Today we bring you a unique story. A story of two people with exemplary courage, spirit and ideals. A story that shows, more than any Bollywood movie can, that true love has a higher purpose. That marriages can achieve a lot. Even more surprisingly, what mere weddings can achieve a lot! So read, learn and be amazed.
I was thinking that morning – this is one wedding that I want to attend, that I would cherish attending, where I would delight in giving the wedding gift.
I don’t enjoy weddings. I am not into competitive dressing, competitive jewelry showcasing, latest gossip, or assessing if the bride and groom are a ‘match made in heaven’.
But this wedding, the wedding of Thilak and Dhana on June 1st 2012 was different. It was a wedding that ‘made a difference’. How?
1. The wedding reception was a fundraiser for an education fund for underprivileged children. No box gifts were allowed; only donations to the fund.
2. The children from 8 homes in Chennai were invited to the wedding reception. They joined in the celebration just as the rest of us.
3. The bride did not wear any silk clothes or expensive ornaments and the wedding followed a much-researched simple ritual attended by close relatives.
It sounds simple, doesn’t it? And yet it is so hard to actually execute! How does a bride tell her family that she does not want to get dressed up and that she wants to marry so that she can adopt? And that the groom wants to pay for the reception from his own pocket – not his parents’ or in-laws’? And that he says No to gifts? Thilak and Dhana waited almost 2 years to convince their family to do just that!
No, Dhana and Thilak were not in love when they first thought of marriage. You see, both of them are uncommon, a little odd. Dhana had been avoiding marriage, for her passion lay with animals and social work. Thilak had decided he would not marry for he was convinced that he could not find a companion who would share his social passion, his adventurous spirit, and his quiet spirituality. But Gods smiled at these two wonderful individuals and brought them together in a way that is so apt!
A little baby girl called Theresa played cupid in this couple’s life. Who is Theresa? She was a non-affected six-month old girl abandoned by her teen-aged HIV+ve mother. She first triggered motherly love in Dhana’s heart. Then Dhana proposed to Thilak, a friend then, to marry her so that she could adopt the baby. Adoption homes try to find parents before the baby turns one year as children find it difficult to adjust to new homes as they grow up. Dhana could not convince her folks in time and Theresa was adopted by another set of loving parents. But the wedding fundraiser in June was in the name of Theresa Educational Fund commemorating the love that brought these two beautiful individuals together.
I have known Thilak for sometime now. I first ran into him at the India Against Corruption movement and thereafter discovered that Thilak had dedicated his life to the welfare of the underprivileged children. He is the co-founder of Sevai Karangal along with Nandan, which monitors and supports eight Children’s homes in the city of Chennai. The organization works with a difference: They don’t just donate. Rather, they ensure people engage with the homes and the children. The monthly social treks conducted by Chennai Trekking Club take Chennaiites to celebrate their birthdays at the Children’s homes or take the children out on joyful treks.
Thilak insists that what children need is attention and love more than anything else – a sense of familiarity, a joy. He raises funds for infrastructure – he had a block built at one of the homes when he noticed the rooms were cramped for the kids. He organized for water filters after he tested the water in a couple of the homes. He raises funds for their school books and stationery and uniforms. He raises funds for their education. He, along with other volunteers, organizes Diwali events at the homes. He also supports an Old Age home. Till date he has channelized close to Rs. 7 lacs to the various homes in about 4 years.
And he monitors closely if the money is being utilized effectively, if the children are being taken care of properly. I remember once I was travelling with him to a meeting, when he asked if I would accompany him to a surprise visit at a home nearby. We bought some goodies for the kids and dropped in. Thilak later explained that these sudden visits help him gauge the real situation and also keeps the pressure on caretakers at the homes.
Besides engagement and funding, the organization has set-up a mentorship project called Navigator, akin to the Big Brother Big Sister program in United States and workshops to improve creative skills in the children.
No, Thilak is not from any rich family. The poor guy shuffles his time between work and passion so that he can sustain himself as well as provide for his passion. Dhana is not a rich girl either. She is rich in her heart.
As these two ordinary citizens of our country took those seven steps to bind themselves in matrimony, they did more than that – they set an example for others to follow, they gave meaning to the structure called marriage, they brought hope in the lives of so many children, they brought faith back to cynical hearts. We salute their spirit and their ideals.