Category Archives: Inspiration/ Positive News and Features

Fr Gabriel Chiramel passes away

Thrissur :

Educationist, administrator and founder of several institutions, Fr Gabriel Chiramel CMI passed away at Amala Bhavan here on Thursday.

He was 103-years-old. Fr Gabriel, who was conferred with the Padma Bhushan in 2007, was the founder principal of Christ College (1956-1975), Irinjalakuda.

Known for his administrative acumen, he served as the provincial of Devamatha Province, Thrissur. It was during this time the Amala Cancer Hospital was established.

He was also instrumental in establishing several other institutions such as St Joseph’s College, Irinjalakuda; Carmel Higher Secondary School, Chalakudy; Bharat Matha School, Palakkad; Catholic Centre Irinjalakuda and Deepthi Cultural Centre, Kozhikode.

Fr Gabriel’s funeral will be held at noon on Saturday.

source: http://www.newindianexpress.com / The New Indian Express / Home> States> Kerala / by Express News Service / May 12th, 2017

A fisher couple who defies conventions

Braving waves: The CMFRI will felicitate K.V. Karthikeyan and K.C. Rekha on Friday.

Rekha is the first woman in the country who goes fishing in the sea by boat, according to CMFRI

The Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) will felicitate K.V. Karthikeyan and his wife K.C. Rekha who have been venturing into the sea for fishing using gill nets and hooks since the past 13 years.

Sudarshan Bhagat, Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, will present a memento to the couple at a fishermen meet to be held at CMFRI here on Friday. He will hand over fish seeds to the couple for launching sea cage farming. The programme is part of the ongoing platinum jubilee celebrations of the institution.

An official release here said that the couple hails from Kundazhiyoor near Chettuva in Thrissur district. It claimed that Ms. Rekha is the first woman in the country who goes fishing in the sea by boat. Although there are women engaged in fishing in backwaters, no record about women’s presence in fishing along the Indian coasts is available so far, said A. Gopalakrishnan, Director of CMFRI. He said that the institution wanted to felicitate the courage shown by the couple.

Financial support

“There are some superstitious beliefs in the society that women are not supposed to go to the sea for fishing. But, here a lady has courageously broken all these unreasonable customs and conventions and made a living out of fishing,” said Mr. Gopalakrishnan. The CMFRI has offered them financial and technical support to launch cage farming in the sea.

The Minister will address the representatives of fishermen and fish farmers. An interactive session will also be held on the occasion to solve the issues being faced by stakeholders.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Kochi / by  Special Correspondent / Kochi – May 04th, 2017

Kochi’s own Aunt Greet

Kochi :

Dolls, a thousand of them, with curly or straight hair dressed in the national costume of countries including Japan, Norway, Sweden, Africa, America greet visitors when they step into Edith Virginia Greet’s neatly furnished office.

Edith Virginia Greet (file pic)

Her adoration for dolls stemmed from her genuine affection for children, remembers Geetha, her personal caretaker who has been living with Edith for the past 39 years.

“She used to say that the dolls reminded her of the pitter-patter of tiny feet and would make it a point to buy them for the children at the orphanage to play. She loved children, which is why she probably went on to start an orphanage in the following years,” she added. These kids loved her back and kept visiting her right upto the day she breathed her last on Monday.

Little children as young as three months who were abandoned would be brought to Kanaka Mandiram where Edith stayed. When their number increased, she started writing letters, in the dead of the night, to like-minded people living in the West, praying that they adopt these foundlings.

Many of the children were adopted by well-off families abroad. Over the years, she and Thomas Vadakekut along with other 15 members  started the Edith Greet’s Bethel Foundation and was sponsored by Swiss Nationals Laes Walan and Inguar Broden, who had adopted Johanna and David through the Foundation. Bethel Foundation’s orphanage, which has over 1,000 children, still runs efficiently at a village in Plamody.

Geetha, Edith Greet’s personal caretaker, with the dolls bought by Aunt Greet during her expeditions abroad| k sHIJITH

“She got a calling from the God which is why she left her government job in Washington DC after the World War II and arrived in Kerala. She came here with just 12 dollars in her pocket,” Geetha says. Esther, now 63, who was adopted by Edith when she was a baby, remembers how well-fed the staff and children at the orphanage were under Edith Greet’s patronage.

