Joy of Giving
The desire to serve comes naturally to some people. For Rekha Ramachandran it’s almost become a habit. About twelve years ago when I first met her, she was seated in the hot sun on a chair placed close to the waters of the Marina Swimming Pool in Chennai, and immersed in training some young athletes who were part of the Tamil Nadu Triathlon Association. Most of her wards were children from the local fishing community.
I watched in amazement as she dealt with the children with lots of love and affection. She was coaxing them to do better and train harder. The children loved her. Rekha was like a mother to many of them. She would make them porridge at midnight before they started cycling to Mahabalipuram - about 50 km from Chennai – as part of their training. She would personally escort them in her car sacrificing her sleep. While they swam in the sea, she would accompany them in a catamaran. Some of her trainees have won national championships, and a lone athlete Amudha, has won a gold medal in the Asian Games.
At 58, Rekha remains the same person. Her zest for service has not waned with age. When I met her last week at her residence, she was busy preparing for an event she plans to hold in Chennai during the Joy of Giving Week. As President of Down Syndrome Association of Tamil Nadu, for many years she has hosted an annual fun event for intellectually challenged persons. Participants would come from various institutions and day care centres in the State. Rekha would personally bear the expenses for the event. An annual budget of Rs 10 lakhs for this purpose was no big deal for her.
After all, she comes from an affluent family. Till recently, her family held major stakes in India Cements, the company that owns the Indian Premier League cricket team, Chennai Super Kings. Her husband Ramachandran, who is also President of the World Squash Federation, sold his shares in the company last year to “enjoy life” – as Rekha puts it. As we are chatting, he pops in, says hello and goes for his evening walk.
For someone who has been sponsoring the event for the intellectually challenged persons for so many years, Rekha feels it’s high time she involved others. “I want people’s participation. Let everyone experience the joy of giving. For Rs 500 you could sponsor a person’s two-day stay in Chennai. It's not such a big amount, right?” she asks. So, how’s the response been like? Overwhelming, she says. She has found 2000 volunteers from over forty colleges in the city to adopt one intellectually challenged person each. “They are so enthusiastic about the programme,” she says. Her vision is to find sponsors for each of the estimated 1.85 lakh intellectually challenged persons housed in different NGO-run homes in the state.
As the laughter of her daughter, an intellectually challenged person, rings through the house, Rekha says, “My daughter is lucky to be born in this house. I want every intellectually challenged person to be happy like my daughter.” It strikes a chord. What’s it that The Weekend Leader can do for the cause? I tell Rekha that we will do our bit in finding sponsors for the 1.85 lakh intellectually challenged persons in the state. We will spread the message through our site – free of cost. It would be our small contribution in bringing cheer into the lives of some people.