No roads to ride

It’s tough living a normal life as a normal citizen in Kerala. The numerous hartals, communist parties, ogling congressmen, hard-bitten communalism and various other activities that you get to see only here (and some in Bengal of the CPIM ruled days), all add to the frailty and infirmity of the common man.  No wonder a malayalee always take the first flight out of the country to Dubai, or take the next available train to Bangalore, looking to subsist and survive in any part of the world other than Gods own Country.

Adding to the woes is the wretched condition of roads in Kerala.

Just see what the roads in Kannur are these days!

 
 

I don’t remember the last time I drove through a near perfect stretch of road for a full year. Just take this year. The roads were repaired and set just in time before the monsoons started in June. For the next few months it was raining cats and dogs. And what we find that the roads have become trenches.

Okay, there was hope. So much of hype and hoopla in the media regarding the conditions of the roads here vis-à-vis roads in other parts of the world that receive similar or more rainfall made the Public Works Department wake up and fix the debris.

So we have a few weeks of good roads, and again somebody in Kerala Water Authority comes up with a ground-breaking idea to relay the water pipes across the town once again. Alas, for this the patched up roads again are the fatalities. We have JCB’s and Earth Movers removing layers of road off the tarmac, turning them into instant dustbowls.

 

There is no harm in relaying the pipes. You would need to dig up roads for that too. But the most painful part is that the dug up roads remain as it is till the next monsoon. I heard somebody say that the authorities would get it fixed before March 31, but it looks more like a hollow pipe dream.

I am sure, by the time they get to work on the roads again, the next elections would be declared, there would be a policy paralysis, funds for development held up – all as the electoral code of conduct would be in place, and we would be left to suffer with the same roads.

I don’t know what feelings to project. The state which is one of the most literate in the county; the state whose Chief Minister glorifies the Kerala model of development and says that Modi should learn from Kerala, and Kerala has nothing to learn from Gujarat; a state which gets millions and millions of rupees in foreign remittance; a state which is one of the premier tourist hotspots in the world; is stuck with such roads. It’s a total shame! Even craters on the moon looks like heaven compared to Kerala roads.

We are given just two or three months of proper (don’t know even these would qualify as proper roads elsewhere in the world), the other months trapped in monsoon, rains and repair works. We have to spend thousands of rupees on the maintenance of our cars, motorcycles, spinal cord and muscles. On the hindsight, the only people who would be happy with such roads are car mechanics and Ortho-specialty doctors.

I have oft repeated this statement over the years, but it still remains very much valid and legitimate – “For the best off-road experience on your SUV, drive on the roads of Kerala”.  Yes, the Range Rovers, Scorpios, Tata Sumo, Safari have huge markets in Kerala, and it would remain that way if the roads stay as it is now.

Epilogue:

If the Kerala Water Authority is the villain this year, next year it would be Department of Telecom or maybe Kerala State Electricity Board. Some government department always finds a way to get the roads dug up. The travel woes in Kerala are doomed to remain as it is, and God’s own Countrymen are destined to drive and live this way.

It is not that the roads in all of Kerala are bad. During the same season when the rest of Kerala is laden with roads that resemble anything but roads, a drive through Malappuram district would change the acuity that roads in Kerala don’t survive beyond a monsoon. This district has the best roads that survive season after season without a crack. Like Laloo Prasad Yadav once said about his dream roads in Bihar, the roads in this part of Kerala do resemble the cheeks of Hema Malini – soft, smooth and subtle.  Just proves that if somebody wants to do good the right way, it stays.  

As a concerned citizen, even if you want to do something about the roads and even try to fix it yourself, it is a criminal offence it seems. Just see what Actor Jaysuriya was accused of by the authorities in position when he repaired a section of the road in front of his house after the last monsoon.

(My car, with a flat tyre last month)
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