She lives in a 358sqft flat and survives on a monthly pension of Rs 50,454.
But Chitralekha Mallik is far richer than many Calcuttans. Last year, she gave Rs 56 lakh to Jadavpur University, from where she had completed her PhD.
The amount was so astounding that the manager of her bank had messaged her asking something to the effect: “Are you sure? It is about all the money you have. Save something for you.”
The retired college teacher, who has been going beyond her call of duty since her college days, told Metro on Wednesday: “Why would I need more money? I lead a very simple life and the pension that I draw is enough for my sustenance.”
Chitralekha, a former reader in Sanskrit at Victoria Institution in Rajabazar, has so far donated over Rs 97 lakh for the cause of education and charity.
“My pleasure comes from giving. I will give all that I have,” said the 71-year old.
“In 2018, I had donated Rs 50 lakh in the memory of my teacher Pandit Bidhubhusan Bhattacharya. I thought that a decent contribution in his name, whose teachings have formed the bedrock of my life, would be my way of paying tribute to him. Around the same time, I donated Rs 6 lakh in the memory of my teacher’s wife Haimabati Bhattacharya for a students’ scholarship,” she said.
To save each penny so that she can continue to donate, Chitralekha endures a lot of pain.
In 1994, an accident left her left leg shorter than her right one, forcing her to walk with a limp. But that has not diminished her courage. Despite the physical constraint, the septuagenarian travels long distances within the city by bus, said an official of Jadavpur University.
“She came to the university before Durga Puja for a courtesy briefing on what we intend to do with the fund she had given to institute a research scholarship in the name of her teacher, the late Pandit Bidhubhusan Bhattacharya. She travelled all the way from her Baguiati home to the university in a bus,” said a JU official.
Chitralekha, who had helmed the department of Sanskrit at her college, does not have any help at home. She does her grocery shopping by herself and cooks her own meals.
Can’t she afford a help, given her age and health?
“I want to save as much as possible. And as long as I can stay mobile, I want to do things on my own. If I don’t save, how can I gather enough for my next donation,” said Chitralekha, who had been the hostel superintendent at the Rajabazar college.
Contribution to an institution from resourceful patrons is nothing new. Over the years, former students or resourceful individuals have made major contributions to institutions such as IIT Kharagpur. What makes Chitralekha stand out is that she is not an industrial tycoon or the CEO of a company from whom institutions like the IITs benefit.
The former student of Birlapur Vidyalaya in South 24-Parganas has limited means, yet she has emptied her purse to help others.
Her father was a schoolteacher and she was raised in Birlapur.
Chitralekha made her first donation in 2003. She had donated Rs 50,000 to the Rajabazar college to set up a medical unit ahead of the National Assessment and Accreditation Council’s (Naac) visit. A Naac team allots marks for any additional facility available in an institution.
“The college did not have enough funds. I had provided the amount so that the institution could register a good score,” said the resident of flat number B1/6 of Usha Apartment on Rajarhat Road, a stone’s throw from the Baguiati-Joramandir intersection on VIP Road.
Chitralekha retired in 2008 and made her first big contribution six years later.
The former student of Bethune College had donated Rs 31 lakh to the Indian Research Institute for Integrated Medicine, Howrah, in the name of her parents Radha Ballav Mallik and Shailasudha Mallik.
“The institute that practices acupuncture, yoga and naturopathy helped me immensely in curing my ailment. Therefore, I donated the amount to the institute that was facing a resource crunch,” said Chitralekha, whose stint in teaching started at Mathabhanga College in Cooch Behar in 1974. In 1984 she was empanelled by the College Service Commission and joined the Deshabandhu Girls’ College on Rashbehari Avenue. After teaching for a few years at Deshabandhu Girls’ College, she moved to Victoria Institution in 1997.
Her next big donation of Rs 10 lakh was made to Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission Sevashrama, Vrindavan.
“They are the ones who take good care of the poor,” said the woman, who is the youngest of three sisters.
Then she set sight on making the biggest contribution of her life: Rs 56 lakh to JU.
Asked, what inspires her to donate? Chitralekha said: “There are two ways through which you can be content.
One is by spending on yourself. The other is by distributing among the needy what you have. I think the latter that has been my guiding principle. This is the lesson of Upanishad.”
As one who prefers to keep away from publicity, Chitralekha had initially discouraged this correspondent from visiting her single-room flat because it was “too small and not well decked up”.
Does anyone in a building that has three blocks and over 50 flats know about her incredible stories of giving donations?
“Why should I be telling this to anyone or for that matter even my next door neighbour? My only concern is that the poor and downtrodden benefit from the contributions. I want to keep doing it quietly,” said the Good Samaritan.
Source: The Telegraph