From sculptures to idols

There is a hill called ‘Kalasa Mala‘ at Akathiyoor, a beautiful village near Kunnamkulam in Thrissur. Malayalees would know this place from the popular Malayalam movies such as “Thoovaanatthumpikal” and “Bhoothakkannaadi”. Kalasamala is a popular shooting location for movie industries outside the state also and I have heard an interesting story about the place when I was there.

Once a Telugu film production team came here for shooting and their art director created a temple set. The crew had left when the filming was over but the temple set they made for the film had stayed. A few days later appeared a kal viLakku (multi-layered lanterns made of stone) in front of this temple set and people started flocking to the temple and rituals were begun. Some youth in the village brought this to the attention of the Panchayath and it is said that the higher authorities had to interfere to remove the movie set.

Now on to the topic of this post. Something happened recently that reminded me of the movie set incident at Kalasamala. Almost an year back, I saw some sculptures made of plaster of paris lying on the road side at Jagathy, in Trivandrum. I walk through the place every morning and these sculptures seemed to have been discarded by somebody, probably a north Indian vendor who sells such plaster of paris sculptures from house to house (it is a common sight in Kerala). These sculptures were of Ganesha and Ayyappa. After a few days, I noticed that the sculptures have been put straight; now on a sitting posture. Few more days passed by and there was a garland of flowers on both the sculptures. Then one day I spotted a set of incense sticks with a fresh set of garlands. Clearly, somebody has been doing a pooja with the sculptures. This continued for many months and in the last week I noticed that somebody had erected a sheet roof on top of the sculptures. Now it has the shape of a small temple.

I see a scope for Kalasamala issue to repeat here and if it is not nipped in the bud, it is going to be a very sensitive issue in the future. This is right next to the road and is blocking the footpath already (as you can see in the pictures below). If there is going to be a complete temple erected in the name of these two sculptures, which was junk in the first place, it will create traffic blockade and misuse of the public property.

The useless ‘royal, divine wealth’

“I went to the Vatican and I saw that the ceilings were made of gold. And I heard the Pope saying the church takes care of poor children, but if so, sell the ceiling, JP. Do something! I was angry with him. For the same reason I got angry with so many people. Because they are two-faced. Because they say one thing here and then another thing there. Because they stab you in the back. Because they lie.”

That was the comment from the football legend Diego Maradona about his visit to Vatican palace and I remembered this when I read about the ‘honesty’ of the Travancore royal family that the mainstream media is celebrating right now. It was all started when the stock-taking of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Trivandrum began by the supreme court order. Everyone is surprised at the amount and value of the wealth that was found inside the secret hideaways inside the temple which comes close to Rs. 1 lakh crore and one more secret vault is yet to be opened. This makes the Padmanabhaswamy Temple the richest temple in India.

Since the matter has become a topic of interest to general public, there are many discussions going on about the royal and ‘divine’ wealth. The wealth that was found in the temple is of the old Travancore royal family. In other words, it is the wealth of the old Travancore princely state and it’s people. In short, it is the people’s money, through taxes and everything, that the old Travancore king had added to the temple and the deity through the process of “thRippaTi daanam“. And through that process, the kingdom of Travancore and it’s wealth was ‘surrendered’ to the deity and the temple. Still, it’s only symbolic and the king continued to be in his position; just that his designation was changed to ‘padmanaabha daasa‘ (meaning, the servant of Lord Padmanabhan), looking after the God’s wealth and kingdom for him.

The thing is, no one would dare question a king like Marthanda Varma who was a conqueror and as was the practice with any king, he would do as he please. The royal family had kept their secrets and this wealth in the name of Sri Padmanabhan, even during the merger of Travancore with Indian Union. Which means, they have denied the right of people to know about their ancestral wealth (which includes the hard-earned and no-so-hard-earned money of their ancestors) even in the march towards a newly built democracy.

As a result, the lakh crores worth of wealth of the people were hidden and useless. Not only that it is useless, now, from what I assume from the news, every tax paying citizen will have to bear the cost of safe-guarding this useless wealth. As per the news reports, one of the royal family members seems to have asked proudly:

“How many royal families in the country can be proud of keeping things like this? You should understand that two chambers out of the six have not been opened for more than 150 years and it there that the treasure trove has been kept safely”.

I would like to tell him that if the royal family was honest as the media and they themselves celebrate to be, they would have spent that wealth for the welfare of people. This is not the hard-earned money of their labor. They once did the mistake of ‘surrendering’ it to a God, then with not surrendering it to Indian Union and now by justifying all those actions. And our slavery mentality celebrates this as an act of honesty.

Now who would tell them what Maradona told the pope?

Trivandrum Poll Prediction by an Auto Driver

Today I asked an auto rickshaw driver in Trivandrum about his thoughts on the results of upcoming elections in Trivandrum constituency. It is really amazing to see the common man’s political awareness. This man (who must be in his mid 40s) predicted that Neelalohita Das will win from Trivandrum. He said everyone he talked to also said the same thing. He gave me the following reasons.

Neelan belongs to the Nadar community which is very strong in the rural areas of Trivandrum. Nadars were not given seats by both LDF and UDF. So regardless of their political affinity, this time they will make sure that a Nadar wins and that is going to benefit Neelan.

[ My thought: Seems right. This time Neelalohita Das is contesting from a BSP ticket, so some Dalit votes would also go in favor of him. ]

Trivandrum seat belongs to CPI. CPM has in-house issues with CPI in LDF. This internal split will show up in the voting. So there is a possibility that CPM voters might also vote for Neelan.

[ My thought: It is possible. CPM will not vote for Congress or BJP anyway, but they would need CPI to fail because of the internal conflicts. So the only possible candidate that they can vote for is Neelan as he is now in a different party. Not only that, this will also secure their interests in the national politics as it will ultimately benefit the Third Front where BSP and CPM are allies. ]

BJP will have their votes anyway. Their vote bank won’t split. But they will only come to a fourth position (after BSP, Congress and CPI).

[ My thought: Seems true ]

Shashi Tharoor will come to a close second. He has a great impression on educated people. So the youngsters and the educated urban class would vote for him.

[ My thought: I agree ]

Then I asked him if it matters to him that Mr. Tharoor does not have the local political experience and came all in a sudden from abroad. He answered:

It doesn’t matter whether he is from here or he is aware of the local politics. What have those local politicians done to solve any of the local issues? Nothing much. He is also educated and have international experience which would benefit us if he gets in to the ministry in the center.

[ My thought: I agree with this too ]

The kind of analytics that this person has presented really surprised me. Not only that, he actually spent time to talk to me during this busy evening, which shows how interested he is in the politics. And he did not take any sides too.

Horticop Vegetable Kits

One of the good things (among the many bad things) that LDF Government has initiated in Kerala is the Horticop’s (The Kerala State Horticulture Corporation) vegetable kit supply. Horticop supply vegetable kits at major market places in and around Thiruvananthapuram city for Rs. 18. The initiative was taken place when the vegetable prices shot up and to make sure that the people get vegetables at a good price. The above picture shows the Horticop’s vehicle supplying the vegetable kits at Vazhuthacaud, Trivandrum (picture taken from my office). This supply vehicle comes almost everyday in the evenings and there is a huge crowd gathering to buy the kits and all the kits are sold out in a few minutes. There is also meat supply in another vehicle, which again makes sure that you get good farm meat prodicts at a good price.

The Horticop has also set up small shops in different parts of the city and these stores are also being extended to other districts. This initiative also helps some people get employment and the others to buy vegetables at a good price.