Shankar was one of the ten selected out of 7,000 candidates to receive the “Mumbaiker Award” recognizing and honoring his service among the suffering and destitute of Mumbai.
Statistically speaking, the odds for being selected were against Shankar, but then he is one who has overcome much higher odds. As a child born in the brothels, and as one who adapted too well to the expectations of that world, Shankar should not be sitting on a dais receiving an award; he should be a dead man, buried in an unmarked grave. And his death, most probably would have come after having destroyed many innocent young lives and some not-so-innocent lives.
Shankar’s childhood was spent in a world made up of violence & drugs. At a young age he realized that he could either be one of the major players in this dangerous game of life in the red light districts or he could be a pawn used by the major players. Shankar’s intelligence and wit combined with a dangerous anger made him a force to be reckoned with among the violent in the red light districts. Members from opposing clans feared him; his own admired him as an asset who knew how to get things at done at whatever cost.
Despite all the facts and statistics that suggest it should be otherwise, Shankar is not dead. Today, almost 25 years after walking away from this culture of death and destruction, he is more alive physically, spiritually, and emotionally than he has ever been.
Ironically, he is still walking the streets that he walked as a dreaded thug, but today the man who walks the streets of Kamathipura has a very different mission from that of the teenager who walked them many years ago. The man who once carried enough rage to take the life of another can be seen today tenderly carrying the frail body of a woman, thrown aside by her owners; he carries her to the BTC ambulance and drives quickly to allow her to draw, what he knows will be, her final breaths in this world surrounded by kind people who will wipe her brow and remind her of her eternal value.
Many years ago, Devaraj (the founder of BTC) and others convinced Shankar to leave the life of death in Kamathipura. Shankar, along with his mother and brothers left. It has not been an easy road, but since then, the man who once destroyed lives is busy restoring broken lives. Shankar has been instrumental in getting many women and children out of the red light districts and many from certain death. The award that Shankar received recognized what we, at BTC, already knew, that in Shankar, we have a loving, sacrificial, individual who is constantly putting his own life on the line to save others. He is now busy trying to destroy the business that he once participated in building, and there are those who are not pleased by his attempts. It took courage for Shankar to leave the only world he knew, a world of hate and death, but he left, and now, motivated by divine love, he courageously works in rescuing those who teeter on the brink of death. With or without the accolades and recognition, on an almost daily basis, Shankar quietly enters into the world of the suffering in the red light districts and walks among them in love.