Al-Avalathi's Life (Al-Avalathi is the last Mallu to go to the Gelf)
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A party,red in the face

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(Inspired from Sandesham, the movie and anti communist sentiments)

Ramesan unfolded his lungi and sat on the bench;it made a squeaky noise to acknowledge the burden.There was an overdose of red around him.Recently,some of the broken chairs gave way for red plastic chairs.He could see the silhouette of the framed photographs of AKG,EMS,Karl Marx behind the entangled web;seemed more like the leaders were trapped in ugliness of a system they envisioned.
Once in a year each,these photographs get some respite from the two inch dust that makes them look prehistoric.The red paper garlands looked themselves ashamed to be adoring the frames;they were just waiting to free themselves from the mess.Party flags were propped up against the wall in a corner.Old posters took most of the whitewashed wall.

The past week’s Deshabhimani newspaper was strewn on the desks.Not a day passed without dissecting every single word published in it.
Tea,vada and Dinesh Beedi added spice to the discussions.Ramesan had registered for Kannur University’s BCom,he never completed it.He managed to get a job in the cooperative bank which the party controlled.He rarely went to work,party office was his (second) home.

He did not know the actual meaning of the word bourgeois;like most of the other words he peppered his conversations with.
Not knowing the meaning of words like bourgeois or mafia(or Mafia) did not dissuade him from using them in his conversations.For him,like many of his fellow comrades,these words were to be used to things and people he loathed.He had never heard of the Sicilian criminal societies,but used the term to refer to any groups,from the real estate companies building land banks to the ones involved in liquor business,from investors to money lenders(blade mafia).A term he used in this context interchangeably was lobby.

For him bourgeois or boorshua (sic) as he called them were the ones he hated.For him Philip Achaayan who returned from Gulf a year back and started his new shop in the mukk(junction) and newspapers like Malayala Manorama,and everything in between were boorshuas.

In spite of knowing that it was Gorbachev who placed the last straw on communism in the USSR,Ramesan respected him.He even had dreams of him having the Port-wine stain on his bald head like Gorbachev’s.Deshabhimani’s report on the lockout in a factory in Calicut was the topic of his discussion that day.The party supported labour union‘s demands were never going to be heeded by the management. Decibels went up and down. A dozen tea glasses kept moving on the desk like products on an assembly line.”We can not be mute spectators to this”,said Satheesan, a fellow comrade.The glow on his face was that of accomplishment.His friends from the party youth wing had recently started farming in a land owned by Sreedharan Nair, a retired school head master.The land was in disuse;farming was no longer economically feasible.The party’s youth wing was hated by most of people in the village;they would get into anyone’s problem creating nuisance to one(either) of the sides.Some of these men would go as quotation teams,this is what the grapevine said;no one could say this out in the open though.Quotation teams were simply gundas called so because they were given “quotations” to “solve” issues.

“It has been almost a year since we heard of any sex scandal”,quipped Satheesan.”May be the media is bored to dig up such stories”,replied Ramesan.”We are getting enough issues to create trouble,continued Ramesan.Yesterday,a group of students gheroaed the university VC for debarring some our our student leaders…. for malpractice during exams”.”We could make his life miserable for 3-4 hours.Hope the issue gets bigger,been a month since we had a hartal“.The smirk on his face took time to die down.

Sukumarettan entered the scene;he was respected by all at the party office.He was known to have connections even in the Polit Bureau,the center of the party’s power.No one would bat an eye lid if the Polit Bureau asks not to.He had lead hundreds of pickets to the collectorate and was once injured and hospitalised for over a month.
He could go on and on about the party and its ideology to an extent that even Ramesan and Satheesan would doze off.He still remembered when Che Guvera’s death anniversary was.The name Che could bring in a rush of adrenalin in all these men.The local vayanasaala had a huge section on Che,another one on Marx,among others.Through the Latin American literature,he knew more about the Amazonian forests and Sao Paolo than what he knew about Maharashtra or Kuchipudi.

