Sunday, December 31, 2006

An Introduction to Ancient Indian Naval Architecture, With Some Observations on Contemporary Popular Historiography

In which Ludwig examines some things nautical

Recent posts here have been about such frivolous claptrap that Ludwig cannot countenance any more, pieces on such drivel as reservations, love failure, emerging mobile technologies, entrepreneurship and the death penalty. Pleasurable though it was to conjure up those tidbits, we realize that our vast audience has too long been denied what they were accustomed to in the good old days. Namely, a succinct, comprehensive, well thought out, skilfully constructed, well informed, thoroughly researched, topical article on some burning issue of contemporary relevance. A blob is not just a mere pulpit on the internet from which Thomas, Richard and Sivasubramaniam Chandrasegarampillai can rail at unsuspecting passers-by about whatever catches their fancy. A blog has a greater duty, a higher purpose, a nobler ideal to live up to. It carries forward the great traditions of dissent and critical scrutiny of Zola, Rev. Dr. King Jr., The Onion, &c. It is a public space that oughtn't to be defiled by the washing of dirty linen and the cooking of kaakarakaai pulusu.

To make amends for the last few wasted months, and seeing as it is the zeroeth death anniversary of Saddam Hussein, we have decided to post a little something on history and historiography, two subjects that we have an abiding interest in. Specifically, in this thesis, we will be addressing topics in ancient Indian myth/history, and how 20th century creative sensibilities throw new light on said topics.

To a certain class of people (this author included) with a putative superior engineering education, navel architecture is an engrossing subject, even if we have been landlubbers all our life, and never even caught sight of the blue yonder. For aeons, we have sought perfection in these matters, and have not tasted success in the real world. This essay is not about our failed quest in the real world.

In the halcyon days of our boyhood, we imbibed Indian culture and values through the pores, mainly by the stratagem of gobbling up Amar Chitra Katha comics by the dozen. The long summer afternoons passed as if in a dream, interrupted only by the mysterious appearance of mangoes, gooseberries and so on at Poisson intervals. Those informative volumes introduced us to the wondrous world of Indian history and mythology mostly via memorable illustrations.

The ages passed. Some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend, legend became myth, and for two score years the comics fell off of all Ludwig's radar screens. Until one day when, in a small hole in Begumpet, Ludwig happened to find himself thumbing through some of those very tomes that had occupied his undivided attentions through those summer months, many years ago.

Things, however, had changed. Having become something of a truth seeker, he was now entranced, in a strictly academic way, by the umm...ah...illustrations of the hemm...haww...midriffs of the err...apsaras and kinnaras and so on. One realized that the Amar Chitra Kathas had had a much more formative effect on one's psyche than one had hitherto suspected.

Being public spirited, one wishes to serve one's people, and keep them informed about all such important matters. So we whipped out our Canon Powershot S45 and proceeded to photograph said volumes, and made notes about the illustrators, which follow.

A quick glance through the entire corpus reveals various levels of clarity and confidence in the depictions of the above mentioned midriffs. Is there something we can learn about the illustrator, from the manner in which he chooses (or does not, as the case may be) to wield his brush when he has to show Anasuya and Priyamvada frolicking amongst the creepers? Can we then, discern an order of merit, in which we can rank these talented artists? And having done so, can we use this order of merit as a guide in future perusals and purchases of the literature?

We will simply present the evidence here, and leave our astute readers to draw their own inferences about the work and the illustrator. And through this creative process which sublimates these external stimuli, into coherent thoughts and locus standi on this seminal issue, we hope (indeed we flatter ourselves), that our faithful readers will learn something of the construction and configuration of their own internal neural pathways and, perhaps, arrive at that pinnacle of Self Understanding, from whence it is very hard to climb down without oxygen cylinders and broken in shoes.

Be that as it may, we move on to the exhibits themselves.

P.B.Kavadi The work on hand is Kalidasa's "Shakuntala". P.B. Kavadi's illustrations are marked by very clean lines; soulful, fish-like, eyes and almost sculptural body types. When we turn to the first page of the "Shakuntala", we are struck by the courage the illustrator displays in depicting the apsara Menaka's considerable charms.

We note the vividity with which the midriff is depicted, and it gives us hope for the future. Alas, it is not to be. Perhaps the artist's courage fails him, after the first flush of valour, and we find subsequently that the midriffs are marked by a marked reluctance to firmly make a statement.

In an effort to determine whether Kavadi's reluctance is a temporary aberration manifested only in the "Shakuntala", we drew samples from "Malavikagnimitra" as well.

And we are disappointed yet again. The artist's style is consistent, it was only the first panel from "Shakuntala" that was the aberration. We move on...

Pratap Mullick Once again, we have a Kalidasa play to base our observations on. "Vikramorvasiyam" is illustrated by Pratap Mullick.

