April 25, 2011

INDIA: “At my age, money ceases to be important”

BANGALORE, Karnataka / Bangalore Mirror / Story / April 25, 2011

By Kumaran P

In all of her 85 years, Salumarada Thimmakka has lived in abject poverty. Despite this, she had planted more than 290 Banyan saplings near Nelamangala by dipping into her own pocket. She has lost count of the honours and awards she has received for her efforts.

So when this champion of the environment was conferred the Karnataka Rajya Parisara Prashathi in 2007, which included a cash prize of Rs one lakh, it certainly came as good news. But, instead of being able to enjoy that money on some much deserved comfort, she has been forced to spend it on two showcases to safeguard her prizes and trophies.

“Visitors simply walk away with any trophy they can lay their hands on. She doesn't know how many prizes she is missing,” says Vanasri Umesh who has been looking after Thimmakka for more than seven years at her residence in Hulikal taluk near Magadi. Yet, neither of the showcases is locked. “I cannot insult my guests. In any case, I did not have great plans for that money. Maybe, I could have added another room to my house to ensure that people who come to see me have a little more space,” says Thimmakka who gives visitors benefit of the doubt. “It is not that they want to steal the awards. Most people even ask me if they can take a trophy or two, which they want to worship in their homes,” she says.

The last straw was when somebody stole the gold medal that comes along with the national award conferred on Thimmakka in the year 2006.

“We just have the trophy now. It is not just her trophies. Many people would even siphon off the cash prize given to her. If the amount is Rs 10,000, they would put Rs 1,000 in an envelop and give it to her,” says Umesh. But, Thimmakka brushes aside the loss philosophically saying, “At my age, money ceases to be important.”

The statement takes on a deeper meaning considering that Thimmakka’s old age pension is Rs 400 and there’s no family to take care of her. Last week, she had been admitted to Vani Vilas Hospital for breathing problems and allergy issues. She could not have afforded the care if it had not been provided to her free of cost.

Dr M Mallikarjun, HoD, department of Dermatology, Victory Hospital, said, “It is a chronic dry skin problem because of aging. She kept rubbing the area and the allergy became worse. We have put her in the VVIP ward and given her the necessary medicine. She will be alright in a couple of days.”

But, medical experts say that considering her age, health problems are inevitable.

With no family to take care of her, she has only the awards to comfort her. If only unscrupulous people did not deny her that little pleasure.

Copyright 2011 © Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd