Hi! I’m Dev Maru. I am 36 years old and this incident happened when I was around 7 or 8. I am from Ahmedabad, Gujarat, a communally volatile city. I used to live with my maama & maami (Uncle & Aunt) then since my dad had a transferrable job as a news reader at Akashwani. I had morning shifts in school (Nelson’s English School Khanpur, Ahmedabad), which was at a distance of around 5 kilometers from my place. For a school starting at 7:30 in the morning, my school rickshaw used to pick me up at around 6:15 am every day. The route was so twisted that I used to be the last kid to be dropped home after school. I forgot to mention that my rickshaw driver was a Muslim. I was too young to know anything beyond that.
On one particular day, everything went on as usual. After school, we were on our way back home making merry in the rickshaw. There was a sense of urgency in the behavior of our rickshaw driver. He was tensed. (Which we, as kids then, obviously did not notice). He dropped everyone home except me. He took a different route, unknown to me. It was much later than the time I usually got home. He finally parked his rickshaw in front of a house in a narrow gully with houses on both the sides. It was his home in a Muslim predominant community. Since I was too young to suspect the situation, I was perfectly fine with it.
Inside his house, he lifted me up and took me upstairs in a dark room with wooden windows. He then took a peek at the streets through the window and shut them close. I am surprised to remember that I wasn’t scared at that moment. He left the room and a while later his wife came up with some food. I ate some, but I was getting worried. During that time, there was no phone facility either. After a couple of hours, he finally came to me again and asked me to change my clothes. I did that reluctantly. He had a pathani and a Muslim skull cap on. I kept asking him, “why is this happening, what is going on”?. Without answering to any of my questions, he took my school bag and put it in a sack.
We left his house in a different rickshaw this time. It was almost evening and the whole city was looking bizarre and deserted. There were burning tires and stones on the road. I could also see some burnt scooters and rickshaws. He took some tight streets avoiding the main roads. It must have been an hour before he stopped in front of a cinema hall near my house and asked me to change back into my school uniform, he too changed into a non-Muslim outfit. We left the place and literally ran for the next 10 minutes before he knocked on my door. On seeing me, my nana (grandmother), and maami were in tears. The rickshaw driver had taken me to his home to keep me safe, as the city was burning in communal riots and it was not safe for him to go to a Hindu predominant area in broad daylight. My Maami offered him a monetary reward which he politely refused.
Right now I’m in the USA, having no idea how to thank him for his kind, selfless, and heroic deed.
I do not even know his name, but I cannot think of anything greater done for the betterment of humanity.
I do not want this gesture to be lost in time, I think it deserves to be told.
It is the 21st century and India is developing rapidly, however, the pace of development in rural and urban India is varying due to the lack of accessibility and opportunities in rural India. While children in these areas have limited access to quality education leading to unemployment and social exclusion, women are still at the back seat of household decision making and contribution to household income.
To break through the traditional norms and empower women in rural India is an ongoing endeavor. Project Nand Ghar, spearheaded by Vedanta Group, a globally diversified natural resources company, brings a ray of hope to rural India by providing education, nutrition, and healthcare to thousands of rural children and empowering women to gain economic independence through livelihood training workshops.
Nand Ghars are state-of-the-art modern Anganwadis built across rural India with a holistic approach to child welfare and skill development for women. Trade-based skill training workshops carried out at Nand Ghars have impacted women from the remotest part of the country enabling them to earn their own livelihood.
Their recent campaign on International Women’s Day was a celebration of #BalanceForBetter where women shared their stories of discovering pathways to self-reliance with help and support by Nand Ghar.
“The outside world was a far off reality for me from inside the boundary of our house. Nand Ghar helped open up the horizons and today, I am earning a livelihood and have found a purpose in Life,” says Dharma Maurya from Varanasi.
Thousands of women like Dharma Maurya have in them the urge to do something but do not have a platform, to begin with. Nand Ghar is giving them a purpose in life and wings to their dreams. Click on the link below to explore their stories.
Anil Agarwal, Founder, and Chairman, Vedanta Group, believes that a nation can only progress if we invest in the future of children and women. Vedanta in collaboration with the Ministry of Women and Child Development aims at constructing 4000 Nand Ghars across 11 states in India with the potential of impacting lives of 8.5 Cr children and 2 Cr women in rural India.
In a milestone achievement, Vedanta recently announced the inauguration of its’ 500th Nand Ghar at Chaksu Block in Jaipur. Today, 502 operational Nand Ghars across Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh are changing the lives of 17,000 children through pre-school learning imparted through advanced teaching with more than 11,000 of them being served nutritious meals every day. More than 8,000 women have obtained trade based skill training at Nand Ghar.
With more than 70% of the population living in rural India, the need for early childhood education and women empowerment cannot be undermined. The Logical Indian appreciates the efforts of Vedanta which is tirelessly working towards transforming the women and child development landscape in India.