Thursday, December 13, 2012



        Muchilot School is the University of Gramam. Childhood memories - running through rains, collecting water lilies from ponds, the pain of cane, the unending game of hide and seek and the innumerable follies- rush to my mind when I think of my first School. The school was on the eastern side of Muchilot kavu (in which kaliattams are held once in twenty years-  and hence the name .There was a mailanchi garden fresh with morning dew in the front yard of the School which  was used for erasing the slate.   Chindan master, the H M of the School was very considerate to the children. Always dressed in neat Khadi, and with a large kumkum bindi on his forehead  ,he will take the cane only towards mischievous rascals. He will recite verses from old texts loudly.  Anandan master was a real terror who will use his cane mercilessly. Hari mash also taught Maths with cane ( My brother stopped his studies because of this Cane treatment. One day my brother, who was unable to recite a multiplication table, was asked  to stand upon the bench and the teacher beat him mercilessly. Unable to bear the thrashing my brother got hold of the cane. The entire class became soundless with amazement as the stick is now in my brothers hand. The incident resulted in his ouster from the School). 

       Karthiayani teacher, Narayani teacher and  Nambiar mash(who was a paying Guest in my friends house) were very good teachers whereas  krishann master was very popular among students as he sold picture stamps to students. Balakrishnan Master taught English very well. Sukumaran Master taught Social Studies. Some teachers  used to send students on errant to Chindattan’s tea shop for buying cigarettes and tea.  The students so deputed enjoyed their freedom by taking a puff of the cigarette and a sip of the tea on their way back to the school. Satyabhama teacher also taught very well.
         We loved Fridays most. On those days the school will disperse for lunch at 12.30 and will start again only at 2.30pm. Those two hours are play time for us. The school and surroundings will change into a large play ground.  All country games like kattiyum kolum, mododu kali, hide and seek, kallahai, etteru, chatti, will be played. The neighborhood dread these noon players as occasional encroachment to their compounds will result in throwing at a mango tree, plucking of some ripe fruits etc. 
          Poverty was all around. Several students stopped studies much earlier to help their parents. All the students had to perform many errands before coming to school (I had to walk about four kms to the milk society and back every morning to deliver milk). As the students were sent to school directly without nursery training, the teachers have a tough time. Besides their regular chores they have to perform an additional duty. The students who came without brushing their teeth are led near the well with some umikkari and irkil. Those present without taking their bath are taught a lesson by pouring a pot of water over their heads. The difficult duty was to clean the benches when some students answered their call of nature on the benches. This was so common those days because their bowels were not trained for the school. Some even got nick names on account of this behavior. 
          My first day at School was eventful. There were two divisions in standard one. Narayani teacher was the class teacher in one and Ananthan master in the other.  Before coming to school my mother prayed aloud that I be admitted to the motherly Narayani teacher’s class. As can be expected, I was admitted to Anandan master’s division. I cried aloud in fear of the terrible class teacher. I was pacified by none other than Anandan Master himself but in vain. My brother who was studying in second standard was my guardian and I had to accompany him to the School. On the first day evening, his class teacher detained the class for a few minutes  for completing a problem . When the last bell rang ( Alas! that was the happiest moment for every student) I came out of the class. My brother was not to be seen and I presumed that he might have gone without me. I started to cry aloud. Balakrishan , a fourth standard student took pity on me and asked where I was staying. I was relieved and told him that I was staying near mambalam ara in which a theyyam festival was going on at that time. He agreed to take me to mambalam where he had planned to visit in the evening. Though reluctantly, I went with him to his home. He took me to his house in pulluvarkunnu which is some 2kms away ( my house was just half a km away) and spent some time there. By evening we set towards mambalam.

          When my brother’s class was finally disbursed, he came out he thought I might have gone with somebody else. When he reached home without me my mother became hysteric ( as always) and there was a great commotion. I was declared missing. A team of elders started ‘mission impossible’ in search of me. They even took long bamboo poles with them. (There were three ponds on the way –kaliyanthil pond, muchilot pond and the dreaded poonthuruthi pond- full of water lilies. Anyone-what to speak of an innocent child- will be tempted to step down for the multicolored (blood red, violet and pure white) lilies. The poles are for searching in the ponds on the way as there is a chance of the child drowning). The search team inspected every inch of the path between my house and the school in vain. By this time the news spread. Someone spotted me in mambalam. What I remember was a deafening slap with unprintable words of wrath from one of my relatives. Thus ended the first eventful day at my school.

