Chennai First a Celebration. Positive News, Facts & Achievements about Chennai, Tamilians and all the People of TamilNadu – here at Home and Overseas
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    NASA had received about 3,000 entries from 193 countries

    Two students from Shree Vidhya Mandhir, Pushpathur, Dindigul district won the NASA’s 2018 Commercial Crew Program Calendar Art Contest.

    The artworks of students Kaviya B.J. and K. Selva Sreejith of Class VI were among the 12 selected from about 3,000 entries submitted by children in the age group of 4-12 years from 193 countries. Their work will be printed in the 2018 calendar of NASA will be sent to the International Space Station.

    While Kaviya drew an organic space garden, Sreejit’s artwork was titled ‘What would you take from home’, where he drew an astronaut who brought along his daughter, dog and all his favourite possessions to the space shuttle. The winning students will receive a gift package from NASA. The students were able to participate in the contest because of a tie-up between the school and Imageminds, a digital media training centre.

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities / by Staff Reporter / Chennai – January 17th, 2018

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    January 16th, 2018adminBusiness & Economy, Records, All, World Opinion
    Over 1,000 pumps were used to form the words ‘Coimbatore Pump City’ by pumpset manufacturers in the city on Thursday as part of Coimbatore Vizha. | Photo Credit: HANDOUT_E_MAIL

    Over 1,000 pumps were used to form the words ‘Coimbatore Pump City’ by pumpset manufacturers in the city on Thursday as part of Coimbatore Vizha. | Photo Credit: HANDOUT_E_MAIL

    About 100 people worked for nearly eight hours to form the words “Coimbatore Pump City” with pumps on Thursday at VOC Grounds here.

    According to Kanishka Arumugam, director of Ekki Pumps and Deccan Pumps, about 10 pump manufacturers, including leading brands and smaller players, supplied pumps for the formation. These include agriculture, domestic, and industrial pumps.

    “Coimbatore is making pumps for more than 50 years now and the next generation needs to focus on innovation. The objective of the programme is to showcase that Coimbatore is a leading manufacturer and supplier of pumpsets. In the recent years, the range of pumpsets made here is also widening,” he said.

    “The brand made in Coimbatore for pumps should become popular,” he added.

    S. Prasanna Krishna, Young Indians (Yi) chair, Coimbatore, said the city had over 200 pumpset manufacturers and only Rajkot and Ahmedabad were the other major pumpset making hubs in the country. The global market size for pumps was estimated to be 45 billion $ and India’s market size was ₹ 10,000 crore. The manufacturers here catered to over 40 % of the country’s demand.

    “A couple of leading multi-national brands also have presence in Coimbatore. We should aspire more for the next decade and become a pioneer city to manufacture advanced pumping systems,” Mr. Arumugam added.

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Coimbatore / by Special Correspondent / Coimbatore – January 12th, 2018

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    A French Reunion island team interacting with students at Cauvery College of Engineering and Technology at Perur near Tiruchi on Sunday.... | Photo Credit: HANDOUT

    A French Reunion island team interacting with students at Cauvery College of Engineering and Technology at Perur near Tiruchi on Sunday…. | Photo Credit: HANDOUT

    Out of the 8.5 lakh population in the island, 3 lakh people are Tamils

    It was a trip Bernard Goulamoussen (50), a French citizen of Tamil origin settled in Reunion Island, had been longing for since his childhood.

    Eagerness writ large on his face, Goulamoussen tells how he was able to see traces of his roots wherever he went during his current trip in Tamil Nadu.

    For, he had no idea to which part his ancestors who had migrated more than 200 years ago belonged.

    Goulamoussen was among a group of 10 such visitors to Tamil Nadu from Reunion Island, a French overseas territory in the Indian Ocean, who have come to the State to understand their forefathers’ culture, tradition, civilisation, ancient history, educational system, rituals and practices.

    After visiting several parts of the State including Chennai, Madurai, Dindigul and Thanjavur, they landed in Tiruchi on Sunday to explore its cultural heritage.

    Led by Yogacharya Nilamegame, a native of Puducherry who had settled in Reunion Island about 30 years ago, they visited Cauvery College of Engineering and Technology at Perur near here and interacted with the students to understand the Indian educational system.

