By Arnab Mitra
Kolkata: If you are a daily commuter of Hasnabad local (Eastern Railway from Sealdah to Hasnabad), you would have come across an old and tiny figure selling Parathas (a flat Indian bread that you cook in a pan) in the train. His name is Rahamat Ali. At the age of 86, he toils hard but doesn’t resort to begging. You may mistake him for a beggar and offer him money but this ‘kind gesture’ may offend Rahamat Chacha.
It was his sheer determination that led this old man to built a school in his native ‘Kasai’ village, located in Sundarban, just by selling Parathas. On Monday, the school was inaugurated by the residents of Kolkata based ‘Nirmala old-age home’. According to villagers, the children were forced to travel 30 kms to go to the school in town, but salute to Rahamat Chacha’s initiative that now the children can study in this school and don’t have to go far off.
Rahamat’s son, Asif died 5 years ago, forcing him to sell Parathas to make ends meet. He supports a family of four. His nephew, Mustaq earns a petty amount by selling chips in local trains between Howrah and Bally. He undergoes the hectic journey of two buses in order to reach the Hasnabad station.
“The bus takes more than an hour to reach the station from my home. Sometimes, it becomes hectic but I manage as I have no other option but to work hard,” the fragile old man told NewsGram.
Many commuters look at him with pity and at times, they have offered him money too. “Rahamat Chacha is of my father’s age; many times I have offered him money and food. I feel bad looking at his condition but I also feel proud of his initiative that he took in an aspiration of setting up a school for the children,” says Pallab Basu, 37, a daily commuter of Hasnabad local.
On being asked about his inspiration behind the school, he said, “Due to lack of education, my son didn’t get a good job and wasn’t able to bear the burden of poverty, so he committed suicide in 2010. I don’t want the same thing to happen to any parent and so I build this school to educate the village children.”
His dedication and hard work has managed to invoke curiosity among the commuters and many people buy his Parathas as a mark of respect. His sheer courage and determination is an inspiration for others and a shout-out against the easier routes that many follow during hard times.