STORY-RUSSIANS

RUSSIANS

Railway friendship is purely casual and short lived. When I saw some European ladies , I fust enquired where they are going.

When they found someone who spoke English, they smiled enthusiastically.

“We are from Russia ; we have heard of India . Occasionally we come here and go back with curiosities like the wooden elephant . Now we are bound for Kochi , “ said the tall lady who seemed to be their leader. They were four young girls ; only one could speak fluent English. We were in Kerala express. They were happy because there is someone who knew the place. We were in Andhra region. After we wished good night , we all went to sleep. Next day I told them:”I am to get down at Trichur ; if you like to see my home , come with me. I stay in the country side .” They all chorused yes and we got down at the station . The break journey was got recorded by the station staff and we came out and hired a taxi.

I sat in the front seat and directed the driver to my house. The ladies began speaking loudly, as we were passing the land around Kanimangalam . It was all in Russian but it was their admiration , I guessed. When we reached home , my wife came out . Seeing the women She murmured some curse , but smilingly acknowledged their namasthe with folded hands . I showed them the guest room , where they could keep their luggage and refresh themselves. I then went to the kitchen to help my wife in preparing break fast.

“I have heard of such women whom we cannot trust. They may be prostitutes or pick pockets . Who knows? We must inform the police.”

“Oh! Dear, do not panic. I can see from their face that these are not such type.”

By this time they came to the kitchen and we served them dosa stuffed with a mixture of onions and potatoes cooked together.

“Oh Rama , we have never tasted such break fast . Thank you very much.”

My wife who can understand some English , was pleased.

Then I took them to see my estate . I showed them the big pond.

“If you know swimming you can take bath here . Of course , the water is not deep. No outsider comes here. You may go about naked.”

They all laughed and I withdrew.

After wards I led them to see the upstairs room , which is a big hall .Our house is very old with tiled roof. They saw it with curiosity. When they saw the adjoining room , where huge earthen jars and bronze vessels for cooking food , their wonder knew no bounds. “Why do you need all these?”

“When there is a feast, we have to prepare food for all guests. We bake a huge tripod with bricks and put wood pieces in it and fire it. The huge cauldron is placed over it and filled with water and rice.”

“You eat rice always?” “People here do not like nothing else. I was in the army and like chapathis made of wheat.”

“We would like to participate in a feast.”

“My son’s marriage is due in January next; we shall invite you.”

“Sure , we will come.”

Then we went to Cherpu and bought a wooden elephant, three feet tall , costing forty thousand . She was very pleased. I forget her name , Tanya it is . I noted down the address.

I accompanied them to Kochi and after seeing the Marine drive there , they became excited. “You know we live inland . The sea is seen only in TV.” We enjoyed boating .

Our journey onwards to the south was by bus via Alleppy where we stayed in a house boat. Then Kanyakumari where three oceans meet. Tanya kept a diary , noting all things and finally returned to my house. When the time came for their departure , Tanya became pensive:”I like to buy land here.”

“If you are serious , I shall make enquiries. The plot on our left is for sale.” She promised to inform , after consulting her husband. She paid all expenses and gave me fifty thousand as ‘guide’s fee.

I tried to refuse but she insisted:”Without you , they would have cheated us.” Indu also came to the airport to see them off…

True to her word , Tina came to attend my son’s marriage. He had worked in Russia for some time and knew their language enough to understand it. He could speak a few words.

Tani came with her husband , because he was interested in buying the land . She went about all over the place , accompanied by my son. Seeing them speaking in Russian , the guests were surprised. She wanted to taste the sweet pudding , while in the kitchen outside. The cook obliged her.

Then she came to us , where her husband was talking to me in English . We discussed the land deal. When I mentioned the price as fifty lakhs , he thought it cheap. He wanted more land , as many of his friends were eager to settle in Keralam. Tani had written her tour notes and circulated it among friends.

In short , I was instrumental in securing land deals in crores and I got a handsome amount as commission.

