Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Kerala inching......... towards prohibition?

1. The landmark judgement by a division bench of the High Court has upheld the state government's decision to close down all bars except 24 in the environs of five star hotels. It also underlined the following aspects:-

   (a) the formulation of a liquor policy is very much within the purview of the state government.
   (b) access to a bar is not a citizen's fundamental right.
   (c) to the specific plea that a blanket ban on liquor will adversely affect the tourism industry, the
        court countered with, "if the tourists asked for cocaine, would the tourism industry be obliged to 
        provide the same?" 


2. In a dramatic turn of events from 01 Apr '14 to 31 Mar '15, 718 bars were closed down in Kerala, by the state government, because many of them operating in four star and three star hotels lacked hygiene and cleanliness. Some of the other contributing factors that brought about the liquor policy are as follows:-

   (a) VM Sudheeran, the KPCC president and a long time rival to Oommen Chandy, the CM pitches
         for prohibition.
   (b) Muslim League, the second strong constituent of the UDF, favours prohibition.
   (c) All the denominations of the church favour prohibition (The paradox is that a large number of
         the bars shut down belong to Christian business class!).
   (d) Oommen Chandy, therefore, calls for a phased prohibition and gets the overwhelming support
         of his party, thereby, checkmating Sudheeran's stand on the issue! The state's liquor policy,                  thus, takes shape.
   (e) It gets widespread support from the womenfolk, especially those suffering from alcoholic
        addicts as husbands - cutting across party lines - which is a powerful and alluring vote bank!
   (f) The only opposition was from the common man, the business class and as stated earlier, the
        tourism sector that fears that foreign tourists will stay away on account of its non availability!!

The aftermath

3. The aforesaid factors must not make an outsider jump to the conclusion that Kerala is gonna be a 'dry' state forthwith. The following outlets will continue to be available with a modified(?) addition:-

     (a) the 24 five star bar hotels(As cited above).
     (b) the 322 state run Beverages Corporation and Consumerfed retail outlets
     (c) the 499 Beer and Wine parlours with a proviso for the shut bars to convert themselves into
          Beer and Wine parlours.

Things to ponder

4. (a) The LDF will not be able to oppose the government's liquor policy because of its likely effect
          on the massive vote bank that supports it.
    (b) What will happen to the allegations and counter allegations on three of the ministers - the chief
          among them being the finance minister himself - in the infamous bar bribery case? The new
          liquor policy scripted by the ministry has been given a stamp of approval by the court and so,
          the argument that they'd acted otherwise, crumbles!


The new liquor policy seems to be logical enough though, it's come about in a game of one upmanship! What I'd like to reiterate is that the need of the hour, however, is to reduce consumption and not introduce prohibition!   

Monday, March 30, 2015

Problems galore!

Kerala seems to be loaded with a variety of problems, if one were to casually glance through the main headlines of the day's newspapers. Are they as serious as they're made out to be or are they the misguiding tactics of the powers that be, to deflect the collective attention of the people from a much larger malaise? I'm befuddled by the accusations, the finger pointing and their counters! Let's take a look at just three of the headline hoggers:-

 (a) A technical snag.

  The stretch of the railways in northern Kerala, from Shoranur to Kannur and onward to Mangalore
  is being electrified on a war footing and one hoped that a quality job would be done to commission
  the line at the earliest, to reduce travelling time as well as the transportation time of goods. But it
  doesn't seem to be happening - whose fault it is can be left to the reader's imagination.

  A technical snag has risen due to the lack of height of the railway over bridge, near the Kozhikode
  station. Now, don't tell me that the mathematics involved was not taken into consideration by the
  professionals while undertaking the work! Shouldn't someone be made answerable for the bungling?
  Why is professionalism and the work ethics being compromised at every stage? Why don't we want
  to give our best to our country? I wouldn't call it a technical snag, I'd rather call it a lack of 
  application and the guilty should be made to answer!

  (b) A ministry of corrupt men?

  Oommen Chandy's ministry is being painted as a team of corrupt ministers. Today, two more
  ministers have been brought into the long list of taint:-
       (i) A complaint along with evidence, has been lodged against Ibrahimkunju, the PWD Minister,
            by none other than KB Ganesh Kumar with the Lok Ayukta. It's just a fortnight ago that he'd
            voted with the LDF against the UDF's candidate for the post of speaker. He has been nursing
            a grouse on two counts viz. at not having been reinstated as a minister and for anointing a
            politician as the head of the Kerala Film Development Corporation, where he wielded
            considerable clout with the previous dispensation!

      (ii) The revelation that K Babu, the Excise Minister, had asked Biju Ramesh, the hotel owners'
            association's working president, to hand over Rs.10 crores in connection with the renewal of
            the bar licences.

   Going by the insinuations, the ministers seem to be corrupt and are shamelessly at it, throwing            caution to the winds since they're into their last year in power! A bit difficult to digest because
   politicians are adept at 'protecting their image' at all costs!! So, in this case, who's lying?

   As days proceed it will become clear as to whether it'd be a miffed LDF that could not stop the
   Finance Minister from presenting the budget and had come off with an egg on its face in the
   Assembly shenanigans that's gonna have the last laugh or whether it would be the UDF that will
   weather the political uncertainty and continue on the treasury benches to complete their full term!

     (c) 'Truckloads' of problems.

     The truck owners have been threatening to stop operating their goods vehicles to Kerala and back
     through the check posts on the Kerala-Tamilnadu border from 01 Apr in protest against the
     inordinate delay in clearing goods vehicles. The 'lorry owners' welfare association' has told the
     Sales Tax Commissioner that it would keep away from the meeting called by the government that
     has done ziltch to ease the situation at the Walayar check post at Palakkad.

     To my mind every right thinking guy works towards smooth operations at every instant. I've                always wondered as to why the Walayar check post has continued to be clogged with goods
     vehicles smothering, at times, the smooth flow of traffic. Who benefits by such shoddy state of


Swami Vivekananda had called Kerala a 'mental asylum' not very long ago. We continue to be.....just that! 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The well washers.

The well, in the courtyard of our house, gives us potable water and as a rule, needs cleaning once, every year. Our's was cleaned about two years back and a team was told to do the needful this morning but hopes were dashed as they'd not fetched up by 1000h as promised. We'd, however, collected water in most receptacles to tide over the 24 hour embargo, post washing. Around lunchtime, the team had informed us that they'd be fetching up by 1600h and were apologetic about having got caught up with an unscheduled work during the forenoon.

The cleaning/washing of wells is usually done in the peak of summers when the water level is the lowest, so that the water that requires to be pumped out, to empty the well, is minimal and manageable.

Finally, at about a quarter past 4, Sarath, Kannan and Ligin fetched up on two swanky and gleaming motor cycles immediately exploding my concept of the well washers that I'd seen of yore. On interaction, came to know the following:-

      (a) they're of the same age at 22 yrs
      (b) they're class mates from the Sree Krishna School nearby and good friends
      (c) each of them pursued different professions and worked on weekends, together, to wash wells!
      (d) by doing so, their friendship remained vibrant and strong as ever.

Kannan pressed clothes for a living, Sarath had his own Aluminium sheet metal turning shop at his home and Ligin worked as a sales representative for a small garment company. Though they're friendly and close, I noticed that they didn't follow each other blindly and expressed their differences, where needed - the necessary hallmark for a robust friendship! For example, both Kannan and Ligin sported ear studs while Sarath hates wearing them!!

The washing was done very professionally. Coconut husk was used to clean up the sides and the rings within. Sarath had gone down to the bottom of the well to clear the floor off dry leaves, an odd twig and lots of loose sand which were passed on outside in a biscuit tin, drawn through the pulley and I was shown the cleared bottom at the end of the exercise. Meanwhile, the others had disposed off the litter outside and had deposited charcoal(burnt coconut shells) and rock salt on the floor of the well for maintaining the potability of the seeping water, at all times.

The total time taken for the exercise......an hour and 45 minutes! Their wages...Rs. 2,000/-!!


(a) The three of them have joined the e-literacy campaign of the Foundation to stop the exploitation of the poor. They've also promised to add more of their friends into my 'action team'.

(b) I did learn a new thing from them. Usually, an embargo on drawing water, from a newly washed well is clamped, for 24 hrs. The water during that period would be bitter and drinking it should be avoided, however, the same water can be drawn for the purpose of bathing or washing.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Dad was right!

We'd set off at a half past 6 for Koduppana. George was efficient as usual, though a block in the passage had us deviating from the main route and use up over 45 minutes in catching up. Consequently, breakfast was delayed till we found a suitable place, short of Chertala. The day was uncomfortably warm and the vehicle's air conditioning system had a problem but the discomfort was overcome thanks to the continuous good humoured banter between us.

