How brands like Samsonite and Zee humanized the Kerala floods, and celebrated the human spirit
By Pinkerala News Desk | Oct 04, 2018
On a deserted airport parking lot, Jancy has been waiting expectantly for days now, glancing at the arrival gate of the airport for the first sign of incoming travellers. The glimmer in her eyes may be fading, but she isn’t ready to give up. Not yet. Starting her day with a prayer, and diligently looking for the first wave of tourists to usher in a new season of hope and hospitality, Jancy waits.
Inside a dormant textile factory in Chendamangalam, Chekutty sits patiently, yearning to find listeners to tales of survival and grit. The scars and stains that Chekutty earned from overcoming the dirt carry within them a tall promise. A promise made to Liji and her colleagues, who have been standing guard by their precious looms, their callus fingers itching to weave the yarn again, that their famed kasavu sarees and mundus will be ready in time for next Onam, to be adorned by subjects of the beloved Maveli Thampuran as Kerala welcome its returning king.
Challenging us to look beyond the statistic
Jancy and Chekutty, and many such symbolic figures representative of a state recovering from a deluge are more than just stories of perseverance. They celebrate the human spirit, and our courage to not give up even when the odds are stacked against us. They showcase our determination to brush off our losses and fight for the inches we need. And most importantly, they humanize the affected. They make the statistics we see on the news real. They remind us that the numbers flashing on the screen are people, just like ourselves, whose whole lives were uprooted by a tragedy, but have chosen to brave the disaster and find higher ground.
And this is where brands like Samsonite and Zee, and initiatives like Chekutty stand out from the numerous other corporate and non-profit campaigns launched across India in the wake of the Kerala floods. They bypassed the traditional storytelling format, which would’ve employed sombre tropes of the suffering and grief that accompany a natural calamity. And they went against the reflex to hire celebrities detached from the circumstances and experiences of a tragedy to narrate its story. And thereby, they stitched together a tale that strikes a chord with their patrons, urging them to contribute to helping restore the state and show solidarity with its people, while recognizing the undying spirit and resolve that Malayalees have shown to bounce back from the catastrophe.
A timely gesture
Launched just in time to prelude Kerala Travel Mart 2018, the bi-annual 3 day event organized by KTM Society to celebrate God’s Own Country, the #KeralaIsOpen campaign from Samsonite introduced its viewers to a resurgent Kerala Tourism, as a reminder that the missing ingredient in Fathima’s karimeen fry, the elusive destination for Jancy’s cab, the audience that Mr Nair’s performance awaits, and the visitors Mr Nambiar has prepared for, is them, the travellers. And if the response from the 35,000 buyer-seller meets that this year’s KTM, which concluded last weekend, saw is anything to go by, the message has been received well and clear, that Kerala is open for business.
Chekutty, the brainchild of Lakshmi Menon and Gopinath Parayil, was born when they witnessed the heart-wrenching predicament facing the likes of Liji and the 600 other women employed under the societies that make up the legendary Chendamangalam handlooms and their owners. With their stock of raw materials and finished products for Onam, as well as infrastructure and machinery completely destroyed, fears of loss of wage or worse still, the demise of these historic weaving facilities loomed over them. But through Chekutty, Chendamangalam’s handlooms are on the road to recovery, with the Handloom Weavers Co-Operative Society Ltd, where Liji works already operational, and their entire stock of affected materials upcycled to make Chekutty. And with the team’s original commitment to the society to help revive them by repurposing and selling their affected stock as Chekutty well on its way to being met, thanks to the overwhelming response the initiative has garnered, Gopinath and Lakshmy now plan to expand the program by supporting two more societies in Chendamangalam.
Meanwhile, Zee Corporate, with the #DibbaLautaao campaign, which was one of the most standout efforts from an Indian media house to prompt people to donate to the CMDRF fund and support the relief initiatives in Kerala, was a heartwarming anecdote about the relationship the rest of the country shares with the Malayalees who make up their neighbours, colleagues, classmates, and friends. Invoking nostalgia and affection by reminiscing the savoury banana chips Malayalees brought as gifts from Kerala every time they return from a trip, Zee reminded its viewers to return the deed in their hour of need.
We may never know for sure how effective the #DibbaLautaao campaign was, but the CMDRF fund having crossed over 1500 crores as of September is proof that well-meant initiatives like these, when done right, can make all the difference during any disaster.
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