“through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us. . ."

Saturday, February 25, 2012

In Love with Sandra Bullock

 You ask me how many-th time I am watching this movie? 'How many-th' is a puzzle from schooldays which I am yet to solve. The puzzle is - How do you ask the question for this answer? ' Indira Gandhi is the 3rd Prime Minister of India'. Now, how do you pose a question for that? In Malayalam we would ask- 'Indira Gandhi India-yude ethramatthe Pradhana Manthriyannu?' How you do translate that into English? No idea; do you ?

But I am digressing. The movie that I have watched the most number of times, the one single movie that I would point out if you asked me which is the one single movie I wouldn't mind watching a hundred times - ONE SINGLE, ONE AND ONLY ONE - my unhesitating answer would be - 'While You were Sleeping'. And thats when I fell in love with Sandra Bullock - or Sandra Bullock as Lucy, the insignificant clerk in a Chicago Tube station.

I don't know how many of you have seen it, but my frustration for a long time was that I could not get a VCD of that movie ( I never could download one - until K showed me the Torrent-Pirate Bay route. Even then I felt unclean, watching a pirated, free download).

Sometimes I don't watch it from beginning to the end; I just go to the scenes I love most, esp., the last scenes at the wedding where Lucy says ' I was in love with you - with all of you' to the family. I am not ashamed to say that even after so many times, that brings a lump to my throat, my eyes well up; the couple of times K was around, he teased me like hell for the tears.

I wanted to know why I love this Lucy so much. Of course, Sandra is a beautiful woman, though I don't care much for her jawline and nose. Not really my type; I go for the Audrey Hepburn Mia Farrow Meg Ryan kind - the un-arty, waif-ish, tomboy-ish types, who look so vulnerable and helpless, fine boned with small breasts and thin legs - the kind you see in Mills & Boon, the kind I would like to protect, say that everything is okay, your Big Balan is here to take care of you blah blah blah.

Mulling over my love for Lucy - rather , trying to understand why I love this movie so much - I realize that I connect with Lucy in her loneliness. Lucy is an orphan - all she has is the memory of a father who died in a nursing home. Lucy works in a Tube station in Chicago and goes home- to a cat. By sheer coincidence, she gets this chance to be with a family - and such a jolly good family it is and that brightens up her days - and life; and falls in love with Bill Pullman. Lucy, like most of us, is yearning for love. Lucky Lucy, she finds it, whereas most of us still pines for the unfulfilled love.

For film pundits, 'While you were sleeping' might be a movie to shrug off, a light romantic comedy, but to me it is an insight to the lonely lives of the modern world and how the warmth of love could bring sunshine into those lives. Life in 'While you were sleeping' is not very complicated; it has a few fumbles and stumbles, but OK, because the characters in the movie are - decent human beings.

In fact, my friends, life is simple - but we make a mountain out of a molehill. We can make our lives simple and easy; but if it is not complex, we feel there is something wrong with us.

All we need is love, the capacity to love others and you get it back. I am reminded of the movie, 'Scenes from a Marriage', by Ingmar Bergman. The characters are so like most of us, looking for love all the time, getting into affairs one after the other, but blind to the fact that unless you love yourself, you cannot love anyone else. To love oneself, one has to know oneself. To know oneself, one has to look within. Whatever maybe your warts, love yourself. With love, comes acceptance of the Is, the acceptance of self. So long as we are dissatisfied with ourselves, we will be dissatisfied with rest of the world. But then, we are always looking for love from outside and contort our minds, trying to squeeze into other people.

Perhaps the reason I identify with Lucy/Sandra Bullock is that more than the common loneliness, we share the trait of finding pleasure in simple things. For Lucy, the ultimate dream is a ' stamp on my passport which says Italy' - for me it is that says 'Tierra del Fuego' or Chile or Argentina or Scotland. A friend of mine says that I am simple person, though the friend knows me only through my writing. Am I? Is that the real me in my writings? Or is that the me that I want to, as B said, 'to showcase'? Which is the real me? Let me tell you - I am all that I write. I am all that I am, that I wish to be.

