515 Ganesan has so far collected Rs 10K for Gaja victims, despite seeing his own house battered by the cyclone.

TN social worker who raised lakhs for tsunami and flood victims loses home to Gaja Picture credits - Puthiya Thalamurai
news Cyclone Gaja Wednesday, November 28, 2018 - 12:09

Ganesan, a social worker in Tamil Nadu, has toiled tirelessly to help those affected by natural calamities over the years. But this month, when Cyclone Gaja battered parts of Tamil Nadu, Ganesan was a victim himself as the storm severely damaged his home in Pudukottai, one of the worst hit districts in the state. But oblivious to his own troubles, the 68-year-old continued to collect funds for others.

Unfazed by the loss of his home, Ganesan says he has driven around in Karur to raise money for Gaja victims.

His friend Karuppiah noted, "He lives in a shelter home now but he has already raised Rs 10K for victims.”

2 Ambassadors and a loudspeaker 

After the deadly 2004 Tsunami hit Tamil Nadu, Ganesan, who has been in social service for decades, began to raise funds for victims. Armed with a loudspeaker and his two cars -- a 1985 and a 2005 model ambassador (both gifted by local groups for his years of social work) -- he managed to raise Rs 7.5 lakhs for those affected.

Years later, when the Chennai floods hit the city and other districts of the state, Ganesan took his cars his out again and raised Rs 3 lakhs for flood victims. Collecting small amounts of Rs 10, 50 and 100 from each family, he donated the cash to victims in Cuddalore and Nagapattinam.

Picture credits: Puthiya Thalamurai News 

"I began my social work in 1968, when I bought TMZ 515, an ambassador car, to give free rides to those in distress. This caught on very well," he said, recalling his early days of social service.

With the most recent Kerala floods in August 2018, Ganesan raised Rs 1.5 lakhs from his town and nearby areas, and donated it to victims in Palakkad, a heartwarming gesture for the people of the neighbouring state.

On November 16, Gaja made landfall and battered several TN districts. This time, Ganesan and his family of six were among the thousands of victims that faced the wrath of the cyclonic storm. Their house in Alangudi was swept away by winds and rain, with only chunks of the walls spared.

"We have put a tarpaulin sheet on the house for now and I have managed to collect Rs 10,000 for Gaja victims by driving around in Karur," he said. 

Over the years, Ganesan says he has driven more than 2,000 pregnant ladies to the hospital and saved the lives of thousands of accident victims. He has also transported 5,510 corpses for cremation or burial, a service that had much demand but barely any supply.

Picture credits: Puthiya Thalamurai News 

Ganesan's services became so popular in Pudukottai that locals began fondly referring to him as 515, his car number.

"I used to receive wireless messages from the Alangudi police back then as there were no cell phones. Once I received the message I would turn up with my car," Ganesan recalls.

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