Smitha Cholakkal

True Patriotism

Filled with a yearning to do something for her homeland and countrymen, Smitha gave up her lucrative job in Toronto, Canada and returned to her homeland, India. In consonance with her dream and motto, ‘Good Food for All’, she is working on a project to eradicate exploitation of farmers and ensure good, healthy food for India’s populace.

I would like to nominate Smitha Cholakkal, my younger sister from Andhra Pradesh, for this award. Though she is almost 4 years younger she has truly been an inspiration to me. She has been a mom, a great sister and friend to me.

Born in Muscat, Oman and equipped with a double Masters degree - one of which is from Windsor, Canada in Electrical Engineering, Smitha (or Chim, as she is lovingly known in the family) was working for a big company in Toronto.

During her spare time, she doodled ideas in her little notepad about what she could do to make a positive change in people's lives. Having always felt a deep connection with India she wanted to return home and do something for her land, her people. In 2012, she finally decided to settle down in India. Though it meant a drastic change in lifestyle and finances she was extremely happy to follow her heart and inner voice.

In her initial years of living in India she observed and tried to understand the problems faced by people, especially the farmers. She came to the following conclusions:
● People are giving up farming due to unpredictable climate changes, low prices and huge transportation costs.
● Sometimes excellent harvest becomes a curse for farmers as prices drop drastically. Farmers dispose of their produce instead of selling them as it is a loss for them. Perfectly edible produce goes waste and feeds landfills instead of feeding bellies.
● They become victims of severe debt and are unable to take care of their families living in poverty.
● Many farmers commit suicide in sheer desperation.

Her motto, ‘Good Food for All’, became her dream project which was to ensure that people got healthy, fresh produce at reasonable prices without exploiting the farmers. These are the solutions she has come up with:
● Farmers should get a minimum rate for produce.
● To have local processing units convert extra produce into preserved foods.
● To have local mobile processing units for a number of panchayats for areas where local processing unit is not economical or feasible.
● To develop an app for small scale farmers or family households to sell their produce in local areas by matching demand to their supply. The produce is harvested freshly in morning and delivered immediately when ordered the previous night.
● That local produce is grown without harmful chemicals or not preserved with chemicals for long transportation.

I do not know if I have done justice in explaining her dream. All I can say is that Smitha is a compassionate person with big dreams and a ‘Never say Die’ attitude. Her biggest inspiration has been the Late. Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. She does not permit her health issues to come in the way of her dream of serving the people around her. I sincerely hope and pray that her dream comes true - this young, single lady who has decided to dedicate her life in the service of her homeland.

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