About The Founder Thomas raja or Auto Raja, as he is popularly known, use to drive an Auto Rickshaw before he began with his heart-touching ministry of serving the poor and the dying and destitute.His story is an overwhelming testimony of hope for all.Raja left school at the age of 8 and grew up to be an alcoholic and a petty criminal,pawning even his mother’s silk sarees and her mangalasutra to fulfill his craving for alcohol.Ostracised by family and society, his father threw him out of the house.He continued till he was finally sent to Central Prison,Chennai.It was sickness and a near –death experience in the dingy confines of prison that God chose to transform the rogue into a saint.In an earnest prayer, Raja repented and confessed to God to forgive him saying if he was released, then, in turn, he would lead an honest life and serve His people. God answered his prayer and his parents miraculously bailed him out. He begged for forgiveness and they in turn gave him Rs. 1000/- to get a driving license to drive an auto. One day, as he drove his auto, his eyes caught the attention of the poor and the dying destitute, on the road and he decided to serve them.He learnt a few first- aid basics, and started from a small garage.Later, he rented a small home to house the people he found on the streets. The first man, he recalls, was an old man who looked like a living skeleton with all his bones visible. He began with 13 people in a rented house but today his home is resident to some 750 people rescued from the most inhumane and unhygienic conditions, offering them hope, solace and shelter in their twilight years. Raja’s lingering remorse of the past drives him to do good in the present and the future. Auto Raja, has won several accolades for his work, right from the ‘ Namma Bengaluru’ Award to the CNN-IBN Real Heroes Award. We are running this mission purely with the help of public donations and Faith in God and compassion for the poor are the only two investments Raja puts in his work or mission to serve the poor.
About The Founder ( Courtesy Book: BEING YOU AGAINST ALL ODDS) from Preethi Rai
T RAJA ( SOCIAL WORKER )
I am the eldest of four siblings, the son of a linesman and a housewife. Because of his job, my father used to shift houses a lot and I would have to change schools. Over time, I became the oldest in my class and started losing interest in my studies. I fell into bad company, began drinking and smoking, and was addicted to the movies. Slowly, I began stealing to feed my addictions. Eventually, after a lot of beating, my parents started distancing themselves from me.
When I was 16, my father threw me out of the house. For two years, I lived like a beggar, slept on the pavement amidst rabid dogs and garbage. I finally went to Chennai with the dream of working in the film industry and got myself a job as a cleaner in a hotel. The first week, they did not payme my salary and so I stole all their plates and ran away. It was then that I met an old couple, both of whom were beggars. They took me home, fed me and sheltered me, but when they headed out the next day, I tried to steal their copper lamps. Neighbours caught me and beat me up. I escaped to the train station but the police caught me and sent me to a juvenile home. That is when things started to change.
There were many things that were like hell in the home, but it was there that I was introduced to yoga and spirituality. As converted Christians, I began bartering with Jesus to let me out of the home before Christmas. I said my life would be dedicated to him after that. Miraculously, in ten days, my parents came, paid the fine and took me away back to Bengaluru. I started driving an auto. But old habits die hard. I quickly became the bodyguard for the head of our auto union and began acting up. When the Transport Minister banned autos, I went to the gates of the Vidhana Soudha and even poured petrol on myself, threatening to burn myself. My friends put some sense into me and that is when I began thinking about my life.
It was 1996, the year Mother Teresa died. I saw people dressed in rags defecating on the road and I began questioning God again. If there is a home for dogs in this world, why are these people left without a home? That is when I discovered my purpose on Earth. My first rescue was a lady from SP road. She was covered in fleas, dressed in rags, and maggots were chewing on to her toes. I brought her back in my auto and began rescuing people. I’d clean and shave them, and dress and feed them. I faced a lot of resistance when I first started out- from the destitutes who were not used to having people care, from others who thought I was doing this for an organ theft racket, and from my own parents.
Over the last two decades, I have rescued over 19,000 destitutes and given around 9000 people a decent burial. After all, every person has a right to live and die with dignity. Through the journey, I have continued to fight for their basic needs
Fifty years ago my parents migrated from Tamil Nadu and settled down in the Magadi Road, Bangalore. My father was working in the BSNL Department and after his retirement my parents went back to Tamil Nadu.
I am the eldest son to my parents and was born and brought up in Bangalore. My family was a genteel family and took good care of me, being the eldest and, therefore, more endearing. They put me in an English medium school.
When I was studying in third standard, unfortunately I fell into unfavorable company and picked up vile habits. I used to steal money from home for smoke and alcohol. I would lay my hands on whatever I find at home and even in my neighbor’s house. I used steal small vessels from my home and from neighbor’s house, due to which this my family would not allow me into my house. I started pilfering things from the school as well. On the whole, my character was such that I brought bad name to my family.
The same unwholesome friends led me to lose my educational career at third standard itself. My parents were so unutterably upset that they cursed me and prayed that I went away and died somewhere. They chased me out of the house. Then I was almost on the streets of Bangalore city, begging for food and sleeping anywhere I found a little space – pavements of road, railway station, bus station, under the drainage bridges. In short, leading literally a life like a street dog..
When the police saw me sleeping around these places, they would put me in jail. This went on for a few years.
A man should have blessings from three sides i.e. mother’s care and father’s love and God’s blessings. But I was denied parents love and care. In that despicable condition I sought God’s help and pledged myself to him to change my character. Then God took charge of my life and bestowed me with a compassionate heart. From then onwards I started regularly to seek God’s guidance by attending the church. I am sure that it is God’s compassion that transformed me and endowed me with a loving heart and the responsibility of giving care and support to the utterly destitute street people – homeless people and often on the verge of death. In this situation, I went to my parents seeking the financial help of Rs.1000/- to get an auto driving license. I, in turn, promised them that I would not trouble them anymore.
And then I got the license and started driving an auto in the city.
While driving I used to recollect my past life and felt ashamed of myself. Then I got married and my responsibility increased. Life was going on somehow.
While driving, without any conscious effort, I started seeing people on the road side pathetic conditions – hungry, almost naked, with sores that mosquitoes were finding a great attraction. Most of them were almost in dying stage and living no better than a street-animal with none to care for them.
Seeing the people in this condition, I prayed to God to give me a compassionate heart to take care of them like Mother Teresa did.
One day, I picked up one such person and brought him to my own home. There was not a single paisa in my hand when I started this mission. My own people and neighbors used to mock at me saying I was mad to bring such people home and taking care of them. But I did not give heed to their criticism. I was sure that I was following God’s Word and I continued to serve these poor and dying destitute.
New Ark Mission of India (The beginning):
I started this Mission in 1997 in a rented house and later on in 1998 the Mission was registered under the trust name called NEW ARK MISSION OF INDIA with Home of Hope as its rehabilitation Centre. Until now, the Mission could rescue over 7,000 people of whom about 3,000 died here in dignity with their last wishes fulfilled. Today our strength is 750 – (330 men, 340 women and 80 children.) God’s compassion has been making me love and care these poor and dying destitute till today. I am now hoping to extend the Home’s services to other places especially, immediately eying Hyderabad and Kakinada in Andhra. It is all in God’s hand!
The Home of Hope is where the future of the homeless lies. I started this home with compassion and faith as my only investment.