For the Pudukkottai district Superintendent of Police, Arun Sakthi Kumar, May 13 proved to be an emotional day. It was just half an hour before a scheduled meet for all SPs in the district with the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. But for Arun, an even more important meeting was already underway.
He was holding a one-month-old baby, even as the child's mother who is blind stood beside them. She was waiting for the senior police official to name her baby, a rare honour given only to those who played a huge part in the family's life. A part, which the SP and the rest of the police force in the district had played without hesitation.
It was in February that the mother 34-year-old Savitri had arrived at Pudukkottai district pregnant with the unborn child.
"She is from Dindigul district and had been severely abused by her husband, who subjected her to domestic violence while he was under the influence of alcohol," alleges Selvam, a filmmaker and volunteer who first met Savitri at a blind school in Pudukkottai where she had arrived for refuge. "Her husband Selvaraj then threw her out of the house, refusing to support her even though she was pregnant with his child," alleges the volunteer.
Worried about how she will manage by herself, Selvam took Savitri to the office of SP seeking help.
"When she came to us, we immediately moved her to a government-run institution where she was given shelter and food. It was a renewal home in Gandharkottai and as a temporary measure we first let her stay there," says the SP. "I called Inspector Lakshmi, who leads the child-trafficking unit here and asked her to ensure that Savitri was protected and comfortable," he adds.
Savitri then delivered her child on March 24 at the Thanjavur Medical College on the day that the lockdown was announced in the country for the coronavirus pandemic. And while the delivery was successful, the child began to fall ill and experience breathing problems after he was brought back to the renewal home.
"The police ensured that Savitri got all the passes necessary to take the child to the hospital and also for us volunteers to come and help her with the child," says Selvam. "Despite the extra workload because of the lockdown, they still took special care and went out of their way to ensure help," he adds.
The SP states that soon after the child began to recover, Savitri was shifted to a home called Nesakarangal where she would have more help.
"I cannot express my gratitude enough. If my child and I are alive and healthy it is because of help from the police and volunteers. My husband made me leave, but here I have been taken care of so well," she says. "It was only natural that I would ask the SP to name my son," she adds.
And for the SP's part, he didn't take the task lightly.
"The family believes in numerology and horoscopes. So taking their wishes in consideration, I named the child Sripathy," he says. "For the police here, it was a matter of two lives, we had to rescue and help them, there was no question about it. But naming the child was an emotional moment. This hasn't happened before," he says.
Savitri is now preparing to go back to Dindigul, where she says she will stay with relatives.
"We are doing the necessary preparations to help her travel with the child," assures the SP.