At 103, This Karnataka Man is one of the oldest Drivers on the Country”s streets Today …

Willy’s, Morris Minor, Fiat, Austin, Ferguson, Mercedes Benz, Chevrolet, Volkswagen – these are just among the few brands 103-year-old CSR Michael D’Souza has driven.

A veteran of World War II, Michael has been driving for the last 85 years.

But giving up his car keys is simply not an option for him. “I enjoy driving and never got tired of it. I will continue to drive till the lord sends me his vehicle,” he smiles.

A native of Ooty, Michael was born to Charlson and Mary D’Souza on October 16th, 1914. Michael’s first tryst with a vehicle was at the age of 18, when he and his 13 siblings drove around Ooty in his father’s truck.

“The licence issued then was a page-long and it was applicable for all vehicles. Unlike today, there was no such thing as a licence based on vehicle category,” he says.

In 1932, he was enlisted in the British Army for 10 years and during his service he travelled to different parts of the country.

“However, due to the loss of my original military documents during transit in Visakhapatnam, my post-service benefits were denied to me. Though I appealed to my superiors for several years, I gave up realising it was a lost cause,” he says.

Meanwhile, Michael married Eliza, and the couple moved to the erstwhile Madras Presidency. Though they had no children, it was a happy marriage, he says, and they regarded the children of his elder brother as their own.

A few years later, Michael joined the Public Works Department (PWD) in Mysore and later he was transferred to Mangalore. At PWD, Michael had the chance to drive the general purpose vehicle, affectionately called ‘Jeep’ (GP). He also was given the opportunity to drive a truck, tractors and even road rollers.

“It was quite an experience, since the department barely had qualified man-power to operate such heavy-duty machines. I was asked to drive everything and I took the opportunity to make the most of it,” he laughs.

In fact, several roads in Mysore, Udupi and Mangalore were first asphalted and sealed when he drove the road roller over them.

In 1982, he retired from service, but the couple stayed on in Mangalore.

Michael got his first license in 1959, and he has renewed it constantly since then.

“On my last visit, the RTO inspector said in jest that should I make it for my next renewal in 2019, then he will award me the permit driving for a lifetime,” Michael smiles.

Considering he has driven so many vehicles, which one does he prefer?

“The GP,” he says, without missing a beat. “It does not skid and in unstable territory you can also shift to a lower gear and drive.”

He has only driven a two-wheeler once. “I got so dizzy, I stopped immediately. I am only cut out to driver vehicles with four wheels or more,” he says.

Except for a brief period in 1993 when he had a cataract surgery, Michael has never stopped driving. At the ripe age of 103, his medical records show that he is incredibly fit for his age and shows no signs of age-related ailments.

His secret, he says, is his diet, which comprises rice, curd, chapathi and bread. Although, up until a couple of years ago, he used to consume meat frequently, lately he has reduced his intake of non-vegetarian food.

“As our age progresses, I believe we should not strain our stomachs. Therefore, nowadays I eat meat only rarely,” he says.

He is also incredibly active – no matter the number of floors, he always takes the stairs.

After Eliza passed away in 2013 – at the age of 83 – Michael’s routine changed. He now wakes up at 4 am every morning to tend to his garden and feed his cat, dog and birds. “Earlier, I used to even have a goat, a chicken and a duck. My wife was very irritated with the tortoise I had, so I had to give him up,” he says.

Always dressed in a formal shirt, pants and a golfer’s hat, Michael still works – he now drives for a local banker and his family. The one concession he does make for his age is that he now avoids going on long drives and driving late in the night.

What does Michael think of drivers today? “Terrible!” he shakes his head. “People just don’t follow lane discipline any more. It’s horrible the way autorickshaws and two-wheelers switch lanes these days. One of the main reasons I don’t drive in the evening is how people thoughtlessly switch on their high beams even on well-lit roads. It can easily lead to an untoward incident.”

In his 85 years behind the wheel, Michael says he has been fined only once for not wearing a seatbelt. “Three months ago, when I was fined, I went to the station to pay the fine. The inspector took the receipt, laughed when he saw my age and the fact I was being fined for the first time, and said he will pay the fine on my behalf and let me go,” smiles Michael.

