Shocking: the images of the Taj burning like a scene from the London blitz, the scenes of carnage with blood splattered across the floor, the grainy of photographs of the terrorists who look like young IT students still at school, the imagined fear of hostages held in five star hotels in Mumbai fearing for their lives.
When India woke up this morning to the scenes in Mumbai, it was another awakening for the nation as it seeks to address the challenges of the new terrorism with its small cells and fanatic teenage terrorists. Although India is perpetually fighting insurgencies around the country and has been since its independence, they have always seemed parochial and domestic. Today’s attacks mark an escalation and a change in direction as India joins the frontline of global terrorism. The hallmarks of the attack are the focus on international visitors and the clear desire to create a theatre that plays across international media rather than merely the domestic.
Kerala has always seemed a backwater to the tensions that beset North India. Its integrated communities seem to share none of the hostility that betrays some of the Northern states. However, in the past year, reports have painted a picture of the muslim community in North Kerala beginning to make cause with terrorist groups and that these groups are beginning to see Kerala as a source of recruits and a safe bolthole from police investigations.
What of the security situation? India has a huge police force, but they lack training and direction. They check paperwork relentlessly, but in their repeated form checking is their problem. So often their actions smack of jobsworthiness. What they need to look at is focussing attention and resources to achieve an impact. Seeing them standing in their pressed uniforms with their rifles slung carelessly across their shoulders does not instil confidence in any way.
So, we wait for further news like the rest of India. For the fate of the many hostages and for news of who was responsible. Does this change India? Yes. Now India joins other countries in playing host to the larger war.
Kerala holds the rare distinction of having some of the most tastefully created homes, which blend both the classic charm and contemporary conveniences. The paradox is that though there are many people who do not have a roof over their heads, there is a sizeable population with more than one luxury home or apartment of their own. Though it started as the artistic expressions of NRI remittances to this cash starved state, now beautiful houses have become part of Kerala’s landmark.
In cities , space constraints have not choked the artistic flair of house owners and the best part is that there are seasoned architects who can cater to all their demands in spite of many challenges. You can see pretty houses in very small plots of just 3-4 cents of land in Kerala. Incorporating many of the themes from the traditional architectural styles like Nadumuttam( an open courtyard, surrounded by verandah on all sides) and tiled slanting roofs, the present days homes are feasts to the eyes. Many houses are built in vaasthu style as well.
Even middle class families take pleasure in decking up their homes with the latest accessories and furniture, often availing huge sums of money as loans. While many consider it as a squander of hard earned money, the bottom line is that malayalees love to live in beautiful living spaces and huge mansions.
In many cases there will be only one or two members to live in these huge bungalows, making the upkeep of these sprawling mansions an uphill task. Nonetheless, true to the axiom, ‘habits die hard’, nothing can deter malayalees from the habit of spending their life time savings on these concrete structures.
Malayalees seem to have forgotten about the customary rituals and purity associated with the Sabarimala temple visit. Gone are the days when pilgrims used to observe 41 days of strict austerities by abstaining from liquor, non vegetarian food and physical pleasures before visiting the temple for Mandala pooja.
For many, it has become more of a pleasure trip where youngsters travel in groups, making merry and savouring liquor and non vegetarian food till they reach this famous hill shrine. These vociferous groups destroy the sanctity and tranquility of the temple premises by indulging in loud conversations and indecent demanour, causing mental distress to aged pilgrims and other devotees who wait for hours together in serpentine queues to get a glance of the diety. Pilgrimage to Sabarimala has some unique customs and strict codes of conduct unlike many other temples. Those who cannot stick to the codes of conduct in force in the shrine should desist from going there so as not to cause disturbance to the other devotees.
Kerala is witnessing a strange syndrome which is sure to set off nightmares for retired persons, who might be dreaming of spending a relaxed life after retirement. Retired people are forced to take up jobs even after retirement as many families find it shameful to admit that the head of the family is jobless;while many other women fear that it might reveal the real age of their husbands. Whatever be the actual reason behind this social phenomenon, the fact remains that a majority of retired personnel go out to work these days to maintain their social status and style of living.
Depending on their line of expertise, these people hand pick industries where they can do their wee bit even at the autumn of their lives. It is interesting to note that a majority of them take up assignments out of compulsion or just because their friends have followed the suit.
Though many of them suffer from various old age related diseases and ailments, they dress up and go to the office at dawn break, jostling for space in the crammed public transport and waiting in long queues to buy their tickets. It is high time that Malayalees learn to pick up the art of ageing gracefully.
The Volvo stopover in Kochi from December 3 to 13 is going to be a big cultural extravaganza, which highlights both the traditional and contemporary culture and art forms of Kerala. A colourful pageant with scintillating fireworks, musical medley of percussion instruments and an impressive line up of elephants would add grandiose to the event. A mini ‘pooram’ complete with the exchange of colourful parasols will extend a hearty welcome to the race teams.
The highlight of the welcome ceremony, ‘Keraleeyam’, would be a variety entertainment show performed by 45 traditional artists. Jointly organised by the Cochin Stopover Organising Committee and Kerala Tourism, this event will also feature some of the ethnic art forms like Kathakali and Mohiniyattam. Some of the stalwarts such as Mattannoor Sankarankutty Marar and Balabhaskar will add a celebrity tag to the whole show. Ethnic dance forms such as Arabanamuttu, Kolkali and Margamkali are also being planned.
