Archive | March, 2017

The Impregnable Gingee Fort

29 Mar

I visited the small town of Gingee on 14 March 2017 during my travels in the old Arcot Nawabdom. “Gingee” is the British spelling. In Tamil script it is “Senji” and pronounced “Chenji” just as one might hear “Sankarankovil” pronounced “Changarankoyil”.

Gingee Fort is 38 km due East of Tiruvannamalai. Gingee is a Taluk of Villupuram District.

The Gingee fort was originally buil by the rulers of the Chola dynasty during the 9th century AD. It changed hands to Kurumabr and then to the Vijayanagar Empire in the 13th century.

The fort was strengthened during Maratha occupation under the leadership of Shivaji in 1677 AD.

Shivaji recaptured Gingee from the Bijapur sultans who had earlier taken control of the fort from the Marathas.

During Aurangzeb’s campaign in the Deccan, Shivaji’s second son Chhatrapati Rajaram who ascended the throne, sought refuge in Ginjee. The Moghuls laid siege to the fort but could not capture it for seven years. In 1698, the fort capitulated, but by then Chhatrapati Rajaram had escaped.

The fort later came under the control of the Carnatic Nawabs who lost it to the French in 1750. The British assumed control in 1761 although it was lost to Hyder Ali for a brief period.

“The Gingee Fort complex is on three hillocks: Krishnagiri to the north, Rajagiri to the west and Chandrayandurg to the southeast. The three hills together constitute a fort complex, yet each hill contains a separate and self-contained citadel. Connecting them — forming an enormous triangle, a mile from north to south — are 25-metre thick walls, punctuated by bastions and gateways giving access to the protected zones at the heart of the complex.”

The first hill, where the main fort is, is called Rajagiri. Originally it was known as Kamalagiri as well as Anandagiri. The fort here is most impregnable. To gain entry into the citadel one had to cross a chasm with the help of a small wooden draw bridge which was drawn as soon as the host troops crossed it.

I bought a tourist’s ticket for Rs.15 and set out to climb the steep slope on Rajagiri hill. The climb was so steep that with the best will in the world, I could not get beyond a third of the way where there was a circular landing with a hole in the center… probably a rotating gun turret for mounting a cannon.

I have an injury on my left knee from an old motorcycle accident and I thought discretion was the better part of valour and made a dignified retreat. In many parts there was no railing and I had to take great care not to miss my step and fall into the boulder-filled abyss.

Shivaji ranked Gingee as the “most impregnable fortress in India” and it was called the “Troy of the East” by the British.

The Ruins of Wandewash Fort

29 Mar

The history of India was irretrievably altered by the Seven Years War in Europe between 1756 and 1763.

One of the warring sides in the Seven Years War was led by the Kingdom of Great Britain, supported by Prussia, Portugal, Hanover and other small German States); while the other was led by the Kingdom of France, supported by Austria led Holy Roman Empire, Russia, Spain and Sweden).

In India meanwhile, the Mughal Empire had begun its decline following Emperor Aurangazeb’s death in 1707.

In 1739, Delhi had been brought to its knees by Persian King Nadir Shah who emptied the treasury of the Mughals and carried it away to Persia. Thirty thousand innocent men, women and children of Delhi were slaughtered in a qatl-e-aam or public killing following the attack on some Persian soldiers by Indian troops and the streets of Delhi flowed with blood for days.

A completely different kind of threat to the Mughals was posed by the English East India Company which had begun to assert itself and resort to force to protect their trading interests. This was because they discovered that despite firmans (Royal Charters) from the Sultan of Bengal and from Emperor Aurangzeb himself, they were regularly harassed by local officials who expected to be paid off.

