A year ago Mr. Sriram Nanivadekar [‘Bhau’ to us] and pointed out a story of a boy living below poverty line. He wanted to study and be an engineer. The story was published in Loksatta, a Marathi daily. Good Samaritans stepped in promptly and the boy is now in his second year of engineering course, doing very well academically. Bhau was in dialogue with Subhash Harad, the reporter who published the story.
I published it on my blog [here is the link]. Bhau, now in his seventies, and a very socially active person used to volunteer work for Anandvan, Baba Amte’s establishment that has changed the lives of Aadivasi [a very loose translation would be ‘aboriginals’]. Bhau an engineer knew that ‘organising’ and ‘systematic’ approach was essential if the work was to be carried on in an impactful and meaningful way. He joined the good work started by Subhash Harad, Geeta Shah [a Manager with Wyeth laboratories] and her husband Satyajit who are quiet but great social activists themselves.
Initially contributions were collected from people, there is was no formal organisation, but accounts were meticulously maintained and published. It has been one year since they organised their group called “Vidya-Daan Sahayyak Mandal.” Originally the number of students they took under their wings to support was few. But the approach was systematic. Geeta, Satyajit Subhash would personally visit the house of a bright and deserving student and then extend help. They have adopted over 50 students so far! All this within one year!!
I had the privilege of attending their first anniversary meeting. All students live far below poverty line. They now plan to form a trust. Here are some glimpses of what I heard and saw:
Take a look at the home of Anil Padwal. It is a house of say 20ft by 20 ft [perhaps less]. Three buffalos stay in the same place [you can spot two buffalos in the pic] along with Anil and his family; his home does not have any walls within to make it into separate rooms. There is no electricity connection and even during the day there is insufficient light.
Ganesh Shirke scored 90% marks in the 12th standard and is now studying in polytechnic at Mumbra. He walked 15 Km for his attending school every day. He lived in a similar place, no electricity, no water, no basic amenities. Ganesh is spends long hours in library. He is motivated by the story of Kalpana Chawla, the Indian born American Astronaut who lost her life in NASA mission.
Madhuri Vishe chose the Arts Stream. She scored 75% marks in 12th standard. She preferred to enrol for B.Ed. course in order to find a good job soon. She lived in a veranda of a small house with her mother! Same story of no electricity or water. Walking long miles for schooling. Reportedly the family undergoes extreme harassment from other members of their joint family and her mother’s woes have no limit. Her father works as a loader, it is no permanent job, and he is a casual worker. Interestingly Madhuri and her other two siblings are brilliant in their studies and are supported by Vidya-Daan Mandal.
Prakash Gaikwad also comes from similar background. He scored 83% in SSC. He acknowledges the debt of his parents who live below subsistence level. He declared that he will be supporting a needy student when he finds employment! [I felt that I had so much to learn from these boys and girls!]. He is inspired by Veena Gawankar’s book ‘Ek Hota Carver’ [translation of the original English book based on George Washington Carver’ life]. He could not afford to buy it so he started copying one page a day! Prakash has enrolled for BSc with Microbiology at Birla College, Kalyan.
These are all unsung heroes, fighting against all odds. [This post is not written with a view to solicit any donation, but with a view to bring to attention what a group of inspired people can do to change the world around us.]
Should you wish to join in their efforts, you are welcome to contact Geeta Shah [not during office hours please, +91 98210 34436, or email@example.com].
You can spot Geeta [in dark saree] talking to Chetana Laate who wants to be a lawyer! It is a long fight for her, but there are people with her on that journey now!!