Unlettered fruit seller sets up high school

Real hero:Hajabba moving around in Hampankatta area of Mangalore with his basket of fruits.— Photo: Ahmed Anwar  

Days after setting up a high school in the backward Newpadpu area near Konaje, Hajabba was back in business in the Hampankatta area here on Monday, selling fruit to earn a living.

It has been nearly 10 months since the unlettered man from Harekala was seen in Hampankatta. Mr. Hajabba has followed his dream of setting up a primary school and subsequently a high school at Newpadpu.

“I fell off an 8-ft-high slab of the under-construction high school building in August last year. I sprained my hip and had to take complete rest for a couple of months. Once I was up and about, I was completely immersed in the work on the new building. Now I am back here doing my ‘kasubu’ [profession],” he said, wiping the sweat off his forehead.

How did he see himself through the last 10 months? “I have well-wishers who send me some money every month. A headmaster from Mulbagal in Kolar has been sending me a donation of Rs. 150 every month for the last 10 years. A retired engineer from Chitradurga has been giving me Rs. 130 every month from February,” he said. As is his wont, Hajabba always highlights the little gestures, oblivious to the selfless sacrifices he has made to accomplish the mission of his life.

Mr. Hajabba, who has a wife, son and two daughters, said: “My son worked as a labourer for nearly a year during the construction of the new school building. He used to earn Rs. 350 a day. We depended on his money during this period,” he said.

Does he notice any change in the way his customers treat him now since he has become a household name in the district. “I see a lot of change. People recognise me straight away and greet me. A lot of them are very generous and don’t even bargain. There are people who wonder how this man could be selling fruit. But this is my ‘kasubu’. I have been doing it since 1978,” says Mr. Hajabba, who came into the limelight after being selected as the Person of the Year in 2004 by a Kannada daily. He was chosen as one of the Real Heroes by CNN-IBN in 2009. Mr. Hajabba ploughed back the Rs. 5 lakh he got as award money to buy a plot for the high school.

The 55-year-old fruit vendor, however, does not seem to be worried about the business so much as he is focussed on his new goal. “I earned about Rs. 120 on Saturday. I had to leave early since I had to meet [Minister Vishweshwara Hegde] Kageri. I went to the Circuit House and gave him a memorandum demanding a pre-university college for Newpadpu. He promised to consider the request favourably,” he said.

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