Murmu even had to swim to reach the school

During rainy days, she would often swim across the local flooding water body to reach the school, her teacher Behera said

BHUBANESWAR: On a day when Droupadi Murmu took oath as the President of India, two men in Odisha fondly recalled her journey. Her school teacher Basudeb Behera and Rajkishore Das, a former Bharatiya Janata Party leader have been instrumental in shaping the President’s life and career. Rajkishore is now a Biju Janata Dal MLA. “I feel proud today to see my student Droupadi occupying the highest constitutional position in the country.

Today, I recall the trials and tribulations she faced during her days as a student. She used walk to the school. During rainy days, she would often swim across the local flooding water body to reach the school,” Behera said. Behera recounted how he taught Droupadi after school hours under the light of a kerosene lamp called Dibiri Bati.

“For us, buying a kerosene lantern in 1968 was a dream because of its high cost. A lantern would then cost around Rs 30 while we could make Dibiri Bati with our own inkpot and medicine bottles. We used to teach Droupadi and other students with Dibiri Bati,” said Behera. The teacher said since Droupadi had no geometry box, the school had provided her one which she returned after she completed her Class VII studies. Droupadi too has in many interviews shared her own deprivations during the childhood.

“We used to walk to school barefooted and manage with one pair of dress for a whole year. But it did not give us any sense of inferiority as there was little scope of comparison. All the people of the area were living under similar conditions. We were all happy with our forests, streams and nature,” Murmu had said in an interview. She also shared how her father was unable to afford to buy new text books for her.

With the help of her uncle, she went to Bhubaneswar where she completed her graduation from Ramadevi College and immediately joined as a clerk in the irrigation department. She married Shyamasundar Murmu, a banker. She quit her job to bring up the children. After the children grew up, she decided to get busy with constructive work and hence joined a local school – Shri Aurobindo Integral School, as an honorary teacher.

Her good work was noticed by Rajkishore Das, then a frontline BJP leader of Odisha. He persuaded her to join politics. Her first steps in politics were taken in Rairangpur where she was elected as BJP councillor in 1997. She rose to being a minister in Odisha’s BJD-BJP coalition government from 2000 to 2004. In 2015, she was appointed governor of Jharkhand and stayed in the post till 2021. After completing her tenure as governor, Murmu devoted her time to meditation and social work in Rairangpur.

“I cannot express in words how happy I am to see Droupadi becoming the President of India. She charted out her own path and I was just a facilitator. She proved herself in every job she was assigned with,” said Rajkishore.

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