On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross

pic via:YouTube

(This article was compiled from the message given by Mr. Thava Chelvam at the Good Friday service at the Tamil Christian Congregation of Western Australia 2014)

A closer-to-heart hymnal “The old rugged cross” is sung during the Holy week in many churches across the world. The hymn was written more than a century ago (1912) by Reverend George Bennard (1873- 1958) in the United States of America. He is not to be confused with the English philosopher George Bernard Shaw.

Bennard, the song writer and the travelling evangelist was born in Ohio to a miner and was bred in Iowa. Personal trials in his life led him to reflect the sufferings of Christ on the cross and the Christ of the cross became more than a symbol for the parson. He wrote the hymn based on the Gospel of John 3:16 which summed up the purpose of Jesus Christ’s life on earth. It is indeed an apt hymn to be remembered during this holy week of 2014. for further reading




Good Friday: A Sombre day in the Christian calendar

Here is an article I wrote to two years ago.

Good Friday: A Sombre day in the Christian calendar

By saba-Thambi

Good Friday commemorates the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Church near Kilinochchi-Sri Lanka North, pictured in Jan 2010-courtesy:

People in general query the meaning of the name “Good Friday” when it was in fact the darkest day in the liturgical calendar. Some argue that the word ‘Good’ derived from the old English synonym for “holy” and the others state that it has been altered from the word “God” to ‘good’ as in the derivation of the word “Good bye” from the origin of the phrase “God be with ye”.
However the Christians believe that Christ was humiliated and sacrificed on the cross and his resurrection meant a victory over death and sin for all mankind, hence it meant good. However the Eastern orthodox churches refer to this melancholy day as ‘Holy’ or ‘Great’ Friday. In Tamil it is remembered as Periya Vellikizhamai (பெரிய வெள்ளிக்கிழமை) To read more..


Remembrance Day – Eleventh Hour of the 11th day of the 11th Month.

Artificial Red poppies are sold globally to mark the Remembrance day this week. Below  is an article  which I   have written 2 years ago for the Tamil Week. 

Remembrance Day (11.11.11) – Loved and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields

10 November 2011, 1:48 pm

By Saba-Thambi

Ever since I bought the red artificial poppy in Colombo in the nineteen eighties, I have been fascinated by the symbolism behind the artificial flower. Red poppies are sold in memory of the fallen soldiers of the World Wars I & II.

Silk Poppy – Australia-Pic: Alfiet

Generally the day is referred to as the Remembrance Day, and a minute of silence is observed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of each year.

The symbolism originated with the British Empire and became a practice with other countries in later years. The proceeds from the sale of poppies go towards the war widows and their dependents. This Friday, across the globe, millions of people will pause for a minute of silence at the 11th  hour to reflect on those who made the supreme sacrifice.

The origin

The World War I guns were silenced at 11 am on the eleventh day of November 1918 signalling the end of the war. The opposing countries called a truce and the fighting stopped after 4 years of continuous battle. Originally this day was referred as Armistice Day. The word armistice is taken from the Latin word armistitium where arma means arms and stititum refers stoppage.

A year later the then king of Britannia King George V, declared the Armistice Day to honour the members of the armed forces who lost their lives for the British Empire. After the World War II the day was re-named as Remembrance Day. Since then the soldiers who perished in the Korean, Vietnam and other wars are also remembered in the other countries. Poppy wreaths are laid on the graves of the soldiers and individual poppies are also sold to mark the day. It is no doubt the current war soldiers who lost their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq and other battlefields will be also remembered on this day in the years to come.

The Red Poppy

The Remembrance Day is also referred to as Poppy Day. The red Poppy (Papaver Rhoeas) belongs to the family of Paperveraceae, also known as the corn poppy, is a native to Europe and it is normally considered a weed in the agricultural fields of Europe. During the World War I, the Flanders plain, now located in parts of Netherlands, Belgium and France was a major battle field. Wild poppies sprang up in the Flanders region when the soil was churned and muddied. The arrays of poppies were also seen in the graveyards among the crosses of the fallen soldiers.

A different species of poppy (Papaver Somniferum), a native to the south-east of Europe and west Asia are also popular for different reasons. It is an annual herb known as opium poppy, contains opium and quinine alkaloids and has the sedative properties. It is not to be mistaken for the red poppy.

John McCrae, a Canadian soldier, physician and a poet had to bury his mate in 1915 in the absence of a chaplain. His young friend and fellow Canadian was buried next to his dressing station in the plain of Flanders. The loss of his friend had a major impact on McCrae. The Doctor-poet penned a poem titled “In the Flanders field” referring to the wild poppies in the ditches of the graveyards of the soldiers. In 1918 the doctor was wounded and few days later he lost his life aged 46. He was buried in France.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow (grow)
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
John McCrae MD (1872 – 1918)

John McCrae’s poem when published inspired an American YWCA worker, Miss Moira Michael. Ms Michael campaigned to have the poppy as the symbol of the Remembrance Day for the fallen soldiers. The poppy was eventually adopted by the American legion as the symbol of the sacrifice. Since then the artificial poppy has been widely used to raise funds.

Canadian ten dollar bill-photo-Balini S

As a tribute to Dr. John McCrae, the Royal Canadian mint has printed the first five lines of his poem in English & French, (see the circled area in the photo) on the back of the Canadian ten Dollar bill and has also circulated a special quarter (twenty five cents) featuring the red Poppy. The British legion lays a wreath on his grave every remembrance day.

Most of the British colonies adopted the Remembrance Day and the red poppy as the symbol of the sacrifice of the armed forces. Men from the subcontinent were also recruited by the Royal British Army who fought side by side. In the nineteen thirties, a Marxist group in Ceylon instigated “sooriyakaanthi malar” (suriyamal -Sun Flower) in place of the poppy to counter-act the imperialists since the proceeds of the sale of poppies were channelled to the Australian, British and Canadian soldiers overseas. Sun Flower fervour was gaining momentum until the eruption of Second World War in the late nineteen thirties. It is also notable that many sub continent soldiers were recruited to serve in the British army for the Second World War.

Although the red poppy of John McCrae’s is the symbol of the sacrifice of modern times legend has it that in the 12th century the mogul emperor Genghis Khan associated the poppy with human sacrifice.

Generally the victors write the history of the events and the losers are conveniently forgotten or painted viciously. If the battles were judged upon in the absence of malice, the losing army would have obeyed the command of their vitriolic dictators and paid with heavy causalities in the name of their tribes, troops and their own land.

This Friday on the eleventh hour show your gratitude for all those who made the supreme sacrifice in the name of war. Let us not forget the philosophy of the Englishman, John Donne (see below) who has written well before the First World War!

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as a manor of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

John Donne (1572 -1631 -England)

Eighth of March – International Women’s Day

Hello friends

The article below  was published in  and  Tamil ,   to mark the International women’s day. I have   republished the same article on this  blog without any changes.
At this juncture, another young lady should  also be remembered for her courage is Malala Yousafzai.  The fifteen year old Pakistani who was recently shot  for speaking against Taliban. Malala has been nominated for  the 2013  Nobel peace Prize. We  wish her a speedy recovery and  best wishes for her nomination.
Eighth of March – International Women’s Day
7 March 2012, 6:30 pm

By Saba-Thambi

International Women’ Day (IWD) is celebrated worldwide on the 8th of March. IWD symbolises the economic, political and social achievements of the women past, present and the future. Events are organised around the world to mark the celebrations.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon, Burma, on December 1, 2011-pic – US Dept. of State

In some countries the day is declared as a National holiday. Today will be one hundred and one year since the inception of IWD.


At the beginning of the 20th century (1908), when 15,000 courageous women marched through New York City for better pay, shorter hours and the right to vote paved the way for the voice of women. Two years later the first IWD was held in Germany on the 19th march 1911.

