Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Muddled Mosaic – Glimpses of the past Of being part of the Nalapat – Kalipurayath family

The sound of the cart wheels as it rumbled along the pathway. Ravi was pulling it using a rope made out of coconut husks – the ‘kayar’. I was perched atop the cart in all the local splendor, a young chieftain of bygone eras. Come here to re explore the old guard during my summer vacations from school at Calicut, 100 kms away.

Memories are at most times flashes, and one can often pause to wonder whether all this was a true replication of what was, or was the spice already added?, committing ourselves to noble thoughts while some things where never were?. I am too muddled to explicit the reason. But hopefully my recordings will be as close to reality as possible.

It was my maternal grand mother, Kalipurayath Sarada Amma, the surviving matriarch, who was my attraction in pouncing on yet again onto the serene soil of Punnayurkulam, in nearby Trichur district. Guruvayoor, the famous abode of Vishnu, was close by, and the purity of that place was encapsulated here, complete with our own family deities, temples and ponds. The Kalipurayath family of Ambazath house was the landed gentry, while the neighboring intertwined family of Nalapat were the custodians of the letters, through history by personalities such as Nalapat Narayana Menon, my paternal grand mother Nalapat Balamani Amma –often referred to as the mother of Malayalam poetry, and of course my beloved and courageous Aunt – Kamala Das, nee Madhavikutty nee Kamala Surraya – Names cannot comprehend such an exhaustive figure. Kalipurayath’s had its interest in literature too, with the likes of the half Indian half Irish Aubrey Menon, my mother’s cousin. So it was Land and Letters for a mixture like me, or so it seemed.

Perhaps the memories of the early years, of sitting on the lap of my Grand father V.M.Nair, who ran the newspaper “Mathrubhumi” for umpteen years, watching the BBC news through the Telefunken radio complete with its spiraling antenna which wove around the room’s ceiling, the tough decisions during difficult times as the paper was progressing – all contributed to a deep sense of introspection at an early age. This was combined with Gandhian feelings in the house hold, of course literature and such talks taking central stage without effort or further thought.

It was 1977, the emergency withdrawn, and I was back from schooling in Shiraz, Iran. My parents would join me later. My grand father had just passed away, and the state and such mourning were over, except of course, as usual, within the house hold. I got into the habit of sleeping in “Achamma’s” room – with my grand mother, who was fighting waves of profound grief, while attempting to keep her pen afloat. She used to say that one has to pen down thoughts as it comes, or it vanishes. This used to translate into staring at her at midnight as she penned down her thoughts, which more often turned out to be invaluable poetry. This must have paved the way to what my friends refer to as my midnight ramblings – more the early morning variety for me. She was, as it should be, uneducated in the conventional sense, just like my famous aunt – a mere matriculate, while all the others were graduates in medicine. They were experts in their own fields, and all flaunted the pen well, but were mere spectators at her command over the languages, just as my grand mom was with Malayalam. Do we need education? – A brick on the wall!!!.

It was in those early years that I overheard discussions on ‘distancing’ oneself, and I imbibed this in earnest, immersed as I was in being temporarily separated from my parents and only sister. This should have provided solace at the departure of my grand father – but he was too towering a figure in actual life to be merely immortalized. Generations of journalists in Kerala and elsewhere would vouch for that.

Distance yourself from what?. Neighbors, family, friends? Or mere thoughts?. “Distance yourself from your knowledge, only then can you become the president of your thoughts”. A dichotomy here?, or mere presentation? The Mosaic does get muddled.

In the Ramayana, after the great war, Rama summoned Hanuman and asked – The war is won because of you, what can I offer you, take what you desire – the reply was – “Oh Bhagavan, remove from me that desire to have”. Which brings one to ponder – is that a possibility? Ahom, the atom, exists. When one says “I am doing this for so and so” – be it mother, child or friend, are we finally not doing it because it could prove beneficial to us, maybe at many levels – monetary, happiness ET All? Can we overcome the individual? The “I”?

My pen lingers, thoughts fail. Am I to accept that thoughts and ideas over the years mixed with the experience of a life time can be encapsulated within a mere two or three pages? Is the vessel empty? Or has it been cleaned, devoid of the merest speck. I must go on…

It is recent years, maybe just over five or so. I was back from a meeting late on Saturday night. The woman was awaiting me at the front door, an odd consequence since she sleeps when she wants, and my nocturnal entries are normally with the help of the duplicate key in my possession. I was tired, and after a brief Hi, I was climbing the stairs replete with a coat on one arm and balancing the brief case with the other. I heard her mutter from behind – AMMIOPPU HAS CONVERTED!!!. The impact did not hit me for a moment, and when it did, I turned to stare at her. What? as if my ears were plugged. On ascertaining the truth, it was a long wait till morning when I could ring her up and ask about her well being. Difficult times, you must be careful, I intoned. I am fine, Cheria mon (I was referred to by that-literally meaning small child – all with my near six feet height). There are a lot of people here, and I feel fine and secure, she added. The problem was answering the queries of society, on a matter on which neither she or the family or I had any specific views. She felt fine doing it, and she was happy. Who could cause complaint? And then the literary and semi religious world blew up. In the end, as usual, the news papers won, circulation could not have been better!!!

