Caring for Runaway Girls –the Jeevodaya way


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.

Me wearing the colourful bead set

Handmade diyas

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!!



Care and Protection Centre for Mentally Challenged Female Children, Bangalore

Young  Maanika had spent 18 years of her life in Bangalore, India, amidst the poor and needy. She knew she had a blessed childhood , getting whatever she needed and asked for (within limits). Every year we had 3 celebrations for her birthday – first at school with cake and sweets, the second a birthday party for friends and family – initially we organized the food and games and the guest list but later she planned and executed it herself  having a sleepover with her teenage friends while we were banished to her grandma’s place!! These could be before or after the actual date, but for the third, we went as a family to a posh restaurant for dinner on the actual date, wishing her at the exact time!!

Suddenly, one year Maanika decided she wanted to celebrate her birthday with the little inmates of Shishu Bhavan, Mother Teresa’s home for the unwanted children.- and that is exactly what we did.

A few years later , Maanika moved to Austria. Her first Christmas there with her brother and friends was not only white but filled with extravagance all around. There were so many Christmas markets, shops filled with goodies and churches and streets decorated colourfully. Perhaps after singing Silent Night in the darkened chapel after midnight Mass, she suddenly thought of the poor less fortunate people back in India.

By then she had started teaching English, both at a nearby institute and privately to earn some extra pocket money. In the New Year, as soon as the Christmas holidays ended she took her bold step. Since she was studying Pedagogie , a graduation degree for special children, she told her friends about the many special  children in India who hardly had a home, let alone a proper Christmas meal, gifts or decorations. She asked them to donate whatever they wanted and whatever was collected she would double it and send it to India. Her closest friend Steffi was the first to come forward- she put her hand in her pocket and took out one euro and put it into Maanika’s collection box. Thereafter everyone got into the spirit ,even her English student’s grandfather, who donated 20 euros. Before she knew it , Maanika had collected 40 euros and added 40 euros from her own meagre savings. She then called me and told me to identify a home for special children in Bangalore, where she could give her donation..

As luck would have it, a few days earlier ,a close friend  had told me about SWANTHANA., a symbol for Support, Warmth, Availability, Nourishment, Tenderness, Holistic approach, Affection, Nature and Assistance to the mentally and physically challenged orphaned female children in Bangalore. These children are so badly affected that their parents and families do not want them and are just dumped. The sisters of ‘the daughters of St Camillus’ have a vision of offering quality care and protection to these children, that is comprehensive and holistic with a preferential option for the mentally retarded children. Most of them are so severely  challenged, that they have to be carried every morning to the common room for sunshine and back to their beds every night. When we visited, there was ONLY ONE pretty little orphan who was normal – she was such a feast for the eyes ,amidst all the challenged children that she became thoroughly spoilt and pampered!!

God works in really wondrous and mysterious ways. When I called the Sister in charge, asking what particular item she needed for the home, she mentioned that she had just  ordered for 3 bathing beds with a central hole for the water to drain, so the children could be easily bathed lying down. She didn’t know where the money would come from , but was sure God would provide. And guess what – Maanika’s collection of 40+40 euros worked out to exactly 4500 Rs (at 2010 conversion rate) which was the cost of the 3 bathing beds @, 1500 Rs each!!!   

We promptly drove all the way to the other end of Bangalore on the outskirts and handed over the cheque to the Sister in charge. We went around the home where these special children were being lovingly cared for. Since we could not take a picture with the children , we took one of us handing over the cheque as proof for Maanika’s donor friends.

Over the years , Maanika has not forgotten these special children. One year she convinced us to help them in whatever way we could. When I asked Sister, she said the greatest need was for juice and milk . Again God helped us. Our online shopping centre Spar had a “Buy one get one free” offer for Tropicana juice. We promptly ordered 2 boxes of 24 cartons each of Tropicana juice and added 2 boxes of 24 cartons each of Good Life milk and again drove there to deliver them.

Having finished her degree, Maanika started teaching in a government school for special children. Going daily to work in the bitter wintry mornings, she remembered these special needy children back home. While we were enjoying hot Christmas punch in the different Christmas markets dressed warmly but still freezing in our winter woollens, she thought about making another collection for Swanthana. Back home, I called up Sister and she mentioned that they had run out of cotton mattresses as they were frequently soiled by the special children. Maanika put up a notice on her staff room board and before long she had enough to sponsor 50 cotton mattresses with protective cover for longer life. Our mattress maker, Pillow Babu as we call him, was willing to make them and drop them off over 40kms from our place (we only paid his petrol costs) adding 2 more mattresses from his own earnings. He took along his 2 solid fat sons to help unload. He related how his 2 grown up sons were moved to tears seeing the helpless  little ones.

And Maanika has still not forgotten them. Last year when her colleagues and friends from Austria came to India for her marriage, they were touched by the poverty all around. David, a thorough gentleman, wanted to sponsor children in different homes. On Maanika’s suggestion, he donated a big sum to Swanthana too(besides other charities) for whatever they needed . God bless all these generous souls.    