IWD’s 50th Anniversary was held in 1960 and more than 700 delegates participated from 73 countries. United Nations gave a general recognition to IWD in 1975 and the endorsement was adopted by other governments which were not part of conferences previously. The United Nations also declared the year 1975 as the international year of women.

Since then IWD had many conferences and tackled many challenges and issues to push women’s rights on to the political arena of each country.

In later years IWD is seen as a celebration of women of the past than focusing on the downbeats. Many women personas have succeeded in the man’s world to make their stand and are continuing to do so in the future as well. What more of a day than today to remember some of those women who have contributed immensely to the world.

Marie Curie (1867 – 1934)

Marie Skoldowska was born in 1867 in Russian dominated Poland in the era where women could not attend Universities. Her family, who valued education, sent her to Sorbonne University in Paris to study Science and she became the first woman to teach in that campus. Marie married her associate Pierre Curie a professor in Physics and both jointly researched on radioactive substances. Many years of research earned the couple a Nobel Prize in 1903 for physics which was shared by another French Physicist A.H Becquerel. Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize.

A word coined by Marie as “Curies” is still used as a unit measurement to evaluate the level of radioactivity. Tragedy trapped Marie when her husband died in an accident. Marie, with 2 young children took his position as professor of Physics as the first woman to the post. She went on to discover radioactive elements Radium & Polonium. Polonium was named after her polish genesis. She won her second Nobel Prize in 1911 for isolating and studying the radioactive properties of Radium.

Radium was used to destroy cancerous cells in the body and the use of x-rays to find the bullets in wounded soldiers during the First World War. Marie Curie’s work was recorded in many scientific journals and was highly admired by the scientists around the world. Mari Curie died at the age of 67 of Leukaemia probably caused by the exposure to radiation during her research days.

Mothe Teresa receiving the Nobel Peace Prize

Mother Teresa (1910 – 1997)

A wrinkled face and a covered head with the edge of a white sari was a familiar face to the world, when Mother Teresa accepted her Nobel peace prize in 1979. Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was born in Macedonia to an Albanian family. Young Agnes accepted a call from the above to become a Roman Catholic nun in her teens. She received the name Sister Mary Teresa after she was accepted as a nun and later became Mother Teresa after taking her final vows.

Mother Teresa was transferred to Calcutta initially as a teacher and from the very beginning she was drawn to help the poor and the needy. On a journey from Calcutta to Darjeeling, she received a “call within a call” to initiate the missionaries of charity. She followed her inner urge to leave the convent to work among the under-privileged. Vatican gave her the green light to start the group “Sisters of Missionaries of Charities” under the guidance of archbishop of Calcutta.

“Love begins at home” became Mother Teresa’s motto and she started to provide free help to the impoverished, homes for orphans and the lepers. White sari with the blue lined border became the uniform for her and her co-workers around Calcutta. Her absolute dedication to serve the poor caught the attention of the entire world and was affectionately referred to as “the saints of the gutters”.

Apart from the Nobel Prize, Mother Teresa has also received many awards locally and internationally. India honoured her with Padmashree award and Bharat Ratna and the Queen honoured Mother Teresa with the Order of Merit .

Mother Teresa passed away after a brief illness at the age of 87. Her body was kept in a church next to the Loreto convent in Calcutta where she arrived 69 years earlier. Many thousands of people lined the streets to pay their last respects irrespective of their religion & race.

India gave Mother Teresa, a state funeral and her body was carried on the gun carriage which also carried the bodies of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. Heads of the countries, Royals and special envoys were present at her funeral to bid her a final farewell.

At the time of her death Sisters of Missionaries of Charity were established in nearly 600 communities in 123 countries. Her work is still continuing under the guidance of Sister Nirmala in Calcutta.

