On May 20 1498, Vasco da Gama landed in Calicut, with the intention of trading portuguese items with precious stones, gems, and spices that were available in India. Known as one of most important voyagers, Vasco was the son of the town governor and also a good naval commander. He was given the task to command the expedition from Portugal to India around the African continent. In the ten months that he traveled, he stopped at various trading centers to set up trading connections. While some centres received him well, others, especially the Muslim dominant centers were not so generous. Soon, after Vasco’s second visit, The Portuguese would capture these Indian ports and control the trading centres of South India.
After 513 years, it was my turn to discover Calicut or Kozhikode. After a three and a half hour train journey, I reached this spice center and was greeted by Tr.Vijay, who was also my host. Since he stays a bit on the outskirts of Calicut, we decided to immediately do a small tour of the city, which basically meant going to the beach. Being a Sunday, almost all of Calicut was there- even a political rally. The seaside is flocked with buildings from the Portuguese era, a few clubs, naval officers buildings, etc. Worth a walk in the evening!
The next morning I set off to see the projects done by the Ladies Circle Calicut 69. Chairperson Samia and the circlers took me to the B.E.M. School in Puthiyara. This Government School, which is around 80 years old, has recently applied for a heritage status. Its is managed part by Government and part by a Church. With 170 students in the school, the B.E.M. School is the long-term project for both Round Table and the ladies Circle. The Circle has renovated an old shed, which was once being used the by the men of neighbouring houses as a meeting place in the evenings. With new lattice-work, floor tiles and furniture, this meeting place has been converted to classrooms. The Ladies Circle has also contributed computers to the school, taking their total expenditure to Rs 250,000.
The Ladies Circle has also held workshops on sanitation, hygiene, sexual awareness, health camps so that the students can also understand the way to a better living, apart from education in classrooms.
We then drove to the Prashanti School for Children with Special Needs, which is a part of Navajyothi Charitable Trust. The school has been a long-term project as well for the Ladies Circle, who have been involved in their functions and have also donated a pressure cooker, kitchen utensils, furniture, physical support bars and most recently a toilet. Vinod and Anita, who are the architects for the school and also members of Round Table and Ladies Circle India respectively, have been associated with the school much longer.
It was a pleasure to be in this school, which is situated around 10km from the city, on top of a hill. We had to park our cars and then walk up as the roads are still being made. There is another road from where the school van goes, but the walk is also worth the exercise. The building has been beautifully made and its surrounded by coconut and banana trees. Spotlessly clean and a smiling staff are the backbone of this school. They are currently in the stage of expansion and our building another block on the same hill. Donations are welcomed.