Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Into the finals!

Had got up at 6, hearing Aniyan's alarm and went about the chores. After he'd got ready, we'd gone looking for the canteen nearby which had ultimately opened at a quarter past 7! The tea that he'd given me was a stiff one that I detest but on such occasions, one has to lump it and that's exactly what I did. I was a bit late in getting ready but we were able to kick off from the Rest house at 9.

Our first point of reception was at Kumbala panchayat which provided us with breakfast at its Kudumbasree canteen. They'd run out of breakfast because someone had given them a wrong strength of our team and hence, we'd to wait a while for breakfast. We're, finally, served with piping hot 'upma' and after a long time I'd it along with sugar which is a combination that I'm fond of!

The panchayats with which we'd our trysts today, were:-

   (a) Kumbla.
   (b) Mogral Puthur.
   (c) Chengala.
   (d) Pullurperiya and
   (e) Kallar.

At the Kumbla panchayat, firstly, there was a long wait for the function to begin. Incidentally, a large percent of the population spoke a variant of Kannada because parts of this district was carved out of Karnataka. The usual crib about not having got the orders had to be countered with the fact that the mail regarding the yatra was sent by five sources from 15 - 25 Jan. The secretary was quiet after the retort but what has to be summed up are the following:-

    (a) The government's claim of effective e-governance and paperless offices in panchayats is yet
          to become a reality.
    (b) The staff needs more awareness about the use of computers and e-governance.

The interaction with the audience was lively and interesting. We also honoured Santhamma, a casual labourer, all of 77 years of age. The crowd at Mogral Puthur was okay but the venue was beside the highway and it was hot and dusty all the way. We honoured 81 year old Rajeevi Shetty for her sagacity and keen interest in her work as a casual labourer. Lunch at their Kudumbasree canteen was nice.

I really felt bad for the performing policemen when much of the audience walked away before the street play ended, perhaps they were hungry!

By about a half past 2, we'd gone across to Chengala. I'd stayed back to oversee filling of fuel and paying the bills on the Foundation's credit card. By the time I'd reached there, we're in time for the visit by the ladies and school children into the buses. They're given a brief account of the scientific articles and the courses on order at the Kudumbasree, along with the books for purchase in the Book Mark bus.

And by 4, we're at the penultimate panchayat of Pullurperiya. There was a fairly large audience which was inquisitive, interested in what was put across and interactive. Lalitha, a smart casual labourer in her 30s was honoured. Mr. Balakrishnan Nair, who'd been a young worker with Muthachhan, during the literacy movement had also come by and was felicitated by the panchayat for his contribution.

The last panchayat in our itinerary was Kallar, which was an eastern outpost. Here, Christians were predominant among the population while the earlier four had a Muslim prominence. By the time we'd traversed the 30 kms towards the place, it was about a half past 6 but the crowd was patiently waiting for us. Cutting across the frills, the interaction was kept short and by a quarter to 8, everything was over.

The 14th Eco-Digital Jan Vigyan Vikas Yatra had completed the task that it had aimed for. It gave us a tremendous sense of satisfaction. We'd traversed about 3,026 kms over 33 days!

We, finally, settled down in the PWD Rest House at Kanhangad for the night halt. The break up of our team had begun, consequent to dinner. The Book Mark team, along with four policemen, were the first to take off and the others are poised for an early morning take off! Told them that I'd miss each one of them as we'd meshed into a fine team over these 33 days!


1. On a personal note I was pretty glad that I could overcome my cough and ill health over the first fortnight, that I'd contracted towards the final sojourn of our Sri Lankan trip with my course mates.
2. Mohanachandran's medical bulletin.

    "Vijay and me with ladies visited Mohan at Vellore.  In the month that he spent at the CMC, he was
     improving.   condition was steadily improving....he started using his left hand a little and could 
     sit upright and stand with support.....however, last week he developed some infection and is on 
     antibiotics.....he has become weak again and finds it difficult to stay fact, he has gone
     back 4 weeks of physiotherapy. Expenses ere increasing and they've dipped into reserves". From
     Suresh Laxman.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Into Kasaragod district(1).

Had got up at 7 when Karayilji brought us piping hot tea. Went through the chores and we're ready well in time. Teacher, as we called her, gave us a fantastic breakfast. Her daughter, Shiny and her little one, Prarthana were in attendance. The little one was effervescent, friendly and hyperactive. She was very sad when we're leaving; hope to see them at Guruvayur soon as promised!

Aniyan, Padmakumar and Mahesh had fetched up by the Mangalore Express which was an hour late. They had their bath and joined us as we took off for the first point of reception at Thrikkarippur.

The panchayats that we'd our trysts with today, were:-

    (a) Thrikarippur.
    (b) Pilicode.
    (c) Cheruvathur.
    (d) Ajanur and
    (e) Udma.

The venue in Thikaripur was at the Government High school. The audience, mostly women, was lively and interactive. We honoured an 81 year old lady, Karthyayani, who worked as a casual labourer for her positive attitude. Raghavan maash, our district co-ordinator, wanted to keep everyone happy and therefore, the podium was housefull. He gave everyone a chance to speak, too. The most poignant moment was when the previous secretary, Balakrishnan, came and spoke out his agony of not having received his pension till date because the last spell of the e-literacy project, that we'd initiated in '12 during his tenure, had not borne fruition till date. We've assured him that we'd ensure that he got his pension soon as he was being crucified for no fault of his and it was because of the sudden change in policy brought about by the central government.

The police team, later, performed the street play as we set off for Pilicode. There was a lot of time wasted for no rhyme or reason and we'd to pay for it towards the end of the day. At Cheruvathur, we came across a graduate, Elsy, who was a casual labourer. Her children, a son and a daughter, were graduates and working for MNCs, while her husband was also a casual labourer. Their union must have been a case of love, I'm sure!

At Ajanur, our interaction was mainly with upper primary school children and the ladies of the Kudumbasree project. It was a nice interaction. We'd reached Udma by 1800 hrs and there was no crowd whatsover. We'd to get down to some plain speaking and inform the panchayat leadership as to what we expected out of our visit and even expressed our displeasure to our co-ordinator and his team for the communication gap. The 20 hour e-literacy training programme was explained and Anju, of the CSE, who'd co-ordinate the training sessions, was introduced to them.

We settled down at the PWD Rest House for the night halt.


A stiflingly hot and dusty day with the last programme of the day ending up in a damp squib! Sad!!
And it's just one more day left for the yatra to come to an end.  

Monday, February 26, 2018

Kannur district(2).

Got up later than usual at 7, went through the chores and was ready well in time. We, finally, left around a half past 8. The team was told to proceed to Madayi straight because we didn't want their breakfast to be delayed on account of our late arrival at the destination. Therefore, when we reached the place we found that the fleet of vehicles were lined up all along the road and the team had finished their breakfast.

Eager to start on time, we'd a couple of vadas and a cup of tea to start the proceedings in right earnest. The interaction was getting along well when, hard pressed for time, the panchayat leadership had brought in additional audience of special children for the next event, involving the Sub Collector. We wound up and left the premises without much ado.

The panchayats with which we'd our trysts with today, were:-

     (a) Madayi.
     (b) Kalliasserri.
     (c) Pariyaram.
     (d) Cheruthazham and
     (e) Karivellur Peralam. 

The reception at Kalliasserri was a grand one with traditional 'panchari melam' by women and youngsters on the 'chenda' and girls with ceremonial umbrellas greeted us beside the highway and walked us to the venue. It was a well attended, lively and interactive crowd at the venue and our police team had performed their street play much to the delight of the crowd.

The reception at Pariyaram was on a lower scale when compared with the previous panchayat. We could interact, however, with the children and the 'Kudumbasree' trainees. We're provided with a scrumptious lunch on completion of the function.

We're on time, around 1530 hrs, near the gates of the Cheruthazham panchayat. The car was parked near the kerb, I'd gone to a textile shop on the opposite side to buy a couple of ceremonial shawls. Couldn't get the appropriate ones and as I was returning, I was witness to a road accident. Actually, it involved the vehicle with the panchayat leadership coming to receive us and a mobike, with a middle aged couple.

