I miss the Kerala where Sarpakkavu or sacred groves were present in most houses with land. My grandparents’ house, I am told, had one where the lamp was lit every evening and where sacred rituals were done. There was a general fear of the little piece of jungle in the grounds and people kept away.
These sacred groves usually were next to a pond as green as can be with lots of medicinal plants and trees of great value. They not only prevented soil erosion but also gave shelter to snakes, squirrels, birds and other small creatures and the soil was pure with no chemicals or sewage polluting it. In those olden days of joint families these Sarpakkavus (abode of the snake Gods) had not only religious significance but were also a treasure trove of medicinal plants for Ayurveda. M.S. Swaminathan, Agricultural Scientist, once said:
Unlike, a botanical garden where a wide range of trees and plants are collected and cultivated for the purpose of education and enjoyment, the sacred groves are one method of expressing the gratitude of human families to the trees which sustain and support life under a given agro-ecological condition.
Now that fear and superstition is behind us and even as we go behind antique architecture and curios why can’t we rebuild a sacred grove for nature? Why can’t every Keralite with land leave a little portion of his or her land to nature and plant trees and encourage wild grass and traditional flora to thrive?
The blockbuster Avatar has tried to convey what we as a nation in India have for years been practicing – being frugal and being one with nature. However most of city dwellers in Kochi including yours truly have been buying into the consumerism of the West. I admit I am a supermarket shopper purely out of convenience and lack of awareness about the impact of my small actions in the larger picture of man’s impact on nature.
The more I learn about what environmentalists are saying I understand more and have now promised to give my money more to the roadside vendor selling fruits, vegetables and fish than a big supermarket.
And one day I hope to have a piece of land with no manicured lawns but a garden with a spirit of its own, wild and free to ramble, where frogs croak, crickets chirp, birds and animals nest without fear.
For more details on Sarpakkavu visit the Kerala Forest website.
Pics: Source Wiki.
6 months earlier, I had been in the same railway station on the same platform on my way to Kochi, when I noticed blood and flesh on the tracks. A policeman updated me that a train ran over a woman who was trying to cross the tracks. She was not able to climb the platform in time and the result saw her flesh being eaten by crows!!!
It was sad and I kept thinking of her fate. At least people will learn to obey rules in future, I thought.
But, it is sad, the impact of such incidents do not seem to last in the minds of Keralites or may be even Indians for more than a day or two and the next time I was at the platform, I saw even more people on the tracks, triple the number on the footbridge
6 months later I’m thinking “when will our people learn!”. And to disobey the rules right when you have a hoarding saying “not to” in front of you. It amused me!
Many are the names that come to my mind when I think of people who have made us feel proud of being Malayalees. From Adi Shankaran to Vallathol, from V.K.Krishna Menon to K.R.Narayanan, from Vaikkom Muhammed Basheer and Thakazhy and MT to Madhavikutty (aka Kamala Suraiyya) and T.Padmanabhan, from Bharath Gopi and Kottarakara Sreedharan Nair to Mammootty and Mohanlal, from P.T.Usha and Shiny Wilson to I.M.Vijayan- the list may go on and on and on. I of course know it very well that at a time when Malayalam and our culture has become more of a fashion and is delivered in capsules like the abridged version of ‘Kathakali’ made ready for tourists and the traditional Kerala attire being thought about and worn only on some particular days of the month or the year (while on the other days we think and live and eat and talk like others), the reference to these ‘people who made us proud’ may not have much takers.
On a personal level I feel proud to have been born in Kerala, the land that gave birth to these stalwarts and of course many more, one of them being P.Padmarajan, the ‘gandharvan’ among filmmakers who bid adieu to this world nineteen years ago, on January 24, 1991. Being someone who is passionate about films and equally in love with literature, I see Padmarajan as sort of an icon. He is one of those two filmmakers whom I adore the most, among Indian filmmakers (the other being Satyajit Ray) and he is a writer who has impressed me with his versatility, simplicity and depth. Hence when my colleague Shyama suggested to me to write a tribute on him, I did readily agree. Padmarajan is part of me and my being, as much as is he to many of my age-group and generation.
