During your daily routines, you might have seen them countless times as smart salesmen doling out promotional pamphlets of the latest models of mobile phones or bank loans in your city. During festive seasons, you can catch them up in the fluffy attires of a bunny or Santa (depending on the occasion) who dance all day in front of the shops to lure the customers. If you thought these young men and women as part of the faceless crowd of the unemployed lot of Kerala, who eke out a living by doing anything that come their way, you would be caught napping. These teenagers are in fact school and college students who undertake part time jobs to augment their income.
They invade almost all the vantage points of the city such as super market malls and shops. Smart and swift, these youngsters try their hands in part time jobs to earn a few extra bucks to meet their needs and to flaunt the latest style statements, without leaving any burden on their parents.
Most of the employers opine that these young people are sprightly and always on the toes, completing the assigned tasks well before the deadline. They are paid 150-200 rupees every day depending on the hours they spare. Many students opt for evening or night shifts or weekend breaks. Gone are the days when the youngsters chose to loiter around on the roads or in cinema halls at their free time, living off the pocket money given by their parents.
Buses are one of the most key transport modes in almost every city in India. These buses have become the lifeline of daily commuters who are largely dependent on these city buses to travel from one place to another on a routine basis. But when we talk about this so called bus culture in the southern most state of Kerala then the story gets more cramped.
Kerala buses are the most often zipping machines which run amok on almost all streets in the state honking every now and then. This mode of transport is serving the city goers from a long time, but the other side of the story is far more scary and horrible. Well, if you have ever been into these buses then you might have experienced the nerve wrecking feel. These buses run so fast in all busy and narrow lanes as if a racing action is going on.
Putting the passenger’s life at stake these city buses rush on like a fire brigade or ambulance, as if they have to make it through the record books. What more? These buses on usual days can be seen jam-packed with passengers, many even holding on to the doors of the bus, not even bothered about their lives. You can hear the sound of a bell after every five minutes signalling a stop. The conductor keeps on pulling the string tied to the bell which is fixed near the driver’s cabin. So if the bell rings for one time it means a halt and two times points to move on.
After the gruelling session of travelling through such challenges you somehow luckily make it to your desired destination and that too safe and sound. Well this is just a peek to the daily extreme bus journeys most of the working population of God’s Own Country make to reach their work station or destination.
Some things to remember during your Bus Journey:
- If you travel daily on these city buses at a specific time, do try to board the same bus daily. As you can avail a nominal cut on your bus fare. But this is applicable only in private buses.
- Do try to reach the door of the bus a minute before your stop comes, this could help you to alight the bus easily.
- Don’t try to pull the bell on your own, ask the conductor if you want to get down at a particular place.
- Don’t sit in the seats allotted to ladies, as you may have to vacate your seat when female passengers board the bus.
- Its better to tender exact change to the conductor, sometimes they may say that they will give you the balance before your stop. But you have to remind them while disembarking the bus.
- Women should avoid travelling in bus during night hours, as you may come across many male travellers under the influence of alcohol.
During the bygone era, the monsoon months of June and July were exclusively reserved for rejuvenation therapies that helped to relax and unwind the tired body and soul of the health- conscious malayalees. During this period, the rain fury would keep the people indoors relieving them from the daily grinds of cultivation activities in farms and the paddy fields.
The Malayalam month of ‘Karkidakam’ (July) is also known as Ramayana month during which the epic would be read out in temples and all Hindu homes at dawn break. Women, after taking an early morning bath wear shoots of ten specific plants (‘dasapuspam’) in their hair and wear home- made kajal in their eyes and the dark green juice of ‘mukutti’ leaves ( a small shrub with yellow flowers seen in Kerala) on their forehead .
Rice porridge enhanced with an array of ayurvedic medicines along with home grown vegetable preparations and sprouts forms the lunch. During this month, the body is ensured plenty of rest and relaxation. Tender shoots and leaves of countless useful plants including pumpkin and drumstick are lavishly included in the vegetarian food through out the month and abstinence from alcohol and smoking are strictly propagated during this period. Not forgetting the many herbal oil massages and ayurvedic treatment regimens that would put them back on their feet to get along with the dreary and demanding daily routines for the rest of the year.
Though the life style in this part of the world has undergone a sea change with many traditional customs and life styles fast eroding with the onslaught of time, Keralites still value the timeless charm of rejuvenation therapy known in local parlance as ‘sukha chikitsa’ which would roughly translate as pamper sessions.
These days, ready made medicinal porridge kits are made available for sale, which is a handy option for those who are hard pressed for time. Many renowned ayurvedic resorts and hospitals come up with convenient rejuvenation treatment packages and massages to suit the diverse needs and budgets of the health conscious lot in Kerala. The younger generation too takes great interest in preserving these age old customs and rituals, which in turn would ensure the propagation and conservation of these unique practices which are handed down the generations since time immemorial.
