Monday, 18 May 2020

Eleven Books by Eminent Lady Writers for Every Man (and Woman) to Read

“One must always be careful of books," said Tessa, 
"and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.” 
Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Angel 

Good books take us to the places we have never been to, to the times in history we have never imagined, to meet, love or loathe the characters we have never come across in real life. I have not included any book from lady authors on my earlier list only because I thought, it will be better to give a separate list. I admit that it is not the best eleven available, the list is made up of my favorites which I feel will give one a reasonably good idea about the perceptions of the lady writers. So here goes my list of the ladies, being released as a gift to my wife on our 4th wedding anniversary :)

1. I would like to start with a book I had read when I was in primary school, that left my young mind confused, bruised, and astonished. "Uncle Tom's Cabin was a small log building. In front, it had a neat garden-patch, where, every summer, strawberries, raspberries, and a variety of fruits and vegetables, flourished under careful tending. The whole front of it was covered by a large scarlet bignonia and a native multiflora rose, which, entwisting and interlacing, left scarce a vestige of the rough logs to be seen. Here, also, in summer, various brilliant annuals, such as marigolds, petunias, four-o'clock, found an indulgent corner in which to unfold their splendors."
It is said that the Russian revolution was in fact started by the Mothers who took streets as they had nothing to feed their children. A similar story says that when he met Harriet Beecher Stowe at the start of the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln declared, "So this is the little lady who started this great war." Published in 1852, Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly, thus had a profound effect on the war of another type, that on slavery. Hence the first on this list is the best-selling novel of the 19th century and in fact the second best-selling book of that century, following the Bible.

2. Then comes the female version of David Copperfield, my favorite heroine from fiction. “I was dazzled, stimulated: my senses were excited; and being ignorant, raw, and inexperienced, I thought I loved her. There is no folly so besotted that the idiotic rivalries of society, the prurience, the rashness, the blindness of youth, will not hurry a man to its commission.”
Charlotte Bronte's beautiful rendering of the life of an orphan girl who struggles through her nearly loveless childhood and grows into a passionate and strongly principled young lady who values freedom and independence revolutionized prose fiction by being the first to focus on its protagonist's moral and spiritual development through an intimate first-person narrative. Jane Eyre is not only one of the most famous romance novels of all time, but also considered by many critics to be ahead of its time in its treatment of class, sexuality, religion, and feminism. The eldest of the Brontes is considered as the literary ancestor of writers like Proust and Joyce who are in my earlier list.

3. The very fact that the first-ever science fiction was told by an eighteen-year-old girl who wanted to get even with her friends who used to tell her horror stories to amuse her during their trips across Europe, merits its position high up in the list. Mary Shelley crafted the story of a scientist who created a live monster using modern experiments in the laboratory, to compete with her future husband Percy Shelley and their friend Lord Byron to see who among them could write the best horror story and she won the contest hands down with her creation of Frankenstein.

4. At different periods in time, women have been denied education, acceptance, and access. Their works were labeled as light, inconsequential, too romantic, or without intellectual merit. The kind of status women was accorded is best exemplified in Mary Anne Evans' decision to publish her works under the name, George Eliot. Set in the fictitious Midlands town of Middlemarch, her magnum opus follows a vast, sweeping narrative that encompasses subjects of religion, idealism, and political reform.

5. Ashapurna Devi's expression of the great clouds of protest that had accumulated in her mind over the years, Prothom Protishruti, the First Promise is the first Indian book in this list as the personal favorite of the lady I had known longest in my life. Set mainly in a remote village of Bengal, it tells the struggle of childbride Satyabati against family control, mental violence of the polygamy system, superstition, injustice to women, and social prejudices in a patriarchal society. She continues her fight into adulthood and rebels against the people who wanted to keep women in their traditional place of inferiority.

