Sunday, August 26, 2007

Kerala This Week, Vol 5, August 2007

On behalf of the Save Kerala Initiative team and its supporters (or our "buddies who hang around and support each other blindly" as someone recently said), I would like to wish all of you a very happy and prosperous Onam.

The image of the week (on the top right) is from Trivandrum, near the Kanakakunnu Palace, where the famed illuminations occur every year. I was lucky enough to pass the road and catch a glimpse of the "lights" as they are known. Pretty much all of Kerala seems to be shopping for Onam and every road and shop is literally packed. So let me start with saying this: Kudos to the spirit in which Onam is celebrated by Keralites. Its nice to see that every family makes a sincere effort to celebrate this festival, irrespective of religion, caste or politics.

Now onto the less heartening stuff. On the same road, a little further I saw two girls on a kinetic honda casually overtake a maruti zen with 3 mallu youngsters in it. The car must have been moving at 40kmph until the girls overtook them. But as soon as they saw 2 "girls daring to overtake" them, their manhood literally got challenged I suppose. And then the youth were transformed into mad men. They almost ran down a few others and overtook the girls, and cornered their kinetic! Crazy! But this is a sight I have seen too commonly in Kerala.

I also observed another "usual thing". Men letching at anything female. It really irks you if you observe how some of the mallu men burn a hole through these women, and passing slimy comments. This is one of the most horrible and disgusting habits in malayali men in my opinion. I wonder how women survive in Kerala. I mean the average woman who does not have a car to escape these dogs, but has to travel in a bus and walk on the crowded roads. So my second kudos go to the women in Kerala. I also hope each one of you does what it takes to condemn such acts and behavior when you see it.

And another sight I observed today was even more shocking! Malayalis standing in a queue! God! That's one of the rarest sights you will ever see. I havent seen them stand in a line in banks, or cinema halls, or shops or..anywhere there is supposed to be a queue. Even in church they have to do a stampede, as though God will run away if they dont rush. But today, I saw almost over 50 malayali men stand in one long line, disciplined, quiet and looking very earnest. No points for guessing where: Kerala State Beverages Corporation Limited - Indian Made Foreign Liquor outlet. The queues were seen almost at every outlet they have - which is almost at every 1000 meters. Apparently the sales just during the Onam days is set to cross a record 80 crores this time!! And no wonder the roads were filled with drunken maniacs today, despite heavy presence of policemen. So once again I salute the women in Kerala. For working hard and looking after themselves, for caring and bring up their children, for earning enough so that their husbands can drink, and for doing all this despite the abuse and torture.

Since I do not want to go on about these things and spoil our Onam (will save the Kurivillas, Achuthanandans, mosquitoes, fever, antinuclear bandhs, and all such things for next week), heres once again wishing all of you a very special Onam. Let us all unite and work towards a better Kerala. Like they say, it has to begin at home.


quills said...

Happy Onam to all!

Like you pointed out, the festive spirit and celebratory mood prevalent in every house despite caste or creed is extremely heartwarming. Onam truly is a state festival.

Pity though, we continue to see the rowdy traits of some of our brethren even during this festive season. The sight you described about those girls being cornered by the Zen guys is so typical on our streets. Yeah ..I think it does pose a challenge to their manhood and inflated egos. I have faced this myself so many times that I have lost count. Wonder when and IF that will ever change. Certainly hope it will..although I am not counting on it. :|

silverine said...

A very Happy Onam to you too :) Hope this Onam will be a precursor to more happier times in Kerala.

abhishek said...

Happy Onam to all! It is a wonderful opportunity to be reminded of our roots and our unique blessings in belonging to Kerala. Here's to more prosperous Onams to come!

Anonymous said...

You could have reserved this blog for a some other day.. sad, and still worse i read it!

shruti said...

Happy Onam ! And also for acknowledging the truth along with wishes for a day whose history I might not be too familiar with but which definitley stands for truth , Justice , Equality and above all Humanity . It is the spirit in which you live and write that touches the spirit of others . Keep it up .

