This temple in West Mambalam sometimes doubles as a clinic. At certain other times, as a place of learning. The Madras Kali Bari, started in 1982, is meant to uphold Bengali tradition in a foreign land, but it goes beyond its primary role.
In the recent years, the temple management has been conducting health camps for residents of the neighbourhood. “We conduct eye camps on the second Wednesday between 9.30 a.m. and 12 noon. Medical health check-ups are done here twice every week on Tuesdays and Saturdays,” says Gautham, temple manager. These check-ups are free. So are the medicines given to the patients. Those requiring cataract surgery are referred to the Agarwal Eye Hospital, where they are treated for free. “From the treatment to the stay, the expense is borne by the temple management. We mostly depend on donations from philanthropists,” he adds.
Women also benefit from the temple’s charitable activities. Usha, for instance, has been attending the free tailoring classes conducted at the temple by a resource person, since June this year. It is conducted thrice a week, two hours in the morning. “There are two batches every year and the course duration is six months. In a year, 80 to 90 women attend these tailoring classes,” says Gautham. “I want to start a tailoring unit from my house after the completion of the course to supplement my family’s income,” says Usha.
There is something for health enthusiasts too. Every day, in the morning and evening, yoga training, based on the Patanjali School, is offered free. The temple also has a guest house, where people coming for check-ups from far-off places can stay and have food at a low cost.
In the evening, after the regular temple rituals, the gates are thrown open to a group of students who come to learn Bharatnatyam from their master. “These are private classes. We only provide space for them to practise every day,” says the temple official. The future plan of the management is to make the medical centre a full-fledged clinic with a diagnostic and treatment centre.