Monday, May 11, 2009

Divyadeepa Trust, Mysore

Why Alternative School?
Normally schools function on the principle “Children for school” which means all children have to compulsorily learn certain things, in a certain way, in a certain time frame. If the children adjust to this it is fine. If not .............

Our alternative school “Kaliyuva Mane” is based on our experience that each child wants to learn things which interests it, in its own way, at its own pace and its personality blossoms in a unique way. Hence Kaliyuva Mane(which means home for learning) functions on the principle “School for children”. The school was started in June 2005 with an initial strength of 14 children, 4 as resident scholars and rest as day scholars. We are able to reach out to more and more children with every passing year. Currently, there are 41 kids at "Kaliyuva Mane" with half of them being resident scholars.

A humble beginning :
Inspired by the ideals of Sri Aurobindo & Swami Vivekananda, Divyadeepa initiated its service activities in Srirampura village on the outskirts of Mysore, during 1992. It has been since then providing education to children who either drop out or fail to reach the desired educational standards due to illiteracy, ignorance and poverty of the parents, lack of infrastructure in the schools and many other reasons. At Divyadeepa we started exposing kids to following learning experiences :

* Non-formal classes in English and Mathematics.
* Personality development and Yoga camps.
* Outdoor education through excursions.
* Environmental awareness programs.
* Art and craft activities
* Music, drama & other cultural activities

Children’s response is very encouraging.

Target children :
Though Kaliyuva Mane’s doors are open to all children who need alternative schooling. It’s focus is on opportunity deprived children, those who are from rural background, school dropouts, or kids who are not able to cope up with the pressures exerted in mainstream schooling.

Mission :
Divyadeepa’s mission is to transform these children into self-reliant citizens of India by giving them care, love, empathy and quality education.

Fees :
The school does not collect any fees. Nor does it receive any government funding. It is totally dependent on individual donations.

For more info on the activities of DivyaDeepa, please visit our website

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A stall at NIE during TechNieks-09

" Better late than never " is a often used phrase but rarely put into usage. Nevertheless this was a source of inspiration for us to set up a stall of Divyadeepa at NIE during TechNIEks-09 .

Two days of TechNIEks had got over . Blame it on miscommunication , communication gaps, lack of man power and what nots . But the stall was still not set, rather than cribbing about the lost opportunity we thought, Why not make the most out of what was left .

Acting soon on our resolve , finally we set up a stall on 14th of march , final day of TechNIEks . We stacked the shop up with shirts with inspiring logos and quotes and colourful handmade greeting cards. A donation box was also kept ready to those who wanted to contribute money to Kaliyuva mane.The team consisted of Shruthi Bhat , Spoorthi ,Ananth ,Prashant,Amruth all from NIE and Anil , Divya and Rajesh sir from JCE .

Few of the onlookers who spotted us at stall came to say hi. Few freinds came to talk to us . Few strangers came to check , out of curiosity . Few more were bored doing everything else and came to have a look at it . What ever the situation , most of them didn't go empty-handed.They were now the proud owners of T-shirts and greeting cards.

People being a bit scarce during afternooon soon started turning in good numbers as evening set in . Our Tshirts were selling like hot cakes with even lecturers going for them.The drizzing rain might have dampened the spirits of the fest performers and audience but helped us by bringing more and more crowd towards the stall area . Late start of the cultural evening also did it's bit to pull in more crowd . Now that's called blessing in disguise ! ! !.

All in all we were satisfied at the end of the day for doing a decent job of making out on lost opportunity . Below are the highlights of my personal experiences in being a part of volunteering team at stall.

Few of the people who initially came as buyers , heard about Divyadeepa and not only bought our stuff but also came inside the shop , learnt tricks of trade , joined hands with us in selling T-shirts. Now when we were short of man power this came as pleasant suprise .What more can I ask for ?? . . A million thanks to all those humble helpers.

