“I don’t have a permanent address; only a permanent cycle that people can spot from far away”, says Aditya Kumar. However, this is no ordinary cycle. Covered with bright pictures from his awareness campaigns, Kumar rides on it for almost 64 kilometers every day. The cycle is what helps Kumar carry books to slum children who need an education, for the last 23 years.
“The weight of all the books has worn it down and knocked out a bolt or two over the years, but it has just completed touring all the 29 states in the last 45 months”, Kumar says. A Limca Book record holder for teaching underprivileged kids, Kumar has been cycling and hosting mobile classrooms on wheels across Lucknow since 1995.
Kumar is a labourer’s son and hails from Farrukhabad, Salempur, and thanks to a good Samaritan, Kumar had managed to finish his studies. After completing his BSc from Kanpur, he left his home and started living on the platforms in Lucknow’s railway station often without a penny to his name, which is when he decided, –“It was my time to give back something to the society. Just like I was helped, I wanted to help others”. And that’s how he started his work in his career helping children with their education. He also travelled to remote parts of the country to spread awareness about the need for education – and sent almost 2 lakh students to school.
“I have traveled all over the country in the last 45 months and the more I traveled, the more I realised the importance of education in this country”. Kumar recently toured the country as part of his Bharat Yatra Campaign which began in January 2015, and aimed at spreading awareness about education at the grassroots level.
“Most people I encounter have never been to a classroom. So, they do not know what they are missing out on or what school would feel like. Their parents also haven’t been to a school ever, so it is difficult for them to understand the importance of education. It is difficult to convince them, but once I do, I make sure we keep in touch with them and help them through their educational journey”, Kumar says.
Popularly called Cycle-wale Guruji, Kumar teaches maths and functional English to his students. While speaking to indianexpress.com, he stresses the importance of English for today’s generation – “Even if people are brilliant, it is ultimately English that adds value to your education. There are people who hate English, but you have to face it, English is the language that connects the world. If you need to spread your ideas, it is English that will help you. It makes things easy.” He also offers bridge courses to children who have never been to a school. “Else, they tend to drop out. Bridge classes give them ambition and gear them up for school – things a pre-school education does”, he says.
With no help from the government, what Kumar has accomplished is a feat in itself. But he has to deal with his share of struggles. “We have to depend on luck and goodwill for monetary contributions”, he says. Ironically, Kumar’s family does not talk to him or support him, though. At 46, he has dedicated himself to a single cause – but for his family, who never received an education, his work seems unimportant and his dedication seems confusing. “My family fails to recognise my struggles. I stay on the streets or at people’s houses if they welcome me. In fact, when Limca Book of Records wanted to send me a certificate, I did not have a permanent address for them to send me a letter. A kind person offered to receive it at his house”.
Despite his wrestle with money and his family, Kumar’s will is strong. His victory is when his students excel and understand the importance of education. “Till the time my students believe in me, I keep going.”
His life is much like his mobile classroom – he does not have a permanent address, he parks himself anywhere for an impromptu class, is always on the move and carries only one permanent possession – his love for education. Along the way though, Kumar is ensuring that he leaves a host of literate and educated children across the country.