March 24, 2006

Open invitation to all our wonderful local entrepreneurs.

Aditya Muralidhar is just fifteen and has given his Class Ten exams.
He lives in Besant Nagar and attends a school in Adyar.
He has many interests. They include computers, graphics, gaming and reading books.
Aditya has a long summer holiday before him and he is looking for a summer occupation. And he is serious.
Last week's 'Jottings' has attracted a stream of e-mails from young people in school or those who are about to move out.
I had written on summer jobs for senior school children and the idea triggered different thoughts in different people.
And Aditya was one of them.
Some people thought I was about to start a Summer Job Placement Agency because I had asked them for CVs! I never knew many people would take my word so seriously. Thank god we did not have dozens of people besieging our office managers!
But the stream of queries has encouraged me to make this open invitation to all our wonderful managers, store owners, IT company executives and local entrepreneurs.
It would be a nice gesture on their part if they came forward to offer small, short-term assignments to talented young people in the neighbourhood who could enjoy this summer, a great assignment and some pocket money.
It took me some time to wonder what I could offer a young kid who would push me for an assignment at our newspapers.
Then the ideas began to tumble.
If there was a young person who was good at Adobe Photoshop, we could ask him/her to help design a few of our adverts and then hang around on the weekend to learn how we design our newspapers.
Or if there was someone who was good at photography, we could ask him/her to tag along with my colleagues, Dhanasekhar, Saravanan and Rajesh, learn the tricks of the profession and shoot some pictures for our stories and earn a byline.
Or if there was someone who wanted to go into marketing, then I could put them on to our senior marketing persons, Sebastian, Chrystal Easdon and Narayani Ravikumar, to follow-up on the calls they made and service our clients.
Clearly, similar assignments can be made out by businesses in Adyar, Mylapore, Velachery, K. K. Nagar . . . wherever. Companies and stores can come forward with small assignments for our young people.If they do send us their needs, we are willing to put them out in our community newspapers and hope young people will respond.
I am sure a small IT firm in Adyar can make use of young Aditya's skills and enterprise.
Give him a call folks. If he signs up, I'll be rewarded with an ice cream for summer.
That is my deal with Aditya!

March 17, 2006

Hi, young friends!

This is a personal note to all our young friends in schools.
Girls and boys who will be completing their eleventh and twelveth standard exams.This is just a suggestion.
As the summer holidays unfold before us, here is an opportunity to look out for a summer job or a holiday assignment.
I can tell you that the fruits of this labour will be immense.
There are two jobs I undertook which remain in my memories. Because they were experiences that stood me in good stead.
The first was when I was in class nine I guess.
My dad used to work for a pharmaceutical company and it engaged casual labour in the godowns. I cannot recall how this came to be but on one fine morning in mid- April, I found myself sitting with packers, and working alongside them, packing Phensydyl, a hugely popular drug, into small boxes. The job was not all that exciting but exploring the products and the operations was.
And when the wages were paid every Saturday before lunch time, I was thrilled with the feel of currency notes.
I wasn't a spender and had my dad showed me how to open a bank account and run it, I would have had a good balance for college!
The second experience was richer.T hat was a training on the job at a rag of a weekly newspaper. That May made my future I guess.
I learnt so much here. From composing and printing to reporting and writing features and submitting articles as a freelancer.
Internships are a sham. Summer jobs are exciting.
You don't have to go too far out of your neighbourhood to get one. If you love what your dad does, ask him to find a slot for you - even if it means working on the shop floor of Sundaram Clayton or tagging along with the sales executives of Sundaram Finance. If you aren't comfortable with the idea of having your dad watch you from the far end, ask him to talk to his friend for an opening.
If you do not have encouraging help from the family, just walk over to a chartered accountants firm or a small software company or to the local bookstore or to the busy restaurant, and offer your services.
You will not be disappointed if you try hard.The summer holiday lessons will stand you in good stead at IIM, IIT or at your first professional job.

Do I have a job for you? Sure we do! Mail me your CV.

March 11, 2006

Neighbourhood Party

With elections round the corner, there is a rather ambitious idea I'd like to share.
And if all of us chip in, at the right time and at the proper place, we may go on to create some sort of history.
Even if you have been just picking up the bits and pieces of the political developments here, you may be aware of the moves that our kazhagams are making.
There is talk of a grand alliance. There is chatter about grouping the As and the Bs and the Cs.