A number of people who bought our shirts were already wearing it during the fest and were proudly flaunting it . Even now when i spot people wearing those shirts I always beam with joy and satisfaction . Each of us this way are being the ambassadors of good will . Cheers to the everyone !!! .

Friday, February 6, 2009

Want to Volunteer ??

Divyadeepa has a strong, dedicated volunteer force, consisting of a bunch of youth who want to make a difference. A few of us are students and the rest are working at software firms in Bangalore. The students are predominantly from local Engineering Colleges(NIE, SJCE etc), though off late, lot of students from other streams are also joining in.

What started as a small individual volunteering is now evolving into a full-fledged youth movement. All of us share a common dream - To see that the children of Divyadeepa are no longer "opportunity-deprived", and to make them strong, self-reliant, socially conscious, responsible citizens of India. However, a lot needs to be done. This is just the first step. But, the journey of thousand miles starts with a small step. We have a long way to go. We need more hearts to join this us in this task. We call upon all patriots, young & old to join this youth movement!

Here are some of the activities that volunteers are involved in -

1. Paper-Empower - Basically, we collect old newspapers from households/industries as a donation, resell it, & use the money to fund kids education. Since this is totally a voluntary activity, we take out "Papar-Yatra" only on weekends. Click here to know more about contributing to Paper-Empower.

2. Stall Management - We have been successful in putting up stalls at various corporates where we sell the following:
i) T-Shirts with inspiring quotes/messages - The entire margin goes to Divyadeepa.
ii) Greeting Cards - Hand made, artistic. A few of them made by our kids and the rest by rural youth. The easiest way to address rural employment.
iii) The concept of Divyadeepa & the need for Alternate education

3. Teaching - A few volunteers have been teaching children on a regular basis. While some commit to teach core  academic subjects, a few help them with dance, songs, craft, collage work, march past, soccer etc. We now want to start computer education as well.

Spoken english is another are where you could play a major role. The idea is to improve kids' english speaking ability. Children will take up their SSLC exams in English medium, but many of them have spent a major part of their schooling years outside the schools. Even if some of them have attended schools regularly, the teaching quality has been so bad that they have not had the opportunity to learn much.

Our volunteers "chat" with a small set of kids informally for about an hour every week in English. Slowly, & unconsciously, kids observe and learn the sentence formation and vocabulary.

We need volunteers who could spend a few hours every week on any of the above on a regular basis. 

4. PR Team - Takes care of Website, Blog, Newsletter, makes presentations/appeals for Divyadeepa, media management, etc.

Can you be a part of any or all of the above activities? Are you willing to be the change?
If yes, do not hesitate. Drop a mail to and we will get back to you at the earliest.

Welcome to Divyadeepa Family!!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

An Appeal

Recession. Slowdown. These were some jargons that I had read about only in Economic Times. Never knew that it could impact a small school at the country side. On top of it, we have inflation. Yep, the WPI (Wholesale Price Index) might suggest that it isn't much. But, does that matter? Ordinary rice continues to cost around Rs 28. So is the case with other essential food articles.
Inflation + Recession is a deadly combination.

Truly tough times considering the fact that our School doesn't collect any fee from the parents. Nor does it get funds from the government. Our primary source of income is individual contribution.

There is another dimension to this challenge. More and more kids want to join our home. But we are constrained by the resources at hand. And these tough times have called for us to be innovative and do something "Out of the Box". As the saying goes, "when the going gets tough, the tough get going". :)

Hence we have Paper-Empower! This is a volunteer initiative. The objective is simple - To raise funds. We volunteers spend a few hours over the weekends, go door to door, ask people to donate their newspapers to us, resell it & use the money generated to fund OUR kid's education at Kaliyuva Mane.