The Carnatic Wars in India were fought between French Supported and English Supported Indian Rulers between 1746 and 1763

1746-1748: First Carnatic War
1749-1754: Second Carnatic War
1756-1763: Third Carnatic War

From the time the Seven Years War broke out in Europe in 1756 to its conclusion in 1763, here are the main political events that took place in India:

1756 – Accession of Siraj-ud-Daulah as Nawab of Bengal
1757 – Sack of Delhi by Ahmed Shah Abdali of Afghanistan
– Battle of Plassey
– Mir Jafar becomes Nawab of Bengal with Robert Clive’s help
1758 – Comte de Lally in India
1759 – Murder of Alamgir II by Ghazi-ud-din
1760 – Battle of Wandiwash (Vandavasi): French forces decisively defeated by the East India Company Army
1761 – Fall of Pondicherry
– Shah Alam II becomes Emperor
– Madhava Rao becomes Peshwa
– Rise of Hyder Ali
1762 –
1763 – Expulsion of Mir Kasim

The Battle of Wandiwash (22 Jan 1760) marked the end of the Carnatic Wars.

It was a decisive battle in India during the Seven Years’ War in Europe.

The French Army, under Comte de Lally, handicapped by a lack of funds and naval support, attempted to regain the fort at Wandiwash (Vandavasi), which is 95 kms South East of Vellore via Arni.

Vandavasi is about 75 kms North East of District Headquarters, Tiruvannamalai.

Comte de Lally’s army was attacked by Sir Eyre Coote’s forces and decisively defeated. The French general Marquis de Bussy-Castelnau and the French were then restricted to Pondichéry, where they surrendered on 16 January 1761.

The battle of Vandavasi (1760) brought to an end the Third and last Carnatic War.

My mission in Vandavasi on 13 March 2017 was to visit the fort and photograph it. Although we found a road junction called, Kottai Junction or Fort Junction, it was just a busy suburban town road junction.

Just as my taxi driver had begun to give up hope of finding any structure which was part of the Vandavasi fort, we got a tip from an elderly shopkeeper.

We drove through narrow streets till we came to a congested habitation where we could park the car.

An elderly housewife was drying chillies in a bamboo murram (winnowing tray). She looked curiously at us and called a young man who appeared to be handicapped. He couldn’t speak but he nodded his head confidently when the elderly woman told him to take us to the Kottai (Fort).

He took us through a small but fairly neat and clean slum to a spot where there were masonry ruins. Yes, we had found the Vandavasi Fort… or what was left of it. This was a brick and mortar structure which appeared to have collapsed on its foundations.

I stood for a minute looking at what remained of the Vandavasi fort. This was an important fort in the territory of Nayak Damerla Venkatapathy of Vandavasi, a vassal of the Vijayanagar Empire.

The Vandavasi Nayak sold a village called Madraspatanam or Chennaipatanam to East India Company Factors Andrew Cogan and Francis Day on 22 August 1639.

The founding of Madras or Chennai is commemorated as “Madras Day” on 22nd August every year.

I took a few more photos of the ruins and thought, “How the mighty have fallen”… and wondered what Sir Eyre Coote, the victorious English Commander at the battle of Wandiwash would have thought if he had seen his prize which was being gormandised by a fast growing slum.

My disabled guide took me back to my car. I thanked him and we left for Tiruvannamalai.

My only regret was that I couldnt meet my classmate from IIMB, Poongavanam whose home I remembered was in Vandavasi. Neither I nor any of our classmates on WhatsApp Group had his address or phone numbers.

The 450 year old Vellore Fort

27 Mar

Hi all,

While in Vellore District, in February 2017, I made sure I visited Vellore Fort, which is considered to be one of the best preserved forts in the Country, mainly because of the huge blocks of granite used in the construction.

This fort was built by the Nayaks (Kings) of the Vijayanagara Empire in 1566 AD. Subsequently, it featured regularly in the history of the Subah of Deccan and the Nawabdom of Arcot.

