Kolkata’s Howrah Bridge Turns 75! Did You Know It Survived a Japanese Air Attack?

In 1946, a census was conducted to count the daily traffic footfall on the state-of-the-art Howrah Bridge. The figures registered were 27,400 vehicles, 121,100 pedestrians and 2,997 cattle.

Contrast the above information with a 2007 report, which showed a daily flow of 90,000 vehicles, out of which 15,000 were goods vehicles.

The iconic bridge in the world is regarded as the “Gateway to Kolkata” since it connects the city to Howrah, and turned 75, this February. Of course, the bullock-carts of yesteryears have been replaced with high-end luxury cars.

Apart from being a pathway for various modes of transport, this iconic suspension-type balanced cantilever bridge has been the backdrop of many intense film scenes. Remember Ajay Devgn getting gunned down while riding a bike down the bridge in Yuva, or the dramatic Durga Puja celebrations under the bridge, as depicted in Gunday?

Many movie scenes used the bridge in the backdrop, starting with Bimal Roy’s 1953 classic Do Bigha Zameen, to Garth Davis’ Academy Award-nominated 2016 film Lion.

The Howrah Bridge made quite the impact before it was fully constructed. One night, during construction, workers were removing muck, trying to fix a cassion. The entire mass plunged 2 feet, and the ground shook. The intense impact caused a seismograph at Kidderpore, to register an earthquake. Interestingly once the muck cleared, many interesting objects of value, like anchors, cannons, cannon-balls, brass vessels, and coins dating back to the era of the East India Company were found.

Commissioned in 1943, the Howrah Bridge had a quiet opening. Even though it was a pioneering construction, a behemoth much ahead of its time, the Government decided to play things down, due to the fear of a Japanese air attack, since World War II was raging during that time.

A gigantic technical marvel, ahead of its time

One unique feature of this enormous bridge is that no nuts and bolts have been used in its construction. The steel fabrication has been riveted into place to hold the entire span of the bridge over the river Hooghly.

26,500 tonnes of steel, mostly supplied by Tata Steel, single monolith caissons of dimensions 55.31 x 24.8 metres, with 21 shafts, each 6.25-metre square, and sixteen 800-tonne capacity hydraulic jacks, amongst other materials, were used in the construction of the bridge.

Walk along the bridge’s massive length, and you will feel dwarfed and insignificant, for a good reason. The structure has a central span of 1,500 feet between centres of main towers and a suspended span of 564 feet. The main towers are 280 feet high above the monoliths and 76 feet apart at the top. The anchor arms are 325 feet each, while the cantilever arms are 468 feet each.

The bridge deck hangs from panel points in the lower chord of the main trusses with 39 pairs of hangers. There are cross girders, stringer girders, and floor beams that complete the intricate construction. Any bridge sways in the wind. The Howrah Bridge has special expansion and articulation joints, to compensate for turbulence.

A mammoth maintenance routine

Naturally, a structure this huge, serving as a roadway to so much transport, needs to be kept at its optimum condition. You’d think that the bridge would need a natural disaster to shake its foundations, but regular daily life puts a strain on the structure.

The maintenance of this gargantuan bridge is no easy task. Just ask the Kolkata Port Trust, which, post a 2003 investigation, spent Rs 5,00,000 annually, just to clean the bird droppings that were corroding joints and other parts of the bridge. In 2004, it cost Rs 6.5 million, to paint the 24 million square feet of the bridge, using 26,500 litres of aluminium paint and zinc chromate primers.

A cultural icon that would not be here today

We might not have had the same Howrah Bridge, if it ironically, weren’t for World War II. Before its construction, a global tender was floated, and a German company turned out to be the lowest bidder. Increasing hostilities in 1935 resulted in the German contract being cancelled, with the tender going to India’s Braithwaite Burn and Jessop Construction Company Limited.

The same war, which saw the bridge come to life, also threatened to destroy it. While the war was in full swing, India found herself in the position of a de-facto ally to Britain and the Western Allied Powers. Naturally the Japanese, part of the opposition, bombed Kolkata from 1942 to 1944, trying to destroy the bridge, and operations at the seaport. The British responded swiftly, even turning Kolkata’s Red Road, into a runway for Spitfires to take off.

