Saturday, June 30, 2007

Every dog has his day

The well-dressed, affluent looking guests watched with rapt attention as the bridal march started. The bride’s gown was stunning – a specially designed full skirt of white satin, with a matching waistband. Classy. A veil and tiara complemented the costume. The bridesmaid wore a stylish pink creation with lacework.

The bridegroom was dressed elegantly in a tuxedo, white vest front and satin bow tie. The grapevine was that he had considered sleeveless attire, but finally decided that it would be far out.

Sounds like a report on a society wedding? Well, it could be, with the presence of socialites, partying and all the rest of it. But one difference in this case was that both the bride and bridegroom were dogs. Really. It was a canine wedding! Well, such things do happen!

Here the focus is on dog clothes. It is big business. Top designers. Specialist tailors. Select material. A fortune can be spent on pampering the pets and for some one-upmanship. You know, talk of the town and that sort of thing. There are costly books on designing dresses for dogs, patterns that one can buy for a price, and highly paid seamstresses who will create exquisite pieces.

Not all dog clothes need be that expensive. Readymade ones are much cheaper than designer items. These are marketed mainly by big companies who usually prefer outsourcing the stitching. Choose what you want – party dresses, warm clothes, casual wear, summer specials – it’s all there. If you don’t like to visit a crowded shop, order on line. But the measurements should be given precisely and according to the instructions provided, in the stipulated format. The breed of the dog is also to be mentioned because it will contribute to a perfect fit. The suppliers keep physical details of popular breeds.

In some small towns there are tailors who do make dog clothes. That could be more economic. Or do it yourself. If you are not good at designing, go to the Internet where many patterns are available. Most of them have a price tag, but there are free ones as well. If you have expertise in creating designs for dog clothes, start a website and sell patterns. Price them high. Many people who go in for dog clothes are unlikely to be interested in cheap stuff.

The bottom line is: fancy attire or not, keep your pets warm in winter.


Friday, June 29, 2007

Education sector requirements - big business opportunity

This morning I came across a copy of Education World – Special Directory, January, 2007. The publishers call it “path-breaking first-of-its-type special directory.” The stated objective is to make “a platform available for the country’s top institutional needs suppliers to inform prospective schools about their excellent products and services.”

This sector could very well be what the editorial calls the last frontier of the Indian economy. Look at the enormous volume – 900,000 primary and 133,000 secondary schools, 17,700 colleges, 344 universities, 950 management schools, over a hundred ‘international’ schools, 120 million students, 5 million teachers! And the outlay? Over 110,000 crores, (say nearly US$ 27.5 billions?) This amount might double in the next three years. (All figures except the US$ conversion are from Education World.)

What are the needs of the educational sector? Anything from pencils to school buses. Education World lists them: desks, chairs, blackboards, audio-visual learning systems, personal computers, air conditioning, laundry, kitchen and water cooling [and purification] systems; classroom equipment such as text and notebooks, black and white boards, pens, pencils etc and consumables such as convenience foods, toiletries and snack-foods, beverages and fruits and vegetables. Items like uniforms, school bags umbrellas are not mentioned, but they too are part of the requirement.

It would appear that a major portion of this market is being catered to by local or regional small enterprises. According to Education World, “Invariably the quality of supplies is uneven and variable.”

What I feel is that the field is so vast that it can accommodate all kinds and sizes of players – from household enterprises to big companies. With India’s focus on literacy and the huge volume, this is a segment that is bound to grow rapidly. The present trend is for parents to provide better education to their children than what they had. And the schools, particularly in the private sector, are constantly improving in quality.


Also see:

Back to The School

Autobiography of a School

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Kerala heritage home: grill-work

Details of grill-work at Thekkanattu Parayil, Olavipe, are shown in the following pictures:

Photo: Karthiki

Western veranda
Photo: Karthiki

Front veranda - wood work
Photo: Karthiki

An entrance to nalukettu
©Thekkanattu Parayil

On a compound wall
©Thekkanattu Parayil

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

‘Master’ Surgeon on the run, his parents arrested

Dhileepan Raj, 15, The 'Master' Surgeon who did a Caesarean section on his cousin at the hospital owned by his parents, is a smart one. The moment he saw police at his doorsteps on Monday (June 25) morning, he scooted. So far, there is no trace of him. The police have formed a special cell to track him down.

