What a 60 ft Bridge in Salem meant for Script writer Karunanidhi ….!

The dialogues Karunanidhi penned from the bridge made cinema halls reverberate with claps and whistles of movie buffs and catapulted him to greater heights in filmdom and in politics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even after he became a Chief Minister and a national leader, M Karunanidhi never forgot his humble beginnings. Despite his hectic schedule, Karunanidhi would make sure to travel to a 60-foot bridge on the Yercaud Ghat road from time to time.

He often reminisced of the days when he used to sit there and pen unforgettable dialogues for iconic films like Mandri Kumari.

The dialogues he penned from there made cinema halls reverberate with claps and whistles of movie buffs, and catapulted Karunanidhi to greater heights in filmdom and in politics.

After he moved to Madras, it seemed he missed the panoramic view of Salem city from the mountain heights and the fresh air that he used to enjoy at the 60-foot bridge and longed to return to his favourite joint.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 60-ft bridge on Yercaud Ghat road where Karunanidhi used to sit and write.

His colourful film career took flight right at Salem. In 1949-50, M Karunanidhi stepped into Modern Theaters as a dialogue writer on the recommendation of poet-cum-lyricist KM Sherif, writes R Venkatasamy, who wrote Mudhalalli, a biography of TR Sundaram, the legendary producer and the owner of Modern Theaters.

Karunanidhi had worked in Coimbatore Central Studios and at many other studios in Kodambakkam, but it was Salem’s Modern Theaters that gave him his big break into the world of Tamil cinema.

The writer of the film Ponmudi, which was under production, had left his work unfinished and TR Sundaram decided to assign Karunanidhi the task of completing it. Sundaram liked his work and Karunanidhi was employed at a monthly salary.

Karunanidhi had with him the script for a stage play based on Tamil epic Kundalakesi. TR Sundaram was impressed by it and figured that it would make a good movie if it was adapted. And this was then converted into the legendary Mandri Kumari.

American movie master Eliss R Duncan, who was the stable director of Modern Theaters, directed the movie. It was a box office hit and made Karunanidhi into an instant celebrity. The film also gave future Chief Minister MG Ramachandran a big turn in his career.

At first, Eliss R Duncan was hesitant to cast MGR as the hero in Mandri Kumari because of a minor curve on his chin. However, Karunanidhi strongly recommended MGR, suggesting that a short moustache can hide the flaw. The idea was accepted and the film took MGR to great heights in his film career and thus forged a lasting bond between him and Karunanidhi, and both, despite becoming political rivals, had a deep mutual respect for each other.

Mandri Kumari was also the first time that the dialogue-writer of the movie was given credit on the movie posters, writes Venkatasamy. Karunanidhi was one of the few celebrities recognised for his signature dialogues.

Karunanidhi’s contemporaries in Modern Theaters were lyricist Kanadasan, MGR and Janaki. The latter two became chief ministers as well. NT Ramarao, who also worked for Modern Theaters, became the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A rare photo of Karunanidhi with his colleagues at Modern Theaters, including late lyricist Kanadasan

Such was the platform that Modern Theaters gave to talented people. It was a one-of-its-kind studio outside Kollywood that made 118 films in all South Indian languages as well as in English. It produced the first colour film in Tamil – Albabavum Narpathu Thirudarkalum. TR Sundaram was seen as a towering figure and Karunanidhi, MGR and Kanadasan who were celebrities, used to call him, “Mudhalalli” (master), writes the biographer.

What remains of Modern Theaters today is only the iconic arch on the Yercaud Road in Salem.

Karunanidhi’s association with Salem’s Modern Theaters remembered by garlanding a poster on the iconic arch.

There is hardly anyone still alive who remembers Karunanidhi’s life in Salem at Sanathi Street in Fort Salem except Vekatasamy (79). The tiny tiled house where he lived survived till recently.

Whenever Karunanidhi came to Salem, he would drive past the arch to the sixty-foot bridge and spend time there alone, remembering his humble beginnings. For the old-timers, a stopover at the bridge will surely conjure up the unforgettable song “Varai, nee Varai,” as it was here that the song was shot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The spot on Yercaud Ghat road where Karunanidhi used to sit and write.

The last time he was reported going to the place was in 2009 when he came to inaugurate the hi-tech government hospital in Salem.

Source…..G.Rajasekaran in http://www.the newsminute.com

Natarajan

10th August 2018

 

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The Meteorite That Crashed Into A Car…..