6. "Even today there may be parents who would doubt the wisdom of allowing a girl of fifteen the free run of a large and quite unexpurgated library. But my father allowed it. There were certain facts – very briefly, very shyly he referred to them. Yet "Read what you like", he said, and all his books . . . were to be had without asking." said Virginia Woolf about her father.
For someone who had suffered from regular mood swings, and struggled with the illness for much of her relatively short life, she appears to have made the best use and achieved the best understanding, she could of that illness before surrendering to it as her remarkable literary output would testify. One of the most intelligent and remarkable lady writers in history, this pioneer in the use of stream of consciousness as a narrative device had been acknowledged as an influence by Margaret Atwood, Michael Cunningham, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Toni Morrison. In her monumental work, The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir counts, of all women who ever lived, only three female writers - Emily Bronte, Woolf, and "sometimes" Katherine Mansfield - have explored "the given." An iconic writer with no parallels, more postcards of Woolf is sold by the National Portrait Gallery, London than any other person. Her image is ubiquitous and can be found on tea towels to T-shirts.
It's difficult to select one work, but To The Lighthouse, described by the author herself as ‘easily the best of my books’, should be the obvious choice. A novel with little regard for the rules, with no consistent narrator, little dialogue and almost no plot - it reads more as a breathtaking and lyrical meditation on womanhood, relationships, nature, and the folly of perception.

7. Harper Lee's warm and humorous bildungsroman To Kill A Mocking Bird has to be in this list for its truthful handling of racial injustice, the destruction of innocence and the issues of class, courage, compassion, and gender roles all of which had a significant influence on arising the consciousness of a nation.

8. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand's philosophical fiction caricaturing fascism, socialism, communism, and any state intervention in society, as allowing unproductive people to siphon off the hard-earned wealth of the productive, deserves a place for throwing up a totally different perspective on industrialists and their value to the society. Rand put forth the view that the outcome of any individual's life is purely a function of their ability and that any individual could overcome adverse circumstances, given ability and intelligence. And the book effectively advocates the author's philosophy of ethical egoism or rational selfishness, whereby all of the principal virtues and vices of a person are the manifestations of the person's basic tool for survival. The virtues such as productivity, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, pride are all applications of the basic virtue, rationality enriching the life of reason, purpose, and self-esteem.

9. The holder of the Guinness World Records for the title of best-selling fiction writer of all time, having sold over two billion copies, Agatha Christie can not be ignored from any list of lady writers. Again, it is difficult to pick one from her books, hence I would go with the author and recommend And Then There Were None described by her as the most difficult of her books to write. It is the best selling crime novel of all time, the one that gives her the record of the best selling novelist. With more than 100 million copies sold; it is also the world's best-selling mystery and one of the best-selling books of all time.

10. Baroness Emma Orczy's smooth reading, romantic, suspense thriller Scarlet Pimpernel has been included a personal feel-good favorite. Nevertheless, Orczy's portrayal of a daring hero who cultivates a secret identity disguised by a meek or ineffectual manner proved enduring and had been reenacted by several later heroes Zorro, the Shadow, the Spiderman, the Phantom, Superman, and Batman 

11. I had read Svetlana Alexievich long before her Nobel Prize. In her books, she uses interviews to create a collage of a wide range of voices. With her "documentary novels", she lightens the boundary between reporting and fiction. She may not be as talented and as creative compared to the other ladies on this list. But her real-life stories of ordinary men and women who endured one of the most gruesome tragedies resulting from an Engineering failure in mankind's history is a must-read for all of us living under the increased threats from technological disasters. We may not have known about the sacrifices of those brave young men, Telyatnikov, Kibenok, Pravik, Ignatenko, Khodemchuk... Vladimir Pavlovich Pravik died a few days before his 24th birthday in 1986. His remains rest in a sealed zinc coffin in a cemetery in Moscow because it is more dangerous than a COVID19 coffin. He posthumously received the medals of the Order of Lenin and Hero of the Soviet Union. But it is said that he preferred to live and he fought hard to stay alive.
Lt. Vladimir Pravik was the duty chief of the firemen on that April night when catastrophe struck the fourth unit of the Chernobyl Atomic Power Station. He was at the forefront of his team to battle with fire and carried on as long as consciousness permitted. He received a massive dose of radiation, yet lived on for sixteen days. Only his mother was allowed to be with him in quarantine. He was in immense pain, 'nuclear' pain - atrocious, unbearable, and ruthless, bringing frequent fits of shock and unconsciousness. Lt. Pravik stoically endured the pain and would have won the battle for life had his skin not been killed in its full depth. He died one night, leaving his wife and a daughter, just a month old. He also left a final letter for them, apologizing for not doing his bit in raising his little one.

There it goes, the list of ladies, as promised. And I am sure these great writers will open before you a world as colorful, as diverse, as cruel, as compassionate as the ones you have witnessed in the books on the earlier list.

Monday, 11 May 2020

Eleven Books for Everyone to Read under the Lockdown

The COVID19 enforced lockdown has unexpectedly given many once upon a time bibliophiles a chance to engross themselves in their lost habit. If you are that bibliophile disheartened because you never had the time for those long, stories inside stories types of epic masterpieces, you must be happy with the lockdown. Because there never was a better time to blow the dust off that bulky book in the back of your shelf and finish it off at your own pace.

Here are my lists of eleven books for different types of readers. Why eleven, well because 11 is a beautiful number, there are 11 members in a cricket or soccer team, there are 11 months with at least 30days, we had a five minutes break at 11am, while at school and the list goes on. Of course, these books are all acclaimed as classics and I have taken care to include only one book by a great author in one list. Yes, I have multiple lists: for those who have a lot of time, those who prefer shorter books, for kids, for those who read world literature, for those who like Indian literature, for the lovers of lady writers; yes I have lists of eleven to satisfy all which will be published in the coming days. I am also giving an approximate duration one may require to finish the book, courtesy Reading Length. It is assumed that your reading speed is 50 words per minute on average. And yes, you can check it yourselves by clicking on the link. So to rewind your reading life, here is my list of epic novels first; those big, massive 1,000-page giants that will keep you busy for a while.

1. The world is at war now, the war against the virus and we hope to achieve peace of mind as soon as possible. Hence I prefer to start with the War and Peace. First published in 1869, it has everything: history, romance, military battles, family drama, and philosophical essays. The novel also demonstrates how people try to find their way forward in a time of crisis and social upheaval, which makes it a worthy companion for your days under the lockdown. About 1300 pages on average, Count Leo Tolstoy's seminal work might take one about two to three weeks to complete at a leisurely pace.

2. “So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilization, artificially creates hells on earth, and complicates a destiny that is divine, with human fatality; so long as the three problems of the age, the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of woman by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a yet more extended point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless.” says the Preface to Les Miserables. If you want to develop a new philosophy for your life post lockdown, there are few better choices to spend your 2 weeks on. Victor Hugo's magnum opus is my personal favorite.

3. If you have a month to spare or if you are a fast reader you can go for In Search of Lost Time, Marcel Proust's massive masterpiece running into more than a million words. Completed in 1927 and regarded as one of the most influential novels of the 20th century, the work is narrated to you by a sensitive young man who wishes to become a writer dwelling on the profound musings on art, the elusive nature of memory, and the melancholy passage of time.

4. We can't be blamed if we perceive the efforts of politicians to claim the credit for fighting the virus, "quixotic", the word originating from the protagonist of the Spanish novel The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes. Published in two parts, in 1605 and 1615, the novel is considered as one of the foundations of modern literature having found direct mention in many a classic novel that came afterward, notably in Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers (1844), Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), and Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac (1897). Its central ethic that individuals can be right while society is quite wrong and seen as disenchanting has always been a reassurance over and above the tragedy wherein Don Quixote's idealism and nobility are viewed by the post-chivalric world as insane and are defeated and rendered useless by common reality. The journey with Quixote on Rocinante will take a week for you.

5. Searching for Charles Dickens' longest novel, I had a pleasant surprise. Dickens’ David Copperfield was always one of my most favorite heroes from fiction for his optimism, diligence, and perseverance in the face of heavy odds stacked against him. And yes, in terms of words, his eighth novel, published in 1850, The Personal History, Adventures, Experience, and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery (Which He Never Meant to Publish on Any Account) edged out the more philosophical Dealings with the Firm of Dombey and Son: Wholesale, Retail, and for Exportation by 5 words! David Copperfield: the Unabridged edition will take you less than a week.

