R Venkataramanan

R Venkataramanan

R Venkat's Blog

R Venkat's Blog
"To be an Inspiring Teacher,one should be a Disciplined Student throughout Life" - Venkataramanan Ramasethu

SNK

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

THE FAULT, DEAR BRUTUS…Empire of the Stars by Arthur I. Miller - CALIFORNIA LITERARY REVIEW




Why does it continue to surprise us that scientists can be petty, jealous, and stingy? Adversarial nastiness is all but a given in the fields of politics, law, even invention, but the majesty of cool fact and precise measurement implies a level of fair play that should—we tell ourselves—override human pettiness.

Such is all too often not the case, however.

In Empire of the Stars, Arthur I. Miller, professor of History and Philosophy of Science at University College London and author of Insights of Genius and Einstein, Picasso, relates an unpleasant event in the early days of astrophysics, and the personalities and science that surrounded it.

Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar—known by all as “Chandra”—was a 24-year-old graduate student at Cambridge on January 30, 1935 when he gave a 30-minute lecture, ostensibly on white dwarf stars, at the Royal Astronomical Society. His talk included the suggestion that stars of a certain mass, when they burned out, might collapse forever—their gravitation so great that not even light could escape it. The notion had first occurred to him at the age of 19, when he mused on the implications of Einstein’s special theory of relativity aboard the ship that took him from his homeland of India to graduate study in England.

When Chandrasekhar finished his talk, the leading figure in British astrophysics rose and demolished the notion. “I think there should be a law of Nature to prevent a star from behaving in this absurd way!” Sir Arthur Eddington told the gathering. In other words, Miller writes, the founder of modern astrophysics, and the man best situated to grasp Chandra’s theory, declared that if physics could posit such an incredible notion, then physics was wrong.
The concept of what we now call black holes was not utterly new; English natural philosopher John Michell first raised the idea of “dark stars” so powerful that their light could not escape in 1784, and French mathematician and scientist Pierre Simon de Laplace also raised the possibility independently in 1796.

The Plumian Professor of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy at Cambridge since 1913, and the director the Cambridge Observatory, Eddington had explained Einstein’s relativity to the English scientific community and to the public in general texts still read today. In 1920 he guessed correctly that stars give off light energy because they burn hydrogen, and he first proposed the balance theory of stellar size: that stars stabilize at their given size for most of their lifetimes at the point where the inward pressure of gravity balances the outward pressure of gases and radiation. He also headed the team that observed light bending around the Sun during an eclipse—the first experimental proof of Einstein’s theory.

Eddington himself posed the notion of something akin to a black hole in 1926, in his book The Internal Constitution of Stars. A giant such as Betelgeuse, he wrote, twice the size of Earth’s orbit around the Sun, might generate a “force of gravitation . . . so great that light would be unable to escape from it, the rays falling back to the star like a stone to the Earth” when it collapsed. “The mass would produce so much curvature of [space] that space would close up around the star, leaving us outside (i.e. nowhere)….”

So why did Eddington savage his young colleague nine years later? Jealousy? Racism? A threat to his own work? The answer seems to have been a little of all these and more, but not one clearly more than the rest.

A problem Miller faces in telling this story, unfortunately, is that Eddington assiduously destroyed all his personal papers almost as soon as he finished with them. Apparently no one took detailed minutes of the meeting, so the event comes down to us through the partial memories of various participants. Then too, Miller (or his publisher) tries to make Eddington’s humiliation of a bright young Indian colleague the fulcrum of the story, so that, for one thing, the “climax” of the tale is over with the first chapter, and for another, it strikes one as something of an anticlimax.

True, for the next nine years Eddington took further opportunities to ridicule Chandra and the concept of singularities (where all the matter in a giant collapsed star concentrates at an infinitely shrinking point), and it would be nearly 50 years before Chandrasekhar won the Nobel his work deserved. However, the two men remained professionally cordial: Chandra wrote to his older colleague regularly, and Eddington supported the Indian astrophysicist’s nomination to the Royal Society in 1944.

More important, Eddington’s ridicule did not utterly destroy Chandra’s career: not a few of Chandra’s peers, especially in other countries, acknowledged and even accepted his theories within a few years of the debacle at the Royal Astronomical Society, although almost none of them in England was willing to stand up to Eddington on the matter. (This is a tale of herd politics and cowardice among scientists as much as of bullying.) Miller acknowledges that Chandra himself is not above reproach. He held grudges, never forgot a slight, and tended to minimize in memory the quiet support he had received from peers.

Miller notes the ironies of the two men’s backgrounds—the “humble Indian” scientist came from a family of highly-educated men and women of science and letters (his mother translated Ibsen into Tamil; an uncle won the Nobel in 1930), while the haughty Cambridge don was born a Quaker and raised by a single mother following his father’s death when the boy was only two—but no one really comes alive in his hands. Chandrasekhar’s wife, Lalitha, a physics graduate herself who married Chandra for love and devoted her life to his career, was apparently still alive to give Miller background but remains largely a shadowy figure in this drama.

In sum, as Miller himself writes, “This book is the biography of an idea rather than of a man.” That is its strength, for non-scientific readers who have not fully grasped the basics of stellar evolution (or enjoy being reminded of them periodically), and how they relate to the structure of nuclear bombs, whose “necessity” in World War II and the Cold War thereafter were partly responsible for bringing Chandra’s theories the wider attention they should have enjoyed long before.

Miller takes the reader through the breakthroughs and wrong turns made by various scientists as they developed particle physics and cosmology in the first half of the twentieth century: the discovery of atomic neutrons, electron spin, and the development of a bomb that mimics that machinery of stars. We briefly meet many of the colorful celebrities and spear handlers of that voyage: Ralph Fowler, Henry Norris Russell, Edward Milne, Niels Bohr, Sir James Jeans, George Gamow, Lev Landau, Fermi, Oppenheimer, and Teller. There’s also a helpful listing of the cast of characters and a ten-page glossary of physics and astronomy terms in the back.

Perhaps the saddest aspect of the story is not Chandra’s humiliation in 1935 and subsequent lonely career, but Eddington’s pathetically comical search, after so many milestone discoveries, for a “fundamental theory” of everything that led to an obsession with the “seven primitive constants of physics,” the number 137 and its connections to Kabbalah, and an attempt to calculate the total number of electrons and protons in the universe! In this pursuit, he fudged equations, introduced false figures, and fooled with Einstein’s theory to get the results he wanted. Eddington became increasingly isolated from his colleagues (which included Chandra, still corresponding respectfully), and died in 1944 of a large stomach tumor that went too long undetected because of his preoccupations and a delay in medical examination due to war casualties being given first priority.

Chandra, on the other hand, found academic refuge in the U.S. at the Yerkes Observatory and Chicago University, eventually received his Nobel, and lived until 1995. So who was ultimately worse off after that weakly fateful 1935 collision between the two men? If anything, Eddington betrayed himself more than he did Chandra.

Empire of the Stars is a solid, if perhaps not stellar, piece of work

Award Ceremony Speech - Presentation Speech by Professor H. Pleijel, Chairman of the Nobel Committee for Physics of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, on December 10, 1930



Your Majesty, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen.

The Academy of Sciences, has resolved to award the Nobel Prize in Physics for 1930 to Sir Venkata Raman
for his work on the scattering of light and for the discovery of the effect named after him.

The diffusion of light is an optical phenomenon, which has been known for a long time. A ray of light is not
perceptible unless it strikes the eye directly. If, however, a bundle of rays of light traverses a medium in
which extremely fine dust is present, the ray of light will scatter to the sides and the path of the ray through
the medium will be discernible from the side. We can represent the course of events in this way; the small
particles of dust begin to oscillate owing to electric influence from the ray of light, and they form centres from
which light is disseminated in all directions. The wavelength, or the number of oscillations per second, in the
light thus diffused is here the same as in the original ray of light. But this effect has different degrees of
strength for light with different wavelengths. It is stronger for the short wavelengths than for the long ones,
and consequently it is stronger for the blue part of the spectrum than for the red part. Hence if a ray of light
containing all the colours of the spectrum passes through a medium, the yellow and the red rays will pass
through the medium without appreciable scattering, whereas the blue rays will be scattered to the sides.
This effect has received the name of the "Tyndall effect".

Lord Rayleigh, who has made a study of this effect, has put forward the hypothesis that the blue colours of
the sky and the reddish colouring that is observed at sunrise and sunset is caused by the diffusion of light
owing to the fine dust or the particles of water in the atmosphere. The blue light from the sky would thus be
light-scattered to the sides, while the reddish light would be light that passes through the lower layers of the
atmosphere and which has become impoverished in blue rays owing to scattering. Later, in 1899, Rayleigh
threw out the suggestion that the phenomenon in question might be due to the fact that the molecules of air
themselves exercised a scattering effect on the rays of light.

In 1914 Cabannes succeeded in showing experimentally that pure and dustless gases also have the
capacity of scattering rays of light.

But a closer examination of scattering in different substances in solid, liquid, or gaseous form showed that
the scattered light did not in certain respects exactly follow the laws which, according to calculation, should
hold good for the Tyndall effect. The hypothesis which formed the basis of this effect would seem to involve,
amongst other things, that the rays scattered to the sides were polarized. This, however, did not prove to be
exactly the case.

This divergence from what was to be expected was made the starting point of a searching study of the
nature of scattered light, in which study Raman was one of those who took an active part. Raman sought to
find the explanation of the anomalies in asymmetry observed in the molecules. During these studies of his in the phenomenon of scattering, Raman made, in 1928, the unexpected and highly surprising discovery that
the scattered light showed not only the radiation that derived from the primary light but also a radiation that
contained other wavelengths, which were foreign to the primary light.

