Thursday, June 28, 2012

Two cents on currencies.

Elizabeth Taylor summed it up best when she quipped: “Money is the best deodorant.” In these times of bizarre bailouts that feels ‘right on the money’ as the stench of bankruptcy that surrounds Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Spain and Portugal can only be overpowered by a liberal squirt of Euros or the enchanting odour of crisp greenbacks cranked out by Ben Bernanke and the Fumbling Feds.

A deep discussion on the economics of recession always puts people to sleep so I shall stick to the superficial and serve you the trivial stuff you’ve always craved for.

Let’s set the ball rolling by understanding why the rupee is called the Rupee. Before Sher Shah Suri came along and applied the Sanskrit word for ‘shapely’ (what Rupiya means) to silver coins, the tankha (yes, the Hindi word for salary!) was the fiat currency of the Thuglaqs. Babar and Humayun somehow didn’t fancy the Rupiya. They preferred the Shahrukhi instead.

Akbar deserves the credit for putting the Rupee back into circulation as he felt it had its merits. The rest of the Mughals just cut, copy, paste Akbar’s template and that’s how India was flooded with many variants of the Rupee. The East India Company standardised the currency system by subsuming the local denominations.

For example, in the Madras Presidency, the basic unit was the copper Kasu. Then there was the silver Panam (80 copper kasus). Followed by the Rupee (12 panams) and on top there was the gold Pagoda (3.5 rupees). Over time, this was simplified into Pice, Paise, Annas and Rupees. 16 Annas, 64 Paise and 164 Pies were the equivalent of one rupee. Now you know the real import of the legendary Bollywood dialogue ‘pie pie chuka doonga’!

The Yuan and Yen have similar origins to the Rupee. As in, they cue the round shape. Pound comes from Latin word ‘Poundus’ indicating weight. While ‘Dollar’ is derived from Thaler, short for Joahimsthaler, a coin made from metal mined in Joahimsthal, a town in Czech Republic. And ‘Dirham’ owes its origins to the Greek word Drachma meaning ‘handful’. Hope the dime-a-dozen trivia you just learnt was worth every penny!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Murugan Syndrome

Mr. Dark Glasses Wearing That Yellow Shawl would like us to believe that his dear Tamil Nadu is, was and will be an atheist state. The profusion of religious programs in his own family run network ‘Sun TV’ is an eloquent commentary on how off mark, the old man is, in his assessment.

It is a historical fact that 12 of the 33 districts in Tamizhagam owe their names to mythological beliefs tied to either the Shaivite or the Buddhist stream. So, outright denial of the pervasive influence of faith is akin to not noticing the moon on a full moon day.

I will adduce one more phenomenon to highlight the theistic nature of Tamil Nadu. I call it the ‘Murugan Syndrome’. Basically, the crux of the matter is: Tamilians have a huge fascination for anything that goes by a Murugan theonym (names synonymous with the second son of Shiva).

May be that’s why Saravana Bhavan (hotel named by Kripananda Variar after the six faced lord) has the most devout fan following among the saapatramans of our land. Unsurprisingly, Velu Military Hotel and Murugan Idli Shop are the other two restaurants gaining converts in droves.

Have you ever wondered why both Kumaran Silks and Kumaran Stores still have worshippers in Panagal Park? Or for that matter why Padaiyappa is Rajnikanth’s biggest ever hit? The answer clearly lies in a subconscious Skanda Cult residing somewhere in the minds and hearts of the Tamil Kudimagan.

Otherwise we’ll never be able to explain the reason behind the innumerable success stories of brands and celebrities sporting the Tamizh Kadavul’s name (the Tamil god). The stupendous popularity of Subramanian Swamy in politics, the loud guffaws earned by Senthil and Vadivel in comedy, the adulation enjoyed by Sivakumar (born as Palanichami Gounder), Karthi and Karthik in Kollywood, the chartbusters churned by singer SP Balasubramanian, the fearsome reputation of Velupillai Prabhakaran, Dinesh Karthick and Murali Kartik’s dalliance with fame, Karthi Chidambaram’s frequent incursions into the limelight, MS Swaminathan’s date with glory, and Quickgun Murugan's immortal cameo in our minds, all seem to flow from a coincidental connect that’s bound to make you go, “oh my god!”

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The End of the Dot Com.

There was so much hype about 2012 before we entered 2012. Apocalypse was supposed to knock at our doors. Mabus the Third Anti-Christ was widely conjectured to wreak havoc on Earth. And the Anunnakis were prognosticated to descend from Planet Nbiru to bail us out. Fortunately or unfortunately, the story so far has been rather anti-climactic.

The only shattering event that I can foresee, will in all likelihood, play out on June 13. On that historic day, the World Wide Web will be restructured beyond recognition by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names & Numbers).

Before you go, ‘Fhat the wuck’, let me explain: On June 13, the ICANN in its capacity as the Godfather of the Internet will reveal the suffixes that will be blessed with the halo of a generic Top Level Domain (gTLD). What that means is a whole new set of gTLDs would supplement the well known suffixes such as .com, .net, .org and .edu.

To understand the seismic impact of this move, just think of ‘Dot Com’ as Doordarshan and the new gTLDs as satellite channels with their own satellites! You get the picture, right?

The privatization of domain name suffixes will end the dot com monopoly like never before as Google, Microsoft, Facebook and all the other big fat evil corporations are plotting and scheming to bag their own dot names.

What’s even scarier for the Dot Com guys is the gold rush to own whole ‘industries’, ‘communities’ and ‘attitudes’. If rumours are to be believed, Google has already placed a bid to buy .Lol. Many more megacorps are slugging it out for .bank, .home, .ngo, .music, .shop, .green, .app, .game, .artist, .free, .gay, .hotel, .radio, .car, .sucks and 2000 other variations!

Even our usually languid Indian companies have hopped on to the race to be on the dot. One learns that .tata, .sbi, .mahindra, .reliance, .infosys, .wipro and 8 other dot companies are on the verge of being approved.

With such an unimaginable scale of fragmentation on the cards, the simple world of Dot Coms that we knew will come crashing down in the next few weeks. Shall we blame it all, on the Mayans?