It is often hard to come across altruistic people who would do something for almost nothing in return, especially in the contemporary expensive environment. Here we have a real-life hero, Sujit Chattopadhyay, who hails from Bengal who charges only Rs 2 in a year to teach over 350 tribal and underprivileged children. At a distance of three hours from the outskirts of Kolkata, lies the village of Ausgram in Burdwan. The still location is often heard by the sound of rustling trees and chirping birds. Amidst the quietude, the busyness is heard coming from Sujit Chattopadhyay’s courtyard which is bustling with curious youngsters assembled every day. even on a lazy Sunday morning.
Padma Shri Winner Sujit Chattopadhyay
The winner of Padma Shri for Literature and Education, 76-year-old Sujit Chattopadhyay is a retired principal of Ramnagar Uccha Madhyamik Vidyalaya. He is an active advocate of socio-environmental awareness, and also promotes the concepts of social equality and eco-friendly living. Since his retirement, he has devoted his time to uplift students who come from destitute families. His school which was christened as ‘Sadai Fakirer Pathshala’ (The Eternal Fakir’s School), has been running at Chattopadhyay’s Ausgram home since 2004.
Life At Sadai Fakirer Pathshala
Sadai Fakirer Pathshala operates like no other school with regular classes and PTA meetings, and 80% of students consist of girls from lower-middle-class families. The school begins at 6:30 AM early morning, often before sunrise in the chilly winter months, and continues up to 6 PM. Sujit Chattopadhyay passionately teaches social sciences to secondary classes and degree-course Bengali to undergraduate students. Apart from academics, Chattopadhyay- also called ‘Master Moshai’, gives his students updates on the news to ensure that his students are aware of the happenings around the world.
“These students come from very poor families. Many of them come by cycling 20-25 km. Many even walk on foot for miles to study at my classes. So I try to help them as much as I can.”
Despite struggling in a place with a severe shortage of good schools with the nearest college being 32 km away, several of his students at Sadai Fakirer Pathshala have gone on to secure impressive ranks in board examinations.
To help Sujit Chattopadhyay in his selfless mission, his nephew, Utsav assists him in managing the operations. Utsav mentioned, “While looking for teaching jobs, I suddenly realised that I have a school running in my home. I have always had immense respect for Jethu (uncle) and thought of being a part of this beautiful endeavour.”
Sujit Chattopadhyay’s Pathshala
“After retirement, I suddenly ended up with a lot of spare time and had no clue how to spend those long hours. One day, three girls came to my home and expressed their wish to learn from me. I was surprised to know that they were ready to travel over 20 km daily to be my students,” says Sujit Chattopadhyay.
He was swamped from the response and genuine appeals to start tutoring young girls which led to the making of Sadai Fakirer Pathshala.
The school has risen from a class-strength of 3 to 350 based on the word of mouth. Despite growing in number, the fees didn’t increase a penny except for 1 which was also raised on the urge of former students who have volunteered to teach at the school.
Sujit Chattopadhyay mentioned, “The fees mainly serve as a token of respect for the teacher. These students come from low-income families. Many are even first generation learners in their families. They cannot afford to commute for hours daily to attend a good school. So, I try my best to help them as much as I can.”
Winner of Padma Shri and Lifetime Achievement Award
To have schools at many places, Sujit Chattopadhyay even sent multiple letters to the local government appealing for more schools and colleges along with better public transport, but he stated that “All my appeals have fallen to deaf ears.” Despite having to bicycle 40-45 km daily, some of his students do not mind covering such long distances to attend his classes.
After a long time, his efforts and dedication were recognized by a leading media house- The Telegraph Education Foundation. He was awarded the well-deserved “Lifetime Achievement Award” to acknowledge his persistent efforts to mentor and honour him not just as a successful achiever, but an ideal citizen.
With his teaching career of over three decades, Sujit Chattopadhyay was always cherished and favoured among his students. Apart from his unique teaching techniques, students enjoyed other activities and teachings beyond the curriculum.
“Sir always advocated the importance of student activism against various social evils. He would remind us time and again why our education is not just limited to our textbooks but should reflect in our demeanour and personality as well. He treated us like his children,” recalls Pijush Kanti Ghosh, a Physics professor at Vishwa Bharati University and one of Chattopadhyay’s early students, in a conversation with The Better India.
Chattopadhyay has also been involved in helping people with money to buy new clothes or even writing official letters on behalf of unlettered individuals. He is instantly recognized by every villager and has forever been Ausgram’s most reliable person for any problem whatsoever.
Raising Funds for Thalassemia Patients
“I always wake up early and take a walk around our village. Three years ago, I found a young mother waiting at the bus-stand with her child. It was even before daybreak. When I asked her, she told me that her son has thalassemia. The poor child needs a blood transfusion every few weeks. She broke down, saying how difficult it was for her family to afford the treatment.”
This incident stirred Chattopadhyay deeply. He studied up on the details of the disease and started raising awareness among his students. He soon gathered a group of students to go door-to-door and collect donations for the thalassemic child he had met.
He then decided to start campaigning for Thalassemia awareness. Today, Chattopadhyay manages an active forum for this purpose, where he raises funds for the treatment of thalassemia patients. His campaign became a regular activity with a collection of funds to sustain over 60 thalassemic children in and around the village.
Sujit Chattopadhyay is an ideal personality who has devoted his life to curate ideal future citizens of the country. His exceptional integrity and empathy deserve the nation’s sincere salute. People like Chattopadhyay are the unsung heroes of India whose efforts deserve to be lauded nationwide.
People like Sujit Chattopadhyay are needed by the world today to make it a better, more compassionate place to live. For more such entertaining news and updates stay connected to Leverage Edu. Follow us on Facebook, Quora, LinkedIn and Instagram.