Chennai

Serving a need

Marquise helps Subba prepare and pack lunch every day; and (right) he feeds the children of street dwellers. Photos: K. Pichumani   | Photo Credit: K_Pichumani

In a quiet corner in Mogappair East, a small one-bedroom house doubles as a workstation for R.D. Marquise, a resident of Maduravoyal, and his employee Subba.

Every morning, around 8 a.m., Subba chops a mound of vegetables to prepare pots of sambar sadham, vegetable biryani, tomato sadham and some poriyal. Marquise then deftly wraps the food in butter sheets and newspapers and sets out on his two-wheeler to deliver them to rag-pickers, street dwellers and their children.

At times, he even offers a word of prayer to encourage them.

This has been Marquise’s daily schedule since 1998.

Marquise runs Scribe Ministries, which offers community and development services to the socio-economically backward families, especially children.

While carrying out this service, he came across a rag picker who was forcing her little boy into the business instead of sending him to school.

“This made me realise that I have to do more than just preaching. I knew that basic education could change the course of these children’s lives,” he says.

Marquise then gathered as many children of rag-pickers in the vicinity as he could find, and sent them to school. He prepared breakfast for these children, bought them school uniforms, bags and stationery, and even paid their tuition fee.

Additionally, he partnered with hospitals like Madras Medical Mission, Thai Moogambigai Dental College and Hospital and Dr Agarwal's Eye Hospital to arrange for regular medical camps for these children.

Marquise and his late wife also ran an orphanage that housed 50 children who had taken shelter in streets.

The initiative to provide breakfast and education for school children went on for more than 15 years.

However, when financial constraints came knocking on the door, he temporarily halted the programme as well as the orphanage. “Come June, I will resume the programme of giving breakfast to school children come June. As far as the orphanage is concerned, I am working things out to restart it this year,” says Marquise, who partially lost his hearing ability while playing football as a youngster. He was a football player during his youth.

But no setbacks seem capable of deterring 60-year-old Marquise from carrying out his mission: packing lunch for the underprivileged.

Every day, he packs and distributes lunch to about 100 to 200 people in Ambattur East, Anna Nagar, Mannurpet, Mogappair, Nolumbur, Maduravoyal and Vanagaram.

“As many street dwellers will be away for work in the afternoon, they have requested raw rice. Hence, I also provide 10 families with 10 kg rice each, every month,” he says.

Besides providing food, he plans to identify and send street children to a school in Ambattur.

As a missionary worker, Marquise receives support from well-wishers, and he uses a part of this to fund the daily expenses of running the kitchen.

“We work five days a week. Our daily expense is Rs. 3,000 or thereabouts, and this includes the rent, salary for the cook and purchase of groceries and packing material. Vedhanayakkam, a resident of Anna Nagar, donates newspapers for the wrapping the food,” he says.

Like Subba, many others are clueless about why Marquise is doing this. When he is quizzed about it, he smiles and says, “There is no answer to this; it’s for a good cause. Besides, it pains me to see people going without food. The happiness on the faces of these people when I feed them drives me to keep doing what I am doing.”

Marquise is also using his skills in arts and crafts to empower street dwellers.

“I have honed my skills at making articles from plastic, which I now plan to impart to unemployed women and youth. I will teach them how to make flowers from plastic bags; flower vase from paper; bonsai; and also how to do some basic mathematics for daily calculations,” he says.

(R.D. Marquise may be contacted at 94441 07973)


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Printable version | Jun 23, 2021 1:20:30 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/serving-a-need/article17441000.ece

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