In order to study more closely the properties of the new rays, the primary light that was emitted from a
powerful mercury lamp was filtered in such a way as to yield a primary light of one single wavelength. The
light scattered from that ray in a medium was watched in a spectrograph, in which every wavelength or
frequency produces a line. Here he found that, in addition to the mercury line chosen, there was obtained a
spectrum of new sharp lines, which appeared in the spectrograph on either side of the original line. When
another mercury line was employed, the same extra spectrum showed itself round it. Thus, when the
primary light was moved, the new spectrum followed, in such a way that the frequency distance between the
primary line and the new lines always remained the same.

Raman investigated the universal character of the phenomenon by using a large number of substances as a
scattering medium, and everywhere found the same effect.

The explanation of this phenomenon, which has received the name of the "Raman effect" after its
discoverer, has been found by Raman himself, with the help of the modern conception of the nature of light.
According to that conception, light cannot be emitted from or absorbed by material otherwise than in the
form of definite amounts of energy or what are known as "light quanta". Thus the energy of light would
possess a kind of atomic character. A quantum of light is proportionate to the frequency of rays of light, so
that in the case of a frequency twice as great, the quanta of the rays of light will also be twice as great.
In order to illustrate the conditions when an atom emits or absorbs light energy, we can, according to Bohr,
picture to ourselves the atom as consisting of a nucleus, charged with positive electricity round which
negative electrons rotate in circular paths at various distances from the centre. The path of every such
electron possesses a certain energy, which is different for different distances from the central body.
Only certain paths are stable. When the electron moves in such a path, no energy is emitted. When, on the
other hand, an electron falls from a path with higher energy to one with lower energy - that is to say, from an
outer path to an inner path - light is emitted with a frequency that is characteristic of these two paths, and the
energy of radiation consists of a quantum of light. Thus the atom can give rise to as many frequencies as the
number of different transitions between the stable paths. There is a line in the spectrum corresponding to
each frequency.

An incoming radiation cannot be absorbed by the atom unless its light quantum is identical with one of the
light quanta that the atom can emit.

Now the Raman effect seems to conflict with this law. The positions of the Raman-lines in the spectrum do
not correspond, in point of fact, with the frequencies of the atom itself, and they move with the activating ray.
Raman has explained this apparent contradiction and the coming into existence of the lines by the effect of
combination between the quantum of light coming from without and the quanta of light that are released or
bound in the atom. If the atom, at the same time as it receives from without a quantum of light, emits a quantum of light of a different magnitude, and if the difference between these two quanta is identical with the
quantum of light which is bound or released when an electron passes from one path to another, the quantum
of light coming from without is absorbed. In that case the atom will emit an extra frequency, which either will
be the sum of or the difference between the activating ray and a frequency in the atom itself. In this case
these new lines group themselves round the incoming primary frequency on either side of it, and the
distance between the activating frequency and the nearest Raman-lines will be identical with the lowest
oscillation frequencies of the atom or with its ultrared spectrum. What has been said as to the atom and its
oscillations also holds good of the molecule.

In this way we get the ultrared spectrum moved up to the spectral line of the activating light. The discovery
of the Raman-line has proved to be of extraordinarily great importance for our knowledge of the structure of
molecules.

So far, indeed, there have been all but insuperable difficulties in the way of studying these ultrared
oscillations, because that part of the spectrum lies so far away from the region where the photographic plate
is sensitive. Raman's discovery has now overcome these difficulties, and the way has been opened for the
investigation of the oscillations of the nucleus of the molecules. We choose the primary ray within that range
of frequency where the photographic plate is sensitive. The ultrared spectrum, in the form of the Ramanlines, is moved up to that region and, in consequence of that, exact measurements of its lines can be
effected.

In the same way the ultraviolet spectrum can be investigated with the help of the Raman effect. Thus we
have obtained a simple and exact method for the investigation of the entire sphere of oscillation of the
molecules.

Raman himself and his fellow-workers have, during the years that have elapsed since the discovery was
made, investigated the frequencies in a large number of substances in a solid, liquid, and gaseous state.
Investigations have been made as to whether different conditions of aggregation affect atoms and
molecules, and the molecular conditions in electrolytic dissociation and the ultrared absorption spectrum of
crystals have been studied.

Thus the Raman effect has already yielded important results concerning the chemical constitution of
substances; and it is to foresee that the extremely valuable tool that the Raman effect has placed in our
hands will in the immediate future bring with it a deepening of our knowledge of the structure of matter.

Sir Venkata Raman. The Royal Academy of Sciences has awarded you the Nobel Prize in Physics for your
eminent researches on the diffusion of gases and for your discovery of the effect that bears your name. The
Raman effect has opened new routes to our knowledge of the structure of matter and has already given
most important results.

I now ask you to receive the prize from the hands of His Majesty.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Avoid The Grad School Trap - John Carney


It is incredible that people respond to the recession by flocking to graduate school. In a world where people are undertaking massive deleveraging to prepare for tough times ahead, reducing your immediate earnings while taking on tons of debt for graduate school seems exactly the wrong thing to do.

But grad school applications surge in a recession. Many professionals decide that they'd rather wait out the recession ensconced in a school somewhere than take a job they see as beneath them for wages they would have scoffed at during the boom. Our system seems designed to encourage this. Even with our credit markets in turmoil, there are still plenty of student loans to be had and the tax system rewards spending money on education.

If you are a recently laid off financial professional, or one that has seen your compensation drop precipitously, the grad school option is very tempting.

Don't make this mistake, says Penelope Trunk. Grad school is a terrible investment, and its even worse during a downturn.

Most business schools aren't worth the money and even the best schools should only really be considered for networking opportunities.

The same applies largely to law schools, and most lawyers surveyed will tell you to avoid law school.
Medical schools are built to feed people into a broken health care system that increasingly won't compensate graduates for the years they are expected to spend in school and training.

PhD programs are a scam with no paying exit.




Most importantly, graduate school costs too much and the years spent in school would be better spent learning a trade or starting a business. Almost any job is better than graduate school.

Trunk's conclusion:

In a world where people did not change careers, grad school made sense. Today, grad school is antiquated. You invest three to six extra years in school in order to get your dream career. But the problem is that not only are the old dream careers deteriorating, but even if you have a dream career, it won’t last. You’ll want to change because you can. Because that’s normal for today’s workplace. People who are in their twenties today will change careers about four times in their life. Which means that grad school is a steep investment for such a short period of time. The grad school model needs to change to adapt to the new workplace. Until then. Stay away.

So what should you do? Your best option is to take a job doing something, anything. If you want to build skills for the recovery but can't find a job where you expect to do that, take the job anyway and prepare for something like the CFA exam. Credentials showing actual skills are far better than old-fashioned graduate degrees. As time goes on, this trend is likely to continue.




Biometry in Posterior Staphyloma


Failure to recognize a posterior staphyloma can result in an unpleasant refractive surprise following cataract surgery.

It is well known that the incidence of posterior staphyloma increases with increasing axial length. Uncommon below 26.5 mm, it has been reported that a posterior staphyloma may be found in 70% of eyes with axial lengths above 33.5 mm. In reality, it is likely that nearly all eyes with pathologic myopia have some form of posterior staphyloma.

The presence of a posterior staphyloma should always be considered if there is difficulty obtaining a distinct retinal spike during A-scan ultrasonography in the setting of moderate to high axial myopia. A staphyloma can have a major impact on axial length measurements, as the most posterior portion of the globe (anatomic axial length) may not correspond with the center of macula (refractive axial length).

This can lead to significant errors in A-scan axial length measurements because the anatomic axial length (the distance from the corneal vertex to the posterior pole) may differ from the refractive axial length (the distance from the corneal vertex to the fovea). It is helpful to be aware that this anatomical variation may be present in any axial myope.

Certain findings would suggest the presence of a posterior staphyloma. These include a long axial length with inconsistent axial length readings in both the measured eye and compared to the fellow eye. Most posterior staphylomata are located in the peripapillary region, adjacent to, but not centered at, the macula. When the fovea is situated on the sloping wall of the staphyloma, it may only be possible to display a high quality retinal spike when the sound beam is directed eccentric to the fovea, toward the rounded bottom of the staphyloma. This will result in an erroneously long axial length reading. Paradoxically, if the sound beam is correctly aligned with the refractive axis, measuring to the fovea may result in a poor quality retinal spike and inconsistent axial length measurements.

The simplest method by which to measure axial length, in the setting of a posterior staphyloma, is by optical coherence biometry (OCB) using the Zeiss IOL Master. If the patient's visual acuity is good enough, have him or her look directly at the red fixation light, and the axial length measurement will typically be to the center of the macula.

Immersion vector-A / B-scan

If access to an IOL Master is not possible, an immersion vector-A / B-scan can be used to measure the axial length to the center of the macula. Developed by Holladay and first described in the 1992 textbook, Ultrasound of the Eye and Orbit by Byrne and Green, this approach to axial length measurement in the setting of a posterior staphyloma is as follows:

An immersion echogram through the posterior fundus is obtained using a horizontal axial B-scan. The goal is to center the cornea and lens echoes in the echogram while simultaneously displaying the optic nerve void near or slightly above the center. The A-scan vector is then adjusted so as to pass through the middle of the cornea as well as the anterior and posterior lens echoes. Such alignment assures that the vector will intersect the retina in the region of the fovea. This technique is particularly important when the macula lies on the sloping wall of the staphyloma.

With the void of the optic nerve visualized on B-scan, a simultaneous vector A-scan is directed to the center of the macula, temporal to the edge of the optic nerve. Alternatively, if it is possible to visually identify the center of the macula with a direct ophthalmoscope (often quite difficult in a high myope), the cross hair reticule can be used to measure the distance from the center of the macula to the margin of the optic nerve head. The vector A-scan is then positioned that same distance temporal to the void of the optic nerve on simultaneous B-scan.

Optical Coherence Biometry

By OCB, using the Zeiss IOLMaster, the challenges in measuring eyes with posterior staphylomata are often avoided. As long as the patient can see well enough to look directly at the small fixation light, the axial length measurement will be to the fovea, yielding the refractive, rather than anatomic, axial length.

