Karmakerala remembers, pays homage to Kamala Suraiyya
It was exactly a year ago, on the 31st of May, 2009 that Kamala Suraiyya a.k.a Kamala Das .a.k.a Madhavikutty passed away, causing much grief to those many who loved her and even now love her, for what she was and what she wrote. I guess there were gallons of crocodile tears shed, by those who thought they disliked what she wrote as they felt that they disliked her for what she was. But many of those did shed those crocodile tears as others were doing so and they were to follow suit, and some because they were to get noted by doing so (It has become a fashion to speak and write praising people after their demise without ever caring to understand them or their work, just for the sake of using the occasion to one’s benefit and popularity).
Well, it’s been a year without Kamala Suraiyya being around. For someone like me, it means much as I had had the fortune of reading and teaching some of her best poems; I had the fortune of visiting the Nalappat House (or rather the place where the Nalappat house once stood) in connection with a tele-film titled ‘Neermathalathinte Pookkal’, directed by a friend, for which I was doing some public-relations work and the English subtitles of which were done by me. I had considered it a fortune to stand beneath the famed ‘Neermathalam’ tree, which had got so famous through her writings and even collected some leaves of the tree to show my students, of course with pride, the leaves from Kamala Das’ (or Kamala Suraiyya’s) ‘Neermathalam Tree’ (It was of course a different thing that most of my students, undergraduates, were simply blinking at it, as if they were looking at some ordinary leaf, which for me meant much).
It was some years back that I had seen Kamala Suraiyya, then Kamala Das, for the first time in person, when she came to receive the Vayalar Award for her ‘Neermathalam Poothakaalam‘. Wow, the speech that she made then, it simply bowled me over. Of course I don’t recollect the exact wordings, but she was comparing herself to a dancer, who was dancing as if in a trance, for her lover. The way she was describing that, in the most romantic of ways, with her slight Bangla accent, was, to put it simply, the best of speeches that I had heard. Ending the speech, she said that she’s almost over with her dance- the dance of ecstasy- and was removing her ankle-bells and throwing it towards Rosemary, a poetess of the next generation of Malayalam writers, who, if my memory is correct, was there among the audience. (This happened in 1997, at the Tagore Theatre in Thiruvananthapuram. I was then a regular to the annual Vayalar Award ceremony, as I liked being there and also because I loved to hear the songs being rendered after the ceremony, those immortal melodies penned by the immortal Vayalar Rama Varma). It still remains afresh in my memory that on that particular day, I was travelling by bus from Ernakulam to Thiruvananthapuram in the morning and on the way, I was reading a collection of short-stories by the writer, titled ‘Chekkerunna Pakshikal ‘.
Madhavikutty, one of my friends used to say, was ,”a writer and above all a woman who dared to speak out what she felt”. Yes she was sort of candid, too candid for the average Malayalee sensibility. Only Kamala Das could shock us and our sensibilites at that time with so candid a work as ‘The Looking Glass”, wherein she writes,
“Getting a man to love you is easy
Only be honest about your wants as
Woman. Stand nude before the glass with him
So that he sees himself the stronger one
And believes it so, and you so much more
Softer, younger, lovelier….”
Only Kamala could say,
“…Gift him all,
Gift him what makes you woman, the scent of
Long hair, the musk of sweat between the breasts,
The warm shock of menstrual blood, and all your
Endless female hungers…”
…and then go on to end the poem as…
“…your eyes that
Gave up their search, with ears that hear only
His last voice calling out your name and your
Body which once under his touch had gleamed
Like burnished brass, now drab and destitute.”
Of course Kerala still would pretend not to be unwilling to accept such candid writing, though many of our people here would love to read this and much more unnoticed by others.
It was no wonder to me when ‘Rugmini’, a film directed by K.P.Kumaran and based on a short-story by Kamala Suraiyya (or Madhavakutty, for that was her pen-name in Malayalam), when it was telecast on Doordarshan, was greeted with much hue and cry, all pointing out that it was obscene, vulgar and not at all good for viewing with the family. The only thing that mattered about the movie, and the story, was that it all takes place at a brothel. But I personally felt then and feel now that there was not an iota of obscenity and vulgarity in that film. On the other hand, it was a film that purged our hearts and conveyed to us the message of love. (Well, what about those many things that we are forced to watch these days on the Television as well as in our movies? Sorry, no comments!!)
Talking about ‘Rugmini’, I must mention that I loved another movie based on her short story ‘Nashtapetta Neelambarikal‘. The film, ‘Mazha‘, directed by Lenin Rajendran, happens to be one of my favourites among movies released in the past few years.
