“I suffer every moment of every day that I am not with my son. All I want is to be reunited with my son.” -Craig Kelly
In the fast-moving world of today, people have become so self-centered that they don’t bother to see what is happening around them. They are only concerned about themselves and their family. A person like Raja Ram Tiwari, who dedicated his life to helping others and made it his mission to unite lost and separated kith and kin, stands out and shines like a diamond in a heap of sand. During the 41 days, Kumbh Mela spread over 4700 acres site, many people get lost in the melee. Raja Ram who is a savior for them is fondly called “Bhule Bhatke walon ka baba”.
Raja Ram Tiwari was born to Janki Devi and Pandit Jagan Prasad in Gaura Nandook Pura village. Pratapgarh. He studied in Allahabad University. Once he saw a child crying on the road because he was lost. Raja Ram took pity on him, as he was hungry and searching for his parents. He along with some of his friends spread out in different directions and did not stop till they united the child with his parents.
It was in 1946 at the age of 18 years, Raja Ram Tiwari first visited Kumbh Mela on the banks of Sangam at Allahabad. It was a common sight to see pilgrims lost in the crowd and hardly any organization to help them to reunite. He decided to do something for such people. He saw an old lady crying in distress as she had lost contact with her family members. Raja Ram improvised a tin loudspeaker and started announcing. He continued to move all over and did not stop his announcement until the lady was united with her family.
This incident forced Tiwari to take up the idea more seriously and went on to set up camps called ‘Khoya Paya Shivir’ to help lost pilgrims find their way. Gradually people started joining him to support the noble cause and finally he had more than 200 volunteers to help him. There is no fixed time to find the lost ones. It varies from a few hours to a few days or even months.
In just one extreme case he took nearly ten days to help a hearing-impaired woman to find her husband. His son Umesh Tiwari has now taken over as the chief of Khoya Paya camps. It is no less than a miracle that he managed to reunite more than ten lakhs people with their near and dear ones during the last 71 years.
“He used to bring children from toddlers to teens to the camps. Bringing the children was easy but looking after them was an arduous task, especially for a man,” said his wife Shanti Devi. “I helped my husband in this noble job.”
Narrating a memorable incident, Raja Ram Tiwari said,”once a dumb woman reached the ‘lost and found’ tent. She could not speak out the name of her husband, so she pointed towards a green leaf of a nearby tree. He could gather that the name of her husband was ‘Hari'”
“We call her Gudiya (little doll),” said social worker Kanak Sharma, rocking a child who looked not yet a year old. The child was found alone squatting on a dusty street four days ago. She was as yet unclaimed. “I pray every day for her to be reunited with her parents. But we suspect the child may have been left deliberately,” Sharma said, referring to families who abandon young girls because they will be unable to pay for their future dowries.“We broadcast the few details that we have — her colored bangles, her yellow hat,” Sharma said. “But no one comes. We’ll keep her for 15 days before sending her to a children’s home.”
In 1999 a two and a half-year-old boy was found. He lost contact with his parents. Raja Ram tried his best to find his parents but did not succeed. They made announcements and distributed pamphlets. Finally, they put him up for adoption. A childless couple happily adopted him.
Because of his dedicated work in uniting lost pilgrims, the government has allotted him land to set up a lost and found camp in the Kumbh Mela. The volunteers fan out in all directions and bring anyone who is lost or found weeping.
Raja Ram Tiwari died on August 20, 2016. His last wish was to see river Ganga clean. Tiwari earned several awards and citations and was featured in the TV programme ‘Aaj ki Raat hai Zindagi’, anchored by Amitabh Bachchan, on October 25, 2015. He was also felicitated by former Chief Justice of India A S Anand. His life is a rare example of selfless service to society. May his soul rest in peace.