But then - I know who I am; therein lies the secret of my happiness; to top up, you can add a couple of pegs of 'Director's Special Black' Whisky, which is my standard drink when I cannot afford Signature or Single Malts or Irish or Jack Daniels!!

P S: I am having a little celebration all by myself, celebrating K's admission to Psychology Hons. ;-)

************* Balachandran V, Alappuzha, 24.02.2012

Thursday, February 23, 2012


A father is like a farmer; he sows his seed into mother earth, nurtures the offshoot carefully, nourishing, watering, pruning and feeding and giving him light and space to grow. Like a farmer, a father's greatest joy is to watch his offspring grow strong and healthy and independant and then to see him sow his own seed in turn. In every living being, there is this instinctive need to propagate its seed, ensuring the survival of its genes. That is immortality. You live in your descendants. No monument is equal to that. When Ousu's mother tell him that he is her dream, it is as simple as a biological need to ensure the survival of her genes. That is the story of the living world since life began on earth.


I have followed K's growth diligently, from a newborn baby till now to adulthood. It is to my immense satisfaction that I have done the best I could to ensure that he enters adulthood as, if nothing else, a decent, sensitive and sensible Human being. I guided him; never pushed or cajoled him, but gently shown him how to chose his path, his future. I might have influenced him but never forced my will or wishes upon him.


Yesterday  he attended an interview for selection to BA (Hons) in Psychology. He had been quite worked up about it because there were 100 + applicants for the 40 seats. Whereas for most of his classmates, a degree in Psychology is a stepping stone towards their MBA or Masters in HR or Civil Services, for K, it is pure practice of Psychology. In the inital survey of the field he had chosen, he had looked at Clinical Psychology or Palliative care, or care of disabled children but now has focussed onto Criminology. K says he is fascinated about the dark side of the moon.

I had advised him to be aware of his subject enough to project his genuineness, to impress them with his earnestness. I told him - be true.

After the interview, he called me and said that it went well. Fortunately for him, the panel members were teachers who knew him. In the excitement of the opportunity to tell someone what he wanted do, K seems to have forgotten my advice to be 'delibrate' in answering questions. He, like me, let passion take over reason.

I remember the day when K, studying in 9th std, was discussing some problems of his friends. We used to have that evening session almost everyday, when around evening tea, the three of us would discuss our day. K said- 'Acha, I am kind of an ex-officio Counseller of my class. Guys come and talk to me about their problems and I listen and they seem to accept my suggestions'. By the end of 10th std, we had narrowed down his future course/career to Psychology. It was by what I call, the 'Reverse Selection Process' by which you don't select what you want; instead you delete what you don't want to be. Banking, wildlife biology, veterinary, soldiering, business, engineering, movies - all went to the trash bin. We tentatively decided on Psychiatry, for which you have to study medicine. But in the 12th std, K told me that he knew he didn't have it in him to slog for years at medicine and therefore he would chose Psychology instead. I helped him in choosing the institution; both P and I were in agreement with him that he should pursue his graduate studies outside Kerala. We considered the institutions and finally narrowed it down to Christ University, Bangalore.

Tomorrow is the day when results will be announced of his interview. I sure hope he gets through.

******** Balachandran V, Alappuzha. 23.02.2012.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Eternal Alleppey

(Lighthouse, Alleppey beach) 

Six months - it may not be such a long period in a life that has been around for nearly 55 years, but this unsolicited soujourn in this town, whether I am destined to live here for many more months or years, will carry its indelible marks in my memory.

My routine is terrible - from 0900 hrs to 1900 hrs in the office, the solitary ride to my room at the YMCA, the distracted, indifferent browsing through the books, watching a movie in the Netbook, staring up at the wall, fitful sleep - the only time I can be said to be nearly happy is in the morning when I take out my bicycle and roam around the town or go to the beach.

