The Drums of Kandassankadavu and the Movies

Kandassankadavu! What is in a name?  Everything. Drums around Kandassankadavu resonate with its name.

I used to tremble when I heard the drums during processions and festivals.  Somehow, they kept time with my heartbeats.  I never comprehended this and believed that I was afraid of them.

But, when I was seven years old, we moved from Mangaloru to the ancestral home of my parents: Kandassankadavu. They were born in two separate branches of the same family, Vadakkethala.  Vadakkethala Outhudan Moopar and Vadakkethala Poovathingal Moopar were two of the elders who brought the copper plate (Cheppedu) for the creation of the St. Mary’s parish in Kandassankadavu in 1807.

Kandassankadavu is ten miles west of Thrissur.  It hugged the coastline by situating itself by the Connolly Canal.  Coconut trees waved their fronds above the waters in the balmy breaths of a breeze while the trunks leaned over in lassitude.  During the 50’s, there was no bridge to span the waters.  One had to take a boat or a canoe to cross over to Vaadaanapally.  Beyond that lay the Arabian Sea which wafted salty breezes towards Kandassankadavu.

My early memories revolve around the trio who traversed the highways and byways of Kandassankadavu.  One carried a drum with drumsticks, the second a billboard, and the third a sheaf of fliers in colors. They took away the fear of drums from me.  The billboard holder named Appukuttan is sixty-three years old today and is still around.   They were the only means of advertising a new movie in town. The drums were welcomed warmly by children. Some ran to the gate to watch them and some followed them to a certain distance from home.  I belonged to those who raced to the gate.  These movies were not new releases because it took a long time for a movie to reach remote areas.  The drum beats did not have any sophistication, but were just followed some indifferent rhythm.  But, the beats were the harbingers of much awaited excitement – another movie.  I was home and the drums were welcome.  There was no more trembling and syncopated heart beats.

What movies and what atmosphere awaited us after the excitement of the drums?

In those days, the only venue for movies in the surrounding areas was Kandass Talkies, the movie theater placed not far from the Carmelite convent.  Kandass is a shortened form of Kandassankadavu.  It boasted no grandeur and was strictly utilitarian.  Yet, it was the only place for movies!  The structure itself appeared like a warehouse with corrugated tin sheets for roof.  There were several exits which were wide openings covered with faded navy blue curtains which were pulled aside to let people out.

The seats in Kandass Talkies were hierarchical. Right in front of the screen was the sand covered floor for the cheapest tickets. This was “Thara” or the place for groundlings.  Men and women were segregated.  The men enjoyed the central seats and the women were relegated to the right side. Most of the catcalls and comments came from this section.  Next came the wooden benches.  Men and women were segregated here also. Advancing to the folding wooden chairs, the segregation stopped abruptly.  The level of education of the spectators have advanced here.  At the apex of the seating arrangement are the seats reserved in the back on a two feet high raised floor.  The chairs were made of wood with no plush cushioning.  But, they had arm rests! The wall behind these chairs had small openings for the projection streaming to the screen.  I used to watch the streams of light in which dust motes danced with the variations of the picture hues. Let us not forget the hawkers during intervals.  The only available delicacies were roasted peanuts or chickpeas in paper cones.  Plain sodas of carbonated water closed tightly  with glass marbles were also available.

Every day, there were two showings and Sunday was privileged with the addition of matinees.  Half an hour before the shows, the loudspeaker released several old movie songs for the delectation of Kandassankadavu residents.  Along with the drums, these earsplitting songs reminded people of the movies.  The songs were from old Malayalam, Hindi, and Tamil movies. Once in a while, English movies appeared.  We became quite well versed with the lyrics of all these songs. The late show was at 9:30 pm and the songs blared from the theater.  But, they were good alarm clocks.  People did not have to look at their clocks to tell  time.

Now, Kandass Talkies is no more.  The advent of the bridge across the river extended the limited boundaries.  The neighborhoods developed rapidly and, everywhere new new theaters sprang up, one better than the other.  The new releases did not take time to reach the village communities.  Somehow, Kandassankadavu never resurrected its own theater. The drums are silent for movies. The natives do not mind travelling a little farther to watch movies.

The drums do come alive for festivals and processions.  Shingari melam and Pancha Vaadyam compete during the parish feasts and I am lulled by their musical beats.  No more heartbeats thrumming with the drums for me!  I am cured completely because of the tuneless single drum of the movie advertisements for a rustic theater.  Now, that memory is in a time warp.


Desert Lives

Living in the desert,

In a matchbox house

Like any other in the block,

The changeless life

Could have smothered

And suffocated life

While power lines strung across

Long row of spindly crosses.

That mutely bore witness.


But the large expanse above

Changed in phases

With the ascent of the sun.

The clouds gathered

And dispersed,

The colors seeped and blended,

And the skyscape bathed

In the scorching heat!


The sparse greens

Stood up tired and dirt clad;

They squeezed out

Some rare colors in spring

And decked out the dirt bowl.


But the heart of the watcher

Thrummed with every speck of life.

She saw life burgeoning

In every new blade,

Every new fledgling,

Every rare blossom

And every withered petal

That fell back into the desert

From whence it came

To give credence

To the submerged life

Present in the vast dreariness,

Watched over

By the rugged mountains

Which ringed in sentry form

Around the precious lives

That weathered the adverse climes,

Keeping death at bay.