“It was heavenly. Edith aunty always ensured that we received foreign cloths, cod oil, mineral tablets, chocolates and medicines. It was given to us in boxes. We never ever knew what poverty was,” says Esther.

“I can still hear the grinding of peanut. Edith aunty loved making peanut butter which she would go and sell at the Lotus Club. She spent time with the ladies and would come back home for rest. This was another of her hobbies,” Esther said.

Her love for children becomes evident by the fact that Edith always ensured that she bathed the children. “She would give us a body message, but never applied coconut oil on our hair. Those senior to us, always said how Edith aunty loved spending time at Baby’s room,” adds Geetha. Greet’s Public School principal Jaya Sabin says she was always a motivation for children. “She had a special way with kids and everybody was so fond of her. She always reminded the children that they could achieve anything in life, if they followed the slogan ‘I can, I will, I did’.

source: http://www.newindianexpress.com / The New IndianExpress / Home> Cities> Kochi / by Princy Alexander / Express News Service / February 27th, 2017

The woman who cut off her breasts

The legend of Nangeli was birthed in blood and injustice. | Photo Credit: Illustration: Satwik Gade

The real story of how one woman’s rebellion against oppressive feudalism has been hijacked and repurposed by the patriarchy

Her name was Nangeli and she lived in Cherthala, a watery alcove on the Kerala coast. We do not know when she was born or who sired her. But we know she died in 1803, her spirit cast in a hundred moulds in the two hundred summers that followed. Today, Nangeli has champions on the Internet, her story is told by men and women seeking inspiration and courage on this side of time. And they too have recast her sacrifice, celebrating a tale that would have been alien to the protagonist. Nangeli has been reduced from a woman who thrust a dagger into the heart of society to one who died to preserve those artful shackles that many of us know as ‘honour’.

The contours of the tale are well known. Nangeli and her man, Chirukandan, were Ezhavas — toddy tappers — who laboured in that awkward gap that society fashions for those who are low but not the lowest. They had a little hut where they lived, and they had no children. Life for Nangeli and Chirukandan was as hard as it was for their neighbours. They toiled hand to mouth, toeing lines drawn by caste, and bowing before the pretensions of their superiors. Nothing about them was remarkable till Nangeli stood up. They will proclaim that she stood up to preserve her dignity, but that is because they are afraid to admit that she stood up to them. Nangeli was a rebel, but like many rebels, in death her memory became the possession of those she opposed. She threw off one tyrant, and found her legacy in the grasp of another.

The Kerala that Nangeli and Chirukandan knew was not the Kerala celebrated today for its healthy children, emancipated grandmothers, and literate masses. It was a hard, difficult landscape, and Cherthala was a speck on the map of Travancore, a state with a ruler of its own to whom was owed allegiance — and tax money. Land tax was low, but the Rajahs made up for this ancestral blunder through other levies. If you were a landless fisherman, you had a tax on your fishing net. If you were a man sporting a moustache, your facial hair fell within the mandate of the revenue inspector. If you owned slaves, you most certainly had to pay tax on these bleeding units of muscle. Nangeli and her husband acquiesced like loyal subjects, but they will tell you that she stood up to the one abhorrent tax that touched upon her honour; that when it came to her rights as a respectable woman, she declared: ‘No more.’

Cleaved her place

They came one morning, the story goes, to tax her breasts, leering at its shape and dimensions to calculate the figure owed. It was called mulakkaram — the breast tax — and women who were not high-born were surveyed as soon as they advanced from girlhood to adolescence. Nangeli was probably taxed for years, but in 1803 when the villains of the tale came to her hovel, she was prepared for the act that would cleave for her a place in history and lore. She went inside calmly while they waited by the threshold, it is said, and returned with the tax offering on a plantain leaf. Since they had come for the breast tax, that is what they got: Nangeli’s breasts, severed by her own hand and placed in a bleeding lump. She collapsed in a heap and died in agony, her corpse cradled by Chirukandan who returned to find his home turned into the scene of one of history’s great tragedies. Some say he jumped into the pyre as Nangeli burned and perished in flames of grief — for him too there was sacrifice.