In the meantime, Dhileepan’s parents, Dr. Murugesan and Dr. Gandhimathi who were present when the boy performed the operation, have been arrested. The police have thrown the book at them. They have been charged under different sections of the Indian Penal Code, Medical Council Act, and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Act. They were produced before the judge who remanded them to Judicial custody. The Ethics Committee of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) is also conducting an inquiry into the incident.

The procedure, which took place four months back, was arranged by the parents reportedly with the intention of getting their son into the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest surgeon in the world. The operation was recorded on video and shown at a recent meeting of the Local Chapter of the IMA. There were immediate protests from the doctors present and, when they came to know about it, by the public. The District Collector promptly ordered an enquiry. The preliminary report reveals that the boy has conducted twenty surgical procedures so far!

The Law, of course, will take its own course. But look at the other side of it. Here is a boy who apparently has excellent surgical skills. The Caesarean section he performed in this case was successful. If he had gone through the prescribed drill and entered an operation theatre as a properly qualified doctor, he could have probably become one of the world’s top surgeons.

What will happen to him now?


Also see: Medicine men of Olavipe

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Fire: The man whose house burned down twice

The one who ran away Velayudhan but another person with the same name. In Olavipe we have quite a few Velayudhans, including our chief cook.

The episode starts when I was about eight years old – say, in 1941. One evening all of us were on the western veranda near the prayer room, waiting to start the rosary. In every house in Olavipe, small or big, a lighted lamp would be placed at the entrance at dusk, followed by prayers. In the Hindu dwellings it was ‘Rama Rama pahimam’. It was so nice listening to the chant as darkness envelopes the village. Now of course electric lights have replaced the lamps and TV has taken over from prayers.

On this particular evening that I am talking about, someone suddenly shouted, ‘Shankaran’s house is on fire’. When I looked, the thatched hut, a few hundred yards from us, was burning. Appan was already on the move, shouting for the servants to follow. But it was too late. Fortunately no one was hurt. It was said that the fire started when the lamp toppled accidentally and set aflame the dried coconut frond walls of the hut.

Shankaran was the foreman of our workers. A new habitat was put up for him at another location not far from the burned down house. Velayudhan, Shankaran’s only son was a baby at that time. After Shankaran died, Velayudhan and his family were shifted to a different plot. That was the third home for him.

Now the story moves to 1997. Early one morning a group of people came to see me. That was unusual because normally I wouldn’t be disturbed till after breakfast, which was invariably pretty late. I was told that Velayudhan’s house had been gutted the previous night. The probable reason was electrical short circuit. Fortunately again, no one was injured.

While rushing to the site I couldn’t help thinking about the fire fifty-five years earlier. To cut the story short, we had a reasonably good shelter erected for Velayudhan before sunset with the help of the people of the locality. One thing about villages – every one gets totally involved and work together on such occasions.

Subsequently, Velayudhan built a pucca house.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The 'Master' Surgeon

Caesarean operations hardly make news. But suddenly one such procedure that was conducted four months ago is in the headlines.

The scene of the operation was Mathi Surgical and Maternity Hospital, Manaparai, Trichy, Tamil Nadu. The theatre was ready, nurses on their toes, the patient was on the table, Dr. Murugesan and his wife Dr. Gandhimathi, owners of the hospital were waiting, and a bit oddly, a video camera was there to record the proceedings.

And in walks the son of the owners, Master Dhileepan, all of 15 and a high school student. He bends over the patient who is his own cousin, goes through with the operation and takes out the baby! All recorded by the video camera. At least this is what the media is saying.

The world would never have known about this unusual operation but for the proud father, Dr. Murugasan. He wanted everyone to know how clever his son was. In fact, the whole exercise was, reportedly, to get the boy into the Guinness Book of World Records. Dr. Murugesan showed the video of the surgery at a recent meeting of the local chapter of the Indian Medical Association (IMA).

There were immediate protests and the story was suddenly all over the media. Dr. Murugesan was quick to explain that he did the operation and his son only watched.

Even if that were true, questions remain. Was it proper to allow a minor boy to be present in the theatre to watch a Caesarean procedure? As The New Indian Express commented editorially, “… the only place for a fifteen-year-old in an operation theatre is on the operating table as patient”. Another question is, if it was an ordinary Caesarean section performed by Dr. Murugesan, what was so great about it to be taped and shown to other doctors?

