From Central Prison to Cliff House, Pinarayi’s Epic Journey Continues


Magazine publishing has, forever been a challenging task, since the inception of the world’s very first monthly periodical titled ‘Edifying Monthly Discussions’, edited and published by the German poet-philosopher Johann Rest in 1663, exactly 223 years after another German genius, Johannes Gutenberg, designed and created the first-ever printing press in 1440. Johann Rest’s magazine folded up in five years. Very expensive to go on, and very few willing to give financial support, mused Rev. Rest later.

Almost the same dilemma stopped me on my tracks, even before the idea called Destination Kerala took proper shape in my thoughts. How do I find the finances to launch such a project in the untested waters of Kerala, not very receptive to ‘foreign’ language publications? Tourism, in fact business in general, cannot be promoted in territories beyond Kerala through Malayalam journals, English being the global medium for the purpose. Globalisation was in full swing in India by mid-1997. Destination Kerala was an urgent need of the hour, and a helping hand had to come forward to prop up and push the idea forward. It was already March 1997, and the launch was planned for May 1. All I had on hand was a few sheets of letter heads and some calling cards; no office, no means of conveyance other than public transport, and hardly any cash that can be called capital.

‘‘Why don’t you meet the Minister for Power and Co-operation, two entities with some funds for promotion?’’ my dear friend M S Nazeem, an employee of the State power board suggested. ‘‘He is comparatively young, receptive to novel ideas, and a swift decision maker.’’

And so, with the kind of audacity only someone who has nothing to lose, and everything to gain can muster, I met Minister Pinarayi Vijayan armed with a pair of proposals addressed to him for support from Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) and Kerala State Co-operative Bank (Cobank), both coming under his jurisdiction. He looked at my calling card, recognised me as a travel writer in his party’s weekly journal, and read through the proposal letters.

‘‘You are knocking at the wrong door. These are autonomous bodies and, as Minister, I do not interfere in their administrative matters,’’ Pinarayi said with a smile, returning the papers to me. He suggested that I call on Dr. B Vasanthan, Director – PR of KSEB, and K J Joseph, State President – Cobank, with proposals addressed to them. ‘‘If they find it fit, they will support you.’’

I was a bit disappointed, but anyway, made it to M/s. Vasanthan and Joseph. To my delight, they obliquely revealed that a call had already come from the minister’s office for favourable consideration of the idea, if it suits their needs. That was the beginning for us; call it the golden touch of Pinarayi, if you like.

A doer rather than a talker, his latest ‘avatar’ as the Chief Minister puts him in the spotlight as a ‘development man’ who is bent upon bringing about change in a system which is faulty.

The name Vijayan literally means the winner, and is also a synonym for Arjuna, the winning warrior of epic, Mahabharath. Born in Pinarayi in north Kerala, a rugged village where the communist movement in God’s Own Country was launched, he became a state legislator at the tender age of 25. Vijayan had his baptism by fire during India’s notorious ‘Emergency’ of 1975-77. Beaten to pulp and left to die in the Central Prison, Kannur, Pinarayi Vijayan resurrected from that hour of darkness to become the torch bearer of his party and the standard bearer of the State, rightfully riding into Cliff House, the official residence of the Chief Minister.

Kerala is sorely in need of honest, forward-looking political and administrative leadership. Hopefully, Pinarayi Vijayan can ensure realisation of this dream for his native State, otherwise a well-endowed and resourceful region.