India Interior

When ‘Uncle Godhri’ comes calling

Usha Rai | Updated on October 18, 2019 Published on October 18, 2019

Jagjivan Vishram Jethva hands over his gift to a beneficiary Usha Rai

A retired school teacher brings colour and comfort to hospital patients by stitching blankets for them

Jagjivan Vishram Jethva, 72, popularly referred to as the kind-hearted ‘Godhri Uncle’, has been winning goodwill and friends over the last three years by making and distributing ‘godhris’ at the Krantijyoti Savitribai Phule Hospital in Borivali East, Mumbai.

Godhris are baby blankets made by stitching together many layers of soft left-over cloth pieces. From June 2016 till October 2019, Jethva has stitched and donated over 3,000 godhris to the poor and needy and most of them — 2,690 — to babies born at the hospital!

Jethva is a retired school teacher who studied at the JJ School of Arts in Mumbai. He painted on glass and taught art. Son of a tailor from a small village in Panvel, Maharashtra, he never thought that the tailoring that he learnt largely by watching his father stitching clothes for people in his village would help him in his charitable mission, post retirement. The tailoring shop in Panvel closed after his father died and he moved to Mumbai.

“I never wanted to be a tailor but what I learnt from my father is helping me now,” he says. Jethva lives opposite the Savitribai Phule hospital and often he would drop by to give biscuits or some clothes to the poor children admitted to the hospital.

During his visits, he noticed that the children often slept on dirty, stained bed sheets. This bothered him so he decided to help out with clean ones. But it was post retirement that he found the time and the energy to make godhris and distribute them to the poor parents of the children, many of whom came from the rural fringes of the big city.

He bought a sewing machine and brushed up on his tailoring. Initially he approached the half a dozen tailoring and cloth shops in the vicinity for the small pieces of waste cloth that would normally go into a dustbin. With his artistic eye he was able to blend different coloured and printed cottons to make attractive godhris 3’ to 3.6’ in length and breadth.

Growing in reach

Today, his routine is along these lines. Every day he begins work between 7.30 and 8 a m and stitches continuously for about five hours. He then walks across to the hospital and distributes the freshly-made half a dozen soft blankets without charging a paise. Now, in the fourth year of Jethva’s godhri-making mission, brightly coloured, soft mattresses and blankets can be seen adding colour and comfort to hospital beds.

“I have plenty of time,” he says. “My wife died many years ago and two of my daughters are married. I live with my specially-abled daughter and have enough money for our needs. Doing this service gives me joy.” Inspired by the retired school teacher, several other tailors come and drop bags full of left-over cloth pieces. “We would also like to do some daan (charity) and share in the blessings showered on you,” they say.

The turnover of godhris and now even white bed sheets and pillow covers is increasing by the month. Some cloth shops recently started giving him 10 to 15 metres of white cloth which he cuts and makes into 5’ by 6’ sheets and pillow covers. Shops manufacturing inner wear for women give him sponge with which he occasionally makes the pillows too.

Godhri Uncle’s reach is also increasing. Now he always carries godhris and sheets and donates to people living on footpaths and those sleeping in their thelas (carts) at night. There is no shortage of raw material supplied to him. Some of his old school students rally around him and help in whatever way they can. “I wish the days were longer so that I can make more godhris,” he says.

If some well- off people insist on paying for the godhris and sheets, he charges ₹70 for a piece. The money, however, does not go into his pocket. It is collected and given to the gaushala for the welfare of old cows and animals.

The writer is a senior journalist based in Delhi

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Published on October 18, 2019

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