At a time when zillions are praying for the well-being of former South African president Nelson Mandela, who is in a critical condition for the past three weeks, residents of his erstwhile-eponymous street here share how they have been keeping Mandela close to their heart thought the road was officially renamed Temple Road.
“The road, which comes under the Kalamassery Municipality, was christened Mandela Road in the early 90s, soon after Mandela was released from jail after 27 years of imprisonment,” said Minister for Public Works P K Ibrahim Kunju, who represents Kalamassery constituency in the Kerala Assembly.
“Kalamassery was a panchayat then,” said former panchayat member V M Babu, recounting the events of how the road was named after Mandela. “A 750-m stretch of road was inaugurated in the early 90s and we had to give it a name. The image of Mandela coming out of jail was etched in everyone’s minds then. When the construction was completed, I suggested Mandela’s name for the road and it was unanimously accepted,” Babu said.
He also recounted the rather unfortunate turn of events in the years to come.
“A group of people thought Mandela was a communist and were very angry with our decision,” he said.
“When the agitation reached a point where we had to call the police every day, the panchayat gave in to their demands and renamed the road as ‘Temple Road’ with reference to a Subramaniya temple nearby,” he said.
But the residents were reluctant to give up on Mandela. “We still mention Mandela Road in our official letters,” said Dr A G Rajan, a resident.
“Mandela is a rare phenomenon. He is one of the few leaders alive who is revered alongside Mahatma Gandhi. We respect him for two reasons -- for his continuing appeal to non-violence and for the fact that he never desired power,” Rajan said.
Rajan added that although the road has been officially renamed Temple Road, the residents are steadfast on retaining their ‘Mandela address’.