Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Parthasarathy Koil Devotion amidst Chaos

Cell Phone Chats, Photo and Video Shoots and 'whatsup for Dinner' rule Narasimha Brahmotsavam 2015
Where is the Devotion and the 'Folded Hands'?
Holding a phone high over the head and clicking photo and video shots of the Lord in Procession is the new fad at the ongoing Narasimha Brahmotsavam at the Parthasarathy Temple in Thiruvallikeni. Youngsters and Traditional oldies are vying with each other with their latest iPADS, Tablets and Smart Phones to click the first shots of the Lord. 

As a prelude to each day’s evening procession, Lord Narasimha is brought from the Western side of the temple, with the final 20 yards leading to the Nam Azhvaar Sannidhi in a ‘Vaiyali’, the climax to the Pathi Ulaathal event that has in recent times created much excitement among the devotees. Except that with the proliferation of Smart Phones, the photo mania has reached unacceptable levels and has turned out to be a serious distraction to true devotees.

For the 2nd year in a row, this has now become a sour point for a minority of devotees who are unable to have a clear darshan of the Lord in a Vaiyali as the climatic action of the 'Pathi Ulaathal' unfolds every evening just after 6.45 pm in front of the Nam Azhvaar Sannidhi  at the Eastern entrance of the temple.

It was almost a year ago – the second week of July 2014 - on a Sunday evening on the occasion of the eighth day of the Narasimha Brahmotsavam that this issue of 'phone - photo' intervention was brought up in no uncertain manner by a devotee. Exactly a year later, almost a similar story was re-enacted on Monday (29 June) evening at the same venue. Nothing really has changed attitude wise in these 12 months, In fact, with the emergence 'Smarter and Cheaper' phones, the situation has worsened with a majority of those present having their hands up to click the Lord, completely unmindful of the devotees behind them.

Chaos at Pathi Ulaathal
On July 13, 2014, right next to me was a tall man with an infectious smile. He seemed to be quite friendly with his fellow devotees and the officials of the temple and always exchanged pleasantries with them. He probably holds a Government post going by the respect he commands and the style of communication the temple officials have with him!!!

That evening, he showed the other side in him. A devotee who was standing a few yards in front of him had the mobile phone over his head and was clicking a video of the Vaiyali. The Tall Man with a polite smiling gesture requested the other man to keep the phone down so the other devotees behind him could have darshan of the Vaiyali.

A minute later, this process was again followed as the phone had gone ‘overhead’ again. Repeated polite appeals  went unanswered which is when the Tall Man decided to display his other Avatar. 

And for the next 10 minutes with the clock ticking to 7 pm that Sunday evening, the entire North Eastern side of the temple in front of the Nam Azhvaar Mandapa watched in awe the ripping apart by the tall man of the photo tormentor. It was so vociferous that KT Jagannathan (Business Editor of The Hindu) who was also part of the devotee crowd that evening described it as something ‘rarely seen from this man’.  Shortly after the event, KTJ ( who had seen him for almost a decade at the temple) remarked ‘I thought he was a soft person, did not know that he had this aggressive side to him’.

The tall man gave a piece of his mind in a tone that could be heard far away from the location of this episode. Importantly, it was a message from him not just to this arrogant person who persisted with his photo/video shoot despite repeated requests but to all those present there including the officials/service volunteers that raising the phone over head to shoot the Lord causing distraction to sincere devotees was not acceptable at this festival.

Interestingly, that evening exactly a few minutes before the tall man went ‘berserk’ with the sudden unexpected vocal blow on that ‘photo maniac’, the tall man’s daughter seemed to have a sudden bout of cough that she had to go away from the Nam Azhvaar Mandapa. God had deemed that it not apt for her to see her father in this 'never before seen'  demolition drive shouting out at the top of his voice on behalf of the devotee community. The probability of a physical exchange of blows  seemed high for the photographer seemed adamant at his right to photo shoot albeit at the cost of all other devotees behind him. Truly Lord Narasimha has his own ways and kept the daughter from witnessing this fiery side of her father!!!

It was particularly commendable because the Tall Man given his height would have been able to have darshan but not so the others around him. That evening, he had done yeoman service to all the true devotees of the Parthasarathy Koil by taking on boldly the photo man and sending out a strong message to the entire devotee community. It requires such bold men to speak up to put the ‘house’ back in order.

