For the last 13 years Seline Jacob has been providing lunch, three days a week, to the patients and bystanders at the Government Hospital at North Paravur

Old age and loneliness have not deterred Seline Jacob from serving the poor. They have in fact spurred her on her path of social service. She has persisted with the service she started 13 years ago despite adversities she has faced.

A childless widow, the 68 year-old cooks food in her home and serves it to 120 patients and bystanders at the Government Hospital, North Paravur. A native of Olanad near Varappuzha, she takes the lunch to the hospital, which is 10 km from her house, and even helps serve it.

“My day starts at 4.30 am. After offering prayers at a nearby church, I start cooking. It is usually rice, pickle and sambar. Nearly 15 kilos of rice has to be cooked for 120 patients. After cooking I set out for the hospital at 12 noon in an auto rickshaw. By 1 pm, I begin serving the lunch and return by around 2 pm,” Selin explains.

Packed schedule

This is her schedule for Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays as the hospital has allotted rest of the days of the week to other philanthropists and organisations to distribute food. In the last 13 years she has seldom returned with undelivered food packets. If she has any left she distributes it to those living nearby.

‘Since my husband died 19 years ago and I have no children, I find comfort in my loneliness in this way. By God’s grace I have been able to do this without break for the last 13 years,” she says with pride. She started the service on July 31(2000), at the Government Hospital, Paravur. Initially she used to deliver food once a week which is is now thrice a week.

“It was at the behest of a priest that I started this form of service. As I have no children my husband’s death left a huge vacuum in my life. As a relief from seclusion, I turned to social activities,” she adds.

Cooking for 120 people takes almost five hours and then there are the utensils to be washed. Add to that the time spent purchasing provision and grocery shopping – she works close to 12 hours daily.

Her husband, Jacob, a mason, died leaving her a house on three cents of land.

In this limited space she cooks food. A neighbour, Lilly, helps her with the cooking. “After disposing off my ancestral property I reconstructed my kitchen and got a smokeless chulha put. She had to do this due to space constraints.

Easy transport

They have a regular autorickshaw which they hire to transport the food. Thampy, the driver, helps Seline take the food to North Paravur from Olanad. The trio serves the food to the patients in the hospital. In the beginning she used to travel by bus with the food.

Locals, on hearing about Seline’s mission, make monthly contributions and she collects close to Rs. 2500 this way every month. Jayamma, Davis, Paul, Sony, Johny and Thomas are some of those who regularly contribute to her ‘charity’. This sum pays the auto fare, the vegetables and firewood that is used to cook.

“Binu Raj, a rice merchant at the North Paravur market, gives around 74 kilos of rice free. It is his way of paying obsequies to his late father,” Seline says.

“I began contributing a sack of rice weighing 74 kilos to Seline eight years ago.

She is a genuine, compassionate charity worker. Otherwise who else, at 68, would bother to wake up early in the morning, cook food and then take it for distribution to a distant hospital?” asks Binu Raj.

“She has been doing this service for a long time, is still doing it at 68. She has the permission of the hospital authorities too. We all appreciate what she has been doing, without a break, all these years. Last Onam she also served payasam to the patients,” says Elizabeth, a nurse at the hospital.

Her one, and probably only, source of unhappiness is that the utensils she uses to cook rice are worn out. “I can’t ask the generous people who have already help me so much.”