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A Teacher Who Walks into His Classroom on His Hands #WATWB

By 25/01/2019January 29th, 2019We are the World, writing
Mithu Mandal is a teacher who walks into his classroom on his hands.
Mithu Mandal is a teacher who walks into his classroom on his hands.

Mithu Mandal, posing on the scooter customised to his special needs by his brother

We are the World Blogfest (#WATWB) focuses on positive stories no matter where they’re found. It is all about spreading peace and humanity on social media.

My story on this 20th edition of WATWB is from Project WHY (an organization I’ve blogged about, often) and its protagonist is Mithu Mandal, the computer teacher at Project Why Okhla Center.

I’d seen Mithu earlier, but it was last November that I got to speak to him at length.

I’ve  watched many episodes of Ted talks and often come across inspirational videos on social media, but Mithu was my first real experience of the extreme resilience of the human spirit.

Mithu lost both his legs to polio when he was three, but he doesn’t use crutches, preferring to negotiate the world on his hands.

Mithu is a teacher at Project WHY

Mithu with his colleagues, and teaching in his classroom

He cracks jokes, teases his colleagues, offers them lifts home on a scooter cutomized to his needs by his brother. His students sit on chairs with computers in front of them while Mithu the teacher stays on the floor, yet remains in complete command of the classroom. He climbs trees, hops on and off chairs, plays cricket and other sports, and describes it all with a casual abandon: ye toh normal si baat hai–this is just a normal affair, don’t go making a big deal of it.

Mithu Mandal, Teacher at Project WHYThree minutes with him, you forget he has a disability, and laugh at his jokes. When I said I wanted to interview him on camera, he grinned and gave a waggle of his eyebrows, “Hold on, let me go set my hair.”

Not only was he articulate, positive and cheerful, but quite the show-off while posing for the lens. And there I was, all my limbs intact, with my education and my privileged life , but with a fraction of his smiles, and the joy that fair pours off him at times.

The center he teaches at might soon close its doors due to lack of funds, and this will not only leave Mithu without a job, but also break up the wonderful place that has become a second home to him.

The Project WHY Okhla education center started off in 2004 to address the problems of a vulnerable group of children who were targeted by drug and other mafias. Space wasn’t easy to find and the only option was a space near a garbage dump. It was ‘reclaimed’ and classes began under a plastic sheet held by bamboo poles. The center is the result of hard work from its staff and founders, who have faced everything from littering, to assault from criminal elements in order to keep it running all these years.

Today, the Okhla center has a stable structure, and Mithu runs its computer program. It helps retain children in school, offering primary and secondary education along with the computer classes. The center is an important component of the neighborhood: it keeps crime, drugs and negative elements at bay and replaces them with education and employment.

Starting next week, I hope to help Mithu Mandal raise funds for the Project WHY center in Okhla.

Last November, some of the Daily (w)rite family got together to blog and raise funds for their sewing circle, and I was thrilled and grateful to see contributions coming in from India, the US, the UK and other parts of the world.

I’m hoping we can all come together this February (the shortest month of the year neatly bisected by the day that celebrates love) and bring it home for Mithu Mandal the computer teacher, his colleagues, and the kids he teaches.

UPDATE: Save Mithu’s School Fundraiser is now live.

Please help donate a small amount, and share the fundraiser in your social media  ( #HelpMithuSaveSchool ), to help Mithu reach his goal!

Donate to Help Mithu Save His School Fundraiser

Have you met people like Mithu Mandal in your daily life? How did they make you feel?

Would you support Mithu’s quest to save the Project WHY Okhla center where he works?

If you would like to support this teacher with a small donation or help spread the word about him through your blog or social media, leave a word in the comments, and I’ll inform you once the fundraiser goes live.

This post was the 20th installment of the monthly We Are the World Blogfest: I’d like to invite you to join, if you haven’t as yet, to post Fvourite Placethe last Friday of each month a snippet of positive news that shows our essential, beautiful humanity.

The co-hosts for this month are: Shilpa GargSylvia Stein, Simon Falk, Inderpreet Uppal and yours truly.