A lot of people have been skeptical about the whole idea. I "was" one of them until I realized its potential first hand. On Day-1 of the paper yatra, we were able to collect about 700 kg of paper, generating 4k in about 5 hours time. All that it required was dedicating a few hours over the weekend. We are extremely exited about the whole exercise. The best part of it is that every member of this project is enjoying it thoroughly. The whole idea of an IBM techie in the driver's seat(literally) and a few NIE & SJCE student's joining the crowd as their peers just while their time at Planet-X and other places, amuses me.

Their have been terra-bytes of discussion on what is wrong with the "system", on poverty, illiteracy, lack of values, corruption, etc. But they have remained mere discussions with big jargons and theories. As the IBM ad puts it, we need to "stop talking, start doing" !

All that is required from you is to donate your newspapers, and make sure all your contacts in Mysore donate it to us. Flats, hostels, your relatives, organisations, hotels, and anything else that you can think of. Spread this word. Let them know that they are just a click away from contributing to this revolution.

Sounds good? Then, please leave your contact details here, and we will come to your doorsteps to collect this "treasure"! Kindly note that currently, we undertake this project only in Mysore.

BTW, if you wish to do something more than donating papers, here are a few options:

1. Buy artistic greeting cards made by rural youth at Divyadeepa. The easiest way to support rural employment. Here are a few sample greeting cards -

2. Buy our T-Shirts.

We have put up stalls at different corporates like HCL, Wipro, Juniper, SPI, Excel-Soft etc, where we sell T-Shirts with inspirational quotes.

We also sell Greeting Cards and collect donations at these stalls. The proceeds of the sales of these products goes entirely to Divyadeepa. Help us setup a stall at your workplace.

These T-Shirts are also available at Divyadeepa. Another reason why you should visit us!

3. Sponsor a kid's education. Details available at our website.

4. Most of all, be a part of this youth movement. Realize the power of "WE" ! Find out more about volunteering here.

A small act of kindness is more powerful than the grandest of good intentions.
Come, let us join hands and be a part of this change!

11/01/2009 Paper-Empower

It was truly one of the most interesting evenings of our lives. Lot of lessons learnt in those 3 hours. It helped us understand the mindsets of people. Ananth & I were the drivers for the day. We started of with offloading the previous days collection. Rakshit & Abhi had managed to fill up the van completely & it took us some time to offload it.

But, the paper-Buyer was surprised to see so much of paper at once. He asked us reluctantly,"Sir, for how many years had you accumulated these papers at home??". That was when we explained to him about Paper-Empower, the whole concept, our role etc.. He was extremely delighted to know that what we were doing was for a noble cause and bought it at a rate higher than the prevailing one!

On this positive note, we started the Paper-Yatra and chose one of the posh localities of Mysore. As we later learnt, this was a mistake. People here did not know even their neighbours. We were shocked by the response at a few villas! Some folks admitted that they were a little lazy to put all old papers in order to give it to us! At most places, we were greeted by the barks of the dogs. It was almost dark by the time we had started. Three guys, coming in a van, asking for old papers at night; sounds like a shady plot, isn't it? Anil's stocky physique added to the suspicion. Both I & Ananth missed that "cute guy" look which might have fetched us some papers. :( .

Our PR girl, Kavya's presence did help. But "Amber" saved the day for us!

The savior in question, Amber is indeed a dog owned by a family. . It's so surprising to know the ways in which we are dependent on each other in this world !!. . Read on to know how. .

A couple of Kavya's friends from the locality, Shloka & Nitya deserve a special mention. Thankfully, Nitya takes "Amber" to a walk everyday. She knew a lot of people in the locality who pet a dog! She took us to a lot of houses and everywhere our modus operandi was the same, just ask for papers. But the responses varied.

Most of them were happy to give away the papers. But the rest few cooked up some excuses. One of it was "Beta(son), I just gave away my papers yesterday, wrong time! ". I wanted to ask for today's newspaper! But, better sense prevailed & I resisted myself.

We soon congratulated ourselves for achieving the break-even! We had covered the fuel costs! But soon, as the day got darker, our paper-yatra brightened up! The van was full of paper. A memorable experience for the entire team. And we went home contended that we were able to raise funds for one kid's education for a month in those eventful 3 hours!