A said...

Kudos to you for having written a post that leaves the readers thinking about the 'state' of our state. I think Kerala has the worst record in terms of leeching at women. In fact, even foreigners are not spared. How disgusting! Actually,many of the women do not retaliate. And that's something I havent understood till now. Education is supposed to empower
people, and compared to other states a larger proportion of women in Kerala are literate. Yet I feel women in Kerala are
are the weakest as compared to their counterparts. I am not sure if I am correct on this count.

Digressing a bit, a curious question by one of my non-Keralite friends got me wondering. The question she asked is,Kerala places so much emphasis on education. Yet I find very few malayali girls pursuing higher education (post grad).How true! I think education of girls itself has a glass ceiling. It's not as if parents do not allow girls to pursue higher education, its just that they would rather not prefer it. After all, their education was just a means to increase
their value in the marriage market.Sadly, the girls themselves are content with this. So are all these statistics lies? On an
average, Keralites are more literate then the others. However, at the top you rarely find any of them. I just dont know why..

abhishek said...


You raise some valid points, but I don't believe women pursue higher education just for the sake of improving their "marriage-ability". The reason most women have historically pursued these options is that there has been very little historical stigma associated with these trends. It is though, questionable, as you have implied, if women are receiving a real education. But you can ask that same question of men as well in Kerala. I think education first and foremost begins at home.

And this is where Kerala fails on many fronts. We are a literate society but we are not a society that communicates. Our problems outside the house begin inside the home. When men are allowed to talk down to their women at home, they adopt the same behaviour outside. When women are talked down to, they either adopt a very submissive stance in general and suppress their individual opinions and independent thoughts or they react harshly to those under their supervision, namely their children.

Sexual harassment is rife in our colleges, as we all know and unfortunately for some of us, experience. When a girl is harassed, we ought to ask why do college authorities not react, but more importantly, how does this behaviour emerge at home? Even in this age, parents are the strongest influence in children's lives and I have seen many folks neglect that duty in terms of raising ethical values in their children. Many pay lip service to child-raising. Combine that with the fact many colleges pay lip service to education, and you have a group of unethical youths on the loose. The reality is that although nearly every man and woman is expected to marry and raise a family in our society, some of us aren't qualified in the least bit to do so.

Anonymous said...

@maverick: This is because retaliation is considered ahankaaram and the girl will be taught a lesson for 'acting smart'. No wonder women are scared to retaliate.
Our youth are infamous even outside Kerala. And you have to be an NRK to be privy to the kind of impressions the general public have about Malayalees!

A society that cannot defend it's women is a society of eunuchs!

quills said...

@anonymous: I agree absolutely with what you said.It's totally disgusting the way some of these idiots act, here or outside Kerala.

Another pet peeve of mine, is the way most Malayalam movies portray women. How many movies have female leads portraying strong, independent characters? Whether the heroine plays a high ranking official or a village belle, you can be sure at some point in the movie, the 'hero' will be given a chance to slap her into submission. Ofcourse, one slap is all that is needed for the heroine to completely change her opinions (and behaviour) and fall in love with the guy who just assaulted her. I am sure atleast some of the Malayali youth who idolize their reel life heroes learn a lot about treating women from these movies. :|

A said...

@quills of the common dialogues being ' A woman should know her place in the society'.or ' Learn to behave like a woman'. Mouth these dialogues and the theatre resonates with applause. I really dont expect women to dominate when they are constantly being drilled about their 'expected' behaviour.


What you said is true. Besides, if a woman does raise a hue and cry, few people come forward to her rescue. They brush it off as a 'routine' problem. Its not that women really need others' help, but this kind of indifference or downplaying makes them feel ashamed of retaliating.


I totally agree with you. It all starts at the home. Many a time parents tell their daughters 'Girls are not supposed to do that'. I think this problem is something everyone needs to be aware of. It tells us that education cannot solve all the problems. Some norms just dont change, they are so deeply entrenched that they are accepted unquestionably. What then is the solution?

abhishek said...


