A new lifeline

A new lifeline

It was a poignant moment for the entire village on Monday as everyone gathered to tearfully welcome the arrival of a visitor bearing an unusual gift.

It was the Tamil New Year and after a six-hour journey from Chennai, India, Mr Thirunavakarasu arrived at Chattiram, hometown of Mr Sakthivel Kumaravelu, 33. Mr Sakthivel's death in a traffic accident sparked the Little India riot last December.

Mr Thirunavakarasu had a cow and a calf, a gift from Singapore to Mr Sakthivel's mother, Madam Rajalakshmi, 53.

"Mr Sakthivel's mother burst into tears when she first laid eyes on the animals. She looked at the calf closely and exclaimed that the calf resembled her late son," said Mr Thirunavakarasu, an Indian national who used to work in Singapore.

The animals were gifts from Mr Wee Lin, the chairman of Sunlove Abode for Intellectually Infirmed.

The woman then hugged the calf and cried, "My son has returned to look for me, he has come back to look after me!"

Mr Wee told The New Paper that he was moved by the plight of Mr Sakthivel's family and resolved to help them.

Madam Rajalakshmi had relied on her son, who was a construction worker in Singapore. After his death, the family struggled.

Their brick house, unfinished and unfurnished, is also home to her other son, Ramesh, 25, who is disabled, and her elderly mother. Madam Rajalakshmi's husband died five years ago from an illness, and her daughter, 22, was killed last year during a robbery.

Mr Wee, who was named Philanthropist of the Year in 2010, said: "I found that not enough people were coming out to help and most people could only donate money, so we decided to give the family livestock as it would serve a more practical purpose."

The Singaporean asked his representative, Mr Thirunavakarasu, who used to work at Sunlove in Singapore before going back to India, to go to the small village to deliver the special gift.

The village chief, Mr Maanickam, said: "I am surprised Mr Wee thought of giving us such a gift. We are grateful a man from a thousand miles away has not forgotten us and support us."

BOUGHT

Mr Thirunavakarasu bought the animals for $800 in India.

He explained that the cow will be able to provide an average of 10 litres of milk every day for eight years. The family would need only one litre and could sell the rest, with each litre of milk fetching 35 rupees (S$0.73) in the village.

Madam Rajalakshmi said that if her son were still alive, he would have given her 10,000 rupees each month.

However, she expressed her immense gratitude for every donation she has received, including those from organisations and individuals in Singapore and Mr Sakthivel's colleagues.

Mr Ramesh, who is receiving treatment for a brain injury, hopes to help his mother once he is well.

He said he hopes to find a job in Singapore one day so that he can earn money to send home.

He called Mr Thirunavakarasu on Wednesday to tell him that the family is doing well and Madam Rajalakshmi is thankful to everyone who has given her hope.

melodyng@sph.com.sg

This article was published on April 19 in The New Paper.

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