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Calabashes or Plastic Pots?

(Photograph by author)

Many winter solstices back, a study compared certain parameters like life expectancy, infant mortality etc. of Kerala and United States and found they were equal. Thus it was concluded that Kerala is equal to United States. So the state assembly stopped debating mundane roti, kapda, hartaal issues and engaged in discussions of historical importance like if the final destruction of the library of Alexandria happened during the Muslim invasion in 642 CE.

A new study, done exclusively based on news reports, suggests that Kerala is not United States, but Nigeria. Few years back helmets were made mandatory in Kerala and as usual we Malayalees protested. No words can express what high literacy combined with anger can do to a society than this picture or this.

Recently Nigeria enforced helmet laws on motorcyclists and they protested in a way which would have made every Malayalee proud.

Motorcyclists in Nigeria have been wearing dried pumpkin shells on their heads to dodge a new law forcing them to wear helmets, authorities say. Road safety officials said calabash-wearers would be prosecuted. Calabashes are dried pumpkin shells more commonly used to carry liquid. [Nigeria bikers’ vegetable helmets]

In Kerala, everything is attributed to “western conspiracy”; in Nigeria, fear of voodoo.

Stories have also appeared in the local papers highlighting passengers’ fears that the helmets could be used by motorcyclists to cast spells on their clients, making it easy for them to be robbed. “Some people can put juju inside the helmets and when they are worn the victim can either lose consciousness or be struck dumb,” passenger Kolawole Aremu told the Daily Trust newspaper. [Nigeria bikers’ vegetable helmets]

The similarities do not seem to end. Prof. Amartya Sen should factor this into his studies of “Kerala’s experience of development.”

7 Responses to Calabashes or Plastic Pots?

  1. maddy January 10, 2009 at 10:28 am #

    hi jk – are you serious – the state assembly discussing the Alexandria library? That i doubt. while we may have many learned people, i cant think of one politician in that category.

    the malayalis argue because they can and because others listen. ages before the nairs used to fight the malabar wars all the time -now it has progressed to verbal duels, and as you can see most do it for the fun of it.

  2. froginthewell January 10, 2009 at 4:01 pm #

    You might want to add for the benefit of your non-malayALi readers that this attribution to western conspiracy is a quintessentially CPM/CPI attitude.

    Do you remember CPM expelling from primary membership former vice-chancellor Dr. ( or Prof.? ) Iqbal of Kerala University – if I remember it right, it was because he had research collaboration with someone in US.

    • jk January 12, 2009 at 11:21 pm #

      froginthewell, “western conspiracy” was extensively used by indira gandhi as well.

  3. Uma January 11, 2009 at 11:03 pm #

    Hahaha… that was quite a light-hearted post from you.

    It reminded of a particular photograph that appeared on one of our regional newspapers when Kerala was on its umpteenth protest against helmet phase a couple of years back- that of a mundu clad chap on a scooter with a halved watermelon shell serving as helmet of the day. Needless to say, the police made sure he regretted his choice with a fine, but hey, he did make it to the papers :)

    Nigerians and Keralites have quite similar ‘green’ tastes, I can see. Pumpkins, watermelons, what next? Jackfruit minus the goo? :)

  4. Chandra January 12, 2009 at 10:59 pm #

    Nice theme, JK

    -Chandra

    • jk January 12, 2009 at 11:20 pm #

      thanks chandra, one of the side effects of switching to wp.

  5. froginthewell January 13, 2009 at 9:10 am #

    You are right, “quintessentially” was wrong usage by me.

    But I do think communists lead the pack, and that Keralites attributing everything to western conspiracy is strongly correlated with the strong communist presence in the state.

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