Like all things ‘internet’, a name can get picked up in no time, liked thousands of times, shared and turned into a hashtag. Lijo Varghese did not expect his comment to click so much when he put Kummanaana on a comment box on Thursday below a post by the Kochi Metro on Facebook. The original entry had invited ‘cool’ names for their mascot, the tiny blue elephant with wings, which keeps popping on the metro screens with safety messages. The post invited names to be posted as comments, and said that the top 3 names with the most number of likes would be shortlisted. KMRL officials would then finalise the winner.
That’s when Lijo put his Kummanaana, referring to BJP state president Kummanam Rajasekharan’s infamous trip on Kochi Metro with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, even though his name was not on the list of dignitaries who were supposed to be part of the inaugural event. Lijo’s suggestion got liked so much that in a couple of hours, the KMRL had to edit its post to add: “Contest entries defaming any personality or insinuating against any person is not encouraged and will not be considered for the selection.” Commenters appeared to take offence to this, and began a hashtag to stand with #kummanaana (in Malayalam font).
“For one, it was not said that the name with the most number of likes would be chosen, but that three of the most ‘liked’ ones would be shortlisted. And what is wrong in adding a clause later on. We knew there’d be some humour in the entries but there is a limit and when it becomes defamatory, it is not a good practice. So we added a clarification,” says a KMRL spokesperson who doesn’t want to be named. They will consider other most ‘liked’ names now.
“KMRL’s post was insensitive. I don’t know why they said names like Appu and Kuttan are not suitable. That’s a racist tone. They could have said that in a polite way,” says Hiran Venugopalan of International Chalu Union, an online satirical page, which has not made a post on the topic so far. He is referring to the picture in the post which says, “Appu, Thoppi, Kuttan — none of this would suit my status. Name me something cool.” Hiran also feels they could have taken the troll lightly instead of hiding Lijo’s comment. “Instead of that they could have replied with the same thing — they don’t believe in personal defaming,” he says.
Social media analyst Nithin Jose says, “They should have added these rules before Kummanaana began trending on social media. If Kummanana got selected, the mascot itself will become another troll character.”
Stand-up comedian Vinay Menon has this to say: “Some elephants are born unfortunate. Some elephants become unfortunate. Others have misfortune thrust upon them. Stop this baseless comparison, please. #SaveMetroAanakutty”
There is even a page called Kummanaana, started after all the hullabaloo. The page admin comments: “I just need some peace of mind. I don’t understand why people drag me into all these silly fights. I am Kummanaana and the world knows it. But rather than consider me as a mascot — non human entity — which the humans can name and make their own why not let me name myself and script my own life? (sic)”
Finally, Lijo Varghese, the man who started all this, says, “No way! I didn’t expect it and I didn’t think anything before introducing that name, because it was about 10.45 pm Melbourne time (where he is based) when I was quickly browsing FB before sleeping and KMRL posted this contest at 5 pm Indian time. Like other contestants, I also participated in it and went for a deep sleep. In the morning my mobile was full of notifications, then only I realised that it was really an awesome name! In fact, if you look through my FB page you can see that I’m a great fan of KMRL, Kochi, CIAL, KochiKonnect, etc. I used to share their amazing videos and information to make us proud. As a great fan, I also participated in it. This is the story behind it.”