Leveson Granville Keith Murray, Collector of Madras between 1822 and 1831, led to Dunmore House, so named by him because he was the son of the fourth Earl of Dunmore. Whether he built the great garden house he lived in during those years is not known, but the house no longer exists.

    What happened to the house in the 50 years immediately after Murray retired in 1831 after 38 years in the Madras Civil Service is not known but in 1888 it was bought by Eardley Norton, the well-known lawyer, for Rs. 47,800 in a Court sale.

    The house was next bought from Norton’s estate in 1910 by the Maharaja of Pithapuram. A tragedy in the Pithapuram family led to them moving out to Cenotaph Road and, no doubt, Dunmore House remained rented out till businessman K. Gopalakrishnan bought it in 1941. Over the years that followed, the acreage of Dunmore House was sold off in substantial plots and its northern half became Venus Studios, home to Venus Pictures. After the studio closed down, the property was developed as today’s Venus Colony. In the southern half, a couple of roads close to Dunmore House take their names from members of the Pithapuram family, and some members of Gopalakrishnan’s family have homes on these roads. But none in the area seems to know of Laurence Hope.

    Laurence Hope wrote impassioned poetry that as the ‘Indian Love Lyrics’ scandalised Victorian England. Her ‘Pale Hands I loved By The Shalimar’, her best remembered poem, had many tattlers nattering about a love affair with a young Kashmiri after her identity got known.

    But her only known love affair was with the then Col. Nicolson, 46 at the time, whom she married in 1889 when she was 23. She was the daughter of Arthur Cory, who was the Editor of North India’s leading newspaper, the Civil and Military Gazette, published from Lahore. The Corys had arrived in India in 1881. The General, an Indophile like her, was ADC to Queen Victoria for a few years before his retirement in 1893. On his retiring, the Nicolsons returned to India and settled in Calicut for a few months before illness brought them to Madras for their last year. They died in 1904.

    Laurence Hope’s poetry was read in closed rooms in the late 19th-early 20th Century but by the 1920s it had been set to music and was sung at tea soirees in the world’s leading hotels. She was certainly a woman ahead of her times, most people of the time resenting her intellectuality and her passion.

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    Back almost to roots

    The House of Binny, in its 225th year, appears to be going back to one of its first, and most successful, businesses, liquor. For years now there has been little talk of Binny’s in business circles, if you except all the speculation about what it plans to do with its considerable holding of land in Perambur. The latest news, however, is that Binny’s is back in business again, with Mohan Breweries and Distilleries being merged with it. With Binny’s at present having no business operations, the merger will make liquor its business again.

    From its earliest days as Binny & Dennison in the first years of the 19th Century, wines, spirits and beer was one of its largest imports, either for sale or ordered by individuals and institutions. Madeira was one of its major wines, but it provided it an export opportunity too. It was found that Madeira was a wine that matured particularly well in Madras and casks of it were imported, matured locally and re-exported to Britain.

    A wine story retailed over generations in Binny’s Liquor Department concerned a veteran employee in the Department, Alex Rodrigues, who in 1873 blotted his copybook. When seven casks of Madeira, each of different quality, were found to be short through leakage or evaporation, he topped them up with loose Madeira they had around, quality be damned. He followed this up by washing empty claret bottles with the best brandy in stock. He got away with it all with a 15 per cent (Rs.15) pay cut.

    Binny Mills gate just before the mills were closed / by Special Arrangement

    Binny Mills gate just before the mills were closed / by Special Arrangement

    But for all the liquor business Binny’s did up to the 1940s, it publicly expressed concern over the ‘Drink Evil’, particularly as it affected production in its mills. In 1924, it persuaded Government to allow the six toddy shops and two arrack shops in the vicinity of the mills to be open only during mill working hours; frustrated workers, thus, found it difficult to get a drink after work, their usual drinking hours. And as for Sundays, it got Government to allow the liquor shops to be open only from 12 to 3 in the afternoon, siesta time. All this, however, did not completely solve the problem the mills — and the families of workers — faced. Binny’s as late as 1935 had temperance workers doing the round of workers’ colonies lecturing on the ills of drink, and its dramatic society often staged plays on the same theme in those areas.

    All this is unlikely to be seen when the new township in 70 acres of Binny Mills property is developed over the next few years in partnership with the SPR Group. This is promised to be an integrated, self-contained residential township with every facility, from healthcare to education, from hotels to entertainment, provided for. But will it be named Binnyville or Binnypuram in memory of a once grand old institution that helped considerably in the growth of Madras?