When Tani left this time , we had become thick friends. She whispered in my ears , when none was near us:”You are too cute Raman; I want to do it here and now…”

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MUSCLEMEN TO COLLECT DEBT DUES =’text/javascript’ src=

Suicides are too common in Keralam to deserve any mention. However today’s item in the newspaper should be studied by sociologists, to examine remedial measures.
A young man and his wife took poison and ended their lives, but failed to kill the baby which survived. They were without work and used to borrow from different sources. Musclemen employed to collect dues, were threatening them. In the end this happened.
The poorer strata of society are always in need of money. Banks will not oblige them. People from Tamilnadu are on the look out, to spot such needy guys. They come to your door and give you ready cash. It is tempting to borrow from them; you get money on the spot!
My suggestion is that women’s group of volunteers must come forward to handle such matters. Recovery must start from the next day, daily in the case of wage earners, without waiting for the amount to accumulate.
Each village must have one such group.

A LOSS I CAN NEVR FORGET

I am fond of books and scenery. Being a pensioner, I cannot afford to buy books which are becoming costlier by the day. To enjoy new scenery I have to travel which is also not easy, as I have no car.

At Mt. Abu, I bought a Rajasthani painting showing the village scene. I liked it and bought it for Rs.100, though my wife objected.

I did not think of the difficulty of carrying it. For the time being my friend kept it in his house at Pali Marwarr. We came back to Delhi.

He got it covered with glass and framed.

Well packed, he brought it all the way to our house in Keralam. I kept it in a safe corner, to be carried to Ernakulam, to be given to my friend, VBS, as a gift. In all my life, I never gave gifts to any one.

In our absence, it was thrown up, on to the concrete shelf. When I took it after wards, it made a noise, as if something has been broken inside. Apprehensively, I opened it and was in tears, not really, to see the glass broken into small pieces!

Very patiently and delicately, as a surgeon would remove from the heart of a patient, I TOOK OUT ALL THE BROKEN GLASS PIECES. It took some time, but I managed it.

The painting got crumpled at some corners, still it was presentable. So I carried it in a bus up to Kodungallur. I HAD KEPT THE ROLLED PAINTING PACKAGE IN THE RACK OF THE BUS. When I saw most of the passengers getting down, before the bus reached the bus stand, I enquired and was told to get down there if were going to Ernakulam. My wife was in the front seat and myself in the last row. I hurried to tell her and somehow managed to get down there. The bus conductor ws annoyed as all had got off by this time.

A bus for Ernakulam was waiting there ready to start. We were happy to get seats.

When we were happily settled…..I remembered the painting I had kept in the rack!

Whoever got it, may accept it as a gift from an unknown friend!

INDEBTEDNESS

I used to borrow, even after I started getting monthly salary. That was because we did not know budgeting. The fact is that income is always less than the needs.

The reasons may vary. We always need money for Higher education, construction of house, purchase of a car or daughter’s marriage etc.

Banks do meet the needs to some extent. People belonging to further low income groups depend upon money lenders who charge 10 % interest per month, that is Rs. ten every month, for Rs. 100 borrowed.

Every village should have a fund for giving money at very nominal interest. All those who can afford, should advance money for this fund. Charitable institutions too can participate in this scheme.

This way, I think we can save the poor from the clutches of money lenders.

Simultaneously, people should be taught to save money by depositing in Post office etc.

Husbands who spend money in toddy shops, should be paraded naked in the streets. Women should take the lead in this. Prohibition is not the answer.

HOLIDAY IN A REMOTE VILLAGE

Kaithapram is a well known Malayalam film music director and lyricist. His village is known as Kaithapram.

More than five hundred years ago, a group of twelve namboodiri families came down to an uninhabited area, almost encircled by a river and settled in the uninhabited,fertile valley. Then three more groups followed.

Now this village has more than two hundred families, all of the same caste and is known as Kaithapram.

Long ago, when my niece was married to a family there, we felt sorry for her. The village was too remote for us to approach, equidistant from Kannur and Payyannur stations on the Mangalore-Shoranur railway route. After leaving the station, we must travel by bus up to Plathara and then walk for an hour or so. Not a single terrace house and the only toilet, thankfully belonging to a lady who recently came there from south Malabar, was my relief. In those days, people just defecated any where outside the house!

Now I was taken aback by the changes, during the last two decades, which were a pleasant surprise. Almost all houses had concrete roof. Most of them have a car. We were picked up from Plathara by one of the twins of my niece (one is studying for engineering and one for medicine, with government scholarship) in their jeep. They had internet connection at home. Most namboodiries are computer shy. Many do not know what a blog is.

