SUBH MANGAL ZYADA SAVDHAN

Yesterday , while watching the trailer of Subh Mangal Zyada Savdhan trailer something not short of a revelation dawn on me. I was watching a trailer of a gay love story set in Hindi heartland ( cow belt ) while living under a fascist regime. Wow…what? Really?. Then as I started scrolling down to the comment section it got worse. Almost all of the comments were enthusiastic about the concept and surprisingly those who sneered were heavily trolled. But how can this happen during a Nazisque administration , weren’t the homosexuals sent to concentration camps in droves under Hitler?. This is were the English language media narrative about the ruling dispension at the centre starts to unravel.

The problem starts with the liberal belief that globalization is a done deal and hence human beings around the world now constitute a monolith. This generalisation is not restricted to the present but they also see parallels from the past to what is happening today. This lopsided worldview , which clouds their judgement stems from the lack of exposure to the real world outside their echo chambers. Let’s analyse this argument with the prime example of BJP and the duo who call the shots at the centre.

Firstly let us look at the statement – “BJP is a right wing communal party” . Now let us dissect the statement. There is the allegation of being right wing and there is that of being communal. BJP is a nationalist party that prides itself in India’s past glory. Hinduism being the indigeneous religion of the land , it would be natural for them to identify themselves with it. Together with this there is a staunch anti Islamic bias. This stems from the belief that the glorious Indian civilisation started to decline with the Islamic conquest and the ravages it brought with it culminated with the partition of Bharat Mata. For the party and its supporters the fight against Islam is the fight for survival and it is ethical to take any route to success including riots. So BJP is communal.

Now let us look into the right wing aspect of BJP. Though Hinduism is the basis of the party ideology , it cannot be called right wing conservatism. Here is where the anglicised journalists starts to go astray. Hinduism is not a monolithic like Christianity or Islam and is basically an amalgamation of multitude of local beliefs. So one cannot have a Iranian style theocracy in this diverse and more populous land. Brahminism or the priesthood version of vedic religion is being projected as what Hinduism will metamorphosise into under a prolonged spell of BJP rule. But the critics fail to notice the broader caste base of the party cadre today and the anti caste stand of the parent organisation the RSS Moreover the RSS blame the lack of unity that was prevalent during the medieval period as the main reason for the ascend of Islamic forces. So BJP cannot be called conservative in terms of casteism , Moreover it is the least casteist political party in India ( if we look at the caste make up of the top leadership ) and it would rank second behind the BSP in Dalit participation. The failure to notice the difference between BJP and the other conservative entities in the West arises from the elite’s tendency to extrapolate western idioms into Indian reality. In Europe conservative parties are seen as the extension of the dominant church of that country , but India lacks a national church and the dominant religion lacks a theology. Take the movie which we started this post with – subh mangal zyada savdhan , In a western reality homosexuality is a sin and hence the conservatives would be up in arms ( The social reality in the West today cannot be equated with ours as it is more woke , so let’s take the reference point as the 1990s). But Hinduism is vague about sexual ideals and some of the puranic stories even endorse homosexuality. This has resulted in lesser opposition to the removal of article 377 or commercial release of movies with similar story lines. So the argument about BJP’s conservatism also falls apart.

Now comes the most important part – the economic one. All the right wing parties from the conservatives in UK to Republicans in the US are spokespersons of extreme capitalism and globalisation. BJP is an exception here too. Its main ideology is much closer to the left than even congress’s . The cold reception Jeff Bezos received in India shows the movement of BJP closer to the RSS dream of a self sufficient Bharat. In this respect one could see the adoration the BJP cadre has for China , which they yearn to simulate here. The capitalistic set up BJP yearn is also similar to the Chinese government controlled market place with more emphasis on MSME sector. Though the media celebrate the Modi – Ambani nexus , it totally ignores the impetus the government provides for startups and smaller industries. MSME sector is an extrapolation of Gandhian self sufficient Villages in the modern era , which the RSS endorses at great length. Hence it would be correct to call BJP a centre left party in the economic ecosystem.

This is what BJP is , it is a Nationalist Hindu party which is moderately conservative with a centre left ideology. Seeing this party through a western lense cannot help us explain its success or its ever consistent support among the masses.

