Thursday, January 19, 2017

ஜல்லிக்கட்டு எனும் மஞ்சுவிரட்டு (Jallikattu)

Just so a lot of people are passionate about this, and before one decides to aim assorted expletives at me, I will throw in a disclaimer upfront: I am a born and bred தமிழன் (tamizhan). I am also a neutral as far as the jallikattu issue is concerned, inclined to keep it going from my cultural standpoint. It is a part of my legacy. I do not think there is any cruelty to the bulls, if regulations are in place and properly implemented. And before you say I sit in an AC room and know nothing about bovine affinity - No. My maternal family raised cows (and bulls and goats) for generations, and I am aware of how they are loved and looked after. You first hear "லட்சுமிக்கு தண்ணி காட்டினியா?" before "காபி சாப்பிடறியா?" in the morning. They are revered as gods, and a cow's demise in the family could dig deep claws into the heart.
The angle that I am unable to comprehend is Jallikattu's necessity as a cog in the evolution wheel of native breeds. I have tried to read/hear numerous discussions around this, and all seem to describe how the native breeds will become extinct in the game's absence, albeit keeping only the current setup in mind. I do not see any healthy discussions about potential alternatives for the upkeep of these bulls. While Jallikattu might well have been the required sport to find and showcase the best bulls eligible for சினை (mating) in times gone, it is stumping to believe there could be no better solution based on sound established practices that leverage science and native knowledge.
Here are some of the case points I hear:
1. Jallikattu determines which cows are virile, and which ones are not.
From what I have seen, it is purely random whether the bull succeeds or the man. Also, I think it is fallible to say only those that win are good for reproduction while others are not. Saying that is a great injustice to terms that will become your fodder to cuss at me: natural selection, survival of the fittest. Let them all mate, and let the sperms decide. How otherwise do other species across the world proliferate their progeny? The native bulls have been there for ages, definitely before jallikattu came into practice. They did not perish then.
2. The bulls become more virile because of the adrenaline rush they experience when they are released from வாடிவாசல் till they finish the run.
Even if this is to be believed, the mating does not happen immediately when the virility is high. These bulls are then showcased, sought after and mated with over a period of time. That should normalize their body conditions to their natural metabolism.
3. If the bulls do not participate, the owner has no means or nothing else to grow them for, and hence they will be sent away for meat.
This might be true in the current ethos unless we provide corrective mechanisms for the support. We do mention in other arguments that we are passionate about the bulls. This argument of "rearing one only because it is useful to me" stumps that, it is an insult to the love between the bull and its man. I understand it does not cost the same amount to rear a bull as it does to grow a cat. However, what financial platform jallikattu offers could be substituted with subsidized veterinary treatment, and care centers for their upkeep that buys/maintains the bulls at a nominal cost and enables their proliferation. Now that it becomes a matter of saving this species, these could also be funded by government/NGO's (not PETA).
My opinion:
1. This issue is one of culture, a tradition to upkeep, a legacy to carry. I do not think this has anything to do with the bulls, as much as it is to do with the man.
2. If selective breeding is indeed the only solution for native breeds' survival, we in fact need better standardized scientific processes to determine the best bulls; and support systems for safeguarding the bulls that are not viable for owners to upkeep (after adequate compensation).
3. I am also of the opinion that we cannot have courtroom trials for conflicts arising out of religious/cultural/linguistic practices (unless they are about equality, exploitation or social stigma). These should rather be researched by an appointed committee comprising of experts from all concerned areas that devises a set of regulations (bans only in extreme cases) - which the judiciary upholds, legislature facilitates and state implements.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

How to setup Bhim (Bharat Interface for Money)

Happy New Year, everyone! This new year brings with it the "Bhim" app for transferring money directly between bank accounts in India, developed by the National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI). It uses the UPI platform to transfer money online.

You could either send or receive money using the app. I have used the terms "Sender" and "Buyer" synonymously, to mean that a buyer sends money. Similarly, "Receiver" and "Seller" are also used synonymously, to mean that the seller receives money.

Below is a step-by-step manual of how to setup and use the Bhim app (on android phones). The manual is divided into various sections for easy follow through.

