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Harekala Hajabba
A social worker of rare genre
By Ismath Pajeer
Talent Research Foundation
Vishwas Crown
Opp. Yenepoya Nursing Home
Ph: 0824-4267883
Price : Rs. 50, Pages: 56

Harekala Hajabba is a household name in Karnataka’s Mangalore district. The humble orange-seller from Mangaluru (previously Mangalore) took upon himself the task of setting up a school in the nondescript village of Newpadapu, 24 kilometres from Mangaluru. He was an unlettered person. The misfortune of himself being illiterate dawned on him while interacting with a customer in the market. This set him on the mission of starting a school in his hilly village, where most residents were poor and illiterate. The man ran from pillar to post in the corridors of power. But nothing moved. He was often derided, showered with insults and even dogs were set upon him to shoo him away from the gates of the rich and the powerful. But his spirit remained undimmed. He starved and saved money out of the daily proceeds from sale of oranges. Some land was bought and a school was set up. He even visited the chief of Dharmasthala (a famous Hindu pilgrimage centre in Karnataka), who was kind enough to donate Rs. 10,000, impressed with his determination.
His efforts bore fruit when a school was sanctioned. On June 5, 1999, the school began to function. But it was a Kannada daily, Hosa Digantha, affiliated, interestingly, to the RSS, which highlighted the story of Hajabba’s grit and determination in 2004, when the whole state came to know about the humble man’s sacrifice and indefatigable zeal. Another Kannada daily, Kannada Prabha (from the Indian Express group) adjudged him the winner of the ‘Man of the Year Award’ the same year. As his fame grew, more donations poured in and the school plan was executed in its entirety. The CNN-IBN and the Reliance Group conferred him the ‘Real Hero’ award in 2008. He was given the title of “Akshara Santha” (‘Saint of Letters’) by the media.
Yet, nothing much changed for Hajabba in his personal life. He remains the same humble self, taking a bus from his village to Mangaluru at 9 am every morning. He can be seen selling oranges in the Hampankatta market thereafter. He takes care of the school, soon after he finishes his morning prayers in the local mosque.
A simple, honest man, Hajabba has an iconic appeal in the state, with the media and the Government keen to help him realize his dream fully. His story has been included as a chapter in the Kannada textbook in the State. He has been conferred with the Karnataka Rajyotsava Award. He spent prize money in purchasing asset for the school rather than improve his own dilapidated home. However, in 2016, the United Christian Association built a 760 sq. ft house and gifted it to him.
Ismath Pajeer has captured the inspiring tale of sacrifice, missionary spirit and dedication of Hajabba in detail in this book, which was first written in Kannada. Barring a few typos, the book provides enjoyable reading.
Reviewed by
Maqbool Ahmed Siraj