The rain woes in Kerala continue to hit the headlines day in and day out with many people succumbing to fever and other diseases, which was dealt upon in an earlier blog in this space a few days back. As pointed out in that blog, all these chaos are only man made and is not something that should be associated with rains at all.
Kerala enjoys a tropical climate with plentiful rainfall and sunshine and never before have we heard about the strange diseases like dengue, rat fever and the like! So what could be wrong? Blame it on the poor sanitation, lack of cleanliness and non existent drainage facilities that add up to the monsoon miseries of the common man. The disease transmitting vectors like rodents and mosquitoes multiply in the filth and waste generated by cities as their natural predators are fast vanishing.
The natural predators of mosquitoes like frogs are facing extinction due to the rapid destruction of wetlands and poaching by man. Gone are the days when the arrival of the rainy season was heralded by the echoing croaking sounds of large frog colonies. When man decided to fight the vectors with chemicals, mosquitoes that are immune to chemicals emerged throwing open serious challenges for the health sector fraternity.
With the disappearance of paddy fields, snakes, which were the most dreaded predators of rodents are also facing serious crisis. Many newly developed residential colonies in Cochin are constructed by leveling paddy fields and marshy lands. Even today , during monsoons, poisonous snakes like vipers are spotted here, which underscores the gravity of the man Vs nature conflict.
When will man learn to lead a life without interfering the rhythm of nature? When the going gets a bit too much to handle, nature reprimands him with tsunamis, dengue, H1N1 and what not, which we have never heard before in this tiny state of Kerala a decade or so before! If the alerts remain unheeded, the end result could be catastrophic for sure. But as usual the public and the administrative machinery fail to wake up from their slumber until a serious calamity strike us all!
Rains form the lifeline of Kerala, which depends exclusively on the monsoons to replenish the power grid and the drinking water sources. So instead of asking the ‘rains to go away’ to get temporary respite from all these problems will it not be better if we try to solve the sanitation and waste disposal issues to make sure that mosquitoes don’t breed in the stagnant rain waters and the rodents multiply in the stinking garbage on the roads. Organic farming and wetland conservation would bring back the natural predators like frogs and snakes to fill in the missing links of the food chain and this could bring a noticeable change in the situation. Last but not least, let the humans not meddle with the laws of nature, because, he after all is only a small link of a complex interdependent ecosystem of this universe!
Rains in Kerala are always beautiful, especially the monsoon that’s lashing all across the State right now. Even now, as I am writing this article, sitting at my desk at
Karmakerala, it’s raining outside. Indeed, I love the rains…
Sharaz, our software programmer here at Karmakerala, who is also a popular television anchor too, was asking callers, all of them working abroad, in his TV show a few days back, “So, you like the summer or the rains?” The unanimous reply obviously was ‘The rains”.
Yes, we Keralites love the rains. With so much of greenery, paddy fields, rubber plantations, streams, rivulets, hills and hillocks etc, rains can’t be anything but beautiful in Kerala.
These days anyhow the scenario is different. Don’t we sometimes hear ourselves chanting away, like a mantra ‘Rain rain go away…’, trying to wish away something that keeps things ticking for us, something that keeps the bulbs burning and fans whirring and televisions blaring, something that provides us with the much needed water that we don’t know how to use judiciously and wisely.
Why such a sudden resentment? Wherefore this dislike? Every year as the rains set in, diseases like H1N1, Dengue etc too spread out, causing the loss of lives all over the state. This has been the case with us for the past few years, with the sway of these diseases and the death-toll too increasing rather than going down. The rains subside in a couple of months and the lives that have been lost, of course just statistics for our media and administrators, are forgotten. And forgotten is the fact that it’s we ourselves who are to blame. Is anyone doing anything? Discussions, debates and seminars take place; a big budget is outlayed and even spent (Don’t ask where and
on what!!). I remember a friend of mine making a documentary on one of these contagious diseases with alloted funds a few years back. I wouldn’t wish to reveal as to how he got to make it and all; I too got some money and of course credits too. But I just dont know what good that film did in containing and controlling the disease. The papers carry features, photographs, statistics, comments etc. And then, it’s all forgotten. We all sit back and let it happen, as if it’s all happening in some other world, in far away Mars or Pluto.
So, who’s to take the blame? The government? The politicians? The bureaucrats? Yes of course. All of them and all of us. No one is concerned and no one does anything. How many of us are repelled by the enormous amount of garbage that’s found heaped over? We avoid going to such places; but do we think of how to avoid such places coming to swallow us all? How many towns and cities in Kerala have waste management plans working properly? You won’t be surprised to find people in Kochi carrying bags with garbage and waste at night, only to be dumped in desolate places, drains and all. They can’t be blamed? “Where else can we put it all?- they’d ask. What do we do about canals and waterways dumped with natural and synthetic waste? These and many such questions face us as we still tend to love the rains that preserve us and all the other birds, animals, trees, plants, flowers and all those things that make this earth what it is. So, what’s the solution? Do we want a dictator who can command the rains to stop or a magician who can, with a flourish of his magic wand, make the rains stop? We’d even think on those lines..So selfish we have become that like Kalidasa in the story, we tend to cut the very same branch on which we are sitting.
Where there is a will, there is a way, says the adage. So, it’s the will that matters. As long as we are not bothered, we are not going to find a way, a solution to this menace, this real big menace.
Just remember…there were people who were living here, on the face of this beautiful planet when this monsoon began a few weeks back and who sadly aren’t there now, to enjoy the rest of the monsoon or the showers in the years to come. My heart goes out to them…Who killed them? All of us, perhaps…
So, now it’s time for atonement…Let’s pray for them and for their departed souls to rest in peace, let’s join hands to drive away this menace of contagious diseases that spreads as a result of our negligence. It’s not medicines and mosquito repellants and hollow shams of speeches and all that we need. It’s sanitation that matters. Each one of us has got to do our bit, each one of us. It’s awareness that matters; spread it the way you can. It’s sensitivity that matters; nurture it and care for others….
Hope Sharaz shares this concern with his callers and his viewers when he goes to host his popular show this week….
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!!!
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!
Shyama, my colleague, wants me to write out a post…..
Now, what shall I write? Confusion indeed…
It’s been cloudy since yesterday, with rains lashing out now and then. It’s a relief, from the scorching summer heat, but I’m feeling terribly sleepy. If given a chance, I’d simply shirk work and go have a nice sleep….Oh, no! I need to earn by bread n’ butter, nay, my Kanji and Curry. So better sit on and write on, after all I am paid to write….
I suddenly remember that the Kerala State Government had yesterday declared 2010 as the ‘Coir Year’. I ask Shyama if I may write about that. Pat comes the reply, over Skype, “Cottage industry, indigenous industry… wah bhai wah!”. Yes indeed. It’s good that the government has decided to announce the year as ‘ Coir Year’ and also has taken the initiative to launch various schemes aimed at uplifting people engaged in the coir industry.
Well, I happen to hail from the Thiruvananthapuram district. There are places near my hometown Varkala where dwell people who are part of the coir industry. But I feel the number of such people are dwindling, with more of our people looking out for making big money with not-so-indigenous methods.
Well, big money is no crime, if it’s not made in an illicit manner. But it’s sad to see indigenous industries going the wrong way. Anyway, kudos to the State Govt for taking the initiative and also for thinking of raising the pay given to coir workers from Rs. 100 per day to Rs 150 per day.
But, is that what I want to write about?
I look out and see vehicles ply on the road. It rained just half an hour ago; in fact it’s drizzling even now. My thoughts wander a bit….
The monsoons are supposed to arrive in a week’s time.
It’s this monsoon, known in Malayalam as the Edava paathi, especially as it comes almost by mid-Edavam (Edavam being a month in the Malayalam calendar), that’s made use of by farmers all over Kerala.
It’s this monsoon, the South West Monsoon that solves water-scarcity related problems and fills up wells, ponds, rivers etc.
It’s this monsoon that used to drench school kids on school re-opening day.
Hey, Did I say ‘used to’. Yes indeed! It no longer comes with that kind of precision, lament many of my friends. I too tend to agree. There was a time when the monsoon would unfailingly greet school kids walking past fields and through narrow village roads.
As a school-boy, when I used to visit Kerala during my summer vacations in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, I used to enjoy seeing this, sitting in my grandfather’s shop, which used to be there by the side of paddy fields and from where I could catch the sight of a school by the road, almost half a kilometre away.
The school is there. But alas, the shop is not there. Many of the paddy fields too are not there. My grandfather is no more. And no more can I see those many sights that characterised the Edava Paathi. But still, Edava Paathi has its own beauty, its own charm in Kerala.
But I wonder how many of our people are pondering as to whether they would be able to till their fields and sow the seeds or not. Paddy fields are vanishing all around us. Why bother? We get rice, brought in from the other states!!
