His dream of getting a proper education was never realised as poverty forced him to drop out of school at the age of seven.
So, Mohd Jalaluddin has spent the last few years running two schools - one in his village and the other in the adjoining one - from his meagre earnings as a taxi driver on Kolkata’s roads.
Now, 60, Jalaluddin, a resident of Uttar Thakurchawk in South 24-Parganas’ Jaynagar police station, no longer drives his own taxi but has loaned it to someone else who pays him Rs 450 a day. In his 35 years as a cabbie, he has at times received help from his passengers who have contributed to his cause.
Jalaluddin claims that recently, a few American donors expressed their desire to help him in his noble endeavour to educate the Sunderbans kids.
His childhood was a constant struggle against the odds, against unbearable poverty, which finally forced him to drop out of school after he stood first in class 2. His father used to beg on the city’s streets and Jalaluddin remembers sleeping on the pavement as a child.
Later, as a teenager he worked in a tea stall in exchange for two square meals a day.
He then started pulling the rickshaw and finally became a cab driver, now owning his own taxi.
But he never forgot his desire to spread the light of education and opportunity presented itself in 1995 when he told his passenger, Bengali enterprenur Ajit Kr Saha, about his dream to set up first a school and then an orphanage in his native village.
Saha provided the funds and Jalaluddin first set up a school in his village in 1995.
When the school opened, there were only 22 students.
Now, nearly 18 years later, there are 400 students studying in two schools - Jalalu-ddin’s second school was established a few years after the first in adjoining Purba Thakurchawk village.
And his dream orphanage is also under construction.
“Now, both my primary schools have around 400 students studying in them. Most of them are residents of nearby villages that have no facilities for education. We provide mid-day meals to them. We make do with my earnings, sometimes we are lucky to get donations,” Jalaluddin said.
His two sons are also educated and the younger one, along with Jalaluddin’s wife, helps him run things. His younger son is also the teacher-in-charge of the schools. While one Dipankar Ghosh donated the land for the second school, one Debashis Kothary forked out the money for it.