“One truly must have suffered in order to help others”, said Mother Teresa. The story of the sinner turned saint doesn’t just resonate this thought and inspire you. It keeps you transfixed in awe of his nobility. From being a juvenile delinquent to a man with his life dedicated to assuage the pain of the underprivileged, T Raja has done it all.
Son of a telephone linesman, not knowing what parental love was, Raja fell prey to drinking, stealing and gambling at a quite young age.
Disowned by his family, he lived on roads among the homeless, slept on streets near the garbage bin and shared space with rabid dogs. He lived a meaningless life and was just another destitute living on the streets of Bengaluru.
Being down with high temperature after spending close to 20 days in dingy confines of the prison, Raja says he had never felt so helpless in his life. At that moment he said, he struck a deal with God and decided that when he leaves the prison he would live a life of an honest man.
Rescued by his parents from prison, T Raja borrowed Rs 1000 and started to build his life from scratch. He decided to drive auto rickshaws. It was while he piled the rickshaw that he saw poor and starving people lying on the pavements and resolved to help them. “It was painful for me to see their plight”, recalls Auto Raja (as he is fondly known as). He picked them up from the streets in his auto and brought them to his home. Soon he conceived the concept of home for destitute and started ‘New Ark Mission of India’ – NAMI in 1997 at Kavalbyrasandra, Bengaluru with thirteen people. With minimum help from others he would bathe and shave them, clean up their wounds, dress them afresh and feed them.
Now nearing two decades, Raja’s home of Hope has rescued more than 10,000 people. They have also given dignified funeral to more than 2000 people from the streets of Bengaluru and its suburbs.
When asked how he feels about it, he smiles coyly and says, “That’s the best I could ask for”. Auto Raja has a doctor who has volunteered to visit his home. The doctor often checks on his patients along with a 24-hour nurse.
This act of saving the needy is not as easy as one might think. Often it is mistaken for a crime – a way to make money from the transplant-able parts of the people thus rescued. Since the police patrol squad closely works with the Home, the team does not get into unhappy situations. They also inform him on most occasions and sometimes bring the impecunious men and women from the streets and leave them in his care. Occasionally, other people who know about the hospice bring in inmates.
That’s exactly how Stephen, 6, spotted by a passer-by near the Ulsoor Lake came to live here. He looked neglected and ill. A passer-by felt pity for the child and took him to a hospital. There he learnt that the baby boy was afflicted with HIV. Being aware of Home of Hope, he brought the kid there. Raja and the other staff have been taking care of Stephen ever since.
Talking about difficulties he says, “The organization primarily runs on donations. If donations stop pouring in it’ll be difficult to meet the needs of these people.”
While giving solace to others, Auto Raja has found solace for himself. His efforts have not gone unnoticed and different forums have applauded him. Auto Raja continues to play his part with same humility and concern, without any trace of pride.