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Updated: September 15, 2013 04:12 IST

A new work culture in Kerala

Dr. Titus John
Comment (15)   ·   print   ·   T  T  

A friend of mine, who is a doctor in Thiruvananthapuram, called me the other day to tell this story. He recently built a house in one of the city suburbs. One day, a man who lives nearby, came and asked him why he still had no curtains on the windows.

“Doctor,” he said, “this is a beautiful, new house. But where are the curtains? You need curtains.”

Curtains, he said, would look nice on this new building. My friend told the man that he would call him after some time. The man gave my friend his address and left. A month later, my friend decided to put curtains and went in search of this man. But when he enquired in the locality, he was told that there was none who stitched curtains.

After a couple of days, the man again appeared before my friend. “Doctor, it seems you came searching for me.” My friend told him that he was indeed there but could not locate him. To this, the man replied, “True doctor, it is me and my brother who are doing this. I will bring him soon.”

And off he went. But a few days later, both were back. When the doctor gave the specifications for the curtains, they said they would return. They were true to their word but they brought with them an emaciated man. This man took the measurements and the curtains were ready in a week.

But what were the first two doing? Of course, we all know what they were doing. They did nothing. But they made money out of the poor tailor’s labour and sweat. And this is the latest and rapidly spreading “work culture” in every field of activity in Kerala.

Who on earth said you cannot catch fish without wetting your hands?

(The writer’s email:

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The Malayalee outside Kerala is the epitome of hard work, but within Kerala he becomes the pinaccle of strikes and politicking and cynism. This sad state of Kerala is actually worth a research study as one cannot fathom this change from outside. Like me, many others are still wondering whether to coin this is as a result of too many marxist theologies floating in the air, or plain laziness..

from:  hari radhakrishnan kurup
Posted on: Sep 17, 2013 at 13:15 IST

Middle man job is a job. Why should the columnist or some other readers so disturbed with it.
The middle man searches around and find the tailor for the doctor and get the job done within the time. He is charging so amount for the services rendered by him (may exorbitant or reasonable). However if the doctor wanted to save the money, he should have directly approached the tailor and saved the cost. Since he didn't have the time or inclination, he ended up paying for the middle man services.

from:  Raj
Posted on: Sep 16, 2013 at 13:58 IST

The tailor can't do two things at a getting business the tailor is happy. What does this author do for living.

from:  Murray
Posted on: Sep 16, 2013 at 10:16 IST

This is a very old business model!! Ever heard of EAST INDIA COMPANY??

from:  John
Posted on: Sep 16, 2013 at 01:53 IST

The article did not surprise me because the work culture in Kerala is
such that 'NOKKU COOLIE' (insisting on labour charge not doing work) is
widely prevalent and people are fleeced and the govt.remain as dumb
spectators though they claim that it has been abolished in certain
districts in Kerala

from:  k.sivasubramanian
Posted on: Sep 16, 2013 at 00:44 IST

It exists everywhere in Kerala, and started since 2007! I too have the same experience.

from:  Mohd. Ayoob
Posted on: Sep 15, 2013 at 19:49 IST

Many thanks Dr for raising this issue. UPA II will happily move another Bill to abolish middlemen and make all payments to the 'real person' who sweats by cash transfer to AADHAR-linked bank accounts. Perhaps, the argument can be stretched further.We should write more about lazy Keralites and 'make money'!

from:  M G WARRIER
Posted on: Sep 15, 2013 at 17:57 IST

In a way isn't the tailor also gaining?

Posted on: Sep 15, 2013 at 12:30 IST

I know that Keralites work very hard outside their home-state without
bickering. This new work culture is very new to me. Thanks for the

from:  c.v.sukumaran
Posted on: Sep 15, 2013 at 11:36 IST

Nothing new Dr Tito, the landed gentry of Kerala have been exploiting the poor in similar fashion for centuries. The rich lived out of the labor of the poor and got richer and when the poor got educated they got even with Kerala's own brand of socialism

Today, the so-called IT honchos exploit the educated youth with the lure of $ linked incomes to keep them mentally impoverished

from:  Abraham Kuruvilla
Posted on: Sep 15, 2013 at 10:59 IST

What at true reflection of the state of affairs and the work culture in
the whole of India. Our country is turning into a land of Middlemen-
"Dallaals". A case in hand is that of one Mr. Robert Vadra.

from:  Manish Dey
Posted on: Sep 15, 2013 at 09:12 IST

This culture has been there for ever! Stock brokers put 1/100 th of the efforts of the peasants, miners, works. But they (brokers) earn 100 times more. So Kerala has not innovated something new!

from:  Biman Roy
Posted on: Sep 15, 2013 at 07:32 IST

Agency and middle men eat much of the profit while emaciating the true worker. The enhanced version of capitalism. May be one should name it as Tom Sawyer Philosophy. Call it outsource or exploitation, it has now become the way of the world. I am told, there are Indian firms who take orders for authentic Indian products that then get made in China and exported as Indian goods!! Foreign traveled Kerala population has picked up all these marketing tech-nicks and now applying it on the local population. Innovative? Yes! Catching a fish without wetting the hand? Yes!! Immoral? No! Amoral? Yes!

from:  Saratchandran
Posted on: Sep 15, 2013 at 07:18 IST

It is true. For every work there are middlemen in Kerala. Plumber,
electrician, carpenter, mason, removing materials from house, name
anything. They make one or 2 phone calls and arrange things at their
convenient date. Work also, not 8 hours, afternoon work only name sake.
We are ingenious in making money with less work, output.

from:  Gopalan
Posted on: Sep 15, 2013 at 07:11 IST


I disagree on your core premise that the first person is not doing
anything to earn money. This guy went around people's homes and looked
around for ones with no curtains. i.e. he is scouting for business.

from:  KK
Posted on: Sep 15, 2013 at 06:47 IST
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