In typical Bollywood Amitab's eshtyle - "We Walk paper, We talk paper, We laugh paper".
Hail Paper! Hail Amber! Paapeeraaayeeee!

Our savior Amber with volunteer Ananth

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Revolution. This word has so much in it. It has led to catastrophes and also has led to a chain of positive developments. I would like to quote an example of a revolution, which has given me (and a whole lot), a new lease of life.

February 2006

We (Me and a good friend of mine) attended a website launch function. We happened to meet a humble person who spoke about a school named Kaliyuva Mane, imparting education for rural kids. We felt a deep sense of satisfaction after hearing to the founder. We simply loved the concept! Our heart skipped! We thought of visiting the school and exploring more about this wonderful place. This simple thought of visiting the school has brought out so many changes.

There were no rows of buildings or lush green lawns to boast off, but the school premises was filled of laughter of lovely kids. There was a sparkle in every kid’s eyes. It reflected the philosophy of Kaliyuva Mane.

After bidding adieu, we came back home with zillion thoughts churning in our minds. It was very sad to hear the obstacles which were hampering the growth of children and school. Erratic power supply, lack of quality teachers, Infrastructure etc were the rampant challenges. I saw a role model in the founder who had stood strong against all the odds. We felt the dire need of joining hands with this super cool place.

We started spreading the good word with our dear buddies. In no time we were a team of 3 with a single motive of making an impact for Kaliyuva Mane. Technology helped us to get in more people for our volunteer family. Most of the family members were studying pre-final year engineering in SJCE. They used to visit the school in weekends, play with children. Some of them used to teach, some wondered what to do. One thing is sure all those who have visited Kaliyuva Mane share brotherhood/sisterhood with our children.

Some of the haunting memories that I can recollect from these 3 years

* We spent a good amount of time in naming our group.

* Sometime in May 2006, we set up stall at ACEthethic(Computer Science Department festival of NIE, Mysore) for promoting Divya Deepa. This was the first fund raising effort from our volunteer family :) We were able to amass about 2000/- by selling greeting cards. I cherish those tough times when we stood all through the day, explaining about Divya Deepa and the concept of volunteering. Folks from computer science department were mesmerized by the ideology and passion of their fellow students. They came forward to contribute a white board and few stationary items :-D. It was fun carrying this stuff in an open van!

* We held periodic meetings to discuss about what all we can do.

* Divya Deepa website – http;// has undergone various changes from plain HTML pages to CMS based.

* The darker days of Mysooru Unplugged 2007 when things didn’t worked out. We worked our asses off to make sure our dream baby takes a good form. The one spirit making it happen finally made this fund raiser a stellar show. We learnt a whole lot of things – How media works, How companies make use of events for brand promotion, How a dedicated team can make wonders, How challenging it is to deal with police, How challenging it is to dream big without a pie in hand, How to keep the team as a family when egos are prevalent. In one line I would say this was a true answer for the haunting question “What does a group of mad, patriotic youngsters can do in a short span of 25 days?”. Now we are dreaming of a much bigger extravaganza – India Unplugged :)

* A volunteer meet was held post MU to thank the volunteers. It was one of the most memorable days! Still remember that evening when some of us discussed about things we did, the pains we under went. Those nostalgic moments’ makes my eyes wet anytime, any day.

* The sleepless nights spent by fellow volunteers for completion of souvenir which we brought out post MU. The Souvenir release ceremony which was held in Institute of engineers is worth mentioning. One of our family members volunteered for this function. She had exams just 2 days after the function. This shows the deep rooted connection which we have with Kaliyuva Mane.

* The idea of customized T-shirts which emerged during MU. This simple idea has got a great potential. We wish to capitalize on this idea and use it as one of the strong ways for raising operational expenses.

