It was Kabira who said in his doha, ‘Kasturi kundal basse, mrug dhundhat ban mahiwhich means that the Kasturi (rare precious fragrance) is within yourself and why search iteverywhere? In today’s world, humanity is a rare precious fragrance and Kasturi Banger is spreading it in abundance.
But finding the fragrance wasn’t so easy for her. She got married to Mahantesh Mali and both were living a simple and happy married life.
Mahantesh was working in industries in Udyambag and Kasturi was a house wife taking care of the family. Years passed by and one day on his birthday, they were diagnosed for being HIV positive. Dreams shattered within seconds, a shock wave passed through their spine as the doctor read out the report saying he had maximum 2 years to live. The fear of inching slowly towards death caused serious effects on his health. In 1994 Mahanteshweighed only 28 kgs and could not even drink water and looked merely like a skeleton.
Kasturi then wiped her own tears and decided to stand firm with her husband. She encouraged Mahantesh to look at life positively and he too decided to remove all the negative thoughts from the mind, look at the positive things around and they both decided to work towards the welfare of the HIV positive patients. Two years passed by and nothing happened to them and this boosted their confidence to work further. They were blessed with a daughter who was tested HIV negative. Happiness returned though in small packages.
In 2008 they started Nandan Makkal Dham at Rail Nagar Belagavi which today houses 40 HIV affected children and orphans out of which 22 are girls and 18 boys. These children have been either left of by their parents or have no one to take care. NMD provides free shelter, food, nutrition, blood transfusion, medicines, treatment, education, clothes and psychological counseling. Various activities, workshops, trainings and awareness programs are conducted for the children at the centre. Children from the age group of 2 to 20 years are part of NMD and till today about 180 children have been a part of their family. HIV affected children have a very weak immunity and are easily prone to serious illness. Medical emergency may occur at any time and in such cases NMD takes care of all the treatments at hospitals. The organization has arranged for131 marriages of their members and other orphans. Many girls come to the centre during pregnancy just like girls go their parent’s house during delivery. They have conducted 83 funeral ceremony of orphans, provided free cancer testing for 900 women and cancer surgery for 43 women.
Unfortunately Mahantesh expired in 2017 and presently Kasturi is looking after NMD all by herself. She is working tirelessly for the welfare of HIV affected people at her centre and also at other places. Kasturi was felicitated with national award by Ministry of women and child development followed by state award from KSAPS. She was also felicitated by many government and non govtorganizations, institutes and corporate houses.
Onus on the society: More than what AIDS does to a person; it’s the behavior of the society that causes more pain. Though a lot of behavior change is observed in the society towards the affected people, a stronger mindset is yet to be developed. People should come forward to help the affected people and also those running such organizations helping such people. Books, stationery, medicines, food and more important spending some time with the children is what they expect from the society. Lets join her in spreading the fragrance of humanity and as Kabir says, Kalkare so aaj kar, aaj kare so ab.
Written by Mandar Kolhapure. As narrated by Kasturi Banger.