From China to Chennai, meet three generations of dentists who are as Tamil as Chinese…
Their families moved to Chennai from Hubei province and set-up dental clinics in the Evening Bazaar in the 1930s.
The glass doors of the tiny dental clinic swing open to green tiles, wooden panels, lots of dental instruments and neatly stacked bottles and medicine packs. Dr Shieh Hung Sen is inside, dressed in a green linen shirt, attending to a patient with practised deftness, while directing his assistant Nila in flawless Chennai Tamil.
Dr Shieh, who is better known by his Christian name Albert Shieh, is a second-generation Chennaite of Chinese origin. He runs Dr Shieh’s Bright Smile, a 75-year-old clinic, the oldest among the 8 such compact Chinese dental studios dotting the sides of Evening Bazaar Road, Park Town.
“My parents moved from Hubei province in China to Madas some time before the World War II. The Chinese communists were forcibly recruiting people to the army. It was either abscond or die. So my parents along with 8 other families left in the cover of the night to Burma, from where they came to Chennai in boats,” says Albert.
His father, Saw Ma Seng, among others who fled the country, were traditional Chinese dentists who established their business in Park Town in the 1930s. Now, their children and grandchildren are running the operations.
“Dental colleges started in the city only around the 1950s. Yet, our fathers had set up thriving businesses way back in the ’30s and we sons took over when they passed on,” says Albert, who went on to a acquire degree in dentistry from Annamalai University, after finishing his schooling in Bishop Corrie School, Parrys.
Growing up in Chennai
As he reminisces of the Chennai of his youth, Albert, who specialises in denture making, prods open his patient’s mouth and fixes a perfect set of lower front dentures on his gums.
“The best days of my life in Chennai were my school days. We used to play cricket in the Park Town grounds until late evenings. I spoke English and Tamil with my friends group and at home we spoke Mandarin (Hubei dialect),” smiles Albert, who can also read and write Tamil. Albert also understands Malayalam, Telugu and Hindi, and even attempts speaking them occasionally.
“Today is Tamil New Year. You must be celebrating Vishu since you are a Malayali, right?” he asks this reporter with a smile.
Now married with two children, a son and a daughter, Albert reveals that his family speaks Tamil, Chinese and English at home.
“I got married to my wife, Hu Yu Kwan, who is from one of the families in the community itself. However, now the community is not as close-knit as we were, with the older generation passing on,” he says.
In his childhood, the families would get together every Chinese New Year and feast.
“The Chinese New Year’s Eve is a special day for us and the entire community gathers for a feast, which is a grand affair with Wuhan (Hubei cuisine) delicacies of Changyu fish and Sou Chin (stir fry) Chicken. It’s nothing like what you get in the Chinese restaurants in the city,” says Albert, who shares an equal and impartial love for south Indian cuisine too.
“Ïdly, dosa, sambhar and all other dishes I relish. My wife makes the best rasam and kaara kolambu, I feel. In fact, my son’s friends used to ask him if his mum was Tamilian or Chinese after tasting the lunches she used to pack for his school,” he adds with a shy smile.
Albert’s son, Joshua, is a practicing dentist in Canada and, interestingly, is married to a Tamil woman.
“When I was a kid, my mother used to threaten me that if I married outside of the community she would disown me. When I got married, I had a traditional two-day Chinese wedding and a church wedding. Now, times have changed; my daughter-in-law is Tamil and we had a register marriage along with a reception here in Chennai,” says Albert.
The family members are practicing Seventh Day Adventists who had earlier adopted Roman Catholicism. Over the years, many from the community have diverged to different denominations within Christianity.
In the next clinic, David Ma, also known as You Chang Ma, Albert’s nephew, is a Jehovah’s Witness and runs Venfa, a clinic started by his father. Unlike Albert, David belongs to the third generation of the Chinese diaspora settled in the city.
“I don’t have many ties to Hubei. All my life I have known this city. My favourite food is the karuvattu kolambu or the dried fish that you get here. I’m married to an Indian girl, who is from Sikkim. In fact, I had an arranged marriage and went all the way to Sikkim to find my wife, since they look similar to us,” David says with a chuckle.
