Years ago, an incident took place in the life of now 64-year-old Harekala Hajabba from Mangaluru’s Newpadupu village which gave him a purpose in life. Being a fruit vendor, he did not belittle his existence and started working to accomplish his purpose. Little did he know that what he is doing is worthy of one of the fourth highest civilian awards Padma Shri.
The incident was that once a tourist couple approached him while he was selling oranges. They asked for the price in English. However, Harekala did not understand the language. He knows only Tulu and Beary language. They walked away without buying the oranges. He told the media that despite his best price he could not sell oranges to them because of the language barrier. Which was very disappointing to him. That is when Harekala understood the importance of communication to progress in life.
Harekala was deprived of education, but he does not want his village children to suffer the same in life because of the language barrier. That is why he through the meager income by selling oranges and some local help started a small school for underprivileged children in a mosque, in the village.
Harekala’s popularity grew and caught the attention of District Administration in 2008. About 14th new school under Dakshina Kannada Zilla Panchayat Higher Primary School was built at Newpadupu village. According to The News Minute report, the campus of the school expanded and high school also added to the campus in 2012.
On this Republic Day 2020 Harekala was awarded with the Padma Shri award for providing education to underprivileged children of the village who have been deprived of the same.
He is now planning to open pre-university (PU) college for the children as children stop studying after 10th standard. “I hope the government starts a PU college also so that students can continue education. Mostly, they discontinue after 10th standard, as higher educational institutes are in the city,” he said.
Although, Padma Shri is Harekala’s one of the greatest awards so far, he has received many other awards for his exemplary work. He was awarded the ‘Person of the Year’ by Kannada Prabha newspaper in 2004 and ‘Real Heroes’ award by CNN-IBN in 2009.
Harekala’s life story is also a part of the syllabus in many universities in Karnataka. He is popularly known as Akshara Santa (Saint of the letters) in Dakshina Kannada for his work.