'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Us, After the Deluge

Early this year, a little Malayalam prose poem appeared in a magazine brought out by a local college. No one then, including the author, sensed anything uncanny:

Here it is:

Let me offer a free translation:

"A sinkful of dishwater flung out, a colony of ants swept away - even a thimbleful wouldve been a lake for their little limbs.. Did those tiny eyes look up in despair and mortal dread? - O, how can I possibly know!

Hey, You out there in Heaven! From your Cosmic perch, are the travails and miseries and horrors that bedevil us Humans just as puny, as off-scale?!"


And then....the Deluge arrived,swept through villages and towns and departed, making a slimy marsh of swathes of riverine Kerala....

And then came a spell of intense sunshine that baked the mud and debris into a hard, tangled mess...

Piled up along a highway was a huge jumble of rotting mattresses, pillows and plastic, all chewed up and spat out by the flood waters:

Nearby were piled up dozens of refrigerators, TV sets and what not, all caked with mud.

When things were at their bleakest, I was asked about the flood in a pan-India Whatsapp group. I texted: "Desperate. Kerala is reeling... We have been caught unawares. This has been a singularly lucky land, no real experience of Natural disasters. Of course, even now, given the very uneven terrain, flooding is sporadic and local. But where it is bad, it is very very bad!"

A response came all the way from Delhi: "True, Kerala has had it too good; no experience of floods, of Invasions from the North-West, of war, of Partition, of any associated traumas of Nation building.... nothing. No offense, just an observation!"

The village of Manjaly, where the Periyar and Chalakudy rivers meet, had borne the brunt of the flood. Close to the Sangam, at a spot where a "dozen foot wall of water" had flattened pretty much every manmade wall, this lone palm was left standing...

Thanks to Ratheesh who spotted this unique story of survival.


After the disaster came the politicking... and a troll went viral in these parts. It said just this:

"Back in 1672, the Dutch killed and ate their Prime Minister!"

Wonder how someone in our neck of the woods could dig up the desperately unfortunate Johan De Witt (by most accounts, an enlightened statesman and gifted mathematician, who just happened to be among wrong people at the wrong time) - lynched, strung up and partially eaten along with his brother by a rabid mob. No one was brought to book for the crime.


Today is Vishweshwariah's birthday. So here is a question: How many in India choose to be Civil Engineers?

Answer: Practically Zilch. This country does churn out thousands of civil engineers every year but to my knowledge, not more than a dozen of them - if at all - would have actually put down civil engineering as their first study and career choice.

As everyone knows, civil, alongside mechanical and perhaps metallurgy, is one of the 'primordial' engineering disciplines; but in the last half century or so, the ridiculous 'academic caste system' that holds sway over every single one of our institutions - IITs and all - has pushed civil into the margins and beyond. Of course, the top engineering schools do teach civil engineering but practically every single candidate who enrolls for this branch does so only because he did not get Computers, Electronics, Electrical or Mechanical in that precise order. Moreover, most of those who do become civil engineers end up in the software industry or management - read this:

And given this abject state of affairs, it was no wonder at all that most of the three score or so dams in Kerala ended up being disastrously mismanaged.

Observation: Yu, the legendary Chinese king, was a civil engineer who controlled the flood-prone Yellow river by dredging the riverbed and digging canals (after an earlier attempt with dams and bunds had disastrously failed).


Racial Stereotyping - three sad examples:

1. "A certain enormous buck nigger encountered in Haiti fixed my conception of blind, furious, unreasoning rage, as manifested in the human animal to the end of my days. Of the nigger I used to dream for years afterwards." - Joseph Conrad

2. "2500 miles and 10 days from Bombay, as we approached Mombasa - the gateway to East Africa - what first caught my eye was the sight of a big-built and bare-bodied Kappiri gazing in wonder at our ship from the upper deck of a go-down on the wharf - the first Negro I saw in the land of Black people; I could imagine him as representing his entire race. Back in the 11th century, he would have stood agape just like this as a Viking ship, blown off course by wild sea winds, swam into view. In 1497, as Vasco Da Gama dropped anchor en route to India and her treasures, he would have stared at the palefaced visitors just as disbelievingly. The passage of centuries has not erased his bewilderment...." - S K Pottekkat

3. "A little shack in Pokhara, Nepal. Some local villagers had assembled; a few of them sang, with free facility, a perky mountain melody that went something like 'Simsima panima...'. A lovely girl of about ten danced to it with remarkable grace. I was struck by her face - it was totally devoid of expression, chillingly so. A horrifying thought crossed my mind - of her, a few years down the line, trapped in the fleshpots of Bombay!"


Question: Why is the now not very well-known king of medieval Kashmir, Harsha, a favorite of modern Keralan Marxist intellectuals?

Answer: Here is what Wiki says: "Harsha (ruled 1089-1111) destroyed both Hindu and Buddhist temples, and is credited with creating an office of "devotpaatana-nayaka", destroyer of gods".

