Sunday, May 01, 2011

The joy of giving

Dr. Kurian Melamparambil, who runs Melam Charities, has won the Padma Shri for social work in 2010. So far, he has helped 1.25 lakh people and spent Rs 15 crore

By Shevlin Sebastian

On May 28, 1978, Dr. Kurian Melamparambil got the shock of his life when his father, M.V. John, died suddenly of a heart attack. “It shook me to the core,” he says. As it was a Sunday, Kurian was not able to get the proper treatment which could have saved his father. “Later, I thought I could do nothing to stop his death, but, maybe, I could help others from dying prematurely,” he says.

On September 10, 1986, Kurian started the Melamparambil Varghese John Memorial Charities in memory of his father. But very soon, he discovered that he was running short of money. At that time, he was working as a senior executive in a newspaper company. So he decided to quit and become an industrialist.

In 1992, he started the Melam group, which makes all types of curry powders, spices, pickles, breakfast items, sauces and pickles. It has been doing well from the very beginning. The company has two factories in Aluva, and operates through distributors all over Kerala.

“We also send our products to other parts of India and to the Gulf countries, Europe, USA, Russia, Australia and New Zealand,” says Kurian. “In fact, wherever there is a Malayali, Melam is present.”

Thankfully, because of the company’s success, Kurian has been able to set aside a considerable portion of his income for charity. About 1.25 lakh people have received treatment through 1357 doctors in 899 hospitals. So far, he has spent Rs 15 crore.

“I remember my friends advised me to accumulate wealth and later give it to charity,” says Kurian. “But I thought that a man who is ill needs the money today and not ten years later.”

Kurian has a standard operating procedure for his charity. On the second Saturday of every month, at his home town of Tiruvalla, he holds a meeting where sick people can approach him. They have to fill a form which is counter-signed by the hospital authorities, the local panchayat member, and the MLA. “I want to ensure that genuine people receive treatment,” he says.

Only those who have life-threatening diseases like cancer, diabetes, kidney failure and heart problems are eligible. The hospital, where the patient is receiving treatment, will provide an estimate of the monthly expenses and Melam charities will pay 75 per cent.

“The basic principle of social work is to make people self-dependent,” says Kurian. “That is why I don't give the full amount. I want them to earn the rest.”

Meanwhile, through his many years of social work, Kurian made an astonishing discovery: around 90 per cent of the patients rarely express any gratitude. He remembers a patient whom he met on the streets of Panampilly Nagar. The man ignored Kurian completely. On another occasion when Kurian met him, the man said, “I am sorry but I did not want the people in my area to know that you have helped me.”

Kurian recalls the case of a financially-strapped professional to whom he had offered assistance. “He was able to give a good education to his children,” says Kurian. “One son earned a high salary in the IT industry. But neither he nor his son met me or offered to contribute some money to the charity.”

But there are others who have invited him and his wife for dinner because the husband or the wife has been cured. “This is human nature,” says Kurian. “Only a few are grateful. The only way you can do social work is to expect nothing in return.”

However, Kurian has received many awards for his charity work, and for excellence in business. This was topped by the Padma Shri which he won in 2010 for social service.

(The New Indian Express, Kochi)

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