Human society gives (or is meant to give) us dignity and self-respect. We understand hunger, thirst, love, smell just like other species on this planet do. But feeling inspired, national pride, dignity and other such evolved senses / feelings are more related to humans.
In my memory, the first time I felt inspired was probably when I read the history of our independence in 3rd standard. 20 years later, I relived the same feeling.
One of my very close friends, Aniket Mahulikar and his colleague Madhavi were with me at Delhi for the last 3 days. Aniket is 26. He is one of the best cricket players and certainly the best chess player our building has produced (the team has about 16 players :D). He figured in Bombay division merit list in 10th board exams and did his engineering from VJTI - one of the top Engg colleges in Bombay. He joined Infosys thereafter. He loves seeing TV and cricket. Everything usual so far.
In May 2008, Aniket left Infosys to work as a school principal in Pune. Yes, Aniket and Madhavi are both school principals from Pune.
Aniket runs a school called "Savitribai Phule English School" which has children in Junior KG, Senior KG and first standard. Madhavi runs another school in Pune. Now children to their schools come from nearby slum areas. These schools are a part of schools run by Akanksha, a NGO working in area of education. Aniket's school is funded by the Thermax Foundation.
I asked Aniket what drove him to take up this assignment. What was it that he felt? When did he decide he wanted to be a social worker?
He said he felt it everytime something happened...since he was 12-13 years old. He said an earthquake many miles away would make him worry about the people there. Everytime he walked around slums, he felt "Destiny has given me so much more - I need to share". And he felt the sharing should sustainable.
When he finished his engineering, he and his friends wanted to start a school in 20 years time or so. Wow! Now that is long term vision. To gain hands on experience, he volunteered to work in slums and, he says, he found his calling in education. Whenever he sees children in slums, he is motivated to get them in schools. What amazed me was his clarity of thinking. He understands that he will have to wait for 10-15 years before his efforts show results.
Children are the easiest part of work; it is the parents who need constant motivation and counselling. And I heard both Aniket and Madhavi speak to a couple of parents about children. Their profound understanding of their students' backgrounds is incredible considering they both come from reasonably well off backgrounds. Their work also spans in bringing the community together, instilling confidence in children and their parents, re-igniting the need of dignity and self-respect in the parents' hearts and motivating their colleagues - the school teachers.
It was a heart warming experience for me to see these heroes of my nation. Everyday, when they came back from their training, they would email and SMS their teachers about their day - and, sure enough, they would receive many responses in a few hours time. Their commitment to the cause, maturity of thoughts, clarity of reasoning and unlimited idealism was both inspiring and overwhelming.
Their future plans include taking their respective schools to tenth standard thus ensuring all children come out with an ambition and starting more schools in rural India.
I hope their plans come true and they succeed in whatever they decide. It is these heroes that make me again believe in the future of our nation. Real stars of our times who have committed themselves to the cause of underprivileged.
Vision, leadership, strategy, unlimited energy, patience, faith, humility, pride about work & colleagues, and a disarming smile is how I describe these 2 stars.
It was an honour to interact with them.
Aakanksha's site - http://www.akanksha.org/
Aniket's blog - http://aniketmahulikar.blogspot.com/
Note - Aniket and Madhavi both mentioned many more people who have helped them in their efforts. Because it was not possible for me to include all the names, so I focused on the 2 of them in this article.