Kerala, which registered an impressive growth of 11 per cent in foreign tourist arrivals and 9.15 per cent in domestic tourist arrivals during the year 2011 despite many odds has always been a favorite tourist destination among local travelers and foreign tourists. As always U. K tourists topped the list, which was closely followed by those from France, Germany, U. S and Australia. The State tourism board is now launching an aggressive promotional campaign to woo more tourists from the Middle East and Arab countries. Some of the programmes planned include road show, media promotion, and hoisting hoardings in both Arabic and English. This is the first time that such a campaign in Gulf countries is being taken up to cash in on the holiday making pattern of the Arabs who prefer holiday destinations in the East rather than American and UK holiday spots.
Kerala has lined up an interesting itinerary that offer something special for everyone . From monsoon packages to ayurveda and house boat cruise, Kerala will offer an eclectic experience. The ‘Dream Season’ package, spanning the entire off-season from May to September, has always been quite popular among the tourists. Apart from rain walks, monsoon spectacles and ayurveda the biggest attraction of this package is the low cost offer where the hotel rates and tourism packages hit the rock.
Another attraction will be the 4th monsoon carnival in Wayanad that will be held from 9-14th July in Wayanad. A joint venture of the district tourism promotion council and Wayanad Tourism Organisation, it is expected to bring in around 500 travel agents from all over the country. The carnival showcases many fun activities and events including a flood water tour, mud football, rain trekking and even a crab catching tour!. The adventure buffs will find the off road adventure rally their cup of tea for sure. The initiatives of the tourism board to forage into the unexplored markets like the Middle East will bring in the much needed impetus to the tourism potential of Kerala in the days ahead.
You’d have heard of the Raman effect. But from us at Karmakerala, here’s something new, the ‘Sholto Effect’!!
Scene 1-Yesterday evening
It’s a pleasant evening; we’re all having a group chat on Skype, all of us at Karmakerala and as I prepare to leave office, Sholto’s chat takes a new turn. Well, rather than explaining what it was, lemme share that chat here…
Unni: OK, bye all… leaving for the day
Sholto Ramsay: have a terrified evening
Unni: ha ha
Unni: So like Sholto
Sholto Ramsay: hope it rains an gets you all soaked
Unni: that’s not terrifying, for me
Unni: I love the rains
Unni: but it brings mosquitoes
Unni: and someone once found a trick, trapping mosquitoes with a black cloth
Sholto Ramsay: hope you all get bitten all night
Sholto Ramsay: and AC fails
Sholto Ramsay: and also electricity
Sholto Ramsay: and fans fall from the ceiling
Sholto Ramsay: and cover you in dust
Sholto Ramsay: and everything else
Unni: ha ha
Tanweer: AC working perfectly boss
Unni: bye anyways….
Scene 2-Today morning
As I wake up early morning, it’s raining heavily. I remember Sholto (Naughty Naughty Sholto; I can imagine him grinning a ‘Mephistophelean’ grin if he reads this and exclaiming “I am a prophet!”)….
As I get ready for office, I look out of the balcony and find it’s still raining. Though it’s not a heavy downpour, I know it would get me wet if I ride to office. Downstairs I wait for some time; then I lose my patience and as the drizzle thins down, I ride to office. Mid-way I halt for a few minutes under a railway over-bridge and then, when it seems a bit OK, I continue my ride, to office. I arrive at office, a bit drenched in the rain. From the shop below, I have some puttu and hot, steaming tea.
As I get into office, Sooraj arrives, in an auto-rickshaw. Once in the office, he passes me a photograph he had taken on the bus, caught in the Kochi traffic-jam, so characteristic of rainy days in this city with congested roads and indisciplined traffic.
I settle down, the fan overhead leaves me dry… I begin my work…
Thanks Sholto!! B’cos I do love the rains…
The river Nila, which is fast disappearing will also lead to the wiping out a rich civilization that thrived along the Nila. The traces of this civilzation, which is only kept alive by the folk lores , stories and songs might be lost forever for want of conservation measures.
An internationally-acclaimed tourism agency, The Blue Yonder, is striving to piece together this vanishing civilisation by wiki mapping and crowd-sourcing, which will give everyone including you and me a chance to be part of this novel venture.
This is the first time in India that attempts are being made to revive a river through ‘crowd-sourcing’ . In this ambitious plan, each and every civilizational trace in the 9,000 sq kms surrounding the 200-km course of the Nila through three districts — Thrissur, Palakkad and Malappuram will be documented. By roping in the local populace whose lives are influenced by the river Nila, The Blue Yonder hopes to preserve what is remaining of Nila. The team is setting up an open source platform where people could directly upload any Nila-related information.
“It could be about stories they want to share, it could be about the natural ponds in their village, it could be about farming traditions, about musicians, about skill sets, handicrafts, pottery,” Gopinath Parayil, founder of The Blue Yonder. said.
