How impractical the Railway line between Mysuru & Thalssery will be?

How impractical the Railway line between Mysuru & Thalssery will be?

Now that the Karnataka election drama, with its horse trading & finally reservation quota candidate winning the highest post and stuck in cabinet jugging, we can wonder to more pressing things: what is the future of Thalssery-Mysuru railway line. Though previously it is claimed that ‘in principle’ the State government is not in favour of the project, their past action casts shadow on it.

In the Middle East, there is a popular sandwich called Mushakal… combination of fried potato, brinjal & falafel with little salad in shamoon or kubz. In Kuwait for the last 60 years, the price remains unchanged at 100 fils (one tenth of a dinar), thanks to government subsidy for the basic kubz & shamoon. Also in the last 40 or so years, I have not been able to discern any changes in the tast. Similarly, I am unable to taste out the future ideology of the Karnataka government… ‘makki ka makki’ or what is brewing? Is it going to be pushed in to quandary because every post in Kodagu sits in the hands of the opposition?

February 18, 2018 witnessed two important things in Mysuru city regarding railways. The first was a large scale protest march organized by “Kodagu against railway” at the Karnataka exhibition ground opposite to the Mysuru Palace, in which I had the privilege of participating personally. Though it was planned earlier, it coincided with the second important thing: the arrival of our charismatic PM, Narendra Modi to inaugurate/commission 140-km fully-electrified Bengaluru-Mysuru rail track & flag off the Humsafar Express between Mysuru-Udaipur in Rajastan. Both were deemed equally important to the city in different way.

The protest was not against the railway in general, our beef was against the proposed railway line between the Thalssery-Mysuru. As well as any other anti-environment and myopic projects proposed or brewing at the Vidhana Soudha.

What made this rally very unique is the fact that it is not attached to any political party but was people driven, like one of the speakers mentioned, by the children of Kaveri!! It was by the Army of Mother Kaveri which does not have any caste or creed but the humanity which cares to save & protect the welfare of future for the future generation.

It is a movement started by a retired Colonel & Coorg wildlife society President, Cheppudira P. Muthanna gathered momentum because of the significance attached to it. Formed in 1980, Coorg Wildlife Society is a registered charity with the motto “Pledge to Protect”. Someone who once guarded the country & was ready to lay down his life for the nation, is now fighting to save the Mother of his birth place.

This is a cause which has touched the emotions of everyone in Kodagu. The number of participants were accounted somewhere between 16,750 to 17 thousand mostly clad in black or black band on their left sleeves from as young as a toddler to as old as 90 years. People from the length & breadth of Kodagu had made it to the protest. The participants included: Hotel owners association (who also arranged for food & beverages to the participants free of cost), students from different schools in Mysuru (who rendered their emotional slogans), Gowda Samaja, Amma Kodava Samaja, Kodagu Muslim association, Heggade Samaja, Cauvery education society, Cauvery Mahila Sanga, Kerala Hindu association, aborigines of Kodagu. & last but not the least Kodava Samajas from Kutta to Madikeri to Bengaluru were present. This coming together of everyone clearly denotes the sentiments of each & everyone in Kodagu.

70 buses came from Kodagu & scores of private vehicles from all around. 50 to 60 Java bikes (once produced in Mysuru city) with riders clad in black joined the march. What makes this protest unique is the fact that except for the few traffic police who were controlling the public traffic, there were none to control the peaceful protest march where everyone was in their best exemplary behavior. In a state where half a dozen people marching is accompanied by equal number of police in front, behind & the middle, this kind of peaceful march conveys a good will message. They are telling it’s not the so called development we are against but the damage it could cause in this particular case. I whole heartedly respect both the organizers as well as the participants.

If there is will there is always a way!

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So why are we protesting?

It’s simply because they have lost the faith in the politicians as a whole. Going back to the previous incident which prompted this action by general public which took their grievances with the Mysuru-Kozhikode high tensions 400 KV power project to both ruling & opposition parties. Everyone had given the assurance that it would not happen, but one fine day after SEVEN-years, they arrived armed with the equipment to spearheading the destruction of forest (with approval from the central government), which saw the felling of 60,000 trees. While protested, they had the audacity of cutting the trees while the district slept. What could this action be called if not ignorance, stupidity or utter greed?

In order to get support from the ignorant farmers & planters, the same breed of politician are spreading the silly false rumours that the train coming will increase the coffee price & decrease the manure price, etc.,  & playing with the psyche of the people. How illogical one could stretch? False news doesn’t need much wings to fly too.

