I grew up in Kerala and was never really confused about my identity. In fact, I had grown very comfortable in our adopted state and switched identities with consummate ease. Of course, I never became a true blooded mallu in my school – I used to talk to girls in school, even openly admitting my preference for girl-frends rather than boys. Looking back, I now think I preferred being with guys (to me, a sex-neutral term, including both boys and girls), who seemed sufficiently chilled out as well as sufficiently sedate. Another way I could never be as mallu was also in adopting the roughness I have encountered here, which probably is also peculiar to this part of Kerala, down south – at the very edge.
Of course, the enduring image of Kerala for me is this pic – sadya. A foodie’s delight – can you even count the number of items that adorn the leafy plate?? What is missing?? Yes, you got it!! WHERE IS THE NON-VEG, DUDE??? It doesnt stop amusing me that for a state where almost all (irrespective of caste/class/religion/gender) relish “meat”, in such a place, the food for festive occassions remains primarily vegetarian.
Growing up in the state of Kerala – which is in so many different ways from my native West Bengal was a unique opportunity. It is true that other than elected communist governments, eating rice with fish and football, not much was similar to these two communities. My early consciousness recollects fiery political activism in Kerala, which often culminated in a hartal / bandh (when a non-state actor like a political party or trade union declares a unilateral curfew, supposedly in public interest and often in protest) which involved, as a sideshow of course, indiscriminate destruction of public property. Alongside such violent demonstration of political brawn, the state also provides an exciting environment for intellectuals, environmentalists and social scientists – contributing to a million intellectuals in this state – every barber, autorickshaw driver, tea shop owner is one, not so sure of those actually at the helm.