It is hard to not notice the photo - a bearded man in a Yoga pose standing in the middle of a huge pothole of mud water. He is on a road in Pandikkadu of Malappuram in Kerala, facing the MLA of the area, UA Latheef, who has stopped by to see the protest. Look at the state of these roads, someone is heard telling the MLA. Latheef however says one should keep banana trees in these potholes, surprising and disappointing the bunch of protesters and townsfolk gathered there. This has been a problem for a while now, gigantic potholes making life difficult for the people of Malappuram.
“Pandikkadu is a place that connects Malappuram to many different places – one route to the Ooty road, one the Perunthalmanna Patambi area, one to Manjeri and another to Palakkad. Except the Manjeri route, all the three other routes were retarred – basically, patchwork done – but when the rains came in the last few weeks, the roads became messy, and potholes as big as ponds or wells formed in the middle of the road. This is a path the people of Malappuram need to use regularly – to go the hospital or anything. We felt a protest was needed to bring it to the attention of the authorities,” says the man who stood in the Yoga pose, Hamza Porlliyil.
He and a few others, who are part of a group called Ranabhoomi, decided on the protest on Saturday, after travelling through Pandikkadu became a nightmare. Their idea was to take bath in the mud water and get the attention of the public and the people’s representatives.
“We went with towels and soaps and everything and began taking a bath. Within a few minutes MLA Latheef passed that way and had to stop because of the protest. Spontaneously I thought of doing Yoga poses and presenting him with a Soorya namaskaram. But his initial response – to plant banana trees – was very disappointing. It is clear that the patchwork of the road was not done properly, how else would they break so soon, within months? And the MLA, the people’s representative that we complain to, responds in this manner. But later it was taken up politically, and by the common people on social media,” says Hamza, who works as a rubber tapper by the day, and also acts in short films and documentaries.
Ranabhoomi has earlier made a documentary on potholes and done another protest against petrol price rise, using a dialogue of actor Suraj Venjaramoodu from a film.