Kerala father, kids thrown out of rented room over COVID-19 suspicions, spend days on street

A heartbreaking story of a father who wanted to provide a better life for his children and how their fate changed with the pandemic.
Raju and sons
Raju and sons
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Thirteen year old Joshua and fifteen year old Mosha were elated when they left Mavelikkara to live with their father Raju, in Thiruvananthapuram. They had been living and studying in a boarding school in Mavelikkara for more than 6 years. It was only in 2020 that their father who was working at a small restaurant in Thiruvananthapuram decided to bring them back and secure admission at a school near the place where he works.

But within a few months, it all became a nightmare. First, the family was thrown out of a rented room by the landlord who alleged that they had COVID-19. The children were forced to sleep with their father in a school verandah for a few days. Later, they had to move to a children's home and got separated from their father again.

When media reported on the plight of the family, the children were shifted to a shelter home on Sunday night. Raju was also shifted to another temporary shelter home.

"Earlier I was working in a restaurant in Thiruvananthapuram city. In February I started working as a cleaning staff in another restaurant near Valiyathura. I took a room for rent as I planned to bring my children. They were very happy that we were going to live together again," Raju says in a broken voice.

Ever since his wife died eight years ago he has been struggling to raise the boys. "I wanted to give them good education, I did not want them to struggle like me. When they were very young I put them in boarding school as I had to work hard to get money for their education. But we were so sad that we were not together, and therefore I decided to change their school to Thiruvananthapuram," Raju said.

When the lockdown was announced and restaurants were closed, Raju lost his job. Since then he has been struggling. He got meals everyday from community kitchens. But things got worse when the children got a fever.

"Some days ago they got a fever. They had to take treatment at a general hospital. They did a coronavirus test but it was negative. But when they returned home the owner alleged that they have COVID 19 and asked us to vacate," Raju said.

They left the room and took shelter at the verandah of Fort High School in Thiruvananthapuram. At night, they slept inside the Palayam Saphalyam shopping complex. "When it rained we were not able sleep in the school verandah so we slept outside some shops in the complex," Raju said.

All he seeks is a small room where he and his children can sleep without worrying about the rain. "I am a heart patient but I have the confidence that I can take care of my children. I know that it will not be easy to find a job at this time. Still I can do any work. Their education should not be stopped," he pleads.

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