The history of the Vijayanagar Empire appears to have faded into the background while the history of the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire took centre-stage at school and university level. My only serious study of the Vijayanagar Empire was a reading of Robert Sewell’s “A Forgotten Empire: A Contribution to the History of India (1900)”. Robert Sewell (1845-1925) was a civil servant of the Madras Presidency and held the post of Keeper of the Madras Record Office. It is understandable that this important source book was not intended for an undergraduate level reader.

Vellore Fort, along with Gingee Fort passed into the possession of the Sultan of Bijapur from 1656 to 1678.

In 1676, the Marathas under Chatrapati Shivaji’s leadership occupied Thanjavur. To secure the Maratha position, Gingee Fort was captured in 1677 and Vellore Fort in 1678.

The Mughal empire began to unravel after the death of Aurangazeb in 1707, and with the Nizam as the almost independent ruler of the Deccan, Vellore Fort came under the control of the Nawabs of Arcot.

After the Battle of Vandavasi (Wandiwash) in 1760, the English East India Company became the dominant power in Arcot and Vellore Fort was occupied by the English army.

A nugget of history generally unknown to most Indians today is that in 1806, the English faced the first Sepoy Mutiny at Vellore.

The Commander-in-Chief of the Madras Army had ordered a change of uniforms including a hat with a leather cockade to replace turbans, removal of beards, caste marks and jewellery. The sepoys considered this step to be an unwarranted interference in their religious practices and mutinied, killing 15 officers and 100 English soldiers. The Colonel commanding the cavalry cantonment in Arcot, 25 km away reached Vellore fast and the mutiny was put down with brute force.

The Vellore Fort has a Mosque, a Temple and a Church, built for the Madras army.

It housed the family of Tipoo Sultan after the battle of Seringapatam in 1799 to make sure that no heir was available to rally round.

The last king of Kandy in Sri Lanka (from the dynasty of the Madurai Nayaks) Sri Vikarama Rajasinha (1798-1815) was brought to Vellore Fort in 1815 with his family and kept as prisoners for 17 years.

There is a museum in the Fort with interesting items from the Pallava, Chola and Vijayanagara periods.

One room has very poor reproductions of the order of Sir John Craddock, Commander in Chief of the Madras Army making sweeping changes in the uniforms and appearance of the sepoys. There is also a copy of the order withdrawing the earlier order on uniforms.

On the whole, the Fort is well maintained, although the Museum is quite a pathetic effort.

Go to the Dawn Mountain

25 Mar

In January 2016, I got a copy of INDIA: A SACRED GEORGRAPHY by Diana L.Eck (Published 2012, Three Rivers Press, a division of Random House Inc., New York).

As a student of Indian History and Political Science, I have been fascinated by the spiritual unity of India despite diversity in climate, language, food, religion, social organisation and political divisions.

Although I went to school in Nilgiris District of Madras State and attended four years of college in Madras city, there were many parts of modern Tamilnadu I had not visited… like Vellore District and Tiruvannamalai District.

On one of my visits to the territories of the erstwhile Nawab of Arcot in March 2012, I spent a night at Tiruvannamalai with a plan of visiting the ancient Annamalaiyar Temple and getting photographs of Annamalai Hill – the Mountain of Light. The legend is that Shiva appeared here as as a column of fire at the top of Annamalai hills.

Those interested in this remarkable temple can look up:

The present masonry structure of the temple was built during the Chola dynasty in the 9th century, while later expansions are attributed to Vijayanagar rulers of the Sangama Dynasty (1336–1485 CE), the Saluva Dynasty and the Tuluva Dynasty (1491–1570 CE).

The priests at this temple belong to the Shaivaite community, a Brahmin sub-caste.

The western world learnt of Tiruvannamalai during the mid 20th century, through the work of Ramana Maharishi (1879–1950 CE). The cave where Ramana meditated is on the lower slopes of the Annamalai hills, with the ashram further down at the foothills.

