Marathi Culture and Festivals

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   Helping Hands


 हात देऊ मदतीचे | सेतू बांधू अंतरीचे 

जुळवू नाते मनांचे | स्वप्न पाहू सुपंथाचे||

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

आपण उत्तर अमेरिकेतील मराठी लोक आपले यश एकमेकाना सांगण्यासाठी, मराठी कार्यक्रमांचा आस्वाद घेण्यासाठी एकत्र जमतो. ( मराठी मंडळात किंवा आणखी काही निमित्ताने..) मराठी म्हणून एकत्र येणे ही जशी आपली गरज आहे, तशी एकमेकांना कठीण प्रसंगात आधार देणे, मदतीचे हात देऊन पुढे जाण्यास मदत करणे ही मराठी समाज म्हणून आणि व्यक्ती म्हणूनही आपली गरज आहे. कारण आयुष्य एकट्याचे नसते ते एकमेकांचे आणि एकमेकांसाठी असते. मदतीचे हात देणारा कोण आणि घेणार कोण अशा भेदाच्या पलीकडला आनंद आणि फायदा दोघांनाही मिळतो.

देणार्‍याने देत जावे |घेणार्‍याने घेत जावे||
घेता घेता एक दिवस| देणार्‍याचे हात घ्यावे.|| असे विंदा करंदीकर म्हणून गेले

तसे देणाऱ्याने एक दिवस घेणाऱ्याचे हात व्हावे | आता तर आरोग्यशास्त्रातही सेवाकार्याचा फायदा काय होतो ते सांगत असतात.

आपल्या मराठी आणि भारतीय संस्कृतीमध्ये संतांनी, वेदांनी, उपनिषदांनी स्वत:पलीकडे जाऊन दुसऱ्यांचा विचार करण्याची सूत्रे सांगितली आहेत. धर्म शब्दाची व्याख्याच मुळी “धारयते इति धर्म:” अशी आहे. एकमेकांना साहाय्य करत समाजाची धारणा करून, सर्वाना सुपंथाला नेणारा तो धर्म. मग तो जगातला कोणताही धर्म असो. तो मानव धर्म .. जीवनधर्म.

या सदराचा प्रपंच यासाठी आहे. वेगळ्या पातळ्यांवर काय काम चालू आहे आणि काय करता येऊ शकते याचा विचारविनिमय करण्यासाठी हे सदर आहे.

अमेरिकेतून महाराष्ट्रासाठी काम

अमेरिकेतल्या भारतीय समाजासाठी काम

अमेरिकन समाजासाठी काही योगदान

आणि जगातल्या जनताजनार्दनाची सेवा अशा सर्व पातळ्यांवर नि:स्वार्थीपणे काम करणारे मराठी लोक आहेत. काही स्वतंत्रपणे ,काही संस्थाबरोबर, तर काही स्वत:च्या संस्था निर्माण करून ! त्यांची माहिती आणि त्यांच्या कामांची माहिती या सदरात असेल. इथे लेखक आणि वाचक वेगळे नाहीत. तेव्हा नुसते वाचून वा वा म्हण्यापेक्षा विचार करावा, या सदराला योग्य असे लिखाण पाठवून विचार विनिमय करावा आणि कृतीची प्रेरणा, दिशा घ्यावी, योजना करावी. यासाठी हे सदर आहे. तुम्हाला हे सदर वाचायला, विचार करायला आणि अभिप्राय पाठवायलाही आवडेल.

तेव्हा आपले मदतीचे हात देऊन, अंतरे दूर करणारे सेतू बांधू.. मनाची कवाडे उघडू आणि स्वप्नांना प्रत्यक्षात उतरवू...

Meeting of the minds | Dream one of a kind |

Helping hands of all kinds | Bridging miles and minds ||


शक्यतो कामाच्या वास्तव स्वरुपा बद्दलची खात्री करूनच  या सदरात लेख प्रसिद्ध करण्याचा आम्ही  प्रयत्न करू. मात्र अधिक माहिती आणि खात्री करून घेण्यासाठी वाचकांनी लेखकाशी संपर्क साधला तर उत्तम !

संस्थांची अधिक माहिती देण्याचाही प्रयत्न आम्ही करू. परंतु आम्ही कोणत्याच संस्थेचे प्रतिनिधी अथवा प्रचारक नाही. पाठपुरावा करण्यासाठी वेळ देऊ शकणारे स्वयंसेवक सध्या तरी आमच्याकडे नाहीत. ज्यांना काम करण्याची इच्छा आहे, त्यांना योग्य मार्ग नक्कीच सापडतील


विद्या हर्डीकर सप्रे

vidyahardikar@gmail.com


"Be The Change You Wish to See in the World' are the inspiring words written by M.K. Gandhi, and are a starting point for MCF's new column “Helping Hands”. I am happy that Mrs. Vidya Sapre has agreed to take the lead on this initiative as she is already involved in and working with a few charity organizations to help needy people. 


We will publish personal stories of acts of charity, information about organizations focused on helping those in need, and how to make a difference to improve the lives of others. We will start off with examples of Marathi people who are making an effort to help others. You can send your story about any act of charity by an individual or organization; please address it me at kokatayash@gmail.com


By sharing these acts of kindness or information on charities, I hope to encourage others to extend a helping hand. The information published here at MCF will be for informational purposes only, just to let you know  who is working, in a charitable capacity, in person or as an organization. I suggest everyone should verify the authenticity of these organizations and people before you decide to get involved in any way.


