Sumanti Sen is an English Literature graduate who believes "there's just one kind of folks. Folks.".
Ganaur is a small city in the Sonipat district of the state of Haryana, and is located 62 km north of New Delhi. In the city, while others enjoyed their lives in different ways, 60-year-old Dev Dass Goswami dedicated 35 years of his life to the welfare of the needy.
This might sound ordinary, might sound like this is what several NGOs across the country do, but no, Goswami’s story is one of a kind.
Goswami’s father served in the army in the year 1925, and as a kid, as Goswami saw the poor and the needy on the streets, he wished to do something for them when he grew up.
“In the year 1978, I left my home. I wanted to become a driver and my father was not very happy about it. So I left my home and began driving a truck. The transport agency I worked for had many other drivers, and what I noticed was, on the highways, several times, the drivers would hit dogs and other animals that came in front of the vehicles. What was harrowing for me was that the drivers never stopped to help them. They would just leave the animals dead, injured or barely alive,” Goswami said in a conversation with The Logical Indian.
Extremely disturbed by what he saw, Goswami informed about this to the head of the drivers. “Guruji, they do not even help the dogs. How can they leave them like that? This is inhuman,” he told the head.
In return, he was beaten black and blue.
“From that day onwards, I made up my mind to bury any dead animal that came my way as I drove. I would keep a spade and other tools that helped in digging the grave, and on the highways, no matter how many dead animals I found, I buried them with my own hands. I could never be like the rest of them,” he said.
Goswami kept feeling that something was missing from his life, and he wanted to do something out of it. Unlike many others, who would probably want to become an engineer or a doctor, Goswami’s ambition was a little different. He had only managed to pass class VIII.
He wanted to help. He wanted to help people, animals and anybody who needed help, and that is exactly what he dedicated his life to.
“When I drove the truck on different roads, I would come across several homeless people. They did not have clothes, did not have food to eat, and they did not have an identity. It broke my heart to leave them like that,” he said.
After a few years, Goswami came back to the home he had left, and with his mother’s support, he would bring homeless people to his house and keep them, bathe them, feed them and give them a life.
“Ever since I left the transport service, I have been helping people in every way I could. My wife, my children and my mother have been my pillars of strength,” Goswami said.
Goswami began his journey to perform the last rites of the unclaimed dead. By this time, he had created several tents where he kept the homeless people he helped, and many of them would be sick. When they died, he and his wife took the charge to perform their last rites. Not only these people, but those who knew him would call him when someone died, and he would happily extend a helping hand.
“There were people around me and my wife who said we had lost our sanity, especially because in a world where people do not hesitate to discriminate others on the basis of their religion, we, being Hindus, carried the bodies of Muslims on our shoulders. I have never believed in discrimination but in humanity. I have always wanted to help people in general, no matter which caste, creed or religion they belonged to. My wife, Tara, was the first woman in the locality to have carried dead bodies on her shoulders, including those of Muslims,” he said.
Besides doing his best to help people, there are several street dogs he feeds every day. To those people who complain about the dogs littering their places, he has one thing to say: keep a bowl of water and a little food at your doorstep, because that is all they want.
“Under a flyover near Tihar Jail in Delhi, I had built a home for the homeless people I help. However, the government asked me to move the people elsewhere for a while, after which they said they would provide a home. But they never did. I have never received any help from the government, but there are around 20 to 25 people, some even from abroad, who help me with my work. With the money they have provided, today I am trying to build a proper house in a proper land where I can let these people live. I do not want to keep them uncomfortably in tents any longer,” he said.
Goswami’s daughter Rekha, some years back, was going to get married, and her mother had saved a huge amount of money for the purpose.
“To build the home under the flyover, I took all the money. My daughter is not married to this day. However, the happy news is that she is engaged and going to get married in February this year, and a lot of people have promised to help me. I personally do not have any money to help her. Whatever money I get goes into helping the needy, and I will not use it elsewhere,” he said. His son, Kamal, is married.
No matter how many people help, having enough funds is still a problem, and Goswami hopes more people will come forward to help him. He has also created an NGO called Dev Animal Voluntary Organisation, but it does not work only for animals.
“We have helped groups of 5,000 to 10,000 women get married and we provide kids from classes I to V with food, books, clothes, towels, stationery and other things they need,” he said.
There are groups of people from the age of 15 to 85 who are not mentally well, who talk to themselves but not to each other, and the NGO helps them lead a proper life. They arrange games for them to help them engage in work. They rear and take care of cows to provide people with milk and milk products.
“Among the several people who help me with my work with funds and mental support, are Sardar Ujjwal Singh and Pradeep Agarwal from a firm called Signature Global. This firm has assisted us in several ways,” Goswami said.
Goswami’s biggest wish is to create a dispensary only for the people he helps. He says that government hospitals often do not provide the help we need, and does not want to depend on anybody. However, he now owns an ambulance.
“I am a poor man and I hardly earn anything for myself. I eat and wear what others give me, and honestly, I am determined not to do anything that is going to help me personally. I wish to build homes for the homeless in every part of the country. I live to serve others, and their smiles are my reward. I do not take money from them. I want to be remembered after I die. I do not want fame, but I want the love I have been getting all these years from those I have helped. What could be a better return gift than a smile and some love?” Goswami said.
In a world full of people with materialistic needs, in a world that witnesses violence and crime every day, the existence of a man like Dev Dass Goswami is what keeps hope alive in our hearts. The Logical Indian salutes him for his selfless service to society.
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