Forever scarring the lives of more than 50,000 villagers across the district of Kasaragod, the Endosulfan disaster is undoubtedly amongst the worst man-made tragedies to have ever occurred in India.
Through routine aerial spraying of the deadly pesticide on cashew plantations owned by the Plantation Corporation of Kerala for over a period of 25 long years, dead butterflies, frogs, and insects, along with calves born with extreme mutations, were among the first casualties resulting from the use of endosulfan, across the region.
However, it was in the early nineties when the extent of endosulfan’s toxic proliferation started showing up amidst the local population in the form of debilitating medical conditions like congenital anomalies, delayed puberty, mental retardation, abortions, cancer, and cerebral palsy.
Although every single person in the region fell prey to the noxious snares of endosulfan in varying extents, the worst victims were young children and babies who were born during and after the time period of the spraying.
With very little help from the state government, the future seems bleak to the remaining families in these villages, who have forgotten what it means to have a life other than continually caring for their stunted and mentally disabled children.
So was the story of Devaki, an old woman living in Enmakaje, one of the affected villages in Kasaragod, whose existence found, if at all, a little respite when the crew of critically acclaimed film ‘Valiyachirakulla Pakshikal‘ starring renowned actor Kunchacko Boban, began filming at the village.
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Centred on the tragedy, the film documents the lives of actual victims and their families, including Devaki and her bedridden daughter Sheelabathi, which is captured by a photojournalist essayed by Kunchacko.
According to Manorama, in one of the scenes where Kunchacko is told that for over four decades, Devaki had been singlehandedly taking care of her child, who had a rare genetic disorder caused by the deadly pesticide, he broke down for real and couldn’t stop his tears while hugging Devaki.
Upon further learning that she had little income other than what she earned from chopping grass and selling it, Kunchacko decided to support the old lady through monthly financial aid. He even went ahead and promised her that if she needed any kind of help, he would be there for them.
Since 2015, the actor has been depositing ₹5,000 every month for Devaki to meet their expenses without publicising the act of kindness.
Kunchacko often worried what would happen to Sheelabathi, if something were to happen to her ageing mother.
But in an unlikely twist of events, it was Sheelabathi who finally broke free from a life of pain and suffering on February 11, leaving behind a vacuum in Devaki’s life who spent all her life taking care of her daughter.
Staying true to his word, Kunchacko makes sure that Devaki is being taken care of and has deposited a year’s worth of remuneration in her account at one go.