A destitute man was lying in front of my maid’s house in a terrible condition. He was really sick, stinking of urine and flies feasting on him. He could not even open his eyes. We wanted to help him, though we did not know how.
A single mother wanted to know if I knew of any free residential school where she could admit her ten-year-old son, because she had to work to earn her livelihood while there was no one to take care of her naughty son.
One of my distant relatives was admitted to a hospital and the bills were simply spiralling beyond his son’s means. We wanted someone to find a way of getting us a concession.
Mansoor Chetlu had a solution for all the above. Who is this? Read on to find out more about this wonder youngster, who is probably very different from most youngsters his age.
"Chetlu means plants in Telugu. It seems one of my forefathers was a forest keeper and people added this prefix to his name. It stuck on and I am now proud to use it as my surname, as I am an eco-lover too", says a bubbly Mansoor, who turned 22 recently.
The son of a retired havaldar (the late C A Rahiman) from the Indian Army, Mansoor says his father inspired him to lead a simple life and help others in any which way, which is probably why he took to community service since his days in the National Cadet Corps (NCC) when he was a high school student.
But barely a year into his NCC training, when his school was going to shut down the department, Mansoor stepped in to take charge. He handled the corps’ accounts by spending minimum amounts on refreshments and more on stocking up essential accessories. He also found the support of his co-cadets who, till today, are volunteers with him, helping him in various ways.
Mansoor’s journey into social service began in 2005, while he was in his final year diploma in computer science at M S Ramaiah Polytechnic College in Mathikere. After his course, Mansoor joined a non-governmental organisation (NGO) called Sankalp India Foundation, run by students, who created the emergency blood helpline 1062.
But soon he felt he had no scope for growth here, and wanted to do much more. He got in touch with Lion Alphonse Kurien of Sanjaynagar Lions’ Club, to get some guidance on conducting blood donation camps.
"This was a big turning point for me. At the Lions’ Club, Sanjaynagar, I met quite a few social activists who are totally dedicated to what they do. My impression of such clubs changed. I got very close to Kurien Sir, who cannot be matched by anybody for his selfless service to the society".
Meanwhile, Mansoor continued visiting various organizations, surfing on the Internet and collecting information about different NGOs, which would help him network later.
Helping the destitute
Mansoor’s work with helping destitutes started one fine day when he was returning from a blood donation camp. He saw a man crawling on the roadside, begging from passersby. The same man landed in front of Mansoor’s house near M S Ramaiah Hospital after a week or so, having crawled nearly 10-15 kms. Mansoor could not ignore him any longer.
He spoke to him and all the man said was that he wanted to go to Lucknow. Dirty and bruised, he looked very ill. Mansoor contacted the police but they said they could do nothing to help him.
Feeling helpless, he then remembered New Ark Mission of India (a home for destitutes run by one Auto Raja, located near Hennur in north Bangalore). After obtaining a certificate (This certificate declares that the person is in fact a destitute, and only on producing this do shelters for the homeless admit such people) from a police station, with the help of his mentor Kurien, Mansoor shifted the destitute man to this home.
"After a week, when I visited Auto Raja’s Destitute Home, this man was up on his feet and healthier. I got goose-pimples!", says Mansoor. And that was just the beginning. Since then, this wonder youngster has gone on to help more than 70 destitutes of Bengaluru, taking them either to New Ark Mission of India or Humanitarian Hands (a Bannerghatta Road-based hospital for destitutes, run by the Kempfort group).
Working in city hospitals
In 2008, Mansoor joined an NGO ‘Suraksha’, through which he worked in M S Ramaiah hospital (in north Bangalore) and K C General Hospital (in Malleshwaram) for their Citizens’ Help Desk projects. Mansoor says this experience gave him a lot of insight into how hospitals function, especially those run by the government. He however quit when the NGO asked him to join them full time, but stayed on as a volunteer.
The experience also saw Mansoor raising his voice against corrupt doctors, officials and the system itself. "Many times, I was warned of my insecure position or offered alternate duties slyly, to shut my mouth", he says.
But his rapport with some of the officials in these hospitals, helped him make a lot of difference. "I am happy to tell you that at the end of the very first month at K C General Hospital, it was declared as the best hospital under the Citizens’ Help Desk Project of National Rural Health Mission ", he says proudly.
The hospitals also taught Mansoor one hard truth. No hospital admitted destitute patients and hence he took it upon himself to help such people.
This is where he uses the help of New Ark Mission of India and Humanitarian Hands. Police stations and hospitals from across the city contact Mansoor when they come across destitutes. In the case of destitute corpses, he also arranges for their funeral.
But if you thought this 22-year-old was only busy helping destitute humans, you are wrong! This social worker is also an animal rights activist, a role he again took on by chance.
Mansoor says that one day he happened to see a snake charmer with three snakes. He immediately contacted a local NGO that rescues animals, who asked him to bring the reptiles to them. And that’s how it started. "I slowly learnt about the various NGOs working for animals and also the BBMP Forest Cell. An orphan, whether an animal or a human being, had to be helped and rehabilitated", he says.
Today, people contact him if they find snakes, rare species of birds or animals. "In fact, I will be registered as an Animal Rehabilitation Volunteer for the Forest Cell of the BBMP shortly", says Mansoor.
Serving the community
Over the years, Mansoor has had a steady growth in the number of volunteers who help him out. Today, he has more than 50 volunteers from various fields including medicine, education, engineering and so on. He tries to use his volunteers in the best way possible like organizing health camps with the help of his doctor volunteers, and coaching classes in different orphanages through his teacher volunteers.. He has also tied up with Chennai-based Industrial Training Institute (ITI), who conduct courses in welding and fitting. Economically weak students are admitted here with fees sponsored by donors. Mansoor is also the Team Head Volunteer for the Karnataka wing of a Tamil Nadu-based NGO, New Life.
At a young age, Mansoor has managed to help many in the city. Rama Srinivasa Rao, who lost her husband recently, remembers with tears, the selfless service that Mansoor lent when her husband was admitted to M S Ramaiah Hospital. "He is like God to us. He spent hours together on all the five days that my husband was in the hospital, ran from pillar to post to get our bills discounted to the maximum extent possible and even accompanied us to the crematorium. I can never forget his services".
John, the manager of New Ark Mission of India, also speaks fondly of Mansoor. " He calls on us regularly and helps us in whatever way he can. He collects unused medicines and used clothes and supplies them to us. He is very kind and friendly."
Kurien of Lions’ Club says, "The help he extends physically and trouble he takes in rehabilitation of the destitutes, unmindful of his time and personal comforts, is something unimaginable."
"Social work is my passion in life"
But Mansoor says all this would not have been possible without the help of his family, friends, mentors and volunteers. After his father passed away in 1998, Mansoor’s mother Sofia Bi continues to support him in his work. He now lives with his mother, brother and sister-in-law, in M S R Nagar in north Bengaluru.
His mother says she is happy with her son’s social work, but would prefer it if he got a permanent job in hand. He currently runs a placement agency. It is on his mother’s insistence that he is now looking to study further and is attending CET coaching classes.
"But social work will ever be my passion and goal in life. My team of volunteers are my solid supporters. There is no meaning for our lives if we live just taking care of ourselves", says Mansoor.