Friday, October 18, 2013

THE CHANGING LANDSCAPES OF PAYYANUR


         
    In the past Payyanur had a very beautiful landscape. The great perumpuzha winding along the eastern side separating kunhimangalam from payyanur took a sharp turn at changoorichal and merged with the kavvayi lagoon in the west. The water sheds near the river were picturesque with multicolored water lilies. These riverbeds were the breeding ground of all marine life. Fish, prawn, mussel, crab etc. Innumerable cranes and other birds - native and migratory perched in trees. The emerald paddy fields started from here. The raised platforms called kuthiru, where small thatched houses were built were like islands in the emerald fields. There were very few huge constructions in payyanur which blocked distant view. From the eastern nada of payyanur temple one could see a car moving through kokkanissery and from the western nada one could see a train whistling past. The air was pure.

       People were very poor except a very few. The landlord and the upper class clerics had big houses. The land belonged to the temple and the landlord. All others lived in thatched houses. The construction of a house was very simple. Earthen bricks were used for construction. These bricks were made from muddy sand paste available in the compound by the members of the family. These bricks were dried in the sun for a couple of days. The platform and the main structure were built using these bricks. The ceiling consisted of a skeleton made with coconut beams covered with woven coconut leaves. Above these a thick covering of rock grass is paved. The inside of these houses were always cool. The upper grass covering needs replacement every year. Constructing a house was in fact a social event involving friends and children. No money is paid. It was pure service. In my childhood we had a real jolly time helping thatching houses(What fascinated us most was taking the grass up the bamboo ladder leaned against the house). My house was really big with a number of rooms and verandas- three storeyed.

    The main occupation was cultivation. The other occupations were in the fields of khadi and beedi. Hundreds of men and women were employed in these fields. The wages were meager-  just sufficient to procure food. I weaved khadi for some ten long years. (Being a student, I was granted special permission for the same)I met almost all my expenditure from it.

           The first wave of change in payyanur came with crape revolution- the demand for crape cloth in America rose to such a high degree that the demand could not be met from traditional inputs. In Payyanur  weaving was confined to weavers street. Weaving crape cloth gives you wages ten times more than weaving khadi. So people from all other occupations shifted to weaving and every household installed looms in their houses. I weaved crape for some time. It brought some foreign money into the economy which revolutionized the life style. Small concrete buildings started to emerge in Weavers street where once whole families shared a common house. The revolution was so great that people started to spend on luxuries for the first time in their life- some non veg hotels like jubilee restaurant opened up in payyanur town at that time.( I remember those evening when the entire village will be there -at Jubilee -eating porottta and meat salna for just one rupee)


 The second revolution was the gulf revolution. Many Payyanurians tried their luck in Gulf countries. Foreign money started to flow in and construction took new wings. Everyone started to construct huge houses spending their life savings on it as if it was the sole aim of life. Now the madness has reached to its maximum. Now payyanur is a large residential area like the metropolis. The landscape has completely changed. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

KODILON RAMAN AND VANNATHAN RAMAN- REVOLUTIONERIES BORN BEFORE THE DAWN OF REASON



       Feudalism in malabar was brutal. The landlord's words were unquestionable  No one dared to raise any voice against them. The peasants were driven to fields without food. They were not allowed to wear dress above waist or wear chappals and ornaments. Everything including women were considered to be the wealth of the landlord. Girls attaining puberty were summoned to the landlords without exception.  Two part out of ten of all agricultural products and hunted animals have to reach the bungalow of the Nayanars in power without fail. Narayanan Nayanar and Krishnan Nayanar were the most dreaded. The punishment for defaulters was death. 
    It was the beginning of twentieth century. Karshaka Sangham, (the organisation under the communists which played a pivotal role to stop these atrocities), were yet to evolve. But two true revolutionaries questioned these practices with their lives- Kodilon Raman and Vannathan Raman- These two Ramans terrorised the Nayanars to such a degree that they hired scores of goondas and British police to combat them.
The two Ramans were close friends. Both belonged to Kutoor. Kodilon was a born revolutionary  He asked the same questions raised by karshaka sangham two decades later. He refused to work for the landlord. He asked his wife and sister to wear tops. He threatened to rape the landlords wife and daughter if he dared to summon his wife or daughter to his bungalow. wearing  chappals he walked in front of the Nayanars. In short Raman became rival number one of the landlord. His property was confiscated and he was barred form cultivation. But he plaughed and sawed his field without heeding the landlords orders. The Landlord himself came forth with a gang of goondas. A terrible fight followed. Raman confronted the goondas successfully in the beginning but his strength soon gave away before a score of merciless villains. Raman was tied up and brought to the boarder of the field. The goondas struck his head with tender coconuts and threw him in the mud beneath the plaugh. The bullocks alarmingly pulled him submerged in mud. He died a martyr's life.
Vannathan Raman, hearing the news dashed to the sight only to see the corpse of his friend. He ran through the hills, crossing rivers and valleys to taliparamba some 25 kms away to the Magistrate court at Taliparmaba and reported the death to the magistrate. The Magistrate was a good man. He visited the sight immediately and charged a case against the Nayanars. Vannathan Raman's efforts to bring the culprits to the law took an unexpected turn when the Nayanars shamelessly used kodilon's wife to give evidence against her husband. She told in the court that his husband fell in the mud and the bullocks unknowingly pulled him to death. Thus the first accused was left free.
Vannathan Raman continued his lone strike against the landlords. He used to visit a nearby toddy shop. The Nayanars forbid the owner from giving toddy to Raman. Infuriated, Raman took a large 'cherangathode' and stormed the bungalow of the landlord warning dire consequences if anyone touched him. Nayanar withdrew to the interior and his wife came forward and requested Raman to pacify. Raman demanded five litres of toddy and told the lady that the toddy shop owner had been forbidden to serve toddy to him by her husband. The lady went inside and came out with a five rupee note and asked some of the attenders to accompany Raman to the toddy shop to buy him toddy. The landlord was taken aback. He bribed a circle inspector to arrest Raman with the charge of stealing five rupees from his house. The circle inspector came to the village in a motor cycle with two constables. The constables caught Raman and produced him before the Circle. The circle slapped him. How can Raman suffer this atrocity?. He beat the circle Inspector and constables. They ran off and took refuge in the landlords bungalow.

