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Friday, October 9, 2009


All of us love to know what is ahead for us in the future. That is why every newspaper and magazine gives daily, weekly, monthly forecasts for your star sign. Of course there are many streams of foretelling the future—Indian and Western astrology, solar and lunar astrology, palmistry, reading the fall of shells that are thrown, reading coffee or tea dregs at the bottom of a cup, reading faces and the mystical crystal ball that is supposed to show the picture of the man you will marry.

The Tarot card has become the rage however in modern media. This method is based on the belief that the cards give and insight into the present and future. It is greatly dependant on psychology and is very close to the Prashnam that is part of Indian astrology.

Feng Shui is hugely popular along with Vaasthu shastra. Feng shui has popularly been reduced to the placing of objects, mainly of furniture and lucky or harmonising objects representing the elements of water, wind, fire and earth in one’s home or office to change and influence the environment. Feng shui is supposed to have an effect on health, wealth and personal relationships.

Human beings seek to know the future not only when they are facing problems. There is this atavistic pleasure that goads us to delve into the future. Sceptics and critics say that any prediction based on your date of birth and star sign cannot be applicable as every twelfth person on the globe belongs to one particular sign.

Have you read the forecasts for all the signs in a magazine or newspaper? The words and the predictions are generally the same—travel, good luck, change, work environment, stress, tension, family, entertainment, fun, illness, communications, foreign touch, hard work—these are some of the words and phrases that appear again and again. You may argue that these are the common considerations for most people. So it is easy to play around with these words and predict for people born under the signs ranging from Aries to Taurus.

How many times have we watched the astro-performers on TV predicting wins for cricketers, politicians, film personalities, warning about disasters etc. and then laughing at the results that are the opposite of such predictions? There used to be a time when the year’s forecast was given at the beginning of the calendar year and when the new panchangam was read in mid-April. Now ever so often there is some forecast based on Ugadhi, Chinese New Year, Baisakhi, Dussera, Diwali and any change in the political scene.

So who do we depend on to satisfy our thirst to know the future? Most people will say, “We have a family astrologer/guru/soothsayer. We will go only to him/her”. So are the forecasters in print media and TV just space fillers? I am happy when the forecast turns out good. I close my eyes if there are any negative predictions—don’t lose your temper, beware of arguments, watch your feet, beware of minor accidents etc. So when I argue with my husband or the house help, or the auto driver I can always blame it on my day’s reading. Anyway, these incidents keep happening whether they have been forecast or not.

The other day I got an SMS saying “think of a great guru and pass this message to eleven people; a miracle will surely take place”. This was the third time I got it and having ignored the previous two I thought to myself—third time should surely be lucky and patiently counted off the eleven on my fingers as I sent the messages. Lo behold! A miracle happened..a glass dish that was missing (I thought my daughter had taken it away) turned up at the back of a drawer hiding inside a stainless steel vessel!

I am happy at the outcome but have made up my mind not to forward any email or SMS’s that insists that if I send it to ‘N’ number of people I will get the fruits of peace, good luck, happiness, lottery—whatever—for my deed. The mobile company and broadband service provider is making money at my cost.

So, the final word on my future is as Rhett Butler said in ‘Gone With The Wind’, “Frankly darling, I don’t give a damn”!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

There was an article the other day about how three of the top heroines of Bollywood have not changed their hairstyle at all in the past many years. They continue to have ‘long’ hair and have only experimented with colouring and maybe layering.

After studying hairstyles of Bollywood actresses on his recent visit to India, Hollywood hairstylist Sam McKnight said “…they’re stuck in the ’80s, as they don’t experiment”. Aishwarya Rai, Karina Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Sonam, Preety etc. continue to sport long stresses that help them to keep their hands busy during interviews—flicking it back, to the side or side to side.
Well! The Indian nari is classically picturised with long tresses. One of the samudrika lakshanams is long, black, beautifully thick hair. In fact the traditional pativratas like Sita, Draupadi, Devaki (Krishna’s Mom) had long and beautiful hair. When the bad guys like Ravana, Duryodhana, Dushasana and Kamsa grabbed their ‘scented hair’ their final fate was sealed and it was the cue for Yama to mark them down for the next ticket to his lokam.

