Category Archives: PORTRAITS

This blind journalist guides those who can see with his wealth of knowledge

Swaminathan Rajappan Pillai, may be congenitally blind, but the moment he begins the conversation with his favorite word to break the ice – “Hello”, we will marvel at his depth of knowledge and brood at our own inner darkness. He is a post graduate from the prestigious London School of Economics and he is MA (History) gold medalist from Kerala University.  He is the winner of cash awards, medals, certificates, books and trophies from voluntary organizations and trade unions for getting first class in all public examinations.

He has traveled to more than two dozen countries and wherever he went people wrote about him in newspapers and magazines. What attracts people to him is his positive attitude to life, and his amazing usage of other faculties to compensate of for the one disability that he has. He achieved every dream like others – he is well educated, married, has a daughter, and has a lot of friends.  He is a blind journalist, which is a rarity in India. And above all, he is a motivator and counselor for friends, students, and colleagues.

We worked together in an Institute, where we worked as IELTS instructors. He is lovingly called as Swami Sir by everyone and his classes were always crowded. We were assigned the task to prepare possible questions and answers for the speaking and writing module of IELTS exam, which was to be published as a book. I used to create the possible questions and Swami Sir gave the answers. No matter what question I created from topics under the Sun, he immediately churned out answers from his wealth of knowledge stored in his mind. Swami sir does not carry any gadgets. Whatever knowledge he shares is extempore. The book that he helped in essaying, ten years back, sells even today like hot cake.

He has extraordinary insight about human abilities and fallacies. So he could help many people solve their family issues. He recommended the CEO of our institute to assign me with the editing task of the IELTS book. Neither I nor the CEO was aware of my book editing abilities. I am indebted to Swami Sir for being the beacon in my writing and editing career.

Here is an interview with Swami Sir who has guided many, those who can see, for a better future in their career and family life.

What do you do nowadays?

I am an academic and freelance journalist. I teach English to students of IELTS, TOEFL, PET, GRE, GMAT, SAT and general English at Centre for American Studies, Vazhuthacaud Trivandrum. I sent articles to various publications such as Daily News and Analysis in Delhi. Moreover, I broadcast on some American radio stations.
British and Indian media organizations have accepted and published all my articles with no change of even one word. Interviewing the then British Education Secretary David Blunkett for my first-ever radio program is a remarkable achievement in my journalistic career. My listeners of BBS RADIO, which is an online radio station based in California like my talk shows very much.

Many girls who had been with me during school and college days were very fond of me.

Tell us something about your childhood and education?

I am the eldest of my parents’ four children. I have a brother and two sisters. All of us are now married and settled.
I began my schooling at the age of eight because my parents were unaware of the existence of special schools for the blind in India. I joined a newly opened blind school at Varkala on July 15, 1968. I was the smallest child. I have never looked back since then. Even now, most blind children study at separate residential schools until they are ready for high school in India. I did that. The blind school at Varkala had no government recognition at that time. So, my parents moved me to a government blind school at Kottayam and I did my primary school there.
I had my high school and early university education up to my BA degree respectively at T.D. High School and S.D. College at Alleppey, which is my hometown. I had my first Master’s degree at the Kerala University Campus at Karyavattam Trivandrum. The rest of my education was in London after working in Lakshadweep as a college lecturer for nearly nine years.

Tell us something about your wife and daughter?

My wife Sunitha is a qualified medical doctor. We have only one daughter and her name is Devi. She is now studying medicine in Russia. She is going to be a fourth-year student.

blind journalist
Swami Sir at his niecies wedding

Where did you meet your wife?

I met my wife at the Alleppey Bus Stand on May 10, 1988. She is a native of Quilon. At that time, she was studying medicine at Alleppey Medical College. We were introduced by some common friends. Gradually, our friendship grew to romance and we got married on September 30, 1991.

Which all countries have you been so far?

I began my overseas journeys with England where I went to do my higher studies at the prestigious London School of Economics and Political Science. I have been to 29 countries so far such as the UK, the US, Germany, France, Poland, Holland, Switzerland, the Middle-East, the West Indies, Russia etc.

Which country is the friendliest to people with different abilities?

Britain and the United States are very much friendly to people with special needs. Asia and Africa are far from friendly. In the Middle-East, they are not in the limelight of society.

Proclamation by ministers and officers are not scarce but many people with disability have a tough life in India.

What is the situation of differently abled people in India?

It is far from friendly in India. Proclamation by ministers and officers are not scarce but many people with disability have a tough life in India. With little or no assistance from the government and a society heedless of the plight of disabled people, their lot is cast in a world of darkness and solitude. They drag out their sterile existence in silent agony. For example, visually impaired people need scribes to appear for various public examinations including university examinations. Government remuneration for such scribes is very poor. People are unwilling to perform this role for such meager wages. Besides, there are several other restrictions such as the scribe should be a less qualified person than the examinee.

What all gadgets assist you in your activities?

In the past Braille was the only available tool for blind people. These days, computers and access technology have improved their lives significantly. I use computers and mobile phones. Android and Apple phones and similar devices are really good. I use them in my life. In the past, a very informed and knowledgeable blind individual could be at least a couple of years behind his/her sighted counterparts even in Britain and the United States. Now that online facilities are accessible thanks to modern technology, it is possible for us to work together comfortably.

I use my other faculties, i.e. my hands and ears. I am a keen observer of everything that happens around me.

Unlike other people with special needs you are a jolly person, you live your life to the fullest. You used to tell us about women in your life in schools, colleges, and family; can you share some of the stories here?

I do believe that men and women are complementary. To like gentlemen is what good women like. I have profound pleasure and pride in being a gentleman. For that reason, I have had several women in my life as friends, colleagues, advisers, well wishers,  and counselors. Many girls who had been with me during school and college days were very fond of me. I had similar feelings towards them as well. With some, the passion was inexplicably deep. However, as a person with a disability, I was unable to give them any promise until I was standing on my own feet. Some of them have not forgotten it.

People around you marvel at some of your extraordinary abilities, which even a normal human being does not possess – your roti and sabzi gets over together, for a normal person either the roti or the sabzi will be left in the end; you can touch and immediately say the model of the bike; and you know every denomination of currency, no one can fool you. What is the secret your success?

I use my other faculties, i.e. my hands and ears. I am a keen observer of everything that happens around me.

How are the new Indian currency notes different from the old ones?

They are less wide. They have some identifiable marks. However, Indian coins are more difficult than notes.

What message do you and your wife have people—able-bodied and disabled?

I would like society to become just and egalitarian. Equality before the law, the equal opportunity before the law and equal protection before the law are the cardinal principles of rule of law. These principles must be practiced everywhere so that the man in the street has room for liberty and justice.

Sajeev Sarathie: This Keralite is a well-known Hindi Lyricist, Poet and Writer

He speaks such scholarly Hindi, that you will never imagine that Sajeev Sarathie was born to Malayalee parents in Kerala. He grew up in Delhi from the age of four and he became more familiar with Hindi than Malayalam. Now he is a connoisseur of Hindi Language and Literature. He has carved a niche for himself as a Hindi Poet, Writer and Lyricist. He is a much-loved writer the Hindi media to write of Hindi songs, poems and screenplays. He is doing tremendous teamwork to promote unknown talents. He is also part of radioplaybackindia.com a leading Hindi blog in podcasting. He also worked with Late President Honourable DrAPJ Abdul Kalam. He also wrote songs for Honourable Prime Minister Narender Modi’s Beti Bachao, Beti Bachao movement.  After the release of his latest song Bekhud, I had a voice interview with Sajeev.

