Rajab Ali wants to do everything possible to ensure his only son does well in life. So, the poor farmer in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district invited around 700 villagers for lunch to seek their blessings for Shamim Sheikh, the first person in the family to appear for the secondary or Class 10 board examination.Ali, who owns a small plot of ancestral land at Charbabupur village in Bhagabangola area, said he had been saving for the last one year for the event. “Some people told me a year ago that if I treated villagers and sought their blessings, my son would do well in the exams. So, I started saving money. I even printed an invitation card so that nobody could say that I did not invite the guests properly,” said Ali. The exams for Shamim Sheikh, a student of the Charlabangola High Madrasa, began on Monday.“When I was young, I wanted to be a doctor. But poverty had other plans in store. My father could afford food for his six children but not education. I had to drop out of school when I was in Class 3. I was not even 10 when I started helping my father in the field,” said Ali.“I saw my father fight the odds. Every monsoon, the Padma used to flood its banks and farmers paid the price. I don’t want my children to go through the ordeal. I want them to have decent jobs in some city,” the farmer, who also has a daughter, added.“I want to see my son fulfil my dreams.”Ali could not afford a lavish lunch but the spread five days ago comprising rice, chicken curry, dal, fried vegetables, sweets and curd made the guests happy. Shamim was showered with gifts as people turned up with pens, pencils, books and even wrist watches.“The gifts really don’t matter. What’s important is that they blessed my son and prayed to the almighty for his success,” said Ali.“Nobody in my family ever passed the secondary examination. Shamim said he has answered all the questions so far. If he passes with good marks I will distribute sweets in the village,” said Ali.A decade ago, Mamata Banerjee -- then an opposition leader -- made the Sachar Committee’s report about the high illiteracy rate among Muslims in West Bengal a raging issue against the Left Front government. With 66% Muslims, Murshidabad has the state’s highest minority population among all districts. “I am working here for the eight years but I have never seen anyone treating an entire village to seek blessings for a board examinee. This is unique indeed,” local school teacher Sushanta Chowdhury said.