Shirley Chisholm (1924 – 2005)

An African American activist, Shirley Chisholm was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1924 to a poor immigrant West Indian family. Shirley majored in Sociology at Brooklyn College and became an active advocate for minority rights. Shirley won a seat in New York assembly for democrats as the first black congress woman. In her famous address to the house of representative she quoted that “I have been far oftener discriminated against because I am a woman than because I am black”. Shirley passionately believed in improving the life of socially disadvantaged and the unfair treatment of women. She also proposed equal rights for all regardless of colour and gender. Shirley was the first African American woman to seek nomination for the presidency in 1972.

Even though she was unsuccessful she continued to be a voice for the women’s rights.

Indira Gandhi (1917 – 1984) & Sirimao Bandaranayke (1916 – 2000)

Prime ministers and heads of states

The world’s first female Prime Minister Mrs. Sirimao Bandaranayke (1916 – 2000) was elected to the Office in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) when her husband was assassinated in Colombo. A soft-spoken Sirimavo was persuaded by her late husband’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) to take over the leadership of the party. The following year, she won the general election for her party and became the first female Prime Minister. She carried the policies and legacies of her husband.

There were many female leaders who have been persuaded to take over the political mantle after the tragic deaths of their husbands or fathers.

Corie Aquino of Philippines, Chandrika Kumaratunga of Sri Lanka, Sonia Gandhi of India, Megawati Sukanoputri of Indonesia and Benazir Bhutto were among the many who stood the political litmus test.

Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the only child of the first prime minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru became a well accomplished politician. After graduating from Oxford, Indira returned to her motherland and joined the National Congress Party. The Congress party was the vanguard for the struggle for independence of India from the clutches of Britain and her parents have been active members of this party. Politics was in young Indira’s vein and she was elected as party president in 1959.

After the death of her father, she was appointed as the minister for information and broadcasting under the Prime Ministership of Lal Bahadur Shastri. Unfortunately Shastri died 2 years later and Mrs. Gandhi was promoted as the first female prime minister of the world’s largest democracy.

Initially nick-named as “goongi gudia” (dumb-doll), she slowly silenced the critics by nationalising the banks and initiating programmes for India’s self sufficiency. She proved herself as one of the tough politicians in the region and was described by Henry Kissinger as the “tough-minded and cold-blooded lady”. Indira Gandhi never shied from the extreme pressures and assisted in the creation of the independent state of Bangladesh.

In one of her speeches for women she quoted,
“An ancient Sanskrit saying says, woman is the home and the home is the basis of society. It is as we build our homes that we can build our country. If the home is inadequate – either inadequate in material goods & necessities or inadequate in the sort of friendly, loving atmosphere that every child need s to grow and develop- then the country cannot have harmony and no country which does not have harmony can grow in any direction at all.

That is why womens’s education is almost more important than the education of boys and men. We – and by ‘we’ I do not only we in India but the entire world around……..” (At Indraprastha College for women, New Delhi, India 23.11. 1974)

On October 1984, Mrs. Gandi was assassinated by two of her Sikh body guards as a revenge for sending the army to crush the Sikh occupation of the Golden temple. Prior to her death she has quoted “If I die a violent death as some fear and a few are plotting, I know the violence will be in the thought and the action of the assassin, not in my dying”. Indira Gandhi was admired by many and hated by some like any other
politician in the world.

Aung San suu Kyi

Aung San suu Kyi was two years old when her father General Aung san Kyi , national leader of Burma (now Myanmar)was assassinated in 1947. Aung was initially educated in Rangoon and later studied politics at Delhi University in India. She was also educated at the Oxford University and while working abroad met her future husband Michael Aris . The couple had 2 children and the family was living in England.

The death of her father made a deep impact on Aung’s life and made her to fight for the peace and independence of Burma from the military rule. Politics played a major role in Aungs life when she returned to Burma in 1988 leaving her young family in England to care for her ailing mother. During her stay she joined the pro-democracy movement and addressed the people in a public rally, calling for a democratic government. Many months later Aung was placed under house arrest by the ruling military leaders ever since.