Ironically, Michael does not own a car, although the centenarian does not regret it. “As long as I am allowed to drive a car, I don’t have any qualms about it,” he says.

Content provided by Story Infinity (Subs and Scribes Media Ventures LLP).

Source….Harsha Raj Gatty in




When your parents agree to watch your children, this is a convenient arrangement in every respect, but in order for it to work best for all parties, it is important to have some basic rules so that your parents don’t feel like substitute parents or like they are “working for you.” If you stop asking for their help and start demanding it, if you want them to follow all your rules, and if you involve your partner in arguments between you and your parents, you should reconsider your behavior and read the following tips for maintaining a relationship with grandparents who care for their grandkids.

1. Don’t take your parents for granted

Within our family unit, we tend to forget that those around us are people with needs and limitations of their own, just like us. This is even truer when our parents become caregivers to our children. Although grandchildren sometimes seem to be a source of happiness and enjoyable pastime for your parents, remember that they have other interests. Don’t assume that your parents are always available for you or want to help all the time. Ask for help and don’t demand it, and know when you should hold back and not burden them, even considering their age limitations.

If your parents took care of your children all week, you might want to reconsider asking them to babysit Saturday night. Despite the grinding routine, it must be remembered that our parents also need their own free time, a listening ear and someone who would like to spend time with them talking about things that concern them. Look for shared time with your parents where you can recharge them with energy and build up your relationship.

2. Be a little laxer on your rules

Every parent has rules and methods when raising their children; some don’t want their children to watch television, some don’t want them eating candy, and some schedule tutors immediately after the kids come home from school. Whatever your rules are, when your children are under your parents care for a long time, you may need to be a bit more flexible with your rules.

Keep in mind that your parents can’t meet all your conditions and expectations and might even choose to break your rules, whether it’s because that’s what they’re used to, or maybe because they want to spoil and treat their grandkids. As long as your parents do not do something that compromises your child’s physical and mental well-being, think your rules over, and decide which one you can be more flexible with, and which ones you aren’t budging on.

3. Offer payment for special expenses

Even if in most cases your parents won’t ask for compensation for taking care of your children, remember that they have additional expenses on the days they take care of and spend time with your little ones. If grandparents take the grandchildren for a meal at a restaurant, for a day at the mall, or to the zoo, the experience usually involves quite a bit of an expense. Offer to pay them back, or even leave some money with them beforehand. Even if the offer is rejected by your parents, be sure to offer them money from time to time to show them that their help isn’t expected or taken for granted.

4. Say thank you and buy them a gift

Your parents don’t take care of their grandchildren in order to receive a gift. They do so for a variety of reasons related to helping you and just loving and wanting to spend time with their family. Despite all this, all of us, old and young, need recognition and reinforcement. Thank your parents and don’t take their help for granted, even if they’re guilty of doing so themselves. Buy them a nice gift and write a thank you card to remind them of your appreciation of their dedication and help. In order to repay your parents in another way, try to help them in areas where they have difficulty as in small renovations or house maintenance.

5. Don’t involve your partner in arguments with your parents

It is natural and common for you to have occasional disagreements with your parents about issues related to the care and education of your kids, and it’s even recommended that you have an open conversation with them about the issues that concern you, but be sure to do so without involving your partner. Your parents may feel uncomfortable or even attacked, in the presence of a more distant person like your spouse, even if they like and get along with them. If you can’t overcome the problem alone, you can lean on your partner for support, but first, try to talk to your parents privately and remember that they have only good intentions for you and their grandchildren.

6. Encourage your child to respect your parents

Do you come across situations where your children are cheeky to your parents? Do they demand instead of ask, treat your parents with contempt and perhaps maybe even curse them out? Just before you scold them, ask yourself whether your children are just copying the nature of the relationship they have seen between you and your parents. Remember that personal example is the main way children learn about relationships.

Beyond setting a personal example, make sure to praise and thank your parents in front of your children; you can tell them for example how Grandpa once managed to fix the car during a family trip or how Grandma sewed you the most beautiful costume in school. Beyond that, it is important that you teach your child how to deal respectably with arguments and disagreements in general, and with their grandparents in particular.

