'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Friday, July 13, 2018

This and That

Games Over?

The other day, while reading a childrens' book on the origins of our popular games - football, basketball, volleyball, handball... - I was struck by a simple fact: most if not all of these games were conceived and their essential form finalized by 1900. Thereafter (at least in the last 50 years), no fundamentally new global game seems to have emerged (some local games or recast versions of already existing games - kabaddi or rugby or volleyball in its saucy beach version or maybe even cricket in its T20 avatar - might be going global in a big way but that does not change the basic picture).

Perhaps, there aren't any more games left - there may only be so many possible physical games that Homo Sapiens can actually play. If indeed, the number of games is so limited, we could call those games already with us discoveries and not inventions.

The Median Might be the Message:

Statistical data analysis prefers the median over the arithmetic mean when the frequency distribution for the data is skewed. The mean is vulnerable to being dragged far from a typical value by skewed data and can lose the ability to provide the best central location for the data. The median resists such drag much better. Moreover, outliers which can severely affect the arithmetic mean, barely touch the median (eg: if Ambani builds his home in a slum, he can elevate the Arithmetic mean of the incomes in the neighborhood to a level beyond the richest countries but the median income would pretty much stay where it was - and continue to present the honest picture of the neighborhood).

I know very little economics. Every popular analysis of the Indian economy that I have seen bases itself upon arithmetic means - average income, average GDP and so on. One suspects, if the median is considered for, say, the per capita income (I tend to believe that India has one of the most skewed income distributions in the world with some spectacular outliers), many of our studies and plans might get fundamentally altered.

Chakka - here and there:

Long ago, I wrote a post lamenting how the chakka (jackfruit), despite its abundant nutritive value and culinary potential, has fallen out of favor among Keralites. Things have improved somewhat - chakka has been selected as our National Fruit and chakka-fests have greatly increased in frequency as well as visibility. However, despite all that, a huge fraction of our abundant chakka crop goes waste, unplucked. Yesterday, I saw this massive cluster rotting away in the monsoon showers, just a few feet above the ground.

But our neighbors have continued to show great sensitivity to the charms of this fruit. A wayside scene from Mysore:

Hasta and Hasti

The word Hasta means "hand" in Sanskrit. Hasti means "the one with a hand" and implies the elephant - the hand being of course, its trunk. But the hasta-hasti connection appears to go even farther...

Here is a hasta, painted onto a wallet:

Turn it upside down and it becomes a hasti:

Tribute to Tintoretto:

During one of his typically incandescent expositions, hefty, bearded and orange garbed Mathematician Mahan Maharaj strikes a dramatically 'manneristic' pose that brings to St Mark's miraculous stunts as envisioned by Venetian Master Tintoretto:

The Birth of a Nation:

"Mohammad Ali Jinnah rose to be the undisputed leader of the Indian Muslim League. He developed and gave a clear formulation to the original idea for a Nation as put forward by Dr. Iqbal with the name 'Pakistan' and at a meeting held in Lahore in 1940, declared its attainment as the goal of the League. The British Government accepted his proposal. As per the Indian Independence Act, India was partitioned. The sovereign state of Pakistan came into being as a member of the British Commonwealth on the 14th of August 1947 with Jinnah Sahib as its supreme leader. Those were troubled times as untoward incidents and massacres took place in India and Pakistan. Soon thereafter, the people of Punch in western Kashmir rose against against Pakistan. The latter responded by deploying its army and soon a dangerous situation developed. However, thanks to an intervention by the UN, war was averted. Jinnah Sahib died in September 1948...."

That was a succinct passage from a textbook of Islamic History published by the Government of Kerala via the 'Bhasha Institute' - my translation.

Pazhoor Now

At Pazhoor, the Muvattupuzha river is in spate The island has mostly gone under. The banks have received a generous dumping of plastics and more rafts of it drift by...:


A joke of sorts has been going around: "Don't lament the continued failure of African teams at the World Cup. France is still there and may even win it!"

But the Brits are a step ahead. BBC put up this graphic in its analysis of the England-Croatia match:

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Mysore Surprises

A couple of school 'excursions' apart, I had never been to Mysore. Recently, I went there for a couple of days to catch up with Sheshadri...

A lengthy drive through the country around Mysore feels like a voyage on the high seas - an experience of vast clarity and unimpeded horizon-to-horizon visions. Indeed, to a visitor from Kerala - where luxuriant vegetation and dense stands of trees clutter even the brightest of days with tangled shadows - South Karnataka is a land of open radiance, an immensity of sunshine. And this is also a playground for Winds - unfettered Winds pulsing with the magical luminosity of space and sun and scudding clouds...

