Usha Rai

Growing up in Udupi, my house was filled with pre-independence stories. I got married soon after my graduation. As per the Bunt tradition, my father had given dowry but then I convinced my husband to return it. I used to be very timid and shy but the bank job changed my life. I became self reliant, confident and independent. After 25 years of service, I took voluntary retirement. I learnt driving at the age of 40 and overcame my stage fright at the age of 55. By the time I hit 60 I was an award winning writer and a marriage counselor.

In 2005, while returning from Kochi, a truck drove head on into our car. My son and grandson escaped but fate had different plans for my husband and me. We cracked a few bones, I wasn’t sure if we would survive this onslaught from God.

Meeting with an accident at an old age is the worst thing that can happen to anyone. At a time when you want to settle down with your partner and start that ‘fairytale’ life, your whole life halts. My husband went into a coma for 6 days after the accident. He is to this day traumatized by the accident and suffers from Dementia. Both my husband and I were immobilized for over six months and we went into depression. My son kept blaming himself for the accident.

One day my son got paints and asked me to paint. But I shouted at him because I couldn’t move my fingers. But I knew I did not want to give up. I decided to overcome the pain and learn painting. At the age of 60, with a bedridden husband on one side and an urge to paint on another, my life took a turn. In 2 years, I had my first solo exhibition, participated in 5 group shows and went on to publish my autobiography.

I began a new phase of my life at the age of 60….and I’ve realized it’s never late to start anything new!

Usha Rai

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Usha Rai

Saalumarada Thimmakka

Growing up in gubbi village, my childhood was a struggle. At the age of five, I started helping my mother in household chores and later juggled as a coolie, quarry labourer and a farmer. I was the second born of the six children and it used to be a everyday struggle to get a meal. I never went to school. At 20, I got married and moved to Hulikal. Life continued to be struggle from one house to the other. I was heartbroken that i was not able to conceive even after twenty years of marriage. My husband’s relatives wanted him to remarry but he never left me. In 1948, Tired of being called barren, I jumped into the pond. I was forty years old but somehow I survived!

Post that, My husband and I decided to plant trees and take care of it like our kids. We began planting trees on the stretch between our village Hulikal and kudoor. Ten the first year, fifteen the next, twenty the next, and so on. After our regular work, We used to carry water for over four kilometres and water the saplings. We tended to them by fencing and guarding them. We used our own meagre resources for planting these trees. Even after my husband’s death in 1991, I continued doing my work selflessly and taking care of them.

Today, I have planted more than five hundred trees in this village and thousands around the state. At one point, I was dying to hear the word “mother”, today people call me Vrukhsa Maathe (mother of trees) and prefixed my name with Saalumara (row of trees). Like every parent I am happy and proud seeing the growth of my children. In 2000, I adopted a thirteen year old boy and today he is actively involved in the mission of preserving the environment.

My life continues to be a struggle even at the age of 106…but i am hopeful for a better tomorrow!
Saalumarada Thimmakka

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Saalumarada Thimmakka

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