Off Kovalam, I watched two portly gentlemen polish off half a bottle of whisky in under 15 minutes (watch out: the Kerala peg puts our Patiala cousin to shame), one small sip, then one gulp and the glass is empty. Yet this copious tippling was done noiselessly in the "family room" of a restaurant. By cow-belt standards, everything is astonishingly clean. Toilets, parks, roads, buses, are a sight to behold. At Thiruvananthapuram railway station, I stood transfixed: the station was spotless.
No communal riot, big or small, has occurred in Kerala for the past five years. Churches, temples and mosques stand shoulder to shoulder (Christians and Muslims constitute 40 per cent of the population) and one evening at Kochi, I heard temple bells and the muezzin's call to the faithful go up simultaneously. Adjacent was a church blazing with the star of Bethlehem, and the sound of carols. For pseudo-secularists like me, Kerala lifts the spirit.
A.K. Antony, meanwhile, is his usual placid self. How this fundamentally decent and honest man survived in the Congress party is a major miracle. "I’ve had enough of Delhi. I don’t want to go back," he says. What is his relationship with old foe, K. Karunakaran? Antony tells an unconvincing lie. He says they have no problems.
Independent observers believe, thanks to incumbency and non-performance, the Congress will edge the Communists out. Meanwhile, in north Kerala the rss and cpi(m) cadres are busy killing each other. And in between the rss takes on state bjp leaders. It should be an interesting election five months on
We are prisoners at the Tulip. Security is crazy; apparently the Lashkar is coming. No movement is allowed. At night, the Dominic Brothers’ famed resort Coconut Lagoon, also a stone’s throw away, beckons. But there is no way we can get there. I consider swimming from the Tulip to the Lagoon, but am warned that the spg will shoot. Next day at lunch I order the local speciality karimeen, caught fresh in the morning. The management says sorry, there has been no catch since fishing in the area has been forbidden for the day—and may continue to be forbidden. Locked and fishless in Kerala!
Enough is enough. We rearrange our programme and head out towards Kochi in the fervent hope that we have left prime ministers and their ilk behind. As our car taxies into Kochi’s Casino Hotel, a banner, again a stone’s throw away, announces: "Welcome to the honourable Arun Jaitley." He, we’re told, is expected any minute.
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