Though the district elected MP Mr. Pratap Simha assured at the protestors meet that the project will not go forward & similar ideas projected by lawyer Mr. Brejesh Kalappa. Only time can tell us what the reality is!! He went one step further, pro bono.. to have a march from Bengaluru to Kodagu to get attention!! Well, I wonder if it would penetrate or make a difference in the political brain cells. In between the snore they might think it’s just a dream…

Kodagu always has nourished, nurtured & nursed its natural resourses, over time respecting the mother nature & has tried to maintain the rivers & trees until the power & paisa hungry politicians started selling timber to the like-minded mafia resulting in the loss of green cover & diminishing rainfall. This has resulted in the vanishing of many unique flora & fauna endemic to Kodagu, in front of my own eyes. Kodagu is one of the major coffee producer in the country. So somehow, somewhere every coffee drinker in India must have had the privilege of tasting Kodagu coffee. The rest is produced in Kerala & Tamil Nadu.

Interestingly a team from Kannur, Kerala lead by Mr. Neelakantan & Mr. Manoj, holding the placard in Malayalam had participated in the protest too. Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Neelakantan mentioned that how the new airport at Kannur had forced the snakes from its habitat to people’s homes which forced them to live in constant fear with it.

People of Kodagu are already facing this problem from the giants of animal kingdom & felling the trees & dwindling forests could make it worst. My own first cousin’s wife was marauded by a rogue elephant in 2015.

Beautiful Kodagu is part of the Western Ghats (aka Sahyadri meaning The Benevolent Mountains) which is estimated to be formed about 150 to 200 million years ago that makes it older than the Great Himalayan Mountain. These Ghats are not true mountains but are the faulted edge of the Deccan plateau, supposed to have formed during the break-up of the super continent of Gondawana with volcanic upthrusts. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site & is one of the eight “hottest hot-spots” of biological diversity in the world in terms of their significance. Unfortunately the politicians, who want to quick aggrandization of wealth, are blinded like the horses.

The revered River Kaveri is born in these hills & joined by small & little tributaries, gathering momentum flows through south & east of Karnataka & Tamil Nadu, across the Deccan Plateau through the South Eastern lowland emptying into Bay of Bengal. She is popularly known as the Jeeva-nadi (life giving river) & even supplies 40% of drinking water to the silicon city of India Bangalore. Mysuru & Mandya district once known as the sugar bowl of Karnataka thrives on her.

After Cape Town’s drastic water crisis, the next predicted metropolis is none other than our own Bengaluru!! With ever mushrooming population & ill planned infrastructure, Bengaluru is already reeling under the shortage of water. How far or further it can be pushed?

Mysore is the crown of Karnataka & Kodagu is the precious pearl in that crown. Since three years the state is witnessing signs of famine & the rain fall has reduced drastically. There is a say in Kannada: “Kodagige male Mysureige kale” (when rain falls in Kodagu, Mysore shines), Kodagu is the prime catchment area for river Kaveri & contributes over 70% of the total inflow into KRS. No forest no rain… It’s not a rocket science & anyone with little COMMON SENSE would know that. Can anyone survive without water for a day? Good sleep, good health & peace come from healthy environment. A tree can be destroyed in a minute but to grow it takes more than 30 years & even to plant are they equipped or intelligent enough to identify the native plants which had evolved with the evolution.

One very important noteworthy aspect of the adversity the River Kaveri already facing. Due to shortage of rain & flow the river actually does not reach its final destination, the Bay of Bengal. It’s ironic that unlike the Yellow river, the Chinese River of Sorrow which does not meet the ocean due to heavy silt deposit, here Kaveri does not reach due to shortage of water. As a result at Poompuhar, the sea water is entering the river turning it saline & rendering the land unfit for cultivation. Does one need more explanation on this disaster? How long are we going to use, misuse or abuse the rivers & forests of our beloved country for personal gains? Our politicians badly in need of good purging!

So do Kodagu really need the rail line?

As voiced by thousands from every walk of life, it doubly spells a big “NO”. When there is alternate route which could be done spending less money & causing destruction, why are the politicians really pushing it? Even the metro man Mr. E. Sridharan sees the line via Nanjangud, which is also shorter in distance is more viable/asible than the Kodagu. Even Mr. Kasturi Rangan’s Report on Western Ghats is pushed under the carpet too. What is the ulterior motive behind that is a zillion dollar question only the particular politician could answer?

