Lessons from Uttar Pradesh's cycle guruji

Ranchi stopover for unique teacher-crusader pedalling through India to spread literacy

By ACHINTYA GANGULY
  • Published 6.05.17
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Aditya Kumar explains his mission to bystanders at HEC Township in Ranchi on Friday. Picture by Prashant Mitra

Ranchi's HEC Township Sector III roundabout became a hub of buzzing voices on Friday as curious onlookers gathered around a man on a cycle fitted with display boards carrying literacy messages.

Meet 46-year-old Aditya Kumar from Uttar Pradesh, who reached Ranchi on Friday after pedalling across the country for over two years motivating children to go to school.

Dubbed cycle guruji, Aditya earned a place in the Limca Book of Records in 2014 for cycling to slums in an around Lucknow since 1995 to teach children there. He's also earned accolades from Uttar Pradesh governor Ram Naik and then chief minister Akhilesh Yadav.

The banners on his two-wheeler - Aao Bharat ko Sakshar Banaye and Pado Padhao Desh ko Sakshar Banao - speak of his life's mission.

On January 12, 2015, with just Rs 500 in his pocket, Kumar began his ride from Hazratganj collectorate in Lucknow and went on to cover states such as Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Bihar. He pedalled to Jharkhand from Bihar and from here would cover Odisha, Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Assam and the Northeast.

"Wherever I go, I tell people that being uneducated is a curse and education can change one's life. I have been urging parents to sent their kids to school daily," he said.

He's come a long way from the little boy of Salempur, a small village in Farrukhabad district of Uttar Pradesh.

"I've seen poverty from close quarters. My father was a poor labourer who wanted me to start earning as a child. But, I ran away to Lucknow to study," he recounted.

"Fortunately for me, I met a teacher who was impressed with my determination to study and helped me become a graduate. It was then I decided to spread education among slum kids," he added.

He started teaching Hindi, English and mathematics to poor children for free to make them eligible for regular schools. Whatever small sum he earned through paid tuition or even labour, he spent on buying books and other aids for his cycle school.

Gradually, the message spread. Youths in Lucknow started getting inspired. And in 2015, Kumar decided to embark on a countrywide ride to inspire as many people across India as he could towards literacy, to study and teach.

What's been his biggest reward? "When I see children getting an education," Kumar signed off.