In the heart of Sundakkamuthur, where traditions run deep and community bonds are cherished, a celebration unfolded on Monday as N. Gopal and his wife Kasthuri marked their 60th wedding anniversary.
What sets this celebration apart is the unique story of the couple’s relationship with a community of 50 families that resided on Vellapanayagan Street for over eight decades. “Unofficially adopting” the villagers and their children as their own, the couple, childless themselves, became the pillars of support for many generations.
Arriving in the late ‘70s, the couple rented a modest house for ₹1,500. Observing families juggling new-borns while managing demanding jobs or tending to nearby farmlands, Gopal and Kasthuri extended a helping hand. Their journey began when they approached a family, offering to care for their child while they worked—a gesture that would evolve into a lifelong commitment.
45 years since, they have raised over 50 children across two generations.
R. Kalpana, the main organiser of the celebrations, remarked, “Any crying child can instantly be calmed down by appa and amma. They use no special toys or soothing techniques, but as soon as a child is given to them, they smile, and all is good!”
However, facing health challenges and a lack of technical skills for modern employment, Gopal and Kasthuri found it difficult to secure stable jobs and pay rent. But in a turn of events, the community rallied together, offering the couple a rent-free space as they continued their work of raising the children.
Witnessing Gopal’s interest in religion, the community encouraged him to become a temple priest, providing him with materials for religious study during the day. Today, he serves as the head priest at a local temple, and the couple resides within the temple premises, often preparing and distributing food to the underprivileged.
Beyond childcare, the couple empowered women in the village, encouraging them to take up skill training and employment opportunities. One of the community members, who is a mother of two, said, “After I birthed my first child, I was interested in taking up tailoring classes. The couple immediately offered to take care of my child and asked me to enrol in a training workshop. Today, I run a tiny shop of my own.”
Despite not having children of their own, Gopal and Kasthuri emphasise the immense joy the community has brought into their lives. “The people here look after us like we are their parents. We have never felt like we missed out on having children,” Gopal said with pride. As he politely requested a call-back, citing an incoming video call from one of the children he raised, he added, “I now have grandchildren all over the world since many have gone abroad to study. I am very proud of them.”