Thanks to smart card. You can now bid adieu to the nightmare of the high pitched yelling and scary stares of the bus conductors against you for not extending the correct change in city buses in Kerala. Most of the conductors hesitate to give back the change to commuters , which often lead to heated arguments and even fist fights. The smart card swipe option to travel in city buses would relieve the passengers from the hassles of always carrying change.
The success of the city on wheels project has prompted the district administration to extend the project to all private buses in future. This would make Ernakulam the first district , to issue tickets in all private buses by way of smart cards. At present 100 buses have been brought under this scheme in various routes like Vytila-vytila, Kakkanad, Aluva, Eroor, Tripunithura and Poothotta .
The inspiration for the city on wheels idea was the overwhelming success of the survey conducted by Technovia infosolutions , Kochi. The survey highlighted the problem faced by the passengers owing to the reluctance of the conductors to return the balance amount of the ticket fare. If the smart card concept becomes popular , we can hope that the city travel will become a much more enjoyable and hassle free affair for the passengers.
Bhoothathankettu dam site will be soon developed into the first adventure tourism spot in Ernakulam district. Plans are afoot to develop it into a perfect outdoor tourist destination with an aim to attract the youth for camping experiences and adventure sports. According to the district tourism promotion council, the project will be targetting techies mostly for conduct training camps. Night camping options and trekking trails will be developed as part of this adventure tourism initiative.
The project will also include a day trip starting at the Marine Drive, which would enable the tourists to experience various popular adventure sporting activities like trekking and kayaking. Located just eight kms north-east of Kothamangalam,Bhoothathankettu is a perfect choice for a quiet and tranquil holiday, however many people prefer to skip this spot due to its poor infrastructure and lack of transportation facilities. There are many leisure activities in Bhoothathankettu including jungle trails , boat rides, rock climbing and fishing . The initiative to make it a base camp for adventure sporting activities would surely give it its well desired place in the tourism map of Kerala. Indulge in the breathtaking beauty of the unexplored destination of Boothathankettu through these well captured snap shots in Sreesobhin’s gallery and we bet, it will become your favorite weekend hang out spot in Cochin .
Rise, brothers, rise; the wakening skies pray to the morning light,
The wind lies asleep in the arms of the dawn like a child that has cried all night.
Come, let us gather our nets from the shore and set our catamarans free,
To capture the leaping wealth of the tide, for we are the kings of the sea!
- Sarojini Naidu, The Coromandel Fishers
Travelling along the National Highway (NH 47) to Ernakulam in the morning, I usually happen to come across fisher-folk going about their day-to-day activities. Starting from Neendakara in Kollam to Purakkad and Cherthala in Alappuzha district, I come across lots of fishermen and women who are busy, setting off to the high seas, transporting fish from one place to another, collecting ice from ice plants (ice-manufacturing units) for preservation, selling fish et al.
Here we go, with a compilation of photographs that I took today morning, on my way to our Karmakerala office from my home town Varkala, a journey that usually takes me about four hours. I had come across some other things too, like fishermen on the way taking a break and having tea and chatting at a wayside tea-shop, fresh fish being sold at roadside markets etc. But since I had to be at office on time, I couldn’t get them all. Here’s what I got, ‘the day’s catch’ for me!!!
Recently I went on a weekend visit to the Hill Palace Museum in Tripunithura which lies about 12 Km from Ernakulam. It was really enjoyable and mind-blowing when you are with a group of friends who are ready to enjoy to the maximum.
We five explored the nook and corners of the Palace, buildings close-by and the forest behind it. At first we hurried to visit the Palace Museum where we found a long queue of visitors waiting their turn. So, the lady who keeps all the visitors’ footwear in racks asked us to visit rest of the things that do not need any restrictions and be back before the museum closes for the day. So, we hurried down to visit the Deer Park, where we found interesting herds of deer. And, then we found a path leading to the wilderness behind.
