Thursday, February 11, 2021

Mannil Krishnan - Mannil Vikraman

മണ്ണിൽ കൃഷ്ണനെ അറിയുന്ന ഞാൻ  
 
എന്റെ ബാല്യകാല സ്മരണകളിൽ അവധിക്കെത്തുന്ന കൃഷ്ണേട്ടയാണ് ഇന്നും. പ്രൗഢഗംഭീരമായ നടത്തവും കൃശഗാത്രനാണെങ്കിലും തലയെടുപ്പോടെയുള് കുശലാന്വേഷണങ്ങളും അദ്ദേഹത്തിന്റെ മാറ്റുകൂട്ടിയിരുന്നു. ഭാരത തലസ്ഥാനത്ത്‌ ഭരണയന്ത്രം നിലകൊള്ളുന്ന സെക്രട്ടറിയേറ്റിൽ ഗതാഗത മന്ത്രാലയത്തിലായിരുന്നു ഉദ്യോഗം. അവധിക്കു നാട്ടിലെത്തുന്ന എല്ലാ വർഷവും പുതുമയേറിയ പല ഉപകരണങ്ങളും കൊണ്ടുവന്നു തറവാട്ടിൽ പ്രദർശിപ്പിക്കാറുണ്ട്‌. തറവാട്ടിലെ മറ്റംഗങ്ങളെ അവരുടെ വീടുകൾ സന്ദർശിച്ച് വിശേഷങ്ങൾ അന്വേഷിക്കാറു പതിവാണ്. ഉദ്യോഗത്തിനായി നാടുവിട്ടശേഷം അദ്ദേഹത്തെ ഞാൻ കാണുന്നത് ന്യൂഡൽഹിയിൽ വെച്ചായിരുന്നു. അവിടെ അദ്ദേഹത്തിന്റെ അനൗദ്യോഗിക കർമമണ്ഡലം എന്നെ വിസ്‌മ യിപ്പിച്ചിട്ടുണ്ട്. ഇപ്പോഴത്തെ ഡൽഹി ആർ.കെ.പുരത്തെ അയ്യപ്പ ക്ഷേത്രത്തിന്റെ മൂലസ്ഥാനമായ മുനീർക്കയിൽ അയ്യപ്പ വിഗ്രഹം പ്രതിഷ്ഠ നടന്നത് മുതൽ ഇന്ന് കാണുന്ന ക്ഷേത്രത്തിന്റെ വളർച്ചക്ക് കാരണഭൂതരായവരിൽ മണ്ണിൽ കൃഷ്ണന്റെ പങ്കു വളരെ വലുതാണ്.

മുനീർക്കയിൽ നിന്ന് ആർ.കെ.പുരം സെക്ടർ II ലേക്ക് അയ്യപ്പ ക്ഷേത്രം മാറ്റാനുള്ള പ്രത്യേക കാരണം ഇന്ദിര ഗാന്ധി പ്രഖ്യാപിച്ച എമെർജൻസിയും തുടർന്ന് സഞ്ജയ് ഗാന്ധിയുടെ നേതൃത്വത്തിൽ നടന്ന പുറമ്പോക്ക് സ്ഥലം ഏറ്റെടുക്കലും ആയിരുന്നു. അന്ന് ശ്രീകോവിൽ മാത്രം നിലനിർത്തി ക്ഷേത്ര മതിൽക്കെട്ടുകൾ തകർത്തിരുന്നത് ഞാൻ കണ്ടിട്ടുണ്ട്. ഈ ഘട്ടത്തിൽ മണ്ണിൽ കൃഷ്ണൻ കൂടി അടങ്ങുന്ന സംഘം മന്ത്രിയെ സന്ദർശിച്ചു ഇന്ന് ക്ഷേത്രം നിലനിൽക്കുന്ന സ്ഥലം അനുവദിച്ചു മേടിക്കുകയായിരുന്നു. യേശുദാസിന്റെ ഗാനമേളകൾ നടത്തിയും സമൂഹത്തിലെ ഉന്നതരായ വ്യക്തികളുടെ സഹായ സഹകരണങ്ങൾ കൊണ്ടുമാണ് ഇന്ന് കാണുന്ന അയ്യപ്പ ക്ഷേത്രം സാക്ഷാത്കരിക്കപ്പെട്ടതു. മണ്ണിൽ കൃഷ്ണൻ എന്ന വ്യക്തിയുടെ ത്യാഗത്തിന്റെ ഒരു ചെറിയ ഉദാഹരണം ഇവിടെ കുറിക്കട്ടെ. യേശുദാസിന്റെ ഗാനമേളക്കായി തയ്യാറാക്കിയ നോട്ടീസ് INA market ലെ printing pressil നിന്ന്തലച്ചുമടായി കിദ്വായ് നഗറിലുള്ള അദ്ദേഹത്തിന്റെ വീട്ടിലേക്ക് എത്തിച്ചത് ഞാനും അദ്ദേഹവും ചേർന്നാണ്. നോട്ടീസ് വിതരണവും മഹാരാഷ്ട്ര രംഗായൻ എന്ന ഗാനമേള ഹാളിന്റെ വാതിൽക്കൽ ടിക്കറ്റ് കീറാനും ഞങ്ങൾ ഉണ്ടായിരുന്നു. അയ്യപ്പൻ പാട്ടിനുള്ള ഉടുക്കും കണ്യാർകളിക്കുള്ള ഡ്രസ്സ്, ഇലത്താളം എന്നിവ നാട്ടിൽ വന്നു വാങ്ങിച്ചു ഡൽഹിയിലേക്ക് കൊണ്ടുപോകുന്നത് ഞാൻ കണ്ടിട്ടുണ്ട്.

