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Stewardship and Trusteesh
  By A.J. Philip  
  I ACCOMPANIED Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his visit to South Africa on the occasi  
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Letter to Metropolitan
  By Rev A.P. Jacob and five other priests  
  Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan Most Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar  
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Back to infancy -- they n
  By Shaheen Chander  
  ENJOYING a relaxed weekend, I was checking updates on the Facebook page. I came across a b  
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Full of prabha
  By Prabha Yesudas  
  THIS is not about the maestro of music about whom everybody has written. This is about the man who made my life music.

The life of Yesudas is a song whose music/tune was composed by God Himself. Our three children and I are the tunes in that song.

Dasettan often tells me that I am his second wife.

For Dasettan, music is his first wife. Children and I come after that. Like him, we also love his first wife. That is our family secret.

I entered Dasettan's life at the age of 18.

I had seen him earlier also.

Like many of my class-mates, I also loved the young singer, because I loved music.

I still remember a line in the advertisement for the film 'Kayamkulam Kochunni' released in July 1966. "Kayamkulam Kochunni -- the film you have been waiting for! Famous singer Yesudas acts in a singing role with the king of acting -- Satyan!"

I and my sister Sasi went to see the film 'Kayamkulam Kochunni' with brother Thomaskutty.

When I saw a lean and thin young man with a silken cap and a thin moustache singing "Suruma, Nalla Suruma" and dancing shyly, I felt like laughing. I wished I could meet him.

Around that time, Yesudas had a concert at Thiruvananthapuram.

I went to see the programme along with my family. Some from the audience would send slips to the stage requisitioning songs of their choice. The singer would sing some of those songs. It was very interesting.

Our relative Babychayan also had accompanied us to the programme. He made the requisition slip in an interesting way. He wrote the song's title on the white portion of a five-rupee currency note and sent it to the stage. When he saw the costly slip, the singer smiled and sang: "pancha varna thatha pole konchi vanna penne". After the chorus, he himself altered the lyric and sang "the sight of the five-rupee note has broken my heart, girl", from the original line "your sweet words have broken my heart, girl". It revealed the singer's sense of humour. This intensified my love.

It was through songs that our love grew. We met each other at many family functions.

I still remember the first time he called me on phone. It was not the same musical voice everyone has heard over All India Radio. He had a distinct Kochi accent when he spoke.

"Prabha, I have come to Kanakakunnu palace for a friend's wedding. I just thought of calling you." We had a casual conversation.

Before I hung up the phone, he asked: "There is a concert at the Senate Hall. Will you come, Prabha?"

I noticed that during the three or four times he called me on the phone, he repeated the line, "I just called". Every time I heard these words, my mind told me, "Prabha, the call is not just casual".

The next day I had an exam. Yet, I could not resist the invitation for the concert. My whole family went to the Senate Hall to attend the concert.

In between two songs, there was an announcement from the singer, "The next song is "Prana Sakhi" (Sweetheart). Everyone was waiting for the film song "Prana Sakhi jnan verum oru" (Sweet heart, I am just a...) but Dasettan sang a new song, "Prana Sakhi, Nee evide, Nee evide" (Sweetheart, where are you, where are you?).

He himself had composed and set the tune for the song. It was not sung for any film. Then, for whom was the song?

Did the singer see me that day? I am not sure.

We start liking some songs we hear repeatedly. Similarly, we slowly fell in love with each other.

I was born in Modayil Valiaveettil family at Mallapally. My father was Kurien Abraham and mother Ammini. We lived in Thiruvananthapuram. I was the youngest daughter. Ours was an orthodox Christian family. We were also brought up in that manner. Even when we loved each other, we had taken one decision. Our marriage should not hurt the two families.

Our betrothal was in October 1969. Through the exchange of rings, what I received was a rare jewel, several crores valuable than any jewel -- Yesudas.

It was immediately after the betrothal that Dasettan got a rare recognition -- Among those who attended Yesudas' concert at Shanmukhananda Hall in Bombay was Guru Chembai Vaidya Natha Bhagavathar. The Guru honoured Yesudas with a shawl, blessed and gifted by Shankaracharya. I felt the Guru was blessing and installing his successor on his throne. I never felt so proud as I felt, when I heard this.

Wasn't this rare blessing a wedding gift of God for us?

One of those days, we went to Kanyakumari along with our family members.

We were all sitting on the seashore. "Das, please sing a song". Somebody requested. Everybody joined him in the chorus.

The song that Dasettan sang that evening at the sangam of seas still echoes in my ears "Indu lekhe, Indu lekhe, Indra sadassile Nirtha lole".

In the film song, it was P Susheela who hummed "aha...aha" for this Vayalar song. Here I had to do that.