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    Does a rose need a name?

    Dharmalingam Venugopal, that dedicated documenter of the Nilgiris, tells me that he recently received a letter from a Colin Sullivan, a descendant of John Sullivan, who opened up the Nilgiris and is considered the progenitor of Ooty, wondering whether the Government of Tamil Nadu would name a rose in the Ooty Rose Garden after John Sullivan.

    Ooty's Rose Garden / by Special Arrangement

    Ooty’s Rose Garden / by Special Arrangement

    Rose plants, it is stated, first came into the Presidency in 1831 from England when Governor Stephen Lushington of Madras placed an order for them. A reference to the Ooty Botanical Gardens in 1832 speaks of the “fragrance of roses” filling the air. Did these roses come to the Gardens from John Sullivan?

    Sir Frederick Price, who wrote one of the most definitive records of Ooty and its history (1908), said, “I consider that the introduction of European vegetables and of the apple, peach and strawberry may safely be attributed to Mr. Sullivan.” So why not roses? After all, John Sullivan was associated with the Nilgiris and Ooty from 1817 till the 1840s.

    John Sullivan, the Madras Civilian, would certainly warrant a bit of Nature’s bounty being named after him.

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Features> MetroPlus> Society / by S. Muthiah / December 14th, 2014

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    A.R. Rahman won the award for his fight against polio -- Photo. M. Moorthy / The Hindu

    A.R. Rahman won the award for his fight against polio — Photo. M. Moorthy / The Hindu

    Rotary International presented the polio ambassador award to music director A.R. Rahman at a meeting held in Guindy on Saturday.

    Accepting the award, Mr. Rahman spoke of helping fight polio through social media.

    “I used to think Facebook was a waste of time. But when it was suggested that I open a Facebook page and upload videos of my rehearsals, it helped me reach out to a huge user base of 22 million. It was through this page I began sharing awareness messages on polio,” he said.

    Pianist Anil Srinivasan played some of Mr. Rahman’s hits songs from Hindi and Tamil cinema and asked him questions based on them.

    Speaking about the influences behind Jai Ho, Mr. Rahman said, “I just wanted to approach the song like an anthem, uniting the musical influences of various cultures: Chinese, Japanese, Spanish. The song has all these influences.”

    On working with Mani Ratnam, he said he was given the space to experiment beyond what the script required. “There have been occasions when I have tried something out for myself, even if it seemed outside the scope of the film in the beginning. Sometimes, Mani included them in his film. Deivam thanda poove was one such song,” he said.

    Having just landed in Chennai from Berlin, Mr. Rahman was in no mood to sing. But the audience was in no mood to let him go without a song. The maestro left with a promise to sing the next time.

    Singer Naresh Iyer entertained the audience afterwards.

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Chennai / by Staff Reporter / Chennai – December 14th, 2014

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    Chennai :

    Time was when tea was the drink of the working class in the state and coffee was considered a sophisticated brew for the uppermiddle class and the elite. The introduction of coffee into Tamil Nadu caused a certain cultural anxiety initially but the beverage was ultimately appropriated by Tamil society.

    These and other fascinating insights about the history of plantations, coffee and tea were revealed at a seminar titled ‘Tea For David’, a felicitation of historian and professor David Washbrook, who retired from Trinity College, Cambridge University after teaching at the famous institution for 40 years. This wasn’t surprising, because Washbrook is an academic who specialises in the history of south India.

    “The appropriation of coffee was mediated both by caste and class and coffee became the marker of the brahmin middle-class,” said A R Venkatachalapathy, professor, Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai, speaking at the seminar organised by the department of humanities and social sciences of IIT-Madras

    Quoting a court case from Kolar Gold Fields in which a Buddhist dalit was refused coffee, Venkatachalapathy explored the question of coffee and caste in colonial TN. “On July 13, 1927, Ramaswamy and two friends, one a brahmin, walked into a restaurant. He ordered three coffees. When the proprietor saw Ramaswamy, he told the waiter not to give coffee to a lower caste. Upset over the incident, he walked out. His brahmin friend, however, didn’t accept the coffee served to him as a mark of protest,” said Venkatachalapathy, the author of ‘In Those Days There Was No Coffee: Writings in Cultural History’.

    “Ramaswamy filed a case and hired barrister E L Iyer, a renowned labour activist in Madras,” he said. “But today, there is no record of the proceedings, barring three reports in a Tamil newspaper. It shows that drinking coffee was no ordinary matter those days. With a separate place for Brahmins, caste was very much part of the ‘coffee hotels’ of those days, and leaders like Periyar E V Ramasamy had to fight against this.”

