My story beings in the 1970’s, when it was very uncommon for females to travel in a 5-coach local train from Vasai and go to Mumbai for a graduation degree. Born in a family of 8 siblings, I knew I had to fight my own way in order to fetch a job and living for myself. And education was the only solution.
Travelling to the city daily from a tiny village not only exposed me to the modern city culture, but also made me realize the importance of having a proper education and career. This also helped me coach my younger siblings and advise them about the various career opportunities available outside our village. I still remember applying on behalf of my younger brother for Air India, last year he was felicitated for 50 years of service.
Why am I mentioning all this? Perhaps it was the early understanding of importance of education in our lives which motivated me step into the education field. Post-graduation and a certificate course with GLC, I managed to get a decent job with Vasai District Court. Remember me talking about commute to Mumbai? That was comfortable than travelling this secluded location of the Court in my own village as I used to be the only female employee during those days. No proper roads or public transport, I used to walk 4Kms daily to work.
Walking alone on these roads would get scarier in winters and I decided to quit this organization. Later, I took up as a teacher in a government school in Malad, and soon started my own coaching classes for the students who were weaker in academics; without any additional fees. Spending time with these students always left me overwhelmed. They say you should love what you do and you’ll never crib about your job. I loved teaching!
Few years later, there was local train accident in 19&): and unfortunately I lost my toe in it. The accident had left scars on my mind and till date I fear travelling by local trains! Now I was back in my village, not knowing what to do next. Every passing day made me restless and I finally decided to start my own coaching classes here for students of vernacular medium schools.
Few months later, everyone started recognizing me as ‘Bai’(teacher in Marathi). I was both happy and proud of this recognition, and it motivated me to help more kids. “Nyansadhanalay classes”, I decided to give an identity to my passion. I had many students whose parents were from humble backgrounds and couldn’t afford quality education (which was becoming expensive with the rise in private schools). One such family was of Sandra’s, her father a tailor and mother, housewife with two elder brothers.
There was something special about this girl, she wasn’t the scholar types, but one of the sweetest, caring and humble girls I’ve come across. Suddenly, after couple of weeks I realized she’s not been regular to the classes, and so I enquired with her class mates and found out that due to financial issues, she had to opt out of school. To help her brothers complete their education, this little girl selflessly volunteered to sacrifice her schooling and stay back in the house to help her parents. And so, I decided to help her out and requested her parents to send her back to school ensuring that I would take care of her expenses. Initially, they hesitated. But, through constant persuasion, I managed to get this girl back to her school. On chatting with her on regular basis I developed a connection with her. She didn’t have any extraordinary talents, it was her caring, considerate nature which I liked about her. She deserved to go to school, get a degree, a job or a career of her interest. It suddenly occurred to me that her withdrawal from school would negate the chance of her having an independent, normal future.
Meanwhile, I has my own struggles; trying to balance personal-professional life. My husband and my only daughter felt I was giving less attention to them & was more focused in these kids I tutored. I had made up my mind to help this girl, but didn’t know how? Try convincing her parents (knowing their answer is “No”), pay for her studies, and adopt her? I was constantly battling my own thoughts and eventually decided to help her finish her school.
Little did I know, this small little girl would soon be a part of my life and how? It began with she staying overnight with us to attending family functions, playing an elder sister role to my daughter. She completed her schooling and was interested in Fashion Designing, so I didn’t hesitate to help her joining a course, now knowing how hard-working and dedicated she is. She completed the course and started working at a local boutique. After a month, she handed me an envelope, which was her first salary and thanked me for helping her. There was a shine on her face, of her achievement, of making me proud and seeing that sparkle in her eyes, got me teary eyed.
I’m 65 now, and it’s been 25+ years, Sandra has been with me like my own. She’s married with two daughters, manages her husband’s business, and takes care of me more than my own daughter (though it must be hard to believe). Her kids call me “aai” (mother) and nothing makes me happier than to see her having a happy, loving family! She’s my family.
The motive behind sharing this story is not to awe you of my greatness, but to put forward a simple point, viz. always help someone without any expectations. Education play a vital role to shape your life, so make sure to help anyone who needs it. And most importantly, it doesn’t have to be only an NGO, where you find people who need your help; it can be in your neighborhood, your town, your workplace, or even in your family!
I would like to quote Dalai Lama here,” We’re visitors on this planet for ninety or hundred years at the most. During that period, we must try to do something useful, with our lives. If we contribute to other people’s happiness, you will find the true goal, the true meaning of life”
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