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Sunday, 28 August 2016

NH66 – Ernakulam to Alappuzha

Ernakulam to Alappuzha, 58.7 Kms, 1 Hour 26 Mins said Google. 86 mins to cover just 58+ KMs? Google you are drunk I said to myself. It was reinforced when I did about 32 odd KMs out of the stretch in about 30 minutes. Was Google really drunk? You bet!

Google! You drunk Mate?

Once out of the Toll Roads, I reached what I thought was the Moon. But I was wrong. I mean I don’t think moon has craters that are this deep. Or have so many of them. Sorry Moon. You are passé!  In fact I counted more craters per square inch than are found in an average Medu Vadai!

The journey though was just warming up. The first thing that struck me as I was negotiating to find the inches of road on this surface was a roadside sign which said ‘Maximum Speed 15 KMPH’. I nearly choked of laughter and almost hit a senior citizen uncle on a scooter who decided to stop bang in the middle of the junction to ogle at some Malayalee beauties crossing the road. 

The next 300 meters were covered without any major incident. Unless you consider a man who poked his bicycle in front of my car just as I saw an opportunity to step on the gas in his attempt to cross the road, getting stuck in the attempt because of  the passing of a heavily loaded truck on the other side. That the cyclist decided to make full use of the inactivity he was subjected to, actually tapped on my windshield to try and sell me a lottery ticket was but a small example of our enterprising Malayalees trying to make an honest living.

At the next, one among the million plus traffic signals on NH66, an enthusiastic biker after negotiating the various minuscule openings between the overwhelming traffic ended up standing next to me. One look at his face, I could detect the smirk. “Haha, here I am on a 50K bike and stuck, and here you are in a 500K Car and stuck!” If looks could kill, he was a goner the instant I gave him my stare. To cut the story short, at yet another traffic signal, I was placed next to a swanky BMW. If looks could kill, I was a goner the instant the BMWer gave me a stare!

One unique feature of Keralites is that they are among the most empowered people among us Indians. Not for them the rules that are made for us mere mortals. So nothing stops them from taking the lane for the traffic going in the opposite direction to beat the jam and postpone their tryst with the snarl up by a few hundred meters. That the same is caused by people going in the opposite direction resorting to the same tactics should not be considered ironic but yet another proof of equally empowered Keralites, direction no bar! Yours truly too took a chance on one occasion only to be stopped by a friendly neighbourhood cop who left his chaya and kadi half consumed and pounced on me to issue a ticket. Empowerment is I presume reserved only for Keralites. Kerala cops, if I may add in the passing, have a special love reserved for cars which are registered in the Pakistani state of Karnataka. (I will fail in my duties if I don’t mention this love is mutual with the Karnataka Cops also reserving their special attention on cars registered in Kerala on their roads. Welcome!)

However one must express compliments where due else you are nothing but a mere nitpicker. There was a stretch where I did manage to touch peak speeds. That the stretch was only about 82 meters long and the peak speed I managed was about 43 KMPH should not derail my objectivity.

Finally I did reach Alappuzha. I found out. Google was indeed drunk. I took a whole 210 minutes to cover a distance that Google said will take 'only' 86. Go away Google. Meet me when you are sober!

Dear Keralites! Never ever ever ever defend your state when anyone, especially me, takes up cudgels against you in an argument. Don’t you dare!

If you throw your literacy rates at me, I will throw your roads at you.
If you throw you public health care system at me, I will throw your roads at you.
If you throw Mohanlal, Jesudas and Adoor Gopalakrishnan at me, I will throw your roads at you.
If you throw P.T.Usha, M.D.Valsamma and Shiny Abraham at me, I will throw your roads at you.
If you throw Onam Sadya, Paladapradhaman and Nendranga Chipps at me, I will throw your roads at you.
If you throw Arya Vaidhyasala and Herbal Massage at me, I will throw your roads at you.
If you throw Sabarimalai and Padmanabhaswamy Temple at me, I will throw your roads at you.
If you throw Rubber, Tea and Spices at me, I will throw your roads at you.
If you throw Malayala Manorama and Mathrubhumi at me, I will throw your roads at you.
If you throw ‘God’s own country’ at me, I will throw the Devil and your roads at you.
And if you in a moment of madness throw my wife at me, I promise I will catch her, gently lay her down and then throw your roads at you.

