While there is enviable economic growth in India in recent years,economic disparity in India is a hard hitting reality. Five star hotels loom over impoverished slum dwellings. Rich and poor co-inhabit the ever shrinking city spaces. Many, who have never travelled to India, share with me that this visible poverty deters them from travelling to India. They are not sure of their initial reactions to the first glimpses of economic despair in India. And often the next logical question is: how can they help the less fortunate in difficult situations back home in India?
We all have a complex and very personal answer to this question. It is the one question that is frequently raised by many of us living outside of India. We are made acutely aware of our privileged backgrounds as we travel back and forth between the two worlds. Sometimes, these thoughts continue to linger in our memory — how can we bridge the economic chasm present in India? How can we help the less fortunate in our country? This ‘How’ has often consumed our thoughts, but in the absence of any ready answers, we get on with our cushy lives here. However, there are individuals and organizations that have sincerely and persistently looked and have found the opportunities to help the less privileged section of people in India.
Over the next six months ‘Eye on India’ will share some remarkable stories of organizations and individuals who are striving to help ‘those in need’. The posts shared are all from the individuals personally connected to the ‘Eye on India’ family.
We are delighted to start this series with a post from Lalit Kumar. Below, Kumar shares with us how he came to support Parivaar, a home/school for vulnerable children in West Bengal.
Thank you Lalit Kumar!
As a recipient of a highly subsidized world class education in the best environment India can provide for; and with some of the smartest people in the world, my days at IIT were focused on getting a challenging job that would offer the best money. I am sure, there were several other people with the similar goals — get a job in the fourth year, graduate, make a lot of money and spend a life of leisure. Some decided to take an additional step of pursuing post graduate studies such as MS, MBA or PhD before joining their professions. By my fourth year of professional life I realized that my job paid more than the average, the quality of work was not at all challenging and my life of leisure was not that I had desired for.
That was when I happened to catch an email dated 13th March 2004 that my friend was reading. The title was “Parivaar” and it said:
My name is Vinayak Lohani and I am a 38th batch alumnus of IIM Calcutta. After graduating from IIMC, I did not take up a corporate placement but started Parivaar, a Residential School for socially ostracized children from categories of orphans, children of women in prostitution, street children, children abandoned by their families etc.
Parivaar Centre (as it is called) started in January 2004 and currently houses 20 such children. We are admitting 40 more children whom we have identified who are highly vulnerable and need immediate support.
IIM Calcutta alumni have been of great help and 35 IIMC alumni (15 from my batch i.e. 38th) have extended support to one child each at Parivaar. We need 15 more individual donors to place these children and ensure that they too get opportunities like children form ‘normal’ backgrounds.
You would be able to read about Parivaar Center at: http://parivaar.org/
You can extend support to one child at Parivaar through our Child Sponsorship Scheme. The cost of one child at Parivaar residential Centre is Rs. 1025 per month i.e. Rs. 12,300 for a year. You will be associated with the sponsored child over the years and will be apprised of his/her progress.
Sir, this is a personal appeal to you for joining hands with us in this cause. If I do not get confirmed support from 20 individual donors before March end I would not be able to admit some of these highly vulnerable children, 15 of whom are girls who have been identified to be under threat of being trafficked and forced into prostitution.
We had planned for 40 children this year but since 15 more such extremely vulnerable cases have been reported we need to move away from planning. What is planning when human lives are concerned. And hence for this reason I am writing to IIM Calcutta alumni who might be willing to extend their support. Your contribution will be a destiny-changing support to one child.
Looking forward to your reply.
I would be glad to answer any queries that you may have.
The mail shook me up. Vinayak is a person of roughly my age who, after graduating from IIT-Kharagpur and IIM-Calcutta could have gotten an extremely lucrative job. But he chose to attend to a higher calling and leveraged his network to do something that I can only dream about.
That was in 2004.
Twelve years later, Parivaar (literally means “family” in Hindi) is now a 1400+ kid strong, thriving home that is truly transforming the destiny of each and every one involved — kids, the people who serve the kids everyday – and impacting the well-wishers of Parivaar located all over the world. It is the largest institution of this kind in Eastern India and is of a scale that I have personally never experienced before.
Each of the kids there is a tale of destiny truly transformed — a life before Parivaar of poverty/risk of exploitation/destitution/malnourishment/no schooling etc. And then arriving there between the ages 4-10 years and staying full time 24×7 for the next 15-20 years and have the same opportunities as kids in a “normal/regular” family. The diversity of their backgrounds is amazing — from the remotest tribal areas, urban poor, urban homeless and orphans or single parent in no position to properly take care of the child.
The scale of the effort is awe inspiring – imagine running a household for 1400+ kids every day; their food, their schooling needs, their health and well-being; every aspect of their life is looked after, tracked and accounted for. My wife and I have difficulty in keeping up with the needs of our one child, while there are 1400+ in Parivaar.
The spirit of service is extra-ordinary and Vinayak exemplifies and infuses the organization with his zest and spirit. He truly believes and has proven that every kid — irrespective of the background she comes from – is capable of achieving a better life BUT equal opportunity and support needs to be provided. And he has made it a point to ensure thatthis is carried out in all aspects of Parivaar.
The scale and scope ahead is gigantic; India has the largest number of at-risk children in the world — some estimates say 11 million street children + millions of children in highly impoverished hinterlands. Parivaar intends to be 1500 kids by the end of the year and 2000 by the end of 2017.
The stories of “success” abound – Among the Parivaar kids transitioning into ‘adulthood’ is Purnima Das. She was one of the first girls under Vinayak’s care when Parivaar started. Now, after doing skill programs with NSDC she has got a job with Keventer, while pursuing her college degree on the side. We will profile the amazing journey of Purnima and one more kid in greater detail in the October blog.
The Parivaar campus is a beautiful cluster of nice, clean and well equipped buildings outside of Kolkata. There are lots of pictorial stories and fun facts available on the website (http://parivaar.org/). More Information is also available upon request by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org
Few things exemplify Robert Frost’s poem below better than Parivaar. Take a bow, VinayakLohani and Parivaar! May your tribe increase!
The Road Not Taken (by Robert Frost)
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
– Lalit Kumar