Immediately, we see that indeed, each illustrator has his own style. If Kavadi's is marked by the cleanliness of the lines, Mullick's distinguishing attribute is the classicism he brings to the drawings. The drapiness of robes, the waspiness of waists, the wideness of hips - all well attested to in classical Indian poetic tradition. Once again, we note how the first panel offers hope, in our particular area of interest. Urvashi, we find is exquisite, and we pray that the theme will continue in the inside pages.

Hatha vidhi!! While Kavadi's pictures inside the book at least had a smidgen of ink where a navel should've been, Mullick's Aushinari is devoid of even a blemish. She looks like Damien Thorn's twin sister, very weird.

Ram Waerkar We now move from the realm of pure fiction, to someone who straddles the world of myth and history. We have two samples of Ram Waerkar's illustrations to consider. The first is from "Surya", the story of the sun god.

Waerkar's style seems to be via media between Kavadi's and Mullick's. The clean lines are there, the classicism is conspicuous, and glory of glories, in an internal panel, Waerkar has courageously put an unmistakable dot, where it should be. So much for myth.

Waerkar's style when he draws the story of "Rani Durgavati", is almost wholly different. Gone are the curves and the exaggerations. The pictures have a gritty, almost newsreel feel, the stomping of boots and the clash of musketry is almost palpable. We see that once again Waerkar has not shirked in his duty to art and reality, and wielded his pen or brush with conscientiousness. In summary, it may be said that Waerkar is, while not profligate in his depictions of the midriff, true to anatomy and his oeuvre when he does engage with the subject.

Yusuf Bangalorewalla We conclude with a series of 4 panels from Yusuf Bangalorewalla's "Mirabai". Another historical figure, another recalcitrant artist. The images are breathtaking (we found), and on the spectrum of courageousness, Bangalorewalla lies somewhere between Kavadi and Waerkar.

In conclusion, we find the order of merit to be as follows:

1. Waerkar: For his versatility and courage
2. Bangalorwalla: For the aesthetic, and the nascent ability (that needs to find expression) to be true
3. Kavadi and Mullick. Take a stand, gentlemen. Take a stand, gentlemen, take a stand!

And with these "points to ponder", we at the Choultry wish you all a Happy New Year & c. See you on the other side...

Erratum: The title of this post should read "An Introduction to Ancient Indian Navel Architecture, With Some Observations on Contemporary Popular Historiography". The error is regretted.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Genesis - Initiating Innovations

A plug for a fellow Gold Mandarin Duck and the alma mater: Check out Genesis. Brief dope follows.


A Social Entrepreneurship Business Plan Competition

Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Aavishkaar India Micro Venture Capital fund, Tata Consultancy Services, and MIT IDEAS Competition, USA, jointly announce "Genesis", a Business Plan Contest in Social Entrepreneurship that will identify and support innovative business ideas targeted at addressing a social cause.

Winning teams will receive up to Rs 3 lakhs in seed funding to implement their ideas.

The competition is open to all students and working professionals (including NGOs) who have ideas that are innovative, feasible and can benefit society, with the single proviso that 50% of every team that enters this competition should be students. The contest is designed in 3 stages: In Stage 1, registered teams can attend a series of workshops at IIT-Madras on January 13-14, and submit executive summaries of their socially relevant business ideas by Jan 17, 2007. Workshops will provide participants with specific business planning skills as well as general social entrepreneurial insights. Stage 2 would see selected teams refining and developing complete Business Plans. Stage 3 envisions the presentation and evaluation of the final submissions at IIT-Madras, with the finale of awards slated for Feb 26.

The Genesis website - contains more information on this competition. Registration and initial submission can be done through the website. The website includes a ‘Collaboration’ section designed to help participants find team-mates with complimentary ideas or skill sets. If you have business-related skills or are interested in crafting a business plan, but do not have a socially relevant idea, you can use the ‘Collaboration’ forum or contact us through the Genesis website. We will then try and connect you with people who have innovative ideas but need help in crafting a business plan.

Genesis will provide those with ideas, or even the beginning of an idea, with assistance in various stages of their project lifecycle. The gamut of facilitation services include the creation of an innovation ecosystem and environment for idea generation, technical mentoring, a forum for collaboration, and project guidance and financial aid including seed capital.

So if you are a budding entrepreneur with social commitment, looking for a channel, collaboration, or mentoring, we urge you to visit the Genesis website and participate in this year’s competition.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Room With A View, With Some Observations On Gadgets, And A Picture Of Ludwig

Chez Ludwig, despite its concrete jungle location, has a moderately pleasing view. Some greenery, some billboards, some filth. A little bit of everything. The discerning reader will no doubt have spotted what is special about this picture.

And this one...

No? Still see nuffink? Look closely. We have helpfully placed striking yellow and blue rectangles. Look inside the rectangles.

Still no?

Well, so there we were, dissolutely plying the toothbrush in the oral cavity on a Sunday midmorning, as one normally does, when we glimpsed aerial activity in the middle distance. Stumble in, grab scope, camera, and stumble back to window. Which is the story of those pictures. Anyway, the blue and yellow rectangles magnified.



