Yahiya got the name ‘Maxi Maman’ after he began the habit of wearing nighties at all times, in protest against an instance where he was assaulted by the police.

An elderly man wearing a red nightie and white towel stands next to a younger man wearing black shirt and blue jeans and specsMaxi Maman with Sanu Kummil
news Obituary Sunday, September 12, 2021 - 19:51

Yahiya, an elderly tea vendor in Kerala’s Kollam who became famous for his unique protests, died early morning on Sunday, September 12. Fondly called ‘Maxi Maman', Yahiya was about 80 years old. He was found dead in his daughter's house in Kollam. He had been unwell for a while, says Sanu Kummil, who made a documentary on Yahiya a few years ago. 

During his last days, Yahiya had insisted on sleeping at a policeman's house where he worked as a caretaker. Ironic considering he had begun wearing women's nighties as a protest against an incident of police assault. However, when his condition had worsened, Yahiya moved from the policeman’s house to one of his daughters' place. The policeman, finding Yahiya suddenly dead, gave a complaint, and so a postmortem is taking place, Sanu says.

Yahiya got the name Maxi Maman after he began the habit of wearing nighties at all times. It happened after he once got beaten by a policeman for not untucking his folded lungi. In Sanu's documentary about him, Mind Matter of a Tea Vendor, Yahiya spoke of the assault happening when he was pushing his 'mobile thattukada' (before he had a permanent spot for his tea shop). Since then he switched to wearing nighties because one doesn’t have to fold it or unfold it no matter who showed up before you, Maxi Maman said in the documentary.

In an earlier interview to TNM, he had also spoken about another protest — shaving his head, in anger against the sudden 2016 demonetisation that brought him misery. After spending two days in those long queues outside banks to exchange banknotes and passing out tired, Yahiya had angrily burnt whatever little savings he had, in his tea shop stove. On the first anniversary of demonetisation, he had also shaved half of his moustache. Yahiya had sworn to grow it back only when the Modi government fell.

Maxi Maman had spent many years in a Gulf country, and got his daughters married off before returning home to Kerala. His wife died a few years ago. He leaves behind two daughters.

Read: Maxi Maman: Meet the Kerala man protesting injustices in a nightie with half shaved head

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