Sunday, May 25, 2008

Halcyon Castle at Kovalam

Kovalam's Halycon Castle

In 1930 Regent Maharani Sethulakshmi Bhai constructed an imposing palace atop a hill overlooking the Kovalam bay near Thiruvananthapuram as a summer leisure retreat for the family members of the Travancore royalty. It was named "Halycon Castle", after the bird, usually identified with a species of kingfisher, which the wise elders in the ancient West believed to have bred about the time of the winter solstice in a nest floating on the sea. The ancients thought that it charmed the wind and waves so that the sea was calm during the period.

By extension, the term `halcyon days' refers to 14 days of calm weather, believed to occur about the winter solstice when the halcyon was brooding. From those fabled roots come the contemporary usage of `halcyon' to allude to a calm, quiet, peaceful and undisturbed period or time.

Vaikom Muhammed Basheer


Since 1948, UNESCO has carried out an ambitious programme to translate and publish more than 1,000 representative works from the widest range of cultures. R.E. Asher's celebrated 1980 translation of Vaikom Muhammed Basheer's Me Grandad 'ad an Elephant was part of the Unesco collection.

Kerala's finest economist

Kerala's finest economist

"I think that most of the things that welfare economists talk about are those that are obvious to all of us, especially the common people. In fact, even a pure philosopher and religious thinker like Sree Narayana Guru, who achieved a social transformation in Kerala, spoke about the very same things that welfare economists speak about today: education, health care facilities, even small-scale industries... Many people like me practised welfare economics without knowing that it was welfare economics, because we were anxious that economics should help the poor. But people who take economic theory literally would say that this is not our problem."

These words come from Kakkadan Nandanath Raj or plain K.N. Raj, a son of Kerala who can be called - without fear of contradiction - the greatest economist this State has produced.

The best State to be a mother in

Kerala, Goa and Manipur are the three States that top the list of ‘best Indian States to be a mother in’. In Kerala, 63.6 per cent women receive antenatal care, and 99.3 per cent have access to institutional (hospital) deliveries.

Maternal health has just been examined across Indian states and diagnosed, based on three indicators: infant mortality rates (IMR), antenatal care and institutional deliveries. Delhi has an IMR of 37 (deaths per 1,000 live births); only 29 per cent mothers receive recommended antenatal care. The figures have been compiled from the National Health and Family Survey 3 (NHFS), and the Sample Registration System (SRS) bulletin.

“Maternal health is very important since it directly impacts the health of a child. Greater access to pre-natal care is needed, including nutritional requirements, and we need to ensure safe childbirth so that delivery complications can be avoided,” Shireen Vakil Miller, head of policy and advocacy at Save the Children, the NGO that has conducted the study, told Namita Kohli of The Hindustan Times.

Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand are on top of the ‘most unhealthy’ list. Uttar Pradesh is the worst performer with only 4.1 per cent of mothers receiving antenatal care.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A factoid defined

Factoid? What on earth is that? What manner of beast?

Well, as they say, sometimes facts are stranger than fiction -- and often, you wish the facts were a wee bit different, slightly coloured to match your own tastes...

Enter the factoid.

Factoid can refer to a spurious (unverified, incorrect, or invented) "fact" intended to create or prolong public exposure or to manipulate public opinion, says Wikipedia.

Something resembling a fact; unverified (often invented) information that is given credibility because it appeared in print; a brief (usually one sentence and usually trivial) news item, says Princeton's Wordnet.

Something which becomes accepted as fact, although it may not be true, says the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

The term was coined by the American writer Norman Mailer in his 1973 biography of Marilyn Monroe. Mailer described factoids as "facts which have no existence before appearing in a magazine or newspaper".

And now, in this Internet era, websites, we may as well add, websites...

However, having said all that, Kerala Factoids is different -- neither skimpy nor trivial, neither turgid nor pompous, sometimes flippant, often you will no doubt find out here!


Kerala in Human Development Report

Kerala in HDR 2006

Kerala was mentioned six times in the 2006 edition of the Human Development Report of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which is its annual evaluation of a country's development status in terms of people's health, lifespan, knowledge, education and standards of living.

on the matter of water, Kerala finds mention on six occasions in HDR 2006. Even the anti-cola agitation finds mention thus: "In the Pallakad district of Kerala, the abstraction of groundwater by a multinational soft drink company has depleted the aquifer, dried up several wells and caused serious environmental damage."

The `Olavanna model' comes in for special mention: "In the 1980s Olavanna, a largely rural community in the Indian State of Kerala, pioneered a small village water supply system, inspiring reform of Kerala's rural water supply and sanitation programme. Across four districts, State and local governments are now co-operating with villages to extend the approach. The Olavanna model provides clean drinking water for 93,000 households - 60 per cent of whom live below the poverty line. As in other successful demand-driven models the capital costs are covered by government, with maintenance and management devolved to local community organizations."

The construction of wells has also attracted the HDR's attention. "In the Indian State of Kerala," it states, "research following implementation of seven rural water projects found that the incidence of waterborne diseases fell by half in the five years after the construction of deep wells, with no change in non-project areas."

Once again, in the arena of development, Kerala has helped debunk the myth that, in the words of the UNDP, "the deepening global water crisis is the result of scarcity". Rather, poverty, power and inequality are at the heart of the problem.

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Malayalee Male

Machismo. Gravitas and Nostalgia: The Malayalee Male in His Element...