Although Mysore is next door to Kerala, there is hardly anything written in Malayalam about it. As an exception of sorts one recalls an old and quite fine piece in English by Zachariah, one of Malayalam's sharpest writers, on the years he had spent in Mysore as a college student. Zachariah later wrote, in Malayalam, a substantial and often impressive travelog on Africa - and to describe my own visual experience of Mysore, I certainly can do worse than adapt a few lines from that work - and that was the last paragraph.

And one can add, the human, agrarian component in the Mysore landscapes shows great variety (with rice, sugarcane, palms, banana and much else very well represented - with the occasional glory of a sunflower patch thrown in), a very welcome change from the environs of Bangalore where eucalyptus has of late come to crowd out pretty much everything else.

Mysore city, relatively untouched by 'development', is, compared to Cochin or even Trichur, green, spacious and unhurried. And it abounds in curious details.

A smart clock tower in the heart of the city. It has a very Euro body and a rather saracenic dome. And its dial has Kannada numerals.

Note: I now understand the tower is affectionately called 'dodda gadiyara' (big clock). There is also a 'chikka gadiyara' nearby which I didn't know about.

The grand facade of the royal-built public hospital...

... and a heraldic emblem above one of its doorways, winged mermaids and all:


Almost adjacent to the bus stand is the Wellington Lodge, a two century old Brit-built bungalow that now houses a surprisingly rich collection of folk art - its official name translates to "Indira Gandhi National Folklore Museum". Wiki is silent about it and my guide book too has nothing; my finding it was pure serendipity. Entry is free and one can take any number of pictures. Aside: I know of no older building in Mysore.

Here are two quaint oil lamps from central India:

A sheet metal family leaning on to a wall - and onto one another:

An ornate and life-size plus terracotta bovine:

Srirangapattana is still very Seringapatam - in twilight, its ruined fort, placid river and far-flung landscapes look just as they appear in two century old company landscapes. Here is a still-standing slice of Tipu's citadel:

The mausoleum where the sultan and his parents rest stands at the center of a big compound. Clustered here and there are graves of many of his officials and attendants (presumably). An ancient tree spreads benignly over picnicking families and a few of the graves - they seem to be huddling close to each other:

What does this pic show?

If you said "frog", here is the full picture:

Take a look at this marble Siva statue that sits in the Mysore hotel where I camped:

I make no claims of artistic merit on its behalf but have to note a unique feature: on the Lord's neck are coiled two identical hooded cobras. I can't recall seeing such twin cobras anywhere except some Kalighat paintings. Here is a typical example:

Note: This Kalighat Siva's matted locks have no Ganga but another cobra. As opposed to the athletic and vigorous Siva of 21st century popular imagination, this guy is potbellied and dopey-eyed - he is smoking ganja.

In a market street, I saw this strange painting on the body of a wooden cart:

From the crow's presence, one could make out that the blue-skinned figure is Shani, the troublesome planet personified. As for the man with hacked off limbs, here is what can be read online:

King Vikrama insulted Shani with some disdainful remarks, just as the planet was to begin its seven and a half year long transit through the king's astral chart. The vengeful Shani spirited Vikrama off to a far off place by trickery and in that alien land, got him tangled in a robbery case. As punishment, the king's hands and feet were chopped off, leaving him a sad lump of living flesh. An oil presser's wife took pity on him and pleaded with her husband on his behalf and soon a deal was struck - Vikrama would get food and shelter in exchange for sitting tight as a weight on top of an oil press as oxen worked it. And, as can be readily guessed, the king had to remorsefully weigh down the press for seven and a half years - during which period, he would often compose and sing paeans to Shani - before Shani relented and all ended well.

And here is a state-sponsored (?) street-side tribute to the legendary heroine Obavva - armed with a mere onake (pestle) she defended the Chitradurga fort from a sneaking attack by Hyder Ali's troops.

..... and a few of the thousand odd stone steps leading up to the Chamundi temple, marked by the 'tilakas' made by the devout:


Update(July 16th 2018)

My statement above: "hardly anything has been written in Malayalam about Mysore" needs serious qualification. One of our landmark films 'Namukku paarkkaan munthirithoppukal", by Padmarajan, is set entirely in the vicinity of Mysore and the landscape is integral to the story. And its very atmospheric song "Akashamake" takes us on an leisurely and lyrical tour of Mysore city and surroundings.