Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Met a lady, a by- stander of a patient at the hospital. The patient is a young girl who has delivered a pre-term baby. The baby is now in the incubator, on life support. Tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny… so tiny you could hold her in the palm of your hands… but clinging on to life tenaciously... The family waits outside the NICU unit, a large family obviously, as the vigil is a long one and I don’t seem to see the same face very often. But one person is there every day, the center of the little group, holding forth, sending people on errands, talking to the doctors as they complete their rounds, asking about the condition of the little one… Intrigued, I ask her who she is... she’s the great grand mother of the little one. I stare at her absolutely perplexed for she can’t be much more than 50 years old. I do the math. She must have got married at 17, and so must her daughter and granddaughter. I visit the mother in her hospital room; she’s small and slight in build and looks anaemic. Confused by all the attention she is getting. I am not surprised that the baby is preterm. The mother looks like she is hardly out of school herself.

I go to see the baby at least twice a day, I really don’t know why, maybe just to see if she is still breathing. She will be fine; it’s usually the girls who are the survivors.

I’d love to meet the great grand mother in another 18 years time.

Pazhashi Raja/Kerala Cafe

Watched two movies in the theatres in 5 days, which is really rare for me. I tend to stick to DVDs, so am a little out of date with the latest ones. A step behind in a dance, as it were. But Pazhassiraja (director Hariharan) and Kerala Café (director Ranjith) were really a refreshing change from the run- of- the- mill male- chauvinistic dhisoom -dhishoom movies one has been seeing here lately.

Pazhassiraja did not do justice to the huge budget production wise. The costumes, particularly those of the British, were very bad, taken from some drama troupe. They really should have been better. Mamooty did a fairly good job, not his best effort though. It was Sharath Kumar, as Pazhassiraja’s right hand man Kungan Nair, who walked away with accolades right under Mamooty’s nose. The rest of the cast was adequate, that’s all. In spite of all these short comings, what really made you enjoy the movie was the historical fact that this small prince from a small principality in Kerala was the first person other than Tippu Sultan to stand up against the might of the British army. As he says, what right does someone who has come to trade in pepper and spices have to rule over us and make the laws that govern us? Really makes for chest thumping stuff for a Mallu. History books don’t talk about Pazhassiraja much. He fought the British from the forests of Wayanad using guerilla tactics, hitting them where it hurt and then disappearing into the forests with his trusted tribal kurichi warriors. Finally, his lieutenants arrested and hanged for treason, he put up one last defiant fight against the British and is overwhelmed. If I remember right, the Malayalam history books said he committed suicide rather than be arrested by the British, but the movie ends with Pazhassi Raja fighting the British armies single handedly and dying a valiant death. Those interested might want to check this link:

Kerala Café was a different kind of experience all together. 10 ten-minute short movies made by 10 different directors, cast and music directors, all the stories coming together at Kerala Café, a railway tea room in an un named town in Kerala. Each story is different, none of the ten have a common thread running thru them, yet they come together so beautifully, you have to give credit to Renjith whose idea this was, for keeping the reins tight and dovetailing them so well in the end. Though each individual story was good, those that really stood out were “Bridge” by Anwar Rasheed and “Makal” by Revathy. Gut wrenching stories both of them. “Happy Journey” by Anjali Menon also was noteworthy with Jagathy Sreekumar doing a great job as a co passenger in a bus.

I made the mistake of watching the movies in Kochi. Forget the fact that the theaters are run down and dilapidated. One can’t really blame them, because all the new releases have been in Ernakulam so by the time they get across the bridge to Kochi, there’s hardly an audience available. Last month though, we had two new releases here - Pazhassiraja in Kokers and Kerala Café in Sui. As part of my pledge to encourage local businesses, I watched the movies here. Big mistake. The crowd was rowdy and in disciplined, smoking inside the theatre and making loud comments which took away some of the enjoyment of the movies.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Cochin Bazaar - Early in the morning

Have started morning walks with my friend Vimala. Actually we started walking a year ago but stopped during the rainy season which lasts here for about 3-4 months. The route we take is through the old Cochin Bazaar - it is quiet, clean and not so crowded that early in the morning. Also as it is alongside the channel you gets wafts of cool breeze from the gaps between the houses.

Cochin Bazaar was at one time a bustling, vibrant place where goods were received and dispatched by "Vallams" (country boats) so most of the buildings on the channel side have their own small private piers. This was in the days before road and rail transport became convienient and popular. Once that happened and the Ernakulam bye-pass was built, Cochin lost its importance as a Bazaar and the businesses moved to Ernakulam. Now some of the buildings house handicraft shops and cafes to attract the few tourists who might wander there from the more popular Fort Kochi.

Early morning, as we walk along we get the smell of spices - chilly, pepper, cardamom and once garlic!!! As the sky brightens, we hear the call for prayers from the many mosques in the area. The Koonan Cross has early morning visitors on Fridays who light lamps and make supplications. The Koonan Cross is at the Church of Our Lady of Life where in 1653 a group of Saint Thomas Christians took an oath never to bow down before the Portugese. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Pakalomattam/Koonan_Cross_Oath

As we walk along we get the smell of the sea and unfortunately also of the canal which is not quite so salubrious. We have to manoeuvre past trucks waiting to be unloaded or to pick up their merchandise. The cabins have multicoloured little lamps and we often get to walk a little way to the tune of the latest Rehman or Illayaraja number (in tamil!).

By the time we return, the first of the school children are on the way to the bus stop. House wives, clad in that quintessentially malayalee outfit ' the nighty' return from the milk booths carrying packets of milk. We are regulars now, and can expect a smile or a greeting from our fellow walkers.

The resolution is to walk every day, but already we have had hiccups. No matter... the determination should see us through!