From Kung fu to Kollywood
Emphasising that they don’t watch Chinese films but for the occasional Jackie Chan Kung fu movie that is released in Chennai, Albert and David reveal that they enjoy Tamil cinema, especially the songs.
“I love old Tamil songs. There are some beautiful songs from Mudhal Mariyathai,” says David as he hums ‘Poongatre’ from the Sivaji Ganesan-starrer.
While David had no qualms about breaking into song, his uncle is more of a closet musician.
“He is usually singing all the time. He loves SPB and sings very well,” his assistant Nila tells TNM.
Albert is a fan of Suriya too and says he is excited about Kamal Haasan’s entry into politics. Apart from this, the dentist also boasts of a few famous friends from the industry.
“Prabhu, Sarathkumar and drummer Sivamani are all my close friends. I became close Prabhu and Sarathkumar as an athlete in school when we met at an inter-school sports competition. We meet once in a while when I am in town,” says Albert, who migrated to Canada with his wife a few months ago and shuttles between Chennai and Ontario.
The Chinese clinics like Albert’s and David’s cater to the local population in Park Town.
“We have a thriving business and clients who have been consulting us and our fathers before us. They trust us and we have sort of established a brand here in Chennai,” says David.
Although many of their relatives have migrated to the US, Canada and other parts of the world, David and Albert remain rooted to the city.
“Although I keep going to Canada, I can’t let go of my business here and most of the year I’m in Chennai,” says Albert.
And despite this mass migration to several parts of the world, none of the Chinese in Chennai have returned to their home province of Hubei.
“I once visited China on a packaged tour with my wife. We couldn’t visit our native place as we couldn’t break away from the others.I have a few cousins there and I hope to visit them once in my lifetime,” says Albert.
However, Chennai remains in their hearts even as they search for better prospects elsewhere.
“I have never felt like an outsider. Chennai has and will always remain one of the most welcoming cities here. My sentiments for this city, in IPL language would be Namma Chennai-ku oru whistle podu,” David concludes with a grin.
The Secret of Boxing icon…Mary Kom”s Success….
‘If I am super fit till 2020, I will compete but if I am not fit I will not.’
Almost every medal that is there to be taken is in her kitty but M C Mary Kom says she still trains like a maniac, the latest result of the regimen being a gold on debut at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast on Saturday.
The 35-year-old mother-of-three, who has five world titles and an Olympic bronze medal, is seen as a sporting icon not just in India but also in other countries.
Crowned Asian champion just months ago, Mary Kom added the light flyweight (48kg) Commonwealth crown to her tally.
“The secret to my success is my fitness and I am very quick. I plan well before bouts. I am lucky that I can catch my opponents within seconds, I am able to read them very quickly,” a giggling Mary Kom said at the end of her CWG campaign.
“I don’t have injuries, all I have is minor issues like cramps sometime,” she added.
And the secret to her fitness levels and to an extent her calm demeanour in the ring is a training regimen that she refuses to let go even one day.
“When I decide something with my head and heart than even my husband cannot stop me. He sometimes tells me to take it easy after competition but I can’t help it,” she said.
“I have to train to keep myself calm. It’s a a strong urge, it’s a habit and training makes me happy. When I don’t train I feel sick sometimes,” she added.
But despite the high fitness levels, she wouldn’t commit on whether the outlandish possibility of a 2020 Olympic appearance is on her mind.
“2020 is difficult to say, but I will try my best. 48kg is not there and I will have to put on weight to be in 51kg which is never easy. If I am super fit till 2020, I will compete but if I am not fit I will not,” said the accomplished boxer.
Elated at being India’s first woman boxer to claim a Commonwealth Games gold, Mary Kom said scripting history makes her happy.
“I have won everything and all of my medals are very important. Do I need to say more? Which other boxer can claim that, now I would not be scared of anyone. I am very happy that I created history. I have got everything,” she said.
