Padma Rajagopal Tribute
Padma's Writing: Various
(Iíd compiled all this for Janet sometime in 2000, as she didnít have a computer at the time, and sent it to her by post so she could also feel included in the correspondence. Paddu said that Janet was like a migratory bird leaving the winter cold in England for the farm at Mysore, and they so looked forward to her visits. These emails provide a wonderful insight into the daily fabric of Padduís activities, life on the farm, the many projects she handled, and the quickness of her mind. Ė Z)
21 April 00
I hope to hell I can send this off -it's the first time I'm trying to do it myself. Did you all get my last mail, attachment and all ?The Internet service provider sent off mails for me that I had been typing up and incubating in my outbox for almost a week. I hadn't written to Anu or to Evan, but everyone else had their own letter. Well, I am looking hopefully into the inbox every now and then...
Life is full of sudden changes just now, and we are celebrating with a major springcleaning. Don't anyone dare laugh. You should see my efficient looking office space. Hee haw. Cockroaches are dying by the dozens. All our possessions are out in the sun or in the compost heap. We are making fresh clay for the pottery workshop.
Here's to happy changes, and growth, and new beginnings.
Bye and lots of love to you all from Mathew, baby and Paddu.
Please note my address mailto:email@example.com. For those who came in late, Poumai is Mathew's (my) tribe's name.
3 May 00
You were asking me about individuals and their stories : well, here is one story about a girl who was very recently rescued by Odanadi, the group we are now working with.
Her name is Asha, she is 16 years old. As a child of 8, she was orphaned and was taken into the house of a government servant who treated her like an unpaid servant. She worked very hard, for her food, bed and clothing. Then the family was transferred to another place, so they abandoned her on the streets. The police officer in charge of the area took her to a working women's hostel where she again became an unpaid servant.
Then a couple from Coorg took her home with them to a very remote town in Coorg, where she worked as their servant. When she matured , that is, had her first period, the husband of the family began to assault her sexually on a regular basis. His wife did not seem to object, so this continued for several years. Recently, they started to bring her to Mysore and offer her services for money to people they knew. Two other ladies from Coorg who found out about this brought her to Odanadi on the 14th of this month. Now Odanadi has registered a police case against the couple who were prostituting this girl. This is probably the oldest girl at Odanadi, and is one of the group I am teaching.
Most of the children here have not been brutalised this badly, butit is a definite possibility for any children who are on the streets with nobody who can or will protect them. Asha seems quite happy at Odanadi with all the other younger children, accepted as part of the group and taking an interest in doing the clay-work I'm teaching all of them. I'll keep you informed about her and about the others.
Don't think of this as just a terribly sad story, actually it is one that has taken a turn for the better, and we are all part of the reason why. I feel good about that, so I hope you will too.
We're all very well, baby is now standing up without help for short periods.
We are all busy and enjoying life here. Bye and lots of love,
3 May 00
Darling Daddy ( and darling everyone else this is going to!)
Well, I'd promised on the phone last night that I'd be sending an e-mail to this address right away, but just after that, a fuse blew on the transformer, there was much wind, rain, thunder & lightning, so that was that. Luckily, the KEB guys actually came & fixed it now (noonish), so here I am. Zee, missed you in Cbe., so maybe I've caught you back at home ? Hope your travels were (are) good. And Mum and Ushche, you've also begun your journey, so maybe you'll see this at Jo's place. Hope your travels were(are) good too. Isn't it lovely to be so closely in touch?
Baby's been standing up unsupported since yesterday. Our big news from the home front. For the rest, we are all well, very busy, enjoying life. We are putting in a new door, broke through a wall, for the little room in our Eco-tourism shed, to use it as a classroom for our spoken English classes, rather than having to build another one just now. Seemed more useful, since the room isn't in use now anyhow. ST is at a very active, exciting phase.
