Looking out from my apartment in Kochin, my mind travels back to my four year stint in Trivandrum, in the 11th floor of an apartment in that capital city. The feel is different. it was the tops of coconut trees that greeted me there, with a few high rises here and there peeping out apologetically for interrupting the vast stretch of greenery. It’s different here in Kochi. The view is perhaps very good, considering i am in Kochi. Coconut trees are there in plenty, here too, as we look out from the 4 balconies of my apartment near Vytilla. But the difference is something we cannot wish away.
The trees themselves are not as healthy as in Trivandrum. Besides, the high rises are too many – and ominous. They seem to say ‘we’ll take over soon!”.
I long for those visions of undulating stretch of swaying coconut palms visible from my Cliff dale Apartment –that green taking on a Nilgiris blue shade as it stretches towards the periphery of the range of vision, and finally transforming into a bluish green gray misty hue trying to merge into the distant horizon!
No such misty vision from my habitat here in Kochin. The edge of green is concretely frontiered by high rises and whatever promises they hold. But they are concrete – nothing left to the imagination.
That is not all. Trivandrum is a laid back little city, and it suits the temperament of a retired person like me who’d like to hang on to the remnants of a lifetime of academic activity which was cut short rather prematurely by circumstances. Thus i get to attend a seminar, or a conference, a poetry reading session, a music performance, all of which are a plenty there. Not that Kochi is starved of those activities. Among the other huge multi crore happenings, these don’t get the type of media attention which a slight cultural stir gets in TVM.
Interesting things happen in Trivandrum. Socio-cultural-civil activisms mushroom in that little city. A group of youngsters, for instance, meet once a week to plan out how they can contribute their mite to minimise production of degradable waste in the little city. They have no funds, hence no venue which would incur expenditure. So they meet in the museum. I once attended their meeting. It’s a medley group. Students, professionals, unemployed –all young people from different walks of life but who come together to put their resources together to find ways and means of making optimum use of existing infrastructure for minimising waste. Their earnestness was touching.
This is but one instance of social activism that’s part of the character of the city. It is a city with a lot of awareness about social injustice and failure of governance. The enlightened in Trivandrum refuse to settle down to the easy existence of armchair critics. They try to contribute their bit, knowing full well their efforts are not going to move mountains; but they are willing to do whatever they can to make that small difference. The group of youngsters i mentioned earlier went around with dustpans and baskets during a human chain to prevent the littering of the streets of Trivandrum. Their action not only spared the corporation the massive task of clearing the streets after the mega show, but lighted small sparks in the hearts of many a citizen about responsibility of every individual to protect the environment.
Strange that no one asked how, after such a massive turnout of human beings, the streets of Trivandrum were spick and span. These motivated youngsters did not come out to claim the credit either!
And the brain behind this movement is a chit of a girl who created this group through a website.
I know a leading academician in Trivandrum who made a firsthand study of the predicament of adivasis. She presents learned theory heavy papers on the mode of development that causes a large section of humanity to fall by the wayside. But that’s the less important fact. She has inspired a group of students to acquaint themselves with this ‘other India’, with the result that the guru and shikshyas give financial support to deserving people among these neglected Indian citizens in the deep forests of Wyanad.
None knows about this even in the institution where this conscientious lady works. I came by this information by accident.
That’s Trivandrum. It houses such noble people who walk the talk, who don’t take their privileges as their exclusive birthright.
I miss the Trivandrum with its colourful secretariat. The things people go on protest against! The delightful slogans! A mockery of democracy as some people say? Well, not really, i guess. The tents on the footpath of the Secretariat represent the power which rests on the people in a democracy- the right to protest, the right to be heard, the right to be seen by the powers that be.
It was my greatest desire to sit in protest before the secretariat and have my voice heard by the people and their elected representatives about a couple of issues i felt strongly about. My husband laughed each time i told him about it, but never stood in the way, the surest indication that the footpath before the secretariat offered a respectable and accepted platform for protest.
And then those beautiful old buildings reminiscent of the days when the rulers of Travancore tried to accommodate the best of the western culture within the time tested traditional frames of indigenous way of life. The drive from the LMS junction to Statue always gave me goose bumps from a sense of history stirring in some remote regions of my consciousness - - -.
The LMS church in grey rubble is an artefact frozen in time. The avenue from Kowdyar to Vellayambalam remains almost unchanged - as it was years ago, is now – and most probably shall ever be.
The Paliam junction with the church, mosque and the temple in a triangle belies the artificially whipped up image of India as a country breaking up along communal lines. The university behind these with the lackadaisical movements of the people on its campus enforce the image of Trivandrum as a thinking state but laid back in deeds.
It is easy to belong to that city.
Trivandrum, I miss you!