1.     Tell us something about the latest song Bekhud?
Bekhud is my latest single, it is a romantic song which has an Arabic feel to it, Composed by very talented Krishnaraj and beautifully rendered by International pop sensation Biswajit Nanda along with super singer Hema Sardesai who need no introduction at all, the voice behind songs like Awara Bhanvare, Badal pe paun hai and many more Bollywood hits. She worked with the likes of ARR, Salim Suleimaan, Anu Malik etc, she is indeed a living legend, and we are fortunate to have her voice for the duet…
Sajeev Sarathie hindi lyricist

2.     Tell us about your life as a songwriter?

I am writing lyrics for the last 10 years collaborating virtually with many national and international composers and singers. Since most of them are placed in different cities of the world, we connect through the internet and do a lot of online jamming to create music. I started with an online platform called “Hind Yugm”, and in 2008 released our very first and literally a zero budget album called “Pahla Sur”, which has 9 songs, all done through our online jamming process. It was an experimental album released in the World Book Fair and became the second largest sold product of the event. 6 songs in this album were written by me and the kind of response I got really pushed me to go further and to take new challenges in this field.  After that, I produced two more unique albums called “kaavyanaad” and “Suno Kahani”. In Kavyanaad, we gave an opportunity to new generation music composers to compose great work of legends of Hindi Literature like Nirala, Pant, Jaishankar Prasad, Mahadevi Verma and more. While in Suno Kahani we compiled 15 stories of the great Munshi Premchand in an album.
Another album of mine, “Beat of Indian Youth” which has 13 songs in 9 different Indian languages was released in 2013. This unique feature of this album has 13 songs in 9 different languages on one single theme saw it enter into The Limca Book of Records. Though I penned lyrics only for 3 songs, this album gave me the honour to share the lyrical space with our National icon and Ex-President Late Dr A P J Abdul Kalam Ji in the song “Hindustan”.
One of my song from Pehla Sur, “Baat yeh kya hai jo” was recreated and featured in the movie Dam999, which was released in the year 2011.
Apart from my 96 singles which have been released so far, I have also penned for various initiatives/ movements by our Govt or other institutions. For example, one of my song “Druzba” was featured in Indo-Russian Friendship festival in Moscow. In 2015, I wrote a song for the “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” movement started by our Honourable Prime Minister Shri Modi Ji. “Hindi Meri Awaaz Hai”, one of my poems is part of the 10th standard curriculum in Maharashtra.
An anthology of poems, “Ek Pal Ki Umr Le Kar” has been published by Heavenly Baby Books.
Apart from lyrics I have also written a lot of screenplays for various production houses. So, overall it has been a very satisfying journey so far.
Sajeev Sarathie hindi lyricist

 4.     You are from Kerala, then how did you get interested in Hindi poems and songs?

 Yes, I was born in Kerala and while I was 4 we shifted to Delhi. So, both the places are a part of my childhood. My schooling began in Hindi medium while at home we communicated in Malayalam. However since all my friends spoke Hindi, so probably that’s why Hindi became the dominating medium for me to express myself.

 5.     You are doing tremendous work online for promoting unknown singers and songwriters,  Tell us something about your online web radio radioplaybackindia.com?

 Well, radioplaybackindia is doing very well and is a leading Hindi blog in podcasting. We promote original songs, involving amateur artists. We have a weekly programme called “Bolti Kahaniya” through which we podcast Hindi stories and is a huge hit among our audience. The blog is rich in information on Indian Classical music, Film and Non-Film music.
I host a programme called, “Ek Mulakat Zaruri Hai” which recently completed 50 episodes, featuring several famous Bollywood artists like Shubha Mudgal, Amit Khanna, Ritu Pathak, Shriram Ayyar, Ibrahim Ashq and many more.
There is another programme I host, “Geet Ateet” which takes the audience into an unknown or lesser known story behind the song; using some artist associated with that song.
Programmes like “Old is Gold”, “Mehfil-e-Ghazal”, “”Podcast Kavi Sammelan” etc are big hits of our channel.
I am one of the 6 founding members of the channel and though I have been given the honour of being Chief Editor; but to tell the truth I have not been able to devote much time to radioplaybackindia.
Sajeev Sarathie hindi lyricist

 6.     Your songs are different from the Bollywood film music or mainstream albums. Your songs have the nostalgia of the yesteryears. Do you have a huge fan following for your kind of songs and music?

 Of course, there is a huge audience for my kind of lyrics. Actually, I got a little surprised by your query on following for different style of lyrics and music. As a matter of fact, I am open to all form of music. Old, new, Indie, western…for me music is music and it’s my way to connect with the God almighty.