Someone shouted from outside, Sukuetta, aren’t you coming for the dharna at the Municipal stand?Sukumarettan was totally against selling the nation to capitalist powers.”The recent rise in prices is due to the new age retail boom.The MNC retailers set up shops with the help of Indian partners, what will happen to people like our Kesavan?This is a huge conspiracy against our people,these Americans want to eat from our plates too.Look at the name, Spencer’s! It is an American name”, continued Sukumarettan.He took Ramesan and Satheesan along to the dharna.They started their brisk walk towards the stand.He started fuming,not because of this issue,but Ramesan mentioned the atrocities against Palestinian people.Israel more or less acted as a mood spolier,”for how long will they continue their American sycophancy”,he said.We should start a fund to collect money to march to the Israeli Embassy in Delhi, at least we should send them a million protest letters.

He had to rush back home early.He took the 8pm Volvo to Cochin.Only two days were left for Sukumarettan’s son to apply for his UK student visa.

Watch this if you can understand Malayalam

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May 16, 2009   15 Comments

Lost soles

“And God,please don’t let anyone steal my chappals left outside”,this forms part of my prayer most of the times I go to temples.Most of the times,because the rest of the times there is a chappal keeper outside the temple.Gods have been kind to me,not always though.
Somehow,this fear of losing my footwear has been very dominant in my life.It still haunts me.

The computer centre in Warangal was* a chappal flicker’s haven.But,after losing your footwear once or twice, a place like Warangal seasons you.If you lose yours,you take someone else’s; you return if someone questions,else the pair is yours till your next visit to the computer centre.

A chappal less walk back home just adds to the misery of losing a pair.Discovering the loss brings in a sense of helplessness and anger.

Chappal counter

A temple chappal counter

Consistency has been my forte as far as losing chappals are concerned.I have been nice to chappal thieves;have lost to them even during train journeys.
During Warangal days, traveling in a group of over ten in a general compartment was always peppered with a sense of freedom and excitement.The excitement had to die down.I had kept my shoes safely and kept looking at them in between micro naps.Talk about timing,somewhere in between my winks I realized my shoes were no longer there.

Strange coincidences have also happened;like someone unknowingly flicking my pair for he had a similar pair placed next to mine.So,I ended up with a pair worth more or less like his, but totally off the size(or even age ;) ).

But,why do some steal one of a pair?Funny, but at a time I was left with right,don’t know what he did right though.

Looking at the feet of people in the crowd surreptitiously, in search of my lost sandals, is an exercise in vain.Even if I spot my sandals on someone,proving the ownership is difficult.

Whatever be the sole objective of these chappal thieves,loss has always been mine.

*CC in NIT Warangal could still be the same,it can’t change;CCs across campuses are like this :-)

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May 5, 2009   34 Comments

Kerala Trip Roundup

My recent trip to Kerala was a site-seeing marathon.I visited forts,temples,beaches,backwaters and caves.I had read through a lot of websites and a few books to know the importance of these places before I visited.

DTPC Kannur and Kasargode sites gave some basic information to decide the places to visit.More in depth information was sourced from various publications by Kerala Tourism.So, over to the trip.

Rajarajeswara Temple,Taliparamba

This temple is situated at about 25km North of Kannur on the National Highway 17.Like many ancient temples,this temple also has a set of customs and rituals that make it unique(Including the absence of kodimaram/flagstaff and entry for women only after 8pm).Though I was told that the temple was built thousands of years(kodanukodi) back,I decided to tie some loose ends of history.

During the times of Raja Raja Chola-I (reign 985 – 1014 CE.)and his son Rajendra Chola-I(reign 1012 C.E. – 1044 C.E.), the Chola empire consisted of the whole of South India, Ceylon, Malaysia and beyond. The Chola-Chera war went on for a hundred years and the Cheras accepted the hegemony of the Cholas after their defeat. Later, the Chera kingdom split up into pieces and marked the end of rule of Kulasekhara(Chera)(Kerala) as a single entity.(A Survey of Kerala History,A Sreedhara Menon,page 117)

At a time(10th and 11th centuries) when Jainism’s strength was on the decline, a massive Shiva temple built by a powerful Chola ruler would have added to the fall of Jainism. Like they say, the religion of the king is the religion of his subjects. The Chola period saw the revival of Shaivite and Vaishnavite traditions in areas under them.Temples of Kannur(S Jayashankar) says that the temple was renovated by Rajendra Chola-I. It is quite possible that an existing Jain temple was converted and rebuilt as a Shiva temple by the Cholas during their conquest of Chera kingdom.It was very common during those times to convert Jain and Buddhist temples into Hindu temples.

