Two days in Kerala

I am traveling so much, learning so much and I am so tired. I have not had time/energy to organize pictures, words or thoughts. Tonight I am in the airport in Cochi, Kerala waiting for a late plane to Bangalore. Let me show you in pictures how my last few days have been.

A little over a year ago, I learned about the Archana Women’s Center in Ettumanoor, Kerala. They had a big Women’s Day Celebration featuring the training programs in masonry and carpentry that they have done for women. I hoped to visit the Centre while here but it did not look like it would happen until I met Renu Varughese at the Fulbright Conference in Jaipur a couple of weeks ago. Renu is from Kerala and when I told her about Archana, she offered to go there, see if it was real and ask if they would meet with me. She met Miss Thresiamma Mathew, Director of the Centre, and arranged for a driver, Mr. Binu John of Hebron Travel, to pick me up at the airport and take me to a nearby hotel. (Just for some geographical context, it is about 1000 miles form Bombay to Kerala, like traveling from Boston to Atlanta). On Tuesday, I took a tuktuk from the hotel to the Centre and had a wonderful day with Miss Mathew and the women of Archana.

Here are some pics and people I met.

Miss Mathew and the Archana Women’s Centre staff.

A focus group with masons Binababu, Ponnaamma and Ancyshaji. They are out of work for a number of reasons related to health and the depressed construction economy in Kerala.


The concrete block workshop at the Centre.

The woodworking workshop in another village.

Carpenter Omenah has studied interior design and has been making kitchen cabinets, wardrobes and doors for a nearby home.

Off to the backwaters to see the Yaradhaka’s house that she, Valasala and Umadagal are building. We took long wooden canoes to Yaradhaka’s home where she lives with her husband and to children.

Umadgal was not there that day. Valasala went back with us and we went to the home she built and lives in with her family. 2016-03-16 17.43.10

Some backwater scenes:

These men are loading paddy rice that has just been harvested. From boats to lorry.2016-03-16 15.58.56

This man is “herding” his ducks back to their home after they feasted on the paddy rice.

This woman is eating a coconut.2016-03-16 16.55.59

On Wednesday, Miss Mathew arranged for me to go to Thrissur- a 4 hour ride north with Binu- to see the Jeevapoorna Women’s Mason’s Charitable Society. This is a brick and tile workshop owned and run by women. They also run a canteen on the property which is the neighborhood’s favorite lunch place.

Annie Joseph and the mason’s of the Jeevapoorna Women’s Mason’s Society.

The women make concrete bricks and specialty tiles.

Binu was my driver and translator. If you know anyone traveling to Kerala, he can be reached through his website. Excellent service and we had a comfortable 8 hours riding around Kerala together in his van over two days.2016-03-17 14.25.59

Today I am in Bangalore with my great uncle Fred’s letters that he wrote to my great-grandparents between 1911 and 1917. He was stationed here in the British Army for a decade or more before World War I and killed in Mesopotamia/Iraq 99 years ago last month. I have an address from his fiancee and am going there to see what I can see. Nothing that Uncle Fred saw but at least the streets he walked on. To my cousins and children, I will post something on Facebook. My connections with my cousins a reason that I love Facebook.

To all my friends and family in the US, India and elsewhere, if you are still reading this and want to say hi in the comments, I would love to hear from you. I will be home three weeks from tomorrow. It has been an amazing, fascinating and enlightening trip. And I miss you all.

Love and peace.

About susanmoir2015

Researcher, feminist, labor activist.
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13 Responses to Two days in Kerala

  1. Robin Rich says:

    Susan, you look so terrific and intensely engaged and thank you SO much for sharing the spattering of photos so we could get a sense of all that you are experiencing. The concrete and masonry workshop are remarkable. The back-water homes, your canoe visit, wow. Now I can hold it in my mind’s eye.
    Last night I priced my Boston trip- me and Liddy coming marathon weekend, April 14-18. Stay healthy,( get a little rest!), keep lovin it…See you soon!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Harneen says:

    Perfect combo — transportation and interpretation! Glad your scout helped make this visit a reality. What wonderful pictures giving us insight into your experiences and what you are learning. So amazing. The stories are inspiring. I can’t wait to hear about Bangalore. You made it! Three weeks and home.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Marilyn says:

    These photos and stories are wonderful, Susan. Thanks for sharing them. I am learning much and catching the wanderlust bug from you. What an incredible journey you are having, on so many levels, but I’m sure it must be exhausting. It will take some time and rest back home to synthesize your experiences. Take care and enjoy your final 3 weeks. Love, Marilyn


  4. Judy Coughlin says:

    I am breathless! I love everything about this. …The amazing work that these women -and YOU – are doing, the photos and the stories themselves. What a wonderful and exhausting adventure you are having. I am grateful for whatever time you have to share it with us. Continue being adventurous, and safe.
    xo Judy Coughlin


  5. Dorothy W. says:

    Thanks again, Susan, for these wonderful “reports” and photos. It’s helping me see India in a very different way, and got me thinking about the parallels in Mocambique from my times there (on what was called a “linkage project” in which it’s a two-way learning experience), and of the potential for international solidarity in many ways. Hope Bangalore has something for you on the family front too.


  6. Sara Driscoll says:

    Susan, these pics are just the cat’s meow! How fascinating it is for me to learn how very integral women are to the construction industry in India…..something none of us would know without your curiosity and determination to make connection. I thank you very much. The brick-making is very reminiscent of the brick-making we did in Nicaragua on a smaller scale but the same process, it looks like with hand pressing.
    Look really forward to seeing you (apres rest!) and hearing more!


  7. Joanne Lloyd says:

    So interesting to read what you are up to there! Thank you for bringing it alive in pictures!


  8. I loved the photos. They tell me so much about the women, their homes and the nature that surrounds. Did you buy or wear a sari? Those are hard working women.
    In Nicaragua I worked on a reservoir for potable water. I was much younger than I am now and still it was heavy duty.
    It sounds like you did everything that you set out to do for this period of time. ANd the people you met must have learned so much from you. Sounds like you never rested but took advantage of every minute.
    Just what I expected from you!
    If there is to be a finished written manuscript I certainly want to read it. Thanks for all your wrote to us.


  9. Shaari says:

    Sounds amazing! You are so strong and resilient and fantastic. Sending big love. Shaari


  10. Eleanor says:

    I am so touched by the connections you were able to make re: uncle Fred, his famly,and life in India. You have given your family and friends a gift. This story of how a working class guy gets caught up in the imperial projects of colonial empires is so familiar and true of all colonizing powers, yet this story brings your uncle’s experience to life in a way not available otherwise.

    The images of the cement factory and the other workshops are so inspiring.
    I eagerly await your coming home so we can hear and see more from your perspective. lots of love to you, e


  11. Hi Susan! You are exciting everybody with your narrative and photos. Great!


  12. Gavin says:

    Hello neighbor, It looks like you’re having an amazing adventure in India. Bravo, and thank you for sharing it online… And thank you for writing about your uncle Fred, it was kindly written and moving…
    All is good here in Boston, not much changed since you left on your adventures, but maybe worth mentioning that we’re expecting 3-5 inches of snow today. Your daffodils are taking it in stride though and winter should be properly done and dusted before your return.

    All the best in your travels and look forward to seeing you when you return.



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