Category Archives: Nri’s / Pio’s

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: / The Hindu / Home> Profile> Society / by Vidya Ram / January 13th, 2018

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)



  • 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: / The Times of India / News> NRI> US & Canada News / PTI / December 18th, 2016

Vazhoor ‘lad’ chasing the U.S. Congressional dream

Indian American Democrat Peter Jacob at the helm of a houseboat at Kumarakom during his visit to Kerala in 2015.
Indian American Democrat Peter Jacob at the helm of a houseboat at Kumarakom during his visit to Kerala in 2015.

The sleepy, landlocked village of Vazhoor, about 20 km from here, has a special interest in the Congressional elections in the U.S. ‘Local lad’ Anu is taking on a veteran in the polls on November 8.

Indian American Democrat Peter Jacob, candidate for the 7th Congressional district of the State of New Jersey, is ‘Anu’ for the relatives and neighbours of Puthuparambil House here. They remember him as an affable young man who made annual trips to the village and ‘spoke Malayalam with an American accent’.

Mr. Jacob’s father, Jacob P. Peter, migrated to the U.S. in 1986 chasing the American dream, taking along with him his wife, Sheela, and six-month-old Peter, named after the patron saint of the home parish. The family now owns a successful security systems business in the U.S. Talking to The Hinduover phone, Mr. Peter said: “Right from a young age he has been very focussed and bent on community work. I had suggested a future in medical profession for him, but he said ‘no’ and I agreed,” he added. “After taking a Master’s in Social Work from a prestigious university here, he had many offers from corporates, but he chose to return to his hometown and work among the poorest of the poor,” Mr Peter added.

“Whenever Anu came here, he wanted to learn about Indian mythology, Ramayana, Bhagavad Gita, Sree Buddha, etc.,” said his uncle Elias P. Peter, a former PIB officer who leads a retired life at Vazhoor. “I had, in fact, introduced him to my friends from different faiths during such trips,” he said. “My only grouse is that he is 31 and still unmarried,” his uncle laments.

Mr. Jacob lives with his parents at Union, NJ. “Yes, the values taught by my parents have shaped my world view and influenced the political stance,” he said over telephone .

The Bernie Sanders’ endorsement has brightened his prospects against the veteran Republican opponent Leonard Lance. “After the latest endorsements, we have received over $1,15,000 in funding. And this is from common people like you and me. Not from corporates and interests groups,” he said pointing to the effectiveness of his grassroots level “People over Politics” campaign.

Democratic candidate hailing from Vazhoor Peter Jacob fights elections on ‘people above politics’ plank.

source: / The Hindu / Home> National> Kerala / by George Jacob / Kottayam – November 09th, 2016

Scent of a soy candle

Sona Vaidyan and Mary Abraham / The Hindu
Sona Vaidyan and Mary Abraham / The Hindu

Mary Abraham and Sona Vaidyan of Asoy Candles cast light on the benefits of handmade soy wax candles

Enterprising aunt and niece Mary Abraham and Sona Vaidyan, both of them Australia-based Malayalis, can’t stop waxing lyrical about soy candles, the hep thing in home décor these days. “Soy candles are made of soy wax, which in turn is processed from soybean oil and are thus much less toxic than paraffin candles that are made from hydrogenated petroleum,” explains Sona. “As such, soy candles are clean burning; they burn slower and last longer; they do not leave a soot residue nor do they have a petrol-like scent,” she adds. Smelling an opportunity the duo launched Asoy Candles in Australia back in January and quickly came up roses for their artisanal soy candles in a jar. Asoy Candles is now available in India.

Asoy Candles / Photo: Special Arrangement / The Hindu
Asoy Candles / Photo: Special Arrangement / The Hindu

“Each Asoy Candle represents the memory of those in your heart,” writes Mary, an airlines professional based in Sydney. “I learnt to make candles from a professional candle maker; I enjoy making them because I find it therapeutic. My hobby soon became a passion and I felt the need to expand,” she says. Meanwhile, in Melbourne, Sona, a homemaker, was a huge fan of scented candles. She read an article about the chemicals used in incense and normal candles and started researching about alternative materials, particularly those made of soy. “I started making customised soy candles for friends and for their kids’ birthday parties. Everyone liked the candles and started ordering more. My aunt and I combined knowledge and resources to start Asoy,” explains Sona.

