Click here for more...

(ARCHIVE) Vol. XVIII No. 25, april 16-30, 2009
Osprey in
Pallikaranai Marshland
(By Dr. T. Murugavel)

The sailing osprey high is seen to soar,
With broad unmoving wing, and circling slow,
Marks each loose straggler in the deep below;
Sweeps down like lightning! plunges with a roar!
And bears his struggling victim to the shore...

Thus does Alexander Wilson picturise the Osprey (Pandion haliaetus haliaetus) and its hunting technique. He further describes how happy the fishermen are: ‘God bless the fish-hawk and the fisher! She brings us fish – she brings us Spring...’

I was thrilled when I recently came to know of the sighting of Osprey in the Palikaranai Marshland. I have enjoyed watching this magnificent bird several times in the past, particularly in the Pulicat Lake, but its visit to Chennai brings the bird closer to bird-lovers and bird-watchers.

The Osprey brings in its wake several interesting thoughts about it. The name ‘Osprey’ itself is a bit controversial. Etymologically, the word ‘Osprey’ is believed to have its root in the French word ossifrage, which is supposed to mean ‘bone-breaker’. This name would suit Lammergeier more than the Osprey, as the former is known to drop and break the bones to get the marrow. The Osprey’s scientific name is not free from contradiction either. The Latin name Pandion haliaetus haliaetus has its root in the Greek. The name (genus) Pandion has reference to the Greek king Pandion, who was transformed into an eagle and, hence, the name means ‘sea-eagle’. But the Osprey is more of a hawk than an eagle. However, because of the many distinctive features of its toes and feet, which are more adapted to catching fish, this species is given its own taxonomic genus, Pandion, and family Pandionidae. However, the bird’s name in our vernacular is more direct. In Tamil, the species is called Virral Adippan, which explains the bird’s expertise in catching fish (Viral = a species of fish, and addippan = snatcher).

The Osprey is normally found in estuaries, coastal lagoons and lakes where they get their main food – fish. I consider myself lucky to have watched the bird in action a year ago. It was a clear early morning at the Pulicat Lake and I was in a boat with my fisherman friend, Kuppuraj. He was taking me further down the Lake, where we could see the Flamingoes and as he was manoeuvring the boat with a long bamboo pole, I saw this huge bird perched on a log that was jutting out of the water. I asked Kuppuraj to move the boat in the bird’s direction. Initially I thought it to be a White-bellied Sea Eagle. But looking through my binoculars, I could see the bird’s white head with a bleak streak through its cheeks, its black-brown upper body and white belly. I was sure it was an Osprey. For almost twenty minutes we watched it. The bird continued to perch there, looking at the sheets of water – like a king on his domain. The bird then took off, flying and moved several metres away. I continued watching the raptor through my binoculars. I could see the Osprey hovering over the water surface and then abruptly plunging, almost vertically, into the water. As it struggled out of the water, I could see a fish firmly gripped in its talons. The bird started flying away, only to sit on another jutting log. It all happened in seconds. I was speechless. Kuppuraj, who was steering the boat, was equally astonished – for it was a great sight to see the bird in action.

Since then, I haven’t seen an Osprey in action, though I have seen them several times at the Pulicat Lake. So, I was happy to learn of the sighting of Osprey at Pallikaranai Marshland.

This year, several migratory birds have come to Pallikaranai, in spite of garbage dumping! I was lucky only during my third visit. It was a cool February morning and I had been at the marshland from 6.30 a.m., watching the Little Grebe and Northern Pintail swimming and roosting. It was almost ten in the morning when I sighted the Osprey. I was watching two Purple Moorhens which were trying to keep away a Marsh Harrier which was trying to land on a clearing where the Moor­hens were. They probably had their nest there. As I was watching this drama, I saw the Osprey with its deliberate flapping of wings slowly flying over the hyacinth-infested waters. But it was only for a few minutes. The bird then moved to the farther end of the marsh. Though I spent several more minutes at the marshland, hoping to see more of it, it didn’t return.

As a closing note, I must say the Pallikaranai Marshland is badly degraded as a result of thoughtless acts of humans. If only we stopped using it as dumping ground for the city’s garbage, we would be doing a great service to the bird species who have as much rights as we do to make wetlands like Pallikarani their homes and breed and contribute their share in continuing the chain of creation, life and joy.


The Dutch, traders and migrants
(LITERATURE ON MADRAS (an annotated biblio­graphy from the Web)
compiled by Dr. A. Raman)

Colonial History

The Dutch East India Company [Vereenigde Oostin­dische Compagnie]

The British Library Dutch—Flemish Section (contact: J. Harskamp) (no date) collections/westeuropean/dutbib.pdf

The Dutch in Malabar. ­[Selections from the records of the Madras government]. With introduction and notes by A. Galletti ... [et al] [Madras] 1984.

