Thursday, October 23, 2008

Inside Madurai Temple

The Meenakshi-Sundareswarar temple, which stands today as one of India's cultural and architectural landmarks, was originally built by the early if not mythic Pandya King Kulasekara. The ancient city of Madurai was supposed to be laid out in a lotus-like formation with the temple at the center and streets and main thoroughfares layered one after the other in a concentric fashion. The streets are narrow and small, proving that it's an ancient city.


The inner sanctum sanctorum is more than 3500 years old, and the outer walls and external construction are about 1500-2000 years old. The complex is in around 45 acres and the temple is a massive structure measuring 254 by 237 meters. The temple is surrounded by 12 towers, the tallest of which, the famous Southern tower, rises to over 170 ft high.
source: wikipedia



Holy Cow



I was travelling from Madurai to Chennai the whole of this week so here are some photos and some description of the famous Madurai Meenakshi Temple.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Possible effects of Internet use in Mizoram

    It’s an irony that Mizoram being one of the most literate states in India, 
is one of the poorest states in India. But I would say that it is one of the 
states with the most potential. Being a late entrant, it could take 
advantage of the latest technology possible in the Market. I guess we all 
know that we do not have any precious resources like petroleum, coal or gold 
in Mizoram. However, we have the most precious resource, which is Human 
resource. And if this is utilized wisely it will be very beneficial for us. 
We the Mizos are hardworking people who treasure learning. If we start 
applying the Internet in our lives with our hard work and learning, I’m sure 
that the Internet will be an indispensable part of our life, even though it 
has not been long since the Internet revolution has started. I think the 
Internet is the key technology to bring a revolution in Mizoram, where we 
can move from our primitive bamboo age to the more advanced computer age. 
The computer and Internet as a whole will effect our lives in a big way. Let 
us look into some of the possible effects.

The Effect on Youth: The Internet has been a boon for the youth of Mizoram. 
As we all know, the youth of Mizoram are very much involved in drugs and 
alcohol. I wonder if we ever think why this is so? I believe one of the 
possible reasons could be that the youth of Mizoram do not have any source 
of entertainment. I think the old saying, an empty mind is the devil’s 
workshop is very true here. Peer pressure among the youth is very strong 
among the youth in Mizoram. This is because none of the youth, if not most 
of them, do not want to be an outcast and the odd one out. Thus they just 
join their friends in what they are doing, good or bad. And the sad fact is 
that most of the youth who do drugs do not do them to satisfy themselves but 
rather to identify within that group. So what the youth could do now is to 
influence each other to do something good and enjoyable at the same time. 
The computer can be a place where they can communicate with their far off 
friends. Or use as a message board where they can post messages or make 
their homepages where they can give more information about themselves. Not 
only will the youth be using their time wisely but they will also learn 
computer skills, typing and maybe even a bit of English. Among the youth in 
developed countries, the police say that drug usage and smoking has dropped 
because the youth are too involved with the internet using it to send each 
other messages. Sometimes, I think we’re too involved with our outward 
appearance, the brand of shoes that we are wearing and comparing the costly 
price of our shoes… I think this is utter nonsense because it does not help 
us in any way. At the most it may just make us look very rich or prosperous 
whereas we may not be, which means we are just cheating ourselves. We should 
arm ourselves more with knowledge, knowledge of computers and Internet 
because that is where our future is headed.

