Wednesday, July 06, 2011


A new word has gained currency in Kochi now. HINDIKAAR, which takes my mind back to the few years i was in Mumbai where the average Mumbaiker referred to us from South India as Southies. The less literate or sensitive ones used, without any qualms, the term Madrassi to my face. A couple of times i reacted saying that there are four states to the south of the Vindhyas and Madras is only one of them. A thirty year old once even argued with me that there is no State in the South called Madras. I looked at her with celestial contempt and left the matter at that. Subsequently i learnt that, spurred on by my contempt, she took the trouble of finding out about the erstwhile Madras state!

Now we ‘southies’ are resorting to the same type of stereotyping. The influx of labourers from North India – from Bengal, Orissa and Bihar - had added a new dimension to the demography of Kochi, and the non-Dravidian language they speak has given rise to this tern HINDIKAAR – those who speak Hindi/those from the land where Hindi is spoken. In other words North Indians. Cheap sentiments, i admit, but i feel avenged :-)

As is common knowledge, the high daily wages in kerala coupled with the paucity of labour in the state and the backwardness of the north Indian states are responsible for this unprecedented inflow of this labour force into kerala. All sections of kerala have become bourgeoisie and the proletariat is imported. You go to hotels, construction sites, you find these Hindikaars. The electrical or plumbing contractors who come to your house have Hindikaars to assist them. You don’t find many in the carpentry field, though a week back, i found, one who came with them to do the polishing of wood items. They are excellent workers and have picked up Malayalam too – and slowly picking up the legendry kerala style of working. Manoj who comes to clean my garden is becoming more demanding. Earlier, he used to work from 9 to 5, sometimes even 6 with no major lunch break and happy with the tea and snacks i give him, so that he can finish the work in a day. This time he left half the work unfinished at the end of the first day. When i questioned him, in a rather light hearted manner (‘cos i knew this was bound to happen), he confirmed in his accented Malayalam what i had suspected.

“Gardeners (meaning malayalee workers) would take four days to finish this work”

“Next time you come, you work as you always did. I’ll pay you double’


Satyam”, i confirmed. I wanted to repeat 'satyam' thrice like they do in movies, but refrained as it’d be too dramatic.

And Kerala has begun to mentally accommodate the inevitability of migrant workers here. The destination boards buses have now begun to include Hindi! How different from Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra! Is it that Keralites and practical first, and sons of the soil only after that?

However, there were a few news items the past few days which make me suspect that Kochi is going the Mumbai way. The exodus to the big (Kochi big? Maybe in terms of the wages) changed the demography of Mumbai, climaxing in growth of Tamil Underworld and extreme parochialism Rajthakeray & Shiv Sainik style. In Kochi recently, a migrant worker (Hindikaar) beat up a local man and the locals retaliated. Could such episodes lead to the rise of Dons offering protection for hafta to the Hindikaars? Can’t rule it out.
Soon the migrant workers will become a vote bank and that will change Kerala politics beyond recognition.

Slums may not appear the Mumbai way on account of the terrible shortage of land in kerala and highly vigilant public. But crime rate has already begun to climb, and the nature of crime too is getting to be ruthless on account of the anonymity offered by the migrant status and the easy escape route through trains.

The shape of things to come in Kerala is going to be largely dictated by the way Kochi grows into a big metro.


  1. You suspect the change that can happen to Kerala and that is very much on the cards.

    For people beyond the Vindhyas, this side of the mountains was "Madras" and the people"Madarsi log". That story is being repeated now from this side. It is only in India we have such terminology - south Indian and north Indian, I guess for instance in the USA, people from the southern States may be termed from south of the US and not with a parochial description. That tells much about that country's unified nature.

    In fact Kerala is like Dubai to the labourers from West Bengal, Bihar , Orissa etc. And that tells a lot about thirty odd years of Marxist dominance of Bengal.

    Portents are quite dangerous , with the unemployment rate in Kerala and the average Malyali's disdain for dignity of manual work.

  2. But from the days I can remember,we had this term 'pandikal' for tamils.The intolerable 'ignorance' and superiority complex been with us malayalees too.We might not have developed it into a high level propaganda..since the migration was low that time..As you wrote it there,now we can expect something.

    The growing crime rate and the migrants involvement has developed a panic in job givers that we don't know in future it may influence the so called 'flow'.

    The inevitable 'kerala work culture' said it right ! One big mistake done by political parties of kerala-(esp communists,who have played a vital part in this) have completely failed after achieving the target of worker's rights.What I see is,you need to constant educate the workers to achieve the real goal and go with time.Disappointingly,we stopped at 'rights' part.Duties are seen nowhere..

    Will it be like this 'hindikaars' demanding 'nokkukooli' now ? haha..

  3. Ma'm, i feel you are right all sections of Kerala are becoming bourgeoisie. The backward sections are coming up. When the country grows at the rate of eight per cent (a recent report of the National Sample Survey Organisation has put Kerala's economic growth at a higher level than the national rate during the last five years) what happens is that the cream sections prosper at a much faster rate and those at the lower end either remain stagnant or improve their living conditions by small degrees. For some people salary hikes are of the order of 25 and 50 per cent each year. Growth percolates down, but not in a free and even rate. In Kerala, because of the progressive movements and general awareness, the proletariat demand their share. That is why the wages are shooting up here.

  4. I always used to say,what the communist party did to the poor in Kerala was that they taught the Pulayars to change from lungi and blouse to Churidars and pants, with the result, they can no longer work in paddy fields wearing their modern outfit. But they have been made equal to anyone else!Agricultural lands all remain barren.
    The last time I was at home,I wanted to get some work at the small strip of garden, if I can call it so.A contractor came by bike,agreed on 4000 rupees,and then sent two tamilian boys who scraped the land for two days and planted some weeds.The contractor would come and visit for few seconds.He had agreed to maintain what he had planted for a year,but could never get hold of him after he left with the money.This is the kerala model now.
    If someone comes to climb the coconut tree and he comes rididng a bike,how mush should he charge me for the single palm tree I have?

  5. @ Melange

    "One big mistake done by political parties of kerala-(esp communists,who have played a vital part in this) have completely failed after achieving the target of worker's rights.What I see is,you need to constant educate the workers to achieve the real goal and go with time.Disappointingly,we stopped at 'rights' part.Duties are seen nowhere.."

    Melange has a point here

  6. i really wish that kochi takes a cosmopolitan character and transcends beyond the regionalism scene elsewhere...although i must say the intial signs are not encouraging..

  7. Communism said that the real capital is the 'work' or human input. They have in Kerala, succeeded in making all workers realise their capitalist insight. From Parippu-vada and black tea to Biriyani and Brandy; from feet to motor cycles, from Lungi to Jeans, from SSLC to self-financed MBBS - all show how Communism has succeeded into making the State a workers' paradise. How can we grudge it?

    The real issue about immigrant labour is Crime. Now, they are only killing each other, and the police and the media now do not highlight the unknown dead body found very frequently here and there. The immigrant criminals are already daring enough to just break in and burgle upto 10 houses in the same colony the same night; and get away. Soon, this will expand. And in 5 years' time, immigrants will decide who should win elections.

    Immigrants are only doing to us what we ourselves did earlier to other places in India.

  8. About time Kerala imported some people too. :)


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