For eyes with a posterior staphyloma and sufficiently clear ocular media, the use of the IOLMaster can convert a time-consuming, and often difficult measurement, into a quick, nearly routine, procedure.

Sandhya Vandanam


Sandhya Vandanam literally means either “Salutation to the goddess of Dawn and dusk
or” the prayers done during dawn and dusk.” Hindus considered the period just before
dawn and just after dusk as well as the exact period of noon , as extremely suitable for
meditation. All Brahmins after Upanayanam (prescribed to be done at the age of seven),
were required to do these prayers without fail. Essentially these prayers are offering
oblations to the devas (arghya pradanam), doing breathing exercises (pranayamam) and
then meditating on Gayathri by chanting the king of all manthras “Gayathri”. This
Manthra is taught to every boy by his own father during the ceremony of
brahmopadesam. After learning Gayathri every boy is supposed to have taken a second
birth and is entitled to be called “Dwija”.



What happened to Punniyamurthy sirs hands? Thoughts by R Venkat


I could hear the howling of that boy even from my first floor classroom. For a second I felt maybe aliens from a new planet in the galaxy had invaded the school, maybe an earthquake, maybe a terrorist attack, maybe a bomb blast or might be a communal riot. But just to put all those wild thoughts to rest, I was told that it was Punniyamurthy sir who was raining blows and kicks on a student of class seven and the reason for that onslaught was, the boy had asked permission to go to the rest room.

We all knew that Punniyamurthy sir was not the regular kind of guy to move around. There was a legend in the school that he lost his mental balance as he could not succeed MGR in the Tamil filmdom as a matinee idol!! I am not sure about the authenticity of that story but I was sure there was something far from normal in his approach. On the day of Pongal, the farmer’s festival all the school teachers would come in traditional Tamil attire, but I remember Punniyamurthy sir coming dressed up in a Bermuda shorts with a Raymond’s blazer on his bare chest. He was all by himself and few knew about his family and personal background. The school management for some strange reasons could not initiate any actions against him, though there were many complaints of students getting beaten up for no reasons. Might be they were the outcome of Punniyamurthy sirs mood swings.

Time moved very fast and over the years I had forgotten about all these in the past and got engaged with professional life. But a very strange incident happened recently in Calcutta four months ago. It was just another weekend and I was in the Lake Market area in south Calcutta, busy shopping after a heart filling evening snack at Komala Vilas. I suddenly bumped on this gentleman on the pavement who was standing in a corner with his both hands looking motionless; there was a kind of anxiety mixed with fear in the eyes of that gentleman. Suddenly I realized it was Punniyamurthy sir, age and time had definitely cast their signs on him, but I was more curious to know what he was doing in the pavement of south Calcutta leaving his native village in remote Tamilnadu.

I gathered some courage and went close to him and asked, “Sir do you remember me, I was a student in your school long ago, my name is Venkat”.For a second he looked at me sharply and then in a very composed tone asked me , “Ke Khaben??” in bengali meaning “What would you like to eat??”I suddenly realized that it was an eatery on the pavement selling south Indian dishes. I didn’t know how to react, but then decided to ask him directly, what was there in my mind. “Sir, if I am not wrong are you Mr Punniyamurthy, who used to teach math’s at that village school in remote Tamilnadu.”

The reply was , “Yes you are right, I used to teach there long ago, but you know many things happened later, I was thrown out of my job, as one of the students expired because of the head injury he sustained owing to me hitting him on his head with the wooden stool. I lost all my savings and property in the legal tussle that ensued after the incident. Finally I landed up here one day and managed to get this job in the pavement to meet my ends. My job here is to keep the accounts for everyday’s sale, after all I was a math’s teacher, you know”.
I didn’t know what to say, but then I wanted to ask him, why his hands were looking motionless. As though he read my thoughts he said, “You see I had a paralytic attack in the past, wherein I lost the ability to move my both hands”.

Strangely I could hear the howling of a boy who was getting beaten up by a middle aged gentleman across the road….

I owe two rupees to Amudham Aachi….Thoughts by R Venkat, RVR

It might sound ridiculous, but yes I must confess that I indeed owe two rupees to Amudham Aachi.It was that two rupees she lend which got me saved from getting pulled up at home. The story dates back about 25 years ago, to the year 1986 while I was in my class six in this village school at Thirukkattupalli a small town in Thanjavur district. I had just got shifted from Bangalore after a small personal turmoil and got admitted at Sir P S Sivaswamy Iyer Higher Secondary school. As my grandpa was a much respected landlord and a philanthropist of that locality, it was not difficult to get admission.

Though my grandpa was in a position to easily pamper me with gifts and pocket money, he was very particular about inculcating discipline from a very young age. He would always remind that if we don’t value our resources, the resources would neither value us. The daily allowance permitted for me was five rupees which included the bus fare two rupees back and forth, one rupee for any emergency and two rupees for saving at home. Grandpa was very particular about the savings and would ensure that the two rupees was deposited without fail at the end of the day.

7th of February is a very special day for all of us at the school, as that was the founder’s day and there would be a lot of cultural events and most importantly there would be prize distribution for those who had won in debates, speech competition and many other competitions. I had got the first prize in an essay competition and was eagerly looking forward to receive the prize. For most of us getting a prize on 7th February was like getting an academy award, might be my expression is a bit exaggerated, but the fact was you would just get converted to a celebrity overnight, amidst the teachers and of course the students as well. The topic for essay competition was,” What would you like to become after your completion of school?”

Most of my friends wrote that they would become a doctor or engineer. But I somehow was not amused by that idea, I rather wrote that I would like to become a farmer and would take up agriculture as my full time profession. And surprisingly the Judges were impressed by my idea and awarded me the first prize. After the prize distribution as we all were heading back home, I suddenly got this temptation to visit Amudham Aachi’s hotel, as we all were aware that her hotel prepared some of the finest chettinad delicacies in that locality. My favourite was Idiyappam with Pudina Chutney and needless to say the quantity was quite huge for a school kid like me. As all my friends were busy gulping the delicacies in their plates, I was still trying to figure out my finances as to how am I going to account for two rupees which I am supposed to save at home. As though there was some kind of a telepathy, Aachi just came over to me and said in chaste Tamil, “Enna thambi, kalavarapattu poerungega” meaning “What son, you seem scared”.

As she was just saying that, a plate of Idiyappam and Pudina Chutney was served to me and I was told by Aachi that it was free and I need not pay her for that. I was thoroughly taken aback, but composing myself I decided that I would pay her definitely before I leave, after finishing the plate. As I walked over to her to pay the bill from the two rupees which I was supposed to save for that day, I had already made up my mind that I am going to say the truth to grandpa, that I had spent the money with my friends after the prize distribution ceremony.

Suddenly Aachi looked at me and said, “Son just think it’s a gift from me to you for being honest and sincere in saying that you would take up agriculture as your profession and not copying others to say that you would become a doctor or an engineer”. I still could not figure out how she was aware about the contents of my essay that fetched me the first prize and of course a free plate of chettinad delicacy.

But ironically neither I had pursued agriculture as my profession nor have I paid back those two rupees and for that I would like to meet Aachi and apologize. But I am not sure where would Aachi be and what would she be doing now……

So, if anyone of you meets up with Aachi please do tell her that I am really sorry and certainly I did not deserve that free gift….on 7th February 1986.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Treatment for Macular Holes



Macular holes were once considered an untreatable problem; however, because of advances in retinal surgery, many patients can be helped. It is possible for anyone to develop a macular hole, but they are most common among women about 60-70 years of age. Macular holes may occur for a variety of reasons, but are usually a result of traction from the vitreous gel on the macula. Since the macula is responsible for central vision, this problem causes severe and often complete loss of central vision.

Fortunately, we’ve come to understand this problem better than ever before and can even restore vision in many cases with surgery. The extent of the patient’s recovery is dependent on several factors such as the severity of the hole, time since onset, and other variables. Sometimes the hole spontaneously resolves, although it is much more common to require surgery.

The operation is performed with local anesthesia under a microscope. During the procedure, the doctor injects a gas bubble inside the eye. The purpose of the gas bubble is to place gentle pressure on the retina and help seal the hole.

The biggest challenge of macular hole repair is to maintain the proper head position afterward. Since gas rises, the patient must be able to keep his or her head down so the bubble floats up and presses on the back of the eye. This is very critical for approximately two weeks following the surgery. There are many creative ways to stay in the correct position and remain comfortable. The body slowly absorbs the gas bubble over approximately three months. In some cases, the eye is filled with silicone oil instead of gas. This is easier for the patient because no special positioning is necessary; however, the oil must be removed with a second operation several months later.

With the surgical treatments available today, we are able to restore partial vision in 70-90% of our patients. Most patients find that their vision improves approximately two lines better on the eye chart.

As retinal surgeons, we are encouraged by the advances made in the field of macular surgery. New treatments are being developed all the time as we continue to learn about this incredibly complex sensory tissue.

Pediatric Retinal Detachment


Patient Presentation

A previously full-term, 2-month-old male came to clinic for his health supervision visit. His parents reported that he was doing well including no concerns about his vision or hearing.

The pertinent physical exam showed an infant with growth parameters in the 75-90%. On his visual examination he showed some turning of his head with the cover test when his right eye was occluded.

His ophthalmologic examination showed a white/gray pupillary reflex in the left eye. The anterior chamber and lens appeared normal. Posteriorly, no normal landmarks could be seen and the white/gray coloration had a “bubbly” quality to the heterogeneity.

The right eye showed a normal red reflex and normal retinal vessels and part of the optic disk. The rest of his examination was normal.

The parents continued to say that they and no other family members or friends had noticed any abnormalities and he was otherwise well. They also denied trauma.

The work-up was an immediate consultation with a pediatric ophthalmologist and the diagnosis of unilateral retinal detachment was made. He was taken to the operating room and had the detachment surgically corrected.

