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Nobel Peace Prize jolts a peaceful office in South Delhi

Kailash Satyarthi at his Bachpan Bachao Aandolan office in New Delhi. Photo: V. Sudershan   | Photo Credit: V_Sudershan

Minutes after the Norwegian Nobel Committee in Oslo announced Kailash Satyarthi as one of the two awardees of the Nobel Peace Prize, a small office in South Delhi’s Kalkaji was jolted out of its Friday afternoon reverie. 

It was the child rights crusader’s son Bhuvan Ribhu, the national secretary of ‘Bachpan Bachao Andolan’, an organisation that has since its inception three decades ago rescued and rehabilitated over 83,000 children that broke the news that the jury had named his father for the prestigious award. 

According to an employee, Mr. Ribhu, who had taken his shoes off in his office, ran out in his socks to “scream out” that the 60-year-old Mr. Satyarthi had been named along with Malala Yousafzai, for their work on promoting child rights in the subcontinent. 

Happy tears rolled down cheeks and warm hugs and laddoos were distributed amongst the 50-odd staffers and visiting interns. Someone announced that Diwali celebrations begin right away. Yet, the staffers and Mr. Satyarthi’s family — wife Sumedha and daughter Asmita who also joined them — probably got all of fifteen minutes to celebrate the news together what with the phones ringing off the hook. 

With Mr. Satyarthi instantly bombarded with calls from well-wishers and journalists, the staffers drew up tasks that were assigned to each of them. Forty-two-year-old Lakshman Singh, BBA’s treasurer, was in-charge of purchasing large boxes of sweets and water bottles for the visitors. 

Mr. Singh met Mr. Satyarthi when he was a young boy, when the latter rescued him and his parents from a stone quarry in Faridabad in the early 1980s. After a three decade long association, his children call Mr. Satyarthi “Dadaji” and held spontaneous parties in their schools after hearing the news. 

“I was purchasing something for the office when I got a call from a friend in my hometown in Madhya Pradesh,” said Mr. Singh who whipped out his phone to contact the office to find out if what he was a hearing was true. “All the phones were busy so I just ran back to office and saw that everyone had erupted into celebration mode.” What does the Nobel Prize mean to him? “I know they give it to people who do good work. For peace …for impacting lives,” he said, reflecting more on his own journey from a stone quarry to BBA’s head office. 

Upstairs in his office, in the heart of a frenzied mob of journalists and camerapersons, Mr. Satyarthi spoke passionately about how children should be “born in peace, grow in peace and play in peace. They should enjoy their childhood and freedom and we cannot ignore a very fundamental principle of peace”. In the far end of his office was a collage of pictures of him interacting with children, sharing their lunch and youngsters holding up placards. 

The ex-engineer, who gave up his job to start BBA, said: “India may be the mother of hundreds of problems but it is also the mother of millions of solutions. If the problems occur here, we Indians are able to find the solution. When we talk of peace we cannot forget Mahatma Gandhi. So I recall him with all the respect and all the honour.”

Elsewhere in two different rooms, his wife and daughter were replying patiently to questions about what this means to the family. “My father is a Gandhian and the first thing he said was ‘Gandhiji should have got it before me’,” said 29-year-old Asmita. “He has always derived inspiration from children. When he is not out fighting for the cause of a safe environment for children to grow up in, he is at home cooking for his children. He loves cooking for the family.”

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Printable version | Jan 15, 2021 9:17:09 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/nobel-peace-prize-jolts-a-peaceful-office-insouthdelhi/article6491750.ece

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