18 January, 2021

Somalayalis And Their Walls

The preparation for Kerala’s elections is both long and full of quirky traditions, but this time some of them are facing unexpected changes

Hired by the LDF, a painter rushes to fill a wall
Photograph by PTI
Somalayalis And Their Walls

Elections in Kerala are not like anywhere else. Malayalis have raised it to the level of a rite, a quinquennial Onam or Vishu, with well-laid down steps that are seldom transgressed. Preparations for them start well in advance—a couple of years ahead of the actual event. That’s when Kuttappan of Pullepadi, Kochi, would get out in the night on his cycle, with his friend at the back, carrying a can of paint and brushes. Kuttappan’s destinations are walls at prime locations on the roadside. On them they would draw these magical letters in upper case, ‘BKD LDF 2016’, and, presto, the surface belonged to them—for graffiti is unchallenged till the election is over. I picked up Kuttappan because I know about his pride in getting a head-start, and reminding his rivals in other parties that the election clock had started ticking.

Meanwhile, Kuttappans of other parties, all over Kerala, would be cycling nocturnally, ‘booking’ walls for their parties. Only the middle set of letters change to UDF or NDA. Once the message is written,...



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