I was recently talking to couple of my cousins who were staying with us for their IIM interviews. Both of them were relieved to be out of Kerala and on their way to a dynamic career after IIM. This and a couple of things I noticed in my visits to Kerala set me thinking.
On my last visit to Kerala I went to all the kaarnavaru’s houses. Most of these elegant Tharavadu homes were bereft with just the old couple and maybe an attendant. Their kids were settled outside Kerala and the grandkids were occasional visitors. Many of them didn’t even know Malayalam. Many were grown up and married to non mallus. This is the case in many homes. The able bodied generation has drained out of the State to look for employment never to return. And the political climate prevalent in Kerala prevent the many who long to come back to settle down in their naadu.
The Kerala of today is the nursery of India. Kids are born, educated and then sent out to staff the various companies big and small outside Kerala. They later settle down outside only to return as Non Resident Keralites (NRK) for festivals, weddings and other general visits. Kerala is left with a fast aging generation and many homes are now left with old people and fading memories. Soon this generation will pass away and the Tharavadu’s will be sold to developers.
The scenario appears bleak to me. I think Malayalees as a people, culture and language will cease to exist if not in the immediate future then by the end of this century. I shudder to think of the ancestral homes turned into resorts and hotels by outsiders. Imagine living in a home-stay called Illikal House that is run by some Sharma offering ‘authentic’ Kerala homestead experience? The very thought breaks my heart. Maybe I am not aware of the realities in Kerala but when I see scores of young people going out of Kerala never to return I feel apprehensive of the fate of Kerala.
I wish the Kerala government and people realize that they should make the state a refuge for Malayalees to return and pave the way for the preservation of the Malayalees. Hope Information Technology will come as a savior for our State with our youth finding jobs in the tech parks of Kochi, Trivandrum etc. I love the Malayalam language, culture, heritage, which is ours from centuries. I do not want to lose it. But I do not know how we can stem the slide to oblivion.
This post is a result of an uneasiness that has been eating into me for some time.
(p.s. I do not want the Tamils, Kannadigas or Punjabi’s too meet similar fates. Each of these cultures should be preserved. But these people do not face the same problems mallus face when they think of returning to Kerala)