As the video dated November 14, 2011, rolled, it showed an old woman sitting in an autorickshaw eating a piece of bread. She looked tired and unhealthy. As Murugan showed video after video of abandoned men and women picked up from the streets, it was difficult to believe that one was watching the reels of his life.

For this autorickshaw driver from Kochi, a photo exhibition documenting his efforts for the past 11 years to better the life of those abandoned on the streets was an attempt to awaken the people in the city to the reality of human suffering.

The exhibition concluded on Tuesday.

Murugan says his childhood experiences prompted him to lend a helping hand to those who did not have a voice. Born at Shencottah in Tamil Nadu, he migrated to Kerala along with his parents who were plantation labourers. His education had to be stopped midway owing to financial difficulties and soon, he found himself begging on the streets. After spending some years in an orphanage, he took up a job with Childline. With the help of his friends, he bought an autorickshaw. During his time as an autorickshaw driver working at Childline, he was instrumental in rescuing hundreds of people, including child labourers, from the streets.

“When I see these people on the road, I want to help them because I was once like them,” Murugan says.

Hurdles

It has not been an easy road for him. Confronting police questioning, facing reluctance from organisations to take in the destitute, and spending sleepless nights have become a routine in Murugan's life. “I had to vacate my rented house because I had brought in an abandoned person for want of a proper organisation that would accommodate him that night,” Murugan says.

He feels that laws are of little help in tackling the situation, and remain “just on paper.” Many organisations working in the social service sector have become business-minded, he says.

The photographs displayed at the exhibition and a few signed papers from various police stations where the people he had rescued were handed over offer a glimpse into his life as a philanthropist.

Keywords: Photo exhibtion