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‘Saved enough to get my sister married’: Wular Boy Bilal Dar’s inspiring journey documented by ‘Humans of Bombay’

May 29, 2022
Courtesy: Humans of Bombay

Bilal Ahmad Dar, the young Kashmiri who came into the limelight for his efforts to clean the Wular Lake as a rag-picker, is again in buzz. Back in 2017, Bilal, who was just 18 then, was chosen as the brand ambassador of Srinagar Municipal Corporation. He had been earning his living by picking up waste from the Wular Lake in the Bandipora district. As soon as his efforts came to the fore, people started knowing him as ‘Wular Boy’.

Six years later, Bilal has shared his journey about how he managed to save enough money to get his elder sister married this year. He still spreads awareness about keeping water bodies clean.

‘Humans of Bombay’, a social media portal that is known to feature such achievements, posted about Bilal recently. The story has since gone viral with thousands of views so far.

The Kashmir Monitor is reproducing the story verbatim:

“As a child, I used to go up and down the Wular lake with Abbu–his job was to take out the trash from the lake and sell it to the Kabadi wala. He’d always tell me how important it is to keep the lake clean; it was sacred.

Once, Abbu slipped from the boat and injured his leg on a sharp-edged wooden plank. When we took him to the doctor, we found out that Abbu was suffering from leg cancer; they told us that the toxic lake water might have caused it–within months, his cancer spread and he passed away.

I was barely 8 when the responsibility of taking care of Ammi and my 2 sisters fell on my shoulders. Ammi wasn’t keeping well, so I had to drop out of school and take Abbu’s job. But I couldn’t forget what the doctors had said– for me, the lake water was responsible for my father’s death and I was determined to clean it.

So every day, at 6 AM, I’d set out to collect trash and by evening, I’d have at least 10-15 kgs of plastic bottles, polythene and other waste materials. I’d sell the plastic to the kabadiwala who then sent it to a recycling unit– I’d earn Rs.150-200 a day. Most of it, I’d give to Ammi for household expenses and save the rest for my sister’s school fees–I wanted her to go to school.

That was my routine for 7 years. Once, a kabadiwala told me casually, ‘Do you know that you’ve bought me 12,000 kgs of plastic so far?’ I was so happy. Upon seeing how impactful my everyday activity was, I thought– what if my friends helped me? The cleaning process would be so much faster.

So, I started motivating my friends and other students to do the same. The results were evident; we could see patches of crystal clear water after years– the neighbours who used to mock me for being a scavenger started praising me for my achievements.

The word started spreading and in 2017, a documentary maker reached out and made a film on me; I became the talk of the town. The Srinagar Municipal Corporation appointed me as the brand ambassador of cleanliness; even the PM praised me. The corporation even gave me Rs.10,000 per 1.5 months to spread awareness about cleanliness!

Over the last 3 years, I’ve travelled around Kashmir extensively telling people to respect our waters– we’ve wronged our lakes and we need to make amends. It enrages me to see anyone throwing trash in the water; I don’t leave without giving them a mouthful.

Over time, I saved up my salary and this year, I had enough to get my older sister married. Now, I want to buy a big house for Ammi and put my younger sister in a reputed school. I want Abbu to be happy wherever he is. I’ve abided by his teaching all my life– he was a good man and he died doing something we all should’ve been doing; keeping our country, its waters clean.”

The original post was shared here

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