Padma Rajagopal Tribute
Padma's Writing: Various
(Some of Padma’s letters to Alan Caiger-Smith, under whom she trained and studied for a while in the UK. Alan is an internationally renowned potter and writes, teaches and lectures on his subject. He is a dear friend of the family. Since mail from India to the UK takes 5-9 days, this was obviously Padma’s preferred method once she was on-line. I’d print off right away & usually it was in the recipient’s hand the following day - Z)
12 Feb 01
(Subj: pl. print out for Alan Zee, could you pl. print this out and send to Alan, with a photo of Keshav?
I've been planning to write for a very long time. First, many thanks for sending the drawings, they bring back a very happy time.
As you can see, I have been "technologically empowered", Iwan and Zarine gifted us this computer in April 2000, and it has become a major focus of my attention. I know you're not a convert (yet!), but I am. It's become the only well organized space in my life where I know where everything is, can do things I want to immediately without starting a hunt for writing materials, addresses, etc. But I hope I'm on the brink of getting organized in real life as well, the latest addition to our small community here is Esther, a girl from Mathew's tribe who's going to stay with us and be a project assistant for SEED Trust. She is now helping me tidy up my work-space, get my papers etc. in order...yes, I know, I'm sounding quite pathetic!!!
The last addition to our community needs organizing even more than me, but is far from pathetic. His name is Keshav Teihou Poumai. Keshav is a name of Krishna, has something to do with "beautiful hair", and Teihou in Poula (Mathew's mother tongue) means "Child of the clouds" because he was born in the thick of the Kerala monsoon. Poumai is his Naga tribe name. How do you like that? He is getting almost as big as his name now, he's a year and 7 months old, and is an absolute handful, and a great great joy!
Walking, running, talking(gabbling), climbing...
I'm also teaching part-time at a school nearby called Acharya Vidya Kula. My subject is SUPW(Socially Useful Productive Work) and all of the present academic year(starting in May) I've been going in for 2 afternoons each week. This year, have been focusing on "natural resource management", in practice organic gardening, recycling skills including composting organic wastes using earthworms, making hand-made paper from waste paper, making patchwork and applique from scrap cloth...
I've been very much enjoying being part of a larger community and working with children (grade 5 to 8), and from next year, this will expand to fill some more of my time. It's a very new school, and a very nice one, sort of experimental. They have yoga and sanskrit apart from what all the other schools do, and best of all, it's only 5 km. from here. I go in on my scooter, and plan to start going by bicycle. How far is it from Shalford to the pottery at Aldermaston, by the way? I need to bolster my resolve about this ride by reminding myself of past achievements of the same kind. I am also building a little terracotta kiln at school with the kids, and hope to start pottery classes there as well in April this year. It's great fun, except for trying to control some of the 10 year old boys who get violent with each other and gardening toolssometimes, and scare me stiff. I need to get better with discipline, this is my first experience teaching young children, have only been involved with adult education before where discipline was never an issue...still I enjoy being a part of their formative influence. As one of my cousins wickedly puts it, I now have a captive bunch of kids to brainwash!
We are also busy with getting the farm organized bit by bit. We gave up the piggery a couple of years ago, it took too much money and work, and we weren't getting much more than manure and lots of great pork from it. As you can imagine, it was a heart-wrenching decision for pork-loving Mathew, do you remember the strips of bacon smoking over the fire-place in the back-yard? We've also registered and activated our NGO, SEED(Skills and Environmental Education)Trust, with a lot of assistance from a lot of friends, family, well-wishers.
The gist of it is that we're involved with promoting sustainable rural development, in the form of agriculture that doesn't need external inputs of chemicals, etc., and eco-friendly village industries. It's become a very major part of our lives here, and I'm the programme coordinator, planning what we should do next, making contacts, doing correspondence, also working as a researcher, writer/illustrator, skills trainer. Mathew is project manager, and sees to the daily (more-or-less) smooth running of everything we do, including the farm and household. And now we have young Esther too. She is also a craftswoman, she works at a back-strap loom which is common to forest tribes all over the world, and has also trained at tailoring. I'll be teaching her to make terracotta jewellery too.
The farm still has the buffaloes(a small herd of 5 animals now) and chickens, dogs, cats. I do not miss the pigs at all! And a flourishing vegetable garden, yielding fruit trees... We were excited to hear about Kristine's baby. Where are they now, in Delhi with her mother? Does she have an e-mail address?
Is Nick still working at pottery in Aldermaston? What news of all the family?
Bye for now, Alan, and lots and lots of love to you, and to your partner, sons and their families, and any of my old friends who are still at Aldermaston, Andrew especially. I pull out my old photographs sometimes and think of you all very nostalgically.
10 June 01
Hope you are well. I am, and busy with my nearly 2-year old son and various other activities.
I've been doing a lot of writing and illustration work recently, mostly technical - a booklet on rain water harvesting, for farmers and development workers, an information dissemination package on Sustainable Agriculture and natural resource management, also some articles for magazines and web-sites, on crafts, etc. I'd written an article about Ayyanar potters/sculptors of Tamil Nadu, which I was wondering about trying to send to a pottery magazine. Please see what you think of it.
If you like it, would you please forward it to "Ceramic Review" for me? I have pencil sketches as well as colour photographs; if they like the article and would like pictures to illustrate, I could scan them and send by e-mail, so that could happen fast.
Thanks very much, and lots of love from Mathew, Keshav and Padma