Anila Balachandran, a 44-year-old social activist, may not be so familiar to the cream of the society, but for the unfortunate street dwellers and tribals in the Kozhikode district she is a synonym for hope. For the last five-years she has been providing patients at the Medical College Hospital and beggars and street dwellers near the railway station and Sangham theatre premises with food packets without any disruption.
Her care for the patients does not end with just offering food. She also provides them with clothing, medicine and even shelter. Snehalayam, a rehabilitation centre for destitute patients, functioning at her home in the Kozhikode Medical College housing colony, takes care of 15 abandoned patients most of them mentally ill.
Recalling her reasons to take this path, she relates a real life experience back to around 20 years.
“I was giving food to patients as an offering for the almighty to cure my eldest son, Arun. When he was a two-year-old child he was almost declared dead following an epileptic seizure,” said Anila, holding her son close to her bosom.
He is now a second year nursing student at BHM. “The difficulties I faced in my life and the sudden death of my younger brother made me extend a helping hand for the struggling lot.” The food for the patients is prepared by Anila at her home. “We cannot afford a servant here," she adds.
Earlier, Anila used to provide food for the patients, especially tribals, in the noon. “Now the government provides them lunch, hence I changed my timing,” she said. She used to distribute food for around 150 persons every evening. “In the beginning, I found the revenue for serving food by engaging in various jobs like candle making. Now I get support from generous sponsors.”
“I am happy that I have made several abandoned patients feel at home with me here in the small house,” said Anila. A few months ago, a wife of a Central Government employee, who was handed over to her by the police, left her centre after being cured.
“I have come across several patients in my life, each with an unforgettable experience,” said Anila. “Lakshmi , a patient belonging to the Chola Naykka community made me think over the struggles of tribals in Sugandagiri and Mangappady colonies in Wayanad. I happened to see several talented students in the colonies who were not ready to continue their education because of poverty.”
“Every month I visit the colony with my husband and provide sacks of rice and other edibles.” Least bothered about her financial situation, Anila is confident on continuing her mission as a social activist. “I am blessed with three children and a compassionate husband. I value them more than anything else in this life,” she adds.