G.’s Blog

Kerala Welcome Goths

Posted by G. on September 25, 2010

The latest ad video from Kerala Tourism – Your Moment Is Waiting.


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Footie Fever

Posted by G. on June 21, 2010

The New York Times had a huge writeup on the Ajax training academy, Amsterdam.  

The youth academy of the famed dutch soccer club Ajax is grandiosely called De Toekomst — The Future. Set down beside a highway in an unprepossessing district of Amsterdam, it consists of eight well-kept playing fields and a two-story building that houses locker rooms, classrooms, workout facilities and offices for coaches and sports scientists. In an airy cafe and bar, players are served meals and visitors can have a glass of beer or a cappuccino while looking out over the training grounds. Everything about the academy, from the amenities to the pedigree of the coaches — several of them former players for the powerful Dutch national team — signifies quality. Ajax once fielded one of the top professional teams in Europe. With the increasing globalization of the sport, which has driven the best players to richer leagues in England, Germany, Italy and Spain, the club has become a different kind of enterprise — a talent factory. It manufactures players and then sells them, often for immense fees, on the world market. “All modern ideas on how to develop youngsters begin with Ajax,” Huw Jennings, an architect of the English youth-development system, told me. “They are the founding fathers.”


There are two ways to become a world-class soccer player. One is to spend hours and hours in pickup games — in parks, streets, alleyways — on imperfect surfaces that, if mastered, can give a competitor an advantage when he finally graduates to groomed fields. This is the Brazilian way and also the model in much of the rest of South America, Central America and the soccer hotbeds of Africa. It is like baseball in the Dominican Republic. Children play all the time and on their own.  


The other way is the Ajax method. Scientific training. Attention to detail. Time spent touching the ball rather than playing a mindless number of organized games.  

This reminded me of our own Footall Friends in Kannur. Several of my friends trained there back in the 80’s. Regarding its present condition, this and this are about all that I have been able to find. 


PS: In the summer of 1991, after days spent alternating between cricket in the morning and football in the evening, I thought I had discovered my life’s purpose: to coaxe leg-spin off a football. I had visions of lobbing a ball to bounce in front of the great Walter Zenga, and then flummoxing him when it turned sharply to his right and into the net.  Twenty years later, watching Maicon doing a Muthiah Muralitharan impersonation in the process scoring Brazil’s first goal against  N. Korea, I knew my dream had become reality… thanks to the mighty Jabulani.

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Dr. M. V. Vishnu Namboothiri

Posted by G. on May 16, 2010

Dr. MV Vishnu Namboothiri has been awarded Fellowship of the Kerala Sahithya Academy for the year 2009 (along with Punathil Kunjabdullah). Here’s an excerpt from his book “Uthara Keralathile Thottam Paattukal”.

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Kannur Power Project, Part Deux

Posted by G. on May 5, 2010

THIRUVANANTHAURAM: Jai Prakash Power Ventures Ltd. (JPVL) signed a lease agreement with the Kerala Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (Kinfra) here on Monday for setting up a 240-MW coal-based thermal power plant, a 1.5 million tonne per annum cement grinding unit and a jetty in 164.22 acres of land at Kinfra’s industrial park at Kalliassery and Pappinissery villages in Kannur district. The investment is expected to be about Rs.1,500 crore and the project is expected to be commissioned in 44 months.

from  The Hindu

Here is what happened to a previous attempt.

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IPL Stinkeroo

Posted by G. on April 21, 2010

Is there anything — anything at all — about the IPL that is not manipulated/fixed?

asks Prem Panicker (check his coverage of the fiasco here).

Why just the IPL, Prem? Is there anything that is above board anymore in India?

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India’s Demographic Advantage?

Posted by G. on February 6, 2010

I keep hearing about India’s demographic advantage as a means for economic growth. Here’s Jim Jubak at MSNFinance, giddy at the thought that India will only have 6.7% of its population above the age of 65 by 2020.

As a counter point, I would like to submit that Abhyasthavidyarude Thozhilillayma (the problem of unemployment among the highly educated) was a popular essay topic in language classes and competitions back in school in the 80’s.

Population is only one resource among many required for economic growth. In fact, I would rate it towards the bottom of the scale when compared to some of the other ingredients (natural resources, innovation, nature of society etc.). It is also a double-edged sword – without proper utilization, its quite easy for a population to overrun the resources of the land.

I would think India’s diversity would be a much more important factor for growth in the long run. Because of the multitudes of languages and cultures that we accept as part of “us”, it becomes a lot easier to accept changes, even if they are of the disruptive variety. And as long as these diversities dont create a break down of the Indian Union, this provides a genuine competitive advantage compared to monocultural societies like Japan and Europe.