The duo says that all their candles are made from pure soy wax; the wicks are 100 per cent cotton and they use only natural colours. “The materials are all from Australia. Each candle is handmade. The glass jars are reusable,” says Mary

One of Asoy top-selling scents is citronella, which is a natural oil extracted from the citronella plant. “Citronella is a natural insect repellent,” says Sona. Lemongrass, meanwhile, is “an uplifting fragrance” known for its anti-depressant properties and Lavender is known for its calming properties. They also have scented candles of eucalyptus, English rose, vanilla and others based on designer fragrances. “Each new fragrance is brought out after careful research and trial. We can customise the candle jar by adding messages, if it is a party order (10 or more),” explains Sona.

Prices start from Rs. 700 and can be ordered online through Asoy’s Facebook page for delivery anywhere in India.

source: / The Hindu / Home> Features> MetroPlus> Society / Nita Sathyendran / Thiruvananthapuram – July 27th, 2016

12-year-old California student ready to start university

A 12-year-old Sacramento student who already has three community college degrees and has been accepted to two University of California campuses says he plans on studying biomedical engineering and becoming a doctor and medical researcher by the time he turns 18.

Tanishq Abraham has been accepted to UC Davis and received a regents scholarship to UC Santa Cruz, but he has yet to decide which university he’ll attend, reported Sacramento television station CBS yesterday.

“I think I’ll be 18 when I get my MD,” he said.

Tanishq started community college at age 7 and last year he received associate’s degrees from American River College, a community college in Sacramento, in general science; math and physical science; and foreign language studies.

Professors at the college didn’t initially want him in their classes because of his age. But finally a professor agreed to let him attend if his mother, a doctor of veterinary medicine, also took the class. “There were times when I had to explain general relativity and special relativity to my mom,” he said.

Biology professor Marlene Martinez said he was never afraid to ask lot of questions. “In lecture he would always pop up with ‘so, does that mean …’ or ‘what about this?’ ” Martinez said.

Tanishq, who joined the IQ society Mensa at a tender age of 4 has always picked up knowledge quickly, his father, Bijou Abraham, told NBC News.

“We tested him and discovered that he was pretty smart,” he said. “We were surprised when we started giving him advanced stuff and he was picking it up really fast.”

Tanishq says child geniuses are often seen as odd. “When you think of a genius, you think of a mad scientist kind of thing,” he said.

But he pointed out he’s just an ordinary kid who likes learning and microscopes but also playing video games. “I just think learning is fun,” Tanishq said.

source: / The Hindu / Home> International / PTI / Sacramento – May 23rd, 2016

From Calicut to China, a 700-year-old tale

The chinese connection: Joe Thomas' documentary traces the history of a Malayali family that migrated to China 700 years ago. (TOI photo)
The chinese connection: Joe Thomas’ documentary traces the history of a Malayali family that migrated to China 700 years ago. (TOI photo)

Kochi :

During the time when the Yuan dynasty was ruling China, a Malayali family from Kozhikode crossed the seas and settled in the Land of the Red Dragon. Over 700 years later another Malayali, Joe Thomas Karackattu, who was doing research on the Indo-China relations during the pre-colonial times and the historical and cultural exchanges that took place at the time, stumbled upon this story. He decided to trace the descendants of this family. ‘Guli’s Children’, a documentary written, shot and edited by Joe Thomas, tells the story of this search. The film was premiered at a function held at Malabar Christian College in Kozhikode on Wednesday.

Thomas, an assistant professor at IIT Madras, was trying to bring out the cultural and historical linkages by locating physical artefacts that connect Kerala with China. “It was during the research on the subject that I came across accounts of this family that moved from Calicut to China during the Yuan dynasty, which got me intrigued. So, along with the physical artefacts that show the Chinese connection, I decided to a search for this family,” he said. Guli in Chinese refers to Calicut and hence the title Guli’s Children.

“Several people had varying accounts on where they were based. So the real challenge was to locate them. The research took me nearly 20,000 kilometres across India and China–from the east to the north to the south of China. The story would be told through an academic paper as well, but the visual dimension to such a search gave me the motivation to capture it on film in the first instance,” said Thomas.

“The thrill of meeting the descendants of a Malayali who had moved to China over 700 years ago was incomparable. I hope that the documentary will open up the way we look at Indo-Chinese relations,”he added. “Cultural interaction with Southern India and China, peaked between the 12th and 15th century. There are historical accounts that refer to connections with Kerala, chiefly Calicut, Cochin and Quilon in Chinese works like Yingyai Shenglan by Ma Huan, Xingcha Shenglan by Fei Xin and Ming Shilu,” he said. “I feel we are stuck in a time-warp or a paradigm warp, when it comes to looking at China. That paradigmatic optic needs to change.”
Thomas, who was born and brought up in Delhi, studied at St Stephen’s College and JNU and was a Fox Fellow at Yale University.

source: / The Times of India / News Home> City> Kochi / by Rochelle Dsouza / TNN / April 21st, 2016

55-cr wedding for NRI’s daughter in Kerala

Thiruvananthapuram  :

A Rs 55 crore wedding extravaganza, capable of surpassing even the most spectacular Bollywood sets, will unveil at the Asramam ground in Kollam on Thursday where NRI business magnate Ravi Pillai’s daughter, Dr Arathi, will wed Dr Adithya Vishnu of Kochi.

