Good deeds, like art and music, transcend human barriers like language. I truly understood the meaning of this when I spoke with Priya Sumesh. I clearly could see the good in her as she described her life in her mother-tongue Malayalam – a language that I understand in parts, but not enough to appreciate.
Priya raises funds for underprivileged children undergoing cancer treatment. She has helped ten children so far and hopes to continue doing so. She started raising funds by singing on the streets and now gets called to perform at various shows.
Priya, aged 30, was diagnosed with pituitary adenoma, a non-cancerous tumour in the pituitary gland. Two tumours of 3.4 mm and 4.3 mm are lodged at the back of her head. Upon examination, while the doctors did mention that they could surgically remove them, they also warned Priya that she might lose her eyesight or voice in the process. Not wanting to take that chance, Priya has been living with immense physical and emotional pain.
In a conversation with The Better India, Priya shares with us why she chose the medium of music to help others in need.
“I lost my elder sister to intestinal cancer. While medical sciences have made great advancements, due to our financial condition at that time, we were not able to afford the medicines and treatment. Despite selling everything we owned, we were unable to save her,” she says.
Seeing death at such close quarters made Priya vow to herself to work for others. Subsequently, she was diagnosed with pituitary adenoma.
“I remember sitting at the doctor’s clinic waiting to be called in when I saw a young child who was with her mother. I struck up a conversation and found that she was suffering from cancer, and her parents were unable to continue the treatment due to a lack of funds. That’s when I decided to use my voice to pay for her treatment.”
Priya has a very soothing and mellifluous voice and has always been praised for it. “I have no formal training but, in terms of talent, my voice is one thing I knew I could always count on,” she says.
Since there was no platform that Priya could use, she decided to sing on the streets and collect money. By doing this, she collected close to Rs 2.5 lakhs for the first child she helped.
“The first song I sang (Adiva Katte) became viral, and that helped me immensely. The song was also featured on a popular Malayalam channel called Flowers TV. Post that, there were various shows I started performing at,” she recalls.
After that, there has been no looking back for Priya. Now she gets invited to various functions to perform and has also been presented various awards.
She spoke about one such award function, which will always remain special to her. She elaborates, “I was invited to Muscat for an award function as their Guest of Honour.”
“There, I received an award and cash amount of Rs 1.5 lakhs from none other than Laletan (Mohanlal), which was very special for me.”
“When I started singing on the streets I used to visit the Ernakulum police station to get permission. My husband, Sumesh, and I would set out and find a spot where we would set up the sound system, and I would begin singing. We carried a flexi-board which had all the details of the child I was supporting, and I managed to get donations of up to Rs 50,000 in this manner,” she says.
Priya has been lucky and to find donors who have always helped her out. “The sound system and the car were donated by people who believed in what I was doing,” she says.
Speaking about her husband, she says, “I have received so much support and encouragement from my husband and mother-in-law.”
“Initially, my husband would drive me, but since we also have to run our household, he decided to take up a steady job.”
There is immense physical pain that Priya goes through. Often, even before she sets out to sing, she has to go to the hospital to get an injection to reduce the pain. Yet, she is one of the chirpiest people I have spoken to in a long while.
“The only way I can help these children is by singing, and I will continue to do that till I can. There has to be a bigger purpose to life than just living. My purpose is to help these children,” she states.
We hope that Priya finds the strength to continue her work and support many more children.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)
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