My last photo album under the caption "Alluring Aura of Anoopshahr" was received approvingly by many of my readers and drew special praise from the founder-chairman of the JayPee group of industries which manages the concerned educational institutions. It was a mere eight days after my visit to Anoopshahr that I was back in the same geographic area of western UP, visiting another notable educational enterprise deidicated mainly, and very hearteningly, to the promotion of girls' education. This was the Shri Madhav College of Education & Technology in Hapur town of Ghaziabad district, about 30 km south of the historic city of Meerut and about 60 km east of the equally historic Delhi. It has a bit of history of its own in that it was a major player in the famous 1857 uprising against British rule. The place is however better known for its massive grain storage facilities with technical support from the Indian Grain Storage Management & Research Institute. I had no time to see any of these since my whole time was spent in visiting the college on an official assignment along with two professional colleagues as at Anoopsharh earlier.
Unlike the five star luxury at Anoopshahr, we had to put up with some very modest conditions in a very ordinary hotel, but a large and beautiful college campus provided a vastly more enjoyable and pleasant environment. The centerpiece of the campus was a large and impressive three storey building housing a college of technology, a college of teacher education and a large school exclusively for girls.
It was a bitingly cold but brilliantly sunny morning when my colleagues and I opted to do much of our paper work in the sprawling lawn in front of the main entrance to the college building. Here is a picture I took of the rest of the group at work:
[As with all my previous photo albums, any picture can be enlarged to its full size by clicking on it and opening it in a separate web page]
Here is a close up view of the main entrance with its flight of steps and the eye-catching greenery:
Here is a wider view of the main building and the approach road leading up to it:
It was only on the second and final day of our visit that I got to see the campus facilities in some detail. What I discovered was not just an eye-opener. It was in many ways a highly educative and memorable experience as well.
The vast space at the back of the main building is a beautiful combination of garden and farm, growing a variety of vegetables, fruits and herbs. Here is a view of it against the background of the rear of the main building quite a distance away:
Here is a close-up view of a portion of the rich growth of vegetables and greenery:
At one extreme end of the campus the institution has a botanical garden where a variety of medicinal plants and herbs are grown. I was told that they serve as the source for some Ayurvedic medicinal formulations. The following is a picture of this garden. In the front foreground, one can readily make out a silhouette of me with my camera at work to take this picture.
Close to the botanical garden pictured above, there was a building described as a girls' hostel shown in the following picture:
The girls seen playing and basking in the evening sun caught our immediate attention and most of them appeared to be from the north eastern part of the country. We got curious and wanted to talk to them and visit the hostel. Our hosts were delighted to show us around and it soon emerged that this was a special facility for needy tribal girls, mainly from the economically backward north eastern states. It was founded and managed by the Shiksha Bharati society which also ran the educational instituions within the campus. There were over fifty girls, most of them belonged to very poor and destitute families from the tribal regions of north eastern states and appeared to range in age from six to sixteen. The society provided not only free education and housing for these girls but also looked after their every need till they completed their schooling and opted to return to their homes.
The girls greeted us with smiling faces radiating such warmth, cordiality, comraderie and spontaneity that we were quicky bowled over, talking and mingling with them freely even as we went around their excellently maintained living quarters. The barrier of language which so often hinders meaningful communication was nearly invisible, thanks particularly to the lady warden who looked more like the matron of a large happy family than a representative of the management. On her suggestion, most of the girls gathered together in front of the hostel entrance, invited us to join them and sang a few beautiful songs in full throated chorus. It was their way of honoring us. I wanted to capture this moment but was also eager to be part of the scene. So I handed my camera to a host and had the following picture taken, with me looking in the wrong direction.
Here is a picture of one of the two well maintained quadrangles inside the hostel building. Not surprisingly, the girls were used to performing most of the routine maintenance chores.
Some of the rooms had been provided as work places for the inmates to learn or improve their skills in a wide variety of arts and crafts. Samples of their impressive handiwork and colorful collections were displayed in museum style as can be seen in the following two photographs:
As the visiting party was trooping out of the hostel, some of the girls had already come out to resume their interrupted play merrily in the lawn outdoors as can be seen in the following picture:
The abiding memory of my visit to Hapur was the image of these carefree girls who had found a home well away from home and didn't seem to feel the difference.
Towards the end of our visit I came to know that Shiksha Bhrathi was involved in this act of caring and thoughtful philanthropy, practicing it without any fanfare or undue publicity and out of a true inner motivation. For people who are used to preaching national integration, education of the underprevileged, upliftment of the poor, empowerment of women and similar high sounding precepts, it was a lesson in what could actually be accomplished, given the will and commitment to the cause.