(For those who came in late, My better half is a Malayalee. Welcome!)

PS: As things stand now, my car has threatened to leave me once we go back to my hometown. She refuses to come home and insists would instead go straight to her maika/porandha aam, into the ever welcoming arms of the engineers at the Maruti Service Centre, to recoup her vigour!

Medu Vadai

Chaya and Kadi :

Maika/Porandha Aam : The Brides’ parental home.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Dear Shri Mohan Bhagwatji

Dear Mohan Bhagwatji.

Shashtanga Namaskar!

Recently I came across your statement made for the 294749028th time. Indians should produce more children. Was it Indians or was it Hindus? I am not sure but reading between the lines, I feel once all Non-Hindus convert, then I presume they can produce more Hindus. Oru kallule rendu manga! Rather I should like a true Sanghi use Hindi instead and say Ek teer do nishan!

The statement has resulted in shrill and rather hollow protests from the modern day Jaichands who have denounced the same in no uncertain terms. Poor Sods! Uninformed and uneducated lot of JNUwadis! Hence through your good offices I would like to inform and educate the said people so that they too may see enlightenment and go forth and procreate!

They unlike me are missing the woods for the trees. Here we are after existing for over millennia and still China leads us in absolute numbers. How can we allow it any further? We must immediately embark on our national duty and defeat China in Population and achieve Numero Uno status. While it may seem rather difficult that we will beat China in terms of the size of their economy, over all development or in the Olympics Medals tally, at least in the foreseeable future, let us at least begin by beating them in population count!

The naysayers also miss the point that the children we produce will have ready and free access to world class educational facilities in Saraswati Shishu Mandirs! A sure shot route to dominate the world’s knowledge economy. Those who claim that we will breed generations of ‘Hindi Medium Types’ need to be told in no uncertain terms that Hindi is our Rashtra Bhasha and down with English and Imperialism. (For the last mentioned, we will have unequivocal support of the Jyoti Basu’s progeny, Welcome!)

Learn Rashtra Bhasha!

You will also provide free Roti Kapda aur Makaan needless to add. The Annadanam schemes in various temples I am sure will be extended to all temples and LO! Free food! As regards Kapda, our knickers or the soon to introduced ‘full pants’ should suffice amply. I was momentarily stuck as to what do we make the girls wear? I mean knickers and pants is against Bharatiya Sabhyata for our womenfolk. They daylight stuck. What is the point in giving birth to girl children in the first place when all they end up as is victims of ‘Love Jihad’ and an occasional Olympics medalists!  Makaan will be a slightly tougher issue to tackle. We would possibly have to make do with the Shakhas and Gaushalas, till we open enough of them to match the demand! 




A 'puny' medal and Love Jihad

I however have only one regret. Your offer has come too late for me. The Adarsh Liberal who delivered my second child in his misguided enthusiasm to promote Hum do hamare do went ahead and closed my baby making ‘factory’! Sigh! However I promise I will take your gyaan as part of the Teach the teacher programme and go forth and encourage Hindus to produce more babies!

Shashtaanga Namaskar again!

Bharat Mata Ki Jai!


PS: Some people ask how will we produce more Hindu babies if we don’t have sufficient girl children? I think you would suggest a reverse ‘Love Jihad’. Love Yudh would be an apt brand name!

Friday, 12 August 2016

The "Cool Dude"

He was what the GeNext describes as a "cool dude"! To try and decipher what it actually means is quite an arduous  task. However I will attempt to do so from possibly describing the kind of person he was. Educated, with a fairly decent paying job, with interests in and enthusiasm for normal pastimes like movies, sports, hanging out with friends and girl friends, party hard, drink harder, generally dismissive of dogmas and selectively of religious rituals, opinionated yet accommodative, politically aware without being a follower. In short a 'normal' city bred English medium type in his early 30s! With a sense of optimism that resides in such people. Quite popular in his professional and social circles.


There is that indescribably something about the air in India. Or is it the water? Whatever may be the case, the social milieu of India is such that more often than not, it breeds people of a type who are quite unique when compared to people of many a land. Is it the history of accommodation and acceptance over a millennia that this land has witnessed? Or is it the secular, plural and syncretic lives lived by our forefathers which have been passed on to the subsequent generations? That unexplainable thing called the 'Idea of India' or as the youngsters have a penchant to put it succinctly as "We are like that only"? Whatever it may be but being Indian defies any mundane definition and it doesn't conform to any stereotype under any standard operation manual.


