Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The good old days are back again

 KOCHI:  When Gopalakrishnan started ‘Vayasans Club’ at Mulanthuruthi, it was with the understanding that only a person of his age could understand the pressure of his peers. Though an initiative for the old people, K Gopalakrishnan is emphatic about the fact that it is not an old-age home, but a temporary hub where elderly people can come and have fun in their own way.

“The primary aim of this club is to ward off the loneliness they feel at their own homes, when their children are away at work,” he said. The other objective is to provide  his ‘companions’ with timely medical aid. And, for this purpose, Gopalakrishnan has approached various hospitals for assistance, to which most of them have agreed. He says that many of the leading hospitals in the city, including Ayurveda and homeopathic clinics have offered full support to his venture. “They are even ready to offer medical check-ups once in every 15 days, free of cost,” he said.

Apart from it, Gopalakrishnan has also arranged for seminars and awareness classes to instil positivity in the elderly. “Old age is a treasure trove of knowledge and death is not the only thing they should be worrying about. I want them to realise this,” he says.

On the expenses of the club, Gopalakrishnan said that he was well-equipped to take care of the daily needs. Though he admits that he could not offer them sumptuous feasts everyday, he did his best to ensure good homely food. “We are not bringing in any outside help for this venture. My wife is taking care of it,” he said.

He said that his decision was not an off the cuff one. “I have been deliberating this for quite a long time because I know that the helplessness of an old man or a woman in today’s world is terrible,” he said.

To have a first-hand experience, he undertook long journeys  for it. “I would travel with just Rs 100 and an identity card. All these trips made me realise that it is not easy for an elderly person to survive with little money or help,” he adds.

Adding fun to this whole endeavour are the grandchildren of the elderly people who accompany them to the club. Gopalakrishnan has started a small play school adjacent to the Vayasans Club for the tiny tots. “I am certain that this a task every grandparent would do with pleasure. Hence I thought of starting a play school too.”

When asked about this venture, Tito Thomas, Secretary of Pakal Veedu, Kottayam, said that he was very happy to hear about as it has become the need of the hour.

He added that genuine concern should guide people like Gopalakrishnan in such commendable efforts.

published in The New Indian Express

Waves of History at Mattancherry

KOCHI: Punnamthottam, the 106-year-old Thiruvaranmula Palliyodam,   at  Mattanchery, has become the cynosure of tourist eyes from far and wide. The snake boat which once used to accompany the Thiruvonathoni of Aranmula Parthasarathi during its hey-days has become one of the proudest possessions  of N B Majnu, owner of Heritage Arts, an antique-shop at Mattanchery.

It is divine luck which preserved the palliyodam. Five years back, the   Aranmula Karayogam which owned the palliyodam decided to set it ablaze as per the tradition. It is believed that the palliyodams have life and have to be cremated once theycompletes their life span. “As the Karayogam was about to set it on fire, I came to know about it by sheer luck and quickly bought it,” Majnu says.

As the legend goes, this 106-ft-long snake boat played a predominant role by accompanying the boats which brought ‘Thiruvona sadya’ to Parthasarathi temple from Kattur Madom. It had to protect the boat carrying sumptuous Onam feast and various delicacies from bandits.

Majnu remembers that it was a Herculean task to transport the snake boat to Mattanchery. As many as 70 people were employed for the purpose. “It was  rowed from Aranmula via Thakazhi till Chengannur. Then, it was brought to Mattanchery using boats,” he said.

Majnu says this is a ‘small contribution’ from his part in preserving the  antiques in the country. “Our country is blessed with relics which have high antique value. These objects can proclaim our heritage,” he said.

Though the palliyodam is drawing tourists and many international media like  Fox History channel, Majnu laments that it is not getting wide recognition  among the locals. “Tourists are flocking to see the palliyodam, but it fails to lure people from Kerala. One of the main reasons is that people seem to be unaware of it,” he said. The palliyodam has been registered.

Nambiraj, an Archeological Survey of India (ASI) official, had inspected the palliyodam and asked the proprietor to preserve it.

“We came to know about it during our routine inspection. Since the  palliyodam is more than 100 years old, the ASI has asked the owner to take  necessary steps to preserve it and not to export it,” he said.

This is the only place in the country where a snake boat is preserved as an antique piece other than the one in the Bhopal Museum. It is also believed that the palliyodam was built by the Vishwakarma family of Ranni.

Published in The New Indian Express