Just as kings and emperors are seen only by offering a kazhcha(gift),the Lord here can be “seen” only after placing neyamrith(ghee) on the sopanam(steps leading to the sanctum). It is said that the Lord of Taliparamba is the King of Kings. This status may be connected to the power associated with Rajaraja Chola-I and the influence he had as a ruler. Incidentally, the name of the temple is closely related the king’s name.

The Namaskara Mandapa is out of bounds even for Brahmins. The story connected to this says that, Rama on his way back from Lanka prayed here and his chest touched the floor. A Kshatriya’s chest touching the floor made the Namaskara mandapa impure for Brahmins.The real reason, I believe, may be different. The area where this temple stays could have been a Jain temple and Rajendra Chola-I could have either demolished and rebuilt or converted it into a Shiva temple. In many instances where a Jain temple is converted to a Hindu temple, Brahmins stay away from the temple for centuries.( A Survey of Kerala History,Sreedhara Menon,page 84, similar to Matilakam)The Namaskara Mandapa may have been an important part of the earlier Jain temple and so it still remains out of bounds for Brahmins.

Madayi Kavu Temple

Maravel or Madayi (off the NH17 near Payangadi in Kannur district, 25 km from Kannur)as it is known today was once a prosperous center of trade and fishing. Sreedhara Menon makes a cursory mention of the Jew Tank in Madayi.(A Survey of Kerala History,page 95). This mention reinforces the trade relations that Madayi had with the west. Duarte Barbosa’s works have also mentioned the Jewish trade connection of Madayi.I somehow missed to add the Jew Tank to my itinerary.

The Madayi Kaavu temple (Sree Thiruvarkadu Shiva Bhadrakali Temple) is the abode of the deity of the Kolathiri rulers. I have not been able to find any reference to the find the exact age of this temple. S Jayasankar in Temples of Kannur writes that the idol is made of Kadusarkkarayogam and no abhishekam is done on it. For archanas, a panchaloha idol is used. The deity was originally installed by Parasurama at Rajarajeswara temple of Taliparamba and later moved to this temple. Toddy and meat are offered at athazhapuja. The temple has strong connections with the Travancore Royal family and traces the link to AD 1305 when two daughters (later Attingal Ranis) from the Kolathunad(Kolathiri dynasty) were adopted to create Attingal Swaroopam.

I have heard a story of travelers who came via the sea who installed the deity here; they installed the idol looking westwards to protect them (their route). I wonder if this has to do with the spread of mother goddess cult. One of the office bearers of the temple told me that it would take a lot of time to explain; may be next time.

The tourist brochures spoke about the ruins of a fort built by Tippu Sultan in Madayi. This was a total disappointment with nothing but the ruins of the boundary wall and a few stones remaining. In case you would want to have a look at the remains of this fort, it is situated near the college and next to a KSEB property. There is a deep dried up well and a couple of tombs(?) inside the fort. The only solace was the view of the town and the river from the fort, fascinating it was.

From Madayi, we set ahead Southwards to Tellicherry(Thalaserry).

Tellicherry Fort:
This fort is an imposing structure built by the British in 1708.The square structure built of laterite has massive walls and strong flanking bastions that overlook the sea.The fort is well maintained by the ASI.An old British Cannon is on display close to the entrance.
This fort was used by Lord Wellesley against the Pazhassi Raja’s rebellion.Behind this fort,next to the sea, lies the St John’s church,built in 1869 with funds from Edward Brennen, the master attendant who established the Brennen College at Tellicherry.Brennen’s tomb is located in the church premises.

Telicherry Fort Entrance

Tellicherry Fort's Entrance

After our visit to the fort,we headed in search of the Gudert Bunglow in Illikkunnu close by; the bunglow where the German missionary and lexicographer Herman Gundert lived for 20 years from 1839.You can give this place a miss as it is now a private property owned by NTTF.I was shocked that the bunglow that witnessed the birth of one of the first Malayalam dictionaries and one of the first Malayalam newspapers Paschimodayam, is now in private hands.We were told that entry is restricted but that did not deter us from entering the compound and clicking some pictures.The only saving grace was that while searching of Gundert Bunglow,we passed some beautiful scenic spots near Gundert colony.

Our next stop was Muzhuppilangad Beach.

Muzhuppilangad Beach(8 km North of Tellicherry,15 km South of Kannur)
On our way back from Teliicherry to Kannur, we hit Muzhuppilangad Beach.This was in my list for quite some years.
This is a 4 km long drive in beach with shallow waters.Must visit place if you like driving on the beach and in sea waters with no clue of what is happening in front of you.Make sure you have the windows rolled up.Water splashes from all the sides and all you can see is frothy water in front of you.Tiny little birds,starfishes and live shells(or were they predator Hermit crabs)could be spotted on the beach.

We were really hungry but the enthu to visit more places helped us stay on track.Next stop was Arakkal Museum,near Kannur.Arakkal Dynasty was the only Muslim dynasty that ruled any part of Kerala.There are various stories on the origin of this dynasty;Logan of Malabar Manual traces the origin of the dynasty to a minister in the Kolathiri’s court in 11/12th century who was converted to Islam.Dutch historians say that the origin goes back to a relationship between a Kolathiri princess and a lower caste man.The girl was married off to a rich Arab trader and thus was born the dynasty.Keralolpathy says that a Muslim couple was invited from Aryapuram by the last Cheraman Perumal and that was the birth of the dynasty.The family records reveal yet another story.The last Cheraman Perumal’s sister Sreedevi was a resident of Dharmapatanam(Dharmadam).Her son Mahabali,later became Mohammed Ali(as asked by the Cheraman Perumal who left for Mecca) and started the dynasty.Whatever their origin be,they had an eventful history through the ages(from 11th century). (Info from The Alirajas of Kannur,Dr. KKN Kurup)

Arakkal Insignia

Arakkal Insignia

There is a lot of scope for improvement in this museum. I was told that they are still collecting exhibits from the royals and others related to them.I hope the entry fee collected at the museum is utilized in developing the place to the fullest.I would still say,visit this place to have a look at the opulent lifestyle of the Arakkal Rajas.


Valiyaparamba Backwaters

Situated in Kasargode district at about 5 km from Thrikkaripur,this place is a recent addition to the tourist map of Kerala.The view from here is breathtaking. The place is not much explored for tourism(the DTPC office seemed to be waiting for inauguration?)If marketed properly, this place could be the next Kumarakom.Kerala State Water Transport Dept.operates boats from here to the nearest towns.Since the boat service timings were odd, we decided to take a ferry .

Valiyaparamba Backwaters

Valiyaparamba Backwaters

The ferry took us to the other side,which had an islet(or was that a strip of land).We walked through the paddy fields and coconut groves to a a secluded beach.Very typical of such areas,the place was heavily populated and had sandy soil.After spending sometime in the beach,we headed back to Valiyaparamba.The ferry rides can give the water ways of Aleppey a run for their money.

A sacred grove(kaavu) at Edayilakkad was our next stop.Situated close to Valiyaparamba,the groves could be counted as a sign of early human habitation in this area.At a particular spot,monkeys come out of the grove to be fed by visitors.The way they accepted food clearly indicated how simians mannerism were close to that of humans.

On one of the evenings,we drove to Umichupoyil,a place 20km NE of Nileswar(Kasargode District).
Some years ago, ASI had done excavations in the Megalithic rock cut caves here and found pottery and urns.The caves,said to be 2000 years old, are in a private property owned by a local feudal.There were six strikingly similar caves in the vicinity.This place was a different experience in itself.We had to explore the place on our own.In such a place,it is easy to lose one’s sense of direction as all the sides look the same with no particular landmark except a few tribal hamlets here and there.The caves had rectangular entrances and a semi circular base.Their roofs had a circular vent for light to come in.One had to stoop to get into the caves.Apart from these caves,there were two natural caves.One of them had a natural spring inside where the locals collect water from.This cave was wide enough for many to walk around.Since I am no expert on Megalithic caves,I can’t comment if these caves were burial grounds or not.