“I still think about Olympics gold but other than that I have got everything. Even in Olympics, I do have a medal. I haven’t left out anything,” she signed off.
Wojtek: The Bear that drank Beer and went to War …!!!
Will Chennai be able to save a 300 year old Plaque connecting it to its Armenian Past …?
The plaque is the last living relic of the Marmalong, the first ever bridge built over the Adyar river in 1726 by Armenian trader Coja Petrus Uscan.
If you take a walk across the busy roads of Saidapet in Chennai, chances are that you would cross what is perhaps one of the oldest living relics that connects the city to its Armenian past.
To the uninitiated, it may look like an unremarkable slab of stone on a pale green crumbling wall. However, this ordinary looking slab of stone is in fact a 300-year-old plaque that belonged on the pillars of one of oldest bridges in the city.
Marmalong Bridge, the first ever bridge across the Adyar river, was commissioned in 1726 by Coja Petrus Uscan, an immensely wealthy Armenian trader. Uscan, who had decided to settle in Madras after coming to the city in 1724, paid 30,000 pagodas from his own money to build the bridge and another 1,500 pagodas for its upkeep.
“Uscan was immensely respected and perhaps was even one of the only non-British allowed to stay in Fort St George or the White town. A devout believer in St Thomas, Uscan wanted more people to visit the Saint Thomas Mount, and therefore removed the two impediments – the river and the lack of steps – by building the bridge as well as 160 steps to the mount. This was the initial purpose of the bridge. But all that soon changed as the Marmalong Bridge became crucial to the expansion of the city, especially towards the South,” says Chennai-based novelist and historian Venkatesh Ramakrishnan.
Mount Road came after the bridge
Mount Road, around which the city developed, came 60 years after the Marmalong bridge.
Named after Mambalam, one of the villages near the Adyar, the Marmalong Bridge perhaps laid the foundation stone for the city as it led to the emergence of the Mount Road, around which Chennai developed.
“It was only natural that a road followed after a bridge was built. The British built the Mount Road in the 1800s, around which the city grew. So, in a sense, the bridge led to the city’s birth and is very close to its heart,” Venkatesh adds.
However, the Marmalong only lives in our memories today. Where the arched bridge of Uscan once stood, a concrete replacement called the Maraimalai Adigal Bridge now exists. There are no traces of this Adyar-Armenian connect but for the last living relic – the plaque commemorating Uscan’s construction of the bridge.
With inscriptions in three ancient languages – Persian, Armenian and Latin, the Uscan plaque was established in memory of the great nation of Armenia and is a tribute to the people who helped build the city.
“The Armenian inscriptions are on the lower portion of the plaque. It can’t be read because the writing has faded with time and neglect,” according to Venkatesh.
Crusade to preserve the plaque
The neglected plaque stands near the Saidapet Metro construction site.
Displaced from its original site, the plaque faces the perils of urbanisation and is further threatened by the metro rail work that is underway.
Years of neglect and development in the area has buried the stone in layers of debris. In fact, the bottom of the stone has disappeared under the ground as the road levels have been rising every year due to re-carpeting, Venkatesh laments.
With the construction of the Saidapet Metro station underway, historians who are fighting to save the plague urge the CMRL to give the stone a place of honor in the metro station.
Highlighting the importance of preserving such relics, Venkatesh says, “The Armenians have contributed immensely to this city. I believe it is important to preserve all traces to this link. It is really unfortunate that while the Uscan stone stands neglected, another plaque at the Fourbeck Bridge is preserved by the Architectural Society of India,” he said.
A dedicated group of Chennai historians have launched a Facebook page “Retrieve Uscan Stone” to draw attention to the issue and save the plaque.
“The Saidapet Metro work is too close to the plaque. We have been urging the officials to move the relic to a better place, may be a museum or a memorial site. We just don’t want to lose a precious piece of the city’s history,” Venkatesh says hopefully.
THE TRUTH ABOUT THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE….