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Rap Beef – Hayek vs. Keynes

Posted by G. on February 1, 2010

Pretty good, in an econo-geeky kind of way 🙂

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Posted by G. on January 25, 2010

Came across this today:  http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2010/01/gold.html

My great uncle passed away last year. A few months before his death, he expressed regret that none of his nephews and neices had any interest in a Fixed Deposit he had at his bank for Rs. 6000. He was dismayed that nobody seemed to appreciate the struggles he had to go through to save up for that  FD, more than 30 years ago.

Here are a couple of quotes I have been thinking a lot about since then.

In the absence of the gold standard, there is no way to protect savings from confiscation through inflation. There is no safe store of value. If there were, the government would have to make its holding illegal, as was done in the case of gold. If everyone decided, for example, to convert all his bank deposits to silver or copper or any other good, and thereafter declined to accept checks as payment for goods, bank deposits would lose their purchasing power and government-created bank credit would be worthless as a claim on goods. The financial policy of the welfare state requires that there be no way for the owners of wealth to protect themselves – Alan Greenspan.

The truth about the long term, then, is that it consists of a sequence of short terms and these short terms are full of episodes we call history: war, peace, pestilence, progress, revolution, invention, discovery, depression, enterprise, bankruptcy, birth, death, taxes and such. Kingdoms rise and fall, debts are incurred and repaid, or – as often as not – not repaid, or repaid in money unrecognizable to the poor creditor. Interest runs for years at a time, but rarely even for decades, politics or central banks intervening to disrupt the piling up of what would otherwise be wealth too vast to be stored on the planet Earth. Through it all, just as Hall and Jastram have separately noted, gold endures, holding its value but returning no income. Well, you can’t have everything – Jim Grant.

And here’s some historic data on gold price in Rupees (grabbed from here).

Price in Rupees per 10 grams
Data from Gold Survey 2001

I’m not advocating any gold standard, nor am I suggesting going out and buying gold coins tomorrow (for all I know this post could mark the top of the recent gold price surge). I most certainly am not promoting the conspiracy-theorist/survivalist loonie-school-of-thought that has creeped into the mainstream since the financial panic of 2008. But it does confound me that, after all these years of human evolution, there still exists very few solutions to man’s search for a viable and standard way for storage and preservation of human effort (aka wealth).

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The Quilon Mutiny Of 1812, And Its Pazhassi Connections

Posted by G. on November 25, 2009

With all the new found interest in the story of the Pazhassi Raja on account of the movie, here is an account of a little known chapter in Travancore history which has possible connections to the Raja.

In 1812, a full seven years after the Pazhassi Raja’s death in the jungles of Wayanad, a conspiracy was uncovered in Quilon to overthrow the British subsidiary forces in Travancore and to confer the sovereignty of Travancore to the Pazhassi Raja’s nephew ([1], [2]). Here’s an account of the events [1]:

“On the night of the 24th May 1812 the existence of a conspiracy at Quilon having for its object the destruction of the European officers and men of the subsidiary force in Travancore was brought to the knowledge of Lieutenant and Adjutant Cox 2nd battalion 14th regiment by Jemadar Iyaloo of the same battalion to whom it had been revealed by a private of his company”

“On the morning of the 25th Colonel Hall and the officers in command of battalions met at the Residency and it was there arranged that a general parade of the troops should be ordered for that afternoon and that the principal conspirators should then be seized while the Resident Lieutenant Colonel John Munro took steps for the apprehension of such inhabitants of the town and vicinity as were believed to be implicated.

These measures were successfully carried out. Jemadar Shaik Hoossain of the 14th together with 2 havildars and 22 men of that battalion were called out of the ranks and placed in confinement the troops behaving with perfect steadiness.

Womanah Tumby ex-Dewan of Travancore, an individual claiming to be the nephew and representative of the late Pychy Rajah and several religious mendicants were seized at the same time by the Resident’s people as being the chief instigators.”

“The result of the enquiries made by the Resident which occupied some time led him to the conclusion that Womanah Tumby, the pseudo-Pychy Rajah, and Jemadar Shaik Hoossain of the 14th, had been the originators of the conspiracy.

The design was to confer the sovereignty of Travancore upon the Pychy Rajah. The Jemadar was promised the office of Dewan, but this in all probability, was really intended for Womanah Tumby. The pay of all sepoys as might join in the plot was to be raised to Rs 10 per mensem.

The chief body of conspirators consisted of discharged sepoys fakeers and disaffected natives of the province. The European officers were to have been attacked while at dinner, and the barracks set on fire at the same time in order to distract attention, after which the public treasury was to have been given up to plunder.”