And what if the paddy fields and marshes disappearing is affecting the water-table? It’s going to affect the next generation only! And we can get mineral water, sold to us at Rs 10 or Rs 15 per litre. (Am sad indeed as I happen to drink well water, unprocessed and unboiled, even now when I visit my home-town, where the well is real deep and the water still pure, unpolluted and cool. But in Ernakulam, I am forced to shell out money and buy mineral water or else get the insipid water from the taps and boil it and gulp it down, to quench my thirst. It cools off the body, but not the mind!)
Hey…I am digressing! Better not…Shyama is our editor. She is also officiating as the team leader for our bunch of writers at Karmakerala. If she is vexed at me, all hell will break loose. She can put in a word against me with our bosses Thejal, Mark and Sholto. Oh no, Shyama is my friend….
God bless you, Shyama! But God knows, God only knows perhaps that I am damn tired…can’t write, er, type out one more line….
Will wind up with this…for today!!!
I love summer showers, so do many others but there could be some who prefer to turn a nelson’s eye to nature and its bounties. At least that is what I could find on the highways of Kerala on a day out in the rain, a few days back!
The sensuous smell of fresh rain soaking up the parched lands, the brilliance of the fresh sprouts of grass blades, the bright flowers and leaves around- the sights associated with rains are truly enchanting. I can spend hours together watching the rain beating down the Kerala landscape, turning it into a pretty portrait in no time. The progression of the rain is simply marvelous and for me it is like a perfectly orchestrated symphony ! The rain clouds gather with amazing swiftness, the rumbling of the clouds draws near and the streaks of lightning lit up the dark skies. Soon droplets of rain will start dropping down on the roof tops, on the puddle on the roads and on the passers by. The momentum of the rain picks up to a crescendo after which it gradually descends to a drizzle and a trickle. The dripping rain drops from the trees remain for some more time before the sun peeps in. On a bright day, you would see the marvel of a rainbow too .
I find it really exciting to drive in the rain with the windows rolled down and the droplets lashing against my face. But on any rainy day, you can see many cars on the highway, with their tinted glasses rolled up and people scurrying to reach home before the big burst; I pity those people who are badly missing out the smell, the sights and the sensuousness that only a spell of rain can bestow. Why would anyone need the air conditioner on when it is raining heavily outside? They are only adding up to the global warming unnecessarily
Let’s admit it; The neo- rich and the city dwellers have long shunned nature and its bliss. They live in air conditioned abodes that shut out natural air and light and travel in vehicles armored with tinted glasses that insulate them from the spectacles, the mood changes and seasonal shifts of nature. They live in a mechanized world and their life is nothing less than that of a robot , powered and controlled by GPRS and blackberries. They have long lost the power of perception and human traits and I wonder how they will survive if all these modern comforts were snatched off from them one fine morning!
Our irresponsible behavior has pushed this world into chaos and mayhem. With the green house effect on an all time high,the climate and its rhythm is badly upset and it is only a matter of time before we will be robbed off all these natural bliss. With the risk of acid rains looming high in the air,there might not be even a second chance. So, never miss out a chance to soak up the fun and get drenched in the rains.:)
Here is another slice of Kerala life…in fact ….slices of a few minutes in Kochi’s private buses. I am a regular traveller in Kochi city buses and there are a lot many times when incidents in the bus have amused me.
A beautiful morning: After my classes I walk for 15 minutes in the hot sun and wait for a bus to Kochi. Few buses stop by the place but all do their jobs of splashing dirty water and raising dust onto pedestrians and onlookers very well.
It’s morning 8.45 and buses to Kochi are packed. And as these buses whiz by, I find the scene of girls hanging out along with the cleaner boy and conductor of the bus (hey, that reminds me of a romantic movie), on the footboard very funny. I have experienced it too, a couple of times, and to be honest, I find it much more convenient than being inside the crammed bus with hardly enough space to keep both my feet down. At least on the footboard, you have the breeze on your face (though it is hot). And at times when I have had to hang out like this, I picture myself as a Jane (the jungle girl) hanging out on a vine and it adds adventure to my otherwise tiring bus journey. The only inconvenience of being on the footboard is having to get down at every stop before yours, to let out other people and then getting back in again to hang out once more.
Now if that’s the excitement on the footboard, you have enough fun guaranteed inside the crammed bus too. At times, I have had to stand on one leg which reminded me of the dance classes I used to have in school. Argh! And I will be brought back to my senses when someone falls on me from behind.
