Millions of people all over the world live their life in poverty. They grow up witnessing the worst that life has to offer. While many people feel the need to help these underprivileged, it is always only a few who go an extra mile. T Raja Auto Raja is one such person who has dedicated his life to provide succour to the underprivileged. This is a story about how a sinner turned into a saint for many. The Logical Indian had a conversation with T Raja Auto Raja who is an auto driver and a co-founder of New Ark Mission of India. Here are the excerpts of the interview.
Please tell us about your childhood.
My father was telephone linesman. I never knew what a parental love is and developed bad habits like stealing, drinking and gambling at a very young age because of the bad company. I also ran away from my house and came to Chennai where I lived on streets for two years. Everything in my life was meaningless. I would extort money from students and was expelled from the school. Roaming aimlessly and stealing was my job and then I decided to work to support my basic needs. I started driving auto-rickshaw and also served as a bodyguard.
What was the motivation for this change?
I was taken to a prison and spent around twenty days in the dingy confines. It was the most helpless time. I made a deal with God and thought that if I got out of the prison, then, in turn, I would lead an honest man’s life. This was the turning point of my life, and I don’t know if the prayers were heard or not but my fever came down and my parents came to take me home. I kept my word and got married, borrowed some money from parents and started driving an auto-rickshaw in Bengaluru.
Travelling around the city, I saw people on the road, many destitute spending their days without proper clothes in chilly winters. It would pain me to see people lying uncared for, on the road. I felt helpless and moved and decided to form New Ark Mission in 1997. One day I decided to take one of the people I saw on the road home. I bathed them and cleaned up their wounds. Nobody supported me in my endeavours. And, my neighbour humiliated me for bringing these people. But this did not deter me. I opened a home for the destitute. I started one at Kavalbyrasandra, Bengaluru with thirteen people who started calling me Auto Raja. My wife and children would take care of these people when I would be away from home. Even though there was a dearth of money, I just could not let these people go as they had no one except me.
How did you sustain them financially?
I have an auto-rickshaw and my earnings from that go to them. My wife, children and I live with them in the same house. With time, many communities came and offered help. Many people donated money to feed the residents and arranged for their medical care. We live like a big happy family.
How do you come to know about such people now?
So when I am driving an auto, I see people wanting help and I bring them to my place. Many times, the police tell me about them and I bring them here. Everybody here irrespective of age calls me Daddy! It makes me really happy.
What progress have you seen in your organisation in the past 20 years?
Things have changed for better now. Now we have a doctor who has volunteered to visit and check on the people. We have also managed an ambulance to pick up the homeless people from streets. Also, we work closely with police who help us identify and bring destitute to us.
Any parting words?
Oh yes, I wish to tell everyone that even though Mother Teresa was born in Yugoslavia, she came to our country and served the destitute and she also died here. Then why can’t we people serve each other in our country? Let’s follow in her footsteps and help others.
T Raja Auto Raja has been conferred with “NDTV Man of The Year” and the “CNN-IBN Real Heroes” award.
The Logical Indian salutes him for his work to uplift the lives of the homeless and destitute and hopes that more people extend their help to him.
To know more, you can visit the website here.