To get started Nila Foundation will take up a pilot documentation of 10 historically significant regions within the 9000 sq km including Thirunavaaya, Thrithaala or Thrissur cole lands. Each hub will have 10 volunteers who will be mapping 10 sq kms and this pilot exercise will offer an open platform for the general public to access and furnish information on Nila. Only novel ventures like the Nila foundation can save the rivers of Kerala, which are all facing a death knell due to the rampant sand mining and other human activities.
Malayalam movie makers often choose overseas locales and foreign actors in the plot to retain the interest of the discerning audience. There have been many local language movies that feature foreigners as props. For the foreign backpackers who choose to act in these films, it is not just easy money but also a rare chance to mix business with pleasure and to hog the limelight on their Kerala holidays.
On a rough estimate, around 5,000 foreigners are selected every year to act in Malayalam movies that are shot in various places. Cochin is fast becoming the hub of this so called ‘Cinema Tourism’. The city alone has eight coordinators who provide foreigners for films and any director who wishes to cast foreign faces in their movies need only to get in touch with a coordinator. The director will provide the essential details like age and appearance of the prospective actor. Now it is the turn of the coordinator to honeycomb the various home stays (which are the popular accommodation options of backpackers) in and around Fort Kochi and Mattancherry to find someone suitable. Most of them will be wonder struck at first, but will give a try once the idea sinks into them, while some others reject the offers outright.
Once chosen, the foreigners can enjoy an extended holiday in some of the most picturesque spots in Kerala and neighbouring states like Munnar, Kovalam, Coimbatore or Ooty being part of the film crew. Recently a group of 15 foreign tourists donned the paint during the shooting of Neeko Njancha in Cherai beach. The foreigners will be paid at a rate of 2000 to 4000 INR per day apart from perks and accommodation options for outstation locations. If the tourists have to re draw their tour plan, they are also compensated with train or flight tickets to their next destination.
The trend of casting foreigners is not something new and it has been going on for many years now in Hindi and other Indian languages. Giselli Monteiro, Barbara Mori, Amy Jackson- the list of beauties from foreign shores that are playing key roles in Bollywood films is impressive indeed. However, some actors have come out against the obsession for Caucasian beauties of the film makers and the audience alike, which they feel will be detrimental to the local talents.
As the debate goes on, the movie crazy Kerala populace gets ready to endorse yet another thrilling movie featuring foreigners. Now, it will indeed be a special Kerala holiday for many of these foreigners as well for the arc lights and celebrity tag that go with it!
Kerala might initiate microchipping the sandal trees in the natural sandal wood forests at Marayur- the only one of its type in the State. The Forest Minister KB Ganesh Kumar informed the state assembly of the innovative plans that are being formulated to insert microchips in sandalwood trees at Marayur, to prevent wide spread plunder of these priceless trees.
Marayur is 42 km north of Munnar along the Udumalppetta route. Spreading over an area of 93 sq. km, the Marayur reserve forest is home to over 60,000 naturally grown sandalwood trees. Rampant smuggling of sandalwood has always been a cause of serious concern for the Government and the forest department. It is alarming to note that in just one year nearly 2,000 trees have been allegedly plundered. The thieves use state of the art mechanical saws, which can fell a tree in no time without being noticed, which has turned out to be the biggest challenge for the forest department officials in curbing the menace.
Sandalwood or Santalum album is valued for its fragrant heartwood, which is used for making perfumes, agarbathis, ayurvedic medicines and beauty products. Sandalwood oil, popularly known as ‘liquid gold’, is extracted from the roots and wood of sandalwood. Sandalwood is highly priced in both the National and International market.
Though microchipping wild animals have been used successfully in tracking their movements, it is too early to predict the feasibility of the idea of inserting chips in sandalwood trees. According to RRR Varma, principal chief conservator of forests, the basic idea is to use microchips to track the movement of the trees. In the event of any unusual movement of the trees, an alert will be sent to the control station, which will enable the forest guards to reach the spot immediately.
Well, the ‘little thing’ in question is ‘Naranga Mittai‘, a small, bean-shaped candy, with an orange-like flavour and other flavours and coming in different colours- mostly yellow, red, orange etc.
