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Mother superior


May 12 is Mother's Day. And here is a tribute to a mother of a very special kind — Delma Evarts of Cheshire Homes under whose care the 35 inmates never miss their biological mother.

Delma Evarts with the residents of Cheshire Homes.

IF YOU are a mother of one or two, and have cribbed about having your hands full, what would you say of Delma Evarts of the Cheshire Homes, who plays mother to 35 girls? Designated Head of Homes, Ms. Evarts believes in playing her role as mother to the fullest, and manages the Cheshire Homes like a perfect home-maker.

An Anglo-Indian, Ms. Evarts was actively involved with the YWCA in Chennai and was responsible for resuscitating the youth wing there. She then moved to Bangalore and took over the Cheshire Homes.

The Cheshire Homes, on Airport Road, is an institution dedicated to caring for the physically-challenged girls from underprivileged homes. The home takes in girls of various ages, provides basic education to them, and instills in them the confidence to stand on their own feet. They are changed human beings when they eventually return to their own homes. The home tries to find them placements too. Some of the girls are trained to be nurses. A few have gone on to become engineers.

For Ms. Evarts, being the mater of the homes means taking interest in just everything: right from planning the menu and buying clothes for the girls to visiting the hospital, and keeping a watch on the progress of the girls' studies. Perhaps it is this involvement with the lives of the girls that makes them love her like their own mother, even when she is firm with them. Ms. Evarts recalls fondly: "A few years ago, I had an accident and was bed-ridden. The girls came to my room and saw that I had not finished my breakfast. Quickly, they became firm with me and started feeding me, just as I feed them when they are ill.''

Hospital visits are almost a routine for Ms. Evarts, since many among the inmates of the home suffer from polio, and corrective surgeries are often done.

The routine visits sometimes bring more people to the homes. Reminisces Ms. Evarts: "On one of my visits to St. Johns hospital, I noticed a thin, young girl with a malnourished baby in her arms. The baby had a hole in her heart and the mother had no money for the surgery. I brought her back to the home, raised the money for the operation, and today, the mother works as a helper for the other girls, sustaining herself and her cured child with what she earns here.''

Ms. Evarts has brought about many changes in the homes. It was after she joined that the home came to have a dining hall and a computerised system to maintain office accounts. She arranges counselling sessions and summer camps for the girls too.

What does Ms. Evarts enjoy the most among the many chores she does for the homes? "Oh, I love Christmas shopping,'' she says, cheerfully. "Though we celebrate all festivals here, Diwali, Ganesh Chaturti, Pongal etc., I love to go out and buy little Christmas gifts for the girls. I spend the entire day at the market.'' Everyone makes little requests from hakoba blouses to glass bangles, and Ms. Evarts tries her best to see that every girl's Christmas wish is fulfilled.

But being a mother is a mixed bag of joys and sorrows. It is painful when girls bid farewell and go back home.

But she is not the one to lose composure and advises them to always stand up for themselves. They carry her warmth and confidence back with them.

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