Arindam Mahato – Ashalayam, Kolkata

Arindam Mahato – Ashalayam, Kolkata

Aindam Mahato hailed from Dumurdi village of Purulia District in West Bengal. He lived with his father Nihal and his mother Gundal. His mother died while giving birth to his younger brother Ganesh. Theirs was a low caste Hindu family. Arindam’s family lived in a small single-room mud house. Nihal worked as a daily wage labourer in the village. He was addicted to alcohol. There was always unhappiness and tension at home due to his father’s drinking. His father would beat and abuse all of them regularly. There was extreme poverty, not even enough food for them to eat. After his mother’s death there was no one to love the children. The home environment was very unpleasant.
Then his father married the second time without giving any prior notice to his children! It happened when Arindam was in Class 4. One day when he came back from the school he was surprised to find a woman dressed up like a bride in his house. On asking a neighbor who she was, he was told that she was his stepmother and that from then on their life would be made more miserable! On hearing this he felt like an orphan. He was cursing his father in his heart. Without hesitating for a moment he just ran away.
When he left, the 10-year-old Arindam had no idea of where he was going and how he would survive. He only knew that in order to live a better life, he wished to stay away from his parents. He was feeling very lonely. Images of some other boys from his village who had left home earlier flashed across his mind. He did not inform anyone and did not take anything for the journey ahead. The only thing that he carried was pain in his heart!
He came to TATA Bus stand. Here he started working as a helper in a hotel close by. He had the task of washing dishes. His owner was very happy with his hard work and sincerity but would punish him for every small mistake. Arindam did not like this. He was looking for peace, respect and dignity.
One day, a customer who came to the hotel, offered him a job as a domestic helper. Without a second thought, he left the hotel. In his new job too he did not find happiness. There was no time for rest during the day. He alone had to do all the household work. The environment was that of mercy and dominance. He left the place after four months. He reached Howrah Railway Station. He sat on a bench staring into the distance. His face was blank! Just then Brother Tasha Joseph, a staff member of Don Bosco Ashalayam, passed by. Seeing Arindam he stopped and talked to him and invited him to Don Bosco Ashalayam, a Shelter Home for runaways and lost children.
On reaching Ashalayam he liked the whole atmosphere. Many Fathers, aunties and uncles talked to him. He felt accepted. After being there for a few days, he underwent a bridge course at Asha Neer, a sub-centre of Ashalayam. This was a sort of preparation for him to go to school. Thereafter Arindam was admitted to Class IV at Asha Jyoti School. On completing Class X, Arindam decided to undergo vocational training. He completed his ITI at Don Bosco Industrial Training Institute at Liluah, in 2010.
Once he had settled down, attempts were made to link him up with his family. But Arindam did not ever express a desire to go home even during the vacations. He did not want to maintain any contact with them. Whenever he was asked anything about his family by anyone, he would avoid the conversation and request that the topic not be raised.
It was during the second year of his ITI course that he went home for the first time. It was nine years after he had left home. This too was out of compulsion as he needed his birth certificate. He did not remember his house. When finally he reached home, both his father and stepmother gladly welcomed him and accepted him wholeheartedly.
Today Arindam is working as a C.N.C. operator in Vikrant Forge, Dankuni, Hoogly, West Bengal, drawing a salary of Rs. 5,500 per month. He is 21 now. Hard work, will power, self-confidence and positive thinking are qualities found in him. He is a role model for other children in Don Bosco Ashalayam. He is especially known for being a good listener, one who listens to others with an understanding heart.
He has rejoined with his family. His stepmother has accepted him and he has developed a bond with her. He is happy to be a part of his family. At the same time, he is rooted in his past. He says that it has always driven him to do better in life. The support he received from Don Bosco staff members is cherished by him. He often visits Ashalayam to share his joys and sorrows. He seeks guidance and support from the Fathers whenever he feels necessary. He is recognized and appreciated in his native village too. Once a mere zero, today he is a hero.
Arindam wishes to give back what he has received from Don Bosco in some form to the society. One way he does it is by spreading awareness about the rights of individuals as citizens of a country. He talks to people regarding the importance of being responsible citizens by acquiring the Voter’s ID Cards, as well as collecting other certificates that they have a right to obtain from various civil authorities. He involves himself in teaching villagers regarding the importance of education, especially elementary education. He is also involved in making people understand the ill effects and legal implications of social evils such as child marriage.

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