When Akash Mukherjee wrote his first check recently, his hand trembled. It was not just the presence of Sister Mary Prema, superior general of the Missionaries of Charity (MC), and his parents that made the 10-year-old nervous. He wanted to “get it right” because he was gifting the entire amount – nearly 100,000 rupees (US$1,810) he received for playing the lead role in a film in Bengali language – to the charity group. Sister Prema blessed, thanked and praised the fifth grader of the Jesuit-managed St. Xavier’s Primary School in Kolkata for the gift. After accepting the check on August 27, the German nun accompanied him on “a grand tour” of her congregation’s headquarters, including Blessed Teresa’s room. “So small! How did she live there?” the bespectacled boy blurted out after seeing the 5’x12’ room where the celebrated nun lived most of her life. The only child of Manisha and Gora Mukherjee, Akash was born August 26, a birthday he shares with the Nobel laureate nun. Akash’s association with the MCs started on his fifth birthday when his parents took him to Nirmal Hriday (Pure Heart), a home for the dying that Blessed Teresa started more than 60 years ago. “We wanted him to grow up with a sense of awareness of the world around him and the importance of sharing and giving,” Akash’s mother Manisha explained. Visiting MC homes on Akash’s birthday has become a tradition in the Mukherjee family. They take him to Shishu Bhavan (Children’s Home) where he cuts and shares his birthday cake, besides donating books, toys and clothes. Akash said his mother always insists that he should give away what he is especially fond of. He said he was surprised when the film company offered him remuneration for his acting. “I was happy just being a part of a movie,” he said. When he got the money, he initially planned to spend it on games for himself and gifts for his parents. Then, remembering that he shared his birthday gifts with Blessed Teresa’s children he decided to give the money to them. “I would continue to give them whatever I get on my birthday in future,” he told ucanews.com with excitement in his voice. However, giving is hard, he added. He said he did not understand why he should give his things to others when his parents first told him. “But now I love to do it because I want to see those children’s smiling faces,” he added. Manisha said her son plays a child who overcomes his loneliness through the effort of all participants in the yet-to-be released film Anubhav-Ekta chheler goppo (Feelings: The Story of a Lonely Child). She said Akash means “sky” in Bengali but it could also mean “endless” or “limitless.” Akash’s vice-principal at St. Xavier’s, Soma Gomes, described him as a “very honest and courteous” boy with “humility beyond his years” and applauded Akash’s parents for instilling in him a concern for others. She said the school has advised Akash’s parents to let Akash continue studies and take up acting during weekends and holidays. His class teacher Elizabeth Gakhar said Akash has handled his studies and acting remarkably well, without dropping his grades. Manisha said she wants Akash to take up acting when he is an adult. Akash, an admirer of footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, said acting was hard at first but he enjoyed it and had fun. He loves the outdoors and rushes out to play football whenever he can.
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