Auto Raja’s deal with God turns out a blessing for Bangalore’s destitute
“I made a deal with God fourteen years ago. You get me out of prison and I will lead an honest and good life!” Keeping his word, in the last 14 years, Auto Raja has rescued 4000 destitute persons from the streets of Bangalore and given 2000 dead bodies, lying on the roads, a dignified funeral.
An impossible sinner, who gave his parents and family tremendous grief as an adolescent with his thieving ways, has turned a saint today. There is no other way to describe 45 year old Auto Raja, who presently houses 360 destitute in Doddagubbi village near Lingrajpuram in his trust called New Ark Mission of India. A saint who picks up the destitute, crawling with lice, and the starving reduced to skin and bone and stinking - whom no one wants to touch.
He lovingly picks them off the street and brings them back to his home in his autorickshaw, where they are washed, fed and allowed to die with dignity or recover with his ministrations. That is where his nickname is derived from – the auto he drives and uses to reach out to the people.
Compassionate: Auto Raja cares for the elderly and destitute in his home in Bangalore
“When I was young I had a bunch of friends from whom I learnt how to rob to be able to sustain our drinking habits and our craze to see movies. In fact, while in school I collected 10 paise per student every day as protection money. I would beat those who refused to pay. I stole everything in my house including my mother’s mangalsutra and her wedding sarees and pawned them. Finally my parents and relatives threw me out of the house cursing me and saying ‘Go and die, you are a shame to our name.
Then I ran away to Chennai where I began to work in hotels washing plates, but even there I stole and lost my job. Finally I was thrown into jail where for 10 days I could not even go to the toilet. There I got very sick and I thought I would die and in my delirious state I made a deal with God to turn over a new leaf if he helped me one last time,” he recalls.
Then his parents came to his rescue. “They got me out of prison and I asked for 1000 rupees to build up my life from scratch. I had decided to get a license to drive an autorickshaw. It was while I plied the rickshaw that I saw these poor and starving people lying on the pavements and I decided to help them. The first person I rescued was a destitute man who was just skin and bones lying near the garbage dump in Binnypet. I had no money to feed my family leave alone this man, but I had faith in God. A man named SR Manohar came forward to help me with funds. The India Campus Crusade for Christ was the second and then it was HD Kumaraswamy, former CM of Karnataka, who gave me the land and building I am in now and did a lot to help me. ‘You look just like me, man!’ he said when we first met and supported me as long as he was in office.”
Today, Auto Raja manages on donations and no support from the government. He needs 3000 kg of rice, 150 kg sugar, 150 kg Tur Dal and 60 litres of oil to feed his inmates. “I also cannot turn away young pregnant girls who come to my home to have their babies and get shelter.”
But he has hope in his eyes and says: “I made my deal with God. I am keeping my part of the bargain, he has to keep his!”