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The Story of a Mail Man

A postman like him may have educated you to a good life. 
Here is the story of a school and a college which rose from the dust because of the dreams of a mailman in India.

In 1938, a school was running in a little shanty room with a total strength of 11 boys, one teacher and bank balance of Rs.11 (about 22 cents). The salary of the teacher was only Rs.12 per month (about 24 cents); but the school was on the verge of closing down. Then the miracle happens! A postman takes over its management and by 1944, the school has a fund of a few hundred rupees. The school is well-established with students four-fold and more class rooms. In 1946, the postman's 'Deewali baksheesh' (the tips received during the festival of Diwali) of Rs.4500 and funds collected by staging a play brings the total to Rs.12,000. And the postman and his wards go from strength to strength. Let us view this drama as it unfolded.

A corporal from World War I:

Way back in 1938, the Hindi School at Ghatkopar was one of the only two of their kind in Bombay [now Mumbai] in India. It was in doldrums when a young postman Nandkishor Singh Thakur, pledged to give his spare time to the school. Well, if Hindi School was an unimportant, unknown school in a suburb of Bombay, Nandkishor himself was an uninfluential person. Born in 1897 in a village in UP, his own education was two years of study in the primary school. But he had seen the world in the first World War - in the Middle East as a Corporal in the Infantry. Five years of stay in Turkey as a part of the British Army had made Nandkishor a changed man.

In 1926, he joined the Post and Telegraphs department as a Postman in Ghatkopar. But his dreams were bigger. He wanted to have a more purposeful existence. And he found an outlet. The combination of this humble, unassuming, simple postman and his little-known one room institution in one of the suburbs of Bombay has now become an epic story to remember.

What is it that drew this short, bald man with a walrus moustache to this school? What was it that made him put [--does so even today] all that he had and 'a little more' to make things better than before? Perhaps, he himself has no answer.

Collection drive:

Hindi School was in a very bad shape when Nandkishor took it over. He didn't know how he was going to add to the bank balance of Rs.11 that was all in the name of the school. But he knew that he had access to all and sundry in that locality as a postman. He made use of his contacts. He carried along with his postbag a small box in which people could drop anything upward from a paisa [1/64th of a rupee, 1/32 of a $]. It was a paltry sum to begin with but the school survived. More than that, people came to know of the school and its humble organizer.

The school received its first large sum in 1946. Nandkishor declared that whatever 'Deewali baksheesh' he would get from the people would be added to the school fund. People gave generously. He collected about Rs.4,500 that way. In a play staged in the same year, another sum of Rs.7,500 was collected, bringing the total to Rs.12,000. The school had come a long way from the days of Rs.11-reserve-fund.

A plot of land [3,300 sq. yds in area] near the Ghatkopar Railway Station was bought for the sum, with the help of a Government grant. Again the bank balance went to zero. No one was willing to lay the foundation stone for such an institute. 'Jai Ramji' [as Nandkishor was popularly known, for his usual greeting to all] himself was asked to do that: and in the name of God he did that.

He was again went on a fund collecting spree. This time he gathered seven donors, each committing Rs.3,000 [-- amount required for one class room], and the ground floor was ready. The then Chief Minister of Bombay Shri. B G Kher declared open the building and the first batch batch of 80 students moved into the new school by September of 1947.

Now came the period of risk. He went ahead with the construction of first floor without any capital -- purely on faith. The debit note rose to Rs.22,000. Again fate intervened. He collected a larger sum of Rs.31,000 from staging the famous play 'Deewar', presented by that kind hearted, popular actor Shri. Prithviraj Kapoor. Came Rs.44,000 from an unknown donor and the building had its second floor completed, barely within four years from the time the foundation stone was laid with no bank balance.

Here is a living example of that 'karmayogi' of the Gita -- a man who believes in doing his duty, leaving the rest to God. And God has never failed him. Yes, at times He severely tested this disciple of his but in the end He stood by him.

College takes shape:

Building of a school was not all that Jai Ramji had as mission in his life. No time for complacency. Like rare old men, his active life started after his retirement. On the mortgage of the school, he bought an adjoining plot costing Rs.64,000 for a college building. Bank balance?: a repetition of the past! But now he had the students and the teachers of the school to help him collect the funds. Rs.18,000 collected thus was enough to start the work. Slabs of all the three floors were ready. But there was no money for the walls and finishing. The test this time was the severest. Jai Ramji was mocked by street urchins. Construction work was at a standstill for almost two years.

But again in 1959, he started a one-rupee collection drive and gathered Rs.7,000. The school committee looking at his unswerving zeal, offered a loan of Rs.100,000 collected from amongst its members. The college was ready. It needed funds to be fit for affiliation to Bombay University. Even this dream materialised. In 1963, Shri R R Jhunjhunwala gave Rs.200,000 and the college starting functioning in that year.

A school of 1938 with 11 boys in a bare little room stands --after three decades -- as a towering witness to a humble man's dreams. It teaches 2,200 students in school and 2,700 in the college, from the primary to the post-graduate.

School in home town:

He now diverted his attention to his home town of Rampur Manjha in UP. It had no school. Work with Jai ramji has always been brisk and speedy. The foundation stone of this school was laid in 1964; it started functioning as Middle School in the same year and as High School by the end of 1965. It is the only High School for the surrounding villages. He wants a college there by 1970. He needs Rs.35,000 for that and is today busy collecting that.

All these institutions --the Hindi High School, the Jhunjhunwalla College and the High School in UP are the embodiments of people. The humblest of people have put their efforts to bring up these institutions, donating from a paisa upward. This reminds one of a legend from Ramayana, from whose lands Jai Ramji hails. While Lord Rama was constructing the bridge between India and Lanka, along with the monkeys came the squirrels to put in their efforts

Jai Ramji is 72 today. Even at this age, his energy is unflagging, his cheerfulness is contagious and his faith boundless. Faith, both in God and the goodwill of his fellowmen. Nor has his capacity to dream diminished. Above all, is his ability to fulfill those dreams. His dream at present is a Hindi University. And he has confidence he will live a hundred years to complete his mission.

He toils still:

One question remains. What does he do for his own living and that of his family? He married at the age of ten. His life has not been a bed of roses. He lost two of his sons, one of them leaving behind a wife and a son. As a postman of 32 years service, he never had an occasion to give an explanation for a lapse on his part. After retirement, he went into the manufacture and sale of phenyle, often pulling a wheel cart himself through the streets of Ghatkopar along with his son, making door to door calls. He is also an LIC agent, selling life insurance. His only surviving son is married and settled. Himself, his wife, his daughter-in-law and grandson are together in the house. In these days of graft and corruption, the example of Jai Ramji stands out -- a rare apostle of determination and faith in modern age. 

Source: Goodnewsindia.com April 2003 Originally published in Feb, 1969 in 'Excellence' credited to Daktar Postal News.

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