Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Tri-colour

The National flag and the Congress Party flag carry the same combination of colours and in the same order. The difference is only in the emblem in the middle, the Ashok Chakra in the case of the former and the “hand’ in the case of the latter. When the flags are fluttering at a distance, the emblems are not visible and only the colours stand out.

As any brand manager would say, this causes “brand confusion” in the mind of the viewer, with two entities adopting similar symbols.

How was this allowed to happen?

As the website of the Congress Party explains, the erstwhile Indian National Congress adopted the tri-colour flag, with a spinning wheel in the middle, in the year 1921.

When the country attained independence, the Congress flag was adopted as the national flag, but with the ‘spinning wheel’ making way for the “Ashok Chakra”. As Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre narrate in their book, "Freedom at Midnight" ( via)

"For thirty years, the tricolour sash of homespun cotton khadi, soon to replace the Union Jack on India's horizons, had flown over meetings, marches and manifestations of a people thirsting for independence. Gandhi had designed the banner of a militant congress himself. At the centre of its horizontal bands of saffron, white and green, he had placed his personal seal, the humble instrument he'd proposed to the masses of India as the instrument of their non-violent redemption, the spinning-wheel.

"Now with independence at hand, voices in the ranks of congress contested the right of what they called 'Gandhiji's toy' to occupy the central place in what was about to become their nation's flag. To a growing number of party militants his spinning-wheel was a symbol of the past, a woman's thing, the hallmark of an archaic India turned inwards upon herself.
"At their insistence the place of honour on the national flag was assigned to another wheel, the martial sign of the conquering warriors of Ashoka, founder of the Hindu empire, had borne on their shields. Framed by a pair of lions for force and courage, Ashoka's proud symbol of strength and authority, his dharma chakra, the wheel of the cosmic order, became the symbol of the new India.

The Congress Party continued to use the tri-colour flag with the spinning wheel. The emblem changed to the ‘hand’ sign sometime in the “80s, after the break-away group of Indira Gandhi’s was given the right by the Election Commission to call itself the “Indian National Congress”. So, the party’s flag continues to sport the tri-colour with the ‘hand’ symbol in the middle. It can still be confused for the National Flag.

I am not aware if this has been challenged or taken up with the Election Commission. The Congress Party by using a flag deceptively similar to the National Flag may be subliminally planting the idea in the voter’s mind that it is the party that has the stature and the right to govern the country. Suits have been filed on far trivial or ridiculous grounds and I don’t see why this should not be taken up.

The Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950 prohibits the use of any of the emblems mentioned in the schedule (and the Indian National flag figures in that list) or any colourable imitation thereof, for the purpose of any trade, business, calling or profession, without the previous permission of the Central Govt.

Even though the Congress Party was the one in power for many years after independence, I doubt if the Govt formally granted the permission to the party to use an ‘imitation of the national flag” as its own. Perhaps, the party thought that it was the nation that had to feel obligated to the party for having lent it its flag.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Vacuous and Verbose- 24

The ghost writer who prepared the text of the Republic day address to be delivered by President Prathibha Patil, gave it the title. “Speech for the President of India Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil on the eve of Republic Day “.

The Press Information Bureau released it on their site with the same title, implying that it was a speech meant to be heard by the President and not to be inflicted on the public. Perhaps, the idea was to make the President realise how it felt to be at the receiving end.

And what a tiring cliché-ridden speech it is. The template is such that the hot air could have been delivered by any of the Presidents on any of the 60 anniversaries of Republic Day, or any of the anniversaries in the future.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

"Superb portion of a superb empire"

This is my 750th post , and my 50th with the BritIndia tag.

My interest in this period of Indian history began when I found that Google Books had an enormous list of publications and reports filed by the British, on their operations in India from the 18th century onwards. These were written by sailors, military personnel, missionaries, scientists, casual travelers, etc. The British loved to keep meticulous notes and publish them for posterity. And they wrote it in a language I could understand.

