Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2012

Not just in the Slums, Rapists live among Us Too

(I know of two rapists who were never charged. How many do you know?)

One afternoon, more than 20 years ago, at a college youth festival in Kochi, I was with a bunch of friends at a neighbouring college canteen. A few boys known to my friends (friends of friends) joined the group. The sun was high overhead and a degree of ennui had seeped into our mindless chatter. Sitting on wooden benches, munching vadas, we had let the conversation drift and drag: from the usual to the boring. It was just a regular, sweaty afternoon. The scene so commonplace: a few college boys chatting up a few college girls.
But that afternoon is tattooed deep in my memory- singled out from the rest of my college afternoons- and singed there. The boy with the curls, sitting opposite me, began to casually talk about the woman he had raped in Chennai. His tone was not loud or bragging- just a bored shrug. And he inferred he was not alone in this evil act- there was a bunch of them- maybe four or five. It was surreal…

Kochi-Muziris Biennale: Artist Speak

The first week of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale saw artists working hard to get their installations up. It was not all fun for them but it definitely gave us-the visitor- an insight into how art is created. Artists too, said they learnt a thing or two. Said one artist,“Even international artists were busy hammering stuff. They had to do it if they wanted to exhibit. Many of the biennales like the Venice one is over a hundred years old. So we don’t know how it began but here we are at a historic moment. We are watching how the curators are struggling to get the biennale going.”
Artists Ernesto Neto, Angelica Mesiti, Ahmed Mater speak about their work, the biennale and answer some other random questions.
Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto has visualized relationships with materials and spices. 
Read on:

Ernesto Neto: On relationships

Austrailian artist Angelica Mesiti talks about her Citizens Band Read …

Kochi Muziris Biennale: Art in Progress

Kochi Muziris Biennale: The temple of art

Mumbai-based artist Anant Joshi's installation at Aspinwall House
On Pepper House’s sea-facing wall in Fort Kochi, Kerala, a black and white dragonfish mural beckons seafarers, tourists and fishermen to join the cultural revelry. A glass in one fin and a cigarette dangling from the other, the debonair fish celebrates the arty reincarnation of the ancient cities of Kochi and Muziris. It’s this that the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2012 is attempting to construct—the eternal return—using the ancient narrative as a premise for contemporary art.

Round the corner, colours continue to cavort on the walls of Aspinwall House where five young artists have left their imprints. A sea monster, a dragon and a phoenix named Lulu have taken up residence on these walls. The Kochi-Muziris Biennale, starting on 12/12/12, will be the first of its kind in India in terms of sheer scale and should change the landscape of the city forever. Art critic and poet Ranjit Hoskote says a biennale is the most widesprea…

At 17, V S Achuthanandan joined the Communist Party

Born on October 20, 1923, VS Achuthanandan joined the Communist Party in 1940 when he was just 17 years old.
Abject poverty and deprivation were the only things that flourished in Punnapra, Kerala, in those days. My father had a grocery shop close to our house so we did not suffer too badly when we were young. He was a social activist and a SNDP Yogam leader and respected by all.  He had leased some land from the landlords in Vendhalathara and cultivated it. He built a house there too. In this way, along with the grocery store, we could make ends meet.
Punnapra school had only up to class three, so I joined Kalarkode school to do class four. It was in an area where the upper caste lived and one had to walk past the temple to go to school. The elite would ridicule the less fortunate, beat and chase them away. Many children discontinued their studies. I was once attacked by the well-to-do students and they asked me. “Who are you to walk this way to school?” I tried to stand up to them and…

Syrian Christians: Making sense of their business

It is said, in the grand tradition of apocrypha, that long, long before Christianity wore the vestments of Rome’s official state religion, the Gospel of Christ arrived in Kerala on a Syrian boat and seeped into its being like tea from a teabag (with due credit to Arundhati Roy’s The God Of Small Things). Not entirely canonical legend has it that St Thomas the Apostle, a disciple of Iso Misiha (Jesus the Messiah), with a few Syrian families, docked on the shores of Kodungalloor, Kerala in 52 AD. And therefrom begins one of the most fantastic backstories ever devised by immigrants anywhere, which has—with devotedly persistent retelling—entered popular imagination and even crept into school textbooks. The story goes that St Thomas converted a few Brahmins and established seven churches along the Malabar Coast. Historians are not without doubts about this theory. They point out that Kerala’s Aryanisation probably happened much later: in the 7th, 8th and 9th centuries AD. It follows that t…

Meeting Marthanda Varma

Sree Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma, 90, head of the erstwhile Travancore royal family talks of his intimate relationship with the Padmanabhaswamy temple, whose vaults has treasures worth over Rs 1 lakh crore stashed away in them. A last vault—kallara B—is yet to be opened and the Supreme Court appointed panel will take a call whether to open it. However, Marthanda Varma refrained from speaking on the vaults and the treasures, saying the matter was sub-judice.
At the Pattom palace with Marthanda Varma I meet up with Marthanda Varma at the Pattom Palace, tucked away behind the SUT hospital, hidden from the casual onlooker. The shanka (conch shell) emblem of the Travancore royal family embellishes the palace gates, the bevy of four wheeled beauties and even the grills of the palace windows. A devotional chorus swells down the corridor as Marthanda Varma, in a simple blue shirt and mundu, meets us in the visitor’s room. A 1939 mechanical Solix watch adorns his left hand. Almost immediat…

Female Feticide: In Indian Cinema and Literature

Anamika: Her very life is a plea against feticide.

