Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Kalari - a tool of self defense for woman.

Most of the fair sex are made to believe that one of their basic insecurities is their physical weakness, which makes them incapable of effective self-defence against the stronger sex. Is the recent increase in the number of rape and molestation cases proving this hypothesis right?

“Definitely not,” is the quick reply from Sivan Gurukkal, who runs Sree Agasthya Kalari at Panampilly Nagar for women. “It is our frame of mind that can either become our weakness or our strength during such precarious situations,” he said. “One deep stare can make the enemy think twice before he makes his first move,” he added.

According to Sivan, a rival can at once sense whether you are scared or not. “Your fear always gives the enemy an edge to make the first move. Presence of mind during such situations always comes handy. What women have to realize is that just one blow at the right point at the right time is enough to make their rival’s jaw drop in awe.” ‘Adithadavu’ and ‘Chuvadukal’ are the basic moves in Kalari which can help women in a huge way, says Sivan. The former deals with how to prevent the attacks and the latter is regarding the movements of the leg. Most of the times, women do react to suspicious situations but feel lost when their moves are prevented effectively by the enemy. “That should not be allowed. For instance, if you catch somebody by his shirt, without wasting time just swung him around and place his head between the elbow. It would completely leave the opponent in a fix,” he says. Sivan also said that even the usual accessories that women carry along with them like ‘duppatta,’ bag, umbrella and the like can also be used as effective weapons.

Sindhu , who has been under the tutelage of Sivan for about a year and a teacher by profession, is of the opinion that Kalari should be made a part of the curriculum, especially, for those between 10 to 16 years of age. “I am a teacher and associate with students quite often. I understand that the girl children are no more safe today. Underestimated stamina is the major reason for it,” Sindhu said. She added that she prefers Kalari as it make a person not only dynamic but mentally strong. “This form of martial art has been modified to suit women better,” Sindhu said.

Dominic Presentation, former sports minister and Mattanchery MLA, also said that girls should be taught Kalari. “It can mitigate the problems faced by women to a great extent,” he said. Although, this martial art form is of immense benefit, Sivan Gurukkal, who works in Canara Bank, Arakkunam 
branch, laments that it has not been given its due.

by  Shalet Jimmy

published in the New Indian Express


'Spirits' of Mattanchery waiting for tourists

If you are a tourist fascinated by ‘spirits,’ there are a few places for you to see in Mattanchery. But you will have a hard time finding them because they are hardly promoted by the tourism department. Not because it is scared of spirits, but owing to lack of awareness of their tourism potential.

The spot is known as ‘Kappiri Mathil’ (Negro Wall) in local parlance and there are five of them at Chakkamadam and Parwana in Mattanchery.

Myths and make-believe add some spice and romance to life, like the buildings of yore with an aura of mystery. The legend of spirits guarding treasures has gripped the fantasy of people from time immemorial. ‘Kappiri Mathil’ bears testimony to this long established legend. It could have acquired the status of an historical monument had the authorities taken measures to preserve it. The legend of the ‘Kappiri’ smoking a cigar, resting on a wall (Kappiri mathil) and safeguarding the treasures hidden by their masters has been doing the rounds for almost 350 years, says K J Sohan, former Mayor and Town Planning Standing Committee chairman, Kochi Corporation. When the Portuguese came to Kerala, they brought many Kappiri (native Africans) with them to safeguard their treasures. But the scene took a violent turn when the Dutch usurped power from the Portuguese, Sohan adds. “It was a violent takeover and they had to leave their treasures behind. But they buried the treasures in a deep trench and slaughtered a ‘Kappiri’ along with the treasure,” he adds. In course of time, this tale took a mythical note and people were touched and taken by it. The natives of Mattanchery, irrespective of religion, started believing that ‘Kappiri Muthappan’ who dwells on the ‘Kappiri mathil’ is their saviour.

Sohan says that there are around 20 such walls in Mattanchery. But only two walls are being maintained and that too by the local people. Sohan is also of the opinion that if packaged properly, this wall and its legend could be of high tourism potential. “Each spot in Kochi is of tourist importance. Like other countries, we have to promote ‘spirit tourism.’ Attempts should be made to recreate those feelings. If attempts are not made at the earliest, these traces of historical evidence would go into oblivion,” he adds. Reji Kumar, director (additional charge) State Department of Archaeology says that he is not aware of the matter. “I will soon look into the matter. “But a retired official from the same department says: “Only a heritage zone has been declared. But so far no policy decisions have been taken to preserve the historical pieces.”