Just as it seemed that the good times are about to graduate into great times, disaster struck. The slowdown of the Indian economy hit hard, where it hurts the most. The wallet! First vide a freeze on increments, to reduction in pay packets, to temporary benching to a pink slip. Well so what? There is this sheer optimism of an Indian youth which is difficult to beat down. India after all was touted as the land of opportunities. Something or the other will knock the doors, sooner rather than the later was the primary narrative. Then reality struck. There were too many with pink slips floating around in the employers market for anybody's good. Too many CVs chasing too few jobs. And when a young blood refuses to compromise either on the job profile or be pragmatic enough to take a lower paycheck, virtually it is back to 70s Bollywood films with "No vacancy" boards. Post taking an enforced sabbatical, exhausting all options and cleaning out the savings account dry, it seemed the only option left was to take up that job offer in "gulf", a euphemism for the middle east. The "cool dude" took it!


India meanwhile was in an upheaval. A right wing party came to power. Intolerance rose. The very "idea of India" was under threat. Headlines screamed. Television screamed louder. Secularism was under threat. India will soon become a "Hindu Pakistan" was the emerging narrative. Liberal voices were being crushed and minorities were on the verge of being reduced to second class citizen. Majoritarianism ran roughshod over the constitutional guarantees and doomsday prophecies were being readied that suggested the balkanization of India.


He took up his job responsibilities. Toiled for his scheduled 8-10 hours a day. All alone, virtually friendless in an alien land, alien country, for succour he turned what? He couldn't dig out joints to party. The conventional types of parties. Not on his salary package. Co-workers were more of the same and beyond duty hours had no time for the "outsider". TV was tiring. Internet was heavily censored. Even phone lines were eavesdropped upon. Social Media watched. Those picnic spots were a bore without friends. And there were no temples. It did strike him odd later, much later as to why he was asked to remove the Ayyappa dollor along with the Rudrakshamala it was tied to during his immigration formalities. It struck him everyday, day after day that however much he tried or may have tried, he was the perennial outsider. His abilities, his skills didn't matter. None gave him an identity anymore. His hobbies, his knowledge, his attitude didn't matter. Beyond work, he was not a Salman Khan fan, he wasn't a Manchester United enthusiast, he wasn't a good social companion. He was no longer the "cool dude"! He was not even an Indian! 


Meanwhile intolerance levels was peaking in India, as artists and authors returned their awards, as daily headlines brought out information on yet another ban on yet another film, book, person or cuisine while the other end of the spectrum called it a political ploy or outraged over hypocrisy. It was around this time that the "cool dude" decided to take his biannual vacation back to India. We all gathered enthusiastically to welcome him back. To renew our regular hangouts. Party hard. Paint the town red. The works! It was then that  we realized. The "cool dude" was no more. Instead the person who met us was a Hindu!

You are right. Intolerance has indeed peaked in India.


PS: The "Cool Dude" 2 soon!


Dollor : Pendent
Rudhrakshamala : 

Friday, 5 August 2016

Women? Good Lord!

Either the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) has read my blogpost or better sense has prevailed. A new sense of purpose maybe. Among the many complaints mentioned in my earlier post I am happy to report substantial changes, for the better that I witnessed during my recent visit to the Sabari Hills. The washrooms/restrooms earlier resting on man made lakes and the other attended shortcomings have been renovated. No more water logging. No more running around to fetch water. And clean! Well done TDB.

Plastic! Where art thou? The Sabarimalai and its entire trekking stretch and the Sannidhanam is plastic free now. No polybags, no pet bottles. NO PLASTIC! Kudos! However Dear TDB here are a few suggestions which can make this step even more devotee friendly. While ban on pet bottles is a very welcome step, you must also ensure presence of far more numbers of fresh drinking water kiosks. I for one was left mostly thirsty as I did not carry any water storing unit and had to discard the pet bottle at a garbage bin at the start of the trek at Pampa. You must also encourage the water/water substitute brands to possibly sell their liquids in recyclable glass bottles which will not only ensure conserving the environment around the holy hills but also give people a chance to buy and carry liquids to quench their thirst. Well done TDB for converting a nitpicker into a suggestion maker!