That is, if your party was in limbo for this long, you can still resurrect it and try for a seat in the grand alliance. Or if your party split three ways a decade ago, your splinter may still get a seat in the alliance. Or, if yours is a letter-head party, you could get lucky.
Which is why this grand idea is gathering steam in my disturbed sleep.
How about a neighbourhood party?
Surely, if it can be put together as a potential force, one kazhagam or the other isn't going to slam the door on us.
The grand alliance is disturbing the sleep of many others too.Let us look at the numbers and how they can work.
Take the Mylapore constituency. The kazhagams have their numbers. And yet, they cannot better the numbers we can have. But only if we can get them together.
Now, all you cynics may wonder what a neighbourhood party can do for you in your constituency?
Let me throw back the question differently. Are you even aware of the man who is now your MLA and spoken to him?
Bet half of you do not even know his name. And yet, there is so much we can do if we have the numbers.
At least one kazhagam is willing to look at a party which can win a seat squarely and help make the numbers if the match goes to the wire. This then is the time to stand up and be counted. To show the kazhagams that we must be taken seriously.
That we also matter.Utopian the idea may sound but could we have an independent candidate for this neighbourhood? If we support this idea, then we do not even have to go to the kazhagams for a seat.
We have our man or woman.But can we bank on you?
That you will ensure your name is on the voters list, that you are aware where your polling booth is and that you will be there in the morning in May, to cast the vote. If you do just that, this is a bigger victory than the one a neighbourhood party can dream of.

March 07, 2006

A week at Chidambaram

I spent this past week at Chidambaram.
I had to keep my date with the annual Natyanjali Dance Festival which is held inside the famous Lord Nataraja temple here.
This was its silver jubilee edition and there was no way I was going to skip the event.
There is a lot of bonding that takes place on the sidelines of this unique festival. Every year, R. Natarajan, a trustee, invites leading artistes and well wishers of the festival, to lunch at his bungalow. After a typical thamizh sappadu, we gather in the drawing room and chat.
Natarajan has created a stunning pooja room at his bungalow, with the silver idol of Lord Nataraja in the centre, and this is a 'must see' visit.
So Dr. Mahua Mukherjee from Kolkatta, who is a well-known exponent of Gaudiya Nritya, sends her sishyas to the first floor while she shares with us details of her new dance drama project.
Arts scholar B. M. Sundaram, based in Pondicherry, but more often seen in Madras, talks about his student in Bangladesh, a Muslim woman, who runs classes in that country he will visit next month. And Natarajan shows us his large collection of music cassettes of all-time Carnatic music greats, recorded 'live' at kutcheris in these parts in the 50s and 60s.
All this takes place at lunch hour on the final day of the Natyanjali.
One can imagine the amount of interaction and discussion that would have been generated through the five days of the festival.
Another facet of the Natyanjali that amazes me is the manner in which different people of the local community put their hands together to stage this unique event.
A farmer takes charge of manning the accommodation counter so that artistes check in and out smoothly.
A jeweller donates mementoes for the performing artistes.
The owner of a clothes store, over fifty years old, personally manages the dining hall, ensuring that even those who cannot make it here, get packed chappatis or curd rice.
And farm hands, small-time entrepreneurs and skilled workers of this town, work through two days and nights to get the venue ready for the Natyanjali and then stay on to make sure the fest goes on without any hitch.
It seems as if all these people, whatever be their calling and engagement, gravitate to the Natyanjali, in order to make this their own festival. And do so without expecting a fee.

Elections are here!

