Malathi Teacher–The Enigma that will not be extinct.

Like a missing tooth, sometimes, an absence is more noticeable than the presence. The great Thiruvathirakali artist Smt.Malathi .G.Menon, left us to be one of the sparkling celestials. Our own dear Malathi teacher, the tharavaattamma or matriarch of an ancient folk art , by leaving her earthly abode, has become more conspicuous by her absence than by her vivid & vibrant presence.

We at Prayaana, were fortunate to have had her among us as the winner of the “Empowering Queen Award -2019” instituted by Prayaana , Kochi.While revelling in the august presence of such a venerable lady & exchanging pleasantries of a light-hearted vein, little did we know that Prayaana would never be able to bring her again amidst us. True to the adage that a full pot never spills,teacher had not an iota of conceit in her. Getting a permanent entry into the prestigious Guinness Book & Limca Book of records as well as the Asian books for organising a mega Thiruvathira, could have been otherwise in a lesser person. While the state goverment honoured her with the Vanitha Ratnam award in 2017, she was only adding one more feather to her unassuming cap. Malathi teacher, w/o Sri. Govinda Menon & loving mother of three children Sudha Rani,Usha Rani & Jayaprakash, apart from her familial duties, dedicated her entire life right from the time of her school teaching career to the popular art ‘Thiruvathirakali’. As a gifted teacher, she was not only prepared to meet the academic as well as the emotional need of the child but was also prepared to foresee the hopes & dreams in every pupil regarding the dance lessons she was imparting.

While teaching Thiruvathirakali, she was shaping them in not only their body movements & footwork, but was also shaping their rhythm (Thal) of Life, & the emotions(Bhava) in their relationship with society. The students who were serious about the art were able to tune their Life Raga as per the cadences & melodies that floated from the soul of their teacher.

If it is true that teachers teach more by what they are than what they say, Malathi teacher was a living example Dear Malathi teacher, in the brief encounters that I have had with you, a lot of hope could be inspired, a lot of imagination could be ignited in me regarding the qualities of a teacher, be it art/science/language. You have held my hand with your hand that handled the edakka ever so rhythmically, opened my mind to an art that would not have blossomed without you and touched my heart with your simplicity. Thiruvathirakali the ancient folk art that was & is the most democratic dance form, has reached far away shores due to stalwarts like her, the medium being her students many of whom are exponents now in countries far & wide. I pull down the curtains of this eulogy with mixed feelings:

Happiness that I can bring out in print at least a small percentage of the shimmering halo around this most illustrious yet humble lady, but a vast sadness that it had to be posthumous.

A word to all her devoted & sad students:

Inside each of you, Malathi Teacher has left a spark of her art, and your highest endeavour should be to set off that spark in another —and another.

Let us hope that the art that Smt.Malathi Menon has filled her students’ minds with, will be a compass that will have a lengthy radius to cover & take them and Thiruvathirakali to great heights across the oceans.

A tribute by Prof.(Dr.) Lalitha Mathew

Centre for English & Foreign Language Studies,

CUSAT..Kochi..Kerala and CEO, Akshari Foundation

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