Mark Twain said that there are two most important days in one’s life – the day one was born and the day one finds out why.
We as individuals are always in search of that purpose. There is always that question at the back of our heads: why am I here? As we grow up, the society draws up lines for us, distorting our image of purpose and sometimes, even suppressing our actual dreams and passions.
Keerthi and Karthik are engineers by qualification and they love to ride and travel. Both had jobs in the tech industry but realised that they did not want to pursue it beyond a point. Their calling was something else. So, they quit their jobs to follow their passion and do something they thought had a greater purpose. With this thought in mind, Karthik decided to volunteer at a non-profit charity school called Haji Public School in the Himalayan village of Breswana in the Doda district of Jammu and Kashmir.
At this school, he encountered very perseverant and passionate students who had a natural knack for learning. He really enjoyed teaching them, so much so that he ended up revisiting Breswana to teach the kids again.
Karthik could see that these children did not have it easy. With electricity supply unscheduled and only sporadically available, these children had limited access to many things we tend to take for granted. They struggled to complete their homework and could not access the Internet as easily as we can in the more connected cities. As first-generation learners, it is hard for volunteers to teach them without the aid of online resources.
Karthik experienced all of these impediments first hand. Seeing how wonderfully perseverant these children were, he wanted to find ways to help them. He met Keerthi through a bikers’ group and after teaming up with Prateek, another friend of theirs, the troika birthed the idea of an initiative called ‘Saura Mandala’. These three men are currently busy trying to collect funds to be able to provide the village with solar panels and other devices that run on solar energy in the hopes that these children can use this energy to study better.
Setting up a solar energy apparatus is an expensive proposition initially. Considering the location of the village, the project is risky as the panels and other materials need to be transported from the city to the village atop a hill. To get to Breswana, one needs to walk uphill, or ride horseback, from the last possible road-stop on mountain Premnagar; this journey is about 3 to 4 hours long. So, there is a high possibility of dropping the expensive solar appliance while traveling uphill. In addition to this, explaining to people why they’re trying to help out in a conflicted place like Jammu and Kashmir is tough. The donors need reassurance that their money is being used responsibly.
The Saura Mandala Project plans to complete the fund-raising task by the end of this year. As the famous saying goes, “the best way to live is when you live for others.”
Written by Catherine Shadap.