Joseph Crasta is a name now synonymous with selfless service and the upliftment of the unwanted. He was born on the 5th of November 1970 in Seetangoli a remote village on the northern tip of the State of Kerala to a devout Christian couple Marcel Crasta and Mary D' Souza. He was the youngest among his siblings. He did his primary education at St. Bartholomeo Primary School (Bela) and pursued his secondary education at Government High School situated in Kumble. Poverty and hardships were a part of their life. During childhood their surroundings influenced Joseph and that was instrumental in dragging him into all the wrong pathways in his early life. He was an average student.
Life took a vicious turn when his father left for his heavenly abode. A young Joseph studying in Grade 8 barely knew how to cope with this unforeseen calamity. However, he took stock of the situation and started to manage the affairs of his father's business which had an adverse effect on his studies. He reminisces about those boisterous days when he had to deal and tackle with unruly people and interfere in minor brawls.
For a year and a half, Joseph had himself immersed in a world filled with disorderly people and was always entangled in unnecessary scuffles leaving little room for academic excellence. Due to the noxious environs to which he was subjected, his character was slowly getting molded (dominant/influenced) by the negative forces of nature. By now he had reached Grade 10 and the time had come to give more importance to education. But destiny had something else in store for him. Instead of concentrating on his studies, he started to devote more and more time to his trade. Due to this, he was unable to clear his SSLC exams and unfortunately, he had to give up his studies.
After renouncing his studies, he devoted his entire time and energy to his father's trade. The older he grew, the more he got himself involved with unruly people and brawls which affected his mind and soul to such an extent that there was no turning back. He was so engrossed in the materialistic world that there was no room at all for ethereal (qualitative values). There were scuffles at every function he attended. The benign nature embedded deep inside his soul was yet to take a shape.
"In search of a Profession"
Man proposes and God disposes of. His plans are not ours, and His ways are different. Joseph was still in his teens. He almost saw the worst situations around him. There was almost no more breathing space for him in the disturbed situation. At this point in time, at the behest of his cousin, Joseph wound up his business back in Seetangoli and moved to Bengaluru, the capital city of Karnataka in search of greener pastures. There he started his work as a cleaner for a heavy motor vehicle. During that tenure, he learned the art of driving heavy vehicles and managed to obtain a heavy vehicle license, and started driving heavy vehicles. Through one of his acquaintances, he joined a bus operating company as a long-distance bus driver.
It was in October 1995 that he entered into a wedlock with Olivia. They were blessed with a daughter (Josliya Crasta) and a son (Jovial Crasta). They were a happy family living a life of contentment. As Joseph was involved in long-distance driving, he was always away from his wife and children. At the moment, long working hours, tiresome regimen, and solitude were a part and parcel of his life. There was absolutely no respite from the drudgery of life's mundane problems. Life was on the wheel, steering, and on the long unending roads. Long-distance driving was an arduous job that required a lot of concentration, endurance, and immense mental strength which Joseph did possess. His commitment was par excellence in the job he was doing.
But the long working hours and the laborious days spent away from his wife and children started to manifest in his persona. It was on September 20th, 1997, a gloomy day that would be etched in his mind for eternity. Or maybe it was the Almighty's hidden plan for a greater goal. Time would tell.
As usual, he started his journey from Nasik, a city in the state of Maharashtra en route to Mangaluru. As he reached Padubidri, a small hamlet 40km from Mangaluru, there was a slight drizzle, the highway was open & wide, and the driver was to keep up his scheduled timing. Suddenly he saw a person crossing the highway, and Joseph applied sudden brakes to save the man. But the bus he was driving tilted and he was trapped for hours together, jammed underneath the bus. He was pulled out from the rubble with the help of cutting machines. He was critically injured and was taken to SCS hospital in Mangaluru in an unconscious state.
The doctors had lost all hopes of recovery. But destiny had something else in store for Joseph. It was as though his life was incomplete in this mortal world and there was something more to accomplish or it was perhaps the prayers from his family, friends and well-wishers that Joseph managed to escape from the jaws of death. It took almost 2 months for Joseph to recuperate and after having been discharged from the hospital, he was asked to be on bed rest for another 6 months. After having recovered from the catastrophe both physically and mentally, he started his work slowly managing the affairs of a bus operating company. For another 9 years, Joseph was fully engrossed in his trade but deep within his heart a feeling of remorse was slowly making its way into his inner realm. No matter what he did, he could not comprehend the unusual happenings nor could he pacify the storms building up in him. A transition was all that was required to calm the disturbed mind. Many times he felt that he is engulfed in unsatisfied work and seriously needed a transformation.
