Born in 1984, Kairali of Baltimore is a non-profit 501(c) (3) organization registered in the state of Maryland with a focus for promoting the cultural awareness and social activities primarily among the Asian-Indians living in and around the Baltimore, Maryland region.
In the early 70s there were a few Keralites in the Baltimore area and an Indian store named Jai Hind on York road was an initial meeting place for them. By the middle of 1980s, the Keralites were in sufficient numbers and in relatively sound financial position to come out and have social gatherings. Such social gatherings later became the first committee meeting of Kairali.
It was during an India Day festival held at Hopkins Plaza in 1984 and organized by India Forum that a group of Keralites discussed seriously about formation of a Kerala organization in Baltimore and soon started meetings to make it a reality. The first gathering took place at Essex Community College in 1984 and Kairali was formed under the leadership of its founding president Dr. Karmachandran Nair. During the first year, Onam and Christmas celebrations and summer picnic were conducted. Christopher Fernandez took charge of the entertainment programs and most of the communications. During the second year, under the leadership of President George Elengical, door to door Christmas caroling was started and continued for many years until the number of families became so large that it became difficult to reach everyone and the program was dropped. George Parnel took initiative to contact all known Malayalee families and publish a directory. This helped to solidify the community with the contact information, which was not there until that time. For many years, the three programs with several newsletters and caroling continued uninterrupted bringing every Kerala family together.. It was very exciting to have members join together and prepare dishes. A kathaaprasangam by the famous Kerala artist Samabasivan was a highlight of Kairali in the early years.
The next president was late K.M. Mathew. He was a visionary and had energized the community by having many rehearsals for every program that were held. Most old timers remember another person during this time that was in the forefront – late E.V. John – who was the oldest member but was known as ‘Payyan’ due to his ‘youthfulness’, enthusiasm and passion for the sports activities benefit-ing the youth. The fourth president, Abraham Joshua, ia a well-known leader-ship figure in the community at that time and has continued that role all through the years in various capacities.
The next president, Josekutty Thomas was a very fluent Malayalam speaking president. His enthusiasm for acting and staging drama was visible by the stage performances. His enthusiasm for Malayalam language was displayed by his creation of a Malayalam font – one of its first – significantly helping with the typing and publishing of Malayalam articles here, which were handwritten until that time. Josekutty has demonstrated true leadership over the next many years by taking Kairali to the national Malayalee Federations like FOKANA and FOMAA.
The next president John Perumattam, played an exciting role in entertaining the community with the help of his immensely talented brothers and friends who were the first to showcase in Baltimore some traditional forms of cultural shows and entertainments like chendamelam, mimicry, vallamkaly etc. George Parnel served as President in 1992 C. P. Mathew, in 1993. The leadership then went to another soft-spoken community leader by name Sunnichen Karuvelithara who continued with all the traditional programs. MathenChacko is another leader who was also called to serve as president twice in 1992 and 1996 followed by the leadership of late Nedumpallil Kuriakose. In 2000, Mathews Abraham served as president for two consecutive years for the first time. He had organized a soccer team called Maveli Soccer Club in Baltimore long before he became the president. His passion for soccer games involving the youth has earned him high regard especially among the growing soccer enthusiasts and fans. Soccer matches have been held annually with out-of-state teams creating many friendships and connections and earning Maveli and Kairali outside attention and recognition.
John Mathew who served as president in 2002 has been a balanced voice of Kairali and has captured the attention of many intellectuals with his thoughtful insights and visions. Mohan Mavunkal, who has served as president for two terms – 1997 and 2003 - has enriched the organization with his speaking and writing skills. George Cheruppil, who assumed Kairali’s leadership position for two years in 2005 took great pride in making Kairali a part of Greater Washington Kerala Community. A Kerala Mela was organized in 2006 in Montgomery County by the joint efforts of all area Kerala organizations.