    Speaking on ‘Planters, Power and the Colonial Law’, Ravi Raman, of Council for Social Development, New Delhi, said the British subjected dalits in plantations to various forms of institutional and coercive repression.

    “The contrasting dimensions of colonial law have been explored by historians, but it appears that plantation owners too developed their own laws. They ultimately minimised abuse of workers but, by and large, they wielded coercive power,” he said.

    source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / Home> City> Chennai / TNN / December 09th, 2014

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    Shard of painted pottery unearthed in Pudukottai.

    Shard of painted pottery unearthed in Pudukottai.

    A total of ancient 30 pottery pieces dating back to 3 century BC have been unearthed at Madhagam village on the Pudukottai-Avudaiyarkovil road near Embal, a coastal village, recently.

    A salient feature of these pieces is that eight of them contained strokes testifying to the ancient practice of denoting figures.

    While one of the pottery pieces had the strokes of wings of a bird, another contained Swasthik symbol.

    Interestingly, one piece contained a couple of alphabet-like markings, said S.Neelavathy, Assistant Professor in History, Government Arts College for Women, here on Thursday.

    Chance discovery

    She said the digging of an irrigation tank in the village for maintenance led to the chance discovery of these pieces.

    She, along with Karu.Rajendran, an epigraphist, went to the spot to study the pieces following a tip-off from the students hailing from the nearby villages about the finding.

    The pieces testify to the fact that the coastal district accounted for human habitation in the hoary past.

    She has planned to take up further research in the area with the cooperation of the local villagers.

    She has appealed to the villagers to immediately contact her if they come across any piece of pot with strokes, by dialling 9788205562.

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Tiruchirapalli / by Special Correspondent / Pudukottai – December 12th, 2014

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    They look nothing like Harrison Ford. One is a professional archaeologist who is more than 70 years old and the other a shippie-cum-blogger who is more comfortable doing painstaking background work than with the limelight.But, in terms of real life impact their work is as thrilling as and probably more productive than Indiana Jones ever was in the movies. Through their websites, plunderedpast.in and poetryinstone.in, they have tried to create a record of artefact thefts and done their bit in tracking them down in museums and private collections across the world. Kirit Mankodi and Vijaykumar Sundaresan have also come up with crucia information that has helped to beef up the case against art thief Subhash Kapoor lodged in jail and undergoing trial.

    Mankodi’s passion for retrieving stolen treasures started in the late 1990s when he accompanied a team of archaeologists who went on an excavation in Rajasthan. The team found three ancient sculptures dating back to 9th century .

    The site was cleared and the sculptures were displayed with a signboard. But a couple of years later they disappeared from the site. “The big sculpture among the three was the first to be stolen. A year later another one went missing and soon after the last one too vanished. I wrote to the concerned authorities but that was of no use. Then I decided to do some thing of my own to prevent illicit smug gling of antiques from our country and that’s why it all began,” said Mankodi, who is a senior archaeologist. Vijay who grew up in awe of the thousands of grand temples across Tamil Nadu was also concerned about antique idols being stolen from unguarded tem ples. By reading books, visiting temples and connecting with a larger group of heritage enthusiasts over the internet, he started to piece together information.He started feeding this information from the background to investigative agencies for two years but he found that did not help. “It was then I decided to come out and go to the press. I had to open up because there was no point being a silent informer,” he says.

    By working through a network of heritage enthusiasts including among the global Indian diaspora, Vijay has been able to unearth crucial information in the Subhash Kapoor case. One such was a print catalogue belonging to Subhash Kapoor’s Art of the Past gallery in New York that helped him to connect the statue of Uma in Singapore’s Asian Civilizations Museum he had seen many years back with the one in grainy photographs published by the Tamil Nadu police’s Idol Wing as having been stolen from Ariyalur.

    Poetryinstone.in documents missing artefacts and explains to the otherwise flitting online reader the value of Indian heritage. Reach Foundation’s citation lauds Vijay for his efforts not just in educating people about missing temple icons but also for explaining to the layman in simple terms the complex craft of iconography and temple art.

    The recent return of a Nataraja idol from Australia is only the beginning and many , many more stolen statues are in museums across the world including in Australia, say Kirit and Vijay . Among the work of Mankodi is the sourcing of the sandstone Bharhut Yakshi – at $15 million the most expensive item in Kapoor’s loot catalogue – still with US authorities. Mankodi was able to trace it to a shrine in Madhya Pradesh (South Pole, April 29) following which Indian officials in the US got in touch with him asking for supporting evidence. Mankodi says indications from US and Indian officials are that the Yakshi would return, sooner or later.

