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LEELA MARY KOSHY

SONGSOPTOK THE WRITERS BLOG | 1/15/2016 |





Kollam town, being an important trade centre, attracted many foreign traders to its sea-port, since the second half of the 1st century. As a result of the flourishing trade in spices, many Syrians, Jews, Arabs, Chinese, and Europeans contributed richly towards the cultural heritage of this ancient town, by way of influencing its quality of life, in addition to giving the town its wealth of many a heritage building.
           

Even in the 21st century, Chinnakkada throbs with commercial activity. Chinnakkada, the name itself testifies to the presence of the Chinese in the heart of the town with their trade connections. The senior citizens of the town still cherish the memory of the Chinese Palace that was built in Chinese architecture in the centre of the town. In yester years it stood there, its head held high, as if it was making a silent proclamation of the Chinese influence in the history of the town. Unfortunately, its beauty is marred by the extensions and enclosures made by its present custodian, the Southern Railway, to suit its purposes. Cutting through the heart of the city passes the Railway over-bridge blocking the full view of the heritage building, now sans Chinese features. Our cultural heritage is at stake.
        

On the other side of the fly-over, head held high, stands the beauty spot of Kollam. It is the Clock Tower, built in memory of K.G Parameswaran Pillai, who was municipal Chairperson for 16 consecutive years since 1932.The clock on the four sides centrally regulated, the Tower had always been well kept. Then came into power leaders whose priority changed and the Clock Tower got disfigured with its base extended for small shops to sell magazines, fruits, lottery tickets and the like! Absolutely devoid of any aesthetic sense, they traded it for revenue. What a fall, my countrymen! Thankfully, after much hue and cry, the Tower freshly painted, clocks repaired, the saplings growing tall on its crown finally plucked away, the Clock Tower has evoked a happy smile in the senior citizens who ached for it. Alas, the base is still put to its commercial purpose!
        

The backwaters of Kollam used to be lined with Chinese fishing nets in the past. Due to industrial pollution, the fresh water fish is on the verge of extinction, causing this heritage to vanish in its wake!
        

The Royal family of Travancore had one of its palaces on the banks of the Ashtamudy Lake. The Palace with its grand interiors used to be the centre of attraction for many. When we ceased to be a princely state, the Government became the custodian of the Royal Palace. No wonder, it was quickly decided to utilize the building and its premises to house senior Govt. officers. What a utilitarian idea! The same is the fate of the British Residency. The bureaucracy cannot be expected to protect our heritage; they can think only in terms of utility.
        

There are a few of our heritage buildings still held in high esteem, such as, the Light House, the Malic Dinar Mosque, the Arch at Thakaserry, the Dutch Fort etc  to mention a few.
         

Woe unto thee for thy blindness to our heritage!

[LEELA MARY KOSHY]


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