A Hindu-named King looting and demolishing Hindu temples proves by example what the Marxist historians have always asserted: "Some invaders who happened to be Muslim, did attack Hindu temples. But religious zeal was not really the motive - it was money, the wealth hidden in the temple coffers. See, even Harsha of Kashmir used to regularly loot all kinds of temples; and he was a Hindu!"

Aside: Was it not Dinesh D'Souza who argued that American slavery was not fundamentally racist by saying: "Some of the slave owners where Black"? No, I don't view iconoclasm and slavery as even remotely comparable outrages!

I have heard at least three eminent Marxist intellectuals make - essentially - the same Harsha statement as above. I recall one of them adding - "Harsha would bathe the idols in the temples he looted with excrement!". And the most recent such scholar I heard also remarked: "Yes, in his grandiose proclamations, Ghazni might have made claims of having acquired religious merit by demolishing the Somnath temple and massacring infidels. But kings are always like that, they make all kinds of declarations; and they don't mean what they say - like Marthanda Varma of Travancore declared his kingdom to be Lord Padmanabha's property with himself a mere custodian; it was just a ploy to fool people! So, it does not take great brains to figure out that Ghazni only wanted the gold hoarded in the temple, else why did he come calling for seventeen straight years? "

Here is another gem attributed to the late Sukumar Azhikode: "Scan the whole of Indian history, there are but five great kings - Chandragupta Maurya, Asoka, Vikramaditya, Harsha (not the Kashmiri!) and Akbar. If you thought "wow, only one Muslim in there!", here is a surprise: Maurya was an outcaste who became a Jain, Asoka and Harsha were Buddhists. Only Vikramaditya can be called a Hindu. But even that is doubtful - there simply was no Hinduism then, as we know it now. Vikram might not even have heard the word Hindu!"


Here is a quaint Vishnu idol from Somnathpur temple, Mysore. His upper hands hold up the usual conch and discus - although, rather atypically, they are mounted on short staffs. He holds in a lower left hand the usual mace. But what is in his lower right hand? It certainly is no lotus. And to my non-expert eyes, it looks more Tibetan Buddhist prayer wheel than anything else!

Note: The recent visit to Mysore has made me aware of the huge variety in the ways the usual weapons can be distributed among Vishnu's four arms. The most common allocation is: conch and discuss held up by the upper arms and the mace and lotus to be held by the lower hands. But at Srirangapattana temple is an idol where things are the other way around - the conch and discus are held in the lower hands. This idol is named 'Laxminarayana'. I dunno why.


A pipal tree used to stand in front of the Gandharva temple in Chambakkara. A couple of months back, Metro construction left it a bare stump. The next few weeks saw a glorious revival!

But the road-wideners were soon back with a vengeance. They brought a JCB...


A Kabaddi troll: After India lost to a strong Iranian side in Kabaddi at the Asian games (having had an exclusive hold on the title for over half a dozen games), someone remarked online: "This is a real victory. A game conceived in India has finally found such strong acceptance outside. India can be proud of having lost the title!". I concur. However, I am less than pleased that we lost to Pakistan in volleyball.


Here is another troll.

The translation of the text from Malayalam goes:

What the Math prof is saying: "lambda cos theta divided by mu cot theta equals...."

What I hear: "nimta basla chukchi njuk hartapuska nikchu droslaska..."

The latter is of course the chief of the famous - or infamous - Kalakeya tribe from 'Bahubali' spewing venom in his weird dialect.

The one remarkable thing about this troll is their choice of pic for the math prof; for it shows none other than Ramamurti Shankar (aka 'Yale Shankar'), world-class Mathematical Physicist and formidable lecturer (yes, formidable is the word, I have heard him).


  • At 3:30 AM, Blogger oceanofsecrets said…

    Sir, Thank you for sharing that inventive poem! Amazing how it turned out to be so prescient. Regarding the floods - though the rains seem to have subsided, the resulting debris will only add to waste management woes, i feel. As for Kerala's being lucky so far in steering clear of calamities, i suppose something similar would have happened sooner or later. We have long ceased to be "God's own country". True, the predicament of engineering. I have heard that very few graduates have the potential to succeed in the field in question. And engineering is no longer a popular pick, is it? Its heyday seems to have passed. Really happy to see you posting of nature rejuvenating herself. I always find it beautiful. As for the other varied topics you have covered, i leave the commenting to more experienced hands. Do keep writing. Best wishes.

  • At 5:56 AM, Blogger R.Nandakumar said…

    Thanks Ocean.

    I added the original text of the poem ... its taut and pithy nature proved had proved very hard to capture in translation.

    God's Own Country is only a slogan coined by the tourism people around 1990. Nobody knew it would click so big - maybe its sheer corniness did the trick.

    Hope the rebuilding undoes some of our blunders, if not in entirety at least in substantial measure.


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