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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Why Tolerance can be Dangerous

Why tolerance can be dangerous ?

    There is lot of talk about lack of tolerance. Is tolerance really a virtue ? so it seems . Let us look at the dictionary meaning of tolerance.

the ability or willingness to tolerate the existence of opinions or behaviour that one dislikes or disagrees with.

the capacity to endure continued subjection to something such as a drug or environmental conditions without adverse reaction.

     Suppose a friend of yours tolerates you... it means he dislikes you or disagrees with you .. not very flattering isn't it ? Can you continue to be friends tolerating each other ? It would be more like a ' Mahagathbandhan' of Indian politics, ready to break apart once the immediate target is achieved.

     What happens when you tolerate someone ? As long as you are in a good mood or in a good environment , it is easy to put up with the differences. And when your own comfort is affected , the tolerance turns to intolerance and to violence. It is always easy to tolerate when you are in an AC room, well rested and with enough to eat as compared to being in heat , dust and grime, deprived of sleep and on empty stomach.

    Yet why does tolerance seem to be a virtue ? Is it  because we consider 'intolerance' as the only other alternative ? There would be a paradigm shift in our thinking if we consider another alternative to tolerance , which is 'acceptance'.
    How long can a husband and wife merely 'tolerate' each other? For the relation to be stable there has to be acceptance of each other , complete with warts and all. A student tolerating mathematics or a language cannot go very far in the academic world till such time he feels comfortable with these subjects or  drops them altogether.

    Does it mean we need to like everyone and agree with everyone's opinions? Not necessarily so. It is just an acceptance that just as you have your opinion, the others have their opinions.

    Where does the word 'tolerance' fit in ? Whenever there is dislike, disagreement and conflicts, tolerance at best can be an intermediate stage before the stage of 'acceptance ' is reached . To that extent ,it is better than 'intolerance'; but tolerance cannot ever be an end by itself and a total divorce may actually be better than a 'permanent state of tolerance'.

Friday, September 4, 2015

OROP, What it means to me

As a veteran, do I want or, more importantly, do I need OROP ?

To be more precise, do I need that extra money ? I don't think so. It is a soldier's dignity that take a beating , when he is back among civilians in the society.

Money is really is of no consequence. Any amount of money is insufficient if the society robs you of your dignity and honour.

       That is the way army was when I joined. It was considered too 'bania-like' to have a second look at your pay statement. A pay statement (pay slip as it is called ) was routinely torn up after seeing the figure 'remittance to bankers'. Today it may sound foolhardy. But it is not unique to Indian Army. Warriors all over the world disdain money,  it is only the banias or bandits who accumulated wealth(banias did it without weapons and bandits did it with weapons).Japanese concept of Bushido explains it best.  Here's an extract from the book BUSHIDO THE SOUL OF JAPAN BY INAZO NITOBÉ, A.M., Ph.D.

.........He disdains money itself,—the art of making or hoarding it. It is to him veritably filthy lucre.  Niggardliness of gold and of life excites as much disapprobation as their lavish use is panegyrized. "Less than all things," says a current precept, "men must grudge money: it is by riches that wisdom is hindered." Hence children were brought up with utter disregard of economy. It was considered bad taste to speak of it, and ignorance of the value of different coins was a token of good breeding. Knowledge of numbers was indispensable in the mustering of forces as well, as in the distribution of benefices and fiefs; but the counting of money was left to meaner hands...........

        We never complained about not getting our due , for the simple reason we hardly knew what was our due. While on leave, I was surprised to find that my civilian friends not only knew the current DA rate but were also aware of the next one. That explains why OROP was not talked about for four decades.

      On the other hand, Dignity and respect were valued a lot. One only had to see a military special train , where compartments are marked "officers mess' 'Tiger', Lion and so on. Even in the middle of a jungle, a clearing where the CO's tent was put up attained the status of a bungalow. Furnishing was done with available material like logs , planks and grass. It resembled the den of 'Hagar the Horrible' but far from complaining about, we were proud of the arrangements. It was termed 'jungal men mangal'.

Lack of money did not affect the dignity of a soldier when he returned home after completing 15 years of service. He had a place in the society. Education and medical expenses were less or non existent. After all army had one of the best networks of hospitals and medical centres.

The liberating nineties , as Gurcharan das calls it changed all that. It was extremely difficult  for a fauji to seek admission for his children in private educational institutions and treatment at private hospitals became out of reach. Even to die with dignity it cost money. I could not leave army as I had no civil qualifications and people at the universities and colleges wanted you to apply a year before and go through the process of entrance exams and enrolment. I actually met the Vice Chancellor of Madras University . I thank him for agreeing to meet me without prior appointment, but the rules quoted by him were absurd to me. How can these babus, who have not served in army ever understand how difficult it is when posted at Tawang or Poonch to go through this one year process. No sir, I did not want money, I just wanted an opportunity to study, upgrade my skills to suit the civilian life.

An army man misses the opportunities to invest, to upgrade his skills or simply learn the way of life in civil environment. And it happens due to his spending the most  productive years at the borders or at sea, not through chasing money at Gulf countries or a better life style in the West.