At first, I indulged in random, lazy surfing. Soon I found that I could ask specific questions and get answers. Who carried out the survey of the terrain before the Railway project was implemented in the 1850s? When did the first steam ship arrive from England? When Karunanidhi claims that Tamil New Year’s day was always celebrated during Pongal, was he right?( No, I discovered) What was Diwali like in India 150 years back? Was Pazhassi Raja as brave a ruler as the movie made him to be?

I must say that I enjoyed doing this, though aware that the posts in this series were the least read and commented on..... Raj

“Howitt’s journal of literature and progress” published in the year 1847 contains a scathing condemnation of the methods adopted by the British East India Company and urges the Govt to liberate the country from the clutches of a scheming, capitalistic entity and to treat India as a superb portion of a superb empire.

Some eight years ago, a society, styled "The British India Society," was organised. No society, in fact, ever began with such brilliant auspices. George Thompson went out to lecture for the society, the first object of which was to throw the light of a real knowledge of the true value of India to this country, and of its utter neglect by the government upon the British public.
The statements which George Thompson made in Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, Paisley, etc., before large audiences of the cotton-spinners, merchants, etc., of the capabilities of India to furnish us cotton, sugar, and other tropical articles at immensely cheaper rates than we were paying to the slave-owners of America, produced the strongest sensation. If England only once awoke to a real knowledge of the magnificent opportunity which it possessed, down must go the slavery and the cotton growth of America together, and a career of prosperity and affluence unbounded open up to England.

Let India only be appreciated and employed as it ought, and of what consequence would be the trade or the rivalry of the entire world besides? As Mr. Brotherton once said in parliament: Employ your Indian population, and you may build mills all the way from London to Stockport, and they will not be able to spin fast enough to supply that stupendous population with manufactures."

...And what is the fact now for want of this amicable and beneficent exchange? Misery at home and misery in India—dreadful and wide-spreading misery. And why are this misery and national difficulty perpetuated, with such a simple remedy at hand? Why has Providence put this great and magnificent India into our hands, but for the purpose of rendering us independent of the whole world, and of enabling us to carry on the great work of colonization and civilization in the earth?

And yet we thus stupidly turn our backs on the sun of our fortune and prosperity. For a most singular cause. Simply because our Government, having too much on its hands, has made over this great and fertile India to a trading company in Leadenhall-street, which, with a policy worthy only of a company of Hottentots, is destroying India by a number of the most fatal monopolies, and, for what they imagine to be their own private interests, sacrificing the interests of the whole of the British empire, and of every man, woman, and child in it.

And concludes with this call to the British citizens:

We must, as a great commercial people, apply the principles of free trade to India. As a great mother of colonies, we must take the finest jewel now in our regal crown, Hindostan, out of the degrading hands of a sordid and pettyfogging company.

We must treat her as a superb portion of a superb empire. We must confer the land on the people, and raise the necessary revenue by a fixed and moderate taxation. We must abolish all vital-consuming monopolies, and the work would be done. Capital and capitalists would flow into India as naturally as rivers flow into the ocean.

The employment given to the natives there would be speedily felt in all our manufacturing districts here. Cotton, sugar, rice, silks, wool, dyes, and innumerable other articles, would begin to circulate in abundance at home in exchange for our manufactures, and the days of our darkness—the natural consequence of absurd neglect of natural advantages unparalleled in their kind, unpossessed by any other nation, and of the criminal oppression of millions that would fain enrich us by their labour, would be at an end.

The uplifting experience

While in Mumbai, I visit an office that has two sections, one of which is located on the 25th floor of Block A, and the other on the 25th floor of Block B. The only way to move from one section to another is by coming down to the ground floor in an elevator, walking a few steps to the adjoining Block, and riding the elevator to the 25th floor again. During such transitions, I wonder how life would have been before the elevators were invented.. The answer is, of course, that tall buildings came up only after elevators were available. It was some kind of a symbiotic relationship.

Yet, when we think of the different modes of urban transportation, we think of the bus, the train, the car, but the elevator is denied the credit it deserves. An article I came across recently tries to make amends..

Without the elevator, we would not have experienced the rise of cities. As crucial to the process of urbanization as sewage systems, streetlights, and steel, the elevator enables dense vertical living. Without height, our cities would sprawl out over suburbia and farmland in a blanket of pavement and a noose of traffic.

