25 Jan, 2022
Arun Kumar came to Davanagere, a town synonymous with the scrumptious benne dosa (butter dosa), in 1982. Thirty-five years on, this civil engineer’s love for the irresistible ‘tiffin’ item remains undiminished. The two other things that he loves about the place are the local accent, which is “devoid of any artificiality” – according to him, and his “circle of friends”.
When not managing his architecture and interior designing firm, he teaches civil engineering at two colleges in Davanagere, and works on education projects and other philanthropic activities.
He is also an actor in the Kannada film and television industry working alongside directors such as Nagathihalli Chandrashekar, Girish Karnad and K.M.Chaitanya.
Even as a child, he routinely walked off with the ‘all-rounder’ award at his school in Hubli. “Be it elocution, dramatics, or folk singing, I always took home a prize. I balanced academics and co-curricular activities and that made me even more popular. I was always surrounded by friends. The only thing that remains constant in the highs and lows of life is the camaraderie of friends.” Little did he know that this was going to play a critical role in his life.
With justifiable pride, 52-year-old, Arun says there have been phases in his life that helped him find his other strengths. The first test came in 2006, when he met with a serious road accident, which left a permanent impact on his nervous system.
The immediate challenge in the days that followed the accident was walking. It was months before Arun could move around and even today, he cannot move briskly or perform strenuous activities.
Two years later, in 2008, he was planning to undergo surgery to remove the plates that were placed near his eyes, an aftermath of the 2006 accident. The doctor wanted to ensure that he was fit enough for the surgery, so asked him to undergo some scans and tests. Arun said “He must have suspected something and recommended a biopsy. When the reports came, he advised me to go to a specialist in Bengaluru. I looked at the report and it said I had adenocarcinoma.”
“I was staying with a friend from the television industry in Bengaluru, discussing ideas for a few scripts. I started to do some online research before meeting the doctor. That’s when I realized I had colon cancer. My initial reaction was one of shock and disbelief. But then I decided to fight it out.”
He made an appointment with Dr B.S. Ajaikumar at HCG, following which another biopsy was done, and the initial diagnosis was confirmed. He didn’t reveal it to his family immediately.
While undergoing treatment, he was surrounded by them and his friends. “Every evening, a bunch of people across age groups and interests – students, family members, and friends from the television and film fraternity – visited me.”
The last thing he wanted to do was to disappear into a cocoon of self-pity. He continued with his work. He designed a commercial building for popular Kannada director Nagathihalli Chandrashekar. He helped a few others develop scripts for productions, all this right from his hospital bed.
Arun’s positivity, the happy evenings, the treatment – aided his recovery. The tumor in the colon went into remission in just six months. He was asked to come back after a month for a final session of radiation to get rid of any probable residual tumor growth.
“Even though I barely had any hair and looked weak, my friends were super elated and they hosted a party for me. But, a year later, there was a recurrence. After consulting doctors, I decided to get my colon removed.”
It is to fulfill this dream that he instituted the Geleyaru Trust. Through this, he reaches out to deserving students from less privileged backgrounds and sponsors their education. He also helps patients who are unable to fund their treatment. He is an active member of several local not-for-profit organizations, where he helps plan events, works on strategy and produces awareness programs.
His energetic voice, his enthusiasm, his ability to multi-task and accomplish so many tasks in a day give no indication of the challenges he has faced. “I have battled cancer, and there’s nothing that it has taken away from me. There is this misconception that cancer will kill you. Many equate it with death, and I think we need to change that narrative.”