Madhavikutty also wrote lines replete with nostalgia, in its purest and highest form.
The poem (My Grandmother’s House) that begins as
“There is a house now far away where once
I received love……. That woman died,
The house withdrew into silence, snakes moved
Among books, I was then too young
is still among my favourites.
And there’s a complete shift of mind and mood when she ends the poem as
“…you cannot believe, darling,
Can you, that I lived in such a house and
Was proud, and loved…. I who have lost
My way and beg now at strangers’ doors to
Receive love, at least in small change?”
Well to write about the most misunderstood and misinterpreted of Malayalam writers is not a simple thing. I or someone else of my temperament may simply go on and on. There is so much to write about her, especially about her writings. I haven’t even made mention of her autobiographical works ‘My Story’ (of coure I have my own reservations about this one), ‘Balyakaalasmaranakal‘ and ‘Neermathalam Poothakaalam‘. I can mention many of her other stories and poems. But I’d prefer leaving it all unsaid. There are many others here, in Kerala, who’d write about all those aspects of her works and her persona.
Here’s from me, from the whole Karmakerala team, heartfelt tributes to the late writer, a gem of a writer whom we should never ever forget.
Now that Munnar has been voted as the second best tourist destination in the whole of Asia, next only to Tokyo by trip advisor, it has become our added responsibility to make sure that the pristine beauty and greenery of the mountains in Munnar remains forever. The latest reports of large scale encroachments by political parties and business houses have raised serious concerns about the fragile ecology of Munnar and its preservation. We need to have some stringent building rules to limit the proliferation of huge structures that mar the beauty of the hills, reservoirs and mangrove forests of Kerala.
The hotel chains and the resorts based in Munnar could play a proactive role on the conservation of nature and the exceptional flora and fauna of Munnar as tourism is directly linked to the natural splendor. Hotels can look forward to increased tourist footfalls only if the natural beauty is well maintained. Responsible tourism should be the watch word in the days to come where the local populace is benefited directly or indirectly from tourism
The NGO’s can impart an impetus to the government initiatives on nature conservation. The cash flushed private business groups, hotel chains and tea companies can all sponsor the greening of the Munnar hills or participate in the tiger conservation drive. Saplings of native trees and plants can be planted on the barren hills while mangroves can keep the streams healthy and well oxygenated.
Even ordinary folks like you and me can bring about a quality change in nature by adopting a few changes in our way of living. Many simple acts of us can leave a significant change in the quality of nature and our lives in turn. Minimise the use of plastic, dig rain water harvest pools, resist encroachments into the forestland, prevent wild fire, put up bee hives in your garden and grow flower bearing trees and plants that are resistant to pests and many, many more.
Let us remind ourselves that tourism is not about cutting down the virgin tropical forests of the Western ghats to make way for the tasteless concrete structures but to preserve the wilderness and pristine charm of the jungles so that we can add many more destinations along with Munnar into the world tourist map !
We all have grown up listening to the typical “ once upon a time’ stories and prince and princess stories from our grand parents. I still remember how the gesticulations and dramatic expressions of my grandma made even an innocuous looking story thread into something really exciting! However with the collapse of the joint family system, grand parents were left alone in their sprawling homesteads in the country sides while the new generation migrated to bigger cities and foreign places in search of a posh life style and fortune. The grandma’s bed time stories made way to CDs and cassettes that parroted children’s stories, rhymes and western folklores unlike the olden days when the kids were acquainted with the local life , culture and traditions through stories. Is it not ironical that these days, kids know more about Peter Pan than Mahabali or the important festivals of Kerala?
Nonetheless, this blog is not about the bed time stories we all loved very much but the lovable narrators of those stories. Things have come to a point where family ties and relationships do not matter any more! Aged parents are being left alone to fend for themselves in their ancestral homes in Kerala or in many cases in destitute homes and old age homes where they will be spending the twilight of their life like a prisoner with no room for personal likes and dislikes. If at all they are allowed to stay with their children, their position will be worse than a house keeper or a nanny where they have to take care of all the house hold duties and attend to the babies while their children go out to work in far away cities.
It is alarming to note that we Keralites, who used to take pride of a good track record in gender equality education, health care and other social issues can become so mean and thoughtless. Old age is not a bane but only an inevitable phase in everyone’s life. As they say, old age it is the second childhood and it is quite natural for the aged to desire or even demand to be loved and pampered. They have devoted a life time of theirs to raise their kids and have nurtured the next generation with love and warmth, which is sans parallel. In your mad chase of material wealth and bigger apartments and luxury vehicles, are we trampling our family virtues and the warmth and assurance that only our parents can give ? Remember, if it has happened to your parents today, tomorrow will be your turn for sure. So make sure that you do not shirk away from your responsibilities citing petty reasons like lack of time or resources lest the same fate might fall upon you.
