The social dynamics of Kerala has gravely changed with sociologists and researchers identifying significant shifts in the interpersonal relationships and lack of affinity to one’s own place and cultural heritages. Most youngsters are looking for ways to ‘get out’ of here, hoping to build a secure and comfortable future elsewhere. They believe that one should have great political influence and money to land a good job in Kerala. The fact that recruitment agencies are cropping up even in the rural areas points to an inevitable exodus of the younger generation. However, not many realise the impact of such migrations in family relations.
The expatriates of Malabar
A glaring contrast in the impact of such migrations could be seen if you compare families in central Kerala and the northern parts. The Malabar region is known for its strong Gulf presence with at least one member in every family migrating to the Arabian countries to earn a living. In these areas, most youngsters migrate to Gulf as soon as they earn a degree. Most Keralites who fly to the Gulf aim to return wealthy and affluent. They spend a lion’s share of their income in their home town itself. The societal pressure is such that most of them consider it a ‘prestige issue’ to build a grand abode here.
Malabar has also become a land of magnificent mansions that are often owned by expatriates. However, most of these palatial houses are unoccupied for most of the year as the owners are settled abroad. Meanwhile, in some cases aged parents live in these huge houses, merely as caretakers. There is some truth in the rumour that building houses has become a ‘competition item’ in Malabar. The region boasts of some opulent mansions that are unique and luxurious. Interestingly, Malabar has proved to be fertile ground for architects and designers too.
Many middle-aged expatriates who had gone abroad in their youth wish to return to their hometowns. However, their children who might have grown up in the Gulf prefers to stay there. So, this ‘baton’ of migratory life is passed on to the next generations.
There are lots of people who lead an austere life in their mansions after spending a major share of their savings for the education of their children and then their lavish weddings. Similarly, some people are forced to go back to their expatriate lives, in their middle ages, just to get rid of their debts and other liabilities. Their houses might look magnificent and luxurious but their bank balances say a different story. Moreover, their false vanity forces them to suffer silently without sharing their struggles with anyone.
In central Kerala, most people migrate to Europe and wishes to live there forever. They prefer securing a green card or a permanent residency permit in the countries where they work. Most of them surrender their Indian passports and spend the rest of their lives as citizens of that country.
They are attracted to the incredible living standards and social security of the European nations. There are many in central Kerala who flies to the Gulf first and then ‘escape’ to Europe in pursuit of better opportunities. For them, a huge mansion or the ancestral property in their hometown is a liability. Sociologists and experts have observed that the greatest number of advertisements related to the sale of property come from these regions.
Thiruvalla – Kumbanad – Kozhencherry – Ranni could be rightly called the NRI belt of central Travancore. This area too boasts of many luxurious mansions that are either vacant or where old parents live with their servants. After their parents’ death, most European Keralites wish to sell these houses and properties.
Old age homes
Kerala which is an extremely consumerist state only has human resources for export. That is probably the reason behind the famous adage that you would find a Malayali even if you go to the moon. The current social situations predict that this exodus is likely to continue for the years to come. Experts even raise caution that Kerala would become the land of the aged in just one or two decades.
A financial survey report that was published two years ago notes that around 14% of the total houses in Kerala are unoccupied with no one to live in them. The government should take measures to collect additional taxes from such useless properties. It is high time that we give serious thought about this matter. Else, Kerala would soon turn into a ‘ghost house’ that waits in vain for its owners to return.