If things went as I had planned, I would have been dead today,” begins 45-year-old B Murugan.
In 1992, he had just written and failed his class 10 examinations, and had decided to take his life.
Twenty-seven years later, he runs an organisation that takes care of the homeless and provides them with meals every week. He is happily married and has two children.
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Speaking to The Better India, he recollects the day his life turned upside down. “Despite putting in my best efforts, I failed the examinations, and I did not take to it very well. I ran away from home with Rs 300 and decided that wherever the bus would take me, I would end my life there.”
The bus took him to Sirumugai in Coimbatore, about 500 km away from his hometown, Chennai.
And all through the journey, he couldn’t think beyond his failure.
“I felt worthless. At 2 a.m. in Sirumugai, as I sat on the footpath, I met an elderly cobbler who sheltered me for the night. I saw many unfortunate people around me, sleeping on the footpath.”
“I realised that taking my life would be a horrible thing when I could spend it helping others in need.”
That changed Murugan’s life.
“I will never forget that night or that elderly man, who, without saying anything, saved my life,” he adds.
Speaking about the early years, he says, “All the beggars at the Sirumugai bus stop collected money for me to go back to Chennai, but I returned it and decided to stay there and do something useful.”
The first job he managed to find was at a hotel nearby where he waited tables and cleaned. “I got three meals there, so I stayed there and worked. I would wake up at 4 a.m., clean and bathe in the nearby pond, and start work. I did this for six months, after which I got the job of distributing the newspaper every morning. I did whatever odd jobs came my way.”
In 2006, unfortunately, the company that had hired him for these odd jobs, closed down. This prompted him to apply for a driving license.
“The money I made by driving the auto was spent on feeding the homeless,” he says.
On average, he would earn Rs 3,000 a month. He used a part of that money to buy vegetables, rice, and cereal to cook for differently-abled children in a school nearby. While Murugan changed jobs, he never stopped feeding the needy, and their numbers only kept increasing.
Inspired by his work, six other friends joined him, with each contributing Rs 100. In 2008, Murugan started an organisation, called Nizhal Maiyam, meaning ‘Shade to the homeless’.
Slowly, others started pitching in. Today, the organisation provides home-cooked sambar-rice for more than 1,300 people every Sunday.
He elaborates, “From Monday to Friday we all work to make money. We then spend our weekends in cooking and distributing the food to homeless people in about 25 shelter homes. We begin the preparation on Saturday night, while the distribution happens on Sunday. My wife and two children are an equal part of this.”
Do they make enough money? He answers, “We have so many well-wishers helping us. One of my former employers, Shabbir Imani, is a god-sent, who contributes money each month.”
Murugan spends approximately Rs 20,000 a week on the ingredients. What started as one man’s mission, has more than 50 volunteers today.
As we end our conversation, Murugan says, “We all need that one turning point to realise that we are meant for so much more than we believe. We just have to allow ourselves to go with the flow.”
It is one meal, but for many, it is the only filling meal they get in the entire week. If you wish to reach out to Murugan and help his cause, call him on +91-98650 93251 or contact them Facebook here.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)