The quiet hero during this time of crisis was the 978 Balloon Squadron. The British set up balloons, attached to the ground by several steel cables. These balloons prevented bombers from going low and hitting targets. The planes would get stuck in the cables and crash. The Japanese Air Force flew many sorties over Kolkata, bombing the central business district and the docks.

As many as 131 bombs were dropped on the 10th, 16th and 28th of December 1942 and 17th and 23rd of January 1943. The attack on 23rd was the most devastating with over 70 bombs being dropped over the dock area and the casualty on that day was nearly 500.

Let us appreciate this giant superstructure, which has stood tall for aeons.

Unfortunately, today, the most significant threat the iconic Howrah Bridge faces isn’t from Japanese fighter planes or their bombs, but from corrosive spit containing tobacco, pan-masala and other acidic, poisonous ingredients.

A 2011 inspection by Kolkata Port Trust authorities, calculated the damage—a total of Rs 2 million had to be spent, to cover parts of the bridge with fibreglass, to avoid corrosion due to spitting.

Spitting remains the biggest threat to this bridge, and a 2013 report in The Guardian mentions the bridge’s Chief Engineer, AK Mehra, who said that the slaked lime and paraffin in the poisonous spit are highly corrosive. In some areas, the steel pillars have been damaged by as much as 60 percent.

During World War II, when Kolkata was under attack, worried citizens, with a bag full of Vaseline, and bandages, would run to air-raid shelters, after safely hiding their earthen jars which contained their drinking water supply.

Those citizens if alive today, would surely be surprised when they realise the iconic Howrah Bridge which survived the Japanese bombing might not survive the Indian habit of spitting.

Source…www.the betterindia.com



மருமகனிடம் சாதுர்யமாகப் பதில் சொன்ன வின்ஸ்டன் சர்ச்சில்! நினைவு தினச் சிறப்புப் பகிர்வு…


ஃது ஒரு காட்டுவழிப் பாதை. அந்தப் பாதையில் நடந்து சென்றுகொண்டிருந்தார் ஃப்ளெமிங் என்ற விவசாயி. எல்லா மனிதருக்கும் சோறுபோடும் விவசாயியின் நிலைமை என்பது காலம் முழுவதும் காட்டுவழிப் பயணத்தையும், நடைப்பயணத்தையும் கொண்டதாகத்தானே இருக்கும். அதுதான் விவசாயியின் தலைவிதி என்று எழுதியிருக்கும்போது யாரால் அதை மாற்ற முடியும்?

ஃப்ளெமிங்கின் பயணமும் அதுதான்… அவர் சென்றுகொண்டிருந்த அந்தக் காட்டுவழிப் பாதையில் ஒரு சதுப்பு நிலத்தின் புதைகுழியில் பணக்காரச் சிறுவன் ஒருவன் சிக்கிக்கொண்டு உயிருக்குப் போராடிக்கொண்டிருந்தான். ஆம், இன்றைய விவசாயிகள் சிக்கியிருக்கும் புதைகுழிகளைப்போலவே அவனும் நன்றாகச் சிக்கியிருந்தான். அதைப் பார்த்த ஃப்ளெமிங், பதறியடித்தபடியே அங்கு ஓடினார். காயம்பட்டவர்களுக்குத்தானே வலியின் அருமை புரியும்; கல்லடிப்பட்டவர்களுக்குத்தானே வேதனை தெரியும். எப்போதும் விவசாயிகள் தங்கள் உயிரைப்பற்றிக் கவலைப்படுவதில்லை. அதனால்தான் இன்று விவசாயிகளின் தற்கொலைகள் அதிகரிக்கின்றன.

ஃப்ளெமிங்கும் அந்த எண்ணத்தில்தான் அந்தச் சிறுவனைக் காப்பாற்ற ஓடினார்; தன்னால் முடிந்த உதவியைச் செய்து அந்தச் சிறுவனைக் காப்பாற்றினார். ஓர் உயிரை மீட்ட சந்தோஷத்தில் அவருடைய மனம் சிறகடித்தது. அதிலும், நாளைய உலகத்தை மாற்றப் பிறந்த ஒரு குழந்தையின் உயிரைக் காப்பாற்றியதில் அவ்வளவு மகிழ்ச்சியடைந்தார். இதனையறிந்து அந்தச் சிறுவனின் தந்தை பதறிப்போய் ஓடிவந்தார். பையனைக் கண்ட சந்தோஷத்தில் அவரும் அமைதியானார்.

