It’s not funny, but traditional, yet modern

A few years back, the government of California tried a novel method to avoid drought that persisted for over four years in its major city, Los Angeles.

The method which was acclaimed to be the most successful method at the time was to create an artificial thermal blanket over lake ‘Los Angeles Reservoir’. This was done by releasing 96 million shade balls (black rubber balls) to control evaporation of water to put an end to the drought.

Sellur K Raju placing thermocol on water surface at Vaigai reservoir – Source: TNIE

But, when a similar method was attempted by a politician of Tamil Nadu, the entire social media went crazy. Sellur K Raju, Minister of Cooperatives Society Department, inaugurated this new method of covering the reservoir of the Vaigai river to control evaporation.

Regarding this, I had a conversation with a senior professor from Anna University’s Centre for Water Resources, who said, “This could seem to be a very funny method, but it has been practised across the world in various formats. These shade balls are till now used to protect water from evaporating and that is what he tried to replicate in Tamil Nadu.”

The professor further pointed out that the only fault here made is implementing that technique in a dynamic water body which moved the thermocol layers ashore. “However, this method could be successful if it is  tried in stagnant water of smaller water bodies like lakes and tanks,” he added.

Californian government officials releasing shade balls over Los Angeles Reservoir – Source: Shutterstock

However, when these shade balls were used in Los Angeles, there were some drawbacks too. According to a report by Daily Mail,

hydrologists said that, the black rubber spheres could simply fuel the amount of bacteria in the water, ultimately heading to taps and showers in people’s homes. “The black spheres form a thermal blanket which provides a new surface area for bacteria to breed,” criticised a water quality analyst from Los Angeles at that time.

But, for this, Tamils have been following a natural method for over 2,000 years, according to Tamil linguists. V N Somasundaram, a Tamil enthusiast and writer enlightened, “Tamil emperors, mainly Cholas and Pandyas, were so strong in water management. They had a number of natural methods to control evaporation by covering lakes and tanks too”. He said Sangam literature shows evidences of usage of several water creepers to cover surfaces of water in lakes.

Aagay thamarai spread over water surface of Uyyakondan Canal in Trichy city – Source:

“The well-known neer thamarai or aagaya thamarai (water hyacinth) is used to cover the layer of water in lakes and ponds. This creeper will easily grow over the surface of water in a very short span of time, stopping evaporation. The advantage is that aagaya thamarai does not even require more water to grow,” Somasundaram said.

He said this technique has been modernised these days by using rubber or thermocol for immediate solution. “Even these water creepers are nowadays considered as unwanted vegetation and are removed by civic body officials”, Somasundaram added.

Sellur Raju’s attempt is appreciable but the technicalities in implementation of the Rs 10 lakh worth project should have been taken care with more seriousness. Unfortunately, this as usual has now turned out to be a concept of trolling and meme making in the social media.

Nothing here for me to say more than quoting Tiruvalluvar.

“எப்பொருள் யார்யார்வாய்க் கேட்பினும் அப்பொருள்
மெய்ப்பொருள் காண்ப தறிவு”

குறள் 423: அறிவுடமை

“Wisdom is in deep inquiry of words and intentions
Not in trusting the lips that may utter for deception”

Couplet 423: Wisdom

Santhosh Mathevan,
Chennai, April 22, 2017


Garden turns desert post political dramas

Until a month back, it was Chennai’s Poes Garden that was with high media and public attention due to all political dramas occurring in the State. The tiny road stretch which is hardly half a kilometer long was the news making spot for whole of the State. But, the scenario has completely went upside down within a fortnight and especially in the past three days, Poes Garden has almost gone into a deep sleep posing a deserted look.

The deserted view of Poes Garden

When I visited the neighbourhood of former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s residence at Poes Garden today, I could see that the locality which used to be under the surveillance of a five level security guards is completely open to commuters. The default pose of security personnel holding weapons, those signal jammer, barricades, metal detectors and all other security equipment were found missing except for a dozen of police personnel who were roaming in the streets.

Earlier, it would not be a mammoth task after a number of security checks to reach the gateway of Veda Nilayam, residence of Jayalalithaa. But now, only two private security guards are deployed that too at the entrance of Veda Nilayam.

When I started conversing with one of the private security personnel at the entrance of Jayalalithaa’s residence, he said out of frustration, “Not like the earlier times, but  now the security has been brought down completely for this area. It would be like a festival in those times but now its not like that”. However, he further said that the residence of their Amma is still protected with at least a handful of security personnel.

Despite his friendly nature, the security personnel did not allow me to click a picture of the entrance of Veda Nilayam which I had to do without his knowledge hiding behind the power junction box.

Captured the entrance of Veda Nilayam hiding behind TNEB transfomer as I was not allowed to take the picture 

When asked how frequent these delegates, MLAs and ministers visit the place, the security personnel said, “Yes, a lot of ministers and MLAs come here often and walk into the residence of Amma. They feel this as a temple of their political career”.

