Newsletter June 2024

It’s definitely ice cream weather in Ohio and I hope everyone’s staying cool out there! June 2024 will go down in memory for India’s remarkable T20 world cup win. The match was absolutely electrifying and the India T20 team played like champions. Congratulations Team India for the stellar performance!

My sincere apologies for the delay in sending out our June newsletter and thank you for your patience and understanding as we finalized the content.

We’re proud to announce the recent graduation of young COMA adults from The Ohio State University last month. Read on for their graduation updates. Congratulations to our college grads, and best wishes for your future endeavors!

It’s time to renew your COMA annual memberships. Please note that memberships run from July 1st of the current year to June 30th of the following year. COMA Membership for 2024-2025 is now available for purchase on the COMA website!

— Smitha Nishant

COMA Onam 2024 Exclusive Realtor Sponsor – Sony Joseph, Realtor

COMA is proud to announce that our very own Mr. Sony Joseph will be the supporter and exclusive realtor sponsor of the 2024 COMA Onam event. Sony Joseph is renowned for his extensive market knowledge, negotiation skills, service, and unmatched devotion to clients. Those planning to buy, sell, or invest in real estate are encouraged to reach out to him for a complimentary consultation.

COMA Summer Picnic – A youth wing perspective – Rianna Shome

(Rianna is a rising senior at Olentangy Liberty High School, where she is an active member of the Girl’s XC and Track teams. In her spare time, she loves to bike, play pickleball, hang out with friends, and watch movies with the fam!)

Being able to have a minor part in the amazing production that was the 2024 COMA picnic was such a wonderful experience and honor. I don’t remember a time in my life where I wasn’t attending COMA functions and being a part of nativity plays with my brother or dances with my friends. However, being able to see a pea size amount of the “behind the scenes” of an event has opened my eyes to the work and planning that goes into them. This year, I joined the COMA Youth Wing which enables kids such as myself to be more involved in the community.

Our first task was to plan games at the COMA picnic for the kids. Our goal was for them to be involved and have fun. Akash and I volunteered to be the “leads”. This meant attending a few COMA calls and organizing the games for the kids. With the other members and help from the committee, we decided to organize the following games: Tug of War, Lime and Spoon, Sack Race.

On the day of the picnic, everyone on the youth committee had different roles. Some handled registrations and others helped out with making sure the games ran smoothly. Akash and I explained the rules of the games and helped with keeping track of the scores. It was so nice to see everyone having fun playing the games and working hard to win. The scorching heat brought out the competitiveness of the color groups which was a sight to see.

I was so glad that I was able to contribute to the picnic because it helped me to get closer to the community, meet new people, and build connections. My experience at the picnic would definitely not have been as great without the other members of the Youth Wing and the hard working members of the COMA Committee. They made it easy for us to be a part of the team. Special shoutout to Girish Uncle for his guidance and support through this valuable experience.

Graduation News

Neelima Gopinath – The Ohio State University

Neelima Gopinath graduated with Honors from The Fisher School of Business at The Ohio State University, specializing in Management Information Systems. She was a part of the Honors Program as well as the Politics, Law, and Society Scholars Program. She also received a minor in Communication Technology. She was active in the business school’s philanthropic organization, FisherCares, and was a member of OSU Inaayat (OSU’s classical dance team). During her time as a student, Neelima worked in various technical departments at OSU and interned at Battelle Memorial Institute. She will be joining Clearsulting, a digital finance consulting firm, this July, as an analyst. She is the daughter of Gopi Haridass (former Vice President and Trustee) and Preethi Gopinath.

Rohan Shome – The Ohio State University

Rohan Shome graduated with honors from the Ohio State University with a bachelors degree in Biology and a minor in Psychology. He is looking forward to pursuing a graduate program in the healthcare field. Rohan is the son of former COMA EC member Sumita Shome and Shome Thomas.

Newsletter May 2024

May is high school graduation month – the culmination of years of hard work and dedication for both students and parents. This edition of our newsletter shines a spotlight on the incredible achievements of our graduating high school seniors. Congratulations to the Class of 2024 and wishing you the very best in your future endeavors!

Last month, a group of dedicated COMA patrons ran the Cap City Quarter and Half marathons. Anoop Joseph Babu has penned a captivating writeup of the beautiful journey that led the team triumphantly to the finish line. Congratulations, finishers! It’s a true testament to your passion and unwavering spirit!

As the school year comes to an end and summer vacations begin, many of you may be eagerly planning visits to family in India or exciting getaways. Wishing you all safe travels and memorable adventures, and may you return rejuvenated from your journeys. For those remaining in Ohio, wishing you a delightful summer and unforgettable moments!

— Smitha Nishant

Tuskers Running Club – Anoop Joseph Babu

(Anoop lives in Dublin with his wife Neethu and two kids. He’s an avid badminton and cricket player, and a big fan of running and soccer.)

The date was April 27th, 2024. It was a cool cloudy morning, and a stiff breeze was blowing. The energy around was palpable as 11,000 odd people converged on downtown Columbus for the Cap City Half Marathon. There we were among that sea of humanity, more than fifty of us from Team Tuskers, boisterously chatting away, being loud as ever, ready to run what was, for many of us, our first marathon. Of course, what event is complete without some Malayali participation?

All this started a few months back when Austin Pereira embarked on creating a “Columbus Tuskers marathon runners’ group” with the (one would have thought) unrealistic goal of getting COMA members off their couches and in their running shoes, that too in the middle of the Ohio winter.

Then, lo behold, something magical started happening, the group started swelling as, one by one, folks joined, inspired maybe by overindulgences during Thanksgiving and Christmas (like yours truly) or truly to challenge themselves.

The plan was to run every Saturday, and run we did, puffing and panting, cramping, and straining. There were the regulars, and every week we saw more new faces. With Austin’s tireless encouragement and enthusiasm, the engagement we saw was truly amazing and I would like to think it motivated us all. It was not all pain, we had fun together. We saw the trees transform from bare branches to leaves and flowers, and the silence replaced by chirping of birds, as we ran through the barrenness of winter into the green of spring. Slowly but surely, we started to run better and further, pushing our body and mind a bit more every time.

Back to race day, as our group was allowed to start, each of us knew that it would be a test of the body and more importantly the mind, it would not be easy, exactly the reason why we signed up. The nervous energy and euphoria carry you through the first couple of miles and then it starts. The duel between the body that wants to stop and the mind that keeps pushing it forward. The miles went by slowly, the terrain changed, the climbs became steeper and tougher, the clouds parted, and the sun shone, we cramped and felt drained at times, but we soldiered on, the body finding the rhythm it was seeking, one foot in front of the other, one deep breath after another.

More than a couple of hours and 12 miles later, we faced what was to be the final obstacle, a steep double peaked incline, testing mettle and strength. With ragged breaths and dogged determination, we climbed until we could see the final stretch and the finish line tantalizingly far away. The emotion I felt (which we all probably shared) was a mix of pride, happiness, and relief as the mind willed the body, pushing it forward until we breached the finish line.

Once the initial wave of elation, exhaustion, and pain had passed and the selfies were taken, the realization hit. We had done it, something that seemed but a distant possibility had been achieved, the distance had been run. And as someone once said, it is not the distance you must conquer in running .. it is yourself. And we, each in our own way, had done it.

Go Tuskers!!

A special thank you to Austin Pereira for all the encouragement and co-ordination. We would not have done this if not for you. A special thank you to Thomas Oommen as well for the advice, motivation, and inspiration you provided for a lot of us first time runners.

Health tips for runners – Dr Rajesh Rajan

(Rajesh Rajan is a Nephrologist who also manages Infuse One (an infusion/Botox center). He is from Pandalam, Kerala. He grew up in New York and moved to Columbus in 2022. He lives in Liberty Township with his wife Mauja, kids Devika and Dhinan, and puppy Meeka.)

As many of you are going to embark on running for leisure or for marathons, I strongly recommend that you get an annual physical and run the blood work that comes with it. Most insurance covers this as part of wellness check at no cost (but please check with your insurance first).

Usually basic blood work is done looking at electrolytes such as potassium, magnesium, calcium – all which can lead to muscle cramps if deficient. Hemoglobin and iron levels can be checked if you have any symptoms of fatigue. Plus many other pointers on your health. So, I highly recommend each one of you to go for a wellness check.

In addition, stretching is key to prevent injuries and so is proper hydration.

For the newcomers, it is essential to build up on your run – starting at a low pace (target a zone 2 heart rate or running/ jogging at a pace where you are able to have a conversation).

Lastly, if you are experiencing any pain, do not ignore it as it may be related to footwear, muscle imbalances, or ineffective stretching. Our goal is to have fun but not get injured.

Happy running!!!

Graduation News

Abhinav Muthiraparambath

Abhinav is set to graduate with an honors diploma at Olentangy Liberty High School as the Valedictorian of the class of 2024. With aspirations to pursue a career in medicine, he’s carefully considering his options, including a pre-med program at Johns Hopkins University majoring in public health studies and a seven-year BS/MD track at the University of South Florida. Abhinav’s accolades include academic achievements such as being recognized as a National Merit commended scholar, recipient of the Governor’s Merit Scholarship, and membership in both the National Honors Society and Spanish Honor Society. Additionally, he actively engages in research at The Ohio State University and shares his passion for science by teaching children through Be WISE. Beyond academics, he’s displayed dedication and skill as a three-year lettered wrestler for Olentangy Liberty High School. Abhinav is the son of Ashish and Sangeetha Muthiraparambath.

Aedin Pereira

Aedin Pereira, son of Austin and Deepa Pereira, graduated from Olentangy Liberty High School with Summa Cum Laude, Honors Diploma, and AP Scholar with Distinction. He attended the prestigious Ross Mathematics Camp and Honors Summer Math Camp, where he researched and published a paper on AI in Bioinformatics. Aedin founded and led the first and only statewide virtual Math Circle during COVID. He is a 4-year varsity rower who competed in the 2021 US Youth National Rowing Championship Finals. Aedin served as Captain of the Liberty High School Speech & Debate team, qualifying for US Debate Nationals. He also served as President of the Student Council and the Service Club, and is a member of the National Honor Society. Aedin plans to attend Columbia University in the fall.

Arya Janardhanan

Arya graduated Summa Cum Laude from Dublin Jerome High School. She will be attending Otterbein University majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. She is a recipient of the President’s Scholarship and will be participating in the Pre-Med Early Assurance Program. She was COMA’s Youth Wing President last year. She is also the founder and President of her school’s Neuroscience club. She has been volunteering at Marysville Memorial Hospital for the past 2 years. Arya is the daughter of Anuja and Ajayan Janardhanan (former COMA president).

Awards

  • National Merit Scholar
  • Valedictorian
  • International HOSA qualifier
  • President’s Education award
  • Diploma with Honors
  • President’s Volunteer Service award

Adithya Arun

Adithya Arun is graduating on May 19th from Olentangy Orange High School. He will be attending The Ohio State University and plans to major in Computer Information Systems. He’s the son of Ramya Kalyadan (Priya) and Arun Radhakrishnan.

Newsletter April 24

April showers may bring May flowers, and for our Malayalee community, they usher in much-loved festivals like Easter, Vishu, and Ramadan. I trust you all had the chance to celebrate these with friends and family.

May is high school graduation month, and the next edition of our newsletter will feature 2024 graduating seniors from the community. If you would like your senior to be featured in the COMA newsletter, please share their details along with a senior portrait with our EC team. Kindly send the information to coma.officials@gmail.com.

A dedicated group of Malayalees has been training for the OhioHealth Capital City Half and Quarter Marathons over the past few months. The group leader, Austin Pereira, has done an admirable job coordinating the training runs. The 56 strong team is gearing up for their finest performance yet on race day that is on Saturday, April 27th. Here’s to wishing each and every one of the runners the very best!

— Smitha Nishant

Immigration advocacy initiative – Girish Sasankasekhar

(Girish lives in New Albany with his wife Divya and two children, Gautham and Diksha. He works in the IT industry and has been active in various social engagements nationally. He hails from Trivandrum.)

I would like to share a recent experience of a great opportunity that me and my son (Gautham Girish) got to attend: a joint session at the Executive Office of the White House, for an immigration advocacy initiative.

For the past 5 years, I have been collaborating with various organizations on immigration advocacy initiatives for the welfare of Employment-Based immigrants, specifically H1B and L1 category of applicants and dependents. I am sure most of you are aware either directly or indirectly about the various challenges being faced by EB (Employment Based Visa) families, being on a long wait to process Green Cards, visa stampings, or dependent related job issues. Despite various legislative efforts being initiated in the congress for more than a decade, it’s a sad reality that there is no solution yet to resolve the broken immigration system. My personal goal is to continue to keep our voices heard in the best ways we can, by collaborating with various organizations or panel members to help us find a solution for the EB community, to overcome their uncertainties, and to provide a peaceful life for their families and children.

As part of the ongoing efforts, I was successful in establishing relationships with various committee members and the counsel of the House and Senate. As a result, we finally got an opportunity to get introduced to the executives of the White House Immigration team. We requested a joint session with USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services), to talk through some of the ongoing problems, and to request/explore for some temporary solutions due to the current political situation in the congress. My son was included to represent children who will potentially face challenges to continue their education and their career path beyond 21 years of age. We also had a senior immigration attorney from Georgia join our panel to talk through the legal aspects of the situation. The meeting was very successful by having the Senior Advisor of USCIS Director along with White House officials listening to our concerns, and they have promised to explore temporary measures while Congress continues to make efforts for major law changes.

It was such a proud moment to represent more than a million Employment-Based immigrants, and we are committed to have follow up conversations till we see a successful outcome. If anyone would like to be part of such initiatives and make your voices heard, you are more than welcome to reach out to me anytime.

COMA Meals on Wheels : Quarter 1 update – Nish Nishant

(Nish Nishant lives in Worthington, OH with his wife Smitha and son Rohan, and coordinates the COMA Meals on Wheels program.)

I extend my heartfelt gratitude to all the dedicated volunteers who have generously given their time and effort to support the COMA Meals on Wheels program this year. Your unwavering commitment and compassion have made a significant difference in the lives of those in our community who rely on this vital service. Your selflessness and dedication embody the spirit of community and kindness that COMA symbolizes. Thank you for making a meaningful impact through the COMA Meals on Wheels routes.

If you’d like to volunteer for COMA Meals on Wheels, please reach out to the EC team.

Know your EC team – Yoga Venu (2024 General Secretary)

A humble kid innocently asked the universe, “Hey, if you’ve got my life all figured out, why bother praying?” And what does the universe do? Universe politely responds with a metaphorical reflection, linking one’s life to the pages of a book, each event scripted with the directive to “let it happen as per your wish.”

Yes! Despite the predetermined course set forth by the universe, it is our beliefs and thoughts that would shape our destiny!

This sense of realization ignited a flame of empowerment within me, prompting a shift towards “positive thinking” and “believing in myself”.

And then, out of the blue, I find myself with COMA, being part of EC 2024 as General Secretary.

Yep, that’s right. Me, Yoga Venu, born and raised in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Being a blend of Tamil and Malayalam cultures, I’m like the ultimate cultural cocktail and my roots are from Kuttipuram, Malapuram district in Kerala. Like many of you, Pazhampori and Kappa & Meen Curry are my weaknesses.

Reflecting on my academic pursuits, I always question myself why I had troubled myself with such rigor, when perhaps a gentler approach would have sufficed. I apparently took my academics a little more serious than needed. Nevertheless, the lessons gleaned from this introspection paved the way for personal growth and enlightenment.

After three decades of sipping filter coffee in Chennai, in 2016, I decided to shake things up and move to the dream land of many. Of course I am one of them!

They say, the US is like “Actor Rajinikanth”; you might not get it at first, but eventually you will throw confetti at it! Let me tell you, I felt the same when I landed in the States. However, the initial disorientation gave way to the unexpected sense of belonging.

First stop, New Jersey and Chicago – where the pizzas are deep and the winters are deeper. But then, I landed in Columbus Ohio. Ah, Columbus – the land of conservative vibes and slow living. It’s like the universe said, “Hey you have been running like a headless chicken, why not chill here for a bit?”

And here I am, chilling in Columbus for the past 8 years, with my daughter, Chetana alias Ishika Menon, who’s 20, going on 200 with her wisdom.

Because, when life throws you curveballs, you just gotta roll with it, having your choices and convictions as the influencers!

Newsletter March 2024

I am still recovering from the exhilarating experience of COMA’s 2024 inaugural event, “Kaliyattom”. The all day event was a resounding success. Enthusiastic participation and fierce competition made the games event truly memorable for the participants. Congratulations to all the winners, and best wishes to everyone else who participated for next time.

The cultural programs showcased captivating dance performances, a magic show, trivia, and the comedy skit was a hilarious addition. The unique glow party that followed was undeniably a hit with all ages. Thank you to the Executive Committee of 2024 for organizing such an enjoyable event!

If you missed the event, please use the links below for the event highlights, photos, and videos.

Kaliyattom Media Links

Kaliyattom Winners

Table tennis (mixed doubles):
Winner: Minna Varkey & Samit Pathak
Runner-up: Ravi Hariharan & Anjana Hari

Table Tennis (Doubles):
Winner: Samit Pathak & Vishnu Sajeevan
Runner-up: Pradeesh Pudhiyattil & Anoop Joseph

Table Tennis (Singles):
Winner: Samit Pathak
Runner-up: Ravi Hariharan

Cards-28:
Winner: Niju Baby & Team
Runner-up: Gigi Mathew & Team

Rummy:
Winner: Pramod Pudhiyattil
Runner-up: Sakunthala Puthiyattil

Carrom:
Winner: Sajid Babu & Arun Chand
Runner-up: Aslam & Subhash

Chess:
Winner: Devarsh Binoop
Runner-up: Akshay Roshan

Cornhole
Winner: Anjan Harishankar
Runner-up: Jiya Jay

COMA Onam Sadya Coordination – A behind the scenes introspective – Valsan Palika

(Valsan is a long time resident of Columbus and a very active member of the Malayalee community. He lives in Lewis Center with wife Vijaya and two children, Hrishikesh and Niranjan. He hails from Kannur.)

Onam is Kerala’s most significant festival, marking the pinnacle of our annual celebrations. Legend has it that Kerala once thrived under the benevolent rule of King Mahabali of great wisdom and compassion. His era was characterized by fairness and prosperity, ensuring the well-being of his subjects, or ‘praja,’ to the utmost degree. His strength and popularity made even the Gods envious, and he was sent to the depths of ‘Pathalam’ by Vamana. It is believed that Mahabali visits us each year during Onam, symbolizing the spirit of unity cherished by Keralites. The festival is during the Malayalam month of Chingam, which is around August or September. It lasts for about ten days, and the main day is called Thiru Onam. This is when everyone takes part in lots of rituals, celebrations, and cultural events to mark the occasion.