பிறகு, சுயநினைவுக்கு வந்த சிறுவனின் தந்தை… ஃப்ளெமிங்கிடம், “என் மகனைக் காப்பாற்றிய உங்களுக்கு எவ்வளவு பணம் வேண்டும்… எவ்வளவு கேட்டாலும் தருகிறேன்; வாங்கிக்கொள்ளுங்கள்” என்கிறார் மிகவும் பரிதாபமாக. பசியுடனும், பட்டினியுடனும் வாழும் விவசாயிக்கு இருக்கும் மற்றொரு குணம் நேர்மைதானே; உதவி செய்வதற்கு பணம் எதற்கு என்ற எண்ணத்தில் வாங்க மறுக்கிறார் ஃப்ளெமிங். ஆனாலும், அந்தப் பணக்காரத் தந்தை விடுவதாக இல்லை. தொடர்ந்து வற்புறுத்துகிறார். ஒருவழியாகப் பணத்தை வாங்காமல் வேறொரு கோரிக்கையை அவரிடம் வைக்கிறார் ஃப்ளெமிங்.

“தன் மகனைப் படிக்கவைத்து நல்ல நிலைக்குக் கொண்டு வாருங்கள்” என்பதே அந்தக் கோரிக்கை. ஒப்புக்கொள்கிறார் பணக்காரர். அவருடைய உதவியால் ஃப்ளெமிங்கின் மகன் நன்றாகப் படித்து, பின்னாளில் மருத்துவராகிறார்; மருத்துவத் துறையில் ‘பென்சிலின்’ என்ற மருந்தைக் கண்டுபிடிக்கிறார்; அவர் (அலெக்சாண்டர் ஃப்ளெமிங்)  கண்டுபிடித்த அந்த மருந்துமூலம் நிமோனியா காய்ச்சல் மூலம் பாதிக்கப்பட்ட ஒருவரைக் காப்பாற்றுகிறார். அவரும் உயிர் பிழைக்கிறார். அப்படி உயிர் பிழைத்தவர் வேறு யாரும் அல்ல… முன்பு, புதைகுழியில் சிக்கிய அதே பணக்காரச் சிறுவன்தான். முதலில் விவசாயி மூலம் காப்பாற்றப்பட்ட அந்த நபர், இப்போது விவசாயியின் மகன் மூலம் காப்பாற்றப்பட்டிருக்கிறார். ஆனால், இன்றோ அரசும் விவசாயிகளைக் காப்பாற்றுவதாக இல்லை; விவசாயிகளும் மற்றவர்களைக் காப்பாற்றும் நிலையிலும் இல்லை. இப்படி விவசாயக் குடும்பத்தின் மூலம் இரண்டு முறை காப்பாற்றப்பட்ட அந்த நபர்தான் பின்னாளில் இங்கிலாந்தில் பிரதமராக இருந்த வின்ஸ்டன் சர்ச்சில்.

“நம்பிக்கை இல்லாதவன் ஒவ்வொரு வாய்ப்பிலும் உள்ள கஷ்டத்தைக் காண்கிறான்; நம்பிக்கை உள்ளவன் ஒவ்வொரு கஷ்டத்திலும் உள்ள வாய்ப்பைக் காண்கிறான்” என்ற நம்பிக்கை விதையை இங்கிலாந்து நாட்டு மக்கள் மனதில் விதைத்து அவர்களுடைய நட்சத்திரமாக ஜொலித்தவர் சர்ச்சில். அவர், ஒருமுறை முக்கியமான வேலையில் ஈடுபட்டுக்கொண்டிருந்தபோது… அவருடைய மருமகன், “உலகிலேயே மிகப்பெரிய ராஜதந்திரி யார்” என்று வினவுகிறார். தன் மருமகன் எந்த நேரமும் எதையாவது பேசிக்கொண்டே இருக்கும் இயல்புடையவர் என்பதை நன்றாகத் தெரிந்துவைத்திருந்த சர்ச்சில், மருமகன் கேட்ட கேள்விக்கு “முசோலினி” என்று பதில் சொல்கிறார்.  ஆச்சர்யமுற்ற மருமகன், “என்ன இப்படிச் சொல்லிவிட்டீர்கள்… அப்படியென்றால், நீங்கள் தாழ்ந்தவரா” என்று மறுபடியும் வினா தொடுக்கிறார். அதற்கு சர்ச்சில், “தொணத்தொணவென்று எப்போதும் பேசிக்கொண்டிருந்த அவருடைய மருமகனைச் சுட்டுக்கொன்றார் முசோலினி. என்னால் அப்படிச் செய்ய முடியவில்லையே” என்று அமைதியாகப் பதில் சொன்னாராம்.