ഡൽഹിയിലെ തെരുവീഥിയിലൂടെ ആനകളെ എഴുന്നള്ളിച്ചു പഞ്ചവാദ്യസമേതം ഉത്സവംനടത്തിയത് മണ്ണിൽ കൃഷ്ണന്റെയും കൂടി പരിശ്രമഫലമായാണ്. അയ്യപ്പൻ പാട്ടു പാടുന്നതിൽ ഇന്നും ഈ എൺപതു കഴിഞ്ഞ വ്യക്തി വിട്ടുവീഴ്ച കാണിക്കാറില്ല.അയ്യപ് ക്ഷേത്രത്തിലെ വൈസ് പ്രസിഡണ്ടായും ,സെക്രട്ടറിയായും പ്രവർത്തിച്ച മണ്ണിൽ കൃഷ്ണൻ കണ്ണ്യാർ കളിയിലും തന്റെ മികവ് തെളിയിച്ചിട്ടുണ്ട്. ദൂരദർശനിൽ കണ്ണ്യാർ കളി അവതരിപ്പിക്കാൻ അദ്ദേഹത്തിന്റെ ശ്രമവും നേതൃത്വവും ഞാൻ അടക്കമുള്ളവർക്കും ആ കലക്കും ഒരു പ്രോത്സാഹനമായിരുന്നു. സ്വന്തം ജന്മ നാടിനെയും അദ്ദേഹം സ്നേഹിച്ചിരുന്നു. പലരെയും നാട്ടിൽ നിന്ന് ഡൽഹിയിൽ എത്തിച്ചു വരുമാന മാർഗ്ഗം തേടി കൊടുത്തിട്ടുണ്ട്. അതിനുള്ള ഒരു ഉത്തമ ഉദാഹരണമാണ് ഡൽഹി അയ്യപ്പക്ഷേത്രത്തിലെ ഗുരുസ്വാമിയായിരുന്ന അന്തരിച്ച ആന്തൂരെ വീട്ടിൽ രാജഗോപാലൻ എന്ന ഗോപാലേട്ട.

 നാട്ടിലെ കണ്യാർ കളിക്കുള്ള ഉടയാടകൾക്കു വേണ്ടി ഡൽഹിയിലെ സുഹൃത്തുക്കളിൽനിന്നു ഫണ്ട് ശേഖരിച്ചു നൽകാറുണ്ട്. ഡൽഹി അയ്യപ്പ ക്ഷേത്രത്തിന്റെ സ്ഥാപക നേതൃത്വത്തിൽ ജീവിച്ചിരിക്കുന്ന തല മുതിർന്ന വ്യക്തിയാണ് മണ്ണിൽ കൃഷ്ണൻ. ആരവങ്ങളില്ലാതെ നിശ്ശബ്ദനായി സ്വന്തം ആരോഗ്യപ്രശ്നങ്ങളെപ്പോലും അവഗണിച്ചുകൊണ്ട് ഇന്നും പ്രവർത്തിച്ചുകൊണ്ടിരിക്കുന്ന ഈ അയ്യപ്പ ഭക്തന് ഡൽഹിയിലെ മലയാളി പൗരാവലിയുടെ അർഹമായ അംഗീകാരം ലഭിച്ചുവോ എന്ന് ഞാൻ സംശയിക്കുന്നതിനോടൊപ്പം ഇപ്പോഴത്തെ ക്ഷേത്ര ഭാരവാഹികളെ ഓർമ്മപെടുത്താനും ഞാൻ ഈ സന്ദർഭം പ്രയോജനപ്പെടുത്തുന്നു. പാലക്കാട് നെന്മാറക്കടുത്തുള്ള തിരുവഴിയാട് എന്ന കൊച്ചു ഗ്രാമത്തിൽ മണ്ണിൽ തറവാട്ടിലാണ് ജനനം. സുന്ദരി എന്ന് വിളിപ്പേരുള്ള അദ്ദേഹത്തിന്റെ ഭാര്യ വടക്കഞ്ചേരി കള്ളിക്കൽ തറവാട്ടിലേതാണ്. യാദൃശ്ചികമായി എന്റെ അച്ഛന്റെ തറവാടും അതുതന്നെ. രണ്ടു മക്കൾ ജയപ്രകാശ് കള്ളിക്കൽ , ജയശ്രീ. മകളായ ജയശ്രീയും കൊച്ചുമകളുമൊന്നിച്ചു ഗുഡ്ഗാവിൽ ഭാര്യാസമേതം വിശ്രമജീവിതം നയിക്കുന്നു. 

മണ്ണിൽ കൃഷ്ണൻ എന്ന ഞങ്ങളുടെ കൃഷ്ണേട്ടക്കും, അദ്ദേഹത്തിന്റെ സഞ്ചാരപഥങ്ങളിൽ എന്നും തുണയായി നിൽക്കുന്ന ധർമ്മ പത്നിക്കും ആയുരാരോഗ്യങ്ങൾ നൽകി അയ്യപ്പ സ്വാമി അനുഗ്രഹിക്കാൻ പ്രാർത്ഥിച്ചുകൊണ്ട്,

 മണ്ണിൽ വിക്രമൻ

Thursday, January 14, 2021

ADIOS – AN UNSUNG SONG

 

ADIOS – AN UNSUNG SONG

 

Life is cryptic. Each circumstance threads out into multiple situations. Some sense it as opportunities for self-benefit for others it ends up in inaction. Human relationships can be complex layers of emotions bundled into behavioral patterns reflected from time to time. Moods, responses and reactions are prone to changes, degrees of which differ from person to person. On one end of the spectrum is hyper sensitivity and on the other end of it cold, frozen inertia.
God destines us to come in contact with souls who through their fortitude endure our actions that could be little known to us. It implies that people without their conscious knowledge can be a cause of hurt or harm to others or they can be an everlasting source of wisdom and happiness too.