We're at the destination at 1030h and the boat was used to transfer mom to the venue. Lekha and Rema could negotiate the narrow wooden bridge with ease. The place thronged with people and the final preparations were on for the placement of the idols on their respective spots and the connected pujas. They'd retrieved two of the three idols - the 'Nagaraja' and the 'Nagayakshi' and these two were to be placed with a 'chitrakoodam'(the place where the celestial serpents cohabit!) at the main venue.
The third idol, the 'karinagom' hasn't been located yet and therefore, a 'chitrakoodam' has been placed at the second venue - about 50 meters away from the first, with the fond hope that the lost idol would find its way to its symbolic home, the 'chitrakoodam'. This has been done based on astrological pointers! The actual dedication was at 1200h and it was a grand ceremony.

The highlight of the day was our familiarisation with our relatives drawn from Koduppana. The welcome that they gave us was spontaneous and sentimentally touching! Mom was the cynosure of everyone's eyes and I was reminded about my dad's words - she was charged and I found her to be extremely thrilled to be amid the crowd. She reminisced about her previous visits to the place and rattled out names of her elders who'd always looked after her well. The families got around her to hear as many stories and anecdotes that she could pass on...she was easily the star of the day! Yes, dad was right!!

Mrs PN Panicker's family was almost complete except for Vilasini kunjamma because her daughter, with whom she's staying currently, is down with chicken pox. I believe that there's an unwritten rule that no one from such homes can attend ceremonies of this sort!? It was evident that everyone had made it to just meet the rest after what has been a long, long time. I was able to promulgate the next meeting of the family at Paravoor on 24 May, to which there was a unanimous chorus of approval!

After a lovely lunch and extended goodbyes, we'd finally begun our return trip by a half past 2. The unbearable heat of the afternoon accentuated by an erratic a/c of the car, coupled with a massive block at Edappalli did zap us, albeit, for a short while.

We're at 'The Quarterdeck' by a half past 7. A nice, sentimental trip where we'd the privilege of meeting almost every member of the family!


The water well rejuvenation team is expected by 10 in the morning tomorrow. Another of those inescapable activities that ensures continuous supply of water in the well even in the harshest summer heat!


Friday, March 27, 2015

The impending pilgrimage.

Mom has been very excited about our trip to Koduppana tomorrow. It's the dedication of the 'Nagaraja' temple of her mother's family to the public, after a series of tantrik and restoration pujas. This has been brought about after co-ordination with the many branches of the family as the 'discomfort' caused by the neglect of the deity was wreaking havoc on the present generations as explained by the astrologers.


My great grandmother had two brothers younger to her and the elder of the two never believed in any of the religious practices. The family inheritance of about 5.2 acres of land was sold off for an attractive price, with scant regard to the 'Nagaraja' idols that used to be prayed to by the family, every morning and evening, by lighting the sacred lamp.

The details of the transactions were not divulged to my great grandmother, who'd by then shifted to Ettumanoor with her younger daughter, after the death of my great grandfather. The biggest tragedy was that in the process of accumulation of monetary gains, the vital aspect of the family's snake deity was played down by the money-oriented sibling, saying that it was all falsehoods based on superstitious beliefs! Consequently, the huge tree and the thick undergrowth were all cleared off with amazing speed, so, our elders recount and the stone statuettes were disposed off/buried without any trace!

The price that all the concerned parties had to pay, over the years, can never be quantified but the family did suffer by the spate of ill luck that befell many of its members like infant/untimely deaths, late/childless marriages and congenital illnesses, a predominance of girl children to boys - though, personally, I'm of the opinion that it's a boon - all attributed to the snake god's negative orientation towards the family due to that one man's misguided ventures. Story has it that even he too met with a miserable end! It was this wrong that has been corrected after prolonged discussions within the many branches of the family - my great grandmother's and her two siblings' - over the last few years, because there are many non believers among us who still believe that the whole thing is a big hogwash but have mutely agreed to go with the majority, though I believe it to be out of a deep, inherent fear in most of us, if not all, about the wrath of the snake god and its dangerous consequences and the restored and refurbished sanctum is now ready for dedication. 

The plan.

But the single approach to the shrine is a narrow, mud road along a narrow rivulet and connected water sheds which is a little over a kilometer. Mom would find it difficult to negotiate that distance in her present condition but she insists on having a peek at the place where she'd spent her childhood and I can understand her sentiments! To overcome this aspect, I've hired a country boat which should help not only her, but an uncle and an aunt who have similar problems in locomotion.

My sister, Rema, had fetched up earlier in the day for the pilgrimage and it will be George who'll be our 'saarthi'. The puja will begin around 10 AM.

The rest of the family will be joining up from Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Kottayam, Kayamkulam etc.


I remember the last time that we'd gone to Koduppana, which is in the district of Alappuzha. It was about a month before my dad had passed away. He'd surveyed the entire area sitting in the car and at one point of time, I remember having asked him about his first visit to the place and his reply still resonates in my ears and I quote, "I'd visited this place soon after our wedding and many times after, till its disposal, by which time the original 36 acres of greenery amid an abundance of water had shrunk to a miserable five odd acres thanks to mismanagement and greed. But the lasting fact that I remember about the place is your mom's energy that gets charged during every visit".         

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A cause for disappointment!

Today's semifinal game in the World Cup Cricket between India and Australia turned out to be a huge disappointment after we lost by 95 runs. I must admit that I was pretty sure that we'd win, a thought that had firmed up by the team's performance in the last five games so much so that when my neighbour had broached the topic - after our impromptu get together last night - I'd assured him that there was no doubt that we'd be the winner!

Towards the run up, I was glad that no one was making any pompous statement about our game and the whole side seemed to be dignified in their behaviour barring Virat Kohli's outburst at an Indian journalist, followed by an apology on realising that he'd erred, about ten days' back. I ain't gonna delve on the game as such because so much have been said about it in the media that all Indians must be saturated, about the minutest details, up to their gills.

Notwithstanding the saying that 'may the best team win the cup', I've a sneaky preference for the Kiwis to lift the world cup - and no, it's not because Australia has thrashed us - for the following reasons:-

  (a) New Zealand has never won the cup since its inception.
  (b) In fact, it has never even entered the semi finals previously.
  (c) Its present team is cohesive and has displayed outstanding performances thus far and
  (d) Pitched against Australia, it's the underdog and hence, my unconditional support!

           *                *                 *

I'd spoken about Nisham, who'd killed a security guard nearby at the Sobha City about two months back and is under police remand, going through the investigation process. What's funny is that while he's taken around for the purpose of fact finding, his cuffed hands are always covered with a towel or as it was reported today, with a plastic gunny sack. My questions are:-

     (a) Does he feel that he can hide his beastly act of murder by mere covering of the handcuffs?
     (b) Is this the done thing for all people who're accused in serious crime?
     (c) Why does the doubt linger that Nisham is bestowed with benevolence from the people that


A day when I could catch up on some reading, without interruption!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A worry that was unnecessary!

I'd read in one of the Malayalam newspapers that the banks were going to remain closed for a comparatively long period after 26 Mar, on account of a string of holidays like the Mahavira Jayanti, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and also due to the flurry of activity connected with the end of the financial year on 31 Mar!

I'd made up my mind to go to my bank and withdraw money to make some important transactions that would be falling due during the course of the long break. But what made me uneasy was the call for 'hartal' by a political party - in Thrissur district - because one of its party workers was brutally hacked to death last evening. So, after seeing off Ninakka and finishing up my morning chores, I'd headed for my bank where a smiling Jayakumar, the Manager was too happy to receive me. (He'd said that his spirits are generally pepped after his interactions with me and I've taken the complement a darn too seriously!)

It was his explanation that finally calmed me down, though I'd pulled out the money anyways, because of the trip that I'd made! The following are being highlighted just to enlighten us about these so-called bunched up holidays:-

    (a) the Saturday-Sunday holidays for the banks as per the latest government-bankers discussions
         is yet to be promulgated as a law and hence is not applicable currently. The Banks will continue
         to work on Saturdays till the promulgation.
    (b) Mahavira Jayanti is applicable for the banks of northern India and not for their southern
    (c) Maundy Thursday is a holiday for the offices of the state government and hence not applicable
         to the banks!
    (d) Regarding the 'hartal', everything went normal and no disruptions were encountered on two
            (i) the people took to the streets against the hartal saying that they wouldn't let their
                 lives be disrupted by frequent calls for closures.
           (ii) the political party that had called for the hartal wasn't too strong enough(?) to enforce its

Thus, the so called 'spate of holidays' was a press report that lacked understanding of the basic issues and published, obviously without adequate home work. Imagine the tremendous agony that it must have caused to many, many people like me!?


