By Aditya Aamir
Dalit activist Kollam Manju used deception and ruse to enter the Sabarimala shrine for Ayyappa darshan much to the delight of the Pinarayi Vijayan government. So much so, Pinarayi lost the power of speech! He did not, like he had done twice before, announce to the world the latest ‘woman’ conquest of Sabarimala even as more women wait in the wings to pay a visit to Swami Ayyappa before the Sabarimala season ends.
Kollam Manju did the manoeuvre Mohini-like, trickery up her sleeve. With pretence and scheme, she contrived to misrepresent and device a false identity with deception and wile, giving the dodge to RSS and ‘bhaktas.’ The 36-year-old transformed to 60-year-old. Imposter! The make-up artist gave her head of hair a coat of grey. A thick spread of holy ash across the forehead. A white cloth to cover the head. Outfit all-black. A pair of glasses to finish the deception.
“Hey, do I look old enough to pass muster?” Kollam Manju must have asked. “Yep,” must have been the smiling reply. “Even Swami Ayyappan wouldn’t catch on to the fraud.” And the ‘Imposter’ went to Sabarimala. Nobody saw through her disguise in the KSRTC bus. Grey hair, holy ash and glasses – just another Ayyappa devotee past her fertile years.
Nobody recognized her in Erumeli. In Pamba. The police, if they were in on the game, kept their distance. But somebody was party to the swindle and sham. He got the trek uphill on his smartphone, an hour and a half of tape to upload and download – proof of ‘woman’ surprising stunned celibate deity Swami Ayyappa in his abode and not on his terms. Taking pictures and video is barred in the Sannidhanam, but what the hell, this is a scam!
The morning of January 8, 2019: Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple is choc-a-bloc with bare-chested Ayyappa bhakts. Irumedi-kettu on every head. Swamiye Saranam on every lip. And the Imposter! Nobody takes notice of the ‘grandma’ on well-deserved Ayyappa darshan. Dalit activist Kollam Manju, with a police record as long as her 36-year-old arm, takes the ’18 holy steps’ and comes face to face with Swami Ayyappan – Everest. North Pole. South Pole. Moon. Mars!
Finally, gender-equality. Three cheers for gender justice – Hurrah. Hurrah. Hurrah! “Mummy, I did it, I did it! My name will be in history books. My pictures in tomorrow’s newspapers and television the whole day this day and for many more days. You-tube and Facebook and Twitter. Instagram! Everywhere Kollam Manju. Third ‘woman’ to break, breach male bastion. Could have been the first if the police hadn’t chickened out.”
Manju did not let the news of her conquest out that day, January 8. The pictures and video were with ‘Navothana Keralam’, facilitators of ‘Women’s Entry’, with Facebook page and bragging rights! Navothana Keralam posted the pictures of Kollam Manju at the temple Sannidhanam evening of January 9. She looked her adopted age! Another con-activist successful with ruse.
No, the police aren’t verifying. Pinarayi is quiet. The Devaswom Board is mum. And the Chief Tantri is holding his peace. “Where is the CCTV footage?” asked Rahul Easwar of Tazhaman tantri family. Kollam Manju had “dedicated” Navothana Keralam’s Facebook post to Rahul Easwar for challenging her to “Go Sabarimala.” Easwar took it on the chin: “Shame on you for the subterfuge and disguise – the betrayal. Be your age and try doing it.”
He might as well have kept quiet. Navothana Keralam promises “many more women” will be doing a Manju before the Sabarimala season ends. The Congress replied, “Do that and the Tantri will carry out the purification of the temple, let’s see who stops him?” The challenge thrown to Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, the man with “two hearts.”
The Chief Tantri has to reply to the Devaswom board’s show cause notice for the January 2 purification of the Ayyappa shrine (after Kanaka Durga and Bindu Ammini entered the shrine) by January 21. On January 22, the Supreme Court will take up the 49 review petitions. Depending on whether the top court decides to review or not will decide future events. Doesn’t matter who wins or who loses, Sabarimala will not stop making headlines. (IPA Service)