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The Unheard Voices

Concept by Reshma Thomas

Photographs by Dhanuj Achu

  Stories by people who have loved and lived in a city mark its transitions and changes.‘Unheard Voices’ presents a handful of such people from Thiruvananthapuram,Kerala. Their stories tell us how the city has changed, grown, and, at times, behaved strangely. These stories and people represent the socio-cultural transition of the city.


Lalitha S

79 Years

    Lalitha loves movies and books. She watches the classic movies on Netflix and Amazon Prime. If Lalitha looks back at her own life, the memories that come first to her mind are of her childhood of her life in the village of Valiyasala and in Chengotta where her father was a teacher. She used to travel between Thirvuananthapuram and Chengottai quite frequently. She used walk around the neighbourhood with her little brother, which sowed in her heart a lifelong love for nature. Her classmates used to be amazed by her Tamil-Malayalam mix. Little Lalitha could learn by heart the songs she heard on the radio. She also sang them well. Lalitha named her daughter Jiji after Shivaji's mother Jijabhai.

What Life Has Taught Her:


Give no room for hard feelings against anyone. All her life, she has been nice to people. Her prayer is to remain the same till the last.



Age Unknown

      How do we define a state of mind which can be both mad and ecstatic? Some of those street dwellers will surprise us with their deep insights and unique perspectives, It was in one of those eestatic moments that Veerabahu started to walk to Kamataka via Theni. On his way, he picked scrap for a living. And, he ended up in Thiruvananthapuram. Veerabahu could be one of few people who cherishes the political meetings and protest rallies in the capital. These public meetings leave behind a large number of plastic bottles, which increases his income.

What Life Has Taught Him:


Police, who are supposed to protect people, has become a tool to torture. Only a disciplined and dignified police force can change a society.


Lalitha S

26 Years

    Lalitha sells stone and metal jewellery by the wayside. Despite one of the worst incidents took place in her life in this city, this Jaipur-native loves Trivandrum as her own. Lalitha has been in the city for the last seven years. She spends only a handful of days in her Jaipur house, and returns to Trivandrum. Her daughter studies in a Malayalam-medium school. Once, she was involved in a fracas with a bunch of peddlers from UP, and they attacked her. Only after a week did she realise that as a result of the scuffle, the eight-month-old baby in her womb was killed. She approached the Kerala police with a medical report and a complaint but they shooed her away.

What Life Has Taught Her:


One's home is where one stays for work. Love the place and its people.




Pechiyamma is one of the two surviving members of a group of women whom came to work in the tea estates near Ponmudi from a village near Thenkashi when she was just ten years of age. She worked for the erstwhile English landlords till the current owners. For the last 70 years, life has been more or less the same. One of her most poignant memories is visiting Sankumugham with her life partner. She finds her life without her husband and daughter a painful life.

What Life Has Taught Her:


I never try to learn from my life. Nor do I teach in anything… Life goes on just like that….


Iswaran Potti (Bullet Potti)

76 Years

 He went to learn tantric in his youth when life was hard. He finished his studies in seven year, and since then he has been performing it. Potti believes firmly that a real religious person will believe in secularism, respecting all faiths. Potti believes in the miracles in life. He has loved the bullet from his childhood days. Once he brought a bullet to Kulappada village near Aryanadu, and since then he has been called ‘Bullet Potti’. His daily routines don’t allow him to go on long trips but he loved his rides to Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. He has seen how the vast stretch of paddy field at Putharikandam became Putharikandam Maithanam. He also believes that after the 90s, Kerala has become a changed place. Honesty and tolerance have taken a beating, he says.

What He Believes:


The Word is precious. Use it wisely. Respect what you say.

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Khaleel Ahamed

69 Years

It was after his school that Khaleel Ahmed, from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, started travelling around the country with his father selling carpets. Khaleel travelled widely, both in big cities and villages of the country. He first came to Trivandrum with his father. And, he fell in love with the city and its people in the first visit itself. Now, it’s been 18 years since that first visit, he is still in awe of the city. “People in this city are loving, and you can eat any food. And, police is not troublesome. I believe cities like this are not common in the entire country,” says Khaleel. He believes that till ten years ago, Hindi was not common but now with the presence of the workers from other states, the borders have been truly transcended.

Life Lesson:


Work hard, and live happily. Even if you cannot do what you love to, do with love what you can.


Aboobakkar Kunju

79 Years

    For him, each journey was a struggle for survival. He started out from his native fishing village of Beemapalli on the southern edge of India, and he traveled crossing state and national boundaries. His decades-long expatriate life includes stays in Bengal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Dubai. A smile breaks out in him when he remembers how he traveled 25 years ago to Pakistan from Kolkata, traversing along hidden paths and swimming across rivers. Most of his travels were without documents, risking his life. How many journeys! How many memories! Finally, he returned to his routes, to his family at Beemapalli, where he sells attar for a living.

What Life Has Taught Him:


Memories are the burden on our journey of life. I leave them behind as I travel. Prayer is my strength. It leads me on.


Gomathi Vincent

75 Years

    Gomathy’s life shows us the cultural decline of a land, and the growth of a city. It was nearly 60 years ago when Gomathy, who is a Hindu, married Vincent, a Christian. The inter-caste marriage didn’t create much a furore in her village near Balaramapuram. But now, she feels, people and religions have drifted apart. And, Gomathy finds it painful. After her marriage to Vincet at the age of 16, they both came to Chala to find a job. Finally, they started their own vegetable business. Vincent has passed away but Gomathy still sells vegetable. She believe that it is the life around her in the city that has change but any real life.

What Life Has Told Her:


Memories are the burden on our journey of life. I leave them behind as I travel. Prayer is my strength. It leads me on.



70 Years

   For Cleemus, who was born in a fishing village and lived all his life fishing in the sea, all he has to tell us are the stories about the sea. He began to travel to new shores as a young man—all the way from Kerala, to Tamil Nadu, to Karnataka, and finally to Goa. Most of them have been fishing trips. Cleemus has a handful of stories and beliefs about the sea and his fellow fishermen. His eyes still have a glint of innocence when he recounts how he came across the ‘half naked’ women. One of Cleemus’s lifelong regrets is that he couldn’t get down in Goa even when he had reached the place sailing on river Mandovi.

What Life Has Told Him:


The sea is full of surprises. Watch it with a heart full of respect. Experience it. Live it.


      This couple has had only two trips in their entire life. They got married at a very young age. They do not call it love, but decades of enjoyment. They spoke to me with a lot of contentment and happiness. She smiled and said with her chubby face, Short life. Lots of fun”. This couple lives in Nedumangad, Kerala. After marriage, a journey from Nedumangad to Shankhummukham beach and a pilgrimage to Velankanni. These two trips to the sea are my favorite memories,she said. "Other than that, not a day goes by without leaving this village. In the evening, we gather with our fellow friends over a cup of tea and discuss exciting stories that happened over the day, they said. "As the days go by, the numbers in our group reduce”.


76 years

For nearly half a century, Mohan Sounds have lent sound and light to the festivals and cultural programmes.

Mohan Sounds was started by Damodaran's brother way back in 1951, and he took over it in 1955. Ever since, Mohan Sounds and Damordaran have been synonymous with the sounds and sights of the city.

Damodaran has seen the city change through its silence and sounds. Once a quiet city, Trivandrum has changed in its need for high-decibel sound as it has become a city of cacophony.

Damodaran counts it his privilege to have provided sound system for leaders like AKG and EMS to carry their idcas and words to the mass. One of his lasting memories is accompanying the procession carrying AKG's dead body.


What Life Has Taught Him: Do your duty.

Live and help those depend on you live better.

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