The average Indian is a nationalist to the core ( Have anyone seen the number of reaction videos on YouTube by foreigners and the self appreciating Indian comments on those pages ) and Hindu ( they make up 80% of the population). The Hindus today are more proud of their heritage than they were 20 years ago thanks to the free flow of information ( or misinformation) through internet and sees no problem in asserting their right over their land. Indians are also sceptical of the elite especially the English speaking upper wafer thin crust who mock at every turn , the liberal culture is often associated with this group and as a counter reaction the masses gravitated towards the moderate conservatism of BJP. The liberal media have painted the anti CAA protests as a student revolt , but the reality is that the protests are limited to a few minority institutions and the left fortress of JNU. Most Indian students come under the category of silent majority that supports the ruling party and are happy with the actions of the government even the fatal shootings. Ordinary Indians also hate the old rich and their previleges , so Modi supporting a self made Ambani group ( thanks to the movie Guru ) is acceptable while a dynast like Rahul Bajaj preaching them sanity is anathema. Unlike the West where the “ordinary” people are the rural white collar folks , Indians come in all hues with the richest to the poorest United by nationalism. This group is inherently centre left due to their disdain for the rich from the license Raj era ( old money ). This brings me to my conclusion that it is not the BJP that moulds the people as the elite in the media wants us to believe but the people who see their projection in BJP or in short the success of BJP can be attributed to the rise of a Nationalistic Hindu populace with a centre left ideology.

VALLUVANAD IN MALABAR MANUAL

Malabar Manual by William Logan published in 1887 could be considered as the first treatise on Malabar by a Modern scholar . Though the book is intended as a manual to help future British officials to navigate the administrative complexities of the region with ease , It’s importance as a historical record of the period cannot be contested. As the British took up the administration of the region in 1792 they were confronted by the task of rebuilding a region utterly devastated by the Mysorean invasion and the British offensive. They started from the basics like repairing the roads (built by Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan), connecting the region to the railway grid and most importantly reverting the administrative machinery back to the indegeneous system of amsams and desams from the persianised system of the invaders.

Valluvanad as we know today is a British creation. It comprises of ;

1. The core regions of erstwhile state of Valluvanad which comprises of the present day taluks of Perinthalmanna and Mannarkkad.

2. The peripheral region of Nedunganad including parts of Ottapalam and Pattambi taluks which were ruled separately by the Samuthiri . Nedunganad was an independent state for many years before being annexed by Vellatiri. The region never really came under the sway of the new rulers and was mostly autonomous.

3. The chiefdom of Kavalappara with its Muppil Nair was semi independent. It comprised of the regions around Shoranur and the ruler often shifted his allegiance between Samuthiri and the King of Kochi.

Now let us see what the Malabar Manual says about the region;

The first major reference to the region comes with the list of navigable roads in the region. It talks about a road broad enough to carry guns running from Tanur through thirunavaya , Tritala , Kavalappara and Lakkidi to Palakkad mentioned by Captain Johnson in 1796. This must be the Palakkad – Ottapalam – Pattambi road which now serves as the main artery of the region.

The second road to be mentioned is quiet fascinating one which is rarely used these days. It starts from Feroke , passes Venkadakkotta (Kottakkal) then on to Angadipuram and Cherpulassery finally terminating at Mannarkkad. This actually validates the antiquity of the Perinthalmanna – Kottakkal route and Cherpulassery – Mannarkkad road. This road also had an extension to Lakkidi from Cherpulassery which must be the Cherpulassery – Ottapalam road.

In the section relating to the geography of the region Logan talks about the Kalladikode ranges and the intensity of rains in the region , of Ananganmala near Cherpulassery and most importantly of the Ponnani river. I had always found the names Bharatapuzha and Nila to be artificial constructs hence to see Logan call the river Ponnani seems to vindicate my hunch ( though Perar is my preferred nomenclature ). The river as it is today was seasonal but it’s tributaries like Thoothapuzha is said to be perrenial.Valluvanad is said to be hilly with abundant paddy fields in the valleys between them. Arakurussi amsam was the largest in the whole of Malabar district and the wildlife of Attapady is described in great detail.

