Kerala: Veritable, verdant, violent
Surely God Himself made Kerala. And this is not because we call Kerala ‘God’s own country’ but the place is really great to look at. More so when it rains. And boy does it rain!When god made Kerala, He had his kicks too. Can’t blame Him as any kind of mesmerising beauty gets boring after a while. So He decided to people it with a complicated lot. An agitated army of a really intelligent bunch frustrated on many fronts – political, economic, religious, sexual. I say this for I am one of them. He also made us the most educated tribe in the whole country. What if this ‘education’ stops with being barely able to scribble unintelligibly more than our own names, we are still a proud lot. We love our fish, our beef, our booze and women. We love the poor and we strive for equality the best we can. After all, we voted to power the first democratically elected communist government in the whole world! Yes, we love our anomalies too. So, when you see a landscape of shimmering lustrous green, little would you know that simmering beneath is a thousand Wasseypurs. But that is a different story. My trip to Kerala, this time too, was a harried one. After all, when you are only visiting your own hometown, the place you wanted to leave soon as you grew up, it is still the place you want to leave as soon as you can. Doesn’t really matter your folks are there. Or the old Chetak scooter where you learnt riding is rotting. Very subtly – you want to believe – you convince your parents that you are doing well in life because you opted out and you do some restoration work on the jammed motor bringing it to spurting life and you are good to go. Now, what can hold you back a bit longer is what is bringing you back; like last year when my mother had a medical emergency. Or who you are bringing with you; I had my wife with me this time who, strangely, missed the place more than me. She wasn’t born here. But she assured me that it was good enough that I was. So we took a quick spin through the numerous hair pins that curved towards Thekkady, a tiger sanctuary in the high altitude Idukki district, from the airport and commerce hub of Kochi. From Thekkady, we followed the route that wound its way through many tea plantations carpeting the hillsides till we reached the plains of Kottayam district and eventually Pala where my tharavadu or ancestral home was. Now, calling Kerala green would be as obvious as saying Paris is fashionable or Hauz Khas, arty. But when it comes to on-your-face kind of beauty, certain clichés are inevitable. We drove on a rainy day vipers whooshing out buckets of water from the windscreen through glistening cerulean roads that threaded rain-washed ravines and gushing gulches. There were proper tarns right in the middle of the roads that you realise with a smile could be passed off for an extension of the bucolic settings. As I slowed down to ease into one of the deeper ones, the angry ululation of a private bus honking bombarded me. Like a scene from Midtown Madness, the bus swayed past me only to surge to an abrupt halt a few metres ahead of me in front of a ‘waiting shed’ donated by the rotary club. I dawdled past him only to be overtaken again at breakneck speeds to the accompaniment of blaring horns and coming to a stop again, this time smack in the middle of the road; there were no waiting sheds, sponsored or otherwise, anywhere in sight. The sequence was put on loop till I convinced myself that my bladder needed to be relieved. Save for such minor glitches, the magnificent moraines with serried tea plantations undulated towards both the sides of the road. There were tea pickers who waddled about, like moving mounds of plastic, pruning the buds. The air was so clear we saw chrysalis fluttering about merrily, following us for brief distances. As we passed by a moss-laden bluff that jutted out on to the road, we espied a pair of legs that struck out almost to the road. Thinking that somebody might have slipped and fallen, we stopped the car when a tea picker who was a little distance away hollered out to us that the guy was just drunk. I felt like god did when He was creating Kerala – the lovely sights were getting a bit repetitive.
***“Could you please share some tips on job options other than a teacher, engineer or doctor to my students?” It was my very good old friend who taught at a local school. There couldn’t be a better candidate for the job as coming from a family of teachers, I had made communication my business.
It was this request which found me talking to some very bright twelfth class students the next day. It was also the closest I ever got to be a teacher – both my parents taught college as does three out of my four sisters. Taking a cue from my folks whom I had seen preparing for a lecture the next day, I also did a spot of my own homework the previous evening and zeroing in on ‘if you love the work you do, you won’t have to work a single day of your life’ as the basic premise of my teachings. And so I began my class by writing this on the blackboard. Before I finished my sentence, I had broken the chalk a dozen times. The guffawing students were silenced with a severe look from my friend.
“I am glad I didn’t become a teacher.” I said honestly.
This time everybody including my stern teacher friend laughed.I frankly don’t know how my ‘class’ went down with the students that day. But I sure did get some pertinent questions which showed that the kids were more aware of the world of career options that was opening up before them today much more than I was when I was their age. But changing mindsets does not happen overnight. However, I would like to thank my long-time buddy Sudheesh Plathottam for giving me this wonderful opportunity. For more stuff on this guy, search for his surname on Youtube. Chappie does a lot of stuff besides teaching, like breeding rare honeybees and winning the state government’s ‘best farmer’ award.