Popularly known as 'Akshara Santa' (Saint of letters), Harekala Hajabba, in his 60s, is an ideal example of the saying where there is a will, there is a way. And he has done what most can only dream of.

Hailing from a small village called Newpadpu (Harekala) in rural Karnataka; Hajabba dreamt of a small school for the village children and worked very hard for ten years to build upon that dream. And he did so by selling oranges and keeping aside a part of the income for the school fund. 

On November 7, the real hero flew all the way to the national capital to receive the fourth highest civilian award, the Padma Shri from President Ram Nath Kovind.

Harekala Hajabba receiving the Padma Shri honor from the President of India
Harekala Hajabba receiving the Padma Shri honor from the President of IndiaTwitter

In a video posted on Twitter by Dr. Bharath Shetty, BJP MLA from Mangalore city, Hajabba can be seen standing in a queue on the runway waiting to board a flight to New Delhi. 


On November 8, Monday, he received the honour for his selfless social work done at the grassroots level at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The list of other awardees included S. Ramakrishnan, who made 'Amar Seva Sangam', a safe refuge for the differently-abled persons in South Tamil Nadu and Kumari Sabarmatee of Sambhav foundation for her contribution to the field of agriculture.

Long before he was chosen to be conferred the Padma Shri award in 2020, the world had taken notice of his efforts. 

When Hajabba decided to start a school in 2000, he received little support, but his determination saw him open a primary school with 28 students in a madrassa, a Muslim educational institution generally connected to a mosque, mentioned a BBC article in 2012.

Trigger in life

In the same report, he told the BBC, "The first time I felt handicapped because of my lack of education was when a foreigner asked me the price of the fruits in English. I didn't know what he meant... an idea struck me to start a primary school so that the young children of my village would not go through a similar situation."

Harekala Hajabba
Harekala Hajabba. Twitter: @ParveenKaswan

The article furthered that as the number of students grew, he needed new premises, so he took out loans and used his savings to buy land for the school. With support from a few philanthropists and his own savings, Hajabba managed to construct a small building for the primary school.

Apart from the Padma Shri, in 2013, the Government of Karnataka awarded the Karnataka Rajyotsava Prashasti to him. His life story is included as one of the chapters for degree students studying at Mangalore University, Kuvempu University and Davangere University in Karnataka. 

Reacting to his victory, netizens shared their proud sentiments on Twitter.

Harekala Hajabba
Harekala Hajabba

"Harekala Hajabba will be the inspiration to the future generation. Most deserved candidate to get state's honour," stated Taranath Hegde.