Ekal Vidyalaya: Cruising Woods – A Novel Encounter


My profession has taken me around to the remotest villages with a chance to observe rural life. I am in contact also with a few set-ups that work at the village level and am pretty familiar with their various projects as well as the ways they adopt and the mentality of their volunteers. ‘Ekal’, however, stood out among them for its unique concept. Thus, we the trio, the renowned danseuse Aditi Bhagwat, Shri Anil Mansinghka and me set out to Ranghar near Nashik with great expectations.
Our journey was a class of sorts, with Anilji enlightening us about the innovation that is ‘Ekal’ – the concept – its aim, its policies, its actual work and the positivity it brought about in rural India. In Nashik, Yashwant, the Regional In-Charge greeted us. Yashwant oversees as many as 270 Ekal VIdyalayas, a social worker to the core! Of course, later we encountered the same fiery sense of duty in every Karyakarata working under him.
We got down at the foot of the hillock that was Ranghar. A grand welcome was waiting in the wings for us – a moving orchestra was descending down the slopes, hailing us, singing joyous songs and bhajans-kirtans to the accompaniment of their drums and strings. The elderly ladies among them did ‘Aarti’ and garlanded us. Each and every one, including children shyly peeking out came forth and introduced themselves. The local ‘Satsang’ groups presented devotional songs and the children cutely presented a ballet on the theme of good triumphing over evil – displaying the very concept of ‘Ekal’- to eradicate the wrong from the social fabric.
The grand welcome ceremony was followed by an equally hearty and tasty meal – served on big tree leaves the way it is eaten around rural India. Scented with the earthy tang, the food was gobbled fast but the taste lingered long with the unforgettable chilly-chutney, the local specialty.
Indu, the teacher at the school (Ekal Vidyalaya), displayed the innovative teaching methods and the progress made by the children in different subjects. Here is how a school goes all the way to the pupils when pupils cannot traverse the gap! The kids are taught at least the basics of education.
We were deeply touched by this example of grit set by ‘Ekal’, where focused volunteers and workers slog untiringly, completely uncaring of the success or failure of their efforts. What they singularly see is the aim of Ekal, the means to inch forward and the all-encompassing warmth and affection that naturally radiates from their mission. These are the bonds they have entwined us, me and Aditi, with – the unforgettable bonds!
Kajal Naik