Every Month He Fills 60,000 Litres Of Water In Matkas And Quenches The Thirst Of 1,50,000 Delhi Residents

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In 2013, when Alagarathanam Natarajan installed the first water cooler outside his home in South Delhi, he was shocked to face serious resistance from all of his neighbours. The people who were highly educated and established were offended because apparently “all kinds of people” would be drinking water there. Despite their disapproval, Natarajan did not sway one bit from his resolve. He put an end to their argument by simply saying, “All kinds of people need water.” Fast forward today, Delhi recognises Natarajan as their beloved ‘Matka Man’ – whose pledge to serve the poor and needy sweetens every drop of the water in the 80 matkas (earthen vessels for water) he has placed all over South Delhi.

Filling up the matkas

He triumphed cancer to serve the society

As a young man of 24, Alagarathanam Natarajan left his birthplace Bengaluru for London where he established himself as a successful businessman. “I always aspired to live a life of luxury, surrounded by lavish houses, cars and furniture; and I had achieved my dreams. However, a fateful day in my mid-50s drastically changed the definition of life for me,” he narrates.

At around 56 years of age, Natarajan was diagnosed with colon cancer. “I was eventually cured due to early-stage detection. But, it cost me a major portion of my life’s savings. I had no choice left but to return to India,” he shares.

Alagarathanam Natarajan, better known as Delhi’s Matka Man

Upon his return, he settled in South Delhi and established a new identity as an active social worker. “I have served the terminally ill patients in a cancer hospice, volunteered at an orphanage and performed the last rites of underprivileged people to offer them a dignified end,” he reveals. Joining hands with two Sikh brothers who organised langar for over two thousand people every day, Natarajan has served the hungry, homeless and destitute.

“Often, I would be overwhelmed by the pain and poverty they have to endure even in this modern age. I saw penniless patients arriving in the city from far-off places, armed only with feeble hopes to survive. Their plight taught me the real worth of life,” an emotional Natarajan shares his experiences.

Matka stands in different parts of Delhi

How he became the Matka Man

Inspired to find a water cooler installed outside the house of an eminent industrialist, Natarajan initiated the same at his own home in 2013. Within days, he found security guards, labourers and workers in the neighbourhood braving the mid-day sun to drink water and fill their bottles from his cooler. “Why do you walk in this heat and come so far for water?” Natarajan curiously inquired a guard one day. “The man revealed that his employer does not make any arrangements for water. I realised how pure drinking water is also a luxury for these overworked and underpaid people of our society,’’ shares Natarajan, narrating how he became “Matka Man”.

Matka Man with Matka van

He utilised the traditional water pots or matkas which effectively keeps water cool for a long time and set up three drinking water stands along the main road adjacent to his house. “So many thirsty people were benefitted from this initiative that I decided to launch it on a larger scale. In three years, I have installed around eighty matkas in over twenty places. Nearly two thousand litres of water are supplied each day which quench the thirst of around four to five thousand people,” he informs.

An important message for the privileged people

Matka Man, the real-life superhero

Every morning at 5 AM, you will find Matka Man doing rounds in his car fitted with an 800-litre tank, a pump and a generator – to fill up the water pots, accompanied by his adorable pet dog, Snoopy. At some places, he would park his van to serve steaming plates of breakfast to labourers and workers who are about to start another day of hard work. Workers who arrive at the sites by cycling long distances might receive cycle bells and cycling oil for free from Natarajan, who also sells cycle tyres, tubes and pumps to them at very low rates.

The Matka van is an engineering marvel fitted with a tank, pump and generator

Natarajan also distributes around forty to fifty kilograms of seasonal fruits and vegetables to the labourers every week. He himself often invests his time to peel, slice the same and prepare palatable dishes for them.

“I used to see most of these workers bringing their meals in polythene bags and throw these here and there after eating. I felt every human being have the wish to enjoy a decent meal with dignity. So now every month I donate about a hundred stainless steel lunch boxes to these people,” he shares.

He himself bears all the expenses

Most of his expenses for charity come from his own savings and pension. He receives some contributions from time to time, but not regularly enough to sustain his initiatives. In the scorching summer heat of Delhi, demand for water is too high. Yet the dynamic 69-year-old rushes to refill a matka, the moment he receives a call about it being empty. If you wish to know more about Matka Man, you can reach out to his website: http://www.matkaman.com/alag/

The dark side of today’s society

“Most of the experiences of my life are tragic. I remember once I saw a differently-abled man who appeared to be a little unsound, being taunted, mocked and hurt by stones by an insensitive crowd. His frightened expression reminded me of my own sister, who was a doctor and later diagnosed with mental health issues. Immediately, I interrupted the inhuman circus to save him, offered him food and left him some money. But that incident has been deeply etched in my mind to remind me how barbaric and hopeless the society has turned today. So if I can do a little bit to help my fellow humans, I would consider myself fortunate,” Matka Man ends his story leaving us to introspect and reflect.

Also Read: With The Inspiration From This Young Man, Villagers Are Digging Ponds & Canals And Raising Funds All By Themselves

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Empower Poor Women To Rise Out Of Poverty

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A Group Of Karnataka Women Pushes Alcoholic, Abusive Husbands & Social Stigma Aside, Earns Through Recycling Workshop

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At thirteen, Neela was married off to a husband much older than her. At sixteen, she became a mother, and at nineteen, she was a widow. Despite having no regular income, she was faced with the daunting task of taking care of her in-laws, her own parents and of course, her little daughter. For young Neela, life has never known a trajectory where her voice is heard and her destiny is not blamed. That was until she came under the ambit of Hosa Belaku Artisan’s Foundation and discovered a new identity for herself. The taste of financial independence was indeed delightful for her, but her zeal to work hard for a newer, better life stood at the helm of it all.

