That’s one year reduced from the rower’s life

“With the kind of extreme exertion they put into rowing the boat for the unforgiving 1.4KM, one can easily expect an year to be reduced from the rower’s lifespan. Their hand’s simply refuse to lift after reaching the ‘kurishadi’ (church cross) which is 200M to the finishing line”, says my friend Aneesh who works in a houseboat. “Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru jumped into winning boat ‘nadubhagom chundan’ to celebrated with them, and when he went back to Delhi, he wrote a letter to the organizing committee congratulating them, and donating a rolling trophy of a boat made in silver. The nadubhagom chundan still has a foot carved in the boat to commemorate this”, adds Aneesh.

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Being a native of Kuttanad, I witnessed people’s interest towards snake boat race right from childhood. But I couldn’t involve much in their passion since I was part of a rat-race called CBSE schooling and engineering.  Even-though the things are no better now,  I was looking forward very much to this year’s Nehru Trophy Boat race. It came in the long weekend, and I wanted to wield my new camera at the carnival.

In the previous years I tried the conventional way of purchasing tickets and going to the stands at the finishing point only to find a place in the last row. This time I found the contact of Aneesh, who works in a houseboat, and owns a small boat. He plans to park the boat opposite the finishing point and next to the VIP stand.  The perks that only the native who knows the place like the back of his hand can get!

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For cheering we had ‘UBC Kainakari’ flag, few horns for blowing, kappa and fish curry, and toddy đŸ™‚

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our vantage point: straight ahead is the starting point and behind us is the finishing point

The air was supercharged with enthusiasm: the running commentary by veterans explaining the history of the event, the boats and clubs taking part, the ‘vanchippattu'(songs sung by the rowers to synchronize their throwing the oars), blow-horns of the cheering crowd, and the cool lake wind to dispel the weariness. Tourists from both within and outside the country have secured spots atop and on the balconies of houseboats. I am told that the organizing committee issues passes costing 40 to 50 thousand rupees to the houseboats wishing to park opposite the finishing point stands, adjacent to the VIP stands. Many boats were parked tightly packed. I was jumping from boat to boat to try to get a good shot of the boats. Never did I get a feeling that I was not standing on the land, but a floating Island made of several boats tied together!

People take a day off from work on the day of the race, which falls on second Saturday of August every year, and will literally be ‘off’ in the evening.

The heats of snake boats began at around 2:30. The boats appear as a tiny spot in the distance first, the tiny oars moving up and down look like the limbs of a centipede, the water splash creates a mist around the boats creating the illusion of the boat emerging scything through the fog. And when they reach near, the mystery gives way to veneration at the scale, exertion, synchronization, music, and the crescendo of the running commentary. And in the midst of such energy, I realize that nobody born human can withstand the euphoria and the shouting out in joy.

I also got the rare chance to be amidst one of the rowing teams and could see the emotions and apprehensions. People keenly observe the rival teams rowing performance and bet on their teams victory. Elation and sorrows here come deep from the heart. I was touched by a supporter who was weeping like a kid who lost his toy, and his friend who was comforting him. DSC_0705.JPG

The finals got delayed than usual because of the new automatic starting system that was introduced. The sun set and it was dark when the final heats started. Everyone in the stands switched on their mobile flashes and started waving. It looked as if a thousand lamps were lit along the shores of Punnamada lake.  Gabriel chundan rowed by the Thuruthipuram boat club lifted the trophy this time.

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flashlights become lamps

While returning, it was already dark and there were too many passenger boats and houseboats criss-crossing the lake. We switched on our mobile flashlights to let us be seen in the dark. It was a play of diesel power on the water stretch, with the house-boats engines roaring and the passenger-boat engines tweeting like the old Yamaha two-stroke. Seen from distance, the finishing point was bathed in light from the numerous boats moored there and the brilliantly lit ‘Ramada’ resort. What was a cool breeze in the evening, now started feeling freezing. I wondered about the need for A/C in the houseboats, as the lake has the best weather in Alappuzha. Ah yes, luxury: asking for even more when you have more then enough.