The mountains watched gravely

The sturdy humans

Who ventured

Into the stark boredom

Of the housing development

Just to survive

And carve out separate lives

With a surviving spirit kindled

With the sights of beauty and vigor

Of all the lives that pushed up

And survived

To breathe new life.


Such are the rugged,

Such are the mundane,

And such are the sublime!

Ruminations On April Fools’ Day

Are we life’s fools

That we suffer its vagaries?

We set out in our paths

From births to what ends?

Do we know where we are heading

Or who partners us in our sojourns,

Or what failures we endure

Or what successes we enjoy?

Do we know what loves we feel?

Do we know whom we love?

Do we know who abandons us?

Do we know who stays as our bulwarks?

Do we set up our dynasty?

Do we let our clans die out?

Do we leave angels behind?

Do we breed monsters?

Do we know the extent of our times?

Do we know how our times are shortened?

Do we realize our talents?

Do we waste our potentials?

Let us not be life’s fools,

But make our lives count.

Let us make the best of our lives

And leave life’s foolishness behind!

“Follow Me”

The Voice kept whispering,

“Follow me”!

What shall I do?

Follow the Voice?

What shall I carry to follow the Voice?

It spoke in dulcet tones,

It spoke with urgency,

It spoke with strength,

And it spoke with persuasion,

But I have baggages to carry.

Do I walk, run, or

Do I simply crawl?

I have bundles, I have aches,

I have sores, I have swellings,

And I have the huge hump on my back.

But, I heard the Voice

Distinctly and surely.

It tugged at me,

At my inner heart,

At my inner soul.

At my inner brain,

At my very being!

Do I hesitate?

Little hurdles impede my path;

Little imps waylay me.

But, I still heard the Voice,

Sometimes clearly, sometimes loudly,

Sometimes faintly and sometimes…

Awake! Listen to the clarion!

The call is there, but listen!

It is pulling me;

It threw the rope

And I clung, listening, listening…

It tugged and tugged

And kept me on the line

Until I reached the Valley,

The Valley of sunshine and spring,

Where the lion and the lamb

Grazed in complete accord

By the stream of eternity!.

Education’s Futile reforms – Comment

My Comment:

The author’s words reflect my own thoughts which had been shared many times. There is a racket going on in educational consultancy. Instructional time is reduced by pulling teachers out of classrooms to attend  “staff development” meetings and sessions. Substitutes are hired! But, most of them are glorified babysitters who do not even have two year degrees. The above mentioned sessions deal with generalities which may not be applicable to particular schools. The time and money would have been better spent if the educators in the building worked together to handle their own situations instead of listening to platitudes and jargon, buzzwords and sound bytes.

The National Board Certification is another joke. Some who have the means to pay can acquire this. Even if one fails in all the four segments, one has the opportunity to pay more to attend a retreat where “experts” will help them complete the requirements successfully. Money flows in these situations.

There are some excellent teachers who have made the teaching as an art, exuding joy in learning and in imparting that joy to their students. Real learning is still possible in some classes. These educators are the unsung heroes. In many cases, neither the administrators nor the Union leaders appreciate these mavericks who dedicate their lives for education. Their goals and visions are focus far into the future instead of settling down for stop-gap measures or mere band-aids.  There are classes where there is joy.  The new scripted lessons and standardized tests do not exhibit this joy.

The Solitary Walker

Glimmering, glittering, the Pacific shimmered –

Frothing and foaming, the surging waves reached

Between the toes and sandy curves-

Leaving marine debris-

To hiss out in spent energy

To return to the vast deep,

To rev up for another onslaught.


The walker squished her toes into briny sand,

Drawing nonsensical squiggles and whorls.

Her thoughts wandering into yester years,

She wondered at fate’s thoughtless deeds

That left her bereft and alone,

Without a pair  and with no companion.

In solitude, she pondered life’s vagaries;

But, in loneliness, she found the unwelcome guest.


To the untutored, the walker seemed content,

But her roiled thoughts churned unseen

And uncontrolled in vain attempts to rein in,

The miasma of loneliness leaving her in fugue state.


The waves pelted at the grainy shore and fizzled.

The walker’s mind rambled into consequential

And inconsequential meanders that led nowhere.

The naked footprints led away into places

Of no dreams and no destinations!

Early Childhood and the Formative Years

Arne Duncan: Universal preschool is a sure path to the middle class

It is agreed that the years before five are very important in the learning stages of a child.  In a natural process, the parents’ role at this time is crucial.  But, many children suffer from the lack of parental supervision and early intellectual and social stimulation.  We have a society that is failing our children.  The government and the educational pundits do no have the answers to our social malaise.  The preschool has its uses.  But, is that going to be enough if the home values and perceptions do not improve?  Are the parents and society willing to undertake to change themselves?

Gratitude from Dr. Varghese D Pynadath Family

I want to thank everyone whose heartfelt responses to my husband’s unexpected demise are expressed in so many ways.  It gladdens our hearts to know that he was and is valued by so many.  My children and I are eternally grateful for these expressions of cherished memories, praise, and gratitude.  We know the man he was and the man who is still with us.  It is heartwarming to know that the world has come to recognize both.