 

The Peekskill meteorite car sitting at a collector’s garage in Peekskill. Photo credit: Ryan Thompson/Flickr 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On October 9, 1992, a brilliant fireball flashed across the evening sky over eastern United States startling thousands of spectators attending the weekly high school football matches being played across the East Coast. The fireball, that witnesses described as being brighter than the full moon, was travelling almost horizontally and heading northeast. In just forty seconds, the meteorite had crossed four states travelling 700 kilometers through the atmosphere. The intense heat and friction broke the space rock into more than 70 pieces, several of which were large and fast enough to produce their own glowing trails. A considerably weighty chunk of the meteorite, about the size of a bowling ball, eventually touched ground at Peekskill, New York, with a loud boom.

17-year-old high-school student Michelle Knapp was watching television in her parents’ living room when she heard a thunderous crash outside. Knapp ran outside to investigate the noise. There she found, standing on the driveway, her 1980 Chevy Malibu. The Malibu’s trunk was twisted and battered with a hole through it. A sizeable rock over 12 kilograms in weight lay under the car, embedded in the asphalt. It was still smoking and smelled of rotten eggs. The rock had narrowly missed the fuel tank.

Understandably, Michelle was not happy; she had recently bought the car for $400 and now it was totaled. Michelle did what anybody else would have done—she called the cops and reported an act of vandalism. It was a neighbor who reasoned that vandals can’t throw rocks through cars and surmised that the rock was from outer space. The suspicion proved correct when the very next day, a curator from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City confirmed that the object was indeed a meteorite, the same one that streaked across the northeastern sky distracting coaches and parents from their kid,s football games.

Michelle Knapp in the driveway with her Malibu taken only days after the historic impact. Photo credit: John Bortle

It was this impeccable timing of the Peekskill meteorite that made it one of the most witnessed and most recorded meteorite events in history. Dozens of spectators to the high school football games had brought camcorders with them, and when the meteorite flashed over their heads many of these cameras turned skywards, towards the brief but more exciting event. As many as 16 different observers from various locations recorded the event on tape—a record that was not broken until 2013 when a meteor exploded over Russia. The sixteen videos of the fireball taken from multiple perspectives made it possible for scientists to determine the exact trajectory of the meteorite. Indeed, Peekskill is one of the few meteorites whose orbit is precisely known.

As for the car, Michelle spent no time securing a deal with a renowned meteorite collector for an amount that was nearly two orders of magnitude more than what Michelle had paid. Since then, the car has been on display in numerous cities throughout the world, including Paris, Tokyo, Munich and more.

Source……Kaushik in http://www.amusing planet .com

Natarajan

 

 

The Pigeons who took Photos ….

At the turn of the last century, when aviation was still in its infancy, a German named Julius Neubronner submitted a patent for a new invention—a miniature camera that could be strapped to the breast of a pigeon so that the bird could take flight and snap pictures from the air.

Julius Neubronner was an apothecary who employed pigeons to deliver medications to a sanatorium located near his hometown Kronberg, near Frankfurt. An apothecary is one who makes medicines. A pharmacist is a more modern word, but in many German speaking countries, such as Germany, Austria and Switzerland, pharmacies are still called apothecaries.                                                                                                                                   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apothecary was Julius Neubronner’s family profession. His father was an apothecary, and so was his grandfather. In those days, homing pigeons were used extensively to carry messages and small supplies. It was Julius’s father’s idea to use pigeons to receive prescriptions from the sanatorium and send out medicinal supplies in a hurry—a practice that continued for more than half a century until the sanatorium closed.

One day, Neubronner let out a pigeon on an urgent errand but it didn’t return. When several days passed and there was still no sign of the bird, Neubronner assumed the pigeon was lost, or it got caught and killed by predators. A month later, the lost messenger showed up unexpectedly at Neubronner’s place. The bird appeared well fed, which got Neubronner into thinking. Where had he gone? Who had fed him?

Neubronner decided that he would start tracking his pigeons’ future travels.

 

Julius Neubronner with one of his pigeons.

Being a passionate do-it-yourself amateur photographer, it didn’t take long for Neubronner to fashion a miniature wooden camera which he fitted to the pigeon’s breast by means of a harness and an aluminum cuirass. A pneumatic system in the camera opened the shutter at predetermined intervals and the roll of film, which moved along with the shutter, took as many as thirty exposures in a single flight. The entire rig weighed no more than 75 grams—the maximum load the pigeons were trained to carry.

The pictures turned out so good that Neubronner started making different models. One system, for instance, was fitted with two lenses pointing in opposite directions. Another one took stereoscopic images. Eventually, Neubronner applied for a patent, but the patent office threw out his application citing that such a device was impossible as they believed a pigeon could not carry the weight of a camera. But when Neubronner presented photographs taken by his pigeons, the patent was granted in 1908.

 

 

 

 

 

Aerial photograph of Frankfurt.

Neubronner exhibited his photographs in several international photographic exhibition gaining him accolades. In one such exhibition in Dresden, spectators watched as the camera-equipped carrier pigeons arrived at the venue, and the photos were immediately developed and turned into postcards which they could purchase.

