Category Archives: Inspiration/ Positive News and Features

Kerala girl at centre of ‘period poverty’ campaign in London

Last month, thousands of protesters gathered outside Downing Street as part of the campaign. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

With her #FreePeriods campaign, Amika George hopes to help young girls in Britain stay in school

On a cold London morning last year, 17-year-old Amika George was at the breakfast table when a news story caught her attention. It was about young girls, some just 10 years old, in the northern English city of Leeds missing a week of school every month because their families couldn’t afford to buy them sanitary napkins.

A Leeds school had, in fact, sought help from a charity that provided hygiene products to women in Kenya, the report went on to say.

Shocked, Amika knew she had to do something. She launched the #FreePeriods campaign, and prepared a petition that quickly garnered support, with over 1,33,000 signatories. Last month, a thousand protesters, including politicians, activists and models, gathered outside Downing Street to ask for the government’s help to end ‘period poverty’ in the U.K. — by providing free sanitary napkins to the poorest students.

“I think one of the reasons the campaign attracted so much attention is because people have been shocked that such levels of poverty exist in the U.K., considered a developed country,” she says.

Amika George

Talking about the motivation behind the initiative, the North London-based student says, “It seemed wrong to me on every level that there were children creating almost primitive, makeshift solutions such as socks stuffed with stolen toilet paper or newspaper. Missing school means falling further behind in academics, and these girls find they are such a long way off from attaining their goals and ambitions, all because they bleed.”

Too poor to bleed

The protest garnered widespread media interest. Amika’s campaign also tapped into wider sentiment — both about women’s equality and the larger issue of poverty in austerity-ridden Britain — with several political parties making commitments to help end the problem.

The Labour party has committed £10 million to end ‘period poverty’ in schools, while the campaign has spurred the Green party to pledge free sanitary products for women and students from low-income households.

“The root cause is poverty, and while eradicating poverty is a challenging mission in itself, making life better for a small pocket of the population is what I’m aiming at,” says Amika. The teenager hopes to now attract the attention of Education Secretary (minister) Justine Greening with her campaign. “I’m encouraged that there are a huge number of people who’re working to put pressure on her.” Amika hopes to use the impetus the campaign has generated to push for a wider examination of attitudes towards periods, which she believes reinforce the obstacles the poorest sections face.

“There’s certainly a feeling now that periods should not be all cloak-and-dagger, as it’s been in the past. I’m trying to be as outspoken as I can about menstruation; it’s a normal biological process, but we speak about it with embarrassment and shame.”

Going places

Given her background, Amika, whose family is originally from Kerala and regularly visits there, is keen to broaden her campaign beyond the U.K., and enthused by the way campaigners, from Nepal to the Philippines, have reached out to her. She is motivated by initiatives such as Kerala’s She Pad Scheme.

“I’d really like to connect with campaigners in India to work to end the taboo and help campaign to ensure all girls can access menstrual products. It’s staggering that we haven’t really moved away from the taboos our grandmothers faced back in their days, but it horrifies me that there are thousands of girls in India who drop out of school altogether and feel ashamed to go back because they have their period.”

“It really is a global issue, and I’ve been contacted by women in many countries saying that period poverty is affecting girls there, so we should all be joined in working to stamp out period poverty across the globe. We really can do it together,” says Amika.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Profile> Society / by Vidya Ram / January 13th, 2018

State’s own daughter is in raptures

Sreeja T., the State’s ‘first adopted daughter’ helping her daughter Meenakshi get ready for the Ottanthullal competition. Vinod Kumar, Sreeja’s husband, is to the left. | Photo Credit: K_K_Mustafah

State’s ‘first adopted daughter’ is at the fete with her ward

Tears rolled down her cheeks as T. Sreeja helped with the make-up of her daughter Meenakshi for the Ottanthullal competition at the Vivekodayam HSS on Monday.

It was but natural for her to turn emotional. For, Sreeja, “the first adopted daughter of the State” was exactly her daughter’s age when fate left her an orphan, leaving her to the mercy of the government.

Twenty-four years ago, on July 20, a giant tree, uprooted in heavy winds, had landed atop her home at Aninja in Kasaragod district crushing her parents, two elder brothers, and a sister. All seemed lost when the government adopted her.

Drawing her daughter, a Class 9 student of Durga HSS, Kasaragod, near, she thanked all those who helped piece her life together.

“It was the then UDF government led by the late K. Karunakaran that took her as the first adopted daughter of the State. P. Mara Pandiyan, then District Collector of Kasaragod, had recommended to the government to adopt her,” said Vinod Kumar, Sreeja’s husband, a teacher at the Govt. High School at Thachangad in Kasaragod.