Arasaratnam S. (1986) Merchants, companies and commerce on the Coromandel Coast, 1650-1740. Oxford University Press, New Delhi, India.

The Coromandel Coast, unlike its counterpart Malabar, is open. To relate to the rise and fall of port cities like Pulicat and Masulipatnam, they need to be linked to Vijayanagar and Gol­conda. In the power of Europe within the Indian structure, the Coromandel Coast was different from that of Gujarat, but possibly behind that of Bengal. The author places the coast firmly in the world of the Indian Ocean.

Ramerini M. (2006) Dutch–Portuguese colonial history: The Dutch East India Company [VOC: Vereenigde Oostin­dische Compagnie].

In March 1594 some Dutch merchants founded a ‘Company of Far Lands’ in Amsterdam, their objective being to send two fleets to East Indies. The first fleet of four ships reached Bantam in Java. Only three ships returned to the Netherlands in August 1597, with a small cargo of pepper, but it more than covered the cost of the expedition. Following the steps of this first enterprise, five different companies (voor­com­pagniën) were founded in 1598, and 22 ships left Dutch ports for the East Indies. In 1601, 65 ships left for the East Indies.

National Library of Australia (1991) au/asian/indo/nedbib.html.

A select bibliography based on the collections of the National Library of Australia, starting from the time of Vere­nigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC).

Dijk W.O. (2003) The archives of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) as they relate to Burma. SOAS Bulletin of Burma Research 1 (1), Spring 2003, ISSN 1479–8484.

The archives of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) are preserved largely in the National Archives at The Hague (previously the Algemeen Rijksarchief/General State Archives). Though the information contained within this vast collection of records and accounts forms an invaluable source for the reconstruction of the (economic) history of 17th century Burma, they have never been examined. This is indeed surprising, since practically everything written between 1634 and 1680 by usually well informed VOC employees in Burma is still extant making this a major primary source for just such a purpose.


Hodgetts J-B (2008) Madras matters: At home in South India. (no publisher address available) ISBN: 978-1-4357-0887-7.

Refers to the discovery of Madras since 2000, and its past. An important, fast-growing metropolis, now called Chennai, growing from the end of the colonial period in 1947. Written as a series of blogs from five years of personal experience by a TV and film professional, freelance journalist, who previously lived and worked in Paris. The book describes a peaceful southern neighbourhood with Internet shops, good food stores, and a great beach, the daily lives of residents, and the famous Indian marriages. In 18th Century, Madras was very important to Europe as the central point of the Southern ‘Deccan’. In modern times the world comes to Madras to sign IT contracts.

Trade History

Shimada R. (2006) The ­intra-Asian trade in Japanese copper by the Dutch East India ­Company during the Eighteenth Century. Brill, The Hague, The Netherlands.

Shimada argues that the trade in Japanese copper reaped high profits. Despite the huge imports of British copper by the English East India Company during the 18th Century, the Dutch Company successfully continued to sell Japanese copper in South Asia at higher prices. Compared to the capital-intensive development of British mines in the age of the Industrial Revolution, the copper production in Tokugawa, Japan, was characterised by a labour-intensive ‘revolution’ which also made a big impact on the local economy. Between 1700 and 1724, the Dutch East India Company sold Japanese copper on the southern Coromandel at Nagapattinam, Porto Novo, Sadras, Pulicat, and Kuni­­medu.

Social History

Lewandowski S. (1980) ­Migration and ethnicity in urban India: Kerala migrants in the city of Madras 1870-1970. Manohar, New Delhi, India.

The author traces the ­historical process of migration within one linguistic community residing in an Indian city (Madras) located in a different cultural region and attempts to relate this process to the ­emergence of an ethnic identity. The characteristics of the growth of Madras over time are also examined, and the impact of migration to the city on the lives of the migrants is analysed by comparing their lives before and ­after the move. Data for the study are from a variety of local sources obtained around 1970.


TN’s young team
one-day champions
(By Bhaskeran Thomas)

Amazing indeed! That’s probably the best expression for Tamil Nadu’s victory in the all-India one-day Vijay Hazare Trophy final. The State outfit which played with outstanding consistency at the zonal level continued its fine efforts at the knock-out stage as well and proved worthy victors. Winning the tournament without hiccups should be considered a great feat especially in the absence of three of its senior players, captain Dinesh Karthik, Lakshmipathy Balaji and Murali Vijay – all away on national duty in New Zealand.

The coach comments

Team coach W.V. Raman says the young side was full of confidence. “All I did was only to raise their belief in themselves and their collective ability to realise that they can win matches if they have the determination.”