6. If you are someone with a philosophical bent you couldn't have missed any piece from Fyodor Dostoevsky. Philosophers such as Friedrich Nietzsche and Jean-Paul Sartre had accepted his influence, Nietzsche even regarded him as "the only psychologist ... from whom I had something to learn". He had influenced and impressed not only later Russian writers like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Anton Chekhov but also literary stalwarts outside Russia such as Hermann Hesse, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Franz Kafka to list a few. Modern cultural movements such as the surrealists, the existentialists, and the Beats cite Dostoevsky as an influence and he is cited as the forerunner of Russian symbolism, existentialism, expressionism, and psychoanalysis. Russian-American author Ayn Rand wrote that Dostoevsky was one of the two greatest novelists in history (the other being Victor Hugo). Writing about Dostoevsky, perhaps the only great novelist who studied Engineering and worked as an Engineer, I almost forgot to mention his work that is in this eleven. As I have been marking books for long reads, The Brothers Karamazov, his passionate philosophical final novel set in 19th century Russia, that deeply dwells into the ethical debates of God, free will, and morality is chosen. This spiritual, theological drama of moral struggles concerning faith, doubt, judgment, and reason called "the most magnificent novel ever written" by no less a person than Sigmund Freud shall take you a week to get over.

7. There are many great works from India deserving to be on this list. But I would like to recommend Kalki Krishnamurthy's volumes and volumes of a novel, Ponniyin Selvan, the Son of Ponni, telling the early life story of Arulmozhivarman, who later went on to become the legendary Raja Raja Chola. Widely considered by many to be the greatest novel ever written in Tamil literature, the work attempts to give an accurate account of the rise and rise of one the greatest Emperors in Indian history. You might need a month to finish all the volumes.

8. If Kalki's book tells the glory of India, the one book that will give you the story of the struggles of ordinary Indians is Munshi Premchand's poignant portrayal of the life of the downtrodden Godaan, the Gift of a Cow. Perhaps a bit like the Indian version of the Les Miserables, the book chronicles the parallel history of the times before the independence through the lives of the exploited, poor, farmers, lower castes, women, and the laborers in the Hindi Heartland of India, also known as the Cow Belt. A must-read for any student of India, the book will take you a week

9. James Joyce's stream of consciousness narration of the peripatetic appointments and encounters of Leopold Bloom in Dublin in the course of an ordinary day, 16 June 1904, is considered by many as the greatest novel of the century, so much so that 16th June is celebrated as the Bloomsday. Ulysses might take you a week or many weeks to get over, but that's your business. "Joyce was not at fault if people after him did not understand it. The next generation is responsible for its own soul; a man of genius is responsible to his peers, not to a studio full of uneducated and undisciplined coxcombs," said T S Eliot.

10. Orhan Pamuk's brilliant portrayal of the philosophical system of 16th century Istanbul during the reign of the Ottoman Empire, My Name is Red will give you a glimpse of the complex East-West relationship at an important period in history. This masterly blend of mystery, romance, and philosophical puzzles told in finespun sentences, full of passionate art appreciations and descriptions of urban scenes of the times will take a week of your time.

11. The final one week reader in the list is the novel that probably announced the arrival of its author as one of the most impactful writers among the worldwide audience. Conversation in the Cathedral, the later Presidential Candidate Mario Vargas Llosa's examination of the deep roots of corruption and failure in Peruvian politics and government during the 1950s completes the present eleven of the giants.

So here are my 11 posted at the 11th hour on 11th May. If there are no lady writers on the list, it is because another list is coming. And do not worry all the lists promised are ready to be posted.

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

A Presiding Officer's 'Diary'

As we were waiting patiently for the other polling parties from the school to board the bus, I was searching for my previous experience as the presiding officer jotted down online.

Every polling party ahead of us in the queue at the collection center was taking their time to return the articles due to incomplete forms and erroneous records, forcing us to plead with the collection officials to clear us first, only to be met with blank contemptuous stares. Finally, when our turn came, all it took was two minutes, everything arranged perfectly as per the instructions, the skepticism giving way to a studied silence.

Every struggle of the previous night was forgotten, yet another election process successfully completed, thanks to the fellow polling officials, friendly polling agents, polite policemen, and the humble machine gun-wielding commandos, all under one’s command for close to two days! And it suddenly dawned upon me, as I was struggling to step out of the collection center, that the dreaded demon has, after a gap of ten years, bitten me on my left leg!

To ease the pain, I thought of jotting down my previous election experience. My, short.....errrr....long story.....God, Providence, the Almighty, schemed everything perfectly for our team during that election. In the morning itself, our ever-reliable colleague Aparna gave us the good news that we had to deal with only 672 voters in our booth. Having collected polling equipment and materials early, we reached our bus first and waited for a long time for others. We had 272 men and 400 women as voters as per the document. Four poll teams were in our minibus; two to Anathalavattom and two to Arayathuruthu, near coastal Trivandrum, apparent left strongholds. Our bus stopped for us near a shop on way to the polling booth. A couple of rough men tried to pick up a quarrel with the driver. I took them on, just to get a feel of the local behavior. Sensing that I am a poll official, they backed off avoiding me and limiting their arguments with the driver, who immediately apologized and quenched the fire.

