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Wednesday, 23 May 2018 00:00

Transforming Life Adversity into Blessings

Written by  Low Hai Loon, Klang / Translated by Ong Mooi Lin

At volunteers’ encouragement, Geetha, who was recovering from her injury, followed her husband, Sukumaran, to take part in recycling activity. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]

Tzu Chi volunteers walked into the life of Sukumaran’s family five years ago, through an affinity bridged by Tzu Chi Study Grant. Back then, Sukumaran was facing a business crisis and his wife, Geetha, was suffering from a severe spinal injury due to a traffic accident. With volunteers’ caring companionship, their life is gradually back on track again. Although there are still many challenges ahead, the couple is determined to walk the Bodhisattva Path to reciprocate the kindness they have received.


“Crack, crack...” Noises were heard as Sukumaran a/l Kumarasamy pushed the trolley through the wooden platforms along the alleys in Bagan Hailam Village, a traditional Chinese fishing village in Klang, where most of the buildings are wooden and built on swamplands.

“Do you have any recyclables?” Sukumaran asked along the way and most villagers would give him the old newspapers, plastic bottles and cans they kept in their houses. Looking at the volume of recyclables on the trolley, Sukumaran commented, “Usually there are a lot more recyclables collected on Recycling Day. Sometimes I even had to make two rounds to collect all the recyclables. The load collected is a bit less today, but at least it is because a recycling vendor had come to collect earlier and not that they had discarded them into the sea...”

Challenges came one after another

Sukumaran has been involved in recycling for four years, after his first meeting with Tzu Chi five years ago, at a low ebb in his life.

Volunteer Wong Lee Poh, who has been caring for the family, still felt sorry for them when recalling the past: “We walked into Sukumaran’s family because his child is a beneficiary of Tzu Chi Study Grant. It was the most difficult time for them – Sukumaran’s business went bankrupt, his wife was bedridden, and the bank was about to auction off his house. The family of seven, including a newborn, were at the verge of having no food for the following day...”

Lee Poh and fellow volunteers comforted them and immediately arranged for emergency aid relief. Besides sending them daily supplies, volunteers also helped the family with financial planning, accompanying Sukumaran to the bank to restructure his housing loan so that the family would not be homeless.

Sukumaran shared that his life now is drastically different from what it was ten years ago. He used to own two big trucks and work very hard with his workers to deliver goods for others across the states. Their hard work paid off with a lucrative income.

Unfortunately, crisis struck at the peak of his life. One of his trucks was reported lost with full load of goods and was not recoverable. He was liable for the loss and had to refinance his house for loan to compensate the consigner. He then attempted to set up an Indian food stall but business failed as well. To complicate the situation, his wife, Geetha, met with a motorcycle accident on her way home from office and suffered spinal and pelvis injuries. Despite going through various medical treatments, they were ineffective. With difficulty in walking, she could only lie in bed most of the time, leaving Sukumaran with all the responsibilities of caring for the family.

The family’s misfortunes did not stop there. Having worked very hard and staying up late for some time, Sukumaran’s health was jeopardized. He was diagnosed with pancreatic failure, which resulted in imbalanced glucose level. He would lapse into unconsciousness when his condition became serious. Faced with all these ordeals, his life turned topsy-turvy.

Facing adversity with a positive mindset

When his life hit bottom, Tzu Chi volunteers walked into his family, supporting them and leading them out of darkness step by step.

“I need to have four insulin injections a day, before each meal and another before sleeping.” Sukumaran sterilized the syringe needle and carried out the injection himself, looking perfectly at ease. But he shared, “Actually I was very anxious the first time I did it myself. I couldn’t bring myself to do it and struggled for quite a while.” With practice, it became manageable now. Sukumaran understood that the insulin injection is a must for him. He recalled that on a few occasions last year, he had lapsed into unconsciousness and needed to be rushed to the hospital in an ambulance.

In spite of his health condition, he still seizes every opportunity to give. He said, “When I was in trouble and my wife was bedridden, none of my relatives or friends offered their support; only Tzu Chi volunteers willingly extended a hand. Although I cannot afford to contribute financially now, I can contribute my efforts to reciprocate Tzu Chi’s kindness towards my family.”

In fact, he would worry about manpower issue at the recycling point at times when he was hospitalized and could not volunteer on the monthly Recycling Day. He said, “I don’t really think much about my illness. I would just follow the volunteers for recycling activity and home visits to care recipients. Sometimes when I felt tired or giddy, I would just take a rest. I couldn’t wait to complete the tasks on hand.”