The history of Valluvanad is superficially touched upon with the Samuthiri’s partitioning of the nadu and the placement of a zamorin branch at Karimpuzha. It is the Mysorean invasion and the aftermath that is discussed in detail( may be highlight the British superiority) . It details the atrocities committed by invading forces on the Nairs including forced conversions and temple desicrations. What interested me more was the sectarianism that was prevelant at the time especially after the British conquest till the 1880s. Initially the foreigners were the targets of the Mappila insurgents but it soon turned against the Nairs. Though much of the incidents took place in the Eranad taluk , Valluvanad proper (Perinthalmanna) was a battle field. Though most of these attacks were tenant uprisings some of them were pure religious fanaticism. For example in Kunhippa Musaliyar of Thoota mosque ( currently in Malappuram) in 1872 took offence of the Komaram of the Velichapad (who supposedly insulted Islam) of Thootha Kavu on the other side of the river. Musaliyar crossed the river at night with some of his friends and killed the Velichapad. Kolathur was notorious for communal violence , even Thirumandham Kunnu temple was desicrated in 1849. It is a heartening thing to note that religious harmony was restored over the last 150 years and no traces of animosity remains today.

The British taluk of Valluvanad was headquartered at Perinthalmanna with a sub registrar office and a Deputy Tehsildar office at Cherpulassery ( Kacherikunnu).But over time Cherpulassery lost its place to Ottapalam. The initial importance of Cherpulassery might be due to its importance as the erstwhile capital of Nedunganad. Cherpulassery is listed as an important town in the book while Ottapalam, Pattambi and Shoranur are mentioned merely as market places or railway stations which is quiet strange in the modern sense. Other important towns are Angadipuram, Perinthalmanna, Karimpuzha, Mannarkkad and Vaniyamkulam.

Vaniyamkulam chanta is described as the largest fare in the region conducted on Thursdays with over 5000 in attendance. Here it must be noted that even Angadipuram Chanda would have 1500 attendees.There were chandas at Mankada, Kulattur, Thiruvegapura , Cherpulassery , Pattambi , Pattiripala , Ottapalam , Mannarkkad , Sreekrishnapuram and Alanallur. Other important fact is the use of cheruvannur for Shoranur, this might might only have changed in the 1900s which makes shornur the youngest of the major towns in Valluvanad.

Among festivals Thirumandam kunnu puram was the largest by far with 8000 people attending. The second comes the Mannarkad pooram with 4500 attendees and the third is a tie between koonathara Aryankavu puram and pariyanampatta puram with 3000 attendees. Other purams with over 1000 participants are Mulayankavu pooram, Muthassiyar Kavu Thalapolly , Mundakkottukurissi Cherumulayankavu puram ( Kayiliad ), Mulanjoor Bharani Vela , Chinakkattur puram, Chettallur pooram ,Thoota pooram, Cherampatta pooram , Elumbulassery Nallisery pooram and Karimbuzha utsavam. Cherpulassery Ayyappan Kavu utsavam is said to have an attendance of 2000 but there is no mention of Puthanalkkal pooram.

During the British rule roads expanded with Palakkad – Ponnani road and Palakkad – Kozhikode road being the most important. There is mention of a roads originating from Pattambi railway station to Nilambur , Kuttanad , Cherpulassery and Thritala. Railway stations at Ottapalam, Lakkidi, Cheruvannur , Pattambi are mentioned.

Though the book talks more about Kozhikode and Kannur , the smaller bits here and there about Valluvanad is quiet helpful in building the history of the region especially of the 18th and 19th century. It is a sad fact that our local history is never studied with vigour or is taught to us , it is high time that regional histories be brought to the forefront or some of the local knowledge will be lost for ever.

THE DONKEY NATION

India is a blemish on the face of this planet. How much i wish this ignorant mass of worthless souls be cast into the abyss of outer space. We don’t deserve democracy nor we deserve this facade of equality. The unending streams of invaders were right in conquering us as this worthless sea of humanity could be nothing more than a slave brigade.

Why should we be given the right to elect our leaders when we never learn from our mistakes?. We as a herd could easily be manipulated by political dimwits with their tacky punchlines of “Mandir ” ,”Garibi” or “Mathil” over and over again. Even after 70 years of existence we could never look past the sacred thread of caste , churning out diktats against intercaste marriages with lethal impunity , all the while hiding under the mask of benovelance. This nation of donkeys should never be called a “paradox” or an “Aberration” , it should instead be called an absurdity which should never be celebrated.

