Apurba Rana at his mother’s Ekbalpore flower stall. (Anup Bhattacharya)
He sits at an Ekbalpore intersection each day, selling flowers. To passers-by, he is one among the many anonymous young faces toiling on the streets. To his mother, he is a dreamer, doer, her beacon in the darkness of struggle.
Apurba Rana, 15, scored 84.1 per cent in Madhyamik this year, a performance partly made possible by his determination not to miss going to school despite having to work every morning and evening.
“How long can we live in this dirt and filth, cooped up in a one-room house? I have to come out of this place and give a decent life to my mother and myself,” he told Metro in the middle of his morning turn at mother Pinky’s makeshift stall.
Apurba’s dream of a better future finds expression in his Madhyamik marksheet: Bengali 77, English 80, mathematics 94, physics 80, life science 92, history 76 and geography 90.
The teenager had started helping out his mother at the stall after his father died in October 2012, leaving him to juggle work and school every day from dawn to dusk.
On weekdays, he would be at the intersection of BK Road and Karl Marx Sarani at 8.30 each morning to sell flowers for a couple of hours before heading for classes at Kiddirpore Academy. He would be back at the stall at 4.30pm and be there till evening.
“My mother possibly couldn’t do everything by herself (after his father’s death). I had to help her,” Apurba said.
Mother and son make Rs 2,500-3,000 a month, which is barely enough to buy them food. Around two years ago, a part of the ceiling of their one-room shelter came crashing down and they haven’t been able to get it repaired yet. A sheet of tarpaulin is their only protection from chunks falling off the ceiling.
“He sleeps on the floor and I on one side of the bed,” mother Pinky said.
The duo’s room and a tiny enclosure where Pinky cooks are part of a house where several other families live. The entrance to the room is always wet because of leaking water pipes.
The bleak surroundings and the daily struggle don’t make Apurba sad, they only steel his resolve to work harder. “During the day, he hardly gets time to study. For Madhyamik, he would study till 2-2.30am at night. That’s why I wouldn’t wake him up in the morning before setting out for work at 6 every day,” Pinky said.
Apurba is keen to study science so that he can get into an engineering college. He has enrolled for coaching with his scholarship money but getting into a good Higher Secondary institution would be a bigger financial challenge. “He has collected forms from Jodhpur Park Boys School and New Alipore Multipurpose School. But I am worried about whether I will be able to afford his admission fees,” mother Pinky said.
Apurba’s immediate ambition is to land a job as soon as possible. He keeps telling his mother: “I need to take up a job so that you don’t have to work.”
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