Honour for positivity after personal loss, say TN Padma awardees

The Padma Award recipients were announced by the Ministry of Home Affairs on 25 January. With six nominees totally, Tamil Nadu saw representation in the fields of art, social work, and trade and industry. Among those selected for India’s highest civilian honour were visually challenged artist Manohar Devadoss and disabled activist S Ramakrishnan.
Honour for positivity after personal loss, say TN Padma awardees
Awardees (L) Manohar Devadoss, (R) S Ramakrishnan

Chennai

For Devadoss, a Padma Shri recipient, this award was an unexpected, but welcome, surprise. “I was telling some friends that I would like to contest for the 2021 Padma awards. But they just smiled, and told me that they had already filed on my behalf,” said the84-year-old.

With many laurels to his name – author, social worker, scientist and artist being just a few – the Madurai native said that the award was an honour he was proud to receive. “Even the official who called me on the phone stated that it was difficult choosing only one category for me, and that there was no category for a fulfilling life,” said Devadoss, who began losing his eyesight in 1972, and lost his vision completely.

Ramakrishnan, a Padma Shri recipient, is no stranger to a fulfilling life, especially after a personal tragedy.

During an interview with the Naval forces, the then-20-year-old was asked to jump from a tree and fell, suffering injury to his spine and led to him being paralysed from below the neck. That was 44 years ago, and the social activist went on the start the Amar Seva Sangam in 1981.

“Once I was hospitalised, I was a little worried. But there were four wonderful nurses who took excellent care of me that day. In fact, I called two of them once the list was announced to thank them for all their help, and that I was chosen for the award,” said the 65-year-old.

Named after the doctor who helped him, the Sangam works for the uplift and empowerment of people with disability across sectors like education and employment and geography, especially in rural areas.

Looking at the positive after a great personal loss is the thread that connects these two award winners together. In 1973, following a road accident, Devadoss’ wife, Mahima Devadoss, was rendered as a quadriplegic. “My cousin was the one who introduced me to her. I would write letters to my cousin with pictures in them. But then when I met Mahima, and had to write to her, I knew my regular paintings would not be enough, so I began to put in the work to make them better. She certainly has led to my development as an artist,” said the artist, who is best known for his realistic ink and pencil work of iconic locations across the state.

After her passing in 2008, Devadoss decided to look at the positive side, and goes to bed thinking of one good memory they shared over their 44 years of marriage. “And there were so many of them,” hereminisces fondly.

But there is still much work to be done, saidRamakrishnan. “The condition for people with disability has not changed much since 1981. From education, employment and accessibility, there needs to be more awareness among people. Whether it is a rural town or a big city, people are slowly learning only now,” said theTirunelveli native.

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