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Redefining Society – Havaldar R. K. Sharma

Unpretentious and unassuming, right there, on the pavement, minus the walls, minus a ceiling, minus study tables and chairs, this is not your conventional classroom, but then this has the makings of all that education should be – eager tutors, and even more eager learners.

Today, we have crossed several cultural impediments and acknowledge the importance of education. We acknowledge education is the one and only social leveler. But does it have the focus it should?

You can find education in every nook and corner and we were pleasantly surprised to find it on the pavement outside one of the swish residential colonies of Noida, NCR, where not just one but all the members of the family of Havaldar R.K. Sharma were unquestioningly involved in imparting the wealth they had. The challenge in our society today lies not in scarcity but in its stark disparity. The challenge lies in absorption of education and circulation of it and this gap is preventing us from being the idyllic society that it can be. This difference in demand and supply can be bridged with just a little cognizance on our part and determination can be the game changer. This realization made Hav. R. K. Sharma make one such attempt in his corner of the world.

Troubled by the sight of many children of school-going age lurking on the streets or involved in labour, Hav. Rakesh Sharma decided to seek them out, teach them, and lured them to the school with promise of nourishing food and gifts at first and then by sowing the seed of hope and ambition that needs no further watering. This school might be on the pavement, this school might not have a shed or walls, but it nourishes dreams that hit the roof.

India’s literacy rate is less than most of its neighbours and one of the main factors contributing to this relatively low literacy rate is ignorance about usefulness of education and availability of schools even in the metro cities. Hav. Sharma counters both these issues by spreading awareness of the need and then takes to the board himself to start the uphill journey.

Empty mind is a devil’s workshop
He brought his pupils who were sifting through the dustbins and ushered them to his classroom, he went into the slums seeking out their parents and counselling them on the need for their children to study. Either the promise of better prospects or just the probability of freebies had them relenting. That was the first battle won, he then persevered to keep that rigour going, cajoling and coaxing the children to be regular and bring their friends and siblings along. His eyes glitter with pride when he talks about their grades soaring high so much so that he’s appointed two of his pupils as the ‘class monitors’. He finds his own ways and means of motivating these children to egg them on to dreaming big and then achieving those dreams.

Heat, rain or winters, he’s there, with his better half and his children helping out from time to time, in between their lesson,s pitching in with their favourite subjects. His daughter, Pooja, can’t disguise the pride she feels for her father and very confidently announces she will carry the legacy forward. She has witnessed the immense difference her father and her family’s efforts are making to some lives and she thinks that ‘we are very ordinary people and if we can do this, anyone can.’ It sure doesn’t take a super humans to contribute to society this selflessly, but it sure makes you one.

With his time and means Hav. Sharma could have concentrated on improving and upscaling his own life but when you meet him and his family, you could not have met anyone simpler and idealistic, who with their limited means concentrated on how they could be useful to the world around them. Conscience, ‘Chetna’, didn’t have to knock twice at the Sharma residence.

Hav. Sharma aims at nipping antisocial activity in the bud. He has seen drug addiction, theft and other disruptive commotion thriving amidst the streets of these slums and villages bordering the relatively privileged residential societies and was convinced that the only way out is by engaging these young impressionable minds by education.

Undaunted learning in the absence of an idealistic world
Starting with 5, the number of students at this ‘mother dairy’ school, in Noida sector 99, have gone up to 65 in just about a year. He has also made efforts to get admission for some of the children who never knew the insides of a school. His complimentary work has attracted the attention of like-minded people in the vicinity and they have begun to support him by volunteering or funding his mission. Despite some demotivating factors that discourage him from continuing in the absence of proper infrastructure or affiliation, he believes there is no reason he should ignore these children and put their future at stake. He continues to march ahead and pave his own way not limited by his means.

Hav. Sharma redefines society as he is of the opinion that society is not made by a few people, it is made of each single person. Every child deserves an equal opportunity that he believes is the only mantra of success, success not of an individual, or a community but of the nation and then the whole wide world. While most of us are enraged by the world around us and can think of a hundred things wrong with it, here’s Hav. Sharma’s family who appreciate the progress India is making, the liberties our country bestows on us and how we need to repay it for our privileged existence.


Arming With Knowledge – Sonu Mittal

Holding the ladder of success for others

Several times during the interview Sonu expressed her disappointment with abrupt truncation of her dreams of a higher education as she was married off while still pursuing graduation. This unwanted curtailed propelled her ensure that what inhibited would not limit others if she could help.

Having taught her own children and a being a strong believer of the merits of education, Sonu Mittal, a mother of two, was perturbed by the ineptness of the other children in her township of Sonipat. She was already running yoga and fitness classes for the women in her neighbourhood, having started with 11 women, she now trains innumerable women on a health regime. She thought of leveraging her current network to benefit the otherwise disconnected circle that are easily ignored but for the heightened conscience of a few.

She urged the women in her fitness club to bring in pupils from the households of their home helps, security guards, vegetable vendors and whoever else they could benefit. Supported keenly by her husband as he shares her vision and also made his entire warehouse available for her to run a gratuitous tutorial school where she not just works with them on the school syllabus but their moral reasoning, focusing on bringing up not just educated citizens but moral citizens. The gratitude of the parents that gain from Sonu’s dedicated support is unmistakable and it is not a surprise that she is revered in her small town.