Now, what I am going to reveal you is a ‘public secret’. If you are a person who wants to live more and that too with good health, you have only one option – choose to live in the countryside. This is based on a recent research conducted in London by Office for National Statistics (ONS). The research report states:
“Living in countryside will make you live longer. Those born in village and dispersed areas could expect to live longer than those in town and fringe areas. Even the poorest people fared better in the countryside. Rural poor men lived for a year longer than their urban peers.”
The difference also examined among the older, wealthy migrants from the cities had demonstrable health benefits compared with the life of their urban peers, living in more crowded, less green spaces and served by more pressured public services.
Now, speaking of our Kerala, It’s a state with green luxuries and is now turning to a state that may face extinction on the same. The hot weather Kerala is facing today despite many showers of rain is an after effect of deforestation done by man to nature’s greenery. The cities are getting crowded and more polluted and, every morning we spot a new building sprouting up on another side of the city.
The accommodation business is now foreseeing a new possibility into the countryside building resorts in acres of land. Another painful factor is that the people living in countryside sell out their land for the price that do not even comes close to 1/4 of the price of land in a city. The people living in countryside find it very difficult to maintain acres of land that consists of coconut trees and other crops that are sources of income.
Despite of all this, it’s a fact that people who live in a city are now more on to buying lands in the countryside to spent their holidays. We can reduce global warming and the scorching heat of Kerala if each one of us can contribute by planting more trees and not allowing cutting trees that are already there. Let us also take care to protect the land we have in countryside and live longer!!!
Hi Biju! How are you? And how goes your filming? Hope everything goes smooth and fine…
Hey, you don’t know Biju Viswanath, the guy from Thiruvananthapuram, who is now making his presence felt on an international level? The man who directed a film in Malayalam and then cranked the camera for the Mammootty-starrer ‘Phantom’ and the K.Balachander-directed Tamil film ‘Poi’ and the guy who had given the much appreciated Paddy Fletcher-Simon Binns starrer ‘Deja vu’ in English, is now going places, literally.
I have known Biju personally ever since he was filming ‘Deja vu’. I came into contact with him as a film journalist. But that grew into a personal kind of relationship and we have always been discussing movies, people and other things, but of course movies in the main. Because of his passion for films, Biju had quit his job as a college lecturer and took to making films, full-time.
‘Deja vu’ was appreciated a lot as a film that was multi-layered and at the same time technically brilliant (Biju is a brilliant cinematographer too, with a passion for cameras of all kind). Then, after ‘Deja vu’, he made ‘Mahotsav’ (aka Grand Festival), which was premiered at the Pusan Film Festival. The film, set in North India, was a brilliant satire. The passion that he had for films took Biju places after that. He did a short film in Hindi, ‘Parwaaz’ (Flight) and then went on to do two films in the Irish language, ‘Lorg’ and ‘Rian’, shot entirely in Ireland. Then it was a film in Japanese, titled ‘Oshizemi’. But in between intervals Biju used to come home, to Thiruvananthapuram, and we used to meet once in a while, and spend time, discussing, as usual about films.
Then, one fine morning, Biju Viswanath flies to the US, all set to make a film on Poet William Meredith. The film, ‘Marathon’, based on a book by the poet’s friend Richard Harteis, received two awards for best cinematography and best screenplay in New York Film Festival and it was selected to Swansea film festival in UK,and Port Louis film festival in Florida. The cinematographer-filmmaker who wants to make films that stand out of course visited Kerala once last year and is now back in the US, where he is at present engaged in the making of another film, ‘Viola’. Biju, who is in regular contact with me, recently let me know about the film through an e-mail, which I am adding here, for a correct picture of what ‘Viola’ is:
How are you
Finally the shoot of “viola” is completed
It was a very long and hard shoot because of the very cold weather in New York
It’s a romance /mystery
The main role is played by a very good actress Julie Kilzer (www.juliekilzer.com)
Male lead is played by Peter O’Connor
Other main actors are Beverly Hayes,Bristol Pomeroy,Arthur Rosbery Yoder and Nick Dullea
I am attaching some stills and also the synopsis
As per the synopsis of ‘Viola’, sent by Biju, it’s the story of a beautiful German girl working in a Jewish bakery in New York City who gets a phone call from Marlene Dietrich, the late actress and singer. The search for the mysterious caller leads her to revelations of love, her true self and a deeper mystery.