June 2015 Brahmotsavam and the scenario has worsened
Exactly a year later, nothing has changed. Better access now to sleeker phones with good cameras has led to intense competition among the devotees who are now more focused on showcasing their photography and videography skills than offering their devotion to the Lord and enjoying his beautiful evening presentation of the Vaiyali.

The first activity of the Utsavam is no more worship of the Lord with folded hands - Iru Kai Koopi Uraikkum Ivvinnappam Onru Kelaai..... as suggested by Desigar in his Prabhandham - Its now to get the camera ready for the first click and mostly at the cost of darshan for many of the devotees at the back row.

It was evening of Day 3 and another Sunday at the 2015 version of Narasimha Brahmotsavam. It looked like a re-enactment of last year’s episode. 

This time it was a man clad in a Panchakacham and sporting a broad Thiruman who was clicking shots repeatedly of the Lord with the phone held high over his head. The tall man was at it again requesting with a broad smile to keep the phone down but this time with the daughter next to him, he was not allowed his freedom of last year. And he remained silent after a couple of 'mild' shouts.

Story Trigger
A day later, today the 4th day of the Brahmotsavam (29 June) and to the event that triggered this story. 

It was 6.55 pm on Monday evening and to the climax of the evening's Pathi Ulaathal. And it was the same story yet again. Another person was right up there in the front holding the phone high preventing those at the back from a darshan of the Vaiyali. And the tall man for the 2nd day running repeatedly requested the other man to keep it down.

When the other man refused and continued to video shoot holding it high up, the tall man went up to him and brought the phone down and held it down!!!! A great bold initiative again by him. 

The Official's Right to Shoot!!!!! 
Unfortunately, though, the tall man this evening was further frustrated by the dramatic turn of events following the above episode. As he was performing this service holding down the phone of one man, he was shocked to find a Quasi Official of the temple (who is an integral part of the power group of festival organisers) right in front of the Lord in the middle of the path holding his phone high and clicking shots one after another completely insensitive to the fact that there was a huge devotee crowd right behind him trying to watch the Vaiyali. It did not occur to him that his action was blocking the darshan for several others behind him.

All that mattered to the Quasi Official was to avail of his exclusive right to stand right in front of the Lord to take any number of photo and video shots. 

It just seems that temple worship is going the wrong way – Photo posts on Facebook and photo exchanges on Whatsapp are the  order of the day. Even the traditional Vaishnavites are now being taken in by the 'Phone Photo Mania'. Awards seem to be on offer for the fastest photo post of Lord Narasimha that the devotees of Parthasarathy temple are vying with each other for the first and exclusive photo post. 

A lady remarked over the weekend that her relative from the US pinged on whatsapp within minutes of the commencement of the festival to confirm receipt of the 'launch' photograph. The instant drive to showcasing their presence at the festival is taking people away from the essence of why they are there in the first place and the reasons for their temple visits. There is a new found eagerness to show that they 'belong' to this new modern world of hi-tech phones. As they head back home every evening, the question asked is 'if you took a good photo shot of the Lord' and not 'did you have a good peaceful darshan.'

Azhvaars’ praise of Utsavams in Divya Desams
The festivals at this Divya Desam and others including the Brahmotsavam date back over a 1000 years, for Azhvaars in several Pasurams in the Nalayira Divya Prabhandham refer to festivals and Vedic recitals and devotees gaining positive energy from these festivals.

Thiru Mangai Azhvaar in his Periya Thirumozhi refers to rows of houses lining up the streets, in whose porticos traditional ladies queued up to watch the festivals and the glittering procession of the Lord of Therazhandur. He also makes a mention of the Chariot festival that used to take place at the temple during his time. In one of the verses, he refers to ‘Dust arising from the Chariot Festival’ at Therazhandur.
Describing the grand manner of the celebrations of the festivals at Nathan Koil (Nandipura Vinnagaram), Thirumangai Azhvaar says that the drum beats were so loud that it sounded like thick thunderous monsoon clouds coming together. During such festive times, peacocks happily danced around the beating of the drums creating happiness among the devotees who thronged in big numbers praying with folded hands.