I also sang along with Dasettan:

"Nava graha veethiyiloode,

Oru Nakshatra nagarathiloode

Nandanavanathil kathirmandapathil

Nava vadhu ayi nee vannu

Aarude nava vadhu ayi nee vannu?

When he reached this part of the song, I wondered, why Dasettan chose that particular song?

Wasn't Dasettan singing about me in the presence of the mighty oceans?

I was a very shy person. I had difficulty in interacting with people. But Dasettan was very famous those days. People mobbed him wherever he went. I was like a silent cat that kept aloof from the crowd.

It was really Dasettan who changed and transformed me.

When I complete 40 years of my life in his shade, every moment, I thank God for the blessings.

Dasettan gets angry quickly. And he cools down even more quickly. He approaches every issue with great sincerity. For that very reason he turns emotional very quickly.

I remember an incident. The celebration of the 50th anniversary of Malayalam film songs was on at Thiruvananthapuram. When he sang Vayalar's famous song "Manushyan Mathangale Srishtichu" (Man made religions), his voice cracked. His eyes moistened. Dasettan stopped singing. With tears in his eyes, he spoke about the rivalry among religions. The audience supported him by standing up and clapping for minutes together.

It is an old story. I and Jayamma, Dasettan's sister, and mother were living together in Madras. We all had a craze for movies. But he did not like us going for movies alone. When he left for recording and other work, mother used to take us to movies. Mother knew that if she waited for her son to take us for movies, it would never happen. He would often promise to take us to movies, but because of recordings and other busy schedule, he could not. Sometimes when he was at home, he would have headache or chest pain when it was time for movies. And when the show time was over, his illness would have disappeared.

Dasettan was very protective. He was very particular that he should be with us in everything we do. Jayamma was very beautiful. That must have also given him tension.

Our life was always very busy. By the time he returned home, after musical concerts, the night would have fallen and children would have gone to sleep. He won't remember they had to go to school the next day. He would wake them up and would allow them to sleep only after he had some interaction with them.

When I mentioned children, I remember one thing. We had our first child after 7 years of our marriage. This worried him a lot.

I was pregnant then. He was singing the song "Malarkodi pole" at a concert. There is one line in the song:

"Kalam ariyathe jnan achen ayi,

Katha ariyathe nee pratichaya ayi"

When he sang those lines, I noticed his eyes welling up. He looked at my face in the audience. Then only I realized that I was also crying.

Every time I hear that song, the faces of my children come to my mind.

Like this, I have a thousand songs in my mind. Among them I like "Aayirum padasorangal", more because the first film we saw together was "Nadhi".

There is one song I like a lot --- "Prema Sarvasame". Despite my request, he never sings that song at any concert. That is another naughtiness of Dasettan.

When we heard classical songs on radio, my friends teased me, "Why are they singing "Than enna, thoran enna" (musical sounds). Those days, I used to think that what they said was correct.

Such a person like me came across Dasettan and music became the breath of my life. Lastly, I also began learning classical music. I also learned to play the Veena.

Dasettan never insisted that any of his children should become a singer. Vinod, Vijay and Vishal used to sing. Dasettan's decision was that they should come into the world of music, only if they were really talented.

Vijay was always fond of music. He would always be singing even when he was doing something. He would learn by heart his lessons in the form of songs. Once his schoolteacher scolded him for that. Dasettan did not like it. If he wanted to live his life like that, let him go that way. This was his decision. Dasettan shifted him from that school.

I wanted one of my sons to become a doctor because that was my ambition and that was why I took science group for my undergraduate studies. But my life began to follow music that everybody likes. Several Universities have recognised his music with doctorate degrees.

That is another blessing from God.

Usually, wives can tell a lot about their husbands like their job, likes and dislikes, eating habits, faith, nature -- many things which she alone knows.

In this regard too, I am lucky. Everybody in the world knows about my husband. Like me, everybody loves and respects him.
The voice that the world wants to listen to is mine too. Isn't that my luck, my life's blessing?
Prepared by Vinod Nair (Courtesy: Malayala Manorama, Sunday Supplement, January 10, 2010)
Translated from the original in Malayalam by Elizebath Philip. The article was published on the occasion of Yesudas' 70th birthday on January 10
Prisoner No. 100
  By Afsana Bhat  
  ZAMROODA HABIB, patron of Muslim Khawatein Markaz, began her mission with a fight against dowry. She later joined the ranks of separatist politics in the Valley and even went to jail several times. Outspoken Habib, a staunch feminist, feels women are not getting due recognition for their contribution to Kashmir's resistance movement. She feels men interfere more than needed in women's issues. Habib is also the author of 'Qaidi Number 100.' Following is the text of the interview she granted to The Herald of India:

Q. Tell us about your early life -- family and childhood?

I was born in Mohallah Mehmaan, in south Kashmir's Anantnag district. As a child, I was very calm. Any tiff between my parents made me uneasy. Neither did I fight with my siblings nor was I demanding. However, I was popular in school and was even elected the school president. In college, I bagged the best student award and also participated in debates and dramas. I also participated in inter-college and inter-university badminton competitions. After completing my schooling from Rani Bagh, Anantnag, I finished my graduation from Women's Degree College, Anantnag, followed by a post-graduation degree in education from University of Kashmir. I wanted to study further at Aligarh Muslim University, but it never materialized.