When a society does not give an opportunity to find a dignified livelihood, the least they can give is the means , extra money , to buy a modicum of dignity and respect. I rest my case.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Scottish Tunes and the Desi Regiments

Having served for 35 years in a Regiment and having frozen to attention every time the Regimental March past played, all I remember is a feeling of intense pride and a deep respect for the Flag and the Regiment when I heard these notes.

Back O Bennachie is our Regimental March-past. Though I never learnt the lyrics nor the history of the song I have developed a close attachment for the tune. I just presumed that it was a song about soldier, soldiering and battles. In the pre internet days, ignorance on any subject was well preserved as there was no way to check out facts. One just went by feelings rather than well researched facts.

I remember , a commanding officer musing aloud, “why do we need a march-past called 'Back O Bennachie' ? Half the people can't spell it or pronounce it and nobody can understand it; we need an Indian tune composed by a great Indian musician like Pandit Ravishankar.” The next day was 15 Aug and after the function at the JCOs Club, we were all standing in attention and as the last notes of the Regimental March past played , he looked at me , gently shook his head and muttered 'no, no, we should stick to it'

As a good adjutant, I agreed with him on both the occasions and as the feelings go , it was not difficult to agree.

Years passed and one fine day, my son sent a video clip of the song played on mandolin. Following that link and further surfing in breadth and depth led to numerous versions. I downloaded and read up everything on the tune and also listened to some terrific versions of the tune played on mandolin, guitar and bag pipe.

It is a Scottish folk song, a sad love song about a girl who talks of two suitors. As the story goes, both the suitors die under different circumstances and it ends on a sad note

"   It's noo that twice I've been a bride,
I've been a bride, I've been a bride,
It's noo that twice I've been a bride,
But a wife I'll never be.    "

For whatever reason , the song is set to a lively tune. Today, it appears to be a huge joke; it could well have been 'Mary had a little lamb' . What comes to my mind is the words of Jiddu Krishnamurti that seemingly meaningless rituals and words can become profoundly sacred through repetition over a period of time.It was  something I had read long back, but courtesy, 'the net', I reproduce it below.

.......By repeating Amen or Om or Coca-Cola indefinitely you will obviously have a certain experience because by repetition the mind becomes quiet. It is a well known phenomenon which has been practised for thousands of years in India - Mantra Yoga it is called. By repetition you can induce the mind to be gentle and soft but it is still a petty, shoddy, little mind. You might as well put a piece of stick you have picked up in the garden on the mantelpiece and give it a flower every day. In a month you will be worshipping it and not to put a flower in front of it will become a sin......

Some links to lyrics and videos   (The song is called ' back o bennachie' or 'gin I were the gadie rins' )

On mandolin

Old Blind Dogs 

The Bag pipe

On Accordion

The Lyrics

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Is Technology the new God ?

"Uparwala sab dekh raha hai
the saying is as old as the hills, but what's new in the TV commercial is that  'Uparwala' here  refers to 'CP Plus' CCTV.

Earlier days, a child was told "God sees all,  knows all, is all powerful and  he knows what you are up to , anywhere, any time, so better behave....." As one grew up either the conscience took over the role of God or one just concluded that as an adult one had only his boss or the policeman to watch out for.

Today, be it a child or an adult, we have Technology watching over everyone. The Omnipresent,omniscient, and omnipotent God is in the form of CCTVs, databases and drones armed with all kinds of sensors and weapon systems.You may receive a challan for overspeeding and you may not even be aware as to  where and when you broke the speed limit. To compound the issue thee is no human face, call it cop, to negotiate or reason with. You may receive a demand note from IT dept for arrears of tax dues along with fine and you may be  blissfully unaware of any tax evasion on your part; nor is there any other human being aware; it is just as "What God giveth, He taketh back"

With the kind of digital foot print you leave of every activity; details of your movements, telephone calls, money transactions, shopping habits are  all saved in some server and some software is forever crunching the 'big data' to catch you with 'hand in the cookie jar'.

So have we finally invented a God, as Voltaire had wished we should ? But so far we have seen this God acting as a policeman, faithfully  enforcing man-made laws.

       May be some day we have Technology used to locate a hungry child and direct a food-laden drone to feed her; providing the proverbial "manna from the heavens". Till then , God is God and Technology is just Technology.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Travelling Light

Continued from Fauji and his Baggage

In addition to all that contraptions and devices to see one through any latitude from 10 degree N to 35 degree N, one has to plan for the transportation of all the  flora and fauna that an army man's family falls in love with.

Then you have a an archaic rule that a govt servant cannot have two quarters on his name, at the same time, for a period of more than 10 days  If the move is  say, from Coimbatore to Pithoragarh, that makes it a little like a photographer trying to cover both the start and finish of a 100M dash.

In any case , most of the time you don't have to worry about such situation , as it takes at least six months before you get a large enough accommodation to open all the packages.Yet some remained in packed condition for years. May be for this reason everything is packed in heavy Steel and wooden boxes.