Many verses in the Divya Prabhandham talk about the vibrancy around the temples during festivals and how people came out of their homes to have a glimpse of the Lord in different vahanas. And the Azhvaars describe the happy state of the people in such times.

One thought devotees would likewise come out to the temple to capture a glimpse of the Lord and to seek his blessings offering their sincere prayers. Alas, it does not seem so here.

Mrs. Bhooma Venkatakrishnan’s story
Earlier this month on 9th June - the 2nd morning of the recital of the Nalayira Divya Prabhandham and the conduct of the homam leading up to the Samprokshanam -   a story featured in the Faith section of The Hindu where Mrs. Bhooma Venkatakrishnan (wife of the former HOD of Vaishnavism of the Madras University) quoted the Periya Thiruvanthathi verses of Namazhvaar to explain the opportunities provided by the Lord for Moksham and the route to Vaikuntam. Interestingly, the story went on to say that there were limited seats at Vaikuntam and hence if every devotee was perfect and offered his/her prayers as desired by the Lord, He would struggle to accommodate them at Vaikuntam.

Exactly two hours after this story featured in print the author was chatting away on phone continuously sitting right behind the Goshti group in front of the Andal Sannidhi and just 10 yards away from Shri Venkatakrishnan who was also part of the Prabhandham recital that morning.

Even the Ghosti group have scant regard
Well unfortunately, this attitude of utter disregard for the Lord does not end with the devotees and officials. It extends to the revered Ghoshti group as well as seen in the  Era Pathu Utsavam in the first week of January this year.

One of my favourite night festivals is the Veenai Ekantham at the Srirangam temple (http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2009/12/veena-ekantham-at-srirangam-ranganatha.html). It is an event of putting Lord Ranganatha to sleep with the devotional tunes late in the night. You could hear a pin drop during their recital such is the respect given to the Veenai  artistes there.

Over the last two years, some young musicians have presented truly heart rendering music on the occasion of Era Pathu Utsavam at the Parthasarathy temple ( the young girl who played the violin readily comes to mind). 

This year, as part of this Utsavam, the elderly couple, and flautists, KT Jagannathan and Sudha Jagannathan were bestowed with the opportunity to lead Lord Parthasarathy back to his sanctum.

The clock was ticking to 11pm in the night and the two of them played a few devotional tunes as the entire place reverberated with devotion but not for two of the most senior people in the Ghoshti. They had had their day of Prabhandham recital and it was now time for them to discuss things away from the temple. To them, Jagannathans’ devotional tune was not important nor were they sensitive to the fact that there were 50 odd devotees enjoying this soft music. That evening one even saw a smile in the face of Lord Parthasarathy who seemed to appreciate these two praising him with their divine flutes.

Maniam Balaji asked the two Prabhandham Scholars to keep quiet, first when the Jagannathans passed the Flag Post and then a second time as they continued their presentation passing the Garudan Sannidhi. Thankfully, that night the Jagannathans seemed oblivious of the noise around them for they were engrossed in the music played to delight the Lord.

However, it seemed to occur to the two distinguished Prabhandham specialists that it was not within Balaji’s rights to instruct them to remain quiet. And as KTJ reached the climax with Lord Parthasarathy having settled down in his seat came a shocker from the Prabhandham Scholar.

It was particularly disappointing for me, for this Prabhandham exponent is the one whom I have admired the most here as I watched in utter disbelief his retorting back to Balaji in an unflinching voice that 'he will talk loudly and no one has a right to stop him' and definitely not Balaji. 

It was difficult to fathom that such a senior Prabhandham Acharya who had rendered the sacred recital for several decades at this temple could disregard the sanctity of the temple with such contempt and with such a public posturing of his rights to talk loudly while Lord Parthasarathy was being carried back to his sanctum, completely unmindful of the devotional music that was being played alongside the Lord that night.

Of course, there are folks in the Ghosti Group who chat continuously with their colleague throughout the recital of the Prabhandham. Obviously, they are seeing nothing wrong in talking with their colleagues on a variety of topics while sitting within the group.

And picking up calls on their mobile phone while being part of the Ghosti is a normal occurrence. Here again they seem to see no wrong in talking over the phone while others in the Ghosti are reciting the Prabhandham.

