It isn’t quite often that you meet someone who’s a chai waala in the mornings, and a social activist and a teacher by the day.
Meet D. Prakash Rao, a noted social activist who has truly done wonders for the slum dwellers in Cuttack. His father was a soldier in the Second World War and started a tea shop at Buxi Bazaar in the 1960s. As a child, Rao used to help his father in the tea shop. Not only did he inherit his father’s sole bread winning business, but also his fighter spirit.
It was in the year 1976, that Rao came under the attack of paralysis because of a tumor in the spinal cord which immobilized the lower portion of his body. He was admitted in the neurosurgery department headed by Prof. Sanatan Rath, a new addition then to the erstwhile SCB Medical College and Hospital. He recounts that those six months of hospitalization as the most contemplative, difficult and yet the most memorable moments of his life. Once Rao was back on his feet, he learnt that someone had donated a unit of blood for him. An anonymous help, that saved his life.
Two years thereon, Rao donated blood for the first time to an accident victim, a rickshaw puller. He has never looked back from there. Till today he has donated 192 units of blood and also, has an emergency blood donor’s squad under him, ready for help at any time of the day.
With the passage of time, Rao was concerned the ever increasing unsocial activities in the crime infested neighborhoods of Cuttack, which also involved children and juvenile offenders. Determined to bring a better living situation for the slum dwellers of his neighborhood, in the year 2000, Rao started teaching the children in his house. He faced a lot of opposition from the parents, who justified their children should rather go out and work and thus, bring a little more income to their families. Overcoming all of it, he taught 25 children in his own small house of 2 rooms.
On this day, the school has 60 students studying till Standard III. After the completion of Standard III, Rao himself registers the name of the children in a government school. To encourage more and more children for the school, Rao has arranged for drama classes. The children have highly appreciated this inclusion which can be understood by their enthusiastic participation in various cultural performances.
Rao is a recipient of many awards and allocations at state as well as national level. He has also achieved a national award for his contribution to blood donation at Bangalore. Many NGO’s and social activists have come down to help Rao. For example, one Mahila Jagruti Samiti gives the funds for the annual salary of the teachers in his school.
And by the way, his is one of the best chai around; joyously savored by sweaty morning walkers, stuffy advocates, pot-bellied businessmen and hasty college-goers alike.
– Sanchita Dash.
Sanchita, an Undergrad from Symbiosis Insitute of Media and Communication – Pune is an Intern at the Broken Scooter.