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Monday, March 30, 2009

Golden Shower

We drove down from Thrissur to Ottapalam yesterday. On both sides of the road, we noticed a number of Kanikonnas in full bloom. It appears that this year's exceptionally hot weather has triggered the early blooming. Normally, the blooming takes place around Vishu in the middle of April. And that is why the tree is also known as Vishu konna. The other explanation is the 23* odd difference between the Sidereal and Tropical Zodiacs which has taken place over the years due to Equinox precession and Nutation. Vishu used to coincide with the Spring equinox which is March 21 when day and night are of equal duration. If you go by that, the blooming was on time in Kerala.
I had noticed that farther up North you travel, away from the equator, the blooming of the Kanikonna is also later in the year. I have seen Kanikonnas in full bloom in June-July in Jorhat and Kolkatta during my inspection travels. In Assamese it is known as Sonaru and in Bengali it is Sonali or Sondal. There was a particularly good specimen in full bloom at Victoria Memorial in Kolkatta. There were a couple of trees in the Botanical garden at Alipore.There was also an albino variety at the Maidan near the Kolkatta stadium side by side a normal golden variety. Wikepaedia mentions in the article on Indian Laburnum (Cassia Fistula indica) that the flowering occurs in May in the Northern hemisphere and in November in Southern hemisphere.
In many ways, Kanikkonna has as great an influence on the Malayalee psyche as the Cherry blossoms on Japanese. Cherry blossoms also flowers in March-April and the flowering of trees advances from the South to North. But the Japanese have made it an occasion to be celebrated systematically. The Japanese Meteorological Agency monitors the advancing cherry blossom front. The Hanami festival is in celebration of the blossoming of cherry blossoms. To the Japanese, the cherry blossoms represent the transient nature of life as the trees blooms but only once a year and that too for a short period. I am reminded of a sentence written by Shanta Rama Rau in Readers Digest quite some years ago. It goes like this. "Most people possess the ability to appreciate art to some extent; but it is only the Japanese who have made an art of appreciating art" The viewing of the cherry blossoms is as elaborate a ceremony as tea ceremony or viewing the rain or sunset or chrysanthemums.
The Vishukkani need not be confined to an early morning darshan of Konnapoo on Medam 1. It has the potential to be developed as a big festival like the Hanami festival or the viewing of the fall colours in US. With a little effort, both sides of our roads could be lined with Konna and May flowers and when in bloom it would be a sight for the Gods to behold! We have spent or wasted crores on Vana Mahotsav, social forestry etc. for planting useless shrubs like acacias, sheemakkonnas etc We could spend some on a native variety.
Konna is the state flower for Kerala. It also is the National flower for Thailand which is not much bigger than Kerala. The names for Konna in Sanskrit are quite expressive. Kritamala" "Suvarnaka""Saraphala""Chaturangula"For a detailed list please visit and look up Indian Laburnum.
Someone mentioned to me years ago that we could have a 'kanji ceremony' like the Japanese tea ceremony. We could use the leaf of the jack fruit tree in the traditional way instead of a spoon, have a whole lot of other dishes like chammanthi, cherupayar, chutta pappadam, ghee, kappa etc. We can have as elaborate a ceremony as we want. May be someone will give it a try. Some young guys have started following the Monsoon clouds after the publication of Alexander Frater's book 'Chasing the Monsoon'. A vishu konna festival has also marketing potential .

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Conspiracy of the Constellation?

