When Odisha based tea-seller Devarapalli Prakash Rao took it upon himself to change the lives of young kids by providing for the education of children of daily wage workers and rickshaw pullers besides many other slum children, by setting aside half of his monthly earnings for the purpose, never once did he imagine to find himself in the company of our Prime Minister, who would be all praise for the man, owing to his distinguished efforts in the field of affordable education in the country.
So, when the Ministry of Home Affairs announced the list of Padma Awards for 2019, Devarapalli was in for a sweet surprise, since his name was listed amongst the 94 names that had been shortlisted for the Padma Shri award this year.
59-year-old Devarapalli Prakash Rao has been spending a substantial part of his life and earnings for the betterment of a section of our society, which is unfortunately ignored otherwise. For the last 18 years, Rao has been educating slum children by paying for their education from his own pockets. But before setting this aside as “nothing too special”, we would like you to recall that Cuttack-based Rao, is a roadside tea-seller, who survives on a humble, daily earning.
So, on Sunday when Prime Minister Narendra Modi couldn't stop gushing about all the wonderful things Rao has done, in his 44th edition of 'Mann Ki Baat', Devarapalli's life kind of came a full circle. Hailing Rao as the “guardian angel” of underprivileged kids, PM Modi shared how delighted he had been to meet Rao, who has been donating half of his daily earnings for the education and food for over 70 kids, over a span of 18 years, and changing the lives of innumerable children.
However, Rao's journey hasn't been an easy one. A school drop out himself, he set up 'Asha O Ashwasana' school in 2000. His motivation came from the discord he felt when he saw young kids in his neighbourhood giving in to the temptations of petty crimes and intoxication that alcohol promised. So, while Rao's father never bothered to take care of his education, Rao decided to do the needful for these young kids.
After a lot of struggle, he managed to convince parents to send their children to his school, since most of these families couldn't afford to part with a working member, thereby giving up on a pair of hands that could earn. Today, with classes up to 3rd standard, Rao takes care of these kids' uniforms and books, besides a small midday meal that comprises of milk and biscuits.
Rao's story is one that tugs at our dormant conscience, reminding us that every small act of thoughtfulness counts, that every little effort could touch hundreds of lives and make them better if only we can spare the thought, time and resources to look beyond our personal challenges.
Why? Because like D. Prakash Rao, happiness and contentment can be found in furthering and building others dreams and lives when our own becomes too much of a work to carry on with. Because didn't Albert Einstein once say that, “a life lived for others, is a life worthwhile” and Rao seems to have proved it true, through and through. Kudos to the man!