Not only did the elevator help shape our modern cities, it also offers an object lesson in ecologically sound technology. “It takes about as much energy to run the light inside as it does to run the elevator,”

So, if you are a parent of a school-going child who needs to submit a ‘project report’ on transportation, remind him/her to include some photos of the elevator, apart from the cars and the buses and the trains.

Our World Cup strategy.

The Indian cricket team now in South Africa without the top batsmen, Tendulkar, Sehwag and Gambhir, seems to be doing well. This is a happy situation to be in. If the team loses, we can console ourselves by saying that it was our second team. And if it pulls off a win, we would have the bragging rights. Our national prestige and honour are at stake, you see.

In his essay “ Sporting Spirit”, written in 1945, George Orwell wrote: 

I am always amazed when I hear people saying that sport creates goodwill between the nations, and that if only the common peoples of the world could meet one another at football or cricket, they would have no inclination to meet on the battlefield. Even if one didn't know from concrete examples (the 1936 Olympic Games, for instance) that international sporting contests lead to orgies of hatred, one could deduce it from general principles.

Nearly all the sports practised nowadays are competitive. You play to win, and the game has little meaning unless you do your utmost to win. On the village green, where you pick up sides and no feeling of local patriotism is involved, it is possible to play simply for the fun and exercise: but as soon as the question of prestige arises, as soon as you feel that you and some larger unit will be disgraced if you lose, the most savage combative instincts are aroused.

Anyone who has played even in a school football match knows this. At the international level sport is frankly mimic warfare. But the significant thing is not the behaviour of the players but the attitude of the spectators: and, behind the spectators, of the nations who work themselves into furies over these absurd contests, and seriously believe — at any rate for short periods — that running, jumping and kicking a ball are tests of national virtue.

After India won the second test match in the recent series, Graeme Smith tweeted that he was assaulted with a barrage of abusive messages from Indian tweeters, proving Orwell right. We had acquired the rights of a conqueror and had to trample the fallen-down opponents to dust.

Orwell ends the essay by suggesting that if Britain had to send a football team to Russia that year, they should “send a second-rate team which is sure to be beaten and cannot be claimed to represent Britain as a whole. There are quite enough real causes of trouble already, and we need not add to them by encouraging young men to kick each other on the shins amid the roars of infuriated spectators.”

We should follow the same strategy during the World Cup and ‘injure’ Sachin and make him unavailable for all the important matches. Knowing his level of patriotism, I am sure he would gladly oblige.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Bridge over the River Beas

"Modern India with illustrations of the resources and capabilities of Hindustan", by Henry H Spry, M.D, published in the year 1838 has this remarkable story ( page 93)of how a suspension bridge over the River Beas was designed and planned by a Major Presgrave, and built entirely with material produced from the iron ore found closeby and using local labour.

Allow me to re-produce the story in its entirety.

"This suspension bridge has been constructed entirely out of the resources of the district, and by an amateur mechanic, who had never seen an iron suspension bridge in his life and yet we have an assurance from the visiting engineer for the northwestern provinces and Central India—Major Irvine, C.B., that he had seen nothing superior to it in England.

The undertaking was altogether an experimental one; for, as I have elsewhere mentioned, there are no roads in this part of the country of any extent, and, consequently, little or no traffic between remote places; its undertaking, therefore, originated in a desire to ascertain the capabilities of the materials and the workmen employed.

Saugor, and the districts in its neighbourhood, abound in iron ore; and the authorities were anxious to prove whether this valuable mineral could be manufactured into bars of a quality fit for bridges, and whether, at the same time, they could be fashioned by native smiths, who had never wrought, or even seen, iron of the required dimensions.

Major Presgrave, then assay-master at the Saugor mint, voluntarily gave his services to government on the occasion; and it was he alone who planned, entered on, and accomplished an undertaking which, considering the circumstances under which it was projected, must be esteemed a truly wonderful performance.

