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Pradeep Pattanayak

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. And, Gajendra Pradhan, a ‘divyang’ since birth in Patrapada area in Balasore, falls into the category of tough people. 

You must agree to it after seeing him hand-pedalling his tricycle all the way from his house to his daughter’s school, with his daughter standing behind him, on a rod. 

Pradhan, a sexagenarian, is not able to walk, but he is doing everything possible on his part to make his three daughters capable of covering the long-distance of life. 

Pradhan says his day starts with preparing for dropping his daughter at her school. 

To make it sure that the tricycle is well oiled and should not develop any trouble on the way, he gives it a full check. During this time, his wife Kabita Pradhan prepares her daughter Neeladri, reading in Class III, for the school. 

Then Neeladri, in uniform with a school bag on her back, stands on a rod at the back of her father’s tricycle. While Pradhan hand-pedals the entire distance of around four kilometres, Neeladri stands still without any support, and without any sign of fear as well. 

“I can’t sit beside him because it will cause problems to him while hand-pedalling. So I cover the distance standing on a rod. While travelling thus, I never get afraid. Why should I afraid when my father is with me,” says Neeladri, with a sense of pride. 

Regarding sending her daughter to school this way which is full of risks, Pradhan’s wife Kabita says, “It is our poverty that compels us to do this because we can’t afford the auto-rickshaw fare.”

Pradhan himself takes great care while hand-pedalling to school so that her daughter doesn’t get hurt. He used to take his elder daughter to her school like this. After her matriculation, he is now dropping his second daughter at her school. 

Despite being a divyang, he never forgets his responsibilities towards his family, particularly towards his children. Neither does he feel sad after seeing parents taking their children in bikes and vehicles. 

Neighbours and local people are all praise for Pradhan.  

“He may be physically weak, but is immensely strong mentally. He knows the value of education very well and this is why he is going the extra mile to educate his daughters,” says Partha Kar, Pradhan’s friend. 

Pradhan says, “I was doing my Plus III at F M College when a certain disease struck me. As if it was not enough, my father also left me for his heavenly abode. The burden of running the family fell on me.  I was forced to discontinue my education.”

“Though I know it is risky to take my daughter to her school this way. But I have no other choice. I do this, leaving things at the mercy of God,” claims Pradhan. 

“I have asked the administration for a battery-operated tricycle. This would be very useful to me,” says Pradhan.

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