    Email us your with full name and address to southpole.toi@timesgroup.com

    source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / Home> City> Chennai / by Debayan Tewari & M T Saju, TNN / December 08th, 2014

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    Arock Joe, Motheswar and Shiva Manickam, who won second prize in the International Robot Olympiad held in Russia

    Arock Joe, Motheswar and Shiva Manickam, who won second prize in the International Robot Olympiad held in Russia

    Chennai :

    With wind turbines based on the air velocity in Mars, track wheels based on the planet’s ground texture, sensors and spectrometers, the children who built the robot ambitiously hope to find solutions to the challenges in the Mars rovers. Now armed with second prize in the International Robot Olympiad held in Russia, the team of three from Chennai hope to go a long way.

    Arock Joe (Class 9) of St Michael’s Academy, Adyar, Motheswar (Class 10) of Akshayah School, Velachery and Shiva Manickam (Class 9) of DAV Public School are the first Indian team to bag the prestigious prize in the event. The team received its training in Robotics under the Chennai-based trainer TechKnowledge Education Solutions Pvt Ltd.

    Over 367 teams from 62 countries participated in the event held in association with the Ministry of Education & Science and Ministry of IT of the Russian Federation.

    The theme for the year was ‘Robots and Space’, and the challenge these children took up was the issue of power failures in the Mars rovers in their prototype Infinity-M. “With our research we found that all of them had solar panels as the power source. We found that the wind velocity in Mars was enough to propel a small turbine so we installed a windmill, would supplement solar energy,” said Joe.

    The robot built by the children

    The robot built by the children

    He said that they found that the wheels were getting stuck in some portions in the Curiosity rover, which they changed by using track wheels with larger surface area to reduce the pressure. The team began their work in May. “We did our research on the Internet and spoke to a scientist from ISRO,” says Joe. The judging was gruelling, with nine judges evaluating the students of whom three were ‘plainclothes’ judges who came to the stalls like visitors.

    “There were some last minute challenges like Internet issues. And it was freezing in Russia!” said Siva. But the group made it to second place — a huge achievement. Indian teams have been participating for many years, but nobody has made it to the top three until now.

    “Robots find their role in anything from making cars to packing pickles. There is a new wave in the school education system that is recently coming up — robotics for school children,” says Godwin Varghese, director, Development and Operations, Techknowledge Education.

    The competition, however, had to be funded by the students themselves, and building a robot over months and a trip to Russia did not come cheap. Scholarships and sponsorships could go a long way in encouraging robotics.

    source: http://www.newindianexpress.com / The New Indian Express / Home> Education> Student / by Express News Service / December 10th, 2014

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    Trichy :

    Finding the exact day of any given date in 110 years is not an easy task for most people, but N Priyanka, a 14-year-old girl affected with cerebral palsy, can accomplish that within a five seconds. This extraordinary talent has brought national recognition to the Trichy girl, who has just got back from meeting the Indian President.

    Priyanka, daughter of N Kannan and B Banu, won the ‘national award for the empowerment of persons with disabilities’ last week, presented by President Pranab Mukherjee at New Delhi. She met the collector and received accolades from the district administration and a cross-section of people on Monday.

    She showed off some of her talent at the grievance day hall here in the presence of district collector Jayashree Muralidharan, instantly calculating the day for the dates mentioned between 1941 and 2050. Her questioners needed to check the calendars to ascertain the answer, but Priyanka never required any outside help

    Though she is affected with cerebral palsy and mental retardation, this Class 8 student of Ramakrishna middle school in Puthur has an extraordinary memory power. The discovery of her talent was purely accidental. Her mother, K Banu, tells the story, which took place sometime in June this year.

    “I was trying to figure out the day of August 17, 2014 to apply for a leave to attend a function. To my surprise, my daughter said that it was Sunday within a few seconds. When I cross checked with the calendar, her answer was perfectly correct,” she said, who is a caretaker in a private school in the city.

    Unlike some normal people who have such talent, but who may have to depend on some formula to find out the day, Priyanka relies solely on her memory power.

    When her teacher asked her how she could find out the answer within a fraction of second, she simply said with a smile, “I don’t know, madam.”

    She is also capable of listing out the dates of a day in all weeks in a month. For instance, if we want to know the dates of ‘Wednesday’ in a month, she will list out the dates within few seconds.