(a) Thankfully, the very same newspaper was gracious enough to publish their 'error' in today's edition though I'd come to see it only after returning from my trip!
(b) While expressing my anguish over the death of the political worker, it's my fond hope that the culprits are brought to book at the earliest.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Ninakka comes by.

It was past 2000h. I'd long since returned from my customary walk and we'd our fruit session when mom was regaling us about incidents that had taken place during her school/college going days. My cellphone, plugged in to a power socket for charging, started ringing incessantly, urgently.

It was Ninakka, one of my childhood friends and neighbour at Thiruvananthapuram. She was calling from Kozhikode after finishing her official work and was checking out as to whether we're at Guruvayur and on getting the nod, was quick to announce that she'd like to spend the night at our place. Later on during our conversation, we'd come to know that she was booked into the Inspection Bungalow of the state'e electricity board out here - she's one of the five chief engineers and is slated to get kicked up into the Board of Directors, this May - and had changed her plans to be with us!

Nina's pappa(Balaguru Soman) and mamma (Dasamma teacher, who taught Physics and English at the popular Cotton Hill Girls' High School) had become our neighbours while we stayed at 'Kalpar' - the acronym for two sisters, Kalyani and Parvathi - on the Eswara Vilasom Road. Since Nina's pappa went on a lot of official tours, I and my younger uncle used to be diverted to their house for -  what they'd call in cricket - night watchmen's duties.

Nina, then, had four siblings and they used to join us in our evening games that consisted of seven tiles, hide and seek etc, etc. It was fun as there was a sizeable amount of children thanks to our joint family! Nina's maternal grandmother took a special liking to me, used to regale me with her stories and give me eatables, that she'd keep aside only for me. The two families' easy going relationship had got disrupted when my grandparents had shifted into another rented house at Vazhuthacaud. I'd, meanwhile, become a boarder in the Sainik School.

After her arrival a trifle after 2230h, we'd reminisced those halcyon days in which a visibly excited mom was an active participant. Time did fly past and we'd tucked into bed later than usual!


There's never a dull moment. Those of you who'd thought Guruvayur to be far away and isolated need to really have a second look!

Monday, March 23, 2015

A favourite cousin.

Rajasree. She's the second daughter of Ramadasan Kochachan and Sarojini chittamma - Ramadasan Kochachan is my dad's younger brother, who resides in Nasik.

They've three daughters - Jayasree, Rajasree and Jyothisree, in their order of seniority. Of the three girls, Rajee as she's popularly known in the family and among her friends, is full of life and outgoing. She makes friends easily and has a wide circle of friends, who drop in to spend time with her in their beautiful home on a small stretch of the Goan beach.

Rajee and Anil have a son and a daughter who're pursuing professional courses. Their world seemed to be full of fun, frolic and laughter. Probably, they'd too much of their share of good luck because disaster has struck the family. Both of Rajee's kidneys have failed and she needs dialysis periodically. She's to undergo a kidney transplant, in a reputed hospital in Bombay, shortly and her elder sister has volunteered to donate one of her's!

I'd come to know about it only yesterday when kochachan had called me up to arrange for a suitable accommodation at Bombay - to facilitate the attendants' stay in the vicinity of the hospital - for about a month. I was angry with Rajee for having brought it upon herself because she's the perpetual do gooder - always worried about the others while being least bothered about her own self. She'd lost the sight of her right eye, in a similar fashion, for not having got it treated on time because her then infant son was going through a difficult health situation, many years ago.

I believe, being a teacher, she hated missing on her classes at school lest her students lost valuable time in their studies. Any pain, therefore, like headaches, toothaches and what have you were 'sorted out' with pain killers. Though she got short term relief, her kidneys were taking a beating all these years and in the end, succumbed to the savagery!

A mistake that many of us commit. We're all doctors without having studied Medicine and administer medicines on ourselves and to our near and dear with a gay abandon drawing deep into the shallow knowledge of medicines acquired from magazines and television commercials!

With the excellent medical facilities that are available in our country I'm sure that Rajasree will beat this emergency and come out hale and hearty. But I'm angry with her for the appalling situation that she's gotten herself into.


I shall end this with an anecdote to show as to why I like her more than any of my other cousins from my dad's side. Years ago, when we're kids, while playing on the riverbank at Trimbak I'd seen her trying to walk on my footsteps that were imprinted on the sand. When queried as to why she was doing so, without any hesitation she'd said and I quote, "I'll go my chettan's way as I'm very, very fond of him".    

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Amusing sights!

"Life's so full of a number of things, I'm sure we could all live as happy as kings", so said a bard not very long ago. If we're to pause and look around - for a while, forgetting all our worries and our sorrows - we'd be able to appreciate the good things around and probably, laugh our guts out at the follies that abound! I'm giving you three sights that I'd come across and here, I go:-

 (a) Whose head is it, anyway?

  I was on the last lap of my customary walk in the morning. Just before the turn into the compound
  where my house is, a transformer of the Kerala State Electricity Board perched on a set of four tall,
  wooden legs gives a comfortable parking space, in its lee, for the police on patrol to observe errant
  motorists. I saw the circle inspector on the beat, who gave me a cheerful 'good morning' and after
  exchanging pleasantries, I'd resumed my walk and was poised to cross the road to get into our lane.

  Just then, a motorist and his pillion came zipping on a mobike. The driver had his helmet slung on
  the rear view mirror and on sighting the police's patrol vehicle, quickly wore it and adjusted the
  straps giving one the impression that he was wearing it for the policemen's sake. The idiot - and
  that includes many motorists - doesn't realise the tremendous safety that's provided for his head in
  times of an accident by a well strapped and fitting helmet!

  And as I've stated earlier too, the logic for not making the wearing of helmets compulsory for the
  pillions continues to beat me.

  (b) Where there's never an inflation!

  A fairly well dressed young lady with a baby girl on her person had walked into our house while
  we're having our breakfast. She had come rag picking and we'd two large gunny bags full of them,
  awaiting disposal and were at a loss, till now, regarding their disposal.

  She seemed to be quite happy with the booty that included a broken electrical toy, a dysfunctional
  mosquito hunter among the numerous bottles of varying sizes and other plastic pieces. After having   dumped the waste into her huge bag, she'd taken out a 10 rupee note, with a flourish, to hand it over
  to Lekha who refused to accept it saying that the junk would fetch her much more than what she'd
  to offer. Smilingly, she finally parts after handing over Rs. 30/-!

  The sigh of relief that one lets off after a sizeable junk is removed is palpable. Furthermore, in such
  transactions, one never looks at making a killing, really! But mind you, it's a universal rule that junk
  and old newspapers never appreciate in their value, ever!!

  (c) Checking tyre pressure.

  I always make it a point to check the pressure of the tyres whenever I get my car fuelled. This
  is because of the fact that no petrol pump would check the tyre pressure if one has not taken fuel
  from them - call it 'mallu arrogance' or an unwritten 'fuel vending rule' prevalent in the state!

  As a rule, I ship in fuel from the same bunk to the extent feasible. This is because of the following
        (i) the level of impurities remain, more or less, a constant.
       (ii) consequently, fuel related emergencies are ruled out.
      (iii) the bunk accepts credit cards and
      (iv) the boys and girls at the dispensing point know me and are never parsimonious in their

  But today, it was a case of bleeding out the excess air in all the four tyres plus the spare. Against
  the mandatory 32 psi in every tyre, it was 36 psi that was registered. Driving on excess air and that
  too, in the oppressive summer heat can turn out to be disastrous. And I'd last checked the tyre             pressure at my regular bunk at Kottarakkara...perhaps, that pump was erratic then!


A quiet Sunday, the forenoon of which saw me catching up with my personal work that was kept pending for the last so many days, nay weeks!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

A couple of points.

1. Honouring the past.

It was a great evening after the morning's event at the Thrissur Town Hall where two worthies - CN Balakrishnan and Prof MK Menon - were felicitated for their contributions to society, by the Foundation. Maman and I, along with Vincent 'maash', had gone to meet and spend some time with Antony Vazhapally maash.

All of 78 yrs, Antony Vazhapally maash, is home bound as he is an Alzheimer's patient and it's his sprightly wife - a retired teacher and touching mid 70s - who takes care of him and his needs. As we entered the house - the Vazhapally couple stay with their son, the ever smiling, brought-up-with-the right-values, Sojan - the teacher had beckoned us in.

Maash was a great fan and follower of PN Panicker, and had worked beside him for both the Library movement and the Literacy campaign, often subsisting without remuneration as he was fired by the underlying idealism. His enormous love and dedication for the legend made him a frequent visitor to our home and he'd become a favourite uncle to us, kids. The ravages of time has taken its toll on his body and the slow degeneration of the mind is almost complete but he did show emotions and a crease of agony appeared on his forehead as we're introduced to him by his son.