The legend of Nangeli was birthed in blood and injustice. Women of low caste, they will tell you, couldn’t cover their bodies if they didn’t pay the breast tax. They silently wept and lamented their fate, shame building upon shame under the gaze of lewd old men for whom the right to dignity came with a price. But Nangeli was a woman of virtue — she would not barter money for honour. And so she chose death.

Embarrassed and horrified by the tyranny of their ways, the Rajahs abandoned the tax on breasts. Nangeli became a heroine. Womanhood prevailed.

This is the tale they will tell you of Nangeli. As it happens, it is all a travesty.

***

For a society as open as Kerala once was, breasts came to provoke a grave panic in the Victorian age. This was the land where Portuguese merchants in the 16th century beheld bare-breasted princesses, negotiating treaties of trade and leading bare-chested troops in battle. It was here that a 17th century Italian found himself in the court of a prince, packed with royal women covered only around the waist — two young nieces of the ruler wondered with amusement why on earth he was so covered up in the tropical heat. This was also the land where women enjoyed physical and sexual autonomy, where widowhood was no calamity and one husband could always be replaced with another. The coast was rich with the tales of great women — from Unniarcha of the Northern Ballad of Malabar, an accomplished warrior from Nangeli’s caste, to Umayamma of Attingal, a princess who reigned over kings. These were brave women of towering personality. But in the 19th century, Kerala’s moral conscience grappled not with their achievements as much as the conundrum that their unabashed bare-breastedness presented.

Virtue, as we recognise it today in its patriarchal definition, was not a concept that existed in Kerala. And till our colonial masters — and fellow Indians from patriarchal backgrounds — sat in judgement over the matrilineal streak heavily infused among the dominant groups here, women, their bare torsos, and their sexual freedoms did not in the least attract attention or opprobrium. Where elsewhere polygamy was a practice available to men, in Kerala there was polyandry on offer, because women were not unequal to their brothers (or, to be more exact, they were less unequal). They owned property and controlled resources, living fuller lives than the domesticated child-rearing destinies granted to their sisters elsewhere. But this was, of course, the case of women of privilege. For women like Nangeli there was no question of living a life of heroic glamour with armies or ballads; she had to earn her way through every day of uncertainty. It was in death that the songs followed, and so worrying were they, that they focussed not on Nangeli’s message but a perversion of it that was more palatable to changing social mores.

The advent of the British meant more than just political rule; they brought to Kerala a new sense of morality, reinforced by missionaries who had the ear of these foreign masters. Polyandrous marriage was deemed ‘very revolting’ — women were told that they ought to be virtuous, which meant deference to one husband, one master. They had to cultivate modesty, and toplessness was not a step in that direction. The sexual gaze of the patriarchal Victorian was turned towards the breast in Kerala, till then not a cause of concern. When men and women entered temples, they both took off their top cloth. Today only the men are obliged to do this. As late as the 1920s and 1930s, when Namboothiri Brahmin women for the first time acquired the blouse to cover themselves, purists excommunicated them for breaching custom — modesty and true moral superiority lay, they argued, in not covering up. As Aubrey Menen remarked of his grandmother’s attitude to his Irish mother, it was thought that ‘married women who wore blouses were Jezebels’ and ‘a wife who dressed herself could only be aiming at adultery’. To cover breasts because men demanded it, was regressive to elders as it meant succumbing to objectification. But these elders were a minority in the face of young, ‘progressive’ men bent on making their women ‘virtuous’.

What morality?

Across the coast, the torso — male and female — was not something that was covered. Higher castes sported shawls, but not for reasons of modesty or because they had notions of virtue more consistent with those of a patriarchal society, but because the shawl was a mark of honour. When Christian converts from lower castes covered themselves in the 1850s, riots broke out after violent upper-caste attacks on them. The bone of contention was not that the converted women wanted to cover themselves — it was that they had covered themselves with the shawl permitted only to the high-born. Peace was restored when the converts invented a blouse; the covering was not the issue in the first place. The tale of Nangeli that they will tell you today has her fighting to preserve her honour, where honour is construed as her right to cover the breast. But in Nangeli’s time, the honour of a woman was hardly linked to the area above the waist. As F. Fawcett remarked, dress was ‘a conventional affair, and it will be a matter of regret should false ideas of shame supplant those of natural dignity such as one sees expressed in the carriage and bearing of the well-bred… lady’.

