The Citadel – A J Cronin

Citadel is a simple, beautifully written novel that revolves around Andrew Manson, an ardent and passionate young doctor newly out of medical school who carries copious dedication and idealism. He is appointed as Doctor Page’s assistant in the Welsh mining town. Andrew is horrified as he discovers severe irregularities as well as wide unethical practises around him. Several diseases including Cholera were spreading drastically due to bad sanitation and the absence of adequate medical facilities. However, Andrew makes determined and continuous effort to improvise the situation eradicating medical superstitions of the people and dissenting the corrupt doctors which earns him both friends and foes.  

                              Later, Andrew manages to get a job in the town of Aberalaw and he marries his love Christine with whom he starts a new life. Initially they live in utter poverty but with the firm support of Christine, Andrew tackles each challenge.  In spite of tenacious efforts, the young doctor fails to make a difference and ends up in buying a private clinic in London, where he gets acquainted with several wealthy counterparts. Gradually the glimmer of wealth attracts Andrew and he endorses the same practises he strongly resented earlier. Andrew is unable to withstand the inner battle with his own former self and is under constant quest for more money.  The values he held and the call of conscience constantly haunts him. This sudden metamorphosis even creates chaos in his relationship with Christine.

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                                One day Andrew is petrified as he witnesses Dr Harley, his close friend killing one of his patients in the midst of a surgery due to his incompetence. This incident leaves Andrew guilt ridden and acts as a major breakthrough, making him re-think about his past. He finally reconciles with Christine leaving the latter extremely happy. Tragically their respite is short lived as Christine dies in an accident, Manson is engulfed by overwhelming grief and sorrow. One of his close friends Philip Denny comes to his rescue at this point, his company provides Manson consolation and he slowly comes back to life. But fate had kept more in store for the doctor as he is forced to defend himself in an enquiry questioning his decision of referring a patient to doctor Stillman who is considered incompetent. But Andrew successfully wins the case and leaves for London with Harley.

         The language is simple but very strong enough to convey emotions, well knitted with devastation, rectitude and vindication. Author, through the protagonist, tries to highlight corrupt exercises in the medical field quotidian even today. Although the plot is pretty predictable, it is wonderfully concocted together by Cronin. It gently reminds us of the importance of remaining dedicated and ethical in one’s profession. Role played by Christine, especially in the times of turmoil is laudable. She endures all the ups and downs of their life calmly and remains courageous and collected throughout. Stillman’s character elucidates knowledge is more important than medical degrees. Inspite of being written in the twentieth century, the core message is unaffected by time. Citadel still remains a perennial read.

The Citizens of nowhere

“The greatest nations are defined by how they treat their weakest inhabitants.”

                                                                                                                               ~ Jorge Ramos

The Rohingya is a Muslim ethnic minority group from Myanmar known as the most persecuted minority in the world. Both religiously and ethnically different from the Buddhist majority of Myanmar, Rohingyas were never considered citizens and denied even basic rights. Having faced dreadful decades of discrimination and torment in their homeland, they risked everything and walked miles day and night, swum across ghastly rapid rivers, crossed the treacherous seas and fled to different parts of the world for respite but their plight only deteriorated further. After a brief period of attention, the Rohingyas seem to be evanesced from the mainstream media.

Explainer: Rohingya refugees face crowded camps, dangerous sea journeys and  COVID-19 | Amnesty International

                       The Myanmar government refused to recognise them and grant them citizenship effectively turning them stateless entities and denying even basic rights. They were subjected to institutionalised discrimination, injudiciously denied equal education, free movement and choice of religion. They did not receive any legal protection from the government and were considered as illegal migrants from Bengal. Moreover, the tension between Muslim Rohingyas and the Buddhists intensified by the religious differences, frequently led to violent conflicts. In august 2017, the military and the Buddhist mobs unleashed a brutal attack on the Rohingyas, setting their villages on fire, abusing women and large-scale homicide of the innocent civilians forcing them to flee from their own native land. Myanmar’s security forces allegedly fired on the fleeing migrants and even planted landmines near the borders. The UN described the inhuman act as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. Although many consider it a genocide, authorities completely deny them. Being stateless in their home country, Rohingyas are unable to travel to any other country legally which made them “illegal migrants”.

