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22nd August 2010

posted 22 Aug 2010, 09:51 by Narssimhan Kannan   [ updated 22 Aug 2010, 23:34 ]
What a day!
We left at 7:30 am and reached the Bhairavnath Madhyamik Vidyalaya at around 11 am. The Bhairavnath school is in a place called Yahali, near Indapur, in Pune district, Maharashtra. It has been named Bhairavnath as it is built adjacent to a very famous Bhairavnath temple in Yahali.
This school has been built and is supported by the Sambhaji Shikshan Prasarak Mandal, the same NGO that has built the Yepre school.
As soon as we arrived, the school authorities came to greet us and served us with refreshments.
After we had our refreshments, we started the felicitation ceremony for the three toppers of 10th standard. The class was full of students from 8th and 9th. The first thing I noticed were that the children were sitting on the floor. The secondary school did not have benches. We were accompanied by Mr. Bhalke, Mr. Sheikh, Mr. Mahurkar, and Mr. Zagade; all the people who have been highly instrumental in setting up and running of this school.
The presentation ceremony started with a small Saraswati puja and then me along with Mr. Mahurkar and Mr. Zagade presented the cash awards to the three toppers, namely, Jalinder Pandave - 91.06%, Kavita Mane - 86% and Priya Suryavanshi - 82%.
We all gave short speeches to appreciate the toppers and inspire the others who were going to be in the 10th standard soon. Jalinder Pandave, the topper spoke first. He thanke
d his teachers and the NGO which has made all this possible.
I spoke about the benefits of failure, the fact that HE (The Almighty!) gives everything and we (the NGO, Mr. Bhalke, the donors) are all just mediums - conduits appointment by HIM for resources to reach them, the importance of the English language and lastly about how we should not forget one's roots, the village, the school after one becomes successful.
After the ceremony, we had a meeting with the school authorities and discussed about the challenges the school was facing. They have apparently collected enough funds for the building but need help for their computer lab, science laboratory and library. I was also informed that the village regularly experiences famine as this section of the district is not well irrigated (no pun intended). Most children do not have any televisions and there is  regular load-shedding of at least 12 hours everyday. The primary school is now a separate establishment managed by the government, while the secondary school (above eighth grade) is managed by the NGO.
Later we went to the adjacent Bhairavnath temple and then to see the new secondary school being built. Right now they are using a make-shift building. There I also met a farmer whose son has been chosen to play for the MPL.
Leaving the village, we proceeded to one of the school peon's house for tea (it was a great honor for him to have us at his house) and then to have lunch at a nearby restaurant. On our way back, we visited another temple, at Morgaon, one of the Ashtavinayak Temples and then completed the trip by visiting a Mahalaxmi Temple on top of a hill near Morgaon.
While silently contemplating about the entire day on my journey back home, I realized how little these people have and yet are so happy while we, who have everything (almost!) constantly crave and complain. How children like Jalinder (his family is severely economically challenged even compared to the other two toppers), Kavita and Priya and perhaps many others have struggled to excel despite their challenges while our children who go to plush, expensive, private schools struggle to even achieve 60%. How a life without electricity is so normal for them while we spend thousands of kWs in our malls and homes. How the teachers have gone without payment for almost five years when the school was being setup, waiting for government grants, while we are so insecure even if we are asked to take a pay-cut for a month.  How people like Mr. Bhalke, Mr. Sheikh, Mr. Mahurkar, Mr. Padmakar Lavand (Principal) and Mr. Zagade have tirelessly worked for more than 10 years to make this school a reality without any expectations while we want to know, before we discuss about an enterprise, how I shall benefit, what is the Return On Investment (ROI)?
What is the ROI of life! What is the ROI of enabling hundreds of children to become self-sufficient, literate, educated, capable of elevating themselves and their families from the scourge of poverty? What is the ROI of giving away all your earnings, even your PF (Mr. Bhalke) to start a primary school? What is the ROI of giving one month's salary (the entire staff of the school has done this) to build the school?
What is the ROI of going to a school 200 kms away from home on a Sunday to meet children from remote villages and talking to them about the benefits of failure, humility and inspiring them to excel? There is no ROI...actually there is tremendous ROI!
Returned home at 9:30 pm.