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Vol. XXX No. 13, November 1-15, 2020

Our Readers Write

Hilarious tales of a cycle-rickshaw protagonist

In many families there will always be a person known for his funny accounts. From the paternal side of our family, there was one Krishna Iyer or ‘Mappillai Krishnan’ as he was fondly known, being one of the two sons-in-law. He cut a rather imposing figure, with his fat and large frame, but his voice was unsettlingly feeble and thin. He was fiscally supportive to the bus transport department as he would often travel around Madras city in PTC buses (now MTC) by purchasing holiday tickets.

Krishna Iyer was most famous for his unbounded love of a cycle rickshaw, light green in colour. His affection for the vehicle was nothing short of divine – he absolutely adored it. His bonding towards it was so deep to the extent that both were inseparable by any means. Such was his penchant for the vehicle that he was ferried in it for decades. If lord Ganesha walked around his parents Shiva and Parvathi three times to win the wisdom fruit, justifying they are the whole universe, our Krishna Iyer would go around Madras royally in that rickshaw in celebration of it. Perhaps, he would have been the only person under the sky who must have celebrated ‘rickshaw bandhan’ every year.

For Krishna Iyer, the unmistakable cycle-rickshaw was his chariot. His sitting posture on the uncovered pedicab would remind everyone of a monarch sitting on his throne. Be it for attending a marriage or to condole a death, he would promptly travel in it with his trademark attire of veshti and light blue half-sleeve shirt, and with the protruding hand-kerchief tucked under the collar.

Once during Krishna Iyer’s visit to our family, my aunt also was present in the house. Seeing his broad frame, with his belly resembling a flyover, she whispered from a distance, asking him, “Have you left your trunk at home by oversight?” Her subdued comment evoked instant laughter around.

My cousin and I would always rag Krishna Iyer for humour when we met on occasions. We once decided to compare him with the late justice V.R. Krishna Iyer. Though we knew that such a comparison would be inane and fatuous, we still did so for the sake of humour by drawing comparisons:

a) If V.R. Krishna Iyer was concerned about the poor being taken for a ride, our Krishna Iyer let the poor (rickshaw puller) take him for a ride.

b) While VRK Iyer was the vehicle of law, as a law rickshaw was the vehicle for our KI.

c) For VRK Iyer court was his daily way of life. For our KI cart was his daily way of life.

d) Though both used to wear dhoti mostly, VRK Iyer’s never went up, while our KI’s never came down.

e) Last but not the least, the first was ‘justice’ Krishna Iyer, and the second was ‘just’ Krishna Iyer.

With his passing away some years ago, the humble cycle-rickshaws also slowly faded into oblivion. But through his munificent patronage, Krishna Iyer left a strong imprint of his own for the vintage vehicle.

Ranganathan Sivakumar
‘Kedhar’ Flats, Ground Floor
New No.14, Jothi Ramalingam Street
Madipakkam, Chennai 600 091

Awarding posthumously

This refers to ‘Awarding posthumously’ in the Short ‘N’ Snappy column (MM, Oct 16th). Awards/rewards are given in recognition of exceptional service, performance of the highest order in any field of human endeavour without distinction of race, occupation, position or sex. These often act as a motivating factor. Hence the award is indubitably an honour showered upon a person in recognition of his service and whoever receives such awards equally feels elated.

But the awards/rewards must be given during one’s life time so as to make the award really prestigious and the awardee equally proud. There is no point in awarding even the most deserving ones when they are not around either to appreciate or feel honoured. One’s talent/ service to the society/Nation must be recognised when he is alive and not after his departure from this world. Conferring awards posthumously on someone amounts to honouring him out of sympathy. At a time when politics, more than anything else, play a vital role in the very selection of people for the awards, why wound the feelings of those who are dead by way of conferring the awards posthumously?

V.S. Jayaraman
31, Motilal Street
Chennai 600 017

Savitri Vaithi attains ‘Vishranti’

The old-age home she founded was called Vishranti (relaxation) but for Savitri Vaithi who passed away recently at the age of 91, life was one busy round of activity, all in the social cause. We publish a tribute, penned by Kamala Rangachari, Managing Trustee of the Vishranti Charitable Trust – The Editor

When I reminisce, it seems like it all happened just yesterday, when in fact, it has been 50 glorious years. It is true that time stops for nothing and none, not even for the wonder woman called Savitri. Over this half century, Savitri penetrated the hearts of so many women, unveiling to them the truth of social service, in turn inspiring them to spread the truth of social service to the world.

