Development – the Kerala Model

This Sunday, I was at Cochin for a visit to the Chotanikkara Temple with my family. The early morning visit to the temple got over quickly, and we were all ready to leave back for Kannur by noon. We left out hotel at Vytilla in my car and were through the four lane highway from Vytilla Junction upto close to Oberon Mall in less than 15 minutes; to be exact, from 1 pm to 1:15 pm.

From there on it was like stuck in a clogged drain – cannot move front or back. From 1:15 pm to almost half past 3, we were moving at less than a snail’s pace to reach the traffic signal at Edapally Junction. Guess what – a stretch of less than 2 kilometers took more than two hours to clear.

For the last few years, the Edapally Junction has been one of the busiest junctions in Kerala. Being the intersection points between the NH 17 and 47, located at the dot centre of Kerala, it had to be the busiest. It has grown busier and busier when Cochin slowly started growing from just another city in Kerala to a bustling metropolis.

Being a regular traveler across these roads, I had seen and felt the traffic and jams growing at Edapally Junction. I thought it had hit its crescendo when the coming of malls across both sides of the intersection – Oberon, Emmanuel Silks, Gold Souk to name a few. But what I had seen on Sunday was the biggest I had ever seen.

Imagine, sitting in a car in between thousand others, engine running, expecting a movement anytime that never comes, in the peak of the Kerala Summer in which even camels dare not walk, it would be like sitting in a baking oven, even with the air conditioner on. What more, think of all the fuel that those vehicles stuck on all four sides of the junction, the jam running into kilometers, would have burnt.

Now wondering what is the reason for this logjam?

The newly opened Lulu Mall right at the Junction.

Lulu mall is one of the largest of all the malls in Kerala, and had opened only last week. It is situated on the North West side of Edapally Junction, at the corner of the roads, one leading to Kodungallur and the other to Palakkad.

Well, of all the places in Cochin, Edapally Junction was the only place that was available to put the mall in place it seems. It is definitely a prime piece of real estate, and is unquestionably of great pride to get your flagship piece of edifice, would never have thought what intricacy it would have caused to the common man? I have seen most of the Lulu malls across the Gulf, but nowhere have they kept it in such a centre point. All those were at places quite away from the hustle and bustle but always accessible.

But then, Gulf and Kerala is a different proposition altogether. Here money power talks, there sense talks. So you have money here, buy the land, build your mall and run it – nobody cares where you put it up.

And the crowd at the Mall, My God!

They were packed in and around the shopping precinct like flies stick around jackfruits. In Malayalam, we would say “chakkayude mulakil eeacha pothiyunna pole”. And don’t think it’s to shop there and all.  We are Malayalees. We don’t go to malls for shopping. We go there only to take photos posing around banners, ogle impertinently at girls and aunties, and look which teenage neighbor is moving around with a new girlfriend.

The magnitude of the crowd actually resembled what is usually seen at a Thrissur Pooram or an Aluva Manappuram Shivaratri. And, it was not even a weekend evening, and you could expect, if in the afternoon it was like this, what could be the situation if it was in the evening. God save the guys who would be stuck in traffic in the evening.

For me, a Cochin visit happens only infrequently, so maybe, I can afford leave the state of affairs I went through at that. But think of someone who would be going through this every day, morning, afternoon, evening, to office or school and back? A pretty sorry situation.

Maybe, this is development – the Kerala model. Pump in money, build malls, and build jams.

(Now, I know I would get at least half a dozen mails criticizing this post. I don’t mind. But think what we want in Kerala. Do we want malls that drain our pockets, or proper investments that help alter us from being a consumer state to a real balanced economy?)

 
The Vytilla – Edapally road in better times
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