The panchayat vehicle turned right abruptly and the mobike, that was on its starboard quarter touched its bow, the rider tried to hold his bike but lost balance and in the resulting instability, his pillion had slipped backwards and hit her backside on the road. I'd quickly rushed to her, picked her up and made her stand but found that she'd taken a serious thud and was walking with difficulty. She was made to sit on a chair, offered by the nearby auditorium - we'd our interaction there, subsequently - guys. The couple was taken by the panchayat staff to the nearest hospital and the panchayat president reported that all was well as the lady had suffered a minor concussion on account of the impact! 

Was I and the lady connected, cosmically? I saw the lady, in anguish with pain, looking deeply into my eyes as though she was expecting me to be there just then. Or was it all my imagination, I wonder?

The interaction was good though the crowd could have been better. On completion, we'd headed for the next and last panchayat - Karivellur Peralam. Here, the crowd was better and the interaction lively. The street play was also staged much to the thrill of the crowd!

Our night halt was at Payyannur where the team was put in a comfortable home stay and the three of us were put up in Karayil Sukumaran's - our district co-ordinator and Muthachhan's ardent follower - house. The evening, therefore, was comfortable! He told me an anecdote about my grandfather, "Panicker sir had gone to a colony near here and had returned by midnight. He insisted on calling up the Collector that night itself despite the others trying to dissuade him. Eventually, he'd his way and told the Collector that the people in the colony should be issued with ration cards, without delay". And the cards were issued soon after!


After our two days at Kannur, we're now poised for our move through Kasaragod for the next couple of days!     

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Kannur district(1).

After punching in my thoughts and since sleep looked far away, I'd washed my clothes and recited my prayers before going to bed. Initially, I'd given up hopes about washing because the ceiling fan seemed to be on a 'go slow' policy and it was told to me that the switch was faulty. But it was not so and hence, the late activity.

Had got up by about a half past 6, went through my chores and was ready well in time. We left by a 10' to 9 and reached Dharmadom about an hour later. Breakfast of appams and egg curry was washed down with a cup of coffee. The reception was organised, at the main square of the town, followed with the street play put up by the police team. They'd given a feedback that the crowd had, indeed, picked up but felt sorry for the audience as they had to watch the play disregarding the hot sun over their heads!

The panchayats with which we'd trysts today, were:-

    (a) Dharmadom.
    (b) Chirakkal.
    (c) Kolacherry.
    (d) Valapattanam and
    (e) Pappinisserry.  

It took a bit long for the Dharmadom panchayat to get their act together. But it was a lively and interactive crowd that had swelled through the period. It also had the distinction of being a part of the chief minister's Assembly constituency! The Chirakkal panchayat, too, had an interactive and lively crowd as it was the Gram Sabha, in session. The quorum was more than adequate. 

The reception at Kolacherry was at the village library. We're given a sumptuous lunch before the start of the session, which was yet another Gram Sabha that was on. The crowd was lively, inquisitive and interactive. 

The Valapattanam panchayat had a great audience as they asked their doubts. But none of us will forget Madhu, a small scale businessman, who expressed strong views against the use of smartphones that were harmful/damaging to the eyes. He just refused to hear our point of view and the interaction prolonged for a long time. It was irritating to say the least but this was the first time that we'd come across a naysayer for the case of digital literacy. The paradox was that he, himself, owned an expensive smartphone!

Our last engagement was with the Pappinisserry panchayat. The function was organised within the stalls of an 'Agri Fest' where they'd erected a huge stage. The street play looked more attractive with the arc lights and superior sound system. Karayil Sukumaran, our district co-ordinator, was with us throughout but for the street play.....the loss was his.

We'd secured by about 7 and I was really tired.


1. Damn sad to hear about cine actress Sreedevi's untimely end. Goes to show that too much of corrective surgeries, undertaken to enhance looks during advancing age, can have a negative impact on one's health. RIP!

2. The team was split between 'Sikshak Sadaan' and the KSEB guest house, at Kannur, according to the reservations done.

3. We're now half way through 'the red bastion' of Kannur!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Wayanad district(3).

Had got up around 7, gone through the chores and was ready well in time. The clothes, along with the extra ones, that were washed were dry thanks to the fan in the large hall a floor above thanks to Bipin, the steward. Didn't see him this morning before we cast off as he was off on another job. Felt bad, yet again, that we couldn't tip him as he'd done a lot of running around for us last evening!

We'd set off for the Edavaka panchayat by a half past 9, later than usual. We'd to pick up Arjun enroute and by the time we reached our destination it was a quarter past 10. A sumptuous breakfast  was served and soon after, without much ado, we'd begun our interaction with the 'Gram Sabha' of Ward no.18 with Usha, the panchayat president on the chair. The quorum was not up to the requisite numbers against the ward's population of 1,300!

The crowd wasn't that enthusiastic and lively as yesterday's Gram Sabha but the interaction had gone on thanks to a few bright sparks!

The panchayats with which we'd a tryst with today, were:-

    (a) Edavaka.
    (b) Thirunelly and
    (c) Thavinjal.

We're at Thirunelly by a half past 12 but the panchayat was in a flux as to how it had to conduct the reception for us. Within no time, however, the leadership had filled the huge hall with people and we'd an interactive and lively audience. It was a satisfying session, that was spread over two hours and we're provided with a scrumptious lunch in a popular hotel in the town.

The Thirunelly temple is the only temple in the world where the devotees can perform all the rituals related to life starting from birth to death and life after death. It's one of the most ancient temples with Maha Vishnu as the deity. It's snuggled within the forest area of Brahmagiri and is famed as the "Kashi of the south". An urn of Muthachhan's ashes and Lekha's dad's ashes were immersed at this place in '95 and '16 respectively!

There were many of my friends who'd inquired as to whether I'd visited the temple on What'sApp. It was just not possible within the tight schedule that we're running.

The last of the receptions was at the Thavinjal panchayat Yesterday, we're told that the authorities had made great preparations for the function and a crowd of 200 was anticipated. Consequently, I'd asked two of the policemen, in our team, to postpone their return to Thiruvananthapuram. It worked out all right though the crowd was lesser than anticipated. We wound up our interaction with the street play and set off for Kannur district half an hour before sunset.

We passed through thick forest and hairpin bends to reach Thalasserry by about 2100 hrs. After dinner at the Indian Coffee House, we made a beeline for the PWD Rest House. We did a lot of adjustment to fit into a total of five rooms - we're 21 in all, remember?


After having travelled through Wayanad, we're now poised for the two day move through Kannur district and we start with the Dharmadom panchayat that's the focal point of the chief minister's Assembly constituency.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Wayanad district(2).

Had got up around a half past 6, went through the chores and was ready well in time. The sad part was that except for the handkerchief, none of the clothes that I'd washed last evening, was dry. Had to keep them spread inside the boot of our car, along with the luggage, for the rest of the day. We're out off the hotel by a trifle after 9 and headed straight for Panamaram panchayat. Earlier, I'd directed the entire fleet of our vehicles, to the venue, after about a half past 8.

Young Arjun, then, steered us towards our destination. After meeting up with the panchayat President and the Vice President, we'd gone to the nearby hotel for breakfast and I'd puries with vegetables, for a change.

The proceedings had begun in right earnest around a half past 10. The huge hall was full but the audience neither was interactive nor did they seem to be bothered. Or was it my imagination? After the interaction, the Janamaitree Police team had put up their show. The crowd was melting away - while the stage show was on - to attend a bank loan mela that was set to begin and was called back by the panchayat leadership.

The panchayats with which we'd trysts with today, were:-

    (a) Panamaram.
    (b) Pulpally and
    (c) Mullankolly.

Our next stop was at the 'Gram Sabha' of ward 3 of the Pulpally panchayat. I was getting this rare privilege because the gram sabha is the fundamental legislature - the sanctum sanctorum of a democracy - after which comes the state Assembly followed by the Lok Sabha. The strength of attendees was about 200, a trifle more than the requisite quorum of 10% because the ward's population was about 1,300. As we're entering, we heard one of the attendees grilling the Ward Member and the Panchayat President regarding the action taken by them to meet the prevailing drought conditions(Already? I asked myself because it was only the third week of Feb and the summer was still a long way off).

