Pradeep Pattanayak

In Cuttack’s Kathjori slums, there is a one-room accommodation with asbestos roof. 

The room doesn’t have any unique feature to make it to the headlines. However, the occupants are exceptional. The saying, ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going’, goes for them. 
They are Lilu Swain, Rajesh Guru and their six friends. The common thing that unites this octuplet is that they are all visually impaired and differently-abled people and are chasing their dreams despite the impediment. They are all students of Ravenshaw University.

When the pandemic situation has left the students out in the dumps, these eight students seem to be brimming with strong determination, with a ‘never-say-die’ attitude.   

Another common thing that they shared is they all belong to impoverished families. Since their parents can’t afford hostel rents, they have chosen this accommodation in a slum area. Being a one room asbestos-roofed accommodation and in slum area, the rent is comparatively low, which is always within their reach. 

Lilu, son of a daily wage earner of Aska area in Ganjam district, and Rajesh were the first to live in this room. Later, six other students from Boudh, Bargarh and Gajapati districts joined them. 
Their day starts with cooking for the ‘brunch’. After having food, they would walk to Sector 6. From there, they board a Mo Bus for OMP and from there they cover the distance to Ravenshaw University on foot. On their way back, they assemble and go to Aahaar Centre at OMP to have meal, costing Rs5 before returning to the room. And, on most nights they often go to sleep without food.  

Yet, they never feel sad for it. Rather are happy that despite the hardships, their target never gets hazy. They are confident that the day is not far away when the struggle would be replaced with success and happiness. 

“Since we can’t afford hostel rents, we opted for a one room accommodation in the slums. We have our lunch at Aahaar centre and in nights, we eat whatever we find in our room and hit the bed,” said Lilu. 

Rajesh Guru, a Plus II student, says they are receiving a monthly pension of Rs700 each. “With this, we have to manage our daily expenses, till the next pension arrives. We go to the university in Mo Bus. The days when we miss it, we have to take an auto which is always an expensive affair for us.”
Echoing the same, S Rama Patra, a Plus II student, minced no words in saying that they belong to poor families. “If we are allowed to stay in hostel for free, it would be a great help to us,” Patra added. 

They say their journey to the goal they have fixed would be a bit easier if the government or any organization or any kind hearted person came forward to help them.