Story 43

Build and grow

I first heard of the Cheshire Home in Bangalore while I was in my teens. Not initially because of the work they did, but because every year in December there was the Red Feather Ball, at the Bangalore Club.

It was a prestigious event with the elite of Bangalore turning up in the liveried best, bow tie, silks and diamonds etc. The donations went to the Bangalore Cheshire Home. I later joined the Madras Cheshire Home in 1975 as the joint hon. secretary, and was vested with the Hon. Secretary-ship of the Cheshire Homes India, Southern Zonal Committee.

I remember I visited the home in Wales which we, in Madras, were twinned with. Some of the homes had meals catered, like in Le Court, while we still had to contend with growing our vegetables and drawing water from the well.  The comparison was stark, and with each passing day I felt increasingly low. I said so to Leonard, but he replied, ‘We started in the same way in UK. I am confident Madras Cheshire Home will grow as well.’ Prophetic words — because the home has grown and thrived thanks in no small measure to the Trustees in the UK who gave us a huge grant to build our home. Once we had our own dwelling place we were able to build and grow, and the patronage also grew proportionately.

In 1991, Leonard visited us in New Delhi, India, to say good-bye to all those who worked for the Cheshire Homes. He came with a lot of difficulty, because he had developed motor-neurone disease. At an informal meeting he told us how grateful he was for all the contributions we had given in making the Cheshire Home what it was that day. He looked very frail, but brave. How many of us would have the courage to travel so far and in that condition, or to even accept so stoically that our end is near? But then, perhaps, that quality symbolises the man Gp. Capt. Leonard Cheshire really was.

How many of us would have the courage to travel so far and in that condition, or to even accept so stoically that our end is near?