Anuradha Kishore was a practising paediatrician — for six years in England and thirteen years in India. It was her dad’s illness that brought her back to India. By then, she had had three children and life was hectic. “During my practice, I realised that many children have minor learning disabilities. While parents are more accepting of severe challenges, minor issues are often brushed away,” says Anuradha.
She noticed that these children would act out, malinger, and suffer in silence, while parents would enroll their children in more tuition classes. When she voiced her concerns, parents would hesitate to investigate the underlying issue in fear of the resultant stigma. She’s seen cases of mothers giving up their jobs to help the child study. She’s even seen cases of marriages turning sour.
By their teenage days, these children inevitably under-perform and slip into psychological setbacks like depression, anxiety attacks and self-harm. “Children who grew up in front of my eyes went through this cycle and I wanted to make a difference. My hands were tied as I was not an educational professional,”
A couple of years ago, to bridge the gap, Anuradha took up a PG Diploma course in teaching and learning, and is now a primary school teacher at the Heritage School, Gurgaon. “Working in a school is very different from working in a clinic. Unlike treating medical illness, teaching is a test of patience, and results aren’t as quick.” Even as she sculpts the minds of tiny-tots and prevents them from going off-track, she also attends to their minor injuries and sickness inside the classrooms.
“Despite cultural differences, the needs of children between four and six across the globe are exactly the same. All that they need is a loving environment,” says Anuradha.
“Through my days at Presidency College, Kolkata and IIM, Lucknow, I was taught to believe that I could change the world. As the Functional Consultant at IBM, London, my work was intellectually challenging, and my international colleagues made my job more fun. But with each passing day, I could not visualise the greater impact. Twenties being the most spirited and propitious phase in life, I felt I must channelise the energy to a good cause. The void in me had metamorphosed and I could not push myself to work any more,” shares Shuvajit Payne.
That was how the economics graduate took a turn to uplift rural India in 2010. At the outset, Shuvajit struggled to ascertain his relevance as most of the knowledge he had assimilated was academic. But his days at Waifad village, Vidarbha region, via SBI’s Youth for India Fellowship, was life-changing. He lived in a computer center, slept on a mat, and despite poor internet connectivity and perennial power cuts, Shuvajit helped the children of the farming village learn English and computer skills. He also helped set up vocational training centres. “One student became a software engineer and another became an animator,” he recalls. Shuvajit then became the Program Director of the fellowship and went on to mentor many more youngsters.
Shuvajit currently heads the education initiatives at Barefoot College, to help children from secluded areas, who have no option but to work, have better options in the future through night schools. Shuvajit formulates the informal, hands-on framework, where localised examples are used to make learning captivating — carpentry deciphers geometry, flora and fauna of the village expounds biology, and water bodies teach science and climate. “I dream of the day Indian villages become self-sufficient and education is accessible to all.”
“It started with a six-month break. Many get comfortable whining, but I acted on how I felt,” says Priya Jain. While she loved journalism, she wanted to see if she could find pleasure in being her own boss, deciding her own hours, and make ends meet while working at her preferred pace. And turns out, in six months, she could make more than the salary she drew
as a journalist.
While growing up, Priya was often left out of recreational games by her elder brothers. So she turned to DIY (Do-it-yourself) activities for leisure early in life. She envisioned herself as a witch, and stewed, stirred and created many concoctions when she was young. This held her in good stead when her flashy TV life, where she reported and lead teams at leading news channels, made her clock insane hours and a problematic skin allergy went undiagnosed.
In 2014, when her physicians suspected that her baby niece might suffer from the same medical issue, she decided it might be time to invest more attention at home. Having seen her mother make laundry soaps at home, she thought it might be an interesting idea to make her own soaps to help her niece’s skin allergy. So she attended workshops, whisked ingredients, and voila: her milk-based, vanilla-flavored soap worked wonders on the baby.
After her mom’s passing in 2014, Priya, then 28 years old, established Mishikrafts, a company named after her niece, to retail her home-made soaps. Today, Mishikrafts has become a sought-after home brand for soaps, chocolates, candles, cosmetics and body-care products. “Like many entrepreneurs, I think about going back to a job everyday. But making people happy in their own skin is immensely gratifying,” says Priya.
Aviram sat behind comfortable glassdoors in Israel, his home country, as the CEO of a Medical Device Company that worked on developing cardiac pacemakers and defibrillators. Although a career in the medical industry was by chance, the psychology graduate toiled hard to earn the big bucks. But life wasn’t satisfying.
A year-long sabbatical with his wife Yorti in 1998 brought him to Chennai, India, and that changed the couple’s life forever. “It was love at first sight. Everything about Tamil Nadu, from its warm people to roadside idlis served with delicious chutney varieties made us feel at home,” reminisces Aviram. The couple went back to Israel, sold their assets, and moved to Auroville after the birth of their first born. Here, they started their reforestation project, Sadhana Forest, in the outskirts of Pondicherry in 2003.
“I was not meant to stay in the corporate world. To me, following one’s heart is a strategy for risk avoidance. When I started out, there were many who counselled me to compromise. But I knew that sooner or later, with or without Sadhana Forest, I would have found my way into service,” shares Aviram.
Spread across 70 acres, Sadhana Forest is an endeavour to recreate the endangered tropical dry evergreen forest that is unique to the region. By planting indigenous trees for over fifteen years, Sadhana Forest has reclaimed several acres of dry land and has aided the surrounding villages through its water conservation initiatives. “My older daughter, Osher Shanti, grew up with the children of the neighbouring villages and her friends still visit us. My second daughter, Shalev Anandi, was born here,” shares Aviram.
Sadhana Forest has expanded to Haiti and Kenya now. “I believe when you take care of the planet, the planet will take care of you,” says the Israeli-Indian. To those who haven’t found their calling yet, Aviram urges, “take a break — not to indulge, but to travel and meet new people and encounter new ideas — so that you have the space to observe yourself from the outside.”
“For eighteen years, I held on to a job that I did not like only for the sake of my family. I stayed on for two more years to become eligible for pension benefits. Extravagance has never excited me. How much money I need to secure my life is my choice, isn’t it? The materialistic things that I’ve not been blessed with has never bothered me. This casual attitude to life has been both a blessing and a bane,” shares
Dr Lalitha Santanam.
Lalitha was raised in an agraharam (traditional brahmin neighbourhood) in Malapuram village, Thanjavur District. While her father, a police inspector, would not let his children watch television at home, he inculcated in them a flair for Carnatic music. He would frequently throw identify-the-raga quizzes at home and Sruthilaya was the only radio program that got his nod. Studies did not interest Lalitha — she would do only the bare minimum required to pass her exams. Yet, she had assimilated the varnam form of Carnatic music by just listening to her sister being tutored by a music guru.
After the death of her father in 1989, Lalitha was offered an administrative role in the Tamil Nadu Police Department. Even as she maintained records of IPS officers, identified their training needs, finalised training batches, and planned for contingencies, Lalitha composed music during lunch breaks.
After twenty years, when she was 40, Lalitha quit her job, completed her PhD in music, began teaching music to children and performed stage shows. Under her trust, Nrithya Kala Mandir, Lalitha now runs a fine arts academy, production house, teacher training academy and a sabha to promote everything musical. “Music not only soothes, but can also be used as a medium for societal changes. Imparting morals and life values to youngsters through music is my contribution to our society,” beams Lalitha.
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