Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Mullaperiyar: The Sad, Sad Water War

As I write this post, the news has come rolling out that the talks between Karunanidhi and Achuthanandan have ended in a deadlock. It is a real sad situation...I never wanted Kerala to be caught in the national limelight on such a divisive issue. I have followed discussions on this issue on, orkut and many other forums and have seen a lot of hatred and heated outpouring of words between indians of two neighbouring states. Politicians in both states have spat out a lot of rhetoric and worrying is the effect it is having on the Tamil Nadu side with men like Vaiko and Nedumaran around. For one, they know they hold a great bargaining chip of being the essential supplier of most food items to kerala...vegetables, milk, chicken, eggs, beef, anything you name which have threatened to blockade and already done though on a limted one-day basis which caused great harm to traders who saw their farm products rotting away at the Valayar check post. The greater threat i feel is to malayalis living in Tamil Nadu who may have to face the ire of Tamilians whose blood is on the boil as they feel another great wrong being done to them after the bitter Kaveri dispute.

The seed of the whole problem dates back to 1978 when leaking of the Mullaperiyar Dam forced Kerala to curtail the water flow down to 138 feet for the first time. Going back even further is the 999 year lease signed under duress by the Maharaja of Travancore-Cochin under pressure from the powerful Presidency of Madras under the Britishers through which water from the Periyar flowing entirely through Kerala was diverted to irrigate the water-deprived Kambum-Theni belt using the newly constructed Mullaperiyar dam. All was well until the recent earthquake and further leakages to the dam made its safety doubtful and Kerala was forced to cut down the water level to 136 feet from the 142feet it was earlier. To compound the confusion on the Kerala side has been recent media reports on who actually controlled the dam...while some said TN police had taken over the dam, others said it was still safe in Kerala's hands.

Thankfully Kerala has been blessed with good rains for the past many years and it has never hesitated in sharing the waters of the Periyar, but now that the issue of the safety of the people and their property in the five districts of Central Travancore if the dam bursts has come up, it is surprising Tamil Nadu hasnt shown the sensitivity that was expected especially when it is faced with the issue of Karnataka not releasing TN's deserving share of Kaveri Waters after its newly constructed dam has come up. While demands have come up in Kerala to scrap the 999 year agreement and stop sharing the water altogether or to go in for a fresh lease, Kerala's proposals of a new dam being constructed close to Mullaperiyar and decommisioning the current one has not found favour with Tamil Nadu. Further damaging is the fact they have closed their eye on the recent damage to the Theni NH across the border when heavy rains caused the water level to rise above 136 feet at the dam causing water to overflow through the spillways.

The Supreme Court judgement that asked Kerala to implement the 142ft level complicated matters further as Kerala passed an ordinance circumventing it. It must be stated here that while Tamil Nadu showed the CWC report that stated the dam safe the Kerala side failed to argue its side properly despite several reports by its agencies, contrary to the CWC report. Seems like the highest court of the land is looking to review its earlier stand by now requesting both chief ministers to meet to sort out the issue instead of enforcing its judgement. My ancestral home and land in Idukki lies bordering the Periyar river and its not just loss of life and property, many of our valuable flora and fauna too lie under the threat of this disaster. If the Mullaperiyar dam bursts its not just the people of Kerala who will lose, the people of Kambum-Theni can kiss goodbye to their precious source of livelihood, agriculture. Building a new dam might take a few years, and cost a lot of money but if that is the only solution to unneccessary quarrel, i hope our politicians will be wise enough to go that route. Culturally, economically and for humanitarian purposes people can come closer...westernization, globalization, United Nations initiative are valid examples, but where mindless politics drives all meaningful intercourse, political boundaries will remain a hard fact of life. To wind up, it all comes down to a simple question like does not water belong to everyone, and to even tougher posers, what will happen to the National River-Interlinking Project, all this even remotely feasible in this age of fiercely independent meaningless entities like our Indian states.

Diverting totally, read this wonderful short story that is taking shape at this blog-pal's site if you haven't already.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Bhargavi Nilayam...

I am struggling. Day before yesterday's night-out exertion had worn me out. I was sleepy all of wednesday. I woke up yesterday with a sprained neck. Was about to start writing in the afternoon hoping Moov would get me up back and moving. But a pal called wanting to take me out to drink. He had secured for his company a multi-million dollar project and wanted to celebrate. Back at home again got interrupted. The hit malayalam movie, Classmates was running in LA and everyone were going. I couldnt stay out of that either. I am just done with Chapter-2 but need to finish another one today to make up the backlog. The neck is still giving trouble, looks like thailam is the only way out. Maybe novel-writing is just not my cup of tea, but i will strive to complete this one.

The day before, decided to relax by watching a wonderful movie, Bhargavi Nilayalam(1968), the evergreen, first horror movie made in Malayalam based on the great Basheer's novel by the same name. For those who have not seen it, it is about a young writer played by Madhu who moves to a new village, and takes up accomodation unknowingly at a haunted house. He befriends the ghost Bhargavi and calls her affectionately, Bhargavikutti though he is still scared of her. She lets him unravel her romantic but tragic past. Her lover is played by Prem Naseer, who comes to live in the house adjacent to Bhargavi Nilayam. There are almost 10 unforgettably melodious songs too in Bhargavi Nilayam written and tuned by the P.Bhaskaran-Baburaj team. In todays cinema that many songs would have killed the suspense but the milleu and the sensibilities of those days must have demanded it. Both Madhu and Prem Naseer in their respective roles create an aura of classical romance that modern actors of the colour era will never succeed in matching.

I just cant help remarking that the 60's and early 70's were the age of romantic and amazingly good-looking heroes in all languages, be it Rajesh Khanna, Dev Anand and Dharmendra in Hindi or MGR and Sivaji Ganeshan in Tamil and the above-said two thespians in Malayalam, to name a few, though many of them were hampered by limitations on the acting side. Heard that a huge team of today's big directors, who are unfortunately burnt-out now are about to remake this classic together. Hope they get over their mammooty-mohanlal fixation and cast prithviraj and sunil for madhu's and naseer's roles, for one the characters need young, vibrant actors but then does our change-resistant public or film-makers even care, this is the age of 50 year old heroes still running around trees.

I have decided to make this a feature as often as possible. Write on my moods and struggles in this blog for each day i write on the other blog, and add a little bit of all i did...i think finally all i will end up talking here, is about the books i am reading now and the movies i watch. And finally I leave you with the story of a great indian hero. And for loyolites who visit this space, this should make you all proud.