Travelling through the forest route that encircled the boundary of the property was really interesting and it was the thing we enjoyed the most. It is a rare opportunity to explore a little forest that lies so close to big Ernakulam city. It is said that the land surrounding the Hill Palace has rare medicinal plants. Lovers roaming inside the forest became an interesting topic for us and soon we were giggling away. It was fun swinging from the solid roots that hung from the big old trees like Tarzan. After a refreshing yet scary walk through the forest we went back for the Museum visit. This time there was no queue and we could easily get in.
To ensure high security, they confiscated our bags and mobile phones. It was interesting to see the things on display that were once part of the life of our ancestors. As we walked through long verandahs and stairs of the Palace, we looking over our shoulders to see if ‘Nagavalli‘ was following us (It was here the famous Malayalam film Manichitrathazhu starring Mohanlal, Suresh Gopi and Shobhana was shot. Most of the Malayalees know this).
The architecture of the time the palace is made is really amazing (Hill Palace was built in 1865 by the Maharaja Of Cochin using their personal wealth). The view from the palace’s balcony is really stunning. We can see the garden which is maintained and designed artistically, and the view of the present city beyond.
The museum displayed 14 categories of exhibits including murals, paintings, sculptures in stone and plaster of Paris, manuscripts, inscriptions, carvings etc. The collections displayed in the museum are mainly from the Cochin Royal Family. Some other exhibits are from Travancore Royal House, Paliam Devaswom and from the department of Archaeology. It has a gold crown embedded with precious stones and many valuable coins, ornaments, majestic beds and samples of epigraphy.
When the museum visit got over, we hurried out to see if anything was left unexplored. After taking a few snaps of ourselves in different poses, the last thing we enjoyed was taking a turn on a real swing (this time it was not tree roots). There were numerous other visitors including newly-weds, families with children and groups of friends, like us.
It was both enjoyable and informative to take a weekend trip to the Hill Palace, Tripunitura. If you have made plans to enjoy, get set go!
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!!!
Answering a question about my hometown
“Where are you from?” – This is one of the many questions I have faced repeatedly in my life and have answered. If I feel that the querier is not a person whom I should answer sincerely, then I will say “Kannur“, even though I am from Kasargod (because anyone will more likely know Kannur than Kasargod). You might be thinking what if it is a person who have read and heard of Kannur from news, the first thing comes to mind are Bombs and violence than a serene- beautiful place shoring with Arabian Sea, and many small rivers and breathtaking greeneries.
If you say that you are from Kannur, a person from Ernakulam might ask you – “Kayyil Bombundo?” (Do you have bomb). So, if the person asks me such a question (I am at risk), then for sure I have to tell him or her that I am not proceeding to explain, actually..I am from Kasargod. Alas pat comes the reply. “Oh, the other end of Kerala, soooo far! “ Oh God! What answer will satisfy the person, I wonder. Now, I will reply – “not the end but exactly near the borders of two districts.” Finally!
But, it’s a bare truth that I have to travel to my hometown soooo far away (approximately 10 hours), that it seems the same to me. Travelling Back and forth is a day’s (24 hrs) venture. Since I feel that travelling in train takes more hours, and makes me take 2 more buses to finally reach home, I prefer a bus journey (one straight bus) unless it is an off-season for festivals.
Like any home loving person, I too love my hometown where I can breathe in the fresh air fearing no pollution, drink fresh water from the well and, sleep peacefully without AC or mosquito nets.
Almost a half of the Kasargod District is green and the other half is at its driest during summer which turns into a beautiful place with green grass carpets and violet flowers (Kakkapoovu) popping up, once it is the turn of the monsoon season. The district attracts many visitors from around the world to the famous Bekal Fort built by Tippu Sultan. Various parts of the districts especially Bekal Fort and around are famous through various films in Hindi, Tamil and Malayalam (Bombay, Vadakkunnathan, Madhuranombarakkattu and many others to list). So, I can be proud of my native district.
I hope, I have managed to convey a small introduction to the Kasargod district at the other end of Kerala.