7. Clean up after yourself

After a whole day in the company of children, everyone’s house looks completely different – toys everywhere, puzzles scattered all over the floor, half-eaten candy and dirty dishes all over the place. It may be that in your home this doesn’t really bother you, but when your children spend time with your parents, it isn’t fair to leave their home messy. Make sure that the kids clean up the mess they made, and do it yourself if your child is too young to do It themselves.

8. Make your home accessible to parents

Technology has become a part of our lives whether we like it or not. Even those who are deterred by innovations have to adapt to a new era and can even finally discover that they like the new possibilities. Many of our parents have a smartphone and a Facebook account and get along very well.

However, it is worth remembering that each device and software has its own complex operating system. When your parents come to your home to watch your children, let them feel comfortable and give them access to all the tools you have in your home. Be sure to explain to your parents how to operate all electronic devices putting special emphasis on the TV, computer, microwave and other appliances that they will most likely want to use.

9. Don’t have your parents cook and clean

You may never have asked your parents to fold your laundry or cook dinner. They just see a pile of clothes on the sofa in the living room and fold it on their own. But what starts out as a small initiative can become an abysmal routine in which most household chores, including cleaning, cooking, children’s showers and even homework help, are done by your parents. In some cases, your parents also drive your kids to afterschool activities.

You may think that your parents are just doing these things to kill time, but no one actually wants to do these menial tasks, especially considering that your parents have to clean up their own home. Just let your parents know that that isn’t something they have to do, and to just enjoy the time with their grandchildren.

Once your kids get older and you no longer need your parents to watch them, they’ll be teenagers managing their own schedules. In order to maintain the relationship between them and keep it deep, mutual and ongoing, make sure that it isn’t based solely on supervision and fulfillment of tasks.

Encourage your children to get off their phones and talk to their grandparents, take an interest in them, discover more of their life story and family heritage. On the other hand, encourage your parents to play with their grandchildren and open up to them not only as grandparents but as human beings. You will find that even when your children grow up and get older, they’ll still want to visit their grandparents and the bond between them will accompany them for the rest of their lives.


வாரம் ஒரு கவிதை….” அந்நாளே திருநாள் …”….2

அந்நாளே  திருநாள் …
“உங்க வாக்கு எனக்கு தேவை …
என் சேவை உங்களுக்கு தேவை ..”
என்று சொல்லி யார் கொடுக்கும்
இலவசமும் வேண்டாம் எனக்கு…அது எனக்கு விஷம்
என்று  நீ  உறுதிபட சொல்லும் அந்த நாளே
ஒரு திருநாள் தம்பி !
என் தேவை என்ன என்று புரிந்து நீ
எனக்கு சேவை செய்வாயா  …இல்லை
வெற்றி முகம் பார்த்தவுடன்  யார் நீ என்று
உனக்கு வாக்களித்த என்னையே நீ திருப்பிக்
கேட்பாயா ?…என் வாக்கு உனக்கு நான்
அளிக்கும் முன் நீ தர வேண்டும் எனக்கு ஒரு உறுதி மொழி !
” நான்  உண்மை  ஊழியன் என்றும் உனக்கு ” என்று !
மக்கள் ஊழியரிடம் உறுதி  மொழி  இதை நீ
கேட்டு பெறும் அந்த  நாள் …ஒரு திருநாள் தம்பி !
வெற்றிக்கனி பறித்து ஆட்சியில் அமர்ந்து அதிகார
மமதையில் மக்களின் தேவை என்ன என்பதை
மறந்து தங்கள் தேவை என்ன என்றே குறி
வைத்து காய் நகர்த்தும் உன்  ” ஊழியரை “
அடையாளம் கண்டு அவர் செய்யும் வேலைக்கு நீ
கொடுத்த உத்தரவைத் திரும்பப் பெறும் அதிகாரம்
உனக்கு கிடைக்கும் அந்த நாள் …ஒரு திருநாள் !
தன்  பதவி நிரந்தரம் அல்ல … ஜன நாயக
மன்னன் நீ   நினைத்தால் “மக்கள் ஊழியன் “
என்னும் பதவி  ,  பதவிக் காலம்
முடியும் முன்பே கூட  பறி போகும் என்னும்
அச்சம் உன் ஊழியனுக்கு வரும் அந்த நாள்
எனக்கும் உனக்கும் மட்டும் அல்ல …நம்
ஜன நாயகத்துக்கே ஒரு திருநாள் !
வரவேண்டும் விரைவில் அந்த திருநாள் !
பெற வேண்டும் நம் ஜன நாயகம் ஒரு
மறு மலர்ச்சி !
18th Feb 2018

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.




