Maliyekkal Mariyumma, first Muslim woman in Kerala to learn English no more
It was her father and her grandmother Puthiyamaliyekkal Kunhachumma who gave the girl the courage to pursue studies in the face of stiff opposition from society.
KOZHIKODE: Maliyekkal Mariyumma, who had dared the orthodox sections in the community by deciding to learn English in the 1930s, died at her native place in Thalassery in Kannur district on Friday evening. She was 97.
Mariyumma was the icon of progressive Muslims in Malabar, who narrated her inspiring story to the next generations. Her father O V Abdulla (senior) was a scholar in religion, who was proficient in six languages. It was her father and her grandmother Puthiyamaliyekkal Kunhachumma who gave the girl the courage to pursue studies in the face of stiff opposition from society.
Mariyumma was the lone Muslim girl in her class at the Sacred Heart High School (Convent school) in Thalassery during 1938-43. In her numerous interviews, Mariyumma had narrated the harrowing experience she suffered from the conservatives in the community, who could not think of a Muslim girl opting English education.
Those who were on either side of the road used to heckle the student when she was on her way to the school and back. Her father made arrangements for food and prayers at the school itself to avoid the insults. She passed the fifth forum in 1943. From her younger days itself, Mariyumma was active in public life. Her ‘Tharavadu’ was the hub of social activities and was constantly visited by stalwarts like K P Kesava Menon, Panampilly Govinda Menon and A V Kuttimalu Amma.
Mariyumma had addressed a public meeting in English at Mananchira in Kozhikode in the presence of Sheikh Abdulla. In his message, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said Mariyumma was a fighter who fought for the rights of girls. “She always stood with the progressive forces and became a symbol of secularism,” he said.