* Teaching subjects, crafts, dance etc. I would like to applaud the efforts of volunteers who taught craft, dance, subjects and music to our children.

* Planting trees which we procured from forest department.

* We kept stalls at Infosys, Sasken, Juniper, DELL, Wipro, Excel Soft and other corporate houses with an aim to promote the good word.

* Design discussions of learning area. It was an eye opener for all us.

* Design of our newsletter. We still have a long way to go in this.

* Discussions about Solar, Paper Empower

* Bondage that we have developed with children. It’s a priceless gift that we have got form almighty :)

This list goes on… :)

In Kaliyuva Mane, Kids are given ample time, opportunity and freedom to learn, explore things. Here the children learn life skills, self reliance, arts, computers, subjects, sports etc. The best part is the freedom. If children does mistake, they are given opportunities to succeed.

Today we can see learning areas, Kids bank, laboratories, a small play area, hot water facility, volunteer block etc. All this is because of endurance and hardships of our beloved founder, children, staff, patrons and volunteers.

More than anything, the evolution of children. Children who used to drop out of schools are now happily studying. Their broken dreams have gained wings. They have started dreaming to become self reliant. I have seen few children transforming from pranksters to disciplined and sweetest children. The very reason is the love, care, warmth, freedom, values inculcated in this temple of wisdom called Kaliyuva Mane.

Many volunteers have been a part of our volunteer family. Most of them have stayed for a shorter span, very few are staying from a long time. The milestones what we have achieved are minuscule examples to convey the immense potential of youth.

Kaliyuva Mane is a word which means home for learning. We are deeply attached with children and the school. It’s not only a school, but a holy place, a second home for all the fellow family members who are committed to realize the dreams of Future India.

I dream to see Kaliyuva Mane as a school which will bring out the best of the best Bureaucrats, Leaders, Artisans, Technocrats, Doctors, Social Entrepreneurs and more than anything self reliant, patriotic, proud citizens of Bharat...

I wish that this line resonates in every youth's ears all through the day and even in slumber


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Teacher getting taught !

I had a wonderful experience the last week which I would love to share. I teach Geography at "Kaliyuva Mane". As you might already know, the school is based on the principle of freedom. Children have freedom to think and ask questions. It is a free school and most of the kids are rural dropouts.

But that seems to be a blessing in disguise.
The most crucial asset that any human has is his intellect. Unfortunately, most of the schools in Indian educational system believe that education is merely transfer on knowledge from book to mind.

Sometimes it is not even transfer of "knowledge", but transfer of a few sentences. This is in my view the biggest tragedy of India. This seems to be the root cause of all issues facing India. We have stopped questioning. We have stopped thinking.

Coming back to my experience at "Kaliyuva Mane", I was teaching Geography to a bunch of kids who will take up SSLC exams in a year. No, they are not in 9th class! Surprised ? Well, that is the uniqueness about this school. Children are divided into groups based on their current knowledge and there are no classes as such. Children learn, learn and learn. And take up SSLC exams in one go! So, I was teaching "Aravinda" group about "rivers of India". I was telling them that there are two river systems, North Indian & South Indian, and the usual stuff. And that the Northern river system is perennial, Southern is not, etc. When I mentioned about South Indian rivers getting dried up, pat came a question, Mahesha asked "Anna(Brother), why not connect the two of them?" !! I was dumb stuck. Before I could recover, Narayana interrupted with "Dumbo! don't you know? South India is at a height." !!

This is precisely what all great learned thinkers, scientists & policy-makers at the highest level are debating about ! They call in "Interlinking of rivers". These kids were having a similar discussion here. This incident removed all doubts that I had on the relevance of Alternate Education that Ananth sir of Divyadeepa preaches. We need children to think & this is what will make India a knowledge society. Not the 3G iphones or gphones that "dudes" and "babes" might show-off. This creativity needs to be encouraged & nourished. And only then can we hope to have a prosperous, peaceful & happy society!