One often hears , "..a two bed room house is more than enough for us, but what about our baggage and the empty boxes ?" I have seen a family of four huddled in a drawing room and one bed room while rest of the space including the second bed room and verandas on either side were stacked with boxes.

There is a popular formula for the number of boxes required; 2n +2 where n is the number of years of service. So, you start with two and add two boxes a year and end up with between 65-70 at the time of retirement.This is a very conservative estimate and people do reach three figures.

I myself stopped adding on to my tally , when it was around 25, somewhere in the mid-way through  my long service.

I was moving from the North East to Chennai and I had decided to take a truck with part load. With plywood loaded it had weight but not volume. The truck driver was also carrying some new refrigerators from the show room. As my 5 year old fridge was being loaded packed in a heavy wooden box made of pine wood and being placed next to  the brand new refrigerators in their original card board packages, it was a  eureka moment for me.

It suddenly dawned on me that all goods, however fragile, however new, however costly, are transported across the length and breadth of the country in cardboard boxes and gunny bags, till the time they become proud possessions of an army man.

Yet, it took two more transfers before I relieved the fridge of its body armour, though I stopped buying any more new boxes. Since then I have kept my faith in the original card board packing and that trust has never been betrayed. If cardboard was good enough for white goods, then why not for  clothes , books,  kitchenware etc ? Now, having disposed off the few steel boxes I had,  I feel a lot lighter and better. 


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Fauji and his Baggage

Well baggage is baggage; what is so different about a fauji's house hold baggage ? He is always on the move, every year or two. I can hear a civilian friend saying, "What's so great in 'relocation' ? even we do that you know ? I mutter to myself 'From Bombay to Bhopal (and back after a year)'. Having criss-crossed this great Bhatratvarsh from East to West and North to South, with 22 moves in 36 years , that is not the kind of 'relocation' I am talking about. 

 A Fauji is posted to places, which to a civilian will not even qualify to be called a place. A typical conversation may go like this "hi where are you these days ?", 'Binaguri'... 'where's it?', 'New Jalpaiguri ... that's near Siliguri' 'and where is that ?' 'somewhere near Darjeeling' 'Oh ! You are at Darjeeling, why didn't you say that ? nice place eh ?'

or it could be 'Samba', ' near Pathankot' ending up as "So you are in Kashmir ?"

    I am digressing, let us go into the details of a fauji household baggage.

   A typical fauji household baggage would have an assortment of stuff. In addition to regular stuff like TVs, Refrigerators, Air conditioners and kitchen gadgets, you will encounter some place-speific essentials ; Woollen clothings , quilts and a Kero-heater  to survive himalayan winters (a room-heater actually working on kerosene) popular at Dharchula (one can  google to find the loc), a  heavy duty voltage stabilizer to bring up the voltage from 75V to 200V or a  diesel generator (for  places where power supply is near zero and  a couple of Desert Coolers (for our western regions). You can't discard any stuff any time as by now you are only too aware as to how indispensable these  are at places where you bought them . And one never knows the place of the next tenure and if there is anything to go by , you can consider Murphy's law for fauji postings "Thou shalt see three postings along the coastal areas once you have acquired desert coolers to survive in Thar Desert and  enough woollens and jackets for a trip to Tibet . I  speak from personal experience.

      Original idea was to write about how the stuff is moved but as it has been a long preamble , that would follow in the next post.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Pen Drives are Secure

Ever since  the news of 'Navy War room leaks' broke out in 2006 , pen-drive phobia reached such proportions that many senior officers would not touch a pen drive with a barge pole. Ironically use of CDs increased though they can be as much of security hazard as a pen drive. Had pen drives not been available probably CD or some other media would have been used to steal info.

There are many myths related to pen drives, that they cause  virus infection, security leaks and loss of data.

Let us do a reality check. Is a CD or DVD any more secure than a pen drive ? I can hear the users saying " a pen drive is inherently insecure as it allows easy reading and writing "

The biggest disservice done by developers of propriety software is to make the users believe that they were imbeciles and cannot be trusted to alter anything made by  the Gods of Technology .

Your work environment should be customisable to the extent that if you want to open a window or close a window, whenever you want, the way you want, you should be able to do it. Everyone has the basic common sense to know when to open a window (not MS Windows) and by how much. So is it with a pen drive. If only a user is trusted to know how to partition, format and configure a pen drive, it is very very safe and secure.

People do not know much about pen drives. The other day, I had gone to the market to take a printout. As I plugged in my pen drive into a Windows machine, the file I wanted to print wouldn't show up. I realised that the entire partition was invisible to Windows. When I explained the problem to the guy there, he  sagely pronounced " only hard drives have partitions and pen drives don't " It sounded absurd to me as I have always used pen drives with multiple partitions. To confirm, I went to the adjacent shop and tried another Machine. One windows machine is as dumb as another, and this time, a young boy, may be tenth pass (or tenth fail ?) gave an exasperated look and said,"Uncle, ek pen drive, ek hi partition (one pen drive, one partition"

Coming back to reality check, whenever I bought a pen drive, the first thing I did was to partition it and format it as per my requirement. It had a bootable partition (if required), a small secure partition with 128 bit encryption and a large general purpose data partition for data . This way, data is secure and if you want to protect the drive from virus attack, you can make it read only as well.

