Usha Zacharias, 51, writer and researcher, died in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday evening after fighting cancer for over a year.
Ms. Zacharias, who had started her career as a journalist in Mumbai, had moved on to academics and was Associate Professor of Communication, Westfield University, U.S. Author of several articles on media in English and Malayalam journals, her early research was on epics on television. Usha was an interdisciplinary scholar whose past research included ethnic/communal violence, caste and gender issues in the media. Her work has been published in Social Text, Critical Studies in Media Communication, Cultural Dynamics and several anthologies. She loved forests, trekking, and film festivals.
Over summer of 2008, Usha trekked to the Himalayan villages of Kagbeni and Marpha in Nepal to write a report on gender and political decentralization. She asked everyone to backpack their way up the Himalayas at least once in their lifetime, preferably in September-October, when the 8000-plus meter peaks are visible.
Usha wrote the photocaptions, text and the overall narrative for a multimedia CD-ROM for the International Development Research Center with her friend and fellow researcher, J. Devika. Titled, “Real Rights: Women and Decentralization in South Asia,” the CD-ROM was released in Mexico City at a conference organized by the United Nations Development Programme and the IDRC in November 2008.
Sometime in between mariachi music and tasty streetside tacos, Usha presented a report of the fieldwork she did in coastal Kerala with her co-researcher, Ranjini Krishnan, titled, “Deconstructing Rights: Decentralization and Women in Fishing Villages of Kerala.” If the Himalayan trip isn’t possible right away, she asked students to travel to Oaxaca, Mexico, and see the Hierve al Agua, the fabulous petrified waterfalls, where everything except beauty becomes unreal.
The cremation will take place at the electric crematorium here on Tuesday afternoon, family sources said.