'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

How I Became A Communist

Suresh's memoirs, especially this post , have inspired yet another trip down memory lane....

Note: Kerala, my home province, is a highly political place. Even the schools conduct elections - and they are conducted on party-lines. The major contenders are the Kerala Students Union (KSU), the student arm of the Congress Party and their powerful rivals, SFI (Students Federation of India), a Communist outfit. A watershed event in the history of the student politics in Kerala was the controversial 'liberation movement' run by KSU against the communist ministry led by EMS Nambuthiripad in the late 1950's.


Many years ago. I am in 10th Standard.Teachers at my school urge me very strongly to try for a State Level Rank in the SSLC public examination at the year end: "In its entire history, this school has not even come close. You are our best hope...". The hype - and the flattery - went to my head and I worked much harder than usual. Even Pop, prompted by my teachers, arranged some special coaching for me in some 'shaky' subjects.

The year passed in a hurry and the exams got over and then we had the holidays and eventually the results were out. I had no state rank and was not among the top 10 in the state (perhaps not in the top 100 either). I went to the school to collect the official score report. The teachers looked pretty glum. They looked at my score in each subject and those of my batchmates and remarked: "See, Ajit has got more than you in Hindi", "Look, Harish has scored one more mark in Math", "Hey, Martin has beaten you in English" the comparisons went on.. I was beginning to feel mighty upset at what I thought was a weird turnaround in their behavior, when the Headmaster delivered the coup-de-grace: "Look, you just about managed to top the school. Indeed we focussed too much on you. Actualy, Babu got only about 2 percent less than you overall. If we had promoted him the way we went out of the way to help you, he could well have beaten you and even got us the Rank!"

At home, a few days later, I have some visitors. I recognize two of my juniors from the school. With them is a slightly older young man who was obviously leading the group. He said: "Hi, I am Sekar, an old student from your school. The school has reopened and your juniors and former students are organizing a meeting to honor you, at the school. Will it be convenient for you to come to the school tomorrow at 9.30 am? It will be a half hour gathering and will be over by 10 when the classes begin".

I felt pleasantly surprised. "That is very nice. I shall come. Indeed I am honored!"

That evening, I told Pop: "The teachers might have behaved odd; but my juniors are showing some appreciation for my efforts!"

Next morning. I reached the school by 9.15 am. At the gate, Sekar and the friends I had seen the previous day were waiting. With them were a few middle-aged men in 'khadi'. There were very few students about - and none of the teachers. Sekar introduced me to these men "Mr. David, Mr. Ramesh,...". Intros over, I asked Sekar: "Where is the meeting being held?" Sekar says: "It will be right here. We just need to lay out some chairs and set up a 'mike'." Within minutes the arrangments are over. I muse "So, the meeting will be in front of the school gate, not AT the school, eh?".

It is about 9.40. Students begin to arrive for the day and several of them gather in front of the 'dais'. The khadar-wearers and Sekar fill the chairs. I stand beside with the juniors.

The oldest 'khadar-dhari' stands up and addresses the students: "Dear students, today we have gathered to felicitate Mr.... (he looks at me, then continues) .. your senior here who has topped the SSLC examination with 'first mark'.This meeting is organized by KSU (Kerala Students Union) who have always been tirelessly working for the student community in Kerala. This organization has a rich history. In the 1950's when the Communist Government led by 'EMS' was oppressing the common people of this enlightened State, KSU under the leadership of energetic student leaders like ...... relentlessly organized agitations till that tyrannical regime was ousted. "We shall make EMS pee in his pants" was the passionate (sic) slogan that was raised in those heady days... And THIS school has always in the forefront of KSU activities; it has contributed young activists like Sekar...."

After going on in this vein for some more time, he turns and gestures asking me to step forward. I am handed a brightly giftwrapped package and a thin stainless steel medal is pinned on my shirtsleeve. Then the leader hands over the mike to Sekar who launches into a similar speech, talking about KSU's achievements in the immediate context. He concludes by exhorting the students to vote for KSU in the forthcoming School Elections. After Sekar has spoken for about 5 minutes, the mike passes on to yet another delegate. He repeats what has already been said, more stridently..

By now around fifty students are watching the proceedings. But then, the school bell started ringing and the audience started melting away rapidly. Sekar stands up and raises some slogans - manifestly, to conclude the meeting on an emotional high: "Victory to KSU!" "Victory to David!" "Victory to Ramesh!" and then another guy adds: "Victory to Sekar!".

