Unity in 'diversity'....

'Unity in Diversity' is one statement we Indian's often quote to explain the greatness of our country in simple terms. Our country is certainly diverse with a wide range of languages and cultures, stratified religions and what not. But this post is not intended to glorify India further, but is aimed at a few interesting "united we stand" tidbits from Kerala. Kerala is one tiny piece of land hanging precariously down along Peninsular India. With perhaps the largest per.sq.km population, Kerala is one helluva populous state.

While, officially, Kerala has only one state language - "Malayalam" (Note: not "Malyalam" or "Malyalee"), the actual form of the language used takes different form, so much enough for each of them being labelled a 'dialect'. Although all the strings of words spoken by common men in Kerala is called "Malayalam", there is a wide variety of "malayalams" used in Kerala. Starting from Kasaragod up in the North, the words used change dramatically and by the time one reaches Trivandrum down in the South, most words would've acquired exactly opposite meaning. Often words commonly used in the Northern Districts of Kerala (commonly referred to as "Malabar") are taboo down in the South, especially in the erstwhile Travancore kingdom.

While each Malayalee speaks his own Malayalam, we (oh! Me too a Malayalee) are united in the following... Malayalees have this love for spending more time at home than at office - thanks to the ever present Harthals. We are ready to strike work for any non-issue - so much that we struck work when Saddam Hussein was hanged! What does the hanging of this person got to do with Kerala? In one recent movie directed by the legendary family movie director Sathyan Anthikad, the protagonist mocks fun of a harthal called in Kerala to protest the "Cauvery river agreement between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu"!!! While that might seem too unrealistic, things turn very real here in Kerala!

Malayalees are very united in working to rulebooks! Any daily wage labourer will report to work only at 9 AM, and will wind up work not later than 5 PM. This includes a tea break from 10 AM to 11 AM, a lunch break from 12.00 to 2.00 PM and another tea break from 3.00 PM to 4.00PM. These breaks are in addition to the breaks to smoke and to untie-and-retie the lungi! All this for a daily wage of close to Rs. 400 now! And, they wouldn't work for more than two days at a stretch - coz they would be sick by the third day! They would not work on Sundays or Second-Saturdays.

Malayalees are very united at queuing up... no prizes for guess where do 'they' queue up! If you guessed "Railway station" or "Bus stop/station" or "Bill counters" or "Bank", you got it all wrong. We take pride in queuing up outside the nearest "Beverages" outlet. IMFL (or Indian Made Foreign Liquor) is sold by retail only through outlets owned by the Government of Kerala (Kerala State Beverages Corporation, ConsumerFed, etc). Therefore, its very essential to queue up if you want to buy a bottle to drink at home (or any place other than a bar). We take pride in waiting with utmost discipline in such queues until eternity to get our 'righteous' share. The pride goes to such levels that there is often competition between taluks to get the first price in consumption of liquor! Recent studies have shown than the average per capita liquor consumption of the state is a whopping 8.3 litres, equal to that of the US! Its not shocking that over 40% of Kerala's budget revenue comes from sale of Liquor! While the government spends money through its nose for treating people with Alcohol related diseases, its earning happily through the very sale of Liquor! (I'll leave this rant here... a special post would come up on this topic later)

North or South, we pay the same price! Go North or South in Kerala, most food items would have the same price. A Parippuvada (a fried snack made of lentils) would cost Rs. 3.50 any where in Kerala (not sure if the cost has increased recently following the exponential increase in cost of input), while a Tea would cost between Rs. 4 and 5 anywhere in Kerala. Same is the case with all food items. The prices get jacked up prior to a festival or an important event.

We all believe in using a single brand! Quite literally! When it comes to any product, Malayalees prefer purchasing a single brand. Come to Kerala, you'll see one particular maker of household products outsells its nearest competition by exponential margins, while you would see a particular model of car in a particular colour selling the most! One such example is "Pigeon" brands of Gas Stoves, and the humble Maruti Suzuki WagonR! We have the same preference for newspapers as well!

We do not argue! Malayalees believe in peace (perhaps a reason why we all wear White Dhoties!). We don't argue on trivial issues - we only argue on major issues like "was it fair on the US's part to bomb Iraq" or whether "north korea and south korea should settle their disputes". We don't argue on trivial issues like "maintenance of roads in Kerala" - but we are concerned about the poor state of roads in Kashmir (is it?). We will not argue on whether the bus fares in Kerala should be raised or lowered, but we are certainly annoyed that BMTC charges a minimum fare of Rs. 10 for their Volvos!

We don't bother meeting a doctor if we are sick - we know better than Doctors on what drugs to take! Have fever? Take an Aspirin or a Meftal Forte Tablets along with any antibiotic you like - never bother about doses. Afterall, we know better than Doctors/Pharmacists, right? Meet a Doctor only after you are unable to walk or you slip into a coma. So much that toddy (palm liquor) sellers recently discovered that adding "Diazepam tablets" along with Ethanol provides the much needed "kick" to drinkers!

Despite all diversities, we are all united, as Malayalees. Recently a mail forwarded by a friend claimed that the word "Mallu" (a phrase commonly used to refer to Malayalees) means "monkey" in Hindi according to the Oxford Hindi-English Dictionary. Although that mail had by blood boiling initially, a lot of calm thinking led me to the conclusion that the term matches the common Malayalee mentality - of that of a Monkey. We never stick to one thought - but keep jumping from one thought to the other!

This post was not intended to hurt any Malayalee (or any reader for that matter). This post is to be taken with loads of salt and intended to be taken light heartedly. I apologise in advance this post in whole or parts thereof is hurting any reader.


Unknown said…
That was a pretty interesting take on Malayalis. Despite all the diversity we see in different parts of the state, you cannot deny that there is an innate sense of pride in exclaiming that we're Malayalis from Kerala.