THRISSUR: There are celebrities like film stars, sports heroes, politicos and even elephants with a huge fan following in Kerala. Celebrity elephants in the state have even featured in Malayalam films centred around them
However, there is one more section - hitherto considered underdogs in the hierarchical structure of society - who recently attained celebrity status. The life of a mahout was not a major attraction for career conscious Malayalees. But the social media’s advent and applications like TikTok have turned a section of mahouts into celebrities overnight.
There are over a dozen mahouts who enjoy considerable fan following on social media and in public. Sarath alias Mambis, is one of the mahouts who has around 20k fans on social media.
He was barely 11 when he began tending to jumbos. “I started to attend on the jumbo Kulamakkil Kuttikrishnan during school break. Later, I chose to become a mahout on growing up. I’m the first person in my family to take up this profession. Curiosity and passion for jumbos gave me the inspiration.”
“I hardly do anything to keep my fan base intact on social media. But I used to post the photos of elephant Chirakkal Kalidasan, whom I attend, on my social media page and I never bothered to find out how many followers I have,” he said.
But this is not an isolated case.
Mahout Aneesh and Manoj of Puthupully Keshavan; Karuppayi of Thechikottukavu Ramachandran and Kavadi Narayanan of Puthrukovil Parthasarathy are some of the young mahouts who enjoy considerable fan following on social media. Unlike in the past, it is the younger breed who lead the pack of celebrity mahouts.
C K George, Akhila Kerala Anathozilali Union general secretary, said the union has more than 700 registered mahouts. Now mahouts are paid between Rs 25-40 k and their job is also demanding like any other profession.
Sujith Thiriyadan, secretary of ‘Koottu Kombanmar’ that works for the welfare of elephants and mahouts, said though young mahouts now command respect on social media and in public life, they are yet to evolve as masters in their profession which requires several years of dedication.
There are a few who have made a mark as mahouts thereby encouraging youth to follow in their footsteps.
A temporary staffer Sharath, who was appointed to take care of Evoor Kannan was a role model since he brought about a change in the life of it. Further, the new trend has shone the torch on life of mahouts along with the jumbos which is good from the point of view of elephant conservation, he said.