As Maman draped the cream and gold shawl around his shoulders, he looked vacantly at us and dutifully agreed to be snapped for a few photographs. Sojan, then, took us to the nearby library for which the foundation stone was laid and later inaugurated by PN Panicker, in the early '70s. His photograph adorned one of the main walls and as I looked at his smiling visage I got the impression that he was telling me, "So, finally, you've come this way!"

Antony Vazhapally maash, it's beacons like you that are eternal inspiration for the generations to come. Maman and I consider it as a rare and wonderful privilege of having been able to spend some time with you........only wish that you'd spoken with us as in the days of old!

2. Adieu, Yusuf Ali Kechery sir.

"Jaanaki jaane", the lovely number from the Malayalam movie, 'Dhwani' came thick and fast when I'd heard about the passing away of one of the greatest lyricists of Malayalam cinema, this afternoon at the age of 80 yrs, due to bronchial pneumonia.

His house is just 13 km away from Guruvayur, at Kechery, on the road to Thrissur and he used to be a permanent fixture on the reclining chair in the verandah of his house - till recently - as life passed by him through the numerous vehicles speeding past, seemingly without respite! During his last visit, my classmate, friend and a connoisseur of Malayalam film music/literature and I'd wanted to call on him but for some reason had to call off the visit and had decided to do it later but I now find that that shall remain an unfulfilled dream!

We'd travelled together in the II A/C compartment of a Madras bound train, many, many years back. I shall cherish the short time spent, the brief exchange, especially the child's thrill in him that he exhibited when I'd listed out a few melodies of his being my eternal favourites! I'd gotten off at a much earlier destination, then.

Adieu, Kechery sir! You shall continue to live in every Malayalee heart through your melodies for the years to come. My prayers and tears to a musical genius.


At the Guruvayur temple, the good Lord had come out to 'meet' us as he was being taken for the customary three rounds around the sanctum, when we'd gone for the 'darshan' in the evening. Maman, however, wasn't very happy because he couldn't see him on his usual perch within the sanctum sanctorum!

He was seen off in the train that left Guruvayur for Madras Egmore at 2110h. And since I didn't have a platform ticket - the counter was full of people - I'd returned, after depositing his heavy suit case under his berth, without waiting to see the train off from the station!


Friday, March 20, 2015

George's simple world!

George is an ex-KSRTC driver, who now, owns a taxi and earns his living by making trips. It has come handy for him because the pensioners of the RTC have not been getting their pension regularly. He's been the 'saarthi' for many of my errands. This evening, too, I'd hired his services to go to the Kochi airport to pick up my Maman who was returning from New Delhi.

Today he showed me as to how one should head southward from Guruvayur, through Kunnamkulam, without hitting a single roadblock.

And as we headed towards the airport by about 1915h, he seemed relaxed and told me his story. He came from a large family with a very strict father who used to cane his children if they did badly in studies and they're seven siblings! From his school days, he'd a fascination for driving and hence, took it to be the foundation for his profession. An aunt, who was fond of him, had financed his driving classes and soon after, without having to wait too long he was taken into the RTC.

From the Ordinary to the Fast Passenger to the Express, his driving prowess stood him in good stead and he enjoyed his days behind the wheel, thoroughly. The fulfillment came when he began driving the inter-state Volvos for the corporation. He proudly says that he'd not met with a single accident during his, almost, forty years of service.

His family consists of his wife and two sons, of which the elder had got married recently on the 19th of Jan. This evening, he breaks the good news that he's gonna be a grandfather by November. His son and daughter-in-law work for reputed IT firms, based at Thiruvananthapuram. He and his wife are currently on the lookout for a bride for their second son. The boy wants to go through with it as early as possible even though the father insists that at 26, he's attained marriageable age only now!

As George expertly maneuvers the car through the maze of traffic, I ask him as to whether he hasn't got bored of driving. He smiles and says it's impossible to lose his affinity for driving which had brought him up to his present state and of course, because he still loved every moment, of his, behind the wheel.


George, here's wishing that you never lose your enthusiasm, ever, as we got to do longer distances, together! May god be with you in your endeavour!! 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

On an ominous note.

Lekha'd shown a couple of fissures in the graft on her left foot. The graft and the Hyper Baric Oxygen Therapy(HBOT) was performed on her left leg, exactly a year ago, at a hospital in Thrissur by an efficient Plastic Surgeon. It had taken the whole three weeks at the hospital, followed by rest for almost four months, to bring her back to normal.

There were after visits to the doctor during the four months of rest post surgery. Dressings had to be applied on the foot after the application of medicines and with focused action, things were back to normal. Lekha was back in the business of doing her normal chores like her weekly visits to the temple, numerous visits to the market for sundries and even escorting our friends and relatives to the places of interest close by. In addition, we'd undertaken quite a few long trips to attend functions that demanded our presence.

After seeing the fissures on the grafted skin, I'd promptly sent a mail to the doctor asking for an appointment to which he'd replied that he'd shifted abroad where he was working currently. It was a double blow when we'd come to know that the 'HBOT' department of the hospital had ceased to function ever since the doctor's exit! The hospital's management had confirmed that they're on the lookout for a suitable replacement and solicited my help/contacts to help them find a new one!

I've been put on the defensive because the doctor's words, during the last after visit, rang deafeningly in my ears and I quote, "the graft should be safely in place for many years so long as the SLE doesn't raise its ugly head because if it does, the system could reject the entire graft as a 'foreign' body!" I remember having been extremely angry with the doctor for not telling me about this aspect before the commencement of the treatment because, if and when the rejection were to take place, the wound would be a much larger one, than the original, that was made out to put the graft in place!

Hope, like mad, that things don't reach such a sorry pass.


There's a saying that, "in life when a door gets shut several others open, offering a slew of opportunities". Lekha's elder sister tells us that in Kerala, HBOT has commenced in the naval hospital, Sanjivani,  and the AIMS, both at Kochi. We shall head there after fixing up an appointment!       

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The height of callousness!

There was a flutter this morning regarding the sudden disappearance of Rs.800/-, kept at the open shelf  in the dining hall, to pay the guys who were to supply the LPG refill that had long fallen overdue.

Lekha'd placed the money, along with a xerox of her 'Aadhaar card', in a used white envelop so that it could be handed over to the 'gas man' as and when he'd come. This was to avoid last minute panic and running around for the papers, even an unwanted clambering up the stairs. No amount of searches yielded the desired results. She'd inquired of me as to whether I'd seen it to which my answer was a firm 'nyet'.

The next step was to see as to who all were the outsiders who'd have moved around the house since Sunday because she'd positively seen the cover that day. The only two names that got tossed up were my younger uncle's and that of Lekha's faithful assistant. There wasn't any reason to doubt the two and the riddle continued to get murkier!

Lekha's assistant was touched to the quick, offering an enticing offering to 'Guruvayoorappan' for tracing the lost booty(?). Due to an utter bankruptcy of thought and to abandon further searches, she'd opened up the dry waste basket and lo and behold, there was a torn cover with the money neatly folded and completely intact within it, which she handed over to her 'memsaab'.

Naturally, Lekha had to confront me because mom wouldn't do such a thing. And then the past unraveled by itself. Yesterday, in a sudden fit of spring cleaning, I'd cleared up the small clutter of papers on the shelf and I'd noticed the white cover which had my scribbling about an information that was passed on to me over the telephone, quite some time back. I must confess that I've this habit of scribbling down 'hot' information on anything that comes in hand only to forget about the same, when it's required most urgently. In this case the info had been used and therefore, I'd torn up the cover and tossed it into the waste paper basket without bothering to look at the contents!

I've lost important information in the past too, thanks to this callousness of mine.

I could only tender a helpless look at Lekha over the faux pas!


Saw the MLAs, who'd created a ruckus in the state's Assembly last Friday, being given great home comings at the railway stations of their respective home towns. The crowds obviously brought in by their parties and well wishers gave each of the five 'temporarily suspended' lawmakers a rousing welcome. The guys returned the felicitations with their fiery oratory!

By doing so were they trying to justify their inexcusable actions, I wonder? How do they satisfy their inner voice when they're by themselves?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Maintaining a tradition!

The annual festivals of the temples are taking place with a remarkable regularity, all over the state, in these months. The 'Kosapilli temple' at my dad's place - it belonged to my paternal grandmother's family and handed over to the government by my grandfather years ago - is celebrating its annual festival during the coming week.

Dad had been contributing towards the entire range of expenses to feed everyone, who come to pray at the temple, over the entire one week of the festival. I've been continuing with what my dad had been doing despite my earlier reservations which I used to put across to him, during many of our discussions when he was around - the argument being that most of the traditions were followed by the elitist Nair families to show off their power and pelf to the others and did not have noble causes.

