When Anita’s (name changed) employers learnt that her husband was in jail, they immediately dismissed her from working as domestic help for the family. Word spread soon, and more and more doors kept closing on her face. Forced to provide for herself and her son, Anita started working as a prostitute, with little hope of a decent future for her son, until she met her saviour, Vinayak Deokar.
For the past four years, social worker Vinayak Deokar from Pune has been running a free English medium school for 245 underprivileged children of widows, divorced women and ailing parents. Shocked after meeting Anita at the Yerawada jail premises, he volunteered to take up the responsibility of her son. After receiving immense encouragement from BK Upadhyay, the then ADG of Maharashtra Prisons, Vinayak’s school now accommodates over 27 prisoners’ children.
Speaking to The Logical Indian, Vinayak Deokar shares how Gandhiji’s ideology has inspired him to devote his life for the betterment of the poor and the needy.
A life full of struggles
Orphaned at birth, Vinayak was adopted at the age of three months by an aged couple who toiled in a stone quarry to earn their daily bread. He was brought up in the slums of Vishrantwadi and studied at the local school till 10th standard when he lost his foster father. His foster mother, a helpless widow then, was forced to struggle a lot to make ends meet. Driven by circumstances, Vinayak had to give up studies after failing to clear 10th board examination and took up odd jobs to sustain his family. He got married young and unable to secure a steady job; he had to sell lottery tickets and wait tables at restaurants, to feed his wife and kids. Tragedy continued to strike the ground beneath his feet at every juncture, as before long his biggest strength, his mother, passed away due to cancer.
“Through hard work and perseverance, I was able to join the real estate domain, and within three years I started my own firm. Things were going better until everything fell apart when I turned 28,’’ narrates Vinayak. He was diagnosed with a serious cardiac disease. Dreading a similar misfortune for his kids as his own early life, Vinayak sunk into depression for over a year, ruining his health more.
The turning point was a 4-year-old child
“A year passed like this when one day I met a 4-year-old little boy at a festival, who was suffering from a deadly heart condition. His mother was desperately pleading with everyone to finance her son’s expensive surgery. I was deeply moved, realising there are thousands like me who suffer from more severe health conditions, even a child as small as him,’’ recounts Vinayak. Offering to help the mother, Vinayak went from door to door, collecting small donations in 10, 15, 30, 50 rupees. His tireless efforts were evident after he raised over 1.2 lakhs for the child and a successful surgery later, the boy was cured.
For days, Vinayak spared a lot of thoughts on his situation, only to conclude that as a responsible citizen, it is more sensible for him to try to support other needy people rather than being stressed and worsening his own health.
In 2002, 37-year-old Vinayak started his NGO Jeevan Mitra Pratisthan which helped raise the medical expenses for financially weak patients suffering from heart, liver or kidney ailments, cancer and other fatal diseases.
A saviour for patients, widows and children
Dedicating his life entirely towards the social welfare of the underprivileged, Vinayak approached individuals, corporate organisations and business-holders to raise funds for ailing men and women, with little money to afford quality treatment.
“I remember one young girl whose father came to me crying, describing how his daughter has been passing blood in urine for days. When I visited their home, I found the girl lying in a pool of blood, surrounded by two helpless parents who feared to lose their only daughter soon. I vowed to get her cured and ensued a door-to-door fundraising drive. With quick medical intervention, the girl got better in no time. A few years later, when she visited me with her newborn son, thanking me for being a lifesaver, I was drowned in happy tears,” Vinayak shares about one of the numerous lives he saved.
Since 2006, Vinayak has also been supporting around a hundred widows with a monthly pension of 300 rupees to sustain their basic needs, by selling Raddi (old newspaper scraps) collected from houses.
After about a decade in the social sector, when his own children were employed with reputed organisations, Vinayak started wondering about the children of widowed and divorced women from the low-income background, for many of whom, quality education is often a luxury. “I couldn’t continue my own studies due to poverty, so I want to save other children from a similar fate,’’ he shares. Started in 2014, the Mahatma Gandhi School is now a primary educational institution registered under the Maharashtra State Board, supporting a student strength of around 245. With decently paid teachers and supporting staff, the school offers standard education, aside from taking care of books, stationery, uniforms, medical expenses and other basic needs of the students. The most inspiring part is that all the funds for the school are generated solely from the sincere and herculean efforts of Vinayak Deokar.
“Gandhiji changed my life”
“A doctor in Pune gifted me ‘My Experiments With Truth’ – the famous autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi which has influenced stalwarts like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. That book transformed my life,” Vinayak shares. He narrates how Gandhiji’s renunciation of a profitable career to stand beside his countrymen inspired him to do the same.
“Today many people defame Gandhiji, but, they fail to understand how much he sacrificed personally to gift a better life to his fellow Indians,’’ sighs Vinayak.
He reveals how it pains him to see people hesitating to give 500 rupees to his charity when the same people do not think twice before donating a whopping 35000 rupees for a temple.
He adds, “Now I find the most highly-educated persons running after money, and caring only about personal comfort. Nobody spares one moment to think about those who are suffering. Sometimes, for this simple reason, I consider being uneducated a blessing.”
The Logical Indian applauds Vinayak’s indomitable spirit and his selfless service to society.
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