வாரம் ஒரு கவிதை… ” தனிமையோடு பேசுங்கள் “

தனிமையோடு பேசுங்கள்
தனியாக பேசி தெருவில் நடந்தால் அவரை
ஒரு மாதிரி பார்த்த காலம் இருந்தது  தம்பி !
கைபேசி காலம் இன்று.. கைபேசியில்
பேசாமல் நடந்தால்தான் செய்தி இன்று !
இது காலத்தின் கோலம் … அலை பேசி
அழைத்தால் தனி இடம் தேடி பேச ஓடும்
நீ தனியாக பேச நினைப்பதில் தவறு இல்லை
தம்பி ..!.
தனியாகப் பேசும் நீ தனிமையை நேசிக்கவும்
வேண்டும் …தனிமையில் யோசிக்கவும் வேண்டும் !
தனிமை இனிமை என்று சொல்லவில்லை நான்
தனிமை ஒன்றுதான் வாழ்வின் உண்மை  என்பது
என் அனுபவத்தில் நான் கண்ட உண்மை !
உண்மை இது உணர்ந்து உன் மனதோடு  நீ பேசு
எப்போதும் … உன் மனதும் உனக்கு சொல்லும்
உண்மை என்ன என்று, நீ தனிமையில் யோசிக்கும்
போதும் …தனிமையோடு பேசும்போதும் !
உண்மை இது நீ உணர்ந்தால் உன் பேச்சில்
இனிமை இருக்கும் …பிறரை மதிக்கும் தன்மை
இருக்கும் … பெற்றோர் உற்றோரின் தனிமை நீ
தவிர்க்க  நல்ல வழியும் உனக்கு எளிதில் புரியும் !
தனியாக யோசி.. பேசு தனிமையில்  உன் மனசோடு !
நீ ஒரு தனி மரம் அல்ல … குடும்பம் என்னும்
தோப்பில் நீ ஒரு சிறு மரம்   என்னும் உண்மை
உனக்கு புரியும் ! உன் தன்னம்பிக்கையும் வளரும்
தன்னால் !
நீ ஒரு சிறு மரமானாலும் உன் நிழலில் வளரும்
சிறு செடிக்கு நீதான் போதி மரம் என்னும் உண்மையையும்
மறக்க வேண்டாம் நீ !
 in dated 11th Feb 2018

‘டெடி பியர்’ பிறந்த கதை! – ஒரு மாற்றுத்திறனாளிப் பெண்ணின் சாதனை!

‘தன்னம்பிக்கையை இழந்துவிடாதீர்கள்! இன்றைய தினம் கடினமாக இருக்கலாம்; நாளை மிக மோசமான தினமாக இருக்கலாம்; ஆனால், நாளைய மறுதினம் நிச்சயம் பிரகாசமாக இருக்கும்’ என்கிறார் சீனாவின் பிரபல தொழிலதிபர் ஜாக் மா (Jack Ma). ஆதரவு கொடுக்க ஆள் இல்லை, கையில் பணமில்லை, உங்களை ஒரு மனிதராக அங்கீகரிக்கக்கூட ஒருவரும் இல்லை… இருந்துவிட்டுப் போகட்டும். உங்களுக்குத் தன்னம்பிக்கை இருக்கிறதா? நீங்கள் நிச்சயம் சாதனை படைப்பீர்கள்! வரலாற்றுப் பக்கங்களில் உங்களுக்கும் ஓர் இடம் இருக்கும். அதை உறுதிப்படுத்துகிறது மார்கரெட் ஸ்டீஃப்-ன் (Margarete Steiff) இந்தக் கதை.

