Shashi Tharoor

‘Strangers in our own land’: Shashi Tharoor on the heritage of Malayalis who live away from Kerala

(Shashi Tharoor is an Indian politician. This excerpt from his book Pride, Prejudice and Punditry: The Essential Shashi Tharoor was first published in Scroll on November 8, 2021)


  • As a Keralite who was a “Marunaadan Malayali” for most of his life, I can say that we are, for the most part, conscious – some would say inordinately proud – of our Malayali cultural heritage. But as we are cut off from its primary source, the source of daily cultural self- regeneration – Kerala itself – we have to evolve our own identities by preserving what we can of our heritage and merging it with those of the others around us. As we grow up outside Kerala, we know that we are not the Malayalis we might have been if our parents had never left Kerala. In due course, Onam becomes only as much a part of our culture as any other holiday, and we are as likely to give a younger relative a Christmas present as a Vishukkaineettam (Kerala New Year gift). We, Malayalis without our Mathrubhumi or Manorama newspapers, who do not understand the Ottamthullal folk dance, and have never heard of the great poets Vallathol or Kumaran Asan – are, when we come to visit Kerala, strangers in our own land…

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