By Danny Yourd and Steve Hoover: I’ve known Rocky Braat a long time. He’s my best friend. We went to college together, launched our careers together. There’s nothing about him that is exactly special or out of the ordinary.
So when he told me he was moving to India, it didn’t make sense to me, at least not right away. This was the same guy who, during hot summers at the house we shared in Pittsburgh, would lie immobilized in his underwear in front of our only fan—he couldn’t stand heat.
But I did know that Rocky never really felt at home here: not when he lived with his mother, not when he moved in with his dad, not in design school. While working for a national magazine, he looked around and saw that most of the people he knew, including myself, seemed to be content to rise in their respective fields, getting ahead— but he wasn’t.
So he quit his job and went traveling. On a whim, with time to kill in Chennai, India, he went to visit an AIDS orphanage. He thought he would get sad for the kids there, cry for them, and then he would leave.
And that’s what happened: he met them, cried for them, cried for how it would feel to be so young, to be abandoned by your family, and to know that none of it was your fault. Mostly, he cried because despite of all this, they still found joy in living.
After a month, he got on a train to Northern India. Some of the kids were angry with him; they sulked, and hung back. Others openly begged him to stay, crying and pulling at his hand—‘You coming back, Rocky Anna?’
On the long ride north, he couldn’t stop thinking about them. After only a week in Rajasthan, one week as a tourist in blue and gold cities, he got on another train: this time, he was headed south.
He spent the rest of his summer at the orphanage. When he had to leave again, he promised the children that he would return in one year, and he did. The thing is, he had come to need them as much as they needed him. He had found home.
Years have passed since then. He endures a daily diet of rice, a rat infested hut, and visa problems. He suffers with them. He counts out the pills for them in the morning. He is an amateur dentist, clown, teacher, friend and father to the children. They call him ‘Rocky Anna,’ which means ‘brother’ in Tamil. They may be the only children he ever has.
I was inspired to tell his story because I know him. I know he isn’t a saint, or a miracle worker, but that every day he fights his own nature and the forces arrayed against him. He fights against apathy, and gives an orphanage full of kids a second chance at being loved.
Watch this incredible trailer and learn more about BLOOD BROTHER: A film about Rocky Braat: