Come December 16th, Kochi the emerging financial capital of Kerala will be hosting the much acclaimed International Film Festival at five different venues in the city. The first edition of this film festival will stand out for many reasons. Apart from featuring a panorama of world class films from all over the world, the organisers have roped in a young German film researcher, Alexandra Schott to curate and organise the panel discussions for the festival.
Alexandra is well experienced in organising panel discussions and has been associated with a majority of Indian International Film Festivals held overseas. The team will be engaged in curating discussions on contemporary films and potential solution on socio-political and environmental issues with an underlying theme of ‘Discover India through films.’
The session will be paying tribute to the centenary year of Indian cinema with special focus on Malayalam, which will be represented by some of the stalwarts of Malayalam film industry. The interactive sessions will make the film aspirants aware of the latest film making technologies and the changing trends in world cinema and the evolution of universally accepted themes and treatments.
Alexandra opined that even today there are many independent film makers who are still not aware of the international film festivals where they can showcase their films. Film festivals like the one to be held in Kochi not only will help to bring good cinema to the audience but will also provide the much needed platform for the aspiring film makers to screen their creations to a creative audience.
With more than 100 movies to be screened including the well rated movies like Holy Motors, Love, Me and You, Sister , the film festival will be a unique event to the movie lovers of the State. Organized by Cochin Gateway Entertainment and Management Society. This film fest will bring some of the best movies from world cinema before the curtains are drawn on 23rd December .
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…
Kerala, which is reeling under severe power shortage has finally started exploring the possibilities of non conventional energy sources to meet the burgeoning power demands in the days to come. The first step in this direction was made in the form of the Solar City project, which will make Kochi the first solar city in the state. The city corporation will be setting up a committee for its launch and this innovative project will be implemented with the financial aid from the Central and State Governments.
The project includes the installation of solar energy systems to light up streets, gardens, homes and hotels along with the major administrative offices like the zonal offices of the Corporation and the Mayor’s office. Venues like the Ernakulam Town Hall will also be lighted by using solar power. In addition, solar lights will also be installed at public spaces in the city including Subhash Bose Park, Fort Kochi Nehru Park, Kunnara Park, Fort Kochi Beach and Jankar Jetty.
The Agency for Non-Conventional Energy and Rural Technology (ANERT) will be assisting the civic body in implementing this project. The State government will be supplying hundred solar lights to the Corporation on an experimental basis to light up the streets. If this highly ambitious project takes off as planned, the city dwellers can look forward to sunny days and a well rested sleep at night free from the attack of the winged zombies of the infamous mosquito clan of this city!
It was an afternoon of ‘Tsunami’ for us at Karma Kerala yesterday…
The time is 2.20 and we are working, most of us glued to our seats and computer screens. I have my headsets on and at the same time am part of a group chat on Skype, with our Scottish boss Mark Scott getting me to change a blog post. Suddenly I see some kind of a commotion and people looking down on to the road and some pointing to a fan. I don’t realize what’s happening; I guess it’s some film-star who has appeared in the studio opposite our office for a shoot or a photo-shoot that has caused the commotion. But then, why do they point at the fan that’s not working?
I take off my headphones… I hear something, can’t make out what it is. I prick my ears and listen… and hear it vaguely – “Earthquake!”
“Earthquake?! Where? When?”, I ask myself, since I was sitting in the very same office and didn’t feel anything. Thejal, Venu, Tijo, Tanweer and others move about; they point at the fan that’s swinging slightly. Aji surfs the net for updates. Praveen makes some quick calls to newspaper offices. Jisha says she can still feel the slight tremor. Shyama, who works from Delhi (Dilli), says over Skype that an earthquake of magnitude 8.7 has happened in Sumatra and that there is a Tsunami warning too…
“So the earth did tremble, after all”- I say to myself, and sit down on my seat after going around for a while.
By that time the word ‘Tsunami’ reaches our ears. My cousin who is on the train to Chennai from where he has to catch a flight to Port Blair the next morning calls me as he could not get connected to his father, my uncle, who is in Port Blair. I make a call to Port Blair, for the sake of my cousin. That gives me a clearer picture. My uncle says, “ We just felt a slight tremor, I was having my lunch then. There are Tsunami alerts in Southern Islands like Car Nicobar (I had spent my early years there), Kamorta, Katchal etc, but it’s just an alert”. (They have been used to having tremors of much more magnitude, ever since the 2004 quake and Tsunami, from which my mother, who was then working there, had a narrow escape).