In addition, cultural performances by students, Naval Band, an inter-collegiate fashion show on Kerala apparels and Western music competition among others will add fizz to the event. The yachters can take a peek at the local maritime traditions by watching the timeless snake boat race in the Ernakulam channel apart from the sail boat race in the Mattancherry Channel, organized by the Yachting Association of India
There is also an array of interesting spectacles at the race village for the general public such as the biggest food carnival in the State, para gliding and air shows. There will be an informative exhibition on Volvo race too. The Fleet return of the prestigious Volvo race will be marked by a multi-religious event as it proceeds to the other ports across the world before culminating the race at St Petersburg, Russia.
Touted as the ultimate race event with loads of glamour and fame, the Volvo Ocean Race stopover at Kochi deserves special mention as it is its first stopover in Asia.
Kodinhi village in Malapuram district is keeping the genetic fraternity on its toes by presenting a unique problem- an extraordinarily high concentration of twins! Flaunting more than 100 pairs of twins, mainly identical and of the same sex, the village has already caught the national attention. The village school too has about two dozen pairs of twins, which often give teachers a hard time identifying them.
This tiny hamlet with only a population of less than 14,000 has been a beehive of research activities in the recent past. Trying to unravel the mystery behind this strange phenomenon, scientists from the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Centre for Human Growth and Development, Pune, and genetic paediatricians have already scrutinised the food habits, social set up and many other factors such as climate and heredity aspects.
The villagers are also baffled by this strange phenomenon, which has taken the village by storm since the last decade or so. The village elders opine that there has been increasing instances of multiple pregnancies in the recent past. Whatever be the actual reason behind this interesting phenomenon, it is giving piping hot ideas for rumour mills, which churn out eerie stories and assumptions.
Though there were strong demands from the villagers for a detailed scientific investigation into this strange phenomenon, nothing concrete has come up so far from the concerned civic and the health authorities of the village.
This world would have been a dreary and lifeless space without the early morning chirping of birds and the pleasant cuckoo calls. These birds of all possible hues and shades greatly add up to the milieu of the world we live. If you are an ardent bird watcher, here is an interesting piece of information.
In order to create awareness about the various species of birds and to encourage budding bird watchers, KeralaBirder in association with HSBC and Yuhina Eco Media is organising the HSBC Bird Race. Yuhina Eco Media is an organisation based in Mumbai with special interests in natural history and environmental activities.
KeralaBirder,an online mailing community of bird-watchers, is organising the Bird Race in Kerala on November 9 in connection with the birth anniversary of the famous ornithologist, Dr. Salim Ali, better known as the “Birdman of India”. This race is the only one of its kind that is conducted in multiple locations on the same day. The race will be held in different locations like Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, Thrissur and Kozhikode simultaneously.
It is a day long programme, which is expected to attract both seasoned and novice birdwatchers to spend the day identifying and recording bird species. The day will conclude with a interactive session over dinner where the participants share their experiences. No matter whether bird watching is your profession, a way of life or a well cherished hobby , this event is just the right place to be in to express your love for these winged beauties. Events such as this assume graeter significance these days when most of the bird species are facing extinction due to poaching and habitat loss. Take a pledge to protect the environment and its exceptional flora and fauna for a better and beautiful future .
Malapuram, Nov 5
The journey from illiteracy to literacy!
Malapuram marks its place as a rich cultural and political heritage district in Kerala. The district which stands proudly with the largest Muslim population in Kerala has been in the news many times before, whether it’s the national movements like Khilafat or Moplah Rebellion. These days this district is again making news, but this time it’s an admirable feat achieved by one of the villages in Malappuram.
‘Nilambur Gram Panchayat’ has come up as a role model for lakhs of other villages in Kerala for becoming the first village to achieve the milestone of total primary education in the country. This laudable achievement came with nine months of dedicated and constant efforts by the Gram Panchayat.
The man behind this visionary accomplishment was the Sarpanch (village head), ‘Aryadan Shoukat’ who felt the need for some dynamic change in the education system of the village. According to him it was illiteracy which was hindering the growth and was pushing people towards backwardness and poverty.
One of the surveys carried out to know the actual status of education in the village highlighted the poor condition of education with 1500 villagers either illiterate or educated below 4th standard. The survey highlighted the dark but real side of the village which pointed out that the prevailing education system need a severe clean up.
In order to overcome this serious issue the Gram Panchayat started ‘Jyotirgamaya’ scheme which eyed to achieve full primary education for the village with the support of Kerala State Literacy Mission. In this process the facilitators were appointed and handbooks were prepared depending upon the syllabus of the State Literacy Mission. In first phase of this literacy mission workshops were launched to educate people the benefits of education.
During this mission it was also learnt that about 80% of the villagers were suffering from eye defects which was also hindering the growth. To solve this issue eye camps were conducted to make sure people face no problem while learning. In order to make this education program more successful and productive different techniques were used including cultural programmes and study tours in order to motivate the learners.
After all the hard work for nine months finally internal and external evaluations conducted by the state literacy mission and Calicut University judged the level of education and the results were satisfactory. Nilambur Gram Panchayat brought laurels to the district at last when the State Governor RL Bhatia declared the village to have achieved the total primary education status, making the dream come true for the sarpanch.