I stayed at a small hotel named Aakash Inn. [Address: 79/1, Chengam road, (Opp to shree ramana maharishi ashram), Tiruvannamalai, 606601, India] which was very clean with well equipped air-conditioned rooms. The quality could be explained by the number of foreign tourists who were staying there, although obviously no-frills customers who had come to the Jyotirlinga (the lingam of light) in search of spiritual solace.

The annual festival of Kartikai Deepam falls in the lunar month of Kartikai, spanning November and December. The festival celebrates the manifestation of Shiva in the form of a column of fire for the sake of mankind. He is believed to have later transformed into the sacred Hill Arunachala.

“You must create a Divine and Noble town named Arunachala. You must also build in it a Divine Temple adorned with jewels. Lord Shiva said: Gautama! You must worship Arunachala Hill, which appears as a lustrous and immeasurable Linga on earth, for the welfare of the entire world. Let MY power (Shakthi) which is inseparable from ME and sustains the glory of this temple be installed on MY northern side and worshipped as Apithakuchambal (Unnamulai Amman). Since Bala Ganapathi is the bestower of all prosperity, let HIM be well adorned and worshipped in front of ME.”

After circumambulating the temple (with my shoes on) ), I enjoyed drinking “Kumbakonam Degree Coffee” at a small restaurant just outside the temple premises.




The “French Bungalow” in Arni

11 Mar

Shortly before I left on my first trip to Vellore this year (on 17 February 2017), my neighbour and friend Dr. Chakko Jacob told me that one of the sites I should definitely visit was “The French Bungalow”.

I did some internet research and one of the sites I found was:

The content here said:

“The French Bungalow, also referred to as the French Castle, is a renowned tourist attraction. There is a romantic side to this construction of the building. It was made by a prince of Mysore, Srinivasa Iyer, and is still owned by the Mysore Royal Family. The French Bungalow was built by him for residential purpose after he married a French woman, whom he met and fell in love with while he was abroad for studies. The bungalow was constructed with imported material, mostly from Glasgow.

“The walls of the French Bungalow are made of limestone blocks and stones which hold the main framework. The building has one tower at each corner of the four walls. The bungalow also has a dry well which served as a Roman Bath. The house had servants’ quarters and kitchens and there is also a repository for grains on the premises of the French Bungalow. However, due to low maintenance, the bungalow is now in ruins.”

There were some serious problems with this information. The royal family of Mysore are the Wodeyars, and they are definiely not Brahmins. “A Prince of Mysore” could not have had the name “Srinivasa Iyer”.

The credible reports are that the ruined stately home in Poosimalaikuppam, about 16 kms from Arni once belonged to the Jagirdars of Arni and might have been built by Thirumalai I Rao Sahib:

“There were two palaces situated 3 miles from Arni . There were also Palatial residences for the Jagirdar of Arni in Poosimalaikuppam (a forest resort very close to Arni town), in Chennai (Arnee House) and in Bangalore (formerly Jai Mahal Palace).”

Thirumalai I Rao Sahib, the fifth Jagirdar was the jagir holder at the time of the Battle of Arni 1751. He died in 1765 and was probably the builder of the Poosimalaikuppam Bungalow. His successor was Sreenivasa I Rao Sahib and this name could have inspired the name, “Sreenivasa Iyer”.

One clue I found was that, “The famous Mysore Maharaja Maligai (Jagiri Maligai) at S.V. Nagaram is located 5 km from the Arani Town. “S.V.Nagaram expands as Sathyavijayanagaram, which was the former capital of the jagir of Arni. Visiting this settlement is on my Todo list for my next visit to Arni.

At any rate, the so-called French bungalow stands forlorn in the jungle in Poosimalaikuppam, which is marked as a Reserve Forest (RF) in Google Maps.

I haven’t been able to get a professional opinion if the architecture is French, although it may well have several French architectural features, especially since Arni is only 118 kms North West of Puducherry (Pondicherry, the erstwhile French colony.)

This might also explain the romantic story about the “French Woman” of Poosimalaikuppam.

