Pannian always used to smile when asked about his long hair that very much distinguishes him from others. If we discount film actors and popular artistes, then the most famous hair in Kerala belongs to Pannian Raveendran. This is something like a paradox because Pannian is a politician.
Pannian’s long flowing hair goes all the down his shoulders. It has been a hallmark in Kerala politics for four decades, ever since he was a student leader. Times changed, but his hair style did not. Now, among an array of balding senior politicians, Pannian’s hair is an anachronism.
Comrade Pannaian’s visit to Ernakulam the other day was along with the ‘Janakeeya Yathra’ (Campaign march). In between his busy schedule, he found out time to spend with us and to share on the curious queries on his famous hair. “All know the story behind it”, As a politician, of course Politics will come in between his talks. Political history of Kerala is always his favorite subject and he wants to say a lot about that.
The politician in Pannian recollects, ”That incident took place in 1976. At that time I was AIYF’s secretary in Kannur. It was the era of existentialism. It was the period of Emergency and obviously the season of police excesses. Many young men in my native place Kannur had long hair. There was a notorious police sub-inspector, Pulikkodan Narayanan, whose main hobby was to go around town, catch youths who had shoulder-length hair, bring them to the police station and shave a round bald patch in the middle of their head.
“We could not protest openly against this. Hence, I had decided to let my hair grow like that of Hippies as a gesture of protest. Nobody could recognise me, even Pulikkodan. But now, this long hair differentiates me from others and easily everyone can identify me too. My hair is a protective shield to me because I feel that I am an easily identifiable public figure. It invokes a mental power to distance myself from issues”.
Two years earlier, he cut his hair and donated a small part for cancer patients who lost their hair due to treatment. It was a supportive gesture for the ‘Hair for Hope’ project. Later a small girl from Thiruvananthapuram called him and told that she has set his hairs on her head. “It was indeed a happy moment in my life”, says Pannian.
“Many issues have come related to my long hair. But those haven’t touched me much. When I was selected as Party’s state assistant secretary in 2001, many wanted me to cut my hair. But, comrade E. Gopalakrishnan advised me to not cut the hair”, he recollects and added “In a program in which Sonia Gandhi was also participated, A.K. Antony told that he will take initiative to cut my hair. On hearing this Sonia Gandhi publicly said that, no need to cut the hair, even though she didn’t know the history behind my decision in growing the hair. That was a big news to the media at that time”.
He says, in 2005 Parliament election, the main weapon against him was too his long hair. At that time one nun wrote a letter to him. In that letter she noted a Bible character named Samson, who had long hair and of course that was his strength. Her advise was me not to cut the hair. “All were very curious on my hair, when I reached Parliament as a member. After long years, when I stood in this position, I myself realised the fact that my hair is my strength, throughout the years”.
He didn’t forget to crack jokes related to his hair also, like once seeing his hair, one policeman blocked him, assuming that he is a woman along with two men, Krishnankutty and Induchoodan. Another incident occurred when someone tried to pull the hair inside a film theatre.
Pannian mentions one person named Nikhil, a Kottayam native, who started to grow his hair, inspired by him.
“In the initial stages, I haven’t promoted others growing hair. But, now, I myself tries to give inspiration to others also to grow the hair to assist the cancer patients”, and he asks, ”If the short span of our life is beneficial for someone, then there is nothing beyond that. Right?”. He smiles and tries to smoothen the coarse hair before going back to his busy schedule.
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