When she first heard of the Indian Ocean tsunami that struck on Dec. 26, 44-year-old Chitra Parayath, a Lexington, Mass.-based writer and journalist, decided that the time was right to return to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, one of the most severely affected areas. Her return to her childhood home, a gesture born of both commitment and nostalgia was, however, to end in tragedy.
Parayath reached Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman Islands on April 17 to visit old friends, and collect material for what she hoped would be a series of articles on the islands. She was overjoyed at being able to visit some of her old childhood haunts and to partake of the islands’ life and culture that are quite distinctive and different from mainland India. On April 18, as she was being driven from Rangat to Mayabandar, in Middle Andaman, through some of the areas worst affected by the tsunami, the vehicle appeared to lose control and go off the road. Parayath died instantly. The car driver succumbed later to injuries. Two others were injured.
Chitra Parayath had a special relationship with the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a part of India where her parents spent much of their working lives. After school in Port Blair, Parayath earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Andhra University. After marriage in 1983, she pursued her first love of writing and the media whenever the opportunities arose. She liked to call herself a sambhar engineer, referring both to the common South Indian dish that she prepared for a most appreciative family, and to her own disinclination to pursue a technology career. All along she wrote several times of the beautiful islands and the unique culture of the place she grew up in.
After moving to the United States in 1994, Parayath contributed to several regional and community publications, including India Abroad, Sulekha, India Currents, Little India, and Lexington Minuteman. She was an occasional host of community television programs, and media consultant for The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) in New England.
Parayath was a founding-partner and editor of Lokvani.com, an e-magazine based in the Boston area. She interviewed several well-known personalities who passed through the area, including Bollywood superstar Aishwarya Rai, director Aparna Sen, singer Usha Uthup, and cricketer Sunil Gavaskar. Her column “Bollywood Baatein,” with news and gossip from the Indian film scene, was a perennial favorite of the Lokvani.com audience, as were her humor-laden film and music reviews.
Through her media involvement Parayath came to play an active role in the growing Indian-American community of New England. As secretary of the India Association of Greater Boston (IAGB), she worked diligently over the last few years to organize the Independence Day and Republic Day events in Boston, which drew record crowds. She was actively associated with Saheli, the support group for women from South Asia in the New England region. She represented the Indian-American community press at Governor Romney’s lunch for ethnic journalists in 2004 and 2005.
Chitra Parayath leaves her husband, Vinod Muralidhar, two children—Sidharth and Nivedita—and a large, loving family in India and the United States.
As one of her many friends noted in a tribute in Lokvani.com, “Quicksilver, warm, witty, wonderful, unforgettable Chitra … May you finish [writing] that novel in heaven, girlfriend.”