“Give me 100 energetic young men and I shall transform India”, said Swami Vivekananda many years ago. Today, on his 151st birthday, I dedicate this post to those hundreds of men and women, through whom he is alive in spirit even to this day! Men and women who are working for the betterment of the community, the country, putting it ahead of their own lives. These are stories from all over India, live experiences I have been fortunate to be part of.

#Medak #August 2013

In a tiny village in Medak district, this amazing girl volunteers her time in the evening everyday, to teach children in free tuition centers we run. It’s amazing that the village has educated girls like these – we have 4 such girls working there, and this girl comes to class on her wheel-cart. She has a disability in her limbs, but that could not take away her spirit!

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Their parents they say, have been fully supportive of their education, and of their running these classes.

#Nellore #August 2013

Hospital run by our partner NGO Aarogya Bharati. They perform more than 150 eye operations and 20 deliveries free of cost per month for the fishermen community. They also performed seemantham (godh bharai) for the women of this community , to make them feel as much a part of the society as anybody else. Seen in the pic are Rathnamji and his friend who have been routing all their efforts towards this cause.

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#Chennai #November 2013

A man from a slum, himself *uneducated*, along with a group of young boys from the same slum started this free computer center in the slum, because they thought knowledge of computer and its applications could get their people better jobs. Today, they have so many slum youth who have been able to get better jobs and also serve as tutors in the same center in the evening, all for free. The person who started this does not know English, did not seem like he knew much about computers too, but how does that matter!?!

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#Uttarakhand #August 2013

Uttarakhand only reminds us of nature’s fury, post June 2013. How people lost their loved ones, their lone sources of income, their homes, their lands and so on. Very very true. Its worse than we could even imagine. It is so difficult to rebuild their homes, their lives. Where will they build their homes again? Where are lands to do so? What will they do to feed themselves – when their sources of livelihood were farming and tourism, both of which have been hit now?

The paths we had to tread … no roads anywhere; they have all been washed away!

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The peaks we had to trek!

Route

With landslides every now and then, that we had to cross on foot! Boulders and even whole trees rolling down!

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A cloud burst had taken place here, just 10 days ago!Cloud burstThese boulders were carried down by the river, in all her fury!

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This borewell should clearly tell you what the extent of damage was!

Borewell

These were the paths we traced, day and night, for 11 days. But imagine people who have to do so everyday 😐

Hats off to the BRO (Border Roads Organization) for all the work they do, esp. to maintain and repair the roads in these conditions. You can see a BRO official praying to the mountain to stop the landslide which stranded people on either side for 5 days. So touching!

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In addition to the extent of damage, what I and you would have also not imagined is how the people there have kept up their spirit; and the efforts of those working for others, while they have been hit by the calamity themselves.

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How and where they are staying right now!
How and where they are staying right now!

This is the school that we stayed in – a residential school for from far-off villages, 50% of which was washed away by the floods. The teachers and care-takers of this school, inspite of this condition, fed 10000 people in just 3 days following the floods!

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School damage

The view of the school from another village. Can you see the extent of damage?:( The whole building has come tumbling down!

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Kids of the school. They said they were not scared of the floods, because they had a lot of *himmat* (courage)

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Anilji, full time sewa worker from the time of emergency and working in Uttarakhand for the past 22 years. He and his team took such good care of us, despite having such difficulties in getting food grains, gas cylinders, almost every single thing .. they had to carry everything on their backs!

AnilJi

Yashodaji – she used to trek 15kms daily to get a bus to the school where she teaches, for a month after the floods. They now have a make-shift school nearby. Such a great pair she and AnilJi make 🙂

Yashodaji

The make-shift school, because their actual school is very far away and their is no connectivity at all. Still, they trek for 2 hours one way even to come to this temp school.

Make-shift school

Manish Rana! Treks 3 hours to and from college daily

Manish rana

Chatar Singhji – carried a lady who had a heart attack on the rocky slopes down the hill and the lady was saved!

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Uttara Ranaji. An Anganwadi worker, she says the first priority is the education of the village kids and that they would be ready to send their kids anywhere residential, even if it means them staying away from home. All girls in her village, Dedsari have studied till 12th atleast.

Uttara Rana Ji

Gangasarani, 70+.  Lost her house to the floods and now stays in a makeshift shelter. She came trekking up about 15 kms, to check out her once upon a time home again 😦

Gangasarani

Anithaji, principal of Govt School Maneri. I was amazed at the way she runs the school, the teaching aids, the ways to cater personally to every child, every single project of every single child preserved in a file for eternity! Wow! Undoubtedly, Anithaji has the won the national award for teachers.

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Swami Maheshanandaji, started relief work during Bangladesh war in 1971 and continues to do so. He founded a school which has now been washed off by the floods.

Swami Maheshanandaji

I got a picture of how the school and it’s surroundings looked before, from their archives. All lush green!

Before

And this is how it is now 😦 Boulders, boulders everywhere and such a huge part of the building washed away.

After

Shivaji, studying in 11th, helped transport upto 200 pilgrims and injured flood victims to safer places, on his scooty, on damaged roads!!

Shivaji

A news article about a little girl Usha, who saved many lives 🙂

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Let me end this post with a picture to show you how beautiful Uttarakhand actually is. If this makes you plan a trip there right now, then nothing like it. There is no better way you could actually help people their restore there normal lives 🙂

BeautySigning off, hoping and wishing and praying that I get to shed light on more such people in the coming year, and that Swamiji bless them with more strength to do what they are doing. And yes, do spare a thought before you crib again that nothing is right in this country 🙂