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Kerala Association Of New England (KANE) Opens The Malayalam School

Sasi Pillai.

It was indeed a dream come true for many of the New England Keralites when KANE inaugurated the much sought-after Malayalam school last week. Although there are established learning centers in the region to teach other major south Indian languages, it is the first time that a similar mission has been undertaken to teach Malayalam language in a non-profit setup. For KANE, the realization of this coveted goal marked a new chapter in their socio-cultural activities while serving the Malayali community in the area for more than three decades! The initial enthusiasm for this endeavor was quite overwhelming, and many parents, who brought their kids for learning their mother tongue, appeared very much excited to see their long-cherished idea eventually got translated into reality!

The inauguration of the school was marked by a simple function held at Lexington public library on February 26th. In his opening speech, addressing a group of forty odd students and their parents, Mr. Vargheese Yohanan, the President of KANE, stressed the importance of establishing such institutions, and also asked for the consistent and continuous support from the community for such forward -looking ideas. He introduced two prominent and distinguished dignitaries of the community, Dr. Mandaram Madhavan and Prof. P.K. John, who were aptly invited to inaugurate the auspicious event. In her inaugural speech, Smt. Mandaram emphasized the relevance of learning how to read and write Malayalam in order to understand and appreciate our rich cultural heritage.  Shri. John shared some of his nostalgic memories as a primary school student back in Kerala. He also sung a very popular Malayalam school-prayer song in its entirety, evoking nostalgic waves on many of the parent folks.

The commencement of the curriculum was initiated with the traditional vidhyaarambham. The scholarly inaugurators shared the privilege of conducting the customary ritual of Vidhyarambham by, literally, holding out a helping hand to the beginners, and thereby making them write down the rudimentary adage with their little fingers on a rice platter. There was a long queue of children eagerly waiting for their turn with enthusiastic eyes. Interestingly, a couple of grown ups also were found waiting patiently to seize the occasion.

After the vidhyarambham ceremony, the students were all set to start their first lesson. Ms. Jesmy George, who gracefully volunteered to take on the responsibility of the lead-teacher, demonstrated how to write the first alphabet of Malayalam on a writing board. When she asked for volunteers to try out the letter on the board, there were many raised hands! Surprisingly, most of the kids could successfully write the letter, even though that was one of the most difficult letters to master! Class continued with more letters and familiarization of words, and wrapped up with home assignments.

KANE appointed Mr. Benny Joseph as the director of the school, and proposed to conduct the classes twice in a month. Due to the overwhelming response, it was decided to divide the classes in to two sessions based on the age-group, the first one from 2:30 to 3:30 PM, and the second one from 3:45 to 4:45 PM. KANE also acknowledged the support they received from many quarters in order to make this project a reality, especially from Shri. Raj Nair, who worked diligently to arrange the facility for conducting the classes.  Many parents volunteered to help Jesmy in her effort to give individual attention to the students. Some of the parents expressed the feeling that they care more about the speaking skills of their kids than the writing and reading skills!  In the coming months, KANE will streamline the curriculum to accommodate those sentiments also. Over all, KANE’s initial efforts to establish a Malayalam school in New England area have been received with exhilarating spirit, and KANE sincerely believes that they could sustain this inceptive dynamism and vivacity in the coming months and years!  

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