Of course I wouldn’t write too much on Padmarajan and his films and writings. It’s all well known to people who like them all, and to people who’d like to know them all, there are lots being written in the papers and the many portals. To those who don’t care about such things, I don’t feel like saying anything at all.
The new generation (classified not just on the basis of age, but also on the basis of interests and passions) in Kerala, who are mad after big money, high end cell phones, bikes, booze et al and who don’t have the time to care for things like literature, arts, films etc are now after stars and films that boast of ‘six pack abs’ and the Hollywood-like stunts and Bollywood like songs and dances. For them the man who wrote umpteen brilliant short stories in Malayalam and who also penned the script for some of the most memorable of Malayalam movies may not mean much. For them names like ‘Oridathoru Phayalwan’, ‘Kallan Pavithran’, ‘Peruvazhiyambalam’, ‘Moonnaam Pakkam’, ‘Nombarathipoovu’, ‘Arapattakettiya Graamathil’, ‘Thoovanathumbikal’, ‘Namukku Paarkkaan Munthirithoppukal’, ‘Innale’, ‘Njaan Gandharvan’ and all may not feature among their list of the best of Malayalam films.
But for me, Padmarajan is simply one of the best that we have had in Malayalam Cinema, a man who went beyond the classifications of art-house and commercial cinema and who successfully merged all these different strands of cinema and who gave a well edited action flick too in ‘Season’, a film that can teach many a lesson to those who still stumble at making action films.
Sitting at my desk at the Karma Kerala office at Chettichira in Cochin, I can see the road where ply many a cars and bikes and buses, to and from Cochin (for some of us Kochi), the city that’s attaining the proportions of a metropolis in many ways. I see people, the new generation buyers who detest going to the local grocers, coming out of a near-by supermarket with smiling faces on having done a high-end kind of marketing. I see a shop that sells frozen meat and frozen fish to people in a State where you still get to buy fresh fish directly from the fisherman’s nets. Seeing all this on this sunny day, I wonder as to how many of the people in the State stop to think about Padmarajan. How many of our filmmakers have got the time to stop and think about the man who contributed greatly to the making of Malayalam Cinema and also towards the making of many of the popular stars whom we know today?!
Well, I’d love to spend a few moments relishing memories of the many Padmarajan movies that had made me so passionate about films. The late KPAC Azeez jumping out of the boat all determined to take revenge on the man who had been a witness to his crimes (‘Peruvazhiyambalam‘), the poor desperate grandfather (played by Thilakan) who is all shattered after his young grandson had gone missing in the sea (‘Moonnaam Pakkam‘), the young Jayaram in ‘Innale‘ who wishes and prays earnestly that his new-found lover (played by Shobhana), who has been suffering from Amnesia, doesn’t get back her memories and recognise her husband (played by Suresh Gopi), the village wrestler (played by Rasheed) who is rather indifferent towards his wife and her needs (‘Oridathoru Phayalwan‘) – these and many other scenes from Padmarajan films just scroll on and on in my memory while I hear my heart sob and pay heartfelt tributes to the ‘Gandharvan’ who left us nineteen years ago, an untimely death that shattered us all to a great extent. I know that some of our scribes will be getting ready with write-ups and memoirs for tomorrow and some of our papers may devote some space for the versatile writer-filmmaker. Well, this is my personal tribute to Padmarajan, the man who made me love films, the man who made me love myself and have a passion for life.
Thanks Shyama, for making me come out with something personal about a man who means much to me and to many film-lovers in Kerala.
The kite festival being organized in Munambam beach from January 22 to 24 is attracting lots of curious onlookers. Organised by the Rotary Club of Cochin Lords, in association with the DTPC, this colorful festival has become a crowd puller as the participation in the event is open to all. Kite flying has been in existence for over 25 centuries and kite festival is a popular sport and a cultural event in many Indian cities like Gujarat and Rajasthan. Nonetheless in Kerala, kite flying has largely been confined to the villages and as a vacation activity of the kids all these years.
Kerala Kite Festival will be held from 10 am to 6 pm and the event has attracted many participants from all over the country including flyers from Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Mangalore and Jaipur. This year, I could see some exceptionally big kites in innovative designs like elephants, frog , and Kathakali figurines to paint the skies in a riot of colors. The cultural events at night including rock shows, songs, dance and stage performances attracted more crowd and the fun started building up at sundown.