So why it is so important to state government to have the line? Only the politicians (ex CM Siddaramiah in particular) have the answer… Out of the blue, the project was first proposed during the 2012-13 budgets, under the guise of aiding the tourism industry. Kodagu is already over burdened with tourism. When the very land is going dry -with it agriculture+flora+fauna, excess water is also used by the big resorts causing woes to innocent poor farmers. If there is no drinking water how the hell is the tourism industry going to survive? It is not wrong to be ignorant but definitely it is an error to continue to be ignorant, that too when one have taken the responsibility of the welfare of the state.

Progress means Money for some, agenda for some but this is spelling disaster for the future of the entire state. As a common person, the way I see it it’s purely the vested interest of the politicians either for personal gains or personal likes/dislikes. It’s very difficult to understand what changes between hands & minds!! Is there some kind of underhand understanding between the governments of Kerala & Karnataka for this project, which is beyond common man’s understanding?

Elephant are entering human territory more often than before & death are common. A glimpse to how do the bureaucracy in the state works? Sometime around 2012, one fine day a tusker chose to die in my cousin’s coffee estate near Maldare. My cousin’s husband is a retired army officer & dutifully informed the police & forest department. They were told not to go near or touch the elephant. After two days, when the carcass was already spreading its presence to far & wide, the team of five did arrive. After circling around & discussions, they concluded that it was a natural death!! Thankfully an honest army man, who is now wheel chair bound did not appear like an assassin to them. So what do they do next? Coolly bring out the equipment & saw the tusks & load it to their jeep & move on. Of course there was no room for the carcass among them in the vehicle. Poor family had to spend from their own pocket & arrange for the burial of the rotting body!!

Karnataka seems to be religiously following California, the IT capital of the Universe in every respect. The days are not far away for debt burden insolvency, water crisis & fall in food production!! According to Indian Express, Karnataka’s so called fiscal Bhagya budget swelled debt burden to Rs.2.86 lakh crore. Politicians seem to be turning into magicians & popping out loans from every direction.

Sometimes sadly & unwittingly even the scholars indirectly support unworthy causes dues to exposure to worldly ignorance. My late father, an educationist himself used to say: Education (formal process – from books) & Knowledge (informal real life experience) are two different aspects. As a conclusion, I would also like to add statements (and a video) by the so called doctorate holder, a award winning journalist & an industrialist. One doctor, a Phd holder Mr. Khader whose video is floating around, a brand ambassador & promoter of sridhanya –millets, blaming the coffee plantation for lessening the rain & little does he knows that the increase in the canapé seen from satellite or the fancy helicopter ride surveying Western Ghats are in fact the trees in the coffee estates? Rest the forest & bamboo bushes are practically vanishing by timber selling by the government! Where was he hibernating when the 50,000 trees were fell? Where is his voice with the proposed project which could result in the felling of lakhs of trees?

One of the speakers Ms. Devika also mentioned about the famed Ms. Majumdhar who said in a seminar that if the trees are planted upto one kilometer radius around the river banks should be sufficient to get enough rains. Hence any development should not be held back. May be she should try to experiment it around Poompuhar! Wonder which school she went to? No wonder the innocent farmers & general public believes the politician’s false promises… very sad… sad indeed.

While at river & water crisis I would also like to bring to picture the other hurdles the river & forests of Kodagu is facing. It’s the sand mafia & the forest fires.

“It’s strange but true that rivers/oceans, forests, hills/mountain & rain has a symbiotic relationships. Their affairs has been synchronized for eon by the creator thy self & one cannot exist without the other & all the living beings cannot exist without water. The only one who could try to make the foolish attempt to disrupt it is the self proclaimed crowning glory of creation, the man himself.” Sadly, Man is the only intelligent being who can cut the tree, make paper out of it & later write on it save the trees.

The concurrent famines have a common, disturbing theme. They are man-made, precipitated by conflicts & perpetuated by political jockeying. Abdul Kalam, one of the finest human beings said: you cannot change your future, but you can change your habits, & surely your habits will change your future.

Sand is to rivers, what soil is to land. Sand is very important to river & plays the same role as soil on land. It is the essential element of the eco system. It plays the role of filtration, regulates the water flow & slows the flow of river which helps in recharging the ground water. It percolates & acts as store house of water & once it is sucked enough, then the water flows further.