Why is every one not using it ? At the risk of  sounding too condescending , I would say ' due to ignorance'. Manufacturers of pen drives and the dominant OS, M$ would want us to believe that you cannot customize a pen drive. The main threat is that the warranty would become Null and Void.

How to do it ? One word answer is "Linux". I tried some googling on how to do it through M$. All solutions appear too complex and involved third party, propriety software.

'Disks' is a simple free utility which is part of ubuntu installation. Here's a snap shot of my usb drive partions. I normally have a small secure portion and a large general purpose portion.

The reality is that 80 % of Computers have M$. So is it an advantage or a disadvantage to partition a disk ? I would say it is a definitly a step in the right direction for safety and security.

In a multi-partitioned disk, Windows sees just the first partition. So when using a M$ Machine I just have to have a very small first partition . What I have realised is that my pen drives are really safe from M$ virus. How can a virus attack when the entire partition is Invisible ? The real virus or the threat is the Windows Operating System, and blaming a pen drive is like shooting a messenger. Avoid M$ and you avoid Virus.

If only everyone uses Linux Machines and Linux partitioned Pen Drives, the Infotech world will be safer, much more secure and a lot more happier. Is the IT God listening ? Om Computaraya namaha ! Thathastu !

Monday, May 25, 2015

Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum

Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!

Though, in the West, Rum is generally associated with sailors, In India, it is the soldier and an infantryman at that, who is more attached to this incarnation of Soma Ras.

It is not just the contents, even the container serves the infantryman so well. There are some unusual applications of this container and here we are talking only about a bottle having a  uniformly cylindrical body and  narrow neck and is made of glass;  fancy shaped ones or PET bottles will not do.

In the field areas, generally in mountains, bunkers are made using available natural resources, ie Rocks, timber and mud. A CGI (Corrugated Galvanized Iron) Sheet is generally fabricated to form the door(fabrication involves putting a few holes in the iron sheet and using some wires to anchor it to a pole on one side or to use as a door handle or a door fastener !) What do we do for windows ? Getting glass panes is out of question. This is where the empty rum bottle comes into picture. Just make a rectangular hole in the wall and fill it up with a neat row of bottles. Sheer simplicity does it; your skylight is ready to brighten up your living space . Should you favour tinted glasses, well, you can try using beer bottles. I wish I had a photograph, but had to do with a simple illustration.

    While on a Long Range patrol, the bottle is used just about everywhere. Though there is a whole range of equipment issued by the Ordnance Depot, like Mess tins, 4 men cooking set, 45 men cooking set and so on, what really works is a simple kerosene stove, a tawa (hot plate ?) and patila (a handle less pan) locally purchased. All solid (I wouldn't say dry , as in army, opposite of dry is fresh and cooking oil comes under dry rations !) rations are carried in bag-packs and liquid or semi solid rations are carried in , you guessed it right, rum bottles. So you have milk, Curd, Cooking Oil, kerosene, and of course rum, all carried in rum bottles.

    When you halt for the night, the patrol gets cracking to prepare a meal. You knead some dough , find a flat surface or use steel plate, and start rolling out the chapattis using the good old rum bottle as belan or the rolling pin. For a housewife a rolling pin might become a weapon, but for a soldier, his rum bottle becomes a rolling pin.

    After the meal, which is generally cooked before it gets dark, you need a lamp. Fill up a bottle with kerosene, stick a piece of chindi (cloth for cleaning weapons) and you have a nice lamp; not so nice really , but so what ? I have actually read though nights using these lamps.

    If that's  the story in a Field area, what happens in the peace station ?  Well, you can see manifestations of a soldier's sense of Good Life, in a Peace station. It is not uncommon to find money plants growing in rum bottles on window sills. And during the company bara khana , some hibiscus flowers or even a bunch bougainvillea flowers placed in rum bottles pass for flower arrangement.

    Even in Officers messes, a rum bottle had its use. In the earlier days, cash strapped as we generally were, the mess secretary took pains to ensure that the empty bottles were sold at a good price to augment the income for the officers mess.

    God knows how a soldier could have lived and fought without the Gift of Rum bottles with or without the original contents.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Shelf Life of anything

 These days I am wary of the word 'latest' as  I am only too aware that 'latest' is, more often than not , not the greatest .

    I am not against technology or progress, but then most of the latest gadgets, software, fashions, movies etc are just aimed to fill the coffers of the producers from the pockets of ever obliging consumers. If there is a tremendous rage for profits on the part of producers, so is the rage for consuming among the general public. So the consumer and the producer are merrily plodding along supporting each other even while leaning on each other like two big drunkards. Obviously , even they would not know Where they are  heading for.