Back home, Onam events are packed with various activities like Puli Kali, Thiruvathira Kali, and Vallam Kali, in addition to the traditional Pookkalam and Onam Sadya. Here in Columbus, we enjoy a day packed with cultural activities, beautiful Pookkalam designs, a traditional delicious Ona Sadya served in vazha ila, and the cherished visit of Mahabali. We even had Pulikali during our 2023 Onam celebrations! Vallam Kali may be planned soon! It is heartwarming to see Malayalee women, men, and children dressed in traditional attire, singing Onam songs, and showcasing other talents, sharing Onam memories, and relishing the Sadya together; it transports us back to Kerala on that day!

History

It all began several years ago with just a few Malayalee families from Columbus and Dayton coming together in Columbus to celebrate Onam as a community event. With hundreds of families moving to Columbus in recent years, it has evolved into the biggest gala event organized by COMA, bringing together the entire community in celebration!

The COMA Onam celebration is thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated by the community, becoming a cherished highlight of the year. Finding a suitable venue, coordinating cultural events, organizing a traditional Sadya, and managing the flow of events on the day are all incredibly complex tasks that require careful planning and coordination. The event’s resounding success is attributed to the meticulous planning and execution by the COMA executive committee, drawing from continuous learnings from past events. A vast volunteer base for COMA works tirelessly for weeks leading up to the event, ensuring its seamless realization.

Having been part of the volunteer group organizing COMA events for over 25 years, I can attest that organizing Onam is no small feat. It stands out as the most complex event to coordinate, largely due to the intricate arrangements needed for the Sadya, the centerpiece of the celebration. Here, I’ll delve into the details of how the Sadya is planned and executed.

In the early years, the Sadya was entirely dependent on volunteer efforts, with the number of guests estimated beforehand. However, this approach posed two significant challenges: the risk of either shortages or excess of Sadya items, and the potential for missing dishes if a volunteer assigned to cook a particular item couldn’t attend the event. Over the years, several incremental enhancements have been adopted to address these challenges and refine the Sadya planning process to its current, mature state.

Planning

The success of the Sadya hinges on three crucial factors:

  1. Accurate Guest Count: Ensuring an accurate count of guests, including children, is essential to guarantee there is sufficient food for everyone. This involves thorough planning and communication to gather RSVPs and anticipate attendance accurately. Our EC does a fantastic job in communicating early and getting the expected attendance well in advance of the event.
  2. Reliable Vendor Selection: Finding a trustworthy vendor to prepare the Sadya is paramount. This vendor must be capable of delivering high-quality, authentic dishes in the required quantity and within the specified timeframe. Thorough vetting and negotiation are essential to secure a reliable partnership. Indeed, the availability of vendors specializing in authentic Kerala dishes is a significant challenge as locally, there is only one such vendor available. Starting a local business that offers Kerala cuisine presents a promising opportunity to meet the demand for authentic dishes!
  3. Timely Service: Serving the complete Sadya in a timely fashion to the entire crowd is critical for guest satisfaction. This requires efficient coordination among volunteers, vendors, and event organizers to ensure smooth and prompt delivery of the dishes, maintaining the integrity and freshness of the meal.

The Sadya

Onam Sadya is a lavish feast comprising a wide array of dishes, each adding its unique flavor and texture to the meal, satisfying to different tastes you have. While the exact dishes may vary based on regional preferences and personal taste, some common dishes and savories include:

  1. Avial: A mixed vegetable curry cooked in coconut gravy, seasoned with curry leaves and coconut oil. The story of the origins of Avial is indeed an intriguing one from the Indian epic Mahabharata. According to the legend, Bhima, one of the Pandava brothers, disguised himself as a cook named Vallalan during their exile in the forest. One day, unexpected guests arrived, he gathered whatever vegetables and leftover ingredients he had, cooked them together to create a delicious dish, which became known as Avial.
  2. Ghee & Parippu Curry: This is the first course. One of the distinctive features of Parippu Curry is its adaptability to regional variations and personal preferences. While the basic recipe remains consistent, different regions and households may add their unique twists by incorporating ingredients like grated coconut, garlic, ginger, or even vegetables like pumpkin or ash gourd. Some may opt for a smoother consistency, while others prefer a slightly chunky texture. It is extremely hard to serve a Parippu Curry that satisfies everyone!
  3. Kaalan, Olan, Pulissery, Pachadi, Thoran(s), and Koottu are indeed essential components of an authentic Onam Sadya, each offering unique flavors and textures to the feast. Additionally, Pappadam, pickles, pazham and varuthupperi serve as the perfect accompaniments to the Sadya, adding extra crunch, tanginess, and spice to the feast.
  4. While Sambar and Rasam may not be traditionally exclusive to Kerala cuisine, they have become integral parts of Onam Sadya due to their popularity and versatility in South Indian cuisine.
  5. Prathaman and Payasams indeed stand as the crowning glory of the Onam Sadya, offering a delightful end to the meal. There are several varieties such as ada prathaman, parippu prathaman, chakka prathaman, pal payasam, and palada (names and exact preparation varies).

Together, these dishes form a symphony of flavors and textures, showcasing the rich culinary heritage of Kerala and making Onam Sadya a truly memorable culinary experience. Overall, Onam is a joyous occasion that brings people together, irrespective of caste, creed, or religion, to celebrate the spirit of unity, prosperity, and happiness. It is a time to cherish traditions, create lasting memories, and spread love and goodwill among all.

Catering

A significant amount of work happens behind the scenes to ensure the successful serving of the Sadya, which is the most critical aspect of Onam celebrations. A dedicated group of lead volunteers and executive committee representatives initiates the planning process several months prior to the event day.

Identifying vendors, primarily restaurants specializing in traditional Kerala cuisine, is a meticulous process for us. We consider factors such as reputation, reliability, food quality, and cost-effectiveness. We meet with them to discuss our requirements, negotiate pricing, and finalize agreements. Authenticity and taste are paramount, so we always taste and affirm the quality before finalizing the contract, especially if the vendor is new to us. We pay close attention to the timing of preparation, delivery, packaging, and transportation to ensure freshness, timely delivery, and ease of serving.

Looking ahead, we are exploring novel options for future events. One exciting idea is COMA organizing a community cooking event for Onam Sadya. Here, skilled and interested volunteers can come together for a fun night of preparing the Sadya themselves! This not only fosters community spirit but also allows us to showcase our culinary talents and traditions in a more hands-on way. If you have the skill and interest, please feel free to reach out to organizers well in advance of the next Onam!

Serving

A detailed and organized Sadya serving plan is prepared. Volunteers are assigned specific tasks, led by experienced team members. A schedule ensures tasks are completed on time.

  1. Food Reception and Setup: Volunteers receive, label, and store food from vendors. Then the team arranges the food counters in the dining area and sets up serving utensils.
  2. Serving: Volunteers serve the item portions out of each dish onto banana leaves.
  3. Table Organization: Organizers ensure guest comfort and supply tables with necessities.
  4. Cleanup: A dedicated crew maintains cleanliness throughout the event and ensures tables are ready to set up for the next ‘pandhis’ quickly.

There are several other things to be arranged and kept ready for serving the Sadya. These include banana Leaves to serve the Sadya in traditional way. Ample quantities of serving utensils, plates, glasses, napkins, and cleaning supplies are arranged.

This structured approach ensures a seamless and enjoyable Sadya experience for all guests.

We visit the event venue to assess suitability for hosting the Sadhya, considering factors like space, seating capacity, accessibility, and facilities. A floor plan is prepared detailing the layout of dining tables, food stations, serving areas, and guest seating arrangements, keeping in mind compliance with safety regulations, and obtaining necessary permits or permissions if required. We also plan for contingencies with a mitigation plan. The venue set up is completed with the help of volunteers on the previous night before the event – including setting up tables, cleaning the banana leaves, etc. The event and excitement start a day early for the volunteers!

Onam Day

On the day of the event, all preparations culminate in a vibrant celebration. Volunteers arrive early at the venue to receive food from vendors and ensure it is stored correctly. The setup of the venue and tables is thoroughly reviewed for a smooth service, and food items are transferred to serving containers. The banana leaf, or vazha ila, is laid out, and servers serve condiments and Sadya items in a specific order. Guests are seated orderly, and rice, parippu, and other main items are served. Each item is served multiple times to ensure guests’ satisfaction. Towards the end, varieties of payasam are served, typically by youth volunteers, either in cups, or in the banana leaf for those who prefer a more traditional experience.

It brings immense satisfaction to the organizers and volunteers to see guests enjoying and savoring the satisfying Sadya. The vibrant colors of the dishes, the aromatic spices, and the joyful chatter of friends and family create a warm and inviting atmosphere. Their smiles and expressions of satisfaction reflect the shared joy of the occasion. It’s a testament to the rich culinary heritage and hospitality of Kerala, bringing people together to celebrate and enjoy the simple pleasures of good food and good company. Knowing that we’ve played a part in creating memorable experiences and fostering a sense of community and joy fills us with pride and fulfillment. It’s moments like these that remind us why we come together year after year to celebrate the richness of our culture and traditions during Onam.

The work for volunteers continues even after every guest has enjoyed their Sadya. They are responsible for cleaning up the venue, setting tables and chairs back to their original arrangement, tidying up the kitchen area, removing trash, and ensuring all utensils are cleaned and returned to their proper places. Additionally, any rented or borrowed items need to be accounted for and returned to their respective vendors. This post-event cleanup is just as crucial as the preparations beforehand, ensuring that the venue is left in pristine condition and ready for the next event. It’s the dedication and hard work of these volunteers that contribute to the overall success and smooth running of the Onam celebration.

Final Thoughts

Year after year, we refine and improve our processes based on past experience to ensure our guests have a fantastic Sadya experience and that the serving is completed within the scheduled duration. This not only ensures that cultural events start on time but also keeps the plan of Onam events on schedule. By learning from past successes and challenges, we continuously enhance our efficiency and effectiveness, ultimately contributing to the seamless and enjoyable celebration of Onam for everyone involved. This tradition of improvement and knowledge transfer is passed from one executive committee to the next, ensuring continuity and growth in our organizational efforts. There is also a dedicated pool of organizers and volunteers, whose numbers increase year after year, with unwavering commitment, ensuring the seamless execution of Onam and other COMA events. Their growing passion and dedication contribute to the smooth coordination and successful implementation of the celebration.

A Comparative Primer on the Films of Mrinal Sen and Ritwik Ghatak – Part 2 – Sandeep Ravindranath

(Sandeep Ravindranath is a student of the audiovisual arts. He has served as a live sound engineer for such acts as Chitravina Ravi Kiran, Nagai Muralidharan, The Carnatica Brothers, Ustad Shahed Pervez Khan and Steve Gorn among others. As an on-location sound recordist, his work on the Lebanese film What Remains was shortlisted for the Student BAFTA in 2018. He holds a Master’s degree in Music Technology from New York University and was a programmer analyst for Sony Music in Manhattan.

His directorial venture The Bookshelf dealt with the subject of growing intolerance in India and was commissioned by Perumal Murugan’s Kalachuvadu and Indira Chandrasekhar’s Tulika. In 2016, Sandeep was offered a full scholarship in the direction program at Columbia College Chicago where his thesis film Diary of an Outsider received Jury invitation from the Directors Guild of America to its Student Awards. To date, his shorts Lullaby, The Bookshelf, Santhana Gopala, Diary of an Outsider and Sub Brothers have screened at over 120 film festivals in 21 countries winning numerous awards along the way. His latest short, Anthem for Kashmir, launched by Anand Patwardhan and T.M. Krishna was censored by the right wing government of India.

Sandeep lives in Dublin, Ohio.)

The Trilogies

After Baishey Sravan, Sen would use the idea of famine again, briefly in Calcutta 71 (1972) and in Akaler Sandhane (In Search of Famine, 1980). All three instances reveal Mrinal Sen as an artist who studied the social and political ferment of his times and informed on them in his art, reincarnating each time with a world of fresh realizations. Calcutta 71 was the second film in his overtly political phase of filmmaking that began with the film Interview (1970). It was a reflection of the violent mood of Calcutta youth at that period of time – the Naxalite movement was at its height and Sen channeled that restlessness into an avant-garde filmmaking that defied the existing Indian cinematic conventions by mixing Brechtian alienation, the cinema verite style, and a non-narrative structure. All the films of this phase – Interview, Calcutta 71, Padatik and Chorus (the first three are known as his Calcutta Trilogy but it could easily be a tetralogy) are characterized by stylistic experimentation where form takes precedence over the dynamism of the thematic entity.

Calcutta 71 was an ideological extension of Interview, both elaborating a Marxist view of class exploitation, poverty, and hunger, resulting in a bitter commentary on the human predicament. Padatik (The Guerilla Fighter, 1973) on the other hand, made a direct political statement by probing those same Marxist values for its contradictions and asserting the need for a timely reassessment. Needless to say, the crowd that sang Mrinal Sen’s praise after Calcutta 71 called him a traitor after Padatik. Padatik was followed by Chorus (1974) which returned to the political philosophy of the earlier two films in the trilogy but was modeled as a satirical re-enactment this time, ending on a note of open revolt.

Padatik is the only film in the Calcutta Trilogy (and Chorus) without a disjunctive narrative structure revealing a distinct beginning, middle, and end. However, this structure is still “interrupted” using the stylistic devices employed in the French New Wave including freeze frames and jump cuts. There are flashbacks and found footage from two foreign films – the Argentinian revolutionary activist film, Hours of the Furnace and Joris Ivens’ documentary on the Vietnam war. There is even an entire sequence where one of the central characters in the film asks several women in a very news-reporting style, questions dealing with women’s empowerment in contemporary Indian society. Many have found these experiments in the Calcutta Trilogy distinctly Godardian and Satyajit Ray was particularly critical calling it an over indulgence in the empty ideological and stylistic posturing of European new wave cinema . While Ray himself has a trilogy on Calcutta (comprising the films Pratidwandi, Seemabaddha and Jana Aranya) that draw comparisons with Mrinal Sen’s trilogy, it is the structural experiments that mark the differences between the two. The question that Jonathan Rosenbaum asks of Luis Bunuel, “how does a sworn enemy of the bourgeois keep his identity while devoting himself to a bourgeois form [narrative cinema] in a bourgeois industry [film industry]?”, is apt for Sen as well. The answer is, “either by subverting these forms or by trying to adjust them to his own purposes.”

Ghatak’s Partition Trilogy – Meghe Dhaka Tara (The Cloud-Capped Star, 1960), Komal Gandhar (The Gandhar Sublime, 1961) and Subarnarekha (The Golden Line, 1962), was the cinematic representation of the socioeconomic implications of the Partition. With these films, he illustrated the mindset of the refugees of Partition by relentlessly drawing the audience into the time and space of those left homeless and crumbling on the faded outskirts of a nation.

Meghe Dhaka Tara was an allegory for the traumatic consequences of the partition of Bengal, capturing the disintegration of a Bengali family as a result of dislocation, poverty, self-interest, and petty internal division. An impoverished family living in a refugee slum after the partition of Bengal struggles for survival and the self-sacrificing protagonist, Nita, has to give up her college studies in order to work. Through many twists and turns of the plot, she becomes the sole earning member of the family. Her elder brother Shankar, who would normally be the head of the household is irresponsible, spending his days singing, dreaming of one day becoming a great singer. He leaves for Bombay soon after, to pursue his singing career returning only at the end of the film. By this time he is an accomplished singer who has become wealthy. However, his ascent to professional and material success has come at the cost of a commensurate decline in Nita’s well being who is now wasting away with a terminal illness.

Striking in Meghe Dhaka Tara is Ghatak’s embrace of the melodramatic style which his background in theatre clearly contributed to. Far from seeing it as pejorative, Ghatak in an article defends melodrama calling it a “much-abused genre,” going on to say in a 1974 interview that “I am not afraid of melodrama, to use melodrama is one’s birthright – it is a form.” The success of Meghe Dhaka Tara, however, is that this melodrama isn’t pure escapism or pure heart-wringing sentimentality but that it exudes a tough, realist sadness – it is his paean to women’s boundless courage and strength, and an indictment of an opportunistic and oppressive social structure.

While Ghatak is known for his eccentric style, his use of the expressionist soundtrack on Meghe Dhaka Tara is certainly bold and experimental. Providing a commentary on the narrative action, Nita’s misery is accompanied by the sound of a whiplash and a hissing sound fades up and down whenever her mother walks into the picture.

In Komal Gandhar, Ghatak merged the motif of fragmentation of a revolutionary cultural movement with a broader motif, the fragmentation of a people. The disintegration of the IPTA and the ideals that it once stood for, had left its mark on Ghatak. The film brought with it an overwhelming nostalgia for the IPTA days where the protagonists struggle to find a new identity in a fast-changing environment as old values crumble. With Subarnarekha, Ghatak provides a prophetic glimpse of the future where post-independence optimism gives way to the harsh realities and disintegrating moral values that are inextricable parts of the civilized urban society. The story of Ishwar and Sita, two of a large, floating population of refugees immediately after independence, it is a bitter tale that mercilessly exposes the canker within.

The archetype of the mother dominates Ghatak’s films and Subarnarekha is no exception with the reconstruction of the Puranic tale of goddess Sati in the character of Sita. In that tale, Sati immolates herself through the fire of her concentration in order to satisfy the ethics of good womanhood because her father Daksha, is greatly opposed to Sati’s husband Shiva whom Daksha believes to be beneath their social status. In Subarnarekha, Ishwar represents Daksha, for he is a surrogate father to Sita and much like Daksha, Ishwar also has an intense dislike for her husband Abhiram because of his lower caste. With the exception of Ajantrik, all Ghatak films from the 1950s and ‘60s show a compulsive engagement with the sister-brother relationship. Thus we have Sita-Ramu of Nagarik, Mini-Kanchan of Bari Theke Paliye, Nita-Shankar of Meghe Dhaka Tara, Anasuya-Pakhi of Komal Gandhar, and Sita-Ishwar of Subarnarekha. As the film critic Moinak Biswas points out , “it is consistent with the ‘obsession’ with the mother archetype in [these] films that the brother and sister should form the primary basis of love.”