Q. Tell us about Women Welfare Organization (WWO)?

After the first dowry death took place in the district in 1987, I started the Women Welfare Organization (WWO). After the dowry death, I shot off a letter to my teachers and other women officials, calling for a meeting. The response was overwhelming. Women from all walks of life joined in the fight against dowry. Within a week, the organization had 250 members. The organization's last meeting was held at my home in 2001. By then, the fizz had slowly started going out of WWO. I contacted some older members to restart the organization. Their response was encouraging, but there was something amiss. Moreover, WWO was not a registered organization. Before I could register it, political instability arose in the Valley and life was thrown out of gear.

Q. When political instability broke out in Kashmir, why did you switch over to Muslim Khawatein Markaz (MKM)?

Muslim Khawatein Markaz didn't emerge all of a sudden. The situation around us affected one and all. Everyone joined in. It came into being in February–March 1990. It had an initial membership of 1,500 in Anantnag district. A few women from Srinagar also joined in. I call Kashmiri women the 'Ocean of Sacrifice.' Most of those that had earlier never been outside their hometowns now hunt jails across India in search of their missing children.
Women have been badly humiliated in Kashmir; from Kunan-Poshpora to Shopian. The media victimizes them further. They suffer enormously, but their sacrifices go unnoticed, as this is a male-dominated land. Although WWO and MMK are different organizations, women representation is the common thread that ties them.

Q. Was it easy for you to be involved in separatist politics?

In March 1990, I was arrested for the first time. Crackdowns were frequent those days and in one such operation, the entire Anantnag town was cordoned off and I was arrested, along with a few men. As I was being bundled off into a vehicle, I wasn't scared, as I knew I would be released soon. I was let off in the evening. I was arrested several times later -- in 1993, 1998 and so on, but for short intervals only.

Q. Recently, MKM split? Why?

When I was arrested in 2003, the Hurriyat Conference had split into two factions. I asked my organization not to merge with any other group. I wanted to see whether we could sustain ourselves independently.
Unfortunately, there was a lot of interference from men in the group, resulting in its split. I wanted MKM to be exclusively for women, but it didn't stay that way. Two days ahead of my release, most of my colleagues joined one of the factions of Hurriyat Conference. I was arrested and jailed for five years. I am a founder member of the United Hurriyat Conference. I often ask people to leave issues concerning women to women only.

Q. What was the response of the society and family after your release?

I was harassed from the moment I was released. I received threatening calls on my cell phone and couldn't trace them, as I didn't know how to do so. My adopted son, Dawood, has now taught me to use the facility. Someone also sent a letter from Srinagar to the judge hearing my case, asking not to release me. My brother had come to receive me on the day of my release. He stopped his vehicle at a place away from Tihar Jail, to avoid the media. When I reached the car, he looked at me and said, "Look at the sky and stars and breathe in the fresh and free air."
I required counseling, but got none, as there is no such service here. Apart from mental problems, people released from jails face several health problems as well.

Q. Why did you adopt Dawood?

Dawood is my nephew and I adopted him last year. Everyone longs to get married and have a family. So did I. But no one wants to marry a woman like me. Outspokenness and boldness are hurdles. Men who return from jail get decent marriage proposals. But women like me have no takers. My family is educated and modern. They never insist that I get married. It was my personal decision to be involved in the 'resistance' movement.

Q. About your book 'Qaidi Number 100'. What made you write it?

I am an educationist by nature. The moment I entered Tihar Jail, it felt like I had left the world. I was put in Barrack Number 4, Ward 8, after being rigorously interrogated for 10 days. Initially, I found it very difficult to fit in. However, I soon learnt the tactics needed for survival. I penned down my thoughts and compiled it into a book. It will soon be translated into English and Hindi.

Q. Why did you start Association of Families of Kashmiri Prisoners?

MKM had almost become defunct by the time of my release. In prison, I saw how prisoners' rights are violated and how their families suffer. This made me establish the Association of Families of Kashmiri Prisoners (AFKP) in April 2009.

Q. Have you shifted focus from MKM to AFKP?

No. I continue to work for both organizations. I have spent a precious part of my life in jail. The plight of prisoners is a concern and equally important to me.

Q. Do you have any regrets?

The masses take a lot of time to recognize the contributions of genuine people. We couldn't make our movement indigenous, not even our thinking. Although this is not a regret, I wish more could have been done about it.
Photo by Amin War
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