She has chosen compassion and kindness

Caring for the elderly during their sunset years can be quite a challenge. Especially in the current times, where one is pressed for time and resources.

However, there are people like Rukminidevi, who make an effort to create safe spaces for the elderly through their acts of kindness and charity. Atmanjali, an old age home in Suddekunte village, Madhugiri taluk of Tumakuru district, headed by the 93-year-old Rukminidevi comes as a ray of hope.

This nonagenarian from Yelahanka in Bengaluru used to work in the social welfare department and used part of her savings to build a home for the elderly. Prior to this initiative, Rukminidevi rented a house in Yelahanka, Bengaluru and set up a small unit to make plates using areca nut leaves. About 10 local underprivileged women were employed. Two years ago, she ventured into making sanitary napkins.


Rukminidevi

Her unit has four machines that manufacture 7,000 sanitary napkins a month. “There is a demand for areca nut leaf plates from hotels in Bengaluru. Others sell one plate for Rs 3.50, while I will sell one piece for Rs 2.50. Many hospitals in Bengaluru are ready to buy sanitary napkins from me,” says Rukminidevi.

She also conducts sessions for rural women on using the sanitary napkins. “Each woman can earn quite a bit if she works on a part-time basis. I see it as my commitment to women in rural areas, not as a profit-making venture,” she says.

Rukminidevi comes from a well-to-do family in Kanjeevaram, Tamil Nadu. Her father Bhasyam K Iyengar was a translator in the early 20th century. The family relocated to Bengaluru in 1935. “My father knew the importance of education and hence sent me to the school despite opposition in the family,” Rukminidevi recalls.

A BA graduate from Maharani Arts College, Bengaluru. She got a job in the social welfare department in 1948 and married H N Acharya in 1954. “My job exposed me to the trauma women faced,” she says.

“I was always rebellious against orthodox beliefs that deprived women of their fundamental rights. One of my relatives was married by the age of six and she became a widow within a year. She spent her life away from people, life actually ended for her much before she could realise what living is,” she added.

“I grew up seeing her trauma and I gravitated towards the idea of social entrepreneurship for women,” she recalls. Rukminidevi is also an avid reader and a staunch propagator of Kannada, she has also composed poems. 

Her initial days, after having vowed to do something for women, were challenging. “My husband and four children sternly opposed my idea when I told that I would dedicate my life for distressed people, but I decided to pursue what I had dreamed of,’’ she says. She founded Maa Charitable Trust on her own. “I’ve vowed not to receive any grants from government, individuals or associations. I’ve have decided to use my earnings to fund what I believe in. It is immensely satisfying. Money without experience and understanding is valueless,” she says.

Rukminidevi saved some amount in a fixed deposit and used the interest from the same to buy a three-acre land and set up a unit in Suddekunte. She recently moved to the village to be able to focus better.

“This is sufficient to manage my ventures,” she says. She has also pledged to donate her body to Ramaiah Hospital after her death. On a concluding note, she says, “Let me tell you that everyone – regardless of how much money or time they have – can make a significant impact on others. And, humans are uninteresting creatures if they’re without tenderness.’’ 

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She has chosen compassion and kindness

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