91-year-old Bihar villager stitches 450 national flags in seven days
In a record-of-sorts, a 91-year-old villager in Bihar toiled away at his sewing machine for a week, pushing himself through a gruelling 12-hour schedule every day, to come out with 450 pieces of the national flag.
Lalmohan Paswan, who resides in a nondescript village in Supaul district bordering Nepal, calls himself a "Gandhian", counts Jawaharlal Nehru and Rajendra Prasad among his role models and firmly believes that the Mahatma's message of "ahimsa" (non-violence) is the only way out for a strife-torn world.
"When I received the order for 450 tirangas (tricolour), to be supplied within a week, I knew it was a daunting task, especially at my age.
But it was a sacred duty and I am proud to have handed over the desired number of flags a day before Independence Day," said Paswan.
The order was placed, as part of 'Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav' campaign, by HelpAge India, a not-for-profit organisation that supports disadvantaged and destitute elders, making them self-reliant through its livelihood program.
"The flags were to be supplied at local schools and offices. We were, however, assured that Lalmohan Paswan will meet the deadline. He has been working with us for eight years. His grit has been a source of inspiration for all," said Jyotish Jha, district program coordinator for HelpAge India in Supaul.
According to Jha, the nonagenarian happens to be among the nearly three million people of north Bihar whose lives were turned upside down by the devastating Kosi floods of 2008, which had killed hundreds of people.
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Although Paswan did not lose his near and dear ones to the floods, recorded as among the worst in the state's history, caused by a sudden and drastic change in the course of Kosi River, his Nirmali village falling under Basantpur block was ravaged.
"My house was washed away and so were the cattle we reared for making our ends meet. The fury of 'Kosi maiya' subsided in due course but we were left with no means of subsistence," recalled Paswan.
Jha said Paswan was discovered by HelpAge India in 2014 when the organisation was in the process of setting up elder self help groups (ESHGs) in the districts that were the worst affected by the calamity.
"Paswan was inducted into an ESHG called Bajrang Vriddh. He had been an agricultural labourer but the fields in his village were rendered unfit for cultivation following the floods," said Jha.
"He got a loan of Rs 7,500 upon getting associated with the ESHG. He bought a sewing machine and took to stitching clothes. He showed remarkable adaptability and enterprise and soon he was earning up to Rs 1,500 per month," Jha added.
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