His name is Raja, but he is more popularly known as “Auto Raja”. Once a youth given to gambling, drinking and even stealing money from his home, Raja left home when he was 15, and experienced first hand the hardships of living on the streets. Sleeping on the roads and eating from dustbins on the streets of Bangalore taught him about the realities of life. Now, at 41, he has rescued over 3000 people from the rough streets over the past 12 years, and offers them hope and rehabilitation at his New Ark Mission of India, also called the Home of Hope.
Auto Raja, as the name suggests, took to driving an auto rickshaw to earn a living. However, as he plied his way around the city, he was struck by the sufferings of the homeless on the streets. Though he had meager means of income himself, he was so moved by the plight of these people that he had to give in and start helping them. Madhumitha B writes more in Deccan Herald about the inspiration behind this man and his mission:
Most people feel the need to help the underprivileged but it’s always only a select few who go the entire mile. For Raja, it was a constant struggle with his conscience until he gave in one day to help a person on the street and from then on, he gradually set up a place they can call home. “I began to realise that this was my calling. I felt a sense of satisfaction, an inner bliss everytime I helped someone. It was very difficult but I strongly believe that if you help the poor, God will help you and that keeps me going,” says Raja.
It doesn’t stop with providing a place to stay. Raja also provides three wholesome meals a day, medical care as well as round-the-clock presence. “While the men and women have separate areas to stay, I have moved in here along with my immediate family where we stay together with the children we have sheltered,” he says. In return, daddy as he is referred to by all of them, is blessed with lots of love and affection. This, he says, is a reward in itself.
Surviving mainly on charity and grants, the home is housing 300 inmates at present, with a capacity for only a 100. With limited help, Raja has still been managing to provide food, clothes and medical help to his inmates. The home has about 15 staff members, some of whom are senior inmates. What about the inmates themselves? ThaIndian News reports in this feature:
The oldest inmate of the home is Tatha, a 101-year-old man, who is fondly called “anna” – meaning elder brother in the Kannada language – by other inmates and staff.
“I am almost blind and had been roaming the city’s roads without food for days. I was rescued from the streets by Raja’s team members almost a year back and since then I have been staying here. I am lucky to get a home, many are still suffering and dying on the streets,” said Tatha.
The youngest inmate is a one-year-old girl who is yet to be named. She was rescued by the team almost a year ago.
“We rescued her as a newborn from a garbage bin in the city. She is cute and we will celebrate her birthday Jan 30, the day she was brought to the home. We will also name her on that day,” smiled Padma, a staff member.
Some inmates trained in various vocations at the home are now leading independent lives. Around 1,000 destitutes have died in dignity in the home in the last 12 years.
While the going is tough for this Home of Hope, we do hope that “Auto Raja” goes a long way in his noble cause and receives greater support from various individuals and organizations along the route.
Image Courtesy: www.newarkmission.org