My opinion on the subject hasn't changed even now but I continue with the traditions on two counts:-

        (a) My dad had wanted it to be done and so will it continue without anymore questions being
        (b) Mom should not be pained by any action of mine and I know that she wants it done as

I'd transferred the requisite amount into our caretaker's bank account and I'm sure he'll do the needful. In fact, he takes pride in the fact that he's doing it on our behalf. As regards to the question as to whether the temple authorities would provide the best food, without our supervision, my answer - at the risk of sounding too naive - would be that anyone who does otherwise will be taught a lesson by the good Lord. None of us, from the immediate family, will be there during the festival due to other commitments.

Not very long ago, when my grandparents were alive, everyone from the family was expected to visit the temple twice everyday during such occasions - one, in the morning and the other, in the evening and my grandfather ensured that everything went off well during the festival, with the standard of food provided to the people maintained at immaculate levels.

Time has passed.......... priorities are changing...........and traditions followed, to the extent feasible!


Today's sad news that a young IAS officer had committed suicide in Bangalore - the family insists that he was driven to it - because of pressures at his work where he'd dared to take on the powerful builders' mafia for their wrongdoings. RIP, DK Ravi! We hang our heads in shame for your untimely end. Here's wishing that the culprits are brought to book at the earliest and may your near and dear ones have the strength to tide over these difficult times.

Monday, March 16, 2015

It's been 12 years!

Life's all about relationships. Does the intensity remain the same over time? Or does it diminish, once the object of our love vanishes from the scene? Time, they say, is a great healer and that singular statement seals the debate, always! Or does it really?

Twelve years have passed since Bruno, our pet Dobermann, had passed into the mist of time. Around thirteen past 6 in the morning, of that bad day, he'd died in my arms as I was bringing him up the stairs of our building at Arjan Vihar in Delhi. Earlier, I'd removed his chain and whispered into his ears that he could run away, prance around to his heart's content and had run away from him expecting to elicit some reaction from him.

When I'd looked back at him I found that he was gazing at me sitting still at the spot that I'd left him - I still remember that gaze of his quite vividly, even now. What was he pondering upon? The knowledge of his immediate end? And my ignorance about it? The inevitability of life? ........And a few minutes later, as I was carrying him upstairs with his fixed look at me almost throughout that short span of time, his head had dropped lifelessly against my chest - all it took was a gentle tug for his noble soul to leave the body.

Was he happy being with us? I'd like to believe that he was. The wound inflicted deep within, on his departure from amid us, continues to sear.

I must guiltily confess that I'd forgotten about the day's significance in the eagerness of going around my daily chores. Even Lekha seemed to be in the same boat and it was much later in the evening that the thoughts about him came flooding by, when 'Bunty and Babli' - the couple who'd helped us while we're at Delhi - had called up to say that they'd visited Bruno's grave site and offered their floral tributes.

Apologies, Booney for having forgotten about you!

Tomorrow, we shall ring up Bunty and Babli and wish their daughter, Renu, many happy returns. She was born exactly 24 hrs after Bruno's passing away and I'm convinced that she's his present incarnation. Initially, he used to keep a distance from Babli - though he'd an affinity towards Bunty as he used to take him out for walks during my absence - but took a liking towards her during his last few weeks! It was fascinating to watch him gravitate towards a 'very much pregnant' her!! Was it an acknowledgement of his would be mother, I wonder?


I shall end this thought on a melancholic streak. There's a vintage double storeyed house on the lane that I pass by everyday during my customary walks in the evening. An old lady used to sit on one of the chairs within the enclosed verandah, all through the last fourteen months. We've never spoken with each other but there was a silent 'conversation' between us - I mean, she used to wonder as to why I'd missed a walk - her looks used to say it all. During the last week of February, I'd found her chair empty much to my consternation and there seemed to be nobody with whom I could inquire about her.

This evening I found the house in an advanced stage of demolition. Were the children waiting for the old lady to pass away? Or has she shifted to be with her children so that the house, along with the site, could be put to advantage for commercial purposes?

I'd like to believe that it's the latter though it shall be my endeavour to find out about the old lady. ...........Why am I concerned about her? Are we cosmically linked?          

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Blast from the past!

It was around a half past three in the afternoon when my cellphone had rung, jolting me up from a light afternoon siesta. The number seemed to be a new one and I answered it as soon as I regained my bearings!

It was the driver of the Santro that had hit my car from behind, about a fortnight back, when I was returning from Thrissur after dropping my friends, Anil and Radha, at their home. What had happened was that I was overtaking a private bus, when all of a sudden, it had veered to the right abruptly, to clear itself off another car that had stopped on the side of the road, a few feet ahead of it. Since I was on a comfortable speed, I could bring my Chevy to a stop comfortably but no sooner had I done it came a dull thud at the rear end, thanks to a dark-greenish Santro, which had braked hard as it was obviously doing high speeds!

My heart sank because here was another dent on my car, immediately after its retrieval from the garage, following major repairs a couple of days back! I'd slowly negotiated the car to the side to inspect the damage fearing the worst but to my pleasant surprise, there wasn't even a scratch and I quickly thanked my stars for it. Turning my attention to the car that had bumped into me, I found that its front acrylic bumper had come off from its moorings, dangling in a grotesque manner and I immediately fell sorry for him.

On inquiry, I came to know that the owner, a lady, her son and their maid were being driven by a professional driver on hire who lamented that the vehicle did not have the mandatory insurance cover for the last five to six years, ever since the initial one had lapsed but never renewed. They're at a loss about their subsequent plan of action.

I'd asked the driver to take the car to its garage and get its insurance renewed forthwith, to help get some relief on the expenses that would be incurred on account of the repairs. In good faith, I'd handed over my contact number in case of further queries and had told the young man that I'd be away for a fortnight on account of the 'yatra'. He'd then sounded apprehensive as to whether I'd even take his call but I'd assuaged his fears then.

It was he who was on the line saying that consequent to the renewal of the insurance, a sum of three grand had been spent on the car and that I should give him at least half that amount. I'd to politely decline his request and remind him of his error, all over again. It was then that he'd got abusive and even threatened to 'see me' in future and rattled out my car's number! I could only laugh it off as a misplaced youngster's tirade that had no malicious intent!!


Was I naive to hand over my contact number to a stranger?        

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Day 14 - Tryst with Palakkad put off due to 'hartal'!

The drive back was on a solemn note as we could not complete the 'yatra' as desired. Incidentally, I'd driven through the same road about three years back to drop my nephew at his college and its condition, then, was pathetic to the point of there being no worthwhile surface to drive on! In contrast, Nixon, our 'saarthi', found the highway to be good, though narrow, on a few stretches!

We reached my point of disembarkation at Guruvayur, around an hour past midnight. My younger uncle had also got down with me as he wanted to pay obeisance at the temple and continue with his journey to Kidangoor, later this evening after the hartal hours got over. Before getting off the vehicle, I'd handed over the breakup of accounts for the last ten days to Maman and had added up the last three entries during the trip, post dinner.

When I was handing over the papers and connected bills, Gopalakrishna Pillai sir commented on my systematic maintenance of the log of expenses and I'd to reiterate my belief on this score which was, "There's no relationship when it comes to matters of money because the accounts ought to be ready for the strictest of scrutiny at all times as public money is never one's own". Period!  

It's a quiet day after what seemed to be a long time. My uncle had gone to the temple in the morning for his tryst with the Lord. My mom was given a detail round up of the 'yatra' and she did have quite a few pointed queries regarding its planning and execution.

The 'hartal' was complete as no one wanted to take any chance of venturing out for fear of backlash from the LDF guys. Moreover, such are the times when the anti-social elements take advantage and it's better to be prudent than to be foolishly adventurous! But what was on everybody's lips was the big question as to why a 'hartal' was called on a second Saturday, when most of the the central governmental institutions and schools were closed!! It makes no effect, you see.

The answer was not very difficult to figure. The UDF had won a tactical victory in that their Finance Minister had 'technically' presented the budget on the floor of the House against the LDF's call, over the last few weeks, that they'd prevent the FM from presenting it at all costs! The hartal was basically to cover that pyhrric victory!!


The few people that I'd come across during my customary walk, this evening, did inquire about my long absence from the circuit. My movements are being noted, huh!?  

Friday, March 13, 2015

Day 13 - Kasaragod.

It's a bright yet warm morning. We're ready well in time and were at the venue - the district planning commission's conference hall - at the appointed hour. The crowd had begun to trickle in and by the time the meeting had begun the strength had stabilised at a hundred and ten participants.