Sitting on the sidelines of a meeting of councillors and politicians can give you ideas.
The entrepreneurial one is this - cornering advertising space for the coming elections.
This one looks easy.
You don't have to tender. But the competition has already begun.
Locked bungalows are the first targets. Since the residents are away, babysitting their grandsons in the Bay Area, no one will object. Junction boxes of the TNEB are no good. Our clients will certainly not relish the idea of having men answering nature's call at these corners and spraying on the faces of the contenders.
We must get creative.
I wouldn't mind checking out the Marutis and Ambassadors left to gather dust outside apartment blocks by owners who have recently bought their second car.
Our artists would drool at the idea of converting the cars into election installation pieces.
Consider the idea of letting the 'top' symbol spin on the edge of the 'rising sun'.
If you own a grocery store or a stationery mart, there is an opportunty staring at you.
Postpone the deal you made with the soft drinks company even if summer is going to be with us in April; you can rent the doors, windows and the roof to the contenders.
If you have any more creative ideas to sell to them, like screen printing the party symbol on your paper bags, sell them hard.
I'd rather like the seasonal election graffiti than the sheaves of handbills on masala pizzas and Sunday computer classes dumped on me. But having the party colours painted on eggs sold at the store - now that will make them bristle.
Not because of the bird flu frenzy. This one will die down in the heat of March.
Imagine the stories that our journalists will spin when it is found that eggs with the symbols of the contender's party were thrown on the dais.
If you haven't white-washed your compound wall, election time is the occasion to get that job done - for free.
Anyway, as long as you don't tax your non-co-operating residents to pool in a thousand bucks for the annual job of the common space, your neighbours will not scoff at your idea.
This deal is legislated. That is, political parties must take your permission before 'defacing' the walls with their slogans, mugshots and symbols. The deal includes the onus to scrub the wall and whitewash it after the elections are over.
Politicians rarely keep their promises. So you may consider encouraging graffiti by the colony's kids. Imagine the fine art of scrawling on rising suns, spinning tops and blooming leaves.
There is a lot you can get done on the eve of elections. More street lights, uninterrupted water supply, regular garbage collection. You can even ask for little gardens at the street junctions and have painted storks installed in them.
But I'd suggest you shouldn't get those potholed streets relaid.
The victors will drive by on their thanksgiving rounds after the election results are declared.
A bump and a twist will be natural reminders of the job they have on their hands.

Educating ourselves on local history

Lessons to learn. Ideas to borrow. This time in Bombay.
How do we network with citizens, private bodies and state institutions to educate ourselves on our local history?
The established Kala Ghoda Arts Festival
was on in Bombay when I was there last week and though I have soaked in it before, there were events I had missed.
Among them were the heritage walks.
So on Sunday morning, after the 6am Holy Mass at the Gloria
Church in Byculla, where you can get Konkani newspapers and magazines, I zipped down to Rampart Row and joined the just-out-of-bed crowd outside the Lion Gate of the Navy Dockyard.
The walks are held as part of the Kala Ghoda Fest, which has the Times of India as its new sponsor, and they are conducted by the Bombay Heritage Walks - founded by architects Abha Bahl and Brinda Gaitonde in 1999.
The previous evening, I had managed to squeeze myself in into the group, which was on the Regal Cinema walk. In the unsparing Saturday traffic, Brinda gamely threw her voice to
educate us on the architectural variety that the buildings around the fountain here, offers tourists.
The Sunday event was conducted by the Indian Navy.
Our guide inside the dock was Capt. A. P. S Talwar, a senior
manager at the Naval Dock Yard and when the friendly Sardar picked up the megaphone, there were close to 200 people hugging him.
There was a lot to see - the dry docks, the vintage workshops, submarines under repair, vintage fire extinguishers, remnants of the fort and a museum (wonder why they named it Motivational Hall?!).
Capt. Talwar was a persevering guide and when he was done, he got a huge round of applause.
The walk was indeed a bonus. Exploring a 'high security' campus is.
The previous evening we had explored another ÔsecuredÕ place - the office of the Police Commissioner, once a Mess for sailors.
The Naval walk was promoted by Vice Admiral Madhavendra Singh, Flag Officer Commander-in-Chief, Western Naval Command, Mumbai, in 2001. Today, the walk is held on the first Sunday of every month and is open to the public.
And when Abha and Brinda sought permission from the Top Cop to bring in people, to the Commissionerate, he had told them - this is your property!
Clearly, when officials and people open their homes and offices to people who wish to explore their local heritage, these add-ons are bonuses!
On the Mylapore walk in our city, two families, the Natarajans and Nagarajans, always open their doors to people.
Next weekend, a Dutch group will be treated to a 'pongal-vada-coffee' breakfast stop at one of these old houses.

One way to celebrate the best things of our neighbourhoods.