Under the leadership of Jose Paranilam, Kairali Executive Committee had 38 members and hence called ‘jumbo committee’. In addition to Onam and Christmas, the committee had staged the performance of the famous singer and actor Kalabhavan Mani and group in May of 2008, arranged a bus trip to Niagara Falls, coordinated a fishing trip in the Chesapeake bay, organized joint picnic with Washington area Kerala Associations, organized a dance with DJ after the 2008 Christmas program and broadcast all the stage shows on Asianet TV. Under this presidency, Kairali and wider community have experienced the beautiful but loud sound of the authentic Kerala art called chendamelam thanks to the efforts of the president and especially Shaju Jose and many committee members who are also proud members of the group called Maryland Chendamelam formed in 2008. During the last few years, Kairali, has participated in several events in the Indian embassy.
Following the jumbo committee of 2009, all administrations came with 30-35 committee members. The more exiting and promising trend observed is that the relatively junior members of the community is taking lead of the organization with novel ideas and variety activities. Shaji Padiyanikal organized an entertainment program in 2010, lead by Malayalam actor Dileep. Nazar Shams took charge in 2011 and he encouraged more women leadership and participation. He was an enthusiastic leader and he introduced the community vegetable garden. Nazar along with KCS organized Show 2011 showcasing Pazhassi Raja Team Manoj K Jayan, Padmapriya, Suresh Krishna and songs by Rimi Tomy. He also created a more appealing website for Kairali. Mini Sathyadas became the first Woman President of Kairali. Mini deserves special congratulations for organizing a polio eradication campaign. She also organized Monsoon Dreams a show jointly with KCS. Anil Alousyes was a very energetic young leader in 2013. He first time started a broadcast of Kairali news and Face book page for Kairali. Anil also introduced Eid Celebration first time to Kairali events. MOTA health awareness programs were introduced to the community first time by Josekutty during this year. Thanks to Josekutty who introduced a grant for this project. Anil also started the women’s forum to increase representation and participation of women in Kairali events. Rajan Mathai in 2014 was successful in maintaining the full cooperation of the community. The entertainment programs reached to the peak and were enjoyed by everyone. Rajan also started broadcasting Kairali events in Youtube video. Thus Kairali is growing well, functioning healthy, now in 2015 under the leadership of Rahman Kadaba - a leader with tremendous ideas and strong eager to work. He has formed a strong dynamic executive committee to support the events in 2015. A Mother’s Day bus trip to Deep Creek was a memorable journey enjoyed by the children and parents alike. Rahman first time introduced SAT preparation class. He also introduced Kairali Scholarship programs to deserving graduating senior students. A blood drive and CPR training are in the working along with a speech competition for the young children of the community covering an admirable topic “Respect, Manners and Moral Values”. He has taken a much appreciative initiative of “Feed the Hungry, Medicine for the Sick, and Home for Homeless”.
During the past years, there are many others who have served the community in various other capacities. In the spiritual area, Rev. Abraham Kadavil has been with Kairali serving consistently the needs of the faithful. In the political world, Kairali has not developed that many contacts or leaders. However, we did see one rising star – Dilip Paliath. Can Kairali take any claim to promoting Malayalam writers? John Attumalil, BijoChemantara, George Cheruppil, Mohan Mavunkal, Josekutty Thomas, P.V.R Prasad, Elias Abraham, and late NedumpallilKuriakose all are notable writers that Kairali has given opportunities to demonstrate their writing skills and can be proud of. Dr. Paul Thomas has published his autobiography in Malayalam called ‘Ormathirakal’ depicting his own life story in vivid detail. This is a book that has captured the attention of the world Kerala Community.
When Kairali was founded, no one could have foreseen the huge technological revolution that became a reality over the past years. With Internet, TV channels, Facebook, YouTube, cell phones, etc, communications have become instant. Kairali should be able to inspire members to rise up to form business partnerships, charitable foundations, political networks, and take increasing roles in the mainstream of American life while holding onto certain time tested Indian values.