Meeting Bill Clinton..

My office in Manhattan is located at the intersection of Park Avenue and 58th Street, and from my cabin I get a good view of the life on the busy intersection. On that day I happened to be looking out from my cabin and I saw this tall silver-haired gentleman with two black-suited escorts slowly coming up the 58th street and going on to the Park Avenue. He crossed the Avenue, turned left and went into the Borders Bookshop on the Park Avenue, across the street. In a flash I realized this was Mr. William Clinton, ex-president of USA.

This was a chance I did not want to miss! It took no time for me to go down to the street and enter Borders, where Mr. Clinton was browsing through books. By the way his own latest auto- biography ('GIVING"), as well as the latest offering from Hillary, was on sale. Here was the ex-president of USA, rather casually moving around among the regular book buyers at Borders, browsing , buying books, and exchanging pleasantries with a few among the curious crowd! When he passed me I could ask him. 'How are you, sir?'.

He said, 'good.'

I wished I had my camera with me. But of course, I had my Cell, and I asked him whether I could take a photograph.

He said,'I am not supposed to stop here'.

Anyway as he did not object I went ahead and had two snaps with my cell camera. And, here are the snaps!

I understand there is extremely tight security for such political figures, but the Americans should be admired for doing it without disturbing the people around. Probably they do it through their surveillance gadgets and stuff like that. But the public is never made to suffer in the name of security. Contrast it with the scenario back home: how politicians consider the extent of chaos they create (traffic stoppages, road blockades etc.) the barometer of their political importance!

Sarpam thullal, gandharvan thullal and cheettukali

In one of the comments on a previous post, Tomy wanted to know more about the art forms still performed at Pallippuram. Sarpam thullal" and "Gandharvan Thullal" are still performed with lot of festivities in some family owned shrines at Pallippuram. "Pampumthara" is one such family. They own a Sarpa kavu (Serpent Shrine in a very small forest), where their ancestors are believed to be resting in peace. Their ancestors include an Arukola (a ferocious deity normally originates from the unnatural death of an ancestor) of Velichappadu Appooppan (an ancestor who was an Oracle).

When Sarpam thullal is performed, the naga yakshis (serpent fairies) possess the girls belonging to the female lineage of the family, who have been made sit in the thullal pandal. Once the mystic songs sung by the pulluvan reaches its culmination point, the performers start moving back and forth rapidly in an uncontrolled manner. The thullal at Pampumthara is a subject that requires long narrative. I will tell the stories and supernatural events at Pampumthara in future blogs.

Another art form, performed by male members of Koottumkal family, is cheettukali or irupathiyettu kali (a martial art with playing cards. Martial it turns, when one of the players cheats and others find it out). It is performed under the Kudampuli tree behind Koottumkal Tharavadu, mostly in the afternoons.

Peedika Chittappan

One person I wanted to blog about for a long time since the existence of this site is our beloved peedika chittappan. His actual name is Joseph Mathew Koottumkal (Ouseppachan), but we fontly call him peedika chittappan (chittappan means younger brother of one's father). The attribute Peedika (shop), is coined from his owning a grocery shop in his 20s. It was about 60 years ago!

We grew up hearing his heroics as an entrepreneur and how he had to close the shop due to defaulting customers. The shop was closed but the peedika attribute remained and we used it to distinguish him from other chittappans (there are five).

He is the second son of Late Mr. Koottumkal Mathew and Mrs. Aleykutty Mathew. He had completed his education upto BSLC (intermediate) level, and always maintained that he sacrificed his higher education for others in the family, because of grandpa's financial constraints.

With an impeccable memory, in the decades that followed, he recollected and delivered (and still does) endless poems of Kumaran Asaan, Vallathol and Ulloor combined with genealogical, religious and historical knowledge to anyone he happened to be with. Once the narration begins, you will soon be wondering how to put an end to the monologue, as you must have heard it at least 100 times before. For a moment, you think you succeeded by introducing a new subject, but then he would start on that new thread.

He always dispersed his contemporary and acquired knowledge with a definite personal and humorous touch. For example, many communists may not agree with his account of Punnapra-Vayalar communist uprising and his allusion on the wisdom of the comrades to face Sir CP's guns with wooden spears made from aricanut trunk.

There are a lot of memorable incidents one would like to talk about our beloved Peedika Chittappan. I would not conclude this blog now, rather I will expand this in the form of comments. Those who want to contribute to this thread please do the same.