Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Trivandrum Golf Club and an encounter with Shashi Tharoor!

Pic - An emergency ambulance at the trivandrum golf club - signs of troubled times?
I wrote in this blog, two years ago, ( , of my introduction, to the lovely game of golf. In May 2007, I became a Member Elect of the Trivandrum Golf Club. In 2008 December, I was made a Member. The guidance of expert coaches helped me grasp the fundamentals of the game. I am regular in my golf and enjoy it.
The Trivandrum Golf Club found itself in the eye of a storm in 2008, when on May 30th, the Government of Kerala decided to resume ownership of the 25 acres of land and buildings in its possession. . The obvious reason cited was that the 25 acres of prime land and facilities within it were being enjoyed by a handful of people for their private pleasure and the public at large are denied access. The incidents connected with this action of the Government became subject of a legal and political controversy, the ripples of which are yet to die down . The High Court of Kerala quashed the orders of the Government on procedural infirmities but permitted appropriate action to be taken in compliance with the rules. Government is going ahead with taking over the land of the golf club and a protracted litigation is in place. Unfortunately, the public perception of clubs as places of exclusivity where the elite rub shoulders is yet to change and the Trivandrum Golf Club found very little support even when the government’s actions were arbitrary and heavy handed.
The above narration is only to give the reader a better understanding of the events of 22nd March 2009. The Extraordinary General Meting of the golf club was held at the club house that evening to consider two alterations to be made to the bye-laws and approve of the budget for 2009-10. The President, Mr.P..M. Abraham, was in the chair and the items on the agenda unanimously approved by the 36 members in attendance. Pity that in a club with 600 members, hardly a handful turn up .
Immediately after the meting was adjourned, a gentleman took the stage and mentioned that members of the Club should exercise their franchise in the Parliament Elections of 2009 to register their protest at the state government’s action towards the golf club. A second person ,in more explicit terms, said that members should use their clout to defeat the candidate of a particular political party bent on taking over the lands of the club The President of the Club was a voice of sanity when he stated that voting should be left to the individual choice and Club should seek recourse to legal remedies. . Unfortunately, many members refused to tow this line. I was in a minority when I said that though the actions of government were arbitrary and illegal, it is improper to use the club, even informally, to plan and discuss political action or retaliation. As responsible citizens of this country, club members ought to focus on graver issues facing the nation and not be myopic.. My comments invited a harsh reaction from the Secretary who categorised me a ‘new comer’. I still don’t get its implications.. Is a new comer not supposed to dissent.? Or is he not allowed to express his views in a meeting? Over the last two years, I went through the metamorphosis of being a Member-Elect, a Candidate member and finally a Member. Karl Marx's insights on the bourgeois patterns of thought are relevant in many contexts.
In the midst of all this it was announced that Shashi Tharoor, the Congress candidate from the Trivandrum Parliamentary Consitutency will be reaching the Club. The Congress Party is in the Opposition in Kerala where the Communists are at the helm of government. Mr Tharoor, who is a Honorary Member of the Golf Club, . arrived and spoke of the need for Trivandrum to grow in to a global city and secure recognition internationally. Some listeners were impatient and couldn’t wait to hear him out. They interrupted to ask his views on the Government’s resumption of ownership of the lands of the Club. Dampening their enthusiasm, Mr.Tharoor stated that the Club is regarded in the surrounding community as a exclusive zone with facilites being monopolized by a few hundred members. There must be a attitude change on the part of the members too, he said.. Mr. Tharoor agreed that in a city, facilities for leisure and recreation, like golf courses are necessary and what exists should be preserved. . Mr. Tharoor minced no words when he said ‘there is an egalitarian streak in Kerala society and you are on the wrong side of it’. Thanks, Mr. Tharoor for a sober response.
It’s often said ‘a politician thinks of the next election, a statesman thinks of the next generation.’ Mr.Tharoor displayed statesmanship during the few minutes he spend at the golf club. Sorry, Mr.Tharoor, that I can’t help you in this election.. The ‘egalitarian streak’ you mentioned in passing, is a contribution of the Left movement in Kerala, built through heroic struggles spanning many decades of the last century and I trace my roots to it.
But my respect for you as an individual has been built by our first encounter in the golf club and it will always be there. If the people of Trivandrum, elect you, I will only be happy to welcome you as our Member of Parliament .
Wish you all Success!