30 January, 2009

Tragedy at Mandya

My father’s sister’s son (first cousin brother) met with a ghastly end on the night of the 26th Jan. Adv.Mohan (42) was residing with his wife and two boys studying in the 6th and 9th standard at Mysore. For the past 6 months he was working at Chennai TIDEL Park for an American company doing legal transcription work.

On the night of 26th he boarded the Kaveri express bound for Chennai and at Mandya station, which is 1 hour from Mysore, got down from the compartment presumably for some fresh air/ washing his face. Unfortunately while trying to board the moving train slipped and fell on to the track and was mauled beyond recognition.

The Railway Protection force dialed the last called numbers, on his undamaged mobile phone, one of which happened to be his brother-in –law’s. I got the news around midnight. His parents stay less than a kilometer from where I presently stay. So I rushed and had to break the tragic news to them little by little.

His younger brother and co-brother (Mohan's wife is from the jeweler’s family ‘Chemmannoor’ of Trichur) had to go to Mandya which is 10 hours drive from Kottayam to identify and bring the body. By that time friends and relatives from Mysore and Bangalore had rushed to the spot and there was plenty of support and help. After all the formalities the body reached Kottayam early morning of 28th and was buried the same day afternoon.

Mohan was extremely proud of his lineage.

Mohan happens to be the Grandson of the so called ‘Kayal Rajah Murikken’ of Kavalam who owned the famous Chithra, Rani and Marthandam Kayals* of Kuttanad, each of them being in excess of 500 acres. The famous kayals got their respective names after the three principal members of the Travancore Royal family His Highness. Sree Chitra Tirunal Balaramavarma the Maharajah of Travancore, Amma Maharani Her Highness.Sree Karthika Tirunal and His Highness .Sree Uthradam Tirunal Marthandavarma the then Elayarajah, the present Maharajah; they graciously travelled to Kavalam to ceremonially inaugurate the first sowing.

*The three famous kuttanadan kayals fields are paddy fields made cultivable by building 12-15 feet deep, thick walls around an area each of more than 500 acres in the Vembanad Lake. It’s like an unimaginably big swimming pool from which water is pumped out to make them dry lands. It was an unparalleled feat in the world carried out in the erstwhile state of Travancore. No wonder that the Sovereign along with the Amma Maharani and Elayarajah arrived for the inauguration.

The communist government of EMS nationalized the Kayals in 1971which are left fallow at present, a perfect example of dog in the manger.

25 January, 2009

Tryst with a Sub-Editor

Giji Marykulam became a familiar by-line through the articles appearing in "Time out" and "Unseen Kerala". It was rather difficult to guess the gender of the person from the name, which subsequently I found out, was not confined to me. Unexpectedly one day the articles disappeared from the paper. After sometime a public notice appeared in the same paper asking Mr. Giji Marykulam of Adackamundackal house, a reporter with the paper to show cause for unauthorised absence from duty, thus the gender and house name was revealed.

Marykulam is a sleepy village in Idukki district of Kerala, on the road from Peermade to Kattappana through which I pass a dozen times a year. Ever since the by line was noticed and whenever I passed the place I always wondered whether Giji took the name from the same place and lived there. Two days after the show cause notice appeared I was driving past Marykulam and on an intuition I stopped at a wayside shop and enquired whether a person named Giji Marykulam lived there, the mention that he worked with Indian Express immediately elicited favourable reply and a kind soul offered to show the house which happened to be a short distance away.

The nondescript house was a forewarning of the person himself. The famous Sub-Editor cum reporter of the mighty Indian Express hailing from a place where there is not a single subscriber for any English newspaper let alone the Indian express. Bewilderment turned to astonishment as he spoke of his schooling in the local school where he was not the brightest and his pre-degree course as a private candidate from where he went to a college that does not figure in the list rated by India today. The secret of his English language was his voracious appetite for reading of all things philosophy.

He was a determined journalist who after stints with different journals at far off places like Gawhati finally landed at the New Indian Express, Kochi. His interests where in wildlife, environment, and historic architecture and has published numerous articles in NIE and won awards. At present he is the staff correspondent of ‘The Hindu’ at Kattappana.

Epilogue: - After reading my Time Out ‘Looks can be deceptive’ in the NIE, he rang me up to say that when he saw me at his house when I went to meet him, he was about to bolt thinking I was a police officer sent by Indian Express to pick him up for unauthorised absence from duty.

19 January, 2009

Man proposes God disposes

I must have been twenty two when late one night my father woke me up. My maternal grandfather and great grandfather had arrived at that unearthly hour and wanted me to accompany them urgently to vellore. They wanted my services as an expert driver.

Word had come from CMC hospital that grandmother’s sister, who was admitted there critically ill, was sinking. Grandfather who had a Willy’s station wagon immediately set out proposing to take the patient’s father, his own father-in law, to see the dying daughter once more for the last time and also to bring back the body as soon as the inevitable occurred.

I changed in a jiffy and we set out earnestly on the 400kms journey. The diesel vehicle wouldn’t move as fast as the present day turbo charged engines and there weren’t a patch of four lanes in all of India those days. As we wanted to reach before she passed away, we drove non stop except for a brief while for tea and reached Vellore after about sixteen hours on the road.

Grandmother’s sister was in a very serious condition and the doctors gave her a maximum of 24 hours. Planning started immediately for the return journey with the body by the next day evening. Since there won’t be room for great grandfather to accompany us along with the body on the journey back, he was to be taken to Madras early the next morning and put on a flight to Cochin. That too was entrusted to me and we left after getting a wink of sleep.