ஜெர்மனியின், ஜியென்ஜென் (Giengen) நகரத்தில், 1847-ம் ஆண்டு பிறந்தவர் மார்கரெட் ஸ்டீஃப். குடும்பத்தில் நான்கு குழந்தைகளில் மூன்றாவதாகப் பிறந்த குழந்தை. மார்கரெட்டுக்கு ஒன்றரை வயது ஆனபோது ஒரு காய்ச்சல் வந்தது. கடுமையான ஜுரம். மிக மிக மெதுவாகத்தான் அவரால் அந்தக் காய்ச்சலிலிருந்து மீண்டுவர முடிந்தது. அதன் காரணமாக அவருக்கு ஏற்பட்டிருந்தது மிக மோசமான பாதிப்பு… போலியோ! இரண்டு கால்களும் செயலிழந்துவிட்டன. வலது கையை ஓரளவுக்கு மேல் தூக்கவே முடியவில்லை. அந்தக் காலத்தில் போலியோவுக்கு மருந்தோ, தடுப்பு மருந்துகளோ கண்டுபிடிக்கப்பட்டிருக்கவில்லை.





மார்கரெட்டின் பெற்றோர் பதறிப்போனார்கள். காலம் முழுக்க ஒரு பெண் குழந்தை வீல்சேரில் வலம் வருவதை எந்தப் பெற்றோரால்தான் தாங்கிக்கொள்ள முடியும்? அன்றைய நாள்களில் ஒரு மனைவியாகவோ, ஒரு அம்மாவாகவோ தன் பங்கை நிறைவேற்ற இப்படிப்பட்ட போலியோவால் பாதிக்கப்பட்ட ஒரு பெண்ணால் முடியுமா? மார்கரெட்டின் பெற்றோர் கலங்கிப்போய் நின்றார்கள். ஆக, அந்தப் பெண்ணுக்கு எதிர்காலமே இல்லை. இதுதான் எல்லோருக்கும் தெரிந்திருந்த ஒரே விடை! அந்த விடையை அசைத்துப் பார்த்தது காலம்.
மார்கரெட்டுக்குத் தன் மேல் நம்பிக்கையிருந்தது. `நோய்தானே… அதுபாட்டுக்கு இருந்துவிட்டுப் போகட்டும்… நான் என் வேலையைச் செய்வேன்… என் வயதில், என் ஊரில், என் நண்பர்களில் யாரும் தொடாத உயரத்தை நான் அடைவேன்’ என்கிற லட்சிய வெறி அவருக்குள் ஊறிப்போயிருந்தது. பெற்றோரிடம் அடம்பிடித்துப் பள்ளியில் சேர்ந்தார். சராசரிக்கும் மேலான மதிப்பெண்களை வாங்கினார். அதோடு, மற்றவர்களோடு இணைந்து, அன்பாக வாழ்கிற அவருடைய சுபாவம் நிறைய நண்பர்களை அவருக்குப் பெற்றுத் தந்தது.

பள்ளிப் படிப்பை முடித்தார் மார்கரெட். அடுத்து..? அவருக்கு தையல்கலையில் அதீத ஆர்வம். வீட்டில் பிரச்னை, பல கஷ்டங்கள்… அத்தனையையும் மீறி அடம்பிடித்து ஒரு தையல் பள்ளியில் சேர்ந்தார் மார்கரெட். `கால்களில் செயல்பாடில்லை; வலது கையை ஓர் அளவுக்கு மேல் உயர்த்தக்கூட முடியாது. இந்தப் பெண்ணால் ஊசியில் நூலைக்கூடக் கோர்க்க முடியாது’ இப்படித்தான் ஏளனமாக நினைத்தார்கள் பலர். அதையும் உடைத்தார் மார்கரெட். தான் விரும்பிய, தேர்ந்தெடுத்த துறையில் மிக அழுத்தமாக, அழகாகக் காலூன்றினார். ஆனால், ஒரு சிறந்த தையல்கலைஞராக அவருக்குப் பல வருடங்கள் பிடித்தன. அவர் நிகழ்த்தியது யாருமே செய்திராத சாதனை!

மார்கரெட்டும் அவருடைய சகோதரியும் இணைந்து ஜியென்ஜென் நகரில் ஒரு தையற்கடையை ஆரம்பித்தார்கள். மார்கரெட்டின் திறமையால் அது ஒரு ரெடிமேட் துணிகளை விற்கும் கடையாக உயர்ந்தது. அதிலும், அவருடைய படைப்பாற்றல் கைகொடுக்க, நிறைய வாடிக்கையாளர்கள் கடையை மொய்க்க ஆரம்பித்தார்கள்.













