Initially, I wanted to give this post the title MALLUS AND BONGS. Then I settled for the present one ‘cos I felt it’d invite more hits:-)
What provoked this post is an oft-repeated claim (which I heard today again) that mallus and bongs are very similar in many aspects. A couple of years back, a junior research scholar brought in this idea in her presentation at a seminar. I was sorely tempted to give my take on it during the discussion time but refrained, knowing that it was her maiden presentation, and negative reaction could dampen her spirits.
The basis for this claim is ridiculous, and is this: both people have rice for staple food, and are incurable fish eaters. The women of both states wear light coloured sari. Both states were pioneers in Marxism.
They were a few more points of similarity, which I don’t now remember, but they too were equally superficial and silly as the above mentioned ones.
My take on this is this. Mallus and bongs are as different as two people can possibly be, and neither is the looser on account of it. The two have nothing in common. Marxism in both states is the result not of similarity of the people but on account of certain cultural, political and social factors which are totally different in both states.
But what irritates me is the sense of pride with which this claim is made by mallus. Why should mallus take pride in these so-called similarities? Cant we be happy just being ourselves? Do we need a point of reference to prove our worth?
Some time back, a rather prominent mallu media person in an English channel was asked about her mallu origins. The emphasis with which she stated that her connection with Kerala is minimal as she was born and brought up elsewhere made me want to throw a rotten tomato at her.
What is so shameful about Kerala that we should be so ashamed of our roots? I find this common among mallus who grew up or live outside the state. I wonder if this is on account of them being trapped in the stereotypical images of kerala and its people that have been doing the rounds in the country for a long time.
In this context, I am reminded of that national integration video that was made in 1986 (or ’87 – I’m not sure), and played in doordarshan over and over again. All the states were represented by people or milieu that reflected development or sophistication of those states. When Kerala’s turn came, it was a lungi (only) clad mahout sitting on an elephant singing entey swaravum, ningaludey swaravum - - - - -. It used to make me immensely angry that this was the official image of kerala that was being propagated. Bengal was represented by a coated and booted Arun lal and some other celebrities in starched or raw silk kurtha stepping elegantly out of electric train in slow motion. In contrast, the mallu is projected as evolutionary dropout, not having progressed beyond the half naked phase and the pachydermal mode of transportation.
I think, as a people, we Keralites have a lot to be proud of. Let no one convince us otherwise.