Monday, January 19, 2009


-Vinay Kulkarni ,Juniper

Gave some, took a lot

In order advocate this year’s motto “Giving Back in the Spirit of the Season” of Juniper Networks, Inc., Bangalore office provided an opportunity to the employees to volunteer for one of the non-government, non-profit organizations within the vicinity of Bangalore.

20 employees from various departments – IPG, EPBG, HR, and Finance – chose to travel to Kaliyuva Mane (“Home for learning” in the local language), an alternative school run by Divyadeepa Charitable Trust, Mysore to facilitate schooling for opportunity deprived children from villages nearby. Located in a village called Kenchala gudu, about 13 km from Mysore, the school has been “Home” for about 21 children and a learning place for another 20 children.

The 20 Juniperites met in “The Incredibles” on Dec 16th to discuss the agenda for Dec 18th, the day earmarked for the visit to Kaliyuva Mane. Enthused participants collated the ideas and activities to associate themselves with the children, not knowing what was in store for themselves, yet. Hygiene, art, talent, and long-term association were the main focus of the activities which showed the intent of responsibility by the team. Smaller teams owned up the task of procuring the required items, including pleasantries, gifts and prizes for the event-winners.

Come Dec 18th, enthused team, late-nighters and early-risers alike, shrugged off the December winter to gather at the office promises at 6.30am. Setting off at 7.10am, as against 7 am, was “on-time” by any Indian Standards. Picking up few on the way, the journey was pleasant with many regular activities in the bus. Caught a quick breakfast en-route and few habitual shoppers curbed their instincts in the wake of reaching the site at the earliest, however not less than 4 hours of travelling.

The school – children, teachers and the staff- greeted Juniper Team with fresh and wide smiles, leaving the Team so mesmerized that the articles were forgotten lying in the bus. A tour around the place was guided by none other than Mr. Ananth Kumar, the brain and hands behind the project. A bank, a store, pseudo-currencies, gift cheques, and other regular transactional models were implemented for the children to experience the real world of capitalism. Small portions (4ftx4ft) of lands are allocated to seniors among the children to maintain and cultivate crops/plants of their choice. Classrooms were open-air, under the shades of trees; every visitor’s exclamation was common “Wish we had such classrooms then!”.

In the due course, quite a few children befriended the dynamic ones from Juniper, sharing their experiences in Kaliyuva Mane and before. Few had learnt dance, singing, and other forms of fine-arts, from the volunteers who were regular to Kaliyuva Mane. There was glow in their eyes as a result of their achievements in Kaliyuva Mane.

Lunch was quick, providing a forum for further bonding. Drawing competition, soccer, and cricket started simultaneously. Children taught us few local games that many of us were not familiar with. Interaction was in English with those who couldn’t speak the local language, which left many in our team with pleasant surprise. The common question was “How are these children inferior to any other who got regular opportunities?”. After 2 hours, everyone gathered to witness the display of talents – group-dance, songs and extempore- by the children. Every Juniperite was now one with the group of children. Distribution of pleasantries followed the performances. Few senior children, appointed as leads, were enrolled for a class on hygiene and well-being. These senior children have pledged to guide their fellow-mates to follow the guidelines of hygiene. Handy checklists and pictorial depiction of everyday activities were handed over to them for reference. The session concluded with few Juniperites associating themselves with these children for an ongoing activity of progress review and feedback. While resident students stayed back, day-scholars started heading home.

Time to leave by 4.30pm, it was a mission accomplished for our team. There was a serious bonding. Minds started thinking of a new horizon for ideas to support these children. Bidding farewell to the resident students and Mr. Ananth Kumar, journey started back home, reaching Bangalore by 10pm. All the while, there was no dearth for thoughts of how fulfilling their day had been and how one can keep the momentum up. It was a day of not “Giving back”, but “Taking something” – a bonding and a fond memory, learning a new facet of the society.