Aishwarya Kokatay

kokatayash@gmail.com 


5.  Mata Balak Utkarsha Pratishthan,Sangola By: Dr.Sanjivani Kelkar


A transformational movement raised by WOMEN for the rural society of drought prone Sangola in Solapur Dist.

Untiring efforts for more than 35 yrs for-

1) Empowerment of rural women with their families

2) A school providing quality education and holistic development of rural children

from KG to High school.

With inspiration, passion and determination a chain of projects created through following initiatives-

  • Formal Education in school-Utkarsha Vidyalay,
  • Informal Education through vocational training, art academy and development program for Adolescent girls
  • Health – creating awareness about assessment of hemoglobin, pregnant mother and infant mortality, woman and child health
  • Support the Struggle against injustice through counseling centers
  • Financial Independence through Self Help Groups
  • Environment Awareness with main focus on Water Conservation

As we grow we come across challenges for the sustenance of our initiatives and we are being nonprofit NGO we count heavily on our donors and patrons like you for moral, active & financial assistance. 

In anticipation of generous help & consideration! 

With Warm Regards, 

Dr.(Mrs) Sanjeevani S.Kelkar

(President - MBUP) 

Further details about this nonprofit NGO can be obtained by visiting our website- www. mata Balak.org and the links-

How to Donate to Mata Balak Utkarsha Pratishthan in the U.S.

100% of all donated funds are utilized for projects with no deductions for administrative overhead, marketing, etc. Build a School in India’s volunteers and One World Children's Fund provide these services at no cost.

Build a School in India’s fiscal partner is One World Children’s Fund (OWCF). OWCF is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that is approved by the IRS to collect tax-deductible donations. OWCF’s tax identification number is 77-0479205.

Tax-deductible contributions for Build a School in India – Mata Balak can be made by:

Check donations:

  1. Payable to: OWCF
  2. On the memo line write: Build a School in India
  3. Mail to: OWCF

1012 Torney Ave, #201

San Francisco, CA 94129

Online donations:

Shortcut directly to the Build a School in India – Mata Balakdonate page:

https://support.oneworldchildrensfund.org/checkout/donation?eid=78389

For additional information:

India Contact Person: Dr. Sanjeevani Kelkar

Phone: +91 94210 63826

Email: matabalak@yahoo.co.in

Website: www.matabalak.org

U.S. Contact Person: Andrew Lederer, MHA

Phone: +1-650-823-7507

Email: alederer@usa.net

Website: www.BuildaSchoolinIndia.org

Thank You for Supporting Mata Balak Utkarsha Pratishthan!


4. Nachiket Children’s Libraries


Inspiring a love of reading – Paving the way to a brighter future

  Nachiket’s Mission 


Nachiket Children’s Libraries are committed to instilling and supporting a love of reading in order to improve the learning capabilities and the quality of education for disadvantaged children. Reading will promote independent thinking thus empowering disadvantaged children to confront and conquer immense inequalities in educational and other opportunities.

  Nachiket’s Goals 

  • Establish networks of library services to ensure that Marathi books are available free of charge to all children.
  • Conduct activities to help children realize their full potential.
  • Establish reading programs for early years to foster a reading culture in the family.
What do we know?
  • Children arrive in grade one with learning skills not properly developed.
  • Children from lower-income families are more likely to fall behind in early language and cognitive achievement.
  • Children are brought up in homes without books. The very first book a child gets is a text book.
  • Critical importance of Reading Aloud and/or Story-telling from infancy.
  • There is very little awareness about the need for easy access to an interesting and attractive literary environment.
  • Proficiency and positive attitude towards reading is linked to academic achievements in all areas including social and civic engagement.

Brief description of Organization’s work/programs:

Nachiket was established in 2004. Functioning at present are 20 libraries, five in the city of Amravati and fifteen in the surrounding rural area. Currently more than 5,000 children use our libraries. We have established a community-oriented method for running a village library out of donated or rented spaces. Each Nachiket library is run with the help of volunteers and some paid librarians or trained persons. Libraries are open for two-four hours after school and the whole day on weekends. Some of our libraries are open in the morning also on weekdays. We have 800 books and reference material such as a globe, atlas, maps, and dictionaries at each library. We rotate the books twice a year and also have a central storage from where a staff member selects books all through the year according to the needs of her branch.

Expanding Our Reach: We recently reached out to the youngest readers and started a reading program for children from infants to age five. In this pre-primary program mothers are also involved. This program will help create a culture where children and their families read at home. This is groundbreaking in that it is trying to reach mothers who have never been read to themselves and to establish a culture of reading from birth. Study after study has shown that as mothers’ literacy improves, the whole family’s economic situation improves.

Regular users of Nachiket Library are taking the ‘Idea of Reading’ (‘Wachan Udbodhan’) to even smaller villages. Grade 9 readers have started holding parents/readers assembly (Palak/Wachak Melawa) to raise awareness about reading. Librarians at Nachiket Library also are training grade 9 students to start story-telling programs for their own households and nearby residences. Within two summers, these students spearheaded an initiative to bring books back to their small villages in order to show their community how important books are. In spite of challenges such as complete lack of awareness about the importance of reading within the communities, Nachiket Children’s libraries are striving to change the world one small library at a time.

Book-Selection: We have an excellent selection of interesting and attractive books in every field. Some titles include A Century of Inventions, Individuals Who Shaped the Millennium and Hana’s Suitcase and Chandralok (an account of all the space travels with photographs). Nachiket is helping children to learn about their surroundings and also make them aware of events around the world. Our readers are inspired by Carver and Helen Keller; captivated by the space travels, shocked by Hanna’s Suitcase.

We have 800 books and reference material such as a globe, atlas, maps, and dictionaries at each library. We rotate the books twice a year and also have a central storage from where a staff member selects books all through the year according to the needs of their branch. These children still have no books at home and the perspective ‘reading for fun’ was beyond comprehension among their parents. Parents are thrilled to see the quality of books provided by Nachiket, which were otherwise unavailable to these children. Once a book is not only do the children read the book, but also the members of their family as well as their neighbors.


Activities:  At Nachiket we provide a creative learning forum to awaken and support children’s intellectual curiosity and imaginative power. Activities such as drawing, painting, storytelling, dance, drama, readings by children's authors, reading out loud in groups, and writing workshops are routinely held. In some libraries, we have a monthly interactive science program that explores various science concepts with the help of experiments. Children are so happy just to get their hands on a nice paper and coloring material that they pour their hearts out. We also offer activities developed by Doorstep School, Pune, to improve children’s reading skills. Children enjoy practicing their reading, public speaking, and performing skill. Girls are winning competitions in schools, are publishing in Amravati newspaper, and are developing a wide interest that is obvious from their hand-written magazine, “Inspiration.” Some titles include Global Warming, Mumbai Terror Attack, A Famous Museum in Ahmednagar, and Types of snakes.

Staff: We employ people from the local communities. This way it’s easier for our staff members to get community involved and thus build the trust. Teachers and people that are associated with the elected governing body are invited to give a special presentation and/or preside over workshops and competitions. Our staff knows how to make books and learning fun for the children. Sulochana from Shirajgaon, has even written and directed three plays for her library. We hold one-day seminars twice a year in Amravati, which all staff members attend. This gives them a forum to exchange ideas, discuss various issues, and generally learn from each other’s experiences.

The district of Amravati covers an area of 12,626 sq. Kms. and is subdivided into 14 talukas and each taluka comprises of hundreds of small villages.  The total population is 2.7 million.  More than 60% of the population lives in rural areas. There are 2,607 primary schools that have 314,444 students.


We would like to:

  • Provide training and hold workshops for full time staff to keep them informed, inspired and motivated.
  • To make a library appealing so that many more children want to go to the library.
  • Expand library services to various communities in exclusively tribal areas.
  • Expand Pre-Primary Reading Program in the rural communities where Nachiket Libraries are located.
  • Prepare educational DVDs and CDs similar to ones available here at the Toronto Public Library. The lack of exposure is one of the biggest barriers in developing children’s full potential.
  • Establish reading rooms where children could find space to read, to work on school projects, to take a leisurely look at the display material, to interact with each other and to hold group activities.
  • Computer literacy programs and monthly science programs.

“There is not such a cradle for democracy upon the earth as a free public library.” 

Andrew Carnegie




One-Room Library 

3.   स्त्रियांचे आधारघर ‘ओलावा’

