Fulfilling A Divine Calling
Shibu has dedicated his life to serving the poor and downtrodden who live in abject poverty in the rural areas of Trivandrum. Having left behind a lucrative career in the Gulf, the dream of every Malayali, Shibu is a lone worker helping communities which are often neglected by the government. Shibu says, “I believe that every human life has a purpose, I am fulfilling mine.”
Hailing from a middle-class family, Shibu grew up like many others, finding it difficult to face the challenges of life. He wasn’t particularly a good student while in college whiling away most of his time watching movies. However, during that time, he also developed a passion for reading books, especially autobiographies, which were his favorite. After studying to be a machinist, Shibu went to Muscat when he was thirty. Three months into his first job, he was offered a better position as a sales representative in a multinational company and never had to look back again. Feeling secure about life, Shibu was able to shake off the vices that controlled him and regain his good health. He also got married and had two children.
Soon Shibu developed a taste for listening to talks and participating in debates. On one such occasion, Shibu happened to hear Albert Einstein’s words, “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile,” which touched him deeply. Shibu says, “Unable to comprehend what was happening, I started thinking differently and was inspired to look at life from a new perspective. I began thinking about how I could use this precious God-given life for the betterment of others who are suffering. But at that point I did not have a clear vision on where I should start.” The mental agony soon made him lose his interest in his job and securing a safe future for his family.
Five years ago, Shibu took a resolute decision to break free from the worldly chains that bound him. Leaving a thriving career in the Gulf, he returned to Trivandrum with his family.
He started out on his own and got on the first bus that came his way, from the Nedumangad bus stop and got down at Meenankal, a remote area in the outskirts of Trivandrum. He befriended a farmer at a local teashop and expressed his desire to meet the people who lived there. The farmer took Shibu to his home and got him acquainted with the neighborhood.
Soon, Shibu came face to face with the pathetic state of the tribal community and saw things going from bad to worse. Alcohol consumption and other related social issues were rampant. People lived in small shacks or huts in starvation and poor hygienic conditions. It was the women and children who had to suffer the most. Abused and tortured by the men, they silently accepted the unfortunate and cruel fate that life meted out to them. They were devoid of hope and faith. Being subservient to a male chauvinistic community, they were completely unaware of what went on in the world outside.
Shibu approached the tribals with offers of help and moral support. He knew that his was an uphill task of gigantic proportions fraught with challenges and difficulties. He was driven away, beaten and abused on several occasions.
“I could understand their mistrust and reluctance to talk to me because life had made them to be so,” says Shibu.
Eventually the tribals warmed up to him. Shibu started organising weekly awareness classes and tried to make them understand the health hazards of poor hygiene and the need for educating their children. The people began to trust him and shared his faith to bring hope for betterment in their lives. For the past two years, Shibu has been regularly visiting several villages in Vellanad, Nelliyode, Palode, Vithura and other settlement colonies around Nedumangad. He has also visited remote villages in Chattisgarh, Orissa and Maharashtra to learn more about the welfare activities in those parts.
Once he went to an area where wild elephants had destroyed houses and laid to waste the poor people’s lives. The whole community was afraid to go back to their dwellings near the forest. Shibu went ahead alone to see what was left and helped them rebuild their houses and pick up the broken pieces of their lives. Speaking of his experience Shibu says, “This is not about me. It is my purpose that counts here; come what may, I’ll face it with courage.”
Shibu is aware that it is difficult for the rural population to develop faith and work towards a goal when it is a challenge to even meet the basic needs of life. He preached to them to take control over their lives instead of letting vices and negative emotions rule them. Only a healthy mind can escape the clutches of a vicious cycle and work hard towards finding a job or other means of living, thus becoming responsible husbands and fathers and thereby a harmonious family. When peace prevails, they cannot go downhill. Shibu gives them moral support and tries to guide them in the right direction, providing strength and resolve to persevere and overcome adverse situations.
Several families have returned to thank Shibu for showing them the light and for being there for them at the time of need. It is true that only a small percentage of the people show willingness to attend classes or attempt to change. Shibu says, “I don’t mind the violence and hostile attitude. A time will come when they might change their minds. I think only about those who try. They need me to be with them.”
Shibu is happy that the government and other Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) conduct counseling programmes and provide incentives to the tribals and other villagers in rural districts. He remarks, “But these are not enough considering the huge numbers wallowing in poverty. Let’s hope there will be a lot more welfare schemes in future.”
Shibu is happy to work alone.
“I do not want to get involved with other organisations now. I want to direct organized efforts towards establishing one myself. But that is a long way from now.”
Having dedicated his life to serving others, Shibu and his family are left with no regular income. They survive with savings from the past and Shibu’s wife does a part-time job to make ends meet. She says, “I was initially worried about bringing up the children. Now I fully support him. My only concern is that the children spend very little time with their father since he is out until late night travelling to far off places.”
Shibu strives forward determinedly to achieve what he set out to do. “I am doing my part, which may be a drop in the ocean. I don’t want to be anywhere else but here, where my calling guides me forward.”
As Albert Einstein once said, “Strange is our situation here upon this earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to a divine purpose.” Shibu has indeed devoted his life to a divine purpose and comes across as a rare find in a materialistic world.
By Sona Harish