Be the Cause

Pravin’s smile

Note: Shirish, a dedicated Manav Sadhna volunteer and friend of ours wrote this story. Some of the travelers to India worked on Pravin’s house for one day while we were there. This is such an beautiful, touching story about the power of helping one another and how it effects can ripple out. I am posting it for Shirish.

Pravin now seventeen is one of many Manav Sadhna kids He came, with curiosity, to our non formal school at Tekra centre six years ago. We never saw him smile or be happy like the other kids. We went to see his home. His dad was very ill with TB and alcoholism. He has three younger sisters, mom and grand mother. The entire family depended on the then 12-13 year old Pravin to survive. The hut, his home, had no roof and one wall was missing. Every year during monsoon season all the water ran through the house, like a river. Now we understood why he never smiled like other kids. He would walk 15 km every day to earn 40-50 rupees from polishing boots. In the evening he would look for more work to earn more money. His eighty year old grandma and sick mom also walk miles every day to rag pick (find recyclable papers and plastic) through the garbage on the street. Based on how much they all earn they would then decide to buy medicine, oil, salt, wood, flour and if there was enough may be vegetables every day for their one and only meal.

We quickly realized that education was the last thing on his mind. He wanted to see his Dad get better and make more money so his pregnant mom could rest and so his old grandma did not have to work so hard. So we got him a job at a printing press and gave him a bicycle. We started TB treatment for his father with the condition that he would quit drinking. His dad started walking around now. We saw Pravin smile a little for the first time. But the daily cash was needed and some days Pravin could not go to work. So the job did not last. His father died because both of his lungs were 100% gone. The family was immediately helped with six months grocery for the short term.

We started the ICDS nutrition project at Manav Sadhna where we needed a delivery of fresh food to the centers in Tekra. So we loaned 3500 rupees to Pravin to purchase a paddle rickshaw ( a kind of cart usually with a bicycle attached to pedal the cart around) and employed him and his friend to deliver this food to eighteen centers for three hours a day. Now he earns 1700 rupees a month from this job and with his friend distributes food to the one thousand very poor kids . Evenings he makes other trips using the rickshaw and makes more money. His mom is healthy now. He is an extremely hardworking honest and fun young men now. It is so nice to see him smiling and playing around with other kids all the time now. His sister Umiya, mother and grandma also are seen in very relaxed and lighter moments now.

This December as one of the Manav Sadhna project, Pravin’s house project became possible. With total love, dedication and service from many volunteers his house was renovated and made pakka (complete). With a proper kitchen and sanitation facility. Last week some of our gifted artists went and decorateed his house with more love. Now it is a new and beautiful home. It is impossible to describe the moment and experience of family entering in the home after a small ceremony. The love, smiles and happiness was pouring from every one present at this very simple puma and prayer.

Pravin recently came to one of us and took us to a very old man pushing the cart for miles every day selling the clay pots. He pointed out that their tires are shot so he would have to work very, very hard to push his cart. The older man is so old and weak Pravin said, “How can WE help him?” Some money was given to him to help the old men for new tires for his cart. The very next day Pravin was back with change and the biggest smile you can imagine on his face –“All four tires are fixed. The cart runs so smooth now and the old man is so happy”.

Remembering Gandhi


Yesterday was the anniversary of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, who was killed in 1948 shortly after India received it’s independence and was divided into both India and Pakistan. A week, or so ago, we received a note from Bindi, a Manav Sadhna volunteer, asking us if we would like to join Manav Sadhna volunteers who would be fasting all day in commeration of this date. Some suggestions for the day included:

— We all can fast in a way that makes sense and suits us. For instance eat one time or take only fruit or milk. Many of us at MS will be drinking water only.
— You can do prayer followed with meditation.
— Look around you, find the most sad or troubled person and do some thing nice for that person. Small gift, lunch, dinner or a caring/comforting coversation
— Anything that seems fitting to commerate this man of non-violence.

Some of us at Be the Cause took part in this fast, our recent travel to India has made us newly christened members of the Manav Sadhna family. In fact, Manav Sadhna has such open arms, anyone who wishes to be can be part of their family. During our recent trip we lived for some days at the Gandhi Ashram. This afforded us the opportunity to experience firsthand the place where Gandhi lived and formulated his “experiments with truth”and his non-violence (ahimsa) resistant movement. We were able to wander the short distance from our doorstep over to the Gandhi museum and to hissmall, sparsley furnished house. facing the Sabarmati riverfront,where he and his wife once lived. We were gifted with the opportunity to absorb more about his life and philosphies firsthand. We practiced yoga and meditated, where he once practiced also, and were fortunate to see his principles still being practiced in all the inspiring volunteers and projects of Manav Sadhna. In all the children who they take care of, and in turn take care of them. All this brought me closer to this humble man and his spirit.

Of all the buildings at the Gandhi Ahsram my favorite is the one building that is now the headquarters of Manav Sadhna. On one interior wall there is sculpted in relief a beautiful tree with a strong, sturdy trunk from which many branches reach upwards to the sky. This tree’s branches are covered with sparkling colored glass jewels, looking like fruit dangling from its beautiful branches. Underneath the tree are pillows on which the founders of Manav Sadhna sit, discuss and make decisions. On the other interior walls of the building are thoughtful quotes from Gandhi which I found worth pondering., such as:

“I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.”

Although Gandhi is no longer here, his messages of love, compassion, peace and forgiveness, still remain at the Ashram and now are blown around the world from his open abode. The gift he left for all is in the practice of taking his spirit, his wisdom forward in our daily lives and into all our cultures.

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