A retired teacher has taken up the task to bring poor slum children under her warmth and care, surprising many, inspiring a few and yet setting an example for all
The extraordinary resolve that 64-year-old Jaya Batra could make in her retired life has stunned most people who know her or come across her. Batra says that the remaining years of her life are going to be dedicated to the boys and girls living in slums who have probably been deprived of basic amenities of life by our society. She not only teaches the children in a park near her residence but is also anxious that these children should not end up with any inferiority complex amid severe lack of resources that they face. To overcome this she tries to fill the gap with the financial assistance coming from some friends and acquaintances.
Avantibai Park also known as Hathi Park in Indirapuram on the outskirts of Delhi is her virtual battlefield. She has also sown the seeds of a foundation for the overall and consistent development of poor, needy and deserving children. It is called Jaya Kendra Help Foundation. In this she has taken help from many people who have contributed in their own way. The people and agencies who have been giving economic support for the daunting task undertaken by her include Umesh Gupta, chairman, Geddes Vice Club, Pramod Joshi, social worker, Swati, Yoga teacher. New branded clothes for winters, sports shoes, milk, films in multiplex cinemas and meals at five star hotels were offered to children by Indirapuram ATS Housing Society Senior Citizens Club. Besides this, a few kind hearted people have adopted some of the poor children and promised to bear all cost of their education.
Batra has also taken the initiative to provide and feed milk with protein supplements to the slum children and poor rag pickers. Her attempt is that those children, whose parents live in slums and who consider rag picking to be their fate, should receive the basic amenities enjoyed by the children of better placed citizens and like them become decent citizens, bringing pride to their families and the country through the right kind of education. Thus, an open ground in Hathi Park has been turned into a school of sorts for these poor children. Jaya is committed to giving the children all the sports facilities which they might have never received. She mingles with the children with great warmth under the shade of a tree as though there is nothing bigger than shaping the future of these children.
Even on Sunday mornings when the park becomes crowded as people jog or take a stroll in greater numbers than other days, Jaya is busy among these children with a bucket of hot milk and a steel glass ensuring that all the children take milk. She keeps a watch so that no child misses out on the milk and there is no quarrel among them. She not only gathers information about whether polio drops have been administered to these children but she also makes it a point to bring the volunteers with polio drops for the children.
She takes no interest in talking to people who approach her out of curiosity after walking around in the park. On the other hand when she is persistently questioned as to why she has been doing this kind of work at her advanced age, she prefers to be silent after giving at best an account of the past two to three years. When this reporter asked her the same question, she was first taken aback but soon explained that during her teaching experience of over three decades or so at Green Field School in Dilshad Garden, the only subject that kept her nagging was why should there be discrimination among children vis-à-vis education. While some children go to school in air-conditioned buses, play Judo Karate, table tennis, volleyball, soccer, skating, relay race, musical chair besides practicing Yoga and music, there are hundreds of kids from the same age group living in slums who are cursed to sift through garbage with their bare hands and pick rags. What is education? What are the means of education that can shape their future? To understand these questions they have neither the time nor anyone around to look to and explain it to them.
Batra says that her husband used to work in a large media house. In the spare moments of leisure, he used to say that social service should also be a part of our life. “At that time I did not understand this so well. The reason I had two children to look after in those days. A son, Naman Batra and daughter, Annapoorna Batra. But when my husband died suddenly and the responsibility of bringing up the two children fell upon me, I realized that my husband was so right,” recalls Batra.
After giving good education to her son and daughter and when both got Hotel Management jobs, Batra started feeling alone and remembered her husband’s words all the more. Thus, she decided that the remaining time of her life would be spent working for the poor children – more so since her two children were working in good positions in five-star hotels.
Batra says that she does not need anything at this late stage of her life for which she may need to work any more. Therefore, she took up the challenge to shape the future of deprived children who lurk and roam around the park aimlessly. They used to do odd jobs or work as rag pickers but today they were better clothed and with shoes on. Some of them attend tuitions in the evenings from teachers arranged with her help.
Some children who studied and were under her care have taken admission in public schools. “A few children are studying in higher classes and we are bearing the entire cost of their education. In the beginning there was some difficulty but gradually many other people came forward to help, many others are joining us. Several educated women are teaching these children without any payment. They include Devyani Chakraborty, Manju Singh and Anita Vats. Anita’s husband JN Vats too helps. JN Wats retired as Chief Manager from National Insurance Company,” says Batra, adding that she is always worried that these children do not lag behind in receiving basic amenities in life.
Batra who thinks about poor children all the time, points out that two youth, Chandan and Gajendra, teach them skating. Umesh Gupta gives them dress for Judo Karate and other sports equipments, Swati has provided them dresses for Yoga. After giving them tuition, in the evening and arranging for their school uniform, food and milk, Batra has also found opportunities to escort these children to five star hotels for meals on two occasions and has taken them to attend a few cultural events. Unbelievable and yet possible – isn’t it so?
© 2016 Sulabh Swachh Bharat. All Right Reserved