The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Puja minus feast for a friend

Karimpur, Feb. 3: Tears rolled down the cheeks of 12-year-old Rintu Pramanick this morning as he clasped his hands to offer flowers to goddess Saraswati along with 1,600 other students of his school.

Rintu's schoolmates had just informed him that they had almost raised Rs 30,000 for the surgery he needed to save his life.

Their budget for the puja, one of the most looked-forward-to events in the school calendar, was scaled down from Rs 20,000 to a bare minimum to make an operation on Rintu's kidney possible ' to give him a new life.

Jamsherpur High School at Karimpur in Nadia, 180 km from Calcutta, prayed for Rintu this morning. And the Class VI boy probably thanked them with his hands folded, eyes shut and quivering lips.

Two months ago, Rintu fainted in class. He was later found suffering from nephritis and a urologist told his father that a kidney had been badly damaged by the disease and had to be removed immediately to save the other.

Mongal, who works in a garment shop and earns around Rs 1,500 a month, was helpless. 'The doctor told me that Rintu had to be operated on within a month. Otherwise his other kidney will also be damaged and he could die.'

His other sons ' Mintu, 24, and Pintu, 22 ' are school dropouts who work as daily wagers and earn about Rs 30 between themselves.

'We find it difficult to make both ends meet and had no idea how to raise the money,' Mongal said.

In mid-January, Mongal approached several people for help but received only sympathy. Desperate, he approached his son's classmates. 'You know him all these years. He will die if you do not help,' he told Rintu's classmates.

They need no further pleading. When the puja preparations were to begin in earnest, the boys met headmaster An-anta Mondal and told him that they did not want to celebrate the usual way on this year's Saraswati puja.

'Sir, we give Rs 10 each for the puja. This time, we want the money to go to Rintu,' said one of his friends. The entire school rallied behind them.

Today, Rintu's classmate Sudip Patra said: 'This puja we enjoyed more.'

Pranay Pal's father, a farmer, was proud of his son.

The headmaster said: 'We decided in a meeting that we should all pitch in.'

The teachers and non-teaching employees of the school will hand over Rs 30,000 to Rintu's father next week.

Even in a state which spends crores on pujas, such show of solidarity is rare, but not unprecedented. The residents of Nilkuthi village in Burdwan's Memari, 85 km from Calcutta, cancelled the Durga Puja last year to help out Kripasindhu Bala, 28, who needed a kidney replacement. The entire sum collected as subscription was handed over to him.

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