Kanthalloor is a village in Idukky district in the south Indian state of Kerala. It is close to Munnar, the most popular hill station in Kerala, and is filled with picturesque landscapes all around and also famous for it’s vegetable and fruit farms. Our trip to Kanthalloor was through Pollachi and the Chinnar wildlife sanctuary. Kanthalloor is yet to become a busy tourist place so it has it’s pristine nature much unexplored.

The windmills of Pollachi on the way

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As we reached Marayoor, the sky had this for us.

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It was almost 7:30 PM when we reached the place we stayed.

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And then we had bonfire, some barbecue, a lot of singing aloud to keep the night young.

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And in the morning, we woke up to this! The house was called “Madamma’s Mud House”. It was supposedly built by a British lady using clay, mud and wood.

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The view from the house was spectacular as there was nothing to obstruct the beautiful view of the valley and hills. It was breathtaking.

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Bring a cup of coffee, pull a chair and enjoy the serene view!

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Another view from the house we stayed.

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The majestic Madamma’s Mud House.

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And then we took a hike through the dense forest nearby.

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After a long and tiring hike on a chilly morning which made us sweat, we reached a farm land maintained by the tribals (do you see the dragon flies?). The hut on the right is for the watch dogs who didn’t stop barking until we left. There were many sorts of crops around.

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Ever seen apple on the apple tree?

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Nelliyampathy is a hill station in our neighboring district Palakkad. I have never been to the place though it is pretty close (must be around 80 kms max to reach). So when my nephews planned for a trip to Nelliyampathy on last Saturday, I jumped right in. We started in the morning and came back by night. It was a fun trip with the young ones in the family.

There isn’t a lot to see in Nelliyampathy. It was a sunny day when we got there, yet there was cool breeze in the air. So the climate on that day was somewhere in the middle of being too cold and too hot. Our first stop on the way was Pothundi irrigation dam, but if you go there don’t waste too much time. There is a beautiful garden in the area and that’s a good place to relax a bit, but the dam in itself doesn’t offer much to see. There are some small waterfalls en route to the top of the hills and there was one place that we stopped by when we returned and spent a lot of time. It was a picturesque location and we enjoyed our time there. Another place to see is Seethaargundu view point. That place offers some nice view from the hills and is a major spot. There was another peak called Manpaara, but we didn’t go there.

Ours was a day trip but there are some nice resorts to stay if you go with your family or friends. But when you are outside, there isn’t any good restaurants to eat; at least we could not find any. Below are some photos from our trip.

A beautiful church somewhere in a rural area with a huge PietĂ  replica; en route to Nelliyampathy

A nice view of the hills on the way

Another view on the way

The team posing for a photograph en route.

Pothundy dam

Boys striking a pose at the Pothundy dam garden.

Seethargundu view point – friends from the evolution period saying ‘Hi’. 🙂

Lunch time for the old friends – at Seethaargundu view point

A view from Seethargundu

This tree must have been photographed a thousand times by tourists to Nelliyampathy. I have seen numerous photos of this on internet. This tree is situated at Seethaargundu.

Taking my fair share of fame by posing with the famous tree

The boys at Seethaargundu

Literally scratching each others back 😉

The Koodankulam Fiasco

I had posted this as a comment to one of my Facebook posts on Koodankulam issue. A friend had posted this comment to my post on Koodankulam where one man got killed in the clash with the police.

The well respected ex president Dr Kalam says its safe. A lot of scientists say its safe. Still some miscreants sponsor such stupid acts, hiring illiterates and the poor along with protein fed GOONDAS. Net result – these deaths !

And I had a chance to watch a news debate in Reporter channel and here is what I wrote in response to my friend. My appeal to you too would be to educate me with your counter arguments against the valid concerns raised by Dr. C R Neelakandan.

I don’t think it is as easy as that. I had followed a debate on Reporter channel and the points raised by Dr. C R Neelakandan, an environmentalist who has worked in  Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Mumbai, seemed valid. Following is what he said. I don’t see any valid arguments that stand valid to these concerns. Let me know if you come across any (valid counter arguments instead of the so called “development” war cries).


Only 2.5% of the total energy needed is being produced by the atomic reactors in India (even after investing so much and given huge subsidies for 50 years) which is far more expensive than the energy from windmills.