However, it seemed to be an exaggerated version of the security personnel regarding the visit of any MLA or minister. One of the shop owners in Poes Garden (to whom I did not reveal myself as a journalist) said, “We are open throughout the daytime and the most part of evening everyday. From my shop it would be clearly visible for us and as far as to our knowledge, we have not seen any car entering there. Only one or two cars would come here that too on very rare instances”.

He told me that, Poes Garden lost its buzzing scenarios much earlier that no one is interested to visit the place after the death of Jayalalithaa. “Even until VK Sasikala was convicted, there were some gatherings and cadre groups, but after that, the place lost its true identity”, the shop owner expressed in a sad note. “These political cadres are so opportunistic that they have ignored this place completely once it lost its worth”, the shop keeper added.

While, according to one of the police personnel deployed for security at Poes Garden, only the maids, cooks, gardeners and servants are allowed inside Veda Nilayam and no one is residing there at present.

AIADMK headquarters posing like a desert

Meanwhile, the status of AIADMK headquarters is still worse. Not even 10 cadres of this 1.5 crore membered party were there. And I could not find even a single person to answer my queries except for the party’s founder MG Ramachandran who was standing as statue in the premises.

– Santhosh Mathevan
Chennai, April 20, 2017.

Nothing to do with Islam but, it is all about the individual

When there is a perception over an individual or a large community across the world, it is not so easy to change in a short span. It takes decades for them to come out of the identity, be it a positive or a negative shade. So is in the case of the followers of Islam after the 9/11 attack at WTO towers in the USA. But, that shade has been rapidly fading out to nowhere in the present scenario claims some known faces. I recently had an opportunity to interact with award-winning story-teller and leading stand-up comedian Aman Ali from New York City on the sidelines of the meeting organised at Amir Mahal, the residence of Prince of Arcot, Nawab Mohammed Abdul Ali. It was an enlightening session for me as I really went through certain eye brow rising facts during our conversation.

Firstly, his address at the meeting itself was on the subject, ‘Growing up as a Muslim in America’ in which he discussed about the change in the mind sets of people about Muslims across the globe and the positive vibes experienced by people belonging to the second largest holy faith of the world.

Aman told me that Islam was not new to the US as, “The oldest mosque of the States dates back to 120 years – sometime in the late 1920s. However, the Muslim population in the federal republic came way before that in the 1700s and so I would say Muslims have been in the US for over eight generations”. Further he came up with an added fact that the oldest mosque was erected by pioneers from what are now Syria and Lebanon. It was built in 1929 in a small village called Ross in North Dakota. Aman has visited mosques and Muslims in all 50 states of the USA which he took it up as a trip during the month of Ramadan a couple of years back.

“The cemetery, with the star-crescent symbol on its gate and on many of its gravestones, hold the remains of a Muslim community that date back nearly 120 years. Up a slight hill stood the oldest mosque in the United States,” Aman explained.

Aman, who has been to 28 countries and all the 50 States in the US, said, “I could only feel a complete positive reception for the followers of Islam throughout the world. There are a few idiots who are still offensive in their thoughts and words but, they need not be considered.” He also said the identity of Islam has always been taught as a violent rebel.

Aman Ali seen in picture. Source:

“Why not a Muslim is given an identity of a celebrity like Mohammed Ali, Janet Jackson or AR Rahman who have made a change?”, he queried. His perception could easily be understood from the tone of his speech towards this budding journo. At that time my crooked journalist mind tried to pull some words from him. I said if Aman was brought up in any of the countries from the South East or the Middle East and he performs such story telling or stand up comedy sessions, it would not go the way as now. He would have been struck in controversies, would have been asked to go to Pakistan and would be called a traitor.

For this, he reacted in a very mild and a smiling note. “There are stories of Muslims here in India that need to be told across the world. There are incidents where a lot of Muslims who had built temples for Hindus. There is AR Rahman and there are people like Abdul Kalam and Malala from the same region you have denoted”, Aman said. I was not so surprised from this response, as I wanted this answer from him to tell out to this world.

Later, our conversation turned towards Trump. I asked him whether the current scenario in the US is likely unfavorable for Muslims. He immediately responded that it would not be a huge problem for Muslims in this unstable situation created in the United States of America after Donald Trump sworn in as President. “Yes, I agree that it is a stressful situation that is persisting in the country and we have to go through all these struggles. But that does not mean the immigrants will be sent out of USA,” Aman said. I cross questioned how he was sure of it, for which Aman said, “There are a lot of Senators, bureaucrats, higher officials, judicial officers who are immigrants including Muslims. It is not possible for USA to make them all leave. So, it is not happening right now and I am sure of it.”

Further added that, “In America, above all, the native people of the country are with the Muslims and other immigrants,”. For this, he also came up with some justifying instances from the recent times. “When I recently went to JFK International Airport at New York. I could see a big revolt carried out by over 15,000 people supporting one Muslim family that was stopped by the immigration officials from entering the country. Finally, the Muslim family was allowed into the city out of the revolution. People’s power succeeded,” Aman said.

From all this, I could only say that, it is not the identity of a person that leads to him to act, but it is he himself and external influences, who push his ideas towards the actions. Nothing to do with the identity obviously!!!

Santhosh Mathevan,
Chennai, March 3, 2017