Inner Urge to End Suffering and Help Humanity Changed Ravi Kalra’s Life Forever

Dr. Susan Lair, the Headmistress of the St. Francis Episcopal Day School spoke about her experience when she visited the Earth Saviours Foundation shelter in Delhi.

By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: It was the proverbial six degrees of separation that had brought out the meeting with the firebrand activist in Delhi who struck the holidaying Houston family this past July with his devotion, prodding them to visit the Gurukul or safe haven where hundreds of discarded and destitute people were being cared for.

It wasn’t on their itinerary but Jasdeep Lamba’s father, J.P. Vedi who is a retired engineer in Delhi, had urged her to visit the camp located just behind the giant Shiva statue on the Delhi-Jaipur highway and see for themselves what the activist, Ravi Kalra, had built to save the lives of the destitute in the city. They were overwhelmed by what they saw and experienced and vowed to help him in his cause.

This past Thursday, September 18, Kalra was standing, hands folded, in front of a group of friends of the Lambas, packed into their living room, relating his life story and what urged him to leave a comfortable existence to take care of the least fortunate in his hometown of Delhi. He had taken up the Lambas on their invitation and come to the Bayou City to build awareness for his work in tending to the poor and forlorn, and also made stops in Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta to spread the word. Many of those at the Houston gathering wrote out checks of donation to the Earth Saviours Foundation, the tax-exempt charity that Kalra has formed to help fund his work.

What struck many the most is how candidly Kalra reveals the details of his journey, which can be said to be akin to that of the Buddha when he witnessed the mass loss of life after a battle and turned his own existence around. In a modern day version, Kalra recalls being horrified to see a young child eat from the same garbage heap as a city dog and feeling the urge to do something about it.

“I had several martial arts schools and had taught the armed forces in unarmed combat,” said the strongly built Kalra, who is 45 and is a 4th Dan (level) Black Belter in Ta Kwon Do and is president of the Indian Association of Ta Kwon Do Professionals. He also had a recruitment company, sending workers to jobs in the Mid East. “I was making between $2,000 and $3,000 a day from my business activities while I played golf,” said Kalra, “but when my eyes opened to the appalling conditions that people were I threw in all my life savings into helping them.”

Ravi Kalra, the founder and Director of the Earth Saviours Foundation, with Jasdeep and Dev Lamba at an awareness and fundraising event held at their house.

Ravi Kalra, the founder and Director of the Earth Saviours Foundation, with Jasdeep and Dev Lamba at an awareness and fundraising event held at their house.

He opened up his shelter in 2007 and dove into it fulltime, much to the dismay of his wife who is a French teacher, who left him and took his children, going to the Netherlands to work. “I have vowed to help the destitute and have cleaned their vomit, changed their diapers, helped to rid them of maggots,” described Kalra of his daily routine. He related stories of how he has gotten calls from people as far away as Dehra Dun to say they are dropping off an elderly, only to learn later that it was their own aged father. “Among the unwanted are a retired judge who graduated from the London School of Economics and other professionals who simply have no place to go. Kalra does not take beggars or drug addicts as the Indian government’s policy is to detain them.

The present shelter suffered great losses when a fire broke out in April of this year and Kalra has already bought 3.5 acres of land on the Mehalpur-Faridabad road with hopes to build “the world’s biggest charitable temple of humanity” there that could accommodate 600 to 800 people. His website breaks down all his current expenses, which amount to Rs 1,000,000 or $17,000 a month. Most of the income to his Indian registered non-profit (the equivalent of the US 501(3)(c) non-profit) comes from donations, with just a little bit of subsidy by the state and local governments.

The Headmistress of the St. Francis Episcopal Day School, where the Lamba’s children study, Dr. Susan Lair, attended the event and spoke of the opportunity she had to visit India to coordinate on a poverty and over population project her school is doing with a sister school in Delhi and visit Kalra’s shelter. She was at once awed by the number of destitute people that were there and the care that they were being given by the staff of 20 paid young women. She related how she had seen volunteers from other countries also tending to these people. A 15-minute video made by the IBN TV channel on the Earth Saviours and Ravi Kalra that is available on Youtube was played, showing in vivid detail the experience that Lair was referring to.

Kalra continued on to explain how he goes out at night to bring in those people whom he sees in plight, adding that the local police know of his work and are very supportive, as is the Ganga Ram Hospital, which sends him medicines to use. He can accommodate 165 people at present, “but every day, 8 to 10 people die in my arms”. In the 7 years he has run this shelter, Kalra has cremated 4,750 people, some whose bodies were decapitated or dismembered due to a suicide or train or car accidents. He personally takes the ashes of each one to Hardwar to immerse in the waters of the Ganges. “I try to honor them in their forward journey,” he said, “when no one else did on earth.”