Suddenly, a different set of slogans rose -louder- from a group of students about 50 meters away: "KSU go back!", "Down with Sekar and his henchmen!", "SFI is our party!" and so on. Fearing trouble, I start moving away from near the chairs when I feel a pat on the shoulder. It was Paul, a junior well known to me and ardent SFI activist. "Hey man! How did YOU join this KSU scum?!" I stammer a vague apology and hurry to catch a bus back home - without looking back at what Sekar and co are up to. Safely on the bus, I opened the package and found a slim English-to-Malayalam dictionary; the preface said something to the effect that it was a 'boon' for school students. It didn't make it home with me.


  • At 9:38 PM, Blogger Random Vandamme said…

    Congratulations to you, the topper. If the headmaster boosted Babu, probably Babu would have been on the dias, and you wouldn't have got a bit of steel and a dictionary. Sekar should have given you a Mallu-English dictionary; thoughtless of him. I wish you would have got a chance to speak to the audience about EMU, KSU, Congress rivals and the powerful SFI and asked them to infer what ever they wish to. By the way, how far was the school from your home? I imagine you to be cycling if it were anywhere close.

  • At 10:25 PM, Blogger R.Nandakumar said…

    thanks vandamme!

    the school was about 4 kilometers away but down a very busy highway so we used to depend on buses.

    yes, if babu had beaten me, he would have had to write this post!

  • At 12:29 PM, Blogger Vishnu said…

    Nice post, but how did you become a communist? Is it because of the KSU? Then you can turn to them and say, "Ningalenne Communistaki!"

    But, seriously, I never thought that such political antics take place even in high schools. Colleges, of course, were places of political violence, especially in Thiruvananthapuram. I don't think I've heard of any such incident in a high school in TVM.

    Of course, I studied in a KV (Kendriya Vaidyasala), and we had elections, but the candidates were not allowed to campaign. All they were allowed to do was a speech on one day in the morning assembly. And they were not allowed to give `promises' to students. So, it was a gimmick after all!

  • At 9:25 PM, Blogger Myna said…

    Glad to know that you became a communist not because Pop was a communist. In many places, especially Kerala, that seems to be one thing inherited other than caste/religion.

    About Vishnu's comments: I remember the kind of venom the grocery shop owners and similar ones used to inject into our minds during the election campaign at school. Poor students!

  • At 6:34 AM, Blogger R.Nandakumar said…

    thanks vishnu and myna.

    interestingly, a google search with "how i became a communist" yielded (apart from THIS page) a short article with the very same name by none other than fidel castro!

  • At 12:52 AM, Blogger GoodLookiN! said…

    The Kerala Congress (Joseph) has put up a blog at
    I think this is a first for any political party in the state, please have a look and let me know what you think.


  • At 12:44 AM, Blogger Subha said…

    Where is the Communist in Kerala? Communism was a nice idea, that took birth in Russia, later KICKED OUT from the home itself.

    Here are the saviours of the God'd own country!!! Pseudo-communists.

    What are you doing for the country, other that organising Harthals and semi-Bandhs? Staying in India, and advocating for enemies like China!

    Kerala is a land of beliefs, not communism. Comminist parties are actually dividing the people into various classes.

    When my father was a COOLIE, then the CPM was very happy. When i studied, got a job, atarted earning money, made good house, now i am a BOORSHA....If i am not making money, will this Psedo Communist party feeed me?

    People in Kerala are so stupid that they can't understand these BRUTUSES. They want the COOLIES and Labourourses to remain the same to make sure that there are always people to hold the Bloody Red Flag. That's All!!

  • At 1:01 AM, Blogger Suresh Nair said…

    I have similar experience of Subha. My parents were laborers. They spent more than 50% of their life in the paddy fields of Kuttanadu. They were communists/communist supporters/voters for communist party. They managed to put me at the doors of a Poly Technic in 1994. Today i earn sufficient money to live a decent life, i studied with the money earned by me and climbed up the ladder of the career. My family has migrated from the hut to a good house made by me. Today, i and my family are 'Boooorshaaas' for the communist party. They are traits. They want the laborers to remain laborers; they want the generations of laborers to remain laborers.
    Look at the leaders of the party in Kerala - do they look like laborers? Do you think that they have ever experienced the pain of the helpless children or laborers?
    I hate them and their dead communist concepts. If you guys are intelligent enough, you can see the cruel foxes hidden inside them.


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