The landlord hired some twenty goondas to kill Raman. One day when Raman was taking bath in the kuttoor river the goondas attacked him from all sides with thorn poles. He resisted the attack and killed one goonda. Finally he was beaten to unconscious and tied up and brought to the police station. He was sentenced for life. After thirteen years of imprisonment he came back. By that time karshaka Sangham was established. He participated in its activities. Once in kandonthar a meeting of the sangham was being held. The landlord sent some goondas to disperse the crowd. Raman dashed to the scene with his knife. The goondas ran off.

 Once Raman garlanded the great KPR Gopalan who was released from jail. KPR took the garland and put it on Raman saying that he  deserved the garland better than him.

Monday, September 16, 2013

ONAM IN PAYYANUR



           Nature will change entirely when the month of chingam begins. Paddy will be ready for harvest. The golden fields waving rhythmically to the morning breeze every where will be a treat to the eyes. 

     The violet krishnapoo will decorate the paddy. A merriness will be there in the air as the rainy karkkidakam with its illness, death and starvation  subsides. The golden sun will reflect on the multicolored water lilies . A group of  yellow migratory birds will emerge from nowhere and will quarrel with scores of country birds. The morning air will be very cool and lines of krishnapattu could be heard from homes.

          In the past, Onam in Payyanur was not a big event like vishu. It achieved its present status of a grant festival only recently. Onam is purely a commercial festival nowadays. Even though the myth behind the festival is a fond memory of a loving king of the people governing his subjects living in harmony in a socialistic world, the present day capitalists has turned it into a market festival in which every one exchanges old appliances (in good working condition) to new, good for nothing gadgets sure to be defective within months. The buying spree of people in payyanur town before onam is weird. The media rouses a psychological cue which prompts everyone to buy unnecessary things. The madness is such that by the time Onam is over the pockets of almost all will be empty.

 In fact puthari was more important in Payyanur than Onam which was a state festival. Puthari was an agrarian festival. The first day of the year in which rice from the first harvest of the year is cooked- Fresh rice with a fragrance- Some times the two festival will coincide. Then puthari will be celebrated with more enthusiasm. There will be an auspicious time prescribed by the temple astrologer for taking food on the day -some times early morning- but everything including fried banana chips and pariprathaman will be ready for the occasion . All men folk will help their women in preparing the feast. 

         After the feast everyone will indulge in all sort of country games. There will be inumerable swings hanging from branches of trees. Children will form merry groups indulging in country games. At those times no gadjets were necessary for play. madodukali - pieces of thatching tiles piled one above the other and hitting it with a ball- proved to be more interesting than any modern games. Elders played sedentary games like etteru with mussle shells. 

       TV,the new avatar for entertainment is yet to emerge.The only modern etertaintment was the cinema at Shobha theatre. Seeing a movie on a festival day itself is a day long affair as the queueu for the morning show will end up to matinee show. 
            We used to have an excursion to ezhimala on Onam. Just 8 kms away from Payyanur is the picturesque ettikkulam beach. There were no vehicles at that time and we walked the entire distance. The scenery and a sea bath were the rewards. But we will miss the Onam feast. Instead we will have to be contented with an odd meal consisting of old bread with thousands of ants and smoky tea in the old shop in ettikulam.