The clinching evidence that the so-called “French Bungalow” was one of the palaces of the Arni Jagirdar is the Latin family motto at the entrance of the building:

Per Deum et Ferrum Obtinui

“I have obtained it by God and by my steel [sword]”

It appears that this is the motto of the Hill family in Worcestershire. The Hill family traces their ancestral roots back to Norman origin before the year 1100.

The son of Thirumala I Rao Sahib was named SRINIVASA RAO SAHIB, which gives us some idea why the name of the “Prince of Mysore” turned out to be “Srinivasa Iyer”.

The Jagirdars of Arni were descended from to Vedaji Bhaskar Rao Pant. Those who know Tamilnadu history will remember that Tanjore District was a Maratha kingdom till it was absorbed into independent India. These Marathas, like the Arni Jagirdars speak “an archaic Marathi” which was no doubt well integrated with Tamil.

The “serendipity” of my interest in Arni is that earlier this week, on 8 Mar 2017, I traced and was almost miraculously introduced to a representative of the present descendants of the Jagirdar of Arni, who lives in Bangalore.

English in India – Part 3

5 Mar

05-03-2017, 21:05 hrs

****The Noble Language of Milton and Shakespeare – Part 3****

This is the third of the pieces I had promised on English in India.

A 2001 census on languages spoken in India showed that for about 2,26,449 individuals, English was the primary language. It is reckoned that this miniscule minority can “speak, read and write [English] well enough to be considered acceptable in England and USA”. More than 86 million listed it as their second language and another 39 million as their third language. This puts the total number of English speakers in India at the time to more than 125 million, for a population of 1,028,737,436 (2001 Census) which is 1.2% of the total.

This is about twice the population of the United Kingdom (63 million in 2011) or half the population of the USA (325 million in 2016). The assumption is that both UK and USA populations are of English speaking citizens.”
With a population of 125 million Indians who speak some English (2001 Census) which is rapidly growing, we can expect that English will undergo changes and be adapted to local use depending on the native language of the region.


Recognizing the great diversity of Indian regional languages and cultures, in 1580, Akbar divided the Mughal empire into 12 Subas or provinces. The Subas included territory now under the modern states of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Of the 12 Subas, seven (Ajmer, Delhi, Agra, Malwa, Awadh, Illahabad and Bihar) spoke dialects of what could be called Hindi or Urdu. The other five (Kabul, Lahore, Multan, Gujarat and Bengal) had their own regional languages and distinct cultural identities.

After 1595, important regions organised as subas were Ahmadnagar in the Deccan, Orissa, Kashmir, Sindh, Telengana/Bidar, Bijapur, Golconda/Hyderabad, and Sira (in modern Karnataka).

Tipu Sultan and the Nawab of Arcot controlled territory which fell into the modern states of Karnataka, Kerala (Malabar) and Tamilnad.


The word “Urdu” is derived from the same root as the English word “Horde” telling us that it was the language of the army. It became the state language in the Subas although local lanuguages and hybrids became street languages.

A form of Urdu spoken in Muslim courts of the Deccan plateau showing strong influence of Marathi, Konkani, Telugu and Kannada was called, “Dakhini”. This dialect is still spoken in Andhra and Karnataka.


During the Fifties and Sixties, speaking and writing English correctly constantly reminded us that we were speaking a foreign language. Command of the language and an accent free of other language influences determined the impression created on listeners.

Our teachers asked us to listen to All India Radio, and model our spoken English on presenters like Surajit Sen, Melville de Mello, Lotika Ratnam, Nobby Clarke, Manoranjan Bharati and Preminda Premchand.

For the last 20 years, television has been the major source of spoken English for the masses and even those with elite English medium education.

Since English continues to be an aspirational language, and since television has almost universal reach in India, it is not surprising that television is influencing thousands of new learners and old users.

