Man’s reach exceeds his imagination!!!

In the movie Prestige(novel by Christopher Priest), magician Robert Angier, after traversing over a 100 yards in a second, proclaims to the awe struck audience:

“Man’s reach exceeds his imagination”

Movies transport you to different worlds and times while your are watching it. You get to see totally cool things, the speck of someones outrageous imagination. It is a world of dreams and nightmares. But what you see is just a beautiful facade. Once the movie ends( or after a while), you will be brought back down to reality. Continue reading

Roger Federer

Every time Federer loses a match, I am usually heart broken. But this time around, I did not feel so sad. I felt some sort of bliss, watching that great man smile, even though he lost a tough match. Going into this tournament people rejected him saying he was just too old for this sort of affair and many predicted that he won`t even reach the Semis. Roger Federer, the 32 year OLD MAN, blitzed every one of his young opponents and reached the final with considerable ease. There he lost. But he gave a match that Djokovic(he is a beast!!!) and all the people across the world who watched it, won`t forget for a really long time.

I am lucky to have witnessed one of the greatest matches of all time and happy to see the artist who once ruled the tennis world(except French open finals), presently dethroned by youth, continue playing the game and giving the young brigades a run for their money, just because he loves the game. Its one of the toughest and bravest things a person can do.i.e. falling down from the mountain of success and still enjoying himself and the game. He had been an inspiring figure for me since I first started to watch tennis and hopefully will continue to be like that for a long time.

At the end of that grueling game which he lost, he said with a charming, calm, blissful smile, ” I`ll be back next year “. Critics and naysayers, now you guys know why he is the greatest tennis player and one of the greatest sporting icons of all time, and why he should be left alone to do what he loves doing.

A Class Apart

Coffee House building at shanghumugham; shut down almost an year ago
Coffee House building at shanghumugham; shut down almost an year ago

The first thing you notice when you enter the Indian coffee house restaurant is that there are all sorts of people. Nowadays because of the IT boom the coffee houses around Trivandrum city are having a busy schedule. Lot of youngsters enjoy the coffee house cutlets and masala dosas and that includes me.

There are several reasons for the success of this restaurant chain. First, the very much normal environment that any coffee house presents, you don’t feel that you are in a different space. Next thing which attracts you at the coffee house is the royal attire of the servers, the big turban like cap is especially attractive and to an extend it defines the brand Indian coffee house. Food is the trademark of any restaurant. It is the same for the coffee house, except that the consistency of taste has been the basis of the huge success of this organization. Try the dosa-Sāmbhar-chutney combination from any of the coffee house restaurant and the very next day, go to some other coffee house and have the same combination. You will be wonder struck because the taste would be exactly the same. They have been somehow keeping up this consistency for a very long time. Especially the taste and the look of the masala curry which they use for masala dosas, cutlets and the poori is the same at any coffee house restaurant anywhere in India. I have always wondered about the secret behind this.

I still remember the first time I went to the coffee house at shangumukham some ten years back enjoying the sea breeze and as well as the hot dosa with chutney and Sāmbhar. Just a few days ago I went to the coffee house at Sreekariyam, the same taste and service which I received ten years ago, no change at all. That is what you call keeping up the standard. I sat there and enjoyed my dosa and after that a plate of ever delicious cutlets. Looking around I could see people of all kinds of age and occupation. While there are mysteries surrounding on how they keep up the taste, there are no doubts whatsoever about the fact that the Indian coffee house is one of the most successful cooperative sector organization in India. For the last 56 years it has been one of the delicacies of the Indian society and hopefully it will continue to be like that for a long time. I simply can`t wait for my next visit!!!

Coffee-House at Thampanoor

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BEAUTY & THE BEAST with the Malayali in between !!

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Just like any other amateur photographer who has not yet visited Fort Kochi, it was my longstanding wish to visit that “photographer`s” haven.So on a fine morning I packed my bags and left for Kochi. I had also decided to get a glimpse of the ‘Kochi-Muziris’ biennale, even though I don’t know the first thing about contemporary art . I reached Kochi by 9 in the morning and then spent half an hour in one of those several red city buses that speeds through the streets of Kochi. The bus passed through several spots where you can literally SMELL the consequences of the recent waste management crisis.