Hinduism must have met the fate of its contemporaries in Rome , Greece or the Andes where a fractured society ruled by the elites was overthrown by faiths which preached equality. I envy Indonesians who escaped its clutches and became a true egalitarian state. This billion caste worshippers could never create a true Nation state or wield power of any stature . So you stupid optimist stop dreaming of a future for this nation of miserables. Let it sink into the ocean for good.

NEDUNGANAD OR VALLUVANAD

Every time the bus crosses the river from Malappuram to Palakkad at Thootha I used to wonder why this river became the demarcation line between the two regions which were once part of the same taluk named valluvanad. yes there were some subtle differences  between the areas north and south of the river , mainly the demographics , but that never solved the puzzle. That is when I stumbled up on Mr. S. Rajendu’s “Nedunganad Charitram”.

Erstwhile Nedunganad once extended from the kalladikkodan hills in the east to the Arabian sea in the west with its core lying between the thoothapuzha and Bharatapuzha. Its rulers were quiet weak resulting in parts west of Bharatapuzha being lost permanently to Eralpad by the 13th century . The Valluvakonathiri to the north always had an eye on this fertile region of which certain parts were annexed by him in the 15th century. According to Rajendu sir’s research the present day taluks of pattambi and Ottapalam remained independent of valluvanadan rule till the Mysore invasion of the 18th century. This might be the reason why this region was spared of the atrocities Tippu committed in other parts of southern Malabar. Nedunganad lost its identity forever when it was merged with Valluvanad taluk in 1860.

Ottapalam , Cherpulassery , pattambi and Shornur are your quintessential Valluvnadan areas . Under the light of newer findings could the region be called Valluvanad at all?. Should it be called Nedunganad instead?  . share your opinion in the comment section.

Here is the link to Rajendu sir’s site

http://nedunganad.blogspot.com/

NOT ALL MALAYALEES ARE BEEF EATERS

Ever since BJP came to power 4 years back Beef as a delicacy has become a contentious issue. Kerala is often thrown as a counter punch against the sanghis by all the so called free thinkers as a haven for beef eaters. It has reached such a proportion that a non beef eating malayali is now getting automatically identified as a BJP sympathiser. The food habits of keralites are a bit complexed to be categorised into well defined brackets. Though over 90% of us are non vegetarians , vegetarian hotels are one of the most lucrative businesses in the state. It is true that beef is served at every nook and cranny of the state , a significant number of Hindus from all castes refrain from consuming it due to religious reasons. In a state where Hindus make up just over 54% that could come to somewhere near 30%. Though a relatively large percentage of Hindu men consume it with the traditional toddy , women rarely make it a part of their diet. Kerala is a highly religious society , Hindu tenants do hold sway especially at the household level . Hence the percentage of non beef cooking households could go up to around 45 percent.

Culinary choices are personal preferences hence eating beef is not a crime and the atrocities being perpetuated in its name is shameful. But forcing beef on others just to prove ones secular credentials is equally deplorable.

WHY PARVATHY THIRUVOTH KOTTUVATA SHOULD BE HEARD

Parvathy Thiruvoth Kottuvatta has an unenviable body of work to prove that she is one of the best actors of our generation , but it is her outspoken nature that has kept her in the news for the past few months. It is true that most of her interviews are cringe worthy and over the top , but the points she tries to get across needs to be heeded to.  With her misogyny remarks she is questioning the very foundation of the Malayali society which prides itself in being the most gender egalitarian one in the country.  Such a serious accusation needs to be probed into.

A society’s evolution from poverty to prosperity involves many visible and invisible changes . One of the most important of them is the change in gender dynamics. With education and economic development women would start taking up jobs outside of the household , resulting in a visible changes in the gender equation. But Nairs of Kerala are an exemption. They were a Matriarchal caste which over time turned patriarchal and hence by the time of attainment of statehood we were all under patriarchy. The communist movement and the entrenched socialist values were the first to challenge the status quo. Their initial commitment was on breaking the caste barriers which were successfully dismantled by the 1970s and that is when they started focusing on the gender conundrum. It had become a complicated maze by then. women were literate and many had jobs , but their position in the society had remained the same. The initial burst of Feminism, supported by the liberals was welcomed by the menfolk but by the 1980s resistance was palpable , especially after the rise of Machismo.