Ladeej and jantalbhainses, we give you, live and hot from Begumpet, Hyderabad, a bevy of Little Green Bee-eaters (merops orientalis). These flitty things aren't exactly uncommon, but bloody fun to watch, as they take off periodically and dart about dementedly in search of...umm...bees. Almost beginning to wish we had a better camera...

In other ornithological news, the Birdwatchers Society Of Andhra Pradesh (BSAP) conducted their first ever "bird race" last Sunday. The very intrepid (1) Sheetal has an in-detail blow-by-blow i-was-there account of the proceedings. Teams spotted as many as 104 different species in and around Hyderabad, which is stunning, to say the least. To think that this primeval lump of barren Deccan Plateau...(shuts up hastily lest the lynch mob arrives).

We couldn't go to the race, nope, we couldn't. We were off running the Hyderabad 10k road race that same day. We ran this race last year, in the company of a curious sandbagging Irrawady dolphin, who this year thankfully spared us the agony of watching the clouds of dust as she took off at the end.

For this edition, we managed to get around 20 unwitting souls from work to sign up. We wended our way through Brahmanwadi at the crack of dawn, crossed the tracks and found ourselves at People's Plaza. The run was supposed to start at 7:00, but what with the dignitaries getting escorted onstage by each other (yes, there was an infinite loop of escorting-dignitaries-onstage), the crowd going nuts (right!) at the sight of killadiyon ka killadi (2), Sameera Reddy, Subbarami Reddy (3), and other Reddys, the thing didn't kick off till 7:20 or so. The crowd seemed a lot smaller than last year, there was no danger of fallschirmjäger sedimenting on our heads from the heavens, and there were portable loos (big, big improvement over last year, although lots of people perhaps hadn't figured out what the telephone booths were for at a road race!).

So we all set off, and we took pictures as usual. Here's one from Tank Bund, with little cute sailboats and stuff. It was a very nice day for a morning lun, no sun and all.

And, here's that much awaited mugshot of Ludwig Himself, in the flesh, somewhere between the end of Tank Bund and the Sanjeevaiah Park gates:

Yes, that's us. Except for the head, of course (the size is just about right). You see, this Predator with a serious yen for dum biryani, was in the process of materializing right in front of us, as the picture was being taken. Tchah. [Readers will be glad to know that Ludwig did not come to any harm. Pred courteously requested directions to Paradise, and in true Hyderabadi fashion, instead of actually giving him the straight and narrow path, we did the decent thing and told him how we thought he ought to go about the getting-to-Paradise algorithm, "Aap aisa karo...." Pred thanked us with a slap on the back [Note to self: Remove icky talon thing from between shoulderblades when showering next], and slithered off towards RTC Crossroads.]

Phew. Anyway, there are a couple of things to note (apart from the sexy, curvaceous looks) in the above picture. Which brings us to our final set of gadgets. Note the belt. This is a FuelBelt from the training-for-Marine-Corps-Marathon days. We whip it out once a year, mainly to hold camera, money and so on on these little runs.

Also, observe what is strapped to our left wrist. This is the latest baby of them all. It is what is called a Garmin Forerunner 301.

It's an inspire-fat-Ludwigs-to-run thingumabob. Has a GPS receiver which shrewdly plots your every move; a heart rate monitor which, with a steady, unblinking, unambiguous "0" where it should read "165", will clearly indicate to you that, you're in fact, dead. In case this crucial aspect of your existence had escaped your attention, engrossed as you were in following that item in tight red tracksuit, scooting up those impossible steps in the KBR Park circuit. So this sexpot (gadget) can store boatloads of data, and lets you do a bunch of stuff. You can download the data and view on your desktop (as in the below, which shows a run around KBR Park):

It computes elevation gain and loss (look closely, there is a picture below):

And when you hook it up to MotionBased, you can quickly upload all your data, do all kinds of analyses, and plot your path against Google Earth. Check out our new running log. The gory 10k details are available, and our final exhibit, a shot of the Google Map for the 10k, generated from the running log:

We loves the technology.


1. Intrepid for reasons including introducing a colour-blind, tone-deaf, biologically inept Ludwig to a hapless BSAP.

2. MMKR digression: "Dai, avan jagath jaala killadi da..." - Thanks to all 2 of you who giggled at this blast from the past.

3. Couldn't find a decent link for Mr. Reddy, but Google revealed this parliamentary debate. Snippet:

DR. T. SUBBARAMI REDDY (VISAKHAPATNAM): ...I would like to say that 17,000 mws of power was the only increase in the Eighth Plan. As far as the Ninth Plan is concerned, already one year is over and the Government is proposing 40,000 mws of power generation. Perhaps, it may be very difficult. The entire country is reeling under the shortage of power. The prosperity and progress of the country depends on the power generation. So, I would like to say that all the 545 Members must stand for power production.

MR. CHAIRMAN : Dr. Reddy, you are having extraordinary powers. You can contribute.

... (Interruptions)

DR. T. SUBBARAMI REDDY : I sleep only for four hours because I am having extra powers. I am active for 20 hours with different social, political, spiritual and cultural activities. (Interruptions).