The District Administration has ordered an enquiry into the incident. The report should be out soon. In the meantime, Malayala Manorama has come out with a photograph of the 20 year old woman who underwent the operation carrying the baby. Both look fine.

This incident reminds me of a story that I read somewhere long ago. An American was filling in a form for a government job. He got stuck at the question ‘Are you a natural born U.S citizen?’ After some hesitation he answered, ‘No, by Caesarean section’.


Also see: Medicine men of Olavipe

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Sadhya - a sumptuous Kerala meal

Are you from Kerala? If you are, you would have participated in at least a few sadhya. For the benefit of others, sadhya is a sumptuous Kerala meal, normally lunch that is served on banana leaves for special occasions like marriage, Onam, temple or church festivals and so on. It could be either vegetarian or non-vegetarian depending on the community that is hosting the celebration. Where non-vegetarian items are served, normally there would be separate table for vegetarians.

Originally there were no tables for sadhya. People used to sit on the floor on what was called ‘panthi paya’, a long narrow mat made from ‘kaitha’ (spike pine) leaves or grass. It required a special skill to eat without spilling the food into your lap. And imagine the strain on the servers, bending down all the time.

There is a saying in Malayalam to the effect that there should be no favoritism on the ‘panthi’ (the row of guests). All are treated equal and served till they are satiated.

The menu differs according to the region, religion and the resources of the host. Even a single standard item, say, ‘sambar’ (a stew with lentils and vegetable pieces) has different recipe in different places. Traditionally only local vegetables were used but the present trend is to include ‘English’ vegetables like carrots and potatoes and tomatoes as well.

The following photo is that of a meal served on banana leaf:

Photo: F. Kakkassery

Two things are evident from it. First of all it is a regular meal at home. A sadhya would not only have a much larger menu but also assigned place on the leaf for each item, like pickle on the top left corner. This too could vary from one locality to another. But it is a system which helps the servers to identify with one look what items are to be replenished on the leaf.

Another interesting observation is that the meal that is shown in the picture is for a Nazrani (Syrian Christian). Did you notice that the left end of the banana leaf is folded in? Members of Kerala royal families eat with two full banana leaves, one on top of the other. Folding the end of the leaf is symbolic of that, and a privilege granted to the Nazranis by the Maharajas.

The finale of a sadhya is serving of payasam, a kind of kheer, as dessert. There are many types of payasams. Sometimes, depending on the purse of the host, even four varieties of this sweet are laid out.

‘Murukkan’ (betel leaves with lime paste, areca nut and tobacco) used to be provided for the guests to chew after the meal. But this practice, like smoking after food, is slowly fading away.

One sad thing now is that non-biodegradable plastic ones are substituting the real banana leaves for sadhya!


Readers are invited to add to this or correct if there are any discrepancies.

Also see:

Something different about puttu, the versatile Kerala food.

Photos: Vegetables for Onam

Kerala photos: Flowers for Onam

Kerala food: Aviyal, Bhima’s own dish, for Onam

Kerala food: banana aftermath of Onam

Flowers for Onam


Onam: Pookalams in water

Olakkuda – Palmyra leaf umbrella

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Tamanu oil for skin restoration and regeneration and scar removal.

In Launch of a vallom (country boat) I mentioned that Calophyllum inophyllum (punna in Malayalam) was used to build Parayil Rose. It is generally known as ball nut tree. (Click on photo for enlarged view.)

Another name, which is occasionally used, is Alexandrian Laurel though it is not a native of Alexandria. Probably the reason is that its fragrant white flowers look like a bouquet. In Tahiti it is called ati or tamanu, In Hawai the name is kamani and dilo in Fiji.

After doing the post about the boat I suddenly remembered that when I was a child, ball nuts from our properties used to be sold. It was said that my great grandfather Mathoo Tharakan (see A judgment.) financed his presumably well-stocked bar with this miscellaneous income. Of course, those were times of extensive land holdings and innumerable ball nut and other trees. Since I had also heard that oil was extracted from these nuts, I looked it up and found that this product, most commonly known internationally as nambagura or tamanu oil has great medicinal and cosmetic properties and is used in several beauty formulations particularly in Europe.

