I envy the writers of fictional stories, they do not have any limitations, they do not have to worry about doing justice to a character they build. If they build a compelling character their job is done, if not then there is no one to complain, it's just a weak, underdeveloped character. It is a much bigger responsibility to sketch someone who exists in flesh and blood. You have to do justice to them. You can't add or remove any aspect of their existence just to make the story appealing. You have to portray them as and how they are, without adding any spice. The readers will see them through your eyes.
I am no writer. I definitely lack the gift of gab. But I too have a story to tell. I want to introduce you to Shalet. Shalet lives in kerala, otherwise known as the honeymoon destination of India or sometimes referred as God's own country. National Geographic's traveler magazine names Kerala as one of the "10 paradises on the world". If it's a place where God resides then he should be the one taking care of his people, he should make sure no one suffers atleast in his own country. But it is people like Shalet who are making God almighty's job easier by serving humanity.
Shalet was born on 14th August 1971 in a fisherman family. Her parents though uneducated knew the importance of education and gave her the best of it. She did her Bsc in Zoology and Computer science from Stella Maris College Chennai. She got a teacher's job in a school in Chennai. She was happy with what she had. She used to visit her family during weekends. During one of the visits her father passed away. She on one side had an ailing mother who recently was diagnosed with Cancer and had to undergo dialysis twice a week on the other hand there was a well paid job and a well settled life. No brownie points for guessing she chose to come back. So is that it, leaving your job to take care of your parents qualifies you as a champion of humanity.
I think, we as a society have lowered the standards. In a world where people do not consider their parents as a responsibility and leave them on their own, someone who quits a job to take care of a sick mother does look like the epitome of humanity. Shalet's contribution goes beyond this.
Her mother could not survive cancer and passed away in sleep one night. Shalet got married and settled down in Kerala with her husband and his son from previous marriage. Her husband is in real estate business. She chose an occupation she was familiar with, selling fishes. She buys fish from the fishermen sailing by her house (which is just next to the sea) and sells the fishes to small retailers. She has taken group loan from Ujjivan for her business and has been prompt on all her repayments. She does not keep the profit which comes out of the business. She invests it in serving humanity. We get across many customers who are grateful to us for helping them build a better life but these are rare movements when we are grateful to our customers for choosing us as a partner in their mission to bring a change.
She is a volunteer in the destitute ward of Ernakulam district hospital. She takes care of the destitute patients, cleans them, dresses them, feeds them and loves them. These are the people who are left by their kins helpless and hapless at the mercy of death.
The first image the 'word destitute' ward would bring to our mind is a place where beggars or ultra poor people would be brought to live the last days of their lives. It is surprising that most of the inmates here are people who have lived a humble life bringing up their children, giving them the best of all they can afford and when it is the childrens' turn to repay, they turn defaulter. Shalet shared with us "80% of the patients are old and have no one to take care. Hence even after being discharged, many of them want to stay back. Mostly, we try to find an old age home but most of these homes are already overcrowded therefore, it often takes us months to find them a place to stay. All this while, they remain at the destitute ward. I think this is a price a state boasting one of the highest percentage of immigrant population cannot avoid paying.
Shalet recounted instances where patients are brought in such conditions that even doctors and nurses do not want to touch them before they are cleaned. Shalet and other volunteers make sure that the inmates get a dignified stay there. The hospital administration provides for food and medicines of the patients. But they need someone to give them human care. Someone who can laugh and cry with them. Shalet talks to them, gives them a patient ear. There are times when some of the patients get agitated and hurl abuses but she says the anger is not on her but it is just a pent up frustration. It is good if they vent it out.
Shalet with her husband and son celebrates all festivals with the inmates. She also visits a nearby orphanage regularly and donates books, clothes and the daily utilities. I asked her to show me some photographs of her with the patients and children. She said she does not have any. I must tell you I am an ardent supporter of the 'Selfie' revolution. It is beyond my reasoning why would someone let go so many amazing opportunities to capture. I think that's what makes her special, she believes in doing good and casting it in the river. Though she was shy about it, I managed to click few photographs of hers when I visited the hospital with her on the next day. Shalet will continue contributing to the society. In a time when corporate social responsibility is a buzz phrase, Shalet and people like her give meaning to the concept 'Individual social responsibility'.