Few quotes from the feedbacks from participants (my collegues from Juniper):

I am really happy and pleased that I took part in this event. It was really a great experience. I have pledged to continue my support for this school.” – Anil K. Maruvada

"I had really great time with all. Talents of the kids really attracted me. Definitely my support will continue for this school" Shivaleela

"It was a great learning experience in the true sense of the name ....I am sure everybody would agree that we learnt a lot from the kids!! We are thankful to Juniper for providing an opportunity to visit the children". – Shriranjani

"It felt really good to see those kids and their talents, keeping in mind the circumstances in which they are. My support will always be there for the institution. And I am in too for supporting to build up their library. :) - Neha

It was such amazing thing to notice about their thought process, how differently they think and react to some situations ...Totally a different and nice experience" – Krithi

"Kids are very talented and they have so much energy, enthusiasm and creativity. They need opportunity and support to develop the ability"

- Mallikarjun

"It was a delight to be with the children. It also was an eye opener to the fact that they gave me hope and gave me joy and all they did was give. All of it with so much enthusiasm and energy fueled by hope, and I thought I was the one going there to give." – S Hemraj

Juniper and Kaliyuva Mane formed a new relation on Dec 18, 2008. Kaliyuva Mane’s dream of enrolling 250 children by 2015 is not unachievable with such a support. Activities have just begun.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


What day is 17th of september ??

Can you answer this without a calendar ??. . well our SriKrishna can . .

Not only this day but tel him any date in next two years and you will have the day in less than a minute. .

Who taught him this ??.. No one . .

Children at Kaliyuva mane are given a lot of freedom to think by themselves. . Regular syllabus keeps them competative enough to brace the world where as an environment to think, act on it makes them grow and provides an extra edge . .

My first day at Kaliyuva Mane

A grand entrance of the humble abode "Kaliyuva Mane". We enter with a great deal of curiosity.

A school away from the din and dramas of city life, "Kaliyuva Mane", run by Divya Deepa trust sets a vivid first impression on my mind. We step in and see few kids playing, oblivious to the arrival of a bunch of young volunteers. Few more kids wave from distance and give sweet innocent smiles. Few more kids come running , hug us and few more tug our dresses to draw our attention. They have thousand questions about who we all are. After getting answers from us , they take us to show around their "proud home" , holding hands. I think- 'Aren't they sweet?' , not aware that there's still lot of wholesome sweetness awaiting me , which i would experience bit by bit throughout my stay there. We all sing,dance,play and learn together. Time flies by in a jiffy and it's now the time for us to bid them a bye to them. With heavy hearts we leave the place bracing ourselves to enter the same old city life and resolving to get back to these lovely kids as often as possible .

This is how my first day at Kaliyuva Mane was. It set the wheels rolling and since then their has been no looking back. Back then i didn't know the day could change my life forever and even i could be a part of change.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Dream dream dream….

Dream dream dream… That’s how it started … as a dream, a hope. Anybody could have brushed it off as a lofty thought, too high an expectation. But it came true…because dreams turn into thoughts, thoughts become actions.

The dream was to meet Dr. Kalam Sir and invite him to be part of the event that we would be organizing in Mysore. All we knew at this point was that we will be organizing “some” “big” event and we want Kalam Sir to be part of it. Nothing more. This thought or dream had such purity and such strength, that it actually came true. We did invite Kalam Sir for our event, and yes, he did agree!

The first action was to get in touch with his personal secretary. We called him up and the dialogue with him turned out to be unusually optimistic and fruitful. We geared up for the dream meeting and set out to Delhi. Before this, we all had a chance to meet and draft a plan of the event that we were to organize. After a few mail exchanges we were ready with the initial draft. Kalam Sir would address a group of like minded people – CEOs, industrialists, beaurocrats, policy makers, students, citizens, rural folk . This would set that stage for a series of lectures, debates, and brain storming sessions on various topics such as entrepreneurship, bridging the urban-rural divide technology for the masses, and the like. The focus would be to awaken the spirit of pride and sense of duty among masses. With this background, We were supposed to meet Kalam Sir personally in Delhi.

