This is ‘Masti Ki Paathshala’ run by Ashish Vyas, a 30-year-old from Naranpura. Vyas, owner of a web designing firm on SG Road, has been conducting classes for a group of underprivileged children near Vastrapur for the last one year. Vyas says that it one of the most important projects of his life.
“It all started when I saw two kids, not more than eight to nine years old, knocking on my car window. I got off and asked them what they wanted. They demanded money to buy food. But I asked them to wait and got them things to eat. While eating, we talked and I got information about their lives,” he says.
Those 30 minutes changed his life and that of several children. “I learnt that they were living in shanties on footpath but they were not starving poor. Their parents made decent living. The issue was of approach to life. The kids observed from their surroundings that money is needed for drinking liquor or gambling and thus asked for it rather than food. I then decided to give – not money but education,” he says.
Vyas converts the wall or a simple cardboard into blackboard and scribbles on it. His students do the day’s activities then and there, as tomorrow it would be a new lesson, song or activity. He tries to generate ideas and asks children to work on it for the rest of the day.
His facebook page ‘One Life and Live It’ mobilizes others for the same cause.
“I urge my relatives not to give money to the beggars. Once we stop giving money, beggars would be discouraged. If they want food, give them food. If they want, give them books and pencils,” Vyas says.
“It is an uphill task for me even to gather them as sometimes parents are not willing or the child is simply not interested. But once they get hooked, there is no looking back. They dream of a better life. I have seen some of the fastest learners here,” he adds.
Vyas says that many friends want to join him but he prods them to start their own group. “My goal is to reach out to other areas and eradicate begging. Don’t wait for others to start – if you think it’s worth it, just do it yourself, independently,” he says.