At the airport while waiting for the boarding pass I told the person standing next in the queue that great grandfather was travelling alone and to be of assistance should the need arises. Probably feeling a bit scared seeing the old man, he asked me whether he can go the toilet by himself. Great grandfather was a little hard of hearing otherwise he would have been offended.

We the advance party of undertakers waited for the eventuality which never occurred the next day nor four days after defying all the doctor’s conclusions. So we returned rather uneventfully.
A couple of months passed and the patient was discharged from the hospital not because she was cured but because the doctors said there was nothing more to be done. She was brought home and was bedridden for the rest of her days.

Meanwhile grandfather developed a chest pain and was referred to a famous cardiologist at Trivandrum. On the day he was given appointment he took along with him for company, a retired doctor friend. At Trivandrum at the prodding of grandfather his doctor friend too underwent investigations and when the findings were announced, grandfather’s heart was pumping well but his friend the doctor who accompanied him just for the heck of it was found to have a cardiac snag. They were prescribed medicines and sent back by the cardiologist. On the way back grandfather dropped his friend at his house and asked his wife to take good care of him since it was revealed that her husband had a heart problem.

Two days later my grandfather who was all of 63 years passed away in his sleep. His sister-in law whom he had gone to vellore to bring back dead, breathed her last only a week after him. The doctor friend who accompanied him just to pass time but was found to have a heart condition lived for another eighteen more years. And Great grandfather out lived all of them to the ripe old age of103.

Man proposes God disposes.

18 January, 2009

Financial crisis

The State Finance Minister's admittance of the state facing acute financial crisis is not surprising at all.With the kind of financial management the state is subjected to for the last decade and more by both the fronts which governed the state, it is surprising that we have not been asked by the Reserve Bank to create an equitable mortgage of the entire state.The proliferation of welfare schemes, the unimaginative tax measures and above all the burgeoning salary and pension bill is the bane of the state.The Government should be bold enough to appoint an economist like Manmohan singh to bail it out.The communists with their socialist agenda can never pull this state out of this morass.

13 January, 2009

What's up 4 Kerala

From the responses of the ministers to the ‘What’s Up’ column carried by ‘The New Indian Express’, one is forced to come to the conclusion not to expect anything better in Kerala in the year ahead as far as governance is concerned.

None of the ministers had anything new or imaginative to offer except the mundane. Especially the Chief Minister’s, “Houses and land for all” is like pouring water down the drain. Instead of wasting a huge amount like 5000 crores on giving free land and houses and thereby making the already lazy Kerala populace even more slothful, the amount should be better used for improving the infrastructure. The consequent increase in economic activity would have brought liquidity into the hands of the common man and help him to buy land and build houses on it by himself.

Nevertheless one need not worry about the Rs. 5000 crores going waste because the state does not and will not have even 50 crores in its treasury after paying the salaries and pension of its huge wealth of bureaucratic employees.

02 January, 2009

Oothometer - An indigenous breath analyser

Mundakayam is a plantation countryside opened by the British and Irish planters during the early part of 1900 and is literally a place where milk flows; the only difference being that it is of the latex verity or rubber paal as called locally. Mundakayam has the largest single plot under rubber plantation in India and is situated at the midpoint between Kottayam and Kumily on the famous 110 kms K.K. road now known as Kollam – Theni NH220. I am fortunate to have been born and brought up there, with both my parents belonging to the same place.

I was driving down the NH220 from Mundakayam to Kottayam during Christmas. It is during this period that the tipplers in their inebriated condition cause maximum havoc on the roads. And since Kerala holds the dubious record for the highest alcohol consumption in the country the highway police were very vigilant.

As I negotiated a serpentine curve, which the road is well-known for, there was a highway patrol car waiting as if to pounce on unsuspecting drivers. When my car approached the cop waved me down. Since all the papers were in order, I stopped confidently and waited for the officer. After the routine queries he asked me to blow. I was perplexed; blow where and what for? Suddenly it dawned on me that he was trying to find out whether I was intoxicated. But there was no breath analyzer, a device for estimating blood alcohol content which measures the level of alcohol in an appropriate sample of breath expired, with him. So I asked him, “Blow where”? The inspector held out his hand and asked me to blow into his palm that was his breath analyser or ‘Oothometer’! (In Malayalam ‘oothuka’ means – to blow). Trust our cops to be inventive.

On New year’s day when I regaled this incident to friends, one of them, a confirmed bar hopper with “good capacity”- a common terminology used by tipplers, revealed how he hoodwinked the cops once while returning from the club. He had had one too many when the arriving members warned him about the cops checking with breath analyzer down the road. Before finishing his ‘one for the road’ he asked his wife to lace her mouth with a peg of brandy and spit it out if she didn’t like the taste. She was confused to say the least and refused bluntly. After much cajoling she relented when he told her, “Otherwise I’ll have to spend the night in a police lockup and you will have to go home alone”. Section 203 of the motor vehicle act empowers the police to require any person driving a motor vehicle in a public place to submit to a breath test, and if the presence of alcohol is found to be above the permissible limit in his blood or urine, the individual may be arrested without a warrant

As expected the cops stopped him on the way. He was asked to blow into the breath analyzer and it showed that the alcohol content was way above the permissible 30mg/100ml limits. He wouldn’t agree with the cop and argued that he was not drunk but the apparatus was faulty. The cops too wouldn’t yield. Then he took out his ultimate weapon. He said, “I’ll prove that your machine is faulty, try it on my teetotaller wife and see for yourself?” The inspector wasn’t amused but nevertheless agreed after some persuasion. You can imagine the inspector’s bewilderment when the breath analyzer showed that she too was pissed drunk but without any of the attendant indications. Shocked he tried it out on her once more with the same effect. Probably he was too embarrassed to try it on himself not sure of the result. Convinced that the apparatus was indeed faulty he let them go!