Wednesday, 25 December 2013

G’bye Annus Stupidus, Allo Annus Ridiculus

It’s festive season again. The air is filled with the pungent smell of burning rubber, plastic and waste.   People are singing paeans to the new messiah - “His Royal Highness, Benevolent, Right Reverend Excellent Chief Minister and Royal Disburser of Alms to the Poor, the Crippled, the Lame and the Blind, and the Royal Shower-er of Riches on Rich People”.
People on the streets are also singing paeans to the Royal Opposition for royally protesting the disbursing and showering while wearing crowns and holding sceptres, symbols which they despise.
People are singing paeans to their MP tha Roor for clearing the environment regarding the deepwater port (the thought behind it is what matters; i.e. the afterthought, after an airport gets all the clearances in the blink of an eye).
They are also singing paeans to the Mayor-ess for triggering a renewed interest in physics, especially the study of inertia.
People are so much into singing paeans, they don’t realize the pains in their nether regions caused by the actions (no, I don’t want to spell it out) of the above royalty.
2013 has been an “annus stupidus” by any standards, but as G. Carlin says, “Inside every silver lining there is a dark cloud”.
And that dark cloud is the New and Improved Kerala Model of Development (NIKMOD), pioneered by the new messiah who is travelling at warp speed to far away destinations. The people are yet to catch up with him. Well, how can they? They are singing paeans (with their heads up their *****)!  
NIKMOD envisions airports at every nook and corner of the State, like bus stands. And this would usher in all-round development. New roads will be built, shopping malls and high-rise condominiums will come up, and international schools will sprout. It would also bring in high-end hospitals with magic ventilators that create illusions of life in the dead to console the relatives and relieve them of the corrupting influence of money.  (I didn’t make this up. This is something I read in the Inter-webby about the benefits of Aranmula airport, though, I admit, he didn’t specify the ventilator part).
And the good tidings don’t end there. We will have bullet trains, monorails, ports, seaplanes, regular planes, convention centres, 5-star hotels, and not to forget helipads at places where we can’t build airports (no $hit!). Ooh! I can’t wait for 2014 –which I hope would be an annus ridiculus- to roll in.
A Happy New Year to Y’all!
P.S. A few days ago, the statue of a former CM was unveiled in Trivandrum. At the time, the government said it will allot land to a foundation in his name. Voila! 48 hours later, the foundation has 37 cents of land in Palayam. This land, mind you, is not in Palayam, Calicut, but in Palayam, Trivandrum - a city with no land for any development, if you believe the current “His Royal Highness, Benevolent, Right Reverend Excellent Chief Minister and Royal Disburser of Alms to the Poor, the Crippled, the Lame and the Blind, and the Royal Shower-er of Riches on Rich People”.  And that too for a man whose loyalties lay elsewhere and who had no love lost for Trivandrum as such.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Capital Punishment