 7.     You were affected by polio from the age of one, Has the disability been a hindrance or an inspiration for your successful career in Hindi literature?

 We all have weakness and shortcomings, as no one is perfect in this world. Life. I would say that God has been kind that my disability is only at a physical level and I am very well aware of that; otherwise many people don’t even get to know what their weakness is and therefore find it difficult to move ahead in life.
As a matter of fact, now I don’t even consciously think of it until someone points it out. I think, when people talk about my progress despite my physical disability, I feel God is presenting me as an example for many others who have no physical disability; that they can achieve so much more in life if they only follow their passion with dedication.

 8.     Tell us something about your family and those who are behind your success?

 My parents always supported me. I have an understanding wife and two beautiful and gifted children, and all of them have contributed immensely in more than one way in all that I have achieved so far.
Apart from my family, I got strong support from my friends. I am really blessed to have such nice friends. And above all, its God, my best friend; who is always holding my hand.

 9.     Please recite one of your poem for us?

 Sure….this poem is titled “punar-janm” which means ‘Rebirth’
sangsaari kii had se pare,
Duniya kii jadd se door,
wo jiddi paak bedaag sa khwaab,
Dekha tha use jaate,
shaam ke dhundhalke men,
Doobte sooraj ke paar,
jahan samunder toot ke girta hai,
Kisi Anjaan si khala men…
Fir se lautne ko kabhi,
Kinhin a-janmi aankhon men….

10.            Have your written in English or any other language?

 No, I think I am not that versatile. So, for me, one language is sufficient for this life.

Around the world in a wheelchair -Nadia Clarke

You might know children with cerebral palsy, who is the child of your friend, relative or a neighbour, who is bed ridden and you sympathise with the family which is taking care of the child. Nadia could have ended up simply lying in a corner of her house had it not been for the determination of her parent and the will power of Nadia herself. Her parents ensured that she studied in a regular school with her 9 siblings, for which they had to change locations.

Nadia Clarke has cerebral palsy and she is deaf from her birth. At the age of 5, she got a wheelchair and a communication aid implanted on that. Her communication aid is her voice which she uses to communicate. Using the communicative aid is not easy.  When she is talking to someone, her support staff communicates to her using signs. Then she makes sentence using the communication aid. Her communication aid consist of hundreds of words. It takes couple of minutes for Nadia to form a simple sentence.

The process of communicating with the aid is lot of hard work for Naida and her support staff, and sometimes a bit boring for the listeners because of the  long gap in between the communication. But that doesn’t stop Nadia from communicating and globe trotting.

The Guardian Newspaper describes Nadia’s mother as someone with turbo energy which she has passed on to her children. Her parent were determined that she studied in a normal school, hence they had to shift to different localities to send Nadia to schools that accepted her along with her brothers and sisters.

Nadia completed high school and level 2 in health and social care. Here next aim is to attend the university.

Nadia has got indomitable spirit and she is supported by an organisation 1 voice. She has travelled  around the world to Europe, US, Asia, Australia, etc.  She blogs about all her experiences in her blog.  One of her dream destination was India, and so now she was in India and she is quiet excited to visit Taj Mahal.

When she came to India she visited Anchal-Centre for differently abled children. She interacted with the children and their parents using her communication aid and her interpreters Samantha Jayne Green and Tanya Louise Perry. Sibi, a student of Anchal refused at first to dance because she thought her costume was too long and she might fall. But the teachers and parents convinced her to dance. Before leaving Aanchal Nadia called Sibi and congratulated her for being so brave to overcome the obstacle.

Nadia is all smiles always from her childhood picture upto now. She goes around the world and encourages children like her to move ahead in life and to explore opportunities. She says her biggest  gift in life was the communication aid. She says for deaf and dumb people the aid protects them from abusers, because they can always communicate.

When asked about the secret of her evergreen smile she said that her mother told her to wake up with a smile and to remain positve always.

