A quaint teashop on one of the dingy lanes in Sharda Nagar in Kanpur has been the talk of the town for the past few weeks. The teashop is often seen crowded. It is not the tea but the owner of the teashop Muhammad Mahboob Malik who draws the crowd now. This 29-year-old commoner had become an overnight celebrity in the locality after he was mentioned by former cricketer VVS Laxman in one of his tweets recently.
Laxman had shared the incredibly inspiring life of Malik who has been sponsoring the education of 40 poor kids, for the last three years, using 80% of his income. Forty students study in various divisions till class 4 in his school.
Malik’s father was the only earning member in his family which had six children. His income alone was not enough to make the two ends meet. So, the kids didn’t have enough opportunities to fare well in their studies. Amidst all these struggles, Malik could only study till class 10.
Soon, Malik too began working at his father’s teashop. It was then that he began noticing how a few kids from the poor families in the locality were roaming around or begging, without attending school. Most of them were the children of single mothers who struggled even to feed their kids at least one meal a day. For them, sending their children to the school was unthinkable.
Malik, who saw himself in those kids, had decided to sponsor their education. He believes that he would not have ended up in the small teashop on the street and could have done more for the development of the nation had he got the opportunity for better education. It was this thought which motivated Malik to take the significant decision to help the poor kids complete their education.
In the beginning, Malik opened coaching centers in the locality and also at Gurudev Talkies and Kanshiram Colony where around 350 children were taught for free. He even appointed teachers for a remuneration of Rs 2,000 per day for training the kids for two hours every day. However, soon he realized that the two-hour classes were not enough to bring significant changes in the attitude or life of those poor kids.
In 2017, as instructed by a friend, Malik began an NGO called the Tujhe Salam Foundation with the sole aim to provide free and quality education for the poor children in the locality. A core team of 5 members and other volunteers are responsible for training the 40 kids. The NGO provides uniform, shoes, socks, bag and other stationery items to these students absolutely free of cost. Malik finds the money to run this school, which functions in a rented building, from his income at the teashop.
Malik, who wakes up at 5 in the morning, works in the teashop from 5.30 am to 7.30 am. After 7.30 am, his father would manage the teashop when Malik goes to the school. He returns in the afternoon and would again work in the shop from 3 pm to 11 in the night. Malik tries to save at least Rs 500 per day to meet the expenses at the school.
In the beginning, a few neighbours had criticised Malik for spending his hard-earned money on this social cause. Some had even called him mad. But the same people began appreciating him when more people came to know about his amazing effort. After Laxman’s tweet became viral, lots of people are coming to meet him at his teashop and school.
Now, Malik is all set to register his NGO and secure 80G certification that will enable tax exemption for donors. Malik wishes to work even harder so that he can extent his school to class 10 where he could give free education to at least 200 poor kids.