Sreeja was appointed as clerk in the Revenue Department immediately after she completed pre-degree. She is now working in the taluk office at Hosdurg.

An A grade

“I feel happy when Meenakshi performs. My elder daughter Sreelakshmi, a Plus Two student at Hosdurg HSS, had won the Ottanthullal event in the school arts festival in 2015,” said Sreeja. Meenakshi won A grade in the high school section, in which 23 students participated.

Most of the participants in the Ottanthullal event stuck to the traditional stories. A student from Palakkad said she presented ‘Santhanagopalam’ as it gave ample scope for facial expressions.

Manaloor Gopinathan, noted Thullal artiste, said that his disciples tried something different while narrating a piece from ‘Nalacharitham’ and ‘Sundariswayamvaram.’ Mr. Gopinathan, a sub-inspector with the State Special Branch in Thrissur, pointed out that the contest needed new and interesting stories.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities > Thiruvananthapuram / by G. Krishna Kumar / Thrissur – January 08th, 2018

This Kerala Man Built a Huge House Entirely from Waste, Without Cutting a Single Tree!

Abraham hopes that his house will inspire others to create without harming the environment, and return to their roots.

Biju Abraham has created a beautiful home, situated in the green fields of Mallapally, in Kerala. Its carefully structured walls made of red earth, bricks, and tiled roofs come together to form a traditional nalukettu, a Kerala home which has four sides. But that is not all.

Biju Abraham has managed to create the entire 12,000 square feet of his dream home without cutting a single tree, or hurting the environment!

source: Facebook

Abraham was brought back to his hometown of Mallapally, Kerala, because he wanted to take care of his ageing parents, and help them in their time of need. When he saw that many people in Mallapally were elderly, and were not receiving the proper care and attention they needed, he wanted to create a home where they could be looked after, keeping in mind the early traditions of India.

“Cement was only used in India around 1886, but centuries before that, we would build our homes from the earth, and sustainably use natural resources. I have tried to use that approach when building my home,” says Abraham.

Throughout his travels in India, he observed the techniques used in villages to create homes, especially in South India, and has replicated several of those styles in his own home, from the traditional tiled roof to the bricks used to build the walls.

Abraham bought 24 houses through an auction. The houses, which were no longer in a usable condition, were demolished and the wood, bricks, tiles, and foundation stones were used to build a new home for the elderly.

He calls his home, “Ooru,” meaning hometown.

source: Facebook

“We wanted to pay tribute to the land. Whatever is here has a story to tell, whether it is the tiles collected, the bottle designs, or even the staircase,” he adds.

Abraham explains that because he was able to obtain the materials for a low cost, he was able to use the money he saved to pay labourers and give them additional work days to earn their livelihood. Many of them came from villages where they were able to employ their home techniques. For example, some of the masonry work was done by labourers from Assam, who replicated the same structures used in their hometowns.

Designed by RD Padmakumar, the home has 15 private rooms, and is equipped with many facilities for the elderly, including wheelchair access.

Abraham hopes that his house will inspire others to create without harming the environment, and return to their roots.

source: Facebook

“Today, I can proudly say that I have built my home without cutting a single tree, or extracting a single stone. I hope that the youth will remember the beauty of villages, and of nature. I feel like people are slowly starting to realise the importance of building in a sustainable manner. There are already around 6-8 homes being built using the same principles I have,” says Abraham.

A professor becomes a successful caregiver for cancer patients

Kottayam:

Prof. Ramani Tharayil has been able to empathize with the pain of the patients ever since she was the principal of Kottayam BCM College.

When she retired from service 17 years ago, she told her husband Dr. K. C. Joseph that she wanted to do something to help cancer patients during her retirement life. He did not raise any objection and she began her service.

Prof. Ramani created beautiful craftworks using the waste pieces of clothes from tailoring shops and sold them to her acquaintances.

Knowing her intention of charity, her friends and relatives accepted her idea with open heart. People flowed to her house at Kaniyamkudil near BCM  College, asking for the creative pieces she made. After 3 years her husband died, which turned her complete attention to tailoring.

More of her creations are useful for household purposes, like beautiful kitchen towels or fridge handle cover. The money collected from sales is handed over to the cancer palliative care units every month. All the craftworks are made of eco-friendly materials.

Prof. Ramani said that the sales have increased, since she started trying new designs and crafts from internet. “I feel the same happiness I used to feel as a principal, when my students win or maybe a lot more,” said Prof. Ramani.