It is of interest therefore how English is spoken by TV presenters from various regions, exhibiting what is known in the Call Centre industry as “Mother Tongue Influence (MTI)”.

In the UK, over the past 25 years, the BBC has increased “the range of regional accents – from the Newcastle brogue to the West Country burr – on BBC shows as part of a drive to end the domination of the standard English accent.”

Accent is the part of dialect concerning local pronunciation. Secondary English speakers tend to carry over the intonation and phonetics of their mother tongue to English speech.

There are pronunciation errors and grammatical errors. Pronunciation errors are probably less important than grammatical errors and we may have to accept these as part of the hybridisation process. Grammatical errors, use of cliches and unthinking use of certain expressions are considerably more important. Living with our differences, we learn to decode our distinct accents and even enjoy humour based on our accents.


The “Indian Accent” has been mimicked and made universally known by entertainers like Peter Sellers and the producers of “The Simpsons”, an American animated sitcom created by Matt Groening for the Fox Broadcasting Company.

Within India, English speakers have various accents, almost always influenced by the tone, cadence and lilt of their mother tongues. During the days of British rule, the British mocked the Anglo-Indian accent calling it “chi-chi” (an expression of disgust frequently used in Indian languages) and drawing attention to the supposedly “singsong” speech.

If you listen carefully, regional accents have their own “singsong” quality, based on the mother tongue in question.

Today we can live quite happily with our English accents just as Australians and Americans proudly flaunt their distinct accents which, like ours, developed from Imperial “Queen’s English”. Today the only requirement is that we should be able to understand each other.


Each region has its own Mother Tongue Influenced English pronounciation.

The Hindustan region (Hindi speaking states) accent (Hindish) is quite distinct. This is the dominant accent of news presenters and anchors on Indian Cable TV English programmes. As the most influential accent beamed out 24 hours a day, it deserves a closer look.

A dead giveaway is “Pulis” [for Police] because that’s the way the word is written in Hindi.

From the same region, we have the pronunciation “Currier” [kəriər] for the word Career [kərɪr].

The phonetic transcription is from:

I was certain that a Currier, would be a manufacturer of curry powder by Royal Appointment to HM the Queen. On checking, it turned out to be a person who dresses and colors leather after it is tanned.

A similar interesting Hindish word is “burry” [for “bury”].
A common ambivalence between “w” and “v” sounds is evident…Power (Pavar) and Hour (Ouwer)

A very common pronunciation is Deelay (for Delay) and Eevent (for Event)
Gurnment (gurn-ment) for Government (gəvərmənt)

Another Hindish classic is, “Heldhy” for Healthy (hɛlθi). The use of the Greek alphabet theta makes it quite clear how the word should be pronounced, although care must be exercised to make it a “soft” sound.

There are some words which create typical pronunciation dilemmas.
Original (ərɪdʒənəl) and Origin (ɔrədʒən),

Political (pəlɪtəkəl), Politican (palətɪʃən) instead of which we frequently hear, “Politeesian”, and in the same vein, “Offeecial” (Official). and Ineeshial (Initial).
From the above, we have “Politeesian of Indian Ori-gin (as in Original).

Economics (ɛkənamɪks) and Economy (ɪkanəmi)

Category (kætəgɔri) and Categorical (kætəgarɪkəl)

Rhetoric (rɛtərɪk ) and Rhetorical (rətɔrɪkəl)

Interpretation (ɪntərprəteʃən), Interpret (ɪntərprət), Interpreter (ɪntərprətər)

Dev-lup-ment, for Development (dɪvɛləpmənt) and Dev-lupped for Developed (dɪvɛləpt)

Cliches, Idioms and Expressions

A cliche is an expression or idea that has lost its freshness, originality, or force through overuse.

One of the most boring expressions we hear on Indian Cable TV is, “Under the Scanner” for anyone who is under scrutiny or investigation.

