Raju Das was born on the pavement at Kalighat. His mother died and his father left, so he was cared for on the street by his grandmother. She was struggling to cope, as he would crawl under cars and into the street. Raju has cerebral palsy which affects both of his legs and at that time was unable to walk.
His grandmother would talk about Raju to foreigners on their way to volunteer at Mother Teresa's Home for the Dying. Eventually she was fortunate enough to be told about shuktara by one of the volunteers. In 2003 at the age of seven Raju came to us and his grandmother would come to visit him every weekend until she passed away a year later.
We had railings fitted around the flat to teach him how to balance and to walk. With physiotherapy he was soon agile and independent enough to be admitted to a local pre-school close to our home.
He has now finished his studies and is one of the boys who work at Shuktara Cakes – our French Patisserie Training Centre. With the skills he has learnt he hopes one day to have his own bakery business.
He enjoys the freedom he has at shuktara and the independence of earning money at Shuktara Cakes, which has allowed him to buy a mobile phone amongst other things. He is friendly and helpful in the house and loves his sessions on Playstation!
What is remarkable about Raju is how good he is at sign language – despite the fact that he is hearing. Bengali is his first language but because most of his friends are deaf, sign language has become his preferred and most used language. He is an incredible sign language interpreter and we always turn to him if we need any help understanding the nuances of what someone is signing.
Because his birthday is not known Raju chose to celebrate it on 1st July which is also the anniversary of the founding of shuktara.