When Tomorrow Comes….

I was sitting with my cup of coffee, checking out the latest news on the newspaper and thinking how long I would continue reading the newspaper. The feel of the paper, the smell of ink and all of that is going away soon. Newsweek just announced that their December issue is going to be its last on print. Reading the WSJ, I am wondering if that fine paper too will take the same route. Well, I for one would be sad about it, for there is nothing like stretching back and unraveling the big and wide paper, listening to the crackle and scanning back and forth, top to bottom, side to side. Whatever said and done, you can never get that right on a 10 or 12 inch screen, e-ink or not, even for a tech savvy guy like me. But then you cannot question economics, profit and loss and such things, for they drive decisions, not some longing reader’s mindset…

Before the reader wonders what all this has got to do with the subject line, I better get to the topic. It did have something to do with the first paragraph, for I read about these astonishing advances from the very paper I talked about, the Wall Street Journal, and it set my mind in motion.

I come from a family of farmers, though on my father’s side, there were a few connections to the ancient rulers of Malabar. But at Pallavur, like the rest of the people of the village, we are a farming family, an activity that my brother takes care of these days. Each time I go on vacation, he tells me about some of the new things that have happened and I end up thinking wistfully about days long gone, the days of my childhood, and all those fascinating vacation days spent at my mother’s Tharavad, the harvest festivals, the seeding period, the monsoons, the implements of the farm, the farm animals, the smells, sounds and sights of the village. The sound of vehicles, the gasoline fumes, the glitz and glamor of a city, the steel and glass on the buildings, the many conveniences, they are all nice, but you know how it is, your mind takes you back to your roots, every once in a while…and you wonder….

I think back and see all those days vividly in my mind, of the days when we would wake up early on Vishu day and go to the fields for the festivities, when the gods of prosperity are addressed. I had written about this earlier. This was the day the child of the house always looked forward to, for it was the only successful day in a monetary sort of way, the only time money was given to the children in older days, days when terms like pocket money were not in vogue in Kerala. So when your pocket bulged with coins by the end of the day though not liberal in a value sense, coming from various uncles, aunts and elders of the family, the child had a beaming smile on your face for the next few days. The following days were spent in animated discussions with cousins as to who got how much and from whom and what was to be done with all the money. But then Vishu was more than the ‘kainettam’. It started early that morning and had so much going on for the rest of the day. Starting with the Vishu Kani, then the ‘chal pooja’ at the Chira, the fireworks, the sumptuous lunch followed by all kinds of happenings at home and the temple, the day was a joy for any Malayali, though it differed a bit from location to location..

In Palghat, when you visit places like Pallavur, even today, you can see age old practices of farming, where seeding is done by hand, and sometimes even harvesting and threshing is still done by hand in some homesteads. These days some amount of modernization has taken place in bigger farms, tractors have given way to harvesters and big tilling machines that come from nearby Tamil Nadu, and these things are done in a jiffy. The land that was tilled by bullocks and what took many days is now done by the Tamilian and his big machine in a day or two. Harvesting that took an overseer like our Keshavan Nair and Eacharan, supervising many hunched women with straw hats, who laboriously worked in the fields, with their ari-vaal or the curved rice stalk cutting knife. Finally the paddy was brought to the cement para (a concreted area near the granary for this very purpose) and threshed to separate the stalk from the seed.

Well, as you can imagine, things are slowly changing out there too, and with higher salaries for factory work, better education and the lure of office jobs, you will not have farm hands anymore. Machines will take over and soon the situation will be akin to that of Punjab where the farming will be highly mechanized (out there the water tables are dwindling fast but we in Kerala may be saved by our great monsoons). Nevertheless who will continue with farming, especially when produce prices are regulated and margins are wafer thin? Perhaps it is time to farm exotic stuff or start organic farming, which is more profitable. My brother tries his hand at some of these new ideas at times and complains a lot when they do not find any support among the traditional lot out there. Sometimes he tries new crops like Chinese potatoes (my favorite – Koorka) and comes up with bumper produce, with great taste even appreciated by the likes of our Koorka eating ex-chief minister Achuettan.