The general elections were held in 1990 and her candidacy was declared null. Even in the absence of Aung the National League Party won a landslide victory. During her house arrest she wrote many speeches and books and she won her Nobel peace prize in 1991. She spent the winning prize of 1.3 million dollars in establishing a health and education trust fund for the people of Burma. Her struggle for democracy for Burma is still continuing…to this date.

Some women have utilised their public life from the entertainment industry to enter a political career. Special mention goes to the South Indian Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Ms. Jayalalitha and the Argentinian Radio & film actress Eva Peron. Glamorous first lady, Eva Peron affectionately named as” Evita” fought for the women’s right to vote and initiated a charity for the children and the under-privileged. She died at the age of 32 after suffering from Cancer. Evita became a house hold name after her death when Andrew Lloyd Webber made a Broadway musical “Evita” in 1976 and “Don’t cry for me Argentina” has become a favourite song across the world. In the eighties musical was made into a movie with Madonna as Evita.

Julie Covington on Evita

The world has seen many females from astronauts to political leaders, to crime novelists, to film directors and even a television talk back queen! The unfortunate truth is that in some countries women are still not paid equally. Globally women’s education, health and violence against them are worse than that of men. One can only hope that these conditions will change for the better at least at the end of the twenty-first century.

The world can only hope so!

Courtesy of:

English-Vinglish -Sridevi is back!

Article  below was originally published in Tamil Week in October 2012. It was also published in the Canadian Monsoon Journal (November 2012)

English Vinglish: Sridevi is back!

11 October 2012, 10:52 pm

By Saba-Thambi

It was refreshing to see Sridevi back in action after a long drought in the silver screen. The recent movie “English Vinglish” brought the legendary star back to the screen as a young mother.

The much-anticipated movie was released last week simultaneously in Hindi, Tamil & Telugu across the globe. I had the opportunity to see the movie in Hindi with English subtitles in Australia.

English Vinglish is Sridevi’s first movie after 15 years of absence since she married the producer Boney Kapoor.

The top star from the last century has returned to the celluloid screen portraying a traditional Marathian mother from Pune.

Click the link below for further reading

Copy of the print in Monsoon Journal (November 2012 pg 41)
Monsoon Journal (November 2012- Page 41)

Monsoon Journal – November 2012 – page 41

From Chennai to Perth

By Saba-Thambi

April has been a good month for the Perth Tamil community playing host to three South Indian entertainers from Chennai. Perth is the capital city of Western Australia which inhabits approximately 1.9 million people. Due to the lower number of Tamil population in relation to the Eastern state counterparts, Sydney & Melbourne and the distance between the states discourage the entertainers who come to the Eastern states to visit Perth.

The month of April was exceptional in that the Tamil fans were first pleased to see Dr Padmashree Manorama, and Nahaisuvai Thendral Dindukkal I. Leonie at the Rixon Theatre, Penrhos College. It was the first visit to Australia for both of them and they were on their last lap of appearances on stage after visiting Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.

Dr. Padmashree Manorama

Perth fans of Ms Manorama were delighted to see their comical actor in person. Knee surgery on her legs prior to the Australian tour did not deter the comedienne from visiting the four major capital cities.

According to Ms. Manorama, she has appeared in the silver screens for the last 52 years. She was introduced to the Tamil cinema via “maalaiyitta mangai” in 1958; however her debut was somewhat in a Sinhala film. The acclaimed actor is also proud of her achievement in acting with five South Indian Chief Ministers namely C.N Annadurai, NT Rama Rao, M. Karunanithi, MG Ramachandran and Ms Jayalalitha. This incredible accomplishment by Ms Manorama will be remembered forever. The comedienne commented that she never let her age to grow and instead she let her mind and heart to mature. Her tongue-in-cheek claim was that she is still twenty six!

To continue the article please click the link below: