Saturday, March 1, 2014

Aranmula: Women to the Fore

Dr. T N Seema, MP, Addressing a Sathyagraha of House Wives
It is an unusual scene in Aranmula where the womenfolk are in the lead. Those used to work in the farms sing harvest songs, as the men folk sing boat songs. For the others, home makers all, they have taken to the new roles like fish to water. Shouting slogans, holding the banners and marching around they are bold, a new empowerment that. A village with more of the middle class, with their own values and culture, it is not normal for them to take to
Harvest Song in Progress at the Venue
demonstrations. It is not just the farmers and farm workers who are active, one can say with confidence, things have changed since, their huge turn out is amble evidence. And for the region there are folk sayings that say that the women of Aranmula are indeed strong. It is a village that has kept alive activities like the boat pageantry, more than a visual delight it also means mighty moves possible only for strong men. 

It is a culture that withstood many efforts to undo the subtle nuances, since ages. This must not be the first struggle, only the forms of resistance must have changed. For most of Kerala has lost their rich cultural attributes, in the interim phases. And women who stand up are not normally vulnerable.  And once again they have taken up the task, where the mother nature is under attack and on the banks of the river Pampa they mean business. It is common to see women going alone almost at all times of the day and night at Aranmula, no more seen elsewhere, where the mad progress has crept in as fear and insecurity. No one values that as such, but Aranmula seems to do.   
A News Paper Report about the Women in Lead

Lead by the Aranmula born poet activist Sugathakumari, never one to shy away from injustice, the agitation against the ill-conceived airport project has seen many other stalwarts of Kerala pour in. There were legendary names like K Ajitha, famous as a Maoist and guerrilla war warrior of yester years, there was also Sara Joseph, writer and
Tribal activist Dayabhai 
crusader for human rights and far too many others. The fire brand new age leaders like T N Seema, also a member of Parliament from the Communist Party (Marxist), Sobha Surendran of the Bharateeya Janatha Party, among others arriving, with their no nonsense speeches. The famous nun turned tribal activist Dayabhai, though Malayali now settled in the forests of  Madhya Pradesh, came with a freedom and vigor that drove passions high.  

K Ajitha, Social Activist 
Sugathakumari was her motherly self when she said that the coming together of various interest groups, in this particularly the otherwise warring political formations like Communist Party and Hindutwa groups, was a dream come true for any Kerala mother. For the clashes routinely damage a huge population for decades now. The presence of women in large numbers also means
Sara Joseph, Writer
an amount of merry making and the sessions are interspersed with folk songs and plays. Just as they are carrying a grave determination the resolve does not show in the appearances. Women in leadership roles indeed have their positives, time Kerala looked that way, the message is loud and clear. It is a highly politicized state. 
Said Sara Joseph, the fire brand writer and part feminist who often takes up crusades on behalf of the socially affected weak groups,  'the main drive in huge projects remains invariably the lure for money, bigger the project bigger the graft. And in all this the women are affected most, for shortage of food and drinking water tells on women first'. No one disagrees on that.

Sobha Surendran, BJP
K Ajitha was disturbed to see a huge complex with star hotels and malls come with an international airport at Aranmula, a cradle of civilization in this part of the region. The tangible and intangible heritages of Aranmula shall cease to exist once this mad plan is implemented, she added. Ajitha also runs a women only home for those deserted, isolated at Kozhikkode. She has seen the gory details of commercial tourism and its victims, and they want to sell tourism at Aranmula. The devastation shall be total she said, it should never be allowed. We don't want such tragedies here. 

Aysha Potti MLA, CPIM
For the women cadres of the Communist Party of India, different factions, the agitations are not new and they have vowed to see the end of the illegal project and they mince no words in their resolve. Singing folk songs that they once sung, when the rice people were in the golden era, the sense of nostalgia was evident. Nearby the partly barren paddy fields seemed to grieve as they sang the lullaby like songs. No paddy seed ling to hear it now, it once had, were nurtured by the songs. With the women folk to the fore, in the land of mighty men wielding oars,  the Aranmula agitation is also seeing an amount of empowerment, a fallout of the anti-airport protest, but something the enemies shall increasingly see menacing.  

Poet Sugathakumari, helping Light the Fire of Courage in a New Generation 
And for Sugathakumari, the Mother Figure of Malayalam, it is a mission beyond the now, she is igniting the young minds. Breaking down walls. As she wrote, I want a new generation of courage, courage in their convictions.   Artists and street play groups that came all the way from Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi, some of them as cycle rallies, had dynamic women who sang and danced in abandon. The dancing culture of Kerala, lost in the days of colonization is also showing a sign of return, no wonder the counter culture is defiant. Obviously the days ahead gives hope, in an otherwise bleak scene, for these are all young people who mean what they say. Only the elders have to give them space, who knows if Kerala, once famous for legendary women warrior sis seeing a revival. For nature is considered a women, Goddess, in Hindu mythology.               


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