       Mumbai Tarun Bharat च्या सौजन्याने: प्रेषक: श्रीधर दामले, शिकागो


समाजमंदिरे
मातृशक्ती हीच राष्ट्रशक्ती मानणार्‍या ‘ओलावा’ या संस्थेद्वारे महिला सक्षमीकरणाकरिता अनेकविध उपक्रम राबविले जातात. स्त्रियांना त्यांच्यातील सामर्थ्याची जाणीव करून देऊन समाजाच्या मुख्य प्रवाहात आणणे हे महत्त्वाचे कार्य संस्थेद्वारे केले जाते.
११ फेब्रुवारी २०११ मध्ये अमरावती येथे या संस्थेची नोंदणी झाली. समाजात स्त्रीला माणूस म्हणून जगता यावे, तिला तिचा स्वपरिचय व्हावा, सर्व स्तरामध्ये काम करता यावे, याकरिता ‘ओलावा’ची नोंदणी सुरू झाली. स्त्रीचा विचार करताना भारतीय संस्कृतीच्या संवर्धनाकरिता तिच्यातील सामर्थ्याची ओळख तिला व्हावी आणि तिच्यातील मातृत्व, कर्तृत्व, नेतृत्व या निसर्गदत्त दैवी सामर्थ्यावर तिने राष्ट्रहितार्थ समाज निर्माण करावा आणि तो करताना तिला दोन पावलं सहकार्य करावे हाच ‘ओलावा’चा उद्देश.
संस्थेद्वारे महिला व मुलांकरिता समुपदेशन केंद्र चालविले जाते. विवाह म्हणजे दोन व्यक्ती-परिवार यांच्यातील एकत्रित सहजीवनाला सुरुवात करण्यासाठी असलेली व्यवस्था. या व्यवस्थेतून वैवाहिक जीवनाला मानसिक, भौतिक, भावनिक आधार मिळणे ही प्रत्येकाची गरज. कुटुंब म्हणून समाजातील जगण्याला सुरुवात झाल्यावर दुर्दैवाने कुणालाही अडचण निर्माण झाली तर ती दूर करता यावी, समाजात चर्चेचा विषय होऊ नये याकरिता शासन स्तरावरून समुपदेशन कक्षाची सुरुवात झाली. त्यात अपेक्षित यशही मिळतंय्. संस्थेचे अमरावती सिटी कोतवाली पोलिस स्टेशन येथे ५ वर्षांपासून, तर नागपूर शाखेचे गेल्या ३ वर्षांपासून समुपदेशन कक्ष सुरू आहेत. सामान्यत: शारीरिक आजारात ताप येणे हे प्रथमदर्शनी नित्याचे वाटत असले तरी तपासणी केल्यावर तापाची कारणे भिन्न आढळतात. अगदी तसेच परिवारातही प्रथमदर्शनी वाटणार्‍या काही समस्या एकाच प्रकारच्या वाटल्या तरी चर्चेतून त्याची कारणे भिन्न असतात. समस्येच्या मुळापर्यंत जाऊन त्याचे योग्य निदान करून, अशिलाच्या सहकार्याने त्याची समस्या सोडवणे हेच समुपदेशन.
‘ओलावा’ने पोलिसांबरोबर कामाला सुरुवात केली. सामान्य परिवारांना भेडसावणार्‍या समस्यांचे प्रमाण दुर्दैवाने दिवसेंदिवस वाढायला लागले आहे. यात उद्याच्या भारताचे स्वप्न पूर्ण करणारी तरुण पिढी भरडली जाऊ नये, यासाठी संस्थेने पुढाकार घेतला. याकरिता २०१२ पासून ‘मी व माझी ओळख’ यावर कार्यशाळा घेऊन तरुण पिढीला मार्गदर्शन करण्याचे काम संस्थेने सुरू केले. गेल्या आठ-दहा वर्षांपासून समुपदेशनाकरिता तरुण मुलामुलींना संस्थेत घेऊन येणार्‍या आईवडिलांची संख्या वाढली आहे. प्रेमप्रकरणांतून अनेक मुलींची फसवणूक होते. यातून त्या मुलीचे संपूर्ण आयुष्य उद्ध्वस्त होते. अशा घटनांचे प्रमाण वाढायला लागल्याने विवाहपूर्व कार्यशाळांची कल्पना पुढे आली. आजची विद्यार्थिनी उद्याची स्त्री आहे. तिची फसवणूक होणार नाही, तिला सन्मानाने जगता यावे, तिची तिला ओळख व्हावी हे काम नितांत महत्त्वाचे आहे, या विचारांनी ही कार्यशाळा सुरू झाली. कितीही कायदे, पोलिस यंत्रणा, स्त्री-पुरुष समानता आली तरी, जोपर्यंत स्त्रीला स्वतःची ओळख होत नाही, आत्मभाव जागृत होत नाही, तोपर्यंत सजगता येणार नाही. मैत्री किती असावी, नाही कुठे म्हणावं, याचं तारतम्य तिला कळावं, जीवनमूल्य समजावीत यासाठी संस्था तत्परतेने काम करते. जीवनात स्त्री यशस्वी व्हावी यासाठी संस्थेने अनेक कार्यशाळा घेतल्या. त्याची सकारात्मक उत्तरं मिळाली. पुढील काळातही संस्था अधिक कार्यशील राहील यात शंका नाही.
संस्थेच्या अमरावती व नागपूर दोन्हीही केंद्रांमध्ये समुपदेशनातून समस्या सुटली नाही, तर तज्ज्ञ व्यक्तींकडून मोफत कायदेविषयक सल्ला दिला जातो. यामध्ये वैवाहिक समस्या, कामाच्या ठिकाणी होणार्‍या लैंगिक अत्याचारापासून स्त्रीचे संरक्षण व्हावे यासाठी संस्थेतर्फे सल्ला दिला जातो.
‘ओलावा’च्या कार्यकर्त्या आपल्या विद्यार्थिदशेपासून स्वामी विवेकानंदांना आदर्श मानणार्‍या आहेत. विवेकानंद सार्धशती असताना आपणही काही नवे संकल्प स्वीकारू शकतो का? असा विचार मनात आला आणि संस्थेने भगिनी निवेदिता शैक्षणिक पालकत्व योजना सुरू केली. आज अनेक सेवावस्तीतील घरांमध्ये एक कथा आहे. त्या घरातून निवेदिता समाजाला मिळावी, म्हणून संस्थेने सार्धशतीचे औचित्य साधून भगिनी निवेदिता शैक्षणिक पालकत्व योजनेला सुरुवात केली. याकरिता ज्या शाळांमध्ये सेवावस्तीतील विद्यार्थिनी शिकायला येतात, त्यांच्याशी संपर्क करायचा, असे ठरले. त्याप्रमाणे लगेच कामाला सुरुवात झाली. ज्या गरीब आहेत, पण गुणवत्तापूर्ण आहेत, अशा नववीतून दहावीत जाणार्‍या १६ मुलींचे शैक्षणिक पालकत्व घेण्यासाठी पालकांना आवाहन करण्यात आले. अनेक पालक या कार्यात सहभागी झाले. या वर्षीही या योजनेंतर्गत २१ मुलींचे पालकत्व घेण्यात आले.
गत दोन वर्षांपासून चुनाभट्टी अंबिकानगर, अमरावती या सेवावस्तीत संस्थेच्या माध्यमातून शिक्षण-आरोग्य संस्कार या त्रिस्तरीय माध्यमातून काम केले जाते. सोमवर ते शुक्रवार मुलांसाठी अभ्यासिका चालते. विविध उपक्रम राबवले जातात. गुढीपाडव्याला वस्तीतील लोकांकडून मंदिरावर गुढी उभारली जाते. दहावीच्या विद्यार्थ्यांना शुभेच्छा देण्याचा कार्यक्रम घेण्यात आला. याशिवाय संस्कारवर्ग, आरोग्य शिबिर, महिलांसाठी प्रबोधन, रक्तगट तपासणी, स्वच्छता अभियान इत्यादी उपक्रमांद्वारे स्त्रियांमध्ये जागृती करण्यात येते.
संस्थेच्या माध्यमातून या वर्षी सोनुबाई अग्निहोत्री मूकबधिर शाळेतील विद्यार्थ्यांकरिता रक्षाबंधन, अजब बंगला येथे सहल, विद्यार्थ्यांचे वाढदिवस असे विविध उपक्रम राबविण्यात आले. या वर्षी ८ मार्च जागतिक महिलादिनानिमित्त दिव्यांग विद्यार्थ्यांच्या शाळेतील शिक्षिकांचा सन्मानपत्र देऊन सत्कार करण्यात आला.
संस्थेने प्लॅटफॉर्म शाळेतील विद्यार्थ्यांबरोबर रंगपंचमी साजरी केली. आगामी काळात समाजातील अधिकाधिक महिलांकरिता, तसेच शाळा-महाविद्यालयीन स्तरावर विद्यार्थ्यांमध्ये कार्यशाळांच्या माध्यमातून काम करण्याचा संस्थेचा मानस आहे.
पुढील वर्षात ‘यात्रा संवेदनेची’ या माध्यमातून समाजजीवनातील विविध सेवाकार्यांचा महिलांना परिचय व्हावा व तिचा मी-घर-समाज हा प्रवास सुरू व्हावा हा उपक्रम संस्थेच्या माध्यमातून राबवला जाणार आहे. वसतिगृहांमध्ये मुला-मुलींना समुुपदेशन सेवा उपलब्ध करून देण्याचाही ‘ओलावा’चा मानस आहे.
मीरा टोळे
९२२५२३३२६३
(‘ओलावा’च्या समाजकार्यात कुठल्याही प्रकारे सहभागी व्हावेसे वाटल्यास शिल्पा कोल्हे, ९७६६५४१०९१ या भ्रमणध्वनीवर संपर्क साधता येईल.)


