The Road To Nowhere
- Sivaram Srikandath
Story Dated: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 17:35 hrs IST
Bob Morris is a writer whose novels and columns I enjoy reading. He is a person possessed of a wry sense of humour, and who, like that other great Floridian master of black comedy, Carl Hiaasen, has made writing about the strange and twisted foibles of his home state a pet hobby, his writer's schtik, if you will As he says, "Florida is my stock and trade. Just when the well seems as if it might dry up and there's nothing left to write about, then Florida always comes through."
I guess our home state of Kerala, is in the same league as Florida in this regard. There is always something to write about, and the well never runs dry. Be it the dangerously fascist shenanigans of the Left Brigade; the ridiculously tragi-comic antics of the constituents of the UDF; the perennial stick-in-the-mud posturing of the environmentalist jholah-wallahs; the never ending scandals provided by the Church and the Dewaswom; the subversive threats from fundamentalists of all colours; a highly talked about progressive society in God's own Country that compares well with European countries matters like the Human Development Index, literacy rate, life expectancy; the constant carping by public intellectuals over anything and everything; a work force that would rather get a few bucks as "nokku kooli" than earn an honest day's wages; the annual tamasha of a month long strike by one or the other of warring film fraternities; a general public that looks forward with gleeful anticipation to strikes and hartals as godsend holidays to indulge in yet more boozing - the list is as endless as it is surreal.
And during a dull week, there are always a few old dead horses that can be flogged back to life - Mullaperiyar, Sister Abhaya, Palmolein, Sabarimala Tantri, Lavalin etc. They are all
grist for the ever grinding mill.
But when it comes to the issue of Kerala forging ahead as an investment destination, we seem to be forever mired in a state of stasis. Just recall the news headlines for the past few weeks. They have all been about the Pandora's box of controversies thrown open by the impending Emerging Kerala Meet. On the one hand, the mandarins behind the event seem to have no clue as to the real purpose of the conclave - is it to really attract investment to our state, is it to allegedly favour a particular political constituent of the UDF, or is it simply window dressing to gain some political brownie points? On the other hand, the public, including the political opposition of the state as well as the intellectual class seem hell bent on derailing whatever little chance of success the efforts of the Government have. The Kerala Shastra Sahitya Parishad, the standard bearer for the environmentalist platoon in the state even held an alternate meet in Thrissur last Saturday to express their concern and to voice their protest over the manner in which the Government was handling the matter.
Of course, it is only natural to be sceptical about the Government's intentions. A similar effort, the Global Investment Meet, came and went in 1993. The then Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee who inaugurated the do said that he looked forward to Kochi creating as "much business nationally and globally as Bangalore and Hyderabad have done in recent years." And what was the result? A number of fancy projects were talked about. All sound and fury, for nothing significant happened except for a Smart City that is finally limping into existence in 2012.
And now, it is the time for Emerging Kerala. 2500 delegates form over 52 countries; a number of Union Ministers including the Prime Minister Manmohan SIngh who will inaugurate the event; an A list of head honchos from Corporate India; and several business sessions planned over a three day period. A well meaning Chief Minister, Oommen Chandy is quite gung ho and optimistic about the meet and talks about it having the "potential to change the industrial landscape of Kerala; eventually heralding a refreshing industrial culture."
Now, I am not being cynical But, a refreshing industrial culture? And that too in Kerala? Indeed, if only wishes were horses! I for one am convinced that nothing is going to change in Kerala for the simple reason that we as a people do not want change. We have become professional protesters who are happy mouthing tired old shibboleths like preserving farmlands(at a time when you don't even get labourers to work on them); protecting the environment; preventing the misuse of valuable land by a greedy land mafia; and supporting the cause of the say-no-at-all-cost-to-toll agitators. I cannot help coming back to Bob Morris and his fictional hero, Zack Chasteen, who says, tongue-in-the-cheek, " Yes, the road to hell passes through Florida. Grab a chaise lounge, kick back and enjoy the parade."
Road to hell sounds a little too harsh for Kerala. After all, it is God's Own Country. I would tone it down a bit, but only a wee bit, and say that the road to nowhere passes through Kerala. While the rest of India tries to get on the fast track to progress, we are happy to kick back and sit in our chaise lounges enjoying the parade as it merrily passes us by.
And not to forget, enjoying our "smalls and touchings !"