Bringing home the essence of ethics
Sonu was able to mobilize the help of all her female friends and acquaintances to devote their time regularly to boosting the level of the underprivileged children as they lack in the means due to the illiteracy of their own parents and family. She has been successfully running tuition for classes 1 to 9 in all subjects and especially ethicality. Sonu not only takes out the time to tutor them but is instrumental in getting the children admitted to schools and regularly interacting with the teachers to measure their performance and refining her approach. She also uses her savings, not for a world tour, but to ensure that the children have the necessary stationary, books and uniforms.

Joining forces with the authorities
She has formed a cordial working relationship with the government schools in her district as she has been working hand-in-hand with them to cater to the needs of the children and in overcoming the administrative hurdles and managing the logistics better. She holds a carrot out to the children by selling the dreams of admission to better schools and to qualify for scholarships to ease the pressure on their parents. She also makes this unregistered institution attractive to the children so that they flock to it regularly and willingly. Sonu glows with pride as she tells us that several women of the Sonu Mittal Club have sponsored her pupils so they can get higher education.

Apart from an ethical and educational curriculum Sonu has also continuously focused on the rich culture of our country and got people to come out of their homely shells to celebrate festivals as a community and not as the severed nucleus that we exist as today in our self-alienated families.

Hugging the bouquets and brickbats
It used to hurt her earlier but today she calmly brushes the snide remarks insinuating that she is trying to gain a political advantage to run for elections with her social work. Goodness is so easily tainted in our country today that every act of it evokes fear and caution amongst people, necessitating that kindness be resown. She hopes to find more and more like-minded comrades so that she can extend the basic right to education to more and more children.

Believing in the virtue of self love, she strongly believes that to be the road to loving others. One of the key characteristics that differentiates Sonu Mittal and our other Chetna heroes, is the fact that people gravitate towards them, we dare say it is the goodness that is their unique selling proposition


Industrious trio ruling by the Book – Gyandeep

And miles to go …

Do I get tired after a day’s grueling household work? Am I looking forward to retirement and a carefree afternoon slumber? But can I rest when all I can see around me are many opportunities to make a difference? These three ladies from Mahagun Phase I society, Indirapuram, decided to make it count. While being a rock for their families, they decided to use every available moment in their day to care for those that made their daily machinery run, those that were vital to their day-to-day functioning. They were troubled by the illiteracy or general lack of information and scarcity of means of their support staff and decided to change that.

Three’s a charm

Mrs. Neelam Khuller, Mrs. Suman Saxena and Mrs. Jaya Verma found that they were like minded and brought their thoughts to fruition by utilizing their housing society’s religious place (‘Mandir’) to educate the children of their support staff; guards, housemaids, plumbers, gardeners and others, and Gyandeep was formed. The students at this in-house education facility have visibly improved in their academic performance but the focus is not limited to tuitions, there is more of an emphasis on the moral and holistic development of the children.

In today’s fast-paced world while the focus on ruthless competition is instilled, unfortunately, increasingly early these days, someone needed to spend time with them to listen to them and introduce them to a world they could redeem by bringing to the table ‘integrity’. Mrs. Neelam Khuller, with delight that one takes in one’s child, beams when she says, ‘they touch my feet and run to greet me whenever they see me’.

Levelling with equal opportunities

The most important objective of the teachers is to ensure there are no dropouts from school, they have also been absolutely adamant on admitting to school ones who have not yet enrolled and also sponsor the exceptional performers. The children are clearly motivated and it’s only a little surprise that some of the parents themselves have enrolled for learning because it’s never too late to learn and they hope to match their steps with the world.

Mrs. Suman Saxena has been involved in philanthropic work all through her life and it was a natural progression for her to spearhead the task in her own neighbourhood. The trio devotes 2-3 hours daily and focuses on the three main subjects; English, Hindi and Maths. These three ladies are joined from time to time by other residents of the society as per their availability.

I shall rest in the eye of the storm

Mrs. Neelam Khuller, had run a school for 20 years at Durgapur and didn’t want an easy life on moving to Indirapuram post her husband’s retirement, she wanted to do something more meaningful and with her training and experience. You have to see how she enlivens the class with her energetic hybrid techniques of visual, auditory and kinesthetic teaching. Her passion speaks for itself as she relates her experience with a mute child who showed his enthusiasm in making an attempt to communicate with them and the teachers made an equal attempt to match his attempts despite their lack of professional training in children with special needs.

Mrs. Jaya shares that they have never been short of funds, the credit goes to housing members’ council that encourages these activities and contributes whole heartedly to all such initiatives. The president of the society, Mr. M C Saxena, shared how the residents never have to be asked to step forward to embrace their own and accept it as their social and moral responsibility. This ideal society is an example to all others and if the model were copied it would produce many self-sustainable units. It is a responsibility that not many of us recognise; nevertheless, it is of primary importance because it’s nothing but compassion, something that we need to imbibe as not our second but first nature.

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