A simple word requesting the value for a product or services to be rendered.
But for a mallu, this word can send shivers down their collective spines like velluchettan climbing down a coconut tree.
In Kerala the word ‘quotation’ has a more sinister meaning. It is a term used in Kerala’s underworld as the value for services rendered like beating up a person/s of your choice, having limbs cut off from your chosen people, forcibly kicking someone else’s bucket on your behalf, looting, raping, threatening, intimidating, blackmailing and other unsavory activities.
The people who do these services are known very lovingly as Quotation team aka Quotation gang.
I have had the privilege of knowing a gentleman who offers this service. He runs a travel agency in Trivandrum and is part of a kalari. So he get his resources from his kalari (much like a dojo but here, kalaripayatu, the oldest known martial art is taught). Teenage boys who get a thrill in acting out their little sword dreams. I have met a few of these boys also.
Personally I wasn’t impressed.
What is scary about them is that they come in a group and under great peer pressure to prove themselves. The worst case scenario in my opinion. You probably will be able to thulp the living day lights out of each one of them individually, but the sheer number can be a little off putting. A bunch of people with no common sense and weapons have always been my favorite problem.
When you think of the word ‘underworld’, it conjures up images of guys in suits with brooding eyes and big guns. In Kerala, nothing could be further from the truth. Our underworld quotation king’s looks pretty ordinary; the lungi and shirt type. Very unimpressive. In the hierarchy they rank as service providers. They come between the needy and the needless. The needy being contractors, builders, politicians, rich business magnates (that’s a mallu word for being a rich business person...have no idea where the magnet fits in), the liquor barons etc. The needless is everyone else, who are really pretty much disposable.
As service providers, they don’t normally involve themselves in the action once the quotation is approved. I don’t think they receive any Local Purchase Order. Normally it would be a 50% advance and balance on delivery.
So now the quotation chettan subs the contract in true mallu tradition. We subcontract everything. In the olden days, we even subcontracted our wives to the namboodiris to do the needful while we went to wars fighting over who gets another coconut tree. Along with other discoveries like matriarchal society, toddy and beef fry, we are also the patented discoverers of subcontracting.
The contract is now given to the actual people who will undertake the said service. This lot are lovingly known as goondas.
Goondas in Malluland don’t have normal mallu names like Takazhi Shivashankara Pillai. They go by names like Kathi Mathai (Kathi means knife in mallu), or Minal Vasu (Minal is mallu for lightening), or my favourite soda babu (the prefix due to the said gentleman's affinity of soda bottles as a weapon).
The goondas resources can be from many sources. They could be from a particular local gym, a kalari, any government party or union, colonies etc. Every place has its own goonda and a team of goondagites (my term for minor goondas) under him.
Once the transaction is completed, our ‘boyz from the hood’ go over and do the actual deed. Of course sometimes they make mistakes and do the wrong person in - but hey, it is an honest mistake. Can happen to anybody. How many times have you gone and killed the wrong person? I thought so. It happens.
The thing is, this particular trade has become part and parcel of life in Kerala. They are used to turn a peaceful procession into a riot, they are used to either stall or speed up any civil contract related issues, they are used by business competitors to intimidate the competition, hell, and they can even make or break a movie that hits the screen.
These bastards are everywhere.
The only way to beat them is to get a bigger goonda, which means more quotations and LPOs and credit application forms. So in effect it’s a self multiplying issue - like an amoeba.
So what do we do about this?
I honestly do not know.
Like any problem in Kerala, when it’s pointed out, more fingers tend to be pointed elsewhere. It’s like if there’s a problem in Kerala; first we are required to go and solve world hunger, eradicate racism, resolve all religious discords, do other minor deeds like lighting a matchstick on soap. Then we can finally come back and address the issue only to be told that the court is now on vacation.
I may care about the world. I said may. I actually may not. But I do care about the place I live in. I like keeping my house clean. I don’t care if my neighbor doesn’t. So when I say that we should really do something about the dog shitting all over the carpet and you go like, oh, you should see what our neighbor’s dog does to the ceiling, that’s when I get all pissed. I do not care about my neighbor’s problem. Maybe he can take a lesson from how I keep my house. Maybe he doesn’t know how. Maybe he’s too scared of the dog. Maybe he thinks that’s how a house should be or maybe that’s how he likes it. I DO NOT CARE.
But that should not stop us from putting our heads together to find a way to either stop the dog from shitting on our carpet or how to get the dog out of our house.
Photo credit: Josh Libatique