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A man with a mission

On » Tuesday, February 15, 2011 //

     It was this rainy day in the last week of September. Morning breeze, cup of coffee and Times of India... Front page news... 'Generous commuters put prof's school for poor kids on track'. Some professor was collecting money from the commuters in local trains for funding a school. 'Bravo!'... I muttered and flipped the page right to the last page for the sports section. It wasn't a good sports day, Indian teams not doing well in the Champions League and the shameless stories about the corruption and scams in the buildup of the Commonwealth Games made the matter even worse. In no time the paper was back on the table and me back to work. The 'man with a mission' was forgotten right then and there...

      February 14th 2011... Bright sunny day outside. Had boarded an evening local from Virar. As the train passed Vasai, the cool breeze from the window tempted my brain to shutdown and off I went to sleep. Somewhere close to Andheri, suddenly I woke up. There was this man in his late thirties, with a black rucksack, very decently dressed standing in the aisle, holding a few placards in his hand with some news articles bearing his photos and a donation box in his other hand. 'Ok one more guy with 'charity' on his mind.' I grinned as I closed my eyes again trying to complete my sleep. But I woke up again when he said in fluent English, "Namaskar, I am Professor Sandeep Desai... and I am asking for your help to run a school in Ratnagiri." And then he started showing all the placards with national dailies mentioning him with his unique way of collecting charity. He didn't take long, may be 2-3 minutes and he explained everything how he and his organisation 'Shloka missionaries' have already started a school in Goregaon and now are building a new one in Ratnagiri with the help of the donations that Professor Desai collects from his train travels. 

    "Vidya Daan, Shreshtha Daan" he says... and ends his speech with a strong message. "If you feed a hungry man, you feed him for a day, but if you educate him, you help him out of that life forever." That really moved me. Soon as he finished his short speech, collections started pouring in as he walked down the aisle holding the donation box in front. Some gave 10 Rs, some 100 and some even put only a few coins. But that man accepted each donation with equal humility and a smiling face as he bowed down everytime saying, "Thank you for your kind help, Sir". I recollected reading about him that day in September. I had donated but I still felt that it was not enough. Bandra was nearing... I got up, went to him, he was standing there near the door, holding the rail. 
I greeted him, "Hello Sir!".
 "Hello", he replied with the same smile.
 "Sir I really want to congratulate you for whatever you are doing and I wish you accomplish the goal soon." 
He replied back, "Thank you son, thank you for your kind words. They will go a long way". 
And he got down at Bandra and boarded yet another train on the down track continuing his mission.

     I returned home. I googled his name and foundation, and was awed with the information I got. Professor Desai, on an average collects around Rs 5000 a day. He also got the attention of many national dailies and has been even mentioned in a magazine. His unique efforts also caught the eye of Salman Khan who tweeted about him and called up to congratulate him one day when Desai was in the middle of his mission, collecting funds in the train. Salman has reportedly agreed to fund him Rs 20 lakhs every year for whichever school he opens in any part of India.
       Professor Desai is a former engineer who used to teach at the S. P. Jain Institute of Management and Research. But he quit his job in 1997 to teach the children in the Goregaon slums. He usually starts his mission in late noons and ends up at 6 p.m. It was his mother's dream too, he says, to open a school for the slum children. He is not only looking for money but is also in need of volunteers or 'Vidyasevaks' as he calls it, who may be willing to teach for at least 10 hours a month or participate in any other activities for his Shloka foundation. Here are his details:

Name: Sandeep Desai
B.E., MBA from NMIMs
Ex-professor of S. P. Jain Institute of Management & Research
Organisation: Shloka Missionaries, A-6, Ujval, Road no. 6, Pandurangwadi, Goregaon (East)- 400063
1. Shloka Public school, Lucky apartments, Building No. 9C, 1st floor, Iraniwadi, Goregaon (E)
2. Sudha-Manohar National School, 55, Thiba Palace Road, Zadgaon, Ratnagiri- 415612
Contact details: Tel: +9122-28740859, (+91) 9322757030, (+91) 9820366127

    Its difficult to believe that in such a fast, selfish lifestyle of Mumbai, there are people like Professor Desai who are giving their everything for the betterment of the society. All I can say is "Thank you Professor for 'waking' me up that day!

    His foundation's website welcomes you with a message from Mahatma Gandhi saying, 
"Strength does not come from physical capacity, but from an indomitable will.
So true...

(Inputs from, The Telegraph,

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