As the city of Cochin is getting ready to usher in the New Year, it is time to look back at some of the major milestones in the city calender. The year 2011 has been of mixed fortunes for this city with a fair share of good and bad events. With a slew of innovative projects like the Metro rail and ROBs on the anvil, the business capital of Kerala indeed can look forward to some brighter and prosperous days ahead.
IPL brings cricket fever to Cochin.
The Indian Premier League’s tryst with the city of Cochin brought in cheers and frenzy among the the die hard fans of cricket . Though it made an unceremonious exit just after a season,The T 20 extravaganza offered a few memorable moments to the cricket lovers of Kerala in the form of well fought live matches in Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium. The star studded team of the now defunct Kochi tuskers Kerala had some of the well known faces of international cricket who played along the home grown talents of the State including P Prashanth , Raiphi Vincent Gomez and Prashanth Parameswaran , which was quite inspiring for the cricketing fraternity.
Kochi goes global with ICTT Vallarpadam
With the inauguration of The International Container Transshipment Terminal (ICTT) Vallarpadam in February 2011, Kochi became an international logistics hub in the elite league of maritime trading nations. Touted as one of the most modern ports, Kochi will be a preferred choice for traders all over the world for its quick cargo handling facilities and would pose a tough challenge to many other nearby ports like Colombo, Singapore and Dubai. However the internal squabbles between SEZ and customs officials and the high loading and unloading costs have put ICTT in a hard spot now.
Vyttila Mobility Hub
Though the much hyped Vyttila Mobility hub has failed to bring in much respite from the traffic congestion, it could give shape to a long pending plan to have an integrated transit terminal in the city. The hub has been designed as a converging point for all public transportation modes including long distance buses, metro rail and inland water transport. At present the hub serves as a bus station for both city and long distance buses.
Apple A Day - One of the biggest real estate frauds in the State
Kochi will be rounding off 2011 on a sour note of the apple a day scam. In what could be termed as one of the biggest real estate frauds in the state of Kerala , a Kochi based company ‘Apple-A-Day Properties’ reportedly swindled a staggering amount of 100 crore from buyers which included 125 Indian expatriates in the Middle East. Now the cases are pending and the Kerala State Legal Services Authority has appointed an advocate to mediate the disputes between the investors and the company directors and to arrive at a possible solution.
With the count down for the New Year celebrations already started , we at Karma Kerala wish all our patrons and well wishers all over the world Merry Christmas and a prosperous and happy New Year .
Christmas in Kerala has always been a special occasion for all Keralites who celebrate every festival with fervour and zeal irrespective of their castes or creed. For most Malayalees, Christmas is not all about cookies, carols, cakes and wine but well cherished moments of family holidays and tours. Probably Malayalees have evolved to be one of the most touring populace in India these days, in a notable shift of habits of the yore . With a larger disposable income in hand and an urge to live life King size, Keralites make use of their holidays to the most.
However , the raging dam controversy , which has unleashed many violent incidents and unsavoury road blockades and political gimmicks on either side of the Kerala and Tamilnadu borders, has created a smoke screen of mistrust and fear. As there had been isolated instances of stone pelting on the Kerala vehicles crossing the Tamil Nadu border and vice versa, people are not willing to take risk. This could mean that most of them would be forced to put off their holidays till the murky Mullaperiyar dam situation is brought under control. Considering the fact that even private vehicles are not spared by the miscreants, holiday makers are virtually grounded without any options to move out of their cities.
In cities like Cochin ,the revelers will have late night party options, dance , special dinners and festivities apart from the elaborate ritual of downing a heady dose of liquor, which remains the most popular party activity in Kerala. On the occasion of Christmas, the festival of compassion and love , let us set aside the differences and work towards a feasible option to solve this nagging dam controversy, which if left unattended will have a spate of long term repercussions on either side. Let us welcome the New Year of 2012 with smile and peace by celebrating brotherhood and empathy!
For further Reading : A compilation of Christmas and New Year articles
Auto rickshaw, the small three-wheeled 3-seater taxi painted black and yellow, popularly known as tuk tuk, is not only a rage among tourists but also among the local travelers as a handy and cheap travel option over short distances. There are many city dwellers who depend on autos to travel to and fro their workplaces and homes, to drop their school going kids or to go about their daily shopping errands. Auto is cheaper than taxi and is a good option to inch your way through the crowded streets of cities like Kochi where traffic snarls are the order of the day. The city roads would have been so different but for these noisy vehicles that come to our aid when we are stuck up at the middle of no where!