In olden days Masculinity was usually identified with chivalry . By the advent of Mustache in the 70s Masculinity started to get associated with Machismo . By the 1990s Kerala was at its patriarchal zenith as seen from the umpteen number of male chauvinist movies produced every year.  The socio-economic Indicators of our state are comparable to Middle income countries of South East Asia , Latin America or Middle East .This could have meant a more gender neutral society . Sadly we are the worst in terms of gender equality outside the Islamic world.

The hypocrisy of the malayali society is evident from the Gender stereotypes that have become so deep seated in our psyche that many try to justify it on the basis of tradition and culture. If a man or a woman acts inconsistent with the predefined gender norms , he/she is ridiculed and even their sexuality is questioned. For eg: A man is supposed to be aggressive and a woman docile . A docile man is called a woman and an aggressive woman an outcast. The appearances,mannerisms and costumes are also important. A man with so called “feminine” mannerisms is called chandupottu and a women with coarse features is called a Hijada. If this is the case with straight men and women imagine the trauma of being a gay or lesbian. The Malayalam media which prides on being the most vibrant in the country have never discussed the issue relating to article 377 in a positive light.

This is what parvathy talked about and we as a society must heed . The world is moving forward and gender equality is the norm. If we remain fossilized in the 1990s the malayali society is doomed.

VELICHAPPAD

One of the remnants of the pre vedic malayali heritage is the institution of Velichappad. Here in Valluvanad with its numerous Devi temples and Kavus (Sacred grooves) velichappads are ever more important to the spiritual ecosystem than anywhere else in the state . This post is about the only Velichappad i know and how he brought the Devi of our temple to life every night during the Chuttuvilakku ( an occasion when lamps are lit around the kavu premises).

Velichappads get initiated to serve the Goddess of the land on self will . It is said that the goddess would choose her representative by sending certain specific omens to him . In case of Bhaskaran Velichappad it was the Devi appearing in his dream to invite him to serve her . Our velichappad is something of an anomaly , He was born into a very wealthy Nair Tharavad and had spent most of his childhood in Rangoon. His uncle had a very good library with best books of the time , while his cousins were white collared professionals. My early memories of him are very vague , It was during mid 1990s that we moved here from Cherpulassery , so he must have been the velichappad of the Desam from the early 90s. The first thing that comes to my mind are his long locks and the sword (vaal in malayalam) which he carried with him . Once a year we would have our turn to host the chuttuvilakku and that is when I saw his fury.

In kavus like ours the vellichapad also doubles up as the temple priest , so on the evening of chuttuvilakku he would first do the regular offerings to the Devi while we lit the lamps. After the lamps are lit and the sun has set , he accompanied with an assistant would go to the temple pond to bathe and this is when his transformation into the goddess starts. He would first discard his normal clothes to wear the red pattu ( silk) , which is the color of the goddess and wear the Devi’s anklet . As he return , the ambience would have been set for his performance thanks to highly energizing percussion by the melam ( Kerala chenda performance) . The out of the world experience would be exemplified by the starry sky of the makara month ( Malayalam calendar)  and the rustling of the banyan leaves swaying in the light wind . He would first enter the kavu , take the blessing from the Devi and then pick up his sword to circumambulate the premise thrice , stopping at all the four corners to communicate with the goddess so as to make his transformation into the Devi less turbulent.

Once the Devi possess him , he would run violently like the Bhadra kali around the kavu proclaiming her utterances to everyone and blessing them. It is an extraordinary sight to watch him move about trembling in fury of the great spirit. At the end he would take a coconut and smash it over a granite carved like a snake , dissipating all our sins. Over the next hour the Velichappad would return back to him human spirit and he would place the red dress and the anklet as an offering to the mother goddess.

sadly we don’t have a desam(region) velichappad today as Bhaskaran Velichappad passed away a few years back . It is only during the pooram that we have a velichappad , who in most cases would be brought from our rival desams.