Sentiments, ego and reactions interweave our thoughts, gestures and attitude. However the faith reposed on us by another person is required to take on the test of time and situations before being cut bare open to introspection.  Each soul is a fresh whiff of breeze. There is always a greeting and welcome on their arrival or a sting of sadness in their goodbyes. Some leave our garden scented with their cheer yet some others leave a trail of agony and sorrow for us to endure.
Each slap of wind is a memory; each gap of silence is a cry, each moment of knowing a longing and in each moment of good bye you belong.  You would turn a stranger today. While the gush of winds blow in more rains with ferocity. Somewhere distant, I hear a silent sob. I wonder if it is your silence that seethes in pain or my thoughts that reverberates it back.


Of course, I do care.  I know the wind can never be unknown to me or the rain drops. Neither the Earth, that breaks away from under my feet today that would erase your memories.
It would only be the adios which shall remain an unsung song.

MEMORIES WITHOUT SCHOOLS

 

MEMORIES WITHOUT SCHOOLS



It is not just the imposing red brick building but the sheer steel and unseen human soul hidden in the insides of this reverent temple of learning that beckons me once again towards it where I spent twelve precious years of questioning, introspection and education.
Nearly three decades have passed since I used to sit perched on one of these benches trying to unravel a future for myself figuring out the intricacy of platonic integrations, geometric progressions of spiraling days, dissecting anatomies of life and mimicking the pure delight of angelic poems that were rendered with such urgency that I could never imagine in my wildest dreams that I would be scribbling some by myself one day!

 

Massive sprawl of green foliage hiding rows of non-descript yellow single storied structures with arched front in the Canning Lane of LB (Lutyens Bunglow) Zone were our primary class rooms. I would hear gallops of the marching regiment, a cavalry that was perhaps kept safely leashed in some the stables many years ago by the British.


Tiny little brown desks and benches; Damp moist odor of wood and a fresh smell of Earth. Exotic green nuts oozing milky syrup that would be crushed with stones its tender insides that tasted like almonds to be eaten bare. The swarming flocks of Eagles and vultures that would swoop down on our lunch boxes during noon. Melodious notes from the air filled bags of Scottish pipers that I later found were the armed bands practicing their regimental numbers are little specks of memories from the period that I still carry in my head.


With passing time the old structures started crumbling and we braved the rains, heat and the fury of winter in the make shift tents where we grew up learning logic of sane learning, joyous sharing and a sweet fanciful adolescent years of secondary school time.
Beads of sweat, austere leanings and sincere toils saw us shift into gleaming new class rooms. Islands of earthly natured pupils in silence had with time transformed into cities of fortified passions. Some harangued and debated most complex aspects of social and political anarchy prevalent in other parts of the globe while some others had astoundingly sharp scientific temper that would put seasoned scientists to test. There were yet others during our senior secondary school years who would take up challenges of an alien civil crowd on board Delhi Transport Corporation buses fiercely fighting for the safety of their school mates outside school hours.

 

Sweet and tangy taste of our brush with destiny of a warm school time start and ends at its gates that was what we thought when the farewell happened.
Today, I find the list of distinguished people who have passed out from the school is endless. After decades of separation, sincere warmth and a unique camaraderie still binds all of us. But for the memories, our school days are like shadows that grow longer with each passing day. Memories are all about that, aren’t they? And What are memories without schools?
http://www.jpkallikkal.com (Class of 84)

 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Stranger in the mirror

 

I wonder if you ever imagined sharing stories with strangers of destiny!

No? On ,A train Journey? It would have been an incredible stranger.  No. Not a train Journey. I was talking of a Life Journey. A journey, when each individual, who matters to you, wishes to open up a path before you. A path you think never exists!  A train journey is a moment; A life journey into eternity.


An eternity to dream your fantasies, feel your heart beats and breathe life. You may be living in a finite world yet your thoughts take you through a virtual journey. The words that the stranger whispers, just wafts over and takes flight. They sometimes crawl, sometimes run, sometimes stop but they do sail long distances.


You know what? I always wished, I could share stories with unknown people. How naïve I was. I thought no one would understand my story. So, I started listening to their stories. I heard them for years and found their stories were same as my story but the plot was different every time. So was theme, the actors, the settings but each stranger had a story to tell. Story of their journeys
What is life? An incredible mix of surreal happenings interspersed with the karma of the present and bhagya or destiny that your future holds?  I would rather say life is like meeting that stranger on a highway, depends whether you give him a lift or just speed away your way.


Each moment can be turned into a profound experience or they can be suppressed to happen the way they are happening. Let them keep happening but you need to steer them to a certain extent onto a chosen direction. Each day can be a story of your struggle, achievement or failure but giving a personal fillip to your actions can make your story slightly different from what you perceive and realize.


What the stranger whispers could be what your heart echoes too!
But you need to travel. The incredibility of the stranger would dawn upon you once your heart gets the answers. Answers to the riddle called life. So let a new Journey begin. You will soon realize the stranger of destiny is your reflection in the mirror that knows your heart better than what your face sees on it.


Today, I looked up myself in the mirror but was surprised to see a stranger smiling at me.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Lost in Capital

 



Delhi used to be a shining hub of Music, Culture and Art Festivals till a few decades ago.  Un-regulated growth, pollution and negativity is today gnawing up the very roots. Owing to altered security scenario and priorities, Delhi has transformed from being a cultural paradise in the past to a painful reminder of what decay would mean to a creative mind.

 

The name Delhi evokes different responses in the minds of people from all over the globe.  For some it is today one of the most populous and polluted capitals in the world.  Yet, Delhi used to be a clean and green city that was the hub of music, culture and art celebrations till a few decades ago.  Its carefully manicured heart, sprawled with green vistas and fruit bearing trees, found mention amongst the best cities in the world.