Simple and swift, these breezy vehicles are well suited to travel even through narrow roads, and it is difficult to spot a road in Kerala where autos don’t ply! Decked up in floral garlands and the pictures of an array of gods and goddesses every auto oozes an innate local flavour. The sprawling open windows on both sides would allow you to take a peek at the sights and sounds around unlike in a sealed air conditioned cab. Much to the delight of the tourists, most of the auto drivers double up as travel guides and explain about the various tourist attractions on the way as the vehicle winds its way further down the road.
This converted scooter, built to carry two to three people, is indeed a convenient travel option over a short distance that too at a small fee. However the charm of these handy transport options are being overly marred by the growing complaints of auto drivers fleecing the commuters, refusing to go on short trips, plying without meters and behaving rudely to the customers among many others. Though the shadow police do take the erring drivers into custody, it has not done anything to solve the city travel woes of the hapless commuters.
However, this does not mean that all of them are bad. There are auto drivers who comply with meter readings and offer a helping hand to the ailing and the aged travelers; however the bad reputation brought in by a majority of them, will remain as a blotch on the popularity of this handy public transport option that is a boon for budget travelers.
The argument continues! A snappy survey in Karma Kerala office was held in a bid to know whether men prefer slim or curvaceous female frames. In this interesting game, the men grouped themselves into two teams, supporting and opposing this cause!
Times have changed ; however men’s outlook about feminine beauty hasn’t. Well at least that is what the result of this game revealed ! A sizable number of men preferred a femme fatale with ample curves in lieu of a very lean or famished figure.
The men who prefer full bodied figurines have their own justifications to back their point.
- Let us start in the reverse chronological order and go back to the olden times. Most of the Indian goddesses flaunt a full figure to die for, the masterpieces of many classic painters like Ravi Varma portray voluptuous ladies and these wall frames are grabbed for a fortune in auction halls even today!
- The Indian movie industry, the largest of its type in the world often has been the harbinger of the latest trends. It had set off a frenzy by introducing many actresses who are bestowed with the most desirable figures. It is not by chance that a majority of well known Indian heroines like Madhuri Dixit, Kajol, Hema Malini , Sree vidya and Vidya Balan among many others are full bodied. The sensuous Shakeela whose mere screen presence could pump up heart beats of many men became a trend setter in Malayalam film industry, which in itself is a proof that men adore sensuality.
- The wedding snaps of the famous American actress, Kim Kardashian, well known for her sexy curves was sold for a staggering $1.5 Million, which shows that the curves are always in hot demand!
Let’s admit it, the genes in males are made to appreciate sensuous beauty.Smitten by their erotic charm, one of our Malayalam poets had even sang that gold and feminine beauty could give you a heart burn!
Now coming back to the terra firma from epics and poems!
- When a man starts looking for a life partner, the first thing he insists is that the prospective bride should be full figured and not very lean. Whether you like it or not, even the TV ads of body enhancing tonics blare out that lean girls are NOT in demand in matrimonial circuits!
- Often well built body types are associated with fertility , health and sex appeal. After all who doesn’t want his wife to be a crowd puller in a gathering?
- Most of the Indian dresses are designed to accentuate the curves of a full feminine frame. The typical Kerala attire of set mundu is best carried off by full bodied females; and very often lean frames look miserable in most of the Indian costumes (Men say they will look like “ a stick dressed in a cloth ” ).
- Most men even have the opinion that if a lady has to wear traditional heavy jewelery, she should have a healthy body.
- These men unanimously say, if they have to balance the weight while travelling on a bike, a full figured wife is a must Or else, if a strong wind wipes past, chances are that she might fly off and the rider can lose control.
- Last but not the least , all men who support healthy , full bodied females say in chorus that only such girls can discharge their domestic chores easily and can be perfect home makers!
When the stories of cat walking skinny girls who collapsed on the ramp are going viral in the media, don’t you think that these men do have a strong point to their credit?
Here you have another version from my male colleagues who prefer slim belles- Here is what I have for lean women- a compilation of responses from them.
Angelina Jolie, Katrina, Kareena, Priyanka Chopra, Shilpa Shetty or for that matter take any leading film star today- and there is one thing in common -they are all thin. And yes, there is Kerala’s very own Kavya Madhavan who saw a steep decrease in her fan-base once she put on weight (Of course people still love her for her acting skills and her beautiful face but definitely her figure does not receive much appreciation today).
