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Thursday, January 21

Crickey, the worldz all bigoted

The recent turmoil and melodrama about the racial abuse and attacks on Indian nationals in Australia is making a lot of unwanted noise. Its all a hoopla state for politicians on both sides with our desi leaders 'enraged'  and 'appalled'  at the vicious crimes being committed on our citizens abroad. Even the least figure you could imagine, the sinistral and senile Thackarey man launched his prophecy the other day, warning the Oz to tackle the issue or pay the penalty. Yo man, you rock!

Encroaching on the absolute limits of shameless hypocrisy, this last one by Thackarey, by far the most sectarian leader we have ever managed to produce in our country, who has no soul-prick in murdering Indians in the name of language, region and caste. And how he has come out all guns blazing for our countrymen...Makes me swell with pride.

Racism exists everywhere, even in Australia.  Yes, even in Australia, but at least a megaton less than that in India. Not forgetting the fact that the Australian continent is yet to catch up with their first cousins, the US/Canada and Europe in negating the race issue. Its been long since Australia officially abolished the infamous  White Australia Policy and the old  Stolen Generations , which put the nation in very bad light. But mindsets don't change radically and perhaps the per-capita no: of Xenophobic individuals could be marginally higher Down Under. Just guessing...

Incredible as it may seem, Australia is one of the most multi-cultural regions of the world. Put aside Times Square, NYC, you'd come across almost as many ethnicities of the human species on the whereabouts of  Opera House, wondering how quickly the country has moved forward to shed its tag. So why hasn't it, yet?

The answer could be multi-prong. This assault- racism arguments have much more to it. Its about the times we live in...

Nobody denies the blunt fact that racism exists in Australia, as it does everywhere. The isle may still be carrying forward a few malicious traits as old British convict land. That could be hard to erode, especially when you talk about Aussie culture and that pot of yogurt, as the joke goes. Many arrogant young minds think its fun to go 'curry bashing'  because Indians are easy targets. Australia knows perfectly that its image has been dented outside and will be only too keen to get things patched up.

Talking about Indian community in Australia, they belong to two broad groups, just two groups... Too bloody easy for us to understand as back home we're used to categorizing people on the basis of caste, colour, creed, language, profession, region, sexual orientation and what not. In Australia the Indian contingent consists of  the Working class consisting of the professionals in the medical, engineering or IT fields and the Student Community, who gets the short end of the stick now-a-days. It is important to note that this student class doesn't include the children of the professional Indians, who're well integrated and naturalized with the local community.

And these two groups are like chalk and cheese...They seldom mix. In fact most of the former class, nearly 2.5 lakh of them, looks to avoid the above mentioned student group for pretty apparent reasons. Isn't there an obviousness when you see that its predominantly the student community (96,000 in  number) who make news for wrong reasons?

Indian Students protest in Melbourne pic courtesy

When squarely pointing a finger at the Aussie authorities it may be prudent to be aware of the other 3 fingers pointing back at ourselves. A small chunk of this student community behaves as if they're in their grand-dad's backyard carrying on with the same ignorant behaviour unacceptable to the community they're living in. Being rude and ignorant towards natives, being loud, filthy and scant disrespect for the culture of the country they're in, these students naturally invite trouble. To add on,  many of these student groups live in shanty suburbs, work unsocial hours and end up soft targets for the criminals.

There has been no definite evidence that all the recent attacks down under are racially motivated, though some definitely appear so. Its also crucial to note that many of the perpetrators belonged to other ethnic groups like the Lebanese. Australia is facing a crisis in their coal-mining sector and many people working in those areas are relocating to the cities. Jobless mass-migrants alien to a city is a recipe for trouble. The situation gets ugly when these youngsters rub shoulders with the immigrated folks from the sub-continent who're hardly modest in their attitude.

It's this social problem which need to be addressed immediately, and internally. The focus is now on the evil R-word and it will only help to flare things up, feels many Aussie Indians. Look back at history...