In Sweden, and in many other countries they have gone to other extremes. The old methods are fast changing to new ones. The logic is that when production has to meet demands, that too specific demands from far separated places, farming becomes somewhat complex and disconnected from nature. You see, nature determines what crop is produced when, in traditional farming. As an example, what if you wanted to produce something removed from nature, for example, rice in December, due to an increased rice demand predicted in winter? Then you have to reproduce nature, correct? And how would you do it? That was roughly the concept behind what I was reading about in the newspaper. No, it is not about making genetic changes to seeds or organic farming, which again is an interesting topic, but something else entirely. It is not about greenhouses, but connected to a massive greenhouse concept. So let’s take a look at what is going on. Let me give my history mind and history cells and history genes some rest and go activate my farming genes now…

And thus we come to the topic at hand, which is what they call vertical farms…and a time when the future of agriculture as WSJ puts it, is up, and up, not flat and flat. Can you imagine a situation when you grow crops in vertical multi storied high rise buildings in the middle of other buildings? A time, when you look out of your apartment window and see another massive glass and steel building, not full of people but full of plants? That is how it could be, I have no doubts about it, for sooner or later, land will not be available horizontally, and so man will be forced to think vertically!!

The complainers complain about the rains, they complain about all the effluents that are going into the soil; they complain of development and human greed, they complain of our complete lack of environment friendliness. What if you are able to create a situation where you isolate farming from all those environmental issues? Will your food be cleaner, untainted but perhaps not possessing just the right taste? Is it but a wasted thought?

To start with, it a new idea? As the economist article reminds us, perhaps not – Do you remember something from our ancient wonders, something that people still do not have a good idea about? Do you remember the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, built around 600BC? Quoting the Wiki entry - Philo narrates - "The Hanging Gardens [is so-called because it] has plants cultivated at a height above ground level, and the roots of the trees are embedded in an upper terrace rather than in the earth. This is the technique of its construction. The whole mass is supported on stone columns, so that the entire underlying space is occupied by carved column bases. The columns carry beams set at very narrow intervals. The beams are palm trunks, for this type of wood – unlike all others – does not rot and, when it is damp and subjected to heavy pressure, it curves upwards. Moreover it does itself give nourishment to the root branches and fibres, since it admits extraneous matter into its folds and crevices……….. Streams of water emerging from elevated sources flow partly in a straight line down sloping channels, and are partly forced upwards through bends and spirals to gush out higher up, being impelled through the twists of these devices by mechanical forces. So, brought together in frequent and plentiful outlets at a high level, these waters irrigate the whole garden, saturating the deep roots of the plants and keeping the whole area of cultivation continually moist. Hence the grass is permanently green, and the leaves of trees grow firmly attached to supple branches, and increasing in size and succulence with the constant humidity. For the root [system] is kept saturated and sucks up the all-pervading supply of water, wandering in interlaced channels beneath the ground, and securely maintaining the well-established and excellent quality of trees. This is a work of art of royal luxury and its most striking feature is that the labor of cultivation is suspended above the heads of the spectators.

Complainers would now say, well, scientists said the same thing when you started growing chicken and cows indoor in environments they were not supposed to be in, in overcrowded farms set up only for human consumption where the result was hormone enhanced milk or eggs or meat with huge amount of antibiotics and other chemicals in them. Was that done wrongly or was it greed?

My uncle, a great student of history (MA history), and a student of law, left all that and a good job, to come back the village to manage our farm lands many a moon ago. The dear old man is no longer alive, but still prods a nerve in our minds, for he was the person who steered the tharavad along for a long time, with his gentle, but firm and new ideas, though rooted in tradition. At that time we did not quite understand, but thinking back, he was a one great guy. He would have done well in the corporate world, though I am happy he did not. Sometimes I think in the same way, when I am not happy with the terrible ways of the corporate world I am in and long to go back to the simple life at Pallavur, but cannot.

Would these vertical farms produce food which would carry the same problems as meat and eggs and milk? Let’s take a look at this revolutionary concept sooner than later, for it will not be too long in our lifetimes that we will see this germ of an idea taking root and spreading. Spread it must, for man is producing and reproducing large numbers who will need even more space to live and compete with space needed by the very farms that have to feed them. Greed will displace these farm lands as we see on a daily basis, and so where would you go for food? Where would you grow food? This vertical farm concept has to be a way, perhaps the only way.

Can you imagine multi storied buildings where these plants travel in tracks from the top of the building gradually to the bottom, tracking the sun? Well, this is how they are trying it out in Sweden and Canada; and there are quite a few smaller vertical farms in USA, and other countries. Can you imagine vegetables grown on floating rafts in a meat packing plant in Chicago where the waste from the fish tanks enriches the plants? Would you believe it if I told you that there are a number of farms in the USA where plants actually hang in air and the roots are sprayed with nutrients? Well I guess that is the future of farming, not like the farms of Pallavur that I remembered from my younger days.

