Why Communism Came to Kerala

During one of my earlier trips when I dared to drive, I was with Achan as my passenger. The traffic seemed to have stalled in one of the unpaved roads when the car in front of us was honking frantically. As I got down and walked to find out what had happened, I saw a frail man struggling to pull his heavily loaded cart stuck in mud. As the honking car with its impatient driver and annoyed boss sat in fury against the hapless laborer, I moved forward, lifted and tied my mundu and joined the laborer to push the cart out of the rut. As he thanked me for my gesture, I walked to the car with the honking driver and with as much disgust I could gather, shouted at his boss, “Naanamillallo, irunnu njakkaan; onnaappavathinae sahayikkaandu?” “Shame on you to sit and hoot, instead of helping the poor man!”

On that same trip, I was driving with my father on a narrow road along Mulassery Canal, when an autorickshaw came from the opposite direction and scraped our car.

Although we had been stationary, he stopped and furiously blamed me for not having moved even farther to the side. When I got out and started arguing with him, I immediately realized my folly. A crowd of other autorickshaw drivers, pedestrians and cyclists had gathered by then, surrounding us and demanding that I pay for the repair of his autorickshaw. Some were mumbling at us in disgust, “these rich Muthalali capitalists!”

This enraged me, but I was also terrified for myself and for my father’s sake. Since the demand was only 100 rupees and we were vastly outnumbered, I quietly gave him the ransom and withdrew, swallowing my pride and escaping the scene before things got ugly.