We're starting all sorts of new plans as well : there are a couple of young girls from the Poumai tribe who want to rent space in our dorm.here, stay in Mysore studying tailoring; I've promised to teach them some drawing, presentation techniques and help them design and make clothes for sale. They know how to do "back-strap weaving", a very special style of weaving that is somehow practised only in certain tribal pockets in India, South America and Africa. Fascinating, and needing only very basic, simple equipment, all of it homemade, except for the yarn, which will have to be bought. We are trying to work out a project, using their skills. We've also found them a part-time job, teaching weaving at Odanadi's school, for which they'll get a little money. So a very interesting time in all. Zee and Iwan, thanks so much for all the trouble you're taking, computer, printer,...we feel we've got a real flying start.
Life is altogether very challenging and fulfilling just now. The first few rains have arrived too, so things will cool down soon, start getting green again. We are making many contacts, renewing links with local NGOs, planning collaborations; the organic farming exhibition we wanted to work on also seems closer - we're building links with a local farmers' group that have already prepared one that we may be able to use as a basic guide, add English text and some more illustrations...
Well, that's about it just now. Lots of love to you all,
Mathew & Paddu.
4 May 00
Dearest Zee & Iwan,
Hi! The way this works now is on occasion. There's been heavy rains, thunder, lightning and all, so on the occasions our problems are sorted out here, the server's down... so I prepare my mails and wait for the opportune moment everything works. Yes, please do contact Janet & ask her to be part of this online management collective, maybe c/o her son. Could you pl. forward her/son any mails I've sent you re.ST?
We're well here. Organising our time a bit differently, dividing up responsibilities, trying to streamline farm operations so we don't spend so much time on the non-earning stuff...we'll have Mathew's brother joining us in June, hopefully, and already have these three young people from his tribe now staying here whom we've to try and find useful and educational work for. Actually all very long overdue work that we're doing now, and quite enjoyable. Also, we have a little community here, which is nice for us all, particularly Joseph, and baby. And more people to share baby-sitting responsibilities.
The work at Odanadi school goes on, very well. Today their man-Friday, one Rajanna (a rehabilitated, and I think probably unsuccessful pimp, but a fine natural artist- Janet took several photographs of his paintings, but nobody told us of his history at the time!), who's very good at knocking up little contraptions and so on, will be coming over here. We're trying to work out a simple potters' wheel that can be constructed from bits and pieces from the junk market, which the kids can learn to throw pots on. And next week, we take the girls over there for a weaving demo.
That's about it for now. Tons of love to you from
Mathew, Paddu, Keshav.
5 May 00
My dear Gopiman,
Congratulations and our very best wishes to Ammayi and you on your 50th wedding anniversary. I'm so sorry we can't take part in the celebration but we'll be thinking of you.
Regarding trusteeship, we don't mind the awkward questions, what we'd like is your active participation in planning our programmes and trying to make them work, apart from the moral and financial support That we know we can count on. This is also why I'm sending you copies of all my ST mail, so that we can all put our heads together on the same problems. This is Zarine's idea, for an "online management collective " for SEED Trust. So please think about it.
By the way, don't worry about the risks we're taking in working with people like Asha. The actual risks are taken by the people behind Odanadi, but they have powerful friends as well as enemies. We're only involved with providing vocational training for their school/foster home.
Lots of love from us all,
6 May, 2000
I'm forwarding you a mail from Dipti with a little more information about Asha.I'm also writing now to suggest another programme. First let me tell you the background of it : I think you must be knowing that agricultural pesticides like DDT which have been banned in the West for many years now are still very commonly used in India, Africa, etc. I recently came across a news item which said that the water in very high altitude Alpine lakes was found to have very high quantities of DDT. The higher up the lakes, the higher the quantity, according to a study conducted in Austria. This was found to be the result of a process called "global distillation", where rain clouds picked up DDT from tropical countries.
I also read another unrelated news item, about a simple biological control technique for malaria carrying mosquitoes (it is to control them that DDT is so widely used), developed by Peruvian microbiologist Palmira Ventosilla, of the Institute of Tropical Medicine of the private Cayetano Heredia University of Lima, to use coconuts to grow a microorganism that in turn kills the larvae of the malaria carrying anopheles mosquito. This technique is now being taught to rural peasants in Peru, with assistance from the International Centre on Research and Development(ICRD) of Canada.
Do you have contacts in Lima? I think it would be marvelous if we could bring this technique to India. Malaria is a very serious problem here, and the mosquitoes are slowly developing immunities to DDT, which is seriously damaging the health of other creatures, including man. Not only in the countries it is used in, but everywhere on the planet. Hence I feel that other nations may also be willing to fund such a programme.
I have the names of two organizations that may be interested . One is : Commissione Nazionale Cos'E Biologico (I hope this is the correctspelling), in Italy, and the other is the address that you sent me from Chamarajnagar for the ILEA Newsletter : Centre for Research and Information Exchange in Ecologically Sound Agriculture, Kastanjelaan 5, PO Box 64, NL -3830 AB Leusden, Netherlands.
I hope you don't think I am loading you with all kinds of unrelated problems, but I am so horrified at the quantities of DDT that are still being produced and used very blindly in India. Whenever we have floods ,like in Orissa recently, we have outbreaks of malarial epidemics, and the govt. ships thousands of tonnes of DDT for use in those areas. We will all have to pay the price for such misuse.
Bye for now and lots of love, Padma
12 May 2000
Dear Zee and other friends of SEED Trust,
We've already had a little exchange re. a newspaper cutting Zee (Zarine) had given me about the English Collective of Prostitutes, who were in the news in U.K., demonstrating against the Westminster Council which was trying to evict them from their council houses. Their spokeswoman is Niki Adams, who speaks of the group, their identities as mothers, sisters, daughters, wives. 70% of them, she says, are mothers, trying to look after their kids like anyone else. About their collective, she says : "we're for prostitutes and against prostitution. We don't think prostitution is a great job, a glamorous life. It's not a great career option."
This article, in the 12th March 2000 issue of The Observer, written by Mr.Euan Ferguson, struck some bells. These are women who are empowering themselves through their solidarity. Can we ask them to help ,fund vocational training for the children at Odanadi school, all children of street prostitutes who are utterly unable to make a decent life for their own kids?
Next year's budget for Odanadi is as follows :
Rs.30,000/- to carry on the programme we now have going with them (2 mornings a week at their school) for the whole of 2001.
Rs.18,000/- for taking on one child as an apprentice at our vocational training centre - this to cover the cost of board, lodging, raw materials, training for the whole of 2001. According to the amount of funds we can raise, we'll take on that many children. It will also relieve Odanadi of the financial burden of supporting each child for that year. We'll concentrate on the older children for this - 14 years or older.
And we also need money - Rs.30,000/- to put up a classroom/dormitory where these children will stay and work, with its bathroom, toilet attached.
I don't know if we should approach the same donor/s for all these funds, or try to collect it from different donors.
Bye for now and love to you all,
********************** Dear all, Hi !
This is basically to let you know that we have with us now two girls from Mathew's tribe, the Poumai from Manipur state in North-Eastern India, who do back-strap weaving, a technique that's special to them. We want to do a project with them trying new yarns and materials, natural dyes, etc. Since this isn't something we'd planned earlier, we need to raise some funds for materials and for giving the girls something for pocket-money. We're trying to see if we can get students for craft classes. Please see below for details. We'd be much obliged if you could relay this information to anyone you know who may be interested. Many thanks!
Love from Mathew, Keshav and Padma
Classes in Back-strap Weaving (Naga Style)
Back-strap weaving uses the simplest hand-crafted equipment , and is traditionally practised in tribal pockets of India, Africa and South America.
Like inkle woven textiles, back-strap woven textiles are constrained by the width and length of the warp. Scarves, bags, napkins and other small pieces can be woven in one piece, but larger items like shawls are made by sewing together several strips of woven material.
Discover the magic of the loom. Apart from creating your own textiles from wool and cotton yarn, you can find ways to recycle plastics, rags, ribbons, etc.
You are limited only by your own ingenuity.
Classes in Terracotta Pottery and Jewellery making
Terracotta , or once baked unglazed pottery, is an Indian tradition that dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization, and is still carried on by communities of traditional potters in hundreds of thousands of Indian villages. Although the skills can only be perfected with years of practice, you can learn the techniques easily and make simple pottery, sculptures and murals for your home, kitchen or garden, or make your own terracotta jewellery and gifts for your friends.
Learn to identify pond clay that is suitable for pottery making, preparation of clay, hand-building and wheel throwing techniques and building and firing a simple kiln. You can go as deep into the complexities of pottery as you wish. Your course will be structured to your own needs and time constraints.
Classes in Hand-Made Paper making
Recycle all the paper you use, and make good use of your unsolicited junk mail! Learn to make hand-made paper, greeting cards, small papier-mache products.
For more information, call SEED Trust (0821- 402392)
May 13, 00
Thanks so much for the prompt reply. Actually, the funds are what we require from next year only. I wanted to start the process of planning and then approaching possible donors so that we have enough time before that to mobilise funds. Yes, we will draw out detailed plans for each of the sums mentioned in the last mail and send them soon.
Our work at Odanadi is going very well. Last week we took the two Poumai girl weavers there, after having prepared their equipment here. Weaving has begun on Wednesday, and the children at Odanadi have also been trying their hands at it since Thursday. I will try to mail you photographs soon. The Directors of Odanadi, Stanley and Parashuram, are very excited with the newdevelopments and have offered the weavers board, lodging and a small stipend so that they can interact closely on a very regular basis with the children.
Everybody's very happy with this new arrangement. We will continue to provide technical support and marketing assistance. Next week, Mathew will be making 2 or 3 more looms at Odanadi with the children - they are very simple pieces of equipment, and will give them the confidence that they understand the process from beginning to end. The children are very smart, learning very quickly.
With regard to the sponsorship for apprentices, right now there is one boy at Odanadi, Ramu by name, who will be ready for an apprenticeship next year. He is poor at academics, so they don't plan to continue sending him to the regular government school that all the others will be continuing with. So we would like to take him on. However, we'd like to take on at least one other child, so that Ramu has company of his own age and mother-tongue. Odanadi will not be sending any other children here, but there is another place in Mysore, an orphanage called "Bapuji Childrens' Home", who has asked us forvocational training inputs. They are much further away, so it'll be difficult for us to commute to their place on a regular basis, especially for me, who is not very familiar riding the scooter in traffic. But if we can get funds for more apprentices, we can take one or more of their older children next year. They can, in turn, share their skills with the others.
What do you say?
That's all for now. Lots of love from us all,
May 20, 00
Hi! i'm one-handed just now with keshav in the crook of my left arm, so please pardon the lack of capitals...
this evening saw the start of our spoken english classes for the young people of maidanahalli & megalapura villages. i was nervous that nobody may turn up, but thanks to mathew's good work talking to people, we had 6 young men turn up - between 17 & 20 years old. so including our own cousin joseph, that will make it 7 students. wish us lots of luck, please, and pray that it goes well, they will be the core of any projects we plan for the local villages. all of them are junior college students, but for 2 who are working but hope to continue their studies later. these 2 are the postmen for yelwal and maidanahalli respectively.
daddy was a visitor at today's introductory session. it was lovely having him sitting in being a genial elder. bye for now, baby will not stomach my sitting still any longer.
love to you all,
May 27, 00
Darling Boche, Ushche, Mum!
Hi, how're you all? It's 9 at night here, will just be morn there, your picnic still up ahead. Hope you're all well and looking forward to the day. Had my 3rd spoken English class today, another coming up tomorrow. Going great guns, am enjoying it thoroughly. They too are relaxing, getting over their shyness. Their English is atrocious, worse than my Tamil, and that's saying something! But they can all read, slightly faster than I can read Tamil, although their comprehension may be about the same!
