Devarapalli Prakash Rao, an elderly man who runs a tea stall in Cuttack city’s busy Buxi Bazaar area, was at a hospital on Saturday (January 25) when he got the biggest surprise of his life.
At around 11:30 pm, he was informed via a phone call from Delhi that the government had conferred him with the fourth-highest civilian award in India, the Padma Shri, for his contributions in the field of social work.
“Yesterday at around 11:30 pm, I got a call from Delhi saying that I am being conferred with the fourth-highest civilian award, the Padma Shri. I don’t deserve such a big award, but if people want this award for me, it will be an inspiration for others,” he said.
Rao is one of the three individuals from Odisha who received the honour this year a huge achievement for a tea-seller who was forced to quit school before passing class 10 due to poverty. He subsequently inherited his father’s tea stall and has been running it ever since.
However, the 59-year-old is no ordinary tea-seller. Awarded Padma Shri for his efforts to boost affordable education, he has a strong command over 8 different languages and uses his knowledge to help children from poorer sections of the society.
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi met him during a visit to Cuttack in 2018, he was touched by Rao’s initiative. The prime minister even mentioned his name during a Maan Ki Baat’ address, where he praised him for taking up such an important initiative.
Rao considers Narendra Modi’s praise as his biggest achievement in life. PM Modi has recognized my Contribution to society, that’s my biggest achievement, he said.
The humble tea-seller, who has also been an active blood donor since 1976, hopes that his award will be a lesson for millions of youth in the nation.