Being the capital, Trivandrum attracts all kinds of people who want to air their grievances in front of the Secretariat here, the de-facto symbol of power. So, for example, if you are a group of divinely ordained people like the Brahmins who used to wield some power; but are currently facing threats from the unwashed, uncouth, un-everything nincompoops (a guy called Parur Rakesh from a lower caste was appointed as a priest recently) who are taking away the one primary job of yours – i.e. having personal conversations with imaginary beings; then you could pack your $#it and come to Trivandrum and protest. You could build a sacred fire in front of the Secretariat and invoke the gods to wreak destruction on the sacrilegious punks trying to cut in on your action. It should be a piece of cake, since you have the secret hotline to said being.
Anyway, what I am trying to say is that this is the beauty of India’s democracy. You are free to protest. Another beauty of our so-called democracy is that the state is free to send policemen to disrobe you and crush your family jewels in front of TV cameras broadcasting live to mallu living rooms, as the Marxists recently discovered to their chagrin. This is part of the government’s Bollicks Crushing Programme (BCP) modelled after the Chief Minister’s Mass Contact Programme (MCP, jana sambarkka paripadi). We’re in line for another UN recognition pretty soon. Our MP, Sasi Tha ‘Roor’ should pull some strings in the UN through his social networks to make this a reality. I dream of a day when I would be able to see huge billboards of our CM holding spherical objects in his hands, similar to the ones that showed him holding a bunch of MCP petitions. Talk of emasculating the opposition! Way to go!
(He, our CM, is back with his MCP. When the CM has to go around addressing issues that should ideally be solved by a clerk, then that means something is seriously wrong with the government machinery. Perhaps he could get rid of many of these people and save the exchequer some money.)
Well, apart from the above-mentioned political hullabaloo, Trivandrum also hosts processions and parades by a plethora of religious groupings. Especially, some processions promoted by the Hindu right appear to be part of their strategy to expand their base in Kerala. There was one in which cute little kids dressed as Krishna were forced to walk on the hot city streets. Curiously, none of the kids (pictures) I saw were dark as Krishna. They were all fair to very fair complexioned, not even wheatish. Whatever happened to kaakkakarumbans and kaarvarnans? Another was the Ganapati procession. Suddenly, we are like Bombay! Big-time immersion of Ganpati Bappa in the Arabian Sea. I don’t know whether they were singing “Ganpati bappa morya pudhchya varshi lavkar ya” (Lord Ganesha, come again soon next year) during the procession, but recently when I went to clean-up Sankhumugham beach with a group of volunteers, there were still some Styrofoam, plastic and plaster-of-Paris remains of the lord on the beach, and I almost wanted to go "pudhchya varshi yeu naka". Where are the eco-warriors when we need them?     
Some good (?) things that happened in the recent past – Nilgiri’s started selling Yakult probiotics drinks, which my kids used to love back in Japan. They also have Lindt and other expensive Swiss chocolates (have resisted the temptation so far), tortillas and even miso soups on their shelves. Persimmons are back in season at my favourite vegetable vendor “Spring” in Nanthancode. There are a couple of new restaurants, which I have to try out. And, a new online lending library ( has started functioning, for which I promptly signed up today after I read the news in The Hindu. Interesting times ahead.
PS. Couple of days ago I saw a news item where a guy from Kochi was complaining there was a Trivandrum lobby working against them. It seems Tha 'Roor' had commented about some stupid cricket game getting washed out, which didn’t go down well with the Cochin dudes and Cricket Association honchos. What is with this 'Roor' guy and cricket? Anyway, I was interested in this powerful Trivandrum lobby. So, I checked out the KCA website and lo and behold, what do I find? Of all the matches given to KCA, barring a few junior games in Perinthalmanna and Thalaserry, everything else was allotted to – no, not Trivandrum, but Kochi, which included the washed out Duleep Trophy matches, Ranji matches, ODIs, everything! Some powerful Trivandrum lobby this is!  Or, it might just be that this Trivandrum lobby strived to get all the matches for Kochi so that they could sit back and enjoy the super soppers in action. Wicked, or what? I, for one, think the super soppers are more fun. I hope more and more such matches are washed out, whether in Trivandrum or Kochi, or Ranchi or Cuttack so that these match-fixing, lazy, untalented bozos do not get a chance to show off their mediocrity.
One thing we all should remember – when things like these happen, it means there is money involved and "they" would like to keep it as exclusive as possible, lest their share of the pie become smaller. "You" are there just to hold the flags, throw the stones and get kicked in the nuts. They walk all the way to the bank. OK, not walk, but go in a car. Land will be given away for free to moneybags, coal fields will be given to corporations for peanuts, and frequencies will be allocated for a pittance to telecom companies. In the meantime, you’ll be given polluted air to breathe, poisoned water to drink and intermittent power to watch the idiot box. Be thankful.    