                                                  Over 40,000 Rohingyas have migrated to India living in slums and camps scattered across different states. In spite of having the responsibility to accommodate the migrants as the immediate neighbour of Myanmar, we have failed them terribly.  Anti- Rohingya sentiment that developed recently aims to expel the migrants permanently. India repeatedly claims that it isn’t a signatory of the UN refugee convention, and hence cannot consider Rohingyas as refugees, treating them as illegal migrants and labelling them as terrorists, threats to national security and as infiltrators. Crackdown on Rohingyas can be seen as part of the political interests of certain extremists’ groups. This exclusion from the government policies and citizenship rights severely backfired during the pandemic, as they weren’t covered under any relief measures. Unprecedented lockdown snatched away their livelihood and forced poverty and starvation. Living in the conditions of poor sanitation with limited access to health facilities made them quite vulnerable to the pathogen.

   Last month Myanmar descended into a military dictatorship again. Peaceful protestors are being attacked and detained, political leaders are put under house arrest, severe restrictions including curfews are imposed.  Coinciding with this, India is making preparations to deport Rohingyas back to Myanmar. How can we send them back to a place where their lives are in extreme danger? Many of them started fleeing off to Bangladesh in the fear of being ousted to their homeland. It is the time to act more responsibly and humanely above all its human life that matters. We know quite well Rohingyas are the most persecuted community in the world, throwing them to the jaws of military dictators is barbaric.

                   We need to think from a wider landscape and put forth a humanitarian approach at this point. Let’s stand up for human rights and treat the refugees more humanely, give them sufficient rights as well as security and ample life conditions. Real compassion is not restricted within the manmade boundaries. Consider them humans, accept their humanity

Woman, Interrupted

“O Bhagwati, Only if Shiva is conjoined with You, can He create Without You, O Shakti, He cannot even move O, Mother, Hari, Hara and Brahma worship You.”                                                     (Wave of Beauty, Wave of Bliss – Adi Shankaracharya)

Although culture, mythology and history depicted women and men as coequal, the clogged thinking and prejudices of mankind stumbled us on the path to a gender equal world. Every catastrophe ever attacked the world has brought along a sheer rise in the trend of various sorts of inequalities. The current pandemic widened the already existing gender divide worldwide, worsening the predicament of women like never before. 

 Initially the virus and lockdown were reckoned as gender equalizers as they forced people to stay indoors which made them discern the plight of women at home. This led to many positive effects like increased share of workload and household chores, increased sense of belonging towards home and family but respite was short lived. There was a sudden upsurge in the number of domestic abuse cases reported, the UN termed this surge as ‘shadow pandemic’. Women were tortured and exploited widely. The UN Secretary General himself stated that lockdowns can trap women with their abusive partners which can escalate cases of domestic abuse. According to reports more than 92000 calls were received all over India seeking protection during the initial 11 days of lockdown. Horror of such incidents and inability of adequate protection tore down the mental state of many women.

 Moreover, this pervasive malady affected women’s jobs and livelihoods largely as the magnitude of inequality currently prevalent is striking. It was found that female jobs are more at risk than male ones simply because women are disproportionately represented in sectors negatively affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Women hold a majority of the insecure, informal and low paying jobs round the globe which made them even more vulnerable to economic crises. They have less access to social securities and welfare schemes, and thus the economic shocks created by this disease are supposed to outlast the actual pandemic. Extending elementary protections to informal workers and enacting fiscal relief activities at the earliest only can lessen the gravity of the situation.

This crisis also created a drastic shift of attention and resources from basic provisions for maternal and child health around the globe to COVID relief activities.  Many countries ceased health care services for women terming it as ‘non-essential’, this decision not only denied women and girls access to time-sensitive and potentially life-saving services, but also further distanced them from already difficult-to-access basic health care amenities. The Ebola outbreak had taught us what all terrifying effects can side lining essential health care result in, shutdown of routine health services and people’s fear of going to clinics and hospitals where they could get infected backlashed severely as thousands of women and infants died due to neonatal and other maternal health issues. We are heading to a similar situation; the aftermath would be even more acute. 

Education endured severe setbacks during these hard times. According to UNESCO, lockdowns and school closures have already caused almost 743 million girls to miss out on their education, and 10 million more secondary school aged girls are predicted to drop out of their schools before the pandemic gets over. On top of these often girls are the first to be pulled out of schools and forced to work and earn livelihood whenever families face economic hardships.  Restrictions on travel has also made it impossible for social organizations to directly reach out to girls and other communities that need help thus they lost both support and guidance too in this pandemic. 

Apposite help at the right time can ensure mental and physical wellbeing of both men and women. Social, educational and economic opportunities should be ameliorated during this crisis. Fight against this pandemic is not only about flattening the curve of the infected population but also ensuring humanity only wins at the end of the tunnel and comprehending every Shiva is powerless without Shakti.  

Shyamchi Aai – Sane Guruji

Shyamchi Aai is a simple story that revolves around the heart-warming bond of a mother and her son, knitted with strong emotions and embedded with insightful life messages… Author keenly blends the beauty of nature and enticing rural life.   The protagonist of the story, Shyam’s mother (Aai) is such an affectionate and a doting mother whose very presence emitted vibes of calmness and tranquillity; she reflected a divine beauty from within and emanated love for all the living beings around her.  In spite of being uneducated Shyam’s Aai is a wise and bold lady she knows to be both soft and stern to her children moulding them to be better humans, she gave utmost importance to dignity and hated depending on others, she believed one should never run away from learning anything new and everything is possible if you have brains and will. Even when their family’s financial condition was deteriorating, Aai patiently endured it all without any complaints. Shyam’s father (Bhau) was also a wonderful man who never gave up his principles and toiled hard for his children. Once he travels six miles on foot to give Shyam his favourite sweet. Both Aai and Bhau wrap their children with copious love and care, at a point even Shyam feels he is unworthy of it. Each instance of Shyam’s life gives profound messages. Aai awes the readers by dejecting untouchability and with her boundless love to birds, animals and humans both rich and poor alike.  Despite being engulfed by debts, Shyam’s parents allow him to pursue his education and fly after his dreams.   The story also elucidates Shyam’s feelings towards his mother, he studies hard to look after his mother and give her back all the joys she lost.  But constant sufferings and tough grind to make ends meet mutilate Aai’s health, she gets affected by a severe fever. The author describes his mother’s caring nature in her last moments. Although she badly wanted to meet Shyam, she prevents anyone from informing him worrying it will disturb his studies. Even when she was dying, Aai is deeply concerned about others her last words “Take care of yourself” leaves the readers in melancholy. Unfortunately, Shyam couldn’t meet his mother in her last moments but he treasures Aai’s memories, her words still shed light on his path. This is an account of a life filled with poverty, deprivation, hard work, sacrifice, respect and love. Simple but poignant life stories supplemented with the graceful village atmosphere and vivid descriptions of the natural landscape, Shyamchi Aai literally takes you to another world of ecstasy which can never be missed.


“Why aren’t we talking about this?”

A single sentence that provoked the “patriots”, kindled the calls for solidarity and made the barbaric acts at the farmer’s protest a talking point internationally. But India’s reaction to those comments were mystifying, the gross human rights violations suddenly became India’s “domestic issue” and all outsiders were asked to be mere ‘spectators’ and not participants claiming every criticism a part of secret conspiracy and propaganda against the nation.

