Monday, June 21, 2010

True Dravidian culture

When my wife and I made plans to shift to Chennai from Delhi and when she later moved to Tiruchirappalli, our friend K S Narayanan said, "Go lady, and imbibe true culture!" After spending seven years in Chennai and Tiruchirappalli we found that statement quite meaningful.
Have you heard the word Pandi mentioned while someone is referring to a Tamil? Then the one who said it must be a Malayali. And the tone would have been bordering on ridicule. Once, I too was part of the Malayali crowd mouthing that. Today I am wiser, having experienced the Tamil culture. The Tamils give you respect that you won't get in any other part of the country.
Even when we know the fact that Malayalam language evolved from Tamil or manipravalam, which was a mix of Malayalam and Tamil, why do we make fun of a people who have claim to one of the oldest civilisation in the Indian sub continent? The word Pandi must be a short form of Pandyan, one of the oldest Kingdoms in the country. The Pandyas of Southern India are believed to have been founded around five to six centuries before the Christian Era
While the Tamil language evolved in the third century BC, Sangam literature is dated from the 300 BCE – 300 CE, Malayalam had its origins in the ninth and tenth Centuries with remarkable development in philosophy, literature, education and the fine arts.
While the people of Kerala are losing their culture to other dominant ones, our neighbours have been able to preserve their culture, language and way of life. Go to Tanjore right in the middle of Tamil Nadu. It is the repository of rich culture that is quite Dravidian. The Big temple or Brihadeshwara temple is the right icon of true Dravidian culture. And the Srirangam temple of true Bhramanical order.
On the other hand, Malayalis are aping the westerners unabashedly. And the people of the state shares some of the psychological disorders of the Swedish or the Americans.
While I am not one for clinging to old ways of life, should we be so unabashedly materialistic?
Today, the great career for the Mallu is that of code cruncher. He/she is a churning out software to run the utilities and what not of Western nations. And, if you are not an IT professional earning in dollars, you haven't arrived. You dig?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Transport integration is the key

I now live in the commercial capital of Kerala, a city that I always wanted to live in as it is the only one in the state with a cosmopolitian charatcter.
It is bursting at its seams with overcrowded roads and traffic jam that extends to all its periphery. Even the byepass has not helped ease the situation in the city.
Personal vehicles have increased manifold over the years adding to the urban chaos. The congested roads are a nightmare when it starts raining. Monsoon is a fact that can't ever be wished away from Kerala. Rather than deal with it effectively, the city fathers sit over it and hope that the complaints would stop once the monsoon season is over. On the day it started pouring, I was out of town and came the next day to see a city with the main MG Road turned into an MG river.

I have often felt that what the city needs is integration of all its traffic infrastructure.
And I hope that the Metro Rail never comes for this small city.
A majority of the floating population in the city arrive by trains and leave by trains. Give the nature of the city, this is only bound to increase. The city has two railway stations, Ernakulam Junction and Ernakulam Town. While Junction (or South in local parlance) has two entrances, only the main entrance of Town station is approchable by big vehicles. A majority of the passangers arriving by trains either has to avail the auto rickshaw service or walk down to the bus stops about a km away.
It would be a big relief if the KSRTC authorities decide to have stops closer to both entrances of South railway station. In fact, that is how it is in major railway stations across the country. This would help cut down on number of autorickshaws running in the city.
It may not be yet possible to have a stop closer to the Town station.
Another major infrastructural development would be to move the state-run KSRTC bus stand closer to the South railway station. Infact both the bus station and railway station can be brought under the same roof if authorities will it.
Kochi has a huge waterbody that need to be put to better use. Until recently the boat services were in use. A major change needed is the introduction of modern boats and not the rickety ones that pass off as passenger boats. And better shelters need to be built at the jetties. Additionally, buses need to have a bay inside such jetties.
A common pass for trains, buses and boats would be of much help. This is working well in cities such as London and Singapore.
The Urban Transport Ministry has to work for a change. Instead of separate ministries working at cross purposes, we need to evolve a common unit to tackle the transport problems of this country. Instead of giving clearance to more car factories, the govt should get more bus factories to help solve the shortage of mass transport vehicles in Indian cities.
Even though I love to drive a car, I frequently take the bus in my city as I can have a relaxed journey!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Do you believe in miracles? I do