On reaching the booth, by walking some 100m carrying the materials, I checked with the policeman on duty about the political situation and behavior of local people. He told me that the place used to be a left bastion, but now BJP has gained significant ground. My worst fears about the polling day were coming true. But, behind my back or above my head, the conspiracy has already been hatched by someone somewhere, I realized that by late evening. We settled down on our booth and began checking the facilities around. A teacher working in the school was waiting for us and she gave us the key to the motor room for pumping water to the bathroom with the special request for safekeeping since the room was doubling up as the computer room of the school! Now that was the massive relief no. 1, for that ensured that we will be having water throughout. 

We completed our initial responsibilities, pasting posters given by the authorities around the booth. I briefed the officials about the mock poll and cleared their doubts. The sun was setting and there was no trace of any polling agent. I was beginning to get worried since the presence of agents on time was essential for the smooth conduct of the mock poll and the start of the real poll on time. I asked the policeman if he knew the local politicians and he replied that he shall try to contact some.

Sun had set and the lights were switched on around the premises. I was going through the handbook when I heard people approaching the booth. I looked out and saw some rough and tough men talking to the policeman. He came and told me that the BJP agents have come. I turned back and took out the signature reference sheet. The leader of the group entered the room and handed over the appointment letters. The letters only had the signature of the election agent of the candidate and nothing else was filled. After checking whether the signature was matching, I asked him if he is the agent. He replied in the negative and called out to his group. To my surprise, two shy young girls hesitantly entered the room. I helped them fill up the letters and told them to report back by 5.30am on the poll day morning. Massive relief 2: Polling agents of a major party are girls!!

Once they left I sat down to arrange the covers and fill up some forms. A lady came with her husband and introduced herself as the Kudumbasree head for the locality. She was given the charge of our food and snacks and she patiently took down our orders for dinner and breakfast. Massive relief 3: clean and hygienic food will be available on the table adjacent to our booth.

It was getting late and the two ladies in the team left for some nearby places for sleeping. They were asked to be back by 5am in the morning. Agents of the two major fronts were still missing. I had a shower and changed over to nightdress. Dinner arrived, chappathi and veg curry. Having finished dinner, I was checking my mail when the next group arrived. The bearded leader was calmness personified and he handed over the letters completely filled and signed by the election agent, Sri. V Sivan Kutty. Without reading the letters I asked him if the agents have come. He said yes and the agents moved from out of the darkness, astonishingly again two women!! Huge relief 4: Polling agents of the two bitter political rivals are all..... Women!!!

Congress agents came last, two college going young boys; and the most difficult task of any presiding officer, dealing with the rival polling agents within the booth, transformed into a cakewalk for me. From that moment onwards, it was just doing one's duty diligently :)

As a bonus, the BJP girl came with a male-female counter sheet of her own: which was quite handy for cross-checking with our worksheet at every one-hour interval :)

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

The First Book

Starting from Gandhi Jayanthi and ending with the Vijaya Dashami, submitted the manuscript for the first book, albeit as the Editor in Chief, to Springer Nature. No mean thing for one who dreamt of seeing one's name printed on a book cover.

And also submitted the application, again for the first time, as the Editor of a Special Issue for a prestigious journal.

Eternally Grateful.......

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Monday's Questions, Jan. 1, 2007 - Mar. 4, 2007

The continuation after a year without posts, not for anyone anywhere, just to keep oneself afloat, post-wise

Abhilash Suryan Jan 1, 2007
1/1/2007, Happy New Year to all of You.
And do we need any New Year resolution? If so what it can be?
Let me try this one since we quizzers are supposed to be the more enlightened citizens of this world.
What is referred to as 'Trash Vortex'?

Abhilash Suryan Jan 3, 2007
Can u be more specific?
What forms the major portion of such trash?