But before going into that, here is a bit more information on ball nut tree. The Polynesians traditionally build boats using its wood for the keel and planks of breadfruit tree for the sides. In Kerala, entire boat is made from ball nut tree. That makes the craft heavier of course. Ball nut tree is also utilized for masts, scaffolding and several other applications.

Ball nut tree grows well in sandy coastal areas in the tropics, and sometimes reaches heights of 20-25 m. It branches low and has a rich canopy of thick leaves. The nuts are green in color when young and turn to yellowish brown or red on maturity. The size is about 2 to 4 cms in diameter.

They are picked and sun-dried for about two months after which the shell is broken and the kernel taken out for further drying. Then tamanu oil is extracted through a cold-press process and is purified under controlled conditions. The indication of the price for tamanu oil that I found is USD20/oz.

It seems that several scientific studies have been made in Europe and USA about this product.The ingredients that tamanu oil contains are claimed to be effective in restoration and regeneration of skin tissues, removal of scars and physical and chemical burn marks, and general toning of the skin. It is said to cure skin diseases, rheumatism and ulcers. It would of course be prudent to check with qualified persons before using tamanu oil. Other parts of the ball nut tree also have medicinal and pesticide properties.

Wonder whether my ancestors knew about these qualities of ball nut trees. Not that it matters. They were not businessmen.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Launch of a vallom (country boat) - concludes

Sasi, the master carpenter, gives the first push to slip the vallom into the water. A thousand thoughts would be crossing his mind. And the tension. In a few moments he would know whether the fruit of his toil is seaworthy. The boat should not tilt; it should be stable and should smoothly glide on water. And it should have a majestic look, a kind of stage presence.

The boat slides gently into the water, accompanied by shouts from the crowd and sounds of fireworks.

And here is Parayil Rose in all her glory, floating steady in the Olavipe Lake which would be her home for the rest of her life.

After the family members have a short ride, the local people, more than thirty of them scramble on board. They would take the boat first to the family church at Velliara ( and the mother church at Thycattussarry ( to be blessed by the respective vicars.

Then bottles of rum would be taken aboard and the real celebration would start, with almost non-stop singing of the boat song which has a chorus that goes:

Thithi thara thithi thei, thei, thei thak thei thei thom.

This shows the boat with the passenger cabin that is removable. It has slide windows on the sides and the back.

Click on images to enlarge.

Photos: Chackochan

©Thekkanattu Parayil


Monday, June 18, 2007

Launch of a vallom (country boat) - 2

Jacob, barefoot and wearing the traditional dothi, lights the lamp for pooja at our landing. All auspicious functions are conducted with the fire as witness – ‘Agnisakshi’.

This is a solemn moment. The master carpenter hands over the anchor oar to the owner. Symbolically it means that the boat is ready to be launched. No words are said. But there are silent payers; may the wind be always with her.

Jacob passes on the oar to Sankunni, our senior ‘valan’ (fisherman caste), the eldest nephew of Shankaran (see Komana Kadu.). He has the honor to be the ‘captain’ of Parayil Rose on her maiden voyage. After this, gifts are distributed to the master carpenter and his team, and sweets to all present.

These are produces of the land as offering to the goddess of the waters.

After walking around the vallom three times with a coconut in his hand, Jacob breaks it on the bow of the boat and pours the water into the hull. This is a traditional ritual. Now Parayil Rose is ready to be launched.

Click on images to enlarge

Photos: Chackochan

© Thekkanattu Parayil

To be continued.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Launch of a vallom (country boat)

Before the road to Olavipe was laid in 1970, it was difficult to live in the village without depending on boats. Even after the arrival of bicycles, scooters, auto-rickshaws, cars, buses and trucks, country crafts still remain an integral part of life in the area.

But a new vallom is a rare event and one to celebrate. A few months back, my brother Jacob who is the incumbent at Thekkanattu Parayil, decided to build one and name it ‘Parayil Rose’ (after Ammachi – Oru Desathinte Amma.) The job was entrusted to a master carpenter from the Ulladan tribe. Though originally from the interior forests, several members of this tribe migrated to the plains and coastal areas and took to new lines of expertise.

The first step in building a vallom is to select the trees to be used. The choice depends on various factors like size of the vallom, the purpose for which it is to be used, availability of the wood and so on. In this case Punna (Ball Nut tree - Calophyllum inophyllum) available on our land was selected.

