Fort Cochin -Kayalinarike!

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The other day I happened to watch the visuals of  the song – Kayalinarike from the latest movie of my ‘current craze period‘ – Annayum Rasoolum. The song has beautifully captured Fort Cochin and did refresh my memories of Fort Cochin – where I spent around 10 years.

My take on the music and the movie will definitely feature on this virtual world upon release of the movie. The presence of a dear friend – Muthumani Somasundaran and current craze – period are more than one reasons to dedicate a separate space for the movie.

For now – it is about Fort Cochin and more so my childhood memories about the place!

As always, I asked Wikipedia about the city just to top my experiences with some history. Thought I did read about the city in detail-  what interested me most was the origin of the name Fort Cochin:

“The name Cochin implies “co-chin”, meaning “like-China”. It looked like China when the Chinese came to the region during the 14th century and installed Chinese nets. Mattancherry is the nerve town of old historic Cochin. In old Malayalam it is maadan-cherry, cherry meaning town. Maad or cow was the stamp of Old Royal Fort of Rajah of Cochin, who built his palace after the fall of Kodungallur or Mussaris port due to a gigantic tsunami in 1341 AD”.

This is one bit of information I was not aware !

Leaving history behind lets visit Fort Cochin as I remember it!

My trip to Fort Cochin was at the age of 6 when I attend a wedding of one of my father’s colleagues. I don’t  remember the visit in great detail. Just vaguely remember the Cochin Airport which was back then close to Fort Cochin, crossing the Mattanchery bridge and seeing the Chinese fishing nets. What I remember clearly was that I wore a blue dress – a birthday gift!

At the age of 7, it was decided that our family shall be moving into the accommodation provided by the school in which my father worked as the Principal – The Delta Study, Fort Cochin. Thereafter, I was to continue my education at Delta . Unlike my sister, I was super excited. She was in  standard 7 did not want to leave her old friends, her school, and teachers. I remember we even went and enquired about the hostel facilities of the school we studied without letting our parents know. She preferred staying at a hostel rather than joining a new school and being part of a new environment.

I was on the other hand excited about going to a new school. The primary reasons being- I hated my old school and more so hated the one hour travel to school every day. The new house was inside the school campus and hence zero travel.

Back to the city:

Fort Cochin according me is a mini Goa! Some of the lanes, buildings, houses that share the same wall – all  look very similar to Old Goa. It exudes a charm, a beauty that is unique and very different from the rest of Kerala.

Home

I would start the description of the city with the house I stayed in . It was an old Portuguese built bungalow and HUGE! By ‘huge’ I mean very ‘huge’!!This bungalow is a part of The Delta Study which was once a warehouse – built in 1808.

As a 7 year old, who has lived in a moderately small ancestral home  – the first look of the house left me stunned. The highlights of the house were wooden flooring, a ball room, a gigantic bathroom, bathtubs, huge balcony! I used to get lost in the house due to its sheer size.

Though we never used the ballroom for the purposed intended it was an apt playroom for me!

Boat Ride

The boat ride from Fort Cochin to Vypeen has been my first ever. It was exciting and scary. Scary trips as the boat never used to be in the best of conditions! If a ship happens to sail through the route any time the waves used to become so unruly and restless that the boat used to start dancing in the sea.

Jangar

As a kid, I believed that boats are used to ferry people across a river or a sea. Glimpses of vehicles being ferried across the sea in a boat like vehicle called the jangar – was amusing and exciting.

The Sea

Living five minutes away from sea was, I think the best part of being in Fort Cochin. Our parents used to take us to the beach side every other day and also treat us with a mango ice cream from Chariot Hotel!

At one point in time major beautification and restoration works were conducted around the beach and police security was present at the beach 24/7. Felt safe to be around the place. No idea how it is now.

The Jew Street

Every time any cousin came to visit us, we used to take them around Fort  Cochin – the Jew street being one of them. I used to love going there as a child and beyond – for the sheer old city charm that it has. The narrow lane , the small shops selling antiques, the Jew synagogue at the end of the lane holds a charm unique to that place.

