AOG Heroes

Akshara Santa

Akshara Santa

(The saint of letters)

Like the name suggests, “Santa” was actually a boon that children wished for, just this time, SANTA is for real. And this time his gifts are more than candies and cakes, this time a common man rises from illiteracy to the stardom of knowledge.

Meet Harekala Hajabba a man from Mangalore, Karnataka and an orange vendor, who had the courage to spend to spend years of savings to start a school in the region he came from so that the children there could get educated.

The unselfish man kept saving money for 15 long years from his every day earning to support the cause. Walking down a trip of 25 km daily from his native village to Mangaluru city to sell oranges and eventually starting the school with mere 28 students and a strong desire to educate every child in the village, Hajaba began the school at a Madrasa- an educational premise most often in premises of a Mosque.

Today, the school, which has grown with government hold up and donations from private folks are known as Hajabba School. He is affectionately known as ‘ Akshara Santa’.

Akshara Santa
Shamsher Khan

Shamsher Khan

In 1956, Khan had become a national hero for finishing in the 5th place in the Melbourne Summer Olympics. The thing is no-one remembers who stands second so why heed someone who stood 5th. But the fact remains in the number of hour of pain, sacrifices and fighting up the screwed political hierarchy.

Before that, he had also set national records in all four swimming strokes as well as in water polo and diving, making him the only Indian to do so. In a country like India and at this 21st century,  where sports isn’t ever on the list of favorable career as of now, Shamsher khan dared to go on to the Olympics fighting the system and people.

Though no one remembers the person who came second, we should acknowledge this extraordinary man who could dive in( literally) to work against a sports disregarding country.

Shamsher Khan passed away from heart failure on 15 October 2017. Take a moment to be proud of an Indian who was a proud yet unsung Indian hero.

Shamsher Khan
Mrs. Rajani Tai

Mrs. Rajani Tai

EDUCATION ON MOVE

Mrs. Rajani Tai, post 15 years of graduation, which was also 15 years of her married life, went back to college to get a Master’s degree in Social Work. She then joined as a professor in College of Social Work, Mumbai and then taught at Shikoku Christian University, Japan. She mainly taught subjects revolving around Indian social problems and international social welfare.

After two decades of working as a professor, she officially started a- Door Step School (DSS) in Pune (1993).

Door step school aims to make 100 percent literacy a reality. This is a group of people, Targeting children from age 3 to 18 (mainly children of migrant workers), teach the children even if there is no place to conduct the classes (sometimes conducting classes on pavements or road construction sites or railway stations and the like).

In an interview, Rajani Tai said, “We go where ever the children are and start the class right there”.  The Doorstep School has today become a 750+ member organization that serves more than 30,000 underprivileged kids. Though Rajani Tai had a stable job she quit on an easy life just to aid kids in need. She started small and now DSS is no less than a miracle.

This is the thing about heroes, they create miracles out of scrap.

 

Mrs. Rajani Tai
 Dr Ritu Biyani

 Dr Ritu Biyani

HIGHWAY INFINITE BEYOND CANCER

Dr Ritu Biyani, Founder director, Highway Infinite (Breast Cancer Survivor)

HEROES have a journey and hers’ is one! 48-year-old Ritu Biyani Joseph is a breast cancer survivor. Well, she is more than a survivor. She is an art of heroism that every struggler should look up to.

“I took photographs of myself bald. How many people get to do that other than models? I never wore a wig or tied a scarf. I flaunted my new look.” She explained in an interview.

Ritu Biyani was the first women from her conservative Marwari community to join the Indian army, the first woman paratrooper from the Dental Corps. The taboo of breast cancer is so much to do with the looks of women, both physically and emotionally and here. She not only defeated breast cancer but also the taboo attached to women on basis of looks, characters and professor.

Heroic is what a person does to a point when no one acts. In an inspiring journey in 2006 Ritu and her then 14-year-old daughter, Tista, drove through 30,220 km in 177 days across the four tips of India and some of the highest motor-able roads in the world to conduct over 140 breast, cervix and oral cancer awareness workshops. The mother-daughter duo innovatively used basic ICT tools such as PPT presentations, LCD projectors, community mikes and SMS to convey their message, keeping the narrative visual and interesting. The mother-daughter duo introduced technology to people even before they thought they needed it.