The Bermuda Triangle is a large area of ocean between Florida, Puerto Rico, and Bermuda. Over the last few centuries, it’s thought that dozens of ships and planes have disappeared under mysterious circumstances in the area, earning it the nickname “The Devil’s Triangle.” People have even gone so far as to speculate that it’s an area of extra-terrestrial activity or that there is some bizarre natural scientific cause for the region to be hazardous; but most likely, it’s simply an area in which people have experienced a lot of bad luck—the idea of it being a “vortex of doom” is no more real than Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster (see The Origin of the Bigfoot Legend and The Origin of the Loch Ness Monster).
The Bermuda Triangle’s bad reputation started with Christopher Columbus. According to his log, on October 8, 1492, Columbus looked down at his compass and noticed that it was giving weird readings. He didn’t alert his crew at first, because having a compass that didn’t point to magnetic north may have sent the already on edge crew into a panic. This was probably a good decision considering three days later when Columbus simply spotted a strange light, the crew threatened to return to Spain.
This and other reported compass issues in the region gave rise to the myth that compasses will all be off in the Triangle, which isn’t correct, or at least is an exaggeration of what is actually happening as you’ll see. Despite this, in 1970 the U.S. Coast Guard, attempting to explain the reasons for disappearances in the Triangle, stated:
First, the “Devil’s Triangle” is one of the two places on earth that a magnetic compass does point towards true north. Normally it points toward magnetic north. The difference between the two is known as compass variation. The amount of variation changes by as much as 20 degrees as one circumnavigates the earth. If this compass variation or error is not compensated for, a navigator could find himself far off course and in deep trouble.
Of course, despite this now being repeated as an explanation for disappearances in the Triangle on numerous documentaries and articles since then, it turns out magnetic variation is something ship captains (and other explorers) have known about and had to deal with pretty much as long as there have been ships and compasses. Dealing with magnetic declination is really just “Navigation by Compass” 101 and nothing to be concerned about, nor anything that would seriously throw off any experienced navigator.
n 2005, the Coast Guard revisited the issue after a TV producer in London inquired about it for a program he was working on. In this case, they correctly changed their tune about the magnetic field bit stating,
Many explanations have cited unusual magnetic properties within the boundaries of the Triangle. Although the world’s magnetic fields are in constant flux, the “Bermuda Triangle” has remained relatively undisturbed. It is true that some exceptional magnetic values have been reported within the Triangle, but none to make the Triangle more unusual than any other place on Earth.
The modern Bermuda Triangle legend didn’t get started until 1950 when an article written by Edward Van Winkle Jones was published by the Associated Press. Jones reported several incidences of disappearing ships and planes in the Bermuda Triangle, including five US Navy torpedo bombers that vanished on December 5, 1945, and the commercial airliners “Star Tiger” and “Star Ariel” which disappeared on January 30, 1948 and January 17, 1949 respectively. All told, about 135 individuals were unaccounted for, and they all went missing around the Bermuda Triangle. As Jones said, “they were swallowed without a trace.”
It was a 1955 book, The Case for the UFO, by M. K. Jessup that started pointing fingers at alien life forms. After all, no bodies or wreckage had yet been discovered. By 1964, Vincent H. Gaddis—who coined the term “Bermuda Triangle”—wrote an article saying over 1000 lives had been claimed by the area. He also agreed that it was a “pattern of strange events.” The Bermuda Triangle obsession hit its peak in the early 1970s with the publication of several paperback books about the topic, including the bestseller by Charles Berlitz, The Bermuda Triangle.
However, critic Larry Kusche, who published The Bermuda Triangle Mystery: Solved in 1975, argued that other authors had exaggerated their numbers and hadn’t done any proper research. They presented some disappearance cases as “mysteries” when they weren’t mysteries at all, and some reported cases hadn’t even happened within the Bermuda Triangle.
After extensively researching the issue, Kusche concluded that the number of disappearances that occurred within the Bermuda Triangle wasn’t actually greater than in any other similarly trafficked area of the ocean, and that other writers presented misinformation—such as not reporting storms that occurred on the same day as disappearances, and sometimes even making it seem as though the conditions had been calm for the purposes of creating a sensational story. In short: previous Bermuda Triangle authors didn’t do their research and either knowingly or unintentionally “made it up.”
