For the past 28 years, 45-year-old Jayan's daily routine has been pretty much the same. Pushing his cart that is his mobile clothes ironing unit, the Madurai-native would go from one house to the other in Kerala's Kottayam.
Over the years, Jayan became a household name in Chingavanam, where he has been residing. With his heavily-accented Malayalam, Jayan won hearts as well as a steady dose of work.
But since the past two years, Jayan has not been able to work after his kidney ailment aggravated.
Recently, when the doctors told him that he has to get a kidney transplant, both of his brothers stopped talking to him in the fear that they would have to be the donors.
Although his immediate family severed ties with Jayan, the people who have known him for decades came to his aid.
On October 15, five wards in the Kottayam municipality that covers the two villages of Chingavanam and Pallam, pooled in money to fund Jayan's kidney transplant. His wife Mariyammal will donate her kidney and the transplant is scheduled for November last week at RIMS hospital in Eerattupetta.
At the end of a 5-hour collection drive, a sum of Rs 11.25 lakh was pooled in.
As a child, Jayan used to occasionally visit parts of Kerala to meet his brother-in-law. In one such visit, at the age of 17 in the late 1980s, Jayan decided to stay.
Although he did odd jobs, in the beginning, Jayan soon switched to ironing clothes. As Jayan speaks to TNM in Malayalam over the phone, there is still a tinge of Tamil that seeps into his words. But he swears that he reads Malayalam newspaper every day.
When he started off, Jayan used to charge 75 paise per cloth item to iron it and would hardly earn Rs 20 a day. Over the years, along with gaining the trust of the people, his income also grew.
Jayan lives in Kottayam with his 44-year-old wife Mariyammal and has two daughters. While the elder daughter is married, the younger one is an MCA student in Tamil Nadu.
Tragedy struck when Jayan was diagnosed with kidney ailments seven years ago. For the past few couple of years, Jayan has made his home his work-station. Now, his wife Mariyammal chips in too.
The crowd-funding campaign
A familiar face to most of the people in the area, the people were not oblivious to Jayan's health conditions. Two months ago, Tintu, the ward (no: 39) counsellor, pitched in the idea of crowd-funding for Jayan's treatment expense that is estimated to run into at least Rs 10 lakhs.
Coordinating with four other ward counsellors, they approached a Changanassery-based charity group Prathyasha, run by Fr Sebastian Punnasseri.
"Jayan is a known face to most of the people here and he has been residing in the area as one of us. The people had no qualms in stepping in to help him in his hour of need," Tino Thomas, the municipal councillor said.
Speaking to TNM, Fr Sebastian says that the group has been running crowd-funding campaigns to fund treatment expenses for the poor, since 2010.
A collective called "Jayan Jeevan Raksha Samiti" was formed and a joint bank account created in the name of ward counsellors.
"A month went into planning for the campaign. We brought out notices, conducted conventions, met people in all the 5 wards and told them about Jayan's plight. We told them that we would visit again on a certain date to collect the contribution. Irrespective of their religion or social status, people contributed heartily," Fr Sebastian said.
"I was surprised to see how Jayan's identity as a migrant worker was no barrier in the people reaching out to help him. In fact, when the ward counsellors met me to discuss his case, they did not even point out that he is not a Keralite. That's how well people there know and trust him," he added.
Asked about his three-decade-long stay in Kerala, Jayan chuckled, "I had no problems because I picked up the language pretty early. But my wife didn't like it here initially, she wanted to leave. But now, she has so much comfortable here, that she wouldn't leave even if we ask her to."