Thus watching all those popular “kochi kazhchakal” like naval base, shipyard and the backwaters, I finally reached my destination. By 9:30 I was standing in the middle of the bustling beach road at Fort Kochi, firing away with my canon cam. There were all sorts of people from all over the world. Tourists were flocking in small groups here and
there. I could also see a large number of bangle-sellers from north India. Occasionally, I saw volunteers of the biennale hurrying past the crowd to reach different venues.Walls of several buildings were used up to sketch impressive portraits. Most of these vintage buildings were recently renovated,as a part of tourism or biennale. But one thing that stood out was the plastic and other waste materials which were either spread all over the ground or piled
up at different corners. It is certainly a black mark on the face of our society and the renowned tourism industry of our state. Somehow I ignored this as I always do and moved forward like all others.After paying a visit to St.Francis church and, the David hall which was one of the venues, I decided to take a walk along the beach area. As I was lingering on the footpath along the backwaters which leads to the beach, I could see a huge amount of
dumped garbage on the shores. It was the saddest sight of my trip. Backwaters and beaches form the face of Kerala tourism industry and here we are, destroying the same just because we don`t know where to dump the garbage. I am a native of this state and I felt terrible. Now think about a foreigner who is here to enjoy the pleasures of this
place, just imagine how bad he/she would be feeling. Standing there watching this pathetic scene, something hit me.It was an idea or more specifically an idea about  a photograph. So I took a shot of this dirty looking shore and moved on to other biennale venues. I saw a lot of installations by different artists. I enjoyed it even though I had
no idea what these works depicted. I walked all the way from fort Kochi to Mattancherry, visiting different venues and realising how badly such a popular tourist spot was maintained. On the whole, it was a great experience.

On getting back home, I followed my routine of creating an album titled “Biennale Streets” in FB. I included a particular snap which I captioned “beauty and the beast”. It was my own contemporary artwork dedicated to the “Kochi-Muziris” Biennale and to Kerala Tourism. It is not a particularly marvelous photograph, just a normal snap in my opinion. But, I decided to include it and the description of my work :

“Today Kerala is distressed by the big problem of improper waste management. On one side you have the heavenly beauty of Kerala and on the other you have garbage which is destroying this beauty.The Malayali is trapped in the middle.

But I am hopeful.Recently the Trivandrum city corporation banned the use of plastic bags in the city.Shops are replacing plastic bags with cloth bags…:) “

 

The fantasy of being a dictator

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This is the pride of Trivandrum city; THE FLYOVER.

The word ‘dictator’ brings to our mind popular names like “Hitler”, “Mussolini”, “Saddam Hussein” and the most recent one, “Gaddafi”. People normally tend to think that dictatorship is just pure evil. But I believe it’s not always like that, at least in my case. I accept the fact that my fantasy is a strange one. If you meet me you`ll know that I am a person who loves peace. So it is very difficult to connect me to dictatorship. But there is no other way. Dictatorship, in my opinion is the best way to fix my city, Trivandrum. This is the capital of a state and still the authorities find it difficult to fix this place. If you ever visit this place, you can see a fly over in the heart of the city. When you see it, you must understand that it’s  not just a simple ½ a Km long bridge, it is a civil engineering marvel which took more than 5 years to be completed. The flyover is the symbol of how terrible the administration is.

I am telling this out of love for this place. This city has the natural beauty and all it needs is an efficient administrator. Mahatma Gandhi himself agreed that Trivandrum is an evergreen city. That was more than 60 years ago and even after a long time it is greener than most of the other cities. But today, this lovely place is rotting under corrupt administration. They are talking about huge projects like monorail and vizhinjam port. Let me tell you something, they can’t provide power to common people for 24 hours, then how the hell can they discuss about facilities which require a LOT of electricity. Instead of these mega projects all they have to do is fix the existing problems and the people would be really happy. I feel sad when I hear someone from other cities complaining about this place. My friends and relatives who live in other districts ask me why I love this place in spite of all those problems like ever worsening traffic, terrible driving sense of the residents, deteriorating neatness and the last but the most horrible one, dirty politics. Often I ask that question myself . Once you settle down in this city, you will start enjoying it even if there are a lot of problems with this place. It is a mystery why the resident people find it difficult to hate this place.