The technology was soon adapted for use during the First World War, despite the availability of surveillance aircraft then. Pigeons drew less attention, could photograph enemy locations from a lower height, and were visibly indifferent to explosions on a battlefield.

Neubronner’s avian technology saw use in the Second World War too. The German army developed a pigeon camera capable of taking 200 exposures per flight. The French too claimed they had cameras for pigeons and a method to deploy them behind enemy lines by trained dogs. Around this time, Swiss clockmaker Christian Adrian Michel perfected a panoramic camera and an improved mechanism to control the shutter. Pigeon photography was in use as late as the 1970s, when the CIA developed a battery-powered pigeon camera, though the details of the camera’s use are still classified.

Today, aerial photography has been replaced by aircrafts, satellites, and more recently, by affordable drones. But the legacy of Julius Neubronner’s pigeon photography lives on in these images which are among the very early photos taken of Earth from above.

Bonus fact: So what happened to Neubronner’s pigeon who stayed away from the owner for a month and returned fattened up? It had flown away to Wiesbaden, some twenty kilometers away, and was taken care of by a restaurant chef.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Natarajan

 

 

 

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.

Source….https://www.thenewsminute.com

Natarajan

 

5 People Who Survived the Unimaginable…

We are all going to die – ideally from old age and in our sleep, less ideally from the Universe concocting a terrible, inescapable, and painful end just for us. Fortunately, there’s no such thing as a totally inescapable scenario. Once every now and then, a person finds themselves face-to-face with Death and decides to yank the robes from under his feet and make a quick getaway. Below you’ll find the stories of five such people.

1. A Paraglider Naps Her Way across the Upper Atmosphere

In February 2007, German paraglider Ewa Wisnerska was sucked into an unexpected thunderstorm in Australia. As testimony to that storm’s intense hatred of flying people, a Chinese paraglider had been pulled into that exact same storm earlier that day. His lifeless body was found 50 miles away.

Not content with just the one victim, the storm nabbed Ewa mid-flight and dragged her high into the air. At 3,000 feet, her exposed skin was frostbitten. Her glasses, like the rest of her clothing, were covered in ice so thick that she couldn’t even make out her own glider – which the violent weather kept collapsing, so she had to constantly battle to keep her glider in working condition.

At 20,000 feet, the air temperature was down to -58 degrees Fahrenheit, and ice had encased her entire body. The lack of oxygen also caused her to pass out. You really wouldn’t expect to wake up from a nap like that.

The previous record altitude for a paraglider was 24,000 feet. Geese fly at 27,000 feet and so did Ewa, briefly, on her way to 29,035 feet – which is the exact height of the summit of Mount Everest. At this point, the storm was getting frustrated that she was still alive, so it lifted her up to 30,000 feet just to see if she could survive the cruising height of a passenger jet, without the jet. She could.

At 32,000 feet, the storm gave up and she began to descend. At 23,000 feet, she woke up and realized that she had no way to brake or steer (due to her frozen hands), so she rode out the storm and hoped that she’d eventually land safely. Which she did, 40 miles from her starting point.

Apart from some bruising and frostbite damage, she was perfectly fine. This is probably because she was unconscious for most of the flight. Your heart rate slows when you’re out cold, and this would have played a huge part in her survival.

2. Jacob Miller Sleeps Off Headshots

The Battle of Chikamagua in Tennessee during the Civil War was the second heaviest Union defeat after Gettysburg, with around 36,000 casualties. One of these casualties was Jacob Miller, who was shot between the eyes on September 19, 1863.

Miller’s Union allies thought he was dead so they left him behind. The Confederate army thought the same and walked right over him as they pushed forward. They didn’t know that Miller had the ability to sleep off a headshot.

When he woke up with a new hole in his head, he realized that he was now at the back of the Confederate line. So, using his gun as a crutch, he waddled along parallel to the fighting until he could pass back over to the Union side. Since his uniform was drenched in blood, the Confederates didn’t recognize him as an enemy.

After making it back to friendly turf, the surgeons refused to remove the bullet as they told him he was going to die anyway. In fact, the Union troops were about to retreat again, and the doctors deemed Miller too sick to move, so it looked like he was going to be left behind again.

Miller was having none of this and started retreating with them. His face was now so swollen that he had to manually lift his eyelids to see where he was going. He kept retreating with the Union troops, with no intention of stopping and dying. Eventually, he was picked up by an ambulance wagon.

Nine months after the incident, doctors finally got around to removing the shot from his head. The bullet hole never closed, and although Miller would go on to live a long life, he spent the next thirty years sweating bullets, as pieces of the shot would occasionally make their way out of his wound.