After Three  Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima there are no countries that trust atomic energy as a viable soltution. Many countries have backed out of atomic energy. 54 atomic reactors were closed down in Japan in the last 1.5 years. After 1978, no nuclear reactors were granted permission in America. Germany has decided to close down all its atomic reactors in their country by 2020.

Koodankulam has many similarities to Fukushima. It’s in the seashore. Last time the Tsunami had struck this place. It is also a crowded place with Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli and Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala) districts are nearby. Another issue is environmental because the wastes of the nuclear plant are dumped to the sea. This could affect the daily lives of the fishermen folk who live here.

According to the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill, in case of a tragedy, the maximum amount of money that the responsible country has to pay is Rs. 1500 crore. Note that it is in RUPEES. What you must note here is that only the first phase of the tragedy in Fukushima had cost them 1500 crore DOLLARS. (The central government had decided on Rs. 500 crores and it is only after the Left parties got involved that they raised the amount at least to Rs. 1500 crores).

Koodankulam relies totally on the imported fuel for it’s function. Agreed that we need to import petroleum, but the difference from that one here is that in case if there is a policy change from the country that gives us the fuel, the fuel would stop. We have the example of Tarapur in front of us. We started with that reactor when America gave us the fuel. And when they stopped the export, our function was also stopped.

If you go to Tamil Nadu, you can see 6000 MW is being produced from the wind. If you just increase it by 2000 MW, you can avoid this fiasco. That will be something produced by the windmills made in India, which can be repaired in India, and it doesn’t result in such atrosious after effects even if it fails. So when we have this alternative here, why should we go after such expensive, risky solution? The radiation if it spreads outside would last until 50000 years.

We have been saying from 1980s that we would produce energy using Thorium. I was working at Bhabha atomic research center then. Even after 32 years we are held behind. Which means this is not going to happen. That is why we are importing the fuel. So what is the issue here? Some lobbies in this market cannot sell this in America, France, Japan or Germany. So they sell it here. In India and China. Philippines has a history of shutting down a reactor that has worked only for a day. Some people ask why would they strike against a plant that has been completed the work. There was a plant in America that was shut down after the plant was made functional and the fuel was loaded. Not only that, in America and France, the government is still wondering what to do with the waste of the closed down reactors and they are freezing it.

We have the example of Bhopal in case if something happens. We know that our country gave only Rs. 40000 to the deceased families after 20 years of tragedy. The responsible people are still living scot-free in America.

You know what? No insurance company grants insurance to this. Nuclear reactors don’t get insurance. Nobody gives loans to these. If Fukushima could cause radiation on the other side of Pacific, you can imagine how Koodankulam would effect the coastal areas of Kerala. Chennai is 700 KM away from Koodankulam, but Thiruvananthapuram is just 70 KMs away.


(Photo courtesy: Antony Kebiston Fernando

Nel nome di Cristo

Everything is powerful as long as it is in the powerful hands. The powerless are deluded by the powerful to think they have the power when they actually don’t. That is why we remain happy with our version of democracy or the predictions of India becoming a super power in 20xx. That is also why when the clergy teaches us of the greatness and acceptance of our version of religion makes us happy that we are part of something great, while we actually do not have any role in it. The powerful plays it all – politics, religion, race, caste and what not. And the powerless are only meant to nod their heads and fooled to believe that by doing so, they are playing a larger role.  The powerful knows how to work their way though and that is what this news tells us of the fishermen, whose husband/brother were killed in cold blood by the Italian marines, forgiving the accused ‘in the name of Christ’.

There seems to have been a concentrated effort from day 1 to save the Italians of the murder charge. First it was Mar. George Alanchery, the newly crowned Cardinal of Syro Malabar Church, who told the Catholic news agency in Italy that he has instructed the Catholic ministers in Kerala to intervene in the matter. Then came two Italian priests to visit the families of the deceased, which the Church calls ‘a spiritual exercise‘ but believed by everyone else that it was for an out-of-court settlement (why else would two Italian priests come all the way from Italy to pray for the deceased, which doesn’t happen usually unless the deceased are rich and powerful, I wonder). Two Italian ministers followed with their visit to India to find a settlement. Later, the Central government claimed in Supreme Court that the Kerala police doesn’t have jurisdiction to probe the killing, which was slammed by the honorable court.