I need ideas for lessons. Tomorrow, I don't plan to use a written lesson, just make them speak, stage a couple of situations and make them all act roles. They are enjoying themselves, too, I try to crack litttle jokes now and then when I make up sentences to explain different ways to use certain words and so on.
Well, bye for now, tons of love to you all. Daddy just called , he's fine. So are we all. Keshav's walking a good bit.
31 May 00
Various things are happening here, mostly unplanned. As for the planned ones:
The Odanadi programme was going on, two mornings each week, until this week. Now, the childrens' regular school opens on June 1st, so we have to reschedule things. Stanley of Odanadi has asked me to plan the programme, making my own decisions, Keeping in mind the fact that they have no funds for any materials. Also, they've had some bad troubles recently : one of their field-workers, Nagamani, has been unlawfully arrested by the police, who beat her badly, starved her for a day... the worst part of it is that she's 7 months pregnant. Well, to get the local police authorities to take this seriously, and to dismiss the Inspector at the Police Station where all this happened, Stanley and Parashu, directors of Odanadi, went on a hunger-strike, no food or water, for 4 days, after which an enquiry's begun. It was all big news in the local papers.Anyway, that's keeping them tied up.
Meanwhile, the two weavers we had here with us, Esther and Kabini, who are working with Odanadi now, have no materials to work with, noone to guide them. They are, incidentally, also going to tailoring classes on their own in the mornings.
So now, our plan is this: Esther & Kabini will come here a couple of afternoons each week, and I'll train them in patchwork & applique. On Sunday mornings, I'll work with them and the Odanadi kids at the Odanadi school, making patchwork products for their own use, and for sale - quilts, bags, etc. They have loads of old clothes gifted to them, and an unused sewing machine. If any of you who read this have any materials you'd like to give, including thread, scissors, books with patterns, patchwork product samples or would like to contribute some money for tools, or can help to buy or market products once we've made enough, please get back to me.
As for the spoken English classes, we live in hope that the students will arrive. Last Sunday, nobody did. We'll keep you informed about what happens next.
Our community has a new addition : her name is Sushila. She's 18 years old, Nagamani of Odanadi found her at the Mysore bus-stand in tears and took her to Odanadi. This is Nagamani's work (she is a rehabilitated prostitute herself), looking for women who are on the streets, and getting them to safety before somebody predatory picks them up. Sushila was married a year ago to her maternal uncle by her father and stepmother. The uncle was violent, and an alcoholic, and secretly already married, and after he took away all her jewellery and the money her father'd given her, put her on the Mysore bus( he lives in H.D.Kote, about a 150km away) and told her to get lost. So here she is now, we hope she'll become a permanent member of the community. She's strong and willing to learn whatever we can teach her, and has nowhere else she can go.
The other piece of news : My part-time job at Acharya Vidya Kula school starts today. I'm looking forward to (as Arjun wickedly puts it) having my own group of kids to brainwash. I'll be teaching them "Socially Useful Productive Work" or SUPW, its a compulsory subject for ICSE schools, but there's no syllabus, so I have a free hand. I plan to concentrate on recycling skills, so we'll be starting with composting organic household garbage with earthworms, or Vermicomposting. My special love. They'll pay me Rs.2000/- for going there two afternoons a week, I plan to ask them to give it directly to SEED Trust, and use it to pay our food bills. So all our community will be fed from that, including me. We hope this will be a permanent arrangement.
And one last snippet - I think most of you have already heard about our dog, Jetty, being carried off by a panther about 10 days ago. That's the new situation we have to cope with, so Mathew is busy with building a meshed in corridor between the main house and our cottage, where we can keep the dogs at night. They'll be safe from panthers and still able to keep an eye on everything.
Keshav is well, walking a little, waving and saying ta-ta whenever he hears a vehicle. That's all our news. Bye for now, regards to you all from us all,