This story is sponsored by HCG
Arun Kumar came to Davanagere, a town synonymous with the scrumptious benne dosa (butter dosa), in 1982. Thirty-five years on, this civil engineer’s love for the irresistible ‘tiffin’ item remains undiminished. The two other things that he loves about the place are the local accent, which is “devoid of any artificiality” – according to him, and his “circle of friends”.
When not managing his architecture and interior designing firm, he teaches civil engineering at two colleges in Davanagere, and works on education projects and other philanthropic activities.
He is also an actor in the Kannada film and television industry working alongside directors such as Nagathihalli Chandrashekar, Girish Karnad, K.M. and Chaitanya.
Even as a child, he routinely walked off with the ‘all-rounder’ award at his school in Hubli. “Be it elocution, dramatics, or folk singing, I always took home a prize. I balanced academics and co-curricular activities and that made me even more popular. I was always surrounded by friends. The only thing that remains constant in the highs and lows of life is the camaraderie of friends.” Little did he know this was to play a critical role in his life.
When life took a sudden twist
With justifiable pride, 52-year-old, Arun says there have been phases in his life that helped him find his other strengths. The first test came in 2006, when he met with a serious road accident which left a permanent impact on his nervous system. He says, “Even today, I have no memory of how it happened or even the two-and-a half months of treatment that followed. It’s a blank page.”
The immediate challenge in the days that followed the accident was walking. It was months before Arun could move around and even today, he cannot move briskly or perform strenuous activities. “But this hasn’t stopped me from doing what I love to do – going on site visits, film shoots, or giving performances.”
Two years later, in 2008, he was planning to undergo surgery to remove the plates that were placed near his eyes, an aftermath of the 2006 accident. The doctor wanted to ensure that he was fit enough for the surgery, so asked him to undergo some scans and tests. Says Arun, “He must have suspected something and recommended a biopsy. When the reports came, he advised me to go to a specialist in Bengaluru. I looked at the report and it said I had adenocarcinoma.” Even then, says Arun, he didn’t think it was anything more than a routine examination: cancer was the last thing on his mind.
“I was staying with a friend from the television industry in Bengaluru, discussing ideas for a few scripts. I started to do some online research before meeting the doctor. That’s when I realised I had colon cancer. My initial reaction was one of shock and disbelief. But then I decided to fight it out.”
Videographers - Rukmangada Raja
Editor - Anand Prasad
Script and conceptualization - Dola Samanta
The long, determined journey
He made an appointment with Dr B.S. Ajaikumar at HCG, following which another biopsy was done, and the initial diagnosis was confirmed. He didn’t reveal it to his family immediately. His extended family became aware about it only when the treatment began.
And they rose to the occasion magnificently. While undergoing treatment, he was surrounded by them and his friends. “Every evening, a bunch of people across age groups and interests – students, family members, and friends from the television and film fraternity – visited me.”
The last thing he wanted to do was to disappear into a cocoon of self-pity. He continued with his work. He designed a commercial building for popular Kannada director Nagathihalli Chandrashekar. He helped a few others develop scripts for productions. All this right from his hospital bed.
Arun’s positivity, the happy evenings, the treatment – aided his recovery. The tumour in the colon went into remission in just six months. He was asked to come back after a month for a final session of radiation to get rid of any probable residual tumour growth.
“Even though I barely had any hair and looked weak, my friends were super elated and they hosted a party for me. But, a year later, there was a recurrence. After consulting doctors, I decided to get my colon removed.”
A ‘really big’ decision
This decision was heart-wrenching. Removing the colon meant he would be an ostomate. That is, he had to deal with the challenges of managing excretions through an opening created in the side of his body. Arun says, “Today, I have to be careful about my diet, hygiene, and health. There are rules I must follow every day. There are things I find a little challenging. There are little sacrifices I have to make, but I am also able to live my life the way I have envisioned – doing everything I love.”
These challenges have helped him develop a more positive attitude. In his words, “Not everyone is an all-rounder so why not make the best use of my talents? I want to utilise my time and skills to help others, while also living my life to fullest.”
Reaching out to the less privileged
It is to fulfil this dream that he instituted the Geleyaru Trust. Through this, he reaches out to deserving students from less privileged backgrounds and sponsors their education. He also helps patients who are unable to fund their treatment. He is an active member of several local not-for-profit organisations, where he helps plan events, works on strategy and produces awareness programmes.
His energetic voice, his enthusiasm, his ability to multi-task and accomplish so many tasks in a day give no indication of the challenges he has faced. “I have battled cancer, and there’s nothing that it has taken away from me. There is this misconception that cancer will kill you. Many equate it with death, and I think we need to change that narrative.”
Sharing his experience as a patient, he says, “In the battle against cancer, I strongly feel that it is important to trust doctors. Usually, there’s a tendency to check with multiple doctors. That’s fine. But when you begin the treatment, you need to continue with that one doctor till the course is complete. It’s like trusting your bus driver. If you don’t trust your driver, you will get off at every stop and ultimately, head nowhere.”
Believing in sunshine
It’s 8:30 pm. Arun has just finished reading the bestseller, The Monk who Sold his Ferrari, for the fifth time. And then starts humming a popular Kannada film song, which pretty much encapsulates his outlook on life:
AraLuva hoovugaLe aalisiri,
BaaLondu horaaTa mareyadiri
BeLagina kiraNagaLe baNNisiri,
IruLinda beLakunTu tOrisiri
NaaLeya nambike irali namma baaLali,
Gelluva bharavaseyonde beLakaagali
Manave O manave nee aLukadiru,
MaLeyo barasiDilO nee naDeyutiru.
(Flowers in bloom, listen to me
Don’t forget, life is a struggle
The morning sunrays show you that
There’s light emerging from the dark
Let us all hope for a better tomorrow
And the light brings us hope of a victory
Dear mind, don’t hesitate
Be it rain or thunderstorm, keep moving ahead)