After the republic day bedlam, police and the government have tried to their own depths to vanquish the protests. Internet and basic amenities were cut off, access to the protest site for journalists were strictly controlled, protestors were forcefully evacuated and labelled as anti- nationals, reams of razor wires, trenches, and barricades were laid to face them. In spite of the augmenting outpour of support for the protests, efforts to sweep away the protestors were made. That’s when renowned singer Rihanna and activist Greta Thunberg came up accentuating the immense human rights violations kicking off massive debates all over. In response to Rihanna’s six words the Ministry of External Affairs issued a six-paragraph long statement averring that some vested interest groups were mobilising to disrupt the unity of our country. Consequently, Home minister Amit Shah started a campaign to assert India will stand together against the foreign “propaganda” and declaring nothing can stop India’s progress. The campaign was promulgated extensively; many celebrities extended support and denounced undue external interference underlining foreigners can only be spectators and not participants. Many of them expressed the need to preserve unity and sovereignty of our country. It’s not surprising that the same celebrities did voice their support on black lives matter protests and condemned the death of George Floyd. Recently India also imparted its concerns on the Capitol revolts and the situation in Myanmar which were also ‘internal matters’ of those countries. As Martin Luther King stated “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” be it amazon fires or the Capitol revolts they all are issues whose repercussions deeply affect the future mankind and threaten the pillars of democracy of all the republics round the globe. It is important to understand ‘we’re all caught in the inescapable network of mutuality, whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.’ Greta and Rihanna may not know elaborately about the farm bills but the discussion has gone beyond the bills and its implications. We are now talking about human rights and the right to protest peacefully which are not certainly the “internal matters” of any countries. If such an elementary form of peaceful protests cannot be held in our country, how can we call it a democracy? How can we denominate all those who protest misled and anti-nationals? The government faces the givers of sustenance with barricades and trenches. It is petrifying that we are now unable to tolerate even isolated criticisms and view them all under suspicion, as a part of large-scale propaganda against the unity of our country. Unhindered access to information and right to dissent are the hallmark of a thriving democracy.

Can one tweet, a single sentence, clatter the unity and integrity of the world’s biggest democracy? The only way to avoid international criticism is not the filing of cases or the tweets of celebrities but peaceful negotiations with the farmers upholding the spirit of democracy, treating them with respect and through a revival of inclusive politics . We must all stand together united to shield the basic human rights and to vindicate the right to protest peacefully. #IndiaTogether

How we failed our heaven on Earth…

The first few days of August 2019 triggered bewilderment in Jammu and Kashmir, more security troops were sent in, schools and colleges got closed, all internet and telephones connections were cut and majority of the political leaders were put in house arrest well elucidating something major was about to go down. On August 5 2019 the government startled everyone by revoking article 370 which was considered as a medium connecting Kashmir and India. The sudden decision was passed very quickly with no discussion or deliberation not even seeking the opinion of the Kashmiris, silencing them by imposing the President’s rule and not involving the Constituent Assembly in its name, sparked massive protests nationwide.

Article 370 gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir allowing the state to have its own constitution and flag and restricted any law passed by the Union Parliament from being applied in Jammu while Article 35 (A) stated no outsider can buy property, avail scholarships or apply for government jobs. Technically speaking the government didn’t actually scrap off the laws instead used article 370 to declare itself null and void. A new clause was added which read the article can cease to exist through the President’s order made in consultation with the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir, which was already dissolved as Kashmir was placed under President’s rule from June 2018 and thus all the powers automatically flowed to the Central government. On an effect Jammu and Kashmir lost their special status, limited autonomy, separate constitution and flag, the residents will now have only a single citizenship, any non-resident can buy land or settle permanently in the State. Government claimed that the abrogation can skyrocket the development in Kashmir. The inhabitants can now sell or lease out their land to outsiders and can make more economic profit. More and more investors would be attracted to Kashmir increasing the employment opportunities which can in turn decrease terrorism. Education opportunities were expected to surge as others can also avail scholarships in Kashmiri universities. Once Kashmir falls under Indian laws, Kashmiris can access exclusive rights like right to information and right to education. Government also claimed that a single flag and constitution will further integrate Kashmiris to India.

But the major criticism was the way in which the article was stripped off, bulldozing upon the people without any prior discussion. Section 144 got imposed, telephone and internet services were cut, politicians were put under house arrest silencing the voice of Kashmir in all manners. Moreover, the government vividly made use of a loophole by taking such a radical decision when the State government of Kashmir was dissolved thus not even consulting the elected representatives of Kashmir.