At follow-up two months later, the surgical correction was intact and he had a myopia which was being treated with glasses. Although he had no obvious physical abnormalities associated with a congenital syndrome, he was referred to genetics for consultation.

Discussion

Retinal detachment is not common in infants and children and usually is caused by trauma or retinopathy of prematurity. There are 3 types:

Rhegmatogenous (most common) – where a hole or tear in the retina develops with build up of fluid underneath the retina and subsequent lifting of the retina away from the underlying tissues

Traction (second most common) – where the retina is pulled away from the underlying tissues

Exudative – where subretinal fluid accumulates between the retina and the underlying tissues

Learning Point

Leukocoria can be caused by congenital or acquired eye diseases. This is an ophthalmologic emergency particularly because of the need to promptly diagnose and treat conditions such as retinoblastoma, glaucoma, retinal detachment and infections.

The differential diagnosis of leukocoria includes:

Anterior chamber or lens abnormalities

Cataract

Corneal opacity

Glaucoma

Hypopyon (i.e. white blood cells accumulating in the anterior chamber)

Congenital abnormalities

Coloboma of retina, choroid or optic nerve

Incontinentia pigmenti

Myelinated nerve fibers

Myopia, high

Norrie disease

Persistent hyperplastic primary vitreous

Retinal detachment

Retinal fold

X-linked retinoschisis

Infection

Toxocara

Inflammation

Endophthalmitis

Uveitis

Neoplasia

Retinoblastoma

Medulloepithelioma

Trauma

Foreign body

Retinal detachment

Retinal fibrosis

Vitreous hemorrhage that is organizing

Vascular abnormalities

Choroidal hemangioma

Coats’ disease

von Hippel disease

Familial exudative vitreoretinopathy or FEVR


Familial exudative vitreoretinopathy or FEVR is an inherited retinal disease that has varying degrees of severity. It is categorized as having five stages. Stage 1 often results in no symptoms or visual change for the patient and Stage 5 can result in a blind eye.

The inheritance patterns of FEVR range from autosomal dominant to autosomal recessive and an X-linked inheritance pattern.

The autosomal dominant form suggests that several people in a family are affected and most family members are aware that there is a visual problem in the family. The other two inheritance patterns are those that can skip generations and the patient may not be aware that other family members are affected. This is particularly true if the family member has Stage 1 FEVR is a disease that has been treated by laser and surgical therapy in the past. It is a life-long vascularly active retinal vascular disease that is an expression of a biochemical imbalance between vascular endothelial growth factor and tissue growth factor beta. UFEVR ntil recently, no medical therapy was considered for FEVR, but in the last few years five eyes have been treated with an anti-VEGF drug, Macugen.

This drug was approved by the FDA for use in age-related macular degeneration, but has been used in an off-label fashion in people affected with very progressive, otherwise uncontrollable, familial exudative vitreoretinopathy with what appear to be very good results. These results were presented at the 2005 Pre-American Academy of Ophthalmology Retina Meeting by Dr. Kimberly Drenser, MD, PhD.

The results show for the first time an agent that seems to selectively help reabsorption of subretinal exudate (blood) for which we had no acceptable treatment in the past. Certainly a larger number of eyes will require study before this is an accepted treatment, but it appears we may have pharmacologic therapy that could be useful in familial exudative vitreoretinopathy.

Infant Death Rate, on a rise in India….I am deeply hurt….are you??


I am disturbed, I am upset, I am choked, and well most importantly I am feeling helpless. Is that the right way of saying it, but yes when I keep seeing news in the media about rising infant death rate in India, my expressions above would hold good to any sensible human being and a responsible citizen of this country. There was a statistic that said that every 3 mins an infant is dying in this country.Is that a value for a human life, born in this country, there is enough money to splurge on multiple extravaganza by a section of this civilized society, but an infant lacks a basic security for its life here.Even as I am posting this article there are more reports of infant deaths at B.C.Roy hospital at Kolkata,West Bengal.There are multiple arguments and counter arguments on this issue,from both patient party and the hospital....

That’s truly the state of democracy and Unity in Diversity for you.

It’s highly unrealistic to expect a miracle in the attitude of the establishment and ruling class, but atleast if a basic medical attention is ensured to every single infant in our government hospitals in every state the rate of death could be brought down. I recollect a story from my high school Tamil class, where my teacher had narrated a story of a Chola King, Manu Neethi Cholan,who had a bell fixed at the entrance of his palace and had announced that if any citizen had any grievance,could come over and ring the bell and he would address their issues. One day a Cow had come over to the palace and started ringing the bell so violently, the issue was that the calf of that cow had died and got crushed under the wheel of the chariot which was driven by the prince of that kingdom, meaning the son of Manu Neethi Cholan.After enquiry the king announced in his court, the verdict, which read, “The accused the prince of this kingdom, had been found guilty of his crime of having killed the calf of this cow, under the wheels of his chariot, so he would be executed in the same manner in public, so that every single citizen in this kingdom would realize that the value of a fellow being’s life is as significant as one’s own”.

Today when we narrate this story we would have views from a section of people who would claim themselves as modern in their outlook, that probably the king was a mentally insane guy, otherwise what was the need to stage such a drama. They would even go to the extent of manipulating and distorting the history that maybe the king had a second wife and he was very keen to make the son out of that relationship to succeed his throne, this cow and calf episode was a pre planned conspiracy by his close associates. A few section of the present day ruling class might even claim that the whole story was a figment of one’s imagination, there was never a kingdom called Chola kingdom, and someone called Manu Neethi Cholan existed in the imagination of those writers who were partial towards glorifying only the Chola Culture which never existed, rather the Pandya, Chera and Pallava kingdom were the only kingdoms that existed in down south of India and their contribution was much more than any other kingdoms.

That’s an exceptional concept called “Divide and Rule”

If every single political party in this country could adopt one single village atleast within their own state, forget outside their state we would not be having people migrating from their villages to the cities and living in slums where they are easy targets to every possible grunge one could think of in the wildest imagination.

But yes if we had no slums, how would movies like Slumdog Millionaire get made, which had put us on the global map.

Truly we have arrived……

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

To Serve Others Is To Feel Blessed


A man can be fortunate in many ways. But there is nothing that makes him more fortunate than the opportunity he has of serving others.

When we serve our family we are not conscious of how we help it. We must learn to help people who are not our kin - other families, our village or home town, our nation, indeed all mankind. We have so many problems ourselves, we suffer so many hardships, and we have so many worries and cares. We must not, however, mind serving others in the midst of all our difficulties. We will forget our problems when we are immersed in the work of helping others. There is a saying :"Feed milk to your neighbour's child, your child will be nourished." The Lord will raise us up from our troubles as we do good to others. However, it is not with such considerations of profit that we must try to help people in difficulties. We must not worry about how others will benefit from our work, but consider how we will become naturally pure. Also, we must think of the happiness we will experience by serving our fellow men.

Service should not be confined to mankind but must be extended to the animal kingdom. In the olden days ponds were dug exclusively for cattle and stone pillars were installed here and there for them to scratch themselves. Everyone must feed at least one cow every day with a handful of grass. This is called "go-grasam" and this act is extolled in the sastras, "Grasam" means a mouthful and the English word "grass" is derived from it.

Conducting sacrifices, offering oblations to the fathers and performing sraddha must be regarded as an extension of the service we do in this world to the denizens of other worlds. These rites must be gone through with the intoning of mantras.

There must be many others like us, many groups, who want to be engaged in social work. It should be ideal if the efforts of all were brought together under one body of like-minded members. Care must be taken that associations so formed do not break up; they must be managed honestly with a proper enforcement of discipline. Those who do philanthropic work must be men of courage and enthusiasm who take praise and blame equally.

You ought not to waste your time in eating places displaying appetizing fare nor in establishments where alluring objects are exhibited. Instead, you must spend your time in helping others. You will ask whether it is wrong to spend a little time in gaiety in the midst of life's worries and hardships. I should like to impress on you that the happiness you find in helping others is not to be found in anything else.

Krsna Paramatman was playful, wasn't he? But all his playfulness was an outward phenomenon for inwardly he served others all the time. How sportingly did he save people from trouble and how many were the men who were helped by him. To protect the cowherds the child Krsna lifted up the big Govardhana mountain. And, again, as a little child he danced on the hoods of the dreaded Kalinga(Kaliya) that poisoned the Yamuna. It all seemed play, all the heroic acts he performed to save the people of Gokula. Nobody sported like Krsna but at the same time nobody served mankind like him. It was not worldly service alone that he did. He served mankind by imparting jnana. As a preceptor of Arjuna and Uddhava alike he taught great truths. All this he did with a smile, spreading serenity everywhere. What he did he did with utmost ease. Those who have taken up the work of serving humanity must be inspired by his example.

Among the various incarnations of the Lord, the service rendered to humanity was the greatest in that of Krsna. During the avatara of Rama, Anjaneya appeared as seva (service) personified. We must be inspired by their example [of Krsna and Hanuman] as we work for others; we must be unselfish like them and shun publicity.

We keep aloof from the outside world when we are ritually impure. We must regard any day on which we fail to do any service to others as a day of impurity. Paramesvara is the father of all creatures. By serving our fellow men we serve the Lord. This is the message of Tirumular in his Tirumantiram;

Nadamada-k-koyil nambar-k-konriyil

Padamada-k-koyil Bhagavarkadame

It means: Serving people is worshipping the Lord.

Do We Need Rituals ?



Some ask whether religious functions, puja, etc, are not "mere" rituals. Atmic awareness is an inward experience. As for rituals they are outward actions. The question is how rituals will help in experiencing the Self.

Rituals are indeed not necessary for one who has realised the Self. But we must put the question to ourselves whether we have truly realised It, whether we are mature enough for realisation, whether we have become inwardly pure. Were we honest we would admit that we are far from having become mature for awareness of the Self. By taking many births, by performing many works and by the vasana of previous lives, we have concealed the bliss of knowing the Self. By conducting good rites, and by associating ourselves with noble objects, we have to banish the evil habits sticking to us from our past lives. Then there will be an end to karma itself and we will embark on Atmic inquiry. Until then we have to perform what are called "mere" rituals.

