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Legend has it that Kerala came into being when Lord Parasuram reclaimed land submerged in the sea by throwing an axe. Officially, the state of Kerala was born on November 1, 1956, 64 years ago. Now the people of the state are in the midst of a crisis caused by the Covid pandemic. But Malayalees weary of pandemic curbs have stood together and are trying to build life anew. Over the past 10 months, we have heard many stories of survival. With a peek into real-life stories of strength, compassion and goodness that are inspiring all of us to overcome the crisis, let us hope for the birth of a new Kerala of sorts. Here are a few standout tales of grit and survival as the people of state weary of pandemic curbs try to build life anew

Iron-Willed Couple

Thomas Abraham, 93, of Ranni, Pathanamthitta, and his wife Mariamma, 88, were the oldest patients to have recovered from Covid in India when they were discharged from hospital on April 3. This news brought relief to the whole of Kerala at a time when the state was in the grip of a panic caused by the arrival of worldwide pandemic, Covid. When the couple returned home after 22 days of treatment, people of Kerala got a lesson on how to survive a crisis with sheer willpower.

An Antidote Called Human Goodness

When a child living in a quarantine with her parents in a house at Panathur, Vattakkayam, in Kasargod, was bitten by a viper at night, almost all her neighbours hesitated to help her fearing contracting Covid. But Jinil Mathew, who lived next door, rushed to her rescue without a second thought and rushed her to a hospital in an ambulance. The one-and-a-half-year-old girl was saved by timely medical attention, but she was later confirmed with Covid. The whole state was concerned about not just the girl but also Jinil. But the prayers of all in Kerala were answered — Jinil was not infected by the Covid-causing coronavirus. He became a role model for Kerala youth. His exemplary conduct wherein love and goodness for fellow beings outweighed irrational fears of a disease that was set to overwhelm the whole state in the coming months.

Recipe for Survival‌

Before Covid, Jubi Rijo from Perumpanachy in Changanacherry, and Serena Harris from 26th Mile, Kanjirapally, were anchoring their lives through dress designing and online fashion boutique. When Covid shattered their business, they were not in a mood to acquiesce and sit idle. Juby soon started a venture named 'Rejoice Home Made Food', while Serena launched her enterprise christened Sara Cloud Kitchen. Thus they showed a way to create a new recipe for survival.

Milk of Human Kindness

Over the course of the Covid pandemic, it became clear that compassion helped to save several lives of the infected and also to alleviate likely misery. Dr Mary Anita and her family in Kochi adopted a six-month-old baby boy, and cared for and protected him for a month when his parents had to go in quarantine after testing positive for Covid. The baby could not have been kept in a ward full of Covid patients. The efforts of medical college authorities to ensure that the baby who was being breast-fed until then continued to receive adequate nutrition led them to Dr Mary Anita who runs the Centre for Empowerment and Enrichment for the benefit of children with disabilities. Kerala will never forget her tears when the child was handed back to his parents a month later after they recovered.

Hi-Tech Kids

When schools had to be shut down due to Covid without even being able to conduct the annual admission ceremony, named Praveshotsavam, we started teaching children at home. The children, who had only seen movies and other programmes on TV, sat obediently before the small screen as they listened to the daily lessons on the Victers‌ channel. Teachers in a bid to engage students told interesting stories and put them at ease with banter.
Voluntary organisations, alumni associations and friendly groups made available facilities for students without TVs and laptops. As the country battled Covid, Kerala also achieved the distinction of becoming the first state to have high-tech classrooms in all public schools.
Dr Shiny Palatty, Principal, Bharat Mata College, Thrikkakara, who saved Rs 2.5 lakh by organising a simple marriage ceremony for her son and bought books for students with that money, and Robin Joseph, a social studies teacher at St Thomas High School, in Maniakkdavu, Iritty, who traveled for miles to visit the homes of each of the class 10 students to evaluate their studies are examples of proactive teachers who did their best to do their duty in trying times.
The experience in the education sector showed the spirited commitment to protect and take care of our children and their future even in times of a pandemic!

Roadside Tales Of Survival

Covid dealt a big blow to hopes of eking out a living with a steady income, but the crisis forced the hard-hit to carve out new paths for survival. It is now a common sight to see several people selling home-made meals, biriyani, payasam and snacks on the wayside. Other items for sale include cashew nuts, pickles, agricultural products, flowers, seeds, ornamental fish, eggs, face masks and sanitiser. It is a relief to see Malayalees not giving up the struggle to get their lives back on track and refusing to be defeated by the virulent virus.

A 'Restart' From The Crisis for Startups

Many business startups in Kerala faced a crisis during the Covid lockdown. But even in this sphere, the best example of survival was given by a Malayalee — Joy Sebastian from Cherthala, Alappuzha. During the lockdown, V-Console, a software developed by his firm Techgentsia Software Technologies won the first place in the Innovation Challenge announced by the Union Ministry of Electronics & Information and Technology. The company won a prize of Rs 1 crore and a three-year contract to set up video conferencing facilities in government institutions. It was an achievement that gave wings to Kerala's IT dreams despite the sullen economic conditions.

Farming Rediscovered

Expatriates are always ready to sweat out even in adverse climes and harsh milieu. Many who lost their jobs and returned to Kerala owing to Covid-induced shutdowns are setting new examples in survival — through agriculture. Many are slowly rebuilding life by making use of the government's special plans for them.
The first notable success story of the government's organic farming scheme for expatriates came from Madhu Raveendran’s field in Kanjikkuzhy, Alappuzha. This Kuwait-returnee's statement that he will continue focus on agriculture even after the Covid lockdown reflected his immense self-confidence in his new initiative. We also have before us the story of a group of seven, including Sajan and Vijayakumar from Mayyanad in Kollam, who reaped success by starting cultivation in a wasteland when they were stranded at home during the lockdown unable to return abroad to take up their earlier jobs.
There are also other survival stories of those who had taken to fish farming, food production and sales during the lockdown period. Farming received a new lease of life in Kerala during the lockdown period as several people started cultivating on terraces, courtyards and even in pots.

The Caring Kerala Police

During the Covid lockdown, when no one could get out of their homes, our police took over not only the job of maintaining law and order but also food distribution. Lakhs of food parcels were distributed by the police during the shutdown alone through the community kitchen scheme called 'Oru Vayaruttam' (Let's feed a stomach). That continues even today. Meanwhile, a few police personnel contracted Covid as they discharged duties day and night, some even succumbed. The fight of the Kerala Police against the pandemic is still on.

Long Road To Recovery

Titus, 54, who sold fish at Anjilimoodu Market in Sasthamcotta, Kollam, was on ventilator for 43 days after contracting Covid. But all through his 75 days in hospital, of which he was in coma for 20 days, health workers did their best to keep him alive. The government spent the required money and the doctors and nurses worked tirelessly to save his live. Finally, he was cured and left the Parippally Government Medical College Hospital in the third week of September. His survival story is definitely a feather in the cap of Kerala's health system.

Our health workers have taught Kerala the best lessons on survival by maintaining quarantine without even being able to see their own family members for weeks together and trying to keep Covid patients alive despite the discomfort caused by wearing the PPE kit. Several personnel have not taken even a single leave for months. Many even contracted Covid as they tended to the sick. The great challenge before them was to save those who were exhausted not just physically by Covid, but also mentally. The effort still continues...

There are many more who joined hands to save Kerala from Covid, people whose faces will not be shown on news, whose names will not go viral. Everyone is spreading lessons on goodness, caring and courage. Kerala will never forget these lessons and those who taught them to us.

So let's take a step towards the birth of a new Kerala replete with soothing tales of survival.