This spectacular aerial display of colorful kites allow the new generation to know the history and the importance of kites in Indian culture. This event is dedicated to the noble cause of ‘End Polio Now’, which is a global Rotary initiative to eradicate polio from the face of the earth. A food court being set up at the venue is also recording a huge turnout. The festival officials is expecting around 25,000 people to visit Munambam beach during this time. The otherwise sleepy coast of Munambam is brimming with fun and frolic thanks to the kite festival, which will hopefully enhance the tourism prospects of this beach in the coming days.
Soon on the trails of one of the biggest branding exercises of Kerala tourism which showcased the glimpses of Kerala on the exterior of the Thiruvananthapuram-bound Rajdhani Express on a huge canvas, the tourism ministry is planning to introduce atleast one coach in the lines of the luxurious ‘palace on wheels’ in all major trains. By associating itself to India’s busiest travel network, Kerala is trying to play the tourism card to lure more domestic tourists to Kerala in the coming years.
This specially designed luxury compartment dedicated to tourists will be introduced in all major trains and these luxury coaches will have tastefully done up interiors, better designed seats and toilets and wider sleeping berths. The wide windows will ensure a better view of the landscape for the visitors. Local tourists will have to pay the same fare as the foreign travelers in these coaches, which will be designed in the lines of luxury trains like Palace on Wheels, Deccan Odyssey, Royal Rajasthan on Wheels and the Fairy Queen.
Liquor will be served in these coaches though alcohol is banned on the other Indian trains. The coaches will have atendants to ensure personal attention and care. All Rajadhani trains are being modified immediately and the rest of the major trains in the next phase. With many innovative ideas on the anvil to promotre rail tourism, Kerala can hope to recive more visitors from other states of India, who drop in to explore the exceptional culture, backwaters, houseboats and cuisine of this tiny Southern State of Kerala, fondly referred to as ” God’s own country’.
Kerala tourism is going all out, making a bold statement and wooing tourists from all over India to Kerala by getting the Rajdhani train painted in Kerala colours. With the tag “Go Kerala” or “Chalo Kerala“ beckoning tourists into the lush green state.
It’s not just one or two coaches, but the entire train, all 17 coaches of the air conditioned Rajdhani Express are now painted with colourful images of Kerala. Painting the Rajdhani Express is like having a giant moving billboard that goes through Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka on its way to Thiruvananthapuram and back. Think of the number of people who will be seeing the splendour of far-off Kerala!
Promoting domestic tourism is the motive here and when the summer months begin in the north of India the train with its beaches, backwaters and green landscape should lure people to the state.
I’m thinking of the effect it will have in dry Rajasthan and busy Maharashtra - the dreams it will weave of holidays in Kerala in the people who see the train. I think all trains could do with a splash of colour, a reminder of how beautiful the country is, and we could all do away with those red coloured trains which look dusty even after the coaches have had a wash.
According to the data available with Kerala Tourism, domestic tourist arrivals to Kerala last year touched 75 lakh (against 7.5 lakh international tourists), reports The Hindu.
Can’t wait to see the train roll in, in all its fresh hues and bring from within thousands of tourists to our (singing) shyama sundara kera kedaara bhoomi (Kerala).
Pics source: The Hindu
A rare celestial event in the form of the longest solar eclipse of the century is happening today, on January 15th . It will be visible in many parts of the world including Kerala. Unlike a total solar eclipse when the sun will be fully masked by the shadow of moon today’s eclipse is going to be annular. In this case the moon is farther from Earth than normal and hence its shadow will not completely mask the sun, making it appear like a bright ring outlining the moon. It will give the sun a spectacular appearance of a ring of fire, which will be visible for over 10 minutes in Kerala with the best views of the Bailey’s rings being visible after 1PM .
In Kerala, the best spot to watch this celestial spectacle is Varkala near Kollam . Many enthusiastic astronomers and sky watchers from all over the world have reached Varkala to record this rare celestial phenomenon. Arrangements have also been made for the people to watch this event in many places. In Kerala, all temples will remain closed during the eclipse and special rituals will be performed to ward off any evil effects of the eclipse.
