July 5, 2009
The audience who had congregated at the prestigious T M A Pai Convention centre in the city recently for the inaugural ceremony of Justice K S Hegde Birth Centenary celebrations had more than one reason to cheer. In addition to having a glimpse of one of the top politicians of the country they were dismayed by the perfect rendition of a Kannada song as part of the cultural programme by a group of girls from the north-eastern state of Meghalaya. Uniformly dressed in colourful ghagras these girls held the audience spellbound by singing a Kannada song much to the delight of the assembled crowd who reciprocated their sentiments with a thunderous applause.
If the audience were made to think that these groups of girls were brought from Meghalaya, they cannot be mistaken. But the fact is that these girls have made Mangalore their home for the last four years and have adapted easily to the local culture, tradition and language.
Their journey from north-east to this coastal area has been made meaningful by Justice K S Hegde Charitable Foundation, by setting up Vivekanand Jnana Vahini Kendra in Nitte, specifically to take care of these children. The institution adopted about 26 children in 2004 and is taking care of their grooming in various schools and professional institutions run by the foundation. K S Hegde Charitable Foundation responded positively when it came to know through some social organizations that the poor and displaced children of Meghalaya were in need of a suitable home and therefore set up Vivekananda Jnana Vahini Kendra. Since managing different genders is slightly difficult the foundation decided to adopt only girl children and has stuck to the same policy.
Now there are 25 children from Meghalaya and 5 locals from Nitte being groomed by this institution under the careful eyes of two Mathajis who have shouldered the responsibility of their caretaking at the Kendra. They all study in English medium schools and are trained in music, Bhajans, yoga and other activities. There is one cook to take of their food requirements with the girls rendering a helping hand sharing the burden of work.
Aravind Hegde, former principal of Nitte Pre-university College & Special Officer of Nitte Education Trust Campus says “Girls in age groups of 8 to 18 constituted the first groups of students who came from Meghalaya in 2004. Now one of the girls has completed her BBM from the institutions run by our foundation and is now gainfully employed in Meghalaya. One more group is soon going to finish their professional education next year”.
It was a challenging task for the matrons managing the Kendra as these children spoke only Khasi and little bit of English and were vary of local food. It took them sometime to get acclimatized to the local weather and get accustomed to the local cuisine. Over a period of time these problems slowly disappeared and since then it has been a smooth sailing affair for these girls.
In fact the local twins Sarita and Savitha, the first inmates of this institution, are the cynosure of all eyes in this institution and are a role model to other inmates. Having lost their parents in a personal tragedy, Vinaya Hegde came forward to take care of these twin girls as their parents were his employees. They are now doing their engineering (3rd year) Computer Science in Nitte Engineering College and are extremely good in their studies. Sarita feels “we have been given a new lease of life by this institution and I would like to repay by debt to it by donating half of my salary once I take up the job as a lecturer”.
The days of this sprightly lot begin at 5.30 am with a bath in cold water, prayer and study. By 7.30 am their breakfast is ready and then it is time to go to school. In the evenings they learn music, bhajans, yoga and play some games. Older girls help the younger ones in washing their clothes and other chores. During holidays these girls participate in community services in the vicinity of Nitte.
12-year-old Hiarmonki Najiar, a student of Dr Nitte Shankara Adyanthya Memorial English Medium School came here as an 8-year-old in 2004. “Initially it was little difficult for us to get adjusted. But now we love staying here as a group”, she pointed out. Initially the girls used to feel homesick. “It was a matter of time till they got used to a different environment in a far away place as these girls had apprehensions about life here. They speak their own language when they are in their group but are capable of conversing in Kannada now” pointes out Arvind Hegde.
The girls hardly go to their native place but their parents or relatives visit them here often. “Even now a telephone call from their parents is eagerly looked forward to by the girls and they just jump with joy whenever they get a call from their parents or relatives”, Mathaji Mamtha points out.
Despite the yearning to be amidst their own kith and kin, the girls want to continue their education here and are grateful for the facilities they are offered. As a token of love they bring their traditional artifacts like mats, dolls etc., and gift them to their friends.
It is indeed heartening to see these girls blossoming under the careful patronage of Vivekananda Jnana Vahini Kendra. It serves as a perfect illustration of India’s unity in diversity.
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