Hailing from an agrarian backdrop in Palakkad, Kerala, destiny brought me to Delhi in my early years. Transgressing the borders of time and stuck deep in a quagmire of professional compulsions, I am today fondly reminded of a time when they city was relaxed, event filled and harmonious in existence.

Deep Purple, Sting, Bruce Spingsteen, Bryan Adams, Peter Gaberiel, Tracy Chapman, Boney M, Bangles could be sounding as some big and respected names in Rock music but all of them have performed in Delhi and I have been able to attend the concerts.  While Beatles and Abba were taking the world by storm, Delhi silently decked up after ASIAD of 1982 to host some of the most memorable Rock Concerts which were mostly held in Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium that could hold capacity crowds (75000), Talkatora Stadium or Indraprastha Indoor Stadium in Delhi. Delhi used to have its own editions of Rock Festivals, Jazz events and Pop performances spread over several days.

Africa Live was one such concert that I vividly remember attending.  The program started at about 5 in the evening and went on live for more than 12 hours showcasing some of the best in International Music.   

Siri Fort Auditorium at Khel Gaon Marg has been another venue that hosted memorable events. Few of live events I could witness at this venue are: Bolshoi Ballet from Russia, French opera Carmen, Jagjit Singh Live and several other Ghazal, Thumri and sufi music performances. Siri Fort used to be a regular venue that hosted the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) with film shows spread across various film halls in Delhi. I invariably made it a point to attend these festivals year after year, till it IFFI was moved out to Goa.

Spirit of India concerts enabled me to witness and follow the most of the Indian Classical Masters Live in Delhi through 1980s. Memorable performances included ones from Pt. Jasraj (Vocal- Hindustani), Ustad Bismilla Khan (Shehnai), Pt. Bhimsen Joshi (Flute), Ustad Amjad Ali Khan (Sarod), Zakir Hussain (Tabla), Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma (Santoor), BalaMurali Krishna (Classical Carnatic) and several other stalwarts of those times.

Dance scene in Delhi was no different. Performances of dance maestros dotted the cultural calendar of the capital through the year.  Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathak, Kathakali and most regional dance forms from across India found their footprints in the Capital. Yamini Krishnamurty, Uma Sharma and several other distinguished dancers performed in Delhi. Folk, rural and ethnic dance forms too visited the capital to showcase their performances before the crowds.

International Dance troupes too made their presence felt in Delhi through programs arranged by ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations).  Russia, France, Germany, Japan and host of other nations showcased their arts and culture in the Capital.  I would invariably keep my diary filled by keeping track of the events and ensuring attendance.

New Delhi also had a rich cultural milieu. Year long celebrations of Art, Theatre, Films and Folk arts were primary to its vibrant existence.  Each year the cultural calendar of Delhi was marked with numeral national and international events.

National and International Book fairs, Handicraft Fairs, Dance Festivals, painting exhibitions, Food, and a string of national and international events kept date with Delhi. Yearly International Trade Fairs at sprawling Trade Fair grounds, Food and craft fairs at Dilli Haat, Spiritual, Devotional and Sports events that included Marathons, International Sporting events like (Asiad, Commonwealth Games) kept Delhi a hot place to be living and enjoying one’s life.

However, changing security scenario and VIP culture has dampened cultural scene of Delhi.  Heavy handed interference of civil and police administration into arrangement and conduct of such events made organizers wary of choosing Delhi a venue for big events. Many International Rock groups have moved away from Delhi to Bengaluru and Mumbai owing to negative crowd response and organizing woes.  To top it, I notice that the general population of Delhi has tilted away from the dynamics of understanding the minute aspects of other cultures. They are either indifferent to the performances or fail to catch the true essence of such events.

Today crowds of Delhi have become too noisy and ill behaved, compared to earlier years and other venues. From being known as the Cultural Capital of India, Delhi is today having a dubious distinction of being called the Crime Capital of India.  Forts, Mausoleums and Minarets stand mute to the change that has taken place here. Wide tree sprawled roads are today constricted with traffic. Air quality remains extremely poor throughout the year and seasons are playing truant making it difficult to organize or attend such events.

A tourist’s paradise and a shining example of being the National Capital, Delhi is today greying inside out.  Rapid expansion of roads and buildings, Mindless growth of population, vehicular traffic has transformed this city into a big maze of confusion devoid of aesthetics and harmony.  To add to its woes Covid 19 has battered the city like never before.  I wonder, if we could ever have the days that have passed us by in the capital city of India. Delhi would be dug up even further through its heart with Central Vista being re-designed and constructed.  It is perhaps too late for Delhi to return and reignite the spark of the past.  History may be made and recast but as a sensitive admirer of culture, traditions and arts, my angst at witnessing a Delhi losing its soul is a painful experience.

I had wanted to stay on in Delhi forever to savor its multi-cultural diversity and ethos but greed, one one-upmanship and material compulsions has torn open the divide among its citizens.  Un-regulated growth, pollution, politics and negativity is today gnawing up the very roots of this once proud city. Beyond being a power broker’s den, Delhi may never regain its cultural sanity or clean air. If Delhi is to be saved, it is time that the capital is shifted out from here, along with bag and baggage of those citizens, who continue to live and die here each day without feeling any remorse to the slow and painful death this city is going through each day.

I feel lost in the Capital today, do you, too?

jpkallikkal/2020

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

What awaits us in 2021?

 



Covid 19 has shattered our beliefs and altered the way we view our life. WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, ‘A vaccine on its own will not end the pandemic, it will compliment the other tools we have, not replace them’.  Which means in the near future we are back to a state of uncertainty, in terms of complete immunity from the virus.