Depending on your role, the following sections are relevant:

1. Installation and Setup (mandatory for both sender/receiver)
2. Generating QR Code (one-time step for receiver to identify his/her account to the sender)
3. UPI Pin Management (required by sender to authenticate transactions)
4. Send Money (initiated by sender to send money)
5. Request Money (transaction model - seller requests and buyer pays)

1. Installation and Setup (sender/receiver)

1.1. Download and Install the Bhim App

Search for "Bhim" in the Google Play Store, and click on the new Bhim app (icon with orange and green overlapped triangles). Click Install. As of 3rd January, it already has "1 Million" downloads. Open the app after it downloads and installs.

1.2. Choose Language

There is support for English and Hindi currently.

Scope for improvement: Hopefully, all other official languages would be added in the near future.

1.3. Skip through the information screens


1.4. Allow access via SMS (incurs cost)

Allow a SMS to be sent from your mobile to the server, to detect your mobile number.

Scope for improvement: This deducts the normal SMS charge from your account. Hopefully, they devise a mechanism to detect the mobile number automatically without the user having to incur this cost.


1.5. Register Passcode

Once the mobile number is verified, you need to enter a passcode for the app. Make sure you type a 4-digit number you would easily remember, but one that others would not know and is difficult (ideally impossible) to guess.

Note: This is the password to enter into the app (required every time you open the app), and NOT the UPI Pin used in each transaction. 

1.6. Select the primary bank account

Once the passcode is saved, the list of all supported banks is shown. Select a bank to fetch your account that is already linked with this mobile number.


a. If you have multiple accounts in a bank or in different banks, you could choose any one as the primary account for transactions. This could be changed at any point using the app itself.

b. Make sure the mobile number is already linked to the desired bank account. The procedure for this varies across banks, and should be a simple one.


1.7. Voila, Basics are all set!

That is it! You have now setup your bank account with the Bhim App. You could view the subsequent options in your home screen below.

2. Generating QR Code (one-time optional step for receiver)

A QR code is a two-dimensional matrix bar code that contains embedded information and could be scanned by code readers (in-built in the app). You could generate a QR code to identify yourself as the receiver.

2.1. From the top right options, select "Generate QR Code".

2.2. Enter any amount and click the Generate button.

Note: I am not aware if the amount in this page has any significance. A sender could send a different amount of money after scanning this QR code, irrespective of the amount entered while it was generated.

2.3. The QR code is generated and displayed. You could share (standard sharing options like whatsapp) or download it. Once this is done, the receiver need not be connected to the internet to receive money. You could print and exhibit this in your shop, or show the downloaded image to the buyer (who needs to send you the money) for live scan using his/her Bhim app.

3. UPI Pin Management (sender)

You need a UPI Pin to pay money to another account. This pin (4-digit number) will be inquired by the app for every transaction initiated in the app. You need to set the UPI Pin first to start sending money. You could subsequently change it at any point later using the app itself.

3.1. Set UPI Pin

3.1.1. To set the UPI Pin, click on "Bank Accounts" in your home page. This shows the primary account set in the app, along with other options.

3.1.2. Click on "Reset UPI Pin". The app launches the "Set UPI Pin" flow, asking to enter the last 6 digits of your debit card along with the expiry date.

Scope for improvement: At this point, it seems to be mandatory for one to have a debit card for the account to be used with the app. Hopefully, there are plans to enforce this security check in other ways to accommodate those that do not have a debit card.

3.1.3 Once the debit card details are entered correctly, there is an OTP sent to your mobile. This gets auto-detected and the app moves to the next pages, where you can enter and confirm the UPI Pin.

Note: For optimum security, set a UPI Pin different from the passcode used to launch the app. I personally would also suggest to use a number different from the ATM Pin of your debit card for added security. Just make sure you are able to remember all these numbers without noting them down anywhere.


3.2. Change UPI Pin (not part of the basic mandatory setup)

3.2.1. You could change the UPI Pin in the future using the app itself. Select "Change UPI Pin" after navigating to the "Bank Accounts" page from your home page. Enter your current UPI Pin, the new pin and confirm it again in subsequent pages to effect the change.

Scope for improvement: I currently do not know if there is a time limit after which the app expires the pin, thus forcing one to change it periodically. This would be a good security feature to add (if it does not exist yet).