The proper ritual for felling a tree is to take permission from that tree to cut it down. This is done with a prayer which explains to the tree that it had lived its full life and the time has come for it to be put to other uses or something like that. I don’t know whether it was done in this case. Any way the trees were cut and the master carpenter Sasi and his team spent about 110 man days to complete the vallom.

I am presenting pictures of the launch of Parayil Rose in installments:

Jacob (in white shirt) and I inspect the new vallom in the work-shed in the house compound.

Parayil Rose is ready for the journey to the Olavipe Lake. She is unlikely to return to the house compound again.

En route, Jacob's son Pappu (Antony Tharakan) puts an offering at the gate of the Olavipe Church.

On the way to the lake.

Preparation for pooja at the lakeside.

Click on images to enlarge

Photos: Chackochan

© Thekkanattu Parayil

To be continued.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Something different about puttu, the versatile Kerala food.

There are quite a few excellent sites, like Meera's Blog, that deal with Kerala cuisine. Therefore, unless I write something different about puttu you are not going to read it.

Puttu is definitely one of the most versatile food items. Though generally considered a breakfast dish, it can be eaten at any time, lunch, dinner or even tea. Puttu goes well with almost everything – pappadam, preserves (hot or sweet), honey and syrups, fried eggs, egg roast or curry, any vegetable, meat or fish curry, ripe bananas fresh or boiled, and what else have you?

Without claiming any expertise on the subject, one thing that I know from experience in a home where puttu was a regular item, is that instead of mixing the rice powder with water, using coconut water for the purpose improves the taste considerably. And the ideal would be coconut that is between tender and fully mature.

When the myth (?) about coconut containing cholesterol gained currency, many people gave up puttu. The famous Kerala cardiologist, Dr. George M. Eraly (DM, Vellore) has an answer to that - substitute grated coconut with chopped up onion. If you like it hot, mix a bit of thinly round cut green chilies with the onion.

Now here is a bit of local history. In one of our (Parayil) houses a boy called Lonan (name changed) joined the kitchen staff at the age of eight. His mother was working there and his job was to help her in making puttu. To be more precise, he specialized in pushing out the done puttu without breaking, using the baton-like ‘puttu kol’. In course of time he came to be known as ‘Puttu Lonan’.

He did the same job, day after day, for sixty years before leaving for his heavenly abode – certainly God would not have abandoned him to hell after all those decades spent in the smoke and heat of the kitchen. He was a contented man, doing what he knew best to do, and in the process, provided well for his family.

There is more serious history, which I’ve not been able to counter check. I read some time ago that puttu was invented and introduced as regulation breakfast for the Travancore Army that was deployed at River Periyar to stop the advance of Hyder Ali of Mysore in the 18c. The military puttu was made using the upper half of coconut shells as molds, the steam escaping through the eye on top.

So far, I haven’t seen anything about ‘patriotic puttu’ on the cookery sites, My wife Annie used to make it sometimes. Instead of rice powder, rava/sooji (semolina) is used for this version, with diced green capsicums and carrots (can also add beans etc.) mixed in. It is one way of getting some vegetables inside hardcore non-vegs! Serve it for breakfast on Independence Day and Republic Day. The Indian colors on the puttu would provide a patriotic look.

Also see:A power-pack for breakfast.

Kerala kitchen – some implements of the past

Kerala food: Peechappam, a forgotten item?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Kerala Architecture - Olavipe Heritage Home

Recently a viewer pointed out that all the photos I've uploaded so far, like the image on the left, show only the front (east) of the Thekkanattu Parayil Tharakans' heritage home at Olavipe. His observation is correct and I'm grateful to him for that.

All the five Parayil Tharakan heritage homes existing to day, are east facing. I suppose that this has something to do with vasthu. For old houses, every calculation was based on this system. It was, and still is, believed that any mistake in the calculations could bring dire consequences to the building and the people who dwell in it.

Given below are two pictures of Thekkanattu Parayil seen from the west:

© Thekkanattu Parayil

Click on the last two photos to enlarge.


Also see:
Lions that guard Thekkanattu Parayil


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Slow down on fast track

The Highway Department of Tamil Nadu deserves congratulations for the excellent East Coast Road (ECR) that connects the famous destinations, Mahabalipuram and Pondicherry to Chennai. Yesterday forenoon we were on this highway heading or for Kovalam where the 80th birthday function of my brother-in-law Mathew Alapatt was to be held at his son Paul’s beach house.

