A European Duel in South India

In 1740, war broke out in Europe. The reason? The king of the Austrian Empire died that year. And in an unprecedented move, he left it so that his daughter, Princess Maria Theresa, would inherit the crown. Unfortunately, not everyone agreed with the former king. Other kingdoms and nations in Europe said that Maria could not rule the empire because she was a woman. While … Continue reading A European Duel in South India

The Real Emden

When we were kids, cocky braggarts were often silenced with “nee periya EMDEN-O?”. (Liberal translation: “You have the arrogance to presume you are an EMDEN?”). In colloquial Tamil, Emden is a fearsome, invincible entity. Now, how did a Germanic word sneak past linguistic purists into everyday Tamil? Blame it on World War-I. When the WW-I began, Germany wanted to harass Allied shipping in the Indian … Continue reading The Real Emden

Jataka Tales: The Buddha’s many lives

Once upon a time, an acorn fell on top of a little bird named Chicken Little and he thought the skies were coming down. He made a huge commotion and set the other animals running as well. This story is a part of Aesop’s Fables. But even before Aesop and Chicken Little, there was a hare in an Indian Jungle who feared that doomsday was … Continue reading Jataka Tales: The Buddha’s many lives

The astonishing story of India’s first Railroad

Most Indians believe that the first train in India ran in 1853 between Bori Bunder in present day Mumbai and Thane, but that was the first passenger train. The very first train in Indian history arrived almost two decades before that. Here’s the astonishing story about The Red Hills Railway. Steam engines were definitely involved, but so were cattle and even wind! How was that … Continue reading The astonishing story of India’s first Railroad

Chennai Genesis

Before Madras became Chennai in 1996, Madrasapattinam had to become Madras. How did this historic city begin? The story of Madras began in 1644 with Fort St. George. The British East India Company had been around since the 1600s and was aggressively expanding its business in the East Indies which included present day Eastern India and South East Asia. Securing land for ports at strategic … Continue reading Chennai Genesis

Chennai’s 2000 year old Christian legacy

Temple gopurams and church spires dot Chennai’s skyline, side by side, bearing witness to the centuries old coexistence of Hinduism and Christianity. Christianity reached India over 2000 years ago. But how did something that started somewhere around modern day Palestine, gain such a strong foothold in ancient India? The long saga of Christianity in India, according to Christian tradition, began with St. Thomas, one of … Continue reading Chennai’s 2000 year old Christian legacy

Chennai’s Kaapiright? – The true origins of coffee

The sun may rise in Chennai, when it will, but morning only arrives with the first whiff of coffee. Chennai’s affair with filter coffee or Kaapi is old news. Tamilians met coffee somewhere around the 19th century, fell head over heels and have stayed very much in love since. The mighty bean, despite what some coffee lovers will tell you, is not indigenous to India. … Continue reading Chennai’s Kaapiright? – The true origins of coffee