It forms a striking instance of genius, aided by the light of science, vanquishing apparently insurmountable obstacles. Engineers in Europe, accustomed to find everything provided for their wants, can scarcely conceive the difficulties which were encountered on the onset of this erection. None, save a master-mind, could have borne up against them. Not only was the business of builder and overseer, together with the subordinate trades of brick-maker, mason, carpenter, and iron manufacturer, to be added to his duties of architect and draughtsman, and that too in a climate in which a trifling exertion produces exhaustion, while incautious exposure will bring on fever and death; but he was also obliged to make the tools, and, ab initio, to teach the hands by which they were to be employed!

The foundation was laid in April, 1828, and the building completed and thrown open to the public in June, 1830. The iron of which it is formed is entirely the produce of the Nerbudda districts. When the bridge was projected, it was still in a state of ore in the mines, whence it had to be extracted, and smelted into small lumps, by the ordinary charcoal process of the country. The working of these crude, impure masses into good bars of the requisite dimensions and strength, proved to be a work of extreme difficulty and labour.

At the onset, two attempts were made before a rocky bottom could be found on which to lay the foundation. The banks of the river on either side are thirty-four feet high; the masonry was commenced six feet under the low-water level; the piers are forty-two feet high, the road-way being raised two feet above the ordinary surface of the country. The necessity of this precaution is apparent from the fact, that notwithstanding the height of the river banks, the freshes, during the season of the periodical rains, come down in such torrents that oftentimes the country is overflowed, and consequently, were not the platform of the bridge out of their reach very serious damage might be occasioned.

The bridge is 200 feet in span, between the points of suspension. The clear portion of the platform measures 190 feet by 11-1/2t. The tension of the bridge and chains, unloaded, is estimated, at either point of suspension, to be 95,632 tons; while, supposing the clear portion of the platform 190 feet by 11-1/2, or 2185 square feet, crowded with men at 691bs each superficial foot, the loaded bridge will have a weight of 120 tons; while the tension at each point of suspension will be 217,674 tons. This gives ten tons as the maximum strain that can be applied to the square inch of 'sectional area of iron. The general tension will, of course, be less than half that quantity.

A compact body of men, as a regiment of soldiers, for example, marching over a suspension bridge, is the severest test that can well be devised to prove the strength of the work, and since the completion of the Saugor suspension bridge, many corps of infantry have passed over it; effectually proving, had there been a doubt, which I believe there never was, in the mind of Major Presgrave on the subject, that the bars were sufficiently wrought to sustain this immense weight.

Every bar, before it was allowed to leave the yard, was tested by an apparatus for the purpose. It was made to bear a strain greater than its individual share would be when joined to its fellows, so that every precaution was taken that ingenuity could devise to insure success. Moreover, in the jointing of the bars, a method was pursued altogether new; but, in simplicity and efficiency, all judges who have examined it have decided to be, far superior to the plan commonly practised.

In the iron-work of the bridge there are twentyeight tons eleven hundred and eighty pounds of metal, which, in its finished state, cost about £2 12s. a hundred weight. The whole erection stood the Government in about £4800, exclusive of a present of £500 which Lord William Bentinck made to Colonel Presgrave, as a remuneration for his services, when his Lordship visited Saugor, in 1832-33; making the entire cost something more than £5000 sterling.

Notwithstanding the countless extra expenses incidental to a first undertaking of this kind, and the distance to which all the materials were obliged to be transported, from the work-yard at Saugor to the place of erection, the bridge has been pronounced to be cheaper than those in Calcutta constructed of English materials."

The narrator concludes the story with this eloquent praise.

"Here then we have a structure which, in elegance, in magnitude, and in durability, may vie with the most perfect specimens of the kind in civilized Europe. And yet fashioned out of the oxydized metal as it lies embedded in the bowels of the earth, by the rude hands of a class of artisans, by no means as expert as their countrymen in northern Hindustan, and the whole emanating from the genius and unremitting industry of one mastermind! Does not this speak volumes? Does it not satisfactorily show what India can do when her resources are properly drawn forth? And is it not a reproof to all who would seek alike to depreciate the country and the capabilities of her people? While an empire possesses engineers and artificers who are able to accomplish such a work as the Saugor iron suspension bridge, the infusion of capital is all that is required to render that country great among the civilized kingdoms of the world; and to this point must India arrive, if proper steps be taken to bring her capabilities into active exertion."