If these compact farms are right in the middle of a metropolis, do you need those huge trucks to bring the food from farms many a hundred or thousand miles away? Perhaps not! The supporters cite many other reasons to adopt these new ideas, explaining that this can help combat climate change, that this can help reduce the use of chemicals and pesticides. They state that prices can be maintained, is greener than traditional farming and so on. And overall, it provides food security and less dependence on others, for any country.

And that gets me thinking of the bullock cart, the one I wrote about some years ago There was a time when we had a bullock cart at our maternal home in Pallavur. I remember the chap who drove the cart, Eaachran, who was also our supervisor in the fields (I guess only trustworthy positions got the exalted cart driver status). The cart was not used very much though. In our times, it was parked in the shed (yes, it had its own garage) and once a week, our man used to get the two bulls yoked up in front and take the cart to get stocks from the nearby Alathur market. The cart would come back late at night, loaded with sacks of cattle feed, vegetables, oil tins, fertilizer and provisions. The cattle knew the route back and forth; Eaacharan was normally asleep at the wheels (a few bottles of toddy maybe?) on the way back, but no problems….

But is that right? Can you really grow basmati or koorka in a vertical farm? I am not sure, but there is no reason why they cannot be, what I am not sure is if the taste will change, for taste is determined by the soil, by the local methods and so on, and not in any way enhanced by an enclosed atmosphere. Perhaps you can grow technically perfect vegetables, maybe not the tastiest. To get the right tastes, you do make hybrid versions or indulge in genetic modifications, but are they right? On the other hand, will the citizens of the future have a real choice when it comes to taste? Perhaps not! Just like you ruminate about the past, when your grandmother used to hand grind the perfect chutney, and you complain about the blander version coming out of your grinder…these things will happen, while man will adopt, and as the memories fade, the tastes will change. As another writer once wrote, huge companies like McCormick will decide the tastes of the future food.

Look at a typical example - my second son, always states that his favorite is the chicken tikka masala which a connoisseur of Indian food will scoff at, as he may put a lucknowi chicken dish at the top, but for my son, the CTM is the best because he has been eating it all his life, while the other dishes are mainly pictures and words in articles or found only in hotels that he would not normally go to or are many a thousand miles away.

Back to the vertical farm, how do they grow the plants? One of the concepts employed in a vertical farm is hydroponics. Economist mag states There are a number of ways to do it, but essentially hydroponics involves suspending plants in a medium—such as gravel, wool or a form of volcanic glass known as perlite—while the roots are immersed in a solution of nutrient-rich water. A constant flow of air keeps the plants bathed in carbon dioxide. Any nutrients and water that are not taken up by the roots can be recycled, rather than being lost into the soil. According to Dr Giacomelli “You can grow anything with hydroponics.

Light was another issue in glass houses or greenhouses, and while earlier farms had their own power plants to drive these lights, the new ones use energy saving LED lighting, or as I explained earlier, moving tracks which track sunlight and augmented by LED light when needed. So answers are found with developing and innovative technologies.

It is not these buildings will be just vertical farms, but they will use one side of it or two sides where sunlight hits them, with the rest of the space leased to offices so that the cost of building the vertical farm is offset to a certain extent. But these farms are not cheap by any means, they need expensive lighting, they need clean water systems, huge upfront investments on the machinery & conveyer systems and large investments in LED lighting. We still do not have a clear business model available to an entrepreneur.

According to one of the people behind the very idea of vertical farming Dr Dickson Despommier- By the year 2050, nearly 80% of the earth's population will reside in urban centers. Applying the most conservative estimates to current demographic trends, the human population will increase by about 3 billion people during the interim. An estimated 109 hectares of new land (about 20% more land than is represented by the country of Brazil) will be needed to grow enough food to feed them, if traditional farming practices continue as they are practiced today. At present, throughout the world, over 80% of the land that is suitable for raising crops is in use (sources: FAO and NASA).

Agriculture also uses 70 percent of the world’s available freshwater for irrigation, rendering it unusable for drinking as a result of contamination with fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and silt. If current trends continue, safe drinking water will be impossible to come by in certain densely populated regions.