Kapithan’s Cold Storage

Kapithans was a very famous ice –cream shop – more famous as a hangout area. The cassatta and mango ice cream from Kapithans were yum!Couples went there to treat each other, ‘school gangs’ went there got their birthday treats!

Shop n’ Save

Shop n’ Save was the one shop stop for all stationery items during my school days. I am sure a number of other shops might have cropped up now. Going to the shop to buy new notebooks, pens, brown paper to cover the books excited me as a kid.

Bay view Apartments

As the name indicates the apartment faces the sea and has one of the most beautiful views of the sea. This apartment holds a special place as some of my friends used to stay there and I used to go there in the evenings. I remember seeing the deck of a ship through a binoculars from the balcony of a friend’s house. That was probably the first time I used a binoculars!

Plum Cakes

I have not had tastier plum cakes from any other part of the World. Elite hotel in Fort Cochin used to bake one of the most tastiest plum cakes in Fort Cochin! Talking about cakes I remember we received more than 50 cakes, during the first Christmas in Fort Cochin. People greet each other for Christmas with plum cakes.

Cochin Carnival

Cochin Carnival conducted on 1st of January every year is one of the biggest events in Fort Cochin – processions, dancing on the road – an evening full of fun and frolic. The Carnival comes to an end at the beach where a huge Santa is set on fire – indicating burning away of the bad. Strange – because Santa is set on fire –  but unique.

People from across the state come to see the carnival. We were lucky enough to have one of our balconies facing the road on which the Carnival proceeds. Our house used to be full of friends and family who wanted to watch  the Carnival!

Cultural Diversity

A land of keralites, numerous foreigners which includes Europeans, Americans, Africans,Chinese and just about every nationality, a nepali watchman, a class full of tamilians, marvadis, konkanis, Punjabis, gujaratis – hindus, christians, muslims and Sikhs  – what more of a cultural and religious diversity do you require!

Kethu ram – our watchman is someone I would never forget. All credit for the little hindi that I know goes to him!

Fishing nets

Though I have seen it for about 10 years of my life, it has never ceased to fascinate me.

Churches

Be it the Santa Cruz Basilica or the St. Francis Church, these churches have always fascinated me for its vastness and beauty. I have been there a number of times as travel guide to my cousins and friends. Surprisingly, I have never attended the mass there.

Kayikka’s Biriyani

There wouldn’t be a single person in Fort Cochin who hasn’t tasted Kayikaa’s Biriyani. If KFC chicken is patented it is a sin not to patent this recipe. I am not sure if the future generations has been able to carry forward the unique taste – the last time I had it was more than 10 years ago!

Kashis Art Gallery /Coffee Shop

Though Kashis was a part of the city during my school days, it shot to fame during my college days at Ernakulam. We used to travel an hour from Ernakulam just to have a good breakfast or the famous chocolate cake at Kashis.

Fish and Fish Fry

Sea fish used to be a part of our staple diet since we used to get fresh ones. Many a times the fishes were alive when it was brought home. As soon as amma placed them into the water it used to start swimming. Since mom was scared to kill live fishes we used to wait for our maid Tulsi to come the next day. I used to love watching the fishes swimming in the vessels till it became ‘meen fry’ on the dining table-loved them even more after that 🙂

Sip- ups

Sip –ups are not Fort Cochin specific . However it forms an integral part of my experiences in the city. I used to collect money from mom and dad to buy them. It used to cost 50 ps. To 1 rs.- back then! Do I sound too old?!

Christmas and new year decorations

I have not seen any other city in Kerala decorated in so much grandeur as Fort Cochin is during Christmas, New Year time. The streets are lit by hundreds of stars, every house will have a Christmas tree!

