No finance minister has ever linked the state finances to literature the way Thomas Isaac has. If last year he had used the words of some of Kerala's finest contemporary writers to embellish his budget ideas, this time the great renaissance poet Kumaran Asan was his muse. Lines from Asan's legendary works like 'Chinthavishtayaya Sita' and 'Simhanadam' had set the socialist tone of Isaac's speech this year.
Now, the opposition, too, wants to respond in kind. When Muslim League's Kondotty MLA T V Ibrahim wanted to show his displeasure at Isaac's budget, it was not the trite commonplace rhetoric that he used. Ibrahim invoked Greek mythology.
He told the story of how Zeus sought to take vengeance against Prometheus for stealing the sun from heaven. “Zeus, the king of Gods, gave a set of jars to Prometheus's brother Epimetheus for safekeeping and told him not to open it. However, Epimetheus's wife found her curiosity too hard to contain and, brushing aside her husband's warnings, opened one of the jars. The moment she lifted the lid, all the ghouls and djinns of evil that had been tightly shut till then were released into the world,” Ibrahim said.
At that point, standing in for Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan was the well-read CPI leader Mullakkara Ratnakaran. Ibrahim gave a slight pause to his mythology and addressed Mullakkara. “Sir, I know this is something that you would be interested in,” he said. Mullakkara, who is known for his erudite reinterpretation of Indian myths, just smiled.
The jar was known as the Pandora's Box, Ibrahim continued. (According to the myth, the jar was called so because Pandora was Epimetheus's restless wife's name.) Then came the connection. “Isaac opened a Pandora's box when he began reading his Budget speech on January 31,” he said. “The evil of unbalanced growth and favouritism sprang forth from his speech,” Ibrahim said.
It was PWD minister G Sudhakaran who sprang to his feet first. “You have used the myth in the wrong context here,” Sudhakaran told Ibrahim. “Prometheus was a revolutionary,” Sudhakran gave the myth a communist inflection. “Prometheus was tied up in chains but he broke the shackles and presented humans the sun he had stolen from heaven. It was an act of revolution, and has nothing to do with ghouls and djinns” the minister said.
Ibrahim seemed speechless for a moment before he responded. “It looks like the minister has got me wrong. I was not speaking about Prometheus. I was only saying how Zeus took revenge on him using the Pandora's Box,” Ibrahim said.
Eventually, it was left to CPM's Neyyatinkara MLA Ansalan to shut the Pandora's Box. Ansalan's intervention also felt like a tribute to Sudhakaran for his spirited defence. “When you speak of the Pandora's box, it should not be forgotten how the PWD minister had gathered all demons of corruption and locked them inside a jar,” Ansalan said.