THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Though there could be multiple opinions on whether indeed there is a Narendra Modi wave in the current elections, a different kind of Modi wave is sweeping the state’s southern region! Puthenkulam Modi, the 34-year-old jumbo, owned by businessman Shaji hailing from Paripally, is the star attraction at temple festivals in Kollam and neighbouring districts. The names of all the 11 elephants owned by Shaji are prefixed Puthenkulam, his family name. Modi is popular as Puthenkulam Modi among elephant lovers.
It was mid-2014, immediately after Narendra Modi came to power, Shaji brought the jumbo from Bihar to Kerala. “Giving a pet name is the first thing that we do as part of taming the animal. Modi was a natural choice since he was the newsmaker at that time,” says Shaji.
According to Shaji, Modi is the calmest of the lot in his elephant camp situated on a five-acre campus near his house. “He has never harmed anyone and is friendly towards visitors, especially children. His reputation as a gentle animal is an attraction for organisers of temple festivals,” he said.
Modi loves travelling to temples for attending festivals, Shaji says. “He appears to be happy at the sight of the special truck which takes him to festivals. He has a legion of admirers in Kollam and nearby districts. At festivals, people jostle with one another to feed him fruits, jaggery and payasam,” he said.
The jumbo’s name draws crowds, according to Suresh, who has been Modi’s main mahout since his arrival in Kollam. “ Often people ask the reason for giving the jumbo such a name and precisely because of the nomenclature we have bagged several assignments, “ he said.
Suresh said, “ The animal’s day starts around 7 am with a two-hour-long shower. On days when there are no festival assignments we take him to the canal nearby where he splashes around in the water.”
Shaji, 53, is an elephant enthusiast who wants to turn the elephant camp into a fully-fledged safari park. It was his father Viswambharan who started the business with just one pachyderm in 1978. The annual ‘sukha chikilsa’ -rejuvenation treatment for the elephants - will begin next month, Shaji said.
Earlier, Shaji had an elephant, Rao, named after the-then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao.