26 December is no more a day to get in the celebratory mood for Karibeeran Parameswaran, a central government employee of the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation in Nagapattinam, a small town that rests around 300 km away from Chennai.
On 26th December in the tragic year 2004, Karibeeran was having fun in the beach with his family while his wife, Choodamani cooked the dinner for his birthday celebration at night. If Karibeeran had known what was going to happen in a few minutes, he would have never decided to go to the beach with his 2 daughters, son, brother and his wife. It was when Karibeeran’s son pointed at the 20 feet high wave to his father and the two started running.
“Twenty feet high waves were coming towards me like a mountain. My entire family was at the beach that day. Kids nearby were playing volleyball and cricket. My son and I were playing with a Frisbee. All of a sudden it happened, in an instant. If I was not affected by it, I would have been photographing the entire event.” Karibeeran recounts the saddest day of his life.
The waves had pushed Karibeeran towards the land right near his own house. He realized that his son was nowhere near him. Later, he found his son’s body near the railway track. Karibeeran’s house and the beach were separated by this railway track. In a few hours he found the bodies of his rest of the family. Karibeeran who had left for the beach in a group of cheerful people, returned alone with no hope on his mind.
“There were some days we stopped wanting to live.” He said.
Though Karibeeran and Choodamani did not know what to do with their lives, they felt responsible for taking care of the people who lost their families in the Asian Tsunami. They preserved the bodies of the people found dead around them so they could give them to their families who would arrive looking for them.
Four days later, they decided to go to the nearby village to see how people were coping with their difficulties. The two had been donating for the education of the kids in the village. “We wanted to see how people there were after the tsunami,” Karibeeran.
Not knowing the couple’s loss, people shared their difficulties. The very day Karibeeran and Choodamani decided they would adopt the kids who had lost their families. They returned with 3 kids.
This day marked the beginning of Nambikkai which means ‘Hope’ in English, a trust registered under the Juvenile Justice Act. Nambikkai has been taking care of orphaned children since 2004. The two buildings of the trust that took care of 3 kids to begin with, now houses 37 children who are special to Karibeeran and Choodamani.
Boys and girls at Nambikkai live in two separate buildings. The kids go to the a government school to study. Karibeeran has appointed 5 tuition teachers to teach the kids for two hours daily. The kids wake up each day and pray for everyone from PM Modi to O Panneerselvam, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and for everyone in the country.
Parameswaran received help from his close friends in building Nambikkai. Rahel, Karibeeran’s old friend who now lives in Switzerland talked to him and his wife for hours to give them strength and hope. “By the time the tsunami happened, I had already visited Nagappattinam twice. The wave was a big shock for me and my family.” Rahel told. It was during their long conversations that they had decided to start Nambikkai (Hope).
“We can clap our hands or admire people, but actually everyone can make a difference… Cultures and countries should learn from each other and share the resources they have to make peoples live not only better, but give them hope and future to live beyond death,” Rahel.
Another friend Vijay, settled in Canada assisted Karibeeran financially to build Nambikkai (Hope).
“Today things are different. We have more outside support now”, Karibeeran. Karibeeran and Choodamni now have a reason to live and they are happy to know their sole purpose in life.
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