Tip: If you happen to be thin like me, then go grab a place behind some hefty person in the bus, cos in all probability the person behind will fall on you as and when the bus applies brakes (which will be say around 10 times in 5 minutes) and so in this case you can bear your weight as well as the weight of the person behind you on this unfortunate hefty person in front of you.
So now, here am I still waiting for the bus. Drivers look at me but they are very busy trying to overtake the bus right in front of them that they don’t have time to stop by. With every bus passing by I stretch out my hand with great hope that it will stop and each time the buses pass by without stopping I look around to see how many people spotted me all red faced in embarrassment. And alas, a group of auto drivers at the auto stand look and grin at me. Ok, forget it. Yes; another bus in sight “This time I won’t stretch my hand”. As it nears me and I look at the cleaner boy with a clear indication that I would like the bus to stop. He looks at me and shakes his head, meaning “No, there is no stop here”. Ok, forget it again! Ah! A car is crossing in front of the bus. The bus halts. The cleaner boy immediately looks at me signaling to jump onto the bus. Finally! I rush forward to jump onto it but there again, the car has crossed by and the bus swept by me just as I was about to get it. Embarrassed again! The cleaner boy looks back and gives me that kind of sympathetic amused grin. Damn it!
After a 5 minutes wait, I am finally onto a bus. People push me right to the centre of the bus thus thrashing my hopes to have “Adventure on the Footboard”. The conductor, happily standing in the middle of more than a dozen girls looks at the lady behind me and says “Chechi purakottu po purakottu”(Chechi, go back, back). I looked at her, saw her position (poor thing! She was almost falling into the crowd of men behind her) and wondered where to. She too wondered the same thing I guess and shouted back at the conductor giving him a piece of her mind. Done! He was quiet for the rest of the journey!
My eye catches the scene of another two ladies in front of me, trying to push one another. One lady nudges and the other one nudges twice. This lady stamps her foot and the other one does it twice. The latter who looked a regular traveler in the bus (I guessed that from the camaraderie she shared with the cleaner boy and conductor) shouted at the cleaner boy “Look at her, what’s she doing?” to which the other women retorts “Why are you telling him? What do you think he is going to do to me?” They begin cursing one another with none preparing to give up. Other travellers looked entertained and even the driver reduced the sound of the radio he was playing. Finally the cleaner boy intervenes “Look here, there are other people in this bus, don’t make me lose my patience, I will have you both chucked out!” lol. But I am sure the other people who were having fun at these two ladies expense wouldn’t have bothered much.
The bus passes by a large area filled with a huge pile of plastic and other waste dumped by the side of the road and girls cover their noses with their duppata or sari ends while men standing near me frantically search for their hanky. The cleaner boy triumphantly announces “Kochi, Kochi, Kochi….All of you who want to see the real Kochi look here!”
Another 5 minutes and at last, my stop! I pull myself out, then my duppatta and then my bag. Whew! I am drained of all the energy I had saved for the day. Looks like the day has got over but alas, it has just begun!
It is official. The biggest causative agents for global warming all over the world are industrial and auto emissions. The situation is no different in Kerala as well. Kochi, the business hub of this state is infamous for its staggering number of vehicles that push through the bad roads, causing terrible traffic congestion and emissions. Cochin has one of the highest car densities in India, which is ten times more than the national average. Most of the vehicles on the city roads do not pass the emission standards and one can see thick plumes of dark smoke emanating from the tail as these vehicles of all shapes and sizes wait at the traffic signals! Blame it on adulterated fuel ( many drivers mix additives to petrol to increase the mileage!) or lure for profits- the fact is that the damage goes unnoticed!
What we need now are hybrid cars that run on battery. Till these are ready to hit the roads at prices that are affordable to you and me, the only option is to use the available resources sensibly. Public transport is the best mode of transport to commute; if you find it too slow or crowded; ( Cant we run more Volvo buses at rates that are affordable to the common man?) the next best option would be the shared private cars. Yes; you heard it right. People who stay in adjacent flats and share the work space can very well share their vehicles with their colleagues! However, the irony is that most of them find it convenient to turn a blind eye ! Is it that we have become too narrow minded that we do not feel like picking up our next door neighbor or is it that we wish to be at our own pace and do not want to reschedule our timings for another person? In either case, if we all could make this small adjustment, it would be a big step in the right direction!