The monsoons of Malabar - yes, without those rains, we would not have any farming in Palakkad. remeber the story of how that happened? The story when the kings prayed for rain in Malabar…In days of yore, there was, at one time, no rain in the kingdoms of Chera, Chola and Pandya, and all living beings were dying of starvation. The kings of the three kingdoms could not find means to mitigate the sufferings of their subjects. They consulted with one another and resolved to do penance to the God of rain. Temporarily leaving the administration of affairs in the hands of the ministers, they went to the forest, and did penance to Indra, the God of rain, who, at the intercession of the great Gods, took pity on them and blessed each of them with rain for four months in the year. Well pleased, they returned to their kingdoms. They soon become discontented, because the first (the Chera king) had not enough of rain, while the other two had too much of it. They again went to the rain god and conveyed to him their grievances. He thereupon directed the kings Cholan and Pandiyan to give two months' rain to the king Cheran. All the three rulers now felt quite satisfied. The king Cheran thus got 8 months' rain for his kingdom, while the other two were satisfied with two months' rain in their own kingdoms.

Or will it be as the Zamorin of Calicut, my grandfather many eons over told the Vasco De Gama (not really, it is just a myth that sounds good) - When asked by Vasco De Gama for some pepper seedlings, the Zamorin, his old leathery face twisting in sarcasm told the Gama, that he could take pepper seedlings back home and wished him the best in growing them, but added that what he would never be able to replicate the monsoons of Kerala and the sun, signifying that Vasco will have to come back to buy the pepper from Malabar.

Perhaps the person who wants to make money in the long run should take heed of humorist Mark Twain who once said: “Buy land. They’re not making it anymore.”

Vertical farm images – Plantagon/Sweco, Farm images, Hindu, thadeus

Note: After I decided on the heading, I found out that there is a song by Eurythmics with the same title. Originally I headed this as ‘farms of tomorrow’, but thought it a little drab and changed it to the new one, signifying what could be in store for us tomorrow. The similarity is therefore a coincidence, though I must admit that the Sidney Sheldon book ‘If tomorrow comes’, was definitely an inspiration.

Six Blind Men and the Elephant

I am somewhat of an invisible commoner, spending days doing the most ordinary things, waking up, going to the office, enduring some work outs in the evening, living a slightly varied weekend though with my books, seeing movies, listening to and learning music, but all the while observing the world around me, communicating with circles that seem to become smaller over time, grumbling about the sad state of things and despairing about the mess around the world, while going about other daily activities, as though I am living under a big mushroom, sheltered by it large overhangs…… from most of the larger direct problems, though affected by the indirect.

I feel somewhat lazy and fatigued today after a late night, after watching a fascinating Malayalam movie last night called “The diamond necklace’ – a movie about fickle human behavior so common in these modern times, and so dabbled in some aimless research, started by a study of an old fable.

The presidential election debates have started and there is a buzz in the air, will it be Obama or Romney? People are asking everywhere - Who do you think is better; will the state of things improve? And so on, as I read the headlines across the continents and learn about Soniaji’s trip expenses, announcement of a bandh due to some water issues (where else do you have rasta roko’s and bandh’s and processions with such regularity?), a country more focused on the state of cricket affairs and things like Tendulakr’s retirement (btw I myself am an avid cricket fan) than national affairs (of course the former i.e cricket is a tad better in shape actually) , brandishing of proof by a vitriolic politician Modi and of course much discussion about which is Mallika’s hottest avatar!!

Somedays, I really wish a strong willed person like Mustafa Kemal Ataturk takes the reins of India, for an iron hand is often required to bring about change, not just long overdoses of empty talk by anybody and everybody who dorns a khadi jubba or saffron headgear. But more about that another time, for the days of passive resistance and dharnas and so on, which were good against the British are not the answer for our own home grown problems and corruption that has hit the roof. It simply puts hard brakes on the rest of the country that wants to gallop forward and catch up with the rest of the world.

We all live in a funny world today, where everybody like me and you and the politician and the president have their views, but I still feel them incomplete and narrow, focused not on any kind of overall improvement but solutions to get over the present issues, if at all they may be called that…and that brings me to the fable we are talking about, a fable about individual viewpoints ….

It was only recently that I came across this apparently well-known and oft quoted Indian fable. Before we get into a discussion on it, or analysis, let us take a look at what it is. As we get into it, and study some common perspectives around it, you will realize how apt it is, and what an enormous amount of sense it makes, viewed from every one of those perspectives. So let us first dive into the story (I have quoted the James Riordan (Illustrated treasury of fairy & folk tales) version, to start with, so all due thanks & acknowledgements to him…)

A long time ago, in the valley of Brahmaputra in India there lived six men who were much inclined to boast of their wit and lore. Though they were no longer young and had all been blind since birth, they would compete with each other to see who could tell the tallest story.