 Pani Puris and Bondas

Under the pretext of attending computer Classes I used to go with a couple of friends to Pandikudy. Konkani Saraswathi Brahmins reside in a the area around pandikudy. With a temple in the vicinity and array of houses around the temple the area had a Palakkad feel to it! More than the computer classes we used to enjoy the walk through the streets, the hustle bustle around the temple, the knee length water in the area during monsoons, the pani puri competition at the chat shop and the bondas from one of the thattu kadas!

The memories associated with Fort Cochin in the form of places, people and emotions are numerous! I would require many more posts to describe my childhood there!

Keeping the rest for some other time!

Merry Christmas!

Continuing the celebrations of Christmas – the close friend and I decided to attend the midnight mass.

We sat down to research on the church to go to. Holy Name Cathedral (also known as Wodehouse Church), Colaba, Saint Thomas’s Cathedral, Fort, Saint Michael’s Church, Mahim and the Mount Mary’s Basilica, Bandra were among the few churches that were considered.

After some research we zeroed down on the Wodehouse Church for the following reasons:

  1. My love for south Mumbai;

  2. We were to be joined by two other friends, who working late into the evening and are at a  5 min distance from the said church.[They didn’t come – calls for another story:) ];

  3. The Cathedral Choir is one of the best in Mumbai;

  4. We have never been to this church and they say that the wish that you make when you enter any church for the first time come true! The secret agenda was to make a wish!

The close friend who usually works late was given strict warning to get out of office on time on Christmas eve. We wanted to reach the church half an hour early just to get the best seats available.

As we were crossing the road to reach the station, the close friend’s blackberry fell on the road and a car ran over it. The display of the phone stopped working. We went to the nearest blackberry store and found out that the phone should work if we replace the display. We were relieved. The cost of replacement was negligible in comparison to the cost of the phone!

The midnight mass at Wodehouse Church was beautiful and made our celebrations of the birth of baby Jesus a divine experience.

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Christmas morning started on a dull note as the friend had office to attend. However the day became exciting with my trip to Matunga to repair the close friend’s blackberry. What was supposed to be a one hour job turned out to be a one day long picnic. The ‘techie’ who was to repair the black berry was to take one hour to reach the shop. And that time gap led me to explore all the second hand book stalls at Matunga!

The result is what you see in the picture!

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The new friend who runs the second hand book stall , a ninth standard pass gave me a review of almost every book he knew of!

Some general information which was given are as follows:

  1. ‘The Secret’ is a good book but the rest of the books written by the author are not that great!

  2. The pirated version of ‘Fifty shades of Grey’ and the other books in the series are in great demand. But he thinks they are not worth reading 🙂

  3. Second hand books of Ayn Rand always sells!

  4. Chetan Bhagat‘s books are  always in the list of best sellers – be it pirated or second-hand book.

The most surprising part is he knows to read but has not read a single page of any of these books! After a whole day of selling books, he does not have the time.

Without reading, he is more literate than all of us.

The day ended on a happy note – I gifted myself some or rather many books and the close friend’s blackberry is working!

Oh yes! – We had dosa ( Appam was not available at Sneha Restaurant, Mahim) and nadan chicken curry for dinner – to complete the Christmas celebration!

All good! Awaiting the New Year.

Delhi – City of Djinns – the evil ones of course.

http://delhi.gov.in

The recent heinous incident that happened at the Delhi led me to refresh my memories and take on the city.

Delhi has never been in my list of favourite cities- from the very first time I have been to the city.

I have been to Delhi only a couple of times – the longest stint at the capital has been for about 2 weeks in 2007.

The main reason for not liking the place was of course a lack of sense of security. Every time I step out, I used to feel that the city is not welcoming.

The first time I lived in Delhi, I was very keen on experiencing the ’charm of Delhi’. I must mention that the first Metro travel, the sight of India Gate, Rashtrapati Bhavan was beautiful and exciting. That was on my first day, with a couple of good friends.

