Saturday, October 23, 2010

Youth to the fore


N.S. Soumya is the youngest candidate in the Cochin Corporation municipal elections. She is standing as the UDF candidate from Ponnurruni, Kochi

By Shevlin Sebastian

It is a modest house in the upmarket Kunjan Bawa Road, at Kochi. N.S. Soumya, clad in a white cotton saree, waits patiently at the door. At 24, she is the youngest candidate in the Cochin Corporation municipal elections. Soumya is the UDF representative for the Scheduled Caste seat allotted to Ponnurruni.

Soumya has some experience of politics. She is the president of the Kerala Students Union unit at the RLV College in Tripunithara, where she is doing her post-graduation in painting. M.A. Sebastian, block Congress Committee secretary says that Soumya, on her own initiative, had set up the KSU unit in the college four years ago. “She is a capable girl, even though she is young,” he says. “We found no drawbacks in fielding her.”

He added that the opposing candidate, Bindu Sivadasan of the LDF, who is in her thirties now, had become the president of the Thiruvankulam panchayat at the age of 21.

Nevertheless, when Soumya went out for campaigning, she was inevitably questioned about her youth. “But the people’s attitude changed when I told them I was doing my post-graduation,” she says. “Nobody comes to a job fully trained. I will learn as I go along.”

Of course, like all divisions, there are drawbacks galore. Bad roads are a major issue among the residents. Those who travel on Subhash Chandra Bose Road, as I did, will testify that the roads are in horrible shape.

“Two riders got injured when in order to avoid a speeding Kottayam-bound private bus, they fell into a large pothole,” says Soumya. The other problems include a drinking water shortage, a mosquito menace, and water-logging.

Soumya remembers going into a house in the interior and talking to a family in knee-deep water inside the house. “They were CPI(M) supporters,” she says. “I found this ironical. The area has been a LDF stronghold for the past 30 years, and nothing has been done to alleviate the sufferings of the people.” The previous councillor was none other the Deputy Mayor Mani Shankar.

Soumya was deeply affected when she met old people living alone, without any pension, struggling to get money to pay for medicines, and vegetables. “The cost of living has gone up so much,” she says. “Several were turned away by officials of the Cochin Corporation when they approached them for help. I felt very bad about it. Whether I win or lose, I will be helping them.”

The Ponnurruni division is a study in contrasts. Following my conversation with Soumya, when I step out, onto the road, I hear music blaring from the nearby 'Nirmal Gardens' bungalow. It is the evergreen Boney M hit, 'By the rivers of Babylon'.

(The New Indian Express, Kochi)

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