At the starting point of the trek up the Sabarimalai there is a police check point. Not only looking out for pickpockets or unruly devotees but also to check the age certificate of the women devotees who they suspect might be over 10 or under 50 years of age. For those who came in late, the rules at Sabarimalai bar girls/women in the above age bracket from entering the temple premises because of an age old tradition which believes their presence will defile a temple where the resident god, Lord Ayyappan has taken a vow of permanent celibacy. You would also be aware of the recent movements from various quarters to stop what is described as a regressive practice which is not only patriarchal but is also unconstitutional. While the matter is still in the courts and various parties are jockeying to take position for and against any change in this tradition, I for one am all for the rules be amended and the women, all women be allowed to have a darshan of our maker. You may call me gender neutral on this issue. Just as Hindu rituals/practices have either evolved for the better through internal reforms or by the stroke in the law books. If Sati can be abolished, if widow remarriage permitted, if right to property be allowed for the girl child, then why not an innocuous temple entry?

Shani Shingnapur - Trailer for Sabarimalai?

I can already read your mind. “Hinduism under attack! Our rituals and our tradition!” Say the fundamentalists. “Why only us Hindus? Why not the other religions married to the book?” Say the champions of Uniform Civil Code. I will take up your queries, one at a time.

I have already touched upon Sati and other ‘traditions’. For those who are unaware, a visit to Sabarimalai demands a 41 day period of penance which entails celibacy, no vices, black attire, no shaving/hair cutting etc. In short lead a life of a yogi/hermit. That is the tradition. Today however many if not most do not undergo the penance. I have seen people even during the penance indulge in activities not permitted. And one can see many a trekker smoking away to glory. These traditions are expendable of course for it is the men who indulge in it you see. Double standards if there was one and so much for Hinduism under attack. Be a sport. Be true. And let the ladies in. I am sure they are far more pious and serious than most men are!

“Why only us Hindus? Why not the Abrahamic religions? You don’t have guts to touch their religious practices!” Sadly I too have to agree with you here. A combination of ‘why disturb the beehive’ mentality and lopsided lust for 'minority votes’ by a section of our political class has led to a substantial number of our citizen remaining in perennial darkness of regressive practices. Appeasement is what it is called commonly. And it must change. Change soon. This country owes it to some of its most backward and oppressed citizenry in the name of following 7th Century laws. And I am willing to go the whole way on this point. I have what I think only one question for you. Must I too regress or stagnate or stop evolving for the better just because others don’t? Will you for example stop giving attention to your work or your business or studies because some others in the company or marketplace or classrooms are unwilling to or unable to or are not permitted to? I am sure you will agree with me that you won’t! That is the crux of my argument. I will continue to strive and improve and continue to set a positive example. And will keep doing it for my benefit. And I am sure one day it will rub off on the others. I as in Hindus and others as in those who are still suppressed by the dogma arising out of the pulpit.

MalikapuratthuAmma. Waiting for the wait to end!

There is an interesting sidelight to the Celibate Yogi in Sabarimalai. A lady, much in love with Lord Ayyappan, Malikapuratthu Amma, whose shrine too is one among the many in the Ponnambalam is waiting for the day when the Lord will break his vows. The condition imposed by the Lord to accept her is that he would do so the day when there is not a single ‘debutant’, christened Kanni Swamy, among the devotees who visit the temple! The other legend about Ayyappan is that he is a much married man. He has two wives. Purna and Pushkala. SO! The Lord has not forsaken the womenfolk. It is as good a time as any for men to stop forsaking them too!

Purna Pushkala sametha Ayyappa Swamiyeiiii!

PS: The lady of my house says she will never visit Sabarimalai till she attains the age prescribed by the traditions. It will be a deiva kuttram she says. I too won’t insist. The lady knows what she wants and I leave it at that. I am sure most men will agree with me.


Dharshan : Holy glimpse of the Idol of the god/goddess in Hindu temples.
Ponnambalam : Golden Temple
Kanni Swamy : First time visitor/devotee at Sabarimalai.
Deiva Kuttram : Blasphemy
Sannidhanam: Sanctum Sanctorum  
Sati: Practice of a widow joining/forced into the funeral pyres of her husband. Abolished by law during British India days after a sustained campaign against it by Reformist Raja Ram Mohun Roy.