There was hardly any traffic. We were cruising at 50-60 kilometers (30-35 miles) per hour whenever we could. I said ‘whenever we could’ because at regular intervals all along the road metal grills were kept half way across the width of the road forcing drivers into a ‘Z’ maneuver at reduced speeds.

That was bad enough but suddenly we were waved down by the police. We were told politely that we were exceeding the speed limit of 40 kilometers (about 25 miles) per hour and slapped with a fine of Rs.300. Later on we did find signboards announcing the speed limit.

I was wondering why they had such restriction on speed on a beautiful road. One explanation I got was that there could be some security reasons behind it. Also, it could be part of the police crackdown on burglars. The media had reported the previous day about the recovery of a large cache of stolen goods from a gang of robbers.

Anyway, we were on time for the function where I met an interesting priest, John Joseph of the Don Bosco community (SBD) who conducted the Eucharist in the most informal fashion that I have seen. It was so interactive, with total participation by the congregation.

We got back to Chennai driving at 40 kilometers per hour. That was good in a way because we could enjoy the scenery on either side, particularly the sea.


Photo acknowledgement:

Highway Department, TN.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Old age care contd.

In my last post, Old age care, I had promised to give details of the Elders’ Nest project we had planned. Well, here it is. Detailing a project of this nature has to be site specific, but most of the services and facilities listed here can be worked into the scheme irrespective of location.

1. Tile roofed single storey, self-contained, fully furnished suits where fairly healthy senior citizens can live independent and active lives with privacy without a feeling of being institutionalized. Each of these would have yards in front and rear so that lawns/gardens can be maintained.

2. A geriatric centre (GC) with bath attached single rooms with doors that will open either way, and sit outs, to give total attention to sick and morbid old people.

3. A 10-bed polyclinic with laboratory *a Club to which a few selected outsiders also can be admitted *common facilities.

4. A mobile clinic and ‘meals-on-wheels’ program to help poor elders of the locality.

5. A roofed promenade offering protection from sun and rain will connect the suits to each other, the Elders’ Club and common facilities, all of which shall be at the same floor level to avoid ups and downs while walking and to make the areas wheelchair accessible.

6. The Geriatric Centre will have supportive physical environments like grab bars and handrails in toilets and hallways. Full-time home nurse and daily visits by doctor to be made available if necessary.

7. The facilities and services will include *restaurant * health food *cold storage *basic shop and pharmacy *prayer hall *amusement games *a ladies nook *library *room service *cleaning and washing up *garbage removal *laundry *sheet and towel change *gardening advice * accommodation for visitors *security cover *taxi cabs

8. Residents in the Elders’ Nest can cook their own meals or have food in the restaurant or resort to room service.

9. Health services will have *in-house doctors *alternate medicine doctors on call *regular check-ups *tie-ups with major hospitals and specialists *escort for major check-ups *mobile intensive care units *emergency call system *counseling *physiotherapy *palliative care.

10. Also available will be *indoor and outdoor games *swimming *trekking *boating *angling *picnics *putting greens *gardens and open spaces.

11. There will be *group activities *training courses *discussion forums *competitions *cultural events *scope for social service and interaction with the locals.

12. Apart from the staff that would be fully trained, the residents also would be taught basic first aid and the Golden Hour concept to handle trauma and emergencies. First aid kits and lifesaving items would be placed at strategic locations for immediate availability.

There is more, but that would make this post too long. What is envisioned is a combination of a home, hospital, hospice, hotel and a holiday resort aimed at servicing a rapidly growing need. It makes good business sense as well.

I hope someone finds this information useful.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Old age care

All over the world, meeting the needs of the elderly is becoming a critical issue. In 2001 India had a population of about 76 million senior citizens and it keeps growing steadily. The problem of taking care of them is fast reaching crisis proportions particularly in India’s Kerala State.

The reasons for this situation include replacement of joint family system by nuclear units, migration of children, changes in attitudes and values, cultural gap, and difficulty in obtaining domestic help. Also, the younger generation often fails to understand that old age brings several problems that lead to emotional and physical stress and strain and that the elders have to be provided proper atmosphere, facilities and assistance to live in comfort with dignity and delight.