While growing up, during the summer holidays we spent lot of time on the River bank. Water was less but still plenty flowing, clean & cold flowing from the hills. We would soak our feet in the water & when the tiny fish came to eat the dead skin of the feet, tickling us in the process, we would burst out laughing. Pulling the feet out & soaking again was a silly yet fun game we played. (Now I have to pay money to do that!) We would dig the sand with our hand or empty coconut shell & when slowly the water collected in it, we would catch some fish & put in it. Our own self created aquarium….. we were taught to leave it back eventually.

Sand mafia, hand in gloves with the greedy officials has put so much strain on the rivers that the sand is nowhere to be seen. The story of how the sand reaches the black market passing dirty cash from village politics to police to every nincompoop told by smuggling assistant was pathetic.

Sand banks, sand islands, it harbors hugh amount of beneficial organisms  including crustacean & aquatic animals which spend their entire life on sand like crab, Ottars (neer naie), turtles, birds, crocodiles, etc. Due to absence of sand most of these have practically vanishing… rather vanished.

In the fabric of creation every being including trees are created for a reason, has a role to play & a place & time is allotted to them, which is beyond our understanding capacity. For example the insects… how many people really understand the importance of them?

Albert Einstein said, if the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live…  Then there are the dung beetles often considered grimy, which perhaps even goes unnoticed by most of the people that really play a pivotal role in the renewal of the ecosystem (particularly in the forest & fertility of the land through improving nutrient cycling, soil structure, seed dispersal, etc). It practically plants the seedling. With diminishing cattle & wild animals, along with the forests, they have almost disappeared too…

Last but not the least, Forest fire has become a menace… I never saw so many forest fires in Kodagu before. While growing up somewhere if you see smoke may be once in a year or two, my parents would say seems like forest fire & would worry. I could never understand the worry in their mind… but now its so very common.. if you travel via Thithimati forest or even via Kushalnagar, burnt out forest is a common site.

Forest fires in Kodagu are happening for different silly reasons… Many a times its accidental fire, out of ignorance which might end up in dangerous wild fires. Drunkards or wayward for fun, carelessly thrown undoused cigarette butts, abandoned cooking fire by some tourists, or people who collect firewood instigate such fires to get access, often while traveling I have witness the abandoned controlled-fires… when such ignorant fires leave the ground to crown, it could end up with dangerous situations. The searing heat contributed by reduction in monsoon as well as ground water & dry vegetation has combined to fuel the fire. Above all there are very limited resources to contain the fires too.

Well, since man is unable to control his population & growth, he has managed to turn Mother Earth almost infertile with chemical based fertilizers, GM seeds, cloning, artificial food, etc., etc. like any other mother, this Super Mother has been giving & giving, tolerating everyone.

Swami Dayaanda Saraswathi said: the earth should not be taken for granted. You have no right to abuse it & you can’t disuse it. Make sure that you are a contributor, not merely a consumer… There is one thing humans have to remember always. We are dependent on her & she is not. She can always revitalize herself. The clock is ticking… Here on Earth, Mother Nature is the boss & she is the one dictates terms. We have stretching her too hard & her patience are running out… other than humans, the entire creation goes according to her laws & design.

One final hope perhaps to Karnataka/India/world is the latest discovery, the locked up water from ringwoodite…. Never heard of it? No issues it’s just like the God particles….! Only politicians can get it… they have to be packed along with their black moneys & cronies to bring it.

Insatiable greed could motivate Man to push the rock on his own feet..

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Changing face of South Karnataka… are we headed for a severe drought?

I hope i’m wrong about the title’s question, but the signs are everywhere. Kodguku poopo (going to Coorg) always brings me a feel-good feeling. It’s like melting chocolate to the mind.  As soon as we enter the Anechowkoor border gate, my husband will say do you feel the change? Then I would add I was about to ask you!! The sight, the smell & the sounds stirring suddenly awakens something coiled up somewhere perhaps in a Pandora’s box. Nostalgic memories are unique to each individual, once a Lebanese colleague of mine told me, you will not believe me if I say I love the smell of burning garbage… it’s the smell of childhood freedom from before the Civil War. Now if I see anywhere the burning garbage, her face pops in front of me reminding the word freedom!

Even though I keep visiting India, I have been away from home for too long & so much has happened in between & unfortunately the total scenario is different today. What Kodagu once was seems like from a different dimension altogether. Kodagu, once the green paradise is painting a different scenario today. I had to make trips to Mangalore, Kodagu & Chennai within a short span lately & the change in topography made me wonder if there is something seriously wrong somewhere.