For business: The Internet has a great scope for development in Mizoram. In 
Aizawl itself, if we go to any house, we can see a TV with cable connected 
to it. With the latest technology bringing the Internet through the cable 
into the house through TV, it is going to be possible to do business in 
Mizoram. Thus, it may soon be possible to do business in the Internet in 
Mizoram, provided the credit card system comes along too. Thus a person 
would be able to sell handicrafts from the comfort of the house without 
having to go to the Market and selling it at the best prices. Some of the 
ways that we can sell our wares is to use the Business to Consumer (B2C) 
method, Amazon.com and Rediff.com being prime examples. Here they sell 
everything from CDs to Book, the list being endless. The other popular 
method being the Consumer to Consumer (C2C) method. Here the people trade 
what they have with each other, the buyer tries to sell it at the best price 
he can whereas the buyer tries to buy it as cheap as he/she can thus coming 
to a settlement. The Business to Business (B2B) model also is very popular. 
Here the different business trade with each other. To give an illustration, 
Medical transcription is very popular in India. What they basically do is to 
type into words what the doctors in the US are doing; they need this, as it 
is legally necessary. And they give the work of typing to third world 
countries because labour is cheap. And time is saved as there is the time 
difference between the East and West, so while they are sleeping, one can do 
the work here, and when they get up, the work is ready to being sent to 
them.
    To start all this, what our State needs the most is young, dynamic 
entrepreneurs who are willing to take risk, and start businesses based on 
their own ideas and take responsibility upon themselves. I think it is kind 
of sad to see the youth of Mizoram, most of them having finished Their 
Master’s still trying to get job in the Government. There’s a limit to the 
number of employees that the government can employ, because if the 
government employs everywhere the state machinery is going to be in a mess, 
using all the development money in big projects. Sri Lanka recently conceded 
to its student Union and hired all the University Graduates into the 
government. And guess what happened? ! The economy almost collapsed. Mizos 
as we are not only hardworking, but full of ideas and a fertile idea can 
have lot of imagination. And with the human mind at work, there are endless 
possibilities to achieve. It’s kind of sad that most of the intelligent 
students in Mizoram are opting for Medicine and Engineering. This is against 
the trend, what they should be really studying is Management where they’ll 
learn more about entrepreneurship. Imagine if just 200 entrepreneurs 
employed 500 employees, they would be employing 100,000 people, and with 
that if they started Employee stock option or a better pay, the people would 
not only be working harder for the improvement of the state but they would 
also be getting richer. Getting rich is no sin as long as we reap what we 
sow by honest labour and so we should try our best to work hard and try to 
improve our living standards, and then only will the standard of living in 
Mizoram improve.

For the Government: First and foremost, it is the duty of the government to 
improve the infrastructure in the state. We need good roads, good 
electricity and for the Internet, we need a local server somewhere in 
Aizawl.
    I also strongly feel that the State Education Board should work towards 
changing the system of Education in Mizoram. It’s an irony to see so many of 
us studying by rote or should I say learning by heart. By learning by rote, 
we do not learn anything but just the facts, which we soon forget without 
understanding something. What we are doing is just following the 
stereotypes. What we’ve got to do is undo the mindset that has served us so 
well for so long and encourage and embrace change and creative destruction. 
Learning should be an innovative experience where young people would be able 
to compete in the hip- Internet era. Unless the system of education changes, 
they spirit of entrepreneurship will not be very widely seen. And to 
encourage entrepreneurship, I think the Government should encourage Angel 
investors (Investors who help in investment of a firm and get a chunk of the 
profit) and Stock Exchange.
    Corruption is one of the main problems faced by all Governments. If the 
government of Mizoram could connect all the villages in Mizoram, I guess 
there would be certainly less paper work and more efficiency. This could 
mean that we would not need to stand in very long lines to pay our 
electricity bill and water bills and bypass all those corrupt officers who 
keep on pestering us, and asking for bribes.
    One more possible use of the Internet is that it could be used for more 
transparency. Take for instance, in Mizoram there are lot of small projects 
where construction of roads or maybe a Mini- Hydel projects are going on. 
And we constantly hear about witch-hunts where some people say that this 
person is siphoning of some money; where as the other person says that he is 
not guilty. To settle all this what could be done is to keep the records of 
the money spent on the projects for the entire public to see. Perhaps on the 
Internet, not only will this help the people to see that their taxes are 
well spent, but it will also ensure that those who are working on a 
particular project will think twice before tampering with the records 
illegally.
    To conclude, I think that we can immensely profit from the new economy, the 
economy of the Internet. I don’t think anyone of us want to be left behind 
in the race for technology that is sweeping all over the world, let us be 
brave and keep on moving in this world.

