I am indebted to several officers during this trip. Mr Madhava Rao garu was always with me ever since I was introduced to him by Ms Anita. Siddoji became a good friend and another brother to me. Ms Anita and Dr Gautam were always with me whatever I did.
Now, my special thanks to Mr Naresh Penumaka, IRS, whose help enabled my recent trip to Chennai a great success.
Reading my mail about this just-thought-
I travelled left and right from one end of Chennai to the other, visiting our projects more than once (to meet different people at different times), visiting a couple of slums to understand the situation, interacting with children and parents we are supporting, interacting with people helping them, and visiting a few officers, friends, and relatives (whom I saw after a gap of more than 2 decades) in and around Chennai.
The most notable of all individuals I met were Prof Shiva Shankar of Chennai Mathematical Institute(CMI) whom I knew for several years and never saw his face (except a photo in his 30s on CMI's website). He is a mathematical genius, staunch Ambedkarite, Buddhist, and above all my dear friend in the work I have been doing. He is also the brain behind the Scholarships to Scavenging Children, Vice-president of Friends for Education International (FFEI), and intellectual face of FFEI. He introduced several brilliant academicians from all over the globe to our project and they are all regular contributors. I felt fortunate to see him in person and we had discussed several things in our meetings with other activists.
The other was Ms Shaun Giudice, an American lady whom I met in Skya Hostel (hosting the Tsunami orphans) in Manali New Town near Chennai. I was told that she is a teacher in USA (and the wife of a professor) and came to this place a couple of years ago on a project work. She liked the work so much she came a few months ago on her own expenses started living with the children. I felt she was one among them - living, eating, bathing, sleeping, washing, and doing everything with the boys and girls living there. Her room was tiny, packed with books and all types of material. The bed was a piece of cloth spread in the middle of them. She doesn't know the kids' language and kids do not know her English much. When I visited, she was busy teaching them through pictorial methods. She and her wards looked so happy. Their bond seems to be deep rooted. Thanks to her efforts, I was able to communicate with the children in English – some of them are pretty good.
I dined with them. The food was very tasty (I do not think it was prepared for an occasion as I myself requested to give me dinner though it was not the time for them to have it). I spent almost 2 hours with her and the kids, but still I felt I did not spend enough time as I had to rush to the station to catch my late night train back to AP.
I read about such people in books, but when I see her I realized the greatness of such individuals who came all the way from comfortable places like Europe and America and work among the impoverished slums of Africa, India, and other third-world countries. I realized, we, Indians, have a lot to learn from them.
I also met social workers selflessly working with scavengers and other marginalized people – Mr Israel of Janodaya, Mr Isaiah, Mr Jagan of Skya hostel etc.
I also met Dr Bhagya Rao of Sneha Club. He was my batch mate in Andhra Christian College, Guntur and we met each other after a gap of more than 2 decades. He has been doing great work through Sneha Club. Recently he was awarded a honorary doctorate from a western university for his work.
I visited Mr Naresh garu with a band of several people in his beautiful office that even shame some of the American corporate officers. My companions awestrucked looking at such an elegant government office. As we were packed with schedules to visit places, we couldn't give him a chance to take us to a restaurant. But, we could gauge his feelings of sorry for not offering us a decent meal. That shows his tender and human nature.
I thank Mr Naresh garu with all my heart, for all this wouldn't have been possible without his timely help. Thank you, Naresh garu!
I came back with great joy and felt I should have been there for more days. But the fact is: short trips are always most pleasurable and memorable than long trips.
An educated man without character and humility was more dangerous than a beast. If his education was detrimental to the welfare of poor, he was a curse to society.
-Babasaheb Dr B R Ambedkar
--- On Thu, 7/22/10, Benjamin Kaila <benjamin_kaila@
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