A small group of ignorant Lebanese youth triggered the 2005 Cronulla riots. If the situation gets out of hand then it will be the innocent and decently living people who may have to pay the price for the stupidity of a few lost souls. With more help from the likes of the outspoken Mr. Thackarey and actions like burning the effigy of Kevin Rudd, we're creating a toxiferous potpourri for our own countrymen in Australia.

Has any of those responsible from our country made any open remarks against the inhuman treatment meted out to Indians in the Middle East? Indians, including millions of Keralaites are officially second or third class citizens and are subjected to racial vilification, abuse and injustice in the oil fields, docks and even on streets in UAE, Saudi Arabia and the likes. The Air-India stow-away Habib's tale is a testimony to the sufferings of our countrymen in the Arabian desert. Thousands of desperate man work under scorching sun, shut away in labour-campesque living conditions, their passports frisked away and paid paltry salaries. Modern day slavery,  but I don't hear any concerned voices. Not even NRI Minister Vayalar Ravi who was very vocal about Australia.

We have Embassies, we have High Commissions, we have exclusive Ministries and Ministers but they keep their trap shut. We can't rub the Arabs the wrong way because they'll close their doors to us, damn sure. The West is multitude times more civilized, more moderate, more fair. Vayalar Ravi knows the fact only too well. 

The knee-jerk reactions in relation to the Australian situation raises more uncomfortable questions. India has the right to raise voice when their citizens are under danger overseas but the way the media reacted has been pretty much depressing. The latest ku-klux-klan cartoon was a sick sick joke and it has done no good for the two nations than sparking more unrest and enemity. The kkk word is considered more offensive in the West than our own Congress Party officially and openly branding Speaker Meira Kumar as a 'Chamar'.

The pompous media who panted with breathlessness 'racism', 'racism' every time a student gets attacked in Oz made matters worse through their unmediated, unprofessional and inaccurate reporting. The one good thing the media managed to do is to force the Aussie authorities come out from their denial mode, and accept the all-too-clear fact that strands of racism still infest their society. But even seasoned observers, bloggers or politicians now look down on Australia as an evil land-of-bigots where everyone with  pigmented skin is under serious threat. How we comfortably forget the above mentioned Middle East reality or rather how handsome we look in the mirror.

Shashi Tharoor appears to be the lone person who has taken note of the current. Tharoor praised Australian efforts to end the violence but said he could not say with certainty that Indians were no longer being singled out for assault in Australia. The enigmatic leader identified the problem as that of law and order, " one that Australia is dealing with and needs to deal with internally. But it cannot but affect us when our citizens are reported to be suffering", he said.

"For an Indian mother to hear that her son has been assaulted in Australia, it little matters to her whether he was assaulted because of his race, or because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, or because he was the wrong colour or the wrong height, or was carrying an iPod. She doesn't want her son to be assaulted," Tharoor said, appealing to the media-folks on both sides to show restraint while attributing colours and adjectives while reporting such events.

Read Tharoor's full statements here

Remains to be seen how clearly the Indian and Aussie press folks take his words.

Comment moderation enabled for the post.

Tuesday, January 12

One for the cowboys

I'm a great fan of the wildwest movies, they always capture my imagination: the legendary American railroad, the steam engines, eerie wooden stations, cowboys, horse carriages, guns...its a quivering feeling. And there is one place in our own Kerala which pretty much mimics those wild-west attributes in all aspects:  the Kochuveli Satellite Railway Station.

Before I start, let me clarify one thing. It is grossly unfair to compare Kochuveli with the similar small-town railway stations in Kerala like Kayamkulam, Kasargode or Mavelikkara. Kochuveli is a place where at least a dozen trains originate/terminate. In the longrun it will share the spoils with Trivandrum Central (TVC) which is fully saturated and is space constrained. In a nutshell, according to the plan the Kochuveli Satellite Station will be as important as TVC.

