Last year, I came across a random video of a handicapped man seeking help. Something moved me. He was actually pleading, “Help me by allowing me to do service for you”. He was a blind reflexologist in Kuala Sawah, a small town in Negri Sembilan.
I was impressed that he was not begging. I wondered how to help him. So, I ruminated on a win-win: to use his services and to utilise his indomitable spirit to create awareness about the handicapped and their determination to succeed, among the members in my Sai Baba centre in Seremban. Maybe his presence would inspire and touch something deeply human in each of us, besides enabling him to earn that little extra.
So, last year, I alerted the devotees in the Sai centre that a blind masseuse would be coming to do reflexology. And all they had to do was avail themselves. Some of them, including me, had never had reflexology done on us before but, out of sheer sympathy, compassion and curiousity, many availed themselves – or rather, their feet – to the kneading. And that’s when we learnt about Yugeswaran Ramachandran’s will to survive the odds.
When I first spoke to him over the phone last year, Yugeswaran was brimming with enthusiasm, seeking for his services to be utilised. I wondered whether I could do justice to his coming all the way from Kuala Sawah, and asked him if I should fetch him from Kuala Sawah because I was a little worried as to how many people would patronise this unheard-of service at our centre, paying RM30 for 30 minutes.
The response was good. I managed to fill the schedule from 8am right up till 5.30pm, with a few breaks in between. My hopes for humanity were raised. Some devotees even offered to pay him extra and buy him lunch, both offers which he politely declined. My admiration for this man grew.
When I first saw him hobbling out of his friend’s car with a prosthetic leg, I was saddened. He was quite immobile and, worse still, it was pitiful to see him perched on a small stool that he insisted was comfortable while his clients sat on a lazy reclining chair that he had brought along. He took pains to explain to each customer how each pressure point was connected to an organ and how if we felt pain it could be an indication that we needed to get a particular organ checked out.
After it was all over, I decided to interview him. He was very open about his life story and shared it quite unabashedly.
Yugeswaran was a happily married man, working as a chief technician at a holiday resort in Port Dickson, when tragedy struck. He was an acute diabetic. It resulted in diabetic retinopathy at the age of 30. In May 2015, he had eye surgery done. But a few days later, his mother died. He could not contain his sorrow, and his incessant weeping and high pressure caused permanent damage to his eyes, resulting in blindness.
And as luck would have it, in July 2015, diabetes caused his right leg and two toes on his left leg to be amputated. And as if that was not enough, his wife, a teacher, asked him for a divorce in October the same year.
The psychological scars, the feeling of helplessness and “encouraging” friends who actually told him that if they were in his place they would have attempted suicide, made him feel helpless and useless. Failed attempts at suicide ensued. Problems snowballed, especially when the complexity of disability comes with poverty.
His father Ramachandran, who was Yugeswaran’s sole support, was forced to sell his lorry and other belongings to meet the unexpected expenses.
One day Yugeswaran asked his dad whether it was worth living as he was being a burden to him.
His father replied that life is a precious gift from God. It comes with challenges, which one has to overcome with an indomitable spirit. Since then, there has been no turning back for Yugeswaran.
His mobility improved when funds from Socso helped him get a prosthetic leg. In 2017, Yugeswaran applied to become a masseur, and was offered a place in the Kinta Valley Rehabilitation Centre run by the Malaysian Association of the Blind. He was initially rejected when they learnt that he was a cripple. But Yugeswaran was determined to fight against all odds.
After persistent appeals, the association was kind enough to give him training in reflexology, in the comfort of his own home. Financial support from friends enabled him to equip a room in his house with a special bed and an air-conditioner so that he could carry out reflexology at home. However, he knew it would be unrealistic to merely depend on the residents of Kuala Sawah, a small town, to be the sole source of his income. He started looking for means of reaching out.
Support groups like Kai Kodukum, which specialise in highlighting economic problems among the socially deprived through videos on What’s App, have been of great help. I must commend this team for making his story go viral, for that was what alerted individuals like me and other organisations to render help.
Last month, Yugeswaran called me for help and once again the Sai Centre devotees agreed to having the second round of reflexology. This time, I saw a brighter and more cheerful Yugeswaran on a wheelchair.
His next goal, he told me, is to open a provision shop. He feels that would enable him to enhance his present financial status. I wish him all the best in his future undertakings. He is a role model on how to overcome the challenges in today’s world.