Srinagar: From being an ice cream vendor, a motor mechanic, an autorickshaw driver, singer in a musical band, and now winning Rs 25 lakh in a popular Indian TV show, life has been full of hardships and surprises for Waseem Raja.
Host of the show and Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan wrote on his blog, “I do not know where they get the strength from in such conditions. The human is a rare specie. It is never aware of its capacity, its potential, its power.”
Bachchan was referring to people like Raja who appeared on Kaun Banega Crorepati’s special show ‘HouslaiBaaz’, the people who have emerged stronger after every adversity.
Raja, 3o, a father of two, left studies and started selling ice cream outside Women’s College at MA Road in 1992. He was 10 years old. His family lived in a two-room hut at Mandar Bagh bund. Raja said he wanted to study but the family’s economic condition did not permit it.
Three girls who were his regular customers were moved by his desire to study further and admitted him to Vasanta School at Barbarshah after taking his parents’ permission.
He appeard in matriculation in 2000, but left studies again soon after and started working as a mechanic. This time, the compelling reason was to marry off the only sister. But with a monthly salary of Rs 400, it would take ages to collect the enough money for the purpose.
Still, his mother contributed her own savings from whatever little she earned from knitting and bought Raja an autorickshaw. Though the family’s income increased, the family suffered a blow. Raja’s family was the only family that was not given a residential plot when the govenrment rehabiliated the Tchoont Koal dwellers.
“I sold the auto and we also borrowed money to buy ourselves an old house at Barbarshah,” Raja said.
For the next three years, he drove an auto that was not his own. One day, a meeting with three youngsters changed his life for good
“I had three customers while riding home one late evening. They were the members of the Valley Boys music band. I talked about my interest in music. They promised to help,” said Raja. The trio—Khalid, Ashraf and Rafiq—taught him music and soon he formed his own band, Expressions.
Raja hit fame with a song, Baghdad peath aaw Shah e Jeelan, which became very popular.
“We had a good customer base. And we earned well from our musical endeavours. Eight more boys joined me,” said Raja.
“I was able to repay all the borrowings and had a good life,” said Raja who married a girl, a graduate, in 2008.
During the September flood, Raja and his band members, rescued scores of people, beginning with his own family.
“A family from Muzaffarabad was stuck in a house in Shutrashahi. We rescued them and many more people,” he said. The story of the band’s commendable job soon reached the producers of KBC.
On October 15, a call from the KBC informed Raja that he would be the guest of their show on October 17.
“I had never thought a person like me would ever be sitting in the show ever,” he said.
“Amitabh Bachchan and the audience gave me a standing ovation. They gave me respect and I won Rs 25 lakh before the buzzer rang,” he said.
Waseem plans helping his friends who have lost their homes in the flood and reconstruct his own house too. He wants to buy musical equipments that were damaged in the flood and help the needy.
“There are people like me who, if they had a better education, would serve this valley better. Poor men like me are no less intelligent. They can be doctors, engineers and even the chief minister if they have opportunities,” said Raja.
In a way, Raja said, his life is again in crisis, like it was in 1992. His home is damaged, his musical equipment is gone and the blow to state’s economy means lesser earning opportunities.
He hopes the government will invite him to sing at official functions, else he “might have to buy an autorickshaw again”.