    So we have  new launches for auto-mobiles, electronic gadgets every month, Windows version every two years, and a Bollywood flick every week. Is a movie or a car model , a perishable commodity ?  Microsoft has to come up with its latest version of Windows not just to boost its bottom-line, but also to help the hardware manufacturers as the 'latest' software needs the 'latest' hardware' . Had Microsoft been producing auto-mobiles, we would have been upgrading our roads and bridges every two years.

     If that is the state of consumer goods, so is the case of skills in every field. In the field of Sports, I grew up watching, or hearing about, the famous Vishy square cut, the shot the great cricketer kept working on to perfection from his first match till the day he finally hung up his boots. Today a cricketer has to reinvent himself at every stage as even cricketing strokes get obsolete ! A good teacher is struggling to come to terms with the ever changing demands of parents , School System  , the examination system, Technology and the whole environment of education and employment. So we have the Kota type coaching classes clearly scoring over teachers with decades of experience and may be even a Presidents Award. We need the latest method of coaching in tune with the latest system of examination and evaluation. Is education also a perishable commodity ?

        A whatsapp / facebook message is drowned by a barrage of other messages in minutes. There is a 'breaking news' every ten minutes. News of a Nobel prize or an Olympic gold medal may be pushed into oblivion if there were to be  a wardrobe malfunctioning concerning the latest cutest model in the same hour. The old adage that "This too shall pass " has never been more real.

    Housing, Food, Apparels ,Gadgets, Entertainment, Job Skills and even Relationships today, come with a clear and present danger of Obsolescence . The Expiry date or 'a shortening shelf life' is the ultimate reality.

    Is there anything at all which is bucking the trend, where the shelf life is actually increasing ? Ironically, all I can think of is 'Milk', the most perishable commodity of yester years has increased its shelf life from 6-8 hours to 6-8 days and actually 6-8 months in a tetrapak .

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What's in a name ?

       Shakespeare said "What's in a name ? A Rose by any name will smell as sweet" .

       Well, I say,  there is everything in a name. What would Edvige Antonia Albina Màino have been had she not changed her name to Sonia Gandhi ?

       Try as you might it is extremely difficult to explain to a north Indian that, South of Vindhyas, a name just consisted of two parts, one was your name and the other was one or a group of letters which was simply called initials, ie the full name was not used anywhere. Well the documentation calls for a full name. So a Punjabi ends up calling someone, Gangaikondan or hardanahalli, thinking he is on a 'first name basis' ; first name comes first isn't it ? Not always.  I had a class mate VAB Raghunathan and what his initials meant we never knew, and one day we learnt that he also was not aware.

       That was when the odd teacher we had from Punjab, had set about the task of  educating himself on the naming conventions in the South.  After asking all the boys as to what their initials meant, he  thought he had got a grip over name, patronym village-nym, family name caste name and so on. Too bad that just then, he got bowled by the system followed by Chettiyaars who usually took the first two letters (instead of one)  of their father's name as initials; A  child of Annamalai becomes AN Somename. That was the last straw. He left it as a bad joke and said with a big relief 'my initials are ASR , and thank God, it is all my name 'Amrit Surya Ram'

      When I joined NDA, I became aware that I too had a difficult name to remember.. " Subramanian Muralidharan' . Every problem carries with it an opportunity. At NDA you had the sergeants at every 100 yards looking for law-breakers; that is , cadets who have a speck of dirt in their hankies or cadets running too slowly or may be cadets trying to run too fast when yelled at to stop ! The defaulters had to hand over their identity slips or I-slips as it was called, to the sergeants and then keep reporting to them to retrieve the I-slip.

       This is where my name came to my rescue. As a lost case, I was generally on the wrong side of Academy-law. I had two sets of I-slips. For every one of  S Muralidharan there were two of M Subramanian. While I was known in my squadron by the former name the latter one functioned as the decoy for other squadron types. It all worked very well till the better part of the second term; A sergeant looking for an elusive M.Subramanian in my squadron would lose interest after some days.

    One fine day just as S Muralidharan was reporting to one sergeant, another swooped on him from no where ,'So, Subramaniam, got you at last." I didn't have to try too hard to give a lost look. There ensued some animated discussion between my tormentors , on my real identity and in the process anger gradually  led to sheer amusement so much so that I ceased to be a defaulter and found myself explaining with an air of authority on the naming oddities in the South.

Monday, May 4, 2015


 Thiruvalluvar Statue and the adjacent Vivekananda Rock Memorial at sunrise.

 Original uploader was Infocaster at en.wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:BishkekRocks using CommonsHelper.

       I have always been fascinated by Thirukkural for it is sheer breath and depth. Every time you study the couplets you get a new insight into a whole range of subjects and issues. 

       Once, in a casual discussion with some of my North Indian friends I happened to mention the book . The topic of discussion was Indian contribution to Civilization. Just as I was preparing to build a case for arguing that this was the greatest contribution to the world by India, I noticed the blank faces and raised eyebrows all around. I kept going nonchalantly, till a guy blurted out ,“ Thirukkural ? What the hell is  it ?” Since then I generally kept my thoughts to myself on this great work, particularly when in the company of friends from north of the Vindhyas. 