Most of the Kerala homes get a few unique visitors on Saturdays, considered by many as the alms giving day. The bell rings continuously till you answer the door half heartedly, leaving behind the bread in the toaster to burn.
An elderly man with a poised demeanor, saffron attire and holy ash smeared forehead greets you with folded hands. His mission is to fulfill his vow of taking alms from a hundred houses before going to Palani, a famous Hindu pilgrim centre in neighboring Tamilnadu. The naïve and pious reason would force you to loosen the purse strings without further ado. He stretches a steel plate filled with coins and currencies of various denominations to give you a subtle cue of the ongoing alms giving yardsticks. He bows before taking the ten rupees note from your hand, concealing a smile for having trapped yet another prey in his trap this morning.
On the next Saturday the same person makes yet another visit to your home but this time in the garb of a Christian devotee supposedly on a pilgrimage to the Malayattoor hill shrine. He shows off a prominent cross in his hand and rosary around his neck to reiterate his identity. If you are good at remembering faces, (which unfortunately most of us are not) you can see that a wide network of thugs are involved in this gang, who make a fortune by bleeding the hapless public. Spare a thought whether to dole out donations, next time your door bell chimes. Remember, charity becomes meaningful only while you extend an aid to the needy and the helpless.
Kerala has always been a fertile land for all competitive events and reality shows that are conducted to spot the latent talents in the kids. However, the pushy malayalee parents try to stretch the limits of their wards in their attempt to bring out the best out of them. ‘Yuvajanotsavam’, which is an annual cultural event, conducted in both school and college levels to spot the talents is one such occasion.
Competitions in various events are conducted and parents would go all out to ensure the winner’s title for their children by hook, line or sinker! Some would bribe the judging panel; others might sue the winners citing silly reasons while the rest cook up the issue of biased valuation before the press. Whatever be their secret formula, the ultimate aim of all parents would be to ensure their child a berth among the winners.
Children would be made to toil from dawn to dusk who hop from guitar classes to folk dance practice and then to percussion instruments class before winding up the day at the Kathakali maestro’s house in the dead of the night. Amidst all these packed schedules, the hapless child also should juggle his studies and assignments, which makes it a truly Herculean task for a child of 10 or 12 years.
On the D -day, the event would be recorded in both movie and still cameras and during the next few days this CD would be played and replayed non stop in almost all the homes of their relatives and friends’. Each and every move of the child would be closely scrutinized and the family panel would draw their own conclusions on the possible reasons of his failure to make sure that during the next event, these flaws are well managed!
By the end of all these high voltage actions and melodrama, the child in all probability would have become a bundle of nerves, with all his interests and instincts drained off. May be malayalee parents should go by the axiom’ Live and let live’ while forcing these hapless kids into the limelight.
Just take a short trip in one of the passenger trains that ply from Cochin to any of the nearby towns and you will see some of the best marketing techniques at work. These smart marketers do not need prestigious degrees from the Management Institutes to eke out a decent living.
Decently dressed, these youngsters hop from one compartment to the other with a bevy of interesting merchandise that range from pen with torch at its tip, three-in-one pens, flexible pencils, jumbo pens that look like walking sticks, night lamps, mobile pouch, nail trimmers and many, many more all for just 5 rupees without any tax tags, which would make these deals all the more irresistible. They explain the features of these items in a single breath with snappy one-liners, axioms and gesticulations that would sweep the passengers over their feet. In no time most of the ordinary Joes would fall an easy game over their smart communication skills, and loosen their purse strings.
If you thought inflation has slashed the money value to the rock bottom, making the lives of ordinary mortals difficult, just turn your gaze towards these treasure troves, which would allow you to meet almost all your household requirements at a fraction of the original cost. However, the quality desires much to be seen as most of these goods are locally cobbled up with a ‘made in china’ sticker to lure the customers. Nonetheless, many die hard fans of these cheap as chips items are all praise for these stuffs and vouch for its quality. If you are lucky you could hit upon some really cool deals in the crowded compartments of these trains.
City buses packed to the brim with commuters plying along the narrow city roads at break neck speed has become part of the city spectacle for long. With luck standing on their side, most of them would return home safely after an adventurous ride in these red killers while the not so lucky travelers might end up in the causality ward of some hospital.
The mad pace and race among buses often ends in collisions and accidents. During such an unfortunate incident last week, several passengers suffered minor bruises and cuts. Someone rushed to open the first aid box but alas what jumped out of it was the driver’s uniform, a pack of cigarettes and a few mosquito coils!
So, next time you travel in these infamous red killers, make sure to carry your own bottle of antiseptic lotion and dressing cotton to meet any emergency situations on the city roads.