In the year 2006, Joseph traveled all the way to Potta (Kerala) for a weeklong retreat. A myriad of questions started to originate within him questioning his very existence on planet earth during the course of the retreat. "Who are we? Where have we come from? What is the purpose of our life here? What are we supposed to do during our brief tenure on this planet? Where do we go after we finish our temporary stay (Afterlife)? All these questions started to take centre stage and the more he pondered, the more he got himself confused. He was counseled by experts who prayed over him and the message given by them was the same as what was been prompted to Joseph during the retreat, to renounce his existing profession as a bus driver, and transport service manager and take up a new trade.
After returning from Potta, Joseph wore a new look on his face, a rejuvenated look coupled with liveliness and vitality. He was happy and at peace with himself. A feeling of eternal bliss and tranquillity was being experienced by him and he could feel it flowing through his veins. As per the divine message, he bid adieu to his ongoing job and started to look out for a new venture to sustain his family. Since he was familiar with Mangaluru city, he thought it best to buy an auto rickshaw to earn his daily bread. He went ahead and bought an auto rickshaw and started to move around the city picking up passengers here and there. It was not an easy job as he had to leave his residence at 7 am in the morning and his day would end at 9 pm in the evening.
"A New Mission"
It was in 2007 that the city of Mangaluru was ravaged by Chikungunya, a deadly virus transmitted by mosquitoes. Most of the affected were daily wage labourers from far-flung states and they were unable to get themselves admitted at Wenlock District Government Hospital due to the absence of caretakers. Joseph was apprised of this matter by his co-workers and he found an opportunity to serve the needy and sprang into action. As a caretaker, he started the arduous task of admitting the infected patients at Wenlock Hospital. He made sure that they are being treated in a humane way and that all their daily medicines were taken care of. The magnanimity with which he approached the crisis was noteworthy and would later manifest in the formation of a compassionate world.
In 2008 Joseph changed his modus operandi and started to pick up destitute from the streets of Mangaluru and got them admitted in institutions such as Mother Teresa Home, White Doves, Vishwasada Mane (Shankarapura) etc. Joseph never allowed the demanding nature of his current occupation along with his philanthropic activities to be an impediment to his prayer life. He always made it a point to devote at least an hour to prayers. At around 1 pm in the afternoons, he used to drive all the way to Holy Hill at Maroli and spend an hour over there in prayers. In addition to this, he and his like-minded friends started to visit people who were bedridden after getting information from newspapers or from close confidants. Their personal hygiene and medical needs were taken care of by Joseph.
To create a happy society around us by Providing shelter & care, social justice & dignity to the abandoned, needy, mentally ill & the aged.
To see God in all human beings especially among the least & lost destitute on the streets.
It was in the year 2009 that the orphanages stopped new admissions as they were filled up to the brim. But the inflow of the destitute on street had not reduced. There were institutions rescuing and providing shelter to these children of God. Joseph was in a dilemma as the number of destitute was on an upward curve. As he was overwhelmed with distressing thoughts, a silent prayer to the Almighty from his heart had its effect. At this very crucial time, he received his share of his ancestral property which enabled him to acquire a 3 BHK house within a 0.21-acre land at Thumminad (Kunjathur). On August 26th 2009, during his daily routine, he happened to come across two impoverished individuals wandering aimlessly. One was an amputee (Mohammad) and the other was suffering from gangrene (Naveen). Joseph closed his eyes in prayers and within no time he knew exactly what he was supposed to do. Since the day was the birth anniversary of the great Saint Mother Teresa of Kolkata, he thought, it is best to make the most of it and do something extraordinary on that day which would eventually be a fitting tribute to the great Saint.
Meanwhile, he apprised the people who surrounded him as to what he intended to do with the duo. One among them was a gentleman named Arun Saldanha who took out some currency notes (Rupees two thousand) and handed them over to Joseph. Joseph still reminisces about the incident and has never forgotten his first newfound donor. Within moments he had both of them on his auto rickshaw; he raced away to the adoration monastery and offered his prayers. After procuring the basic necessities, Joseph accompanied by his friend Alwyn D'Souza and his newfound acquaintances Mohammad and Naveen, reached his abode at Thumminad. He made them feel comfortable, gave them a good shower, had their wounds sterilized and plastered, touched their feet and offered them to God. SO IT WAS ON THIS DAY THAT IS ON THE 26TH OF AUGUST 2009, THE VERY CONCEPT OF ESTABLISHING A HOME OF LOVE TOOK BIRTH AND APTLY NAMED IT SNEHALAYA. This home for the abandoned originated and took its first baby steps towards immortality without any staff, knowledge, or expertise but blessings of the Almighty. The work that was started by Joseph was not for his personal profiling. It was God's plan and he was leading him in every step. As we are aware evil watches all good deeds and strikes hard to weaken the strong.
At Snehalaya similar incidents came one after the other, and the test was the acid test. Complaints with regard to the hygienic conditions of the vicinity were brought to the knowledge of the local government authorities. Initially, he had no problems with the local authorities as they also would sometimes individually admit people to his orphanage. When things were not moving as per their intention the local residents planned a plot to weaken Joseph & his mission. The residents then formed a citizen's forum to evict Joseph and his orphanage from Thumminad. They even sent a written complaint to the local Gram Panchayat office. They had organized a couple of meetings with the local authorities, tried to involve higher officials, and also had the consumer forum involved but to no avail.