Another equally boring expression is, “Blamegame”. It appears to have become popular with Hindi speakers also, who say, “Blamegame shuru ho gayi”

Some other overused expressions are, “Needle of Suspicion”, “Finger of Suspicion”, “Spot of Bother”.

Playing spoilsport – “The rain played spoilsport during the cricket match”.

In a deeply religious country like India, we are treated to gems like, “Beefing up security” where “beef” invariably refers to the flesh of the cow. This expression no doubt comes from the idea of adding beef stock to vegetable soup to “strengthen” it.

To leave someone or some institution “red-faced” in a country where we have skin colours in all shades of brown is somewhat startling.

“Gob-smacked” means to be astonished, where “Gob” is slang for mouth and “smack” is to bring one’s palm against the mouth in a gesture of astonishment. How teddibly English!

“Egg on the face” might illustrate a situation of a mess that sounds odd in a food-scarce country where it is bad manners to “play with food”.

“A Tad-bit”! Really?

“Hunky dory”… this is an expression meaning quite satisfactory but opportunities for its use must be carefully chosen. For an Indian English speaker, “Hunky dory” is as alien as “Tickety Boo” and could indicate an unconscious singsong slip into Babu English. As a matter of interest, it is thought that the Imperial English expression “Tickety Boo” is actually a corruption of the Hindi, “Theek Hai Babu” meaning everything is fine. Midnight’s Children reading this will remember the 1958 Movie “Merry Andrew” starring Danny Kaye, which had a song, “Everything is Tickety Boo”.

“Give an exam” for “Take an exam”. in Hindi, the phrase is “exam dhena” which translates directly as: “give an exam”. In both British and American English, “take an exam” or “sit for an exam” would be correct.

He took my name (naam letha hai) for “He mentioned me by name” or “I was named”.

“Allegations flying thick and fast”… like arrows?

“Creating ruckus” or “Ruckus broke out” instead of “Creating a ruckus” or “A ruckus broke out”

“Spanking new stadium”?…Well… if we knew that the origin of this expression is from doctors spanking a newborn baby to make it cry to start breathing…. would we use it to describe a new stadium?

Why is it that almost all TV anchors talk about “slipping into a break”? It has almost become part of the Cable TV Pidgin … Like slipping into a negligee (ne-glə-ˈzhā)?

“Murky saga getting murkier by the day”

The great double negative usage is of interest: “Till you don’t give up smoking your cough will not go away.” (This again from Hindi, “Jab thak thum…). What we want to say is, “As long as you don’t give up smoking, your cough will not go away.”

“Caught on the backfoot” meaning “at a disadvantage; outmanoeuvred or outclassed by an opponent” is a favourite.

“Sen-tense” for “sentence” with the accent on the second syllable instead of the first.

“Find closure” had its day in the sun… even attempting to literally translate itself into Hindi.

“He slammed the Government” (Ouch!)

“He lashed out at the opposition” (Cracking the whip, no doubt!)

Is there any other way we can convey the same meaning? Using “slammed” and “lashed out” again and again makes them clichés.

Word Coinage

A word that has almost become part of the Indian English vocabulary with a new meaning is “Martyr”. When a policeman is killed by a Naxalite, that is also described as “Martyrdom”.

Please visit my blog on “Martyr and Martyrdom” for which the link is:

( 1758 Words)

Martyrs and Martyrdom

1 Mar

170302-martyr03 170302-martyr04

A word that has almost become part of the Indian English vocabulary with a new meaning is “Martyr”.

The usage includes, “He was martyred” meaning he was killed, usually a soldier in battle or defending a post. When a CRPF policeman is killed by a Naxalite, that is also described as “Martyrdom”.