Her daughter Priya Mohan, who is a computer science graduate from Calicut Regional Engineering College, offers full support for her mother’s endeavour..

Priya’s husband Mohan Thomas, who is an engineer, also support her activities.

source: http://www.english.mathrubhumi.com / Mathrubhumi / Home> News / December 12th, 2017

Rasayana gets thumbs up from scientists

Paper vouches for cardioprotective properties of gooseberry-based Rasayana

Rasayana treatment, a specialised branch of Ayurveda, is traditionally associated with rejuvenation of vital body tissues and retardation of the ageing process. For thousands of years, Ayurveda physicians have used an array of herbal formulations to promote strength and increase resistance to toxic agents.

Now modern science has come up with experimental evidence for the beneficial effects of Rasayana and its mechanism of action. A team of scientists from the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology and Sri Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology, Thiruvananthapuram, Manipal University, Vellore Institute of Technology and Kottakkal Arya Vaidyasala have published a paper corroborating the cardioprotective properties of Amalaki Rasayana, a traditional Ayurvedic formulation based on the Indian gooseberry.

Animal trials demonstrated that long-term intake of Amalaki Rasayana (AR) can ameliorate cardiac dysfunction associated with ageing and Pressure Overload Left Ventricular Hypertrophy, a condition that causes thickening of the cardiac muscle, leading to heart failure.

The scientists found that AR induces molecular-level changes that build up resistance to the toxic effects of free radicals and maximises the efficiency of heart muscle contraction, leading to better energy. The work has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Exercise tolerance

“We found that aged rats fed with AR had higher exercise tolerance,” says C.C. Kartha from RGCB, one of the co-authors of the paper. Fatigue time in treadmill exercise was found to be significantly higher in AR administered rats. AR was also found to increase the exercise tolerance and left ventricular function in hypertrophic rats.

Gene expression analysis proved that AR could trigger the expression of proteins to arrest age-related changes in cardiac muscles. The scientists reported the presence of anti-inflammatory metabolites in AR that contribute to improved cardiac function. “Though the therapeutic properties of gooseberry are well known, it came as a surprise to us that AR could induce such changes at the tissue, cellular and molecular levels,” Dr. Kartha said.

The team is currently working on scientific evaluation of the process of preparing AR as prescribed in ancient Ayurvedic texts. “For instance, there is a section that insists on distilling the gooseberry juice 21 times for maximum efficacy. The role of honey and ghee and their proportion in preparing the formulation have to be examined in detail,” says Dr.Kartha.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> States> Karnataka / by T. Nandakumar / Thiruvananthapuram – December 22nd, 2017

IT department, Austrian academy join hands to develop assistive tools for paraplegics

Thiruvananthapuram :

In its effort to provide assistive technology  to people with motor disabilities, International Centre for Free and Open Source Software (ICFOSS), an organization under state IT department, will collaborate with AsTeRICS Academy in  Austria.

The European academy will support ICFOSS in developing its capabilities in a range of assistive tools to support individuals with motor disorders for using computers and other electronic equipment.

An Austrian group consisting of two technologists from the University of Applied Sciences Technikum Wien is currently in the city in connection with Swatantra 2017, the two-day triennial free software conference being organized by ICFOSS. The team will lead a workshop from Monday at ICFOSS in Technopark for assembling and production of various products they have developed.

“This will be a milestone in Kerala’s efforts in using assistive technology for the welfare of the masses, especially marginalized sections of the society,” said IT secretary M Shivasankar. “ICFOSS is poised to take a lead in this regard and it has already established a research facility jointly with College of Engineering Trivandrum,” he added.

One of such technologies is FlipMouse that acts as an alternative input device for challenged people who prefer or need other input variants than a standard computer mouse or keyboard. Using a FlipMouse, keyboard and mouse activities can be created via slightest finger or mouth interaction. This enables precise control of computer mouse or keyboard actions. Click activities can be created via sip and puff activities, or by attaching external switches to the device. This can be used to control wheelchairs, play games on computers and other activities.

“These technologies and products will be offered to ICFOSS as a do-it-yourself construction kit,” said ICFOSS director Jayashankar Prasad. “This will help us in the production of the equipment at very low cost,” he added.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India . News> City News> Thiruvananthapuram News / TNN / December 18th, 2017

Kasaragod’s online radio, State’s first

District panchayat president A.G.C. Basheer releasing the logo of the internet radio services to be launched by the district administration in the presence of Collector K. Jeevababu and Superintendent of Police K.G. Simon in Kasaragod on Tuesday. | Photo Credit: K. Vinaya Kumar

The venture is district administration’s effort to disseminate info on government projects

An Internet radio service, to be launched here from December 23, is the State’s first effort by a district administration for dissemination of information on government-initiated programmes and schemes to the public.

