Badgered by temple office bearers for moving to ban a popular fireworks event in Kollam, criticised by the Congress-led government after she blamed police for not enforcing that order, and now accused by the state DGP of failing to prevent the tragedy at the Puttingal temple. Clearly, Kollam District Collector A Shainamol is in the middle of a storm in Kerala.
On one side are influential politicians, police and religious groups, and on the other, hundreds of people dialling the Kollam Collectorate to congratulate her and more flooding social media with praise for the 32-year-old’s “tough stand” on the fireworks display late last weekend that killed over 100 people.
But then, Shainamol doesn’t need to look far for support — she has a family of powerful civil servants to lean on. Her elder sister A Shaila (40) is the Mumbai District Collector and her elder brother A Akbar (39) is an SP in Kerala Police’s Crime Branch.
So much so, residents of Aluva refer to the junction near their family home as “IAS junction”.
Then, there’s their father, S Abu, a retired school teacher, who holds the family together along with his wife Sulekha. While Shainamol’s colleagues fear that her “outspokenness” may affect her career, 74-year-old Abu says he is “proud” of his youngest daughter.
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“Shaina has been always like that. She has always stood by the rules. Nobody, not even I, can influence the decisions taken by my children,” said Abu, who taught English Literature and Social Sciences in high school.
“I have spent all that I earned from working in various government schools on my children’s education. Both Shaina and my eldest daughter Shaila used to spend hours together reading books. But I never asked them to become this or that. In fact, once they reached college, I hardly played any role in their lives.
They were beyond my wisdom. I felt so small before their knowledge and hard work,” said Abu.
While Shainamol was not available for comment, Akbar and Shaila spoke to The Sunday Express on the condition that they would not discuss the Kollam tragedy. Both said that Abu and Sulekha had always encouraged them to stand on their feet and “study with merit, not through donations or influence”.
“What is the point in becoming an engineer or a doctor for the sake of your parents? After I completed my degree, I wanted to study law. He always trusted our decisions. We had all the freedom to take any decision about our lives. He taught us to be committed to the work we do and to do it untiringly,” said Akbar, who has served as SP in Alappuzha, Kottayam and Thiruvananthapuram.
Mumbai-based Shaila says all three were inspired by their parents. “Our mother never treated us like children and gave us unconditional freedom and respect. Out father still lives the life of a retired government school teacher, not of the father of three civil servants,” she said.
Abu said that after completing their studies at UC College in Aluva, Shaila joined the Maharashtra cadre in 2003, Akbar became part of the Kerala cadre in 2005 and Shainamol followed her brother in 2007.
Today, Akbar is settled in Thiruvananthapuram with his family, Shaila is married to a lawyer in Mumbai and Shainamol’s husband is a lawyer who practises at the Kerala High Court.
It’s not a surprise then that last Sunday, hours after the explosion, Shainamol had told The Indian Express: “I do not even care even if someone said that I banned the fireworks in a temple because I am a Muslim. We work for the people, not Muslims or Hindus.”