          I have studied in several institutions. But the vivid memories of muchilot school is rooted deep in me and it  will never surpass the memory of any other institution

Saturday, December 1, 2012


                       Every youth of our times should have passed through a golden period in their life in parallel Colleges. Cambridge, Nalanda, Milton etc were the cute names given     ( No international registrations were required!)  In fact they were the training ground of the youth of the times. For teaching in a parallel College, no teaching experience is necessary. No one will verify your credentials. No recommendations are necessary. The only asset required is the ability to stand before a huge assembly of glittering eyes. Yet the experiment proved to be very perfect. Many raw graduates taught excellently well as if they were teachers for years.  The only problem was that , as no certificate was required, a BA failed rogue could teach for MA. The acid test for existence was your ability to teach. Hence there was tight competition and surveillance of the Principal behind the curtain. If some of the students complain about the classes, the next day, before proceeding to the class with a chalk, the Principal will call the teacher back and dismiss him on the spot. There was no Union. He will have no other option but to go to his last less attractive job. If On the other hand, one excels in his classes offers will come for him from other big institutions with a high pay packet. The Principal will always skeptically watch a good teacher with the ability to canvas the students for he will try to become a pied piper and will desert the Institution with the students. 
             I was initiated to this ritual by the late Jeevarajan who was at that time teaching in Nalanda, Pazhayangadi. I was a novice and the students were very experienced to handle a novice. They tried to intimidate me with no avail. I had to teach Physics and Chemistry for High School students. This I did with much ease. There were also three batches of failed students appearing for SSLC supplementary exams. There also I survived with some difficulty. Soon I was asked to teach PDC students which I did exceptionally well. I thought I was being accepted by the teachers as well as students.
            The greatest difficulty was getting salary. The monthly salary fixed was Rs. 200/- which was not bad for a beginner like me. I had to travel to Pazhayangadi from Payyanur and also to meet other expenses for food and cigarettes ( I was a chain smoker at that time). I soon understood that getting salary from the Principal is a bit difficult and what one can do is to sit at the Office in the morning and collect fee directly from students so that the same can be adjusted towards salary. The Principal of the College was Thampi master, a famous English teacher who will occasionally invite us to lunch with him. The expenses for that will be met by him.
            We used to stroll through Madyi hill in the evenings. The memory of those evenings will remain in my memory for ever. Madayi is a historical place and you could smell the antiquity of the place. The place witnessed several wars. The new temple at vadukunnu was still in ruins. At the top point the scenery is just fantastic. Arabian Sea could be seen glittering in the evening sunlight in the western side and pazhayangadi river on the eastern side. As I used to commute the evening passenger train, we used to sit at the top from where one could see the approaching train. There is a short cut to the station from the top.

            There was teacher of Chemistry who is a great fan of cine actor Jayan who used to take classes in jayan’s fashion. “What did you say ? Coolies- We may be ………………………….”     
When a vacancy arose in National College, Taliparamaba which was a well paid institution at that time I moved there. I was very impressed by the College under Purushothaman Master.  A very attractive salary of Rs. 5/- per class was offered. I used to reach there at 9am and worked until 9 pm (there was a night class for the  over aged ) I used to return only by the last bus. I remember those nights on which I walked from the town to gramam through the lonely road completely exhausted.
It was then that we ten friends of Gramam decided to start our own parallel College. Collecting Rs. 100/- from each (it was very tough at that time) we raised a huge  capital of Rs. 1000 and started Cherussery College with the help of Scanda Dasa Samajam at Mundoommal School . We worked free initially for meeting the administrative expenditure. Gifted teachers like U K Surendran, Sasi KU, KU Mohanan, Rajeevan M, Rajan CM Balan ., CH Mohanan and CH surendran Nambiar took classes. Soon the College flourished. That was indeed a golden period of my life. My intellectual horizon was widened because of the company of these friends. K U Mohanan and I used to walk though the moonlight night to Surendran Masters house at kandangali and we used to sit together and discuss all matters under son. There was a huge Library in the house filled with classics. Surendran Master and Mohanan gave me the first lessons in aesthetics. It was under their insistence that I read all Shakespearean tragedies, Kazantzakis, Tolstoy, Garcia Marquez and several others during a vacation for the simple pleasure of reading.  We used to play tennis in the evenings. We also convened several symposiums at the College
C H Mohanan was very good at that. We also formed a team and contested in many competitions. We used to sit above the wall of the Well of the College in the evenings till late night.
Parallel college has its own merits. K U Mohanan and M Rajeevan selected their life partners from their students. Today all of my friends including them at the College have scaled great heights. The experience gained at the College helped them shape their future life 

