School finishes, “Classes” begin!!!

The usually nondescript commercial complex in my neighbourhood in Mumbai is buzzing with activity this morning.  As I get closer to the same, it appears as if yet another school has opened in that vicinity.  Very young boys and girls with infectious enthusiasm are chattering away as if they are catching up after a long while as they are waiting there.  It is 1st day of their coaching classes during the summer vacation. The schools had closed last week for summer vacation. And the “Classes” have begun.

Closer at home, the situation isn’t very different. The school got over for my daughter who is all of 6. When the school re-opens, she gets into Class 1 and that’s after couple of months from now. Its vacation time now which means well, time for few “Classes”.  In this age of what I call as “Competitive parenting”, there is no dearth for options as far as “Classes” go.  In addition to the usual Drawing class, Activity class, Music class, Dance class, Craft lessons,… you are now presented with some more choice. Maths Classes, Veda classes, Vedic Maths classes, Abacus classes, Phonics classes, Reading skill classes,…,…  I’m yet to see the basic basic foundation course for IIT entrance for 6 year olds as yet.  But ofcourse for most parents attending the orientation session for ‘Abacus’ class, I’m sure the visuals of IIT campuses keep appearing amidst those Abacus frames and beads!  So as the vacation begins, my daughter is busier than ever not to mention of we parents doing the drop and pick up routine.

In our time, the drop and pick up routine of our dad was different.  Almost every year during summer holidays which is a clean break of 2 months from school, our native place beckoned. In those days, Kerala was yet to become God’s own country and our town – Kottayam was known more for rubber.  Today Kerala has become a global product and Kottayam as gateway to Kumarakom its main USP. God of Small things did its job I guess!!!

The countdown to the holidays begins with booking of the train tickets. In the pre-IRCTC days, thanks to the quota system every station had, it was easier booking the tickets if you plan.  On the appointed day, the entire family boarded the Island Express from Trichy to Kottayam to spend another vacation. So dad’s job is to drop us there and get back to work and lead a bachelor life for 2 months.  As the Island Express initially with coal engines and later with diesel engines kept chugging along, remembering and reeling off all the station names along the way was a favourite pastime. And indulging in some of the popular eateries of some of the stations was another. So “Idli/Dosa” at Olavakkode (now Palakkad) junction, “Ethakka Pazham Pori”(Fried Banana Bajji) at Ernakulam junction and “Paruppu Vada”( Dal Vada) at Piravam Road station were never missed.  Though as South Indians we keep eating Idli/Dosa 400 days in a year at home, the excitement we showed in eating that stuff from the VLR (Vegetarian Light Refreshment) stall in the station didn’t amuse our mother at all.  During the hour’s drive from Kottayam station to our place – Kidangoor, the excitement reaches a crescendo as we near the quaint  bridge across river Meenachil, cross the Kidangoor Murugan temple and finally reach our house after a 17 hour journey!! 

In the next few days, the cousins and aunts join while the uncles drop and leave.  For 2 months here on in the lap of nature, we indulged ourselves.  Taking bath in the river every day, those swimming lessons in vain, visit to the temple morning and evening and playing the whole day when not eating, NO TV, no mobile phones and no social media – meant Indulgence was bliss.  Talking of eating – our stomachs must be cursing the holidays. Our vacation time is overtime for those poor organs! Jackfruit, Mangoes, Ethapazham (Banana), Aanikka Vala (sorry, unsure of the English name),… and their by-products all vanish before they are served. The vacation routine always included one trip to the fields by our Grandfather – where we were treated with Tender coconut water. But the ultimate delight was in eating the Tender insides of a tender coconut with Vellam (Gur).  Remember in one of those field trips seeing with awe the making of fresh “Coconut oil” from dried coconut. One of my uncles cultivated sugar cane in his land and we were always eager to visit his field for fresh cane juice. There was one more guy who was extremely delighted to see us during hoildays. The paan shop wala right in front of our house whom we frequented very often.  Even today I don’t think anything can beat his fresh  “Goli Soda” lemon juice for its freshness. 

With no TV and newspaper Ignorance was indeed bliss. Newspaper available was of Malayalam only which I couldn’t anyway comprehend.  I must add here that unlike in other states where the local language newspapers lacked quality, in Kerala the Malayalam newspapers – Malayala Manorama and Mathrubhumi were of high news and literary quality. One of my elder mamas (uncle) made it a point to get The Hindu’ English newspaper even if it was delivered with one day lag and we use to catch up with all the news whenever we go that uncle’s house at Puliyanoor my mom’s place few kilometres from Kidangoor.  On one such catch-up came to know of India’s World cup win in June 1983 by the way!!!.  It was difficult to say if we were indulged more at our Dad’s place or at Mom’s place.

In Kerala, time meanders normally, but as vacation comes to an end one always felt that time flew! As time to pack up comes closer, Dad appears to pick us up again. Grandfather gets busy to pack things up for each of the families.  Individual cartons are filled with fresh homemade Banana Chips, Jack fruit chips, Chakka Varatti (Jack fruit jam), Mango pickles,… Any vacant spaces in those large cartons were finally filled with coconuts!!! Now you know why Dad has to come all the way to pick us up – with all those cartons and luggage pieces to lug, as many extra hands were welcome.  Back to Island Express and back to Trichy – the vacation hangover goes on for a few days till the eateries get over.

I had almost the same vacation routine till my 10th std. when after that the tyranny of “Classes” began. The “Any professional course” obsession consumed my 11th std. vacation and in fact vacations after that. But still the vacation time is etched in my memory as some great time in the growing up years.  A sense of guilt engulfs when you seem to deprive your kid of the same. Don’t know- may be if our daughter were to write a post on her vacations 30 years hence, you never know she may write nostalgically about the Class after Class she attended and enjoyed during her vacation time or so one hopes!!!