Vedaranyam in Tamil Nadu will witness the last touch of the annular solar eclipse. Apart from India, the annular eclipse will be visible across Africa, the Indian Ocean, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and South-East Asia. Solar eclipse should be watched only through properly designed solar filters or goggles to ensure that the eyes are not effected.
It was six weeks ago that Louis Sea Cruises began operations, taking tourists on enchanting trips to Maldives and Colombo. The cruise programmes, which began with much fanfare, was like a whiff of fresh air as far as Kerala tourism was concerned. The news created quite a buzz everywhere and the response was overwhelming. An estimated 12,000 people were attracted to the luxury cruise on board the cruise-liner MV Aquamarine.
Now, when the cruise programme is going full-swing, here comes news that has dampened spirits of people who were making plans to be part of it all. Louis Sea Cruises beats a temporary retreat from the shores of Kerala, upsetting thousands of people who were planning family events and parties on board the luxury cruise-liner. But this retreat, happening on January 17th, will be a temporary one, with Louis Cruises planning to make a comeback in October this year.
Anyway, before bidding adieu to the shores of Kerala, Louis Luxury Cruises operates something special, a cruise that will enable tourists to experience the solar eclipse from the sea, slated for this week.
The Louis Cruises, for the people of Kerala, has turned out to be the case of experiencing the best of things in the briefest time possible. People of Kerala had welcomed cruise tourism with open arms and even the earlier post that I had made on this blog had received a good response. Experts opine that this much publicised, high-profile thing had done good to Kerala tourism, adding real big impetus to the industry as a whole.
Here’s hoping MV Aquamarine cruises back homeward bound into Kochi waters from wherever she docks till October.
Now, the residents of Kerala will have a reason to complain. The good news is that anyone can call any of the 250 officials of the state Public Works Department (PWD) on their mobile phones to inform them of new pot holes on the roads.
The PWD Minister P.J. Joseph has promised the people of Kerala that the potholes will be filled in less than two days. In order to speed-up the procedures, the minister has distributed new mobile phones to PWD engineers. This new facility is in addition to the recently-functioning toll free number that became operational in 2009 by the end of November. From Nov 23 to Jan 8, the PWD department have received 1,170 calls on the toll free number. The minister has claimed that most of those complaints could be rectified in less than two days and has been done. The PWD department has received total complaints pertaining to pot holes numbering 311, followed by 275 complaints of damaged roads and 114 about bad drainage.
The Minister has assured the public that as soon as a complaint is received it gets registered and in less than two days it would be attended and completed. And once the job is done, the complainant gets a call from the PWD official saying that the job has been done!
Of the 173,592 km of roads in the state, the PWD has under its jurisdiction 29,727 km. The giant share of 122,232 km is under local village councils. Now, let’s imagine the situation of those 250 officials of the state PWD department, once the phone numbers have reached the public. They will have time only to attend the calls from different parts of Kerala state. And, I am sure that the registers will be filled with complaints.
Anyway, let’s awake in the mornings dreaming of travelling on a beautiful Kerala road without any pot holes.
In the Monday morning madness when people were running behind buses and office goers jostling for that extra space to inch their way through the milling crowd, this sight arrested my attention. On the footpath leading to a busy junction in Cochin a young boy was sitting under the shade of a huge rain tree with many tiny colorful chirping birds and parrots in tiny cages. These hapless creatures were put up for sale for rupees twenty per pair.
Curious onlookers gathered around the boy, some where haggling and some were taking a closer look at the specimens put on display. The boy was boasting that these birds were procured from the hill ranges. It was when a customer asked whether these birds will be able to survive the hot and sultry climate and the pollution of the cities. The boy admitted that some of these birds will die as he lunged at his top voice to attract more customers.
The birds were fluttering their wings and crying in panic and were making all attempts to free themselves from the confines of the dingy cages and suddenly someone informed the wild life department so that these birds can be released back into the wild. It is an irony that men have not only encroached into the forests but also are putting the original inhabitants of the wild on sale! It is high time that we put an end to the brutal killings and maiming of these mute animals in the name of hobby. A leopard skin will look best on the animal and not in your living room so next time when you scout for an ivory sculpture to deck up your showcase, remember that man and his vicious hobbies have pushed many animals into extinction and now the time has come to follow the golden rule of “Live and let live” to make this world a better place to live not only for us but also for the future generations!