The real Delhi experience began on day 2, when I began my internship at the Supreme Court of India. I stayed close to the Supreme Court and hence did not have to use the public transport to the courts in the morning. In the afternoons, my the Senior Advocate whom I interned with – was kind enough to take me in his car to the office. A young Keralite girl – first time in Delhi was a compelling enough a reason to ensure my safety.  He ensured that I left office at around 6.30 p.m on the first day, and requested his assistant to ensure that I take the correct bus to my hostel. This routine was followed till the last day office. At that point in time I did not understand his concern and found it amusing. But now I truly understand the cause of his worry. Delhi is not safe. Thank you sir!

The second incident, I recall was a couple of years ago when I went to watch a movie with a few friends post having dinner at Oh! Calcutta. After dinner one of the friends who came by car insisted on dropping us back home even though he had to take the opposite direction. I insisted on taking an auto since there were three of us (2 girls and 1 guy), however it was out rightly rejected by the friend on the ground that Delhi is not safe. Now, I understand. Thank you Abhinav!

I was to take up a very lucrative job at a law firm three years ago at Delhi, which did not work out. Had it worked out, I probably would have been living in Delhi and probably in a different phase of my life. Thank you to those who ensured it did not work out!

That as it may be, I must admit that every trip to Delhi has been special. The city has witnessed many important life changing incidents of my life – good or bad (not sure till date!). I may not love Delhi, but loved the days I spend there.

Delhi is one of the favorite cities of my current craze –period. [Courtesy: Twitter]. I would love to know his take on the heinous crime committed in the city.

Without taking away the charm it exudes, the lovely winters, the beautiful gardens and the history attached to it – I still believe the City of Djinns remains unsafe and unwelcoming.

Delhi is not for me – period.

 

Christmas time!

“……..Dashing through the snow

In a one-horse open sleigh

O’er the fields we go

Laughing all the way

Bells on bobtail ring’

Making spirits bright

What fun it is to ride and sing

A sleighing song tonight!

Jingle bells, jingle bells,

Jingle all the way.

Oh! what fun it is to ride

In a one-horse open sleigh.

Jingle bells, jingle bells,

Jingle all the way;

Oh! what fun it is to ride

In a one-horse open sleigh…………..”

 I look forward to Christmas not because we have any huge celebration at home. But because it’s the time for homecoming. Sister and I come home for Christmas irrespective of whichever part of the word we are. At least one of us remains at home if not the both of us.

 This time it is different as both us will not be at home. Mum and dad are upset – but they understand!

 I recollect some of my favorite Christmas celebrations:

 If I recollect correctly, I attend a huge Christmas party for children at the age of 6 or 7. The interesting part was that the Santa came on a Scooty and gave all of us gifts that we wished for! At that age I was astonished that Santa figured out what I wanted. Later I did realize that all parents had to give gifts meant for the kid along with the registration details for the party!

 Christmas celebrations at school have always been exciting. We used to have carol singing and plays as a part of Christmas celebration. I got an opportunity to become an angel in the plays two or three times! Though walking around with the wings was a little tiring, I was excited to be a part of that world 🙂

 Due to absence of one of the boys , I did become a Shepard too in one of the school plays. Since it was decided at the last moment I could not inform my dad and even he did not recognize that his daughter was one of the shepherds 🙂

 I do remember some of the Christmas celebrations at one of the churches in Fort Cochin were my parents are members – Karuvellipady St Mary’s Church, Fort Cochin. I remember being a part of the play wherein, yet again I was one of the angels! The play turned out to be hilarious when all the angels started laughing seeing some hay stuck in the crown of one of the ‘three kings’!

 Once we moved to the flat at Cochin, we have never had groups coming home to sing Christmas carol except once. This was a couple of years ago when the members of Karuvellipady St Mary’s Church, Fort Cochin embarked on the exciting journey. It was a pleasure welcoming them home. My sister did capture the fun in a photograph of me with the carol singing group, wearing the santa cap and framed it. Now it’s a permanent fixture in our drawing room.

 I have no idea how this Christmas is going to be –away from family. Intent to celebrate it with close ones in the city of dreams!

