Wednesday, November 28, 2012

High Heels & a Shotgun

It is quite a distance from  Dances for the gods. to Rock Music. The girl in this photo seems to have traversed it pretty well. She is Susan Ann Isaac. It was her Bharathanatyam performance five years back that prompted me to write the post mentioned above.

For years Susan had been studying Bharathanatyam and Carnatic Music under Radha Srinivas, the well-known expert in Chennai. She learned Western music at the Unwind Centre, also at Chennai.

A couple of years back I started hearing talk about her forming a rock band along with some of her friends. I think that was after she bagged the ‘Best Fresh Talent’ Award in the Nxg Rock Star Competition organized by The Hindu.  

Then I learned that the band had become a reality with five girls, Susan (lead vocalist), Samriddhi, Sehr, Aditi, Gayatri and one boy, Nihal, as drummer. And it had a name, coined by Susan’s brother Thomas Isaac. Samriddhi who is also a fashion designer created the logo for the band. Here it is:

Their first public performance was Concert for Japan in 2011 at Chennai. It was part of the relief efforts for that country after it had suffered the devastating earthquake and Tsunami. Sandhya Ramachandran, writing in The Score Magazine says, “ever since, there’s been no turning back” for them.

Susan at the mike. Photo from the Web.

I started taking the matter seriously when someone told me recently that The Hindu had interviewed Susan. My Internet search for High Heels and a Shotgun gave pages of results including several video clippings. The Hindu interview by HARIN CHANDRA published on October 3, 2012 was also there. Its title is ‘They rock!’.

I am the proud maternal grandfather of this talented girl. She is having two problems. One is that she has just joined a professional college after completing school. She is now in Bangalore and the band is in Chennai. She goes there for performances. The last one was in October. But they are thinking of disbanding the group. Incidentally, Susan is teaching music on Saturdays at a Bangalore establishment. She got her first paycheque recently.

The other problem Susan is facing is that she is not old enough to get an ATM card. She has to wait!

A related post:

Friday, November 23, 2012

Kerala Bishops on abortion

The Kerala Catholic Bishops Conference (KCBC) has come out with a press release about the stand of the Church regarding abortions. I feel that it is only fair to mention it here in relation to my post The Savita case, a tragedy in Ireland

The statement, which I read in a Malayalam newspaper, says that life is the gift of God. It has to be protected. Destroying a live foetus amounts to murder. But if, in a genuine attempt to save the life of a pregnant woman something adverse happens to the foetus, it does not amount to killing. According to the KCBC’s understanding, the law in Ireland is more or less the same.

This means that in the Galway hospital the doctors should have tried to save the mother. If, in that process, the foetus in her womb is hurt the doctors cannot be blamed. But why then didn’t they try to save the mother?

The press release gives an answer to this. Details regarding the ailment of a patient and the treatment are to be kept secret. That is why the doctors have not come out with any statement explaining the death of Savita. They can only present the details to a duly constituted authority.

The KCBC also says that the media reporting on the tragedy is based on hearsay. The reporters could not have obtained any details from the hospital. The Health Minister of Ireland has ordered an official enquiry.

In the meantime Savita’s husband has demanded a public enquiry. Such things are common in India, but not elsewhere.

I wonder why something that happened on October 28(?) suddenly obtained wide publicity only a few days back. One retired Catholic bishop in Kerala said in an article that British business interests are behind the move. It doesn’t sound tenable. That country makes quite a bit of money from the abortion sector. A good portion of the clients is from Ireland.



Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Savita case, a tragedy in Ireland

A man takes his wife and their young son boating. The boat capsizes in deep waters. The man is a good swimmer but his wife and son can’t swim. The husband can save only one of them. The question here is who should be given the preference. If a decision is delayed, both would drown.

Was it something like this that happened in Ireland last month?

Did the 31 years old Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar die because the doctors at the hospital in Galway, Ireland could not decide about aborting her 17 week pregnancy?

Media reports do not indicate so. The doctors specifically decided not to interfere and save the mother because there was foetal heartbeat. Their justification was that Ireland is a Catholic country and the laws do not permit abortion.

Ireland is not a Catholic country. It is a republic. And, 20 years back that country’s Supreme Court had asked the government to make suitable changes in the abortion law. That has not been done yet.

What would have happened if the doctors had gone ahead with medical termination of the pregnancy and saved Savita? Technically, they could have been prosecuted. Many Irish women go to England for abortion because of this problem in their own country. Why bother about the theology of when the soul enters a foetus or whether a 17 week old foetus can be baptised?  

