K.S. Jeevan visits schools to educate students about donating blood and eyes
He is a salesperson who door-hops in order to be heard. But he doesn't pester you to buy his product for money. Instead, he sensitises you to give away something which is dear to you today and of no use tomorrow.
K.S.Jeevan sells tea packets door to door, but introduces himself as an “entertainer” whenever he is face-to-face with students. From films to cricket, science to fiction and real-life incidents, he regales them with anecdotes and jokes to win over the youngsters. Confidence gained, he subtly makes them understand the importance of friendship and relationships, families and ties and how crucial it is to gift things that belong to us.
When the student's mind starts searching for precious and materialistic things that he or she possesses, he negates all their answers and comes up with the simplest reply: “Eyes and blood.”
His 45 minute talk usually ends in silence and positive nods from the young participants. Most of them are moved and willingly participate in an exercise of slogan writing, drawing or poster making he involves them in. Jeevan finally leaves after rewarding the best three entries with stationary items and books.
This has been Jeevan's routine for the past six years. Yet, he remains unacknowledged. Nobody has assigned him this task of educating youngsters on blood and eye donation. Yet, he goes on knocking on school gates, even though he is turned away on most occasions.
“I brief the security guard who in turn briefs the school officials, who then ask for a visiting or an I-card. I have none and am asked to leave. If they let me in, they ask for some letter of authentication from the Department of Education. I don't have that either.”
From 2005, Jeevan has made an attempt to reach out to 200 city schools. So far, only four dozen let him in of whom 10 school Head Masters were kind enough to give him a letter certifying that he spoke to their students on importance of blood and eye donation.
Jeevan searches for an answer to why he spends so much of his time, energy, money on an exercise which leaves him tired and dry and he returns a wry smile: “I am self-motivated.”
“I have seen wars, bullets hitting my mother, fled with my family for safety, experienced the pain and suffering of surviving in poverty and unhygienic living conditions. Even after such struggle from my childhood, if God has kept me alive, it means my life has to be used for a purpose.”
In 1990, Jeevan with 23 other family members and friends escaped from war ravaged Sri Lanka in a boat in darkness. After the nightmarish ride evading firing from the navy, the group managed to reach Rameswaram and from there to the Sri Lankan Refugee Camp at Thirumangalam in Madurai.
Jeevan was 18 then with a burning desire to study more. But the Plus Two boy was denied admission given his refugee status. And then began his tryst with all kinds of odd jobs to contribute to his family earnings. From a loader to a lorry cleaner, helper in shops and worker in a car garage, welder and a carpenter, security guard to white washing houses, he did everything.
“But I could not remain at any work for long,” he says. Four years ago when he took up the job with a tea company that made him free after 10 a.m., the idea struck him.
“On way home, my heart used to cringe each time I crossed a school. And I decided to do something that costs nothing,” he says, unable to explain what really pulled him to eye and blood donation.
For the next three months he visited the Aravind Hospital's eye bank and Government Hospital's blood bank to learn about the donation procedure and how to convince others for this noble act. In the process, he pledged his eyes and donated blood thrice. Now his under-weight doesn't allow him to donate blood. But that doesn't deter him from speaking about it.
Empowered with basic information, Jeevan self-assigned the task of motivating school children. “I don't have a degree or an imposing personality. That is why perhaps people doubt me. They fail to see my clean heart and good intention,” he laments.
Every week, he shortlists schools for a visit. “The big private school managements are very strict. I have restricted myself to mostly Corporation, Government and few other small schools. I feel happy when parents of some of these students whom I address call me back and ask for more details. It shows my effort is not going waste.”
Though Jeevan doesn't have any other feedback on his exercise, he does it without expecting anything at all for himself in return. But yes, has life-size expectations -- that the students he is addressing will be bold enough to make a case for eye and blood donations when the time comes in their respective life situations.
Jeevan's family fails to understand why instead of coming home after work, he wanders off behind school compounds daily even at the risk of being humiliated. “That is how life is,” he says absolutely unruffled. His inexplicable dedication gives him the strength to move on. His name, “Jeevan”, is apt. He indeed leads a different ‘life' and makes a point for other's ‘lives'.
(Making a difference is a fortnightly column about ordinary people and events that leave an extraordinary impact on us. E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org to tell about someone you know who is making a difference)