 The celebration has indeed begun with a close friend – Divya Nair! We decorated the flat and even made our small Christmas tree!

 We decorated it over the weekend since we may not get time during weekdays! Close friend is working on Christmas too – Welcome to Mumbai 🙂

 Thanks to my secret Santa at office – Preeti Bakshi who gifted me the Mother Mary! Looks beautiful isn’t it?!

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The close friend was more excited than me to decorate the Christmas tree since it was her first time! And she did it beautiful too 🙂

 More on Christmas celebrations after 25th . Till then – Merry Christmas to all!

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A True Mumbaite!

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I believe that no one becomes a true Mumbaite unless you travel by the local trains. To reach my new office, I take the local train to office every day. The comforting part is that I travel against the traffic and hence do not face the huge crowd.

The first day of my local train travel, I was sceptical and scared –worried about getting lost in the crowd, not being able to find the platform, getting into the wrong train etc. Within a month of travel my perspective towards the train journey has changed completely.

I know the route, the train, the platform, the timing, the seat and just about everything related to the travel and more importantly I love the time that I spent in the train!

Because of the travel, my mornings begin early. That in itself makes one fresh for the entire day!

Some interesting incidents!

Today I happened to get into a train from the platform that I usually use at Dadar. As soon as the train reached Ghatkophar which is one station away from Vikhroli (my destination) – I saw a huge crowd getting into the train – which was quite unusual. Not paying attention I continued sitting on my seat only to realise that that particular train was scheduled only till that station and would take off on its journey back to Dadar and onward to CST. Luckily realised it just before the train started!

Daily commuters are very particular on the seat they occupy. I have been glared at by many for occupying the seats they usually sit on. I gracefully ignore them and continue sitting where I was.

I board the train from Dadar which is one of the largest stations in Mumbai. Sometime you get caught in the crowd that you are forced to travel in the direction that you don’t intent to go! I have been subject to such maddening crowd many a times!

I do now realise the real meaning of the ‘fast paced’ life in Mumbai. Everything second here is important. Being late for 30 seconds may end up in missing your connecting train, preferred seat, availability of cabs and many others.

You get to observe people coming from various backgrounds, lifestyles, temperaments, age groups travelling together in a box compartment. Some listen to music, some read, some sleep, some play games on the mobile, the regular crowd update each other of news/gossip. If interested in observing people this is the best place to be!

As a part of the journey some people become a part of your daily routine. The guy at the stall in train station from where I take my stock of ‘bourbon biscuits’, the couple just outside my office from where I buy a ‘kadak chai’ on my way to office are some. Beyond a few days you don’t need to even tell them. The couple at the tea stalls pack the tea for me as soon as they get an indication that I am walking towards them! Oh they give me a little more than they usually give – the benefit of being a regular customer!

Shall keep posting the interesting incidents of being a Mumbaite!

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I like! Part I – Aksharangal (Subject in scrutiny)

Disclaimer: The post intents to highlight only those aspects I liked about the ‘subject in scrutiny’. I truly believe that I am not competent enough to criticize or point out any flaws of the creator’s vision. Writing off a creative piece which took hundreds of days to take its final form in five minutes is something I don’t stand for. My opinions can be extremely partial if the subject in question has any connection to any person or emotion or thought close to me. So welcome to the extremely partial, sugar coated, diplomatic opinion of the blogger about the subject in scrutiny.

I am not a movie buff. Hence my take on the movie might be based on the limited information and exposure that I have to the world of cinema.

Last Saturday the evening was spent watching the latter half of Kilukam – one of my all-time favourite movies. Aksharangal was lined up on the same channel right after Kilukam. So with no prior knowledge about the movie I sat to watch Aksharangal. As the movie progressed – fell in love with it.

Aksharangal is a M.T. Vasudevan Nair film with autobiographical elements directed by I. V. Sasi.

The way emotions are dealt with in this movie is beautiful.The movie deals with the lives of Jayadevan (played by Mammoty), a writer, X his wife (played by Suhasini) and Y a theatre artist and Jayadevan’s lover(played by Seema) .The reason for using X and Y is only because I do not recollect the names of the characters!