2. It was very helpful for Mr. Vengurlekar to write about Mamta on our first column, she is now getting help from Nargis Datt foundation! Now we are sharing the second one in the series in Marathi:


चला ऋण फेडूया :  सुवर्णा गोखले


आपण सारे शहरात रहातो म्हणून जे शहरात रहात नाहीत त्यांच्यासाठी आपण खूप काही करणे लागतो .... कारण आपण शहरात रहातो. जसं मी शहरात रहाते म्हणून माझ्या घराच्या कोपऱ्यावरची कचराकुंडी भरली कि पुन्हा रिकामी होण्याची व्यवस्था आहे, दिवे गेले कि एम एस ई बी ला फोन केला कि माझे काम होते, चौकातल्या हॉस्पीटलमध्ये मी कधीही गेले तर तिथे कायम डॉक्टर असतोच!... ‘तो आहे का?’ असे पहाण्याची मला गरज नसते, नि बाकी महाराष्ट्रात कितीका दुष्काळ असेना मी नळ सोडला कि साठवणूकीच्या माझ्या टाकीतून मला मुबलक पाणी येते......कारण मी पुण्यासारख्या शहरात रहाते. या सुविधांची मनाला, शरीराला इतकी सवय झालेली असते कि ‘त्या शिवायची मी’ असा विचारच करू शकत नाही. चुकून असा विचार केलाच तर मग मला वाटते की ‘मला टाकी घेणे परवडते मग का घ्यायची नाही?’ ‘मी इन्व्हरटर घेतला म्हणून बाकीच्यांकडे वीज गेली तरी माझ्या घरात वीज आहे.... मला परवडतं!’, ‘मी पैसे देते म्हणून मला डॉक्टर मिळतो.. मला परवडतं!’ .... तरीही एकदा तरी आपण विचार करून बघा.

ज्ञान प्रबोधिनीच्या वतीने ग्रामीण महिलांच्यासाठी जे काम चालते त्या कामाची जबाबदारी माझ्यावर असल्यामुळे गेली २० वर्ष मी पुण्याजवळच्या ग्रामीण भागात बचत गटाचे काम करत फिरते आहे. दहा वर्षापुर्वीची गोष्ट आहे. एकदा मी पुणे जिल्ह्यातल्या वेल्हे तालुक्यातल्या एका दुर्गम गावच्या वाडीवर निघाले होते. वाडीवर पोचायला मुख्य गावापासून तासभर चालत जावं लागलं होतं. तिथल्या बचत गटातून कर्ज घेऊन कोणी काही उद्योग करु शकेल का? याचा अंदाज घेण हे माझं त्या दिवशीचं नेमकं काम होतं. आवश्यक अशी प्राथमिक माहिती घ्यायला मी सुरुवात केली, ‘वीज असते का?’ पहिला प्रश्न विचारला तर एक ताई म्हणाली ‘आता येईलच २-४ दिवसांत’ ‘म्हणजे गेली कधी?’ मी स्वाभाविक विचारले तर म्हणाली ‘जाऊन २ महिने झाले’ हे वाक्य कानानं ऐकू आलं तरी समजायला माझं शिक्षण अपुरं पडलं, आपल्याला आपल्या आजूबाजूला असणाऱ्या या समाजाची शिक्षणात कुठे ओळखच झालेली नसते..... वेल्ह्यातल्याच एका वस्तीवर तर २०१४ मध्ये पहिल्यांदा वीज आली. म्हणजे गेलेली नाही.... तिथे जायला यापूर्वी वीजच नव्हती! गावाला वीज हवी म्हणून गावकर्यांनी ३०० किलोपेक्षा जास्त जड असणारे १० खांब, काही किलोमीटर खांद्यावर वाहून आणले होते, ही ऐतिहासिक घटना नाही तर २०१३ सालची आहे! ती सुद्धा ‘vision २०२०’, ‘भारत महासत्ता होणार’ अशा चर्चा करणाऱ्या पुणे जिल्ह्यातली! गावकर्यांनी खांद्यावरून आणले कारण तिथं रस्ताच नाही. ना तिथे टोल देणारं गिऱ्हाईक! pwd च्या बजेट मध्ये या गावाचा हा रस्ता व्हावा असा आग्रह कोणी धरला नाही, त्यापेक्षा आहे तिथला रस्ता जरा जास्त गुळगुळीत करणं अनेकांना महत्वाचं वाटलं.....

