Kerala may be the most literate state in India. But here, “literate” does not sync with “knowledge”

Look at the below anecdote.

The other day, I was travelling from Kannur to Ernakulam via the Executive Express. Travelling by this train usually makes me lose my early morning sleep, so what I do is book an AC ticket and sleep off till I reach Shoranur. Due to financial crunch this time, I decided to forego luxury travel and took the normal second sitting reservation.

The people who were sharing space with me were two college going students. Next to them were a couple, who just cannot stop with their PDA’s, and at the extreme end was a person who looked well educated (probably a government employee) and his school going son.

At Shoranur, a frail old man boarded the train. He was around 70 years old, and got into the reservation compartment by mistake, presuming it to be general one. Somebody on the platform had told him that he could get in anywhere. He had a belt around his neck, and had great difficulty looking around. In his hand was the old model cardboard ticket. I guessed that he had just alighted from the Nilambur Passenger train, and got on this train for his onward journey.

He was trying to smile at all of us, but nobody really bothered. The college boys were discussing cricket, the couple continued their PDA’s which was getting really boring for all of us, and the father and son just looked outside the window.

The old main asked in a delicate voice, a common question to all of us – “When’ll this train reach Aluva?”                

Suddenly all the others sprung in action.

The father in the father-son duo replied – “What Aluva? This train doesn’t go there on Thursday” (it was the day we were travelling)

The old man got a slight shock. We could see the bit of tension reflecting in the face.

“Yeah, who told you this train goes to Aluva? Can’t you ask someone before you board the train?” – added the husband in the couple duo.

The old man was totally petrified now.

“I had asked them at the counter and boarded this… but they told this would go Aluva”

The co-passengers supplemented – “They fooled you maybe!” breaking into peals of laughter, thoroughly enjoying the situation where a helpless old man was in a stage of confusion.

“You get down at the next station and board another train” they told him, and started pestering him why he boarded a reservation coach with an unreserved ticket.

Some people really enjoy tormenting poor souls.

I got into the earshot of the conversation late, as I was more engrossed in twitter on my mobile and the chat of the college students immediately next to me. But the predicament of the poor old man got me into the groove. I asked the boys next to me who were still discussing Sachin Tendulkar – “did that man ask for Aluva?”


“I guess he asked Aluva only” – one of the boys replied.

I didn’t waste much time and spoke in a shrill voice to the old man so that all and sundry could eavesdrop – “Ammava, this train will stop at Aluva and you can get down there”

This was enough to bring about various shades of reactions among the group.

The boys got back to their discussion on Sachin.

The husband in the PDA couple immediately started snoring imitating sleep and wouldn’t wake up till I reached my destination. The wife was looking completely clueless at the ignorance of her partner.

The well dressed – well educated man was the only one to offer a clarification – “I thought he was asking for Alappuzha, actually this train goes to Alappuzha everyday other than today, right?”  


I just smiled at him.

Over the years, I’ve seen that my co-citizens of God’s own County have no sense of history. This incident made me realize that they’ve no clue about geography too. How else would someone confuse between Aluva and Alappuzha except for its phonetic parallel?

Literacy and Knowledge are poles apart. You can be 100% literate, but to gain knowledge, you need eyes and ears open, which I guess no malayalee does nowadays.