Friendly cops

Police Commissioner R. Nataraj now has a line open for citizens.
And I wonder how many 'thank you' calls he gets.
We are quick to crib but slow to acknowledge a good deed by a state agency. Be it the city police, the power and water boards or the Chennai Corporation.
So it was a pleasant surprise to find residents of the Virugambakkam neighbourhood very forthcoming in their good words for officers at a local face-to-face meeting.
Officials can be very bored people at such meetings. Aware that they will be bombarded with a fusillade of plaints, the time-worn ones know how to enjoy forty winks with their eyes still open.
Others nod their heads to frustrations about mounting garbage or pleas for better street lighting.
I find that there is some positive change in their attitude today - if citizens take their rights seriously and mean business.
At this Virugambakkam area meeting, facilitated by Exnora, the men who got the most bouquets were the men in khaki. An Assistant Commissioner and a local Inspector took active part in the proceedings. They took copious notes when people raised local issues and responded in detail to each query.
Perhaps the Virugambakkam neighbourhood should dash off a nice 'thank you' note to Commissioner Nataraj about his local officers.
Regular meetings of residents of a neighbourhood and officials of state agencies, which provide services locally, can do wonders to community life.
Not because they are a platform to seek solutions to our leaking water pipe or stinking garbage bin outside our gate but because they must be the fora to raise and discuss broader issues that affect the community at large.
I was surprised again at the large turnout at the Virugambakkam meeting on a weekday evening. Most stayed on till the end - 8.45pm. Many appreciated the contributions made by different officers and their staff.
Yet, communities have not realised the need to meet amongst themselves more often, to share the responsibility of follow-up action and to put their hands together on a day-to-day basis.
They may congregate in large numbers for a high-profile meeting.
But many will look the other way if they have to take turns to patrol a colony targeted by petty thieves.

Is this typical of Chennai?

Return on Investment , but unique

A year ago, I branched off into a new venture.
I funded a community newspaper.
My friends said that I had become an angel investor.
I was, of course, looking for returns of a different kind, first. The real monies came next.
On the occasion of the first anniversary of the newspaper we
funded, we feel proud that the experiment has taken off.
'Velachery Plus' is one year old next week, and this neighourhood newspaper which covers the triangle of Velachery, Madipakkam and Nanganallur, is now on its feet.
Its readers have seen the value of the news and information;
community leaders are interacting with it and sharng their news and views, and private, local businesses have seen profit in advertising small and long term in its columns.
Which is why its publisher and editor, Manoj V. Joy, seems much more confident now than he was when he wound up his consultancy on maritime legal cases, set up after a long innings on the high seas.
Joy launched only after he had the 'shop floor' experience.
He edited a small newsletter called ÔWavesÕ for his colleagues on
the seven seas. And he studied the profession and the business at our newspapers.
This seems to have stood him in good stead.
So when the 2005 monsoon and the excessive rains ravaged his neighbourhod and left him marooned, save for two issues of the newspaper they skipped, Joy and his plucky, small team, worked against odds to bring out their weekly.
There were just a handful of adverts; the power lines were down for four days; the telephone went dead for a week and many parts of the three areas were still in neck-high flood water.
And yet, 'Velachery Plus' was published.
The team was tested again when it organised Santa Claus to say
'Hello' to children in Velachery who were supposed to get surprise gifts (which had been handed over to the office by their parents) on Christmas eve.
The rains lashed again; the car broke down, Santa Claus was
drenched, the band-men shivered. Yet, Santa managed to go to every kid on the block and hand over the gift.
This indeed is the spirit of any committed community newspaper.
And those are the returns one looks for first. Monies come much later.
It has been a nice experience.
Thankfully, Joy did not send me an SOS to negotiate the floodwaters and help him report!
I would have drowned!

It's Republic Day again!

