Shashi Tharoor is the Congress candidate for MP from Thiruvananthapuram (TVM). I am intrigued, and excited. And for someone who think politics is best left to politicians, that is saying a lot.
Honestly, I don’t know much about him. But I don’t care. Here is a man who is capable, has seen the world and if he wants to be corrupt, has plenty of bigger opportunities elsewhere. So I am inclined to trust his motives, and his promises.
Kerala is, quite frankly, a mess. Since I started up on my entrepreneurial path a little while ago, I have been thinking of Kerala every single day. I am trying to set up some part of my business in India, and quite naturally, I had decided on Kerala. Every one who is a friend, and who decided to consider me a friend just so they can advise me – told me that would be a very stupid decision.
If you want work done, set it up in Tamil Nadu or Karnataka, even if it is just a stone’s throw away from the Kerala border. You can even employ Malayalees if you like – they will work as long as they are outside of Kerala. But do not, under any circumstance, start a venture in Kerala.
I have seen time and again that you cannot have sustainable development without a healthy dose of entrepreneurship. And I wanted to do my bit in bringing it to Kerala. I have a dream. And now I am asked to throw it all away, if I want to survive. I toss and turn in bed every night, trying to choose between my business sense and my patriotism. Let’s not wonder now whether it is really patriotism or the thought of a beach-villa-cum-office that I am more unwilling to sacrifice. In any case, the point is – when it comes to running a business, setting up a venture, or sometimes, just getting things done – Kerala ranks right at the bottom. You could blame it on incompetent politicians, our communist legacy, the risk-averse culture or just the general laziness of the people.
Finally, I see a ray of hope.
I don’t know whether Shashi Tharoor will or can change anything. He is a proud Indian, as he made clear from his many writings, but as I am digging through his book (which I quite coincidentally picked up last week), I see no pride in being a Keralite. He speaks no Malayalam, and despite the occasional reference to compulsory holidays he had to endure with parents, there is not much in there about Kerala. So why did he choose TVM of all places?
It is quite an interesting city, really. Every time I visit the city, I never fail to visit the Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple . I was there just this Jan, and just for the beauty and tranquillity of the temple, I fell a little in love with the city. But what else is there to talk about TVM?
There is always a random group of people protesting in front of the secretariat. That will block traffic, so there is inevitably a traffic jam. Fish is very cheap and tasty. Malayalam, as it is spoken here and nowhere else, has the same word for baby and shit – perhaps something to do with frustrated mothers? It is still an old city, losing out to cities like Kochi and Trichur, when it comes to the chic-factor. Some of the streets are impeccably clean, while others are unbelievably dirty. There is a huge monstrous piece of art, shaped like a woman, which lies on the Shankumukham beach, while it is close to impossible to find even a single local woman reclining in a relaxed fashion on any of TVM’s beautiful beaches.
I bet all these had nothing to do Tharoor’s choice of TVM, but perhaps it doesn’t matter. As long as he does something, something useful, I can live with not knowing why.
So, what exactly is Tharoor planning for our dear TVM?
1. The Vizhinjam port project. Once complete, the port will be able to handle over four million containers annually and would create 5,000 direct and 150,000 indirect jobs. I believe it is essential for Thiruvananthapuram to support this idea. But we must fight for the displaced people from the Vizhinjam port trust area who must not become the victims of development.
It’s about time Kerala had a port of global standards, but as I read this, the first thing that comes to mind is protesting people. It reminds me of Smartcity where people are displaced to make room for this business park, which led to innumerable protests and discussions, and which now doesn’t seem to house that many companies or employ enough people. Good idea, bad execution. Hope we don’t go that same path again.
I wish Tharoor would elaborate more on the how, and not just the what.
2. Create a high court bench in TVM
Honestly, can someone tell me why I should care about this?
3. Development of world-class facilities
Again, should I care so much? How would a convention centre help the masses?
4. Make TVM the capital of India’s biodiversity
I am marginally excited. Good research is always great, but from what I have heard about what goes on in ISRO, may be its not just about establishing these institutes but doing something about what goes on inside them.
5. An education capital for the region – equivalent of Boston or Cambridge in America
Now he’s got me listening. This is fantastic, and if he can pull this one off, it would be worth it. This is actually something that fits in well with Kerala’s culture. Somehow the idea of a university (or centres of learning), and its campus built on the sea, with students and professors having Socratic conversations on the beach has always caught my imagination.
6 – n: Build a knowledge economy, attract and use NRI funds for the state’s development, improve civic facilities (do MPs do this?), preservation of the great heritage buildings, ..the list goes on, and it is impressive.
I particularly like this:
“Why can’t processions be obliged to march in single file on the side of the road, rather than occupying the entire carriageway? Why can’t megaphones and loudspeakers be restricted to specific areas and times? Why should agitators be allowed to paralyze the lives, work, and travel of ordinary people going about their business?”
May be it is just my cynicism, but I am inclined to reply, “Hello!? Have you been to Kerala? Have you met a Malayalee?”.
“the national legislature should take an interest in using the country’s laws to benefit the common man and woman who wishes to lead their lives in peace.”
Some of the best memories in my schooldays were of days where the classes had to be cancelled because of strikes, and we could do whatever we wanted. Well, now that its next generation’s turn, I am totally for minimal disruption!
On a more serious note, Tharoor is talking about changing the very fabric of our culture, the character of the people. Ambitious indeed, but how realistic is it?
This sounds good though:
“I will publish details regularly of my actions and initiatives, provide full and audited accounts of the expenditure of MPLADS funds, and report regularly to the people about progress or lack thereof on the issues relating to their well-being. If Thiruvananthapuram is to be a global city of the 21st century, it deserves an MP who upholds the highest global standards of today.”
Now, should I bet on this guy and start my business in Kerala? May be, may be not. But I would vote for him, if I could. There is a lot less to lose with that one.
If you could vote, I hope you would too. If nothing, Tharoor might write a good book about Kerala and its development. That’s more than some of our previous MPs have achieved for us.
Photo courtesy: ritesh3