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The art of giving

Manohar and Mahema work on a special set of greeting cards each year. They sell these cards and donate the proceeds to charity.



Finds happiness in charity

WRITER SLASH artist, Manohar Devadoss was in the city recently, to research details for a book of Madurai-based illustrations he is currently working on.

While not many may be familiar with his name, those who do know the man, his art and his life story are not likely to ever forget him.

Mr Devadoss grew up in the Madurai of the 1940s. His wife Mahema is a gold-medallist who studied Art and Literature in Madras. In the early days of their marriage this couple travelled extensively, making friends all across the globe. They were blessed with a daughter and eventually settled down in Madras.

In the midst of their joy, they made a promise to always strive to practice what Mahema called, `The Art of Giving'. Then there was the road accident that changed everything. Mahema was badly hurt. She was left paralysed below the shoulders - for life.

In one of his books Manohar writes, "She had no control over many bodily functions. She would have to live with the constant threat of infections, bedsores and spasms. She would be a `dependent' all her life."

Around the time of the accident Manohar's vision began to fail. He was diagnosed with Retinitis pigmentosa - a degenerative eye condition for which there is no known cure.

Today he is almost blind. When dreams are destroyed it takes a rare kind of courage to pick up the pieces, to push past the pain, the self-pity and the but-why-me-Lord bewilderment. That is the kind of courage that the `Devadosses' have. And thirty odd years since the accident they still have it.

Mahema's caregiver

Mahema slowly learned to use the muscles of her shoulder to write, and began to compose short stories for children, while also playing a leading role in several local charities. Her chief caregiver was, and still is, her husband. He knows every intricate detail of her medical treatment and is constantly finding ways to ease the burden of pain she carries. Even as his vision rapidly failed, Manohar Devadoss began work on "Green Well Years" an illustrated book that is an affectionate tribute to his boyhood in Madurai. It is filled with exquisitely detailed pen and ink drawings, each one a flawless, sharp-edged, heartbreaking reproduction of a snapshot from his life.

Photographic memory

But how does he do it? With special eye drops to dilate his pupils, with super strong lights and special magnifiers, with a photographic memory and uncompromising attention to detail, with a dedication and perseverance that go far beyond the ordinary.

Together, each year they work on a special set of greeting cards. Manohar does the drawing and Mahema prepares a short write-up explaining the particular significance of the place, building, statue or scene that he has drawn. They sell these cards and donate the proceeds to charity.

This year the couple is working on a special set of cards with pictures of Madurai. They intend to donate the money to a non-profit organisation within the city. The sketches include a beautiful depiction of the temple car being pulled through a Madurai street, another reproduces the intricate carvings on the side of the chariot.

Yet another one is a charming sketch of the historical building on top of Pasumalai.

The Art of Giving is as much a part of the Devadosses lives as it everwas before. And together they are a beautiful lesson in grace for all. To place an order or obtain more information about the cards or to drop a note of thanks to the couple for their inspiration, you can send a mail to mahemano@hotmail.com

PAVITHRA KRISHNAN

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