The interaction with the ladies and the gentlemen were lively and interesting. We broke up after two hours of satisfying interaction! Incidentally, this was the same panchayat in which the naxalites had stormed into the police station and killed policemen, way back in '65. It, definitely, has come a long way from those days and has become friendly!

Lunch was at a hotel in the middle of the town and it was nice. Soon after, I'd got three of the big vehicles fuelled before pushing off to Mullankolly. The irony of this panchayat - that's facing near drought conditions - needs to be understood:-

     (a) It's the closest to the Karnataka border.
     (b) River Kabini, full of water, passes just 3 kms away and
     (c) The forest is just close by and wild animals find their way into town in search of food, water!

The crowd - though not very substantial - took time to form up and we'd a short, yet good interaction. The Panchayat President, Girija Krishnan, was a young lady from the scheduled tribe and quite acceptable to the population.


Our halt for the night was at the Hotel Kabini in town that reminded me about the old accommodation in the naval messes. It's, however, neat and clean and young Bipin ran the errands for us.    

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Wayanad district(1).

Had got up at a quarter to 7, went through the chores and was ready in time. Meanwhile, the owner of the hotel, Abhilash, had arrived along with his friend to 'sort out' the compensation bit about the broken table top. My opening statement that it was my fault and therefore, would like to make good the loss surprised them, I guess. Abhilash, then, said that he'd check with the manufacturer to ascertain the exact cost and get back to me before we left the hotel.

Meanwhile, a sumptuous breakfast of idlis, chutney and sambar was available at the ground floor of the building in which we're staying. Soon after it, Abhilash had come to announce that I'd have to pay Rs.3,500/- for the broken table top which was negotiated by Maman and brought down to Rs.3,000/-.
I, then, handed over the cheque for the amount and put the whole matter behind me!

The panchayats with which we'd our trysts today, were:-

     (a) Vythiri.
     (b) Pozhuthana.
     (c) Padinjarathara and
     (d) Vellamunda.

Our first reception was at the bus stand at Vythiri after a lot of hiccups about the actual venue. Probably, the simpleton who's Vedakanti Vijayan, our district co-ordinator, is being taken lightly! The connected function was, finally, held under the blazing sun and the reason given for going through the discomfort was that the press photographer needed it that way. After the short function there, we'd gone to Pozhuthana.

It was held in two parts, one beside the main junction and the other, in the conference hall of the panchayat. Laila, really impressed us with her jotting down the important points that were discussed at the interaction in her diary and we made it a point to compliment her. The lunch that was served, subsequently, was scrumptious and the 'avial' was damn good.

The interaction at Padinjarathara was good though I was a bit late to fetch up at the venue as I'd got our Science Exploratory refuelled along with the purchase of brake fluid and engine oil for the Ace. The mistake that I committed was that I'd not checked out as to whether the credit card was permitted for transaction and sure enough, a glitch in the bunk's machine prevented its use. Consequently, we'd to shell out valuable liquid cash instead!

The interaction at Vellamunda was good. Santha, all of 68 years and a member of the scheduled tribe, was honoured for her eagerness to learn. She's a casual labourer. Took a couple of elderly librarians and literacy workers around our vehicles personally as they're Muthachhan's followers. Weren't they thrilled to to be taken on a conducted tour by his grandson? Went across to a nearby hair saloon of Prem and his assistant, Salim and had my hair cut. Chambu, also, was keen to have one and I let him.

We settled down at the Greens Residency at Mananthavadi. Young Arjun, who's being groomed to work for the Foundation, was our guide. It was a comparatively early evening but on the whole, a satisfying day.


Lekha would be taking the medical tests tomorrow, at Kottarakkara. She would be returning to Guruvayur by this weekend. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Kozhikode district(3).

Had slept on the huge sofa in the sitting room. Got up around 5, recited my prayers and drifted off to sleep as has become the custom these days only to get up around a quarter to 7. Had gone through the chores and got out to the bus stand nearby to buy tea and the day's newspapers. We're out by 9 and were off to the Azhiyoor panchayat, the first point of reception.

The panchayat provided us with a scrumptious breakfast and the previous president was the most active of the hosts, taking care of each and everyone of us.

The panchayats with which we had our trysts today, were:-

     (a) Azhiyoor.
     (b) Chorode.
     (c) Nadapuram.
     (d) Kuttiadi and
     (e) Perambra.

It was fantastic crowds in the first three panchayats, quite vibrant and eager to interact. Nanuettan, the local MLA, inaugurated the meeting at Azhiyoor and honoured us, by draping the shawls around our shoulders. People, who spoke, were glowing in their tributes to the activities of the Foundation and its achievements, thus far.

Chorode had an equally vibrant audience that was interactive. We're late by almost an hour to reach Nadapuram and were provided with a delightful lunch there. Enroute to Nadapuram, we'd passed through Orkkatterry, where TP Chandrasekharan was hacked to death with 51 cuts by mallets and swords by his ex-CPM comrades, on 04 May '12, at the behest of certain senior leaders. The case still drags on in court. I was keen to see the spot out of curiosity and was shown, along with a brief insight about what had happened that unfortunate night.

The Nadapuram crowd, flush with being adjudged as the best panchayat in the state for 2016 - '17 was very vibrant, inquisitive and interactive. Kuttiadi, on the other hand, had a lesser crowd though the proceedings were held at the bus stand. Perambra, was disappointing as the crowd was very less - and the alibi, was that there was a communication gap. The panchayat's vice president, who was in attendance, genuinely felt sad for the lack of preparation on their part and was profusely apologetic!

After fuelling two of our vehicles, at the end of the day, we're off to Vythiri in Wayanad district for our night halt at the Vythiri Grace Residency, near the panchayat. The place was nice and homely but I'd to create a problem when I broke the beautiful glass table top due to my clumsiness and thoughtlessness.


1. The distances were huge today. I think it was all because of our district co-ordinator, Advocate Rajan's inadequate home work. Manu seemed to be unsure driving up the thirteen hairpin bends and scraped with a vehicle once before steadying up.

2. Rajendran, Vijayan and Aji made sure that the harmful debris was cleared without delay. And I felt nice because I know that they'd done it for me.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Kozhikode district(2).

Had got up at 6, said my prayers and went through the chores. We're ready in time but the hot water system had failed and Maman had to, finally, wait for the bucket of hot water brought in by the steward. It had got delayed as they're trying their level best to get the system back in shape but unfortunately, it just wouldn't relent.

We're at the Thamarasserry panchayat office by 9 and were privy to a scrumptious breakfast. The function started soon after and it was attended by a reasonable crowd despite the twin reasons of the Panchayat Day celebrations and the ongoing private bus strike. The interaction was nice, the crowd was vibrant and the policemen were thrilled to put up their street play, lapped up by the audience.

The panchayats with which we'd our trysts today, were:-

     (a) Thamarasserry.
     (b) Balusserry and
     (c) Chengottukavu.

Thamarasserry panchayat is the border post of Kozhikode district before entering the district of Wayanad. We're impressed by the manner in which they'd looked after us and how the leadership had taken pains to organise the function. We left by a half past 11 to the next panchayat viz. Balusserry but were disappointed with the preparations on the ground. The excuse that they gave was that they'd seen the orders, regarding the yatra, very late. This was an oft repeated alibi given by the panchayats who've been unable to rustle up reasonable crowds and we'd to, patiently, explain to them about their inhouse digitised system, the gist of which, I reproduce below:-

      (a) All panchayats are now linked by computers and also to the concerned ministry's portal.
      (b) All mail is sent to this portal which is supposed to be downloaded by a 'technical assistant'
            appointed in each and every panchayat, for the purpose.
      (c) It's the technical assistant's job to show the mail to the panchayat leadership well in time to
            initiate necessary action.

It's this link that has invariably let down the system because the orders regarding the yatra were
disseminated by the ministry, the directorate of panchayats and the PN Panicker Foundation, followed with telephone calls to confirm receipt sometime in the middle of January. We just need to get into the habit of browsing our mail everyday, perhaps twice, once in the morning and the second in the evening!

