It was a hot summer of April 1915, the breeze heavy with heat. Despite that, there was a milieu of people at the Kashmiri Gate of St. Stephen’s College in Delhi. They had all come to get a glimpse of the young man, who had fought for the rights of the black in South Africa. It was with a sense of disbelief and wonder that people looked on with awe and respect at this 39 year old, thin, dark but luminouseyed man. It was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who was well on his way to becoming the Mahatma of the country. His first visit ever to Delhi and he stayed at St. Stephen’s premises. It was here that he prepared the first draft of the Non-Cooperation Movement of India, which went on to grant us freedom; freedom from the British.
As I stood there many summers later, in the very same room where Gandhiji had stayed, I could almost feel his presence and visualise him in my mind’s eye. Though I had learnt my Indian history lessons well, it was as if for the first time, when I stood there, I realised the might of the tiny, small-statured but dynamic Gandhiji. Like a flash of lightning, I realised then that I was there at St. Stephen’s, in that very room, for a purpose – to get inspired and become a tool for uplifting others. Until that moment, life for me was all about competing, and I was working hard to emerge victoriously. In an instant, all that changed. My calling beconked at the age of forty in that tiny room at St. Stephens, and I became a follower of Gandhiji. The sense of competition melted away, replaced by a need for collaboration. I resolved then and there that my every step had to be in service of others.
It would be no exaggeration to say thus that Anant Vikas was born in that reverential room at St. Stephen’s. The journey since then has been fulfilling, but at the same time, there are miles to go before I sleep. Anant Vikas is not just about empowering children with education but helping these young children find their true calling at a much younger age. The aim is to educate the child in the ways of life that are wrapped in a fabric of morality and ethics. We, at Anant Vikas, understand that there is no one idea of what represents moral or ethical behaviour. Nor do we believe in dictating the terms of morality. What we do is give them a chance to interact with people who are unlike them in many ways. We allow them to conceptualise a world where education need not just be for earning money, where success in life is not defined by bigger homes and cars; but about making a living while helping the others around them. Every child at Anant Vikas is imbibed with the learning – what you do makes a difference, but it is you who has to decide what kind of difference you want to make.
Anant, in Hindi, means that which is endless or infinite and this exemplifies our quest of finding meaning in life.That is where Anant Vikas takes every child, on a journey that embraces the path of universal brotherhood and humanity. The ethos at Anant Vikas is that once the inner conscience is awakened, one can never falter from the path of truth.
Anant Vikas has also set upon itself the gargantuan task of bridging the gap between the urban and rural youth. We do this by letting them interact and feel connected to each other. This organisation aims to ignite the values of Gandhiji in every mind, where the urban youth is not disconnected from rural India.
The road is uphill and hard. However, we know we can do it. This is not mere positive thinking and talking; we have a roadmap to get there. We first need to inspire each and every child of India to believe in the power of self, as all that we aspire to achieve lies within us. There are so many issues – illiteracy, malnutrition, poor healthcare, infant mortality, lack of awareness about child rights, women’s safety, empowering them and last but not the least, employment for all. To bring out this transformation, apart from working closely with the Government, we will be reaching out to each and every private school in urban India. Estimated at the last count at roughly around 1.3 lakh, urging them to adopt one gram panchayat at the outskirts of their city and one the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) school in the city.
Much work has been done by Anant Vikas, but in this country of over 1.3 billion, there is so much more we can do. This is an excellent moment, as any for all of us to introspect and look where we are headed. Working together, Anant Vikas will lead the way in transforming the youth of India to become a more connected, humane individual.
And yes, a visit to the guesthouse at St. Stephen’s is recommended for all seeking more inspiration and transformation!
Founder, Anant Vikas