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

I Kinda Have a Dream

Next month is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech (March on Washington, August 1963). To think that it’s been only about 50 years since black people got equal rights in that “shining city on the hill”, “the beacon of democracy”, “the indispensable nation” is mind-boggling. But that is another story. Here today is my own ‘I kinda have a dream’ inspired by the great MLK speech.  
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as just another stupid day in the history of our State.
Some years ago, some great Mallus, whose statues might one day cast shadows on garbage piles, signed some worthless proclamations. This came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of mallus who had been searing garbage piles here and there.
But many years later, the Mallu still is not free to do what he pleases with his garbage, which he has to slyly dispose off in distant neighbourhoods in the middle of the night. Many years later, many Mallus live on lonely islands of opulence in the midst of vast oceans of waste. Many years later, the Mallu is still languishing in all corners of the world and finds himself an exile in his own land, only able to come here once in a while to throw tissue papers around.
In a sense many come to the State's capital to take a dump. When the architects of our city, if there were any, drew up the plans, they were thinking of the hordes of people who will come here with their flags and plastic bottles and Styrofoam food packets and their bodily orifices for excretion. So our architects ensured that all men, some women too, would be guaranteed the unalienable right to choke this city to death in addition to the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that the State has given the people a bad cheque; a cheque which has come back marked "insufficient funds" to give them the freedom to throw stuff. But we refuse to believe that the bank of government inefficiency is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity for corruption in this State.
It would be fatal for the State to overlook the urgency of the moment. This stinking monsoon of the Mallu’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating season of dengue and Chikungunya. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst by drinking from the tap of municipal water supply.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here to throw a few stones. Some of you have come fresh from the Middle East or Singapore where your quest for freedom to poop by the street side left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
Go back to Kasaragod, go back to Alappuzha, go back to Kochi, go back to Idukki, go back to Kannur, go back to the slums and ghettos of all our cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be replicated in your cities too. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in wet Mallu dreams involving sultry sirens silhouetted against solar flares.
I have a dream that one day this State will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that some, if not most, men are idiots."
I have a dream that one day on the green hills of Ponmudi the sons of rich guys will get sons of power shovel (JCB) drivers to raze down the hills and make it motta (bald).
I have a dream that one day even Attapadi, a place apparently overflowing with rice and ragi given by our State, will have the freedom to throw the plastic sacks in which the rice and ragi come there.
I have a dream that my children will one day live in a State where they will not be judged by the colour of the plastic packet they throw on the street but by the contents of that packet – Lay’s, Pringles, Kurkure, etc.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, right here in the capital, the vicious caste-ists, their lips dripping with the words of tolerance and love only for their own kind will throw filth at each other; and one day right here, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little wheatish-complexioned boys and girls as well as fair and lovely boys and girls, as sisters and brothers to go to the Secretariat and the Corporation Office and dump their diapers there.
                                 (Diapers and other garbage that some lovely parent throws near my house every few days)
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be filled with Big Bazaar bags, every hill and mountain shall be made low to build monuments to greed, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the garbage dumps shall be revealed, and all the fish and flesh and organic waste shall be in those dumps too.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back with.
And if we are to become a super-duper State, this must become true. So let garbage flow from the prodigious hilltops of the Sahyadri. Let garbage flow from the mighty peak of Anamudi. Let garbage flow from Mookunnimala of Ananthapuri!
Let garbage flow into the Ashtamudi Lake of Kollam!
Let garbage flow under the kothumbu vallams of Alappuzha!
But not only that; let garbage flow from the high ranges of Kottayam!
Let garbage flow from Sabarimala of Pathanamthitta!
Let garbage flow from every hill and molehill of God’s Own Country. From every mountainside, let garbage flow.
And when this happens, when we allow garbage to flow, when we let garbage flow from every village and every hamlet, from every town and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all men, Nairs and Ezhavas, Protestants and Catholics, Shia Muslims and Sunni Muslims, and all other caste, religious permutations and combinations and even atheists will be able to join hands and take the next flight out of the country singing, "Free at last! free at last! we are free at last!" “But we will come back once in a while to throw tissue papers!”

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Back in GOC!

It’s been almost a month since I landed back in GOC capital, and I don’t even know where to start ranting.
First up is the garbage issue. We’ll soon be celebrating the 2nd anniversary of our hard-fought “freedom to throw garbage anywhere” rights. I am sure our Mayor-ess Moonlight will come up with some novel ideas for celebrating this in style, given her stellar (lunar?) track record.  And hopefully, the state government would chip in with its own stuff, given its deep, anal-expulsive love for the city. Can’t wait for the s#&t to hit the fan. Oh, wait! It has already hit the fan.
Today, Mr. O “Quicksilver” Chandy opened an office for building monorails in Trivandrum and Calicut, which some people say could be run using solar power. Anyway, this man is awesome. One day he is in some Middle Eastern country receiving some major award specially created for him, the next day he is in some other Middle Eastern country with some major “businessmen”.  And then he is in Delhi meeting with the High Command before going back to his ancestral land for some good, clean adulation involving elephants and stuff, and before you could say Jack Robinson or Jose Thettayil, he parachutes into Kawdiar to open an office. You are almost tempted to think that he is somehow deriving all his energy from the “Sun”.  Meanwhile, his office staff members were also making hay while the “Sun” shines. Good for them!
I’m pretty much certain that he parachuted in because there is no road connectivity between Trivandrum and the most important city near it – Kollam. This, unlike what you think, is part of a grand scheme of building waterways connecting major urban centers. In the 1st phase they have converted a 2-km stretch of the highway, from the IT-hub Kazhakootam to Kaniyapuram, into a waterway. The only problem was, as usual, the authorities didn’t notify the people. Nor did they offer any ferry service. So, people like me, who would have otherwise hired a boat, had to drive on the narrow, muddy banks of this canal jostling for space with other vehicles of the non-seaplane variety. It took me two hours. Next time I’m taking my inflatable dinghy.   
By the way, how did the Brits come up with the Quilon spelling?
1st Brit: Hey, where are you stationed?
2nd Brit: Kollam
(Mind you, this is all happening in Morse Code – K is Dah-di-dah; Q is Dah-dah-di-dah. Maybe one guy just wanted to say Po-Dah)
1st Brit: How do you spell it?
2nd Brit: QUILON. And you?
1st Brit: I’m in Koilandi, spelt QUILANDY
1st and 2nd Brit: Ha, ha, ha. Aren’t we brilliant?

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Land of the Free, Home of the Brave

Well, time for a little blog resuscitation, methinks. Not because of the overwhelming demand (two at last count) from readers, but given the fact that I am now in the “land of the free and the home of the brave,” I felt I could utilize my freedom of expression as guaranteed by this nation’s constitution. Here I am, sitting in Florida, enjoying the gorgeous weather, glorious sunshine, wide roads, wider cars, even some wider people, humongous stores filled with extra-large products, all measured using a different system – Fahrenheit, pounds, ounces, feet, miles.

It suddenly dawned on me that the age-old philosophical question of “How many kilometres from Washington DC to Miami beach?” doesn’t make sense at all. “Dhavan-saare, athu kilometre alla, mile aanu, mile!” And Jagathy could have said, “In the house of my wife and daughter, mai#u ennokke vrithikedu parayunno, stupid.
Though I’m in Florida, I’m nowhere near Miami. I am some 250 miles northwest on the western coast of the peninsula, in Bradenton. The warm weather is a welcome break, considering that till a few days ago I was in snowy, north-eastern Hokkaido which was having an extended winter, as temperatures barely went above 5 degrees, i.e. as in degrees Celsius. America has always evoked mixed feelings in me. It is a beautiful country; at least all the places I have been so far in my visits over the past 16 years. People are mostly polite, whether at stores, while driving or walking, wishing you, thanking you, complimenting you, etc. Of course, there are exceptions too.
Still, I feel there is an underlying tension somewhere. It could be the gun violence stories that you hear which makes you feel impotent. What would you do if some guy pulls a gun? An advice I got before coming down to Sarasota was to stay to the west of Tamiami Trail and I would be OK. Yesterday, I went to the east of Tamiami Trail to a mall (quite deserted, but nothing scary as such) and came back in one piece. Yesterday, there was a shooting incident in a mall in nearby Tampa, and you wonder. Today we walked around a bit in the nice neighbourhood we are staying for the week, and it was as easy as walking from Vanchiyoor to Jannal Ashoothri in Trivandrum. Perhaps it is all in the mind. You have heard people telling that you could get killed if you take the wrong turn and end up at some crazy place here, and coming from Japan (and even India) where such things don’t happen, makes you a bit nervous, especially since you’re not familiar with the territory.
Today, we also went to Siesta Key beach, supposedly voted the No.1 beach in the US, and it was quite impressive too. The sheer expanse of pure white sand (made up of quartz from the Appalachians, as per the signboard on the beach) was a sight to behold, and the shallow water meant the kids could be left alone without much worries.
In another two weeks, I’ll be back in GOC, the real land of the free, where people are free to poop and throw garbage anywhere they please, and the real home of the brave, where even a mundane act such as crossing the road is an act of bravery.
And, hopefully, I would have recovered some of the mojo to keep this blog alive.