A cave in Umichupoyil

A cave in Umichupoyil

We reached Umichupoyil via Choyamkod and Koyithatta.Almost no one we asked about Umichupoyil had any clue on this place;not even DTPC.My 2 paisa: It is better to set for such explorations in early mornings/afternoons.Post sunset,suddenly time became a precious commodity.We walked for 20 odd minutes with a group of tribal women who had come down to buy households from the PDS shop down hill.They were very helpful in directing us to the caves.They themselves had not visited these caves more than once or twice.


We drove to Bekal Fort on the day of Christmas.Bekal Fort,a grandiose laterite structure situated 16km SE of Kasargode town, is the largest fort in Kerala.It is maintained by the ASI and a lot of effort has gone into building brand Bekal;which in fact could be seen by the number of tourists.The place has been done up a lot in the past 15 years or so.(My last visit was around that time).I doubt if the renovation work maintains the same aesthetics the fort had originally.I could spot tiles which officially mentioned the year of renovation,but again not much happy about that.

Inside Bekal Fort

Inside Bekal Fort

The fort overlooks the Arabian sea and there were ways to escape into the sea in case of an attack, including tunnels that take you straight to the beach.The entry to the beach is restricted and the cops send people in groups to the beach.The view of the coastline is awesome.Surprisingly,the origin of the fort is still not clear.The observation towers and the places to aim canons at the enemy(who would come by the sea) are eternal symbols of a tumultuous past the fort has had.

Suggested reading:

1)A Sreedhara Menon: A Survey of Kerala History,Cultural Heritage of Kerala

2)William Logan: Malabar Manual

3)Dr.KKN Kurup:The Arakkal Rajas

4)S Jayasankar:Temples of Kannur


and if possible get a Handbook of Kerala-Part I and II (Even I need to get these two books)

(This is a humble attempt at writing history and travel.Never knew writing history needed this much research.I have verified all the facts.Do let me know if you feel I have missed something)

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January 25, 2009   39 Comments

My Space

(A long pending post triggered by the recent Chandrayaan launch)

Like any boy of his age, the vast night sky with stars and planets fascinated him. He learnt to spot half a dozen constellations and a few planets like Jupiter and Venus. In spite of his tryst with Asimov, he never wanted to be an astronaut. He had been hearing stories of the strenuous training involved in preparing oneself to become an astronaut. The story had a tragic end, else he could have said he knew India’s second astronaut.

Much before ISRO became an acronym and was still an abbreviation, he could list out the chronology of all missions; he took pride in knowing the expansions of SLV-3,ASLV, SROSS and APPLE,IRS,INSAT etc without having a clue of what any of those words meant. Any opportunity in school to flaunt what a Polar Sun Synchronous Orbit or a Geo Stationary orbit was cleverly utilized. His dad keenly explained him the meanings, good for him as he could impress teachers in school.


GSLV-F04 Lift Off

Like any ISRO home, his house bore a sepulchral silence on mission failures, which were many(be it ASLVs or the PSLV) during those times; the number of failures enough for imbeciles to come up with jokes like I.S.R.O rockets make the life of Indian fishermen vulnerable(as they may fall on them). He took jokes on I.S.R.O personally, why would he not for something that fed him. The sweets that his dad brought home after every successful launch reflected the euphoria that everybody shared.

He would look at stickers and posters of satellites and launch vehicles, feel good about them and keep them safe. For him the display of Launch Vehicle models at home were signs of opulence.

He felt elated and delighted at the sight of such stickers on scooters and cars; something like a mixed feeling of association, happiness and superiority passed through him.

The young boy looked expectedly at the grey colored VSSC buses to see if there were people he knew inside. He felt big, arranging passes for the whole class for ISRO visits, not to forget the brownies he got from teachers. Every time when someone asked where his dad worked, his answer took himself a notch above.

He sweated and bit his nails in anticipation watching live telecasts of launches. He accumulated sleep debt watching many Baikonour and Kourou launches. He still reminisces the countdowns that he counted along like a duet and the smoke filled uncertainty he shared just after any lift off.

His passion has not changed a bit. He still gets a high talking about I.S.R.O

For the population that thinks a toss is bigger than a countdown and KANK is an easier acronym than SHAR, hope someone tells them space matters. A media that is over the moon with stars, may you look at what is happening on the moon in reality.