Where is true Devotion to the Lord?
Crowds are thronging temples. And it seems there is a ‘devotion’ wave sweeping across Tamil Nadu. But unfortunately the reality of 'Devotion' on the ground at the temple is very different. You have a senior executive coming in a posh car to the Parthasarathy temple every evening for his daily walk. There is no problem with using the temple as a walk area - huge temples such as Mannargudi Rajagopalaswamy temple actually have a walk path 
(http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2007/05/mannargudi-rajagopalaswamy-temple.html). However, it is disrespect to the Lord if the walker combines his walk time with talk time both with his co-walker as well as on the Blackberry.

The non-stop chat on the phone, typing of messages, updating their near and dear ones on the status of the procession via the instant messaging system and taking photo shots at all times at all places leaves one wondering as to where we are headed with devotion. If the hands are always in possession of a photo phone, where is the possibility of the 'folded hands' before the Lord?

Vincent D’Souza and his reaction at the Church
Vincent D’Souza, the Editor of Mylapore Times and who has been rendering great community service, remarked earlier this year that anyone speaking in a loud tone during his time at the Sunday Church would get a mouthful from him. Something on the lines of what the Tall Man dished out at the 2014 Brahmotsavam!!!!

My description on the current trends at the Parthasarathy temple left him shocked. He was upset that I was a silent spectator and wished me well that January evening in my endeavour to create a positive transformation in temples and to get us back into the days of peaceful, undisturbed worship.

This story triggered by the Monday evening's action of the ‘Tall Man’ is a first step to try and get those who read this to offer peaceful darshan in temples. Phone calls and chats can be done through the day and night outside the temple. And the photos can be taken without disturbing the 'devotee eco-system and peace'.

I hope this will also serve as a wake up call to the officials/quasi officials and the service volunteers of the Parthasarathy temple that they have a duty of devotion to the Lord and that the power they think they are holding does not necessarily translate into automatic rights to photo and video shoot. Definitely not at the cost of distraction to the devotees.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Rajesh Kannan BCCI Board Umpire

Succeeding against the Odds


He was a rank outsider in the mid 1980s with no backing in those early days. Very few in the cricketing circles knew him. He did not have a cricket kit of his own. He was not financially strong. But he made up for all this with a determination that indicated very early on that he would succeed against all odds.

Close to 30 years after I first played against him in a Saturday match at YMCA, R. Rajesh Kannan (Kanna to all the cricketers in those days) has just, in the last week, been appointed as a Board Umpire ( BCCI umpire), quite a significant achievement for a low profile cricketer, who continues to play 1st division cricket for IOB despite being well into his 40s.

Sometimes he would walk all the way from Saidapet to play matches over the weekend and during the summer against a little more fancied YMCA (TSR) team at the YMCA ground in Nandanam. Other times he would catch the crowded 45B bus to Nandanam. But he was always on time and raring to go and prove himself against the more established players. Almost every match, he would take his team to victory single handedly from precarious position that he would find his team in.

Many a ball was dispatched into the tennis court on the Western side and the YMCA boys had to jump the wired fencing to fetch the ball back. 

Early cricketing trips to Bangalore
Spotting the talent in him, he was roped in by YMCA (TSR) for the annual summer tournaments in Bangalore. In the very first year, he took a brilliant catch at deep fine leg right on the boundary line to dismiss Mujibur Rehman (playing for Kohinoor – Chemplast) in the first over the match. An hour later, he induced an edge, first ball, from S Ramesh (who later went on to play test cricket) but S Ravi at slip put it down (Ramesh went on to score a century and YMCA lost that match).

Having started off with Kamyuth in the fourth division, he moved to Vigneswara and Vijay CC in the 2nd division of the TNCA league in the late 1980s/early 90s. He joined Port Trust as a clerk and then moved on to IOB as a clerk as well. Keen to pursue his professional career alongside his cricketing ambitions, he did his MBA (Finance) that helped him graduated to the officer’s level at IOB and later into the managerial cadre.

Two decades of Cricket for IOB
The same hard work and commitment led him to concentrate on his work as well in his 20s that saw him make a steady and gradual progress at IOB, where he is now a Senior Manager (when many other cricketers his age had squandered the opportunity to learn at the work place – signing off at the office in the morning and heading back home immediately after).

