It was a cool December morning, when the yuletide charm was advancing towards its acme!
Here was I, sipping a hot cuppa chaai and reading the day’s The Hindu, ensconced in my favourite rattan armchair in my balcony, when my phone rang! It was a call from Ms. Reethi, The Cochin College, Kochi, asking me if I could deliver the key-note address in their UGC-Sponsored National Seminar in end January.
|The Cochin College, Kochi|
I was, like Moses in the Scriptures, asking her to please go for someone else, and suggested quite a few eminent names too. But she was persistent and unrelenting! After a brief tug, she won! I reluctantly said a ‘yes’.
As if, this was the word she was waiting all along for, Ms. Reethi now became ‘surprisingly’ crisp! She says, “Okay Sir, we’re meeting ‘next year’… on the 28th of January. This is the topic. Bla bla bla… bye!”
I had said an impromptu ‘yes’ by the momentary impulse, on the spur of the moment, little realising the enormous work I had to do, to brace myself up for the task!
One whole month, with Ponzanesi and Waller for company, and Sembene and Denis and a host of other big shots and critics to give the much needed props, it indeed took me a hop stop to a few libraries in the city too, to frame the skeletal structure of my ta(s)lk.
But to my dismay, right on the eve of the Seminar, I had lost my voice to a ‘below 3 degree’ cold and subsequent sore-throat far away in Haryana!
Now these were the twin Himalayan challenges that lay ahead of me! One was to subtly outsmart the terrible throat infection that had befallen me, and next, to deliver the goods to the august audience in ‘God-knows-how’ way I could!
I was perplexed and bemused to the core! Puzzled and rattled, and yes you may add your share too!
God was my only solace to resort to at this critical juncture! And He never let go my hand!
Cos the moment I stepped inside the portals of The Cochin College, Kochi, on the wonderful morning of 28 January, all my nervousness and anxieties disappeared in no time! Thanks to the trio of professors – Dr. Mridhula Menon along with two others, who were there with a warm smile on their faces, to usher me in! They were so hospitable – to such an extent, I felt that I was in homeland! And my lub-tub started their normal routine too! I was ushered in, met with the Principal Dr. Jose P. Abraham, who welcomed me with a wonderful cuppa strongggg chaai, ;-) and with whom I had the opportunity to discuss quite a few interesting avenues on the academic front! They were all in unison, all praise for their ‘techno-girl’ Reethi! Way to go Reethi mam!
Sri. T. Vidyasagar, the Manager of the college too, had great words of appreciation for Madras Christian College. ‘A product of MCC has a great reputation all over the world. I want our College students to also rise up to the standards of MCC’, he said in his inaugural speech to the audience, comprising students and delegates from various colleges.
After the lecture, we were all treated to the grand and sumptuous Kerala Sadhya, one of the most delectable and toothsome dishes that can be rightfully called ‘Kerala’s Own’! Kudos to the mighty Cochin College, and all best wishes on your Golden Jubilee celebrations too!
Hospitality apart, the people of Kochi are also known for their integrity! An auto driver who said it will cost Rs.80/- to commute to a particular place, on reaching our destination, apologized - all by himself, and said, ‘it’s only Rs.40 saare’! I had miscalculated the distance and thought it was another place! Kudos Kochiites!
At the same time, there were things that I regretted too about good ol’ Kochi. Having been a regular visitor to this part of Kerala for well over a decade now, years before the world-famous Lulu Mall and other shopping arcades had mushroomed, I had the privilege of seeing a Kochi which was sylvan in setting and rural in ambience. But over the years, things have worsened, and now, what I see before me is a concrete jungle, with a ‘long delayed often expected’ Metro rail work staring at all and sundry, and modernization taking its toll on the forest cover that is thinning by the day!
If forest cover dwindles, then tourist arrivals also suffer a huge blow, and subsequently, as the butterfly effect unfolds, a whole range of consequences follow.
Moreover, the government, already mired in one controversy after another, would have got little to do on the tourist front at the moment! Election year has made them swing in yet another direction, praying for a huge reversal of fortunes, what with all opposition parties, along with a majority of student unions, baying for their blood left and right!
But here was I, as Wordsworth says in his Prelude, literally “A discontented sojourner: now free, Free as a bird to settle where I will”.
Oh well, methinks a momentary lapse into the Nature poet’s ‘charmed magic casement’ would indeed do us a ‘whale’ of goodness! And here goes:
OH there is blessing in this gentle breeze,
A visitant that while it fans my cheek
Doth seem half-conscious of the joy it brings
From the green fields, and from yon azure sky.
Whate'er its mission, the soft breeze can come
To none more grateful than to me; escaped
From the vast city, where I long had pined
A discontented sojourner: now free,
Free as a bird to settle where I will.
What dwelling shall receive me? in what vale 10
Shall be my harbour? underneath what grove
Shall I take up my home? and what clear stream
Shall with its murmur lull me into rest?
The earth is all before me. With a heart
Joyous, nor scared at its own liberty,
I look about; and should the chosen guide
Be nothing better than a wandering cloud,
I cannot miss my way. I breathe again!
Trances of thought and mountings of the mind
Come fast upon me: it is shaken off, 20
That burthen of my own unnatural self,
The heavy weight of many a weary day
Not mine, and such as were not made for me.