    Like Goulamoussen, most of the group members also have no knowledge of their mother tongue Tamil.

    But, they still practice Tamil culture reflecting in the way they dress and religious practices.

    “We do not know where our forefathers lived in Tamil Nadu. We feel ecstatic to be in the land of our origin. We may have forgotten Tamil. But we have not given up our tradition yet,” says Goulamoussen, a temple priest, in French.

    Out of 8.5 lakh population of Reunion Island, 3 lakh people were Tamils. Except one-third among them, the rest had poor knowledge about their roots in Tamil Nadu.

    “But then, it is because of our deep understanding of festivals of Tamils and religious practices that we regularly recite Devaram and Thiruvasagam in temples,” said Nilamegame, who has penned a book on rituals of Tamils in Tamil and French.

    After the interaction, N. Nallusamy, former Minister and Chairman of Cauvery College of Engineering and Technology felt that the State government should set up an exclusive Department to teach Tamil language to the diaspora, particularly in Reunion Island, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Myanmar.

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Tiruchirapalli / by C. Jaisankar / Tiruchi – January 08th, 2018

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    A tongue-in-cheek, two-part piece that traces the genealogy and features of a unique species

    Tamil Nadu erupted in the early 20th century into what can only be called a revolution, the Dravidian revolution, which transformed the texture of Tamil society.  It was ‘Periyar’ E.V. Ramasami Naicker, who changed the classist nature of public life in Tamil land. Within a generation, Tamil Nadu was transformed; with people from various castes taking control of politics and society; the ‘Periyar’ effect.

    In this avalanche of change, Brahmins who were at the top of the social food chain became the singular targets of the new revolutionary correctives. But in a small corner of the beleaguered Brahmin world of  Tamil Nadu existed two art forms — Carnatic music and Bharatanatyam — which became a new sanctuary for the Tamil Brahmin, very specifically, the Mylapore Brahmin, unmistakable as the ‘Mama’ of Mylapore, Madras’s most famous temple-suburb.

    In the winter of 1927, a historic session of the Indian National Congress was held in Madras, presided over by Dr. M.A. Ansari, at which, on the motion of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Purna Swaraj or Independence was accepted as the objective of the Congress.

    The session was also historic for the music community in Madras because of the series of music and dance performances organised alongside. The very next year, Madras Music Academy was established for the “further advancement” of Carnatic music and to conduct music conferences and performances. And December became the chosen month, the one month in the year that Madras calls ‘cold’ and when the monkey caps come out.

    Madras emerged as the ‘classical music place’ to be in within the first half of the 20th century, and a number of music-saturated Brahmins homed in on the city. In bygone centuries, Carnatic music was spread around the towns and villages of Thanjavur and Tirunelveli but it was now concentrated in cosmopolitan Madras. Here the art form was reorganised, systematised and intellectualised. Madras became the Mecca of Carnatic music.

    By the 1980s, people from across India were heading to Madras every December. There were over 15 sabhas and leading musicians performed in almost all of them.

    Through this period, the government was filled with leaders who took forward the anti-Brahmin legacy. But that did not matter when it came to celebrating the December festival.

    Chief ministers and governors inaugurated sessions of Carnatic music and acknowledged its great aesthetic strength. Rationalist leaders and atheists didn’t blink an eye when speaking at events, though Carnatic music was lyrically religious. Carnatic music and Bharatanatyam became examples of the cultural refinement of the Tamils, and musicians and dancers were celebrated as cultural ambassadors.

    Enter, the hero

    Paradoxically, a state that insisted on social equality came to be known nationally and internationally for two art forms practised, promoted and patronised only by the cultural elite.

    From this rather serious sociological narrative emerges one person, a charismatic and entertaining embodiment of a societal overhaul. With his sheer presence he bestows upon Carnatic music its antiquity, at the same time containing it within his own identity.

    He is today an ignored social animal, but when the sounds of the tambura waft through the humid Marina breeze, his face lights up, shoulders broaden, the space becomes his to own, he is on home turf, a turf he understands better than any curator, one on which he has watched so many masterful innings. The players and audiences look up to him, as he gives to the art as much as he receives, or so he believes.

    Our hero is the Brahmin man, the chief patron of Carnatic music in ChennaiBut he is not just any Brahmin man; this person is special, the hard core ‘Carnatic-ite’. We call him the Mylapore Mama. He has lived for centuries, probably saw Tyagaraja sing on the streets of Thanjavur, discussed the nuances of ragas with Konerirajapuram Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar, and bemoaned the death of Vina Dhanammal in the early 20th century. He is the typical Brahmin but wait, he is much more.

    The essence of Todi

    He proclaims, “I have music in my blood. After all, I grew up drinking Cauvery water.” Most of these Mamas seem to have had ancestors who lived around Thanjavur. He walks around Chennai the way his great-grandfather would have ambled on the banks of the Cauvery. He is great friends with the maestros, usually addresses them by first name, and even teaches them a thing or two about singing.

    His essence is Kamboji, Kalyani, Todi and Kedaragoula. Within his mind exists the collective wisdom of the last 150 years of music.

    He is, therefore, someone who has lived with Carnatic music from its times as a triangular (Brahmin, isaivellalar and devadasi) social preoccupation to its present singular Brahmin obsession.

    He has seen all the changes of the 20th century and discussed its pros and cons, probably sniggered at them, and held on to what he believes are the core values of Carnatic music. Don’t think he is antiquated. He is not; he will surprise you with the most bizarre acknowledgement of a musician you thought was awful. You cannot slot him, he will deceive you, be careful. His greatest function has been as Carnatic connoisseur, the person who shapes the music and the musician, or so he believes. He will stroll into concerts, discussions and lectures and find his way out, all the time exuding an air of great superiority.

    Metaphor for music

    Why Mylapore? Because Mylapore is not just a Brahmin-dominated location in Madras (sorry Chennai); it is a metaphor. A metaphor that conjures up images of a man with a tuft, betel nut in mouth, bare-chested, clothed in a veshti. But these images themselves are metaphors, circles within circles. All Mamas don’t dress this way, but they retain the qualities that these images imply: traditionalism, comfort, belief, knowledge and control.

    The Mylapore Mama has great command over the Queen’s language, though with a strong Sanskrit accent. He reads The Hindu over a cup of filter coffee, has strong opinions about everything, and, of course, can reel out the names of ragas, talas, compositions and — to the amazement of all — render snatches of several ragas. It is sometimes difficult to understand him as the words escape arrogantly from the corner of his mouth, the one-liners are cryptic, the words loaded and the sarcasm natural. Today, Mama may live in San Diego, Melbourne, Singapore, London, Delhi or Johannesburg but he is after all from Thanjavur.

    Usually addressed as Shankar Mama, Sundaram Mama, Ramamurthy Mama or Krishnan Mama, these men are the custodians of Carnatic music.

    Bearing that great responsibility, they operate differently with different people, and it is this that I find most fascinating. As in any field, there are always musicians at different levels of acumen and status; all of them build relationships with the Mamas.

    Now put the Mama and Chennai’s music season together and we have a potent combination. The Margazhi Season is the Olympics of Carnatic music. The Brahmin music world assembles from around the globe to witness the show and Mylapore Mama is the mascot. It is his time to rule, dictate, pontificate, control and deliver a verdict.

    A careful structure

    The music season itself is structured in an interesting fashion. The organisation, the concert timing, the duration and venue influence artists and audiences, and together determine the artist’s status within the establishment.

    As a general rule, mornings are devoted to lec-dems or concerts by super-senior musicians. Super-seniority is not equivalent to super-speciality; it only indicates the average age of the artist. Yes, there are also some greats, but the majority fall into the purely geriatric category. Over the years, this has changed a bit with younger artists also performing in the morning. The mid-day concerts are by novices and first-timers. After 1:00 pm is for artists a little more mature, which means they have performed at the mid-day level at least a few times before. These last till 5 p.m. roughly, with entry free for all.

    The evening concerts are, of course, for the ones who have made it, the stars, the popular artists, to listen to whom people are willing to spend money. These hierarchies have been in play for decades and every musician hopes and prays to move from mid-day to evening concert. This is the equivalent of the Bollywood box-office dream.