In conversation with Grady Long

Grady Long’s video had gone viral where he sings ‘Aayiram Kannumai‘ at the ‘Kairali Gandharva Sandhya‘ in Kerala. He sang in the presence of eminent singers K J YeshuDas and Usha Uthup and there were a couple of other stalwart musicians present including the composer of the song, Jerry Amaldev.

Grady says he was surprised by the rousing applause from the audience. His plan was just to sing and leave the stage. But he became an overnight celebrity in Kerala, and in the last one year the video of the song has been shared and viewed tremendously  on the social media.

 

 

 

Before singing the song, Grady tell the audience that he was introduced to malayalam movies by his malayali wife…..

I got an opportunity to have a video conference with Grady, his wife Suja and Children.

Speaking different languages is a talent, and Suja got the talent to speak different languages fluently. She uses English, Spanish and Malayalam in her daily conversation. Though Suja left Kerala for the US at the age of 4, she put in lots of effort so as not to forget her mother tongue.

After her marriage with Grady Long, 15 years ago, they both used to watch a lot of malayalam movies, whereby Grady learnt malayalam movie songs that included Aayiram Kannumai.

When malayli kids born and brought up abroad or outside Kerala, say that malayalam is difficult to master, an American son-in-law of Kerala sang the evergreen song with relative ease. He also gave beautiful musical twist to the song which surprised Jerry Amaldev and K. J. Yeshudas, and they appreciated him.

Suja Long is now on the mission to train their three kids to speak in malayalam. She even posted her first video of teaching her children basic malayalam. Her video has got good review from the media. She plans to make more videos in the coming days.

 

 

Before his tryst with malayalam music, Gary was already a well accomplished singer in the US, singing with many bands. He sings in various Genre and different languages like Spanish, German and Latin. He was also popular for singing Bollywood songs. Gary has also sung Tamil songs.

He will be singing more songs in India very soon, for which he will travel to India with family. He will keep us updated on the developments. And in the meantime Suja is teaching children malayalam so that they can communicate well in Kerala. Both Grady and Suja agree that to learn any language you need to speak the language, and you will make mistakes which is part of the learning process.

We wish Grady and Suja Long all the very best for their upcoming projects.

Meet Poonam Bevli Sahi a Painter and a Business Woman

She successfully manages two careers, as a Graphic Designer and a Painter with elan. Poonam Bevli Sahi has been running her designing studio, FACET, for the last few decades. She got many prestigious customers, Help Age India being the first, who design their dossiers and other communication material at her office. Many well known companies have got their designing works done with her for decades, as they trust her reliable and quality services.

When you go to her office-room there will always be an unfinished canvas which is being painted. And the canvas is the indication of her other profession as a Painter. She has been Painting, and wining prizes, since her childhood. Asked how she finds time for painting, in the midst of the already busy and time-bound designing career, she says steals time.

Poonam Bevli Sahi, I know her since I used to get the designing work done at her designing cum home, for the magazine that I worked with. There is an artistic feel in her home, beautiful wall hangings, artistically shaped furniture and everything placed in such a manner so as to accentuate the beauty of the surrounding. And the most attractive was the floating flower arrangement in a copper vessel.

Poonam Bevli Sahi has conducted a number of exhibitions both in India and Abroad. Many of her paintings are brought by private painting collectors around the world.

From March 2nd to 8th, she has been exhibiting her paintings at IIC, Delhi with the theme of the painting being ‘Life is a Circus’. She narrates the various  challenges in life which is similar to the tasks carried out by Circus artists. Circus is an unexplored theme in painting.

Poonam Bevli Sahi inherited her passion and painting talents from her mother who herself was an amateur Painter. Her mother was married young, and before starting her career at NCERT, she used to do a lot of canvasses.  And she used to visit, with her mother and sister, many painting exhibitions and interact with artist. The exposure to the world of paintings, she says constantly fuelled her passion for painting.

When asked whether painting, was a hobby, which she pursued during her free time, she reiterated that painting was her profession. Leading a disciplined life with proper diet, yoga and meditation helps to manage all the activities.

When asked about how she portrayed women in her paintings, she said that for her men and women are  equal.

