Feb 18, 2010
Soon after India won the tense India-Pakistan T 20 final match in 2008 there was a spate of SMS jokes doing rounds among Indians. The one that is firmly etched in my memory is about how Pakistani player Misbah who was the last man out in the last over wanted to hit the ball where there was no one. But he forgot there is a Malayali in every corner of the world. This was prompted after Misbah was caught by a Mallu in the Indian team – Sreeshanth resulting in India winning the first T 20 World Cup.
It is not an understatement that Malayalis with their indefatigable courage, grit, and determination hard work, adaptability and Malayali brotherhood have established their suzerainty in every corner of the world. The people of South Kanara would certainly vouch for this not only here but also in the gulf where both Malayalis and Mangaloreans work in large numbers. Be it the Railway Office, Mangalore/Bangalore trains, the airport, New Mangalore Port Trust, MRPL and even the umpteen prestigious educational institutions South Kanara boasts of, there is a strong Malayalee presence everywhere. Not long ago the Mangalore Railway station was called “Mangalapuram” and accusing fingers were pointed out at the Malayalee dominated Railway staff who wanted to Malayalize Mangalore. Mangaloreans had to protest against such blatant efforts to extend Malayali dominance in Mangalore.
Over the years people from different parts of the country and also from abroad are flocking to Mangalore for education, health care and in search of greener pastures especially in the IT/ITES sectors. But none can match the verve, determination, zeal and hardworking nature of Malayalis who dominate many important zones in our own city, much to the vexation of a vast majority of Mangaloreans who feel Malayalees are a threat to the locals as they usurp the job market in almost every field thus depriving the locals of their bread and butter.
Most people now believe that Mallus” as Malayalis are often referred to by the people of Dakshina Kannada, there is an overdose of Malayalis here in the coastal districts where they are ubiquitous by their presence. The general feeling is that with a Malayalee at the top he tries to bring his own band of Malayalees even in the lower ladder and finally it is the Malayalee brood that dominates the entire organization. Prathima Shenoy, who has recently joined IT Company, says “when we were in college there was such a strong presence of Malayalis in some sections of the college and we were made to believe as if we were entering the Kerala Zone. But they made such cacophonic noise trying to show off their dominance keeping aloof from the locals in the campus. Their very behaviour really annoyed us a great deal. They always form their own group and never mingled with others”.
The question that confronts us now is whether our fears are genuine or just that we cannot tolerate or digest the gut feelings of the Malayalees who have demonstrated their survival skills wherever they go, who never shy away from speaking in their mother tongue the moment they sight a fellow Malayalee or their adaptability to the new place with ease. That the Malayalees dominate most of the Central Government Offices in South Kanara or Udupi or for that matter all over the country is well known. It is a competitive field and Mallus should be credited for their astuteness in getting into central government offices. Ramachandra Shetty, a central government employee in Mangalore says “though we may not like to accept it easily we have to agree that Malayalees have leadership qualities which they display anywhere they go. In our own office there was Malayalee domination till a year back not because they were in majority but because they asserted themselves. Wherever they go they become leaders or Secretaries of the employees union. We have to credit them for that”.
Ramachandra, however, feels that it was our own lackadaisical attitude and insouciant warmth that has boomeranged on us. “We shy away from taking responsibilities, we are too hospitable to the extent that we speak Malayalam with Malayalis and Tamil with Tamilians but never insist they speak our language. When I was transferred to Mangalore I was stunned to see my local colleagues speak in Malayalam. I am not a language fanatic but I never found the reciprocal attitude among Malayalis. They refused to learn our language despite staying here for more than 2 years”. Ramachandras colleague Manoj K expresses similar sentiments saying “in our office the Secretaryship of our union was always held by a Malayali and when we realized this we had our own hidden agenda to always select a local candidate as we were fed up of their domination”. This kind of opinion is being heart from many quarters these days as slowly the localites have come to realize they are being taken for a royal ride.
Central Government employment is done through competitive examinations and is true that Malayalis are shrewd enough to get into central government services through merit which are safe and secure and also involve transfers. Whenever they are disturbed from their native place in the form of transfers they come to Mangalore, Udupi or even Madikeri which acts as a stop gap for them as these places are convenient than most other places. They work here for 4 years or so and then go back to their native places. Most of them also have working spouses and are financially strong unlike the locals here which also gives them an added advantage over locals. Ramachandra believes that usually locals are not able to get a posting in their native places is mainly because Malayalis fill the posts whenever there is a local vacancy.
Though generally it is believed that transparency rules the roost when it comes to jobs in government, it is now open secret that when the recruitment for Konkan Railways was done the vacancies were not published in Karnataka paper but were published in newspapers in Kerala which deprived Kannadigas for getting jobs in Konkan Railway.
When it comes to seats in educational institutions also the Malayalis score over others as they are ready to shell out huge capitation fee which the locals find it difficult to pay and hence succeed in getting admissions to these institutions. In a recent comment to one of the article in daijiworld one Eshwar Pandeshar commented about the incident of the 1970’s when a group of students in connivance with a university from Kerala got into a reputed Medical College in Mangalore through dubious means of adding required percentage of marks , much to the exasperation of locals.
Asserting in a Competitive World
Mangaloreans are no doubt known for their magnanimity, for their live and let live kind of approach towards life and also the take it easy kind of attitude which is proving detrimental to its own populace. There are a few others who equate Mangaloreans with the likes of Bal Thackeray who is raising the issue of Maharashtra for Maratis. There are also others who draw a parallel with the racial attacks in Australia. However some saner elements feel that they have no parallel at all. There is also a feeling doing the rounds that it is a competitive world and the smartest and the shrewdest will rule the roost and one cannot agree to disagree with what they say.
Mangalore has always lived in harmony in tune with its cosmopolitan outlook and are perfectly at ease to co-exist in assorted ethnic and religious groups. It does not mean to say we should give a room for others to exploit us. Agreed it is a competitive world and the best brains will come out with flying colours. Given a try Mangaloreans too can outclass others.
We cannot take umbrage on Malayalis for all their ills nor can they be blamed for everything. It is time we learn something from the Malayalis rather than just castigate them for their omnipresence. Malayalis respect their language, their culture, their tradition and love their fellow Malayali unlike us who very often wear an “I don’t care attitude” on our sleeves. There is something good we can learn from our neighbours who are always eager to shoulder responsibilities, show leadership qualities and assert themselves wherever they go. For every problem there is a solution but we have to go in search of it. Blame game is only a short cut.