       Of late I have noted some quotes and mis-quotes on the social media and for whatever reason people seem to be showing some interest in talking about it , if not studying it or following the teachings. So, I venture to write a brief note on what it is all about. It would be preposterous to say , it is a critique or a review of the work ,may be  just a glimpse of one view of a huge mountain as seen from a particular spot; just a primer for my North Indian friends

            Basically, it is composed of couplets like the dohas of Kabir das or Rahim. What is remarkable is that  these verses are so well organized to cover every aspect of human endeavour over centuries. It pans across time and space to continue to be as relevant today in this 'Whatsapp Age' as it was 2000 years before in an agrarian society. The book covers Ethics and value system in a society as much as an individual's quest for fulfilment in terms of peace , prosperity fame and love.  If Valluvar's advice to a king during war places him at par with SunTzu , his verses on ethics and love reminds you of Lao-Tzu and Vatsyayana. Unlike Vatsyayana who covers the physical aspects of Love  in detail, Valluvar focuses more on the psychological aspects.

            Keeping in line with the concept of Dharma (Duty or Righteousness), Artha (Wealth) and kama (Pleasure) , it is broadly divided into 'arathuppal', 'porutpal' and 'Kaamathupal' Then there are chapters under each part and each chapter is divided into sections . Each section has 10 verses . Thus the book of 1330 verses covers 133 sections. The importance  of an aspect to life  may be gauged by the number of verses on a particular aspect. For eg the importance of 'company one keeps' can be seen from the 50 verses under various heads viz 79 - 83.   The 133 subjects covered are tabulated below.   (Courtesy :

