Pitched by the KTDC
as “God’s own country” the southern state of Kerala
, tucked away in a corner of India, is a unique blend of breath taking scenic beauty, rare left leanings among its people, highest influx of foreign exchange in the country (mostly from “mallus” in the middle east), highest rate of suicide in India, very high consumption of liquor among its residents and potentially high rate of domestic violence, highest rate of literacy in India, etc.
Here is a quick dump of news from the state. None of these have been necessarily fact checked, some of it is hearsay, some of it is mere conjecture/inference, all from a very brief trip to God’s own country.
1. A new Chief Minister (Ooman Chandy) replaced AK Antony, but is struggling to stay afloat. Plenty of opposition within the ruling UDF, as always. All those dropped from the new ministry are waiting by the sidelines to destroy the new govt. There is not a day when someone does not call for the CM’s resignation.
2. The erstwhile Congress leader M. Karunakaran has launched a new party, National Cong (Indira) while still technically remaining in the Congress! He installed his son, Muralidharan as the party leader! Some Congressman said in jest that he should have named his party “Kundumba Congress (meaning “family Congress”). Ironically, he has spent a better part of his 86 years fighting the Communists, and yet finds himself fishing for political favors from them!
If there is one thing the veteran Congress leader can claim from his long political career (“I could have been PM“), it is about consistency. He has consistently opposed the Kerala Chief Minister (even if the CM were from his own party!) as long as he himself does not hold the post! Now this golden rule has been extended to the next generation, his kids. Now, as long as his son and daughter are not in plum political posts, his infamous “oppose everything” strategy will be in place. The Kerala electorate has been smart and tossed both the Karunakaran kids to the defeated list of political waanabees. Yet, Daddy steps in to the rescue and keeps them in the limelight. One more defeat at the polls and the damage can be irreversible.
3. The Communists meanwhile are just counting days before they return to power. Kerala electorate has a unique electoral strategy — every election the opposition is voted to power! Going by this as well as the fact that the Congress and its UDF are falling apart, the popular opinion appears to be that the CPM will be back in power soon. With the passing away of CPM veteran E.K Nayanar and other political happenings, it appears as though Pinarayi Vijayan is the front-runner for the CM’s post.
4. Hartal/Bandh (“strikes”) when life comes to a standstill at the tax payers expense, are very common even to this day.
1. The Movie business appears to have slumped. Its no longer a good business proposition, apparently. Several theatres have closed down. The number of film releases have dropped. Former big stars like Mohanlal and Mamooty come out with only a couple of movies each year. Dileep apparently is the box office favorite.
2. Udhayananu Tharam, a new film, is a movie worth watch (starring Mohanlal, Sreenivasan, Meena).
3. “Dapaan kuthu” was/is very popular in Tamil Nadu. Kerala has been hit by a Dapaan kuthu storm in the recent past thanks to a hit song by a certain Jessie Gift. Every movie has one now.
4. Unlike in the past, when mallu (slang for “malayalam” the language of Kerala) movies had a distinctive style of their own (realistic, easy paced, no pressure to have songs, unnecessary fights, minimal song and dance, focus on acting more than the actor), these days Mallu movies have started to ape the conventional Tamil, Hindi, Telugu movies. Song and dance sequences infested with extras, hereos and heroines gyrating to noisy music, these were alien to mallu films. Not any more. Unfortunately, they do such a poor job of it, its pretty pathetic to watch. The realistic aspect of Mallu movies appears to have been lost. Barring the occasional good film, the standard stuff is similar to other regional trash.
1. As a part of an e-governance initiative the govt has setup a comptuerised center in TVM (and possibly other cities) with extended work hours where citizens can stop by and pay any bill – telephone, electricity etc. (I think the center is called “Friends”).
2. The govt buses have done away with conventional tickets. The bus conductor carries a devices where he punches in the value of your ticket and out comes a print out, Viola!
3. The mall culture that has stormed the major Indian cities and the up and coming ones (like Gurgaon) has yet to hit Kerala.
4. Bookstores are so few in TVM, the capital city. One local said to me that the local public libraries are pretty good. Anyone who loves to read goes there. No one buys books!
The popularity of cricket has grown significantly. Mostly at the expense of soccer. Fields where one could always watch soccer being played have now been replaced by cricket. Soccer meanwhile has become a part time affair. Tinu Yohanan the local cricketer who made it to the Indian team appears to have vanished from the national scene. He still appears for the state Ranji team.
1. There is a proposal (championed by Dr. M.K Muneer, Minister of Works) to develop an extended freeway connecting the entire state of Kerala. Personally, I think this is a plan worth implementing and it will do wonders to the state and its economy and give it a huge advantage over its neighboring states. Unfortunately, there appears to be severe opposition (“the road will divide the state into two” and other compliants) to this plan. With the current govt floundering, this plan may fall by the wayside.
2. Power outages are very common unfortunately.
3. Broadband connections to homes has improved significantly. Wireless phone service to homes combined with wireless internet service has started to take off. Here is how it works. You get a wireless telephone device (very much like a regular phone rather than a cell phone) which you keep at home and use like you would regular phone. You can hook up your computer to it and connect wireless to the Internet. They claim speeds of up to 112 Kbps. Tata Indicomm and Reliance are the two competing services.