We've the right to tell this to everyone because it's digital literacy that we're batting for, through the yatra. The panchayat gave us an excellent lunch and we'd a very satisfying interaction with an active audience within the meeting hall of the panchayat(Earlier, they'd planned the function at the bus stand and it was we who wanted a change of venue because of the scorching afternoon heat and the interaction was to explain to the members of the panchayat as to how they're to go about achieving digital literacy as per the new scheme).

The third and the last panchayat was 'Chengottukavu' and boy, the function was a great hit with a large and interactive audience, keen leadership and the colourful reception that was given to us with ladies holding colourful, ceremonial umbrellas. The street play was also enacted and the vibrancy of the panchayat was evident, all through!

We reached the PWD Rest House at Vadakara, our night halt by a half past 8. Dinner was brought in, packed, from the Chengottukavu panchayat. We went through our evening chores, as usual.


1. None of the plug points were working in the VIP Room that was given to us. Consequently, I'm sitting near Mary's - an elderly lady who has recovered from paralysis and is in charge of the Rest House - room, right now, punching away my thoughts on my keyboard! 

2. At Chengottukavu, I'd a Malabari delicacy, 'Elanchi' and simply loved it.  

Monday, February 19, 2018

Kozhikode district(1).

The Park View Residency at Thenjipalam only had an impressive frontage and name, but the rooms didn't have many fixtures like wardrobe and adequate number of plug points for charging the cellphones. It was an ordinary room with the ceiling fan not adequately circulating air all around the room. Consequently, it was a very, very warm night to begin with.

Water was at a premium and therefore, we went for a jug of hot water for consumption during the night. The night was just about okay. Got up at a half past 5, said my prayers and went through the chores as today, we were to kick off to Mavoor - the first point of reception - at 8 because there were distances that needed to be traversed through heavy traffic.

Suresh, Aji's understudy, had begun to retch as we sped towards our destination. He seemed to have consumed cold water from outside, in the morning, that had caused the mishap. He was sent to the Medical College, for immediate attention on reaching Mavoor, along with a local person to facilitate easy movement within the hospital. He's now okay and his problem was gastric trouble.

Due to the Panchayat Day Celebrations and the continuing bus strike, our programme for today was restricted to just two panchayats viz.:-

     (a) Mavoor and
     (b) Kunnamangalam.

The crowds were adequate and the interactions good. The Janamaitry Police had carried out their street play in both the points and it was received with great fervour by the audiences, putting the policemen in high spirits.

Our night halt was at Thamarasserry. The Panchayat President, her secretary and the members were at hand to receive us, damn sweet of them. They'd indeed gone out of their way to put us at ease and gave us a scrumptious dinner. We fetched up in our room at the Wayanad Residency by about 9, where we went about our usual chores before hitting the sack.


The heat has become unbearable - and we get a first hand taste of it - since we've a lot of interactions outdoors.  

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Malappuram district(3).

Was, again, late in getting up as I'd got up around 5, recited my prayers and drifted off to sleep. Went through our chores and we're ready in time and set off from Tirur by 9 AM. We'd headed straight for Purathur, which was the first point of reception. It was a sumptuous breakfast, as usual, before the function.

The panchayats with which we'd trysts with today, were:-

    (a) Purathur.
    (b) Alamcode and
    (c) Thenjipalam.

There were three factors that played a role in reducing the crowds, attending our functions, today which were:-

    (a) The panchayat celebrations.
    (b) The continuing private bus strike and
    (c) Today, being a Sunday.

Despite the restricting factors, the crowds were adequate in each of the panchayats that we visited today and the interactions were good. I must cite an incident that took place at Thenjipalam, this evening. I shall go through the incident minute to minute.

Maman, as usual, was interacting with the audience. He'd invited a 68 year old lady, Padmini towards the dais and begun a conversation. Towards the end of the interaction, he'd honoured her by draping a shawl around her shoulders. She cried and held on to him for quite a while. When queried as to why she'd shed tears, her answer was, "Sir, I've never been honoured anytime in my life so far. This is for the first time someone has taken note of me. I shall never forget this day!" It was a poignant moment.

With that we'd wrapped up the yatra in Malappuram district and are poised to begin our three day foray into Kozhikode district from tomorrow.


Lekha had attended Indu's brother's engagement today at Kollam. My sister, Rema, was also in attendance. 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Malappuram district(2).

Was a trifle late in getting up this morning. It was because I'd got up around 5, recited my prayers and drifted off to sleep. It didn't affect my going through the chores and getting ready within time. We'd set off for the first panchayat by about 5' past 9. Today, we'd a schedule of only three panchayats but the distances between them have been quite a bit.

The panchayats with which we'd a tryst with today, were:-

    (a) Edavanna.
    (b) Areakode and
    (c) Ponmundam.

At Edavanna, the reception began after a sumptuous breakfast provided to us by the panchayat. The reception and the interaction were within the precincts of the private bus stand, below the panchayat complex. The crowd swelled up during the course of the interaction and finally, had built up to sufficient numbers resulting in the street play being executed. Riyaz, a self made milk distributor as well as Jayasree, a kudumbasree worker were honoured, by the yatra, for their perseverance and hard work.

At Areakode, the numbers were less but the interaction had a liveliness. Sumaira, the panchayat president, was honoured for the enlightened leadership that she was providing for the people under her charge. The lunch was in a hotel nearby and Shafi, took it upon himself to look after us! The distance to the next panchayat, Ponmundam was about 50 kms.

We reached our last destination by about a half past 4. The reception was organised at a maidan close to the Ponmundam panchayat complex. The day's proceedings wound up at 6 and a religious organisation had begun its conglomeration soon after. Because of the conference by Madani's PDP, there was a huge traffic snarl all through Tirur and so, we took a round about route which had an uncomfortably narrow width along its length. Manu had a tough time negotiating the road but we reached Thunchan Nagar without having to go through the traffic snarl a second time.

The eve of the panchayat celebrations, together with the bus strike, had taken its toll on the crowds in our interactions all through the day.


Malappuram, a predominantly Muslim district, is far ahead insofar as their world awareness is concerned. The ladies are a confident lot and there were many who'd made a strong case against alcoholism involving their close relatives!  

Friday, February 16, 2018

Malappuram district(1).

After a pleasant night's stay, we'd got up at a half past 6 this morning gone through our chores and were ready well in time. Looked for Devadas, who looked after every need of ours last evening and early morning today but had gone off duty by the time we were casting off this morning. We'd wanted to tip him for his services but it turned out to be futile! Shall always feel bad at having missed that opportunity because he was a genuinely good and hardworking guy.

The private buses were off the road because of the owners' unhappiness over the revised ticket rates announced by the government. From now on, as per the government's latest announcement, the minimum ticket is gonna be @ Rs.8/- and there's no increase in the student ticket rates. I, too, feel that the student ticket rates must be revised periodically but the governments are scared of the student organisations as they are not gonna let that happen! This is a fairly regular flop show that we are witness to!! It, incidentally, had a direct effect on the size of the crowds in our programme, all through the day.

We left by 9 for Vettathur, the first panchayat of Malappuram district. We're received and given a sumptuous breakfast with the President, Vice President and Secretary going all out to put as at ease. The audience was okay - though the leadership did emphasise that it would have been better but for the strike - and very interactive.

The panchayats with which we'd our trysts with today, were:-

      (a) Vettathur.
      (b) Melattoor.
      (c) Karuvaaramkundu and
      (d) Chungathara.

At Melattoor, the crowd was again sparse but were very active. The panchayat insisted on giving us lunch while the next panchayat had also kept it ready. It was a difficult choice for us but we, finally, decided to have it at Melattoor itself.

Karuvaarakundu had a decent crowd that interacted well with us but Chungathara, on the other hand, had a disappointing crowd. Because of this reason, the police did not go through the street play, '' for the entire day! We secured by 7 after settling the team in Hotel Elite and the three of us stayed at 'The Tamarind', four kms away from the town.