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April and the IPL Typhoid !!!

Come April and it’s that time of the year when sections of people in India hate Modi. Wait a minute! Before the Modi brigade start trolling me, let me clarify. This is not NaMo the usual object of hate generally but LaMo – Lalit Modi who six years ago created a product called the Indian Premier League (IPL) and shifted permanently the centre of gravity of Cricket economics to India forever.  While IPL has triggered a craze in the country and is attempting to bridge the gap between “Bat & Fad”, there are the following naysayers:

  • Women: Generally speaking in an average Indian home, the remote control is by and large with the woman. I meant the remote control of the TV ‘also’!!!  In between Cartoons/Disneys/Chota Bheems and Ram Kapoors/Jetha Lals/Parvati Bhabhis – it is not very unusual to see the Rajdeeps, Harshas & Barkas getting squeezed and edged out in the normal scheme of things. But come April, men who otherwise don’t get to establish their ‘control’ on the ‘remote’ have their last laugh and for 50 days – IPL takes over the airwaves inside the house. So, no wonder the moment the IPL promo ads start airing, you start hearing sounds of the grinding teeth amidst the “Gilli Gilli” sounds!
  • Film Makers: Since weekends are usually cramped with double headers starting from 4.00 pm in the IPL, the usual crowd in theatres during weekends goes missing. Film makers take a break from releasing their new movies when IPL is on fearing a Box office disaster. Last year a producer who released his movie during IPL was feted with “Bahaduri Ka Puraskar” (Bravery Award) to keep the chin up of the movie fraternity!!
  • Businessmen/Shopkeepers: In the pre-IPL days, weekends were times of heightened business activity as parents throng shops/outlets with children for ‘time-pass’ during vacation time and end up in a shopping spree.  Not any more. They themselves have to keep a TV set in their shops and watch IPL matches to keep them occupied in IPL season. Surprising that our politicians who are against FDI in retail are not against IPL!!!
  • Hotels/Restaurants: This is a no brainer. If people stay indoors – there is certainly an effect on the eateries! Smart cookies started beaming IPL matches in big screens still to get people in. The jury is still out on if this strategy is working.
  • TV Channels other than MAX: It is that part of the year when all the GE TV channels just cool their heels without launching any new big-ticket programmes/Reality Shows,… So the Indian Idols, Big Boss’, Super Singers, KBCs and their ilk all take a break during IPL and return post June.  As far as the news channels are concerned – they board the IPL bandwagon with their own pre and post-match programming.  Something is better than nothing! In other cases, they just have to live with the ignominy of poor TRPs. Just today I saw a tweet from a news caster  which goes thus :

“If blore bats first against hyd at 8pm, gayle wl also take viewers away fm my spl report on blore’s woes ahead of elex n headlines today 😦 “

Guess it’s because of the venomous curse of the above groups that Lalit Modi is sitting in the fringe somewhere in the UK these days tweeting live updates on IPL matches instead of being at the centre of action in India during IPL!!!

Having said that, jokes apart – IPL has been a revelation. Inspite of the exit of its creator – Lalit Modi and the tribulations some of the team owners are going through oflate, it’s still proving that the success in the 1st few seasons was not a fluke.  And one must hand it over to Lalit Modi for first creating the product and then demonstrating how to manage the product successfully. I’ve no doubts in my mind that the last few years of IPL basically have been “Copy & Paste” of the formula Modi worked out in the formative years.  Whether it is the format, the auctions, opening and closing ceremonies, outsourced Game organization, telecast, pre and post-game hype and hoopla,… it has “Modi Chaap” even today. What is missing today is the orchestrated PR plugs which Modi had a penchant for.  I remember in the 1st few editions, there were deliberate attempts to keep IPL in the news during the long drawn campaign.  Just when the games start getting into a repetitive monotony (same teams playing against each other “n” number of times) there will emerge some scandalous off the field story which will bring IPL back in the news (Remember Harbhajan slapping Sreesanth in 2008???)

While I started this piece on a lighter vein with an introduction to IPL’s hate groups, on a serious note, its worth looking at IPL’s effects on the economy. I read somewhere that when Brazil wins the World Cup the country’s GDP in that year expands by an additional x % as people revel in the feel good ambience and end up spending a lot of money and a Baby Boom ensues!! I feel when Brazil loses, it also spurs the economy – only that this time it’s just the liquor economy as people keep drinking to drown their sorrow 🙂

Given this connection between sporting success and economy of the country, let’s look at the IPL effect on the economy:

  • The obvious one is its avatar as a “Job Fair”. Look at the opportunity it provides to so many fringe cricketers like the Gonys, Anirudhs,…who may find it hard to break into an Indian team. Then you have the band of ex – cricketers who get the chance to stay in the limelight as coaches/advisors,.. of IPL teams or get employed as experts and commentators on TV and some of them as columnists in newspapers/Web. Suddenly you find Kapil Dev who was the brand ambassador in the opposite camp (ICL) burying all animosity and doing the “Jumping Japak” routine with Sidhu and mouthing expert comments. Apart from that you have so many other indirect jobs – curators, security, catering, transport, bouncers,…,…
  • Then you have the other impact on the economy – Hotels, Airlines, Media, Consumer goods,…

The positive latent effect on the economy is what Shashi Tharoor cited as a main reason for his keenness on a Kochi team in IPL which he attempted to stitch together. Rightly so.

So what if there are a few hatemongers and worrywarts on IPL? Now that the IPL-6 typhoid has set in, let’s contribute to the IPL economy. As Farah Khan exhorts in that cool IPL-6 campaign – Sirf Dekhne Ka Nahi!!!

IPL toon