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Updated: June 14, 2013 16:02 IST

Story extraordinaire

PRINCE FREDERICK
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Manohar Devadoss
Manohar Devadoss

A Quiet Courage, an audio book on the inspiring lives of Manohar and Mahema Devadoss was launched recently

Mahema and Manohar Devadoss were crushed by misfortunes, but their lives have exuded a fragrance that draws innumerable people to them. Everyone who has crossed their path can put a face — actually, two — to resilience. In a tribute to the couple, Charkha Audiobooks (www.karaditales.com/charkha.aspx) has brought out A Quiet Courage, first in a series of audio books that celebrates ordinary people who have made a difference through their extraordinary lives.

Through text provided by Manohar, the audio book tells the story of a couple that followed their wedding vows seriously — “I offer you my solemn vow to be your faithful partner in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, and in joy as well as in sorrow.” On December 30, 1972 — three days after the couple celebrated their ninth wedding anniversary — a road accident turned Mahema into a quadriplegic. And Manohar was already coping with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative condition that progressively leads to a complete loss of vision. The couple spent decades carrying each other’s burdens: Manohar taking care of her physical and emotional needs, despite his progressively failing eyesight and Mahema helping him sketch and paint and write books by being his eyes.

It’s remarkable that the couple did not allow the debilitating tragedy to enter a shell. Until Mahema’s death in March 2008, they made postcards for charity, with Manohar doing the sketches and she writing the text. Along with such sensitivity, their sense of humour earned them many admirers and many more friends.

As expected, the hall at C.P.R. Environmental Education Centre, where the audio book was launched, was packed. And it was also filled with laughter, a defining feature of the Devadoss’ marriage. After receiving the first copy of the audio book from former Governor of West Bengal Gopalkrishna Gandhi, N. Ram, director, Kasturi & Sons, and former Editor-In-Chief, The Hindu, spoke about what made the couple tick and in the process narrated humorous anecdotes culled from his long and deep friendship with them. Ram called them “the most extraordinary ordinary couple”. After Ram finished his speech, Manohar Devadoss chipped in with an account of how a young Ram once helped him carry Mahema over three flights of stairs.

Culture historian V. Sriram recalled how an announcement about the Devadoss’ greeting cards in Madras Musings led to a great friendship, one that has comfortably surmounted the barriers of age.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi spoke about how humour contributed considerably to the “texture” of the Devadoss’ marriage. While describing its quality, he quipped: “They seem to be so much in love, it’s like washing clean linen in public.”

Before giving a piano recital based on the music he has composed for A Quiet Courage, Anil Srinivasan responded to Manohar’s description of the music as haunting. The accomplished pianist said, “The music is not as haunting as the story!”

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