He specifically mentions how the Tamil Nadu boys were able to “lift themselves up in tight situations”, as for instance “after being five down for 48 in the semi-final game against Uttar Pradesh.

He recalls how the team came back from behind against ­Bengal in the Ranji Trophy quarter-final to eventually win the match outright. “This was due to a major attitude change and I would say that this was the major achievement of the season. The boys were hanging on with determination to win.” Self-belief was a vital ingredient for success, he added.

According to Raman, “It’s not just talent that can take a cricketer ahead in his career. He must have the self-belief that he can perform in any kind of adverse situation.”

Similarly, “It’s not all about names. It’s about performing collectively. This year everyone contributed.”

Badrinath was the most consistent batsman for the State side in the Subbiah Pillai tournament as he ran up impressive scores, hitting 66 against Goa, 122 versus Kerala, 134 versus Hyderabad and 52 against Karnataka. He may have made only 24 against Mumbai but all the same, it was a useful knock. Badrinath should feel encouraged by his scores as he’s just a step away again from the Indian Test team.

Apart from the impressive Suthesh from totally unknown environs, pacemen Vijaya­kumar Yo Mahesh and Chan­drasekhar Ganapathy showed that they were more lethal this season than ever before. They rocked quite a few of the opposing sides and thus enabled Tamil Nadu to race ahead of the others in South Zone to top the Subbiah Pillai tournament with 24 points.


This was indeed a red-letter day for the State which defeated Bengal by 66 runs and claimed the trophy for the first time. It must be recalled that Tamil Nadu had a tough game against Uttar Pradesh in the first semi-final but ended up winning by 36 runs. It was against this Central Zone outfit that Tamil Nadu had narrowly lost the Ranji Trophy semi-final earlier in the year on the first innings lead.

After a winning performance in the Subbiah Pillai Trophy competition where Tamil Nadu outplayed its southern opponents, the side went on to beat Mumbai in the third quarter final by an impressive 56 runs.

Abhinav Mukund, the 21-year-old opener, who started the Subbiah Pillai tournament with a splendid 73 against Goa, strangely lost his way midway through the one-dayers and his place in the side. His return against Mumbai in the quarter final with a “duck” was another big blow. But he rose to the occasion in the final to score 118, the best and highest in the Vijay Hazare part of the tournament.

A consistent performer since his Under-13 and school days cricket, Abhinav’s rise to the Ranji level in the 2007-08 season has clearly established that he is a tremendous future prospect for the Indian team. His formidable opening partnerships with Vijay have made many cricket pundits sit up and take notice.

Rangaraj Suthesh, a 21-year- old left-arm paceman, was a match-winning find for Tamil Nadu in the tournament. His ability to quickly breach the opening partnerships in the Subbiah Pillai segment of the tournament continued in the knock-out stage as well. This certainly was a great boost for Tamil Nadu. He was the highest wicket-taker in the tournament with 18 scalps.

Skipper Ravichandran Ashwin who was vested with captaincy for the first time may not have been among the wickets as he had been in the Ranji games, but he made crucial breakthroughs. He led his side well and particularly supporting his four regular bowlers with part-time spinners Selvam, Suresh Kumar and S. Vidyut. 

Suresh Kumar who rescued Tamil Nadu against U.P. with a splendid 94 n.o. and hit a hurricane 41 n.o. off a mere 18 balls was the batting sensation of the tournament. His knock against U.P. was invaluable considering the fact that his side had lost six wickets for just 84 runs.

The side’s leading batsman S. Badrinath may not have had a big knock-out performance. However, apart from his valuable 30 in the final, his fielding was outstanding.

S. Anirudha performed well against Mumbai scoring a splendid 67, and had a useful 26 against Bengal.

S. Vidyut had a good all-round performance against Mumbai in the quarter final, scoring 33 and capturing three wickets for 32 that put an end to the hopes of the Western metropolis team. In the final against Bengal, he scored a fine 38, captured a wicket and was responsible for the run out of the Bengal captain Laxmi Ratan Shukla who was looking dangerous.

Among the Tamil Nadu bowlers, apart from Suthesh, the experienced Ganapathy and Vijaykumar Yo Mahesh bowled well to contain the opponents. Mahesh obviously had picked up a few tricks in pace bowling in the IPL tourney where he bowled alongside Australia’s Glenn McGrath.

Wicket-keeper U. Sushil was another important find for Tamil Nadu. His clean gathering was a significant feature of his keeping. – (Courtesy: Straight Bat)


In this issue

CMDA ponders...
Ahmedabad gets...
A simple doctor...
Engaged in changing
Historic residences...
Other stories in this issue...

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan
Dates for your Diary


Back to current issue...