This is a story from the Indian state of Kerala. NS Rajappan lives in Manianikkara of Kottayam. For the previous half a decade, the man has been cleaning a Lake called Vembanad and collecting plastic waste that has been discarded. He does not have a boat of his own, so he rents one each day as soon as the day breaks. He does not miss a single day of collecting bottles of plastic dumped in the lake.
He had grown up on the bank of that lake. So he found it very difficult to see the lake littered with thrown-away plastic bottles. He decided by himself to do this job of clearing the bottles. Then he sells to an agency in the locality that deals with collected plastic.
But the work is extra difficult for Rajappan. He was one of the rare victims of polio. He had it when he was only five. Ever since his entire lower body has been paralyzed.
Nothing Stopped NS Rajappan
However, Rajappan saw an opportunity and took it. He explains that he never got an opportunity to work a regular job and earn a daily wage because he could not move his legs. So he does jobs like clearing plastic bottles to get by in his life. A kilogram of plastic, however, only gets him 12 rupees. So an entire boat of plastic is not much financially. But he says that he still does it because he knows this saves the lake, at the very least. NS Rajappan says that, to him, this is the fact that actually matters.
NS Rajappan does not have anyone living with him in his tiny house in the village of Manianikkara. He never had anyone living with him his entire life. Vilasini, his sister, along with her family lives opposite his home. They have been the only support NS Rajappan had his whole life.
Vilasini explains that NS Rajappan has a strong desire to never be a burden for anyone in his family because of his problems. That is the reason why he prefers living alone. She cooks his daily meals but that is about all the help he accepts. Everything else he does by his own power.
During the devastating floods in Kerala in 2018, Rajappan’s home was heavily damaged. It was entirely flooded as well. Vilasini adds that even then he did not want any help. For some weeks, NS Rajappan found a boat to live in. Now, the basic roof of the home has been repaired but the conditions of the house continue to be extremely poor.
But He Can Do With A Little Help
In the last couple of months, NS Rajappan noticed the lake being less littered with plastic waste because there were not as many tourists. Rajappan, however, is not disheartened by his income decreasing. He says that he is happier that the lake remains clean.
His 5 years’ worth of voluntary efforts had gone by greatly unnoticed. Recently, however, Nandu KS, a photographer based in Kottayam, shared a picture of the man and his work on the internet. It went viral in no time.
More than a million netizens have praised NS Rajappan’s selfless efforts of keeping the Vembanad clean. However, his daily struggles are not ending any time soon. Nandu ends his post by saying that Rajappan chettan is deserving of global attention because of his work. He hopes, eventually, enough people will know about him and his situation and help fix his home. Moreover, as his finances decrease, he hopes (and so do we) that we can extend a bit of financial help to the man.
All image credits: Nandu KS