Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s overnight demonetisation drive, scrapping of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 from the financial system of India on November 8, came as a shock to many. It would be wrong to say that the drive hit only those who were hoarding black money. Reports suggest that millions of lower income class people were severely hit by the move; while some struggled to feed their children, others — daily wage workers — struggled to get work to meet their daily expenses. There are also people, without bank accounts, who had to let go of liquid money they had saved over the years, working very hard.
One such man is 70-year-old Yahiya, Yahikkakka for his customers, who runs a small hotel and tea shop in Kerala’s Kollam.
Dr Ashraf Kadakkal, assistant professor at University of Kerala, made a Facebook post last night about the old man, narrating how the demonetisation drive hit him, and why he shaved off half his head in protest, and why he vowed not to grow his hair until PM Modi is voted out of power.
Titling his post “Mann Ki Baat from a small hotel owner to a former tea vendor,” Ashraf shared the story of Yahikkakka. Here’s a close translation of his Facebook post.
“My name is Yahiya. Peers call me Yahi, others prefer calling Yahikkakka. I am nearly 70 years old, a native of Kadakkal Mukkunnam in Kerala’s Kollam district. I live with my wife and two daughters.
When I realised I cannot marry off my daughter from what I make from climbing coconut trees and working in farms, I sold everything I had and went to the Gulf. Nothing but a life of suffering awaited me there, a poor, uneducated man. I came back with whatever little I made. With that money, and a bank loan from Kadakkal Co-operative bank, I got my daughter married.
I found a new way to sustain myself and family by starting this RMS fast food joint.
I handle the entire hotel myself, from cooking to serving to cleaning. So I chose to wear a nightie. My customers enjoy the tasty beef and chicken fry I serve from 5 PM till midnight, and stay entertained by what they consider a ridiculous attire for a man. Had I been running this store in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, I would have been hanged.
I was living, facing one day at a time, till Prime Minister Modi announced the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes.
I had Rs 23,000 in cash, all in the demonetised notes. I tried my best to get it exchanged from nearby banks, stood in queues for two days. On the second day, blood sugar level dropped and I almost collapsed. Some Good Samaritans helped me to a government hospital.
Other than the loan account at the co-operative bank, I don’t have a bank account. Since all transactions at co-operative banks were frozen, I realised I cannot get it deposited anywhere.
How many days should I stand in queues to get the money I saved, my money, the money I made working hard for hours straight over the years, deposited?
When I got home from the hospital, I lit my choolah and burnt the entire Rs 23,000 in it. I then went to a nearby barber shop, shaved off half my already bald head.
I vow to grow it back only when PM 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.
This is my pledge and my protest.”
Dr Ashraf ended his Facebook post saying, “Dear Yahikkakka, sorry for treating you like a clown all these years. Your protest is so powerful and meaningful that the bandh the strongest party in our state is conducting tomorrow.”
Talking to India Today, Dr Ashraf said, “Yahikkakka reads newspapers regularly. He has a strong stand on everything. He went to the Gulf selling whatever he had but life was hell there too. He returned to start this thattukada (small fast food joint) where a lot of people come not just to eat but also to listen to his jokes and satirical commentary on current affairs.”
Ashraf also said, “Yahikkakka wears a nightie because he’s comfortable in it. He asks why nightie is considered just a womenswear. He does not have an account in any other bank except a co-operative. He tried exchanging his money. When he failed he came home and burnt it and shaved his head.”