Monday 30 August 2010

Destination stories : unique fund raising

N GopalaKrishnan with PM Narayanan Image courtesy The Hindu

This Saturday, Malayala Manorama newspaper featured a story about a gentleman called N. Gopalakrishnan who is involved in fund-raising for Institute for Palliative Medicine.

We had met Gopiettan, as we call him, about 5 years ago when The Blue Yonder had just started taking travellers to remote areas along the River Nila. He spent about a week every month in his traditionally-styled cottage called 'Vaappikudi', facing the river, mostly sitting in the portico reading and writing. His house was named after the slave his forefathers had as part of old-age feudal system in Kerala. For the occasional traveller who came visiting this region, Gopiettan makes for an ideal company. A man of letters, a close friend of writer M.T Vasudevan Nair, he entertains them with his wit and intellect while sharing anecdotes about his life in the IRAS (Indian Railways Accounts Service) and in Kolkata. His love for the railways is so great that even the gate to his cottage is designed like a level crossing! The name board written in Malayalam, Hindi and English reminds one instantly of the yellow-black railway sign boards!

A Kendra Sahitya Academy Award winner for his translation of 'Oriya classic 'Sri Radha'', Gopiettan has also translated 'The Insider', a political novel authored by earlier Prime Minister of India, P V Narasimha Rao. Malayalees though remember him for his beautiful translation of K P Ramanunni's 'Sufi Paranja Katha' (Story told by the Sufi) to English.

Sufi Paranja Katha has been made into a feature film

We met him recently again at the Institute of Palliative Medicine (IPM)). Like many citizens of Kozhikode, Gopiettan spends a few hours every week at the in-patient section at IPM. Seeing the impact the palliative care movement was having on thousands of people with terminal illness needing end of life care and the community of volunteers alike, he decided to do his bit to raise funds for the movement. He was then discussing how he planned to go about the fund-raising. When we met him after a week, he had actually traded a place with a beggar in the city as the 'spot' looked promising to 'beg'!

Rather than ask his friends for donations (which would have been far simpler and easier for him!), Gopiettan in his unique way decided to get the local community participate in this process. Elegantly dressed as always, resplendent in his royal - waxed moustache and the gold-trimmed walking stick, he cut a majestic figure as he walked about non-descript streets with a small white card requesting the public to donate Re 1 in support of the palliative care movement! Curious and amused, passers-by not just gave him the money he asked for, but impressed with his commitment and humility, many gave a lot more. In the last few months with just a few rounds of his “begging” tour, Gopiettan has collected more than a hundred thousand Rupees, in addition to raising awareness among locals in the city about the movement. With the steady inflow of small amount of cash that Gopiettan brings, IPM has now set up a separate bank account that goes by the name of 'thendu fund' (thendu means “to beg” in Malayalam).

Kozhikode Palliatve care movement: 'a beacon of hope' according to EIU report

In a world that seems bankrupt when it comes to compassion, people like Gopiettan fill us with hope. While India ranks amongst the lowest in the list of 45 countries surveyed in the recent Economist Intelligence Report on end of life palliative care, the same report highlights the palliative care initiative in Kozhikode as a beacon of hope.The report says "With only 3% of India’s population, the tiny state provides two-thirds of India’s palliative care services"

It is volunteers like Gopiettan and a movement like this that can perhaps help us dream of a 'compassionate city'.

Posted By GP to One Tight Slap on 8/30/2010 09:25:00 AM


Unknown said...

Just to add that he is now almost 80 years old :)

Unknown said...

Simply outstanding and inspiring.