4. Send Money

Once a transaction is finalized (say, you have obtained the required groceries and need to pay the seller), you could send the bill amount to the seller's account directly.

4.1. Identify the sender

4.1.1. If the receiver has the QR code displayed/shared, you could select the "Scan & Pay" option in your home page (which will use the mobile camera) and scan the QR code to identify the receiver address. Alternatively, you could select the "Send Money" option in your home page and manually enter/verify the mobile number or UPI address of the receiver as below.

4.1.2. Both options above would navigate to the details page where you could verify the receiver's name, enter the required amount and click "Pay". You could also save the address for future use.

4.1.3. Enter the UPI Pin (generated in section 3 above) for security verification. The payment gets processed immediately, the receiver's account is credited and confirmation shown. The receiver gets a notification too, that the money has been credited to his/her account.


5. Request Money (transaction model)

5.1. Receiver (Seller)

A receiver could also initiate a transaction by requesting for money. Once a transaction is finalized (say, you have supplied the required groceries and need to request for bill payment), you could send a request for the relevant amount to the buyer, who could then respond/fulfill it from his app directly.

5.1.1. Select "Request" option from the home page. It would ask for the mobile number or payment address of the buyer. Enter the details, verify the name and proceed to the "Request Money" page. Enter the required amount, validity date and click "Request".


5.2. Sender (Buyer)

The buyer gets a notification in the app that there is a request placed for payment of money. You could choose to decline/pay the amount directly from the notification.

5.2.1. Once the notification is received, select "Pay". Check the details in the page and click "Pay" again to complete the transaction.


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Sunday, June 05, 2016


There have been films that flow on an overdrive of essential content - those that exemplify one or some of the crucial ingredients, while leaving the rest out of its recipe. Some of these have gone on to become great hits while some leave our memories faster than a frail fart. Occasionally, there are those that are made because they need to be made. They flow along a straight line without causing a ripple, but they stir your existence from within. These are those that send a soft signal to the soul, questioning the acceptance of regularity. These are those that build a tunnel to the heart and leave a lump of melancholy. These are those that makes one feel light with heaviness. I have watched such movies in other languages - some Iranian and French - and have craved for them in mine. Iraivi has quenched.
It is evident that Karthik Subbaraj has made the movie twice - once in his mind and then on the reel. The former must have been a long internal battle - a struggle to bring to shape the multitude of characters, to perfect their imperfection, to give them their purpose. The script that has yielded is picture perfect, pun intended. The neatness of the movie is a result of completely pre-built sequence of scenes that he has corrected and re-corrected. There is no character wasted, no time lost. This is an art, one that will last for long. Someone is surely going places.
Every human has two sides - The male is prone to strong emotions although it cloaks them well, while the female is balanced in mind but fragile at heart. The male cannot think objectively although it lays the objectives, while the female ploughs through peril to keep the path straight. The male is prone to regret for weak reasons, while the female is capable of irreparable damages. This results in a vicissitude of behavior that strongly impacts anyone that comes in contact. The accepted notion of the role of a woman in a household is a very delicate subject. In many societies, it is more so, because it is accepted by the women themselves. Their strength and grit is unconquerable except by a man. This is an irony because man is weak. Iraivi explains this in a strong screenplay, with a fitting subtle background score by Santhosh Narayanan.
The film hits hard because there is such clarity in the display of cast - the wreck that a seemingly modern woman with a daughter to care for is in, because of an obsessive alcoholic husband - the solitude that a widow embraces, and how she could be called characterless for seeking what everyone seeks - the smile of a free spirit that gets lost because it is bound to an impulsive ogre - the plot is a crochet around the life of these women that get dragged because of their chains. The involved men are not bad, but they are men. There is a lot of symbolism too, some are bound to be missed. There is subtlety in the end, in how one woman chooses not to go out in the rain, while the other is drenched with an outstretched hand.
SJ Surya deserves a special mention for the stunning depiction of his role! He sums up the idea of the film in the end, displaying some serious skills of acting and dialogue delivery. Anjali is an exemplary performer in all circumstances where she stands tall in spite of the crumbs falling around her. Vijay Sethupathi is his usual self, he is mastering such roles. Bobby Simha breezes through as a negative overshade although he is the only mars that truly understands venus.
Iraivi is feminist of the real kind - not the one that shows random external fortuity in which the scales are tilted against women and where the men are bête noire - but the one that shows their perpetual inner struggle, where there are no scales but just the normally accepted norms which men are part of. The movie is a fabric designed with a delicate interweave of tensile threads, each having strengths and weaknesses of its own. Each serves a purpose, complete in their parts. Each renders a firm influence of its individual charm on the fabric while the weaver craftily braids them along an intricate pattern that forms a holistic masterclass. Iraivi is masterclass.