One guy cited: Thin women can become models if they want to and if they don’t want to, can look like one and win complements. What’s even better; looking thin gives an impression that you work-out (even if you have not been) and live a healthy lifestyle.
Men love thin women and women themselves like being thin. So being thin obviously means that you can enjoy advising fat women who come up to you for advices on how to lose weight.
Ha, another guy had a funny fact: No lift-man will ever refuse to accommodate you on a lift. After all you are just a few extra kilos.
You can manage to sit in a small space in a crowded bus or train.And getting seats on our Indian buses and trains is definitely not child’s play.
“They can also be easily accommodated at the rear of my bike” said another guy.
Hmm, another soft comment: No one will ever corner you asking ‘Please donate blood’. And no one will ever refuse to donate you blood in case you are in need.
This is interesting : Women are known for multi-tasking. Being thin allows you to move faster and get things done. One minute you are downstairs attending your son, and the next minute you are back in the kitchen. Needless to say you can fit into a small kitchen and do the chores easily.
A guy with a sportive mind stated: Thin women excel in sports and can play any game of their choice.
The mention of ‘Full-figured’ girls and the guys panic, thinking its an expensive affair. He will have to afford her gym, quality and quantity of food and fetch clothes of her unique sizes”. Ok, point taken.
Unlike girls who struggle a lot to lose weight (because not only guys, majority of girls do not like looking fat), thin girls can be free from gym sessions, and fitness regimes, get to relax and spend their time hogging food.
Ah, thats a point from the group: Miniskirts, shorts, nice and cut-hot trends, capris and bikinis – thin girls look the best in them! Another benefit, yes you can save a lot of money when you get to sew two sets of dress from a single piece of cloth.
All, from the group had the same view: They like their ladies to be in shape and look young and thin women always look younger than their age. With many men working out to have an athletic body today, a slim women will always be their favorite. Guys love to carry their slim women in their arm, and every time he does that it ignites romance. So the chances of lifting becomes a daily affair, and the women obviously loves it. One of my male colleagues was of the opinion that women put on weight after marriage so he wanted to keep that trouble post-marriage, so for the time being he would prefer a slim girl.
All this said, be it fat or thin, women are always beautiful the way they are!
If the rise in the number of Sabarimala pilgrims flying in to Kerala is any indication, it is quite possible that we may have an exclusive counter to cater to the devotees in the airport soon. In a dramatic change in the travel patterns adopted, Sabarimala pilgrims from the neighbouring states of Tamilnadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh seem to have opted for air travel to reach Kerala. Most of them have chucked out the once popular modes of transports including rail and road transportation. Typically, the annual pilgrimage to Sabarimala would be an elaborate and well planned trip for the devotees that might extend to 3-4 weeks at times. Most of the groups used to depend on hired mini buses or taxis to reach this remote divine destination. Often they bring along gas cylinders, provision and vegetables and cook their own meals as they travel covering all the major temples enroute to Sabarimala.
However , at present most of the pilgrims prefer to complete the darshan and return home as early as possible and it has caused a steady increase in the number of pilgrims taking the flight to Kerala. As per the figures of the Travel agents and airline officials, there has been a rise of over 10 percent in the number of Ayyappa devotees using Cochin airport.
The over crowded trains, the difficulty in procuring train tickets and the negligible difference between train and flight fare are some of the major factors that make the pilgrims opt for flights. For instance while a Chennai-Kochi II A/C tickets would cost Rs 1,300, airfares start from Rs 2,000 and the best part is that the pilgrims from the South Indian metros can reach Kochi in over an hour by air . Most low cost airlines offer 5-10% discount on group bookings for ten or more passengers apart from extending facilities like check-in for connection flights and group check-in for a group, which the Sabarimala pilgrims find quite useful.
Thus a devotee from Karnataka or Andhra Pradesh can return home after his pilgrimage in 2-3 days as against the arduous Sabarimala pilgrimage of the yesteryears mostly on foot through the jungle tracks that could extend to a week or more!
The bleak images of the war torn country of Afghanistan where bomb blasts, air strikes and trails of destruction have become part of every day life wont make it the best place to look for a job for anyone for sure! However for the cheeky Malayalis, it has become the hottest job destination after the Middle East boom. There is a classic joke that even if someone lands in the moon, he will find a Malayali tea shop owner there! Many a time, it is not just a figment of imagination but hard truth as the overzealous labour force of Kerala are more than willing to take chances for a better future.
