Archive for April, 2022

Musings from Kochi-II

A celebration of the game

Fourteen year old Stella is a very busy girl this summer. She gets up at 5.30 sharp, much before the sunrise, completes her morning chores in ten minutes flat and is at the dinning table, gulping down a glass of milk while her mother hurriedly plaits her curly hair tight. Quickly changing over to a trouser and the jersey T-shirt, she slips to her boots and by 5.45 is off to the grounds, with a full-sized football firmly secured in her bike carrier. Stella is damn serious about her training and is very ambitious of becoming a successful football player.

Girls dribbling the ball

With more than three hundred children dribbling and kicking scores of footballs and a dozen of agile coaches constantly shouting and whistling, the Veli Grounds at Fort Kochi wears a festive and a noisy look every morning. The training, that ranges from physical exercises and stamina building to sharpening the myriad tactics of the game, is a complete program that would prepare talented players for further professional coaching and refinement. While Stella is busy playing as a forward in a friendly match on one end, a group of children are running around plastic cones placed evenly in rows in the middle of the ground to hone their agility and the reflex through zig-zag movements . And another set of aspirants are doing the rounds of reverse hopping over jumpers that strengthen their flexibility and the skills to quickly change directions while on the far end of the ground are a bunch of boys and girls practicing long and lofted shots to enhance precision with punch. In all these aspects, the committed coaches of the Veli Lions Football Academy, that organises the coaching, make sure that every child enrolled for the program go through a rigorous training in all aspects of game. The idea of the entire exercise seems to be to identify and catch the promising ones early and prepare them for the professional circuits while inculcating discipline and team spirit on all participants.

Charlie..The Coach

It’s said that if football were to be a religion, it would have the largest number of followers. An estimated 3 billion people around the world are active enthusiasts of the sport and hardly would there be a country where the sport is not followed religiously. And yet the popularity for the sport in a country of India’s size is rather minimal and the reasons for them is not hard to seek. With electronic gizmos and digital games taking central stage, the urge among children to go out in the open and play is fast dwindling. And it’s in the weaning away the young generation from the deliberating effects of the electronic games that organisations like the one in Kochi are to be appreciated and encouraged. In a country that is obsessed with Cricket, it is indeed heartening to see a bunch of highly enthusiastic youngsters taking up football as their passion and pursuing them with great vigour. And football teaches, along with building stamina and endurance, the ability to be focussed for extended duration, the art of teamwork and the essential social skills to relate and communicate, both with friends and strangers – all vital life skills in a highly integrated and digitalised world of the twenty-first century. And for the girls in Kochi to take up a predominantly male sport in such large numbers is particularly heartwarming and sends a very positive message of gender equality to the rest of the country. 

Over the Jumper
With Coach Babu…Special emphasis on training the girls

As the world emerges out of the pandemic induced isolation for two long years, schools are struggling with the problems of reduced levels of concentration, shortened attention span, lack of discipline and obesity among students. These issues are apart form the more obvious and glaring problems of loss of learning of previous years and of lagging in academic targets. This changed scenario has thrown up fresh challenges for the schools to gear up the students to the earlier levels of competence and would need innovative methods and out of the box ideas to achieve them.  And a training in the game of football with all its ingredients of physical exertion, stamina building and team coordination could become an important tool in rebooting the entire education system to pre-pandemic levels. Football, thus has the potential to become an integral part of the new age school program and it would be in the larger interest of the society to consider a game of soccer before the start of a school day. 

Let the match begin!



Also read Musings from Kochi-1…


April 21, 2022 at 4:49 pm 10 comments

Fostering the Vedic lineage

Sri Seetharama Ganapadigal

The hazy sounds of the chorus Vedic chants heard from a good twenty meter distance turns electrifying as one steps into the sacred precinct of the Sri Bharathi Theertha Veda Patasala, situated in Mattancherry, Kochi. The rhythmic intonations of complex Vedic mantras by a group of dhoti clad boys sitting cross-legged in two inner-facing rows transports the listener to a rarefied field of divine exuberance. The benign glance of Seetharama Ganapadigal, sitting imposingly at the centre with hands gesturing the ebb and flow of the verses, ensures a strict discipline to the oral academic tradition and brings to life the extolled Guru-Shishya Parampara. And as the students effortlessly chant pristine sanskrit verses in precious meter and with clear diction, one is overwhelmed at the expanse of the Vedic knowledge and the grandeur of its expression! 

Sri Sri Sri Bharathi Tirtha Swamigal: Epitome of Vedic wisdom

The Patasala stands as a powerful beacon of light in the dissemination and in the re-establishment of the glorious Vedic wisdom and the students graduating from its portal spread far and wide to foster further this ancient tradition of learning. The pupils go through an exacting daily routine to grasp the essence of the vedas and to master the technique of its correct rendition for a period of ten long years. The daily schedule of a Shishya starts at the wee hours of the morning and the entire day is strictly regimented into vigorous periods for learning, practice, meditation and reflection. In the course of the curriculum, a student is expected to master 3500 Vedic verses called the ‘Suktas’, understand and grasp its philosophical underpinnings and chant them in different formats, each style more complex than the preceding one. The student once well versed in ‘Moolam’, the basic format of chanting is led to the advanced ‘Padam’ rendition and further progresses to more complicated and nuanced styles of ‘Kramam’, ‘Jadai’ and ‘Ganam’. And the mastering of such a vast body of knowledge and the formats demand an intellect of a superior order, a razor sharp memory and a voice quality that booms and reverberates. The student passing out is also a well disciplined individual with deeply engrained high moral and ethical values… a harmonious synthesis of the qualities of the head and the heart. 