Close to State Selection
In the mid 1990s, there was a time he came close to State Selection but he was ‘asked’ by the TN Selector (who is still active in the cricketing circles) to declare himself unfit so a former Don Bosco Star could make it into the squad. That ruined yet another career of a cricketer in Tamil Nadu.

Undeterred he continued to play on and two decades after that incident, he still plays for IOB in the first division.

During that period, he got interesting offers from leading private teams from the 1st division including from a top captain of those days. But he resisted those offers and is now into the 21st year of first division cricket at IOB. And thus he has remained a star performer who did not play for any of the ‘fancied’ teams.

Into Umpiring
At the turn of the decade, he had also become a TNCA umpire  and has been officiating in the TNCA league in recent years .

The determination he showed when playing is also seen in his coaching methodology as I watch him from the sidelines at the Vivekananda College ground. The rigour with which he trains his students is rarely seen in coaching academies in Madras these days. His students may or may not make it big in cricket but sure they will learn the route to success in life being with Rajesh Kannan.

He has also imbibed in his elder daughter (aged 13) the ethics of hard work. After working hard on her carnatic music for a few years, she will be presenting her first big Kutcheri on the first Sunday of July at the Sunday Kutcheri in the Park organised by Sundaram Finance.

Rajesh Kannan has just been nominated into the next big league in Umpiring. He was been selected as an umpire on the panel of the BCCI. He missed playing for the state but he will now have the opportunity to umpire state matches.

He did not let frustrations get the better of him while playing and worked hard to make himself relevant to his team every single year over the last two decades.

It feels good when someone with literally no backing of any sort and with no god fathers succeeds in the cricketing arena. Rajesh Kannan is one such guy and the graduation as a Board Umpire is a great reward for his commitment to cricket over the last thirty years.

Alongside S Ravi (http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2013/08/s-ravi-set-for-umpiring-test-debut.html)  and J Madanagopal (http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2012/05/madanagopal-set-for-big-leap-as-umpire.html),  it is hoped that Rajesh Kannan will make it big in Umpiring in the coming years. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

PK Dharmalingam

After a Reverse Sweep ended his Playing Career, he turned to coaching and played a role in India’s 1983 World Cup Victory

One hopes TNCA President will recognise his contribution to Indian cricket

Kapil Dev’s catch, running back to the mid wicket boundary, to  dismiss Viv Richards in the 1983 World Cup Final is still talked about as one of the greatest catches of all time and also the turning point of that final. It is a little known fact that Kapil credits the man from the far corner of the Vedanta Desigan Street in Mylapore for that catch.

Describing that catch, Kapil said that the specific technique of running back to a high ball was taught to him by the diminutive PK Dharmalingam in a fielding session. So pleased was Kapil with the technical aspect of that catch and the fact that it helped clinch India’s biggest moment in cricket that he later told Dharmalingam during a test match in Madras that he would even give his life for this great coach and presented him with a personally autographed bat.

To-date it remains Dharmalingam’s most cherished moment and he lives in the nostalgic memory of having played a role in India’s victory in the 1983 World Cup.

Those days, during his coaching engagement with the Indian team, Dharmalingam would give 50catches to each player and would restart from scratch if a player dropped a catch. It was amusing to find Kapil Dev dropping the 48th catch each time so he could take 50more. Such was his commitment to fielding. No wonder, he took that catch in the World Cup.

In an earlier series, Madan Lal, fielding as a substitute, ran sideways to his right at Square leg to pluck a one handed catch of Graham Yallop. After picking the catch, he ran away from the fielders who were coming to congratulate him, with his right hand held high and pointing in some direction. He shouted ‘Dharmaji’ much to the bemusement of all his team mates.

Madan Lal says that that catch too similar to the one that Kapil took belonged to Dharmaji and he had held his right hand in the direction of Madras to thank Dharmaji for the catch. It was again a wonderful gesture from the Indian cricketer to have passed on the recognition to one of India’s greatest fielding coaches.

Madan Lal says that it was because of the finer technical aspect of ‘how to go for a high catch to the right and left’ that he was able to pounce on this improbable opportunity this at a time when Indians fielders were not necessarily known for great outfield catches.

