Showing posts from August, 2010

Onathallu – When we beat them up

First of all a Happy Onam to all the Malayali readers. For those who are not Malayalis, today is the day our old king Mahabali who led Kerala to much prosperity comes back to Kerala from his banishment, if only for a day, to observe the progress of his subjects (at 3AM or so) and so we all deck our houses up, lay a welcome mat of flowers and wear traditional clothes, and make merry (some with a bottle or more), as we eat a very traditional Onam lunch or dinner (as in the case of an NR non resident family). There were and are so many other festivities accompanying the lunch, and the story of Mahabali itself is an interesting one. But the most curious of all is the Onathallu or Kayyankali which is practiced in some places and I decided to do a little research on it, in a hurry, following my brother’s suggestion that it may be a good story to remind readers that such events also existed.

A quick recap on the story of Mahabali - According to the myth, the Asura King Mahabali (Wonder which…

Irani restaurants and Poppy tea

That beautiful scene from the song ‘Pee Loon’ in OATIM featuring the winsome - Prachi Desai a.k.a Bani (for those out of sync with Bollywood, it is the new movie Once upon a time in Mumbai) reminded me of those lovely Irani tea shops and restaurants in Mumbai. The movie was great, the song by Mohit Chauhan ‘mind blowing’ and of course the Bombay of the late 70’s and 80’s depicted in the scene, a different Bombay, long gone.
Of recent, the Irani tea shop Leopold came to limelight with the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai, but this is more a pleasant reminiscence of that genre of eating places, which I am sure, will soon fade away with the onslaught of different eating habits and the fast food genre of eateries. Curiously it was only last week that I saw the Antony Bourdain’s new show ‘No reservations’, about his culinary trip to Kerala (you can see clips on youtube). In the show his guides explain the purpose of a tea shop in Kerala to the awestruck Antony, as to how one gupchupped, …

The Chinese Fishing Nets at Kochi

Now and then a question comes up – about the origins of the Cheena Vala or the Chinese fishing net in Cochin. Some opine firmly that they are of ancient Chinese origin, dating to Kublai Khan’s times (mid 13th century); some others say it arrived even before that and others grandly announce they actually date to Zheng He’s arrival (early 15th century). To get to a factual answer, one has to try & search hard and long, possibly fruitlessly, even though the very name of the net signifies that the connection had to be Chinese. My own introduction to the Cheena Vala came by a (non detail) textbook which we studied in school titled so and written by our lecturer CKC Nair (I did not see one though until much later). A wonderful collection of short stories, this specific story detailed the life of a Cheena vala operator in Cochin and I still remember the laborious attempts of his in placing a Petromax gas lamp into position before he retired for the night, near the net, for fishes to get …