With his face streaked with sweat, the thirty-five-year-old man was toiling in a hot and stuffy factory of a bakery. Putting aside the work at hand, he grabs a handful of freshly baked cookies and picks up a bag before walking out of the factory shed.
He hands over the cookies and the bag to a young schoolboy, wearing shabby uniform, waiting outside the shed. The boy’s face lit up with joy as he was receiving the cookies, and especially the goody bag -- filled with a notebook, a pen and an eraser.
Taposh Kumar Raha, owner of the bakery, lives for moments like this. He has been doing this charity work for the past four years, since 2015.
“Seeing such a smile helps me forget those days when my family could not afford to pay for my studies due to financial hardship,” said Taposh.
He was telling his story at a variety store that he set up right beside his factory shed near Dumuria Bazar, a few kilometres off Khulna city.
Besides bakery items, he also carries quite a good number of stationery items for school children in the store.
The boy, Mohammad Abdullah, who received the free stationery items from Taposh, is in third grade at Dumuria Public School and his father is a rickshaw-van puller. It would have been difficult for Abdullah to continue his studies unless he received the school supplies from Taposh each month over the last couple of years.
“When my family can’t afford three meals a day properly, it was beyond my imagination that I would be able to continue my studies. But help from Taposhda made it all possible,” said nine-year-old Abdullah.
Like Abdullah, more than 30 other disadvantaged and hapless students in the area have been receiving free stationery from Taposh every month. The funds for the charity work are coming from the money Taposh saves up from his daily pocket money.
Sadia Khatun, an eleventh-grade student at a local college, said, “After the demise of my day labourer father, my dream of education was shattered. But I found courage within myself to continue my studies when Taposhda stood by me [with free supply of stationery].”
“He continued extending his helping hand for my education since I was a seventh-grade student,” she said.
Reminiscing the past, Taposh said, “My father, a small-time trader, had to struggle a lot to provide for our eight-member family with the earnings from a small bakery that he had inherited. As such, education was a kind of luxury to my six siblings.”
“I always wanted to see myself as an educated man, but my dream was crushed in 2000. That year I could not appear in SSC examinations for want of money as my father had to loan a large sum of money for the business with high interest from a local lender. During that time, my immediate elder brother and I had to work at other bakeries to repay the loan.”
“We paid off the loan a few years later and reopened the bakery. But unfortunately, my father (passed away in 2011) could not see our happy days... My immediate younger brother is an honours graduate now and it was nothing but a dream for us once,” he said.
“My poor family could never buy me new books and at one stage I had to drop out due to the hardship. That’s why I never want to see any child go through the same hardship that I went through and drop out. So, since 2015, I started giving away books, schoolbags and other school supplies such as notebooks, pencils, pens and erasers from a portion of my small income,” said Taposh, now a father of a baby boy.
Alamgir Kabir, a teacher at Sayed Isa BM College in the area, said Taposh always helps out anyone in need and he definitely is a true friend of humanity.