The hefty pay packets and the massive reconstruction activities in Afghanistan are tempting the employees from the distant land of Kerala to try out their luck here. Many international companies have already set up businesses there, which has opened up numerous openings for the semi skilled labour force comprising of electricians, plumbers, welders, mechanics, masons and carpenters among others. While the US companies prefer cheap labour from Kerala, the labourers too find the deals better than the packages offered in the Middle East.
Iraq is the other war-torn country, which has seen a large scale arrival of Kerala labourers thanks to one of the best salary packages on offer. Now that there is a change of guard at Libya where Colonel Gaddafi who had ruled Libya with an iron hand for many decades has been replaced, a total revamp of infrastructure and developmental activities are expected there.
It is estimated that over 50 lakh Keralites work outside India, of which Saudi Arabia alone employs over 20 lakh Malayalis. An accurate data of Malayalees working in Iraq and Afghanistan is not available as they are often hired from the Middle East, often flouting emigration rules and keeping the Indian Embassy at dark. Instances where labourers are duped by bogus recruiting agencies too are not uncommon,as there is not much awareness of the recruitment process to these countries. However , none of these incidents seem to dampen the spirit of the Malayalees who are more than willing to take a risk to get the biggest pie of the employment opportunities. Has the lure of material pleasure made us so gullible that a few wads of currencies can prompt us to take up any job at any corner of the world?
Charity has become a short cut to publicity or a means to keep off from the tax department for many these days. However , it is heartening to note that everything is not lost yet as there are some charitable organizations and individuals who still strive for the welfare of the less privileged and the downtrodden of the society. This incident that happened in the heart of the city of Kochi was an eyeopener for me. It was a sultry Sunday afternoon and we were waiting at the signal in a busy inter junction near the famous St.Antony’s church, Kaloor. The road was surprisingly crowded because of the traffic diversions in the light of the construction of the North overbridge.
Suddenly an auto screeched to a halt and a few Muslim ladies in their traditional flowing gowns got out with a big shopping bag in hand . They hurried up to the foot path in front of the church where a few destitute people were seeking alms. They distributed the lunch packets to each and everyone on the pavement and I could see them waiting to make sure that they haven’t missed out anyone . When caste and religion have become obstacles in reaching out to humanity, the fact that they never bothered to check the religious credentials of the people before indulging in this task, made these simple acts of charity truly special and extraordinary. What amazed me was the selfless dedication these women displayed through these acts of charity. Away from the prying eyes of the media and the flashing publicity, they went about their task quietly and disappeared into the crowd in no time!
Though there is a misconception that it is just the women who are obsessed with perfect looks, this piece of information that the men who resort to cosmetic surgeries in Kerala far outnumber the women would come as a surprise! The number of men in Kerala who opt for cosmetic procedures is higher than the national average and that in other states of India!
From hair transplant to tummy tuck and nose job, men seem to have no qualms in paying through their nose to get that perfect look that they wish to have. The cost of the cosmetic correction might vary depending on the time and other parameters. On an average, a botox shot to smooth the wrinkles might leave you poorer by 14000 Rs whereas major procedures like rhinoplasty is priced at 30,000 Rs and a hair fixing session comes with a cost of 50,000 Rs or more.
Many hospitals in Kochi like Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, Lake shore hospital and Specialist hospital see a steady stream of men who die for a perfect look. Hospitals register an average of seven new patients every month, which is a proof of the growing popularity of cosmetic procedures in Kerala. The best part is that in Kochi, not only the well heeled and the affluent opt for these surgical corrections but men from all social strata approach the hospitals. It is startling to note that the number of men who do cosmetic surgeries in Kerala is even higher than in metro cities like Mumbai, which is considered as a hub of fashion and glamour!
A good percentage of men who opt for cosmetic surgeries fall under the age group of 20-35. The increasing acceptability and awareness of these procedures among men could be one of the reasons for the boom in demand. Most men are quite eager to avail these quick fix procedures and to have a perfect look. The best thing is that these options are available right at their door steps now unlike the earlier days when it was not popular in Kerala. No matter whether beauty is skin deep or not, the men in Kerala are leaving nothing to chance as they feel that they are judged by the way they look and not by what they are!