Homestaying Kerala: Kannur

Between the beach and the backwater is Blue Mermaid, our host at Kannur, Kerala.

Krishna was an anytime errands boy  for everyone.  He could fetch or fix anything anyone at the Homestay wanted. A bunch of techies from Bangalore, out on a boys weekend out, wanted a case of beer bottles. Kathy needed help fixing her baby’s mashed potato meal;  we had Krishna tell us how to get solar heated water running in our bathroom tap.

And then the electrician from town (some 7 kms away) who came to do a repair job in the afternoon had left without connecting all wires. The snag was discovered only after dark and frantic calls to the electrician went unanswered. When they failed to get someone else,  Krishna,  though not an electrician,  offered to give it a try. His effort worked,  and that was how we got the power back that night.

Set up a couple of years back the 8-room Homestay facility – Blue Mermaid –  is comfortable,  if you can put up with occasional power failure –  declared and unscheduled.  Hostess Indu Pradeep Kumar  says they have plans for back-up power generator to ensure uninterrupted power supply. I don’t think they have WiFi coverage,  though they happily let you use their office desktop.  I made full use of  Indu’s office computer to upload loads of pictures from camera to my pen drive.

For a place that is still a work in progress Blue Mermaid attracts a steady flow of guests,  notably from abroad. During our two-day stay there,  we had as guests a family of six from Paris,  a British couple with a 16-month old son,  and a group of techies from Bangalore.  A UK tour operator’s rep. on inspection trip of homestay facilities in India was given the only available bamboo cottage, normally reserved for honeymooners . India,  he says,  is  getting to be , increasingly,  a preferred destination for tourists from the UK and Europe.

Dining table chat that went on long after our plates got empty was, for me, the CSP (core selling point) of this seaside homestay at Kannur. – Photo – Lakshmi Krishnan.

If I were to list  Blue Mermaid’s CSP (core selling proposition)  I would place dining table chat with guests  above all other factors.  Wife and I spent hours  at the table,  chatting  with the French family of six ,  of which four are children aged between 13 and five. They are on a 10-month vacation,   away from home in Paris.  The French couple have taken long leave from office  –  he is a company executive,  and she is into advertising.  Their children carry their school in an iPad.  They get their course material online;  and the children have permission from school to do their term exams online,  from wherever they are.

The 13 year old  appeared for her last exam while vacationing in Goa.   She gave a 0ne-hour  biology test, online,  during our stay at Blue Mermaid.  Her father says he can’t remember the last time he had spent so much and such good time together with his family,  uninterrupted by office work –  ‘on leaving Paris I handed in to my office ,  not only my car key,  but my  Blackberry as well’.  They told him he could keep the  B’berry – ‘I told them, no, thank you’.   The company executive from Paris says he has been able to do very well  without a phone and the Internet. If the French couple with whom we spent so many hours  talking remain unnamed, it is because  it didn’t occur to either of us  to  find out  each others names.  We exchanged e-mail IDs,  just in case their wanderings brought this French family to my patch of the world, Chennai.

With the British woman,  Kathy,  we talked of  bamboo bikes.  I mentioned about my meeting in Wayanad with bamboo craftsman Lenin , and our chat on the possibility of fabricating bamboo-framed bike in his workshop.  Kathy evinced such interest that she went into online research on bamboo bike manufacture in the UK. Marketing is not Kathy’s line of work.  Having spent the past year in setting up an NGO-run school at Palladam, near Coimbatore,  Kathy and her husband are on their way back to Britain.

Meanwhile,   she is doing a course on partnership counseling. Kathy referred to the need for  ability to  give a hearing to  others’ viewpoint,  to sustain any relationship , particularly, of  man-wife relationship. At a study group in the UK,  a group of  young married couples were tested for their propensity to listen to one another, at least  for 60 seconds without interrupting. It  found the participants  averaged no more than 17 secs. of uninterrupted listening to each other.