I take a bow before this force to reckon with, that has out done itself in every step.

Update: Post featured in Reuters India

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November 16, 2008   50 Comments

Close shave with insurance

I always knew insurance was a subject matter of solicitation, but never knew it meant an invitation to a rigmarole.Sanity prevailed till I signed up for this.I am sure, it was part of a bigger conspiracy that brought Tata AIG to me.
The herculean task was not filling a small form, but the medical tests.It had almost everything from the tests that one goes through before joining the army(give me some points for exaggeration)

When the whole of the nation was celebrating Independence day, I was at one of the best labs in Trivandrum.I was there for a 5 minute long blood test mandatory for anyone signing up for Tata AIG;fair enough, five minutes and some drops for blood.

I was told that, I just need to show the request letter from Tata AIG and I would be treated like a king, no waiting, 5 minutes of tests and I am out.What an idea Sirjee, I thought.They indeed treated me like a king.Asked me to sit in one of the imported sofa sets and the wait had just begun then.The letter that I gave them had almost all tests that can be done on a human being, on all possible organs;seemed like a straight lift from wikipedia.

Why was I made to wait? The list of tests had 56 tests, 43 of them three letter acronyms,the people at the lab knew only 26 of them!After calling up all doctors connected to the lab, they figured 5 more and commented that the rest of the tests are not at all important.Lucky me!

So the five minute test started with a 2 hour wait.Remember, I was asked to appear for the tests, fasting.So,starved till 10am,they showed the green flag to my blood test.I was made to sit and this blood sucker lady came,discovered a vein on my left hand and filled in a huge syringe with my blood. sob sob!

Like a convict(minus hand cuffs ) I was escorted to the second floor.Misery had just begun.I was taken to the X Ray room.Why? Chest Xray to check if my lungs were in place.

I entered the dimly lit room.Two women were inside.I could barely see their faces.I was asked to take my T Shirt off!! Hey! X Ray passes through the skin/body,then why not the T Shirt! If my T shirts could block X Rays, I better show my muscular body to the women.The unwillingness evident on my face,I succumbed to the women and took my shirt off.One of them then directed me to a pedestal that reminded me of something used to take mug shots.With my bare chest facing a plate, she adjusted a U shaped object to fit in my neck in.
Lights off, lights on!X Ray done.A gush of relief flowed through me.One more task completed.

Next stop,Ultra Sonograph test.From my Pune experience,I knew that one had to drink water before the test.And the test is conducted only when you are bladder full.After drinking almost a litre of water, I reached the counter.
An elderly man, sitting next to me asks,”Oh! you have stones?”.
Me:Stone… no…Insurance…

The attender came out to check if there were newer patients and gave me a form to fill which had Patient instead of Name.Anyone who waits this long for an insurance needs tons of it,patience.
He asked me if I drank enough water and that they would let me in only when I feel like taking a leak.In 5 minutes,I called him out to let me in or I will have to clear by bladder.
Entered the posh room.Well lit unlike the earlier X Ray room, this too had two women.The almost-peed-me made an entry.”Take your T Shirt off!” There you go again!This time I held the T close to me but one of the ladies politely asked me to keep it aside.I was asked to lie down.The doc came in and asked to take my belt off!Now what?
“Take your button off”.The almost molested me,was left with no other option but to do an act of unbuttoning.A yucky jelly was applied on my tummy and a green cloth used to cover the only clothed portions of me.Something like a bar code scanner was moved all around my tummy. Voila! There I go! Kidney1, Kidney2, Liver…oh! I have all of them inside.(touchwood).

Like a mice who escaped a cat,I ran out…buttoning myself back in order. With almost all possible organs discovered, the heart was yet to be found.I was asked to go to a nearby private hospital with which the lab had some connection, to get a Tread Mill Test done.
After relieving myself,I filled in a form that called me a patient,again!
Me:Doctor,this is for Tata AIG insurance
Doc:You don’t have a problem withyour heart,right?
Me:Some have called me,heartless, would that count.
Doc:(murmur)..Bad joke
Doc:TMT, you have to keep running at an increasing pace, for about 12 minutes
Me:I haven’t had anything since morning.I will fall down half way through the test.
Doc:Go have breakfast and come.