The vast majority of people do want to look after their parents. But they can’t give up jobs to tend to the elders. On the other hand, the elders may not want to stay with their children in strange places where they could turn out to be misfits. It is not just a question of money. Often the elders have sufficient funds to live without taxing their children. The problem is the lack of appropriate facilities. Actually this is the world scenario in the field of old age care – growing demand, dearth of facilities, and escalating costs.

Ten years back I had worked out the details of a project in Olavipe to provide, on a commercial basis, top class facilities for senior citizens. We had ideal land (still have), management expertise, and project funds would not have been a problem. The scheme was to be based on the concept of delaying the onset of diseases. This is a thrust area that would curtail medical costs considerably and improve the quality of life of elders.

The idea was to have two separate wings – one to offer comfortable and enjoyable independent living for the reasonably healthy elders and the other to care for the geriatric cases in a separate housing. A great deal of detailing was done to make it an ideal place for elders.

Then we ran into a roadblock – Coastal Restricted Zone (CRZ) rules which proscribed major constructions near water bodies subject to tidal action. The project was shelved. Later on the rules were relaxed, but by then we had turned to other things.

I plan to do a post detailing the facilities that we had planned, for two reasons. One is that it might be of help to people who plan to put up such facilities. The other is that it could be a sort of benchmark for those who are looking for places to spend their sunset years.


Also see:

OLAVIPE: Gift of the waves to Kerala, God's Own Country.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Mahe: Mukundan's novel to be presented in dance drama format

M. Mukundan’s famous Malayalam novel ‘Mayyazhi puzhayude theerangalil’ (On the Banks of River Mahe), which has been translated into English and French is soon to be presented as a two-hour long dance drama according to reports in the Malayalam media yesterday.

This novel obtained wide acclaim and brought many laurels to its author including the title Chevalier des Arts et des Letters from the Government of France, is set in Mahe, the former French colony in India. The main characters are Dasan, a freedom fighter and Chandrika. The author also weaves into the touching story the myth that dragonflies are souls of the dead hovering around, waiting for rebirth. According to Mukundan, the novel has many dramatic moments suitable for dance themes.

Lissy Muraleedharan, a dancer who runs the Natya Kalakshetra of Mahe did the script, which covers the novel almost totally. She had earlier converted and presented Kadathanad Madhavi Amma’s ‘Onakkili’ and VT Bhatathiripad’s ‘Vanajyosthna’ also into dance dramas. She is now busy training a troupe of about fifty artistes at Mahe for this project. A team of experts in various related fields is supporting her.

Mukundan is confident that Lissy Muraleedharan would present the dance drama well. He should know.

Mahe River
Photo acknowledgement:
Government of Pondicherry.


Also see:

Mahe - Petite France in Kerala.

The Indian 'King of France'

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Ripples on water

I am sharing with you two pictures that I like:

© Thekkanattu Parayil.

Click on photos to enlarge
Also see:
Pastoral Olavipe

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Dress Codes of Clubs

Yesterday an English language daily which has a fairly good circulation carried a double column front page report about a gentleman in dhoti being denied admission to an elite Chennai club. The newspaper devoted 2 columns x 20 cms space to this piece!

The facts as reported are: an ‘honorary advisor’ to a Government of India department was invited by an organization to a function it was holding at the club (name not mentioned in the report). The man turned up clad in a dhoti but was refused admission because it was in violation of the club’s dress code. He went to a shop, bought a pair of trousers, wore them and was allowed in.

Then comes the ballyhoo. The man writes to the Chief Minister. And he tells the press, “The behavior of these clubs is nothing but a reflection of their continued slavishness to our former Western masters”, and adds for good measure, “English language dictionaries say that the dhoti or veshti is formal attire”.

One can understand the man’s ego being hurt. Now, I was also an honorary advisor to the Government of India, on national disaster management policy, about nine years back. I too was once denied admission to an elite Chennai club, most probably the same one as in this case, for violation of dress code. I went there for lunch wearing a round neck T-shirt, and trousers of course. The offending piece here was the T-shirt. So, the ban is not only against the dhoti.

I know at least two reputed clubs in Kerala, which allow dhoti, but not folding it up. The point is that a club, unlike a restaurant or a town hall, is a private association of people and they the members, decide how it should be run. They set the rules and regulations.