Wednesday, December 09, 2015

This post is to share my learnings from the battle against the Chennai floods and its victims. I think we need to urgently and immediately change our strategy based on my observations about the scenario shift over the past 5 days. It's a bit lengthy but please read through and share if you agree with the approach going forward.
As the water in most places has receded, Chennai is getting back on its feet faster than it was put down. That momentum should be sustained. Based on my observations yesterday (Monday 7th Dec), it has reached a stage where that would happen only if the fallen (read victims) rise, put up their hands and own up to the damage, more than the warriors (read volunteers) fighting it out for them.
I saw a lot of relief vehicles super-loaded with supplies like food packets, water bottles and biscuits. There are also sanitary napkins, milk, medicines, towels and bedsheets. I had volunteers coming over to me and request to move elsewhere to distribute what we had, as the area in question is adequately taken care of. Believe me, I had the same told to me everywhere I went yesterday. I did not still blindly come away, but checked the interiors. Shops are open everywhere. Essentials are back in supply. People have washed up their clothes and the Chennai sun has already dried them. Cricket is being played on streets. Anything anyone wants is a walk away, just like before. I personally think the battle has been fought and it's time for retreat. No war has winners, so we just need to accept the loss and move on. Normalcy is the victory.
As in any war, the retreat is very important. During a war, there's a state of emergency. Things are low in supply, citizens are unreachable in a state of panic and unable to get anything done. That requires providing everything readymade, to save lives. But retreat is about sustenance and regrouping to restore normalcy. The moves should cut losses, provide help that enables people to move on with their lives. It shouldn't be so comfortable that they want to continue to be in the state of war.
The first problem I see is the problem of plenty. I think we should stop supplying food packets to any reachable spot inside the city, unless it has displaced residents who are out of their homes. Jafferkhanpet, for instance, is restored and folks are fighting over incoming supplies which are now just like government freebies. People do not need the thing, they just want it as it is there to want. They are refusing to go on with their lives as supplies keep coming. This has led to in-fighting as the mindless push to hoard the freebies has gone on to a maniacal level, so much so that I came out with a few bruises before I finished distributing some towels. This is in spite of screaming repeatedly that it is only for kids.
The second problem I see is the problem of incorrect supply. Folks do not need what's coming in. This requires someone to talk to the locals first, understand their needs and route or change the items delivered there. Take Pandian Nagar behind Toraipakkam in OMR, for example. There is a slum right next to the canal, which was washed out in the floods and people had to flee their homes. Until a couple of days back, the displaced folks had not eaten for two days. An announcement in Suriyan FM saved them. They trudged back to see empty houses. Kitchens are bare, there is no food to cook and vessels have rusted. They haven't been to work for more than 15 days, so there's little to no money on hand. A teacher in this area tearfully explained to me that they want to rebuild, but they need to cook for that. More than food packets, she explained, they need basic vessels and rice/grains/vegetables that would last for 3 or 4 days, along with drinking water and milk. She said all they needed was that initial push and they would be able to self-manage after that.
The third problem I see is the problem of late resuscitation. This could be because of proximity to danger or internal limitations. There are areas where people are still evacuated and displaced out of their homes. These are sporadic and towards the outer periphery of the city. Take Mudichur, for example. People moved back but had to be evacuated again because of a breach in the nearby lake. There are also some old age homes and orphanages inside the city that are taking time to bounce back, because they depend on external support and are low on manpower. We need to sustain providing emergency supplies like food packets, blankets and medicines in these areas and make sure they are not used up in areas with problem 1 and 2 above.
The battle has been fought. It is now time for the army (read volunteers) to hand over control to the Government (read organizations with bigger support systems). While the army is still actively needed in places of problem 3 above, they are needed only in a supporting nature in areas with problems 1 and 2.
Shedding all my modesty, I want to say that the volunteers are also victims in one way. I am bruised all over my body, every step hurts as I walk with a limp because of a sore spot. The damage is also emotional. I sometimes have spontaneous tears in my eyes. I wonder why I cry and then I remember the face of that naked kid on the road that pleaded with me for one more biscuit packet. I see flashes of that night where we waded in chest deep water, in a zero-visibility road of the CIT colony, feeling the next step with our paws to make sure we are not spiralling down a manhole, and delivering a packet of bread to a blinking flashlight that suspended a bucket from the first floor. I knew the new friend I made, who willingly joined us to help out just 10 minutes back, will catch me if something happened. With him on my shoulders, I could scale mount everest. His religion or name is irrelevant. He came, we conquered, he left.
I hope all these efforts of lakhs of common men would not be wasted, now that it has reached the level of utilizing the relief funds for post-calamity resuscitation. I keep my fingers crossed. Some of them might have already been spent for printing posters.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Wrote this after Sashwat woke me up one morning, just at about dawn ..