Friday, August 30, 2013

Swami Anandatheertha-the first crusader against casteism in Payyanur

               


             One of the first crusaders against casteism in Payyanur was Swami Anantha Theertha. A second rank Honors in Physics from Madras University, Anantha Shenoy (born on 2nd January 1905 in Thalassery in a konkani family to Ramachandra rao and Devubhai) should have got a respectable job under the British. But he chose a different and more adventures path. He jumped into the freedom struggle movement. He joined Sabari Ashram in 1926. Gandhiji advised him to take up the task of upliftment of the downtrodden classes. He went to Sivagiri in 1928. Sreenarayana Gure consecrated him as Swami Anathatheertha and he became the defender of the rights of the down trodden. He raised the banner of revolt against casteism in Malabar. He selected Payyanur as his battleground following an incident at kandoth, Payyanur which shocked everyone.

       A possession consisting of 64 patriots led by T. S. Thirumump, AKG , P. Krishna Pillai and Keraleeyan  to spread the message of Guruvayoor satyagraha was attacked brutally at kandoth by a large mob with arms. AKG and Kerleeyan were thought to be dead in the attack which was sponsored by the landlord. There was a path forbidden to harijans passing near kandoth temple (ara). The landlord tried to invoke communal friction between the ezhavas who run the temple and the harijans convincing them that the struggle was for the right of the harijans to use the pathway.

      Hearing about the brutal attack Anantha Theertha reached Payyanur which was at the time a capital of casteism. At that time members belonging to lower castes were not allowed to pass through main pathways, and they were deprived admission to temples and other public places. They were not allowed to wear dress above waist, wear chappals, or caps. They were the main work force. But they were treated as animals. Even their presence within a distance of 64 feet from caste Hindus invited grave punishment. Swamiji understood that the rights of the oppressed cannot be gained with out imparting proper education to them. All schools closed their doors to harijan students. So in 1931 he started an School for the oppressed in Payyanur near Payyanur temple . Caste Hindus raised many objections and hence he had to shift the school and hostel thrice. Swami intended to house the School in a permanent site by purchasing some land. Finally he tried to purchase some land in  moorikkovval from the money he got after selling his ancestral house in Thalassery. But the land owner was alarmed at the idea of using his land for such a 'sacrilegious ' purpose. So he changed his mind. Finally Swami prompted a patriotic muslim to purchase the land for him. Here he started the School which has been a boon to many students who could have other wise withered away by doing menial jobs for caste Hindus.  
      He led many possessions with harijans to temples for entry. He marched through all forbidden roads. He was brutally attacked by caste hindus. He was a revolutionary saint. He questioned the discrimination meted out by harijans in Hotels by giving tea in cocunut shells. He staged many dharnas before barber shops were harijans were not admitted. He led a march to Guruvayur where free meals were given to Brahmins in the name of God when thousands were dying of hunger outside.
      He used to add tails to the names of the students as Sarma, Marar, Nambiar, Das etc to students to drive home the point that caste is a meaningless ordeal. Many revolutionaries of the times like Subrmanya shenoy, A K Kunhirama Poduval joined hands with Swami in this social movements, inviting the wrath of caste committees which expelled them form the caste.

Gandhiji visited the Ashram in 1934 and planted a mango tree there  It is still there in full bloom. 
      Swamiji wet to wynad and south kanara to fight the cause of dalits and adivasis. 
        He raised many students who could have wasted their life in their home village  at Sree Narayana Vidyalaya to get respectable Govt jobs .
In 1984 at Agalpady, Kasaragod a group of College students brutally attacked him, leaving him unconscious for taking a koraga to a temple. After the incident he was laid up ill . On November 21, 1987 morning he left us.

Monday, August 26, 2013

PAYYANUR GRAMAM - HISTORY

  There are several arguments regarding the etymological origin of Payyanur. Dr. MGS Narayanan is of the opinion that Payyanur is derived from pazhaiyyante ooru (the land of Pazhaiyyan,the Sangham king) But the most popular version is the ooru of payyan ( The land of Lord Subrahmnya) . 


              Payyanur belonged to the erstwhile Payyanur firka. Kavvayi, the port of Payyanur was the capital of Chirakkal thaluk. Kavvayi consisted of 138 desams. The first landing of Vasco de Gama on his way to Calicut was believed to be Kavvayi port from where he collected enough fresh water for his onward journey.
The human foot prints at Payyanur dates back to prehistoric era. Stone writings using iron nails could be seen from coastal Ramanthali to the hilly Prapoyil. Prehistoric burial sites like ‘theeyathi malika in echilam vayal and several other places, Burial urns(nannagadi) and umbrella stones at various places shows that human habitation started here ages before. There are historians who believes that the stone drawings at ettukudukka dates back to 4000 BC.