Here’s a sampler of this blogfest. Click here to know more. Sign up here and add your bit of cheer to the world on the next installment of February 22, 2018!

Please join Daily (w)rite on its Facebook Page in case you’d like to be heard by this community. If you liked this post, you can have posts delivered to your inbox by subscribing via email.

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • Another wonderful story from Project Why – you are so compelling that I have contributed).

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Hilary I have no role in this other than being the messenger.

      It is the hard work and honesty of Project WHY that moves you, and you have a beautiful, generous heart that gets moved enough to help.

      Thank you for contributing to Project WHY once again. Can’t tell you how grateful I am.

  • jmh says:

    What a great, inspiring story and gorgeous photos. It’s interesting how so often, those whom we consider “disadvantaged” seem to be a hell of a lot happier than the rest of us. Makes you wonder who is actually disadvantaged.

    Shared and donated.

  • Shalzmojo says:

    I had met him during my visit to the centre and he is all that and more that you mentioned here. He is extremely humble and friendly with his easy going manners and a very big smile on his face. More power to him and the Porject Why family – keeping my hope high for this centre to not close.

  • Parul Thakur says:

    So inspiring. Loved the zeal and enthusiasm. Thanks for sharing. May my day better.

  • DutchIl says:

    A wonderful story!… the teacher is an inspiration to everyone!.. thank you for sharing!.. 🙂

    “If you think you can, you can. And if you think you can’t, you’re right”. Mary Kay Ash

  • Modern Gypsy says:

    Such an inspiring and heart warming story! More power to Mithu. I hope this fund raiser is as successful as the one for the sewing circle.

  • Such an inspiring and heart warming story. Hats off to this man who is fighting against odds with his head held high.

  • What an inspiring guy Mithu is, Damyanti. I love that constant smile on his face. A true winner. I hope we can all join hands for this fund raiser too.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks so much Corinne! I think if Mithu’s story could be spread far and wide, there are enough kind people in the world who would come together to make this fundraiser a success!

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      He’s quite an example to follow. Whenever I feel myself growing sad, I think of him. Thanks for stepping up yet again to help with Project WHY.

      I’m sure Mithu will appreciate the gesture. I wish I could introduce him to you some day.

  • Balaka says:

    Inspiring story. Let us join hands to raise funds so that his center doesn’t shut down.

  • I am inspired. I am quite sure we as people are much happier accepting our circumstances than wishing for something different. What a great story.

  • Rachna says:

    Loved reading about Mithu. Such a joyful persona. So inspirational that despite his disability he carries on in life with happiness. Thank you for sharing his tale with us, Damyanti.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks for your kind words about Mithu, Rachna.

      Could I ask for help in spreading news of the fundraiser when it goes online?

      • Rachna says:

        Sure. Will share.

        • Damyanti Biswas says:

          Thanks, Rachna, have added you to the group of folk who are sharing Mithu’s story in order to help with his fundraiser.

          Really appreciate the support!

  • boomergrl49 says:

    What a courageous man! Thank you for posting.

  • DrAmrita says:

    Why isn’t the Government of Delhi helping this project? Let’s all write for it again Damyanti. Email me deets and I will be happy to lend a hand

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thank you so much, Amrita! I have added the plan of action in the fundraisers group that you’re already part of. So happy to have your support once again! The fundraiser link is live as of today.

  • Geethica says:

    Damyanti, I am thankful to you that you bring in such courageous reality of people.I have read such good deeds by you. I would love to watch more from Mithu.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      The good deeds are all by the nonprofits, I merely talk about them because they don’t talk about themselves enough. Thank you for your interest. We’re thinking of doing a blogathon for Mithu. Let me know if you’d be interested.

  • Peter Nena says:

    I don’t see Mithu’s disability. He is a complete human. What he can accomplish, what he has accomplished, what more must he do to be considered whole and able? I have met “whole and able” people who behave as though they lack limbs! In this world, it sometimes gets too hard to tell who is disabled and who is not. I love what Mithu does and I hope the school never gets shut down. Thank you, Damyanti.

