Sunday mornings mean rest and relaxation to most people. But, Shiva makes it a point to wake up earlier on Sunday mornings, go to the orphanage in the morning and help the elderly in the evening at the old age home. He would want to spend other days, too, at these places. However, he had to work at least sixteen hours to make his ends meet.
Naresh, his best friend and colleague, often accompanied him to these Sunday trips. On one Sunday, he asked him, “Why do you have to go every Sunday? Why don’t you take rest at least one Sunday?”
Shiva said, “I get relaxation and peace when I look into the faces of the smiling kids and the happy elderly. They do not get visitors most of the days. Whenever I visited, you can see the excitement on their faces. It makes me so happy.”
Naresh inquisitively asked him, “When did it all start? Is it a family ritual? Do your parents also go every Sunday?”
Shiva replied, “My parents do not go so regularly. But, my father would make it a point to donate some amount every month to different organizations like orphanages and old age homes. He sponsors their lunches during festivals. I learnt the importance of helping these people from my father. But, there is someone else who really made me feel for these people. It was Keerthana.”
Naresh asked, “I have not heard about her from you before. Is she your love? Where is she? How did she get you into this?”
Shiva paused for a moment before replying. Naresh could feel that Shiva felt sad. Shiva replied, “She was, indeed, my love. She died a couple of years ago to cancer. She is the one person who changed everything about my life. I can never forget her. I have been living her life ever since she died of cancer. The donation I give, the orphanages I visit, and the old age home were all started by her. When I say that she started them, I do not mean that she was rich enough to establish so many places. She was extremely hard working. She spent her entire life trying to get donations for these institutes and established them. She never pocketed any money. She was happy with the little money that she earned being a freelance singer.”
Naresh felt bad for having asked and said, “I’m sorry. I did not know about that. If you do not want to talk about her, it is alright. I mean, if it makes you sad, we can talk about anything else.”
Shiva smiled and said, “I feel glad I can share her story with anyone. I never feel bad talking about her. I can never stop thinking about her. She has always been a part of my thought process. She has been my inspiration. She was a very interesting person.”
Shiva recollected their story and told it to Naresh.
When I first came to Hyderabad, it took some time for me to get a job. We all know that there are many marketing jobs. But, to settle in a good marketing job requires a lot of homework and preparation for the interviews. After nearly six months of struggle, I landed in the current job as a junior marketing executive. Exactly one month after I got the job, I met her. I used to stay with a group of friends. She came to our house one day asking for donations. I was not at all interested in the donation part. I was so smitten by her, I chose to stay in touch with her. So, I donated some amount. We exchanged numbers and I learnt more about her schedule and her life.
She told me, “It is difficult to be a single girl in this world. And, if people know that you don’t have parents and that you are an orphan, they try to take advantage of you and exploit you in all possible ways. The childhood of an orphan girl is strife with too many risks. A girl cannot be assured of education. That is not the main problem. I have seen some girls from my orphanage become servants in different households. Some of the more beautiful ones have become victims of trafficking. And, then, there are men everywhere who consider you to be easily accessible and try to take advantage. I have my share of depressing incidents. I was promised a job by a senior person. I came to know later that he had some other ideas in his mind. Fortunately, I learnt some martial arts earlier in my childhood. They came to my rescue. But, not always could they be of any help. If I have to describe my childhood in one single phrase, I’d called it a testing nightmare. When I look at the young girls in orphanages, I cannot pity them. They are very naive and have no clue about the life in store for them. They are smiling and playing like all other kids. They do not know about the dangers that lurk at every other corner in life. I want to establish organizations that make lives of such girls easier. Again, I’m not a feminist. I want to take care of boys also. I do not even want to get started on the life of any kid who has no parents to take care, pamper, and help in growing up.”
Those words really changed my life. I understood the significance of her efforts and decided to help her in all possible ways.
She could successfully get funding for a couple of organizations in the city and establish them according to her dream. However, she came to know that she had cancer. So, she asked me to help in taking care of these places after her. She has inspired many people in our country. You should have seen the hospital when she passed away. People from different places came to see her. There was so much gloom and many of them felt hopeless after her death. So, I realized I could never match her efforts. But, I wanted to try my best to do my bit.
These institutes are adequately funded and well managed. But, there needs to be someone who can visit these places more often. In fact, she was planning for an advertising campaign for general public to encourage them to visit these places more often.
Shiva continued his story, “So, I befriended you. I know you are a very creative person and you have great experience in the advertising field. If you can help me create a video that will spread the message, I’d be so honored. As far as the budget for the promotional video is concerned, we have enough sponsors. We need to send across a simple message – these kids, people with special abilities, and old people need your time and company, not just your money.”
Naresh was overwhelmed by the story of Keerthana and responded, “It is indeed a blessing to be a part of any noble venture of this sort. Let us get started on the video very soon. It is such a wonderful message that you would like to spread to the world. Let us execute it immediately.”