           There is nothing in the recorded history with regard to the life of the early settlers of Payyanur. There were no property rights and the land belonged to every one. Their number should have been small. They might have lived a peaceful life without the interference of outsiders as the land was well protected by rivers and the mighty Arabian Sea from all sides. The early kavus of payyanur might have been their centre of social life with no idols of gods and without any doctrines of sacred texts. As organized farming has not yet started they might have depended on the food supply from forests, rivers and fields. They might have been thwarted from their dwellings on the arrival of settlers mainly Brahmins from central India, Karnataka and Tamilnadu. Their descendants however is seen confined to certain pulaya pockets on the outskirts of main land deprived of fresh water and other amenities. 

Perumbuzha popularly known as perumba puzha winds along the boarders of Payyanur nourishing its watershed kaippads which is the breeding ground of fishes and other aquatic life forms. 
The Brahmin settlers should have experienced some protests from the local people initially. But their knowledge of astronomy and Gods gave them an upper hand which might have instilled awe on the natives. They constructed temples on a large scale and started to live an ascetic life eating only vegetables. They could predict the advent of monsoon , eclipses and other celestial events. Organised farming has not yet started. Paddy was quite new to the natives. Paddy cultivation requires some insight as to when rains will start as the seedlings have to be made ready before the fields get flooded. They constructed canals from every filed to the river bed for draining of the excess water. They used small wooden vessels tied down from a tripod which could be used for drying water from the fields . The Brahmin settles brought the plough and seeds with them which revolutionalised farming. They got easy labour from the natives. Gradually as in the other part of Kerala they organized a temple oriented village structure . All the land was made officially belonging to the temple. The temple was governed by Brahmins and they gradually constructed a social structure with the Brahmins as rulers of the land and all others their dependents.

Payyanur was a classic Kerala village. In fact it took the lead role in the 64 Namboodiri gramams of Kerala. The division of society on the basis of castes made things simple. For every caste a small portion of the village was allowed with a kavu of their mother goddess as the centre. An ambassador of the Landlord belonging to upper castes such as Nair or Poduval was posted as the representative (koima) of the caste who is directly answerable to the landlord. As there was cut throat untouchability, a law caste man cannot even appear before the landlord. He has to represent through the koima. A person belonging to pulaya caste should not come more than 64 feet towards a Namboodiri: an ezhava some 32 feet and a Nair 15 feet. The penalty for violating the rule was fatal. The working class was thus tormented from morning to evening in the fields for the welfare of the landlord who almost starved them to death.


                                                  To be continued .. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

POTHERA EZHUTHACHAN-THE POET REBORN




Pothera Raman Ezhuthachan was a contemporary of Thunjath Ezhuthachan whose celebrated work 'soorya sthuthi' is reckoned as a classic work in Malayalam. The poem is an invocation to the mighty sun, the creator and preserver of all life forms on earth. There is a strange story regarding the creation of this charming verse in Malayalam. He contracted the deadly chicken pox and as there was no treatment for the highly contagious decease he was abandoned by his wife and relatives. They left him to die in a forest . But his disciples who loved him deeply were not ready to part him. With the help of the tribal 'karimbalars' they tried to rescue him. Ezhuthachan asked them to put him on a hammock made up of 51 coir strings (symbolizing 51 letters) hanging from the branch of a tree above a violent river overlooking a treacherous valley were he could see the sun through the entire day. He penned the verses from there and at the end of the verse staring with 'aa' he cut the first string of the hammock. Then he penned the verses starting with the succeeding malayalam alphabet one by one. After completing 51 verses all the 51 strings had been cut and he fell down deep into the river. His disciples who were witnessing the scene from the river bank thought everything over. But miraculously he rose up from the river unhurt. When he swam back to the shore everyone was astonished to see that he had been fully cured. He had completed the celebrated 'sooryasthuthi'. When the news of the miracle spread everyone including his wife returned. He proved that sun bath is a treatment for all ailments. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

AYURVEDACHARYA V P SREEKANDA PODUVAL



Payyanur Gramam has produced many men of talents in the field of Ayurveda medicine. There was a saying in Malabar that ‘ashtangahrudaya’ has no effect beyond Valapatanam river. This myth was to be broken later by eminent ayurvedachryas like Meethale veetil Koma Poduval, Vannadil Valiya Chindan Vaidyar, V P Sreekanda Poduval, Edavalath Kannan vaidyar and their disciples. They combined folk medicine with ayurveda and produced miracles.
V P Sreekanda Poduval popularly known as Chindan Vaidyar was a legend. He was a famous playwright, actor, orator and a cultural activist of the times. He had profound knowledge in Sanskrit literature. He had a clinic in Payyanur town opposite to the present day Co-operative store buildings. At that time there was a cotemporary to Chindan Vaidyar –the mighty Edavalath Kannan Vaidyar who used to examine patients at Home in Mahadeva Gramam.
There were two allopathic doctors at Payyanur at that time- Dr. V C nayanar and Dr. C V Damodaran. These four doctors had a tough time visiting all the houses of Gramam when an epidemic spreads which was very common on those days.
Sreekanda Poduval was an untainted Gandian and was actively involved in the freedom struggle. His dramas like maya naradam, santhanagopalam etc were liked by everyone. He made many experiments in theatre also.