  • ccyager says:

    Mithu is indeed a wonderful example of the resilience of human beings. Thanks for telling us about him and his life. I hope he’s able to keep his job!

  • hilarymb says:

    Hi Damyanti – shows us all up … Mithu really sets an example as a leader in life … please let me know when the fundraiser goes live. Humans who have very little are so often the most generous with their time, their thoughts, their smiles and positive outlook in life … amazing man – and long may the Okhla Centre continue to run … helping those in the neighbourhood learn. Brilliant #WAWTB post … cheers Hilary

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Yes, Mithu is the kind of example I’d like to follow, and share with others. Thanks for your support, and for your offer to help him and the Okhla centre. I will definitely let you know when the fundraiser goes online.

  • pjlazos says:

    Another amazing story of fortitude and resilience, all done with a huge smile! Thank you for sharing, Damyanti. What an inspiration Mithu is.

  • Shilpa Gupte says:

    Usually, it is those with disabilities who wear bigger smiles and hold a lot more hope in their hearts, isn’t it? And, we, the “complete ones” have a hundred things to grumble about. 🙁
    I hope Mithu’s story touches hearts and inspires others like him to turn a new leaf and begin life afresh.

  • bikerchick57 says:

    I always admire those with disabilities who have a positive outlook on life and live in such a determined way as Mithu does. He’s in inspiration! I hope the Project WHY Okhla center is able to continue running and that Mithu can continue his teaching.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks, Mary. Please help spread the word on this, so that when the fundraiser goes live, we’re able to help Mithu raise the money needed.

  • Laureen says:

    Now this we can call passion! From such a teacher I am sure the students learn more than one life lesson. Great job!

    All the best

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Yes, I’m sure they learn a lot more than computers from Mithu Mandal.

  • Christy B says:

    Wow, he is amazing ~ What an incredible spirit! Sharing across social media 🙂 Also, I love your new profile photo in the header of the site here!

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks for the shares. The more people know about Mithu Mandal, the better our chances of preventing his centre from shutting down. Thanks for the kind words on the photo–a very good friend with great camera skills is behind it.

  • Susan Scott says:

    That smile! His attitude! Mithu Mandal is the Man for sure! What an extraordinarily inspirational story Damyanti thank you for it! Please alert me when the fundraising goes live. I’ll do my best to donate ..

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thank you Susan! Will definitely let you know once his fundraiser goes live.

  • JT Twissel says:

    What a wonderful story. Thanks!

  • Nassima says:

    Disability is in the mind, beautiful soul he has? My dear uncle who is no more here, was paralyzed since he was young, so he couldn’t walk at all, but this didn’t stop him from being a self-taught great Artist? and the founder of a small organization that teaches IT for disabled persons ( this was during 1993) when computers were available only in governmental offices. I miss him so much? and Mithu just reminded me of him?
    Thanks for this beautiful, inspiring post Damyanti?

  • Shilpa Garg says:

    Mithu has such a delightful outlook. He did not lets his disability define him and brushes it off as normal. Truly awe-inspiring. More power to him as he touches and transforms young lives.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks for the kind words on Mithu, Shilpa. Please help spread the word about him so we can help him save the centre he works at.

  • macjam47 says:

    So inspirational! A wonderful and uplifting story, Damyanti! ???

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks, Michelle. Mithu is truly an inspirational guy, much more than the others I’ve watched on TV.

  • Mithu is an amazing soul who has taught me the true meaning of living.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      He changed my outlook on life, too. He has so many challenges, yet he smiles more than I do.

  • Jessica says:

    One word. Admirable. It’s hard to imagine living without using your feet but he live his life as if he has no physical problems

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      He does. Amazing energy and good cheer despite the challenges.

  • Inspiring personality. Thanks for sharing.

  • What a remarkable man. Proof that disability is all in the mind.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Oh yes, it is. The day we all have this much power over our minds, we can make the world a happier, better place.

  • cath says:

    What a story. Ticks all the boxes. 🙂