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Showing posts from 2011

Those Middle Age Blues

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I was feeling kind of bored that Saturday, having gone around the usual places, picked up this and that for the upcoming trip to India and completed some of the long pending home repair activities. I had already cooked lunch and polished it off with gusto, but dinner cooking was not on the cards – you see, my wife was not at home and was already in India having left earlier on vacation. While driving in, I met my neighbor who asked if I was interested in eating Chindian noodles of the Gujarati style, but I was not too keen as lunch was actually Chindian fried rice. Not another Chindian session and that made up the decision for me to go to our local Udupi joint (joint – old college parlance for meeting place).

As I entered, I saw the elegant faced lady and her family sitting at the corner table. In a flash I knew who she was though I had never met her in person before. I had corresponded on musical history matters with her, for she was very adept in such things. I wanted to pass by her…

Back from India…..

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The much awaited trip finally happened and I was soon wedged in the window seat of the Emirates flight headed for Dubai. The long and uneventful flight dropped me off at the swanking airport hall in Dubai where I had to spend another 6 hours watching the bustling humanity. It was fun, for the halls were initially overflowing with people in the morning hours which gradually tapered off as time flew by, to coincide with the flight and landing patterns. As I sat, I saw many of my fellow Malayalees at work in the airport, cleaning up, working in the shops or chatting with one another. It was a group of people, the Malayali NRI’s in the ‘gelf’, that I understood pretty well. Some were soon flirting with the Filipino girls at shop counters, some gossiping with their own brethren during their breaks. The shops meanwhile were disgorging people with swollen bags full of duty free stuff, and Indians coming out had their two mandatory bottles of booze under their arms, to take back home. From go…

Kadambari – The mysterious one….

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I started on this topic by chance. The plan was to get to the origin of a particular song. The song was one that I had previously written about, sung by the person I covered then, the sonorous Kozhikode Abdul Khader. The song being Padan orthoru madhurita ganam….as the words went ‘The sweet song that I wanted to sing’…..I knew that it was the 13th poem from Gitanjali. It was no mystery that it came to the Malayalee singer’s lips, for in those days much was borrowed from Bengali writings. Malayalees found emotional and intellectual attachment to Bengalis and what Bengali’s wrote. Books were eagerly devoured; many were promptly translated and discussed in mehfils and clubs and sometimes in the press. Tagore was a revered writer in Kerala and his books and poems have been available in stores since ages. I think it was G Sanakara Kurup who first translated his Gitanjali.

Anyway that song again came into my memories and soon the story behind it had caught me by the throat and I was resear…

Walter Kaufmann

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The man behind the AIR signature tune….

The other day I was sitting at our local Tamil restaurant in Cary and munching a rava dosa, happily musing about my days in Chennai ( was Madras when I was there, but not so long ago) and the fantastic food in Hari Nivas and so many other places, while at the same time glancing around the packed restaurant. One could see a smattering of the desi populace here, Tamilian families – the IT crowd, some Andhra guys, Kannadigas, but no other Malayalees, they venture out rarely for some reasons I suppose they only know, I suppose. But there are always one or two tables with the gora’s sticking out in the brown ambience, and then my glance would linger for a while at their countenances and the food they had ordered. You see it is a south Indian Veg restaurant where you do not get naan and chicken tikka masala.

It is the countenance that arrests you at times, for you see no confusion or consternation that one saw before. These guys know the food they are…

Manu and her friends

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Sometimes it is very difficult to separate the threads of truth from the vast fabric of a tale woven over decades. Such was the case as I set about unraveling the story of the girl named Manakarnika, fondly called Manu, the product of a family displaced by the tussle between the Marathas and the English. It is not my intention to retell the tale in anyway, but to hover around an aspect from the whole story, namely the relationship between three people who set about to change the scene in British India. That they were unsuccessful is the unfortunate part of their history, but then again, their actions eventually sowed the seeds of dissent in a passive field where those who came as traders became usurpers and later, holders of power.

And with that, let us move on from the lands of Venad, Cochin and Malabar and venture out far North, to the arid regions of Bundelkhand. A place where wars were fought, where rival kings and queens ruled and where the warring people rode furiously on their …

Mahabali and his story

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Onam is around the corner, Mahabali the Kathapurushan, dear to all Malayalees is on his way to visit all of us. But is he really well known to us other than the brief story we have all heard since childhood? Not that I know of and everybody takes him for granted. So, I started on a trip to find out more and it certainly turned out to be an interesting trip. Starting with the mythical background of the story I went to Mahabalipuram, a place that carries his name but situated far away from Kerala. I then moved on to the Bana kingdoms of ancient times and finally circled back to Kerala through Tulunad checking out another link to the origin of Nairs. It was some trip and so let me take you to those locals, telling you the tale I learnt along the way. For all you know it may be a tall tale, but interesting anyway.


But first a bit about the origin of Naris – In my longish article that covered most of the usual stuff, I concluded thus - To summarize, the Nayars have been considered a deriva…