While driving from Mysuru to Kodagu almost all the keres (lakes) have dried up. Belikere, once filled with original pink lotus dried up more than a decade ago but many others have joined the wagon in recent years. The big kere near Periapatna which always stood the test of time has lost its battle. So does many small ones. Some of them practically bone dry without a trace of its past. So what is going to be the future? There is practically no flow in the pole (rivers) & todu (creeks), the wells are showing the signs of drying unless they are close to the rivers. The Lakshmana Tirtha River flowing through Hunsur looks like a river from Mars with big boulders popping out & the almost stagnant water exploding with unlimited green weeds. I have no idea if it is good as it prevents the evaporation or if it is bad which might contaminates the drinking water. On the other hand the South Canara seemed greener & the lakes still wet, if not in a larger scale.

The scenario from Bangalore to Chennai is worlds apart & paints a different story. Most of the water clogged paddy fields are green & smiling with freshly transplanted paddy. More over almost all the Lakes are alive & pleasure to tired eyes. Some of the lakes might be fed from the Kaveri River but I am sure all of it is not. Even though Chennai is warmer than Kodagu, the evaporation seems to be less… that means it’s not Mr. Sun to be blamed but the depleting ground water level. So why is it losing the ground water so rapidly?

On the 11th of February 2017, we traveled from Madikeri to Mythadi around 11:30 pm after attending a wedding. The visibility on the way was almost near zero making it very, very difficult to drive. However I was happy to see the fog (or mist?) but when realized that the fog was sans moisture I could not believe my eyes. It was the first time I saw something like that as fog & mist known to me always left droplets on the plants & grass which gleamed like diamond in the rising sun, windows & wind screen. The weather pattern is surely changing.

River Kaveri originating from Kodagu joined by several tributaries becomes the life line of Karnataka & the Tamil Nadu. If the source is dried up or supply is curtailed then both drinking water as well as the crops will be disastrous. So I had to make a trip to KRS to check for myself the status of water level. In front of the nearby petrol station, the Nale (canal) seems to be barren & someone (a trader) was using the bridge to dry their consignment of blankets or carpets while hung as a colourful display as the herd of goats walked past with their herder. There were few transplanted wet lands dotting here and there. The dam level has retreated drastically & a gang of young men in trunks who had gone to take a dip were seen as little dots. On the way to new Kannambadi, a little drama was amalgamated on a pool of water with water tankers (supplying drinking water) moved on the rugged surface shaking its butt, men & women washed their cloths, someone was having bath, while someone else washed the buffalo, yet another washed the vehicles, as what seemed like few army personnel looked on. God protect the ones who drink that tanker water!! Meanwhile as usual my husband & I argued over taking a picture!

On the rugged tar road, 3 men were drying the hurali kalu (pulse) in the old fashioned way depending on the occasional vehicles going to the new Gopala swamy temple. We had a chat with them & as well as a group of men & women from the nearby village who came to spend time at the new temple (idols are not consecrated yet). They were telling there is no water in the bore well & new ones even upto 500 feet no water!

Even though certain level can be seen in the reservoir how much of the water can really be used? How much of it is silt deposit? No one can tell precisely.. sadly I don’t see any where anyone is controlling the consumption of water… seems like business as usual & everyone virtually behaves like there is no tomorrow.

Interestingly the Kukkahalli keri within the premises of Mysore University Campus, home to many migratory aquatic birds, which used to be full for as long as I can remember is been shrinking drastically. Inspite of that there are plans to turn it into money making machine by introducing boating, kayaking, etc. Bangalore is gone to dogs with the greed of blind politicians & builders, & ever increasing human waste & plastic. Sadly Mysore seems to be the next victim…

While I was growing up, my dear Kodagu had a good environmental balance. This balance was achieved by practicing harmony with the nature & flora & fauna in the form of a good relationship between human settlements, forests & water resources. The traditional cultivation of cardamom & coffee had kept the trees standing tall. The floor of the cardamom plantation never even saw sun light in the mid afternoon… kept the moisture safe {of course along with umbulu (leech)}. Deva-kadu (sacred groves) along with the reserved forest by the government made the district green & kept the fresh air intact. Punda pada (Bamboo bush) along the River & Creek banks kept the water from heavy evaporation & the banks being eroded. The expanse of paddy cultivation helped the ground to absorb the water leisurely along with the grass from the plains acting like sponge to retain the rain water. Cattle grazing maintained the bane (plains) like mowed landscape along with producing milk & organic fertilizer.