I asked if Kathy,  as partnership expert,  had any  advice to offer to a couple,  married for four decades  (42 years, said wife, correcting me)  Kathy said she wanted to interview us,  to know our secret.   If every marriage lasted as long as ours,  Kathy would find herself jobless.  Which is , presumably, why she looking at the UK for a career.  As she said,   nearly 50 percent marriages in Europe ended in divorce.

Related YouTube clips:
Indu, the hostess – 2.31 mins.
Krishna, anytime errand boy – 3.10 mins.
Techies, weekending – 1.28 mins.
toddy tapper Asokan – 1.09 min
Kathy & Rex – toddy-tasting – 4.05 mins.
Lenin, bamboo craftsman – 1.03 Mins.
Kathy’s take on bamboo bikes – 5.47 mins.
Stony path to the beach – 0.38 min.
Stonewall view of beach – 2.07 mins.
Setting sun – 1.11 min.

MUDA telecast : passing the buck

Telecast of the Mysore Urban Development Authority (MUDA)  meetings has been shelved.  Its members  have passed the buck to Bangalore,  seeking  clear-cut directive from Karnataka government,  on whether or not the proceedings of MUDA should be open to the media via closed-circuit telecast.   MUDA isn’t particularly known for fair dealings when it comes to allotment of residential and other sites to members of the public.

To bring a measure of transparency in its public dealings MUDA chairman P Manivannan thought of opening its periodical meetings to the media.  Some MUDA members felt that presence of news reporters at the meeting hall would cramp their style. Meeting their objection Mr Manivannan  arranged for a  closed-circuit telecast of the proceedings to the MUDA press-room.

Which wasn’t okay with some MUDA members,  notably MLAs   who don’t feel comfortable with anything short of in-camera proceedings.  In the government if someone doesn’t want to get anything done,  the issue is referred to the higher authorities.  Papers are put up for approval. And a file is created,  to move from desk to a bigger desk,  till the file finds itself on CM’ s desk.

The issue whether or not to telecast  MUDA meetings has been referred to the department of law and parliamentary affairs.  The file would then move up the bureaucratic and ministerial ladders.  If the matter pertains to policy direction,  which the telecast issue,  presumably, is,  it goes to  CM.  If he deems the issue is worthy of wider consideration,  he could set up a committee.

My hunch is, a matter needing  ‘clear-cut direction’ would  call for a committee deliberation.  Besides,  if they  okay MUDA ,  you can’t stop  GUDA,  DUDA and BUDA (Bellary)  wanting  to  go  ‘live’ in the interest of transparency .

Mysore: Airport in search of flights

Now that the city has an airport with no flights,  Mysore is faced with the problem of generating passenger and cargo traffic that would make it worthwhile for airlines to come in here.  A recent seminar on the issue came up with the idea that Mysore-based IT corporates and other business establishments should hold out a promise of minumum seats occupancy to lure the airlines.

The idea doesn’t seem all that bright or workable because no airline can be expected make its business decisions on the minimum seats guaranteed  by a few corporates. Anyway,  no such assurance can be binding on individual companies.  Besides, airlines are reported to be looking for a state subsidy by way of a cut in fuel tax (27 perecent in Karnataka).

Air-traffic projection by Infosys has it that 800 of its employees  would use air services every week to Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore. To be meaningful such projection ought to be able to give a break-down, city-wise, and also in terms of seat-occupancy on weekdays,  and weekends.

It doesn’t require much study to say that much of the corporate employees traffic out of Mysore is on weekends. Check the Chennai Shadabthi bookings from Mysore on Friday/Saturday. Viewed in this perspective, Mysore could at best function a weekend airport, to start with.

Among other wild ideas that spring to mind:
1) Make Mysore a cargo hub for carrying  vegetables, fruits, flowers, and other perishables from distrcts and nearby Nilgiris to  major market centre. This would need deep-freeze storage facility.
2) Airlines operating from Mysore would do well to  look at traffic to tier-2 destinations such as Coimbatore, Madurai, Trichy, Bellary, Mangalore, Tirupathi, Cochin.
3) The Airports Authority of India  could consider developing  a shopping complex for air passengers and also local residents, in view of the relative proximity of the airport to the city limits.
4) Doubling the railway track could attract air traffic from towns on railway route.
5) Early completion of the Mysore-Bangalore expressway would make Mysore a credible alternative for air passengers in Bididi, Kengari and other Bangalore suburbs on the Mysore-end.

