Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The US Elections - Mallus Respond from Kerala

I have this terrible habit of listening to conversations conducted loudly in public places. Of late an issue which figures prominently in such conversations is the US elections. Everybody seems to be talking of Obama and Palin and Mc Cain these days – and all the time. I think after Kerala’s newly discovered terror links, this is the most talked about issue.

Biden rarely appears in these dialogues of the all knowing Malayalee. The few times I‘ve heard his name mentioned are when similarity is pointed out between the orthographic form and sound of Obama-Biden and Osama Bin- Laden. A meaningless similarity, I know, but a strange one. Some people go off tangent, and launch into a laboured explanation of that strange but true similarity, even suggesting that Obama deliberately chose Biden for his name, for evoking that association through the sound! That’s the clever and complex thinking process of the mallus for you!

Guess we mallus down here have only a very very superficial understanding of the campaign issues. And it is shaped by what the media chooses to feed us with. Here are some excerpts from the commonly heard remarks on the US elections:

Overheard in the train – a heterogeneous group:
“Obama win? No chance? Once these yanks get into the polling booths, who knows where they’ll put the INTO(x) mark?”(Agathu kayriyaal pinney, aarudey pallakkitaanu kuthunnadhennu aaru ariyunnu?). He spoke in that typical unrefined tone, bringing down his clenched fist emphatically on his open palm, mimicking the act of actually casting the vote.
”Yes. Yes. You are right. The Bradley effect”. A little embarrassed by the belligerent language and body language of his travel companion, this person was trying to redeem his dignity with his high sounding words and a somber demeanor.

Another group’s discussion. They are youngsters – not the IT types, but the conventional addicts of Malayala Manorama and Week and Outlook and Vanitha and Deshabimani and Mathrubumi weekly and and - - “Wish Obama would win. Then I’d call America a true melting pot culture”. That was a young girl among them, on the way to the office.
“It’s like Mayawathi becoming the Prime Minister” Her male friend and colleague, I think. He was a youngman with a buji bag. And then the conversation got diverted to Mayawathy’s prime ministerial aspirations, and the issue was discussed with considerable heat, with the focus on the impossibility of her dreams coming true in India with its caste equations.

“McCain stood a good chance – till he chose that political novice as his running mate. He was trying to win the women’s vote. Velukkaan thechathu paandaayi, poor chap”.
“So what? If Lalu’s wife Rabri Devi, who knew nothing other than how to make chappathis, can rule Bihar, why not Palin? She’s the governor of a State, at least”.
“Ugh! Of Alaska! What sort of governance is needed in that deep freezer? It’s like being the governor of a refrigerator. If Rabri was the queen of the kitchen, Saramma is the queen of the refrigerator. That’s all the difference. Ha!”

WE happened to sit near a bunch of IT youngsters in a restaurant and overheard this: “If Obama wins, we’ll be hit. He’s going to stop outsourcing”.
“Oh, Bullshit. He can’t. American Corporates will have to shut down if he does that. He says such things to get white votes. Nobody really believes him.”
“Hope you are right”
“Of course I am right”. And he plunges into a harangue on the world being a global village and the interdependency of the economies, and how the Asian youth make the world go round, while all his companions listened to him in all earnestness.

Then, in the lobby of a hospital, I overheard this conversation among an academic looking group. They spoke as though they had spent all their lives researching on the Obama-McCain tussle, and each of them spoke with finality, but in well modulated tone. “Obama’s lineage –parambaryam- is suspect. Don’t think he is the right person for the most powerful seat in the world”.
“Oh. I don’t think that matters. After all he is a product of the Ivy League”.
“Athilonnum Kaaryamilla (That’s nothing)”. and then that awful adage”Attayey pidichu methayil kidathiyaal kidakkumo?” (An untranslatable idiom but goes something like this. If you put a leech on the mattress, will it adjust to its soft comfort?)
But the person who had the last say was an aloofish looking person with a long thin face. “Obama or McCain”, he said with supreme contempt. “It makes no difference. That country is run by certain lobbies and institutions. If either of them goes against their interests, they’ll b knocked off”.