Small, yes. But this little thing could work wonders. Karmakerala office today witnessed one such phenomenon. Sooraj bought a pack of ‘naranga mittai‘ at lunch-time; that prompted me to buy one too. (Well, for those who don’t know, ‘naranga mittai’ is available almost everywhere in Kerala and is the cheapest sweet available). We distributed it among our colleagues…
As I sit relishing the sweetness of ‘naranga mittai’, I realize that something really big has happened at our office, of course unnoticed. At least for some tiny seconds some of us went on ‘nostalgia’ mode and remembered school days (Hey, not me! I never got to have ‘naranga mittai’ during my school days in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands). So, it was a two-in-one effect; relishing the sweetness of ‘naranga mittai’ and relishing the sweetness of childhood memories. For me, the little sweet also seemed to be a ‘power’ that was uniting the office in a different kind of bond, at least for some fleeting moments…
The ‘Naranga Mittai’ thus teaches us one simple lesson. At a time when we tend to forget little things (little things that make up life) in a mad race for things that mean nothing, it’s worth realizing life’s little truths. One of these truths is this: it takes little things like ‘naranga mittai’ and not big big things and big ideas to melt differences and bring people together. It sometimes takes just a fraction of a second and such little things to make complicated things seem simple.
The moral of the whole thing is: Life is as simple as ‘naranga mittai’, just don’t spoil it by making it look complicated. Relish it, every bit of it…. the ‘naranga mittai’ can melt away any moment…
Mango trees have always been inevitable components of the homesteads of the state of Kerala. The hot and humid climatic conditions and ample rainfall in Kerala are well suited for mango cultivation. Mango trees laden with ripe fruits in the months of April and May have always been the biggest summer vacation attraction for the kids who come down to their native places from their city homes.However with the loss of sprawling homesteads, which are being replaced by multi storied flats and commercial apartments, the mango trees face the axe every other day.
Mango, popularly called the The king of the fruits”, is a nutritionally rich tropical fruit with delicious flavour and taste. Apart from being rich in pre-biotic dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, and poly-phenolic flavonoid antioxidant compounds, mango has been found to protect against colon and prostrate cancer. However, in what could be termed as an ironical twist, the artificially ripened mangoes using calcium carbide sticks that you buy these days from the city fruit stalls in itself can cause many deadly diseases like cancer.
Last week, in a major sweep in Cochin, the city shadow police seized more than one tonne of mangoes stored for artificial ripening, which were to be later supplied to different parts of the city. The rampant destruction of farmlands and cultivable land has forced Keralites to depend on other sources for their food, which are often poisonous and adulterated. If you thought it is just mangoes that are poisoned for the lure of profits, you could be in for a surprise. The red and juicy watermelons that tempts every passer-by acquire this attractive red allure from the artificial red dye that is injected into the fruit. Many fruits like apples are also injected with saccharine to make them artificially sweet. Gone are the days when an apple a day used to keep the doctor way, now it could well mean an immediate distress call to your doctor!
If this the price that you and me have to pay for industrialization, don’t you think that it is high time that we rework our priorities and go back to our agrarian lifestyles?
Keralites are passionate about sports and ale of all genres! Now a sports bar that brings these two together has come to Cochin . Aptly named Stadia , this sports bar at the Holiday Inn, is sure to get many regular clients considering the brisk response it got during the Indian premium League matches. Users can unwind after a hard day’s work by watching their favorite sports in the wide screen Tvs and a drink. The walls decked up with paintings and posters of various sporting events add up to its theme. There are two snooker tables for those who wish to give a crack at the cues.
Spread over an area of over 2500 sq ft , Stadia caters to over 100 people at a time. Though sports bars are quite popular abroad, it is a relatively new trend in Kerala and the Gen Y crowd with a big disposable income will make the bulk of the target customers of these hang outs that serve quality snacks, drinks and sports!
Image courtesy : The Hindu
Mountains of dusty and dog eared files and papers in government offices are all set to become things of the past thanks to the ambitious digitilalization project in the state Yes, Kerala is all set to become the first fully digital State in the country, which will add further impetus in delivering efficient and transparent services apart from making the Kerala offices paperless and super organized.
In the ambitious e-governance project that will be taken up in an year, every citizen would be given an email id based on the UID Adhar and all government transactions and applications would be through e-mail. In addition, all panchayats will have 4G connectivity with optical fibre broadband. In the first phase, Palakkad, Kannur, Kottayam and Malappuram districts will be included in this innovative e- district project, which will be followed by the rest of the 10 districts in the state.
The project, which will be completed by March 31st next year will provide all the certificates online.In addition, the infamous red taped files in the Secretariat would also move towards digital mode by March 31. The IDEAS file tracking system will enable the ordinary people to access information and to track files without having to depend on Right to Information Act. All the contracts above Rs.25 lakh in government departments and public sector undertakings would come under the e-tendering system. It is envisaged that by March 2014, the estimates, administrative sanction, technical sanction, tenders, bills and payments in the Public Works Department,would be on electronic mode.
The digitalisation process will also simplify various procedures like corrections in the SSLC book, visa, applications for higher studies and other relevant documents. This futuristic digitilization process will bring respite to the citizens in accessing the information they need without making countless visits to the various departments and greasing the palm of the officials to get the files approved!