Friday, January 07, 2011

Vacuous and Verbose- 23

When inflation goes out of control, the Govt must be seen to be acting promptly and decisively. The root cause must be found and remedial steps taken. Communication channels must be opened. The public must get the necessary assurance that matters will be set right soon.

The Finance Minister, one of the most capable administrators the country has ever seen,  has zeroed in on the crux of the inflation problem with admirable precision. He has determined that bottlenecks in the supply chain of food items have caused inflation and these had to be removed so as improve availability of items to bring down their prices quickly.

To convey to the public that the FM was on the job, the Press Information Bureau came out with a release that carried the following headlines:

Finance Minister Writes to the Chief Ministers to take Immediate Action to remove all Bottlenecks in the Supply Chain of Food Items Causing Inflation and Improve their availability to Bring Down their Prices Quickly.

The press note begins with the following sentence that captures the essence of the FM’s message in a succinct manner:

Union Finance Minister Shri Pranab Mukherjee has urged all the State Governments to ensure that all bottlenecks in the supply chain are removed at the earliest and the availability of the items that are driving the current round of food inflation in the economy, is improved so that food prices can be brought down quickly.

The note ends with a crisp punch line to reiterate the message and leave no doubt whatsoever in the reader’s mind:

He asks the State Governments to ensure that all bottlenecks in the supply chain are removed at the earliest and the availability of the food items causing inflation is improved so that their prices can be brought down quickly.

Aren't you happy that you have a capable Finance Minister with a thorough knowledge of economic theories and who doesn't hesitate to direct State Govts to ensure that all bottlenecks in the supply chain causing inflation are removed at the earliest and the availability of the food items is improved so that their prices can be brought down quickly?

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Cricket in India- 160 years ago

An Encylopaedia of Rural Sports” published in the year 1840 talks about the spread of cricket in the British colonies. (page 134)

"Kent, Sussex. Hampshire, Surrey, and Middlesex, were formerly the principal counties in which cricket was much played, but its attractions have spread it through most parts of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland; and the examples of Englishmen have carried it to France and other continental countries. Even the burning clime of India cannot wholly keep down the practice of it; and, wherever the active and vigorous sons of Britain sojourn, the deep-rooted love of the game is sure to spring up in the tangible shapes of bats, ball, and wickets, surrounded by batters and scouts. The metropolitan resort of cricketers is a large area, called Lord's Ground, in Marylebone; and here is held the club, which is looked up to as the highest authority in the country in every thing appertaining to the game."

In his book, “Ten years in India: The life of a young officer”, published in the year 1850, Captain Albert Harvey of the 40th Regiment of Madras Infantry records ( page 275) that the natives were taking to the game quite well and were even becoming ‘adept’ at it.

I was glad to find that our officers and men were great cricketers; a capital game among Europeans, but one which I had not the slightest conception would be played by natives; 'twas therefore quite a novelty to me. The adjutant was very fond of the game himself, and taught it to the men, who in a very short space of time became perfect adepts in the art of batting, bowling, and fielding.

We used to meet regularly every evening, and have capital fun, officers and men siding and playing matches. I do not remember ever having seen men enter into the spirit of this noble game as did our fellows: they have such quick eyes that their batting was capital; and, as for bowling, I venture to say that our best at it would astonish even " Lillywhite' himself.

At fagging they were untiring, and in catching particularly expert. They got into the regular way of play; made use of all the phrases and technicalities of the game; had their umpires and their scorers, and did the thing in a manner that quite surprised me. All our steadiest and best behaved men were players. Their attending kept them out of mischief; it gave them amusement as well as exercise; and brought them in daily contact with their officers, with whom they got acquainted, and to whom they became attached by constant intercourse.

I know some who objected to the officers and men playing together, upon the plea of its creating too great familiarity between the two grades. So far from such being the case, I never once saw an instance of even one man taking any liberties or approaching to any familiarity with the officers; on the contrary, they were ever respectful, and invariably kept themselves under proper restraint.