If there is beauty in decay, that is Alleppey. The degenerating shambles of Godowns and old buildings, the stagnant, water-hyacinth choked canals, the unsophisticated people with rude accent, the absurdity that Class Struggle and Communisim has become, to which Alleppey was the cradle; yet, on the western and eastern sides of the town, the skies open up to brilliant blue, the sea and the backwaters glitter in shimmering silk - and I feel a bit rested, thinking it could've been worse. In spite of the stereotypical images that most non-Alleppey-ans have of Alleppey - the mosquito-ridden, water-scarce, filth-flooded - actually, the present Alleppey is comparatively cleaner than many places I have seen; mosquitoes and water, Trivandrum is nearly as bad. There a kind of quiet, raw, guileless charm to this little town.

I miss Trivandrum. I miss my home. I miss my family. I miss my friend, Doc KVS and the evenings with him. Perhaps once in a while, we all should be kept away from things we love - ah, but not too far away, just out of reach...!

Every day is meticulously counted; the calendar is scoured finely for that elusive mid-week holiday.

I began this post to show you a few more pictures of Alleppey - I am building up a portfolio of the town. These are recent samples.  

There are quiet, peaceable lanes and streets in Alleppey; more so, at early mornings. Maybe it is contagious, I feel the same tired, deflated dullness of the streets. There is a sense of resignation to fate - in   both the town and in me.

This is the facade of the YMCA, where I have spent the last 6 months. My room is behind this building ( foundation stone laid in 1912 AD) in a modern block. Every evening as I trudge back, I see a group of members sitting around a table in the verandah, playing cards. 

I don't know why I took this picture; there is nothing significant about it, except perhaps the way it leans over the water. But this tree and many other seemingly ordinary scenes connect to me ( or rather I connect to them) in a strange way. There is something pathetic, something desperate about it that I jell with. 

So too for this boat. Boats, moored, still and solitary - again, the strange stirrings in my heart...

On either sides of the canals, buildings such as this Godown, slumber. In the not too long ago past, such places bristled with activity and exuded fragrances of a thousand kind. Fresh spices brought down from the hill districts were stored here and awaited export to exotic faraway lands.  I keep a respectful distance, unwilling to disturb them; they are on their last stretches - soon, multi-storied constructions will come up on their graves.  

I have always been fascinated by the male of the fowl, Mr.Cock. How vain, how pompous, how so he looks like an old-world Englishman with jowls and double chins and dressed up for dinner! How funny it is to see him strut in such self-importance! How so much he seems to be burdened with responsibilities! He never seems to eat, but cuk-cuk-cuk he says and points out a delectable worm to his consorts! He looks around, he looks at you in the eye, daring you to fight, but ready to take to flight at the slightest hint! Yet - I sense loneliness, world-weariness in him.  

The quintessential  Kuttanad. Where else would you see an old woman casually rowing away in a boat?

Malayalees might recognize the story. The poem, Vazhakkula, by Changampuzha, written in 1934.  It is the story of the untouchable tenant farmer who nurtured a plantain in his little backyard. His children dream of the day when the fruits will ripen. But the landlord ( note the sacred thread!) arrives and snatches it away because the land belonged to him.  The revolt against the feudalism that was rampant in Kerala began there.    

Ducks are synonymous with Alleppey and Kuttanad. In my teens at Mavelikkara in the Seventies, flocks of ducks would swoop down on the post- harvested paddy fields. Those were pre-insecticide days. There would be abundant frogs and fish and all sorts of things to gobble up. For the paddyfield owners, the payment was in eggs! For every Para ( a measure of area of paddy field) they would give so much eggs.  Boy! Those were the days!

Thondankulangara Mahadevar Temple. It has a large compound and huge trees. There never seem to be the typical temple-going crowd here; in fact, it is never crowded.  Yet to be tainted, it seems, with the colour of money. 

Note the huge bell. This is the district Police HQ. The man in the right foreground has a Police dog, a Labrador Retriever, with him.  This is another relic from the colonial past. Those British buggers had it real good, didn't they? 

Believe me, there are times when I feel that I have been transported back in time, to the 1960s of my boyhood. Barring the motorbike, this is an ageless scene. This is classical Kerala. 