Work in progress at the venue of Ravi Pillai's daughter's wedding at Kollam. (TOI)
Work in progress at the venue of Ravi Pillai’s daughter’s wedding at Kollam. (TOI)

With a net worth of $2.8 billion, Ravi Pillai was ranked first among the richest Keralites in a survey conducted by TOI in June. Pillai’s RP Group has a strong presence in Gulf in construction, infrastructure development, mining and education, and has over 80,000 employees across 26 companies.

Though wrapped in secrecy, sources associated with the wedding plans told ToI that the festivities, planned by the production designer of the multi-lingual top-grosser ‘Bahubali’, will showcase dance performances by Malayalam film actresses Manju Warrier and Sobhana, with a musical show conducted by Stephen Devassy before 30,000 guests inside a 350,000 sq ft pandal modelled along Rajasthan royal palaces.

The main entrance of the pandal (TOI Photo)
The main entrance of the pandal (TOI Photo)

The splurge on the wedding will also include Rs 10-crore worth charity initiatives planned in Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam districts in connection with the wedding.

A virtual who’s who of the Gulf and several European countries are expected. The guest list starts with 42 global leaders including country heads, CEOs, government reps, politicians, film-stars, technocrats and diplomats.

T P Seetharaman, ambassador of India to the UAE; Sheikh Khalifa Bin Daij Al Khalifa, president, Crown Prince Office, Bahrain; Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalid H A Al Thani, Royal Family of Qatar; Dr Essam Abdullah, Saudi Royal Family; and, Lebanese ambassador Michel El Khoury have confirmed attendance.

Sources at Thiruvananthapuram airport said two chartered flights are expected on Thursday. “But we can accommodate more as we only need a three-hour alert to prepare for landing and handling of special flights,” sources said.

The wedding set, spread over eight acres, has cost more than Rs 20 crore. The pandal was made by a team of 200 professionals led by film art director Sabu Cyril.

“The design is unique for this event. But it’s largely modelled on the royal palaces of Rajasthan,” said Cyril, who was the production designer for ‘Bahubali’.

He said that the wedding set is larger than the one he had made for ‘Bahubali’. “The palace in the film was set up on five acres but this set will cover 40,000 sqft spread over eight acres,” Cyril told TOI.

While Cyril had to work for two-and-half years for building the ‘Bahubali’ set, it took him close to 75 days to create the Rajasthani ambience in Kollam.

“Various parts for this set were first moulded in clay in Mumbai, and then it was cast in plaster of Paris. It took us about 40 days to assemble the pre-fabricated structures here,” he said. “And it will take us a fortnight to dismantle it and clear the ground back to its original form,” Cyril said.

Chartered flights carrying Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Bahrain royal family landed on Wednesday. An elaborate security blanket has been thrown over Kollam. Apart from 250 cops, the services of 350 private security personnel have been hired.w.

source: / The Times of India / News Home> City> Thiruvananthapuram / TNN / November 26th, 2015

Kerala Center to honour six Malayalis

The U.S.-based Kerala Center will honour six Indian-American Malayalis for their outstanding achievements and service to society.

“Every year we invite nominations and the committee has to make a unanimous choice for a candidate in a category to be selected to receive the award and this year is no different from previous years in terms of their achievements,” said Kerala Center board member and trustee Thomas Abraham.

Four-member panel

The honourees were selected by a committee consisting of four members headed by Mr. Abraham. They will be honoured at the Center’s 23rd Annual Awards Banquet on November 7 at World’s Fair Marina in Flushing in New York City.

The honourees include Navin Manjooran, Global Director (Energy) for Siemens AG; Sasi K Pillay, Chief Information Officer, University Wisconsin System; Prem Soman, Director of Nuclear Cardiology and Associate Professor of Medicine and Clinical and Translation Science at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center for Medicine.

