First appearances can indeed be deceptive. Bright yellow, noisy and uncomfortable — from a distance it looks every inch like the trademark Kolkata cab. But look closer and you will discover how 130 orphans in a remote South 24-Parganas village have benefited from this vehicle of change.
For the past 15 years, Kazi Jalaluddin has been driving the taxi on the streets of Kolkata, using the proceeds to fund an orphanage in the village of Uttar Purba Thakurchak, more than 55km to the south of Kolkata.
The orphanage that he set up in 1998 now houses 130 kids of the village and neighbouring areas. Sixty-two-yearold Jalaluddin is so passionate about his job that he has painted his mission on the cab in bold letters. It reads, “The income from this car goes to fund a school for orphans in the Sunderbans. I urge the police not to unnecessarily slap traffic cases.” The message ends with Jalaluddin’s name and phone number.
“His effort is remarkable. We’ll certainly ignore minor traffic violations,” Dilip Adak, DC (traffic) told HT.
“When I started building the orphanage, I had written the same prayer on my old taxi bearing the number WBT 1963. People who boarded my car read the appeal and even started donating for the school,” Jalaluddin said.
Jalaluddin, himself, is a Class 3 dropout. “Poverty forced me to abandon studies. I begged on the city’s streets, and later became a rickshaw puller. Then I learnt driving, but the zeal to spread education remained in me,” he said.
In 1998, he started a school and named it Israfil-Ismail Gazi Free Primary School for orphans and poor kids in his village. “I used to drive the taxi and collect funds for my school. But police harassment over minor cases posed an obstacle. Then, I painted the appeal on the car,” he added.
Soon, people started responding to his appeal. Several passengers who boarded the taxi even donated for his orphanage. “A few even donated land, some donated furniture, others building materials to set up another school. And, in 2009, Sundarban Sikshayatan took shape in the same village,” he said, adding, “At least 200 people who travelled by my taxi have turned regular donors.”