Thursday, November 22, 2012


The history of Payyanur can be divided broadly into two.-Before and after the establishment of Payyanur College. But for Payyanur College, several men holding important positions now should have been ended their life worthlessly. Payyanur College nurtured many intellectuals. Earlier it was the last word of all knowledge. Headed by the mighty Dr. K. V. Surendranath, the departments were the abode of veterans in all fields of knowledge- Johncy Jacob in Zoology, MRC in Malayalam, Kunhiraman Master in Hindi, Raman Namboodiri in English, Achuthan master in Chemistry, Narayanan master in Physics, Raghavan nambiar in maths,KHS in Sanskrit- which other college in kerala can boast of such an assembly of academicians?. With the limited facilities available , the college created magic turning everyone who studied there into men of virtue.
            I reached this abode of knowledge quite by chance. My parents decided to end my studies after SSLC as the fee to be paid for higher studies was exuberant   (The fee for PDC admission was somewhere around Rs. 300/- with  Rs. 15.50 as  monthly fees) I had started working in Gramodaya Khadi Sangham as a weaver at that time . I was busily weaving one day when the manager of the Sangam ,Sri. Ramachandran edichery , came to me. When enquired about my future plans I told him about my parent’s plans. He got  infuriated. “You should go to College!” he shouted on the top of his voice. He took a five rupee note from his pocket and asked me to go to the College at the very moment for buying the application form for admission. He assured me that he would make arrangements to meet the expenses for admission from my advance money at the Sangham. Thus it was he who changed my destiny. It was his kindness and insistence which paved an entirely new path to me.
Payyanur College at that time was a heaven. It was beautiful just like a painting. In the back ground of two green hills the College building stood majestically. The winding perumba river and ezhimala could be seen from the front yard. Shrubs of all kind with multi couloured flowers decorated the meadows.  I will never forget my first view of the College. It was raining and small rivulets could be seen emerging from hill tops. The laughter of girls in frocks and boys in mundu  could be heard from a distance.
My five years at the College was eventful. I took a first class Physics degree from the college. Many faces rush to my mind when I remember those five long years. Mr. Kunhikrishnan, now in ONGC, Mr. Balan, now in Court and Mr. Ramakrishnan A K , now in JNU used to form a company. We were all alike. We do not have money to take a proper lunch. Instead we satiated our hunger with mixture and beaten rice from Damodarettan’s shop. We attended almost all functions in the College. The organizers of all functions used to invite our group to their function.                                                                      
                 Physics batch was unique. Even though the classes were a real bore except a few, we  tried to get into the heart of Physics thanks to our friends like late Ramesh chandra babu (Later became a famous chest specialist at Calicut medical College) and Haridas KV (now a top Officer with SBT) What pained us most was the attitude of some teachers who marked a big zero to our answers to questions for deriving some important laws taken from some Russian texts by Krishnan KV. The teachers except a few lacked any interest in the subject and our queries with regards to day to day puzzles in Physics fell to dumb ears. I remember one such incident when Narayanan , now a Professor in America together with us went to the Department in high spirits to know why Skylab preferred to fall down, The teacher sarcastically answered  "If you fear sky lab remain indoors. Don't make us bother".
                There was real poverty outside. We were pray to it. I had to walk some 10 km daily  as I cannot spare the five paise required for the bus pass. We seriously disused  the   turbulent politics of the times. A majority of us were strong supporters of Marxism. A few like Bhaskaran and Baby  were attracted to naxalism.  Bhaskaran used to argue vehemently in support of the working class. When I pointed out that the path of the movement is immature he used to argue that even though his comrades could not see the dawn of revolution the trees they plant will serve as shades for comrades to come.
                Another important event was the beautiful and informative documentaries shown at the Zoology Dept by the environmentalist Johncy Jocob. These short films were the first exposures  to world cinema for us. They also planted a strong base for our environmental concerns. The 16 mm films from Australia and USA opened up new horizons.
 What we loved most was the strikes. The distant noise of slogans always raised our hopes of seeing a matinee without cutting the class ( which was not uncommon). Usually there used to be a fight after that. The college will remain closed for some time then. The friction will reach its climax at election time. The Chairman of the College was Dr. Pavithran (Now HOD, Calicut University).
The college also taught us to live. Many students liked to walk in pairs. Some emotional experts have many friends belonging to the opposite sex. Some were under the impression that they have selected their partners much earlier. Some were quite infatuations. Some stray incidents of quenching the curiosity of adolescence by going up the hill or beneath a stone cut hole became a talk of the College for some time.
Some real villains were interested in other acts. The teachers also were young. There were inter- departmental relations. So when a teacher of Chemistry went to the Botany Department at noon when no one was present there, the villain peeped through a hole and announced to the whole college that something is rotten in the Botany Dept. The same villain once emptied the reagents in the work bench of girls in the Chemistry lab and replaced it with urine. The girl students were later puzzled to observe the strange behavior of the experimental salt when mixed with the reagents. It was the same villain who once remarked in the Physics dark room that a beautiful girl who is troubling with a spectrometer is not getting the spectrum properly because her slit is very wide.
Now the college has completely changed. The campus atmosphere is gone. After the introduction of UGC scales the teachers have become much affluent. The students lack original thinking. One will feel that a mimicry is being enacted. No one is interested in the teaching learning process. Everyone has become a victim of globalised economy.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