One day, however, they fell to arguing. The object of their dispute was the elephant. Now, since each was blind, none had ever seen that mighty beast of whom so many tales are told. So, to satisfy their minds and settle the dispute, they decided to go and seek out an elephant.

Having hired a young guide, Dookiram by name, they set out early one morning in single file along the forest track, each placing his hands on the back of the man in front. It was not long before they came to a forest clearing where a huge bull elephant, quite tame, was standing contemplating his menu for the day.

The six blind men became quite excited; at last they would satisfy their minds. Thus it was that the men took turns to investigate the elephant's shape and form.

As all six men were blind, neither of them could see the whole elephant and approached the elephant from different directions. After encountering the elephant, each man proclaimed in turn:

'O my brothers,' the first man at once cried out, 'it is as sure as I am wise that this elephant is like a great mud wall baked hard in the sun.'

'Now, my brothers,' the second man exclaimed with a cry of dawning recognition, 'I can tell you what shape this elephant is - he is exactly like a spear.'

The others smiled in disbelief.

'Why, dear brothers, do you not see,' said the third man -- 'this elephant is very much like a rope,' he shouted.

'Ha, I thought as much,' the fourth man declared excitedly, 'This elephant much resembles a serpent.'

The others snorted their contempt.

'Good gracious, brothers,' the fifth man called out, 'even a blind man can see what shape the elephant resembles most. Why he's mightily like a fan.'

At last, it was the turn of the sixth old fellow and he proclaimed,

'This sturdy pillar, brothers' mine, feels exactly like the trunk of a great areca palm tree.'

Of course, no one believed him.

Their curiosity satisfied, they all linked hands and followed the guide, Dookiram, back to the village. Once there, seated beneath a waving palm, the six blind men began disputing loud and long. Each now had his own opinion, firmly based on his own experience, of what an elephant is really like. For after all, each had felt the elephant for himself and knew that he was right!

And so indeed he was. For depending on how the elephant is seen, each blind man was partly right, though all were in the wrong. (Riordan, 1986, pp. 30-33)

They say that this is best explained as the Jain theory of manifold predictions or Syadvada, Anekantvad - In Jainism, it is explained that truth can be stated in seven different ways and that one should be tolerant towards others for their viewpoints. This will allows us to live in harmony with the people of different thinking.

As you can imagine, this story is today used for so many illustrations, ranging from explaining the concept of god, all the way through medical and scientific situations and IT. In general it is used to explain how an overall view may provide a correct picture.

Look at the way it is used to explain the concept of God. Each religion is describing the same thing in a different way. Thus no one is better or different from the other, but being described and practiced in a different way. And of course, the situation results in much argument and interpretation as we see on a daily basis. Illuminated people rush to offer the answer - there came along the 7th person, who is not blind - Jesus, Buddha, Allah, and Krishna or yet another Guru or messiah to explain a bigger understanding of the whole thing…

It is interesting how this analogy is used by so many people to explain their point – I saw a scientific paper where spinal stability was equated to this story – perhaps the scientists Reeve, Narendra and Cholewicki had an illuminating moment…

They state in their interesting paper - The concept of "stability" has the potential to become our elephant. Stability, one could argue, is a term that appears to change depending upon the context, and as such, appears to have unstable definitions. The ambiguity of this term in spinal biomechanics should not be surprising, given that even in more established disciplines in engineering, there is no absolute definition of stability. However, numerous definitions have emerged, each rigorously defined. So like the elephant, stability is an entity with many parts..

But then it is also used for totally different situations as in this linked paper to contest the state’s definition of marriage by Eichner – in her paper on the state’s position concerning intimate relationships

Determining the stance that the state should take with respect to adult intimate relationships is so difficult because these relationships implicate a number of goods that are central to our liberal democratic ideals and, at best, jibe uneasily with one another. Each of these goods—liberty, equal regard for all persons, insuring the caretaking necessary for human dignity and human development, sex and economic equality, civic fellowship is too important to the liberal democratic project to be sacrificed wholesale to any of the others. By the same token, none ranks so supreme that it should be deemed completely to trump the others.