Indian women are reluctant to experiment with short hairstyles and the blame can be laid at the door of Indian men who are obsessed with long tresses. Remember, hair was also associated with ‘sumangali’ status and the lack of it denoted widowhood. Even today Indian women do not have hair styles to please themselves, but kowtow to family and society. In fact women with short hair are labeled ‘bold’.

Indian actresses are also part of this tradition and very few have short hair. Those who do are generally the femme fatales types like Urmila and Mandira Bedi. When the stars have to sport short hair they resort to wigs.

Hair dressing salons used to be for men. A few years ago only beauty parlours had hair dressers as part of their services. Today in urban areas specialized hair salons are coming into existence.
If it is a bad man on TV or films they all sport long hair and unkempt beards. Many urbane men are now growing their hair! So finally there may be a leveling of sexes—at least in the length of their hair!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Nobel Prize and South India

The seventh in an official list to win the Nobel Prize is Venkataraman Ramakrishnan, this laureate is the third such awardee from Tamil Nadu. The list starts with Rabindranath Tagore (1913 Literature) and is followed by C V Raman (Medicine 1930), Khorana (Medicine 1968), Mother Teresa (Peace Prize 1979), Subramanian Chandrashekar (nephew of C V Raman; Physics 1983), and Amartya Sen (Economics 1998). Two more names Naipaul (Literature 2001) a person of Indian origin and Ronald Ross (born in Almora, Medicine 1902) are associated closely with our country.

South India has been the cradle for a great deal of people associated with research, writing, medicine, sciences and mathematics. It has also seen a huge brain drain and has exported some of the best brains in every field to the rest of the world. The Brahmin and upper castes have had to necessarily leave their shores to establish themselves in more friendly and encouraging surroundings. This section of society was legitimately denied seats in universities and jobs based on merit and achievement as the bias was towards other communities.

Today, these NRI’s, from the Middle East and US and UK are sending money back home to set up their parents in better surroundings, to invest in real estate and to establish a home away from their current dwellings to come back to in case of need or after retirement. These NRI’s have got together and in fresh pastures have built temples, churches and other holy places, social organizations and associations that keeps alive and flourishing the values and traditions that they have left behind.

There was a joke that was popular: Hillary climbed the Everest with a lot of stress, adventures and great difficulties. He reached the top, turned around and said, “I am the first man to climb the highest mountain on earth” and let out a roar of exultation.
An echo came back, “Saar! What about a cup of hot tea?” A South Indian, some versions specify as Nair, had already set up shop!!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sunset for Usha,the original dawn of Indian athletics

PT Usha has been given the shabbiest of treatments by officials who have never even run up a flight of steps. They did not receive her at the station when she landed in Bhopal with her wards for the 49th National Open Athletics Championships. When she made her way to the venue she was shocked with the sub-standard accommodation offered to her. The 'Sprint Queen' broke down sobbing at the treatment given to her.
"I felt insulted," she sobbed and roundly criticized the Sports Authority of India officials for their apathy.
She then moved into a hotel and a red-faced state government claimed that they had shifted her to a posh hotel. The blame game between Sports Minister MS Gill and the organizers of the event, the state government is now on. Madhya Pradesh Sports Minister Tukoji Rao Pawar regretted the incident and placed the blame at SAI's door.
One channel asked a pertinent question: “If it was a cricketer of any vintage, would he have been given this treatment?”
This is the harsh reality of Indian sports. It is cricket that gets 99% of all the attention. You can jump a hurdle or run a mile, shoot a gun, play snooker and become world champion, you can manage a shuttle so beautifully or bash a squash ball all over the world and win awards and accolades. It is only when you hold a willow or throw a red cherry pitch perfect—never mind that you are only in some vague under something team—that you grab the headlines or get a hero’s welcome.
Commonwealth games or Olymics in India—it is just a pipe dream that materializes in a haze of empty bombast. Until we learn to place the achievers in any field above our politicians who are there because of us and not because of any great achievement on their part, we can count sports medals with the fingers of one hand!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Feeding Time

An authoritative study by British researchers reports that children of working mothers are less healthy than those mothers who stay at home. The study also cites data that children of full-time working mothers were driven to school by moms or dads, watched over two hours of TV per day, drank sweetened drinks in between meals and also eat less fruit and vegetables. This data was the same across all income groups.