Some things grow on you. Some times unknowingly.
There are two events that are part of my life on Republic Day.
The Odyssey Quiz. And the IIT-Madras festival, now called 'Saarang' and once known as Mardi Gras. Though I belong to the generation which grew up listening to the radio version of the Bournvita Quiz Contest, broadcast at high noon on Sundays (if memory serves me right), I am not a die-hard quizzer.
And yet a quiz is an invigorating experience.
So every R-Day, I manage to form a team and take part in the prelim round of the Odyssey Quiz.
It doesn't matter to me that there are kids, a third my age, who rub shoulders with me.
It doesn't matter to me that in the last four editions of the quiz my team, people in their 40s and 50s, have scored only 50%.
We enjoy this cerebral and social experience.
And the credit for making this happen goes to Odyssey's boss, Ashwin, a successful entrepreneur in this business.
Not only has he encouraged the quiz to grow over the years, but he has also given a free hand to four young people who put the quiz together and present it on R-Day. One of the team members, a doctor, now practising in the USA, flies all the way from Milwaukee, to play the quiz master's role!
This time around, I took home a small prize for a question that was put to the audience.
The answer was easy. Because the question was probably based on a
reference made in the 'Jottings' column!
A more positive idea took root during a break in the quiz this R-Day.
Friends from a colony in Besant Nagar who love quizzing and were at the R-Day quiz, realised that they could host a quiz every month in the community hall in their colony, before the local Humour Club got together to crack a few jokes and tickle people.
But what about prizes, wondered my friends.
Simple, I said, coax the local restaurant and the ice cream parlour and the fruit juice shop to give coupons, and the winning quizzers would have a nice party for their achievement!
If you have the will and the ideas, then putting community events
together is just fun.
Involve schools and campuses so you can get the space free or for a small fee; involve the local youth club, and you have a band of organisers and volunteers; sell some soft ideas to the local stores and you can get prizes and freebies.
Now perform the marriage.
Simple ways to have quizzes, plays, kutcheris and fancy fetes in neighbourhoods!

Sec-Sat @ Pondy

More and more people of our city are discovering that a weekend trip to Pondicherry makes a great holiday.
Try getting a hotel room on the weekend. The nods of hotel reception managers should inspire an entrepreneur to lease out space by the beachside, put up tents and rent them out for the two days.
I shared the idea with the garrulous owner of a lodge on La Bourdannais Street where you are given a simple, clean air-conditioned doube bed for five hundred rupees.
I had to make small talk with him as a French couple vacated this room on time and caught a bus to Madurai to soak in the Pongal festivities there.
I was in Pondy to check out an interesting experiment that is taking shape there.
It is called 'Sec Sat @ Pondy'.
Its promoters, a couple of aging rock musicians who cannot stay far from guitars and drums, provide the space, time and accessories to music bands to play through the evening in sessions.
Alliance Francaise, always enthusiatic to promote any form of arts initiative, spares either its main hall or the recently renovated beachside French heritage bungalow, Colombanie, for the concerts.
The January edition of 'Sec-Sat' saw a motley group of musicians assemble at the Colombanie. Some foreigners, passing through Pondy, some Aurovilleans, some 45-plus rockers and a young local band which had a huge,
tenth standard student as its lead singer. And we even had the son of ghatam maestro 'Vikku' Vinayakram jamming with a Hungarian musician who hopes to set up a music school in Chennai.
It was an evening of music of all kinds - rock, blues, jazz, Indian, metal . . .
While the fans of the bands crowded the corridors of the bungalow, visitors and local youth hung around or stretched out on the lawn and tried to make sense of the unexpected show.
'Sec-Sat' has been spawned by the 'Sunday Jam' concerts held in Bangalore every first Sunday of the month - a successful event where no less than eight bands stand in the queue to perform to an audience of about 500 people.
What I like about this event is the democratic touch to an effort to bring musicians together in a town and how a cultural space can be created in the long run.
There are parks and playgrounds in our neighbourhoods which can provide free space.
So we need a few spirited organisers to bring the artistes on stage.
Meanwhile, if you are a musician or your family enjoys music, keep the Sec-Sat date in mind.
Pondicherry isn't far away.

