Pamela: All Sweetness and Toughness Amidst Adversities


Those were heady days for us of Cochin Kalabhavan, a Church-sponsored socio-cultural outfit, dedicated to the promotion of music, and operating then from the Archbishop’s House Compound on Broadway, Ernakulam.

The year, 1971. Four of us on the managing committee of Kalabhavan, namely Fr. Abel CMI (1920-2001) the lyricist-president; K J Yesudas, the singer-director; Emile Issac, the guitarist-secretary and, yours sincerely, the editor of its publications, were casually assembled outside, bantering lightly on the slip-ups that accompanied our Grand Musicale 71 fest the previous day.

That was when a shining grey Premier Padmini car moved into the campus, and a young lady, teenager by looks, alighted from the driver’s seat, files in hand, and disappeared into the reception hall of the Archbishop’s House.

“She is Pamela, my disciple”, exclaimed Emile, as we all looked at him quizzically. “I am her guitar instructor. A student of St.Theresa’s College, she is the sole heir to the pioneering electronic chip manufacturer, O/E/N, founded by her father, here in Irumpanam.”

The name O/E/N had always aroused my curiosity, not only because the three-letter-two-slashes title was a novelty in the Indian corporate world but also for the Silicon chips that were revolutionizing electronic communication around the world those days. It took me another 25 years to have my first meeting with Pamela Anna Mathew, by then at the helm of O/E/N, under the able guidance of her father, K A Mathew. By then Destination Kerala was two years into its publication, and the second annual presentation of our Tourism and IT awards was to be held on August 17, 1999. An elaborate event was planned. E K Nayanar, Chief Minister of the State, agreed to be the guest of honour; M Vijayakumar, Speaker of the State Legislative Assembly, was to preside, and a star cast of top officials, technocrats and industry leaders were confirmed to grace the evening with felicitations. The line-up would be incomplete without the presence of the leading female entrepreneur of the State at the event, I decided, and called the O/E/N chief, inviting her to join us in the celebration. N Jehangir of NeST was chosen as the IT awardee, and restaurateur T Haridas of London, for the Tourism award, I informed her.

Pamela instantly declined, refusing to travel all the way from Cochin to Thiruvananthapuram just to speak a few words, and besides, she was expecting an overseas delegation of buyers around the same time as our event. Having never taken ‘no’ for an answer from anyone if I could help it, it took me another five minutes of reasoning to persuade her.

And, she came driving her car reaching the VJT Hall in the State capital in time to join the line-up on stage of the Chief Minister, the Speaker, IT Secretary Aruna Sunderarajan IAS, KSIDC MD Amitabh Kant IAS, Kochouseph Chittilappally (V-Guard), N Jehangir and T Haridas. When her turn came, Pamela spoke glowingly of the role assumed by Destination Kerala in realising the State’s developmental aspirations.

“Never even in the wildest of my dreams could I have imagined that I would be here today, standing before you”, she said in conclusion. “I tried my best to resist, but your editor, his tenacity and gentle reasoning, finally got the better of me, and am truly happy for it. I am sure, all of you, including the Chief Minister must have, similarly, fallen for his charm!”

The pioneer of all pioneering female entrepreneurs in Kerala, Pamela Anna Mathew stands tall as an icon, and a pleasant inspiration to generations of young women. After all, the name ‘Pamela’ means ‘all sweetness’. I would amend it to ‘all sweetness and all toughness’ in dealing with adversities that have strengthened her to be where she is today.

Destination Kerala was privileged to feature Pamela on the cover in September 1999. Read that story here.