Krishna and Allah all meant the same to her. It was mainly the science of the different religions that attracted her. This coupled with her innate sense of the unorthodox, of having the capacity to fly and view perspectives from different angles, made her seemingly different and liberated. She was in reality one that often pined for the unfortunate, unfortunate both in means and mind. It did pain her to see the happenings after the conversion, coming from across many spectrums of society and sometimes the family, though never from ones close to her. This proved a solace in her later years, the experience after the publication of “My Story” much earlier would always remain a wound in her beloved soul. The family just accepted, and all was well.

She had been battling a number of diseases from early days; the winner as usual was anybody’s guess. She used to take all that in her majestic stride, replete in earlier years decked up in bright red saris and the huge ‘kumkum’ on her forehead. This changed into the ‘Burka’ in the later years, but the innate charisma was the same. The smell and sound were different when you were in her company, never knowing what will come next.

Jiddu Krishnamurthy talked about the ‘platforms of Thought’, when with her you experienced it. Perhaps my grand mother’s famous poem about the mind soaring into the skies (Vittayakuka maanil ___) had some innate effect? Or was it creativity just born?

She and I were having dinner at the Bubble CafĂ© in Cochin, where I had dragged her so that we could be alone. She started a physical description of the young woman occupying one of the adjacent tables. No vulgarity, plain truth, but then the blood circulation of a thirty year old could not be tampered with. In her usual tempo, she burst the balloon in her typical style, when on reaching the description of the abundant posterior – she commented – such girls will deliver easily!!! POOF !!! That was her.

There is nothing called good or bad. It is all happenings. ‘Things’ happen. Just like a fire cracker – expert hands and time consuming before it is used. Then the ‘bang’. It happened – The Bang. Only the smoke remains, to be gently whisked away later. What is good – beneficial – for one, maybe, is not so for the other. Here the good and bad try to occur. It just ‘happened’.

Have you ever tried to strike up a friendship with oneself? The variance for most is alarming. Let the mind lead.

Mohandas Kalipurayath

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Pen your thoughts

The best way to write is to pen your thoughts as honestly as possible, and with as much clarity as you can seek, with the available data and information that you are in possession of at that point of time.

The fact that you could be proven wrong at a later date cannot and should not be in itself a deterrent in wielding this awesome sword.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Oxford, London, Edinburgh - July 2011

10th Global Conference - Environmental Justice and Global Citizenship, Oxford, UK

Sustainability - the global question

Buildings contribute 40 percent of the total greenhouse gases. The combination of economic development and urbanization has increased pressure on the already strained ecosystem. Any civilization that intends to survive into the later years of this century must start looking into alternate energy and reduced carbon foot prints. A positive environment that eliminates risk is the call for the day. Responsible practices are called for, since the solutions cannot be merely formulated on models of law, rather it should be more voluntary and recommendatory in nature. Obvious benefits of remodeling on those lines should be offered in full view. It is pertinent to note here that though the problem is global, the way ahead lies mainly in local Initiatives.

All this time, the West was spending resources so that poverty could be alleviated and industrialization achieved. This was what I would call the first stage resource allocation. When this stage was attained what remained as an elusive by product was stagnant pollution. Now further expenditure and resource allocation had to be expended to reduce this pollution in what I derive as the second stage resource allocation. This two or multi stage allocation of resources was proving to be far too costly, and hence not sustainable. The method itself was defeating the end. Armed with this knowledge and information, thoughts, especially in the developing worlds, now turned into achieving a single level allocation of resources, straight from poverty onto pollution free development by a single stage sustainable allocation of resources. This is the power that the East now held over the West, the distinct advantage.

A flourishing environment, a prosperous economy and a vibrant and just society are some of the desired pillars in an ‘Environmental-Economical-Social’ overlap. The ‘Bearable–Equitable – Viable’ overlaps of these pillars would merge into a sustainable mosaic. A flourishing environment with a healthy ecosystem and supportive built environment would overlap that of a prosperous economy that had a reduced impact of disease and injury, increased emergency preparedness and response all having a reduced impact on the enviro-system. This overlap would result in a ‘healthy environment’. A prosperous economy would overlap with a vibrant and just society that had supportive social networks with strong cultural values coupled with sound education and high literacy to form a ‘strong public capacity’. The just society would merge with a flourishing environment to create ‘a better quality of life’. All this would result in a desired array of a healthier and more sustainable global community.

Sustainable development is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The principles of human well-being, participatory approaches, a long-term perspective, integrative decision-making, prevention and precaution, and equity are important aspects to be considered while establishing these developmental requirements and Norms. We cannot borrow anymore from the future, as we are already guilty of that deed. Human greed, though it continues to exist today, has already committed enough harm, while never attempting to address those important aspects. Human well being and participatory approach has always revolved around the individual. Long term perspectives and integrative decision making has always been a veil for short term immediate requirements, resulting in isolated decisions. Prevention, precaution and equity have only been resultant in unnecessary plundering of the public exchequer. We now have to rise above all that, or face isolation and disaster. I am not prophesying impending doom, but that is the reality of the future, unless we rein in now.