    These timings are also referred to in terms of the artists’ seniority: junior, sub-senior and senior, and each category is called a ‘slot’. Everyone — and I mean everyone — wants to know your slot and based on that decides your status in the Carnatic world.

    (To be continued…)

    The writer is a rebel, whether against cultural conventions or injustice or just bad tea.

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Society / by T.M. Krishna / January 06th, 2018

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    January 6th, 2018adminRecords, All, Sports, World Opinion
    Erode Collector S. Prabhakar (centre) felicitating P. Iniyan for winning the World Youth Chess Olympiad.Special Arrangement

    Erode Collector S. Prabhakar (centre) felicitating P. Iniyan for winning the World Youth Chess Olympiad.Special Arrangement

    P. Iniyan (14) from Erode has won gold medal at the World Youth Chess Olympiad held at Ahmedabad from December 11 to 18. He also helped the Indian Green Team win silver medal in the Olympiad.

    Indian Green team was the top seed of the event, which saw the participation of 30 teams, with a whopping rating average of 2,503.

    India had fielded three teams, two from the National Sub-Junior Championship last year and one from a special selection of best players of the country. The tournament was of nine rounds Swiss format. Aryan Chopra, Praggnanandhaa, Nihal Sarin, Iniyan and Vaishali comprised the Indian Team .

    Indian Green team’s Iniyan and Nihal Sarin bagged individual gold medals for their respective board. Iniyan scored 7.5 points from eight rounds with an excellent scoring percentage of 93.8 % and proved to be a rock on the fourth board.

    At the same time he helped the team secure a silver medal. Nihal Sarin scored 5.5 points out of 7 and got gold in 3rd board.

    Iniyan is to participate in the 34th International Bollinger 2017 to be held in Germany from December 26 to 30 and the Montebelluna Elite Open 2018 to be held in Italy from January 2 to 7, 2018.

    Olirum Erodu Foundation that has been funding him for all the games sponsored Rs. 1.75 lakh to Iniyan for the recently held tournaments. District Collector S. Prabhakar felicitated Iniyan on Tuesday.

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> National> Tamil Nadu / by Staff Reporter / Erode – December 21st, 2017

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    Twin-musicians Sahana and Shruti’s latest work, ‘The Celnatic Experience’, highlights cross-genre influences in world music

    They were born six minutes apart. But that doesn’t stop Sahana and Shruti from completing each other’s sentences.

    These musician-twins have just released a novel music project, titled The Celnatic Experience, which seeks to celebrate the 225-year legacy of Muthuswami Dikshitar and the East India company. The project, which includes a coffee table book, a children’s book and a CD that are available for purchase online, is an extension of their recent thesis in the Berklee College of Music.

    Competitive start

    “We started learning Carnatic music when we were just six and growing up in Muscat,” recalls Sahana. The thrust came from their father, Kumar, an ardent follower of Carnatic music. Soon, the family moved lock, stock and barrel to Chennai to strengthen their musical base under the tutelage of Bombay Jayashree. “It was initially very difficult to cope here because the scene was quite competitive,” says Shruti.

    The two knew that music was their future. After a bachelor’s degree in Electronic Media from MOP Vaishnav College, they packed their bags to Valencia (Spain), to train in the prestigious Berklee College of Music. That sowed the seeds for their present endeavour. “Even before enrolling there, we were supposed to submit a topic that we’d take up for our final thesis, and we chose ‘Nottuswarams’, something close to our heart.”

    Blast from the past

    They’d learnt Nottuswarams during their initial training years. “That time, we’d learnt only two,” they recall, “But we later discovered that there were 36 of them. We were also fascinated by their origins – about how Muthuswami Dikshitar had composed them in the 17th century deriving influences from British bands playing Irish music.”

    The connections between the Shankarabharanam ragam back home and compositions from across the world got them very interested. “Did you know that the Dikshitar composition — ‘Santatam Pahima’ — resembles the British National anthem,” asks an excited Shruti.

    Celnatic02CF02jan2018

    These interesting similarities – from musicians separated by thousands of kilometres, in an age when cellphones and Internet were unheard of sparked off the idea in them: to highlight cross genre influences between world music. “The effort was also to take Carnatic music beyond borders and expose children from across the globe to it, just like how children here learn Western music,” says Sahana.