K V Thomas, Union Minister of State for Agriculture, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution, said that he would visit the place. “Such a place has not come to my notice. I will visit it,” he said.

By Shalet Jimmy

(Published in The New Indian Express)

An interview with V P Gangadhran (Leading oncologist in the country)

 It seems that everything is not fair with the fairer sex as the malady of breast cancer is increasing at an alarming rate in the state. Lack of proper awareness among the patients and the professionals who treat them is cited as one of the major reasons for not being able to take any precautionary step, says Dr V P Gangadharan, who is a leading oncologist in the country.

“The public are not aware of the fact that breast cancer is curable. Despite waiting to investigate the stage which they are in, most of the patients opt for the removal of the breast which is a major blunder,” he says. Most of the breast cancer patients do not know that the diseased organ can be conserved. There is no need to remove the breast unless the cancer is spread to other parts of the body. “There are times when I really felt very bad that many of the patients who had undergone breast removal has not taken any basic tests. The saddest part of it is that there are many professionals who still resort to this conventional way of treatment,” he says.

The best way to detect breast cancer at an early stage is ‘self examination.’ It has to be done by every woman who is above 25 years, Gangadharan says. “Once in three years is advisable for those who belong to the age group 25-35 and monthly check-up is a must for every woman who is above 40,” he says.

Dr Gangadharan says that the costly and the most-sophisticated tool for self-examination is one’s own hand. “Self-examination has become the need of the hour. In the earlier days, such cancer was expected to happen only among women who are above 45 years of age. But today women are alarmingly prone to breast cancer from a very young age.” There are many risk factors which have highly contributed to the present scenario. Hormonal changes, using oral contraceptives, lack of breast feeding are some of the high risk factors. “Infertility treatment is yet another cause as it can bring about a lot of hormonal changes in the female body. Nipple retraction, painless swelling, nipple discharge, colour changes are some of the main symptoms of breast cancer,” he says.

Gangadharan also says that though the technical modalities have increased manifold, the lack of fixed strategy in the hospitals have augmented the trouble. “This disease is detectable, can be screened, partly prevented and of course curable. But the lack of strategy is a major problem.

When you go to a hospital, what they check is just the lipid profile, blood pressure, sugar level and ECG which cannot solve your problem,” he says. Dr Gangadharan gives a message that never jump into a major surgery when you are diagnosed with breast cancer.

by Shalet Jimmy

published in the New Indian Express

An interview with Ashtamoorthu - Malayalam Short story writer

Ashtamoorthi K V has become a name to conjure with, though when pursuing his passion quietly through the years, he had little thoughts of winning accolades. This short story writer, hailing from the cultural capital of Kerala, commenced his writing career as a novelist. But it was in the genre of short story writing that he made his own mark. Ashtamoorthi started writing at a very young age and was much of a dabbler in poetry in his formative years. “Though I started writing at a very young age, I glossed over my passion for writing for long years. My stories first got published in the college magazine,” he says. It came as a surprise to him, when one of his short stories was published in Mathrubhumi weekly in 1981 without any hassles, which also proved to be a turning point in his life as a writer. In 2010, his collected works was released by M T Vasudevan Nair. A new work, ‘Ayal Kathayezhuthan Pokukayanu’ is set to be published soon.

Ashtamoorthi, who lives with his wife at Arattupuzha, Thrissur, was quite nostalgic while talking about his first published novel, ‘Rehearsal Camp’ where he had narrated the lives of drama artistes, who had come to perform for a festival, in the temple near his home. “They had come for a short stay in my out house and their lives intrigued me for a while, which soon transformed into a novel, the only novel I have written so far,” he says. He won the Kumkumam award for the same novel in 1982. When asked why he had given up novel writing, he says he got stuck in the craft of short story writing too deeply and applauds also came to him much easily in that medium that he got “apprehensive about treading the long winding path of novel writing”.

Ashtamoorthi has no regrets about not having created any character that has made a lasting impression on the readers’ mind. “It was always the situations that had a sway in my stories and not characters,” he says. He has always preferred to write in a simple way. “My writing is not confusing for I never believed in complicating the readers’ experience or giving them any unwanted strain to comprehend what I have to say to them,” he says. Talking about the inspirations for his writing, he says he was amazed by the impact the city of ‘Bombay’ had on his life, during his stay there. In later times, it proved to be a fertile ground for his writing. “I grew up reading M T Vasudevan Nair’s works and it was definitely a source of inspiration,” he says.