The festival of Payyanur has begun. For the next 15 days Payyanur will be under the siege of Aradana festival. All gramers will be on holiday to Payyanur to witness the event which will bring forth nostalgic memories. The entire gramam , roads and alleys alike will be lit with tube lights . The mood of gramers will rise high. Several famous drummers and nadaswaram maestros will camp at Payyanur throughout the festival. The village will echo with drum beats from morning to late night. The orchestra will start at a slow pace in the evening to give way to  nadaswaram by night fall, then to the echoing  thayambaka and finally  to panchavadyam, which will culminate in the sweet panchari and pandi melam.  There will be a cultural extravaganza after that. Several art forms will be staged which will continue unto early morning.
The festival is 15 days long. Not all days are important. 6th and 9th are very important. People from afar will visit the temple on those days. 3rd and 12th also are important.

            Vrichikam is the month of ayyapa devotees also. The whole village will resound with swamiye saranam ayyappa. The colour of the village will change to black. Hundreds of ayyappa devotees could be seen going to the temple early morning and by night fall. The temple pond will be crowded and the temple will resound with saranam call. The perfume of camphor will pervade everywhere.
            Panchavadyam is the main attraction of the festival . Earlier it was headed by the maestro Rama marar . Nowadays many famous artists add splendor to the orchestra. Veteran drummer Sankara marar has now turned into an ashtapadi expert. 
(Visit the link)
            For the young people aradana is their beloved festival. In old times the temple during aradana served as a platform for young people to see and acquaint with others which may sometimes results in marriages. There is in fact a culminating point of aradana on the eastern nada were girls and boys stand face to face pretending to see the panchavadyam (which is in between) but actually concentrating their entire self  in the others eye. Such eye contacts will sometimes develop into a smile the next day , then to a small talk and finally an embrace or a kiss in a dark corner. Times have changed. As there is live telecast of the festival in the local channel, many ladies prefer to remain indoors so that they could see their beloved tele-serials and see aradana during commercial breaks.
            Like many other festivals aradana also has now been under the siege of  commercial interests. The whole eastern nada is occupied by vendors. Fashion shops with kids toys hanging down, amidst  balloons and toys flying up gives the look of a market place.  
            My memory of aradana is not in colour but in black and white. Aradana means the time for joy. But we children have a lot of work to do at home. We were permitted to go to the temple for selling nuts. Still we enjoyed the festival much. At that time there was no electric illumination. Aradana was performed in the light of two large branched wooden oil  torches with cotton soaked in coconut oil. After the ceremony these cotton torches will be left burning near the huge wall of the temple. We used to take those torches, still burning , in green sticks .  I remember those frosty nights when we returned from the temple with the cotton torches lighting the dark alleys on the shivering night. 