 Today there are many hospitals and doctors in Payyanur. But treatment has become a real business. It is worthwhile to note that doctors like Chindan Vaidyar thought that treatment expecting money from the patient will never cure anyone.

Monday, July 29, 2013

THUREEYAM -THE UNIQUE MUSIC FEST


One of the enchanting cultural events of the month at Payyanur was ‘thureeyam’, the 21 day long music extravaganza by Pothankandam Ananda Bhavanan led by Swamiji Krishnanada Bharathi. Even though Payyanur could boast of a rich cultural past, the present scenario is disheartening with mimicry and music nights holding the reigns as cultural masterpieces. The 21 days of pure classical music has cleansed the atmosphere along with the karkadakam rains. The fest usually held during July for a period of nine days with the captivating title thureeyam - meaning the state of the mind in unison with the cosmic soul - brings veteran musicians to Payyanur every year. During the ten years it has proved beyond doubt that there is no comparison with other festivals in payyanur. That is why Sri. M A Baby, the guest of honor for the concluding day expressed his feelings when he said I repent Payyanur is not in Trivandrum or Delhi where I could have frequented fro the festival in some pretexts. This year, being the tenth year of its existence, the festival lasted for 21 days . The list of musicians performed will enthrall any musical enthusiast- the mighty Chourasya, Ramesh Narayanan, T. N. Krishnan, Kudamaloor Janardanan, Kadri Gopalnath, R. K Sreekandan, Rajan Misra & Sajan Misra, T. V. Sankara Narayanan, Sikil Gurucharan, Abhishekh Raghuram, T. M. Krishna, Sanjay Subramanyam, Ramakrishnamoorthy, Patabhirama pandit, Kannatika Brothers, Vani Satheesh, Jayaraj & Jayasree, Rudrapatanam Brothers, Malladi trio, Dr.Radha Bhaskar and Dr. Pandula Rama. It was an event in which generations met. Abhishekh Raghuram, the promising youngster and R. K. Sreekandan at 93. (It is a miracle to see him singing in his unabated sweet voice untouched by time. Hariprasad Chourasya started to shiver all over when the concert began. He could not hold the flute properly due to shivering. But when he brought the flute to his lips the entire atmosphere changed. The melody transformed the entire audience into a whole. He sung ‘Megha Malhar’ and immediately there was a down pour which lasted for hours. T. N. Krishnan and Kadri Gopalnath mesmerized the audience. The youngsters proved their mettle and demonstrated that there is ample scope for classical music to the new world infested with cricket and rock music.

Swamiji paid great pains in arranging the fest. The stage decoration was ideal for an event with such galore. Each day the stage settings were changed and even lot of fresh flowers were used for the purpose. The entrance to the fest with a large idol of siva in thandavam with flames raising in the background and fragrant smokes raising up told everything. Every day when the music is over and the stomach complain of delayed supper there was a liberal supply of ‘payasam’ to all . Besides snacks were placed at the entrance for those who require it for enjoying good music. On the last day there was a good feast also.

 Music is a passion for many. Why ? Even Einstein at the top of his fame repented that he could not get time to listen more of Bethovan. Music is produced from harmonious vibration of wires, air, vocal chords and the like. The basic form of nature is owing to the vibration of subatomic particles, the music of which could not be heard by mortals because of their high frequency. Microcosm and macrocosm are identical. The magic of music works when the external music synchronises with the internal music. That is why a keerthana in mohana ragam changes the entire mood of an individual.  