Of the districts covered thus far, this was the district where PN Panicker's memories lingered fresh even to this day and someone had quoted his words(I was hearing these for the first time) - "If I were to die at Kasaragod, my last ceremonies should be done here!" - showing his deep emotional connectivity with the people of the northern most district of the state.

The seven panchayats selected for the first phase of the e-literacy programme were well represented by their presidents and the selected trainers. They're into the various stages of acquiring the 'tablet PCs' and it's reckoned that by the end of next week, we'll have to depute the trainers of Intel, along with ours, to kick start the programme in right earnest with the target date set at 30 Jun which is achievable. The short training capsule that was unveiled was eagerly lapped up by the participants.

A quick bite of a delayed lunch around 1430h, a return to the guest house for packing and clearing up the bills took an hour before we finally set off for Palakkad, the last destination of this incredible 'yatra'. But disaster struck soon after - the LDF has announced a 'hartal' tomorrow for the injuries caused to a few of their men during the morning fracas of trying to prevent the finance minister, KM Mani, from presenting the budget! Consequently, the meeting scheduled to be held at Nenmara, Palakkad tomorrow morning at 9 had to be called off.

So, even though we'd shaped our course, initially, southward towards Palakkad we'd to reluctantly alter it to the home bound journey. Calls from the organisers and our workers at Palakkad, asking us not to cancel the programme - they even promised a full house attendance notwithstanding the restrictions imposed due to the 'hartal' - we knew that we'd to be practical and not emotional while taking the decision to cancel it because of the tremendous negative possibilities that could arise out of a 'defiance on our part' as might be perceived by the hartal's organisers!

On the completion of 13 days and after having traversed a distance of over 1,000 kms, touching thirteen of the fourteen district headquarters, the abrupt return demoralised, saddened and angered me, I confess because the 'yatra' was being left incomplete. But life's like that.......one needs to take in the unexpected which nixes the fundamental 'aim' that one had so elaborately and sincerely set for oneself/one's organisation.

Hope that we will pull it off next time whenever that's gonna be!


We're around the television sets, in the morning, watching with horror and cynical amusement at the way our lawmakers were presenting themselves - instead of allowing the budget to be presented - on the floor of the Assembly. It's the egoistic stance of the political leaders that has brought the situation to such a sorry pass. The following points that result out of the entire tamasha are worth remembering:-

   (a) To the question as to 'who won' and 'who lost' in the unfortunate showdown, my answer is that
         it's neither but the people of Kerala, without an iota of doubt!
   (b) The perpetrators of the destruction of property viz. the speaker's chair and the computer with
         accessories must be brought to book. The ungentlemanly and unladylike behaviour by the
         members presented a sorry spectacle! Can't any action be taken against them?
   (c) The opposition has already said that they wouldn't participate in the budget discussions. In
         effect we're gonna get a budget without discussions/much needed amendments/necessary add
         ons so very essential to make it sound and foolproof, as possible! Sad!!    

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Day 12 - Kannur.

The day had begun in a relaxed manner and the reason was simple - the venue of our meeting was scheduled in the press briefing hall of the government guest house which was adjacent to our room. The Payyambalam beach looked quiet with the usual morning walkers/joggers/runners going about their exercises, right across our balcony. The meeting was to begin at 1100h and hence, we'd plenty of time to carry out the morning chores.

The sad part was that my cellphone was useless, all through the day, as the service provider seemed to be ineffective in the area. Beating our estimates, we'd a huge crowd of about 110 people for our briefings/classes. The additional logistics in terms of chairs, tea/snacks during the break, lunch and evening tea were sought from nearby agencies including the guest house and provided without difficulty.

The seven panchayats were well represented by their presidents and their selected trainers. The process of procurement of the 'tablet PCs' was on by most of them. The enthusiasm and the eagerness to execute the programme was very evident. Their doubts, regarding the execution, were cleared. A couple of the presidents did point out our shortcomings in having to organise additional chairs when the original numbers had fallen short and about a few among them not having got the 'snacks' with their tea! Thankfully, none of them had any criticism regarding the e-literacy programme that's being put on stream!

Looking back at it in hindsight, probably, we could have erred on the positive side insofar as the attendance was concerned!!

There was a post-lunch session and by the time we'd secured for the day, it's well past tea time. After a quick round of tea and clearing of the bills, we're off for Kasaragod, the northern most point of our yatra. Enroute, we'd stopped at the 'Rajarajeswara' temple off Thalipparamba to pay our obeisance.
The oldest deity of Lord Siva, was supposed to have been placed by Parasurama there for his prayers. A quaint tradition that's prevalent in the temple premises is that the womenfolk aren't allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum till 8 in the evening. It's believed that Lord Siva's consort, Parvathy, comes into the premises around that time - in fact, her idol is placed beside him then - after which the access for the womenfolk is permitted.

We'd, then, dropped in at Kannettan's house who'd lost his elder brother - all of 86 yrs - three days ago. His wife has also been under treatment for the last couple of months. He was to be with us at our sessions at Kannur and Kasaragod but has had to stay away because of the bereavement. We'd to retrace our tracks to his house to collect my cellphone which I'd forgotten at his house giving us a few anxious moments especially because the message 'the number has been switched off' kept coming in continuously when the others tried to ring up my number!

We're finally at the government guest house at Kasaragod by about 5 minutes short of 11 o'clock.


(a) Sakthan becomes the new speaker of the Kerala Assembly effortlessly by polling 74 votes against 66. The media had made this look a pretty tricky show towards the run up!
(b) The treasury and the opposition benches have whipped up a frenzy regarding the budget presentation by the Finance Minister, KM Mani, who's under a cloud on corruption charges. The LDF has said that they wouldn't let him present the budget while the UDF has said that he will. Consequently, the entire lot of MLAs are staying within the premises of the Assembly! We 'mallus' are really very crazy!!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Day 11 - Wyanad.

The morning was very pleasant - it was neither cold nor warm. Had got up on time and was ready well in time and by a quarter to 10, we're off to the district panchayat office for the morning session.

The crowd started building up slowly, yet steadily and thankfully, after yesterday's fiasco at Kozhikode, today all the seven panchayats short listed for the e-literacy programme were represented by their presidents and the would-be-trainers. They've been told to put in their demands for the 'tablet PCs' at the earliest to facilitate us to send the Intel trainers to put their trainers through a training capsule to equip them fully with their teaching efforts after the receipt of the hardware.

The enthusiasm was palpable and they talked of the times when PN Panicker had spared no efforts in the district to attain 100% literacy during the late 80s and the early 90s. There were half a dozen people, who'd worked with him towards achieving that historical landmark and one elderly gentleman, in his 80s, had tears in his eyes while he kept clutching my hand tightly, for quite a while! Such emotional reactions shall be treasured all the way, it's a privilege to be accepted by the others without having done anything worthwhile, in the field, as yet! But beyond that, they believe that the Foundation in his name will continue to do things for them!!

The district's PNP Foundation was reconstituted and the new members were felicitated. Their task is cut out - to go to the field and monitor the progress of the programme.

And then we're off to Kannur via the Mananthavady-Thalasserry(formerly known as Tellicherry) highway. This 90 km stretch was used by the Britishers to transport the spices, all the way to Thalasserry from the hill district for further transportation, both within and outside the country! The highway had a fair number of sharp bends and had a continuous downhill slope while passing through forest environment. The area, incidentally, had seen the valiant encounters of the legendary local hero, Pazhassi Raja, with the Britishers - stories abound about his fearlessness and perseverance while bracketing British treachery with it!

We reached the government guest house at Payyambalam, Kannur by a trifle past 8. The lighthouse and the beach took me back to my days in uniform!


The journey has been a great education. And humbling too!


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Day 10 - Kozhikode.

Since there were quite a few in the line I'd got up by a quarter to 5 for the morning chores. Maman had come in from Thiruvananthapuram by the morning train and I was only too happy to hand over the mantle of the yatra's leadership back to him. Since the rest house did not cater for food, we'd breakfast on our way to the venue of our meeting.

It was a disappointing day for us since the participation was poor. Of the seven chosen panchayats only the representatives of three panchayats, alongwith their presidents, had fetched up. The absentees did cite their busy schedule owing to the end of the financial year, over the phone, of course. Consequently, the audience amounted to a paltry 35! Obviously, the programme needs to be more robust and as a first step towards that the panchayats need to get the 'tablet PCs' at the earliest and we've assured them of expediting the process should they stumble upon bottlenecks, if any.

After a quick lunch, we'd set off for Wyanad via Malu-Rajeesh's house to look up the latter's dad who was convalescing from a recently done angioplasty, wherein two stents have been embedded into his system. Wasn't Malu's dad, my younger uncle who's currently with us, thrilled about it like a little kid?

