In our society, we have a different type of people. Some are born to do social work for the community. Some of them get accolades and publicity. But a few dedicated people remain away from the limelight; they keep on giving back to the society without expecting any publicity or praise. From where do such people get their drive to work for society? One thing is sure, they are born unique. One such person was Late Mrs Anuradha Umrani.
She is the founder of the Trust “Adhar Mandal” and the School “Adhar Mook Badhir Vidyalaya”. She was a 45 years old housewife, had a bit of time on her hand as her children had grown up; that is when the thoughts for doing something for the society started coming in her mind. She did a Diploma in Special Educations (For hearing impaired children). During the course, she realised the importance of the problems associated with hearing-impaired children. Therefore, she decided to devote the rest of her life for the upliftment of these children and founded a school for them. The result of her dedication, focus and drive, started an institution called “Adhar Mook Badhir Vidyalaya” in the year 1985. (School for hearing impaired children). As we have seen many times in this world, GOD also likes such persons. Anuradha tai died young, at the age of 53 on 16th April 1997.
She started the whole project from scratch; the entire concept was hers. As a housewife, she was not trained for teaching the deaf and dumb children. She decided to take formal training and did a diploma in special educations. The adage of “the woman behind a successful man” was true in her case too, in reverse. Her husband, Prof Umrani, has more than 45 years of experience in teaching various engineering colleges in around Pune. He steadfastly remained behind her and continuously supported Anuradha tai’s dream while still working as a Professor in colleges. He taught the courses in Electronics & Telecommunications! Jaya and I were his students while we were doing engineering in COEP. He had told us about the school for some time, but finally, I could find time from my not so busy schedule, a couple of days back. I was more than impressed.
Umarani family is a family like ours, with a middle-class background and no political contacts. For Anuradha tai, the starting point was getting the land on lease from the Pune Municipal Corporation. With no political experience and contacts, she somehow managed to get a plot through sheer perseverance. After she got the plot, getting funds for the project had been the trickiest of the part. But somehow people started supporting her project. Umrani sir told me during the discussion that though they now get government grants, delays in getting money creates severe cash flow issues even today.
I went to see the school. Currently, there are around 120 students. Out of these 40 are residential students. The building is neat, spick and span and well looked after. The building area is 8000 square feet. They have a water filtration system for the full school. Boarding students are both girls and boys; they get good sumptuous meals. I visited the school on Holi. You guessed it right. I tasted piping hot Pooran Poli and Amti! All the students had hearing aids. Teachers had modern teaching aids — many of the classrooms have E-learning facility. Retaining teachers is not an easy task; these teachers must be specially trained to teach deaf and dumb students. But some teachers work pro bono and teach because they love teaching; it is their social work.
All students from the school are from financially low-income strata. Up to 4th grade, the school gets government aid. But after that, there is no government aid. The school gives education up to 7th grade. These students are also getting help to appear externally for SSC examination. The Adhar Mandal manages its expenses by collecting donations. Their main problem has been that the families do not send their physically challenged kids to such schools at a young age; the tendency is not to take too many efforts on these kids and to leave such children to fate. Many children join the school at the age of 7 or 8. Umrani sir felt that these kids lose four years of specialised training they could have got, had they joined at the age of 3 or 4.
For such specialised training organisations generating funding and collecting donations is the main problem. Umrani family has been running the school by giving full-time support and advice which of course is pro bono! For the family, it is taking forward the inspired efforts of Anuradha tai! Umarani sirs son also helps him in the background; he is busy running his own software business. You may have already guessed Umrani sir is now 80 years of age, but his energy is unbelievable.
Through hardships and against all the odds, Anuradha tai’s leadership brought the school to a respectable position in the State of Maharashtra, India. I have yet to discuss with Umrani sir, but I would like to know in detail what inspired Anuradha tai to take up this venture. I know about people who were educated to start some venture, but in the case of Anuradha tai, she took the specialised education at the age of 45 to take up this venture.
I feel that she was a born management expert; otherwise, how can you start such a specialised venture continue to run it for 12-13 years; probably her experience of running and raising the family was her essential experience. Of course, after 1997 Umrani sir has taken over the baton!
I am also going to request Umrani sir to write how Anuradha tai managed to do it from scratch. It will be a case study for many. Even if one or two people get encouraged by this, it will be worth it. Creating such type of ventures by thinking out of the box is very important. I am sure many such hidden gems like Umrani family are among us, in need of being found out.
Let me share some details about the school below. They are available on the net too!
The aim of the trust:
The Trust aims to provide educational facilities to the physically disabled children from rural and economically backward families, rehabilitate and bring them in the mainstream of Society with respect.
Friends, I have written this piece as I was inspired to write about Adhar School. Please try and visit the Adhar School one of these days; maybe you will also get motivated to do something.