The year 2020 has already spelled doom to many individuals, businesses and economies.  It has been a year of depression for stock market and people who reposed their faith in science.  Never in the history of human evolution did such confusion arise out a strain of virus potent enough to spread so quickly and kill at will.  Medical fraternity has been on its edge trying to cope with the pandemic that has spread all over globe at such a quick pace. While front line health workers have been stretched beyond limits, hospitals have certainly been overwhelmed with cases that have spilled out beyond earmarked capacities.  Covid-19 as a pandemic has been a bane and boon for those in the medical field.  While on one hand Medical fraternity has been pressed to the edge trying to cope up with pressure on systems and people for spreading out treatment and resolution, on the other a hope hinged on developing an effective vaccine is already underway.  In fact a strategic approach for production and distributing the vaccine has already begun. While other business sectors have faced the brunt of lost businesses, medicine as business has already flourished due to the pandemic which can be termed as a boon.

We have already seen that different countries have coped up with the pandemic in its unique ways.  While countries such as United States and Spain that bore the initial brunt of the pandemic saw huge number of deaths in the first wave, Asian, African and many other countries have handled the pandemic in their own unique ways.  While the primary strategy has been to find, isolate and rehabilitate, more populous countries have found this route tedious, time consuming and resource exhausting. It is generally seen that majority of those infected have been able to come out of the infection without major complications with medications in hand.  In fact traditional and local medicines have been able to help the patients overcome the initial discomfort and illness associated with the disease, however efficacy of the vaccine being developed in different countries would be marker to the future of this pandemic.

There are those who believe this pandemic is man-made, there are others who link it to greed of human civilization and the curse of nature on its exploitation.  Still there are others who believe that this pandemic has been a ploy by certain powers to re-mark territories and to strategize global economic hotlines of future. On a closer introspection we can see that the pandemic has opened up a pandora’s box of questions for the future of each individual, nation and Earth as a sustainable eco system for survival of humans.

We also see that different countries have employed different standards of safety and strategies to deal with the pandemic.  While many such methods touch upon policing, public health safety, resource mobilization and spread, impetus has been to keep the wheels of economies moving despite red flags on the health front.  On a broad spectrum it is seen that while in many countries where parameters of health were of extremely high standards, pandemic overwhelmed their systems and they saw large number of deaths.  Poorer countries with less well developed health systems and larger populations saw huge infections but lesser number of fatalities.  This could be because the virus overwhelmed people who had high life standards but a lower immunity levels compared to individuals who were exposed to wider array of infections.   However the scare owing to the pandemic is yet to see its true peak.  While for richer nations, it has been diversion of resources and greater allocations to health sector to deal with the pandemic, for poorer nations it is doing their best by prioritizing budgets for allocations for providing food and medical support to the affected sections of population.

While researches are on to come out with an effective vaccine against this virus, studies are on to understand long term effects of the virus on human bodies.  Science which had developed so much over the years and had become invincible is today faced with the dilemma of having to face the threat caused by a set of invisible viruses that are playing up on human bodies as a disease and on human minds as a grim reminder of us being mortal humans!

Perhaps it is the first time in human history when places of worship were closed down, people were prohibited from meeting their own and dead bodies cremated without the loved ones attending the services.  Death literally came cheap and hospital treatment has eroded the finances of millions and a question mark has risen over future of human civilization in the in event of more such viruses surfacing in the air.         

This Pandemic is proving that human beings have not forgotten to smile despite threat of death hovering over its heads.  The will of human minds to overcome adversities and join hands to forge alliances is visible yet at the same time divisions ingrained in political and geographic boundaries have more than once exposed the chinks that can derail the progress on humankind as a society.  Covid 19 may be in the air for a long time and take us along into 2021 but not before it alters psyches of individuals and societies towards each other, health and finances.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Hybrid Film Festival

 

Hybrid Film Festivals

#IFFI2020

Films convey stories from most diverse geographical regions.  They become a fine tool that tide over geographical and language boundaries to portray events and voice out significant aspects of human endeavor and culture.   Film Festivals thus turn into a vital link that bridges distances and touch core aspects of human mind processes and emotions.   Each year a number of film festivals are held across the world.  However this year, Covid 19 pandemic has drastically altered the way Film screenings and festivals are going to be conducted around the world this year and years to come till fears arising out of spread of novel covid 19 and other mutant viruses are put to rest.

Hybrid literally means a mix and in terms of Film Festival being termed Hybrid, it would in reality mean a mix of real theatre screening with an admixture of digital virtual screenings of movies and discussions thereof.  Today technology has empowered us to virtually cross over physical boundaries and be connected to each other through digital platforms.  Film Festivals are no exceptions.  Those finding favor with digital platforms would root for seamlessly crossing over to digital formats even for organizing Film festivals that could bring in a larger audience and become more inclusive event than conventional festivals.

Perhaps the earliest festival to try out the Hybrid form was the Locarno Festival in Switzerland which adopted a semi-virtual format.  Held in the town on the shores of Lake Maggiore, the Italian speaking region of Southern Switzerland the 73rd Festival held between 5th and 15th  August 2020 was switched to a hybrid format with films and filmic content made available online.  It is estimated that about 5950 people saw films in Locarno Indoor cinemas and about 320000 visits were made on festivals digital platform where full length films, short films, panel discussions and talks were made available online.

45th Edition of the Toronto Film Festival is implementing a hybrid film festival in the month of September, 2020. The edition will combine physical and online screenings with upto 50 features and five short programmes. Digital screenings, interactive talks and Q&A sessions have been planned besides  a drive in format ensuring physical distancing.

Cinefest Sudbury in Ontario, Canada too is expected to be a Hybrid festival scheduled between 19th and 27th September, 2020.  Ontario movie theaters are allowing 50 people per screening.  The organizers are hoping that local film makers and producers would be appearing in person and the industry could take part in the event online.