The proper thing for ordinary people is to conduct all the rites mentioned in the sastras. The benefits obtained from them may be seen in practice. When a person takes care to go through the rites strictly in the manner prescribed in the canonical texts, he will gain one-pointedness of mind. This should be of immense help to him in contemplating the Self later. And the desire to follow the sastras in all aspects of life will mean that he will be brought under a certain discipline. When we conduct rites according to the sastras our determination and will power will be strengthened. Since we subordinate our views to the injunctions of the scriptures, we will cultivate the qualities of humility and simplicity.

So what do we gain by performing "mere" rituals? We will acquire one-pointedness of mind, discipline, non-attachment, will power, humility. On the whole it will help us to live a moral life. Without moral conduct there can never be Atmic inquiry and Atmic experience.

The Buddha did not prescribe any Vedic rites. But he too laid stress on morality and discipline. The Pancasila that Nehru often spoke about is of the utmost importance to the Buddhists. The Buddha points to the value of morality without the performance of Vedic rites. What about the Purvamimamsakas? They believe that Vedic rites are of the utmost importance and that is no need to worry about God. In our sanatana dharma, however, there is a weaving together of rites, the good conduct and discipline arising out of them, devotion to Isvara and finally knowledge of the Self.

Morality does not arise by itself. If you want milk you must keep a cow. If you keep a cow you will get not only milk but also cow dung. Then there will come up a haystack. When you keep the cow called karma you will not only derive not only morality and good conduct from it but also something that you feel is not wanted, that is cow dung. When you keep a cow must keep the place free from cow dung - that is a part of commonsense or wisdom. It is in this manner that you must obtain the real benefits from religious rites.

If rituals are not necessary for true Atmic knowledge, even the murti called Isvara is not necessary for the same. But we can dispense with rituals and Isvara only when we reach a high plane of knowledge. At first Isvara is very much necessary for our inward journey and there are so many reasons for it. I will tell you one. We need an entity that exemplifies all that is good. Have we not for ages together thought of Isvara as such a one, one who represents all virtues and all auspicious qualities. When we mention the word "Isvara" we at once think of him as one without any evil. If anything or anyone combines beauty, compassion, power and enlightenment to the full it must be Isvara. It is a psychological principle that we become that which we keep thinking of. By meditating on Isvara's manifold auspicious qualities our own undesirable qualities will give place to good ones.

There are many benefits that flow from rituals, puja, etc. One of them is that they help to make us good. They are also of value in taking us to the path of workless yoga and the inward quest.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Dr R.V Rajam Oration gold medal 2011


Dr. Jyotirmay Biswas, Director, uveitis and ocular pathology, Sankara Nethralaya, attended the 51st Annual meeting of the National Academy of Medical Sciences held on 13th October, 2011 at Bhubaneshwar. He delivered two talks at the L.V Prasad Eye Institute, Bhubaneswar which were live telecast to the other branches of LVPEI. His oration on ‘Ocular lesions in 1000 consecutive HIV positive patients in India’ won the Dr R.V Rajam Oration gold medal which was presented by the Governor of Orissa at the Convocation ceremony.

Dr. Jyotirmay Biswas has donated the cash prize of rupees 1,500 which comes with the award to the Vision Research Foundation.

CHICKEN BLOOD, BANANA SKIN AND EYE


What connection does chicken blood and banana skin have with the eye? Nobody would imagine even a trivial correlation! A study done by Elite School of Optometry, [ESO] run by Sankara Nethralaya in collaboration with Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani a few months ago, helped in throwing light on the abysmal levels of eye care awareness among the public.

“Chicken blood relieves redness!
Patching with banana skin improves vision!
Squint – a sign of luck!”

These are some of the quotes of parents of children at the school level in the city of Chennai.

Vision screening and awareness initiatives are in the forefront when it comes to primary eye care service in an urban area like Chennai. But it remains a big question whether awareness on eye care has really reached the people? So this year the ‘World Sight Day activities’ of ESO were planned to address this crucial question, through 1) Awareness sessions for school children, 2) VISION AMBASSADOR TRAINING, 3) Vision screening and 4) Competitions.

1) Awareness sessions for school children: 2500 students and teachers of 14 schools of Chennai were educated about various common eye problems and comprehensive eye care.

2) VISION AMBASSADOR TRAINING was given to 300 students of 10 schools and 130 scouts and guides. The team of students and teachers were taught the basics of vision screening. The newly trained team will conduct eye screening of their students within this month and send the report.

3) Vision screening: 2800 children were screened in the Sowcarpet area of Chennai.

4) Competitions: BEST VISION AMBASSADOR SCHOOL trophy, quiz on basic eye care knowledge and letter writing competitions were announced and entries are pouring in.

Elite School of Optometry is happy to have at least kindled a curiosity in the minds of all those who have attended the eye care sessions and vision ambassador training. ESO expects to see a change in the notion on eye care of all the fellow students, family members and the community in the near future.

“Awareness in school children
Eradicates vision impairment”

Scope International - Corporate Social Responsibility


Wednesday the 19th of October 2011 saw the adding of a wonderful new chapter to the Standard Chartered Bank Scope International and Sankara Nethralaya’s ongoing partnership against blindness. The well-known ITES provider added a new feather to its Corporate Social Responsibility cap with the inclusion of a mobile eye care unit to its joint efforts with Sankara Nethralaya in fighting visual impairment. The mobile eye care bus would reach out to the poor and needy patients especially in the interior villages. In a simple but touching ceremony at the Scope International premises attended by senior officials representing both partners, a MoU was signed between Mr. Edwin CEO, Standard Chartered Scope International and Dr S.Bhaskaran, Chairman Sankara Nethralaya to jointly run the outdoor eye care unit.

Speakers from Scope International emphasized that it was not just a matter of making a monetary contribution but their emotional involvement in Sankara Nethralaya’s endavour in preventing blindness and the sheer joy of seeing a visually impaired patient see the world all over again that acted as a motivating factor for their involvement. Dr SS Badrinath, Chairman Emeritus, Sankara Nethralaya expressed his profuse thanks to Standard Chartered Scope International for their continued support of Sankara Nethralaya’s cause and for the launching of the mobile eye care unit. He expressed his high appreciation to the volunteers of Scope International who had offered to dedicate their time and effort to Sankara Nethralaya’s battle against blindness and his desire to meet them in person and brief them on Sankara Nethralaya’s philosophy and goals and guide them in channelizing their energy and efforts in this direction in the best possible manner.

The function ended with a poignant skit by the staff members of Scope International underlining the need to support the visually impaired.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Avvaiyar

The Avvaiyars (Tamil: ஔவையார்) "respectable women" was the title of more than one poet who was active during different periods of Tamil literature. The Avvaiyar were some of the most famous and important female poets of the Tamil canon. Abithana Chintamani states that there were three female poets titled Avvaiyar.
Among them, Avvaiyar I lived during the Sangam period (c. 1st and 2nd century CE) and had cordial relation with the Tamil chieftains Paari and Athiyaman. She wrote 59 poems in the Puṟanāṉūṟu.

Avvaiyar II lived during the period of Kambar and Ottakoothar during the reign of the Chola dynasty in the 13th century. She is often imagined as an old but intelligent lady by Tamil people. She wrote many of the poems that remain very popular even now and are inculcated in school textbooks in Tamil Nadu. These books include a list of dos and don'ts, useful for daily life, arranged in simple and short sentences.


The name Avvaiyar is a combination of Tamil word avvai with honorific suffix ar.Avvai refers to respectable elderly woman as the word ammai which means good woman in general term for a woman of any age. Thus the name Avvaiyar means a respectable good woman hence a generic title rather than a specific name of a person.

The Avvaiyar who lived during the Sangam period is considered to be contemporary to poets Paranar, Kabilar and Thiruvalluvar.She is attributed as the author of 7 verses in Naṟṟiṇai, 15 in Kuṟuntokai, 4 in Akanaṉūṟu and 33 in Puṟanāṉūṟu. Legend states that she was a court poet of the rulers of the Tamil country. She travelled from one part of the country to another and from one village to another, sharing the gruel of the poor farmers and composing songs for their enjoyment. Most of her songs were on a small time chieftain Vallal Athiyamaan Nedumaan Anji and his family.The chieftain had also used her as his ambassador to avert war with another neighbouring cheiftain Tontaiman. The rest of her songs related to the various aspects of state governance. Although traditions claim that she was a sister of Kabilar, Thiruvalluvar and Athiyamaan, V. R. Ramachandra Dikshitar refutes this claim based on his studies that all four of them were most likely of different walks of life, thus from different caste backgrounds and hence impossible to be siblings.

The medievaal period Avvaiyar was the court poet of the Chola monarch and was the contemporary of Kambar and Ottakkuttar. She found great happiness in the life of small children. Her works, Aathichoodi and Konraiventhan written for young children, are even now generally read and enjoyed by them.
Her two other works, Mooturai and Nalvali were written for older children. All the four works are didactic in character — they explain the basic wisdom that should govern mundane life.

கற்றது கைமண் அளவு, கல்லாதது உலகளவு (ஔவையார்)

Alternatively "Known is a drop, unknown is an Ocean". (Source: Avvaiyar)
"Thol Ulagil Nallaar Oruvar Ularael Avar Poruttu Ellarkum Peiyum Mazhai" - The rain falls on behalf of the virtuous, benefitting everyone in the world.
"Nanri Oruvarku Seithakal An Nanri Enrum Thalaravalarthengu Thaan Unda Neerai Thalaiyaalae Thaan Tharuthalal" - A good deed will pay back, as the coconut tree that gives the benefit holding on its head, for the water you pour in its feet.
Her quote "Katrathu Kai Mann Alavu, Kallathathu Ulagalavu" has been translated as "What you have learned is a mere handful; What you haven't learned is the size of the world" and exhibited at NASA.