In today’s world when women try to balance their family and career, like a trapeze artist, Poonam Bevli Sahi is an inspiration for women. With proper delegation, passion and hard work you can be successful in two parallel professions.

When asked what message she would like to give to the young women entrepreneurs, she said there is nothing impossible for women. Be consistent in your pursuit and you will achieve your dreams.

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Sophia Banks who styled Priyanka’s most googled 2016 Oscar Outfit

Priyanka Chopra’s Oscar outfit, styled by Sophia Banks, was the most Googled Oscar Dress of 2016. Choosing the right kind of dress and accessories takes months of preparation and hard work. Sophia Banks has worked with Celebrities like Amber Heard, Sharon Stone and John Travolta. Here is an interview with Sophia Banks, where she talks about her work with Priyanka Chopra; her professional life and her future projects:

Tell us something about yourself?

I moved to the USA, Launching a fashion boutique was the next step for me, it was called ‘Satine’ and quickly became award-winning Hollywood hotspot. Satine was written up in all the fashion magazines, shopped by celebrities  and because of its fashion forwardness, step me up as a ‘Trend Forecaster’ from which started my career as a fashion consultant. I began to consult to top fashion lines and design for them. One of my favourite projects was for fashion house Rodo where I was flown to Italy to design shows.

As well as styling I have been recently working as a director on fashion Commercials.

Which all celebrities have you worked with?

Of course Priyanka Chopra.

Amber Heard, Sharon Stone, John Travolta, Leighton Meister, Shay Mitchell, Erika Christensen and many more..

Sophia Banks the stylist of Priyanka Chopra
Checking out an Outfit with Priyanka Chopra
As a celebrity stylist, what are your responsibilities?

When I first start working with someone I create a style guide for them which we follow for them as a guide. I also create a trend book for them for the season.

Then I help shop and buy their entire wardrobe. I also search the world for the best dress for ever red carpet event so they make it in press all over the world.

For a lot of my clients, I do all the costume for films, TV and commercials as well.

It is my job to set a goal with them such as be a style icon or get most googled fashion dress of the year and then reach that goal.

How did you choose the famous Oscar dress of Priyanka Chopra that was the most googled outfit of 2016?

It was so amazing working with her, she is such a wonderful, kind, beautiful person who works so incredibly hard. We always had such fun choosing dresses.

For the Oscar look as it was a big deal we were very involved in the selection of the dress. We of course requested many gowns and flew to Montreal where Priyanka was filming to do a fitting with about 40 gowns in tow.

We then did the fitting and the white was a top option along with many others but it needs alterations.

What is your opinion about Priyanka Chopra?

I think she is an amazing, beautiful and incredible woman. She is also such a hard worker, she is always flying somewhere to shoot something between the USA and India. Her success is an example of what happens when you give everything it takes towards your goal.

I also love her attitude to life, she is super fun loving and easy going. We always had fun together.

Sophia Banks who Styled Priyanka Chopra
Sophia Banks in a television interview
Have you been to Priyanka Chopra’s home Country, India?

Yes I have, I am originally Australian, and so I have travelled to India and all over. It is one of my favourite countries, I love it there. It is a spiritual place for me, there is something special once you land.

Do you have future plans to work with in Bollywood or with Bollywood Celebrities?

Yes I am in talks with new clients right now and am excited to work with some amazing Bollywood talent. I am also working on my first script and am possibly looking at filming in India, so I think I have a lot of future there.

Remembering J Jayalalithaa

I got an opportunity to stay in Coimbatore when Jayalalithaa was Chief Minister of Tamil Nandu, and I got the chance to experience some of the benefits of her projects. Her administration and welfare reached the deserving.  You could feel the Amma touch, if she was behind the project.

During our first year in Coimbatore, we were staying in a rented house.  Some relatives, who were settled in Coimbatorefor decades, came to our home.  It was for the first time in their life that they venture to that part of Coimbatre. The old Coimbatorians,  could not believe that this part of Coimbatore, which was known for its notoriety and anti-social activity, has transformed into a well planned society with professionally and economically well off people settling there in beautiful mansions. Then they recollected that during her previous reign, J. Jayalalithaa had initiated a plan to ridden the area of the anti-social elements. And this beautiful well-planned settlement was the result of her efforts.