Some knowledgeable people say that there are no coincidences; all events are just the unfolding of destiny. Destiny that unfolded before us was incredible! We were told that Kalam Sir would be visiting Mysore and we could meet him at Mysore itself! That meant something really incredible; we would all get to meet him!

Quick change of plans, we decided to reach Mysore on Thursday to meet Kalam Sir at Lalita Mahal Palace at 8.00 pm. Ananth Sir would join us with Sachin and Mahesha. My father was an unexpected addition to the list. We hurriedly packed a few gifts, papers and literature about Divyadeepa.

We reached at the right time and we had to wait in the lobby. The excitement was high, each of us wondered what to speak with Kalam Sir. We shifted places in the lobby hoping to catch just the right amount of attention. At the back of our minds, we were still unsure about actually getting to speak to him. Jat was one guy who seemed at ease, he told us to just speak out what our heart says at the moment and his words made so much sense.

We were then instructed to wait at the entrance, as the bureaucrats and other important people geared up to welcome him. There was the traditional ‘Mysore Olaga ’ too. About 2 or 3 groups waited along with us, setting up cameras and choosing the right vantage points. And then, he arrived, with his usual charming smile. Sachin and Mahesha handed him the hand-made card, he smiled back at us. And we were so thrilled! He proceeded to his room with a swarm of people behind him.

We had to wait for our turn. We were yet to speak to Kalam Sir's personal secretary, most of us still wondered who and where he was! And we also wondered if we could really get to speak to Kalam Sir, or was this all? Just a fleeting glance?!

Thankfully our D.C., Mr. Manivannan was there to help us out. He asked us to wait patiently, our turn would come. It was close to 9.00 pm. “it could be today or tomorrow”, we thought.

Our excitement increased marginally, I could hear myself say “This is it, we are going to meet Kalam sir. Yes, but not yet, what if he has other plans?” We kept ourselves busy. Some of us spoke to the tahshildar Mr. Natesh, sharing our thoughts and experiences. Policemen kept a vigil, I was surprised to note, and nobody were frisked before they were led in. We waited patiently, we knew our turn would come.

And then we were called. One of the security guys stopped us as we all queued up to go in. he asked us if we have an appointment. The answer was an emphatic “Yes!”, we had appointment from Delhi! We moved in, in a line. Kalam Sir welcomed us. He greeted us with his charismatic, almost child-like smile. We sat around him and almost instantly I started clicking away on the camera.

After a brief exchange of glances and smiles, he asked us “What can I do for you?” A moment of silence and then we went non stop. We told him about Kaliyuva Mane, about our volunteering, about Mysooru unplugged and about our upcoming event too. He chatted with us as if he had known us since a long time. There was no need for a rapport to be built, it was there already! He asked each of us what we did. He whole heartedly praised our work. He made children repeat his famous words ‘dream dream dream…..’.

He said he would correspond to us through e mail about our plans. He agreed to be part of our event. He spoke to us with child-like enthusiasm. We felt at home, at ease. It was a group of students speaking to their beloved teacher.

He signed in our books, we clicked pictures. We parted with a deep sense of contentment. His smiling face kept flashing across my mind. And one thought kept coming to me, ‘His smile is so child-like’.

We made it. And I believe we learned 2 important lessons among many. One is about power of thoughts. We wanted to meet Kalam Sir, we were hopeful but not skeptical. Things fell in place.

And the 2nd one about humility. We were well acquainted with Kalam Sir’s ‘down to earth’ attitude. Through his writings, he comes across as a simple, humble, interesting person who believes in the power of dreams and action. We learned about humility again when we met him. It was a simple but profound lesson. We left from the place joyfully and with a sense of achievement

If any one of you wants to meet Kalam Sir, ask us. We will tell you “just go and meet him!”.

- Rashmi