The relationship between Jayadevan and Y which was initially platonic and later that of lovers/companions is complicated yet simple.The character of Y is a well etched one. She loves Jayadevan for what he is. She lets him be. She gives him the creative freedom and the space he requires. This very nature of hers binds him to her for life.

I particularly liked the scene where Jayadevan promises Y that he shall come back soon and sort out their relationship. Y on the other hand never demands or express any want of commitment from Jayadevan . She only asks him to take care of himself. She comes across as a person who is happy in her space.

The contrast emotion is that of X played by Suhasini. A more real character that you would find in many of the women around. She is someone who loves her husband more than anyone else in the world, who wants to lead a normal life like any other woman, who is possessive and does not appreciate the female fanfare that her husband has.The more she tries to bind Jayadevan to her the more he drifts away.

Mammotty has done an excellent role in this movie as the common factor between these two intricately complex women, giving life to the character. His love for both the women at one point in time is a very real and believable.

Would love to see the same movie being made in today’s context with of course my current craze – period in the lead role.

Just as an afterthought – Which one of the female characters suits me? I think I am someone like X who understands the beauty of being like Y.

P.S : If anyone seeing reading this blog recollect the names of the characters please do let me know!

Ambition or the lack of it?!

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7.52 p.m , December 15, 2012 , Mumbai

Age: 6 years
It all started with my ambition to become a school teacher. Considering that both my parents were teachers, it quite natural for me to think so. As I joined pre-school I had a different ambition every day –a doctor, teacher, ayah, bus driver, business man, mechanic and many others. Like any other kid I was not sure what I will eventually want to do…….

Age: 10 years
My father introduced me to the world of books. He is a voracious reader and the presence of innumerable number of books at home instilled the habit of reading in me at a very early age. Reading various kinds of books ranging from Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew to abridged versions of many classics inspired me to write. I must have written countless number of articles to Indian Express –(Student Edition) out of which 2 got published too  My mom was the happiest as she was really tired of helping me post the articles . I come from the era where sending articles by e-mail was unheard of.I was happy with my choice but it was not similar to the ones others had. Hence I was still not sure of this is what I wanted to do….

Age: 12 years
The media fascinated me and I thought Journalism was the coolest job I can have. Wearing Khadi Kurtis and reporting news of social relevance thereby making a difference to the society were the two most important reasons for choosing journalism. The thought that it may not pay me well, the struggle in the initial days did not sound very good. Hence I was not sure whether this is what I wanted to do…….

Age: 15 years
And then arrived the best time of my life. I was clueless as to what to do in life. The world presumed that I shall become a doctor and engineer since my sister was really good at science and showed all signs of becoming one. She did become one- an engineer. To an extent even I tried convincing myself to become an engineer (if not a doctor)– the after effects being the endless number of entrance classes, tuitions, stress that I took. Despite of studying for hours together I managed to score only 50% in the science subjects. I began to doubt whether this is what I wanted to do………….

Age: 17 years
One fine day I decided that I had to look for other choices in life. I dint realize this after any deep introspection or soul searching. Extremely poor maths and science marks prompted me to do so. By then we had a computer with internet connection. I browsed through various sites and ended up finding a syllabus of a course. I liked the syllabus and went on to look which course would help me do this – It was Law. I decided to become a lawyer. I dint know what was it to become a lawyer, I dint know whether I had it in me – though I was happy with the choice I wasn’t sure whether this is what I wanted to do…….
I must also mention that fashion designing ( It would have been a total disaster!!!), was another career options that I considered among these.

Age: I choose not to disclose my age 🙂
I am in a job that I got due to the education I have done, but may be not utilizing all what I have learnt. I am an in-house corporate lawyer. Has search ended? I don’t think so. I am still not sure if this is what I want to do……

Now I have figured out what has been consistent in my life – the inconsistency 🙂