Jeevan Pankidaam ( Let us share our life )
By Fr Davis Chirammal
D C Books, Kerala pp136, Rs 110.00, 2016
When I first heard of Fr Davis Chiramel, I was more than surprised at his courage. The priest of Irinjalakuda diocese in Kerala had donated one his kidneys to a stranger, a Hindu daily wager who lived in his parish area.
I admired his generosity.
One day I saw a book with his smiling face on its cover. I kept it back said, saying I had heard about his story. However, something propelled me to return to the shop to buy that book.
I am happy I did.
In the book I came face to face with a priest who exemplified the merciful heart of God even before he decided to donate his kidney.
He learnt to give himself from childhood, as he grew up in a joint family.
At his ordination, Fr Chiramel had decided to turn vegetarian, to identify with his parishioners, most of whom could not afford meat or fish.
He writes with humor: “Often poverty came to our house as guests because we had to live on 30 rupees that my father earned. My mother also contributed to the upkeep of the family with the income from the sale of milk, egg and the like.”
Thus, he had learned to become generous from his young age.
He said their cow needed kanji (rice water) to give them more milk. However, the kanji they prepared was not sufficient for the ten-member family. So, they arranged a bucket to collect kanji water from a neighbor woman. She would put smack parts of jack-fruit in the rice water. “We would wash clean the jack-fruit pieces and make curry from it. Jack fruits and mangoes were scarce item for us then as we had no land of our own.”
Fr Chiramel says he and his siblings grew up braving lots of difficulties and pains. “Today I rejoice not over the comforts we enjoyed but the pains we went through. May be this experience helped me understand the pains of others,” he says and adds that he treasures the values his parents and grandparents passed on to them.
His favorite model is St Francis of Assisi. “The life of this saint had taken root in my unconscious mind. May be that is the reason I was always eager to help the poor,” he says.
He says the major decision in his life was taken in 2007 in a parish.
Torrential rain of the year had flooded the area and the parish church had to shelter people irrespective of caste and creed. Providing the crowd with food was an enormous task and Fr Chiramel had no idea how to find the resources.
“Finally some of us decided to seek help and went to the market. We told the vendors of our need. They said, Father, take whatever you want. Each vendor competed in their generosity. They never took any money from us. Thus the people cooked food and lived under one roof in the parish school. When the water receded they refused to return to thier families because of the friendship they had built up during the emergency. I had to coax them return to their families,” he narrates in the book.
It was in this same parish that he decided to offer his kidney to Gopi, an electrician who was on the verge of suicide to save his poor family. His friends who wanted to help him came to Fr Chiramel. They only wanted a place to meet together and form an association to collect fund for Gopi. When they got the fund there was not a donor to match his blood group. And Fr Chiramel offered his kidney.
The book is full of such striking stories. The book speaks of radical love and generosity that prompts a person to offer anything, even life, for a loved one or a stranger.
Another story revolves around of Aasha whom Fr Chiramel calls “Living Saint.” She approached the priest to arrange a matching kidney through a voluntary donor for her husband in exchange for her kidney as it would not match his.
Before things were done her husband died. Yet Aasha was firm in her decision to donate her kidney to John, a young man for whom her kidney matched. This triggered a chain of donors: John’s mother donated her kidney to another patient.
Fr Chiramel speaks of his disappointment when a person refuses to donate a matching organ for fear of losing one’s health.
A young man working in a Persian Gulf country married a girl from a poor family he loved, braving his family’s objection. As he was preparing to leave for his work with his wife, his father said, “My son, we do not need anything from you. We find joy in your happy and contented life.”
Two years later when the young man fell ill and needed kidney transplantation. They found the matching donor in his wife. She said, “When I have children it will be difficult to live with one kidney.”
“But you have no children” they told her.
“Even if I give the kidney how long will he live? I will have to get married again and will I not have children in that marriage?” she opened her mind.
Fr Chiramel asks, “Decide, what is the color of love? White or red? Who you would be: Aasha or this young wife?”
The book has have more stories of love and sacrifice, of joy and contentment arising from sacrifices.
I realize that giving is not a one-time job. It is done every minute with love and generosity. The generous giver finds his life itself an opportunity to live for others.
A must read book.