Kerala boatman sells food during coronavirus
A 50-year-old boatman selling essential food items including food grains, vegetables and fruits, on his boat to the families stuck on an island due to coronavirus lockdown, in Alappuzha on Friday. Image Credit: ANI

Thiruvananthapuram: Ahead of joining Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s call to turn on torches or mobile phone lights for nine minutes from 9pm on Sunday, Keralites were busy sharing trolls on the subject — reiterating their stature as perhaps India’s most liberal-minded citizens.

Millions of Keralites were also expected to turn on their torches or mobile lights joining the nationwide effort, but not without critiquing one more of the prime minister’s symbolic acts of unity.

“The other day we had clapped our hands and clanked plates standing on the balcony to drive out the Coronavirus, now why are we shining the torch?” went one troll, with the answer, “To see where the virus fled”.

Another one went, “It’s become like the television serial Big Boss, where we are locked in and are given one task to do after another”.

Another troll sounded a note of caution to those lighting torches on Sunday night: “Please be careful to aim the torch low, and not into your neighbour’s home. The prime minister won’t be available to settle your dispute”.

Yet another take focused on the chronology of symbolism and predicted, “Sound check on March 22, light check on April 5, full DJ party on April 15”, looking forward to April 15 when India is expected to lift the 21-day lockout.

Yet another troll was pointed at the liquor-loving Keralites. It went, “After lighting torches for 9 minutes at 9pm on April 5, await the next one — drinking 8 pegs on April 8”.

Incidentally, Kerala has lost more lives — about 10 — through people committing suicide over liquor deprivation, than by the coronavirus, which has claimed two lives in the state.

Author, former UN official and Congress MP from the Kerala capital, Shashi Tharoor was one of the first to criticise the PM’s suggestion to light torches.

“Listened to the Pradhan Showman. Nothing about how to ease people’s pain, their burdens, their financial anxieties,” Tharoor had said.

There were also strong voices of support for the PM’s idea of lighting torches to “overcome the darkness”. Popular Malayalam film star Mohanlal termed it a “spirit-lifting initiative”.

But the majority — as always — appeared to stick to the Kerala tradition of not taking any suggestion without a ladle of salt.