Mansoor Chetlu: The Making of a Social Activist

    By Shaik Zakeer Hussain,,

    Banglore: One day, when visiting his family in his native town of Hospet, Karnataka, Mansoor Chetlu boarded an auto-rickshaw. After the driver dropped him at his home, he pulled out his wallet to pay him his fare, the driver however, refused to accept the money. When he asked the driver the reason behind his unusual action, the driver replied saying that, it was Mansoor’s uncle, who had gifted him his vehicle, and it was unthinkable for him to accept money from the member of such a household.

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    The episode Mansoor says “gave me goose bumps and made me think what had just happened. I thought, if I can even do 0.5 % of the work, what my uncle did, my life would be fulfilled.”

    Mansoor Chetlu

    For Mansoor, helping those in need, has been his life ever since.

    The Werewolf syndrome is a rare genetic disorder, affecting one in a billion. There are only some 52 people across the world suffering from this dastardly condition and the “Sangli sisters” as they are known as, are of the few afflicted by it. The condition has left them with an abnormal amount of hair growth from head to foot and has forced them to live in the confinement of their house, fearing abuse and social exclusion, by fellow villagers.

    So, when 25 year old Mansoor Chetlu heard about the sisters, he immediately rushed to their help. He says, “This family had very limited contact, with the outside world and the people who went there, were only using them for their own needs.” Mansoor sensed that the girls required some genuine help, so he started searching for any possibility of a cure. He spoke about it, to his contacts in the medical world and realized that there is no cure for it. But he still persisted. “There were people, who were ready to offer them financial assistance, but being mostly uneducated, the family would just spend everything and then again were left with nothing,” he says. Mansoor wanted to empower them, and not leave them at the mercy of others for the rest of their lives.

    While researching about their case, he says, the story was picked up by Bangalore Mirror, who published an article about the sisters and also mentioned his name in it. From there, it traveled all across the world. The DailyMail of the UK, HuffingtonPost and a slew of other media outlets started writing about it. The story also caught the attention of Russia’s state TV channel, who offered free treatment for the girls.

    “The Russians contacted me, and said they wanted to do a medical research about the disorder and wanted the sisters’ blood samples.” So he co-ordinated the entire process and went with the samples to Moscow. Though their medical condition remains the same, but thanks to Mansoor’s efforts, the youngest of the Sangli sisters is now going to college, and this month, he would be traveling to Tokyo with them, to co-ordinate a genetic research sponsored by a Japanese news channel.

    Mansoor’s journey in social activism began while still in college, in 2005, when he joined Sankalp India Foundation, an NGO offering services in emergency blood helpline. Later he started organizing blood camps on his own, under the guidance of his new found mentor Mr. Alphonse Kurien, who is a member of Lions Club in the Sanjaynagar area in Bangalore.

    4 year old boy from Malawi, Mansoor is trying to help

    One day, when returning home from one such camp, he saw a destitute man crawling on streets, begging for food or money. Having seen too many of his likes on the streets of Bangalore and elsewhere, he ignored him, but to his astonishment, he found the same man at his doorsteps next week, asking for help. Mansoor says he could no longer ignore the man’s plight. He contacted the police, who said there were helpless and cannot do anything about it. That’s when he approached, New Ark Mission of India, a destitute home run by one Auto Raja, who agreed to take him in. He has since helped relocate 100s of destitute and homeless across the city.

    The meaning of the term orphan, Mansoor says is very narrowly understood in our society; it is generally used for those, who don’t have either of the parent, however the way he sees it, “is that it is not just individuals, however even families and communities can be left orphaned, if they find themselves helpless and socially ostracized.”

    One such ostracized community he has helped includes a school run by sex workers for sex workers, in Sangli, Maharashtra. “The school was founded by one Bandavva Akka, who is also the ‘Madam’ of the prostitution hub there,” he says. Many members of this community wanted to get educated and live a dignified life, so they started the school all by themselves. “The school was run in open air; on the streets, so when I learnt about it, I helped them in building a concrete structure.” Many alumni of the school are in college today, some even studying medicine and engineering.

    And it is not just this, Mansoor, for the years he has been an activist, has involved himself in scores of varied issues. From rescuing animals, to raising funds for NGOs to helping individuals find phone numbers to organizations and institutes, he does it all, and does it for free. Currently, he is trying to help a 4 year old boy from Malawi, Africa, who was born without a bone in his neck, resulting in a tilting head.

    Being a rational individual, Mansoor hasn’t ignored the importance of money and a source of livelihood in life. A year ago, he along with his friends started Itoyj Business Solutions, which develops applications for small and medium scale businesses. He says, “It has made my mother happy.”

    Mansoor says he is trying to map activists, to be able to better network and bring in some sensible change. “I feel, it is not just the governments, but individuals within society, who run the country and I have been trying to get in touch with such individuals to help them in getting resources and co-ordinate efforts,” he says.

    You can contact Mansoor at 9964420041 for volunteer work or any support.