The research also says that mothers who worked part time had kids who eat more fruit and vegetables. When it came to the level of exercise that children took, there was no difference between working mothers and non-working mothers.

Fussy eaters seem to be the most common complaint of Mums in every part of the world. One kid I know in Mumbai does not have this problem. I have never seen this kid’s mother as she is always accompanied by her manservant, Bahadur whose singsong statement perennially is ‘Hamara baccha, sab khaatha!’ And the other Moms in the building give him dirty, desperate looks as uniformly all their kids between ages 1 and 8 are fussy, difficult eaters.

I cannot but look back at my childhood and my children’s eating habits. My mother used to say that I was not a great eater and until 5, I was mostly brought up on milk and maybe a little dhal and rice, the paruppu saadam that all Tamil kids are fed. My mother was a great cook and made many pan-Indian dishes and my brothers and I grew up on a variety of cooking not limited to Tambram dishes. My father was a strict disciplinarian and we just had to eat what was served on our plates especially if we had our meals in his company. The downstairs tenant could always predict this state of affairs if various veggies came flying out of the windows and landed plonk on his doorstep. ‘Aha! The upstairs children are eating with their father’ was his knowledgeable nod.

My children grew up with a lot of interaction with neighbours and friends. Most often the meals were shared by all the kids, especially in the weekends and holidays. They eat many international cuisines—a gamut of Indian regional fare, local Creole food, Mauritian dishes, Chinese mein and French gratins and consommés. Later they polished up their plates in various parts of the world eating anything and everything. At home they had their favourite veggies and generally shunned local varieties like cluster and broad beans, padol and tooris. Now as an adult my son has to eat many of these veggies as he has to set a good example to his kids. Given a chance he would miss out on these varieties even today.

Today’s kids seem to have no problems eating noodles and pasta. South Indian kids have taken to roti in a big way and anything fried goes down like a dream. When it comes to the ordinary dhal chawal fare they develop blocks in their throat (needle gullets as my Mom used to say) and food tends to accumulate in their cheek and jaw cavities.

The blame for kids poor eating is automatically thrust on the shoulders of working Moms. Sometimes I think it is a conspiracy of men to lay on the guilt trip on women. Kids welfare is such a convenient a button to be pressed where women are concerned! Many men are taking on the responsibility of overseeing and catering to their kids mealtimes. Yet the majority do think it is the woman’s job to see that kids are fed wholesome and healthy food.

Meanwhile Mom’s run around desperately trying to see that their kids eat properly and most often it is a loosing battle. Even paediatricians, many of them male, say that meal times must be made interesting. Any sidetracking activity during feeding, like watching Barney or Dora or storytelling by grandparents is strictly frowned upon. Kids are smart—they know which buttons to press on the DVD, the computer or on their parents psyche!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Icons and Role Models--Stars in our Eyes

The other day I called my daughter to offer my condolences…her teenage icon Patrick Swayze was no more!

She too shared her grief with me as there was a time in her life when ‘Dirty Dancing’ was this huge feature of her life.

All of us have been through this teenage crush and adoration for a matinee idol or sportsmen. My idea of a super hero was George Peppard especially after reading and seeing him bring to life the main character (now that is forgotten!) in ‘Carpetbaggers’. For many of my friends it was Robert Redford. However, all of us thought that Clark Gable was truly romantic even though he was more my mother’s generation. ‘Gone With the Wind’ was a magnificent movie and everybody thought that Scarlet was a fool to idolize wimpy Ashley Wilkes when she had Rhett Butler eating out of her hand!

We were the ‘English’ film crazy generation. Sivaji Ganesan and Gemini Ganesan pictures were seen without any idolization. Muthuraman did cause a few hearts to flutter. In Hindi films Dilip Kumar was always intense and serious while Shammi Kapoor rocked with his nautanki, song and dance routine. Biswajit acted in so many films but none in my circle really hero worshipped him. Dev Anand and Sashi Kapoor made a huge impact as Indian polished versions of Hollywood’s heroes. Today Dev is a caricature; Shammi has taken on the holyman mantle while the debonair Shashi has disappeared into a mass of flesh.