Abhilash Suryan Jan 8, 2007
Yes, Plastics
The very thing that makes plastics useful to us, their durability & stability, also makes them a problem in marine environments. Its life span can be 100s of years. When plastic reaches our oceans, it eventually breaks down due to the action of the sun, wind, & currents into small, bite-sized pieces that wildlife confuse with food.
Trash Vortex is one of the most studied areas of plastic accumulation in our oceans. At its maximum its area can reach the size of Maharashtra, Gujarath & M.P. put together!!
The issue of plastic debris is one that needs to be urgently addressed. The Greenpeace ship Esperanza is currently cruising into one of the world's largest trash vortices, in the middle of the Pacific. Referred to as the North Pacific garbage patch, it's the epicenter of a system of currents & winds covering most of the North Pacific. The North Pacific subtropical gyre covers a large area of the Pacific in which the water circulates clockwise in a slow spiral. Winds are light, currents tend to force any floating material into the low energy central area of the gyre. There are few islands on which the floating material can beach. So it stays in the gyre, in huge quantities estimated at 6 kilos of plastics per kg of naturally occurring plankton. The equivalent of an area, the size of Texas, swirling slowly around like a clock.

As trash swirls through the world’s oceans to such vortices, it leaves a trail of death and destruction along its path. Plastic is often mistaken for food & has been found inside marine life of all sizes, from whales to zooplankton. It has been directly blamed for the death of a wide range of animals including albatrosses & sea turtles. While massive trash like ghost nets can ensnare and trap 1000s of creatures, even the smallest pieces of plastic may pose a problem. As it accumulates in the digestive tract, many animals essentially choke on plastic intake. Others like the Laysan Albatross chicks
starve to death from a lack of nutrition despite a full stomach.

Abhilash Suryan Jan 8, 2007
What we Can Do:
We’re all responsible for this mess, & it will take all of us to stop it from getting worse. It’s time to
completely rethink how we as a society use (or abuse) plastic. Here are some things that you can do right
• Every time you see litter, pick it up & dispose of it properly.
• Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – you’ve heard it before, but now you know what happens when you don’t. Be conscious of all that you buy, & be sure to avoid products with excessive packaging, especially in disposable products.
• Demand more & better recycling facilities in your area.
• Take part in a local stream, river and beach clean-ups or organize one yourself. Though these don't solve
the problem, they are very effective at drawing attention to the greater problem offshore.
• If you live near the ocean, or a river that drains into it, your storm drains are probably washing
garbage right out to sea. Be conscious of this & any other potential sources of marine litter in your area.
Demand that these are eliminated. Be very conscious of your ecological footprint. Encourage change though your decisions and do not accept the current paradigm of use and waste What we need to do is start demanding more responsibility from each other in our use of plastic, and stop living as if everything is disposable and that the future will not be impacted.

So much of our trash ends up in the oceans, so think twice the next time you toss away something after you use it, and think about what the life cycle of that ridiculous plastic packaging wrapped around nearly
everything that we buy. It's going to be a big change, but it's a change we have to make, for the sake of our oceans and for the ability of future generations to enjoy them.
Now, does that qualify for a new year resolution in a community like ours'?

Abhilash Suryan Jan 8, 2007
For today (8/1/2007), let’s discuss a pledge..
What was the pledge or a resolution for 2006, half-jokingly named The Compact after the Mayflower Pilgrims, took by ten environmentally conscious friends from San Francisco and which spread through the Internet to other cities, about?

JOBIN Daniel Jan 10, 2007
y no participation?
Well, I had to search on google to get the answer..
Its that "Non-Consumerism campaign" in the U.S.A.. I read 2 - 3 articles abt it.. Its interesting.. But I think its better if the Quiz Master himself explains it .. :)

Abhilash Suryan Jan 14, 2007
True Jobin.
Others might be busy with the exams!!
One fall out of consumerism in the globalized world is that people began to shop for recreation. And we know by now, from our previous discussion, where a large chunk of it all will end up. So the group from San Francisco decided to take a shopping sabbatical for a year & the experience was said to be so liberating that they decided to extend it for another year.
Most of us are thankful to have the money to spare but remember that we are often drawing down our resources and making people miserable around the world.
Several cities already have communities of people, ‘freegans’, whose contempt for consumerism is so complete that they eat food foraged from dumpsters & sleep in abandoned buildings!
‘The Compact’ however exempted items coming under health and safety such as food, toothpaste, inner garments, etc.
That’s one thing we can try to emulate.
Prepare a list of items, especially those harmful to the environment, which we can avoid buying for a year. And try sticking to the pledge; you are immensely contributing to saving the planet.
To make it simple, just keep in mind that when you are throwing away a used-up ballpoint pen, you are hitting another nail in the coffin of ‘Mother Earth’.

just happy...
I'm really feeling good to have heard bout the new info related to consumerism...thnx a lot...