No one has ever become poor by giving – Anne Frank

Founded by Kameshwari from Bengaluru, the foundation works with distressed women in three Karnataka villages, helping them to earn their livelihood by handcrafting a wide range of decorative or daily-use household items. Like Neela, nineteen women with struggles similar or worse, have found a new lease of life at Hosa Belaku Artisan’s Foundation. Every piece of item created at Hosa Belaku is recycled from leftover fabrics, paper, dry waste or scrap metals.

Hosa Belaku – a new dawn

“I have been working in the social sector for the past two decades. Since 2013, I got associated with Belaku Trust, who was working with rural women in Karnataka,” shares Kameshwari, a former legal executive. 

“Most of these women were victims of alcohol abuse and harassment on the domestic front. Some were widowed, single mothers or differently-abled – making life all the more hard for them in a patriarchal society. Unfortunately, circumstances led Belaku Trust to close their operations in 2015. The women were left in a lurch,” she narrates.

Some of these women desperately pleaded with Kameshwari to let them sustain their only source of income and independence. Moved by their plight, Kameshwari resolved to do her best to help as many women as possible. Investing a sizeable proportion of her own savings, she launched the Hosa Belaku Artisan’s Foundation in 2017.

At present, the foundation has active workshops in three villages in the suburbs of Bengaluru, namely, Halasuru, Achalu and Kadahalli. 

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The gritty women of Hosa Belaku

At the prime of her life, Pavithra’s husband left her for another woman. Heartbroken and devastated, she was clueless about how to earn her living. The story is similar for many other women in these villagers, with careless, abusive or estranged husbands, most being alcohol addicts. The pangs of poverty would sometimes become more unbearable than the constant physical abuse by their husbands. Yet, they had no way to have some respite from the ordeal. Few women did work seasonally as agricultural labourers. The backbreaking toil in the sun would take a toll on their health, while the deplorable situation at their homes would haunt them for the rest of the year.

Empower Poor Women To Rise Out Of Poverty

Kameshwari mortgaged her jewelery for Rs 6 lakh to start Hosa Belaku Artisian's Foundation. Most of the women employed in this foundation face domestic violence in their homes. Kindly donate here : bit.ly/hosabelaku

Posted by Efforts For Good on Sunday, July 21, 2019

Society, with its primitive doctrines, only made it worse for these women. For instance, nobody was willing to marry Shivlingi because she had a facial deformity. After a point, her own brothers abandoned her as if she had become a liability.

If one visits these women now, they would be found basking in their newfound success with Hosa Belaku. But, not only the women, Hosa Belaku’s workforce comprises a 19-year-old young man as well. All his life, Yogi, who is affected by Polio, had accompanied his mother everywhere. She used to work with the foundation until she recently passed away in an accident. Yogi’s father is visually-challenged, so the entire family received a major emotional and financial setback after his mother’s sudden demise. A helpless Yogi would painstakingly drag himself from door to door in search of work. “We took him in and trained him in toy-making. Now you would find him in a corner, making beautiful toys for children,” shares a proud Kameshwari.

Sunshine, Lamp and Dawn – Illuminating lives

The women groups at the three villages are designated with three unique names and assigned with a unique task each. Kirana (Sunshine), the group at Kadahalli is involved with paper products, making notepads, bags and jewellery.

The Halsuru group Deepa (Lamp) has adopted the art of block printing. Vibrant, stylish and beautiful handbags, cushion covers, stoles and notebooks are curated with the utmost care and precision by the women.

At Ushe (Dawn), needle and thread rules. Women who were already skilled in sewing and embroidery now earn by making stuffed toys, patchwork products and embroidered fabrics.

True to their names, the groups have indeed brought new light into the lives of their employees.

Suma and Jayamma are both senior workers at Kirana who have succeeded in constructing small concrete houses for themselves, a huge step up from the dilapidated huts they spent their youth in. Another aged lady in the same group has another compelling achievement to be proud of. Bearing the taunts and trauma from her drunkard husband all her life, she has single-handedly raised a son and a daughter with proper education. Her son, who is currently an aspiring engineer, was supported with a laptop from Hosa Belaku. Honamma, a young widow from the group Deepa is treading a similar path, raising her son all on her own.

The only solace

How much gratitude these women have towards Hosa Belaku is perhaps evident from Shri’s unwavering dedication. Diabetes is taking a toll on her eyesight yet she refuses to give up and continues etching her grit on the ornate block-printed fabrics.

The reason for such gratitude is manifold. For the conscious urban consumers, Hosa Belaku is striving to save the environment with their 100%-recycled policy. But, for the workers, it is the lifeline which not only offers them economic security but also allows them a place to voice, share and resolve the problems plaguing their lives.

“They come here and find a peaceful break from their household obligations. Some still face domestic violence regularly, the workshop is an escape for them. They discuss their issues and try to find feasible solutions. It takes the load off their tired minds. The work here is a breath of fresh air for them,” Kameshwari asserts.

“We have been assisted time and again by established non-profits and retail chains across Bengaluru, who have graciously showcased and marketed products made by our artisans. We would like more people to know about Hosa Belaku and its incredible women, and respect their brilliant spirit by purchasing their crafts,” Kameshwari expresses her wish.

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Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
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