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.
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.
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.
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.
Though I am a bit late in posting the good news , the Angadipuram Railway over bridge is now a reality . I still remember those days when a train on the Shornur – Nilambur line used to bring chaos to NH 213 (Palakkad – Kozhikode ) with traffic jams at times extending till Perinthalmanna . But now we have a four lane road and an overbridge to ease the congestion . The person to be thanked is the Perinthalmanna MLA Mr.Manjalamkuzhi Ali for his sheer determination in making the project a reality.
The other infrastructural projects that need immediate attention in Valluvanad are :
A bye pass road and a new bridge over kunthi puzha at Mannarkad.
Roads to bye pass the congestion at Ottapalam and Pattambi on the Palakkad – Guruvayur road and a railway overbridge at vadanamkurussi.
More buses between Mannarkad and shornur , which is the gateway to the region.
A new bridge over Bharatapuzha at Pattambi.
Revitalisation of Bharatapuzha station at Shornur so that the region could acess trains passing through the link line togather with the modernisation of Shornur Railway Station.
Ksrtc depots at ottapalam and pattambi with sub depots at cherpulassery and shornur.
Let us hope that with the defense park at Ottapalam and the Angadipuram overbridge valluvanad would leap forward into a brighter future.
The run up to the Victory in Europe day saw The BBC and RT go into a nostalgic mode , reminiscing the great sacrifices the British and the Russians did to save the world from evil during the second world war . The self congratulatory tone was hard to miss , but what was more evident was the insecurity of two powers who were slowly getting relegated to the second tier in global affairs. The British cannot be blamed for their anxiety , the United Kingdom is on the verge of collapse with Scotland trying hard to ascertain independence and the United Germany has reemerged as the supreme power in Europe , a position which the British held till the early 2000s. Russia on the other hand is contracting faster than many experts have expected , From the world power it once was Russia is now another Saudi Arabia ( read: a mere energy supplier) with power dwindling even at its backyard (Ukraine) . In such a context all that is left for these countries are the bloated assumption of self worth drawn from history.
British were the greatest losers in the post war world , Its empire fell apart , the expenses incurred during the war through the various agreements it made with the US like the Cash And Carry agreement and the Lend and lease agreement had made it bankrupt . This huge debt was consolidated after the war as the Anglo American loan which the British paid till 2006 . The greatest humiliation was yet to come in the 90s , when the British were made an American satellite state , with real power being wielded from Washington. 2010s saw Britain fade away completely from the global political scene with the rise of Asia and Latin America . The soft power they once had over the former colonies also dissipated when they started to outgrow their ex colonial masters and assert themselves. But the British are not willing to accept their worthlessness as of yet . Take the commonwealth summit for example , it is held biennially with huge fanfare ( especially in the British Media) with the British Prime minister in all his paternalistic glory heading the British contingent . Sadly most of the member states have stopped taking it seriously . Even the blood brothers Australia and Canada try avoiding this toothless body . From an Indian view point the depth to which the British have fallen could be gauged by the fact that no Indian Prime Minister has visited Britain since 2006 , But the current British Prime Minister was here three times in his past tenure.
Soviet Union was never a power except in the military sense , so when the USSR collapsed Russia inherited a broken economy . The Yeltsin years saw corruption at its extreme and the rise of oligarchs and when president Putin came to power Russia was nothing but a failed state . Thanks to his efforts the economy stabilized and started to grow . Instead of pumping money back into the economy he tried to use these petro dollars to fuel Russia’s military ambitions in the former soviet states . With the fall in oil prices Russia which never tried to diversify its economy collapsed . Instead of rolling back its military spending , Russia started a proxy war in Ukraine which today is eating a large chunk of the Russian exchequer . Another problem that is unique to Russia is that of its falling population . it is expected that Russia could hit the 100 million mark soon and could even fall further . Out of the two Russia is the one with greatest ego and hence the most dangerous . This could be due to the denial prevalent among the Kremlin elite about its fall just in a matter of two decades. Though India still considers Russia an all weather friend , its military spending on Russian Armour is falling and this was evident when prime minister Modi signed the rafale deal with France to replace the aging Russian MiGs.
The European powers are finding it hard to digest their fall from grace in the 21st century , some go the racist way , others the pacifist way , but they never try to understand their limitations and that is the tragedy of the post world war world.
According to IMF, India will be the fastest growing major economy next year . This will not only raise our International clout but also make us more vulnerable to the changes taking place in our volatile neighborhood. Our biggest neighbor China is facing the biggest economic crisis since its meteoric rise in the 80s and is expected to slow down to sub 7% levels for the first time next year. Though western experts expect a dystopic future , in reality the Chinese one party system could be stretched to its limits . There could be ruthless oppression in Tibet as the communist party would be needing scape goats to tide over the situation , which could easily spill over into India .Pakistan on the other hand is fighting a civil war with a hydra headed Taliban , which ironically have sympathizers within the government apparatus. A failing state is more dangerous , as it could do anything to take maximum causalities with it as it sinks , which in Pakistan’s case is us.Hence The proxy war and a porous border are bound to frustrate us more and more in the coming years . Bangladesh , a regional success story is in midst of a showdown between two women , who are in no way in the mood to relent. Nepal and Myanmar are in transition while Bhutan and Sri Lanka are on a path of self discovery. Being the only “bright spot” in the region we must be prepared to face the worst.
Bharat mala and Sagar mala are two ambitious projects proposed by the the new central government aimed at enhancing the infrastructure along our land and water boundaries .
The Bharat Mala project plans to build a 14,000 Km long highway along our land border extending from Gujarat to Mizoram on a fast track basis . This is of strategic importance especially along the border with China , which will reduce the chances of a 1962 fiasco from being repeated. It is a known fact that the Chinese are also enhancing the infrastructure along the other side of the border and in many ways this initiative could act as a deterrent for the Chinese. The project is expected to be completed by 2020.
Sagar Mala on the other hand aims at improving the infrastructure along the coast , with ports developed along the modern lines and improved connectivity between them.The modes of communication would include roads, railways, inland waterways and coastal routes. Both these projects aims at garlanding India (Mala) along its peripheries not only acting as arteries for economic growth , but also as a shield to protect us .
Yesterday (6 may 2015) Minister for road transport and highways Mr Nithin Gadkari signed an MoU with Iran to develop the southeastern Iranian port of Chabahar for $ 85 million . This project is expected to increase Indian access to the resource rich central Asia Bye passing Pakistan. Ironically , China is developing the Gwadar port in pakistan , which is 72 km east of chabahar , aimed at turning it into a naval base in the distant future . With these ports becoming operational in years to come their effect on regional dynamics is something to look forward to.
footnote : With two more ports in its neighborhood it would be interesting to find how Dubai , which is basically the gateway to Iran will fare in years to come.