From begging on Chennai streets to studying at Cambridge – Jayavel’s journey is pure inspiration


Jayavel has become the talk of the town among the street dwellers of Chennai. While his family begs for a living, the 22-year-old has got a chance to study advanced automobile engineering at Cambridge University.

After crop failure in the 1980s, Jayavel’s farming family shifted from Nellore to Chennai in search of a living. Eventually, the family started begging in the streets of the burgeoning city. “We used to sleep on the pavement. If it would rain, we would try to find other shelter in any nearby shop until the cops came and chased us out of there,” Jayavel told India Today in an interview.

Image : (L) - India Today; (R) - Suyam

After his father’s death, Jayavel’s mother fell subject to alcoholism. Most of his earnings were spent on alcohol. Things, however, started to look up when Jayavel met Uma Muthuraman.

Uma, along with her husband Muthuraman, stepped up to help Jayavel. She and her husband were planning to make a video story on them by the name of ‘Pavement Flower’. “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,” Jayavel recalls.

However, since Uma and Muthuraman’s desire to help them was genuine, their attitude soon softened. Jayavel, in 1999, was offered a proper education through their NGO, Suyam Charitable Trust.

After excelling in his 12th grade exams, Jayavel cleared Cambridge University’s entrance examination. He has been offered a seat at Glendwr University in Wales to study ‘Performance Car Enhancement Technology Engineering’.

For Jayavel, higher education is just a stepping stone to help accomplish his larger dreams. After finishing his studies, Jayavel plans to help running the NGO and transform the lives of many more street children in the years to come.


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