In the late sixties, when I was a teacher in a college in Mumbai, I saw mass adulation from teenagers and the focus of their worship was Rajesh Khanna. In fact I had a student who dressed, walked, talked and spoke like Khanna and was nicknamed RK! Soon Amitabh Bachhan appeared in his broody, comical, intense and flippant roles and just had every age group eating out of his hand. Even today he is an icon for many people because of the dignity with which he conducts himself. The Shah Rukh factor, the Aamir magnetism, the Hrithik Roshan phenomenon are ruling young minds. Newer celluloid heroes in India are being created a dime a dozen in all languages.

For the past month or so TV channels in Tamil Nadu have sickeningly gone on and on about Kamal Hassan that has left such a cloying taste in viewers minds. In the South the Rasigar Mandrams or fan clubs keep alive the phenomenon of Rajni and Kamal. Both are larger than life and their past and present private lives do not in any way dent or take away from their charisma. Second line heroes like Mohan and Karthik were chocolate box heroes and then a long line of stars have rapidly entered the fray. Today the young gen of girls are obsessed with Surya, Ajit and Chiyaan Vikram. Again many clones are trying like crabs to climb to the top.

The icons of cricket craze have been popularised and bolstered mainly by TV and print media. If they are not on the pitch they are to be seen in ads and their popularity goes way beyond the willow and ball. Sachin is the only role model who has sustained his allure with young children for many years. Dhoni and Co are there only as long as they perform just as Saurav, Rahul and Kumble have been retired into older has been icons.

Back to Hollywood there are so many heroes like Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Brad Pitt rule the roost. Performers with music as their main USP like the Beatles, Sinatra, Reeves, actor-singers held their own as contemporary icons just as Michael Jackson, Sting, Elton John and many other bands are more of modern icons than actors.

How many actors can you count as icons who have held sway for many years, capturing the imagination and adulation of different generations? I can think of only Amitabh Bachhan!!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

SARVAM PLASTIC MAYAM--Plastic, plastic everywhere

“Plastic itself is a chemically inert substance, used world-wide for packaging and is not per-se hazardous to health and environment. Recycling of plastic, if carried out as per approved procedures and guidelines, may not be an environmental or health hazard,” Environment and Forest Minister, Mr Jairam Ramesh said in Lok Sabha. (Business Line July 8, 2009)

This statement was in reply to paper bags being an alternative to plastic carry bags by the Minister. He felt that paper bags cannot be an alternative to plastic bags because paper comes from trees and more paper used is more trees felled.

Chandigarh was the first city in India to ban plastic bags. In the seaside town of Rameswaram and in the little village of Kovalam on the East Coast Road, on the outskirts of Chennai, plastic bags have been banned. Both these places are inhabited by fisherfolk for whom the sea provides their livelihood. The polluting bags are a major hazard to the ecological environment and these people, mostly uneducated and unlettered, have realized the evils of plastic which has prompted them to ban its use.

St.Thomas Mount area in Chennai had also banned the use of disposable plastic containers at weddings and celebrations to help control garbage and rubbish disposal. Recently the hill station of Ooty also spoke of banning plastic bags to stop the degradation of the lovely Nilgiris hills.

In Mumbai if you go to the bigger supermarkets each product you buy from the fruit and vegetable sections are packed in plastic bags. Alas! The rediwala or the bhajiwala finds it difficult to supply that grade and quality of plastic bags to his customers. He is therefore victimized by the police and cannot stock the flimsy plastic bags that are part of his value added service!

There was a time when the grocer would wrap the provisions in cones of newspaper tied up with string. Sweets, peppermints were wrapped in paper, peanuts sold in paper cones, food items from restaurants wrapped in banana leaves. Materials and garments were delivered in paper bags with printed brand names. This was excellent raw material that was eco-friendly and bio-degradable. Even gift wrapping was in lovely figured paper that could be disposed of easily. In those days, plastic shopping bags were a craze when somebody came from abroad and brought gifts.

The introduction of plastic bags changed the scenario. Thin filament, thick plastic, recycled plastic, laminated brown and present wrapping paper, cardboard cartons and paper plates made with plastic coating or out of plastic itself, throw-away food containers for solids and liquids replaced the traditional stuff. These items began to be mass produced and typically at weddings and the recently concluded Navaratri festival Tamboolam to water, sweets and savouries to payasam, ice creams to coffee, tea and sherbet are served in disposable plastic-ware. Political parties too began to make their flag buntings in thin plastic and kites and tatters of these symbols of power have become part of the skyline hanging from lamp posts, trees, hoardings and flyovers. Cinema posters and advertisement posters too are being made in plastic.