    Thus came ‘Celnatic,’ a word coined by them. They even performed the ‘Nottuswarams’ back in Spain, which met with resounding applause. “We gave a little introduction in Spanish, so that people could follow. But audiences loved the music. They wanted to buy it, though the CD wasn’t even ready then,” say the twins, who’re currently learning Carnatic music under AS Murali.

    Meeting the Maestro

    This Season, the twins have hit Chennai with a two-fold purpose: to frequent kutcheris and promote their latest work.

    The biggest achievement, according to them, was getting the blessing of music maestro Ilaiyaraaja for their latest work. “It was such a blessing. We presented the compositions to him and he, in turn, took us a tour to the studio. He even taught us a pallavi, set in Hindolam ragam. We were awestruck that he took time off to spend interacting with us.”

    The twins, who’re currently working on putting together a Hindi folk single that will promote a music festival scheduled for later this year, are interested in singing for films. “We would also like to compose and come up with some independent music,” says Sahana.

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Entertainment> Music . by Srinivasa Ramanujam  / January 02nd, 2018

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    Amidst a verdant grove of teak trees in Tamil Nadu’s Anamalai Tiger Reserve lies an ageing tombstone with a Latin inscription that says “Si Monumentum Requires Circumspice (If you seek his monument, look around)”.

    The grave of a little-known Scotsman named Hugo Francis Andrew Wood, this serene spot remains a must-see for local forest guards and nature enthusiasts more than 70 years after the man himself died. For he is the reason why these ancient hills are still lush with trees.

    Here is the untold story of how Hugo Wood came to the rescue of Anamalai forests at a time when they stared at a bleak future.

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    In 1820, a team of British surveyors ventured into the still unexplored Anamalai range (that spanned several peaks in the Madras Presidency) and were pleasantly surprised to find it heavily forested with towering trees of teak and rosewood.

    At that time, timber formed the backbone of many industries and Britain’s oak forests had vanished due to the irresponsible felling of trees. Furthermore, to retain its naval supremacy among the colonial powers, Britain desperately needed wood to make new ships.

    Apart from shipbuilding and construction, logs were also needed to build train tracks for Britain’s rapidly expanding rail network — for each mile of train track, around 2,000 wooden planks were required — and provide fuel for steam locomotives.

    As such, the surveyors were quick to realise the value of what they had “discovered”. Soon after, the mountains began being gradually robbed of their abundant tree cover, with the teak being shipped of to Tiruchirappalli (to build train tracks) or Bombay (to build Royal Navy ships in the Bombay shipyard).

    Too large to be conventionally transported, the giant teak trees were cut down into logs, carried by elephants till a point and then floated down the river to the plains below — the reason why, in time, the spot came to be named Topslip.

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    In fact, according to Forestination in Madras Presidency by Dietrich Brandis (1883), roughly about 40,000 trees were felled each year in government forests in Madras Presidency for the railways alone!

    Thanks to this over-exploitation, the once-green hills of Anamalai had lost much of their tree cover by 1885. For the next three decades, several British foresters tried to regenerate the region but failed. And then came Hugo Wood.

    Appointed the District Forest Officer of Coimbatore South Division in September 1915 (a post he would hold till 1926), Hugo decided to put a stop to the unchecked destruction of Anamalai’s forests and drew up a working plan for the same.

    First, the 45-year-old Scotsman talked the local colonial authorities and convinced them to stop hunting wildlife and the irresponsible chopping of trees. He also befriended the tribals who lived near the forests, restored their traditional rights and brought back many who had been displaced (due to the British bringing the Anamalai forests under the reserved category).

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    Next, Hugo scathingly admonished the British government for uprooting trees and introduced the forest management technique of coppicing — a method that takes advantage of the fact that many trees rapidly regrow during spring if they are cut down up to the stump during the winter.

    Finally, he marked out areas where no logging or coppicing would be allowed for a period of 25 years. In fact, such was his dedication towards his work that he refused to provide timber to the British during the World War I (1914-1918).

    In 1916, Hugo set up a bamboo hut in Mount Stuart (near Topslip) and began working in earnest to regenerate the forest of the mountain range. He started small, targeting an area of 25 acres. By the time of his death, it had spread to an area of 650 sq km.

