From Begging in Chennai Streets to Studying in Cambridge University


A 22-year old boy, studying in Cambridge University isn’t a big thing or not even a surprise. Before joining in Cambridge University to study “Performance Car Enhancement Technology Engineering”, Do you know what he was doing in his past and how he could reach that position? Yes! He was a beggar in the Chennai streets which should be an inspiration for all the youth.

In the 1980s, after a crop failure in Nellore, Andhra Pradesh Jayavel with his family had to migrate to Chennai for sustaining their lives. There was no source of income to the family, and so the family started to beg on the Chennai streets. Jayavel also had to beg to fetch food and money for his family. It became even more tough for them to survive after his father passed away since he was young then. As his mother was addicted to alcohol, his whole earnings were spent on it.

“We used to sleep on the pavement. If it would rain, we would try to find shelter in any nearby shop until the cops came and chased us out of there,” Jayavel told India Today in an interview.

However, things started changing for them when Jayavel met Uma Muthuraman. Uma along with her husband Muthuraman were working on a project to depict the lives of children on the Chennai streets. They both planned to make a video story on them and named the movie “Pavement flower”. As a part of their project, Uma traveled to Kilpauk water tank area in Tamil Nadu where they met Jayavel.

“My people actually didn’t like them. We even tried to hurt them as we had so many people approaching us under the pretext of helping. But they only used our name to get government funds,” recollects Jayavel. These feelings changed as Jayavel’s family understood Uma’s genuine desire to help them.

In 1999, they took Jayavel under their own care. “Jayavel somehow inspired us. After seeing him, we believed that we could help to bring a change in his life.” Uma and Muthuraman through their NGO, Suyam Charitable Trust, helped Jayavel get a proper education.

“Everyone in the school knew about me and my family. As we used to live right on the corner of the school on the pavement but that didn’t make any difference to me. Though I hated to study in the beginning and only wished to play. Later on, my attitude changed as I began to see the difference in the life of other people and mine and how Uma and Muthuraman were struggling to educate me,” added Jayavel.


Jayavel got good marks in his 12th standard which prompted some donors to give interest-free loan amount for his higher education. After that, he cleared the entrance examination of Cambridge University and got a seat in Glyndwr University in Wales, the United Kingdom to study ‘Performance Car Enhancement Technology Engineering‘. It’s a course that deals with enhancing the performance of race cars. He is now going to Italy for further studies.


“He knew the struggles and efforts we put in for his entire community. We want to project him as a role model in front of his entire community,” explained Muthuraman who  rehabilitated 95% of the families who were begging in the Chennai streets to give up begging. Many of the children now sell small products near traffic signals instead of begging. Suyam Trust helped some families to get a loan for ‘autorickshaw’ also to sustain their life.

“Everything started with Jayavel. He started studying well and that inspired other kids. Now, they are pursuing their dreams; some of them are in aviation; some in engineering; some pursuing nursing and one has left to the Philippines to study aircraft maintenance. All because, Jayavel was their inspiration”, Muthuraman proudly informed.

Suyam Trust had already borrowed 17 lakh rupees for Jayavel’s studies in London. And now for his higher studies in Italy would cost another 8 lakh rupees for which Muthuraman and Uma are running around to see that Jayavel’s education doesn’t get interrupted. “We struggle a lot. More than appreciation for our work, we only get harassed by the government. I am sorry to say but we have to admit it. Some honest officers are helping us but it is not sufficient”, shared Muthuraman. But the couple said that they will ensure that Jayavel leaves for Italy to complete his studies at the University of Turin, Italy.

Jayavel’s mother still lives in the streets of T.Nagar with a torn mat and bundle of rags which she uses as a head rest. “If he becomes successful, he would definitely take care of his sisters and brothers. But I wish he never turns up like me. If I’m alive by the time he settles in his life, I would definitely like to go and stay with him,” smiled Saroja (Jayavel’s mother).

Jayavel meets her once in a month as he doesn’t like her drinking habit.

After completing his studies, he wants to come back and help Uma and Muthuraman in running the trust and try to pay back for changing his life.


Jayavel’s life had taken a turn for the better and he made the best use of the opportunity.

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