BHOLA The gentle man who touched so many hearts



Bhola painting with volunteer at Raphael

It is with a heavy heart, we inform you about the sad demise of Bhola, one of our permanent residents who came to Raphael in 1959, the year of our establishment and left for his heavenly abode on 2nd January 2017.

Life has unexpected twists and turns and often what seems to be the very end may turn out to be the beginning of a beautiful story – a story of reaching out, of love and care, of helping hands extended in assistance to fellow travellers in life’s remarkable journey.  Such has been the story of Bhola’s life. It is one which touches the well spring of human compassion, tenderness in human interaction and it spans countries.

Bhola’s story begins with pain and rejection: a handicapped four year old left to die on the railway tracks by despairing parents dejected perhaps by the challenges of poverty and of the child’s physical weakness.

Bhola as a young man

The story dramatically becomes one of divine intervention as an alert Railway Driver jams brakes at the very last moment to save the life of the child. It then weaves through the patient and determined efforts of the newly established Raphael institution (1959) in bringing up Bhola – a victim of severe spasticity, who had severe speech limitations and was completely dependent on others for all his needs.

It was indeed remarkable that despite his severe physical limitations Bhola had learnt to paint holding the paintbrush in his mouth. Protected and sustained physically, Bhola was also nurtured emotionally.  Residents of Raphael loved Bhola like an elder sibling, volunteers were concerned for him, teachers supported him.

Love, Concern, Support, that is how one defines a family. Bhola found one in Raphael.  In his willingness to engage with life, Bhola imparted the lesson of strength and courage. Many volunteers and visitors have written in to share how Bhola has impacted their lives. Anne and Phillip Boyd recall being told by Pam Harrison (who in 1959 had started Ava Vihar) how Bhola was able to recognize her at the 2009 Golden Jubilee and even addressed her as “teacher”.

As the first inmate of Raphael, Bhola’s life has illustrated the efforts of Raphael – patience, steadiness and determination in meeting huge odds. In the words of Peter Newton “Bhola personified the spirit of Raphael”


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