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Showing posts from May, 2009

The ‘Kuri’ systems of Kerala

Today there is much talk of Micro Finance systems and many people have rightly decided to throw their lots into it. At meetings, the phrase creates a buzz and many a dignitary now manages Microfinance organizations. Looking back into history, what did we have in South India, particularly Malabar, Cochin and Travancore? Kerala had over many centuries practiced the Kuri system or the Chitti system. But evolving from a noble social purpose, it grew to become a lucrative and unregulated business. Since then a number of chit funds came up and these days, we associate Chit funds often to nefarious & dubious ‘blade’ companies.

It was certainly interesting to trace the beginnings of this system. While the Kuri system itself has very ancient connections to Kavu Tattakam’s and other monetary schools practiced in various primitive civilizations, the system as such was social banking, created for the good of the needy. Later it became institutionalized to develop into large chit funds and even…

Brilliant reads – Books by Bailey & Wren

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The lost German Slave girl - By John Bailey

What a fascinating book this is. It tells you the strange story of a slave girl who lived around New Orleans, the real story of a young Sally Miller who left Germany with her parents bound for better luck in America, during the black days of the second decade of the 19th century.

In 1812, the volcano on St Vincent Island in the West Indies erupted. Following that we had the massive eruption of another volcano Mt Mayon in Philippines in 1814. In 1815, Mt Tambora in Indonesia erupted. All these eruptions cast tons of dust into the atmosphere, the sunlight reaching earth was diffused and the earth cooled. With disrupted weather patterns, crops failed in China and famine enveloped Bengal. By 1816, the effects were felt in Europe. It was a year without a summer. Germany had heavy rains, sleet & hail resulting in failed crops. There was no food to eat. The populace was desperate. The Miller family was one of the devastated families in transition…

The Goddess at Pompeii

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Pompeii is a ruined and partially buried Roman town-city near modern Naples. Along with Herculaneum, its sister city, Pompeii was destroyed, and completely buried, during a long catastrophic eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius spanning two days in AD 79. It is today a popular tourist destination.

On a fateful day, Aug 24th 0079, Mt Vesuvius, the nearby active volcano erupted

"You could hear women lamenting, children crying, men shouting. There were some so afraid of death that they prayed for death. Many raised their hands to the gods, and even more believed that there were no gods any longer and that this was one unending night for the world." —Pliny the Younger, circa A.D. 97 to 109

Some people of Pompeii grabbed their beasts of burden and attempted to flee the area; others perhaps chose to wait until the streets were clear of the panicked masses; still others sealed themselves up in rooms, supposing that the ashes and poisonous gasses would not harm them there. The unfor…

When Gandhiji met Chaplin

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It started off as an innocuous mention of this meeting in a book, but when I delved into it, it turned out to be an intriguing story. The mention was - Gandhi meets with Charlie Chaplin at the home of Dr. Katial in Canning Town, London, September 22nd 1931’.

I found some details in a book ‘Indian Summer’ by Alex Von Tunzelmann, a very interesting account of the road to Indian independence. Alex briefly explained that Gandhiji was in Britain as the sole Indian representative for the round table conference. At that point of time, two celebrities were visiting London, one being Gandhiji and the other, Charles Chaplin, the actor. Some bright guy decided that they meet. According to Alex, Chaplin arrived at the appointed east dock house and tried to figure out what to say. The two men met at the first floor apartment and waved to the spectators below (see video link at the end). Chaplin remembered later ‘now came that uneasy terrifying moment when I should say something astutely intelligent…