July 31, 2021
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A century ago a British resident was reluctant to give up his house so that the Egmore railway station could be expanded because it was next to the Cooum river. But a recent study by the Tamil Nadu fisheries department says that the river has more to

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Chennai Corner

Porn Doctor Authors Mahabharata
He's no Lord Jeffrey Archer who penned three volumes of his prison diaries about his life behind bars after being sent there for perjury in 2001. But Dr L Prakash is trying to emulate the celebrity writer even if the reason for his being in Puzhal prison is for more than just telling a fib. Ganesh, a school drop-out, blew the whistle on "Doctor Porn" in January 2002 after he found nude pictures and videos of himself having sex on the internet. Prakash was arrested in December 2001 and sentenced to life earlier this year after six bail petitions by him were dismissed. But if you think he's churning out the Harold Robbins genre of pulp fiction, think again. The 52-year-old doctor has been prolific, writing novels running the gamut of adventure, science fiction, romance novels, erotica too and, hold your breath, even Glimpses of Vedic Wisdom. Four of his books including Glimpses have been published by G Asokan of Banana Books. Asokan, for the uninitiated, is the man who has published thousands of Tamil thrillers. But when Asokan decided to get into English publishing (along with L Rajesh), he was on the look-out for an equivalent of Sidney Sheldon who would get Banana Books noticed. The answer was provided by a lawyer S Namonarayanan who had met Prakash when he was in prison briefly after being arrested for unlawful assembly. A meeting between Prakash and Asokan, through a wire mesh, sealed the deal. Next up for publication is Prakash's 60,000 word Mahabharata in four volumes.

Never Say Die
But Prakash's exploits in prison is a testimony to the fact that he's a never say die kind of a guy. His recent appeal to the high court that he be allowed to use his laptop was allowed by the court.  Prakash shares a dormitory with 24 others, goes jogging in the morning and spends the rest of his day writing busily. According to Tamil Nadu Medical Council President Dr K Prakasam, "He has a good readership inside the prison. He mixes well with everyone, but nobody goes to him for medical advice." Prakash did try to get back into practicing medicine while out on a three-day parole on April 12. He reportedly wrote an e-mail to a Mumbai-based orthopaedic surgeon Dr Mangal Parihar: "Hey Mangal, at last I am out on parole. Can I join you?" He also contacted other doctors online. The medical community was alarmed since his licence to practice has been cancelled. Prakash was an orthopaedic doctor but made his money on a pornographic website that he ran for 10 years where he posted nude pictures and videos of his patients without their consent. His brother in crime, literally, was his US-based brother. In addition, the police also found 55 grams of heroin at his residence at Annanagar (he has filed a case saying he was being framed and that is still pending). Last month, a raid at Puzhal prison (after a terror plot led to Ali Abdullah orchestrating the whole conspiracy via his mobile phone) resulted in a cellphone being seized from Prakash. Police also seized two joints from him. 

Water Worse Than Sewage
A century ago a British resident was reluctant to give up his house so that the Egmore railway station could be expanded because it was next to the Cooum river. He felt the Cooum's waters kept him healthy and happy. Cooum, a 72-km long channel over which this metropolis has grown, originates in neighbouring Thiruvallur district and finds its way into the Bay of Bengal in Chennai. But much water has flowed down the Cooum, in fact less water and more sewage, so much so that if you are anywhere in the vicinity of this river, you have to hold your nose. A recent study by the Tamil Nadu fisheries department says that the river has more toxins than a sewer. Actually, the study says the river is 80 per cent more polluted than treated sewage. What is even more shocking is that the water has almost no dissolved oxygen as a result of which fish could survive in this water only for three to five hours, and even that only after the water was diluted. The value of BOD (biological oxygen demand) is the measure of how clean a river is. A really clean river has a BOD of one milligram per litre, moderately polluted rivers have a BOD of between 2-6 mg/litre. Sewage after efficient treatment is 20 mg/litre. But the Cooum, at one of its most polluted points (under the Napier Bridge) has a BOD of 36mg/litre.  It will therefore not be a day too soon, when the cleaning up of the Cooum sub-basin is undertaken as part of a World Bank-funded project. The cleaning up is scheduled to begin next March. So will the Cooum smell mint fresh in 2010? One can only hope.

Not In My Backyard
While being environmentally-conscious is a way of life in other parts of the world, in India the philosophy is "not in my backyard". During a recent visit to a friend, who lives in a plush, lush, gated community in Bangalore, the truth of this philosophy hit me. You could eat off the paved road which forms the driveway, probably even drink out of the pool and the lawns were so manicured that weeds would probably quail at sprouting roots. The nights were magical with fairy lights. But the "not in my backyard" syndrome operates in this island of prosperity too surrounded by the filth, grime and chaos of the city. One of the complex's dozen security guards was on his patrol in the morning when he found an offending bit of garbage on the sanitized driveway. What did he do? Picked it up and tossed it over the wall. He did not even furtively look over his shoulder to see if someone was watching his transgression.

A Green Warrior
In light of the above, perhaps even if she holds the title of "Indian Climate Champion", Chennai-girl Shruti K Neelakantan, currently sailing to the Arctic, has a lot to learn. The first "polar woman" from Goa (she's the second only from India), Dr Devyani Borole, who returned last April after 14 months on an Antarctic expedition had gushed about how everything was snow white and pristine all around on the icy continent. All the garbage that was generated was brought back and no one on her expedition even considered dumping it there just because penguins and polar bears would be the only witnesses. Hopefully Shruti will come back with the same wisdom. 

Shruti, a Class XII student of Sri Sankara Senior Secondary School, one of two Indians (the other is S Dhruv from Lucknow) who was selected in a nationwide competition conducted by the British Council, is part of the Cape Farewell Youth Expedition 2008 to study climate change and global warming. Cape Farewell is a London-based project that deals with climate change. The expedition that includes 17 top scientists, artists, educators and school students from nine countries around the world and 30 crew members left Reykjavik in Iceland on September 7. The expedition would take them past Greenland before the team disembarks at Baffin Island, Canada, on September 20. 

Shruti has the makings of a green warrior and it was her video based on the cartoon series "Captain Planet" in which she listed out the dangers to earth and what can be done about it, that helped her get a foot in the door. She's already been at work in the city, visiting as many as 16 schools to create green awareness teaching fellow students about source segregation of garbage and assigning class monitors the responsibility of switching off the lights when not in use. She says sheplans to institute a "green kid" award so that more students get involved in devising ways to keep the planet clean.

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