Then on, it’s ‘Tsunami’ at out Karma Kerala office. People check the net for online television news and updates. Sreekumar gets calls from home; he is told that something had happened to a building at Palarivattom here and he’s worried. Jisha goes on saying she can feel slight tremors still. Praveen and Aji tell us people have run out of high-rise buildings and the IT companies at Infopark when the tremor happened. We are told the Mullaperiyar dam is safe and we needn’t worry on that count.
Over a cup of Coffee, the ‘very vocal’ Venu talks about quakes and Tsunamis. Aji once again checks the net and says people say the Tsunami has struck Indonesia. Shola says she wants to die wearing a Saree. Usha and Deepa remind her to wear a white one. Shola asks Aji when the Tsunami would hit Kochi. Aji says ‘Dunno!’. Shola retorts by saying she has to apply some makeup and lipstick to greet the Tsunami. Remya is worried that tremors are happening at Thiruvananthapuram too, her little son and parents are there. Rinoj gets calls from home, asking him to come home, at Thrissur. Ragesh calls his wife; he is now the proud father of a baby boy, whom he has named Rakshan. Amjath sits glued to his computer screen, working and in between cracking jokes.
Jisha says she is a Taurean and hence can feel the pulse of nature. Meanwhile there is a second tremor and some of us at Karma Kerala once again get the feel of it. Still I am excluded!!Caro (Carolane) moves about, inquiring things and making calls. Leneesha is a bit worried. Tanweer and Mary and Sara and Divya and Sooraj and Teena are all part of the talks on earthquakes and Tsunamis. Sreejesh, who had gone to the bank, comes back after a while saying he felt nothing as he was riding his scooter.
I ask Shyama to keep me updated, not because I am worried about the Tsunami reaching here, but because I have close relatives in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and I am concerned about them. Shyama is ‘worried’ about her Kochi apartment, which remains locked as she is in Delhi. I take the occasion to philosophize, on a lighter vein, on the group chat on Skype, saying that there’s absolutely no reason to be worried and that life is just like a ‘bubble of water’ and what’s destined to happen cannot be changed etc… It’s blah blah blah…
Rain clouds gather around and that adds to the worries and the tension that’s created.
Finally, Thejal, who manages the office and decides things here, says the ladies can go. Ladies start moving out; bidding adieu and saying, though light humouredly- “See you tomorrow, if the Tsunami doesn’t strike!”. Shyama reminds Remya over Skype- “Dress well to bed…not make-up…but running clothes”, Remya responds with a smiley and leaves with a ‘bye’, along with Jisha.
Sreekumar is busy planning work for the next day. We are in office till 5.30- 5.45 and talks are mostly about Tsunami and earthquake. We try to remain updated on what’s happening. Aji reminds me to write a post here on this Karma Kerala blog on the earthquake and the Tsunami alerts and related things.
Well, this was what happened at the Karma Kerala office yesterday; I feel this would suffice to give you an idea of the commotion that struck Kochi in particular and Kerala in general after the tremors that were felt in various parts of the state and the Tsunami alert that came into effect.
Thattukadas in cities like Cochin have always been the favorite eateries of not only budget diners or bachelors who live far way from their homes but also for those who love to savour the exceptional delicacies of Kerala. Families in cars and mobikes, back from work stop by for take aways or find a cozy corner near these make shift eateries to savour the piping hot food.
These nondescript ‘thattukadas’ in ramshackle sheds offer a lip smacking menu including fried beef, chicken and some of the local delicacies like paruppu vada and paratta. Anyone who has sampled the freshly-made thattu dosa or chiratta puttu with the fiery meat curry, well complemented by a cup of frothy, piping hot tea, would vouch for its lingering taste and easy prices. These food joints perched long the dusty roads or leaking drains often compromise on hygiene, triggering health concerns.
However, thattukadas are all set to have a stylish makeover in a few months time as Kochi corporation is planning to distribute over 100 modern thattukadas to the food vendors. Each food joint will cost around 70,000 rupees and will have solar heaters, purified water, stoves for cooking, and stainless steel platform. These neat and gleaming tattukadas will be a welcome change for the residents who can now enjoy their favorite food items without having to be put off by the stink, filth and dirt around!
This project is being carried out as part of an elaborate scheme to rehabilitate street food vendors with financial assistance from Kerala Sustainable Urban Development Project. So the die hard fans of the Kerals’s own eateries of thattukadas can continue to satiate their palates with local flavors of Kerala, cooked and served in a hygienic setting.