To free myself from having breakfast in the hospital canteen, I got back to him after having 2 glasses of water.

Doc:We have to prepare your chest
Doc:Ya,shave off!!
Oh god!!No!!I do not want to get rid of any trace of masculinity in me.
Me:Doc,I will have some more water and be right back.

Scoot! No, I don’t want this insurance and I was home soon.
Last heard.Inspite of my cheap stunt, Tata AIG has approved my insurance.They surely, have very few customers.

Update: This post was picked up by Reuters India and was featured on their homepage on 17th September 2008

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September 10, 2008   41 Comments

General Travails

When was the last time you traveled in an unreserved/general compartment? No,I am not talking about the 3 or 4 hours that you spent in a general coach couple of days back.An overnight journey,a long journey,something over 35 hours?

If you are a been-there-done-that in this,you can relate this post perfectly.

Journeys back home from Warangal were always unplanned.Traveling unplanned and unreserved had its fair share of cool-ness albeit the load of problems it came with.And traveling in groups in general compartment was even “cooler”.No hassle of waiting in queues for reservation(pre-pre IRCTC ), just a couple of minutes spent in taking a general ticket,that’s all.

General compartments present before you a different India.
India of laborers,hawkers,urchins,
hijras, and ticket less travelers. Lets not forget the dirt,dust,cockroaches and even rats.

From experience I have mastered the art of making myself comfortable in an unreserved coach,though I don’t travel like this any longer.

Ya,you guessed it right.Bang outside the loo is the easiest location one can accommodate oneself in a general compartment.When the whole compartment is jam-packed,this location gives you more space than anywhere else.

Outloo will have cartons,trunks and other forms of luggage competing for a of space with you.Think! It is an opportunity.Improvise and sit on trunks,cartons(make sure the contents are intact!).If you don’t find any of these to place your butt,stand till your legs give way.Then sit on the floor,don’t think too much!If you are one of those, I am a very clean types, use a sheet of newspaper to sit.

When you are comfortably placed here,the most irritating creatures are not cockroaches ,beggars or the sing-for-money kids, but the loosers(loo-users).You will have to give way for people to answer nature’s calls.Soon you will find analyzing the pattern of loo-usage.

How many women,how many women are going in?Why are women going in more than men or otherwise? Thoughts like,”Why is this yellow saree woman going for the third time in an hour” will pass by.You will give a blank stare to the guy who comes out relieved;the stare would mean,”Didn’t you take a leak like 5 mins back?” Can’t help such inquisitiveness.
Other than this,trust me there is nothing better you can do here to ease a harrowing travel experience.

The only interesting twist in this kahaani would be having some army jawaans for company.You can pile on and they will manage to get you place to sit comfortably.

Half/Full Side-ies
If you manage to get close to an occupied side seat,stand close to the person. Ask politely for a half butt placement space.Most requests would be impolitely rejected. Never mind, keep your spirits high.Be aggressive.Persistence will win you a seat, I mean half of it.
If you don’t manage to get a seat,keep an eye on all seats around. You know the mannerisms when someone is going to get down at a station, right?Jump to that seat! Grab it!

The Normal Seat
Very optimistic you are if you feel you would get a seat here the moment to sneak into the coach.
You can find a place in between two people or try
invasion from the end of a seat,with part-by-part body placement.
When you manage half a seat, you can try tricks like falling asleep over the seat-mate amongst other stunts to irritate him.

The top berth in general compartments which I guess is originally meant for luggage, is usually occupied entirely by someone who religiously follows the adage of early bird getting the worm. Do not be nice to him. Wake him up.!Ask him to sit and not lie down.

When sitting on the top berth,make sure your feet does not dangle,if they do, the guy sitting down will abuse you.
Be careful when you are having water or peanuts sitting here;an iota of carelessness will leave the guy down in fumes.

Side Luggage Rack
If you are desperate to lie down and belong to the adventurous types, this is your place.The side luggage rack(above the side seats) which can barely accommodate your breadth, is for you.
Push the luggage there to either sides.Get up there and lie down.If you are horizontally challenged ,even a bit, don’t try this stunt!

