She took VRS to help street children learn lessons in life

Manorama says she monitors the personal progress of street children

Suresh (name changed) was barely seven when sexagenarian Manorama Srivastava spotted him begging in front of a famous temple in the state capital. She took him to her home, gave a shower and offered him new clothes.

“How do you look now,” she asked as he stood before a mirror. Suresh could barely recognise himself.

A teacher by profession, Manorama also provided books to Suresh and
inducted him into her “special school” for poor children, who mostly lived in slums and makeshift “jhuggis” (huts) near railway tracks and under the flyovers.

From then onwards the life of Suresh, till then a vagabond son of poor parents who could earn barely enough to make ends meet, underwent a complete change and today he is an inter-mediate student in a government school and
aspires to become an officer in the government.

And Suresh was one of the 50 such children in the school of 62-year-old Manorama launched about 14 years ago. The former teacher, who took voluntary retirement from service, for improving lives of such children, has given a name for her school in which she imparts
lessons in life for the children. She calls it “Zameen Apni, Asman Hamara” (the earth is ours and so is the sky).

The name appears to be quite apt as these children did not have a home to live. “The entire earth and the sky belong to them,” she says. “I was pained to see children begging at temples or stations. Many of them used to work at roadside bars or at gambling dens or roadside eateries. I wanted to do something for them so that they may also get an
opportunity to study and do something constructive,” Manorama told Deccan Herald.
In many cases, children did not want to beg or work at such places but they were forced by their parents for a few bucks. “I am not against children working... but that should be in addition to the studies. If they can earn something by doing
constructive work like helping at a tailoring shop for a few hours there is nothing wrong,” she said.

She started looking for such children around the famous Hanuman temple in the heart of the city. “Very soon I had four-five children. I began giving them lessons in personal hygiene, taught them a few poems and got them admitted to the government schools,” she said.

Why government schools?

She said that the government schools did not charge fee and besides children also got mid-day meals there. “We have adopted two government schools. We regularly visit them and meet teachers there to find about the progress of these children,” Manorama said.

The girls are imparted training in tailoring and  cooking. Initially, there were barely a handful of children but now the number has crossed 50 and they
included many girls also. “Children now regularly go to schools. They come to my home for studies in the evening,” she said.

“One boy recently passed the high school examination with 86 per cent marks,” she said. Many of them are engaged in different activities and are self dependent.

Manorama regularly organises “street plays” in which these children take part. These plays are usually based on some important social issue and are aimed at sending a positive message to society.

Recently, children from slums had undertaken a march on Republic Day to the statue of Mahatma Gandhi. “I do expect these children to be successful and excel in life but for me what is more important is to become a good citizen and good human being first,” she remarked.

“Many of them are very talented... all they need to be told is that they are also a part of society and are not neglected,” she says. Children love to act in the plays and sing and dance. “They now enjoy their lives,” she remarked. Ecological awareness is an essential part of Manorama’s syllabus for children.

“Recently I asked these children to collect polythene bags from different
localities. I told them that the child whose bag will be the heaviest will be given a prize. There was a tough competition among them for the prize,” she said.
Manorama’s husband D N Lal is a retired IAS officer. “As an IAS officer my husband has seen problems of the poor from very close quarters. He is familiar with their plight and so he lends me all help he can,” she said.

Her two children, who were well settled, also chip in with monetary help. “My children send me some money for my passion. It greatly helps,” she said. And such was the passion that she took voluntary retirement for this very work as she did not find enough time for these children while being in service. Manorama hopes to carry on what she has been doing as long as her health permits.

“Till then the children will have their earth and sky,” she adds with a smile.

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