So, next time when you see someone from your gated community, ram that brake and offer a lift! It can save the world! By taking turns, we all can save fuel and money; above all, foster friendship and good will:) If your work place happens to be near your residence , you would be one of those few lucky souls who could tuck in a work out regimen into the day if you decide to chuck out the car and walk back home from work! As they say necessity is the mother of invention and the time has come for all of us to put on our thinking caps to come up with novel ideas to save this world from being a cauldron of burning gases.
Let us admit it; Keralites have a penchant for the gas guzzling luxury cars, which they buy to satisfy their vanity rather than to meet their needs. These air conditioned road rulers with just one person behind the wheel are not just adding up to the congestion of city roads but are also adding up to the green house effect. Increasing the taxes of luxury cars could help bring down the numbers to some extent; better still, the city administration can bring out a law that allows a person to take out the car only on alternate days as is the system in many foreign countries. The alarm bells are in the air. And if we choose not to do anything now, there might not be a second chance or a tomorrow!
With the soaring temperatures coupled with the sun burn scare reports hitting the headlines in almost all the newspapers, Kerala is trying to come in terms with the harsh reality that their land will never be the same. Though the rising temperatures in the Arabian Sea along with the green house effect has a major role in upsetting the weather patterns, we have to admit that a substantial part of global warming starts right at our door steps. It is a million dollar question whether we are doing anything about it or not!
I had this strange experience the other day when I actually saw people clad in sweater and shawls even in this weather in Ernakulam. I had been to the newly opened branch of a nationalized bank near my house on a sweltering afternoon. The fully air-conditioned comforts of the well done up interiors, was indeed a welcome relief from the ruthless sun outside. The walls decked up with Kerala mural paintings, the fresh water lily arrangements and the tastefully done up visitors lounge- everything spoke of elegance and comfort. But this is only part of the story.
When I went to the cash counter, I was shell shocked to see the staff in full sleeve sweaters and shawls. The centrally air-conditioned interior was pretty cool at 20+ degrees and the staff who spends the whole day in this chilling weather might need some woolen wear alright. But I genuinely felt that the nationalized institutions, which are driven by the tax payers money, should have been more involved and committed to environmental causes so that they set a model to the society.
So,what is the solution?All we need to do is simply retrace our roots and go back to the time tested building styles, which have stood the test of time to ensure the well being of not just the humans but nature as well! Unfortunately, we have cast away the traditional Kerala architectural style of laterite bricks, tiles and wood, which were well suited for the high humidity climate of Kerala. By aping the West blindly, we have endorsed the glass clad tall concrete structures as our homes and work places, which become cauldrons in summer. To thrive in these indoors, we might need the aid of air-conditioners, which on the other hand sets off a never ending vicious cycle ! There are many cities that give approval only for building plans that have incorporated energy saving plans like solar lighting, inlets for natural air and rain water harvesting. It is high time that Kerala too has such a system in place to do our bit in slowing down global warming.
The mercury is soaring and there is no sign of the well anticipated and customary summer showers that were once unique to Kerala weather. Blame it on global warming or the disappearing green cover over Kochi , but the bottom line reads that life is not going to be easy in cities in the days to come. To add to the woes, there is the mosquito menace, which has always been part of the city culture of Kochi.
You run a fair chance of getting a well rested night if the power men spares you from their uncanny habits of switching off the power lines at unearthly hours for reasons best known to them; lest hell breaks loose at the middle of the night! Unlike in the past, people call up the Electricity board the moment the current goes off and if you think it is because of their enhanced awareness of social rights, you could be wrong. The swarm of the winged zombies of mosquitoes is the driving force for this act , which at times also drives them out of their homes!
When the back up supplies die down and the dark hours extend to eternity, people come out to the open from their homes. Kids in their night wears could be seen walking up and down the road as if in a trance, someone would set up a bonfire where people gather to chat the night away as the women of the house serve cookies and black coffee as they wait patiently for the elusive electricity men to appear! Finally the task force of the electricity department, which was set up to ensure instant help arrive hours later- after umpteen phone calls and reminders! They spend the first couple of hours discussing the course of action they should adopt in fixing the problem; they flash their torch light on to the transformer; indulge in animated discussion sessions only to decide to leave, as the problem they felt was something complicated that could be fixed only the next day morning. But the public decide not to remain mute spectators any more and they make sure that the service personnel leave only after fixing the problem to ensure at least a brief shut eye!
As they say, patience has a limit. And in city life, are we all forced to stretch the limits day in and day out as we strive to survive against all odds? ( ironically most of them man made!!)