I found a few answers as well, in the pursuit: about why I was not particularly interested about popular sports or TV series about which everyone was crazy. My place has a sport which is a lasting tradition, and there is no void in my heart for the extravagance to come and fill.

 

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Trying my hand at photography

Right from after I got my Desktop PC back qhen I was a fresher in college, I was interested in image editing, manipulation and related stuff. Photoshop was a natural skill to learn, and the interest lasted even after I started working. I used to take up poster works, digital paintings, website content creation etc. But all along the way, the thing missing was that I never was the complete owner of my works, because I relied on stock photos, free fonts etc from the net. And most of the times I want to be the producer, rather than being the passive consumer. With this intent of contributing back to the community, and a little more,  I decided to purchase this guy two months back: 

My boy:Nikon D5300

I am enjoying using it. I am taking it everywhere I go, even if casually going out for dinner! I have started to set out on trips during the weekends. And  I also started waking up early to photograph the calm mornings of my city. And I can also see that I am gradually improving at photography. Initially I struggled to take pictures that were in focus and correctly exposed, because of the unfamiliarity with the camera controls. But now I can focus on the subject and composition of the frame. I think I am starting to get an eye for what would be interesting to photograph! Some of my observations so far:

  • The learning curve is pretty steep for photography, which is the reason why many people (myself included!) jump into this field. You learn about Aperture, Shutter speed and ISO, and a few camera controls, and you can take reasonably acceptable images in the second or third day after you have started. Compare that with drawing or music, where you may not produce anything presentable maybe even after 6 months into it.
  • They say that Street magicians are the real geniuses who manage to do their tricks even with people watching from all sides. The old analog camera (film-camera) photographers were the street magicians. The had only a single chance to get the shot right. And not much of film to waste on unworthy shots. Darkroom was just developing the film into print. Digital photographers are just the magicians performing under there veil of stage, lighting, dresses with infinite hidden pockets and paid volunteers. Shots can be corrected, cropped and what not. And you can go on clicking till your battery goes dead.
  • Photography is a expensive hobby. The camera, lenses, tripods, filters etc can be heavy on your pocket. But most complex gadgetry may not be needed to produce aesthetically pleasing images, even mobile cameras can take stunning pictures these days. The brain behind the camera matters more.
  • The tragedy that happens with most novice photographers is that once the initial excitement is over, most people keep the camera aside until the next outing or trip. It takes patience to continue even after seeing all your shots that seemed great on the camera display turn out to be disappointments when transferred to the computer.
  • Audacity of the foolish and the doubtfulness of the talented, as in all fields, can be observed among photographers also.
  • Do I have the passion to take it as my profession? No, I am doubtful. For time being let it remain my hobby.

In two months I have clicked 42GB worth of photos (obviously, in RAW format amounting close to 20MB per image) and I consider only 10-20 of them worth sharing. Here are a few of them:

Law college, Chennai

Patthar kosh-Beef steak on stone pan

Russel Market, Bangalore

Commercial Street, Bangalore​

MG road, Bangalore

I am getting constructive criticism and encouragement from my friends about my photos, which is helping me a lot. I will be sharing more on my Instagram account: @aju_kris . Hoping to keep clicking past the 1 million obsoletes mark đŸ˜€. 

Ambitions

“What do you want to become when you grow up?” I was asked the same question many times  when I was a child, I use to reply shyly: “Train driver”!  This may seem silly now, but at that time if I were given a chance to at least enter the loco pilot seat, I would have been the happiest person on earth. I could have continued doing that forever. Because that wish came from being amazed by the sheer might of trains. And that was from the heart. Shrouded by lack of knowledge, small things seemed large then. But those small things are what people search for all their life.

If only life was as simple as doing what you like and forgetting the rest. As people grow up, aims are injected into them. Part by self for the aim of making money, and part by parents and society for proving ones worth. In highschool, there are no more questions​ asked about what one wants to do for the rest of his life, only answers given to them on their behalf. 