To be fair to the newspaper, it also presents the view of a city lawyer that the clubs are entitled to prescribe a dress code. She said, “It would be difficult to challenge this in court.”


Also see:

Some Clubs of India

Friday, June 8, 2007

Sunset at Olavipe

© Thekkanattu Parayil

Photo: Karthiki

Photo: Karthiki

Photo: Karthiki

© Thekkanattu Parayil

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Irish planter, punter, soldier, playboy

My post Irish father of Indian cardamom, rubber and pepper planting on 27th May seems to have been received well. I had concluded that article by mentioning about Murphy’s failure to enlist in the in the army during World War I because of recruitment age limit. I should have realized that he was not the type to leave it at that. From further study of the details of his life I found that by 1917, around the age of 45, he was in uniform. Apparently, he must have obtained special permission.

JJ Murphy joined Supply and Transport, the forerunner of Royal Indian Supply Corps (RIASC), now known as Army Supply Corps (ASC). He served mainly in the Persia area and, after the war, came back to Yendayar, to his beloved plantations. But apart from the estates, he started taking a keen interest in horse racing. He certainly had the Irish flare for this sport.

Around 1920, Lord Willingdon, the then Governor of Madras was on a mission to revive racing in his capital city. Murphy was one of the first to support him. To quote from KL Kershaw, “For several years he dominated the racing world of Madras. At one time he owned 22 horses under training and they carried his colours on the turf of Madras, Ootacamund, Bangalore, Poona, Bombay and Calcutta.”

On a single day, at Madras, his horses won the Governor’s Cup and four other races. Among his impressive wins were the Indian St. Leger at Poona and CN Wadia Gold Cup in Bombay. He took his “Old Orkney” to England and won the Manchester November Handicap in 1927 with Steve Donahue riding, and the Goodwood Cup in 1929.

Murphy’s other loves included the company of the fair sex, good food, and wine. And parties. Kershaw says, “For years the Murphy Ball was the main feature of the “Planters’ Week”; when JJ entertained three and four hundred guests a night. His parties for the Dublin Horse Show, for Ascot, for the Derby; his entertainments at the Savoy, at the Berkely, at St. Ann’s – his house in Ootty and elsewhere became legendary".

Suddenly, at the age of 60, Murphy called off the whirl and withdrew to Yendayar. He concentrated more of labor welfare activities of which he was a pioneer in the plantation industry. Long before the laws were passed to the effect, for his workers Murphy had permanent accommodation, piped water, sanitation, maternity wards, crèches, hospitalization, noonday meals for children, and schools. He paid his workers each of whom he knew personally, higher wages than the rest of the planters. He also introduced generous gratuity and pension schemes.

JJ Murphy was a much loved and respected man. He last visited Ireland in 1938-1939, almost two decades before his death.


Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The one who ran away

Karutha (Medicine men of Olavipe) had a son, Velayudhan who was a few years elder to me. He was a nice chap and, surprisingly, liked reading. I am grateful to him because he made me interested in books. He used to get me novels from Odampally Library about three miles away from the house. The library still exists.

Two of the books that I read initially, were Emerald of Mewar and Royal Ring. Both were Malayalam translations from Hindi. They were set in Rajasthan. I was fascinated by the stories and developed a great admiration for the Rajputs, especially Rana Pratap Singh.

Velayudhan was also in the army of house servants that we had those days. Once he was asked to clean the huge china jars. It was a chore that was done before the mango season started. The jars were used to preserve curry mangoes in brine. They were classified as 2000 mangoes capacity, 3000 mangoes capacity and so on. Unfortunately the largest of them all somehow toppled and broke while Velayudhan was washing it.

This image of a China Jar is on a wall document at Thekkanattu Parayil
From a photo by Medhekar.

He ran away to escape possible punishment. For many years no body had any idea whether he was dead or alive. He did not turn up for his father’s funeral.

One day somebody informed Ammachi (
Oru Desathinte Amma.) that a sick stranger was on the steps of the eastern gatehouse. Elicheduthy, who was governess to the younger children, was sent to enquire.

It was Velayudhan, almost on the verge of death. In spite of proper allopathic treatment, good care and healthy food, it took months for him to recoup. After that he was back at work.

Then one day, for no known reason, Velayudhan disappeared once more, without telling anyone. He was never heard of again.

Why did he ran away second time? Who knows!