Abhilash Suryan Jan 15, 2007
For today 15/1/2007
The trip to San Francisco proved useful in more ways than one. Now we have a remarkable woman from that beautiful city in our community. And speaking of women, we may have women as Presidents for France & U.S. in the not too distant future. They are storming every remaining male bastion. Female cosmonauts, fighter pilots, loco pilots, and even a female Beefeater!! Errrrr… female what?! Beefeater?!!
Now can anyone tell me who is a Beefeater?

Abhilash Suryan Jan 15, 2007
Good guess...
but off the mark, the question passes to the next member 

Vishnu .. Jan 16, 2007
well I don't know about others but I feel all Abhijith cares about is eating
anyway...after going through wikipedia I found out that Beefeater has very little to do with food...

beefeaters is the colloquial name of the Yeomen Warders, who are the ceremonial guards of the London tower...
and the first female beefeater is a lady by the name Moira Cameron...

Abhilash Suryan Jan 21, 2007
Bull’s Eye.
Since 1485, the Yeoman Warders a.k.a. the Beefeaters- all men - have patrolled the parapets and passages of the Tower of London on the banks of the Thames. From the summer of 2007, they will be joined by the first-ever female Beefeater.
William the Conqueror and his army landed in England from France in the year 1066. In 1078 he started to build the Tower of London. Its primary functions were as a fortress, royal palace, and a prison, but it has served as a place of execution, an armory, a treasury, a zoo, a mint and -- since 1303 -- the home of the Crown Jewels.
The guards at the Tower are called Yeoman Warders or Beefeaters. The name Beefeaters is thought to come from the French word - buffetier. Buffetiers were guards in the palace of French kings. They protected the king's food. Another version is that the name originated from the rations of meat they were being given during medieval times.
Beefeaters were originally established in 1485 as King Henry VII's bodyguard, immediately after his victory at Bosworth. Today, they work mostly as guides for the two million visitors from around the world who come to the Tower of London every year.
They are also responsible for the Tower's ravens -- six coal-black birds which, according to legend, must always reside in the fortress on the banks of the Thames to ensure the future of the Kingdom of England.

Abhilash Suryan Jan 22, 2007
Question for 22/1/2007
The wanderings inside the London Tower remind me of the relevance of Architecture in the history and cultural heritage of civilization. It’s “Poetry in Motion”. Each stone carving can tell you several stories spread over centuries. Although poor by the other indicators, the South East Asian nations are immensely rich with their Architectural heritage.
So, one from South East Asia for today; what is ‘dok-sofa’?

Sir, I don't know if this is correct.dok-sofa is`a frond-like ornament which surmounts temple roofs in Laos'. it is described as `a bucket of flowers'. Ten or more flowers indicate a king built the temple.

Abhilash Suryan Jan 28, 2007
Well done, Mathew
Laos is one of the least known nations in the World. I just wanted you to take a look at it next time you see a map.
Lao art is well known for its wealth of ornamentation. As in other neighboring Buddhist countries, the focus has been primarily religious in nature. However, most Wats (Temples) in Laos are constructed piecemeal with donations from the local communities. Royal Wats can be identified by the number of dok sofa, (flowers), displayed in the building design. If more than ten dok sofa are used, it signifies that the Wat was built by a king, as Mathew mentioned.
Temple murals and bas-reliefs usually tell the story of the Buddha's lives, the Jataka tales. There is not as wide a range of art in Laos as in Thailand, as the country has been constantly dominated by foreign powers that tended to suppress indigenous culture. Much of Lao history and culture has been destroyed over the centuries by the plundering neighbours, Siamese/ Thais, Chinese and Vietnamese. The Ramayana, the famous Indian epic, has become a part of the Lao cultural heritage, and is known as the Phra Lak Pralam. Doors and windows of some temples are engraved with scenes from Ramayana. Prime examples are the huge teak shutters at Wat Xieng Thong in Luang Prabang.