After working for a prolonged period “Highway Infinite” (Breast Cancer Survivor) thirty-three projects from across India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka were recognized for their contribution. Irrespective of being recognized Ritu and her daughter were more of a change-maker than a marketer. Hers is a journey to cherish beyond looks, stereotypes & eventually cancer.

 

 Dr Ritu Biyani
Dashrath Manjhi

Dashrath Manjhi

THE MAN
VS.
THE MOUNTAIN

Steve jobs rightly quoted, “Those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world usually do”.

Being poor or the feeling of powerlessness didn’t stop Dashrath Manjhi to break a mountain down. Dashrath Manjhi, also known as Mountain Man, was a poor labourer in Gehlaur village, in Bihar. He carved a path 360 ft long, 30 ft wide and 25 ft deep through a hillock using only a hammer and chisel.

The Gehlour hills are a low-but-treacherous spine of mountainous terrain that once divided the settlements and services on either side. In fact, many villagers from Manijhi’s town had to trek for miles around the hills just to reach their fields and schools.

It all started when, Faguni Devi slipped and seriously injured herself, While crossing Gehlour hills to bring manjhi lunch, which eventually led to her death. The nearest medical facility was over 64.374 kilometres away and Devi perished shortly after her accident. Manjhi vowed to carve a path through the Gehlour hills so that his village could have easier access to medical attention, that very night.

When he began the mad task he was mocked upon by the villagers but that didn’t stop him. And 22 years later manjhi did the impossible. He shortened the travel between the Atri and Wazirganj blocks of Gaya town from 55 km to 15 km.

In 2015, a Hindi movie Manjhi – The Mountain Man was released where Nawazuddin Siddique portrayed the character of Manjhi.

Though not much is talked about Manjhi, he is still an undoubted hero through the art of giving. He gave up the most important of all things in life – 22 years of his life to save people from furthermore damage.

Dashrath Manjhi
ANITA NARRE

ANITA NARRE

BE BRAVE
BE GIVING
BE HERO! 

“A UN study found that more people in India have access to a mobile phone than to a toilet”
This article is about a woman who left her in-laws’ house because it had no toilet. Residents of the village of Zitudhana (Madhya Pradesh) defecated in the open. It was a custom of the whole village. And who would dare change decades of orthodoxy?
ANITA NARRE.
Anita Narre left the household of Shivram, a labourer, after her marriage because the house had no toilet. She returned only once he had built one with help from district officials.
Anita’s unusual determination led to a great change in sanitation in the region because other women followed her lead and demanded toilets in their homes, doing what years of government campaigns could not do, setting an example.
Anita place, not very different from her in-laws was 15km away, but her father’s house had a toilet. Her father stood by his daughter when she returned home two days after her wedding. ‘My daughter was not doing anything wrong,’ he said. He was not afraid of people’s disapproval, he said because he was aware of the government scheme to build toilets and was confident that his son-in-law would meet the request.
Shivram appealed to the Gram Panchayat for financial help and eventually after a lot of protest from orthodox appeals he built a toilet for her wife. She dramatically brought the issue of sanitation to everyone’s attention for the first time. Since then, she has become an ambassador for sanitation campaigns at the district level.
A Bollywood film called toilet-Ek Prem Katha was loosely based on Anita Narre and her husband shivram, staring bhumi pednekar and Akshay Kumar.