A space science museum is coming up in Pallikkara in Kochi, which is made famous by the water theme park of Veegaland. The Phase I of this facility has gone live a few days back when it was formally inaugurated by the former president APJ Abdul Kalam. This museum is being jointly developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Indira Rajan, a leading educationist in Kerala, who also heads the Minerva Educational Institutions in Kerala and is the chairperson of the Resul Pookutty Foundation. The selfless act of Indira who donated this prime piece of land in Pallikkara for the museum purely out of her passion for science and technology, deserves special mention. She was inspired to do something for the students to develop their interest in science after her visit to the NASA. She took up the matter with DRDO officials who promptly extended all their support for this novel venture.
During the inauguration function, a massive model of PSLV weighing a staggering 1,800kg was unveiled on December 17, which is celebrated all over the world as Wright Brothers’ Day, in commemoration of their historic 12 second flight on December 17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk.
This museum, which is modeled after the Smithsonian Museum in the US, though as a scaled down version, when completed will be a comprehensive facility featuring special sections of natural and physical science, space and defense. At present only the Space Wing is being opened in an existing building. The main objective of this museum would be to inspire the students in science topics according to the former ISRO chairman G Madhavan Nair.
The museum will be one of the best centres of excellence in Indian aerospace and defense sectors that would not only attract scientists and students but curious tourists as well. When completed, the museum will have separate sections for atomic energy, industrial revolution and scientific research apart from live experiment sections on every live and scientific phenomenon. A contest is currently being conducted for the school children in Kerala to find a logo and an apt name for the museum, which will be announced soon. Though Kerala is a 100% literate state, it is astonishing that it has not produced many scientists or researchers of national and international acclaim. This museum might go a long way in igniting the passion of science and research among the youth and help to make the world a better place to live.
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.
When MV Lahore Express, a Hong Kong flagged vessel got berthed at the International Container Transhipment Terminal (ICTT) , it became the first ever weekly direct service vessel between Kochi and the European ports. The vessel that will make service calls to the major ports in Europe such as Genoa, Tilbury, Hamburg, Rotterdam and Le Havre, will ensure a major a boost to the trade and commercial activities in Kochi.
The commencement of this service from ICTT will offer a faster transit option that will considerably reduce the supply chain cost, making Kochi one of the most important ports in the country. With this facility, the South Indian trading fraternity in Bangalore, Tirupur, Salem and Coimbatore among others can directly export goods to Europe from ICTT on a weekly basis without having to rely on the expensive option of transshipment facility. ICIT not only offers the shortest transit time but also the best rates and facilities at par with the best international ports. ICTT,which was set up on BOT basis by the DP World will play a significant role in making Kochi a trading hub of international standards, in the days ahead.
The meandering waterways in the form of lakes, backwaters and rivers in Kerala puts it in the league of countries like the Netherlands, Denmark and Greece, where coastal shipping plays an important role in easing the traffic bottlenecks. With the proposed coastal shipping route that will be completed in 2012, Kerala will be making the best use of its long coast line like these European countries. In the initial stage, this channel will be used to ferry containers from Vallarpadam Container Transshipment Terminal, which will take off a substantial part of heavy traffic from the roads leading to Kochi.
Various shipping companies and industrial representatives have evinced keen interest in this project, which will be of immense benefit to the cashew industry in Kollam, the rubber units in Kottayam and Pathanamthitta and especially the construction industry. Coastal shipping has become the need of the hour as road transport network has proved insufficient in handling the smooth slow of traffic considering the exponential growth in the goods movement in recent times.
The Great Sea Shipping Pvt Ltd based in Cochin has confirmed its plans to launch river-sea vessels on both fixed schedules and charter basis to ensure container transportation services. The company plans to start its operations with two vessels each with a cargo capacity of 52 containers connecting Kollam port and Vallarpadam terminal, by April 2012.
The coastal shipping route will infuse a fresh lease of life to the limping cashew and coir industry. It is estimated that over 10,000 containers of cashew kernels are transported from Kollam for exports and around 35,000 containers of imported raw cashew is brought back to Kollam by road and the exporters have to shell out an exorbitant sum on transportation charges. However , once the coastal route gets ready, the transportation charges can be brought down by over 40 per cent of what it currently costs by road. In the second phase of the project, the non-coastal pockets will be integrated with the minor and major ports in the state, that would make a comprehensive network of inland waterways, rivers and backwater routes, which will be of tremendous use for the rubber industry mainly centred around Kottayam and Pathanamthitta areas.