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May I help you?

Actor Rahul Bose is trying to reach out to the tsunami affected in his own way



Commitment to community: Rahul Bose — Pic. by R.V. Moorthy

RAHUL BOSE is an actor with a difference. Besides his refreshing lack of airs, he devotes his time to a number of activities apart from films, using both his star status and love for people to contribute towards the community. It's no wonder then that when the tsunami struck the coastlines of Asia on December 26, Rahul went beyond sending a cheque to one of the relief agencies, by camping on the Andaman and Nicobar islands to help the tsunami-affected.

"I had returned from a shooting on December 27. I watched the news on television for a couple of days. Then I just turned to my sister and said, `I'm going.' She said, `Okay, where will you go?' I thought, the poor in this country are invisible. And in the Andamans, apart from being poor, no one has ever felt part of mainland India. I thought this was a chance to reach out to them," says Rahul, emphasising his commitment to the cause. Having made his decision, he spoke to the NGO Akshara with which he works. It was decided to form the Solidarity Network, comprising 20 groups, including Akshara/FREA-INDIA, Nivara Hakk Welfare Centre (an NGO spearheaded by Shabana Azmi), Pakistan India People's Forum for Peace and Democracy, Prithvi Theatre, Girangaon Rojgar Hakk Samity, Majlis, Yuva, Vikas Adhyayan Kendra, Forum Against Oppression of Women, Media for the People, Focus on Global South and Point of View.

Rahul went on a three-day fact-finding mission to the Andamans. "We began to raise money for short-term relief," he says. Besides commodities like 400 kg of dal, the Network sent 80 Syntex tanks and 100 digging tool kits. "We just sent them even before the money came in."

Back in Mumbai, Rahul is in touch with the authorities on the islands every day. He is supportive of the Government agencies. "The Defence authorities have valiantly and unselfishly worked on the islands. The civil authorities had to work in an area that is at best difficult to access, and at worst impossible. There are only three landing strips on the 14 islands."

Now while Nivara Hakk Welfare Centre is working on long-term relief and rehabilitation in the Nagapattinam area, Rahul is furthering the same aim on the Andaman and Nicobar islands. The needs include restoring means of livelihood like boats, nets, propellers, with special focus on the economic rehabilitation of women. The Network plans to select two clusters or villages — one each in Tamil Nadu and the Andamans — to accomplish some long-term goals of restoration and rehabilitation. A group of counsellors and psycho-therapists has been sent to assist the affected in Tamil Nadu.

"My role over the next one to two years is to raise funds, and make sure these islands don't fall off the public consciousness," says Rahul. "I'm doing that by organising seminars and talks. I'm in touch with corporates. And I'll keep going to the Andaman and Nicobar islands."

Rahul epitomises the man with his feet on the ground and eyes on the horizon. Life as a film star continues, as he leaves for shooting in Kolkata as well as Bhutan.

The Solidarity Network has sent out an appeal signed by Rahul Bose and Shabana Azmi. The requirements range from financial to human resources. Specialists like doctors, paramedics, and those with managerial skills to run community kitchens and shelters (working knowledge of Tamil is preferable) may contact Hemant/Michelle at 09890150999 or Jatin at 9322255812 or email support@gandhiana.org.

ANJANA RAJAN

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