Sr. No. 183
“Beti Padhao. Educate the girl child. Yes; lekin (but…), ….. ”
Prakash Sawant (40s)
Sawant lives at Pali village, Maharashtra. He works as a Peon at Maratha Mandir College, Pali.
Sawant’s daughter studies in the school he works at. He commutes to work daily by State Transport busses, which are rarely on time running on the National Highway and State Highway, and the time gap between busses is long and erratic.
I met Sawant during a free medical camp for under privileged rural school children in November 2016, organised by a NGO in Pune, Mukul Madhav Foundation. (MMF)
Dr Prof. Ram Dhillon (UK) and I rode our bicycles, on & off over five days, from Shirwal to Ratnagiri, stopping daily at Zilla Parishad schools en route at Shirwal, Umbraj, Chincholi, and Pali for the free medical camps the NGO had organised for nearly 3500-4000 rural children.
We encountered some worthy and needy people at Shirwal, Umbraj, Chincholi and my friends Raman Macker, Parth Shah, Meghna Rodrigues, Kirraann Ramesh Nichani, Surabhi Shah, Shom & Satya, Minnie Mehra, donated bicycles to them for their livelihood purpose. Thank you.
(I have yet to post about the donations made by Parth, Meghna, Minnie at Ratnagiri)
When we had reached Chincholi, the NGO set up their free medical camp at a tiny tiny tiny rural school at Chincholi; discovered thanks to their able scouts and foot soldiers. I immediately paid Dr Ashutosh Muley (@ Finolex Pipes & MMF) a compliment, “Dude! Now this is what I consider ‘really reaching out’! (to rural people in the interiors)
When I was at Pali, I felt Pali village seems better off than the villages we had visited earlier. When I met Sawant at Maratha Mandir School, Pali, I committed to giving him a bicycle. Because by riding to work on a bicycle he will no longer have to depend on erratic state transport busses and he will save nearly Rs 600 a month.
That’s a lot of money in rural India. If you leave the comfort of your home and travel to rural India, you will believe me totally. Two years ago, in Mumbai, a tea seller Sushil on carter road touched my feet for donating a bicycle to him which was second hand and cost Rs 800. Even though I told him I am not the donor, I am just the middle person. Rs 600 even today has a lot of value.
Giving Sawant the bicycle was important to him and me. I also thought that by riding to work daily it may help him get rid of his pot-belly. He has young kids and ideally he should get rid of it as not doing any cardio can cause heart disease in later years. A bicycle is awesome cardio and fun to ride.
I began to chat with Sawant in detail about his work and personal life. And then I felt I should have asked Sawant to contribute at least one third towards the cost of the bicycle before committing it to him. Because only after speaking to him in detail did I feel he can afford to contribute at least one third of the bicycle’s cost. But it was late. And never go back on your word. Especially one given to a less privileged person.
(When we donate bicycles in Mumbai, we make some of the beneficiaries pay half or one third the cost of the bicycle. But not always. However, in rural areas we do not do that, because I feel many rural people have far less opportunities than someone in a similar situation in a mega city like Mumbai.)
Then I asked Sawant, “Considering you will save about Rs 600 every month, by travelling to work on this bicycle, what do you propose to do with the 600?”
Sawant instantly replied: “I will deposit the 600 rupees in my daughter’s India Post office’s savings account every month; make a fixed deposit for her from it every year until she is an adult, then she can use the collected money.”
Hearing Sawant speak about saving that money for his daughter, it now no longer mattered to me that I made a mistake in not asking him to contribute at least Rs 1000. For me this bicycle suddenly became a gift for his daughter. And I was very very confident that my two donor pals would agree when they read this post.
Beti Padhao yes, educate the girl child; lekin beti ke naam pe paise bhi jamaa karo. He is educating his daughter and that’s good; but he is also saving money regularly in her name and for us that’s great ya!
As we were leaving this tiny and most neat and clean school, I found out that the principal of this Zilla Parishad School had spent nearly Rs 10,000 from his own pocket to get his school’s walls painted with a fresh coat of cement paint. The principal loves his school and kids even though he does not belong to the religion nor community that at least 90 percent of the children at this school belonged to. For me that’s Tolerant India.
Same is the case of a woman in Bandra west, every morning on carter road pavement, she teaches less privileged children; in winters she holds and aims her phone torch on the children’s books in the dark from nearly 6 am to 7 am – until the sun arrives with immense warmth to light up their books for their brighter future. Half the children students are not from her community. For me that’s Tolerant India.
Sawant, the principal of the Chincholi ZillaParishad School and this dedicated teacher in Bandra west, people like them inspired me to write this:
Education – A jewel in the darkness of space.
This bicycle was donated to Prakash Sawant by Dilnaz and Dinyar Gilder. Thank you.
Thank you Mukul Madhav Foundation’s http://www.mmpc.in/ medical camp, for carrying me like a favourable wind to this village so far from my home. (#MukulMadhavFoundation #FinolexPipes Pune to Ratnagiri Medical camp and cyclothon 2016.)
Beneficiaries of help: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=oa.357090647765413&type=1