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After polio, Raghu Makwana lost his legs. He had to walk with the support of his hands.
A long time back, a few friends took a walk on the street with the inspiration to do a small act of kindness. After some searching, two of them saw Raghu arranging the shoes that people had left outside the temple. Given his condition, their first impulse was to do something for him, but when they conversed with him, they quickly realized that they were actually receiving a lot more than they could give him. Raghu's big-hearted devotion coupled with a sharp and street-smart intellect profoundly impressed them, so much so that they spoke about him to their nonprofit mentor Jayeshbhai, and ended up making him financially self-reliant.
Raghu's impluse of kindness is ever-present. One of his many kindness endeavors is the Tulsi project. Whenever he learns of a family (mostly in the slums nearby, the largest in the large Indian state of Gujarat) with some dispute or even violent abuse, Raghu courageously walks in to spread good cheer and gifts them a tulsi plant. Most of these are complete strangers. Sometimes he'll recite a prayer, sometimes he'll talk about wise saints, sometimes he'll share stories. Hearing hopeful messages from a young man without legs is quite transformative! When he leaves the holy Tulsi plant, people accept it as a blessing; and as they nurture the plant, and are reminded of its presence everyday, they sometimes grow in empathy. To date, he has given out more than 500 of these plants, one at a time.
Let alone folks in the slums, Raghu even attracts famous people. :) Once, a philanthropist gave a talk to the slum kids and described the experience of flying in a plane. A few weeks later, through wild serendipity, it so turned out that Spice Jet Airlines donated an entire plane for that whole group of slum children and young adults, including Raghu, to "fly in the air". Miss India herself received them at the airport, and personally chatted with Raghu about life in the slums, as they were all gifted a royal tour of a big city. Even more recently, when Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, the former president of India, was giving a talk, he was so inspired by Raghu that he not only invited him on stage but also opened his talk with: "When I asked Raghu what is your dream in life, he said only one thing: 'I want to see the women of India and their children smile.' "
In Nadiad, during the 'I am the Change' film project, college students produced a video on him too:
As a Lok Mitra fellow for our Moved By Love posse, Raghu continues to shine his compassion quotient in creative ways. To start 2011, Raghu gave birth to one of his dreams. When he lived out on the streets, he often felt deeply moved by others on the streets who had even less than him. He made a vow to himself that he would return to serve them one day, and that day had arrived for him. He put together a team of five everyday folks, (one of whom is blind!), who would make small sacrifices in their own lives to support delivery of hand-cooked meals for some of the absolutely neglected people on the streets. They appropriately named it "Tyaag Nu Tiffin" (Food of Sacrifice). Everyday at 12:30PM and at 7:30PM, Raghu starts off on his hand tricycle to deliver the food. It's the same food he himself eats, but he won't eat it until he has finished his round of offerings.
In a recent feature in Times of India, Raghu notes: "I'm not doing anything great. I'm not on a mission to change the world. God has been very kind to me in my struggle to survive. Now it is my turn to repay the kindness by helping other needy human beings."