To read more click on the link given below:

Check This Out

Madras is more treasured the world over as a checked cotton fabric than the erstwhile name of Chennai. The use of the Madras check cloth has been part of the tradition of the tribes of southern Nigeria—the Kalabari tribe! The southern Nigerian tribes wore it as their head dress or wrapped it around their torso. It held a significant place in the culture and tradition of the place—they believed that owning a piece of Madras is the greatest treasure a man can possess.
Madras, here we are talking exclusively about the cloth, became synonymous with the “injiri” or the “real India”. To quote the cloth historian Eicher, “injiri ( Madras) holds a special place in Kalabari life as a symbol of a person’s journey into the embrace of the world beyond this life……the opening scene in the drama of life includes a piece of injiri that is ceremoniously delivered to the mother by the father for carrying the child. This personal emblem of entry into society for that child also becomes the cloth marking …

The Inimitable Mark Tully

Every word he pronounced in his clipped British accent, over the crackle of the radio, was accepted as the absolute colour of truth. In those pretelevision days, millions of Indians hung on his every word—as he engaged with wars and disasters, announcements and deaths, upheavals and turmoils— yes, it was always the dependable voice of Mark Tully.
Though he was born in Tollygunge, Kolkata and spent his first ten years in India, his ardent love affair with the country began in 1965 when he joined the BBC in their administrative department in New Delhi. And in his inimitable style, Mark Tully says, “I arrived with the Tashkent agreement.” (We like this veteran broadcast journalist for his dramatic statements.) Working out of the administrative department he first began to do pre-recorded programmes and “it was infrequent.” He explains that in those days to do a live programme was difficult. “The telephone connectivity was haphazard and it was not easy.” 
After covering much of eventful Ind…

The Lost Sheep

Kerala has seen two decades of the New Generational Churches and folks are still confused. So a republishing of an old article.

“Jesus Christ was not born on Christmas Day but sometime in September. So the 25th of December is just another day!” This is not some crazy theory languishing in some isolated brain cell but is one among the many differing beliefs being preached from the pulpits of the New Generational Churches or the Full Gospel Churches. And who is listening? Plenty People. The faithful from the traditional Catholic and Syrian Christian churches are leaving in large numbers to join these churches or even form new ones at the drop of an alleluia singing hat.
      In the past decade, Kerala is witness to a new phenomenon - small groups of praying people are holding hands and forming churches. These churches have no Pope, no Archbishops, no Bishops, no Priests - they have leaders who become cassock less pastors (some study theology while others get the calling). And fifteen, f…

The Little Eco-Soldier

Armed with nothing besides his green thumb 14-year-old K.S. Sanoj, an eco-soldier, wages a battle to save the mangroves in little known Cherukunnu, in Kannur, north Kerala. You can see him early morning or at even time, when the tide is low, tending to mangrove saplings that he has planted. When school is done, this ninth-class student is there on the banks of the Muttil river, that runs past his village, doing what he loves most. Sanoj has planted over 1000 mangrove seeds in the past three years.(Forty years ago Kerala had 700 square kilomteres of mangrove forests but now it has depleted to a woeful 17 square kms.) Yes, Sanoj has quite a task cut out for him but undaunted by the enormity of it he quietly marches on. A couple of months ago he was honoured with the 14thP.V. Thampy Memorial Endowment Award. However, his delight is still centered on what in the local patois is the “prandhan kandal” or the “mad mangrove”- a variety of mangrove plant that grows in wild abundance once it tak…

Muziris: The Lost Treasure

And she gave the king a hundred and twenty talents of gold, and of spices very great store, and precious stones: there came no more such abundance of spices as these which the queen of Sheeba gave to king Solomon. (Bible: 1 Kings 10:10)
For the king had at sea a navy of Tharshish with the navy of Hiram: once in three years came the navy of Tharshish, bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks. (1 Kings 10:22)A frisson runs down your spine as you read the first of the verses. The awe the author reserves for spices in these regnal chronicles reveals that it occupied the same elevated position as gold and precious stones in 10th century BC, if not higher. The second verse gets more exciting as it proceeds to establish the trade links between Solomon’s kingdom (the Euphrates river in the north to Egypt in the south) and the ancient port of Muziris on the Malabar coast. Though the English verse is not exact about the location, etymological evidence exists in the Hebrew religio…