Kochuveli Map click to enlarge

Well, that was the hope when the station was inaugurated by the then CM Oomen Chandy in 2005, after Minister O. Rajagopal, the man behind many of the Rail developments in Kerala, proposed the idea for the satellite terminal.

5 years down, and Kochuveli has turned into something like a nightmare for the passengers and authorities alike.


Oh the plans are so grandiose that your eyes will pop out.

Kochuveli is planned to be the largest railhead in Kerala. Once finished it would consist of 11 platforms and 11 pitlines, almost double the size of the current Trivandrum Central station. Kochuveli also features in the idea of a rail-head along with Nemom and TVC. To add on a 1.5 million sq ft, 9 storied ultra modern station building is also planned.

Here are some excerpts from the press: The Hindu, 25 Dec, 2006

Elevated platforms to avoid congestion, nine-storey station building with waiting hall, big concourse and 11 platforms are the highlights of the master plan worked out for the development of the Kochuveli Railway terminal.

Eleven platforms, 11 pit lines and 11 or 12 stabling lines to cater to the needs of maintenance of the rakes have been proposed.  The proposed station building will have a big waiting hall, reservation centre and a host of passenger amenities.

Three platforms would be built at more elevation to cater to incoming trains. Three platforms will be at a lower level to cater to passengers of outgoing trains.
The eight-metre elevated platforms, first of its kind in the State, will help avoid the rush of passengers. The platforms would 10-metre in width and 630-metre long. This would help accommodate 26 bogies and 5,000 passengers.

The existing road from near the `English India Clays' to Kazhakuttom-Inchivila NH 47 bypass would be widened straightened. The Railways will construct a road over bridge later to replace the existing level cross near the `English India Clays' to ensure the smooth flow of vehicular traffic. 

The Railways will be able to handle 25 trains from the terminal when it is fully developed at a cost of Rs.80 crore.

K, essentially we're promised something similar to an Airport when this is complete, fingers crossed, but at present this is something very similar to the 1895 outback stations in Arizona.


The pictures tells the whole story, so I'm not taking pain to elaborate more..Here goes the present in full bloom.

Current Station Building and the "green" pathway leading to the station.

Way to Platform #1

Approach Road to the station.

As I said, nothing much to showcase. You'd imagine 5 years is long enough to put up decent services for the paying public but it seems not.


As mentioned, the plans are all in the air. Construction of  Platform #2 has commenced in Kochuveli but it wouldn't solve the current travails.

The Railways feel that once a passenger is out of the terminal their responsibility end. The Corporation behaves as if its not their problem that the passengers to/from Kochuveli is all abandoned in the middle of nowhere once they alight from the train. The location of the station is a classical wildwest location; ill-lit, creepy, outbackish and dangerous. I'm not sure about the technicalities, but connecting the current platforms and station to the old station on the Veli side appear a feasible option.

The road connecting the old Kochuveli station (All Saint's College- Veli Road) has good road frontage and is served quite frequently by City bus services to important city points. It baffles me as to why for the past 5 years this was not done in-spite of repeated solicitations by media and the public alike. Currently, passengers including women and children illegaly and precariously negotiate the dozen-odd tracks and stationed wagons to reach the old station on the Veli side to connect to the city.

Old station building facing the Veli Road

The state of the NH Bypass is another factor that creates spillover problems for Kochuveli. The Bypass Road is largely unlit even when the traffic along the road is bursting at its seams. And the Corporation, as ever, is fast asleep.

KSRTC has issues with scheduling their services to Kochuveli given the punctuality of Indian Railways. Earlier this week one Minister had a pragmatic idea about informing the KSRTC when a train reaches Kollam Jn, so that they can be ready with the bus in time. 

The hapless passengers arriving at the station in the wee hours of the day or at night have just the autowallahs for their recue, even if they're ruthless when it comes to the greenbucks. No Police outpost or even a Polieman in sight at most times, it's not a place you want your sister or wife to set down. It's incredible that those concerned choose to take a blind eye to the issues raised here. Or are they waiting for the blood to spill and then jump out with shock from under their sheets? That's always been our style.

