Turning his personal tragedy into a beacon of hope for hundred others is 70-year-old Chandrashekhar Sankurathri from Kakinada, AP.
He, along with 11 others from across the country, recently received the “Senior Citizen Awards — The Unstoppables” and Amitabh Bachchan felicitated the “12 unsung heroes” for their inspirational endeavors.
In the year 1985, Sankurathri lost his wife and children in an airplane crash and, along with them, also his will to live. But after a few years, Sankurathri, who was a scientist in Canada, decided to return to Kakinada and help others in need. “I was 45 when I started the Sankurathri foundation in the memory of my wife, to help the underprivileged. Then in 1992, Sarada School, named after my four-year-old daughter, came into existence. It’s very important to mentor and counsel the youth right from their formative years because the seed needs to be planted early on.
“Also, one doesn’t need money to make a difference, you can just take out time and help someone. Though we have a lot of educated Indians, what we lack is guidance and mentoring.”
At present, there are 154 students in the school studying absolutely free of cost, right from books, uniforms, meals and even medical checkups.
There is also the Srikiran Institute of Ophthalmology, named after his seven-year-old son. The hospital has performed more than 137,000 cataract operations, 90 per cent of them free. And then there’s Spandana, a programme under which cyclone-hit areas are provided emergency rehabilitation.
“I am 70, but I have no plans of slowing down. I disagree with the idea of just relaxing after retirement and with so much of wisdom, one should definitely give back to the society,” says the scientist, who begins his day at 4.30 am. “I enjoy helping others. And philanthropy is such that once you get its taste, you get addicted.”
Staying true to his word of not slowing down, Sankurathri explains his future plans. “The focus right now is to expand the activities of my foundation; make eye-care more affordable for the poor and focus on the overall development of the country’s youth,” he adds.