Thursday, July 22, 2010

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotted Mind

It's been awhile since I came here myself, time to dust out the cobwebs formed due to disuse. More importantly, make some noise and resettle myself so that I don't feel like an alien in my own space.

I have come armed with a pail and gardening gloves to weed out the straggler creepers that have set up home in this little sanctuary of mine. I guess I must blame the monsoons in India, it makes such a wonderful breeding ground for anything unwanted..

My very very black laptop bag that was left unused in my room after I landed in Kochi, turned a unholy shade of sickly gray in just a week. I didn't need microscopic vision to see monsoon fungus spreading all across it..

Kochi seemed to grow old in the months that I had been away. Strangely I have never felt that when I visited from Mumbai or other cities where I lived for most part of my adult life. I wonder if I sound like a rambler. Hear me out. There's something poignant about going back to your hometown that have always been coloured in with your fond memories.

The problem is the disenchantment is sharper. The city not only has to make peace with crumbling infrastructure but also the heavy burden of living up to our expectations. As I made my way to the Marine Drive and the Boat Jetty in Kochi, I wondered how I never noticed how rundown it had become over the years.

The tall buildings look ugly and squat, the colour run off in channels, leaving mildewed trails. Those 'big showrooms' with 'impressive stuff' look like figments of my imagination. The swanky malls and brands apart, little supermarket chains like Varkeys that gave Kochi its maiden taste of having the choice to decide your product preferences was all about, lay deserted. Heard they are shutting down. Many shops that I frequented as a child are no more. They either gave up the space for road widening or folded up as people queued up at newer shops.

The Children's Park and Subhash Park of my weekend memories look like emaciated old ladies, unable to keep their spine straight, overrun with weeds. I saw kids still swinging on rusty swings, parents standing by uncomfortably, for the concrete benches had green puddles of stagnated water. The main attraction - the 'huge fountain' at the entrance looks like a sorry runt of an excuse. Ma used to sit there, waiting for us - children - to exhaust ourselves, before letting us make a mess of cone icecreams - dribbling it all over the pretty frocks. Now I look at those ugly orange cones and I cannot fathom how I thought they were 'the bestest in the world!'

Did my city grow old or did I grow out of it? It reeks of uncaring authorities and no sense of civic pride in keeping it pretty. Where do the taxes go? I have seen 20 monsoons there before I upped and left. Did I never notice the apathy or has it just creeped in now?

Maybe a city goes to seed just like our personal spaces go to seed. Disuse, abandonment, uncared for existence - black words but maybe my memory is at fault here. When I sit miles away, I see only the things I want to see, remember it the way that is convenient for me. The rest are tossed into the drawer of things I don't need. I don't know when my city found its way into that drawer.

What's the point of this lament? Perhaps, I should begin the weeding and the clearing of cobwebs in my head first. Let's begin here. Clean up my little cyberspace apartment, light up some candles and mull it over.. Moreover, the famed English summer is in hiding, its dreary and cold. Maybe that's adding grist to the 'rumination' mills. :)


  1. Change...not always for the better, is it? How much longer are you in Kochi for? And btw, same thing re the moss happened to me when I went to Bombay last year...the corner of my backpack has greeny moss on it! Blegh. Funny thing was in all the years of growing up in Bombay, it never happened in the monsoons! Go figure.

  2. Back in Brighton, PB..I guess the gloom of leaving adds to the musings..:)

  3. Its not a figment of your imagination... I used to count myself among the lucky ones who called Kochi/Cochin home till I left a few years back. Every time I head home (pretty often I admit) the place looks worse. Marine Drive used to be one of the most beautiful places, today its a sad concrete jungle. Varkeys is indeed closing down, bought over by Reliance says the grapevine.
    First time I'm leaving a comment here though I've been to your page in the past. Mainly because of the subject matter :-)

  4. Lekshmi: Welcome to my blog..I'm glad there are more people like me who are appalled by how our beautiful city is going to seed..

  5. a symptom of the rot that our country is being driven to by our 'leaders.' sad state of affairs indeed.
    yesterday a road just about a year old caved in at worli in mumbai!
    MLAs threw slippers at the speaker in the bihar assembly and one female MLA threw fowerpots to the ground. 65 of them suspended for this session. why were they elected?
    can go on... but am disgusted

  6. Absolutely Deeps. The kochi we grew up to love is a far far cry from what it is today. The roads no longer have puddles, it's more like deep wells which you cross at your own risk.
    Oberon Mall is now trying to become the face of Kochi, but we forget the older, more popular fun places like Marine Drive (which as you pointed out is now a hub for shady activities and creepy looking men). Varkeys...a favourite hangout place for so many of us. For people like my mom, provision shopping was never complete without a visit to Varkeys. We'll miss them.
    For the first time in many many years I so wish I didn't have to run my life here in this city, navigating my way through whatever is left of the roads, swearing at all and sundry for the govt's inaction, kicking myself for just cribbing and not screaming in the right direction. God's own country has gone to the dogs.

  7. I see Kolkatta rotting but it's soul is still intact. For me it's home even though I grew up in Delhi.

    And don't worry your mind will soon be spotless. Here's wishing M a speedy recovery :))

  8. Always nice to get back to the cyberspace apartment... :)

    And cities do change and grow, but the soul remains the same, I see Delhi has changed so much but it is still the same Delhi it was during my mother's time....

  9. Put 100 people in a 2 bedroom flat and watch the mess they will create...welcome to the TBRF called India!

  10. Magiceye: couldn't agree more with you..

    Coffee Cup: You bet, I was so troubled to see Kochi in such disarray. Abject apathy..That's all I can describe it as. Not a single area that looked cared for..Menaka and Marine Drive feel like the pits

    Purba: I think my disenchantment was increased by the shining picture that I had in my head that got polished more as I described it to my friends. That makes the disillusionment worse.

  11. IHM: Delhi and Mumbai somehow don't seem to suffer from the abject neglect that seems to characterise smaller cities. The worst part is you hear about Kochi being one of the rising metros. But there is no care paid even to the heart of the city, forget the outskirts.

    Nalini: Kerala was so neat and pristine..or atleast it was in my head..:(

  12. got here from KG's blog roll..

    Very nice template !

    So true - Marine Drive has lost its glory.. not just Kochi but the whole of Gods Own Country needs some serious tidying up if it still expects to be called that..

  13. Thanks Discovering M...I'm so glad to see I'm not the only die-hard Kochi girl feeling the gut punch of my city gone to rot..Welcome to my blog...

  14. We don't know or rather don't appreciate what we've got. So we go on (ruining it) until the point of no return.

    And you have this expectation of your hometown that refuses to die no matter where you go. But nothing measures up, does it!

  15. India is a decadent society. We have managed to damage and defile all that we had: cultures, cities, states, buildings, monuments, religions, prayers.... We are the Morlocks of time.

  16. Both Kochi and you have changed and perhaps like an old friendship you needed to just give it some time re-acquaint yourselves? When I visit places where I grew up, my initial reaction is similar to yours and later I appreciate hidden nuances that are visible to a mature mind.

  17. My dear Deepthy,

    Maybe I'm lucky about the places I used to live in, as a child. They have not "gone to the dogs" the way you have the degradation of Kochi.

    Till the age of ten, I was in the following places: Mumbai (from birth in 1951 till 1956); Jabalpur (second six months of 1956); Nagpur (first six months of 1957); Solapur (1957-58); Manmad (1958-61) and then ten years (1961-71) in Mumbai again.

    I have visited all the niches of my childhood over the last 15 years and I'm glad to report they are strugglng but thriving. The sunken saddest is Mumbai, which has been abandoned by its rich (corporates) and by its sick (politicians). Even Manmad, a small railway junction, is doing well.

    Again, maybe I'm just lucky in the places of my childhood.

    Peace and love,
    - Joe.