1. In Malappuram district the distances, between the panchayats involved, are great and hence, the reception programmes by the ten are spread over three days.
2. Jaffar, our co-ordinator in the district, had to report to his office by lunchtime and hence, Anil - a smart youngster - stood for him.
3. My throat seems to be holding.   

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Palakkad district(2).

Had got up around a quarter past 6, went about my chores and was ready well in time. Though Ramanand sir had said that he'd arrive by a half past 7 he came late and that eased out the pressure on us to get ready! The Collector - who was the chief guest - was delayed and that had a cascading effect on the commencement of the morning's programme.

The breakfast of dosas, chutney, sambar, chilly chutney and coffee within the small homely environment was nice. The programme hit off well with the students and a good crowd that formed the audience, despite the hot sun. And immediately, after the function, disaster struck when - to my utter horror - I found that I'd misplaced maman's wallet which he'd given me for safekeeping. Frantic searches were carried out within the vehicle that we'd travelled in, within the panchayat office and even in the hotel, where we'd gone in the morning!

It was when our car was being driven on to the road that a police woman had pointed out to the wallet on the car's roof. And then the moment, that I'd placed it atop, came back to my mind all too vividly!

The panchayats that we'd our trysts with today, were:-  

    (a) Kannadi.
    (b) Puthuppariyaaram.
    (c) Karimba.
    (d) Thachampaara and 
    (e) Kumaramputhur.

Today's outing saw fairly good crowds in all the panchayats and the interactions were productive. Ramanand sir - our district co-ordinator - had done his homework well. The team was put up in the PWD Rest house, while we finally ended up staying at Hotel Hill View on sir's insistence. 

The irritation in my throat had subsided, on its own, without medication. Hope the improvement persists and I'm glad that I didn't have to take medicines.


1. The children's - all girls - band had given a scintillating performance at Puthuppariyaaram. They're honoured for their performance.

2. Mr. Jimmy Mathews - the chairman of one of the standing committees - a functional literacy volunteer of the '80s, gave us an anecdote from his association with PN Panicker. Muthachhan, during one of his visits to Karimba realised that the electric supply was usually erratic in the area owing to a number of reasons. He'd sorted out the vexed problem by giving the panchayat Rs.80/- to buy a petromax flood light! It was a priceless possession for them, those days!!    

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Halfway through Palakkad district.

Had got up around 4, recited my prayers and drifted back to sleep and got up around a half past 6. The morning cuppa was sadly missing as the hotel was yet to have its restaurant operational. It had better get its services streamlined because I'm sure it will not get many guests with the present facilities! Even the hot water system is yet to be put in place but the beauty about the place was that it was new, looked good and we'd a good sleep.

Maman didn't get his bucket of hot water and therefore, skipped his bath. It was in keeping with the requirement dictated by his cough and cold! Chambu skipped his, saying that he'd a good bath last evening!! Was in bad shape as my throat has gone for a six, yet again. Is it a relapse or because of a lapse on my part, I wonder. The heat outside and the controlled air within the vehicles that we use, along with an abundance of dust in the atmosphere, could be the inimical factors for a good respiratory system.

We left Thrissur after a half past 8 and the traffic was just right for our convoy to move without any halts enroute. Reached Vadakkancherry, our first point of reception by about a half past 9 and we're quickly provided with a sumptuous breakfast of idiyappams and vegetable stew. The reception was at a strategic corner of the private bus stand and was a fairly well attended programme - short and sweet - as there were high school children who were keen to interact and for going around the mobile exhibitions!

The panchayats with which we'd our trysts with, today were:-

  (a) Vadakkancherry.
  (b) Nenmaara.
  (c) Alathur.
  (d) Pallassena and
  (e) Kuzhalmannam.

The crowds in each of the panchayats were good, interactive and eager to go around the vehicles. The local MLA was in attendance at Alathur and he'd waited for us to arrive. Enjoyed the interactions though I was not feeling good because of the bad throat.

Remembered our numerous trips to Santhan Kochachhan's ancestral home, Poozhikkunnathu House at Koduvayur, as we passed through the adjacent areas. At Kuzhalmannam, Excise Inspector Suresh Kumar gave a thought provoking lecture about the trend of youngsters' indulgence in drugs!

Ramanand sir, our co-ordinator in the district, was his usual efficient self, chauffeuring us from one point to the other in his spanking new SUV. Our night halt was at the government guest house which was nice and the initial idea of going to Rema's house was dropped because of the distances involved and the proximity of the first panchayat tomorrow!

It was a comparatively early evening!


1. Indira ma'am from the office joined us for the Palakkad phase. It was great to have her with us.
2. And after a break, I've managed the latest medical condition of my classmate, B Mohanachandran, currently convalescing at the CMC, Vellore.

Mohanachandran's medical bulletin.

"He has not progressed much. He has started taking oral feeds to some extent. It's a combination of oral feed and direct feed to the stomach. Tracheotomy is on. He is medically okay, otherwise. We make him stand for 30', every day, with support. He's beginning to understand as to what's happening around. It's going to be a long journey but we're optimistic!" From Vijayan Nair, Mohanachandran's brother-in-law. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


Had got up around a half past 2 and found that sleep was difficult to come by. So, had washed my face and rinsed my mouth to recite my prayers. On completion, I'd managed to drift back to sleep to get up at a half past 6. After a quick wash we'd walked across to the dining hall to have our morning cuppa. Reminded me of my boarding school days!

Around a half past 8, we're back in the dining hall for our breakfast of idlis, vada, chutney and sambar. And we left for the first panchayat of the day viz. Nenmanikkara. I shall never forget the effect of Mahashivarathri that affected the size of the audiences, all through the day except for the Adaattu panchayat.

The panchayats with which we'd our trysts today were:-

    (a) Nenmamikkara.
    (b) Nadathara.
    (c) Puthur.
    (d) Adaattu and
    (e) Kaipparambu.

At Nenmanikkara, the crowd had slowly picked up but we'd have loved it to be larger. At the end of it, we'd two batches of trainee players that swelled the crowd. At Nadathara, things were better and the available crowd was attentive and interactive. Puthoor, was disappointing though the panchayat had garnered the high school students in their uniform. In fact, the children had waited for us to finish lunch to have their's. Had we known about it earlier, we would not have let that happened but we waited for all of them to finish their meal to begin our interaction.

A thing that I've been noticing during our interactions with the school children - all government schools - was that they were too shy to open up during the interactive sessions. Was that an elusive quality of those from the elite schools, I wonder?

Adaattu gave a grand reception to the yatra. It was around a half past 3. Unfortunately, I'd missed it as I was overseeing the fueling of five of our vehicles, ensure that the bills had the numbers of the vehicles and their names to finally clear payment by credit card. A rather tedious work but a necessity for the records which would be subjected for audit. I'd joined it soon after and homed in Sukeshan and Paulson Jose, to the premises. The interaction was good, Sukeshan left soon after handing over my personal stuff and collecting clothes for wash. Paulson stayed on to watch the street play but I'd to leave him there as I'd to rush to the next and last panchayat for the day.

The size of the audience at Kaipparambu panchayat left much to be desired. The police team, however, put up their act and attracted passersby as additional crowd at the Nehru mandapam. This panchayat was the closest to 'The Quarterdeck', our house at Guruvayur.

Our night halt was at the Jojo Hotel, owned by the panchayat's president, that was inaugurated just a week back. The wardrobe and other stuff need to be put in place and it's still in the process of being furnished.

Thrissur is over and we're now poised for our move through Palakkad from tomorrow.


1. Lekha and her folks stayed the night at 'The Quarterdeck', went by George's car to the Thirumaandhaam kunnu temple this morning and had returned to Kottarakkara by a half past 8, this evening.

2. She'd overseen the clothes that I'd asked for which Sukeshan, our maid's husband, had made a trip all the way to the Adaattu library to hand over to me, where the function was on.   

Monday, February 12, 2018

In Thrissur district.

Had got up at a half past 6 and had gone down to the restaurant to fetch tea for us when Sudhakaran gently reminded me that it would be available only by 7. Went through the chores though I was unhappy with the brackish water that was available, with the effect that I felt that I really had not had a bath at the end of it all! Moreover, the morning was stiflingly hot.

