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Pradeep Pattanayak

Today, the nation is celebrating Teachers’ Day, remembering their priceless contribution to the society. There are so many teachers to be remembered on this occasion. But, the teacher we are going to introduce to you today has long been forgotten. 

As you enter Jatiparilo village in Cuttack district’s Mahanga block, you will come across a cow shed with a few cattle and calves tied to wooden poles near it. 

This cow shed is not the one like others. It has seen its golden days, a cradle for many who are now holding respected posts in the State, nation and different parts of the world as well. 

There was a time when this cow shed used to be a chatashali (village school), run by Malati Das, well known as Malati Guruma. 

With the passage of time, the chatashali has taken shape of a decrepit cow shed and octogenarian Malati Guruma living the dusk of her life, a wretched one, with none to look after her. 

In its heyday, from dawn to dusk, the chatshali would remain full of activities. At the day break, children with bags hanging from shoulders would make a line to it. Now, it has one foot in the grave, standing as a mute witness to those days. 

While light from the sun passes through the roof holes, the walls have developed cracks, making its life uncertain. Anything may happen at any time. 

And what is about Malati Guruma? Anticipating danger, she has taken shelter in another house. 

Due to her advancing age and the diseases associated with it, she has stopped imparting education to children for seven years now. 

Yet, she is living a life of dignity, without ever spreading her hands for helps. 

“These days I am not keeping well. So I have stopped teaching children,” said Malati Das, sitting on the verandah of her school. 

Recounting those glorious days, a villager Pramila Dehury said, “She has taught hundreds of children. As far as my knowledge is concerned, she would never demand for money. People would give her whatever they would capable of like Re 1 or 50 paise.”

Despite hardship, Malati Guruma, who is in her twilight, has never begged for assistance. At times, her old students pay her a visit and give some money which sees her through a week or so. 

The villagers, who love her very much and are concerned about her well being, have urged the government to provide some assistance so that she can live the rest of her life in a decent way. 

“I was a student of her. If I am now an ME school teacher, it is because of her teaching. She is living in a decrepit cow shed. She has not received any government help as yet,” said Bijay Kumar Sahu. 

“It pains me when I see my teacher living in a cow shed. She has none to take her care in this old age. I would like to request the government to provide some help to our guruma,” requested Niranjan Sahu.

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