Other honourees are George M. Kakkanatt, a former U.S. Air Force Captain and chief editor of Azchavattom Malayalam news weekly, Leela Maret, Scientist at New York City’s Environmental Protection for Community Service, and Captain Jophiel Philips, Judge Advocate General in the U.S. Air Force. — PTI

source: / The Hindu / Home> News> National> Kerala / November 04th, 2015

Meet Lydia Sebastian, 12-Year-Old Keralite who is Smarter than Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking

Meet Lydia Sebastian, 12-Year-Old Keralite Smarter than Albert Einstein and Stephen Allan Ajifo/ Flickr
Meet Lydia Sebastian, 12-Year-Old Keralite Smarter than Albert Einstein and Stephen Allan Ajifo/ Flickr

Lydia Sebastian, 12, has achieved the maximum score in the Mensa Intelligence Quotient (IQ) test, beating the IQ scores of physicists Albert Einstein and Professor Stephen Hawking.

In the mental ability test, the 12-year-old girl has scored the maximum, which is 162. With this, she has created a record as the IQ score of Einstein and Hawking were 160.

Born to 43-year-old Arun, a radiologist at Colchester General Hospital, and mother Erika Kottiath, who is an associate director at Barclays Bank, Lydia started reading books when she was just a few years old.

“She also had an early interest in reading. When she was a few years old she was reading books that were for children several years older than her. And maths is her favourite subject. She won a prize for that when she was at primary school,” her father told  The Daily Mail .

Hailing from the south Indian state of Kerala and settled in Langham, Essex in the United Kingdom, Lydia’s parents are astonished with the achievement of their daughter after the result was published on Friday, 28 August.

Lydia is a student at Colchester County High School in Essex.

source: / International Business Times / Home> News> Science / by Anu James / September 03rd, 2015

The Palakkad lad who will take on Team India for UAE

Krishna Chandran at the hotel lobby in Perth. Manorama.
Krishna Chandran at the hotel lobby in Perth. Manorama.


In 2011, when India hosted the ICC World Cup, Krishna Chandran was in Dubai and like any ardent Indian fan he was glued to TV rooting for his favourite team. Not even in his wildest dreams did he think of watching a World Cup match in the stadium, let alone play in one. By quirk of fate, Krishna Chandran, who hails from Kollengode in Palakkad, will pad up against the country of his birth when UAE plays India in Perth on Saturday.

Krishna Chandran, who has already become a part of cricket history by becoming the first cricketer from Kerala to score runs and take wickets in the World Cup, spoke to Manorama. Excerpts:

You have become a big star back home in Kerala and your life is full of ironies. How do you react to the this?

Yes my life is full of ironies. I was born into a family of farmers. My parents sent me to St.John’s international school in Chennai for my studies. Initially, I was thrilled but when my father put me in hostel and left, I began to feel terribly homesick. I even wrote a letter to my parents threatening suicide if they don’t bring me back home. I started playing cricket to overcome my homesickness. I started off as a bowler but within one year I progressed to become a top-order batsman. I continued to play cricket even after I finished my school studies. I got selected for the district under-19 team and from there I made my way up to the state under-19, under-22 and under-25 teams.

I had played three one-day and two T20 matches for the senior Kerala team. Though I was among probables for the Ranji Trophy squad I wasn’t selected. At that time getting a permanent job was a priority. I tried to get employment in Railways and SBT but nothing worked out. I had a friend in Dubai who worked in a shipping company and in desperation I wrote to him and he arranged a job for me in that company. In Dubai, I continued to play club cricket and in 2012-13 playing for Umma al-Quwain Emirates I was chosen as the best cricketer for that season. But I had to wait for four years to get permanent residency which I got last year. It enabled me to play for UAE. But playing in the World Cup was still beyond my dreams.

What were the thoughts in you mind when you first played against Zimbabwe?

I was tense, but I became confident after I scored my first run. I was middling the ball well and was thinking about scoring a fifty when I was dismissed for 34. I was able to take a wicket with the ball. I think I didn’t do that badly in my first match and it gives me great satisfaction.

How about playing in the pitches in Australia? 

Krishna Chandran. Facebook page
Krishna Chandran. Facebook page

Look, I was part of the Kerala Cricket Association’s development squad of 25 players and had spent 45 days training in Brisbane. At the same time India A was touring Australia and and were playing against Australia A in Brisbane. I was among the five players who were selected to be the net bowlers for the Australian A team.

Everyday a short man would pick us up from out hotel and he would drive us to the stadium. We just called him the driver. One day we found this man padding up to play in the nets. Next year he went on to play for Australia. I was stunned when I saw him live on TV. He was David Warner.

Who do you expect to win in tomorrow’s match between India and UAE?

We don’t have big dreams. But we want to beat at least one big team in the tournament. I want India to retain the World Cup and will pray for that. But I want UAE to win tomorrow. I want to score a fifty and take three wickets and it is my dream.

source: / On Manorama / Home> News> Kerala / by Anish Nair / Friday – February 27th, 2015