3. A Man Elbows His Way Out of a Watery Grave

In early 2017, Jake Garrow was plowing the snow from an ice road in Ontario, Canada, when his skid loader hit an unexpected thin patch and plunged into the frozen waters, taking Garrow with it.

For the majority of us, sinking 100 feet to the bottom of a freezing lake is a terrible way to go, but Garrow is not most of us. As he sank, he looked around for the cord release that would pop the back window open. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find it. So rather than fumble around futilely, while water rushed into his cab, Garrow smashed the back window using his elbow.

Now he was free from his skid loader, but he still had to swim 100 feet through pitch-black, ice-covered water and hope that he could find the hole that he fell through. Miraculously, he managed it, and emerged from the ice with little more than a perforated eardrum.

However, his ordeal wasn’t over yet. Garrow had to walk a mile to the main road in soaking wet clothes with a wind chill of -22 degrees Fahrenheit, and then stand at the side of the road freezing because not a single motorist stopped for him.

He only managed to get a ride to the hospital because a familiar contractor happened to drive by. To add to his plight, Garrow was contacted by the Ministry of Environment and was told to get his skid loader out of their lake by June.

4. Everything That Could Go Wrong With a Spaceship Landing Did

In 1969, at the height of the space race, Russian Cosmonaut Boris Volynov was flying a solo re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere on Soyuz 5. He was returning after having just dropped off two colleagues on another ship, and unfortunately, designated driver gigs are as awful in space as they are on Earth. During re-entry, the equipment module on Soyuz 5 failed to detach, which messed up the balance of the spacecraft and caused it to turn around.

This was a major problem, as the heat of bursting through Earth’s atmosphere was expected to burn away a good three inches of the special ablator coating in the thicker side of the vessel, which had a good six inches of it. Unfortunately, Volynov was now flying back into Earth backward, and the side of his ship facing the flames was just a mere inch thick.

To add to this, his body was also being submitted to nine times the gravitation force of Earth, making all attempts to fix the dire situation border-line impossible. At this point, ground control was already busy passing around a hat to collect money for his family. Volynov was facing certain death until he suddenly noticed something: The malfunctioning part of the ship that had failed to detach was also getting sheared off by intense heat. Summoning all his strength, he managed to maneuver the Soyuz 5 to its correct position in the nick of time.

Problem solved! Well, not exactly. He had new problems to contend with. The ships parachute had taken damage and could only partially deploy. To add to this, the rockets designed to soften the landing had also failed completely. Soyuz 5 hit the ground like a meteor. Volynov survived this too, but he was thrown around the cabin and broke a number of teeth.

He now had another problem to contend with. He had landed in the Ural Mountains, far away from his intended landing spot in Kazakhstan. The weather outside was -36 degrees Fahrenheit. If he stayed put, he’d be long dead before anyone rescued him.

When the rescue team arrived hours later, they found an empty Soyuz 5. However, they followed a set of footprints, peppered with blood and bits of teeth, and found Volynov warming himself in a peasant hut, which he had managed to locate by following a distant column of smoke.

5. Scientists Witness a Volcanic Eruption… From Inside the Volcano!

In January 1993, a group of scientists from 15 different countries gathered in Colombia to assess the danger of the 9,000 foot Galeras Volcano, which has irrupted irregularly for centuries. The volcanologists thought it would be fairly safe as it had last erupted six months earlier, and no seismic activity indicated that it would do so again. Therefore, 16 people ventured into its cone to gather samples and valuable information.

To its credit, the volcano waited until the most dramatic moment to launch its attack. An hour earlier, and all the scientists would have perished as they stood right at the inner crater. An hour later, and they would have been at a relatively safe distance. But no, Galeras waited until they had just stopped work for the day, and still had a sporting (yet slim) chance of escaping. Then, and only then, did the ground start to rumble. The volcano erupted and sent a 90-story cloud of ash, smoke, and gas into the air.

Three scientists were hit with a blast of heat so hot that it reduced them to ash. Six were bombarded and crushed to death by scalding rocks. When the dust settled, nine scientists had been killed, and those who were still alive were seriously injured.

Dr. Stanley Williams, the leader of the group, was standing right by the crater’s rim when the eruption came. He managed to avoid the blast of heat, but was still assaulted by a maelstrom of white-hot boulders. A rock struck him in the head, instantly shattering his skull and sending bone fragments deep into his brain. He managed to stumble away, only to have his legs savaged by another rock bombardment.

That might have been the end for him, if it wasn’t for two of his colleagues, Marta Calvache and Patty Mothes. Both had inexplicably decided to climb toward the volcanic eruption to look for any survivors. They managed to locate Williams and drag him to safety.

Source….www.ba-bamail.com

Natarajan

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

Natarajan