The sad truth is that Irish law relating to abortion is archaic. In Britain the relevant portion of the Penal Code was amended in 1967. In India too abortion was proscribed. Women who wanted to terminate pregnancy had to approach unethical doctors or quacks. Countless cases ended up with severe complications and even the woman’s death.

India shook itself awake and enacted the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act which came into effect on April 1, 1972. Instead of abortion being defined as purposely causing miscarriage it became medical termination of pregnancy. Bravo, India.

What was result? Of course there was the good side to the legislation that was essential. Though the Act which was amended once, in 1975, provides specific conditions, many foetuses which would have been born girls, were aborted. Who wants a girl child?

In cases like Savita’s, a good doctor should interfere and save the mother, in any country, any religion. Will the Church frown if the man whose boat capsized saves his wife though she happens to be beyond childbearing?

Savita is a martyr. Her tragedy, sad, depressing as it is, has brought world attention to the question. It is likely to induce Ireland and other such countries to revise antiquated laws. Hopefully. Ireland has not given any commitment yet.

Heartfelt condolences to Savita’s family.


Please also see


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Photos: A Thravad Decorated

These photos are outside views of my Tharavad (ancestral home) Thekkanattu Parayil, decorated for a daughter’s betrothal recently. Click on them to enlarge. The cream coloured streamers are tender coconut leaves. The lamp in the last picture is made of banana plant trunk and coconut frond. Half a coconut is kept on top with oil inside and the wick.

My brothers Jacob and Antony run the internationally highly rated Olavipe Home Stay there now.
(Photographs are by Chackochan. Copyright Reserved.)

Addenda: (on 20/11) I missed mentioning that the decorations were done under the supervision of Reji, (A village artist). Five generations of his family have been with us. Also see 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

One more Cochini Jew Bids Adieu

Johnny Hallegua of Jew Town, Cochin, India died on October 25th at the age of 90. He was ailing for sometime after breaking a leg. He was buried in the Jewish Cemetery near the ancient synagogue. The one to die before him was his relative Samuel Hallegua, two years back. Sam was the Warden of the Cochin Synagogue, and a scholar. Incidentally, he was a club mate of mine.

The Jewish contact with Kerala seems to have started much before Christ. Perhaps large scale Jewish settlements came into existence in Kerala State, India with the exodus during the siege of Jerusalem by the army of the Roman Emperor Titus. That was the First Jewish-Roman War. A painting of the siege by David Roberts (1796–1864) is reproduced below from the Wikipedia:

The year of the war was 70 CE. Thousands of people escaped from the battle devastated area. According to one estimate ten thousand of them migrated to Kerala, India - the Malabar Coast, as many historians call it. At that time there was no Cochin. That area, it is said, came into existence only in 1341 CE due to some geophysical phenomena in Arabian Sea. It started developing into a trading centre soon. Some historians claim that the Cochini Jews are of Sephardim origin from Holland and Spain.

The Jew Town in Cochin was built in 1567 on land granted to the community by the Raja of Cochin. A year later the famous Mattancherry or Cochin Synagogue was constructed. It is next to the Maharaja’s Palace and the Palace Temple. The clock tower (see photo) was added in 1760. 

There is a claim that a synagogue existed in a place called Kochangadi, Cochin in 1344. Perhaps it was on the inland and not at the location of the present synagogue. Kochangadi is a common locality name in Kerala. From ancient times there were synagogues in different regions of Malabar.  

During the Portuguese-Dutch War for control of the area, the building was damaged in 1662. Two years later repairs were done with the help of the Raja of Cochin and the Dutch who had driven off the Portuguese. It is believed to be one of the oldest synagogues outside Israel. This is its 444th anniversary.  
 The 4th centennial of the synagogue was a landmark in the history of Kerala. Mrs. Indira Gandhi who was the then Prime Minister of India came down to attend the ceremony. The Government of India also brought out a postage stamp (see photo) to commemorate the event.

The pictures of the synagogue and the stamp are by Ruth Johnson . They are reproduced with permission from her blog post Cochin Synagogue and Sarah Cohen ( Do have a look at it for more pictures of Cochin’s Jew Town and additional information on Cochini Jews.

In Cochini Jews – Dreams don’t die I had written that the Jewish era in Cochin is coming to an end. With Johonny Hallegua gone, there are just eight Jews left in Cochin – two men and six women. Most of them are seventy plus years old. There is not enough quorum of ten adults to conduct a miyan (a communal religious service of the Jews).

For those who remain, the dreams are confined to Cochin and visits of dear ones who are away.