ANITA NARRE
Mathunny Mathews

Mathunny Mathews

Liked the movie air lift now meet Mathunny Mathews the man who is credited to the world’s highest civilian evacuation in history. Mathews was a businessman from Kerala, residing in Kuwait. When Kuwait was invaded by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq Mathews helped in the safe airlift evacuation of about 170,000 Indians from Kuwait during the 1990 Invasion of Kuwait. It is hailed as the world’s largest civilian evacuation in history.
His role in evacuation of the Indians from Kuwait inspired director Raja Krishna Menon to write the script for the movie “Airlift”. The character Ranjit Katyal (played by Akshay Kumar) was based on him. Akshay Kumar won a lot of accolades for his portrayal of the character based on Mr Mathews.
Air India was the company that flew in and out of Kuwait’s & Iraq’s war zone to evacuate 1,70,000 Indians. Resulting in this fearless feat, Air India holds the Guinness Book of World Records for the most people evacuated by a civil airliner. This remarkable feat was possible because a hero selflessly gave up the fear of death and mastered the art of living for others.
Mathews’ son George said in an interview that his father and his father’s teams sacrifices weren’t talked much. All the credit went to Air India and people slowly forgot the man who took the initiative of this. Mathews died on 20th may 2017which is a year after the movie release. Mathews didn’t highlight his works which led to the death of an unrecognized hero. A hero who believed helping the needy when they needed!

Mathunny Mathews
Arunachalam Muruganantham

Arunachalam Muruganantham

Arunachalam Muruganantham or PADMAN (played by Akshay Kumar) like you know him now is the inventor of the low-cost sanitary pad-making machine and is involved for finding grassroots mechanisms for generating awareness about traditional unhygienic practices around menstruation in rural India.

Only 12% of India’s 355 million menstruating women use sanitary napkins (SNs). Over 88% of women resort to shocking alternatives like non-sanitised cloth, ashes and husk sand. Husk sand! That is what women have to go through. Muruganantham instead of igniting riots for political benefits started a revolution. That is the thing about heroes, they work in ways others don’t.

Muruganantham used to supply beverages to factory workers and took up various jobs as machine tool operator, farm labourer, welder, etc. to support his family in Coimbatore. When Murugananthan discovered his wife collecting filthy rags and newspapers to use during her menstrual cycle, as sanitary napkins made by MNCs were expensive, he started designing experimental pads.

When he finally cracked a way out to make cheap sanitary pads, in 2006, he visited IIT Madras to show his idea and received suggestions. His invention was registered for the National Innovation Foundation’s Grassroots Technological Innovations Award and his idea won the award.

Today Muruganantham’s machine has given jobs and income for numerous women. Affordable pads enable many more women to earn their livelihood during menstruation. Acceptance and empowerment is the key to development.

In 2016, he was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India.

BREAKING THE TABOO:

Mensturation isn’t an epidemic, our mentality is. Why isn’t science (biological mensturation) accepted by us when every parent wants their kid to be a doctor or engineer? Why are we going back to something we have fought so hard to come out of?

 

 

Arunachalam Muruganantham
Utkalmani Gopabandhu Das

Utkalmani Gopabandhu Das

FALLEN FREEDOM HERO

It is important we start with a fallen not-much-appreciated hero, “Gopabandhu Das” who reformed the Education system(1909) making it more of authentic mentoring rather than the British clerical system for ground-level employees, something that we are still struggling with even today. Gopabandhu das was a social worker, reformer, political activist, journalist & also a poet!

Gopandhu das though had an established law practice, quit his job for the welfare of people and fight for freedom. He saw education as the means to meet ends of British Raj and freedom of mind. In 1909, Das established a school near Puri. The school was popularly known as Satyabadi Bakul Bana Bidyalaya, which operated in the gurukula tradition and aimed to impart a liberal education on a non-sectarian basis. His system allowed children of all castes and backgrounds to sit, dine and study together. Gopabandhu Das emphasized on co-curricular activities generating nationalistic feeling within students through education and teach them the value of service to mankind.

Das saw journalism as a means to educate the masses even though they were illiterate.  Thus, in 1919, he started a weekly newspaper called The Samaja, based at the school campus which eventually became a significant media presence for Indian nationalists by 1927. The writing style was intentionally simplistic, thus the newspaper is still a mass churner in the Odisha market.

Take a moment today, to acknowledge the freedom and be a proud Oriya… because heroes have shed blood to give us that freedom.

 

 

Utkalmani Gopabandhu Das