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Monday, July 26

Story of a mother

Mothers are the most wonderful creation of all...They're the embodiment of unselfish commitment and love. The story of most mothers fall in the same category, but some are like Nebulae in a Galaxy of stars. They stand out.

One such mother is below, the resilient tale of P.A. Ushakumari.

Story and images courtesy Rasika; posting with permission from Trivandrum Life.

Kannan Sharma was born on Oct.27, 1990 at the Benzigar Hospital, Kollam. He had red globes for eyes. He was blind. He was named Kannan, with fervent prayers to show him the light. The light of sight.

Will troubles never cease? Usha with her son Kannan.

As time passed, his mental disability began to show. He couldn’t understand, nor could he recognise. He couldn’t walk. He couldn’t form the word “Amma” to call the only woman in his life. His mother, P.A. Usha Kumari.

At 60 days, Kannan was taken to the Aravind Eye Hospital, Madurai, in the hope of restoring his eyesight. “Kannan ine kaazhcha kudukaamengil, ee lokathil andhar undavilla (If we could give sight to Kannan, then there would be no blind people in the world),” said the doctors. Kannan was doomed to a life in the dark.

His father was a temple priest. As the boy’s illness became more obvious, he took to drinking. He divorced his wife, and tore the family to ruins in the process. No one has heard of him since.

When Kannan was 10, the family moved to Trivandrum. Helped by neighbours and relatives, Usha sought treatment at the Sree Chithra Thirunal Institute for Medical Sciences & Technology (SCTIMST) for her son. She also enrolled him at the Blind School, Vazhuthacaud, hoping it would help in bringing her son a step towards betterment. He carried on till grade 4. But he couldn’t study. He couldn’t retain what he was taught. He couldn’t interact with other students. He couldn’t form words. He couldn’t communicate. He needed someone at his beck and call at every instant. He had to be led. He had to be fed. He couldn’t take care of his basic necessities. He was silent, and in his own world indiscernible to us.

On recommendation from doctors at SCTIMST, he was admitted for six months at the Institute of Communicative and Cognitive Neurosciences (ICCONS), in Shoranur. They helped him with his speech, and he learnt to call out “Amma”. He learnt a few words to indicate basic bodily functions. After six months, treatment was no longer affordable. And he was brought back home.

Home, for Usha, is rented. With no money and no house, and larger hospital bills, Usha decided it was time to make some money. She started working as an ayah at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (BVB). Doing all that was necessary for him in the morning, she kept the fan and radio running, and she locked the house and went for work. At noon, relatives fed the boy, and spent some time with him. In the evening, she came back, to Kannan resting where she left him in the morning.

He is not violent. He cannot understand food, unless it is in his mouth. He doesn’t know water unless it is poured into his mouth to drink. He does not ask for food and water. If you feed him, he will eat. He does not move. He can hear, and understand some sounds. He can understand music. He needs the radio on all the time. His only light.

He forms words, after years of hearing them. He does not know what they mean.

The City Corporation sends Rs 250 a month. The Muthoot Bank sends Rs 200 a month. The application for government aid (which is availed by BPL families) was rejected because Usha did not have a ration card in her own name at the time. Once in a while, TV channels take up the cause, and generate some money. But these funds are intermittent, while the need for money is a persistent.

“Nothing can be done. But if he can at least understand what I tell him, and if there is any chance he can be mentally developed to communicate basic needs, that is enough. But it takes too much money,” says Usha Kumari. She cannot any more carry Kannan, who is 19 now, as she used to do before. Each trip to the hospital burns a hole in her purse.

Once a year, Usha and her sister take a trip to Guruvayoor, with Kannan. She cries to the lord to show a way, to give them hope.

“I want to take him outside, to the beach. But he cannot see. But I want him to listen to the waves. But he can’t walk. And he is too heavy for me to carry him. Auto ile pogan kaash illa (I have no money to take the auto rickshaw),” explains Usha.

Kannan smiles, caught in a moment in his own world.

The real mother. An example of undying courage and strength. Not once did she cry when I visited. Not once did her voice catch or falter. But I know she was bleeding inside. I know she was crying inside. I know she was hoping against hope, that by sharing her story, by allowing me to click a picture, the window she prayed for appears.

She wants your help, and support. Not your charity. She doesn’t want sympathy, but a means to pay her bills as long as the boy survives.

If you want to help her, you can donate in the form of money orders, cheques or drafts, addressed to:
The Manager
East Fort
Trivandrum – 695023.

You may also transfer money directly to her Savings Bank Account Number 15061000020989, at HDFC.

The residential address is:

Kannan Sharma
S/O PA Usha Kumari
TC 37/1413
Sasthan Koil Street
Vazhapally Junction
Fort, Trivandrum 23.

It is preferred that the donations be sent directly to the bank manager or to the SB account because Usha leaves for work during the day. Kannan cannot walk to the door and receive the intended post, or sign in acceptance.
Usha Kumari's story may not be a rare tale among the millions of mothers we have in this country who struggle to find food and shelter for their kids. We cannot help every one of them. But surely we can give a helping hand to those who we can!

