(A Tribute to my dear friend Vipul Thaker, someone whose inspired me over a number of years and continues to do so)
This article seeks to pay homage to those foot soldiers that have risen above the social norms and have gone on to make a difference.
Vipul Thaker, a simple man with simple dreams. On one of his birthday, he decided to educate a Rabari Child (a tribe in Gujarat). The class started. The terrace of his two bedroom house was to be the classroom. As days passed by, Vipul went on to explore the talent in the slum surrounding his housing society. A few more students joined in and subsequently the classroom was shifted to a light post on a nearby traffic island. His class had no roof which exposed the unexplored realities of this universe. Every evening at around 9pm the class would commence. Every child was different from the other but still they shared one commonality and that was Poverty, they all came from a family which could hardly pay for their schooling. So, Vipul was on with his work,’ selflessly’. He remarks “Mewa ni Sewa na hoi”. Within one year he had around twenty students who worked in the day time but regularly attended the ‘evening classes’.
Looking at this the parents who belonged to the Rabari community they came to his aid. They decided to gift Vipul with an empty hut in which the classes continued. Of all the problems that Vipul faced, one was that of gender discrimination. The girls were not allowed to study. Finally the parents were convinced, the girls walked in and within a month or so their strength doubled.
This wasn’t his full time profession. He had a job. Though he did receive some voluntary contribution from a few NRIs. He decided to admit his students in to a municipal school. He took utmost care that they learned something, though evening classes were regularly conducted.
Yet he had a dream to nurture, every child had a dream that one day a school bus would arrive at their doorstep and even they would be able to attend those “good” schools in the surrounding areas. Vipul was on the move. He negotiated with school principals, head masters, teachers etc…. and finally a scholarship scheme was introduced. And so today out of forty students, around twenty five of them have been admitted to a good school with better amenities for the students.
In the last few years, some of his students have shown their skills at the state level in the field of dramatic and graphic arts. Today he can proudly say that these children have something to look unto. They have a future too. Vipul considers the renowned Gujarati educationist Gijubhai Badheka as his source of inspiration. He believes that Gandhian ideals too have been a prominent force behind his willingness to contribute selflessly.
The important thing, dear readers, is that this man and many more like him are actually striving to provide an identity to these children. They are providing a platform through which these children can express their ideas and needs, which if unnoticed, would create a strong sense of grievance towards the grave inequality that has crept down to the roots of our society.
All of these grassroots revolutionaries are working towards bringing a constructive change in the society, but they remain away from flashes of the cameras and those who claim to act as the flage bearers of change.
Arnav Anjaria is a student of Masters in Politics at the School of Social Sciences, University of Hyderabad. He is the Editor In Chief of The Arachneed and also the founder of the magazine.
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