Soon after, we're off for Wyanad. It takes nine hairpin bends from the base hamlet of Adimali, stretched over a distance of about 30 km, that have to be traversed to reach this hilly district, nestling in the Western ghats. Muthachan's follower, Gopalakrishna Pillai sir took pains to show me the first eight hairpins entwining one hill while the ninth straddled the second adjacent hill on which the first hamlet, Vythiri, came into view.

He also narrated the story of the tribal headsman, Kandannamooppar,  who'd told the British engineers as to how the highway should be aligned and after getting all the necessary information, the poor man was killed by the Britisher so that the information was not passed on for posterity! His final resting place as well as the tree on which his troubled spirit has been 'rested' have become popular shrines, today!

The rest house at Vythiri got to be the place for our night halt.


(a) Natural beauty in abundance.
(b) The absence of a smart co-ordinator is evident.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Day 9 - Malappuram.

I'd got up by a half past 5 and was ready well in time. Our co-ordinator, Jaafar, had some personal work to do because of which he joined us at the venue, eventually briefing me on a few aspects over the cellphone. The hall was also got readied by the time we'd reached there.

The Collector and the district panchayat president were to join us subsequently during the course of the session because of the mourning period in force, due to the passing away of the speaker of the Assembly. The message that this was no celebratory conglomeration did not cut much ice but the fact was that they did not want to be photographed at a function only to be misunderstood by their 'bosses' later as having flouted the order in force. I suppose, interpretation of rules has taken a big hit these days due to narrow minded thinking.

The session went off on the usual lines and the feedback has been encouraging. Of the seven, four have gone well ahead with their training classes. The remaining three are a few notches behind but have promised to go full steam ahead to meet the target date of  30 Jun. As has been evident all through in the districts that we've passed, the enthusiasm was very much there and above all, they seem to have tremendous faith in our ability to see them through in case of pitfalls, if any. That makes our job more difficult because there's no scope for errors!

The session was over by 1400h and after a quick lunch, we'd got back to the guest house. An hour's siesta, by your's truly, and we're off to Kozhikode a trifle after 1600h. The fifty odd kilometers were traversed over two and a half hours because the highway was narrow in many places and the traffic density was high. On reaching the city there was another hiccup - the guest house had no rooms because of its ongoing renovation. We could, however, manage accommodation in the nearby 'Rest House'.

After the debrief and the briefing for tomorrow, it was a fairly early night.


The day of my leadership ends as Maman rejoins tomorrow morning!  

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Day 8 - Thrissur.

It was back like what it was before I'd embarked on the 'yatra'. I'd dropped the temple going group at Guruvayur by a half past 5. But I was quite sad that Tirur amma had to take bath in normal water because I'd not switched on the geyser at the appropriate time - damn irresponsible of me! The poor thing just smiled and said that it really didn't matter. She was trying to put me at ease, instead!!

I was off for Thrissur by about a quarter to 10 with a fresh set of clothes for the next six days of the 'yatra'. It's thanks to the two gentlemen in the bus that I'd boarded that I reached my destination in one piece. What had happened was that as soon as I'd scrambled up the foot board, the bus had lurched forward tipping me backward and I would have fallen out of the bus to land hard on the back of my head but for the firm, steadying hands of the gentlemen that I was talking about! I shall ever remain indebted to them!!

The meeting commenced on the dot at 11 and it was well attended despite the fact that it was a Sunday. Here too, the pace of the programme leaves much to be desired except for that of one. The seven panchayats need to get the funds earmarked for the purpose at the earliest and get the training aids. The Damocles' sword of 30 Jun has been conveyed to them and they've reiterated their commitment to meet the target date.

Maman had to get back to Thiruvananthapuram as something has cropped up in the office that needs his attention. So he was seen off by the 1630 train and then we'd started off for Malappuram. We reached the guest house by about a half past 7 and had secured for the evening comparatively early.

Anian had suddenly changed his plans and wanted to join us for the night. It would have been unsettling for the boys but more than that, I didn't want him to be the cause of their inconvenience because he has his own standing. And he seems to be unaware of it!


Tomorrow it's gonna be my show, hope it goes off without a hitch.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Day 7 - Ernakulam.

We're up with the lark as usual and were ready well in time. The idea was to beat the traffic and that's exactly what we did by setting off from the guest house by 0830h. Consequently, we'd reached the venue almost an hour and a half earlier and was pleasantly surprised with the RTO staff giving instructions about maintaining good road discipline to about 200 ladies and gentlemen who'd got their learner's licence but were soon going for the test! It's a pleasant revelation and I did compliment the RTO personnel for their safety drive.

Our meeting started off at 1100h and my Maman was quite sure that the strength wouldn't exceed 30 from past experience but the number of participants did exceed well beyond 60, at the final count. The interaction was nice, the enthusiasm was palpable but we've a long way to go in this district. The panchayats are yet to get their training aids and we emphasised upon this aspect so that we could get our team to charge the trainers which would eventually trickle down to the learners.

We need to have a crackling co-ordinator out there and this point has been put down as the foremost point on my check off list. The present one is too lax and is found wanting in 'crowd control' - I mean people take her for granted, she needs to be more effective!

The proceedings were wound up by 1430h but we'd to get back into the lousy traffic of the city to help out a lady staff of ours, grappling with a legal problem. So my Maman went to meet her advocate and I dropped in at my cousin's - another advocate - office. She's has had her toe nail removed and had her right foot bandaged!

We're off to Thrissur by about 1600h and reached the city by sunset time. I got dropped at the private bus stand to catch the bus for Guruvayur while the team had proceeded to the government guest house for their night stay. Lekha's younger sister, her two sons and mother-in-law had arrived from Tirur earlier in the evening. When I'd pressed the doorbell, I found the two mothers exchanging notes and I too joined in the conversation, narrating my experiences thus far in the 'yatra'.


Lekha and her sister were told of my experiences after supper, that was a trifle late as they'd been to the temple when I'd arrived.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Day 6 - Idukki.

It's a bright and sunny morning to begin with. We're ready ahead of schedule and were at the venue at the appointed time. The crowd took time to trickle in but by the time the proceedings had begun in right earnest at 11 AM, the hall was packed.

The seven panchayats that have been selected for the first phase of the e-literacy programme have got the necessary training aids and must get on with their act in right earnest. They've promised to achieve their targets by end-May and the nod had to be given to the revised estimates. Meanwhile, Vaazhathoppu, one among the seven, on its own initiative will give it a 'booster thrust' beginning with a public meeting tomorrow. They've modified their means to achieve the target by planning to carry even 'table tops' to the field, to teach the learners.

They're given the go ahead without any reservations from our side as getting the target population completely e-literate was the ultimate aim which the panchayat plans to achieve by end-Apr. The students of the local engineering college especially, those of the National Service Scheme have pledged their wholehearted efforts for the programme! A heartening situation indeed!!

Since the panchayat was told about my Maman's inability of attending their meeting slated for tomorrow because of the 'yatra', he was invited to speak a few words on the occasion of a mass run conducted at Cheruthoni's main square this evening. Our departure for Ernakulam was consequently delayed. After dinner enroute, we reached the government guest house by about 2200h.

After a quick session of debrief and the highlighting of our activities for tomorrow, it's decided that we needed to take off for Kaakkanaad tomorrow morning at 0830h. It's gonna be a long day!


(a) This afternoon, Anchita, a young lady who was part of the audience, at the end of it all, comes to me to ask about my relationship with my Maman - we don't discuss these things as a rule, generally. She was given the clarification and she gave me a 'know all' look, perhaps she'd noticed our resemblance!
(b) Tomorrow, the 'yatra' will reach Thrissur by sunset. I shall be making a quick dash home, look up mom and Lekha and get my personal effects changed and rejoin the team on Sunday morning.
(c) Elias, the 65 year old co-ordinator of ours at Idukki is another follower of my grandfather. His loyalty is touching!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Day 5 - Kottayam.

Had got up by 6 AM and was ready well in time. After making my customary morning call home, it's breakfast followed by a quick exit for the conference hall at the panchayat's main building, which was the venue. The patriarch, Vasudevan chettan, joined us not long after and the audience had steadily started building up.

The overview of the training capsule had to begin and it did at 1030h, since the meeting was scheduled at 1200h as the minister was attending at that time. The proceedings went off fine but in this district, the programme has to take off in right earnest in all the six panchayats that have been selected under this phase. The feedback was carefully updated and the revised target has to be re-established, perhaps, to the end of next month.

We'd left the venue, on completion, by about 1500h and set off straight for Idukki. The journey up the ghats towards the hilly district was superb and we were subject to the spectacular natural beauty that was in abundance. The lush green deep valleys, a thick forest habitat, the numerous hairpin bends on a well surfaced road coupled with plenty of birds playing around the abundant flora and the traffic was unbelievably low on density, thankfully!