People of course have different opinions of this analogy, as you will see Susan Elinor Wright in her analysis of a book by Peter B. Raabe states - I think the analogy of the blind men and the elephant misleading and misleading in an interesting way. The blind men after all made two category mistakes. First, they knew they all were trying to recognize the same thing, but did not know that they each had hold of very different parts of it. Secondly, they failed to recognize that they all had hold of a living being.

And there are some wise men who say it is the best way of defining or explaining parallel thinking, but then again when you think about that, it is not the best route to arrive at a plausible answer, unless you compare and communicate and iterate at the end.

As I got into the research mode over the various uses of this metaphor or analogy, I was taken into all kinds of areas, like quantum mechanics where a professor explains that the definitions an interpretations of quantum mechanics is somewhat like the opinions of the six blind men, all totally different and singular….

Or In biomedical research – Sarah Knox for example uses it to explain her point of view - In human physiology, organ systems are examples of emergent properties. Knowing everything there is to know about a cell in the heart (for example, a muscle cell) does not provide enough information to predict the function of the heart, nor does knowing the sequence of DNA base pairs that make up a single amino acid provide enough information to predict the characteristics of a transcription protein composed of many amino acids. In other words, the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

Another uses it to explain his Human resource issues - People affected by offshoring in different ways are like these blind men. They seem to see only the parts they have experienced.

Or there is this paper about CT scans and its outputs - Finding a way to synthesize the individual perspectives was the crucial problem that the inventors of the CT scanner solved, and the students of the elephant (fable) did not. And it is a matter of explicit procedure or mechanism. Simply laying the various two-dimensional images on top of or beside one another would be no more informative than having the blind men expound their conclusions simultaneously or in some particular sequence or pattern. Aggregation is not synthesis.

CH Koch advocating pragmatism and perspective explains - We often evaluate plans like blind men studying an elephant because we elevate the rationality that abstracts from the complex contexts and multiple purposes that accompany plans to serve as the proper framework for judgment. A pragmatic approach helps us find ways to compensate for the limits of our rational blindness and fixed position. Pragmatism does not provide a miraculous cure, but modest practical steps for recognizing and assimilating differences. Adopting a pragmatic planning outlook will not restore vision to the blind persons standing round the elephant. The tale warns us about the importance of context to perspective. (Evaluating plans pragmatically - Charles J. Hoch)

But Greta Christina talks differently about one of the fables applications and her thought process is a little complex, so those who want to peruse it may find it worthwhile spending a few minutes on it

Interestingly there are some real skeptical people out there who dissect this story and give all kinds of opinion saying that the blind men did the wrong things, that they should have discussed, that they should have felt around a little more and so on, without realizing that the fable itself was narrated to explain a larger concept to people of lesser intellect. It is just an illustration and not a finite study in itself.

But equally remarkable is this story, if you think about it from the elephant’s point of view….The elephant itself is not so good when it comes to eyesight. The sight of an elephant is quite poor and they can only see for short distances of up to 20 metres. An elephant typically does not have as far reaching eyesight as humans do, but his/her sense of smell is unparalleled. Also, an elephant is capable of hearing sound waves well below our the human hearing limitation. As is stated by experts - With notoriously bad eyesight, forest elephants tend to follow their trunks, using the appendage as a blind person might use fingertips on a stranger’s face--to identify, visualize, gather clues, and communicate. From infancy, elephants entwine their trunks in play, establishing bonds of kinship while storing vital information--from smells and texture to the muscular strength of their playmates. Later, these games become more aggressive, especially among males, which grapple and joust with each other in order to establish dominance.

Interesting isn’t, it??

Many of our old Jataka tales or Panchatantra fables hold such gems of wisdom and can be used to illustrate many a point and understand many a problem, and as you study them you realize that the man of the past was also an intelligent person when it came to dealing with the issues of that time. It is interesting also that these stories went on from our land to many others, some changing form as they went, and characters to match the locale it reached, look at the picture of the elephant and the monks…as the story hit the far east!!! Or the clothes of the blind men as the story reached modern lands….

The ‘Panchatantra’ dispersion around the world’s communities is also pretty interesting for it involves a trader and individual from the 12th century, one whom I wrote about…More on that another day…

And I will soon have lunch and dash off to the local movie theater to see my favorite star - Sridevi and her movie ‘English Vinglish’, which reviews explain is even more fascinating…Ah! It will be good…Sreedevi…..how many wonderful movies she gave us, remember Moonram Pirai? Remember Varumayin Niram Sigappu….and so many more…now she is back with a bang…Time to spend a little time in a make-believe world of Bollywood…