Alappuzha: It is a classic tale of an evil man who has transformed his life and is now the model of a good person. And no, it’s not a film but the real life story of Albin Mathew, 62, the founder of the shelter Santhi Bhavan Sarvodaya, here at Punnapara. And his extraordinary life has been featured by New York Times on July 12.
He was convicted for murder and served 14 years in prison. He is perhaps the first Malayali killer turned Good Samaritan who has been portrayed by an international daily. The story narrates poignantly the wayward circumstances that led him to murder.
His life experiences have been featured by Malayali Journalist Shelvin Sebastian for the US’s most popular daily. “I got the chance to contribute to this international daily as my story idea was cleared by the three top editors of the daily.
They said this ‘zero man’s rise to a blessed one is amazing and also worth a read”, he says. An unbelievable life that was once written off by society is being read across the world.
It was early 1980s, the people of Punnapra saw Mathew’s evil face when he was working as a muscleman of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). The ugliest moment in his life happened on an evening in 1982.
Mathew was drinking a glass of toddy at a local shop in Punnapra, where he hacked to death Kritav Podiyan, another enforcer of the party, who was a hurdle to his rise in the CPIM.
The murder of Podiyan cemented Mathew’s reputation for violence and established his authority as an enforcer in Punnapra. He deployed violence against anyone if he was paid a few thousand rupees by a rival.
A major chunk of his crimes were carried out with the support of the party, but later the party simply washed its hands off as he ended up in trouble.
In April 1984, he was convicted for the murder of his one-time close friend Podiyan and imprisoned for 12 years In prison, Mathew shared his experience with a fellow inmate and slowly his life began to transform.
On Republic Day in 1997, Mathew was one of the 446 offenders in Kerala released from a Thiruvananthapuram prison, after being pardoned by the then chief minister, E.K. Nayanar. Mathew came out of prison and slowly picked up the pieces.
The reformed man put up a small shelter for abandoned people in Punnapra that has of late become a soothing centre for a lot of helpless people including those from Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Delhi.
“I feel satisfied now. I feel glad for being recognized now for my life, which was once considered as a huge burden to society. If I did anything good for the world, let it be a lesson to the new. I do believe there is no room in the world for advising anyone, however,” the excited Mathew signs off.