Abhilash Suryan Jan 29, 2007
29/1/2007; Muharram
Let's learn a bit of Islamic History. Who is revered as the "Prince of the Martyrs"?

Hazrat Imam Hussain, the youngest grandson of the Holy Prophet Muhammad.

Abhilash Suryan Feb 5, 2007

Abhilash Suryan Feb 5, 2007
For Today, 5/2/2007
Something from Economics!
In 2004, John Perkins, a former employee of Chas T. Main, an International consulting firm based in the U. S., published a book titled 'Confessions of an Economic Hit-Man'. Any idea what he meant by 'Economic Hit-Man'?

Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. They funnel money from the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign "aid" organizations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet's natural resources. Their tools included fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder. They play a game as old as empire, but one that has taken on new and terrifying dimensions during this time of globalization.

Abhilash Suryan Feb 11, 2007
Perfect Dhiraj
The book gives a first-person account of how seemingly happy societies are lured into debt traps and economic disaster by the 'vultures' lurking around in search of 'chicks'. And it happens everywhere, even in our neighbourhoods. Please find out the information by yourselves and be alert to the threat to our coming generations. "Aattin tholitta chennaykkal nammude idayilum undaavam!"

Abhilash Suryan Feb 12, 2007
Today 12/02/2007,
let's pay attention to the plight of the Palestinians.
Any idea to which country, other than those in the middle east, did the maximum number of Palestinians migrate?

Balu John Feb 16, 2007
The USA?

Abhilash Suryan Feb 16, 2007
Sorry Sir
I too would have given the same answer, had I not seen an article on the same, which in fact surprised me!
Let's see if anyone can come up with the 'right answer' before Monday.

JOBIN Daniel Feb 16, 2007
I am not sure.... if I have to go by my childhood Sunday school classes, it shd be Israel and Jordan 

Abhilash Suryan Feb 16, 2007
Sorry Again
It's far away, at the other end of the earth!

Abhilash Suryan Feb 19, 2007
Sorry Nisha
It’s Chile! More Palestinians migrated to Chile than to any other country outside the middle east. ‘The Last Moon’ by the legendary Chilean photographer & filmmaker Miguel Littin, whose paternal Grandfather migrated from Palestine in 1915, is an attempt to find out why.

Abhilash Suryan Feb 19, 2007
The previous one was the first question that went unanswered since the beginning of this weekly forum. The source is an interview with Littin himself, published in a leading daily. Hope the info was useful.
So for this week, let me pick up the thread from the last week’s question, a sitter for regular quizzers.
Miguel Littin is a living legend whose real-life adventures are chronicled in a famous work by a Nobel Laureate. Can you identify the work?

Abhilash Suryan Feb 26, 2007
Littin went into exile after the bloody military coup which resulted in the ouster and the assassination of Chile's democratically elected Marxist President Salvatore Allende. He returned to Chile disguised as a foreign businessman to report the excesses of the oppressive regime of Auguste Pinochet. It's said that when he went to meet his Mother even she failed to recognize him! To learn more about the adventures of Miguel Littin, lay your hands on a copy of 'Clandestine in Chile'.

Abhilash Suryan Feb 26, 2007
26/02/2007; Now for this week.
The invention of the incandescent bulb by Thomas Alva Edison is considered a major landmark in the history of science and technology. Which is the first country to ban the use of Incandescent Bulbs?!

Abhilash Suryan Mar 4, 2007
Abhijith Scores Again....
Australia has announced plans to ban incandescent light bulbs, and replace them with efficient Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs, a move that will cut its greenhouse gas emissions by four million tons by 2012, according to Greenpeace. This will make Australia the first country to ban the incandescent bulb.

Incandescent bulbs lose 90% of the energy that goes into them as heat while a compact fluorescent lamp uses about 20% of the electricity to produce the same amount of light. A 20-watt CFL gives as much light as a 100-watt conventional bulb, lasts up to 12 times longer, and can save consumers around Rs.750/- a year in electricity costs.

Greenpeace India has called on the Indian government to enforce a ban on incandescent bulbs. By only banning the bulb, India could save up to 12000 MW of electricity, which is equivalent to almost 4% of India’s CO2 emissions. Every watt of electricity produced involves CO2 emissions because a major source of electricity in India is still coal-fueled power plants.