TESF has been set up by Ravi Kalra, one of the few individuals who literally has devoted his life for the welfare of less privileged people and to protect our planet – mother Earth.
Born and brought up in Delhi in a middle class family, he completed his studies from the University of Delhi. His father retired as a Delhi Police Inspector. His father’s tough commando and soldier skills inspired him to achieve the prestigious level 4th Dan black belt in Taekwondo Martial Arts in year 1987. He went on to become a self-defense instructor; and even a member of the Indian Amateur Taekwondo Federation. His popularity as a teacher only grew, taking him to 42 different countries over the years to come.
One of these countries was Iraq, where he had been summoned by the Government to teach self-defense to South African and US soldiers during the war. In Iraq, he witnessed the horrors of war – bloody and gory, people being shot and killed, innumerous dead bodies. But nothing made his heart bleed as much as the one incident he experienced when back home in Delhi after the stint in Iraq – the sight of a poor child and dog eating from the same garbage dump!
This incident moved him to no end and is in fact the catalyst for his setting up The Earth Saviours Foundation – an organization that adopts destitute children, abandoned senior citizens, victimized women, mentally disabled people, HIV/ AIDS patients and other less privileged people. These are all people, who, according to him, “deserve a chance to live with dignity.” The organisation offers them free shelter food, medicines and daily amenities.
After five futile attempts (from lack of money and family support, to his Taekwondo commitments), TESF was finally founded in the year 2007. It was in the same year that he gave up all his Taekwondo commitments to serve society full time as a Karma Yogi. A Karma Yogi is one who serves others without receiving or even expecting anything in return. Of course, this was no easy decision; but through his Taekwondo years, he always felt that something was missing in his life. And that void disappeared, when after the poor child-dog incident, he started serving the poor.
He realizes what all he has had to give up. Financial security for one (till date, he is pooling into his savings as a Taekwondo expert to meet TESF’s expenses). His family – his wife and two children, a son and daughter – too left him to live separately as he gave them no priority. But as he put it, “I realized that kind of a life is not for me.” While he misses them dearly, he pays tribute to his wife and children by educating poor children in his ashram compound. The poor children hail from slum areas. These children used to work as child laborers, and some were beggars on the street before they were rescued. He offers them free education and food all with love, care and affection.
Currently, their center stands at Mahipalpur, X. On an open plot of land, tents have been set up, under which people find shelter. I was wondering why such a makeshift arrangement had been made – was it an intentional move so that more people could be helped with the same amount of funds? That’s when Mr. Kalra informed me how in 2014, a fire had brought down his Vasant Kunj center. Caused by a short circuit, the fire took the lives of 2 of his beneficiaries, and also burnt away many office documents. He wasn’t at the center when the fire started by reached in time to rescue many himself. “If I hadn’t reached when I did, I would have lost all 70 of my people,” he says teary-eyed.
After the fire, the Governor of Delhi himself personally met Mr. Kalra and promised to help him with alternative living arrangements in the form of a plot of land or building; alas, that promise is yet to be fulfilled.
These are just two of the innumerable challenges he has faced over the years. Convincing the poor of his genuine efforts is a regular challenge. “Not all abandoned people trust us when we approach them. There have been times when people have hit us, thrown things at us. Even the public call the police thinking something unusual is happening.” But, the police is not a problem. They have come to realize that Mr. Kalra’s efforts are genuine. Not only do they cooperative when a complaint from the public comes in; but reach out to him to perform last rites when they find a dead body or to take an old/abandoned person into his home.
In fact, he has become one of the few non-priests in India to have himself cremated people; more than 4,750 unidentified and unclaimed dead bodies till date. These are the people who die during road/train accidents or are found floating in the Yamuna River, or half eaten by animals in drains or have died in hospitals/road sites. These unidentified people are brought to the cremation centre by the authorities where Ravi Kalra offers his helping hand to perform their last rites with prayers and dignity.
My day with him was both emotionally moving and draining. Seeing a dead body is no easy sight! This really made me wonder where he drew his emotional strength from? Besides the innumerous challenges, he encounters at least 10 deaths every month! Really, how does he deal with it? But in a very matter-of-fact kind of way, he said, “I do not think about myself anymore. Nothing gives me more bliss than serving these people. I believe it is my true calling.”
I guess one needs that firm a belief to do the kind of work that he does. Putting in 20 hours a day regularly, he literally is never away from work – as his own house serves as TESF office. He also feeds almost 250 poor people every day. And has pledged to donate his eyes, kidneys, heart valves and other useful organs for needy people; and his body for medical research.
In another avatar, Mr. Kalra is known as the “No Honking Man of India,” for his never ending fight to stop drivers from honking unnecessarily and reduce noise pollution. He holds the world record for convincing 1+ lac commercial vehicles to remove their “Horn OK Please” signs. He is also the president of the Rotary Club of Delhi Ridge; and is also battling to save India’s forest through his filing PIL (Public Interest Litigation) for the same. Despite all his commitments, he still finds time to drive around the city of Delhi, past midnight, in search of abandoned old people sleeping on the roads.
In 2012, he was awarded the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Award for Excellence in Selfless Humanitarian Service.