But the import of Victorian patriarchy also imported shame, and women were told that a bare body was a mark of disgrace. Dignity lay in accepting male objectification; honour was in docility. Men, studying in colleges in big cities, received jibes about their topless mothers who may have had more than one husband. Could they ever be sure about who their fathers were? These men dragged into Kerala the masculinity of their patriarchal interlocutors, and women too, exposed to the West and a new conception of femininity, succumbed. ‘We will publish nothing related to politics,’ declared one of the region’s earliest women’s magazines in 1892, adding that ‘writings that energise the moral conscience’ — tips on cooking, stories of ‘ideal women’ — and ‘other such enlightening topics’ alone would be covered. A lady’s job was in the home as a mother, as a loyal wife, and as a housekeeper, not outside as a topless harlot who exercised her customary right to divorce. ‘As women,’ another declaration went, ‘our god-ordained duty is the care of the home and service towards our husbands.’

Roles recast

New icons needed to be found. Women who fit the bill of the new order rather than those who were emblems of a now disgusting bare-bosomed past. And where such women were in short supply, existing women were reincarnated, as J. Devika has shown. Umayamma of Attingal, the topless queen whom the Dutch noted for her ‘noble and manly conduct’, who was ‘feared and respected by everyone’, and who was a ‘young Amazon’, became in S. Parameswara Iyer’s poetry, a melodramatic damsel in distress, a helpless mother (when, in fact, she had no children) pleading for a male protector. Where the English found that the ‘handsomest young men about the country’ formed her seraglio and ‘whom and as many [men] as she pleases to the honour of her bed’ could be had by her, now she became a loyal, patriarchal icon of womanly virtue. The women of the past were turned into ciphers for the present, filled with doses of honour and draped in garbs tailored by men. The wheels of time had turned and this is what was needed in Kerala.

***

Nangeli too was recast. When Nangeli offered her breasts on a plantain leaf to the Rajah’s men, she demanded not the right to cover her breasts, for she would not have cared about this ‘right’ that meant nothing in her day. Indeed, the mulakkaram had little to do with breasts other than the tenuous connection of nomenclature. It was a poll tax charged from low-caste communities, as well as other minorities. Capitation due from men was the talakkaram — head tax — and to distinguish female payees in a household, their tax was the mulakkaram — breast tax. The tax was not based on the size of the breast or its attractiveness, as Nangeli’s storytellers will claim, but was one standard rate charged from women as a certainly oppressive but very general tax.

When Nangeli stood up, squeezed to the extremes of poverty by a regressive tax system, it was a statement made in great anguish about the injustice of the social order itself. Her call was not to celebrate modesty and honour; it was a siren call against caste and the rotting feudalism that victimised those in its underbelly who could not challenge it. She was a heroine of all who were poor and weak, not the archetype of middle-class womanly honour she has today become. But they could not admit that Nangeli’s sacrifice was an ultimatum to the order, so they remodelled her as a virtuous goddess, one who sought to cover her breasts rather than one who issued a challenge to power. The spirit of her rebellion was buried in favour of its letter, and Nangeli reduced to the sum of her breasts.

The writer, who authored the award-winning The Ivory Throne, when not writing is busy trying to make a mean meen pollichathu.

source:  http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Society> History & Culture / by Manu S. Pillai

Akademi award for lensmen

The Kerala Lalitha Kala Akademi has announced the State photography awards for the year 2015-16.

(Above) The photo which won E.V. Sreekumar the Kerala Lalitha Kala Akademi award; (top from left to right) E.V. Sreekumar, Praveen Paul, and Roy Daniel.

E.V. Sreekumar has been selected for the main prize worth ₹25,000, memento, and citation.

His photo titled ‘New Generationante Edavazhiyil Vazhithetti Vanna Old Generation’ won the award.

