Thursday, January 3
Naa went to her treatment at 9:00 and Tangaraj had to take her by a little-used back road because he could not use Kovalam Junction. A political party had called a one-day strike – a hartal – for a complex set of interlocked reasons, and any rickshaws in use might get attacked.
These reasons begin with the fact that an election will happen in May, so everything that politicians can use for political advantage will get used. Three issues have thus got intertwined.
The Supreme Court resolved a dispute lasting years in the autumn. They said that women of menstruating age could enter the mountain temple at Sabarimala to offer darshan, against the wishes of traditionalists who want to uphold a tradition invented in 1990. The police assisted two women named Kanaka Durga and Bindu Hariharan (”communist agitators”, say the BJP) to enter – and all hell broke loose.
Secondly the government has tried to implement a law banning triple talaq: the right of Muslim men to divorce their wives instantly by saying, or in some cases texting, the word three times. A different group of people objected to this – and all hell broke loose again.
Thirdly the Kerala government supported (”organised in order to promote atheism”) a Women’s Wall – a line of women 620 kilometres long – to celebrate “renaissance values”. This became a political battlefield as different factions tried to enforce different narratives about what happened and what effect it had.
“Government turning state into devil’s country”, said G Sukumaran Nair, NSS general secretary. The result: instant hartal and unprecedented levels of street violence across Kerala.
Molly cleaned the house for two hours while Irma and I sat reading. We had intended to go to the Modern Book Centre but Uday, who had offered to arrange a driver for us, phoned to say that no drivers would agree to drive into Trivandrum today.
At 15:00 I photograph yesterday and today’s newspapers, since I suspect we will not leave the house before tomorrow.
To my surprise the hartal will stop at 18:00, promptly, and restaurants and shops will open, and rickshaws will spring into action to transport people to them.
We will call Tangaraj to take us for Naa’s last meal, and head for Raahath. This, to our surprise, will remain closed.
Instead we will turn round and head for the beach and the safety of Leo.
Tiger prawns at Leo will turn out to fit Naa’s requirements exactly. They will do them just as she likes them: in the tandoori oven, with no sauce and a lot of spice.
We will all go early to bed because we have to get up early tomorrow.