The month leading up to Ganesh Chaturthi is a busy one for Chittoor-based Parvathareddi Parthasarathi Naidu. The 75-year-old social worker spends his days knocking on doors of the fourteen constituencies in the district and identifying households with the ailing and the poor. Why? So he can ensure they have the means to celebrate the festival.
Parthasarathi distributes Ganesha idols, pooja materials, food and clothes to the poor. "When everyone around you is celebrating and you can't, it's not going to make you feel very good. This gives them a reason to celebrate and feel good," he says. He's environmentally conscious too and distributes only clay idols. This year, Parthasarathi says he gave away 1,000.
But does he not celebrate Ganeshotsav then? "Sometimes people insist that I stay for the Pooja. So I spend 5-10 minutes with them before going to the next house. That's enough for me," he maintains.
In the 30 years that he’s been doing this, Parthasarathi has seen people living in abject conditions. "Sometimes, their clothes are so torn that they are too shy to come out of their houses. Some are handicapped and unable to find work. Others are afflicted by cancer and other deadly diseases with no one to help them," he says.
But a family he met last year stands out in particular. A newly married man of around 28 years of age was diagnosed with blood cancer. With a one-year-old daughter and a wife to support along with the expenses for his bone-marrow transfusions, the man ended up selling his shop and his property. "When I went to his house to give him some money, the whole family was in tears. I couldn't help but shed a few too," recounts Parthasarathi.
With whatever he makes from his 8-10 acre farm land and mangrove garden, he tries to give financial aid to people who are sick but cannot afford treatment. "I try to help in any way I can. Rs 10,000 or 20,000… I will give them whatever I can," he says.
But what kept Parthasarathi going for three decades? "I grew up seeing my parents helping the poor labourers who would come to or village in Pakala. I am just doing the same," he answers.
He also does not want to associate with NGOs working for the poor. "My parents did whatever they could in their capacity and it worked fine. If you become part of a structure, there are protocols which take time. This way, I can do things on my own and faster," he explains.
Parthasarathi hopes that if people see him helping others, they will also do their bit. "There are so many people with money but they don't want to help. If everyone does their bit, these people wouldn't have to suffer anymore," he says.