The 10th birthday of The Hindu MetroPlus, Kochi, was a time to meet, renew and forge friendships, with food and music thrown in

December 11, 2000: The first issue of MetroPlus Kochi is out. The stories are all from Kochi VIPs and the issue is made in Thiruvananthapuram, as there is no desk in Kochi and one person has just joined in Metro. From the next issue, the stories are all from this one person and an army of freelance writers, on food, people, society, as the masthead said. It is the first lifestyle section in a main paper, English or vernacular.

We get on and celebrate the first anniversary, in December 2001, with the freelance writers in Sri Krishna Inn, it is a Dutch treat! Nevertheless, we celebrate with great happiness.

December 21, 2010: The scene has changed. Four persons man (we can't say ‘person' the metro, can we?) the MetroPlus, planning, writing, subbing and making the pages. Ten years of hard work and growth on several fronts have changed the face of MetroPlus, which the readers have accepted wholeheartedly. We have come a long way, in the number of issues too.

The venue is The Gateway Hotel (Taj Residency) and the audience, all those who have cooperated so far in bringing out The Hindu MetroPlus. An informal function, ten speakers from different fields spoke on what the MetroPlus meant to them and a birthday cake was cut. There was music and food too.

Mukund Padmanabhan, Sr.Associate Editor, The Hindu, said that the Kochi centre's MetroPlus always continued to surprise him with good stories and excellent photographs! He in fact holds up the edition, at editorial meetings, many times, as an example of high quality good team work. Every centre is independent and it is stuff as heritage, food and fashion, besides exclusive stories on interesting people from all walks of life. He said more such products can be expected from The Hindu stable shortly.

The ten speakers, beginning from T. Damu, vice-president Indian Hotels, Pvt. Ltd. to Jithin Chacko Nedumala, young co-founder of Make A Difference, an organisation that helps underprivileged children better empowered in terms of English language skills all over the country, spoke about how MetroPlus really makes a difference. The other speakers were Ranji Panikkar, movie scenarist-director, Leela Menon, veteran journalist and women's issues writer, Sreevalsan J. Menon, singer-music director, Deepak Aswani, businessman, Olympian Ambika Radhika, fashion designer Hari Anand, veteran artist M. V. Devan and terracotta artist V. K. Jayan.

Now for the musical part of the celebration. Songs that were knowingly and unknowingly part of our lives these ten years, hits from Malayalam and Tamil, were sung by seven wonderful singers, backed by an efficient six-member orchestra group.

Playback singers Madhu Balakrishnan, Afsal, Ganesh Sundaram, Vijesh Gopal, Pradeep Palluruthy, Elizabeth Raju and Sangeetha Prabhu got on stage for a rocking first song that set the tone for the rest of the show.

‘Aadi usha sandhya…' from ‘Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja.' For an hour these singers regaled the packed Taj Gateway Hall with an eclectic mix of songs.

And with the ‘guest appearance' of Mohammed Azad, the city's own Mohammed Rafi, the show moved to a different plane. A memorable oldie from ‘Dosti' must have sure sent a lot in the audience on a nostalgic trip.

And long after the show was over the Madhu-Elizabeth duet ‘Konchaneram konchumneram,' the soft, silken ‘Nenjukul peythidum…' by the versatile Afsal, Sangeetha's ‘Kalabham tharam,' the haunting ‘Amma mazhakarinnu…' by Ganesh, the peppy-melody ‘Ramzan nilavathe…' by Vijesh and Pradeep's signature ‘adipoli' numbers like ‘Paandimelam…' lingered long.

If there is good food and better company around, chances are that a singer belting out golden oldies would largely be ignored, but not so for singer Justine Fernandes.

As Justine sang those good old and not-so old melodious English pop numbers, he had the ears and the full attention of listeners. So it was a good combination of good food and wonderful music. Some folks even made requests for songs and encores. Some were trying to sing along with the talented Justine.

‘You look wonderful tonight', ‘Another Day in Paradise', ‘Words are all I have…' are just some. Singers Afsal and Madhu Balakrishnan were seen enjoying.

To record a ten year journey in the form of a tenth anniversary issue and a function is a hard task and memory may play truant at times. That was clearly understood by Sunil Naliyath, freelance writer who sat quietly among the audience, knowing that his column called Campus Hangout, which came out regularly, without missing a single time for full two years, covering the entire campus fraternity, was omitted. A big mea culpa to him! And yes, we forgot all about Memories of Kochi too! Next time, we'll have better luck, one hopes.

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