The other instance was when a friend bought a house in Coimbatore. Since her husband was busy with his job, she decided to carry on with some of the registration work. She called me for help. But we both were unsure as to how to go to the Government Offices and deal with the red tapism. Then someone said that all we have to do was to submit the papers at the Housing Board Office, go home, and watch the proceedings on the internet. It was a pleasure to monitor, on the computer, the movement of the papers from one department to the next. A colour bar showed the movement of the documents – the colours moving from red, to yellow, to blue and so one. After a week finally the green light glowed which indicated that the registration process was finally done. What a pleasure it was, in those initial days of internet, to comfortably get the registration done without frequenting the government office, and without paying any bribe. Government officials were scared of Amma to ask openly for bribe, that is what the residents of Coimbatore used to say.

And then J. Jayalalithaa made it mandatory that every building should install Rain Water Harvesting System. Building societies called meetings to collect funds for the Construction of Rainwater Harvesting Units. People protested and criticised the Chief Minister. Some said that the she was helping her relative sell pipes and water tanks. But the end result of rainwater harvesting is there for everyone to experience. According to experts the ground water level of the places were Rain Water Harvesting took place has gone up.

I stayed in Coimbatore only for few years, but many a times I use the above examples whenever I talk about development or administration. Inadvertently she left an indelible mark in the hearts and minds whoever went to her area of jurisdiction.

jayalalitha

Food Stories of Saint Teresa of Calcutta

Yesterday during Mother Teresa’s canonisation there were two trending topics – ‘SaintTeresa’ and ‘FraudTeresa’. Many considered here a Saint, other’s viewed her sainthood with doubt “how can this be”.

Two thousand years back a 12 year old girl asked the same question to an angel that appeared to her and told her that she will bear a son. She said to the angel, “How can this be, when I haven’t known a man”. From that moment, Mary the mother of Jesus underwent many pains and sufferings. Now she is the most revered, after Jesus Christ, and the foremost among the Saints of Jesus.

Man is fallible, and so there will always be doubts about how human beings with all their inherent faults can be declared saints. A saint is one who is in heaven with God because of their holiness and virtue.

We only have third party knowledge of saints, mostly through verbal stories passed on from generation to generation, because holy people are declared as saints years after the death of their contemporaries.  I couldn’t meet Mother Teresa, so all the  that I know about mother is third party information –  through books; and the experience of others. Stories about her inspired me all through out my  life. Many prominent people have shared their rendezvous with mother, which changed their life forever; and listening to their experience changed my perception of life.

Saint Teresa took care of the sick people, infected and dying on the street in a way which is unimaginable to replicate for an ordinary human. There was a story, in a newspaper, of a woman who was a strong anti-campaigner for Mother Teresa, but when she saw the missionaries of charity helping a sick man lying on the street, she changed her opinion. Because, the Sisters were doing a service which she couldn’t imagine herself doing.

Mother Teresa inspired people to share food, and to give the left over food to the needy. Giving away food is the simplest act of charity which any human can do. The inspiring food stories , share in this post, resonates Saint Teresa’s famous quote; “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” Here are some of St. Teresa’s food stories that inspired many to do charity:

The story of the broken biscuits

In Khushwant Singh’s book ‘Unforgettable Women’, he says that once he went with Mother Teresa to a biscuit factory where the Manager was ready with excuses like there was a Union Strike, they were already doing charity, and so on.  She thanked the Manager for all the broken biscuits they had given in the previous years and continued **”You must have lots of problems. Everything is in short supply— flour, butter, sugar.’ It was evident that Mr Mukherjee’s speech had been taken out of his mouth………….** When Mother continued with stories of the hungry destitute, Mukherjee finally delivered forty large boxes of broken biscuits to Mother Teresa.

