A particular comment from reader Anand Subramanian on my previous write-up about Antonymuthu in this column spurred me to write today’s piece. Antonymuthu, a retired TNEB employee, runs a Home for poor and orphaned boys in Madurai. He did so in Chennai for 12 years before shifting to Temple Town two years ago.

Mr.Subramanian finds his story “inspirational” and a “relief reading” during these times of monumental greed and corruption. But what intrigues him is where do these individuals get the inspiration to execute such selfless acts? And his piece of advice is: “You must not just tell the story of what they do. But why they do it. How do they get to love and find joy and happiness in the ordinary…”

True, each time, I have met these individuals, I have often myself wondered: What drives them? How do they attain such levels of motivation? Many of them hardly have a means to make their ends meet. Yet, their every act and gesture is unconditional, born out of pure love, determination, sincerity and commitment. They never expect anything in return while extending a helping hand. And, are most willing to defy all odds – emotional, financial, physical.

Howsoever hard I may have tried the “why” question, was mostly left unanswered. My persistent “Why do you do it”, always evoked simple answers with a shrug or a shy smile “I don’t know”, or “To be able to help somebody gives me immense joy” or “I just feel like doing it” or even “how can you just walk past somebody who is worse off than you.”

Week after week, I meet individuals who are large hearted and noble minded. It is not easy to map their minds perhaps. Emotional and sensitive, they are simply focused and driven by a passion beyond description. Take the case of the cherubic Padmatharini, diplegic with delayed motor development, who refused to succumb to destiny’s will and created record in 46 years of history by becoming the first physically challenged student enrolled in the four-year course in speech therapy at the All India Institute of Speech and Hearing, Mysore. She has taken up the course far away from her home and family only to acquire more knowledge and to be able to help others affected like her.

V.M.Jose is unstoppable even at 60 plus having donated blood for more than 150 times. He does so because he feels blood donation is an act of true service with no expectation from God. “Blood is donated to help or save an ailing person and there is no distinction made on basis of religion,” he says.

Part time LIC agent Amudan spends his meager earnings helping families who are unable to afford funeral rites for their near and dear ones, donates text and notebooks, stationery items, first aid boxes to village panchayat schools, distributes sweets and spreads cheer among residents of various Homes for the aged, destitute women and orphaned children.

TNSTC bus mechanic A. Balu distributes free medicines to poor patients or free notebooks, uniforms and books to children of the convicted, gives away articles, clothes and bedsheets to various homes and even arranges feasts for children of an orphanage. Whenever he gets an invitation for a function, his request for feeding few extra mouths never goes unheeded. He takes leave, brings the children along and derives happiness watching them relish food.

Dr.Paulin Pneuma Rani at 30 mothers 50 children whose parents have either succumbed to AIDS or are HIV-afflicted. Siva Anbanantham, a small time travel agent gave up his job more than a decade ago to feed the poor daily lunch. At least 500 people turn up each afternoon to eat what he feeds.

Ramu Servai who sells full wholesome meals for just Rs.6 – and sometimes even less – to those who cant afford nutritious food otherwise. Or Joseph Benziger who increases his family size every year adopting poor and orphaned children and raising them into good citizens.

There is no dearth of such individuals and their heart touching stories. It is their deed that determines them and makes the world a beautiful place to live in. But why they sacrifice their own interest for the good of another is not easily fathomable. Altruism – the quality that inspires people to act selflessly to help others – is definitely difficult to explore. It may be a part of social –psychology but only if the urge to help others was universal, we would have been living in a different world today.

(Making a difference is a fortnightly column about ordinary people and events that leave an extraordinary impact on us. E-mail to somabasu@thehindu.co.in to tell about someone you know who is making a difference)

Keywords: human interest

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MetroplusJune 28, 2012