பேச்சாளர்; எழுத்தாளர்; ஓவியர்; பத்திரிகையாளர்; போர் வீரர்; அமைச்சர்; பிரதமர் எனப் பன்முகங்களைக் கொண்ட வின்ஸ்டன் சர்ச்சில், இரண்டாம் உலகப்போரில் இங்கிலாந்தின் பெருமையை உலகறியச் செய்தவர். “வெற்றி என்பது இறுதியானது அல்ல… தோல்வி என்பது மரணத்துக்குரிய செயல் அல்ல… அதுவே, வெற்றிகளின் எண்ணிக்கையைத் தொடர்வதற்கான துணிவாகும்” என்று சொன்ன இங்கிலாந்தின் பிதாமகன் சர்ச்சிலின் நினைவு தினம் இன்று.

Source….J.Prakash in http://www.vikatan.com


Tipu Sultan’s Mechanical Tiger…

The sun is the hottest when the clock strikes one in the small town of Seringapatam, not far from the city of Mysore, in present day Karnataka, a state in India. Colonel Arthur Wellesley, who was leading two army units of the British East India Company, knew that the defenders of the fortress of Seringapatam would be taking a break for refreshment at this hour. That’s when he planned to strike.

The date was May 4, 1799—the final day of the final confrontation between the British East India Company and the Kingdom of Mysore led by the strong and assertive Tipu Sultan. At the scheduled hour, seventy-six men dashed across the four-feet-deep river Cauvery and in only sixteen minutes had scaled the ramparts and stormed into the fort. The defenders, taken by surprise, were quickly subdued and in two hours the fort had fallen completely. Later, in a choked tunnel-like passage in the interior of the fort, the

bullet riddled body of Tipu Sultan, “the Tiger of Mysore” was found.










Photo credit: Victoria and Albert Museum

The victorious troops then proceeded to raid the royal treasury and over the next few weeks systematically emptied it, sharing the loot among the British army. Some time later, a curious object was discovered in the music room of the palace. It was a large wooden musical automata depicting a tiger mauling a man in European clothing. The man, which is nearly life-size, lies on his back while the tiger sinks its teeth into his neck. There is a crank protruding from the side of the tiger. When it’s turned, a hidden mechanism causes the man’s arm to go up and down, while a set of bellows inside causes the animal to growl and the man to emit distressing cries of agony. A flap on the tiger’s body can be opened to reveal a small organ and a keyboard capable of playing 18 notes.

Tipu Sultan’s mechanical tiger—known as Tipu’s Tiger— was a clear representation of his hostility towards the British—a feeling that he shared with his father, Hyder Ali, since his childhood. Hyder Ali regarded the British as their sworn enemy as they prevented Hyder from expanding his kingdom, and Tipu grew up with violently anti-British feelings. In 1792, when Tipu Sultan was forced to concede half of Mysore’s territories along with a large financial tribute to the British after the defeat at the Third Anglo-Mysore War, he had this machine built.

Tipu Sultan’s personal emblem was the tiger. The tiger motif was visible throughout his palace—on his throne, on his weapons and armor; the tiger stripe motif was painted on walls and used in uniforms; he even kept live tigers in his palace. Even his nickname that he adopted for himself was “the Tiger of Mysore”. Tipu’s Tiger, hence, was a symbolic representation of his desire to triumph over the British. It’s believed that the Sultan had frequently amused himself by playing with the instrument’s crank and hearing the distressing cries of the victim.