Any of the cricketers losing his temper, from any cause, would be immediately scouted by the rest, and not allowed to play. They were all led to understand that while playing they were supposed to be doing so to enjoy themselves; all squabbling was therefore forbidden; everybody was to be in perfect good humour ; each was to do as he liked; there was no compulsion; but the rules of the game were to be strictly attended to, leaving all disputed points to be settled by the umpires chosen for that purpose.
Update 081111: As @KVSarmaJ pointed out to me on Twitter, maybe Lagaan was a true story!

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Misplaced celebrations.

Peter Roebuck writes in his column:

Usman Khawaja is set to become the first Muslim to play cricket for his country. Of course it is a great day for the player but it's also a breakthrough for cricket and his country.

Some locals insist that the newcomer's faith is irrelevant and ought not to be mentioned. After 140 years a Muslim plays for Australia and it does not matter? To the contrary it is a cause for celebration, a step towards enlightenment.

Though Roebuck has already dismissed the question, it needs to be asked. Why should the person’s faith matter at all, in a discussion of cricket?

In a Utopian world, it is possible to highlight points of differences between individuals, and celebrate the rich diversity. The Bombay Quandrangular cricket tournament in the 1920s was an inter-racial contest involving Hindus, Muslims, Parsees and Europeans. An Indian Christian could not take part. The Europeans would not admit Indians, and the Hindus, Muslims and Parsees would not admit Christians. Later, a fifth team called the Rest was included, so that the Buddhists, Christians and Jews could play.

The Pentangular was eventually abandoned when there were fears of ‘communal unrest’. The Ranji Trophy took its place and provincial teams replaced teams based on religion.

Unfortunately, faith has the tendency to arouse baser instincts and, in the long run, to do more harm than good. So, even if there are some positives, we will have to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Diversity is one thing, divisiveness another. It is bad enough that we have to divide people on the basis of nationality. But, we will have to live with this aspect for purely administrative convenience. The entire world cannot be kept boundaryless and governed from a central place.

So, when we have national teams such as Australia, Pakistan, India competing, the emphasis has to be solely on the person’s nationality. You are permitted to say that Khawaja is of Pak-origin, but his Islamic faith is not relevant and needs no emphasis..

Sale: Flat 80% discount

I was in a mall in Delhi the week after Diwali and observed that almost all the showrooms had displayed huge signs announcing “Sale: Flat discount of 80%”. Curious, I stepped into one of the shops and took a look at the shirts being sold. The price tags were in the range of Rs 1800-2500 for some unknown brands of dubious quality. Clearly, the prices had been marked up by 400% or so. I walked out in disgust.

This deception is a result of a vicious cycle created by buyers and sellers together. Buyers are more likely to buy a shirt when the price is calculated as Rs 400, from a price tag that reads ‘Rs 2000’ (less 80% discount) than when it honestly reads ‘Rs 400”. Everybody looks for a bargain all the time, and the sellers know this.

But if this trick is so obvious and so well known, why do sellers still resort to it? The principle at work is “You can fool a different set of people at different times” or “a sucker is born every minute.” There would be some buyers who would presume that the shoppers were getting rid of unsold inventory, post-Diwali, at throwaway prices. And the price tag of“Rs 2000” confers the stamp of good quality on the shirt, right?

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Essay on Hindu architecture

In the year 1834, one Ram Raz, a retired native Judge and magistrate at Bangalore, published an “Essay on Hindu Architecture” that for the first time demystified and explained, in English, the hitherto-obscure science and grammar involved in the design and construction of temples. The book also had several illustrations or “plates’ as they were called.

In an introduction to the book, Richard Clarke of the Royal Asiatic Society says:

The introduction to the European public of an " Essay on Hindu Architecture," and by a Hindu, would seem to mark an epoch not only in the history of the science but also in that of the Hindus themselves.
Their palaces, their temples, the stupendous pyramidal gateways leading to the latter, the colonnades and porticoes with which they are surrounded; some of " a thousand pillars," others equally remarkable for their elevations, richness, and grandeur of design, have for ages been the objects of admiration to the traveller in the East ; and, though it had long been known, proverbially, that the Hindus possessed treatises on architecture of a very ancient date, prescribing the rules by which these edifices were constructed, it remained for the author of this essay to overcome the many, and almost insurmountable obstacles to the substantiation of the fact, and to the communication of it to the European world in a well known language of Europe.

