Wednesday, December 30, 2009



On 10 March this year, when 42 year old Ilango Rangasamy, the powerhouse panchayat president of Kuthambakkam (thirty kilometres from Chennai in Tiruvallur district, lies this predominantly-Dalit village) met President A.P.J.Abdul Kalam in New Delhi and briefed him about the revolution that is brewing in his village, Kalam was suitably impressed to exclaim, ``Ilango, this country needs many more like you.'' And the President promised he would visit the village one day. Ilango is the first Dalit from his village to obtain an engineering degree and take up a job with the prestigious Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), only to give it all up when he realised his village needed his committed expertise. Today, nearly seven years later, Kuthambakkam is self-sufficient in water and is moving towards zero-hunger and the `hutless village' concept. However, it is in optimising environmental resources that Kuthambakkam stands out. Through an intricate series of check-dams and rainwater harvesting structures, the groundwater table has improved dramatically and potable water is available at a height of less than ten feet. All nine ponds in the village have been desilted. The result: 2000 acres of the village's wetland now sport a lush green look and the village is now moving towards optimising dryland farming too. Organic farming is all set to receive a big push too. And the pioneering eco-friendly `hutless village' concept is catching on too. To satisfy rural housing needs, Ilango came up with the idea of using locally manufactured compressed mud and cement blocks to build houses under the State government's `Namakku Name' and `Samathuvapuram' schemes. Not only was the scheme cost-effective, it also provided employment to the villagers. The village has a website of its own bearing an obviously suitable name:

(Based on a NEW INDIAN EXPRESS report of June 5, 2003).


Hira Ratan Manek is 65. A Jain from Calicut. He is a mechanical engineer. He took interest in sun’s energy. It was when he had met the Mother of Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry that he was told by the mother to contemplate on sun’s energy. Inspired as he was by the lifestyle of Bhagavan Mahavir, Hira meditated on Gayatri Mantra that sings the glory of sun’s potential. For the last 10 years he has done extensive research in this field. He uses a simple technique of gazing at the sun and walking bare-foot. He advocates gazing at the sun an hour after sunrise and an hour before the sunset (thus one could avoid the harmful effects of ultra violet and infra red rays). For the last 8 years he has been living just on water and energy from the sun! He says he has not taken solid food at all! On several occasions, national and international community of doctors had examined him. That has led to the NASA initiating a project on him called HRM Project, on survival on solar energy.

Based on a news item in The Times Of India of May 18, 2003.


Today, an IIT degree is held in the same reverence in the U.S. as one from MIT or Caltech, and India's
extraordinary leadership in the software industry is the indirect result of Jawaharlal Nehru's faith in scientific education. And yet the roots of Indian science and technology go far deeper than Nehru. I (Shashi Tharoor) was reminded of this yet again by a remarkable new book, Lost Discoveries, by the American writer Dick Teresi. Teresi's book studies the ancient non-Western foundations of modern science, and while he ranges from the Babylonians and Mayans to Egyptians and other Africans, it is his references to India that caught my eye. And how astonishing those are! The Rig Veda asserted that gravitation held the universe together 24 centuries before the apple fell on Newton's head. The Vedic civilisation subscribed to the idea of a spherical earth at a time when everyone else, even the Greeks, assumed the earth was flat. By the Fifth Century A.D, Indians had calculated that the age of the earth was 4.3 billion years; as late as the 19th Century, English scientists believed the earth was a hundred million years old, and it is only in the late 20th Century that Western scientists have come to estimate the earth to be about 4.6 billion years old.
If I were to focus on just one field in this column, it would be that ofmathematics. India invented modern numerals (known to the world as"Arabic" numerals because the West got them from the Arabs, who learned them from us!). It was an Indian who first conceived of the zero, shunya; the concept of nothingness, shunyata, integral to Hindu and Buddhist thinking, simply did not exist in the West.
The Sulba Sutras, composed between 800 and 500 B.C., demonstrate that India had Pythagoras' theorem before the great Greek was born, and a way of getting the square root of 2 correct to five decimal places. (Vedic Indians solved square roots in order to build sacrificial altars of the proper size.) Archaeologists also found a "ruler" made with lines drawn precisely 6.7 millimeters apart with an astonishing level of accuracy. The "Indus inch" was a measure in consistent use throughout the area. The Harappans also invented kiln -fired bricks, less permeable to rain and floodwater than the mud bricks used by other civilisations of the time. The bricks contained no straw or other binding material and so turned out to be usable 5,000 years later when a British contractor dug them up to construct a railway line between Multan and Lahore. And while they were made in 15 different sizes, the Harappan bricks were amazingly consistent: their length, width and thickness were invariably in the ratio of 4:2:1.

Excerpts from an article by Shashi Tharoor in THE HINDU of June 8, 2003. (URL: Shashi Tharoor is the United Nations Under Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information and the author of seven books, most recently Riot and (with M.F. Husain) Kerala: God's Own Country. Anecdote Idea Courtesy: Email from Shri. Ashok Chowgule.


Meet Smt.Sarojini, 62. She has initiated a silent educational revolution in her village, in her house, to be precise. The village: Malliyakundam near Meycheri in Salem district, Tamilnadu, Bharat. Though herself a vintage class ten drop out, Sarojini started teaching free the three R’s in the mornings and evenings to the poor boys and girls in the village just inside her residence. Twenty amog such youth who could become graduates came forward to teach, leading to hundreds of rural children taking to education. Sarojini has formed an association for educational service comprising her students who are graduates today.

Based on a news item in the Gandhian Tamil monthly BHARATAMANI, February, 2003.


Two anecdotes having honesty as the common factor: 1) Smt. Kanniyammal living in Kembatti colony is a sweeper in the Coimbatore Municipal Corporation. One day, the Mayor (Shri.Gopalakrishnan) honoured her by presenting a wrist watch in appreciation of her honesty. A few weeks earlier, Kanniyammal had found a packet containing Rs.24,000 on the roadside and had handed it over to the authorities. It was duly sent to its owner Shri.Rajendran of Punjai Puliyampatti village near Sathyamangalam. 2) A noisy ‘quarrel’ attracted the attention of passers by in a Coimbatore street. It was between a shopkeeper and a woman customer. She had received Rs. 20 in excess as balance cash from the busy shopkeeper while making a purchase earlier. The latter could not remember the transaction details and so the woman had to raise her voice while making him realize his mistake. Yes, she was there to return the excess amount. He was requesting her to come back later as he was busy then. She won’t heed to that, exclaiming in Tamil “unga panam enakku edhukku? Adhu paavam” (Why shuld I retain your money? It is a sin.). A social worker among the passers by had a chat with the lady. He found out that she made her living by working as a rag picker.

Both anecdotes narrated by Shri. Rangarajan, an RSS worker of Tirupur.