Photo of boy studying by roadside in India triggers wave of support

Harendra Singh Chauhan was photographed by a passerby as he sat outside the Noida City Centre Metro station, deeply engrossed in his books.
Harendra Singh Chauhan was photographed by a passerby as he sat outside the Noida City Centre Metro station, deeply engrossed in his books.PHOTO: VIKAS SHARDA/ FACEBOOK

The plight of a 13-year-old boy who sat by a pavement with a weighing scale to earn money and pay his way through school has triggered a wave of support in India.

Harendra Singh Chauhan, from the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, was photographed by a passerby as he sat outside the Noida City Centre Metro station, deeply engrossed in his books.

Mr Vikas Sharda's moving image of the bespectacled, barefooted boy, which he posted on his Facebook page on Sept 23, has since been shared more than 27,000 times.

"He had this weighing scale with which he was trying to earn some quick bucks. It was evident he wants to study despite his poor upbringing," wrote Mr Vikas in his post.

"It is a rare sight. I want you people who travel from Noida Metro after 7pm to use his services and somehow help him get back to studies."

The photo was widely circulated in the local media and eventually brought to the attention of Uttar Pradesh's Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.

Mr Yadav invited Harendra to his home on Sunday (Sept 27) and handed over a cheque of Rs 5 lakh, or 500,000 rupees (S$10,760), reported The Times of India.

Offers of help have also poured in from non-governmental organisations, business houses, entrepreneurs and politicians across the country, with many readers writing in to the paper to ask how they could assist in helping Harendra complete his studies.

But while the boy himself has been overwhelmed by the attention, he has turned down all other offers of help - including refusing the gift of a bicycle from a district judge in Uttar Pradesh.

"I am grateful to the Chief Minister," he said. "However, I do not want any other help as now that my father has got a job, I am confident he will be able to support me and my family." His father is said to have polio.

 

Harendra had reportedly took matters into his own hands after his father had lost his job in 2013, and started working outside the station to earn some money to pay for his school supplies.

He would wake up at 6am everyday and walk 5km to school, before going to the station after his studies at 7pm and sit for two hours.

And despite the hardship, he is among the top students in his class and hopes to fulfill his ambition of joining the Indian Army when he grows up.

Harendra's story is remarkably similar to that of Filipino student Daniel Cabrera, 9, who was photographed in July studying on the pavement by the faint light from a nearby McDonald's outlet in Cebu.

After the photo of Cabrera went viral, he was flooded with aid in the form of cash donations, school supplies, a reading lamp and even a college scholarship.