THE POLITICAL ARTIST

United States may be an older democracy than we are , but it is far from being a matured one. We Indians might have our political and ideological differences but it rarely spills out of the virtual space. Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a highly divisive figure , his legitimacy to the post is never questioned like they do in America. Even the staunchest critics of the current regime accepts Mr Modi as our leader. The anti Trump propaganda on display at the 79th Emmys was appalling. It has again vindicated the Indian maxim that artists should stay far away from politics untill their career is done and over with.

Artists are in a unique position were they could bring people of various hues to togather like a glue. Just look at the Bahubali phenomenon were India as a whole came up to own a Telugu fantasy movie as their own. By endorsing a political narrative an artist of repute is alienating a huge chunk of his/her fan base .Take Katy Perry for instance , Her active endorsement of Hillary Clinton might have created media hype , but her conservative fans abandoned her. Her career is now on a downward spiral with the latest single swish-swish finding no takers. At the same time her rival and a shrewd business woman Taylor Swift was conspicuous by her absence during the political debates during the elections. Having a huge country music fandom she could never have taken a stance which could offend the Redneck Middle America. Her new single is ruling the charts right now and is being lapped up by the public even being a critical dud.

Award shows must limit themselves to their core business – that is to honour the best in show biz. I am indeed proud of the fact that we Indians never wash our dirty linen on such huge platforms . We showcase our diversity and unity at such occasions unlike the “civilised ” Americans who shows the world how deeply divided they are.

WHY DO OUR NEIGHBOURS HATE US?

The political history teaches us that when a country dominates a region geographically , demographically and economically , the region becomes its backyard. Hence when The United States came up with the Monroe Doctrine in 1823 , no one was surprised . But when a country of India’s size declared a foreign policy based on equality and non interference at the time of independence a few eye brows rose . Nehruvian concept of a free and equitable world order was a revolutionary concept , according to which India would assist its neighbors with all its means in solving their problems without interfering in their internal affairs. Nehru’s vision got its first set back in the war of 1962 and by the time of his death our foreign policy was in disarray. Today if we look around us , we have more enemies than friends in our neighborhood.

so what went wrong? The failure of 1962 and the unprovoked war of 1965 made us realize the futility of an egalitarian foreign policy and the need for self preservation made us assert our stature as the regional power . Pakistan has always seen us as an existential threat , hence it tried to exploit the weakness shown by us during the war of 1962 by invading Indian territory in 1965 making us suspicious of that country’s motive ever since . Hence when the rebellion broke out in the East it was natural for India to support the Mukthi Bahini . The war of 1971 broke whatever trust pakistan had , turning it into our eternal foe . As far as Sri Lanka is concerned we never had a clear policy , we always saw Colombo through a lens that was placed at Chennai . Once we realised our folly we tried to rectify it , but the damage was already done . Bangladesh was supposed to be our friend thanks to our involvement in its birth but with the rise of ziaur Rehman and the Bangladesh National Party we were not able to cope up with the changing scenario and due to our poor judgement we lost an ally . The error in judgement was also the main problem in our relationship with Nepal , which sadly still continues with the madhesi fiasco.

Our failure could largely be attributed to the lack of clear foreign policy doctrine. Once the Nehru doctrine was thrown out we never tried to frame a new one . A country specific approach is one of the steps to rectify our current situation. Using the same yard stick for every country was the biggest mistake as far as our relations with the SAARC countries were concerned. China signing the CPEC  with Pakistan must not be equated with Sri Lanka signing a treaty with China or Nepal planning a Railway line across the Himalayas . Sri Lanka is recouping after a bitter civil war and it needs investments from across the globe , Hence that factor must be taken into consideration while evaluating the Sino-Lankan relation and its effects vis a vis  India.

Next is to evaluate the political situation in a country thoroughly before interfering or lending support to different groups. India’s policy with respect to President Nasheed of Maldives was such an issue . Tit for Tat cannot yield any results , Pakistan supporting separatists in Kashmir must not make us support the balochi cause . A stable Pakistan is more of India’s necessity than of Pakistan itself. A better judgement could help avert many of such crises.

Lastly we must have a better perspective management system. The cause for every ill in any of these countries is often directed towards us . This has much to do with how those people perceive India . This requires more cultural interactions , but sadly it is one sided with Indian culture being imposed on them , which they see as aggression . A better cultural understanding of our neighbours could go a long way in alleviating suspicions and mistrusts.

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