Thanks to Srijith. V for allowing me to repost the story from Trivandrum Life. Kindly use the Re-tweet button on top or use mail-forwards to get the appeal across to more. It surely helps... Thank you!

Sunday, July 4

Incomplete odysseys

Almost half of Kerala would have started celebrating. #ARG Argentina winning. The other half consists of the #BRA Brazil fans.

 - Nikhil Narayanan on Twitter  (after Argentina's WC'2010 opening win vs Nigeria)
And with this game, Kerala is out of the #worldcup .

 - InstantMusings  on Twitter (after Argentine annihilation by Germany)
image courtesy

And at the end of another heart-breaking sojourn Argentina leaves the African shores, close on the heels of  neighbouring heavy-weights Brazil. Dejected, disappointed, desolate, humiliated...Another frustrating end to a hugely promising enterprise for millions of Argentine football fans of Kerala.

Argentina and Brazil may lie on the other hemisphere, wrong side of equator and are culturally, linguistically and racially like chalk and cheese compared to Kerala. Still, football crazy Keralaites carry the two nations in their hearts just like Lal Jose's Cuba Mukundan adored China and err, Cuba.

Ever wondered what makes these remote South American countries so close to Keralites?

Oh yes, if you want to explore political connections then Che Guvera was Argentine. hmm...commie-commie, bhai-bhai? Not the reason why I had a severe crush on Argentine tennis-beauty Gabriela Sabatini in my early teenage though she lost to that German blondie Graf more times than I could count then.

Oh there! Another German... hmmfff. :-(

Italia 1990 was the first time I probably heard about this country called Argentina, or should I say I saw and heard about this magic-man called Maradona and then linked him to Argentina. 10 years old at the time, football became synonymous with Maradona and Argentina to me. I stayed awake with my football-fan dad to watch the '90 World Cup matches but would eventually fall asleep someway through the match. Mostly it was the morning newspaper which broke the news of my favourite team's progress until resulting in the heart-break loss to West Germany in the final.

Maradona, Pele, vintage football, Che, Communism, coffee, samba... you can decide why, but Kerala's fondness of the Latin American footballing nations underlines the ability of sport to erase boundaries and cross barriers, to create legends which circumnavigate the globe irrespective of race, language and religion. 

And the beauty of erstwhile Latin American football is just legendary...

Argentina has been giving Keralaites regular doses of World Cup anguish ever since 1990. The presence of Argentina was the major reason why I followed Soccer World Cup closely ever since I learned the game. I remember walking back dejected from the TV kiosk in John Balan Park in Bartonhill, Trivandrum after watching Romania knocking them out in 1994. Holland repeated the honours in 1998. Argentina struck an unbelievable low when they exited the 2002 edition in the first round itslef. They bowed out to hosts Germany in shootout in 2006 and history repeats against the nemesis yet again, but today it has been calamitous!

The likes of Pele, Maradonna, Ronaldo, Batistuta and co and the visceral, agricultural football played by those geniuses naturally struck a chord with football-loving Keralites. Malabar is almost a battlefield when the World Cup goes on. Its a celebration, have a look...

It still continues. Nikhil said it right, a savage chunk of Kerala football fans have their loyalty to either Argentina or Brazil. With the disastrous results in the past 2 days of this World Cup, its shutters down for football frenzy in Kerala in a big way. Brazil knocked out, Argentina butchered, another popular team and European holy-boys England is already back, tail between their legs.

You may  come across some bald-heads dudes and peculiar figures with half-mustaches and beards in Vanchiyoor in the next 2-3 days. Sure, they're Brazil fans or Argentina fans. I hope none of my old pals are among them. :D

South Africa 2010 has failed to produce those magic memories consistantly; its all merely statistical. Great goals have been miserably few and far in between, big names turned mere bubbles overnight, branded minnows gave the bigwigs run for their money and the football 'experts' left guessing after all predictions and calculations went astray. 

Have we seen Kaka, Messi, Rooney or Ronaldo the way we wanted to see them? We've also seen Maradona and Dunga leaving the field humiliated. Last years finalists packed their bags home after Round 1. The whole world laughed at the English hype-stars and French disgrace-figures.

This is the beauty of sport. It can be philosophical at times, teaches you some of the most important lessons in life...

Great students never make great teachers. Same way great players seldom make great coaches.

Also how the line has blurred between a hero and a villain... Suarez, Gyan, Ghana and that last-gasp moment may just become the lasting legend of this edition.

You may be the best in the world but that does not necessarily mean that you will be the winner.How many times have we been taught that the best do not always win? (Don't assume that I'm trying to find an excuse for my pet-team's miserable performance)

PS:  With Spain just filling the last semi-final slot we may well see a new winner this time in South Africa. I'd back Holland and Spain to go and win it from here just because they have played beautiful football all through without tasting much success historically. But this young German side appear more and more threatening, with each passing match.

PPS: Almost forgot Uruguay, the other Semi-finalist. A country of 3.5 million people, yes, almost the same no of people in Trivandrum district. Not going on to useless whining, but anyone here has any high hopes of hearing the Indian national anthem in a Football World Cup before the end of our lifespan?