So whenever I ponder over the condition of the city, I unknowingly get trapped in a fantasy. It is a fantastic fantasy of being a dictator who is in complete control of Trivandrum and then I`ll start listing out all those changes that I will bring upon this city. Some of these reforms may seem to be very extreme. But, I don’t care.

a)      Cancel everything, which means any kind of funding, discussions, meetings or any other kind of plan that includes the word ‘monorail’.

b)       I will empty the treasury if required to introduce a proper waste management system. A separate department will be created for people who clean the city streets and they will get a very good salary with all the government incentives. Waste bins will be introduced at every nook and corner of the city. After all these reforms, I will empower police officers to fine the people as much as they wish for not using the waste bins.

c)      Ban any kind of big construction projects in the Kovalam-poovar stretch .i.e. the port project will be shifted to some other place. You`ll know why I want to ban the port project if you have visited this beautiful place at least once. The natural beauty of this stretch is the reason why tourists flock to Kovalam and vizhinjam area and any project which destroys the scenic beauty should be discouraged.

d)      Hire someone who knows town planning and is also a “go-green” enthusiast to repair all those existing roads in and around the city.

e)       Invest in a project which will facilitate the supply of paper or cloth bags to every shop in the city. Then I will ban the use of polythene bags; at least in the heart of the city. People can either use their own nylon or jute bags, or else they can buy the paper or cloth bags supplied by the government ( me :D). No matter what they do, I don`t want to see a single soul carrying a plastic bag in the heart of the city.

f)       Fix Thampanoor, no matter what it costs.

g)      Empower every police officer to fine as much as they wish for violating traffic rules. I will make it legal for the police officers to take a portion of the fine as a bonus. So more they collect, the more they earn in the form of bonus :D.

h)      Improve the public transport system (KSRTC) and encourage the people to use the public transport (This is a very realistic goal which can be achieved even in the present context). But since I am the dictator of Trivandrum, as an extreme measure I may ban all the vehicles except government vehicles, KSRTC buses, auto rickshaws and cycles from entering into the heart of the city.

The above listed reforms are in a way, lying somewhere near being realistic. Now I shall list out a few reforms (silly ones but………) which will be brought purely because “ I” am the dictator of this city:

a)      Special government support for running Thattukadas and chaayakadaas.

A street vendor struggling to light up his life.
A scene from Shangumukham beach, a major relaxing spot in the city.

b)      A Government institution for conferring Photography degree with campus selection at the end of the course :D.

That`s all I can think about, for now. This is just a fantasy, so I am free to imagine whatever I like. But in the present scenario, I strongly believe that the government should concentrate on fixing the existing problems rather than churning out new problems or projects.

Life in slow motion

I was born and brought up in Trivandrum, but my parents are from Calicut and Thrissur. Both Calicut and Thrissur are turning out to be fast paced urban settlements. Cochin, the queen of Arabian Sea, is the fastest of all the cities in Kerala. But the thing being a person from Trivandrum is that, you are comfortable with a life in slow motion. I don`t know whether I am experienced enough to provide such an opinion. Still, I find the way the way of life in Trivandrum slower than in other cities, may be because there are a lot of government offices in and around the city. They say nothing moves in a government office without being bribed. I don’t think it`s true, but there are some who won’t   move even a finger without getting a “valuable” offer. On the whole, bribe or no bribe, things are a bit slow (it’s the govt, so just don’t care).

Then you have roads. Even if someone wishes to reach somewhere quickly, it’s just not possible. Either gutters will slow you down or some guy who is lazy enough to go slow or selfish enough to cover the whole road will make it impossible for you to break away from the chain. I won`t complain about the traffic blocks since the condition is much better than in other cities (especially Cochin). So, whether you like it or not, Trivandrum walks while other cities run. But I love it this way and I think it`s cool. A slow way of development is really appreciable and in case of Trivandrum, it would be nice if the city goes on without any new developments. By development, I mean new constructions (ex- mono-rail). But I think the government can make this city look much better by just improving the present state of things and not by cutting down trees for new developments.

Anyway, development at a fast pace can be highly toxic. The villages and greenery around other cities are getting drastically reduced to blocks of concrete and the temperature is also soaring. For me, it is a great relief to know that this kind of development is happening at very slow pace in my city (it is happening in the form of Techno Park and flats). When some new work starts in Trivandrum, it normally gets delayed. Many of the green velvety patches in and around the city are still intact. This is why I think a life in slow motion is comparatively better than the fast paced one. I wish this city to  remain like this forever. It will remain as a silly wish because eventually this city will also fall as a prey of development.

Alas!  All I can do is hope.

A view of Chalai, vibrant with activity

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