Picking up waste food at parties

Usha Uthup the popular singer, has 47 years of association with Mother. She says mother had tremendous influence on her and St. Teresa never talked about religion though she was from a different religion. Once Mother told Uthup that when she goes to parties, she should pick up the left over food and give to the needy. Though her assignment was embarrassing Usha Uthup did her job dutifully.

Charity in the air

Jiji Thomson, former Chief Secretary of Kerala, said that once when he boarded a flight there was an announcement that Mother was also on board. Everyone clapped their hands. When the food was being served there was another announcement that if there is any leftover food, the passengers were requested to hand it over to Mother. Every single passenger gave their food packet to Mother.

The flight story shows the universal impact of Mother. Imagine who all might have been on board- atheists, youths enjoying life, Kids waiting for the tasty  meal, etc. All of them forsook their meal to be part of a great service to humanity.

**Excerpts from ‘Unforgettable Women’ by Khushwant Singh

HE WAS RESCUED AND IDENTIFIED; 3 YEARS AFTER LYING UNKNOWN ON STREETS

Had it not been for the timely intervention of Fr. Biju P Thomas, Suresh would have been lying unknown on streets and cremated as an unidentified person. 

Suresh was lying under a fly over in Punjabi Bagh, for the last three years, and last week, on 7th July, Thursday, a malayali boy came to know that Suresh hails from Kerala and so gave a call to Fr Biju, the Vicar of St. Gregorios Church, Janakpuri.  Father took swift action and he took Suresh to a shelter home, Santhibhavan at Jasola, where he was cleaned and given good food.

Suresh said three years back he was hit by a vehicle, and he lay on the roadside unable to move, he ate biscuits and water provided by good samaritans. A rickshaw puller had left him in the present place.

Suresh lost his memory, so could not remember much about himself. He recollected that he has a brother called Sunil and that he came to Delhi at a very young age, accompanying his uncle, in search of a job.

After being cleaned and fed at the shelter home, Suresh slowly regained his memory and then he got nostalgic wanting to return to his village and meet his family. When his care takers asked him why he hadn’t shared his feelings with anyone in these three year, he said he had told some people.

Soon the news was shared by the media which led to more help coming from DMA (Delhi Malayalee Association). Minister Kodikunnil Suresh, visited him at the Shelter Home. Suresh’s mother recognised him from a picture in the Newspaper. She said that her son after leaving for Delhi, with his paternal uncle, 22 years back, at the age of 14,  never returned.

Suresh’s brother and a ward member, of his native village, left for Delhi and were to reach on Monday morning. Fate had something else in store for Suresh. He vomited blood on Sunday and his health took for the worse. Most of his internal organs were dysfunctional. He was admitted to the Holy Family Hospital and put on the ventilator and he died at 4:00 A.M. on Monday.

His body which was handed over to the DMS, was embalmed and kept at AIIMS. Many organisations and individuals came forward to help Suresh. His Body has been flown today to his home and finally will be buried beside in father, in his ancestral home in Kollam.

22 years is a very long time, fortunately for Suresh he did not forget his mother tongue that helped in his rescue. Suresh has been identified as Suresh Pillai from Thevalakara, son of Saraswathi Amma and Surendran Pillai. He got a brother Sunil and a sister Sujatha.

There are hundreds and thousands of such Suresh’s  on the street whom we presume to be drunkards or homeless. A small enquiry may change the life of the person forever.

Thanks to the effort of the Good Samaritans, Suresh could spend his last few days in a peaceful abode and establish communication with his family.

A monk who never saw a woman

A Greek monk, Mihailo Tolotos,  who lived upto the age of 82 and died in 1938, never met a women in his life. He is probably the only Monk who never met a woman, though he was not blind. Few days after Mihalio’s berth, his mother died and he was whisked off to the Monastery in Mount Athos – which is completely isolated from females. The tradition of the Monastery goes back to the beginning of the retreat nearly nine centuries that even female animals are restricted from entering the monastery premise.

The Monks’ Republic in Greece is not ruled by the Greek Government but by members of 20 Greek monastries that are founded on on Mount Athos. The peninsula, which rises 6,000 feet above the rocky promontory, probably is the only place on earth where the female of any species, including homo sapiens, are prohibited.

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