When all these ‘diplomacy’ through religion and state did not work, the Italians made an offer that the families of deceased could not deny. Even there the religion and faith had to be involved to work the powerful’s way through, so they worked with a couple of influential priests (good work, Fr. Churchill and Fr. Wilfred!) to come to an out-of-court settlement. So the settlement was that the families would state their forgiveness ‘in  the name of Christ’ duly signed in a stamp paper and in return they would get Rs. 1 crore each. One of the families’ counsel Jestin Poulose said they had no faith in the government, so the “next best available option” was to at least secure the compensation. Though it is said that the murder case would continue, it wouldn’t be difficult to guess what will happen to the case now with the families have applied to withdraw the petition.

At the end of it all, it seems that in Catholicism, some Christians – especially the white and Italian Christians – are holier than their Indian counterparts. I don’t see why otherwise would the Catholic clergy in Kerala work so hard to secure the two foreign marines accused of murdering their own community members. All these while Sr. Abhaya is still seeking justice.

(Photo courtesy: India Today)

The ‘traditional’ attire of Keralam

The photo above is from the inaugural function of the International Theatre Festival of Keralam (ITFoK). There was a heated debate in Facebook about the scene highlighted in this photo. The debate was about how settu mundu is being touted as the traditional attire of Keralam when it represents only the upper-caste traditional attire. The discussion was initiated by someone called Abdul Kareem and I got to see it when Sudeep Ben re-shared the photo in his FB page. After following up on the debate in the FB pages of Sudeep, Abdul Kareem and BRP Bhaskar, I posted my thoughts in one of the posts. Here it goes:

1) It is important that we ask questions about what is being celebrated as ‘traditional Kerala attire’. Every community/caste/tribe has had a different attire so it is impossible to define what is traditional and what is not. And just because one of them is being commonly celebrated as ‘traditional’ (which has happened long before the ‘disturbing’ questions about caste arose) does not mean that it must be accepted without a question.

2) Wikipedia says that ‘Mundum Neriyathum’ is “one of the remains of the pre-Hindu Buddhist-Jain culture that once flourished in Kerala and other parts of South India” (Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mundum_Neriyathum). It is also said to be an adaptation of the Graeco-Roam costume called ‘Palmyrene’. So I am not sure how ‘Hindu’ it is. Upper-caste Hindus might have adopted the dress-code because they could afford it while the lower-caste being the working class couldn’t have afforded the attire.

3) The Sangeeta Nataka Academy function is a less harmful example if compared to the inaugural function of the TV programmes like Idea Star Singer which seem like a Hindu religious ceremony.

4) The remaining question is which identity we should use as a common cultural identity. Now it is dominantly upper-caste Hindu and not many have questioned this, so it continues. Whether we need to have a common pre-set cultural identity when it is projecting only one cultural identity is the next question. In this particular case, whether an ‘international’ theatre festival needs to have a local identity stamp on it is a third and more relevant question. I think it will be good to let people wear what they want to wear rather than giving a false notion of a common cultural identity.

Malayalam film songs of 2011 – My picks

2011 may not have been an exciting year for Malayalam box office, but it certainly was a turning point in the history of Malayalam film music industry. The industry had opened up to the rock music genre last year and a new trend of movie inspired OSTs had been introduced. As a result, we had a song from India’s leading  and Kochi’s own rock band Motherjane for the film Anwar in 2010. The trend continued this year with the Malayalam rock band Avial played the end title song, Aanakkallan, for the film Salt N Pepper. It seems to be continuing as the audio of the end title song from the upcoming film Asuravithu, sung by the new rock sensation, X-Factor fame Piyush Kapur, is out on YouTube.

It shows that the new age film directors who target the young audience are ready to go beyond the regular track to try out something new. And the stage is set right. There has been no better time than now for the independent music scene in India and the youth in Kerala are also reaching out to different genres of music.