Understandably, the British were not amused. When they discovered the “contrived machine”, the Governor General of the East India Company wrote a memorandum calling it a “memorial of the arrogance and barbarous cruelty of Tipu Sultan” and “another proof of the deep hate, and extreme loathing” the Sultan had towards the English.

For a while, Tipu’s Tiger was displayed in the reading-room of the East India Company Museum and Library in London where it became very popular, especially since anybody could walk up to the machine and hand-crank it to hear the wailing and the grunting. The handle couldn’t take the abuse for long and it broke a few years later, to the great relief of the students using the reading-room in which the tiger was displayed.

In 1880, the tiger was acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Since then, it has been one of the most popular exhibits in the museum and a “must-see”, although it’s too fragile now and cannot be operated. During the Second World War, the roof above the museum came crashing down and broke the tiger into several hundred pieces. After the war, the tiger was carefully pieced together, but it no longer works.

In recent times, Tipu’s Tiger has formed an essential part of museum exhibitions exploring the subject of Indian resistance to British rule, as well as British prejudice and imperial aggression. Tipu’s Tiger appears in various forms of memorabilia in the museum shops as postcards, model kits and stuffed toys.

Source ….Kaushik in http://www.amusingplanet.com


How the Maharajah Got Its Wings: The Story of Air India’s Iconic Mascot…

One of India’s most recognisable and loved mascots, Air India’s portly Maharajah with folded hands has held a special place in the hearts of its citizens for years.

“We can call him the Maharajah for want of a better description. But his blood isn’t blue. He may look like royalty, but he isn’t royal. He is capable of entertaining the Queen of England and splitting a beer with her butler. He is a man of many parts: lover boy, sumo wrestler, pavement artist, vendor of naughty post cards, Capuchin monk, Arab merchant…”

These are the words of Bobby Kooka, the man who conceived Air India’s Maharajah nearly 72 years ago. One of India’s most recognisable and loved mascots, this portly figure in regal garb has held a special place in the hearts of its citizens for years.

Here’s the fascinating story of Air India’s iconic Maharajah.

A part of Air India’s campaign to distinguish itself from its peers, the jovial and rotund Maharajah first made his appearance on an in-flight memo pad in the mid-1940s. He was conceived by SK (Bobby) Kooka, who was then a Commercial Director with Air India and sketched by Umesh Rao, an artist at J Walter Thompson in Bombay.

Back then, India was known as the “Land of the Maharajas” and Air India was its only international carrier, flying to destinations such as Cairo, Prague, Damascus, Zurich and Istanbul. So Kooka wanted to create an illustration for Air India’s letterhead that would symbolise graciousness and elegant living.







SK Kooka with Captain V Vishwanath in May 1948 
It was somewhat along these lines that his creators, Kooka and Rao, gave him a distinctive personality, luxuriant moustache, aquiline nose and the quintessentially Indian turban. Eventually, the regal figure became Air-India’s mascot for its advertising and sales promotion activities.

For the next few years, the Maharajah was ingeniously used by India’s national airline to introduce new flight routes. His funny antics and quirky puns also allowed Air India to promote its services with subtle humour and unmatched panache.

For instance, one of the posters from Air India’s “retro collection” shows the Maharajah as a Russian Kalinka dancer to advertise its flight to Moscow. Another one shows him on a speedboat surfing in Australia with the boat replaced by two mermaids. Yet another one shows him being carried as a prey, hands and feet tied, by two lions in the jungles of Nairobi.

Here are some iconic posters that show the Maharajah in his quirky avatars, looking quite at home in famous locations around the world.

              Photo Source: Air India on Imgur.

   As such, the Maharajah came dressed in various garbs, but his trademark twirly moustache and his roly-poly stature remained — until 2017 when he lost of a bit of his flab and traded his traditional attire for blue jeans, trainers and a low-slung satchel to align himself with the modern times.

Unsurprisingly, the Maharajah has won numerous national and international awards for Air India for originality in advertising and publicity.

Interestingly, at one point in time, the mascot’s regal connotations triggered a controversy with politicians expressing doubts about using such a symbol to represent a nation with socialist aspirations. As a result, Air India did away with the Maharajah in 1989. But there was such a hue and cry from various quarters that the popular mascot had to be brought back.

