Shobheendran - the quintessential Green Man of Kozhikode

Shobheendran. File Photo: Manorama

Kozhikode: Professor T Shobheendran, who passed away aged 76 on Thursday, was the quintessential Green Man of Kozhikode. Not only his green-coloured attire, his lime-green two-wheeler and his unkempt, overflowing beard were part of almost all the nature-related programmes in Kozhikode.

He was instrumental in turning many a generation of students into ardent nature lovers and made the general public aware of the need for environmental protection through his countless nature walks and activism.

Shobheendran Maash, as he was popularly known, and his disciples planted many shade trees that still stand tall over the Kozhikode skyline.

A professor of economics, but his favourite subject was nature and greenery. He spoke about it, wrote about and more importantly encouraged his students and youngsters to think about the environment.

Born to Kakkodi Thailamparambath Narayan and Ambujakshi, Shobheendran earned his master's degree in economics from Guruvayurappan College before starting his teaching career at the Arts and Science College in Bengaluru. He then moved to the government college in Chitradurga. He would later say that his interactions with the students there changed his life and approach towards nature.

He spent countless hours traversing the hillocks and valleys of central Karnakata with the students from the college and got to know about nature up close for three years.

He returned to his alma mater in 1975 and remained a professor in the college till his retirement in 2002.

(Just as his students changed his outlook, a friend's gift changed his dress forever. Over 40 years ago, an Army friend gave him a military camouflage. After he started wearing it in public, his students and other friends started gifting him green-coloured clothes. Then he adopted it as part of his dress code. He added a green cap and verdant two-wheeler to complete his looks.)

Armed with his practical knowledge, Shobheendran widened his work for nature with the help of students and green lovers of Kozhikode. He was the force behind turning the 100 acres of barren hill campus of Guruvayurappan College into a green hub with mini forests.

He led a group of 100 students from his college to Muthanga forests under Wayanad Wild Life Sanctuary to create a water body with the help of tribal community members and Forest officials.

That was an inspiration to the campuses across Kerala and spawned many similar initiatives in the state.

He started a 'Campus Research' in the college, and planted thousands of trees along the roadside and other public places in Kozhikode.

The protest against the Njeliyan Parambu waste-dumping yard was his first agitation against social injustices. He also protested against the broken slabs and pits along the footpaths in the city.

Due to his efforts, schools in Kozhikode started the 'green campus' projects to make them more eco-stabilised campuses. He guided the functions of Green World Park in Kakkodi and trained thousands of kids in swimming.

He kept a close rapport with his students and former students. Even after his retirement from the college in 2002, he was closely associated with student activities and alumni meets.

Through the programmes by the campus research in the college, he was introduced to cinema and amateur theatre. He was part of the movies Amma Ariyan by John Abraham, Shutter and Uncle by Joy Mathew and John by Prem Chand.

He worked as a member of the Kerala State Forests and Wildlife Board and the expert committee for safeguarding sacred groves, and coordinator for Kerala Prakruthy Samraksana Ekopana Samithy and Green Community.

He was honoured with the Indira Priyadarsini National Vriksa Mitra Prize by the Central government, the Vana Mitra Award by the Kerala state government, the Social Excellence Award by Kerala Human Rights Protection Mission, the National Environment Award, and the best NSS programme officer prize.

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