A letter from the Annus Horribilis…

Dear humans,

I know you all are really furious at me. I understand the past one year in your lives was quite action packed, full of twists and turns… I know I was a ‘bit’ harsh to drown your vacations in a pandemic and fling catastrophes one after the other, but wait… are you sure I did nothing good? I taught you to cope up and emerge victorious at every challenge life throws upon you…I wanted you to comprehend the value of little things in life you often forgot, I wanted you to ponder on the splendour of those little moments you will never be able to re-live… I made you realise how pure the air and how clear the sky can be without the busy roads and smoke coughing vehicles…I wanted you to apprehend family time is more spectacular, than ‘party time’ and home is the most beautiful destination ever…I wanted you to stop for a moment and look around…I taught you the strength of togetherness, I made you to decipher the undying and gallant spirit of mankind in hard times…Although you did lose innumerous parties, get togethers, tours, and late night drives… you gained so much… Welcome the new year with a heart full of happiness, hope and joy…keep with you those priceless lessons you learnt in those adversities and promise yourselves to support each other, stay resilient and come out even stronger no matter how gruesome the challenge is…When life gets tough, be tougher…

Wishing you a blissful, prosperous and a ‘less adventurous’ year ahead…Good Bye…


Happy New Year dear bloggers !!

Delicious Christmas!

Christians, especially Syrian Christians have their own cuisine which is a blend of Indian, Eastern and Western styles and flavours of cooking. When early Christians came to India, they settled deep in the back waters in districts like Kottayam and Pala where they experimented with local ingredients, mainly coconut, fresh fish and duck that became a major part of our cuisine. Let’s go through some lip smacking dishes from the Kerala Christian Cuisine.
Appams: The quintessential breakfast spreads

Appams are round pan cakes made with two common ingredients -fermented rice and coconut milk but have different cooking procedures. The Palappams have a soft core but lacy, crisp edges. Kalappams are made with toddy, an indigenous fermented drink extracted from coconut flowers. Idiyappams are shaped like rice noodles while Vattayapam is a variation of rice flour cake. The beauty of appams lies in the fact that they have no overpowering flavour and can easily absorb the flavours of any accompanying side dish.

Stews: the luscious Portuguese dish

In the Christian version of stew, coconut replaces cream or milk in this classic dish. Chicken and potatoes are boiled in a creamy white sauce sautéed in curry leaves, again very Indian, and seasoned with local spices like ginger, pepper, turmeric etc. These appetizing stews are generally made with chicken, lamb or duck.
Beef fry or beef ularthiyathu: An inescapable dish for Kerala Christians

It is made of beef, slow roasted in a medley of aromatic spices, onions, curry leaves and coconut slivers, fried in coconut oil, it’s then generously sprinkled with homemade garam masala making it even more delicious.

Christmas special fishy delights of Christian cuisine:

Though fish items are savoured throughout the year, during Christmas special preparations like Fish Molee, Fish mappas etc are relished by one and all. Meen Vevichathu is a spicy fiery and tangy dish with an overpowering flavour of chilli powder and subtle tanginess of Malabar tamarind.

And the last dish on the table…

Delectable desserts: a palatable wrap up

In the Christian households of Kerala most desserts are fusion foods. Neyyappam, Uniyappam, Vattayapam are all examples of nadan dessert. Bananas with yoghurt& palm honey is also a sweet example.

Christmas is about sharing and enjoying these delicacies with one and all to spread love and brotherhood among mankind. Try them and have a blessed Christmas.

Merry Christmas everyone!🎄🎄

When school comes home!!

From “good morning students”, our teachers now begin with “Am I audible?”

This pandemic has created many thoroughgoing and drastic changes in the field of education. All our teachers were brought behind screens and we were required to stay online from mornings to afternoons. It is indeed marvellous that we could persevere our education even in the midst of these unanticipated circumstances. Due to the collective effort of our teachers and parents, we found another silver lining in these testing times. These days we discover further and learn more fascinatingly. This sudden digitalisation is both a boon and bane.

The hustle and bustle of rushing to school and the chase for school bus is no more, weekdays now begin more peacefully as we can even attend the classes straight away after getting up. Seven long hours of working days have shrunk to four periods and there is now abundant time to complete daily portions and for research study. Our teachers now make more use of technology and prepare presentations attaching a number of gripping pictures and videos adding much colours to earlier ‘black and white’ classes. Despite new school and classmates, I haven’t seen even once, I am still well acquainted to most of classmates and teachers. Even in these hard times, our classes are so interactive and filled with energizing debates and discussions. By keeping video mode on, faces of fellow classmates are very familiar. Missing classes is less likely now as it is at our fingertips available anywhere, anytime. Teachers are really welcoming to all doubts and find time to answer each one of our concerns. They make sure we are comfortable, at their own depths. There is no interference from impish friends who distract us during the class hours. We got to attend a youth festival and many other competitions virtually this year which was a special experience. Parents have more spare time, and help us with the lessons effectively than ever before.

Lengthy online classes are enough to twinge our eyes, we have to spend more hours before screen. At times technological disturbance interrupts and we lose classes and some important points with no fault of ours, unnecessary delay caused by network issues becomes a setback during exams. As I haven’t even well seen my school even once, it still remains a bit obscure to me. The real ardour of performing on stage before a cluster of enthusiastic audience and the spirit of their applauds are unparalleled. Nothing can substitute face to face interaction, it’s intimacy and rapport are no more. The chuckle some classroom jokes and group activities are a major missing. Instead of giving a roadmap, we are now granted more freedom to think and develop. I am extremely grateful to all my teachers as their endeavour is the only driving force that keeps our education going in these hard times. Moreover, school is an emotion and feeling no virtual classroom can ever replace. Hopefully looking forward to roam and stroll around those corridors once again…

National integration and communal harmony, pressing priority of the nation…

“A house divided against it cannot stand together”

In the times when the oppressed are vigorously made to chant “Jai Sriram”, when leaders themselves try to divide and rule, when temples are built upon the cadavers of mosques for political profits … the salient ideas of National integration and communal harmony should be resounding…

National Integration is the feeling of unity among the people regardless of caste, creed or religion. Communal harmony is the principle of peace and harmony existing amongst various religious communities, free from violence and hatred. India is a kaleidoscope of diverse cultures, religions and languages with each Indian having the right to freely practise and profess his / her own belief but violent confrontations for caste and religion still happen in our country. Fear, suspicion and a sense of insecurity towards the other communities have given rise to hatred, which acts as fuel, feeding the flame of communalism. One of the ugliest manifestations of communalism are communal riots. Gujarat riots, Anti-Sikh riots, Bombay riots are all gravest episodes of history. Although Britishers did infuse communal hatred in Indians, the innumerous communal antagonism, even in the post-independence era is extremely hazardous. All religions preach love and brotherhood, advocate the need for tolerance to all other faiths. It’s high time we see through people who draw margins amongst us and insert communal hatred. Linguism is a sectarian sentiment which has been granulated in the recent past. Reorganization of states on linguistic basis is considered to have given impetus to linguism.

Casteism also poses a massive challenge to national unity. Political utilisation of caste is increasing drastically in India. Even after the growth of technology and science people still inflexibly hold on to it. Members of ‘upper caste’ enjoy all prerogatives while members of lower-class toil hard. They don’t even have access to legal security, we’ve seen how law and police failed an 18 yr. old in Hathras. Even in Kerala this unjust discrimination does take place, days before we saw how a Dalit lady has been asked to change her caste by promising money and security. Although caste can never be uprooted from the Indian soil, we should ensure it doesn’t disturb the unity of our nation. The first step we can make is to relieve ourselves of the old, colonial idea of caste. Instead, we must understand how both hierarchy and segmentation seep continually into every Indian life. Masses should be educated so that they cannot be easily deceived. Vote Bank politics must be nullified.

The danger of division can be averted if the self-defeating and suicidal slogans like ‘my state’, my language’, my caste’ and after all ‘my religion’ are supreme, give way to the noble sentiment of India first and last and always. It will integrate our emotions and aspirations and ensure Communal Harmony and National integration of the country. “Unity to be real must stand the severest strain without breaking”- Gandhi. Let hatred and violence give way to harmony and brotherhood.

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