Monday, November 12, 2012


A westerner will be bewildered if he witnesses an ottakkolam (fire ablution) performance. For us, payyanurians, it is just a part of our ordinary theyyam experience. But the fact that an ordinary man is throwing himself to burning fires not once but 101 times will be a real shock to others. If you had experienced the trauma ( I had experienced it several times and wondered whether it is a form of art or a cruel punishment imposed by society) you will surely prostrate before the artist in good earnest. The theechanmundi is usually performed in the early hours of the month of makaram (December-January). It will be very cold outside . But inside the palliara(kavu) you could not stand the heat of the meleri(fire) even at a  distance of 100 feet. The meleri is lit ceremoniously by evening using dry chembakom logs. The fire when in full ignition will reach above the tree tops and could be visible from afar. When the fire dies down ambers will remain. The ash is fanned off with mats made from green coconut leaves. Now the red hot fire will be some two metres high and is capable of turning to ash anything within a radius of 20 metres. It is to this firing inferno that the theechamundi has to jump not once but until the koyma( local chief) is satisfied. The theyyam costume is made up of coconut palms and  with aramada and a round head gear. Two ropes are weaved into the body for pulling the artist from the fire.
            The drums will start to beat loudly. The fireworks display outside will culminate in to the climax with deafening sound and intense luminosity. The theechamundi will emerge from nowhere with two aids on either side. After seeking permission from the lord, the chamundi will step into the fire. The devotees will chant a tone and time will stop for several seconds. The chamundi is on the fire which is capable of turning even an elephant into black coal in no time. But the aids will pull the artist up and alas! he has stepped  again into fire. This will continue some 25 times the theyyam circling the fire and jumping into it. After the initial round the theyyam will again go to the koyma and the dialogue will be roughly like this  “ I had fire ablutions several times But still the meleri  is incapable of reducing my chillness “. Can I have 100 more ablutions’? To this the koyma will readily agree and the act will continue until morning (Kaithaprams famous poem theechamundi is the story of one such poor artist who is burned alive in the performance on the insistence of the koyma)
            I had always the feeling that art must be something which should give the performer a satisfaction of communication with the audience. Will the artist be happy after this awful performance? I think never.
            There is one more thing - every artist long for recognition. But here the name of the artist is pronounced nowhere . He is a non entity. In the film industry, even the names of production boys are duly acknowledged. It is very strange that here the artist who have given his life to this art form is never sufficiently acknowledged.
(video courtesy : Ramas, Annur).

Thursday, November 8, 2012


In my childhood I had a fascination for alleys (idavazhi) . You cannot see it in Payyanur nowadays. But the boarder of many compounds used to converge into a deep alley in my childhood. It winds around all the compounds- sometimes merging together and sometimes divulging - and finally leading to the main road. Alleys are a world in itself. They are made of mud usually yellow in colour. The art of ‘kayyala making’ is a job which requires much talent. It serves as a wall against cattle and trespassers.  Here you could walk along and along without being seen by anybody. You could sing, if you can. One cannot predict where an alley will end. Sometimes it will reach a dead end. Usually it winds around unending number of compounds finally reaching at a cross road. There will be owe inspiring corners with Chembakam trees  from which ‘gulikans aniyalam”  and ‘aramadas’ of theyyams  hang down. The corners of all alleys will be having a deposit of old broken earthen ware and decaying broomsticks. These are deposited there after a ritual to evacuate ‘cheta’ at the end of karkkidakam.
            We used to play a game travelling through these alleys. It is called ‘Exploration of route’. We will enter through one of the alleys and explore them until we will find out a short cut to reach some known destination. After this great discovery that route will be named after the person who first found it. We have discovered many such short cuts to the temple , theyyakavu, playgrounds and the like. In one of such explorations, to our great shock, we found that alleys can be used for some other purposes as well. Mundane activities -of course. On one such trip we found a young man and a lady in an embarrassing situation. We got words of wrath in plenty but the incident added to our knowledge of folklore.
            At night these alleys take a threatening stance. We were forbidden to take the alleys at night which were considered to be full of ghosts and yakshis .But I remember the beautiful alleys at dark nights lit by occasional chootu kattas(leaf torch)at night. The light emerging from the torch will paint magic figures on walls. The sounds of the torch bearers could be heard as though from deep wells. It will become surrealistic when a death visits the village at night. Lights from Leaf torches will light entire alleys and the village will be like a large hearth burning from several places. The light emerging from the torches will add up and it will paint the picture of death on walls. 

