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Hayley Lyle

Hayley Lyle

Barefoot King: The Indian Dalit Who Defied Caste to Bless Others

A deeply moving biography by author Hayley Lyle.


Barefoot King: The Indian Dalit Who Defied Caste to Bless Others is a biography written by author Hayley Lyle about a man born into the lowest caste in India. Natarajan ‘Raj’ was born in 1966 into the Paraiyan caste (a low-caste group of Hindu Indian society, formerly known as ‘untouchables’ but now called Dalits). His family were bonded laborers, an illegal yet prevalent form of slavery. At five years old, Raj’s father sent him to school to try and give him a better chance in later life. On his first day at school his teacher gives him a new name, Rajendran.  Worried that a Hindu untouchable name like Natarajan would condemn him to stay in his caste forever, the teacher changed his life.  Lyle writes, ‘With a single swipe of a pen, she redefined Raj’s entire reality in a way that would allow Raj himself to forge his own role and prospects’. Raj excels in school, but he is ridiculed and bullied by the other students.


At the age of thirteen, Raj received a sponsorship from a relief organisation, Bright Future, to continue his studies. He would later work for the organisation, impacting the lives of thousands of people during a fifteen-year period. He went on to work for the Samuka Initiative, as a national coordinator overseeing the sponsorship and education of thousands of children and families. He worked with the Global Rights Network, fighting against the illegal system of bonded labor, and he also helped to set up a grassroots non-profit organisation named Maarga, to enrich the lives of children in the slums.


This is a powerful and inspiring story of an extraordinary man, who was able to climb out of extreme poverty, through education and charitable sponsorship. The biography captures his struggles as he strives to make a better life for himself and others. Through his philanthropic work he improved the lives of thousands of people in villages and slums. Raj’s journey is an inspiration to others who find themselves trapped in similar circumstances. The book explores the inhumanity of the caste system, and the pain, hardship and suffering experienced by many thousands of people. It is a powerful reminder of the social inequalities that exist in India and across the world.


The book is based on Lyle’s research and interviews with Raj and with other significant people in his life.


Star rating: 5 Stars


Summary: A powerful and inspiring biography of an extraordinary man growing up in the lowest caste in India.

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