 ( This is an article of mine that was published in Pune Student Union Annual Magazine - Zamzo way back in 2001, apologies if  you find it irrelevant)

 

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Mautam Famine in Chin Hills Myanmar

The people dwelling in bamboo covered land of Paletwa, Matupi, and Thantlang Townships are correctly called the Bamboo Landers by the outsiders as they solely depend on bamboo for almost everything, from a raw material to build their homes to food, and as one of few sources of cash. Houses are built with bamboo leaves roofing, matted floors and often double layered split bamboo walling. A man can sit in a bamboo chair on a bamboo table, and work in the rice field with a bamboo hat on his head. Bamboo shoot is their favorite side dish, and in times of famine they have to depend on bamboo sprouts. His meal is cooked over a bamboo fire, and he can fan himself with a bamboo fan, take a siesta on a bamboo bed, lying on a bamboo mat with his head resting on a bamboo pillow. His child might be lying in a bamboo cradle, playing with a bamboo toy and is to make the bier to carry the man when he is dead. On rising he would smoke a bamboo pipe and carrying his articles in bamboo baskets. Not only human beings but also the domestic animals such as pig, cattle, and gayal eat the bamboo leaves and trunks. Bamboo jungle has been thought to be fertile and rice productive land, and bamboo jungle indeed is regarded as rice bowl. From time immemorial to till today slash and burn hill side cultivation known as jhum has been the only available source of living for the people. In January and February the rural folk begin to fell bamboo for jhum. In March they set fire to the fallen bamboo, turn it to ash. This ash is the best nutrient muddy hills can get for cultivation. Without bamboo cultivators can grow nothing. Popularly referred to as 'poor man's timber', bamboo has been life blood of the people. Bamboo is closely associated with human lives and, this being the case, life in this region is unthinkable without bamboo.

      

This bamboo flowering and dying, locally known as Mautam or Mawtah, has begun in 2007 in some regions of Mizoram (India) and Chin State (Myanmar) which badly caused great famine and force the victims suffering of food shortage in this year 2008. All bamboo jungle has been withered where bamboo flowering occurred last year in 2007. Again in this year 2008, bamboo flowering is still happening in remaining parts of Chin State, predicting terrible famine that the people of these regions tremble and fear to face in the year to come. Rats and birds picked and ate up all the seeds by sowing time (April and May 2008) that resulted crops growing very scarce. The crops have been started snipping by the rodents from now. . Not only rice but also other agricultural products such as maize, cucumber, beans, and pumpkins have been starting eaten away by rats. The saying of forefathers, “The tragedy event of Bamboo Flowering Famine normally lasts from three to five years,” is practically comes true today. Many cultivators have forsaken their jhums in lack of hope. Last year from September, huge number of rat population were feasting on the bamboo seeds and multiplied themselves in terms of ten thousands in a year and once, the bamboo seeds were no longer available to them that they ate away and finished away all agricultural products over night or in a day, migrating from place to place throughout the hill land in thousands and thousands number. Henceforth, the severe starvation is unavoidable circumstance this year and the years to come.

 Response to the Attack of the Rodents:  

Last year in 2007 the destruction of crops by the rodents happened from the month of September when the time of harvest was near. All the crops   in a field had been devoured by a night. This year in 2008, it is wonderful that the great attack has been started from time of growing seeds. Now the rodents are gnawing and destructing all food crops by days and nights. Not only swarms of rats, but also porcupines and parrots invade the food cops very badly. The people also are trying to prevent by means of catapult even at night time that they could kill hundreds in number. They make traps for catching and killing porcupines. “There set an order of Village Peace and Development Council to the entire male in the village to try to kill the rats in their respective field. I think we have already killed more than ten thousand of rats in the field, but the number of rat seems to increase more and more,” said ThlaCung of   La-U village. At day time, all encaged protecting from flights of parrots. The report said that many households had left their cultivation which had been devoured by the rodents. It is like a fight with the spirit that we the human being will never win, the spirit of famine how awful it will overwhelm for months and years.


Fig Fruits being eaten by Children








Current Situation of Famine Affected Area:

                                                                         It might be wonderful to any interested one how the victims are keeping their livelihood till today though the Data Information showed food grains they reaped to be enough only for short period. The question had also been raised everywhere by the loved ones. Livelihood, especially in most affected area from November 2007 till now is summed up as below mentioned in general:

1. November 2007 -  January/February 2008    ---------------   Rice/ Maize left by rodents.

2. February/March - May/June 2008               --------------    Tung/Bako (a tree) and Yams

3. June/July onwards     -------------------------------------          Natural green leaves, Roots of

                                                                                           Bananas and leaves of crops

4.                              -----------------------------------             Few of food relief (rice)

                                                               received from Chin Communities abroad

                                                               through CFERC, mixed with green leaves. 


