A fundraiser was organised by GKNM Hopital for its hospice Raksha, where terminally ill cancer patients spend their last few days in dignity and peace

Music For the Soul was a fundraising event organised by GKNM Hospital for its hospice Raksha that offers palliative care for terminally ill cancer patients. It is an organisation that works round-the-clock to take care of the different needs of the terminally ill, from providing on-time medication to pain management. And, most importantly, it fulfils every wish of its patients in the last few days of their lives. A short film on the work being done at Raksha, reinforced the feeling that life is transient and every moment ought to be cherished, as we were doing that evening. One never knows what awaits us round the corner.

Two mothers, each of whom lost a child to cancer, spoke in the film. They reiterated how, though the miracle of life evaded their children, they were at peace when the end came. Raksha made them as comfortable as they possibly could be. “I do not know if even family can extend the kind of care and kindness as the caregivers in Raksha do. For us, they are divinity,” said one of the mothers. Dr. Arvind Bhatnagar has headed the hospice for years now and the work he has done along with his team merits another article!

Dr. T. Balaji, managing trustee of Coimbatore Cancer Foundation, released the short film and spoke about the beginnings of Raksha. He said, “We offer palliative care. Please use us.” He elaborated on the services Raksha offered. Raksha has an out-patient clinic that offers support and counselling services to patients in advanced stages of terminal illnesses, and their families. It has a day care service for patients that is a lifesaver for their caregivers who need to work during the day. They can drop off patients at the hospice for the day. Finally, there is a home care/home nursing programme that Raksha offers when it gets too traumatic for caregivers to handle the patient by themselves.

Dr. Ramkumar Raghupathy, dean, GKNM, said: “We hope to increase the infrastructure at Raksha. At the moment, we have 15 cubicles and a couple of dormitories. We would like to add to those. We hope to do that with the donations. These have 100 per cent tax exemption. Raksha offers wholesome care, and all of it is absolutely free.”

Dr. Arvind’s words were brief but heartfelt. “There should be more awareness about Raksha. It should become an important landmark of Coimbatore.”

‘A peaceful transition to the other world’ is the mission of Raksha, and a little bit of help goes a long way to alleviate the pain and suffering of the patients. If you want to help improve the facilities at the hospice, visit www.rakshathehospice.com.

Music from the soul

Going by the response, one would think that the people gathered at Music for the Soul had spent the better part of their childhood and youth doing nothing else but watch Hindi films. And the rest of the time they spent committing the songs from those films to memory! Because every song that Sri Ganesh and Ranjani Subramanian sang, the crowd sang along. And not just that, they kept up an endless stream of requests for the singers.

Ganesh, of course, mesmerised, as always. He is a favourite with Coimbatore, and he, on his part, remembered people’s favourite songs from previous performances. This time, he had Ranjini to accompany him so the repertoire extended to duets too, which was fantastic. Ranjini is a young bio-tech researcher who is trained in Carnatic music and who has grown up on Hindi film music from the 50s, 60s and the 70s. She started the evening with a melodious Satyam Shivam Sundaram’.

When Ganesh took the mic, the audience took a collective deep breath and let it out in oooohs and aaaahs as he sang Kishore Kumar’s ‘Thandi Havaa Yeh Chandi Suhani’ from Jhumroo. One is pretty sure every woman in the audience wanted to hold aloft her pallu and twirl around the ballroom! Some of them did a little later into the evening as he and Ranjini belted out ‘Oh Haseena Zulfon Waali’ from Teesri Manzil and Mohammad Rafi’s ‘Baar Baar Dekho’ from China Town. The Shammi Kapoor effect!

But inadvertently, the evening turned out to be mostly about Rajesh Khanna. Ganesh sang ‘Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli…Kabhi To Hasaye, Kabhi Yeh Rulaaye’ from Anand. As one lady commented: “It is appropriate, as many of us learnt about cancer from Anand.” Remember Amitabh Bachchan gravely declaring Rajesh Khanna as having lymphosarcoma of the intestine!

Ganesh followed it up with the intoxicating ‘Yeh Kya Hua…’ from Amar Prem and ‘Mere Sapnon Ki Rani’ from Aradhana. Then, in quick succession came ‘Oh Mere Dil Ke Chain’ from Mere Jeevan Saathi and ‘Mere Naina Saawan Bhadhon’ from Mehbooba. Ranjini brought back beautiful memories of Teesri Kasam with the incomparable ‘Paan Khaaye Saiyyan Hamaro…’

Senior citizens in the audience ruled the roost with their stream of song requests from the 50s, 60s and 70s and Ganesh happily obliged. One was surprised that Ranjini stepped up admirably with songs from films made long before she was even born. But that is the staying power of the music. Music that uplifts and is infectiously joyful. It seemed perfect for the occasion - enabling peaceful transitions from pain to peace.