Monday, November 5, 2012


It will be like a rebirth once you emerge out of Ajanta caves after seeing it for the first time. Your ego will completely vanish. We have great pride in humanity which has built dams, cars, war planes and bombs. But the sight of Ajanta caves built some two thousand years back will just bewilder you. The aesthetics of the atmosphere will thrill you. You will feel that you are nothing but phantoms filled with straw. It is not only the beauty of the wall paintings which have endured the test of time, or the quality of the sculptures ; but the serene atmosphere that will shake you up. Ajantha will belittle you. It will be a shock to us who live in rectangular cages surrounded by filth. Ajantha is a work of art. Not only the caves. The entire valley is like a dream. If you imagine Ajantha in its days of glory you will surely understand the meaning of human existence.

Ajanta caves are not natural caves. They were monolithic rocks. We must salute the first sage who might have conceived the whole idea of cutting these rocks and building a cave monastery with steps leading down to the river. The ambitious project must have been herculean. Buddhist monks took some seven centuries to build this marvel.  They cut open the rock into a cave first with primitive tools according to a master plan. The inside of the cave was sculptured with huge decorated pillars on either side with the idol of Buddha in the sanctum sanctorium. It is said that there is a sculpture in every rock. Here it is literally true –That which is not a sculpture is taken out of the cave. Ajanta appears to be the first prototype of all building in the sub continent. We have such a history of home making. But have we utilized these knowledge in our home making?- never!- We were just copying from European engineering text books how to build a match like house. 

Friday, November 2, 2012


Payyanur has a taste of its own. We had a number of very good chefs who will prepare a delicious ‘sadya ‘ with our characteristic 'sambar' and 'koottukary' within no time. Even the meal one gets at viswabhavan near Payyanur Bus stand will be far better than any meal one gets in moderate hotels elsewhere in Kerala. I have met people who remember the tasty meal and masala dasai of Bombay hotel when I mentioned that I belong to Payyanur.  (There is also a sad reminder- Last week a friend half jokingly remarked that the chicken prepared at all  kitchens in Payyanur is nowadays very identical –it tastes Topform)
What did our forefathers  take as breakfast in the past- Simple- the delicious kuluthu with the previous days meenkari. At noon a delicious meal with fresh vegetable sambar , varavu , moru and pappadam and for supper a splendid meal with fish curry. Tea became a habit only later. 
The mouth of every adult in gramam will water when someone mentions kammarettan’s ,( Pancharakammarettan to be exact)  hotel. The idly and kadla supplied in the early hours of the day was the best available breakfast throughout the district. Several chefs of hotels tried to imitate kammarettan but in vain. He never disclosed the secret combination to anyone. Hence the taste has gone forever except in the memory of the lucky who had the chance of eating the rare combination. There was a time when all elder gramers will assemble at the shop well before 5 am.when the first devotional song is played loudly in the temple player. Kammarettan will be busy with the first set of idlies, after of course lighting the samovar. After enquiring about his health which never failed, queries regarding the health of ailing old gramers on the verge of farewell will be raised which will be amply replied by those present. The samovar will start to tickle by that time. The group will consist of farmers with plough, early travelers to railway station, bus stand and the like. The hotel is the first public place of gramam  . Here everything concerning the community is disused in great details. International, national, local incidents are discussed. Even though Kammarettan will take part in the discussion it will never affect his first devotion. He will make tea in his characteristic way. He will clean the cups and glasses with hot water empty the tea bag (which could later be used as manure) and fill it with fresh fragrant tea. With two aluminum cups in both hands, one above his head and the other well below his knees and the boiling tea in between in a surf , the art of tea making is very difficult to describe but is to be tasted by tongue. The tea together with idlies and kadla is indeed a treat.
It is here that gramam dawned every day. The programmes of all present will be discussed . Someone will vehemently explain the reason of the violent incidents in a home nearby the previous  night. 
As a child, I wished to be in Kammarettans shop in the mornings after my long journey to the milk society every morning at 5 am barring rain or cold. But we were forbidden to go to tea shops. Some parents took their children there . But I never got that opportunity. It was only when I started to earn from Gramodaya that I frequented the shop. Kammarettan was of a peculiar type. He will not serve tea or snacks to people he disliked. He liked me very much.
Now the taste has vanished- The  shop is no more. But Murali, Chindattan’s son is the new star. Some are even addicted to his porotta and masla kari

