Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas, Kerala, Fate et al

This is supposed to be the most literate state in the country. This is also the state where every kid is expected to become an engineer. Then why, pray, why, does one have to travel by bus/rick or car (if one's dad is willing to be generous and give one a lift) for fifteen minutes to find a cyber cafe, that charges an atrocious 40 bucks an hour for painfully slow internet access?? One has already established that it is a cruel world that one lives in. But one wonders what one must have done in one's previous birth to warrant such a fate--that after having persuaded one's father to be generous, one travels for that aforsaid fifteen minutes, and waits in the cyber cafe for another ten minutes and then tries to open the word doc that one had saved in a cd (because one's pen drive has been busted thanks to the virus colonies that inhabit one's university computers, one finds that the painfully slow computer is refusing to read the cd for some unfathomable reason. Sigh! Now one is thoroughly depressed. When one is on a holiday, happily gainly pounds that one will later regret eating all the yummy food that one's mother is grudgingly making, that is indeed a sad state to be.

But one takes heart, and resolves not to lose faith. Instead, one is painfully re-typing the entire post, hoping one'e readers(all 3 of them) will appreciate the toil one took. So here is the thrid installment of the much popular and critically acclaimed(one does have a sense of humour) U-Know-U-Are-In-Kerala-When-series

Even after all these years, this place still doesn’t stop amusing me. Well, this time around since I am here for one long month, (which is the longest I’ve been here since I left Kerala nearly eight years back) and since I’ve done some heavy travelling, here are a few more things to add to my now pretty strong list of what makes this place a piece of work.

The previous post in the newly born trilogy here and here.

U know U are in Kerala Yet Again When...

Most new houses will be painted in varying shades of peach on the outside. I’m not sure if there is a scientific or religious basis for this curious affinity for this particular colour. Or is it just that they think it matches with the fake tiles painted on the roof? Older houses still experimented with double colours-yellow and green, yellow and blue, yellow and brown. Equally funny is the way they use those one sided mirrors for the windows that face the front of the house. The point being??

While we are on the subject of paint and houses, people do not believe in re-painting the house since its construction and the moving in, no matter how many rains fall since. The only reason someone will give their weather-beaten walls a new coat of paint is when they are planning to sell, or when there’s a marriage scheduled in the house. To be sure, when we visited some relatives recently, my uncle saw the newly painted walls and exclaimed, “Wonder why they got the house painted, I thought all his children were married!”

Largest and the most frequent billboards on the road are of two categories: silk saree showrooms (Kalyan Silks, Asia’s largest silk saree showroom!) or gold jewellery (Allapad, house of gold, or Bhima gold, Pure Gold!).

You don’t see a single woman who’s attire will have even a hint of nonchalance or carelessness. Mallu women do not, just do not know what it is to dress casually. Their sarees will be all draped with sever neatness, the pallu pleated and pinned up. No casually throwing their duppattas for them, even that will be neatly folded and pinned up. (I cannot for the life of me manage a duppatta with half the primness and ease that these girls manage, and I hate pinning it all up, ‘cause I end up tearing it, so I’m all awe!)

There are no roads. Mostly they are potholes strung together with some tar. Even the most used, and big ones are at best a jigsaw of patch work strung together. Considering it’s a state that prefers road over rail any day, wonder why the roads are not any better. Not that good roads do not exist. They do, till the next monsoon.

You realise that the traffic authorities and the PWD are not only extremely concerned about your safety on the road, but also have a sense of humour. And thus are born the extremely entertaining words of friendly warning on the road-side signboards. The good old, “Speed thrills but kills” and “Don’t drink and drive” are passé, they are now making way for new age entertainment, for instance, “Overtakers beware of undertakers” “Better to be late than be the late”. My favourite? “Speed has five letters. So has death.” I kid you not, this was an actual signboard by the road. I’m sure most of these accidents happen because the drivers were banging their head on the steering wheel with laughter and hence didn’t see the bus coming right at them! Seriously!!

For some unfathomable reason there are HUGE furniture “Showrooms” (I think after coconut and umbrella, “showroom” is the most favourite word of Malayalees) on the highway. On our way back from Thrichur to Kottayam, we drove for over an hour looking for a decent place to eat (meaning a place that actually serves food, and not beer, and some chow to go with it). We had tough luck finding a restaurant, but saw nearly 4 furniture shops. How they expect to break even, let alone make profit in the middle of nowhere be way beyond my meagre understanding of the Malayalee psyche.

You ask for directions on the road and you get not only the accurate directions, but also how many kilometers away the place is, and how long it will take you to get there given your driving skills! Honestly, you don't need road signs, people are quit enough.

With that, I think I'm going to give this series a rest. I've never really been good with list anyways. The good folks at Merc think that lists are a desperate effort by humans to make order out of chaos. Since I've always made desperate efforts to keep any sembelence of order OUT of my life, I think its good. So, hope you enjoy this last edition of this trilogy.

Toodles, and Merry Christmas folks!