I haven’t mentioned this before, but if and when I ever make my trip to India, I’d like my first stop to be Kerala, a state in southern India that’s fascinated me for a while. Some people might wonder what’s so interesting about Kerala? (especially if you are from Kerala, no doubt). Well, I can think of a few things:
1. The social systems – Years ago, I was very interested in social-political “models” around the world. (I suppose I should have become some kind of academic, but that didn’t happen – oh, well.) And I read a bunch of stuff about the social systems in Kerala; i.e., how in this state there developed a kind of decentralized, democratic socialism that didn’t exist in much of the world. The first, and most interesting, thing that I learned about regarding Kerala was the famously egalitarian bidi rolling coops, as discussed in a paper from Drs. Richard W. Franke and Barbara H. Chasin, which I first saw at an event in 1997 called the Socialist Scholars Conference. (Although – incidentally – I hope that nobody reaches any conclusions about me based on the fact that I went to an event with that name. I can assure all the readers out there that I am not a scholar!) I’ve been meaning to get back to Franke and Chasin’s work, because it still looks very interesting to me. I also read a book called Kerala: The Development Experience, edited by Govinda Parayil. This book dicusses, very informatively, how and why (to quote the back cover) “Kerala’s 30 million people” who “may not have experienced rapid growth in GDP” had nonetheless “for the past several decades, achieved a remarkable social record in terms of adult lieracy, infant mortality, life expectancy, stabilizing population growth, and narrowing gender and spatial gaps.” I’ve heard that some of Kerala’s economically egalitarian tendencies have been challenged in more recent years, due to pressures of globalization. Additionally, there are some fairly negative things about the place, such as the old caste system (dramatized extensively in the novel I that I’m listing next) and communal violence (which might be on the upswing). But its recent history still probably makes for a very interesting study, at least for those of us interested in such things. In any event, I’d love to hear more sometime regarding these social systems and how they’re functioning in Kerala these days.
2. The God of Small Things – I’ve always thought Arundhati Roy’s novel was her best work (at least that I’ve read). I mean, all the power to her in fighting the good fight in her political writings, but I wish she’d finish that next novel arleady…
3. Scenery - This nice video below (made by someone calling herself Ukiahhaiku, aka Elizabeth from Sweden) shows some of the beautiful scenery of the place. (By the way, I stumbled upon it because it was also (somewhat deceptively) called The God of Small Things.) I’ve seen films and videos made in Kerala before, and the place always looks so beautiful (though it must be awfully hot there sometimes). And I think a lot of films and videos that are at least implicitly supposed to be taking place in Sri Lanka were shot in Kerala. Was M.I.A.’s video for “Sunshowers” shot there? (I’ve had a very difficult time finding an answer to that.)
4. Padmini – Kerala’s pride, as I understand – she was quite something, wasn’t she?
[Note written years later: This is Padmini and Ragini in the Tamil movie Uthama Puthiran. There have been a number of Padmini clips that I've put up here since I wrote this post. They keep disappearing, but every once in a while I revisit this post, so I keep replacing them.]