Many summers ago, one evening I was roaming the streets of Paris Corner in Madras/Chennai after office. I go there to buy folders, papers and such stationary. That day, I was in one of the bylanes of the area opposite the Madras High Court (I don't remember which one) when I heard a child crying out in pain. I saw a hardly five year old boy with his hand dangling, obviously broken, and not bandaged, howling in pain. He obviously belonged to one of the families that hang out with a cycle rikshaw on the streets. I asked who his parents were. One of the guys suddenly got agitated with that question. I said we should take the boy to a hospital and I offered to go with them. Those guys simple refused to heed that. And I left after being assured that they would do the needful, which I doubt they did.
Those days I was living in a house in Saligramam, a good 45 minutes by bus. When I reached home, I found the house locked. Those were the days when cellphones were yet to become popular. So I immediately asked our neighbours where everyone was. They asked me to first sit down and have a glass of water before they told me that my daughter met with an accident.
Malavika was hardly one at that time. While my mother-in-law was moping the house, Malu threw a pen cap into the bucket of water and while reaching for it fell in and almost lost consiousness.
Fortunately, my mother-in-law was able to revive her and immediately rush her to hospital where the doctors put her under observation for the night.

And the incident must have happened around the time I was concerned about that street kid. We still can't explain what miracle happened to save our daughter. That was about nine years ago. Today, she is a 10 year old in her sixth grade always watching Miley Cyrus and Mr Bean and quite aware of Orkut and Facebook. And she is always concerned about her fellow human beings. Thank god!

Waka Waka, where is India?

I was chatting with my sister living in Tema, Ghana over Google chat recently. And it was the day after the kick off of the World Cup and she informed me with glee that Ghana won against Serbia 1-0.
Her colleagues at the hospital she is working is asking, "Mrs Manju, where is the team from India?"
India (Lonely Planet Country Guide)
Alas, that sums up India's participation in the World Cup. Will we ever put up a show in the World Cup in the next 10 years? I am sure no. Even though the game is played and the Indian Premier League does exist, it fails to pick up a devout fan following as cricket in the country. I wonder why. Even England, the birthplace of cricket, has a strong team and the name Bekham is on the lips of every football lover in the country and abroad.
Kerala, which was once a football loving state where every street corner in the northern part has a football team, has swtiched its love to cricket. Maybe because there are not as many football matches taking place in the country as cricket.
The fact is I hate cricket and love football, even played it during my school days (I know, it is hard to believe it when you see me with my potbelly and haggered look. I, myself wonder sometimes how I managed to run cross country and karate during my college days).
Politicians want a hand in every pie and destroys even games by politicking. When will we stop playing games with games and actually play the game?
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

Monday, June 7, 2010

City of cricket, cakes and circuses

The famed Thalassery biriyani was a let down when I finally got to savour it at Paris, the restaurant in Thalassery town that has been serving the famed food of the Mughals for decades, last month. I was used to the hot fare that they serve elsewhere in the country. Or even the Thalassery biriyani that they serve in Trivandrum.
When we arrived in the first British town of Kerala on May 22, tasting the famed biriyani was on our list of things to do in that town. When we asked around for the place to have the particular Biriyani, we were told and directed to this old restaurant near the bus stand that is reputed to serve it. At the restaurant, which is a bit run down, they still serve the old biriyani, untouched by any modern tastes. There were no eggs to be found in the servings and it was no great shakes. The spiciness was missing as we thought it should be. But what the heck, who said a Biriyani needs to be spicy.
And the town is famed for its cakes and other sweet delicacies, handed down from British masters of the town. It is also known as the birth place of the Kerala’s first newspaper, (Rajya Samacharam) first English school and first college. Herman Gundert set up the first press of Kerala in Thalassery and also compiled a Malayalam grammar book, Malayalabhaasha Vyakaranam, in 1859, the first Malayalam-English dictionary in1872, and translated the Bible into Malayalam.
Thalassery also holds the unique distinction of having India's first Cricket Club in 1860. Lord Arthur Wellesley is believed to have introduced this game in Kerala in the 18th century for the British Soldiers who were garrisoned in the Tellichery Fort.
And then Mahe is just next door…
I love my occasional glass of vodka with a dash of lime and ice and where else to get it cheap other than Mahe. I would like to go back again sooner than later to spent a day exploring the watering holes of Mahe from afternoon to late night, guzzling beer and savouring any regional flavours that is unique to Mahe.