64th Edition of BFI London scheduled through October 7th 18th, 2020 too has pivoted towards a Hybrid version with introduction of Audience Choice Awards this year owing to Covid 19. The festival is planning a 50 virtual festival premiers with upto 12 previews of upcoming films that will be screened across the UK.  In a marked change from earlier versions, audiences are expected to replace the festival’s official jury and will vote on audience awards in four categories that will include fiction feature, documentary featue, short film and XR (extended reality).  Awards will be announced in a live virtual ceremony on the final weekend of the festival .  The full programme of the festival will be launched on 8th September, 2020.  Sundance Film Festival,  Raindance Festival and a number of other Festivals are expected to be on the Hybrid mode this year. In view of Covid 19 pandemic, India too is expected to host a 'Hybrid' International Film Festival in the month of November this year.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Story of our Loom

 

Today is National Handloom Day.  Swadeshi  Movement was launched on this very day i.e.  7th August, 1905. Handloom reflects the glorious traditions of Indian Textile Industry and an era of self reliance in the area of garment production and fashion.  History is replete with instances of Indian textiles occupying high demand within Indian borders and far across the oceans. Handloom is also a significant source of livelihood which holds capacity to empower artisans associated with the profession.  It is estimated that 70% of all handloom weavers and allied workers in India are women.  However, being a household activity and entrenched in rural backgrounds, imperfect and often cheap imitations through power looms and illegal inroads through mills have brought this sector into a state of slow decay and death.

I belong to Kerala and hail from the district of Palakkad. For several centuries handloom weaves from the Villages of Kollengode, Chittoor, Devangapuram, Kallanchira, Neelikkad and Karimpuza in this district have been great demand.  In the pre-Independent India dress material including sarees, dhoties, towels and cloth lengths were weaved and marketed to rest of Kerala and other princely states from this district.  However, post independent India saw weavers joining hands and pooling resources into cooperatives to run these handloom centers.  However, piling up losses and lack of income in the profession led youth from these villages to move away from this profession and its slow death.

Today we see that polyester, artificial yarn and multitude of textile materials have emerged across the world as viable medium of fabric.  However the ‘comfort and breathe’ factor of handloom can never be equated with any alternate textile material.  Use of hand looms in weaving spectacular patterns not just enable large sections of labour to be gainfully employed in this profession but also props up local creative talents in design setting, pattern development and manual colour coding.  Use of local motifs, shades and designs sublimely carry the flavor of its local community into the hearts of textile users.

India sits on a treasure trove of indigenous cultural richness.  Each state in this country has its unique tradition and contribution in handloom weaving.  Ikat from Odhisha, Bandhani (tie and dye), Patan Patola from Gujarat, Kalamkari from Andhra Pradesh, Brocades of Uttar Pradesh, Zari works from Madhya Pradesh, Kancheevaram from Tamil Nadu, Kantha stitches from West Bengal, Kosa from Chattisgarh, Kunbi from Goa, Lepcha from Sikkim, Pachaculi from Uttarakhnd, Pachra from Tripura, North East Weaves prominent from Mizoram, Nagaland apart from multitudes of patterns, styles and textures like sambhalpuri, Muga, Maheshwari, chanderi and Khadi makes India a well defined centre from Handlooms.

Yet the real story of handlooms can be seen from the dwindling number of families engaged in this profession.  Surveys show that while 124 lakh weaver families were engaged in this profession in 1970s their numbers reduced to 64 lakhs in 1995 and it dwindled further down to 44 lakhs in 2010.  The narrative of Policy vs production techniques have seriously impacted handlooms in our country. While introduction of standard yarn into our country in the 1840s changed the course of handlooms, replacement of natural yarn with synthetic ones for use by power looms further played havoc with this segment. Global players and technology has further robbed local identities. Today artificial dyes coupled with computer controlled looms, churning out global designs and textures in a copy paste environment, has brought the entire economics of handlooms into a grinding halt.  No amount of protection or unique identification is able to save the handlooms from extermination from one roof global operators.

Need of the hour is identity ability to distinguish ‘real from an imitation’.  The responsibility of a buyer increases with the awareness of purchase of a real product not a cheap copy.  Price alone should not be a consideration for purchase but a larger emotional attachment with the product being bought.   Buying a Handloom product should be more than a symbolic gesture of helping a needy weaver but it should be a nationalist move to revive our rich culture and traditions of our nation by empowering our local talent and rural weavers.

 Story of our Loom would be incomplete without a simple picture of Charkha.  Time has come when we join hands to help the spirit of enterprise spread amongst the rural weaver folk and support weavers and handloom by buying truly hand woven fabrics made in our country.

  

Friday, June 19, 2020

Covid 19 - Boycott of Chinese Products


Covid 19 Saga – III
Boycott of Chinese Products




The stand off between India and China has now brought us face to face with a reality of India having to take a hard stance on the rhetoric of ‘Boycott Chinese products’.  While an analysis of on the ground reaction and related economic fallout is a complex theme in itself.  A primary look into the investment pattern of China in India through its own companies or Indian subsidiaries throws up important statistics.
While it goes without saying the China has been slowly and steadily increasing investments all around the world, In India it has stealthily forged strategic alliances to make a build up despite tight monitoring and control.  If we go by figures quoted by prominent institutions in respect of Chinese investments in India Sectors it could be see the following:
No.
Sector
% of Investment
1
Automobile Industry
40%
2
Metallurgical Industry
17/%
3
Power
07%
4
Construction
05%
5
Services
04%

A list of Chinese Companies in India is given below:

Mobile Companies in India include Xiaomi (MI), Oppo, Vivo, One Plus, Huawei, Coolpad, Motorola, LeEco, Lenovo, Meizu, Tecno, , Honor, Gionee, Gfive, Hair, TCL etc.   A number of Chinese software companies have also made inroads into India these include Alibaba Group with UC Browser, Bytedance with applications like Tik Tok, Vigo Video, News Republic, Tencent holding with popular games like Pubg ad WeChat, Cheetah mobile with apps like Whatscall, Cheetah keyboard, CM Browser, Tap Tap Dash, Huwei and ZTE.