In Muppandal, a small village in the Kanyakumari District of Tamil Nadu. there is an image of Avvaiyar. By tradition, this is stated to be the spot where the great poetess left the mortal world.


Legend has it that once the great king Athiyaman gave an eternal amla Nellikani (gooseberry) fruit to Avvaiyar, this is a special and powerful fruit, whoever eats it will have a healthy and long life. Athiyaman wanted Avvaiyar to eat the eternal fruit as she was the right person who could serve the Tamil community.

In 2009, Red Hen Press published a selection of Avvaiyar's poetry from the 12th century, entitled "Give, Eat, and Live: Poems by Avviyar." The poems were selected and translated into English by Thomas Pruiksma, a poet and translator who discovered Avviyar's work while on a Fulbright scholarship at The American College in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India.

"வாகீச கலாநிதி" கி.வா.ஜகந்நாதன் - க.துரியானந்தம்




தமிழ்த்தாய் எல்லா அணிகலன்களையும் அணிந்து மகிழ்வோடு இருக்கிறாள் என்றால், அதற்குக் காரணம் தமிழ்த் தாத்தா உ.வே.சாமிநாதய்யர்தான்.

பல பல்கலைக்கழகங்கள் செய்ய வேண்டிய ஒரு மாபெரும் பணியை உ.வே.சா. தனியொரு மனிதராய் இருந்து செய்துள்ளார். அந்த மாபெரும் சான்றோரின் கூடவே இருந்து தொண்டாற்றியவர்தான் வாகீச கலாநிதி கி.வா.ஜகந்நாதன். உ.வே.சா மற்றும் கி.வா.ஜ. இருவரின் பணிகளாலும் முயற்சியாலும்தான் தமிழன்னை புதுப் பொலிவு பெற்றாள்.

கிருஷ்ணராயபுரத்தில் வாசுதேவ ஐயருக்கும் பார்வதி அம்மாளுக்கும் 1906ஆம் ஆண்டு ஏப்ரல் 11ஆம் தேதி கி.வா.ஜ. பிறந்தார். தன் இறுதி மூச்சு உள்ளவரை சொற்பொழிவு செய்து, கேட்போர் மனம் மகிழச்செய்த கி.வா.ஜ., பிறந்தவுடன் அழவே இல்லையாம். எல்லோரும் கவலை அடைந்து மருத்துவம் செய்து குழந்தையை அழ வைத்தார்களாம். அழாமல் பிறந்த அவர், பின்னாளில் எத்தனையோ பேர்களின் கண்ணீரைத் துடைத்துள்ளார்.

கி.வா.ஜ. குடும்பம் பிறகு சேலம் மாவட்டத்தில் உள்ள மோகனூருக்குக் குடிபெயர்ந்தது. இவர், அங்குள்ள திண்ணைப் பள்ளியில் ஆரம்பக் கல்வி பயின்றார். மோகனூரில் சிறு குன்று ஒன்று இருக்கிறது. அதற்குக் "காந்தமலை" என்று பெயர். அக்குன்றில் முருகப்பெருமான், தண்டாயுதபாணி திருக்கோலத்தில் எழுந்தருளியுள்ளார். அம்முருகப் பெருமானிடத்தில் சிறுவயது முதலே இவருக்கு ஈடுபாடு உண்டு. அப்பெருமான் மேல் பல பாடல்கள் புனைந்துள்ளார். இரவு, பகல் பாராது எப்போதும் அந்த முருகப்பெருமான் அருகிலேயே இருப்பார்.

தன் மேற்படிப்பைத் தொடர கி.வா.ஜ. மீண்டும் கிருஷ்ணராயபுரம் வந்தார். கணிதமும், இயற்பியலும் அவருக்கு மிகவும் பிடித்தமான பாடங்கள். தமிழ்ப் பற்றும் தமிழறிவும் அவருக்குப் பிறப்பிலேயே இருந்தன. சிறுவயது முதல் காந்தியடிகளிடம் பற்றும் மதிப்பும் இருந்த காரணத்தால் அவர் எப்போதும் கதராடையையே அணிய ஆரம்பித்தார்.

பள்ளியில் படிக்கும் சிறு பருவத்திலேயே கவிதை பாடத் தொடங்கியவர் கி.வா.ஜ. கவிதை இலக்கணம் முழுவதுமாகத் தெரிவதற்கு முன்பே கவிதையின் ஓசையை உணர்ந்து பாடும் ஆற்றல், பன்னிரண்டாவது வயதிலேயே அவருக்கு ஏற்பட்டுவிட்டது. கி.வா.ஜ.வின் கன்னி முயற்சியில் உருவானதுதான் நடராஜரைப் பற்றி அவர் எழுதிய "போற்றிப்பத்து" என்னும் பதிகம். பக்திச்சுவை நனி சொட்டச் சொட்டப் பாடும் ஆற்றல் பெற்றவர் கி.வா.ஜ. "ஜோதி" என்ற புனைப்பெயரில் அவ்வப்போது கவிமழை பொழிந்தவர். பழமையின் இலக்கண மரபுகளில் ஊறித் திளைத்தவராக இருந்தும், அந்தப் பழமையின் வளத்தையே உரமாக்கிப் புதிய எளிய இனிய உருவங்களில் கவிதைகளைப் பொழிந்திருக்கிறார்.

1925ஆம் ஆண்டு சேந்தமங்கலம் சென்றார். அங்கே ஐராவத உடையார் என்ற ஜமீன்தார் இருந்தார். அவரது தெய்வ பக்தியும் அறிவாற்றலும் கி.வா.ஜ.வைக் கவர்ந்ததால் அவருடைய நண்பரானார். உடையார் ஒரு தெய்வீக ஆஸ்ரமத்தை அங்கே அமைத்திருந்தார். அந்த ஆஸ்ரமத்திலேயே கி.வா.ஜ. தங்கினார். சேந்தமங்கலத்தில் அவதூத மகான் ஒருவர் இருந்தார். அவரிடம் பக்தி கொண்டு அவரை வணங்குவார். அம்மகானது சீடர் துரியானந்த சுவாமிகளிடம் கி.வா.ஜ. நட்புக் கொண்டிருந்தார்.

சேந்தமங்கலம் பஞ்சாயத்து அலுவலகத்தில் சிறிது காலம் குமாஸ்தாவாகப் பணியாற்றினார். அப்போது அவ்வூரில் இருந்த கிறிஸ்தவ சமயப் போதகர் திரோவர் துரை என்னும் ஆங்கிலேயருக்குத் தமிழ் கற்பித்தார். அப்போதும் முருகப்பெருமான் நினைவாகவே இருந்து, பாடல்கள் புனைவார். சேந்தமங்கலத்தில் இருந்த காசி சுவாமிகள் மூலம் உ.வே.சாமிநாதய்யரைப் பற்றிக் கேள்விப்பட்டிருந்தார்.

1927ஆம் ஆண்டு உ.வே.சா. சிதம்பரத்தில் மீனாட்சிக் கல்லூரியில் முதல்வராக இருந்தார். அதனால் அவர் சிதம்பரத்தில் வசித்து வந்தார். உ.வே.சா.விடம் முறையாகத் தமிழ் படிக்க வேண்டும் என்ற பேரவா நாளுக்கு நாள் கி.வா.ஜ.வுக்கு வளர்ந்து கொண்டே வந்தது. அவரது வேட்கையை நன்கு உணர்ந்திருந்த ஐராவத உடையார் 1927ஆம் ஆண்டு தைப் பூசத்துக்காக வடலூர் புறப்பட்டபோது கி.வா.ஜ.வையும் அழைத்துக் கொண்டு புறப்பட்டார். சிதம்பரத்தில் உ.வே.சா.வைக்கண்டு அவரிடம் கி.வா.ஜ.வை ஒப்படைத்தார். அன்று முதல் உ.வே.சா. அமரர் ஆகும் வரை அவரது நிழல் போலவே இருந்தார்.

உ.வே.சா. ஒரு நிகழ்ச்சியைக் கூறினால், கி.வா.ஜ. அதை எழுத்தில் வடிப்பார். அதில் உ.வே.சா. சில திருத்தங்களைச் செய்வார். அத்திருத்தங்களுடன் கட்டுரையை மிகவும் செம்மையாகவும் சுவையாகவும் எழுதிப் பத்திரிகை அலுவலகத்துக்கு அனுப்பிவைப்பார் கி.வா.ஜ. உ.வே.சா.வின் பெரும்பாலான உரைநடை நூல்கள் எல்லாம் அவ்வாறு உருவானவையே.

கி.வா.ஜ., உ.வே.சா.விடம் தமிழை முறையாகக் கற்றுத் தமிழ் வித்துவான் தேர்வு எழுதி மாநிலத்திலேயே முதல் மாணவராகத் தேர்ச்சி பெற்றுத் திருப்பனந்தாள் மடத்தின் ஆயிரம் ரூபாய் பரிசையும் பெற்றார். உ.வே.சா.வின் ஏடு தேடும் பணியிலும், வெளியூர்ப் பயணங்களின் போதும் கி.வா.ஜ. உடன் இருப்பார்.

1932ஆம் ஆண்டு உ.வே.சா.வின் உதவியால், கலைமகள் பத்திரிகையின் துணையாசிரியர் ஆனார். பிறகு ஆசிரியரானார். கவியரசர் பாரதியாரைப் பற்றிப் பற்பல கட்டுரைகளை "கலைமகள்" இதழில் வெளியிட்டார். அரிய தமிழ் இலக்கியச் செல்வங்களைப் பிற மொழிகளில் மொழிபெயர்க்க உதவினார். படிப்படியாகக் "கலைமகள்" இதழை வளர்த்து அதை ஒரு தரமான நிலைக்கு உயர்த்தினார் என்றால் அதற்கு அடிப்படையான காரணம் கி.வா.ஜ.வின் கடுமையான உழைப்பும், ஊழியர்களிடம் அவர் காட்டிய மனிதநேயமும் தான். ஒரு இலட்சிய இதழாசிரியர் எவ்வாறு நடந்துகொள்ள வேண்டுமோ அவ்வாறு நடந்து கொள்வதில் கண்ணும் கருத்துமாக இருந்தார் கி.வா.ஜ.