Wow, seems interesting. Carry on Biju…We’ll be expecting more from you, as a filmmaker. And here’s hoping you’ll soon be back in Kerala, to give me company with those never-ending discussions….
To attain the extreme heights of peace within; Yoga, is an art of living a healthy, peaceful and contented life. In it’s wholeness, Yoga is integrated to certain principles, values, ideas, attitudes in a way for personal and social benefits. Based on the ancient Indian wisdom and culture, the science of man is designed to awaken the latent powers of mind and body, transforming the person to the sublime heights of divinity and powerful personality.
Designed for all age groups, Yoga is a ocean, but only few exercises and postures are handled by the many centres in kerala. Conceived by the great sages in earlier days it has come to be recognized during its long travails from the hermitages to the small cities and is one of the oldest forms of spiritual practice. Since Yoga has a fundamental therapeutic healing, it is practiced together with other drugs like Ayurveda and Ashtanga Yoga.
Many sides to yoga, it is a powerful healer for many diseases and is also an effective stress manager. A practice for spiritual awareness and an insight for a normal person, the power to control is derived from three sources.
- Control of the body via physical postures
- Control of the breath by breathing techniques
- Power of concentration by mental techniques
In Kerala it is practiced in a land that is surrounded by coconut grooves, lagoons, jungles, hills and the 44 tropical rivers. Focusing on the science of health, vitality, longevity and life, Kerala’s 5000 year old vedic culture calls on this spirit of well being for every individual to practice it for a better self.
In todays world of pollution, stress, unhygenic conditions, Yoga demands a greater position in every household. So anybody and everybody who feels like doing it, contact Karmakerala, where you can get all the information on Yoga and its benefits.
Kerala Police have a target particularly in Kochi to book maximum two wheelers who do not follow the ordinance viz-a-viz traffic. No helmets, seat belts, Helmet straps etc are the offenses. The Police is least bothered to pull people who park their vehicle on the road, those who violate no entry and over speed. So as part of this drive, the other day the ever-efficient Kerala police stopped one of my friends. He has his helmet in place, the straps were tightened and his vehicle in good condition. They went through his papers and found everything to be in order. So now they have to let him go, and oh my God, they were running short of 5 more offenders to square that day’s target. Luckily for them they saw a paper missing in that lot; that was the PUC (Pollution Under Control) thing. What next? he has to pay the fine for not having that certificate, which signifies that he is contributing to the already polluted air of Kochi
Kochi is one city that has more vehicles than roads. A study in the past had already shown that various parts of the city were found having a high amount of polluted air. The pollutant emission levels in Kochi have gone up substantially. The unhealthy air owing to the fast growth in vehicle is not at par with the infrastructure.
The AQI (Air Quality Index) in the range of 51-100 is considered moderate and Kochi is touching 151-200 which means it’s unhealthy air around. So I was wondering what kind of pollution control are the authorities looking at. The public transport emits 90 percent of Carbon monoxide right under their very nose. But nothing much is done to check them, all they do is for the sake of it.
With many ill-maintained government buses emitting deadly smoke and with no proper inspection, use of adulterated fuel, poor road conditions and bumper-to-bumper driving, the situation is more likely to worsen. When are we going to wake up to this disturbing fact, before we all fail to wake up one fine morning.
The unexpected early onset of South West monsoon and the rains set off by the depression in Bay of Bengal, last week was a reason to celebrate for everyone in Kerala. From the banter sessions in village tea stalls to the social network sites like twitter and facebook, the common thread of conversation has been the rains for the last few days! As they say, we value things only when we are about to lose it! Is it the depressing thought that Kerala wont be getting anymore the bountiful rainfalls it once had , people have become more alert and anxious to environmental causes?
However it is too early to forget the hard lesson taught by the scorching summer this year. Kerala had become a cauldron this summer thanks to the short sighted deeds of its populace. As per a recent report, the summer temperature has recorded an all time high in Kerala mainly because of cemented and tiled courtyards of homes and apartments and the senseless construction activities and multitude of concrete structures, which has virtually sealed off the chances of rain water seepage and ground water repletion. The report says that if long term measures are not adopted now earth will become too hot and inhospitable for any living forms by as recent as 2030!
The only option to bring down the temperature is to adopt novel techniques of landscaping your backyards. Tiles can be effectively replaced by quarry sand or chipped metal, which would keep the backyard clean and easily manageable all the while allowing the rain water to seep into the inner layers of soil. Laying buffalo grass carpet is another beautiful option to spruce up the drive ways and walk ways. Make your choice now and switch to open grounded courtyards where rain water can percolate into the soil and replete the ground water level.
