From teaching children under a tree to setting up a full-fledged school, P. Vasundhara has come a long way.
“Children are beautiful. Each one has an inherent goodness within. All they need is the right kind of guidance and direction,” believes P. Vasundhara. Little wonder then that her greatest passion is working with underprivileged children and towards this end she even founded a school, Nachiketa Tapovan Vidya Mandir, in Madhapur that provides free education to the needy. But it is not mere academic education that Vasundhara hopes to impart. “We should also inculcate good values in them. After all if we teach them to be socially responsible, they could pass on a kind act in the future,” she says with a smile that lights up the room.
Nachiketa Tapovan Vidya Mandir, which was established in 2004, currently has 240 students from L.K.G. to class X. The children are mainly orphans, or those with single parents or those who live in the slum in the vicinity. Vasundhara makes it a point to personally involve herself in the school’s day-to-day activities and her camaraderie with the children is evident as eager little children excitedly shout out “Om Namah Shivaya Vasundharamma” each time she passes by a class room.
However, Vasundhara refuses to take any credit for the work she is doing. With the school functioning under the aegis of the Nachiketa Tapovan trust, Vasundhara says that Swami Nachiketananda Puri and Swami Sivananda Puri are the main driving force behind the school. “Besides, all the work we do here is a team effort,” she smiles.
The school, which is housed in a modest three-storied building right next to an international school, provides its students with everything from uniforms to stationery and even morning and afternoon meals. At every notice board in the school art works by the students are on proud display and their English too is impeccable. The school also employs 11 teachers, while the remaining are volunteers from IT companies and students who teach the students during their spare time or during vacations.
Vasundhara also runs a block printing unit from her Jubilee Hills home, which provides employment opportunity to underprivileged women. The profits made by this unit are what are used to fund the Vidya Mandir. For Vasundhara though, this block printing unit is more of a passion than a mere business. “I love everything about the printing business. I handle the designing and colour combination aspects of the unit. Everything else from execution to sales is looked after by my team. For me designing doesn’t feel like work. It is more like a passion that I could do every single day,” she says.
How it all began
“I had been running this printing unit for a long time now. Although, it kept me occupied and I love everything about designing, I still had a feeling of emptiness. That is when I got involved with the Nachiketa Tapovan ashram. We regularly attended satsangs and organised annadanam drives. One such drive was conducted on a weekly basis at Vaddera basti in Madhapur. Every time we went there we noticed that the children there didn’t attend school for reasons like lack of funds, the distance between their school and home etc,” says Vasundhara, who declares fondly “These are all my children.”
That is when she and her associates at the ashram decided to teach the children themselves. The group began conducting classes under a tree in the area. A year later they constructed a hut on a plot of land (where the school now stands) that was owned by Vasundhara’s husband. “Initially we segregated the students based on how much they knew and not by age. In 2004 we constructed the school building and from then on began functioning as a regular class. In fact, in the last couple of years we have had a few students clear their Board exams with very high scores and they are now doing their intermediate,” she says with a proud smile.
Value of money
To help the students realise the importance of money, Vasundhara proposed launching a banking system in the school itself. “The students make a lot of craft items like diyas and rakhis, which are sold. The money from these sales goes to the students’ individual account, for which their admission number works as account number. They are free to withdraw the money from here or let it build to a sizeable amount and then invest it in postal bonds,” she says.
While the school runs like a well-oiled machine with every individual handling a specific responsibility, Vasundhara plans to move out and focus on a new school that they plan to set up near the Nachiketa Tapovan ashram in Kodgal.
“The school is doing fine even without me. So now I would like to focus on the new school that we plan to set up. The youth and children in Kodgal are very enthusiastic and a school there will be of great help. Here the school can be efficiently managed by the other team members. I believe that an organisation revolves around principles and ideals, not around an individual. And Nachiketa Tapovan Vidya Mandir has very strong principles and ideals to fall back upon,” she smiles.
Currently there are 240 students in the school from LKG to class X
So far five students from the school have cleared their class X exams
The school building was constructed in 2004. Before that students were taught in a makeshift hut at the same site
The school has its own banking system to teach children the importance of saving
A student’s admission number is his/her account number. The money they earn by making diyas and other craft item is credited to their account
The students are taught yoga and practice Surya Namaskaras and meditation before class every morning.