Coaching Session with Bedi
With Bishen Singh Bedi, it was a different approach. Bedi had just dropped a return catch in the Delhi test and was very upset about it. Dharmalingam faced Bedi’s bowling at the nets for well over one hour and every now and then he would surprisingly hit a ball in the air to Bedi’s left and right and help Bedi practise the return catch.

Breathed Cricket all his life
As a teenager, Dharmalingam spent almost all his time on the cricket field prompting his mother to ask him one day if cricket was going to feed him.  Well over 6decades later, the slim man, who still looks quite fit despite two operations, looks back and nods in happiness that indeed ‘cricket fed him’ through his life.

Worried that his lack of focus on studies (he did his schooling at RKM) and his constant ‘teenage’ craze for cricket could prove a stumbling block later in his career, his father, a customs official, put him on to Indian Air Force to instil discipline into his life. While he was still a teenager, he joined IAF.

Despite this effort from his father to try and get his son away from cricket, Dharmalingam was determined to make a mark as a cricketer.

Ranji Cricket for Services
Shortly after joining IAF, a string of strong scores in the inter Services tourney got him into a strong Services Ranji team that comprised of Hemu Adikari, Dhani, Sengupta and Gadkari, among others. He was the most outstanding fielder in the unit and would walk into the team just for his fielding.

Century in Ranji and Batting promotion
In chilly weather conditions in Delhi, Dharmalingam scored 162 batting at No.8 that prompted his captain Hemu Adikari to promise him a promotion in the batting order. In the next match, he was sent in at No. 7 leaving Dharmalingam completely stunned!!!!!! Good scores in Ranji Trophy also earned him a place in the North Zone Duleep Trophy team.

He was however transferred from Delhi to IAF Tambaram.

By the mid 60s and before he had turned 30, Dharmalingam had qualified as a cricket coach from NIS Patiala.

Joins India Cements
Once back in Madras, he met an old school friend who was employed in India Cements. It was about the time that India Cements had started promoting cricket in Tamil Nadu including a first division team in Madras. Just ahead of the completion of his contract period, Dharmalingam quit IAF (losing his pension status!!! He would have received pension had he stayed on for two more years) and joined India Cements.

Playing for Madras against Ceylon in the Gopalan Trophy in Colombo he scored a run a ball 73, one that he rates as his best. He moved to IC Tirunelveli and played in the SS Rajan Trophy where he scored 233 against Madurai, still a record for the highest individual score.

Reverse Sweep ends his Ranji Career
His playing career however ended on a sour note one that the modern day cricketers might consider bizarre. Playing for TN in a Ranji match, he got out to a reverse sweep – Yes he played the reverse sweep in 1971- only to be told that evening by the TN Selector that he would never play for TN again. And he never did. 45years later, the entire cricketing fraternity thrives on that shot!!! That shot also led him to move into serious coaching.

He became an official coach for the BCCI and was assigned a coaching engagement with Central Zone. At the end of an U15 coaching assignment one summer, a young boy who was not selected came next to Dharmalingam and started crying. The coach consoled him saying that he had the potential and would definitely make it big. The boy’s response left Dharmalingam in tears ‘I am not crying because I am not selected but because you are leaving us and going back to TN after the summer engagement.’

That boy – Yusuf Ali Khan - later went on to the captain the Railways Ranji team (he also played in the Ranji Final against TN).

In 1977, Dharmalingam was the coach of the TN Ranji team but there was no provision for the coach to travel for an away match and only an administrative manager travelled with the team. It was a QF match against Railways in Delhi and a friend in Madras personally sponsored his train ticket. Hence, the official coach of Tamil Nadu travelled on his personal account and watched the match from the stands as a spectator.

TN was in a spot after having been bowled out cheaply in the first innings and with Railways on the lookout for a big lead. TN captain Venkataraghavan was at wits end on how to achieve the breakthrough. During the tea break, Dharmalingam walked into the dressing room and suggested to Venkat to bowl (Abdul) Jabbar for a few overs. And Venkat obliged by bring the offie on after tea. In his 2nd over, Jabbar looked at Dharmalingam who was up in the stands. The ‘spectator’ coach asked Jabbar to go around the wicket and a ball later Jabbar took a wicket. And TN came back into the match (TN won that match outright after conceding the first innings lead)

It was another of those memorable moments for Dharmalingam in his coaching career. He was one of the very few players in TN cricket to have taken on the fiery Venkat on the field when he had a different point of view. But that’s the way Dharmalingam has always been – forthright, vocal and a strong say on a cricketing aspect even if it wasn’t always in synch with what others thought.