Joseph was a man who believed in peace and harmony and anything that was acrimonious was alien to him. He surrendered everything to God’s plan and prayed, but continued his service to humanity. The authorities cautioned Joseph and directed him to move away from the area. Relocating the orphanage required time, energy and funds and Joseph brought this to the attention of the local authorities and requested them to give him some time. He also requested the authorities to take care of the inmates or take each of them to the houses of those who had raised objections. One fine morning Joseph as usual was about to leave his home when he received a call from an acquaintance regarding some malicious content about him and his orphanage in a local newspaper titled, "A Mysterious Penitentiary unknown to the outside world in Thumminadu". He never allowed the article to have an adverse effect on his composure. It was a week later, 14 criminal cases were filed against him in Kasaragod District court alleging that he was involved in illegal confinement, selling kidneys, selling corpses to the black market et cetera et cetera.
Though it was a jolt, thunder-like strike, he offered everything to Almighty and said "Lord lead me as per your plans." He did not yield to any allegations as he knew that every issue was defamatory. As he did not respond to the legal notices, a warrant was issued against Joseph. He knew that he was not at fault. Meanwhile, Joseph approached his lawyer and after discussing the future course of action, allowed access to his orphanage for eminent people (local MLA), social workers, and students from reputed institutions and requested an unbiased report. All the visits were recorded and presented before the presiding Judge during the hearings.
All that the litigants wanted was the eviction of his orphanage from the vicinity of Thumminadu and not any legal action against Joseph. During that time, Fr. Andrew Leo D'Souza was the spiritual advisor for Snehalaya and at his behest, a meeting was arranged between the litigants and Joseph. Considering all suggestions, future growth and the welfare of the inmates, Joseph agreed to move away & promised to vacate the place in 6 months' time. He gave a written assurance to the litigants regarding the same. He surrendered himself to God’s plan and got convinced that all incidents lead to better prospects. Time and tide wait for none and 6 months were passing faster than expected. All that Joseph had to do is to relocate the orphanage. There was no time to spare and his quest for suitable land through land brokers was underway but none of the sites got matched his budget or suited his mission.
After a gruelling period, one of the brokers came up to him with a site situated in Bachalike, Pavoor village about 3 km from the existing location. As Joseph reached the prospective site, instead of feasting his eyes on a level plain terrain without any hindrances, he was welcomed by the rugged landscape replete with dense forests, snakes and wild beasts. For miles, neither a single soul nor any human habitation in and around that place was found which made electrical power and water supply out of question and these were great challenges. One fine day he arrives at the hostile place early in the morning and with his knees on the ground and hands upwards he gazes towards the imposing heavens and pleaded with God to reveal His will.
After having said his prayers, he contacted the landlord who invited him to his residence where the rate was fixed. Initially, he requested the landlord to part with 0.5 acres out of the total 2 acres plot and give him a month's time to arrange the required funds for the same. The Landlord agreed and Joseph without sauntering here and there went straight to one of his well-wishers Mr Oliver Pereira, an old acquaintance, and a businessman by profession and humanitarian by passion, who did not disappoint him. Leena D'Mello a well-wisher supported him with the remaining funds and he was now ready to acquire the land.
After signing the agreement and thereby acquiring the question what next? How to proceed? What was he supposed to do? Where would he get the manpower required to raise the structure? As he was pondering about the future course of action, a man named Alphonso, a mason by profession approached him and assured him of his help. With the assistance of Jai Mata Bore wells, Earthmovers provided help for levelling the land. Once the land was flattened, a foundation stone was laid in the presence of close acquaintances from three major religions. During the laying of the foundation stone, Joseph removed his footwear and buried it under the foundation stone and till today he walks barefooted wherever he goes. This gesture was an indication of some sacrifice in his life for the place provided for him, answering his prayers. The work was moving only with the help of a few donors. As the work progressed, a time came when there was a shortage of funds. Here Joseph reminisces an interesting anecdote about how this impediment was resolved. One fine day he received a call from an old acquaintance who was residing in the UAE. He had come down to India for medical reasons and wanted to see Joseph's orphanage. Joseph arranged the same for his friend and apprised him about the work that was going on and the obstacles encountered in the upcoming project at Bachalike. He apprised Joseph about his availability in the city for another 4 days and asked him to pray for his well-being. Joseph prayed earnestly for his intention and after 4 days went to meet him at his residence and there was a miracle. All the medical reports were normal and he was free from his malady (Cancer). This acquaintance released funds in gratitude, which helped him a lot in the completion of the new facility at Bachalike. In a period of 6 months, the new facility was completed and inaugurated.