I have come to an gathering known as Swami Vivekananda Sanskar Kendra in one of the mohallas of Jalandar, Punjab. There are children of various age groups sitting in front me. These lovely kids aging from 5 to 13 years are sitting forming a near row to begin their morning prayers. As the Gayatri Mantra gets over they look excitedly at their didi wondering what will they be taught today.
This story dates back to 2014 when group of neighbours decided to come together for a social cause. Shaily Khanna, Upma Gupta, Suman Jain, Pratibha Soni, Sudesh Khanna and Nidhi Khanna came together to teach the underprivileged children free of cost. They wanted to touch upon and improve the lives of these lovely little children who cannot afford formal means of education.
Inspiring session with the children
While I could see the selflessness as the agenda for Swami Vivekananda Sanskar Kendra, I felt like talking to the children as well. When asked about their career preferences, this is what they had to say. “Mai Daacter banunga bade ho kar”, smiled Karan. “Aur mai Police aur sabhi gundon ko maarungi mai”, hopped Chandani in front excitedly. “Aap kya banna chahte ho?” I asked a shy looking little girl. “Ham afsar banengey”, replied coyly. On asking which afsar, she was confused.
A dialogue with the founders of Swami Vivekananda Sanskar Kendra
“Majority children who come to us fail to go to school. Only 15 out of 100 children in this area go to school. Rest all of them stay at home to look after their toddler siblings and take care of the house. Their parents are helpless too. Most of them are daily wage workers or house helps. They run around every house to do menial jobs to support their lives. We borrow syllabus from government schools and teach them the basic course material”, said Upma Gupta.
Swami Vivekananda Sanskar Kendra begins from scratch. When they found out about these children they took charge of the matter end to end. They do not only provide education to these children but also supply them with notebooks and stationary for free. Taking care of their working hours, they arranged the classes according to their comfort. This motivated the children and parents further to not make any excuse for missing the classes. When the children reach to certain level of concept learning, they are also enrolled into nearby government schools. Going to formal government schools helps in boosting the children’s morale even further. These schools also provide them mid day meals and uniforms.
With no government aid, how is the funding managed?
The group of around 20 ladies contribute monthly to purchase stationary items for them. These monies are basically their savings from the household expenses. On asking about coming up with full fledged school with proper infrastructure, they say they are doing pretty good without it. At some point they’ll get distracted or get entangled with system and maintaining records which in turn will derail them from their focus.
One India For All
To encourage brotherhood and respect for rich Indian tradition, these women do not mind spending a bit more and celebrating every Indian festival. “We celebrate Eid, Janamashtmi, Independence Day, Basant Panchmi and almost every occasion. They too have cravings to relish celebrations and parties. We are looking forward to organise something new for them this Diwali”, said Pratibha Sona. Their students have often performed in local gatherings proving their mettle to the society. Other than studies and inculcating good habits these women also help the children to explore their hobby like drawing, dancing, singing and so on. They are even taken to camps where they get free of cost services.
What keeps the women motivated?
It has only been a year to this noble cause and they seek no limelight and attention. All they want is willingness of the parents to send their kids to study. “We haven’t limited ourselves to numbers. More the merrier”, exclaims Sudesh Khanna. Their only motive is to serve them. They call themselves ‘Swami Vivekananda Sanskar Kendra’ because they believe in Swami Vivekananda’s ideology on humanity and service to society. They are determined to make these children better human beings and not let poverty rob off their innocence and dreams.
Inspired by those glittering eyes with millions of dreams, these women do not plan to stop ever. They want to nurture the lives of these little angels and prepare them for the big world. Surely to the children these women are nothing less than a God and their silver lining to them.
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