तर ...त्या गावात वीज नसली तरी मी बटन दाबलं कि माझ्या घरात दिवा लागतो, पंखा लागतो, टीव्ही लागतो. त्यात माझं काय कतृत्व? असा मला प्रश्नच कधी पडत नाही..... असे घडण्यासाठी मला कधीच काहीच करावं लागलेलं नाही. ....कारण मी शहरात रहाते! .... मी नुसती कल्पना करून पाहिली कि वीज मिळण्यासाठी त्या गावासारखं काहीतरी करावं लागलं असतं तर....? या विचारानं सुद्धा मला माझ्या सुखाची किंमत कळली. ...माझं काहीही कर्तुत्व नसलं तरी मी शहरात रहाते म्हणून सुखी आहे!

पण हा विजेचा विचार माझ्या डोक्यातून काही जाईना. वीज नाही म्हणजे दिवे नाहीत, म्हणजे tv नाही, म्हणजे मिक्सर नाही, ओव्हन नाही.... म्हणजेच रेंज असली तरी चार्जिंग नाही एवढंच काय पण गरजेपुरतं पाणी उपसायला पंपही नाही, त्यामुळे कुठल्याही उत्पादनाच्या सोई नाहीत. एवढंच काय साधे गहू दळायला त्यामुळे गिरणीही नाही. गिरणी नाही मग दळण नाही म्हणून पोळी नाही कारण पोळी करायला लागणारं बारीक दळण जात्यावर दळता येत नाहीत. म्हणून ‘ती’चा दिवस जात्यावरच्या दळणानं सुरु होणार हे मी ठरवलं कारण मला वीज परवडते!

असा विचार केल्यावर माझ्या लक्षात आलं कि मी पुण्यासारख्या विकसित शहरात रहाते म्हणून रोज, पंजाबच्या गव्हाची, गुजराथमध्ये गाळलेले शेंगदाण्याचे तेल घालून, गोव्यातल्या मिठाच्या चवीने, वेल्ह्यातल्या पानशेतमध्ये आडवलेल्या, पर्वती जलशुद्धीकरण केंद्रातून शुद्ध झालेल्या, कोयनेच्या विजेवर चालवलेल्या, कोईंबतूर इथे बनलेल्या पंपाने, गच्चीवर चढवलेल्या पाण्यामध्ये, कणीक भिजवून, गोदावरी बेसिन मधल्या gas वर ... मराठवाडयातून पोटासाठी आलेल्या पोळीवालीच्या हाताने केलेली पोळी खाते....... म्हणजे मी किती विकसित झाले आहे! ....... तेव्हा मला पहिल्यांदा प्रश्न पडला की मी काहीच न करता मिळालेल्या या सगळ्या गोष्टींचं ऋण मी कधी आणि कसं फेडु?

दुर्गम गावातल्या या बाया बहुतेकदा चुलीवर स्वयंपाक करतात. अशा बाईचं फुफ्फुस चुलीचा धूर खाऊन खाऊन लहान झालेलं असतं. एकदा धीर करून मी विचारलं ‘....परवडेल तेवढा तरी gas का वापरत नाहीस गं?’ तर तिनं सांगितलं ‘एकदा का आपण gas घेतला कि रेशन वर रॉकेल मिळत नाही.’ वीज पुरवठा शहराकडे वळवल्यामुळे तासंतास लोड शेडींग होण्याऱ्या या गावांना रॉकेल लागतं ते दिवा बत्ती साठी! आपल्याला उगाच वाटतं कि लोक रॉकेल वर स्वयंपाक करतात. स्वयंपाक करत नाही असं नाही पण रोज रॉकेल लागते ते उजेडासाठी. .... मी इतकी वीज वापरते कि कोणाला तरी किमान सुद्धा मिळत नाही याचं भान मला कधीच नसतं त्यामुळे तिचं आरोग्य काही अंशी माझ्यामुळे पणाला लागतं..... कारण वीज मला परवडते!

शहराच्या एखाद्या वहात्या रस्त्यावरच्या जाहिरातीच्या फलकांवर माझ्यासारखीला आकर्षित करण्यासाठी एवढ्या प्रकाशाची सोय केलेली असते कि तेवढ्या वीज पुरवठ्याने एखाद्या आख्ख्या गावाच्या प्रत्येक घरात किमान एक तरी दिवा नक्की लागू शकतो! ही वस्तुस्थिती आहे. असे दिवे किमान रात्री बंद करावेत/ निदान कमी तरी करावेत असं वाटण्यासाठीही जागृतीची गरज आहे.

