For a person who has never stayed here in Ernakulam, it’s a place of huge shopping malls, posh cars, IT services and pretty girls. For a person who had to earn his dough here the city is about traffic, pollution, congestion, inflated hotel bills. Whatever be the common perspective in both is Ernakulam is a city that revolves around commerce.
Unlike any other township Ernakulam is run by merchants- implicitly and explicitly. The Merchants form the ruling class. Hence the entire gamut of life revolves around a merchant perspective. All the important roads, streets, by lanes and junctions are named after prominent businessmen. The elected representatives also hail from these sect. The FDI-in-retail issue saw some of the most vociferous protests in Ernakulam. Needless to say even basic necessity such as road widening is aimed at business interest rather than ease of commutation.
Catholics form a major chunk of population. You’ll get to see enormous churches and Catholic-run colleges and Bishop houses in heart of the city. The only method to win a seat in Kochi is through these bishop houses and the subsequent pastoral orders from them.
If you have the time and space, observing the bustling crowd in MG road can give you an idea on the cross- section. There is a sizeable chunk of business men flaunting their BMWs and Volkswagens. They might be first generation businessmen or their bloody children moonlighting as directors. With the ingenuity of a Mallu any and every kind of businesses can be found here in Kochi. The intolerable ones are those who managed to get into the rich bracket by sheer luck. They might have gotten their hands on some bloody swamp. An excuse for a house would have been built and rented out for vulgar sums. These tenants live with the constant fear of possible liquidation.
Recently another phenomenon has threatened the slender balance. The IT revolution has ushered in another new generation of highly paid technical graduates into Ernakulam suburbs. It might be easy to spot these people from a crowd. A French beard, wire frame glasses, long sleeved shirts, laptop bag, fancy mid segment car and a pretty thing (wife/GF) in passenger seat. The weekends will be a shopping mall wearing accessories brought cheap from Wal-Mart on the last onsite visit. Still these people have powered up the huge metro development in the outskirts of Kochi.
There is a huge chunk that powers up the finance of the city. You can see them on buses or scooters, with a mobile glued to their ears fighting in at their wits’ end to make the cut. These might be young graduates just out of college and big dreams trying hard to make their cut. These financial services mainly aim in making the lives of the rich comfortable. The main area of service is tax evasion. No matter how much you earn, how much you spend tax sends creeps through the spine of a businessman. The phenomenon is common across the globe. Helping them avoid taxes is a big industry in Kochi.
Besides credit system is very popular in Kochi compared to other parts of Kerala. There are so many avenues that help you spend out of your means. Easily people get tied upto loans and have to slog in all their lives. Credit servicing is also another lucrative industry in Ernakulam.
Kochi seats the High court of Kerala. It will be a gross negligence if I donot mention the lawyers. They are a traditional clan in Kochi. The famous ones are very rich and cunning. They have got everything necessary for the formulae- shrewdness, political connections and the loopholes to skirt the law. Advocates are generally treated with a slight indifference.
Last but not the least, Kochi is known for its women. They are highly fashionable and may remind you of your good old days in Bangalore. The women in business class may not do anything but wear the costly attires and roam around in chauffeured cars attending to their culinary fetishes and a few scandalous affairs in between. The IT ladies will wear the uniform – jeans and kurthis- and hang around their techie husbands. Womens salons and boutiques are really hot items in Kochi