An orange seller from Mangalore, Karnataka, Harekala Hajabba, received the Padma Shri award, the fourth-highest civilian honour of the country on Monday, for his efforts towards educating poor children.
President Ramanath Kovind presented Hajabba with the Padma Shri at a ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in the national capital.
Recipient of numerous awards hails from a village in Dakshina Kannada, where the only quality sought in a groom from the bride’s family was how many bidis one can roll.
After losing his hut to a river flood, Hajabba moved to Mangalore and started selling oranges from the money he had saved rolling bidis.
But his ordinary life took an extraordinary turn, when a foreign tourist asked him, “How much for oranges?” Being able to speak only the local Tulu and Beary; a language spoken by Muslims of Mangalore, Hajabba says he just stared at his customer.
The incident, he later went on to say, set off his dream to see the children of his village educated. After 12 years of hard work; selling oranges and collecting little funds from his everyday customers and after toiling through the bureaucratic maze, he finally set up the ‘Dakshina Kannada Zilla Panchayat Higher Primary School’ in 2000.
Hajabba’s inspiring life story is also thought at Mangalore University’s undergraduate level program. The lesson is an extract from the book ‘Harekala Hajabbara Jeevana Charitre’ (The life story of Harekala Hajabba) written by social activist and writer Ismath Pajeer and is included in the ‘Nudivani’ Kannada textbook for the first year B.Com syllabus.