Our motherland seems beset with all kinds of problems that affect the quality of life: from pollution and broken infrastructure to poverty and abuse. It can seem insurmountable sometimes; holding on to optimism becomes a challenge. Meet Ravi Kalra, the man who not only stays cheerful, but has fought the odds time and time again to create change — taking people toward positivity and dignity one day at a time.
Through his organization, the Earth Saviors Foundation has addressed — and impacted — concerns across many spheres. “Due to our materialism, we’ve given countless wounds to our Mother Earth, she’s bleeding from every corner,” says Kalra, 49, who started the foundation in 2008. “I feel it is our duty as humans, as citizens, to do what we can to fix these issues.”
To that end Kalra spends his time on many issues, but the main focus of the foundation’s “heart, soul, and effort are on caring for the destitute and abandoned at the Gurukul shelter.”
Here, 450 residents are looked after for free: they are fed, bathed, clothed, given medicine and a clean bed, and restored a modicum of the dignity they earlier lost.
In the last decade, his work has resulted in him being called a “Karmic Yogi” — someone who believes in yoga of Karma, or the selflessness of actions. Asked about this label, Kalra responds with humility and wonder. “Over the years, people noticed my dedication to causes; I took sanyas and donated everything I had, rescuing people and I guess that’s why people decided to call me that,” he said.
Before starting the Earth Saviours Foundation, Kalra had a cushy life. He was a contractor with the army, he shopped abroad, ate fancy meals, played sports, and never thought twice about his lifestyle. “The turning point came when I saw a small child and a stray dog eating together from the same garbage dump.” It broke his heart. He gave up his lavish lifestyle, donated his money and assets to the cause of rescuing those who had no one else.
The Gurukul shelter takes in anyone over the age of 18, barring addicts, who need special rehab. Kalra, along with his volunteers, actively rounds up the homeless, picking up people who have lost their homes or been abandoned by family. Others come to them from hospitals and police stations, when there is nobody to claim them or take responsibility for their care.
Residents include people with debilitating diseases and mental illnesses. Often when he finds them, they have sores or even maggots. These are the people most of society looks through or crosses the road to avoid: the people you see wandering around muttering to themselves, with matted hair, uncut fingernails, torn clothes, and bad breath. These folks are especially welcome at the Gurukul. Some residents are chronically ill or bedridden. Kalra says he himself changes 100 diapers a day.
Helping them live with dignity is a huge motivation, but Kalra also performs another important service. He brings that same dignity to death, having organized cremations for over 5,000 people. “Every week, the courts and police send us people on their deathbeds, people in comas. Hospitals transfer them to us, saying “bhajan kirtan ki zaroorat hai, dawaiyaan ab kaam nahin kar rahin” (They need prayers and devotionals now, medicines are not working.) When they pass away, Kalra takes care of their last rites.
Along with the Gurukul shelter, the foundation is involved with many other initiatives. They promote the preservation of forests and trees, they champion electric crematoria (“When a human dies, two trees die along with it,” he says). They look after stray animals, they also campaign aggressively against air pollution and noise pollution. The “Do not honk” stickers behind Delhi and Gurgaon cars? Also their initiative. In fact, they’ve taken it upon themselves to educate the police in every state about the debilitating effects of loud horns.
Does taking up so many issues dilute their impact? Not at all, says Kalra.
“When I came into seva, I couldn’t focus on one subject. I wanted to make my work result and project oriented but, every time, I would feel that other areas were being neglected. So we do a little bit in many projects.”
The unifying factor is that they’re about undoing “the selfishness and cruelty of people — we’ve become so immune to suffering. So instead of cursing people for not doing something about it, I’m doing my bit. This is a pledge I’m trying to fulfil – just for the country’s welfare.”
The foundation takes its message to schools and colleges, trying to instill the next generation with a spirit of generosity.
The commonality of suffering keeps him grounded. One night, he recalls, he came across “A person roaming around; He was destitute, his kids had snatched his money and thrown him out of his home. Later I learned he was a graduate of the London School of Economics, he’d been a judge, he’d even served in the International Court of Justice – that’s my reward. What more do I want in life?”
Over the years, thousands of people from the weakest, least self-sufficient segments of society have found a haven thanks to Kalra. “Seeing them smile, seeing them cleaned up is the reward,” he says. “I’m happy we are fulfilling our karma and duty.” That’s what keeps him going. But it’s not all a bed of roses. Keeping the organization running requires Kalra to do “48 hours of work in 24 hours.”
If you’d like to get involved, there are many ways you can pitch in. The foundation is always in need of volunteers, anyone interested can contact them and get trained in various fields, including counseling.
Material contributions are also welcome: from grains and pulses to sugar and tea, it’ll all get used. And, Kalra adds,” We always need money but we don’t like to ask for it, it looks bad.” Corporates are very welcome to support the organization.
Address: Gurukul, Bandhwari Village, Gurgaon – Faridabad Road, Near TERI Golf Course, District Gurgaon, Haryana 122001
Phone: +91 98181 71695
Web site: https://earthsaviours.in/
Credit: Earth Saviours Foundation
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