मला परवडते म्हणून मी वीज वापरते असा विचार करण्यापेक्षा मी वापरते म्हणून कोणालातरी मिळत नाही याचे सामाजिक भान येऊन व्यवहार केला तर आठवणीनं खोली बाहेर पडताना दिवा घालवला जाईल, बघत नसणारा टी.व्ही तरी आठवणीनं बंद होईल, बायलर तासंतास चालू ठेवण्यापेक्षा योग्य वेळी बंद होईल, शासन स्वस्तात देत आहे म्हणून नव्हे तर सामाजिक उत्तर दायित्व म्हणून शक्य तेवढे वीज बचतीसाठी LED वापरले जातील. सोसायटीतले पार्किग मधले निम्मे तरी दिवे रात्री बंद होतील, निदान उतरताना तरी लिफ्ट वापरणार नाही असं वाटणारे अधिक संख्येने तयार होतील ....कृती छोटी असली तरी चालेल पण आपलं भान वाढलं कि हे आणि असे काही उपाय आपल्यालाच सुचू शकतील. कळू लागतील..... एवढच नाही तर वळूही लागतील! पण त्यासाठी स्वतः ठरवायला हवं. शासनानं निर्णय करून अशी कामं होत नाहीत. आपल्याला कोणी तरी उपकृत करतंय असा विचार एकदा तरी करून बघा.

गरजेपुरतीही उर्जा मिळत नाही म्हणून ग्रामीण भागात कधी कधी ऑपरेशन होत नाहीत, नि थंड करता आलं नाही म्हणून उन्हाच्या तडाख्यात संसाराच्या पैशाचा आधार असणारं दूध फाटून जातं, मग डेअरीवाला पैसे कसे देणार? ...या सगळ्याची आठवण ठेऊन स्वतःहून काहीतरी करायला सुरुवात करू या! अशा सह-अनुभूतीच्या जाणीवेतून मिळणारी ‘वेगळीच’ उर्जा मिळवू या .... अशी ‘आतली’ उर्जा मिळवणं सुद्धा सगळ्यांना परवडत नाही..... मग मात्र मला परवडतं आहे म्हणून मी १० जणींना LED दिव्यांच वाण लुटीन नि अभिमानानं म्हणीन उतणार नाही मातणार नाही घेतला वसा टाकणार नाही!


The first example in this column is a task being carried out by Mr. Ninad Vengurlekar of Mumbai. He is personally helping Mamta, a woman who is suffering from cancer and has only two months to live; but the tragedy is her husband left her on the streets with two kids to beg. Read this in his own words and see what we can do to help.


1.  "देव पाहायासि गेलो I देव होऊनिया ठेलो " --निनाद वेंगुर्लेकर, मुंबई 

"What are you doing in this deserted lane?"
- "Sir I have come here to admit my kids to an orphanage."
"Why orphanage?"
- "Sir my husband threw me out of the house."
"Why did he do that?"
- "Because I have cancer."

Exactly 2 months back, I saw this 27 year old girl with 2 kids sitting in a deserted lane next to Mannat at Bandstand. She did not beg. She used to sit and play with her kids or hide her head in her knees. Passers-by used to give her food to eat. I never saw her ask anything to anyone.

After watching her for 10 days, I finally went up and spoke to her. What she said broke my heart. I asked her as to how she knew she had cancer. She showed me a file full of Tata Cancer Hospital reports with an ID card. Her name was Mamta Kureshi. I knew she was speaking the truth.

The lady stood there, looking at me in the eye, hoping that I would help her. She did not need money. She needed my help in terms of my time. I could not say no. But I could not say yes either. What if she was lying? Since I was in the midst of my fitness routine I asked her to wait so that I could think how I could help her.

There was a guard at Mannat who was observing our conversation. I asked him about the lady. He confirmed she was speaking the truth. He also told me that he was spending 50 bucks a day feeding her kids for the past 15 days. That must be 10% of his monthly income. I felt embarrassed by my skepticism. When I told him that I am going to help her, he touched my feet in the middle of the road - "Bahut meherbani hogi sahab. Aap kijiye kuch uske liye." (I would be grateful to you.Do something for her.)

Now here's a honest confession. I have never helped a street urchin in my life, except giving alms. I had no idea what to do with this lady. So I called my dear friend Ashwini Siddheshwar Sandu who runs a social organization called Path of Bliss Trust. I asked for help. She quickly organised a time for Mamta at Tata Memorial the next day. The lady had to be given 1000 bucks to begin treatment. I handed over the money and asked her how she would go to Parel - "I will walk." So I gave her an extra 400 bucks for meeting her food and travel expenses. I gave her my phone number to contact me in emergency. I also took pictures of her and the hospital reports for reference.

"Sir, can you check the reports and tell me how long I will survive."
"I don't know. Doctors don't write such things in the report."
"I overheard them saying I won't live beyond 18 months."
"I don't think you must be worried about that. Just go for the check-up."

2 days later, I met her and she came to me with a smiling face. She told me that she was given blood and she was feeling much better now. By then, I had contacted Brother Joseph at St. Catherine Orphanage in Mount Mary. They said they would like to meet me. I went and met them and they agreed to take her elder son. The younger one would not be accepted due to government rules.

When I went back to inform Mamta about St Catherine, she was not to be found. I checked with the guard at Mannat and he too had not seen her for the past few days. Finally a vendor near Mount Mary Church told me that she was driven out by the Mount Mary ALM members. I took my car and roamed around Bandra to see if I could locate her. I could not. I thought maybe I lost her. A week passed. I kept thinking about her and her kids.

