If awareness about organ donation is low today, you can imagine how bad the situation was 40 years ago. So it was accidental that Jagadeeshwaran came across an article on eye donation in an old paper mart. The possibility of blind people receiving eyesight excited him and he felt that he had a purpose to serve. So he set out on a mission and 40 years later, this man from Coimbatore is the reason behind thousands of people getting a chance to see the world.
It was easier said than done at a time when the majority of the population was illiterate and was particular about following rituals rigidly. The idea of removing an organ from a dead person's body was disturbing to them. So every time he went to a village or a district to spread awareness, it was normal for him to get beaten up for bringing up the idea of organ donation. In his words,
"I have only completed class five and working in a private company. I am 60 now. Maybe the love I have for my eyes is what drives me to do this."
Talking about the initial years of the campaign in the 1980s, he says,
"Whenever I got a holiday from work, I would go to all districts trying to persuade people to at least hear me out. And coming back beaten up with a torn shirt was normal for me."
After six years of what seemed like a meaningless fight, he came home one day to the news that his grandmother had passed away. On her deathbed, she had expressed her wish to donate her eyes. Having changed an old lady's mindset gave Jagadeeshwaran a new sense of hope and kept him going. For him, all the struggle and pain is worth it if it makes at least one person receive the blessing of eyesight.
Through relentless effort, Jagadeeshwaran has made sure that 80,000 people have registered to donate their eyes and so far 6,440 people have received eyesight. In an interview with YourStory, he said,
"I visit everyone from people who met with accidents to people with incurable diseases on their deathbeds. I visit schools and colleges too and tell them about the importance of eye donation."
Practising what he preaches, he has not just donated his eyes but his body too, to benefit the field of medicine and help medical students. His family too has followed in his path.
Countries like Sri Lanka have made it mandatory for people to donate their eyes to get cremation. India is home to almost 50 percent of the four crore blind people in the world. Jagadeeshwaran believes that India should bring in practices like Sri Lanka so that India's blind will get a chance to see the world.
Read this in Tamil.