Kerala acted in unison during the recent floods to save the people trapped in the rising waters. Cutting across the caste and religious barriers, volunteers took part in the noble rescue and relief mission. There were rich as well as poor people. Some held top positions while others did not.
Aparna Nair, a 16-year-old youngster, was among the volunteers who offered their services at the collection point in Thiruvananthapuram which worked for relief camps at various places. She was very active there along with friends.
Kerala gradually coped with the tragedy. The relief activities were taken over by the government. Though she was no longer involved in the relief measures, Aparna felt uneasy. She wanted to do something more for the flood-affected people.
“How can I help them now?” she asked herself. The problem haunted her day and night.
Aparna's mother Rekha Menon sensed her daughter's predicament. She showed the way by commenting, “Why don’t you use your favourite hobby, art, for the purpose? Paint something about the floods. We'll see how it can be utilized.”
That made Aparna feel confident. She began pondering over the topics for her paintings.
The first decision she arrived at was to avoid tragic or sad subjects. Instead, Aparna resolved to spread hope through her art.
After deep thought, Aparna finalised two topics. Her creations took shape on paper. The paintings showed people who led Kerala from the darkness of the floods to the light of survival. The images were imprinted on coffee mugs.
Aparna approached her friends and told them, “please buy these mugs. The profit is set apart to help the flood-affected people.”
Her efforts paid off. Friends and relatives offered whole-hearted support and encouragement. By word of mouth the fame of Aparna's coffee mugs spread. Demand rose steadily. Some people bought up to 50 mugs.
Initially, Aparna had planned to earn Rs 20,000 but she has already collected Rs one lakh.
The first mug that Aparna created was titled ‘Heroes 2018’. It displayed officials of the Army, Navy, Air Force and KSEB and fishermen who took part in the rescue. The second mug had pictures of doctors, techies, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shashi Tharoor MP.
There was overwhelming response to the initiative. Aparna sold over 500 cups in no time. The price of each mug is Rs 350 and she earns a profit of Rs 200. The entire profit goes to the distress relief fund, says Aparna proudly.
The mugs are now getting orders from abroad also. The item is sent directly to buyers. Meanwhile, online sales are also being conducted.
Aparna is the elder daughter of IT professionals Hari Gopinathan and Rekha Menon. She has a sister, Archana Nair.
Aparna lived in California with her family till five years ago. It was there that she was born and brought up and later arrived in Kerala at age 12. Rekha and Hari were particular that their children should learn the culture and traditions of Kerala.
Aparna started painting while very young. In classes 9 and 10, she had followed Cambridge curriculum which allowed students to choose an extra subject. Aparna opted for painting.
The youngster now plans to return to California and pursue a course in Science, but is firm that she would continue to write and paint and live as a global citizen.
Earlier also, Aparna was active in charity. In Kerala, she took part in various activities at Poojapura old age home, Thiruvananthapuram general hospital, and the tribal hamlets in Wayanad. Funds for the purpose were sourced from art. She painted interesting works and embossed them on cups and other items which would then be sold to relatives and friends.
Aparna is currently doing her diploma in service-oriented international baccalaureate program along with the charity works. It helped her combine her studies, art and charity work, with the full support of teachers.
With a mentality that yearns to bring about a positive change in society, Aparna is indeed a hope for the future.