Coaches TVS Madurai
Later TVS Madurai roped him in to coach their team. He would spend 5days of the week in Madurai coaching the TVS team and then return to Madras for his academy coaching at Sishya. Dharmalingam is credited with bringing in Venkatramana and Ramdas into limelight.

When R Ashwin was a young boy, his mother would carry his kit to Dharmalingam’s academy. Recently she remembered an incident that led to freedom from carrying the kit!!!

 ‘One day, when the coach spotted this, he asked Ashwin’s mother to hand over the kit bag to Ashwin. And that was the last time anyone ever carried Ashwin’s kit bag.’

Into Women’s Coaching
He was at the University Union ground providing fielding practise to the TN U22 team when a young girl walked up to him and introduced herself. She wanted him to coach the Women’s team as well and that’s how Dharmalingam got into Women’s coaching. Sudha Shah went on to play 21 tests for India. Dharmalingam coached women cricketers for over 3decades.

Rejects Professional offer from England
Once when he was coaching the Indian Women’s team to prepare them for a series against England, the opposition camp watching the rigour with which he was engaging with the players, came up to him and offered a full three year coaching engagement with the England Women’s team that covered his entire travel, stay and food expenses and a fee that would have held him in good stead in later years.

Dharmalingam refused the luring offer for he was interested to only coach the Indian team. The English team were in tears and as a token of their appreciation of the style of his coaching, they presented him with an English Tie.

Kalli on Dharmalingam

Former TN Fast bowler B Kalyanasundaram, who is now a Director at CSK, played alongside Dharamalingam during the late 60s and early 70s including for Jolly Rovers. 

Kalli has a lot of regard for the way Dharmalingam played his cricket. He says that being an Air Force man, he was an absolute disciplinarian. 'I cannot remember him being late even by a minute for any practice session or a match, this despite having to come all the way from Tambaram. Such was his commitment to the game.'

Kalli ranks him as one of the best fielders he has seen. 'Not just to Venkat, but even to my bowling he would take unbelievable catches at short leg.'  

'His dress code was impeccable and was always seen in sparkling white leaving most others embarrassed.'

Kalli rates Dharmalingam alongside Prabhakar in some of the biggest hitting he has seen during his playing days.

Dharmalingam has breathed cricket all his life with several firsts to his credit. He was the first to set up a cricket academy in Madras in the late 1970s. He was probably the first specialist fielding coach in India. He was also the first specialist women’s cricket coach. The greatest of Indian cricketers of the decades gone by have publicly credited him for their superior fielding technique. And yet, he may not have got the recognition that he richly deserves for his contribution to Indian cricket.

Recently, N Srinivasan, largest stake holder at CSK and the CMD of India Cements announced the creation of a fund to support the players who had contributed to the growth of the India Cements team over the decades. Dharmalingam was one of the earliest players to have played for India Cements. It is hoped that the TNCA President would consider recognising this true servant of the game.

Dharmalingam played 29 first class matches for Services and TN.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Ravi to umpire Ashes Series

Will umpire at Trent Bridge and The Oval in August this year
Inducted into the ICC Elite Panel, the first India Umpire after Venkataraghavan
Following a largely successful performance in the two tests between England and New Zealand, Madras based umpire S Ravi has been awarded the last two tests of the Ashes later this English Summer to be played at Trent Bridge and The Oval. This will be Ravi’s first Ashes series.

Almost all of the reviews against Ravi’s decisions in the just concluded series in England were negated, a big endorsement to his decision making abilities.

For Ravi who had thus far been predominantly umpiring in one-dayers and T20s, umpiring in an Ashes series will be a big leap into the next big league in the umpiring world.

This section had earlier last month written about the prospects of Ravi umpiring in the Ashes if he had a good early summer series in England (http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2015/05/umpire-ravi-debuts-at-lords.html).