கி.வா.ஜ. சிறந்த சிறுகதை ஆசிரியராகவும் விளங்கினார். தமிழக அரசும், தமிழ் வளர்ச்சிக் கழகமும் அவருடைய சிறுகதைத் திறனைப் பாராட்டிப் பரிசுகள் வழங்கிச் சிறப்பித்துள்ளன. அவருடைய உள்ளத்தில் ஊடுருவி நிற்கும் பக்தி உணர்வு அவருடைய சிறுகதைகளில் சிறப்பாக வெளிப்பட்டுத்தோன்றும்.

1932ஆம் ஆண்டு அலமேலு என்பவரை மனைவியாக ஏற்றுக்கொண்டார்.

கி.வா.ஜ.வின் முதல் நூல் காந்தமலை முருகன்மேல் பாடிய பாடல்களின் தொகுப்பாகும். கலைமகள் ஆசிரியர் பணியுடன் தன் ஆசிரியர் உ.வே.சா.வின் ஆய்வுப்பணி, பதிப்பு, எழுத்துப் பணிகளுக்கும் வழக்கம் போலவே உதவி செய்து வந்தார்.

வாகீசகலாநிதி
திருமுருகாற்றுப்படை அரசு
தமிழ்க்கவி பூஷணம்
உபன்யாசகேசரி
செந்தமிழ்ச்செல்வர்
தமிழ்ப்பெரும்புலவர்
திருநெறித்தவமணி
ஆகிய பட்டங்களைப் பல்வேறு அமைப்புகளும் சமயங்களும் வழங்கி அவரைச் சிறப்பித்துள்ளன.

உ.வே.சா.வின் மறைவுக்குப் பிறகும் சோர்வில்லாமல் தமிழ்த் தொண்டு செய்து வந்தார். கி.வா.ஜ. சுமார் 200க்கும் மேற்பட்ட நூல்களை எழுதியுள்ளார். உ.வே.சா.வின் பிற்காலச் சரித்திரத்தை எழுதிப் பூர்த்தி செய்தார். கோபம் என்பதே வராத குணக்குன்று கி.வா.ஜ. தமிழ் தொடர்பாக யார் எப்போது, எவ்விதமான சந்தேகம் கேட்டாலும் அலுத்துக் கொள்ளாமலும் சலித்துக் கொள்ளாமலும் அவர்களின் ஐயங்களைத் தீர்ப்பார்.

கி.வா.ஜ. சிறந்த உரையாசிரியராகவும், சீரிய திறனாய்வாளராகவும் விளங்கினார். ஆய்வுப் பணியை மேற்கொண்டிருந்த காலத்தில் அவர் உருவாக்கிய "தமிழ்க் காப்பியங்கள்" என்னும் நூலும், சென்னைப் பல்கலைக்கழகத்தின் சார்பில் "கல்கி" நினைவு அறக்கட்டளைச் சொற்பொழிவாக அவர் ஆற்றிய "தமிழ் நாவலின் தோற்றமும் வளர்ச்சியும்" என்னும் நூலும் அவருடைய ஆய்வுத் திறனுக்குக் கட்டியம் கூறுவனவாகும்.

பொதுவாக, எழுத்தில் வல்லவர்கள் பேச்சில் வல்லவர்களாக இருப்பதில்லை; அதேபோல், பேச்சில் வல்லவர்கள் எழுத்தில் வல்லவர்களாக இருப்பதில்லை. கி.வா.ஜ.வோ எழுத்து, பேச்சு ஆகிய இரண்டிலும் வல்லவராகத் திகழ்ந்தார். எப்போதும் படித்துக் கொண்டும், எழுதிக்கொண்டும் இருப்பார். தமிழகம் மட்டுமன்றி கடல் கடந்தும் இவரது புகழ் பரவியது. நகைச்சுவையாகவும், சிலேடையாகவும் பேசுவதில் வல்லவர். இவ்வுலகில் இருந்து மறைவதற்குச் சில நாள்களுக்கு முன்புவரை, மருத்துவர்கள் ஓய்வெடுக்கச் சொல்லியதைப் பொருள்படுத்தாமல் பெரியபுராணத்துக்கு உரை எழுதிக்கொண்டிருந்தார்.

மிக மிக எளிய வாழ்க்கை வாழ்ந்தும் மிக அரிய தமிழ்ப் பணிகள் செய்தும், ஓய்வு என்பதையே அறியாத சான்றோராகிய வாகீச கலாநிதி கி.வா.ஜ. 1988ஆம் ஆண்டு நவம்பர் 4ஆம் தேதி நிரந்தரமாக ஓய்வு எடுத்துக்கொண்டார். கி.வா.ஜ. என்ற இந்தத் தமிழ்ப் பரம்பரையின் சகாப்தம் தமிழ் உள்ளவரை நிலைத்திருக்கும்.

நன்றி: தமிழ்மணி (தினமணி)

Give me another chance….I want to grow up once again….

As that ten year old kid walked in to the low vision clinic with the attendant, it was just another day in that busy tertiary eye hospital. I was pre-occupied with the forthcoming class schedule for the students, but as that kid walked in, I turned my attention and asked the attendant what could I do for them. It was close to 6pm in the evening and the hospital staff had started leaving for the day as the last shift was in progress. The attendant told me that they had an appointment at 11 am in the morning, but could not make it due to some domestic issues. They also told me that they were from a remote village in Bihar and that the patient’s parents have recently expired in a political communal clash in their native village. The attendant was a social worker from a NGO in the state of Bihar, he requested if I could perform the Low Vision assessment for that child at that time as they had to get back to Bihar the same day night train as there were no resources for them to afford a stay at the city of Kolkata. It was close to the end of my day and I had enormous task cut out in finalizing the class schedule for the students, but all that looked secondary in front of that patients need at that moment. Something told me from within, to go ahead with the Low Vision examination.

The patient was diagnosed with Primary Optic Atrophy and was referred for Low vision Clinic for further management. The unaided vision in right and left eye were 6/36 and 6/60 respectively and there was no significant refractive error. The right eye was the dominant eye and after a detailed low vision evaluation the vision improved to 6/6 partial in the right eye with 6x monocular telescope and the kid was pretty excited about the outcome. The near vision improved comfortably to N6 from N8 with a portable CCTV and the kid was motivated to use it for prolonged near work. Also a protective filter 450nm for safety eyewear with CR-39 for constant wear was recommended. The kid was also referred for visual rehab training for daily living skills and software training for academic accomplishment. In totality it was a thoroughly satisfying experience for both the sides.

All through the examination process the kid was very co-operative and silent, but just before leaving the examination room, it asked me in Hindi, “Kya main andha hoon?” which loosely translated in English means, “Am I blind?” for which I said ,“No not at all”. I didn’t feel the need to lecture on the difference between blindness and impairment at that stage.

But even after the kid had left for a long time, those words lingered within me, “Am I Blind?”….I was just thinking might be many of us should ask this to ourselves, because there are innumerable instances in our practice, we encounter clinical moments wherein we realize that a low vision device and a scientific low vision assessment would give those patients another chance to take on this beautiful journey called LIFE. But we do miss those moments.

So next time we tend to overlook or miss those clinical moments we should ask ourselves “Kya main andha hoon?” which loosely translated in English means, “Am I blind?”

Sunday, October 9, 2011

RVR at OSWB Academic Meet 2010






RVR at 11th AIOC Kolkata



‘Fulfil obligations towards society'


“Young people should fulfil their obligations towards society,” said S.S. Badrinath, Chairman Emeritus, Sankara Nethralaya, Chennai, in his convocation address at the PSG Institute of Medical Science and Research, here on Friday.

He also inaugurated the PSG Center for Clinical Simulation and Research, an advanced learning facility that would help students to practise handling real life situations with the aid of simulators.

Quoting from poet Subramania Bharathi's verses, he said that they should strive hard with an unwavering mind.

Eighty-nine M.B.B.S. graduates and 29 post-graduate students received their certificates from Dr. Badrinath during the Graduation Day and Annual Day celebrations.

Seventeen students received gold medals while 20 subject toppers in the Tamil Nadu Dr. MGR Medical University Examinations were given academic awards.

Naina Suresh bagged the GV Memorial Gold Medal for the best outgoing student.

S. Ramalingam, Principal, PSG Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, urged the students to make use of the opportunities to excel.

L. Gopalakrishnan, Managing Trustee, PSG institutions, presided over the convocation function.

RVR at Jhara Camp,Midnapore Dist,West Bengal

I was told that the shooting of Uttam Kumar classic Antony Firangi was done in the mandap I am standing.....





Renaissance man - Kalki Krishnamurthy - By S. VISWANATHAN



The birth centenary of 'Kalki' R. Krishnamurthy occasions an appraisal of the contributions made in numerous fields by the Tamil novelist, freedom fighter and social crusader.

LOVERS of Tamil literature across the country celebrated the birth centenary of "Kalki" R. Krishnamurthy on September 9.

Krishnamurthy was freedom fighter, social crusader, novelist, short story writer, journalist, humorist, satirist, travel writer, script-writer, poet, critic and connoisseur of the arts - all rolled into one. A prolific writer, he wielded his pen with for ce and tenderness for three decades (1923-1954). He wrote on varied subjects during an eventful period in Indian history. His writings include over 120 short stories, 10 novelettes, five novels, three historical romances, editorial and political writings and hundreds of film and music reviews.

