- Dana Majhi is something of a legend in Kalahandi now
- He has received Rs 9 lakh from various government schemes
- He wishes to use the money for his daughters' education
Melghar : The door to Dana Majhi’s empty one-room mud hut is always unlocked. Despite being given Rs 9 lakh from various government schemes and private donations after his wife’s death, there is nothing valuable in here – a change of clothes, a pair of shoes that aren’t slippers.
The only thing that can’t be replaced is the memory of his dead wife, whose picture hangs on a blank, mouldy wall.
It was her body, wrapped in a sheet, that Dana Majhi was carrying home from a hospital 80 km away, when he was intercepted by a television crew last month. The photographs had haunted India, raising multiple questions about dignity in death for the nation’s poor and the role of the government and the healthcare system.
Now, rather late in the day, Dana Majhi has come to more money than he has had in his entire life.
So what would you do if you were Dana Majhi and received such a fortune? Buy a car? There are no roads in Melghar village. Invest in essentials like a fan or a fridge? There’s no electricity either.
Dana Majhi has decided to get his three daughters educated – something that has been a dream for the farm labourer so far.
But it also means a painful parting – education, too, is not available in the village. The girls will have to go away to state capital Bhubaneswar – 13 hours away, leaving him alone.
10-year-old Sonai still breaks down at the mention of her mother. Yet to come to terms with losing her mother, Sonai fears going away from her father. “I will miss my father,” she says simply.
Her 14-yr-old older sister Chandani, who was captured on camera walking beside her father on his 10 km trek carrying her mother’s body, is stoic. His youngest daughter is 5-year-old.
But Dana Majhi is clear about what he wants for his daughters. “I will educate them. What will they do here? They should have a better life,” he said.
In Kalahandi, Dana Majhi is now something of a legend. People wait on roads to catch a glimpse of him. Many speculate that he will be made village sarpanch or given a ticket in the next elections.
His neighbours happily recalled that on the 10th day after his wife’s death, as part of the last rites, Majhi had invited them for a traditional meal. Two goats and a quintal of chicken were prepared. Dana Majhi’s misfortune meant that they slept on full stomachs that night.
There are many Dana Majhis in Kalahandi. The absolute and stubborn poverty of Odisha is like the proverbial multi-headed monster – cut one off and another immediately grows in its place.
At the Bhavanipatna District headquarter hospital, where Dana Majhi had brought his sick wife as a last resort, similar scenes are still visible.
Brothers Kanhaiya and Ravi Bagh sit desolately by their father’s dead body wrapped in a blanket. He died at 1 am and they have been waiting for 7 hours for an ambulance to take them home as per the state government’s Mahaparayana scheme.