Nobody home! What Kerala’s ghost houses whisper about migratory trends

Around 18 lakh houses were vacant and locked in Kerala in 2022. Photos: On arrangement

Forty-seven-year-old Krishnakumar P, from Athekkad in Trissur, has been working in the sales department of a multinational company at Philadelphia in the US for the last 15 years. His wife, a paramedic by profession, also works there. The couple’s two children are US citizens by birth. Well-settled in a faraway land, living the quintessential American dream, the family has no intention of returning to Kerala. Yet what awaits them back in Athekkad are relatives, friends and an empty house – standing two-storey tall, spread over 3,600 square feet built up area.

The house stays locked for most part, except for when a distant relative, who is paid a monthly salary, checks on it to ensure it is not illegally occupied or falls into ruins due to a lack of repair.

A drive across the state brings one across umpteen such houses, whose doors and windows have not been opened for years for fresh air to enter, and which are guarded by sturdy locks. The occasional visitors of these houses, owned by NRIs, are local caretakers.

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