We'd commenced our coverage of Thrissur district. The panchayats with which we'd our trysts today were:-

  (a) Koratty.
  (b) Meloor.
  (c) Kodakara.
  (d) Parappookkara and
  (e) Puthukkad.

The proceedings in each of the panchayats were good and fetched better crowds than yesterday. It could have, however, been better but for the long weekend that people must have availed because of the holiday on account of Sivarathri tomorrow.

Sumesh, the district DYFI president and a panchayat member said that it was PN Panicker's library movement that had veered the Malayalees from superstitions and baseless beliefs. Come to think of it, he'd scored a bull's eye and I congratulated him for it. He was effusive in his thanks and took leave of me before casting off. Nice of him!

At Kodakara, we're glad to see that our idea of honouring the poor and the common people had been adopted by the panchayat. And it was nice to be in Chelat Achutha Menon's - one of the charismatic chief minsters of the state - constituency. But approaching the panchayat had its pitfalls, in that, the small roads had overhead electric and television cables that hampered the Science Exploratory's smooth movement. After making a late entry at the panchayat, a quick move to the rest room saw me take a bad tumble because of the slippery floor and for the rest of the day, till I came into our night halt at KILA(Kerala Institute of Local Administration) and had washed my clothes!

The receptions at Parappookkara and Puthukkad were short affairs as the audiences were comparatively less, though enthusiastic. The common thread in all the panchayats of the day had a majority of female elected representatives, running the administrations and one felt nice.


1. There was another mishap involving me. Had a narrow miss while I was trying to get the vehicles in order at the Paaliyekkara toll, my right leg had almost gone under our car's rear wheel. I howled at Manu for his faux pas. 

2. Lekha is at 'The Quarterdeck' today as she's moving with her sister and family to the Thirumaandhaam kunnu temple. She'll return to Kottarakkara tomorrow.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Ernakulam district(3).

Had got up at a half past 6 and went about my chores. Being a Sunday, the nearby tea shop had its shutters down, from where Sankarettan had bought us tea yesterday. He was genuinely sad that he was unable to get it today. So, I'd taken Manu and the car and gone a few kilometers up into Aluva town - we'd tea there and bought two cups for Maman and Chambu.

Our team, who were housed in the Chengamanadu panchayat's premises, did have a torrid time in the night because electricity had played truant and the mosquitoes had a ball at their expense! But true to their involvement, they didn't crib about it and we'd come to know about it by chance. The organisers were conveyed our displeasure without holding back the punches.

The first place of reception was at the Kunnukara panchayat, ably run by its President, Francis Tharayil a differently abled individual, himself. His bubbling enthusiasm and the will to take on additional responsibility were evident. We'd honoured him by Maman draping a shawl over his shoulders and he'd accepted it with humility. Incidentally, our honouring of individuals like the best auto rickshaw driver, best milkman, best head load worker, best nurse and many other categories from the most common people has been a great hit and has grabbed the headlines.

The panchayats with which we'd our trysts with today, were:-

    (a) Kunnukara.
    (b) Nedumbasserry and
    (c) Karukutty.

Despite being a Sunday, there was a swell of people in Kunnukara (The breakfast that was on offer was sumptuous), a lovely lunch at Nedumbasserry where it took time for the crowd to form up and Karukutty, where the panchayat's leadership were both, the organisers and the audience!

We're put up in Cochin Gate, a hotel on the highway. We could secure earlier than usual, bought Maman his medicines for sore throat that were prescribed by Dr. Pankaj Srivastava, our friend and cardiologist at Lucknow.


1. At midway through the yatra, having completed seven districts.
2. Our co-ordinator in Thrissur, Sitharaman, was gracious to give us his car for the move during the next couple of days within the district. Our car should reach us on Thursday, after repairs.
3. Poised to begin our move through Thrissur tomorrow!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Ernakulam district(2).

Had got up around 4, said my prayers and drifted off to sleep only to get up around a half past 6. Went through the chores and was ready, well in time. I'd taken the entire convoy to the Vaazhakkulam panchayat since Maman had to go to the railway station to pick up Mahesh, who'd come down with stuff from Thiruvananthapuram and our office.

We're provided with breakfast at the panchayat and I'd interacted with the President and her colleagues to give them the crux of the yatra. Maman made it by 11 and soon after, the reception ceremony had taken off. The proceedings were rounded off with the street play put up by the Janamaitry Police and it was a hit, as always. The team had rejoined us this morning from Thiruvananthapuram after carrying out repairs on the bus.

The panchayats with which we'd our trysts today were:-

   (a) Vazhakkulam.
   (b) Choornikkara and
   (c) Chengamanadu.

The reception ceremonies today had a comparatively less attendance than what they were yesterday. It was Saturday and the beginning of the weekend, they said. The interactions were meaningful, giving us a rare insight into the way our village folk thought and went about their lives. Is there a tendency to play safe in their official lives? Or are such deviations mere aberrations? Or is it playing politics to the hilt? Do I feel a reluctance, on the part of a few, to accept the opposite political viewpoint?

We'd rounded off the day's proceedings with the police's street play at Chengamanadu. The crowd could have been greater especially because it was at the Desam junction.

We'd returned to the YMCA and into the same room in which we stayed yesterday. Getting a room in the government guest house turned out to be futile.


Reading of the newspapers have now been reduced to restricting to the headlines and a quick read of the coverage of the yatra. Television viewing has again come down to scanning the news!    

Friday, February 9, 2018

Going back 48 years!

Had got up at a 10' to 5, sleep seemed hard to come by and I recited my prayers. Drifted back to sleep after the recital. Subsequently, got up at a half past 6 and went about my chores with gusto. Was ready well in time. It was the first of three days in Ernakulam district. Celine Jacob, our co-ordinator, had done sufficient spadework as all the four reception ceremonies were well conducted and well attended.

The panchayats with which we'd a tryst with, today, were:-

     (a) Maaraadi.
     (b) Paayippra.
     (c) Nellikkuzhi and
     (d) Okkal.

The interesting aspects of today's functions were the following:-

     (a) The audiences were enthusiastic and interactive.
     (b) Everywhere, the 'chendamelam' by youngsters was in attendance.

Celine Jacob had done her homework and it was clear that she'd interacted with each and every panchayat to bring about a well orchestrated function at each of the venues! Kudos to her!!

At Okkal, a shopkeeper was irritated that our Science Exploratory was parked in front of his shop. This evening, we'd carried out a stump-speech-sort-of-interaction atop the rear platform of the vehicle. It looked out of the way, savvy and aroused interest among the onlookers and within minutes a large crowd had formed around to take part in the proceedings.

Our night halt was at the YMCA, on the bank of the river Periyar and I was transported in time by 48 years. 

"I was a student of class X in Sainik School, Kazhakootam in '70. Our class was on an educational tour in April and ten of us were supposed to scale the Anamudi, the highest peak in the region on the completion of the tour. After three days of visits to the various industrial complexes/units of Aluva and Ernakulam, the 10 of us were poised to leave for Anamudi while the rest were going back to their homes on vacation.

That particular morning, I and TD Gopinath(Roll No.397) had walked down the steps of the bathing ghat to have our bath in the river. When I'd finished with my bath, I'd called out to Gopinath who said that he'd take some more time as a few others had also joined. 

That was my last sight of him. His body was retrieved from the river, 24 hours later".


1. The old buildings have long since been demolished and new ones have come in their place. The river continues to flow as robust as ever as though nothing had happened! For me, it was an evening of reflection and a poignant moment. Gopinath, I did think of you as the images came in clear and fast.

2. Today's rain fell around a half past 6 and by half an hour, it had ceased unlike what it was yesterday when it rained all through the afternoon and early evening.

3. Two of the sick vehicles viz. Kudumbashree and Book Mark had rejoined us in the evening. The police vehicle should join us by 10 'o clock tomorrow. Our car has been admitted and we've a rent-a-car instead.


Thursday, February 8, 2018

An eventful third day in Idukki.