The writer also confides that he is quite apprehensive now a days as he feels he is repeating himself. “When many of my readers call me to appreciate my works, they would say that they could identify the author of the story from the style. They did not even have to look who has written the story. Though they say it as a compliment, I am afraid of typecasting myself,” he says. Though he has two awards to his credit, he says he was not awed by them. For him, winning the awards were sheer accidents. He remembered that there were many instances when an award-winning author’s works did not reach the readers. Ashtamoorthi bagged Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award for ‘Avan Veedu Vittu Pokunnu’ in 1992. ‘La Patha Kathakal’, ‘Kathasaaram’, ‘Pakal Veedu’, ‘Marana Siksha’ etc. are some of his other works. During his busy schedules, he has never forgotten to maintain a good circle of friends - Ashokan Cheruvil, another well-known writer in Malayalam whose camaraderie and works he enjoys, being the author’s dearest friend as well as trusted critic.

His columns for Janayugam news paper has had a wide readership. His blog www.ashtamoorthi.blogspot.com (Vicharam) has almost all of his works. Now that he has retired from SNA Oushadhasala Pvt. Ltd, where he was working as an accountant, Ashtamoorthi feels he can finally have ample time for his writings.

by Shalet Jimmy

(published in the New Indian Express)

An interview with Kumar Sahani- renowned film maker

  For Kumar Shahani, one of the country’s most respected directors, life is a celebration and he feelsconfident that he has made use of every single drop of that wine called life.
However, he views that Indian cinema today lacks  the same emotional
audacity and artistic instinct.  “Globalisation has started taking a heavy toll on original art. Money is the prime emotion that drives everything. ‘Shringar’, the 'rasa' of creativity has been reduced to prostitution. When you have  shunned all your creativity,  how would you expect to understand good cinema?,” he asks.

He believes that manufactured emotions are being thrust on the audience as everyone is looking for instant gratification these days.  “Patience and aesthetic sense are completely lost. The portrayal of sensuality and attraction should always be on a higher plane, not brought down to the level of vulgarity,” he says.

He fondly remembers his close associates and friends. “I was all in awe of the late Chandralekha, the renowned danseuse, who choreographed for my first film,’ Mahadarpan’. She was a person who celebrated her passion- dance. She got a lot of flak for being herself,” he says.

He also painfully remembers his long lost friend M F Hussain. “Hussain was somebody who was always true to himself and his art. He was seriously misunderstood, and banished from his motherland.  We tried our best to bring him back. But the Indian Government was not ready to give him protection. It was painful to see his plight.”

About Malayalam films, he says there is a dearth of committed actors. “With heroines, talent goes out of the window after ‘ kalyanam’. I really do not understand the hue and cry caused over marriage. If it works, it’s okay. Otherwise leave it. Why should you sacrifice your talent for it?” he asks.

Though Shahani did his BA(honours) in political science and history, it was in films where he saw his ‘karma’ calling.  " It happened as a sheer coincidence.” he says. He fondly remembers that it was his routine walks with his father that led him onto the path of film making. "Though I accompanied my father on his walks, I was too little to cover such greater distances with him. So he used to put me in any random movie theatre on the way and would  pick me up when he returns.That’s how the wonderful world of cinema happened to me.”

Kumar Shahani was one among those who created ripples in the 60s. Sahani was also under the tutelage of the renowned filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak. “We used to fondly call him ‘dada’. Though he was an anarchist, he was full of passion for  films,” he remembers.
“There was this incident which I still remember. Once he came to the classroom wearing an eye patch on one eye.

It seems he had got too drunk and had hurt himself. In his drunken state, he did not know how to get to the hospital. So he went to police and asked to be arrested.
The policeman said he couldn’t do that. Someone then ended up taking him to the hospital,” he says, remembering his mentor with great affection.

Kumar Shahani lives in London with his two daughters and sons -in-law. Shahani also have a Kerala connection, as his son-in -law is a Keralite from Thrissur. He says he loves the place and has plenty of hopes from it.

by Shalet Jimmy
published in the ' The New Indian Express'