Kerala, Kerala, Quite contrary, whatever it means, is a 225-page anthology comprising personal perspective on Kerala, by over a score of Keralites who write in varied forms - fiction, non-fiction, memoir and travelogue. A Rupa publication, the Rs.195-volume is edited by Shinie Antony, born Keralite and brought up everywhere else in India; she stays in touch with her home town on holidays-only basis.
Like Shinie, most contributors to this anthology are non-resident Keralites who can look in on Kerala from outside. As anthology editor says, Keralites are all over. And a Malayalee, no matter where he goes, takes a bit of Kerala with him. Speaking of her Malayalee-ness, Shinie observes that though she may not sound/smell/look one she would want others - notably prospective landladies and small-talkers - to know that she is a Malayalee from Kerala.
Other contibutors to the anthology include poet A J Thomas, cricket writer Suresh Menon; student Nimz Dean who, at 13, is the youngest contributor; my London-based lawyer friend Vinod Joseph; journalist and editor of an anthology on Bangalore Jayanth Kodkani, and erstwhile Travancore prince Rama Varma.
Nimz writes about a walk on the beach the morning tsunami hit the world. She learnt that ‘t’ is silent, and nothing else about tsunami is silent. MP from Trivandrum and union minister Shashi Tharoor, who is the one Malayali who contested for the UN Secretary General post, asks what it is that holds back Keralites from hard work, success and development in their home state. Could it be their poliitics? Or policies, attitudes, or resources? Or all of the above ?
Vinod Joseph fictionalises the reality of a Gulf Malayalee who slogs it out in Saudi, so that his wife Mary can take care of an ailing mother and children back in Kerala. Mary’s brother and sister, employed in india and presumably, not so well paid, can’t afford to keep their mother in comfort. Maybe, here is an explanation to Shashi Tharoor’s query as to why a Malayali’s hard work is reserved for his Saudi employer.
I wouldn’t rate this a ‘must-read’ for Malayalees, but I guess few Keralites who happen by a volume at a book store or on your shelf would fail to buy it or borrow. And then this volume mayleave you somewhat unsatified, for there is scope for a sequeal to this work, by another bunch of writers on their realities of Kerala. In fact, an anthology of this sort can never be said to have been done, till we run out of writers and writings on Kerala.