In fact, during these years, Maharajah stickers and dolls were common in most middle-class Indian homes, even those where air travel was considered a luxury!


                                                                       So like all great men, the Maharajah has had his critics. But the millions of travellers who love him far outnumber them. For many of them, the inimitable mascot is a real person, almost like a friend who reaches out with warmth and hospitality, even to the farthest corners of the world.

As Rahul Da Cunha, the ad man behind the equally iconic Amul India campaign, once said,

“The Amul girl and the Air India Maharaja are the most brilliant characters ever created. The Maharaja encapsulates everything Air India should be: Indian luxury, hospitality, services and above all, royalty. It is royalty combined with humility. What can be a more iconic symbol for an Indian carrier?”


http://www.the better india.com





When Donald Trump demanded a role in Home Alone 2 in exchange of a shoot in his hotel !!!!!!

In an interview, Matt Damon mentioned how President Trump would only let the crew of the film on his properties if they wrote him a part in it. That’s how he featured in Home

Alone 2: Lost in New York. Donald Trump and Macauley Culkin in a scene from Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.

Back in 1992, Donald Trump played a six-second cameo role in the adventure/comedy movie Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. And now, Hollywood actor Matt Damon has spilled the truth behind the “apparent” cameo appearance.

Damon revealed the deal that Trump made to the filmmakers in exchange for the use of his Manhattan hotel for the shoot.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the 46-year-actor told that President Trump will only let the crew of the film on his properties if they write him a part in the movie.

He said, “The deal was that if you wanted to shoot in one of his buildings, you had to write him in a part.”

Adding, “[Director] Martin Brest had to write something in Scent of a Woman, and the whole crew was in on it.”

“You have to waste an hour of your day with a bullshit shot: Donald Trump walks in and Al Pacino’s like, ‘Hello, Mr. Trump!’ You had to call him by name and then he exits,” noted Damon.

“You waste a little time so that you can get the permit, and then you can cut the scene out. But I guess in Home Alone 2 they left it in,” he explained.

The Downsizing star also revealed that he has never met Trump in person and he clearly isn’t a fan of him.

Damon is currently promoting his new movie Suburbicon at the Venice Film Festival alongside Hollywood actors George Clooney and Julianne Moore.





வாரம் ஒரு கவிதை ….” நினைவு பெட்டகம் 2017 “


நினைவு பெட்டகம் 2017
ஆண்டின் ஒவ்வொரு நாளும் ஒரு அனுபவமே
கற்கண்டு போல் இனித்த நாளும் உண்டு
கசப்பு மட்டும் காட்டிய நாளும் உண்டு
இனிப்போ  கசப்போ …கட்டாயம் சொல்லும் அது
ஒரு பாடம் …நாளும் ஒரு பாடம் கற்று நானும்
மாற்றிக்கொண்டேன் என்னை எல்லா நாளையும்
இனிய நாளாக ஏற்க !
இந்த ஆண்டு நினைவு பெட்டகமும்  ஒரு பொக்கிஷமே
எனக்கு … இந்த பெட்டகம் திறக்க தனி ஒரு  கடவு சொல்
வேண்டாம்  …திறந்து படிக்க  ஒரு மடிக் கணிணியும்
வேண்டாம் எனக்கு !
கடவுள் கொடுத்த Memory Power ஒன்று மட்டும்
போதும் எனக்கு இந்த பெட்டகம் திறக்க !
வாழ்வின் ஓவ்வொரு நாளும் ஒரு பொக்கிஷமே
இந்த ஆண்டின் பொக்கிஷ நினைவை நான்
அசை போடும் நேரம் புத்தாண்டு விடியலுக்கும்
ஆசையுடன் காத்திருக்கிறேன்  நான் !
இனி வரும் எல்லா நாளும்  இனிய நாளாக அமைய
வேண்டும் … என் பொக்கிஷப் பெட்டகம்
திறந்து பார்க்க வேண்டும் நான் ஒவ்வொரு
ஆண்டும் இன்று போல் …ஒரு கடவு சொல் ,
மடிக் கணிணி துணை இல்லாமல் !
1st Jan 2018