 TRIDA and the Corporation are talking about planned urban development of the Kochuveli area which surely will revolve around the Satellite station. So far nothing concrete has transpired, and the travails of the general public continues with the lack of basic amenities.

New Station building at Kochuveli photo courtesy Sudheesh Nair

Kochuveli provides a golden opportunity to show the world that meticulous town planning is not Greek to us. Apart from the prospects of a large rail head, the terminal could well be developed into a new transportation hub for Trivandrum with an intergrated City Bus Terminal or a satellite terminal for long distance buses. It wouldn't be a bad idea to relocate that Clay factory polluting the environment to the outskirts and the land pooled for the sation development. If ever a Railway Zone is alloted to Kerala, we needn't run frantically in search for a suitable spot. Moreover there is the mesmerising Veli lake and TS Canal frontage for this stretch of land which further opens up more possibilities.

But what we need as of today, is an option for a rookie backpacker or a mother with a child or a North-Indian techie coming to Technopark to reach their den safely without being subjected to tachycardiac experiences.

Friday, January 1

Cochin backwaters: a photoblog

Welcome abroad folks, and it is January 01, 2010! The festival season is over and we are all back to real life...and don't tell it s***s, its new year day. I thought I'll just compile a filler-post from a few shots I took from my mobile while in Kerala a couple of months back.

Had a chance to ride the pristine backwaters of Cochin last time I was in Kerala.  The experience, needless to say was quite charming. Less talk and more shots, scroll down...

All shots taken from my mobile cam Sony Ericcson K770i.

The Rainbow Bridge which caught the attention of travellers and kicked off the Marine Drive brand. All too familiar for malayalees, the artistic pedestrian bridge has featured on countless movie scenes.

Waterfront apartments standing proudly overlooking the magnificent waters. A single sq. ft land has the value of solid gold in these parts.

This island is all set to change the face of the Queen, once and for all. The Vallarpadom Container Terminal approaching commissioning date.

A couple of tiny islands dotting the backwaters. They appeared to be havens for the birds and a good few of them were following our boat for a good period of time. The man told us they were hunting fishes on our boat trails.



This oil tanker and the associated infra looks like some facility for the Cochin Refineries.

And yo, how I managed to catch this giant in one single frame!

The passage to riches... The reason behind the prosperity of Cochin dating back to pre-independence era. The mouth of the harbour. Vembanad Lake joining the Arabian Sea leaving enough space for the big vessels to come ashore.


New and a more boisterous skyline taking shape on the Marine Drive Extension, new 1.5 km long waterfront stretch reclaimed from the lake during construction of the Goshree Bridges.


A closer look at the elite homes for the lucky whales. Most of these harbour-view apartments have an 8-digit price tag. Interested? ;)

The Bolghatty Island named after the Bolghatty Palace. Now KTDC runs an upmarket resort here on the island, the Bolgatty Island Resort


The folks at KTDC sure got ideas... A unique looking cottage on the island. Our man told the rates could be as much as Rs. 5000/night, not so exorbitant for such a pristine setting.

A couple of older ones on the other side of the island

Boat jetty on the front side of the Palace


There is some activity taking place on Bharat Seema, operating between Cochin and the Lakshadweep Islands. You can travel to Minicoy for as low as Rs.150 a direction or get a cabin for Rs. 390.

Earning a few dollars for the nation.

Aha, Indian Navy Vessels! SALUTE!!

On way back, reaching the docks again. This shot was taken from my brother-in-law's new mobile, the HTC Diamond and see the difference in the picture quality... I should've used it from start, well may be next time. WISHING YOU A WONDERFUL NEW YEAR mates..take care! :-)

Obviously you've noticed the new look No Man's Land?. I loved the old one all right, but thought I'll give you something fresh for the new decade. Just for a share your thoughts on it. Thank you. :-)