Sunday, July 7, 2013

The best decision to press forward... till now....

May people support underprivileged kids in different ways directly or though non-profit organizations. I have always dreamt of supporting kids education, especially for underprivileged kids.  But, it was not until yesterday, I really understood the meaning of what I was after and the impact of even the smallest things that you can do for the underprivileged kids.

Yesterday, on a typical rainy monsoon day, my family and I started our 150 Km journey to a very small town on Bombay- Goa highway.  My Aunt has been helping the schools in the region by providing books, bags and other necessary things. She found yet another school that could use some help. We talked to the teacher to identify their needs and decided to visit them with stuff that would fulfill their needs (books, pencils, sharpeners, erasers, rulers and bags for 25 kids enrolled in a government sponsored school.).

There are many routes to reach the small town that go across Western ghats in Maharashtra. In favor of shorter distance we decided to take the one that goes through Tamhini ghat. I had heard that the road is not very great and few villages on the way. We started from our place enthusiastically at 8:30 AM in the morning. By the time we had just reached the out skirts for Pune, I had started questioning my decision of opting for shorter route with bad roads for longer one with better roads. In some patches the roads barely existed. It was mostly loose gravel. In most places the notion of tar road was limited to the decorative rim of pot holes! After driving on such roads for about an hour we started driving up the Tamhini ghat. It had started raining and dark clouds every where. There were sheer cliffs with waterfalls on one side and deep ravines on the other. The roads didn't get any better and the curvy uphill made things go from bad to worse. At 10 AM in the morning it felt like evening with not a soul to be seen on the very lightly travelled road. In hind sight, now I know why the road is lightly travelled. And as all of this was not enough, my younger song got car sick. We pulled over in the middle of that uphill road, luckily in front of a small waterfall.

And at that point, me and my wife both thought that we have had enough of the treacherous journey and it was time for us to turn back. We didn't know if we could survive the bumpy road ahead with the possibility of weather taking the turn for the worse. But, then there were 25 kids waiting for us. 25 kids who would most probably be deprived of a whole years worth of school supplies. But then, was it worth taking the risk? Not knowing the path between where we were and the school itself. We had not even reached the top of the ghat and there was not a soul around if the car was to break down. We were still hour and a couple of hours away from our destination. We cleaned up quickly and got in the car and decided to take U turn back to Pune. As I turned on the car ignition, we looked at each other and without saying any words just nodded to press on with our journey towards the school.

As we kept moving forward, in about 15 mins we reach the top of the ghat and after that quality of the road had suddenly improved. All the way down the ghat and till we reached the school the roads were very good.

We finally reached the school which was just of off the Bombay-Goa highway. It had stopped raining but humidity had caught up with us. We were sweating profusely. The school was a small building with 3 rooms. One was principals office and two other were class rooms. It was a government funded school which gets around Rs. 400 per student per year. This amount isnot enough and leaves number of schools and student needs unfulfilled. Std. I, II and III were grouped together and Std. IV was separate.  There were about 15 kids in the class and it had been decorated with whatever had been donated to the school. There was no electricity since the school didn't have funding ( or may be the funds didn't' reach the school). So the kids were sitting in a naturally lit semi-lit classroom. The teacher and kids were very happy to see us. My kids and their cousin started distributing the bags, sweets and biscuits to the kids. They were ecstatic to get these. We gave the books to the teacher for distribution and also gave her money to pay off the electricity bill so that they can get electricity turned on in the school.

Some background about these kids who were enrolled in the school. Their parents worked in the nearby farms or construction sites. Kids attending this school attend till their parents are around till end of farming season (October/November). After that their parents move to different places to find temporary work. The kids go along with them not knowing if there will be another school in the new place. In case there are schools in the new place they attend, if not then take care of their siblings or spend their time at construction site or any of their parents place of occupation. Come June, they are back to the school, if the school is still functional! Cause their parents are back working in the farms.

Even with all the unpredictability, chaos, deprivation of basic kids life and many other horrible things that may be happening to them, there's still that sparkle...that ray of hope...that human nature to forget all the bad and enjoy the present when good things happen...that willingness to share with friends even in the most dire and desperate circumstances. These kids are an inspiration,they teach us the valuable lesson of hope, sharing and living in the present.

We ended up spending roughly around Rs. 6,000 to set the students up for their annual needs. My Aunt paid roughly Rs. 4,000 for their electricity bill so that they get electricity turned on in the school. This is not a lot of money for most middle and upper middle class people. They will spend Rs. 4,000 - 5,000 for a dinner in fancy restaurant. That same money spent once a year can help take our nation one step at a time.

All in all, as I look back to that point in Tamhini ghat, where everything looked dark, treacherous and unknown...where we had almost decided to take the U turn back to Pune, I'm glad to have taken the spurn-of-the-moment instinctive decision to press forward with our journey to reach the opened our doors to new and meaningful experience!


  1. Proud of you all, wherein we all just press on 'share' you guys have pressed the pedal of I 'dare' to do it and you guys did it !

  2. We are really really proud of you four for taking this least travelled path(literally as well as figuratively). It must have given you a lot of satisfaction that your hard-earned money could be utilised for the most needy people, rather kids. The happiness on their faces must have truly made your day! Besides, I also feel the urban kids need to be given such reality checks so that they know what deprivation is......
    About your writing i would like say, its very touching and straight from the heart.

  3. Good news! The school teacher called today that the electricity has been restored. Soon they will be getting a computer for the school!