Tamil English Transliteration Kurals
1 கடவுள் வாழ்த்து The Praise of God Katavul Vaazhththu Kurals
2 வான்சிறப்பு The Blessing of Rain Vaansirappu Kurals
3 நீத்தார் பெருமை The Greatness of Ascetics Neeththaar Perumai Kurals
4 அறன் வலியுறுத்தல் Assertion of the Strength of Virtue Aran Valiyuruththal Kurals
5 இல்வாழ்க்கை Domestic Life Ilvaazhkkai Kurals
6 வாழ்க்கைத் துணைநலம் The Worth of a Wife Vaazhkkaith Thunainalam Kurals
7 மக்கட்பேறு The Wealth of Children Pudhalvaraip Perudhal Kurals
8 அன்புடைமை The Possession of Love Anputaimai Kurals
9 விருந்தோம்பல் Hospitality Virundhompal Kurals
10 இனியவை கூறல் The Utterance of Pleasant Words Iniyavaikooral Kurals
11 செய்ந்நன்றியறிதல் Gratitude Seynnandri Aridhal Kurals
12 நடுவு நிலைமை Impartiality Natuvu Nilaimai Kurals
13 அடக்கம் உடைமை The Possession of Self-restraint Atakkamutaimai Kurals
14 ஒழுக்கம் உடைமை The Possession of Decorum Ozhukkamutaimai Kurals
15 பிறனில் விழையாமை Not coveting another's Wife Piranil Vizhaiyaamai Kurals
16 பொறையுடைமை The Possession of Patience, Forbearance Poraiyutaimai Kurals
17 அழுக்காறாமை Not Envying Azhukkaaraamai Kurals
18 வெஃகாமை Not Coveting Veqkaamai Kurals
19 புறங்கூறாமை Not Backbiting Purangooraamai Kurals
20 பயனில சொல்லாமை Against Vain Speaking Payanila Sollaamai Kurals
21 தீவினையச்சம் Dread of Evil Deeds Theevinaiyachcham Kurals
22 ஒப்புரவறிதல் Duty to Society Oppuravaridhal Kurals
23 ஈ.கை Giving Eekai Kurals
24 புகழ் Renown Pukazh Kurals
25 அருளுடைமை Compassion Arulutaimai Kurals
26 புலால் மறுத்தல் Abstinence from Flesh Pulaanmaruththal Kurals
27 தவம் Penance Thavam Kurals
28 கூடா ஒழுக்கம் Imposture Kootaavozhukkam Kurals
29 கள்ளாமை The Absence of Fraud Kallaamai Kurals
30 வாய்மை Veracity Vaaimai Kurals
31 வெகுளாமை Restraining Anger Vekulaamai Kurals
32 இன்னா செய்யாமை Not doing Evil Innaaseyyaamai Kurals
33 கொல்லாமை Not killing Kollaamai Kurals
34 நிலையாமை Instability Nilaiyaamai Kurals
35 துறவு Renunciation Thuravu Kurals
36 மெய்யுணர்தல் Truth-Conciousness Meyyunardhal Kurals
37 அவா அறுத்தல் Curbing of Desire Avaavaruththal Kurals
38 ஊழ் Fate Oozh Kurals
39 இறைமாட்சி The Greatness of a King Iraimaatchi Kurals
40 கல்வி Learning Kalvi Kurals
41 கல்லாமை Ignorance Kallaamai Kurals
42 கேள்வி Hearing Kelvi Kurals
43 அறிவுடைமை The Possession of Knowledge Arivutaimai Kurals
44 குற்றங்கடிதல் The Correction of Faults Kutrangatidhal Kurals
45 பெரியாரைத் துணைக்கோடல் Seeking the Aid of Great Men Periyaaraith Thunaikkotal Kurals
46 சிற்றினம் சேராமை Avoiding mean Associations Sitrinanjeraamai Kurals
47 தெரிந்து செயல்வகை Acting after due Consideration Therindhuseyalvakai Kurals
48 வலியறிதல் The Knowledge of Power Valiyaridhal Kurals
49 காலமறிதல் Knowing the fitting Time Kaalamaridhal Kurals
50 இடனறிதல் Knowing the Place Itanaridhal Kurals
51 தெரிந்து தெளிதல் Selection and Confidence Therindhudhelidhal Kurals
52 தெரிந்து வினையாடல் Selection and Employment Therindhuvinaiyaatal Kurals
53 சுற்றந் தழால் Cherishing Kinsmen Sutrandhazhaal Kurals
54 பொச்சாவாமை Unforgetfulness Pochchaavaamai Kurals
55 செங்கோன்மை The Right Sceptre Sengonmai Kurals
56 கொடுங்கோன்மை The Cruel Sceptre Kotungonmai Kurals
57 வெருவந்த செய்யாமை Absence of Terrorism Veruvandhaseyyaamai Kurals
58 கண்ணோட்டம் Benignity Kannottam Kurals
59 ஒற்றாடல் Detectives Otraatal Kurals
60 ஊக்கம் உடைமை Energy Ookkamutaimai Kurals
61 மடி இன்மை Unsluggishness Matiyinmai Kurals
62 ஆள்வினை உடைமை Manly Effort Aalvinaiyutaimai Kurals
63 இடுக்கண் அழியாமை Hopefulness in Trouble Itukkan Azhiyaamai Kurals
64 அமைச்சு The Office of Minister of state Amaichchu Kurals
65 சொல்வன்மை Power of Speech Solvanmai Kurals
66 வினைத் தூய்மை Purity in Action Vinaiththooimai Kurals
67 வினைத்திட்பம் Power in Action Vinaiththitpam Kurals
68 வினை செயல்வகை Modes of Action Vinaiseyalvakai Kurals
69 தூது The Envoy Thoodhu Kurals
70 மன்னரைச் சேர்ந்து ஒழுகல் Conduct in the Presence of the King Mannaraich Cherndhozhudhal Kurals
71 குறிப்பறிதல் The Knowledge of Indications Kuripparidhal Kurals
72 அவை அறிதல் The Knowledge of the Council Chamber Avaiyaridhal Kurals
73 அவை அஞ்சாமை Not to dread the Council Avaiyanjaamai Kurals
74 நாடு The Land Naatu Kurals
75 அரண் The Fortification Aran Kurals
76 பொருள் செயல்வகை Way of Accumulating Wealth Porulseyalvakai Kurals
77 படை மாட்சி The Excellence of an Army Pataimaatchi Kurals
78 படைச் செருக்கு Military Spirit Pataichcherukku Kurals
79 நட்பு Friendship Natpu Kurals
80 நட்பாராய்தல் Investigation in forming Friendships Natpaaraaidhal Kurals
81 பழைமை Familiarity Pazhaimai Kurals
82 தீ நட்பு Evil Friendship Thee Natpu Kurals
83 கூடா நட்பு Unreal Friendship Kootaanatpu Kurals
84 பேதைமை Folly Pedhaimai Kurals
85 புல்லறிவாண்மை Ignorance Pullarivaanmai Kurals
86 இகல் Hostility Ikal Kurals
87 பகை மாட்சி The Might of Hatred Pakaimaatchi Kurals
88 பகைத்திறம் தெரிதல் Knowing the Quality of Hate Pakaiththirandheridhal Kurals
89 உட்பகை Enmity within Utpakai Kurals
90 பெரியாரைப் பிழையாமை Not Offending the Great Periyaaraip Pizhaiyaamai Kurals
91 பெண்வழிச் சேறல் Being led by Women Penvazhichcheral Kurals
92 வரைவின் மகளிர் Wanton Women Varaivinmakalir Kurals
93 கள்ளுண்ணாமை Not Drinking Palm-Wine Kallunnaamai Kurals
94 சூது Gambling Soodhu Kurals
95 மருந்து Medicine Marundhu Kurals
96 குடிமை Nobility Kutimai Kurals
97 மானம் Honour Maanam Kurals
98 பெருமை Greatness Perumai Kurals
99 சான்றாண்மை Perfectness Saandraanmai Kurals
100 பண்புடைமை Courtesy Panputaimai Kurals
101 நன்றியில் செல்வம் Wealth without Benefaction Nandriyilselvam Kurals
102 நாணுடைமை Shame Naanutaimai Kurals
103 குடிசெயல் வகை The Way of Maintaining the Family Kutiseyalvakai Kurals
104 உழவு Farming Uzhavu Kurals
105 நல்குரவு Poverty Nalkuravu Kurals
106 இரவு Mendicancy Iravu Kurals
107 இரவச்சம் The Dread of Mendicancy Iravachcham Kurals
108 கயமை Baseness Kayamai Kurals
109 தகை அணங்குறுத்தல் The Pre-marital love Thakaiyananguruththal Kurals
110 குறிப்பறிதல் Recognition of the Signs Kuripparidhal Kurals
111 புணர்ச்சி மகிழ்தல் Rejoicing in the Embrace Punarchchimakizhdhal Kurals
112 நலம் புனைந்து உரைத்தல் The Praise of her Beauty Nalampunaindhuraiththal Kurals
113 காதற் சிறப்புரைத்தல் Declaration of Love's special Excellence Kaadharsirappuraiththal Kurals
114 நாணுத் துறவுரைத்தல் The Abandonment of Reserve Naanuththuravuraiththal Kurals
115 அலர் அறிவுறுத்தல் The Announcement of the Rumour Alararivuruththal Kurals
116 பிரிவு ஆற்றாமை Separation unendurable Pirivaatraamai Kurals
117 படர்மெலிந் திரங்கல் Complainings Patarmelindhirangal Kurals
118 கண் விதுப்பழிதல் Eyes consumed with Grief Kanvidhuppazhidhal Kurals
119 பசப்புறு பருவரல் The Pallid Hue Pasapparuparuvaral Kurals
120 தனிப்படர் மிகுதி The Solitary Anguish Thanippatarmikudhi Kurals
121 நினைந்தவர் புலம்பல் Sad Memories Ninaindhavarpulampal Kurals
122 கனவுநிலை உரைத்தல் The Visions of the Night Kanavunilaiyuraiththal Kurals
123 பொழுதுகண்டு இரங்கல் Lamentations at Eventide Pozhudhukantirangal Kurals
124 உறுப்புநலன் அழிதல் Wasting Away Uruppunalanazhidhal Kurals
125 நெஞ்சொடு கிளத்தல் Soliloquy Nenjotukilaththal Kurals
126 நிறையழிதல் Reserve Overcome Niraiyazhidhal Kurals
127 அவர்வயின் விதும்பல் Mutual Desire Avarvayinvidhumpal Kurals
128 குறிப்பறிவுறுத்தல் The Reading of the Signs Kuripparivuruththal Kurals
129 புணர்ச்சி விதும்பல் Desire for Reunion Punarchchividhumpal Kurals
130 நெஞ்சொடு புலத்தல் Expostulation with Oneself Nenjotupulaththal Kurals
131 புலவி Pouting Pulavi Kurals
132 புலவி நுணுக்கம் Feigned Anger Pulavi Nunukkam Kurals
133 ஊடலுவகை The Pleasures of Temporary Variance Ootaluvakai Kurals