2011 was also the year of Shreya Ghoshal in Malayalam film music. She has probably sung more songs than Chitra in Malayalam this year. Unlike other singers from the north and south of India, she has given much effort in terms of pronunciation and that is evident from her renditions. But are the music directors trying to use her pan-Indian image for the publicity of their albums is a question. If that is the case, some of the equally talented young singers from Kerala – Gayatri, Manjari and Swetha – are missing out in the competition.

So here comes my list of top 12 Malayalam songs of 2011. You can view/hear the songs on YouTube, if you click on the song names.


Song: Naattu vazhiyorathe
Movie: Gaddhama
Singer: K S Chitra
Music: Bennet-Veetrag
Lyrics: Rafeeque Ahammed

Song: Chimmi Chimmi
Movie: Urumi
Singer: Manjari
Music: Deepak Dev
Lyrics: Kaithapram

Song: Chembarathi Kammalittu
Movie: Manikyakallu
Singer: Shreya Ghoshal, Ravishankar
Music: M Jayachandran
Lyrics: Anil Panchooran

Song: Ithile Varoo
Movie: The Train
Singer: Sujatha
Music: Srinivas
Lyrics: Rafeeque Ahammed

Song: Kannoram Chingaaram
Movie: Rathinirvedham
Singer: Shreya Ghoshal
Music: M Jayachandran
Lyrics: Murugan Kattakkada

Song: Himakanam
Movie: Violin
Singer: Gayatri, Ganesh Sundaram
Music: Bijibal
Lyrics: Rafeeque Ahammed

Song: Chembaavul
Movie: Salt N Pepper
Singer: Pushpavathy
Music: Bijibal
Lyrics: Rafeeque Ahammed

Song: Premikkumpol
Movie: Salt N Pepper
Singer: P Jayachandran, Neha Nair
Music: Bijibal
Lyrics: Rafeeque Ahammed

Song: Pranaya Nilaa
Movie: Teja Bhai and Family
Singer: Shaan Rahman
Music: Deepak Dev
Lyrics: Kaithapram

Song: Manjil Melle
Movie: Makaramanju
Singer: Yesudas
Music: Ramesh Narayanan
Lyrics: Chandran Nair

Song: Amruthamaay
Movie: Snehaveedu
Singer: Hariharan
Music: Ilaiyaraja
Lyrics: Rafeeque Ahammed

Song: Mazhaneer Thullikal
Movie: Beautiful
Singer: Unni Menon
Music: Ratheesh Vega
Lyrics: Anoop Menon


Honorable mentions:

To Reshmi Satheesh for the songs Appa Nammade and Chalanam Chalanam from the movie Urumi. The highlight of both these songs is Reshmi’s powerful voice.

To Rex Vijayan for the background score of Chaappa Kurish. Rex has given a totally different approach compared to the traditional way our musicians have been scoring music for films.


Related posts:

Malayalam songs of 2009 – My picks
Malayalam songs of 2008 – My picks


Responsible journalism – New Indian Express style

500 TN women workers rescued from Kerala border, said the news headlines of The New Indian Express daily on December 7th, 2011. Then it went on to say,

In one of the worst incidents of mob frenzy over the ongoing Mullaiperiyar dam safety row, nearly 500 women estate workers from Tamil Nadu were held hostage and some of them allegedly sexually harassed in Idukki district in Kerala on Monday. [link]

This is from the Tamil Nadu edition of the newspaper and reported by someone named Gokul Vannan. As expected, several attacks were followed and directed towards Malayalees in Chennai and Coimbatore. Many Malayalee shops were targeted including Joy Alukkas and K R Bakers in Chennai. Malayalee shop owners in Chennai and Coimbatore are feared for their lives. All because of the news that churned out from a rumor.

The ‘reporter’ obviously must be aware of the tension that exists between Kerala and Tamil Nadu in the name of Mullaperiyar dam. Water is a big issue for the neighbor and compared to an average Malayalee, an average Thamizhan has fairly good respect to women (this of course is valid as long as the women stick to the traditional norms – remember how actress Khushboo had a temple built in her name and then it was brought down to earth when she commented on pre-marital sex?). So any common man can assume the gravity of the issue when the news of Thamizh women being assaulted by Malayalees in the name of Mullaperiyar dam comes to the front. Then why can’t a ‘news reporter’ consider that aspect and treat the news right?

