Pradeep Pattanayak

He is an orphan and visually-impaired. Misfortunes never come alone, they say. During the pandemic, he was thrown out of the school that had been providing him shelter with bag and baggage. 

Now he is living a life of nomad, knowing nothing about what the future holds for him. 

Meet Rajesh, 47, who is known only by his first name. These days he is in Koraput district. 
Rajesh says he was rescued by a teacher named Somayajulu of Pandit Somayajulu School for blinds as a baby boy. It was the school that christened him as Rajesh. At seven, he came to know that he is an orphan. Since then, the school had been his father and mother. 

As if it was not enough, the outbreak of Covid-19 turned him shelterless as well. He lost his three colleagues to the pandemic following which the school threw some inmates including him out with bag and baggage. 

“Covid-19 snatched away my identity and address as well,” sobs Rajesh, who is now living a life of a nomad, with footpaths and verandas being his new addresses.  

He says he always wanted to study like others but the circumstances came as hurdles. Despite being illiterate, Rajesh can speak Hindi, English, Telugu and Odia so fluently that people would often mistake him as a highly educated person. 
“I can speak English, Hindi, Telugu and Odia fluently. As Anglo-Indians used to visit us at the school, I learnt English from them,” says Rajesh. 
At a time when there was no one to come to his rescue, it was his skill of playing the mouth organ that saved him. He plays the mouth organ so nicely that he can give professional players a run for their money. 

He visits schools where he plays the mouth organ to entertain students. In return, with whatever the school authorities give he lives on that for that day, without thinking about tomorrow. 

He says he is not having lunch for last many years and goes on fast on Sundays. On Sundays, he offers prasad to God. 

After conducting his musical shows at several schools in Telengana and Andhra Pradesh, he is now in Koraput’s Sunabeda. Here, he has so far visited Ram Krishna School, Saraswati Sishu Mandir, Bana Bharati School and the latest one was St Xavier High School. 

“He survives on what he gets from displaying his art of playing the mouth organ. He plays patriotic songs on the mouth organ well and inculcates patriotism among students,” said a teacher of a private school.

“During my stay in Sunabeda, I first went to Ram Krishna School, then Saraswati Sishu Mandir, Bana Bharati School and today I visited St Xavier High School. The response from the students overwhelmed me,” says Rajesh. 

He says he is getting a disability pension but never knows how much money he is getting. 

He says it is not poverty but people’s inhuman thinking that hurts him most. He urges people to be kind-hearted.


(Reported by Surya Narayan Panda from Koraput, OTV)