"My name is Kerala. I am really thankful to be in this school and make new friends,” as the 8-year-old says this, the assembly of students breaks into applause.
Kerala had travelled all the way from Los Angeles with her parents and her younger brother to get a taste of the culture of a state that she was named after.
It was in the year 2004 that Charles Kramer, a TV producer and his wife Brenna Moore, an interior designer; first visited Kerala. It was love at first sight. “We had travelled to many places in India like Delhi, Udaipur and other places. But we fell in love with Kerala. A progressive state with high literacy rate and forward thinking people, Kerala was just different,” says Brenna.
By the time they left the state, it left a deep impression on them. “The hills of Wayanad, the beaches and backwaters, the energy we received from Kerala was positive,’ says Charles.
And so, the couple did not think twice before naming their first born, Kerala, in 2009.
Nine years later, the couple decided to take a break from the hustle in LA and go on a world tour, an itinerary that comprised of covering 20 countries across 6 continents. “We had been home schooling them. By choosing to travel with them, we had decided that the experiences they gain would be their best teacher,” says Charles. Their project was termed ‘Worldschool101' and as a part of it they decided to stay in each country for about 3-4 weeks, with a local family.
Though originally India was not part of the plan, they decided to include it after meeting their local guide Michel in France. Michel had an adopted son in Kerala and offered accommodation to the Kramers. Kerala had been curious about the origin of her name for a long time, and the couple realised that this was the best opportunity to let their daughter discover the place that she was named after.
The family soon arrived in Manju’s (Michel’s adopted son’s sister) house in Cherppunkal, a small town near Kottayam. Manju's seven-year-old daughter Diya studied in Alphonsa Residential School in Bharananganam, a town fifteen minutes away from their residence. The couple decided to enrol Kerala in the same school and same class as Diya. Julian, Kerala’s younger brother joined play school at the same school."Kerala was very excited that we bought her a new uniform, books and she also travelled by school bus with Diya. She attended third standard,” says Manju.
On the first day of school, the Kramers were welcomed with a special event. The couple addressed the students at the morning assembly and Kerala was asked to share her thoughts too.Manju recalls that though Julian was a bit lazy and would cry before leaving to school, Kerala on the other hand was very excited. “Kerala and Julian liked the school structure. For my daughter, the fact that she could learn so much was fascinating. She was also happy that she could bring something to the table, especially with her skills in English language,” said Charles, speaking to TNM from Indonesia.
Charles also mentioned that the best part for Kerala was learning how to write her name and all their names in Malayalam. At the end of three weeks, she could even speak a few words in Malayalam. “She was really happy that finally she was in a place where people knew how to pronounce her name and did not call her Keral or Carol or things like that,” he added.
Sr Ancel Maria. Principal of the school also told TNM that Kerala was a good student and that she got involved in all the activities of the school like a regular student.
Through their 3-week stay in Kerala, the family spent time observing the town and studying the society. “The family also spent time to study more about Kerala, the trade, society and culture of the state. It was impressive that how they teach their children differently through practical experience,” quipped Manju. By the end of January, the family left India and are currently in Indonesia, exploring life there.
Worldschool101 in India may have ended for the family, but Kerala not only learned to speak a sliver of Malayalam, she also made a lot of good friends. “We are good friends and we had good times together. I miss her,” concluded little Diya.