கவுந்துறங்கும் குறிஞ்சிமலர் கண்விழித்துக் கதறியதில்
கலங்கடித்து எழுந்தேனடா ..
தாய்பாசம் தலைக்கேறி தந்தைக்கும் துடிதுடிக்கும்
துளிர்நேரம் கண்டேனடா ..
ஓவென்ற ஓலத்தில் ஒருநாழி தெரியாமல்
என்மார்பு சேர்த்தேனடா ..
பதைபதைக்கும் பொன்மேனி பிஞ்சாக எனைத்தழுவ
பித்தேறிப் போனேனடா ..

கார்கண்கள் கிளிக்குயில்கள் கூட்டாகக் கொண்டாடும்
கருணையின் காடாக்கினாய் ..
விரிந்த நெற்றியில் முக்கோடு சுருக்கெடுத்து
மழலையின் மேடாக்கினாய் ..
மூச்சிழுக்கும் மூக்கழகும் முனுமுனுக்கும் இதழழகும்
இரட்டைக் கிளவிகள்தாம் ..
சுற்றிவரும் இவ்வுலகம் இன்பமுற்றிசைப்பதும்
உன்னழகுக் குவியலில்தாம் ..

தேந்துளிரும் எழத்துவங்கும் அதிகாலை அதிசயத்தில்
என்னையேன் எழுப்பினாயோ ..
இருளற்று ஒளிப்படரும் மெலிதான முன்னுரையில்
தன்னழகை தேக்கினாயோ ..
புன்முறுவல் பரிசளித்து பிஞ்சுவிரல் பற்றியேதான்
உறக்கத்தில் உயிர்புகுந்தான் ..
வெண்ணிலாவாம் விண்வேந்தன் என்கையில் கண்ணுறங்க
கதிரவன்தன் கண்திறந்தான் ..

Friday, April 17, 2015

O Kadhal Kanmani - A visual treat for the soul

O Kadhal Kanmani is a romantic feel-good movie that makes one love film making. Maniratnam has handled with deft and caution a variety of subjects in the past - sentiment, violence, melancholy, suspense - and has pushed us into realms of ecstasy or plunged us into horizons of disappointment. But his handling of romance has always brought out the lover in him and the Romeo in us. If one thought it has been in decline, rest assured, for he has rediscovered his mojo in this film. The way he has managed to weave the effect of cupid in threads of practicality, wearing it on the sleeve of time so the story is in sync with its period of enactment, adds an adorning accouterment to his wardrobe of amazing movie productions.

Dulquer Salmaan and Nithya Menon have enacted a beautiful show of onscreen chemistry that is the crux of romantic film making. There is no restraint, only plenty of love sans inhibition. A typical Maniratnam's heroine, Tara is impulsive and bubbling with enthusiasm. She lives life on its merit, a positive budding architect in urban India with a modern outlook and a set agenda. Capable of taking her decisions and equipped with an extroverted attitude, she is living a high life. Adithya is a video game developer just stepping into the shoes of a big time career and is staring at a rich life ahead. Both want a happy-go-lucky independent future, free of commitments and filled with fun. They fall for each other from the first look - hook, line and sinker. What follows is a harmonious story outlining the discovery of self and togetherness, filled with contentment and beatitude, told with ebullience.