Thursday, June 27, 2013

AN INCIDENT AT CHEMISTRY LAB

                 


             Chemistry and Physics were my favorite subjects as they explain the physical world to us more eloquently than any religious text. So when I reached College my ambition was to pursue chemistry for my graduation as I felt the subject more appropriate to quench my thirst to know nature scientifically. But unfortunately an incident at the Chemistry lab at Payyanur College totally changed my priority and I chose Physics as my Graduation subject (though I never repented the decision)
The incident occurred at the University Examination in the Chemistry Lab. I loved Chemistry lab with its pungent smell of rotten eggs (the Kip’s apparatus always in action), Bunsen burners ignited and the large high work bench with flasks, test tubes , pipettes , burettes, glass rods and other paraphernalia. It was our initiation to the world of experimentation and exploration of the material world. The two main parts of the lab work for Pre- Degree were titration and salt analysis. I liked salt analysis much. Here we are supplied with an unknown salt. We were expected to find out the salt-its acid radical and basic radical - after performing a series of experiments with acids and alkalis. There is an approved system for the analysis in which the salt after dissolving in water in a test tube was treated with acids ,alkalis and gases and the changes observed. Initially the presence of a radical will be detected and once a clue is received there are other experiments which could confirm its presence. This way after a serious of experiments one could categorically tell what the salt is. There were some thirty common salts like Calcium carbonate, barium nitrate, potassium chloride, etc which were given for detection. The method is very scientific and there are fewer chances for error. I appreciated the scientific practices involved. So during our practical sessions I always found out the salt much earlier than any of my friends.
The disastrous incident occurred at the annual University Examination. Being the final Examination all were a little tensed. The examiner was a lady Professor from a far away College. I was a little anxious as a pass in the practical exam is mandatory. After the initial screening I was supplied with a white salt. I began my experiments and in less than five minutes I confirmed the acid radical. Within another ten minutes I got the basic radical also. I felt very happy and began to write the summery of the results very elaborately. I finished everything and there is still half an hour left. The attender of the Chemistry lab Shri. Govindan was a close family friend. He decided to help me. When the examiner was not in sight he came very close and asked me in a whisper. “You Got?” I murmured back happily “Yes- Calcium Carbonate”. To my great shock he quipped “ Wrong! It is Barium sulphate ” I was bewildered beyond control and I started to shake all over. My belief in myself was shaken. I was damn sure that the result I got was correct. But how could I suspect the very man who has supplied the salt? He has pronounced his final verdict and I am proved totally wrong. Now there is only one way left- I scored off all my observation and started to write the summery for Barium Sulphate .

When hardly five minutes were left to close the exam, Govindan, my dear friend came to me again and said “I am sorry Murali –I got confused- What you got is absolutely correct!!! The salt is Calcium Carbonate! Now hell came loose on me. A shiver started to develop from beneath my legs which started to climb up and I began to tremble visibly. I thought I am about to lose the game as a failure in the practical exam will disqualify me for higher studies and my parents are sure to put a full stop to my studies. I started to write the observations again correctly within the time left. But my hands were trebling violently and my fingers failed to decipher my thoughts. I thought of reporting the whole matter to the examiner. But I feared that may complicate the case further. Finally the last bell rang and I handed over the sheet fully scored off to the examiner. My exasperation was beyond words.


 However I passed the practical exam in first class. But my fear lingered. Whenever I passed past the Chemistry lab I remembered the incident and I began to hate the subject. The incident at the Chemistry lab thus changed my priority and my life!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

ANSWERING TO NATURE'S CALL






Answering to natures call is a routine thing nowadays. There are attached bathroom cum water closet for every room. But in the Payyanur of the past it was another matter altogether. I remember the long queue of elders at Mundoommal School on all mornings. There were four modern toilets constructed by the panchayath which revolutionalised the practice of answering the natures call before day light breaks in. Every house had a small area covered with trees and shrubs which could be used by the women folk in times of emergency. There was palvalappu where one could frequent even at noon time. Attending the call at night time was really a night mare. Electricity was yet to emerge and the only light source was a leaf torch or kerosene lamp which will cast shivering shades on every object and will project imaginary figures on walls. The stories the elders present at night were all about ghosts and supernatural events. I had never heard a story from them which inspires a young mind. Instead they terrorized every young mind with ghost stories. Besides, there was the real danger of snakes which were in plenty at that time. The ordeal becomes unthinkable in rainy season.