Heard this word ?

I hadn’t heard of this word , till I read it in The Hindu this morning . Which doesn’t mean that the word doesn’t exist.  In fact,  ‘incentivise’  is a word coined in 1968  and is recognised  in OED and Merriam-Webster.  But then a Google search showed up this entry under Urban Dictionary , which said the only respectable form of the word was the noun “incentive.”  And it added that those who say  “incentivize”  ought to know they  ‘come across as a jargon-spewing a-hole’.

Bangalore energy expo

A global energy expo-cum seminar is under way in Bangalore,  but Karnataka’s energy minister has no time to look in.  He is reported to  have told the show organisers that he is busy with campaigning for  the legislative council poll in Shimoga. Nearly 60 companies  related to energy – solar, wind,  biofuel,  and  hydro power – are represented at the four-day show.

Here they are  showcasing their product and equipment under one roof for the first time, and the karnataka energy minister doesn’t seem to see the  point of it.  For him Copenhagen may well be on another planet.  So  much for his  interest in the climate change issue.

Media practices

Taking the back page first,  The Hindu today carries  a report about the World Newspaper Congress calling on newspapers to focus less on profits than on their role in democratic society. And then there was a mention made about the print media accountability to their readers.
Here is the newspaper’s  Page One of the day
Pages  2 &  3
It for readers to judge whether The Hindu serves the readers interest by allowing their advt. people and accountants to have the run of their pages this way.

Speaking for horses

A Mysore horse, presumably pulling tonga for a living,  is left by his owner to fend for himself on Ramavilas Road.

In stark contrast,  a horse stabled  at the Bangalore Turf Club (BTC), they say, is taken care of by as many as   six persons.   There are a 1,000 of them at BTC.  They are well fed and bred, and now,  they have an NGO to speak for them  –  People  for Animals (PFA). The NGO has  filed a petition in the Karnataka  High Court  challenging a government decision  to shift the Bangalore race course  from its prime location to the suburbs at  Chikkajala-Doddajala.

NGO’s  case:   There is no infrastructure for proper upkeep of horses at the proposed location. PFA,  in its petition,  says BTC has ‘ excellent’  facilities for taking care of horses.

Apparently,  People for Animals  is not  for every horse.

Media news sense

MediaNov.8Two news reports,  both  Page One,  in The Hindu,  about ongoing BJP crisis in Karnataka. The one displayed below the fold  is evidently definitive and more informative – Dissidents want six ministers axed.  But it  is the New Delhi datelined news report, a non-story,  that gets the top slot in the newspaper.

Question:  Do dateline  and  stature of the reporter,  rather than substance,  determine the display of  a  given news report gets in the newspaper ?

MediaNov.8 001

Q:  Why couldn’t The Hindu put together information obtained from both Bangalore and New Delhi to publish a consolidated report as Deccan Herald has done ?

Sai shrine on Bangalore farmland

 BangaloreOct.3. 034A Saibaba image one doesn’t get to see in other temples. I happened by this painting at a shrine on a farmland not far from Bangalore. It has come up on a patch owned by a retired Air India pilot, Capt.V V Mahesh. What struck me about the painting is its creator’s perception of Saibaba. The message it conveys is that even a saint needs his afternoon rest.  And the setting in which the Baba is cast is  absorbingly down-to-earth. 

BangaloreOct.3. 039It was Mrs Samyuktha Mahesh’s  idea to portray the secular sage as a person,  not a deified entity placed on a pedestal;  as someone with whom the poor and the humble among his devotees can relate.  She conveyed her thoughts to an artist who put them on canvas. Maybe Samyuktha was motivated by what she read,  and, as her husband put it,  she has read almost everything  nearly everyone has written on Saibaba.

