Life has a strange way of working out and that has been the case with Manjunatha Nigappa Pujari of Karnataka's Belgaum. He has been saving lives in Belgaum by ferrying patients to hospitals in his auto at night.
However, this is not how Pujari had envisioned his life to be. Growing up in a military family, it was natural for him to want to join the Army. But life had different plans for him. In 2003, he met with an accident that fractured the femur on his right leg into three pieces. He also sustained some injures to his right arm. It upended his dreams of joining the forces to serve the nation but did not dent his spirits. Till date, Pujari is unable to lift heavy objects.
'The Stigmatisation Of COVID Patients Initially Was Appaling'
He has ferried over 500 people in his auto. During the coronavirus pandemic alone, he ferried over 185 COVID-positive patients to the hospital. Having lost his father to the deadly virus, he decided to help other COVID patients. He recalled seeing first-hand, the stigmatisation that these patients faced, initially. "Our whole family got the virus and no one was willing to even come near us," Pujari told The Logical Indian.
It all started in 2015 when a pregnant woman in his neighborhood needed an emergency ambulance service. It took about two hours to arrange for a transportation faciltiy. It was a wake-up call for him and he decided to do something about it. Not having enough funds to procure an ambulance, he decided to purchase an auto. His mother even sold some of her gold ornaments to help him with the purchase.
"There are some people who insist on paying me for my service. But I do not pocket these earnings and instead donate them," he said. " I believe in just helping people out."
To support his family and continue with his charitable endeavors, he has taken up three jobs. From 6 am to 9 am, Pujari works as an auto driver and donates the earnings to Ashraya Foundation, an NGO. During the day, he works as an office assistant to run his household. At night, he helps ferry patients to hospitals and the little earnings he makes from this goes towards the maintenance of the vehicle.
Pujari has been at the forefront of this crisis, battling it out and helping people out. He volunteered for the COVID vaccine trials when it started in India. "Despite being the only bread earner in my family, I decided to volunteer for the vaccine trials. My blood sugar was a bit high and they said they would be able to consider me as a volunteer only if my blood sugar level was down. But that did not deter me. Within two weeks, I was able to regulate my blood sugar levels and became a candidate for the vaccine trials," he explained.
He also has provided grocery kits to the needy in Belgaum and offered home delivery services, including food and essentials, to those under home quarantine. His services have earned him an entry into India Book of Records, Asia Book of Records, and Royal Success International Book of Records.
"My family is my rock. Without my mother, wife and son, I would not have been able to do what I do," he said. He wants to continue serving humanity even after his death and has decided to pledge his body to Jawaharlala Neharika Medical Institute for medical research. He has also been a regular blood donor and has completed 44 donations till date.