Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I Miss Trivandrum

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!


  1. Nice memories..I have some different memories regarding the same...and our titles are someway similar...

  2. Good one. Lot of people love to hate Trivandrum. I have heard people comment"never trust prople down south". I used to react furiously whenever i heard that. Now I have come to realise it is probably because they have a silent admiration for the people here. You have to mention the descipline of the folks after the pongala. I used to live near the temple and i am used to the difficulties for the residents there. But 6 hours after the festival it will be difficult for someone to comprehend that Attukkal Pongala is the worlds largest gathering of its kind for women. And it is the awarenesss and the activism of the common man that makes it possible.

  3. I was reading it with much passion since I too sometimes miss the place.Not the same exactly though.We,friends used to call it 'glorified village'.Not a city in whatever way it flourishes.It's applicable to the mindsets as well.

    Apart from what you wrote,I miss the damp,dark corridors of university library.The not-so-touched collection of Urdu poems,where I still possess the dreams of a man I never met in life..then the poor old Ammas who sell vegetables and jack fruit,still being the mother and grandmother of mighty males..The horrible shouting and bargaining at Palayam market,awesome British library and the craft and art exhibitions,film festivals...But the foodie in me have much vivid memories of eat outs.To name a few,Sagara at Vazhuthakkadu,meen kada at chala,open house at Ayurveda college road,buhari,and so many..And the terrific choora curry Trivandrum is fond of..

    But the city is not so angelic I believe.Like all others,it also got the other side.I can't forget the sudden strikes at Mahatma Gandhi road.And I have seen many horrible people as well.

    Memories are sweet,depends !

  4. Madam,
    I'm surprised!
    I"m glad too!
    Lovely post.

  5. Madam,
    I'm surprised.
    I'm glad too!
    Lovely post.

  6. Ma'm, fantastic piece. Perhaps this one feeling of 'home' is what creates that umbilical connection which brings Trivandrumites back here, how far and long they've been out of the place.

    You're right in many ways. About the Trivandrum that hasn't changed and will not change...about the Trivandrum that is changing rapidly...and about the new images of Trivandrum forming around Technopark and the newly developed broader avenues. It is this conjunction of various time frames is what I find charming about the place. History is something you cannot buy, cannot change.

    I do miss the Pubilc Library, the Museum Grounds, Shankhumugham and the walk with pals down MG Road. Well, I hope you do enjoy your time in Cochin, its another city which I love very much, next to Trivandrum. Take care.

  7. Hello,

    First time visitor to your blog....came in via a friend's blog who happens to follow you - I grew up in Trivandrum and my family have moved out for a few years now - never been to Trivandrum since, but I could so relate to all that you said - LMS junction to Statue - even upto East Fort actually - Public Library and British Library, Shankumukham beach and the mulagu bhajji there, the Museum Grounds for simply lazing around, the Kanakkakunnu palace, the fast food stalls at Statue, etc etc..- too many things come back right now - having seen other cities in the north of India which are truly laid back, I would never call Trivandrum laid back - the people get the work done whenever required - but its got the charm of somewhere in between old world and modern city - and that is precisely what makes it so special - the quality of education and more importantly the quality of life there is irreplacable - thank you for bringing back many a good memory - loved the post and will now go through more :)


  8. Pleasant and kind words about my city. As a 6th generation Trivandrumite and having lived here almost continuously since 1977, I too have good memories. But the present Trivandrum is fast catching up - the unruly traffic, the high rises that spring up every other day, the cutting down of trees, the unholy mess of its roads, its burgeoning population - still - Trivandrum is the best of cities so far. Many are the old building torn down, many are the beautiful trees chopped off...

    But thanks, for the kind words and beautiful memories..

  9. Home is where your heart is !

  10. Trivandrum still remains, for now, the town that valiantly aspires to become a city. I say this despite the huge changes in the infrastructure that I see in snapshots every 2 years or so. If I want to, I can still walk the same roads from Vanchiyoor to the British library (wait, that has closed down, so why would I walk there?) and then on to the Public library in Palayam, which still looks as though it might have the musty racks of 100 year old books that I used to happily sift through. Or not, maybe that is all modernized now- I wouldn't know, since I haven't been there in years.
    The people remain the same though, don't they?

  11. Tvm would be the best place on earth for me. As some one mentioned - dark corners of university library. I always felt something magical about that place -s omething like sitting on a time machine. The smell of old books and those creaky chairs. The clock tower and those roads in front. It was a pleasure to walk on those roads even during summer. My most precious memories are that of sitting on those steps in front of the library after a long bus ride from Kariavattom. Now I dont think I will be able to recognise any faces. But that time we knew almost everybody. The canteen at MLA hostel used to serve some good food as well. It's been 10 years I visited that city. I had been to many cities. But it's Tvm I want to go back to.

  12. It is frightening that not far from now there may be only memories left of the Thiruvanathapuram we all know and lived in.

    Your recollections were good and nostalgic.
    But with things moving fast in the wrong direction....!!!!

    The city is good and still has the beauty, but the typical Keralite mind set , be it in the form of encroaching the footpaths and walk-ways in front of the Scretariat for organised protests, which seems to be absent in other State capitals, the mindless chopping of trees that adorn the sides, the vulgar concerete monsters replacing garnd and old architectural excellence... the list can go on.

    And in the end memories are all that will stay, and painfully though!

  13. Trivandrum is much more. The grand buildings in and around East Fort, Sree padmanabha swmy temple,the great sight of the planes landing and lifting watching from the temple at that far end, spend endless times at University Library, British library. The sweets from Sweetland or new Sastha in Fort, sevai from many houses in agraharams selling only sevai, the adai from gajendra vilas and ...and...

  14. Ma'm I haven't read a piece more beautiful about Trivandrum. I come from Alappuzha, but I have been working in Trivandrum for the last 13 years and love the city. It has everything, both good and bad, good and bad. As a journalist, I think my exposure to this city was from a different angle. It is a place of disquiet at the very top--politics, bureaucracy... There is madness going on there. People spending each waking moment on plotting and scheming against others. I am not exaggerating. And also the kind of beautiful people in the group you have mentioned in this article.

  15. thanks, dear friends for the comments.
    yes, i agree with al of you. a place is how you respond to it from your context, which, in my case, is a limited protected one.
    it's two months since i landed in kochin where i was born and brought up in. but i belong here mostly in my memory. the realtime kochin is something i'm still in the process of trying to digest.

  16. I think that should have been Palayam Junction...


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