Other Chinese majors in India includes, Haier, Volvo (owned by Geely), MG (owned by SAIC Motors), Nippon Paint (India) Pvt. Ltd, Shanghai Electric India Pvt. Ltd., Beijing Automotive, WISCO (I) Pvt. Ltd., ZTE Kangun Telecom company (I) Pvt. Ltd, China Dongfang International, Baoshan Iron and Steel Ltd., Dongfang Electric, Sany Heavy Industry Ltd, Cheetah Multitrade P. Ltd., YAPP India Automotive Systems Pvt. Ltd.

It has been reported that Investments of China in Technology for Indian Startups exceed $ 4 billion!. India’s top 30 companies which are each worth over $ 1 bn (Unicorns)m 18 are funded and technology driven by the Chinese. Paytm, Hike Messenger, Ola, Bigbasket, Byjus, Dream 11, IBIBO, Make my Trip, Snapdeal, Flipkart, Mydermacy etc are other majors operating doing well in India.
Chinese investments in India stood at $.6 billion in 2014 which have now risen to $ 8 billion in last few years.  In fact 4 out of 5 top mobile Chinese brands have heavy presence in India these include Xiomi with 7 factories in India besides several others who have planned to invest more than $500 million in this country.

Considering the fact that, any fresh investment would require Indian government’s approval, the move could in reality lengthen the transaction time which is most likely to impact fresh investments in Indian companies by Chinese investors, translating to the fact that many Indian startups in India and others looking out for investments could be staring into the blank for an undefined time into the future.

From a consumer’s point of view the options of products and price tags on individual products could see an upsurge. With tightening up of imports from China and non viable options from other markets local vendors could be in a spot unless they tie up with bigger vendors like Amazon who deal in global sourcing of products.  This would anyway be detrimental to the Indian dream of seeking self reliance in production of such items as challenges of quality, price and international competition would hamper quick growth without proper R&D.

In the short term several small items may go out of market on persistent demand and others may see a rising price graph.  The hay days of Indian consumers may be vanish and India would be a humble buyer’s destination in the absence of robust and consistent growth of its employment and economy.
 Imagining a quick boycott of Chinese products could be easy but to strictly implement a policy  in this direction could be bitter pill for all.  While on one hand government may seek to snap ties with Chinese contractors, legal parameters will allow the companies having exposure to Chinese investments to downplay the boycott and continue with their operations if no legal strictures are issued against them in this regard.  As regards boycott by citizens of India, in the absence of a clear understanding of which companies are peddling which Chinese products, it would be difficult to screen and personalize buying or usage preferences by them.

While it would be premature to comment on how an average Indian on the street would feel the pinch on account of such a boycott but the complete story would certainly need an elaborate mechanism right from the policy level to the implantation stage for a smooth transition.  However in the wake of Covid 19 pandemic and constraints on account of a global shrinkage in investments and supply, a stage has come for the Indian markets to revert back to times of rationing, shortages and maintaining essential supply chain processes.




Tuesday, May 12, 2020

A tipsy tale




Why are you drinking? Asked society
So that I may forget, replied the tippler
Forget what? Inquired the society
Forget that I am ashamed, confessed the tippler
Ashamed of what?
Ashamed of failing to fetch an e-token!

Corona besides casting its web on business and industry has also de-railed the survival plans of society.  The section that is now a harassed lot is the drinking community.  Each state in India is locked down and the systematic closure of shops and establishments has also resulted in closure of liquor vends.  Whether it is beer, wine or IMFL, entire chain of stores have been closed down for over a month.  No reasons have been assigned for such a closure.

State Governments that are already pushed to the edge, making arrangements for C19 evacuation and rescue plans for its citizens are finding themselves further starved of revenue accruing out of sale of liquor.  States such as Kerala that heavily rely on the liquor earnings to fund their budget are stretched beyond limits.  It has been making fervent efforts to find a way out of this deadlock.  However elected rule makers have their way when it comes to playing with sentiments of their drink loving public.  Keep them dry till blood flow out instead of tears, drinking or otherwise.

Tipplers have been made butt of the joke in several societies.  While teetotalers enjoy every bit of struggle faced by the drinking fraternity, the joy mostly seems sadistic to a tippler.  Drinking gentlemen or ladies would never understand why a teetotaler draws such pleasure out of the thirst for a drink of a tippler.  It is perhaps to do with the ills alcohol brings with it, so say the naysayers. 

However one fails to understand the link between Covid Virus and alcohol.  While repeatedly alcohol has been stressed as an agent to be used to ward away the virus at least through liberal use of hand sanitizers, for a tippler nothing seems better than few gulps of alcohol to make up his day.

Liquor is a great liberator.  It also is perhaps that only true friend for a drinker in times of sorrow and depression.  Can there be more depressing a time than Covid times?  And here administrators have flashed their pens to slash away any hopes a tippler could have had to beat these hard times.  Ask a tippler who is a fool, he would reply, teetotaler; ask a teetotaler who is a fool? He would reply, a tippler.  Well, a tippler has surely been made a big fool in Covid times.

