Things I learned in my last trip to Kerala

Wednesday, 9 April 2008 05:37 by salim
  1. I still love rain: I landed on the 22nd to the midst of a severe spring depression in the Arabian Sea. Really torrential rains for almost three days without a pause. A very nice reminder of the monsoons. Yes, it was disastrous, with large amounts of crops failing as this happened just when the paddy fields were getting ready to be harvested. The rain practically flooded large portions of the road between my brother's house and my sister's house between which I was doing most of the walking.
  2. Kerala drivers are not reckless, they are incredibly patient: I am still afraid of traffic in Kerala roads. I do feel much better driving in the US where there are specific rules and people largely obey them. So, the apparent chaos of the TVM traffic baffled me for a few days. I was trying to imagine how I managed to go through this when I was driving. But, the number of vehicles where several times less then than it is now. The roads have not widened at all, though in TVM, the number of roads have increased. So, as I traveled (as a passenger) around TVM, I came to learn the incredible order in all this chaos. The fundamental principle in the dynamic - you will be surprised - co-operation and patience!!! Every intersection, everybody yielded, watched for others, took the least invasive route. Of course there were tyrants and hot headed drivers and novices. But they all worked within this system of yield and cooperation much more than I see in an intersection with stop sign in the US. We are still learning the wonders of double lane traffic, but I think we are much better and getting better as we do it more.
  3. Kerala Govt. Hospitals are a good place to get health care: I know the maladies of our government hospitals from the corruption among doctors and staff to the lack of availability of equipments and sometimes medicine. But it does operate much more efficiently than many big hospitals in the US. It is quite amazing when you add the fact that most of the service provided by these government hospitals is free. I visited SAT, a hospital that specializes in women and children. It is where most of the difficult child births around TVM and possibly the whole of Kerala happens. In my own family, my elder niece had some complication during birth and was transferred to SAT immediately after birth in a private hospital. My sister gave birth to her daughter there as well. So, I am intimately familiar with the good and the bad. Knowing the amount of talent we have in there and the percentage of hard working dedicated people, with all the perceived bad, I will still trust SAT against any other private hospital and some of the hospitals around me in Philadelphia.
  4. The political discourse in Kerala has not changed a lot: This is a good sign. It has not deteriorated any further. There is the usual penetration of right wing media and further marginalisation of the left voice. But, nothing alarming there. There are the beginnings of alternative discourse becoming more visible through blogs and some odd TV programs. Coming from the US, even the worst offenders of journalistic ethics in Kerala looks like a bastion of Journalistic integrity in US standards)
  5. I love talking in Malayalam: I knew this. I have not done theoretical discussions in Malayalam for a while. Got some chance to do it. Loved it!
  6. There are way too many Cuckoos in Kerala: Yes, there are much more than say 7 years ago. I lived in TVM at two houses and in Kochin at my wife's house. In all the three places, I could hear much more Cuckoo (Kuyil) songs than I used to hear before. It was a novelty to challenge a cuckoo song and make it "mad". But now, it is actually annoying at times. My sister complains about this one cuckoo which start singing at 4 am in the morning!! I should ask an ornithologist about this.

More to come...

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