I could not agree with you more.

We don't hesitate to harass an actor for exercising his right to advertise an alcoholic beverage off screen but don't find anything wrong when actors physically beat up women on screen without comment. Pick up any Malayalam movie about family and invariably, the wife receives a slap from the husband if there's a disagreement. All is fair in love and war, it seems, and in our world, love and war are the same. There's scarcely a whisper from the Censor Board over the ethics of showing violence that is condoned.

That's not to say that violence isn't a part and parcel of cinema. But, there is always an implicit or explicit commentary that follows an act of violence in ethical cinema. Sadly, none of that can be found in our movies. Actors as famous as Mohanlal, Mamooty and Jayram have all acted out scenes of this ilk which are directed so as to condone slapping women. To those commentors who feel this issue is blown out of proportions, cinema reflects reality to a certain extent, and I would argue, influences reality to the extent it condones its evils.

abhishek said...


Many evils in this world exist precisely because those who know evil do nothing about it. Evil thrives on cowardice.

Till recently, I used to believe that some issues are just out of our grasp. But, lately I have been encountering peoples whose struggles surpass those issues in difficulty and yet, emerge victorious. This leads me to believe that the reason most, if not all, of our societal problems exist is precisely because those of us who know better do nothing.

For inspiration, let's take a look at CUSAT. It may be early to judge, but last month, CUSAT started a anti-ragging squad program to monitor the activities of freshers and seniors. I don't have details on whether students take part in these squads, but I believe that their participation would only improve the situation.

Let's look at the tradeoff faced by a fresher if he joins the anti-ragging squad.

Advantage: avoid potential humiliation.
Disadvantage: face potential ostracization from the "senior" ragging crowd.

Needless to say, a fresher's decision could go either way.

How about a senior who joins the anti-ragging squad?

Advantage: Goodwill, administrative backing and a more peaceful college
Disadvantage: Little to no social ostracization

The power to influence change rests precisely with those people who have little to lose. We have to design solutions to empower those people. If CUSAT targets senior students and rewards them for taking part in anti-ragging squads through commendations and letters of recommendation, we build on the incentives to force change.

A society progresses when it allows people to demonstrate leadership qualities including honesty, integrity and compassion and discourages character flaws including anger, depression and apathy.

shruti said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
shruti said...

@abhishek - All your comments seem to be well thought out and reflect a deeper maturity . The change perforce has to begin with ourselves . Look in and reach out should be our motto .
Each of us needs to understand ourselves better and hlep make society a better place . By god's grace each of us has been given the inbuild ability to adapt to change and hence hope is never lost and even the worst situations can be turned around if we decide to act .

Anonymous said...

I am born and brought up in India and moved to the US several years ago. I am still a Malayalee at heart. Therefore I have spent a life time analyzing Malayalee habits. I fully agree with your observations regarding the ego our men suffer from. I believe this is because, due to our very conservative upbringing, our society does not encourage a better integration of boys and girls at teen-age years. This leads to growing up without developing a healthy respect of the other sex.

I hope the future generations will be different ...

Anonymous said...

Please see women as sisters except in the case of wife and mother .. Even I am a mallu..according to the national anthem of kerala,every mallu is sister and brother.See the relationship.Onam the national festival of kerala,When kerala became a part of India,Onam became the international festival.Even mallu allover the world are coming to kerala to see trivandrum and lightings which is not seen in any part of the world.Women in kerala are sisters , daughters of men in kerala.A sister might be a daughter of her father.But there are sisters and fathers who dont have blood relationship.I saw them in a church at trivandrum.There are people who says bad abt trivandrum girls.I have somany girlfriends in trivandrum.They can love more than one at a time , which normally others can't do..such a big heart people,you will never find else where....
dont ever try to say soemthing abt mally guys..

Terms of Use and Disclaimer