4 comments on “Returning to My Fascination with Kerala (After the Deluge)

  1. Hey, Richard, Tom had just pinged me about you, and then here I read about Kerala. :) [I’ve asked Tom to send you my contact details. Or ping me on my blog and I’ll email you.]

  2. Hi, Anu. No word from Tom yet, but I got contact details for you during a conversation with Madhu on Facebook. :) I am not sure how I would ping you on your blog, because Dusqus doesn’t seem to like to accept my comments… Well, actually, I guess it would if I commented from the Google blogging address that I never use, but it keeps bouncing me away when I try to use this blog’s URL. (Actually, that was one of the reasons I was trying to reach you.)

    Anyway, good to see that you found this post. I will send an e-mail soon!

  3. Richard,
    Faiz, Manto, Noorjehan, Padmini, Travancore sisters, Kathak, Bharatnatyam, Sai sisters, Helen, Kuckoo, Azurie, Sitara Devi – after checking so many boxes, now Kerala. I can’t think of any other scholar who would have expert-level knowledge about so many things. I would look forward to your Kerala-posts.

    I have not done any intellectual study of Kerala – and I can say with certainty without any modesty that I am surely not a scholar. But I have some personal experiences of Kerala which might of interest to you. This reinforces that it is different from the rest of the country.

    1. Higher civil servants in the rest of India are used to ‘perks’ of office like cars, peons, protocol during their ‘tours’. This culture has long been unknown in Kerala. They are quite used to living like ‘commoners’.

    2. During a visit I was invited for lunch by an acquaintance. I offered some money to the driver, as I would do in the routine course in the other parts, so that he could have his lunch in the meanwhile. The driver steadfastly refused any money. My host briefed me that this was not the norm there, and the drivers on duty were expected to take care of their own meals. Offering money to the driver for lunch was not considered good form.

    3. During another trip, the driver would be engrossed in some English book during his waits. He was well educated, and reading habit mitigated the drudgery of wait.

    High literacy has created problems of unemployment and underemployment. The state does not have any industry of its own, nor much economic activity except tourism. Gulf is a major source of employment for Keralites. But the remittances from Gulf create their own distortion – most of it going into real estate, fancy homes, churches and mosques. Feverish construction has been a contributory cause for such ecological disasters.
    AK

    P.S. It was interesting to see that you too are facing problems in commenting on Anu’s blog. I have been off and on blocked out. She doesn’t have any solution to this.

  4. AK, thank you for the compliments about my being a scholar. I get involved in learning about certain subjects and I like to write about what I have learned, but I have never achieved any official status for my scholarship, especially nothing that pays. :) In fact, I am chronically underemployed, myself. I earned wages for a long time as a proofreader and have ventured briefly into publishing jobs (which I didn’t like), but the proofreading work changed from full-time to temp and freelance and now it is scarce. (The places where most people can earn wages in New York City as a proofreader are not exactly glamorous, either. Mostly, the work comes up at printers and law firms. The great advantage for me is that I could often work evenings or nights, which I much prefer. But the pickings have been slim, especially since the Great Recession. A lot of employers think proofreaders are obsolete now, though their computer programs haven’t replaced us as well as they might have thought they would.)

    I’ve earned bits here and there from writing, too, but these days, I really only get occasional old royalties for something written long ago. (I think there are some other bloggers we know who’ve fared better in this area.) These days, I satisfy my writing urge mainly by writing and posting all these things online – for which I am very happy to earn the appreciation of readers like you(!), but it’s not paying any bills.

    So, anyway, this is all to say… When anyone comments on underemployment anywhere (as you did regarding Kerala)…believe me, I know about that!

    The conditions of the United States are pretty well known, and I suspect that many people are becoming more aware of its negative aspects. Sure, lots of people can get extra perks and a bigger salary for certain things, but many others are left to struggle, with quite a few going homeless. I think that underemployment here is pretty much the norm for most of the population (the driver or clerk with a Ph.D. in humanities is almost a stereotype) and inequality has skyrocketed.

    (By the way, I first got heavily into classic Indian films when our Great Recession hit, partly because I could relate so well to the complaints of certain characters and their bleak social outlook. As I’ve said before, Shree 420 clinched it for me. There couldn’t have been a more perfect time to see it, either in terms of what was happening in the U.S. or what was happening in my own life.)

    Many people here who would prefer a more economically secure and humane existence look these days to Scandinavia.

    From what I have learned, sometimes I think of Kerala as the Scandinavia of India, but the social history of Kerala is much more interesting to me – as is much of the culture.

    I understand that Kerala is not perfect, and I know about the over-dependence on employment from the Gulf states. (Close to a decade ago, I saw a fine then-contemporary film that deals with all of the things we’ve mentioned – it is Arabikkatha (2007). I had no trouble finding it on DVD with English subtitles.) Nonetheless, at least looking at it from this distance, Kerala seems to have many desirable qualities.

    One problem I would have, though, is the climate. It’s not just concern about the floods, but I don’t really like hot weather in general. (For weather, I would probably be much happier in Scandinavia.) But I suppose that under the right circumstances, I could always push myself to adapt.

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