Although there is practically no subject he left untouched and no genre he did not experiment with, he is best known for his historical romances, which are acclaimed as classics and remain popular to this day, nearly five decades after his death.

His historical novels, Parthiban Kanavu (Parthiban's Dream), Sivakamiyin Sapatham (Sivakami's Vow) and Ponniyin Selvan (Ponni's Son) - which were first serialised in Kalki, the weekly he edited, and later published as books be tween 1943 and 1951 - attract 20,000 to 25,000 additional readers for the magazine, whenever it re-serialises these stories, according to K. Rajendran, son of Krishnamurthy and the present publisher of the weekly. (Ponniyin Selvan re-appears for a fourth time now.) It is amazing that whereas works of several contemporary writers fail to see even a second edition, each of these novels has been re-published eight times over the past 15 years (1984-1999).

KRISHNAMURTHY was born on September 9, 1899 at Puttaman-galam in the old Thanjavur district in an orthodox, large Brahmin family with limited means. Father Ramaswamy Aiyar was the village karnam (accountant), drawing a monthly salary of Rs.10. With the yield from land, he managed to maintain the family. After primary education in the village, Krishnamurthy joined the National High School at Tiruchi, about 100 km away.

When Mahatma Gandhi launched his Non-Cooperation Movement in 1921, thousands of students gave up their studies to participate in the movement. Krishnamurthy was one among them. With the Secondary School Leaving Certificate (SSLC) examination just three m onths away, he left school and joined the Indian National Congress. Gandhi's speech at a public meeting in Tiruchi inspired him.

In 1922, he was awarded a one-year imprisonment for participating in the independence struggle. It was during this period that Krishnamurthy came into contact with two great persons, who were to play a major role all his life - veteran Congress leader C. Rajagopalachari (Rajaji) and T. Sadasivam, who was to become a life-long friend and partner in journalistic ventures.

Krishnamurthy's first attempt at writing fiction also came during that period. In 1923 he joined as a sub-editor in Navasakthi, a Tamil periodical edited by Tamil scholar and freedom fighter V. Kalyanasundaram, popularly known as "Thiru Vi. Ka". Krishnamurthy's first book was published in 1927.

Leaving Navasakthi in 1928, Krishnamurthy stayed with Rajaji at the Gandhi Ashram in Tiruchengode in Salem district and helped him edit Vimochanam, a Tamil journal devoted to propagating prohibition. In 1931, he was again imprisoned for six months.

Next year Krishnamurthy joined Ananda Vikatan, a humour weekly edited and published by S.S. Vasan, as its de facto editor. The magazine soon became a household name in middle class families. Krishnamurthy's witty, incisive comments on polit ics, literature, music and other forms of art were looked forward to with unceasing interest by readers. He wrote under the pen names of "Kalki", "Ra. Ki", "Tamil Theni", "Karnatakam" and so on. Vikatan published many of his short stories and nove ls (as serials).

In 1941 he left Ananda Vikatan and rejoined the freedom struggle and courted arrest. On his release after three months he and Sadasivam started Kalki. He was its editor until his death on December 5, 1954.

THE success that Krishnamurthy attained in the realm of historical fiction is phenomenal. Sixty years ago, at a time when the literacy level was low and when the English-educated Tamils looked down on writings in Tamil, Kalki's circulation touched 71,000 copies - the largest for any weekly in the county then - when it serialised his historical novels.

Noted historian Professor K.V. Rangaswamy Iyengar says that Kalki established his reputation as a novelist with Parthiban Kanavu. In his "introduction" to the novel, Rangaswamy Iyengar describes it as "a star of the first magnitude (that) had appe ared in the firmament of historical fiction." "It was the first attempt, to my knowledge, to utilise the ancient history of a famous South Indian dynasty and region as the background of an attractive story," says Rangaswamy Iyengar.

Describing Sivakamiyin Sapatham as a brilliant piece of writing, Rangaswamy Iyengar says that because of its stylistic qualities, the novel will have a permanent place in Tamil prose.

Although Kalki's historical romances captured the hearts of thousands of readers, recreating for them the glorious Tamil life during the periods of Pallavas and Imperial Cholas, critics were divided on their literary merits. One criticism was that Kalki' s novels dwelt rather overmuch on royalty and not enough on common people. The sudden twists and turns, which characterised serialised stories, made the stories unrealistic. There has, however, been a re-appraisal of Kalki, particularly among Marxist cri tics, in recent years. Semmalar, the monthly organ of the Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers Association, brought out a special number to commemorate Kalki's birth centenary.

Marxist critic Arunan says: "Kalki might not have gone into the inner layers of the social structure of those days, but he did give glimpses of the social life through his descriptions of the experiences and exploits of the royalty" (Semmalar, Sep tember, 1998). "At least, parts of people's history are touched," he says and adds: "Ponniyin Selvan, for instance, gives detailed accounts of the conflicts between Saivites and Vaishnavites and their impact on society."

Analysing the reasons for Kalki's continued relevance, Maran, another critic, says that Kalki, whose main concern was to arouse people's consciousness against colonial rule, sought to remind the people of their cultural heritage. Kalki's writings sought to instil pride in the greatness of Tamil language, literature, art, culture and valour. "Even after Independence, there is still a need to fall back on the cultural heritage. Kalki's works perhaps continue to serve that purpose" (Kanaiyazhi, Augu st, 1999).

Stating that Kalki was a social force, not an ordinary writer, writer D. Jayakanthan says, "In politics, literature, criticism of the arts and Tamil renaissance, no other person has served as much as he did."


One of the criticisms against Kalki's short stories was that they were propagandist, but Kalki, for whom writing was part of political activity, a mobilisation exercise, was unconcerned about such criticism. If writing stories with a purpose was propagan dist, he said, he did not mind being dubbed propagandist. Inspired by the national movement, he sought to instil patriotism in his readers and his stories did succeed in doing so. "He knew the art of creating interest in and writing convincingly on any s ubject," observed Dr. M. Varadarajan, novelist and literary historian (History of Tamil Literature). "He understood the spirit and force of the spoken language and used it as a powerful medium for his writings."

Se. Ganesalingan, Sri Lankan Tamil writer, says that Kalki "democratised" literature and enabled even the common people to appreciate it. In simple Tamil he judiciously blended humour and satire with real incidents.

In writing historical fiction, Kalki was influenced by English novelists Sir Walter Scott and Lord Lytton and French novelists Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas, according to Sunda, Kalki's biographer.

Kalki's early interest in listening to harikathakalakshepam (musical religious discourse) and his acquaintance with the pamphlets of Sri Lankan Tamil Hindu propagandist and scholar, Arumuga Navalar, helped him acquire the skill of story-telling.

Kalki's crusade against drink, untouchability, superstition, oppression of women and many of the decadent practices in Brahmin families of those days is testimony to his progressive thinking. Thiru Vi. Ka., veteran labour leader, and Rajaji (who took cla sses in socialism for jail-mates) imparted in him socialist ideals, according to some critics. Soorya, a character in his novel Alai Osai (The sound of the waves) belongs to the Socialist group in the Congress. "Soorya is none other than the auth or," says Rajendran.

Kalki considered Alai Osai, which was serialised in Kalki in 1948-49 and published as a book in 1963, as his best. The novel won for him the Sahitya Akademi award posthumously in 1956; it has for its backdrop the freedom struggle and deals with social reforms and politics. His other social novels include Thyaga Bhoomi (The land of sacrifice) and Kalvanin Kadali (Bandit's sweetheart), both of which have been filmed. Thyaga Bhoomi, which has the salt satyagraha as its ba ckdrop, dealt with women's rights and untouchability. It was serialised in Ananda Vikatan; stills from the movie, which was being filmed at the same time, were used as illustration. After a successful run for six weeks, the film, directed by veter an K. Subrahmanyam, was banned by the colonial Government on the grounds that it indirectly aroused the people to fight for freedom.

S. Krishnaswamy, film historian and son of Subrahmanyam, told Frontline that the film had a theme that was "extraordinarily revolutionary" for the period it covered; it represented the high water-mark of the liberation of Indian womanhood. "The fi lm combined the spirit of Indian womanhood with the spirit of national freedom," said Krishnaswamy. According to Aranthai Narayanan, film critic, the film ranks on a par with the works of Satyajit Ray or Mrinal Sen in thematic as well as production value s. "Kalki's dialogues were sharp, particularly in the court scene; the heroine's offer to pay alimony to her husband who deserted her long back and wants to rejoin her, was revolutionary," says Aranthai Narayanan. Krishnaswamy has made a teleserial of th e story in Hindi with Bharat Bhushan in the key role.

Parthiban Kanavu, Kalvanin Kadali and Poiman Karadu were also filmed. Kalki wrote the script and some lyrics for Meera, an M.S. Subbulakshmi starrer.

Kalki's contribution to the cause of Tamil music is also noteworthy. He spearheaded a movement that wanted Carnatic musicians to include more Tamil songs in their concerts and composed a number of songs. His Tamil translation of Gandhi's autobiography, My Experiments with Truth, was published as Satya Sothanai.

Kalki was in the midst of some controversies. One related to his response to an observation by a respectable writer that Subramanya Bharati was a "mahakavi"; although Kalki was a great admirer of the nationalist poet, he did not agree with this estimatio n. The other related to some contemporary writers' charge of plagiarism against Kalki. Kalki admitted that among his over 120 stories, the themes of some six or seven were adaptations.

The release of a postage stamp in honour of Kalki was among the highlights of the centenary celebrations. Sometime ago, the Tamil Nadu Government announced the nationalisation of Kalki's works; this will enable publishers to come out with reprints of his works. The celebrations have already inspired publication of a number of new books, which include Kalki: Selected Stories by Penguin Books and Kalki Kalanjiyam by Vanathi Pathippagam, which has published Kalki's books for decades. The Peng uin book is an English translation of 12 selected short stories of Kalki by his grand-daughter Gowri Ramnarayan.