CPI Kerala secretary Kanam Rajendran's fiery oratory has pushed the state's microphones to stretch their working hours. The senior leader, however, was not prepared to face a backlash from the politician's best friend. The impact was so severe that the seemingly benign microphones are viewed with dread by political leaders and other public speakers.
It all started with a public meeting in Palakkad a few weeks ago. That night, Kanam woke up short of breath. His condition worried the people around him. Some of them even thought he was having a heart attack. He was rushed to a medical college in Thrissur. The next day, he was referred to a private hospital in Kochi.
It turned out that his heart was all well. He was suffering from an infection in the lungs. He spent ten days in the intensive care unit and another month recuperating from the illness.
The doctors who inspected him think he might have been infected from the microphone he was speaking through. The day he was taken ill, he had attended a meeting of the Mahila Sangham in Palakkad. He spoke for an hour at the meeting. He felt no discomfort while speaking or returning from there. He proceeded to an ayurveda clinic at Mundoor for his annual wellness therapy. At night started the attack which would eventually be blamed on microphones.
After Kanam shared the doctors' theory with his colleagues and friends, microphones have come under a needle of suspicion. Politicians who vied with each other for a tryst with the microphone have become cautious it seems.
Medical experts back up the claim. Dr P Sukumaran, former head of the pulmonology department at the Kottayam Medical College, said that we can't rule out the possibility of infection from microphones. “When someone speaks in front of a microphone for a long time, chances are higher for saliva to spill on it. Though Kerala's warmer climate is not conducive for germ growth, it could happen,” he said.
So what precautions have to be taken. Do not come too close to the mirophone. You do not have to keep holding it all the time. In fact, do not even touch it. Cut short your speech.
The event organisers should make it a point to sanitise the public address system after each programme.
In defence of mic
The reports are being brushed aside as a conspiracy theory by microphone operators. “Such an affliction is unheard of,” said Thambi 'National', state organiser of the Light and Sound Welfare Association. “Kerala's political arena has been reliant on mics for six decades. Nobody has complained of anything like this so far. We have invested heavily on our equipment. So we take good care of them.”
Kanam, meanwhile, is back with a bang. He launched a broadside against his own coalition when police commandos shot dead a group of Maoists in the Attappadi region last month. He embarrassed the government by criticising the police and the imposition of the draconian UAPA in the state.
Yet he has been reducing speech time. He is also extra vigilant when faced with a mic. His example is religiously followed at least in this matter.
“We were only aware of the problems a long speech can cause your throat,” said CPI state assistant secretary K Prakash Babu. “Kanam's ordeal forced us to be cautious,” he added.
Across the spectrum
Though Kanam is active again in politics, his counterpart in the CPM is still out of action. CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan is yet to recover fully from an affliction even after he returned from treatment in the United States. He might even have to go back for further treatment.
Congress leader and former chief minister Oommen Chandy is also recuperating from a dengue infection.
The political class of Kerala is slowly waking up to the health hazards posed by the demanding profession, from stress and the neglect in youthful days to frequent travels and infection from microphones.