The Gandhi scion spotted Rohit in a crowd of around 2,000 people on Sunday in Palghar, where he addressed a group of Youth Congress workers.
Upon learning that the boy dropped out of school two years back after his parents passed away within two months of each other, Rahul asked Minister of State for Tribal Development Rajendra Gavit to not only have the boy readmitted to a school, but also left instructions that he be kept updated on the boy’s annual progress.
For Rohit, it was a spur-of-the-moment decision to hop onto a Virar-Dahanu shuttle after he saw a poster announcing Rahul’s Palghar visit (Saturday isn’t a great day for business on Mumbai locals anyway).
That decision has changed the course of his life.
It was almost like the universe was conspiring to put Rohit in the right place at the right time. At Aryan School ground, where Rahul was meeting party workers, Rohit was denied entry because he was not carrying a pass. He was disappointed, but decided to wait hoping he would get a glimpse of Rahul or at least his chopper when he left. But fate had more in store for him.
After the meeting got over, Rahul was walking towards his chopper when he suddenly turned around, broke security cordon and walked straight up to Rohit in the crowd. Touching the boy’s face gently, Rahul asked him his name and whether he went to school.
When Rohit told him he can’t afford school because he is an orphan, Rahul told his security officer he would like to talk to the boy alone and that he should be escorted to the pandal inside.
Rahul spoke to Rohit one-on-one for a minute or so. That one minute could well turn out be a very significant moment of his life.
His parents’ deaths were a big blow to Rohit. His father, a daily-wage construction worker, died of malaria in August 2009. There was no money to get him treatment.
His mom, who continued to fund Rohit’s education by working as a housemaid, succumbed to tuberculosis in October the same year. She too could not get any medical attention because the family had no money.
|Though shattered by the turn of events, Rohit hardly had any time to mourn. Survival was the priority.|
In November, he quit school and began looking for employment. Some friends told him that hair clips sell well on local trains. He checked with a trader in Dharavi, who asked for a deposit of Rs 500 before he could trust the boy with a few boxes of clips.
Rohit contacted one of his mother’s employers in Vasai. Since he would sometimes accompany his mother to the households where she worked, this particular Gujarati family knew him. They gave him Rs 500 and told him he need not bother repaying the sum.
Rohit began selling hair clips. He would do brisk business from morning to late noon the peak hours. On good days, he would make Rs 150. With four of his friends, Rohit shared a small room in a chawl in Nalla Sopara (east) for which they paid Rs 2,000 per month to the owner.
The cramped chawl room and sweaty ladies’ train compartments could now be in the past. Rohit is going back to school.
The minister has asked Rohit to meet him on February 2 with all school testimonials. “I hope to rejoin the Hindi-medium school I was studying in before my parents passed away,” he says, and then adds shyly, “If I make some money someday, I would like to visit my grandparents in Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh. They are poor farm labourers.