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Deprived of education, 65-year-old yellow cab driver runs two schools, orphanage in Sundarbans

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Sunderbans, Wikimedia
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Kolkata, April 13, 2017: It’s been a bumpy ride for a 65-year-old yellow cab driver, Gazi Jalaluddin. A good student who was forced to give up formal education due to poverty, he now runs two schools and an orphanage in his native Sundarbans, ensuring a smoother journey for the underprivileged in a land at the mercy of the rivers.

“I don’t know how much longer I will be able to keep it up through driving. My two sons are also driving and help in the endeavour. There are 425 students in total. Since it’s run as a non-governmental organisation (Sunderban Orphanage and Social Welfare Trust) we do not have access to government funds. I have tried communicating with the local district administration about assistance but to no avail,” the bespectacled Gazi told IANS while taking a break from ferrying passengers.

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Gazi’s schools are located in the Joynagar area of the Sundarbans (in South 24-Parganas district), about 60 km from Kolkata.

With a 25-member staff — 21 are teachers — the schools are completely dependent on the income from taxi rides, donations from good samaritans and passengers who are considerate enough to offer some money when they learn of Gazi’s unique venture.

His cab proudly displays his mobile number (9735562504) and an appeal for help with the message: “This taxi’s total income is spent for the development of orphans mission, Sikkhyatan mission and IIPF school for the orphans. So kindly don’t give any traffic case against this taxi.”

Gazi divides his time between Narendrapur in South 24 Parganas and Joynagar in the Sundarbans area of the same district. Part of the week he spends at Narendrapur plying the cab and the rest back home in the Sundarbans.

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Citing his wife as an inspiration, Gazi revealed his family lives on the premises of one of the schools.

“I had to quit studies when I was seven years old. I had stood first in class two and was going to the next class. But my parents were unable to afford books; so I had to give up. That drove me to do something for the underprivileged,” Gazi reminisced without any pangs of remorse.

His dream of setting up a school finally took wing in 1998. But the road was not short and the journey was peppered with obstacles.

“I spent my boyhood begging on the streets of Kolkata and then I started plying rickshaws. Gradually I started driving a taxi. From 1980, I used to arrange books and clothes for children and ensure they went to school. I used to impart driving lessons to the youth to make sure they have a source of livelihood.

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“When I reached a financially stable position, I started a small primary school with 16 students in the plot of land I own. I gave up the plot (four to five kathas) for school use. That became bigger with the acquisition of more land and is now a school-cum-orphanage,” he explained.

Later on, through donations of land, he acquired around seven kathas from locals and passengers. This became the site for his second school.

“In both the schools, students are taught till Class 4 and in one we have recently introduced Madhyamik (Class 10 board exams under the West Bengal education board). My earnings through taxi rides is around Rs 450 (a day). The money that is left from food expenditure and maintenance of the vehicle goes to the schools.

“I want to expand the schools and target secondary and higher secondary education. I have faith in people and hope they come to our aid as poverty is still the root cause of unemployment and lack of education in the Sundarbans. Life is difficult for the people in the remoter areas due to natural disasters. Education will go a long way in helping them achieve self-sufficiency,” Gazi signed-off on his way to pick up another commuter. (IANS)

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Mahalaya: Beginning of “Devipaksha” in Bengali Celebration of ‘Durga Puja’

“Mahalaya” is the auspicious occasion that marks the beginning of “Devipaksha” and the ending of “Pitripaksha” and heralds the celebration of Durga Puja

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Mahalaya morning in Kolkata. Flickr
  • Mahalaya 2017 Date: 19th september.
  • On Mahalaya, people throng to the holy river Ganges in order to pay homage to their ancestors and forefathers; which is called ‘Torpon’
  • Mahalaya remains incomplete without the magical chanting of the scriptural verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ that is broadcasted in All India Radio
  • The magic is induced by the popular Birendra Krishna Bhadra whose voice makes the recitation of the “Chandi Kavya” even more magnificent

Sept 19, 2017: Autumn is the season of the year that sees the Hindus, all geared up to celebrate some of the biggest festivals of India. The festive spirit in the Bengalis all enthused to prepare for the greatest of the festivals, the ‘Durga Puja’.

About Mahalaya:

Mahalaya is the auspicious occasion that marks the beginning of “Devipaksha” and the ending of “Pitripaksha,” and this year it is celebrated on September 19.

Observed exactly a week before the ‘Durga Puja’, Mahalaya is the harbinger of the arrival of Goddess Durga. It is celebrated to invoke the goddess possessing supreme power! The goddess is invited to descend on earth and she is welcomed with devotional songs and holy chants of mantras. On this day, the eye is drawn in the idols of the Goddess by the artisans marking the initiation of “Devipaksha”. Mahalaya arrives and the countdown to the Durga Puja begins!

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The day of Mahalaya bears supreme significance to the Bengalis. The day is immensely important because on this day people throng to the holy river Ganges in order to pay homage to their ancestors and forefathers. Clad in white dhotis, people offer prayers and take dips in the river while praying for their demised dear ones. The ritual is popular as “Torpon”.

Mahalaya
An idol-maker in progress of drawing the eye in the idol of the Goddess. Wikipedia

As per Hindu myth, on “Devipaksha”, the Gods and the Goddesses began their preparations to celebrate “Mahamaya” or Goddess Durga, who was brought upon by the trinity- Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheshwara; to annihilate the fierce demon king named Mahishasura. The captivating story of the Goddess defeating the demon got popularized with the goddess being revered as “Durgatinashini” or the one who banishes all the evils and miseries of the world. The victory of the Goddess is celebrated as ‘Durga Puja’.

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Mahalaya remains incomplete without the magical chanting of the scriptural verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ that is broadcasted at dawn in All India Radio in the form of a marvelous audio montage enthralling the souls of the Bengalis. Presented with wonderful devotional music, acoustic drama, and classical songs- the program is also translated to Hindi and played for the whole pan-Indian listeners.

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Mahalaya
Birendra Krishna Bhadra (1905-1991). Wikipedia

The program is inseparable from Mahalaya and has been going on for over six decades till date. The magic is induced by the popular Birendra Krishna Bhadra whose voice makes the recitation of the “Chandi Kavya” even more magnificent! He has been a legend and the dawn of Mahalaya turns insipid without the reverberating and enchanting voice of the legendary man.

Mahalaya will keep spreading the magic and setting the vigor of the greatest festival of the Bengalis- the Durga Puja, to worship the supreme Goddess, eternally.

                 “Yaa Devi Sarbabhuteshu, Shakti Rupena Sanhsthita,

                     Namastaswai Namastaswai Namastaswai Namo Namaha.”

– by Antara Kumar of NewsGram. Twitter: @ElaanaC