One of the areas that Asha Kiran does invaluable work in is Harijanwada. Here there are no proper roads, just small lanes with cacti on either sides, huts made of dried grass, exposed to the heat and open drainage. I was taken into a small hut, with just one room which served as a kitchen, bedroom and storeroom. An old lady aged 78 years wearing a red saree was applying cow dung to the floor. The people of the village believe that cow dung has medicinal properties. On being called the old lady named Narsamma came out to meet the team from the NGO. She was in tears. And then she poured out her grief of having no one to take care of her. Alone, unable to walk on her own and therefore earn a living, she said to Prakash with folded hands “Meeru pette Annam naku kadupu nimputhundi,” (the food that you give me is filling my stomach.) Prakash gives 5kgs of rice, half kg of daal and other groceries to these needy people every month. “I make sure my work reaches out to the right people,” adds Prakash.
I asked him how he defines ‘right people’ to which he replied, “I go for surveys myself to these villages. I conduct meetings and find out the background of every individual. I work with orphan kids, old people usually in the age on 60 and above and abandoned by their family and poor people who earn only Rs. 200 per month. Once I filter this, I do home visits and then make a final list of my beneficiaries. This isn’t easy, as there are always others who are dissatisfied with my methods. Learning to say “no” was something I learned to do.”
“I want to be a doctor when I grow up. I have a mother and a younger brother. My mom does domestic work and my brother is in school. I’m in Grade 10 and would love to study further. Now, I study without worry as most of my expenses are taken care of – like food, books, clothes etc.” adds Keerthi, from Indira Nagar at Pedan. Just one example of the success of the Asha Kiran programme.
People used to flock to Prakash wherever he went. He would listen patiently, always smiling. Since he looked like one of them, there was a sense of belonging and people started to open up to him. They treat him as a son, a brother and even a mentor. “I stay with my grandparents. Sir, had been supporting me since my 9th class. After my 10th grade, they wanted to get me married. But, I wasn’t ready. I spoke to sir and he still supported me all the way. Because of his intervention, I’m studying further now,” adds Sushma, who is an orphan.
A place where the caste system is still prevalent and majority of slums dwellers are tribals, Asha Kiran is slowly changing the attitude of these people. This is in stark difference to other villages where the people who are untouchables are banished from entering! I was horrified since I thought that this happened only in movies!
Prakash has been working tirelessly providing the needy with groceries and food. He also spends time with the kids and elders there. It was motivating to see him working so effortlessly and speaking with love. Indeed, Asha Kiran and Prakash are a ray of hope in the lives of Pedan village people.