Kadakkal is a small town in the Kollam district of Kerala, better known as the land of revolutionaries which fought against British Raj and Sir CP Ramaswamy Iyer. The Kaddakal Riot (1939) is one of the 39 movements/struggles that led to India getting freedom from the British Raj. Yahiya from Kadakkal has become the talk of the town after his unique way of protest against PM Narendra Modi’s demonetisation move.
He wakes up at 5: 30 am every morning and starts working at his local food joint where he prepares food for his customers who begin queuing up early in the morning. He manages his food joint all alone, cooking and cleaning up and pulls down the shutter at 8pm. Yahiya charges Rs 10 for a veg thali serving rice and curry with tapioca. For non-veg thali, customers are charged Rs 40 only; veg curry is replaced by chicken curry. For Rs 60 one can have fish curry thali at his joint; extra servings are not charged. Wastage of food is not acceptable to the septuagenarian, people are fined Rs 25 for it as he believes it’s a criminal offence.
He still charges Rs 4 for a cup of tea. Yahiya aims to earn only Rs 500 per day and once he meets his daily target, everyone is served food free of charge. He says he needs to repay his loan and that’s the only reason he is running the food joint. After a day of hard work, he heads to the government liquor shop and purchases his daily quota of alcohol – a quarter bottle of booze.
The 73-year-old workman who follows the profound history of his native land, Kadakkal, vowed not to grow his hair back until Modi is voted out of power.
On the day, when the demonetisation announcement came out, Yahiya had Rs. 23000 in cash with him. But he couldn’t exchange the notes even after standing two days at a bank in the queue. While standing in the queue, Yahiya collapsed due to low blood sugar and was taken to the hospital. Unfortunately, his only account was with a cooperative bank where all transactions were frozen due to demonetization drive. Literally, his 23000 rupees proved to be useless papers and he burned it out. The angry and disappointed Yahiya went to a nearby barber shop and shaved off half of his head.
“I vow to grow it back only when Prime Minister Modiji, the man who, in a jiffy, burnt all my hard work and savings into ashes, is voted out of power and this country is saved,” Yahiya said. The distinctive way of protest has projected as an icon of the nationwide protest against demonetisation. Now, the pressure has fallen on the police to arrest him for burning currency notes. The special branch officers reached his tea shop to inquire about the incident. However, Yahiya set fire to the question – ‘how come burning invalid money is a crime?’
Yahiya, the warrior who spends his life to fighting against the system, will receive you at his den named RMS tea shop at Kadakkal, Kollam. If you are expecting a man with traditional outfits, you will be shocked. Yahiya used to wear ladies maxi as the part of the protest against power exertion of police force and blights of the system.
Once a Sub Inspector of police kicked Yahiya saying that he didn’t unfold his ‘Dhothi’ when he has seen the police. That day changed his outfit from dhoti to maxi. He proudly wears a maxi in front of everyone including persons who are holding high denomination posts like ministers, DGP etc.
When I met Yahiya, he started to unfold his bundle of stories which he had experienced in his life.
For long 18 years, he spent his life in the deserts of Gulf, facing the cruel punishments of his lord. He shared his sorrows and happiness with the camels whom he used to take care.
Now people from different areas are heading towards Yahiya’s RMS to taste Yahiya style food which is mixed with his love and hard work. Yahiya prepares food to satisfy his customers rather than earning money. The rate of food in RMS is two times less that food which we are getting from hotels.
After getting 500 rupees a day besides his expenses, Yahiya serves food for free of cost. Sometimes he may leave the shop and customers can cook food themselves using the raw materials which he has stored for the day.
“Never beg in front of others and eat with our own sweat”, this is what Yahiya used to follow in his life. Once he faced a bitter experience from his customers that they have stolen his money from the shop after having food. After that, he never kept money in the shop. If you came to know about his methods to keep the money, you may think that he is mad and crazy. Sometimes he hides cash here and there, sometimes digs in soil.
The money, Rs 23000, the result of his sweat became black money within one night due to the demonetization drive of prime minister Modi.
Once again he took a brave step to protest against the system and its arbitrary move by firing his worthless 23000 rupees.
Mr Modi, remember that people like Yahiya are waiting to expel you from your throne.