Couple Who Lost Everything to Tsunami Are Now Parents to 36 Kids

A couple who lost their 3 children to the 2004 tsunami are parents to 36 kids today.

Updated
India
3 min read

(This story was first published on 26 December 2017. It has been republished from The Quint’s archives on the anniversary of the deadly tsunami that hit Chennai in 2004.)

As I walked on a muddy patch leading to a beach, I saw a banner with a picture of three children and the words 'Nambikkai (Hope)' written on it. I entered and a bunch of kids came rushing out to greet me. They told me to wait as their Appa would be home in a while.

A car pulled in and these children rushed to say hello and brief 'Appa’ on everything that happened in school. The screams of 'Appa, listen' echoed and the man smiled, attending to each one and patiently listening to their stories.

Hope in Despair

The couple believe that it is these children who have given them a second lease of life.
The couple believe that it is these children who have given them a second lease of life.
(Photo Courtesy: TK Smitha/ The Quint)

On 26 December 2004, which also happened to be Parameshwaran's (Appa’s) birthday, he and his three children and seven relatives went to the beach to play. Disaster struck and the tsunami waves engulfed them all, leaving only him alive. He says he still can't figure out how his son slipped out of his hand and got washed away by the waves.

Him and his wife were on the brink of committing suicide when they decided to go and see how devastated the rest of their town was.

Walking through the streets of Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu, they saw bodies strewn all over, babies wailing near their dead mothers and children walking around looking for their parents.

Heartbroken, they realised that not all was lost.

They held a couple of children by the hand and took them home. Every day, they would go to the town, talk to people and find children who needed a home.

We are not helping them... the kids gave us life. We are so busy working with 36 children and so we don’t have time to think of our sorrows. So they have given us life, a meaning to our life.
Parameshwaran

Every year since then, the numbers have swelled and today, Nambikkai is home to 36 children.

  • The house is no hostel or NGO - but a home like one’s own.
  • The couple buy the children gifts when they score the first rank or behave nicely.
  • After school, all the kids are excited to come back home as they have a house full of siblings to play with.
  • Many children have forgotten the traumatic memories from the 2004 tsunami and are happy to be at home.
  • The kids fight, laugh and stand up for each other just like siblings do.
  • Suganya looks forward for Amma to return from work to tell her about all that happened at school.

A Big, Happy Family

After the tsunami threw life out of order, a number of NGOs and government agencies stepped in to help. But ‘Nambikkai’ was nothing like any of them.

One of the kids said, “When you love someone, how can you call them aunty or Ma’am? You call them Amma and Appa.”

Today, 13 years later, the children who were adopted after the 2004 tsunami have all become successful graduates and engineers. When the holidays arrive, they all come running home.

The first batch of children who joined ‘Nambikkai’ are top graduates today.
The first batch of children who joined ‘Nambikkai’ are top graduates today.
(Photo Courtesy: Nambikkai)
This is our own home. Just like any regular house where the boys will be more attached to the mother and the girls with the father. It has never been like a home or a hostel.
Saravanan

The couple now have two sons of their own but they treat all children the same and when you visit ‘Nambikkai’ you will see that irrespective of their backgrounds or stories, they are all just their kids at the end of the day.

They believe that this incident was God’s way of giving them an opportunity to share love and though the images of the tsunami are still fresh in their minds, they are finally at peace.

We remember their sweet memories and we thank them. If they had been alive, we wouldn’t be doing any of this. They sacrificed their lives, so that we can prove to be good parents.
Parameshwaran

Cameraperson: Smitha TK
Video Editor: Vikram Venkateswaran

You can reach out to Parameshwaran at +919442500565

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