Monday, December 31, 2007


Benazir Bhutto has now been buried. In a certain way, the media coverage of that story is the perfect example of media coverage in general lately. While the concerns over Pakistan sliding down to civil war & the safety of the nuclear arsenal at it's disposal are genuine & have indeed received a good amount of attention, the assassination of Bhutto has also led to needless glorification of Benazir. Having said that, it is not necessarily impossible to find some critical stuff on her. See article by Dalrymple in Outlook.

Yet again, the fact that the half of the Nobel Peace Prize this year went to IPCC, & not to R. K. Pachauri (Chair of IPCC) received factually accurate but perhaps selective-in-importance reporting. IPCC has since vanished from the Indian mind.

International coverage, unless it involved India in a certain way - hopefully glorious - , continued in its by-the-way manner with Sarkozy's divorce getting as much space as the French Transport strike & probably a lot more than what Sarkozy had achieved since his election.

Yet between all of this whining & complaining, what really is sometimes not noticed as often is that the Indian media has just exploded & that while sensationalism/populist coverage may be something that mars its content, all of our media can cry hoarse against the government & actually thrive on it, & that if you tried just a little, it is not at all difficult to get through to more non-partisan & objective news.

And opinions - in Usha's blog. :)

Have a great 2008.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Labyrinths & lobsters - Fort Kochi

Tucked away between the Chinese fishing nets, the bustling Ernakulam town, & the now submerged Fort Immanuel lies the sleepy little town of Fort Kochi. Antara & I decided to pack our bags & a little carelessness weekend before last & spend a couple of days in this little town away from the clocks & responsibilities. Even in December first week, Fort Kochi was not the coolest of places, & a 20 minute walk is guaranteed to make you sweat. However, it made up for this slight inconvenience in the way of food, people & timelessness.

We stayed on Princess street at Mr. Walton's home stay. While it did appear a trifle pricey once we found out the tariff from other places, it was a still a great place to stay at. The rooms were neat & very modern in their furnishing. There was even a hint of little landscaping. However, at the center of our great stay at F Kochi was Mr. Walton himself. Mr Walton is a veritable teller of stories & experiences. He was also our de facto guide in F Kochi - charting out in minute detail where we should go, what we should see & where should we eat. He told us stories of the Negro spirits, of the occult explanations of the accidents on beach road, & a 40 minute history of Fort Kochi.

Walking south-east down Princess street, you hit more restaurants & tea shops than you could enjoy in two days time. However, in general, our experience was that the spicing of the curries was really subtle compared to what we had expected, & Mr. Walton later attributed this to the weather, the Anglo-Indian palette, & the European crowd which usually frequents these restaurants. Walking past these, you reach the Vasco house where Vasco De Gama stayed for a while, & then died. And then you hit the St. Francis church - a potuguese church built in the 16th century. Right beside the church, a football match was on with a fair sprinkling of fans glued to it & cricket, in a rare twist, was being played on the sidelines much as a surrogate sport.

You can get back to Chinese nets & walk west on the shore amidst ice-cream & the chana vendors, past the gunnery recovered from the now submerged Fort Immanuel & find a place to sit & watch the sun go down into the Arabian sea. Walking back into the town, make sure you buy some fresh catch of the day & take it along to a restaurant who will cook these for you. The restaurant we went to was Casa Linda & they did something really delicious with the lobster, the prawns & the Karimeens that we bought.

The other part of the town - Mattancherry - is where the Dutch palace, cemetery & the Jewish synagogue is. The cemetery again brings back thoughts of how we do not do a great job of preserving our history. The synagogue is a wonderful sight & continues to attract plentiful people from across the globe. The Dutch palace has some very erotic murals from Hindu mythology. The room though is not well-lit & the ASI while not doing a great job of preserving & restoration, has found wonderful ways to describe the erotica in very palatable terms. The teeming art bazaar in Mattancherry is a good place to look at some fine painting which are priced more or less by the size of the canvas. One of the shop owners said that Indians spend money on gold & land only & nobody buys art.

While in Fort Kochi, you must eat at Dal Roti. And you must walk the labyrinths of this centuries old town teeming with history, blood & folklore. You must buy some fish & have it cooked for you. And you must get rid of your watch.