1880-ம் ஆண்டு மார்கரெட்டுக்கு ஒரு யோசனை வந்தது. `இப்படி வெறுமனே காலம் முழுக்க உடைகளைத் தைத்து, தயாரித்துக் கொடுக்க வேண்டுமா என்ன..? புதிதாக எதையாவது முயற்சி செய்து பார்க்கலாமே!’ அந்தக் காலத்தில் குழந்தைகள் விளையாடுவதற்கு மரங்களால் அல்லது பீங்கானால் செய்த பொம்மைகள்தான் அதிகமிருந்தன. ஒரு குழந்தை நெஞ்சோடு வைத்து தாலாட்டி விளையாட, எளிதாகக் கையாள ஒரு பொம்மைகூட இல்லை. அப்படி ஒரு மென்மையான பொம்மையைத் தயாரித்தால் என்ன என்று நினைத்தார் மார்கரெட். உடனே துணியால், உள்ளே பஞ்சை அடைத்த ஒரு யானை பொம்மையைச் செய்ய ஆரம்பித்தார். அப்படிச் செய்த பொம்மைகளைத் தன் நண்பர்களுக்கும், உறவினர்களுக்கும் கொடுத்தார். அந்த வீட்டிலிருந்த குழந்தைகளெல்லாம் அந்த பொம்மையை அள்ளிக்கொண்டார்கள்.
அவ்வளவுதான்… துணியும் பஞ்சும் சேர்ந்த விதவிதமான சிங்கம், எலி, புலி… உள்ளிட்ட பொம்மைகளைச் செய்ய ஆரம்பித்தார் மார்கரெட்.

நிறையப் பேர் விலைக்கு பொம்மையை வாங்கத் தயாராக இருந்தார்கள். பிறகென்ன… படிப்படியாக பொம்மைத் தயாரிப்புத் தொழில் வளர்ந்தது. மார்கரெட்டின் மகன் ரிச்சர்டு ஒரு பொம்மையை வடிவமைத்தார்… அதுதான் இன்றைக்கு உலகம் முழுக்க இருக்கும் குழந்தைகள் விரும்பும் டெடி பியர் (Teddy bear). ஆனால், அதே நேரத்தில் அமெரிக்காவிலிருந்த மோரிஸ் மிக்டாம் (Morris Michtom) என்பவரும் அதேபோல ஒரு டெடி பியரை வடிவமைத்திருந்தார். அப்போது அமெரிக்க அதிபராக இருந்த தியோடர் ரூஸ்வெல்ட்டின் நினைவாக, அந்த பொம்மைக்கு `டெடி பியர்’ எனப் பெயர் அமைந்தது.

1907-ம் ஆண்டு, மார்கரெட்டின் கம்பெனியில் 400 நிரந்தரப் பணியாளர்கள் இருந்தார்கள்; வீட்டிலிருந்து பொம்மைகள் செய்து கொடுக்க 1,800 பணியாளர்கள் இருந்தார்கள். அவர்களுக்கு முன்னால் இருந்த ஆர்டர்… 9,74,000 பொம்மைகள்! பிறகென்ன… ஒரு தொழிற்சாலையை ஆரம்பித்தார் மார்கரெட். வியாபாரம் சக்கைபோடு போட்டது. தன்னுடைய முதுமைக் காலத்திலும், அவரால் நடமாட முடிந்த வயதில் எல்லா பொம்மைகளையும் சரிபார்த்து அனுப்பும் வேலையைச் செய்துகொண்டிருந்தார் மார்கரெட். மிக உயர்ந்த தரத்திலான பொருள்களைக் கொண்டுதான் அவர் பொம்மைகளைத் தயாரித்தார். பயன்படுத்தும் குழந்தைகளுக்கு பாதிப்பு வந்துவிடக் கூடாது என்பதற்காக அதை ஒரு லட்சியமாகவே வைத்திருந்தார்.

தன்னுடைய 62-ம் வயதில் இறந்துபோனார் மார்கரெட். ஆனால், அவர் தொடங்கிய `ஸ்டீஃப் டெடி பியர்ஸ்’ (Steiff teddy bears) நிறுவனம் இன்றைக்கும் லண்டனில்செயல்பட்டுக்கொண்டுதான் இருக்கிறது.




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.