It is often said that happiness comes from embracing selflessness. But just like everything else, it’s easier said than done. Money was then Karimul Haque’s biggest obstacle as he couldn’t deploy his services for the welfare of his fellow villagers. However, scarcity of funds could not stop this 50-year-old man from helping people, especially when they needed the most.
Born in Dhalabhari village of Jalpaiguri district in West Bengal, Karimul only had poverty all around him. His family could not afford proper education for their son so he had to work as a labour to add to the family income. Healthcare facilities in his village were, and still are, very poor. The nearest hospital located about 50 km away.
Seeing his mother die
In 1995, Karimul’s mother had to pay the price for not having any hospital nearby. On that unfortunate day, Karimul went door-to-door in search of some medical aid to save his mother from a suspected heart attack. But sadly, there was nobody who could help him and eventually, she passed away at the crack of dawn.
Devastated by this event, Karimul pledged that he would not let another patient die because of dearth of medical facilities. Whenever he had an opportunity, he helped patients reach nearby hospitals to get the desired medical attention.
However, in 2007, one of his co-workers in the tea-garden collapsed in the field. Since there was dearth of ambulance, Karimul tied the patient to the back of his motorcycle, made him ride pillion, and took him to Jalpaiguri Sadar Hospital situated 50 km away. The co-worker received medical attention and regained his health. This made Karimul realize that he could actually start such a service of a bike-ambulance and at least get patients to the hospitals for them to receive medical attention. And that is when he started his service as a bike-ambulance, free of any kind of cost.
Initially, people thought Karimul was either disturbed or trying to hog the limelight. Some even went to the extent of accusing him of advertising for motorcycles.
“People laughed at me, but when help came their way in times of crisis, they started taking my work seriously,” said Karimul in an interview with Kenfolios.
However, 10 years down the line, the tables have turned. Local people now consider him God-sent. Some even seek his blessings before auspicious events.
“Karimul dada is next to God. When my mother-in-law had a stroke, we thought she won’t live. Thanks to Karimul dada, who drove at jet-speed to the hospital, she is hale and hearty now,” said Bulu, a villager.
Despite providing such selfless services, people still take a chance to take a dig at him. Some mock at him for helping others when he himself earned a meagre 4000 rupees a month. But such words have proven futile to this philanthropic man.
“I love people and don’t divide people based on their caste, creed, religion or colour. And why should we not help others? As a part of society, it is my duty to help others in need and live harmoniously.” said Karimul.
A grand saviour
Today, Karimul has become the saviour of more than 5,000 people in about 30 villages surrounding Dhalabari in the Dooars belt of Bengal. He earns a meagre amount of Rs 5,000 a month, but despite all the challenges, he never fails to take a needy patient to the hospital. More than half of his salary is spent on fuel for his bike and medicines for the poor.
Seeing his hard work, sometimes people donate him some money and that is all that this man relies on. Karimul also provides basic and first aid treatment to the villagers after learning from the local doctors. He also runs health camps and blood donation camps in tribal areas at regular intervals.
He dreams to bring an advanced ambulance to his village equipped with all the necessary facilities. He also plans to establish a hospital so that people can come there instead of going afar for medical treatment. His prayers have been answered, albeit partially. Recently, Bajaj upgraded his bike and attached it with a waterproof stretcher and ports for oxygen cylinder as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative.
His tireless benevolence did not go unnoticed and he won the Padma Shri award in 2017. Apart from that, he has received various felicitations from the government of West Bengal and also had a documentary made on his work by the students of Visva-Bharati University, Shantiniketan.