The online radio service would be inaugurated at 11 a.m. by Revenue Minister E. Chandrasekharan in Neeleshwaram, Collector K. Jeevanbabu told a press conference here on Tuesday.

The new generation radio service that could be accessed by visiting www.thejaswiniradio.com would help a person get acquainted with various services and schemes offered by the district administration as well as the local bodies and other institutions like schools, hospitals and other government and utility establishments.

“Usually, the public come to learn about any government-initiated schemes through newspapers. The situation needed to be addressed by putting in place a mechanism so that the people are informed about the schemes well in advance,” Mr. Jeevanbabu said.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> States> Kerala / by Staff Reporter / Kasaragod – December 20th, 2017

Turning Malayalam calligraphy into a fine art

Calligraphy work by artist Narayana Bhattathiri

Thiruvananthapuram:

Asked to point out some of his best works is probably the stupidest question one can pose to Narayana Bhattathiri, a name synonymous with Malayalam calligraphy. Rather than point out some his unforgettable drawings for the titles of novels ‘Randamoozham’ or ‘Neermathalam Pootha Kalam’, he gently prods you to look up his Facebook page ‘Bhattathiri Calligraphy’.  Bhattathiri is that rare artist who draws energy from his work and not from society’s acceptance.

Meeting Bhattathiri a day after the announcement of the Jikji international award for the best calligraphy work instituted by the South Korean government in memory of their first printed book ‘Jikji’, he was, as usual, busy with his work at his office on the first floor of his house at Forest office lane, Vazhutacaud.

It was an employee of the Indian embassy in Seoul – Dinesh Moorakkal – who saw his works on Facebook and suggested to Bhattathiri to send some of them over. Last year, the Korean government included Bhattathiri’s three calligraphy works as a permanent exhibit at Cheongju culture centre in North Chungcheong.

This year, Bhattathiri collected and sent 27 works of around 14 calligraphy artists in the country to Seoul. Among those, Bhattathiri’s work on Jikji won the award. He will receive the award in Seoul on December 8.

A native of Pandalam, 59-year-old Bhattathiri started his career in Kala Kaumudi while doing his degree at Fine Arts College in Thiruvananthapuram. He also worked in Samakalika Malayalam. During his tenure in magazines, he drew titles for various novels such as O V Vijayan’s Pravachakante Vazhi, M Mukundan’s Daivathinte Vikrutikal, Malayatoor Ramakrishnan’s Aaram Viral to name a few. He also did titles for all the works of M T Vasudevan Nair when Malayala Manorama made a CD of the writer’s works. Though Bhattathiri could not recollect the exact number of films he worked for, the list includes most films of Padmarajan to latest films like ‘Ennu Ninte Moideen’ and ‘Clint’.

The calligraphy style of Bhattathiri is that even a person who is unfamiliar with Malayalam script might get a feel of it. With a few strokes and some dots, he can write ‘Niram Marunna China’ resembling Chinese characters. His ambigrams are highly popular.

“Earlier, people used to hang quotes from the Bible on the wall, which were excellent calligraphic works. I wish such a culture would come back where people could hang calligraphic works on their walls,” Bhattatiri exclaims.

It was the exhibition ‘Ka cha ta tha pa’, that brought together a few of his innumerable works, organized on the pestering of his late friend Sundar Ramanatha Iyer in 2013, that made Bhattathiri popular.

The exhibition was an eye-opener to several artists. Orion Champadiyil, who is a senior art director at Maitri advertising, says that it was from the ‘ka cha ta tha pa’ that he started thinking about Malayalam calligraphy.

“Till then, my calligraphy experiments were limited to English. After learning about his works, I started asking myself why I didn’t try Malayalam calligraphy. I was more into typography and it was after getting inspired by him that I started doing Malayalam calligraphy,” he says.

Bhattathiri once saw a Gulf-based music band using his calligraphy as their logo which he had originally designed for a musical event of musician Ramesh Narayanan. Out of curiosity, he asked how they got it. They replied that it was from the internet. Of course, using his works without permission or credit was not a concern for Bhattathiri. When asked about recognition and money, he says it is up to the people who use his work to decide. “I already got my reward from the satisfaction of doing it,” he says.

While Malayalam is experiencing a dearth of Unicode fonts, Bhattathiri and free software developer Santhosh Thottingal, who is the designer of Malayalam Unicode fonts Chilanka and Manjari, have been planning to develop a new Unicode font for a while.