Mountains of non-biodegradable matter has built up in landfills, street corners, it blocks drains and water pipes. It has found its way into the stomachs of foraging domestic animals like cows, pigs and goats. Today the urban and rural landscape is a plastic coloured one. Piles of rubbish with ragged strands of plastic decorate and mar the countryside.

On and off the public wakes up in a frenzy and cries out ‘SAY NO TO PLASTIC’. Yet after some time it all trickles away into a plastic heap. The educated, knowledgeable section of society and school children who should be spearheading this awareness and avoidance campaign are some of the biggest transgressors.

A huge drive to use and dispose these plastic bags in a more ecologically sustainable manner has to be formulated. Some time ago plastic bags were used in an experimental way for surfacing roads in parts of Chennai. That road has withstood the ravages of rain and heavy traffic—other than where it has been dug up by telephone, water and cable laying vandals—better than its non-plastic surfaced roads. Just imagine with miles and miles of roads, including the ambitious quadrilateral road plan, how much plastic would be used up and thus increase the life of highways and arterial roads.

An alternative to plastic are newspapers, recycled paper bags that can be used to carry purchases. People should be encouraged, and perhaps even rewarded for bringing their shopping bags to supermarket and greengrocer stores as is being done in Europe and the USA. Eco-friendly disposables made from banana, palm and the traditional paraselai are now available. The use of these materials will also encourage the industry to make these items in cooperatives and small villages and towns.

Thoughtfully, preplanned, shopping expeditions or celebrations can help our world from becoming a landscape of "Sarvam Plastic Mayam".

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Gandhigiri—a toothless idea in India today

My friend and sometimes boss Chitra Ravi asks on Facebook : 'Hey Ram' !- will kids today recognize this famous phrase of a Mahatma ? Or to them does it just translate to a 'Hey, a 8 GB RAM!'? She should know as she is in the business of taking IT education to schools and to empowering teachers to facilitate a child’s learning, not merely loading them up with facts and figures.

The other day I the listened quite closely to the song “Kassu mele kaasu vandu” (money keeps piling on). It has a line that Gandhi remains only a toothless face on a rupee note. The fact is that Gandhi comes up in the news mostly when somebody has something negative to say about him…and strangely enough so does Jinnah when an Indian has nothing but praise for him.

Gandhi is truly the past and any effort to revive his relevance is restricted to a couple of generations who saw, interacted and were motivated by him to do something for the country. The post Independence generations have only inherited the dregs of his vision and values passed on to them by a diluted leadership. The Congress party itself has changed so much—including living the five-star culture, validating alcohol consumption and riding the poshest of imported cars—that they freely confess that they have lost sight of the grass root Indian, the Dalit and the common man. The scion of the party, Rahul Gandhi, at forty is being hailed as the youth icon and being spotlighted for his efforts to get back to the party image of being there for the ‘aam aadmi’. More power to him.

However, in rural India, Gandhiji is still the messiah, the avatar who will reincarnate to establish a Ram Rajya where the common man, the farmer, the untouchable and the down trodden will find human dignity and at least a modest living.

What is interesting is the cliché trotted out by everybody that ‘The youth are the future’. How can that be when the youth will become older in the future? A better statement would be to say that the youth are the present especially when you think of the major percentage of this segment of society in Indian demographics today.

In any war, it is the youth that sacrifice life and living to fight for the country. They have no fear and not much to lose, for they have few current responsibilities and commitments. They have the courage in them to revolutionize society, to tackle its evils today, to fight and legislate against global warming issues and social injustice and inequities.

A loin clad, teetotaller Gandhiji is today a much abused commodity/brand, a face on a beer mug (sic), T shirt, or ridiculously high priced pen, and for things which he would have vigorously disapproved. He remains as a name on the streets of cities and as a witness overseeing the multitude that passes by, mutely standing as a statue with a powerless stick in his hand.

Good grief! His name has even been high jacked by a family!

Colour Yellow

When you think of the colour yellow in India, the yellow signifies the auspicious element of any festival.

Yellow is the colour that strikes the eye first in the spectrum of colours. It is a sign of auspiciousness in India and no function or festivity begins without turmeric. Just a blob of haldi paste is worshipped as Ganesha in all pujas. Wedding invitations are printed in South India in yellow and pink paper and smeared with haldi paste before being given personally or posted to invitees. The bride begins her wedding celebrations with a ‘haldi’ ceremony where the girl is liberally smeared with haldi and sandalwood paste by all the near and dear ones leaving her at the end of the ceremony in a yellow daze. The caterer draws up a list of all the provisions needed for festive meals beginning with haldi kumkum.

Women whose husbands are alive are honoured with haldi kumkum as the incarnation of Shakthi. Such women customarily smear turmeric on their faces after a bath and present a distinctly jaundiced look. It is also an important healing, anti-bacterial root with medicinal qualities that merits small print on tubs of off-the-shelf remedies for all possible illnesses. Gold too is popularly called as the yellow metal.

Traffic police in cities have liberally used their brush and yellow paint to decorate the middle of the roads with flourishes of yellow stripes that signal dangerous and accident-prone areas to the man or woman on wheels. For traffic on the roads, the colour yellow signals caution and has the best long distance visual impact. Though the middle light on traffic signals is traditionally amber, it is most often in this city just pure yellow—that is: when it works.

Yellow is also a priority sign and used as a switching light. School buses are yellow, signalling to other traffic to take care when approaching as such vehicles are normally loaded with screaming, undisciplined children. Life jackets, badminton and tennis balls are yellow as well. In many countries yellow and orange is used as colour for danger materials. Yellow-black stripes mark pedestrian or zebra crossings and it is also the badge of the blind. The "yellow card" is shown to football-players as a warning sign. A yellow flag on a ship means an epidemic disease on board. In the animal kingdom yellow—fire-salamander, hornet, wasps—as well as red means a warning and is a sign for poison.

Warm gold-yellow in its effect is quite different from the conflicting effect of shrill lemon yellow. The former symbolises light, cheerfulness and warmth and effects stimulation. In his theory of colours Goethe wrote "In its highest pureness it always brings the nature of the light with it and has a cheerful, merry, soft delightful quality…it is used for the shining things in painting”. Yellow was also the favourite colour of Vincent van Gogh. At the beginning he used yellow ochre and later added Cadmium yellow or Chrome yellow to his palette ("Sunflowers" of 1888). He converted the light of his landscapes into colour. For him light symbolised the sun of the South, cheerfulness, but friendship and love as well. In his paintings the yellow always appeared in accordance with his complimentary colour blue- the symbol of power and completeness of life.

Kandinsky describes shrill yellow in his book "About the spiritual in art" as inducing a disquieting effect. “If watched directly it disquiets you, upsets, excites and shows the character of the violence, ….an obtrusive effect on your mind. This quality of the yellow colour can be increased to a level, which the eye and the mind cannot stand….until it sounds like a very loud played trumpet."

As the colour yellow was easily "soiled" by other dyestuffs, it began to be associated with disgust, as the colour of pus and of leprosy. Yellow sputum is a signal of lung infection and yellowed eyes and urine signal jaundice. A yellow flag on a house showed that the plague was raging there. According to medieval medicine the cause for any imbalance in the human system was the gall bladder. A yellow coloured skin was a symbol for trouble, everlasting envy, jealousy and stinginess.

Jews, as a symbol of discrimination in the 12th century, had to wear a yellow hat. During the Nazi regime they were humiliated and forced to wear a yellow star badge on their sleeves. Western actors avoid the colour yellow—like the plague. Theatres never have yellow curtains, as this is said to cause misfortune.

The colour is also associated with prejudice and cowardice. A traitor or a lawbreaker in the villages of Tamil Nadu is dressed in a yellow loin cloth, seated back to front on donkeys, decorated with black and red spots and driven out of the village. On the other hand yellow clothes symbolised somebody observing a fast or undergoing a penance. The Muruga devotee bearing kavadis wears yellow and so do Tirupati Balaji’s pilgrims and mendicants. Lord Vishnu is traditionally dressed in Pitambaram, the lovely shade of yellow that contains the root word-umbre, which is common in Latin tongues as well

So wherever you see yellow remember it can mean anything ranging from warmth and cheerfulness, through warning and danger to disease and pestilence with associations of discrimination, cowardice, devotion and divinity as well.