(Courtesy :

      It would neither  be feasible nor desirable to cover the whole book , but I would like to quote a few verses on different subjects, to give an idea of the clear, concise, and precise way the verses are composed, even while retaining the poetic form.I suppose a gentle warning is in order here ."the English translation can never capture the original meaning and form"

On Education

Learning is the true imperishable riches; all other things are not riches

On Purity of Action 

Though a person may see his mother starve; let him  not act in a way which the wise would treat with contempt.

the kural takes a clear unambiguous stand on the eternal debate between 'means and ends'

On Friendship

(True) friendship hastens to the rescue of the afflicted (as readily) as the hand of one whose garment is loosened (before an assembly)

this kural, defines what a friend means

On Children

"The pipe is sweet, the lute is sweet," say those who have not heard the prattle of their own children

the poet in Valluvar is at his best

On Social Gossip about young lovers (Page 3 ?!)

This malady (of lust) is manured by the talk of women and watered by the (harsh) words of my mother

What an insight into the effect on young lovers on gossip by the society and admonition by parents.

      The reductionists that we are , the first challenge for anyone coming across a book today, is on how to classify it. (A trivia on Shiva Triology by Amish Tripati; the publishing was delayed since the the publishers couldn't agree on whether the book would be classified under non-fiction,  fiction, religion, mythology or anything else.)

     Is Thirukkural , a religious book ? Well, many atheists love it. Is it for 'self Improvement' ? May be, but there are many verses on 'vegetarianism' , 'non violence' , 'refraining from alcohol' which may not gel with a mind influenced by the western way of thinking. There is advice on virtues,vices, health, wealth , governance , diplomacy and everything under the sun, which cannot be classified  under any school of thinking. 

        One may not agree with every verse nor is there a need to. It has something for everyone. Every individual is inspired by a different verse, at different point of time in his life. There is something in it for every one , any time. Take what appeals to you , leave out what doesn't , but make sure you revisit  the verses at a later stage in life. Whatever be,  learning and dwelling on just 10 – 20 of your favourite verses from the 1330 verses can definitely enrich one's life to a great extent.