P. Varatharajan shares with SOMA BASU the importance of giving and what it is like to be a blood donor
For past two decades, P. Varatharajan has been rolling up his sleeves for championing a cause. Every 90 days, he has been donating a unit of this life saving fluid of a rare group – “A negative”. At 52, his score may be around 70 but that is not what he wants to keep a count of.
What he senses is the frailty of lives that we take for granted and the experiences from his own book of life. “Some sad moments and some pleasing words motivate me to spare a little amount of blood from my body for those who are in need,” he says with all humility, sharing a three-month old incident.
A 10-year-old ‘A-negative' girl suffering from Thalassemia was brought to Government Hospital and doctors pronounced six more days for her to live. While some perhaps saw the futility of injecting blood into her, Varatharajan did not hesitate for a second.
On the seventh day, he went and met the girl, extremely thrilled that she had pulled on 24 hours extra from the deadline set by the medicos. The little girl lived for a fortnight.
Deep down Varatharajan believes his donation allowed her more time in this world. “How incredible and miraculous this substance called blood is,' he says, sharing several incidents involving late night calls when he rushed to accident sites taking the injured to the hospital and resuscitating them – whenever possible – by donating blood.
He recently donated blood for an emergency case from Srirangam at the Apollo Hospital here and later learnt that the recipient belonged to a different community. “But does that make any difference to him or me? Blood donation is a beautiful noble service beyond the barriers of caste, religion, gender and age. One feels an amazing sense of satisfaction and peace to see what difference blood donation makes to those who receive it,” he says.
A diehard follower of rationalist and social reformer E.V.R. Periyar, Varatharajan is also a staunch believer and practitioner of humanitarian principles and equality. With pride he shares that his ancestors and family members have all been service-oriented following the preachings of Periyar. While he himself opted for inter-caste marriage, his brother married a widowed lady.
A voracious reader that he was, by the age of 16, Varatharajan, a student of MAVM School, had set up a personal library of formidable size and always encouraged and invited his friends and neighbours to borrow books. He gradually added to the strength of his library and today boasts of a collection of 3,000 titles on varied subjects.
His passion for reading and learning was so high that he also started worrying about children who were perhaps not getting an opportunity to read and write. The thought was enough to drive him to start a school – Maniammai Hi-Tech Nursery and Primary School – near his house on North Masi Street.
“It is not a commercial venture. I run it with 300-odd students from pre-KG to Class V charging a nominal fee of Rs.150 per month from those who can pay and also have integrated 15 mentally challenged children. My students are mostly from town area in whom I try to inculcate the value of self-control, discipline, good manners, honesty and the willingness to help others rather than focusing strictly on academic syllabus,” shares this school Correspondent of 24 years.
On holidays and other important days, he converts the school premises into venue for medical camps. Second Sunday of every month, it becomes a discourse venue. Varatharajan takes equal pain and interest in getting doctors and people to the free health check-up camps and also learned scholars to speak on any topic that teach good values or relates to goodness in life for the Sunday meetings. From Thirukkural to religious scriptures, all have been addressed by speakers and Varatharajan reveals gleefully that the audience is always 150-plus.
The good attendance has now inspired him to even start a certificate course in Sangam literature.
“I am working on it,” he says, adding, “I never invite anybody to these meetings. Entire publicity is through word of mouth.” And of course, he has his wide network of friends and well wishers who also promptly respond to his request for blood donation, which he himself started one day casually when his friend, Mr.Jose, who runs the Blood Bank at GRH, called him for help.
From then on, Varatharajan has never looked back. And now, he is also busy fostering a new generation of blood donors. He visits colleges to increase awareness and motivate the younger end of the spectrum of blood donors.
Varatharajan believes and propagates the safety of voluntary donors who, he says, are into the act out of altruism. “Non-remunerated blood donors who are volunteers are the most regular, among the safest and also very reliable,” he opines.
Self-motivated and self-made, Varatharajan is making difference in the lives of others whom he doesn't know – and perhaps will never know -- through his donations and service. “I do it because I want to help people, it is also therapeutic. Put it on top of your ‘to do' list, it is good for the soul and a lifetime gift that costs nothing,” he adds matter-of-fact.
(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).