Window Seat | 3.3.19

100 years of Malayalam Cartoons
Kerala is known for many things including backwaters, coconuts, spices and cartoons. This year the state is celebrating 100 years of Malayalam cartoons. It was in 1919 that the first cartoon in Kerala was published in a Kollam-based Malayali magazine titled Vidushakan. The cartoon titled: The ‘Goddess of Famine’ depicted the famine situation in post-World War I Travancore. The drawing depicted the hapless subjects being crushed by the ‘famine goddess’ under British rule. The Cartoonist was P S Govinda Pillai. The magazine was edited by P S Neelakanda Pillai, the nephew of Govinda Pillai. It was not easy for a magazine to print cartoons as the printing technology was not at a stage to print graphics easily. Credit must also be shared with the print setter who would have taken numerous hours and skills to make cartoon printing possible.
‘The Goddess of Famine’ set a trend that continues unabated till date. In fact Kerala has produced many of the finest cartoonists of the country. Almost all publications from Kerala have encouraged this art form with entertains and ridicules at the same time.
To commemorate 100 years of Malayalam Cartoons Kochi based Kerala Cartoon Academy and Bangalore based Indian Institute of Cartoonists are organizing cartoon exhibitions featuring iconic cartoons by Malayali cartoonists across the country. Visit one, if you get an opportunity. Or visit the website of the organisations.
The other day I came across a full page advertisement in a newspaper about the progress made by Indian Railways. The advertisement highlighted the newly introduced Train 18, which is capable of touching 200 kmph ‘provided the other systems like tracks and signals support the speed’ and upscaling of several other trains.
Railways have been and still are the life line of many states, despite improvement of roads and slicing of the price of air travel. The invention of the train in early-nineteenth century (The first full-scale working railway steam locomotive was built in the United Kingdom in 1804 by Richard Trevithick, a British engineer born in Cornwall) coincided with and accelerated the industrial growth of such major nations as Britain, Japan and America, its importance was massive. It changed overland travel, transforming journeys that took months and weeks to days and hours. As technology advanced, the speed, power and dependability of the trains also increased. Steam gave way to diesel and then electric and now to other energy sources and other technology like magnetic levitation (maglev). Trains in countries like Japan, USA and other countries trains zoom between destinations in incredible speeds. Japan is celebrating the 55th anniversary of high-spped train travel this year, since it was way back in 1964 that the Hikari high-speed train launched service between Tokyo and Osaka. Presently the fastest bullet trains can travel at a speed of over 500 km.
There is this train that runs from Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport to the Longyang metro station on the outskirts of Shanghai at a speed of 431 km per hour. In Taiwan also there are trains that travel at a speed of 300 km per hour.
Dependance on Mobile Phone
Over the last decade or so, the degree to which we depend on phones to complete basic tasks and to fulfil important needs such as learning, safety and staying connected to information and to others have increased many folds. Smartphones have increasingly become the tool we use to navigate and organize our daily lives. From keeping our calendars, getting directions, and communicating instantly with others, to helping us answer any questions we might possibly have about the state of our world or the people in it, our dependence on devices is clearly increasing.
This dependence has important psychological consequences. For example, research on transactive memory finds that when we have reliable external sources of information about particular topics at our disposal, then this reduces our motivation and ability to acquire and retain knowledge about that particular topic. In other words, if my wife is an expert on tennis statistics then I will be worse at remembering facts about tennis, since I know I can always ask her. In the past, the primary sources of information on which we could depend to outsource our knowledge have been other people. But now we have a source of near omniscience in our pockets. Why bother remembering anything when you can always just ask Siri? Indeed research finds that when it comes to the acquisition and retention of information, our brains treat our devices like relationship partners. So perhaps it is not surprising that we should experience such distress when this relationship is lost because your partner has slipped out of your pocket or just not there with you.

Matriculation Examination
As Matriculation exam begins- I remember my adolescent days. Our teachers took double care to scare us about this particular exam. A HSC certificate was posited as a passport to enter the college life, which again was posited like a xanadu.
Kolkata has amazing creativity. Kolkata has unspeakable sqalour. It is a creative artist’s paradise, a professional’s nightmare. Kolkata is the ultimate land of paradox.
Many things do not function there, But some work- exceedingly well like say the Metro and the Ferries across the Ganges river. You get the cheapest bus and taxi ride here in India and incredible food at incredible price. You still have good Samaritanism here and you also have people who would any day value education more than prosperity.

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