Another beautiful part of Alleppey. I cannot convey the serenity of the mornings.  I gaze at the old town and realize that I have to make peace with her. I am just a passer-by who will disappear in no time, but Alleppey is eternal. Alleppians make wry faces;  yeah, until Sunami hits!

Wherever I may go in Alleppey, my bicycle would finally lead me to the beach. The road to tranquility. Peace. 

*********  Balachandran V, Trivandrum 19.02.2011

Previous posts on Alleppey

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Calicut Sketches

Sleeping from 2300 hrs to 0600, class from 0930hrs to 1900hrs - not much time left for myself and Calicut to have a powwow - but I managed what I could.

Calicut Beach. Pales into insignficance compared to the virginal beauty of Alleppey beach. And it is not clean as it should be. Mornings at the beach belong to the health conscious.

My room mate is a bhakta - devotee. On either of his wrists are tied multicoloured threads, nowadays the identity mark of the neo-Hindus. One evening he drags me to a festival at a nearby temple. I cannot stand that place for more than 10 minutes; a group of 'Idea Star Singers' were on the warpath with ear-deafening orchestra. PNB being the local Big Bank, has even sponsored an illumined God.

I take my camera  along to the classroom. Raised eyebrows. Those who have known me for many years ask - 'Eppallum nirthiyille ee paripadi?" Still the crazy bugger, aren't ya? I discover a beehive outside the glass windows of the 6th floor. And a Blue Rock Pigeon on the other side.

The fantastic vegetable market. It was astoundingly so clean; the sellers invariably seemed like jolly good fellows. I was fascinated by their lights - each vendor has his own, a recharged old m/cycle or car battery on which a bent pipe holds a CFL bulb aloft. Ingenuous! I take lengthy videos with my humble camera - it is fine through the viewer, but uploaded to the computer, not. It moves jerkingly. Sad. So, just a screen shot.

The Young Challangers Club - one of the cradles of Kerala Football. Started in 1936. This is the place where some of the greatest Malayalee footballers were born. Flashes of memory flit through my mind...

Across the pond you see the Comtrust buildings. One of the oldest textile factories started by Basel missionaries in 1844. Now, like most industries in Kerala, under Lockout!

EMS Namboothiripad and A K Gopalan. The founders of Communism in Kerala. You may admire them or hate them; it is upto you. But the fact remains that they were instrumental in changing the lives of generations of Malayalees; for the better.

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Romans 3:23

 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.Timothy 1 :15

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. Mark 16:16

I have not sinned; therefore I do not believe.

*********** Balachandran V, Calicut, 03.02.2012

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Bookseller who grew Wings

Photo Courtesy Internet. (I forgot to copy the url address!)

The one good thing about having an obsession is that your mind is focussed; that helps in cutting through the cobwebs of  the stagnant, mundane life that one is forced to live, of the unwanted thoughts that crowd one's mind all the time. One forgets, at least temporarily, the pathetic present. Thus, my obsession with mountains, esp., Himalayas, has helped me; sitting within the confines of a room, barred by the grilled windows and shut doors, suffocated by the swirling hot air of the ceiling fan - I soar; in my mind, I see the grand vistas, the perilious cliffs, the grandeur of the snow mountains; after several journeys in the Himalayas, my mental visions seem like a virtual reality show.

These days, wherever I go, I search out bookshops that sell old, secondhand books. New books are prohibitively expensive to buy - but more than that, there is a great pleasure in digging through hundereds of crap, sniffing like a hound unleashed, eyes rapidly roving through the shelves or rows or sometimes just piles of books and then - Zaaappp!! you home in - I am a bloodhound when it comes to books.

Last week I was in Calicut ( Kozhikode) for a week-long training programme.  After sitting through the boring lectures and exercises till 1900 hrs, I jump into the first bus that takes me to the town and wanders aimlessly through the busy, crowded streets till 2200 hrs. I dare not go into my room before that because the guy with whom I share it is a TV jerk, all the time flicking through the numeous channels or watching idiotic programmes. In the mornings,  I go for long walks to the beach or the market area which are ideal hunting grounds for an observer of human life like me; then, there are the old book sellers.