Maha Shivaratri, is being observed with religious fervour all over Kerala tomorrow. It falls on the 14th night of new moon during the month of ‘Kumbham’ ( February-March). The devotees keep fast all night and chant the sacred Panchakshara mantra, “Om Namah Shivaya” and remain awake. The fast is broken only the next morning after the nightlong worship. Sivarathri is celebrated in remembrance of Lord Shiva who consumed the deadly Kalakoodam poison to save the world from annihilation. Special Poojas and prayers will be held during the festival.
The main celebration is at the Siva temple at Aluva on the banks of River Periyar. Thousands of people congregate here to attend the function irrespective of caste or creed including people from abroad, who come here to know more about the ancient culture of Kerala. Aluva is only around 20 kilometers from Ernakulam and is well connected by road.
During Sivarathri, people also perform obsequies to the departed souls on the river banks in the morning succeeding the holy night. The religious discourses and cultural presentations keep the pilgrims awake all through the night. There will be a lot of entertainment options and craft and arts shops as well in the fair that will be on for the next 2-3 weeks. Special bus services will cater to the surging crowds in the next few days and all the arrangements have been completed on the river banks of Aluva to ensure a hassle free experience for the pilgrims who throng this spot from far and wide.
Varkala, my home-town is known far and wide for the Papanasam beach that attracts tourists from all over and for Sivagiri, the hillock on which Sri Narayana Guru, one of the greatest of social reformers in Kerala, had attained ‘samadhi’, where stands now the famous Sivagiri Mutt, often referred to by many as a centre of spiritual thought and spirituality.Well, starting today, Varkala will be abuzz with people and different kind of activities, focussing these two places. People from all over Kerala, especially from the Kollam, Alappuzha and Ernakulam districts flock to Sivagiri to take part in the ‘Sivagiri Theerthadanam‘, held annually on Dec 30, 31 and January 1. (I had come across, while coming back to Kochi after the Christmas vacations, groups of yellow-clad pilgrims marching to Sivagiri on foot from different parts of Kollam and Alappuzha). People from places near Varkala would be flocking to the Papanasam beach tomorrow evening to celebrate New Year’s eve in ‘grand style’, boozing, howling, paying fines to the cops for drunken driving etc.
It was in 1928, the very year in which the Guru had attained samadhi that the Sivagiri Theerthadanam (Theerthadanam=Pilgrimage) was conceived by a couple of his disciples and approved by the Guru himself. The Guru, who had always stood for the ideal of ‘One Caste, One Religion and One God’, wanted the pilgirms to observe 10 days’ self-purification according to Buddha’s principles of Pancha Dharma and wear yellow clothes,yellow being the colour of the garments worn by Buddha. He did make it clear that no one should purchase yellow silk or new clothes and also that a yellow garment can be had by dipping a white garment in turmeric water and then drying it. He desired the pilgrimage to be conducted in all simplicity. The Guru also recommended holding a series of lectures.
Of course the Sivagiri Theerthadanam began on the same lines, as said by the Guru. But in the course of time, or to be more precise, in the last one decade or so, it has attained more popularity and is now more of a celebration and fair than a pilgrimage for many. Of course there are the devout, especially those who come from far off places, who still see it as a real pilgrimage. But, there is no denying the fact that yellow robes and the seminars and lectures notwithstanding, the ‘Sivagiri Theerthadanam‘, like most other things associated with our cultural life, has taken the proportions of a festival held on a grand scale. The politics, which includes power-politics as well as caste-politics, which has crept into the ranks of the Guru’s followers too has led to it all attaining a different colour.