The funny bloody thing is that there was no such incident. There was no such report in the Thamizh and Malayalam regional TV channels. An activist online friend checked with several Malayalam and Thamizh news papers – including The Times of India, The Hindu, Dinamani, Dinakaran, Dinathanthi, Malayala Manorama and Mathrubhoomi – but couldn’t find any source that said so.

From his Google Plus page:

When I contacted Idukki Collector on this issue through a reliable source, I came to know that it was a full-length fabricated story. (Idukki Collector: E Devadasan, ph: 09447032252).

Later, I contacted a friend of mine who is the welfare officer of a tea plantation in Idukki. From his words, I could understand that about 95 percent of the people working in the plantations there were from Tamil Nadu who are still continuing their work.

When I asked about the report to my counterparts in Kerala, I understood that even the Kerala editions of The New Indian Express have not carried the mentioned report.

This is one person who took the effort to confirm the news using his contacts. But our national media houses, CNN-IBN and NDTV, did not take the pain to do a fact check and republished the story with crediting the source to Express News Service.

This is the sad state of affairs with our media. And not an apology, not a word, yet, from either The New Indian Express or from IBN Live and NDTV.

To control or not to control, that is the question!

Every single Malayali is now concerned about Mullaperiyar dam all in a sudden, though the dam has been in (alleged) danger for many years. The proposition from the Keralam side is to lower the water level, decommission the existing dam and build a new one. Why? Because Keralam fears that the dam cannot take a major earthquake and it could cost the lives of people in four districts of Kerala. But the process of building a new dam will take a few years and it remains unclear what guarantee the government will provide that an earthquake during this time will not happen or will not effect the people living in the surrounding towns. Which leads to the question, is the dam really in danger? If so, are the measures being proposed now enough to take care of the threat? Or are there any other motives behind the Keralam proposition? Keralam has also made a ‘generous’ offer to build a new dam at it’s own cost and still provide water to Tamil Nadu (which will transfer the control of the ownership, operation and maintenance of the new dam and it’s surrounding areas from Tamil Nadu to Keralam).

On the other hand, Tamil Nadu claims that the dam is in good shape and it can live longer. World over people are talking about decommissioning dams older than 40-50 years but Tamil Nadu politicians believe that it is not yet time for this 116 year old dam, built with limestone and surki, to rest in pieces. Commonsense would tell us that if not now, a new dam will have to be built sooner or later because this already 116 yrs old dam cannot survive the 999 years of the lease period. Tamil Nadu says that the safety of dam is an important matter to them also, because a burst of dam would affect the irrigation, agriculture and the lives of Tamilians. They also fear that if the new dam and it’s ownership is transferred to Keralam, they may not provide water to them.

But what does the common man learn from the whole issue? Ultimately, the issue of Mullaperiyar is not really about water or the dam’s safety but the ownership of the land. Currently, the ownership of the dam and it’s surroundings belong to the public works department of Tamil Nadu government though the area is in Kerala. Keralam had a good chance to claim it’s ownership of the dam and it’s surroundings when the lease agreement was renewed in 1970. We also had a chance to demand timely revisions of tax/lease rates per acre that Tamil Nadu has to pay. But the short-sightedness, or short-term interests of the government and officials in Keralam back then resulted in the current situation. It is only ourselves (or our politicians) to blame than the neighbor.

So what resolutions can be made now? A political resolution is most unlikely to turn out to be in favor of Keralam because Tamil Nadu has better political negotiation power in the center. Even though Keralam has a couple of Congress ministers in the center, it will be stupid to expect the UPA government to intervene against the interests of both Karunanidhi and Jayalalitha as regional political parties play a big role in the coalition politics in India. If safety is the concern, Keralam should wait for the report of five-member committee appointed by Supreme Court and act accordingly. Meanwhile, we should take measures to handle an emergency situation in the area. If the water supply is the concern to Tamil Nadu, they should ensure the supply through a legal pact with Keralam while making sure of the safety of people and timely decommissioning of the dam. Or if ownership is the real issue behind all this, both states should make it clear and file their claims in the court.

Right now, it doesn’t seem both sides are being honest in their stance.

(Photo courtesy: The Hindu)