I found out about the BBC’s recent big story about Kerala when I was browsing in the Reliance World internet café below my office. One of my colleagues – a Malayali, same as 95% of the people who work in my Technopark office – came to me with a big grin on his face. “Hey, did you hear there was a story about Kerala in the BBC today?” I told him I hadn’t, but was quickly interested to know what it was about. Kerala in the news! Exciting! “Yeah,” he said, grin still fixed to his face. “It said that Kerala consumes the most alcohol in the whole of India!”
There it was on the BBC’s front page. ‘Kerala’s love affair with alcohol’ read the headline in bold type. I had expected an appreciation of the palm trees and backwaters seen in Incredible!ndia, or something equally charming and inoffensive, but this was an exposé of the state’s runaway drinking culture. Normally, when there is bad international press about your homeland, you tend to react with either shame, disgust, protest or a combination of the three. My colleague, however, seemed almost overjoyed to tell me that he and his fellow Malayalis were becoming world renowned for their drinking prowess. A typical reaction of a young male anywhere, I guess, but it neatly sums up the attitude here.