Birds sang & bees buzzed… The beautiful sound of everything happened around at dawn & dusk were a synchronized/rhythmic act of people & the nature in harmony. Evening watching the flock of birds flying home was a feast to eyes & their murmuration echoing around still echoes in my ears. The sunset had its own rhythm with the walking home of the herds of the cattle, mothers sometimes calling for their calves & the gante-mani (bell in the neck) ringing along their movements & the cicadas announcing their presence with tymbals. Early morning along with the fresh cool breeze came in the dawn chorus of birds creating an unusual melodious symphony with so many different specifies, as if they competed with each other in announcing to the universe I am the happiest & I am the happiest… the drops of water collected on the leaf of grass from the night long mist gleamed on the early morning sun like diamond with myriad of colours…

However sadly the entire scenario has almost vanished or vanishing into thin air like the moistureless mist I experienced on 11th February 2017 night. Now the excessive use of artificial fertilizers & pesticides seems to have not only sucked the insects & birds but also the land out of its natural immunity along with increased usage of land with ever increasing population. Cattles are a thing of the past & even the crows do not come for the rice offering for the soul.

So where does the fault line lies? Whom to blame for this environmental disaster? The human lives have become like the plastic flowers without smell or texture or soul. Should we blame the people who have changed everything around them in the name of modernization? Should we blame the pesticides & artificial manure & the countless hybrids popping around? Should we blame the increasing tourism & the ever increasing garbage & plastic? Should we blame the politicians for the greed of money-power-votes changed the scenario or the sand mafia or the paper making & matchbox making or uncontrolled population growth? I remember my parents grumbling every time a loaded timber or bamboo lorry passed by making a heavy engine sound while climbing uphill… there goes another load & mercilessly cutting the mother’s womb, chopped as if their father had planted them.

Either the strategic importance of Kodagu is underestimated or it is utter ignorance & short sighted, the use-misuse-abuse on Kodagu haven’t seems to be ending any time soon. Sadly in 2015 the state government played havoc with Tippu Jayanthi, hurting the psyche of the Kodavas & death of an innocent person in the name of vote banking drama. Now they want railways then high tension wire to pass through which will result in tree felling & link the streams & rivers, perhaps flooding part of the Kodagu in the bargain… The unreasonable state government (blinder than Kaurava parents) plans does not seems to ending any time sooner. There is a say that one life is not enough to make all the mistakes & learn from it… I think it’s time to use the God given common sense & work wisely than filling their coffers.

Last but not the least, to add further from old fashioned thinking, there is a belief in Kodava culture that Goddess Kaveri had promised them to keep Kodagu blessed with all her grace as long the Kodavas lived there. Now that many Kodavas moved out of Kodagu & also the traditional culture seems to be taking a big U turn. Did the rush to modernization & beautification of Talacauvery back fire?

Or perhaps a major earth quake is brewing underneath? Or perhaps even heather to unknown underground volcano sucking the moisture? Whatever may be the reason if the rain God does not smile on us, & no proper planning for the future (whatever left of it) is done, Karnataka’s future is seems bleak… no drinking water.. no food.. no electricity.. while the population fought with each other, the jobless politicians can either sleep or instigate naked rain dance.

Changing FACE of India… a visit to Mangaluru & back

January 28th 2017, I was traveling to Mangalore after almost two decades. The last time we wanted to go on that road for a monsoon drive some years ago, but the road was so bad & on top of it a lorry filled with haystack had toppled blocking the road for almost a day! My chauffeur cum bodyguard husband refused to go an inch further & with great difficulty managed to turn the car back. But this time it was a pleasure. The roads are good with the completion of the highway No.88 (Mysore-Bantwala). Had nice cup of coffee at Coffee Day which was almost empty near Sulya along with 5-youngsters in their Mitsubish Pajro sports & we stopped for lunch in Managalore at Giri Manja’s. My nephew-in-law highly recommended the place & insisted I taste the Mangalorean fish dishes there. But he was doubtful if my husband would be comfortable in that small little cramped place.