Now, Sukumaran has found a truck driver job in delivering consignments in Port Klang. Although the pay is meagre, it is enough to feed the family on top of paying his housing loan and utility bills. Life is not at all well-off, but he is content. He shared, “I found the meaning of my life each time I contributed my effort for a good cause. Even though I am poor, I am still able to help others. So I will continue to give for as long as my physical body allows me to.” Drenched in sweat volunteering at the recycling station, his face brimmed with a content smile as bright as the rising sun.

Walking the Bodhisattva Path

When volunteers found Sukumaran’s single-storey terrace house rather dim upon entering, he explained smilingly that it was because he had yet to replace the defective lightbulb. Then, he pointed to the ceiling and said, “It leaks on rainy days. But volunteers have promised to get someone to try fix it.” Although the decorative plaster ceiling looked old, yellowish and chipped, its former glory was visible.

Things have changed for the family. Thankfully, Geetha, who was bedridden post-accident, has now regained her mobility and is able to handle household chores like cleaning and cooking without the husband’s help.

When volunteers visited, she was busily cooking vegetable curry in the kitchen. It was only when her children were enjoying their rice served with the curry dish, with mainly gravy and little vegetables, that she had the time for rest. She shared, “The physiotherapy treatments were effective and my condition has improved greatly. Areas around my waist would still hurt after prolonged period of standing or moving around. I would then lie down to rest as I don’t want to burden my family any further. I must be strong for myself and for my family.”

The positive progress in Geetha’s condition has allowed Sukumaran to focus on his work without having to worry about household matters. The couple supports each other in improving their family’s situation. Geetha remarked, “The support, love and patience from family members are of great importance, without which, I don’t think I could hang on for so long.”

Aside from taking care of her family, Geetha has since this year joined Sukumaran as a volunteer. As they are still Tzu Chi care recipients, volunteers would visit them first on the monthly Charity Day. Thereafter, the couple would change into Tzu Chi uniforms and visit other care recipients along with the volunteers.

They are always ready to join the volunteers whenever a charity case that requires immediate attention is referred to the community volunteers. At times, they were able to help the volunteers to better understand the situation when the case referred involved an Indian. They are also regulars at the monthly Recycling Day. Their son, Dennis, a beneficiary of Tzu Chi Study Grant, would also join his parents in recycling activity occasionally.

Geetha shared, “It feels good to be able to contribute to a good cause. I need to take sleeping pills sometimes, but strangely, every time after volunteering at Tzu Chi, I could sleep soundly that night.” The couple is deeply grateful for the timely assistance from Tzu Chi years ago and are moved by the volunteers’ untiring care over the past several years. Geetha could never forget how helpless she was when her husband was hospitalized last year, and she could not get a taxi to go to the hospital. But, when she rang Lee Poh, the latter came immediately to offer her a ride.

Geetha said determinedly, “Through my interactions with the volunteers these years, I realized that their tasks are quite taxing. Sometimes they lacked manpower and other times, there were just too many things for them to attend to. Thus, I also want to be a volunteer. What’s more, I am a university graduate. So I told the volunteers I will follow them, as long as it is something within my means.”

Life is still full of challenges for the family with a tight household expenditure. Nonetheless, both Sukumaran and Geetha have faith that one could give hope to others who are in need by extending a helping hand to them. They have turned from receivers to givers, thereby spreading the spirit of Great Love farther and wider.

 

 

Tzu Chi volunteers walked into Sukumaran’s family because of Tzu Chi Study Grant. Besides giving them financial and emotional support, volunteers also inspired them to serve humanity. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]   Volunteers visited Sukumaran’s family and showered their care on Geetha, who was recuperating at home. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]

Tzu Chi volunteers walked into Sukumaran’s family because of Tzu Chi Study Grant. Besides giving them financial and emotional support, volunteers also inspired them to serve humanity. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]
 
Volunteers visited Sukumaran’s family and showered their care on Geetha, who was recuperating at home. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]
 
Care recipient Sukumaran, has since four years ago, joined Tzu Chi volunteers to do recycling in Bagan Hailam Village. He is seen here pushing a trolley loaded with recyclables together with his son. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]   Volunteer Wong Lee Poh helped translate to Sukumaran and his wife, Geetha, at the volunteer training session conducted in Chinese language. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]

Care recipient Sukumaran, has since four years ago, joined Tzu Chi volunteers to do recycling in Bagan Hailam Village. He is seen here pushing a trolley loaded with recyclables together with his son. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]
 
 
Volunteer Wong Lee Poh helped translate to Sukumaran and his wife, Geetha, at the volunteer training session conducted in Chinese language. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]
 
Having recovered from her injury, Geetha seizes the opportunity to contribute her little effort for a good cause. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]  

Having recovered from her injury, Geetha seizes the opportunity to contribute her little effort for a good cause. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]