The music used in Subarnarekha is another critical aspect. Sita sings a Tagore song much like Nita in Meghe Dhaka Tara. The song, which describes the rural Bengal landscape is used to illustrate the innocence and openness of the world of children and to serve as a counterpoint to the degraded and restricted environment of Sita and Ishwar as adults. Another piece of music used in the film – the one in the party scene and Sita’s suicide scene, is the same music from the orgy scene in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. Ghatak in an essay writes, “There are times when a tune used in a film by someone else is used to make an observation, the way I myself have done. The music that accompanies the scene of orgy at the end of La Dolce Vita, where Fellini lashes out at the whole of Western civilization, is known as Patricia. I sought to make a similar statement in my Subarnarekha about my own land, this Bengal, so sparkling with intellect. So I have used the same music in the bar scene [and in Sita’s suicide scene], to make a suggestion. The music helped me say a lot of things.”

Later Films

Sen returned to the backdrop of famine once again in Akaler Sandhane (In Search of Famine, 1980), this time in the self-introspection phase of his filmmaking. The films starting with Ekdin Pratidin (And Quiet Rolls the Dawn, 1979) to Khandhar (The Ruins, 1983), move away from the anger and bitter satire of his earlier phase to develop an attitude of concern and compassion for the urban middle class of Calcutta bound by their narrow conventions and false moral values. Sen now felt the need to retreat into himself and analyze – “what I used to do before was to locate my enemy outside me. Now I’m trying to find my enemy within myself, to point my accusing finger at myself.”

Akaler Sandhane is a story of confrontations at different levels – between urban and rural culture, between a tragic past and a potentially tragic present, between cinematic illusion and the reality it claims to present, between an artist and his exploitative instincts which he disguises in the garb of creativity. The film is about a film crew going to a remote village of Bengal to make a film on famine. Sen’s humor is evident in this film where at one point, the film crew with its incessant consumption causes a shortage of meat and produce in the village, resulting in a mini-famine there.

The other films in this phase also tackle such contradictions. Kharij (The Case is Closed, 1982), is a subtle understated exposure of bourgeois compromise and the deliberate self-imposed blindness to the reality that makes such a compromise possible. The film uses the death of a child servant as a political symbol, to ponder upon themes of morality and social class, examining the disparity that exists between the lower and middle classes of Calcutta. In the film, a middle-class family employs a young boy as their house servant – a seemingly normal thing to do in Indian homes even today. In a twist of fate, the boy then dies from carbon monoxide poisoning. As far as a plot setup is concerned, this is all that happens in the film. The narrative then turns into a study of how the middle-class society addresses this particular event.

The film opens with a conversation between an unseen couple in the back of a taxicab as the man offers to buy the woman anything she desires – a new apartment, a car, wardrobe, a television set – all invaluable necessities of happy urban living. In the next scene, the woman, visible this time, suggests another commodity – a house servant who can help break coal for the stove, run errands, and be an attendant and playmate to their young son. The attitude of entitlement and commodification is thus foretold in the film’s opening sequence highlighting materialistic privilege as an agent of indifference, discrimination, insularity, and exploitation.

In another particularly revealing sequence that examines the idea of morality, the homeowner asks for advice from a lawyer on the legal implications of the matter. The homeowner claims that the boy had always been treated as a member of the family. His disingenuous words are rebutted by the lawyer who points out that the boy used to sleep under the stairs, was given very little money, and was ultimately regarded as inferior – any positive interaction from the family was minimal, thus making them active participants in the event. The lawyer, however, confesses that ultimately “the legal lie will prevail over the moral truth.” Sen thus exposes a culture of collective accountability, where exploitation of the poor and the weak are rationalized not only by economic necessity but also socially enabled by an implied complicity that reinforces the status quo.

For a narrative that deals with the subject matter of class, and particularly the exploitation of servants, it would be very easy to descend into ideological rhetoric or sentimentalized melodrama. Sen, however, avoids both. He sharply contrasts the dead boy with the privileged and protected son of the homeowner and maintains a pervasive sense of uncertainty – an uncertainty of conflict between social classes, that pushes the story forward. Without a single line of preaching, the highly nuanced narrative finds the dead boy’s father and another servant boy in the building – representatives of the ‘lower’ class coming through in the end as more dignified than their ‘upper’ class employers.

Khandhar (The Ruins, 1983) explores another guilt and another betrayal – a young man from the city brings along two of his friends, a writer, and a photographer, for a weekend visit to his dilapidated country estate where his cousin Jamini lives, a prisoner of the forgotten past, with her blind and ailing mother. For Subhash, the professional photographer, the encounter with Jamini becomes fraught with the very idea of exploitation and guilt – he takes pictures of her and the sprawling ruins, distancing himself however from any emotional responsibility of participating in Jamini’s painful reality. He returns to the safety of the city, dissociating himself from the experience and relegating Jamini to the one-dimensional prison of a photograph on the wall of his studio. For Mrinal Sen, Subhash is his alter-ego when he says, “I too am intruding with my picture-making machines into the unbearable lives of others, building up a relationship with the young and the old. And then, after finishing the film, I pack up my machines, gather my men and come back to the city, to my tidy, organized room.” Khandhar is then, another exercise in self-introspection, another attempt to understand the foibles of his own time, his own class in the context of a highly personalized cinematic experience.

The memories and nostalgia of his childhood and early youth spent in east Bengal (now Bangladesh) drew Ghatak towards making his penultimate film Titash Ekti Nadir Naam (A River Called Titash, 1973). Based on a Bengali novel of the same title, the film revolves around the life of a fishing community on the banks of the river Titash. The river that gives life to the community steadily dries up, but the protagonist, dying of thirst on its sandy bed dreams of a new life. This assertion of life in the midst of calamity, exploitation, and deprivation is a recurring motif in Ghatak’s films. In Titash Ekti Nadir Naam, it expresses itself throughout the film in the simple joys and sorrows of a people living in daily communion with the river. The song of Lalon Shah, a mendicant poet of the nineteenth century, sets the rhythm of the film which ebbs and flows with the waters of the Titash, investing in the protagonists, the fishing community, a poetic and sentient realism. Ghatak said of the film, “Titash became a kind of commemoration of the past that I left behind long ago. When I was making the film, it occurred to me that nothing of the past survives today, nothing can survive. History is ruthless. It is all lost. Nothing remains.”

The End

While both Ghatak and Sen were participants in the IPTA movement and were both influenced by it, it is Ghatak’s use of melodrama, songs, and coincidence that are telltale signs of his background in theatre. Sen, on the other hand, distanced himself from the sentimentality of his early films, experimented with new wave techniques and settled eventually for a cinema of self-introspection. While Sen made 27 feature films in a career spanning 47 years, Ghatak made 8 features and a handful of unfinished fragments in his film career that spanned 25 years. Sen faced both adulation and intense criticism, especially in the role of a political film-maker. His refusal to stand by an earlier political perception, his eagerness to adapt to his immediate surroundings, his spontaneous response to new political understanding and his constant self-evaluation have all been critiqued from time to time. Yet for Sen, these are signs of growth that he has consistently documented in his work.

Sen recalls his last meeting with Ghatak on Christmas Eve of 1975. While Sen was busy getting ready for the shooting of his film Mrigaya starting the next day, Ghatak arrived at his door unannounced. Emaciated from years of alcohol abuse, with a ghostly pallor on his face and gasping for breath, Ghatak grabbed Sen’s hand like a phantom from the past. The two friends had dinner, they talked and they cracked jokes. Ghatak promised that he would give up drinking. A little more than a month later on 6th February 1976, Ritwik Kumar Ghatak died. In a career ridden with inconsistencies, where extraordinary craftsmanship often went hand in hand with childlike indifference, where the struggle to find money for films met with constant failure, where alcoholism depleted the resources of a keen mind, it is not unnatural that Ghatak found few admirers in his lifetime. Long ago, in his passionate and futile appeal to an indifferent audience, talking about his off-mainstream cinema that had just begun its struggle for survival, he had said, “try to understand that we are moving in the middle of a flowing river. Whatever we are at this moment, that is not our final entity. We shall grow and give shade. We are only waiting for a little sustenance.” Apt then are the last words he ever spoke on the screen, as the protagonist dying in the crossfire between the police and the revolutionaries in his final film Jukti Takko Aar Gappo, “one must do something.”

Sources

  • Mukhopadhyay, Deepankar. The Maverick Maestro. New Delhi: Indus, 1995. Print.
  • Ghatak, Ritwik K. Cinema and I. Ed. Avik Banerjee. Calcutta: Dhyanbindu, 2015. Print.
  • Banerjee, Shampa. Profiles: five film-makers from India. New Delhi: National Film Development Corporation, 1985. Print
  • Rosenbaum, Jonathan. Goodbye Cinema, Hello Cinephilia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010. Print.
  • Mukerjee, Madhusree. Churchill’s Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India During World War II. New York: Basic Books, 2010. Print.
  • Simha, Rakesh K. “Remembering India’s forgotten holocaust.” Tehelka.com. Tehelka, 13 June 2014. Web. 21 March 2017.
  • Bingham, Adam, ed. Directory of World Cinema: INDIA. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015. Print.
  • Rosenbaum, Jonathan. Movies as Politics. California: University of California Press, 1997. Print.
  • Boswas, Moinik. “Her Mother’s Son – Kinship and History in Ritwik Ghatak.” rouge.com.au. Rouge (2004). Web. 25 August 2017.
  • O’Donnell, Erin. “Woman and homeland in Ritwik Ghatak’s films.” Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media No. 47 (2004). Web. 21 March 2017.
  • Chatterji, Shoma A. “Ek Din Pratidin – Mrinal Sen’s Indictment on Patriarchy.” learningandcreativity.com. Silhouette Magazine, 14 May 2015. Web. 23 March 2017.

Know your EC team – Pravi Gopalan (2024 Treasurer)

When I sat down to spill the beans in this article, I was scratching my head, wondering where the heck to start. Let’s rewind to the good old days – I popped into this world in a tiny village called “Kundamkuzhy” in Kerala’s Kasaragod district. My childhood was like a wild adventure kids nowadays can only dream of. Picture this: endless freedom, playing from sunrise to sunset, tag games on tree branches that felt like treetop Olympics, crashing at relatives’ houses, and pulling off Olympic-level dives and swims in the river. Meanwhile, my parents were clueless about my whereabouts. Now, when I’m sweating bullets about my own kid’s safety, I ponder how my folks managed to be so carefree. Maybe it was because, back in the day, raising kids was a whole village affair. Yes, a village-wide babysitting network!

My carefree saga rolled on until 6th grade when I bagged a ticket into Navodaya, a boarding school that flipped my world upside down. It took a hot minute to adjust to the schedule and to wave goodbye to my cherished freedom. Adapting to the new routine was like trying to dance to a new beat, but after a few weeks, everything clicked into place. The next seven years saw me bouncing between Navodayas in Kasaragod and Raebareli (UP). Those years sculpted the basic me – the good, the bad, and the quirky. I completed my B. Tech from LBS College of Engineering, Kasaragod and M. Tech from IIT Roorkee.

Fast forward to 2010, and I found myself in Roanoke, VA, a picturesque spot nestled in the Blue Ridge mountain valley. Eleven years of soaking in the beauty before I did the shuffle to Columbus, OH, for work. Roanoke was stunning, but we missed the buzz of a big Kerala community and Malayalee festivals. I had contacted COMA before moving to Columbus, and received guidance, and bam, the next week, we were picnicking (in 2021) with Columbus Malayalees, making a bunch of new buddies.

I got married in 2013 but I met my first love in 2021 – The soccer. I love soccer and used to play in college days, but since I moved to the US, I had no opportunity to play until I moved to Columbus. I got drafted into the famous Tuskers Soccer team for a $1M annual salary :D, and suddenly I was jet-setting around the US for tournaments, feeling like a soccer rockstar.

That is when “veruthe soccer kalichu enjoy cheythu nadanna enne” some friends lured into 2024 COMA EC.

I met my wife Shruti in 2013 and we have a son Ryan. I am very happy that my son has the opportunity to have a glimpse of our Kerala culture through our association and the plenty of Malayali friends we met here.

Here is a photo of my simple and humble family 😛

Regards,
Pravi

P.S. Thanks to ChatGPT 😊

Newsletter February 2024

Hope my readers had a delightful Valentine’s Day with family, friends, and happy moments. February is American Heart Month. This is a great time to get to know your heart better and focus on your cardiovascular health. Preventive measures to reduce the risk of heart disease can also help improve your overall health and well-being – a win-win approach to wellness!

COMA is gearing up for its inaugural event of 2024 – promising a full day of fun with tournaments, games, cultural performances, dinner, and culminating in an electrifying glow party and DJ night. If you haven’t secured your tickets already for the Kaliyattam event on March 2nd, please do so through the COMA website. Tickets are available for both the daytime tournaments and the evening dinner event:

Congratulations to Nijith Zacharia for winning the COMA Kaliyattam poster design contest. Here’s the prize winning poster:

Invest in your heart – Dr. Niju Baby Narakathu

(Niju is an Internal Medicine Physician who works as a hospitalist at Riverside Methodist Hospital, Columbus, and Genesis Health system, Zanesville. He is from Perumbavoor, Kerala who completed residency in New York and moved to Columbus in 2017. He lives in Powell with his wife Katherine and two beautiful daughters – Joella and Qianna.)

I believe there is no month other than February, the month of “love”, to think about our heart, but in a “different” way. Understanding heart health allows us to recognize and reduce the risk factors for heart disease. By educating ourselves we can make healthier lifestyle choices. Additionally, it also helps in early recognition of the warning signs, seeking medical help, and potentially preventing serious complications or fatalities. Heart Health Awareness empowers us to take proactive measures to protect our cardiovascular well-being, leading to a better quality of life and longevity.

What does heart attack mean and why is it important to know about heart attack?

Heart attack happens when the blood flow which brings oxygen to your heart muscles gets cut off, causing damage to the heart muscles. Commonly confused, heart attack is not the same as cardiac arrest. Cardiac arrest is when the heart stops beating suddenly and is most likely an electrical problem of the heart.

According to the American Heart Association, about every 40 seconds someone in the United States suffers from a heart attack. Learning that you have coronary artery disease or a heart attack can be scary or overwhelming. But understand that everyone’s situation is different, and many people can live a full productive life after an event. With proper treatment and lifestyle changes, further damage can be prevented or limited after a heart attack.

What are the symptoms of a heart attack?

  • Pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest, especially with exertion or activities, or at rest
  • Pain or discomfort in other parts of the upper body, shoulders, arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea, vomiting, burping, or heartburn.
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Fast or uneven heartbeat
  • Feeling dizzy

It is important to understand that a heart attack symptom is not always as we typically see in the movies where a man clutches his heart and collapses. It can be subtle and confusing, especially in women, where you can mistake this as “acid reflux” or “flu” or sometimes even “normal aging”. Please note that heart disease is the No. 1 killer among women in the United States, according to the American Heart Association.

It is particularly important to understand that chest pain does not always mean heart attack, but it is important to see a health care professional right away if you experience any of the above symptoms.

What puts you at risk for a heart attack?

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • High cholesterol, more specifically high LDL, low HDL

Your risk is even higher if you:

  • Smoke or vape
  • Eat a diet that is high in red meat, sugar, and fats, low in fruits and vegetables
  • Do not get regular physical activity
  • Obesity
  • High stress levels
  • Have a parent or sibling with heart disease
  • South Asian ethnicity (yes, that is all of us!)

What can you do to lower your risk?

  • Quit smoking/vaping
  • Eat a healthy diet and maintain healthy body weight
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Regular activity – Aim for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (such as brisk walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity (such as jogging), or a combination of both, preferably spread throughout the week. It is also good to include moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity (such as resistance or weight training) at least twice a week
  • Find ways to manage stress – yoga, relaxation techniques, and breathing exercises
  • Take prescribed medicines as recommended by your doctor
  • Healthy sleep habits – adults should aim at 7-9 hours a day

What is considered a heart healthy diet?

The specific amount of each food type that you should eat depends on your age, weight, and sex. But your eating pattern or the types of food in your diet is important.

  • Grains: Try to eat whole-grain, high fiber foods each day – brown rice, whole grain breads, cereals.
  • Fruits and vegetables: Try to eat 4 to 5 servings each day; include as many kinds or colors. If possible, eat fresh. If canned fruits or vegetables are your only option, check the labels and look for products without added sugars or salt.
  • Dairy: Try to have 3 to 4 servings each day.
  • Protein: Low fat or lean meat that are baked or broiled, like chicken and turkey without skin. Include oily fish twice a week (tuna, salmon, mackerel). Dried peas, beans and lentils are also rich in protein and fiber.
  • Fats: healthy fats are monounsaturated fats or polyunsaturated fats – found in olive oil, canola oil, and sesame oil, they are also found in nuts, seeds, avocados. and nut butters.
  • Salt and condiments: Always include low-sodium or salt free broths, soups, soy sauce, or condiments.
  • Sweets: Avoid in general. Choose low-fat products with no trans fat.

What should you avoid in a heart healthy diet?

  • Grains: salted breads, rolls, crackers, quick breads, self-rising flours, biscuit mixes, regular breadcrumbs, instant hot cereals, commercially prepared rice, pasta, and stuffings.
  • Fruits and vegetables: prepackaged, regular canned, frozen vegetables with sauce, pickled vegetables, with added sugar or salt
  • Dairy: malted milk, buttermilk, chocolate milk.
  • Meat products: smoked, cured, salted, or canned.
  • Fats: unhealthy fats – saturated fats and trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils, egg yolks, butter, cheese, fried foods, margarine, baked goods likes cookies or cakes).
  • Condiments and snacks: salted and canned peas, beans and olives. Miso, salsa, ketchup, barbecue sauce, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce are all high in salt.
  • Sweets: baked goods in general, artificial sweeteners, fruit juices, soda, and other sweetened drinks.

Try not to shop when you are hungry!

A Comparative Primer on the Films of Mrinal Sen and Ritwik Ghatak – Part 1 – Sandeep Ravindranath

(Sandeep Ravindranath is a student of the audiovisual arts. He has served as a live sound engineer for such acts as Chitravina Ravi Kiran, Nagai Muralidharan, The Carnatica Brothers, Ustad Shahed Pervez Khan and Steve Gorn among others. As an on-location sound recordist, his work on the Lebanese film What Remains was shortlisted for the Student BAFTA in 2018. He holds a Master’s degree in Music Technology from New York University and was a programmer analyst for Sony Music in Manhattan.

His directorial venture The Bookshelf dealt with the subject of growing intolerance in India and was commissioned by Perumal Murugan’s Kalachuvadu and Indira Chandrasekhar’s Tulika. In 2016, Sandeep was offered a full scholarship in the direction program at Columbia College Chicago where his thesis film Diary of an Outsider received Jury invitation from the Directors Guild of America to its Student Awards. To date, his shorts Lullaby, The Bookshelf, Santhana Gopala, Diary of an Outsider and Sub Brothers have screened at over 120 film festivals in 21 countries winning numerous awards along the way. His latest short, Anthem for Kashmir, launched by Anand Patwardhan and T.M. Krishna was censored by the right wing government of India.

Sandeep lives in Dublin, Ohio.)

Mrinal Sen recounts in an interview, his first meeting with Ritwik Ghatak at an Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) gathering – a lanky young man almost his age was reading out his new play with great passion. IPTA, the cultural arm of the Communist Party of India that nurtured many major literary, artistic and theatrical talents of the age would once again sow the seeds that birthed two giants, in an entirely new medium this time – cinema.

That first encounter turned into the frequent meetings at the Paradise Cafe – a cheap tea-shop in South Calcutta where budding filmmakers – young, unemployed and desperate, gathered to discuss films for hours together. It was during these sessions that Sen decided to become a filmmaker, crediting this momentous decision to both the ambiance of the cafe and the infectious enthusiasm of Ghatak. Today, both Mrinal Sen and Ritwik Ghatak are iconic names in the annals of Indian Cinema – their names etched along with that of another Bengali auteur Satyajit Ray. They were pioneers who changed the course of Indian Cinema, leaving behind the commercial, spectacle and glamour driven movie-making of Bombay in favour of a new kind of filmmaking that treated cinema as the art form that it is, using the medium to focus on social and political issues – the partition, famine, caste and poverty, communalism, the position of women, the anguish of the educated unemployed, dissent and so on. They would go on to inspire filmmakers in other regional languages to walk their path, thereby firmly establishing the culture of the Parallel Cinema of India.

Common Roots

Mrinal Sen and Ritwik Ghatak’s common roots go further back than the meetings at the Paradise Cafe or the IPTA. They were both from villages that became East Pakistan in 1947 (now Bangladesh) and moved to Calcutta during their formative years in an undivided Bengal. These socio-political realities of their time would find its way into their filmmaking – if it was the partition for Ritwik Ghatak, it would be famine for Mrinal Sen. Ghatak’s cinematic world would be a world of exiles where dwell the homeless, the rootless and the child separated from the mother – films peopled with characters who have been driven from their homes, forced to draw sustenance from the vitiated atmosphere of the cities. For Sen, while the physical aspect of famine finds a backdrop in three of his films, it is the ideas associated with famine – poverty, hunger, inequality, and injustice caused by human greed and exploitation that find voice in his narratives. The cinematic medium for Ghatak was the weapon that gave vent to his passionate unrest and for Sen, it was a window through which his keen glance penetrated his surroundings with compassion, humor and sometimes rage.

Early Films

Ritwik Ghatak was the first to reach the milestone of completing a feature film. His first feature, Nagarik (Citizen, 1952) was completed three years before Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali but was released only in 1977, a year after Ghatak’s death. Ray once said that, had Nagarik been released before his Pather Panchali, Nagarik would have been accepted as the first film of the alternative form of Bengali cinema. The story of a lower middle-class family which by force of circumstance, finds itself declassed through poverty, Nagarik makes a political statement that remains valid even today – in a city teeming with people, the common man, the citizen, who will never win and yet, refuses to admit defeat. Amidst the squalor and degeneration of city life, Nagarik’s hero emerges with hope. The repeated blows of fortune, the path of despair from the tenement to the slums, cannot kill his spirit – the young, unemployed hero will continue to fight for his right to live. Nagarik was shot on a shoestring budget, with a cast entirely unused to the film medium and skeletal facilities buoyed up on primitive equipment. The technical deficiencies notwithstanding, Nagarik reveals the unmistakable signs of an emerging style and the unique sensibility that permeates Ghatak’s later films. Ghatak even managed to pay tribute to that little cafe that played an unforgettable role in the development of Indian cinema – the tea-shop that the hero visits after his failed job interview is, the Paradise Cafe.

The melodramatic style which Ghatak imbibed during his years as a playwright, actor, and director in IPTA is channeled into his film oeuvre starting with Nagarik. The variety of both indigenous and foreign theatrical styles that IPTA incorporated, such as the Bengali folk form, Jatra, and Brecht’s “epic” form greatly contributed to the theatrical shape of his melodramatic style. Ghatak’s melodrama in the Brechtian sense detached the audience from the action of the narrative; instead of a willingly “suspended disbelief” caused by an emotional investment in the hero’s journey and his fate, the audience was now prompted to produce a critical, objective response to the socio-political commentary that Ghatak was making. The frequent use of wide angle lens, placement of the camera at very high, low and irregular angles, dramatic lighting composition, expressionistic acting style and experimentation with songs and sound effects, carry on through his entire body of work.

Mrinal Sen’s first film Raat Bhore (Dawn at the end of the Night, 1955) meanwhile, turned out to be such a disaster that he once referred to the experience as “that feeling of disgust which envelopes a man after his first visit to a brothel.” His second film Neel Akasher Neechey (Under the Blue Sky, 1959) was laced with subtle political undertones and had a good run at the box office but Sen in retrospect found it unbearably sentimental and technically shoddy. It was with his third film Baishey Sravan (The 22nd Day of Sravan, 1960), that Mrinal Sen really came into his own. An exploration of a personal predicament that grows out of a larger tragedy outside the boundaries of the home, Baishey Sravan, was the story of a middle-aged village hawker and the disintegration of his relationship with his young bride in the context of the Bengal famine of 1943. Sen had witnessed firsthand the ravages of the famine in which he saw people dying in their hundreds on the streets of Calcutta – walking skeletons begging for a mouthful of rice before succumbing to their horrible fates . An estimated 3 to 4 million Bengalis perished in that famine caused by the Second World War and crop failures, and compounded by the callous colonial administration and its racist masters in London.

After the first half of the film is spent on a truly idyllic portrayal of the couple, the famine enters silently. There is not a single shot that represents the famine physically – there are no starving people begging for food, there are no vultures and jackals fighting over carcasses and there are no emaciated babies fiercely sucking the breast of its dead mother. The context of the war and the impending calamity is set up with a shot of a passing convoy, the sounds of an airplane and a very long shot of the villagers moving to the city in search of food. As the cry for food becomes louder and louder outside, Sen keeps his camera fixed indoors where the couple, like two animals in a cage, fight each other as poverty and starvation break down the last vestiges of their humanity.

Ghatak’s second film Ajantrik (The Pathetic Fallacy or The Unmechanical, 1958) had a theme that was startlingly new for Indian cinema at the time – it was among the earliest films in India that showcased an inanimate object – a car, as a major character. The story is about a taxi-driver Bimal and his undying love for his battered old jalopy whom he fondly refers to by a human name, Jagaddhal – a run down, 1920’s Chevrolet that is literally falling apart at the seams. Ghatak humanises the car with a comic treatment – headlights that move of its own volition, and the sense of brotherly affection between Bimal and the car with a number plate that reads “BRO 117”. The dialog Bimal establishes with the car – Jagaddhal never “catches colds” or “gets tummy aches” further highlights the humanising aspect of their attachment. Ghatak’s innovative use of sound design that was way ahead of its time further accentuates this anthropomorphising – while Bimal pours water into the car’s radiator, a gulping sound accompanies the action in the soundtrack. Towards the end of the film, as Jagaddhal is dying in spite of the replacement of its parts and the extensive work done on it, a metallic grinding sound becomes louder and louder indicating Jagaddhal’s “sickness”. While there is still some theatricality, unlike his other films, Ghatak has toned down his use of melodrama in Ajantrik in favor of a comedic-drama form. He still retains some symbolism, for instance in the shot where Jagaddhal is being dragged away by scrap-collectors, the frame is composed through the crosses in the cemetery next to which Bimal lives.

As Ghatak’s concerns over modernism and its discontents are well known, Ajantrik could be read as a cautionary tale about man’s obsession with technology in an increasingly material and urban world. While in an article , Ghatak refers to the film as “the story of a crazy man”, and says that “only silly people can identify themselves with a man who believes that that God-forsaken car has life”, the affectionate portrayal of Bimal and his companion in the film certainly does not betray this seemingly condescending tone. In fact, Bimal might well be an extension of Ghatak himself who as an innovative filmmaker, broke all kinds of cinematic rules and regulations. Like Bimal he resisted the fashions of his day, eventually paying the price with an isolation rewarded by a personal vision that goes against the grain. Ajantrik could also have inspired Satyajit Ray to make Abhijaan (The Expedition, 1962) four years later, which had a similar theme of a taxi-driver and his fondness for his car but that film ends on a happier note. This could explain why Abhijaan was one of Ray’s biggest ever successes at the Bengali box-office, while as Ghatak himself recalled, Ajantrik “grossed exactly nothing.”

References

  1. Mukerjee, Madhusree. Churchill’s Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India During World War II. New York: Basic Books, 2010. Print.
  2. Simha, Rakesh K. “Remembering India’s forgotten holocaust.” Tehelka.com. Tehelka, 13 June 2014. Web. 21 March 2017.
  3. Ghatak, Ritwik K. “Some Thoughts About Ajantrik.” Cinema and I. Ed. Avik Banerjee. Calcutta: Dhyanbindu, 2015. Print.

Know your EC team – Shyam Mohan (2024 Joint Secretary)

“You are what you Think!” Let me begin my story with this. Something that I realized from the early stages of my life. Something that I’d like to pass on to COMA youth as well. Thoughts lead to Emotions, Emotions lead to Actions, and Actions lead to Outcomes! So in a way you create your own story/future/destiny!

My name is Shyam Mohan Ganesh-bhavan Neena. An ardent Kerala-loving, Malayalam-loving person born in the Malabarian coast of Kerala – Kozhikode. I’m sure at least some of you would have read the name twice and thought ‘what’s the deal with his name!”. Like the long name, the story behind it is also long! Overall people take me as a simple person, but I am also a person who understands Lena (Multiverse! :D) So I can be interesting too 🙂

Born to middle class central-government employee parents, inter-state transfer and school hopping were a normal part of my life. After spending my toddler days in Bangalore, pre-school days in Kannur, and elementary school days in Vishakapattanam (AP), we finally ended up in the land of Anathapadmanabha – Thiruvananthapuram, where I finished my schooling from Kendriya Vidyalaya, Pattom and Computer Engineering from College of Engineering, Thiruvananthapuram (CET).

If asked for a nostalgic moment from my childhood, the memories are not complete without mentioning the load-shedding nights (power-cut) we used to have back in the day, where me and my family used to go to the terrace and lie down facing the sky, our faces lit by the diamonds in the sky. My father was a Meteorologist (Weather Forecaster). Sky watching was his job but he did make sure some of that occupational wisdom was passed on to us. To this day, when I look at the night sky, I can spot many of the constellations or read a few cloud patterns to predict if it’ll rain the following day or not. Well.. almost 🙂 He also taught me to occasionally zoom out and realize that we are nothing but an insignificant cosmic dust in this infinite universe and to be humbled by our mere existence in the grand scheme of the cosmos.

I’ve always believed hobbies are food for the soul. Besides the common hobbies of a 80/90’s kid, like playing street cricket, stamp collection, playing RoadRash etc., I also picked up some new hobbies as an adult – photography, drawing, and cooking. Being a passionate nature lover and growing up in the lap of our God’s Own Country, the urge to pickup photography was inevitable. Starting with my first camera (now vintage), a Minolta 35mm, I slowly moved on to a Nikon DSLR, and I now own a SONY Alpha Mirrorless.

Among all my hobbies, drawing is the one that is most fulfilling, where I lose track of time and feel recharged thereafter. Being a foodie and born in a place that I think is a food destination of our vibrant diverse state, many of the favorite moments of my early life were in the kitchen with my dad, or relatives, or with my grandmother. I picked up cooking during my bachelor days and continue to do it whenever I get time.

Having been born in northern Kerala and having lived mostly in southern Kerala, I had visited most of the districts in Kerala by the time I was of prime age, but the central district of Palakkad had always eluded me. I finally ended up marrying my wife from Palakkad, a place that I visited for the first time in my life on the day I met her. Falling in love with everything I saw that day, rest is history 😉 Well, here we are – a family of four with our two beautiful children, Eva and Milan. Apart from our priceless family time at home, our favorite family destinations include Munnar, Colorado, and the Caribbeans.

After coming to the United States 15 years ago, and having travelled or worked in 30+ states, I finally chose our dear-old Ohio to settle in! They say Home is where you find peace. Ohio is our second home (after Kerala) and this is where we want to come back to, always. Be it the four seasons, the food, good education for children, or the welcoming “Mallus”, I believe there is something for everyone here – in the humble view of a simple guy like me 🙂 And honestly, COMA feels nothing short of an extension of our own kin and clan!

Warm regards!

Shyam

Newsletter January 2024

Welcome to the first newsletter of 2024! I trust all of you had a great holiday season and got to spend quality time with your family and friends. January is the time for new year resolutions, and my goal for this year is to eat healthy, stay fit, and complete a half marathon in the fall. I am part of the COMA Marathon group, and the camaraderie of motivated fellow Malayali runners is invaluable in keeping myself on track.

I am really looking forward to the initiatives the 2024 Executive Committee has in store for COMA members this year. My best wishes go out to the 2024 EC for a triumphant year! The success of our organization hinges on volunteer support complementing the enthusiastic efforts from the Executive Committee, so I hope we can all join hands as a team and contribute wholeheartedly to help create another great year for our organization.

I am always looking for member contributions for the newsletter. Should you wish to submit content for future editions, please reach out to the EC team (coma.officials@gmail.com). Content should be 250 words or less.

Wishing all my readers a safe, healthy, and prosperous new year!

Smitha Nishant

Presidential Address – Nicey Vakasseril (2024 COMA President)

(Nicey lives in Powell, Ohio with her husband Stephen and daughter Anjali. She is from Trivandrum and has been living in Ohio since 2015. Her hobbies are reading, driving on long routes, and relaxing.)

Happy New year to all Malayali families and COMA members! I am thrilled to be part of COMA EC 2024, and excited to share the fun with you all again this year!

I understand that there are a lot of Malayali families who are not part of COMA as I myself was not part of it for some time. And after being part of COMA, I realized how valuable it is through providing a community feeling and fun filled enjoyable events to our Malayali families. Therefore, one of my intentions is to bring more Malayali families into COMA. Also, this year, COMA would like to partner with other Indian associations for cross cultural activities.

I would like to congratulate the 2023 Executive Committee for providing a wonderful and memorable year! In 2024, we are planning some exciting events where we will re-live the traditions of our God’s Own Country as well as embrace the traditions of this nation. With your active participation and support, we hope to make this year a memorable one for COMA members.

As we continue through the year, we will let you know about the upcoming events! I am happy to have a team consisting of Anil Koothoor as Vice President, Pravi Gopalan as Treasurer, Yogalakshmi as Secretary, and Shyam Mohan as Joint Secretary. We are glad that we have the guidance of an experienced team of trustees! The success of COMA is not just with the committee but with all our Malayali families including children, youth, and adults. We request your support by participating in events, bringing more families to COMA, and by volunteering at COMA events. I firmly believe that we are going to have another fun-filled year!

I am looking forward to having this journey with you all in 2024! Once again, I wish you all a prosperous and happy new year on behalf of everyone in EC 2024!

Essential Medical Screenings – Dr. Rajesh Rajan

(Rajesh Rajan is a Nephrologist who also manages Infuse One (an infusion/Botox center). He is from Pandalam, Kerala. He grew up in New York and moved to Columbus in 2022. He lives in Liberty Township with his wife Mauja, kids Devika and Dhinan, and puppy Meeka.)

As we step into the unfolding of the New Year, many of us embark on a journey centered around resolutions for improved health and well-being. Amidst the plethora of aspirations, a dedicated commitment to good health takes precedence, whether achieved through mindful nutrition, regular exercise, or conscientious mental health practices. The dedication to better health undergoes an annual reevaluation.

Despite our emphasis on well-being, the tendency prevails to visit the doctor only when unwell. However, the significance of preventive healthcare cannot be overstated. It is imperative to shift our focus from reactive responses to proactive measures in health management. Regular visits to healthcare professionals can detect issues early on, or prevent their occurrence through routine screenings. Several essential screenings become particularly relevant as we age.

Guidelines and recommendations for screenings are diverse, with organizations like the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) offering valuable insights. Patient preferences play a pivotal role in decision-making, with education about the risks and benefits of screening tests being paramount.

Primary care physician visits constitute a crucial facet of comprehensive healthcare. These appointments involve screening for blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes mellitus, vision health, and more. While recommendations may vary, a biennial health visit for adults under 49, assuming good health without chronic conditions, is generally acceptable. Adults aged 50 and above are advised to have an annual health visit, while those with chronic illnesses may require more frequent monitoring.

Dental care often falls into the realm of reactive measures, triggered by problems. The American Dental Association suggests regular dental visits, commonly interpreted as every six months, for examinations, cleanings, and necessary X-rays to detect issues early.

While eye exams need not occur annually, a comprehensive examination is crucial at some point to evaluate underlying eye pathology. Beyond assessing the need for corrective lenses, eye exams screen for diseases like glaucoma, cataracts, or macular degeneration.

The rising prevalence of chronic health conditions underscores the importance of close monitoring. High blood pressure, a common ailment, prompts screening for adults over 18, with annual checks recommended after the age of 40, particularly for those with high-risk factors.

Diabetes, a global health concern, is screened for in patients with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or adults aged 35-70 with a Body Mass Index over 25. Fasting blood tests or hemoglobin A1c assessments are commonly employed for diagnosis.

Specialized cancer screening recommendations, such as Pap tests for cervical cancer and mammograms for breast cancer, align with guidelines from organizations like the USPSTF. Colorectal cancer screening is advised from age 45 onwards, and lung cancer screening is recommended for high-risk individuals aged 50-80 with a history of smoking.

Prostate cancer screening discussions commence at age 50 for average-risk individuals, relying on individualized decisions informed by factors like the Prostate-Specific Antigen blood test or digital rectal exams.

Osteoporosis screening is typically conducted for women over 65, and DEXA scans are commonly used for bone density evaluation. Men with low bone mass or fracture risk factors may also undergo screening.

Abdominal aortic aneurysm screening, generally a one-time ultrasound, is recommended for males aged 65-75, especially for current or former smokers. Non-smokers in the same age bracket with a family history of abdominal aortic aneurysm may also consider this screening.

While this overview is not exhaustive, each decision regarding preventive health is a collaborative effort between the patient and the physician. It is advisable to consult with your physician to develop personalized preventive health strategies.

Know your EC team – Anil Koothoor (2024 Vice President)

(Anil lives in Plain City, Ohio with his wife Sabitha and son Ash. He moved from Calgary to Ohio in 2021. Since then, he has been an active member of COMA. Anil is an avid traveler and has explored over 45 countries. He is passionate about local food and soccer.)

When Smitha asked me to write about myself, I never realized that this would be so difficult for me. I realized that I have lost my touch for writing, and writing about others, “paradooshanam”, is much easier than writing about yourself. Anyway, here is my scribble. Warning: read at your own risk.

I was born in a village near Payyanur, Kannur, and I was there until I completed my pre-degree course. My childhood memories revolve around the time I spent playing outdoors with my friends and fighting with the creatures that occupied most parts of my mom’s ancestral home where I was brought up, and of-course the relationship complexities of an orthodox extended family. During that time, reading was my hobby and the couple of libraries in our village and nearby town helped me with it. I am not sure how many of you know about this, Kannur is very famous for its network of libraries. Reading opened many doors for me, and I started questioning things -within no time, I was labelled as a rebel. I became part of student activities and travelled across the state to coordinate cultural programs. If you ask me about the best part of my schooling, definitely, it’s the two years (pre-degree) I lived in “Payyanur College”. Yes, the way Vineet Sreenivasan described in his movie “Thattathil Marayathu“, Payyanur College “varantha” and the evening breeze, that was such a romantic and exhilarating experience. As per my wife, Payyanur College and the two years of “alavalathi tharangal” would be the only thing that I would remember if ever I suffer from amnesia.

I had to move to Trivandrum for pursuing my engineering degree. There, everyone talked about the importance of having milestones and targets, but for me, the ultimate target was to go back to my roots. Many of you would have heard about Paulo Coelho and his famous quote in his masterpiece Alchemist: “When you want something, the whole universe conspires in order for you to achieve it“- Coelho used this phrase to ascertain his opinion that we can control fate and that fate is a lie. You may agree with this comment. In my life, fate is a reality. I was never able to control my fate but I learned to live with it. I started living in the moment and making the best of it. I can proudly say that I appreciate whatever comes out of that moment and I live with no regrets. Trust me, that has changed my whole concept about life. Like the unknown quote, “Dance with the waves, move with the sea, let the rhythm of the water set your soul free“.

Now the question is, why couldn’t I change my fate? There may be numerous reasons but not any as prominent as this one: Sometimes, someone comes into your life that changes everything. In my life, there was not one but three musketeers. They believed in me and made me realize that I can do many things in life if I channel my energy in the right direction and get rid of my carefree attitude, while controlling my activism. Association with them propelled my multidimensional reading and that helped me understand the world in its broader aspect, as well as it helped me academically. Don’t know if I should call them my teachers; officially they were, but they are really my friends, my big brothers, and my well-wishers. I don’t want to narrate the whole story, but I can undoubtedly say that they influenced my life more than anyone else, and for them, I became an engineer.

Again, for me, being an engineer meant working in KSEB or some governmental or nodal agencies, but life pulled me to different directions. From CET, I was drafted to work for a software company and I started working in mainframe/Y2K. You probably know that at that time, it was a big buzz in India and an easy way to become an American. I was always confused about applying colons and semicolons at the right places in code, and I also realized that there were many smart people who could program better than me. Also, the only interesting part of being in Madras was the time I had spent with my friends in cricket grounds. I left software and moved to oil and gas. The work schedule at ONGC was really comfortable for me to follow my passion for travel, and I backpacked every state in India and some countries outside India. I am proud to say I am an Indian-Navy trained fire and rescue officer, and actively coordinated a couple of fire and rescue operations and other emergency incidents in Mumbai High offshore. Meanwhile, I met my life partner who used to visit our hometown from Tamil Nadu during her summer vacations. Though she claims to be a Malayalee, I am still not comfortable to endorse that claim. We got married in 2000. There ended my adventures. Guys and girls, you know what I mean by this. We were blessed with our handsome son Ash Krishna, who is a Junior at University of Wisconsin, Madison.

In life, there is a time where you feel you need wealth more than your comfortability in life. I moved to Kuwait for work. Though the stint was short, I have to admit, that helped me secure my base financially. Not by much but to an extend where I could afford travelling across the world. I then moved to Canada and settled in Northern Alberta, famous for its beautiful northern lights and where the outdoors life is only for a maximum of 4 to 5 months a year. Moving from +55 degrees C to -44 degrees C annealed us to laugh at the haters of Ohio winter. Guys, you are lucky!

When life is full of unexpected challenges, how you handle them builds character. The devasting wildfire in Canada forced us to move from Fort McMurray to Calgary where we built our life from scratch. Thanks to my wife and son who stood strong when we were forced to live in our SUV for a week thinking about what to do next. Thanks also to my employer who believed in my skills and continued my association, though it was challenging for them to make money after the devastation.

Our son who was a competitive swimmer moved to Wisconsin, and we moved along with him to the US (Ohio) in 2021, and here I am. Smitha also wants me to talk about my hobbies. If you have read this far, you may have realized the fact that I love travelling and my intention is to cover 60 countries by 60, and 70 by 70, and I believe I can achieve it. If I ever retire, I will take up a job where I don’t have to use my brain (if something is left of it by that time) and work for a couple of months a year and do a road trip for the rest of the year in my RV.

Whatever happened, happened for the good. Whatever is happening, is happening for the good. Whatever will happen, will also be for good – Bhagavad Gita. Life is short and I will make the best of it.

P.S.: I never wanted to lead another organization, and here I am writing this as the 2024 COMA Vice President. I can only say that I will try my best to meet your expectations.

COMA Malayalam Classes – A Perspective – Prahlad T I

(Prahlad, a music enthusiast, has been an active member of COMA since 2013, and lives with his wife Vidya and son Amogh in Lewis Center, OH. Prahlad loves to travel and enjoys biking.)

When Smitha asked me to write a short article about the COMA Malayalam classes, I thought it would be just a matter of an hour, and that I should be done with it very soon. I planned to start my article with a reference to the birth of Malayalam language, did a bit of reading online, and that’s when I realized how little I knew about the history of Malayalam. I kept on reading, and my originally planned one hour turned into many more. Well, now that I have the courage to start my article, let me first thank Smitha for making me read more 🙂

Malayalam language has been evolving since many years. Historians have classified the evolution of Malayalam into three eras, namely the old, middle, and modern Malayalam. The current version of Malayalam (modern) has been around since the 15th century. Thunchaththu Ezhuthachan, considered to be the Father of modern Malayalam language, lived during the 16th century, and has made many contributions to the growth of Malayalam. The epic poems written by him and the revival of the Malayalam script into its current form were some of his major contributions.

From the perspective of a native English speaker (which would be most of our students), learning Malayalam (or any Indian language for that matter) has its own challenges. Let me elaborate this with an example. Let’s try to translate 3 simple sentences from English to Malayalam.

  1. I told him => Njan Avanodu Paranju
  2. I helped him => Njan Avane Sahaayichu
  3. I gave him => Njan Avanu koduthu

Now, see how the word “him” got changed into 3 entirely different forms when translated to Malayalam. Here, the right form to use is based on the meaning of the verb, and for a native Malayalam speaker, this would come naturally. Not much thinking is required. On the other hand, for a native English speaker, finding which word to use is very complicated and challenging. Even if there was some scientific method to find the right form to use, such methods cannot be understood by little kids very easily. Picking the right word for the context can only come by frequent hearing of these sentences and patterns spoken by others. I have observed that watching Malayalam movies is one good way to help register such patterns easily in kids.

The one thing I am really happy with is to see that there is much love towards learning Malayalam. There are more and more parents each year who are interested in having their kids get a taste of Malayalam. This is a great initiative that COMA has undertaken. COMA Malayalam classes have two batches currently, the Beginner class and the Intermediate class. Someone who is very new to Malayalam starts off with the Beginner class, stays in for a couple of years, and then graduates into the Intermediate class. The Beginner class is more of an introduction to Malayalam, where kids get to learn the basics. They get to learn many of the common Malayalam words, learn to make simple conversational sentences, and get familiarized with the Malayalam script. The Intermediate class takes students to a more detailed level, including sentence formation, writing, and grammar.

Having had the opportunity to volunteer as a COMA Malayalam teacher for a decade, I must say I feel extremely fortunate and happy. The one hour spent with kids each week is truly an hour of bliss. I believe my students have enjoyed the classes as much as I did, and I am sure the classes have given them a good flavor of the language and the culture of Kerala. In addition to learning the language, we also enjoy singing Malayalam songs, reading Malayalam stories, etc. I have often received videos from parents of kids singing Malayalam songs at home that we learned in our class. Those, and many more such awesome moments, has made me go on for a decade, looking forward to that one hour, week after week.

I would like to thank COMA for giving me this opportunity.

Newsletter December 2023

Happy Holidays to all! It’s been a fantastic year for COMA, and we closed it out with a bang! The Christmas event was truly grand, featuring photo booths, Christmas carols, nativity skit, and an impressive array of performances by individuals of all age groups. The plum cake, appetizers, and wine served at the outset, followed by the classic Malayali feast for dinner turned out to be a culinary delight. The dance floor was a fitting end to the series of grand celebrations we’ve had this year. A heartfelt thank you to EC 2023 for your outstanding work!

It brings me immense pleasure to envision a bright future for COMA, owing to the commitment and dedication of our volunteers, executive leadership, and trustees. The Executive Committee for 2024 was announced during the COMA Christmas event. We have a dynamic and passionate team all prepared to make their mark. Stay tuned for more details in our January newsletter!

I extend my sincere gratitude to all my readers and contributors for your tremendous support of the newsletter this year. I eagerly anticipate working with you in the upcoming year!

I wish you and your families a happy and healthy holiday season, and a prosperous New Year!

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കിളിയൊഴിഞ്ഞ കൂട് – Beena Kumar

(Beena Kumar is a long term COMA patron and lives in Dublin, OH with her husband Ajoy Kumar. She is an IT professional, and enjoys travel and literature.)

പഞ്ചവർണ്ണക്കിളി പാറി മറഞ്ഞപ്പോൾ
കിളിക്കൂടെനിക്കൊരു ഭാരമായി
മറയാത്തൊരോർമ്മകൾ കൊത്തിപ്പെറുക്കിയെൻ
മാനസം പിന്നോട്ടൊന്നെത്തിനോക്കി
കണ്ണു തുറക്കാത്ത തൂവൽ എഴാത്തൊരു
കുഞ്ഞായി നിന്നെയറിഞ്ഞു തുടങ്ങി ഞാൻ
നാൾക്കുനാൾ നീ വളരുന്നതു കണ്ടെൻ്റെ
ഉള്ളിൽ വാത്സല്യം നിറഞ്ഞു നിന്നു
നിൻ കുഞ്ഞു മേനിയിൽ തൂവൽ കിളിർത്തതും
ആദ്യമായ് കൊഞ്ചിയെൻ കാതിൽ മൊഴിഞ്ഞതും
വേർതിരിച്ചെന്തെന്നറിയാൻ കഴിയാത്ത
കൊഞ്ചൽ എന്നാത്മാവിൻ ആനന്ദമായതും
കുഞ്ഞിച്ചിറകു വിരിച്ചു നീയാദ്യമായ്
പൊങ്ങിപ്പറന്നു തിരികെ അണഞ്ഞതും
ആതിരറിയാതെ നീ പാറി നടന്നപ്പോൾ
അരുതെന്നു ചൊല്ലി ഞാൻ പിന്നാലെ വന്നതും
ബാല്യം കടന്നു നീ യൗവനം ഏറീതും
പഞ്ച വർണ്ണ ചിറകൊക്കെ കുരുത്തതും
സങ്കൽപ്പ ലോകത്തിൽ നീ പാറി നിന്നതും
മിന്നും കഥകളെൻ കാതിൽ മൊഴിഞ്ഞതും
അരുതുകളൊക്കെ അകലെ എറിഞ്ഞു നീ
അരുതാത്തതൊക്കെയും കൊത്തിക്കൊറിച്ചതും
ദീനം പിടിച്ചു നീ വേദന തിന്നതും
വേദാന്തമോതി ഞാൻ കൂടെയിരുന്നതും
കൂടു നിനക്കൊരു ബന്ധനമായതും
ആകാശം വെട്ടിപ്പിടിക്കാൻ മോഹിച്ചതും
യാത്രയും ചൊല്ലി നീ പാറി മറഞ്ഞതും
എന്നുടെ ചേതന ഒന്നു പിടഞ്ഞതും
ഒന്നും മറക്കുന്നതില്ലയെൻ പൈങ്കിളി
ശൂന്യമീ ജീവിതം ഓർമ്മകളില്ലെങ്കിൽ
നന്മകൾ നേരുന്നു നിൻപാത നീളെയും
ആയുരാരോഗ്യ സൗഭാഗ്യങ്ങളും
കാതിരിക്കുന്നു ഞാൻ എന്നും പ്രതീക്ഷയിൽ
തിരികെ നീയെത്തുന്ന നാളിനായി.

Columbus Tuskers Triumph at Naadan 7’s Soccer Tournament in Houston, TX – Pramod Pudhiyattil

(Pramod Pudhiyattil is a long time COMA patron who is most well-known for being COMA’s event videographer. He maintains the official COMA YouTube channel. Pramod is a sport enthusiast and is the manager of the local Malayalee Saturday badminton league as well as a private Friday Badminton league. He’s also one of the best soccer players among Columbus Malayalees and has been a part of various soccer teams over his years in Columbus. He’s an avid biker and is one of the main coordinators of the COMA biking club. In his spare time, he goes running and has completed a half marathon. Pramod lives in Lewis Center with his wife Priya, son Aarit, and daughter Aadhira.)

In an exhilarating showcase of skill and determination, the Columbus Tuskers recently made a triumphant journey from Columbus, OH to Houston, TX to participate in the prestigious Naadan 7’s soccer tournament. The tournament, hosted in the city of Katy, near Houston TX on the 11th and 12th of November 2023, by Houston United MSC (Malayalee Soccer Club), brought together soccer enthusiasts from Malayalees across the nation, creating an atmosphere of friendly competition and community spirit.

The Columbus Tuskers, driven by a passion for the sport, traveled the distance to not only compete but to leave an indelible mark on the Naadan 7’s soccer tournament. The team’s outstanding performance swept Naadan 7’s Soccer Tournament, with double victory, clinching the “Champions Trophy” in the 45+ category and securing the esteemed title of “Runners-Up” in the fiercely competitive 35+ category.

The triumph of the Columbus Tuskers was not confined to team victories alone; several players showcased their exceptional talent and earned individual awards, adding to the team’s impressive achievements.

Subhash Nair emerged as a standout player, bagging the coveted Top Scorer Award for the 35+ category. His goal-scoring prowess and on-field finesse contributed significantly to the team’s success in this age group. Subhash is well known as the Messi of the Columbus Tuskers team and is a nightmare for all opposing teams.

Anil Koothoor, demonstrating exceptional skills between the goalposts, secured the title of Best Goalkeeper in the fiercely competitive 45+ category. His outstanding performance played a crucial role in the Columbus Tuskers’ defensive strength and contributed to their overall success in the tournament.

The 45+ category saw more individual brilliance from the Columbus Tuskers, with Sing Nair earning the Top Scorer Award. Sing N’s scoring prowess and strategic contributions were instrumental in the team’s journey to claiming the “Champions Trophy” in this age group.

Pramod Pudhiyattil, another standout player, was honored with the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award in the 45+ category. Pramod’s all-round contributions, leadership on the field, and ability to make a decisive impact in crucial moments solidified his position as a key player for the Columbus Tuskers.

Columbus Tusker 45+ Squad

  • Shibu Nair
  • Pramod Pudhiyattil
  • Ashley Thomas
  • Abraham Thomas
  • Austin Pereira
  • Biju Philip
  • Buby Varghese Mathew
  • Mathew Abraham Varghese
  • Sing Nair
  • Sinu Paul
  • Anil Koothoor

Columbus Tuskers 35+ Squad

  • Anil Koothoor
  • Aslam Abubacker
  • Deepak Asokan
  • Dilin Joy
  • JayKumar Madathil
  • Pradeesh Puthiyattil
  • Pravi Gopalan
  • Rakesh Vijayakrishnan
  • Sajid Nedumpally
  • Subhash Nair
  • Shibu Nair
  • Pramod Pudhiyattil
  • Ashley Thomas

Due to various reasons, the full power of Columbus Tuskers couldn’t be showcased in the Houston tournament, but the team cannot be thanked enough for the support they rendered throughout the tournament. We really missed these folks who could not join us in Houston: Josh (Coach), Basil, Bimal, Anish, Sameer, and Geeno.

Above all, Shibu’s (COMA President) exemplary captaincy set a high standard for aspiring soccer players in the community, emphasizing the importance of leadership, strategic thinking, and camaraderie both on and off the field.

The organizers of Naadan 7 tournament deserve recognition for orchestrating a seamless event. Their dedication and meticulous planning ensured that soccer enthusiasts and families alike could enjoy the weekend filled with excitement and friendly competition.

The resounding success of the Columbus Tuskers at the Naadan 7’s soccer tournament is a testament to the blend of individual brilliance, team cohesion, and exceptional leadership that defines the spirit of the beautiful game. The team’s achievements will undoubtedly inspire future generations of soccer enthusiasts in Columbus, fostering a legacy of excellence in soccer within the community. The entire community joins in celebrating these accomplishments, recognizing the dedication, hard work, and passion that propelled the Columbus Tuskers to success on the national stage. As we reflect on the success, it becomes evident that events like these play a crucial role in strengthening the fabric of our community.

#PhotographyTips #Lighting – Rahul RP

(Rahul RP is an IT engineer with a deep passion for photography and travel. He possesses a keen eye for capturing the beauty of the world through the lens of his camera, turning everyday moments into extraordinary memories. Whether it’s exploring new destinations or delving into the intricacies of technology, he is a true enthusiast with a thirst for knowledge and adventure. Rahul lives in New Albany with his wife Gayathri and son Dhyan. He hails from Trivandrum.)

In the realm of photography, lighting is not merely a technical necessity; it is an art form that can transform an ordinary image into a masterpiece. Whether you are a novice or a seasoned photographer, understanding the nuances of lighting is crucial for capturing breathtaking shots. This article will delve into the importance of lighting in photography and provide tips on how to use it to your advantage.

The Essence of Lighting

Lighting is the key to unlocking the true potential of your photographs. It not only illuminates the subject but also sets the mood, creates depth, and adds a touch of magic to your images. The interplay of light and shadow can turn an ordinary scene into a captivating visual narrative.

Types of Lighting

Natural Light

Harnessing the power of natural light is a skill every photographer should master. The golden hours—early morning and late afternoon—offer soft, warm light that enhances the overall ambiance of your photos. Experiment with different angles to understand how light interacts with your subject.

Artificial Light

Studio photography often relies on artificial lighting, allowing photographers to have precise control over the intensity, direction, and color of light. Continuous lighting and strobes are popular choices, each serving a specific purpose in creating the desired effect.

Understanding Light Direction

The direction from which light falls on your subject significantly impacts the mood and texture of your photograph. Frontal lighting minimizes shadows, while side lighting emphasizes texture and form. Backlighting creates silhouettes and adds drama, making your subject stand out against the background.

Mastering Exposure

Balancing exposure is crucial for achieving well-lit photos. Understand the exposure triangle—aperture, shutter speed, and ISO—to control the amount of light entering your camera. Experiment with different settings to find the perfect exposure for your specific lighting conditions.

Playing with Shadows

Shadows are not to be feared; they can be a powerful tool in creating depth and dimension. Experiment with shadows to add intrigue and mystery to your images. Be mindful of the interplay between light and shadow to convey a sense of drama and emotion.

Color Temperature

Different light sources emit varying color temperatures, affecting the overall tone of your photographs. Learn to adjust white balance to ensure accurate color representation. Daylight, tungsten, and fluorescent lights each have unique characteristics that can be used creatively to enhance your images.

Experimentation and Adaptation

Photography is a dynamic art form, and lighting conditions are ever-changing. Embrace experimentation and be willing to adapt to different scenarios. Learning to work with the available light, whether natural or artificial, will broaden your creative possibilities.

Mastering the art of lighting in photography is a continuous journey of discovery and refinement. By understanding the principles of light and how to manipulate it to your advantage, you can elevate your photography to new heights. So, grab your camera, explore different lighting scenarios, and let the interplay of light and shadow tell your visual story.

Beef/Meat Cutlet – Babitha Joseph

(Babitha lives in Delaware, OH with her husband Dilin and their two children. She is a very enthusiastic chef who likes experimenting with various Kerala meat preparations. Babitha is an IT professional and loves watching movies in her free time.)

Beef cutlet is among the most popular Malayalee appetizers/snacks which is never missed out at parties, especially in Kerala Christian homes. Christmas is around the corner and these cutlets can be the perfect appetizer for your holiday gatherings. Here is the recipe for Kerala style beef cutlet. With 1 kg beef, you can make 25 – 30 cutlets.

Ingredients

Set 1

  • Beef: 1 kg (~2 lb) – cleaned and chopped into small cubes
  • Meat masala: 2 tsp (alternately, you can add 1/2 tsp turmeric powder and 1 tsp each of Chilli powder and Coriander powder)
  • Pepper powder: 1 tsp
  • Garam masala powder: 1 tsp
  • Salt: 1/2 tsp

Set 2

  • Potato: 2 large potatoes (500 g). Take 3, if small/medium.

Set 3

  • Oil: 3 tbsp (preferably coconut oil)
  • Onion: 2 large/medium (finely chopped)
  • Ginger: 1½ inch piece / 2 tbsp (finely chopped)
  • Garlic: 4 cloves (finely chopped)
  • Green chillies: 4-5 (finely chopped, adjust the count based on your taste)
  • Curry leaves: 2-3 sprigs (finely chopped)
  • Salt: 1/2 tsp (or as needed)

Set 4

  • Garam masala powder: 2 tsp
  • Pepper powder: 1 tsp
  • Fennel powder: 1/2 tsp

Set 5

  • Egg whites: 2, beaten
  • Bread crumbs: 1 cup (use store bought, or crushed fresh bread slices)
  • Oil: as needed to deep fry (preferably coconut oil)

Cooking instructions

Step 1

  • Marinate the chopped beef with the ingredients in set 1 (meat masala, pepper powder, garam masala, salt) and keep it aside for 30 minutes.
  • Pressure-cook the marinated beef for 2 – 3 whistles.
  • Open the pressure cooker lid after 15 minutes.
  • Saute the beef in the pressure cooker till the excess water dries up.
  • Let it cool down completely.
  • Pulse/mince the meat using a food processor or mixer grinder.

Step 2

  • Boil the potatoes with a pinch of salt till it becomes soft. Peel and mash it once cooked.

Step 3

  • Heat 3 tbsp oil in a pan.
  • Add finely chopped onion, ginger, garlic, green chilies, curry leaves and salt (ingredients set 3).
  • Saute until onion turns soft / light golden color.
  • Add the spice powders – garam masala, fennel powder, pepper powder (ingredients set 4), and saute for 1 – 2 minutes (until the raw smell of spices are gone).
  • Add the minced beef, mix well, and continue to saute for 3 – 4 mins till it becomes dry.
  • Add the mashed potatoes and mix well.
  • Add 2 tsp of bread crumbs to the mix, which will absorb the excess moisture from the mixture.
  • Taste check for salt and spices.
  • Keep stirring for 2 – 3 minutes and switch off.
  • Allow the mixture to cool down completely.

Step 4

  • Make small balls out of the beef-potato mixture and roll into desired shapes.
  • Beat the egg whites.
  • Dip each cutlet in egg white and then roll with bread crumbs.
  • Heat oil in a pan over medium high heat.
  • Deep fry the cutlets until golden brown on both sides.
  • Keep the temperature medium hot. Avoid overcrowding the pan when frying cutlets.
  • Drain excess oil on paper towels.
  • Serve hot with tomato ketchup or onion salad (challas).

Tips

  • Double coat – Dust the patties in All Purpose Flour / corn flour before dipping in egg white and rolling in bread crumbs to avoid breaking of the cutlets while frying.
  • You can use cookie cutters to make the cutlets in desired shapes.
  • The shaped cutlets/patties can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days, or in the freezer for a month.

Enjoy these delicious Kerala style beef cutlets! Wishing you all Happy Holidays!

Meals on Wheels: Year end review – Nish Nishant

(Nish Nishant lives in Worthington, OH with his wife Smitha and son Rohan, and has been coordinating the COMA Meals on Wheels program since 2015.)

The year 2023 saw the highest ever volunteer participation since we kicked off the program in 2015. A total of 67 volunteers participated this year, for a total of 336 hours. We covered 30 routes and delivered meals to approximately 600 homes. Our volunteers drove around 1400 miles to accommodate these route deliveries. These stats do not include the final route for this year on Christmas eve. It’s worth noting that on September 3rd, we also did a 5-route marathon as a kick-off to the 2023 COMA Onam celebrations.

I personally thank all the volunteers for their time and contribution, and also to the EC team for enabling and supporting this initiative. Here’s a list of our highest activity volunteers who participated 2 or more times this year. Hoping to go even higher in 2024.

  • Smitha Nishant : 5
  • Rohan Nishant : 4
  • Rijul Jeyaseelan : 3
  • Arun Kumar : 3
  • Adithya Arun : 3
  • Priya Arun : 3
  • Aishwarya Arun : 2
  • Ajith Mohan : 2
  • Devan Nair : 2
  • John Patrick : 2
  • Anitha John : 2
  • Dannie Rajesh : 2
  • Stevie Rajesh : 2
  • Gayatri Thampy : 2
  • Chris Norton : 2
  • Sumitra Thampy-Norton : 2
  • Rajesh Ramachandran : 2
  • Pranav Rajesh : 2
  • Valsan Palika : 2
  • Vijaya Valsan : 2

Vote of Thanks – 2023 COMA EC

Dear COMA patrons,

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to all our sponsors whose unwavering support has been instrumental in making our events a success. Your continued backing, spanning many years, has been invaluable, and we eagerly anticipate your ongoing support.

We’d like to extend special thanks to the following folks:

  • Malayalam class teachers
  • Food committee
  • Stage performers
  • Decoration committee
  • MCs
  • Carol singers
  • Coconut Trio

The dedication and teamwork displayed by each of you have been exceptional. The list of contributions is extensive, and while we’d love to call out each individually, it would take us way too long!

We’d also like to express our gratitude to Gopi Haridass, Unni Maash, Valsan Palika, and Thomas Oommen for their consistent support throughout the year in planning and arranging food-related aspects. A special mention goes out to Smitha Nishant for her outstanding work on the COMA Newsletter. Smitha, your contributions have been truly remarkable. Our sincere thanks to Rohan Nishant, a high school student, for stepping up as Web Admin at such short notice and demonstrating exceptional flexibility and availability.

Many within our association participated in the Meal of Wheels initiative, and we extend our thanks to Nish Nishant for spearheading this opportunity for us to contribute to.

We’d also like to highlight the efforts of:

  • Kiran Joseph and Aravind Venugopalan for help with the Muthukad fundraiser event
  • Kiran Joseph and Arun Chand for helping with organizing the cricket tournament
  • Pramod Pudhiyattil for event videos and coordinating the badminton tournament

At our recent Muthukad DAC fundraising event, we successfully raised close to 32K. Our heartfelt thanks to everyone who contributed to this noble cause. As a community, we should take pride in our collective effort. Should you find yourself in India, we encourage you to visit the cause.

The introduction of COMA Talks during our committee year wouldn’t have been possible without Girish Sasankasekhar‘s leadership, which was supported by Rahul RP, Aravind Venugopalan, Sukesh, and the other hosts.

Our gratitude extends to the trustees for entrusting us with the opportunity to lead COMA for the last 18 months, and for their belief in our endeavors.

Finally, a massive thank you goes out to the EC team families. Without your unwavering support, none of the achievements in COMA 2023 would have been possible.

To the incoming committee, we extend our warmest welcome. We hope the COMA community will continue to offer their support to the new EC team, just as you have supported us.

Once again, a sincere thank you from the entire EC team. We wish you and your families a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year ahead!

— COMA EC 2023 (Shibu, Arun, Pradeesh, Sachin, and Roopesh)

Newsletter November 2023

As we celebrated Diwali this weekend, I hope you all had a great time with family, friends, and coworkers, sharing sweet treats, bursting firecrackers, lighting diyas, and creating lasting memories.

As we approach Thanksgiving holidays, I am remembering how we came together as a community in the spirit of gratitude and contributed to help the differently abled children back home. As war rages in parts of the world and people are fleeing their homes, I am reminded not to take for granted the peace and comforts that surround us.

The COMA Christmas celebrations are around the corner. Do keep an eye for when the ticketing will open up. Looking forward to seeing you all at the event.

Hope you all had a joyous Diwali, and wishing all of you a heartfelt Thanksgiving in advance!

യെശോധരാ കി ചരിത്ര് – by Sachin Sugathan

(Sachin has been an active member of COMA from 2011, and lives with his wife Preeti and daughter Sahasra in Galena, Ohio.)

പരീക്ഷയിൽ മാർക്ക് ലഭിക്കാൻ മലയാളത്തെക്കാൾ എളുപ്പമായതുകൊണ്ടും, സുഗമ പരീക്ഷയുടെ കുറെ സർട്ടിഫിക്കറ്റ് ലഭിച്ചതിന്റെ അഹങ്കാരംകൊണ്ടും, പ്രീ ഡിഗ്രിക്ക് ചേരുമ്പോൾ ഞാൻ ഹിന്ദി തന്നെ സെക്കൻഡ് ലാംഗ്വേജ് ആയി തിരഞ്ഞെടുത്തു. ലാംഗ്വേജ് ക്ലാസ്സുകളിൽ കയറാത്ത ഞങ്ങൾ, പരീക്ഷ അടുക്കുമ്പോൾ സിലബസിലെ പുസ്തകൾ ഓടിച്ചു പഠിക്കുകയാണ് പതിവ്.

ആ വർഷത്തെ ഹിന്ദി സിലബസ്സിൽ നാലു പുസ്തകങ്ങൾ ആയിരുന്നു. പതിനഞ്ചു മാർക്ക് വീതം ലഭിക്കുന്ന അവസാനത്തെ രണ്ടു എസ്സേ ചോദ്യങ്ങളാണ് മിനിമം പാസ് മാർക്കുമാത്രം ഉന്നംവെക്കുന്ന എന്നെപോലുള്ളവരുടെ വിജയരഹസ്യം. ഓരോന്നുവീതം തിരഞ്ഞെടുക്കാവുന്ന രണ്ട് സെറ്റ് ചോദ്യങ്ങൾ. അവ ഓരോന്നും നേരത്തെ പറഞ്ഞ നാല് പുസ്തകങ്ങളിൽ നിന്ന്. ഞാൻ മൂന്ന് പുസ്തകങ്ങൾ പഠിക്കുകയും നാലാമത്തേത്  മൊത്തമായീ ഉപേക്ഷിക്കുകയും ചെയ്തു. ചെറിയ മാർക്കിന്റെ ചില ചോദ്യങ്ങൾ നഷ്ട്ടപെടുമെങ്കിലും അവസാനത്തെ എസ്സേ നഷ്ടപ്പെടാൻ വകുപ്പില്ല, പോരാത്തതിന് നാലാമത്തെ പുസ്തകം കബീർ ദാസിന്റെയോ സൂർദാസിന്റെയോ (വ്യക്തമായി ഓർക്കുന്നില്ല)  ഒരു കടുകട്ടി കവിതയാണ്, അത് എന്നെകൊണ്ട് കൂട്ടിയാൽ കൂടില്ല.

എൻ്റെ കണക്കുകൂട്ടലുകൾ ഒക്കെ തകിടം മറച്ചുകൊണ്ട് പരീക്ഷയ്ക്ക് തൊട്ടു മുൻപ് എന്റെ ഒരു സുഹൃത്ത് അനീഷ് ആ വാർത്ത എന്നോട് പറഞ്ഞു: ഈ വർഷം ഹിന്ദിക്ക് നാലല്ല, അഞ്ചു പുസ്തകങ്ങൾ ഉണ്ട്. ഞാൻ വാച്ചിലേക്ക് നോക്കി, പരിഷയ്ക്കുള്ള ബെൽ അടിക്കാൻ പതിനഞ്ചു മിനിറ്റ് മാത്രം. അപ്പോഴേക്കും എനിക്ക് അപരിചിതമായ ആ പുസ്തകം അവൻ എനിക്ക് നേരെ നീട്ടി.

സുബാഷ്!! ആറു ചെറുകഥകളുടെ ഒരു സമാഹാരം!!!!

എൻ്റെ സംഭാവ്യത സിദ്ധാന്തമൊക്കെ കാറ്റത്തു പറത്തിയ ആ പുസ്തകം ഞാൻ അവനു തന്നെ തിരിച്ചു നൽകി. രാഷ്ട്രഭാഷയെ ഭാഗ്യദേവതയുടെ കൈകളിൽ ഏൽപ്പിച്ചു ഞാൻ പരീക്ഷ ഹാളിലേക്ക് കയറി. ചോദ്യപേപ്പർ  കൈയ്യിൽകിട്ടിയപ്പോൾ ഞാൻ ആദ്യം നോക്കിയത് അവസാനത്തെ രണ്ട് ചോദ്യങ്ങളാണ്. ഞാൻ ഭയന്നതു തന്നെ സംഭവിച്ചു, പഠിക്കാത്ത രണ്ടു പുസ്തകങ്ങളിലെ ചോദ്യങ്ങൾ തന്നെ. ആ ദാസേട്ടന്റെ ദോഹയിൽ നിന്ന് ഒന്നും, രണ്ടാമത്തേത് ഏതോ ചെറുകഥയിൽ നിന്നും.

ആ ചെറുകഥയിലെ ചോദ്യം ഞാൻ ഒന്നുകൂടി കണ്ണോടിച്ചു, “യെശോധരാ കി ചരിത്ര് കെ ബാരേ മേ ലിഖിയേ”. കാഡ്ബറിസ് പരസ്യത്തിൽ എന്നതുപോലെ എൻ്റെ മനസ്സിൽ ഒരു ലഡ്ഡു പൊട്ടി. ശ്രീ കൃഷ്ണ ഭഗവാന്റെ വളർത്തമ്മയായ യെശോധരയെപ്പറ്റി എഴുതാനോ പഞ്ഞം? അറ്റുപോയ പ്രതീക്ഷകൾ എന്നിലേക്ക് തിരിച്ചെത്തി. “തദ്‌ശ്രീ  മഹാഭാരത് കഥ…” എന്ന്‌ തുടങ്ങി “സംഭവാമി യുഗേ യുഗേയിൽ “ അവസാനിക്കുന്ന അതിമനോഹരമായ ടൈറ്റിൽ സോങിന്റ അകമ്പടിയോടെ തുടങ്ങുന്ന ബി ആർ ചോപ്രയുടെ മഹാഭാരതം ദൂരദർശനിൽ കണ്ടത് വെറുതെ ആയില്ല.

എന്തെന്നില്ലാത്ത ഒരു ആത്മവിശ്വാസം എൻ്റെ ഉള്ളിൽ അലയടിച്ചു, കൈയിൽ കിടന്ന വാച്ച് സമയം കാണാവുന്ന രീതിയിൽ ഡെസ്കിന് മുകളിൽ ഊരിവെച്ചു… പോക്കറ്റിലിരുന്ന ബ്ലൂ ആൻഡ് വൈറ്റ് റെയ്നോൾഡ്സ് പേനയിൽ ഒന്ന് വാച്ചിനരികെ വെച്ചു. മറ്റേതിന്റെ ടോപ് ഊരി ഉത്തരകടലാസിൽ എൻ്റെ റോൾ നമ്പർ എഴുതി. പരീക്ഷയുടെ അവസാനത്തെ 20 മിനിറ്റ് ഞാൻ “യെശോധരാ കി ചരിത്ര് കെ ബാരേ മേ ലിഖിയേ” എന്ന ചോദ്യത്തിന് മാറ്റി വെച്ചു, ബാക്കി ചോദ്യങ്ങളിലേക്ക് കടന്നു. അങ്ങനെ ഞാൻ ആ അവസാനത്തെ ചോദ്യത്തിൽ എത്തിയപ്പോൾ വാച്ചിൽ ബാക്കി സമയം 30  മിനിറ്റ്.

ഉണ്ണിക്കണ്ണനെ പറ്റിയും, വളർത്തമ്മയെ പറ്റിയും ഞാൻ അനർഘനിർഗ്ഗളമായി എഴുതി. യമുന നദിതീരത്തടിക്കുന്ന തിരമാലകൾ എന്തുകൊണ്ടാണ് അമ്മേ തിരിച്ചുപോകാത്തതു എന്ന്  ചോദിച്ച ഉണ്ണിക്കണ്ണനോട്, “കണ്ണാ നിന്റെ വേണുഗാനത്തിന്റെ ഓളങ്ങളിൽ അവയലിഞ്ഞു ചേരുന്നതാവാം” എന്ന് പറഞ്ഞ യെശോദര.. വെണ്ണ കട്ടുതിന്നപ്പോൾ ശാസിച്ചതും, മണ്ണുവാരിത്തിന്ന കണ്ണന്റെ വായിൽ ഈ പ്രപഞ്ചം  മൊത്തം കണ്ടതും, ഉരലിൽ കെട്ടിയിട്ടപ്പോൾ അതും കൊണ്ട് ഗ്രമാം മൊത്തം കറങ്ങിയതും, എല്ലാം അടിച്ചു വിട്ടു. ഉരലിന്റെ ഹിന്ദി അറിയാത്തതു കൊണ്ട് ഞാൻ ഉരൽ എന്ന് തന്നെ അങ്ങ് കാച്ചി.  അന്ന് രണ്ടോ മൂന്നോ അഡിഷണൽ പേപ്പറുകൾ ഞാൻ വാങ്ങി. അത് വാങ്ങുമ്പോൾ സുഹൃത്തുക്കളുടെ അസ്സൂയ കലർന്ന നോട്ടം ഞാൻ നന്നേ ആസ്വദിച്ചു. പരീക്ഷയുടെ അവസാന ബെൽ അടിക്കുന്നതു വരെ ഞാൻ എഴുതി. പേപ്പർ ടീച്ചറുടെ കൈകളിൽ ഏൽപ്പിക്കുമ്പോൾ, മലയാളം ലിപി പോലെ ഹിന്ദിക്ക് ഈ തലവര ഇല്ലായിരുന്നെങ്കിൽ കുറച്ചുകൂടി എഴുതാമായിരുന്നു എന്ന് ഞാൻ എന്നോട് തന്നെ പറഞ്ഞു.

പരീക്ഷാഹാളിൽ നിന്നും പുറത്തിറങ്ങിയ ഞാൻ, മൈക്കിൾ ജോർഡൻ ബാസ്കറ്റ്ബോൾ കറക്കുന്നതു പോലെ എൻ്റെ ഹിന്ദി പുസ്തകം ചൂണ്ടുവിരലിൽ കറക്കി സൂവോളജി ബ്ലോക്കിൽ സ്ഥിതി ചെയ്യുന്ന എൻ്റെ ക്ലാസ്റൂമിലെക്കു നടന്നു. അവിടെ വെച്ചാണ് ക്ലാസ്സിലെ പെൺജനങ്ങൾ ചോദ്യക്കടലാസ് പോസ്റ്മോർട്ടമ്മ് നടത്തുന്നത്. അവർക്ക് ചുറ്റും കൂടിനിൽക്കുന്ന ആൺജനങ്ങളുടെ കൂടെ ഞാനും ചേർന്നു. അപ്പോൾ എന്നെ കണ്ട അതേ സുഹൃത്ത് അനീഷ്, എന്നെ കുത്തിനോവിക്കാൻ എന്നതുപോലെ ചോദിച്ചു, “അവസാനത്തെ ചോദ്യം എന്ത് ചെയ്തു?”

ഞാൻ എൻ്റെ വീരകഥ പറയാൻ തുടങ്ങിയതും അവിടെ ഒരു കൂട്ടച്ചിരി പൊട്ടിപ്പുറപ്പെട്ടു. എനിക്ക് ഒന്നും മനസിലാക്കുന്നുണ്ടായിരുന്നില്ല. ആ ചിരി അൽപ്പനേരം തുടർന്നു. എൻ്റെ അവസ്ഥയിൽ സഹതാപം തോന്നിയിട്ടാവാം, ചിരി അടക്കി പിടിച്ചു നിദ അവളുടെ തട്ടം മുന്നോട്ടു വലിച്ചുകൊണ്ടു പറഞ്ഞു, “എടാ നീ എഴുതിയതു യെശോദാ, ഇത് യെശോദര, ബുദ്ധന്റെ ഭാര്യ”. ഒരു ഇടിമിന്നൽ എൻ്റെ ഉള്ളിൽകൂടി കടന്നുപോകുന്നതായി എനിക്കു അനുഭവപെട്ടു. ഒന്നടങ്ങിയിരുന്ന ആ കൂട്ട ചിരി പൂർവാധികം ശക്തിയോടെ തിരിച്ചു വന്നു. സിംക്കിന് ചിരിച്ചു ചിരിച്ചു തറയിൽ വീണു, ഷിനോജ് അവന്റെ രണ്ടു കൈകളും എൻ്റെ തോളിൽ വെച്ച് എന്നെ മൊത്തത്തിൽ ഒന്ന് കുലുക്കി കൊണ്ട് പറഞ്ഞു, “നീ ഒരു ഒന്നൊന്നര സംഭവം തന്നെ”.

ആ ചിരി തുടർന്നു, കൂറേ നേരം. ഞാൻ ഇതികര്‍ത്തവ്യതാമൂഢനായി അവരുടെ നടുവിൽ നിന്നു… എവിടെയോ കേട്ടുമറന്ന “രംഗബോധമില്ലാത്ത കോമാളി” എന്ന പ്രയോഗത്തിൻ്റെ അർത്ഥം ഞാൻ അന്ന് അനുഭവിച്ചറിഞ്ഞു. ചിരികൾ അടങ്ങിയപ്പോൾ, അടുത്ത ആഴ്ച്ച നടക്കാനിരിക്കുന്ന കെമിസ്ട്രി പരീക്ഷയെ കുറിച്ചായി സംസാരം. പരീക്ഷകളെ പറ്റിയും അതിൽ വരാൻ സാധ്യതയുള്ള ചോദ്യങ്ങളെക്കുറിച്ചും എനിക്ക് കേൾക്കാൻ ഒരു താൽപ്പര്യവും തോന്നിയില്ല. ഞാൻ അവരുടെ സംസാരം കേൾക്കാതെ കേട്ടുകൊണ്ടിരുന്നു. വിഷയം ഓസ്‌ട്രേലിയയിൽ നടക്കുന്ന ഏകദിന പരമ്പരയിലേക്ക് കടന്നു.

അന്ന് ഞാൻ ജീവിതത്തിൽ ആദ്യമായി സച്ചിൻ ടെണ്ടുൽക്കറെ പറ്റി വാചാലനായില്ല. കേരളവർമ്മ കോളേജിൽ നിന്ന് പടിഞ്ഞാറെകോട്ട ബസ്‌സ്റ്റോപ്പിലേക്കുള്ള ദൂരം 2 KM  ആണ്. സ്വതവെ ആസ്വദിക്കാറുള്ള സുഹ്രുത്തുക്കളുമായുള്ള ആ നടത്തം, അന്ന് എൻ്റെ മനസ്സിൽ വല്ലാത്തൊരു വിരസത ഉളവാക്കി. വീട്ടിലേക്കുള്ള യാത്രാമധ്യെ ബസ്സിലിരിക്കുമ്പോൾ ഞാൻ ആ ചോദ്യപേപ്പർ ഒന്നുകൂടി കണ്ണോടിച്ചു, അവസാനത്തെ ചോദ്യത്തിന് നാലോ അഞ്ചോ  മാർക്ക് കിട്ടാതെ പാസ്സാകുന്ന കാര്യം നോക്കണ്ട, സപ്പ്ളി തന്നെ രക്ഷ.

ദിവസങ്ങൾ കടന്നു പോയി, പ്രീ ഡിഗ്രി റിസൾട്ട് വന്നു. അത്ഭുതം എന്നു പറയട്ടെ, ഞാൻ ഹിന്ദിയിൽ പാസ്സായി. മാർക്‌ലിസ്റ്റ് കയ്യിൽകിട്ടിയപ്പോൾ ഹിന്ദിയിൽ പാസ്സ്‌മാർക്കിനെക്കാളും 11 മാർക്ക്‌ കൂടുതലുണ്ട്. ആ അവസാനത്തെ ചോദ്യത്തിന് പത്തിൽ കുറയാതെ മാർക്ക് ലഭിച്ചിട്ടുണ്ട് എന്നുറപ്പ്. ഇതെങ്ങനെ സംഭവിച്ചു? വീട്ടിൽ വന്നിട്ട് ഞാൻ വിവരം അമ്മയോട് പറഞ്ഞു. പേപ്പർ നോക്കിയ ആ ടീച്ചർ എന്തിനാവും എനിക്ക് മാർക്ക് തന്നത്? ഞാൻ അമ്മയോട് ചോദിച്ചപ്പോൾ, അമ്മ ചിരിച്ചുകൊണ്ട് ആരോടെന്നില്ലാതെ പറഞ്ഞു, “തൃശ്ശൂർ അല്ലേ, ഗുരുവായൂരപ്പന്റെ സ്വന്തം നാട്. കള്ളക്കൃഷ്ണാ, എല്ലാം നിന്റെ മായ”. ഞങ്ങൾ ചിരിച്ചു. ഡൈനിങ്ങ് റൂമിലെ ഫ്രിഡ്‌ജിനു മുകളിൽ, ചുവന്ന വി ഗാർഡ് സ്റ്റെബിലൈസറിന്റെ ചൂടും പറ്റിയിരിക്കുന്ന ബുദ്ധ ഭഗവൻ ആ അമ്മയെയും മകനെയും നോക്കി പുഞ്ചിരിതൂകി.. 

ശുഭം
സച്ചിൻ

My experiences growing up as a Malayalee in Northern India – by Subin Thomas

(Subin lives in Powell, Ohio with his wife Simple and two kids, Kevin and Trisha. Subin enjoys music and outdoor activities.)

Born and raised in the North and Eastern parts of India, my experiences growing up have been very different from that of a typical Malayalee Christian raised in Kerala.

The food, culture, language, festivals that one gets to experience in North India is way different from those in Kerala or Southern India. Unlike most Malayalee kids who grow up eating the typical Kerala cuisines such as Puttu, Kadala, Dosa, and Idiyappam, I grew up eating the typical North Indian foods available at that time such as dry Roti Sabji, Daal Tadka, Aloo Tikki, etc. While most Malayalee kids grew up celebrating Onam, Vishu, or Christmas, I used to look forward to lighting fireworks during Diwali, going pandal-hopping during Durga Puja, flying kites during Makar Sankranti, and smearing watercolor on each other’s faces during Holi.

Diwali used to be my favorite festival among all. The entire town would brighten up with earthen oil lamps or candles, and fireworks were set off the entire night as part of the celebrations. Literally, no one slept for most part of the night as it was customary to keep the doors open to welcome the goddess of prosperity, Lakshmi. My next favorite festival was the kite flying during Makar Sankranti. The experience of flying colorful kites with my friends, cutting strings of each other’s kites, and running behind falling kites was an unmatched experience and the air of celebration was simply euphoric.

Growing up in the Hindi heartland enabled me to learn some of the purest forms of Hindi as well as Sanskrit which have been widely used in scriptures and classical Indian poems. Most of my friend circles were local North Indians, and hanging out with them in the temple corridors, playing cricket, or even watching a matinee show wasn’t uncommon.

It wasn’t until the mid-90’s after my parents moved to Kerala that I got to experience the state first-hand. The first few years were certainly some of the hardest in my life, trying to fit in a completely new environment with unfamiliar people. However, it improved as time went on, and I found myself drawing closer to Kerala’s vibrant culture, religious harmony, and unbelievable natural beauty. Playing with fireworks and throwing colors at each other during Diwali and Holi slowly transitioned to attending regular church service, practicing Carol songs for Christmas, and celebrating Onam with a sumptuous Sadhya.

Getting to live in both the Northern and Southern parts of India gave me the opportunity to experience the different culture, language, and lifestyles of people from both parts of the country. It enabled me to have a diverse outlook with a unique perspective. Although I felt as if there were a lot of differences among North and South Indians in terms of language and culture, deep down, people are the same and are united by emotions. I will cherish my childhood years in the Northern India for the rest of my life and I wish I could go back in time and do it all over again!

Diwali Memories – by Nisha Ajit

(Nisha Ajit lives in Dublin, Ohio with her husband Ajit Nair. She is mom to Neil and Ashwin, and is enthusiastic about dance and cooking.)

Wishing all my friends and readers a very Happy Diwali!

Diwali is a festival which always brings back the fondest childhood memories. I grew up in Durgapur, West Bengal, and as a child, the most important preparation for Diwali after the Durga puja festivities was shopping for fireworks and candles with my father and brother. We used to lay the firecrackers out in the sun for a few hours so that they crackle well. As evening approaches, we light up diyas (lamps) and pray to God. The whole family then gets together to light up the candles and diyas all around the house. Within a few minutes, the house would be all illuminated with lights and the house would be filled with the warmth of the candles and the divine smell of incense sticks, all of which sets up a positive energy in the house. We devoured the homemade sweets (especially the rosogolla and sandesh) and snacks our mother made for Diwali. Later in the evening, the most exciting part was when we got together with our friends in our neighborhood to share and burst the crackers one by one. The lighting up of the sparklers, phuljhadi, chakris, kaliphataka (fireworks), used to give us immense joy and excitement. We then used to visit and pray at the nearby Kali Puja pandals, which is celebrated too on the Diwali day.

Years passed by and as parents ourselves, during our stay at Pune, Mumbai, and now in Columbus, Diwali has always been a time for decorating home with lights, fireworks, making delicious food, and spending time with family and friends. Kids are more excited about fireworks just as we were during our childhood days. They love the savory snacks and the besan ladoos. Celebrating Diwali, or any other festival for that matter, meant re-creating old memories with my kids. Every year we look back at the wonderful years gone by and then look forward to adding more memories.

Have a fun and festive Diwali!

Naankatta / Nankhatai – by Lija Jayaraj

(Lija has been living in Columbus, Ohio for the last 12 years with her husband Roopesh, and sons Arnav and Dhruv. She is a baking enthusiast. She also likes classical dance and painting.)

Naankatta, also known as Nankhatai, is a traditional light buttery or shortbread cookie. It is very popular in India, and you may have seen it in almost all of the bakeries. The origin may be Persian because ‘Naan’ in Persian translates to bread in English, and ‘khatai’ means light and flaky biscuit. The best part of this cookie is you don’t use eggs or leavening agents like baking powder or baking soda. All you will need is all-purpose flour, sugar, ghee and green cardamom powder. 

The quantity below is good to make 16 cookies.

Ingredients

  • Sugar powder – 1/2 Cup
  • Ghee – 1/2 Cup
  • All-purpose flour – 1 Cup.
  • Cardamom powder – 2 to 3, ground finely.

Method

  • Once you have the ingredients ready, pre-heat the oven to 300 F.
  • You may use sugar powder but you can also grind the sugar along with cardamom in a blender to get fine powder.
  • Add sugar powder, cardamom powder, and ghee to a mixing bowl, and mix well to get a creamy consistency.
  • Add All-Purpose Flour and knead the dough until it is mixed well (chapati consistency).
  • Divide the dough to 16 equal sized balls.
  • You can now flatten each ball between your palms into a circle with smooth edges. Just like you will have the dough ball ready before rolling chapathis.
  • Now place the cookie dough on a baking tray; don’t forget to use parchment paper.
  • Bake for 25 minutes until cookies turn slightly golden on the bottom.
  • Take the tray out and let the cookies cool.
  • You can now serve the cookies with a hot cup of tea or coffee.

Sidecar Cocktail – Nish Nishant

(Nish is a passionate cocktail enthusiast and hobbyist mixologist, with a penchant for exploring an array of ingredients and experimenting with various spirits. Originally from Trivandrum, Kerala, he presently resides in Worthington, Ohio, with his wife Smitha and their son Rohan. He occasionally shares some of his concoctions on his Instagram profile @nishtravelfooddrink)

I love having some cognac, usually after dinner, and so when I first had a Sidecar cocktail several moons ago, I was enthralled by the fact that I could enjoy a tasty drink without losing the essence of cognac. Many people believe this drink originated at the Ritz Hotel, Paris in the early 20th century.

Ingredients

  • 2 oz Cognac
  • 1 oz Cointreau (or Triple Sec)
  • 0.75 oz lemon juice (freshly squeezed)

Add the cognac, Cointreau, and lemon juice into a shaker with ice, and shake well for a few seconds. Pour into a coupe glass that has been rimmed with granulated sugar. Optionally, garnish with an orange or lemon twist. While you can use any orange liquor, I’d recommend using a quality brand like Cointreau or Grand Marnier, especially if you are using a good VSOP or XO cognac.

Newsletter October 2023

Greetings, and welcome to the October edition of the COMA newsletter. Autumn is personally my favorite time of the year – pumpkin spiced treats, apple picking, spooky Halloween parties, trick or treat adventures, and vibrant fall colors – what’s not to like!

This edition features an interesting mix of articles on a variety of topics ranging from how to help our children stay closer to their cultural roots, to a mother’s joy and pride at her daughter’s determination to serve the country, to tips on improving your cell phone photography, and to mixing up a unique and elegant cocktail.

Do share with us pictures of your pumpkin carving masterpieces and colorful Halloween costumes – we would love to feature them in the next edition of the newsletter. Hope you all have a wickedly good time this Halloween season.

It’s all about love – Manju Nair

(Manju is an avid reader who is also an art, movie, and music enthusiast. With an enduring commitment to COMA, she presently serves as a trustee and, notably held the position of the organization’s first female President. Raised in Trivandrum, Kerala, Manju lives in Powell, Ohio with her frequently visiting boys Adithya (Nandu) and Arvind (Kannan). She loves to travel and experience the world. In addition to her cultural pursuits, Manju is an active and influential presence within the central Ohio Malayalee community.)

Parenting, I mean. Here’s the disclaimer before you read this. I am no expert by any means and these are only my findings and the conclusions I have reached based on my unique life experiences and my peripheral settings. Having said that, I do believe there are some fundamentals that we could think about as adults before and as we become parents. I hope some of these might resonate with some of you, and some of you might be curious to apply a few of them and see the results. My minimum expectation is that this triggers some thoughts and meaningful conversations.