Former Elite Panel Umpire Simon Taufel, who was also the official ICC appointed mentor for Ravi a couple of years back recently spoke about the quality of the Indian umpires with a need to give them the confidence and the opportunity to perform at the highest level.
The nomination of Ravi for the last two tests of the summer is an indication that the ICC has been happy with his performance in the closely fought series in England in May that saw results in both the tests.

The Ashes nomination is a fair reward for Ravi’s performances in the early part of the summer.

prtraveller had written about Ravi just before his debut test series in 2013


PS: Late on Thursday, a few hours after this story was written, Ravi was also elevated to the Elite Panel, the first Indian to feature after S Venkataraghavan.

Maliruncholai Andal Thirumangai Azhvaar

Andal in the Nachiyar Thirumozhi and Thirumangai Azhvaar in the Periya Thirumozhi have provided similar description of Thiru Maliruncholai
Seeking the hand of Lord Kallazhagar of Thiru Maliruncholai (Azhagar Koil), Andal in her Nachiyar Thirumozhi describes the beauty of the place where he resides (http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2008/01/108-divya-desams-azhagar-koil.html).

She refers to the tall and fragrant groves where elephants played all the time. She calls the peacocks that are seen flocking and spreading their feathers wide as beautiful dancers and seeks their help in attaining the Lord. She tells them that as the Lord had taken away everything she had, she is now left with nothing to gift them for their artistic performance at Thiru Maliruncholai.

Andal is excited at the early morning songs of Koels and makes an alluring promise to them. She says that if the Lord of Thiru Maliruncholai accepts her love, both of them will come every morning and listen to the sweet songs of the Koels.

கார்க்கோட பூக்காள்மேல் தோன்றிப் பூக்காள், கோலை மணாட்டி, முல்லை பிராட்டி , கருவிளை ஒண் மலர்காள்

Andal also describes the beautiful flowers that filled this region around Thiru Maliruncholai. The place she says is full of Kavuvilai, Pata and Kaya flowers and Mullai Creeper that filled her heart with instant love for the Lord. She says that this place was also home to Kala fruit. This was also the place of the ‘Kongu’ trees. Andal also refers to the big lake around Thiru Maliruncholai that was full of red lotuses.

நாறு நறும் பொழில்
மாலிருஞ்சோலை நம்பிக்கு
நான் நூறு தடாவில் வெண்ணெய்
வாய் நேர்ந்து பராவி வைத்தேன்

நூறு தடா நிறைந்த அக்கார அடிசில் சொன்னேன்

In another verse, Andal lures the Lord with a gift of 100pots of his favourite butter and another 100pots of sweet morsel if he accepted her love for him.

இன்று வந்து இத்தனையும்
அமுது செய்திட பெறில்

நான் ஒன்று நூறாயிரமாக் கொடுத்துப் பின்னும்
ஆளும் செய்வான்

Suddenly as she is singing praise of the Lord, her love for him grows manifold and she ups the offering saying she that if he accepts her love for him instantly, she was ready to offer these a 100 thousand times more and promises to serve it to him herself.

Thirumangai on Maliruncholai
Like Andal, Thiru Mangai Azhwar too refers to peacocks flocking in groups and dancing at their best making a pleasing sight for everyone at the temple. Repeatedly he makes a mention of overflowing honey dripping flower groves in the hills of Thiru Maliruncholai.

He says that with so many flowers of different kinds, the bees are having a good time collecting honey from the mountain flowers.

The tall groves of the Vengai trees as described by him give us an indication of the seasons of the year.

தடங் கடல் முகந்து விசும்பிடைப் பிளறித்
தடவரைக் களிறு என்று முனிந்து
மடங்கள் நின்று அதிரும் மாலிருஞ்சோலை....

Thiru Mangai Azhwar describes to us a scene during the monsoon season when he found the lions mistaking the thick clouds arising from the ocean for the roaring of an elephant. And he says that in their typical aggressive style, the lions roared back in extreme anger.

சிலம்பு  இயல் ஆறு உடைய திருமாலிருன்சோலை
 In his verses of praise in the Periya Thirumozhi, Thiru Mangai Azhwar also makes a mention of Nupura Ganga (the place where Durvasa cursed Subadavasthu rishi) that flows through Thiru Maliruncholai hills.