That evening they took us to the Parssinikadavu temple. It is an impressive big temple, right at the bank of the river by the same name. It is full of clean water. There are some boats, but something could be done to remove plastic bags and bottles.

The deity is Muthappan or grand- uncle. The head of an old man is worshiped here. The devotees are offered tea and dhal free of cost. Free meals are also given all the time.

Next morning I went for my walk with just a bath towel, after my bed tea. Within a few minutes, I reached the river. As the water was dirty, I reversed the direction and reached the Srikrishna temple, with good clean water in the pond in front. As there was no one around, I removed the only cloth I was wearing and plunged into the water It was my first dip in a pond, on coming to Keralam, this time.

After praying in the temple I roamed about for some time, but returned early, as I had not taken my break fast. I saw two old men reading newspaper, at Kaithapram Grameena Vayanashala (library). I too had a look at the head lines. I am a newspaper addict.

We were confined to the house, because of a hartal (bandh). In the evening, we climbed the highest hill in the locality. The top of the hill was a plateau, quite wide. I could not believe the spectacle of palatial buildings, constructed in feudal, artistic style. I was told that it was meant to be a music and dance academy , but the man found it impracticable and sold it to an engineering college.

There is a wide road along the periphery of the hill, from which we could see the surroundings.

The whole village is encircled by mountains and the river, which originates beyond Kerala border, in the Western Ghats. This explains the fertility of the soil and the abundance of water.

There is a well at the top, near a Shiva and Devi temple under construction. Water is available just ten feet below the ground. A large pond near by, also has plenty of water. This can only be explained by my theory of subterranean water channels, connecting the entire rocky crust of the earth ( Saraswaty- myth or reality? ).

At the foot of the hill, water level in the wells is fifty feet deep.

There is a rain gauge, well protected by fencing. I wonder if any one takes readings, climbing all the way up the hill.

OTTAPALAM, THE ORIGIN OF THE NAME

I used to wonder how this name came about.

In Malayalam, it means single bridge. Otta is single and Palam is bridge. The only bridge here is yet to be completed! People have been agitating for it during the last seventeen years.

A casual talk with a friend, over the telephone, cleared my mind. He is at Edapal, near Kuttipuram and and is well versed in local history.

He explained that Samoothiri, the ruler of Malabar, attacked Cochin State, a buffer between the former and the powerful Travancore and stationed his troops at several points like Edapal, Rapal, Thottipal etc. near our village. Palayam or cantonment, became pal in course of time. There is Metturpalayam near Coimbatore.

Now, our Ottapalam is actually Ottapalayam, where Tippu Sultan stationed some of his troops, during the period he occupied Palakad, where he built a strong fort, the outer walls of which are intact even now, and continues to be a local attraction.

Former President , late K.R. Narayanan hails from Ottapalam.

PYTHRUKAM – A CULTURAL FESTIVAL AT CHERPU

There was a ten day festival at CNN High School Cherpu to honour artists and other gifted people.

The star attraction was Usha, a very beautiful lady belonging to our village Vallachira. She is practicing nangyarkuthu, a  form of dance with background music, both vocal and on a special drum called mizhavu. She has performed in several European countries, being a well recognized artiste, and is imparting training to several young people in her “Mizhavukalari” at her home.

I was eager to know what it is and reached the venue in time, but had to hear speeches of people, in which I was least interested. One point mentioned was that not a single painting exhibited in the hall was sold. For one thing, the public did not know about it. It seems that sculptures too were exhibited.

A few years ago, a similar function was organized to honour local artists. It was in a specially made tent which looked like a temple, in the ground in front of the Shiva temple at Peruvanam, near the present venue. It was so attractive and looked like a real temple that all people in the locality started visiting it even before the formal function.

People in a village like ours, may not buy a painting. At least, they would have enjoyed seeing it.

I waited patiently for an hour, but there was no sign of the dance.

Some artists picked at random, not necessarily local people, were given a colourful silk cloth and told to say something. One “grass root scientist”, who did not have any formal schooling, but was the author of many ingenious inventions of mechanical devices, spoke about the failure of the government to make use of these. He was allowed to attend the Kerala Science Congress, several times, but now debarred from doing so.

As there is no bus to our village after 7 PM and even auto stands are deserted, I decided to return home, disappointed.