Shirdi Diary by G S Khaparde, they say, describes the life and times, and daily routine of Saibaba in his later years (1910-18).  Though his birth and early life remain  a mystery, Saibaba’s death is recorded history – Oct.15, 1918.  Wikipedia  refers to his taking samadhi on the lap of a devotee,  at 2.30 in the afternoon.

A Saibaba devotee since the age of 12,  Samyuktha spoke of a dream  that prompted her to build this temple.  She consulted her husband,   who agreed to do it on their own farm near Bangalore, though  “he wasn’t then a Saibaba devotee like his wife”.  Their three sons,  one of whom is also a pilot,  helped to make their mother’s dream  a  reality.

BangaloreOct.3. 040This shrine came up seven years ago.  Capt.Mahesh  says the main prayer hall and a smaller one for meditation,  and  the landscaping have been completed.  What remains is  Nandadeep –  a cluster of 108 brass lamps to be placed in enclosed space in the temple courtyard.

They have timeline for its completion –  by January next – whether or not they raise funds through donation by this time.   “We are confident of meeting the requirement, ‘observed Capt.Mahesh,  adding that the project  is estimated to cost  Rs.6 lakhs.  Samyuktha is modest about whatever  they  have accomplished till date.  She referred to an anonymous devotee who has donated Rs.62 crores for infrastruture improvement at Shirdi  to facilitate visitors.  “What we are doing here  isn’t much in comparison,”  says Samyuktha.  

BangaloreOct.3. 037The Saibaba shrine built by the Mahesh couple is located near Bididi,  on a farmland some three km off the Bangalore-Mysore highway.  They also run a special school for 40-odd mentally challenged children. The Mahesh’s spend much of their time  out here,  though they have  a town house on Bangalore’s Richmond Rd. “The city traffic being what it is,  we  find daily cummute a hassle,” says Capt. Mahesh.

We visited the temple shortly before the mid-day prayer.  Capt. Mahesh persuaded us to stay till aarthi, followed by prasad. Which gave us time to interact with the Mahesh couple.

BangaloreOct.3. 033The setting is conducive to contemplation. A visitor to the prayer hall tends to sit in silence for a while.  Capt.Mahesh has thoughfully placed plastic chairs in the hall for the benefit of aged and the handicapped.

BangaloreOct.3. 032At the far end of the courtyard  across the main prayer hall is a smaller hall where they keep an eternal fire going.  The sanctity about it is that this flame was lit with  the embers  from a piece of firewood brought from dhuni in Shirdi.  “We couldn’t bring it by train; they wouldn’t allow it on a plane,” said Capt. Mahesh,  adding that the sacred fire from Shirdi was brought by road in a hired van. 

The dhuni is the perpetually burning fire  that Baba had built. The fire is today much bigger and is enclosed in a wired cage. It is said that Baba, when asked why he had the  fire going,  replied that it was for burning our sins, or karma. It is reported that Baba spent hours sitting in contemplation by the dhuni.

I heard about the Bangalore farmland shrine through word-of-mouth. Capt. Mahesh can be contacted at vvmahesh@yahoo.com

Ad. intrusion in news space

The Hindu, Sept. 29, 2009

We know about the increasing hold ad. sponsors have on our newspapers. But doesn’t this appear a bit intrusive ? Or is it thinking out-of-the-box in page-designing?

That this can happen in The Hindu speaks of desperate times for the print media. The newspaper’s managing director N Murali speaks of  excessive reliance of the print media on advertising  revenue.  He reckons the ad. component accounts for an ‘unsustainingly staggering’  85 percent of the total revenue of an English newspaper.

HinduSept29 001No wonder we have  the ad.agencies making newspaper pages, such as this one – back-page of The Hindu of Sept.29, 2009.  If editor has a say in how  news items are to be displayed in a given page,  it doesn’t seem very evident. Editor still retains editorial freedom; he/she is free to endorse  ad. manager .

 We have a media group where a  newspaper is termed a ‘product';  and its editor reports to  the ‘brand manager’.

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