The Consequences of Famine:

  The consequences of the famine are expected to have widespread and long-term affects on more people of Chin State. The most immediate concern is high rates of starvation, malnutrition, and the rapid deterioration of people’s health in the affected areas. Villagers from affected areas have reported that families are currently being reduced to one meal a day of limited nutritious value. Mr. Dawt Cung of Surngen (Lautu Area), Thantlang Township in Northern Chin State said, “The Children used to fill up their stomach for two third of food by eating fig-fruits which caused them diarrhoea. Due to lack of Health care, we have lost the life of almost hundred children in our area.” There might be more in number of the dead in other areas beyond reach of information. The number of children who have lost their lives are 44 as listed below:

Route Requested for sending Famine Relief Aid:

      Bamboo Flowering Famine mostly affected along the western region of Chin State, closely bordering with Mizoram, India, where communication is mostly available by only foot-path. The most affected area falls in Zophei, Mara, Lautu and Khumi, covering 108 villages, 9523 households with 62679 populations. Road transportation at all seasons is available only up to Thantlang and Matupi from which needed three to four days journey on foot to arrive the famine affected area if the Relief Aid is to be given from Inland. We could not believe that the Relief items will safely reach into the hand of actual victims if initiatives will be taken from inland (Myanmar).

 

Therefore, on behalf of all famine victims per preference of themselves, special request is made to the individual, groups, NGOs (National/International) and governments to offer Relief Aid through Cross-Border System to the suffering Chin people.

 Contact: Email- csamau@yahoo.co.in    Ph:  +919436393666

By Salai Chinzah

 Chairman, CHRC and CNC

            

              



Chin Hills Myanmar Mautam Famine Tree Trunks for Food


A source of food on which they depended is a kind of tree in thick forest called Tung/Bakô. The stem of the tree inside is sweet in taste. 



They cut down and took it making slices to dry in sunshine. 



They grinded into powder after which the powder is mixed with few rice and cooked for food.


This kind of tree is to be found only in thick forest that people had to spend a lot of time to take. Days and months were counted for the new babes and children who could not serve the rough food. Similarly today, the people of many villages in Chinland especially from Maraland and Khumi area have started searching for yams and trees (Tung/Bakô) for surviving of their daily life. The population today seems to increase double than that of fifty years back famine. The yams and trees might not be enough to feed the people for times. On 27th of December 2007, two Khumi women of Tuiking Along village (on Daletmay River) who searched for paddy to other village met the two robbers on their way home frightened them saying, ‘If you love your life save, leave your tins of paddy there”. At the same time the two women ran off leaving the two tins of paddy which had been taken by the robbers. Mrs. Khothlei Ralcin, a nurse from Paletwa Civil Hospital who recently visited Mizoram said, “The robbers were said to be the men who also were searching for food. I believe this is the only beginning. There will be more and more robbery and stealing for the people those who do not have money at all.”

Trading Animals for Food due to Mautam Famine in Chin Hills


On 6th.January, 2008 Chauzeipaw of Sabypi village arrived to Saiha (Mizoram) bringing a baby-bear to change with rice. He eventually sold it for Rs. 2000.00 and bought 1.5 quintals of rice for his families survival. He said, “The rice should not be consumed only by our family because there are many people who are empty handed and wandering for rice. It is impossible to reject the one who would come to ask for rice with tears. Children are mostly pitiful who only know their thirst and hunger and ask something to eat to their parents”.





On 16th.January 2008, a group of Locheita villagers led by a religious leader Rev. C.Sama (62 years) and a prominent leader Thlachei Zawtha (70 years) arrived to Saiha bringing one buffalo to give to any church in Saiha town that could help them to solve their food problem hoping even for a month. Rev. C.Sama said, “We are restless, wondering for our people whom we leave at home having nothing to cook at all.” By the sympathy and humanitarian aid of College Veng Local Church of Evangelical Church of Maraland, Saiha, Mizoram State, India, the Locheita villagers were given 21.5 quintals (2150Kg.) of rice. Locheita village is about 150Km far from Saiha that for transportation of rice up to Chakhei village they still have to spend Rs.3500.00.  They have to carry the rice themselves on barefoot as there is no proper road.

            The population of Locheita village is 710. One person can survive for a month with 18Kg of Rice. If 2150Kg of Rice is to be shared among all, each one of them will get 3Kg of Rice, which will be sufficient only for 5 days.