New Year did not start very auspiciously. Sandhya phoned in the morning to wish us happy New Year. She phoned again after a few minutes to inform us about the car accident. She and Hari were returning after a vegetarian dinner at Meenakshi's house. The accident took place near Cubbon Park. A Tavarre car slammed against the front left side of the Santro where Sandhya was sitting and overturned. A young guy sitting in the front seat was caught under the Tavarre and died. Miraculously, Sandhya and Hari escaped unhurt although the car suffered heavy damage. They had to spend most of the night at Cubbon Park Police Station.The next two days were quite miserable for them. The Police delayed accepting a complaint or writing an FIR. The usual greasing of the palms, a little bit of pressure from above etc was necessary. This is likely to drag on for some time.
On Sunday the 4th. Lava and her mother went to Calicut to attend a marriage at Kadavu. I went along and got down at Ottapalam. They picked me up on their way back and we reached Thrissur by 7.00pm. At about 8.30pm Lava's mother rang up to inform about Aravi's tragic death. It seems he choked while eating Chapattis and chicken. Most of the night was spent there. His son has to come from US before cremation is possible. Anand is expected to reach by 3am on the 6th.
I had written this much on the 4th-5th Jan but did not publish it. I had left it at that as an unfinished My Document. Since then Aravi's cremation was done and a Mrutyunjaya Homam done at Raj Vihar. Aravi had died on Chatayam Nakshatram. Avittam, Chathayam, Poororuttathi, Uthrattathi and Revathi are called Panchamam and any death on these days is expected to be followed by more. The Poojari had said after the Homam that it may succeed in warding off further deaths to certain extent but may not prevent it. Jagan fell ill in February and was admitted to Hi Tec hospital. He was shifted to Mother hospital later. He passed away on the 16th.March. Jagan's nakshatram was Vishakham and on 16th.just about 7 nazhikas (less than 3 hours) of Vishakham was left after sunrise. Jagan passed away at that time. The doctor had said only the day before that the acute stage had passed and he may recover. It is said that for a critically ill person, his nakshatra day is the period of maximum danger and if he survives that, he will recover. If he had held out for another three hours….. The two brothers who were very close to each other left within a period of two months. The other brother had escaped a very major car accident in December.
All mere coincidences, I am sure. But one wonders.

Stale wine in Old bottles

A meeting of SBI Pensioner's Association (Thrissur Unit) was held yesterday.. The meeting was held at the Main branch premises at 4.00pm. It was the first meeting of the Association which I attended. M.J.Raphel, the President of the state unit was on the chair. So was M.R.Janardanan who is also an office bearer.
I was reminded of an incident in a Sherlock Holmes short story, Naval Treaty I think, where Dr.Watson comes across one of his old class fellows. Watson states in his memoirs that there is no sorrier sight than to encounter the wreck of person who one remembered from olden days as a fine human specimen. He adds that he saw the same thought reflected in his friend's eyes keenly appraising him.
The colleagues from the past whom I met were not all physical wrecks but were definitely a shadow of their earlier selves. With one exception. Easwaran had the same freshly scrubbed look and positively glowed! Even Raphael was a bit jaded. I am sure Father Time must have been even more unkind to me with physical flexibility all but gone.
The meeting was true to style. Some of the speakers were so far removed from reality they were talking about 'militant' action to force the Govt. to accede to the demands of the Association! Even their grandchildren will not be frightened by their militancy. One 'pazham pori' and coffee was served (Courtesy Bank?). It was the usual stuff but unlike their serving days, some member's declared that it was quite good! Anything free seems to be appreciated after retirement!
I may not attend future meetings. It only helps to add more years to the 61 odd years. In a few hours you age a couple of years. I think I will look out for younger company or a different kind of company or keep my own company. No one seems to have taken up any new hobby or occupation possibly with the exception of Easwaran who now mingles with the film crowd!
I must say I was looking forward to meeting old friends with some pleasure. It was a big let down. Either I have changed too much or they have or both have changed a bit. I think this idea of revisiting places one knew in the past or trying to renew old ties is not always a good idea. The Old students Association meeting at Govt.Victoria College some months ago was an even greater let down. It must be the burden of expectation. The inevitable change that has taken place over the years comes as a shock, however one may try to anticipate it or make allowance for it. I think from now on I should just enjoy the ride without actively seeking out destinations