Did one of the nephews of the late king actually go to Travancore to start a revolt? Or could it have been one of the distant relatives of the Pazhassi Kovilakam (the kings of Mavellikkara had close relationships to the royal houses of north Malabar)? Or did the British accounts get it completely wrong, with the memories of the “Pyche Rajah” still so strong that a local revolt was ascribed to him? 

Notably, an Indian account of the same incident (P. Shungoonny Menon’s A History of Travancore from the Earliest Times) makes no mention of any Pazhassi prince [3]: 

“During the interval, the ex-Dewan Ummany Thamby incurred lasting disgrace by plotting certain measures against the life of the Colonel. The treachery having been discovered, Ummany Thamby was banished the country and was taken to Chingleput and detained there as a State prisoner.”

What happened to the rebels next was not surprising [1].

“Jemadar Shaik Hoossain and Private Salabut Khan of the 14th were tried in a summary manner by a board of officers, of which Major Fraser 2nd battalion 9th was President. Both were convicted, and sentenced to be blown from a gun, which sentence was carried into execution on the evening of the 28th May at a general parade of the whole force.

Two havildars, one naigue, and twenty six privates of 14th, of whom 19 were Mahomedans, and 10 Hindoos, tried by ordinary court martial, and sentenced to death. Of these two privates were pardoned, the rest were either shot or hanged, the sentences being carried into execution at Quilon, Cannanore, Seringapatam, Trichinopoly, Vellore and St Thomas Mount respectively.”


“Womanah Tumby and the Pychy Rajah were tried by the Court of the Travancore Government. The former was sentenced to death but this sentence was commuted to banishment and he was removed to Nellore. The Pychy Rajah was banished to Chingleput, but he was released from confinement in 1815.”

And as for the loyalists,

“On the 16th February, 1813, Jemadar lyaloo of the 14th was promoted to be Subadar and presented with a palankeen and an allowance for bearers. He also received a gold medal and a donation of 1,000 rupees. On his decease, his nearest heir was to be allowed a pension of 35 rupees per mensem.

Vencatram, the sepoy who had informed the Jemadar of the plot was pensioned on the pay of a Jemadar a received a donation of 600 rupees.

Private Hoossain Khan who had given information to Captain Ives of the same battalion on the 24th May but in rather an incoherent manner was pensioned on the pay of a Havildar”



1. Ummany Thamby alias Marthandan Eravy had become the Dewan of Travancore in 18th March 1809, after the revolt by Velu Thamby Dalawa.

2. The names of the soldiers involved in the failed rebellion do not sound like those of Malayali Mappilas.


[1] W. J. Wilson, History of the Madras Army, Vol. 3, 1883.

[2] Sylvanus Urban, The Gentleman’s Magazine: and Historical Chronicle, Vol. LXXXII, 1812.

[3] P. Shungoonny Menon, A History of Travancore From The Earliest Times, 1878.

[4] Picture from www.sonofthesouth.net

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Of Onams Past

Posted by G. on October 8, 2009

ThumbaOne of the advantages of being an expatriate Malayali is that almost every weekend in September is an Onam celebration, organized by official and unofficial associations/groups. Eating the last Thiruvona Sadya of the year last weekend, talk turned to Onams past spent at home, and other related memories. Nostalgia is always a byproduct of these marunaadan Sadyas.

Onam never had the importance of Vishu during my childhood days. Vishu heralded the beginning of the long summer vacation, while you had to be satisfied with a measly one week holiday for Onam. There was the possibility of late monsoon rains playing spoilsport, and the fields around the tharavaadu would be submerged under ankle deep water, putting to rest any thoughts of football. Yet, there are also memories of pookkalam contests at school, and several naadan contests organized by the local clubs on Thiruvonam day (kamba vali comes to mind, as well as the strange contest of applying engine oil on kavungu (areca palm trees) and seeing who could climb up the most).

At the tharavaadu, Onam celebrations began on the last day of Karkkidakam. That day, “Ashreekaram” (Jeshta) was driven out of the house to prepare for the coming of Chingamaasam. To do this, the whole house and surroundings were carefully cleaned, and some of the refuse put in an old kalam or muram. An old maachi (broom), some hair, nail clippings etc were also added to this. This was then taken outside the house and left on a varambu in the fields (care had to be taken to use a spot not used as a walkway by people). One was then supposed to go straight (without looking back) to the kulam and take a dip before coming back into the house. This whole procedure was called “Karkkidothikku kodukkuka”.