Our stay was at the government guest house and from the balcony of our room we could take in the breath taking beauty of the famed 'arch dam' of the Idukki project and also the check dam. To add to the spectacle, it was a full moon.

Was there anything else to ask for?


Heard the news about the BBC having aired the documentary on the sad Delhi rape that had shaken the entire country, not very long ago. The following queries/facts perplex me:-

    (a) Why was the channel allowed to interview the guilty?
    (b) Whose idea was it and more importantly, what was the expected outcome/ what was the reason
          for making this documentary?
    (c) The identity of the victim that was kept confidential by the Indian media has gone kaput with
          the BBC documentary having spelt that out. Wasn't that a wrong decision in the first place?
    (d) Does the government's ban on screening the movie an effective/implementable order in these 
          days of satellite coverage that has unrestricted reach?
    (e) Would the BBC have acted similarly, if the victim was a British citizen?
    (f)  And isn't the BBC cocking a snook at us/our intelligence when it says that it will not air the
          documentary in India while it's airing it all over? 

Sad, the poor young lady is not being spared even after her gruesome death!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Day 4 - Alappuzha.

Afrozji and Sadiyaji, our guests on the 'yatra', had arrived by 9 AM at the government guest house soon after which we were off to the Maaraarikulam north and south panchayats, to see the activities on the ground. The visit and the subsequent interactions shall remain etched in my mind for a long time to come because of the spontaneity, the enthusiasm and the charm among the womenfolk who'd gathered around. The touching fact was that their simplicity was writ large on their faces.

The progress of the e-literacy campaign could be gauged as the trainers went about their work of teaching the nuances on the 'tablets' provided to them for the purpose. To see the activity - that we at the Foundation had etched on the drawing board - gaining progress on the ground, slowly but steadily was a tremendously satisfying experience. By the time the two interactions got to be over, it was time for our guests to set off for the Kochi airport and they were sentimental while bidding their farewell. While being swept off the feet in the manner the team was interacting with the people, they were emphatic that we visited them at Indore!

The post lunch session at the Collectorate was touching and informative. There were elderly people, who'd been on the forefront with my grandfather on his library and literacy programmes, on the dais as well as in the audience offering us their blessings and showed their genuine happiness in seeing us leading this campaign from the front.

As I touched the feet of one of the elders, while seeing him off, he'd tears in his eyes and said, "I feel that PN Panicker is blessing me by placing me at an exalted position to receive the kindness of his grandson". Earlier, he'd paid a glowing tribute to my Maman's perseverance and sustained hard work!

It's around sunset that we could leave Alappuzha after securing and settling the accounts by virtue of the yatra. We're at the government guest house at Kottayam, by about a half past 7 for tomorrow's interaction.


A fantastic feedback by our co-ordinator on the progress of the campaign covering the eight panchayats. Remedial measures could be passed on at the venue itself. Alappuzha should be a contender for one of the top three districts to achieve cent percent e-literacy in the first stage of the campaign as I reckon! Good luck to them!!      

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Day 3 - Pathanamthitta.

After the first two days of the Arabian Sea awash districts, it was the turn of the hilly district of Pathanamthitta that we'd our tryst with. Our setting off from Kollam had got delayed due to unavoidable circumstances and then Kannan, our 'saarthi', had put in boosters - in the literal sense - to traverse the traffic packed Kollam - Kottarakkara stretch!

We're at the venue with almost five minutes to 11 and quickly let the 'pilot' team set up the hall, packed with about eighty odd people by then. The guests reached the dais on the dot and the proceedings began without much ado. The eagerness to try their luck in attaining hundred percent e-literacy was evinced by the seven panchayats that come under the first phase of our efforts!

After lunch and another question and answer session of about an hour, we'd wound up and set off for Alappuzha. The drive from Changanasserry to Alappuzha was full of nostalgia with Maman and I remembering our numerous trips with the family, up and down the waterway between the two towns, eons ago. Incidents came flitting from the family 'archives' within our minds!

The drive was undertaken to avoid the mad(?) rush in the morning to keep up the timeline even though we'd our reservations in the government guest house at Pathanamthitta and it was worth every moment that we'd shared during the trip. In the evening, after a quick wash and change at the government guest house, we'd gone to pay our obeisance to the Mullakkal devi kshetram - the deity is the powerful, 'vana durga' under an open roof, subjecting the goddess to the vagaries of the weather, giving her tremendous powers, as perceived by her faithful followers!

Maman, also did tell me that this temple used to be frequented by my grandmother when the family used to stay at Ambalapuzha before shifting to Thiruvananthapuram.

And to me, it was like following her footsteps yet again!


We walked through the old main road of the town of Alappuzha just for old times sake, before supper. It was a comparatively early night this time!


Monday, March 2, 2015

Day 2 - Kollam.

We'd set off from Maman's home at 7 AM. The tempo traveller was late by half an hour to reach the Foundation's office but we'd set out by 0830h finally. The day was bright, sunny and humid but the vehicle kept us nice and cool. We're to have breakfast enroute at Kazhakootam, which was changed to Attingal then Chathannoor and ultimately, Kollam as we'd to meet a deadline.

At Chathannoor, the revival of a fresh water pond was shown to the expert from New Delhi, who has given a very favourable response. The fact that the Panchayat showed a keen interest to take up the project helped tip the scales for the nod. The activities will definitely revive the unit, which has been lying idle for quite a while, mainly due to a lack of application of minds by the managers on the field with no clear directives from the top due to some misunderstanding- a sad fact that I acknowledge!  It needs more of indulgence on my part!!

We reached the venue - the hall at the Public Library - in time with the meeting beginning as scheduled. The local patriarch graced the occasion and paid glowing tributes to PN Panicker's spectacular work in enlightening Kerala through his library and literary movements. This was followed by the team's audit of the e-literacy movement thus far. While encouraging progress has been made by many panchayats, what was alarming was that there were a few that haven't been able to rise to our expectations with respect to the 'speed of execution'. This tardiness needs to be arrested and steps are being evolved which will crystallise in the form of 'a simple but definitive action plan, with emphasis on achieving milestones failing which, penalties will be introduced' by Wednesday!

We accept it with all humility that it's not gonna be an easy task, especially, while asking elected representatives to provide time bound results as political ramifications need to be borne in mind. In other words, a few feathers will be ruffled in the process. Period!


(a) The evening boating on the Ashtamudi Lake was a soother but for the bright sun even after 1600h. Heard about the ecological threat to the flora and the fauna in and around the lake. Sad! Would the setting up of a dedicated 'Water Authority' help in the long run? The preliminary discussions have been initiated but it has to go a long way, the first and foremost being to get all the stakeholders, on board, together to agree to discuss the vexed problem!!

(b) Maman and I'd missed breakfast in the process of meeting the deadline of time. A late lunch, however, saved the day. But I ensured that the rest of the team did have their's on arrival at Kollam!     

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The 106th Birth Anniversary of PN Panicker.

We'd received the bad news that three of the guests who're to sit on the dais, along with the Honourable Governor, were gonna be missing from today's function in the dying hours of yesterday. After initiating the firefight, Maman and me had gone off to bed for an uneasy sleep, though. The changes that were being sought had to get the Governor's personal clearance, after our letter was received, which could only take place around 0930h today!

There was no point in fretting over things that were beyond our control.

Consequently, we're up with the lark and found our way to a guest's house who, too, had put in his word to the Governor's secretary regarding the proposed changes. Meanwhile, we'd invited a distinguished ex-diplomat to fill in one of the chairs and it was gracious of him to accept the last minute swap graciously. Showed his humility and bigheartedness, coupled with his tremendous respect for my grandfather!

The quick visit to the Raj Bhavan, the explanation of the changed situation to the security staff and the uneasy situation that gave us a restless night was history. The programme rolled on like clockwork and the duration of one hour just passed off in a jiffy. Incidentally, my 'vote of thanks' was just about okay.

The lunch and the subsequent workshops were nicely organised with an overwhelming attendance despite it being a Sunday and I did thank the 'nice people of Thiruvananthapuram' for that.

We'd spent the evening at Thiruvananthapuram as we're to be at Kollam, the next district headquarters, by 0930h tomorrow as the Yatra gets going, in right earnest. Will be on the road, literally, for the next fortnight, celebrating Muthachan's 106th birthday with the people of Kerala and along with it, we'd be taking stock of the e-literacy programme, that's on stream currently.


(a) Got the opportunity to mingle with my aunts, cousins and their little ones. Was saddened by the fact that age was playing its quiet role, making active individuals of yesterday infirm and unsure of their steps ahead! Why does time have to be so harsh?

(b) Day 1 of Yatra. We made a late night trip to the Aattukaal devi temple. But for the traffic while entering the temple, the trip went off smoothly.