Her capacity to take the right decisions spontaneously is only one of many examples of her remarkable leadership. She was the very epitome of simplicity, compassion and poise, beautifully complemented by a throbbing enthusiasm, transparency in words and actions, and modesty. Savitri, who inspired so many ordinary women into believing that nothing is impossible, motivating them to form an organisation (NGO) called the Monday Charity Club, rendering great social services by implementing successful projects over a period of 50 years, is no more with us.

They say that the poet may die, but not the poetry. Words fail me in expressing her accomplishments. Innumerable needy students and old people benefited through the trust she founded, which extended helping hands and financial support to children for education under the scheme Puttaga Vangi (Book Bank), Vidya Daan, besides providing support and health to the elderly under the scheme Undru Kol. The trust also provided financial support for innumerable marriages besides relieving suffering by providing medical support for the sick and deserving.

The culmination of all her social services was the founding of Vishranti, an old age home – the first such in our city. It all started with a small subscription of Rs.3, fifty years ago which has now grown into the strong and stable tree named Vishranti. It was inspired by Ms. Mary Clubwala Jadhav who promoted the cause of welfare for the elderly. With humble beginnings way back in 1978, with the blessings of Maha Periva Sri Chandrasekarendra Saraswati Swamigal, and inaugurated by Justice S. Mohan, with only one old woman inmate, Vishranti has now has grown into a big banyan tree sheltering hundreds of old people.

The land for Vishranti was acquired by the tireless efforts of the trust members, and with the support of AVM Trust and Helpage India. It started off as a small project where money was collected through 42 school children in a small way. The building for the trust was constructed by the tireless efforts of G.K. Shetty, a renowned builder. The trust received help from unexpected quarters as it grew, and needless to say, all this was possible only due to the able leadership of Savitri and the timely support of innumerable good-hearted people. We also recall with great respect the periodical and timely advice we received from geriatricians whenever we approached them.

Vishranti enables the elderly to lead a dignified life with proper care and support, free of cost. This is truly a home away from home. Older women who were abandoned by their families and society were brought to Vishranti and given the assurance of food, clothing and shelter until their last breath. They were also offered a life of dignity by making them feel included with others in society. They were given opportunities to participate in spiritual discourses, dramas and other engagements, in addition to being given quality medical support. Srimati Savitri embraced these people, who were neglected by society, and gave them the invaluable gifts of security and happiness by celebrating all the major functions like Dipavali on the Vishranti premises, making them feel like they’ve been reborn into this special home.

It is only fair to mention here the selfless service rendered by nurses and caretakers in the home who have been tirelessly but cheerfully nursing the elderly as per the doctors’ advice, besides supporting them at the time of admission to hospitals for treatment. We are proud to mention here that at Vishranti, we have been successful in making these elderly women understand the nobility in donating their eyes when they pass away. With their permission, we have managed to make this donation successful in many cases. Vishranti has collaborated with educational and medical institutions, arranging for integrated services like training for nurses, awareness programs for children, etc. Vishranti is represented by its selfless members who engage themselves wholeheartedly in the service of society.

Last but not the least, when an inmate passes away, we inform the relatives so that they can perform the final rituals if they wish to. If there was nobody to attend to the departed soul, Savitri stepped in herself and performed the last rites many a time.

Savitri was the reason behind a lot of elderly people leading a healthy life, forgetting all their sorrows in the final years of their life. She was ever cheerful in the service of god, who she served tirelessly day and night, thus creating a temple in the form of an old age home. Alas, this great soul has now departed. It is not often that great souls like Savitri are born. Coming from a respectable family, she was self-motivated towards service right from her early years. She lived a selfless life, dedicating herself only for the cause of the welfare of the downtrodden and needy, the old and abandoned. We salute her and feel duty bound to follow her footsteps and continue the noble work she left for us through Vishranti.

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