10 days back, I got a call from an unknown number. When I picked up the phone, it was Mamta on the other side. I asked her where she was. She said that she was in Tata Memorial and they had started her treatment. She thanked me. I asked her to meet me at Mount Mary the next day for her son's admission. When I went there the next day, she was not to be found again. I roamed around for some time and left. By this time, I was irritated by her disinterest.

A few days back, I met her again on the same road. I chided her for being casual about the orphanage admissions for her son. She informed me that she went to the orphanage on her own and referred my name. They had agreed to admit her son. I was happy. But she looked serious, and kept staring at the ground.

"Sir - the Tata doctor have told me that the cancer has spread inside my body and I won't survive beyond 2 months."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes sir."
"So what do you plan to do about your younger son."
"I don't know."
"Would you like me to admit him to an adoption centre?"
"No sir. In my last days, I want don't want to keep him away from me. This problem has been created by god, so let god solve it for me."
"Ok. Lets see what we can do. Keep this money and ensure that you eat proper food."

I was teary eyed. I left her and sat inside the Church. For years, I have been going to this Church at Mount Mary. For years, I have recited the Gayatri Mantra while praying in the Church. I have not read the Bible and I do not know the Christian ways of praying. So I prayed the way my religion had taught me.

I have never asked a thing for myself while praying. Could that be the reason why the mother-son duo decided to give me this problem to solve? As I sat in the Church I looked at Mother and said - "Frankly, I have no solution to your problem."

Then I remembered my pet theory - "When in doubt - ACT." Sitting in the church and praying would not change anything, the only thing I had to do was to act. I realized that I can't save Mamta. All I could do is to make her live the rest of her days peacefully. I also have to ensure that her kids are in safe custody. Rest all is "bhagwan bharose." (Have faith in the Lord.)

Thankfully, there is a Hospice (a place where terminally ill patients are admitted to pass away peacefully) at Mount Mary. I have spoken to them and they are willing to admit her.I will get her admitted there. One of her kids have already got permission to be admitted at St. Catherine Orphanage. All these institutions are at Mount Mary. Maybe Mother Mary will organise something for the younger kid as well. She will - I am sure.

Mamta is still on the road. She is not too keen to admit her son to the orphanage. She wants to be with him for a few more days. Tomorrow she is going to the hospital and will hopefully call me to speak to the doc. If things are really bad, I will move fast and get things organised for her. If not, then it's her choice what she wants to do with herself and her kids. I will do whatever I can to help her. This is an unfinished job. I hope it stays like that. But I am not sure for how long.

So this is how it works. For all the praying that I have done in the Church; Jesus and his mom have gifted me a problem that does not need any money to solve. It needs my compassion and time. The solutions are around me and all they want me to do is to spare some time and get things done for them.

They have made me realise, like my own gods, that goodness is the only way to godliness. Salutations don't really matter. Else I would have got a rap for reciting a Hindu mantra in a Christian place of worship. Rather, they listened to my Hindu prayers and gave me some lessons for life.

What are these lessons?

That there are hundreds of people around us everyday who need help. Should you wait for them to ask? Or should you volunteer to ask and help them in whatever way possible?

That money does matter, but compassion matters more. Infact, compassion can transcend the need for money - because for a truly compassionate cause, monies will flow.

That giving away money to charity surely makes us feel good. It is easy, quick, and fast. We have done this for years. But after this event, I realised that we are essentially buying goodness off the shelves. Money has become a means to save ourselves from committing our time and effort to a social cause.

That, spending time and effort to help someone without expecting anything in return - can have a transformative impact on us. It is indescribable.

That such impact will not make us feel powerful, but it will make us feel humble.

That, if you long to seek god, you can seek him the best by helping others. By doing so, you can feel the presence of god inside you. You realise that you are the god you are longing to seek.

Which is probably why Tukaram said - "देव पाहायासि गेलो I देव होऊनिया ठेलो II" (I went to seek god and I transformed myself into one.)

Which is probably why Mamta told me - "This problem has been created by god, and let god solve it for me." The fact is that, it is not god, it is humans like me and the father, the nuns, the brothers, and that security guard, who will resolve it for her. Because we are the god we have been trying to seek all these years. So thanks Mamta.

I write this, not to show off my generosity and compassion. Spending 2000 bucks and talking about it in a public forum would be the height of naivete and stupidity. What I want to share is beyond such trivial issues.

My experience in the past 60 days has taught me that we should try to actively seek opportunities of helping others, especially those who we don't know and can expect nothing in return. Helping our maids and drivers with loans, or writing cheques to NGOs, is not where we should stop.

Those people we see on the roadside? They are real people with real problems. Do talk to them. Don't turn your face away.

I wish when you read this, you feel the urge to make a resolve to help one person you don't know every year. Many of you might be already doing it - so please write about it to inspire others. For those who haven't done this earlier, I would want you to give it a try.

And don't forget to thank Mother Mary and Gayatri Mantra for this inspiration :)


Latest update:  I have got numerous messages to help Mamta - monetary and otherwise. We are setting up the lady with a social organization for treatment in Tata Memorial - especially since she is already registered there. Will update on this soon.

I have got 4 offers for adopting the younger kid. I was just too amazed to react to the adoption offer by people unknown to me. I would never had done something like this. So thank you. Will get back to you at an opportune time.

I met the lady today and have informed her that her formal treatment should begin next week. Hopefully things will be better.

She needs a place to stay with her kids, especially since monsoon is up on the horizon. If someone can help, I would be grateful. I would not mind paying some rent for the same.


Ninad Vengurlekar

ninadvengurlekar@gmail.com