Planting more trees will go a along way in enhancing the green cover and bringing down the temperatures. In a novel venture,the leading Malayalam daily , Manorama has launched an innovative tree planting drive where families and corporates will be provided free saplings of fruit bearing, medicinal and flowering trees. It is indeed a laudable effort and if more people join hands in this effort, Kerala will be green and beautiful once again!
As the parched landscape of Kerala welcomed the first monsoon showers with excitement, let us all take a pledge to save every drop of rainwater instead of letting it go waste over the tiled courtyards into the Arabian Sea!
Dasan of Naadodikaattu who kept us smiling, the lovable Sunny of ‘Sukhamo Devi, the guide Joji of Kilukkam, the Peter Pan father of Dasharadham, the hapless brother in Bharatham, and the Uncle Bun who delighted children everywhere.
I think of the romantic roles he played and wish Jayakrishnan of Toovanathumbikal, Sunny of Namukku Paarkkan munthirithoppukal, the double roles in Mayamayooram, the persistent lover in Vandanam, the voice over the phone in Onnu muthal poojyam vare, the boyfriend in Kaattathe kilikoodu and Manickan of Thenmavin Kombathu.
Best wishes to the ‘friend’ in Nokkettha doorathu kannumnattu, the eccentric doc in Manichitrathaazhu, the singing His Highness Abdullah, the guilt-ridden doc in ‘Amritham gamaya‘, the husband shirking his juvenile lover role in Midhunam, and the contractor in Vellaanakalude naadu.
Not to forget the much-hated villains in Manjil Virinja pookkal and Uyarangalil, the flirtatious singer and later the cursed son in Paadamudra (with a huge mole on their faces), and the alocholic artist in Kamaladhalam, the plotting Krishnamoorthy in Vietnam Colony, the taunting Aaram Thamburan, and the mad-naughty patient in Thalavattam (which ranks as high as ‘One Flew over the Cuckoos’ Nest” in my mind).
Many happy returns to the imposter Ghurka in Gandhinagar Second Street, Rajavinde Makan – the underworld prince and TP Balagopalan MA, the bus owner in Varavelppu, the Kathakali dancer in Rangam and Vanaprastham, the communist Nettoor Stephen in Lal Salaam, the brat Neelan in Devaasuram, the forced ‘gunda’ in Kireedom and the black magician caught in his own maya in Sreekrishna Parunthu.
Best wishes also to the police officer in Company and MGR in Iruvar in Hindi and Tamil respectively.
I may have missed many, but, yes, Mohanlal’s roles, the ease at which he handled them has endeared us all to the man. I have seen him at shootings at close quarters and have seen even the most reclusive of people take time out of their lives to have a peep at him.
I somehow feel a ‘disconnect’ with the roles he plays now, I can’t think of any new characters that he has portrayed. So yes he remains a much younger man in my mind, one I have been seeing as I grew up. Clearly, today I felt the need to celebrate the actor Lal who has managed to stay in our hearts.
‘Happy 50th’ from all at Karmakerala and here’s wishing you find better roles and that you slim down and give the young brigade a run for their money!
This blog is inspired by the recent reports of the famous British astrophysicist, Stephen Hawking that aliens could exist in space and it is better not to confront them. For long there have been debates whether life in any form existed in space. This interesting revelation of Hawking would take us a step closer to what we all thought as impossible. Though Kerala, has not reported any incidents of UFO sightings, many reports have been compiled from all over the world and the border between facts and fictions is getting closer than never before! The reports suggest that if intelligent alien life forms do exist in space, they might not be the friendly cosmic neighbors to the people of Earth.
Stephen Hawking suggests that aliens might raid Earth in enormous spaceships in search of vital materials after consuming the natural resources of their own world. He concludes that trying to make contact with alien races is “a little too risky”.He said: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.
Man has always thought to be the most powerful of all living beings and has been exploiting and plundering nature and its flora and fauna despite the fact that he was the last one to evolve in the complicated evolution cycle. There were many mightier and scarier creatures like dinosaurs and walruses that had romped the earth thousands of years before man. Even the simplest life forms like cockroaches had made this world their home, many, many years back! Well, that should make him feel belittled right? But no, man has made this whole earth and all its living beings his private property- killing and maiming many wonderful creatures at his will for his pleasure and material gains! Now going by the feedbacks, the day is not far away when man might become answerable to all his gory acts and selfish deeds which has resulted in the extinction and displacement of many animals that originated much before man!
Now is it the turn of man to be driven into extinction by the planet X aliens? Only time will tell….