    He lived alone, cooked his own food and never missed out on a daily ritual. During his daily walks in the deforested land, he would fish out fistfuls of teak seeds from his pockets, use his silver-tipped walking stick to poke a hole in the ground, and plant seeds there.

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    He would repeat the process till his pockets were empty. Then he would go back for more seeds and start again from where he left off. He also made efforts to rid the hills of Lantana camara, an invasive species of flowering shrub that hampered the growth of teak.

    Hugo’s hard work paid off, breathing new life into the hills of Anamalai.

    In 1925, Hugo retired after a severe bout of tuberculosis and settled in Coonoor, according to a Tamil Nadu forest department booklet. Having remained a bachelor (choosing instead to devote his life to conservation), he died on December 12, 1933, at the age of 63.

    However, a few months earlier, a seriously ill Hugo had written a will asking to be buried amidst the trees he had planted. He has also sent the money for the same to the chief conservator of Madras Presidency.

    On his death, this request was conceded and Hugo Wood was laid to rest among his lasting legacy — the teak trees he raised in the hills of Anamalai.

    On windy days, leaves gently float down from the trees on to the tombstone as if to pay homage to the man who so completely loved the Anaimalais and who did so much to save it.

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    Today, this place has become an oft-visited spot for tourists while his immense contribution has become a part of the local folklore. Forest department vehicles ferry people from Kozhikamuthi elephant camp to Hugo’s grave amidst Topslip’s flourishing teak forest. The forest department is now planning to set up a memorial dedicated to the legend at the spot.

    Close by is the Mount Stuart Rest House (built in 1886) that is still let out to guests. Though the building stands in all its historic glory, it does have limited damage caused by curious bears and wild elephants who seem to have taken a permanent fancy to the house! However, do note that only wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers are allowed accommodation.

    Photographs :  Pic (01) www.commonos.wikimedia.org / P. Jeganathan / (02 and 03) www.ddraftaniwalpower.org  (04 and 05) www.keralarchaeology.blogspot.in

    source: http://www.thebetterindia.com / The Better India / Home> Conservation> Environment> Lede> Nature / by Sanchari Pal / December 28th, 2017

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    St Thomas English Church that turned 175, stands a solemn witness to the passage of time

    It’s late afternoon and birds keel over the squat steeple of St Thomas English Church (STEC) that stands at a bend on Santhome High Road. Children rush out of the school gate, a few swing from the low branches of trees that swish noisily in the brisk sea breeze. A winter coastal light washes over STEC’s white structure, complete with arches and turrets. Beyond stands a fishing hamlet barnacled to its compound wall that has replaced the fence with a wicket gate that opened to the beach and the bay beyond. Here, in the sweep of golden sands where Thomas, the saint who lends his name to the church and one of Christ’s 12 apostles walked, there is a mercurial stillness that hangs in the air — a quietude that has conquered the call of birds, chatter of children and the roar of waves for 175 years now.

    I’m led on a guided tour of the 14-ground campus by Rev Richard Ambrose Jebakumar, the present presbyter, and Sheeba and Roshan, who were born and raised in this pastorate and whose families have been members for generations. High above the arched doorway is a crest emblazoned into the wall that spells out 1842 – the year the church was founded — and reads ‘Quarto septennial – abounding in grace, faith and love.’

    “These are words that have largely inspired the philosophy of this church and its members,” says Rev Jebakumar. “Raised to meet the spiritual needs of the large number of Europeans who had made Santhome home, the church owes its existence largely to the dynamic Methodist missionary Robert Carver.” Carver, who is buried under the main altar of the church, arrived in India in 1824 and was a pioneer in the work of the oldest mission of the Church of England in India that worked at promoting Christian knowledge. By 1836, Bishop Daniel Corrie obtained a grant to build the church. By 1842, Carver had moved back to Madras from Mannargudi, and STEC was consecrated later that year. After Carver died a few years later, the church had many notable presbyters leading it, including AR Symonds and A Westcott, with the first Indian presbyters taking over in the 1930s. Their names now fill the wooden plaques that hang in a quiet corner of the church, although their work has for long defined the character of this pastorate. “St Thomas’ strength lies in the fact that it is a family church. Governor Thomas Munro worshipped here, and generations of families have been members here. It has helped foster a rare bond,” says Sheeba, member of the pastorate committee, outlining the many activities the 250 member-families pitch in for.

