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Film role and gratitude

September 12 - 18, 2018

Gulf Weekly Stan Szecowka
By Stan Szecowka

Gulf Weekly Film role and gratitude

BIG-HEARTED Fatima Al Mansoori, who has been in Kerala offering support and comfort to flood-hit families, has flown back to Bahrain to be told that the Indian community here would like to acknowledge the compassion she has shown.

The Pravassy Association of Angamaly – Nedumbassery (PAAN) in the kingdom has chosen her to receive its annual Best Social Worker Award at an awards ceremony to be staged on September 28.

The accolade will be handed over to her at a ceremony by Supreme Court judge, Justice Kurian Joseph. He will be flying to Bahrain for the event to be staged at the Marmaris Hall in Salmaniya.

Surprised Fatima, 35, said: “I’m deeply honoured and grateful for the appreciation shown. Being valued nourishes the soul.

“I just felt a pressing need to go to the flooded areas and help in any way I could, even if it meant simply providing emotional support, to listen to the victims’ stories or simply to be there to hold their hands.”

She used the power of social media to highlight, in real time, what was happening on the ground and her efforts were broadcast across India, at home and abroad.

“People have lost so much, in fact in many cases everything they possessed, as houses and whole communities collapsed under the floods,” she told GulfWeekly at the time. “I was anxious to highlight the reality of this harsh and painful disaster, so that the suffering could be felt and better understood and make people fully aware of the needs of the people.”

Later her focus was to provide integrative psychosocial mental health support to help prevent further suicide incidents that were happening as a result of post-flood trauma.

PAAN Bahrain was established in Bahrain in 2006 and its members are involved in cultural, philanthropic and charitable activities. Honorary president Poulose Pallippadan said its award panel decided to honour Fatima for her ‘selfless services to humanity’ and ‘especially her support towards the flood-affected families’. 

As reported in GulfWeekly, the well-known yoga teacher and practitioner was set to conduct a short course at Mangalore University and visit a Keralite friend’s family home as well as an eco-project in the region as part of her Indian trip itinerary.

Her plans suddenly changed when weeks of heavy monsoon rains triggered landslides and floods. Instead of fleeing the area she set off in the direction of the disaster. She visited rescue centres, temporary schools and safe buildings used for sleeping accommodation for the homeless and witnessed the devastation up close, including a collapsed house in which people died, and the scene of a landslide.

More than 350 people were killed, most of them in landslides, and 725,000 people had to take refuge in relief camps. A big clean-up operation and reconstruction work is now underway and Fatima aims to continue to highlight and raise awareness of the continuing plight faced by the flood survivors.

Her campaign will be boasted by an appearance in a movie too, focusing on the river. Director Vijeesh Mani, who specialises in making environmental films, heard about her activities and asked her to help in his latest production called Puzhayamma.

“The director happened to see one of the recent videos of my contribution to the flood relief effort,” she explained. “He wanted to include me in his film as the part he envisioned had a direct connection. I didn’t have to learn any lines or anything as my character was really just me. I improvised on set and came up with my own dialogue.”

Getting ready for the shoot was demanding with make-up, lights and action all part of the process. “The experience was best described as ‘muddy and rough’ because the whole film was shot in and around the river,” she said.

“I’ve done live TV and recorded interviews in the past but this was a totally new experience. However, it helped that I was working with an experienced crew, alongside professional actors and a make-up artist who was very talented too!

“Although I have been asked several times to act in the past I’m just not interested. The only reason I accepted this role was because it had a direct connection to what I had been doing in Kerala and it’s a subject that I’m passionate about. Puzhayamma is about river pollution – the movie is unique and has a deep message.

“My mission remains the same, to deliver support to those who need it, shed light on the situation and continue to spread awareness. All forms of media can be powerful tools to help accomplish these things.”

Help from Bahrain has been swift. His Majesty King Hamad assigned the Royal Charity Organisation to send relief material and expatriate associations set up relief drives. The Indian Club set up a committee to help co-ordinate activities.

There are an estimated 400,000 Indians in Bahrain, making them the largest expatriate group in the country, and the majority are from Kerala.

Fatima also hopes to promote and help bring business to the region as it slowly recovers. She has visited Rajah Island, home to one of the best ayurvedic traditional medicine retreat destinations in Kerala, and met with its management to discuss the possibility of future collaborations in staging yoga retreats.

She also visited Chandigarh to speak about using yoga as a way to cope and recover from addictions and collaborate on a research project with neuroscientist Professor Akshay Anand.

“I have carried out a programme in Bahrain at the psychiatric hospital drug rehabilitation department and the patient feedback was excellent,” she said. “Dr Akshay will be able to show me how to document results scientifically.”

Finally, she hopes to rearrange her original schedule and return to Mangalore University to deliver a series of lectures in the near future in her role as an adjunct professor at the department of human consciousness and yogic sciences.

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