Praveen Paul (Path Finders) and Roy Daniel (Than Kunju Pon Kunju) received honourable mention, which consists of a cash prize of ₹10,000, memento, and citation.

The winning photos were selected from 169 entries. Photographers Unni Kottakkal, K. Ravikumar, and Akademi vice-chairman Nemam Pushparaj were jury members.

Mr. Sreekumar has been working as a press photographer in Malayala Manorama for 27 years. He has won three national and three State awards.

Praveen Paul, a professional photographer and graphic designer, is from Kunnamkulam.

Roy Daniel, a professional photographer for more than 15 years, hails from Pathanamthitta.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> States> Kerala / by Staff Reporter / Thrissur – January 27th, 2017

Indian-American child prodigy drops debut album in 6 languages

When I grow up, I want to be a soprano opera classical singer: Tiara Abraham (Image: facebook/sopranoTiara)

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HIGHLIGHTS

  • Tiara Abraham, 10, has released her first album titled ‘Winter Nightingale’
  • The album contains her renditions of some classic carols and holiday songs, sung in English, Spanish, Italian, German, Latin and French
  • Tiara got enrolled at the American River College in Sacramento at the age of 7
  • ———————————————————————————————————-

Houston :

Indian American child prodigy Tiara Thankam Abraham has released her first album, a collection of nine world holiday songs, in six languages.

Tiara, 10, who entered college at the age of seven, is the younger sister of Tanishq Abraham+ , a contestant on the Lifetime reality show “Child Genius”.

The album titled ‘Winter Nightingale’, contains her renditions of some classic carols and holiday songs, sung in English, Spanish, Italian, German, Latin and French.

The Abrahams are second generation immigrants from Kerala, India. Their grandparents came to the United States when they were children.

Tiara is enrolled at the American River College in Sacramento, California — the same school where her brother graduated in May 2015. Currently a junior, she has big plans after school. “When I grow up, I want to be a soprano opera classical singer,” she said.

source:  http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> NRI> US & Canada News / PTI / December 18th, 2016

Savour a jackfruit-based wedding feast

JamesMathewKERALA22aug2016

Palakkad :

More than two decades since his active engagement as a campaigner of the seemingly-innocuous jackfruit, suggesting it as a rich source of food security in the years to come, Kerala’s celebrated jackfruit promoter James P. Mathew is now preparing to convert the marriage of his son, Lino, into a mega jackfruit event.

Apart from his friends and relatives, a huge gathering comprising agricultural scientists, organic farmers, opinion makers, senior officials, politicians and activists will attend the wedding on September 15 at Santhom Parish Hall in Kanjirapuzha here. The guests will savour an 18-course jackfruit-based feast. The dishes to be served along with chicken, mutton and fish include the traditional Kerala jackfruit meal and jackfruit-based delicacies such as juice, pickles, ‘payasam,’ wine and fries.

Talking to The Hindu at his residence here, Mr. James said the event has been organised in such a manner as to help policy-makers realise the importance of promoting jackfruit. Lack of awareness of its multiple benefits is directly responsible for the wastage of an estimated Rs.500 crore of the fruit in India, he said. He suggested forming jackfruit clusters and network of growers to convert its cultivation into an organised business.

“A rich source of nutrients, jackfruit has carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals. Its medicinal properties include strengthening of the immune system and anti-cancer, anti-ulcer and anti-hypertension action. The by-products include beverages, nectar, clarified juice, wine, vinegar, canned products, candied fruit, dehydrated flakes, laddus and biscuits, pickle, pappad, sweets and jackfruit bulbs and leather,” he said. “It is the duty of the government to conduct scientific studies on jackfruit to validate the claims of its promoters.”