    “Hospital visits and working with women and children from disadvantaged backgrounds, especially those from the nearby CSI School for the Deaf, are some of the areas of focus.” Sheeba’s husband, Roshan, was a member of ADAG (Anti-Drug Action Group), a church band in the 1980s. “The church also pitched in to help the flood-affected people in the locality. The school, established in 1986, serves children from modest backgrounds. Weddings for the poor were held for the 175th anniversary. We also organised special services and installed a statue to mark the occasion,” adds Rev Jebakumar.

    The church has changed little since it was first raised. Massive wooden doors open to aisles lined with beautifully carved pews and walls with poignant marble plaques that tell tales of English men land women ost to battles, sunken ships and tropical disease. The stained glass behind the brass and stone-embedded cross on the altar was replaced after the tsunami struck. “We were at service that Sunday. It was the only part of the church that was destroyed,” says Sheeba. On the brass lectern stands a version of the King James Bible, its pages brittle with the weight of history, but its words firm.

    Music has been a strong tradition in the church. The Thomas Robson pipe organ, built in 1868 and played by organist Anila Manoharan, is the second-oldest in the city. Its strains wash over the cobble stone altar outside and to the sunset lingering across the foam-topped waves. And, above the roar of the traffic rise the words so loved by the people here — ‘There’s a church near a bend on the sea shore, No lovelier place I love more.’

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Chennai / by Deepa Alexander / December 27th, 2017

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    Jayaprakash Joghee Bojan, who is National Geographic’s Nature Photographer of the Year 2017, talks about his award-winning shot and love for wildlife photography

    He was a point-and-shoot photographer for 10 years. Four years ago, his wife got him a DSLR and today Jayaprakash Joghee Bojan is the National Geographic’s Nature Photographer of the Year 2017 for his photograph of an orangutan crossing a river in the wilds of Borneo.

    Excitement ripples through his voice as he talks about his award-winning shot. “In August, I was in Kalimantan on the Indonesian side of Borneo and heard about this orangutan that crossed the river. I found this amazing because orangutans normally avoid water. They’re arboreal creatures. And, there were crocodiles in the river.”

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    So he made for the area but didn’t see anything for a couple of days. But he decided to wait. “I had a hunch this would be special.” On the third day, he heard that the animal had been spotted on the other side of the river and rushed to the spot. “When the orangutan appeared, I climbed into the water.” Didn’t he remember the crocs? “Yes but I had to do it if I wanted that truly unique shot.” His appearance made the orangutan nervous and it retreated behind a tree. They played peekaboo till the animal decided that it could ignore him. “I got around 25 shots of it peeping out from behind the tree and retreating,” laughs Bojan. “Then he came out and began to cross the river and I got this shot.”

    Bojan, who is from the Nilgiris, says his interest in wildlife came naturally. His grandparents lived in a village just a few kilometres from Dodabetta. “I was surrounded by birds and lot of wildlife.” He also lived in Bengaluru so he got in a lot of “backyard birding” and travelled to all the National Parks in India (one of his favourites is Nagarhole). But he started taking wildlife photography seriously when his wife was transferred to Singapore two years ago and he quit his job to move there. A visit to the Singapore Zoo triggered his interest in primates. “It was the first time I had seen them and I wanted to see them in the wild.” He began to research and reach out to people across Southeast Asia. “Southeast Asia has approximately 25% of the most highly endangered species of primates. You don’t have the usual photo-safari destinations here and it was hard to find people who knew where to spot them. Slowly my connections grew and I’ve been able to photograph around eight or nine species.”

    Bojan’s photos were earlier picked as the Editor’s favourites in the National Geographic Nature Photography Awards but he’s glad it’s the orangutan that won. “More people will see this and there will be more visibility and may be more people will be willing to help. The orangutans need more help than they’re getting.”

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    His favourite subjects apart from primates, and organutans in particular, are the tiger and otters. “My first tiger shot was in Bandipur,” he reminisces. “It was a female called Gauri and she had two cubs.” On the subject of otters, he has a lot more to say. While he has photographed otters in the wild in Kabini and Corbett National Park, it is a family of wild otters near his house in Singapore that currently has him captured. “They’ve figured out a way to live in an urban place like Singapore. There’s a community called Otter Watch that tracks the otters across Singapore. They post updates on social media and recently celebrated the birth of new pups. The otters roll on the sand or the grass to clean their fur as the humans watch and even take food from them.” One of Bojan’s photos of a couple of elderly men reaching out to the otters won an award from the Indian website Nature in Focus.

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    Going forward, Bojan hopes to do a photo-story book on primates. “Some of these species number just 50-100 in the wild.” He’s also looking forward to a trip in Japan in February to shoot the snow monkey, the red fox and migrating raptors. He hopes to get some sightings of the elusive snow leopard from a trip to the Spiti Valley later in 2018. Towards the end of the year, if his permissions come through, he’ll be tracking a rare monkey on the Vietnam-China border. “I have lots of photographs to come; many more stories to tell,” he says.

    A tough battle

    Halfway through the story of his award-winning shot, Bojan gets side-tracked into the story of a ranger-turned-conservationist who is trying to buy land around the periphery of the national parks to ensure that it doesn’t fall into the hands of palm oil companies. “He’s educating the local people about habitats and the animals there and training them to be guides. The profits from guided tours are being invested into ensuring that land around the forest stays wild.”

    While Bojan admits it’s a tough call to choose between preserving habitats and finding employment, he hopes they can sustain this initiative. “Obviously they cannot pay as much as the bigger companies. I am donating a part of the award money towards this cause. They’ve managed to buy around 12 acres in the last year, which is a great feat.” Around 30% of Indonesia’s income comes from palm oil, so it’s a “tricky affair for all concerned: the government and the people on the ground.”

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Life & Style / by R. Krithika / December 25th, 2017

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    At first appearance, the small chapel inside St Andrews Girls Higher Secondary School at Singarathoppu in Ramanathapuram district appears like an inverted ship. Its build is different, unlike the usual Gothic or Anglican architecture in which Catholic and protestant churches were built earlier. Not many know that this humble 117-year-old chapel has a tale of its own. It was erected in 1900 in memory of Arthur Heber Thomas, an English missionary, who worked for dalits and cholera-affected people in the nearby villages before dying of malaria in 1890.
    Hailing from Warmsworth in England, a 25-year-old Thomas, a member of the Society for the Propagation of Gospel, reached Madras on May 2, 1887, by steam ship, S S Manorama. His missionary work took him to Ramanathapuram, where he began working for dalits in Venkulam and treating cholera-affected people in Singarathoppu. He died on November 2, 1890, and was fondly remembered by locals for treating cholera patients even in the last days of his life. Residents of Venkulam built another church called ‘Thomas Church’ in his memory.

    “His letters written to his brother and father reveal his love for the region, especially for Tamil language, which he was learning to speak and write. He had also documented the extreme tropical weather in the region, onset of cholera in 1888 after a cyclone hit the region in December that year and spotting numerous deer at Sayalkudi,” said V Rajaguru of Ramanathapuram Archaeological Research Foundation.

    Rajaguru ascertained these facts from the book, ‘The Steep Ascent – Memorials of Arthur Heber Thomas and Records of Ramnad Mission’, published by Bemrose & Sons Limited and Snow Hill and Derby in 1907, and field visits to Venkulam area near Utharakosamangai where Thomas worked.

    The Thomas Chapel at Singarathoppu was built by his English friends after his death. “They designed it like a ship — a symbol of Thomas’ voyage to India,” Rajaguru said.

    All the material except the church bell was sourced from the region. Lime was obtained from sea shells along the Ramanathapuram coast. Grinders using bullocks were used to make lime mortar and soap stones were used to polish the floors.

    “The architecture of a tiled roof over the vault gives a weather control feature to this church. No matter what the weather is outside, the atmosphere inside the church is always pleasant. Considering that the missionary wrote to his family about extreme tropical weather in the region, his friends may have given a thought about this special architecture.”

    source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Chennai News / by Arockiaraj Johnbosco / TNN / December 22nd, 2017

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