If nothing works, the floor is always there for you..Take you shamelessness-astra out and sit on the floor;you can reach home and take a Dettol-shower if you want.

Come what may,make sure your luggage is with you/next to you. through out.Use it as pillow,leg rest,seat whatever.Losing it does not leave you with good memories of a travel.

Aren’t you looking forward to a long unrserved journey? Now that you have read this much, please don’t say no. ;)

Image courtesy :ClicQ

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July 31, 2008   39 Comments

Presence in blessings only

The first time I saw Chi and Sow, it seemed like nothing more than funny 3 letter combinations.That was a Telugu Wedding card if I remember correctly.
Plus,the girl had Chi and Sow while the guy had only Chi before his name.Asking around I learnt that Chi was for Chiranjeevi and Sow was Sowbhagyavathi.
Chiranjeevi meant nothing more than Aswathama(the only Chiranjeevi I knew) and the Telugu actor Chiranjeevi to me then. Quite unfair that the groom did not have any prefix that was equivalent to Sow…why not Sowbhagyavaan?
(So Chiranjeevi’s wedding card would have had it as Chi.Chiranjeevi? :D)

Another peculiar thing I noticed in non Malayalee wedding cards was the yellow color on the corners.During those times, the most alien card I could have come across was a Tamil, Telugu or a Kannada wedding card. And on and off some of them had the yellow corners. Some even had red smears on them.The yellow was turmeric water smeared for purity,hygiene etc I understood later.

With or without the Chis,and Sows, the yellow smears, wedding cards caught my attention. Many a times, one could easily find a typo in a card.Thanks to the Printer’s Devils, the typos would sometimes be really funny something like “Presence in blessings only” and in some cases like this use of spell check worsened it.

Then there used to be some cards which almost had the visiting card details of the bride and the groom. Like working with Chi.Sow Amala (Software Engineer,Doubtsourcing Inc.,now on site in Minneapolis) or Chi.Srinivas (MBA-Random Institute of Management) or even worse Sow.Lavanya(MBBS-Pursuing 3rd year).

Mallu wedding cards thankfully don’t contain such details, may be they are too humble ;)

Coming to North Indian wedding cards, it has a part which Southies like me have no clue of.Since I am yet to attend one, I have no clue what Sangeet is.And half their cards’ space is taken by details of Sangeet.

With Indianisation-Globalisation happening these days, you get to see even Mallu wedding cards with a sketch of Baarat or Doli!!!.(When in school I used to wonder what baarat ? I could simply not relate to the meaning even when explained to me). Some even have the Sangeet clip art on it, beat that! Since it is the same card templates and clip arts that are used across India(or world),you would rarely see a Guruvayoorappan , Vilakk (Lamp) or Para these days on Mallu wedding cards .Its the cliched set of symbols like this.

Come what may,there is some unity in the text.Solicit,Esteemed,Gracious,Auspicious,Cordially-the set of words which are unavoidable in a wedding card.

First I thought it was some smart printer in India who came up with these 3 or so templates that later became popular. Invites are usually in third person and it would say Mrs and Mr.A cordially invite your esteemed presence with family on the occasion of the wedding of their son _____ and …. or cordially invite you and your family to grace the auspicious occasion of the marriage of their son ____..

May be some printer thought why their son’s wedding , it should be our son’s wedding and so we get occasional breaks from cards framed in third person.

Why do some cards invite us with family and friends? May be they are jus’ being extra nice .

The fact is that it has been like this for ages!! May be it is a remnant of the how the monks used to craft wedding invites during the Middle Ages.May be writing in third person was to bring in a formal touch to these cards.Many a times, the terms wedding and marriage are used interchangeably in the Indian context(cards)

Only very few people act like Grammar Nazis and do a thorough proof reading of the wedding invite(template) that a printer suggests. So,in most cases a mistake remains a mistake, and it continues until someone points it out to them.Only a small percentage of cards do actually come typo free, error free in grammar,punctuation etc.
Post Script: Why can’t weddings be sponsored?
Think about the number of foot falls, eyeballs.
Atleast 80-90% of the invitees would come for the event. Almost all will have a good look at the card.
What if there is an LCD screen at the venue that displays ads?

Some Creative inputs for this image TDP

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May 1, 2008   38 Comments