Dulquer comes across as a handsome hero with an enchanting personality. Nithya is shown at her best from scintillating camera angles, her smiles beaming across the big screen and sinking into the hearts of the audience. She owes a lot to the superabundant cinematographic capabilities of P.C. Sreeram, the master of capturing the quintessence of free-flowing young love. At the same time, he miraculously succeeds in attributing a practical next-door feeling about her, shackles unbound. The charming screenplay is well supported by a brilliant background score from his holiness AR Rehman, the tunes becoming instantaneously addictive.

Maniratnam has ventured into the controversial concept of live-in relationships that are yet nascent even to the urban society of India. The facileness with which the house owners, an aged couple (Prakash Raj and Leela Samson) consent to the request is quite unreasonable, but it is in the world of movies after all. And it also later serves the purpose of demonstrating the stability that marriage renders, especially when two grow old together. There is also no screen space to reveal the shock or unpleasantness that sets in when two different people (even in love) start living together, and the resulting friction. But that is in keeping with the theme of the movie - to provide a light weight pragmatic love story. While many may not yet appreciate or even comprehend this freedom two adults have, one cannot still shy away from acknowledging the passion that transcends two souls, pushing them towards one destiny.

The movie flows like a cool breeze picked up over the freshness of the morning mist. There will only be two kinds of reactions to the film - satisfaction and bliss for those who connect with the story, or a plain ordinary platitude for those who don't. But there is no denying that it is a peek into the great man's vintage self, his potential of perceiving the science of subliminal passion and transforming that into a work of art that appeals to all. In O Kadhal Kanmani, Maniratnam has created no Alaipayuthey or Mouna Ragam, but it is a wonderful attempt at romantic positivity. It guarantees a hangover of happiness.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


ஒற்றுமையென்றால் என்னென்றறியாத காலத்தே
வேற்றுமையழிக்க சினம் முழங்கிய வீரனே!

உயிர்க் காற்றை சிறிதே சுவாசித்தாலும்,
தமிழ்மூச்சென் உயிர்மூச்சென வாழ்ந்த கவிஞனே!

இன்றைய நிலையென்ன அறிவாயோ?

கால்கீழ் மிதித்திடும் கொடியோ,
அது தாயின் மணிக்கொடி பாரீர் !
ஓங்கி வளர்ந்ததோர் கம்பம், அதை
உயர்த்தி தலைஉடை வாரீர் !!
வெள்ளை நிறமொறு பூனை,
அது நாட்டை கெடுத்திடும் பாரீர் !
சாம்பல் நிறமொறு பூனை,
அது வீட்டை கெடுத்திடும் பாரீர் !!

செந்தமிழ் நாடெனும் போதினிலே, கட்சி
கழகமும் கலகமும் காதினிலே ..
எங்கள் பிந்தையர் நாடெனும் போதினிலே,
இரத்த கண்ணீர் பிறக்குது கண்களிலே ..

அச்சமில்லை அச்சமில்லை அச்சமென்பதில்லையே ..
உச்சிமீது காசுவாங்கி வீடுகட்டும் போதினும்,
இச்சையின்றி கொச்சையாக கப்பம்கட்டும் போதினும்,
துச்சமாக எண்ணி மண்ணின் தலையெடுத்த போதினும்,
பிச்சைவாங்கி உண்ணும் வாழ்க்கை பெற்றுவிட்ட போதினும்,
அச்சமில்லை அச்சமில்லை அச்சமென்பதில்லையே ..
அரசினோடு சரசமிட்டால் அச்சமென்பதில்லையே!!

ஓ பாரதியே!

சுயாட்சிக்கு முன்,
கை நீட்டி குற்றம் சொல்ல வெள்ளையனிருந்தான்.
சுயாட்சிக்கு பின்,
எந்த கொள்ளையனையெதிர்த்து யாம் கவிதை செய்வது?

எம்மால் முடியாது பாரும்,
நீரே மறுபடி வாரும்,
மண்ணின் கோலத்தைக் காணும்,
மீசை துடித்திட பாடும்!!

Happy Birthday
- Sravan.