Monday, September 11, 2006

Kerala today: the home away from home

I wrote an essay for a competition in Kochi when I was nine. The topic was “My Home is my Heaven”. I won and I like to think it was because of my writing skills. But the truth of the matter is that it was an issue near and dear to my heart. Many expats have a very keen sense of what their home is and my family is no different. At home, my parents insisted that we speak Malayalam, irrespective of the fact that we lived in Germany. In hindsight, this was of great comfort to my brother and me, because the trials and tribulations of learning English and German in a completely new school cannot be understated. I had a very strong sense that my home lay at the nexus of my family and my culture and coming home from school was probably the best part of my day, just because it felt familiar. But I wonder how many of us romanticize our culture and ignore the society that hurts that culture.

“God’s own land”, a popular characterization of Kerala, is a misnomer. If God were to be reborn today in Kerala, he would grow up to either work as a government sector employee or migrate abroad to work. Migration is perhaps too harsh a word, since a large number of Malayalees work just outside the state border. In any case, God would visit Kerala once every year, meet his hypothetical family and return to work after a few weeks of some well-deserved rest. Because Kerala is the home away from home for most working Malayalees.

Our society is ailing and I can see the symptoms. With the exception of my parents and brother, most of my family lives in India. So that makes for a busy itenerary every time I go home. Every year I visit my relatives, I find their homes growing emptier and emptier. This is the normal course for nuclear families, but in most societies, nuclear families move away from their parent homes, much like birds growing out of their nests. What I see is a carving out, where the breadwinner in the family works for long periods away from their homes. This has bred the lack of role models and a stagnant culture in Keralian society. Today, the politics of our state are ruled by people whose vested interests lie in perpetuating the very conditions we should alleviate. We have generated a vicious circle of debt in our state that if left unchecked, could pose much more serious social problems than those that face us today. We have earned the label of a “consumer state” but underrate its implications for our generation and those to come.

The imperative to act lies on all of us, because the actions needed are both big and small. Malayalees, expats and residents, must push for reforms. So, let’s begin by forming a common agenda. Each week, I am going to highlight what I view as a particular problem with Kerala. And I am going to propose a solution. The nonsense carried on in our state in the name of politics is disheartening, but we should not underestimate the power of the word: the ability to bring people with common interests to organize to do good.

Next Topic >>
Bandhs and Hartals: the absence of a work culture in Kerala

11 Comments:

Blogger Babin said...

Let me be the first to comment on your blog. It is really Great initiative Abishek. Hopefully, we can come up with practical ideas to reform kerala and really push those ideas in the state. lets be very ambitious for keralam.

9/11/2006 8:51 PM  
Anonymous Abhilash Nair said...

Much of what you say is absolutely true... each time we go back 'home', it not only becomes harder but also a lot lonelier. I like your commentary and your vision but I only hope that many more share your heart because right now you are a very small part of the population that sees any problem and even a smaller part of the population that feels like anything needs to be done!

9/14/2006 6:05 PM  
Blogger abhishek said...

Thanks Babin and Abhilash for your support. I agree that we are in the minority now. But, reform is not new to Kerala...or as Srinivisan was fond of saying in Sandesam, "Viplavam njangalka putthariyalla". Kerala needs a revolution now...a silent revolution, albet, but a revolution nevertheless.

9/15/2006 12:56 PM  
Blogger Rajiv Nair said...

Keep it up man. Let us hope for a better future and work for it.

11/05/2006 6:41 AM  
Blogger roshraw said...

i have one thing to ask you my friend would you ever come to kerala and make it your home. stay work live. not like your grand parents are from Kerala HOME

9/16/2007 7:50 PM  
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