Essence of festivals - still in the city

If my New Year party got going days before the last day of 2005, I received my blessings on the eve of Pongal.
And on the 'mada veedhis' of Mylapore.
For the first time in my life, scores of senior men and women, who wanted to share a good word with me on the 2006 edition of the Sundaram Finance supported 'Mylapore Festival', also blessed me and my team.
I have never known such public, informal and warm acknowledgement before. That too for merely putting up such a festival which we at 'Mylapore Times' see as a natural extension of the work we do at our neighbourhood newspaper.
The blessings came just when we could do with them. Because this festival was run despite stiff opposition from some local businesses and a court case slapped on us on the eve of the event.
My doctor though does not have good news for me.
At 97 kilos, he thinks it is time to reduce. So he has a little chart for me. Reduce ten percent over the next six months, he says.
And wonders if I tried bending down on the 'mada veedhi' to draw a kolam myself. I would have failed that test, but I think the jogs and the walks over the four days in conducting the Mylapore Festival, may have stopped the scale from inching to the 100 kilo mark!
If you could not soak in at our festival in Mylapore, you have a wonderful opportunity this weekend to get closer to the colour and the festivities of Pongal.Wake up your children a bit early this weekend and take them on a walk through some of the old areas of our neighbourhoods.
Damodarapuram and Arunachalapuram in the Adyar area, the lanes off Sri Marundeeswarar Temple in Thiruvanmiyur, the inner colonies that hug the heritage temples of Mylapore where street houses still exist, the core of Vadapalani . . . .these are places where residents still retain the essence of our festivals in an era of plastic kolam sheets and ready-mix pongal!
If your morning is going to be busy, then drive down the East Coast Road and branch off into any of the villages beyond Mahabalipuram - in Sadras, or in Cheyyur, or in Marakkanam.
At festival time, you do not need formal invitations to be guests here. People in these villages will be glad to have you, chat with you and share the pongal and sugar cane.
You could spread a towel under a tree, enjoy the simple goodies and soak in the atmosphere of the village.
And if you had a great time in the outdoors this Pongal, drop me a line.
And bless me and my team, if you wish to.

Neighbourhood festivals

If it takes two years to get the community to work on a new idea, so be it.
The effort is worth it, if the idea is good.
Ever since the Mylapore Festival took shape, we have been trying to inspire, coax and goad many other neighbourhoods to take a leaf out of our books.
The persistence, the cajoling and the smiles have paid and for us, these are gifts you cannot quantify.
The community organisation SYMA in Triplicane finally got two of its most hyperactive women members to put an event together to be held around the Sri Parthasarathy Temple this weekend. And how quickly it gathered steam!
We sat on the steps on the water-filled temple tank one evening and got to work. So, the musically talented youth of Triplicane will open the show one evening with kutcheris inside the temple tank. Perhaps that will set the mood and create the buzz a neighbouhrood needs when its NGO does not have tons of money to advertise the event.
But then you do not need tons of money to get a neighbourhood event going . . .
When we walked down the main street here, to look for spaces inside houses which could hold exhibitions, a resident vounteered to spare a hall where a Vintage Coins Exhibition will be held. A few yards down the line, another householder opened up his cupboards to show us the fabulous antiques and old pictures collected by four generations of the family.
Would he exhbit them on the pavement outside his house for the fest?
Sure, he assured us. As long as people do not know who the owner is and what the values are!
There, we had got one more resident to be a partner in the fest!
We made contact with the local caterer. Not much success here. If business wasn't going to be worth a few thousands, he wasn't keen. We couldn't make guarantees. So we looked for an alternative. And found one.
Hopefully, Triplicane will enjoy a wonderful evening of kolams, crafts, food, vintage coins and some cutural shows on and off the temple tank.
The hosts are also lining up senior Triplicane residents to share their anecdotes of the area!
The same will take place in Ashok Nagar, where a beautiful tree-lined avenue is a perfect setting for such a mela. Yes, kolams will dominate the fest on the Pongal weekend.
And a fest is due in Nanganallur where our friends at the 'Velachery Plus' weekly are tying up with the local ladies club to organise this event for the first time.
We in Mylapore, are happy.
The efforts are paying off.
Neighbourhoods must have their own festivals. Not just because you want to show off your talent or kill time on a boring Sunday. But because such an event allows people to meet freely, network and pump in some pride of the place.
If you want ideas, just log on to the web site -
And here is what the Walkers Group at the Nageswara Rao Park in Luz plans to do this Sunday after the final morning kutcheri - share 'sakkarai pongal'!

March 06, 2006

Vincent's Jottings - now online!

We started Adyar Times, the free weekly English neighbourhood newspaper for Adyar in Chennai in 1993. As the plans and designs were being laid out, I did not intentionally plan to have my column in it. It just happened.

Today, four neighbourhood newspapers carry 'Vincent's Jottings'. With a combined circulation of 100,000 copies, the column has a huge reach.

'Jottings' is not an editorial. It is a free wheeling column but every subject or theme in it has something to do with neighbourhoods and communities.I am amazed at the response it receives every weekend. Save for the odd weekend, I haven't skipped writing 'Jottings'. Not even when I was in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, in 2005.

Though late, by posting 'Jottings' on the blogosphere, the weekly column will hopefully reach a wider audience.