Heartbroken after his wife of 35 years died last year, Janardanan decided to take both their savings from the bank and donate it.

This Kerala beedi worker gave Rs 2 lakh to CMs relief fund for buying vaccines
Coronavirus Human Interest Thursday, April 29, 2021 - 08:24

Even that Saturday, Rajani had gone to work at the Dinesh Beedi, a 50-year-old workers cooperative in Kerala. She had been a worker, making beedis, for 35 years. But the next day, a Sunday, Rajani showed a fit of epilepsy. Panicked, her husband, Janardhanan, took her to the nearby AKG Hospital in Kannur. They scanned and found a tumour in her brain, giving her only months to live. Five days before they were to celebrate their 36th wedding anniversary, Rajani died, leaving Janardanan heartbroken. Ten months later, Janardanan – still grieving for his beloved partner – would go to the district cooperative bank in Kannur, take out the two lakh rupees both of them had earned as their gratuity and other benefits over the years, and give it all to the Kerala Chief Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund (CMDRF) – so that he could help the state pay for the COVID-19 vaccines which were no longer free for all.

Janaradanan, a beedi worker himself, shot to fame that he didn’t desire in the last three days. “I made the contribution on Friday; and on Monday morning, a car stopped in front of my home, asking for me, and men jumped out of it with mics and cameras! I was not happy with [the media attention] at first but seeing their excitement, all of my anger melted away and I became an ordinary man,” he says, giving a hint of the genuineness behind all his actions.

In his undiluted flow of Kannur Malayalam, Janardanan talks about Rajani, whose death had broken him down so badly that he needed psychiatric treatment. “We always went to places together, even to have tea. My wife and I had not known it but apparently others in the family knew that she had only six months left. I didn’t expect it at all but on June 26, 2020, she passed away,” he says.

Janardhanan and his wife Rajani 

Janardanan took two pills in the night to keep himself calm. One such night – a Thursday – he watched the news about CM Pinarayi Vijayan’s statement on providing vaccines for free, despite the new vaccination policy of the Union government that forced states to buy half the vaccines for money.

“I work from 7 pm to 11 pm, making beedis at home. Till 10 pm I listen to the radio and then I watch the news on my mobile phone. That’s when I heard the CM say that the government would not change its word, they would provide vaccines for free. I reckoned it would cost them crores of rupees. Then I heard Union Minister V Muraleedharan speak against the CM and felt angry.  That night, I could not sleep. I sat thinking what I could do. The [psychiatric] medicines would usually keep me distracted. Then I remembered about the bank deposit and checked my passbook. There was 2,00,850 rupees left. I felt such joy and finally at eight in the morning, I could sleep for two hours,” Janardanan says.

At 10 am, he woke up with a start and took off to the bank in a bus. He told the manager that he wanted to put Rs 2 lakh in the CMDRF. “The manager and other staff of the bank took me to a cabin and talked to me. They asked if it wasn’t enough that I gave one lakh rupees. I told them I could not sleep a wink last night and if I should be able to sleep tonight, I must do this.”

They made out the cheque for Rs 2 lakh and sent him off to the Collectorate. His good deed done, Janardanan reached home feeling a weight lift off his heart. He felt really good that afternoon, he says. Janardanan didn’t think it was a big deal but the bank officials did, and they spread the word.

“They had asked me to wait that day, to give me some publicity. I said what is the use of publicity, my mind filling up with images I saw in the media of people falling to their deaths in Delhi and Gujarat, due to COVID-19. I went home straight and slept that day for 10 to 14 hours, peacefully.”

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