The book did such a thorough job of debunking the myth that it effectively ended most of the Bermuda Triangle hype. When authors like Berlitz and others were unable to refute Kusche’s findings, even the most steadfast of believers had difficulty remaining confident in the sensationalized Bermuda Triangle narrative. Nevertheless, many magazine articles, TV shows, and movies have continued to feature the Bermuda Triangle.
Because the number of disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle is no greater than any other similarly trafficked area of the world’s oceans, they don’t really need an explanation. But if you’re still convinced that the Triangle is a ship graveyard, relative to other regions that get around the same number of travelers, here are some natural explanations from the Coast Guard to combat some of the “alien” and other fantastical theories.
The majority of disappearances can be attributed to the area’s unique features. The Gulf Stream, a warm ocean current flowing from the Gulf of Mexico around the Florida Straits northeastward toward Europe, is extremely swift and turbulent. It can quickly erase any evidence of a disaster.
The unpredictable Caribbean-Atlantic storms that give birth to waves of great size as well as waterspouts often spell disaster for pilots and mariners. (Not to mention that the area is in “hurricane alley.”) The topography of the ocean floor varies from extensive shoals to some of the deepest marine trenches in the world. With the interaction of strong currents over reefs, the topography is in a constant state of flux and breeds development of new navigational hazards.
Not to be underestimated is the human factor. A large number of pleasure boats travel the water between Florida’s Gold Coast (the most densely populated area in the world) and the Bahamas. All to often, crossings are attempted with too small a boat, insufficient knowledge of the area’s hazards and lack of good seamanship.
Source…www.today i foundout.com
God on the Runway ….
As part of the custom, the idols along with temple elephants are taken to Shangumugam beach for the ritualistic bath.
For two days in a year, the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport halts its flight operations for five hours on the basis of a ‘Notice to Airmen’ (NOTAM).
Respecting a centuries old temple tradition, the airport runway makes way for a grand procession.
Saturday is one of the two days in a year that sees members of the Travancore royal family, temple priests, police, and even elephants walk down the runway, as part of the temple procession. Hundreds of people also escorted the idols past the 3400-metre runway.
Flights have been halted between 4pm and 9pm at Thiruvananthapuram on Saturday.
The ‘Arat’ procession marks the conclusion of the Painkuni festival and the Alpassi festival. Painkuni and Alpassi are references to Tamil months. While Painkuni is in April, Alpassi is in October.
Arat is the ritualistic bath procession of temple idols at Sree Padmanabha Swami temple in Thiruvananthapuram. The procession, which began at 5pm, crossed the runway at 6.30 pm.
As part of the custom, the idols along with temple elephants are taken to Shangumugam beach for the ritualistic bath. The procession sees royal family members wearing traditional attire and carrying swords. All priests along with royal family members take a dip into the sea three times. The idols are also given a ritualistic bath.
The procession returns to the temple on the same route, accompanied by people carrying traditional fire lamps.
They have to, however, ensure that they clear the runway by 8.45pm.
“The ritual was started centuries ago when the Travancore royal family ruled here. Even after the airport was established, the procession continued to pass through the runway. When the airport was established in 1932, it was under the Royal Flying Club. Since then, the runway was open for these processions. Even after it was converted into an international airport in 1991, the practice continued as the tradition is very important to this place,” an airport official told TNM.
Since the runway is part of traditional arat procession route, the Airport Authority of India issues passes to those who participate in it. Only those who have a pass can enter the route and cross the runway to head to the beach.
“There are strict restrictions inside the airport area. CISF officials guarding the area allow only people with passes. We issue the pass only to people in the list given by temple authorities,” he added.
NOTAM is issued a week before these two dates in the year, so that all the international flights can change their schedule. NOTAM is a notice issued to pilots or airline operators before flights, alerting them of the circumstances or changes in aeronautical facilities or about local procedures that affect safety.
Source….Haritha John in http://www.the newsminute.com