Had got up at a half past 6 and gone about my chores. Hot water wasn't available and there was an inordinate delay in the bearer supplying us two buckets of hot water. One of them was very lukewarm and I'd used it because I didn't want Maman to bathe in cold water. Chambu decided to skip the morning bath altogether!

We left Cheruthoni by a half past 8 and were at Adimali an hour and a half later. Breakfast was at the Janamaitry Police Club soon after which we'd the reception programme. It was a nicely conducted function and an hour later, we're off to the next point of reception. The panchayats that we'd our trysts with today were:-

   (a) Adimali.
   (b) Munnar.
   (c) Pallivaasal and
   (d) Muttam.

Early in the morning, we'd a problem with our 'Book Mark' bus that necessitated its admission in the workshop. It seems to be having a serious problem and its substitute will be joining us during our 'parikrama' of the Ernakulam district. The Janamaitry Police team, that's accompanying us with its street play act, had a problem with their bus and they're sent back to Thiruvananthapuram, by evening, so that the bus could undergo urgent repairs and join us the day after tomorrow.

The reception and the interaction with the folks at Munnar and Pallivaasal were very spontaneous and nice. Our lunch was in a nice eatery at the picturesque Munnar. Unlike yesterday, the rain fell around lunchtime. Our next stop was at Pallivaasal. I've given a task to the secretary of the Pallivaasal panchayat to get me connected with my old classmate, Sydney Stephen at the Holy Angels' Convent, Thiruvananthapuram. This was because he hailed from Thiruvananthapuram Pettah and Sydney's also from there.

No sooner had we passed Adimali and were on our way to the Muttam panchayat when disaster struck in the form of a state road transport corporation bus' tail hitting us on our right bow while negotiating a hairpin bend. We could have tumbled down into the valley but thankfully, none of that happened. Felt bad that the car had taken a bad hit. The four of us, within the vehicle, had a miraculous escape with not even a scratch. I was witness to the tail of the bus swing towards our car as I was on the pillion seat but there was no sense of panic!

Consequent to it, our programme at Muttam had to be called off. We're at Thodupuzha by a half past 6, which was our night halt.


1. From tomorrow it's gonna be Ernakulam district for the next three days.
2. The car will be admitted tomorrow at the Indus Motors and we shall get a car-on-rent for the next three days. The show must go on! 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The second day in Idukki

Had got up at a 10' to 4. Since sleep was taking its time, I'd said my prayers and turned off to sleep yet again. I'd finally got up at a half past 6 when Jabbar brought in the morning cuppa. The wait for the hot water was longer - the geyser wasn't working - as the manager was caught up with his boss from the PWD who was the guest in room no.1.

The immediate task in the morning was to fuel four vehicles of the yatra. The sequencing of the bills along with the vehicle numbers was a laborious process.

The panchayats/municipality with whom we'd our trysts today were:-

     (a) Paambaadumpaara.
     (b) Kattappana municipality and
     (c) Vaazhathoppu.

The reception at Paambaadumpaara was rousing and the subsequent interaction was good. There are two things that are noteworthy - as I observe - after 10 days of the yatra:-

     (a) The average Malayalee woman is sufficiently empowered.
     (b) Women are on the centre stage insofar as the panchayats are concerned.

And it gives me tremendous happiness! The Kattappana municipality gave us a good lunch but the public felicitation was a tame affair. It was during this period that Raju - the honey expert and a part of our yatra - took us to his house to show the bee keeping industry that he has developed. The aroma was therapeutic and nice. He has become a good friend and so has his mom, all of 91 years!

Elias kept the programme on a taut frequency as he cajoled, spoke and brought the panchayat hierarchy to toe his requirement. His childlike innocence, so evident in people who live up the hills, is an endearing quality.

I'd travelled in the Science Exploratory, this afternoon, to give company to Aji and get it fuelled at an appropriate pump. We, eventually, reached Cheruthoni(The Vaazhathoppu panchayat) where the last felicitation was carried out. Unfortunately, the street play couldn't be completed thanks to the rain. After fueling the Science Exploratory, we're at our night halt - a decent hotel in Manjappaara. It was a late evening as usual.


1. The hotel was a grand affair. Jalaluddin, a member of the Vaazhathoppu panchayat, was more than a help in settling us for the evening.
2. The Book Mark vehicle seems to be having a problem. It will be taken to the workshop tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Into Idukki district.

Had got up by 6 and went about my chores, without delay, to be ready well in time. We left for Mundakkayam by a quarter past 8 and was met at the Rani Hotel by Elias, our co-ordinator in Idukki. After a sumptuous breakfast, we're off to Peruvanthaanam, our first point of reception.

The panchayats with which we'd our trysts today were:-

    (a) Peruvanthaanam.
    (b) Vandiperiyaar.
    (c) Kumily and
    (d) Nedumkandam.

The receptions, today, in the first three panchayats were done in grand style. Maman's voice was hoarse and therefore, I'd taken on the familiarisation. The crowd was good and the policemen put up the street play, soon after, but the sad fact was that the audience kept thinning away much before the play was over. The team keeps telling us that such non indulgence on the part of the audiences dampens their enthusiasm!

The distance between Kumily and Nedumkandam is about 50 kms. Disaster struck us enroute when the brake of the massive Science Exploratory had given way, while doing a hair pin bend and would have fallen into the valley but for the timely use of the hand brake by Aji, its driver. The vehicle was initially lying across the road and would have caused traffic obstruction, but the police team - which was just behind Aji's bus - went into the rescue mode in the immediate aftermath. I think God was with Aji and the PN Panicker Foundation's yatra, this evening and prevented a sure disaster.

Meanwhile we had got late - it was a quarter to 6 - when we'd arrived at Nedunkandam and the crowd had thinned down. The plans were altered and we'd the street play put in motion, that attracted a reasonable crowd. Here, because the town is an outpost, goods from across the border come into the market during the weekends which, therefore, become full working days and Tuesdays are observed as holidays. So, we'd come into town when most of the shutters were down!


1. Had settled down at the Rest House for the evening. The room was okay but more than that, Jabbar, the in charge was a helpful guy.

2. Rajendran of the 'Honey' team is the most energetic and enthusiastic person in the team. He keeps giving suggestions, is always ready to help the others and is extremely kind.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Winding up with Kottayam district.

I'd got up comparatively late around 7 AM but went through the chores and was ready well in time. It was time well spent at Aniyan's place, we could get our washing act updated. Aniyan and Usha ammayi were happy that we'd stayed at their place, albeit, for a short while.

We're off to Mannarcadu, our first reception point. They'd received us with a sumptuous breakfast of idlis, chutney and sambar, along with the traditional sweet of this area, the 'vattayappam'. The panchayats that we'd a tryst with, today, were:-

    (a) Mannarcadu.
    (b) Puthuppally.
    (c) Karukachaal.
    (d) Paampaady and
    (e) Vazhoor.

Puthupally was a sad affair because of the political undercurrents. Maman did give it to them in his acceptance speech and the sting was adequate, I thought. The proceedings at Karukachaal were fantastic. Paampaady was just okay but Vazhoor was good. Its President, Ms. Pushkala, a retired professor, was effective and put up a spectacular show. She did become sentimental towards the end.

There was a drizzle towards the closing stages but it did not 'dampen' the programme! On completion, we went to Ponkunnam, where we had our night halt. We stayed at the 'Swades Lodge' which was adequate. Dinner was at the Indian Coffee House which was nice.

Our co-ordinator, PGM Nair, was missing during the entire day and was also not available on his cellphone which made things tough. I suppose one has to take this in one's stride though it exposes the weakness in the organisational link. It has to be rectified forthwith.

The fifth district has been completed and we're poised to enter Idukki district tomorrow morning. The drive to the first point of reception is around 30 kms and our breakfast has been arranged there.


1. We're gonna be in Idukki district for the next three days though we cover only ten panchayats as is the case for the other districts. It's the hilly terrain, winding roads and hairpin bends that would involve a great amount of travel. Munnar, the hill station, would be the penultimate point on the third and final day.

2. Maman had received information in the evening that Vichani kunjamma was in bad shape. O God, do please take care of her.

