Sanjana, a daughter and a school topper

Akshaya Patra

It’s just another day for her; she reaches school around 9 am, completes any pending homework, attends the morning assembly and gets on with Std VIII classes for the rest of her day.

Sanjana Borashetti, with two neatly tied plaits, is a school topper and is the go-to person for her classmates. In love with literature, especially poems, Sanjana has her own collection of poems written in Kannada in a class workbook. After school, she heads home which shelters seven people under the same roof; a home that has grown accustomed to living without electricity.

On living without electricity

Akshaya Patra Foundation

Until four years ago, everything was normal in this household. However, it took a different direction when her father could not repay a few loans and owing to mounting bills, the house lost its power supply. Four years on, the house continues to live without the basic need.

Sanjana’s father is a milkman and mother works as a domestic help. While her parents get busy in the morning, she starts her day with a prayer. At times, she helps mother fetch water from a nearby well (the family needs at least 10 to 15 pots of water every day), cleans the house, and helps her brother with his homework.

In school, she supervises many activities such as assembly, attendance and news (relevant current affairs are announced every day). Being the class monitor for a total of 36 students, she shares a good rapport with her classmates and ensures everyone is aware of upcoming activities in school.

Sanjana and her classmates play with a skipping rope

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If not electricity, there is a lot of hope for the family. In order to study and complete her homework, Sanjana uses a torch. “There are two torches at home. I use one while studying,” she says. Although they do not have access to electricity, the young girl excels in studies.

I want to put an end to bribes

To live without a few basic necessities can be a challenge. But a few get on without perceiving it as a hindrance. For Sanjana, television is a forgotten tool and lack of electricity is no reason to complain. With all the support that she gets from her teachers, she has been performing well in her academics and is also sure of her interests. “When I grow up, I want to become a DC,” she says. District Collector (DC) is one of the most competitive jobs in India and Sanjana wants to take up this role to put an end to bribes.

Her school is her support system

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Government Higher Primary School, located in Bairidevara Koppa, Hubballi, is well maintained, clean, and the students are enthusiastic. A section of this school was built under the ‘Freedom through Education’ project led by Round Table India.

For Sanjana, being in school amongst her classmates means everything. Be it studying or spending free time, she prefers school environment. During her lunch provided by Akshaya Patra, she gets to eat freshly cooked food; Rice and Sambar, and Pulao are her favourites. Back at home, food is prepared on an earthen stove using firewood.

When there’s time, Sanjana writes poems (she learnt poetry in a summer camp a year ago), collects favourite quotes from books and also collects information that would improve her knowledge. Books are her best company and she is grateful for the education she is currently receiving.

13-year-old Sanjana is one among the many students in India looking forward to fulfilling her dreams and The Akshaya Patra Foundation wishes her the best.

Nagamma dreams of becoming a social worker.

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Working for a social cause, acknowledging issues in society that need urgent attention and can be resolved are the noblest of all vocations. Here is an Akshaya Patra beneficiary who anticipates becoming a social worker from the profound suffering, deep woes and agonies she has endured in life.

We noticed the empathy in her eyes when she said with extreme determination that she wanted to become a social worker, giving herself for the welfare of children who cannot study because of hunger. Hesitantly, she told that she is not certain whether she can follow through with her goal, as she does not know whether she will be able to continue her education when she completes 14. We met Nagamma at the schoolyards of Government Higher Primary School, Tarabanahalli. She is a 12- year-old studying in Std V. She hails from an underprivileged economical background. She lives with her parents and two siblings. Her father Mahesha and mother Ratnamma work as labourers at a construction site for a meagre income.

Nagamma’s family is one among the 179.6 million people in India who are living below poverty line. They do not have a land of their own and stay in a mud house on government land. The house is thatched and has a tin sheet as door. We were humbled by seeing the deplorable condition of the house. The inside of the house was abysmal. The house had bare minimum utensils, and clothes strewn on a hanging rope. We could imagine the plight during rainy season; they told us that the water enters the house, and leaking roof adds to their woes.

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The responsible sister

Nagamma has two siblings, a sister, Savithri and a brother, Chandrashekar; who studies in standard V and II respectively, in the same school (Government Higher Primary School, Tarabanahalli). Though Savithri is younger than Nagamma, she also studies in Std V with Nagamma. Nagamma had to discontinue schooling to take care of her little brother and had missed a year of school. The three children are beneficiaries of Akshaya Patra.

Nagamma told us that it was she who had helped raise her 7-year-old brother from a very young age as both her parents work hard for making ends meet. Bringing up three children is a herculean task for them. She said, “I used to bring my younger brother to class, as there was no one to take care of him at home. At first, my teachers disallowed it but later on when I could not attend classes, my teachers gave permission to bring him to class.” She added, “I am more than a mother to my little brother.”

‘Reading is a hobby, but has no time’

When we asked her, what her favourite hobby is, she told us, ‘reading’ but, she added that she does not get time for reading at home. She has to do innumerable household chores like taking care of her siblings, bringing water from the tap, washing clothes and utensils, preparing dinner among other things. Such a heavy responsibility on such small shoulders was a humbling experience for us.

An intelligent student

Her teachers are fond of her as she is very intelligent and hardworking. As soon as she reaches home, she does her homework and prepares the dinner before her parents come home from work. Though she likes studying all subjects her favourite subject is Maths since she likes to solve problems. She said, “When I am able to solve the problems correctly, I feel happy.” Her favourite teacher is Latha Miss, Nagamma says that she teaches very well and is ready to explain the mathematical sums a number of times, if required, without losing patience. Nagamma likes to play different games like Kho-kho, throw ball and the like. She has participated in running race competition held at Cluster Level. She wishes that the school has a bigger playground so that she can practice more.

Akshaya Patra’s Savory Mid-Day Meal Relished by Bengaluru Mayor.

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It’s heartbreaking to see India as one of the major contributors to the World Hunger index. Daily, more than 3,000 children in India die due to malnutrition and starvation. An unhealthy body does not sustain a healthy mind. To fight this evil, we, at Akshaya Patra Foundation, has been helping poor children in government schools enjoy a nutritious and flavorsome food with their mid-day meal scheme.  The quality of food we offer is constantly monitored by a staff of trained cooks. We go the extra length to ensure the results by holding ‘taste-drives’ for Bengaluru residents.

On December 14, Akshaya Patra held the ‘Taste of Joy’ event, which the mayor of Bengaluru, G Padmavathi graciously inaugurated. The food was then served to the public, who enjoyed it a lot. The objective of this drive was to introduce the high standards of Akshaya Patra’s mid-day meal to the people of Bengaluru. A lot of attention was received when everyone shared this event on the social media with hashtags #menuofhope, #tasteofjoy and #zerohunger.

Shridham Krishna Dasa, the chief project manager, explained how the children and their parents have loved Akshay Patra’s cooking and the way they organize the daily routine. Now, they are taking it to the general public and the mayor to show their efforts in making Bengaluru a hunger-free zone.

In a world where the ‘luxury’ of food can’t be enjoyed by everyone, Akshaya Patra has made a significant contribution. It started in the year 2000, when Akshaya Patra used to nourish 1,500 children with their finely prepared food. Right now, that number is around 1.6 million. Other than the mid-day meal, their initiatives also include feeding infants and their mothers at Anganwadis, feeding runaway children, disaster relief, and more. Their noble and generous programme are making waves among Bengaluru’s philanthropists.