As director Sudipto Sen’s The Kerala Story unleashed an exaggerated narrative of “love jihad” and terror recruitment from the state, Malayalis began quietly countering it with a unique campaign that narrates stories of love and brotherhood.
It began with a tweet by Academy award winner Resul Pookutty, which said: “Guys if you have your own story of #brotherhoodinKerala share it here under the #MyKeralaStory.”
Guys if you have your own story of #brotherhoodinKerala share it here under the #MyKeralaStory
— resul pookutty (@resulp) May 5, 2023
The tweet spurred many Malayalis to share their experiences of compassion, social harmony, brotherhood and secularism that they believe are intrinsic to life in Kerala society.
Review: The Kerala Story depicts a Kerala unfamiliar to most Malayalis
Values of humanity
Soon after Pookutty tweeted, senior journalist Sunil Menon narrated how, when the 2018 flood wreaked havoc in the state, a man rescued his 87-year-old father by carrying him on his shoulders for two miles in waist-deep floodwaters.
“2018. Kerala floods. Everybody had fled, abandoning my old parents. This man whose name I do not know, he returned and carried my paralysed 87-year-old father on his shoulders for two miles in waist-deep floodwaters. I only know him as “Mustafa’s brother”.
2018. Kerala floods.
Everybody had fled, abandoning my old parents.
This man whose name I do not know, he returned and carried my paralysed 87-year-old father on his shoulders for two miles in waist-deep floodwaters.
I only know him as "Mustafa's brother".#MyKeralaStory https://t.co/OueFZbaGFk
— Sunil Menon (@kazhugan) May 6, 2023
The devastating flood and its aftermath threw up many stories not only of the resilience of Malayalis, but also of people reaching out to help, cutting across caste, creed and religion. The selfless service of common people, such as members of the fishing community who saved hundreds of lives, are recalled to this day.
The story of the flood and how Kerala society rose to the occasion displaying rare compassion and heroism is being celebrated this week in the film 2018 which, ironically and coincidentally, released on the same day as The Kerala Story.
Related: Why real Kerala story is mostly about love, and not so much jihad
Religions existing in harmony
Noted cartoonist EP Unny, in a tweet, informed Twitteratis about an area named Palayam in the heart of Thiruvananthapuram city where a church, which is about to celebrate its 150th anniversary, stands tall next to a mosque and a temple.
The Saint Joseph Latin Cathedral, also known as the Palayam Palli, and the Lord Ganesha temple are situated close to each other and the Palayam mosque and the temple share common boundaries.
Welcome to the real #KeralaStory.
At Palayam in Thiruvananthapuram, standing next to a mosque and a temple, a church is celebrating its 150th anniversary. pic.twitter.com/SsVqUxH4c1
— E P Unny (@unnycartoonist) May 5, 2023
Raj P, a person who identified himself as a paediatrician, tweeted the story of how he treated a child with the money raised by a church and a mosque.
“I looked after a child with a severe illness on a ventilator. The family couldn’t meet the expenses. Their church raised some money to help them. The neighbourhood mosque committee heard about this, collected funds from Muslim families, and helped the child. #MyKeralaStory,” read Raj’s tweet.
Pookutty retweeted this, calling it a true story. He appealed to spread brotherhood and recalled the speech by music maestro AR Rahman at the Oscar Awards, in which he said: “All my life I had a choice between love and hate, I chose love, and I’m here…”
Among the #MyKeralaStory were many tweeted by people from other parts of the country.
“Just back from my first trip to Kerala. The secular fabric is so evident, which sadly is crumbling at rest of the places. Hope that remains solid despite the attempts of the one who put propaganda over universal brotherhood,” wrote a man named Sumukh Herlekar, who hails from Pune.
Related: PM Modi invokes ‘The Kerala Story’ in poll-bound Karnataka
Inclusive tales from Kochi
Kerala witnesses largescale migration of people in search of better wages and living conditions from the northern and northeastern parts of the country.
During the pandemic, like millions of others, the migrant labourers’ lives were also gravely affected.
A Twitter user called Dr Roshan, shared the story of some school teachers in Kochi who travelled long distances to teach the children of migrant labourers.
“After taking classes online during Covid-19, teachers in Kochi travelled every day for long distances just to reach the bridge where children of migrant workers lived and take classes for these children using their own laptops,” tweeted Roshan.
A writer named Rekha Bala, who grew up in Kochi, shared her memories of growing up in Mattancherry which was once one of the busiest towns of Kerala.
“Growing up in #Mattancherry where 39 communities still live in harmony. So many instances of multicultural pluralism. #MyKeralaStory,” she tweeted.
Also responding to Pookutty’s tweet, a Twitter user, Anna Usha Abraham, shared her experience growing up in Kochi’s streets along with different communities and reciting each other’s holy texts.
“Grew up in Kochi, on a street which had a Hindu family, Muslim family and a Tamilian Brahman family apart from us a Christian family. We celebrated and recited prayers from each other’s holybooks and never ever thought of my loving neighbors by their religion,” read Abraham’s tweet.
It would have been a disaster of a higher order if not for the amazing coordination by the govt & the selfless engagement of the volunteers. We came together as a people, and we won.
Be nature or propaganda, we will fight, and we will win. n/n#brotherhoodinKerala#MyKeralaStory
— Alinda Merrie Jan (@alindaMjan) May 6, 2023