Like I said, it is all about love. Parenting takes a lot of kindness and acceptance. You would think that is such an obvious fact, but I have been surprised to see how much of our own selfish agenda gets projected onto our children, to make them into what we think they should be. It is the hardest thing to understand what they want to be and accepting and supporting it even when it could be the last thing we want them to be. And we also should accept the fact that we don’t know everything.

It is about being brutally honest about who we are. Are we setting the right example? Are we showing that honesty and integrity are important principles to live by? Are we teaching them to identify right from wrong? Are we accepting and non judgmental of people who are not from our race and culture? Are we kind? Are we afraid to show and express love unabashedly? Are we socially awkward? Are we superficial? A very common thing I see is how immigrant parents have this ‘holier than thou’ attitude towards western society. The quickest way for our children to lose respect for us is when we talk down about anything non-Indian. The children might not be vocal about their opinions, but believe me, they do have opinions of us. Our children grew up here in this country and when they see us put down anything that we are not familiar with, it does not present us in a very good light . Remember, children follow by example and they learn by watching us. And they are watching even when we think they aren’t.

It is about teaching them gratitude and how to practice it consistently and consciously. It is about not being entitled and expecting anything to be delivered on a platter. Teach them to be grateful and tolerant.

It is about putting in some work into the relationship. We should be aware of the generational shift and how quickly it is happening. What used to make sense for our generation does not apply to the next. So if we are not willing to move and meet our children midway, we might end up in a complete miscommunication mishap. It takes effort and patience to communicate in the same language as our children. And once we put in the effort, let me assure you that it is immensely rewarding.

This is a great segue into the subtopic as to how we make our children embrace our Indian roots. There is no magic formula for that. But, it goes back to how much effort are we putting in to expose our children to their roots. How often do they see their family back in India? And a lot of factors go into familiarization – cuisine, festivals, and language to name a few. Question for us is how much do we embrace and celebrate our roots?

Relationships with their grandparents is another interesting aspect. This might be an unpopular opinion, but I am going to say it anyway. It is a two way street, like any other relationship. Effort needs to come from both sides. I have seen some beautiful relationships and I have also seen some not so great ones. The common theme in a good relationship with grandparents is how willing the grandparents are to learn about this generation and to get involved without being preachy. Children respond beautifully to love and when it comes with no conditions, it builds a strong bond. As parents, all we can do is provide them the opportunity to connect to their roots. The rest is in the hands of both parties involved.

So, like I said in the beginning, it is all about love.

My daughter, my pride – Yogalakshmi Venugopal

(Yogalakshmi Venugopal known as Yoga to her friends, grew up in Chennai, and has made central Ohio her home in recent years. She lives in Powell, Ohio with her daughter Chetana. Yoga has a deep passion for music, dance, cinema, and culinary arts, and she is an enthusiast of outdoor recreational pursuits. Furthermore, she is an engaged member of the COMA community, actively participating and dedicating her time as a frequent volunteer for the COMA Meals on Wheels program.)

Chetana came to the United States at the age of 13 and had to navigate through a lot of cultural and personal changes. Despite facing challenges like any other immigrant, she managed to complete her schooling with flying colors.

Like most kids, Chetana had a lot of career aspirations growing up, but her interest in serving the people and her fascination towards the uniform caught me off guard. I assumed it would be a passing phase, but she was firm on it and did all the necessary research to pursue her dream of joining the US Air Force.

The reserve option allowed her to join the US Air Force as a part-timer while continuing her studies. Chetana aspires to become a commissioned officer after her graduation and pursue her career with the US Air Force. To achieve her aspirations, Chetana had to go through a strenuous four-month training program which included boot camp training in Texas and tech training in Virginia.

Her determination towards her goal pushes her to sacrifice her holidays in order to catch up with academic requirements while pursuing her military services. She was motivated and supported by her college counselor and ROTC instructors which helped her to come up with aggressive plans enabling her to achieve her goals. She has proven herself as an epitome of determination. I am proud of her not just for her accomplishment but for the kind hearted person that she has always been.

I was high on emotions during her graduation ceremony as I watched her parade in her Air Force uniform and receive honors from higher officials. I stood there as a proud mom with rolling tears and I knew that my little girl had now turned into a strong, beautiful, intelligent, and courageous woman.

#PhotographyTips #CaptureTheMoment – Rahul RP

(Rahul RP is an IT engineer with a deep passion for photography and travel. He possesses a keen eye for capturing the beauty of the world through the lens of his camera, turning everyday moments into extraordinary memories. Whether it’s exploring new destinations or delving into the intricacies of technology, he is a true enthusiast with a thirst for knowledge and adventure. Rahul lives in New Albany with his wife Gayathri and son Dhyan. He hails from Trivandrum.)

Today, most of us carry a powerful camera right in our pockets. The tips below will help you to take your mobile photos to the next level.

  1. Clean Your Lens: Before you begin, take a moment to clean your phone’s camera lens. A smudged or dirty lens can significantly impact the quality of your photos.
  2. Understand Your Camera App: Familiarize yourself with the features of your camera app. Learn how to adjust exposure, focus, and other settings for more control over your shots.
  3. Good Lighting is Key: Lighting is the foundation of photography. Natural light, especially during the golden hours (early morning and late afternoon), provides a warm, soft quality that can make your photos shine. Avoid harsh, direct sunlight, which can lead to overexposed or shadowy images.
  4. Composition Matters: Apply the rule of thirds ( don’t get scared – I have explained it below 😀 ), leading lines, and framing to create well-balanced and visually appealing photos. Experiment with different angles and perspectives to add interest.
  5. Use the Rule of Thirds: Divide your frame into a 3×3 grid and position your subject along the gridlines or at their intersections. This classic technique can lead to beautifully balanced compositions.
  6. Edit with Care: Editing can enhance your photos but avoid overdoing it. Adjust brightness, contrast, color, and sharpness to maintain a natural look. There are many photo editing apps available for this purpose. (Snapseed, Lightroom, etc.)
  7. Burst Mode: For fast-moving subjects or action shots, use burst mode to take multiple photos in quick succession. This increases your chances of capturing the perfect moment.
  8. Stabilize Your Phone: Shaky hands can result in blurry photos. Use a tripod or steady your phone against a stable surface and enable image stabilization if your phone supports it.
  9. Tell a Story: Use your mobile photography to tell a story. Capturing candid moments and documenting your life can create a compelling narrative through your photos.

Espresso Martini recipe – Nish Nishant

(Nish is a passionate cocktail enthusiast and hobbyist mixologist, with a penchant for exploring an array of ingredients and experimenting with various spirits. Originally from Trivandrum, Kerala, he presently resides in Worthington, Ohio, with his wife Smitha and their son Rohan. He occasionally shares some of his concoctions on his Instagram profile @nishtravelfooddrink)

If you’re a fan of both coffee and cocktails, the Espresso Martini is a must-try. While there are numerous variations of this delightful concoction, at its core, it’s a cocktail crafted with vodka, espresso, and coffee liqueur. This classic cocktail is said to have its roots in 1980s London. Below, I’ll share the recipe I personally prefer.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 oz Vodka
  • 1 oz espresso (fresh)
  • 1 oz Kahlua
  • 0.5 oz simple syrup
  • Coffee beans

Add the vodka, Kahlua, espresso, and simple syrup to a shaker with ice, and shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Strain into a martini glass and garnish by floating the coffee beans. I often add a splash of crème de cacao (to give it a Mocha flavor), but only if the recipient likes that chocolate taste. I’ve also used chocolate coated coffee beans instead of regular ones, but those are a little harder to float as they are heavier.

One of the key aspects to making a good Espresso Martini is to use freshly made espresso. If you can make it at home, cool it down to room temperature before using it, as you don’t want to melt too much of the ice. If any of you make this drink, I’d love to hear what you thought about it.

Newsletter September 2023

Welcome to the September edition of the COMA newsletter. A week after the COMA grand Onam celebrations, I am still feeling a sense of excitement and exhilaration. It was an absolute success, and a testament to the meticulous planning by the COMA Executive Committee and the enthusiasm of the event volunteers. The  celebrations embodied the true spirit of Onam – bringing people together to celebrate traditions and camaraderie.

The athapookkalams were a sight to behold, and transformed the venue into a visual delight. Members adorned in traditional attire like kasavu sarees and mundu enhanced the visual spectacle of the celebrations. The sadhya was a culinary treat with an array of authentic dishes including delectable payasams and boli, all served in fresh banana leaves.

Our chief guest Prof. Gopinath Muthukad truly shone as a beacon of altruism and selflessness. His ability to rally people together for his cause is extraordinary, and his unwavering commitment to the cause of differently abled children in Kerala is an inspiration to all of us.

The chenda melam team from Detroit drummed up a storm and kept us on the edge of our seats. The performance was nothing short of extraordinary and left us all in awe and deeply proud of our rich Malayalee cultural heritage. The event’s entertainment selection was a blend of traditional and contemporary music and dance performances, ensuring everyone had an enjoyable experience. The MC team did a great job ensuring the event ran smoothly, and most importantly keeping the audience fully engaged.

The Onam event was a roaring success encapsulating the spirit and tradition of Onam, and creating an opportunity for charitable giving, raising an incredible amount for a very worthy cause. Thank you COMA EC 2023 for the dedication and passion that made this Onam an unforgettable celebration for all of us.

COMA officials handing over the first check to Prof. Muthukad.

ഓർമ്മിക്കാൻ ഒരു അമേരിക്കൻ ഓണം – Suprabha Arimbassery

(Suprabha hails from Valayanchirangara, Ernakulam. She is currently in Columbus, Ohio visiting her daughter Anjana Nair and family.)

എക്കാലത്തെയും നല്ല ഓർമ്മയായി മനസ്സിൽ സൂക്ഷിക്കാൻ ഒരോണവും കൂടി. നാട്ടിലെ ഓണപ്പരിപാടികൾ നഷ്ടമായെന്നോർത്ത് അമേരിക്കയിലെത്തിയ ഞങ്ങൾക്ക് ഇവിടുത്തെ ഓണാഘോഷങ്ങളിൽ പങ്കെടുക്കുവാൻ ഭാഗ്യമുണ്ടായി. വളരെ സന്തോഷകരമായ കാര്യം തന്നെ. ആഘോഷപരിപാടികൾ കാണുവാനായി  ഒരു സ്കൂളിൻടെ ഓഡിറ്റോറിയത്തിൽ എത്തിയപ്പോൾ കേരളത്തിലെ ഒരു ആഘോഷത്തിലെത്തിയ പ്രതീതി. എല്ലായിടത്തും മലയാളത്തനിമയാർന്ന വേഷവിധാനങ്ങളും സംഭാഷണ ശകലങ്ങളും, പരിചയപ്പെടലുകളും പരിചയപ്പെടുത്തലുകളുമായി സ്നേഹബന്ധങ്ങൾ പരിപോഷിപ്പിക്കുന്ന നമ്മുടെ കൂട്ടുകാർ. അല്പസ്വല്പം പരിചയപ്പെടലുകൾക്കു ശേഷം കണ്ട പൂക്കളം വർണവിസ്മയം തീർത്തു. പ്രകൃതിദത്തമായ പൂക്കളാൽ അണിയിച്ചൊരുക്കിയ രണ്ട് വലിയ പൂക്കളങ്ങൾ വളരെ മനോഹരം.

അതു കഴിഞ്ഞ് ഒന്നാന്തരം ഓണസദ്യ. കേരളീയ സമ്പ്രദായത്തിൽ വാഴയിലയിൽ പപ്പടം, പഴം, പായസം ഇവ കൂട്ടി ഓണസദ്യ കഴിച്ച ശേഷം ഓഡിറ്റോറിയത്തിനകത്തേയ്ക്കു കയറിയപ്പോൾ കണ്ടത് – ഉത്സവപ്പറമ്പിലാണോ എന്ന് തോന്നുമാറ് ഒരാന. നെറ്റിപ്പട്ടം കെട്ടി, കോലം വച്ച് – വളരെ നന്നായിരുന്നു ആ കാഴ്ച. തുടർന്ന് ചെണ്ടമേളത്തിന്റെയും പുലികളിയുടെയും അകമ്പടിയോടെ മാവേലിത്തമ്പുരാൻടെ എഴുന്നള്ളത്ത്. മാവേലിത്തമ്പുരാൻടെ വരവും എതിരേല്പ്പും താളാത്മകമായി കൊട്ടിക്കയറിയ ചെണ്ടമേളവും സദസ്സിനെ ഗൃഹാതുരത്വത്തിന്റെ തലത്തിലേക്കുയർത്തി.

വിശിഷ്ടാതിഥിയായെത്തിയ ശ്രീ ഗോപിനാഥ് മുതുകാടിനൻടെ ഉത്‌ഘാടനപ്രസംഗം ഗതകാല സ്മരണകളെ ഉണർത്തുന്ന ഒന്നായിരുന്നു. തുടർന്ന്‌, കലാപരിപാടികളുടെ ഒരു വേലിയേറ്റം തന്നെയായിരുന്നു. ഓണപ്പാട്ടും, തിരുവാതിരകളിയും, കൊച്ചുകുരുന്നുകളുടെ ഫാഷൻ ഷോയും, ക്ലാസിക്കൽ, സിനിമാറ്റിക് ഡാൻസ്, മ്യൂസിക് ബാൻഡ് ഫ്യൂഷൻ, കവിതാലാപനം തുടങ്ങിയവ കൊണ്ട് കുറേ സമയം വേറൊരു ലോകത്ത് എല്ലാം മറന്നിരുന്നുപോയി. ഓണോത്സവത്തെ ശ്ലാഖിച്ചുകൊണ്ടുള്ള ഒഹായോ സ്റ്റേറ്റ് സെക്രട്ടറിയുടെ സന്ദേശം കേട്ടപ്പോൾ വളരെ സന്തോഷം തോന്നി.

ഇത്ര ഭംഗിയായി ഇതവതരിപ്പിക്കാൻ ചുക്കാൻ പിടിച്ച COMA ഭാരവാഹികൾക്കും, അർപ്പണബോധത്തോടെ ചിട്ടയായ പരിശീലനവും, പരിശീലിപ്പിക്കലും നടത്തിയ അംഗങ്ങൾക്കും കുട്ടികൾക്കും, എല്ലാത്തിനും എല്ലാ പിന്തുണയുമായി നിൽക്കുന്ന എല്ലാ കുടുംബാംഗങ്ങൾക്കും എത്ര നന്ദി പറഞ്ഞാലും മതിയാകില്ല. കൂട്ടായ പ്രവർത്തനത്തിൻടെ പ്രതിഫലനമാണ് ഇത്രയും നല്ലൊരു ദൃശ്യ ശ്രാവ്യ വിസ്മയ കാഴ്ച. ഇതാസ്വദിക്കാൻ അവസരം ലഭിച്ചതിന് വളരെ അധികം നന്ദി, സന്തോഷം.

My trek to the Annapurna Base Camp – Deepa Jayabalan Menon

(Deepa Menon among her friends and family is best known for someone who is always living on the edge, loves travel, adventure sports, trekking, and diving (underwater and sky). On a sunny nice day she can be found hiking, and is always working on her next bucket list item.)

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp… it was indeed one of the beautiful decisions of my life.

I leave a part of myself to the Himalayas every time I visit her. Himalayan ranges are my all time high; it gives a unique energy to reach and to be around her in spite of all the difficulties, tough terrains, and multiple days of walking.

It was an amazing experience to walk through the distinct landscape full of rich mountains, terraced fields, peculiar Gurung and Thakali villages, and the diverse variety of flora and fauna. The trail goes with gradual and steep ascents and descents alongside terraced rice paddies, lush rhododendron forests, and high altitude landscapes.

Nearly all of the villages to Annapurna Base Camp are the ethnic communities of Gurung and Thakali. We were able to find a few tea houses spread through the villages. These tea houses are the go to places to discuss and exchange notes with local villagers and tourists from other countries. Interacting with the staff, guides, and porters on the trail gave us a glimpse into their way of life and above all enjoy the traditional Nepalese style local dishes and tea.

As we were gradually moving towards the base camp through the villages, the vegetation shifted from tropical forests to alpine terrain with grasslands on rocky mountains. It was monsoon season so the sky was never clear and it rained daily. I would call it a monsoon and waterfall trek. I had multiple leeches biting me and we were always drenched in rain.

The last stretch to the Annapurna Base Camp was a walk on moraines. The evening we reached Machapuchare (base camp), the sky was not clear and we couldn’t see the mountain range, and we were disappointed. The locals said that this time of the year the sky is never clear and we may not be able to see anything.

And then the miracle happened. At 3:30 AM the next day, we woke up looking at the clear sky, visible galaxies, and the vast Annapurna mountain ranges. No words could do justice to her serenity. She is majestic, magnificent, yet looks calm and beautiful. We were surrounded by the various peaks of Annapurna as well as other mountains like Gandharvachuli and Machapuchhre.

The knee pain, leech bites (blood loss), getting drenched, lack of sleep, high altitude sickness… everything just magically disappeared. The journey might have been strenuous and silent but in the end, I always have a beautiful story to narrate. 🙂

Onam Meals-on-Wheels Marathon

On Sep 3rd, Sunday, COMA coordinated a Meals on Wheels marathon by delivering 5 routes in tandem, including 16 volunteers, both adults and youth. This is the 9th year since COMA started doing Meals on Wheels as a regular community activity, and given that this year’s Onam was primarily a fundraiser for Prof. Gopinath Muthukad’s charitable causes, it was proposed to kick off the Onam celebrations by doing a Meals on Wheels marathon. The invitations were sent out with very little notice but all 5 route slots were filled up within an hour of the announcement. Thank you to the volunteers who stepped up so very quickly.

Route Volunteers

  • Smitha Sasindran, Sudeepa Pramod, Ramya Janaki, Ameya Pramod
  • Pramod Theckile Madathil, Roopesh Sathyan, Arnav Roopesh, Avnita Pramod
  • Nish Nishant, Pradeesh Puthiyattil, Shibu Nair
  • Smitha Nishant, Deepa Jayabalan Menon, Yogalakshmi Venugopal
  • Arun Davis, Abel Davis, Nikhil Nair

Check out this short 2-minute video for a slideshow of photos from past route deliveries as well as brief interview clips with some of our youth volunteers from the marathon.

Onam 2023 Media Links

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