“When an individual joins the armed forces, he, almost by definition, puts his life at risk. A soldier or an army officer can actually die while doing his duty. But do all army personnel who die while doing their duty deserve to be treated like martyrs?” (The Telegraph, Thursday, January 7, 2016:

“Martyr is not the traditional or official term for professional soldiers killed in uniform or civilian victims of terrorist attacks. Yet recently, most notably after the Uri attack, the media, government and even ordinary people have increasingly begun to use the locution for deceased soldiers and, at times, even civilian victims of terror. The misuse of a word as powerful as that is not merely a semantic error — it is also a kind of moral sleight-of-hand that allows the powers that be to obfuscate the complexity of the world we live in and their own negligence in the tragedy of innocent lives lost.” (The Indian Express, Aakash Joshi | Updated: September 24, 2016 12:09 pm:

“The government does not declare any of the security forces personnel who die in action as ‘martyr’, the Lok Sabha was informed on Tuesday…[Minister of State for Home, Kiren] Rijiju was responding to a question “whether the government has codified the term ‘martyrs’ for placing the posthumous soldiers in the category of martyrs? If so, the details and if not, whether the government proposes to make such a codification?” (The Times of India, PTI | Dec 6, 2016, 05.07 PM IST:

The word “Martyr” describes a person who chose death rather than renounce his religion. The word “Martyr” is of Greek origin meaning “Witness”.

The facile and unthinking use of the word appears to be from the Hindi or Urdu usage, “Shaheed hui”.

According to Mufti Taqi Usmani, ‘Shaheed’ in the real sense is a Muslim who has been killed during “Jihad” or has been killed by any person unjustly…the word “Shaheed” can only be used for a Muslim and cannot be applied to a non-Muslim at all.” (

The expression, വീര മ്രുത്യു “Veera Mruthyu” is heard in Malayalam news and is probably closer to the intended meaning of “Martyrdom”. Additionally, the expression is derived from Sanskrit.

The Tamil usage is: சமயத்திற்காக உயிர் துறக்கும் தியாகி “Samayattiṟkāka uyir tuṟakkum tiyāki” (One who sacrifices his life before his time). Another expression is, “போர் தியாகியாக or Pōr tiyākiyāka (One who has sacrificed his life in battle). The central idea appears to be “tiyagam” or “Thyagam” which means sacrifice.

In the meantime, bash on regardless!

The Battle of Arni (Arani)

1 Mar


0535 hrs on 1 March 2017

The Battle of Arni was the endgame for the Second Carnatic War with Robert Clive and Raju Sahib (son of Chanda Sahib, supported by the French) as the principal antagonists..

Chanda Sahib had abandoned the siege of Arcot on 15 November 1751 and withdrew his army to Vellore.

From here, Raju Sahib decided to march south to join his father in the siege of Trichinopoly.

At Arni, on the banks of the Poondi river, some French troops joined Raju Sahib emboldening him.

The English side had been strengthened by a relief column from Madras under Captain Kilpatrick with a force of 1,000 Mahratta horsemen commanded by Morari Rao.

Leaving Captain Kilpatrick to hold Arcot Fort, Clive joined battle with Raju Sahib at Arni on 3 December 1751. Clive’s force comprised 200 European soldiers, 700 sepoys and 600 Mahratta horsemen under Bassin Rao making 1,500 in all, with 3 guns.

The battle came to an end by night. Robert Clive personally directed the battle and ensured the retreat of Raju Sahib’s troops, pursued by the Maratha horse fighting on the English side.

Raju Sahib’s army had to negotiate a causeway across paddy fields, ford the river Poondi and enter Arni town in considerable confusion.

At around midnight Raju Sahib’s army left Arni and headed towards Senji 53 km to the south of Arni. Senji was known as Gingee in Colonial records and had one of the most impregnable forts in India.

Although the Governor of Arni handed over an elephant, 15 horses and a quantity of baggage to Clive, he refused to surrender the fort knowing the English did not have siege artillery.

The Mahratta leader, Morari Rao, after observing the battle tactics, famously commented, ‘the English can fight.’

After the battle of Arni, the East India Company was no longer only in the business of trade. They were in the business of war and ready to use superior organisation and equipment in the gradual conquest of India.