There is one near the famous Hotel Paragon - he had shifted his shop to a small cubicle beneath the flyover. As I enter the shop, I start with my usual query - ' Do you have any- any books on Himalayas, photographs or travelogues or - just anything? This guy - I recognise him, because I had been to his previous shop a few times - offers a couple on Nepal. He said he had a few others but all sold out. The other books he shows, I already have. I tell him my objective; that I am looking for books on 19th/20th century travels in the Garhwal Himalayas ( This is a plea to you too, my reader - if you chance upon any, do let me know).  We strike up a conversation and I tell him about my passion. He listens to me shyly and says if he comes across any book, I'd be the first to know. He asks me about my travels to Himalayas. When I tell him that I had been to Kailas/Mansarovar, about my bike ride,  his eyes widen and I could see he is awed. He looks at me with almost devotion.

I buy a few books; the ones on Nepal, one on mountaineering, an old poetry collection - I pay for them and turn toleave. Then the bookseller says - ' Sir, you see, I too have been to Himalayas once.' 'When', I ask him. 'In 1985, I went with a group of people on a 3-month long pilgrimage all over India and visited Kedarnath, Badrinath.' He pauses. He looks around at his rows of books vaguely. In his slightly turned away face, in that faraway look in his eyes, I see him walking over the mountains once again, trudging along the bridle paths.

My heart goes out to him. I want to hold his hands. How so well I know this man! I ask him if he went again. He is silent for a while.  He shakes his head. 'I wish I could, Sir', he says. 'But what with the books and a family to maintain ...' He sighs and changes the subject. 'Have you written anything about your trips', he asks me. He politely listens, but I could see that he had left his shop and walked over to the flyover and standing on the railings beat his wings and flew up into the darkened skies.

******** Balachandran V, Alappuzha, 07-02-2012

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Beypore Vignettes

"Beypore is a ancient port town and part of Calicut municipal corporation in Kozhikode district in the state of KeralaIndia. This place also has a marina and a beautiful beach. Beypore port is one of the oldest ports in Kerala from where trading was done to the Middle East. Beypore is also famous for building wooden ship, it is called Dhows or Urus in Malayalam language. These ships are usually bought by arabmerchants for trading, fishing and now used as tourist ships. According to Captain Iwata, founder member of the Association of Sumerian ships in Japan, Sumerian ships might have been built in Beypore. There are evidences to prove that Beypore had direct trade links with Mesopotamia and was a prominent link on the maritime silk route". (Wiki)

The goat trotted up straight to me and demanded a share of the snacks. Behind her came her friends. I thought I had seen it all; I have seen dogs, cats, monkeys and men doing it, but a goat, twitching its stub of a tail!


The large glass jars looked ancient; so did its contents. Pickled pineapple, gooseberry, mango, carrots - Rs.3/- apiece. I try a piece of pineapple; salty, tangy, its good. But I liked the little vendor more. In between selling his wares, he himself enjoyed chewing on a gooseberry.

Everytime I see people playing with animals, my heart melts; my face softens. Those are the only occassions when I feel love for humans.

Look at the people at a beach; or at a picnic in the woods. They look relaxed, happy and at peace. Yet they take nature for granted and do nothing to protect it.

Prelude to matrimony, I guess, for the wedding album. I have seen such hilarious scenes - the couple are asked to pose, act - they walk around in the gardens or beaches like the hero and heroine of a movie. Albums full of pictures, CDs- I sometimes marvel at the naivety of humans!

It is not the classical Dhow that made Beypore famous, but this was the best I could get.  Those readers who would like to know more about Beypore and Dhows can read it in this blog

Birds - Crows, Brahminy kites, Pariah kites, Little egrets -

Pathway built into the sea stretches for a kilometre. As dusk falls, the lamps go aglow, and night creeps in.

Sunsets - why do we love to watch it, how many times have we looked at the Sun going down? Somewhere deep inside, we connect - we know where we all came from, the star that we all once belonged to...

********* Balachandran V, Calicut, 03.02.2012