Our house was a three storied structure in mud, stone and wood, the memory of which will bring forth euphoric episodes rushing up. The ground floor consisted of the kottilakam, the sacred room, were ancestors are believed to reside, the padinhatta, the abode of gods, the fuming kitchen and a long corridor which connects these rooms to the chayippu, the room for ladies. while they are in the ‘forbidden’ days of menstruation, the ladies disappears into the darkness of these rooms and at meal times they are provided with the ration from the kitchen without touching them, in separate plates. (They are accepted as human beings only on the fourth day after the holy ablutions and after wearing the washed cloths from the vannathi lady). There were also rooms for child birth and store rooms. In addition there was a raised platform facing the western side were one could enjoy the evening winds. The only problem is the smell from the aala, the cow shed. The first floor is separated from the ground floor by a horizontal wooden door at the end of the staircase. There were two large bed rooms and another room for drying paddy. A long and airy corridor was used sometimes for drying cloths. There was a wooden ceiling for this floor also. The third floor is exclusively for bats and other small animals who will make the nights horrible with their whispers and cries, mimicking the ghosts in the stories of elders.
 In our compound also there was a mini forest on the southeast side which was used by the family members for answering the nature’s calls. This was a very natural affair as the shit of one day will metamorphosis into a heap of earth the next day. By the week end it will disappear altogether. Our mischievous uncle who was living with his family a few yards away will sometimes clear fell the forest all of a sudden without our knowledge putting us all in trouble the next day. I clearly remember one such day. I was teaching in a parallel college at that time and I had to take a class at 10 am . I was distressed to see my vanished forest and I thought of relieving on the way at Mundoommal school. But when I reached there, there was a queue and I had no option but to postpone the call till evening. I travelled to pazhayangadi and attended the class at Nalanda College with some difficulty as the call was frequently reminded and tension prevailed as there were no toilets in the neighborhood. After one hour the tension intensified and I feared something terrible to happen. Fortunately the second hour was free and on the pretext of taking a cup of tea, I came out and headed straight to Madaippara which was deserted at that time of the day. I was running to find out a secluded place. Once I found a corner with no eyes to peep on, I relieved myself and for the first time in my life I felt what bliss means. After that came the vital question. I have to clean myself. The tank in Madippara was a very old one constructed by the Jews in another century and venturing into it is unthinkable. I was much relieved by the sight of a small hole filled with water from rains. I returned to the college in time for the next class.



There is also a tail piece. That poverty stricken childhood appear to have taken place in another life. Now all friends who were part of that general famine are prosperous. Some have built fabulous houses with modern toilets and bath tubs. No one believes the old tale. But everyone complains of constipation. The irony is that when toilets became plenty motion has become scarce. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

V P MANOHARAN









V P Manoharan has left us. Who was Manoharan to us, gramers? He was indeed a good friend with a substantial potential for storytelling. In the eighties when he along with Sathish Babu, Payyanur started a difficult carrier at literature, almost everyone was sure that he is destined to be the number one in storytelling and will rise above the confines of gramam. He did excellent job writing some 100 plus stories and some screen plays. He has to his credit five collected volumes. He has penned enough literature to be equated with the established writers of our times. But Manoharan remained anonymous as a writer even among his friends. He was reluctant to discuss his stories even with friends. He used to frequent kovval very often in the past. He used to take part in the unending discussions on evenings. He was an introvert and never took pains to acquaint with strangers. After he got promotion as an Officer his creative spirit  was on the decline but still exceptionally good stories appeared occasionally. His stories appeared in kalakoumudi, Deshabhimani, kadha and almost all magazines of repute.  But Manoharan was reluctant to project himself as a literary figure. He always withdrew from the lime light. As an officer of Sales tax, he preferred to be posted in Kasaragod as some of his limited friends in the literary world were in Kasaragod. As time passed, he seldom visited Kovval and he got a good audience at Sarga Film Society. He was not attached to film world much but he was accepted in their circle instantly.
          Manoharam, it appears, lacked confidence as a story teller. He longed popularity as any ordinary man but lacked the tactics needed. Thus when time passed his contemporaries gained popularity and he thought he was losing his ground and  altogether stopped writing. For the past few years he did not write a single story and he disliked to discuss the matter. His friends have been expecting a glorious return when all of a sudden he was hospitalized. Still no one thought he will retire so soon.  When finally the news of his death came everyone was shocked. It is mere destiny that he is destined to become popular posthumously. The distress of his wife and two sons is beyond words. May they have enough strength to pass through these turbulent times?
Bicycle thieves is the name of one of his collected works. Bicycle thieves is an all time classic by De Sica. It dwells deep into the social psyche following post world war financial crackdown which turns an innocent man into a thief. Manoharan’s Bicycle thieves run on quite different lines. Here, in a town, named K, the bicycle of a rich man is being stolen. Efforts to find out the lost cycle by the Police   (on the insistence of the Home Minister who is a close associate of the  rich man) proves futile. The local sub inspector takes into custody all the 250 bicycle in the town and arrange an inspection parade. The rich man checked all but he could not find his beloved one. He had an emotional attachment with his favorite cycle as it has taken him through life. Initially he was a newspaper boy, then milkman and then an errand boy –his bicycle was his companion to richness. Now he is a business magnet of the state who possesses several business establishments run by his sons and in laws. Now as all efforts to trace the lost cycle proved futile the rich man became depressed. He lost all interest in life and was bed ridden and the lost cycle became a real issue. Where is the cycle gone? Now one of his sons during a soliloquy  reveals the secret. There are many expensive vehicle lying idle in the garage. But their father is putting shame on them by travelling in an old bicycle. Hence they dispatched the cycle in a lorry to wayanad and the driver has thrown the archaic vehicle into a deep crevice. The story ends here. But the depiction of a generation which does not appreciate the past is a contemporary reality. It is exposed in its vivid and shocking manner.
What does our ancestors will contain? In  Osyath, Manoharan shock us by reveling the osyath of a father who shares his major ailments to his offspring.  prarthananirahtam, marakayudham, rogikal –all are good stories depicting real life incidents portrayed in a natural style.
Manoharan has gone. But people will continue to read his stories. 