“With the support of Bhattathiri, we could create a unique Malayalam font. I am ready to provide all technical support for developing a new font,” Santosh says. “Among the present calligraphy artists, Bhattathiri is the greatest. He can be considered a continuation of the great lineage of Vasu Pradeep, C N Karunakaran and Bharathan.”

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Thiruvananthapuram News / Jisha N  / December 18th, 2017

Meet Anna Rajam Malhotra, who became the first woman IAS officer in 1950

At a time when most women’s dreams were limited to finding a good match for themselves, Anna Rajam Malhotra broke the stereotypes associated with a woman to become India’s first IAS officer. She also became the first woman to hold a secretarial post in the Central government.

Anna had to face many prejudices for being a woman, and people constantly doubted her capabilities. She was even mocked by her female colleagues for making this decision, and soon she made history.

Anna cracked her Civil Services examination back in 1950, and was requested by the panel to join either Foreign service or Central service despite her merit. However, Anna stood her ground and was given a secretarial post instead of district sub-collector by the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.

Anna was not just good academically, she also excelled at rifle and pistol shooting, and horse-riding. She did not wish her capabilities to be questioned for any reason. However, she still faced discrimination and was allegedly asked to not get married during her service tenure. The rule, which was applicable only for women, was removed a few years later.

Anna was born on July 17, 1927, in a village in Kerala. She was brought up in Calicut and had completed her intermediate education at Providence Women’s College there. After completing her graduation from Malabar Christian University in Calicut, she went to Tamil Nadu to pursue her Masters in English Literature from University of Madras.

During her service, elephants entered into a village, and Anna was pressurised to pass an order to kill them. However, she did not want to kill a harmless animal. Hence, she decided to take intelligent measures to send these elephants back to the forest. She was successful, leaving everyone thoroughly impressed.

It was during Anna’s service that the first computerised contained port was built in Mumbai, known as the Jawaharlal Nehru Port. She also assisted Nehru in 1982 during the Asiad Conference. She travelled with Indira Gandhi to eight States to understand the food production pattern despite her ankles being broken.

source: http://www.yourstory.com  / YourStory.com / Home> Her Story> December 15th, 2017

‘Missile woman’ receives award

Tessy Thomas receiving the Dr. Pinnamaneni and Smt Seethadevi Foundation Award in Vijayawada on Saturday. | Photo Credit: CH_VIJAYA BHASKAR

Advises students to draw inspiration from Abdul Kalam at a college here

‘Missile Woman of India’ and Director of Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL) Tessy Thomas was presented the Dr Pinnamaneni and Smt. Seethadevi Foundation award here on Saturday. Foundation Managing Trustee C Nageswara Rao and trust member and daughter of Pinnamaneni Venkateswara Rao after whom the awarded is named, Ch Sudha, presented the award.

The Missile Woman now shares the award with distinguished scientists like A.P.J.Abdul Kalam— who was also her mentor, M.S.Swaminathan and Prof C.N.R. Rao.

Prof V Ramalingaswami and Sribhashyam Appalacharyalu were the first to be conferred the award in 1989. The other eminent persons who received the award include V Kurien, Lata Mangeshkar, S.P.Balasubramanyam, R.K Laxman, K.J.Jesudas, Karan Singh, B.G.Verghese, Ramanand Sagar, Sudha Murty, E.Sreedharan, Zakir Hussain, Y.V.Reddy and Changati Koteswara Rao.

The Gramapragathi Puraskaram was presented to the Swacha Sundara Challapalli Udyamam represented by doctor couple D R K Prasad and Padmavati.

Earlier the Missile woman spoke to the students of the V.R. Siddhartha Engineering College, Kanuru.

She asked the students to ensure a strong hold on the basics of engineering, mathematics and physics to be successful in any area.

Sharing her experiences of working along with former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam on the missile technologies, she urged the students to take Abdul Kalam as their role model and work hard for the overall growth of the nation.

She stressed on the need to be skilful in the latest technologies such as cloud computing, big data analytics, Internet of Things and cyber security as there were many opportunities across the nation in both public and private sectors.

Space technologies

Students were all charged up after listening to her talk and actively participated in the interaction that primarily centred around missile and space technologies.

President of the Siddhartha Academy N. Venkateswarulu, vice-president C. Nageswara Rao, Principal A.V. Ratna Prasad, CSE HoD V. Srinivasa Rao and heads of other departments M. Suneetha and PVRL Narasimham were present.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> States> Andhra Pradesh / by Special Correspondent / Vijayawada – December 16th, 2017