Monday, September 23, 2013

Trivandrum Through Green Glasses

In Trivandrum, in the house that is 'home' still for another six months, it always sounds like it's raining. The house is surrounded by trees - coconut trees and banana plants of course, but also teak and jack-fruit and mango and coffee and others I don't know the names of. They loom over the house and protect it from the sun, but not from the rain. The wind riffles through their leaves up above, and I'm always looking out of the windows, fooled by the wind and the semi-darkness, to check if it's raining.

Why is it that these trees don't exist in Bangalore? Why is it that the first thing people do when they want to build a house is cut off all the trees in sight? Is there a law that says that the size of a city must be inversely proportional to the density of trees? Does that mean that these trees will soon disappear from Trivandrum too?

Trivandrum, it seems to me, has managed growth well. Technopark is one of the three largest IT parks in India, but it is situated well outside the main city; visitors can go there directly from the airport without having to touch the city proper. Around Technopark, multi-storeyed apartment buildings are coming up one after the other. Fast food restaurants have popped up like so many mushrooms after rain.

It's a strange sight. Coconut trees, thousands upon thousands of them, lay a green carpet along the shore of a lagoon. And between these coconut trees, a few tall cuboids, mostly white, have sprung up, and they hold their heads up proudly, despite being outnumbered by the trees. Technopark is expanding; I saw construction as I went by yesterday, ugly glass buildings that will suck up electricity. Soon, more people will arrive to occupy those glass office buildings. And then more tall cuboids will spring up among the coconut trees, until finally the coconut trees will be lost amidst all the white buildings. And that will be that.

Ah well - it's selfish of me to want things to remain the same. After all, Bangaloreans have been forced to give up their peaceful city and put up with migrants like me.

But then again - maybe I'll go back to Trivandrum too. Every time I visit, I sit on the terrace staring at the greenery, and I think of the drabness of Bangalore, and I shudder at the thought of going back. If it's so bad for me, a city girl, imagine how it must be for the true-blue village-born Malayali who has to go back not to the well-behaved benignity of Bangalore, but to the torturous sick desert heat of the Gulf.

It's such an irony that Malayalees, despite having such a beautiful home, choose to live outside all their lives, toiling in hot yellow deserts and cold grey cities, only to come back in their old age to Kerala and spend all their money on opulent houses, painted all the colours of the rainbow and then some.


Trivandrum is actually a nice little city, especially when it's not summer. It has cute narrow roads that go up and down like a roller-coaster. It has colonial buildings that look like red ice cream houses with silver icing. It has a pretty boast-worthy culturati. It has the sea, and really - what more do you need?
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