My role and training as a designer of physical environments allow me to focus my thoughts more on the built environment. That is not to say that the fiscal environment is taking a back seat. Only a proper amalgamation of the physical and fiscal while adsorbing the metaphysical can result in anything forward in the proper direction. Designing ‘environmentally correct’ buildings aims at minimizing the total environmental impact associated with all life-cycle stages of the building, as opposed to single life cycles. Apart from the outdoors, the indoor environmental quality (IEQ) identifies the comfort, well-being and the productivity of the occupants. All would be lost without achieving anything below this.

The new age guide lines may be bundled under the role of policies with the rules of design, construction techniques, and materials being the catalysts in this change. The speed and extent of this transition into green buildings will depend largely on logistical constraints, willingness to change, and available investment capital. Capital, at least in the developing world, is in plenty. Logical constraints are there for all to see, all one has to do is open one’s eye to the same. Willingness to change, sometimes at immediate cost to ourselves, is however, the omnipotent barrier, where we refuse to foresee the future. Let us, at the least, attempt this for our children, the future, to whom the world actually belongs.

Today, we cannot restrict ourselves to merely individual buildings. The percentage of urban dwellers is fast crossing the 50% mark. Care has to be taken to not only address the individual stake holder, but the community, nations, and the world as a whole. Poisonous gases know no national boundaries, and hence do not require ‘Visas’ to cross over. Anyway, somebody once remarked that geographical boundaries are nothing but a resultant of a political decision taken at some point of time, to be revised yet again, and again. The recent volcanic eruption in Ice land which disrupted most of northern Europe with ash is a perfect demonstration of this theorem. The unfortunate happenings in Japan also point this out. Of course, we are still in the nascent years of discussing visa free boundaries for humans, due to many reasons, human greed playing a major part in attempting not to go forward towards actual global citizenship. Let us at least attempt to be part of a global environmental citizenship. That is truly the only path open to us at the present.

Sustainable design approach integrates the building life cycle with each green practice employed with a design-purpose to create a synergy amongst practices used. We should define our core competency as delivering high-performance solutions that increase energy efficiency, durability and speed of construction, while minimizing environmental impact.

Adopt Single Level Resource Allocation to upgrade from ‘Developing’ to ‘Sustainably Developed’, emphasize on ‘Urban Context’ as opposed to ‘Individual Building Context’, concentrate on de – urbanization: and energy load reduction. Aim for availability of resources and reducing, re-using or recycling (3R's) of wastes through their safe, efficient and scientific management, and we could well be on to a different and sustainable world, rendered fit for our future generations to live on.

author - Mohandas Kalipurayath, B.Arch, FIIA

Arise India

The socialist revolution is on. Indians, both here and around the world, have finally decided that enough is enough. The past years have been akin to living in limbo, suffering the might of the rulers at every junction. These phenomenons exist in the names of ministers to clerks and building inspectors. Arrogance, armed with the knowledge that they already survive on taxed money shelled out by the hard working who have to shell out more anyways, and that nothing will happen to them, and so nothing should be done to be of help. It is time we dumped them along with the garbage, if only one knew what to do with this waste!!!

No religion, no party, no colors, One India…for all Indians. Decades of frustration has resulted in this massive spontaneous peaceful uprising. The actual socialist revolution is on (no Marxism or other isms here). Participate and pledge yourself to the new India. Let us turn our dream of a new India into reality, and in our life time.

Awaken, the time is now…

One India…A New India…for all Indians…

Mohandas Kalipurayath
Calicut, India

Saturday, 18 December 2010

The ills of being famous…..

A senior octogenarian leader is yet again on his death bed. A sparkle, he rode the waves of Kerala politics for many decades. His ills and wills notwithstanding, the likes of him can only be equated with the veteran communist leader the late and great EMS Nampoothiripad himself.

But all for what…..?. Kids and teachers pray for his end on working days. The employer places his bet on Sundays and holidays.

But in all it is the prayer of death. Signs of any recovery are met with nervous sighs. One hopes that he has had the opportunity of reading the “Bardo Thodyal”, the Tibetan book of the dead. Here they teach you to prepare yourself for the seven weeks after death. But since in space there is no time, one can only safely presume that this is the preparation for the final journey…the ultimate ecstasy.

But all is not lost. There does exist a few who pray for his ‘prolonged’ health, so that it is extended beyond the ‘function’ date, as the leader’s death could result in sudden holidays.


M Kalipurayath, Dec 2010 -

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Of Ghee cakes and Diwali…

The festival of lights today has taken on the colors of the ‘festival of thighs’. 8 Kgs in two weeks is what I gained this festive season, and there are a few cans of rassagolas still to be opened in the fridge.

The Age of Gluttony is back!!!