Feeding the Poor

Ever since he was a little boy, my son Mihir has been a connosieur  and lover of good food. This could be partly due to his severe milk fat intolerance as a baby or due to the weekly eating outs we did for years in the best eating places due to my husband Lalit’s “Eating Out  column” in the Times of India.

Having moved to Europe, first to study and then to settle down and work, he always felt he could pay back to Society by feeding the poor. He made several rounds to the charitable Caritas foundation asking for an opportunity to work in their soup kitchens . But they said they had enough of volunteers for this and would love to welcome him as an English teacher volunteer in any of their branches. Being already a Professor, this did not interest him.

So whenever he received some bonus or unexpected monetary reward, he decided to feed the poor in India under his charitable Mitaroy foundation. He had a mental picture of ladling out food to the poor as they waited outside the Church. He was really excited when he came to know of the “Breakfast program” run by the Don Bosco priests in Matunga church, Mumbai. Having written to them, he wanted us to check it out and actually hand over the breakfast before we had our own” Five star breakfast” at the Sofitel. So one cold dark morning, we drove to Matunga. There we found the poor waiting with their tumblers in a queue. A volunteer would fill the tumbler with hot sweet tea and give out 6 Pav breads to each one. I requested the person in charge and soon started distributing the pav breads to the 20 odd people who came there every morning ,come rain, floods or scorching heat every single day of the year thanks to donors. I immediately handed out Mihir’s cheque for 18,000/- @ 1500/ day for 1 year to be distributed on the 10th of every month ( that being his birth date). This practice of annual donation has continued over the years whenever he received an unexpected monetary bounty.

Sometime later he decided he wanted to feed the poor with “ Bise bele bath” – a complete food of rice, lentils and vegetables. At first he wanted me to make it and stand at some poor street corner and distribute it. Realizing the difficulties involved ( not the  least one my being a terrible cook) we advised him to instead contribute and ask the donee to make it for their members. And so started a new phase- he has again started donating an amount every month on the 10th to feed the inmates of the charitable Jeevodaya Ashram, a home for runaway girls. This amount is for their month’s rations with a provisio that they make “Bise bele bah” every Sunday. And the girls are enjoying the special treat.    

Of course he has not given up on his original dream of feeding the poor with hot Bise Bele bath made by me and has even started searching different recipes which he wants me to try out and perfect.

Mario Miranda’s 90th birth anniversary celebrations in Goa

Mario Miranda's 90th birth anniversary celebrations in Goa

The iconic Mario Miranda’s another famous Goan son of the soil touched generations with his humor. Mario featured Goan parents and grandparents in his works and so their children were more curious to see them in his cartoons.

Mario’s well loved characters,Ms.Fonseca the underdog,Godbole the Boss, Bundalbass the politician and the beggar are interesting characters forming part of the urban post independence era.

From the age of 10, he maintained 3 visual diaries of life around him on Goa’s socio-cultural environment from 1949, 1950 and 1951 which developed along with his draftmanship and style.Mario’s importance is that he saw the humorous side of life and issues in a world filled with discontent and violence.

I myself am very fond of Mario’s humor and have put up many of his paintings and picturesque tiles in my Mitaroy Goa hotel,Fontainhas,which I find very interesting and amusing, typifying the funnier side of Goan life.

A long time friend of Mario, Architect Gerard da Cunh has used the opportunity to release an illustrated diary of the 22 year old Mario while he was a student of St. Xavier’s Bombay.”Mario’s work on Goa is very powerful and mesmerizing which adds to the feeling of a fairyland” says Gerard.

The Mitaroy Goa Guide, edited annually by me, is proudly displayed and sold at Gerard’s Houses of Goa Museum, an Indo-Portuguese ship shaped architectural museum!

Last but not least, Happy Birthday Mario 🙂

The Perfect Present

The Perfect Present - Honeymoon Goa

This wedding season gift your near and dear ones something they will not throw away or exchange or pass on to others: A romantic getaway!

Gift the newly weds a truly pampering experience at my romantic heritage Mitaroy Hotel in Goa.The idea is for the two to have a memorable experience relax simply let their hair down and come closer together.

A big fat Indian wedding takes a major toll on the couple 💑

So at the Mitaroy Goa Hotel – India’s Only Couples Hotel, we gift the newly weds a perfect break of a romantic dinner on the beach away from the crowd.Here they can reconnect as a couple and relish their best memories from the wedding days while enjoying authentic Goan delicacies.

Doing fun activities will further increase their bonding.Hence at the Mitaroy Goa Hotel, we gift the couple a romantic boat cruise down the Mandovi tapping their feet to pulsating live music – both Goan as well as non Goan.

So this wedding season gift your near and dear or yourselves a romantic holiday in my couples-only Mitaroy Goa Hotel and we will do the rest to make it an unforgettable lifetime experience