Poovidal started the very next day, the first day of Chingam. Small ari kalams were drawn in the padinjittakam and purathirayam, and the flowers were arranged in accordance with these patterns. The enthusiasm for decorations and the size of the pookkalams progressively increased till on the two big days of Uthraadam and Thiruvonam, ari kalams would be made in padinjittakam, akathirayam and purathirayam (the left over ari maavu would be splashed on the mittam as well, but not too much time was spent in drawing as there was always the possibility of rain). Pookkalams would then be laid out in conjunction with these kalams, with the largest one either on the mittam or on the purathirayam depending (again) on the possibility of rain.

Thiruvonam day began with a trip to the neighbouring temple. Very soon, the kitchen would fill up with different valliammas and ilayammas (and occasionally an ammayi or two) in a race against time to prepare all the items for the sadya by lunch time. The entire extended family would be gathered in the house, with those who were away atleast making their way home by lunch time. Discussions on politics would be in full swing in small groups at different areas of the purathirayam and parambu.

Before the age of Asianet and cable TV, a post-sadya movie was also a serious ritual for some folks. The movie industry obliged, releasing 5-6 “super star” movies each Onam. After the sadya, the idavazhikal would fill with long throngs (mostly women) in their best clothes, walking to the local C-grade theater showing one of the previous Vishu’s hit movies. The more adventurous (usually youngsters) would clamber onto crowded buses to go into the city, to fight to get into an “Onam special show” for one of the new releases.

The celebrations did not end with Thiruvonam day. Starting the next day, for two weeks or so, smaller pookkalams would be arranged to await the arrival of Bhagavathi to the house on Makam naal. Cheeyothi (Shree Bhagavathi) poo (a fern like green plant) was the important component for these floral arrangements, with all other flowers playing second fiddle. On Ayilyam naal, the entire house and surroundings would be tidied up and cleaned  (nobody knew when Bhagavathi would come into the house on Makam naal, so all the brooms had to be kept hidden for the entire day, which meant that all cleaning at the house had to be completed the previous day). By Ayilyam naal evening,  manja koova and ari would be ground together to draw kalams in purathirayam, kitchen as well as the padinjittakam. Achamma would dip her hands into the koova-ari maavu, and then fold them into fists and make marks on the floor resembling small feet. The intention was to show a pair of feet walking in from the purathirayam into the kitchen, and from there to the padinjittakam. A small kindi‘s base would also be used to make intelinked circular markings around the “footprints”.

The Makam naal aaghosham was mainly meant for the girls of the house. Early morning,  pookkalams (with cheeyothi poo again as the main constituent) would be made in the padinjittakam and mittam (after sprinkling aripodi/koova water). Later on in the morning, manja koova and some thumba poo would be added to an ural, after which a lot of water would be poured in, and the whole thing churned using the olakka. Mattemma would then make some conclusions on the basis of how the thumba poo lay in the water, but us children were never privy to her thoughts (I guess the significance of this ceremony as well as the science of reading how the thumba lay in the water is something that has now been lost forever). Onanga chor (made using onangalari and coconut) and an uppery made with 7 or 9 types of leaves were the main dish for lunch. Soon after the food was cooked, 3 ila would be placed in the padinjittakam. The avana palaka would be placed in position,  the kindi would be filled with water and the vilakku lit. The Onanga chor, and uppery would be placed on each of the ilas, along with some rice prepared for the previous night’s dinner (pazhanjor). Some moru and venna would be added to the pazhanjor. The doors would be closed for a while, as Bhagavathi and her companions ate (no food served for the gods could be prepared using salt, so portions to be used for the ritual were usually prepared separately). Then everyone would have lunch (onanga chor, with olan and/or erishery), and that concluded the activities for the day.

For children, Onam vacation was also usually the last chance for fishing for the year. As the water receded from the fields, small fish that had bred and spawned during the Monsoons and the larger fish that had wandered in from some thodu and forgotten its way back would start congregating in shallow ditches where there was still some reasonable depth of water. You had the choice of using a choonda (hook) and tangees (plastic thread) to try your fishing skills, or you could just wait a few days for the water to recede, wade into the ditch and try to literally kick the fish onto the banks. The only danger to the latter methodology was the occasional presence of neerkkoli (water snakes), which although not dangerous, could still be an unnerving experience. For the enterprising individual, Kaichal, Mushu, Choottachi, fresh water prawns etc. where all there for the taking.

During childhood, Onam was never a single day’s holiday, it was a season of celebrations. Somewhere in the process of growing up, between studying for board exams and a stressful professional life, it got truncated to a single day’s hurried sadya. Today, for expat Malayalis, the Thiruvona Sadya might still be a hurried weekday dinner at home with just the immediate family; but atleast in one respect it is a return to roots, with an entire month of celebrations and sadyas to look forward to every September.

(Belated) Onashamsakal.

Note: Picture by “Intruder”, from Flickr.

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