KAYAL ISLAND RETREAT is a small but tastefully luxurious resort on the east coast of the long thin Kakkathuruthu Island in the backwaters of Kerala, not far from Alappuzha (Aleppey). Our friend who owns it kindly invited us to spend an afternoon there. During our stay, we were taken on a delightful boat trip through the peaceful backwaters. After that, the resort’s manager took us on a walk through the rustic tropical landscape from the resort to a nearby small ferry landing stage on the west side of the island. We followed him along a winding path that threaded its way between small farmhouses, fields, fish farms, ponds, and reed beds.
All along the path, there was a series of concrete poles that supported overhead electricity cables. On almost every one of them there was red painted graffiti. Many of the poles were daubed with the initials ‘DYFI’, which stands for the Democratic Youth Federation of India, which is affiliated to the CPI(M) – the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Some of the poles also had depictions of the head of Che Guevara and five-pointed red stars or the letters ‘CPIM’. One pole had “Viva Revolution” on it and some others were daubed with the names of countries including Mexico and Bolivia, At least one house along our route had a large hammer and sickle painted on it. With the exception of the country names, all of these manifestations of Communism are frequently seen all over Kerala, which at times has been ruled by Communist governments,
At the small ferry landing stage, we watched some women and schoolchildren disembark from the ferry – a small boat with an outboard motor. Overlooking the simple wooden landing stage, there was a tall metal pole with the letters BJP on top of it. The pole supported two cords from which BJP flags were fluttering. The BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) is currently in power as the Government of India.
I asked our guide how the locals tended to vote on the island. He believed that most of them would probably vote for the Communists or some other Socialist party, rather than for the BJP. As we walked along in the hot humid air, I mused upon the contrast between the wealthy holiday makers enjoying our friend’s resort and the relatively poor inhabitants of the island with leftward leaning political sympathies, who might, in theory at least, be antipathetic to the idea of outsiders relaxing luxuriously on their island whilst they slog away in the hot sun. Whatever they believe, the resort does bring additional employment opportunities close to their homes – almost all the staff are from the island.