If you step into any typical Kerala home during dusk, you can see some of the best innovative techniques of mosquito annihilation at work. True to the maxim,’ necessity is the mother of invention’, malayalees have put on their thinking cap to come up with some of the weirdest ideas you could think of to ward off these winged devils. From dabbing herbal concoctions and nauseating home made lotions all over their body to burning incense and coconut husks and more, you can see some of the strangest rituals on earth – all in the name of mosquito eradication.
While the modern day homes have shut off fresh air by opting for mosquito proofing the old fashioned continues to be confined within the mosquito nets. Even dinner plates are put to the best use in trapping mosquitoes. Children like to chase the mosquitoes with plates smeared with cooking oil to trap the mosquitoes. Did you know that even competitions are held in country sides to spot the winners who could trap the maximum mosquitoes on their plates? There is an endless list of coils, matts, bats and liquid repellents that work on electricity, which can notch up your power consumption even if they fail to bring respite from mosquitoes. These winged monsters have long developed immunity against all these procedures and you can even see mosquitoes resting on these repellents after a heavy meal!
When the news of vector related diseases such as the dreaded Dengue fever and Chikunguniya grab the headlines, the administrative machinery also springs up into action by undertaking fogging (using foul smelling diesel and other chemicals) which can set off a spell of sneezes among the residents though it seldom affects the mosquitoes! Cleaning the drains is another activity on the agenda; the silt is removed and deposited it on the roads, which does nothing other than making the roads stinky and dirty.
Whatever said and done, mosquito menace continues unabated and every kochiite falls to sleep after a hard day’s work to the humming lullaby of these blood suckers. No light seems to be in sight for the luckless residents of this city who are destined to share their abode with these ultimate predators of contemporary world.
If we ask one whether bus came first or the bus-stop then if may be a tricky thing to answer. But if we ask whether these so called bus-stops are really proving to be worthy for the bus goers then the answer may be definitely no. If we look around we can find daily a wide section of commuters using the city transport as one of the major modes of transportation. So then why do these bus stops remain less crowded most of the time and why do women feel a bit unsafe in its shelter.
The question has raised several eyebrows in the social corridors and the reason for this was the harsh fact that these bus stops have been a centre of mischievous acts. Even in this culturally strong state of Kerala, where traditions and customs are the pillars of the society such public nuisance is a real apathy for the state.
If we move out to the real life and will take some pain to know the practical fact behind this issue we can find what all a women or a girl has to bear if she dares to stand in these bus stops. Let us take the example of Leena a college girl who daily travels in the over crowded private buses of the state. She is travelling in bus since her school days and now it has become a vital part of her life. But she still has fresh memories of the day she faced the nuisance of a group of rough guys. It all started by mere whistling, but soon took a wild shape and ended in verbal abuse. This is not the only case with a girl, it has happened to many such girls or women who do come across to these teasing incidents every day. But only few take a step forward to resist this uncivilised behaviour or voices against these indecent acts.
It is disheartening to know such thing still takes place in the age of women empowerment where women have over powered men in almost all departments. But we need to understand that our mother, wife, sister and daughter can be one among the above mentioned facing this wrath of these untamed youth for whom such things are just a moment of fun and nothing more than that. So if one needs to change this social evil existing in our so called ‘culture enriched Kerala’ we all have to draw at least some yard stick for our own self and should make sure that no such acts shall malign our age old traditions and cultural values.
It is intriguing that most of the malayalee parents live only to see their children pass out of engineering colleges and bag a plum post in any of the coveted companies especially those falling under SWITCH (Satyam, Wipro, Infosys, TCS, Cognizant, HCL). Though it might appear a lucrative offer, there are more to it than what meets the eyes of the beholder.
These youngsters would be under extreme pressure to perform and they would risk their job or be shoved on to the reserve bench if they slacken their pace even a bit. ‘Fire and hire’ policies are rampant in these companies and it is not rare to see professionals sacked in the first few months of their service.
IT industry is having one of the highest attrition rates, which could have an unsettling effect in the minds of these young professionals as well. There are many youngsters who find the going hard and leave the job midstream to go for their passionate jobs, which might have nothing to do what they learned. This might lead to family friction among parents and children as well.
Just turn a gaze around to spot the countless opportunities in the present world that can match the aspirations of these qualified youngsters all the while ensuring an affluent life style.Though there are many segments like hospitality, aviation, fashion designing, theatre and many, many more job openings, most of the parents do not like their kids to venture into these off beaten tracks. Some families consider these as low status jobs in comparison with the medical and engineering profession.
However, it is high time that the students are given a free hand wherever possible to opt for their favorite courses not just to build a secure future but to give them a feeling of tremendous accomplishment. All we need to have is a mind set to think out of the box!