Mr. James, who has made a set of jackfruit processing devices, has developed a basketful of products. These include golden-yellow jackfruit wine, dehydrated flakes that can be stored, a health drink, baby food and jack seed powder. His homestead has 60 jackfruit trees of the firm-fleshed ‘varikka’ variety, scattered among coconut, areca nut, cocoa and rubber.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> National> Kerala / by K.A. Shaji / Irumpakachola – August 21st, 2016

This mechanical graduate has developed a treadmill bike at a cost below Rs 9K

DisnyPiousKERALA19aug2016

Kochi  :

Every student dreams of making something original using the skills that he or she has acquired in their field of study. Disny Pious, a mechanical engineering graduate from Jai Bharath Engineering College, Perumbavoor is one such student who has achieved his dream. The 23-year-old has come up with his own model of a treadmill bike. While the original ones cost more than a lakh, Pious’ treadmill bike cost below Rs 9,000 to make.

DisnyPious02KERALA19aug2016

A treadmill bike is a combination of treadmill and cycle used mainly for exercise and green transport. The idea came to Pious when he saw a Lopifit, the most popular treadmill bike in a WhatsApp group. The bike caught his attention and an idea germinated in his mind.

While the original product comes with an electric motor and sensor, Pious’s product completely depends on muscle power.

It took him two months to finish a prototype and build his own treadmill bike using materials which he collected from the local market with the help of his father Pious Xavier, who is an iron fabricator. He also used scrap iron to reduce the cost further. “What I have now is a very primitive model. I want to work further on it in reducing the weight and improving the mechanism. Once I succeed in this I think my product will be more user-friendly and also commercially viable,” said Disny Pious sharing his future dreams while jogging on his treadmill bike.

The project has been acknowledged by the Lopifit officials.

source: http://www.newindianexpress.com / The New Indian Express / Home> Cities> Kochi / by Akshay Thomas Kurien / August 15th, 2016

For Joseph, cattle rearing is not a job, but a childhood passion

P J Joseph, seen at his farm in Kadavanthra, has been rearing cattle for decades despite skyrocketing expenses
P J Joseph, seen at his farm in Kadavanthra, has been rearing cattle for decades despite skyrocketing expenses

Kochi  :

Is it possible to rear cattle in the middle of an urban city like Kochi? Ask PJ Joseph and the Kadavanthra resident will break into a smile in reply.

Joseph, who is from the Painuthara family, has been rearing a dozen cattle since his teenage days and on Wednesday, the civic body will felicitate him and five others as part of the programme organized to honour farmers at St Joseph’s church.

For Joseph, cattle rearing was a passion, a dream he nursed from his childhood. “I have 14 cows and it is not easy to rear them in a small compound in an unfavourable climate. My father too was a farmer and he had four cows. I used to assist him in herding and selling milk. Today, I have two of the Jersey variety, two Sindhi variety and the remaining are local crossbreeds. I sell nearly 120 litres of milk every day,” he said.

His farm is located in a five-cent plot behind his vehicle service centre near Padam bus stop. “Storing or disposing cow dung was a major issue earlier after houses were set up in the vicinity. Today, people are approaching me for manure for vegetable cultivation. Two Tamilians have been appointed to milk cows, while three from north India supply milk to households and keep the farm clean,” said Joseph, recollecting his teenage days when he used to do such chores.

Another helper supplies 30 bundles of grass every day. Space crunch had forced Joseph to convert his car porch into a storage area. “Rearing cows in city is a costly affair. It is not easy to convince your neighbours about your love for cattle rearing. Luckily, Joseph’s neighbours are relatives. He has been rearing cows for three decades now. Just think, how difficult it is to arrange grass, hay and adequate drinking water for the cattle,” said Johnny, a resident in his locality.

“People like Joseph are an inspiration and an example. The fact that he has been rearing cattle for decades despite skyrocketing expenses shows his dedication,” said Gracy Joseph, chairpersons, development committee.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News Home> City> Kochi / by Shyam PV / TNN / August 17th, 2016

Life of K R Gowri to be documented

Thiruvananthapuram:

The life and struggles of veteran Communist leader K R Gowri will soon be captured in a 90-minute documentary.

The documentary, titled ‘Gowri, the iron lady’, directed by Rinish Thiruvallor, has been conceived as a tribute for her contribution in many ground-breaking and distinctive reforms that changed the social fabric of Kerala.

The documentary, produced by Benny Emmatty Films, will also include testimonies from veteran leaders like Pinarayi Vijayan.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News Home> City> Thiruvananthapuram / TNN / August 14th, 2016