Finally we parked the vehicles besides the flower market & walked a distance to the restaurant near Kalikamba temple… well not exactly a restaurant… located beside a road of about 12 feet including the pavement… as both sides of the road used as a parking place for two wheelers. Small cars, rickshaws, cycles, people, etc., etc… were plying as a little queue formed to get into the restaurant inside a little house of yester years with tiny windows which had seen better days. It seems BBC travel rated the place as the one of the top five best places to eat in India! Interestingly 20 meters away across the road stood yet another Giri Manja’s in a new building & the food was also carried from this old restaurant itself. However, no one went there & waited here as hungry dogs waiting for their bone. As one young teenager refused to eat there saying it was too dark and ugly & was grumbling with his parents, yet another one came out saying it was heavenly food I ever ate…. Almost everyone was walking out wiping the sweat!

After about 20 minutes, finally we went inside & it reminded me of my childhood days when during the small function at the ancestral homes particularly during the monsoon, small benches were used for seating & tall benches were used as tables. Even before the soiled plates were removed & the place was cleaned, we both sat there lest we lose our turn as the other five waited for the other occupants to vacate their seats. One of the young men from our group knew the cook at the restaurant. Then came Anantha, our waiter for the day. When I asked him what was the specialty of the house, he assured us don’t worry, just tell which fish you want & what rice (boiled or normal) you want & I will do the rest. And he did & suggested dishes to share between the seven of us. It was so yummy, reasonably priced & even after eating so much none of us felt heavy too. Luckily one last plate of prawn biryani was available which we shared between us. Fish cooked in coconut oil complimenting & suppressing the fishy flavour was a delight to the pallets. If you ever go to Managlore don’t miss a meal there. It’s worth every paise you pay!

Mangalore (Anglicization of Mangaluru, which is named after Goddess Mangaladevi) for some reason reminded me of a modern version of Colombo, Sri Lanka. People are kind & friendly too. When I asked about the water supply, the Uber driver said: Amma people of Mangaluru has become smart by drinking sweet water which is so very abundant!! Perhaps Goddess Managaladevi did bless the land with abundance & happiness.

On our way back we wanted to visit Kukke Subramanya temple. The drive is beautiful surrounded by plenty of greenery & hills at a distance. Finally we made it to the thousand year old temple, now managed by Muzarai department of Government of Karnataka. Well organized & plenty of police personnel to guide people, the devotees had one small problem: You don’t get enough time to see the deity! Even before I could see how the flower decked amazing idol really looked, I had to move! I know that according to Indian culture the God lives within us but I wanted to see the beautiful idol too… Unfortunately education once given free, hospitals & now even the God is become commercial… Sadly many temples have become golden goose for the government. Surrounding of the temple could have maintained better too.

On our way another interesting thing was the mushrooming of minarets. Throughout the highway, perhaps every couple of kilometers – I simply lost count of those looking towards the sky painted mostly in green & half white. Seems like the do-gooder petrodollar indeed spreading magic carpet effect. Black gold from across the ocean has brought property for some parts of India too… I was joking with my husband what if US President Donald Trump happened to go on that road, perhaps the heat generated from both inside the car as well as the buildings outside would surpass the summer of Kuwait!!

Somewhere between my working life & retirement… the time known to me seems to have elapsed… giving birth to a new order. People even debate over the religion & attire of Statue of Liberty! It’s odd that every where man is futilely looking & holding & crying & sacrificing self (& others) – for & in the name of God, while they themselves have pushed God into the dark corners of their own heart. For some unknown reason it reminded me of my visit to Amsterdam where the Churches are being turned into discos & restaurants for lack of devotees…

When I came home my dear old friend & ex-colleague from Cochin had sent an interesting video on Funeral Event Management…Wow. Its common in India that some communities hire professional wailers & dancers to perform in front of dead bodies depending upon their beliefs… if death & departing is sad for some … for some others it’s the beginning of a new life… continuation of the cycle of birth & death rolling endlessly which calls for a celebration. With the event management (said to cost anywhere between 5 to 10 lakhs) the ugly truth reflects similarities to how the youngsters are given all the expensive toys such the mobiles & games etc., etc., to play with by their busy parents to compensate for not spending the quality time. Now the departed souls are given a grand funeral for not being there when they were needed… I could not understand if it was love or the vulgar display of wealth. It is said that the human brain has stopped growing… I think it’s the heart/feeling that is shrinking while the fauna is getting wiser, smarter, kind & understanding… after all man is a mysterious being, an enigma to himself.

Wondering what next? Facetime or whatsapp funeral…. It will be cost effective too hahahahha