I happened to read about Raju in one of the facebook groups.
He was trying to sell his special handmade seed paper pen. I read his post in detail and that is when I realised that he is paralysed.
It did not take much time to connect with him over WhatsApp and set up a Zoom call.
I spoke with him for 2 hours. For the whole 120 minutes, Raju was narrating his story with all smiles (literally laughing). Even though I exchanged the smiles and laughters with him, I was amazed and in a state of shock while listening to his life story.
You can watch the complete interview on YouTube.
Raju is now 60 years old and staying in a two room house in Chelakara, Kerala.
Once an inter school athlete champion, winning medals for high jump and pole vault, he had a life like a regular able bodied person till the age of 24.
After completing his education in air conditioning technology, he relocated to the then Bombay in 1980. Raju worked there for 4 years before life took away the key feature from him – his mobility. He was stuck with fever and did not take it seriously. This led to trouble in urination and finally got admitted to a hospital. It was a life changing moment for him when he woke up the next day. His lower body was paralysed.
For the last 36 years, Raju has been overcoming all challenges that life has thrown at him. The Smiling face has a great story of grit and determination concealed behind it.
It took him 2-3 years to accept the reality that he cannot walk.
From then onwards he has been fighting hard to survive. For almost 23 years (1984-2017) he had bed sores. Raju said “It was a difficult phase. I used to have fever every one hour. I would drink black tea and pull a blanket over me to take rest.” In 2017, Amla hospital doctors and patrons helped him to undergo plastic surgery. This helped to get rid of the bed sores.
During 2005-06, he lost his younger brother and elder brother at almost the same time. This made his mother get into an unstable condition. I almost broke down when Raju spoke about the demise of his father.
“Mother and father were lying in adjacent beds. But mother did not know that father had expired. I went crawling in to the room that morning and saw ants biting the face of my father. Mother did not realise that he was no more.”
With all these happening around him, Raju never got bogged down. He also acknowledges that there were many people who helped him throughout this tough journey.
Raju has made an electric charger in 1990s. It is still in working condition and can be used to charge electric scooters and cars. When the whole world is taking about electric mobility, this man says that he can easily manufacture such chargers at a low cost.
He has also made amplifiers. Raju’s wife Ponnama says that “The room becomes a cinema hall when plays music using the amplifiers.”. Ponnama has been a great pillar of strength for him. Raju credits her for his survival. They got married in 2008 and it is a great story of ‘Happily married ever after”. She lifts and puts him on the special scooter. They ride almost 65-70 kms once every week to pick up the materials required to make products, send out deliveries, etc.
The four years spent in Mumbai also gave him life lessons. The spirit of Mumbai and hard working mentality of people in Mumbai acted as an inspiration for Raju. He compared his life to the that of Mumbai people, especially the challenges faced by families in Dharavi, and consoled himself. He said “even with this condition of mine, I am better off and my challenges are negligible compared to those faced by these people.”
In 2017-18, Palliative Care unit helped them to learn the art of making seed paper pens and umbrellas.
Raju and Ponnama keep themselves busy with making Seed paper pens, paper bags, cloth bags and umbrellas.
They also help in imparting this craft knowledge to school kids. Raju and Ponnama have done couple of demonstration sessions in sc where they teach kids to learn the making of paper pen and bags.
The demand for paper bags and cloth bags are not that encouraging for them. Currently they are focusing on seed paper pen and umbrellas though the delay in opening of schools have impacted the sales.
Seed Paper pen is an environment friendly pen made from craft paper. A small seed is attached to the base of the pen and it adds up as a save nature initiative.
Umbrellas are made by them by assembling the kits that they procure from one of the umbrella manufacturers in Thrissur.
Due to Corona, people are now at home. But Raju has been managing lockdown and work from home for the last 36 years.
I asked Raju whether he had any message for everyone during these Corona days.
As expected, he smiled and replied: “Please try to visualize my situation. I have been bed ridden and staying in this one room for the last 36 years. You have been in lockdown for just 2 months. Just think about me and people like us.”
Raju ettan (elder brother) is a great example for people. He has shown that whatever challenges are thrown at you during your lifetime, if there is a will then there is a Way.
The Ultimate Champion: Raju
Seed Paper Pen Rs. 8 -10 (Branding option available for Pen)
Umbrella Starting from Rs. 300
Electric Charger As per specs
Amplifier As per specs
Paper Bag Rs. 5 – 8
Cloth Bag As per size and material
Location Chelakara, Kerala. Delivery: All India
Raju’s WhatsApp Number: +91 98476 27510
Facebook Page: Seed Paper Pen
The story of Raju ettan shows that if you have the Passion and positive attitude, there is nothing that can pull you down.