Saturday, March 30, 2013

POOROTSAVAM



Which is the most colorful and nostalgic moment everyone in gramam loves to remember?  Surely it is the time of pooram and vishu, the memories of which will take you off to your childhood days. The nature will be in full bloom - the kani konna will be in glittering gold and the chembakams will be fully opened. The distant noise of crackers will tell you of the impending vishu. The vacations are on and for two months we are not expected to attend the boring classes. Everyone will find out ways  to collect maximum possible money for purchasing crackers. Money for crackers form elders is unthinkable and so cashew nuts which are in plenty proved to be the best option for money. 

Poorotsavam in Malabar has an entirely different connotation. Elsewhere pooram is synonymous with thrissur pooram. Here Pooram is a fertility festival.
All the temples with mother deities celebrate this festival of the spring. In all homes young girls nearing puberty will invocate kama, the god of love with gaiety. Pooram starts from karthika to pooram in the month of meenam. On these days young girls make an idol of kama in flowers in their kottilakam with awe and respect, give water and fire to it periodically under the supervision of elders. On the last day they bid farewell to Kaman. They earnestly request  him to visit them early next yearsinging
  nerathe kalathe varane kama.

There will be a feast with poorakanhi and poora ada.
          In kavus, the ritual is followed by drum beats and the deity is immersed in the holy pond on the last day. There will be a poorakkali and maruthukali in all the kavus.  In ashtamachal Bhagavathi temple in theru the ritual is very symbolic. All the village folk assemble before the sanctum sanctorum and the men folk perform a poorakkali with a beautiful song which runs like this
                       Poopparikkan poyakanni
Pookkandu, poomaram kandu
avidavide thamasichu
Then they proceed to madathumpadi temple for the holy ablutions with the four deities on decorated wooden horses. After the team return in the evening, there is keleepathram , ayyakkapodi and thidambu nritham. On the last day there is saliya porattu which is a sarcastic criticism of society pronounced in a somewhat vulgar language. The entire ritual can be conceived as a fertility cult resembling kodungallur bharani. 








Saturday, March 2, 2013

PAYYANUR KOLKALI


                      Payyanur Kolkali will enthrall anyone interested in folk culture. It is not a replica of mappila kolkali or other kolkali forms elsewhere. It is unique. It can even be termed classical as the songs and the rhythms resemble karnatic music. It requires a lot of acrobatic skills as kolkli is a prelude to kalarippayattu. The disciples of kalirippayattu requires the sharpness and alertness of body which is inculcated to the young disciples through a series of kolkli performance. In kolkali, the players are provided with two small sticks (made up of Kara) fitted with steel bangles. When they are struck together they make a musical note. The players assemble in a circle. 

There should be a minimum of 16 players. The players are grouped into two types - the aka, meaning those inside and the pura, meaning those inside. The kurikkal and the singers will occupy positions outside this circle. They dance according to a sett rhythm sung by the singers and echoed by the players in unison. There are plays which have to be played in a sitting position then in a standing position and finally in a moving position. While the pay progresses the kurikal utters talams loudly like munifo po (meaning Move forward) madakkam po (meaning go backwards etc) . The play ends with a vaithari thalam. There are some 50 different varieties of  play but usually some twenty are  played. In olden times there used to be kolkali on all festivals like nira, puthari etc at Payyanur temple. There, beneath the erinhi tree the first play is enacted as an offering to lord Subramhanya. 


 The kolkai songs are melodious and are usually invocation to gods. Kalasappattu by Anidil Ezhuthachan is a classic work which appears to be penned down solely for kolkali. Kalasappattu describes the brahma kalasam at payyanur temple in Malayalam era 1002. The temple which was completely destroyed in fires during tippu’s carnage was rebuilt by an anderjanam of thazhakkattumana and the song describes the various rituals of the celebrations in connection with the renovation of the temple.



                  The charad kuthi kali is the most attractive item in Kolkali. Here a pole is erected at the centre of the playground. Atop the pole a circular disc is attached from which coloured strings are tied down. The other ends of these strings are tied to the little finger of all players. While playing, the strings intersect each other forming a fine net. When the net is complete, the play is reversed and the same song is repeated. Exactly when the song  ends the net will be undone.  WATCH CHADUKUTHI KALI AT