Bengaluru is home to over one crore people and its status of being an IT capital makes it one of the most sought after cities in the country. But like any other city, Bengaluru has a dark side – abandoned senior citizens and children. But one man, for the past 25 years, has been the Messiah for such people; Meet the auto king.
Born as Thomas King, the world knows him as Auto Raja, the guardian of over 800 homeless people who were abandoned by their families. He provides them shelter, food and medical facilities at the New Ark Mission of India at Doddagubbi village on the outskirts of Bengaluru. Apart from providing shelter to senior citizens, he also provides education to abandoned children.
Auto Raja’s life didn’t have a great start. Initially, he was involved in crimes like theft and was also sent to a juvenile home once before the age of 18. At the age of 16, after his father found out that the king was a thief, he was thrown out of his house.
After returning from the juvenile home, Raja wanted to lead an honest life and thus started driving an auto-rickshaw. It was during this time that he came to know about the plight of the abandoned senior citizens on the side of the roads. Once, he brought a destitute woman with him and provided her shelter at the place which he used to park his auto-rickshaw. He gave her a haircut and cleaned her wounds. A few days later, he saw a smile on the old woman’s face, something that changed her life. At the same time he decided to help anyone in need of shelter and thus Auto Raja was born.
“Initially I started with 13 prisoners and later, with the help of donors and the government, the shelter became the New Ark Mission. Initially people laughed at me and when I started getting funds, they thought I was sending pictures of homeless abroad to get funds. But as the days went by, he realized that I was on a mission he had never imagined,” Auto Raja told The Indian Express.
Auto Raja said that most of the people in the shelter home are abandoned elderly citizens whose family members are angry with them. “Many of them become like children. Some of them talk too much or some are suffering from age related diseases or diseases like tuberculosis. This is the reason why their family members leave them and these family members are none other than their children or grandchildren,” said Auto Raja.
He said, “On an average around 40-50 homeless people visit our shelter home in a month. Police, NGOs and other volunteers provide us with information about them and we bring them. Many senior citizens die here so whatever time we get, we try our best to fulfill their wishes. Senior citizens who have suffered immensely find happiness in small things in the last phase of their life. A person who was on his deathbed had asked for masala dosa and we made sure it was arranged. ,
Regarding funding, Auto Raja said that there are companies and voluntary organizations that fund them. “During Covid-19 it became difficult, but by the grace of God, we got ration kits and other facilities, but finding hospitals and treating prisoners was a big challenge,” he said.
Many such people have come to Auto Raja’s shelter home, who have seen a new ray of hope. One of them is Veena who currently looks after the elderly citizens at the centre.
Veena, a resident of Doddaballapura, lost her husband a few years back and was thrown out of the house. He also had a head injury. She was walking with her son to the Bangalore railway station and the police informed Auto Raja. Veena said that she felt that she was reincarnated after meeting him, who provided her with food and shelter and ensured that her son was educated. “I somehow managed to learn the basics of nursing and now I serve in the shelter home of Auto Raja. My son is now studying in class VI,” said Veena, smiling.
Auto Raja, who claims to be the first digital beggar, said he wants to build a nursing college to provide education to the destitute children he rescued so that they can continue to treat and help the destitute at his centre. “Some schools in the area help us by providing free education but it is difficult for us to afford higher education,” he said.
“I appeal to the public to donate at least Re 1 each day which can help many elderly citizens who have been left in bad condition on the roads. If the government supports, even today I am ready to make Bengaluru a beggar-free city,” said Auto Raja.