I too had been visiting Sivagiri during the Sivagiri Theerthadanam days in the past many years and, to be honest, I too have been seeing it and ‘enjoying’ it all in a very festive mood. But I’d say that other than the festivity-austerity issue, there is something of more serious concern relating to it all. It’s to be remembered that the ‘Guru’ had envisioned a society which would be casteless and where there would be no strifes and issues based on religion, caste and God. He had always stood for the ideal of ‘One Caste, One Religion and One God’ and had been against idol worship, but the saddest fact remains that in today’s Kerala, where age-old social evils like casteism, dowry etc seem to be still rampant (Remember our honourable President’s comments made a couple of days back?!), the ‘Guru’ and his ideals are all almost forgotten and he himself deified. In this context I am reminded of what noted Malayalam poet Chemmanam Chacko, noted for his waspish tongue, said in one of his poems about this particular thing- “Oru Jaathi, Oru Matham, Oru Deivam koodi Manushyanu” (Yet another caste, Yet another religion and Yet another God…for man)!!
I do agree that Sri Narayana Guru is there everywhere, right from Sivagiri to the bombastic speeches made by our politicians, cultural spokespersons et al to soap wrappers. (Yes, coincidentally it was today morning, on the very first day of this year’s Sivagiri Theerthadanam, that I happened to take a bath-soap out of its pack and find it wrapped by a small ad of ‘Yugapurushan’, a bio-pic in the making about Sri Narayana Guru. (It’s the same guy who manufactures the soap and produces the movie and hence the promotion strategy, hats off to his thought and novel ideas). Yes, the ‘Guru’ is there everywhere, from Sivagiri to soap-wrappers; but not in the hearts of the people. (Doesn’t this apply to all great men, including Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teressa, Buddha etc?).
Well, that’s the way things are. Anyway, since it happens in my hometown, I am always with the Sivagiri Theerthadanam. Jai Ho, to Sivagiri and Sivagiri Theerthadanam!!
Road rage was something unheard of in this small city of Cochin till recently. If you thought that it can happen only in bustling metros and in western countries, you would be in for a surprise. People on the road are getting increasingly violent and impatient in their race against the ticking clock. The so called Road rage motto that says ‘anyone going faster than you is a maniac; anyone going slower than you is an idiot’ seems to work on our city roads as well! People indulging in fist fights and verbal duals have become a common sight on the city roads and in many cases, the traffic police on duty prefers to turn a blind eye to the whole incident, resulting in the hold up of vehicles including those on emergency services like the ambulance and the fire engines!
Bad roads and traffic congestion drives up the adrenalin and tension of those behind the wheels. The over speeding buses and the teenage bikers, who almost always have a penchant to ride on the wrong side and the pedestrians who remain blissfully oblivious of the happenings around add up to the driving woes. Stray cattle heads, overloaded heavy vehicles and unruly kids who run helter skelter during the morning peak hours make driving a nightmare in Kerala even for the well experienced drivers. The current festival season of Christmas, New Year and Sabarimala pilgrimage season have made matters worse.
Road rage can be prevented by creating awareness about traffic rules and regulations and ensuring better road facilities. To make up for those traffic snarls and hold ups on the way, the vehicle owners could set out for work a bit early instead of venting their frustration on the fellow drivers on the road. As they say it is better to be late than never; so do not risk your life and limb by indulging in rash driving and road rage.
Which is what a vast majority of God’s Own Men as well Women (not to mention Children!) must be wishing these days. This is all the more apparent in the city of Ernakulam which simply cannot cope with even the lightest spell of rains. A poor drainage system, chockablock with sewage is the chief culprit.
The recent downpour has had the hapless citizens left with hardly any option but to grin and bear it all. If this is the plight of roads, the condition of the open drains (aka canals) is hardly any better.
They dutifully carry all kinds of waste and sewage, as they sedately wind their way across the city. Also, most of them act as hosts to the obnoxious water hyacinth, which further block the free movement of the canal waters.
The recent rains have added to woes of the general populace in no small extent. For one, the mosquitoes which have lai permanent claim to these stagnant waters are having a field day, or rather night.
And if the ‘thulavarsham’ shows no signs of abating, the canals might simply decide to overflow their banks and cause mini-floods.
For more updates, watch this space.