A gloomy silence fell and I was called into the doctor’s room before it was broken.


  1. i have to agree with that bunch of IT youngsters in the restaurant.

    whosoever we really care?? i don't.It won't solve my problems..i am too busy making a life for myself..whatever that happens anywhere doesn't concern me. I already have too many worries .

    take care ...
    have a nice day

  2. @ •♥•♥[V]♥•♥•
    you are right.but we keralites have a way of getting into a frenzy over political issues:-)
    thanks for visting my blog

  3. wow looks like the whole state is packed with knowledge! And of US politics! Shucks I feel so small! And 2 kicks for that atta-metha line person!

  4. I think it's good that people are aware of things happening around them. As long as opinions remain opinions there is no problem.

    "Guess we mallus down here have only a very very superficial understanding of the campaign issues. And it is shaped by what the media chooses to feed us with."

    But then the laymen have nothing else to depend upon right?
    That brings one to the question of neutral journalism. Rarely do we find any newspaper reporting just facts. Facts are misinterpreted, distorted and even smudged to protect the interests of the concerned.

    eg; Dalit woman murdered

    Headlines today - Dalit woman brutally murdered. Aliens behind the crime??

    Times of India - Dalit woman murdered under mysterious circumstances. Unconfirmed reports claim that the woman was raped before being murdered. Locals say that the woman was notorious for her promiscous way of life and that this must have been done to teach her a lesson.

    Indian express - Dalit woman murdered. Christion missionary under suspicion. Sangh activists have called out for a nation wide hartal against the forced conversions in the north eastern area.

    Blogs - Dalit woman murdered. The politics behind the murder is interesting to say the least. When Aarushi was murdered.....

    Too much unnecessary information everywhere.
    Anyways, interesting post.

  5. I think we should appreciate the fact that common people in Kerala are aware and interested in what is happening in the world. Things are very different in other parts of this country where such discussions are only for the upper and upper middle class.
    Common people here don't even know that there is US elections going to take place.
    I strongly feel it is right to have opinions and like everyone else, these people also form opinion based on what is fed to them by media.
    And I also strongly feel no English media in this country is superior to any malayalam newspaper or channel in terms of quality of news (exception - The Hindu).

  6. I rely on David Letterman for authentic american opinion!!;-D

    I think Indians are getting more curious about american electiond as India and US is much closer than ever before and there is a real influence with american policies affecting more number of Indians than 10 years ago...

  7. the atta-mettha guy needs to be spanked bottoms up!haaaaaaaaardddddd!
    but this was a good post..since im in the midst of this election battle,it has become impossible to tear one away from this craziness....refreshing to see how the whole world sees this election...especially us mallus who have an opinion on every breathign atom in the world!
    also ,one hopes that saramma goes back to tending her garden of children and putting them in school where they belong and not on the campaign trail...otherwise she will be heading a split among the reds..
    by now if you havent figured me out,
    it is GO OBAMA-BIDEN!

  8. i guess the last comment kinda summarizes it :) if obama wins he'll create history by becoming the 1st non-white us president. something similar to k r narayanan becoming indian president being touted as a historic moment at one point. but thats abt it!

  9. "It’s like being the governor of a refrigerator."

    LOL!!! Too good!! We need dissections like this to get to the heart of the matter. The American election is one giant dust cloud for me. And I cannot make head nor tail of it and nor am I trying to. Like Mathew said, Letterman and Jay Leno are the only people who give a better perspective to me right now.

  10. The good thing about all this is we will be able to compare our elections to elections in another Democracy (Democracies would be even better) and raise our expectations.
    And interest and discussions is always the first step in being well informed ... most of them seemed as well informed as our media allows us to be. I would love it if we replaced Cricket with Politics in India. Proud of my Mallu brothers and sisters - keep it up! This was a very interesting post.

  11. i always knew that Obama would win. Palin made it worse for McCain. She's a joke. And moreover, their conservative policies made them unpopular. I have read it in countless American blogs.


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