    Her father Kannan, who is an auto rickshaw driver, proudly says that this is only the first step for his daughter, ahead of a brilliant future.

    “It takes only two to three seconds for my daughter to find out the days. I feel her talent can help children like her. My aim is to make her a doctor to serve the poor people,” said Kannan.

    source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / Home> City> Trichy / TNN / December 09th, 2014

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    December 10th, 2014adminRecords, All, Sports, World Opinion
    Somdev Devvarman. Photo: M Vedhan / The Hindu

    Somdev Devvarman. Photo: M Vedhan / The Hindu

    Somdev Devvarman tells about life on and off court

    He’s a sportsman all right: tall, well built, with ripping muscles and ruffled hair. He’s briefly visiting the city he loves, the one he was raised and schooled in. At the Lacoste showroom at Express Avenue, those who recognise him scramble for an autograph or photograph, anything to prove that they’ve actually met him. For those who don’t, he gives no reason to suspect that he’s India’s No. 1 tennis player.

    Somdev Devvarman, who started his sports career in the city two decades ago, betrays no sign of stardom. When he was 9, he was so energetic that his parents decided that a few hours of sport every evening would keep him out of trouble. Tennis was the natural choice, because there were two courts located conveniently close to where the Devvarmans lived in Nungambakkam. Little did they know that when Somdev got his hands on a racket, he’d fall so hopelessly in love with the game that he’d keep playing till he reached the finals of the Chennai Open, win gold at the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games, play all four grand slams and continue after he received the Arjuna Award for his successes.

    He’s played against some of the biggest names in the game, including Roger Federer, who he looked up to even before he started playing professionally. He confesses that the first time he played Federer, he stared at him in awe for a whole five minutes before he got himself together, ready to take him on. “When I first started out, I was a little star-struck with tennis players; that’s not so anymore. I’ve played against Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, and alongside Leander, Mahesh… I’m on tour now myself,” he says with a modest grin.

    In 2002, he moved to the U.S. to pursue his dreams, while getting a degree in Sociology from the University of Virginia. “Tennis being an individual sport, you can often take a non-traditional route, and college tennis in the United States is played at a very high level,” he explains. He started playing professionally in the summer of 2008 and has since been travelling the world, playing the sport he loves for a living.

    “I would shuttle between the room, courts and the airport, and that’s all I’d see of a city. For the lasy three or four years, I’ve been a lot more adventurous and I’ve started enjoying the cities I go to a lot more,” says Somdev.

    He’s never in the same city for longer than two weeks, but he travels with a team he shares a strong camaraderie with, and is always accompanied by his fitness trainer and physiotherapist, so there’s no dearth of company.

    His closest friends, however, the ones he takes the effort to keep in touch with through WhatsApp groups and the ones who fly out to see him play at tournaments, are those he grew up playing tennis with in Chennai. He spends about two months a year here, even though his parents have moved back to their hometown in Tripura, because he feels deeply connected to the city. It’s been almost 10 years since he left, so his Tamil is not as fluent as it used to be, but he says he can speak enough to haggle with an auto driver, an activity he finds rather fun. He’s quick to say that he definitely sees himself moving back to India at some time in the future.

    He doesn’t make grand plans though, because he says they nearly never fall in place. “I just go with the flow,” he casually admits. At 29, he’s not sure how long he’s going to play the sport professionally. Having already overcome a shoulder injury which kept him away from the sport for most of 2012, he says it’s tough to see himself bouncing back should he suffer another one. “At this point I feel like, if things go well, I’d like to continue with it. If not, I’ll have to think of other options.” What those options will be, he’s yet to figure out. He has a lot to come home to though — close friends, a supportive family and the social initiative, Life Is A Ball, that he co-founded to educate disadvantaged children through sport. He also admits there’s a girl he’s been seeing for close to a year now. He blushes a little bit, deciding if he should reveal anymore when asked if she’s from Chennai. “I’d rather keep that information private,” he says decidedly. Neither of them is thinking about marriage at this point, but they are both happy with where things are.

    He’s surprised, and struggles to come up with an answer when asked about the worst part of being a professional tennis player. “To be honest, I don’t have too many complaints about the job that I do. I’m very happy and blessed. I get to hit a little yellow tennis ball all around the world. I learn a lot, make many friends and have so many experiences. I think it’s any kid’s dream,” he says happily.

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Features> MetroPlus / by Raveena Joseph / December 09th, 2014

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