Former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam painted the first few strokes on a canvas that will be completed by India's most famous painter M.F. Husain - to raise funds for the Banyan, an organisation devoted to the rehabilitation of mentally challenged women.
Kalam, whose term at the Rashtrapati Bhavan ended last month, wrote on a blank canvas, in myriad hues of blue and green tinged with red and yellow: "Dream transforms into thought, thought results into action, that is Banyan." He then signed his name.
Husain's son Mustafa, present here at the inauguration of Banyan's community mental health centre and Spice Route, its social enterprise wing, will now take the canvas to the artist.
The money will go towards Banyan's core fund for the mentally challenged and destitute women it supports.
"Banyan plans a corpus of $5 million and this year, it plans to raise at least Rs.50 million," said ICICI Bank's Nachiket Mor, who is also a volunteer with the group and has raised Rs.18 million at the Mumbai Marathon this January.
M.F. Husain and Mustafa Husain were approached by renowned filmmaker Mani Ratnam for Banyan's 'protected community' project.
Banyan, started 14 years ago by Vandana Gopikumar and Vaishnavi Jayakumar, is an NGO that has so far taken in and offered shelter and health care to more than 1,800 mentally challenged and destitute women.
"Of the 1,823 women who have come to Banyan, we have managed to provide all of them medicare and return 1,101 of them to their families, scattered all over the country," said popular Bollywood actor Vivek Oberoi, who has been associated with the organisation for more than five years now.
The community mental health centre set up by Banyan at a cost of about Rs.20 million in Kovalam village, about 50 km south of Chennai, will also house the Banyan Academy of Leadership in Mental Health (BALM).
The protected community centre with cottages for 60 residents, who are very ill but cannot be returned to their families, have been set up with contributions from a dozen charities.
Among them are e-Funds, Willingdon Trust, Ratan Tata Trust, Floridon Trust, Zurich Financial Services Trust, Rangoonwalla Trust and CIM Germany.
Mor said that 1,000 or 2,000 challenged women "is not a small number in a country of our size. Banyan is now looking at how the decade of effort can be taken forward and Banyan is looking at a sustainable model."
Spice Route will be the commercial outlet for products made by those sheltered by Banyan.
Gopikumar said Banyan hoped to set an example that could be emulated across the country, especially in rural India. "We want to extend general medical services too at our health centres. We want every district in the country to have shelters for the destitute and mentally challenged."