The sky is overcast, a cold wind is blowing, and the met department says a cyclone is expected to cross in a few hours. Nature at its awesome best; not bound by season, cruising freely, now moving, now staying still, setting its own time table, and keeping everyone guessing!
Nothing inspires likes nature. Human beings rarely do. But men like V Venkatraman are an exception. These are the ‘unsung heroes,’ the kind of people who would be moved by the sufferings and hardships of others, and then figure out ways to help them.
A great soul: V Venkatraman, The Weekend Leader 2011 Person of the Year
Venkatraman is The Weekend Leader’s Man of the Moment, our ‘Person of the Year’. By now our readers would have realised that we in The Weekend Leader have a soft corner for the underdog, and that we have great admiration for small people who do extraordinary things.
That’s why most of our lead stories are about people who are hardly noticed by the other media. There are few things the media gets attracted to easily. A good command over spoken English, trendy clothes, a fair skin, and a Facebook or Twitter presence may prove good enough to attract the others. However, those we admire and write about in The Weekend Leader may have none of these attributes.
Venkatraman, for example, lives in Erode, a town that lies about 400 km south west of Chennai. He has been running a small eatery in the town since last eight years.
He is not a wealthy man and has no other business. Like most of us, he has a family to look after. His wife is a yoga teacher and both his daughters are in college. He has little savings.
One would expect a man like him to constantly think of ways to develop his business and make more money. That’s what ‘normal’ people would have done anyway.
But 49-year-old Venkatraman is a different kind of person. He has no such worries. His only concern is to see how he could continue with the Lunch @ Re 1 scheme at his hotel.
For over four years, Venkatraman has been giving lunch every day for about thirty persons at his hotel for just Re 1. The beneficiaries are mostly attendants of poor in-patients from the nearby Government General Hospital, who pay just Re 1 for a meal that is priced at Rs 40 for other customers.
Venkatraman may have served at least 40,000 Re 1 meals till date. The prices of food grains, oil, spices and vegetables have gone up many times in the last four years, but the one rupee lunch has remained unaffected.
Venkatraman ensures that the poor get the same meal that his other customers get for Rs 40
“For other customers, the price has been revised. Four years ago, the cost of a lunch at our hotel was Rs 25; now it is Rs 40,” says Venkatraman, who also gives a 20 percent discount for the disabled.
Though he is facing financial difficulties, Venkatraman receives solace from the ‘divine blessings’.
“I have the full support of my family in whatever I am doing. My second daughter scored 1085 marks (out of 1200) in her Plus 2 exam. We were unable to admit her in engineering college because we could not afford the fees. But thanks to a person in Ramakrishna Math, she got a seat in a reputed engineering college in Chennai. The management has also given her a fee waiver.
“I have reasons to believe that such good things have happened in my life because of the small acts of service to the poor I have been doing. It gives me great satisfaction,” says Venkatraman.
May the likes of Venkatraman increase in this land.
The Weekend Leader team wishes Venkatraman, his family members and all our readers a Happy New Year!
The Weekend Leader's 2010 Person of the Year