3. Lekha and her folks had returned late in the evening from Trichy, after the wedding.   

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Into Kottayam district.

The night at the BSF lodge was a continuous yet losing battle with the mosquitoes. The entire team was housed in the single floor building, by the highway. The man-for-all-seasons, Mohammed Haq, made three visits to our room to fix the television. Maman was in bad shape. I remember having drifted off to deep slumber immediately on 'touching' the bed!

Had got up at a quarter past 6, gone through my chores and walked about 400' to have the morning cuppa and bring tea for maman and Chambu. By a half past 8, we're ready to move towards our first point of reception in Kottayam district with Pattanakkad Prathapan in the lead. The road aligned with the Thanneermukkam bund was in the process of resurfacing and the drive of almost 8 kms was a nightmare.

On reaching Vechoor, our first halt, Rajendran of the Honey Buggy was insistent that his vehicle was topped up with fuel and his pillion was full of honey, stacked up haphazardly. I'd to walk a distance of almost two kilometers, up and down, in the bargain but it had to be done as all such transactions by the credit card were my responsibility. The breakfast of idli-chutney-sambar, provided by the panchayat, was yummy. Their reception was also on a grand scale with the MLA, Asha, in the forefront.

The panchayats that were part of our itinerary today were:-

   (a) Vechoor.
   (b) Thalayolaparambu.
   (c) Kaduthuruthi.
   (d) Kuravilangadu and
   (e) Bharananganam.

Despite being a Sunday, the receptions organised by each of the panchayats were enthusiastic with a great deal of participation by the members - a welcome change from what I'd seen last Sunday in Kollam district. Our co-ordinator for Kottayam district, PGM Nair deserves the credit for the show!
After putting up the team in the rectory of the Bharanaganam church, we'd set off for Aniyan's house at Kidangoor for spending the night. The turn to his house, from the highway, eluded us and we had to make three attempts to get it right.

I'd made a quick dash to the hair cutting saloon to have a haircut, buy a medicine and the blade cartridge which I'd wanted to buy all these days.


Aniyan and Usha ammayi played the perfect hosts and for us, it was a welcome change after the last nine days of rough and tumble. Our soiled clothes were put through the laundromat by ammayi and it was a nice dinner with family. Her health needs recouping.

Lekha is at Trichy, attending her sister's nephew's wedding.       

Saturday, February 3, 2018

The second day in Alappuzha district.

The day had begun at a quarter past 6 and I went about my chores to be on time. We'd initially gone into Alappuzha town but had altered course to Mararikkulam south panchayat, the first in the day's itinerary. Breakfast was, thus, delayed. Earlier , we'd met with the PWD minister, Mr. Sudhakaran and the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Prof PJ Kurien, at the guest house before departure.

Maman was in bad shape with viral fever but despite his discomfort, he'd gone about his job remarkably well. The panchayats with which we'd our trysts today were:-

   (a) Mararikkulam south.
   (b) Mararikkulam north.
   (c) Thuravoor.
   (d) Kuthiathodu and
   (e) Aroor.

The receptions, followed by the interactions, in each of the panchayats were well crafted and educative. The ladies have really been our supporters as is evident throughout this yatra. The important fact is that they strongly believe that we would deliver! And we shall!! Attaining cent percent digital literacy is an achievable aim and the panchayats that we've interacted with, thus far, do not seem to have any doubts on that score.

Prathapan, our co-ordinator in Alappuzha, has done a commendable job and he was keen to show us his house and his driving school premises. The hardworking guy that he is, has a modern training facility efficiently run by his wife, Sini. His mother was felicitated by adorning her with a shawl.

I was a bit into logistics in ensuring that four out of the nine vehicles were fuelled and the bills taken for accounting. The proceedings of the day ended by 6, but despite the early secure, I wasn't able to visit a decent hair cutting saloon because Aroor didn't seem to have one. Incidentally, the Aroor meeting ended on a fine rendition of 'Poonthenaruvi Ponmudi puzhayude aniyathee.....' by playback singer, Dileema who's also the Zilla Vice President. Santha of the panchayat rendered a beautiful song after that. There's a lot of talent!

The local MLA, Arif, incidentally, was in attendance.


We'd settled at 'The Villas' which was a modest resting place with no frills. Our dinner was at a place, close to the Aroor panchayat.    

Friday, February 2, 2018

In Alappuzha district.

Had got up late around 7 despite the fact that sleep, last night, was quite okay compared to what it was over the past few days because of the persistent cough. Went through the chores and was ready much before 8. Breakfast was at the Indian Coffee House and we'd to wait for a while for the rest of the team to fetch up from the Mallappally guest house.

Our first reception point was at Cherianadu but enroute, disaster struck. The Science Exploratory's high roof had got stuck under a railway over bridge because of the sudden dip in the road. Taking over the trouble shooting bit, I'd asked the rest of the team to press on, to be in time for the reception. We'd the bus backed off from the cleft with some deft handling of traffic without causing a pile up and took a circuitous route and reached the Government High School without much loss of time!

Chunakkara Janardanan Nair sir showed his happiness, as always, on seeing me. The proceedings were well organised and soon, we're on our way to the second point. The panchayats that we'd our trysts with today, were:-

     (a) Cherianadu.
     (b) Karuvaatta.
     (c) Purakkad.
     (d) Ambalappuzha south and
     (d) Punnappra north.

It was while at Ambalappuzha that I came to know of the passing away of Devadattan sir(All of 67 yrs), about two years back. I was reminded of the sentimental speech while welcoming Maman and me during the yatra of '15. He'd thundered that evening that Ambalappuzha was happy to have Chempakakutty Amma chechi's(Mrs. PN Panicker) son and grandson on the stage. A loving and caring gentleman! Rest in peace, sir!! My tears and prayers. Will miss you always.

Prathapan, the Foundation's co-ordinator in Alappuzha, has done his homework well, as usual.

We'd settled down at the government guest house for the evening....after a quick trip to a nearby ATM to pull out some money, dinner at the Motel Araam.


My musings about rural Kerala after the first week of travel:-

      (a) The road connectivity is good and the quality has also been maintained.
      (b) The panchayats have taken their task seriously and the visible effects of their governance
            are there for everyone to see on the ground.
      (c) The waste management is good; one doesn't see waste by the roadside as it is in the towns.
      (d) The ladies are active in their spheres of activities like Anganwadi teachers, Asha workers,
            Kudumbasree workers etc.         

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The second day at Pathanamthitta.

There was no let up in my cough all through the night. I remembered the doctor's advice, "You need rest, rest and rest. The earlier dosage of antibiotics wasn't adequate". And it's just impossible till the yatra is over! The car's a/c, the hot day and the prevalent dust on the village roads/environment will only aggravate the irritation.....I've this strong feeling that my system will get acclimatised to the requirements of the situation.

We'd taken off from the Rest House by 8 and shaped course to Kozhencherry. Breakfast was at the annexe along with the rest of the team. By a half past 9, after meeting the fuel requirements of two vehicles, we'd reached the Government High School for the first reception of the day. It was a nicely conducted function.

The panchayats that we'd covered during the day were:-

     (a) Kozhencherry.
     (b) Eraviperoor.
     (c) Puramattom.
     (d) Ezhumattoor and
     (e) Kunnanthaanam.

Was impressed with the paperless offices of the Eraviperoor panchayat and the days of the long waits and the serpentine queues have become a thing of the past, thanks to the dynamic team at the helm of affairs. It was nice to see a dead river that has been restored by the collective will of the people with good guidance from the panchayat.

The reception ceremonies and the red carpet rolled out by the remaining three were equally spectacular and genuine. Great words......greater, were the sentiments! And we'd wound up Pathanamthitta district, our co-ordinator, Nazir did a good job, the minor irritants of accommodation notwithstanding!

By the time we're at the Government Rest House at Thiruvalla, it was around 9. Murukan had to go to Adoor to drop Kunju Annamma Kunju and return.


We've wound up Pathanamthitta district; our co-ordinator, Nazir did a good job, the minor irritants of accommodation notwithstanding!