D Prakash Rao, a tea-seller from Odisha recently was awarded Padma Shri for 2019. The 61-year-old has been selling chai roadside from last 54 years. On receiving this prestigious award from the Government of India on Republic Day, Rao said that until now he was just a tea-seller but now he is a Padma Shri Tea-seller
What Makes Prakash Rao So Special To Win Padma Shri?
You must be wondering as to how can a Chaiwala win the fourth highest civilian award of the country. According to the story, Rao was just six when he assisted his father at the tea-stall.
During the second world war, his father served the soldiers. On returning home to Cuttack, his father thought that the work he did during the war will help him get an alternate job.
However, nobody was ready to give him a job. With poverty and unemployment looming overhead, Rao’s father started the tea-stall on a small capital of Rs. 5 which D Prakash Rao has continued to run for more than 50 years now.
According to Rao, ”Living and working in a slum, I witnessed the resistance of parents towards education first-hand. Living in their makeshift jhuggi jhopdis, they thought of their children as means of earning income. Instead of enrolling them in schools, these children were enrolled in menial labor. Working odd jobs and becoming domestic helpers, whatever money they earned was often snatched by the men in the home, who would buy alcohol and turn to domestic violence. It deeply affected me, every single day.”
Rao further added that even though he was a bright student, good in both football and academics aiming to become a doctor he became a chaiwala. He had experienced how it is not to get an opportunity to fulfill one’s dreams.
And he did not want the other children to face the same destiny. That is why for every cup of tea that Rao sold he kept half the amount aside for educating the slum children.
Unrelenting Pursuit Of Prakash Rao To Teach Slum Children
D Prakash Rao started his work from a two-room thatched house. In the beginning, there were only four children whom he provided education and food absolutely free.
The parents of these children opposed Rao as they wanted their children to work and earn for the family. But Rao was unrelenting in his pursuit and never gave up his dream of educating slum kids.
After a few years, the number of kids increased. Today through his school Asha o Ashwasana he has been instrumental in transforming the lives of hundred kids and more. The parents who earlier complained are now grateful and happy to see their children going to colleges by cycle.
Rao said that he cooks Dalma for them every day and feels immense joy to see them enjoying highly nutritious food.
Meeting With Prime Minister Modi
During a meeting, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Prakash Rao that the food served in his school was the best that is being served in any other schools. On receiving the award Prakash Rao felt overwhelmed for the support and adulation. He feels honored and humbled for the warmth that the people have showered on him.
When people say that he has transformed the lives of their children, D Prakash Rao says that these 100 children have improved the quality of his life. Apart from Cuttack residents, Rao believes that media has also supported him in this initiative.