Saturday, October 20, 2012


                     Kovval is a magic  place- It is the macondo  of payyanurians especially gramakai (Can we call them gramers ?) Every village will have a space for holding meetings and other functions. In gramam we have kovval – patrat kovval  to be exact -as the public sphere. It is a sin to call it a mere ground . There used to be several groups sitting in circles on hours on dry evenings engaged in ever ending gossips. It is said that no one will leave such a gathering prematurely as he is destined to become the subject of gossip for the remaining period of the day. All gramers will have fond memories of kovval- It may be the memory of a foot ball match they had won, the first meeting place of their love (of course the aradhana drumbeats in the background), the first dance or drama of their beloved, speech by their leaders or the like. We love kovval as we all love our childhood days. The nostalgia of kovval is so large that the gramers  have constructed a second  kovval where ever they live- in India and abroad. Even in Dubai there is said to be a kovval- the name is synonymous to a common meeting place of gramers.
Gramers study everything from kovval. The first lessons of childhood fantasies, the first speech (full of shivering due to stage fright) the first attempt as an actor dancer, player and as an adult. Kovval is a playground of all human interactions. No newspaper is necessary if you frequent kovval. Every kind of reporters -there were a few best- reports in their masterly fashion. Some are specialized in local politics, some in human affairs, in sex and anything under the sun. Only thing is you have to be a patient hearer. Every one likes to be heard. At some moments the speaker lowers his voice and explains in great detail how he chanced to come upon someone in an awkward situation.
It is in one of such sittings that I learned of Gramers  Casanova who frequented the palilvalappu, a local forest, along with his love every day on the pretext of answering to the natures calls.  But the villain who was plucking goose berries, which were plenty in that season, was watching the duo from above. While the game is in progress he gave a start to the lovers jumping down and caught them red handed. He had only one demand –He will make the affair public if she do not consent to his wishes- Here the story has a twist- One version is that the lover deserted the love mercilessly for shame. The other version is more romantic- She declared that she will not consent to his wish even if she dies. The third version seems more real. There was no such incident. It is the enmity of the tree climber against the Casanova which resulted in the gossip.
Kovval is also a historic place. It is here that the great feast in ‘Payyanur pattu ‘ was held.  Neelakeshi's brothers were executed here. Here settlement might have stated centuries back- humans have played life’s drama a thousand times. In the beginning after the advent of Brahmin settlers, the great Subramanya Swamy temple  came into existence. Ten poduval families were transplanted from neighboring places . They grew in number and the present gramers are  their off springs. Brahmins were the ruling class who had a special place in the social ladder. Poduval chiefs acted as their secretaries and when time passed they also grew prominent. Being a typical gramam belonging to the 64 gramams of old Kerala people belonging to all castes live in gramam with their own 'kavus' and theyyams.
At the time of freedom struggle Payyanur played a lead role.  It is called ‘randam bardoli’ thanks to the scores of freedom fighters from the area. The library in Gramam originally conceived for enlightening people towards freedom movement was named Mahadeva desai smaraka grandhalayam in fond memory of Desai, the Secretary of Gandhi( or was it because gramers know well the importance of secretaries to men of importance as they themselves were in the past?)
Chindattan's tea shop ,Bhaskarettans stationery shop, Murali's tea shop are the silent remainders  of the old times when Kammarettans tea shop (with its famous idly and kadla ) and Chandu's and Muliyan govindan's grocery shops ruled the poor customers with unpaid debts.
Fine arts society, Gramam Prathibha, Cultural Movement Payyanur Arts and Charitable trust and several other cultural organizations add spice to the lives of gramers. 


Saturday, October 6, 2012


When my son got admission in BITS ,Pilani I thought of accompanying him to Rajasthan despite the fact that it is a disgrace to him, a grown up graduate, to have a guardian with him to join  M.Tech. But I have the strong desire to see the Pilani Campus . So we set off to Delhi by the Mangala Lakshadweep Express. The navy man from Kanhangad proved to be   good company for the next two days. The konkan path was dangerous during monsoon but the scenery was entirely different from that of other seasons.

I had the privilege of travelling through konkan during other seasons of the year and it was the first time I travel  during monsoon . During winter the landscape offers a monotonous scene. But now it is very enchanting . The emerald valleys glittering in sun dotted with several waterfalls were indeed a treat to the eyes. The greenery of the valleys and the life that flourish in it is beyond words. The rain continued to follow us through Goa , Maharashtra, MP and  UP relieving us of the intense heat that prevailed in North India a couple of days back. It rained in Delhi when we reached there. We have booked a room in Kerala House thanks to the efforts of Prakasan. 

 Team Anna's agitation was started in Juntar Mandir and we spend some time with the agitators. To quench  our kerala appetite we troubled to find out a vegetarian hotels run by Tamilians who cut our throat in good earnest by charging some four hundred rupees for a masala dosa and coffee. We had some purchase from cannought place. The kanji and puzhukku with pappadam heated over ambers at Kerala house was splendid.

Next day early morning we hired a taxi to Sarai Rohilla staion from where the train to Loharu originates. The breakfast at kerla House will not be ready until 8 am and we decided to have it at te Railway station(Before leaving Kerala House we had a chat with George Sir, a Secretary at the Kerala government Secretariat who also has come to Delhi for the admission of his daughter at BITS. He proposed to travel the 220 Kms to Pilani in a bus which he claimed will take only a couple of hours.) Sarai Rohilla Railway station was in a dilapidated situation displaying   a destitute look. It was  a pity to think that the station is only ten km away from the capital. There were no hotels and the single railway stall does not have even bread -not to speak of a proper breakfast. Fortunatly I noticed amul cakes which were recently stocked and a packet of the cakes with a tea was a good subtistute for breakfast. The heat wave was beginning to lash and for the first time during our journey we experienced the heat. There was still time for the train to arrive. Looking around I saw a father and son in some what an identical situation and instinctively I quipped" to Pilani" . 'Yes',  the father whose name was Anand a Businessman from Hyderabad replied. It was a relief to see some one heading for Pilani 

 In the III AC coach there were other students going to Pilani Together we traveled to Loharu, which is in Hariyana , the nearest station to Pilani. From Loharu we got a taxi to Pilani . Krishnamohan a graduate studennt of BITS from Guruvayoor who was acquainted to us through another student had arranged accommodation for us in Yathri Nivas   in Pilani. But unfortunately the driver of the cab was stranger in the area and we were taken to another Yathri Nivas which was full when we arrived . So we had to pay a very exuberant rent at Tani Bani for a room which they claimed is AC  with dirty toilets and dusty bed.

In the evening we hired an auto to BITS. We found that we have been  foolish to hire a room. BITS has arranged everything. Even the stay of the parents. There was a reception counter at which the photo of the student was taken and immeately we got a computer generated  form for admission to the Hostel. Walking through the campus we were astonished to find the greenery in the Campus full of birds and even peacocks.

The buildings were of archaic design reminiscent of old college days. The huge Library building and the nearby  park spoke volumes of the academic discussions that may fill the air at busy college hours. The students appeared to be less concerned about the strangers in the campus immersed fully in their academic pursuits.The canteens were full of mirth with youngsters sitting around tables chatting with cool Lessie in hand discussing seriously about - perhaps -gaps left by their teachers during the course of their lectures. 

 What astonished me most was the cycle stands before every building- initially  I thought they were part of some mysterious constructions-until I stumbled upon the truth when a lady put her cycle there. The Campus, I was told is pollution free- Students are not allowed to use cars or motor bikes. The alumni association lends cycle  to all students charging a small fee. I think this is indeed a very good model for other colleges in the campus and should be given wide publicity.