The author, Ram Raz, explains in his foreword:

Works on Silpa Sastra are very scarce in this part of the country; and even the few scattered fragments that can be had are scarcely intelligible to our best educated pundits, as they are so full of memorial verses and technical terms, that none but those who have been regularly initiated in the study of the art, can comprehend them fully.

As to our Silpis themselves, you know they are generally men of very limited acquirements, and totally unacquainted with the science, so that the task of explaining this obscure subject has become exceedingly difficult. I often attempted to unravel it with the assistance of many artists and pundits who had been supposed to know any thing of the matter, and as often despaired of meeting with any success.

At length I have fortunately found a good sculptor of the Cammata tribe, a native of Tanjore, who is well acquainted with the practical part of the Hindu architecture, and with most of the terms used in the art. With his valuable aid I have already been enabled to solve many intricate problems, and to remove many difficulties against which I had long been struggling.

It is a melancholy truth, that those venerable sages to whom our works on arts and sciences are attributed, in endeavouring to communicate instruction to the world have been guided rather by a mistaken ambition of rendering themselves reputable by the difficulty and abstruseness of their style, than by an anxiety to make themselves intelligible. And to this indeed is that almost general ignorance among the Hindus in the arts and sciences chiefly ascribable.

The essay explains how precise rules were laid down for arrangement of various structures, with an emphasis on perfect symmetry. The level of ‘engineering detailing’ that was done is quite remarkable.

Vacuous and Verbose- 22

It must be tough being the ghost writer of India’s Prime Minister. Solemn messages must be sent out on every possible occasion. The PM must be seen or heard greeting people for every festival that is celebrated in the remotest parts of the country. Otherwise, umbrage will be taken and much blood-boiling will take place.

The poor writer has to rely on some loose templates, or boilerplates, to churn out these messages in time.

Here, for your ready reference, are the New Year messages sent out by the PM in the last 5 years. No one has ever read any of them, but what is important is that the newspapers must carry the obligatory “PM’s New Year message” on its headlines.


The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, has greeted the people on the eve of the joyous occasion of New Year. In his New Year message, the Prime Minister said the New Year gives us an opportunity to dedicate ourselves to the consolidation of the gains of the past and to work for new horizons of progress and development.


The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh greeted the nation on New Year. In his message, the Prime Minister said that New Year is a time to reflect upon the year gone by, upon our successes, achievements and mistakes. It makes us wise to our strengths and weaknesses and gives us a chance to set new goals. It is a time for stocktaking and making a new start in achieving our individual and collective goals.

The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, has greeted the Nation on the eve of the New Year. In a message, the Prime Minister hoped that the year 2009 will bring with it a better future for everyone. He also wished that the New Year will bring peace and prosperity to the world. “The beginning of the New Year is the time to firm up our resolve to work for the development of our country and for the well-being of our country-men”, the Prime Minister added.


The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, has greeted the nation on the eve of the New Year.

In a message, Dr. Singh said that as we welcome the dawn of a new decade we should build upon the achievements of the past in striving for the realization of our dreams.


The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, has greeted the nation on the eve of the New Year. Following is the text of Prime Minister’s message:

“I wish all our citizens a very happy New Year.

It is an occasion to take stock of the year gone by and of the challenges that lie ahead.

Let us make a new beginning to the year. Let us dispel the air of despondency and cynicism. We need to believe in the resilience of our democracy and its capacity to deal with infirmities and shortcomings through course correction.

On the eve of the New Year, I want to assure all our citizens that my government and I will work with renewed resolve for the welfare of our people. We will redouble our efforts to deal effectively and credibly with the challenges of inflation, cleansing our governing processes, national security and making our delivery system work for the aam aadmi.”

( Source: Press Information Bureau, Govt of India)