Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Tales

I just got back from a trip home for Easter (yeah, that’s my excuse this time for not posting).

Home, in my case, happens to be in Thiruvananthapuram. However, in an extended sense of the word, a trip home also means visits to all relatives spread across the lower half of Kerala. All through my trip, I was on the lookout for blogworthy material. Nothing in particular caught my attention. There were strikes and protest marches, bad movies and bad roads, rains ruining crops and cops ruining rain dances. But none of these things were either important or out of the ordinary to warrant a full-scale rant. So I decided to compile a list of things that caught my attention during this last one week.

  1. Roads in Thiruvananthapuram are empty during school vacation time. To restate an old maxim, Thiruvananthapuram is basically a city of government officials and their school-going kids. Government cars are run to ferry school children from tuition classes to school to tuition classes. School buses take up most of the space on the roads during the morning and evening peak hours. Accordingly, the peak hour of Thiruvananthapuram traffic coincides with the time at which people drop their kids at school before going to office or pick them up after work.
  2. If you have been to Thiruvananthapuram once, you will never have to fear losing your way again. Nothing ever changes in this city. Acquisition of land is still going on for roads which were approved 40 years back. The fortunate projects that do start work are delayed by an inevitable deluge of court stay orders. Flyovers which were supposed to have been built 3 years back have only moss-infested columns to show for it. Meanwhile, the population of the city somehow manage with roads that the visionary rulers of erstwhile Travancore built before Independence.
  3. Every person in Kerala is an amateur meteorologist. Neighbours in my original hometown (Eranakulam) were seen earnestly discussing with my father about the reasons for the unseasonal rainfall in Kerala this month (nyoonamardam – depression) and how it’s all because of global warming and George Bush. My father, who takes special interest in earthly matters (he’s an earth scientist) was at pains to explain how this one is a low pressure trough and not a cyclonic depression or some such thing. Phew.
  4. Finely made fish curry is one of the greatest pleasures in life. Non-vegetarians who claim to like KFC and don’t eat fish are the least sophisticated kind – like the consumers of country liquor and Twenty20 cricket addicts. Then there are the non-vegetarians who like fish, but only the fried variety. They are slightly higher up on the sophistication ladder – on the same rung as the IMFL drinkers and One-day cricket lovers. The people who can claim the highest levels of sophistication are the fish curry lovers. They are on the same level as connoisseurs of Scotch whiskey and Test cricket. Only when I discovered the finer tastes of fish curry made with kudam puli did I begin to understand the true meaning of existence.
  5. It’s not a pleasant experience driving on the highways in Kerala (most of the roads are practically 3 to 4 layers of patch work). If the normal experience is unpleasant, try driving at night in the rain on MC road. Roads in Kerala will never improve, whatever happens.
  6. Drivers in Kerala do not know how to use indicators while turning. Even if they do, they don’t bother to use it – that’s taking energy conservation a bit too far, me thinks.
  7. If you want to protest outside the Secretariat (on MG Road), you have to book the footpath first with the police to ensure that your protests don’t clash with others’ (I don’t mean fights when I say ‘clash’ although that has been known to happen too often than one would like). OK, I’m kidding. But, when you see the coordination with which the different groups of protesters manage to optimally utilize the limited space on the footpath outside the Secretariat, you begin to wonder how they manage to do it. One day you will see an anishchitha kaala samaram (indefinite strike) by one group and the next day you will see the same posters but different protesters. That kind of makes you wonder what happened to the indefinite strike by the first group, doesn’t it? But what puzzles me most about this whole business is that although the Legislative Assembly has shifted office 2 km down the road, the protesters are still stuck at the old place. That somehow makes me feel sorry for the ministers - how can you expect the poor things to listen to the protesters when they are 2 km away?
  8. There are now 5 FM stations in Thiruvananthapuram (up from 1 two months back). Surprisingly, there is a lot of original content in the programmes. Even the big names like Mirchi and Big have customized their content for Mallu listeners. At least for now, the ads are few and far between and there are more songs that yak-yak. That’s bound to change as the listeners grow in number, but I’m hoping it won’t change drastically.
  9. There is not a single vegetable that I don’t like. Cheera, chena, pavakka, kumbalanga, whatever. Vegetables are yum.
  10. In terms of per capita availability of movie theatres and density of cinemas per square kilometre, Thiruvananthapuram has to be somewhere in the top 5 cities in the world. In the 1 sq km area around Thampanoor-East Fort, there are at least 15 theatres which I am aware of. There were multiplexes in Thiruvananthapuram before many cities in India even knew what they were. No wonder that Thiruvananthapuram has been a favourite destination for film festivals for decades. One interesting aspect of this statistic is that all these theatres have been in existence for more than 10 years.
  11. Mallu men dance only when they are drunk – except if you are Sreesanth (on second thoughts, who knows what he keeps sipping from the bottle which he keeps on the boundary line) or a participant in one of those reality TV shows. Dancing is not considered a manly activity and so men have to resort to drunkenness as an excuse to indulge in some dancing, with disastrous results.

PS: If there is any campaign underway to change the name of Thiruvananthapuram from Thiruvananthapuram to something shorter than Thiruvananthapuram, count me in.

PPS:The comparison of non-vegetarians with liquor drinkers and cricket is borrowed with some modifications from a conversation that Rahul Dravid reportedly had with Vijay Mallya when the latter asked the former to explain Twenty20 cricket to him in words that he understood. I cannot confirm the authenticity of the statements, though.


silverine said...

Wow! Quite a lot of info about Tvm! Even Bangalore sort of eases up during school vacations. Here it is the school vans that congest traffic. And fish Curry without Kudampuli is incomplete!

Saw Mathews post on Tvm and now yours. I guess the tragedy of most Indian cities today is that the new entrants don't identify with it and the old dwellers are outnumbered. Good one! Lots of stuff about Tvm here that I didn't know!

mathew said...

bingo with part of the elite brotherhood there..and what about stopping...;-P

well tvm is a 'cinema paradiso' in every sense..but it seems to be out of touch with changing reservation is available only in one or two as far as I know..and the multiplex of athira..athulya..aswathy needs serious makeover...infrastructure wise..and content wise..!

nice to read more posts coming in abt tvm..nice one..

sid said...

Yet another very interesting read from you philip .

philip said...

silverine: Thanks :)

mathew: I agree. Not a single theatre of note added in the last decade is poor. Most of them have not been renovated too.

sid: Thank you.

scorpiogenius said...

Whew, quite a lot of interesting memoirs on Trivandrum!

Stumbled upon your blog through Mathew & Silverine and yours did make good reading...

And dont be fretting too much about good old Tvm not changing..Marthanda Varma wouldn't have lost his way even if he came last Christmas, but believe me, the waves if change have hit our little neat town big time!

Glad or sad?

For many Trivandrumites the changes aren't very welcome..

Karthik said...

Drivers in Kerala do not know how to use indicators while turning. Even if they do, they don’t bother to use it – that’s taking energy conservation a bit too far, me thinks.

Lol..Good old Trivandrum