Brampton: There is a hilarious joke that when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon on July 20, 1969 as part of the Apollo mission, he was surprised to see a Malayalee chettan’s tea shop there. Although funny, this story is interpreted as a perfect example of the fact that Malayalees can be seen anywhere in the world and that they preserve their own cultural heritage wherever they go. It is no coincidence that any of the eyewitnesses to ‘The Brampton Boat Race‘, which was started by the Brampton Malayalee Samajam in Hart Lake in August 2009, remembered this funny story about the Malayalees. ‘The Brampton Boat Race’ is definitely not just a competition. It is also a symbol of organizational excellence and brotherhood within the Malayalee community, says Kurian Prakkanam, the chief organizer of the event, who represents all Malayalees as a member of the Loka Kerala Sabha and has always held fast to the cultural heritage of Kerala. He is as active in Kerala politics as he is in Canada and has a strong leadership in social, cultural and philanthropic activities. The story of ‘The Brampton Boat Race’ and its chief organizer Kurian Prakkanam will inspire any Malayalee who wants to live up to the values of their motherland.
Pathanamthitta district in Kerala is the birthplace of Kurian Prakkanam. Even at a very young age, Kurian became a political leader who reached out to the people and captured their hearts with his hard work and service. Kurian Prakkanam, who started his politics while at Catholicate College, Pathanamthitta, Kerala was a leader of the Polytechnic and Pre-Degree Board strikes. He was very much close to the late leader Mr. K. Karunakaran. Kurian Prakkanam, who became a public figure in Pathanamthitta district along with politics and social service, migrated to Canada in 1993 at the age of 23. It did not take long for Kurian Prakkanam to become a star in Canada as well as at home with his innate talent and style. In the 1990s, when the Malayalee community had fewer members in Canada, Kurian Prakkanam came forward to unite them and organize communities. As part of those activities, he took the helm of the Toronto Malayalee Samajam, the first Malayalee community in Toronto, and became its Joint Secretary and Secretary. The association got its own building for the first time during his tenure as the secretary. He later took the initiative to form the Brampton Malayalee Samajam in 2007. He is also the President of this Samajam. A new history was born in August 2009 when the Brampton Malayalee Samajam under his leadership launched ‘The Brampton Boat Race’ in Hart Lake, exciting all Canadian Malayalees.
The boat race at Brampton began as a miniature version of the Nehru Trophy boat race in Alappuzha, named after Nehru, the first Prime Minister of post – independence India. It was then Manoj Karatha, who sponsors major events for Malayalees in Canada, came out in support of the organizers, including Kurian and became a board member and sponsor of the Boat Race. The boat race, which was recognized by NORKA, eventually became a huge success. The competition, which initially started with 2 competitors in boats on Hart Lake, is now being held at Professor’s Lake with 10-11 competitors in boats. Even Canadian and American teams from different communities line up for the competition. The competition includes the excitement of Alappuzha, the beauty of Periyapad and the pride of Aranmula. Last year the event was started with the wishes of the governor of Kerala. Brampton mayor Patrick Brown is the chairman of the Publicity Committee. Whereas Kamal Khera MP is the Race Community Chairperson, Ruby Sahota MP is the Event Community Chairperson and Amarjot Sandhu is the MPP Vice Chairman of the Public Committee. The chairman of the event coordination committee is Canadian Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria. The Canadian Nehru Trophy boat race, recognized by even NORKA as the largest expatriate water festival in the world, has become a wonder in the expat world itself today. Today, the Brampton Boat Race has grown from being the only competition for Malayalees to one that the Canadian community has taken for granted. The Prime minister of Canada and the leader of the opposition praised the event and the leader of the opposition of Canada even came to watch the boat race in person.
One of the unique features of Kurian is that he never forgets his motherland and people. He excited all the expatriate Malayalees of the world in the 2016 assembly elections and challenged all the major fronts in Kerala with extraordinary courage from the north american soil. The pravasi Malayalee front entered the fray in the Aranmula constituency as an independent candidate and highlighted the strength of the pravasi malayalees among the people and fronts in Kerala. His two-time membership in the Loka Kerala Sabha was a recognition of his popularity across Kerala. Kurian Prakkanam became the personal pride of the Malayalees in Canada when he first joined the Loka Kerala Sabha as an invited member and this time as a member. Kurian says he has been able to work so efficiently because he has a large circle of friends in Canada. He managed to carry out the mission of uniting all, irrespective of caste or creed. He is also the NORKA helpline coordinator for Canada. There are about fifty Malayalee associations under the National Federation of Malayalee Association which was founded by Kurian Prakkanam. Mr. Kurian formed the Canadian Malayalee United Front, by uniting small and large Malayalee organizations scattered across the various provinces of Canada, as the Kerala State was formed by uniting the native nations. Mr. Kurian, the current chairman of the FOKANA political forum, had been also in the positions of Regional Vice President, Board of Trustees Member and Chairman of the Election Commission. The concept of social media is familiar today. But Mr. Kurian is a leader who implemented the idea of an online channel in North America years ago. Mr. Kurian Prakkanam is the founder and CEO of Malayalam Mayuram TV, the first Malayalam online channel in North America, which was inaugurated by Oommen Chandy, the Chief Minister of Kerala in 2015.
According to Kurian Prakkanam, his wife, Mini Kurian, and children give their generous support to all the busy activities in the political and cultural arena. His wife is a native of Aranmula in Pathanamthitta. They were married in 1995. The couple has two daughters Keran Kurian and Helen Kurian and a son, Rishon Kurian, is a fourth standard student. When asked about the achievements in life, Mr. Kurian Prakanam, often answers about the need to be active. “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” These famous words of American author Stephen King explain the meaning of Kurian’s statement. May the busy life of Kurian Prakkanam continue uninterrupted, fulfilling the aspirations of the expatriate Malayalees in Canada and around the world.