One may ask who contributes more to economy during times of crisis, a teetotaler tax paying citizen may say, Me! I contribute to the nation by paying taxes and also to relief funds, a tippler? A tax paying tippler?  Well, at least a tippler from New Delhi would say, me. One gave out such an analogy recently:

A teetotaler donated RS.500 to relief fund and a drinker bought alcohol worth Rs.500. Who contributes more to the nation?
On alcohol, total taxes (excise and GST) adds about 72% of the MRP. So when a drinker pays Rs.500, Rs.360 goes to the state exchequer.  On the other hand if a teetotaler makes a donation, he excpects a 30% rebate and lands up earning back Rs.150, in effect making a contribution of only Rs.350. Now after imposition of a 70% additional Corona tax in a state like Delhi, imagine the big contribution a tippler makes to the nation!

An angered activist tippler recently urged upon entire nation to give up alcohol so that governments learn a lesson from its efforts to chain down tipplers to their homes.  It was later learnt that he was checking out videos on you tube in how make heady brew at home.  Someone discovered cartons of decaying fruits behind his house.  In some place people were found sipping hand sanitizers! Even teetotalers in some nations were sipping industrial alcohol, not to get heady but they believed alcohol kills Covid 19!

Coming back to tipsy days.  Rich or poor, educated or illiterate, it is a pity the elected governments reign down and kick at the softest soft of a hapless tippler, especially in times of crisis.  Times when lovers are forbidden from showing their in physical terms, alcohol was perhaps the only leveler that could have saved them from drowning in a sea of sorrow.

Perhaps happy days will be here again, tipsy need not turn gypsy, searching for that elusive peg of high spirits.  What is a nation without spirited citizens?  Ask Russia, ask the most evolved and developed nations, they would never restrict sale of liquor to the masses.  Democracy is surely for those who believe in getting their due share without endlessly tapping on their mobile handsets to get an online liquor token or standing in huge queues made out of artificially inflating the length to show tipplers are losers.

It never is so.  Drinking and drinking responsibility should be the preserve of the evolved.  Whether it is water or liquor, value of every drop should be cherished with freedom.



Thursday, April 30, 2020


Obituary




"There was a misconception that the film (Bobby) was made to launch me as an actor. The film was actually made to pay the debts of Mera Naam Joker. Dad wanted to make a teenage love story and he did not have money to cast Rajesh Khanna in the film” – Rishi Kapoor

The above statement speaks volumes about this great actor and an icon who won hearts through his handsome looks and charming smile.  Bobby for me was a film that initiated me into Hindi Films.  I went on to follow Rishi Kapoor through his films.  While his contemporaries like Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bacchan, Vinod Kumar were making it big in Hindi Film Industry, Rishi Kapoor silently spread his love across masses.

I followed this great star through his films Rafoo Chakkar, Amar Akbar Anthony, Khel Khel mein and Hum Kisi se kam naheen, Kabhi Kabhi, Doosra Aadmi, Karz and many other movies.  His presence in screen was magnetic and so was his way of dressing.  I was so inspired by his style and demeanour that many of his movies remain etched as tender memories in my mind.

Beyond the year 2000 Rishi Kapoor acted in many films that included Yeh Hei Jalwa, Hum Tum, Fanaa, Namastey London, Love Aaj Kal, Patiala House etc.  He also acted in British Films such as Don’t stop dreaming, Sambar Salsa etc.  In 2010 he was onscreen with his wife Neetu Singh in the Film Do Dooni Char. He also acted in Chintuji, Agneepath, Jab Tak hei jaan etc.  A mystery thriller written and directed by Jeethu Joseph, The Body released in December, 2019 was the last film of this Iconic actor.



As reported in some section of social media, Rishi Kapoor was perhaps the only celebrity from Indian Film Industry to call out for opening of Liquor vends during the lockdown in support of tipplers who faced psychological problems and withdrawal symptoms.  This reflects his thought process during his last days on Earth.  Having empathy for others and a soft corner for masses and his fans would be reminders of this great personality.

May his noble soul rest in peace.

Awards*
1970 – Bengal Film Journalists' Association Awards: Special Award, and National Film Award for Mera Naam Joker.
1974 – Filmfare Award for Best Actor for Bobby
2008 – Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award
2009 – Honoured by Russian Government for contribution to cinema.
2010 – Apsara Film & Television Producers Guild Awards: Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Love Aaj Kal.
2011 – Zee Cine Awards: Best Lifetime Jodi along with Neetu Singh.
2011 – Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actor for Do Dooni Chaar
2013 – The Times of India Film Awards (TOIFA), Best Actor in a Negative Role for Agneepath.
2016 – Screen Lifetime Achievement Award
2017 – Screen Award for Best Supporting Actor for Kapoor & Sons
2017 – Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor for Kapoor & Sons
2017 – Zee Cine Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Male for Kapoor & Sons
2017 – Zee Cine Award for Best Actor in a Comic Role for Kapoor & Sons
*Source: Wiki


*A message from Rishi Kapoor’s family*

Our dear Rishi Kapoor passed away peacefully at 8:45am IST in hospital today after a two-year battle with leukemia. The doctors and medical staff at the hospital said he kept them entertained to the last. 

He remained jovial and determined to live to the fullest right through two years of treatment across two continents. Family, friends, food and films remained his focus and everyone who met him during this time was amazed at how he did not let his illness get the better of him. 

He was grateful for the love of his fans that poured in from the world over. In his passing, they would all understand that he would like to be remembered with a smile and not with tears. 

In this hour of personal loss, we also recognise the world is going through a very difficult and troubled time. There are numerous restrictions around movement and gathering in public. We would like to request all his fans and well-wishers and friends of the family to please respect the laws that are in force. 

He would not have it any other way.

Mannil Krishnan - Mannil Vikraman

മണ്ണിൽ കൃഷ്ണനെ അറിയുന്ന ഞാൻ     എന്റെ ബാല്യകാല സ്മരണകളിൽ അവധിക്കെത്തുന്ന കൃഷ്ണേട്ടയാണ് ഇന്നും. പ്രൗഢഗംഭീരമായ നടത്തവും കൃശഗാത്രനാണെങ്കി...