With the preceptor

Vedas are the divine revelations, the Shruthi, and are the life breath of the Bharatiya culture. Sages of the yore to whom these sacred knowledge were revealed, codified and broadly classified them into four distinct branches – The Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva Vedas with each of these further sub-divided into Samhitas ( hymns), Brahmanas (rituals), Aranyakas (theologies) and the Upanishads, the philosophical thought pertaining to the branch. The Upanishads, also called the Vedanta, seeks to explore the nature of the Brahman, the Supreme, and establishes the truth, through dialectical reasoning, the oneness of all creations. Orally passed on from generation to generation, these vast compilation of texts covers all aspects of human knowledge and addresses myriad human needs, progressively leading the learner to the ultimate truth. Thus the Vedas can be unequivocally proclaimed as the texts of the supreme truth on which the entire edifice of the Sanathana Dharma, the eternal religion, stands erected and is the bedrock of the Bharatiya Sanskriti, the Indian culture, thought and civilisation.

The Patasala

And the torchbearers of this ancient wisdom has been the Brahmins, the priestly class, who, through their dedicated and selfless commitments, have successfully preserved these priceless heritage over millenniums. Undertaking many a personal sacrifice, withstanding immense challenges over centuries and many living in abject penury, Brahmins have gloriously upheld the sacred task of protecting and fostering the Vedas and securing them for the future generations. Harnessing modern communication tools, select members of the community are still immersed in the propagation of the Vedas and personages like Seetharama Ganapadigal are an integral part of that unbroken lineage established by the sage Vyasa Krishna Dwaipayana. 

Bhartiya culture will be preserved, protected and fostered only if the Vedic traditions are propagated and nourished and the true identity of the nation rests in the internalising the universal ideals as declared in the Vedas.

 “ Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu”, meaning, ‘May the entire world be happy’!.



April 15, 2022 at 1:22 pm 18 comments

Musings from Kochi-1

A day’s catch

The catamaran with the outboard engine cruised elegantly towards the silvery sands of the Fort Kochi beach. And just as it neared the shallow waters, Martin switched off the propulsion system allowing the boat to lazily drift towards the land. Once slowed down, Joby, Sunny, Jackson and Xavier jumped off the catamaran, each carrying a log of solid wood and hastily spread them parallel on the ground, at an equidistance of about a meter apart. Martin navigated the boat over the sleeper woods and brought the boat to a majestic halt making the transition, from the high seas to the safe shores, a perfect one!

The five fishermen had ventured into the seas the previous night and after repeatedly spreading the net for a gruelling twelve hours, the catch for the day was just lacklustre. Mackerel, or Aiyla in Malayalam, is the only variety that were caught and with all of them to share the bounty equally, it is another day of disappointment for them. The hotel and tourism industry in the city is yet to recover from the pandemic shock and with the season of Ramadan now on, the demand for the fishes is at its nadir, pulling down the prices to its lowest level. And a bucketful of Mackerel would hardly fetch enough money for the five of them to buy some food for the family and also pay for the diesel to make the next trip to the sea. The hard life of these fishermen only just got worse!

The picture of a lonely man casting his net from his small boat has been on the covers of many a glossy tourism magazine but the entire ecosystem of the fishing industry is so stacked against the small fisherman that his life is anything but glossy. Big trawlers go deep into the high seas and remain floating for weeks on end affording them with huge catches of a variety of marine lives. And the purse-seine method they adopt allows no creature that it surrounds to escape leaving very little for small fishermen with conventional nets to bank on. The catches are stored in gigantic freezers in the trawlers themselves that ensure intense fishing and zero wastage while small boats need to make shorter and more frequent trips back and forth for want of cold storage facility. Once on the shores, they are forced to sell the fishes quickly as they need money to make the next trip compromising on the price front and this cycle of exploitation goes on and on. 

This assault on the small players is universal and cuts across industries, professions and trades. Small shop-keepers are at a huge disadvantage vis-a-vis big marts and online giants, small farmers, pitted against corporate farming, are on perpetual survival mode and small manufacturers, faced with the relentless onslaught of technologically superior big sharks, are on compulsive sustenance level. Small, once considered beautiful, looks increasingly ugly!

But it is the small and informal operations that provide the largest number of jobs and is the backbone of a developing economy like that of India. And if the small ceases to exist, the big would also be in jeopardy as the demand for their product is created by the wealth generated by the small. For this cycle to sustain and flourish, there needs to be a conscious effort to strengthen the small and integrate it with the large and make the system a composite whole. 

Meanwhile, Jackson has promised his family a lavish Easter feast complete with mutton and a bottle of wine but with his daily catch going down along with its price, he is worried whether he could fulfil his commitment. With just four days to go, he still is an optimistic man!

May the Lord fulfil his small desire. Amen!



Also read Kochi shows the way…

April 11, 2022 at 10:36 pm 6 comments

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