Planet Haolewood

A toolbox, a change of underwear, and a surfboard.

Friday, March 13, 2009


Some people call Kerala the Hawaii of India. It’s certainly warm, pleasant and populated with even more coco palms than all the resorts and golf courses in Hawaii put together. It’s also more laid back than other parts of India but the comparison probably ends there.

Kerala has the world’s only democratically elected communist government. Che Guevara’s eyes gazed stoically at me from posters at bus stations, as if passing judgment on my capitalist intrusion. With excellent education and little industry, Kerala’s chief export is human brains. Often working in the gulf states, these energetic workers support Kerala’s economy with their remittances and return to build what we might call “monster homes” along the quiet by-ways of their home state.

Kerala has a tradition of matriarchy with better rights for women than other parts of India and the lowest birth rate in the country. Its health care system is the envy of the third world. The average life expectancy compares to that of the United States even though they spend a minuscule fraction of what we spend on health care. Kind of makes you wonder why our “free enterprise” health care systems couldn’t be more efficient, doesn’t it?

My trip to Kerala began in the wee hours of the morning when my overnight train pulled into a station near an area of lakes and canals known as the backwaters. Crowds of pilgrims slept on the platform I stepped onto and a short rickshaw ride took me to the ferry where I would catch the first boat of the day. In the beautiful light of the morning, the ferry slowly made its rounds through a complicated system of canals picking up men with their fishing gear and children on their way to school.

I spent a few days in the area, enjoying the scenery and warmth. Living in Hawaii has left me very little tolerance for cold and I had been quite chilly in the mountains. Southern India in the winter is like Hawaii in the summer. That’s more like it!


At 3/14/2009, Anonymous Dirk said...

The thing I remember about Kerala political art is the color. One of the things that unites the many disparate cultures of India is a love of color, and they employ it in a rich variety that out does any place I’ve ever been. Faced with a rule that the hammer and sickle should be red, they ignore it, and splashed on walls you see green hammers and sickle, blue hammers and sickle, pink hammers, and sickle…etc. even red.


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