By Dr Laura Nayak for the Mitaroy Foundation
I first heard about the Jeevodaya Ashram, Bangalore when a team of us from the Soroptomist International of Bangalore ( an organization of women working to Educate, enable and empower women) went to visit. Jeevodaya- Quote” stands for a noble cause of bringing peace, joy, justice and love to the least , the last and the lost of the society , particularly women who are drawn into crime due to poverty and despair, forced to sell their womanhood for survival, brutally molested in brothels and flesh trading centers or in any other moral danger.” Unquote. Under the Prison Ministry of India, this home of around 20 women run by 2 or 3 nuns has existed for over 25 years with a vision “to create a society where every woman can freely live and grow with self respect and dignity away from abuse of any kind.”
Our group decided to teach the women to be self -sufficient. While we doctors conducted medical checkups, our artistic members taught them diya making, jewelry making and envelope making., which we then helped to market. The jewelery sets are so pretty and when gifted with the story behind the makers, won instant hearts. So I not only bought sets in all the colors for myself(and thereby was a moving advertisement for them), but decided to buy as many as possible to gift to my friends in India and abroad. Maanika suggested I try and sell them among my colleagues and staff. Since I couldn’t travel all the way to Carmellaram by myself, Sister Clara sweetly agreed to have them delivered at their orphanage Makala Jeevodaya in Koramangala. It was a hop ,skip and jump from there to my head offfice in Kendriya Sadan, When my staff saw them, they promptly bought off all the sets I had and ordered more. In fact even when I went there after my retirement 3 years later, I was asked why I had stopped getting more for sale. And as for my foreign friends, the colorful beads just held them enthralled probably more than their boring white pearls and diamonds !! We marketed the diyas by word of mouth advertising for Diwali and the envelopes were sold to restaurants for their take aways
Wearing the colorful jewelry set Handmade diya Paper bags, cards made by the girls for sale
The sisters grow their own vegetables – when I admired the lovely fresh beets and radishes Sister promptly offered them to me. I asked how she could so generously part with their meagre stocks-she promptly said “ God will provide”. So I had no choice but to put money into her pocket. They have sewing machines so that those learning tailoring can take orders. So when moving from our house to a flat, Mihir used a strange logic “If you have not used something for 6 months then you don’t need it” and made me give away TVs ,furniture, sewing machine and clothes and anything which could not be comfortably accomodated into our much smaller flat,. which could be utilized for the inmates.
With a view to rehabilitating the women, the sisters not only educate them in whichever field they are interested like nursing, tailoring or beautician’s course. They then start working in nearby places of good repute and keep their own earnings.
Lalit and me in our fineries at a Big Indian wedding
We have all been part of the BIG FAT INDIAN WEDDINGS in our own families and those of our friends. No expense is too much for our own darlings ‘ special day. The sisters of Jeevodaya try to get matches for the girls from suitable boys. Obviously with constraints, the marriage is held in their own hall with simply attired couples. For this, Mihir got another idea. He started donating 5000/- Rs for each couple along with a zari sari and some good silk saris of mine for the bride along with some shirts and pants of Lalit’s for the groom. The household items we had donated were then handed over to the couple by Sister. This practice has continued to this day. Whenever a girl is about to get married Sister invites us. Being far from our home and the roads being terrible, we have only been able to attend one so far.But this has not deterred Mihir from swinging into action with his donation plan. We have even asked our friends to support them.
In keeping with his “Feeding the poor” plan, Mihir offered to give (on the 10th of every month ,being his birthdate) some amount only towards their food items/ groceries. The only condition is that they should make “ Bise bele baath” for their Sundays’ lunch and the girls can’t stop thanking Mihir for this special treat.!!