I get irritated when I see schools named ‘XYZ techno school’. They have gone to the extent of  announcing that whoever getting admitted there will be moulded into identical finished pieces called engineers, as if from a blacksmith’s workshop. I always doubt what kind of moral responsibility and social commitment they will have. In my career, I have met only few people who became an engineer because they wanted to. The rest had so many reasons, mostly to catch the same boat as everyone else. What was mine? Necessity. Of a job. But I learned to be not unhappy, as I finally ended up in something that I don’t hate. But, Indian philosophy: there are many here who are less.privileges. As it started enabling me to buy life’s pleasures, I started to find positives, I started to love my job. Though a voice calls from the inside “for how long?”.

I want the next generation to think. I don’t want India to churn out engineers and doctors, but people who love what they do, and have a life. Right guidance is the point. Maybe this is even important than choosing the right partner. Schools celebrate ‘A+’ grades but fails.to see small achievements by,can I call them, the less recognised?  All students are bright, but only in different areas. 

Can’t people stop asking about specifics? Job, Position, Salary, Stay, Marriage . Many a dreams are crumbled because of this.  Just a ‘how are you’ would be more pleasant.

If only I had known

That day was the happiest of my life for years to come, but I didn’t realize that.  Had I known, I would have stayed in it a little longer, I would have written down every moment of it to cherish them again and again. Now, when I think of asking for once more, I become aware that I have lost it beyond recovery.  The minds involved and the situations would never be right for the infinite permutations and combinations that time is going to try.

 

PS: Random thoughts after reading ‘The museum of Innocence’.

Benevolence

The ‘konna’ trees bathed in its yellow flowers is a sight charming to the person weary of the summer heat. It’s nothing short of benevolence from nature towards humans. And a promise that earth can still recover from the damage done, if humans slow down a bit.

(These photos were clicked by me during my last visit to my hometown Haripad. Kerala is baking in summer heat with daytime temperatures touching 38°C already. People have started installing A/Cs in homes, which I think will put us in a vicious circle of greenhouse​ gas emission.)

Finding his way

It seemed like a dream to him. He is on the way to somewhere. There are demons all over his way, spewing noxious fumes. None of them attacked him, except the ones behind him, who are shrieking at him to get out of their way. They all seem to be in a hurry to reach somewhere, perhaps to their next kills. The path ahead is only sparingly visible as the smoke has begun to engulf everything. The harsh sun is not able to penetrate to the bottom, but it’s heat is. A hot wind is blowing, baking his skin. He wants to slip through the tiny gap that opened up, but his legs are heavy as if they are shackled. 

 Honking of the taxi driver behind woke Mr Walter Mitty from one of his daydreams. He’s on his way to his office. So much negativity to start the day with!

And that is all that love’s about

What choice does today’s youth have, than to love the one pointed to by the society, to lose their real love for the fear of the system?

In the ancient times, caste system made perfect sense. The society was divided based on profession. So a potter marries a potter, a merchant’s daughter marries another merchant, a prince marries a princess. And each caste had its role to play in the society for its success. 

Come to present. First of all, the fact that a section called ‘engineers’ exists does not make much sense to the society other than bringing in some foreign exchange to the country. I believe this income would have come all the same , had they followed their real interests. But something that assured success and approval in the community was what the society asked you to take.The other use is to become the subject of the relatives’ boast: “our kid is a successful engineer at a top MNC”. Even at the heights of success in others’ eyes, the only person searching for that needle if happiness in the mayhem of the world would be the aforementioned engineer.

At the brink of turning into a lunatic, to make life a bit bearable, the engineer tries to find a match of their choice. Engineer marries an engineer. With hands to wipe each other’s tears, the world would be left with two less unhappy people. See, the engineer is only heeding the ancestral rule of ‘marry from same profession’. But alas! anybody who is somebody is an engineer.

Does the matching algorithms of the engineer’s brains understand the boundary conditions imposed on it by the church, mosque or the temple? The poor thing finds a pick, solely based on the criterion of ensuring the continuity of their lineage. Lucky are those, whose lot fell on a person of the same religion, if not the same caste. For others, it’s end of the story.